Why Territory? By Ian Klinke

Why Territory?

By Ian Klinke

Territory is increasingly presented as the only response to the world’s problems. But if territory is the answer, then what exactly is the question?


Inthe 1990s, it was common for us to hear and read about the end of territory. The Berlin Wall had fallen and the remaining pockets of real existing socialism were crumbling fast under the forces of liberal capitalism. As the European Union dissolved its internal borders, the spread of the internet seemed to further de-territorialise our lives. Two decades on, the picture seems to be a rather different one.

From the United Kingdom’s decision to retreat into the nation-state to the construction of border fences and walls in Israel, Hungary, the United States and elsewhere, the control of geographical areas seems to have returned to haunt us. Even cyberspace is now increasingly policed, both by authoritarian and more democratic states alike. Many of those who valorise a territorial world will argue that there is something inherently natural about this return of territory. Indeed, as a way of demarcating power in space, the question of territory may seem as old as mankind — but it is not.

Today, territory is commonly assumed to be a portion of the Earth’s surface, including its subsoil, airspace and adjacent waters, that is controlled by a state. Territory defines the geographical area over which a state has jurisdiction and it allows the state to filter the movement of people and goods into and out of this area. As an attempt to say “this far and no further”, territory may seem inherent to the human condition. But if territory was of natural rather than of cultural origin, we should be able to observe attempts to territorialise politics in all societies throughout history. Divided cities like Belfast, Jerusalem or Nicosia would be the rule rather than the exception. In fact, the logic of territory has its origins only in the 17th century.

“As a way of demarcating power in space, the question of territory may seem as old as mankind — but it is not.”

Rather than an answer to the question of migration, territory was originally a response to the problem of religious warfare. Indeed, it first emerged as a solution to the Thirty Years’ War, a conflict that had wiped out millions of Central Europeans between 1618 and 1648 in the name of both Protestantism and Catholicism. In order to ban such wars in the future, rulers should choose their territory’s denomination without interference from others. Those amongst the population who felt they would prefer to inhabit a territory with a different denomination to their ruler’s could simply leave. From this arose the principles of territorial sovereignty and non-intervention, which remain crucial to the functioning of contemporary world politics.

States have not always been interested in making exact maps of their territories. Feudal states, city states and empires did not govern through territory. The Romans, for instance, may have used the term ‘territory’, but it referred mainly to the land associated with a city. They did not imagine their world to be made up of territorial states. Instead of being governed by hard external borders, their empire was ruled through fuzzy boundaries. Medieval states were systems of rule that were based on inter-personal relations rather than the idea of territory. It was only in the 17th and 18th centuries that the world witnessed an explosion in cartographic activity. For in order to govern their territories, states also had to survey, calculate, and map their boundaries.

If we want to understand why so many of us have come to think of territory as a basic instinct rather than a political institution, we have to travel to the late 19th century, to a time when European colonialism was at its peak and the age of exploration had come to an end. It was in this political climate that the German zoologist-turned-geographer Friedrich Ratzel would come to write about territory as the target of a biological urge that was inherent in all species and nations. He argued that, much like caterpillars and primroses, nations were organisms that needed living space if they wanted to ensure their survival. A nation’s health could be judged only by its territory. This idea of the need for living space would develop a powerful traction in the early 20th century, as a whole range of political movements and regimes started to fetishise territory and sought to expand their living space by force.

“If we want to understand why so many of us have come to think of territory as a basic instinct rather than a political institution, we have to travel to the late 19th century.”

Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 aside, straightforward territorial conquest is comparatively rare in today’s world. And yet, borders and territorial questions still seem to structure the way in which our world works. We encounter this territorial world in border crossings, airports, and, if unlucky, in refugee camps and detention centres. In a biometric age, we even have our citizenship imprinted on our bodies — through our iris and fingerprints. And yet it is important to remember that this world of increasingly fortified borders is in fact rather new. Until WWI, it would have been possible to travel through Europe without a passport.

It is similarly vital not to forget that the territorial border remains only one way in which power is exerted over populations through space. There are others. Indeed, the prevention of motion by barbed wire in the 20th century was always accompanied by attempts to channel motion in particular directions. Much of this was — and continues to be — done through the built environment. Think of the forces unleashed by the Autobahn, or the invisible hand that lures us into the temples of consumer capitalism on a Sunday. Territory is never the only game in town. It has to coexist with other perhaps more consensual forms of control.

Territory is also hardly the smoothest form of power. Everyone who has tried to change the behaviour of a child or even a pet by assigning them a territory will know of the resistance that this can provoke. If we look at the responses of European states to the current refugee crisis, the problem soon becomes apparent. Barbed wire, the attempt to control migration by piercing human flesh, is not only imperfect (for the human body will eventually find a way around it), but it is also a powerful symbol of oppression; we only have to think of the iconic barbed wire fences of Auschwitz or Amnesty International’s logo. During the Cold War, the anti-nuclear movement often congregated precisely around NATO’s razor-wired military bases from which a nuclear war was to be waged on the world. So when states put up fences and walls today, this always also exposes the fundamental violence at the heart of the modern state.

Territory can also be an obstacle in other ways. It can limit what can be said and done. It is difficult, for instance, to wage a war without having a territorial state as an enemy. When the United States and its allies first embarked on the war against the shady forces of international terrorism in 2001, they saw themselves forced to find a territorial state that could be targeted by the Anglo-American war machine — Afghanistan.

The relationship between terror and territory is a crucial one in other ways, too. Think of the recent mass killings that have been carried out by young men — and they are nearly all men — in places like Brussels, Paris, Orlando and Berlin. Even before the blood has dried, there will be speculation about the perpetrator’s nationality. If he holds a passport from a predominantly Muslim nation or was born in such a nation, then the act is usually declared a terrorist act, no matter how weak his religiosity or his links to terrorist networks. The man may drink and have girlfriends, but he will be branded a terrorist. His motives will be assumed to be public and thus political.

If, however, he is from Western Europe — like the Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, who killed 150 in 2015 by downing his plane in the French Alps — then the motive is usually assumed to be private and we will hear about his psychology rather than his politics. If it is terror, then we can see all kinds of exceptional measures brought into force, from detention without trial to the bombing of Islamic State in Syria, as carried out by France after the Paris attacks. If it is “simply” a mass killing, then nothing much happens at all. One of the key differences is the passport.

“This vision of a world in which your passport defines your politics is of course a dangerous one — but it is also one that will likely provoke opposition.”

As xenophobic and nationalist movements and politicians are increasingly swept into power in the global North, we increasingly hear that territory is the solution to our problems. But if territory is the answer, then what precisely is the question? In the early 21st century, the question is perhaps not so much ‘migration’ or ‘identity’, as it is often claimed, but the failures of Western liberalism with its fantasy of a borderless globe of free trade and commerce. Financial deregulation, privatisation, and globalisation have created a world that radiates a sense of insecurity amongst the majority of the population. Since the global financial crisis of 2008, it has become increasingly clear that prosperity and financial security are no longer attainable for large segments of the population, even in developed economies. If we add to this the threat of climate change, then we can even say that the belief in ‘progress’, a notion that has stood at the heart of ‘The West’ since the Enlightenment, itself has been shattered. Suddenly it makes more sense why the timeless truths of a territorial world seem so appealing to many.

If we accept that the recent rise of the new right in the United States and Europe is not so much a response to the so-called refugee crisis, but, much like the rise of fascism in the 1930s, an answer to this fundamental disillusionment and insecurity, then we can see much more clearly that territory is in fact a trick. It tricks us into believing that there is a way to collapse our planetary complexities back into a world of parcelled-up territories. This is nothing less than the fantasy of creating a world in which there are only people who identify with the territorial state, people who desire and fear the same things. This vision of a world in which your passport defines your politics is of course a dangerous one — but it is also one that will likely provoke opposition.


This is an extract from Weapons of Reason’s fourth issue: Power, available to order now.

Illustrations by Koivo

Palestine: “There’s No Conflict, There’s An Illegal Occupation”

Interview With Dr. Asem Khalil

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Professor Doctor Asem Khalil, Ph.D. in Constitutional and International Law, Associate Professor of Law of Birzeit University, West Bank, speaks of ways to consolidate the Palestine State, and definitely end Israeli crimes against humanity in the Palestinian territories.

Edu Montesanti: Dear Professor Doctor Asem Khalil, thank you so very much for granting this interview. How do you evaluate the meeting between President Donald Trump and Prime-Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on February 15? “I’m looking at two-State and one-state” formulations, President Trump said during a White House news conference with Mr. Netanyahu. “I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one”. Your view, please.

