Archive | April 21st, 2017

African Union concerned about state killings in Kenya

NOVANEWS
Joint press release on the alleged public killings of two persons in Eastleigh in Kenya
CFM
Kenya’s Independent Policing Oversight Authority has launched investigations into the killings of the two victims who are allegedly suspected of being members of a gang. A video that went viral on the Internet showed an alleged police officer shooting several times at a man who apparently was unarmed and represented no imminent threat to anyone’s life.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission) Country Rapporteur for the Republic of Kenya, Honourable Commissioner Dr. Solomon Ayele Dersso, the Special Rapporteur on Prisons, Conditions of Detention and Policing in Africa, Honourable Commissioner Med S.K. Kaggwa and the Chairperson of the Working Group on Death Penalty and Extra-Judicial and Summary or Arbitrary killings in Africa, Honourable Commissioner Kayitesi Zainabo Sylvie (the Commissioners) express their deep concern about the recent reports on the  extra-judicial killings of two persons in public at Eastleigh, Nairobi, Republic of Kenya.

The reports revealed the alleged killings of two individuals captured in a video publicised on the websites of Kenya’s leading newspapers. The video showed a man lying in a pool of blood (first victim) and another person (second victim) being pulled by someone, allegedly a police Officer (first alleged Police Officer) in plain clothes while a uniformed person (second alleged Police Officer) was pushing back the crowd that was watching the scene.

The video further shows that the first alleged Police Officer used a gun and shot several times at the second victim who apparently was unarmed and represented no imminent threat/danger to someone’s life.

We acknowledge that the Kenya Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) has launched investigations into the killings of the two victims who are allegedly suspected of being members of a gang.

The Commission finds these reports, if true, as revealing prima facie unlawful use of lethal force by police officers that potentially involve serious violations of the provisions of the African Charter on human and Peoples’ Rights, in particular its Article 4 (Right to life) and Article 5 (Right to Dignity, Prohibition of Torture Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Punishment and Treatment).

We therefore:

–          Note with appreciation the initiative from the Kenyan Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) to investigate the matter and urge the government to ensure that an independent, thorough and transparent investigation into the killings is conducted and all those responsible are held accountable in accordance with the African Charter;

–          Urge the government to institute relevant institutional and accountability reforms that ensure that police officers fully respect and comply with human rights in the conduct of their duties including on the basis of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ General Comment No. 3 on the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the right to life (Article 4); and the Guidelines on the Conditions of Arrest, Police Custody and Pre-Trial Detention in Africa; and

–          Call on the Government of Kenya to inform the public, as a measure of accountability and transparency, on the steps taken for investigating the killings and holding those responsible accountable.

More on this subject:

1. http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2017/04/01/video-cops-caught-on-camera-ki…

2. Naomi van Stapele (2016) ‘We are not Kenyans’: extra-judicial killings, manhood and citizenship in Mathare, a Nairobi ghetto. Conflict, Security & Development, 16:4, 301-325, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14678802.2016.1200313

3. Kenyan Government on the spot for extrajudicial killings

4. Mathare Social Justice Centre: https://matharesocialjusticecentre.wordpress.com/

5. Kenyan Government on the spot for extrajudicial killings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPBpsLNkbIk&feature=youtu.be

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Apartheid State of Emergency in Ethiopia 2.0

