Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
September 28, 2017

Storm Hits Foreign American Island - Reveals System's Failure

A new example of how little Americans know about their own country - Washington Post, September 28

Puerto Rico is not a foreign country, at least it isn’t if you live in the United States. It is a U.S. territory, and those on the island who were born in Puerto Rico are American citizens (though, like denizens of the District of Columbia, have no voting rights in Congress).

But a new poll by an outfit called Morning Consult, as reported in the New York Times, found that only 54 percent of Americans know that people born in Puerto Rico are American citizens.

Someone belonging to the 46% of uninformed Americans is headline editor for the print edition of the Washington Post.

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(The print edition headline, ‘Why can’t we get out of here?’ asks stranded American, was changed to ‘Why can’t we get out of here?’ Airports in Puerto Rico, other islands, damaged and slow to recover for its online version.)

On September 20 Puerto Rico was hit by hurricane Mary, then a category 4 storm. The U.S. has a professional civil defense organization called FEMA. It seemed overwhelmed, which is normal in the immediate aftermath of a large devastation. But the hurricane hit Puerto Rico 8 days ago and it the event had been predicted several days before. There was ample time to prepare and to get ready for recovery action. Why were there no distributed emergency depots for food, gasoline and diesel? Now hospitals are still shut down for lack of emergency power.

The problem with FEMA, it is said, is that it is too centralized and bureaucratic. Local disaster managers need full authority and readily available goods and funds they can spend right away, without asking higher ups. Meanwhile there is enough aid on Puerto Rico, but for lack of available transport, it is stacking up at the harbor and the airport. Now, a week too late, the U.S. military gets called in. It is incompetent at winning wars, but it traditionally knows a bit or two about logistics. In a few weeks Puerto Rico will be swamped with military trucks.

On September 10 the category 5 hurricane Irma hit Cuba very, very hard. A week later MEDICC reported:

87% of the population affected now has both electricity and water. No outbreaks of infectious diseases are reported, and cleanup is prioritized in both the capital and hardest-hit central provinces. Food processing centers are operating in all these provinces, and cooked food is being distributed in shelters (where 26,000 remain of the 1.7 million evacuees) and in areas without electricity.

Teaching activities have resumed throughout the country as of September 18, ...

Tarik Cyril Amar, of the history department of Columbia University, remarked today:

Tarik Cyril Amar‏ @TarikCyrilAmar

catastrophe in puerto rico reminiscent of late-Soviet chaos. Except, USA hasn't lost a Cold War and is much richer. How ARE they doing it?

In 1976 the French anthropologist Emmanual Todd predicted the fall of the Soviet Union. Fifteen years later his prediction came true. In 2001 he predicted the The Breakdown of the American Order:

Todd notes some disturbing American trends, such as rising stratification based on educational credentials, and the "obsolescence of unreformable political institutions."

Posted by b on September 28, 2017 at 06:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (147)

By The Grace Of Israel - The Barzani Clan And Kurdish "Independence"

The Kurdish region in Iraq held a "referendum" about splitting off from Iraq to form an independent state. The referendum was highly irregular and the outcome was assured. That such a referendum was held now had more to do with the beleaguered situation of the illegitimate regional president Barzani than with a genuine opportunity to achieve independence. The referendum was non-binding. It is now onto Barzani to declare independence or to set the issue aside in exchange for, essentially, more money.

We first wrote about the Kurdish problem and Kurdish ambitions in Iraqi back in December 2005(!). The problems of an independent Kurdish region we then pointed out are still the same:

A landlocked Kurdish state of some kind could produce a lot of oil, but how would this oil reach the markets, especially Israel? The neighbors Turkey, Iran and Syria all have Kurdish minorities and have no reason to help a Kurdish state to enrich itself and see that money funneled to their unruly minorities. After [Kurdish] grabbing [of] Kirkuk, the Arab rest of Iraq will also not support pipelines for then Kurdish oil.

Arabs, Turks, and Persians see the Kurds as a recalcitrant nomadic mountain tribe and stooge of Israeli interests.

In the mid 1960s and 70s Israel cooperated with Iran, then a U.S. ally under the Shah, to fight against its Arab enemies - Iraq, Syria and Egypt. As part of the cooperation the Mossad sent Lt. Colonel Tzuri Sagi to develop plans for and build up a Kurdish army to fight Iraqi troops in northern Iraq. Tzuri Sagi was also responsible for the Israeli assassination attempts against Saddam Hussein. His Kurdish cooperation partner was the leader of the Barzani clan, Mullah Mustafa Barzani. The Kurdish army the Israelis created is now known as Peshmerga. The son of Mullah Mustafa Barzani, Masoud Barzani, is now the illegitimate president of the Kurdish region of Iraq.


Lt. Colonel Sagi with Mustafa Barazani. Photo reproduction: Yossi Zeliger - source - bigger


Sagi with Kurdish commanders - bigger


Barazani with then-head of the Mossad, Meir Amit - bigger

The Barzani's are part of a major Kurdish tribe and a leading clan in the Kurdish region of Iraq. (The other major clan are the Talabani, currently with much less power.) In 2005 Masoud Barzani, the son of Mullah Mustafa Barzani, was elected President of the Kurdish region in Iraq. His eight year term ended in 2013. The regional parliament extended his presidency by two years. But since 2015 he has ruled without any legal basis. He prevented the parliament from convening and formally ousting him. Masoud Barzani's son Mazrour Barzani is chancellor of the region's security council. He controls all military and civilian intelligence. Nechirvan Barzani, a nephew of Masoud Barzani, is prime minister of the Kurdish region.

U.S. oil interests helped to build the Barzani's power. The Kurds pumped and sold oil without the consent of Baghdad. Oil is exported through Turkish pipelines and sold mostly to Israel. The family of the Turkish president Erdogan is intimately involved in the business. But despite billions of income from (illegal) oil sales the Kurdish region is heavily indebted. Corruption rules in Kurdistan and the regional government had to rob local banks to find fresh money. That still wasn't enough to pay salaries. The Barzani family mafia has robbed the region blind. To keep going, the local government needs to annex more riches and widen its business base.

The Barzani family has deep religious-historic ties with a Sunni spiritual order of Sufis, the Naqshbandi. The Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order was one of the Sunni-Baathist resistance group of the U.S. occupation of Iraq. In 2014 it helped (or didn't help?) the Islamic State in the takeover of Mosul before being shunned and defeated by it.

The Iraqi Kurds, under Masoud Barzani, were complicit in the mid 2014 Islamic State takeover of Mosul and the Sinjar region inhabited by Kurdish speaking Yezidis. They saw it as an opportunity to take more oil and declare their own independence from Baghdad. Only after the Islamic State marched towards the Kurdish "capital" Erbil, where U.S. and Israeli intelligence as well as western oil companies have their regional headquarters, did the Barzani Kurds start to oppose the Islamic State.

They then used the fight against the Islamic State to widen the area they controlled by 40%. Minorities like the Yezidi and Assyrians, which were driven away from their homes by the Islamic State, are now denied to return to their areas by Kurdish occupiers. As NYT correspondent Rukmini Callimachi reports from the ground:

A common refrain I hear is that the Iraqi army ran when ISIS overran Mosul, whereas the Kurds stood their ground. Sadly that's not true. One of the areas that was under the control of Kurdish troops was Mt Sinjar, home to a large share of the 500,000 Yazidis living in Iraq. According to the dozens of interviews I've done with Yazidi survivors of ISIS' ensuing genocide, Kurdish troops cut and ran when ISIS came. Adding insult to injury, say community leaders, Kurdish troops disarmed Yazidis. And did not warn them of ISIS' advance. The result: Thousands of Yazidi women were kidnapped by ISIS and systematically raped. Many I spoke to partially blamed Kurdish troops for their fate.

Callimachi further reports that Kurdish troops now prevent Yezidis from returning to their homes. Barzani has unilaterally annexed their land and unilaterally declared it to be part of the Kurdish region. The Kurds also occupy land and villages, already mentioned in the bible, that belong to Assyrian Christians.

Another hotspot is Kirkuk. The oil rich city is an original Turkman and Arab areas. The Kurds snatched it in 2014 while the Islamic State marched onto Baghdad. The  move on Kirkuk was, allegedly, coordinated with the Islamic State. They now want to annex it. The Iraqi state is naturally vehemently against this and is now sending its army. The Turkish government, which sees itself as defender of all Turkmen, also threatens to intervene.

After the Kurdish independence referendum the Iraqi government declared a partial blockade of their region. Iraq is a sovereign state, the Kurdish region has no independent legal status. This gives Baghdad many ways to strangle Kurdish ambitions. Starting Friday all international (civil) flights to Erbil are by order of Baghdad prohibited. A land blockade and stoppage of all trade and monetary transfers are likely to follow.

Syria, Iran and Turkey have all spoken out against Kurdish independence and threatened retribution. Officially the U.S. is also against an independent Kurdish state. Israel was the only state that supported the referendum. That sympathy (or politically convenience) runs both ways: In Kurdistan's Erbil, the Polling Station Head Shouted Out: 'We Are the Second Israel!'


Referendum rally in Erbil

Chuck Schumer, Democratic Senate leader and a reliable Zionist tool, called on the Trump administration to recognizing an independent Kurdistan. Trump can not do so because it would put the U.S. in opposition to its "allies" in the Turkish and the Iraqi government. But the official position is different from what the U.S. does on the ground. U.S. arms still flow to Kurdish forces in Iraq and Syria.

Likewise Turkey is officially very concerned about the independence move of Kurdish Iraq but it also has commercial interests in it. Long term it fears the independence movements in its own large Kurdish population and sees the referendum in Iraq as a U.S. move against Turkish security interests:

[Turks] believe the referendum is actually part of Washington’s supposed long-standing desire to establish “a second Israel” in the region. Israel’s support for the KRG referendum has fed into this perception.

According to the Iraqi prime minister Turkey agreed to isolate the Kurdish region. But Turkish companies, and Erdogan's immediate family, have commercial interest in oil from the Kurdish region. Turkey exports some $8 billion per year in food and consumer goods to the Kurdish region. While Ankara is anxious that its own Kurdish population will follow the Iraqi Kurdish example, near term greed may well prevail over long term national interests.

Without Turkish agreement an "independent" Kurdish region in Iraq can not survive. Such independence  would totally depend on Ankara's whims.

Should Masoud Barzani gain enough external support and prevail with his independence gimmick, the situation in Syria would also change. The Kurds in Syria are currently led by the PKK/YPG, a political cult and militia which follows Abdullah Öcalan's crude philosophies. Politically they are opposed to Barzani but they have similar interests and attitudes. Though only 8% of the population, they have now occupied some 20% of Syria's land and control 40% of its oil reserves. Continued U.S. support for Syrian Kurds and the example in Iraqi could incited them to split from Syria. Damascus would never agree to that.

Kurdish independence, as Barzanistan in Iraq and/or as anarcho-marxists Öcalan cult in Syria, would be the start of another decade of war - either between the Kurdish entities and the nations around them, or within the ever disunited Kurdish tribes themselves.

Posted by b on September 28, 2017 at 10:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (129)

September 26, 2017

The "Russian Influence" Story Falls Apart - A New Fairy Tale Is Needed

The Obama White House and some Democratic officials pressed Facebook to find evidence for alleged "Russian interference" in the U.S. election. When Facebook found none, the pressure increased. Facebook went back, again found nothing and political pressure increase further. Congress threatened to investigate. Senator Warner flew to California and demanded the "right" results. Eventually Facebook gave in:

By early August, Facebook had identified more than 3,000 ads addressing social and political issues that ran in the United States between 2015 and 2017 and that appear to have come from accounts associated with the Internet Research Agency.

All hailed Facebook - finally there was something they could build their anti-Russian campaign on.

It is of course idiotic to believe that 3,000 ads for which some $100,000 was spent over two years would somehow effect a U.S. election. In a U.S. presidential election more than $2 billion is spend on advertising. Facebook's ad revenue per year is some $27 billion.

Moreover - as it now turns out these 3,000 advertisements which "appeared" to be "associated" with something "Russian" were not anti-Clinton or pro-Trump but were a mix of pro- and contra ads on various social issues:

The batch of more than 3,000 Russian-bought ads that Facebook is preparing to turn over to Congress shows a deep understanding of social divides in American society, with some ads promoting African American rights groups, including Black Lives Matter, and others suggesting that these same groups pose a rising political threat, say people familiar with the covert influence campaign.

