US Impedes Efforts to Reconstruct War-Ravaged Syria – By Peter KORZUN -Strategic Culture Foundation

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US Impedes Efforts to Reconstruct War-Ravaged Syria
Peter KORZUN | 19.10.2018 | WORLD / Middle East

The US is officially the largest donor in the world, but does it really care about those who suffer? Not so much. The administration believes nothing should be done unless it is in pursuit of political goals. International humanitarian aid has been cut recently.  In August, the US pulled out of its role in Syria’s short-term reconstruction, suspending $230 million of relief funds.

The American foreign-assistance policy is going through drastic changes. “The United States is the world’s largest giver in the world, by far, of foreign aid. But few give anything to us,” President Trump said, addressing the UN General Assembly to announce a major review process to reform the decision-making on the allocation of foreign-aid money. “Moving forward, we are only going to give foreign aid to those who respect us and, frankly, are our friends,” the president explained.

So, foreign aid is only going to friends, and friends are those who do what they are told. The No Assistance for Assad Act has passed the House and is currently before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. That legislation would ensure that no US money is spent on reconstruction in government-controlled Syrian territory, either directly or through the UN, IMF, or other international bodies. 

And that’s not all. The president did not provide all the details. The new policy anticipates the creation of obstacles that will impede the reconstruction efforts that are aimed at easing the suffering of people living in war-ravaged countries such as Syria. No good deed goes unpunished.

According to UN estimates, the war in Syria has cost $388 billion. Most Western companies are steering clear of that country. Any non-US company is taking a huge risk if its transaction involves Americans or an American company. Iran has been under sanctions for many years. Syrians are looking at Russia with hope while the US is doing its best to deprive them of much-needed assistance.    

According to NBC News, the new administration’s strategy for the war in Syria is focused more on pushing Iran and its allies out of the country. On October 16, the US Department of the Treasury took action against 20 Iranian businesses providing a financial lifeline to the Basij Resistance Force, a paramilitary force that answers to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).  The second wave of anti-Iranian sanctions will take effect on Nov.4 and will deal a blow to the country’s oil exports. 

According to the new plan, the use of arms in self-defense against Iranians is permitted but priority is given to impeding reconstruction efforts in the areas of Syria where Iranian and Russian forces are present. Sanctions will be imposed on Russian and Iranian companies working on reconstruction projects. The US military will remain in Syria as long as the administration wants them to, under the pretext that, even if ISIS is completely eliminated, the danger of small pockets of resistance popping up will remain. 

Actually, this means that the forces can stay forever. The imaginary threat of an ISIS that in reality has been routed is needed because the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) covers only the groups implicated in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, plus their associates. By no stretch of the imagination could Iran be included on this list, unlike ISIS, which grew out of al-Qaeda. However, National Security Adviser John Bolton explained last month that US troops would stay “as long as Iranian troops are outside Iranian borders.”

So, ordinary Syrians will suffer because the US does not like Iran. Refugees will not return home, thus aggravating the migration headaches for an EU that is already on the brink of dissolution. It will make Brussels more amenable to US demands, be those tariffs, gas deals, the policy on Russia, NATO expenditures, or whatever.

The announcement of a joint Russian-Turkish demilitarization zone in Idlib will push the issue of Syria’s reconstruction front and center.  If China tries to contribute, it’ll come under American sanctions as well for dealing with “Assad-allied governments and financial institutions.” Despite that,   a Chinese container ship docked on October 9 at Lebanon’s Tripoli seaport, inaugurating a Chinese-developed shipping line between Beijing and a port less than 30 km (18.5 miles) from the Syrian-Lebanese border. On October 10, China held a ceremony in Latakia, a major Syrian port, announcing its donation of 800 electrical power generators. The reconstruction of Syria’s oil facilities is underway with Russia’s help.

One might not like or support Assad’s government, but millions of Syrians cannot be left without outside aid, otherwise extremists will take advantage of the situation and we’ll see ISIS or some other extremist group take root and grow strong enough to pose a global threat. The restoration of Syria is the best way to fight terrorists — the threat the US makes a show of being so concerned about.  By impeding this process, it is shooting itself in the foot. The EU’s hopes of seeing a letup in its migration problem will be dashed. Contributing to Syria’s restoration means contributing to the solution of Europe’s most pressing problem.    The reconstruction of Syria should be depoliticized. This is the time for all international partners to join together to assist in the Syrian recovery effort.

Rank cynicism: Australian government dangled Jerusalem embassy move because it needs Jewish votes in crucial by-election – By Ryan Jones – SOTT

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scott morrison jerusalem

Dearest subjects of Her Majesty’s Crumbling English empire: be warned! One of your brethren realms – namely, the Federation of Australia – is sliding away from the beloved civilising influence of Westminster, and is headed for utter chaos! On saturday 20th October, a by-election in the Sydney electoral division of Wentworth, the seat of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, will decide the fate of current caretaker prime minister Scott Morrison (affectionately, and not-so-affectionately, known as ‘ScoMo’), whose Liberal-National Party coalition government is barely hanging on. With a single-seat majority in the House of Representatives, a failure to retain this critical piece of furniture will see the current parliament well and truly hung, thus opening the door to a (gasp!) Labour government.

But never fear; loyalists have mobilised all available reinforcements to prevent such a disastrous outcome! The by-election conveniently falls on the same day that English-American royal couple Harry and Meghan begin their promotional week-long tour of Australia for the Invictus Games (one of innumerable minor sporting events, launched by Harry himself, that has gained disproportionate media attention in recent years as part of a push to provide constant distractions from political corruption and social malaise, lest people start considering anything of actual importance).

With the royal celebrity sports circus in full swing, on Tuesday morning Morrison announced that his government is considering moving the Australian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, overturning decades of previously-held Australian foreign policy, and potentially making Australia the second country behind Guatemala to follow the Trump administration’s lead in giving Israel ‘carte blanche’.

“Why?”, you may be asking – and rightly so. No, not “Why does Australia have an embassy in Israel?” – although you get bonus points if that was your question – but rather, “Why would such a ‘liberally democratic’ country make such a controversial ‘Trumpian’ move at the expense of alienating itself from the Neoliberal World Order?”

Well, the short answer is disappointingly crude and simple. Approximately 12.5% of the electorate in Wentworth is Jewish (for comparison, the national average is 0.5%), and the government’s candidate is former Australian ambassador to Israel David Sharma. Although the seat of Wentworth has consistently elected conservative representatives since Australia became a Federation in 1901 (Malcolm Turnbull previously held the seat with a 17% advantage in the two-party-preferred voting calculus), public anger with the way Turnbull was dispatched from office has political journos predicting a down-to-the-wire race, with recent polling results indicating a 51%-49% split.

Concurrent with this are reports of a rape threat and abusive phone calls made to the highest-profile candidate, Professor Kerryn Phelps. She is running as an independent, is the primary government challenger, is a former president of the Australian Medical Association and Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney, and is also a renowned health and civil rights advocate and media personality.

After a phone call with an understandably enthusiastic Netanyahu, prime minister Morrison faced a less-enthusiastic response from neighbouring Indonesia, with that country warning it could place a pending trade deal with Australia on ice over the possible embassy move.

Critical commentary in the media has already begun:

[Gareth] Evans, who was foreign minister from 1988 to 1996, called Morrison’s move a “shocking mistake”.

“This is unprincipled opportunism of the first order, and shifting the embassy at this stage would be a shocking mistake, and catastrophic for what is left of our international reputation outside Washington.

“Of course in any final two-state negotiation, Jerusalem would be the capital of both states, Israel in West and Palestine in East, and if serious negotiations were ever to start, accepting that shift could be a useful interim reward for significant Israeli movement on settlements or whatever. But you never, ever give something this big for nothing, and Netanyahu has given less than nothing to any peace process.” [..]

Bishop George Browning, president of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, was horrified. “I find the announcement extraordinary because it must be the first time in Australian political life that a government has tried to shore up its chances in a byelection by using foreign policy.

“The previous prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and the previous foreign minister Julie Bishop resisted this for the very good reason that to move the embassy to Jerusalem is [the same] as agreeing with the Israeli prime minister that Jerusalem is the undivided capital of Israel.

“They’re immediately throwing out the policy of a two-state solution, which Australia has held for a very long time, decades, in order to shore up their chances in a local byelection. It’s disgraceful.”

And with Israel regularly producing incidents such as this (and worse) ever since its founding, Australia can most certainly be assured that the concerns of its critics are well-founded.

About the author

An information tech professional, Ryan Jones is a former DJ and presently an avid explorer and evolving writer, honing his storytelling kung-fu via years of blogging. His constellation of interests includes technology, geopolitics, ponerology, psychology, philosophy, history and astronomy. You can follow him via his personal blog knpr.net, on Twitter, and at Steemit.

Anti-Semitism as a Sword: As Far Right Storm Clouds Gather, False and Trivial Charges Ignore the Real Threat – By Ian Berman – MINT PRESS

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Germany Far Right AFD Chemnitz
Opinion

While far-right parties including neo-Nazis rise, the call of anti-Semitism is recklessly and maliciously misused for relatively insignificant reasons, if any reason at all.

LONDON — (Opinion) There is nothing in this series of articles to deny that anti-Semitism is a real threat. On the contrary, the point is to expose the cheap use of the anti-Semitism card in the face of a real menace to society. Overused and undeserved allegations of anti-Semitism only endanger Jews like me should the real dangers of anti-Semitism rise again.

We are seeing Neo-Nazis rise in Ukraine, the Baltics, and even Germany. Ultranationalist far-right parties demonize all who stand in their way and, if they can get away with it, have a willingness to use violence on those who oppose them. Should their rise continue, anti-Semitism will follow. A real, violent form of anti-Semitism.

This may leave a great many people to wonder why is there such intolerance of criticism of Israel when violence and oppression, most worryingly on a state level, appear to be returning. Such hate groups typically target vulnerable, minority populations in their rise to power. That is the history and the fundamental fear of anti-Semitism. Not criticism of Israel.

 

While this clear and present danger is rising, false allegations of anti-Semitism are being used to silence critics of Israel and condemn politicians who might support the victims of Israel’s oppression. Thus the misuse of charges of anti-Semitism is coming exactly at the time when threats from real and violent anti-Semites are rising.

 

Rise of far-right and Nazi parties

The threat of anti-Semitism has always been based upon a form of xenophobia — a sense that Jews are somehow outsiders, even if their countries are the only homes they have ever known. With the rise of far-right parties using refugees as a scapegoat, will anti-Semitism be far behind?

While reviewing Liz Fekete’s Europe’s Fault Lines: Racism and the Rise of the Right, the New Republic describes the disturbing trend:

Few imagined that a mere 25 years later, it would be Western Europe and the United States drifting towards the xenophobic populism that triumphed first in Hungary and Poland, before moving westward toward France, the Netherlands, and the U.K. In the past ten years, new right-wing political movements have brought together coalitions of Neo-Nazis with mainstream free-market conservatives, normalizing political ideologies that in the past rightly caused alarm.

In Western Europe this network of mainstreamers and their sometimes violent street-level supporters are winning ever larger electoral majorities; in countries like Poland and Hungary they are already in power, and attempting to restructure education, immigration, and the judiciary in their own illiberal image.”

Noting that Fekete believes the problem reflects old racial hatreds more than dwindling economic opportunities, the New Republic further notes:

While the new right-wing movements participate in electoral politics, many of them have unofficial links with vigilante groups that patrol their country’s borders, shake down immigrant businesses, and harass women in hijabs, and small armies of thugs that wait to pick fights at rallies. These groups do not live in fear of prosecution for hate crimes: they maintain Facebook pages and websites.

Groups like the Cologne-based Hooligans Against Salafists make their racial claims on the streets of German cities, taking over public space as in an attempt to shock multiculturalism out of city life. In Greece, Golden Dawn members beat up immigrant vendors in street markets. In France, the National Front has sponsored “pork festivals” in cities its members see as being in danger of losing their French-ness, because of changing demographics.”

Ukraine Azov Nazi

The implications for Jews are significant. The U.S. openly supported Svoboda, the Neo-Nazi group that provided the muscle for Ukraine’s Maidan Square coup. As mentioned in Part 2 of this series, Israel has sold weapons to Ukraine that have landed in the avowed neo-Nazi, right-wing Azov battalion (probably not coincidentally, so has the U.S.). Ukraine is not alone, though, in its Nazi resurgence. The New Republic concludes:

Unlike in the past, when the Soviet Union commemorated the Great Patriotic War against fascism across Eastern Europe, Nazism is no longer something to hide. The extremist Hungarian Guard (Magyar Gárda) talks openly about following in the footsteps of the Arrow Cross, Hungary’s wartime fascist party that murdered thousands of Jews.”

With the contagion spreading, Poland passed a law forbidding the discussion of its role in the Holocaust, before yielding to international pressure to weaken it; and Nazi collaborators who killed Jews in the Baltic states are receiving a hero’s treatment. We learn that “the Council of Europe (CoE) has expressed alarm over the rise of right-wing extremism and neo-fascism in Croatia.” Then consider that in socialist Sweden, the far-right Democrats with their neo-Nazi roots “won 17.6 percent of the vote” in September, “up from 12.9 percent in the last election four years ago.” Even in Germany, the country had to move to stop the state funding of the NDP, “the country’s longest-established neo-Nazi group.”

The rise of this far-right extremism is happening in Europe and not just in isolated pockets. Across the Atlantic, the Southern Poverty Law Center identified 784 hate groups in the U.S. in 2014. In short, there seem to be a lot more serious forms of anti-Semitism rising, yet the focus of anti-Semitic allegations is on those challenging Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.

For example, we will review the story of how a Canadian activist challenged two Canadian MPs for their support of Israel after the IDF had twice shot a Canadian doctor working to save lives during unarmed protests. This eventually led to another set of events during which the prime minister of Canada falsely called the activist an anti-Semite.

 

A question of loyalty in Canada

On May 14, Canadian doctor Tarek Loubani was tending to the wounded during the Gaza protests. The Israeli snipers that were firing on unarmed protestors shot Dr. Loubani not once, but twice. As Dr. Loubani described in an Electronic Intifada Podcast; he was shot without provocation while in an area that was clear and all was quiet around him:

No burning tires, no smoke, no tear gas, nobody messing around in front of the buffer zone. Just a clearly marked medical team well away from everybody else.”

Canadian Dr. Loubani says he was wearing clothes clearly marking him as medical staff when he was shot by Israeli forces. Photo | Tarek Loubani

After 62 protestors were killed and more than 2,700 were injured that day, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement on the massive bloodshed, lamenting the violence as if both sides were responsible for the massacre of Palestinians without a single casualty to the IDF:

Canada deplores and is gravely concerned by the violence in the Gaza Strip that has led to a tragic loss of life and injured countless people. We are appalled that Dr. Tarek Loubani, a Canadian citizen, is among the wounded – along with so many unarmed people, including civilians, members of the media, first responders, and children.

We are doing everything we can to assist Dr. Loubani and his family, and to determine how a Canadian citizen came to be injured. We are engaging with Israeli officials to get to the bottom of these events.

Reported use of excessive force and live ammunition is inexcusable. It is imperative we establish the facts of what is happening in Gaza. Canada calls for an immediate independent investigation to thoroughly examine the facts on the ground – including any incitement, violence, and the excessive use of force.”

In response, two Liberal MPs of the Canadian Parliament, members of Trudeau’s party, issued a joint statement distancing themselves from the prime minister’s critique of the violence while squarely placing the blame on Hamas. The statement reads:

We wish to express our profound sorrow for the tragic deaths of civilians, including children and first responders. The injury of a Canadian emergency physician is troubling, and we wish him a speedy recovery and safe journey back to Canada.

Hamas has long incited violence and intentionally used civilians, including vulnerable persons, children, and even infants as a smokescreen for its attempts to breach the Gaza-Israel border for the purpose of committing terrorist acts in Israel. Reports that Hamas itself proclaims that most of the Gazans killed were active members of Hamas demonstrate this fact.”

Let us for argument’s sake assume that the two MPs’ statement was factually correct. Even if Hamas had organized the demonstration, the fact remains that Israel used snipers beyond harm’s reach to massively kill and injure unarmed Palestinians. These two MPs appear to believe the magic word “Hamas” absolves Israel of any atrocity. Most striking though is that the MPs focus on defending Israel rather than a Canadian emergency doctor tending to the wounded.

In addition, it had been well known that the organizers of the Great March of Return specifically excluded Hamas from their organizing. Considering how pervasive membership in Hamas is in Gaza, of course, members of Hamas participated, but Hamas was not involved in organizing. So in Canada, two MPs turned against their Liberal Party, their prime minister, and a Canadian doctor to defend Israel based upon the lies of Israeli narrative. Clearly, the loyalty of the two MPs is questionable.

Keep the question of their loyalty in mind as the next series of events unfolds. For the anti-Semitism allegation is made to quash any discussion of those troubling events occurring within a democracy.

 

The anti-Semite smear

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) has adopted a position in support of Palestinians. The pro-Israel organization B’nai B’rith then began to smear the CUPW. Pro-Palestinian rights groups then responded by organizing an August 29 demonstration to address the smears. The Jewish Defence League Canada (JDLC), a group that includes members who are disposed to violence, organized a counter-demonstration.

The counter-demonstration included two women who released a video after the demonstration calling for the execution of leading Liberal Party politicians. Journalist and activist Dimitri Lascaris, chair of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) and one of the organizers of the demonstration against the smears of the CUPW, addressed the calls for execution in the video with two tweets. The first read:

After @bnaibrithcanada supporters called for the death penalty to be imposed on @justintrudeau & Liberal MPs @iamIqraKhalid, @OmarAlghabra & @MaryamMonsef, we called on @LevittMichael & @AHousefather to denounce them, but shamefully, they’ve said nothing.”

In the second tweet, Lascaris observed,

Apparently, Liberal MPs Anthony Housefather and Michael Levitt are more devoted to apartheid Israel than to their own Prime Minister and their own colleagues in the Liberal caucus.@AHousefather@LevittMichael#cdnpoli@justintrudeau@liberal_party#apartheidIsrael#cdnpoli

Watch | Members of the Jewish Defence League Canada call for the execution of leading Liberal Party politicians

https://videopress.com/embed/LMlC1TYr

So here we have two Liberal MPs, who have supported B’nai B’rith, refusing to condemn the calls for the execution of other Liberal MPs and the prime minister himself. In addition, two Jewish Groups — B’nai B’rith and “the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) — and Canadian politicians smeared [Lascaris for] drawing attention to the death threats.” As the CIJA tweeted,

Yesterday, @CJPME Chair @dimitrilascaris accused #Jewish MPs @AHousefather and @LevittMichael of being disloyal to #Canada. This is the literal definition of #antisemitism under the @TheIHRA definition. Will @CJPME publicly retract & apologize for this antisemitic smear?”

And there we have the infamous IHRA definition of anti-Semitism used to silence a challenge to power that defends Israel. No mention that the central issue is that B’nai B’rith supporters called for the death of leading Canadian politicians and that other Canadian politicians of the same party refused to condemn these calls. No. The anti-Zionist leader of the CJPME — who brought to light these death threats, and the failure of the Liberal MPs to condemn them — is simply and directly called an anti-Semite.

Remarkably, it gets more bizarre.

Rather than object to the calls for execution of party members including themselves, something you would think might bother sentient beings, both NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and Prime Minister Trudeau accused Lascaris of anti-Semitism, even though no mention was made by him of the Liberal MPs’ Jewish faith. Singh’s tweet is much like this one from Trudeau:

Vile anti-Semitic smears like this are completely unacceptable, and should always be called out. Thank you @LevittMichael and @AHousefather for standing up to this, and for everything you do for your communities and our country.”

Rather than condemn death threats by pro-Israel supporters, the two Liberal MPs stood aside quietly. This condoning silence, the comments after the shooting of Dr. Loubani, and many other actions that Yves Engler has reviewed in Mondoweiss demonstrate the two Liberal MPs’ support for Israel over Canadians. Yet by pointing out the questionable loyalty of the MP’s for not condemning the death threats, Lascaris is at fault for being anti-Semitic! This is how power uses the label of anti-Semitism to smear and squash dissent. Dissent against Israel and those defending its atrocities.

(If readers seek more information, see Lascaris’s more detailed account of all the events here).

 

Don’t question why someone feels like they’re the victim of anti-Semitism

J.K. Rowling, famous author of the Harry Potter series, has written a book where one of the fictional characters is an Israel-hating anti-Semite. More disturbing than a fictional character that reinforces the thought that anti-Zionism is really anti-Semitism, something Rowling has insinuated by tweet previously, the article that described the book shared a Twitter exchange between Rowling and Simon Maginn, a less prominent writer. To understand the significance of Rowling’s comments, we must first review Maginn’s Twitter exchange with Simon Myerson.

As discussed in Part 1 of this series, when British pro-Israel advocates had challenged a professor after taking his ironic remarks literally, Jeremy Corbyn had suggested that the pro-Israel advocates did not understand irony. This was turned into an uproar to pillory Corbyn for saying that Jews were not quite English.

Myerson had tweeted about Corbyn’s comment and subsequent clarification of why it was not anti-Semitic:

When a witness says ‘let me make my thoughts clearer’ they mean, ‘let me alter what I said previously’.

This is a good example. It’s precisely not what Corbyn said.”

In response, Maginn challenged Myerson to “explain what you think was objectionable in what Corbyn said.” Myerson’s first response was a snide remark. Maginn then made several more attempts to elicit an answer, but Myerson refused to answer the question. Subsequently, a frustrated and infuriated Maginn sought an explanation for why Corbyn’s support of a Palestinian representative should outrage Jewish sensibilities. This last Maginn tweet stated:

Explain it to me, then. Explain your deep and wounding sense of injury. Explain the wrong that’s been done to you. Explain your patently synthetic outrage. Explain yourself. Publicly.”

Rowling subsequently responded to Maginn’s tweet by questioning his right to challenge someone else’s tweet:

How dare you tell a Jew that their outrage is ‘patently synthetic’? How dare you demand that they lay bare their pain and fear on demand, for your personal evaluation? What other minority would you speak to this way?”

Most likely, Rowling did not follow the earlier exchange of tweets and only responded to Maginn’s demand for an answer without context. While the tone of Maginn’s last tweet could create an unfavorable impression, this lack of knowledge of the complete exchange is squarely on Rowling. There is no basis for Rowling to assert that Myerson, the person Maginn was addressing, was experiencing any “pain and fear.” Even if Myerson was suffering from pain or fear, such a state of mind is essential to support the allegation of Corbyn’s anti-Semitism. For the allegation is the perception of his remarks, not any subsequent actions.

This is why after a repeated lack of response from Myerson, Maginn demanded an explanation for “[Myerson’s] deep and wounding sense of injury.” For if the allegation is unjustified, as Maginn suggests, it is a heinous smear. Further, since Myerson failed to respond to repeated inquiries, this is probably why Maginn concluded there was no justification and resorted to his over-the-top comment about “patently synthetic outrage.”

Maginn also responded to Rowling and provided the context of his comment, asking her to explain how Corbyn’s comment was anti-Semitic. Rather than address Maginn’s point, Rowling responded with quotes from Jean-Paul Sartre about anti-Semitism, apparently implying Maginn’s challenge was anti-Semitic. Further, Rowling tweeted:

How about you explain – publicly, to Twitter, to the world – why you’ve taken it upon yourself to attack a Jew, demanding that they explain themselves, when there are literally hundreds of accounts currently online explaining how British Jews currently feel?”

Rowling apparently believes that someone’s sense that Corbyn’s comments are anti-Semitic is unquestionable. Yes, others have made their views known, but Maginn was exchanging tweets with Myerson and Maginn’s demand for substantiation was directly of Myerson. Yet Rowling made it clear Maginn had no right to ask the question. When Maginn asked Rowling the same question about Corbyn’s remarks, she refused to answer that as well.

Thus, according to Rowling, the allegation of anti-Semitism and the feelings of the person making such allegations is sufficient. The allegation itself does not have to be defended. The questioner ultimately is an anti-Semite (as Rowling subsequently more directly charged) for challenging the allegation of anti-Semitism.

The result is that the leader of the Labour Party is alleged to be anti-Semitic and that he and any of his supporters shall have no right to challenge such allegations.

Under such rules of engagement, who could survive the anti-Semite allegation?

 

Don’t vote for her, she’s an anti-Semite

In the recent Democratic primary for the governor of New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s campaign falsely accused challenger Cynthia Nixon of being an anti-Semite. As Splinter News noted, as Election Day was drawing near, Cuomo’s campaign sent out a mailer that “misconstrued Nixon’s views on Israel and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. It also accused Nixon of being ‘silent on the rise of anti-Semitism.’’”

Not only did the Cuomo campaign make this allegation by mailers just before the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, but it also tried as well to plant the accusation in the right-wing New York Post. The Post article stated:

The smoking-gun email, sent Friday afternoon from an official ‘andrewcuomo.com’ account, suggested that the Post publish a story about Nixon’s support of the pro-Palestinian ‘Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions’ movement against Israel.

‘Nixon has supported insidious BDS campaign, signing onto letter boycotting Israel,’ it says.

‘Obviously something you guys have reported on a lot and right before the jewish high holidays!

‘Can get you folks on the record slamming her as well,’ the aide added.”

Cynthia Nixon | anti-Semitism

As for Nixon’s background, the Post reported,

Nixon on Sunday said she opposes the BDS movement and supports a ‘two-state solution’ between Israel and Palestinians. But she said unlike Cuomo, she wouldn’t ‘blacklist’ people who support BDS. Cuomo signed an executive order barring state entities from doing business with firms that support BDS.”

In addition, Nixon said ‘I am the mother of Jewish children and I am very alarmed by the rise of anti-semitism in this country. I am frightened for my children. I am frightened for the world.’”

So now the anti-Semitism allegation is considered kosher for slimeball politics?

 

Turn it around, for there are real challenges out there

Considering the growth of far-right, nativist movements, including specifically neo-Nazi ones, there are real threats to Jews in the West. Yet the concern over “anti-Semitism” is not focused on them. It is focused on protecting Israel. So much so that the slightest hint of anti-Zionism is immediately attacked as anti-Semitism. In fact, the anti-Semitism allegation has become a dangerous weapon.

Yet wielding this weapon for marginal reasons and in anti-democratic, speech-infringing ways may well result in the broader public losing interest in protecting Jews from anti-Semitism. Let us not forget how small the Jewish population is in the West. Should the broader public decide it is no longer a reasonable concern, no movement of Jews in their home countries or in Israel could stop a rising storm.

Yet there is a reason to be hopeful, and that is Judaism itself and the culture of its members.

I saw this meme posted on Facebook with the question “Is this picture Hasbara 2.0?” Hasbara, as many already know, is the organized propaganda effort of the State of Israel.

The meme might be something purposefully posted to improve the image of Israel. Yet, even if it is Hasbara, it proves the point that, just as before Zionism started its deadly course in Palestine, people of all faiths can live together peacefully.

The meme shows that once people throw out labels of race and religion, there is a sense of caring about one another and living together in harmony. Only when leadership takes people down a path of greed and selfishness, do they create the zero-sum-game sense of entitlement of one group at another’s expense that leads to conflict. The more expansive the greed, the larger the conflict. Ethnic cleansing, land theft and occupation are as expansive as greed and supremacy can get.

Yet Israel does not have to be that way. I am hopeful that Israel and its supporters will address all that has been discussed in this series and adopt the wonderful moral principles of Judaism upon which most Jews, including myself, have been raised. The same morality and harmony to which people of all faiths and heritages aspire.

Given our own history of suffering, Jews are a compassionate people. We played a prominent role in the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s. Many Jews still fight for justice today. Accordingly, I am hopeful that those who are working against this grain to maintain Jewish supremacy in Palestine can come back to the fold too.

Top Photo | Far Right activists attend a protest in Chemnitz, eastern Germany, Sept.7, 2018, after several nationalist groups called for marches protesting the killing of a German man allegedly by migrants. Jens Meyer | AP

Ian Berman is an entrepreneur and former corporate banker at leading global banks in New York City. He now focuses on financial advisory services and writing about representative government, equitable public policies and ending American militarism and Israel’s continuing colonization of Palestine. He is the Co-Founder of Palestine 365, the Ongoing Oppression and its predecessor, Palestine 365, on Facebook.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.

Republish our stories! MintPress News is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.

Pandering to Israel Time to cut the tie that binds – By Philip Giraldi – THE UNZ REPORT

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 BlogviewPhilip Giraldi Archive

Trump and Bibi

The ability of Israel and its powerful Lobby to control many aspects of American government while also sustaining an essentially false narrative about the alleged virtues of the Jewish State is remarkable. Politicians and journalists learned long ago that it was better to cultivate Israel’s friends than it was to support actual American interests. They also discovered to speak the truth about the Jewish State often would prove to be a death sentence career-wise, witness the experiences of Cynthia McKinney, Paul Findlay, William Fulbright, Chuck Percy, James Traficant, Pete McCloskey and Rick Sanchez.

More recently, we have seen the ascent to real political power on the part of a number of politicians whose pandering to Israel has been notorious, indicating that the path to the White House goes through Tel Aviv and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) offices on H Street in the District of Columbia. Nikki Haley, who recently resigned as United Nations Ambassador, gained national attention when she became the first state governor to sign off on laws that would punish supporters of the non-violent BDS movement. Subsequently, as ambassador, she became noted for her impassioned defense of Israel, to include complaining that “nowhere has the U.N.’s failure been more consistent and more outrageous than in its bias against our close ally Israel.” She vowed that the “days of Israel bashing are over” and is now being groomed by the neocons as a possible presidential candidate for 2020. Whichever way it goes, she will be showered with money by Israel supporters as she finds her perch in the private sector, like others before her doing “work” that she does not understand while also making speeches about the importance of the Israeli relationship.

