The Stench Of Hypocrisy
Thousands of people take part in silent march in Paris in remembrance of the victims of last weeks terror attacks in France. The attacks, by a bunch of criminals, were depicted as an assault on "free speech".
Unfortunately a bunch of hypocrites, invited by the French president Hollande, insisted on walking at the front of the march and to devalue the intended purpose. Many of these "leaders" sawed and saw terror in their own and other countries. As one Charlie Hebdo cartoonist says:
'We vomit on all these people who suddenly say they are our friends"
David Wickham documented the "free speech" credentials of these so called "leaders" who now compel the participants of the march to follow in the stench of their hypocrisy.
The right response to the attacks comes from the brother of the killed police officers Ahmed Merabet:
“My brother was Muslim and he was killed by two terrorists, by two false Muslims,” he said. “Islam is a religion of peace and love. As far as my brother’s death is concerned it was a waste. He was very proud of the name Ahmed Merabet, proud to represent the police and of defending the values of the Republic – liberty, equality, fraternity.”
Malek reminded France that the country faced a battle against extremism, not against its Muslim citizens. “I address myself now to all the racists, Islamophobes and antisemites. One must not confuse extremists with Muslims. Mad people have neither colour or religion,” he said.
“I want to make another point: don’t tar everybody with the same brush, don’t burn mosques – or synagogues. You are attacking people. It won’t bring our dead back and it won’t appease the families.”
Some Additional Bits On The Hebdo Attack
It seems that the attackers were underclass French boys who, out of not finding much sense in their lives, jumped on the first ideology that came along and promised them meaning. They were only tangentially, if at all, related to the various fundamentalist AQ entities in the Middle East.
The whole political outrage over "free speech" in this case is completely made up. There is no "free speech" in France or elsewhere in Europe or in the U.S. Most states have blasphemy and lèse-majesty laws. Additionally social laws are effectively in place against other speech issues. Just try to make a few public point about the racist colonizations project of some east European in west Asia and see the reaction. Hebdo Charles itself fired one of its writers for alleged anti-semitism. A court ruled the writer was unlawfully terminated without a sane reason.
My personal position is that there is not, and should not be, an absolute right to "free speech". "Free speech" is often abused to provide cover for sawing strife within groups and nations and between them. Societies are, in my view, right to keep the most vile stuff within their frames of reference off limits.
Some people think that all Muslims should somehow responsible for the three lunatics in Paris and should apologize. Here (audio) is a really good response to such nonsensical requests.
Open Thread 2015-02
News & views ...
Charlie Hebdo - The Chickens Come Home To Roost
Twelve people, including two police, were killed in France when unknown gunmen attacked the office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo today.
Some forty people were killed in Saana, Yemen, today in a bomb attack on people who were hoping to enlist with the police. These forty people and the many more wounded in the attack will get much less headlines than those killed in France.
Videos (1, 2) from the attack in Paris show the attackers in black clothing and behaving as if they had at least some military training. They were armed with automatic weapons and, according to the police, with a rocket launcher. At least two attackers are still on the run. We do not yet know the motive of the attackers, but I consider the following more likely than a false flag attack.
In 2011 the magazine Charlie Hebdo was one of those that printed the Mohammed caricatures, a crude and insulting attempt to smear the prophet and all Muslim as terrorists. In 2012 the magazine continued the campaign depicting the prophet Mohammed as naked, attention seeking gnome.
Unlike U.S. "liberals" most of the world does not consider free speech as an absolute right. Indeed like screaming "fire" in a filled theater, insulting the believe of other people is likely to get you hurt in most parts of the world. To claim such insults should not matter is itself an insult in that it declares one culture, that of absolute free speech rights, to be superior to other values. It is indecent.
That the Charlie Hebdo satire was indecent and insulting does not justify the murderous attack, but explains the probable motivation of the attackers. It is deeply wrong to kill people for their speech. But it is also wrong to insult others for no good reasons, be it profit or "free speech" worship.
The attackers in Paris are believed to be militants who pretend to be true Muslims fighting for their believes. The state of France under its presidents Sarkozy and Hollande has empowered and supported such pretenders in their attacks on the people and governments of Libya and Syria. In Syria Jihadi fighters of the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra are using U.S. supplied anti-tank missiles. A German air defense regiment is defending their areas of retreat in Turkey against Syrian government attacks. While it supports Jihadis in Syria France is now deploying an air craft carrier to the Persian Gulf to attack the Islamic State in Iraq. The last point could also be the actual motive of today's attack.
The fundamentalists were cheered on by "western" politicians when they attacked civilians in Tripoli and Aleppo. When they attack in countries which cater to "western interests" or within "western" countries these attacks are seen as hostile and used to justify another lurch to the extreme right, to war and towards more totalitarian states.
Unless they push for saner, less aggressive policies the average people in the middle, no matter their believes, are the ones losing in this war.
Wishing Back Ghaddafi
Libya is now split along tribal and religious lines with two governments claiming to rule the country. The war between them is also a proxy war between the Saudi and Qatari governments who finance the various warlords.
The economy of the richest African country before the "western" war against Libya is now in shambles and its bankruptcy in sight. The last airline connecting to Libya, Turkish Airlines, suspended all further flights.
While many "western" politicians were happy to take down Ghaddafi none of them are now willing to take responsibility for the consequences.
The plan seems to be to let the conflict "burn out" - that is to make enough Libyans kill each other until no one is left to fight. Those who then control the oil, under "western" supervision of course, will rule the country.
Was that the plan all along?
Open Thread 2015-01
News & views ...
Children, Extremist Ideas And The British Establishment - Updated
The Independent is on the same story the Telegraph has on noticing the authorities of toddler terrorism indoctrination. The presentation of the story makes it clear what the concerns are about.
The caption to the picture reads:
Nursery school employees will have a duty to report young children who are at-risk of becoming terrorists under proposed new legislation
With nursery staff like those depicted the threat of terror toddlers may indeed come true. But can such staff be expected to report to authorities other than their Caliph?
Original post follows here
The British government has been taken over by lunacy reports the Telegraph:
Nursery school staff and registered childminders must report toddlers at risk of becoming terrorists, under counter-terrorism measures proposed by the Government.
The directive is contained in a 39-page consultation document issued by the Home Office in a bid to bolster its Prevent anti-terrorism plan.
The document accompanies the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, currently before parliament. It identifies nurseries and early years childcare providers, along with schools and universities, as having a duty “to prevent people being drawn into terrorism”.
The consultation paper adds: “Senior management and governors should make sure that staff have training that gives them the knowledge and confidence to identify children at risk of being drawn into terrorism and challenge extremist ideas which can be used to legitimise terrorism and are shared by terrorist groups.
“They should know where and how to refer children and young people for further help.”
"Refer to further help ..." What might such "help" include? Some hints to such "help" may be disguised in some other Telegraph headlines:
- Leading children's doctor filmed 'snorting cocaine' before going on call
- Thatcher confidant raped boy and police covered crime up
- Prince Andrew denies having relations with 'sex slave' girl
A central registration for unruly young children "terrorists" might come in handy when the British establishment is looking for new material for its seemingly favorite pastime.
One wonders who came up with this idea ...
Ukraine: "From the spirits that I called ..." - Part II
Published here on February 22 2014: Ukraine: "From the spirits that I called - Sir, deliver me!"
The opposition in the Ukraine and its paymasters in the U.S. and EU called up the spirits of the right, the fascist, to wage a coup against the elected president and to push their selfish objectives onto the Ukrainian public.
Now those spirits won't go away ...
Parts of the Ukraine will soon show signs of anarchy with those that protested and rioted without having any real aim moving towards criminal activities. The opposition, which is now empowered and will have to deliver results, will soon squabble and will again fall apart. The fascist forces, euphemistically called "nationalists" in "western" media, will win more power.
Those predictions have turned into reality and even those who arranged the coup against the legal government of Ukraine can no longer deny the dangers.
On Tuesday a member of the imperialists Atlantic Council wrote in the Washington Post about a "new threat" to Ukraine which is not Russia but are "independently operating warlords and armed groups"
[N]ow several of these units, especially those linked to oligarchs or the far right, are revealing a dark side. In recent months, they have threatened and kidnapped government officials, boasted that they will take power if Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko fails to defeat Russia, and they served as armed muscle in illegal attempts to take over businesses or seize local governments.
Yesterday thousand of fascists marched with torches (vid) in Kiev and other Ukrainian cities to remember the birth of the fascist mass murderer of Poles and Jews and Nazi collaborator Stephan Bandera. Those forces will not go away and they will drag Ukraine further to the right and further apart.
Goethe's sorcerer's apprentice marshaled the spirits to help clean the house. But he could not control them:
O, you ugly child of Hades!
The entire house will drown!
Everywhere I look, I see
water, water, running down.
Be you damned, old broom,
why won't you obey?
Be a stick once more,
please, I beg you, stay!
This spring and summer the fighting in east Ukraine will again flare up in earnest. The coup government in Kiev will likely falter and Ukrainian state will be declared bankrupt.
The Washington Post OpEd is the first glimpse of realization of these dangers. More will follow. It will be a rude awakening and after much gnashing of teeth the apprentices will call for help:
What a deluge! What a flood!
Lord and master, hear my call!