The Russian campaign — taking advantage of Facebook’s ability to send contrary messages to different groups of users based on their political and demographic characteristics — also sought to sow discord among religious groups. Other ads highlighted support for Democrat Hillary Clinton among Muslim women.

(Note again - there is no evidence that any of the ads were "Russian bought" or part of a "Russian campaign". Those are mere assertions by the Washington Post authors.)

As we now learn that these ads were not, as earlier assumed, pro-Trump and anti-Clinton, the narrative has to change. Earlier it was claimed that the alleged Russian aim was to get Trump elected. That no longer holds:

“Their aim was to sow chaos,” said Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “In many ­cases, it was more about voter suppression rather than increasing turnout.”

How pro- and anti-Black Lives Matter ads might have suppressed voter turnout will stay Senator Warner's secret.

Instead of "Russia helped Trump" we now get an even more implausible "Russia wanted to sow discord" narrative. As if Donald Trump's campaign style had not been enough to cause controversies.

The Washington Post has been the major outlet to push the "Russian influence" baloney. It has long left all journalistic standards behind. Today it goes even further. An editorial now claims that Russia interfered in the German elections by pushing the right-wing AfD vote through last minute tweets from some Twitter bots:

The party was buoyed by social-media campaigns of the kind Russia has used elsewhere — faceless bots that multiply messages over and over. Once again, the Kremlin’s quest to disrupt democracy, divide the West and erode the rules-based liberal international order may have found a toehold.

No evidence is presented that any online activity "buoyed" the AfD. No evidence is presented that anything Russian was involved. Here is the sole point the editorial builds on:

In the final hours of the campaign, online supporters of the AfD began warning their base of possible election fraud, and the online alarms were “driven by anonymous troll accounts and boosted by a Russian-language botnet,” according to the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab.

The Atlantic Council is financed by foreign (Middle East) interest, NATO and the oil- and weapon industry. It has been a major driver of the anti-Russian new Cold War narrative. Its "Digital Forensic Research Lab" indeed claims to have found a few Twitter accounts which have their names written in Cyrillic(!) letters. Only Russian influence accounts would ever do that! It even found one tweet warning about election fraud that was retweeted 500(!) times. That MUST have helped the AfD to receive more than 12% of the 47 million cast votes in Germany - (not!). 

Election fraud in the German pen and paper balloting is nearly impossible. No one will take vague claims thereof as serious. It is simply not an issue in Germany and any such claim would not effect the vote. German officials have found no sign of "Russian" election hacking or of voting fraud.

What the Washington Post editors and the Atlantic Council have missed in their search for undue election influence in the German  election is the large support of a islamophobic U.S. megadonor for the rightwing Germany AfD party:

[O]ne of the major publishers of online content friendly to the far-right [German] party is an American website financed in large part and lead by Jewish philanthropist Nina Rosenwald.

Rosenwald’s site, the Gatestone Institute, publishes a steady flow of inflammatory content about the German election, focused on stoking fears about immigrants and Muslims.

The fake news stories by the Zionist agitators were translated into German and disseminated to support the AfD.

Allegations of "Russian influence" in U.S., French and German elections is made up from hot air. No evidence is or ever was presented to support these claims. Massive election interference by other foreign interests, like large Saudi donations to the Clinton Foundation, or Zionist Jewish financier support for extremist positions in Germany and France is ignored.

The story about "Russian influence" was made up by the Democrats to explain Clinton's loss of the election and to avoid looking at her personal responsibility for it. It also helps to push the new cold war narrative and to sell weapons. As no evidence was ever found to support the "Russian influence" campaign, Facebook and others come under pressure to deliver the "evidence" the U.S. intelligence services could not produce.  The now resulting story of "sowing chaos" is something out of la-la-land.

If there is something to learn from this sad story it is this: The lack of objectivity and journalistic integrity is a greater threat to western democracy than any "Russian influence" could ever be.

Posted by b on September 26, 2017 at 01:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (126)

September 25, 2017

Syria - U.S. CentCom Declares War On Russia

Yesterday three high ranking Russian officers were killed in an "ISIS attack" in eastern Syria. It is likely that they were killed by U.S. special forces or insurgents under U.S. special forces control. The incident will be understood as a declaration of war.

The U.S. Central Command in the Middle East wants the oil fields in east-Syria under control of its proxy forces to set up and control a U.S. aligned Kurdish mini-state in the area. The Syrian government, allied with Russia, needs the revenues of the oil fields to rebuild the country.


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Last week the Russians issued sharply worded statements against U.S. coordination with al-Qaeda terrorists in Idleb province and warned of further escalation.

Yesterday the Russian Ministry of Defense accused the U.S. military in east-Syria of direct collaboration with the Islamic State:

US Army special units provide free passage for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) through the battle formations of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists, the ministry said in a statement.

“Facing no resistance of the ISIS militants, the SDF units are advancing along the left shore of the Euphrates towards Deir ez-Zor,” the statement reads.

The newly released images “clearly show that US special ops are stationed at the outposts previously set up by ISIS militants.”

“Despite that the US strongholds being located in the ISIS areas, no screening patrol has been organized at them,” the Russian Ministry of Defense said.

This map marks the currently relevant conflict area - (U.S. proxies - yellow, SAA - red, ISIS - black):


Map by Weekend Warrior - bigger

The accusations are plausible. Large parts of ISIS in Deir Ezzor consist of local tribal forces from eastern Syria. U.S. special envoy Brett McGurk recently met tribal leaders who had earlier pledged allegiance to ISIS. Deals were made. As we wrote:

The U.S. diplomat tasked with the job, Brett McGurk, recently met with local tribal dignitaries of the area. Pictures of the meeting were published. Several people pointed out that the very same dignitaries were earlier pictured swearing allegiance to the Islamic State.


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Just like during the "Anbar Awaking" in its war on Iraq the U.S. is bribing the local radicals to temporarily change over to its side. This will help the U.S. to claim that it defeated ISIS. But as soon as the payments stop the very same forces will revert back to their old game.

The local criminal Ahmad Abu Khawla, who had earlier fought for ISIS, was suddenly installed as commander of a newly invented "Deir Ezzor Military Council", set up under U.S. special force control.

Last night a Russian three-star general and two colonels were killed in a mortar attack while they visited a Syrian army headquarters in Deir Ezzor:

Lieutenant-General Valery Asapov, of the Russian armed forces, has been killed after coming under shelling from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants near Deir ez-Zor, the Russian Defense Ministry has announced.

In its statement, the ministry said that Asapov was at a command outpost manned by Syrian troops, assisting commanders in the liberation of the city of Deir ez-Zor.
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Lieutenant-General Valery Asapov is the highest-ranking Russian officer to be killed in the Syrian campaign. He was a commander of the 5th Army in Russia’s Eastern Military District, one of the four strategic commands in the Russian Armed Forces. The army is based in Russia’s Far East, in the city of Ussuriysk, some 98 km (61 miles) from Vladivostok.

For three years ISIS had besieged Syrian troops in Deir Ezzor city and its airport. It had not once managed to successfully attack the Syrian headquarters or to kill high ranking officers. Now, as U.S. proxy forces "advised" by U.S. special forces, have taken position north of Deir Ezzor, "ISIS" suddenly has the intelligence data and precision mortar capabilities to kill a bunch of visiting Russian officers?

That is not plausible. No one in Damascus, Baghdad, Tehran or Moscow will believe that.

The Russian military, as usual, reacts calmly and officially attributes the attack to ISIS. Doing so avoids pressure to immediately react to the attack. (The U.S. will falsely interpret this as a face-saving Russian retreat.) 

But no one in Moscow will believe that the incident is independent of other recent maneuvers by the U.S. forces and independent of the earlier accusations the Russian military made against the U.S. forces.

Nominally the U.S. and Russia are both in Syria to fight the Islamic State. The Russian troops are legitimately there, having been invited by the Syrian government. The U.S. forces have no legal justification for their presence. So far open hostilities between the two sides had been avoided. But as the U.S. now obviously sets out to split Syria apart, openly cooperates with terrorists and does not even refrain from killing Russian officers, the gloves will have to come off.

U.S. Central Command has declared war on the Russian contingent in Syria. A high ranking Russian general was killed. This inevitably requires a reaction. The response does not necessarily have to come from Russian forces.  Moscow has many capable allies in the area. The response does not necessarily have to come in Syria.

"Accidents" and "incidents", like an "ISIS mortar attacks", or unintentional bombing of troop concentration of the other side, can happen on both sides of the front. Cars can blow up, bridges can collapse. Any U.S. officer or civilian official in the larger Middle East should be aware that they too are now targets.

Posted by b on September 25, 2017 at 05:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (175)

September 24, 2017

A German Election Analysis

As your host is German you may want to read his opinion and  analysis of today's federal election results in Germany.

German election results (ARD 6pm exit poll) Update: Preliminary official result:

  • CDU/CSU - 33.0%
  • SPD - 20.5%
  • AfD - 12.6%
  • FDP - 10.7%
  • Left - 9.2%
  • Greens - 8.9%

No great surprise there.

The participation rate slightly increased to 76.2%.

The result is bad for the top-candidates Merkel (CDU) and Schulz (SPD). The CDU lost 9 percentage points compared to the 2013 election, the SPD lost 5. These two parties once held a total of 81% of votes between them. They are now down to 53% of total votes.

Voter migration analysis will show that the CDU loss was caused by Merkel's centrist and socially liberal policies and especially her gigantic immigration ("refugees") mistake. It caused the right-wing CDU voters to go over to the new right-wing party AFD. Other CDU voters (re-)joined the FDP.

Her party will punish Merkel for this catastrophic result. I doubt that she has two or more years left in her position. Her party will shun her and move away from the center and back into its traditional moderate-right corner.

The voters lost by the formerly moderate-left, now also centrist, SPD went over to The Left and the FDP. Many also abstained.

The FDP is back in the game after having been kicked out of parliament is the 2013 elections. The Greens and the Left Party results are mostly unchanged.

Over the last 25 years both of the traditionally big parties, CDU and SPD, had moved from their moderate-right, respectively moderate-left positions towards a "centrist" neo-liberalism. In consequence The Left split off the SPD and now the AFD from the CDU.

The AFD is by no means a "Nazi" party though a few Nazis may hide under its mantle. The voters are mostly traditionalist, staunch conservatives and anti-globalization. They were earlier part of the CDU.

The SPD will not want to enter another government coalition with Merkel, It played Merkel's junior partner over the last eight years and that led to ever increasing voter losses. It nearly killed the party. The mistake of selecting the colorless Schulz as top-candidate will lead to some (necessary) blood loss in the party's leadership. SPD head Gabriel will, like Schulz, have to step back from leadership positions.

Merkel will have difficulties forming a coalition. She will avoid the AFD as her campaign had discriminated that party as "Nazi" (in itself a huge strategic mistake). She will try to build a coalition with the Green and the FDP. It will be enough to rule for a while but is a somewhat unstable configuration.

The new parliament will be more lively than the previous ones under the large CDU-SPD coalition. More parties and a real opposition will create more public discussions.

We will likely have new elections within the next two years.

Posted by b on September 24, 2017 at 01:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (164)

September 23, 2017

NATO's Fakenews Russia Scare Increases Defense Waste

The military of the Russian Federation is organized in four districts - west, central, east and south. Each year one of the districts will stage a division size maneuver. 10,000 to 15,000 soldiers leave their quarters to move against imaginary adversaries. Their training is complemented by various military and civilian staffs exercises. The active part of the medium-size maneuver takes about a week and includes some live firing.

This year, like in 2009 and 2013, the turn was on the western military district to run its quadrennial exercise. It included, as is usual in the western district, units from and within Russia's ally Belarus. The name of this regular training event is simply "West", Zapad in Russian. Zapad-2017 was publicly announced and foreign military observers were invited to watch it.

NATO and its associated media used the occasion to launch a gigantic fear- and warmongering campaign against the Russian Federation. Over months hundreds of news pieces were weaved around dark murmurs from various NATO officials and "experts". Examples:

The Zapad 2017 maneuvers ended yesterday. They were exactly what Russia and Belarus had announced - a regular, medium-size training event with no special intent or effect.

