Archive | January 10th, 2017

How many British MPs are working for Zio-Nazi regime?

NOVANEWS
How many British MPs are working for Israel?
Israeli London embassy spy Shai Masot

By Jonathan Cook

Aljazeera is to be congratulated on an undercover investigation exposing something most of us could probably have guessed: that some Israeli embassy staff in the UK – let’s not pussy around, Mossad agents – are working with senior political activists and politicians in the Conservative and Labour parties to subvert their own parties from within, and skew British foreign policy so that it benefits Israeli, rather than British, interests.

One cannot really blame Israel for doing this. Most states promote their interests as best they can. But one can and should expose and shame the British politicians who are collaborating with Israel in further harming Britain’s representative democracy.

It is not as though these people cannot be easily identified. They even advertise what they are up to. They are members of the Conservative and Labour Friends of Israel (CFI and LFI respectively). They dominate both parliamentary parties, but especially the Conservatives. According to the CFI’s figures, fully 80 per cent of Tory MPs belong to the party’s Friends of Israel group.

Traitors?

Once, no one would have hesitated to call British politicians acting in the interests of a foreign power, and very possibly taking financial benefits for doing so, “traitors”. And yet, as Aljazeera’s secretly filmed footage shows, Israeli spies like Shai Masot can readily meet and conspire with a Tory minister’s much-trusted aide to discuss how best to “take down” the deputy foreign minister, Alan Duncan, over his criticisms of Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied territories. Maria Strizzolo, Education Minister Robert Halfon’s assistant, suggests engineering a “little scandal” to damage Duncan.

Once, no one would have hesitated to call British politicians acting in the interests of a foreign power, and very possibly taking financial benefits for doing so, “traitors”. 

Masot and Israel’s intelligence services cannot influence British foreign policy through the opposition Labour party, but that doesn’t prevent them from also taking a keen interest in Labour MPs. Masot is filmed talking to Labour Friends of Israel’s chair, Joan Ryan, about “lots of money” – more than GBP 1 million – he has received from the Israeli government to send yet another batch of Labour MPs on an all-expenses-paid trip to Israel, where they will be wined and dined, and primed by top officials to adopt even more extreme pro-Israel positions. LFI is known for sending the largest proportion of MPs to Israel on these kinds of trips.

Labour MP Joan Ryan with Israeli spy Shai Masot

Labour MP Joan Ryan was told by the Israeli spy Shai Masot at the meeting that she could go on an expenses paid trip to Israel

Does that have an effect on British domestic politics. You bet it does! Israel isn’t a charity.

A large number of those who have been making Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s life a misery belong to Labour Friends of Israel. They are the same MPs who have been talking up an “anti-Semitism crisis” in the Labour party – based on zero tangible evidence – since Corbyn became party leader. Were they following the dictates of their conscience? Did they really fear an anti-Semitism plague had suddenly beset their party? Or were they playing deeply cynical politics to oust a leader who supports justice for the Palestinian people and is considered by Israel’s right wing government, which has no interest in making peace with the Palestinians, to be bad news for Israel?

Al Jazeera’s investigation has not been shown yet, so we can rely only on the snippets released so far, either by Aljazeera itself or additional leaks of the investigation provided by the Mail on Sunday.

It is worth listening to a Tory minister in the government of recently departed David Cameron, who writes anonymously in the Mail on Sunday. S/he warns of a double whammy to British politics caused by Israel and its British partisans – one that is starting to approach the damage done to the US political system by Israel.

Agents of Israel

The British government skews its foreign policy to avoid upsetting Jewish donors, s/he says. MPs, meanwhile, act like agents of a foreign power – s/he generously assumes unwittingly – rather than representatives of the British people. Forget international law, these politicians are not even promoting British interests.

Here is what the minister writes:

British foreign policy is in hock to Israeli influence at the heart of our politics, and those in authority have ignored what is going on.

For years the CFI and Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) have worked with – even for – the Israeli government and their London embassy to promote Israeli policy and thwart UK government policy and the actions of ministers who try to defend Palestinian rights.

Lots of countries try to force their views on others, but what is scandalous in the UK is that instead of resisting it, successive governments have submitted to it, taken donors’ money, and allowed Israeli influence-peddling to shape policy and even determine the fate of ministers.

Even now, if I were to reveal who I am, I would be subjected to a relentless barrage of abuse and character assassination…

It now seems clear people in the Conservative and Labour parties have been working with the Israeli embassy, which has used them to demonise and trash MPs who criticise Israel; an army of Israel’s useful idiots in Parliament.

This is politically corrupt, and diplomatically indefensible. The conduct of certain MPs needs to be exposed as the poisonous and deceitful infiltration of our politics by the unwitting agents of another country …

We need a full inquiry into the Israeli embassy, the links, access and funding of the CFI and LFI.

It is rare that I agree with a Tory government minister, but such an inquiry cannot come too soon.

An indictment of the UK media

Note too that it is an indictment of the UK media that Aljazeera, rather than the British fourth estate, has exposed Israel’s moves to subvert the British political system. It is not as though reporters from the BBC, the Guardian, the Times and the Mail haven’t had ministers like the one above complaining to them for years about interference from Israel. So, why did they not long ago send in undercover teams to expose this collusion between Israel and British MPs?

Here we have documented evidence of the Israeli government secretly plotting with “friendly” British MPs to oust a British government minister. Will we… have weeks of coverage of this story in the UK media, or will it be quickly filed away and forgotten?

We have had weeks of stories about the supposed efforts of Russia and Putin to subvert the US election, without a hint yet of any evidence, and based on a central allegation against the Russians that they compromised the election result by releasing truthful information about wrongdoing in the Democratic Party. Russian diplomats have been expelled based on these evidence-free claims, and President Obama has vowed to take other, covert action against Russia.

Here we have documented evidence of the Israeli government secretly plotting with “friendly” British MPs to oust a British government minister. If that isn’t interference in the British political system, I don’t know what is. Will we similarly have weeks of coverage of this story in the UK media, or will it be quickly filed away and forgotten?

And will any action beyond the removal of Masot be demanded by the British government? It seems unlikely. The Foreign Office has already issued a statement saying that, following Masot’s dismissal, it considers the matter closed.

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Profile Of a Progressive Gun Enthusiast

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gun

I was returning with other volunteers in our fire department’s SUV after our community training course. This was last autumn, not long after the Republican Party convention. Not unreasonably, our conversation during the long drive home turned to Donald Trump. Frank, usually rather taciturn, turned to a younger member of our crew with uncharacteristic passion: “They’ll take all our guns away. Wait and see,” he declared. Frank was not applauding Trump as much as he was cursing a generic government which he sees threatening his right to own guns. Frank proceeded determinedly to declare how the US government is encroaching on our lives– not his life, ours– with its excessive regulations: “Look around us here, look at this beautiful country! They want to control it. Just leave the land alone”, he pleaded.

Frank hunts deer and turkeys in season and is a proud owner of several guns. But I wouldn’t describe Frank as right-wing or violent. He volunteers his time to the local fire department, he opposes fracking (oil and gas drilling technology that has aroused much debate and warnings from environmentalists), and his simple dream is to buy land in the next county to build a small farm. Despite his support for Trump’s candidacy, I felt Frank was neither attacking Democrats nor hailing Republicans. (He is dissatisfied, or fearful– doubtless partly due to his bleak job outlook.) I suspect that he championed the Republican front-runner as someone who offers him better odds that his prospects will improve.

I first met Frank at our community fire hall. He was stretched out under one of the fire engines attaching a trailer hitch to the chassis. He happily spent several hours there, wrench in hand, shirt soiled, grunting and chuckling. As a volunteer first-responder, Frank is provided with accident insurance, but only if injured on a call. Neither he nor his wife—she works as a waitress for minimum wage at a local café– nor their son has family health protection.

As a part-time house painter with a local contractor, Frank’s income is low. He leftNew Jersey for upstateNew Yorktwo years ago because, at forty-five, he had back problems and had to quit his previous job stacking cement blocks. Notwithstanding his affection for guns—I think it’s the mechanics of guns that he enjoys, similar to his fondness for his old truck and his motorbike– Frank holds values which people identifying as ‘liberal’ would consider progressive. He’s an organic food enthusiast, for example. And what he can’t grow in the back garden (of his rented house), he willingly pays premium prices for at organic markets. The family’s eggs come from hens he feeds with organic fodder. Not unreasonably, he prides himself on his discerning tastes: he prepares sushi and sashimi, his favorite food. And he drinks only ‘craft beer’, a new industry popular with young liberals. With his wife, Frank visits nearby towns to compare local brews– a favorite evening pastime for them.

