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Syria: the mendacities of the mainstream media (part rua)

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Propaganda does not deceive people; it merely helps them to deceive themselves.” – Eric Hoffer, 1902 – 1983

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Recent Timeline*

4 April: Trump announces he wants all remaining US forces out of Syria “very quickly”. Trump says; “Saudi Arabia is very interested in our decision. And I said, Well, you know, you want us to stay? Maybe you’re going to have to pay”.

8 April: First reports emerge of chemical gas attack in Douma, the last rebel-held town in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta province. Reports are unverified.

8 April: Russian government calls reports of alleged gas attack in Douma “fake news” and describes the story as a “false flag” operation. Russia’s Foreign Ministry states; “The goal of this… baseless speculation is to shield the terrorists and… the radical opposition that refuse to engage in a political settlement [process], as well as to justify potential military strikes from the outside”.

9 April: Trump promises major decision in next twentyfour hours  on alleged gas attack.

10 April: Syria  and  Russia invite Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to investigate allegations of chemical attack in Douma.

10 April:  Chairman of the State Duma’s Defense Committee,  Colonel General Vladimir Shamanov warned the West; “ The double standard policy has overstepped all possible boundaries. At this point, the [pro-Putin parliamentary majority] United Russia party must responsibly state that we are going to take all political and diplomatic measures, and also military measures if such need arises. Not a single unlawful action will be left without response.”

11 April: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman says it will support any military strike on Syria in retaliation for the alleged gas attack in Douma; “If our alliance with our partners requires it, we will be present”.

11 April: Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon, Alexander Zasypkin, repeats Colonel General Shamanov’s warning to the US: “If there is a US missile attack, we – in line with both Putin and Russia’s chief of staff’s remarks – will shoot down US rockets and even the sources that launched the missiles.

12 April: French President Emmanuel Macron declared that France has evidence that Syria carried out the gas attack in Douma; “We have proof that last week, now 10 days ago, that chemical weapons were used, at least with chlorine, and that they were used by the regime of (President) Bashar al-Assad. Our teams have been working on this all week and we will need to take decisions in due course, when we judge it most useful and effective.”

Two days later, hours after the US-led attack on Syria, France releases statement on evidence of alleged gas attack: “After examining the videos and images of victims published online, (French intelligence services) were able to conclude with a high degree of confidence that the vast majority are recent and not fabricated.

12 April: OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) fact-finding team lands in Syria to investigate alleged gas attack in Douma. Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Jaafari, said; “We will facilitate the arrival of the team to anywhere they want, in Douma, to check whether or not there was use of chemical substances”.

14 April: Trump announces US-led attack on Syria, launching 105 missiles at targets in that country. Trump  states: “So today, the nations of Britain, France, and the United States of America have marshaled their righteous power against barbarism and brutality”.

14 April: President Putin of Russia states categorically: “Just as one year ago, when the Shayrat Airbase in Syria came under attack, the US used as a pretext a staged chemical attack against civilians, this time in Douma, a Damascus suburb. Having visited the site of the would-be chemical attack, Russian military experts did not find any traces of chlorine or any other toxic agent. Not a single local resident was able to confirm that a chemical attack had actually taken place.”

15 April: Trump declares: “Mission accomplished!”

15 April: Russia loses vote in UN Security Country to condemn US-led military strike. Russian UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia said: “Today is a very sad day for the world, the UN, its charter, which was blatantly, blatantly violated.”

15 April: US Ambassador to UN, Nikki Haley, tells Fox News Sunday that US troops will remain in Syria: “Yes, it is all of our goal to see American troops come home. But we’re not going to leave until we know we’ve accomplished those things. ”

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* International time-zones not taken into account: above dates are approximate.

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Local media reporting…

The response of our local media to report Saturday’s missile strike has been largely superficial and followed the Western narrative;

(a) the gas attack happened

(b) Syrian government forces were responsible

…From NZ Herald

Most, if not all stories published on the Herald’s website originate from Associated Press.

One of the first reports, dated 8 April, was headed “Syrian regime accused of killing civilians in chemical attack“. The first two paragraphs gave equal space to claim/counter-claim;

A Syrian rebel group has accused government forces of dropping a barrel bomb containing poisonous chemicals on civilians in Eastern Ghouta, and a medical relief organisation said 35 people had been killed in chemical attacks on the area.

Syrian state media denied government forces had launched any chemical attack as soon as the reports began circulating and said rebels in the Eastern Ghouta town of Douma were in a state of collapse and spreading false news.

The third paragraph referred to “an alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma“.

While an un-named “medical relief organisation said 35 people had been killed in chemical attacks on the area” – curiously the UK-based anti-Assad organisation, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, appeared more non-committal;

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 11 people had died in Douma as a result of suffocation caused by the smoke from conventional weapons being dropped by the government. It said a total of 70 people suffered breathing difficulties.

Interestingly, this early statement ties in with an investigation and interviewing of eye-witnesses,  by Middle East correspondent, Robert fisk, who reported nine days later;

War stories, however, have a habit of growing darker. For the same 58-year old senior Syrian doctor then adds something profoundly uncomfortable: the patients, he says, were overcome not by gas but by oxygen starvation in the rubbish-filled tunnels and basements in which they lived, on a night of wind and heavy shelling that stirred up a dust storm.

Could it be that the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights inadvertently told the truth before a new version was framed, blaming the incident on so-called “poison gas”, instead of a lack of air and heavy dust?

The Herald/AP story admits as such;

Rami Abdulrahman, the Observatory director, said he could not confirm if chemical weapons had been used.

In the same article, the so-called Medical relief organisation, Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), put  the blame on an alleged “chlorine bomb”. They stated it  “hit Douma hospital, killing six people, and a second attack with “mixed agents” including nerve agents had hit a nearby building“.

The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS)  is a US-based organisation and according to the Russian government-aligned website, RT News, is funded through a United States government department. RT News is scathing of SAMS;

SAMS is not merely a group of Syrian doctors tending to the wounded in war torn areas, nor can it be considered a objective source on chemical attacks and other atrocities. The organization is a USAID-funded lobbying powerhouse that functions with a single-minded determination to stimulate a US-led war of regime change that will place Syrian Islamists in power in Damascus.

It is unclear at this stage how SAMS knew within a day that Douma had been hit by an alleged “chlorine bomb”.

The 8 April Herald/AP  story continued with reporting of the battle for rebel-held Douma, and that Syrian government forces were advancing on the town. There was no further mentioned of a so-called chemical weapon being used.

The following day, the Herald ran another AP story. This time, there was no reference to the term ‘alleged’. Instead, ‘suspected’ entered the framing of the narrative, being used three times.

One statement referred to “a suspected poison gas attack” – whilst stating definitively that “at least 40 people were killed“;

The missile attack followed a suspected poison gas attack Saturday on the last remaining foothold for the Syrian opposition in the eastern suburbs of Damascus. At least 40 people were killed, including families found in their homes and shelters, opposition activists and local rescuers said.

The story  related allegations of a “chlorine attack” from both well-known anti-Assad organisations, SAMS and the White Helmets;

They did not identify the substance used, but the civil defense organization, also known as the White Helmets, and the Syrian American Medical Society, a medical relief organization, said survivors treated at clinics smelled strongly of chlorine.

To it’s credit, a disclaimer immediatly followed;

Those reports could not be independently verified because of a government blockade around the town.

The three authors of this AP  story appeared very keen to impress upon readers that allegations of a “gas  attack” had not been independently verified. This despite that Trump was already ‘tweeting’  of a “mindless chemical attack” before any evidence had been gathered or facts verified. (Who needs facts or evidence when you’re the President of the United States?)

Unfortunately, despite the not-independently-verified disclaimer, parts of the Herald/AP story neglected to insert the all-important term, ‘alleged’;

First responders entering apartments in Douma late Saturday said they found bodies collapsed on floors, some foaming at the mouth.

By omitting the term ‘alleged’, the above phrase takes on a factual status that is not deserved. There was simply no independent corroboration of any bodies “ collapsed on floors“, nor that “some [were]  foaming at the mouth“. What is the point of a not-independently-verified disclaimer if  unsubstantiated claims are presented as facts?

Again it is worthwhile noting that the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights refused to apportion blame on alleged chemical weapons;

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights issued a higher death toll, saying at least 80 people were killed in Douma, including around 40 who died from suffocation. But it said the suffocations were the result of shelters collapsing on people inside them.

With the heavy bombardment on Douma, the above statement makes far more sense as to a cause of fatalities. It also ties in with Robert Fisk’s findings.

By contrast, a Herald/AP story on 11 April yielded fourteen uses of ‘suspected’; five of ‘apparent’; four of ‘alleged’, and three of ‘allegations’;

The U.N. Security Council has rejected a Russian resolution that would have welcomed an investigation by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons into a suspected poison gas attack in the suburbs of Syria’s capital.

[…]

The international chemical weapons watchdog says it will send a fact finding mission to the Syrian town where an alleged chemical weapons attack occurred over the weekend.

The OPCW mission to Syria was referred to early-on in the story;

British Ambassador Karen Pierce said the U.K. opposed the resolution because an OPCW investigative team is already headed to Syria and the Russian text did not include a new body to determine accountability for chemical weapons attacks.

Occassionally, though, an assertion was presented as factual, omitting the use of ‘alleged’ to maintain the unverified aspects to these events;

Syrian opposition activists say 40 people [allegedly*] died in Saturday night’s poison gas attack in the town of Douma, the last remaining rebel bastion near Damascus.

[…]

Syrian opposition activists say 40 people [allegedly*] died in Saturday night’s [unverified*] poison gas attack in the town of Douma, the last remaining rebel bastion near Damascus.

[…]

Syrian opposition activists say 40 people [allegedly*] died in Saturday night’s chemical attack in the town of Douma, the last remaining rebel bastion near Damascus. The opposition blamed President Bashar Assad’s forces for the [alleged*] attack, accusations the government strongly denies.

[* – inserted by Author]

Another story on 11 April occasionally referred to an ‘alleged’ attack;

The Syrian air base was struck by missiles a little more than 24 hours after the alleged chemical attack. Israel does not typically comment on its operations in Syria, and it is unclear whether the missile attack was linked to the alleged use of chemical weapons

As was ‘suspected’ attack;

The international chemical weapons watchdog said Tuesday it was sending a fact-finding mission to the Syrian town where a suspected chemical gas attack took place over the weekend, following a request from the Syrian government and its Russian backers that appeared to be aimed at averting punitive Western military action.

Russia’s doubts that an alleged chemical attack even took place at all was canvassed, as was the OPCW mission to Syria.

However, statements by rebel groups were still reported as facts;

Syrian opposition activists and paramedics said more than 40 people were killed in last weekend’s suspected chemical attack and blamed the government.

Nowhere was it stated explicitly that reports of any deaths were unverified.

Such an omission might lead a reader to unconscious bias, accepting the alleged chemical attack as a proven event because of the claim – still unverified – that people had died.

A 13 April Herald/AP story reported that Syrian government forces had retaken Douma from rebels. The so-called “gas attack” was described as ‘alleged’ seven times.

With the defeat of the rebels in Douma,  no one had been reported as asking two basic questions;

1. What did the Syrian government hope to gain by allegedly using chemical weapons to retake Douma – when it was already close to victory anyway?

2. Why was the alleged  gas attack carried out against civilians, rather than rebel fighters? If the alleged gas attack was indeed orchestrated by the Syrian regime, it would have made more strategic sense to target armed enemy combatants rather than unarmed civilians.

A subsequent NZ Herald/AP story on 13 April carried the claim that the French government had “proof that the Syrian government launched chlorine gas attacks”. The story did not mention what that “proof” was, or how it had been obtained. The OPCW mission to Syria had not yet reached Douma to carry out their investigation.

The article did not use ‘alleged’, and ‘allegations’ was used only in conjunction with the Syrian government denying culpability for any so-called “attack”. In fact, the story abandoned any consideration that the alleged attack was still to be verified;

He [President Emmanuel Macron] previously said any French action would target Syria’s chemical weapons abilities.

Note: not, “Syria’s *alleged* chemical weapons abilities“.

The US-led strike on Syria was only a day away.  Media stories now seemed to lean further toward the alleged gas attack as factually proven, rather than still-to-be-verified.

Macron’s so-called “evidence” was revealed the following day, in a story run by Reuters;

The French services analyzed the testimonies, photos and videos that spontaneously appeared on specialized websites, in the press and on social media in the hours and days following the attack.

Testimonies obtained by the French services were also analyzed. After examining the videos and images of victims published online, they were able to conclude with a high degree of confidence that the vast majority are recent and not fabricated. The spontaneous circulation of these images across all social networks confirms that they were not video montages or recycled images. Lastly, some of the entities that published this information are generally considered reliable.

In other words, Macron – and later Prime Minister Ardern – based their “evidence” on unverified video footage and photographs supplied by rebel groups in Douma.

Macron’s “evidence” brings back memories of  strident insistence by the US in 2003 that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Those claims were eventually proven false.

All, of which was pointed out in a subsequent Herald/AP story on 15 April;

The West’s assessments of what happened April 7 in Douma rely mainly on open source information. That includes witness testimony, as well as video and photos shot by aid workers, victims of the attacks and unspecified additional intelligence about barrel bombs and chlorine canisters found in the aftermath.

