7 April 2017 – A Day of Infamy
Along with 7.5 billion other humans on this planet, I was dumbfounded when the newsflash came over Radio New Zealand that the US had launched cruise missiles against Syria, nearly obliterating a military airfield at Shayrat airbase;
Only an hour and a half earlier, Trump has been “considering retaliatory action” over the Syrian government’s alleged use of sarin gas at Khan Shaykhun, in the Idlib Governorate.
That was fast work. A cynic might suggest that the attack had been planned well in advance.
Despite my many reservations about Trump’s fitness to be the leader of the most powerful nation on the planet; despite his gullibility in listening to dubious “news” sources; despite his slavishness toward Israel; despite his racist diatribes against ethnic groups; despite his stated intention to squander billions on the military; despite gagging aspects of family planning services; and despite his covert right-wing agenda to pare-back healthcare, environmental protections, and slash critical government services for the poor – there was one thing about him that stuck in my mind. His willingness to “do deals” to overcome problems;
Trump made no discernible attempt to deal with the Russians – Syria’s main sponsor – to determine who had launched the poison gas attack on Khan Shaykhun. There was no “deal making” in evidence as Trump gave the order to unleash the destructive firepower of 59 American ‘Tomahawk’ cruise missiles.
In fact, Trump’s decision to attack Shayrat airbase contradicts his own warning from 12 November last year when he cautioned;
“…if the US attacks Assad, “we end up fighting Russia, fighting Syria.”
So it is hardly surprising that Australian Green Party senator, Scott Ludlum, spoke for many when he admonished Trump’s cowboy adventurism;
“The horror of the chemical weapons attack in Syria this week requires a credible, independent investigation, not a random barrage of missiles ordered by a clueless President.”
It’s OK when our ‘side’ does it
Despite a previous poison gas attack in Ghouta, Syria in 2013 – for which the Assad regime was implicated, but not proven – there is little actual firm evidence that the Syrian government was responsible for the gassing at Khan Sheikhoun on 7 April. Whilst it is known that Syria does (or did) indeed posses sarin gas – so does Israel. (Though Israel has signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, to date it has not ratified it.)
It is, however, not unknown for middle east despots to use poison gas to suppress rebel groups, as Saddam Hussein did in March, 1988, in Halabja. Saddam’s target at the time were Kurdish rebels fighting for independence. Some 6,800 men, women, and children were killed outright, and estimates put the eventual civilian death toll at 12,000.
Iraq used poison gas in it’s war with Iran without sanction. The West continued to support Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime despite the use of chemical weapons against Iraqi villages as well as Iranian combatants;
In 1988, during the waning days of Iraq’s war with Iran, the United States learned through satellite imagery that Iran was about to gain a major strategic advantage by exploiting a hole in Iraqi defenses. U.S. intelligence officials conveyed the location of the Iranian troops to Iraq, fully aware that Hussein’s military would attack with chemical weapons, including sarin, a lethal nerve agent.
Means, Motive, and Opportunity
When considering a crime and it’s possible perpetrator(s), law enforcement officials take into account motive, means, and opportunity. The Assad regime certainly has two of the criteria: means and opportunity.
Fellow blogger and political commentator, Chris Trotter, recently questioned what would motivate Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad to launch an attack using banned weapons that would earn near-universal condemnation from the international community – and possibly embarrass and alienate critical support from Moscow. Chris asked;
… “Why would Assad do such a thing?” Syria was en route to a new round of peace talks. More importantly, she was about to enter negotiations in which the usual American, British and French demands that “Assad must go!” were to be, for the first time since the Syrian Civil War broke out in earnest, quietly put to one side. Having won the war on the ground, the Assad regime was on the brink of clearing away its enemies’ unrealistic preconditions. Finally, a serious conversation about Syria’s future could begin.
And yet, we are being invited to believe that, with all this at stake, President Assad ordered the use of Sarin gas on his own citizens. Somehow, instigating a reprehensible war crime against women and children was going to strengthen his moral authority. Somehow, by revolting the entire world, he would improve his chances of being accepted as Syria’s legitimate ruler. Somehow, by embarrassing the Russian Federation, his country’s most valuable military ally, he would enhance Syria’s national security. The whole notion is absurd.
Did Assad believe that he could get away with it? Did he feel that Russia’s success in East Ukraine and Crimea, and the West’s unwillingness to challenge Moscow’s flexing of its “hard power” gave him free license to use whatever means he had at his disposal? Did Assad feel emboldened at Trump’s “close relationship” with Russia’s President Putin?
But why chemical weapons, which, in this case resulted in no appreciable military gains for Assad’s military? Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a chemical weapons adviser to NGOs (and former commanding officer of the UK Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Regiment and NATO’s Rapid Reaction CBRN Battalion) offered one possible rationale;
The fear of chemical weapons is the real terror of war. Less than 0.5 percent of casualties during World War I were attributed to chemical weapons, yet the Great War has become synonymous with their use. The current conflict in Syria and Iraq depicts a similar picture.
ISIL employs a morbidly brilliant psychological warfare, and chemical weapons are the ultimate psychological weapon against all their enemies.
It would seem unlikely to engage in such a risky gamble. Especially for such little military advantage. It would be a colossal mis-judgement on Assad’s part if he thought that reliance on Western inertia and Trump’s isolationistic worldview would pay off.