Although Frank highlights gun ownership in his politics, I doubt if guns are what really draws him to Trump. In fact many people I know in our town who are keen hunters are actually Democrats. (N.Y.’s Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, like Bernie Sanders, endorses the sport and thereby supports gun ownership.) It’s complicated, as they say.

Americans residing outside metropolises are not as simplistic and monocultural—nor are they ‘racist’– as news articles purport. Gun owners like Frank who live in rural areas (Trump Country?) really do not fit the one-dimensional mould others with different hobbies cast them in. I see no evidence that Frank and fellow beer aficionados are more ignorant, bigoted, intolerant, or racist than anyone else.

This corresponds to what the prolific sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild concludes from her experience in Louisiana. Her fine new book, Strangers in Their Own Land,  is based on her comprehensive five-year study of Lake Charles, an “arch-conservative Louisiana bayou” community. A timely project employing anthropology research methods, Hochschild’s work was published just as America’s deep cultural fault lines were exposed during the recent presidential campaign. Hochschild story of “anger and mourning in the American right” portrays a community unlike what outsiders have ever seen and known: their members are kind, religious, and not at all intolerant. (This picture is reinforced by another recent release, the memoir Hillbilly Elegy

https://www.harpercollins.com/9780062300546/hillbilly-elegy.)

Indeed, they reject accusations of racism from our ‘liberal press’. And they can argue convincingly for their conservative positions. Their stories, recorded by Hochschild in extensive and vivid biographies, expose ambiguities and differences among people impacted by industrial pollution and low employment prospects. The wider public and journalists in particular would do well to make note of the detailed picture this highly skilled scholar provides.

Still I would caution that we not accept Hochschild’s portrait as exclusive to this ‘far-right’ (Trump Country) corner ofAmerica. Conditions she describes, I would argue, are not confined to a depressed, industry-exploited region. There’s a danger that we assumeLake Charles,Louisiana, represents an alien and unworthy hinterland of the American south. (Examining election statistics for New York, we’d be shocked to learn that in this proudly ‘liberal state’, only 19.7 % of registered voters cast ballots during recent presidential primaries, a record that is second worst in the country to– guess where?Louisiana.)

What most disturbs me is not the character of these communities, or Frank’s mixed values. More troubling is how putative ‘liberals’ view fellow Americans who are Republican Party supporters as personally and culturally deficient. (Did you notice the distinction pre-election pollsters made of non-college educated and college graduates?)

In October, at Democratic Party candidates’ field offices in my district, I overheard shockingly derisive comments from volunteer canvassers about Republican opponents (comments overlooked by the presiding field officer). If uttered by ‘conservatives’, there’d be accusations (from ‘liberals’) of bigotry and racism.

Had I not known about Frank’s fondness for Japanese sushi, seen his pride that his 14-year-old son forgoes cafeteria meals at school for the organic sandwiches prepared by his father, and had I not witnessed Frank’s commitment to our fire  department and his care for his garden, I might have assigned him to ‘Trump Country’ and kept my distance.

Maybe because I’m an anthropologist and journalist, I’m curious to know Frank; I can easily approach him to learn about his life and his ideals. Most Americans who consider themselves ‘liberal’ would remain aloof from Frank, if not out of some irrational fear, then due to a perceived class or occupational divide. This is worrisome. And I’m not the first observer now questioning the real nature (perhaps the myth) of ‘liberal’ America. It’s evident that this sector of our citizenry is less well informed than it believes it is, more driven by emotion and prejudice than it realizes. And it harbors dangerous biases. Perhaps it is itself guilty of racism. The November 8th election results exposed ‘liberals’’ imprudence of being better educated and more qualified for leadership as misguided. As one Marxist Nepali critic I recently spoke to observed ofClinton’s much heralded pre-election rally inPennsylvania with music celebrities: “They went to the concert to see the stars, not her.”

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Syrian War Report: Heavy Fighting Continues Despite Ceasefire

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The Syrian army has repelled a major Jabhat Fatah al-Sham-led attack in eastern Hama. Last night, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and its allies advanced near the villages of Ramlieh, Khunayfis and Sultanieh, engaging Syrian army units in an intense fighting in the area. However, army troops, backed up by warplanes and artillery units, foiled the attack and kept their positions in the area. The situation remains tense.

On Sunday, government forces liberated the most part of the Hazrama town and seized the village of Tal Farzat in the Eastern Ghouta region or Rif Damascus. Jaish al-Islam units made a number of attempts to regain the lost areas from the Syrian Army’s Republican Guard and the National Defense Forces (NDF) but failed to do this. On Monday, clashes continued there.

On Saturday, the Syrian government and militant groups operating in the Wadi Barada area reached a reconciliation agreement, according to which militant groups were set to allow the restoration of the water supplies to Damascus , to hand over light, medium and heavy weapons to the Syrian army, and to surrender itself to government forces or to withdraw from Wadi Barada.

The agreement was made due to the recent gains of government forces in the area and a mediation the Russian military delegation that had arrived in the area.

On Sunday, the Syrian army and the NDF resumed an offensive operation in Wadi Barada. The main reason was that militants blocked entry of government engineers to fix the water supply line to Damascus.  On Monday, government forces were in control of Dahr al-Masaby, several hills northwest of Deir Meqren and continued to develop the advance. The military pressure by government forces will likely push local militant groups to fulfill the terms of the recently concluded agreement within this week.

Last weekend, the Russian Aerospace Forces and the Syrian Air Force bombed ISIS targets in eastern Homs.  Russian and Syrian warplanes and combat helicopters reportedly conducted raids against ISIS terrorists near the Tyas Airbase, Jabab Hamd, Dhabat al-Malah, Shaer gas fields, Arak gas fields, the al-Shoumeriyeh mountain and al-Sukhnah. The delivered military strikes resulted in killing of some 60 ISIS members and wounding dozens others.

The Russian Aerospace Forces and the Syrian Air Force kept focus on this region due to a tense situation near the government-held Tyas Airbase which ISIS sees as its main target in the province.

Meanwhile, pro-ISIS sources released a fresh photo-report from the area of al-Bab where the Turkish Armed Forces and pro-Turkish militant groups were attempting to break ISIS defenses near this key Syrian town. The photo report included an alleged photo of the Russian Su-35 (or Su-30) multi-role fighter. According to reports, the warplane had been operating in the area, supporting Turkish forces advancing against ISIS. If true, it will be the first real evidence of reports that Russia provides an air support to Turkish forces in northern Syria.

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Political Uncertainty In Post-Daesh Iraq

Flag_of_Iraq_(2004-2008).svg

The political future of Iraq is uncertain because of the intensified domestic splits between its constituent Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish communities which were exacerbated by Daesh over the past couple of years. Post-2003 Iraq has been continually plagued by communal violence, but never before had each of its three communities been so divided from one another.

Up until this point, none of them were able to stake a plausible claim to quasi-independence, except of course the Kurds, but even so, Erbil would have been unlikely to succeed with this so long as the Iraqi Army projected an image of strength. Nevertheless, that’s exactly what it was – an image – since it’s well-known how quickly they retreated in the face of Daesh’s advances in summer 2014. The present situation of dramatic domestic divisions within Iraq are most directly attributed to that moment, as the presumably “unified” state thenceforth ceased to exist once Baghdad’s authority was essentially restricted to the capital, and even there, it wasn’t functionally present in all neighborhoods.

The ongoing liberation campaign in Mosul is progressing at a snail’s pace, and that’s partially attributable to both the dangerous mistrust between all “allied” factions and the US’ efforts to maximize the latter in order to further divide and rule over its former de-facto military colony of Iraq. Moreover, the involvement of two other foreign powers aside from the US – Turkey and Iran – makes Iraq a cauldron of proxy conflict on par with Syria and Afghanistan.

Generally speaking, Turkey supports the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) due to the intimate pro-Ankara ties that its leader Masoud Barzani has cultivated for years, Iran supports the Shiite militias, and the US stands behind the Iraqi Army and select Sunni tribesmen. Although there have been reports of tension between the Kurds and Shiites (and more broadly, one could generalize as being between Turkey and Iran via their Iraqi proxies), the crux of potential civil conflict in Iraq is between the Sunnis and each of these two groups.

