Archive | November 20th, 2017

The Trump Doctrine: Making Nuclear Weapons Usable Again

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By Michael T. KlareTomDispatch 

(Photo: Geoff Stearnes; Edited: LW / TO)

(Photo: Geoff Stearnes; Edited: LW / TO)

Maybe you thought America’s nuclear arsenal, with its thousands of city-busting, potentially civilization-destroying thermonuclear warheads, was plenty big enough to deter any imaginable adversary from attacking the US with nukes of their own. Well, it turns out you were wrong.

The Pentagon has been fretting that the arsenal is insufficiently intimidating. After all — so the argument goes — it’s filled with old (possibly unreliable) weapons of such catastrophically destructive power that maybe, just maybe, even President Trump might be reluctant to use them if an enemy employed smaller, less catastrophic nukes on some future battlefield. Accordingly, US war planners and weapons manufacturers have set out to make that arsenal more “usable” in order to give the president additional nuclear “options” on any future battlefield. (If you’re not already feeling a little tingle of anxiety at this point, you should be.) While it’s claimed that this will make such assaults less likely, it’s all too easy to imagine how such new armaments and launch plans could actually increase the risk of an early resort to nuclear weaponry in a moment of conflict, followed by calamitous escalation.

That President Trump would be all-in on making the American nuclear arsenal more usable should come as no surprise, given his obvious infatuation with displays of overwhelming military strength. (He was thrilled when, last April, one of his generals ordered, for the first time, the most powerful nonnuclear weapon the US possesses dropped in Afghanistan.) Under existing nuclear doctrine, as imagined by the Obama administration back in 2010, this country was to use nuclear weapons only “in extreme circumstances” to defend the vital interests of the country or of its allies. Prohibited was the possibility of using them as a political instrument to bludgeon weaker countries into line. However, for Donald Trump, a man who has already threatened to unleash on North Korea “fire and fury like the world has never seen,” such an approach is proving far too restrictive. He and his advisers, it seems, want nukes that can be employed at any potential level of great-power conflict or brandished as the apocalyptic equivalent of a giant club to intimidate lesser rivals.

Making the US arsenal more usable requires two kinds of changes in nuclear policy: altering existing doctrine to eliminate conceptional restraints on how such weapons may be deployed in wartime and authorizing the development and production of new generations of nuclear munitions capable, among other things, of tactical battlefield strikes. All of this is expected to be incorporated into the administration’s first nuclear posture review (NPR), to be released by the end of this year or early in 2018.

Its exact contents won’t be known until then — and even then, the American public will only gain access to the most limited version of a largely classified document. Still, some of the NPR’s features are already obvious from comments made by the president and his top generals. And one thing is clear: restraints on the use of such weaponry in the face of a possible weapon of mass destruction of any sort, no matter its level of destructiveness, will be eliminated and the planet’s most powerful nuclear arsenal will be made ever more so.

Altering the Nuclear Mindset

The strategic guidance provided by the administration’s new NPR is likely to have far-reaching consequences. As John Wolfsthal, former National Security Council director for arms control and nonproliferation, put it in a recent issue of Arms Control Today, the document will affect “how the United States, its president, and its nuclear capabilities are seen by allies and adversaries alike. More importantly, the review establishes a guide for decisions that underpin the management, maintenance, and modernization of the nuclear arsenal and influences how Congress views and funds the nuclear forces.”

With this in mind, consider the guidance provided by that Obama-era nuclear posture review. Released at a moment when the White House was eager to restore America’s global prestige in the wake of George W. Bush’s widely condemned invasion of Iraq and just six months after the president had wonthe Nobel Prize for his stated determination to abolish such weaponry, it made nonproliferation the top priority. In the process, it downplayed the utility of nuclear weapons under just about any circumstances on just about any imaginable battlefield. Its principal objective, it claimed, was to reduce “the role of US nuclear weapons in US national security.”

As the document pointed out, it had once been American policy to contemplate using nuclear weapons against Soviet tank formations, for example, in a major European conflict (a situation in which the USSR was believed to possess an advantage in conventional, non-nuclear forces). By 2010, of course, those days were long gone, as was the Soviet Union. Washington, as the NPR noted, now possessed an overwhelming advantage in conventional weaponry as well. “Accordingly,” it concluded, “the United States will continue to strengthen conventional capabilities and reduce the role of nuclear weapons in deterring non-nuclear attacks.”

A nuclear strategy aimed exclusively at deterring a first strike against this country or its allies hardly requires a mammoth stockpile of weaponry. As a result, such an approach opened the way for potential further reductions in the arsenal’s size and led in 2010 to the signing of the New Start treaty with the Russians, mandating a sharp reduction in nuclear warheads and delivery systems for both countries. Each side was to be limited to 1,550 warheads and some combination of 700 delivery systems, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and heavy bombers.

Such an approach, however, never sat well with some in the military establishment and conservative think tanks. Critics of that sort have often pointed to supposed shifts in Russian military doctrine that suggest a greater inclination to employ nuclear weapons in a major war with NATO, if it began to go badly for their side. Such “strategic deterrence” (a phrase which has a different meaning for the Russians than for Western strategists) could result in the use of low-yield “tactical” nuclear munitions against enemy strongpoints, if Russia’s forces in Europe appeared on the verge of defeat. To what degree this doctrine actually governs Russian military thinking no one actually knows. It is nevertheless cited regularly by those in the West who believe that Obama’s nuclear strategy is now dangerously outmoded and invites Moscow to increase its reliance on nuclear weaponry.

Such complaints were typically aired in “Seven Defense Priorities for the New Administration,” a December 2016 report by the Defense Science Board (DSB), a Pentagon-funded advisory group that reports to the secretary of defense. “The DSB remains unconvinced,” it concluded, “that downplaying the nation’s nuclear deterrent would lead other nations to do the same.” It then pointed to the supposed Russian strategy of threatening to use low-yield tactical nuclear strikes to deter a NATO onslaught. While many Western analysts have questioned the authenticity of such claims, the DSB insisted that the US must develop similar weaponry and be on record as prepared to use them. As that report put it, Washington needs “a more flexible nuclear enterprise that could produce, if needed, a rapid, tailored nuclear option for limited use should existing non-nuclear or nuclear options prove insufficient.”

This sort of thinking now appears to be animating the Trump administration’s approach to nuclear weapons and is reflected in the president’s periodic tweets on the subject. Last December 22nd, for example, he tweeted, “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” Although he didn’t elaborate — it was Twitter, after all — his approach clearly reflected both the DSB position and what his advisers were undoubtedly telling him.

Soon after, as the newly-installed commander-in-chief, Trump signed a presidential memorandum instructing the secretary of defense to undertake a nuclear posture review ensuring “that the United States nuclear deterrent is modern, robust, flexible, resilient, ready, and appropriately tailored to deter 21st-century threats and reassure our allies.”

Of course, we don’t yet know the details of the coming Trumpian NPR. It will, however, certainly throw the Obama approach to the sharks and promote a far more robust role for nuclear weapons, as well as the construction of that more “flexible” arsenal, capable of providing the president with multiple attack options, including low-yield strikes.

Enhancing the Arsenal

The Trumpian NPR will certainly promote new nuclear weapons systems that are billed as providing future chief executives with a greater “range” of strike options. In particular, the administration is thought to favor the acquisition of “low-yield tactical nuclear munitions” and yet more delivery systems to go with them, including air- and ground-launched cruise missiles. The argument will predictably be made that munitions of this sort are needed to match Russian advances in the field.

Under consideration, according to those with inside knowledge, is the development of the sort of tactical munitions that could, say, wipe out a major port or military installation, rather than a whole city, Hiroshima-style. As one anonymous government official put it to Politico, “This capability is very warranted.” Another added, “The [NPR] has to credibly ask the military what they need to deter enemies” and whether current weapons are “going to be useful in all the scenarios we see.”

Keep in mind that, under the Obama administration (for all its talk of nuclear abolition), planning and initial design work for a multi-decade, trillion-dollar-plus “modernization” of America’s nuclear arsenal had already been agreed upon. So, in terms of actual weaponry, Donald Trump’s version of the nuclear era was already well underway before he entered the Oval Office. And of course, the United States already possesses several types of nuclear weapons, including the B61 “gravity bomb” and the W80 missile warhead that can be modified — the term of trade is “dialed down” — to produce a blast as low as a few kilotons (less powerful, that is, than the bombs that in August 1945 destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki). That, however, is proving anything but enough for the proponents of “tailored” nuclear munitions.

A typical delivery system for such future nukes likely to receive expedited approval is the long-range standoff weapon (LRSO), an advanced, stealthy air-launched cruise missile intended to be carried by B-2 bombers, their older cousins the B-52s, or the future B-21. As currently envisioned, the LRSO will be capable of carrying either a nuclear or a conventional warhead. In August, the Air Force awarded both Raytheon and Lockheed Martin $900 million for initial design work on prototypes of that delivery system, with one of them likely to be chosen for full-scale development, an undertaking expected to cost many billions of dollars.

