Category Archives: Syria

John McCain: A Hero? Let’s Take a Closer Look

One of the United State’s sacred cows has shed this mortal coil; we will not take the time to speculate on where his next stop might be. But we are all being bombarded with accolades on the legendary, although mythical, ‘greatness’ of the dearly departed Republican senator from Arizona, John McCain.

We will attempt here to take a more unbiased look at McCain, and see 1) where all this hero worship is coming from, and 2), why it is completely undeserved.

McCain seems to have acquired his legendary ‘greatness’ by being a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for five years. His plane was shot down while he was dropping bombs on innocent farmers and their families, in a country that in no way threatened the mighty U.S., and where McCain and the other hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers that were sent to terrorize Vietnam never had any business being. One might say he was a victim of U.S. imperialism, but if so, he was a willing victim. But none of this denotes heroism.

Now let us look behind the myth, at the reality. There are a number of areas worth exploring, but time and space will limit us to just a few.

  • Civil Rights:
    • When Congress was voting to make the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday a national holiday, then member of the House of Representatives McCain joined 89 of his colleagues in opposing it. The bill passed by a vote of 338 to 90. When he was running for president in 2008, he stated that his position had ‘evolved’, and “We can be slow as well to give greatness its due….” But it does appear that he wasn’t slow to give political expediency its due.
    • In 2008, while the U.S. was being threatened with the possibility of a McCain presidency, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rates released its annual rating of all members of Congress. McCain scored 22%; his opponent, Illinois Senator Barack Obama, scored 100%.
  • Gay Rights:
    • The great hero opposed ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’, a highly-flawed law but better than what was previously codified.
    • He opposed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which was introduced to prevent employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.
    • He opposed the Federal Marriage Amendment, and supported an initiative in 2006 to ban same-sex marriage in Arizona (the ban failed).
  • Human Rights:
    • He supported Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, one of the world’s most notorious violators of human rights (at that time), having killed thousands of Chilean civilians and having incarcerated tens of thousands more, all for political reasons.
    • McCain was considered a ‘great friend’ of Israel, a nation that has violated the basic human rights of the Palestinians in the most unspeakable ways for decades. He was described the same way by officials of the Saudi Arabian government, another nation noted for it abominable human rights violations.
    • He opposed efforts to close the U.S.’s Cuban-based torture center, Guantanamo Bay, thereby endorsing the use of torture.
  • Ethics:
    • This man who is being lauded as a hero was a member of the Keating Five, a scandal in which five U.S. senators were accused of intervening on behalf of Charles Keating, Jr., who was the chairman of the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association, which was under investigation by the Federal Home Loan Bank Board. When Lincoln collapsed, over 20,000 bond holders lost all or part of their life savings, and the collapse cost the U.S. government $3.4 billion. Keating’s prior political contributions to McCain totalled at least $112,000, not including elaborate trips for McCain and his family that Keating provided at his palatial estate in the Bahamas, flying them there in his private jet. Although McCain was not charged, he was criticized by the investigating committee for using ‘poor judgment’.
    • McCain supported the illegal sale of weapons to U.S.-funded and U.S.-trained terrorist groups seeking the overthrow of the Nicaraguan government. The Iran-Contra scandal was a major blot (among others) on the administration of Ronald Reagan.
  • Hypocrisy
    • McCain once referred to the Confederate flag as ‘very offensive’, but later called it a ‘symbol of heritage’.
    • He called Jerry Falwell an ‘agent of intolerance’ in 2000, but gave the 2006 commencement address at Falwell’s Liberty University.
    • He first supported an immigration policy that included guest workers and amnesty, but later said that, if elected president, he’d call out the U.S. army to close off the Mexican border.
    • McCain moved from opposing President George Bush’s ‘temporary’ tax cuts for the rich to supporting making them permanent.

We could add McCain’s opposition to health care for all U.S. citizens, and his opposition to net neutrality and a federal minimum wage. And we have him to thank for propelling that national embarssment, Sarah Palin, onto the world stage.