Additionally, Baghdad – no matter which ethno-religious faction is controlling it at any given time – is for the most part consistently reluctant to further devolve the state, meaning that it will resist Identity Federalism in a post-Daesh political environment, though it’s uncertain if it would go as far as commencing a civil war over this issue. This brings the analysis around to discussing the prospects for a renewed period of domestic conflict after Daesh is cleansed from Iraq. Neither Turkey nor Iran wants to have their shared neighbor embroiled in a prolonged and unresolvable war, though both of course have their own interests to protect within their mutually adjacent state.

However, given that Tehran and Ankara are enjoying a renaissance of relations with one another ever since the failure of last summer’s pro-American coup against Erdogan, it’s unlikely that they’ll take any dangerous and unilateral moves which could be interpreted by their counterpart as potentially sparking a civil war. Therefore, it’s much more likely that both Mideast Great Powers will likely advocate in favor of expanded federalism in Iraq and the legal establishment of three de-facto independent statelets centered on the country’s three constituent identities.

To be fair, the pro-American Sunni minority in the country is also somewhat in favor of this, and had been previously agitating for it. The problem – as they perceive it – is that the prospective Kurdish and Shiite regions of an Identity Federalized Iraq contain the majority of the country’s oil and most of its economic activity, meaning that the Sunni portion of this political arrangement would likely be the poorest and least developed, which could possibly provide fertile ground for the cultivation of radical ideologies and the subtle prolongation of Daesh sympathies.

Even if the Sunni part of the country were to somehow reach a deal for resource and revenue sharing with the other two portions – which is very unlikely – there’s no guarantee that this could serve as a panacea for its economic and ideological ailments. Therefore, no matter the domestic constitution of post-Daesh Iraq – whether federal or otherwise – it’s foreseen that the Sunni-majority parts will remain the most conflict-prone and susceptible to outside ideological influence and provocations, ergo why the US appears to favor it.

Washington understands that this community can provide a reliable platform for dividing and ruling the interconnected “Syraq” battlespace, and while the Kurds could also function in a similar strategic fashion – and actually do to a large extent, given their close ties with the US and ‘Israel’ – there’s a strong chance that the Tripartite ‘Concert of Great Powers’ between Russia, Iran, and Turkey could succeed in neutralizing or at the very least mitigating this geostrategic threat. However, it’s less likely that they could do this when it comes to the transnational and ultra-‘traditionalist’ Sunni communities straddling the rural areas of “Syraq”, as the optics involved would be extremely negative and could inadvertently provoke wider regional tensions, to say nothing of dividing the incipient Tripartite by isolating Sunni-majority and Muslim Brotherhood-influenced Turkey.

Looking forward, the on-the-ground division of forces in post-Daesh Iraq, dependent and influenced to a large degree by the ongoing liberation campaign in Mosul, will provide the firmest indication of which political direction Iraq is headed in. The potential for identity conflict in the immediate aftermath or just prior to the conclusion of this war is very high, and the US and its Gulf allies might seek to provoke this scenario in order to more easily divide and rule “Syraq” and create asymmetrical challenges for Turkey and Iran.

The ideal eventuality would be if Iraq were to somehow return to its tense but “unified” former nature, but this is all but impossible, meaning that it’s much more likely that Identity Federalism will be implemented to a large degree sometime in the future. This brings with it a host of problems, namely over the territorial reorganization of the country, particularly as it relates to Kurdish claims over Kirkuk. Other expected problems could be over revenue sharing, the organization of each statelet’s own military forces, the division of Baghdad, and the authority that the central government and its organs (military, tax, diplomatic, etc.) will hold over each of the three entities.

 

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Iraqi Security Forces Rapidly Gaining Ground in Eastern Mosul ”Video”

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mosul

On January 9, Iraqi security forces (ISF) took control of the al-Baladiyat district of Mosul and announced the liberation of Domiz.

Separately, ISF units entered the district of Sukkar after a series of firefights with ISIS units in the area. Yarmjah, Mazari, and Palestine districts remained conten[d]ed areas between ISF and ISIS.

Pro-government sources claimed that ISF had destroyed some 5 car bombs and killed over 40 ISIS members in the clashes.

Now, ISF’s main goals are to secure Sukkar, to develop the advance in the direction of Kafaat in the northeastern part of Mosul, and to gain full control over Yarmjah, Mazari, and Palestine in southeastern Mosul.

These moves will set the ground for taking control of the whole eastern Mosul area from ISIS terrorists.

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Dr. Martin Luther King’s Legacy: Linking the Civil Rights Movement to the Struggle Against War and Poverty

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martin-luther-king-jr

Five decades ago the SCLC leader took a firm position in opposition to the United States occupation of Vietnam

On April 4, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. took to the pulpit at Riverside Church in New York City to denounce the escalating United States imperialist intervention in Vietnam.

Several days before on March 25, King along with pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock, who at the time was the co-chairman of the National Committee for Sane Nuclear Policy, led a mass demonstration in Chicago calling for the administration of the-then President Lyndon B. Johnson to enact an immediate ceasefire and withdrawal from Southeast Asia.

Marching also with King at the front of the demonstration was Al Raby of the Chicago Coordinating Committee of Community Organizations (CCCO), Jack Spiegel of the United Shoe Workers Union and Bernard Lee, an assistant to King in the local chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). There were also members of the Veterans for Peace in Vietnam who walked alongside the others at the head of the manifestation which included thousands of people.

This was the first demonstration that King had participated in against the war. Earlier in an article published by the Chicago Defender in January 1967 King had expressed his evolving public position. Later in February he delivered an address at an antiwar conference held in Southern California sponsored by the Nation Magazine.

Although the SCLC leader had expressed reservations and even opposition to the escalating war in Vietnam since early 1965, he had refrained from participation in antiwar demonstrations and did not address the military intervention in a comprehensive fashion. For example, after he spoke at Howard University on March 2, 1965, he answered questions from the press where he stated that the war in Vietnam was accomplishing nothing and required negotiation.

Later at the national conference of the SCLC, he called for a halt to the bombing of North Vietnam and the empowering of the United Nations to proceed with negotiations for the cessation of hostilities. He said during his speech that “What is required is a small first step that may establish a new spirit of mutual confidence … a step capable of breaking the cycle of mistrust, violence and war.” (King Encyclopedia at Stanford University)

Nonetheless, his wife, Coretta Scott King, had been far ahead of him in regard to issues related to world peace. In 1962 she traveled to the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Conference held in Geneva, Switzerland as a delegate from the Women’s Strike for Peace. Later in 1965 Coretta Scott King spoke at two antiwar demonstrations on the Mall in Washington, D.C. and in New York at Madison Square Garden.

Before the SCLC came out in opposition to the Vietnam War, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) had issued a comprehensive statement in January 1966 drawing a correlation between the failure of the Johnson administration to guarantee the democratic rights of African Americans and the massive deployment of U.S. troops in Vietnam.

By 1967, demonstrations and rallies against the Vietnam War grew in their numbers and militancy. On April 15, 100,000 people marched from Central Park to the United Nations demanding an end to the war. Drs. King and Spock along with Stokely Carmichael (later known as Kwame Ture), the-then Chairman of SNCC, led the demonstration. In October of the same year there was a demonstration at the Pentagon which resulted in clashes with the police.

The growth of the antiwar movement coincided with the urban rebellions throughout the U.S. as well as unrest within the educational sector. Students and youth began to call for the removal of ROTC from high schools and college campuses along with the defunding of military research.

Civil Rights and Economic Justice

After the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the struggle of the African American people shifted to the implementation of these legislative measures in the South and other regions of the country in the North and West. Independent political parties and mass initiatives were established such as the Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LCFO), the original Black Panther Party, in an effort to build substantive political power.

The resistance to independent political action by the state and federal governments after 1965 sparked urban rebellions in many cities from New York and Los Angeles to Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit. The emergence of urban rebellion as a tactic within the struggle for national liberation and equality alarmed the Johnson administration because it posed a direct challenge to its foreign policy. With African Americans serving in Vietnam disproportionate to their numbers within the overall population, any successful antiwar movement calling for a rejection of the draft and the desertion of troops from the frontlines would ensure a victory for the people of Southeast Asia.

