Will they never learn?

In March 2011, the United Kingdom and France, with the support of the United States, led the international community to support an intervention in Libya to protect civilians from attacks by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi. This policy was not informed by accurate intelligence. In particular, the Government failed to identify that the threat to civilians was overstated and that the rebels included a significant Islamist element. By the summer of 2011, the limited intervention to protect civilians had drifted into an opportunist policy of regime change. That policy was not underpinned by a strategy to support and shape post-Gaddafi Libya. The result was political and economic collapse, inter-militia and inter-tribal warfare, humanitarian and migrant crises, widespread human rights violations, the spread of Gaddafi regime weapons across the region and the growth of ISIL in North Africa. Through his decision making in the National Security Council, former Prime Minister David Cameron was ultimately responsible for the failure to develop a coherent Libya strategy.

[Foreign Affairs Committee of the UK parliament]

Absent from this assessment (in the summary at any rate) is any admission of the enormous human suffering which this “opportunist policy of regime change” has led to. Not only the thousands killed by UK and French war-planes. Not only the break-down of a once functioning country – and the rise of extremist Islamic factions. But the suffering caused by the migrant crisis in the Mediterrean. The last two, incidentally, predicted by Colonel Gaddafi.

And the same suffering is being planned for Syria. By the same people. Again. (David Cameron is hardly the root cause of this addiction to sloppy regime change operations in the West at the moment).

It is apparently a hall-mark of British ‘democracy’ that they can kill thousands, litter the field with orphans, and then coolly issue a report acknowledging the lack of a “coherent strategy”.

Perhaps that is better than no report. But it would save a lot of lives if some people in the Foreign Office, in the army, in the arms industry and in all the other unseen echelons of power where democracy does not reach would read the damn thing.

Notes

The report in full. Foreign Affairs Committee report on Libya

Russians lives don’t count?

This is a piece in the Guardian about the conviction in a Russian court of Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko.

Not surprisingly it is written from a propaganda point of view.

The mainstay of Western propaganda is omission. This is an article about the conviction of Nadiva Savchenko but no where in the article is her crime mentioned. She was tried for and convicted of – on the basis of evidence – participation in the murder of two Russian journalists in Eastern Ukraine. Despite a court conviction – at a trial attended by amongst others Ukrainian journalists – the Guardian refers to her crimes as ‘alleged’. This is imperialism – the judgement of British courts and inquiries are always accepted (witness the Guardian’s slavering reporting on the inquiry into the murder of Russian spy Litvinenko) – but a decision by a Russian court is simply ignored. They don’t even bother to present a critique of the court process. It simply doesn’t count. It isn’t just the Russian legal system which doesn’t count. The lack of any mention of the actual crime reveals that the lives of the Russian journalists don’t count either.

The photo on this article of the prisoner in a glass box is captioned ‘Nadiya Savchenko in a glass cage in court’. A glass enclosure is not a cage. But they can’t help themselves. It is (it seems) quite standard practice in Russia for defendants to appear in court in a cage. But whenever the Western press is reporting on any of its heroes who is facing a court in Russia they are always described as being in a ‘cage’ as if it were an especial indignity. In this case it is a glass box, not a cage, but they can’t help themselves. Cage is the story line and they are sticking with it whatever the reality is.

The article reports on Savchenko’s hunger stikes:

She has declared that she will take her hunger strike ‵to the end‶, denying both food and water to protest against her sentence.

Shocking stuff. But Savchenko’s water and hunger strikes seem to be a device turned off and on, mostly off, for media effect. In her court appearances her cheeks seem remarkably plump. If she was on a water strike she would be dead. Not bouncing about in court. But, again, the narrative is written from a template – the narrative is superimposed on the facts of the matter.

There follows a discussion about sanctions. Apparently some in the anti-Russian camp were hoping that this sentence would lead to more sanctions against Russia. The Guardian cites ‘international affairs expert Vladimir Frolov’ in this regard. Vladimir Frolov appears to be a writer for the Moscow Times. This Guardian article is acknowledged as being sourced from the Moscow Times. (This appears to be the original). In effect then the article depends on journalists interviewing their colleagues – at best across collaborating media outlets.

The Guardian reports:

Within minutes of the sentencing Ukrainian and western officials demanded Savchenko’s release, at the very least as part of a prisoner exchange under the Minsk agreement that ended the conflict.