NATO and its various spokesperson had done what they like to accuse Russia of. They created fakenews about the maneuver based on nothing but hot air:

Zapad-2017 concluded earlier this week, by which time it had seriously fizzled out, in Western media terms at least.
...
And the Russians are enjoying a rare last laugh. They point out, with some justification, that their numbers were accurate, there was no dissembling, international borders were respected. All the Russian troops introduced into neighbouring Belarus for the exercise are going home, too. After all the Western accusations that Russia has been waging an information war with the help of “fake news”, who is disseminating “fake news” now, they ask. Is this not further evidence that Western opinion formers are stuck in the rut of Cold War stereotypes? They have a point.

The Western "opinion formers" have, of course, reason to hype everything their selected boogeyman does. That reason is greed. This year nearly all NATO countries increased their military budgets. The U.S. Senate passed a record $700 billion trough for the Pentagon with 89 to 8 votes. The more than 10% budget increase was even higher that what President Trump had requested. It broke all earlier commitments:

The $700 billion is $91 billion beyond the spending caps outlined in the 2011 Budget Control Act, which demanded a "sequestration" of military spending in order to rein in federal costs.

There was no public outrage over this increase. Meanwhile Russia cut its 2018 defense budget by 25.5% down to a total of some $48 billion.

There is obviously little fear in Russia that the U.S. budget increase will effect U.S. military capabilities. The Russians are right. Most of the Pentagon budget goes to waste. The military as well as the politicians know this well. From a recent NYT piece about options against North Korean missiles:

Intercepting a warhead using missile defenses runs other dangers, White House officials have been told. If the American antimissile systems missed — against a single warhead, which should be the simplest target — it would undercut confidence in an infrastructure the United States has spent $300 billion to build over the past four decades."

Missile defense is nonsense. Its principle is to hit one bullet with another bullet at several times the speed of sound and at distances of hundreds of miles. That is nearly impossible to do. Even the staged missile defense tests fail and the system as a whole does not work. The U.S. military is too afraid to use its $300 billion missile defense boondoggle because that would prove that it is one gigantic scam.

That does not restrain the politicians from adding money to it:

[The new budget] does authorize an additional $8.5 billion for the Missile Defense Agency to strengthen homeland, regional and space missile defense. That authorization is $630 million above the Trump administration's request.

The fakenews warmongering by NATO and western politicians about the Zapad maneuver helped to convince the sheeple that additional welfare projects for the owners of the military-industrial complex are necessary and justified.

Meanwhile health care for all, which would cost much less than missile defense, is too expensive to pass.

Posted by b on September 23, 2017 at 12:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (70)

September 22, 2017

Syria - Crap Hits Fan As U.S. Proxies Kill Russia's Allies - SEE UPDATE

UPDATE - 5:55PM:

The alleged incident did NOT happen. (At least not the way describe below.)

No SAA soldiers were killed by the U.S. proxy force near Deir Ezzor.

I am sorry for the false alarm and any irritation it might have caused.

      - b


---

Late afternoon today (local time) U.S. hired, equipped and advised Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters killed nine Syrian Arab Army soldiers. The soldiers were in a boat crossing the Euphrates river near Deir Ezzor city.

Two sources independently reported the incident. There is so far no official confirmation. The following assumes that the above indeed happened.

The killers were from a U.S. hired gang of Arab tribal fighters under one Ahmad Abu Khawla. He is well known as a local criminal who had earlier fought for the Islamic State (ISIS). His gang is nominally under the command of the YPK/PKK which is the main U.S. ally in north-eastern Syria. U.S. special forces are in the area as "advisors" to the various SDF groups.


Map by Weekend Warrior SAA red, SDF yellow, ISIS black - bigger

Abu Khawla is officially the commander of the "Deir Ezzor military council" - a body the U.S. advisors invented as umbrella for its collection of local mercenaries.

The incident happened just a day after sharply worded statements by the Russian defense department, discussed in yesterday's summary, had warned against further escalations.

The Russian defense department accused the U.S. of having incited an al-Qaeda attack in Idleb and Hama province in west-Syria as a diversion and hindrance for the Syrian-Russian campaign in Deir Ezzor in east-Syria. During the AQ attack in north-Hama al-Qaeda attempted to catch or kill 29 Russian military police soldiers who were supervising a deescalation zone in the area. The AQ attack failed under a massive Russian air campaign.

The Russian military had also accused the SDF near Deir Ezzor of firing artillery against Syrian and Russian forces near Deir Ezzor. It had promised to harshly retaliate in response to any further incident.

Some details of today's killing are still unconfirmed. But they may not even matter. The killing of nine Syrian army soldiers, while these were in a defenseless situation, will surely lead to a harsh Syrian army and Russian military reaction. The U.S. supported SDF near Deir Ezzor will be the targets.

Even if the Russian and Syrian generals hold back and refrain from retaliation, their forces on the ground will have their own ideas about having their comrades killed by illegitimate mercenaries under U.S. advice and control.

The U.S. special force "advisors" who accompany the SDF in the area better leave NOW. Otherwise U.S casualties will likely follow. The situation in east-Syria may then escalate into a violent direct conflagration between U.S. and Russian forces.

Posted by b on September 22, 2017 at 04:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (48)

Open Thread 2017-35

News & views ...

Posted by b on September 22, 2017 at 11:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (70)

September 21, 2017

Syria - Russia Accusing U.S. Of Attacks, Abduction Attempts, Team-play With Al-Qaeda

The situation in Syria is reaching another critical point. There is an increased possibility of a large scale clash between U.S. and Russian forces. We had warned of such a clash over control of the rich fields east of Deir Ezzor. At least three incidents over the last days point to more significant escalations.

  • On the 17th the U.S. accused Russia of a light air attack on its proxy forces north of Deir Ezzor. Russia denied that it had attacked those forces.
  • On the 18th and 19th large contingents of Russian and Syrian troops crossed the Euphrates at Deir Ezzor in east-Syria. The U.S. Kurdish/Arab proxy force in the area actively tried to hinder that movement.
  • In parallel a large al-Qaeda attack was launched in west-Syria. The Russian forces accuse U.S. intelligence services of having initiated that campaign. (The Syrian-Russian forces defeated the attack.)
  • Today the Russian military accused the U.S. Kurdish proxies near Deir Ezzor of firing artillery on its forces. It threatened massive retaliation.

The most dramatic incident was the al-Qaeda attack in Idleb.

Al-Qaeda in Syria, renamed to Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham, currently controls Idleb governate and Idleb city in north-west Syria. On September 19 it launched a large scale attack on Syrian government positions in north Hama, south of Idleb provinces. The al-Qaeda forces gained significant grounds before being stopped and forced to retreat. Nearly all the heavy weapons, tanks and artillery, that al-Qaeda had in the area were used and in the attack.

The spokesperson of the Russian military said (vid with English subtitles) that, according to Russian intelligence reports, al-Qaeda's attack was made on behalf of the U.S. to slow down the Syrian-Russian campaign in the eastern province Deir Ezzor. A subtask for the terrorists was to capture a platoon of Russian soldiers. This is, to my knowledge, the first time that Russia made such a direct and extremely grave accusation against the U.S. forces and intelligence services in Syria.

From the Russian military statement:

For 24 hours, insurgents managed to dent the government troops’ defence line for up to 12 kilometers in depth and up to 20 kilometers in front.

According to the received data, this offensive was initiated by the US special agencies in order to stop successful advance of the Syrian Arab Army to the east from Deir ez-Zor.

Seizing of a unit of the Russian Military Police was one of the main aims of insurgents. The Russian MP unit was operating in an observation post deployed as de-escalation observation forces.

As a result, the MP platoon (29 persons) was blocked by insurgents.
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The encirclement has been breached. Units of the Russian Armed Forces have reached locations of SAA without losses.

After the al-Qaeda attack was launched the Russian air force in Syria initiated a massive counter campaign over Idleb province.

For the last 24 hours, aviation and artillery units have eliminated 187 objects, 850 terrorists, 11 tanks, 4 IFVs, 46 pickups, 5 mortars, 20 trucks, and 38 ammunition storages.

Units of the 5th Airborne Assault Corpse launched a counter-attack and almost took [all] lost positions.

Pictures from the area showed several destroyed tanks and infantry fighting vehicles. This was a very costly campaign for al-Qaeda with no significant gain. It seems that Syrian and Russian intelligence were aware that an attack was coming but not of the details. For a while the situation was extremely critical. Then the large aerial counter campaign caught al-Qaeda by surprise and destroyed the attacking forces.

At the same time as the al-Qaeda attack in Idleb started U.S. proxy forces in east-Syria (yellow) took measures to hinder the fight of Syrian forces (red) against the Islamic State (black).


Map by Weekend Warrior - bigger

The Syrian government forces are cleared nearly all of Deir Ezzor city of ISIS forces. At stake now is the control of the oil fields east of Deir Ezzor and north of the Euphrates river.


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Soon after crossing the Euphrates Syrian troops came under fire from U.S. proxy positions:

"According to the reports that the Syrian commanders have been sending from the frontline, most serious counter-attacks and mass shelling on the Syrian troops come from the north," he said. "It is the area where units of the Syrian Democratic Forces, as well as the US special operations units, are deployed, who, according to CNN, are providing medical aid to these militants instead of participating in the operation to liberate Raqqa," [Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Major General Igor] Konashenkov said.

The U.S. proxies also use their control of the Tabqa dam to hinder the river crossing:

Water discharges from the Euphrates dams controlled by the US-backed opposition hamper the advance of Syrian government troops near Deir ez-Zor, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Tuesday.

"Thus, the water situation on the Euphrates has deteriorated dramatically in the past 24 hours. As soon as the Syrian government troops began to cross the river, water level in the Euphrates rose within hours and the current velocity nearly doubled to two meters per second," he said.

Today the Russian Defense Ministry accused the U.S. proxy forces of directly shelling its Syrian allies and the Russian forces accompanying them:

Russia warned a representative of the US command in Al Udeid, Qatar, that "any attempts of shelling from the areas where the militants of the Syrian Democratic Forces are based will be immediately curbed."

"Firing points in these areas will be immediately suppressed by all means of destruction," the general said.

Fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces approaching Deir ez-Zor from the north are easily joining IS terrorists, and Russian drones and reconnaissance recorded no clash between the IS with a "third force," namely the SDF over the past week, he explained.

However, massive fire from mortars and rocket artillery was opened twice on the Syrian troops from the areas on the eastern shore of Euphrates where the SDF fighters and servicemen of US special forces are based, Konashenkov said.

The U.S. paid "Syrian Democratic Forces" that pushed into northern Deir Ezzor without meeting any resistance are mostly local tribes who were aligned with the Islamic State until the U.S. diplomat Brett McGurk hired them to fight on the U.S. side. They are led by Kurdish commanders and "advised" by U.S. special forces.

The U.S. wants to keep Syrian government forces away from the oil fields north of the Euphrates. It has plans to build and control a Kurdish proto-state in north-east Syria and control over the eastern Deir Ezzor oil would give such a state the necessary economic base.

But the U.S. has too few proxy forces available to actually take the oil area away from the Islamic State. Only the Syrian army has enough resources in the area. The U.S. is now cheating, attacking Syrian-Russian forces, and rushing to get an advantage. According to the Russians the U.S. Kurdish proxies have even stopped the fight against ISIS in Raqqa and moved forces from that area to take the oil in the east. I doubt that Syria and Russia will allow that to happen without taking measures to counter it.

With the al-Qaeda diversion attack in north-west Syria defeated and more reserves available the Syrian alliance should think about a fast air-assault on the oil fields. As soon as the oil wells are under Syrian government control and the ISIS presence eliminated the U.S. has no more excuse to continue the current deadly game.

Posted by b on September 21, 2017 at 08:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (96)

Samantha Power - Fakes History, Makes False Claims, Warns Of Fake News

While warning of Russian influenced fake news and hacking, Samantha Power, Obama's banshee and ambassador at the UN, spreads fake news about "Russian hacking".

Power starts off by retelling fiction as historic fact:

Soviet agents were instructed to infiltrate party and campaign staffs in the United States in search of embarrassing information to leak to the press, while Soviet propagandists pushed a set of anti-Reagan story lines to the Western media. Ultimately, they failed to influence the election. President Reagan defeated Walter F. Mondale, winning 49 states. Margaret Thatcher, who was similarly targeted, also won re-election in a landslide.