This writer has commented previously on the U.S.’s very successful public relations operation, the one that proclaims the nation to be a beacon of peace and security, a bastion of human rights and the envy of the world. These fairy tales aren’t believed much outside of U.S. borders, but are swallowed, hook, line and sinker, within them. That PR expertise has worked overtime to portray a corrupt, opportunistic official with a history of serial murder and support for the war crimes of others as a ‘hero’.

A quick online search for a definition of ‘hero’ results in this: “a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.”

How much courage does it take to fly over farm fields and drop bombs on defenseless people?

What achievements has McCain accomplished? He has helped prevent citizens from obtaining health care or marrying the person of their choice; he worked to slow the progress of civil rights for people of African descent; he supported nations guilty of the most heinous of war crimes; he enabled the torture of political prisoners.

What ‘noble qualities’ has he demonstrated? He treated himself and his family to lavish vacations in exchange for quashing a federal investigation of his benefactor. He traded in a faithful wife for a younger, more attractive version.

John McCain is dead; his family may have reason to grieve but, from this writer’s perspective, no one else does.

 

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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US and Turkey Agree to Occupy Syria Together

While Syria makes progress in freeing areas of the country from foreign-supported terrorist groups, with invaluable assistance from Iran and Russia, the United States is seeking alternate ways to maintain its own presence there. The defeat of ‘rebel’ groups is not good news for the U.S., since it arms and supports them, and has done so for years.

Now it is being reported that an agreement between the U.S. and Turkish governments, that seeks to give some semblance of legitimacy to continued U.S. presence in Syria, has been reached.

Turkey, like the U.S., is seeking to remove Kurds from Syrian areas, such as Afrin, where the Kurds gained control after ISIL was driven out. A Russian news outlet reported that U.S. and Turkish forces would occupy that area of Syria, once the Kurds are removed, and that Turkey will be represented in Afrin by the so-called Free Syrian Army, a western-financed terrorist group that was established with the sole purpose of overthrowing the legitimately-elected government of Bashar al-Assad. If the U.S. and Turkey do take control of Afrin, it will become the center of terrorist activity in Syria.

It is puzzling to consider how two nations can come to any kind of agreement on the partial occupation of another nation. U.S. presence in Syria violates the internationally-recognized sovereignty of the Syrian nation. U.S. support for groups in Syria that seek the overthrow of that government does the same. Yet government officials from Turkey and the U.S. discuss Syria as if it is theirs to divide however they choose.

Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon, in December, said this: “We are going to maintain our commitment on the ground as long as we need to, to support our partners and prevent the return of terrorist groups.” This is typical of the black-is-white and white-is-black rhetoric of U.S. government spokespeople. Which partners are they supporting? They are supporting those, such as Israel, who seek to destabilize the Middle East. And the best thing the U.S. could do to “prevent the return of terrorist groups” is to remove all U.S. support for those groups, remove all U.S. soldiers from Syria, and assure that none ever set foot there again. It can also stop bombing Syria, and cease all efforts to overthrow the government of Syria. U.S. actions in and toward Syria are classic examples of the worst kind of terrorism.

U.S. spokespeople had been saying that the U.S. will maintain a presence in Syria, even after ISIL is defeated, proclaiming that it must do so to counter Iran’s growing influence in the region. Yet the government of Syria has in no way agreed to allow the U.S. to be there today, let alone to remain in Syria at any time in the future. And there is no reason to think that Syria’s government will ever do so, considering the destruction, death and unspeakable suffering that the U.S. has caused, and continues to cause, in Syria.

The U.S. is forever declaiming Iran’s growing influence, as if that is a dangerous and negative thing for the Middle East and the world. Nothing could be further from the truth. Unlike the U.S., which has been at war for 225 years of its 242 – year existence, Iran has not invaded another nation since 1798. The U.S. has invaded and/or otherwise destabilized several nations in the Middle East, and is currently at war with Afghanistan, and still has troops in Iraq, which it invaded and occupied early in the current millennium, destroying the infrastructure, ushering that nation to the brink of civil war, and killing at least 2,000,000 people. The U.S. is currently bombing at least seven countries. Nowhere on the planet does any nation want U.S. ‘influence’.