This is also a demand made by the US. The Russian point of view is that this case is not covered by the Minsk agreements because it concerns the murder of civilians not combatants. [1] Naturally the article does not present the Russian point of view. It doesn’t count.

The article reports that Savchenko has become a hero in Ukraine:

The defiant Savchenko has become a national hero for Ukraine, a political martyr for the west, and a severe annoyance for Russia.

Quite probably Savchenko has become a hero for some in Ukraine. It is unlikely that she is a hero in the Eastern provinces of Ukraine – where she was engaged in fighting. But – the whole Western media narrative and political class narrative on Ukraine is based on simply ignoring the wishes and aspirations of all those Ukrainians who live in the East of the country and who did not support the coup. The narrative continually talks about “Ukrainians’ longing for their European future”; however, as this web site has pointed out many times the testable facts of the matter are that such a longing is strong in the West of Ukraine, about even in the centre, and very much not the case in the East of the country where less than 20% of the population are longing for a European future. When the West talks about the yearnings of Ukrainians they simply discount the 13 million Ukrainians (out of a total population of 44 million) who don’t want such a future. Again; the narrative wins over facts.

Finally; the Western propaganda line on Russia often includes the position that the media in Russian is ‘Kremlin controlled’. (For example; this Guardian article cites some laws concerning registration of popular blog sites as media outlets as an example of ‘greater censorship of online publishing’).  [2] The propaganda article we have discussed above is cited by the Guardian as having originally appeared in the Moscow Times – an English language publication published in Russia and often publishing negative stories about Russia. No censorship there.

This reporting from an imperialistic perspective is not simply froth. It is part of the regime change operation – after all if Russian institutions cannot be relied on obviously we should go in and build their civil society for them. That is the implicit ‘liberal’ message that sounds out continually from these patronizing articles. Written by babies they nonetheless condition the public for war.

Notes

1. https://www.rt.com/news/334951-zakharova-kerry-savchenko-trial/

2. https://www.rt.com/politics/177248-russia-bloggers-law-restrictions/

What do you do when your proxies get out of control?

In Syria (as elsewhere) the US has been trying to achieve a political goal by the use of proxy militias. It arms these players (countries or groups). It provides diplomatic cover for them. In the 80s they would have been presented as local ‘freedom fighters’. Now perhaps as fighters for ‘democracy’. The message is always about how these are local forces who are fighting a tyrant on behalf of their people. However; without US diplomatic and military support these proxies would not be able to fight. In Syria the US claims to be involved in the peace process but this is not credible. If the US had been interested in peace they could have promoted a national dialog from the start instead of fomenting a civil war by arming various factions. [1]

The US has tried to achieve its plan for Syria (which has nothing to do with what the Syrian people might want) by the use of proxies. However; the US is having trouble managing its proxies.

Turkey has been presented as a key ally in the ‘fight against terror’. Even when it shot down a Russian jet Turkey received full US support. But now matters are getting out of hand. Turkey has been shelling the PYD – Kurdish forces – in Syria [2]. These forces have recently been armed by the US allegedly to fight ISIS. [3] The US has had to publicly ask its NATO ally to stop. [2]

Another problem is some of the groups supported by another US ally, Saudi Arabia. In Syria, Saudi Arabia supports a right-wing Islamist group Jaysh al-Islam. [4] The one-time leader of this group (he was killed in an airstrike in December 2015) initially made speeches of a virulently anti-Shia nature – calling for their expulsion from Damascus – i.e. he made calls for religious and ethnic cleansing. Later he toned down this rhetoric. The mostly likely explanation for this change is that he was advised to do so by his Saudi backers (and behind them his US backers). [5] This group is now part of the official opposition negotiating team backed by Saudi Arabia.

The problem for the US is that it is trying – once again – to gerrymander ‘democracy’ and acceptance of US dominated global capitalism onto a country where it just isn’t going to fit. They naively support various groups who no doubt tell their CIA handlers ‘Oh yes; we love democracy and freedom’, because they figure that that is what they have to say to get arms. Then once they get some strength they go off on their own; either they follow a sectarian ideology or they become simply totally corrupt or they run death squads or other unpalatable human rights practices. Â Or, like Turkey, they simply start pursuing their own regional agenda.