In his speech in the aftermath of the March 25, 1967 demonstration in Chicago, King noted that:

“Poverty, urban problems and social progress generally are ignored when the guns of war become a national obsession. When it is not our security that is at stake, but questionable and vague commitments to reactionary regimes, values disintegrate into foolish and adolescent slogans.”

King then went on to say:

“America is a great nation, … [b]ut honesty impels me to admit that our power has often made us arrogant. We feel that our money can do anything. We arrogantly feel that we have some divine, messianic mission to police the whole world. We are arrogant in not allowing young nations to go through the same growing pains, turbulence and revolution that characterizes our history… We arm Negro soldiers to kill on foreign battlefields but offer little protection for their relatives from beatings and killings in our own South….”

(jofreeman.com/photos/KingAtChicago.html)

By late 1967, Dr. King announced that SCLC in alliance with other organizations from the Chicano, Native American and poor white communities, would launch a Poor People’s Campaign in Washington, D.C. Thousands were mobilized to enter the nation’s capital to occupy the city until legislative and administrative actions were taken to end poverty and economic inequality.

Prior to the beginning of the Poor People’s Campaign, King went to Memphis to support the sanitation workers strike which demanded recognition under the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). It was in Memphis that King called for a general strike in lieu of the resolution of the labor dispute.

King was assassinated on April 4, 1968 before the strike was settled. In response to his assassination rebellion erupted in approximately 125 cities across the U.S. including Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Chicago.

The Continuing Struggle Against National Oppression and Social Injustice

Since 1968, the problems of national oppression and economic inequality have worsened. Today unemployment and poverty remain major obstacles to the full realization of national liberation among the African American people and other people of color communities.

These problems however cannot be resolved under the capitalist system. The greater concentration of wealth among the ruling class mandates the general redistribution of resources from the small elite of exploiters to the majority of the working class and oppressed.

This social transformation of U.S. society will not come about through the goodwill of the ruling class. The workers, farmers and oppressed must be organized and mobilized outside of the framework of the two-party capitalist political system.

Therefore these are the challenges facing the present generation of youth. Consequently, a revolutionary party must be built that can speak and act in the interests of the exploited and oppressed in the U.S. in solidarity with the peoples of the world.

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The End of Ideology in Cuba?

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In 1960, the American sociologist and academic Daniel Bell (1919–2011) published The End of Ideology. It became a classic book in official political science. The publication was listed by Times Literary Supplement as one of the 100 most influential non-fiction books in the second half of the 20th century. While there were other “end of ideologies” in the 1950s and early 1960s, Bell’s is considered the most authoritative. The many varieties that emerged from this school of thought have a common denominator. While not oversimplifying this important trend, for the purposes of this article one can say that it surfaced out of the perceived failures of both socialism in the former U.S.S.R. and capitalism in the West. It was born out of opposition to “extremism.”

In November 1968, along with other political science students at McGill University in Montreal, I founded the Political Science Students Association. It organized a strike around two basic demands. The first was student participation on faculty hiring committees; the second, linked to this potential student empowerment, demanded a more inclusive faculty and curriculum. This would include writings other than by Daniel Bell (who, of course, was considered mandatory reading and enjoyed uncontested reference in political science), progressive social scientists and the works of Marx and Lenin. These were all excluded at the time. After a 10-day occupation and strike, the students’ demands were finally met by the university.

Bell was blind to the inevitable uprisings that were about to take place in the U.S. among African-Americans shortly after his best-seller rolled off the press. These progressive struggles, like those of the Native peoples, who also revolted, have their origins in the Thirteen Colonies. In the 1960s, American students were also attracted to alternative ideologies and politics. In fact, the youth movement was omnipresent throughout North America and much of Europe. While this inclination in the 1960s was characterized by different left-wing political and ideological features, and experienced its ups and downs, it was the death knell for the End of Ideology hypothesis. However, Bell’s heritage keeps coming back to haunt us.

In Cuba, in the last year or so, there has been a steady increase in the End of Ideology code words and buzz phrases emitted by some marginal Cuban bloggers and intellectuals. They were timid at first but became increasingly bold. To mention just a few: complaining of what they see as a “sterile dichotomy between socialism and capitalism”; advising Cuban revolutionaries to be “balanced and more profound in offering their criticism” of U.S. imperialism; opposing what they consider the extremist “Fidelista” and “anti-Castro” positions, placing both on the same footing; labelling those who are Marxist-Leninist or Fidelista as “extremists” or “fanatics”; writing about “two major fallacies of what it means to be a revolutionary in Cuba, from the left and right,” both being based on “exclusive dogma”; and, finally, asserting that “life is much more profound than even ideology.”

Reading these pieces, my university days back in 1968 kept piercing through my thought process. How was it possible that we opposed the End of Ideology in the heart of capitalism yet now it rears its head in Cuba, of all places? One can argue that the opposition in Cuba is coming from the “left,” that is, from those who claim that they support the Revolution. Well, where else can it emerge if not from the so-called left? This is Cuba. Let us not forget that Bell had identified as a leftist. His opposition to ideology was ostensibly from the leftist outlook and not the right. This, after all, was how he won his credibility and credentials. Bell became disillusioned with socialism. He could not see an alternative so he decided to wage a struggle against both capitalism and socialism. His work is a reflection of his own personal/political predicament. Objectively, however, this so-called neutrality against extremes consists in throwing a life jacket in support of capitalism. It is no accident that he is so appreciated by the ruling elites of the West.

I have always maintained that the most dangerous opposition to the Cuban Revolution comes from the so-called left, and not from the openly right Plattists, or annexationists. It is a cancer in Cuban society that, if left to grow without sharp ideological resistance, can influence the most naive, especially among youth, intellectuals and artists.

When Bell wrote his essays in the late 1950s, which were eventually compiled in his 1960 volume, Cuba was the scene of the most glaring refutation in the world of his theory: the 1953 Moncada attack, its ensuing program and the Triumph of the Revolution on January 1, 1959. Fidel Castro and the July 26 Movement initiated in embryonic form the road toward a new Marxist-Leninist revolutionary ideology for Cuba. Far from being a period characterized by the end of ideology, Cuba provided the world with a resurgence of – and confidence in – the need for ideology. It represented the end of the End of Ideology. The Cuban Revolution erupted at the height of the Cold War yet it dug in its heels against any intimidation from the left or from imperialism. It did not represent the politically correct action and thinking at the time, not of the left and even less so of the right. Thus, in the initial period, Fidel had the acumen to not reveal the entire scenario. However, ideology was at the centre of the action and spirit.

Since 1953, Cuba has been and continues to be the quintessence of cultivating ideological principles. Every written and spoken word of Fidel is impregnated with ideology. It is not stagnant; on the contrary, it is continuously evolving according to the context. Otherwise, Cuba would not have been able to outlast its enemies all this time.

I am convinced that one of the main implicit objectives of the international corporate media campaign against the persona of Fidel right after his passing was imperialism’s revenge against him for not capitulating on ideology. Why, they may ask in frustration, did the Cuban Revolution never buy into the End of Ideology? It should have, according to official political science. Yet, after all these years, from July 26, 1953 to November 25, 2016, Fidel lived and died as he asked of others: a humble revolutionary.

In this historical context today, to try to impregnate Cuban political culture with “neutrality” on ideology, opposition to “extremes,” “equidistance” between socialism and capitalism, and so forth does not constitute a challenge to dogmatism of the left as it tries to portray itself. The real defiance is against socialism and Marxist-Leninist ideology. In the 1960s, Bell’s theory appealed to the ruling circles, who wanted to preserve the status quo. The elites were in power. They were not in any danger of being dislodged by their own capitalism! The End of Ideology critique of capitalism was then just a convenient cover for the critique of socialism. At McGill, in 1968, that was the main argument of the conservative faculty and administration. They were supposedly not in favour or against any ideology. All political options were welcome, but Bell was more welcome. He was supposedly against capitalism and socialism. However, those who favoured the capitalist status quo relied on the End of Ideology. Those who opposed the “extreme” ideology of the left were fully merged with the capitalist ideology, serving to propagate and elaborate it. The purpose of the End of Ideology, in the 1960s and now in Cuba, is to put an end to Marxist-Leninist and socialist ideology.