Ah, here comes the master!
I have need of Thee!
from the spirits that I called
Sir, deliver me!
As I wrote in the February piece:
The sorcerer's apprentices in Washington and Brussels will come to understand that they can not control the spirits they called upon. They will need to call the master to put the spirits they awoke back into their holes. The international number they will need to call starts with 007 495.
Anyone with a bit of knowledge about the social history of Ukraine could have predicted this. The Kremlin knew that this would happen and it warned of the dangers again and again.
It will be waiting for the call.
Do Svidanya 2014
That illegal regime change was itself part of a bigger plan to restart a cold war, which will allow the U.S. to assert even more control over Europe, and eventually for regime change in Russia.
I am confident that in 2015 the non-poodle parts of Europe and Russia itself will assert themselves and block and counter the neo-imperial U.S. moves. As my Do Svidanya Sochi piece said:
The Russians will be very proud of these games. They will be grateful to their government and president for having delivered them. The internal and external message is understood: Russia has again found itself and it is stronger than ever.
The U.S. is ill informed about and underestimating Russia. Therein lies the possibility of serious miscalculations.
My hope for 2015 is that any miscalculations will be avoided and that peace will mostly prevail.
My very best wishes to all of you for a happy year 2015.
Wither The Media - Part XXXIV
A so called serious paper, The Guardian, has one of its assistant editor's exploring this rather difficult question: How has Bismarck escaped most of the blame for the first world war?
Before we leave the centenary year of the outbreak of war in 1914 there’s someone we should talk about. Everyone now knows about the famous Christmas truce and football matches. But this was a war that was meant to have been “over by Christmas” 1914, not dragging on for four blood-soaked years. Plenty share blame for that, but one major culprit who seems to have been conspicuous by his absence in 2014 deserves a name check: Otto von Bismarck.
Duh. Really - how could we not blame Bismark for World War I?
Maybe because he was fired as German Reichskanzler in March 1890, twenty-four years before World War I started? Maybe because he died in July 1898, sixteen years before World War I started? Maybe because politics and social development changed in a rapidly industrializing Germany during that time? Maybe because the actual rulers at that time, like a somewhat crazy German Kaiser - held back by Bismarck before he left -, were the main culprits for that war?
Is it any wonder that people like me stopped regularly reading the Guardian? A paper that is now oscillating between blatant "western" propaganda themes and the most silly yellow journalism?
Next in The Guardian: "How Michael Jackson's moonwalk cause the rise of the Nazis and World War II" plus a tearful lament on how "Reader Atrophy Drives Papers' Demise".
Obama Gambled, Lost U.S. Credibility On Cyber Claims
The Obama administration claims that North Korea was responsible for the Sony hack even though early analysis already pointed to an insider attack by a disgruntled former Sony employee.
The Obama claim is supported by some FBI mumble which includes a lot of conjecture but no real evidence. This FBI mumble, likely ordered by the White House, came after the FBI earlier said that it had no evidence, zero that is, which was pointing to North Korea.
Security expert Bruce Schneier called the evidence “circumstantial at best” and considered a number of other possible explanations. CloudFlare principal researcher and DefCon official Marc Rogers wrote that the FBI’s indicators seem to rely on malware that is widely available for purchase and IP addresses easily hijacked by any bad guy. Errata Security’s Robert Graham also noted the hacker underground shares plenty of code, calling the FBI’s evidence “nonsense.”
The above folks are some of the best in the information security business.
Security company Norse yesterday briefed the FBI on the results of its own investigation which clearly point to the insider responsible for the attack and to her helpers. But even after being briefed on real evidence the FBI is not taking back its false claim. Obama has publicly used the FBI subterfuge to blame North Korea and changing the story now would be too embarrassing for him.
It is for this reason that some anonymous "official" is now changing the story - again without any evidence - from "North Korea did it" to "North Korea hired someone who did it":
U.S. investigators believe that North Korea likely hired hackers from outside the country to help with last month's massive cyberattack against Sony Pictures, an official close to the investigation said on Monday.
This is even more laughable than the original claim.
The White House, likely the National Security Council under Susan Rice, screwed up on this issue. It wanted to pressure China by blaming its client North Korea for a hack which had only in media phantasies to do with that country. It ordered the FBI to come up with some "evidence" to support its attempts.
But attribution in cyberspace is a difficult if not hopeless issue and private researchers found indications in the real world that show that the alleged North Korean culpability is very unlikely.
It is not the first time that the U.S. is bringing itself into such an awkward position. The Politico story quoted above includes as second paragraph:
Even the unprecedented decision to release details of an ongoing FBI investigation and President Barack Obama publicly blaming the hermit authoritarian regime hasn’t quieted a chorus of well-qualified skeptics who say the evidence just doesn’t add up.
Pulling on the same comparison to the Saddam WMD claims we made Billmon reformulates that graph into:
Even the unprecedented decision to declassify details of Saddam's efforts to purchase Yellowcake Uranium ore and Secretary of State Colin Powell publicly blaming the crazed Iraqi dictator hasn’t quieted a chorus of well-qualified skeptics who say the evidence just doesn’t add up.
Hardly anyone serious will ever again believe the U.S. on Weapons of Mass Destruction claims after the Bush administration lied about WMDs in Iraq. Hardly anyone serious will ever again believe the U.S. on cyber attack claims after the Obama administration lied about the "Sony hack by North Korea".
This White House screw up has, as law professor Jack Goldsmith writes, important consequences (emph. add.):
If the FBI mis-attributed the Sony hack, it will be more than an embarrassing mistake. Such a mistake might have led the United States to take action against the wrong target, and going forward it will significantly weaken U.S. attribution credibility. Indeed, even if the FBI’s attribution turns out to be right – will we ever know for sure? – its hesitation in the face of credible questions about its very thin public evidence will exacerbate the demand for publicly verifiable attribution before countermeasures (or other responses) are deemed legitimate. In this small but significant sense, the United States has lost a battle in the early days of cyber conflict.
This was not even a "battle" as there was no "enemy", just a disgruntled former Sony employee and some hacker folks who do not like Sony's harsh anti-piracy policies.
Obama risked - for no good reason - and lost U.S. credibility on anything it might ever want to, rightly or not, claim about cyber.
Congress Leader Benjamin Netanyahoo
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham on who leads Congress:
Graham (R-S.C.), who is expected to take over as chairman of the Foreign Appropriations Subcommittee when the Republicans assume control of the Senate in January, met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Israeli capital on Saturday night.
Graham told Netanyahu that “the Congress will follow your lead” ...
Is it bribery or extortion that turns U.S. politicians into compliant fools?
N.Y.P.D. Officers Earn Disrespect - Except One Of Them
Officers of the world's seventh biggest army, the New York Police Department, defied their commander in chief, mayor de Blasio, by turning their back to him while he gave a funeral eulogy for one of them. de Blasio had earlier refrained from endorsing the killing of an unarmed black man by some N.Y.P.T. officers. Such racist murder by policemen is a regular occurrence in New York.
One officer though did not follow the sheeple.
Billmon rightly compares the picture above with this one. It was shot, I believe, in 1936 in Hamburg, Germany.
The story did not end well for the man in 1936. How will it end for the black N.Y.P.D. officer?
de Blasio should fire every officer that defied him. That likely would not even increase the number of criminals on New York's streets. They would only no longer wear a uniform.
Open Thread 2014-33
News & views ...
The old story associated with Bethlehem and commemorated by many these days is about hope.
Hope for more light and new beginnings, needed as much today than ever. Hope for walls to come down.
I wish you all some contemplative, hope- and peaceful holidays.
Picture courtesy of the Bethlehem Association
Sony Hack - Likely Inside Attacker Found - Obama Claim Discredited
The U.S. claims, with zero reliable evidence, that Sony was hacked by North Korea. The NYT editors believed that Weapon of Mass Destruction claim and called for action against North Korea. MoA, like others, seriously doubted the story the Obama regime told:
The tools to hack the company are well known and in the public domain. The company, Sony, had lousy internal network security and had been hacked before. The hackers probably had some inside knowledge. They used servers in Bolivia, China and South Korea to infiltrate. There is zero public evidence in the known that the hack was state sponsored.
Kurt Stammberger, a senior vice president with cybersecurity firm Norse, told CBS News his company has data that doubts some of the FBI's findings.
"Sony was not just hacked, this is a company that was essentially nuked from the inside," said Stammberger.
"We are very confident that this was not an attack master-minded by North Korea and that insiders were key to the implementation of one of the most devastating attacks in history," said Stammberger.
He says Norse data is pointing towards a woman who calls herself "Lena" and claims to be connected with the so-called "Guardians of Peace" hacking group. Norse believes it's identified this woman as someone who worked at Sony in Los Angeles for ten years until leaving the company this past May.
"This woman was in precisely the right position and had the deep technical background she would need to locate the specific servers that were compromised," Stammberger told me.
The piece also points out that the original demand by the hackers was for money and had nothing to do with an unfunny Sony movie that depicts the murder of the head of a nation state.
Attributing cyber-attacks, if possible at all, is a difficult process which usually ends with uncertain conclusions. Without further evidence it will often be wrong.
That a person has now be identified with the insider knowledge and possibly motive for the hack and without any connection to North Korea makes the Obama administration's claim of North Korean "guilt" even less reliable.