The same story pointed out to Herald readers;

The three countries launched their missiles even as the fact-finding team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was in the Syrian capital and had been expected to head on Saturday to Douma.

Though these valid points were utterly lost amidst unsubstantiated allegations by the US and it’s clients in Syria;

The White House said doctors and aid organizations on the ground in Douma reported “the strong smell of chlorine and described symptoms consistent with exposure to sarin.” A senior administration official told reporters Saturday that while there was more publicly available evidence pointing to the use of chlorine, the U.S. has “significant information that also points to sarin use.”

It would be a very astute, politically aware, member of the public to “read between the lines” and arrive at any other conclusion that – on the balance of probabilities”, and not “beyond reasonable doubt” – that the West had reliable evidence to point to Assad’s forces being the culprits in the alleged gas attack on Douma.

Indeed, this very fact was highlighted when an acquaintance of this blogger referred to “Assad being responsible for the [so-called] gassing of his own people”. Upon closer questioning, my acquaintance was unaware that;

A. There was no evidence who carried out the alleged attack,

B. That it may not even have occurred at all,

C. And that an OPCW team was presently in Syria awaiting an opportunity to enter Douma to conduct their investigation.

It is against a back-drop of media stories that fail to reinforce that the so-called “gas attack” has not been verified, nor has the OPCW not carried out their investigation – yet statements by Western governments and Syrian rebels are reported as “facts – that a subtle narrative has taken hold in the public’s collective consciousness.

The fact that Robert Fisk’s own investigation has cast serious doubt on supposed events in Douma on 7 April has barely been reported. Only two  references to Fisk’s reporting (according to a Google search) can be found in New Zealand’s mainstream media;

Mediaworks “Newshub” reported on 19 April;

Syrians living at the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack say it never happened, according to a new report.

British journalist Robert Fisk, writing in The Independent, says when he visited the site in Douma his questions about the attack were met with “genuine perplexity”.

The attack was used as a pretext for last weekend’s air strikes against the Russia-backed Assad regime.

“Oddly, after chatting to more than 20 people, I couldn’t find one who showed the slightest interest in Douma’s role in bringing about the Western air attacks,” Mr Fisk wrote.

“Two actually told me they didn’t know about the connection.”

The video of civilians suffering from the effects of chemical weapons – believed to be chlorine and sarin – is undoubtedly real, but a local doctor told Mr Fisk they were suffering from hypoxia – oxygen loss – and dust inhalation.

“On this night, there was wind and huge dust clouds began to come into the basements and cellars where people lived,” said Assim Rahaibani. “People began to arrive here suffering from hypoxia, oxygen loss.”

The confusion began when someone shouted “gas!” and panic broke out.

“People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia – not gas poisoning.”

And on 22 April, Mark Dawson, editor of the Whanganui Chronicle, wrote a suprisingly radical (for the msm) critique of US military involvement in other nations’ affairs;

[Prime Minister Ardern]… has taken some criticism for her less-than-enthuiastic take on bagging Russia, rallying behind the United States and cheering on Donald Trump’s missile strikes on Syria.

It has been pointed out, with underscores, that she “accepts” rather than “supports” the US bombing of Syria, and that puts her out of step with other leaders gathered in London this week. Oh dear, a national leader who doesn’t relish killing people … how terribly squeamish.

But hang on …

On Thursday, Robert Fisk of the Independent reported from Douma, the city where the Syrian chemical attacks that prompted the US retaliation are said to have occurred.

Fisk travelled the pummelled city freely — most of the fighters and government minders from Bashar al-Assad’s regime have got out. His report casts serious doubt on whether there actually was a chemical attack.

Fisk has lived in and reported from the Middle East for 40 years; he is fluent in the languages and has never been tainted by suggestions of political partiality or propaganda. In short, he is the genuine article — a journalist.

The United States has said al-Assad used chemical weapons in Douma, and maybe that is correct.

But it should be remembered that for more than 50 years US foreign affairs have featured two constants — putting its troops in other people’s countries and lying.

Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Grenada, Afghanistan, Iraq … all have been marked by a consistent policy of lying to the American people and the world.

So perhaps Ms Ardern has good reason to be cautious.

…From TV1 News

The first reference from TVNZ’s “One News” was on 8 April, with war reporting centered around the Syrian government’s ongoing battle to retake Douma, in Eastern Ghouta, from the rebel group known as “Jaysh al-Islam – The Army of Islam Syria“. Jaysh al-Islam is funded by the Saudi Arabian government and fought against ISIS.

A brief one-sentence referred passingly to the so-called gas-attack in Douma;

CNN and other outlets are reporting a possible chemical attack against civilians has taken place.

The word ‘alleged’ is not used anywhere in the story.

On 9 April, a news story on the TVNZ website is unambiguous in determining that the so-called ‘attack’ took place. The headline left no room for doubt;

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The source of the story is Associated Press, but no other indication where it originated from.

The text of the story, though, is somewhat more circumspect than the guilty-judgement of the headlines;

The report comes after a suspected poison gas attack killed at least 40 in the eastern suburbs of Damascus, the last foothold for the Syrian opposition in the area.

President Donald Trump has promised a “big price to pay” for the suspected chemical attack.

And for some strange reason, TVNZ placed an image of a launching rocket at the bottom of the ‘story’.

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Though what that image has to do with Douma is unclear, as rebels have claim that the alleged gas attack was dropped by Syrian Government helicopters – not by missile(s).

The terms ‘alleged’ and ‘unverified’ are not used in the above ‘story’.

Two days later, TVNZ  ran another story – and again the headline was unequivocal:

 

Trump promises ‘forceful’ action after chemical attack on civilians in Syria

 

There was no mention of ‘alleged’, ‘suspected’, or ‘unverified’: the headline stated the so-called gassing as fact.

But again, the text of the story made belated attempts to appear impartial;

“…apparent chemical weapons attack…”

The term ‘alleged’ finally made an appearance;

“…the weapon of choice in a US attack one year ago on an airfield in Syria following an alleged sarin gas attack on civilians….”

Curiously, the author of the story touched on one peculiarity in this so-called “attack” that – until Robert Fisk’s investigation – had not been noticed;

The White House sharply rejected any suggestion that Trump’s own words about pulling US troops out of Syria had opened the door for the attack, which killed more than 40 people, including children.

There was no follow-up on this point. The un-named author does not elaborate on the suggestion that “Trump’s own words about pulling US troops out of Syria had opened the door for the attack“.

In what way had “Trump’s own words about pulling US troops out of Syria had opened the door for the attack“?

There is no explanation. No follow-up. In one passing sentence, the writer may have missed a critical possible motive for the alleged gas attack. As the time-line above shows, eleven days after Trump announced that the US will withdraw its forces from Syria – the American ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, stated unequivocally, “… We’re not going to leave until we know we’ve accomplished those things.”

On 14 April, the term ‘alleged’ is used for the first time (?) in a TVNZ headline;

 

Russia says alleged chemical attack in Syria staged by UK

 

The story used terms;

“…victims of the purported attack were staged…”

“…the suspected chemical attack…”

“…threatened military action in response to the alleged attack…”

“…She said of the alleged chemical attack…”

“…the suspected gas attack in Douma…”

“…the suspected April 7 attack…”

“…previous alleged use of chemicals by the rebels…”

The nature of the impartiality of the terminology may have been prompted by the re-taking of Douma by Syrian government forces, and serious doubts being raised regarding the veracity of the so-called “gas attack”. Or, the author of this particular write-up may have been more conscious of the fact that the so-called “gas attacks” were, as yet, unverified.

However, sadly the non-judgemental terminology was undone with a claim that was yet to be supported by independent investigators;

“… and killed more than 40 people in Douma…”

The phrase should have read “… and *allegedly* killed more than 40 people in Douma…”, to keep it consistent with the unverified nature of this story.

The story reported that OPCW was sending a team to investigate the situation in Douma. It also featured strong counter-claims from Syria’s Russian ally.

The following day, another headline presented the so-called attack as a fact, omitting any reference to ‘suspected’ or ‘alleged’;

 

Russian Defence Ministry claims chemical attack in Syria was a ‘planned provocation’ by UK

 

– though the opening statement indicated otherwise;

The Russian Ministry of Defence on Friday (local time) said it has enough evidence showing that a planned provocation was carried out in the case of alleged chemical attack in Syrian town of Douma on April 7.

The headline and the body of the text are contradictory.

Another story on 15 April raised concerns about the actual claims of chemical weapon usage by the Syrian army. The story quoted a Syrian official who asked an obvious question after a so-called “chemical weapons manufacturing facility” was destroyed by American missiles;

 “If there were chemical weapons in the building, we would not be here. My colleagues and I came here at 05:00 this morning. If there were chemical weapons, we would need to wear masks and take other protective measures to be staying here.”

It would be interesting if there were a follow-up to this story to determine if – after the buildings were destroyed by missiles –  the surrounding area had been contaminated by toxic chemical fall-out.

The story headed;

 

Syrian research facility hit by US strikes didn’t have chemical weapons, says official

 

– did not pre-judge the veracity of the rebel’s gas attack claims.

A further story on 15 April again reverted to predetermined judgement, with the opening paragraph suggesting that the unverified was now verified;

President Donald Trump on Saturday declared “Mission Accomplished” for a US-led allied missile attack on Syria’s chemical weapons programme, but the Pentagon said the pummeling of three chemical-related facilities left enough others intact to enable the Assad government to use banned weapons against civilians if it chooses.

A paragraph near the end of the story also accepted “as fact” that chemical weapons facilities were targeted;

The strikes “successfully hit every target,” White told reporters at the Pentagon. The military said there were three targets: the Barzah chemical weapons research and development site in the Damascus area, a chemical weapons storage facility near Homs and a chemical weapons “bunker” a few miles from the second target.

With few exceptions, most other headlines also presented the so-called gas attack as factually proven, without the all-important caveats of ‘alleged’, ‘suspected’, etc;

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Despite being a state-owned broadcaster, TVNZ – like its privately-owned cousins – has used language that pre-determined (a) the veracity of the alleged “gas attack and (b) those culpable. Attempts to use neutral, non-judgemental terms have been sporadic and mostly within the text of the stories.

The headlines cannot be viewed in any other way than casting blame on the Syrian government as being the ‘authors’ of the so-called gassing of Douma.

None of which has yet to be verified by the OPCW acting on behalf of the U.N.

…From TV3 News

On 8 April , TV3 News reported the so-called “gas attack” with headlines that left zero room for doubt;

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The  alleged “gas attack” was reported without question;

Dozens have been killed in a chemical attack in Syria after a barrel bomb dropped poisonous chemicals on civilians in eastern Ghouta

A medical relief organisation has estimated 35 people have died as a result of the attack, while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has confirmed 11 deaths.

A Syrian rebel group is accusing government forces of launching the attack. State media has denied this claim.

More than 70 people suffered breathing difficulties due to the attack, reported the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

According to the Syrian American Medical Society, a chlorine bomb targeted Douma hospital and a second bomb with “mixed agents”, including nerve agents, was dropped on a nearby building.

The most basic journalistic tenet was ignored: question everything. The story could have been written by hired propagandists writing for any government. It was not news – it was a copy-and-pasted press release.

The following day, a subsequent headline read;

 

Syrian gas attack death toll tops 70

 

Though the term “a suspected chemical attack” was used and Russian statements denouncing the claim as bogus were published, the headline carries the weight of pre-judged pseudo-authenticity. The headline conveyed the firm message: the “gas attack” happened; people died; an atrocity was committed. The subtext is that the culprit was the Syrian government (or its allies).

After all, why would the rebels gas their own? That would be like questioning whether the “gas attack” occurred at all.

A further headline on 9 April also repeated the certainty of Assad’s guilt;

 

Retaliation on Syrian military base after chemical attack

 

As the West launched its missile strike on Syrian targets, a 14 April Newshub headline read;

 

US, UK and France launch strikes on Syria following suspected chemical weapons attack

 

The opening statement referred to a “suspected chemical attack” – not ‘alleged’;

The United States, France and the UK have launched military strikes in Syria to punish dictator Bashar al-Assad for his suspected chemical attack against civilians and to deter him from doing it again, President Donald Trump has announced.

– and then declared that the Western attack was launched to “punish dictator Bashar al-Assad for his suspected chemical attack against civilians and to deter him from doing it again“.

Doing it again“? Is the world completely convinced Assad did it the first time on 7 April?

The same Mediaworks/Newshub story then made an even more astounding (and unsupported) claim;

The one-off missile strike in April 2017 targeted the airfield from which the Syrian aircraft had launched their gas attack. But the damage was limited, and a defiant Mr Assad returned to episodic use of chlorine and perhaps other chemicals.

There was no corroborating evidence to back up the assertion that “a defiant Mr Assad returned to episodic use of chlorine and perhaps other chemicals“. It was an assertion based purely on Western government’s press releases.

On 15 April, another story perpetuated the slanted, partisan nature of the “gas attack” claims;

 

First images emerge of latest bombing in Syria

 

The US military says the joint air strikes by the US, UK and France have set back Syria’s chemical weapons capability “for years”.

The story reported;

The target, a chemical research centre outside Damascus, was on the receiving end of 76 of 105 cruise missiles fired at Syria on Saturday.

– without a shred of evidence that the destroyed buildings housed “a chemical research centre“. For all we know those buildings may have been producing pharmaceuticals, as one Syrian official stated. Or buzzy-bees, for Syrian children. There is zero evidence either way.