NOVANEWS
With perhaps 100,000 people detained in the six months of the State of Emergency declared by the Ethiopian government, it boggles the mind how Prime Minister Desalegn came up with the figure of 82 per cent of Ethiopians who want the Emergency extended. No amount of repression will permanently suppress the peaceful struggle of all Ethiopians for freedom, human rights and majority rule.
On October 9, 2016, the puppet prime minister (PPM) of the Thugtatorship of the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (T-TPLF) Hailemariam announced a “state of emergency” (SoE) in a 20-minute televised statement. The PPM argued “anti-peace elements”, allied with foreign forces, had incited strife and undermined the peace and stability in the country. He claimed “anti-peace elements” had destroyed private and government property and waged economic boycotts. He asserted extreme measures were necessary to deal with an extreme emergency. Curiously, he emphatically assured that the SoE would not violate fundamental human rights. The PPM further promised deep and extensive governance reforms and pledged to re-engage opposition parties and civic society organizations in a broader dialogue “to expand and deepen our democracy.”
Surprisingly, the PPM failed to explain why it was necessary to have a nationwide SoE when the alleged violence by “anti-peace elements” occurred in only the “Oromo” and “Amhara” kilils (apartheid style-Bantustans). Did the PPM and his regime fear that the other seven kilils were also about to explode in acts of civil resistance to his regime?
The PPM also failed to explain why his regime had resorted to a complete state of emergency which clamped down not only on potential disturbances in two regions but also a complete national shutdown of the press, the Internet and all forms of mass communication for the  maximum period of six months permitted under his regime’s “constitution”.
On October 15, 2016, the “Ethiopian Cabinet of Ministers” issued its “State of Emergency Command Post” Decree imposing sweeping prohibitions against “incitement and communication that causes public disturbance and riots, communicating with terrorist groups, unauthorized demonstration and public gatherings, conducting strikes in educational institutions and sports facilities, obstructing vehicles’ movement, disturbing and causing incitement in religious, cultural, and public holidays and acts against tolerance and unity”, among others. Among the “measures to be taken” to enforce the Decree included “detention without an arrest warrant”, keeping detainees incommunicado, “warrantless searches and seizures and arrests”, among others.
So much for PPM Hailemariam’s emphatic promise of no human rights violations in his televised announcement!
On March 19, 2017, the T-TPLF “defense minister” announced that his regime had lifted three elements of the SoE: 1) arbitrary stops and searches of suspects, 2) warrantless searches and seizures of homes, and 3) dusk-to-dawn curfew on access to economic installations”. The “defense minister” explained: “These measures were lifted because it is our belief that the ordinary security arrangements are sufficient enough to maintain calm.”
On March 30, 2017, the T-TPLF-owned, -managed and –operated “parliament” (the T-TPLF controls 100 percent of the seats) in Ethiopia authorized  a four-month extension of the current SoE. PPM Hailemariam Desalegn told “parliament” that “82 percent of Ethiopians want a partial or full continuation of the state of emergency.”
It remains a mystery how the PPM derived the “82 percent” figure. He offered no evidence of a national poll to support his claim of  “82 percent” of Ethiopians supporting the idea of  living under a  state of emergency where they can be arrested arbitrarily and held incommunicado and tortured. The “82 percent figure” is manifestly cooked just like the T-TPLF’s economic growth mantra figure of “double-digit for the past decade”.
Suffice it to say that “more than 25,000 people suspected of taking part in protests were detained under the state of emergency.” The T-TPLF itself admitted detaining over 11,000 people as of November 12, 2016. The actual figure of current detainees in T-TPLF prisons is likely to approximate 100,000.
Over the past six months, the T-TPLF has tried to project a state of normalcy and firm control in the country under a state of emergency. But T-TPLF leaders know that the SoE has only shoveled dirt over the volcanic ambers of anger, frustration and defiance burning furiously under the surface. A declaration of a state of emergency is not likely to permanently suppress the peaceful struggle of all Ethiopians for freedom, democracy, human rights and majority rule. Such is the “objective condition on the ground” in Ethiopia, to borrow a favorite phrase of the late T-TPLF thugmaster. Despite empty promises of dialogue and outreach, the T-TPLF’s preferred method of conflict resolution has been and remains to be massacres, butchery, carnage and murder.
The popular uprising of 2016 demonstrated that the fear of T-TPLF butchery and brutality has not marooned the Ethiopian people on an island of despair and  submission. But the T-TPLF leaders believe they have capped the volcanic eruption of the people’s anger and frustration permanently by their SoE. That is self-delusion. Volcanoes often remain dormant for decades without giving the slightest signs of an impending eruption. Likewise, oppressed societies may remain dormant for decades without giving the slightest indication of the pressure and heat buildup of deep, widespread, sweeping and pervasive dissatisfaction, anger, resentment and rage. But societies, like volcanoes, explode; and when they do, the outcome is just as catastrophic as an erupting volcano.
Who is really in a “state of emergency”?
The proposition that “Ethiopia is under a state of emergency” is a true statement.
The proposition that “The T-TPLF is in a state of emergency” is an equally true statement.
Ethiopia has been under a state of emergency since May 28, 1991, the date the T-TPLF rebels marched from the bush on the capital Addis Ababa.
Ethiopians have been under an undeclared, de facto state of emergency police state for the past 25 years. The T-TPLF has imposed its will on the people of Ethiopia through brute force. In 2005, following the election that year, the T-TPLF gave new meaning to savagery and brutality by massacring hundreds of people and jailing over 30 thousand others. Over the past decade, the T-TPLF has operated a police state. When Erin Burnett of CNN visited Ethiopia in July 2012, she described what she saw in stark terms:
“We saw what an African police state looked like when I was in Ethiopia last month… At the airport, it took an hour to clear customs – not because of lines, but because of checks and questioning. Officials tried multiple times to take us to government cars so they’d know where we went. They only relented after forcing us to leave hundreds of thousands of dollars of TV gear in the airport…”
Since 2009, the T-TPLF has used its so-called anti-terrorism law (Proclamation No. 652/2009) to impose a de jure (by law) state of emergency. Under that “Proclamation”, the T-TPLF has been able to do exactly what it is doing today under its SoE decree. The only, and only difference is that the T-TPLF now calls its opponents “anti-peace elements” instead of “terrorists”. Everything else is the same!
Under section 5 of that “Proclamation”, the T-TPLF can arrest any person it classifies as a “terrorist” for providing “a skill, expertise or moral support or giving advice” to anyone opposing its rule. The same is true under the current decree.
Section 6 criminalizes as a terrorist act publication of “a statement that is likely to be understood by some or all of the members of the public as a direct or indirect encouragement or incitement to violence”. The same is true under the decree.
The “Proclamation” authorizes warrantless searches and seizure of homes and offices, interception and surveillance on the telephone, fax, radio, the Internet, electronic, postal and similar communications under Section 14. It further allows any “police officer to make a sudden search” of any vehicle and pedestrian. Ditto for the decree.
Section 19 of the “Proclamation” authorizes any police officer to “arrest without court warrant any person whom he reasonably suspects of terrorism.” Section (20) allows the court to grant endless continuances and postponements to the police/prosecutor “for sufficient period to complete the investigation.” Section (23) allows the admission of unverified intelligence reports, hearsay or indirect surveillance evidence including those gathered by “foreign law enforcement bodies” and “confessions of suspects, including coerced confessions.” Section (25) authorizes the “House of Peoples’ Representatives” the power to list and de-list an organization as a terrorist organization. Section (37) allows the “Council of Ministers” to issue “regulations necessary for the implementation of this proclamation.”
Ditto, ditto, ditto, ditto… for the October 5 T-TPLF Decree.
The T-TPLF is the one in a state of emergency
Why would the T-TPLF extend its SoE for another four months if it indeed believed “ordinary security arrangements are sufficient enough to maintain calm”? If such a claim is true, the SoE would have simply terminated. The opposite seems to be true. The T-TPLF extended its SoE because it knows that terminating the SoE will re-stoke the righteous anger and indignation of the people. In fact, the very reason the T-TPLF went for the maximum six-month duration of the SoE was a futile exercise aimed at bottling up the popular resistance from spreading like wild fire. But the fire of resistance is still burning in the hearts, minds and souls of all patriotic Ethiopians who abhor living in an apartheid system.
The T-TPLF has been riding the Ethiopian tiger for over a quarter of a century. The hard truth the T-TPLF learned over the past year is that the day for it to dismount the tiger is at hand. It can try and prolong its ride by a SoE decree and increasing its use of armed violence, but the die is cast: The T-TPLF’s days of riding the Ethiopian tiger is fast coming to an end. When the T-TPLF dismounts, by hook or crook, it will be looking at the sparkling eyes, gleaming teeth and pointy nails of one big hu(a)ngry tiger! So, the only way the T-TPLF can remain in power from day to day is by running its killing machine 24/7/365 and by dividing the people along ethnic, religious, linguistic, regional and other lines.
The T-TPLF today is gripped in a “siege mentality”, a psychological state of emergency. The T-TPLF leaders believe they are completely surrounded by enemies. They feel they are in constant danger from everything and everyone. They are frightened to death by the very people they rule with an iron fist with a trigger finger.
Deep anger and loathing have replaced the people’s fear of the T-TPLF. That is the second hard lesson T-TPLF  leaders have learned.  As Robert Holmes argued, “power dissolves when people lose their fear. You can still kill people who no longer fear you, but you cannot control them. Political power requires obedience, which is fueled by the fear of pain to be inflicted if you refuse to comply with the will of those who control the instruments of violence. That power evaporates when the people lose their fear.”
The immutable truth is that the T-TPLF could try, but will never succeed, to rule by brute force. The T-TPLF leaders should heed a hard political truth: Regardless of how powerful a dictatorship is, it cannot rule without some degree of genuine cooperation and support of the people. Popular support for the T-TPLF in Ethiopia, if it ever existed, vanished long ago. No one but T-TPLF cronies and supporters recognize any legitimacy in T-TPLF rule.
The T-TPLF cannot expect to remain in power indefinitely without accepting the absolute necessity for change, massive and radical change. The time for incremental change at a pace dictated by the T-TPLF is gone. Long gone.
It has been said that it is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.
It does not matter how many soldiers, guns, tanks and warplanes the T-TPLF has to lord over 100 million people. Unless it is able to adapt to the urgent and emergent circumstances in Ethiopia, it will not survive. It could prolong its rule at most by a few years, but survive and thrive as the masters of Ethiopia forever, it will not.
The T-TPLF is using apartheid South Africa’s strategy to prolong its rule, and is doomed to fail
What the T-TPLF is doing to cling to power and add one more day to its rule is remarkably similar to the strategy pursued by the apartheid white minority regime in South Africa. That regime used declarations of states of emergency to crackdown against opponents and tried to suppress the mass movement demanding majority rule. Just like the T-TPLF’s  “proclamation” and “decree”, the South African apartheid regime decreed states of emergency authorizing police, security and military forces to detain for an indefinite period anyone (any black person) for vague and dubious reasons, without any judicial review or appeals. (For a  comparative analysis of “anti-terrorism” law by apartheid South Africa’s regime and the T-TPLF, see my May 2016 commentary, “The “Law” as State Terrorism in Apartheid Ethiopia”.)
The apartheid parliament in South Africa declared a state of emergency in 1960 during the Sharpeville Massacre and in the wake of  the 1976 student uprising; and in 1986 on the 10th anniversary of the Soweto Uprising. Indeed, the 1986 declaration seems to have inspired the T-TPLF SoE decree. In that emergency declaration, the apartheid regime banned all meetings and public gatherings, imposed curfews, imposed a blanket prohibition on media coverage and authorized mass detentions.
After the apartheid SoE ended in 1986, the unraveling of South Africa accelerated. The minority white regime was doomed. The minority white apartheid rulers came to appreciate the maxim: It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change. Four years later, Mandela was released and a South Africa teetering on the cliff’s edge of a civil war was saved.
The masters of apartheid in South Africa decided to change, just in the nick of time.
I do not believe the masters of apartheid in Ethiopia will wake up from their slumber of arrogance and ignorance and change. They think they can outsmart, outfox, outmaneuver, outgun and outplay 100 million Ethiopians any given day of the week. They believe they can rule forever so long as they maintain a chokehold on the economy, the military, the bureaucracy and the judicial and other institutions in society. The T-TPLF crew would rather go down in blazing glory than change.
I predict the T-TPLF is doomed to suffer the fate prophetically spoken by President John Kennedy.  “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”
As I ponder the T-TPLF’s SoE, I am reminded of the sublime speech of the Jewish barber (Charlie Chaplin) in the Great Dictator:
… Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world [Ethiopia], millions of despairing men, women, and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people. To those who can hear [and read] me, I say, do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish.
Soldiers! Don’t give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you, enslave you; who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel! Who drill you, diet you, treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men – machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines, you are not cattle, you are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate; the unloved and the unnatural.
Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty!  You, the people, have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.
Then in the name of democracy, let us use that power. Let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world [Ethiopia], a decent world [Ethiopia] that will give men a chance to work, that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfill that promise. They never will!
Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people. Now let us fight to fulfill that promise. Let us fight to free the world [Ethiopia]! To do away with national barriers [kilils]! To do away with greed, with hate and intolerance!
Let us fight for a world [an Ethiopia] of reason, a world [an Ethiopia] where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness.
Soldiers, in the name of democracy, let us all unite!  The clouds are lifting! The sun is breaking through! We are coming out of the darkness into the light! We are coming into a new world [Ethiopia]; a kindlier world [Ethiopia], where men will rise above their hate, their greed, and brutality. The soul of man has been given wings and at last he is beginning to fly. He is flying into the rainbow! Into the light of hope, into the future! The glorious future, that belongs to you, to me and to all of us [Ethiopians]. Look up, Look up! [Wake up! Wake up!]
The people of Ethiopia UNITED can never be defeated!!!