Source: Prensa Latina

http://www.plenglish.com/index.php?o=rn&id=7822&SEO=the-end-of-ideology-in-cuba

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America’s Defeat in Syria: Bashar Al Assad Still Stands, As Obama Prepares to Leave Office

obama-bashar-assad

“The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way. His calls for dialogue and reform have rung hollow while he is imprisoning, torturing and slaughtering his own people.  We have consistently said that President Assad must lead a democratic transition or get out of the way.  He has not led.  For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside” – Barack Obama, speaking in August 2011.

When the US President made his first explicit call for the removal of Bashar al-Assad from power in August 2011, who would have thought that the Syrian leader would have outlasted Barack Obama in office. Even for the most optimistic supporter of the territorial integrity of the Syrian state, there must have been moments when they felt that the US/NATO war machine would topple Assad and completely Balkanize the Syrian state (I know I did). And yet here we are, more than five years later, watching Obama conclude his shambolic reign with a final frenzy of anti-Russian attacks, as Assad still stands in Damascus.

Outside of any last gasp strike or invasion of Syria by the US or its allies, it seems that Assad’s presidency will outlast that of Obama’s. Despite all the media propaganda and demonization; the hordes of foreign mercenaries armed to the teeth by the US and their allies; the false flag attacks to justify a full-scale invasion of the country (the Ghouta sarin attack for instance); the sanctions against Assad and other high-level Syrian officials; and the countless other assaults on the country: the Syrian people refused to be bullied or swayed by outside powers.

Although the war is still ongoing and far from over, the recent liberation of eastern Aleppo by the Syrian Arab Army illustrates which side has the momentum in the conflict. The move led by Moscow to forge closer ties between Russia, Iran and Turkey in relation to Syria is also a significant development, considering the role that Turkey has played in supporting the opposition during the conflict. A Turkey that is committed to ending the conflict and stopping the flow of arms and mercenaries across the border is a major step towards the stabilization of Syria.

Obama vs. The US Military

The West has been unable to force Libyan-style regime change in Syria due to a variety of reasons, with the support of regional and international allies one of the most significant factors. Iran, Hezbollah, China and most notably Russia, have been crucial players in supporting the Syrian government, a fact that has been well documented in the media.  What has been less well documented however, is the role that certain elements within the US military have played in stopping the neoconservatives, the CIA and other factions close to Obama forcing regime change in Syria.

Despite many elements within the US military being far from perfect, there has been a core of high-ranking military officers who have resisted the Syrian strategy advocated by many in Washington. As the award-winning journalist, Seymour M. Hersh, wrote in his article for the London Review of Books in January 2016, titled: Military to Military, numerous individuals in the US military were concerned over the nature of many of the opposition groups that would have been empowered if Assad was ousted from power, and so they began to secretly share US intelligence with other militaries around the world, intelligence that was intended to help the Syrian military in their fight against extremists:

“In the autumn of 2013, they [(the Joint Chiefs)] decided to take steps against the extremists without going through political channels, by providing US intelligence to the militaries of other nations, on the understanding that it would be passed on to the Syrian army and used against the common enemy, Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State.”

One of the individuals in the US military that has been a vocal critic of Obama’s Syrian strategy is the former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), retired Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn. The former DIA head has been consistently warning over the dangers of overthrowing Assad, and in 2015 he lambasted the Obama administration for taking thewillful decision to support the rise of extremists in Syria. Flynn, who has been appointed as Trump’s National Security Adviser, is well aware of the situation on the ground in Syria, with an August 2012 intelligence document from the DIA stating that:

“The Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Qaeda in Iraq, are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria… Opposition forces are trying to control the Eastern areas (Hasaka and Der Zor), adjacent to the Western Iraqi provinces (Mosul and Anbar), in addition to neighbouring Turkish borders. Western countries, the Gulf states and Turkey are supporting these efforts… If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in Eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).”

Flynn was not alone in opposing the Syrian policy of the Obama administration however, although he was perhaps the most vocal in public. Retired General Martin Dempsey for instance, who served as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff between October 2011 and September 2015, was fairly consistent at emphasising the costs of military action in Syria, including during the debate over whether to directly strike Syria after the Ghouta chemical attack in August 2013. Dempsey’s general position on using overt military force in Syria against Assad can be seen in a July 2013 letter to the Chairman of the Committee on Armed Services, Senator Carl Levin. The overall tone of the letter is cautious and thoughtful, with Dempsey warning that the US “could inadvertently empower extremists” by ousting Assad:

“It is not enough to simply alter the balance of military power without careful consideration of what is necessary in order to preserve a functioning state. We must anticipate and be prepared for the unintended consequences of our action. Should the regime’s institutions collapse in the absence of a viable opposition, we could inadvertently empower extremists or unleash the very chemical weapons we seek to control… Once we take action, we should be prepared for what comes next. Deeper involvement is hard to avoid. We should also act in accordance with the law.”

If Obama had got his wish in 2011, and Assad was removed from power in Damascus, the political vacuum left by Assad would have been filled by a plethora of ‘moderate rebels’ (i.e. hardcore terrorists). After eight years of carnage and broken promises, many people in the US and around the world will be delighted to see Obama leave office.

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President al-Assad: “We Will Liberate every Inch of the Syrian Land”

NOVANEWS

Interview with French Media: “Everything in the World is Changing Regarding Syria…Our Mission, According to the Constitution and Laws is to Liberate every Inch of the Syrian Land”

Assad carte

President Bashar al-Assad has said that everything in the world is changing regarding Syria on every level, the local, the regional, and the international.

In a statement given to the French media, President al-Assad added that our mission, according to the constitution and according to the laws, that we have to liberate every inch of the Syrian land.

Following is the full context of the statement:

Question 1: Mr. President, you have just met a French delegation of MPs. Do you think this visit will have an influence on the French position about Syria?

President Assad: This is a French question. We hope that any delegation that would come here is to see the truth about what is happening in Syria during the last years, since the beginning of the war six years ago, and the problem now, regarding France in particular, is that they don’t have an embassy, they don’t have any relation with Syria at all, so it’s like… we can say it’s a blind state. How can you forge a policy towards a certain region if you can’t see, if you’re blind? You need to see. The importance of those delegations is that they represent the eyes of the states, but that depends on the state; do they want to see, or they want to keep adopting the ostrich policy and they don’t want to tell the truth, because now everything in the world is changing regarding Syria on every level, the local, the regional, and the international. Until this moment, the French administration hasn’t changed its position, they still speak the old language which is disconnected from our reality. That’s why we have a hope that there’s someone in the state who wants to listen to these delegations, to the facts. I’m not talking about my opinion, I’m talking about the reality in Syria. So, we have hope.

Question 2: Mr. President, you said that Aleppo is a major victory for Syria, and a major turn in the crisis. What do you feel when you see the pictures of the hundreds of civilians that were killed in the bombings, and the devastation of the city?

President Assad: Of course, it’s very painful for us as Syrians to see any part of our country destroyed, or to see any blood shedding anywhere,this is self-evident, this is emotional part, but for me as President or as an official, the question for the Syrian people: what I’m going to do. It’s not only about the feeling; the feeling is self-evident as I said. How we’re going to rebuild our cities.

Question 3: But was the bombing of east Aleppo the only solution to retake the city, with the death of civilians, your fellow citizens?

President Assad: It depends on what kind of war you’re looking for. Are you looking for a quiet war, war without destruction? I haven’t heard, in the history, of a good war, every war is bad. Why bad? Because every war is about destruction, every war is about the killing, that’s why every war is bad. You cannot say “this is a good war” even if it’s for a good reason, to defend your country, for a noble reason, but it’s bad. That’s why it’s not the solution, if you have any other solution. But the question is: how can you liberate the civilians in those areas from the terrorists? Is it better to leave them, to leave them under their supervision, under their oppression, under their fate defined by those terrorists by beheading, by killing, by everything but not having state? Is that the role of the state, just to keep and watch? You have to liberate, and this is the price sometimes, but at the end, the people are liberated from the terrorists. That’s the question now; are they liberated or not? If yes, that’s what we have to do.

Question 4: Mr. President, a ceasefire has been signed on the 30th of December, why do Syrian Army still fight near Damascus in the region of Wadi Barada?

President Assad: First of all, ceasefire is about different parties, so when you say there’s viable ceasefire is when every party stops fighting and shooting, and it’s not the case in many areas in Syria, and that was reported by the Russian center of observation regarding the ceasefire. There’s breaching of that ceasefire on daily basis in Syria, including Damascus, but in Damascus mainly because the terrorists occupy the main source of water of Damascus where more than five million civilians are deprived from water for the last three weeks now, and the role of the Syrian Army is to liberate that area in order to prevent those terrorists from using that water in order to suffocate the capital. So, that’s why.