All of that said, one of the truly odd aspects of the Israeli/Jewish dominance is its ability to change the United States. Normally, a tiny client state attached to a great power would conform to its patron, but in the U.S.-Israel relationship the reverse has happened. When 9/11 occurred Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was pleased, commenting that the attack would tie the United States more closely to Israel in its war against “terrorism,” which to him meant his Islamic neighbors in the Middle East. Since that time, the bilateral “special” relationship has conformed to what Professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer observed in their groundbreaking book “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” namely that the United States does things in the Middle East that cannot be attributed to national interest. Rather, Washington behaves in a certain way due to the power of Israel and its lobby. There is no other way to explain it.

The emergence of Israeli practices as models to be adopted by U.S. agencies has occurred, to be sure, to include Israeli training American policemen and soldiers in their “methods,” but the odd thing is that as Israel has lurched to the right and embraced political extremism under Netanyahu, the United States has done the same thing, curtailing civil liberties with the Patriot Acts, the Military Commissions Act, and various updates of the Authorization to Use Military Force. Indefinite detention without trial and assassination of citizens overseas is now acceptable in America and criticizing Israel could soon become a criminal offense in spite of the First Amendment. In short, the United States of America has become more like Israel rather than vice versa.

With one or two exceptions, there is no one in the United States government, elected or civil service, who has anything that is not wonderful to say about Israel in spite of the numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed by Netanyahu nearly daily, the unfunded costs of the wars fought in part on behalf of Israel, and the thousands of dead American soldiers plus the hundreds of thousands of dead foreigners, nearly all Muslims. Indeed, Netanyahu is treated like a conquering hero, having received 23 standing ovations from Congress in 2015 when he was in the United States complaining about an agreement with Iran made by President Barack Obama. This inside the beltway approval of Israel contrasts sharply with the general view of the rest of the world, which sees both the U.S. and Israel negatively as the two nations most likely to start a new war.

There are several recent articles that demonstrate pretty clearly the danger in allowing Israel and its friends to have the power and access that they currently enjoy purely because government and the media make no effort to tell them “no” and rein them in. One comes from New Zealand where two women wrote a letter to the pop singer Lorde, urging her to cancel an appearance in Israel due to the treatment of the Palestinians. Lorde posted the letter on twitter, agreed and the trip was canceled.

The tale would have ended there but for the fact that Israel’s parliament the Knesset has passed a law now making it illegal to support a boycott of Israel ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD [my emphasis]. Enter the group called Shurat HaDin, which is an Israeli government supported lawfare instrument, that seeks to find and sue the perceived enemies of the Jewish state, punishing them through court costs and potentially bankruptcy.

The lawsuit argued that Lorde’s response on twitter after receiving the letter showed her decision was directly influenced by the New Zealand women’s plea. Three Israeli ticket holders filed the suit, claiming the cancellation had caused emotional distress. The Israeli court awarded damages of $12,000 dollars and their lawyer, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of Shurat HaDin, boasted that the verdict was “precedent-setting,” sending a message that “no one can boycott Israel without paying for it.” Israeli government agents in New Zealand are taking steps to obtain the money, even though it remains unclear whether the plaintiffs will be able to collect the cash. Darshan-Leitner explained that she will seek to enforce the judgment through “international treaties” and go after the women’s bank accounts, either in New Zealand or if they try to travel abroad. Even if she is unsuccessful, the lawsuits will have a chilling effect on any individual or group seeking to criticize Israel’s brutal behavior by endorsing what once were perfectly legal boycotts.

A second story is possibly even more bizarre. On October 10th, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that “Israel is everything we want the entire Middle East to look like going forward” while asserting that the bilateral relationship between Washington and Tel Aviv is “stronger than ever.” Pompeo was keynote speaker at an award ceremony hosted by the Jewish Institute for National Security of America in Washington D.C. He also hailed Israel as “democratic and prosperous,” adding “it desires peace, it is a home to a free press and a thriving economy.”

Pompeo also mentioned Iran, condemning the latter’s “corrupt leaders [who] assault the human rights of their own people and finance terrorism in every corner of the Middle East”. He also announced to a cheering audience that he had that same day denied a $165 million transfer of aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) because of the PA’s “funding of terror.” Pompeo was referring to the PA’s refusal to comply with Washington’s demands that it end the so-called “martyr payments” to the families of those killed or imprisoned by Israeli occupation forces.

Pompeo, together with National Security Advisor John Bolton, has been the driving force behind punishing the Iranians and Palestinians. Like others in Washington, he understands that success inside the beltway is best guaranteed by binding oneself as closely to Israel as possible. Pompeo certainly knows that Israel is not democratic, does not desire peace and is itself a major source of terrorism. Its government is corrupt, witness the current trial of Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife as well as the charges pending against the prime minister himself. A number of Israeli leaders have wound up in jail in the past few years. To describe Israel as a model for the entire Middle East is absurd, but, then again, Pompeo was speaking in front of the Jewish Institute for National Security and presumably intended to suck up to his wealthy and politically powerful audience.

How does Israel maintain its control over American politicians? First of all, no politician who wants to get reelected can risk even the mildest criticism of the Jewish state. Anyone who does so will be pilloried in the media before finding him or herself confronted by an extremely well-funded opponent who will oust them from office. And anyone who even suggests that the Palestinians are human beings that are being severely punished by a powerful Israel had best watch his or her back. On October 8th Congressman Eliot Engel of New York spoke regarding liberal Democrat rising star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and three other liberals seeking congressional seats next month, all of whom have expressed sympathy for the Palestinians while also criticizing Israel’s heavy handed repression.

Engel told a New York synagogue gathering that had been organized and promoted by AIPAC that all Democrats “need to be educated” in support of Israel. “We are going to continue to work in Congress to make sure that we have overwhelming support for Israel on both sides of the aisle… I am certainly cognizant of the fact that people who are coming in as far as I’m concerned on the Democratic side, will be educated and need to be educated. But we have overwhelming support for Israel in the Congress. And… it will continue that way. We will maintain it that way.”

So, maintaining “overwhelming support” for Israel requires doing whatever is necessary, be it fair or foul, and many Jews and Jewish organizations worldwide, like Engel, are prepared to place alleged Israeli interests ahead of those of the countries where they actually reside. In America, Jewish groups and individuals have succeeded in buying politicians and using their money and control over much of the media to corrupt the entire political system to benefit Israel.

Israel should be judged by how it behaves, not by how well it buys favor among morally challenged politicians and media shills. Nor should it be seen favorably as it engages, threatens and destroys critics. When private citizens cannot write a letter to an entertainer without risk of being sued, deference to perpetual Israeli victimhood has gone way too far. When an intelligent man like Mike Pompeo finds it in his interest to say something transparently stupid in praise of Israel, something which he knows to be the reverse of the truth, the corruption of our elites becomes clear even to those who choose to remain blind to it. When a candidate for national office has to be “educated” by Jewish politicians to say the right things about Israel it smacks of Stalinism.

We Americans don’t need any more of this nonsense, which is inter alia destroying our liberties. It is largely driven by the guilt laden “holocaust hucksterism,” as Norman Finkelstein has termed it, that has been giving Israel a free pass for seventy years. It is time for a change in thinking about how we view our “good friend and ally” Israel, a country that is neither. It is time for government to do what is best for Americans, not for Israelis.

Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is www.councilforthenationalinterest.org, address is P.O. Box 2157, Purcellville VA 20134 and its email is inform@cnionline.org.

Here’s why we should boycott Facebook, Twitter, and Google – Eric Zuesse – Strategic Culture Foundation – SOTT

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NATO – the neoconservatives, the marketeers for firms such as Lockheed Martin and BAE – has taken over the social-media giants and much of online international ‘news’-reporting, including that of virtually all independent news-sites and blogs.

Facebook, Twitter, and Google, in recent days, delivered what might be the death-blows.

NATO’s main PR agency, think-tank, and lobbying organization, is ‘non-profit’ – a legal tax-dodge that’s financed by donations from those weapons-making firms and their supporting firms and their ‘non-profits’, so that the taxes that it doesn’t pay will need to be paid instead by the general public. Billionaires know how to avoid taxes, and they hire politicians who write the laws with all the ‘right’ loopholes for them – and only for the very richest – to use. This PR agency is called “The Atlantic Council,” and it was set up in 1961, the exact same year that U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower left office warning that “the military-industrial complex” might take control of the U.S. Well, it did so, with The Atlantic Council’s help; and, now, it is finally lowering the boom against democracy itself – at least among the U.S. and its allied nations (the governments whose weapons-manufacturing firms are in, and sell to, NATO governments). The aim is to drive up the percentage of government-expenditures there that go to pay those firms, and so to reduce the percentages that go to pay everything else. The aim, in short, is the permanent-warfare-economy. After all, firms such as Lockheed Martin and BAE sell only to allied governments. They have virtually no consumers except those governments. So: their (and their ‘charities’) basic message is ‘austerity’ – except on ‘defense’ or realistically called “aggression.” This is national ‘defense’ such as against Iraq in 2003, and against Libya in 2011 – it is instead sheer aggression. George Orwell predicted “Newspeak” – well, here it is. It’s today’s norm, so normal that the public think it’s just natural, and conservatives and even many liberals think it’s the way that ‘a free market’ ought to be.

Here was Facebook’s announcement, on October 11th:

newsroom.fb.com

11 October 2018

Removing Additional Inauthentic Activity from Facebook

Today, we’re removing 559 Pages and 251 accounts that have consistently broken our rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior. Given the activity we’ve seen – and its timing ahead of the US midterm elections – we wanted to give some details about the types of behavior that led to this action. Many were using fake accounts or multiple accounts with the same names and posted massive amounts of content across a network of Groups and Pages to drive traffic to their websites. Many used the same techniques to make their content appear more popular on Facebook than it really was. Others were ad farms using Facebook to mislead people into thinking that they were forums for legitimate political debate.

Those 559 and 251 weren’t identified; none of them were. Facebook wants them to need to scream in order for them to be able to be noticed at all by the public. The announcement didn’t even say by what criteria they were measuring ‘Inauthentic Activity’ versus ‘legitimate political debate’. Their announcement did say “we look at these actors’ behavior – such as whether they’re using fake accounts or repeatedly posting spam – rather than their content when deciding which of these accounts, Pages or Groups to remove,” but unless they make public what the actual algorithms are by means of which they remove sites, no one should trust them, at all, because they can remove whatever NATO or The Atlantic Council (neither of which their announcement even mentioned) want them to remove.

The background for this act by the war-economy’s billionaires had already been reported at Mint Press on May 18th, “Facebook Partners With Hawkish Atlantic Council, a NATO Lobby Group, to ‘Protect Democracy'”, where Elliott Gabriel opened:

Facebook is hoping that a new alliance with the Atlantic Council – a leading geopolitical strategy think-tank seen as a de facto PR agency for the U.S. government and NATO military alliance – will not only solve its “fake news” and “disinformation” controversy, but will also help the social media monolith play “a positive role” in ensuring democracy on a global level.

The new partnership will effectively ensure that Atlantic Council will serve as Facebook’s “eyes and ears,” according to a company press statement. With its leadership comprised of retired military officers, former policymakers, and top figures from the U.S. National Security State and Western business elites, the Atlantic Council’s role policing the social network should be viewed as a virtual takeover of Facebook by the imperialist state and the council’s extensive list of ultra-wealthy and corporate donors.

Then, on October 12th, Mint Press’s Whitney Webb bannered “Facebook Purges US-Based Independent Media For Political Disinformation”, and reported that,

Notably, Facebook’s statement on the mass purge of pages was co-authored by Facebook Head of Cybersecurity Nathaniel Gleicher, who is a former White House National Security Council director of cybersecurity policy.

Twitter also banned many of the pages targeted for deletion by Facebook on Thursday, suggesting a coordinated censorship effort between the two most popular social media platforms.

Many of the pages banned had millions of likes, such as the Free Thought Project (3.1 million likes), Antimedia (2.1 million), Cop Block (1.7 million), and Police the Police (1.9 million). Several of the pages that were deleted on Thursday had been targeted by Facebook in recent months, both through new censorship algorithms and Facebook’s controversial team of “fact checkers.”

For instance, the Free Thought Project had been flagged earlier this year as “fake news” by Facebook “fact checking” partner organizations, including the Associated Press (AP) and Snopes. In one case, a story published by the Free Thought Project was flagged as “false” by the AP. That story, which detailed the documented case of Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) being forcibly removed from a DHS migrant detention center that had once been a Walmart, was marked false because the AP asserted that the article made the claim that Walmart was housing immigrants for DHS. However, the article does not make the claim, instead accurately noting that the facility used to be a Walmart.

Censorship algorithms had also greatly affected traffic to the recently deleted pages for much of the past year. In the case of Antimedia, its traffic dropped from around 150,000 page views per day in early June to around 12,000 by the end of that month. As a reference, in June of last year, Antimedia’s traffic stood at nearly 300,000 views per day.

Also on October 12th, heavy dot com bannered “‘Facebook Purge’: List of Some Deleted Accounts on Left & Right” and listed a few dozen sites that the article’s writer had seen online screaming about having been removed.

Meanwhile, in UK’s very mainstream Daily Mail (the second-largest-circulation of all UK’s newspapers), columnist Michael Burleigh headlined on October 13th “Putin’s taking over Libya by stealth in order to point a new weapon at the West – millions of desperate migrants” and he opened:

So bloody and extensive is President Putin’s record of aggression, not least in Syria and Ukraine, that an incursion into the empty deserts of North Africa might hardly seem worth noting.

Yet the discovery that Russia is moving troops and missiles into war-torn Libya has rightly caused alarms to sound throughout the capitals of Europe.

It is a step of huge significance, and one with potentially disastrous results for Western nations.

The discovery that Vladimir Putin, above, and his government is moving troops and missiles into war-torn Libya has rightly caused alarm. Russia – this time in the form of Rosneft, the huge oil company controlled by Putin’s sinister crony Igor Sechin – is interested in a slice of Libya’s vast oil reserves, the largest in Africa

Libya has both oil and Mediterranean ports, and Russia is hungry for both.

But was it Russia that in 2011 had invaded and destroyed Libya, or was it U.S., UK, and France, who invaded and destroyed Libya – a country that like Iraq, Syria, Yemen and others which The West has destroyed, had never threatened nor invaded any of them?

Burleigh continued:

– cause enough for concern, perhaps. Yet the real fear for European governments is this: Libya, with its porous southern borders, has become the main jumping-off point for the hundreds of thousands of African migrants now seeking to cross the Mediterranean to the shores of the EU and, in particular, Italy.

So, his own country, UK, had helped with the bombing of Libya that had caused all those ‘migrants’ (actually refugees) into Europe, but now he’s trying to blame Putin for it, as if Russia and not UK, U.S., and France were the cause of it. Doesn’t that “mislead people”?

But is the Daily Mail being strangled by Facebook, Twitter, and Google; or is it instead being done to the small-fry political sites, which aren’t owned and controlled by the aristocracies of the U.S., UK, France, and their allied aristocracies – all the aristocracies that are in NATO and promoted by The Atlantic Council?

Here is yet more from Elliott Gabriel’s excellent news-report at Mint Press on May 18th, providing background to the present purges and censorships:

The announcement, made last Thursday in a Facebook Newsroom post, explained that the social network’s security, policy and product teams will coordinate their work with the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) to analyze “real-time insights and updates on emerging threats and disinformation campaigns from around the world.”

DFRLab employees include pro-war media activist Eliot Higgins (of Bellingcat fame) and Ben Nimmo – a senior fellow for information defense at the Atlantic Council, who earned infamy for his groundless accusations that actual Twitter users are Russian trolls.

Continuing, Facebook global politics and government outreach director Katie Harbath explained:

“This will help increase the number of ‘eyes and ears’ we have working to spot potential abuse on our service – enabling us to more effectively identify gaps in our systems, preempt obstacles, and ensure that Facebook plays a positive role during elections all around the world.”

“We know that tackling these problems effectively also requires the right policies and regulatory structures, so that governments and companies can help prevent abuse while also ensuring that people have a voice during elections. The Atlantic Council’s network of leaders is uniquely situated to help all of us think through the challenges we will face in the near- and long-term.”

The think-tank’s Digital Research Unit Monitoring Missions will also be tapped by the social network during elections and “other highly sensitive moments” to allow Facebook the ability to zero in on key locales and monitor alleged misinformation and foreign interference.

Who is the Atlantic Council?

The Atlantic Council was recently in the news for receiving a donation of $900,000 from the U.S. State Department for a “Peace Process Support Network” program to “promote non-violent conflict resolution” in support of Venezuela’s scattered opposition, with which the council enjoys very close ties. The council also advocates the arming of extremist militants in Syria (a “National Stabilization Force”) and a hard-line policy toward Russia.

Established in 1961 by former U.S. Secretaries of State Dean Acheson and Christian Herter, the Atlantic Council of the United States was originally conceived as a means to drum up support for the Cold War-era NATO alliance, which had formed in 1949 as the basis of the Euro-Atlantic security architecture during the post-WWII competition with the Soviet Union. Dozens of similar Atlantic Councils were eventually established throughout the NATO and Partnership for Peace states.

The council is a part of the Atlantic Treaty Association, a NATO offshoot that claims to unite “political leaders, academics, military officials, journalists and diplomats in an effort to further the values set forth in the North Atlantic Treaty, namely: democracy, freedom, liberty, peace, security, and the rule of law.”

In general, groups such as the Atlantic Council are meant to secure the legitimacy of U.S. policies and neoliberal economics in the eyes of world audiences and academia, whether they live in the “advanced democracies” (the imperialist center) or “developing democracies” (the post-colonial and economically exploited nations).

Mint Press – a real news-operation, instead of the fake-news operations that are being boosted by Facebook, Twitter, and Google – apparently hasn’t yet been removed by Facebook, but the permanent-war-economy is only just starting to lower the boom. And, who knows what’s next, in American ‘democracy’, now?

The way to boycott Facebook, Twitter, and Google, is to NOT respond to their ads, but instead to blacklist their advertisers and all media that rely upon those giant social-media sites. There are competitors, and those need to be aggressively favored by anyone who doesn’t want to be mentally strangulated by these three giant corporations.

These media-giants want to strangle the public; so, the public needs to strangle them first.

Comment: See also: Banned Facebook pages were featured on 2016 PropOrNot ‘blacklist’

How the US Gains Enemies and Alienates Friends – Brian CLOUGHLEY – Strategic Culture Fundation

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How the US Gains Enemies and Alienates Friends

It was hardly earth-shattering news that the Pakistan Navy had withdrawn its two warships from the multi-national Combined Task Force (CTF 151) that has been operating in an anti-piracy role in the western Indian Ocean since 2009. CTF 151 is one of these little-known but important international associations that are not only successful in what they aim to achieve, but extremely effective in establishing and firming bonds between nations. For example, command of the Task Force rotates between nations (Pakistan Navy officers have commanded it five times) and over the years much trust has been forged between participating navies (which include those of Canada, Denmark, France, Japan, Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Singapore, the UK and the US). One of the goodwill aspects of the grouping was that the US refuelled Pakistan’s ships at no cost.

No longer.

It has been reported that the value of the Pakistan rupee has sunk to an all-time low of 134 to the US dollar (it was 80, ten years ago) which is a most serious matter for the new government in Islamabad and for the entire nation, as the cost of oil keeps increasing and has to be paid in US dollars.

Unfortunately, “Pakistan’s oil import bill rose nearly 30.43 per cent year-on-year to $12.928 billion in July-May 2017-18 owing to an increase in global prices of crude oil and rising demand for petroleum products.” So Pakistan gets the double whammy of devaluation and a surge in the oil price.

So the United States ordered that the Pakistan naval vessels of Combined Task Force 151 will no longer be provided with US oil at no charge, but will have to pay for it.

Nobody can claim that this is a vast amount of money in terms of operating warships. It is probably about 2 million dollars a year. But that’s not the point. The point is that Washington has again taken the sort of nasty, malevolent, spiteful “See what I can do to you!” type of action that causes the United States to be so detested in so many regions round the world.

The background for the US action against Pakistan was Trump’s first tweet of 2018, when he told the world that “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”

He ignores the facts that, as pointed out by Pakistan’s defence minister, “Pak as anti-terror ally has given free to US: land & air communication, military bases & intel cooperation that decimated Al-Qaeda over last 16 years, but they have given us nothing but invective & mistrust. They overlook cross-border safe havens of terrorists who murder Pakistanis.” It means nothing to Washington that since the US attack on Afghanistan and subsequent expansion of Islamic terrorist groups in the region, Pakistan has suffered 468 suicide bombing attacks, in which 7,230 of its citizens were killed. Before 2001 there was one such attack, in 1995 by a crazy Egyptian who drove a bomb-laden lorry into the Egyptian Embassy’s gates.

But the US went ahead and cut planned aid to Pakistan, which included meeting the charge for refuelling the ships of Combined Task Force 151, causing Pakistan to withdraw them. All that Trump’s Washington has achieved by its insults and punitive actions is alienation of Pakistanis who were supportive of the US, and creation of much more anti-US feeling in Pakistan. Maybe this is what was intended, but if so, it’s a very strange way of behaving.

The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, visited China on October 8 to discuss North Korea and US-China relations. So before this extremely important diplomatic venture, on October 2, Vice President Mike Pence gave a speech to the Hudson Institute in which he criticized and condemned China and complained that Beijing “is meddling in America’s democracy,” on the grounds that it is using trade, its military, and diplomacy to increase its own influence around the world. This didn’t get the raucous laugh it merits, because the Hudson Institute doesn’t laugh at irony. But the Pence diatribe sent an unmistakable message to Beijing and set the scene for the Pompeo visit, which was understandably a disaster.

It isn’t surprising that the Pompeo meeting went flat and that China regards Donald Trump as a tweeting idiot.

But it went further than the President and Vice-President of the United States publicly and violently criticizing the Peoples Republic of China, and four days before Pompeo’s visit, CNN reported that “the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet has drawn up a classified proposal to carry out a global show of force as a warning to China and to demonstrate the US is prepared to deter and counter their military actions, according to several US defence officials.” In other words there was a deliberate leak to CNN of highly classified planning information. Nothing new in that, of course, because all US mainstream media are in the leaky pockets of the CIA, the Pentagon and various other agencies that vociferously condemn leaking unless they do it themselves, which they do with impunity. (The UK is exactly the same; some of the stuff that has recently been leaked by intelligence agencies would be worth a long jail sentence if a criminal case were brought.)

CNN said that “The plan suggests sailing ships and flying aircraft near China’s territorial waters in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait in freedom of navigation operations to demonstrate the right of free passage in international waters. The proposal means US ships and aircraft would operate close to Chinese forces. The [leaking] officials emphasized that there is no intention to engage in combat with the Chinese.”

But has the Pentagon asked the Chinese what their reaction will be when it indulges in its intentionally provocative actions? This is a classic approach to war.

Here we have two countries, formerly friendly Pakistan and potentially friendly China, which the US, at the highest level, has deliberately and comprehensively insulted and antagonised. Can Washington really believe that either of them could in any fashion be supportive of the US or any aspect of US international policy in the foreseeable Trumpian future?

Washington insulted Pakistan in the most grievous and needlessly spiteful fashion, and was even more abusive about China. As it happens, these countries border each other and are closely linked, economically and militarily. They couldn’t be further apart, religiously or politically, but this doesn’t matter — and the US could learn from that, because you don’t have to be religious to reflect on the wisdom of the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus wisely advised that human beings should “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (And similar advice is given in the Holy Koran and the Analects of Confucius.)

By insulting their leaders and scattering threats like explosive confetti, the US Administration influences foreign nations to reconsider their attitude to cooperation. They wonder if there is there any point in trying to engage with Trump Washington. At the moment almost everything that Trump is doing is gaining enemies and alienating friends, and the Pentagon’s policies of withdrawal of financial assistance to allies and deliberate military provocation of China, Russia, Iran and Venexuela ensure that tensions around the world just keep on growing.

It’s all supposed to be part of “Make America Great Again”, but Washington and the American people are going to discover that insults and confrontation will lead to exactly the opposite result.

Jihadists refuse to leave Idlib buffer zone under Russia-Turkey deal – Syria threatens to resume anti-terror op – By RFE/RL -SOTT

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National Liberation Front in Idlib Province

© Omar Haj Kadoue / AFP
Syrian rebel-fighters from the National Liberation Front in Idlib Province

Militants in Syria’s Idlib Province failed to meet an October 15 deadline for vacating a buffer zone created under a Russian-Turkish cease-fire deal, prompting a threat from the Syrian government to resume its military campaign.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said Syrian forces are ready to resume their fight to “eradicate” militants who remain in Idlib, but he said Syria would give Russia time to determine whether they complied with the deal.

The deal between Turkey and Russia, which averted what was widely expected to be a bloody battle in the last remaining Syrian rebel-held stronghold last month, set up a buffer zone about 20 kilometers long which was to be evacuated of all heavy weapons and Islamist extremists by midnight on October 14.

Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor, said on October 15 that the militants largely failed to comply with the agreement.

“We did not document the withdrawal of any jihadist fighters from the entire demilitarized zone,” he said.

Moualem said at a press conference in Damascus that it is now up to Russia to judge whether the agreement has been fulfilled, and that may take time.

“We have to wait for the Russian reaction. Russia is monitoring and following the situation,” he said.

“Our armed forces are ready around Idlib to eradicate terrorism if the Idlib agreement is not implemented,” he said

“Idlib, as any other province, has to return to Syrian sovereignty. We prefer to have it through peaceful means, through reconciliation, but if not, there [are] other options.”

Russian officials have hinted they could accept a brief delay in carrying out the agreement if it meant the spirit of the deal was still upheld.

Tahrir al-Sham, an Islamist alliance led by Al-Qaeda’s former Syrian affiliate, on October 14 issued a statement lauding the cease-fire deal but pledging to continue its fight against the government.

“We value the efforts of all those striving — at home and abroad — to protect the liberated area and prevent its invasion and the perpetration of massacres in it,” but “we have not abandoned our choice of jihad and fighting towards implementing our blessed revolution,” the group said.

Tahrir al-Sham and other, more extreme Islamist groups hold over two-thirds of the buffer area, and over half of the rest of Idlib.

Comment: Yep, these are the people holding Idlib – the same terrorists the U.S. has been so hysterical about saving from Russian and Syrian bombs. Where was all their ‘humanitarian’ concern when bombing the hell out of Raqqa?

Idlib’s other main rebel faction, a Turkish-aligned alliance of groups known as the National Liberation Front, has repeatedly expressed its support for the agreement.

Moualem said the government’s next target after recovering Idlib from rebels would be the area east of the Euphrates — territory that is currently held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, which are allies of the United States.

Kurdish leaders reportedly have traveled to Damascus to negotiate with the government over the future of the area they liberated last year from the Islamic State extremist group and where they have started to institute a system of self-rule with encouragement and protection from U.S. forces.

But Moualem suggested those negotiations have not produced any accord and said the Kurdish-held area remains fair game for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces — even if that means clashing with U.S. troops in the area.

His statement came as Syria reopened two key border crossings with Israel and Jordan on October 15 that had been closed for years during Syria’s seven-year civil war, which has killed over 400,000 people and displaced millions more.

The opening of the Nassib and Quneitra crossings are a major boost for Assad, showing that he is slowly reasserting control over much of Syria’s territory.

The Nassib crossing with Jordan is a gateway to the oil-rich Gulf nations and an important commercial artery that had been closed since 2015, when rebels seized control of it.

The Syrian Army recaptured it in July, as it made gains across the country with the help of Russian and Iranian forces.

THE ONLY ROGUE ACTOR IS MBS; SYRIA’S S-300 UP AND RUNNING – By ZIAD FADEL

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With SyrPer having identified clearly the way the Saudi “hit-team” dispatched poor Islamist warthog, Jamaal Khashoggi, the Saudi government is now trying to adopt our narrative to blame the botched operation on rogue elements inside the security services for the death of what King Salmaan called: “our Saudi citizen”.  You see, I have a wide smirk on my face as I’m writing this for the reason that the Saudi excuse for this mess is now an “overzealous” security agent, anxious to impress MBS with his “expertise” who was bent on capturing and repatriating Khashoggi so that MBS could torture him to death personally in the privacy of his own palace (in the style of Saddaam Hussayn).  And can you guess who the lamb of sacrifice is going to be?  His name was mentioned in our post yesterday.  Te hee hee.

Image result for ahmad asiri deputy director of Saudi Arabia general intelligence

Major General Ahmad ‘Aseeri appears, from his phenotype,  to be of mixed blood: probably African and Arabian.  His last name suggests he is from the Western coastal area of ‘Aseer which extends down into Yemen.  He also has no bloodlines to connect him to the “royal” family of Sa’ood thus making him thoroughly dispensable.  Don’t be surprised if the Clown Prince doesn’t have him beheaded for the killing of Jamaal Khashoggi.  Stalin would be proud.  If you’ve read “A Tale of Two Cities”, you know it’s going to be somebody else.  Poor Sidney Carton.

But, really, can anybody believe a rogue security agent led a group of assassins to Istanbul to bring home a personality so abhorred by the reigning Clown Prince that a successful conclusion would result in his being immortalized or promoted to head of his department?  Maybe, ‘Aseeri might yearn to be chief of the General Intelligence Service and this could have been his chance, you can never know.  Anyways, you’re going to hear this nonsense soon from the Arabian fake news media.

Look, folks, we know the consulate in Istanbul told all non-Saudi employees not to show up to work on October 2, 2018, the same day Khashoggi was killed, either intentionally or accidentally in a botched interrogation during which, as I suggested, he succumbed to a cardiac infarction. Well, somebody must have told the staff at the consulate that the Turkish workers were to be given a day off on October 2, 2018.  Who would have the authority to do that?

The natural answer is the General Consul.  But, who would alert him to the need for that?  And, why?  Clearly, the General Consul would have queried as to the purpose of this day off during a non-holiday.  And who had the authority to tell him to do exactly that?  Surely, if it were the Saudi ambassador to Ankara, he too would have to ask for what purpose “are we giving the day off to our Turk employees in Istanbul, but, not to our Turk employees in Ankara?”