Dr. Asem Khalil: The Palestinians always called for a One State; as a compromise they accepted to enter a peace process where two state solution is envisaged as a way to get peace. If by one state, we mean equal rights for all citizens,

I don’t see why Palestinians would reject that – if they were first to ask for it and accepted only as a compromise the call for two state solution where most of historic Palestine will be part of the now state of Israel.

I think the answer given by Trump wasn’t thought through enough, and I don’t think Israel would go for a one State where one person one vote anyway.

Edu Montesanti: Why cannot Israel and the Palestinians decide alone the question? Why do Palestinians need a third party to get an agreement?

Dr. Asem Khalil: Palestinians are under occupation. It is not their own responsibility to negotiate with the occupier; for sure, it is not part of any negotiation whether to maintain or end occupation – negotiation may be on the modalities on how to do that only.

So far, Palestinians are in a weak position. They are requested to chose pacific means to reach liberation and end occupation, while at the same time, they are asked to negotiate directly with an occupier who continues to confiscate land day on day out.

It is the responsibility of the international community to put an end to one of the last occupations in the world. It is the responsibility of all community of states to make sure that rights of Palestinians – which are erga omnes – are respected.

Edu Montesanti: The United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 voted on December 23 last year, condemning the Israeli settlements as a flagrant violation of international law and a major impediment to the achievement of a two-state solution, changes nothing on the ground between Israel and the Palestinians. UN member States “agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council”, according to the UN Charter. Human rights and the international community also condemns the Israeli settlements and military attacks against Palestinians. Journalist Daoud Kuttab observed in Al-Jazeera in February, in the article US and Israel join forces to bury Palestinian statehood: “Ever since the 1967 occupation, the United Nations Security Council has repeatedly expressed the illegality of the occupation, as in the preamble of Resolution 242 ‘emphasizing inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war’.” Why does nothing change year by year, massacre after massacre?

Dr. Asem Khalil: Change doesn’t come by UN resolutions. There are few cases like the one of Israel where the UN and the Security Council in particular showed how incompetent they are in dealing with Israel’s violations of Palestinians’ rights on their land and their right to self-determination.

Palestinian leadership, nonetheless, still think that such resolutions are important. They help maintain clear what is just and what is not.

What is acceptable and what is not. Changes in international relations and power relations between states may help in the future bring the change that is needed. Although it may be too late by then.

Edu Montesanti: What are the crimes committed by Israel against Palestinians?

Dr. Asem Khalil: There are various massacres that were committed by Israel against Palestinians surrounding the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 – causing and contributing to forced displacement and refugeehood of thousands of people.

Many other massacres were committed afterwards, either directly or indirectly. Bombings directed towards civilian areas and facilities continued in recent years when attacking Gaza.

Edu Montesanti: How is life in Gaza and in the West Bank?

Dr. Asem Khalil: Gaza is being qualified as a big prison – unqualified for human living because of lack of necessary civilian infrastructures and lack of jobs.

Most West Bank populated cities are living under Palestinian Authority rule – which coordinates with Israel in security and civil matters too.

Edu Montesanti: Professor Avi Shlaim observed days ago, in Al-Jazeera: “Sadly, the Palestinians are handicapped by weak leadership and by the internal rivalry between Fatah and Hamas.” Your view on the internal politics in Palestine, please, Professor Doctor Khalil.

Dr. Asem Khalil: He is right. This is part of the problem and why stagnation is in place. It is part of the story though.

The full picture is an Israeli occupation which separated Gaza from West Bank and maintained legal and political fragmentation since then; it is also in the way Oslo separated de facto the two areas and maintained a status quo where Palestinians are not dealt with by Israeli occupation – and contrary to the wordings of Oslo – as one political community and West Bank and Gaza Strip were not in reality considered or dealt with as one political entity.

Edu Montesanti: What could we expect from Arab leaders from now on?

Dr. Asem Khalil: We don’t have much expectations. We think the Arab region is now busy with their own problems.

They are now seeing the Palestinian issue as marginal and secondary. This is very problematic now.

Edu Montesanti: How do you see the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement?

Dr. Asem Khalil: The BDS movement can be the way ahead for peaceful resistance to occupation and apartheid in Palestine. Israel is aware of the historical precedence of South Africa and the boycott movement that ended up at the end in delegitimizing the apartheid regime in South Africa, and contributed to the entry of a new era there.

We hope similar thing happens now – not delegitimizing the state of Israel, but the apartheid regime in place.

Edu Montesanti: What is the solution to the conflict, Professor Doctor Asem Khalil?

Dr. Asem Khalil: There is no conflict. There is an occupation that needs to come to an end; a colonization project that needs to be aborted; an apartheid regime that needs to be dismantled; justice and equality to be restored.

If and when this is done, no need to think of mechanisms to end a conflict because it wouldn’t exist.

To Trump:How many innocent people should be killed before you #StopArmingSaudi ?

#ForgottenWarInYemen, shame on world’s so called “humanitarian activists” #Yemen is bleeding #StopArmingSaudis

 

Why is the Trump still “allies” with Saudi Arabia?

800 Families File Lawsuit Against Saudi Arabia over 9/11

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March 20, 2017 at 4:11 pm

(ANTIMEDIA) New York, NY — Eight-hundred families of 9/11 victims and 1,500 first responders, along with others who suffered as a result of the attacks, have filed a lawsuit against Saudi Arabia over its alleged complicity in the 2001 terror attacks, according to an exclusive report by local New York outlet Pix 11.

The legal document, filed in a federal court in Manhattan, describes the Saudi role in the attacks. Pix 11reports:

The document details how officials from Saudi embassies supported hijackers Salem al-Hazmi and Khalid Al-Mihdhar 18 months before 9/11.

The officials allegedly helped them find apartments, learn English and obtain credit cards and cash. The documents state that the officials helped them learn how to blend into the American landscape.”

For years, suspicions have swirled that some Saudi officials had ties to the gruesome attacks. The recent release of FBI reports produced shortly after the attacks provided details to justify growing skepticism against the Saudis. These details were further bolstered by the release of 28 pages originally withheld from the 9/11 commission report. Though the U.S. government downplayed the findings, even some lawmakers expressed concern.

Pix 11 further described the lawsuit, which reportedly relies on information from the FBI’s investigations:

The suit also produces evidence that officials in the Saudi embassy in Germany supported lead hijacker Mohamed Atta. It claims that a Saudi official was in the same hotel in Virginia with several hijackers the night before the attacks.

The suit also alleges “some of the hijackers had special markers in their passports, identifying them as al-Qaida sympathizers.

According to the suit, filed by aviation law firm Kreindler & Kreindler, “Saudi royals, who for years had been trying to curry favor with fundamentalists to avoid losing power, were aware that funds from Saudi charities were being funneled to al-Qaida.

The charities were alter egos of the Saudi government,” Jim Kreindler told Pix 11.

According to Kreindler, “there was a direct link between all the charities and Osama bin Laden and…they operated with the full knowledge of Saudi officials.”

The lawsuit reportedly details how funds were transferred from charities inside Saudi Arabia to the terror group. One of those charities, Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, has been designated a sponsor of terrorism by the U.S. government.

Kreindler insists Saudi involvement occurred and was blatantly malicious.

The Saudis were so duplicitous,” he said. “They claim to be allies fighting with U.S. against Iran, while at the same time working with the terrorists. There’s no question they had a hand in the 9/11 attacks.”

Until late last year, families of 9/11 victims were unable to sue foreign countries over their potential involvement in the attacks. In September, Congress overrode President Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, which allows for the suit filed this week.

President Obama, like George Bush before him, enjoyed a cozy relationship with the kingdom. The Bush family has had a long, profitable history with the Saudi regime over shared oil interests. Obama continued to protect the ongoing, warm relationship by approving billions of dollars worth of weapons sales to the kingdom. He also backed the monarchy’s onslaught of Yemen, where thousands of civilians have been killed with American-supplied weapons.

The Obama and Bush administrations have done nothing but fight the 9/11 families for 15 years,” James Riches, the father of a first responder who died in the attacks and participant in the suit, told Pix 11 last month. “The United States government took the side of the Saudis over the 9/11 families.