There is no historic evidence of any such Soviet operation. But, as Mark Ames points out (@0:30m), the Samantha Power tale of a Soviet influence campaign against Reagan is the storyline of a 1980 spy thriller by Arnaud de Borchgrave and Robert Moss. Both authors were corrupt rightwingers and known CIA assets. Their bestselling book about nefarious Soviet influence, The Spike, was political fiction.

Power continues with more fake news:

Russia has keenly exploited our growing reliance on new media ... by employing a network of trolls, bots and thousands of fake Twitter and Facebook accounts that amplified damaging stories on Hillary Clinton.
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Russia appears to have deployed similar [active] measures in Europe. Hackers’ attempts to influence political outcomes in France and Germany have received significant attention, ...

No evidence has been show of any Russian influence on the 2016 U,S. election. There were no Russian fake news or hacking attempts during the 2017 French and German elections.

France Says No Trace of Russian Hacking Macron - AP, June 1 2017

The head of the French government's cyber security agency, which investigated leaks from President Emmanuel Macron's election campaign, says they found no trace of a notorious Russian hacking group behind the attack.

In an interview in his office Thursday with The Associated Press, Guillaume Poupard said the Macron campaign hack "was so generic and simple that it could have been practically anyone."

German officials see no sign of election hacking - AP, Sept 19 2017

German officials say there's no sign of concerted cyberattacks aimed at influencing the outcome of the country's upcoming election, but warned Wednesday against giving the all-clear yet.
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"We don't see that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin has meddled in the election campaign," Germany's interior minister, Thomas de Maiziere, told mass-circulation daily Bild in an interview Wednesday. "Maybe they didn't try. Maybe it's still coming."

Maybe, maybe, maybe? Maybe "The Russians are coming" (vid) is indeed a comedy and not a real life story?

The whole recent (anti-)Russian scare, the fourth one in U.S. history, is an orchestrated attempt to create a new cold war and to thereby up the profits of the military-industrial complex. It is also used as excuse for Hillary Clinton's primary cheating and loss of the general election. Samantha Power is a failed political apparatchik who needs fiction to justify her public existence. The Irish ghost of a wailing woman forever screaming that someone will soon die.

Posted by b on September 21, 2017 at 02:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (34)

September 20, 2017

"The Vietnam War" - Documentary Or Epic Of Fiction?

Arte TV yesterday showed the first parts of The Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. It also runs on PBS.

The first three parts of the ten part "documentary" are a whitewash of the motives of the politicians who sold the war to the public. The CIA's and military "deep state" machinations behind them is not investigated but covered up.

A comment in the first episode declares that it was a "civil war" of Vietnamese against Vietnamese. That is ahistoric nonsense. After the defeat of the (U.S. financed) French colonialists in 1954, the leader of the Viet-minh Ho Chi Min was the undisputed hero of all Vietnam. He would have won any election by huge margins. But the Russian (and Chinese) backers of the liberation war against the French did not want to walk the last mile and insisted on negotiations in Geneva. They allowed the partition of the country. It would have been interesting to learn why.

The "documentary" makes it seem as if the south-Vietnamese ruler Ngo Dinh Diem appeared from heaven instead of being installed by the CIA. It put him into his position. It helped to arrange the "election" that gave him a laughable 98.2% of the votes. It financed him. The episode has arch-imperialist Leslie Gelb, who was part of the deep state that created and ran the war, declaring that "we did what Diem said". That is nonsense. Diem was ruthless dictator but he would not have survived a day without U.S. support and protection.

Part two is a undeserved homage of Kennedy and his "brilliant" staff. McNamara is especially lauded. But his bean-counter mind lacked any capacity to judge human behavior and motives. That had catastrophic consequences. The war is depicted as fight for "liberty" and against "communism". Those were Kennedy's sales points but they had little to do with what happened. Kennedy, like Johnson after him, was mostly driven by domestic policy issues. He wanted to reach certain domestic aims. His Vietnam decisions were just a cover against attacks on him for being "weak".

Part three whitewashes the Gulf of Tonkin lie. It is mealymouthed about what really happened, but then speaks of U.S. 2retaliation". The "unprovoked attack" of Vietnamese forces on U.S. ships was fictitious. The Congress' "Tonkin resolution" which escalated the war was prepared by Johnson's staff two month before the "incident" happened. The "Tonkin" show was set up to push it through. A main motive of the escalation was to get Johnson reelected. Like Kennedy he knew that the war was fought against a national liberation movement and unwinnable. But his "response" to the "incident" made him look strong. He won in a landslide.

Altogether I am disappointed by the series. It is well done cinematography, but it lacks historic depths. There is no investigation of the deeper motives for the political decisions within the U.S. government. Instead we get a repetition of the marketing slogans that were used to sell the decisions. The military and CIA machinations, and the drug business in Vietnam it inherited from the French, are left out. The motives and the strategies of the Viet-minh get too little cover, as does the civil life in Vietnam during the war.

Moreover there is no comment at all about the motivation and thought of the countries that backed the Viet-minh. Soviet and Chinese archives are open. But nothing is said about their desires and the large amount of resources they put into the war. A real documentary on the war would include their views. "Anti-communist" and "domino theory" slogans were and are still used to sell the war to the U.S. public. Would the deliberations that took place in Moscow and Beijing contradict them?

 

Other critical voices on the series:

Jeff Stein at Newsweek: Vietnam War: New Ken Burns Documentary Dismisses the Origins of the Futile, Disastrous Conflict

Burns strives to give everyone’s strongly held, divergent views equal weight, but before long, he’s waist deep in a historical big muddy, wandering among competing theories that obscure the root cause of a war ...

Thomas A Bass at Mekong Review: America’s amnesia

By Episode Two, “Riding the Tiger” (1961-1963), we are heading deep into Burns territory. The war has been framed as a civil war, with the United States defending a freely elected democratic government in the south against Communists invading from the north. American boys are fighting a godless enemy that Burns shows as a red tide creeping across maps of Southeast Asia and the rest of the world.

The historical footage in Episode One, “Déjà Vu” (1858-1961), which disputes this view of the war, is either ignored or misunderstood. ...

David Thomson at London Review of Books: Merely an Empire

If the film seems like an epic of fiction, it’s because it is less engaged in a quest for historical truth than it is in getting closer to some verities about life and death.
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Burns and Novick make it clear that despite the passionate opposition to the war, and not only among young people, the preponderance of Americans said they believed in it. They supported the Ohio National Guard for firing on students at Kent State. Their numb assent was brilliantly captured by Nixon with his phrase ‘the silent majority’. ... [I]t leaves little doubt that the cultural revolutions of the 1960s – Merrill McPeak’s ‘rivulets’ – were a liberation for a minority and one that left a schism in America still emphatically evident in the 2016 election.

Posted by b on September 20, 2017 at 08:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (116)

September 19, 2017

"Sovereign Nations" Is Main Theme Of Trump's UN Speech

Today the President of the United States Donald Trump spoke (rush transcript) to the United Nations General Assembly.

The speech's main theme was sovereignty. The word occurs 18(!) times. It emphasized Westphalian principles.

[W]e do expect all nations to uphold these two core sovereign duties, to respect the interests of their own people and the rights of every other sovereign nation.

All leaders of countries should always put their countries first, he said, and "the nation state remains the best vehicle for elevating the human condition."


The Ratification of the Treaty of Münster, 15 May 1648 - bigger

Sovereignty was the core message of his speech. It rhymed well with his somewhat isolationist emphasis of "America first" during his campaign.

The second part of the speech the first by threatened the sovereignty of several countries the U.S. ruling class traditionally dislikes.

This year's "axis of evil" included North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, Syria and Cuba:

The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary."

Many people will criticize that as an outrageous and irresponsible use of words. It is.

But there is nothing new to it. In fact the U.S., acting on behalf of the UN, totally destroyed Korea in the 1950s. The last U.S. president made the same threat Trump made today:

President Barack Obama delivered a stern warning to North Korea on Tuesday, reminding its “erratic” and “irresponsible” leader that America’s nuclear arsenal could “destroy” his country.

The South Korean military sounds equally belligerent:

A military source told the Yonhap news agency every part of Pyongyang "will be completely destroyed by ballistic missiles and high-explosives shells". ... The city, the source said, "will be reduced to ashes and removed from the map".

Trump labeled the Syrian government "the criminal regime of Bashar al Assad." The "problem in Venezuela", he said, is "that socialism has been faithfully implemented." He called Iran "an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violent, bloodshed and chaos." He forgot to mention pistachios.

The aim of such language and threats is usually to goad the other party into some overt act that can than be used as justification for "retaliation". But none of the countries Trump mentioned is prone to such behavior. They will react calmly - if at all.

There was essentially nothing in Trump's threats than the claptrap the last two U.S. presidents also delivered. Trump may be crazy, but the speech today is not a sign of that.

The stressing of sovereignty and the nation state in part one was the point where Trump indeed differed from his interventionist predecessors.

But its still difficult to judge if that it is something he genuinely believes in.

Posted by b on September 19, 2017 at 01:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (105)

September 18, 2017

How The Military Defeated Trump's Insurgency

Trump was seen as a presidential candidate who would possibly move towards a less interventionist foreign policy. That hope is gone. The insurgency that brought Trump to the top was defeated by a counter-insurgency campaign waged by the U.S. military. (Historically its first successful one). The military has taken control of the White House process and it is now taking control of its policies.

It is schooling Trump on globalism and its "indispensable" role in it. Trump was insufficiently supportive of their desires and thus had to undergo reeducation:

When briefed on the diplomatic, military and intelligence posts, the new president would often cast doubt on the need for all the resources. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson organized the July 20 session to lay out the case for maintaining far-flung outposts — and to present it, using charts and maps, in a way the businessman-turned-politician would appreciate.

Trump was hauled into a Pentagon basement 'tank' and indoctrinated by the glittering four-star generals he admired since he was a kid:

The session was, in effect, American Power 101 and the student was the man working the levers. It was part of the ongoing education of a president who arrived at the White House with no experience in the military or government and brought with him advisers deeply skeptical of what they labeled the “globalist” worldview. In coordinated efforts and quiet conversations, some of Trump’s aides have worked for months to counter that view, hoping the president can be persuaded to maintain — if not expand — the American footprint and influence abroad.

Trump was sold the establishment policies he originally despised. No alternative view was presented to him.

It is indisputable that the generals are now ruling in Washington DC. They came to power over decades by shaping culture through their sponsorship of Hollywood, by manipulating the media through "embedded" reporting and by forming and maintaining the countries infrastructure through the Army Corps of Engineers. The military, through the NSA as well as through its purchasing power, controls the information flow on the internet. Until recently the military establishment only ruled from behind the scene. The other parts of the power triangle, the corporation executives and the political establishment, were more visible and significant. But during the 2016 election the military bet on Trump and is now, after he unexpectedly won, collecting its price.

Trump's success as the "Not-Hillary" candidate was based on an anti-establishment insurgency. Representatives of that insurgency, Flynn, Bannon and the MAGA voters, drove him through his first months in office. An intense media campaign was launched to counter them and the military took control of the White House. The anti-establishment insurgents were fired. Trump is now reduced to public figure head of a stratocracy - a military junta which nominally follows the rule of law.

Stephen Kinzer describes this as America’s slow-motion military coup:

Ultimate power to shape American foreign and security policy has fallen into the hands of three military men [...]
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Being ruled by generals seems preferable to the alternative. It isn’t.
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[It] leads toward a distorted set of national priorities, with military “needs” always rated more important than domestic ones. 
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It is no great surprise that Trump has been drawn into the foreign policy mainstream; the same happened to President Obama early in his presidency. More ominous is that Trump has turned much of his power over to generals. Worst of all, many Americans find this reassuring. They are so disgusted by the corruption and shortsightedness of our political class that they turn to soldiers as an alternative. It is a dangerous temptation.

The country has fallen to that temptation even on social-economic issues:

In the wake of the deadly racial violence in Charlottesville this month, five of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were hailed as moral authorities for condemning hate in less equivocal terms than the commander in chief did.
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On social policy, military leaders have been voices for moderation.

The junta is bigger than its three well known leaders:

Kelly, Mattis and McMaster are not the only military figures serving at high levels in the Trump administration. CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke each served in various branches of the military, and Trump recently tapped former Army general Mark S. Inch to lead the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
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the National Security Council [..] counts two other generals on the senior staff.