It now seems likely that Obama, to start a conflict with North Korea, just lied about the "evidence" like the Bush administration lied about "Saddam's WMD". The NYT editors were, in both cases, childishly gullible or complicit in the crime.
Open Thread 2014-32
News & views ...
Iraq: The Death Of The "Sunni National Guard" Idea
The U.S. wants to create a Sunni National Guard in Iraq. The prime minister of Iraq and the parliament, dominated by Shia, are slow walking that idea to death. They do not want to give weapons to the Sunni tribes. They suspect that these weapons would end up in the hands of Islamic State fighters and would be used against themselves. There are good reason to believe that this would indeed be the case.
In fact the Sunni revolt against the now Shia led state of Iraq never ended. U.S official propaganda pretended otherwise and declared the civil war over. It then blamed the former prime minister Maliki of alienating Sunnis. But such alienating went on in two directions. One also needs to consider what type of fighters those National Guard people would be. What would be their qualities in a fight against their brethren in the Islamic State?
This piece gives a not-so-positive impression:
Like many of the men here, Col. Hamdani — no direct relation to the general — wants the US to play a larger role in retaking Mosul, to commit more trainers and directly arm the Sunni fighters.
In the meantime, Hamdani says the men spend most of their day preparing for the eventual Mosul offensive.
“We do physical training every morning,” the Colonel said between drags on a cigarette. “We run for one kilometer, you know, about 30 minutes, then we do stretching for 15 minutes and then we rest.”
When asked what the men do for the remainder of the day, the colonel replied: “Weapons training.” But when asked to elaborate, he reluctantly explained that because until recently the men had no weapons, “for weapons training we just talk about the guns.”
These folks do not seem to be very enthusiastic. I can't blame them. They are sitting between all chairs.
But what is not going to help them is further U.S. involvement and the creation of a Sunni National Guard in Iraq against the will of the majority. What would be the endgame for them should the survive the fight and should the Islamic State be defeated?
Would the U.S. guarantee that there will be some autonomy for them? How? Would the Shia majority agree to that? Who found finance an autonomous federal Sunni entity within the state of Iraq?
These folks are screwed. Should they join some U.S. driven National Guard scheme they will get screwed even more. They should hunker down and wait for the whole storm to blow over them. Apparently that is exactly what they are doing.
Sony Hack - NYT Editors Find New Iraq WMD
A Japanese company with some offices in California was hacked. Several terrabytes of data were copied off its internal networks and some of it was put on file sharing sites. One of the items copied was a film produced in Canada that depicts as comedy the terror act of killing of a current head of state. The U.S. State Department applauded that movie scene. But there were tons of other data like social security numbers, payroll data, and internal emails stolen all of which that might have been the real target of the hackers.
The tools to hack the company are well known and in the public domain. The company, Sony, had lousy internal network security and had been hacked before. The hackers probably had some inside knowledge. They used servers in Bolivia, China and South Korea to infiltrate. There is zero public evidence in the known that the hack was state sponsored.
But the U.S. is claiming that the event is a "national security matter". Who's national security? Japan's? Canada's? Why? A private Japanese entertainment(!) company left the doors open and had some equipment vandalized and some of its private property stolen. Why, again, is that of U.S. "national interest"? Why would the U.S. even consider some "proportional response"?
The White House is anonymously accusing the state of North Korea of having done the hack. It provides no evidence to support that claim and the government of North Korea denied any involvement. The FBI and Sony say they have no evidence for such a claim.
Still the New York Times editors eat it all up:
North Korean hackers, seeking revenge for the movie, stole millions of documents, including emails, health records and financial information that they dished out to the world.
How do the editors know that these were "North Korean hackers"? The same way the knew about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction? Make believe and anonymous claims by U.S. government officials? Yeah - those folks never lie. Right?
Washington Making Nice With Havana - Cubans Beware
So Cuba and the United States are making nice?
In a move to wipe away one of the Cold War's last vestiges, President Barack Obama will launch negotiations with Cuba on resuming full diplomatic relations five decades after they broke off, a U.S. official told Yahoo News on Wednesday. Obama's decision comes after Cuba freed U.S. aid contractor Alan Gross.
The U.S. will free the last three of the Cuban Five while Cuba also released an unknown U.S. "asset".
Alan Gross was a contractor for U.S. Aid on a clandestine mission to, allegedly, distribute secret satellite telephones to circumvent Cuba's control of its electromagnetic spectrum.
It is interesting that this news comes the very same day as the head of U.S.Aid, Raj Shah, was fired. Was his firing a condition the Cuban's made for the prisoner exchange?
Shah spoke to us Tuesday night, but gave very little insight into why he was leaving now other than the oft-cited government official reason that after six years working in the Obama administration he wanted to spend time with his family.
Shah had to go after several stupid clandestine attempts by U.S. Aid, the Alan Gross scheme, creating a fake Cuban Twitter, holding fake HIV prevention seminars and infiltrating Cuba's hip hop scene, to undermine Cuba's political system.
But should indeed a U.S. embassy return to Havana that job will fall again to the CIA. Cuba should be very worried about that. The only reason why the U.S. government has never fallen to a CIA coup is the lack of a U.S. embassy in Washington DC.
There is no reason for Cuba to trust the U.S. and it should be very careful about opening the country. It is not only the U.S. Aid meddling or the Cuban missile crisis, (which eliminated U.S. nuclear weapons in Turkey pointing at Moscow), that give reason for caution, but also the various other attack plans and assassination attempts against Cuban leaders. There are also all the recent "regime operations" the U.S. ran and runs in Ukraine, Libya, Syria, Hongkong and elsewhere. Whatever it may say publicly the U.S. will certainly continue to undermine Cuba's socialist system and to press for "regime change".
Cubans should recognize that any embrace by the U.S. is at least suffocating if not deadly for their self-determination.
Torture And Exceptionalism
By an almost 2-1 margin, or 59-to-31 percent, those interviewed support the CIA’s brutal methods, with the vast majority of supporters saying they produced valuable intelligence.
In general, 58 percent say the torture of suspected terrorists can be justified “often” or “sometimes.”
Is any European politician still talking about the "common values" Europe and the U.S. are alleged to have?
Do the people of the United States understand the logic of their thinking?
Or is it just the usual "exceptionalism" Obama professes to believe in?
Cordesman warns of the Strategic Cost of Torture, Racism, and Bigotry but he only points to Asia and the Middle East as areas where the view of the U.S. is in trouble. I believe (or maybe just hope?) that the U.S. support for torture, support only as long as the U.S. does it, will move it further away from Europe.Torture And Exceptionalism
When #Sydneysiege Happened in Syria
The Abbott regime sent its heavily armed regime forces and shabiha to storm a beloved chocolatey place where a moderate anti-Abbott rebel was protecting peaceful protesters.
Standing under a dark version of the flag of Saudi Arabia the protesters had presented (vid) simple and reasonable demands. Instead of agreeing to step down or to at least to offer a compromise Abbott coldly rejected all of them.
Why didn't Obama provide them with weapons to defend themselves?
Another Overview Of The Situation In Syria
The U.S. has given up on the Fee Syrian Army in the north of Syria:
The United States has stopped paying most of the pro-western rebels fighting in northern Syria and has suspended the delivery of arms to them, rebel commanders told McClatchy Tuesday.
Some of the FSA mercenaries, now no longer getting paid, are joining jihadi groups:
As many as 800 to 1,000 fighters from U.S.-vetted rebel groups already have joined Nusra, ...
The stop of support in the north is confirmed by additional reports. That this is likely real can also be seen in the number of arms video posted. The U.S. gave TOW anti-tank missiles to the mercenaries but demanded video uploads to prove their use. Eliot Higgins, though not always trustworthy, counted these numbers:
TOW videos posted by the opposition by month Apr 9 May 16 Jun 16 Jul 37 Aug 35 Sep 44 Oct 58 Nov 26 Dec 3
The U.S. is still paying for some small FSA groups within Aleppo city but these are now surrounded by the Syrian Arab Army and unlikely to be able to hold their positions. Their hold of Aleppo city is politically symbolic and therefore something the U.S. wants them to keep. It is the reason why the UN envoy is trying to negotiate a ceasefire for Aleppo. Syria and Russia are playing along but Aleppo will likely be completely in government hands before any ceasefire is reached.
It is also noteworthy that some "western" media are no longer friendly with the FSA and that its atrocities are now finally "news": Syrian rebel 'hell cannons' kill 300 civilians: monitoring group
The "rebel" position in the south, supported by the U.S. through Jordan and Israel, is different. There Jabhat al-Nusra is leading a southern attack directed against Damascus disguised under the FSA mantle:
As part of the attempt to surround Damascus, al-Nusra Front was able to continue a simultaneous offensive to the south of the capital. The offensive led to significant advances in Dara’a province, including the taking of the government’s military base in Dara’a city. Because Dara’a borders directly on Damascus province (Rif Dimashq), these advances set up a future offensive into Damascus proper.