Question 5: Mr. President, Daesh is not a part of the ceasefire…

President Assad: No.

Journalist: Do you plan to take again Raqqa, and when?

President Assad: Let me just continue the second part of the first question. Second part of that ceasefire is not about al-Nusra and ISIS, and the area that we’ve been fighting to liberate recently, regarding the water sources of the capital Damascus, is occupied by al-Nusra, and al-Nusra announced formally that they are occupying that area. So, it’s not part of the ceasefire.

Regarding al-Raqqa, of course it’s our mission, according to the constitution and according to the laws, that we have to liberate every inch of the Syrian land. There’s no question about that, it’s not to be discussed. But it’s about when, what are our priorities, and this is military, regarding to the military planning, about the military priorities. But nationally, there’s no priority; every inch is a Syrian inch, it should be within the purview of the government.

Question 6: Important talks will take place in Astana at the end of the month, including a lot of Syrian parties, including some opposition groups, let’s say. What are you ready to negotiate directly with them, and what are you ready to negotiate to help the peace to come back in Syria.

President Assad: Of course, we are ready, and we announced that our delegation to that conference is ready to go when they define… when they set the time of that conference. We are ready to negotiate everything. When you talk about negotiation regarding whether to end the conflict in Syria or talking about the future of Syria, anything, it’s fully open, there’s no limit for that negotiations. But who’s going to be there from the other side? We don’t know yet. Is it going to be real Syrian opposition – and when I say “real” it means has grassroots in Syria, not Saudi one or French one or British one – it should be Syrian opposition to discuss the Syrian issues. So, the viability or, let’s say, the success of that conference will depend on that point.

Question 7: Are you even ready to discuss your position as President? That has been contested.

President Assad: Yeah, but my position is related to the constitution, and the constitution is very clear about the mechanism in which you can bring a president or get rid of a president. So, if they want to discuss this point, they have to discuss the constitution, and the constitution is not owned by the government or the president or by the opposition; it should be owned by the Syrian people, so you need a referendum for every constitution. This is one of the points that could be discussed in that meeting, of course, but they cannot say “we need that president” or “we don’t need that president” because the president is related to the ballot box. If they don’t need him, let’s go to the ballot box. The Syrian people should bring a president, not part of the Syrian people.

Question 8: And with this negotiation, what will be the fate of rebel fighters?

President Assad: From what we’ve been implementing during the last three years, because you want genuinely to have peace in Syria, the government offered amnesty for every militant who gives up his armaments, and it worked, and they still have the same option if they want to go back to their normality and to go back to their normal life. This is the maximum that you can offer, amnesty.

Question 9: Mr. President, as you know, French presidential election will take place, do you have a favorite, do you have a preference for one of the candidates?

President Assad: No, because we don’t have any contacts with any one of them, and we cannot count very much on the statements and rhetoric during the campaign, so we always say let’s wait and see what policy they’re going to adopt after they are in their position. But we always have hopes that the next administration or government or president, they want to deal with the reality, to disconnect themselves from the disconnected policy from our reality. That’s our hope, and they can work for the interest of the French people, because the question now after six years: as a French citizen, do you feel safer? I don’t think the answer is yes. The immigration problem, has it made the situation in your country better? I think the answer is no, whether in France or in Europe. The question now: what is the reason? This is the discussion that the next administration or government or president should deal with in order to deal with our reality, not with their imaginations as has been happening during the last six years.

Question 10: But one of the candidates, Francois Fillon, doesn’t have the same position as the official one; he would like to reestablish the dialogue with Syria. Do you expect his election – if he’s elected – could change the position of France about Syria?

President Assad: His rhetoric regarding the terrorists, or let’s say the priority to fight the terrorists and not meddling in the affairs of other countries, are welcome, but we have to be cautious, because what we’ve learned in this region during the last few years is that many officials would say something and do the opposite. I wouldn’t say that Mr. Fillon would do this. I hope not. But we have to wait and see, because there’s no contact. But so far, what he said, if it’s implemented, that will be very good.

Question 11: Do you appreciate him as a politician, Francois Fillon?

President Assad: I didn’t have any contact with him or cooperation, so whatever I say now won’t be very credible, to be frank with you.

Question 12: Is there a message you want to address to France?

President Assad: I think if I want to send it to the politicians, I will say the self-evident thing; that you have to work for the interest of the Syrian citizens, and for the last six years the situation is going in the other direction, because the French politics harmed the French interests. So, for the French people, I would say the mainstream media has failed in most of the West. The narrative has been debunked because of the reality, and you have the alternative media, you have to look for the truth. The truth was the main victim of the events in the Middle East, including Syria. I would ask any citizen in France to search for the reality, for the real information, through the alternative media. When they search for this information, they can be more effective in dealing with their government, or at least not allowing some politicians to base their politics on lies. That’s what we think is the most important thing during the last six years.

Question 13: Mr. President, your father has been a lifelong President of Syria. Do you consider the option of not being the President anymore, one day?

President Assad: Yeah, that depends on two things: the first one is the will of the Syrian people; do they want that person to be president or not. If I want to be president while the Syrian people doesn’t want me, even if I win in the elections, I don’t have strong support, I cannot achieve anything, especially in a complicated region like Syria. You cannot be just elected president, that doesn’t work, you need popular support. Without it I cannot be successful. So, at that time, there’s no meaning to be president.

The second one; if I have that feeling that I want to be president, I will nominate myself, but that depends on the first factor. If I feel that the Syrian people doesn’t want me, of course I wouldn’t be. So, it’s not about me mainly, it’s about the Syrian people; do they want me or not. That’s how I look at it.

Question 14: Last question; Donald Trump is to be appointed as President of the United States in less than two weeks. He has been clear that he wants to improve relationships with Russia, which is one of your main allies…

President Assad: Yeah, exactly.

Journalist: Do you consider… do you expect that it will change the position of the United States towards Syria?

President Assad: Yeah, if you want to talk realistically, because the Syrian problem is not isolated, it’s not only Syrian-Syrian; actually, the biggest part… or let’s say the major part of the Syrian conflict is regional and international. The simplest part that you can deal with is the Syrian-Syrian part. The regional and the international part depends mainly on the relation between the United States and Russia. What he announced yesterday was very promising, if there’s a genuine approach or initiative toward improving the relation between the United States and Russia, that will effect every problem in the world, including Syria. So, I would say yes, we think that’s positive, regarding the Syrian conflict.

Journalist: What is positive?

President Assad: I mean the relation, the improvement of the relation between the United States and Russia will reflect positively on the Syrian conflict.

Journalists: Thank you very much.

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The Year of the Commando: U.S. Special Operations’ Forces Deploy to 138 Nations

NOVANEWS
In 70% of the World’s Countries
 
"Exercise Noble Jump"

They could be found on the outskirts of Sirte, Libya, supporting local militia fighters, and in Mukalla, Yemen, backing troops from the United Arab Emirates.  At Saakow, a remote outpost in southern Somalia, they assisted local commandos in killing several members of the terror group al-Shabab.  Around the cities of Jarabulus and Al-Rai in northern Syria, they partnered with both Turkish soldiers and Syrian militias, while also embedding with Kurdish YPG fighters and the Syrian Democratic Forces.  Across the border in Iraq, still others joined the fight to liberate the city of Mosul.  And in Afghanistan, they assisted indigenous forces in various missions, just as they have every year since 2001.

For America, 2016 may have been the year of the commando.  In one conflict zone after another across the northern tier of Africa and the Greater Middle East, U.S. Special Operations forces (SOF) waged their particular brand of low-profile warfare.  “Winning the current fight, including against the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, and other areas where SOF is engaged in conflict and instability, is an immediate challenge,” the chief of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), General Raymond Thomastold the Senate Armed Services Committee last year.