Critics of the proposed missile, including former Secretary of Defense William Perry, argue that the US already possesses more than enough nuclear firepower to deter enemy attacks without it. In addition, as he points out, if the LRSO were to be launched with a conventional warhead in the early stages of a conflict, an adversary might assume it was under nuclear attack and retaliate accordingly, igniting an escalatory spiral leading to all-out thermonuclear war. Proponents, however, swear that “older” cruise missiles must be replaced in order to give the president more flexibility with such weaponry, a rationale Trump and his advisers are sure to embrace.

A Nuclear-Ready World

The release of the next nuclear posture review will undoubtedly ignite a debate over whether the country with a nuclear arsenal large enough to destroy several Earth-sized planets actually needs new nukes, which could, among other dangers, spark a future global arms race. In November, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report indicating that the likely cost of replacing all three legs of the US nuclear triad (intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched missiles, and strategic bombers) over a 30-year period will reach a minimum of $1.2 trillion, not including inflation or the usual cost overruns, which are likely to push that figure to $1.7 trillion or beyond.

Raising questions about the need for all these new weapons and their phenomenal costs couldn’t be more important. After all, one thing is guaranteed: any decision to procure such weaponry will, in the long term, mean budget cuts elsewhere, whether in health, education, infrastructure, or fighting the opioid epidemic.

And yet questions of cost and utility are the lesser parts of the new nuclear conundrum. At its heart is the very idea of “usability.” When President Obama insisted that nuclear weapons had no battlefield use, he was speaking not just to this country, but to all nations. “To put an end to Cold War thinking,” he declared in Prague in April 2009, “we will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy and urge others to do the same.”

If, however, the Trump White House embraces a doctrine that closes the distance between nuclear weapons and ordinary ones, transforming them into more usable instruments of coercion and war, it will also make the likelihood of escalation to all-out thermonuclear extermination more imaginable for the first time in decades. There is little question, for instance, that such a stance would encourage other nuclear-armed nations, including Russia, China, India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea, to plan for the early use of such weaponry in future conflicts. It might even encourage countries that don’t now have such weaponry to consider producing them.

The world imagined by President Obama in which nukes would be a true weapon of last resort was certainly a more reassuring one. His vision represented a radical break from Cold War thinking in which the possibility of a thermonuclear holocaust between the planet’s two superpowers seemed like an ever-present possibility and millions of people responded by engaging in antinuclear protest movements.

Without the daily threat of Armageddon, concern over nukes largely evaporated and those protests came to an end. Unfortunately, the weaponry and the companies that built them didn’t. Now, as the seemingly threat-free zone of a post-nuclear era is drawing to a close, the possible use of nuclear weapons — barely conceivable even in the Cold War era — is about to be normalized. Or at least that will be the case if, once again, the citizens of this planet don’t take to the streets to protest a future in which cities could lie in smoldering ruins while millions of people die from hunger and radiation sickness.

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For Zimbabwe, a Coup Isn’t the Answer

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, center, during the country’s 37th Independence Day celebration in April. CreditJekesai Njikizana/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

There is no doubt that the events of the last 48 hours in Zimbabwe mark the beginning of the end of Robert Mugabe’s reign. The dictator’s 37-year-rulewas distinguished by untold suffering, high inflation, shortages of water, electricity and money. Millions of Zimbabweans left the country in search of better opportunities. The majority of those who remained were left to live in poverty and illness.

In a confusing sequence of events on Tuesday and Wednesday, the military seized the state television broadcaster ZBC, and in an effort to downplay what was happening said there was no coup, but that it was targeting criminals around the president.

No matter what the military says, this is a coup.

Some citizens, rightfully desperate for change, say this is the best step toward some kind of reform, but it’s not. There is evidence this intervention is driven by the self-interest of military generals rather than national interest, which makes prospects for economic and democratic reforms bleak.

It’s no secret that Mr. Mugabe and his party, ZANU-PF, are unpopular. But the army will, without a doubt, continue the party’s rule. In successive elections since 2000, the army played a very retrogressive role in rigging elections and leading violence in the name of “national interest.” That same army mismanaged revenue from mining diamonds in the town of Chiadzwa just four years ago, bungling what could have been a prosperous economic moment for the entire country.

The army was silent when the former vice president Joice Mujuru, a widely admired veteran, was pushed out of the government in 2014 for wanting to run for president. The army only took a stand when Emmerson Mnangagwa, regarded as the longest serving ally to Mr. Mugabe from the liberation struggle, was pushed out of office by Mr. Mugabe this month. Mr. Mnangagwa occupied a key security ministerial position from 1980 to 1988 and was in the defense ministry from 2009 to 2013 before being elevated to the vice presidential post.

The coup is merely a response to fighting within the ZANU-PF. For months, tension has been building inside the party with the emerging possibility that Mr. Mugabe’s wife, Grace, could succeed him instead of Mr. Mnangagwa. The special relationship between Mr. Mnangagwa and the army best explains its intervention. It is naïve to believe that any leader who takes power under such conditions will strive for democratic reform.

If the army successfully assumes control, in the coming weeks and months, we mustn’t be fooled into believing there will be any departure from Mr. Mugabe’s politics. With a fractured civil society and splintering opposition parties, the prospects of such a complete military takeover are high. A divided and vulnerable civil society is an easy target for manipulation. In the absence of constitutional legitimacy — a vacuum created by Mr. Mugabe — the military will seek favor in the court of public opinion, with a restive citizenry desperate for any leader offering a remotely better life. Zimbabweans have been yearning for a messianic moment, and this is an opportunity for a shift from Mugabe politics.

Wednesday’s coup appears to be the start of the military’s center-stage role in Zimbabwe’s politics, and there is no guarantee what will happen if its interests are threatened.

The past 48 hours have revealed that Mr. Mugabe — the man we all thought would rule until his death — can be toppled; the next 48 hours will show how the army manages Mr. Mugabe’s potential resignation or removal. Amid reports of him refusing to resign, and the army dismissing a delegation sent by President Jacob Zuma of South Africa to intervene, the battle lines are drawn. Mr. Mnangagwa, who has since returned to the country, will likely explore legitimate options to step in as president, with his loyal soldiers beside him.

To many, this is the best option — a well-known figure at the helm who fought in the wars of independence — but only time will tell if this will work. In the best-case scenario, Mr. Mnangagwa will shepherd the country safely to next year’s elections.

But if the situation remains in the hands of the army, I don’t expect such an election. The army will need more time to create a predictable outcome for itself. This also applies if Mr. Mugabe hands power to a transitional government, which would need time to stabilize and prepare for the elections. The army will determine and shape the pace of developments as it protects “national interests.”

Handing power to the military will leave Zimbabweans at the mercy of a very unpredictable group that has rarely worked on behalf of the people. And military leadership will most certainly leave the people with an unpredictable future. While the military might want to use this opportunity to reorganize the ZANU-PF and then call for an election, the party’s problems are not the people’s problems.

The best option for Zimbabwe right now is a transitional arrangement with multiparty representation to stabilize the country, with the Southern African Development Community pledging support to guarantee an election. This could involve a coalition between Ms. Mujuru, Mr. Mngangagwa, the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and former Home Affairs Minister Dumiso Dabengwa.

As Zimbabweans around the world celebrate a moment of relief, we must remember that the future looks bleak. Coups are a regressive path to achieving democratic ends. Once the army has settled in, its interests — not ours — will be the priority. Any prospects for reforming the country lie in returning power to citizens — and for the army to respect civilian authority.

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As Zimbabwe’s Mugabe Refuses to Resign, Advocates Say Coup “Is Not the Answer” for Meaningful Reform

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Image result for mugabe cartoons

In Zimbabwe, longtime leader Robert Mugabe is refusing to resign as president amid a growing political crisis. Last week Mugabe was placed under house arrest after Zimbabwe’s military seized parliament, courts, government offices, and the main airport in the capital, Harare. The apparent coup came a week after President Mugabe ousted his Vice President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who’s since been named by the military as interim president. Members of Zimbabwe’s ruling party are preparing to meet to discuss Mugabe’s impeachment, after the deadline for him to resign came and went this morning. On Sunday, Mugabe gave a televised address acknowledging the country’s problems, but did not mention stepping down. Zimbabwe’s ruling party, ZANU-PF, has expelled Mugabe and First Lady Grace Mugabe from the party. Impeachment proceedings against Mugabe may now begin as soon as Tuesday. For more we’re joined by Glen Mpani, Mason fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He is a democracy and governance practitioner who has worked for the last 15 years in Africa. His recent op-ed in the New York Times is titled, “For Zimbabwe, a Coup Isn’t the Answer.”

TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, Democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

We begin today’s show with Zimbabwe, where long-time leader Robert Mugabe is refusing to resign as president amidst a growing political crisis in Zimbabwe. Members of Zimbabwe’s ruling party are preparing to meet to discuss Mugabe’s impeachment after the deadline for him to resign came and went this morning. On Sunday, Mugabe gave a televised address acknowledging the country’s problems, but did not mention stepping down.