This is no longer a Coup Waiting to Happen The coup has happened with few noticing it and ever fewer concerned about it. Everything of importance now passes through the Junta's hands:

[Chief of staff John] Kelly initiated a new policymaking process in which just he and one other aide [...] will review all documents that cross the Resolute desk.
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The new system [..] is designed to ensure that the president won’t see any external policy documents, internal policy memos, agency reports and even news articles that haven’t been vetted.

To control Trump the junta filters his information input and eliminates any potentially alternative view:

Staff who oppose [policy xyz] no longer have unfettered access to Trump, and nor do allies on the outside [.. .] Kelly now has real control over the most important input: the flow of human and paper advice into the Oval Office. For a man as obsessed about his self image as Trump, a new flow of inputs can make the world of difference.

The Trump insurgency against the establishment was marked by a mostly informal information and decision process. That has been destroyed and replaced:

Worried that Trump would end existing US spending/policies (largely, still geared to cold war priorities), the senior military staff running the Trump administration launched a counter-insurgency against the insurgency.
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General Kelly, Trump's Chief of Staff, has put Trump on a establishment-only media diet.
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In short, by controlling Trump's information flow with social media/networks, the generals smashed the insurgency's OODA loop (observe, orient, decide, act). Deprived of this connection, Trump is now weathervaning to cater to the needs of the establishment ...

The Junta members dictate their policies to Trump by only proposing to him certain alternatives. The one that is most preferable to them will be presented as the only desirable one. "There are no alternatives," Trump will be told again and again.

Thus we get a continuation of a failed Afghanistan policy and will soon get a militarily aggressive policy towards Iran.

Other countries noticed how the game has changed. The real decisions are made by the generals, Trump is ignored as a mere figurehead:

Asked whether he was predicting war [with North Korea], [former defence minister of Japan, Satoshi] Morimoto said: "I think Washington has not decided ... The final decision-maker is [US Defence Secretary] Mr Mattis ... Not the president."

Climate change, its local catastrophes and the infrastructure problems it creates within the U.S. will further extend the military role in shaping domestic U.S. policy.

Nationalistic indoctrination, already at abnormal heights in the U.S. society, will further increase. Military control will creep into ever extending fields of once staunchly civilian areas of policy. (Witness the increasing militarization of the police.)

It is only way to sustain the empire.

It is doubtful that Trump will be able to resist the policies imposed on him. Any flicker of resistance will be smashed. The outside insurgency which enabled his election is left without a figurehead, It will likely disperse. The system won.

Posted by b on September 18, 2017 at 11:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (80)

September 17, 2017

Syria Summary - Eliminating ISIS' Remains

The last Syria Summary was headlined A New Clash Looms in Syria's East. It stated:

Critical oil fields are north and east of Mayadin. The Omar oil field in the east is the biggest one in all Syria. The U.S. wants these under its control to finance its Kurdish and Arab proxies in north-east Syria. The Syrian government needs the oil to rebuild the country. Should the U.S. supported forces try to annex the area we will likely see a direct conflict between them and the Syrian government forces. Would the U.S. and Russia join that fight?


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Yesterday a first clash of forces occurred. Syrian government and Russian special forces (red) have crossed the Euphrates at Deir Ezzor to reconnaissance the area for their next large operation. A crossing in force towards the north of Euphrates and east of Deir Ezzor is expected during the next few days. The Russian military had informed the U.S. of its area of operation. Despite that, formerly ISIS aligned tribal forces, now paid by the U.S. under the label SDF, tried to extend their areas north of Deir Ezzor (blue). A "warning shot" was delivered to them in form of a small air attack. Several "SDF" were wounded, the U.S. special forces accompanying and commanding them were not harmed.

The Russia military is asking who, really, those forces are:

“Over the past few days, on the eastern bank of the Euphrates, Russian control and reconnaissance facilities have not identified a single combat of Islamic State terrorists with armed representatives of any ‘third force.’ Therefore, only representatives of the international coalition can answer the question as to how ‘opposition members’ or ‘military advisers of the international coalition’ managed to get to the IS-held areas in the eastern part of Deir ez-Zor without striking a blow.”

Our last summary noted that these new U.S. proxies Brett McGurk had hired, the 'third force' in the Russian statement, allegedly progressed some 30 kilometers into ISIS country without firing a shot. These forces are evidently ISIS fighters now under a new banner and with U.S. special forces directing them.

South of the river the Syrian government forces consolidate their positions around the two-thirds of Deir Ezzor city now under their control. To avoid unnecessary casualties and damage they push the Islamic State fighters out of the up-build areas instead of immediately surrounding and besieging them. They will be easier to eliminate in the more rural areas still left to them. The campaign south of the Euphrates will continue along the river towards ISIS held areas in the west and east.

A second group of Syrian government forces is coming up from the Jordan-Iraq-Syria border triangle and is progressing along the Syrian Iraqi border towards al-Buqamal/Qaim at the Euphrates. An Iraqi force is working in parallel with them on the Iraqi side of the border.

During the next months three Syrian government forces are likely to meet where the Euphrates crosses into Iraq. One group is now moving north along the Syrian-Iraqi border, one coming from Deir Ezzor on the south side of the river and the one that will soon establish itself north of the Euphrates to move towards the oil-fields further east. Iraqi forces are expected to mirror those moves on their side of the border. In the end of the operations no area in Syria and Iraq will be left under control of the ISIS organization. (Isolated ISIS holdouts east of Homs as well as in Iraq are under siege and will soon be cleared.)

There is no more need for any U.S. intervention to achieve the total defeat of the Islamic State. While the U.S. president had declared that his country has no further interest in Syria but the defeat of ISIS, other forces within the U.S. ruling structure have likely different ideas. We can expect some operations, by "independent" U.S. proxy forces or by "accidental" bombing, to hinder the Syrian and Iraqi government plans.

In the north-west of Syria al-Qaeda is still in control of Idleb governate. Syria, Iran, Russia and Turkey agreed last week to pacify the area by force. Each of them will take control of a "deescalation zone" within Idelb. The announcement of the agreement lacked all details. It is yet unknown who's force will take what part of Idleb and how the coordination of the project will proceed. Leaks of various map outlining designated areas of control are of Turkish origin and unlikely to reflect the real agreed upon lines.

Posted by b on September 17, 2017 at 07:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (106)

September 15, 2017

Afghanistan - U.S. Resolved To Repeat Failures

The U.S. military and political leadership is so devoid of learning capability that it does not fight multiyear long wars. Instead it fights one disconnected campaign after the other on the very same battlefield. Each of these campaigns will repeat the mistakes that previous ones made and will have the same outcome.

Thus we have seen several increases in troop numbers in Afghanistan. Each time such a surge happened under Bush, under Obama and now under Trump, the result was an increase in Taliban activity and success.

We have seen the use of local militia forces fail under Obama when these were called Afghan Local Police. The 20,000 men strong ALP was supposedly "trained" to hold land against the Taliban. But the local police groups turned out to be local gangs who, thanks to their "official" status, could rob, rap and kill people without fear of retaliation. The suppressed population then turned to the Taliban for relief.

The idea to create such a local force was so bad that it is time to repeat it:

The American military has turned to the [idea of a local militia] force as a potential model for how to maintain the Afghan government’s waning control — without too high a cost — in difficult parts of Afghanistan at a time when the Taliban are resurgent.
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The size of the new force is yet to be finalized, but it could number more than 20,000, according to a senior Afghan official
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While the senior Afghan official insisted that only the conceptual framework of the force has been agreed to, and that details were still being sorted out, several Western officials said that preparations were already underway to pilot the new force in southern districts of Nangarhar Province.

We can predict with confidence that a year from now those very same districts of Nangarhar province will again staunchly support the Taliban.

In 2001 the CIA and U.S. special forces kicking out the Taliban with the support of northern alliance war-criminals. Arial bombing based on partisan information continued for years. After their defeat the Taliban had given up on ruling the country. They offered to dissolve in exchange for amnesty and an end of the war. But the bombing, often on direction of some local wannabe strongman, continued. Many people not involved with the Taliban or any resistance were killed and maimed. Their communities called out for help. The Taliban revived and came back to fight the invaders.

For a while the indiscriminate, unaccountable bombing seemed to calm down. But the insurgency, once revived, continued. Time then to repeat and expand the scheme - if only under a different logo and in more countries:

The C.I.A. is pushing for expanded powers to carry out covert drone strikes in Afghanistan and other active war zones, a proposal that the White House appears to favor despite the misgivings of some at the Pentagon, according to current and former intelligence and military officials.

More indiscriminate bombing will obviously lead to more resistance and more war.

An argument can be made that the U.S. military and intelligence complex is willfully and systematically creating new enemies in Afghanistan and elsewhere to justify the continuation of its campaigns.

But that argument presume that there is sufficient intellectual capacity in the Pentagon and CIA to develop and follow such a design. Arrogance, bureaucratic inertia and lack of curiosity are the simpler and maybe more likely explanations.

Posted by b on September 15, 2017 at 10:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (121)

September 13, 2017

Links On And Of Propaganda

(Some bug caught up with me. I am too incapacitated to compose a decent blog post. A few links around the issue of propaganda shall substitute for it.)

Remember the sensational front page news about "Russian doping" during the Sochi Olympics and beyond? Well, here is the outcome of that "scandal":

World Anti-Doping Agency Clears 95 Russian Athletes

The World Anti-Doping Agency, the regulator of drugs in sports that produced mountainous evidence of Russia’s doping scheme, has agreed to clear 95 of the first 96 athletes whose cases have been reviewed, according to an internal report circulated among the organization’s executives in recent days.

The "mountainous evidence" the NYT regurgitated was evidently of a molehill.

Here is another slip in the "dangerous Russia" matrix. NATO expansion, we are now told, was not about Russia at all:

Western arms makers lobbied hard for the expansion of NATO into former Soviet satellite countries after the collapse of Communism. They have since lobbied both new and old NATO member states not to stray outside the alliance for weapons purchases that would cut into their business.

But to sell new weapons to eastern Europe one first has to get rid of its old ones. If possible by Making a Killing:

Since the outbreak of war in Syria, weapons from Central and Eastern Europe have flooded the conflict zone through two distinct pipelines – one sponsored by Saudi Arabia and coordinated by the CIA, and the other funded and directed by the Pentagon.

Related: How Western Capital Colonized Eastern Europe

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The current campaign of Saudi financed jihadis in Myanmar is only the appetizer for a larger attack on Chinese (and Indian) interests. More foot soldiers need to be produced for that by infecting more people with radical Wahhabi propaganda:

Bangladesh approved the construction on its territory of 560 mosques on Wednesday, April 26. The project is financed by the Saudi government to the tune of over a billion dollars.
...
[T]he Gulf monarchy has reportedly spent more than 70 billion dollars (about 65 billion euros) since 1979 to finance such projects abroad.

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During the election some unidentified dude on Facebook called for an anti-immigrant rally in Twin Falls, Idaho. Four (4) people claimed they came to the event but no rally took place.

Three (3!) Daily Beast "journalists" were tasked to investigate the issue. They produced a sorry whiff of hot air: Exclusive: Russia Used Facebook Events to Organize Anti-Immigrant Rallies on U.S. Soil

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The New Yorker also wants to put crap into your brain:

Pyongyang is a city of simulated perfection, without litter or graffiti—or, for that matter, anyone in a wheelchair. Its population, of 2.9 million, has been chosen for political reliability and physical health.

Surely, the yearly Disability Days in the DPRK, with performances and sport events, never take place. The new school year ceremony at Pyongyang's Rehabilitation Centre for Children with Disability (vid) is just a fantasy.

On wonders how much the North Korean defector who enlightened the New Yorker was paid for that insight. Propaganda is costly. South Korea recently upped the top rate for North Korean opportunists to $860,000 a piece. The more outrageous their claims are, the higher their income.

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The Global Engagement Center ...

.. is an interagency entity, housed at the State Department. ... It was established pursuant to Executive Order 13721, signed on on March 14, 2016, which states that the Center “shall lead the coordination, integration, and synchronization of Government-wide communications activities directed at foreign audiences abroad in order to counter the messaging and diminish the influence of international terrorist organizations,” such as ISIL.

... of "international terrorist organizations" - hmmm -

... allowed the Global Engagement Center to ask the Pentagon for $40 million, bringing its total 2017 spending to about $80 million. About $60 million of that was to be used to counter Russian influence operations; about $19 million was aimed at ISIS.