Countless thousands of totally innocent people have died, been maimed and/or have been rendered homeless by these naive strategies in Iraq, in Libya and in Syria. President Obama coolly brushes this fact away by explaining that the changes they are trying to bring about are a ‘generational challenge’. [6]

On Syria it remains to be seen if the US (with Russia’s help) can even at this late stage rein in what they have started, or if, perhaps, it is not already too late.

Notes

1. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/19/us-weapons-to-syria-repeats-historical-mistake

2. https://www.rt.com/news/332410-us-urges-turkey-shelling/

3. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-ammunition-exclusive-idUSKCN0T412O20151115

4. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/07/syria-crisis-saudi-arabia-spend-millions-new-rebel-force

5. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/dec/25/zahran-alloush-leader-syria-rebel-group-killed-airstrike

6. http://www.vox.com/a/barack-obama-interview-vox-conversation/obama-foreign-policy-transcript

 

Hogwash on Syria from John Kerry

US Secretary of State John Kerry was interviewed on Russian TV about Syria.

Incidentally this is a fact (that he was given a platform by Russian state TV) difficult to fit into the Western narrative about how the Russian people live in a Kremlin controlled media bubble.

John Kerry explained that the US is not trying to do a regime change op in Syria. He justified the Libya regime change op but accepted that not enough was done to facilitate the transition afterwards. This is the quote in context, from Russian state broadcaster RT:

As for the ongoing chaos in Libya since the NATO air campaign helped the rebels oust Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Kerry insisted that removing the dictator was a right thing to do.

However, he added that he agreed with President Obama that “not doing enough afterwards to make sure that the transition and the building of a legitimate government took place – that was a mistake” by the US and its allies [1]

Who could believe this? Even with the best will in the world it is not possible. Iraq was (illegally) invaded in 2003. The Libyan op. took place in 2011. They had 8 years to learn the lessons from Iraq before the Libyan op. (The Libyan operation was justified by a twisting of UN resolution 1973. This permitted military action to defend civilians. This clause was used to justify the toppling of Ghadaffi and his government on the grounds that by remaining in power he was a threat to civilians. A strange claim to make given that the EU at least had been supplying him with arms right up to his departure). [2]

The problem with Kerry’s explanation is that this same explanation was trotted out over Iraq. Following the 2003 invasion Iraq descended into chaos. Al-Qaeda emerged in Iraq. (As predicted by British intelligence [3]). And has now evolved into the even more grisly ‘Islamic State’. And eventually it has become widely accepted that ‘not enough was done in terms of planning for the re-construction of Iraq’. One

David Cameron’s madness

It’s absolutely clear that Russia is not discriminating between Isil and the legitimate Syrian opposition groups and, as a result, they are actually backing the butcher Assad and helping him and really making the situation worse.

Rightly, they have been condemned across the Arab world for what they have done and I think the Arab world is right about that.

“But we should be using this moment now to try to force forward a comprehensive plan to bring political transition in Syria because that is the answer for bringing peace to the region. [1] David Cameron

It is worth recalling that this is the same David Cameron who heralded the overthrow of the tyrant Gaddafi as a moment when the Libyan people “chose freedom” and “democracy” “with Britain’s help”.

Who is the rogue state?

The US is claiming that Russia is “propping up” the regime of Bashar-al-Assad in Syria. This is why they won’t coordinate their anti-ISIS efforts with Russia. [1]

The US – as they have from the very start of civil unrest in Syria – supported the demands of an opposition for the removal of Assad as a pre-condition for talks.

Yet Assad has widespread popular support in Syria. [2] He would almost certainly win a Presidential election. This is why the US has to pre-insist that he goes before any political solution is found.

As always the US is gerrymandering a regime change. As always ‘democracy’ means what the US thinks is good for its interests. It never means actual democracy. Look at Algeria in 1991. An Islamic grouping was poised to win elections. The military intervened. The elections were cancelled. And 7 years of a bloody civil conflict followed. No voice from the West then about ‘democracy’. The same more recently in Egypt where the ‘Arab Spring’ led to the Muslim Brotherhood being elected. They were deposed within a year by the army. The US announced that they didn’t support coups and they stopped some of their aid to the Egyptian army. As to be expected though this has been silently being re-started. [3] At any events, and again, no calls in support of democracy in Egypt.

The position of the US is naked: they want what they want (the departure of Assad and thus the breakdown of the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis). International law has nothing to do with it. The US is a rogue state. The only reason they aren’t a pariah state is because of their economic and military power.

It is a pity that