According to Russian government-aligned RT News, Syria’s Foreign Minister, Walid Muallem;
…denied claims that the military used chemical weapons in the western city of Idlib. Speaking at a news conference on Thursday, Muallem said an airstrike by Syrian military had targeted an arms depot where chemical weapons stockpiles were stored by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and Al-Nusra Front militants.
He said it’s impossible that the army – which has been making significant gains in almost all theaters of the Syrian war – would use banned chemical weapons against its “own people” and even terrorists.
The lack of clear motive on Assad’s part raises real doubt as to who launched the gas attack on Khan Shaykhun.
If not Assad, who?
There have been suggestions that rebel groups operating in Syria to overthrow Assad’s regime launched the gas attack as a ‘false flag’ operation to draw the U.S. into the conflict.
I have doubts on this.
Until Trump’s ascendancy to the White House, the United States has been reluctant to supply Syrian rebels – including the Free Syrian Army – for fear they could end up in the wrong hands;
In theory, the embargo aims to prevent anti-aircraft weapons getting into the hands of terrorists who might down civilian planes. Yet such weapons exist on the black market; since the US has gone out of its way to prevent the FSA from getting any – even from there – the weapons that do get snapped up end up in the hands of anyone but the FSA.
Even anti-tank weaponry supplied to certain rebel groups was closely monitored;
While warplanes and helicopters had replaced tanks as the main form of regime slaughter by mid-2012, this US embargo blocked not only anti-aircraft but also anti-tank weaponry. Thus only small arms and ammunition were allowed, in the face of a massively armed regime continually supplied by Russia and Iran.
US pressure is clear: Only “vetted” groups get TOW [anti-tank] missiles, sometimes only three or four at a time, they have to apply for them for specific operations, and they have to return the shells to make a claim for more. Even favoured groups soon found supplies dwindling, and the program diminished by late 2014.
By December 2016, after Trump’s inauguration, the US government softened it’s policy forbidding anti-aircraft weaponry being sold to Syrian rebels;
The House voted for the first time today to explicitly authorize the incoming Donald Trump administration to arm vetted Syrian rebels with anti-aircraft missiles.
While the language in the annual defense bill also creates restrictions on the provision of the controversial weapons, it represents a win for Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., a fervent advocate of helping the rebels resist President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies.[…]
Trump was outspoken about his reluctance to get dragged into the Syrian civil war throughout the presidential campaign. He has since picked hawkish advisers and candidates for Cabinet positions, including retired Marine Gen. James Mattis as secretary of defense.
Mattis is well known in military and foreign policy circles for his aggressive determination to take on America’s foes, notably Iran, including in Syria and Iraq.[…]
The new provision “would require the secretary of defense and secretary of state to notify the congressional defense committees, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee should a determination be made to provide MANPADs to elements of the appropriately vetted Syrian opposition,” according to the explanatory statement accompanying the compromise bill. “The conferees expect that should such a determination be made, the requirement for the provision of such a capability and the decision to provide it would be thoroughly vetted by and receive broad support from the interagency”.
At least one US lawmaker realised the lethal consequences of allowing anti-aircraft missiles into rebel hands. Representative John Conyers (Dem-Michigan) warned;
“I am disappointed that the House of Representatives’ explicit prohibition on the transfer of these dangerous weapons into Syria was reversed — behind closed doors — by the conference committee. This brazen act shows that some in Congress still hope to further escalate the civil war in Syria. Sending these weapons would only prolong this horrific conflict — and endanger civilian airliners across the region, including in Israel.”
Writing for the Huffington Post,
“Somehow, the Americans found out and our purchase was blocked.”
To date, use of anti-aircraft weaponry by rebels forces has been minimal.
If the US was wary of handing over anti-tank and anti-aircraft weaponry to Syrian rebel groups – from where they could disperse to who-knows-where – it is hard to believe that even more deadly weapons such as poison gas would be permitted into rebel hands.
If anti-aircraft missiles could be used by ISIS operatives to bring down civilian passenger jets – imagine those same operatives with poison gas in subways in New York, London, Paris, Moscow.
And remember the comment made by Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, above;
“The fear of chemical weapons is the real terror of war… chemical weapons are the ultimate psychological weapon against all their enemies.”
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.
Clinton – Not helping!
Hillary Clinton’s remarks on the Syrian regimes alleged poison gas attack on Khan Shaykhun do her no favours;
“Assad has an air force, and that air force is the cause of most of these civilian deaths as we have seen over the years and as we saw again in the last few days. And I really believe that we should have and still should take out his air fields and prevent him from being able to use them to bomb innocent people and drop sarin gas on them.
I still believe we should have done a no-fly zone. We should have been more willing to confront Assad.”
Her strident jingoism confirms her critic’s description of her as a warmonger.
We can excuse Trump’s political inexperience, naivete, and unsophisticated view of the world around him. This is a man who gets his “news” from the Republican Party-mouthpiece, Fox News, or the far-right Brietbart website. His political development appears arrested and not to far from that of an adolescent.
Trump may blunder into WWIII but a President Hillary Clinton would apparently have egged it on. With decades of political experience behind her, Clinton should know better. She has no excuse for her simplistic jingoism.
She should also have deeper insights into Middle East politics than this. Her willingness to perpetuate the Syria-Is-Guilty narrative cannot be excused as easily as Trump’s stupidity.