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Contrasting the above is some real journalism from the Cincinnati Enquirer: Seven Days of Heroin - This is what an epidemic looks like  - recommended!

Posted by b on September 13, 2017 at 12:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (118)

September 11, 2017

Syria Summary - A New Clash Looms in Syria's East

When the Islamic State siege on Deir Ezzor was broken by the Syrian Arab Army we asked:

Will the SAA cross the Euphrates at Deir Ezzor to retake the valuable oilfields east of it? Or will it stay south of the river and leave those oil fields to the Kurdish U.S. proxies in the north?

To cross the river is clearly desirable but also potentially contentious.

Since then several convoys of military bridging equipment have been seen on the road to Deir Ezzor. It is now obvious that the SAA will bridge the river (all regular bridges have been destroyed by U.S. bombing during earlier fighting) and send significant forces across. New questions now are: When, where and with what aim?

As soon as the government intent became clear the U.S. pushed its local proxy forces to immediately snatch the ISIS held oilfields. In less than two days they deployed over 30 kilometers deep into the ISIS held areas north of the Euphrates. It is obvious that such progress could not have been made if ISIS had defended itself. I find it likely that a deal has been made between those two sides.

The U.S. diplomat tasked with the job, Brett McGurk, recently met with local tribal dignitaries of the area. Pictures of the meeting were published. Several people pointed out that the very same dignitaries were earlier pictured swearing allegiance to the Islamic State.


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Just like during the "Anbar Awaking" in its war on Iraq the U.S. is bribing the local radicals to temporarily change over to its side. This will help the U.S. to claim that it defeated ISIS. But as soon as the payments stop the very same forces will revert back to their old game.

Originally the U.S. had planned to let ISIS take Deir Ezzor. It had twice attacked Syrian government forces in the area killing more than a hundred of them. This had allowed ISIS to capture large chunks of the government enclave and to disable the airport which was need for resupplies:


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After Russian support for the SAA changed the balance of power, and after the election of Donald Trump, those plans had to change. Syria and its allies created facts on the ground and it is now again in control of the area it had lost to ISIS. It will also liberate the rest of the city.

Here is current map of the east-Syrian Euphrates area. .


Map by Weekend Warrior - bigger

The SAA (red) has liberated parts of the city and the airport. The road from Damascus to Deir Ezzor is completely under SAA control. The population, which had nearly starved under the ISIS siege, is receiving fresh food, other necessary goods and medical attention.

The hatched areas of the map show possible next aims for the U.S. proxy campaign (yellow) and the Syrian government forces (red) in their fight against ISIS (grey) and against each other.

Critical oil fields are north and east of Mayadin. The Omar oil field in the east is the biggest one in all Syria. The U.S. wants these under its control to finance its Kurdish and Arab proxies in north-east Syria. The Syrian government needs the oil to rebuild the country. Should the U.S. supported forces try to annex the area we will likely see a direct conflict between them and the Syrian government forces. Would the U.S. and Russia join that fight?

Areas in the north-west and south-west of Syria have been relatively quiet. In recent weeks no relevant change of positions took place. In the south-east around the Syria, Jordan, Iraq border triangle the Syrian government retook several border points. The move comes after an agreement between Russia, the U.S. and Jordan conceded the area back to Syrian government control. The "rebels" in the area were CIA financed but are now out of income. They were ordered by their masters to move to Jordan but several groups refused to do that. The Syrian army and air force will take care of them.


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The Syrian government again pointed out that U.S. (and Turkish) forces on its ground are uninvited and that their presence is illegal. The Russian foreign minster made the same point in a press conference today. Yesterday the Turkish president said "we mustn’t allow foreign powers intervene in Syria to serve their own interests." (His palace seems to lack mirrors.) These are clear signals to the U.S. that its presence and that of a U.S. proxy forces in Syria will not be condoned. 

President Trump had clearly said that his only interest in Syria is to get rid of ISIS:

"As far as Syria is concerned, we have very little to do with Syria other than killing ISIS,"

But Trump is now under the influence (or control?) of the U.S. military. The Pentagon and those forces influencing it might have their own plans. The war is mostly decided. The Syrian government will prevail. But the war is not yet over. Undesirable surprises may still come from the U.S. or other interested sides.

 

Adding: Several recent rumors about incidents in Syria were and are obvious fakes. Please be careful distributing wild claims when these have not been verified by a multitude of sources. The truth is: NO deconfliction line exists east of Deir Ezzor. The SAA did NOT shoot down an Israeli jet over Lebanon. NO U.S. General said that the Syrian army would be bombed if it tried to cross the Euphrates. NO attack on a SAA convoy by the U.S. airforce happened today.

Posted by b on September 11, 2017 at 12:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (146)

September 10, 2017

Open Thread 2017-34

News & views ...

Posted by b on September 10, 2017 at 10:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (165)

September 09, 2017

The Intercept Mistranslates Assad Speech - Smears Syria As Neo-Nazi

There have long been attempts in the anti-Syrian media to claim alignment of the socialist and anti-sectarian Syrian government with western fascist and religious supremacist elements. The latest in this propaganda genre is the just published Intercept piece Why White Nationalists Love Bashar al-Assad.

The Intercept is a rather dubious news outlet founded by Pierre Omidyar, a major owner of the auctioning site eBay and its PayPal banking division. It most recent remarkable moment was its betrayal of a NSA whistle-blower who fatuously had trusted The Intercept to act professionally:

The Intercept published a leaked five page NSA analysis about alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. Its reporting outed the leaker of the NSA documents. That person, R.L. Winner, has now been arrested and is likely to be jailed for years if not for the rest of her life.

As we noted back in June when the above incident happened:

The Intercept pieces are usually heavily editorialized and tend to have a mainstream "liberal" to libertarian slant. Some are highly partisan anti-Syrian/pro-regime change propaganda. [...] Some of its later prominent hires (Ken Silverstein, Matt Taibbi) soon left and alleged that the place was run in a chaotic atmosphere and with improper and highly politicized editing.

The new Intercept piece published yesterday insinuates that the Syrian government under President Bashar Assad is liked by white supremacists because it somehow is itself fascist. Here is how the outlet announced the piece:


full tweet

The screed, written by one Mariam Elba, has a rather crude thesis. Its core is solely based on a false translation of a speech Bashar Assad held on August 20:

It shouldn’t be surprising that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has become an idol among white nationalists in the United States.
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Assad’s authoritarianism uses the same buzzwords as the far-right to describe the society he’s trying to build in his own country — a pure, monolithic society of devotees to his own power.
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As the chaos of Charlottesville and its aftermath was unfolding, Assad addressed a group of diplomats in Damascus about the ongoing war in Syria. “We lost many of our youth and infrastructure,” he said, “but we gained a healthier and more homogenous society.”

Whereas white nationalists aim to create a healthy and homogeneous society through racial purity, for Assad it means a society free of any kind of political dissent, excluding any Syrian living outside the territory his regime controls. Anyone who does not fit Assad’s specific definition of what it means to be Syrian is up for execution.

The assertions in that last quoted paragraph are obviously baloney.

1. It is not the aim of "white nationalists aim to create a healthy and homogeneous society through racial purity". Those people want "their kind" to rule absolutely while all "other" people are to be their slaves. They are (sectarian) racists. The society the white supremacists want would neither be "healthy" nor "homogeneous".

2. The Syrian government has not excluded anyone. Indeed the Syrian government continued to pay its employees, like teachers, even when those sided with and worked under its enemies. Where possible it continued to supply all its citizens in enemy held areas. The Syrian government did not and does not execute anyone for merely having or voicing an opinion. It even reconciles with ten-thousands of "rebels" who once fought against it. None of these get executed.

The assertions made by the Intercept writer are unfounded. Moreover they are based on a false translation. Assad never called for a "more homogeneous society" as it is interpreted in the piece. See these remarks by knowledgeable Syrians and Arabic speakers made shortly after Assad's speech and before that Intercept screed was written:

EHSANI2‏ @EHSANI22 - 7:05 PM - 21 Aug 2017

1-Of the 53-minute important speech by #Assad yesterday nothing seemed more important for Opp than a single word he uttered - "Homogeneous"

2-Many in Opp pounced are presumably pointing to this as confirmation that Assad is equating a more homogenous society as being less Sunni

3-Reading transcript of his speech in more detail rather than pouncing on a word though seems to give a different interpretation.
...
10-What #Assad presumably meant is that when the whole society agrees on one identity that is less sectarian, it becomes more "homogenous"

11-Homogenous as opposed to co-existence is a more durable state that can allow society to survive future wars and struggles.

Moreover - the speech was held in Arabic. Assad never said "homogenous" as it is understood in the English language:

Sophia‏ @les_politiques - 1:48 AM - 22 Aug 2017

1/ 'Homogenous' is a poor translation for 'moutajaness'.

2/ 'Tajannouss' means existence of similarities. But existence of similarities (resemblances) doesn't logically imply homogeneity. (Pics 1, 2 of lexicon entry)

3/ 'Jeness' (category) is subdivided into 'espèces' (kinds). (Arabic-French translation by Kazimirski.)

4 /It is clear that the similarities #Assad mentioned are attitudes toward sectarianism in Syrian society...

5/ In the sense that the war has purged sectarianism from Syrian society therefore making it coalesce as one category against sectarianism.

While the white supremacists in the U.S. and elsewhere want a society where one race (and its dominant religion) rules supreme, the Syrian president called for the opposite. A society that is non-racist and non-sectarian. The homogeneous aspect of that envisioned society is its common rejection of racism and sectarianism. Assad essentially called for "e pluribus unum", the opposite of what white supremacists want to achieve.

The radical (willful?) misinterpretation of Assad's speech in the Intercept is in line with other propagandist claptrap in U.S. media. It is highly opinionated nonsense  based on the factually false translation and interpretation of a speech, which expressed the opposite of what the Intercept author asserts.

The publishing of the piece confirms again that the Intercept is in not the "fearless, adversarial journalism" it set out to be, nor is it a leftish-progressive outlet as some had expected. It is just a minor rag flogging narrow U.S. mainstream nonsense with pinches of neocon claptrap in-between.

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Added:
Caitlin Johnstone adds to the criticism of the Intercept piece: ‘The Intercept’ Tries To Conflate Opposition To US Syria Intervention With Neo-Nazism.

Posted by b on September 9, 2017 at 08:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (83)

September 08, 2017

Michael Brenner - A Lexicon Of Politics

by Michael Brenner

Every sphere of life has its own vocabulary. Surely that is true of the political world. Certain words and phrases repeat themselves with striking frequency. They serve as a sort of shorthand for the cognoscenti who instinctively understand their connotations. They also are handy verbal shortcuts that spare politicos, pundits and media mannequins overly taxing mental effort.

Here is an annotated explication of a few of the most common words of convenience.

TABLE – as in “All Options Are On The Table”

President Trump repeatedly has said that all options are on the table when it comes to responding to the North Korean “threat.” Before, he had said the same about Iran. So did Barack Obama. The Assad government in Syria prompted a similar statement from both. So did ISIS.

That makes for a pretty heavily loaded table. Let’s imagine it. Nuclear weapons are the centerpiece. Probably small, tactical ones so as better to fit the limited space. Surrounded by Tomahawk missiles, stealth bombers, army units and a few Special Forces. Also on the table are economic sanctions; they are considerably lighter. Perhaps a symbolic bag of Persian pistachios, a bolt of Damask cloth, a bowl of rice, and a tin of Beluga caviar for good measure.

“Talking,” too, have been on the table. They are fluffy and weigh next to nothing. President Trump saw fit to remove them on Monday nonetheless. He vehemently declared that “talking is not the answer!” It was placed back on the table by Secretary of Defense General James “Mad Dog” Mattis. They may be hidden behind the floral display. White House Communications Director Hope Hicks did not return our calls asking as to where “talking” had spent the night before being retrieved.

Let’s visualize the scene. We’re in the Situation Room in the depths of the White House. High-tech electronic displays cover the walls. Dominating the room is an elongated table made of brilliantly polished walnut – a sturdy affair able to handle the load placed on it by all those options (and elbows). Around the table sit Trump, National Security Advisor General HC McMaster to his immediate left, Chief of Staff General John Kelly to his immediate right, Mattis, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchen, Jared Kushner, and the Intelligence chiefs: the CIA’s Mike Pompeo, Admiral Michael Rogers Director of the National Security Agency, and General Vincent Stewart from DIA. Medals flash and ribbons shine. The brass alert to any sign that the Orange One might reach for an ICBM – mistaking it for a cigar – and ready to impale his hand to the table with a steak knife. Rex Tillerson is there, too, seated below the SALT.