PRESIDENT ROBERT MUGABE: Whatever the pros and cons of the way they went about registering those concerns, I, as the president of Zimbabwe and as their commander in chief, do acknowledge the issues they have drawn my attention to, and do believe that these were raised in the spirit of honesty and out of deep and patriotic concern for the stability of our nation.

Of greater concern to our commanders are the well-founded fears that the lack of unity and commonness of purpose in both party and government was translating into perceptions of inattentiveness to the economy. Open public spurts between high-ranking officials in the party and government exacerbated by multiple conflicting messages, from both the party and government, major criticisms leveled against us, inescapable.

AMY GOODMAN: Zimbabwe’s ruling party, ZANU-PF, has expelled Mugabe and First Lady Grace Mugabe from the party. Mugabe had been working to hand over power to his wife Grace. The impeachment proceedings against Mugabe may now begin as soon as Tuesday. Last week, President Mugabe was placed under house arrest after Zimbabwe’s military seized parliament, courts, government offices, and the main airport in the capital Harare.
The apparent coup came a week after President Mugabe ousted his vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa. The military says it has appointed him as the interim president of Zimbabwe.

On Sunday, after a week of relative calm, residents in Harare took to the streets to celebrate the expected announcement of Mugabe’s resignation, only to be disappointed by his refusal to step down.

UNKNOWN PERSON: We were expecting to hear the president say, “I have heard your concerns yesterday, and I’m ready to step down. This is not what we were expecting, to hear a long speech without any results for us. The results were simple — “I am stepping down. I am handing over the country to someone else.”

AMY GOODMAN: Robert Mugabe has held power since Zimbabwe declared independence 37 years ago. For more, we’re joined by Glen Mpani, Mason fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, democracy and governance practitioner who has worked for the last 15 years in Africa. His recent op-ed in The New York Times is headlined, For Zimbabwe, a Coup Isn’t the Answer. Glen Mpani, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you talk about what is the latest in Zimbabwe and give us background on how to understand it?

GLEN MPANI: Thank you so much. It is good to be on your show. As you are aware, Zimbabwe has been confronted with an economic and political crisis for the last 20 years. The crisis has been largely due to bad governance, centralization of power, and the inability of the ZANA-PF government to be able to provide alternative solutions to address the economic crisis. The crisis has also resulted in the country’s being placed on sanctions. It has resulted in multitudes of Zimbabwe fleeing the country to go to other countries to be able to [inaudible] a living.

And if you look at some of the key things that have been a major challenge for a day-to-day Zimbabwean, unemployment is at 98 percent. There are shortages of water, electricity, and cash within the country. So these are some of the major economic issues that have been a problem.

But of major concern the last three or four years, there have been issues that deal with succession within ZANU-PF. And within ZANU-PF, there have been two major factions that have been trying to show that they can be able to succeed Mugabe. One of the factions was led by the former vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was voted out a couple of weeks from ZANU-PF. And the other faction was led by the first lady Grace Mugabe, which the president, Robert Mugabe, is regarded to have been part of.

So this jostling for position reached fever pitch a couple of weeks ago when there was the expulsion of the vice president from his post as the vice president of the country, as the result that he was promoting factionalism. And in that process, a free-for-all event took place, where we saw the security, which has been very close to Vice President Mnangagwa, aligning themselves to it, and in essence moving in to ensure that they can be able to restore him.

On the other side, the faction that was aligned to the first lady was pushing to ensure that they [inaudible] the structures and ensure that they align them with the faction of the first lady. So what we are confronted with here is factional issues with intraparty disagreements within ZANU-PF that have largely sped into a national crisis.

And unfortunately, there has been now a convergence of issues where Zimbabweans, the general public, is tired of the leadership of ZANU-PF, and they have been saying it for many, many years. And now we have one individual who everyone is in agreement that they should go. We have got a faction in ZANU-PF that would not want him to stay, and the general [inaudible] in Zimbabwe that do want him to be there. So there is a common enemy on the ground to say, “Let’s get him out.”

But there are nuances that people need to pick out. The nuances are as follows. The ZANU-PF faction that is pushing for this in all intents and purposes is not sincere in terms of economic recovery and democratization of Zimbabwe. They’re simply doing it simply because they want to install one of their own. And the people rallying with them are using it as an opportunity for them to be able to gain legitimacy, for them to be able to sanitize themselves as a pro-democratic movement. But in essence, that is not their agenda and their cause.

AMY GOODMAN: So talk about, for people who are not familiar with Zimbabwe’s history, 37 years ago gaining independence from England. It used to be called Rhodesia, for Cecil Rhodes. Robert Mugabe a leading independence activist as was his vice president, who has just been appointed president. Give us the history of Zimbabwe in Africa.

GLEN MPANI: Zimbabwe attained independence in 1980 and offered a lot of hope for the continent. I think if you look at the history of Zimbabwe, we are regarded as the bread basket of the continent. We largely were able to produce commodities such as tobacco. We were able to feed ourselves and to feed other regions on the continent. We were able to have a very robust and vibrant education system. Our health sector was very effective. And we were proud as a country, for us to be able to provide a shining example in terms of how a country can be able to transition from colonial rule.

But what remained, post-independence 1980, was that we had the dominance of ZANU-PF. Regardless of the dominance of ZANU-PF there and the existence of ZAPU as an opposition party — which it largely also played the very pivotal role during the liberation struggle — we focused more on the economy and paid very little attention in terms of the politics. So the idea of centralizing authority and power remained a key tenet of the ZANU-PF government.

But unfortunately, because there was very little opposition to them, there was less attention that was paid to them because they were a darling of the West. The British loved them so much. Donors were pouring money to Zimbabwe. But pre-2000, when they went to introduce the IMF conditions for them to be able to reform the economy, we started noticing, one, the cutting down of the social [inaudible], levels of unemployment increased, there was now high inflation.

And this instance led to the rise of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, the largest labor movement that resulted in the formation of the now major political party in Zimbabwe, the Movement for Democratic Change. This ushered in a new era within Zimbabwean politics, where the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions was now challenging the government to say, one, there are high levels of corruption. Two, the basic livelihood issues of ordinary Zimbabweans cannot be met. And this resulted in the formation of an opposition. And this opposition since 2000 has successfully been — successively been participating in elections, which have largely been seen as unfair, in the way it has been seen to have won.

But unfortunately, because of the military, this military that has just intervened, which played a role in instituting violence, rigging of elections, inflicting reprisals on key activists, it has become very, very difficult for any prospect of an opposition being able to get into office through an electoral process.

I recall there was even an instance where all these generals had to do a press conference where they categorically stated that in no way would they allow anyone who has never fought in the liberation struggle to be a leader of Zimbabwe. And true to their word, they have been very consistent. And if you see what is currently happening, they are making sure — because the G40 is regarded as a faction within ZANU-PF of young people who don’t have liberation credentials. So true to their word, the insistence of them intervening, to have Mnangagwa come in as their candidate is in line with their agenda that they will never accept anyone who doesn’t have liberation credentials.

AMY GOODMAN: Glen Mpani, I wanted to ask you about Zimbabwe’s opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who you were talking about, who returned to Zimbabwe from South Africa reportedly discussing plans to form a government of national unity with Emmerson Mnangagwa, who the military has appointed as interim president. Tsvangirai served as prime minister under Mugabe from 2009-2013. Former labor activist who was repeatedly arrested by Zimbabwean authorities, subject to beatings, torture while in jail. We only have a minute the half, but if you can talk about both Tsvangirai, Mnangagwa, and the power of the first lady as well? If you can talk about the power of Grace Mugabe and where she fits into this, now also expelled from the party?

GLEN MPANI: Let me start with the first lady. I think the first lady made a greater disservice to Mugabe, whose image had already been eroded. I think she overstretched their hand. She overplayed their hand and in essence did not manage to be able to play an effective role in ensuring that Mugabe can steer this succession agenda. She played a very divisive role, and unfortunately this has culminated into this. And if you listen to most Zimbabweans, they express greater revulsion and hatred in terms of what she has done, because in essence, she caused this to be able to implode.

So if you are to move away from looking at Grace — so moving forward as a factor, I don’t see her as a factor. I think if she’s going to play a role, she will play a role within ZANU-PF. That is, if they want it. But from the signs that are there, they have expelled her, and I don’t think there will be an opportunity — if Mugabe leaves, I don’t think she will have any opportunity in any realignment or in the future politics for Zimbabwe. This might actually be the end of her political career.

When it comes to Mnangagwa and Tsvangirai, I think they can come up with an alliance of convenience, where they can say, “Let’s have an interim arrangement or a transitional government.” But I don’t see that bringing any meaningful change. It can bring relief in an interim phase, but it will not work. Both of them are desperate. Mnangagwa wants legitimacy. He wants international acclaim. Morgan Tsvangirai is desperate. He also wants to get into government, considering that he is not also feeling well. So they are joined together by their personal missions.

AMY GOODMAN: He is undergoing cancer treatment, right?