Which means she is manipulating current events for her own agenda.
With the planet edging closer to WWIII, whatever ‘game’ she is playing is a dangerous one.
World War III – Are we there yet?
Moscow’s unofficial mouthpiece, RT News, relayed a chilling message to Washington’s power-establishment (not Trump) to ‘back off’. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned that the illegal missile attack the Syrian airfield was putting the US “on the verge of a military clash” with Russia.
Not since the Cuban missile Crisis in October 1962 have the two nuclear-armed super-powers faced off, bringing the planet to the verge of atomic annihilation.
At that time, the Cold Warriors of the former USSR and USA still remembered the destruction caused by WWII. The Soviets, in particular, understood what Total War meant.
Alarmingly, though Putin has some understanding of military service, Trump has never served in the armed forces. Trump’s understanding of war most likely comes from brief news clips and popular entertainment from Hollywood;
Hopefully someone in his national security council is advising Trump that real war is not like ‘The Green Berets’ or ‘Hogan’s Heroes‘.
Sanders – the voice of calm sanity from a President the Americans never had
Former Democrat-candidate, Bernie Sanders, apparently accepts the official Washington narrative that the gas attack on Khan Shaykhun was orchestrated and executed by Assad’s military;
Though hours later he issued a statement highly critical of of Trump’s unilateral use of military force against Syria. In a statement, later that day, Sanders said;
In a world of vicious dictators, Syria’s Bashar Assad tops the list as a dictator who has killed hundreds of thousands of his own citizens to protect his own power and wealth. His regime’s use of chemical weapons against the men, women and children of his country, in violation of all international conventions and moral standards, makes him a war criminal.
As the most powerful nation on earth, the United States must work with the international community to bring peace and stability to Syria, where over 400,000 people have been killed and over 6 million displaced. The horror of Syria’s civil war is almost unimaginable.
If there’s anything we should’ve learned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in which the lives of thousands of brave American men and women and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan civilians have been lost and trillions of dollars spent, it’s that it’s easier to get into a war than get out of one. I’m deeply concerned that these strikes could lead to the United States once again being dragged back into the quagmire of long-term military engagement in the Middle East. If the last 15 years have shown anything, it’s that such engagements are disastrous for American security, for the American economy and for the American people.
The Trump administration must explain to the American people exactly what this military escalation in Syria is intended to achieve, and how it fits into the broader goal of a political solution, which is the only way Syria’s devastating civil war ends. Congress has a responsibility to weigh in on these issues. As the Constitution requires, the president must come to Congress to authorize any further use of force against the Assad regime.
Further, the US must work with all parties to reinforce longstanding international norms against the use of chemical weapons, to hold Russia and Syria to the 2013 deal to destroy these weapons and to see that violators are made accountable.
There appears to be mixed-messaging from Sanders on this issue.
The only positive from Sanders is that he would (apparently) “work with all parties to reinforce longstanding international norms against the use of chemical weapons“. Though naming Syria and Russia in the same breath ignores the reality that these weapons still exist in American stockpiles and Israel has refused to ratify treaties to eliminate them.
However, anything that pulls Moscow and Washington back from the brink of the abyss of WWIII must be viewed positively. At this point, Sanders appears less insanely unstable than Trump, and certainly less insanely hawkish than Clinton.
By the way, Mr Trump…
Israel also possesses atomic bombs – which seems not to concern Washington one bit. It would not be an over-statement to point out that detonating an atomic weapon over the Middle East would set the planet on fire.
New Zealand’s Response to an Illegal Attack
Hours after the US attack, Bill English responded by explaining;
“We’ve seen the atrocities with the use of chemical weapons … We support action that is proportionate to the requirement to stop further atrocities.”
Which raises four questions and an observation;
#1 How can bombing a Syrian government airbase “stop further atrocities” when it has not been clearly established who was responsible for the gas attack on Khan Shaykhun? Is that not “jumping the gun” (excuse the inappropriate metaphor) before guilt/innocence is proven?
#2 Considering that English refuses point-blank to initiate a Commission of Inquiry into a 2010 SAS raid in the Tirgiran Valley, in Afghanistan – despite a former Minister of Defence confirming that there were civilian casualities – is the National government in a moral position to endorse a potentially illegal bombing of Shayrat airbase?
#3 There is no firm evidence that the Assad regime is guilty of using poison gas on Khan Shaykhun – why has English rushed to judgement and pre-determined guilt?
#4 There is evidence that the SAS may have committed war crimes in 2010 in the Tirgiran Valley – why has English rushed to judgement and pre-determined innocence?
#5 English’s “moral compass” is highly dubious, to put it politely.
Chaos in Trump’s Administration?!
Washington’s renewed appetite for military adventurism in the Middle East (which, by the way, rarely ends well) has cloaked two recent events that the White House wanted off the nation’s front pages and lead-bulletins.
Arch far-right activist, Steve Bannon has been quietly removed from Trump’s National Security Council a day before the missile strike on Shayrat airbase. According to a New York Times report;
…White House officials said, the ideologist who enjoyed the president’s confidence became increasingly embattled as other advisers, including Mr. Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, complained about setbacks on health care and immigration. Lately, Mr. Bannon has been conspicuously absent from some meetings. And now he has lost his seat at the national security table.