The official FSA mercenaries in the south have announced another alliance but this one. like many of the older ones, will fail. The U.S. knows that al-Nusra, al-Qaeda in Syria, is the dominant force in the south and is, unlike in the north, supporting these al-Qaeda affiliates. Colonel Pat Lang remarked
I have been told that the nearly complete collapse of the unicorn army of FSA moderates has caused the US to covertly approach Nusra with a proposal to offer support if Nusra will scale back its IS-like habit of butchering its enemies when they are captured. That would include a more tolerant attitude toward US journalists.
A leopard does not change its spots and Nusra does not stop its beheadings. A video from Sheik Miskeen, a town halfway between Jordan and Damascus which is currently the center of fight in the south, shows dead Syrian soldiers who were beheaded after Nusra, with the help two large suicide vehicle bombs, captured a military housing area.
U.S. support for the Nusra attack in the south is directed by the CIA in Jordan. But the training program in Jordan and the support may also stop soon as the money for these programs is running out. Congress at least no longer supports these "adventures":
As Congress struggles to pass a bill to fund the government for the rest of the year, one curious and significant item was left on the cutting room floor: a request from the Barack Obama administration for $300 million to expand the secret CIA program to arm the “moderate” Syrian rebels.
I expect that the attacks in the south will soon run out of steam. The U.S. knows that its side in the war, the Fee Syrian Army as well as Jabhat al-Nusra, can not win:
In a grim assessment of the U.S.-backed Syrian rebels, a senior State Department official said on Wednesday that the country’s armed opposition will not be able to topple the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad now or in the foreseeable future, despite the existence of a Pentagon program to train and equip 5,000 rebels per year.
The Pentagon is deliberately walking very slow with that train and equip program. It may well end before it achieves any results.
The only enemies left to fight for the Syrian Arab Army are remnants of the FSA/Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State.
The Islamic State has achieved nothing in its campaign on the Kurdish enclave Kobane. The Kurds are holding their positions and while it is sad that the city gets destroyed through the fighting the Islamic State is losing lots of materials and people. The U.S., which is supporting the Kurds in Kobane with a few air attacks, wants to keep it that way. Kobane is used to destroy wave after wave of Islamic State attack groups and to exhaust its reserves. The Islamic State has looked for new targets in east Syria and decided to attack the military airport in Deir Ezzor, held by the Syrian army. Several waves of attacks with suicide bombers and lots of IS infantry have had no success there. Deir Ezzor is well supplied and well defended and will be another point where IS is using up its reserves.
The U.S. has given up on the attacks in north Syria. In the south its support for Jabhat al-Nusra is indefensible on political and moral grounds. It will have to stop before it attracts more public scrutiny. Otherwise some Republicans in Congress may find that direct support for al-Qaeda by the Obama administration is an impeachable offense.
Soon the Islamic State will be the only significant threat left to fight in Syria. But the Islamic State is loosing large parts of its energy (and money) due to heavy losses in fights on several fronts. It is still a serious enemy and may achieve this or that surprise. But I doubt that it is an existential threat to the Syrian government and the Syrian people.
Open Thread 2014-31
News & views ...
Obama Asks Congress For Unlimed War Authority
In August 2046, after three years of space travel, thirteen divisions of U.S. Marines landed on Mars to fight remnants of the Islamic State who recently started to spread through the colonies there. Confronted with protests over the costly measure the president pointed out that the U.S. Congress Resolution for Unlimited War, adopted in February 2015, gives him the sole authority to determine the location, size of force and length of the war against ISIS.
The above may sound a little crazy but it definitely could happen should Congress provide Obama with the authorization he is now asking for:
Secretary of State John Kerry urged Congress on Tuesday not to preclude the use of ground forces to fight the Islamic State as lawmakers consider setting limits on the nature and extent of American involvement in the military campaign against the group.
Mr. Kerry said that any congressional resolution should not impose geographic limitations, reasoning that the Islamic State might try to attack American forces or facilities outside of Iraq and Syria.
Mr. Kerry said that a three-year time limit would be acceptable, as proposed by Senator Robert Menendez, the New Jersey Democrat who is chairman of the committee. But Mr. Kerry said the resolution should include a provision that would allow that time limit to be extended.
No limit of the size and type of application of force, no geographically limit, no real time limit. Obama is asking Congress to permit him to wage completely unlimited war.
The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) given by Congress on September 14 2001 was arguably more limited than the authorization Obama is now asking for. That AUMF has been and still is abused by Bush and Obama to bomb or invade 7 or 8 countries, to torture and kill. Obama uses it to justify his killing of more than 3,000 mostly unknown people through drone strikes.
With the new unlimited war authority (and as usually ignoring international law) Obama and any future president could turn the full U.S. military might onto any place where some crazy dude waves an ISIS flag.
Congress should not give such an authorization. But think of the tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars that can be made by the military-industrial complex should Congress authorize unlimited war. Think of the many millions which will flow back to representatives, senators and their families and friends.
Is there any reason to believe that Congress will not give Obama exactly what he is asking for?
Is there any reason to believe that Obama and his successors will not abuse such an authorization?
The U.S. Is Still Committed To Torture
The Senate Intelligence Committee torture report (pdf) is out. I do not expect anything really new in it. We already know that the CIA torturers as well as their political bosses were sadists.
The report is a whitewash in that it does not point out the legal and political culprits who ordered, justified and committed the torture acts. The report is also limited to the CIA and does not include the military which, as we know, also used torture and killed people in "interrogations". The U.S. is bound by law to prosecute all of them from top to bottom but it is unlikely to happen. Only one person from the CIA went to prison over the torture program. This not for committing torture but for revealing it.
Torture is useless, especially for interrogations, because people under torture will say anything to make the pain stop. But that very simple and often proven conclusion should to be easy to understand.
But the U.S. is still not committed to refrain from torture. The Army Field Manual 2 22.3. Appendix M is still in force and it allows "interrogation technics" which the UN’s Committee against Torture says (PDF) amount to torture. The White House is also still believing that using torture abroad is not covert by the UN Convention Against Torture and thereby permissible.
This, together with Appendix M, lets me assume that the U.S. is still torturing people abroad. Why else would it keep those legal holes open?
Yemen: Did U.S. Surveil Hostage Negotiators To Hit Hostage Takers?
More questions arise about the recless U.S. rescue attempt in Yemen that killed a nearly free hostage as well as at least nine others.
The U.S. claimed it was trying to free Luke Somer because AlQaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a mixture of tribal Yemeni and Jihadis, threatened to kill him.
But the anonymous U.S. officials and the media neglect to explain that AQAP had so far never killed a foreign hostage. It made a threat to kill Luke Somer only after an earlier botched U.S. raid on November 25. That raid ironically freed seven AlQaeda fighters held by their own group under suspicion of being spies. The parents of Luke Somer do not believe that AQAP would have carried through with its threat to kill Somer:
Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAB) posted a video online on Thursday, threatening to kill the American citizen within three days but his stepmother Penny Bearman and half-sister Lucy Somers indicated they still had hope because previous threats had not been carried out.
Bearman, 55, of Deal, Kent, told the Times they were “quite angry because if there had not been a rescue attempt he would still be alive”.
“We are sure Luke would have given support to the ongoing discussions [to secure his release] in Yemen rather than the conflict approach. There had been threats before that had not been carried out,” she said.
A second foreign hostage, Pierre Korkie, was killed in the recent rescue attempt. Eight Yemeni civilians were also killed. Korkie was supposed to be freed the very same day due to a ransom payment. There have long been negotiations between the hostage takers and the charity Gift of the Givers that employed Korkie. The U.S. now claims it was unaware of negotiations for his imminent release. That does not sound plausible to me. The NSA is certainly listening to every call in Yemen that might be of interest.
Iona Craig, a journalist in Yemen who knew Korkie, does not believe this either:
"US didn't know about talks on freeing S.African killed in Yemen raid" - Blatant lie. Most widely publicised talks in history of kidnapping
There is another data point that makes me believe that the U.S. not only did know about the negotiations and that Korkie was about to be freed but that it used this information to carry out the raid itself.
A NYT report describes the long negotiations between the charity and the hostage takers:
After months of silence, Gift of the Givers had a breakthrough in August, when tribal leaders sent a delegation, acting on behalf of the charity, into the remote badlands. The assembled Qaeda fighters took a vote on reducing the ransom, and half the jihadists voted “yes” while half voted “no,” Mr. Sooliman said. In October, the abductors said that they would accept $700,000. The family, which had already said it could not afford $3 million, still did not have enough money.
In November, the tribal leaders went back to meet with Qaeda members. The car was hit by a drone strike, killing the mediators, according to Mr. Sooliman. “We thought it was over,” he said.
But that tragedy appears to have spurred Al Qaeda to agree to a lower sum, which it promised to use in part to reimburse families of the dead tribal negotiators. On Nov. 26, Mr. Korkie’s abductors sent word they would accept $200,000, to be split with the tribe members.
By Saturday, the money raised by Mrs. Korkie from friends and other donors had been delivered to Yemen. The cars were preparing to leave.
In November a U.S. drone hit tribal mediators who were trying to get Korkie freed. How did the U.S. know about these mediators if not by listening to their communication? In early December the cars are ready to leave to finally free Korkie and the U.S. military hits again at the very same moment.
It is not plausible with all the national and international communication going on between the charity, the parents of the hostage, the mediators and the hostage takers that the U.S. was unaware of all this.