President Trump, for his part, previously criticized the Saudis, even acknowledging their alleged role in the 9/11 attacks when the 28-pages were released. However, since taking office, Trump has moved closer to Saudi Arabia, approving a weapons deal even Barack Obama rejected. Trump has also continued bombing Yemen, and Exxon Mobil, whose former CEO now serves at Trump’s secretary of state, has historical business ties to the Saudis. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently refused to acknowledge Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses.

Considering Trump’s unpredictable leadership and his previous allusion to the Saudi role in 9/11, it is currently unclear how the president will react to the recent lawsuit. Regardless, those filing the suit appear to be committed to their attempts to achieve accountability.

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This lawsuit is a demonstration of the unwavering commitment of the 9/11 families to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for its critical role in the 9/11 attacks,” Kreindler said.

Creative Commons / Anti-Media / Report a typo

Democracy Now! Criminal Cheerleaders for Bloodshed in Syria

Democracy Now! Criminal Cheerleaders for US-NATO-GCC’s Perpetual Conflict and Bloodshed in Syria

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Vanessa Beeley

 

“A closer look at what Goodman’s “Democracy Now” is reporting on Syria shows that the purported critical broadcaster has become a purveyor of Western government propaganda. While the mainstream media’s propaganda function is obvious to the informed public, Goodman’s “Democracy Now” plays a more subtle role. Camouflaged with the trappings of critical, independent journalism, “Democracy Now” serves to sow powerful seeds of misinformation in a way that the “compromised” mainstream media cannot.” ~ Finian Cunningham 2012

“As the United Nations says nearly 1 million Syrians are living under siege and the last remaining hospitals in eastern Aleppo have been destroyed.” ~ Democracy Now! November 2016

Last night, Democracy Now! released a report that was breathtaking in the saturation of NATO aligned propaganda in this one segment out of their almost six year criminal, media campaign against Syria and the sovereign will of its people. In the first line alone, we have the ubiquitous and now hugely discredited description of the “last remaining hospitals in eastern Aleppo”.

The East Aleppo “last hospital” litany has become synonymous with corporate media lies. It’s duplicitous and misleading use is clearly demonstrated by this short video collection of the many mainstream media reports on the “last hospital” rendering these corporate media accounts questionable and far from credible.

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A search on Twitter under the hashtag “last hospital” reveals the extent of the mockery of the mainstream media narrative that has risen to an unprecedented level of outright lies in line with the US coalition frustration at the Syrian Arab Army allied advances towards the full liberation of East Aleppo from the clutches of over 22 brigades of assorted US, UK, EU, Turkish, Gulf State-funded & armed militants and mercenary gangs under the leadership of Nusra Front, the Al Qaeda terrorist affiliate in Syria.last-hospital-collage
Collection of corporate media tweets amplifying the “last hospital” narrative in East Aleppo. (Collage created by @Navsteva)

“Nothing Short of a Slaughter“: 1 Million Syrians in Aleppo Under Siege with No Hospital, Food”

This is the already misleading headline of the Democracy Now! report.  Interviewer, Nermeen Shaikh interviews guests, Bassam Haddad, director of the Middle East and Islamic Studies program at George Mason University, and Dr. Zaher Sahloul, founder of the American Relief Coalition for Syria and senior adviser and former president of the Syrian American Medical Society.

The following are the ten main points put forward by these two guests, points that are questionable, and yet go unchallenged by Shaikh:

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1: East Aleppo contains 300,000 people, of which 100,000 are children

2: These people are under siege, starving & without medicine for the last four and half months, due to the Syrian “regime” and allies.

3: Every 17 hours right now in Aleppo, “health care facilities” are being targeted. In the last 144 days, there were 143 attacks on health care facilities across Syria.  One third of these attacks were in the “city of Aleppo”, so 48 attacks in last four and a half months.

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4: The daily massacre and maiming of Syrian civilians in West Aleppo by the militant factions in East Aleppo pales into “insignificance” when compared to  the “brutal bombardment of eastern Aleppo and the almost total destruction of life

5: The Syrian “regime” is “focused” upon re-conquering the whole of Syria in its entirety.

6: Al Nusra are not in East Aleppo except maybe a “few fighters

7:  The population of East Aleppo was 1.5 million before the crisis.  Now it is 300,000 so majority have fled to Turkey, Europe or elsewhere inside Syria. Any other place in Syria is dangerous. If they go to government controlled areas they risk being “tortured or detained”. So, the civilians in East Aleppo cannot leave because there is nowhere safe for them.

8: The Syrian “regime” is conducting an ethnic cleansing operation by evacuating “rebels” from liberated areas such as East Aleppo, Homs, Daraya.

9: There is a rift between the US think tanks who support the Syrian “revolution” in order to ensure Israel’s security in the region and the true “revolution” supporters who are interested primarily in the well being of all Syrians. “A rift that should have existed from the very beginning for the sake of building a healthier, independent and democratic uprising in Syria against a dictatorial regime.” ~ Bassam Haddad

10: President Elect, Donald Trump’s stated support for Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, is the “final nail in the coffin “of the aspiration of the Syrian people, the young people of Syria, who rose up in the beginning of this five years ago for freedoms and liberties that we enjoy and we all support.” ~ Dr Zaher Sahloul

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Democracy Now!’s Fake Objectivity

Yet again, Democracy Now! give their guests a protected platform to present a very partisan and biased view of events in Syria.  Not once does Shaikh proffer an alternative view to that which is being presented by the show’s guests. On the contrary, she positively reinforces their narrative with the use of her own rhetoric and terms such as “annihilation and war crimes” directed against the Syrian government and allies, in the opening statement of the interview.

“The second implication is that this neutral voice, without a discipline of verification, creates a veneer covering something hollow. Journalists who select sources to express what is really their own point of view, and then use the neutral voice to make it seem objective, are engaged in a form of deception. This damages the credibility of the craft by making it seem unprincipled, dishonest, and biased.” ~ The American Press Institute. (Emphasis added)

Shaikh even fails to question the contradiction of her own introduction by Sahloul. Sahloul states that Al Nusra barely exist in East Aleppo. In her introduction, Shaikh alludes to the UN suggestion that the Syrian government should permit autonomy for East Aleppo provided the “jihadist fighters linked to al-Qaeda (Al Nusra) withdrew and the fighting stopped.”

Shaikh fails in her assumed role as an independent and objective reporter.  She fails to ask the most basic questions that would deconstruct the narrative being projected by her guests. She fails to debate. She succeeds only in giving credibility to an incredible account of the situation in East Aleppo, an account that is flatly denied by recent visitors to Aleppo such as independent journalists & researchers, Eva Bartlett, Tom Duggan and the author of this article,  Vanessa Beeley.

How a Genuinely Objective Journalist should have Responded

1: 300,000 civilians in East Aleppo. 100,000 children.

Where do the figures of 300,000 come from? A very simple Google search reveals that this is another one of those magical figures that runs and runs, the earliest reference to it was July 2016. Given the fluidity of the situation in Aleppo and East Aleppo in particular, continuing to cite this figure, after five months of intense activity, is at best, laziness, at worst, dishonest.

The Aleppo Medical Association, which comprises 4,160 registered doctors in West Aleppo, stated in August 2016 that there were less than 250,000 people remaining in East Aleppo.  Of these the AMA told Vanessa Beeley that over 50,000 were “armed militants and terrorists” and their families. Since August 2016, a steady trickle of civilians have succeeded in escaping to West Aleppo via the humanitarian corridors established by the Syrian Government & Russia.

How does Sahloul arrive at the 100,000 children figure? What is the basis for this claim of these huge numbers, out of alignment with reality according to the Aleppo Medical Association doctors, many of whom, still have family in East Aleppo being held hostage by the Nusra Front-led mercenary brigades.

Of course this narrative aligns perfectly with the majority of corporate media who have consistently acted as nothing more than congressional stenographers in their skewed reporting of the US, UK-led proxy war on Syria.

2: The Syrian “regime” is starving the people of Aleppo:

 What evidence is there of the Syrian Government and Russia “starving civilians” in East Aleppo? Who is responsible for withholding medicines from civilians? Why is there no mention of the NATO and Gulf state funded mercenary siege of West Aleppo.

A four year long, brutal & violent siege of 1.5 million civilians in West Aleppo, which includes depriving them of clean water, food, electricity and medical supplies.