In a move that was widely seen as a sign of changing fortunes, Mr. Trump removed Mr. Bannon, his chief strategist, from the National Security Council’s cabinet-level “principals committee” on Wednesday. The shift was orchestrated by Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, who insisted on purging a political adviser from the Situation Room where decisions about war and peace are made.
Bannon, though, was not taking his removal from the NSC quiety, threatening to resign if his removal went ahead.
But Bannon will still be present at certain meetings, on an “ad hoc”* basis, according to this report;
“He is off the memo as a member of the principals committee,” said the source familiar with Wednesday’s meeting, “but the president or McMaster can invite him to attend at any time.”
Asked why Bannon attended a meeting on the same day his departure was being announced, the source said, “He is one of the president’s closest and most trusted advisors.”
Asked whether Bannon would continue to regularly attend NSC meetings, the source said, “I don’t know. It’s going to be ad hoc, I think.”
(* Ad Hoccery appears to be the defining basis upon which the Trump Administration is predicated.)
One does not have to be political scientist to realise that a power struggle is taking place in the White House – a struggle for ascendancy over a President who appears easily influenced.
On the day of the attack on Shayrat airbase, Bannon (circled in red) was present at the National Security Council meeting held at Trump’s ad hoc “Situation Room” at his private resort at Mar-a-Lago in Florida;
Another event which has slipped well under the political radar is the “voluntary temporarily stepping down” (aka, removal) of Devin Nunes (Republican-Tulare), from the House Intelligence Committee. Nunes is (was?) Committee Chairperson until it was discovered that he had inappropriately leaked information obtained from the White House regarding an investigation into possible collusion with Russia by Trump associates during last year’s election campaign;
In short, the new chronology is this: White House officials leaked intelligence information to Nunes, who then announced them last Wednesday as fresh revelations, saying that he had received them from an unnamed source and that the White House was unaware. Nunes then made a show of going to the White House to brief President Trump on revelations that had come from his staff in the first place. The administration finally used the information to claim vindication on its still-evidence-free claims that President Obama surveilled then-candidate Trump.
Nunes blamed unnamed “left-wing activists” for his “voluntary stepping down”.
Devin Nunes is the second (third? I’ve lost count) casualty from Trump’s erratic presidency, following on from the resignation (not “voluntarily temporarily stepping down”) of national security adviser Michael Flynn on 13 February.
Hey! Look over there!
If ever Trump needed a diversion to deflect public attention away from ongoing turmoil in his Administration, what better than a spectacular show of American military muscle in a country he had previously said the US had no interest in intervening;
Of course, Trump gave his explanation for changing his mind;
“ Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”
“When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, little babies… that crosses… many lines.”
Laudible and noble. What righteous person doesn’t love children?
Everyone, of course. Everyone except the vile villains who launched the gas attack on Khan Shaykhun (whoever they might be). And this person;
One man said he lived in Greenwich, Connecticut, where [Donald] Trump has a home, and there were plans to relocate Syrian refugee families there.
He asked Mr Trump if he could “look children aged five, eight, ten, in the face and tell them they can’t go to school here”.
Mr Trump did not hesitate and said he could, which brought applause from the crowd.
He said: “I can look in their faces and say ‘You can’t come’. I’ll look them in the face.”
It is a shame that Mr Trump wasn’t considering “beautiful babies” and “children of God” during his election campaign last year.
Even Breibart ‘News‘ reported Trump’s comments.
Meanwhile, Breibart ‘News’ has been an ongoing cheerleader supporting military action against the Assad regime, in 2012, as well as more recently. On both occasions, unsubstantiated allegations of Assad using poison gas against civilians and rebels was reported as ‘facts’ by Breitbart;
Rebel forces in Syria report that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is now using chemical weapons on them. Moreover, intelligence operatives from the West have confirmed those reports as well. But there has yet to be a peep out of the Obama administration over it.
The strike was aimed at deterring another chemical weapons attack by the regime.
This is the same far-right Breitbart ‘News’ where Steve Bannon – Trump’s current Chief Strategist – once held the position as Executive Chairperson.
Profitting from the attack on Syria
The PAC which raised money for Trump’s election campaign last year has capitalised on the attack on Shayrat airbase. As reported on the ‘Daily Beast‘ and elsewhere;
President Trump ordered a military strike on Syria Thursday night in response to a recent chemical attack. By Friday afternoon, a supportive PAC was fundraising off of the strike.
“Last night, President Trump ordered military action against Syria in response to their chemical weapons attack,” an email from the Great America PAC, first flagged by Dave Levinthal at the Center for Public Integrity, read.
“59 United States tomahawk missiles destroyed the airfield used to store Syria’s toxic weapons and aircraft involved in the Sarin gas attack.
What are your thoughts?”
The message asks respondents to vote on whether they approve of the strike and subsequently includes a request for money. The email was signed by Ed Rollins, currently the national co-chair of the PAC who joined the group in May of 2016.
In case the wording on the second image is too difficult to read, it says;
Thank you for your vote. President Trump sent a message to the world by striking Syria. Help us support our Commander-in-Chief by making a special contribution below.
It should come as no surprise. There has always been money to be made from war, especially in the American Empire where industries such as Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Bell Helicopter Textron, and many others have made billions in profits making weapons for the US military.
But it must be a novelty (or new low, depending on which way your moral compass is pointing) that a political fund-raising organisation has exploited death and destruction to raise cash for their candidate/office-holder. Especially when that death and destruction may be predicated on a lie.