Another story on the same day reported a statement made by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, parroting the non-fact that the destroyed buildings housed chemical weapons facilities;

Jacinda Ardern said on Saturday New Zealand “accepts why” the strikes, which targeted Syrian chemical weapons facilities, took place.

“The action was intended to prevent further such atrocities being committed against Syrian civilians.

“We stand firm in our condemnation of the use of chemical weapons in Eastern Ghouta. This is clearly in breach of international law.”

Not even the lesser term ‘suspected’ was used.

Unfortunately, the Green’s condemnation of the US-led bombing failed to mention anywhere that the alleged “gas attacks” had yet to be verified by the OPCW. Their statement in Spinoff on 14 April accepted the so-called “gas attack” in Douma as factual.

It was not until 17 April – ten days after the alleged “gas attack” – that Newshub revealed in depth that the OPCW had not even visited Douma to investigate the alleged attack;

 

International inspectors push to see Syria gas site

 

At no point does Mediaworks/Newshub recognise the contradiction of apportioning blame to Assad before the OPCW had had a chance to investigate.

Which does not prevent the same article from asserting;

The United States, France and Britain launched 105 missiles targeting what the Pentagon said were three chemical weapons facilities in Syria in retaliation for the suspected poison gas attack in Douma.

Note the phraseology: “Three chemical weapons facilities in Syria” – not “three *alleged* chemical weapons facilities in Syria“.

On 16 April, Mediaworks/Newshub’s Anna Bracewell-Worrell published a story that explicitly stated;

On April 7, civilians in Syria were attacked with chemical weapons.

The images that came out of the attack were horrifying – civilians convulsing and struggling for breath, children ash-faced and terrified. At least 42 people were killed.

[…]

It is the second time Mr Trump has ordered retaliation after the Syrian government used chemical weapons.

Claims by Russia and the Syrian government that the so-called “gas attack” was fake was casually dismissed;

Russian officials have even suggested the attack was staged.

Yet, further down in the same story, the author referred to;

Mr Trump said that attack was also a direct punishment for Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons.

It was a rare moment for Mediaworks/Newshub to employ the term ‘alleged’. At some point, the author may have realised that allegations of a “gas bombing” had yet to be proven. Thus far the story appeared to be firmly in the realm of war propaganda.

Unfortunately, a subsequent comment by the author returned to the Official Western Narrative;

Following the missile attack on chemical weapons…

Then came the explosive (no pun intended) on-the-scene report by veteran Middle East Correspondent, Robert Fisk, that locals in Douma had no knowledge of a “gas attack” in their city;

“Oddly, after chatting to more than 20 people, I couldn’t find one who showed the slightest interest in Douma’s role in bringing about the Western air attacks.”

One would find it inconceivable that the smell of chlorine would go unnoticed by citizens in a sizeable city such as Douma.

Mediaworks/Newshub – to its credit – ran a story on Fisk’s investigation on 19 April;

 

Syria gas attack didn’t happen – local doctor

 

As far as this blogger can determine, Mediaworks/Newshub was only one of two media outlets that reported on Fisk’s findings in any meaningful way. The other was Mark Dawson, writing an editorial for the  Whanganui Chronicle.

All of which makes Tova O’Brien, Newshub’s Political Editor, “opinion” piece on 17 April another example of Western media “pundits” banging the war-drum of hysteria;

 

Tova O’Brien: PM’s position firmly on the fence isn’t good enough

 

No stranger to flawed “news” reporting, Ms O’Brien abandoned any pretext of journalistic impartiality and the search for truth when she tried and convicted the Syrian government as the culprit behind the alleged “gas attack” on Douma;

These are just a few of New Zealand’s close friends who got in behind the United States, United Kingdom and France when they launched airstrikes against the murderous Syrian regime and its chemical weapons sites…

Ms O’Brien didn’t doubt for a moment that the alleged “gas attack” occurred, and that there were (allegedly) victims;

The attacks came after yet another gas attack that killed 75 people, including children.

[…]

US airstrikes in Syria last year in response to a chemical weapons attack clearly didn’t deter further similar attacks by the Syrian regime.

[…]

But meanwhile the Syrian war wages on. Children keep dying, being gassed, poisoned by nerve agents – eyes weeping, noses and mouths streaming and frothing. They’re vomiting, and if the exposure is great enough they’re lucky if they die fast.

Ms O’brien blamed “an impotent UNSC that has diplomatically done sweet FA when it comes to the Syrian War” and demanded, “should innocent Syrians and their children suffer because the UN is inherently flawed?

Nowhere does she mention that not only is the alleged “gas attack” unverified – but that the OPCW has despatched an investigatory team to search for evidence.

Evidence.

The stuff we usually require before confirming a crime took place and assigning guilt to the culprit.

Even as Ms O’Brien towed the Pentagon-line that the dastardly Bashar al-Assad was guilty of a chemical weapon atrocity,  her employer went from this;

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… to this;

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Luckily for us there are real journalists operating who ask the hard questions and risk their well-being to bring us the truth. It is far harder than Ms O’Brien and her desk-bound colleagues who operate well away from “theatres of conflict” and instead rely on propaganda from governmental media “advisories” (ie; propaganda).

Unfortunately, when the truth is eventually teased out and presented to the world (as when the mythical “weapons of mass destruction” were shown to be a Western governmental fabrication), it is rarely presented with the same mass-coverage as the original “fake news”.

In this case, Robert Fisk went to Douma and discovered that the so-called “gas attack” lacked credibility with the locals. In other words, he revealed that it was fake news.

The question we – especially so-called professionals in the mainstream media – should be asking is: did the public notice?

…Conclusion

What makes governmental war pronouncements sound so credible is not from whence they emanate – but that they are given a veneer of factualness by constant, non-critical repetition by the mainstream media.

Our media is tasked with running a critical gaze over government-supplied information. Alleged “events” are supposed to be tested  and “facts”  fact-checked.

Instead, when it comes to war, in many instances they have become a compliant mouthpiece for State propaganda far more effective than anything Josef Goebbels could have envisioned in his widest dreams.

No wonder George Orwell’s “Ministry of Truth” was never built. Instead it was outsourced to private enterprise. They apparently do it so much better.

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References

NZ Herald:  Syrian regime accused of killing civilians in chemical attack

The Independent:  The search for truth in the rubble of Douma – and one doctor’s doubts over the chemical attack

RT News:  Al-Qaeda’s MASH unit – How SAMS is selling regime change & driving US to war

NZ Herald: Syrian news reports missile attack – US denies it fired them

Twitter: Trump – 9 April 2018

NZ Herald:  The Latest – UN nixes Russian text on Syria gas attack probe

NZ Herald:  Chemical weapons experts to inspect attack site in Syria

NZ Herald:  The Latest – UN Security Council schedules meeting on Syria

NZ Herald:  France mulls military action against Syria for gas attacks

Reuters:  French declassified intelligence report on Syria gas attacks

TVNZ News:  Prime Minister reaffirms that she ‘accepts the decision’ to bomb Syria – but would have preferred going through the UN

NZ Herald:  Certain of gas attack, allies struck Syria before UN report

Mediaworks:  Syria gas attack didn’t happen – local doctor

Whanganui Chronicle:  Please be careful what you ‘accept’, Jacinda

TV1 News:  Suspected Syrian gas attack reportedly kills 70 Douma

Wikipedia:  Jaysh al-Islam

Daily Mail:  The Army of Islam: Militant group battling ISIS and the Syrian regime show their might in ‘graduation ceremony’ featuring 1,700 soldiers and a fleet of armoured tanks

TV1 News: Strikes hit Syrian airfield one day after chemical attacks on civilians, – reports, US denies responsibility

The Independent:  Syrian government accused of using nerve agents as death toll from Douma ‘chemical weapons attack’ rises

TV1 News:  Trump promises ‘forceful’ action after chemical attack on civilians in Syria

TV1 News:  Russia says alleged chemical attack in Syria staged by UK

TV1 News:  Russian Defence Ministry claims chemical attack in Syria was a ‘planned provocation’ by UK

TV1 News:  Syrian research facility hit by US strikes didn’t have chemical weapons, says official

TV1 News:  ‘A perfectly executed strike’ – Trump declares ‘Mission accomplished!’ after US-led missile attack on Syria

TV1 News:  France says decision to launch strike on Syrian chemical weapons based on trusted information

TV1 News:  US vows to hit Russia with fresh sanctions in wake of Syrian chemical attack

TV1 News:  Syrian Minister meets with international chemical weapons watchdog over deadly chemical weapons attack

TV1 News:  Shots fired at UN security team visiting site of suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria

Mediaworks/Newshub: Dozens killed in Syria chemical attack

Mediaworks/Newshub: Syria gas attack didn’t happen – local doctor

Mediaworks/Newshub: Syrian gas attack death toll tops 70

Mediaworks/Newshub: Retaliation on Syrian military base after chemical attack

Mediaworks/Newshub: US, UK and France launch strikes on Syria following suspected chemical weapons attack

Mediaworks/Newshub:  First images emerge of latest bombing in Syria

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Greens condemn ‘Trump-led’ strike on Syria

Spinoff:  Bombing Syria will never bring peace. NZ must stand up against ad hoc violence

Mediaworks/Newshub:  International inspectors push to see Syria gas site

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Strikes on Syria – How we got to the edge of ‘World War III’

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Syria gas attack didn’t happen – local doctor

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Tova O’Brien – PM’s position firmly on the fence isn’t good enough

Additional

The Times: Critics leap on reporter Robert Fisk’s failure to find signs of gas attack

Previous related blogposts

The GCSB law – Oh FFS!!!

The Sweet’n’Sour Deliciousness of Irony: Russia accused of meddling in US Election

Trump escalates, Putin congratulates

Trumpwatch: The Drum(pf)s of War

Trumpwatch: One minute closer to midnight on the Doomsday Clock

One minute to midnight?

It is ten seconds to midnight

Syria: the mendacities of the mainstream media (part tahi)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 29 May 2018.

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It is ten seconds to midnight

19 April 2018 2 comments

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The unthinkable has happened.

US, French, and British military forces attacked various targets in Syria.

The attack took place (Saturday, 14 April) at around mid-day-1.00PM local time;

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Trump described the attack with flowery words that served only to compound the horror of his actions;

“So today, the nations of Britain, France, and the United States of America have marshaled their righteous power against barbarism and brutality.”

As the planet faced the apocalyptic  nightmare of atomic war, Trump invoked supernatural assistance from  his deity;

“We pray that God will bring comfort to those suffering in Syria. We pray that God will guide the whole region toward a future of dignity and of peace.

And we pray that God will continue to watch over and bless the United States of America.”

If his god exists, now would be a good time for it to intervene.

As predicted by many, Trump has not waited for an investigative team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to carry out it’s work. This despite an OPCW team having already landed in Damascus to conduct it’s investigation.

This is a repeat of the U.S. launching it’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 despite the U.N.  tasked with locating alleged  weapons of mass destruction in that country.

The Russians have replied, predictably threatening consequences to the American, French, and British attack;

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It seems that Fox News commentator, Tucker Carlson’s overt message to Donald Trump not to attack Syria has fallen on deaf ears;

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It is now ten seconds to midnight.  Our civilisation; our species; our entire planet stands on the brink of annihilation.

What will happen next will depend on the wisdom of men and women in Moscow. All notions of common sense and self-preservation apparently having deserted the fools who currently reside in the White House.

If you believe in your own deity – pray. Pray very hard.

If not, well, try it  anyway. We have bugger all to lose.

But whether or not you subscribe to supernatural intervention, now would be a good time to gather your family close and share one of our species’ greatest virtues.  It’s called hope.

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References

Radio NZ:  Trump orders strikes in Syria over chemical attack (Live Feed)

Military Times:  President Trump’s statement on the U.S. military action in Syria

RT News:  ‘They can go anywhere they want in Douma’: OPCW team arrives in Syria to investigate alleged attack

CNBC News:  Russia warns of ‘consequences’ for US-led strike on Syria

Youtube: Fox News – Tucker Carlson – Would war against Assad make US safer?

Previous related blogpost

One minute to midnight?

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 14 April 2018.

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One minute to midnight?

18 April 2018 3 comments

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Founded in 1945 by University of Chicago scientists who had helped develop the first atomic weapons in the Manhattan Project, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists created the Doomsday Clock two years later, using the imagery of apocalypse (midnight) and the contemporary idiom of nuclear explosion (countdown to zero) to convey threats to humanity and the planet. – The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

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It is now two minutes to midnight. – The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

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At the time of this blogpost being written, the US has not initiated a military response in Syria. As at midnight of 12 April, a little blue marble called Planet Earth is still in one piece…

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The latest alleged poison gas attack in Syria has brought the planet closer to the unimaginable: a full-scale military confrontation between the United States and the Russian Federation.

The alleged gas attack in Douma, the last rebel-controlled town in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta, has supposedly killed between forty to 180 Syrians;

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There has been no independent  verification of the alleged attack. There has been zero evidence as to who launched the chemical attack – if it happened at all. Video of the supposed event has not been verified by independent sources;

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As international tensions rose, and the racket of rattling sabres reverberated globally,  our own Foreign Affairs Minister, Winston Peters stood as a lone voice of reason, calling for an impartial investigation;

“ New Zealand calls for an independent investigation into the attack by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and for the perpetrators to be held to account. We call on the parties to the conflict in eastern Ghouta to urgently allow OPCW inspectors access to the area.