GLEN MPANI: He is also undergoing cancer treatment. But in terms of a greater good, I see an elite pact. I don’t see any substantive reforms, in terms of them coming out of this process. I don’t think all three have the appetite for them to push an agenda. So unfortunately, if citizens in Zimbabwe don’t challenge whatever deals or decisions that whatever interim arrangement is going to come up with, they will realize that we have another 37 years where the status quo remains. Because now elite interests and selfish interests are now taking precedence over what needs to be done in terms of reforming Zimbabwe.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you so much, Glen Mpani, for joining us. Zimbabwean scholar, Mason fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Democracy and governance practitioner who has worked for the last 15 years in Africa.
We will link to your piece in The New York Times: For Zimbabwe, a Coup Isn’t the Answer.

When we come back, the UN Climate Summit has just wrapped up. We’re just back from Bonn, Germany. We’ll speak with Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, who was part of the anti-Trump revolt in Bonn. Remember when President Trump said, “I serve Pittsburgh, not Paris”? So we’ll hear from Pittsburgh. Stay with us.

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Capitalism Is Not the Only Choice

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By Penn LohYES! Magazine 

(Photo: Blend Images - Hill Street Studios / Getty Images)
An increasing number of worker co-operatives are challenging capitalism and gender oppression by creating new ways of navigating the economy. (Photo: Blend Images – Hill Street Studios / Getty Images).

Since the breakup of the Soviet bloc and China’s turn toward free markets, many economists have pronounced an “end of history,” where capitalism reigns supreme as the ultimate form of economy. Perhaps “there is no alternative” to a globalized neoliberal economy, as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher often said. Indeed, free markets in which individuals compete to get what they can while they can are glorified in popular culture through reality shows such as Shark Tank.

But many of us in the 99 percent are not feeling so happy or secure about this economy’s results. Many are working harder and longer just to maintain housing and keep food on the table. Even the college-educated are mired in student debt, keeping the American Dream beyond their grasp. And then there are those who have never been served well by this economy. African Americans were liberated from enslavement only to be largely shut out of “free” market opportunities. Immigrants continue to work in the shadows. Women still earn only about three-quarters of what men make for the same work.

So, are we trapped in capitalism? While many of us may want a new economy where people and planet are prioritized over profit, we remain skeptical that another world is really possible. We make some progress locally but then feel powerless to affect national and global forces. Too often “the economy” is equated with markets where corporations compete to make profits for the wealthiest 1 percent and the rest work for a wage or salary (or don’t make money at all). Work itself is seen as legitimate only if it legally generates income. Value is measured only in money terms, based on what people are willing to pay in the market. The capitalist mindset also separates economy from society and nature, as if it exists apart from people, communities, government, and our planet. Economy is its own machine, fueled by profit and competition.

When everything that we label “economic” is assumed to be capitalist — transactional and market-driven — then it is no wonder that we run short on imagination.

Redefining Economy Beyond Capitalism

To escape this “capitalocentrism,” we need to broaden the definition of economy beyond capitalism. What if, instead, economy is all the ways that we meet our material needs and care for each other? And what if it’s not a singular thing? Then we would see that beneath the official capitalist economy are all sorts of thriving non-capitalist economies, where there may not be a profit motive or market exchange. They include tasks that we do every day. We care for our children and elderly; we cook and clean for ourselves and each other; we grow food; we provide emotional support to friends. These are all ways of meeting our material needs and caring for each other.

For many, these economies, which foster solidarity and are rooted in values of democracy and justice rather than maximizing profit, are invisible or not recognized as “economic”; they are merely how we go about our lives. Capitalist thinking blinds us to these economic activities, some of which make survival possible and life meaningful. These non-capitalist ways also add up to a significant portion of all economic activity. Economist Nancy Folbre from University of Massachusetts Amherst estimates that unpaid domestic work (historically considered “women’s work”) was equal to 26 percent of the US gross domestic product in 2010.

Recognizing these diverse economies allows us to see that there are choices to be made.

Broadening the definition of economy also puts people back into the system and empowers us. Economy is not just something that happens to us, a sea in which we swim or sink. Rather we are all part of multiple economies, some in which we are the main actors — such as our household economies — and others in which we are the extras — such as venture capital markets.

Recognizing these diverse economies and lifting the veil of capitalocentrism allows us to see that there are choices to be made, ethics and values to be considered. For example, I might pay more for lettuce from a local farmer who grows sustainably rather than from a distant supplier that exploits farm workers and uses pesticides. These choices are not only made as consumers, but also as workers, producers, and neighbors, and through policies that set the rules necessary for any economy to function. Do I work for a for-profit owned by shareholders or for a worker-owned cooperative, nonprofit, or B corporation? Should public land be used for luxury condos or for affordable housing? These questions open space for all of us to participate in shaping our world and the economic futures of the 99 percent.

Solidarity Is Rising

Across the US, from Jackson, Mississippi, to Oakland, California; in rural Kentucky and on Navajo-Hopi lands; and throughout Massachusetts’ biggest cities, it is often poor communities and communities of color that are building solidarity economies around these questions. This is not new. In fact, this is where solidarity economics — collective strategies for survival — have been innovated out of necessity. Think mutual aid, community organizing, self-help, and cooperatives of all kinds. These practices have been embedded in Black liberation movements, the early labor movement, and many other progressive movements in the US.

The desire for deep, transformational change — for the multitude of solidarity economies to add up to something — comes not just from those who are dissatisfied, but even more so from communities that are simply struggling to survive. Dreams of a decent life and a fair shake come from those making Black Lives Matter, from immigrant workers making poverty wages, from ex-prisoners locked out of the mainstream economy, from tenants barely able to make rent, and from communities being displaced to make way for the 1 percent.

Springfield is Massachusetts’ third-largest city, and here the Wellspring initiative is building a network of worker-owned cooperatives to create local jobs and build wealth for low-income and unemployed residents. Inspired by the Cleveland Evergreen Cooperatives, which has built a network of worker-owned businesses to provide goods and services to the region’s anchor institutions, Wellspring was founded in 2011 to try to capture some of the $1.5 billion spent by its own anchor institutions, such as Baystate Health and University of Massachusetts Amherst. One study showed anchors procure less than 10 percent from local businesses.

Solidarity economics is more than just cooperatives. It is a social justice movement.

Its first cooperative, Wellspring Upholstery, was launched in 2013 and now has seven workers. Wellspring Upholstery was the first business to be developed, in part because a successful 25-year-old upholstery training program run by the county prison could provide trained workers. Wellspring’s second cooperative is Old Windows Workshop, a women-owned window restoration business. A main goal of this business, according to production manager Nannette Bowie, is to allow “the flexibility of a working mom to take care of your family responsibilities and keep a full-time job.”

Wellspring raised almost $1 million to start its third business, a commercial greenhouse, which will produce lettuce, greens, and herbs for the local schools and anchor institutions. Construction began during the summer. With several businesses underway, Wellspring is demonstrating viable models they hope will inspire others and grow the job base and wealth-building opportunities for low-income and unemployed residents.

Wellspring is just one example of solidarity economies that are emerging in Massachusetts. In Worcester, the state’s second-largest city, the Solidarity and Green Economy Alliance is cultivating their own ecology of more than a dozen cooperatives. Some are matching resident skills to meet community needs, such as landscaping, soil remediation, honey production, and urban agriculture. Others are providing services to movement organizations, such as translation, video production, and bookkeeping. In Boston’s Roxbury and Dorchester neighborhoods, a food solidarity economy is emerging, which includes a community land trust, urban farms and a greenhouse, a kitchen incubator, a consumer food co-op, and a worker-owned organics recycling company. And Latinx residents of East Boston have formed the Center for Cooperative Development and Solidarity. Concerned about rapid gentrification, the group began exploring how economic alternatives could help them stay in East Boston. They are supporting startup cooperatives in child care, sewing, and cleaning. The Boston Ujima Project was just officially launched in September to build a community capital fund where a participatory budgeting process is used to make investments in local businesses.

Consciousness, Power and Economy

Yet solidarity economics is more than just cooperatives. It is a social justice movement. It is shifting our consciousness not only to uncover root causes, but also to expand our vision of what is possible, and to inspire dreams of the world as it could be. It is building power, not just to resist and reform the injustices and unsustainabilities produced by current systems, but ultimately to control democratically and govern political and economic resources to sustain people and the planet. And it is creating economic alternatives and prototypes for producing, exchanging, consuming, and investing in ways that are more just, sustainable, and democratic.

If we want to transform and go beyond capitalism, then we must confront it in all three of these dimensions: consciousness, power, and economy.

We do not have the luxury of creating solidarity economies in a vacuum. That means that we have to put them into practice now at home and in our own communities, no matter how small the scale. At the same time, we can work with others to build larger solidarity alternatives and do the hard work of reforming the political, economic, and ideological systems that are making life so difficult for so many.