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In the Army of the Lord

NOVANEWS
TUKO
Kenya’s military has been inside Somalia ostensibly pursuing al-Shabaab militants since 2011 as part of the US-led ‘war on terror’. No one knows when the mission will end or its cost. There is little discussion about the war among Kenyans. Government updates are impossible to verify. The public is generally assumed to be in support of the invasion – even when in reality they are so ignorant of what is going on to really care.
Some parents in Kenya would pay a hefty bribe or use their secret networks of influence to have their son enlisted with Kenya Defence Forces. And then the family turns up at their church to offer special prayers of thanksgiving to God for the “miracle breakthrough” of their son’s employment. Jobs are scarce in Kenya. More prayers are offered when the son passes out as a KDF soldier.
Thereafter the son is dispatched to Somalia to fight in the misguided war against Al-Shabaab under the African Union Mission, AMISOM. The family stays awake most nights praying for his safety – and for quick victory of KDF over Al-Shabaab, in the Mighty Name of Jesus!
Meanwhile they enjoy the monies their son is paid by the “international community”. Europe and America are clever enough not to deploy their troops to such an extremely dangerous place as Somalia; but they can pay any government that is stupid and greedy enough to send its sons to die in a war they will never win.
You see, it is called the Military-Industrial-Complex. Military supplies are a top export of Europe and America. And the companies engaged in military contracting are owned by the who’s-who in the top echelons of power. In other words for Europe and America, war is good business.
So our Kenyan son is with AMISOM somewhere in the deserts of Somalia. We are there with him in prayers, day and night. One day, he goes out with a crazed company of soldiers who storm a village, murder all the men, rape every woman and girl they find before butchering them. They shoot at everything that moves, including terrified crawling little children, and burn everything down to ashes. Then the soldiers stagger back to camp with looted gunny bags of charcoal and sugar, singing circumcision songs.
In Nairobi, the KDF Spokesman tweets gleefully that our soldiers killed 127 Al-Shabaab militants in an overnight attack at a key camp. Of course no details are furnished. This is a security issue. We accept what we are told. And so the “good news” quickly spreads out to the ends of the Earth. The parents of our son sing, “Hallelujiah! No one is like unto Our God! Ebenezer!”
Days later, Al-Shabaab overrun an AMISOM camp in retaliation. They massacre hundreds of soldiers, whose number is never revealed. This is a security issue, we are reminded. The soldiers were caught utterly flatfooted while boozing and reciting Swahili lyrics to some local girls who somehow wandered into the camp.
Our son is among the dead.
At the funeral service KDF top dogs speak highly of the young man’s courage and love for Kenya and of his special dedication to the Somali people, especially the poor women and children who are victims of Al-Shabaab. He gave his life for a stable and prosperous Somalia. The parents eulogise their son:
“We loved you, but God loved you more. All is well. Your reward awaits you in Heaven. Till we meet again in glory.”
And all the people say: “Aaameeen!”