This must give even the most ardent Trump supporter pause for thought.
Infowars Turns on Trump
…And at least one previous Trumpista has indeed paused, thought, and turned his back on the Orange One.
Although this may be fake news/false flag/deception/deep-state conspiracy and the real Paul Watson is safe aboard the Mothership, along with JFK, Trotsky, Elvis, and Doris Day.
Israel – the Red Flag to Middle East Bulls
Israel has voiced it’s support for the US attack. As reported in the Jerusalem Post, Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu – himself no stranger to aggression against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank – congratulated the US for it’s missile attack on Shayrat airbase;
“Israel supports the recent US missile attack in Syria because it is morally right and because it makes clear there is price for the use of chemical weapon. We are doing this because of moral reasons in light of the difficult images from Idlib, and also so that it will be clear that there is a price for the use of chemical weapons.”
Israel has also violated Syrian airspace to attack and destroy so-called terrorist groups such as Hezbollah. In March this year, Netanyahu stated;
“When we identify attempts to transfer advanced weapons to Hezbollah and we have intelligence and it is operationally feasible, we act to prevent it. That’s how it was yesterday and that’s how we shall continue to act.”
Days later Netanyahu revealed that he had told Russian President Vladimir Putin point blank;
“We attack if we have information and the operational feasibility. This will continue.”
Israel’s arrogant sense of entitlement extends it’s military operations from Gaza and the West Bank to another sovereign state – Syria.
Syria, predictably has exercised it’s legal right to attempt to shoot down Israeli warplanes that crossed into it’s airspace. Just as Turkey exercised it’s right to shoot down a Russian warplane that crossed into Turkish airspace in November 2015;
Vladimir Putin has called Turkey “accomplices of terrorists” and warned of “serious consequences” after a Turkish F-16 jet shot down a Russian warplane on Tuesday morning, the first time a Nato country and Moscow have been involved in direct fire over the crisis in Syria.
The Russian president, speaking before a meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan in Sochi, said the plane had been shot down over Syrian airspace and fell 4km inside Syria. Putin said it was “obvious” the plane posed no threat to Turkey.
The Syrian conflict is a quagmire with multiple players – both state and various armed factions.
The complexity of the conflict – coupled with information that may or may not be true – creates a potential powder-keg. In some ways, I am reminded of Europe, in 1914; an interwoven web of imperial powers jostling for supremacy; strategic alliances; revolutionary groups; unstable monarchies; and ethnic tensions.
The drums of war are beating, and they are getting louder. This time, we may have to rely on the stability of the Russian leadership to deliver us from another Sarajevo, 1914.
That stability appears dangerously lacking in Washington right now.
Postscript – The Curious Case of Peter Thiel
Writing for Mediaworks, veteran journalist and media-host, Mark Sainsbury, had this to say in February of this year;
Citizenship rightly should be prized and earned. It is not a commodity to be traded.
Which brings us to the curious case of Peter Thiel, the controversial American billionaire whose “exceptional circumstances” somehow allowed him to become a citizen of this fine country.
He apparently had a strong desire to be a citizen of a country he hardly visited – certainly not enough to qualify for an application in normal circumstances.
So was it the fact that citizenship enabled him to bypass the Overseas Investment Office’s scrutiny when he bought his Wanaka property? You’d have to say given all his amazing qualities, that shouldn’t have been a problem anyway.
I listened to Xero boss Rod Dury – a strong supporter of Mr Thiel’s application – not surprising given Mr Thiel made a significant investment in Xero. Mr Drury accepted that many successful people like Peter Thiel want a bolt hole in case it all goes pear-shaped in the Northern Hemisphere. And if you could afford it, why wouldn’t you?
But is that what it really comes down to? That we are a convenience, a Hobbit-themed panic room for the super rich?
Let’s just call it for what it is: We are a haven for sale.
The great irony, of course, is that any implosion in the Northern Hemisphere could likely be triggered by another of his influential friends; the man he backed for the US presidency: Donald J Trump.
Perhaps Mr Thiel knew something we didn’t?
Radio NZ: Midday News for 7 April 2017
Wikipedia: Khan Shaykhun
Wikipedia: Sarin Gas
Twitter: Donald Trump – Deals – 21 May 2015
Sydney Morning Herald: Malcolm Turnbull ‘knew in advance’ of US strike on Syria, called for a ‘strong response’
New York Times: Halabja – America didn’t seem to mind poison gas
Al Jazeera: Remembering Halabja chemical attack
Al Jazeera: Remembering Halabja chemical attack
The New Arab: Anti-aircraft missiles could be a game-changer in Syria
The Guardian: UK link to Serb poison gas
Radio NZ: NZ told in advance about US Syria strike
New York Times: Trump Removes Stephen Bannon From National Security Council Post
Los Angeles Times: Devin Nunes says he’s temporarily stepping aside from Russia probe
The Atlantic: The Call Was Coming From Inside the White House
Breitbart ‘News’: Obama Yawns As Syria Uses Chemical Weapons, Crosses ‘Red Line’
Wikipedia: Steve Bannon
Great America PAC: Home page
The Daily Beast: Pro-Trump PAC Raising Money Off Syria Strikes
Wikipedia: List of United States defense contractors
Wikipedia: Paul Watson
Jerusalem Post: Netanyahu – Israel backs US attack on Syria on ‘moral’ basis
The Boston Globe: Trump and the Doomsday Clock
Previous related blogposts
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 10April 2017.