Everyone can put solidarity values into practice — to live in solidarity — starting in whatever ways we can. And that is the transformative power of solidarity economics, that it doesn’t have to scale up only by building larger and larger organizations and systems. It can scale up by many people in many places pursuing economics of social justice. It will require taking back government to dismantle the systems that privilege capitalism and to redirect public resources toward solidarity economies. We can all begin by spreading the word, sharing our radical imagination of the world that we want to live in.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

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Syria Has Shown That dirty Stop the War UK is Not Fit for Purpose

NOVANEWS

Syria Has Shown That Stop the War UK is Not Fit for Purpose

 

Stop the War            Coalition

New York Times ” The Zionist dirty media” investigation has found that the number of civilian casualties of coalition airstrikes in Iraq has been more than 31 times larger than the number acknowledged by the coalition. Britain alone has dropped more than 3,400 bombs in Syria and Iraq, yet Theresa May’s government shamelessly claims that no civilians have been killed.

In times of such extreme deceit, Stop the War’s campaign against the government’s war policies is urgent and vitally important. We need to intensify our campaigning and we are asking for your generous help. Your donations will enable us to expose their lies and promote the anti-war arguments more widely, support new Stop the War groups springing up around the country, sustain an increased level of staffing and upgrade our communications.

 

Jeremy-CorbynSTWISIS

21st Century Wire

This is a sequel to Stop the War, Libya and the CPGB-ML, which considered the response of the UK’s Stop the War Coalition to NATO’s plans for regime change in Libya.

The war on Syria began in much the same way as that for Libya: romantic talk of the Arab Spring, and claims of peaceful protests ruthlessly put down by a dictator with hitherto unsuspected genocidal tendencies. However the non-NATO aligned members of the Security Council, on the one hand, and a high proportion of the general public on the other, had learned from the disastrous consequences of Russia and China’s acquiescence to a no fly zone in Libya, and thus moves to introduce one for Syria, either with or without the agreement of the Security Council, have so far failed.

The purpose of the Libyan war, i.e. the overthrowing of Gaddafi, was achieved within a few months thanks to NATO’s bombing campaign; the lack of such action on the part of NATO and its allies has enabled the Syrian to withstand the terrorist onslaught, with the Russian participation a game-changer. The protracted nature of the conflict has enabled and encouraged research into the facts of the war, with extensive evidence available on essential points, in particular:

1: Forced regime change in Syria had been planned for years by US and allies (see Wesley Clarkon US intentions in 2001, the Clinton emails from 2006 and the revelation by French Minister Dumas relating to NATO plans for Syria in 2009).

2: Syrians had little taste for a revolution in Syria: no-one in Damascus turned out for a pan-Arab Day of Rage on 4 February 2011, while in those early days there were huge demonstrations in favour of the government and Bashar al Assad in Damascus and Aleppo.

3: The early protests, notably in the provincial town of Dara’a, were violent from the outset, with a stiffening of foreign terrorists imported from Libya. There is extensive eyewitness testimony to that violence, including that of Jesuit priest Father Frans der Lugt (murdered in April 2014), of soldierscalled to the famous protest in Dara’a on 15 March 2011, and of civil defence workers.

4: The heavy involvement of outside governments in the war, with NATO powers such as the US, the UK and France, and Arab states like Saudi Arabia and Qatar spending enormous sums on training, arming and funding militants and financing foreign mercenaries; the role of Turkey in the movement of prospective jihadis and trade with militant groups like ISIS cannot be overstated.

5: The barbaric nature of the extremists, native and foreign, who owned the insurrection.

YouTube Video Preview

In ‘The cause and instigation of the war on Syria’, which references many essential primary sources, Angelis Dania concludes:

The fact that the US was plotting regime-change in Syria with the use of false propaganda should colour every report on events in Syria, subjecting them to the need for review in light of the now established pre-existing US regime-change campaign.’

Many who found the idea of overthrowing the extremely oppressive regimes of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, or at best undemocratic and unpopular government of Egypt were disillusioned when they realised that regime change was only meant to happen in countries not aligned with the West. The Stop the War leadership, however, whose remit somehow expanded from opposing war to active concern with the internal affairs of other countries, has continued to support in principle the concept of the Arab Spring.

Stop the War’s Position on Syria

Over the years Lindsay German has written a number of articles reiterating the organisation’s position, almost always with a note of apology for not supporting the war on Syria, e.g. There is no hypocrisy in our stance on Syria November 2012.   Stop the War’s official position on Syria, in simple terms, is that it is opposed to external intervention. The leadership have constantly opposed all proposals by the UK government for a no-fly zone or a bombing campaign in Syria, and occasionally objected to external intervention in more general terms.

Accordingly STW protests have been organised in response to any specific proposal that would entail bombing Syria, such as when it was claimed that the Syrian government had crossed Obama’s red line by using chemical weapons in East Ghouta in August 2013. (The sarin attack was a false flag by insurgents, probably Liwa al Islam, an earlier incarnation of Jaish al Islam , see for example the WhoGhouta investigation.)

PROTEST 15 JUNE 1PM US EMBASSY GROSVENOR SQ LONDON. Stop US and UK military intervention in http://bit.ly/16kbjpd 

Protests were held in December 2015 before and after the British government voted to ‘bomb ISIS’ in Syria.

After Russia joined the war, condemnation of Russia was emphasised, e.g. StWC Statement on Syria ‘We oppose all of these interventions, including the current Russian bombing of Aleppo’, and With or without UN agreement, bombing Syria by Russia or UK should be opposed.

‘Stop the War is against Russia’s attacks on Syria. We think they should stop immediately. And we would welcome less hypocrisy from those who have supported US and allied bombing over the last year.’

Stop the War’s record in terms of protest and publications shows that its primary focus is to oppose blatant warmongering such as invasion and bombing campaigns. However STW has on occasion acknowledged, condemned, and even protested against less overt interventions.

Britain secretly equipping  rebels and SAS teams understood to be “slipping into Syria on missions”: http://bit.ly/QyvgSB 

Britain secretly equipping Syrian rebels with latest satellite phones to help topple Assad

The supply of the handsets, designed to withstand rugged environments, is part of the Foreign Office’s mission to mould militias into a coalition capable of governing the country.

dailymail.co.uk

The first step to ending the war in  is stopping western intervention: http://bit.ly/10qDGmy  

The demonstration outside the US embassy on 15 June 2013 was directed against the ‘new’ Obama initiative to arm the rebels in Syria.

PROTEST 15 JUNE 1PM US EMBASSY GROSVENOR SQ LONDON. Stop US and UK military intervention in http://bit.ly/16kbjpd 

In November 2016, STW published Abigail Watson’s article on the role of the SAS in Syria, The UK’s Not So Secret War in Syria, and a few weeks later when action in Aleppo was being mooted by the British government, German acknowledged,

‘It is foolish in the extreme to believe that really the west and its Middle East allies are not doing anything to help the opposition. That simply flies in the face of the facts including money, arms, special forces.’

While Stop the War publicly opposes intervention in Syria, the organisation claims that it does not support ‘Assad’, and is extremely defensive in the face of accusations, real or imagined, that STW might be made up of ‘Assad apologists’. Lindsay German’s Does Opposing Western Intervention in Syria Make the Anti-war Movement “Assad Apologists”? ensures distance from the Syrian government by referring to it as the ‘regime’, ‘Assad’s regime’, and ‘Bashar al Assad’s regime’ – terms favoured by the Syrian government’s opponents.

Stop the War supports a political solution in Syria. The Syrian government have a policy of offering amnesty to insurgents who want to come in from the cold, and Russia has been administering a Centre for Reconciliation to facilitate this. This is not what Stop the War has in mind; rather it looks to negotiations in Geneva which attribute the status of legitimate opposition to groups allied with ISIS and al Nusra, such as Jaish al Islam and Ahrar al Sham.

Many STW officers openly support the ‘revolution’ in Syria, and gloss over the responsibility of the UK and other external governments for the insurgency. In December 2015 Stop the War published a statement drafted by John Rees, setting out the organisation’s official position on Syria. Once again, the statement starts out on the defensive.

For avoidance of doubt: the positions of Stop the War Coalition

The Stop the War Coalition is under unprecedented attack because of its opposition to the bombing of Syria and because attacks on it are perceived to weaken Jeremy Corbyn. Here in straight forward terms are our views on some issues now being routinely misrepresented by the Tory government, the right of the Labour Party and sections of the media.

1. The STWC has never supported the Assad regime. Just as we never supported the Taliban, Saddam Hussein or Colonel Gaddafi. Only in the minds of ‘them or us’ pretend patriots does the opposition to our own government’s wars mean support for dictators or terrorists. Our case has always been that war will worsen the problem and not solve it. We were right in that analysis in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

2. The STWC has never supported Russian intervention in Syria and issued a statement opposing the bombing as soon as it began.

3. The STWC does believe that it is the people of Syria who are the only ones who should decide the fate of their country free of all great power and regional power interference.

4. The STWC is utterly opposed to the IS as a totally reactionary and, in the Arab Spring, counter revolutionary force.

5. The STWC believes that the invasion and dismemberment of Iraq, and western support for Saudi Arabia, were and are instrumental in the creation of the IS.