September 2016: “The following is a video made by suspected US alliance media implant in Syria, and extremist sympathizer called Bilal Abdul Kareem of OGN, On the Ground News.  Bilal has been featured multiple times as a ‘Syria-based’ news source for CNN. In this video the US Coalition-backed gangs of mercenaries, otherwise known as the “moderate rebels” are demonstrating against allowing the UN aid into East Aleppo, marching under the flag of Al Nusra Front aka Al Qaeda in Syria.” ~ Channel 4 Joins CNN in Normalizing Terrorism, then Removes Video

Why no mention of Syrian Government and Russian attempts to enter East Aleppo with humanitarian aid, evacuation buses and ambulances in last few weeks? The same humanitarian convoys that were fired upon and refused entry by the so called “moderate rebels” that are being discussed by Democracy Now!

Buses ready to ‘evacuate’ civilians from east – so far no one has crossed. A rebel mortar just landed 50 ft from us. No injuries thank God.

Tom Duggan, an english journalist, who has lived in Syria for the last four years,  reports LIVE from the artificial, US coalition-funded-militant imposed, borders between East and West Aleppo. He reports, at great risk to himself and his crew, on the attempts being made by civilians to flee from East Aleppo into the safety of Syrian government held West Aleppo.  Aleppo: Live Footage from Tom Duggan

27th October 2016: 

“We regret to note that the United Nations has not properly worked out an operation to evacuate the sick and the wounded.” Vitaly Churkin to the UN

“The ambassador added that the UN work with various opposition groups in Aleppo and the local council was “left to take care of itself.” He stressed that the UN personnel did not “exert the necessary pressure” on “sponsors” of illegal armed groups to convince them to cooperate with the aid workers on the ground.

Besides criticizing the UN team, the Russian envoy also accused entities that have influence over fighters in besieged neighborhoods of Aleppo of not applying enough pressure on the militants to make the most of the Russian-Syrian humanitarian pause.” ~ UN failed to organize evacuation of civilians from rebel-held Aleppo – Russian envoy

Why does Shaikh not bring up the fact that the civilians of East Aleppo have been rising up against the “moderate rebel” occupation and protesting the stockpiling of food and humanitarian supplies by the militant factions, or that dozens of civilians were killed and injured by these same factions opening fire on their protests and escape attempts across East Aleppo.

“Meanwhile, Russia said that terrorists have opened fire on civilians protesting against them in al-Haidariyeh neighborhood in Aleppo city, killing 17 civilians, including children, and wounding over three dozen more.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Major General Igor Konashenkov, said that the terrorists arrested 10 people and took them to an unknown location.They were all executed on the same day,”  he further went onto say.

Some 300 people participated in demonstrations against terrorists in al-Kallaseh neighborhood trying to escape across Bustan al-Qaser corridor but the terrorists sought to disperse the demonstrators by shooting them from a heavy machine gun and then mined all the approaches to a checkpoint and placed snipers on the roofs of nearby houses, Konashenkov said.” ~ Syrian Arab News Agency

Would Democracy Now! please explain how doctors such as Sahloul and his Chicago colleagues are entering East Aleppo from outside Syria. How are citizen journalistsactivists and the NATO & Gulf state funded terrorist support group, the White Helmets able to leave and re-enter East Aleppo to and from Turkey?

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If there is no movement to and from East Aleppo, how did Netflix manage to make an entire documentary, without leaving Turkey, based upon the exploits of this  multi-million NATO & Gulf state-funded, fraudulent, first responder group, embedded inside Nusra Front and ISIS held territory, if they were not able to leave East Aleppo to provide them with the “award winning” film footage?

Not forgetting that Democracy Now! supported the White Helmets without question, despite the daily mounting evidence of their role as a terrorist support group inside Syria, producing the fabricated evidence needed to faciliate greater US coalition intervention and enabling calls for a No Fly Zone, widely recognised as a declaration of war with Russia to be fought on Syrian soil.

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The alleged increase in number of Doctors in East Aleppo in a 24 hour time frame. (Photo @Navsteva)

These are only a few of the counter arguments with which any self-respecting journalists should have been challenging their guests.  A journalist’s job is to provide the public with the facts and to then leave it up to them to decipher the picture based upon the evidence, not to support one-sided narratives that are presented as truth without evidence.

3: Every 17 hours the Syrian “regime” and Russia are targeting hospitals in East Aleppo. 

According to the Aleppo Medical Association ( I spoke with them two days ago) the officially recognised hospitals in East Aleppo are the following – two Syrian Government hospitals, the Childrens Hospital & Eye Hospital and the National Hospital. The Childrens & Eye Hospital have been completely taken over by Nusra Front who have converted them into their headquarters and a Sharia Law courtroom. The National was under construction before the conflict and is therefore non operational.

Then you  have the private hospitals.  Yassin Jaban, Islamic Medical Hospital and Al Daqaq.  Combined, these have less than 50 beds. There is also the Omar Abud Al Aziz hospital which was the cherished project of the Grand Mufti Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun before it was taken over by Nusra Front in 2013 and converted into a Nusra-led militant base.  According to the Grand Mufti Hassoun, the top floor was turned into a sniping tower and civilians are rarely treated, terrorists & militants are given priority.  The hospital was taken by force, the incoming Nusra-led militants murdered doctors, nurses and patients in the process.

Of these private hospitals, only the Omar Abud Al Aziz and Yassin Jaban are still “operational” and run entirely by various militant factions, once again, headed up by the Nusra Front.

So if only two of the officially recognised hospitals are still operational, and wholly occupied by Nusra Front and associates, how does Sahloul explain his claim of “hospitals” being mercilessly targeted 48 times in the last four and a half months or, now, every 17 hours, despite the various prolonged ceasefires adhered to by both Russia and Syria but routinely broken by the US coalition-funded mercenaries and terrorists across Syria.

What hospitals is he talking about and why does Shaikh not ask that question? Why is MSF  (Medecins Sans Frontieres) and its associated outreach workers in the many militant field shelters in Nusra Front and ISIS held territory across Syria not supplying coordinates to the Syrian government in order to avoid the targeting of these armed militant-held temporary structures or buildings, requisitioned as triage centres.

4: The daily maiming and massacre of civilians in West Aleppo, being sniped and targeted by “moderate rebel” hell cannon missiles, grad missiles, shells and explosive bullets, pales into insignificance compared to the bombardment by the Syrian and Russian airforces. 

Perhaps Shaikh should have watched this video of a young man in Aleppo who had just lost his two year old son to the “insignificant missiles” Please note also the fact that Russia and Syria had respected the agreed ceasefire for 21 days while the “moderate rebel” targeting of civilians had never ceased during that time. Warning this video is very distressing. 

There has not been a single Syrian or Russian airstrike on East in 21 days.

Rebel shelling has not stopped for a day.

Why had Shaikh not read this report from Syrian journalist, Jamila Assi, on the massacre of 8 school children, all under the age of 13, on the 20th November, all targeted by the US coalition-funded”moderate rebel” hell cannon mortars and missiles at Al Fourkan school in West Aleppo.

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Images of the 8 school children murdered by US alliance-funded “moderate rebels” while at school in West Aleppo. (Photo: Chretiens de la Syrie pour la Paix Facebook page)

How does Shaikh respond to Haddad’s summary dismissal of the suffering of the people of West Aleppo, under siege for over four years and a constant target for the “moderate rebel” snipers, missiles and explosive bullets? She moves on. She does not even register this familiar dehumanization of 1.5 million civilians in the Syrian government controlled West Aleppo.  She tacitly approves Haddad’s reducing of their armed militant imprisonment and the daily Nusra Front-led slaughter of children and civilians to “pale insignificance”.

5: The Syrian “regime” is focused upon re-conquering Syria in its entirety. 

So the elected government and national army are defending their country & people against an illegal proxy intervention by hostile nations including the US, UK, EU, Gulf States, Turkey, Israel to name a few, and stand “accused” of  focusing upon reclaiming their country from the hordes of hostile nation-funded terrorist factions such as Nusra Front and ISIS and the gangs of so called lesser or “moderate” militants such as Ahrar Al Sham, brutal ethnic cleansing agents, working alongside Nusra Front, or Nour Al Din Zinki, the beheaders of 12 year old Palestinian child, Abdullah Issa.

A “re-conquering” that has the support of the majority of the Syrian people.

6: Al Nusra are no more.

Really?

aleppo-nusra
October 20th Murad Gazdiev reports in-fighting between hardline militant gangs. 

Pierre Le Corf, French national and humanitarian volunteer working on the East/West Aleppo borders, told Syria TV, on the 12th November, that all he sees on the frontlines are “black flags, nothing but black flags” (the emblem of Nusra Front). First part of the video is in Arabic, but Eva Bartlett and Pierre Le Corf speak in English. Watch 

Finally there is the now famous admission by US Defence Department’s Colonel Steve Warren in April 2016, stating clearly that it is Nusra Front that are the primary occupiers of East Aleppo.