To be sure, the Deputy Director of Saudi General Intelligence (talk about oxymorons) could order such an event and the General Consul would be wise to obey it.  With all Turk employees given the day off, it had to be assumed that the Saudi workers would have to remain silent about the screams they were hearing as Khashoggi was being tortured.  They would also have to be relied upon to keep their mouths shut as a squad of killers, including a well-known professional butcher/coroner, made its way into the consulate with no Turks allowed on the premises.

But, the Saudis know full well that the Turkish government keeps security agents around all diplomatic facilities in Istanbul.  They would have to suspect, even a little, that the Turks also have cameras around the consulate for security reasons, especially with a country like Saudi Arabia, so heavily involved in terrorism and systemic creepiness.

No.  This was no rogue operation.  The very presence of the forensic “expert”, Salaah Al-Tubayji, indicates planning in Saudi Arabia by a known nincompoop who fancies himself a real “systematic” genius.  Can you guess who that is?

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Photo courtesy of Pars Today

Korrekt!!  Can anybody believe Al-Tubayji, whose life has been devoted to the swift dismemberment of cadavers, the rapid analysis of deaths during the Pilgrimage at Mecca and hiding evidence from do-gooders, would simply go with ‘Aseeri to Istanbul without knowing for what reason?  Here is my impression of the mythical conversation preceding Al-Tubayji’s packing up his collection of bone saws:

‘Aseeri:  “My dear doctor.  This is ‘Aseeri.  You know, of course, who I am.”

Al-Tubayji:  “Yeah. Sure. You’re the guy who was the spokesman for the disaster in Yemen.  You’re the guy who was fired and made Deputy Director of Intelligence.  Right?”

‘Aseeri:  “Something like that…….Look, pack up your kit, or whatever you use to make carcasses itsy bitsy, and teeny weeny.  We’re going to Istanbul.  You know, (sings) Istanbul is Constantinople.  Got it?”

Al-Tubayji:  “Anybody I know?”

‘Aseeri:  “Khashoggi.”

Al-Tubayji:  “Big guy.  Lotsa work.  I might need some Gatorade for this.”

‘Aseeri:  “I’ll make sure they have some in the consulate.”

Al-Tubayji:  “Thanks, very thoughtful.  Are you going to bury him there or take him out in pieces?”

‘Aseeri:  “I thought we’d bring some freezer bags with us.”

Al-Tubayji:  “You’re going to have a lot of bags for this.  I’d say you’ll need about 13 young men.”

‘Aseeri:  “You’ve got it.  I’ll draw some from the king’s Royal Guard and some from our department.”

Al-Tubayji:  “Hey, sounds like a party.  But, does MBS know about this?”

‘Aseeri:  “Shshhhhhhhh.  It’s going to be a surprise.”

 

In truth, MBS was only surprised that his maniacal plot blew up in his face with planning so inept it makes the French tactics at Dien Bien Phu seem inspired.  But, don’t you be surprised if the Saudis try to unload this schlock on a gullible public.  I can see the CIA spooks, and the even more malignant spooks in England, working overtime to make this gangrenous narrative more palatable.

________________________________________________

DAMASCUS:

في سوريا: إنشاء نظام يوازي أفضل نظام دفاع جوي في العالم

My sources are telling me the S-300 system has been delivered and has been installed.  Syria can now electronically jam radar and other methods of target acquisition with the new equipment.  Enjoy.   

Angered By Saudi Plan to Purchase Russian S-400, Trump Admin Exploiting Khashoggi Disappearance to Force Saudis to “Buy American” – By Whitney Webb Whitney Webb @_whitneywebb – MINT PRESS

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Jamal Khashoggi Saudi Arabia

The response of the Trump administration and many U.S. politicians to Khashoggi’s disappearance is largely being guided by the military-industrial complex — in this case Lockheed Martin — but masquerading as a response motivated by “human rights.”

ISTANBUL — The disappearance and alleged murder of Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi continues to strain relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia. On Saturday, President Donald Trump warned the Saudis of “severe punishment” if the Saudi government was found to have been responsible for the journalist’s alleged murder.

The Saudi government has vocally denied any involvement even though Khashoggi disappeared within the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and responded to Trump’s threats by vowing an even “stronger” response if the Gulf monarchy is ultimately targeted by the United States. The exchange of threats caused Saudi stocks to sustain their biggest one-day loss since 2016 when trading opened and has brought the upcoming three-day Future Investment Initiative (FII) in Saudi Arabia much unwanted negative publicity.

However, there is considerable evidence pointing to the fact that the U.S.’ response to the Khashoggi affair is likely to be determined, not by any Saudi government responsibility for Khashoggi’s fate, but instead whether or not the Saudis choose to follow through with their promise to purchase the $15 billion U.S.-made THAAD missile system or it cheaper, Russia-made equivalent, the S-400. According to reports, the Saudis failed to meet the deadline for their planned THAAD purchase and had hinted in late September that they were planning to buy the S-400 from Russia instead.

 

While the U.S.’ response to the alleged murder of the Saudi journalist is being cast as a U.S. government effort to defend press freedom and finally hold the Saudi government to account for its long litany of human-rights abuses, there is every indication that the U.S. is not in fact seeking to punish the Saudis for their alleged role in Khashoggi’s apparent murder but instead to punish them for reneging on this $15 billion deal to U.S. weapons giant Lockheed Martin, which manufactures the THAAD system.

Khashoggi’s disappearance merely provided a convenient pretext for the U.S. to pressure the Saudis over abandoning the weapons deal by allowing the U.S. to frame its retaliation as a “human rights” issue. As a result, it seems likely that, if the Saudis move forward with the latter, the U.S. and the Trump administration  the Saudi government guilty of involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance while, if they move forward with the former, the media frenzy and controversy surrounding the Saudi national will likely fizzle out and, with it, Trump’s threats of “severe punishment.”

Ultimately, the response of the U.S. political class to the Khashoggi affair is just the latest example of a U.S. government policy being motivated by the military-industrial complex but masquerading as a policy motivated by concern for “human rights.”

 

Why the sudden concern over the Saudi government’s atrocious human rights record?

As the Khashoggi saga has drawn on since the Saudi journalist disappeared earlier this month, some observers have noted that the corporate media and the U.S. government’s sudden preoccupation with Saudi Arabia’s human-rights record, particularly in regards to journalists. Indeed, just last Wednesday, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) announced that 15 Saudi journalists and bloggers had been arrested over the past year and noted that “in most cases, their arrests have never been officially confirmed and no official has ever said where they are being held or what they are charged with.”

In addition, Saudi Arabia has helped kill tens of thousands of Yemeni civilians in the war it is leading against that country, with most of those civilian casualties resulting from the Saudi-led coalition’s bombing campaign that routinely targets civilians. The Saudi-led coalition’s blockade of food and medicine into Yemen has also brought the country to the brink of famine, with nearly 18 million now at risk of starving to death — including over 5 million children, while thousands more are dying from preventable diseases in the country.

While murdering a journalist by “hit squad” in a diplomatic compound on foreign soil — as is alleged to have Khashoggi’s fate — would certainly set a dangerous precedent, Saudi Arabia leading the genocide against the Yemeni people is arguably a much worse precedent.  However, little concern over the Saudis’ role in this atrocity in Yemen has been raised by those pushing for action to be taken against Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi’s “inhumane” fate. So, why the sudden concern?

Despite it being a well-known fact that the Saudi government routinely imprisons journalists and activists and is leading a genocidal war against its southern neighbor, the Trump administration has now adopted a harsh tone towards the Saudis, with concerns over Khashoggi’s disappearance serving as the “official” excuse.

Indeed, Trump told CBS’ 60 Minutes during an interview broadcast on Sunday that “there’s something really terrible and disgusting about that if that were the case [that Saudi Arabia had been involved in Khashoggi’s murder], so we’re going to have to see. We’re going to get to the bottom of it and there will be severe punishment.”

Other powerful figures in the U.S. political establishment have called for dramatic action to be taken against the Saudi government, particularly the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). For instance, John Brennan, former CIA Director under Obama and current cable news pundit, lobbied in a recent Washington Post op-ed to dethrone MBS for his alleged role in Khashoggi’s fate.

Brennan also notably called upon the U.S. to impose “immediate sanctions on all Saudis involved; a freeze on U.S. military sales to Saudi Arabia; suspension of all routine intelligence cooperation with Saudi security services; and a U.S.-sponsored U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the murder.”

Another prominent figure in Washington pushing for action to be taken against the Saudis over Khashoggi’s disappearance is Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Graham recently stated that there would be “hell to pay” if the Saudi government was found to be responsible for Khashoggi’s disappearance and alleged murder. Notably, the top contributor to Graham’s 2020 re-election campaign is U.S. weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin.

Given that human-rights concerns among the U.S. power establishment have only emerged after the disappearance of this one journalist and such concerns regarding the Saudis other grave human-rights abuses continue to go unvoiced by these same individuals, something else is likely driving Washington’s sudden concern over alleged Saudi state-sanctioned murder.

So what has protected the Saudi government from U.S. retribution over its repeated human-rights abuses in the past? Though Saudi Arabia’s vast oil wealth is an obvious answer, a recently leaked State Department memo revealed that U.S. weapon sales to the Gulf Kingdom were the main and only factor in the Trump administration ’s continued support for the Saudi-led coalition’s disastrous war in Yemen. Those lucrative weapon sales, according to the memo, led Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to “rubber stamp” the Saudi-led coalition’s bombing campaign in Yemen despite the fact that the coalition has continued to bomb civilian buses, homes and infrastructure in recent months.

If the Saudis were to back away from a major, lucrative deal with U.S. weapon manufacturers, such an act would likely result in retribution from Washington, given that weapons sales to the Gulf Kingdom are currently the driving factor behind Washington’s “concern” with the Saudi government’s poor human-rights record.

This is exactly what happened and it took place just two days before Khashoggi disappeared inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

 

The Saudis back out of a US deal and eye the rival’s wares

Last year, President Trump visited Saudi Arabia and praised its crown prince for finalizing a massive weapons deal with the United States at a value of over $110 billion. However, it emerged soon after that this “deal” was not contract-based but instead involved many “letters of interest or intent.” Over a year later, the Washington Post recently noted that many of the planned weapons deals have yet to be finalized.

One of those agreements was the planned $15 billion purchase of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (THAAD), which is manufactured by U.S. weapons giant Lockheed Martin. The deadline for the Saudis to finalize that deal passed on September 30, just two days before Khashoggi’s disappearance on October 2. However, a Saudi official told the Post that the Saudi government is still “highly interested” in the deal but “like any military purchase, there are negotiations happening which we hope will conclude in the quickest means possible.”

Yet, not only has Saudi Arabia apparently backed out of the $15 billion deal to buy Lockheed’s THAAD, it is also actively considering buying the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system instead and has also refused U.S. government requests to disavow its interest in the Russian-made system.

Indeed, on September 21, Saudi ambassador to Russia Raid bin Khalid Krimli stated:

Our cooperation with Russia continues and grows. And during King Salman’s historic visit [to Russia] we have signed 14 agreements that began to be implemented. There were four agreements in the military field; three of them began to be implemented. As for the fourth … there is discussion of the technical issues. Because the system itself is modern and complex.”

The fourth deal to which he alludes appears to be the S-400. The Saudi ambassador also stated the he hoped “nobody will impose any sanctions on us” for making the purchases with Russia — further suggesting that the system he was discussing was the S-400, given that the U.S. sanctioned China for purchasing the system soon before the Saudi ambassador’s comments.

Interestingly, soon after the Saudis’ failure to stick to the planned deal with Lockheed, Trump began to publicly criticize the Saudis for “not paying” their fair share. Speaking at a campaign rally in Mississippi on October 3 – one day after Khashoggi’s disappearance in Istanbul and three days after Saudi Arabia “missed” the Lockheed Martin deadline, Trump stated:

“I love the king [of Saudi Arabia], King Salman, but I said: ‘King, we’re protecting you. You might not be there for two weeks without us. You have to pay for your military, you have to pay.”‘

More recently, this past Saturday, Trump told reporters that he did not want to risk the bottom line of the U.S.’ top weapons manufacturers in determining the Saudis’ “punishment:”  

I tell you what I don’t want to do. Boeing, Lockheed, Raytheon, all these companies. I don’t want to hurt jobs. I don’t want to lose an order like that [emphasis added]. And you know there are other ways of punishing, to use a word that’s a pretty harsh word, but it’s true.”

Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson participates in a signing ceremony between President Donald Trump and Saudi King Salam at the Royal Court Palace, Saturday, May 20, 2017, in Riyadh. (AP/Evan Vucci)

However, if the Saudis do follow through with the purchase of the S-400, Lockheed Martin will lose $15 billion as a result. It will also endanger some of other potential contracts contained within the $110 billion weapons contract that Trump has often publicly promoted. With Trump not wanting to “lose an order like that,” some analysts like Scott Creighton of the Nomadic Everyman blog have asserted that the Khashoggi scandal is being used as a “shakedown” aimed at pressuring the Saudis into “buying American” and to force them to disavow a future purchase of the Russian-made S-400.

Would the U.S. use such tactics against a close ally like the Saudis over their potential purchase of the Russian-made S-400? It would certainly fit with the U.S.’ recent efforts to threaten countries around the world with sanctions for purchasing that very missile defense system. For instance, in June, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell threatened Turkey with sanctions if Turkey purchased the S-400. Those threats were followed by the September decision made by the Trump administration to sanction China for its purchase of the S-400 system.

Notably, it was right after China was sanctioned for purchasing the S-400 that the Saudi ambassador to Russia told Russian media that “I hope nobody will impose any sanctions on us” for purchasing the S-400.

However, U.S. sanctions against the Saudis may now be in the works after all, with Khashoggi’s disappearance as the pretext. Indeed, as previously mentioned, former CIA director John Brennan, among other powerful figures in Washington, is calling for sanctions against the Saudi government and Trump himself stated on Saturday that “severe punishment” could soon be in the Saudis’ future.

Yet another piece of this puzzle that cannot be ignored is the fact that Khashoggi himself has ties to the CIA, as well as to Lockheed Martin through his uncle Adnan Khashoggi, one of Saudi Arabia’s most powerful weapons dealers.

 

Khashoggi’s deep connections to CIA, Saudi Intelligence suggest his “disappearance” may be something more

Following his disappearance, Khashoggi has been praised by establishment and non-establishment figures alike, from Jake Tapper to Chris Hedges, for being a “dissident” and a “courageous journalist.” However, prior to his scandalous disappearance and alleged murder, Khashoggi did not receive such accolades and was a very controversial figure.

As Federico Pieraccini recently wrote at Strategic Culture:

[Khashoggi is a] representative of the shadowy world of collaboration that sometimes exists between journalism and the intelligence agencies, in this case involving the intelligence agencies of Saudi Arabia and the United States. It has been virtually confirmed by official circles within the Al Saud family that Khashoggi was an agent in the employ of Riyadh and the CIA during the Soviet presence in Afghanistan.”

Indeed, Khashoggi doubled as a journalist and an asset for the Saudi and U.S. intelligence services and was also an early recruit of the Muslim Brotherhood. He was also the protégé of Turki Faisal Al-Saud, the head of Saudi intelligence for 24 years, who also served as the Saudi ambassador to Washington and to the United Kingdom. Khashoggi was “media advisor” to Faisal Al-Saud during his two ambassadorships. Notably, Khashoggi became a regime “critic” only after internal power struggles broke out between former Saudi King Abdullah and Turki Faisal al-Saud.

Supporters of King Abdullah accused Khashoggi at the time of having recruited and paid several journalists on behalf of the CIA while he was editor of the leading English-language magazine in Saudi Arabia, Arab News, a post he held from 1999 to 2003.

More recently, Khashoggi strongly supported the Muslim Brotherhood during the “Arab Spring” and backed the Barack Obama/Hillary Clinton regime-change efforts that spread throughout the Middle East, including the regime-change effort targeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

However, under King Salman, the Muslim Brotherhood’s presence in Saudi Arabia came under threat and was suppressed. This led Khashoggi to leave and seek refuge in Turkey.

Perhaps most significantly, prior to his disappearance, Khashoggi was “working quietly with intellectuals, reformists and Islamists to launch a group called Democracy for the Arab World Now.” As Moon of Alabama notes, these projects that Khashoggi was involved in prior to his disappearance “reek of preparations for a CIA-controlled color revolution in Saudi Arabia.”

Jamal Khashoggi speaks during a press conference in Manama, Bahrain, Monday, Dec. 15, 2014. Khashoggi was recently banned from reporting by the Saudi government over his public criticism of Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

Not only does Khashoggi share ties to the CIA and the Saudi intelligence services (services that often collaborate), but his family is well-connected to global power structures, including Lockheed Martin.

Indeed, as previously mentioned, Khashoggi’s uncle is none other than Adnan Khashoggi, the notorious Saudi arms dealer who was an important player in the Iran-contra affair and was once Saudi Arabia’s richest man. Adnan Khashoggi was deeply connected to Lockheed Martin, as demonstrated by the fact that, between 1970 and 1975, he received $106 million in commissions from the U.S. weapons giant with his commission rate on Lockheed sales eventually rising to 15 percent. According to Lockheed’s former Vice President for International Marketing, Max Helzel, Adnan Khashoggi “became for all practical purposes a marketing arm of Lockheed. Adnan would provide not only an entry but strategy, constant advice and analysis.”

Adnan Khashoggi also had close ties to the Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan White Houses, with the latter likely explaining why he was acquitted for his role in the Iran-contra scandal. Also notable is the fact that Adnan Khashoggi sold his famed yacht to none other than Donald Trump for $30 million. Trump later called Adnan Khashoggi “a great broker and a lousy businessman.”

Given Jamal Khashoggi’s past and present connections to the CIA and his family’s connections to Lockheed Martin and powerful players in the U.S. political establishment, the possibility emerges that Khashoggi’s disappearance may have in fact been a set-up in order to place pressure on the Saudi government following its decision to renege on its plan to purchase Lockheed’s THAAD system. This theory is also somewhat supported by the fact that the U.S. intelligence community had known in advance of an alleged Saudi plot to capture Khashoggi but ignored its duty (via ICD 191) to warn Khashoggi of the apparent threat against him. Furthermore, the claims that Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul have — so far — been entirely based on claims from U.S. and Turkish intelligence and no evidence to support the now prevailing narrative of murder has been made public.

If a “set-up” were the case, Khashoggi’s CIA links and his apparent efforts at pushing a CIA-controlled “color revolution” in Saudi Arabia suggest that his disappearance could also have been intended for use as a pretext, not necessarily to punish the Saudis over the S-400, but to remove MBS from his position as crown prince and replace him with former crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who was ousted by MBS last year and also holds close ties to the CIA. Such a possibility cannot be ignored.

However, the Trump administration’s willingness to cooperate with the faux outrage regarding Khashoggi is much more likely to be motivated by the weapons-deal drama given the administration’s close ties to MBS.

Of course, it is equally likely that this was not a set-up given that MBS is undeniably authoritarian and relentlessly pursues his critics and perhaps thought that his close relationship with Trump would allow him to act with impunity in targeting Khashoggi. However, MBS’ pursuits of his critics in the past were more readily accepted by the West — like the so-called “corruption crackdown” last December. Either way, the Saudi government’s role in the alleged murder of Khashoggi is being capitalized on by the CIA and other elements of the U.S. political scene and military-industrial complex for its own purposes, as these groups normally turn a blind eye to Saudi government atrocities.

 

Tracking the political typhoon

Though the U.S. tactic to strong-arm Saudi Arabia seems clear, it is a situation that could dangerously escalate as both MBS and Trump have proven over the course of their short tenure that they are stubborn and unpredictable.

Furthermore, the timing of this situation is also troubling. In early November, the Trump administration’s efforts to punish countries importing Iranian crude oil will take effect and Trump is set to lean heavily on the Saudis to prevent a dramatic oil price increase due to the supply shock the removal of Iranian oil from the market will cause. Notably, the Saudis are working closely with Russia to keep oil prices from spiking.

Is the U.S. willing to risk the dramatic jump in oil prices, which themselves could have major domestic economic consequences, in order to keep the Saudis from buying the S-400? It’s hard to say but the coming battle of wills between Trump and MBS could well have truly global consequences.

Top Photo | A security personnel looks out from the entrance of the Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul, Oct. 14, 2018. Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi critic, vanished after he walked into the consulate on Oct. 2. Petros Giannakouris | AP

Acknowledgment: The author of this article would like to thank Scott Creighton of the Nomadic Everyman blog for his assistance in researching aspects of this investigation.

Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.

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Did Saudis, CIA Fear Khashoggi 9/11 Bombshell? – By Finian CUNNINGHAM – Strategic Culture Foundation

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Did Saudis, CIA Fear Khashoggi 9/11 Bombshell?

 

The macabre case of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi raises the question: did Saudi rulers fear him revealing highly damaging information on their secret dealings? In particular, possible involvement in the 9/11 terror attacks on New York in 2001.

Even more intriguing are US media reports now emerging that American intelligence had snooped on and were aware of Saudi officials making plans to capture Khashoggi prior to his apparent disappearance at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week. If the Americans knew the journalist’s life was in danger, why didn’t they tip him off to avoid his doom?

Jamal Khashoggi (59) had gone rogue, from the Saudi elite’s point of view. Formerly a senior editor in Saudi state media and an advisor to the royal court, he was imminently connected and versed in House of Saud affairs. As one commentator cryptically put it: “He knew where all the bodies were buried.”

For the past year, Khashoggi went into self-imposed exile, taking up residence in the US, where he began writing opinion columns for the Washington Post.

Khashoggi’s articles appeared to be taking on increasingly critical tone against the heir to the Saudi throne, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The 33-year-old Crown Prince, or MbS as he’s known, is de facto ruler of the oil-rich kingdom, in place of his aging father, King Salman.

While Western media and several leaders, such as Presidents Trump and Macron, have been indulging MbS as “a reformer”, Khashoggi was spoiling this Saudi public relations effort by criticizing the war in Yemen, the blockade on Qatar and the crackdown on Saudi critics back home.

However, what may have caused the Saudi royals more concern was what Khashoggi knew about darker, dirtier matters. And not just the Saudis, but American deep state actors as as well.

He was formerly a media aide to Prince Turki al Faisal, who is an eminence gris figure in Saudi intelligence, with its systematic relations to American and British counterparts. Prince Turki’s father, Faisal, was formerly the king of Saudi Arabia until his assassination in 1975 by a family rival. Faisal was a half-brother of the present king, Salman, and therefore Prince Turki is a cousin of the Crown Prince – albeit at 73 more than twice his age.

For nearly 23 years, from 1977 to 2001, Prince Turki was the director of the Mukhabarat, the Saudi state intelligence apparatus. He was instrumental in Saudi, American and British organization of the mujahideen fighters in Afghanistan to combat Soviet forces. Those militants in Afghanistan later evolved into the al Qaeda terror network, which has served as a cat’s paw in various US proxy wars across the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia, including Russia’s backyard in the Caucasus.

Ten days before the 9/11 terror attacks on New York City, in which some 3,000 Americans died, Prince Turki retired from his post as head of Saudi intelligence. It was an abrupt departure, well before his tenure was due to expire.

There has previously been speculation in US media that this senior Saudi figure knew in advance that something major was going down on 9/11. At least 15 of the 19 Arabs who allegedly hijacked three commercial airplanes that day were Saudi nationals.

Prince Turki has subsequently been named in a 2002 lawsuit mounted by families of 9/11 victims. There is little suggestion he was wittingly involved in organizing the terror plot. Later public comments indicated that Prince Turki was horrified by the atrocity. But the question is: did he know of the impending incident, and did he alert US intelligence, which then did not take appropriate action to prevent it?

Jamal Khashoggi had long served as a trusted media advisor to Prince Turki, before the latter resigned from public office in 2007. Following 9/11, Turki was the Saudi ambassador to both the US and Britain.

A tentative idea here is that Khashoggi, in his close dealings with Prince Turki over the years, may have gleaned highly sensitive inside information on what actually happened on 9/11. Were the Arab hijackers mere patsies used by the American CIA to facilitate an event which has since been used by American military planners to launch a global “war on terror” as a cover for illegal wars overseas? There is a huge body of evidence that the 9/11 attacks were indeed a “false flag” event orchestrated by the US deep state as a pretext for its imperialist rampages.

The apparent abduction and murder last week of Jamal Khashoggi seems such an astoundingly desperate move by the Saudi rulers. More evidence is emerging from Turkish sources that the journalist was indeed lured to the consulate in Istanbul where he was killed by a 15-member hit squad. Reports are saying that the alleged assassination was ordered at the highest level of the Saudi royal court, which implicates Crown Prince MbS.

Why would the Saudi rulers order such a heinous act, which would inevitably lead to acute political problems, as we are seeing in the fallout from governments and media coverage around the world?

Over the past year, the House of Saud had been appealing to Khashoggi to return to Riyadh and resume his services as a media advisor to the royal court. He declined, fearing that something more sinister was afoot. When Khashoggi turned up in Istanbul to collect a divorce document from the Saudi consulate on September 28, it appears that the House of Saud decided to nab him. He was told to return to the consulate on October 2. On that same day, the 15-member group arrived from Riyadh on two private Gulfstream jets for the mission to kill him.

Official Saudi claims stretch credulity. They say Khashoggi left the consulate building unharmed by a backdoor, although they won’t provide CCTV images to prove that. The Turks say their own CCTV facilities monitoring the front and back of the Saudi consulate show that Khashoggi did not leave the premises. The Turks seem confident of their claim he was murdered inside the building, his remains dismembered and removed in diplomatic vehicles. The two private jets left the same day from Istanbul with the 15 Saudis onboard to return to Riyadh, via Cairo and Dubai.

To carry out such a reckless act, the Saudis must have been alarmed by Khashoggi’s critical commentaries appearing in the Washington Post. The columns appeared to be delivering more and more damaging insights into the regime under Crown Prince MbS.

The Washington Post this week is reporting that US intelligence sources knew from telecom intercepts that the Saudis were planning to abduct Khashoggi. That implicates the House of Saud in a dastardly premeditated act of murder.

But furthermore this same disclosure could also, unwittingly, implicate US intelligence. If the latter knew of a malicious intent towards Khashoggi, why didn’t US agents warn him about going to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul? Surely, he could have obtained the same personal documents from the Saudi embassy in Washington DC, a country where he was residing and would have been safer.

Jamal Khashoggi may have known too many dark secrets about US and Saudi intel collusion, primarily related to the 9/11 terror incidents. And with his increasing volubility as a critical journalist in a prominent American news outlet, it may have been time to silence him. The Saudis as hitmen, the American CIA as facilitators.

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United States Did It Again: Warplanes Use White Phosphorous Munitions in Syria – By Peter KORZUN |Strategic Culture Foundation

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United States Did It Again: Warplanes Use White Phosphorous Munitions in Syria
The US-led coalition used white phosphorus (WP) munitions delivering air strikes in the Syrian province of Deir Ez-Zor on Oct.13. The attack resulted in casualties among civilians. Last month, WP munitions were also used by two US Air Force (USAF) F-15s in an attack on the town of Hajin, Deir-ez-Zor. The Syrian government has repeatedly condemned the US-led coalition, which says the need to fight ISIS justifies its military actions while denying the fact it uses white phosphorous projectiles.

WP does not fall into the category of chemical weapons banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention but it is an incendiary weapon. As such, it cannot be used against non-combatants. Protocol III of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons “prohibits the use of said incendiary weapons against civilians (already forbidden by the Geneva Conventions) or in civilian areas”. The substance ignites spontaneously upon contact with air, producing a dense white smoke. The heat could reach 800-900°C. No water will help. Severe injuries to internal organs could be caused when absorbed through skin, ingested, or inhaled. Burning particles of white phosphorus produce thermal and chemical burns if they come into contact with skin.

It’s not Syria only where the US used WP munitions. White phosphorous artillery shells were used in Iraq during the assault on Fallujah in 2004. The US admitted the fact. There have also been media reports about the WP use in Mosul, Iraq and Raqqa, Syria. Last year, the Washington Post published photographs of US Marines equipped with white phosphorus projectiles to be used in the battle for Raqqa. The source offered similar pictures showing WP munitions with US Army units outside Iraqi Mosul. 

The Human Rights Watch has warned about dangers coming from the use of WP in urban areas. According to Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch, “No matter how white phosphorus is used, it poses a high risk of horrific and long-lasting harm in crowded cities like Raqqa and Mosul and any other areas with concentrations of civilians.”

In 2015, the United States used depleted uranium (DU) in Syria. DU is not banned by an international treaty but its use runs counter to the International Humanitarian Law (IHW). Article 36 of the Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions requires to ensure that “any new weapon means or method of warfare does not contravene existing rules of international law.” It says “General principles of the laws of war/IHL prohibit weapons and means or methods of warfare that cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering, have indiscriminate effects or cause widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment.” In 2012, the UN General Assembly tried to adopt a resolution restricting the use of DU. The move was supported by 155 states, with 27 abstaining and four, including the United States, voting against.

The American military has used cluster bombs against civilians in Yemen. The US is not one of the 102 states parties to the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, which prohibits the weapons that open in the air, dispersing multiple bomblets or submunitions over a wide area. Many submunitions fail to explode on initial impact, acting like landmines for years. The Pentagon refuses to give cluster munitions and American field commanders are authorized to use them at their discretion.

The US continues to run biological programs, operating more than 20 laboratories around the world in blatant violation of the UN Biological Weapons Convention. An opinion paper published on Oct. 4 in the journal Science, written by an international group of researchers claims the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is potentially developing insects as a means of delivering a “new class of biological weapon.”

In 2011, US police used tear gas and other chemical irritants against Occupy protesters. Tear gas is prohibited for use against enemy soldiers in battle by the Chemical Weapons Convention but it’s all right with America’s law enforcement agencies using the dangerous substance against their own people.

There is no justification for using WP at the time ISIS has been reduced to insignificance in Syria but Washington did it again. It violated international law after having unilaterally imposed sanctions on Russia without any evidence to support the relevant accusations. It should also be remembered that, unlike Russia, the US has so far failed to meet its obligations and destroy the chemical weapons stockpile. The use of substances to harm civilians is a serious matter that should be addressed at the ongoing 79th session on UN General Assembly. America’s non-compliance with generally accepted norms is the most acute problem on the international security agenda.