In November it hit the mediators with a drone when they were going to meet the hostage takers. This time it hit the hostages right when the mediators were taking off to meet them. At least ten innocent people were killed with this last raid.
The U.S. has some explaining to do. How did it detect the hostage takers if not by following the mediators communications? Why did it decide to do those two raids on November 25 and December 6 when there was, at least at the first date, no imminent threat to the civilian hostages lives? What was the real purpose and target of these military attacks?There are still rumors that AQAP nabbed a U.S. "trainer" during a raid on Al Anad airbase in November. Was that captured U.S. soldier the real target of the failed raids? Or what about the Marine Travis Barton AQAP claims to have captured during Saturday's raid?
Israel's Continuing War On Syria
Today Israeli jets attacked some Syrian military positions near Damascus. Details are yet unknown. But it is important to note that these are not one-off attacks but part for an ongoing active campaign Israel is waging against Syria mostly though through proxy "insurgent" forces.
Three days ago the UN General Secretary received a report from the UN Observer Mission mission on the Golan Heights (UNDOF). The report was an indictment of Israel for its strong cooperation with Syrian insurgents including the Syrian al-Qaeda group Jabhat al-Nusra.
For readers of MoA the extensive support by Israel of Jabhat al-Nusra and others against the Syrian army, including with direct artillery fire against Syrian government troops, is not news. But the main-stream media had so far lacked any reporting on it.
Today the Israeli paper Haaretz is the first to publish about the UN report but it does so very toned done and lacking significant details:
Reports by UN observers in the Golan Heights over the past 18 months reveal the type and extent of cooperation between Israel and Syrian opposition figures.
According to the report, UN observers stated that tents were set up about 300 meters from the Israeli position for some 70 families of Syrian deserters. The Syrian army sent a letter of complaint to UNDOF in September, claiming this tent camp was a base for “armed terrorists” crossing the border into Israel.
While Haaretz notes some medical support for wounded insurgent fighters it Israel in does not reveal that the numbers are in the hundreds.
Haaretz notes the "refugee" camp that has been set up near Al Aishah village in Syria some 300 meter from Israeli positions but it omits that the UN confirmed the Syrian claim that these are camps of active insurgents. UNDOF notes:
UNDOF estimates that from 60 to 70 families live in the camps. On 23 September, [UNDOF-]position 80 observed armed individuals gathered in Al Aishah village unloading weapons from a truck. Some individuals were in civilian attire and others in camouflage uniforms. A vehicle with a mounted anti-aircraft gun was observed in proximity to the place of unloading.
On 27 October, position 80 observed two IDF soldiers east of the technical fence returning from the direction of the Alpha line towards the technical fence. UNDOF observed IDF opening the technical fence gate and letting two individuals pass from the [Syrian] Bravo to the [Israeli] Alpha side. Following the evacuation of UNDOF personnel from position 85 on 28 August, UNDOF sporadically observed armed members of the opposition interacting with IDF across the ceasefire line in the vicinity of United Nations position 85.
The UNDOF observers had to retreat from some of their positions on the Syrian side after being attacked by Nusra and other insurgents. They are now limited in their abilities to observe the various exchanges between Israeli soldiers and the insurgents. To achieve that was likely the purpose of their earlier attacks on UN troops.
Today's attack near Damascus will hardly change the course of the war. It is probably just a political move by the outgoing Israeli prime minister Netanyahoo using Syria as a "punching bag" to divert from his interior political misfortune. It is time for Syria and its allied forces to demonstrate to Netanyahoo and Israel that any further attacks by it will have dire consequences.
A Reckless U.S. Rescue Attempt Kills Nearly Free Hostage
On November 26 U.S. special forces attempted a hostage rescue in Yemen. The circumstances remained murky with some reports claiming that besides some other people a U.S. soldier nabbed a bit earlier was freed.
After the November event AlQaeda in Yemen, a mixture of tribal groups and some Jihadis, said that it would kill its hostages should another such rescue attempt be made.
Yesterday another special force operation was launched. Supported by Apache helicopters ground troops attacked a compound in southern Yemen. But the operation went wrong. Hostages were killed as were allegedly AlQaeda members. Yemeni sources claim that some Yemeni civilians were also killed.
President Obama released a statement blaming AlQaeda for "the barbaric murder of Luke Somers", a U.S. freelance photographer and hostage killed in the event. But Obama does not, not even with one word, mentions the other hostage, Pierre Korkie a South African teacher working for the charity Gift of the Givers, who was also killed. As the charity explains:
The psychological and emotional devastation to Yolande and her family will be compounded by the knowledge that Pierre was to be released by Al Qaeda tomorrow. A team of Abyan leaders met in Aden this morning and were preparing the final security and logistical arrangements, related to hostage release mechanisms, to bring Pierre to safety and freedom. It is even more tragic that the words we used in a conversation with Yolande at 5.59 this morning was "the wait is almost over". Three days ago we told her "Pierre will be home for Christmas". We certainly did not mean it in the manner it has unfolded. All logistical arrangements were in place to safely fly Pierre out of Yemen under diplomatic cover, then to meet with family members in a "safe" country, fly to South Africa, and directly to hospital for total medical evaluation and appropriate intervention.
If the U.S. knew that Pierre Korkie was about to be released the hostage rescue attempt was utterly reckless. Why not wait a day for him to be freed without any additional risks?
If the U.S. did not know that Pierre Korkie was to be released tomorrow this can only be called a major failure in intelligence and coordination.
Either way I find it unexplainable that Obama in his statement has not even have one word on Pierre Korkie. A person that would likely not have died without the interference of U.S. forces.
With such obfuscation, like in the earlier rescue attempt, one wonders who really committed the "barbaric murder" of the hostage.
The U.S. military has now given AP its first spin version of the raid. (Remember that at least three versions were given for the Bin Laden raid so do not expect the current story to be nothing but the truth.)
About 40 U.S. special operations forces were part of the mission, according to the U.S. officials. The rescuers, backed by Yemeni ground forces, got within 100 meters of the compound in southern Shabwa province when they were spotted by the militants, and the skirmish ensued.
The operation began before dawn Saturday in a province that is a stronghold of al-Qaida's branch in Yemen. U.S. drones struck first the Wadi Abdan area first, followed by strafing runs by jets before Yemeni ground forces moved in, a Yemeni security official said. Helicopters flew in more forces to raid the house where the two men were held, he said.
At least nine al-Qaida militants were killed in an initial drone strike, another security official said.
Drones, jets, helicopters - that all sounds like a very noisy arrival.
But the real question to me is this. The charity folks were certain that they would get their South African guy out save by tomorrow. But waiting for that could have possible jeopardized the life of the U.S. journalist. Proceeding with the raid would endanger both lives plus the lives of the operators and "collateral" persons. Was there a decision made to prefer the rescue of the U.S. citizen over the life and freedom of the South African citizen? Who made that decision?
The Death Of TNR Is Well Deserved
Since my first contact with TNR writing in the 1990s I have never experienced TNR as "liberal". It was a racist neocon rag written by overvalued white men who liked to hear themselves, and only themselves, talking. They reliably endorsed the worst possible policy on offer.
Now would someone please take down the Washington Post or rebirth it as a somewhat serious newspaper?
White House (Ab)Uses Ferguson To Promote More Surveillance
The recent killing of a young black man by a police officer in Ferguson has led to amazing new opportunities. The White House is eager to promote new initiatives like this one in New York:
Beginning Wednesday, the pilot program will test different cameras on 60 officers from six precincts.
Engineers in the new Utah datacenter run by the National Security Agency have prepared special stream collection servers to provide realtime processing of the new videofeeds. Automatic numberplate and face recognition together with GPS data will be used to create data records for future analysis. "We are usually not allowed to collect or use such data of American persons," a NSA spokesperson said. "But this is simply legal administrative assistance for the FBI and the local police," the spokesperson added. "We are just a bit further along with this than they are."
On the fly comparison of the video data with existing databases will allow to alert the policemen of searched-for automobiles. The cameras will also make make discrete noise should the officer approach persons who have their face-features stored in the national deviating person database. An additional feature utilizing Google glass and yet to be tested will provide the policemen with the name, date of birth and additional data like medical records of each person in their field of view.
Some of the video streams will be shared with the public. FOXNews signed a sponsoring contract with the NYPD that will allow it to exclusively use the streams. "Just imagine the possibilities," Mr. V. O. Yeur, FOXnews vice president for business development, explained. "We will have the most goring night-programs from these feeds. Live and for nearly zero cost. Car accidents, marriage fights, murders each and every night - all without expansive additional equipment and personal in the street. The advertisers and shareholders will love this."
Asked about possible problems with the anonymity of people not wanting to be recognized on camera V.O Yeur replied: "There is absolutely no problem with this. The viewers will never be able to see the recording policemen in those feeds and they will never learn their names. These exiting new programs will be broadcasted while offering the officers complete anonymity."
Open Thread 2014-30
Not in the mood to write. Please entertain yourself but keep it civil.
Use as open thread.
Open Thread 2014-29News & views ...
Obama Falsely Claims Human Rights Law Does Not Apply To Syrian Mercenary Training
Buried down in a report about Pentagon plans to train more mercenaries to fight against Syria we find this declaration of intend by the Obama administration to (again) break the law:
The military screening plan came together after the Obama administration determined that the training program for the Syrians would not be subject to what are known as the Leahy laws, which typically govern U.S. security assistance to foreign forces.