6. The STWC does not support calls for western invention, including an air war to establish a no fly zone, whether those calls emanate from Syrian exiles or anyone else, just as we did not support such calls from anti-Taliban or anti Saddam Afghans or Iraqis. Syrians do not all speak with one voice but many are opposed to western bombing.

7. The STWC concentrates on campaigning against UK government policy because this is where we are citizens and voters. […]

STW priorities are only marginally different from Barak Obama’s [emphasis added]:

1: The first point, reiterated in the sixth, is to voice opposition to Bashar al Assad, comparing him, furthermore, to Saddam Hussein and the Taliban.

2: The second is to criticise Russia for its involvement in the war.

3: Rees twice mentions ISIS, the fall guy when it comes to jihadi barbarism, but does not mention al Nusra, Jaish al Islam, or any other of the vicious gangs operating in Syria.

4: In December 2015, by which time the character of the ‘moderate opposition’ was well known, he is still talking about the ‘Arab Spring’ and ‘revolution’.

5: The necessary condition for the Syrian war, i.e. the role of the UK and its allies, is only mentioned in the last two points, and then in relatively mild terms.

Lindsay German produced another position statement in October 2016, Stop all intervention in Syria and let the people decide their future, which was consistent with everything said over the previous years: the Coalition did not support ‘Assad’ (i.e. the legitimate government of Syria) or Russia, and was opposed to a no-fly zone and the sale of arms – other interventions by the Western powers are ignored here. German claims: We do not take a position on the internal politics of Syria, and believe that this is a question for the Syrian people alone. Much of the article was self-promotion and self-congratulation.

We did not stop the war in Iraq, but we have helped to shift opinion in this country against further wars. It could be argued that Chilcot would never have happened without an anti-war movement.’

Problems with Stop the War’s approach to Syria

Don’t bomb Syria‘ is a totally inadequate response to the war on Syria.

In August 2013, pursuant to the false flag chemical attack by extremists on Ghouta, the British government voted on the question of officially going to war with Syria. The Stop the War Coalition mobilised demonstrations against the proposal, which was lost. Lindsey German penned a  self-complacent article, A partial victory, but a victory, 30 August 2013:

British MPs’ arguments and information were influenced by a strong public opinion against such a war, itself a product of a mass movement which didn’t stop a war ten years ago but has prevented a further one now. […] Britain will play no part in any Syrian intervention.

German’s article totally disregards the role of Britain in the Syrian war.  The NATO countries and their allies have consciously endeavoured to carry out their plan to achieve regime change in Syria, contrary to the will of the Syrian people, by pouring billions into funding and arming terrorists. Turkey has funneled thousands, or more probably hundreds of thousands, of jihadists through to Syria and in return bought from ISIS stolen Syrian oilantiquities and Aleppo’s factories.

The United Kingdom, moreover, has a large budget for propaganda projects specifically designed to create support for a no fly zone, such as the fake humanitarian outfit the White Helmets, staffed by members of vicious gangs like al Zinki, seven year old Bana who tweeted in perfect English from Aleppo, calling for WWIII in order to ‘save Aeppo’, and fake research organisations like the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, essentially one man in a house in Coventry, but cooperating with the British Foreign Office.

Stop the War’s protests against active intervention are clearly inadequate when it is turning a blind eye to the material and moral support given to the terrorist groups in Syria, and to the propaganda designed to achieve compliance with a no-fly zone.

‘Russian bombing’

Dreadful reports from Aleppo. @STWuk want to see an end to bombing and brutality on all sides in Syria.

Stop the War’s position is that with or without UN agreement, bombing Syria by Russia or UK should be opposedStop the War is against Russia’s attacks on Syria. We think they should stop immediately.

If there were no external intervention, no funding and arming of terrorists, including hundreds of thousands of foreign mercenaries, there would be no Syrian war. Russia, Iran, Iraq and Hezbollah are all militarily involved in the Syrian war, on the invitation of the Syrian government, as a response to external intervention. They are defending Syria against barbaric extremists who are loathed by the Syrian people. The involvement of Russia, Hezbollah and other Syrian allies is consistent with international law and has been absolutely vital for the country’s survival. To put the Russian contribution to defending Syria on a par with the illegal intervention and support for terrorism by NATO and its allies is the height of dishonesty.

Obama’s much vaunted campaign against Daesh in Syria only saw ISIS and associated groups grow and flourish. The presence of a US air force did nothing to prevent ISIS convoys cross the desert from Iraq and take Raqqa and Palmyra. On the other hand, the attack by NATO forces on Syrian troops protecting the besieged town of Deir ez Zor caused the loss of more than 60 Syrian lives and facilitated ISIS advancement. (Many people, including the Syrian government, believe NATO consciously provided ISIS with air cover according to a pre-arranged plan, though this is denied by NATO.)

Russian air-cover enabled the Syrian Arab Army and its allies to retake Palmyra in March 2016, though not before the museum curator was murdered as an ‘Assad stooge’ and extensive damage was done to the historic site.  Russian assistance helped liberate Aleppo from ISIS and al Qaeda affiliated gangs, who were terrorising eastern Aleppo and shelling western Aleppo, causing horrific casualties. Since then Russia has provided extensive humanitarian aid to Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria, ranging from food aid and mobile hospitals to demining eastern Aleppo. Stop the War, however, wants to see an end to Russian involvement in Syria.

Stop the War accepts the NATO narrative on Syria without question

Stop the War’s leadership specialises in producing flabby articles devoid of content: there is no new information, no analysis, just NATO’s discredited mantras of popular revolution, moderate rebels and wicked despot Bashar al Assad. Much of the space is taken up in apologising for not supporting invasion or a no-fly zone, or claiming that STW is not pro-Assad. Given that Stop the War never addresses an alternative and more valid concern, i.e. whether the Syrian government is right to resist an externally sponsored insurgency, its protestations of not being pro-Assad have to be seen as a dishonest ploy.

While Lindsay German satisfies herself with referring disparagingly to the ‘Assad regime’ and becoming indignant if anyone suggests that STW should (heaven forbid) support Syria against an immoral and illegal war driven by, amongst others, the United Kingdom, other officers of Stop the War are openly hostile to the Syrian government, for example chairman Murad Qureshi:

Syria revolution four years on: Don’t bet against President Assad – a ruler willing to see his country destroyed http://ind.pn/1NPVYDg 

Syria revolution four years on: Don’t bet against President Assad – a ruler willing to see his…

How has Bashar Hafez al-Assad survived these past four years? Ever since the Syrian revolution of 2011, his overthrow has been predicted by the greatest statesmen of our day, by the finest journali…

independent.co.uk

You’ll find that you don’t have the National Socialists in Syria but you’ll find the Baath Party which Alawites like Assad belong too.

and John Rees:

@MsIntervention @STWuk Assad is a butcher responsible for tens of thousands of deaths. And Blair for over million Iraqi’s …do the maths

George Galloway: Assad must go. No place for dictatorship. But we are not swapping Assad for US dictatorship.  

Stop the War’s position is essentially the bogus ‘third way’: while it opposes direct bombing, and occasionally complains about the better publicised aspects of direct intervention, it assumes the validity of the regime change narrative. Despite the wealth of contrary evidence, at no point does STWC question the NATO narrative of a legitimate uprising and an illegitimate government.

There has been an enormous amount of research carried out on the subject of the Syrian war, by people alert to the inconsistencies in the NATO narrative, who have wanted to find out the truth. Some of these people have traveled to Syria more than once, and recently. 21st Century Wire alone has published over 100 articles on the Syrian war. The articles contain a wealth of references, photographic and video evidence, and testimony from Syrians.

STW has not published, promoted or referenced, either in its homepage or via social media, a single article that gives an assessment of the facts that differs from that of the corporate media.

Mother Agnes Mariam

Stop the War has continued to suppress alternative views on Syria as it did with Libya. Most notable was the shocking incident when STW, under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, allowed the likes of Owen Jones and Jeremy Scahill to bully Mother Agnes Mariam out of speaking at the 2013 Anti-War Conference in London.

Mother Agnes Mariam el-Salib, mother superior of St. James Monastery in Qara, Syria, is a nun who has worked in Syria for over 20 years. She has spoken out about the Syrian ‘revolution’, warning of the danger that religious minorities in Syria face from Western-backed extremists. She also queried the charge that the Syrian government was responsible for the sarin attack on Ghouta, having carried out her own research into the matter. Mother Agnes was interviewed by RTin September 2013.

Mother Agnes was invited by Stop the War to speak at the International Anti-War Conference held on 30 November 2013. A campaign was orchestrated by hardline proponent of the war on Syria Mohammed Idrees Ahmad and others to ‘deplatform’ Mother Agnes, with pressure applied on other invited speakers primarily via social media.

@jeremyscahill Please don’t share platform with leading Assad propagandist Mother Agnes at the @STWuk gathering.