SOCOM’s shadow wars against terror groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (also known as ISIL) may, ironically, be its most visible operations.  Shrouded in even more secrecy are its activities — from counterinsurgency and counterdrug efforts to seemingly endless training and advising missions — outside acknowledged conflict zones across the globe.  These are conducted with little fanfare, press coverage, or oversight in scores of nations every single day.  From Albania to Uruguay, Algeria to Uzbekistan, America’s most elite forces — Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets among them — were deployed to 138 countries in 2016, according to figures supplied to TomDispatch by U.S. Special Operations Command.  This total, one of the highest of Barack Obama’s presidency, typifies what has become the golden age of, in SOF-speak, the “gray zone” — a phrase used to describe the murky twilight between war and peace.  The coming year is likely to signal whether this era ends with Obama or continues under President-elect Donald Trump’s administration.

America’s most elite troops deployed to 138 nations in 2016, according to U.S. Special Operations Command. The map above displays the locations of 132 of those countries; 129 locations (blue) were supplied by U.S. Special Operations Command; 3 locations (red) — Syria, Yemen and Somalia — were derived from open-source information. (Nick Turse)
CLICK TO ENLARGE

“In just the past few years, we have witnessed a varied and evolving threat environment consisting of: the emergence of a militarily expansionist China; an increasingly unpredictable North Korea; a revanchist Russia threatening our interests in both Europe and Asia; and an Iran which continues to expand its influence across the Middle East, fueling the Sunni-Shia conflict,” General Thomas wrote last month in PRISM, the official journal of the Pentagon’s Center for Complex Operations.  “Nonstate actors further confuse this landscape by employing terrorist, criminal, and insurgent networks that erode governance in all but the strongest states… Special operations forces provide asymmetric capability and responses to these challenges.”

In 2016, according to data provided to TomDispatch by SOCOM, the U.S. deployed special operators to China (specifically Hong Kong), in addition to eleven countries surrounding it — Taiwan (which China considers a breakaway province), Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, India, Laos, the Philippines, South Korea, and Japan.  Special Operations Command does not acknowledge sending commandos into Iran, North Korea, or Russia, but it does deploy troops to many nations that ring them.

SOCOM is willing to name only 129 of the 138 countries its forces deployed to in 2016. “Almost all Special Operations forces deployments are classified,” spokesman Ken McGraw told TomDispatch.  “If a deployment to a specific country has not been declassified, we do not release information about the deployment.”

SOCOM does not, for instance, acknowledge sending troops to the war zones of SomaliaSyria, or Yemen, despite overwhelming evidence of a U.S. special ops presence in all three countries, as well as a White House report, issued last month, that notes “the United States is currently using military force in” Somalia, Syria, and Yemen, and specifically states that “U.S. special operations forces have deployed to Syria.”

According to Special Operations Command, 55.29% of special operators deployed overseas in 2016 were sent to the Greater Middle East, a drop of 35% since 2006.  Over the same span, deployments to Africa skyrocketed by more than 1600% — from just 1% of special operators dispatched outside the U.S. in 2006 to 17.26% last year.  Those two regions were followed by areas served by European Command (12.67%), Pacific Command (9.19%), Southern Command (4.89%), and Northern Command (0.69%), which is in charge of “homeland defense.”  On any given day, around 8,000 of Thomas’s commandos can be found in more than 90 countries worldwide.

U.S. Special Operations forces deployed to 138 nations in 2016. Locations in blue were supplied by U.S. Special Operations Command. Those in red were derived from open-source information. Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, and Russia are not among those nations named or identified, but all are at least partially surrounded by nations visited by America’s most elite troops last year. (Nick Turse)

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The Manhunters

“Special Operations forces are playing a critical role in gathering intelligence — intelligence that’s supporting operations against ISIL and helping to combat the flow of foreign fighters to and from Syria and Iraq,” saidLisa Monaco, the assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, in remarks at the International Special Operations Forces Convention last year.  Such intelligence operations are “conducted in direct support of special operations missions,” SOCOM’s Thomas explained in 2016.  “The preponderance of special operations intelligence assets are dedicated to locating individuals, illuminating enemy networks, understanding environments, and supporting partners.”

Signals intelligence from computers and cellphones supplied by foreign allies or intercepted by surveillance drones and manned aircraft, as well as human intelligence provided by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), has been integral to targeting individuals for kill/capture missions by SOCOM’s most elite forces.  The highly secretive Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), for example, carries out such counterterrorism operations, including drone strikesraids, and assassinations in places like Iraq and Libya.  Last year, before he exchanged command of JSOC for that of its parent, SOCOM, General Thomas noted that members of Joint Special Operations Command were operating in “all the countries where ISIL currently resides.”  (This may indicate a special ops deployment to Pakistan, another country absent from SOCOM’s 2016 list.)

“[W]e have put our Joint Special Operations Command in the lead of countering ISIL’s external operations.  And we have already achieved very significant results both in reducing the flow of foreign fighters and removing ISIL leaders from the battlefield,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter noted in a relatively rare official mention of JSOC’s operations at an October press conference.

A month earlier, he offered even more detail in a statement before the Senate Armed Services Committee:

”We’re systematically eliminating ISIL’s leadership: the coalition has taken out seven members of the ISIL Senior Shura… We also removed key ISIL leaders in both Libya and Afghanistan… And we’ve removed from the battlefield more than 20 of ISIL’s external operators and plotters… We have entrusted this aspect of our campaign to one of [the Department of Defense’s] most lethal, capable, and experienced commands, our Joint Special Operations Command, which helped deliver justice not only to Osama Bin Laden, but also to the man who founded the organization that became ISIL, Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi.”

Asked for details on exactly how many ISIL “external operators” were targeted and how many were “removed” from the battlefield by JSOC in 2016, SOCOM’s Ken McGraw replied: “We do not and will not have anything for you.”

When he was commander of JSOC in 2015, General Thomas spoke of his and his unit’s “frustrations” with limitations placed on them.  “I’m told ‘no’ more than ‘go’ on a magnitude of about ten to one on almost a daily basis,” he said.  Last November, however, the Washington Postreported that the Obama administration was granting a JSOC task force “expanded power to track, plan and potentially launch attacks on terrorist cells around the globe.”  That Counter-External Operations Task Force (also known as “Ex-Ops”) has been “designed to take JSOC’s targeting model… and export it globally to go after terrorist networks plotting attacks against the West.”

SOCOM disputes portions of the Post story.  “Neither SOCOM nor any of its subordinate elements have… been given any expanded powers (authorities),” SOCOM’s Ken McGraw told TomDispatch by email.  “Any potential operation must still be approved by the GCC [Geographic Combatant Command] commander [and], if required, approved by the Secretary of Defense or [the president].”

“U.S. officials” (who spoke only on the condition that they be identified in that vague way) explained that SOCOM’s response was a matter of perspective.  Its powers weren’t recently expanded as much as institutionalized and put “in writing,” TomDispatch was told.  “Frankly, the decision made months ago was to codify current practice, not create something new.”  Special Operations Command refused to confirm this but Colonel Thomas Davis, another SOCOM spokesman, noted: “Nowhere did we say that there was no codification.”

With Ex-Ops, General Thomas is a “decision-maker when it comes to going after threats under the task force’s purview,” according to the Washington Post’s Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Dan Lamothe.  “The task force would essentially turn Thomas into the leading authority when it comes to sending Special Operations units after threats.”  Others claim Thomas has only expanded influence, allowing him to directly recommend a plan of action, such as striking a target, to the Secretary of Defense, allowing for shortened approval time.  (SOCOM’s McGraw says that Thomas “will not be commanding forces or be the decision maker for SOF operating in any GCC’s [area of operations].”)

Last November, Defense Secretary Carter offered an indication of the frequency of offensive operations following a visit to Florida’s Hurlburt Field, the headquarters of Air Force Special Operations Command.  He notedthat “today we were looking at a number of the Special Operations forces’ assault capabilities.  This is a kind of capability that we use nearly every day somewhere in the world… And it’s particularly relevant to the counter-ISIL campaign that we’re conducting today.”

In Afghanistan, alone, Special Operations forces conducted 350 raids targeting al-Qaeda and Islamic State operatives last year, averaging about one per day, and capturing or killing nearly 50 “leaders” as well as 200 “members” of the terror groups, according to General John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in that country.  Some sources also suggest that while JSOC and CIA drones flew roughly the same number of missions in 2016, the military launched more than 20,000 strikes in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Syria, compared to less than a dozen by the Agency. This may reflect an Obama administration decision to implement a long-considered plan to put JSOC in charge of lethal operations and shift the CIA back to its traditional intelligence duties. 