Under those laws, a small office at the State Department works with U.S. embassies overseas to ensure that recipients of State or Defense Department security assistance aren’t linked to major human rights abuses.
Because the Syrian rebels will not be part of a state-sponsored force, the laws will not apply, U.S. officials said.
Wait a second. The U.S. congress has set aside $500 million to train, equip and pay these fighters. The U.S. military will do the training. And the Obama administration claims that these are not "state-sponsored forces"? Is the U.S. no longer a nation state?
Besides that the Leahy law as codified for the Pentagon in Section 8057 of the 2014 Omnibus bill does not say anything about "state-sponsored forces":
AP: U.S. Mercenaries Working With Al-Qaeda No Scandal - Just A "Difficulty"
Moon of Alabama September 15 2014:
There are serious active preparations for a new attack on Damascus. Anti-government forces, including the Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, have been trained and equipped in Jordan and are now moving into their starting position in Quneitra governate in south-west Syria.
The rather empty Quneitra area makes little sense to conquer except to be used as a launching pad for an attack from the south towards Damascus. The distance to the capital is only some 40 miles (60km). While two Syrian army divisions are stationed between Quneitra governate and Damascus coordinated air attacks against them could open and secure a route from Quneitra governate into the capital. Recent truce agreements between the U.S. supported Syrian Revolutionary Front and ISIS in the area south of Damascus may have been concluded with these attack plans in mind.
Associated Press November 28 2014:
Syrian rebels backed by the United States are making their biggest gains yet south of the capital Damascus, capturing a string of towns from government forces and aiming to carve out a swath of territory leading to the doorstep of President Bashar Assad's seat of power.
The rebel forces are believed to include fighters who graduated from a nearly 2-year-old CIA training program based in Syria's southern neighbor Jordan.
Notably, in the south, the rebels are working together with fighters from al-Qaida's Syria branch, whose battle-hardened militants have helped them gain the momentum against government forces. The cooperation points to the difficulty in American efforts to build up "moderate" factions while isolating militants.
Ten weeks behind Moon of Alabama the Associated Press is recognizing the southern attack on Damascus. They get paid for (not) reporting, I don't.
But notice the last graph I copied and the last sentence in it. U.S. trained, supplied and supported mercenaries are openly cooperating with Jabhat al-Nusra which is al-Qaida's Syria branch. This is not a "conspiracy theory" of some nutcase but official AP reporting.
The people accused of bringing down the world trade center on 9/11 are openly working with U.S. (proxy) forces. And what does AP make of this? The cooperation points to the difficulty in American efforts to build up "moderate" factions while isolating militants.
Ah - no. This is no difficulty in the effort. It is a huge scandal. The U.S. could simply tell its mercenaries (many of whom I believe are disguised al-Nusra followers) to stop cooperating with al-Nusra. It has all the leverage over these guys than one can possibly have. It provides them with money, weapons and ammunition. Their families are cared for in Jordan and anyone wounded during fighting will be taken to a hospital in Jordan or Israel. If the U.S. did not want these guys to partner with al-Nusra it would not provide for them.
I find it quite astonishing that there is not any critical reporting in the Main Stream Media about this quite direct U.S. cooperation with al-Qaeda. It is nearly certain that this cooperation with al-Qaeda will, in two, five or ten years, come back to bite the U.S. in its ass. It will hurt U.S. people.
But that by now seems to be not a bug but a feature. The "fear business" James Risen talks about is now driving billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars per year into a few private hands. Another 9/11 like event every few years will keep that business going. Letting al-Nusra get experience with U.S. tactics and weapons can only help to further that.
But that's just another "conspiracy theory" featured on MoA.
How long will it take AP to report it as official news?
Obama Regime Thugs Kill American Citizens
In Ferguson Obama regime thugs and shabiha beat up and shoot peaceful protesters. The regime even uses soldiers, SOLDIERS, against its own citizens. In Cleveland the regime kills (video) a twelve year old boy in cold blood. The kid wasn't even protesting but just playing around in a park. Why is Obama killing children?
How long will the international community allow this illegitimate regime to continue its war against its own people?
Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.): "Syrian, Iraqi Soldiers Are Klingons"
The Hill reports: US in talks over Arab boots on the ground
The U.S. and allies are discussing the possibility of deploying ground forces from Arab nations to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), according to a top Republican lawmaker on the House Armed Services Committee.
"At the current time there are no Arab-country forces on the ground in either Iraq or Syria. There are discussions on how to do that but right now it's the Kurds or the Peshmerga that are fighting," said Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) in an interview Tuesday with The Hill.
Wittman said military commanders told him the air campaign is indeed degrading ISIS's capability but that there is a need for more boots on the ground, though not necessarily U.S. forces.
Wittman wants to deploy Jordanian soldiers in Iraq and Syria. He apparently believes that Jordan is an Arab country while Iraq and Syria are, in his mind, not Arab countries. In his view Iraqi and Syrian troops, who have been fighting the Islamic State and other Jihadists daily for several years now, do not wear "Arab boots". He likely believes that those soldiers are Klingons or some other alien form of life.
Who elects such idiots?
A Rescue Raid In Yemen That Might Not Have Happened
As we recently wrote about Yemen:
The state of Yemen was destroyed by the clueless U.S. sponsored interventions. The Islamic State might get destroyed the same way. But the outcome will not be a new order but, like in Yemen, utter chaos and bloody anarchy.
The chaos and anarchy was added to yesterday, according to the NYT, by a U.S. special force raid somewhere in Yemen:
In a predawn raid on Tuesday, United States Special Operations commandos and Yemeni troops rescued eight hostages being held in a cave in a remote part of eastern Yemen by Al Qaeda’s affiliate there, officials from both countries said.
The freed captives were six Yemeni citizens, a Saudi and an Ethiopian, who were unharmed, Yemeni officials said in a statement. Earlier reports that an American hostage was freed were incorrect, according to Yemeni and American officials.
About two dozen United States commandos, joined by a small number of American-trained Yemeni counterterrorism troops flew secretly by helicopter to a location in Hadhramaut Province near the Saudi border, according to American and Yemeni officials. The commandos then hiked some distance in the dark to a mountainside cave, where they surprised the militants holding the captives.
So why did U.S. special force raid some hostage takers if none of the hostages is American? The Saudi freed may have been the Saudi deputy consul to Yemen who was captured two years ago. But I find it unlikely that the U.S. would risk boots on the ground in Yemen to free a minor Saudi diplomat.
Rumor has had it for a few month that a U.S. marine had been taken hostage by the local al-Qaeda affiliate in Yemen. Yesterday's raid may seem to confirm this. But the news about it still much too uncertain to know this.
The BBC says the raid was in the Hajr al-Sayar district of Hadramaut governate. But local lawyer Haykal Bafana finds problems with a raid in Hajr al-Sayar described as in a "remote area" and a rescue from a "cave":
State Department Changes Rhetoric On Civilian Casualties In Syria
The Syrian air-force attacked some Islamic State targets in the eastern Syrian city Raqqa. Many were killed and wounded including civilians.
During the last years the U.S. government would condemn and comment such an attacks as "Assad is killing his own people".
That has changed. The US State Department Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) commented on Twitter on the air-raid on Raqqa:
So instead of a demagogic "Assad kills his own people" State CSO now comments "civilians caught in the crossfire".
That quote demonstrates a remarkable change in the State Department's position. Unsurprisingly supporters of the Jihadists and mercenaries fighting the Syrian people were quite enraged about that comment calling it a "new low".
That "new low" change in rhetoric may have come because the air raids by the U.S. air force on Jihadists in Syria also cause civilian death. Or it may be the expression of a genuine change in the position towards the Syrian government. We can not yet tell how far this may go.
How will the State Department now comment when Jabhat al-Nusra, the Islamic State or U.S. supported mercenaries kill civilians during their attacks on the Syrian government? Will those also be "caught in the crossfire"?
When the State Department condemns those civilian death in stronger words than those killed during government action then a genuine, not just rhetoric, change of positions will have occurred.
Hagel Firing Points To More War
Yesterday U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice fired Defense Secretary Hagel. It was a huge mistake for President Obama to agree to that move. There are many foreign policy problems the White House created for itself. None of those are the fault of Hagel but nearly all of them can be traced back to Susan Rice herself and her surreal management style:
Earlier this year, the decision on how many U.S. troops would remain in Afghanistan in 2015 was the subject of 14 meetings of NSC deputies, four gatherings involving Cabinet secretaries and other NSC “principals,” and two NSC sessions with the president, according to a former senior administration official.
The consequence of those meetings was to pare back the military’s request by just 700 troops — from 10,500 to 9,800.
After Obama and Rice, against earlier promises, secretly extend U.S. combat in Afghanistan, the number decided after 20 NSC meetings is already again up in the air and likely to increase. Such decision making exemplifies mismanagement by Susan Rice, not by Hagel.
Rice wanted Hagel fired because she was pissed when Hagel called her out on the chaotic non-policy she developed against the Islamic State and with regard to Syria. As a realist he knows that the U.S. will need the Syrian army under President Assad to push the Islamic State back into the underground. Against the advice of the military Rice, a "liberal interventionist", insists on ousting Assad.