At each place setting a menu inventories all the options available, and a GPS app pinpoints their location relative to each other.

The President personally had taken ‘talking’ off the table the previous night. The next morning it mysteriously had reappeared – in the form of an English-Korean dictionary. Its discovery sent shivers through the White House – and beyond. After a few tense hours, Mattis stepped forward to declare his responsibility. He did deny rumors that he had used Dennis Rodman as his agent – secreting him into the building at the time of the photo-op with the champion Golden State Warriors in anticipation of just such a clandestine mission.

Whether ‘talking’ will hold its current inconspicuous place, come out of hiding, or disappear in the wee hours of the morning is unpredictable. The table definitely will remain sturdily in place to handle all and any options- at least until the fat lady sings.

BUS – as in “thrown under the bus.”

In the old Soviet Union, unwelcome persons were “liquidated.” Or, “eliminated.” In Latin America they are “disappeared.” The Mafia fitted them with cement shoes as an aide for swimming across the Hudson River. (As Albert "the Executioner" <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Anastasia>Anastasia reputedly said, "real men don’t use water-wings!") Elsewhere in America, they are “thrown under the bus.” It’s a traditional practice rooted in the country’s vehicular culture. The image also suits the American “pro-active” temperament – the mind picture of lifting someone high in the air and then to body-slam them under the wheels of a massive bus resonates – after all, even a he-man Congressional candidate can do it on national television and his rating among his ardent Republican base spikes.

Trump has been especially energetic in pursuing this pastime. Think of Yates, Comey, Bannon, Spicer, Priebus, Scaramucci and several other less prominent “wreakers” dispatched for the good of the Republic. Our current President is by no means the only power holder who relishes this method of disposal. The term itself has become so popular that it now refers to any act of rough justice dealt a subordinate, a competitor, a rival, or a celebrity whose 30 day star turn has reached its sell-by date.

Washington remains the Mecca for this bus-throwing sport. So many people are being thrown under the buses that it is creating a crisis for the Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). With dozens of buses in the repair yards for front axle replacement, it’s hard to keep an adequate sized fleet on the streets. Moreover, the bus drivers are suffering from low morale. Their training doesn’t prepare them for the stressful situation they now face routinely. For example, when you see a well-dressed individual in the grasp of an official-looking guy with19-inch biceps, should you brake - or should you speed-up and expedite the elimination of a redundant public figure?

The drivers’ union also has raised the question of whether it would not be more efficient for all parties concerned to throw these outcasts under Metro subway trains. Permanent disposal would be assured – whereas encounters with buses are not always fatal. Survivors might actually overcome their injuries and reemerge to further torment us - see James Comey on this. In addition, METRO cars are better able to handle such a minor collision without damage that puts them out of service. There is one big drawback to this option. The METRO simply is not reliable enough to ensure that an on-coming train will be available when needed. Think of the embarrassment were it to become known that ‘wreakers’ were being shipped to Beijing or Tokyo in order to be thrown under subway cars there. That smacks of outsourcing; it certainly does nothing to make America great again. If Democrats want to embarrass themselves by looking abroad to dispose of their undesirables, let them.

CLOSET – as in “coming out of the closet.”

An incredible number of people are coming out of the closet these days. It’s a veritable tsunami as an amazing variety of previously hidden groups and individuals flow into the mainstream. Gays, lesbians, transgenders, racists, neo-Nazis, salafists of every creed, suicide bombers, financial deviants. So many questions!

How did they all fit in the closet? Even with the popularity of walk-ins that give every family of any means space that would make Imelda Marcos envious, there are natural limits. The density must have been awesome. Then, imagine these naturally averse types living cheek-by-jowl all these years. One would think that mayhem would be the order of the day. Yet, their survival suggests otherwise – a remarkable level of mutual forbearance. How did this come about?

Did the psychologists among them organize sensitivity training sessions on a mass scale? Had pot been legalized? Did they receive counseling from Barack Obama on how to achieve “common ground?” Did his ethic of bi-partisanship (or tri or quadro-partnership) find fertile soil denied him by the Republicans?

Finally, how are we going to use all that now vacant space freed up by the mass exodus out of the closet? Will home-owners turn them into social media-free zones? Can they be used to help ease the national housing shortage? Should we keep them in reserve in the event that hiding places will be needed for Muslims, Latinos, and Putin apologists?

Or, how about storing all those options that may be removed from the table – like Christmas decorations, yet could be of possible use when the next crisis arises?

 

Posted by b on September 8, 2017 at 09:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (45)

September 07, 2017

Facebook Blames Russia To Deflect From Fraudulent Ad-Sales

A typically political and business strategy to lessen public attention of an evolving scandal is to launch a diversion campaign. A well designed counter campaign makes sensational claims about an unrelated issue. It is intended to take the media attention away from the real issue. Any decent public relation department will have several "canned" campaigns ready to launch on a moment's notice.

Yesterday a new report proved (again) that Facebook cheats with its advertisement reach data. This explains why advertisements booked on Facebook have much less impact than Facebook claims and the paying customers assume.

Only hours later the company launched a diversion campaign. Its purpose is to keep the media off the real scandal. The diversion claim, presented without evidence, is that a "Russian operation" bought influencing advertisements on Facebook aimed at the U.S. public.

Here is the real scandal that Facebook tries to cover up. Facebook advertisement sales are based on systematically falsified data:

Pivotal Research Group senior analyst Brian Wieser pointed out a large discrepancy between U.S. census data and the potential reach that the social network promises advertisers.

On Tuesday, Wieser issued a note pointing out that Facebook's Adverts Manager tool promises a potential reach of 41 million 18-24 year-olds in the U.S., while recent census data said there only 31 million people living in the U.S. within that age range.

Similar false claims are made by Facebook for other countries and categories:

For advertisers trying to target Facebook users in the U.K., the company promises it could potentially reach 5.8 million 20-24 year-olds, 6.4 million 25-29 year-olds, and 5.2 million 30-34 year olds. When the last census was conducted in 2011, the U.K. only had 4.3 million 20-24 year-olds, 4.3 million 25-29 year-olds, and 4.1 million 30-34 year olds.

The Fortune write up of the Pivotal/Wieser report notes other known "discrepancies" in Facebook metrics:

Last year [Facebook] had to apologize for artificially inflating the average amount of time it claimed users spent watching videos on its platform
...
[I]n May, it again admitted to a miscategorization of clicks that led to some advertisers paying more than they should have. This was its tenth such mistake in a year.

Facebook makes enormous profits by claiming to know the users who use its "free services" and by selling this information in form of advertisement space. But most of the data sniffed off its users is useless junk and Facebook's claims of advertising precision, reach and impact are false.

The Facebook diversion is designed to take away media attention from its fraudulent ad-sales by attaching to partisan strive:

Facebook Inc said on Wednesday it had found that an operation likely based in Russia spent $100,000 on thousands of U.S. ads promoting divisive social and political messages in a two-year-period through May.
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Another $50,000 was spent on 2,200 “potentially politically related” ads, likely by Russians, Facebook said.

The usual "Russia hacked and influenced the election" idiots on the Democratic side of the aisles jumped onto this statement:

Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, called the Facebook report “deeply disturbing and yet fully consistent with the unclassified assessment of the intelligence community.”

How $100,000 of unspecific advertisement would influence an election in which more than $1 billion was spend on political ads is unexplained. Moreover - there is zero evidence in the Facebook statement of any influence intent or effect or even a connection with something Russian:

[W]e have found approximately $100,000 in ad spending from June of 2015 to May of 2017 — associated with roughly 3,000 ads — that was connected to about 470 inauthentic accounts and Pages in violation of our policies. Our analysis suggests these accounts and Pages were affiliated with one another and likely operated out of Russia.
...
In this latest review, we also looked for ads that might have originated in Russia — even those with very weak signals of a connection and not associated with any known organized effort. This was a broad search, including, for instance, ads bought from accounts with US IP addresses but with the language set to Russian — even though they didn’t necessarily violate any policy or law. In this part of our review, we found approximately $50,000 in potentially politically related ad spending on roughly 2,200 ads.

Unspecific, "potentially politically related", un-targeted ads bought by some people in the U.S. with a language setting of "Russian". I wonder how many of these ads were sexual service offers from "Natasha".

Reuters notes:

Facebook declined to release the ads themselves, ...

There is nothing to the Facebook Russia allegations. But the release of this nonsense nicely drowns out the real scandal:

Facebook fraudulently sells advertisement by falsely claiming precision,  reach and impact for those ads that they do not have, nor ever can have.

Posted by b on September 7, 2017 at 06:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (47)

September 06, 2017

Politically Uncivilized People

The leaflets distributed by U.S. forces in Parwan province, north of Kabul, on Tuesday depicted a lion, representing the U.S.-led coalition, chasing a dog with a section of the Taliban’s banner, containing a passage from the Koran in Arabic superimposed on its side.
WaPo - Sept 6 2017

The "passage from the Koran" on the Taliban banner is the Shahada, the central creed for every Muslim: "There is no god but God. Muhammad is the messenger of God." It is hard to believe that trained U.S. psychological warfare elements distribute such blasphemy out of ignorance and without specific intent.

Here is another such inflammatory statement.

Better a million dead North Koreans than a thousand dead Americans. ... [I]n the real world, the greatest immorality in war is not killing the enemy. The greatest immorality would be for our country to lose.
The moral answer to North Korea... - Ralph Peters, NY Post, Sept 5, 2017

That moral mindset is, unfortunately, widely accepted in U.S. opinion writing and politics. It is independent of party affiliation.

I agree with Vladimir Vladimirovich on this:

As for the American people, America is truly a great nation if the Americans can put up with so many politically uncivilised people.
Vladimir Putin - Sept 5 2017

Posted by b on September 6, 2017 at 02:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (71)

September 05, 2017

Syria - The Liberation Of Deir Ezzor

The Syrian army just broke the Islamic State siege on the city of Deir Ezzor and its military garrison. The siege had been held up since mid 2014.

In a six month long campaign the SAA moved several hundred kilometers from the outskirts of Aleppo and Palmyra towards Deir Ezzor. Three axes, north, center and south drove the campaign through the semi desert. One axis has now reached the areas held by the besieged troops while the spear tips of the other two are only a few kilometers away.

Syrian TV showed the first joyful contact at the 137 brigades area, 15km from Deir Ezzor city center.


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Only in January the city and its 100,000 inhabitants left was on the verge of falling into the hands of ISIS. A massive U.S. air attack on the most important Syrian military position of Deir Ezzor in September 2016 directly enabled the ISIS move. But surprisingly the garrison, with 4-5,000 soldiers, held out. Supplies were dropped by parachute through a Russian and Syrian air-bridge and the grand operation to liberate the city was planned and prepared.

It has now succeeded. The Syrian government forces were supported by Russian special forces, Iranian contingents, Hizbullah forces and various militia. The Russian air force flew massive interdiction raids in front of the advancing troops. The Russian navy fired cruise missiles against core ISIS hold outs in the area.

Mabruk!

It will take further weeks to eliminate ISIS completely from the parts of the city it holds and areas around it.


Map (August 2017) by Fabrice Balanche - bigger (with legend)

The upcoming question then is how this campaign will proceed. Will the SAA cross the Euphrates at Deir Ezzor to retake the valuable oilfields east of it? Or will it stay south of the river and leave those oil fields to the Kurdish U.S. proxies in the north?

Posted by b on September 5, 2017 at 07:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (101)

September 04, 2017

The Rohingya Of Myanmar - Pawns In An Anglo-Chinese Proxy War Fought By Saudi Jihadists

[Update Sept 7 - The post below received some criticism which, in my view, missed its major points. See here for a reply. - b]

Media attention is directed to some minor ethnic violence in Myanmar, the former Burma. The story in the "western" press is of Muslim Rohingya unfairly vilified, chased out and killed by  Buddhist mobs and the army in the state of Rakhine near the border to Bangladesh. The "liberal human interventionists" like Human Rights Watch are united with Islamists like Turkey's President Erdogan in loudly lamenting the plight of the Rohingya.