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Report from the UN: The US, UK, France and South Korea Are In Violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

NOVANEWS

Their boycott of the UN Conference to Negotiate a Treaty Prohibiting Nuclear Weapons is an Act of Bad Faith, in Violation of Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

The morning of March 27, 2017 US Ambassador Nikki Haley, accompanied by the Ambassadors of the UK, France and the Republic of Korea held a press stake-out outside the United Nations General Assembly hall, and announced their boycott of the “United Nations Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading to Their Total Elimination.” The historic disarmament conference had opened that morning. Plans for that same conference, designated as UN General Assembly Resolution  L.41, had been opposed by the Obama administration on October 27, 2016.

Ambassador Haley disingenuously referred to the nuclear status of North Korea in an attempt to legitimize the bad-faith boycott, but the falsity of her position is exposed by the fact that North Korea, at that October 27, 2016 conference, had voted “Yes” in support of  Resolution L.41:“Taking Forward Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament Negotiations.” North Korea was among the 123 United Nations member states who voted to support the resolution to create a legally binding treaty to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons. This is the very same resolution opposed by the Obama Administration.

The United Nations is one of the most sacrosanct forums for establishing international legal mechanisms. The legitimacy of this conference to enact the prohibition against nuclear weapons was endorsed by the majority of UN member states, and the imperative need for this legal instrument was emphatically emphasized on September 26, 2016 by this same majority of UN member states.

Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty states:

“Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date, and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

The categorical refusal by the US, the UK, France and the ROK to participate in this ongoing United Nations conference is an egregious act of bad faith, a gross violation of Article VI of the NPT, and a violation of the core purpose of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty itself.

Further, the US is in blatant violation of Article 1 of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which states:

“Each nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly; and not in any way to assist, encourage, or induce any non-nuclear-weapon State to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, or control over such weapons or explosive devices.”

In flagrant violation of Article 1 of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the US is, with impunity, transferring its B61-12 nuclear bombs to the territories of five non-nuclear weapon states participating in NATO:  Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Turkey. NATO itself is thereby in violation of the NPT.

The Conference is currently discussing including a prohibition on financing the production of nuclear weapons. At this time, according to the Dutch organization PAX, at least 390 financial institutions are investors in the nuclear weapons industries. Many pension plans, unbeknownst to, and in violation of the wishes of many elderly and retired pension holders, are investors in the production of nuclear weapons, frequently against the interests and will of the holders  of these pensions.

Investment in nuclear weapons is immensely profitable, and this largely explains why countries, such as the US, the UK and France, whose economic systems are based on profit-maximization, are so fiercely opposed to this Conference and the resultant treaty it will produce, which will codify the illegitimacy and illegality of nuclear weapons, ultimately stigmatizing the nuclear weapons states, and identifying them as violators of the human rights of the citizens of the non-nuclear weapons states. The probability that this conference will result in the creation and enactment of international law prohibiting the possession and production of nuclear weapons, threatens the moral legitimacy of the nuclear weapons states, and may ultimately condemn them as criminals in violation of international law.This explains the ferocity of their opposition to this conference.

The enormous hypocrisy of the countries boycotting this conference, while simultaneously condemning North Korea for its efforts to obtain nuclear weapons to defend itself from the danger of annihilation by these same countries boycotting the conference, cannot be ignored. The paranoid demonization of North Korea by those very same countries that categorically oppose any restriction on their own possession and use of nuclear weapon,  is a brutal injustice and a falsification of reality. The negotiations on a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons is the first step toward eliminating this horrific injustice, and freeing the non-nuclear states from the Sword of Damocles  imposed upon them by the nine states possessing nuclear weapons, the deadliest of all weapons of mass destruction.

The decisive session of this conference will be held from June 15 to June 23. One can only hope that the United States will participate in this conference. The United States was the first country to produce nuclear weapons, and the only country to use them. It will only be when the United States abandons nuclear weapons that the rest of the world can also disarm, and transfer its resources to peaceful purposes. This is imperative, because a nuclear winter, resulting from even a “limited” nuclear war would render this planet uninhabitable. A nuclear war, unlike the use of biological or chemical weapons, outlawed by current treaties, would obliterate all life on earth.

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Trump lifts “restrictions” on bombing operations and targeted assassinations

NOVANEWS
Pan-African News Wire

Even with 22,000 western-trained and funded AMISOM troops stationed in Somalia, the country still has not been stabilized. Trump’s directive will only create more death and destruction.

United States President Donald Trump has pledged to intensify the war against the people of Somalia which has gone on for decades.

This latest manifestation of Washington’s intervention in the oil-rich Horn of Africa state came in the form of an executive order granting the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) greater latitude in carrying out military operations inside the country against the al-Shabaab guerrilla movement. However, the Pentagon is attempting to maintain a semblance of caution in their public remarks about military engagement in Somalia.

AFRICOM Commander Marine Corps General Thomas D. Waldhauser said of the situation in Somalia on March 24: “It’s very, very important that we have a very, very high degree of certainty in limiting or entirely avoiding civilian casualties. And obviously the cardinal rule in these types of engagements is to not make more enemies than you already have.”

Trump claims that the policy of the previous administration of President Barack Obama hampered the capacity of the Pentagon to defeat al-Shabaab. In reality the Obama White House continued the same routine bombing operations, funding and training of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), the maintenance of a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) field station in Mogadishu and a flotilla of naval warships off the coast of the strategically located country in the Gulf of Aden.

Despite the militarized posture of successive administrations in Washington extending back to President Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s, the nation remains a source of instability throughout the region with a worsening situation for its citizens who are facing growing food insecurity and economic crisis. Even though multi-national oil firms have been drilling for petroleum in the country the people have yet to benefit substantially from their presence.