We also call on the international supporters of the Syrian Government to work to uphold the cessation of hostilities promised in UN Security Council Resolution 2401 and to prevent further attacks of this nature.”

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At the U.N. Security Council, Trump-appointed US Ambassador, Nikki Haley spoke with language that was far from diplomatic and unambiguously hostile to the Assad regime;

“ We are on the edge of a dangerous precipice. The great evil of chemical weapons use that once unified the world in opposition is on the verge of becoming the new normal. The international community must not let this happen.

Only a monster does this. Only a monster targets civilians, and then ensures that there are no ambulances to transfer the wounded. No hospitals to save their lives. No doctors or medicine to ease their pain. I could hold up pictures of all this killing and suffering for the Council to see, but what would be the point? The monster who was responsible for these attacks has no conscience to be shocked by pictures of dead children

Russia and Iran have military advisers at the Assad regime’s airfields and operations centers. Russian officials are on the ground helping direct the regime’s ‘starve and surrender’ campaigns, and Iranian allied forces do much of the dirty work. When the Syrian military pummels civilians, they rely on the military hardware given by Russia. Russia could stop this senseless slaughter, if it wanted. But it stands with the Assad regime and supports it without hesitation.

The United States is determined to see that the monster who dropped chemical weapons on the Syrian people held to account.”

US ally, Britain, voiced it’s support for a US sponsored resolution at the UN Security Council, couched in unashamedly critical terms. UK Ambassador, Karen Pierce, said;

“ Russia’s credibility as a member of the council is now in question. We will not stand idly by and watch Russia continue to undermine global norms which have ensured all our security, including Russia’s, for decades. As a [permanent council]  member, the United Kingdom will stand up for international peace and security. It is our moral duty.”

France’s Ambassador, François Delattre, was also condemnatory;

“ Allowing people to use chemical weapons allows the genie of weapons of mass destruction out of the bottle, and weapons of mass destruction pose an existential threat to all us.”

Russia’s UN Ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, described a proposed US resolution as a prelude to a Western strike on Syria;

“ I would once again ask you, once again beseech you, to refrain from the plans that you’re currently developing for Syria.”

Nebenzia warned;

“ If you take the decision to carry out an illegal military adventure – and we do hope that you will come to your senses – then you will have to bear responsibility for it yourselves.”

Memories of a US sponsored resolution in the United Nations Security Council – and subsequently used as a pretext to invade Iraq in 2003 – were most likely still fresh in the minds of  Russian leaders.

Trump, though, was having none of it. Uncharacteristically, his reaction was scathing toward his former Russianbesties‘;

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Blaing his predecessor’s refusal to bomb Syria, raised this Twitter comment from Trump’s not-too-distant past;

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As Trump threatened Syria with a “big price to pay”, the Russians issued their own clear warning that any attack would elicit a military response against US missiles – and the “platforms” from which they were launched.

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After Trump’s “big price to pay” tweets,  Chairman of the State Duma’s Defense Committee,  Colonel General Vladimir Shamanov warned the West;

“ The double standard policy has overstepped all possible boundaries. At this point, the [pro-Putin parliamentary majority] United Russia party must responsibly state that we are going to take all political and diplomatic measures, and also military measures if such need arises. Not a single unlawful action will be left without response.”

Shamanov’s reputation from his tour of duty in Chechniya suggests he is not a person to be trifled with;

As Gennady Troshev, another Russian commander in Chechnya, wrote in his book My War, Shamanov “was too hot-tempered and direct in his relations with the Chechen population” [preferring] “to choose the shortest way to victory (…) [which] resulted in numerous casualties among Russian soldiers.”

Aslambek Aslakhanov, a retired MVD general who was Vladimir Putin’s advisor on Chechnya, called Shamanov a “butcher” and a “one-man curse on the Chechen people”: “Chechens talk about Shamanov like a plague that has descended on their heads, a disease like AIDS. He is drowning in blood. He cynically believes that all Chechens – men and women, even children – are bandits.”

On the same day, following a request from Russian and Syrian governments, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was invited into Syria to investigate the alleged chemical attack;

Today, the OPCW Technical Secretariat has requested the Syrian Arab Republic to make the necessary arrangements for such a deployment. This has coincided with a request from the Syrian Arab Republic and the Russian Federation to investigate the allegations of chemical weapons use in Douma. The team is preparing to deploy to Syria shortly.

Whether or not the OPCW is permitted to carry out its mandated duty to investigate the alleged attack in Douma remains to be seen. If Damascus is indeed innocent of perpetrating such an attack – or even that such an attack ever happened at all – it would be in Bashar al-Assad’s and Russia’s interests to facilitate the investigation.

According to Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon, Alexander Zasypkin, Eastern Ghouta has been “almost-fully liberated” from rebels. There should be no reason why an OPCW investigative group should be prevented from scouring the area, looking for relevant evidence.

Zasypkin also repeated Shamanov’s dire warning to the West – this time with greater clarity. And with an added threat of retaliation;

“ If there is a US missile attack, we – in line with both Putin and Russia’s chief of staff’s remarks – will shoot down US rockets and even the sources that launched the missiles.

US ‘rockets’ – Tomahawk cruise missiles – are usually launched from American naval warships in the region. Zasypkin was giving a crystal clear warning that not only would US cruise missiles be shot down – but US warships would be attacked.

Not since Israel attacked the USS Liberty in 1967 has an American warship been deliberately targetted by another sovereign state in the Middle East. In that instance, the premeditated attack was covered up by both Israeli and US governments.

A direct attack on a US warship by Russian forces would have predictably catastrophic consequences.

Seemingly oblivious to the spiralling madness, Trump, ‘upped the ante’ with more bellicosity;

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Not since the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962 have the planet’s two greatest military powers faced off – perhaps the closest that we as a species ever came to World War Three. Thankfully, there were saner men in both the Kremlin and White House at the time.

Fiftysix years later, the planet may have to rely on the wits of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to avert the Last World War.

Russia has surprising support from one segment of the US establishment: Fox News. Around 9/10 April, Fox News’ host/commentator,  Tucker Carlson, questioned and excoriated Washington’s rush-to-judgement and chilling sabre-rattling. Carlson seemed to be one of the few Establishment media voices urging restraint.

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Carlson also questioned why Syria had been “convicted” of the alleged chemical attack without any evidence. He was scathing;

All the geniuses tell us that Assad killed those children, but do they really know that? Of course they don’t really know that. They’re making it up. They have no real idea what happened.

Actually both sides in the Syrian civil war possess chemical weapons.

Carlson also pointed out that Syrian government forces were actually already winning in Eastern Ghouta. As late as 4 April Trump stated publicly that he  wanted all US forces out of Syria;

“ I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home. It’s time.”

Four days later – “gas attack” hits the global headlines. Trump was ‘forced’ to change his mind;

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Carlson asked pointed questions;

“ How would it benefit Assad using chlorine gas last weekend? Well, it wouldn’t. Assad’s forces had been winning the war in Syria. The [Trump] Administration just announced its plans to pull American troops out of Syria, having vanquished ISIS. That’s good news for Assad. And about the only thing he could do to reverse it and to hurt himself would be to use poison gas against children. ‘Well he did it anyway!’ they tell us, ‘He’s that evil!’. Please. Keep in mind this is the same story they told us last April!

[…]

At the time this show asked what seemed like the obvious question, ‘Are we really sure that Assad did that?’. It seemed wierdly timed and counter-productive to him.”

Carlson was referring to the previous so-called sarin-gas attack at  Khan Shaykhun, in the Idlib Governorate, in April last year. This blogger also questioned that veracity of assigning responsibility to the Assad regime;

Which suggests that the only other ‘player’ in the Syrian civil war capable of deploying chemical weapons would be a sovereign state.

If not rebels, who?

In a June 2013 story, the BBC reported on who was supplying the myriad ‘players’ in the Syrian conflict. One of the arms traffickers in the region was Saudi Arabia;

In late 2012, Riyadh is said to have financed the purchase of “thousands of rifles and hundreds of machine guns”, rocket and grenade launchers and ammunition for the FSA from a Croatian-controlled stockpile of Yugoslav weapons.

These were reportedly flown – including by Royal Saudi Air Force C-130 transporters – to Jordan and Turkey and smuggled into Syria.

Note the link: Croatian-controlled stockpile

Follow the link and it leads to a February 2013 story in the New York Times, which stated;

Saudi Arabia has financed a large purchase of infantry weapons from Croatia and quietly funneled them to anti-government fighters in Syria in a drive to break the bloody stalemate that has allowed President Bashar al-Assad to cling to power, according to American and Western officials familiar with the purchases.

The weapons began reaching rebels in December via shipments shuttled through Jordan, officials said, and have been a factor in the rebels’ small tactical gains this winter against the army and militias loyal to Mr. Assad.

So, what sort of weapons was Croatia selling on the open market? Interrogate Google with the parameters ‘Yugoslavia Croatia chemical weapons’. It offers this April 1999 story in the UK Guardian;

After months of prevarication, Nato launches a ground war against Slobodan Milosevic’s forces in Kosovo. But no sooner do British and US troops begin to move in and threaten Serb army units than Milosevic unleashes his secret weapons – sarin nerve gas and BZ, a psychochemical incapacitant.

[…]

According to former Yugoslav chemical weapons officers, Milosevic’s arsenal is far larger than previously thought. Besides sarin and BZ, it includes the blister agent sulphur mustard and the choking agent phosgene. And it is thanks to scientists in Britain and the US that he could use them on Nato troops.

[…]

In total, the Serb army may have as many as 5,800 122mm sarin-filled shells and 1,000 mustard gas shells, say these sources. In addition, Serbia is also known to have been developing a multiple rocket delivery system for sarin and a bomb capable of delivering 20 litres of the nerve gas to the battlefield.

[…]

Even the Pentagon, which is sceptical about Croatian estimates of the numbers of chemical shells and rockets in the Serb arsenal, accepts that Milosevic inherited from the JNA a programme capable of producing a deadly 3,000 rockets filled with sarin and 100 shells filled with mustard gas.

[…]

Although the Pentagon says it has no evidence that Serbia has continued to manufacture and test chemical weapons since the break-up of the Yugoslavia federation, officials told the New York Times they were ‘concerned’ about the stockpiles.

The Pentagon would be right to be “‘concerned’ about the stockpiles“. Where would they end up?

There is no proof that amongst the weapons purchased from Croatia there was included chemical weapons such as sarin gas. But the facts are clear;

Former-Yugoslavia developed massive quantities of poison gas weapons, including sarin gas

After the break-up of Yugoslavia, Croatia sold plane-loads of weapons to Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia supports rebel forces in Syria

Sarin gas was used in the gas attack on Khan Shaykhun

It is all circumstantial, of course. But it seems plausible that Saudi Arabian military/intelligence agents could have transported sarin gas shells/rockets to Idlib Governorate where, under close supervision,  they were launched against a defenceless city.

The plan was simple; to provoke a politically unsophisticated, naive, and impressionable Donald Trump into  military retaliation by blaming the attack on the Syrian regime.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, which supports rebel groups fighting the Assad regime, and is engaged in a conflict with Iran to gain regional supremacy, has declared that it will join any retaliatory action that the United States takes against the Syrian government;

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Make no mistake: it would benefit Saudi Arabia if the US re-engaged in the Syrian civil-war and launched a crippling strike against the Assad regime.

Saudi Arabia – engaged in a proxy war with it’s regional rival, Iran.

Saudi Arabia – which purchased plane-loads of weapons from Croatia, which once belonged to the defunct Jugoslav National Army, and which may have included stockpiles of sarin gas.

As Fox News’ Carlson Tucker rightly pointed out; there is zero evidence that the so-called “gas attack” was carried out by Assad’s forces. There was no rational reason for Assad to consent to such an attack – he was winning the civil war anyway.

And drawing the US back into the Syrian conflict would benefit: Saudi Arabia.

Mr Trump – you are being ‘played’.

Let’s hope someone in the White House can explain this to the buffoon sitting at the Oval Office desk. Preferably  before Planet Earth is incinerated.

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References

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:  Editor’s Note

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:  2018 Doomsday Clock Statement., Science and Security Board

Radio NZ:  Syria – Toxic gas attack kills at least 70 in Douma

BBC:  Syria ‘chemical attack’ – Russia and US in fierce row at UN

Fairfax media:  NZ expresses ‘strongest condemnation’ of chemical attack on Syrians

Fox News:  Nikki Haley shames Syria after suspected chemical attack – ‘We are on the edge of a dangerous precipice’

Reuters:  U.S., Russia clash at U.N. over chemical weapons attacks in Syria

The Guardian: Syria chemical attack – US and Russia fail to reach UN agreement as tensions rise

Twitter: Donald Trump – Chemical attack in Syria – 9 April 2018 (1)

Twitter: Donald Trump – Chemical attack in Syria – 9 April 2018 (2)

Twitter: Donald Trump – Chemical attack in Syria – 9 April 2018 (3)

Twitter: Trump – Do not attack Syria – 5 September 2013

RT News:  Duma defense chief says Russia may respond with military force to US strike on Syria

Wikipedia:  Vladimir Shamanov

RT News:  OPCW to send chemical weapons investigators to Syria’s Douma – statement

Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons:  OPCW Will Deploy Fact-Finding Mission to Douma, Syria

Al Jazeera:  Russia threatens to shoot down any US missiles fired at Syria

Al Jazeera:  Remembering USS Liberty – When Israel attacked America

Twitter: Donald Trump – Missiles at Syria – 11 April 2018

New York Times:  Mattis Expresses Caution on Imminent Strike Against Syria

RT News:  Tucker Carlson slams US foreign policy in no-holds-barred monologue on Syria, social media explodes

Youtube: Fox News – Tucker Carlson – Would war against Assad make US safer?