The neocons, including the writers on Fred Hiatt's funny pages in the Washington Post, want Michèle Flournoy as replacement. She is a COIN propagandist who argued for both surges, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both surges as well as COIN failed to deliver what Flournoy and others promised.
Adding more incompetence to the U.S. foreign policy process as a Flournoy nomination would assure will not promote world peace but more war.
Extended U.S. Iran Talks Likely To Fail Again
The recent negotiations over limits of Iran's civilian nuclear program were unsuccessful. But instead of coming to that conclusions all parties agreed to prolong the deadline for another seven month. In fact two new deadlines were introduced. One in four month to reach a framework agreement and one in seven month to reach a complete understanding. The first deadline is very fuzzy as a "framework agreement" could be just anything. The second deadline is likely one that will not see any further extension.
The open points at the end of this negotiation round were the same as at its beginning. What maximum numbers of centrifuges would Iran be able to use? What is the timeline for lifting sanctions? How long is the whole agreement to run?
The first point, number of centrifuges, is irrelevant. The whole concept, introduced by the U.S., of a "possible breakout time for Iran to get material for one bomb" is nuts. If Iran would be interested in nuclear weapons it would produce those in secret and in numbers that would make them a viable deterrence. The difference between five thousand or fifty thousand centrifuges running under IAEA supervision would not influence that.
The timeline for lifting sanctions could also be simple. As soon as Iran fulfills x% of the agreed upon steps x% of the sanctions should be lifted. Some U.S. sanction are related to other than the "nuclear Iran" issues and can only be lifted by the U.S. congress. Those would likely stay in place but could be reduced in their effects by executive orders.
The timeline for the whole agreement is something that is also easy to do. Iran offers a three or five year limit, the U.S. wants a double digit number of years, the compromise is right in the middle.
All this is easy and could have been done in a 30 minutes phone call. That the last days of negotiations in Vienna, with seven foreign ministers in attendance, could not reach a simple solution is likely because one side does not want one. I am sure that Iran wants a reasonable agreement. I am also quite sure that the U.S. is the blocking side. It wants to keep sanctions as future pressure points even as Iran agrees to limit its nuclear capabilities.
The U.S. needs Iran to solve conflicts in Iraq, in Syria and elsewhere. But that need is not yet urgent enough to allow for some sensible position change in the general attitude towards Iran and its interests. Only if the U.S. faces more pressure from its deteriorating position in the Middle East is a change of mind in Washington likely. The seven month extension of the talks is too short to allow for that. I therefore find it likely that the next talks and the whole negotiation round will fail (again) and that the cooked up conflict will prevail.
Haykal Bafana on Yemen, Three Years On
Some recent tweets, storified here, by Haykal Bafana, a Yemeni lawyer in Sanaa:
Way too quiet in #Yemen's political, news, rhetoric, propaganda & social media circles for the last 5-6 days. I'm not sure if that's good.
Key danger points in #Yemen now : Draft constitution, GPC internal strife, Houthi expansion to Marib, 3 year mark of 23 Nov 2011 GCC Deal.
We have a president, ministers, all that state-like jazz. But there is no government in power right now in the republic of #Yemen.
23 Nov 2011 3 years ago, the UN-managed GCC Deal suspended #Yemen's constitution, granted immunity to Saleh & began fucking up Yemeni lives.
For 3 years, #Yemen has had to put with diplomats talking rubbish, doing nonsense & lurching cluelessly from one disaster to another.
Diplomats who suspended #Yemen's Constitution & threw a 1-candidate election now draft a new constitution for Yemenis. In Abu Dhabi.
The same cabal of diplomats witlessly restructured #Yemen's armed forces while not realizing they were causing its disintegration.
Then the very same diplomats were surprised when Houthi militia and AQAP started to rampage all over #Yemen & the disintegrated Army.
3 years ago today, on 23 November 2011, the problems were much simpler in #Yemen.
3 years after 23 November 2011, the GCC Deal has made #Yemen into an unmitigated disastrous diplomatic fiasco.
In #Yemen capital Sanaa, one can get away with anything right now, all the way down to murder. I am not shitting you.
The worst that will happen is that the President will set up a committee to investigate, if the murdered man is reasonably important. #Yemen
But even then, the committee meets a few times over qat, and will always decide that they can't find out fug all about who murdered the chap
#Yemen | No govt news (hell, no govt actually) but Marib power lines to capital Sanaa repeatedly attacked today. 9 power cuts in 24 hours.
There are many ways to make #Yemen better faster. None of them are being pursued at the moment. Signing out : stay in one piece, people.
We wrote about the 1-candidate election "ballot":
Despite the demand in the Yemeni constitution that there must be, at least formally, several candidates, the sole candidate is Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi who has for 17 years served as vice-president under President Saleh. There isn't even a Yes and No vote to gauge his support. The only candidate is Hadi, the only vote is a Yes and there is no way that he will not win by a 100% majority.
In a letter to Hadi Obama said that Yemen has become a model for peaceful transition in the Middle East. He did not mention the thousands of people maimed and killed during the last year up to this fake change no one can believe in.
The southern separatist, who were betrayed by the southerner Hadi when he joined Saleh to be made vice-president, the defected general Ali Muhsin al-Ahmar and his tribe, the Salafist and AlQaeda groups in the south and the Houthi tribes in the north boycotted the election. Some polling stations were attacked and at least 4 people were killed today.
The U.S. missed the chance to use the movement against Saleh for some real transition in Yemen. This will come back to bite it.
Obama recently called Yemen a "model" for the fight against the Islamic State. He is right in one sense. The state of Yemen was destroyed by the clueless U.S. sponsored interventions. The Islamic State might get destroyed the same way. But the outcome will not be a new order but, like in Yemen, utter chaos and bloody anarchy.
Open Thread 2014-28
News & views ...
How The U.S. And Israel Support Al-Qaeda in South Syria
When the Obama administration said it bombed the "Khorasan group" in north Syria experts wondered what that meant. There was and is no such group. What the Obama administration called Khorasan group were leadership people of Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syria branch of al-Qaeda, which years ago had been active in Afghanistan and Pakistan before coming to Syria. So why make a distinction between Jabhat al-Nusra active all over Syria and a leadership group of Jabhat al-Nusra situated in north Syria?
My hunch is that there is active cooperation between Jabhat al-Nusra and the U.S. especially in south Syria and the distinction was made to keep some form of alliance in the south alive. The mercenaries of the Fee Syrian Army in south Syria have been trained and armed by the CIA in Jordan and are controlled through a multinational operations room somewhere in Amman.
In the south Nusra is actively fighting on the side of the Fee Syrian Army which is also getting support from Israel. During the last months the FSA, with al-Nusra fighters as storm troopers in the lead, captured large parts along the Jordanian and Israeli border with Syria. There aim is, as we reported two month ago, to open a corridor towards Damascus. There progress against the Syrian army in the border area was made with the help of supporting Israeli artillery fire.
Reuters confirms today that Nusra, as we wrote, is leading the fighting in the south:
Fighters from Al-Qaida's Nusra Front and other insurgents attacked and briefly entered Baath City in southern Syria on Thursday, the army's last major bastion in a province flanking the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
Hundreds of Nusra fighters who fled from the eastern Deir al-Zor province after being driven out by Islamic State earlier this year have regrouped in southern Syria, boosting the rebel presence there, activists say.
"It gave the fighters in the area the upper hand," said Abu Yahya al-Anari, a fighter from Ahrar al-Sham.
Insurgent gains since earlier this year have been mainly achieved by Nusra Front together with other Islamist brigades and rebels fighting under the umbrella of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army. Unlike rebel in-fighting further north, they have coordinated well so far.
In the north Jabhat al-Nusra fought mercenary groups supported by the U.S. and Turkey. In the south it cooperates well with such groups supported, equipped and trained by the U.S. from Jordan and by Israel. Al-Nusra in the north was renamed "Khorasan group" so it could be bombed without endangering the Fee Syrian Army alliance with al-Nusra in the south.
The Nusra fighters in the south will of course use the weapons and other equipment the Fee Syrian Army groups receive from the CIA and other secret services. These groups are fighting together and are naturally sharing their resources.
In October, a month after I reported about the operations in the south, the Washington Institute, part of the Israel Lobby in the U.S., acknowledged those plans and pushed for more U.S. and Israeli support at the southern front. It did of course falsely minimize the participation of Nusra.
Coordinated Israeli, Jordanian, and allied assistance in the south could boost the moderate Syrian rebels there, stave off an extremist takeover, and facilitate the ongoing international campaign against ISIS.
So far, most Israeli support for moderate, local, non-Islamist rebel battalions along the border has been limited to humanitarian aid, such as treating 1,400 sick and wounded Syrians in Israeli hospitals, supplying medication, food, and heaters to villagers, and so forth. Some rebel groups maintain constant contact with the IDF, including frequent secret meetings reportedly held in Tiberias, but only a modest amount of weapons have been provided to them, mainly rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
The operation in the south has nothing to do with ISIS which has so far little presence in the south but is solely directed against the Syrian army, the government of Syria and the people of Damascus. The fighting is led, as Reuters today acknowledged, by Jabhat al-Nusra fighters and U.S. and Israel support is given to local Fee Syrian Army groups strongly aligned with al-Nusra.