An article published in the neighboring Kenya’s Daily Nation on April 10 reported: “His March 29 directive removes a requirement that proposed U.S. strikes on Shabaab be vetted at high levels in Washington. The new policy also ends the Obama condition that U.S. attacks can be launched only when the targeted entity is believed to pose a specific threat to Americans. And U.S. raids will no longer be predicated on high probability that civilians will not die as a result.”

There is really no evidence that these were the parameters that guided Pentagon and CIA military and covert action attacks in Somalia. AFRICOM has often denied that its strikes and commando raids deliberately endanger civilians; nevertheless this happens more often than not.

Drone strikes and aerial bombardments have resulted in the deaths and injuries of thousands of Somalis since 2007 when the former administration of President George W. Bush, Jr. sought to undermine the ability of the people to determine their own destiny. Every Somali administration since that period has been under the political dominance of Washington and Wall Street. As a result corruption and inefficiency is widespread while hundreds of thousands of people face joblessness and starvation.

The same Daily Nation report goes on to say that: “the Trump order permits attacks when civilian casualties ‘are deemed necessary and proportionate.’ U.S. officials have acknowledged the heightened danger of civilian deaths — and enhanced recruitment opportunities for Shabaab — as a result of this new authorization.”

A newly-elected administration headed by President Mohamed Abdulahi Mohamed, who holds a U.S. passport, declared a renewed war on al-Shabaab after giving its members 60 days to surrender. Nonetheless, the capacity of the Federal Government to maintain security even in the capital of Mogadishu has proven to be extremely limited.

Wave of attacks

On April 9 it was reported that at least fifteen people were killed in a car bomb attack aimed at assassinating the newly-appointed military leader of the Somali Federal Government. This operation took place right in the heart of the capital of Mogadishu in the aftermath of the inauguration of General Ahmed Mohamed Jimale. A driver attempted to ram a vehicle into the convoy carrying General Jimale. The military official survived the attack yet a minibus carrying commuters was struck causing the bulk of casualties.

In a statement made by the spokesman for the Ministry of Internal Security Abdikamil Moalim Shukri, he noted: “A Shabab suicide bomber targeted a military convoy left from the ministry of defense compound which was carrying the newly appointed Somali military chief. No officials were hurt in the blast. All the victims were civilians.”

Within 24 hours yet another attack took place when a soldier wearing military gear walked into the training academy and detonated a bomb. The academy is located in the western section of Mogadishu.

A survivor of the bombing which killed two colonels said of the attacker: “He entered the camp unstopped. We were sitting under a tree when he came and blew himself up among us.”

Also on April 10 a civil servant died when a bomb in his vehicle was detonated apparently through a remote control device in the Hamarweyne district of the capital.

Insecurity in the Gulf of Aden

Just the day before the attempt to assassinate General Jimale, there was a major effort to seize a commercial cargo ship off the coast of the country by so-called pirates. The ship had 19 Filipino sailors aboard during the attack and was only repelled due to the intervention of a joint Chinese and Indian anti-piracy patrol in the Gulf of Aden.

This incident was only one of five which have been reported over the last several weeks. Pirates recently took control of a Pakistani-owned ship which was transporting food off the coast of central Somalia. Later an Indian-owned vessel was commandeered and redirected to an area for the purpose of seizing its goods.

Somali Minister of Information Abdirahman Omar Osman told the international press in response to the rash of attacks in the Gulf of Aden: “Somali federal government is ready to do its part. But due to our limitation in terms of resources and capacity, we urgently require the support.”

U.S. policy has undermined Somalia

Even with 22,000 western-trained and funded AMISOM troops stationed in Somalia, the country still has not been stabilized. Trump’s directive will only create more death and destruction.

The humanitarian crisis in the country is worsening with people fleeing to neighboring war-torn Yemen which is also under siege by U.S.-backed forces led by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). A boat filled with Somalian refugees was bombed by the GCC U.S.-manufactured warplanes killing many people on March 17 as they attempted to travel along the Red Sea from Yemen to the Republic of Sudan.

An East African regional bloc of nations known as the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) has failed to secure a ceasefire in Somalia. IGAD’s response to the recent bombings has been to threaten further military activity directed against al-Shabaab.

A statement issued by the regional group on April 10 said: “IGAD condemns in the strongest terms possible the Al-Shabab terror attack of Sunday (April 9) that killed innocent citizens and injured others in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. This atrocious terror attack which was targeting Somalia’s new military chief is a failure that once again showed Al-Shabaab terror group’s disrespect for human life and civilians’ protection.”

Yet the regional states in East Africa should condemn U.S. policy in Somalia which has resulted in further militarization of the area, destabilizing the society and enhancing the impoverishment of the people.

Posted in USA, SomaliaComments Off on Trump lifts “restrictions” on bombing operations and targeted assassinations

How Africa could use its nuclear plans to push for disarmament and advance world peace

NOVANEWS
My Broadband

Upon reflection on events of the past week, during which the United States launched cruise missile attacks against government military targets in Syria, the world now appears to be a much more dangerous place. Ominously, judging by warnings the US government has issued that it reserves the right to launch further strikes against Syrian targets and the Russian government’s announcement that it plans to increase its anti-aircraft defenses around military installations in Syria, the US and Russia (the world’s foremost nuclear powers) seem to have upped the ante in the immediate aftermath of these strikes. To appreciate the volatility of this situation, it is worth bearing in mind that any confrontation between these states, deliberate or accidental, has the potential to provoke a nuclear exchange between them and that even a limited nuclear exchange between these powers could spell global annihilation.

The level of tension between these powers, and hence the potential for conflict between them, is likely to be heightened if we allow the possibility that the US government’s action was motivated more by broader US foreign policy goals rather than the need to punish the Syrian government for the use of chemical weapons, the ostensible reason for the strikes. Specifically, they were motivated by the need to send a strong message to the United States’ chief rivals for global geopolitical hegemony, Russia and China. To see how this might have been the case, consider that, ever since his inauguration, President Trump has been dogged by allegations that the Russians engineered his electoral win and that he has been accused of wanting to cozy up to President Putin. Targeting Russian ally and beneficiary of Russian military aid President Bashar al Assad sends a clear message to domestic political opponents that he will be anything but soft in his dealings with Russia and is prepared to make difficult, dangerous even, decisions irrespective of Russian opposition thereto or the harm they might inflict on Russia’s interests.

Turning to relations with China, the opportunity to demonstrate Americans’ willingness to use military force could not have come at a more opportune time for President Trump, due as he was to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the time. White House strategists may have calculated that striking at Syrian targets in the presence of the Russian military would send a clear message to China that the Americans are prepared to act regardless of the potential dangers attached.