Washington Post: Even as Trump urges Syria exit, the military says it’s not finished with ISIS

New York Times:  As Trump Seeks Way Out of Syria, New Attack Pulls Him Back In

BBC: Who is supplying weapons to the warring sides in Syria?

The Guardian: UK link to Serb poison gas

Reuters:  Saudi could take part in military response in Syria – Crown Prince

Additional

Radio NZ: Expert – ‘Moscow seeking comeback as a great power’

Previous related blogposts

The Sweet’n’Sour Deliciousness of Irony: Russia accused of meddling in US Election

Trump escalates, Putin congratulates

Trumpwatch: The Drum(pf)s of War

Trumpwatch: One minute closer to midnight on the Doomsday Clock

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 13 April 2018.

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Afghanistan, Russia, and US hypocrisy on a breath-taking, cosmic-scale

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That was then…

In December 1979, the then-Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan to prop up a pro-Moscow, communist government. The reformist communist government of Babrak Karmal was threatened by insurgent groups, which were funded and supported by Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran, and… the United States.

The US became a major supporter of Afghan rebels;

And the CIA began one of its longest and most expensive covert operations, supplying billions of dollars in arms to a collection of Afghan guerrillas fighting the Soviets. The arms shipments included Stinger missiles, the shoulder-fired, antiaircraft weapons that were used with deadly accuracy against Soviet helicopters and that are now in circulation among terrorists who have fired such weapons at commercial airliners. Among the rebel recipients of U.S. arms: Osama bin Laden.

Then-US President, Ronald Reagan in February 1983,  met with Afghan Mujahideen leaders;

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In March 1983, Reagan praised Afghan rebels as freedom fighters;

“To watch the courageous Afghan freedom fighters battle modern arsenals with simple hand-held weapons is an inspiration to those who love freedom. Their courage teaches us a great lesson — that there are things in this world worth defending.

To the Afghan people, I say on behalf of all Americans that we admire your heroism, your devotion to freedom, and your relentless struggle against your oppressors.”

By 1991,  Washington matched its rhetoric with cold, hard American dollars,  committing $250 million annually for the mujahidin;

Initially, the CIA refused to provide American arms to the resistance, seeking to maintain plausible deniability.(25) (The State Department, too, also opposed providing American-made weapons for fear of antagonizing the Soviet Union.(26) The 1983 suggestion of American Ambassador to Pakistan Ronald Spiers, that the U.S. provide Stingers to the mujahidin accordingly went nowhere for several years.(27) Much of the resistance to the supply of Stinger missiles was generated internally from the CIA station chief’s desire (prior to the accession of Bearden to the post) to keep the covert assistance program small and inconspicuous. Instead, the millions appropriated went to purchase Chinese, Warsaw Pact, and Israeli weaponry. Only in March 1985, did Reagan’s national security team formally decide to switch their strategy from mere harassment of Soviet forces in Afghanistan to driving the Red Army completely out of the country.(28) After vigorous internal debate, Reagan’s military and national security advisors agreed to provide the mujahidin with the Stinger anti-aircraft missile. At the time, the United States possessed only limited numbers of the weapon. Some of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also feared accountability problems and proliferation of the technology to Third World countries.(29) It was not until September 1986, that the Reagan administration decided to supply Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to the mujahidin, thereby breaking the embargo on “Made-in-America” arms.

Support for the rebel groups with money and weapons succeeded. Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan by 1988/89. Following from America’s humiliating defeat in Indo-china in the 1970s, this was pay-back for the Soviets having supported North Vietnam in the conflict.

In the power-vacuum that followed, the anti-Western Taliban seized power.

Own goal, Washington!

This is now…

History seems to be repeating;

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Trump appointee,  Defense Secretary ‘Mad dog’ Mattis has accused Russia of supplying weapons to Afghan rebels;

Asked about Russia’s activity in Afghanistan, where it fought a bloody war in the 1980s and withdrew in defeat, Mattis alluded to the US’ increasing concerns.

“We’ll engage with Russia diplomatically,” Mattis said. “But we’re going to have to confront Russia where what they’re doing is contrary to international law or denying the sovereignty of other countries. For example, any weapons being funneled here [to Afghanistan] from a foreign country would be a violation of international law.””

Violation of international law“?!

When did the US worry about violating international law when it supplied $3 billion worth of weapons and other support for Afghan rebels to over-throw the Soviet-aligned government in Kabul?

Methinks our American cuzzies doth protest too much. International law seemed not too high on their list of priorities when they armed Afghan rebels in the 1970s and 80s.

Secretary Mattis should study recent history – or stick a big, bold “H” on his forehead.

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“H” being for hypocrisy.

Postscript

Meanwhile, according to Russian government-aligned RT News, ” President Donald Trump [is] contemplat[ing] sending more troops to Afghanistan“.

Because sending more troops will help.  Remind us again how that turned out for the US in Vietnam in the 1960s and 70s?

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References

Wikipedia: Afghanistan

Time: The Oily Americans

Wafflesatnoon: Misquote – Reagan Didn’t Compare Taliban to Founding Fathers

Reagan Library: Message on the Observance of Afghanistan Day

The Washington Institute: Who Is Responsible for the Taliban?

Google books: False Flags, Covert Operations, & Propaganda By Robert B Durham (p242)

CNN: Encore Presentation – Soldiers of God

Al Jazeera: US officials in Afghanistan suggest Russia arms Taliban

RT News: Bomb attack hits US base in Afghanistan as Defense Sec Mattis visits Kabul, casualties reported

Additional

Snopes.com: Freedumb Fighters

Al Jazeera: Afghanistan – The Soviet Union’s Vietnam

Previous related blogposts

PM unimpressed by protest outside his house – Afghans unimpressed by mass murder at weddings

The Sweet’n’Sour Deliciousness of Irony: Russia accused of meddling in US Election

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 26 April 2014.

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Trumpwatch: The Drum(pf)s of War

18 February 2017 11 comments

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The Trump Era: A New Cold War, on multiple fronts:

Not since Bush  launched a propaganda war against  three nations (Iran, Iraq, and North Korea) with his jingoistic “Axis of Evil” rhetoric in 2002, has a U.S. president so successfully instigated  Cold War II  on so many  fronts.

Barely a month into his “presidency”, and Trump has achieved what no other US President has in history. Winding back international relations to pre-Perestroika days, Trump (or his operatives in  the Occupied White House)  has shown belligerence toward;

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— Iran

After Iran test-fired a  missile on 31 January, the   American Empire has responded with bellicose threats from the Trump-occupied White House. In a press release, National Security Advisor, Michael T. Flynn – a Trump appointee – issued this threat;

“The Islamic Republic of Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and engages in and supports violent activities that destabilize the Middle East. This behavior seems continuous despite the very favorable deal given to Iran by the Obama Administration. These sanctions target these behaviors.

Iran’s senior leadership continues to threaten the United States and our allies. Since the Obama Administration agreed to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran in 2015, Iran’s belligerent and lawless behavior has only increased. Examples include the abduction of ten of our sailors and two patrol boats in January 2016, unwarranted harassment of vessel traffic and repeated weapons tests. Just this week, Iran tested a ballistic missile, and one of its proxy terrorist groups attacked a Saudi vessel in the Red Sea.

The international community has been too tolerant of Iran’s bad behavior. The ritual of convening a United Nations Security Council in an emergency meeting and issuing a strong statement is not enough.  The Trump Administration will no longer tolerate Iran’s provocations that threaten our interests.”

The days of turning a blind eye to Iran’s hostile and belligerent actions toward the United States and the world community are over.

At a White House press briefing, Flynn added;

“As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice.”

Pentagon spokesperson, Christopher Sherwood, stoked the flames;

“The U.S. military has not changed its posture in response to the Iranian test missile launch.”

Unsurprisingly, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was scathing of the militaristic knee-jerk reaction from the Trump White House;

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Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, rejected claims that the Iranian missile test contravened a 2015  UN resolution which prohibited tests of ballistic missiles  potentially capable of carrying atomic warheads;

We do not see any special problems in this area. We want to stress again that missile launches with the use of missile technologies are not a breach of the [Joint Comprehensive] Plan of Action and UN Security Council Resolution 2231. We have brought this position to the notice of the US side as well.”

Trump is scheduled to meet Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu – a sworn enemy of  Iran – at the White House on February 15. With Trump’s slavish support for Israel, this will not bode well for peace in the Middle East.

A US war with Iran, coupled with on-going civil wars in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, would disrupt any remaining stability in the entire Middle East and possibly spark a third world war.

— China

Not quite two weeks after his inauguration, Trump created an international incident when he spoke with Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, on 2 December.

The phone call angered the Chinese  leadership in Beijing, as the UK’s Guardian explained;

The US closed its embassy in Taiwan – a democratically ruled island which Beijing considers a breakaway province – in the late 1970s following the historic rapprochement between Beijing and Washington that stemmed from Richard Nixon’s 1972 trip to China.

Since then the US has adhered to the so-called “one China” principle which officially considers the independently governed island part of the same single Chinese nation as the mainland.

It seems improbable that Trump was not briefed by the US State Department that such a phone call would raise alarm bells with the Chinese  government in Beijing. But according to the Taipei Times article;

Trump reportedly agreed to the call, which was arranged by Taiwan-friendly members of his campaign staff after his aides briefed him on issues regarding Taiwan and the situation in the Taiwan Strait, sources said.

Would one of those “Taiwan-friendly members of his campaign staff” be Steve Bannon?

Steve Bannon – far-right media-blogger,  political activist, and executive chairperson  of far-right website,  Breitbart News.

The same Steve Bannon who – one month after Trump spoke with Taiwan’s president – made this startling statement to the world’s media;

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The same Steve Bannon who is now a close advisor to Trump;

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Another Trump stooge, White House media spokesperson, Sean Spicer, announced;

“The U.S. is going to make sure that we protect our interests there [in the South China Sea].”

When US “interests” are threatened, the American Empire reacts in the only way it understands: war. Especially as our American cuzzies see themselves as Hollywood-style “good guys” in international conflicts;

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As

“Washington policymakers seem addicted to intervention and war, unable to imagine there is any international problem they cannot solve.

[…]

The claim that the United States could have provided just the right amount of assistance to just the right groups [in Syria] to yield just the right outcome is a fantasy, belied by America’s failure to get much of anything in the Middle East right.”

By December, the Chinese government had had enough, issuing this  warning through it’s mouthpiece, the state-owned Global Times;

In response, the Global Times, a state-run tabloid that sometimes reflects views from within the Communist party, said on Thursday that China should rebalance its stance towards Taiwan to “make the use of force as a main option and carefully prepare for it”.

“The Chinese mainland should display its resolution to recover Taiwan by force,” the paper wrote in an editorial. If Taiwan were to declare formal independence, it went on, “the Chinese mainland can in no time punish them militarily”.

As tensions increased, in response to US demands over the South China Sea,  China unequivocally told the Americans to ‘butt out’. By the end of January, Beijing’s senior Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Lu Kang,issued a more direct warning;

“There might be a difference [of opinion] over the sovereignty of these islands but it’s not for the United States. That might be between China and some other countries in this region. The South China Sea is not the United States territory or the international territory…”

Update: On 10 February, Trump informed China that his Administration will honour the “One China” policy. The Chinese government – again through it’s organ, the Global Times – concluded;

“Since assuming office, Trump and his team have changed their rhetoric about China. Trump has stopped openly challenging China’s core interests, and instead showed respect to Beijing.

[…]

The change creates an impression that Trump is learning about his role in the realm of Sino-US ties. He’s now sending a new message that he does not want to be a disruptor of the Sino-US relations.”

Saner heads have seemingly prevailed somewhere within the dimly-lit coridors and back-rooms of the American Deep State.

Let’s hope that Trump learns the intricacies and dangers of international relations before he inadvertently blunders into an irretrievable crisis and triggers an atomic apocalypse.

World War I started with less.

— Yemen

During the presidential elections last year (and earlier), Trump made no secret of his inclination to keep the US out of “other people’s wars;

In April 2013, he said;

“Now we’re supposed to get involved with Syria? I would say stay out.”

In March 2016;

“I do think it’s a different world today and I don’t think we should be nation-building anymore. I think it’s proven not to work. And we have a different country than we did then. You know we have $19 trillion in debt. We’re sitting probably on a bubble, and, you know, it’s a bubble that if it breaks is going to be very nasty. And I just think we have to rebuild our country.”

In April 2016;

“We can’t be the policeman of the world. What we do get out of it?”

In May 2016;

“I would have stayed out of Syria and wouldn’t have fought so much for Assad, against Assad because I thought that was a whole thing. You have Iran, which we made into a power. Iran now is a power. Because of us, because of some of the dumbest deals I have ever seen. So now you have Iran and you have Russia in favor of Assad. We’re supposed to fight the two of them. At the same time, we’re supposed to fight ISIS, who is fighting Assad.”