 Owen Jones and Jeremy Scahill eventually declared that they would not share a platform with Mother Agnes, and at that point Mother Agnes voluntarily withdrew.
 Owen Jones explained his actions on his own blog, Mother Agnes, Syria and free speech, relying on an article by an obscure pro-jihadist group, Syrian Christians for Peace.  His principle objection to Mother Agnes, aside from the fact of her being an ‘Assad supporter’ (read ‘opponent of the war on Syria’), is that she queried attribution of the Ghouta chemical attack to the Syrian government. According to Jones:

‘Mother Agnes is perhaps most infamous for publishing a 50-page report claiming that the video footage of the Ghoutta massacre was faked, that the children suffocating to death had been kidnapped by rebels and were actually sleeping or “under anaesthesia”’.

Owen Jones does not give a link to Mother Agnes’s report, and for good reason, as it gives the lie to his accusation.

 ‘The chemical attacks which took place in East Ghouta on August 21, 2013 could be the most horrific false flag operation in history.

‘To date, available evidence indicates that numerous children were killed by “opposition rebels”, their bodies manipulated and filmed with a view to blaming the Syrian government for the attacks, thus sparking outrage and galvanizing worldwide public opinion in favor of another bloody, imperial US-led war.’  Mother Agnes Mariam

The UN report on the Ghouta attack does not ascribe blame, and well before the conference doubts had been expressed on the likelihood of the culprits being the Syrian government, on both technical and political grounds. On 13 September Sharmine Narwani and Radwan Mortada analysed the weaknesses of the UN report Questions Plague UN Syria Report on Syria, while WhoGhouta published a Summary of Conclusions on 24 September, which pointed the finger at insurgents.  Any fair person would have applauded, rather than condemned, Mother Agnes for querying the claims of the corporate press that ‘Assad’ was responsible for the attack.

Owen Jones also relies on the Open Letter to Stop the War Coalition penned by Idrees Ahmad. The striking feature of this letter is that most or all of the signees, for example, including Peter Tatchell, Mary Rizzo, Louis Proyect and Ahmad himself, support active intervention in Syria against the government including a no-fly zone. Jones chooses to identify with active proponents of the war on Syria rather than those who oppose it.

@OwenJones84 the NCC is the “only group to have called for open dialogue with the Syrian government”, unlike you who won’t talk to a nun.

@theLemniscat Er – I entirely supported a negotiated peace. I just don’t want to make common cause with Mother Agnes at anti-war event

Owen Jones was not asked to ‘make common cause with Mother Agnes’, except insofar as they were both presumed to oppose imperialist wars. As the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist), has pointed out:

Jones has shared platforms with Labour politicians who were key architects of the invasions and genocides in Iraq and Afghanistan – some of the worst crimes of the modern era.

Stop the War itself kept its response to Mother Agnes’s withdrawal to a minimum, though taking care to reassure Jones and Scahill:

UPDATE: Mother Agnes has withdrawn from 30 Nov International Anti-war Conference: http://bit.ly/1jcAqP6  @OwenJones84@jeremyscahill

brief statement was published that managed to be both bald and dishonest.

We have always provided a platform for a diversity of opinions within a broad anti-war perspective. We hope that we can now build the conference as a strong focus for opposition to war and imperialism.

This is patently false: once Mother Agnes was removed from the equation, there was no-one present to put forward the perspective of the legitimate Syrian government, and the conference was dominated by people who essentially support the war on Syria.

The implications of the deplatforming of Mother have been addressed by a number of commentators, including Neil Clark and the indefatigable Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist).

‘Mother Agnes has single-handedly demonstrated that Stop the War is not about stopping the war; it is about keeping the anti-war movement within limits that are acceptable to the imperialist warmongers. It is about the warmongers keeping the masses of anti-war activists under tight control.’ CPGB-ML

Is the Stop the War leadership genuinely opposed to a no-fly zone in Syria?

Although the official policy of STW is to oppose external intervention in Syria, the behaviour of its officers contradicts this. Counterfire, which was founded by Stop the War officers and is closely linked to STW, has promoted Syria Burning by Robin Yassin Kassab and Leila al Shami, both of whom seek a no-fly zone in Syria.

In January 2012, John Rees interviewed two guests on his show In Islam: Iman Mujahed, an Irish woman married to a Syrian and the British Moussab Azzawi. Thus neither of the guests were Syrian, both supported the ‘revolution’, and both wanted external intervention. Moussab Azzawi asked for a humanitarian corridor, buffer zone, and a no-fly zone, Mujahed’s priority was a buffer zone, but she has no objections to a no-fly zone. The purpose of the interview, in fact, was to promote a no-fly zone in Syria on the Libyan model.

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The British Foreign Office has invested heavily in propaganda projects relating to Syria that are specifically designed to gain acceptance for a no-fly zone from the public, in particular the White Helmets.  Stop the War makes no attempt to expose these scams: their position on the White Helmets, for example, is simply that they have no position.

I really don’t want you to follow me, would just prefer if you’d answer my question about whether you condemn smear on white helmets @STWuk

@STW doesn’t take a position on the White Helmets.

That the Foreign Office is funding a supposed humanitarian organisation which blatantly supports Foreign Office policy should be a red flag. However, even if one naively assumes that the organisation’s primary purpose is humanitarian, any anti-war movement should condemn the White Helmets’ calls for a no-fly zone. Stop the War has not done this.

In September 2015 Stop the War was involved in the organisation of a march in support of refugees; Jeremy Corbyn was in attendance as the newly elected leader of the Labour Party. Primary responsibility for the march was claimed by Syrian Solidarity UK (SSUK). SSUK supports the ‘revolution’ in Syria and seeks a no-fly zone in Syria. FSA (Free Syrian Army) flags, anti-Assad slogans and demands for a no-fly zone featured prominently. Jeremy Corbyn appeared on the same platform as SSUK’s Clara Connolly, who used an event in support of refugees to plug the White Helmets and to demand a no-fly zone (which would inevitably mean more refugees), and he stood right alongside Abdulaziz Almashy, co-founder of SSUK, who was wearing an FSA scarf.

So while Owen Jones refused to appear on a platform with Mother Agnes Mariam, who never spoke anything but the truth about Syria, Jeremy Corbyn shared a platform with open supporters of a no-fly zone in Syria and of the FSA, which was already known to be associated with al Nusra, ISIS, the use of chemical weaponscannibalism and all manner of other atrocities (see also Eva Bartlett’s The Non-Useful Atrocities,  or even the Daily Mail).

CorbynFSABigger

Jeremy Corbyn may not have fully understood the implications of his presence on this platform, however SSUK and Stop the War officers like John Rees certainly would have.  Genuine opponents of the war, who should have objected strongly, are the very people who hope Corbyn will rescue the country from the Tories, the Blairites and austerity – thus they remain silent, not just about this incident, but about Stop the War’s shortcomings in general and the implications of Corbyn’s ties to the organisation.

Stop the War is not fit for purpose

A feature of the debate over the wars on Libya and Syria has been the participation of those who have claimed to oppose external military intervention in those countries but at the same time facilitate that intervention by expressing sympathy for the ‘revolutionaries’ and vilifying the respective governments. Common characteristics include:

  • Support for the long-discredited Western construct of a ‘popular revolution’ in Syria
  • Demonisation of Bashar al Assad (and before him Muammar Gaddafi)
  • Condemnation of Russian support for Syria
  • Positioning themselves as being the only anti-war alternative
  • Repeated apology for not supporting a no-fly zone
  • Total blanking of research which questions the NATO narrative
  • Neither confirming nor questioning the validity of scams such as the White Helmets.

Stop the War shares all these characteristics with other organisations and individuals who function as gatekeepers in the context of the Syrian war. Its leadership has ensured that the movement has been reduced to the role of controlled opposition, deflecting the rank and file by focusing on overt intervention and ignoring the realities of Western imperialism in Syria.

‘What we need to understand is that, whether accidentally or on purpose, StW’s leaders always manage to come down on the side of imperialism, helping to demonise the victims of imperialist aggression and to neutralise the opposition to imperialist war at home.’  CPGB-ML

See also:

Eva Bartlett:
Syria Dispatch: Most Syrians Support Assad, Reject Phony Foreign ‘Revolution’

Deconstructing the NATO Narrative on Syria

Michel Chossudovsky:
Five Years Ago: The US-NATO-Israel Sponsored Al Qaeda Insurgency in Syria. Who Was Behind The 2011 “Protest Movement”?

RT:
Syria: Hospitals Russia accused of bombing don’t exist

Vanessa Beeley and Steve Ezzedine:
The Syria White Helmets Exposed as US UK Agents Embedded with Al Nusra and ISIS

Vanessa Beeley:
Journey To Aleppo Part I: Exposing The Truth Buried Under NATO Propaganda.

… Part II here

 

 

 

 

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As US Fuels Zio-Wahhabi War Crimes in Yemen, House Says US Involvement is Unauthorized ‘VIDEO’

NOVANEWS

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Bombshell BBC Report Confirms US Struck a Deal with ISIS in Syria

NOVANEWS

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The report comes amid a statement by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis that the US is preparing for a long-term military commitment in Syria to fight ISIS.