In addition to confirming President Trump’s image as a ruthless businessman who is a bold political operator, the audacity of this unilateral strike might serve to put the Chinese on notice that they need to do more to rein in the North Koreans lest the Americans decide to respond militarily to constant North Korean provocations and attack their reclusive neighbor. This message would not have been lost on President Xi and members of his delegation following so soon as it did after President Trump accused the Chinese of ‘not doing enough to contain North Korea’ and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared that ‘all options are on the table’ when it comes to dealing with North Korea.

Though viewing these developments in a broader, international perspective may raise global anxiety levels, some Africans are likely to be indifferent about them, located far away from the current theatre of operations as we are and citizens of countries whose governments appear to enjoy limited diplomatic influence when it comes to these matters on the global stage. Others might despair that it is futile to become alarmed by these developments as, beyond petitioning the nuclear powers to fulfill their obligations to reduce their nuclear weapons stockpiles, there is little that Africans could do to influence global events in this area. Given the stakes involved, however, few of us are likely to be satisfied with being relegated to the role of mere spectators to this unfolding drama, where the fate of humankind is determined by the leaders of a few countries. To avoid feeling disempowered and growing despondent, Africans may need to explore creative ways of not only putting the issue of nuclear disarmament firmly back on the international agenda but also ways to actively facilitate the reduction of the stockpile of global nuclear weapons.

One of the more creative things Africans could do to advance the cause of nuclear disarmament and avert the risk of nuclear confrontation is lobby those African states that harbour nuclear ambitions to leverage the influence afforded by their planned sizeable investments in this area to signal their citizens’ desire to promote a more peaceful global agenda. These African governments could leverage their influence by deciding to scrap their nuclear plans altogether and to forgo the pursuit of nuclear energy. In so doing, they will send a clear message to the nuclear powers that they do not want any part of the industry and the processes that are used to create the weapons that now threaten humanity’s very existence.

Crucially, for this message to be most effective, it would mean stopping the mining and extraction of uranium, the raw material from which these weapons are made. Although members of mining communities in which these mines are located yet which typically remain some of their countries’ most impoverished communities and enjoy the least benefit from their nations’ mineral wealth may approve of this initiative, there is likely to be a great deal of opposition to this course of action at the national level as it would mean forgoing the revenues which flow from the mining and sale of uranium. A good place to start enlisting wider support would be by tallying the true cost of uranium mining in Africa; accounting for the total financial and economic costs of the environmental damage associated with the rehabilitation of mines and fairly apportioning responsibility for the payment of these costs between African countries and the consumers of these raw materials in the developed world.

Alternatively, if countries decide to proceed with their nuclear build programmes, governments could specify that they are only prepared to embark upon these initiatives if vendors’ reactors were designed to run on enriched uranium sourced from decommissioned nuclear weapons that have been given up by nuclear-armed countries. Since the companies that are the major players in the nuclear industry are either wholly owned subsidiaries of, or heavily subsidised by, the governments of the nuclear weapons states, contract award could be made contingent upon securing guarantees of decommissioning (and crucially, non-replacement of decommissioned nuclear weapons) and access to enriched uranium. In the event that countries that put up their weapons for decommissioning not replace warheads once decommissioned, this policy would have the effect of reducing the absolute number of nuclear weapons in the world.

Admittedly, it might be difficult to persuade African countries to sign up for this scheme as they, along with all non-nuclear states, might be weary of the guarantees given by countries that have constantly reneged on the promises to reduce their nuclear weapons arsenals which they have committed to abide by in the numerous treaties which they are party to. Furthermore, convincing the nuclear powers to give up weapons grade uranium and to turn it over to what are perceived to be less than stable states, many of which are in the midst of bloody insurgencies, might seem to present an insurmountable obstacle due to fears about the increased risk of proliferation of nuclear materials which this scheme would pose. Perhaps so, but this would seem no more or less difficult a task than asking these same countries to agree to have nuclear installations constructed in African countries in the first place.

Regardless of the decisions that individual African countries ultimately take in this regard, it is asserted that Africans do possess some power to act to advance the goal of world peace and help realise a world that is finally free of the threat of nuclear weapons. The many African countries that harbour nuclear ambitions and whose citizens are unhappy with the status quo, in terms of which the fate of the world gets to be decided by the leaders of a handful of countries, are urged to exercise this power by making world peace and nuclear disarmament an explicit goal of their nuclear programmes. Anything less means relinquishing Africans’ legitimate desire to have a meaningful say in determining humanity’s common destiny and accepting Africa’s role as bystander in world affairs.

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Empire’s aggression on Syria

NOVANEWS

US DoD

The developments in Syria demand attention as many countries face the threat of imperialist intervention. There is no reason to imagine that any country is immune to imperialist intervention. Markets, resources to be plundered, geographical location, relations with the world bosses are all factors favouring imperialist intervention. Is the rest of the world going to simply sit by and watch?

With the pounding of 59 Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles on Shayrat airbase in Syria the Empire has widened its aggression in the strategically crucial country. The sounds of destruction announce imperialism’s and aggression, interference and intervention. This is the sound of “peace” imperialism likes to impose on peoples of other countries.

Speaking from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, Donald Trump, the US president, branded Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, a “dictator”, and called on “all civilized nations to join” the US “in seeking to end this slaughter and bloodshed in Syria and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types.” He said “as long as America stands for justice, then peace and harmony will in the end prevail.”

But who  has given the President of America the right to define “dictator”, “civilized nations”, “justice”, “peace” and “harmony”? Is it the “peace and justice”, which have been showered on the Afghan people? Is it the “peace and harmony”, which have been handed out to the Libyan people?

Is it not the “civilized nations” – the imperial powers –that carried on acts of armed intervention in Iraq and Libya? The “civilized nations” formulation of arguments is now exposed. None forget the “arguments” formulated by the “civilized nations” prior to their Iraq aggression. Now, the missiles launched from the USS Porter and USS Ross is having their “arguments and logic” in Syria: defending a “vital national security interest”, as Trump has said. It’s the “vital national security interest” of the Empire, not of other countries; and “civilized nations” “should” step forward to defend that “vital national interest”. The Empire is the final investigator and judge as Trump said: “There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons”. Hence, there remains “no” space for multi-national investigations and further arguments. This is imperialist verdict; none to differ!

“Arguments and logic” imperialism relies on and inner-equations that determine imperialism’s path of aggression are also spelled by the missiles-attack on Syria launched from destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean. Recent developments in Syria and its surrounding region, and within the Empire are evidences of the imperialist logic.

What the other facts and arguments tell?