On 30 January – ten days after the world witnessed Trump’s inauguration – US Navy Seal forces mounted a raid in Yemen to attack an alleged Al Qaeda base;

Washington, DC: A US commando died and three others were wounded in a deadly dawn raid on the al-Qaeda militant group in southern Yemen, which was the first military operation authorised by US President Donald Trump.

The US military said 14 militants died in the attack on a powerful al-Qaeda branch that has been a frequent target of US drone strikes.

[…]

The gunbattle in the rural Yakla district of al-Bayda province killed a senior leader in Yemen’s al-Qaeda branch, Abdulraoof al-Dhahab, along with other militants, al-Qaeda said.

As usual, civilians were caught up in the gun-battle;

Medics at the scene, however, said around 30 people, including 10 women and children, were killed.

[…]

Eight-year-old Anwar al-Awlaki, the daughter of US-born Yemeni preacher and al- Qaeda ideologue Anwar al-Awlaki, was among the children who died in the raid, according to her grandfather. Her father was killed in a US drone strike in 2011.

“She was hit with a bullet in her neck and suffered for two hours,” Nasser al- Awlaki told Reuters. “Why kill children? This is the new (US) administration – it’s very sad, a big crime.”

Two days later, the US military confirmed that civilians had been killed in the attack;

US Central Command (CENTCOM) on Wednesday confirmed that a raid carried out in Yemen earlier this week “likely killed” civilians, including possibly children.

“A team designated by the operational task force commander has concluded regrettably that civilian non-combattants were likely killed in the midst of a firefight during a raid in Yemen January 29. Casualties may include children,” said a statement from CENTCOM.

Noticeable, however, the story had changed from an “al-Qaeda militant group” to this;

In what was the first confirmed military raid under President Trump, commandos targeted three tribal chiefs with links to al Qaeda in the central province of Bayda.

More obscene still;

Trump on Wednesday paid a surprise visit to the family of the soldier, Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens, 36, from Illinois.  Afterwards, Trump described the visit as “something very sad, very beautiful.”

Though probably not as “beautiful” as one local Yemeni’s description of the brutal violence from the US attack;

“The operation began at dawn when a drone bombed the home of Abdulraoof al- Dhahab and then helicopters flew up and unloaded paratroopers at his house and killed everyone inside,” said one resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“Next, the gunmen opened fire at the US soldiers who left the area, and the helicopters bombed the gunmen and a number of homes and led to a large number of casualties.”

For a man committed not to become involved in “other people’s wars”, Trump was quick of the mark to authorise this latest adventurism in the Middle East.

Update: Former  national security official for President Barack Obama, Colin Kahl, has rejected claims that the Navy Seal attack in Yemen had been planned by the previous Administration. In a series of tweets, Khal said;

“1/DoD worked up GENERAL proposal for OVERALL set of expanded authorities for these types of raids at end of Obama admin

[…]

5/And, critically, Obama made no decisions on this before leaving office, believing it represented escalation of U.S. involvement in Yemen”

Even if Trump’s White House officials were being truthful (which is dubious), and the Navy Seal mission had been planned by the Obama Administration, the obvious question remains: why did Trump  permit the attack to proceed?

Short answer: because very little has changed within the Deep State of the American Empire.

— Russia/Ukraine

The “bromance” between Trump and Russian President, Putin, is well known. There appears to be a  “detente” between Putin and the Trump Administration, with the suggestion last year that the Russians could be given a “free hand” in Syria.

As far back as September 2015, then-Republican candidate, Donald Trump told Bill Reilly on Fox News that he would – in essence – be giving Putin suzerainty  over Syria;

“Well, we spent $2 trillion, thousands of lives, wounded warriors all over, and Putin is now taking over what we started, and he’s going into Syria, and he frankly wants to fight ISIS, and I think that’s a wonderful thing. You know, I said that a year ago and everybody said oh, that’s terrible. If he wants to fight ISIS, let him fight ISIS. Why do we always have to do everything. But he wants to go in. He wants to fight ISIS. Now, he wants to keep, as you know, he wants to keep your leadership, your current leadership, Assad in Syria. Personally I’ve been looking at the different players, and I’ve been watching Assad, and I’ve been pretty good at this stuff over the years, cause deals are people. And I’m looking at Assad and saying, ‘Maybe he’s better than the kind of people that we’re supposed to be backing.’ Because we don’t even know who we’re backing.”

O’Reilly  probed further;

“Once Putin gets in and fights ISIS on behalf of Assad, Putin runs Syria. He owns it. He’ll never get out, never.”

Trump replied,

“Alright, okay, fine. I mean, you know, we can be in Syria. Do you want to run Syria? Do you want to own Syria? I want to rebuild our country.”

Putin took up the offer, deploying Russian naval and air-power to support Assad’s forces to retake Aleppo.

But Trump’s willingness to carve up the world,  Yalta Conference-21st Century style, delineating “spheres of influence”, does not seem to extend to the Ukraine which lies on Russia’s doorstep.

On 2/3 February, Trump’s appointee as the US’s ambassador to the UN,  former-Republican South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, launched a blistering attack on Russia for it’s activities in eastern Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea;

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“ I consider it unfortunate that the occasion of my first appearance here is one in which I must condemn the aggressive actions of Russia. We do want to better our relations with Russia. However, the dire situation in eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions.”

The sudden increase in fighting in eastern Ukraine has trapped thousands of civilians and destroyed vital infrastructure and the crisis is spreading, endangering many thousands more. This escalation of violence must stop.

The United States continues to condemn and call for an immediate end to the Russian occupation of Crimea,” said Nikki Haley, President Donald Trump’s envoy to the world body. “Crimea is a part of Ukraine. Our Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control over the peninsula to Ukraine.”

The Ukraine’s Ambassador to the UN, Volodymyr Yelchenko, pitched in, holding up a photo of a slain Ukrainian serviceman;

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The Ukrainian Ambassador addressed the  Russian ambassador, Vitaly Yelchenko, accusing;

“You killed him.”

The Russian ambassador, though, was having none of  the United States’ grandstanding, but responded with noticeable restraint;

“The essence of those events is quite clear: Kiev is trying to use the armed clashes that it provoked as a pretext for a complete rejection of the February 12, 2015, Minsk agreements, sealed by the UN Security Council resolution 2202.

Any serious intensification of hostilities in Donbass miraculously coincides with foreign visits of the Ukrainian leadership. Apparently, this is how Kiev expects to keep the crisis that it had provoked on the international agenda.

And, of course, the Ukrainian leadership needs money today, that can easily wheedle out of the European Union, some European nations, the United States and international financial institutions when they pretend to be a victim of ‘aggression’.”

Later, the Russian ambassador appeared conciliatory toward Ambassador Haley;

“I think it was friendly enough, given the circumstances, and given the subject which we were discussing. We may have some differences on some individual issues from time to time, but the fact remains that she is going to play a very important role in whether or not the SC will be able to play a role as a collective international body carrying the main responsibility for international peace and security.”

It is not hard to guess why.

Putin wants to maintain the positive relationship that appeared between himself and Trump during last year’s election campaign. No doubt the Russian leadership is hoping to get Trump back “on board” with some skilled diplomacy. A few sugar-coated words from the Russian president should appeal to Trump’s ego.

Putin may have his work cut out for him as Trump has already been in contact with the Ukrainian leadership, at about the same time Ambassador Haley was busily denouncing the Russians;

President Donald J. Trump just had [5 p.m. Saturday] a very good call with President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine to address a variety of topics, including Ukraine’s long-running conflict with Russia. “We will work with Ukraine, Russia, and all other parties involved to help them restore peace along the border,” said President Trump. Also discussed was the potential for a meeting in the near future.

The new American leadership is hyper-Nationalistic and has more in common with the Ukrainian nationalistic  government than it does with Moscow.

It may be a matter of time before Putin and Trump’s “respect for each other” dissolves into acrimony. The president of Mexico and Prime Minister of Australia can testify to how fractious Trump can be when he doesn’t get his own way;

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There is no way that Russia will surrender it’s interests in the Ukraine. Just as the American Empire considered Cuba to be well within it’s “sphere of influence”, and blockaded the island during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Russia will not abandon it’s influence on it’s western borders.

Like the South China Sea and the Korean Peninsula, the Ukraine is a dangerous flash-point. It is one mis-calculation away from war.

— Doomsday Clock

Recognising the dangerous situation posed by a volatile Trump and the new Nationalist regime in Washington, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has moved the Doomsday Clock forward by thirty seconds. It is now two and a half minutes to Doomsday.

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The atomic scientists say the world had edged closer to doomsday [EPA]

The atomic scientists say the world had edged closer to doomsday [EPA]

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Leading scientists, who are the clock’s keepers, say the world has edged closer to apocalypse in the past year amid a darkening security landscape and comments by US President Donald Trump.

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In a report, the BPA said Mr Trump’s statements on climate change, expanding the US nuclear arsenal and the questioning of intelligence agencies had contributed to the heightened global risk.

It is the closest the clock has come to midnight since 1953, when the minute hand was moved to two minutes away following hydrogen bomb tests by the US and Russia.

The minute hand on the Doomsday Clock is a metaphor for how vulnerable the world is to catastrophe.

No wonder Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Executive Director,  Rachel Bronson appealed to world leaders to “calm rather than stoke tensions that could lead to war”.

The last time the hands of the Doomsday Clock were so close to mid-night (Doomsday) was in 1953, when the US test-detonated it’s first Hydrogen Bomb.

We live in dangerous times.

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References

BBC: Who’s who in the ‘axis of evil’

The White House: Statement by National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn on Iran

Reuters: Trump adopts aggressive posture toward Iran after missile launch

Press TV:   New US sanctions on Iran unacceptable – Russia

The Jerusalem Post: Trump’s UN envoy – Israel will ‘never again’ question US support

Taipei Times: Tsai-Trump telephone call scheduled

The Guardian: Trump’s phone call with Taiwan president risks China’s wrath

Wikipedia: Steve Bannon

The Guardian: Steve Bannon – ‘We’re going to war in the South China Sea … no doubt’

The Huffington Post: Steve Bannon Believes The Apocalypse Is Coming And War Is Inevitable

The Independent: US would go into any war with China with ‘unparalleled violence’, warn experts

The Daily Star: ‘We’re going to war with China – no doubt’ says Trump’s right-hand man

The IB Times: Trump’s adviser Steve Bannon – ‘We’re going to war in the South China

TV3 News:  Trump advisor Steve Bannon warned of war against China

BBC: Steve Bannon – Who is Trump’s key adviser?

CNBC: US-China war increasingly a ‘reality,’ Chinese army official says

Global Research:  List of countries the USA has bombed since the end of World War II

The National Interest: America Must Stay Out of Syria’s War

The Guardian: China should plan to take Taiwan by force after Trump call, state media says

ABC News: China warns Donald Trump via US media to stay out of South China Sea dispute

CNN: Why is Trump backing off his China threats?

The Economic Times: Donald Trump’s U turn on Taiwan shows he is learning – Chinese media

Newsmax: Trump – US Should Stay Out of Syria

The Nation: Donald Trump Could Be the Military-Industrial Complex’s Worst Nightmare

The Guardian: Donald Trump on North Korea going to war – ‘Good luck, enjoy yourself folks’

Politico: Trump pledges to hit Islamic State, not Assad

Sydney Morning Herald: US raid on al-Qaeda compound in Yemen Donald Trump’s first military engagement as president

DW News: US confirms Yemen raid ‘likely killed’ civilians

The White House Archives: Vice President Biden Announces Dr. Colin Kahl as New National Security Advisor

Salon: Former Obama official – Trump’s deadly Yemen raid wasn’t planned under Obama’s watch

Sputnik News: Trump on Putin Controlling Syria: ‘OK, Fine,’ Him Fighting ISIS ‘Wonderful Thing,’ ‘Very Little Downside’

The Independent: Largest Russian military deployment since Cold War passes through British waters en route to ‘crush’ Aleppo

Wikipedia: Yalta Conference

Washington Post: Trump nominates two prominent GOP women: DeVos as education secretary, Haley as U.N. ambassador

CNN: UN Ambassador Haley hits Russia hard on Ukraine

RT News: Russia’s Churkin cites US constitution after ambassador Haley’s rant at UNSC over Ukraine

The White House: Readout of the President’s Call with President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine

Complex.com: Did Donald Trump Piss Off Two of Our Biggest Allies?

Radio NZ:   Doomsday Clock moved closer to midnight

Bulletin of Atomic Scientists: Timeline

Additional

Fox News: Trump unveils plan to boost US military

Other Blogs

Bowalley Road: Political Paradoxes

Brian Edwards: Profile of Leader of the Free World

Cafe Pacific: Colourful, vibrant Aotearoa rally condemns Trump’s ‘racist, Islamophobic’ bans

Imperator Fish: The fascism of facts

Gordon Campbell on NZ’s silence over Trump’s anti-Muslim agenda

Local Bodies: Trump’s Muslim ban exposes stupidity

Mars2earth: you are the resistance

Mars2earth: uglytrump

Mars2earth: the start of the peel

No Right Turn: Outright corruption in the US

Pundit: When Donald calls Bill… make him an offer

The Standard: New Zealand Second?