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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;
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;
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.
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;
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;
“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…”
“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.
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;
“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.”
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.
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.”
“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;
“ 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;
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;
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.
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.
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.
The White House: Statement by National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn on Iran
The Jerusalem Post: Trump’s UN envoy – Israel will ‘never again’ question US support
Taipei Times: Tsai-Trump telephone call scheduled
Wikipedia: Steve Bannon
The Huffington Post: Steve Bannon Believes The Apocalypse Is Coming And War Is Inevitable
Sydney Morning Herald: US raid on al-Qaeda compound in Yemen Donald Trump’s first military engagement as president
The White House Archives: Vice President Biden Announces Dr. Colin Kahl as New National Security Advisor
Wikipedia: Yalta Conference
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
Fox News: Trump unveils plan to boost US military
Bowalley Road: Political Paradoxes
Brian Edwards: Profile of Leader of the Free World
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: the start of the peel
No Right Turn: Outright corruption in the US
The Standard: New Zealand Second?
The Standard: Postcards from the Trumpocalypse
Previous related blogposts
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 13 February 2017.
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Every so often, the mainstream news media do their job well, and little nuggets of insights are revealed…
An interview on Radio NZ on 27 November with Damascus-based Syrian historian, political analyst, and journalist, Sami Moubayed gives valuable information on the origins and rise of ISIS.
Rather unsurprisingly, the genesis of ISIS lay with the US invasion of Iraq in 2003;
This is the background story that is too complex for our nightly TV “News” broadcasts and only a dedicated current affairs broadcaster can allocate the necessary time to analyse the issue.
In fact, the TV News broadcasts, being constrained by micro-brief sound bites and superficial, five-minute formats achieve nothing except reinforce myths, confusion, fear, and the official government party line of “evil Islamic fanatics”.
Once upon a time, TVNZ and TV3 used to air documentary specials such as Bryan Bruce’s Inside Child Poverty (2011) or John Pilger’s The New Rulers of the World (early 2000s?). Now, we get a nightly diet of brutal crime “dramas”; inane US sitcoms; and “reality television” (The Block, X Factor, Highway Cops, Masterchef, The GC, et al) which actually are as far removed from our real world as is Disneyland.
The sugary diet we consume in the West is not confined to beverages and processed foods – it is in our nightly TV viewing. The “empty calories” of junk TV is as unhealthy for our minds, as soft drinks and many breakfast “cereals” is for our bodies.
Now listen to Kathryn Ryan talk with Sami Moubayed.
TV3/Bryan Bruce: Inside Poverty Poverty
John Pilger: The New Rulers of the World
Previous related blogposts
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 30 November 2015.
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What do Hungary and New Zealand have in common? Besides having flags that are easily confused with other country’s…
The answer; both are currently governed by right-wing parties, and both are guilty of inhumane, uncivilised obstructionist policies toward Syrian refugees in desperate need of re-settlement.
In New Zealand, the government consists of National and it’s parasitic satellite-party ACT, with support from Peter Dunne and the Maori Party.
In Hungary, the government consists of a large Muldoonist-style conservative party, Fidesz (pronounced “Fee-dec” – as in ‘school decile’), and it’s parasitic satellite-party, the Christian Democratic People’s Party.
Both have adopted policies of bloody-minded stubborness refusing to assist refugees;
I don’t know which is worse; the xenophobe, or the fool who attempts top justify his inaction by pointing to others;
“There are quite a few countries that don’t take refugees.”
His rationale for not increasing our efforts to held Syrian refugees (they are not migrants!) is both gutless and nonsensical.
What is it about the Right that, when faced with a humanitarian crisis, they turn their backs and look the other way? From whence does such cowardice spring?
“The gap between aspiration and delivery is all too apparent, as the situation in Syria has again so brutally reminded us.
But any failures of this institution are less failures of the Organisation than they are failures of us, its Member States, and those who have the responsibility of leading those states.
There would be no dreadful humanitarian situation in Syria if Syria’s leaders had upheld the commitments made to the international community and to the Syrian people when Syria joined this organisation and ratified the Human Rights Covenants.
This Organisation would not also have been a powerless bystander to the Syrian tragedy for over two years if the lack of agreement among the Security Council’s Permanent Members had not shielded the Assad regime – thereby re-confirming the fears of New Zealand and others who had opposed the veto at the original San Francisco conference in 1945.
New Zealand is pleased that the Security Council has at last met on the situation in Syria.” – John Key, 27 September 2013
It is not the UN Security Council that is now the “powerless bystander to the Syrian tragedy” – it is John Key and his morally-challenged government.
After all, if the British government had not taken in one particular female Jewish refugee in 1939, after fleeing the Nazi take-over of Austria, our Prime Minister would never have existed.
It appears that Key is now displaying the same callous indifference to Syrian refugees that he has exhibited to tenants of State houses and social welfare beneficiaries – despite the fact that his grandmother was a refugee and his mother a beneficiary of this country’s once-generous state housing and welfare system.
It defies comprehension that a human being who owes his very existence to the compassion of others – now turns his back on those who need his help. John Key may have found wealth and power in his journey through life. But it appears he has also lost something along the way.