[1] Following a chemical weapons attack in East Ghouta in Syria in 2013, the Syrian authorities agreed to transfer its chemical weapons to international control for destruction so that these weapons don’t fall into the hands of militants operating in the country. Syria also joined the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons following the chemical weapon attack. The Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said in January 2016 that all chemical weapons in Syria had been destroyed. Those were destroyed on board a US vessel, and were destroyed under UN supervision.

[2] Following US vice-president’s recent claims on chemical weapons in Syria the Russian foreign ministry reminded US that all chemical weapons were taken out of Syria by mid-2014 with US assistance. So, there are “no grounds to claim that the 2013 Russia-US deal did not work out”. Russian foreign ministry’s Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Department Director said: The main burden fell on Damascus and Russia. But the US also made important contribution.

[3] Walid Muallem, Syrian foreign minister, said Thursday: The accusations against the Syrian army using chemical weapons make no sense since Damascus has been succeeding in fighting on all fronts. He questioned: In such a context, would it be logical for us to use chemical weapons?

[4] Who shall be the beneficiary of the chemical weapons attack? It’s the opponents of Assad. Shall Assad engage in such act that benefits his opponents?

Doesn’t fairness demand that there be a multi-national, full-fledged investigation of the reported chemical weapons attack in the vicinity of the Khan Shaykhun settlement in the Idlib province on April 4? The OPCW is in the process of gathering and analyzing information from all available sources. In this context isn’t the US missile attack an imperialist intervention?

The sources of available information on reported chemical weapon attack are the Syrian Observatory and the White Helmets. The Observatory’s capacity to monitor incidents within Syria is questionable. Questions are also being raised about the legitimacy of The White Helmets.

But, it seems, the Empire is always right whatever the source of information are. The Empire is always correct despite its past records false of claims about Saddam’s “weapons of mass destruction”. Moreover, has the world forgotten the Gulf of Tonkin incident?

Other twists are there in the Syria-missile-attack-development.

Only days ago, the White House told “the Syrian people should choose their destiny” and “Assad must go”-policy is over. Similar opinions were expressed by other US senior leaders. What has happened within days that led to the missile attack on the basis of unverified reports?

After the missile attack, it was told that the US had given an advanced warning to Russia about the missile strike. But, later, Rex Tillerson, the US secretary of state, said in a statement: The US did not communicate with Russia either before or after it conducted a missile strike in Syria.

Does this signify anything?

Is there push and pulls by factions within the Empire?

The developments in Syria demand attention as many countries face threat of imperialist intervention. There’s no reason to imagine that country “x” or country “y” is immune from imperialist intervention. Market size, resources to be plundered, geographical location, relations with the world bosses act as factors for imperialist intervention. Imperialist role is forgotten by many while raising voices of opposition.

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US airstrikes on Syria: Hypocrisy and murder

NOVANEWS
AP

Nothing could be more hypocritical than Trump’s claim to have bombed Syria because of the suffering of Syrian children. Deployment of weapons of mass destruction against civilians is a hallmark of America’s wars. Moreover, how can a man who ordered that not a single refugee be accepted from Syria, even keeping out children scheduled to undergo life-saving medical procedures, claim to act in the name of Syrian children?

US President Donald Trump’s cruise missile attack on a Syrian airbase can only ratchet up the horrors being inflicted on the Syrian people by multiple rival enemies. It is part of a stepped-up US-led intervention in Syria and Iraq that has already killed about 3,000 civilians, according to Airwars.org. Further, it threatens wider wars in the region and the whole world.

Although Trump claimed to be motivated by the sight of pictures of children choking and dying due to chemical weapons allegedly used by Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime, his attack came in the wake of US airstrikes that killed many hundreds of adults and children in Iraq and Syria, not with chemical weapons but high explosive Hellfire missiles and huge bombs. In March the US-led coalition bombed a mosque, school and bakery in Syria and then leveled apartment buildings in western Mosul in Iraq, killing as many as 230 people in that attack alone. It is very clear that Washington wants to defeat Daesh (ISIS) not to do anything good for the people of Iraq and Syria, who have been Islamic fundamentalism’s main victims, but to impose its own domination and beat back other rivals. The same applies to the US strike on Syria’s Shayrat airbase. It had nothing to do with protecting people in Syria and everything to do with the US’s strategic interests in the region and globally.

If you want to know what kind of regime the US would welcome in Syria, look at Egypt. Nothing better illustrates what US domination means in this region than Trump’s meeting with Egyptian strongman Abdel Fattah el-Sisi a few days before this attack. Trump told Sisi he was doing a “fantastic job in a very difficult situation” and publicly declared, “You have a great friend and ally in the United States and me.”

Sisi’s rule began with a military coup in 2013. Its opening act was the massacre of more than 800 Islamic Brotherhood supporters demonstrating against the toppling of its elected government. After attacking a protest camp, troops moved through a hospital systematically exterminating patients and staff. Since then, Egypt’s prisons have been engorged with as many as 60,000 political prisoners, including not only Islamists but members of the secular youth organizations that spearheaded the 2011 Tahir Square uprising and dissenters of all stripes. Sisi now presides over a country where young people are called “the jail generation”. The main difference between Sisi and Assad is that Sisi is in the US’s pocket and Assad is not.

It is hard to imagine anything more hypocritical than Trump’s claim to have undergone a “change of heart” about the Assad regime because of the suffering of Syrian children. The “heart” of Trump and the imperialist power he heads beats with the blood of hundreds of millions of its victims. From the nuclear bombs that murdered hundreds of thousands of people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the close of World War 2 to the carpet bombing of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, the extensive spraying of poisonous Agent Orange during the US war to dominate South-east Asia and the use of depleted uranium shells in the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the deployment of weapons of mass destruction against civilians has been a hallmark of American warfighting.

The US had no objection when the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, back when it considered Saddam an ally, used poison gas to inflict some 100,000 casualties during the Iran-Iraq war. The US enabled both sides and, along with Germany, the UK and France, knowingly supplied the chemicals. The US even blocked UN action against Saddam after his forces gassed the Iraqi Kurdish town of Hallabja, killing 5-8,000 people, including a very high proportion of women, children and elderly.

Further, as many people have pointed out, a man and a regime that ordered that not a single refugee be accepted from the war the US has been fuelling in Syria, even keeping out children scheduled to undergo life-saving medical procedures, cannot claim to act in the name of Syrian children and other victims. The same can be said of UK Prime Minister Theresa May, who claimed to be “appalled” by the “barbarism of the Syrian regime”‘, when she herself has long been at the forefront of European Union policies that amount to deliberately letting Syrian and other refugees drown while fleeing crossing the Mediterranean. May shut down the British government programme to accept child refugees from the Mideast, which was originally slated to take in 3,500 children – itself a paltry number – after accepting only 350, on the grounds that there was “no more room”.