7: The population of East Aleppo was 1.5 million before the “conflict”. Fleeing civilians fear torture and detainment in Government held areas.

It is well documented that West Aleppo covers 75% of the overall surface area of unified Aleppo. There are 1.5 million people living in West Aleppo, including an estimated 600,000 who managed to flee East Aleppo to take refuge in West Aleppo when the various terrorist and militant factions first invaded East Aleppo in 2012.

Sahloul fails to mention the 600,000 who fled to Syrian Government held West Aleppo and Shaikh fails to question his analysis, once again her pseudo neutrality gives credibility to questionable fact.

Sahloul makes the outlandish claim that the Syrian people fear going into Syrian Government held areas. Shaikh allows him to airbrush the 90% of IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) who have fled to precisely, the Syrian Government held areas.

Shaikh’s abject failure to question this narrative is made doubly reprehensible when we consider that even the Carnegie Middle East Centre, with Muslim Brotherhood, hardline Syrian opposition members on its committee, such as Bassma Kodmani, grudgingly admits that:

However, it seems clear that most of the population movement inside the country is headed away from insecure and impoverished rebel-held territory toward more stable and economically functioning government-controlled areas.”

This analysis does not bear out Sahloul’s claims that the displaced civilians avoid Government held areas because they will be detained or tortured.

Neither does this Democracy Now! report or Sahloul’s testimony mention the extensive reconciliation negotiations that are being carried out across Syria, by reconciliation minister, Dr Ali Haider (a Syrian opposition leader of the Syria Social Nationalist Party), in an attempt to broker peace with the various militant or terrorist factions and to restore peace to the region.

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July 2016:A visit to the Syria Trust Development where families of “rebels”and displaced Syrian civilians are being re-educated, rehabilitated and are given help and advice on re-integration or re-settlement into areas liberated by the SAA. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

When in Syria very recently, I personally witnessed the efforts being made by various Syrian state institutions and NGOs to rehabilitate the families of “rebels” back into society and to give them housing, financial support, free education, health care and new skills training to enable them to be self sufficient.

None of this is discussed, Shaikh barely registers the incendiary accusations that are being made by Sahloul and her lack of response ensures that these claims are imprinted on the minds of Democracy Now!‘s audience.  An audience that Democracy Now! has criminally misled for the duration of the almost six year, dirty NATO & Gulf State and Israeli war on Syria.

8: The Syrian Government is conducting an ethnic cleansing operation by removing armed “rebels” from liberated areas.

In response to this point Shaikh could have cited a huge number of cases where the Syrian inhabitants of cities, towns and villages invaded or occupied by US coalition-armed and funded extremist militant factions, have demanded the removal of what are now primarily foreign mercenary forces that have besieged, massacred, tortured, abused and kidnapped many of their family members, particularly children.

There are too many to list so it is mind-blowing that Shaikh could not find one example to counter another nefarious statement from Sahloul.

I would recommend a read of Eva Bartlett’s account of the ancient Christian village, Maaloula. This is a factual account of invasion, occupation and eventual liberation from both local Muslim Brotherhood factions initially known as the FSA (Free Syrian Army) who turned on their own neighbours, before being reinforced by the Nusra Front/Al Qaeda in Syria. This is a story of the subjugation of a Christian community seeped in history and heritage by extremist fanatics who thought nothing of shooting their erstwhile neighbours in the head for refusing to convert to Islam.

Eva Bartlett: Overcoming Savagery, Treachery, Maaloula’s Heroic Defenders Fight for the Future.

9: There is a rift between the US think tanks who support the Syrian “revolution” in order to ensure Israel’s security in the region and the true “revolution” supporters who are interested primarily in the well being of all Syrians.

“The true ‘revolution’ supporters who are interested primarily in the well being of ALL Syrians”.  Really?

Again, here, Shaikh allows the eradication and dehumanization of the majority of the Syrian people who have time and time again rejected the concept of a ‘revolution’ and who support the Syrian State, the Syrian Army and its allies in their resistance against the NATO & Gulf state driven, external, extremist factions that are invading and occupying their country in supreme violation of all International Laws and UN Charters relating to state sovereignty.

Shaikh fails again and again in her role as a journalist.  This is a woeful dereliction of “duty” on the part of Democracy Now!

Why does she not question how the interests of seven year old Haider are served by the true “revolutionaries”? Who among them cared about Haider’s well-being? Haider lives in the village of Al Foua & neighbouring Kafarya, two marooned Shia Muslim villages in Idlib, a region largely occupied by Turkish controlled, Saudi funded, extremist factions such as Nusra Front & Ahrar al Sham. Kafarya and Foua have been under partial siege since 2011 and full siege since March 2015. They are being starved, shelled and sniped by the “revolutionaries” for their “well being”.

In reality, it is clear, their well-being is of no interest to the “revolution”.  The NATO & Gulf state-funded, extremist-led “revolution” is conducting a vicious programme of ethnic cleansing against these villages.

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7 year old Haider, shot by a US-backed “moderate rebel” sniper (Photo: supplied to 21st Century Wire by residents of Al Foua)

“On the 15th September, 7 year old Haider Ammar Al Hamoud, was shot through the stomach by an Ahrar Al Sham sniper, the US backed terrorist group besieging the Idlib villages of Kafarya and Foua. Haider was ignored by western media. 

His life-threatening injury did not merit any outcry from human rights organisations or the NATO-aligned media who ignore the deaths and injuries of tens of thousands of children in Syria because it does not serve their agenda to demonize the Syrian President, Bashar al Assad or the national armed forces.” ~ Syria: No “Dusty Boy” Outrage for 7 yr old Haider, Sniped by NATO Terrorists in Idlib Village of Foua

10: Trumps election and his stated support for President Assad is the final nail in the coffin of Syrian aspirations.

In reality, the majority of Syrian people inside Syria who have withstood almost six years of a proxy, filthy war, waged by NATO & Gulf states and Israel against their country, their resources, their families, their security, their history, their culture, their self-determination and their existence are overjoyed that finally the intervention train has been derailed and Clinton, the ultimate war harpy, did not make it into office.

There are those who believe that WWIII has been averted and perhaps now there is a chance that the US will not go to war with Russia on Syrian soil.

Shaikh does not even broach the alternatives to Sahloul’s statement. Another demonstration of ‘Democracy Now!s collusion with interventionism and the subtle, subliminal beating of war drums, by ommission and obscurantism.

Democracy Now! has been absorbed into corporate media.

Democracy Now! may have started life as an “independent” news source but its absorption into the foundation funded corporate media league happened long ago.

Democracy Now! is funded entirely through contributions from listeners, viewers, and foundations.” ~ Democracy Now!

“Serious questions have arisen about how Democracy Now!, begun and developed with the resources of Pacifica Radio and grants from the Carnegie Corporation, the Ford Foundation, the J.M. Kaplan Fund and others, suddenly became independent and the effective property of Amy Goodman without recompense to Pacifica. This transfer apparently included valuable assets such as trademarks, ownership of years of archived programs, affiliate station access, and more.” ~ Discover the Networks

There are further claims from Discover the Networks of indirect funding from criminal hedge fund manager, George Soros, who has a multitude of NGOs working inside and outside Syria to spin the web of deceit and propaganda against the Syrian government, President Bashar Al Assad and the Syrian Army.

Read 21st Century Wire’s article: George Soros, Anti-Syria Campaign Impresario

A lengthy analysis of the Soros funding of US media by America’s Media Watchdog, the Media Research Center  includes this statement:

“And that’s really just the beginning. That tally takes into account only a few of the bigger Soros-funded media operations. Many numbers simply aren’t available. ”Democracy Now!” – ”a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez” – is known for its left-wing take on global news. Its vitriol ranges from attacks on Blackwater founder Erik Prince and supporters of Andrew Breitbart (whom it calls ”Electronic Brownshirts”), to claims the U.S. is opposed to Arab democracy. Just that one Soros-funded operation is heard ”on over 900 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the United States.” But it posts no formal audience numbers. Phone calls to ”Democracy Now!” were not returned.”

Why did Democracy Now! not return phone calls? 

There are those who argue that Democracy Now! are our allies and our “friends”, that we should collaborate with them and help to awaken them to the reality of the dirty war on Syria. So we did.