That curious alliance also occurred during the wars on Libya and Syria. It is by now a warning sign. Could there be more behind this than some local conflict in Myanmar? Is someone stocking a fire?

Indeed.

While the ethnic conflict in Rankine state is very old, it has over the last years morphed into an Jihadist guerilla war financed and led from Saudi Arabia. The area is of geo-strategic interest:

Rakhine plays an important part in [the Chinese One Belt One Road Initiative] OBOR, as it is an exit to Indian Ocean and the location of planned billion-dollar Chinese projects—a planned economic zone on Ramree Island, and the Kyaukphyu deep-sea port, which has oil and natural gas pipelines linked with Yunnan Province’s Kunming.

Pipelines from the western coast of Myanmar eastwards to China allow hydrocarbon imports from the Persian Gulf to China while avoiding the bottleneck of the Strait of Malacca and disputed parts of the South China Sea.


via Geostrategic Media - bigger

It is in "Western interest" to hinder China's projects in Myanmar. Inciting Jihad in Rakhine could help to achieve that. There is historic precedence for such a Rohingya - Bamar proxy war in Burma. During World War II British imperial forces incited the Rohingya Muslim in Rakhine to fight the Bamar, the dominant Burmese nationalist Buddhists allied with Japanese imperialists.


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The Rohingya immigrated to the northern parts of Arakan, today's Rakhine state of Myanmar, since the 16th century. A large wave came under British imperial occupation some hundred years ago. Illegal immigration from Bangladesh continued over the last decades. In total about 1.1 million of Muslim Rohingya live in Myanmar. The birthrate of the Rohingya is said to be higher than that of the local Arakanese Buddhists. These feel under pressure in their own land.

While these populations are mixed in some towns there are many hamlets that belong 100% to either one. There is generally little integration of Rohingya within Myanmar. Most are officially not accepted as citizens. Over the centuries and the last decades there have been several violent episodes between the immigrants and the local people. The last Muslim-Buddhist conflict raged in 2012.

Since then a clearly Islamist insurgency was build up in the area. It acts under the name Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) and is led by Ataullah abu Ammar Junjuni, a Jihadist from Pakistan. (ARSA earlier operated under the name Harakah al-Yakin, or Faith Movement.) Ataullah was born into the large Rohingya community of Karachi, Pakistan. He grew up and was educated in Saudi Arabia. He received military training in Pakistan and worked as Wahhabi Imam in Saudi Arabia before he came to Myanmar. He has since brainwashed, hired and trained a local guerrilla army of some 1,000 Takfiris.

According to a 2015 report in the Pakistani newspaper Dawn there are more than 500,000 Rohingya in Karachi. They came from Bangladesh during the 1970s and 1980s on the behest on General Ziaul Haq’s military regime and the CIA to fight the Soviets and the government of Afghanistan:

Rohingya community [in Karachi] is more inclined towards religion and they send their children to madressahs. It is a major reason that many religious parties, especially the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, the JI and the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl, have their organisational set-up in Burmese neighborhoods.
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“A number of Rohingya members living in Arakan Abad have lost their relatives in recent attacks by Buddhist mobs in June 2012 in Myanmar,” said Mohammad Fazil, a local JI activist.

Rohingyas in Karachi regularly collect donations, Zakat and hides of sacrificial animals and send these to Myanmar and Bangladesh to support the displaced families.

Reuters noted in late 2016 that the Jihadist group is trained, led and financed through Pakistan and Saudi Arabia:

A group of Rohingya Muslims that attacked Myanmar border guards in October is headed by people with links to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said on Thursday, citing members of the group.
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“Though not confirmed, there are indications [Ataullah] went to Pakistan and possibly elsewhere, and that he received practical training in modern guerrilla warfare,” the group said. It noted that Ata Ullah was one of 20 Rohingya from Saudi Arabia leading the group’s operations in Rakhine State.

Separately, a committee of 20 senior Rohingya emigres oversees the group, which has headquarters in Mecca, the ICG said.

The ARSA Jihadists claim to only attack government forces but civilian Arakanese Buddhists have also been ambushed and massacred. Buddhist hamlets were also burned down. 

The government of Myanmar alleges that Ataullah and his group want to declare an independent Islamic State. In October 2016 his group started to attack police and other government forces in the area. On August 25 this year his group attacked 30 police stations and military outposts and killed some 12 policemen. The army and police responded, as is usual in this conflict, by burning down Rohingya townships suspected of hiding guerilla forces.

To escape the growing violence many local Arakanese Buddhist flee their towns towards the capitol of Rankine. Local Rohingya Muslim flee across the border to Bangladesh. Only the later refugees seem to get international attention.

The Myanmar army has ruled the country for decades. Under economic pressure it nominally opened up to the "west" and instituted "democracy". The darling of the "west" in Myanmar is Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Her party won the elections and she has a dominant role in the government. But Aung San Suu Kyi is foremost a nationalist and the real power is still held by the generals.

While Aung San Suu Kyi was propped up as democratic icon she has little personal merit except being the daughter of Thakin Aung San, a famous leader of the Burma Independence Army (BIA) and the "father of the nation". In the 1940s Thakin Aung San was recruited by the Imperial Japanese Army to wage a guerrilla war against the colonial British army and the British supply line to anti-Japanese forces in China:

The young Aung San learned to wear Japanese traditional clothing, speak the language, and even took a Japanese name. In historian Thant Myint-U’s “The River of Lost Footsteps,” he describes him as “apparently getting swept away in all the fascist euphoria surrounding him,” but notes that his commitment remained to independence for Myanmar.

The ethnic strife in Rakhine also played a role in the British-Japanese conflict over Burma:

In April 1942, Japanese troops advanced into Rakhine State and reached Maungdaw Township, near the border with what was then British India, and is now Bangladesh. As the British retreated to India, Rakhine became a front line.

Local Arakanese Buddhists collaborated with the BIA and Japanese forces but the British recruited area Muslims to counter the Japanese.

“Both armies, British and Japanese, exploited the frictions and animosity in the local population to further their own military aims,” wrote scholar Moshe Yegar

When the British won against the Japanese Thakin Aung San change sides and negotiated the end of British imperial rule over Burma. He was assassinated in 1947 with the help of British officers. Since then Burma, later renamed to Myanmar, was ruled by ever competing factions of the military.

Thakin Aung San's daughter Aung San Suu Kyi received a British education and was build up for a role in Myanmar. In the 1980s and 90s she quarreled with the military government. She was given a Nobel Peace Price and was promoted as progressive defender of human rights by the "western" literati. But she, and the National League for Democracy (NLD). she leads, were always the opposite - ultra-right fascists in Buddhist Saffron robes. The hypocrites are now disappointed that she does not speak out in favor of the Rohingya. But doing so would put her on the opposite side her father had famously fought for. It would also put her in opposition to most of the people in Myanmar who have little sympathy for the Rohingya and their Jihadi fight. In general many of the 50 million people of the larger Myanmar fear overwhelming immigration from the 160 million Bengalis of the smaller, flood prone and overpopulated Bangladesh.

Moreover - the Chinese OBOR projects are a huge bon for Myanmar and will help with its economic development. The Saudis and Pakistani send guerilla commanders and money to incite the Rohingya to Jihad in Myanmar.  This is a historic repeat of the CIA operation against Soviet influence in Afghanistan. But unlike in Afghanistan the people of Myanmar are not Muslim. They will surely fight against, not join, any Jihad in their country. The Rohingya are now pawns in the great game and will suffer from it.

 

Posted by b on September 4, 2017 at 03:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (132)

September 03, 2017

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

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

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

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

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


The Peanut - bigger

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

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

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

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

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

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

One must now assess that North Korea has the capability to make, launch and deliver staged thermonuclear weapons up to megaton size at ICBM ranges. Most of China, Japan and at least the U.S. west coast are in reach of such a weapon. With this warhead size the somewhat dubious accuracy of North Korean missiles has much less relevance.

Before the U.S. and South Korea started this years invasion maneuver Ulchi on August 22, North Korea had warned that it would test-launch four Hawsong-12 mid range ballistic missiles towards the large U.S. base on Guam if, and only if, the U.S. would continue to use "strategic equipment" around its borders. This referred to B-1B nuclear bombers and aircraft carriers.

The U.S. understood and scaled back the planned maneuver. No "strategic equipment" was used.

On August 28, when the maneuver had ended, North Korea launched a test of a single Hawsong-12 medium range missile into the Pacific. The missile crossed over Japan at a height of 550 kilometer. (It thereby did NOT violate Japanese air-space.) Earlier tests had been flown in unrealistic steep trajectories to avoid such an overflight. This test was likely designed to prove to the U.S. the capability to reach Guam.

On August 31 the U.S. flew another "show of force" with B-1B bombers and F-35 stealth fighter planes over South Korea. The planes trained precision bombing with live bombs at a South Korean training area. These plane types are "strategic equipment" and the training makes only sense in a "preemptive strike on North Korea" scenario.

One can understand today's nuclear test as a response to these continuing U.S. provocations. The U.S. will of course claim that only North Korea is "provoking" here and it itself is only "responding". But such a hen-egg discussion and juvenile tit-for-tat is not only useless but dangerous. History tells us that the U.S. completely devastated North Korea and killed some 20% of its population, not vice versa. So far only North Korea had to fear nuclear destruction. That has now changed into a more balanced situation. A preventive or preemptive war on North Korea is no longer an option.

Today's event should convince even the dumbest of the doubters that North Korea's claimed capabilities are real. It should also demonstrate to the White House that verbal "fire and furry" insults, tit-for-tat shows of force and further economic sanctioning of North Korea and/or China are, as predicted, only worsening the situation.

Phillipe notes in the comments that today is the opening of a BRICS summit in Xiamen in China. Xi Jinping is giving a big speech. He will not like this disruption. China strongly condemned the test but there is little else it could reasonably do.

North Korea has offered several times to negotiate with the U.S. towards a peace agreement. (As the Korea War only ended in a ceasefire the nations are still at war.) It offered to stop all its nuclear and missile testing if the U.S. stops the large scale maneuvers in South Korea. Russia, China and South Korea have long urged the U.S. to pick up on that offer. The U.S. could have done so every day since the offer was first made years ago. Not doing so has only created the current situation and today's events.

One September 9 North Korea will celebrate its Independence Day. Such occasions are often used to demonstrate new capabilities. Today's first KCNA statement included the lines:

[Kim Jong Un] watched an H-bomb to be loaded into new ICBM
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[which] can be detonated even at high altitudes for super-powerful EMP attack

A strong nuclear explosion at great height can cause an Electro-Magnetic-Pulse which does not directly kill people on the ground but creates some damage to unprotected electric and electronic equipment. The EMP threat is largely exaggerated but a hobby horse of many fear- and war-mongers in Congress. North Korea surely knows this and the statement thereby touches a sensible point. I find it unlikely that North Korea would go with such an unproven concept. This is mere trolling. But a September 9 ICBM missile test, on a realistic trajectory and with a simulated nuclear load, is definitely a possible next step to up the pressure towards new negotiations.

I for one feel no urge to witness a full Hawsong-14 ICBM test with even a dud megaton nuclear device on board. If the White House feels the same it must NOW stop further provocations and immediately agree to open-ended talks with North Korea.

Posted by b on September 3, 2017 at 03:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (156)

September 01, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Screenshot of NYT report

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

This scheme is the gist of ALL reporting about the alleged "Russian hacking" of the U.S. presidential election. There exists zero evidence that Russia was involved in anything related to it. No evidence -none at all- links the publishing of DNC papers or of Clinton counselor Podesta's emails to Russia. Thousands of other circumstances, people or political entities might have had their hands in the issue. There is zero evidence that Russia was involved at all.

The whole "Russian hacking" issue is a series of big lies designed and promulgated by Democratic partisans (specifically Brennan and Clapper who were then at the head of U.S. intelligence services) to:

  • cover up for Hillary Clinton's and the DNC's failure in the election and to
  • build up Russia as a public enemy to justify unnecessary military spending and other imperial racketeering.

The New York Times, and other media, present these lies as facts while not providing any evidence for them. In many cases they hide behind "intelligence reports" without noting suspiciously mealymouthed caveats in those subjective "assessments" of obviously partisan authors. Hard facts contradicting their conclusions are simply ignored and not reported at all.

Posted by b on September 1, 2017 at 11:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (60)

 
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