This demonstration of the US’s murderous power was meant to signal that it does not intend to let Arabs, Iranians, Kurds or anyone else but the US run the region. It was also a threat to North Korea and elsewhere. Right now it is hard to predict Trump’s next act, or how the consequences of this one will unfold, internationally and within the US. But some of those who are already sure that this will be a “one-off” US action were – until today – arguing that Trump is all bluster. He has repeatedly said about nuclear weapons, “I don’t want to rule out anything.” The gravity of this situation should not be underestimated.

Posted in USA, SyriaComments Off on US airstrikes on Syria: Hypocrisy and murder

Assad had the upper hand, so why would he gas his own people?

AP Photo/Stringer

Common sense, historical facts and circumstantial evidence suggest that it’s unlikely that Assad gassed his own people.  In fact, it’s much more likely that the chemical weapons were from al-Qaeda, ISIS and/or other anti-Assad factions. Indeed, a case can be made that the attack was coordinated by the White Helmets, with US neoconservatives providing the script.

On March 30, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the future leader of Syria should be determined by the people of Syria.

This major policy statement by the US took regime change off the table, and was obviously great news for Bashar al-Assad.  Combined with Syrian military gains on the ground, Assad was in the strongest position he’d been in since the war in Syria began.

So, why 5 days later would he gas his own people?

But even without a thorough investigation, and less than 72 hours after the alleged chemical attack took place, American political leaders and establishment media claimed that Assad carried out the attack on April 4.  Hours later, the US launched 59 tomahawk cruise missiles on a Syrian airfield based on these unproven allegations, killing 9 civilians including 4 children in Idlib province.

Common sense, historical facts and circumstantial evidence suggest that it’s unlikely that Assad gassed his own people earlier this week.  In fact, it’s much more likely that the chemical weapons were from al-Qaeda, ISIS and/or other anti-Assad factions. Indeed, a case can be made that the attack was coordinated by the White Helmets, with US neoconservatives providing the script.

In 2013, US-supported, anti-Assad forces were losing ground in the war in Syria.  Assad claimed that the rebels were using chemical weapons in Aleppo in a last-ditch effort to hold territory.  Assad asked the UN to investigate his claims, and they agreed, and began an investigation in Syria.  Within days of the UN inspectors’ arrival, another chemical weapon attack occurred in Syria.  Western media was quick to blame Assad, even though it defied logic that Assad would use chemical weapons when chemical weapons inspectors were inside Syria at his invitation.

As conservative columnist Pat Buchanan said,

“I would not understand or comprehend that Bashar al-Assad, no matter how bad a man he may be, would be so stupid as to order a chemical weapons attack on civilians in his own country when the immediate consequence…might be that he would be at war with the United States. So this reeks of a false flag operation.”

Former member of congress Ron Paul pointed out, “the group that is most likely to benefit from a chemical attack is Al-Qaeda. They ignite some gas, some people die and blame it on Assad.”

And Russian President Vladimir Putin said, “There is every reason to believe sarin gas was used, not by the Syrian army, but by opposition forces to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists.”

Nonetheless, the Obama administration and other western leaders blamed Assad, and talk of US military action in Syria was contemplated.

Fortunately, journalists like Seymour Hersh helped put a halt to war talk, by revealing that it was indeed the US-supported rebels who used chemical weapons – weapons they received from Turkey, a US ally.

The sarin gas attack that just occurred in Syria is eerily similar to the attack that occurred in 2013:  US-backed anti-Assad rebels are losing ground, a sarin gas attack occurs and US politicians quickly blame Assad without an investigation.  One difference between today and 2013 is that the US military actually bombed a Syrian military target in “retaliation.”  Another difference is that this time, Russian military is in Syria at the invitation of the Syrian government, so the risk of military confrontation with Russia is real.

The US announcement on March 30 that it would not seek regime change in Syria was a massive blow to neoconservatives, liberal interventionists, ISIS, al-Qaeda and all other anti-Assad factions who have been trying to oust Assad for years.  In 2016 alone, the CIA reportedly spent $1 billion supplying and training the rebel forces attempting to overthrow the Syrian government.

The Assad opposition is willing to revert to any means necessary, as history showed in 2013, so it’s conceivable that this week’s chemical attack was perpetrated by one of those factions who saw the window of opportunity to oust Assad closing.

And the US has a long history of making false claims to go to war, such as the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and the Iraq WMD claims — both of which led to major wars.

Given this, it is conceivable that the chemical weapons attack in Syria was perpetrated by The White Helmets, with the goal of tricking the US into taking military action against Assad, something the White Helmets have pushed for years.

As Max Blumenthal points out, The White Helmets, who call for a military imposed no-fly zone in Syria, were founded in collaboration with a wing of the USAID — the wing that has promoted regime change around the world — and have been provided with $23 million in funding from the department.

Money to the White Helmets is just part of the $339 million that the USAID has allotted for “supporting activities that pursue a peaceful transition to a democratic and stable Syria.”

Russian deputy ambassador to the UN said on Wednesday that allegations that Assad used chemical weapons this week are based on “falsified reports from the White Helmets”, an organization that has been “discredited long ago”.

This doesn’t mean the White Helmets were involved in Tuesday’s attack, or that the attack itself didn’t really happen, we’re just asking the question.

With that said, clearly the neocons and all anti-Assad forces have a lot more to gain from this week’s chemical attack than does Assad.  And Assad has much more to lose than any of those groups.  And this week’s attack followed the same script used during the 2013 attack, and that attack was wrongly blamed on Assad, as we suspect this attack is as well.

Although, it is too early to know what really happened, one of the possibilities is that the Syrian military bombed an al-Qaeda hideout, not knowing that chemical weapons were in the building, and the gas spread, killing people, as Russian officials have pointed out.  But it’s odd that the White Helmets just happened to be on the ground, and rapidly produced an HD video complete with a script that was read on most major media outlets within hours of the attack.

Other than the people responsible for the alleged chemical attack this week, nobody really knows what happened, including us.  Now that the US has attacked Syria, Russia’s ally, the question is, will Russia back down? If they don’t, we may look back at this week’s attack as a flashpoint to the start of a military confrontation with Russia.  And given that this could lead to World War III, we think it’s worth the time to consider all possibilities, including the ones mapped out here.

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