When Eva Bartlett and I were in Syria we were contacted by a DN “insider” in the US who was horrified by the Democracy Now! biased coverage of Syria’s externally imposed conflict. They contacted Democracy Now! on our behalf and asked that they interview Eva Bartlett and myself, particularly as we had both just left Syria after a lengthy stay, including time spent in Aleppo.

After some time, we received a reply from a DN producer.

Laura Gottesdiener had just written the following headline for Democracy Now! when our contact had written to her, mentioning my work on the White Helmets and suggesting Democracy Now! should interview me:

Syria: Rescue Workers Say Government Dropped Chlorine Bombs

“In Syria, volunteer rescue workers known as the “White Helmets” have accused the Syrian government of dropping chlorine bombs from helicopters onto a neighborhood of Aleppo. No one died, but a video posted by the White Helmets shows civilians struggling to breathe. The allegations have not been independently verified.”

Gottesdiener’s reply was:

“However, a few questions: I am seeing Vanessa as one of the main people who is accusing the White Helmets of being a US propaganda front, but I’m really not seeing a lot of other coverage of this.

Also, I’m really not seeing, except for Vanessa, anyone linking the White Helmets to Al Qaeda. And when you say Al Qaeda-linked, I’m assuming you’re referring to Al-Nusra, which was AQ linked but has since broken from AQ. Just clarifying here.

If there are more reports/links, can you pls send along? Ditto for Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. I understand it’s based in UK, not on the ground in Syria, but the Observatory almost always has news faster than anyone else. I have heard some murmurs about its anti-Assad slant, but not that it’s information is inaccurate. Pls let me know if you have any reliable sources that say otherwise.” (Emphasis added)

So Democracy Now! acted as an echo chamber for NATO-aligned propaganda.  They supported the rebranding of Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria, Nusra Front, without a murmur of dissent. They dismissed the White Helmet research as the implied work of a lone wolf, conspiracy theorist journalist. They made the very clear statement that SOHR was a good source because of the speed of information received from them, no emphasis on accuracy. They heard “murmurs” regarding the partisan, anti-Assad nature of SOHR reports but were not dissuaded from using them or persuaded to find alternatives in the interest of objecivity.

Murmurs that were very clearly made, even by mainstream media, such as the Guardian, in 2012, ignored by Democracy Now! because speed is more important than accuracy or objectivity.

Needless to say, despite my replying and providing other sources of research on the White Helmets, no interview was forthcoming, for either myself or Eva Bartlett. We can only conclude that an alternative view that does not align with US regime-change-enabling propaganda is not going to be entertained by Democracy Now!

Conclusions

The interview discussed in this article, demonstrates perfectly that Democracy Now! are happy to speak to a Doctor, Sahloul, who has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, (an organisation known & exploited for its compliance with US neo-colonialist objectives), and was a former president of the Mosque Foundation, accused of financing terrorism & promoting extremism.

The following is taken from an article by Tony Cartalucci at New Eastern Outlook, after a previous interview of Dr Sahloul by Democracy Now! in April 2016:

According to its own website SAMS is provided with full support by the US State Department, millions of dollars’ worth of it. The website even includes a video by US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Powers, hailing SAMS as one of her “personal heroes.” Furthermore, Dr. Sahloul is said by those who know him in Chicago to be a member of the Muslim Brotherhood himself.

His alleged medical work would be the perfect cover for providing support to terrorist organisations which seek to divide and destroy Syria. All he has done with his Democracy Now interview is confirm that repeating the State Department’s unfounded narratives regarding “barrel bombs” and the use of “chlorine gas” by the Syrian government is a tactic used by the US to further this end.

dr-antaki

Why do Democracy Now! never interview Dr Nabil Antaki, an eminent gastroenterologist, based in West Aleppo who has fiercely opposed the propaganda being amplified by Dr Sahloul, a US resident and others like him receiving funding from foundations & think tanks focused on regime change in Syria.

Syria: Aleppo Doctor Demolishes Imperialist Propaganda and Media Warmongering

amy-and-juan
Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez. (Photo: Democracy Now)

Democracy Now! makes the bold claim in its About section that it provides its audience with “access to people and perspectives rarely heard in the U.S.corporate-sponsored media, including independent and international journalists”.  Why then, did Democracy Now! fail to speak to independent journalists who had just returned from Syria?

“In addition, Democracy Now! hosts real debates–debates between people who substantially disagree”. Really? In this particular interview Democracy Now! fails to question, to verify or to provide an alternative view. It acts as a platform and a megaphone for propaganda.

Democracy Now! may still be considered a “friend” by those who grew up in the early, heady days of Amy Goodman’s much vaunted, independent idealism, but Democracy Now! is no friend to Syria.

Democracy Now! has proven itself the best friend of US neo-colonialism & global, overt or covert intervention and prime time supporters of the US murderous foreign policy in Syria. In the four years since Finian Cunningham first exposed the Democracy Now! alliance with corporate elite globalism and betrayal of its own principles of impartiality and objectivity, nothing has changed.

Democracy Now! continues on its foundation-gold-paved path towards promoting regime change in Syria and the ultimate destruction of Syria’s culture, society and secular state. It will not succeed, but when the the consensus changes as it is in the process of doing right now, Democracy Now! will be remembered for the voice they gave, not to the majority of the Syrian people, but to the extremist minority, funded, armed & expanded by the US, UK, EU, Israel, Turkey and despotic Gulf States that has ensured perpetual conflict, bloodshed and misery for the Syrian people for nigh on six years.

Democracy Now! is not speaking truth to power. Democracy Now! has given power to the lies that have decimated a sovereign nation and its courageous people.

Please watch, instead, a short video from Syrian Students of Aleppo University, supporting their Syrian national army in cleansing East Aleppo of their US coalition-funded & armed foreign mercenary, prison wardens, attackers and murderers of their families. For, anyone who spends time inside Syria, or speaks to the majority of the Syrian people inside Syria, even the unarmed opposition, will tell you that this is not an isolated sentiment or propaganda. It is reality, the Syrian Arab Army is the Syrian people: Watch 

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SEE ALSO: WHO ARE SYRIA’S WHITE HELMETS?

READ MORE SYRIA NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Syria Files

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What if the U.S. Invaded Syria and Nobody Noticed? The media should be covering this more

U.S. forces in Iraq, March 7

While everyone was paying attention to the latest crazy Trump story, United States Marines deployed to Syria.

Did you hear about that? If you didn’t, it’s not your fault. The news has been all Trump all the time.

  • He can read a speech!
  • He accused the former president of illegal wiretaps with no evidence!
  • Travel ban 2.0!
  • His Attorney General falsely denied contact with the Russians despite not being asked about it!
  • He pretended not to know his first National Security Adviser did work for Turkey!

But constant ridiculousness is the new normal, and it’s going to be that way for a while. The media needs adjust so it can do its job, drawing attention to important events. Not Trump said, not Trump tweeted, but thing happened.

On March 9, hundreds of Marines arrived in Syria to operate heavy artillery in support of local forces assaulting ISIS’ capital of Raqqa.

At some level, this isn’t a big deal. The Marines will fire from distance, which means they won’t be advancing into prepared defenses, booby traps, or ambushes. The risk they’ll sustain casualties is low.

And American forces were already there. Not these Marines, but others, performing a similar role in Iraq, helping the attack on Mosul. By the end of 2016, the mission Barack Obama sold with “no boots on the ground” involved about 5,000 American ground troops. Most advise Iraqi forces or guide U.S. airstrikes. But advising sometimes requires embedding with combat forces, and they’ve sustained casualties.

Source: United States Department of Defense

With the deployment to Syria, the American ground force engaging ISIS is now closer to 6,000. It’s part of the same fight, and they’re doing something Marines were already doing, just in a different location. It’s not a dramatic change.

But it’s not an insignificant change either, and we should be paying attention.

Many Americans fighting in Iraq and Syria are Special Operations Forces, which fall into a gray area between regular troops and clandestine operatives. Under the 1973 War Powers Act, which is still in force, military deployments require congressional authorization after 90 days. CIA operations do not.

A few days ago, the United States also deployed 100 Army Rangers to Manbij, a small Syrian city about 50 miles northeast of Aleppo and 25 miles south of the Turkish border. It’s more overt than most Special Operations missions, because their goal is to get between Syria (and their Russian backers), Turkey, and the American-supported force attacking Raqqa further east.

For better or worse, the United States has given the executive complete discretion about deploying Special Operations Forces. But the Marines are a branch of the regular military.