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The emperor has no clothes: Why the US military is woefully unprepared for major conventional conflict – By Brian Kalmon – South Front – SOTT

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us military conventional conflict

In the Department of Defense authored summary of the National Defense Strategy of the United States for 2018, Secretary James Mattis quite succinctly sets out the challenges and goals of the U.S. military in the immediate future. Importantly, he acknowledges that the U.S. had become far too focused on counter-insurgency over the past two decades, but he seems to miss the causation of this mission in the first place. U.S. foreign policy, and its reliance on military intervention to solve all perceived problems, regime change and imperialist adventurism, resulted in the need to occupy nations, or destroy them. This leads to the growth of insurgencies, and the strengthening of long simmering religious radicalism and anti-western sentiment in the Middle East and Central Asia. The U.S. military willfully threw itself headlong into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The United States engaged in unnecessary wars, and when these wars were easily won on the immediate battlefield, the unplanned for occupations lead to guerilla insurgencies that were not so easy for a conventional military to confront. The U.S. Army was not prepared for guerilla warfare in urban areas, nor for the brutal and immoral tactics that their new enemies were willing to engage in. They obviously had not reflected upon the Soviet experience in Afghanistan, nor the nature of their new enemies. As casualties mounted due to roadside IEDs, snipers, and suicide bombers hidden amongst civilians, the U.S. military and the defense industry were forced to find ways to protect soldiers and make vehicle less vulnerable to these types of attacks. This resulted in vehicles of every description being armored and new IED resistant vehicles being designed and fielded in large numbers. This in turn, equated to a vast amount of time, effort and money. It also focused both the U.S. military services and the defense industry away from fighting conventional wars against peer adversaries.

After a decade of fighting an insurgency in Afghanistan and almost as long in Iraq, the U.S. leadership decided to destroy the sovereign nation of Libya, and foment a war in Syria immediately afterward. There is no doubt with the knowledge of historic events today, that the CIA and State Department facilitated a foreign invasion of Syria of Islamist radicals. They funded and armed these groups, provided clandestine training, and facilitated the logistical movement of fighters and weapons into a sovereign nation to cause its disintegration. In these two examples they decided not to occupy these countries, but to destroy all semblance of ordered society and replace it with brutally violent chaos. The U.S. political and military leadership seems to have learned that their past adventurism resulted in costly occupations, yet instead of refraining from using the military option as a tool to alter geopolitical realities they did not like, they merely opted to abandon the responsibility of occupation and reconstruction all together.

Benghazi Libya

Benghazi, Libya. An example of democratic progress and stability in North Africa courtesy of U.S. led “humanitarian intervention”.

While Secretary Mattis describes the “near peer” nations China and Russia as “revisionist powers”, it was not these nations that made the irresponsible and reckless decisions that have weakened the U.S. military establishment, nor aim to revise the ill-conceived and executed catastrophes of their American “peers”. They have reached a state of military and technological parity with, and in many cases a position of superiority vis a vis the United States, because they exercised better judgement over the past two decades, invested their time, talent and treasure in developing powerful conventional and nuclear forces, and refrained from using their national defense assets to punish their perceived adversaries in such a way that more damage was caused to themselves. In many ways, the poor example of the United States and its ill-conceived military expeditions, influenced both Russia and China to advance along different paths. Now, without recognizing and acknowledging the failures of leadership and decision making that have lead the U.S. military to a weakened state, the United States has declared that it is now in a period of strategic competition with the two other strongest kids on the block.

In order to understand how Secretary Mattis has come to such a declaration, we have to look at the U.S. military decisions, actions, mistakes, and failures of leadership at the highest levels that have brought us to this point. A brief analysis of the resultant metamorphosis of the United States military from a robust and balanced conventional fighting force, backed up by a viable nuclear deterrent into a force obsessed with occupation and counterinsurgency must be conducted. This must be followed by a study of how the U.S. military has decided to invest its extensive funding, the weapons systems it has pursued, and how it envisions that it is best suited to protect the national security interests of the state. Finally, a comparison must be conducted of the capabilities of its declared strategic adversaries. A conclusion can then be made regarding the ability of the United States military to successfully engage and defeat these adversaries in a future conflict.

Imperial Expansion, Regime Change and Occupation

When the Soviet Union dissolved in December of 1991, a global power vacuum was immediately created. Regardless of the many assurances given to the Gorbachev government (which were finally revealed in the December 2017 National Security Archive releases of official NATO correspondence) that NATO would not expand and that the former Soviet federated states would be included in the established European economic and security apparatus, the United States immediately embarked on a policy of NATO expansion and economic exploitation of post-Soviet territories.

Just scant months earlier, the United States deployed military forces to Saudi Arabia as the backbone of an international coalition to confront and reverse the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. This resulted in Operation Desert Shield, the greatest deployment of combined military forces on the part of the U.S. military since the Vietnam War. By January of 1991, not even a month since the U.S.S.R. ceased to be, Operation Desert Shield transitioned to Operation Desert Storm, with the invasion of Iraq and Kuwait. The conventional military power utilized by the U.S. was greatly effective, and most combat systems worked extremely well on the battlefield. Air superiority was soon absolute, as the Iraqi Air Force largely left the skies uncontested. The great success of Operation Desert Storm largely gave the military planners of the Pentagon a false sense of superiority, which as we shall see, led to a number of wrong assumptions and poor decisions being made regarding the future development and transformation of the U.S. military.

desert storm M1A2 abrams tank platoon

M1A2 Abrams tank platoon advancing during Operation Desert Storm. The armored combat vehicles of the U.S. Army proved very effective against a far inferior opponent in this conflict, yet they proved capable and reliable. Logistical requirements; however, did prove to be a challenge.

The first post-Cold War military “humanitarian intervention” conducted by the U.S. was the Yugoslavian civil conflict interdiction of 1995. Predicated upon escalating ethnic atrocities, the NATO intervention was actually designed to make the fracturing of the former Yugoslavian Republic permanent, and to establish a number of pro-NATO, or pro-U.S.-Atlantic establishment nations on the Balkan periphery of Russia. Slovenia became a NATO member state in 2004, followed by Croatia in 2009, and then Montenegro in 2017. At the same time that a civil war was raging in the former Republic of Yugoslavia, the U.S. and its Gulf State allies fomented and aided Islamic insurgencies in the Caucasus Republics of the newly comprised Russian Federation in an attempt to further weaken and encircle it. At the conclusion of U.S. intervention in the Balkans, which included the deployment of U.S. ground forces as part of multiple NATO-led operations including Operation Joint Endeavor, Operation Joint Guard and Joint Forge in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the Kosovo Force (KFOR), the United States would de facto create the statelet of Kosovo. As many as 43,000 NATO troops were serving as part of these operations at any given time between 1995 and 2002.

U.S. Camp Bondsteel Kosovo Serbia

U.S. Camp Bondsteel in the U.S. sponsored protectorate of Kosovo located in southwestern Serbia. The intervention in Kosovo had nothing to do with humanitarian concerns as usual, but in establishing a permanent military foothold in the Balkans.

As I have described and explained in an earlier analysis entitled “U.S. Army Armored Vehicle Developments in the 21st Century; The Future Combat System gives way to Mobile Protected Firepower“, although the U.S. military leadership was pleased with the performance of its legacy armored vehicles and weapons systems in both Operation Desert Storm and its Operation Joint Endeavor, it was not satisfied with the amount of time required to deploy large combined Arms units via available sealift and airlift capacity. The complex logistics involved in mobilizing and moving heavy armored units does not lend well to rapid deployments, especially over significant distances. Even pre-deployment of heavy armored equipment, either in host countries or loaded in sealift vessels kept on stand-by at forward deployed bases (such as Diego Garcia) or berthed at major seaports of the continental United States, present a whole host of logistical challenges.

The desire to streamline U.S. military logistics, and to create a fighting force that was more rapidly deployable, flexible and yet maintained the highest levels of lethality, and that leveraged advanced information technologies and communications systems led to the genesis of the Future Combat System (FCS). Embracing the FCS concept, the Army set very high deployment goals, which would prove to be unattainable. General Eric Shinseki, then Chief of Staff of the Army, stated that the Army would strive to attain the ability to deploy a combat brigade anywhere in the world within 96 hours, a full division within 120 hours, and no less than five divisions in 30 days. Then Secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld was a vocal supporter of the FCS concept. The U.S. Army would eventually pursue the FCS program, the largest defense acquisition program in U.S. military history with a price tag of approximately $200 billion USD. The program was eventually cancelled in 2009, yet its influence in transforming the U.S. Army have proven substantial, and have had a negative influence on the Army’s ability to fight near peer adversaries in today’s warfighting environment.

The United States military would become a force for invasion and occupation during the Neo-Con era spanning from 2000 to the present. BY 2003, the U.S. was once again invading Iraqi territory, this time during Operation Iraqi Freedom. By this time the U.S. Army had partially realized some aspects of FCS, mainly in the area of rapidly deploying combat ready forces of the Brigade size. Operation Iraqi Freedom was envisioned as a rapid invasion utilizing highly mobile, self-contained, combined-arms combat teams supported by overwhelming airpower. The Iraqi military was far weaker in 2003 than it had been in 1991. It was a shadow of its former self and had been repeatedly targeted over the intervening decade, especially its air-defense and command and control networks. A combined ground force of approximately 148,000 men was deployed and ready for offensive operations in approximately a month and a half. Ground operations of the invasion lasted from March 20th until May 1st, 2003. The initial victory was impressive, but it soon became quite obvious that there was no realistic and pragmatic plan to occupy the country and render aid to a stable and capable new government.

What followed was a time of crisis for the U.S. military. When the U.S. soldiers were not greeted as liberators, and a number of organized and ruthless anti-occupation insurgencies formed, some motivated my patriotism, some my tribal and religious factions, and still others by terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda, the soldiers tasked with the occupation of Iraq were woefully unprepared for the task asked of them. U.S. troops deployed to a nation whose minimal civil infrastructure they had just destroyed, were tasked with reconstruction and nation building in a country producing a growing anti-occupation insurgency on many different levels. Convoys and patrols were increasingly the targets of ambushes by insurgents operating along key roadways and within urban centers. Light vehicles and military transports were targeted and destroyed in significant numbers, and the crews had no protection from weapons ranging from small arms and RPGs to extremely powerful improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

The Bush administration at the time, who had claimed that the U.S. troops would be widely embraced as liberators, began to scramble for ways to reduce the mounting U.S. casualties. The answer was to add armored protection to all existing vehicles, whether they be HMMWVs, or the LMTVs and HEMMTs of the logistics units. Adding armor to logistical support vehicles not meant to see front line combat greatly reduced their fuel efficiency (of great importance in the logistics arm) and was only accomplished at great cost. The U.S. Army only had one armored security vehicle in active service at this time, the M1117, albeit in small numbers. The decision was made to armor the ubiquitous HMMWV and to give it the tasks of armored patrol, internal security and crowd control vehicle. The HMMWV was designed and used quite effectively as a light utility vehicle and had always performed well in such a role; however, it was never intended for the roles it was called upon to perform after 2003.

An Obsession with MRAPs

A number of different armor packages were developed for the HMMWV, mainly to increase the likelihood of crew survivability. The armored Hummer was merely a stopgap until purpose-built armored vehicles could be developed and fielded in greater numbers. Although effective against high caliber small arms, shrapnel and mines, the M1117 was fielded in very limited numbers in 2003 with military police units, mostly in security duties on U.S. military installations. Large orders of the vehicle were placed after the 2003 Iraq invasion, and the number grew from approximately 50 to over 1,800 units in active service.

HMMWVs Iraq after  2003 invasion.

M1117 at the head of a column of HMMWVs and an LMTV halted along a road in Iraq sometime after the 2003 invasion.

The U.S. military enlisted the help of both the U.S. and international defense industry to produce an armored vehicle that could better serve the needs of an army now faced with occupying not only one rebellious nation, but two. Between 2003 and 2007, the U.S. military would suffer increasing casualties in both the Iraq and Afghanistan theatres of occupation. In the case of Afghanistan, casualties would continue to increase until 2010 before decreasing over consecutive years. Most of these casualties were the result of ambushes with IEDs. Such attacks increased six fold from 2003 to 2007.

The DOD would award billions of dollars in contracts for Mine Resistant Ambushed Protected vehicles (MRAP) between 2003 and the present. The total acquisition cost of the various MRAPs ordered and put into service conservatively exceeds $45 billion USD. The U.S. military has no less than seven different types of MRAPs in service as of today, more than any other nation by far. As the U.S. has reduced its active footprint in both Afghanistan and Iraq, it has sold many of these vehicles to local security forces, and even U.S. domestic police forces, as they are of little use on a contested battlefield where the U.S. military would be fighting a conventional conflict with a powerful adversary. The following list details the main types of MRAPS in use by the U.S. military and costs associated:

M-ATV

The genesis of the MRAP All Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV) was the desire to gain both the IED level protection of an MRAP and the mobility of a lighter all-terrain vehicle. It was realized early on that the armored M1114 HMMWV variant sacrificed much of its off road performance with the addition of heavy armor plate, yet failed to provide adequate protection. A purpose-built light MRAP was called for. Oshkosh Corporation was awarded the initial $1 billion USD contract to supply the new M-ATV to the U.S. Army, USMC, Air Force and Special Operations Command (which employs special operations elements of all the military services) in mid-2009. The initial contract order grew four fold within a few years, and total M-ATVs produced to date has approached 10,000 units of different variants. The acquisition cost not corrected for inflation likely exceeds $4 billion USD, and additional contracts have been awarded to update and refit all units retained in U.S. service. Many units have since been handed over to allied governments in the Middle East and Europe at far reduced prices. NATO recipients include both Poland and Croatia. Both the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia have made use of the M-ATV in the conflict in Yemen, and have lost a significant number in combat.

Comparative size HMMWV and M-ATV

Comparative size of the armored HMMWV and the M-ATV. The ubiquitous “Hummer” was never meant to be an armored car, and hundreds were destroyed by IEDs in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Cougar

The Cougar is a much more robust vehicle than the M-ATV, resembling a heavily armored truck. It comes in a 4 x 4 and larger 6 x 6 version, with several variants based on these two platforms, depending on the intended role. The Cougar was developed by Force Protection, Inc. in 2004. The company was later acquired by General Dynamics in 2011. The Cougar was rushed into service after a very simple and rudimentary testing program in 2004, as the U.S. military wanted thousands of MRAPs for service in Iraq as soon as possible. The Cougar can trace its lineage to earlier South African designed and fielded vehicles, and was also adopted into British and Canadian service as well.

The Cougar was produced in great numbers between 2004 and 2010 for the U.S. military, with further orders filled by the British military, who have fielded the Cougar in at least 4 different variants. A number of Cougars have also be gifted to other NATO countries with contingents serving in Afghanistan. The U.S. military spent approximately $2.5-3.0 billion USD to acquire its Cougars, and additional funds have been spent to upgrade the roughly 20% of the surviving fleet selected to remain in service.

British Army 4×4  6×6 CougarMastiff and Ridgeback

British Army variants of the 4×4 and 6×6 Cougar (Mastiff and Ridgeback) in a convoy protecting military transports in Afghanistan.

Caiman

Probably the most cost effective MRAP to be developed to meet the requirements of the MRAP Vehicle Program is the Armor Holdings (since acquired by BAE Systems) Caiman. The Caiman initially shared 85% of its construction components with the Stewart & Stevenson/Oshkosh family of military tactical vehicles (FMTV). This family of light to medium trucks have been produced since the early 1980s, with over 74,000 units of varying configuration put into service. This commonality of construction reduced manufacturing, maintenance and inventory carrying costs. The total cost of the Caiman contract (including a later contract to upgrade and improve vehicles to the Multi-Terrain Vehicle standard) amounted to over $1.15 billion USD. The United States sold 1,150 Caiman MRAPs that had been put in surplus status to the U.A.E. to aid in their operations in Yemen.

MaxxPro

Manufactured by Navistar Defense, a subsidiary of the Navistar International Corporation, the MaxxPro MRAP is based on a commercial truck chassis and makes use of a bolt-on armor construction as much as possible. This reduces manufacturing cost when compared to welded construction, and allows for easier repair in the field. Approximately 9,000 MaxxPro MRAPs were built for the U.S. Army, Marine Corps and Air Force. At an average per unit cost of $515,000 USD, the Maxxpro cost the United States military over $4.6 billion USD, not counting a number of upgrade contracts. Of the 9,000 units constructed and delivered, the U.S. military services announced in 2013 the intension of keeping only a third of these units in service beyond 2014.

Buffalo MPRC

The largest MRAP in the U.S. inventory, the Buffalo was designed as an IED and mine clearance vehicle. Manufactured by Force Protection Inc., it is based on the Casspir MRAP that has been in service with the South African Army for decades. The Buffalo in a 6×6 armored vehicle with a maximum service weight of 25,000 kgs. (56,000 lbs.). After building the first 200 units, the Buffalo was upgraded to the A2 standard in 2009, after which an additional 450 units were produced. Over 750 total Buffalos have been produced in total, with 650 of these in service with the U.S. military at a cost of over $1 billion USD.

Buffalo IED and Mine Clearance MRAP

Force Protection Buffalo IED and Mine Clearance MRAP removing an explosive devise by use of its articulated, hydraulically-operated claw.

The Buffalo’s origins are clearly a response to the dangers posed by a prolonged military occupation in an environment of active guerilla warfare. It was based on a proven design, and has been extremely effective in its intended role. The traditional vehicle for mine clearance or IED disposal would normally be an MBT fitted with mine clearance apparatus. The Buffalo is cheaper to manufacture, maintain and operate than an MBT, and is slightly more flexible in a multitude of environments. It also can accommodate 12 soldiers in addition to a normal crew of two.

Nyala RG-31/33

Manufactured by Land Systems OMC (BAE Land Systems) of South Africa and FNSS of Turkey, the RG-31/33 Nyala MRAP is produced in a 4×4 (RG-31) and 6×6 (RG-33) version to meet the requirements of the Mine Resistant Ambushed Protected Vehicle Program. Although used by the U.S. military in the highest numbers (almost 2,000 vehicles), ten other nations use this MRAP to some degree. The USMC ordered 1,385 of the Mark 5E variant, and operate more RG-31s than any other military service. The total cost of RG-31/33 acquisition is easily in excess of $2.7 billion USD.

JLTV

The most ambitious of all of the MRAP programs, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) is meant to replace the HMMWV in use by all of the U.S. military branches. Although the design of the new vehicle is meant to allow it to exceed at a number of military tasks, it is at its core a mine resistant, ambush protected vehicle. The JLTV is suited to take over the tasks of light armored reconnaissance, armored security, special operations, utility and convoy protection. The JLTV is meant to be flexible enough to perform all of these tasks and its very design allows for the upgrading or downgrading of armor and weapons systems tailored to the task required.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimated in 2015 that the total acquisition cost of the JLTV across all services would likely be $53.5 billion USD, with a total of 5,500 units for the UMC and 49,099 for the U.S. Army requested. In 2016, the Department of Defense claimed that the total cost of the program would be reduced due to revised unit costs and corrected “cost estimate methodologies”; however, past experience has proven that the Pentagon is usually quite bad when it comes to managing finances. The procurement timetable proposed has the first JLTVs being delivered beginning in 2018, and not being completed until 2040 for the U.S. Army. The 5,500 units requested by the USMC should be delivered between 2018 and 2022.

The JLTV program clearly embodies the U.S. military’s fixation on its experiences in both Iraq and Afghanistan with occupation and the resultant insurgencies motivated by inevitable anti-U.S. and anti-Western sentiments. Invaders are never seen as liberators, but always as subjugators and occupiers. Occupiers are never safe, as the frontline is everywhere. The U.S. military reacted to protect itself by armoring everything. Light utility vehicles and logistics transport of all categories were armored for protection. Only a nation that plans to invade and occupy other countries, and that will find itself always in a hostile environment will require so many MRAPs and armored transports. No other major military in the world has decided to follow this new U.S. model. Perhaps that is due to the fact that the main duty of their armed forces is to fight defensively in defending their own territory. Armies of national defense have no need to prepare themselves to fight a hostile native population.

unarmored HMMWV and  armored JLTV

A side-by-side comparison of an unarmored HMMWV and an armored JLTV. The new vehicle is twice as heavy as the standard HMMWV.

The JLTV is an armored, all-terrain monster that can carry a payload between 1,600 and 2,300 kgs. (3,500 – 5,100 lbs.), weapons as large as the SHORAD (Short Range Air Defense variant of the Hellfire missile) or the 30mm M230LF automatic cannon, and provide crew survivability in most IED attacks. The DOD has decided to replace both MRAPs and the HMMWV family of utility vehicles with the new JLTV platform. The JLTV is equipped with a 6.6 liter diesel V8 which can generate at least 300 horse power. The vehicle weighs in at between 14,000 and 15,639lbs. depending on the variant. By comparison, the unarmored HMMWV weighed in at 7,700 lbs. fully loaded and made use of a diesel V8 (some models used a turbo diesel) generating a maximum 190 hp. Even considering greater efficiencies achieved through modern internal combustion engine technology, a vehicle that weighs twice as much and requires greater horsepower will lead to higher fuel consumption and require higher levels of maintenance.

Counter Insurgency

Not only did the U.S. military experience with occupation and counterinsurgency shape the armored vehicle procurement projects and design priorities of future armored vehicle acquisitions, but it also resulted in an over-focusing of resources toward a traditionally elite, limited and specialized subset of conventional fighting forces; special operations. All effective modern national defense forces operate a small cadre of special operations units. These units are made up of highly motivated, highly trained and highly skilled soldiers who can perform any number of military tasks, but are specifically focused on asymmetrical, hybrid and very specialized warfare subsets. They complement and enhance conventional fighting forces, and often act as significant force multipliers in any conflict.

Prior to the U.S. wars of occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States operated a robust special operations force comprising of units from all services. The considerable investment in these highly selective forces, the high standards demanded, and the extremely difficult training requirements have always kept these forces small; however this has changed a great deal over the past 17 years. The need for soldiers with a skill set specific to counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan lead to increased focus and demand on special operations. From 2001 to the present, the special operations forces under the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) have expanded from 42,800 to approximately 63,500 today. Special operations specific funding has grown four fold in the same time period, from $3.1 billion USD to $12.3 billion USD. According to SOCOM, an average of 8,300 special operators are deployed in missions in as many as 149 nations across the globe on a weekly basis, and 70 nations on any given day.

U.S. Special Operations Command

U.S. Special Operations Command has access to uniquely qualified units from across all branches of the U.S. military.

There is little doubt that the Pentagon’s over-focus on counterinsurgency (the State Department is guilty here as well) has lead to U.S. military adventurism involving it in the internal conflicts of 75% of the countries of the world. Does this clandestine military involvement in the civil or regional strife of most of the planet really have anything to do with U.S. national security? Does it make the U.S. any safer, or is it only creating more enemies? SOCOM has even deployed assets to clandestinely train amongst the civilian population of the United States itself, a clear violation of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878.

This disproportional over-emphasis on special operations has resulted in an atrophying of more traditional martial structures and establishments. While the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation have stayed at the forefront of modern armor and artillery development, and have advanced the related tactics, the United States has fallen far behind. Even the Peoples Liberation Army has made great strides in these conventional warfare realms in comparison to the United States. The United States surely has the economic resources, and the technical capability to close the gap, but the focus of the military needs to be realigned toward conventional warfighting.

Secretary Mattis has obviously recognized the need to focus higher procurement towards conventional forces, as well as fund R&D efforts into better field artillery, rocket artillery, armored fighting vehicles such as the AMPV, and a new main battle tank (MBT). In identifying near peer adversaries as the greatest national security threat, Secretary Mattis realizes that the U.S. must waste no time in closing the technological and quality gap that now exists between the conventional fighting forces of the United States and Russia and China respectively.

A Navy in Disarray

While the ground forces of the United States have suffered from two decades of occupation and counterinsurgency, which has morphed them from a balanced, combined arms conventional fighting force, into a force obsessed with IEDs, insurgents and guerilla warfare, the U.S. Navy seems to have lost any idea of its national security role. After two decades of enjoying uncontested control of the seas and the ability to use aircraft carrier-borne airstrikes to pummel inferior adversaries, none of which possessed a viable navy or air force, nor a modern air defense network or shore-based anti-naval capability, the U.S. Navy has seemed determined to sail further into the realm of irrelevancy in any future conflict. Unless it intends to engage in battle against significantly weaker opponents, the U.S. Navy will not possess an advantage over its two most powerful possible adversaries, Russia and China.

The United States Navy has not engaged in a major naval engagement with a major adversary since the closing days of World War Two. During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union largely kept one another at bay, with very close competition leading to significant advancements in naval warfare. They did not engage in any verified hostile actions. Although the U.S. Navy engaged in combat with Libyan military forces in 1986 in the Gulf of Sidra, as well as sunk a small force of Iraqi Navy vessels of small displacement at the “Battle of Bubiyan” (not really much of a battle at all and UK Navy helicopters did most of the fighting), these engagements were largely one-sided and no one could ever say that the outcomes were a surprise. Regardless, the U.S. Navy apparently has decided that it is an indomitable force that can go wherever it pleases and no one can stand in its way. Such hubris and arrogance are one of the reasons why it is in such poor shape today. The other reason must surely be attributed to a military industrial complex that has sold the service on an expensive pipe dream of wonder weapons that have failed to live up to their hype. All to the tune of huge profits. The following are the most egregious examples:

The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS)

Based on a flawed concept from the start, of a small surface combatant that could make use of modularity to tailor it to specific tasks as opposed to a traditional multi-purpose design, the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) was largely doomed for a number of reasons. Two different designs were awarded contracts, the trimaran Independence Class designed by General Dynamics, and the mono-hull Freedom Class designed by Lockheed Martin. The decision to produce two different designs to meet the needs of a single class should have been seen as problematic. Here the Navy accepted the responsibility and costs associated with maintaining two different platforms, with separate maintenance needs and schedules, not to mention two separate training programs for LCS crews.

The concept of the LCS was also divergent in many respects, and quite frankly, too much was expected of a ship that was smaller in size than a conventional frigate. The U.S. Navy expected the vessels to marry significant striking power, with modularity tailored to just about every form of modern naval warfare, and new networking and information technologies that would reduce the required crew to a minimum. What resulted was what those serving in the force would begrudgingly coin the “Little Crappy Ship”. The aluminum and composite (Independence Class) and lightweight steel (Freedom Class) hulls of the ships provide little armored protection, offensive striking power is far from adequate for either surface warfare or fire support for forces deployed inland, the platform has yet to meet anti-submarine requirements, and the reduced crew size has been determined to be unmanageable.

construction of USS Independence LCS-2

This image of the construction of USS Independence LCS-2, clearly illustrates the aluminum structure of the hull. Aluminum offers little armored protection, burns vigorously at high temperature, and led to increased corrosion of steal propulsion components in areas where the dissimilar metals were in close proximity below the waterline.

As a result of its overwhelming failure to meet the expectations of the U.S. Navy or Congressional oversight, the total fleet size of LCS vessels has been reduced from the original 50 planned down to 32. Project cost overruns, a number of high profile system failures, and the smaller fleet size have resulted in a total cost of $12.4 billion USD for the first 26 vessels. The U.S. Congress capped the per-unit cost at $480 million per ship, bringing the theoretical total cost to $15.5 billion USD. All for a ship that has a minimal chance of surviving most modern naval combat scenarios. There is little wonder why the U.S. Navy has decided to start building a multi-purpose frigate, dubbed the FFG(X), to pick up where the LCS has failed.

DDG 1000 Zumwalt Class

If the LCS was not a huge and unequivocal disappointment, then the much vaunted stealth destroyer, the DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class was a total embarrassment and unmitigated failure. Envisioned as a high-tech game changer, the DDG-1000 was supposed to make use of powerful new technologies, overwhelming firepower, and massive power generation, all wrapped in stealth that would render it invisible. Although designed as a multi-mission surface combatant, added emphasis was put on naval surface fire support (NSFS) while operating in littoral waters. Due to a number of factors, mostly the exorbitant cost of the program, the Navy is now trying to find a role for the Zumwalt class vessels.

Originally, the Navy intended to build 32 of these stealth destroyers, yet the exorbitant initial cost plus huge cost overruns led the Navy and the U.S. Congress to reduce the fleet to 24, then 16, then 7, and finally to only 3 vessels. Correspondingly, the cost per vessel increased tremendously, as did the cost of all class-specific systems including weapons systems, power generation and propulsion systems. Cost per vessel stands at over $7.5 billion USD.

The 155mm Mark 51 advanced gun system (AGS) deck guns designed specifically for the DDG 1000s were made to fire guided rounds over a range in excess of 80 nautical miles, with a circular error probable (CEP) of just 50 meters (160ft.). Each DDG 1000 is equipped with two AGS on the forward deck. These guns were designed to strike shore targets accurately from coastal waters in support of allied ground forces and amphibious landing forces. Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems developed the Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP) for use in the AGS, but due to the now 3 vessel fleet, the per unit cost of each LRLAP had risen to over $800,000 USD. The Navy had already procured 90 rounds before the decision was made to cease purchasing the rounds due to the prohibitive costs.

The DDG-1000 utilizes the same MT-30 Rolls Royce gas turbine engines as the Freedom Class LCS vessels; however, in the case of the destroyers the gas turbine is linked to a massive electrical grid that not only powers the electric motors that propel the vessel, but just about every other system onboard, including the weapons systems. The arrangement is proving problematic, as the first two vessels in class have both experienced main engine failures and damages. The USS Michael Monsoor DDG-1001 suffered damage to the turbine blades of one of its main engines during sea trials in February of this year. The MT-30 engine will have to be replaced at the cost of $20 million USD. The USS Zumwalt DDG-1000 famously broke down during its transit from Maine to San Diego and had to be towed from the Panama Canal to its new home port.