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Palestinian Holocaust

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Turkey threatens to remove US radar systems from its soil and indicates future intentions for Syria

NOVANEWS

In one speech, Turkey’s President Erdogan clarified his position vis-a-vis both NATO and Syria.

Turkey’s increasingly fraught relationship with NATO has just entered a new crisis as Ankara threatens to remove a substantial US radar system from its soil, should Washington fail to complete the transfer of F-35 fighter jets ordered by Turkey.

The row has its origins in Turkey’s recent purchase of Russia’s powerful S-400 missile defence systems.

The Pentagon has announced that Turkey’s purchase of the S-400s “would jeopardise the sale of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey”.

In response, Turkey has stated that if the F-35s are not delivered, Turkey may take steps to remove the Malatya- Kürecik AN-TPY-2 radar system that the US set-up on Turkish soil in 2012. Turkish media outlet Yeni Safak has reported that if Turkey were to force the removal of US radar facilities from its soil, the US would lose its key means of gathering intelligence on movements which occur inside Iranian borders. This is significant as Turkey and Iran continue to make further mutual commitments to bilateral security at a time when the US has upped its anti-Iranian rhetoric inline with near identical Israeli propaganda. By contrast, Washington’s other radar systems in the Middle East are not able to penetrate beyond Iran’s western borders.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has responded by challenging the “trustworthiness” of NATO. This comes days after Erdogan’s name as well as that of Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic were found on a poster of NATO “enemies” during a recent pan-NATO military drill in Norway, which Turkey subsequently withdrew from.

Erdogan has stated,

“Yesterday, you saw impudence at a NATO exercise in Norway. Some mistakes are not committed by fools, but by vile people. This impudence that targets me and the founder of our republic … reflects the distorted point of view that we have been observing in NATO for a while.

And now, when we try to buy S-400 air defense systems from Russia, the reaction from some countries of the alliance [NATO] proved this distortedness”,

Erdogan then issued a statement whose interpretations will be much debated internationally, over the coming days and weeks. Turning to the conflict in Syria, the Turkish President stated,

“We will also save Afrin and we will deliver Manbij (Kurdish enclaves on Syrian soil) to its original owners. We will clear terrorist organisations out of all areas”.

There are two distinct interpretations of this statement, should it be taken at face value. First of all, the interpretation that is consistent with international law is that Erdogan seeks to return Kurdish occupied territories of the Syrian Arab Republic back to the Syrian government which is literally rightful owner of its own territory.

Others will be quick to jump onto the fact that Erdogan may be referencing the Ottoman Imperial map of the region, in which Afrin and Manbij, like almost all of the Arab world were territories belonging to Ottoman Turkey. Some will assert that this is what Erdogan means when he talks about “original owners”.

The reality most likely leans towards the first interpretation of the remarks. Practical realities on the ground and in geo-political relations attest to the likelihood of this interpretation.

Turkey is now in a position, largely thanks to tacit Syrian approval and an implied Russian lack of disapproval, to go after unilaterally declared Kurdish regimes operating on Syrian soil. As the war against Takfiri terrorism draws gradually to a close, Syria has become intent on preventing any would-be Kurdish insurgencies, especially since this could be the cover the US seeks to expand its illegal occupation of Syria.

Because of Turkey’s increased reliance on its economic partnership with Russia, it is becoming equally clear that Turkey is not in a position to defy Russia in Syria, even if it sought to do so.

At present Turkey’s once illegal occupation of Syria has gained a quasi-legal status through Turkey’s participation in the Astana peace talks which are co-chaired by Syria’s allies Russia and Iran and whose decisions are each approved by Damascus.

However, when the conflict in Syria is officially over, Turkey will lose any mandate for a continued presence in Syria.

Today’s remarks by Erdogan shed clarity on his future goals for northern Syria. He seeks to deprive Kurdish insurgent groups of their ability to create a de-facto statelet on Syrian territory. Thus, Erdogan’s words signal a clear mission with a clear goal. This can be contrasted with remarks made in previous years by Erdogan, suggesting that the Turkish occupation of Syria would be an indefinite phenomenon.

While many will remain sceptical of Erdogan’s remarks seeing as Turkey has established post-offices and other state offices in Syria’s Idlib, this is by no means a sign of permanence. When the Soviet Union was illegally broken-up by the leaders of the Russian Russian Soviet Federation Socialist Republic, Ukrainian Soviet Soviet Republic and Belorussian Soviet Social Republic, facilities throughout the Soviet Union were instantly taken away from Moscow in spite of years of legitimate economic activity by Moscow on its own legal territory. Likewise, after 1991, Russia’s former allies in central and eastern Europe unceremoniously kicked Russia out, in spite of previous agreements. Russia left and has no desire to come back. Whether this was a wise decision or not is open to debate, but the facts dictate that it is possible for allied troops to leave a country when no longer welcome, in spite of a lengthy alliance, the kind which Syria and Turkey certainly do not have.

If Moscow could so easily accept the loss of control of its territories and influence over her allies after 1991, Turkey’s small state-ventures in Idlib suddenly appear minuscule by comparison. One way or another, Turkey will have to cut its losses and Erdogan’s remarks clarify that once Kurdish militants are pacified, Ankara will likely be willing to do so in one way or another, not least because without support from the US, Turkey will not want to anger its new partners in Russia or Iran whose relationship with Ankara remains generally positive for all sides.

Posted in USA, Turkey0 Comments

The social media wars in unconventional battlefields

NOVANEWS

Social media is now an indelible part of the South Asian political landscape.

The modern day concept of battle is far from what it was decades ago.Now, a web within a web of the technically advanced world, battles do not necessarily take place on the ground but in the networks of the virtual world that is fast blurring the lines between reality and fiction.Originally the idea of now what is termed as the “social media “, was to bridge the gap between people, which grew from keeping in touch with acquaintances to interacting with people in another corner of the world.The growth in the social media industry was remarkable as it transcended beyond its actual purpose. Now a multi-dollar industry, social media has redefined the meaning of war with its power to mobilize and influence millions in a blink of an eye, irrespective of the time and location.

The free and uninterrupted flow of information with interconnectivity among people leads to forming of different narratives. Although diverse in subjects, the narratives unify at certain levels of interaction and become powerful enough to sway the workings of a body, hence the evolution of the term “war of narratives”.

This unconventional battleground called social media has become a priority to understand, adapt, improvise and use by not only the governments of the today’s world but also the militaries.

One of the leading names in the social media industry is Twitter, a networking service available to millions across the world including Pakistan and India and is used according to the desires of the individuals or groups residing in both countries. The latest spark between the two rivals took place in late hours when Pakistan Defense, a pro- Pakistani account was suspended on reports that it violated certain policies of Twitter leading to a battle of narratives.

The threefold reaction involves the Indians, who cheered Twitter’s action against what they deem a prominent pro- Pakistan profile backed by the military of Pakistan. Second, the Pakistanis themselves who take the words of Hall (“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to death your right to say it “ ) in the truest of its meaning and the third fold falls in neither mentioned bunch.

Like Pakistan, India too maintains numerous accounts on Twitter which actively propagate their animosity towards Pakistan. The issue of Kashmir, for instance, be it on the floor of  United Nations or a social media site like Twitter, is a sensitive usually heated topic; more so if mentioned by Pakistan. To counter the Kashmir card, Indian accounts play the Baluchistan card.  False information or what some refer to as “disinformation” in case of Baluchistan is propagated on Twitter and other networking sites more often attached with gruesomely doctored images.

“Pro- Pakistan” groups such as Pakistan Defense and many others identify and counter the false images or information and hence remain a target for the rival country. For similar reasons, as in the case of suspension of Pakistan Defense, many Indian accounts have been reported to Twitter but appear to go unnoticed, making many question the rules and regulations on which Twitter operates.

With a huge following comes the question of credibility. The more reliable the content, the more power it holds against the opposite narrative.In such a situation the best bet by the opposition is to spread the false narrative to such an extent that it replaces the truth. The smart use of social media is the ability to cross verify information in any form; importantly when it is being used to counter the enemy’s narrative.

Narratives built on social media by groups or organization like Pakistan Defense, shape certain perceptions in the off-line world but have a strategic impact. A relatively newer term known as the “net-troll strategies “ describes the ripple effect created by initiating a discussion ( with a certain narrative)   among the like-minded, which indirectly reaches the intended audience. While such accounts exist across the world, those in Pakistan lack behind in keeping a unified front and openly display their disagreements.

The implication of social media in the context of the war of narratives has had many organizations reviewing their policies and rules of engagement to minimize the spread of false information. But how and when does an organization know that the policies it has set, have managed to strike a balance in the “war of narrative?  So far, for the followers of Pakistan Defense, the account remains suspended but voices for it to be resumed are flashing on twitter feeds.

P.S. Word of wisdom for those behind the account Pakistan Defense: be smart but not too smart that it costs you, your honor.

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