The Standard: Postcards from the Trumpocalypse

Previous related blogposts

Black Ops from the SIS and FBI?

The seductiveness of Trumpism

The Rise of Great Leader Trump

The Sweet’n’Sour Deliciousness of Irony: Russia accused of meddling in US Election

Trump escalates, Putin congratulates

Trumpwatch: Voter fraud, Presidential delusions, and Fox News

Trumpwatch: Muslims, mandates, and moral courage

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 13 February 2017.

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Trumpwatch: Trump escalates, Putin congratulates

31 December 2016 7 comments

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It started…

It started on 23 December, when President-Elect, Donald Trump made this unexpected, alarming  “tweet”;

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With 115 characters, Donald Trump declared a return to a global nuclear arms race.

It started on 9 November, when Trump – described by BBC journalist 

It started in 1949, when George Orwell’s Nineteen Eightyfour was published,   an  alternative reality of a world ruled by  three totalitarian superpowers, constantly at war with each other;

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It started in 1948, with the beginning of the “Cold War”…

The Scene is set…

Trump’s 23 December “tweet” that the US will resume a build-up of its atomic weapons arsenal should come as no surprise. On 8 September, on the campaign trail, he announced;

“History shows that when America is not prepared is when the danger is greatest. We want to deter, avoid and prevent conflict through our unquestioned military dominance.

I’m gonna build a military that’s gonna be much stronger than it is right now. It’s gonna be so strong, nobody’s gonna mess with us.”

The Military Times assessed Trump’s promised build-up of US forces;

Trump wants an active-duty Army with another 60,000 soldiers in the ranks, an unspecified number of additional sailors to man the 78 ships and submarines he intends to see built in coming years. He wants up to 12,000 more Marines to serve in infantry and tank battalions, and at least another 100 combat aircraft for the Air Force.

If Trump’s administration can accomplish even a portion of this, it could have sweeping effects on rank-and-file military personnel, touching everything from individual advancement opportunities to the number of U.S. troops stationed overseas and overall operational tempo. The scope of growth being suggested would require many more officers and noncommissioned officers, influencing, over the course of several years, how each service recruits, promotes and retains its workforce.

It could reshape how many American troops find themselves assigned to geopolitical hot spots, including the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia. And all of this, in theory, would ease the pace at which service members are deployed or actively preparing to go overseas, which amounts to time away from their homes and families.

Curiously, none of Trump’s hyper-jingoistic election rhetoric seemed to faze Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin. On the contrary, Putin remained zen-like  and complimentary  of the billionaire-turned-politician. In December 2015, Putin was reported in state media, Sputnik, as saying;

“He is a very bright person, talented without any doubt. It is not our business to assess his worthiness, but he is the absolute leader of the presidential race. He says he wants to move to a different level of relations — a fuller, deeper [level] — with Russia, how can we not welcome this? Of course we welcome this.”

Putin’s comments were also reported in Russian state-controlled media, RT News.

A veritable “love-fest” of compliments were exchanged between the two men. A “bro-mance” had obviously developed between the Oligarch and the Billionaire;

Trump: “It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.”

Trump: “He is really very much of a leader. The man has very strong control over his country. Now, it’s a very different system, and I don’t happen to like the system, but certainly in that system he’s been a leader, far more than our president has been a leader.”

Both Putin and leader of the far-right National Front, Marine Le Pen, congratulated Trump on his presidential success.

Their relationship continued, even as Trump ‘tweeted’ on 23 December that the “the United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability“.

Putin seeming remained utterly unperturbed at Trump‘s sabre-rattling;

“I was a bit surprised by the statements from some representatives of the current U.S. administration who for some reason started to prove that the U.S. military was the most powerful in the world.

Nobody is arguing with that.

In the course of his election campaign he (Trump) spoke about the necessity of strengthening the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and strengthening the armed forces. There’s nothing unusual here.”

Perhaps because Russia is also considering a build-up of its atomic arsenal, as Putin himself stated on 22 December;

“We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defence systems.

We must carefully monitor any changes in the balance of power and in the political-military situation in the world, especially along Russian borders, and quickly adapt plans for neutralising threats to our country.”

So Who is the enemy?!

If, as Putin and Trump are at pains to assert, their relationship is on firm, cordial grounds – why the need for a massive modernisation and build-up of both superpower’s military force? A build-up that could cost both nations billions of dollars and rubles?

Who is the enemy?

Relations between Russia (formerly Soviet Union), China, and the US has always been a “balancing act”.  The three have constantly played each other off against each other.

In Nineteen Eightyfour, Orwell took the three-superpower rivalry to its ultimate, destructive, insane conclusion;

On the sixth day of Hate Week, after the processions, the speeches, the shouting, the singing, the banners, the posters, the films, the waxworks, the rolling of drums and squealing of trumpets, the tramp of marching feet, the grinding of the caterpillars of tanks, the roar of massed planes, the booming of guns — after six days of this, when the great orgasm was quivering to its climax and the general hatred of Eurasia had boiled up into such delirium that if the crowd could have got their hands on the 2,000 Eurasian war-criminals who were to be publicly hanged on the last day of the proceedings, they would unquestionably have torn them to pieces — at just this moment it had been announced that Oceania was not after all at war with Eurasia. Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Eurasia was an ally.

There was, of course, no admission that any change had taken place. Merely it became known, with extreme suddenness and everywhere at once, that Eastasia and not Eurasia was the enemy…

[…]

Oceania was at war with Eastasia: Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia.

Our own three super-powers

In 1972, then Republican-president, Richard Nixon made his historical trip to the People’s Republic of China. As History.com portrayed the momentous event;

The American fear of a monolithic communist bloc had been modified, as a war of words—and occasional border conflicts—erupted between the Soviet Union and the PRC in the 1960s. Nixon, and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger saw a unique opportunity in these circumstances—diplomatic overtures to the PRC might make the Soviet Union more malleable to U.S. policy requests (such as pressuring the North Vietnamese to sign a peace treaty acceptable to the United States). In fact, Nixon was scheduled to travel to meet Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev shortly after completing his visit to China.

Nixon’s trip to China, therefore, was a move calculated to drive an even deeper wedge between the two most significant communist powers. The United States could use closer diplomatic relations with China as leverage in dealing with the Soviets, particularly on the issue of Vietnam. In addition, the United States might be able to make use of the Chinese as a counterweight to North Vietnam. Despite their claims of socialist solidarity, the PRC and North Vietnam were, at best, strongly suspicious allies. As historian Walter LaFeber said, “Instead of using Vietnam to contain China, Nixon concluded that he had better use China to contain Vietnam.” For its part, the PRC was desirous of another ally in its increasingly tense relationship with the Soviet Union and certainly welcomed the possibility of increased U.S.-China trade.

That increased trade eventuated with then-President Jimmy Carter  consenting to  China gaining  a “Most Favoured Nation” in 1980; re-affirmed by Bill Clinton in 1994, and later by George W Bush in 2001.

However, in recent times, China has flexed its military muscle and increased its presence in the South China Sea. This has set it on a collision course with other regional neighbours, as well as the United States;

Chinese expansion in the South China Sea is bringing conflict between Beijing and its neighbours – Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Vietnam – closer than it has been for decades. Vietnam has fortified several islands it controls, while Japan has been publicly rebuked by Beijing over its ‘interference’ in the sea – most of which China claims. The Philippines has called for “restraint and sobriety” as its own dispute with Beijing rumbles on.

But the South China Sea and a lesser-known spat with Japan over islands near Taiwan has not only brought talk of a regional war in the Pacific to the fore, but raised the prospect of the US being dragged into open warfare with China. Beijing’s expansionism threatens not only the interests of US allies in East Asia but also global trade, given that some 40% of all shipping passes through the disputed area of ocean.

“As horrific as a Sino-US war could be, it cannot be considered implausible,” warned the authors of the RAND Corporations August report, War with China: Thinking through the Unthinkable.

[…]

But in reality US-China relations have been strained for some time, as demonstrated by the scrutiny of Barack Obama’s visit to Hangzhou, where American reporters scuffled with Chinese security staff and Beijing was widely accused of snubbing the US president on his final international visit. Chinese hacking of US companies has been widespread, leading to America’s indictment of five senior Chinese army officers in May 2014.

Meanwhile in the South China Sea and East China Sea, Chinese expansion has come at the expense of major US allies, including Japan. Japan’s ownership of the Senkaku Islands, north of Taiwan, is enshrined in the US-Japan Treaty that was signed after the end of the Second World War. China’s increasingly hostile stance towards its neighbour over the islands risks dragging the US into a conflict between Beijing and Tokyo.

This has already resulted in confrontations  between the two nuclear super-powers;

A U.S. navy destroyer sailed near islands claimed by China in the South China Sea on Friday, drawing a warning from Chinese warships to leave the area.

The U.S. action was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing’s efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters, U.S. officials said.

The Chinese Defense Ministry called the move “illegal” and “provocative,” saying that two Chinese warships had warned the U.S. destroyer to leave.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur challenged “excessive maritime claims” near the Paracel Islands, among a string of islets, reefs and shoals over which China has territorial disputes with its neighbors, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The latest U.S. patrol, first reported by Reuters, is expected to anger Beijing and could further escalate tensions over the South China Sea. The destroyer sailed within waters claimed by China, close to but not within the 12-nautical-mile territorial limits of the islands, the officials said.

The U.S.  shows little sign in backing down, as Chief of U.S. Naval Operations Admiral, John Richardson, said during a trip to China in July this year;

“The U.S. Navy will continue to conduct routine and lawful operations around the world, including in the South China Sea, in order to protect the rights, freedoms and lawful uses of sea and airspace guaranteed to all. This will not change.”

A spokesperson for the incoming Trump Administration, Sean Spicer was equally belligerent (without specifically mentioning China);

“I think it’s putting every nation on notice that the United States is going to reassert its position in the globe.”

Trump himself has made antagonistic and disparaging remarks about China;

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The CNN report continued;

Trump has repeatedly accused China of manipulating its currency to make its exports more competitive on the global market and has claimed that China is “killing” the U.S. on trade.

Sunday marks the first time in this campaign that Trump has used the term “rape” to refer to what he views as China’s dominance in trade with the U.S.

“We’re going to turn it around. And we have the cards, don’t forget it. We’re like the piggy bank that’s being robbed. We have the cards. We have a lot of power with China,” Trump said Sunday before referring to China’s relationship with the U.S. as rape.

Trump added that he is not “angry at China,” but with U.S. leaders whom he accused of being “grossly incompetent.”

Trump previously claimed in 2011 that “China is raping this country” as he toured a defense manufacturer in New Hampshire.

Many considered the  doomed Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement to be designed to contain China;

From its inception, the TPP has been considered by many as a strategic instrument to isolate or contain China. Given the country’s ambitions, its leaders are understandably concerned about the concerted effort by the U.S. and other Asia-Pacific countries to curtail its economic growth and geopolitical influence.

China’s outsider status could also be seen as an indictment of its inadequacies, such as limited intellectual property protection and a lack of government procurement standards. The exclusion of China not only has caused the country to lose face, but has also provided a painful reminder of its continued struggle to gain an equal status in the international community. Finally, the lack of TPP membership will prevent China from enjoying new tariff reduction and preferential market access. If this regional pact is to operate according to design, it will divert trade and manufacturing from China to TPP members.

Our own expert and campaigner, Jane Kelsey, also remarked on the anti-China nature of the TPPA;

“In the past month both US presidential candidates have positioned the TPP at the centre of their strategy to neutralise China’s ascendancy in what they call the ‘Pacific’ region.

New Zealand already faces the prospect of being piggy in the middle, with potentially conflicting rules and foreign policy pressures from agreements with China and the USA.

Tim Groser is kidding himself if he thinks China will sit quietly by and allow us to play both sides. This is a high-risk game and we need to have an honest debate about its long-term implications for the country.”

Note President Obama’s statements over China’s increasing geo-political influence;

“And we believe China can be a partner, but we’re also sending a very clear signal that America is a Pacific power, that we are going to have a presence there.

We are working with countries in the region to make sure, for example, that ships can pass through, that commerce continues.

And we’re organizing trade relations with countries other than China so that China starts feeling more pressure about meeting basic international standards. That’s the kind of leadership we’ve shown in the region. That’s the kind of leadership that we’ll continue to show.

As part of his populist campaigning this year, Trump publicly rejected the TPPA. This left him to devise other options to “contain China”.

The Trump Deal between Russia and US

The new-found rapprochement between Russia and the US could be based on mutual interest. With Trump’s penchant for deal-making, the U.S. and Russia would have much to gain by stitching together a secret deal.

In return for the U.S. gaining Russian support against growing Chinese influence in the South China Sea, Trump would allow Russia a free hand in supporting its ally, Syria (where U.S.  interests are minimal anyway, unlike the Pacific).

This would explain why the U.S. and Russia have been ‘cosying’ up together.

More critically, it answers the perplexing question as to why Russia seems utterly unperturbed at American plans to build up its military. And why the U.S. seems to have stepped back from taking action over Syria.

Nixon went to China.

Trump may be going to Moscow.

Oceania has always been at war with Russia China.