The U.S. Navy is now struggling to find a new niche for the DDG-1000s. Now that its NSFS mission is a non-starter, it is being adapted as a platform to strike inland targets with land-attack cruise missiles (LACM) and engage other surface ships with an anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM) that has yet to be accepted into the service. The DDG-1000s lack a strong anti-air warfare (AAW) capability, and would thus be tied to other fleet components such as the Arleigh Burke Class DDG-51s and Ticonderoga Class CGs which have strong AAW capabilities. In an attempt to utilize the USS Zumwalt, the Navy has added legacy weapons systems, radars and communications antennas to the stealthy superstructure, undoubtedly negating its minimal radar signature. It remains to be seen what munitions will be provided for the two AGS turrets, as no munitions other than the cost prohibitive LRLAP exist.

latest revision DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class

The latest revision of the DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class lead vessel’s once smooth and unblemished superstructure is now marred by various external sensory and communications arrays. Two rear deck guns for close-in defense have also been added.

CVN-78 Gerald R. Ford Class

As if the U.S. Navy was not content with wasting $38 billion USD on the failed LCS and DDG-1000 programs, an even more grandiose undertaking was envisioned for the service that would revolutionize the all too important and largely obsolete “super carrier”. It is a widely accepted fact that the U.S. Navy has been obsessed with the aircraft carrier since World War II and the pivotal naval battles between the U.S. Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy. This obsession is alive and well to this day, seemingly immune to the realities of modern missile technology, especially in regard to guidance, speed, range, and the advent of armed and semi-autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) of increasing lethality.

The U.S. Navy embarked on a program to replace the existing Nimitz Class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers currently comprising the central component of the aircraft carrier strike groups (ASG), of which the service operates 10 (with the additional CVN-65 Enterprise in reserve), in 2005 with the advanced construction of CVN-78. In 2008 the U.S. Navy signed a contract with Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding worth approximately $5.1 billion USD to build the first in a series of four such carriers. The goal is to build each carrier in four year periods under the current funding schedule. The Gerald R. Ford Class was supposed to take advantage of a number of new technologies and experience significantly improved efficiencies in aircraft carrier operations over the preceding Nimitz Class.

While the initial cost estimate for CVN-78 was around $10 billion USD (U.S. Congress had caped it at $10.5 billion USD in 2007), the total cost for the vessel has exceeded $13 billion USD as of May of this year when it was revealed that the Advanced Weapons Elevator and a main thrust bearing had suffered damage in sea trials and required repair. The CVN-78 is by far the most expensive warship ever constructed. In a controversial move, it was decided to try and incorporate a number of new, unproven systems in the new design. In retrospect, this decision was bound to result in cost overruns and a more problematic breaking-in period. New systems integrated into the Gerald R. Ford include an electro-magnetic launching system (EMALS), advanced aircraft arresting system, advanced weapons elevator system, dual band radar (DBR), and a more powerful nuclear reactor.

There was much discussion in the Navy regarding the wisdom of introducing so many new technologies in a single platform. Many senior officers argued that there were bound to be serious delays in working through both the foreseeable and unforeseeable problems associated with rendering so many new technologies operational. This opinion turned out to be of merit, as the Gerald R. Ford immediately experienced problems with just about all of its new systems. The vessel has experienced two main propulsion malfunctions over the past year, the advanced arresting gear has proven unreliable, and the EMALS (as well as other “critical systems”) has displayed “poor or unknown reliability” according to the Navy Operational and Test Evaluation Force. In early testing, the EMALS was unable to launch F-18 strike aircraft at weights even close to a full combat load. All of these problems or shortcomings were revealed during sea trials and the vessel returned to shipyard in Newport News, Virginian on July 15th, 2018 to undergo extensive repairs and improvements.

In should have been of little surprise to most naval architects, engineers, and naval line officers who have held vessel commands, that the above mentioned problems were inevitable. The big question is why the leadership of the Navy decided upon such a platform at all. What is the point of investing so much money and effort into such a large and advanced vessel, regardless of the unproven nature of many of the critical systems, when aircraft carriers have become so vulnerable to modern anti-ship missiles? Of even greater significance, why invest so much in a new carrier and not invest in increasing the range and striking power of the carrier air wing? An aircraft carrier is worthless without a powerful and flexible air wing element.

Carrier Air Wing Vulnerabilities

As much as President Trump and various administration officials and Senators tout the power of the U.S. military, often citing an increasing defense budget as an indicator of strength, efficiency and effectiveness, there is little doubt that U.S. naval aviation has atrophied over decades of misuse, neglect and poor decision making at the highest levels. U.S. naval aviation is arguably in its worse state since the opening days of the Pacific Theatre of operations during the Second World War. Not only is it in disrepair, but it is ill-equipped for a fight against a peer adversary.

Let us address the first issue, the ever shrinking air wing with its shrinking range. In the last decade of Cold War naval competition between The U.S. and the U.S.S.R., the Nimitz Class aircraft carriers deployed with nine, or even ten squadrons of fixed-wing aircraft. Today, that has been reduced to six. Of greater importance, the only aircraft utilized for combat operations is the F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet with all of its inherent shortcomings, most importantly its limited operational range of 370 nautical miles (full strike combat weapons load and fuel). The aircraft it replaced, the A-7 Corsair II and A-4 Skyhawk in the Navy and the F-4 Phantom in the USMC, all had much longer operational ranges and all but the A-4 had greater weapons payload capacity. The F/A-18 is a jack of all trades and a master of none. In an attempt to lower costs (although few combat aircraft has ever operated at lower cost than the A-4 Skyhawk) by using one airframes for all roles, the U.S. Navy has put all of its eggs in one basket, and that basket is not up to the task. This is not to say that the F/A-18 Hornet and F-/A-18E/F Super Hornet are poor aircraft. The plane merely cannot do all of the things asked of it as well as many other aircraft. What has resulted, is an aircraft carrier air wing that is less capable in all respects, and cannot compete and excel in a future conflict with a peer adversary.

A-4 Skyhawk

This image clearly illustrates the ordinance payload capacity of the A-4 Skyhawk. It could carry 9,900lbs. of munitions on 5 external hardpoints. It had an effective combat radius from an aircraft carrier of over 700 miles, and a maximum range of 2,000 miles.

Although the improved F/A-18E/F Super Hornet is significantly larger than its predecessor, and gains about 100 nautical miles in range due to larger internal fuel capacity, it still lacks the required range needed to protect its carrier. Not surprisingly, even though there was a better option, the Navy decided to use F/A-18s for aerial refueling duties as well. The S-3 Viking had been kept in service as a carrier borne aerial tanker, having given up its original role as an ASW aircraft, and was superior to the F/A-18 in this respect. Although most S-3s in service still have approximately 12,000 hours of service life left on their airframes, the Navy pushed ahead with their retirement in 2009. With a much greater range than the F/A-18 and a fuel capacity of 16,000 lbs., the S-3 was a better and far cheaper solution. The fact that it was a far cheaper option was probably its downfall. Profit drives the U.S. military industrial complex, not efficiency or performance.

The only fixed wing aircraft that operate from U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, F/A-18 Hornet, F/A-18E Super Hornet, E-2C and E2-D Hawkeye AEW&C aircraft.

The only fixed wing aircraft that operate from U.S. Navy aircraft carriers today are the F/A-18 Hornet, F/A-18E Super Hornet and E-2C and E2-D Hawkeye AEW&C aircraft.

The second issue, which is perhaps more damning, is the fact that the F/A-18 squadrons that the Navy relies on to conduct almost all carrier air wing duties including attack/strike missions, air superiority, fleet defense, buddy refueling, anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and surveillance, are in an alarming state of disrepair. The Navy announced in February of 2017, that two thirds, or 62% of all F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets were unserviceable due to maintenance issues. Twenty-seven percent of these aircraft were undergoing major maintenance depot work, not minor or preventive maintenance. Of the 542 total F/A-18 and E/F-18 Hornets, only 170 were mission capable. Fast forward one year and a new and increased defense budget, and the Navy is still a long way from solving the shortfall in available replacement parts just to meet normal maintenance requirements. The decision was also made to take 140 of the oldest single seat Hornets (A/C variants) in the Navy and either cannibalize them for parts or transfer them to USMC squadrons that are experiencing similar maintenance issues. In the case of the USMC, they have been waiting so long for new F-35Bs that their legacy F-18s are falling into disrepair.

Maintenance crews performing repairs F/A-18

Maintenance crews performing repairs on an F/A-18 aboard a carrier. The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps must address the maintenance crisis plaguing the services, yet the problem cannot be remedied at this level. Only a reduction in the tempo of deployments, flight operations or the provision of added funding will alleviate the issue which will be determined by the White House and Congress.

Has anyone asked the question, “What good is an advanced, gigantic aircraft carrier with an air wing that is limited in range and capability?” If the U.S. Navy does manage to get the first three Gerald R. Ford Class carriers in service, how many F/A-18E Super Hornets will be mission capable to fly from them? Will the F-35C and F35B Joint Strike Fighters meant to complete the complement of strike and fighter aircraft going to finally be available for deployment? Seeing that the F-35 does not close the “missile gap” that threatens U.S. aircraft carriers in general, is the Navy soliciting the defense industry to produce a carrier-borne aircraft, whether manned or unmanned, to correct this obvious weakness? Russian and Chinese anti-ship ballistic missiles and hypersonic cruise missiles can strike U.S. CSGs long before their aircraft can get within range of striking the territories of either of these near peer adversaries. This “missile gap” will not be rectified anytime soon.

The One-Size-Fits-All Fighter Aircraft

After a short review of the Navy’s decision to settle on a single airframe to fill all of the roles of the carrier air wing, it should come of little surprise that the Pentagon would come to a similar decision on a much broader scale. A cursory study of combat aviation history has proven that there is no one-size- fits-all solution to the many combat functions performed by military aviation. It appears that the decision to introduce a multi-role fighter making use of many new technologies and heavily reliant on stealth to be effective in modern aerial warfare for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and USMC was more about making huge profits for the defense industry and providing jobs to American workers than it was about providing the U.S. military with a superior tool.

The story of the development of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is a cautionary tale of a weapons development program that was ill conceived and soon spiraled out of control. Perhaps the most controversial and scandalous of any such program, the JSF is the costliest weapons program in world history. Newly revised estimates from the Pentagon put the cost of development and procurement of the 2,056 fighters that the DOD wants at $406.1 billion USD. The total cost to procure these aircraft and maintain them over the 20 year life span of the aircraft exceeds $1.5 trillion USD.

While the F-35A first flew in 2006, the only U.S. military branch to declare the F-35 operation and to use it in combat is the USMC. The F-35 was developed from the outset for export to allied nations, and Israel has used the F-35 for strikes against targets in Syria. It is important to note that Israel has relied heavily on its decades old squadrons of F-15 and F-16 multi-role aircraft to bear the brunt of most combat missions. Approximately 300 units of all versions have been produced so far for both the U.S. military and foreign militaries, yet only Israel and the USMC have declared the aircraft combat ready. A major issue facing the program is the fact that aircraft manufacturing began years before the plane was deemed fit for operational deployment, largely because so many deficiencies have been identified and have had to be rectified. This was the result of concurrency, a procurement process that allowed for production of the aircraft prior to final approval of the design. It was agreed that all deficiencies identified would eventually be addressed and rectified in airframes already manufactured at a later date in order to bring them up to the latest standard.

Not only has the F-35 not attained wide operational status seventeen years after its first flight, but it has pulled an exorbitant amount of funding from existing, combat proven aircraft. What could have been done to maintain and improve existing squadrons of F-15 Eagles, F-16 Fighting Falcons, A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, and F/A-18 Hornets currently in varying states of disrepair and serviceability? The idea of replacing all of these front line aircraft with the F-35 is laughable. What kind of imperial hubris and institutional tunnel vision could have led to such an ill-advised decision? The answer is the institutionalized corruption and waste of the U.S. military industrial complex. It continues to leave the United States less protected, and sends American soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen into combat with increasingly less capable weapons.

Atrophy and Exhaustion

The U.S. military has been engaged in counterinsurgency warfare in Afghanistan for over seventeen years. The disastrous invasion of Iraq, the destruction of Libya, and counterinsurgency operations in a host of nations including, but not limited to Yemen, Somalia, Niger and Nigeria, have all taken a toll on the U.S. military. Not only has a great deal of military hardware been destroyed, but a great deal of equipment has been worn out and essentially must be retired from service. More importantly, the constant deployments have undermined the personnel needs of all services, with thousands of men having been killed or physically and psychologically maimed for life. Tens of thousands of the most skilled commissioned and non-commissioned officers have left the services, many of them having served multiple combat deployments.

The fact that 62% of U.S. Navy’s F-18s are not mission capable is not an anomaly. In 2017, approximately 72% of all U.S. Air Force aircraft were not flight worthy. Many of the airframes are quite old, yet well within their engineered service life, but most are in need of maintenance. Both the Navy and Air Force claim that there is not enough money in their respective budgets to procure the needed spare parts to keep these aircraft flying. One would wonder that if this is the case, why tens of billions of dollars are being poured into new aircraft when existing fleets are being left in disrepair. The decisions being made in the upper echelon of the DOD are quite perplexing for the thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen struggling to keep weapons and vehicles ready for action.

The U.S. Army finds itself looking for buyers of surplus MRAPs, vehicles of little utility in a major conventional war with a peer adversary, while at the same time lacking spare parts and munitions for armored vehicles and artillery systems. While the Army has made some progress in procuring the first of the 49,099 JLTVs it wants, it is far behind in all other armored vehicle procurement and development programs. BAE has delivered the first batch of 29 AMPVs to the U.S. Army for extensive testing before the decision can be made to start low rate initial production (LRIP). Once the LRIP begins, it is estimated that BAE will be able to produce approximately 262 units annually, unless the company’s main manufacturing facility in Pennsylvania is expanded. The initial contract is worth $1.6 billion USD. The Army wants at least 3,000 AMPVs of six different main variants to replace the thousands of M113 armored vehicles still in service. The M113 first saw service in 1962 and a replacement for the venerable vehicle has been required for decades.

Defense Secretary James Mattis made it crystal clear in his National Defense Strategy that the U.S. must rebuild its conventional warfare capabilities. The U.S. Army’s proposed 2019 budget lays bare the new priorities of a service facing a major transition in priorities. Procurement of tracked combat vehicles, as well as artillery rounds, rockets and missiles account for much of this latest budget request. Procurement is up by 18.4% over the previous year, with procurement of weapons and tracked vehicles up 84% over the previous year. Although upgrading of the M109 Paladin self-propelled howitzer to the M109A7 level is down by 56% compared to 2018, procurement of 155mm artillery rounds is up a whopping 800%.

Army procurement by category

The percentage of total procurement directed toward weapons and tracked combat vehicles in the 2019 proposed budget denotes that the U.S. Army recognizes its weakness in conventional warfighting capability.

US military budget request 2019 conventional weapons

This chart clearly shows the desire on the part of the U.S. Army to upgrade and rearm conventional capabilities. 155mm artillery rounds and Army Tactical Missile System upgrades to the M207 MLRS are at the top of the list, followed by MBT upgrades and acquisition of new AMPV vehicles.

As the U.S. Army attempts to rebuild its aged and depleted armored brigade combat teams and conventional and rocket artillery, the U.S. Navy and Air Force are facing their own challenges. The Navy finds itself in a position that is far from enviable, but was very easy to predict. Having dumped $38 billion USD into two failed new classes of warships and a further $13 billion into a new aircraft carrier that will likely not become operational until 2022, the service is currently in the process of realigning its priorities. The service is struggling to procure the new Virginia Class SSN and Columbia Class SSBNs that are required to ensure the viability of the nation’s nuclear deterrent triad well into the foreseeable future. These defensive weapons programs, which are integral to U.S. national security, could have benefitted greatly from the $50 billion wasted on the LCS, DDG-1000 and Gerald R. Ford programs. Russia and China have spent the same time wasted by the U.S. Navy on updating and modernizing their own submarine forces, chiefly their ballistic missile submarines.

Institutional Corruption

If one had to identify the main reason behind the utter failure of the U.S. political establishment and military leadership, both civilian and in uniform, to identify and prioritize weapons programs and procurement that was truly in line with the national defense needs of the country, it would be the institutional corruption of the U.S. military industrial complex. This is not a fault of one party, but is the inevitable outcome of a thoroughly corrupted system that both generates and wastes great wealth at the expense of the many for the benefit of the few.

Massive defense budgets do not lead to powerful military forces nor sound national defense strategy. The United States is the most glaring example of how a nation’s treasure can be wasted, its citizens robbed for generations, and its political processes undermined by an industry bent on maximizing profitability by encouraging and exacerbating conflict. At this point it is questionable that the United States’ could remain economically viable without war, so much of its GDP is connected in some way to the pursuit of conflict.

There is no doubt that the War Department was renamed the Department of Defense in an Orwellian sleight of hand in 1947, just a few years after end of World War II. The military industrial complex grew into a monolith during the war, and the only way to justify the expansion of the complex, was by finding a new enemy to justify the new reality of a massive standing military, something that the U.S. Constitution expressly forbids. This unlawful state of affairs has persisted and expanded into a rotten, bloated edifice of waste. Wasted effort, wasted wealth and the wasted lives of millions of people spanning every corner of the planet. Tens of thousands of brave men and women in uniform, and millions of civilians of so many nations, have been tossed into the blades of this immoral meat grinder for generations.

President Donald Trump was very proud to announce the largest U.S. military budget in the nation’s history last year. The United States spent (or more accurately, borrowed from generations yet to come) no less than $874.4 billion USD. The declared base budget for 2017 was $523.2 billion USD, yet there are also the Overseas Contingency Operations and Support budgets that have to be considered in determining the total cost. The total DOD annual costs have doubled from 2003 to the present. Yet, what has the DOD really accomplished with so much money and effort? Very little of benefit to the U.S. tax payer for sure, and paradoxically the exorbitant waste of the past fifteen years have left every branch of the U.S. military weaker.

The U.S. Congress has the duty and responsibility of reigning in the military adventurism of the executive branch. They have the sole authority to declare war, but more importantly, the sole authority to approve the budget requests of the military. It is laughable to think that the U.S. Congress will do anything to reign in military spending. The Congress and the Senate are as equally guilty as the Executive in promoting and benefitting from the military industrial complex. Envisioned as a bulwark against executive power, the U.S. Congress has become an integral component of that complex. No Senator or Representative would dare to go against the industry that employs so many constituents within their state, or pass up on the benefits afforded them through the legalized insider-trading exclusive to them, or the lucrative jobs that await them in the defense industry and the many think tanks that promote continued prosecution of war.

Possible Reforms

It would be quite simple for the U.S. Department of Defense to rectify the current endemic problems that have rendered it weaker and less prepared for a major conventional conflict with a peer adversary. The greater challenge is transforming the relationship between the federal and state governments back to the constitutionally intended one, and to dissolve the powers of the now allied executive, legislative and judicial branches of the federal government. This would undermine the ability of the military industrial complex to coerce the nation into working against the interests of the states and the citizenry. The military industrial complex and the Deep State that serves it can only exist when power is greatly concentrated in a federal system.

For the sake of argument, if the political will could be found to work against the military industrial complex in the interests of true national defense and fiscal responsibility, the following steps could be taken immediately to rectify the many problems facing the military services of the United States:

The U.S. Army

Abandon the obsession with counterinsurgency and occupation and realign the focus of the Army on the defense of the homeland and a handful of historical allies. Rebuild the Army as a lean and well-equipped conventional fighting force. The most highly trained and experienced cadres of special operations forces should be retained, with other members dispersed to more conventional infantry, airborne and reconnaissance units. Most of these men would be moved to reserve status. Personnel should be cut by at least 25%, the majority retained moved to reserve status, and many overseas bases and operations ceased. The focus should be on defense of the nation’s own territories, while also safeguarding the economic interests and maritime trade lanes that are the lifeblood of any nation.

All legacy systems that have proven capable and efficient on the modern battlefield should be refurbished and upgraded to the most modern standard. The M2 Bradley modernization program should be continued, and the AMPV program given increased priority so that the thousands of M113 vehicles can finally end their 56 year tour of duty. MRAP inventories should be reduced to the very minimum and all surplus units sold off to recoup some of the expense incurred in their procurement and the money directed into offsetting procurement costs of new AMPVs and JLTVs.

The JLTV platform is a modular, easily upgradable light tactical vehicle that can be tailored to fit the mission. Although most units should be the basic utility variant, many will need to be acquired to fill the roles of light armored reconnaissance, armored security, convoy security, and light special operations vehicles. An air-droppable airborne armored fighting vehicle should be developed based on the JLTV. The U.S. airborne forces have lacked any real armored fighting vehicle that can accompany them in parachute operations since the M551 was retired in 1996. An up-armored JLTV equipped with a 30mm autocannon would serve as a good stopgap until a purpose built tracked vehicle could be designed. The venerable and ubiquitous HMMWV should maintain its utility role in all non-combat formations, as well as the basis for the Avenger light anti-aircraft missile system for years to come.

Of greatest importance is the rejuvenation of the armored and mechanized units of the U.S. Army. The M1126 Stryker family of wheeled armored vehicles cannot bear the weight of a conventional conflict with either Russia or China. The M1A2SepV3 MBT upgrade, including the addition of the Trophy APS should be afforded adequate funding, yet the greatest need of the Army is the replacement of the M113 in combat units. The U.S. Army’s proposed 3,000 unit procurement of AMPVs is a good start.

The artillery arm of the U.S. Army must gain the attention it has lacked since the dissolving of the Soviet Union and the success of Operation Desert Storm. U.S. military planners and the leadership of the DOD must realize the continued importance of both conventional and rocket artillery on the modern battlefield. The U.S. Army only operates two self-propelled artillery systems, the M109 Paladin and M270 MLRS. This is not necessarily a bad thing as long as both systems are maintained, upgraded and fielded in sufficient number. The M109A7 upgrade program must gain greater funding in the immediate future.

The U.S. Navy

The LCS and DDG-1000 programs are a national disgrace and should be declared as such. The two existing DDG-1000s should be used as test beds for future engineering and weapons systems. The third vessel should be cancelled immediately. As for the LCS, the existing fleet should be used for littoral patrol duties, and all units currently under construction or planned should be cancelled. Enough money has been wasted on these horribly conceived and even more horribly manifested examples of the monumental corruption and waste so integral to the U.S. defense industry.

Freedom Class LCS (background) and Independence Class LCS (foreground)

Freedom Class LCS (background) and Independence Class LCS (foreground). Arguably two of the most monumental failures of warship design in modern history. A cautionary tale of waste and ineptitude.

The FFG(X) program to design a modern yet conventional multi-purpose frigate for the U.S. Navy should be fully embraced. The new frigate should adhere to the traditional naval warfare duties of a frigate and should be designed to sufficiently fulfill a balance of AAW, ASW, and surface warfare missions. In conjunction, priority should be given to procurement of the new DDG-51 Arleigh Burke Flight III. The Arleigh Burke has been the backbone of the U.S. Navy since it entered service. It is a well-designed, balanced, flexible and powerful naval combatant of significant displacement. It puts the LCS and the Zumwalt to shame in every respect, and has existed as a symbol of U.S. Navy power and presence across the length and breadth of the globe since 1991.

It is almost unconscionable that with the richest and most accomplished history of aircraft carrier aviation under its belt, that the U.S. Navy could not come up with a better design for the next generation of CVNs than the Gerald R. Ford Class. Perhaps the namesake of the lead vessel in the class was well chosen, as President Ford was far from a memorable performer; however, the wisdom of the entire program from its very inception must be questioned. The U.S. Navy must outgrow the “super carrier” fixation. There is a future for aircraft carriers, yet on a far different pattern than what the U.S. Navy has operated for the past 50 years.

The greatest area of concern for the U.S. Navy is the weakness of the carrier air wing, a weakness that will not be fundamentally corrected by the introduction of the F-35 in U.S. Navy and USMC service aboard U.S. carriers. A new, longer range fleet defense aircraft akin to a modern F-14 Tomcat must be developed. In addition, a new attack aircraft must be developed with a range that exceeds that of the F-18 Super Hornet by a factor of 100%. It is hard to believe that the F-4 Skyhawk had an operational combat radius exceeding 700 miles (2,000 mile maximum range), twice that of a Super Hornet. Additionally, the S-3 Viking must be re-tasked as a carrier borne aerial tanker, and the many airframes now mothballed, yet with thousands of hours of use left, need to be repurposed to this task. The current carrier air wing as it stands, even with the introduction of the F-35, is of little utility against a peer adversary such as Russia or China.

S-3 Viking carrier refueling tanker.

S-3 Viking in use as a carrier borne aerial refueling tanker. Even without significant modification, this stout little aircraft can carry 16,000 lbs. of fuel. The US Navy has 108 of these aircraft sitting in storage at a military aircraft storage facility in Arizona.

The United States must acquire both an SSN and SSBN to replace the Los Angeles and Ohio Class vessels that are approaching the end of their service lives. There is no greater defensive role for the U.S. Navy in ensuring the security of the nation than the continued operation of its attack and ballistic missile submarine forces. Both Russia and China understand this, and have greatly modernized their own submarine forces. Much of the success they have achieved in pushing the envelope of submarine design was due to their intense competition with a U.S. Navy submarine force that was always at the cutting edge of sub-surface warfare.

Conclusion

The United States stands at a crossroads in many respects, and the nation’s military equally so. All empires experience a period of over-expansion, military, economic and political over-reach and imbalance. The United States has followed in the wake of the many imperialist endeavors before it, with apparently little lessons having been learned. Imperialism is the inevitable result of power devoid of wisdom and humility. A nation borne out of a revolution against empire and absolutism has itself devolved into a much more dangerous and immoral avatar of its former oppressor. This must change.

While Defense Secretary Mattis clearly acknowledged the need to transform the U.S. military and realign it in a direction more focused on fighting and winning a conventional conflict with the near peer adversaries he identified as Russia and China, one can only hope that he realizes how the U.S. military that he served in for decades, got to the deplorable state that it now finds itself in. The greatest enemy that the U.S. military has fought for the past seventy years is undoubtedly the military industrial complex that it is an integral component of. The Soviet Union, North Korea, Vietnam, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, and Syria were never as much of a threat to the U.S. Armed Services as the corrupt military industrial complex and the Deep State that serves as its guardian.

The United States military is in the weakest state of material strength and readiness since the conclusion of the Cold War. The conventional ground forces of the Army have been transformed into a force bent on occupation and counterinsurgency. Its heavy armored formations are in a state of disrepair and material inferiority vis-a-vis its most capable theoretical adversaries. The cornerstone of American power projection and intimidation, the aircraft carrier strike groups, are a sad shadow of their former self. The carrier air wing, the entire reason that an aircraft carrier exists in the first place, has devolved into a tool of increasingly limited utility, with an ever diminishing reach.

The corrupt military industrial system that permeates every facet of American economic, political and even cultural life has sucked the very lifeblood from the nation, eroded its morality, bankrupt its economic future, and stolen a generation of its most patriotic and selfless sons and daughters. While James Mattis acknowledges the challenges facing the national security of the United States, he clearly misattributes the blame and misidentifies the very real adversary. Russia and China are not existential threats to the continued welfare of the American state. James Mattis need only look in the mirror to see the real threat, for he has come to represent the cabal of special interests that enslaves the nation and constitution he has pledged to serve, and holds the remainder of the world equally hostage.

There is very little chance that the reforms mentioned in this analysis will be adopted, or that the United States will move in a direction that brings it back to its inception as a constitutional republic. The interests of the military industrial complex in promoting conflict, and maximizing financial profit will continue to steer the United States military, and the nation as a whole, on an unsustainable and self-destructive path. There is little doubt that if the Deep State pushes the nation to war against Russia or China, and likely an alliance of the two, that the United States military has ever been in a weaker position. Such a conflict would be of no benefit to any of the nations concerned, yet many potential flash points exist that could lead to a conflict, including the South China Sea, Syria or Ukraine. As the United States plays catch-up after decades of military adventurism, China and Russia have spent that same time patiently and judiciously gathering their strength. The scenario of a one-sided victory in favor of the United States is pure fantasy, existing only in the daydreams of the emperor who wears no clothes.

THE FIFTEEN SAMURAI; THE MAGNIFICENT FIFTEEN KIBOSHNIKS; ALL THE KING’S HORSES AND ALL THE KING’S MEN – By ZIAD FADEL

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HUMPTY DUMPTY SAT ON A WALL,

HUMPTY DUMPTY HAD A GREAT FALL;

ALL THE KING’S HORSES AND ALL THE KING’S MEN

COULDN’T PUT HUMPTY TOGETHER AGAIN.

 

Image result for jamal khashoggi

JAMAL KHASHOGGI during happier times

Despite warnings from his closest friends, Jamal Khashoggi, took a chance and entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018 and never left on his own two feet.  The prevailing wisdom is that he was murdered by Saudi assassins sent to Turkey to specifically target him.  Killing him on Saudi diplomatic soil would conceal the crime and carrying diplomatic passports would facilitate the transport of his dismembered body to two private jets.

Turkey is taking a surprisingly aggressive position on this matter.  Turkey is very tight with Qatar,  a country the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is trying to destroy on the laughable grounds that Doha supports terrorism.  Since both the Ameer of Qatar and the Turk president, Erdoghan, support the Muslim Brotherhood as an Islamic alternative to Western concepts of democracy and majority rule, it shouldn’t be surprising to hear such tumultuous invective from Ankara.  However, the Turks have muted some of their pronouncements out of fear of economic repercussions.

Image result for Sabah Turkish newspaper Khashoggi

Photos were first released by the pro-Erdoghan rag, Sabah, showing  the hit team arriving at the airport.

There can be no doubt that the Turks installed eavesdropping devices inside the Saudi Consulate.  They also had closed-circuit cameras outside the building housing the consulate both at the front door and in a preschool facing the rear door. If, as the Saudis claim, Khashoggi left from the rear door, his departure would have been picked up by camera.  But, he did not leave from the rear door.