Additionally, while some Marines already operate in Iraq, the Iraqi government gave them permission. The Syrian government has not. Embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, flush from his victory over non-ISIS rebels in Aleppo, called the American forces “invaders.”

The deployment is an escalation, another in a long line of escalations following the first deployments in mid-2014. The Obama administration claimed legal authority under the post-9/11 Authorization of Military Force (AUMF), because it applies to the people responsible for the September 11th attacks and “associated forces,” which arguably includes ISIS.

The Trump administration presumably claims the same authority. I have to say “presumably” because they haven’t discussed it with the American people.

Placing the current anti-ISIS campaign under the 2001 AUMF is a stretch. But Congress abdicated responsibility, refusing to pass new authorization. If they vote for a new AUMF and things go bad, it would be a political liability, like the vote to invade Iraq. But if they authorize it and it goes well, the president will get the credit, not individual members of Congress.

The result is repeated escalations without clear legal authority. Given the thousands of Americans already deployed in Iraq and Syria, the public probably does not have a problem adding 400 Marines and 100 Army Rangers per se. But polling shows Americans split on sending ground troops — which is why Obama repeatedly promised not to put boots on the ground.

Source: CNN/ORC

Those numbers are from late 2015, and they’re the most recent I could find (another indication Trump and the election sucked up all attention, to the detriment of important issues). Approval increased after the Paris attacks of November 13, 2015, but it’s unclear if it’s still above 50%.

Either way, it’s safe to assume the public has mixed feelings about sending ground troops to Syria, with many wary of further escalations. At the very least, Congress and the media need to lead a public discussion about what we’re willing to commit to this fight.

The Strategy Problem

Sending the Marines makes sense from a military perspective. Raqqa and Mosul are ISIS’ two main cities. Without them, its claim to an Islamic State collapses. American-backed Iraqi forces have already captured eastern Mosul and are currently assaulting the ISIS-held western part. However, the local forces set to attack Raqqa — a combination of Syrian Kurds and Arabs — are less capable than the Iraqi Armed Forces. To take the city, they’ll need American help.

But taking Raqqa is only the first step. As I previously wrote, the problem is holding it.

Support from local Sunni Arabs helps explain why ISIS successfully took so much territory in Syria and Iraq in 2014. Both Assad and former Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki governed as Shia sectarians. (Assad is an Alawite, an offshoot of Shia Islam, and both governments are friendly with Iran). The Sunni Arabs situated between Damascus and Baghdad felt oppressed, and many accepted ISIS — which adheres to a fundamentalist version of Sunni Islam — as a less bad alternative.

If the post-ISIS government in Raqqa lacks popular support, it will foment another Sunni Arab insurgency. Someone has to hold the territory, and do it in a way that provides security without alienating the people.

There’s no indication Syrian Sunni Arabs have the capacity to control the city. And if the Kurds try to do it, Turkey might attack.

Assad believes the territory is rightfully his, and will probably try to take it. If he ends up controlling Raqqa, he’ll oppress local Sunnis, especially since he holds Syria’s Sunni majority responsible for the country’s civil war. Should Assad’s forces advance, would the Americans get in their way? That might require fighting the Syrian military, and risks war with Russia.

Alternatively, if the United States can manage this diplomatically, and keep Syria, Russia, and Turkey out of it, there won’t be anyone with the capacity to provide post-ISIS security. The U.S. would have to assist local forces, and train them so they can eventually handle it themselves.

That sounds an awful lot like the occupation of Iraq. The scale would be smaller, but it would still take a long commitment. American forces would sustain casualties, and the effort could still fail.

While the American people may be okay with this latest escalation, and don’t seem to mind the legal issues of doing so under a stretched 2001 AUMF, they probably oppose a long occupation.

This latest escalation could easily lead to another. And another. Vietnam began with advisers and repeatedly escalated, and while I doubt the fight against ISIS ends up anywhere near that big a commitment, the public should still be talking about it. President Trump has not discussed his intentions in Syria with the American people, and the media should be demanding answers.

Instead, everyone’s fixated on So You Think You Can President, the world’s biggest reality show, while the country heads down an uncertain path, with no end in sight.

The Deep State’s Hatred of Trump Is Not the Same as Yours

Posted on Mar 2, 2017

By Paul Street

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Last October, three weeks before the presidential election, I wrote an essay for left progressives titled “The Ruling Class’s Hatred of Trump is Different Than Yours.” People on the left, I noted, loathed the white-nationalist, quasi-fascist Donald Trump because of his sexism, racism, nativism, authoritarianism, militarism, “law and order” police-state-ism, anti-intellectualism, his regressive arch-plutocracy, fake populism, climate denialism and promise to “deregulate energy” and thereby escalate the petro-capitalist, greenhouse gassing-to-death of life on earth.

The establishment’s contempt for the orange-haired beast, I noted, was different. The nation’s unelected and interrelated dictatorships of money and empire were perfectly willing to live with most, if not all, of what the left hated about Trump. After all, I reasoned, they’d been backing or tolerating most or all of those terrible things under presidents from both major United States parties for decades.

Trump, I wrote, faced ruling-class disdain because he was considered bad for transnational capital and the American empire. For the most part, the “deep state” masters who backed Hillary Clinton did not appreciate The Donald’s blustering promises to roll back the neoliberal “free trade” agenda in the name of the forgotten working class. The foreign policy and “national security” establishment especially hated his criticism of Washington’s long march toward war with Russia.

They did not relish the related threat Trump posed to Brand America. It is longstanding, bipartisan, U.S. ruling-class doctrine that this country is the world’s great beacon and agent of democracy, human rights, justice and freedom. American reality has never matched the doctrine, but smart rulers knew that it would be especially difficult to align those claims with a president like Trump.

As a presidential candidate, Trump openly exhibited racist, nativist, sexist, arch-authoritarian, police-state-ist, Islamophobic, pro-torture, and even neofascist sentiments and values. “If our system of government is an oligarchy with a façade of democratic and constitutional process,” the veteran congressional staffer Mike Lofgren wrote last summer in the preface to his book “The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government,” “Trump would not only rip that façade away for the entire world to behold; he would take our system’s ugliest features and intensify them.” They also had policy differences with Trump’s “isolationist” and “anti-trade” rhetoric. That is why the nation’s economic and foreign-policy elites preferred Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio over Trump in the Republican primaries and Hillary Clinton in the general election.

Flash forward to the present. Horrified at the rise of an Insane Clown President who evokes chilling echoes of classic fascism, millions have taken to the streets. The issues that concern the swirling, record-setting crowds that have arisen from coast to coast are evident on their homemade signs.They include women’s and civil rights, climate change, social justice, racism, nativism, the police state, mass incarceration, plutocracy, authoritarianism, immigrant rights, low wages, economic inequality (the top tenth of the upper U.S. 1 percent now owns more wealth than the nation’s bottom 90 percent), hyper-militarism and the devaluation of science and education. The marches and protests are about the threats Trump poses to peace, social justice, the rule of law, livable ecology and democracy.

Meanwhile, the national corporate media and the U.S. intelligence community have been attacking Trump for a very different and strange reason. They have claimed, with no serious or credible evidence, that Trump is, for some bizarre reason, a tool of the Russian state. The charge is as wacky as anything Glenn Beck or, for that matter, Trump (former leader of the preposterous “birther movement”), used to say about President Obama. Citing vague and unsubstantiated CIA reports, The New York Times, The Washington Post and many other forces in the establishment media want Americans to believe that, in Glenn Greenwald’s properly mocking words, “Donald Trump is some kind of an agent or a spy of Russia, or that he is being blackmailed by Russia and is going to pass secret information to the Kremlin and endanger American agents on purpose.”

Beneath the wild and unsubstantiated charge that Trump is some kind of Moscow-controlled Manchurian president is a determination to cripple and perhaps remove Trump because he wants to normalize U.S. relations with Russia. Why, you might ask, would smoothing things over between Washington and Moscow be a terrible thing? It wouldn’t be for everyday Americans who don’t want to see themselves, their children and their grandchildren blown up in a nuclear war over, say, Ukraine (where the Obama administration provocatively helped create a fascist, NATO-affiliated regime on Russia’s western border) or Crimea (where the vast majority of the population welcomed reversion to Russia).