Meanwhile, there are those willing to lend a hand when others are in need;
Wikipedia: Christian Democratic People’s Party
Radio NZ: PM cold on upping refugee quota
Fairfax media: They’re not migrants, double the refugee quota now
Beehive.govt.nz: New Zealand’s Statement to the UNGA General Debate
No Right Turn: Raise the quota
The Dim Post: Nothing will come of nothing
Imperator Fish: Keep your dead children off our beaches!
The Pundit: Guts, guts, got no guts
The Standard: “Get some Guts!”
The Standard: How much does New Zealand spend on refugees?
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 4 September 2015.
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John Key yesterday ( 10 February) admitted that his government had unilaterally cancelled the passports of “a small group” of New Zealanders, fighting alongside anti- al-Assad forces in Syria. According to Key, others have had their passports cancelled so as to prevent them reaching Syria.
Key’s actions raise several questions.
Firstly. Cancelling a New Zealander’s passport essentially renders that person stateless; unable to travel; unable to return home; and liable to arrest. Such a move leaves New Zealanders in an untenable position.
Secondly, it may also be illegal.
Unilaterally cancelling a New Zealander’s pass, without that person being convicted in a Court of Law, deprives that person of the right to travel. A citizen’s right to travel is a basic human right and up to now, only authoritarian governments have controlled such movements.
John Key has effectively lined up with the likes of North Korea and the former Soviet-bloc, in controlling the movements of New Zealanders who have broken no law, and been convicted of no offence.
Thirdly, John Key justifies his actions by stating,
“They obviously don’t put their hand up and say they’re going to be freedom fighters in Syria when they leave. They present a different set of reasons why they might be leaving the country. We have the capacity to cancel a passport if we believe somebody is going into a war zone, for instance, to fight in a way we don’t think is sensible.”
How patronising of our esteemed Prime Minister that he has taken it upon himself to determine whether or not “somebody is going into a war zone, for instance, to fight in a way we don’t think is sensible“.
Considering that – up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 – successive New Zealand governments have not hesitated to committing New Zealand troops into war-zones, it it a bit late in the day for a Prime Minister to be worrying about “somebody going into a war zone to fight in a way we don’t think is a sensible step for them”. Tell that to the 18,500 troops killed in World War One; 12,000 killed in World War Two; 33 in the Korean War; 37 in Vietnam, and others since then.
Fourthly, the sheer hypocrisy of Key’s actions and comments defy belief. Not once has he, nor his predecessors, commented on those New Zealanders who have join and actively served on foreign armies.
Such as New Zealanders serving in the Australian Army;
Note the comment in the above story,
“The NZ Defence Force, meanwhile, confirmed yesterday that it employs a similar “lateral recruitment” process to attract soldiers from around the world. A spokesman said it was “fairly standard practice” for international armies to trade staff…”
And New Zealanders serving in the British Army;
The above story also refers to other New Zealanders serving in other armies,
“He is the fifth New Zealand-born soldier to die in action in Afghanistan.
Two were serving with Australian forces, one with US, and one with New Zealand troops.”
Plus New Zealanders joining the Israeli Army;
Or the curious case of Tony Resnick, who departed New Zealand under a cloud, and ended up in the Israeli Army.
So there is nothing particularly unusual about New Zealanders taking it upon themselves to enlist in the armies of other nations. Quite a few even end up on battlefields where some are killed
Has John Key ever cancelled their passports?
Is Key also worried about New Zealanders returning from foreign Army involvement?
“From time to time, we need to track the activities of New Zealanders, we need to be sure of their whereabouts and we certainly need to be clear that if they return to New Zealand, whether they pose a threat to other New Zealanders if they have become radicalised.”
Key has also been reluctant to disclose how many New Zealanders have been affected by this potentially illegal decision. He said “a small group“.
Ali Akil, of Syrian Solidarity New Zealand, has said in a NZ Herald story that he was aware of only two brothers who had been affected – and the cancellation had not been instigated by the GCSB or SIS,
“According to my sources, their parents are the ones who called up and asked for them to be stopped,” he said, accusing Mr Key of “scaremongering and providing twisted information for political gain”.
Ali Akil also added,
“John Key has suggested very few people have [gone to Syria], and mentioned they have gone there to fight against the Assad regime which is actually something that we should honour them for, not strip them of their rights for,” he told Morning Report.
He questioned why Mr Key would “criminalise” those who decide to fight against Bashar al-Assad’s regime, which is known to have used chemical weapons against civilians.
“The New Zealand Government has actually sent our own New Zealand soldiers to Iraq and Afghanistan to liberate them from dictators, or so we were told. Isn’t it ridiculous to now criminalise those who choose to do exactly the same thing in Syria?”
It is rather strange for Key to be harassing freedom fighters who are wanting to topple one of the worst dictatorships in the Middle East, as it was only last year that Key condemned the Syrian government for using chemical weapons against it’s own people. In fact, Key was reportedly critical of the UN Security Council not doing enough;
Key, who made a stinging attack on the Security Council in his address to the UN General Assembly yesterday, said the resolution did not go as far as New Zealand would have liked in holding the Assad regime to account.
“But it does do the most important job which is set out a programme for how chemical weapons will be collected up in Syria, destruction of those chemical weapons and hopefully a process for ensuring Syrians are kept safe form weapons that should never be deployed from anybody.”