Moreover, if he did leave by the rear door,  why would he not have circled around to hop into his wife’s car waiting at the front?  Hatice Cengiz, his Turkish wife, waited for half an hour after normal closing time for her husband.  If one takes the Saudi story seriously, Mr. Khashoggi is still in the consulate in the style of Julian Assange.

The Turks are promoting the story that Khashoggi recorded his own execution on his Apple watch.  I believe, like so many others, that that is only to camouflage Turkish access to spying devices inside the consulate.  The Turks are convinced Khashoggi was interrogated, tortured, killed and dismembered inside the consulate.  They also believe that a hit team made up of several military officers from the Royal Guard, a grouping of security agents and one so-called “forensic expert” were dispatched in order to accomplish the singular goal of killing Khashoggi.  I do not agree.  I believe the team was sent to kidnap him and return him to Saudi Arabia to face the fury of the reigning clown prince, Muhammad bin Salmaan (or MBS).

My theory is not based on the superficial notion that the Saudis would not assassinate anyone for moral reasons.  That would be laughable.  Instead, I believe that Khashoggi died from a heart attack inside the consulate after being interrogated by security officials who used extreme methods to extract information from him.  The Turks were hearing his screams and they have, reportedly, turned over the tapes to the U.S. and Britain.  The Turkish agents could not intervene without disclosing the embarrassing fact that they had installed listening devices and cameras inside the consulate, a major breach of diplomatic decorum, law and tradition which the U.S. regularly violates and at which the Turks methodically scoff.

This is Salaah Al-Tubayji, Saudi Arabia’s premier expert on forensics who accompanied the hit team to the consulate and who was tasked with covering up the abduction of Jamaal Khashoggi.

Given the warming relations between the Saudi Arabian kingdom and the Zionist Apartheid State, one cannot help but wonder if the Zionists did not plan this operation for their new-found friends.  After all, they have done this sort of thing before with Adolph Eichmann and Mordechai Vanunu.  The only margin for error, would be the Saudi penchant for screwing up everything.  I mean, folks, Akira Kurosawa wrote and produced a movie called the “Seven Samurai”.  It was later remade by Hollywood as the “Magnificent Sevenw”  with that iconic opening theme that was also used to hawk Marlboro cigarettes.  Clown Prince MBS must have seen the movies and had an epiphany:  “What about sending 7 Saudis for the job?.  Nah, 7 Saudis couldn’t plug in a refrigerator.  We’re gonna need at least 15.”  And so, the team was cobbled together and sent to Istanbul.  Besides the forensic expert whose job was to cover up the kidnapping,  there was also the Deputy Director of the Kingdom’s General Security Agency, Ahmad ‘Aseeri.

Once Al-Tubayji realized that Khashoggi was dead from the heart attack, he began the unenviable task of cutting him up like a chicken so that his fellow geniuses could carry him out in plastic bags for transport to another safe area.  I believe that Khashoggi is now buried in Saudi Arabia’s laureled “Empty Quarter” where the absence of bacteria will insure that he mummifies smoothly like beef jerky – another Saudi screw-up, by the way.  Another theory is that he is now buried at the home of the Saudi General Consul, a few blocks away but still under diplomatic protection.

Once a reader realizes that the Saudis wanted to abduct him and not ignite a furor over his assassination, he is relieved of the perception that Khashoggi was a martyr for Arabia.  His visit to the consulate for the mundane aim of securing documents proving he was divorced, (not a big deal in Saudi Arabia where some men have over 100 wives and an untold number of concubines), was treated accordingly by Khashoggi.  The video of his entry through the front door evidenced no apprehension on his part.  He walked in confidently like a man who simply wanted proof of his divorce.

There is a Mercedes van that is filmed driving around the consulate.  I believe that van was to spirit Khashoggi to the airport where his drugged body would be carried on to the private jets waiting for the hit men and their valuable load.  But, I don’t believe the team decided to carry his corpse back.  They had to worry about the possibility of disclosure to Turk authorities.  So, the only way to safely get his carcass back to the jets was to carve it up into small pieces which could be carried like so much hamburger meat from a supermarket.  Or, that was the only safe way to carry the remnants to the consul’s home.  In any case, the presence of the coroner/forensic expert was the only enlightened part of the operation.

There is a lot of breast-beating today around the world.  Trump has threatened Saudi Arabia with “really bad things”.  Britain, never a slouch when it comes to assassinating people, has warned of dire consequences.  Germany has pleaded with the KSA to cooperate in the investigation even if the Saudis perpetrated the crime – you see, the Germans do, after all, have a sense of humor.  American senators have bellowed menacingly about stopping all weapons sales to KSA while the ever-moral Donald Trump argues that the Saudis are spending a lot of money on U.S.-made weapons in order to exterminate the people of Yemen.  He claims that American jobs would be lost if the U.S. did not sell these arms to Arabia.  And, he continues, the Arabs would just go to Russia or China to buy the same thing.  So much for the ethics in this White House.

MBS really pulled a boner on this one.  The entire plan was designed to fail from the get-go.  Whether the hit team wanted to kill Khashoggi or abduct him, makes no difference; the operation was not carried out by professionals and was botched at the rear door of the consulate.

______________________________________________

NEWS AND COMMENT:

Federico Pieraccini sent me this article about the missing Saudi journalist:

https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2018/10/12/killing-saudi-journalist-khashoggi-could-spell-end-for-mohammad-bin-salman.html

More on the Saudi assassination squad:

https://www.yahoo.com/news/photos-emerge-alleged-assassination-squad-102249784.html

The BBC has gone bonkers.  They have actually filed a competent report:

https://www.yahoo.com/news/why-fight-alongside-assads-forces-200348417.html

 

The Self-Defeating US Empire – Editorial – Strategic Culture Foundation

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The Self-Defeating US Empire
EDITORIAL | 12.10.2018 | WORLD / Americas

Trump is trying to square a globalized world through a national-based American capitalism. It won’t work.

Former President Teddy Roosevelt (1901-09) described the essence of US foreign policy as “speaking softly while carrying a big stick”. Under the incumbent president, Donald Trump, it seems to be all about “speaking loudly”.

What Trump is carrying in reserve is a moot question.

The difference comes down to a question of credibility. A century ago, America was a formidable military, diplomatic and economic power. Hence, Roosevelt could afford to speak softly because there were other indisputable means at his disposal to reinforce US power.

Today, the US is still a formidable military power, that’s for sure. But as for its economy and the role of the American dollar as a global payment mechanism the evidence suggests that it has lost much of its former dominance.

President Trump seems to be trying to compensate for the decline in US power overall by way of adopting more bellicose and foghorn rhetoric for others to comply with American demands.

This week saw a record fall in the American stock market. That suggests that the supposed strength of the US economy is not what it has been cracked up to be under Trump. A major factor in the collapse of the US stock market is reported to be the uncertainty prompted by the growing US trade war with China.

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin lamented the US policy of imposing sanctions against other nations and its over-reliance on the dollar as the main global currency exchange tool. Putin said the US was making a “strategic mistake” by using the dollar as a weapon with which to punish other nations to comply with Washington’s diktats.

“This is a typical mistake of any empire,” he said at the Russian Energy Week Conference, in Moscow.

Implicit in Putin’s comments was that the US is acting like a failing empire. Unsure of its former dominance, the US is resorting to brute force to shore up its otherwise declining power. But in doing so, America is acting above its credibility and thereby compelling others to seek ways around Washington’s overextended writ.

When the dollar replaced gold as the global financial standard in the early 1970s, the American currency assumed a privileged position in international trade. But with such a privilege comes the responsibility to be a universally respected banker, which entails a certain apolitical character of the dollar.

America’s loss of national economic power has resulted in the US abusing the global dollar system for its own selfish interests. That in turn results in loss of confidence by other nations. Washington is politicizing the dollar system in order to pursue its national interests.

The over-reliance by Washington on economic sanctions against other nations is forcing them to seek ways of circumventing the US-dominated global system of trade and commerce.

We see this in the European Union setting up a non-dollar system to continue trade relations with Iran after Trump abandoned the international nuclear accord with Tehran. We see it in the way Russia and China are setting up a payment system for oil and other commodities which obviates the use of dollars.

So much for “free-market capitalism” for which America is supposed to be the global exponent. If America doesn’t get its way over markets then sanctions are imposed to “correct” the way. The gas energy supply from Russia to Europe is a classic example. Russian-suppled gas is commercially viable to meet European demand. Yet the US wants to supplant that market with its own more expensive gas, and the only way it can do that is to slap sanctions on Russia and European companies. That is not market economics. It is imperialist hegemonic diktat. That undermines the US dollar and principles of supposed American capitalism.

Slowly but surely the world is moving away from the dollar as a universal currency. Because of Washington’s abuse of the dollar and its preeminence in banking as a political weapon to exert its national objectives.

Putin said that US sanctions policy towards many countries and abuse of the dollar as global reserve currency is a “strategic error” committed by a waning empire. As more countries increasingly drop the dollar to circumvent US sanctions, the result will be a continual undermining of international standing of the US currency and banking system. A classic case of over-reach by Washington leading eventually to its own economic demise.

If history tells us one thing it is that every empire has its day. Imperial over-reach is the sign of a declining empire.

President Trump is clashing loudly over trade with China and almost every other nation, including the Europeans and Canada. Trump is shouting about “unfair” trade because he doesn’t have a big stick in reserve in terms of inherent American strength. The dollar is no longer the only show in town.

Russia is “de-dollarizing” its economy, meaning it is moving towards trade with other nations in bilateral currency exchange. The same goes for China and other nations. The upshot is the dollar is losing its international power, and, with that, the US economy is losing its former standing. The empire is waning. And the only one to blame for that is the US itself from its abuse of power.

The ominous resort is the only stick left to Washington – military power. That is why the world is facing a dangerous situation. If America doesn’t get its way, it seems to be pushing the world to war.

It could be all be very different of course. If the US were to stop trying to assert itself as a unipolar power and begin to engage with others on the basis of a multipolar world.

Trump is trying to square a globalized world through a national-based American capitalism. It won’t work. And the more the US government tries to achieve that the more the dollar and American power falls into decline. Which makes US militarism a greater compensatory danger.

Tags: US 

Meet Ten Corporate Giants Helping Israel Massacre Gaza Protesters – By Joe Catron @jncatron – MINT PRESS

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Palestine Israel Protest
Palestine/Israel

 

“The Israeli military relies on a network of international companies, supplying everything from sniper rifles to tear gas, to carry out its massacres of protesters in Gaza. These companies are knowingly supporting war crimes, and are complicit in state-orchestrated murder.” — Tom Anderson, researcher for Corporate Occupation

NEW YORK — As Israeli soldiers gun down unarmed Palestinian demonstrators in the Great March of Return, their lethal operations depend on an array of contractors and suppliers, many of them companies based outside Israel.

“The Israeli military relies on a network of international companies, supplying everything from sniper rifles to tear gas, to carry out its massacres of protesters in Gaza,” Tom Anderson, a researcher for Corporate Occupation, told MintPress News. “These companies are knowingly supporting war crimes, and are complicit in state-orchestrated murder.”

Since the mobilization began on March 30, Israeli forces have killed 205 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territory reported on October 4.

 

There have been 21,288 injured, including 5,345 from live ammunition, resulting in 11,180 hospitalizations. Thirty-eight of the dead and 4,250 of the wounded were children.

A press release accompanying a September 25 report by the World Bank warned, “The economy in Gaza is collapsing,” adding that “the decade-long blockade is the core issue.”

Corporate Occupation and the American Friends Service Committee, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, and Who Profits maintain comprehensive lists of corporations enabling Israel’s crimes against Palestinians.

Here are a few of them:

Caterpillar, Inc.

Caterpillar is known internationally for Israel’s use of its bulldozers to demolish Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank and inside Israel itself, as well as for its role in the killing of Rachel Corrie, an International Solidarity Movement activist from the United States, who was crushed to death by one of the company’s Israel-operated machines in the southern Gaza Strip on March 16, 2003. In Gaza, Caterpillar is notorious for Israel’s deployment of its equipment to reinforce a military barrier around the Strip, as well as to level Palestinian farmland inside it. These leveling operations both destroy Palestinian agriculture, keeping Gaza a captive market for Israeli producers, and maintain a clear line of fire for Israeli soldiers to shoot Palestinians.

Israel Palestine Caterpillar

Combined Systems, Inc.

Combined Systems — a Jamestown, Pennsylvania-based manufacturer owned by Point Lookout Capital and the Carlyle Group — supplies light weaponry and security equipment, such as tear gas and flash grenades, to repressive governments worldwide. In May, Corporate Occupation researchers spotted an Israeli vehicle, with police markings but obviously intended for military use, equipped with the company’s ‘Venom’ tear gas launcher next to the Gaza barrier.

Ford Motor Company

While other manufacturers, like General Motors, also provide vehicles used by the Israeli army to deploy its soldiers along the Gaza barrier, Ford’s are distinctive for their creative use. In 2003, Israeli vehicle manufacturer Hatehof began retrofitting Ford F550 trucks as armored personnel carriers. By 2016, Israel had moved on to F350s, modified by Israeli military electronics company Elbit Systems as autonomous unmanned vehicles capable of remotely controlled fire.

Israel Police Ford

Monsanto

Along with herbicides from the Dow Chemical Company and ADAMA Agricultural Solutions, an Israeli unit of China’s state-owned National Chemical Corporation (ChemChina), Israel sprays Bayer subsidiary Monsanto’s notorious Glyphosate (marketed as Roundup), a known human carcinogen, on Palestinian fields across its military barrier with Gaza several times annually. As does its deployment of Caterpillar bulldozers to level the same fields, the aerial application, conducted by two civilian Israeli companies under contract to the army, serves both Israeli economic and military interests — preventing Palestinian self-sufficiency in agriculture, while allowing its forces to easily detect and fire upon Palestinian farmers and other civilians using their own land.

G4S plc

Formerly one of Israel’s biggest occupation contractors, G4S sold its major Israeli subsidiary, G4S Israel, in 2016, but kept a stake in the construction and operation of Policity, Israel’s privatized national police academy. Israel claims that its police enjoy civilian status, but routinely deploys them in military operations against Palestinians in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, including their use of both Combined System’s ‘Venon’ tear-gas launcher and weaponized drones to repress the Great March of Return.

G4S protest

Hewlett Packard

Now three companies with interlocking operations — HP Inc., Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), and DXC Technology — HP equips the Israeli military with computers and has undertaken contracts to “virtualize” IDF operations, starting in 2007 with a pilot program for the Israeli navy, which enforces the blockade of Gaza.

HSBC Bank plc

HSBC provides extensive financing to some of the most notorious military manufacturers in the world, several of them Israeli.

“HSBC holds over £800m worth of shares in, and is involved in syndicated loans worth over £19b to, companies that sell weapons and military equipment to the Israeli government,” Huda Ammori, campaigns officer for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, told MintPress. “These investments include Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest private security firm, which markets its weapons as ‘field-tested,’ due to them being tested on Palestinian civilians in Gaza.”

A leading drone manufacturer, Elbit has played a key role in aerial attacks on the Great March of Return.

Motorola Solutions Inc.

Motorola provides the encrypted smartphones the Israeli military uses to deploy soldiers, as well as radio and communications services for the Israeli police.

Remington

Among casualties of the Great March of Return, Amnesty International reports, some “wounds bear the hallmarks of U.S.-manufactured M24 Remington sniper rifles shooting 7.62mm hunting ammunition, which expand and mushroom inside the body,” along with others indicative of Israel Weapon Industries’ Tavor rifles. “In the United States this is sold as a hunting rifle to kill deer,” Brian Castner, a weapons specialist for the human-rights organization, said in April.

Protesters wave Palestinians flags in front of Israeli solders on Gaza's border with Israel, east of Beit Lahiya, Gaza Strip, Wednesday, April 4, 2018. A leading Israel human rights group urged Israeli forces in a rare step Wednesday to disobey open-fire orders unless Gaza protesters pose an imminent threat to soldiers' lives. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Sabra Dipping Company, LLC

The White Plains, New York-based food manufacturer, co-owned by PepsiCo and Israeli foodmaker Strauss, has donated food packages to the Israeli Army’s Golani Brigade, notorious for its human-rights abuses in both Gaza and the West Bank.

 

“We must channel our rage”

As the Great March of Return, now in its 29th week, continues, participants and supporters say targeting firms complicit in its repression is one of the most effective means of solidarity.

“We must channel our rage at Israel’s atrocities into effective actions to hold Israel accountable,” the BDS National Committee said in a statement on April 12. “Together, we can escalate Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns.”

“Israel is meeting the Palestinian protesters with live fire, massacring over 190 Palestinians to date,” Ammori told MintPress. “Israel’s racist discrimination and brutal violence is evident, and the campaign to end complicity is vital.”

Top Photo | Relatives of Palestinian Muhammed al-Sadiq, 21, mourn at the family home during his funeral in Gaza City, Sept. 25, 2018. Al-sadiq was killed and at least 10 others wounded by Israeli soldiers during a protest near in Gaza. Khalil Hamra | AP

Joe Catron is a MintPress News journalist covering Palestine and Israel. He is also a solidarity activist and freelance reporter, recently returned to New York from Gaza, Palestine, where he lived for three and a half years. He has written frequently for Electronic Intifada and Middle East Eye, and co-edited The Prisoners’ Diaries: Palestinian Voices from the Israeli Gulag, an anthology of accounts by detainees freed in the 2011 prisoner exchange.

Republish our stories! MintPress News is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.

Facebook, Twitter Purge More Dissident Media Pages In Latest Escalation – UPDATE – By Caitlin Johnstone /caitlinjohnstone.com- SOTT

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Free Thought Project banned

Facebook has purged more dissident political media pages today, this time under the pretense of protecting its users from “inauthentic activity”. In a statement co-authored by Facebook Head of Cybersecurity Nathaniel Gleicher (who also happens to be the former White House National Security Council Director of Cybersecurity Policy), the massive social media platform explained that it has removed “559 Pages and 251 accounts that have consistently broken our rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior.”

This “inauthentic behavior”, according to Facebook, consists of using “sensational political content – regardless of its political slant – to build an audience and drive traffic to their websites,” which is the same as saying they write about controversial things, and posting those political articles “in dozens of Facebook Groups, often hundreds of times in a short period, to drum up traffic for their websites.”

In other words, the pages were removed for publishing controversial political content and trying to get people to read it. Not for writing “fake news”, but for doing what they could to get legitimate indie media news stories viewed by people who might want to view it. The practice of sharing your material around in Facebook groups is common practice for most independent media content creators; I did it myself a lot in late 2016 and early 2017, and pretty much all my indie media peers at the time did too.

“For those of you who read what I write, you know that I did not violate any standards,” writes Terresa Monroe-Hamilton, whose personal profile and Facebook page for her political blog NoisyRoom.net were both deleted. “In fact, I don’t send out most of what I write. I send on big news links and a few memes. It was enough to get me banned and the pages are simply gone.”

“Facebook took down my page with nearly 70,000 followers, labeling it as ‘spam,’ when I have spent 4 years working to build that page up and using it to post the articles I wrote and videos of my reporting,” tweeted RT America’s Rachel Blevins. “This is so incredibly wrong and is affecting hundreds of similar pages.”

“And just like that 5 + years of hard work promoting ideas of peace and freedom have been erased,” wrote a Facebook user called John Liberty, who lost multiple pages about police accountability, cannabis legalization and libertarianism.

Two of the most high-profile pages which were shut down have probably been seen at some point by any political dissident who uses Facebook; the Free Thought Project, which had 3.1 million followers, and Anti-Media, which had 2.1 million. I’ve found useful information on both sites before, and despite disagreeing with them ideologically in some areas have found them both vastly more legitimate than anything you’ll find on Google News.

As if that wasn’t creepy enough, some of the accounts purged by Facebook appear to be getting censored on Twitter as well, bringing back memories of the August cross-platform coordinated silencing of Alex Jones. The aforementioned Anti-Media has now been suspended from Twitter just hours after tweeting about being removed from Facebook, along with one of its top writers Carey Wedler, and a Unicorn Riot activist named Patti Beers who had more than 30,000 Twitter followers has just been removed from both sites as well.

I have said it before and I will say it again: in a corporatist system, wherein there is no clear line between corporate power and government power, corporate censorship is government censorship. You can’t have a system wherein corporate lobbying and campaign finance amount to legalized bribery of elected officials, wherein massive Silicon Valley corporations form extensive ties with secretive government agencies in order to eclipse their competition, and then claim this is a matter of private corporations enforcing their own rules on their own private property. This is just what totalitarian government censorship looks like in a corporatist oligarchy.

Do you want a few Silicon Valley plutocrats determining what political speech constitutes “inauthentic activity” for you? Do you want a world in which the masses are herded into massive government-allied social media stables which are then regularly brought before the US Senate to pledge more iron-fisted censorship of problematic political speech? Do you want a world in which social media corporations are forced to make alliances with existing power structures in order to be allowed to grow? Do you want a world in which venues of political discourse are increasingly sterilized to favor the agendas of the ruling class? If not, the time to act is now.

Regardless of where you’re at on the political spectrum, if you oppose the status quo then opposing internet censorship of any political speech is now a matter of simple self defense. If this wasn’t obvious to you when they shut down Alex Jones, it should damn well be obvious to you now. If you want to change the existing system in any way which takes power away from those currently in power, your voice is next on the chopping block. They’re locking all the doors down as fast as they can to keep us trapped in this Orwellian oligarchy until they get us all killed by war or ecocide. If they shut down the public’s ability to share dissident information, they’ll have locked the final door. Don’t let them.

UPDATE: Free Thought Project has, like Anti-Media, now been removed from Twitter as well as Facebook. There definitely appears to be some kind of coordination or overlap between Twitter and Facebook censors.

Thanks for reading! The best way to get around the internet censors and make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for my website, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. My articles are entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking me on Facebook, following my antics on Twitter, checking out my podcast, throwing some money into my hat on Patreon or Paypal,buying my new book Rogue Nation: Psychonautical Adventures With Caitlin Johnstone, or my previous book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.

Comment: It appears another wave in the ongoing social media purge has just hit the shore. The fact that this is another multi-platform event, like the Alex Jones fiasco back in August, should scream loud and clear that this is coming from higher up than the individual social media companies themselves. This is the controllers silencing dissident voices, plain and simple. See also:

Update: De-platformed sites hit back. RT reports:

Alternative voices online are incensed after Facebook and Twitter closed down hundreds of political media pages ahead of November’s crucial midterm elections. Facebook says they broke its spam rules, they say it’s censorship.

Some 800 pages spanning the political spectrum, from left-leaning organizations like The Anti Media, to flag-waving opinion sites like Right Wing News and Nation in Distress, were shut down. Other pages banned include those belonging to police brutality watchdog groups Filming Cops and Policing the Police. Even RT America’s Rachel Blevins found her own page banned for posts that were allegedly “misleading users.”

Journalist Glenn Greenwald hit out at those on the left who cheered Facebook and Twitter’s coordinated ‘deplatforming’ of right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones in August. “Those who demanded Facebook & other Silicon Valley giants censor political content…are finding that content that they themselves support & like end up being repressed,” he wrote. “That’s what has happened to every censorship advocate in history.”

Facebook claims that the accounts were shut down for “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” and, disturbingly, the company said in a blog post that it is working hard to root out pages, groups and accounts “created to stir up political debate.”

In America, Conservatives were the first to complain about unfair treatment by left-leaning Silicon Valley tech giants. However, leftist sites have increasingly become targets in what Blumenthal calls “a wider war on dissident narratives in online media.” In identifying enemies in this “war,” Facebook has partnered up with the Digital Forensics Lab, an offshoot of NATO-sponsored think tank the Atlantic Council. The DFL has promised to be Facebook’s “eyes and ears” in the fight against disinformation (read: alternative viewpoints).

With the Atlantic Council funded by a plethora of private donors, state institutions, and arms manufacturers, it is little wonder that some commenters on Twitter saw the group’s fingerprints all over the latest round of bans.

For now, Facebook and Twitter have been free to censor with impunity. This places alternative journalists and news outlets at the companies’ mercy: no viable competitors to Facebook and Twitter exist, save for twitter-clone Gab.ai, which has been slammed by mainstream media as a breeding ground for far-right extremism.

Citizen journalist Lee Stranahan called for a stockholder lawsuit against Facebook, arguing that repeated terms-of-service changes are killing the company’s business. However, until that happens, users will have to accept censorship as just another one of these terms.

An Open Letter to Australia’s Politicians in Opposition to the Proposed Metadata Retention Laws March 17, 2015 – Written by: Rob Marsh

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An Open Letter to Australia’s Politicians in Opposition to the Proposed Metadata Retention Laws

I recently wrote a rather long article on the potential dangers of new metadata retention laws to the fabric of our society and the functioning of our democracy. There is no issue I feel more passionate about in our society today, as it affects literally every one of us. We are witnessing the creation of the greatest weapon of oppression in the history of man, to quote Edward Snowden, and as individuals, citizens of a democracy, and human beings, we owe it to ourselves and each other to do what little we can to stall and hopefully stop this legislation from passing into law.

To that end, I’ve prepared an open letter to the politicians of this country outlining the failings of the legislation and other relevant information around metadata collection and the relation thereof to human rights.

Please send this to as many members of parliament as you can, and please share this template on your social media walls and any political groups you may be a part of. The more people that know that this is happening and that recognise that they are personally implicated in it, the more chance we have of stopping this draconian imposition on the freedoms of all Australians, rich and poor, powerless and powerful, male and female, old and young.

With your help, I sincerely believe we can make a positive difference.



An Open Letter to the Politicians of Australia on the Potential Adverse Effects of Proposed Metadata Retention Legislation on Human Rights and the Functioning of Our Democracy

This letter contains many references to the Report of the Inquiry into Potential Reforms of Australia’s National Security Legislation, where there is a number or text enclosed in brackets like so: (5.17), refer to the appropriate section of the report.

[Politician’s name],

I am writing to you to express my deep and sincere concern with regards to the proposed Metadata Retention legislation that the government wishes to pass by the 27th of March 2015.

This legislation represents, contrary to the claims of those with vested interests in seeing the legislation pass, a grave threat to the right to privacy, freedom of speech and association that is fundamental to a well-functioning democracy.

You may not be aware of what the legislation addresses, or what the “telecommunications data” it refers to actually entails.

Nicola Roxon, in a statement to the Attorney General, describes telecommunications data as: “Telecommunications data is information about the process of communication, as distinct from its content. It includes information about the identity of the sending and receiving parties and related subscriber details, account identifying information collected by the telecommunications carrier or ISP to establish the account, and information such as the time and date of the communication, its duration, location and type of communication. (5.7)

The proposed legislation, based on the definitions above, would give the Australian government unprecedented access to nearly every aspect of the online activity of it’s citizens, and the ability to infer a disturbingly accurate “pattern of life” from the collected data.

For example, you may have your cellphone’s GPS services enabled to use Google Maps. That data, in conjunction with your phone records and timestamps on the above data could clue in a security agency as to your most likely whereabouts on any given day. This poses an enormous risk to freedom of the press, as governments could use these capabilities to track journalists and their sources to frequented meeting places, limiting concerned parties’ abilities to bring sensitive information to the public for democratic review.

“The database will contain every page they accessed – every article they’ve read on a newspaper site, any online political activity, any purchases on ebay, books bought from amazon, Facebook pages visited etc.” – Ian Quick

In the words of former NSA/CIA Director Michael Hayden:

“We kill people based on metadata.”

Fears about the above stated powers and the implications thereof have been echoed by several EU countries.

The Romanian Court, with regards to local metadata retention, held that a “continuous legal obligation” to retain all traffic data for six months was incompatible with the rights to privacy and freedom of expression. (5.26)

In Germany, the Constitutional Court described metadata retention as a “serious restriction of the right to privacy” and stated that a “retention period of six months [was] at the upper limit of what should be considered proportionate”. (5.27)

The Czech Constitutional Court, in analogous statements, described misgivings about the potential abuses of these powers: “Individual citizens had insufficient guarantees against possible abuses of power by public authorities.” (5.28)

The EU Court of Justice found that the 2006 European Data Retention Directive violated citizens “fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data”.

With such strident international condemnation, it seems to go without saying that any committee responsible for review of similar legislation would be given express access to details of the proposed changes and sufficient resources to complete a sincere and detailed examination of the material. Oddly enough, these criteria were not met: “Having commenced the inquiry at the beginning of July 2012, the Committee was asked to report if at all possible by the end of the calendar year. This afforded the Committee a highly compressed and unachievable time frame of less than six months to examine what is an extensive list of potential reforms, some of which are far reaching.” (Introduction, Page 3)

It seems that the government also failed to provide the committee with the relevant draft legislation, leaving those involved to rely on speculation and inference rather than an appraisal of the raw data: “The Government sought the Committee’s views on a mandatory data retention regime. The Committee did not have access to draft legislation. Furthermore, the inadequate description of data retention in the terms of reference and discussion paper also impaired both the public discussion and the Committee’s consideration of the data retention issue.” (1.29)

The question of how efficacious metadata retention is in solving and preventing crime is a raging debate.

Electronic Freedom Australia noted that it was “highly questionable” whether data retention would aid in the investigation of terrorism, organised crime or other serious illegal activities:

“It is worth noting that determined criminals will have little difficulty disguising or anonymising their communications. There are many relatively simple and effective tools available that allow for the protection of communications from surveillance.” (5.167)

This is an excellent point. The proposed legislation is no secret. Those in the criminal world will have no doubt heard of the potential for their activities to be monitored and have likely already taken steps to anonymise their online behaviour. Even in the event that the scope of the metadata retention reforms is so broad that it includes tools for opening encrypted chats and messaging services, it is not unlikely that tech savvy individuals on the wrong side of the law will be developing tools to combat this unwanted intrusion, rendering the legislation effectively useless in dealing with its raison d’être: combating terrorism and serious crime.

An unintended consequence of the introduction of metadata retention could be the opposite of what it is designed to achieve: a progressive opacification of the internet, with more and more users turning to encrypted browsing and communication, thereby shrinking the usable pool of data.

“Why do we imagine that the criminals of the greatest concern to our security agencies will not be able to use any of numerous available means to anonymise their communications or indeed choose new services that are not captured by legislated data retention rules?”