The U.S. power elite—rooted in key deep-state institutions like the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the Atlantic Council, the Brookings Institution, The Washington Post and The New York Times—thinks differently. As Mike Whitney recently explained on Counterpunch, Trump’s failure to grasp the necessity of the New Cold War with Russia “threat[ens] … Washington’s broader imperial strategy to control China’s growth, topple Putin, spread military bases across Central Asia, implement trade agreements that maintain the dominant role of western-owned mega-corporations, and derail attempts by Russia and China to link the wealthy EU to Asia by expanding the web of pipeline corridors and high-speed rail that will draw the continents closer together creating the largest and most populous free trade zone the world has ever seen. … The economic integration of Asia and Europe must be blocked to preserve Washington’s hegemonic grip on world power.”

This is CFR-led, U.S. “Open Door” Imperialism 101.

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Don’t be fooled by how much CNN’s anchors enjoy broadcasting images of mass anti-Trump popular protests. The U.S. imperial, financial and corporate establishment doesn’t care about the plight of the Standing Rock water and climate protectors, livable ecology, Muslim communities, Latino immigrants, Black Lives Matter activists, poor blacks, civil liberties, the working class (white and nonwhite) or Trump’s recent, insane, budget-busting call for a 10 percent increase in the U.S. military budget.

The Trump presidency is a problem for the American establishment for some very different reasons. He’s a public relations and marketing disaster for Brand USA. How do you sell the United States as a great model and agent of freedom, democracy and cultural diversity when its visible state is captained by vicious, white-nationalist authoritarians like the Twitter-addicted “thin-skinned megalomaniac” Trump and his quasi-fascist “alt-right” Svengali, Steve Bannon?

Trump is seen by many American elites as too stupid, narcissistic and crude to head the world’s most powerful nation. It’s an understandable concern. As The New York Times noted, Trump “spent the first 48 hours of his presidency bickering about the size of the inauguration crowd.”

We’ve never heard a U.S. president say anything as dangerously idiotic as what Trump proclaimed to the nation’s governors on Monday while calling for an over-the-top and dead-in-the-water increase in the Pentagon budget. “We have to start winning wars again. … We never win,” said the new commander in chief, who stands atop a giant nuclear stockpile (the U.S. owns more than 5,100 nuclear warheads) with the capacity to blow the world up many times over. “When I was young, in high school and in college,” the Vietnam-era draft dodger added, “everybody used to say we never lost a war. America never lost. Now, we never win a war.”

Talking so flippantly and childishly about wars and the nation’s need to “win” them—this without even referring to any purportedly legitimate war aims in the nuclear era—is beyond the ruling-class pale. It’s not that the establishment is pacifist or squeamish about killing people. Far from it. The American empire’s body count runs into the many millions over the last half-century alone. But Trump’s juvenile language makes the U.S. look all too transparently like a recklessly daft rogue state, not the wise and “indispensable nation” it has long been purported to be.

Recall Trump’s talk to the CIA on his first full day in office. In a rambling speech broadcast on CNN and other cable news outlets, he complained like a petulant junior high student about the media’s supposed underestimation of the number of people at his inauguration. Then he told stone-faced senior intelligence officials that the U.S. might get another chance to go into Iraq and “get the oil.”

The world shuddered two weeks ago when a U.S. Army officer posed for a photograph with a wealthy patron at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago golf resort while carrying the “nuclear football”—the suitcase that carries the launch codes for the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The new president is going to spend many of his presidential weekends at his opulent Mar-a-Lago resort, where the membership fee doubled to $200,000 after he was elected, and members now have new rules to follow.

George W. Bush also was over his head in the White House. Still, with his longstanding, ruling-class, establishment pedigree and his history as a graduate of Yale’s secret Skull and Bones society, he had the decency and, well, the class, to know his limits and place. He subjected himself to certain rules of conduct imposed by his vice president and other more competent and knowledgeable handlers.

The malignant narcissist and Twitter-addicted Trump is a different breed. He might be able to clean himself up enough to read a semicivilized and half-conciliatory speech to Congress (earning thereby a fantastic description as “presidential” from the noted sycophant Van Jones). Still, he seems unable to stop himself from doing and saying things that shred the veneer of a wise, far-seeing and benevolent American empire.

Then there’s been his related failure to grasp the necessity of focusing his dangerous imperial energies on Russia.

Has Trump and/or the people around him gotten the message on Russia? Perhaps. He agreed to get rid of his incompetent and insufficiently anti-Russian national security adviser, Michael Flynn, under establishment pressure. Flynn’s replacement is Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, who views Russia as a “hostile revisionist power” that “annex(es) territory, intimidates our allies, develops nuclear weapons, and uses proxies under the cover of modernized conventional militaries.” Two weeks ago, the White House said Russia needs to return Crimea to Ukraine—a preposterous statement that may reflect a newfound willingness for play along with New Cold War rhetoric. In his first annual address to Congress on Tuesday, Trump signaled strong support for Russia’s great antagonist, NATO.

Still, don’t expect the Trump-as-a-tool-of-Russia talk to go away. It’s too irresistible for Democrats to drop. Besides working to delegitimize Trump (something Democrats hope to turn to their advantage in 2018 and 2020), the blame-the-Kremlin narrative helps New Cold Warriors atop both reigning parties keep the heat on Moscow. It helps them hedge in Trump’s lingering promise of rapprochement with Russia.

At the same time, the Russia card helps the corporatists atop the Democratic Party avoid responsibility for blowing the election. After defeating the progressive Democrat Bernie Sanders (who would have defeated Trump) in dubious ways, the neoliberal Democrats ran a hopelessly wooden, Wall Street-captive and corruption-tainted candidate (Hillary Clinton) who couldn’t mobilize enough working- and lower-class voters to defeat the hypernoxious and widely hated Trump. The “Moscow stole it” story line is a fancy version of “the dog ate my homework” for a dismal, dollar-drenched Democratic Party that abandoned the working class and the causes of peace, social justice and environmental sustainability long ago.

The moneyed masters in charge of the “inauthentic opposition” party (the late, left-liberal political scientist Sheldon Wolin’s all-too-accurate description of the Democrats nine years ago) would rather not take a long, hard and honest look at what that political organization has become. It does not want to concede anything to those who dream of turning it into an authentically progressive opposition party. The “Russia did it” imputation works for establishment Democrats hoping to stave off demands from more progressive and populist types (who recently came close to claiming the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee) in their own party. So much better to blame external others for the richly deserved near-collapse of their party at all levels.

The Russia card also has proved tempting to U.S. progressives who should and may know better. Their understandable passion for seeing Herr Trump humiliated and removed from office has led some of them down a disturbing path. As Gareth Porter has noted, “Many people who oppose Trump for other valid reasons have seized on the shaky Russian accusations because they represent the best possibility for ousting Trump from power.” It’s a big mistake. Porter reflects and warns:

But ignoring the motives and the dishonesty behind the campaign of leaks has far-reaching political implications. Not only does it help to establish a precedent for U.S. intelligence agencies to intervene in domestic politics, as happens in authoritarian regimes all over the world, it also strengthens the hand of the military and intelligence bureaucracies who are determined to maintain the New Cold War with Russia.

Those war bureaucracies view the conflict with Russia as key to the continuation of higher levels of military spending and the more aggressive NATO policy in Europe that has already generated a gusher of arms sales that benefits the Pentagon and its self-dealing officials.

Progressives in the anti-Trump movement are in danger of becoming an unwitting ally of those military and intelligence bureaucracies despite the fundamental conflict between their economic and political interests and the desires of people who care about peace, social justice and the environment.

Do serious progressives committed to democracy, peace and social justice really want to lie down in the same warmongering and pro-surveillance bed as the CIA and the Pentagon? Doing so is bad for their souls and moral integrity. It’s also bad for democracy and for peace to help empower and legitimize the imperial system’s unelected and infamously nefarious deep state “intelligence” bureaucracy, “maybe the only [Washington] faction worse than Donald Trump,” according to Greenwald. As Whitney wisely counsels, “Leftists should avoid the temptation of aligning themselves with groups and agencies that might help them achieve their short-term goal of removing Trump, but ultimately move them closer to a de facto 1984 lock-down police state. Misplaced support for the deep state Russophobes will only strengthen the national security state’s stranglehold on power. That’s not a path to victory, it’s a path to annihilation.”

Take to the streets (and highways, town plazas, fossil-fuel extraction sites, shop floors, assembly halls, airwaves and airports, etc.) against Trump, by all means. But also take to the streets against the grim neoliberal Democrats who opened the barn door for his dangerous presidency and against the unelected “deep state” interests working always to increase the ever-upward concentration of global capitalist wealth and power. We don’t want to bring Trump down just to help install an administration more properly suited to selling and otherwise advancing American empire, inequality and ecocide.