He stated in no uncertain terms;
“This organisation would not also have been a powerless bystander to the Syrian tragedy for over two years if the lack of agreement among the Security Council’s Permanent Members had not shielded the Assad regime.”
Mr Key called for the Security Council to take strong action by passing against Syria for its use of chemical weapons.
“These are war crimes.”
New Zealanders want to fight a regime that has committed war crimes – and Key repays their willingness to oppose this evil by stripping them of their pass ports, and in other cases, actively preventing them from leaving the country?!
Especially when, on 30 August last year, Key himself voiced support for the United Nations using force against the Syrian regime,
He quite clearly said,
“We think that’s the right thing to do but we wouldn’t hold our breath that that would receive the unanimous support that would be required.”
Do I detect the rank, rotting odour of hypocrisy (again) from our Prime Minister?
There is more to this issue than some young men wanting to join a fight to rid the world of a despotic dictator and his bloody regime (and this blogger will not shed a tear with the inevitable demise of Syrian President Bashar Assad and his criminal stooges).
Key obviously has a hidden reason for releasing this information, and I doubt very much if it relates one bit to any so-called concerns for the well-being of these young men.
Key has his own agenda:
So what does John Key and his National Ministers do? Do they, make the law more explicit that the GCSB “may not authorise or take any action for the purpose of intercepting the communications of a person who is a New Zealand citizen or a permanent resident”?
Instead National has amended the law – in effect legalising the illegal “88 cases identified as having a question mark over them since 2003” (source) through a new Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill.
National is also enacting the new amendment – under Urgency – which will give the GCSB the right to now spy on a person who is a New Zealand citizen or a permanent resident.
Remember – there is no Cold War. That ended 24 years ago.
But you wouldn’t think so.
Instead, Key now makes references to other “threats” to New Zealand,
- “There are people within our country who have links to offshore terrorist groups.” – John Key, 15 April 2013
- “…covert attempts to acquire New Zealand’s science and technology for programmes related to weapons of mass destruction or weapons delivery systems.” – John Key, 15 April 2013
- “This shows New Zealand’s public and private organisations are facing increasing risks of cyber intrusion which could compromise their operations and could result in the theft of valuable intellectual property.” – John Key, 7 May 2013
When asked to be specific about these claims, Key replied,
“I cannot tell New Zealanders everything our intelligence agencies are doing, or what the details of their operations are.” (Source)
And as reported, Key was less than forthcoming about other matters relating to the GCSB’s activities,
He refused to say what the support was that the GCSB provided to the Defence Force, police and SIS.
“I’m not going to go into the details of what they do.”
He also refused to say whether information on New Zealanders was passed on to foreign agencies.
Acknowledgement: John Key – PM releases report into GCSB compliance
But he did admit that not one of those 88 New Zealanders spied on by the GCSB has been prosecuted for any wrongdoing whatsoever.
Not one, as Key admitted,
“ Police have conducted a thorough check of all their systems. Police advise that no arrest, prosecution or any other legal processes have occurred as a result of the information supplied to NZSIS by GCSB .”
It is an old, tried-and-tested, simple plan; spook the public using a variant of a reds-under-the-bed bogey-man “threat”, and watch them run into the ballot booth to tick the ‘National’ box.
It worked in 1981, when Muldoon portrayed the anti-Tour protestors as “commies” and a threat to the “Kiwi way of life”.
Will up-coming Edward Snowden revelations refer to New Zealand, including material that is absolutely damaging to John Key’s government?
And is the so-called threat of New Zealanders being ‘radicalised’ in a Middle East conflict, and returning home to wage an implied “Jihad”, a scare-tactic to justify whatever shonkey or illegal activities that the GCSB/SIS/government has been engaging in?
Is this yet another distraction during election year (see #1 above), with more to come?
Because – and here is the point – governments very rarely (if ever) disclose what the SIS and GCSB have been up to.
So – what was the motivation of standing up at a media conference, in front of the entire nation, and telling everyone what our security/intelligence agencies have been engaged in?
There is much, much more to this than Key has let on.
And it has bugger all to do with Al Quaeda bogeymen or a bunch of idealistic young men who want a dictator gone. Remember – this is John Key we’re talking about.
What was it that Ali Akil, of Syrian Solidarity New Zealand, said about John Key? He accused…
“… Mr Key of “scaremongering and providing twisted information for political gain”.
It didn’t take long for this immigrant to our country to suss our Prime Minister, did it?
The Jewish Agency for Israel: Canadian youths leave home to join Israeli army
NZ Herald: At home with the Mossad men
NZ Herald: We’ll watch returning fighters, says Key
NZ Herald: Kiwi fighters being misinformed, says Syrian
Fairfax media: Key: Syria deal doesn’t go as far as I’d like
NZ Herald: John Key’s scathing attack on UN failings
NZ Radio: Syria action ‘may be outside law’
Previous related blogposts
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 February 2014.
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– Politics on Nine To Noon –
– Monday 17 February 2014 –
– Kathryn Ryan, with Matthew Hooton & Mike Williams –
Today on Politics on Nine To Noon,
Click to Listen: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams (24′ 09″ )
- Kim Dotcom/Russel Norman
- Green Party in government
- David Cunliffe
- Fairfax/Ipsos Poll
- Shane Jones/Countdown supermarkets
- Labour’s “Best Start” Policy/Taxation
- Passports/Syria/Al Qaida
- Green Party Home Solar Policy
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