This quote from Communications Minister Macolm Turnbull, in addition to his recently revealed use of the messaging app Wickr, which provides a platform for anyone to send and receive self-deleting encrypted messages, seems to indicate that the reforms are likely to bring about little change in the positive ability of law enforcement agencies to stop criminal activity.

Add to this comments made by Blueprints for Free Speech, indicating that “there is no evidence to suggest data retention would assist with the prevention of crime or terrorism. A 2011 study of Germany’s Data Retention Directive found it had no impact on either the effectiveness of criminal investigation or the crime rate. Further, the study specifically found that countries without data retention laws are not more vulnerable to crime.”

Make no bones about it, metadata retention is mass surveillance. It can be used to form a dataset, a pattern of life indicating your movements, interests, affiliations and beliefs. You will be paying for this intrusion of privacy through rises in service bills, a kind of “tele screen tax” if you will. You will be at a higher risk of identity theft through the creation of ‘honeypots’ of data, irresistible to organised criminals and foreign actors. Your basic rights to privacy, to freedom of speech, to live as a dignified human person, are being infringed upon in ways that do not preclude a broadening of the scope of these abuses.

Even the supporters of the legislation don’t buy into their own rhetoric, with members of the Liberal party using Wickr on a daily basis, showing the world that privacy is of the utmost importance even to those who adamantly maintain that it isn’t.

With unanimous condemnation from leading human rights groups around the world, with a public backlash on a scale almost never witnessed, with the potential for so much to go horribly wrong, we simply must put a stop to this.

Tony Abbott has made statements that he wants a parliamentary inquiry into the legislation to be scrapped. I think it’s our responsibility as members of our democracy to ask why anyone would want a piece of legislation with so many potential avenues for abuse to pass without appropriate scrutiny.

I implore you, with the utmost sincerity and urgency, to do whatever is within your power to oppose this legislation at the very least until it is put before an independent NGO and reviewed in depth, with all the aspects of the legislation made available for public review and scrutiny.

Thank you for your time and your consideration, I hope that we, together, can make history and bring our society forward into an age of social egalitarianism, where the ideals of freedom of speech and thought, freedom of association and transparency of government are enshrined as they once were, as the foundations of a working democracy.

Sincerely,

______

For more information on the legislation you can refer to the Report of the Inquiry into Potential Reforms of Australia’s National Security Legislation, which you can find here: http://www.aph.gov.au/parliamentary_business/committees/house_of_representatives_committees?url=pjcis/nsl2012/report.htm

An independent summary/opinion piece on the legislation can be found here: https://wideeyedandhopefullywild.wordpress.com/2015/03/05/metadata-and-you/

——

For the sender of this email: you can find the contact addresses of your parliamentarians at these links:

http://www.aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Members/Members

http://www.aph.gov.au/~/media/03%20Senators%20and%20Members/32%20Members/Lists/MemList.pdf

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Chefs take Israeli propaganda off the menu – By Nora Barrows-Friedman Activism and BDS Bea – ELECTRONIC INTIFADA


Nora Barrows-Friedman Activism and BDS Beat 16 November 2018

One of New York’s best known chefs has withdrawn from Round Tables, an annual Israeli government-sponsored propaganda initiative.

Gabrielle Hamilton, the award-winning chef and owner of Prune restaurant in New York City dropped out of the Tel Aviv initiative this week. Hamilton, author of the memoir Blood, Bones and Butter, follows Ana Roš from the Slovenian restaurant Hiša Franko, who had earlier pulled out of the event.

The cancellations follow sustained calls for boycotting the events. Ninety international chefs and culinary figures had signed an appeal to respect the Palestinian-led campaign for boycotting Israel.

“[As] professionals committed to food sovereignty and food access for all, we know that none of us can lend our names or our cooking skills to an Israeli government-sponsored culinary event such as this one. Our values around good food must include everyone, including the Palestinian people,” the appeal states.

Slamming Israel’s theft of Palestinian food and culture, including its declaration of falafel as an “Israeli” dish, Israeli activists from the group Boycott from Within also urged participating chefs to drop out of the initiative.

“Israel is a settler-colonial state, perpetrating the erasure of the indigenous Palestinian people, both physically and by means of appropriation of their culture, including indigenous food,” the activists wrote.

“While Israel hosts international chefs in Tel Aviv for Round Tables, the Israeli military will be counting the calories allowed into Gaza only 40 miles away, keeping the entire population on a state-sanctioned starvation diet.” Open Letter to Chefs https://t.co/92E6MPovaB— Jennifer Bing (@JBing215) November 1, 2018

Take that Apartheid ISRAEL!

In another BDS victory against Apartheid Israel, award winning celebrity chef Gabrielle Hamilton withdrew from the upcoming Apartheid propaganda culinary Round Tables tour.#ApartheidRoundTables— BDS South Africa (@BDSsouthafrica) November 9, 2018

Boycott campaigners say that they have made the Round Tables initiative a toxic brand. That has been proven by the festival’s sharp decline in chefs willing to participate as well as a drastic uptick in the number of international chefs, food writers and culinary icons who have joined the campaign to support the call for boycotting Round Tables.

Hasbara

Israel uses such initiatives as part of its official propaganda – known by the Hebrew term hasbara – to distract from its human rights atrocities and rebrand itself as a world-class cultural attraction.

Yair Bekier, a founder of Round Tables, recently boasted that the initiative serves to strengthen “Israel’s status as a gastronomic capital on a global scale.”

But Israel’s gastro-diplomacy mask “is wearing thin as the state entrenches its extremely violent policies and racist laws,” stated the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).

“The campaign has been pretty successful,” Danielle Ravitzki, an activist with Boycott from Within told The Electronic Intifada.

“The truth about Israel is getting more and more apparent, and more and more scholars, artists and chefs are realizing that Israel is attempting to use them in order to whitewash its crimes,” Ravitzki said.

Thirteen chefs were scheduled to cook at the 2016 Round Tables event, with one top chef pulling out and others expressing misgivings about taking part after being contacted by activists.

In 2017, 14 chefs were lined up to cook, but two – from Peru and Ireland – ditched the festival.

This year, only eight chefs agreed to participate, but at least two of them canceled.

There were earlier indications that Italian chef Isa Mazzocchi was no longer participating in the initiative. But on Thursday, the chef had posted a photo to her Facebook page with the menu for her planned Round Tables meal and the caption “Last service, 170 people – let’s go.”

Round Tables is sponsored by Israel’s foreign ministry as well as corporate underwriters American Express and Infiniti, and is partnered with Israeli companies that operate in settlements built on stolen Palestinian land.

“It is not too late for the remaining chefs to stand on the right side of history and cancel their participation in Round Tables,” PACBI stated last week.

Top Chef Withdraws From Israel’s Round Tables Culinary Propaganda Festival

It seems Israel has over-cooked its gastro-propaganda festival. We appeal to @JudyJooChef @Castro_maca @e_reygadas @Leoescocina to do the right thing.#ApartheidRoundTableshttps://t.co/RLmixhbqnC pic.twitter.com/jyLu5tTVIB— PACBI (@PACBI) November 7, 2018

“You are lending your reputation to a PR exercise that masks a grim daily reality for Palestinians.”

Artists for Palestine UK @Art4PalestineUK urge @JudyJooChef of @JinjuuSoho #JinJuu to withdraw from Israel’s #ApartheidRoundTables.

Read more: https://t.co/A26mhngdIq pic.twitter.com/Q8Uvjqsm0q— PACBI (@PACBI) November 8, 2018

A feminist facade

Bekier claimed that this year’s events intend to “bring women to the forefront” of the culinary stage by inviting only female chefs to participate.

But this attempt to brand the initiative as a celebration of women in the culinary field is merely a “feminist facade” to provide cover for Israel’s ongoing occupation and apartheid system, say members of the General Union of Palestinian Women, along with Palestinian workers and farmers organizations.

“Palestinian women bear the brunt of this system’s crimes and are doubly marginalized as a result,” their statement says.

“Regardless of your intentions, Israel’s far-right regime will use your participation to mask its crimes against our people,” the groups add.

“We sincerely hope that we can share our table with you after we are free from military occupation and apartheid.”

The Asymmetrical Table

Inspired by the Palestinian campaign against Round Tables, culinary activists in New York City last year brought lauded Oakland-based chef and activist Reem Assil to cook for an initiative they named The Asymmetrical Table.

It was a celebration of Palestinian food and culture intended to coincide with the Round Tables propaganda campaign.

For two nights, diners celebrated “the resiliency of Palestinian people, led by Palestinian women [and] badass chefs,” said Kimberly Chou, co-director of the Food Book Fair, in a new short film about the event.

Chou, Assil and food justice activist Ora Wise, who all appear in the film, signed the letter urging chefs to cancel their participation in this week’s Round Tables initiative.

The letter represents a display of solidarity and leadership of indigenous, black and brown chefs, farmers, food writers and other culinary organizers and workers “who have been not only fighting for food sovereignty and access for their own communities but demanding that the interconnectedness between food systems and struggles for justice globally be acknowledged and guide our work,” Wise told The Electronic Intifada on Thursday.

In the restaurant world, it is understood that locally-sourced “farm to table” cuisine is the ideal. But as Israel’s Round Tables festival claims to celebrate this cuisine, Wise noted, “Palestinian farmers, if they’ve managed to remain on their land and not had their crops damaged by settlers, cannot get their produce through checkpoints onto the tables of their communities who live in refugee camps unable to return to their own lands.”

And as Americans enjoy traditional Palestinian dishes and ingredients such as hummus, zaatar and labneh, “the land and culture they originated in are being destroyed,” Wise said.

The growing support for the Palestinian call to boycott Round Tables, she added, “is the result of our collective understanding that our values around good food and freedom must include Palestinians, a people surviving and resisting apartheid and the theft of their land.”

Determined to Get Assange, So His Prospects Look Pretty Bleak – Activist – By SPUTNIK

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange


© AP Photo / Opinion18:54 17.11.2018Get short URL415

Ecuador might extradite Julian Assange. This is what the WikiLeaks founder’s lawyer Carlos Poveda said suggesting that Quito might have reached an agreement on this with the UK and US. In addition, the lawyer stated that Washington plans to impose a grave charge on Assange.

Sputnik discussed this with Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner and Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

Sputnik: How likely is it the Julian Assange will be extradited by the Ecuadorian government?

Peter Tatchell: I’m afraid to say that we simply don’t know, all we do know for certain is the Ecuadorian authorities have been turning the screw on Julian Assange with the special protocols that have restricted his freedom of expression and his ability to communicate with the outside world and to receive visitors.

READ MORE: Edward Snowden Condemns US Justice Department for Targeting Assange

All this looks like a deliberate attempt to make life so inhospitable and so difficult for Julian Assange that he will voluntarily leave the Embassy and of course this latest speculation which is really all it is, but I guess it’s got some basis, there is some kind of an agreement being drawn up by Ecuador, UK and the US to get him out of the Embassy and to possibly extradite him to the US.

Now, this would be a very big turn around by the Ecuadorian’s because they have granted him not only citizenship but also asylum, and so therefore to hand over someone who has been given asylum to a foreign power that is a very big, extraordinary and I think morally questionable step.

Sputnik: What’s your take on his mentality and his particular stance, does he just want to see it through to the death, so to speak, in remaining in the Ecuadorian Embassy?

Peter Tatchell: Certainly we do you know that Julian Assange is very determined to resist extradition to the United States, he doesn’t want to leave the Embassy unless he can be given safe passage to Ecuador which is what we would expect given that he has legitimately claimed political asylum.

READ MORE: The Jim Acosta Liberation Struggle Comes to a Decisive End…Assange Who?

The conditions being imposed upon him by the British in terms of not recognizing his legitimate asylum status that is pretty extraordinary and we also know that the United States several years ago began convening a secret grand jury with a view of slapping Julian Assange with very, very serious charges which are likely to put him in prison for 30, 40 or 50 years.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seen on the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Britain, May 19, 2017

© REUTERS / Peter NichollsUS Filed Secret Charges Against Assange Because He’s a ‘Threat to the System’These are all related, of course, to WikiLeaks publication of leaks about US government military policy, including war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the US or US agents and forces. If he was forced out of the Embassy and managed to try and seek some kind of compromise or deal, it’s very hard to see how he can escape being extradited to the US because senior US officials in the Trump administration have said time and time again that Julian Assange is a target, they want to get him, they’re determined to get him, they’re going to put him on trial, so in that sort of situation his prospects look pretty bleak.

Sputnik: Have you actually spoken to Julian Assange recently Peter? And if so what is his state of mind?

Peter Tatchell: No I haven’t because his visitor regime has been severely restricted, the Ecuadorians are only allowing very, very few visitors and even though his visitors that do go and understand that the Ecuadorians will reserve the right to seize any property they’re caring and to hand it over to Britain and the United States.

READ MORE: How Government Screw Ups Prove Assange Right

These conditions are very, very extreme and, as you say, I know others that have been in contact with him recently, that Julian‘s mental and physical health is very much in jeopardy. Even prisoners in a maximum-security jail have more freedom and freedom of movement than Julian Assange has had in that Embassy. Whatever you think about Julian Assange and things he may have done or said or accusations against him, it take someone of considerable courage to endure all these years of being holed up in the Embassy.

Sputnik: What options does Assange have to avoid extradition to the US? Julian Assange is a citizen of Australia, why hasn’t that country taken his case into their hands and done more?

Peter Tatchell: We don’t know, we can speculate, Australian government is center-right, it’s quiet well aligned with the US administration, it has a tradition of following US policy, conceding US requests, so I would be very, very surprised if Australian kicked up a fuss because they haven’t in all these years and the British government the same, you would think the British government would recognize its own obligations under the refugee convention to acknowledge that Assange has been granted asylum by Ecuador and therefore grant him safe passage to their country, but I’m afraid the British, for whatever reason, are just ain’t doing it.

Sputnik: Just give us some commonsense approach, what would you like to be seen to be done by the British administration, for example?

Peter Tatchell: The British government is totally consumed by Brexit and everything else is just gone to the wall, but even if there wasn’t Brexit I think it’s pretty clear that the British government has indicated that it’s not going to seek a compromise. Now my view is we have to ask ourselves is it in the public interest here in Britain for Assange to be pursued in this way, is it really in the public interest?

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gestures as he speaks on the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy, in London, Friday May 19, 2017.

© AP Photo / Matt DunhamAssange’s Lawyer: Ecuador May Be Planning Extradition Under Deal With UK, USAnd my answer is it’s clearly not, even if you accept that Assange is a bad guy and did bad things I don’t see how it fits with the public interest here in Britain to treat him in this way.

I would’ve expected there to be some kind of deal where Assange would face legal action for having skipped bail because when he went to the Embassy he did skip bail, he has a price to pay, but it should be a fine or maybe a very short term of imprisonment that’s the maximum but the deal could be agreed and should be agreed, then of course Britain should allow him safe passage to Ecuador, but all our attempts to try to influence the British government to take that line have met with brick walls. The British government is really lining up with the Americans and I fear for Julian’s state.

The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.15

Related:

Pamela Anderson Opens Up on ‘Romantic Struggle’ She Shares With Julian AssangeBreak-in Attempt Occurred at Assange’s Residence in London – ReportsAustralian PM Jeers at Pamela Anderson’s Calls to Throw Assange Welcome ParadeTags:extradition, Wikileaks, Julian Assange, Ecuador, United States

Trump has quietly ordered the elimination of Julian Assange – By Eric ZUESSE – SOTT.NET


Eric Zuesse
Sott.net
Sun, 18 Nov 2018 14:06 UTC

assange

© Inconnu
Julian Assange The destruction of Assange has clearly been arranged for, at the highest levels of the U.S. Government, just as the destruction of Jamal Khashoggi was by Saudi Arabia’s Government.

On June 28th, the Washington Examiner headlined “Pence pressed Ecuadorian president on country’s protection of Julian Assange” and reported that

“Vice President Mike Pence discussed the asylum status of Julian Assange during a meeting with Ecuador’s leader on Thursday, following pressure from Senate Democrats who have voiced concerns over the country’s protection of the WikiLeaks founder.”

Pence had been given this assignment by U.S. President Donald Trump. The following day, the Examiner bannered “Mike Pence raises Julian Assange case with Ecuadorean president, White House confirms” and reported that the White House had told the newspaper, “They agreed to remain in close coordination on potential next steps going forward.”

On August 24th, a court-filing by Kellen S. Dwyer, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Alexandria Division of the Eastern District of Virginia, stated:

“Due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure [than sealing the case, hiding it from the public] is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged. … This motion and the proposed order would need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter.”

That filing was discovered by Seamus Hughes, a terrorism expert at the Program on Extremism at George Washington University. On November 15th, he posted an excerpt of it on Twitter, just hours after the Wall Street Journal had reported on the same day that the Justice Department was preparing to prosecute Assange. However, now that we know “the fact that Assange has been charged” and that the U.S. Government is simply waiting “until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter,” it is clear and public that the arrangements which were secretly made between Trump’s agent Pence and the current President of Ecuador are expected to deliver Assange into U.S. custody for criminal prosecution, if Assange doesn’t die at the Ecuadorean Embassy first.

On November 3rd (which, of course, preceded the disclosures on November 15th), Julian Assange’s mother, Christine Ann Hawkins, described in detail what has happened to her son since the time of Pence’s meeting with Ecuador’s President. She said:

“He is, right now, alone, sick, in pain, silenced in solitary confinement, cut off from all contact, and being tortured in the heart of London. … He has been detained nearly eight years, without trial, without charge. For the past six years, the UK Government has refused his requests to exit for basic health needs, … [even for] vitamin D. … As a result, his health has seriously deteriorated. … A slow and cruel assassination is taking place before our very eyes. … They will stop at nothing. … When U.S. Vice President Mike Pence recently visited Ecuador, a deal was done to hand Julian over to the U.S. He said that because the political cost of expelling Julian from the Embassy was too high, the plan was to break him down mentally… to such a point that he will break and be forced to leave. … The extradition warrant is held in secret, four prosecutors but no defense, and no judge, … without a prima-facie case.

[Under the U.S. system, the result nonetheless can be] indefinite detention without trial. Julian could be held in Guantanamo Bay and tortured, sentenced to 45 years in a maximum security prison, or face the death penalty,” for “espionage,” in such secret proceedings.

Her phrase, “because the political cost of expelling Julian from the Embassy was too high” refers to the worry that this new President of Ecuador has, of his cooperating with the U.S. regime’s demands and thereby basically ceding sovereignty to those foreigners (the rulers of the U.S.), regarding the Ecuadorian citizen, Assange.

This conservative new President of Ecuador, who has replaced the progressive President who had granted Assange protection, is obviously doing all that he can to comply with U.S. President Trump and the U.S. Congress’s demand for Assange either to die soon inside the Embassy or else be transferred to the U.S. and basically just disappear, at Guantanamo or elsewhere. Ecuador’s President wants to do this in such a way that Ecuador’s voters won’t blame him for it, and that he’ll thus be able to be re-elected. This is the type of deal he apparently has reached with Trump’s agent, Pence. It’s all secret, but the evidence on this much of what was secretly agreed-to seems clear. There are likely other details of the agreement that cannot, as yet, be conclusively inferred from the subsequent events, but this much can.

Basically, Trump has arranged for Assange to be eliminated either by illness that’s imposed by his Ecuadorean agent, or else by Assange’s own suicide resulting from that “torture,” or else by America’s own criminal-justice system. If this elimination happens inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, then that would be optimal for America’s President and Congress; but, if it instead happens on U.S. soil, then that would be optimal for Ecuador’s President. Apparently, America’s President thinks that his subjects, the American people, will become sufficiently hostile toward Assange so that even if Assange disappears or is executed inside the United States, this President will be able to retain his supporters. Trump, of course, needs his supporters, but this is a gamble that he has now clearly taken. This much is clear, even though the rest of the secret agreement that was reached between Pence and Ecuador’s President is not.

Scooter Libby, who had arranged for the smearing of Valerie Plame who had tried to prevent the illegal and deceit-based 2003 invasion of Iraq, was sentenced to 30 months U.S. President Trump finally went so far as to grant him a but never spent even a day in prison, and complete pardon, on 13 April 2018. (The carefully researched docudrama Fair Game covered well the Plame-incident.) Libby had overseen the career-destruction of a courageous CIA agent, Plame, who had done the right thing and gotten fired for it; and Trump pardoned Libby, thus retroactively endorsing the lie-based invasion of Iraq in 2003. By contrast, Trump is determined to get Julian Assange killed or otherwise eliminated, and even Democrats in Congress are pushing for him to get that done. The new President of Ecuador is doing their bidding. Without pressure from the U.S. Government, Assange would already be a free man. Thus, either Assange will die (be murdered) soon inside the Embassy, or else he will disappear and be smeared in the press under U.S. control. And, of course, this is being done in such a way that no one will be prosecuted for the murder or false-imprisonment. Trump had promised to “clean the swamp,” but as soon as he was elected, he abandoned that pretense; and, as President, he has been bipartisan on that matter, to hide the crimes of the bipartisan U.S. Government, and he is remarkably similar in policy to his immediate predecessors, whom he had severely criticized while he was running for the Presidency.

In any event, the destruction of Assange has clearly been arranged for, at the highest levels of the U.S. Government, just as the destruction of Jamal Khashoggi was by Saudi Arabia’s Government; and, just like in Khashoggi’s case, the nation’s ruler controls the prosecutors and can therefore do whatever he chooses to do that the rest of the nation’s aristocracy consider to be acceptable.

The assault against truth isn’t only against Assange, but it is instead also closing down many of the best, most courageous, independent news sites, such as washingtonsblog. However, in Assange’s case, the penalty for having a firm commitment to truth has been especially excruciating and will almost certainly end in his premature death. This is simply the reality. Because of the system under which we live, a 100% commitment to truth is now a clear pathway to oblivion. Assange is experiencing this reality to the fullest. That’s what’s happening here.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, ofThey’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

Comment: Sputnik interviewed British human rights activist Peter Tatchell on Assange’s plight:

Sputnik: How likely is it the Julian Assange will be extradited by the Ecuadorian government?

Peter Tatchell: I’m afraid to say that we simply don’t know, all we do know for certain is the Ecuadorian authorities have been turning the screw on Julian Assange with the special protocols that have restricted his freedom of expression and his ability to communicate with the outside world and to receive visitors.

All this looks like a deliberate attempt to make life so inhospitable and so difficult for Julian Assange that he will voluntarily leave the Embassy and of course this latest speculation which is really all it is, but I guess it’s got some basis, there is some kind of an agreement being drawn up by Ecuador, UK and the US to get him out of the Embassy and to possibly extradite him to the US.

Now, this would be a very big turn around by the Ecuadorian’s because they have granted him not only citizenship but also asylum, and so therefore to hand over someone who has been given asylum to a foreign power that is a very big, extraordinary and I think morally questionable step.

Sputnik: What’s your take on his mentality and his particular stance, does he just want to see it through to the death, so to speak, in remaining in the Ecuadorian Embassy?

Peter Tatchell: Certainly we do you know that Julian Assange is very determined to resist extradition to the United States, he doesn’t want to leave the Embassy unless he can be given safe passage to Ecuador which is what we would expect given that he has legitimately claimed political asylum.

The conditions being imposed upon him by the British in terms of not recognizing his legitimate asylum status that is pretty extraordinary and we also know that the United States several years ago began convening a secret grand jury with a view of slapping Julian Assange with very, very serious charges which are likely to put him in prison for 30, 40 or 50 years.

These are all related, of course, to WikiLeaks publication of leaks about US government military policy, including war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the US or US agents and forces. If he was forced out of the Embassy and managed to try and seek some kind of compromise or deal, it’s very hard to see how he can escape being extradited to the US because senior US officials in the Trump administration have said time and time again that Julian Assange is a target, they want to get him, they’re determined to get him, they’re going to put him on trial, so in that sort of situation his prospects look pretty bleak.

Sputnik: Have you actually spoken to Julian Assange recently Peter? And if so what is his state of mind?

Peter Tatchell: No I haven’t because his visitor regime has been severely restricted, the Ecuadorians are only allowing very, very few visitors and even though his visitors that do go and understand that the Ecuadorians will reserve the right to seize any property they’re caring and to hand it over to Britain and the United States.

These conditions are very, very extreme and, as you say, I know others that have been in contact with him recently, that Julian’s mental and physical health is very much in jeopardy.Even prisoners in a maximum-security jail have more freedom and freedom of movement than Julian Assange has had in that Embassy. Whatever you think about Julian Assange and things he may have done or said or accusations against him, it take someone of considerable courage to endure all these years of being holed up in the Embassy.

Sputnik: What options does Assange have to avoid extradition to the US? Julian Assange is a citizen of Australia, why hasn’t that country taken his case into their hands and done more?

Peter Tatchell: We don’t know, we can speculate, Australian government is center-right, it’s quite well aligned with the US administration, it has a tradition of following US policy, conceding US requests, so I would be very, very surprised if Australian kicked up a fuss because they haven’t in all these years and the British government the same, you would think the British government would recognize its own obligations under the refugee convention to acknowledge that Assange has been granted asylum by Ecuador and therefore grant him safe passage to their country, but I’m afraid the British, for whatever reason, are just ain’t doing it.

Sputnik: Just give us some commonsense approach, what would you like to be seen to be done by the British administration, for example?

Peter Tatchell: The British government is totally consumed by Brexit and everything else is just gone to the wall, but even if there wasn’t Brexit I think it’s pretty clear that the British government has indicated that it’s not going to seek a compromise. Now my view is we have to ask ourselves is it in the public interest here in Britain for Assange to be pursued in this way, is it really in the public interest?

And my answer is it’s clearly not, even if you accept that Assange is a bad guy and did bad things I don’t see how it fits with the public interest here in Britain to treat him in this way.

I would’ve expected there to be some kind of deal where Assange would face legal action for having skipped bail because when he went to the Embassy he did skip bail, he has a price to pay, but it should be a fine or maybe a very short term of imprisonment that’s the maximum but the deal could be agreed and should be agreed, then of course Britain should allow him safe passage to Ecuador, but all our attempts to try to influence the British government to take that line have met with brick walls. The British government is really lining up with the Americans and I fear for Julian’s state.

Ten lies we’re told to justify the slaughter of 20 million in the First World War – Dominic Alexander Counterfire – SOTT

WW1 American soldier barbed wire

An American soldier lies dead, tangled in barbed wire on the western front. Dominic Alexander debunks the myths used by politicians and historians to rebrand ‘the war to end all wars’ in the centenary of Armistice Day.

This Remembrance Day will doubtless see strenuous efforts by some to justify the fruitless bloodbath that was the First World War. Revisionist commentators have long attempted to rehabilitate the conflict as necessary and just, but the arguments do not stand up. It does no service to the memory of the dead to allow any illusions in the justice or necessity of war, particularly so when the precedents will be used to argue for the next ‘necessary’ conflict. From the causes of the war, to its prosecution and its results, here are the counter-arguments to ten common pro-war ploys.

  1. The war was fought in defence of democracy – This is contradicted by the basic facts. Germany had universal manhood suffrage while in Britain, including Ireland, some 40% of men still did not qualify for the vote. In Germany also, there were attempts to justify the war on the grounds that it was being fought to defend civilised values against a repressive, militaristic state, in the form of Russian autocracy.
  2. Britain went to war due to a treaty obligation to defend the neutrality of Belgium – There was no clear and accepted obligation on Britain to do this, and, in fact, before the Belgian issue appeared, the war party in the cabinet was already pushing for British intervention on the entirely different ground that there were naval obligations to France. These obligations had been developed in secret arrangements between the military of both countries, and were never subject to any kind of democratic accountability. The Germans even offered guarantees over Belgian integrity, which the British government refused to consider at all.
  3. German aggression was the driving force for war – However aggressive the German leadership may have been in 1914, the British establishment was at least as determined to take the opportunity to go to war with its imperial rival. At one point the Foreign Office even seized on imaginary German incursions into France to justify a British declaration of war on Germany. The declaration letter had to be retrieved from the German ambassador and rewritten when it was discovered that the stories were false. The enthusiasm of the British ruling class for war undermines any justification for it based on German aggression.
  4. Germany had started a naval arms race with Britain – Imperialist competition between the two states over markets and resources preceded the arms race in the fifteen years before the war. Britain’s naval power was the vital element in its ability to restrict German access to markets and resources across the world. Unless Britain was willing to allow Germany to expand economically, the logic of capitalist competition meant that Germany was bound to challenge British naval supremacy. The latent violence of the leading imperial nation is always the context for aggressive challenges to the status quo on the part of rising powers.
  5. German imperialism was uniquely vicious and had to be challenged – The atrocities committed against the Herrero people in Namibia were indeed terrible crimes, but were hardly unique compared to the horrors committed by all those involved in the rubber industry in the Belgian Congo, to take but one example. Also, European opinion had only a few years before 1914 been horrified by the brutality of another colonial power when it was engaged in ruthlessly expanding its dominance over independent states in Africa. This was Britain in its wars of aggression against the Boer states in South Africa, during which concentration camps were first used in order to control a civilian population.
  6. Public opinion was united in favour of the war, as shown by images of cheering crowds in 1914 – It is now usually admitted that the degree of enthusiasm for the war was strictly limited, and the evidence is that the crowds who gathered at the outbreak of war were by no means united in martial enthusiasm. In fact sizeable and widespread anti-war demonstrations occurred in both Britain and Germany. Had the leaderships of Labour and Socialist parties across Europe not caved into demands to support their national ruling classes in going to war, it is quite possible that the conflict could have been stopped in its tracks.
  7. The morale of British troops fighting on the Western Front remained intact to the end of the war – While Britain may not have suffered quite the same scale of mutinies as in the German and French armies, at times there were whole stretches of the front where troops became so unreliable that generals did not dare order them into combat. The evidence for widespread cynicism about war strategies, contempt for the military leadership, and grave doubts about the purpose of the war, cannot be wished away by the revisionists. In so far as soldiers carried on willingly fighting the war, the explanation needs to be sought in the habituation to obedience, as well as the threat of court-martial executions. There is no need to invoke either fervid nationalism or any kind of deep psychological blood-lust as explanations.
  8. The military leadership, notably General Haig, was not a bunch of incompetent ‘donkeys’ – Attempts to rehabilitate the likes of General Haig founder on some of the basic facts about the tactics he relentlessly employed. Repeated infantry attacks on opposing trenches consistently failed to gain any clear advantage, while causing colossal casualties. On the first day of the battle of the Somme, 1st July 1916, 57,000 troops out of 120,000 were killed or wounded. Despite continuing carnage on an incredible scale, Haig carried on ordering further attacks. When any hope of a breakthrough against the German lines was clearly lost, the purpose of the battle was shifted to attrition pure and simple. The plan now was to kill more German troops than the British lost. Since there was no way of reliably measuring the casualties on the other side, Haig relied on estimating it through the losses of his own side. On this basis he began to be angered when the army suffered too few losses, as when he complained that one division in September had lost under a thousand men. There can be no defence for this kind of disregard of human life.
  9. The end of the war saw the triumph of liberal capitalism, against collapsing autocratic Empires – In fact all states involved in the war were deeply destabilised. Even the United States, whose involvement was the most limited, experienced the ‘Red Summer’ of 1919, with unprecedented labour revolts, such as the Seattle general strike, alongside savage repression of socialists and black Americans. Britain saw the beginning of the Irish war of independence, and increasing unrest in India, which marks, in effect, the point at which the Empire began to unravel. Domestically, there was also a wave of radical working-class unrest, particularly in the ‘Red Clydeside’, which culminated in troops being sent into Glasgow to impose martial law.
  10. Despite the slaughter and destruction, the war was worthwhile – The war opened up a period of endemic economic dislocation, and outright crisis. In Britain there was a decade of industrial decline and high unemployment even before the Great Depression. In effect, it was only the Second World War which brought the major capitalist powers out of the slump. The First World War saw the point at which capitalism became addicted to war and to a permanent arms economy. The war demonstrated the capacity of capitalism to create industrialised waste, carnage and destruction on a colossal scale. The remembrance of the war is appropriately a time for mourning the horror, the loss and the waste of it all, but it should also provoke a determination to resist our rulers’ insistence on promoting war to further their interests. War can achieve nothing other than to create the conditions for further wars.