The U.S. and Israel will certainly have know what Reuters reports today and what we claimed earlier. They have been and are actively and knowingly arming groups who strongly cooperate and share their resources, received from the U.S. and Israel, with al-Qaeda.
Samantha Power Warns Against Intervention Fatigue, Performs In "Rise Up" Stunt
(CNN) -- The black flag of ISIS flies over government buildings. Police cars carry the group's insignia. The local football stadium is used for public executions. A town in Syria or Iraq? No. A city on the coast of the Mediterranean, in Libya.
Fighters loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria are now in complete control of the city of Derna, population of about 100,000, not far from the Egyptian border and just about 200 miles from the southern shores of the European Union.
Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, warned the American public against a kind of intervention fatigue, emphasizing that U.S. leadership is needed now more than ever amid global threats from Ebola to the Islamic State.
“I think there is too much of, ‘Oh, look, this is what intervention has wrought’ … one has to be careful about overdrawing lessons,” Power said Wednesday during the Defense One Summit.
What lessons, if any at all, has Power drawn from her Libya "intervention"?
In another appearance yesterday Power was interrupted by "protesters" at an event that launched a cable channel dedicated to "regime change" youth protests:
The protesters were very on-message for Fusion’s event, a gathering of young activists from around the world under the “Rise Up” brand the cable channel — a joint-venture between Disney-owned ABC and Spanish-language broadcaster Univision — has been attaching to its coverage of protest movements around the world. They raised signs saying “Millennials think you’re a war hawk” — a nod to Fusion’s self-declared target demographic — while one yelled “we’re here to rise up.”
The whole story has the smell of an utterly staged "reality" show. "Protester on stage in three, two, one, now!" Power played her role as attacked "war hawk" - knowingly or not - pretty well.
Fusion is about independent, isolated elements interacting to create world-changing energy. Fusion media platforms offer engagement and influence with millennials who are leading and participating in global protest movements and a strong point of view in the areas of news and current events, politics, lifestyle and pop culture.
Translation: This is a propaganda shop that will engage pseudo liberal "youth" to created political "grassroot support" for U.S. regime change operations.
That fits perfectly with Samatha Power's projects. The new channel certainly has not "overdrawn lessons" from earlier interventions. Its purpose is to further new ones.
How Can We Solve The Problem Of Fully Automated Production?
This 40 minutes video shows the production of the BMW i3 car. It is a fully electric car made from carbon fiber on an aluminum structure.
The factory and the production process is all new. What is impressive and depressing is the lack of people. There are hundreds of robots doing their jobs and in total maybe 20 people feeding them materials and later on another 20 people outfitting the car interiors.
An in depth report of the production process gives some impressions from the car body production line:
Body Shop head Ralf Brüggemann, like Koschkar, manages most of the operations in the facility from a mezzanine that overlooks the plant floor. At first glance, the Body Shop visitor confronts a sea of orange robots (173 in all, supplied by ABB Robotics, Zurich, Switzerland), constantly turning, rotating, lifting and placing black carbon fiber parts and structures in an array of discrete, enclosed assembly cells. Only occasionally does one see shop personnel move components from one cell to another.
“We are at 99.7 percent quality,” Brüggemann claims, but adds, “we are always chasing higher quality.”
Brüggemann, who has experience in other BMW assembly plants, also says that the i3 Life Module Body Shop is “less complex than a steel body shop. Lighter weight makes product handling much simpler.”
A high quality product, simpler to make than the older ones and in a nearly totally automated environment. In total some maybe 400 people are producing 40,000 new cars per year. Many of those cars will likely be sold through automated processes on a few internet sides.
The factory shows a very high degree of automation that will become the standard of all production. In future hardly anyone of the population of industrialized nations will work in manufacturing industries. This immense automation push is historical comparable to the industrial revolution which put many people into poverty, emigration or death.
One wonders then how people are supposed to get enough income to buy products like the i3. How can we handle the social disruption such technology leaps produce?
One interesting concept I am learning about is a machine tax used to distribute a part of the income from production into a guaranteed basic income for everyone. Is that a possible solution?
IS Promotes Its Bloody Multinationality - Obama Says Assad Stays
With a well planned media campaign in three acts the Islamic State announced its growth into a multinational entity and into more countries. Meanwhile the U.S president finally accepted that president Assad of Syria will, at least for the time of a "transition", continue in his position.
A week ago Jihadist groups in five Arab countries published videos in which they pledged their allegiance to the Islamic State and its Caliph. The groups are in Algeria, Egypt (Sinai), Libya, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. The videos seemed to have been edited by the same professionals that edit all Islamic State official videos but they included local footage from each country.
Last Thursday act two happened when a new audio tape with a speech from the Caliph was published:
Baghdadi’s speech was divided into two main parts. The first one took around two-thirds of the time of the recording and lasted 17 minutes. Baghdadi tackled the failure of the international alliance’s operations, which he called “Crusade campaign,” and he mocked the Arab participation in them. In the second part, which was the most dangerous, he announced that IS is expanding and new provinces are rising in several Arab countries. Both parts were under Baghdadi’s main headline, which stated that jihad would persist and would target all people and lands at all times.
As a third step a well produced video was published, some 16+ minutes long, which showed a row of 18 Islamic State fighters each beheading a captured Syrian officer or pilot. This is a picture from the video:
This "Putin Isolated" Nonsense Is Dangerous
These headlines are silly:
- India Times - Barack Obama says Russia will remain isolated if it continues to destabilise Ukraine
- Yahoo - Cameron warns Russia of isolation, further sanctions over Ukraine
- LA Times - Putin faces isolation at G-20 conference
- NY Times - Putin Gets a Cool Reception From G-20
- Vice - World Leaders Snub Putin at G20, Exile Him to 'Social Siberia'
- Reuters - G20 commits to higher growth, fight climate change; Russia isolated over Ukraine
- Guardian - Isolated Putin leaves G20 summit
Even more silly then those headlines was the German prime news Tagesschau which used a picture of Putin seemingly sitting alone at a lunch table to prove his "isolation". But news service pictures show that he is sitting with the Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff waiting for the other lunch guests to sit down next to them. These were simply not visible in the frame Tagesschau selectively used.
And do these headline writers, TV correspondents and politicians know what the 20 in G-20 means? The people who publicly miffed Putin in Brisbane were Obama, Cameron, Harper, Abbott and Abe. I count five out of twenty.
Those leaders who did not "isolate" Putin by grandstanding in front of the media were from Argentina, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Republic of Korea and Turkey. Many of the leaders of those countries had one on one talks with Putin. Merkel alone had a three hour talk with Putin. Did that make him feel lonely?
Fact is Putin is about as isolated as the Pope.
Fact is also that those "world leaders" who "isolated" Putin represent a minority of people, military and economic power of the world. As Putin himself correctly pointed out before the G-20 meeting:
Incidentally, the combined GDP of the BRICS countries calculated using purchasing power parity is already bigger than that of the so-called G7 countries. As far as I know, the BRICS countries have more than $37 trillion calculated using purchasing power parity, while the G7 has $34.5 trillion. And this upwards trend is in favour of the BRICS, not vice versa.
Now all this silly isolation talk would be funny if the people in power would recognize it for the bullshit it is. Unfortunately a lot of stupid people in Washington DC, politicians as well as media folks, believe in their own propaganda bullshit and therefore tend to miscalculate in their assessments of global policies. This is dangerous as it often has bloody consequences.
Obama's Mercenary Attacks On Syria Are Breaking The Law
According to the Washington Post the U.S. administration is discussing to increase the numbers of CIA trained mercenaries in Syria:
The Obama administration has been weighing plans to escalate the CIA’s role in arming and training fighters in Syria, a move aimed at accelerating covert U.S. support to moderate rebel factions while the Pentagon is preparing to establish its own training bases, U.S. officials said.
The proposed CIA buildup would expand a clandestine mission that has grown substantially over the past year, U.S. officials said. The agency now vets and trains about 400 fighters each month — as many as are expected to be trained by the Pentagon when its program reaches full strength late next year.
The piece mentions training in Jordan and Qatar.
Hurriyet reports that training is also to start in Turkey:
Officials from both the United States European Command (EUCOM) and the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and high-ranking Turkish military officials agreed on a number of points about the training of Syrian opposition fighters in Turkey.
Free Syrian Army (FSA) members, including Syrian Turkmens will be trained at the Hirfanlı gendarmerie training center in Kırşehir, sources told to the Hürriyet Daily News. U.S. officials will also take part in the training.
The U.S. will primarily provide weapons and ammunition for the Syrian opposition, with the costs of the training also expected to be provided by Washington.
Around 2,000 Syrian fighters are slated to be given military training, which is set to begin at the end of December.
No journalist seem to have asked the administration on what legal basis this training and inserting of mercenaries against the Syrian government is taking place. What please in international or even U.S. law allows a U.S. president to send a proxy mercenary force against the state of Syria or any other state?
The administration knows very well that the legal ground it is standing on is very, very weak. The people it trains are criminals and do not observe basic laws of war or human rights. The administration's solution to breaking the law is trying to change it:
Open Thread 2014-27
News & views ...