World of Warcraft

“[I]t is important to understand why SOF has risen from footnote and supporting player to main effort, because its use also highlights why the U.S. continues to have difficulty in its most recent campaigns — Afghanistan, Iraq, against ISIS and AQ and its affiliates, Libya, Yemen, etc. and in the undeclared campaigns in the Baltics, Poland, and Ukraine — none of which fits the U.S. model for traditional war,” said retired Lieutenant General Charles Cleveland, chief of U.S. Army Special Operations Command from 2012 to 2015 and now a senior mentor to the chief of staff of the Army’s Strategic Studies Group.  Asserting that, amid the larger problems of these conflicts, the ability of America’s elite forces to conduct kill/capture missions and train local allies has proven especially useful, he added, “SOF is at its best when its indigenous and direct-action capabilities work in support of each other. Beyond Afghanistan and Iraq and ongoing CT [counterterrrorism] efforts elsewhere, SOF continues to work with partner nations in counterinsurgency and counterdrug efforts in Asia, Latin America, and Africa.”

SOCOM acknowledges deployments to approximately 70% of the world’s nations, including all but three Central and South American countries (Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela being the exceptions). Its operatives also blanket Asia, while conducting missions in about 60% of the countries in Africa.   

A SOF overseas deployment can be as small as one special operator participating in a language immersion program or a three-person team conducting a “survey” for the U.S. embassy.  It may also have nothing to do with a host nation’s government or military.  Most Special Operations forces, however, work with local partners, conducting training exercises and engaging in what the military calls “building partner capacity” (BPC) and “security cooperation” (SC).  Often, this means America’s most elite troops are sent to countries with security forces that are regularly cited for human rights abuses by the U.S. State Department.  Last year in Africa, where Special Operations forces utilize nearly 20 different programs and activities — from training exercises to security cooperation engagements — these included Burkina FasoBurundiCameroonDemocratic Republic of CongoDjiboutiKenyaMaliMauritaniaNigerNigeriaTanzania, and Uganda, among others.

In 2014, for example, more than 4,800 elite troops took part in just one type of such activities – Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) missions — around the world.  At a cost of more than $56 million, Navy SEALs, Army Green Berets, and other special operators carried out 176 individual JCETs in 87 countries.  A 2013 RAND Corporation study of the areas covered by Africa Command, Pacific Command, and Southern Command found “moderately low” effectiveness for JCETs in all three regions.  A 2014 RAND analysis of U.S. security cooperation, which also examined the implications of “low-footprint Special Operations forces efforts,” found that there “was no statistically significant correlation between SC and change in countries’ fragility in Africa or the Middle East.”  And in a 2015 report for Joint Special Operations University, Harry Yarger, a senior fellow at the school, noted that “BPC has in the past consumed vast resources for little return.”

Despite these results and larger strategic failures in IraqAfghanistan, and Libya, the Obama years have been the golden age of the gray zone.  The 138 nations visited by U.S. special operators in 2016, for example, represent a jump of 130% since the waning days of the Bush administration.  Although they also represent a 6% drop compared to last year’s total, 2016 remains in the upper range of the Obama years, which saw deployments to 75 nations in 2010, 120 in 2011, 134 in 2013, and 133 in 2014, before peaking at 147countries in 2015.  Asked about the reason for the modest decline, SOCOM spokesman Ken McGraw replied, “We provide SOF to meet the geographic combatant commands’ requirements for support to their theater security cooperation plans.  Apparently, there were nine fewer countries [where] the GCCs had a requirement for SOF to deploy to in [Fiscal Year 20]16.”

The increase in deployments between 2009 and 2016 — from about 60 countries to more than double that — mirrors a similar rise in SOCOM’s total personnel (from approximately 56,000 to about 70,000) and in its baseline budget (from $9 billion to $11 billion).  It’s no secret that the tempo of operations has also increased dramatically, although the command refused to address questions from TomDispatch on the subject.

“SOF have shouldered a heavy burden in carrying out these missions, suffering a high number of casualties over the last eight years and maintaining a high operational tempo (OPTEMPO) that has increasingly strained special operators and their families,” reads an October 2016 report released by the Virginia-based think tank CNA.  (That report emerged from a conference attended by six former special operations commanders, a former assistant secretary of defense, and dozens of active-duty special operators.)

A closer look at the areas of the “undeclared campaigns in the Baltics, Poland, and Ukraine” mentioned by retired Lieutenant General Charles Cleveland. Locations in blue were supplied by U.S. Special Operations Command. The one in red was derived from open-source information. (Nick Turse)

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The American Age of the Commando

Last month, before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Shawn Brimley, former director for strategic planning on the National Security Council staff and now an executive vice president at the Center for a New American Security, echoed the worried conclusions of the CNA report.   At a hearing on “emerging U.S. defense challenges and worldwide threats,” Brimley said “SOF have been deployed at unprecedented rates, placing immense strain on the force” and called on the Trump administration to “craft a more sustainable long-term counterterrorism strategy.”  In a paper published in December, Kristen Hajduk, a former adviser for Special Operations and Irregular Warfare in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict and now a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, called for a decrease in the deployment rates for Special Operations forces.

While Donald Trump has claimed that the U.S. military as a whole is “depleted” and has called for increasing the size of the Army and Marines, he has offered no indication about whether he plans to support a further increase in the size of special ops forces.  And while he did recently nominate a former Navy SEAL to serve as his secretary of the interior, Trump has offered few indications of how he might employ special operators who are currently serving.  

“Drone strikes,” he announced in one of his rare detailed references to special ops missions, “will remain part of our strategy, but we will also seek to capture high-value targets to gain needed information to dismantle their organizations.”  More recently, at a North Carolina victory rally, Trump made specific references to the elite troops soon to be under his command.  “Our Special Forces at Fort Bragg have been the tip of the spear in fighting terrorism. The motto of our Army Special Forces is ‘to free the oppressed,’ and that is exactly what they have been doing and will continue to do. At this very moment, soldiers from Fort Bragg are deployed in 90 countries around the world,” he told the crowd.

After seeming to signal his support for continued wide-ranging, free-the-oppressed special ops missions, Trump appeared to change course, adding, “We don’t want to have a depleted military because we’re all over the place fighting in areas that just we shouldn’t be fighting in… This destructive cycle of intervention and chaos must finally, folks, come to an end.”  At the same time, however, he pledged that the U.S. would soon “defeat the forces of terrorism.”  To that end, retired Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, a former director of intelligence for JSOC whom the president-elect tapped to serve as his national security adviser, has promised that the new administration would reassess the military’s powers to battle the Islamic State — potentially providing more latitude in battlefield decision-making.  To this end, the Wall Street Journalreports that the Pentagon is crafting proposals to reduce “White House oversight of operational decisions” while “moving some tactical authority back to the Pentagon.”   

Last month, President Obama traveled to Florida’s MacDill Air Force Base, the home of Special Operations Command, to deliver his capstone counterterrorism speech.  “For eight years that I’ve been in office, there has not been a day when a terrorist organization or some radicalized individual was not plotting to kill Americans,” he told a crowd packed with troops.  At the same time, there likely wasn’t a day when the most elite forces under his command were not deployed in 60 or more countries around the world.

“I will become the first president of the United States to serve two full terms during a time of war,” Obama added.  “Democracies should not operate in a state of permanently authorized war.  That’s not good for our military, it’s not good for our democracy.”  The results of his permanent-war presidency have, in fact, been dismal, according to Special Operations Command.  Of eight conflicts waged during the Obama years, according to a 2015 briefing slide from the command’s intelligence directorate, America’s record stands at zero wins, two losses, and six ties.

The Obama era has indeed proven to be the “age of the commando.”  However, as Special Operations forces have kept up a frenetic operational tempo, waging war in and out of acknowledged conflict zones, training local allies, advising indigenous proxies, kicking down doors, and carrying out assassinations, terror movements have spread across the Greater Middle Eastand Africa.

President-elect Donald Trump appears poised to obliterate much of the Obama legacy, from the president’s signature healthcare law to his environmental regulations, not to mention changing course when it comes to foreign policy, including in relations with ChinaIranIsrael, and Russia.  Whether he will heed advice to decrease Obama-level SOF deployment rates remains to be seen.  The year ahead will, however, offer clues as to whether Obama’s long war in the shadows, the golden age of the gray zone, survives.

Posted in USAComments Off on The Year of the Commando: U.S. Special Operations’ Forces Deploy to 138 Nations

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