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References

Twitter: Donald J Trump

BBC: US Election 2016 Results – Five reasons Donald Trump won

Wikipedia: Nineteen Eightyfour

CNN: Trump calls for military spending increase

Military Times: Trump’s military will have more troops and more firepower — if he can find more money

Sputnik: Putin Welcomes Trump’s Words of Readiness to Improve Russia-US Relations

RT News: Putin says ‘talented’ Trump is ‘absolute front-runner,’ welcomes pledge to work with Russia

Business Insider: Here’s a look at what Trump and Putin have said about each other

The Independent: Vladimir Putin congratulates US President Donald Trump as Russian leaders celebrate

RT News: ‘So correct’: Trump responds to Putin’s holiday letter

Reuters: Putin shrugs off Trump’s nuclear plans, says Democrats sore losers

ITV News: Trump and Putin both hint at expansion of nuclear arsenal

Ebook: Ninetween Eightyfour

History: 1972 – Nixon arrives in China for talks

CNN: Clinton Proposes Renewing China’s Most-Favored Trade Status

China.org.cn: Chronology of China-US Relations

The Tech: Clinton Grants China MFN, Reversing Campaign Pledge

International Business Times: Could the South China Sea dispute trigger a Sino-US war?

NY Times: Trump Says U.S. Would ‘Outmatch’ Rivals in a New Nuclear Arms Race

CNN: Trump – ‘We can’t continue to allow China to rape our country’

Fortune: How China’s exclusion from the TPP could hurt its economic growth

It’s Our Future: Obama casts TPP as Challenge to China

Washington Times: Inside the Ring – Obama, Romney on China

Previous related blogposts

Taiwan FTA – Confirmation by TVNZ of China pressuring the Beehive?

The Rise of Great Leader Trump

The Sweet’n’Sour Deliciousness of Irony: Russia accused of meddling in US Election

Protestors condemn Russian involvement in atrocities in Aleppo

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 December 2016.

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Protestors condemn Russian involvement in atrocities in Aleppo

24 December 2016 3 comments

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Wellington, NZ, 16 December  – About three dozen people attended a rapidly organised protest outside the Russian Federation’s sprawling  embassy in Messines Rd, Wellington.

The protest was organised  by Syrian Solidarity New Zealand and supported by local members of International Socialist Organisation (ISO). The gathering soon doubled in size from a dozen people to around three dozen;

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Various signs gave a simple message, demanding an end to violence, killings, and support for refugees;

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Some made a pointed link between state-sponsored oppression in Syria and in Gaza;

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Behind an iron barricade, the flag of the Russian Federation fluttered from a pole that, a quarter of a century ago, was adorned with it’s Soviet predecessor;

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Flags may change, but super-power imperialism remains a stubborn constant.

Gayaal was the first speaker to address the protestors;

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Gayaal thanked people for attending the protest in front of what he called sovereign Russian territory;

“We have come here to remind Putin and to remind  the Russian state that even if Aleppo falls, the Syrian revolution will not not be defeated. The people of Aleppo, who have already sacrificed so much heroically to maintain their freedoms, will never be the same.”

He said,

“We are here to send a message from people in New Zealand to the Russian government and to Putin and to al-Assad that the struggle will continue.”

He said the protest was called to show solidarity with the Syrian people in their darkest time in history. He led the protestors in chants that would have been heard throughout the Embassy buildings;

Free Free Syria

Putin Putin you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide

Down Down Assad

Blood blood blood on your hands

The next speaker was “Ani”;

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“We are here because the greatest refugee crisis this generation has ever seen has just got substantially worse… We’ve seen this extreme escalation of what’s happening  in Aleppo, people wanting to evacuate but being held up at the same time by Iranian militias.”

Ani sheeted home blame to Russian adventurism,

“We need to be really clear that this is Russian imperialism that’s  backing up al-Assad.”

Ani said that the US was “actually very marginal to what was happening in Syria”,

“If we want to talk about the US then we can talk about Iraq or Palestine. And we can certainly draw comparisons  between Syria and Palestine. They are a besieged people.  They are a people that are being exterminated  and that extermination is backed up by an empire. But like the Palestinian people the Syrian people are revolutionary, they are fighting back. So even if Aleppo falls, the revolution  will not fall.”

And added,

“We need to stand up with the Syrian people as revolutionaries… we need to stand with the Syrian people who are fighting for their rights.”

Ani said  a collection of donations which would be passed on to the “White Helmets”, a community-based organisation in Syria who, under extreme conditions facing constant bombardment  and gunfire, helped to dig people from the rubble of collapsed buildings.

Ani was followed by Daniel;

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Daniel accused Russian and Syrian government forces of indiscriminate attacks on civilians;

“As we know, Russia and al-Assad’s forces are known to target humanitarian facilities, hospitals, to bombardments so as to make the lives of the people of Aleppo unbearable. This is the largest humanitarian crisis of our lifetime, and possibly one of the greatest refugee crisis.”

Daniel said that a message should be sent to the New Zealand government;

“Refugees are streaming out of Syria, across the world. The West has a responsibility to open it’s doors to these people, having substantially caused the problems of imperialism that are now affecting these people’s lives. So New Zealand has a role to play to allow these refugees to re-settle and live among us here in peace.”

Daniel led a loud chant,

“Refugees are welcome, racists are not!”

Daniel accused (President)  al-Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies of waging unremitting war against the people of Syria, to crush a popular uprising. He read from a a piece written by US socialist, Ashley Smith;

“They subjected Eastern Alleppo to a siege to starve the people and force them to flee.”

Daniel said that from a population of two million people, there were now only a quarter of that number remaining.

“In  the past month, al-Assad’s forces moved in for the kill. Everything from the schools, to hospitals, to homes have been bombed.”

He accused al-Assad’s forces of killing not only so-called “terrorists” but untold numbers of civilians,

“His regime is responsible for the vast majority of the 400,000 of lives lost in the five years of warfare.”

Daniel said that five million refugees had been forced to flee to nearby countries for safety.

He said,

“al-Assad had to take to this kind of barbarism to crush the revolution that began in 2011. It was a popular, pro-democracy uprising. Just as legitimate as the other rebellions against the atrocities throughout the rest of the Middle East and North Africa collectively known as the Arab Spring. Syrians rose up against al-Assad’s dictatorship organising a tide non-sectarian, multi-ethnic demonstrations throughout the country. al-Assad responded to the the uprising by sending his police and military to fire on peaceful protests.”

He said that activists had been hunted down, arrested, and tortured in what he described as “Syria’s vast gulag of prisons”. Gayaal said that the regime’s slogan had been “Either al-Assad or we burn the country”. He said that instead of deterring the revolt, al-Assad’s opponants had been forced to take up arms in self-defence. He said that whole sections of the military had defected to form the Free Syrian Army.

Daniel said that liberated areas of Syria had;

“The popular revolt and armed resistance liberated large areas of the country, where local co-ordination committees and regional local councils were set up to begin to re-elect democratic Syrian society democratically, from below.

Russia, with the aim of protecting itself as an imperial power in the region, deployed it’s air force targeting, not ISIS as it claimed, but Syrian revolutionaries. Indeed, 90% of Russian bombing runs were carried out against targets other than ISIS.”

Daniel pointed to a “bizarre division amongst the Left”,

“Where claiming that everything coming out of the mainstream media, because it’s controlled by the US, must be in the US imperialist’s interest. But instead,  the response to this is to parrot Russian propaganda, al-Assad’s propaganda!”

He said that as soon as the rebellion had started, al-Assad had started claiming that the revolutionaries were puppets and funded by US imperialist interests.

Daniel dismissed that claim and insisted the uprising against al-Assad remained a popular cause.

Daniel also called on the government to increase New Zealand’s refugee quota, saying it remained the lowest in the world per head of capita. He said it was apalling that the number of refugees had been 750 for decades. He was disgusted that Australia, with it’s racist policies toward refugees, still accepted more refugees than New Zealand did.

Daniel concluded by saying,

“So we’re here to day to stand in solidarity with the people of Syria, with Aleppo, to call for a stop to the massacre of people of Aleppo, and to allow refugees free movement out of the country.”

The next speaker was “Karam”;

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Karam thanked people for coming to the protest to stand in solidarity with his country. He said that he was not only Syrian, but came from Aleppo;

“That’s Eastern Aleppo, the part that has fallen recently under attacks from the regime.”

Karam said,

“I do believe we are protesting in front of the right place. Although there are so many other places we need to protest in front. It’s Russia that started in September 2015 bombing civilians and bombing moderate opposition  [rebels] while claiming to be targeting terrorists. While in fact all they have been doing is supporting Assad to stay in power.”

Karam made the point of differentiating the roles played by imperial super powers in Middle East affairs,

“We might be protesting in front of the American embassy, but not for the Syrian issue. Maybe for the Iraqi issue. But for what’s taking place in Syria, it’s Russia. Solely, basically, the one [Russia]  that’s killing civilians and the one that’s supporting a dictator who has been ruling this country for sixteen years, who inherited it from his father, who ruled the country for thirty years!”

He described how Bashir al-Assad had assumed power in Syria, even to the point of the country’s constitution being amended to permit  34 year old al-Assad to become President. The constitution specifically forbade anyone under 40 from assuming that role. That criteria was changed overnight from “40” to “34”. [See also: Bashar Al Assad – Ten years later ]

Karam  was derisory of the gangsters ruling his country calling them “dirty thugs”.

“Shomi” from International Socialist Organisation then addressed the protestors;

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Shomi said that the Russian Embassy had blood on their hands and said;

“This popular  up-rising was that close to actually over-throwing Assad and it was only with the military backing of Russia that prompted Assad to make a comeback. That’s how close the revolutionaries were to actually succeeding in Syria.”

Shomi described the massacres we were seeing today in Aleppo “as an absolute outrage” and condemned the New Zealand government for it’s inaction;

“Here, in Aotearoa, we need to be quite firm in saying that the New Zealand government, whilst they’re quite happy to talk about this in the United Nations forum, have done absolutely nothing to actually  condemn Assad.

I think the New Zealand government has been absolutely atrocious. We need  to be putting the pressure on the government here to be increasing, not doubling, but quadrupling the refugee quota, if that’s that it takes. Because they have  a played a hand in being silent about the massacre that’s been happening Syria.”

Shomi criticised the Left parties for being silent on Syria, saying;

“Where are the Left parties? We’d like to see more condemnation of what is happening Syria. We need to have a huge anti-war movement globally, to show  we  stand in solidarity with the people of Syria!”

Shomi read out graffiti that was left on a wall in Aleppo;

“This is graffiti  as people were being bombed by Assad, by Russia, and by Iran as well. Here is the graffiti that was left;

‘We will return, Aleppo. Our destroyed buildings are witness of our resistance and you criminality!’

And that is why it is so important that we’re standing here outside the Russian. They are war criminals and they have blood on their hands!”

Shomi concluded with another round of loud anti-Assad, anti-Russian chants.

Phil was the last speaker to address the protest;

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Phil said he was  a member of  the NZ Labour Party, and said that this demonstration  would have “huge support from the public in general”. He said that his daughter had been collecting for UNICEF for Syria and the public had expressed their support for the Syrian peoples’ struggle. He pointed out that more people would have attended the protest, had it not been called at such short notice.

Phil referred to the Arab Spring coming to “some fruition” in five countries in the Middle East and said that it”can’t simply be attributed to terrorists”.

He said it was a “huge lie to describe the opposition to Bashir al-Assad as simply terrorist opposition”.

The protest concluded with loud chants;

“Russia out of Syria!”

Toward the end of the protest, a lone policeman arrived in a police stationwagon to talk with ISO organisers,

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There was a short, amiable conversation with “Ani”, who assured the constable that the protest was peaceful. The constable’s main concern that the driveway remain clear should vehicles passing through the Embassy gates;

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As with previous protests, it was regrettable that the constable was seen to be carrying a weapon – a yellow taser;

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The presence of the policeman was fortunate, as one of the protesters collapsed through sudden ill-health. He assessed the situation, and it was decided that a friend would drive the woman directly to hospital rather than wait for an ambulance.

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Note1: Thanks to Daniel for follow-up information. (Some corrections to factual errors have been made on 20 December 2016)
Note2: Vehicle license plates and the face of one person who declined consent to be photographed, have been obscured.
Note3: Certain names have been changed to protect people from potential repercussions.

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References

Socialist Worker: The counterrevolution crushes Aleppo

Al Arabiya: Bashar Al Assad – Ten years later

Additional

Facebook: Syrian Solidarity New Zealand

Facebook: International Socialist Organisation, NZ

Facebook: Fightback – Aotearoa/NZ

Other Blogs & media

The Wireless: ‘Tomorrow, I am going to leave my homeland’

Green blog: The Atrocity of Syria – What to do?

The Daily Blog: The war machine rolls on while children beg for blankets

Redline: Syria – regime change from above or revolution from below?

Previous related blogposts

Citizens march against TPPA in Wellington: Did Police hide tasers at TPPA march?

Dear Michael Cullen: the GCSB is not International Rescue!

What do Hungary and New Zealand have in common?

Media stories of the Week: ISIS revealed by Middle East expert

Coming soon: A terror alert near you!

Copyright (c) Notice

All images stamped ‘fmacskasy.wordpress.com’ are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

» Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
» Where purpose of use is commercial, a donation to the Syrian White Helmets relief org or  Child Poverty Action Group is requested.
» At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
» Acknowledgement of source is requested.

 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 19 December 2016.

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