Popular opinion has, ever since its ending, remembered the First World War as a time of horrendous and futile misery and slaughter, as epitomising political and military leaders’ incompetence and callous disregard for human life. That popular judgement, which has helped turn common opinion against war in general, was correct, and we must not let the warmongers dismiss this instance of the wisdom of ordinary people.

Don’t Test Us’: Hamas Threatens to Hit Tel Aviv in Chilling Warning to Israel – By Ahmed Zakot – Middle East – SPUTNIK

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Tel Aviv reached a fragile ceasefire with Hamas on Tuesday following ф botched Gaza raid. The ceasefire prompted defence minister Avigdor Lieberman to resign in protest, and to accuse Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of “surrendering to Hamas terror”.

Hamas, the Palestinian political and militia group administering Gaza, has warned Israel against “testing” its military capabilities, warning that another Israeli raid into the Gaza Strip would lead to rocket attacks against Tel Aviv. Speaking at an Friday event dedicated to Palestinians who were killed in recent clashes with Israeli forces, Hamas in Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar said further Israeli military operations would only lead to Israel having to agree to prisoner swap deals involving “thousands of prisoners” in their aftermath.

“I advise Israel not to try and test us again,” Sinwar, said. This time you did not have a lot of casualties and you managed to rescue your special forces. You should not try again, because next time you will have to release thousands of prisoners,” he added.

Saying that he has spoken to Muhammad Dief, the leader of Hamas’s military wing, Sinwar warned that new Israeli operations would mean fresh Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli cities. “Dief asked me to say that Tel Aviv and Gush Dan [the greater Tel Aviv area] are next. The first barrage to hit Tel Aviv will surprise Israel,” he warned.

Waving a handgun he said had been taken from Israeli special forces after a botched raid in Gaza took place Sunday, November 11, Sinwar warned that Hamas’s hands were “on the trigger” and their eyes were “open.”

“Whoever tests Gaza will find only death and poison. Our missiles are more precise, have a greater range and carry more explosives than in the past,” he threatened.

Sunday’s covert operation by Israeli commandos in Gaza left one Israeli soldier dead and another injured, and prompted Hamas to fire over 460 rockets and mortar shells into southern Israel. The Israeli Iron Dome missile defence system is believed to have intercepted about a quarter of them. Several dozen missiles and shells landed in Israeli cities and towns, killing one civilian and injuring dozens more. Others landed in farmlands, causing damage to crops and property. Israel retaliated, targeting 160 sites in the Gaza strip allegedly connected with Hamas and other militants, including four facilities it said were “key strategic assets,” before signing a ceasefire on Tuesday.

Avigdor Lieberman resigned as Israel’s defence minister due to the ceasefire, with Israel’s immigration minister following soon after. Israeli political observers think the resignations from Netanyahu’s cabinet may result in early elections. On Friday, a Likud Party spokesperson said the prime minister would handle the defence portfolio himself after failing to reach an agreement with coalition partner Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home Party.

Benjamin Netanyahu
© Photo : Russian President’s Press Office

Long-simmering tensions between Israel and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip escalated in March, when Palestinian groups began the so-called ‘Great March of Return’, demanding that refugees and their descendants be allowed to return to their ancestral territories in what is now Israel. The violence has left nearly 200 Palestinians dead and thousands injured. An Israeli soldier was also killed, and half a dozen were injured. Rocket, mortar and arson balloon attacks on Israel have led to several civilian casualties and extensive property damage in southern Israel.The latest round of violence hit the border area on Friday, with least 40 Palestinian protesters injured in renewed clashes with Israeli troops, who used rubber bullets, live ammunition, and teargas to disperse them.

Italy Throws Down the Gauntlet to Challenge the Brussels oEstablishment – By Arkady SAVITSKY – Strategic Culture Foundation

Arkady SAVITSKY | 17.11.2018 | WORLD / Europe

The EU has had a lot of trouble on its hands, as its members, such as Poland and Hungary, are openly challenging the established order. This time it’s a very serious situation, because Brussels is facing defiance from Italy, the 3rd largest national economy in the eurozone and the 8th largest global economy in terms of nominal GDP. It has a population of over 60 million. It is also a Europhile country and the bloc’s founding member.

The Italian government has rejected the EU’s calls to revise its draft budget for 2019 that includes a 2.4% deficit of GDP, which could dangerously boost the nation’s public debt. The ruling coalition in Rome, which is made up of the League and the populist Five Star Movement, has decided to increase borrowing so that it can fund its campaign promises, such as lowering the retirement age and increasing welfare payments.

Last month the European Commission claimed that these spending targets went against EU rules. Rome is burdened by the second-highest amount of public debt in the eurozone. There’s a 131.8% difference between borrowing and economic output there, but the government believes it will achieve substantial economic growth, while the EU’s predictions for Italy are rather gloomy. Nov. 13 was the deadline for submitting a revised draft budget. Rome did not comply. Now the EU leadership is threatening it with sanctions it until it falls into line. Italy could be slapped with a fine of €3.4 billion.

The Italian government takes an independent stance on a multitude of issues. It is seen as Russia-friendly in its calls for lifting, or at least easing, the sanctions against the Russian Federation. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte believes Moscow should be re-admitted to the G7. The Italian PM visited Moscow in late October,  hailing Russia as an essential global player and inviting Putin to visit Italy. Despite the EU-imposed punitive measures that are in place, Mr. Conte signed a slew of trade and investment agreements. Last year, Russia’s parliamentary majority party, United Russia, and Italy’s Lega Nord (Northern League), a ruling coalition member, signed a cooperation agreement. The regional council in Veneto, where Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini holds a strong position, recognized Crimea as part of Russia in 2016.

Austria is another Russia-friendly EU member. Even the recent “spy scandal” that was obviously staged by outside forces to spoil that bilateral relationship, has failed to damage that rapport. “We are a country that has good contacts with Russia, we are aimed at dialogue, it will not change in the future,” said Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, speaking to reporters on Nov .14. The conservative People’s Party and the far-right Freedom Party — the members of the ruling coalition — are well-disposed toward Moscow. They don’t support the EU sanctions policy.

Hungary is another Russia-friendly EU member. Last month, the European parliament voted to initiate the Article 7 sanctions procedure against Hungary. The government led by PM Victor Orban has been accused of silencing the media, targeting NGOs, and removing independent judges. Launching the procedures stipulated under that article  opens the door to sanctions. Hungary could eventually be temporarily deprived of its EU voting rights. In reality, the country is being punished for refusing to take in migrants.

This is the second time Article 7 procedures have been launched. The first time was last year, when the European Commission set that article into motion against Poland over its judicial reforms. A unanimous vote is required to suspend Hungary’s voting rights and introduce sanctions. That move is likely to be blocked by Poland. It turn, Hungary said it would stand by Warsaw should the EU launch procedures to punish it. The two nations are united in their efforts to support each other and fend off Brussels’ encroachments at a time when the bloc is undergoing the most difficult times in its history.

Hungary, Poland, and Russia are trying to draw Europe’s attention to the threat to democracy and peace emanating from Ukraine — a problem that has been largely hushed up by the EU leadership.

Slovakia is another EU member state to nurture what some call “special ties” with Russia. It has never been happy with the sanctions against Moscow and has openly said so. Last month, its new prime minister, Peter Pellegrini, called on the EU to revise the sanction policy.

A diplomatic row was also staged in Greece but, as in case of Austria, it may have clouded those historically close ties but has failed to sever them. Cyprus has always been friendly toward Moscow, but Nicosia and Athens are not in a position to protect their independence, as both are heavily indebted and dependent on foreign loans.

The battle between Brussels and Rome comes at a time when Europe is preparing for the European Parliament elections in May 2019. Punitive measure taken by the EU against Italy will most certainly lead to growing public support of that government that is standing up to pressure in order to defend its people. It will increase the number of Italian Eurosceptics who win seats. With so many countries dissatisfied with the EU leadership, it’s hard to predict the outcome. There will soon be other people at the helm who hold quite different views on the problems faced by the EU, as well as on the bloc’s future. Everything may change, including the relationship with Russia and the sanctions that have become so unpopular and have resulted in many national leaders openly challenging the wisdom of such policy imposed by a powerful few.

Avigdor Lieberman wants to give war a chance – By Jonathan Ofir – Mondoweiss -SOTT

Avigdor Lieberman resigns as Defense Minister

© Carlos Latuff

On Wednesday, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned. He was upset about what he perceived as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu being too soft on Hamas. First because the PM agreed to provide some cash and fuel to Gaza, and then, after a couple of days of bombing in Gaza, the PM accepted a ceasefire.

Israeli Defense Ministers normally get a turn at conducting large-scale massacres in Gaza – “killing lots of Arabs” as Education Minister Bennett would say, killing those “little snakes”, as Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked would say. Even ‘left’ hero Ehud Barak had a go at Gaza twice when he was Defense minister between 2007 and 2013. And of course the ‘moderate’ Likudnik Moshe Yaalon got his massacre as Defense Minister in 2014, which was 1-1/2 times the size of Barak’s.

So Avigdor Lieberman, who is more rhetorically bellicose than Barak or Yaalon, was denied his. And just when time seemed ripe for another ‘mowing of the lawn’ in Gaza, as they say in Israel.

Gearing up towards another massacre

Everything seemed geared up for another large-scale massacre. The Israeli commando invasion of Gaza territory on Sunday (territory which Israel claims it doesn’t occupy but which basically the rest of the world knows it does), in which seven Palestinian militants (including a senior commander) as well as a senior Israeli commander were killed, was a perfect pretext for another major Israeli seasonal onslaught. The commando operation came at a time of extraordinary lull: Netanyahu had just permitted cash and fuel to flow into Gaza, to alleviate some unbearable tensions, and he was in Paris saying that “We want to prevent a humanitarian collapse in Gaza, and that’s what we’re doing.” He assured the world he was “doing everything [he] can to prevent an unnecessary war.”

And then that Israeli operation. On the face of it, irrational, right? But actually, it follows a pattern. As Noam Chomsky observed in the wake of the 2014 onslaught:

“Since November 2005 the terms of these agreements have remained essentially the same. The regular pattern is for Israel to disregard whatever agreement is in place, while Hamas observes it – as Israel has conceded – until a sharp increase in Israeli violence elicits a Hamas response, followed by even fiercer brutality.”

Former Chief of Southern Command Maj. Gen. Tal Rousso made statements seeking to tone down the notion that this was a deliberate assassination attempt against the Hamas battalion commander Nour Baraka, saying:

“These are operations that take place all the time, every night, in all divisions. This is an operation that was probably uncovered. Not an assassination attempt. We have other ways to assassinate.”

“Probably”. Maybe. Maybe not. The possibility of an assassination operation on Baraka would not have been less logical (in the weird Israeli logic) than, say, the assassination of chief Hamas negotiator Ahmad Al-Jabari on November 14, 2012, just hours after Al-Jabari had received the draft of a permanent truce agreement with Israel. Al-Jabari was interested in a long-term ceasefire with Israel, and his killing was the immediate lead-up to the 2012 “Pillar of Defense” onslaught (called “Pillar of Cloud” in Hebrew), under Barak as Defense Minister.

Israel broke a 2008 ceasefire (which then had lasted 4 months) by invading Gaza territory and killing six Palestinian militants. That was the lead-up to the “Cast Lead” onslaught, under Barak, that killed 1400 Palestinians.

In any case, this is just what Israel does “all the time”, per Rousso.

What then ensues in such cases is just the same old story. The Palestinians respond with projectiles, and Israel bombs.

But this time, Israel bombed in a ‘special’ way. A senior Israeli Air Force officer cited in Haaretz said that the targets this time were “completely different from anything we’ve known in the past”. These were high-rise buildings in city centers.

According to the officer, such targets were only struck twice during the entire campaign of Operation Protective Edge in 2014. “Just tonight, we’ve hit four [of these] targets,” he said.

The officer bragged about being able to do this without killing anyone: “We’ve learned how to attack these targets at the heart of residential neighborhoods and obliterate them without killing anyone in the strike. We uphold our values, we’re not fighting against civilians”, he said.

What a success. Once again, Israel managed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population (quoting the UN 2009 fact-finding mission report on the 2008-9 onslaught), but this time, it used those couple of days including strikes in 160 sites, including TV stations, residential buildings and kindergartens – to show how moral it is, because it managed to not kill anyone (except of course those seven Palestinians in Gaza to begin with, but who’s counting?).

Surely, this is a great PR for Israel and “the best” – its pilots. They are the most moral of the most moral. This is certainly better PR than what former Israeli Air Force commander Dan Halutz had said, when asked what he feels when bombing Palestinians with expected civilian casualties: “I feel a light bump to the aircraft due to the bomb’s release, and a second later, it’s over.” It’s also better PR than what the ‘liberal’ Maj. General (res.) Amiram Levin said: “most of these people are born to die anyway, we just need to help them to it”.

Israel reserves its freedom to violate the ceasefire

In the wake of the ceasefire falling in place Tuesday, the Palestinian factions in Gaza released a joint statement saying that “a cease-fire has been reached and we have responded to Egyptian efforts on this matter”, adding that they were “committed to the cease-fire as long as Israel doesn’t break it and doesn’t attack the Palestinian people.” Hamas added that it “really appreciates efforts alongside different entities to obtain a cease-fire and we thank and cherish the Egyptian effort and the international effort, as well as the role the Norwegians and Qataris played.”

An Israeli official cited by Haaretz, on the other hand, said that “Israel reserves its freedom to operate.”

In other words – the pattern is unchanged. Israel reserves its right to conduct invasions “all the time, every night, in all divisions”, as Tal Rousso said. It’s all about not getting caught. To be sure, if Hamas were so openly to reserve its right to invade Israeli territory say, through tunnels, and conduct such operations (and let It be noted here that Hamas has in fact historically always used those tunnels solely for military engagement), well, we would not hear the end of it. This would be a promise to continue active “terror”.

Lieberman upset with easing of tensions with Hamas and with ceasefire

But regardless of the precise terms of the agreement and Israel’s ambivalent position, this ceasefire is after all a ceasefire. And this really isn’t Lieberman’s style. Way too liberal. Lieberman is the type who suggests that Palestinians be decapitated with an axe, and that they be drowned by the thousands in the Dead Sea. Lieberman was already opposed to the deal Netanyahu had closed with Qatar, permitting $15 million in cash to be brought into Gaza, which Hamas was distributing to 27,000 civil servants and some 50,000 families defined as needy last Friday. Education Minister Naftali Bennett was already having a spat with Lieberman about this on Sunday morning, saying that the money is “protection money”, chiding Lieberman for not being tougher and failing to prevent it.

As Israel’s ‘clinical’ onslaught was taking place, Lieberman was being chided by his own, and also from his left, for not being tougher. Sharon Gal, who was a lawmaker with Lieberman’s far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party at the beginning of the current term of parliament, said that Lieberman had gone from being “Rambo” to being a “toy Rambo”, to being a “Zero”:

“If you are a group of wimps unable to make decisions, go home. For weeks and weeks here you spoke like Rambo, you threatened several and definitive attacks from every podium”,

Gal told listeners of his radio show on Galey Israel.

“And in the end, children in the south go to sleep and wet their beds at night. Why should Jewish children have to go to sleep in fear? The defense minister, that toy Rambo, is silent. I was a member of his party, and this morning I am ashamed of it, I am ashamed that I was a lawmaker of that party. This is a defense minister that does nothing but talk. You are an absolute zero.”

‘Liberal centrist’ lawmaker Yair Lapid opined that Lieberman and Netanyahu were showing weakness in the wrong place:

“In the Middle East, they only understand strength, and we are not utilizing it. If I am prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh is as good as dead,”

Lapid said, referring to the Hamas political leader, adding:

“We must return to targeted assassinations. Hamas must know that they are as good as dead.”

This was really all too much for Lieberman. He really wasn’t in the mood for a ceasefire. He was in the Azarya mood. And by that, I mean what Elor Azarya, the Israeli sergeant who executed a Palestinian lying incapacited on the ground in 2016, and his family were saying on social media in 2014, in the wake of a July ceasefire:

(July 15th)

Elor Azarya: Bibi you transvestite what ceasefire? Penetrate their mother!!!

(23 likes including Adir Azarya, Victor Azarya).

Charlie Azarya (Elor’s father): All strength we need to penetrate the mother of their mother.

Elor: Yes kill them all.

There was way too little blood in this week’s Israeli bombing. If the bombings yielded no deaths, What’s the point? In an op-ed published on Tuesday on the website of far-right Israel Channel 7, Major General (Res.) Amos Yadlin, head of the Institute for National Security Studies (at which former US ambassador Daniel Shapiro works), called on the Israeli government to end the army’s policy of “knocking on roofs”, so as not to give the Hamas leaders it targets the opportunity to escape with their lives and their health intact:

“During war, you don’t inform the enemy in advance so that they can get out of their bunker. We must act to prevent harm to uninvolved people as much as possible, but during war there will be such casualties, and their blood lies on the Hamas leaders who use them as human shields.”

Israel was giving Hamas cash and fuel, then it was bombing with warnings, and now ceasefire. This really became too much for Lieberman. He resigned, calling this a “capitulation to terror”:

“There is no other definition, no other significance, but a capitulation to terror. What we are doing now as a country is buying short-term quiet at the cost of our long-term security.”

Elections ahead

All of this has probably just as much to do with Israeli internal politics than it has to do with Gaza, if not more so. Gaza is not just Israel’s battle-testing arena for weapons. It is also its testing arena for ‘security’ toughness. In lieu of an actual existential threat, Israeli politicians can use Gaza as the epitome of evil and destruction against which they can show their resolve. The ‘wars’ are then effective massacres of a besieged, over-crowded and mostly defenseless civilian population incarcerated in an unlivable concentration camp. And the Israeli politicians portray themselves as protectors of the people, as they compete at who is better in destroying another people.

Netanyahu is trying to damage-control the political hysteria, as the politicians smell political blood and opportunity. Netanyahu is currently keeping the Defense portfolio after Lieberman’s resignation, but Bennett’s party, Habayit Hayehudi, has already vowed to leave the coalition if Bennett doesn’t get the Defense Ministry. When Lieberman resigned, he announced that his whole party, Israel Beitenu, would quit the coalition, leaving it at a slender majority of 61-59 seats in the Knesset, and he called for elections as soon as possible. Bennett threatens to tip the boat completely, unless he gets to be Defense Minister (and presumably carry on the aim, to “kill many Arabs”, because for him “there’s no problem with that”).

This is also seen as an opportunity by the left-center opposition. Naturally (for Israel), they try to outflank Netanyahu from the right, on “security”, as well as chiding Lieberman for not being tough enough. Labour leader Avi Gabbay said that “quiet is bought by deterrence, not with money”. Zionist Union Knesset member Ksenia Svetlova mocked Lieberman for his softness in a tweet: “Apparently two long years were not enough for Avigdor Lieberman to elimatinate Haniyeh within 48 hours, as he had promised, but on the other hand, 48 hours was enough for Haniyeh to eliminate Lieberman’s term as defense minister.” Opposition leader Tzipi Livni said that “Deterrence is created through military strikes,” and called to “exchange the Hamas leadership for people who cooperate with us.” Ehud Barak said that Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar was “humiliating Netanyahu.”

The Israeli elections are to be held next year, by November 5th; but many are now pushing for an early election, even in time for the anointed Prime Minister to appear at the AIPAC conference in Washington in March.

Yair Lapid announced that the “countdown has begun”:

“Today the countdown has begun. Today the campaign to restore security, responsibility and leadership to the State of Israel has begun.”

Nothing will change

Nothing will change here. Israeli politicians are playing their macho games of good-cop bad-cop. That’s all soap-opera drama. This may be of great interest for those who see such drama as representing real change, but the sad reality of it is that it does not. For Palestinians, who suffer at the hand of these Zionist narcissists, all of these infightings are as relevant in real life as watching House of Cards. The Israeli solutions, from right to left, stretch from maintaining a genocidal, unlivable status-quo, to actively murdering Palestinians.

They will play their good-cop bad-cop games, they will have their elections and pretend they live in a democracy. And meanwhile, the Palestinians will slowly be poisoned with their un-potable water, if they are meanwhile not bombed into oblivion. The only thing that will affect this unlivable status quo is pressure on Israel from outside. USA is not poised to do that. The UN is largely incapable of helping. It is up to us, citizens of the world, to bring that change about.

No justice under occupation: Family of Palestinian woman killed by settlers searches for answers – Yumna Patel –

Israel/Palestine

on 5 Comments

 

It all happened within seconds. Aisha al-Rabi, 48, was sitting in the car with her husband Yaqoub, 51, laughing and jesting with their youngest daughter, 8-year-old Rama.

The parents of eight children were on the way home to their village of Bidya, in the northwestern occupied West Bank, after visiting one of their daughters in Hebron on October 12.

Yaqoub and Aisha were  excitedly discussing plans for the engagement of one of their daughters in two weeks. The next moment, Aisha was unconscious, blood spilling from her head.

A group of Israeli settlers, the al-Rabi family says, were hiding out on the right shoulder of the road around 9:30 pm. They waited until the family slowed down ahead of a permanent Israeli military checkpoint in the area. As the family approached the checkpoint, the settlers began hurling large rocks at the car.

“My wife was in the passenger seat and she had her head turned and was talking to me when the settlers attacked the car,” Yaqoub told Mondoweiss on the patio of his family’s home. “So when the huge rock broke through the windshield, it hit the right side of her face, directly on her ear.”

“I didn’t know what was going on, it all happened so fast. There was blood everywhere, her brain was spilling out of her head, and she had slumped over onto me,” he said. “Rama was screaming and crying in the back asking me ‘what’s wrong with mom?’.”

By the time Yaqoub arrived at the hospital in Nablus city, a 20 minute drive away, his wife of 31 years was dead.

Now, a month later, on the eve of what was supposed to be his daughter’s engagement, rather than preparing for a weekend of family festivities, Yaqoub is still receiving visitors offering their condolences for his deceased wife.

“We got married when we were teenagers,” Yaqoub said, as tears welled up in his eyes. “We started from nothing, we raised eight amazing children, tired ourselves working to build this life that we have now,” he continued as he gestured to his home.

“We finally reached a point in our lives where we can enjoy each other, and enjoy our life, and now she’s gone.”

Investigation or charade?

Two hours after Yaqoub said his goodbyes to his wife as she lay in the hospital morgue, he received a call from Palestinian authorities around midnight telling him to go back to the site of the attack, where Israeli authorities were waiting to get his statement on the attack.

He got back in his shattered car, the blood of his wife still fresh on the seats, and made his way back to the site of the attack, near Israel’s Tapuach (Za’tara) military checkpoint.

“I stayed there until 4 am, while Israeli police and intelligence officers asked me questions about the attack,” Yaqoub told Mondoweiss, adding that the Israelis took his car as part of the investigations.

When asked about the nature of the questions he was asked that night, Yaqoub shrugged and took a drag of his cigarette. “I could barely think, I still can’t even believe it’s real, sometimes I feel I’m just dreaming,” he said, shaking his head.

The next day, as he prepared to bury his wife, Israeli authorities called Yaqoub in for another interrogation about what happened. The third day after the attack, his 8-year-old daughter Rama was called in for questioning.

“They said they were trying to get to the bottom of what happened,” Yaqoub said. “But what do they need to question a little girl for?”

“The attack happened around a military checkpoint. There are cameras everywhere. All they have to do is check the footage and they could catch the guys in a few hours, but they don’t want to,” Yaqoub said matter of factly.

Yaqoub says that in the weeks since Aisha was killed, he has received no news of any arrests that were made in connection to the attack.

At the time of the attack, the Israeli police said in a statement that they were conducting an investigation. Mondoweiss reached out to the police for comment on an update on the case, but received no response.

“I really believe that all this questioning and so-called investigation was just for show,” Yaqoub says.

His brother Ayoub, 48, interjected: “If this were a Palestinian who carried out such an attack on an Israeli, they would have shut down all the roads, the entire West Bank if they had to, just to catch the guy.”

“But when a Palestinian is killed, they somehow don’t find any conclusions in their investigations,” he continued.

No justice with the settlers

While he has yet to receive any solid answers on the investigation into his wife’s murder, Yaqoub says that he recently received a call from Israeli authorities saying that “Jewish extremists” were behind the attack, but that he was not given any more details.

“This is all they told me. But we knew this already, that it was the settlers,” Yaqoub said.

“Some people tried to insinuate that maybe it was our own people who attacked us. But we have a car with Palestinian license plates,” he continued. “Which kind of Palestinian would do such a thing? Of course it was the settlers.”

Among the 3.1 million Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank are an estimated 600,000 Israelis living in Jewish-only settlements, in contravention of international law.

While the Israeli state incentivizes its citizens to move into the territories through government subsidies –including favorable mortgages and discounts on purchases of property declared state land, amounting to about $700 per settler per year — the majority of settlers move to the occupied territory for political and religious reasons.

Among the settlers who regard themselves as inhabiting a land that is rightfully theirs exists a fundamentalist movement that claims the entire West Bank as Israeli territory, and that stakes its claim through violence against Palestinians.

The attack on al-Rabi came at a sensitive time for Palestinians, who during this year’s olive harvest season witnessed a rise in attacks on their crops, property, and even physical assaults, particularly on farmers.

Aisha al-Rabi’s death caused an uproar on Palestinian social media, with people circulating photos of a doting Aisha and Yaqoub with their children, juxtaposed with pictures of the smashed up car — the broken glass, blood, and rocks visible on the passenger’s seat.

While Israeli officials initially claimed that the attack on al-Rabi could have been “revenge” for attacks carried out prior by Palestinians against Israelis in the same area, Palestinians, including Yaqoub and his family, maintain that settler violence against Palestinians is an unfortunate part of life here.

“I pray, I pray for the day when someone can go drive with his family in this country and not have to worry about being attacked by settlers and killed,” he said.

When asked if he was going to file a suit in Israeli court to try and get answers about his wife’s murder, Yaqoub shook his head.

“I really can’t think about any of that right now,” he said.  “We know that 95% of the attacks that the settlers commit against Palestinians go unprosecuted. So even if we try to go to court, it will be for nothing.”

‘It will never be the same’

The weeks since his wife was killed, Yaqoub says, have been a daze.

One week after Israeli authorities had seized his car for investigations, Yaqoub received a call to go pick it up from the Ariel settlement.

“They made me go out of my way to pick up my car, and then when I arrived, all the blood was still there, the glass shattered. Everything was still the same.”

He says he hasn’t used the car since the attack, or even taken it to get fixed. “I can’t bear to look at it.”

In an attempt to restore some sense of normalcy to his family’s life, Yaqoub has returned to work in Israel, and most of his kids have gone back to school.

“My daughter Rama has been scarred by what happened,” Yaqoub said. “She is scared to go to the bathroom by herself. She used to sleep in the room with me and Aisha all the time, but since the attack she hasn’t set foot in our room.”

“My oldest son is at university studying engineering in Amman,” Yaqoub told Mondoweiss. “He came for his mother’s funeral and he didn’t want to return, it was too hard for him.”

“But Aisha, she worked her whole life to educate her kids, and she would want them to continue studying,” Yaqoub said, as he boasted of his children’s accomplishments: his girls were doctors, pharmacists, dentists, and IT engineers.

“Aisha was so proud of our children, of their accomplishments,” Yaqoub said. “She was so excited for their futures, to see more of her grandchildren, to see our kids get married,” he continued.

“But now I’ll have to do all that on my own,” he said.

He has has asked his daughter and her fiance when they want to hold their engagement.

“They are refusing to set a date. My daughter told me even if we do it in one year, it won’t be the same because mom is not here,” he said. “It will never be the same.”

About Yumna Patel

Yumna Patel is a multimedia journalist based in Bethlehem, Palestine. Follow her on Twitter at @yumna_patel

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