A partial list of independent nations victimized by U.S. violence is the following: Syria, Iran, Guatemala, Tibet, Indonesia, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Vietnam, Brazil, Ghana, Chile, Afghanistan, Turkey, Poland, Nicaragua, Cambodia, Angola, Philipp9ines, Iraq, Venezuela, Palestine, Somalia, Libya.  Please note that this is not a complete list, only covers U.S. aggression from 1949 to the present, and several of the countries listed have been targeted multiple times by the U.S. since the second half of the twentieth century.

Compare and contrast that record to that of Iran, a nation which has successfully defended itself from its enemies, and which aids its allies, as it is doing in Syria today. Iran does not have military bases around the world; the U.S. has close to 1,000 of them, often in countries where the people do not want them. The U.S. uses its military and intelligence to thwart free elections; foment rebellion; overthrow governments and bring death and suffering wherever it is, including within its own borders. Its contempt for international law is matched by no other nation, with the exception of Israel.

The spokesman referenced above also reiterated, incredibly, that the U.S. is assisting its allies in fighting ISIL.

That the U.S. supports ISIL and other terrorist groups can no longer be denied; the evidence is far too overwhelming. The U.S. arms and trains ISIL, and that organization also gets assistance from Israel. Using fighting ISIL as a reason to remain in Syria, against the wishes of the sovereign Syrian government, is a bold-faced lie.

What the United States government will do next, domestically or on the international stage, is unknown. The erratic and unpredictable Donald Trump seems to have few deeply held convictions, but those he does hold appear to be fraught with danger. He believes in U.S. supremacy in all areas; the need to use violent force to assure that the world is ordered to his liking is another core belief. He seems to think that wealth and power are better ‘virtues’ than fairness and equality, as is demonstrated by his full and uncompromising support of apartheid Israel. The concepts of human rights and international law have no importance to him, because of his belief that the U.S. way is sperior to every alternative.

Domestically, he governs for the rich, white class that supports him from the top, caring noting for civil rights, public education, affordability of higher education, assistance to the poor, universal health care or national infrastructure.

As the economies of China, India and other nations grow, and as the military power of Iran, and its influence around the world, continue to increase, the U.S. finds itself in the position of a world power in decline. This is always dangerous, like a wounded animal that knows it is vulnerable, and therefore lashes out at anything nearby. Add to that an unqualified, violent, egotistical president, and the formula for international catastrophe is very great.

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Iraq, Syria and Another False Flag

It seems impossible to under-estimate the ignorance and gullibility of the United States populace. Was is such a long time ago that the U.S. government was scaring the life out of the citizenry by saying that Iraq had ‘weapons of mass destruction’, thus putting every man, woman and child in the U.S. in grave, mortal danger? What was the result of that lie? The U.S. invaded Iraq; about 4,000 U.S. soldiers died, along with at least a million Iraqis. Another 30,000 U.S. soldiers were injured, and millions of Iraqis became refugees, either in Iraq or neighboring countries. Iraq’s infrastructure was destroyed, and today, fifteen years after the invasion, the Iraqi people continue to suffer because of it.

And what of those horrifying ‘weapons of mass destruction’? Well, it turns out, there weren’t any.

Now, one might say that this was just a tragic error in U.S. intelligence, although even for government officials, dismissing that much death and destruction as an “Oops! Sorry!” is a bit much. Yet United Nations’ weapons inspectors were gaining unprecedented access to any site in Iraq that they wanted; they were combing the country and finding nothing. Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s leader at the time, swore up, down and sideways that his country had no such weapons. But the mighty U.S. knew better, and so it brought death and destruction to Iraq, for no reason at all.

Well, at least no reason related to U.S. ‘national security’. But there was oil there that the U.S. coveted, and once the country was destroyed, U.S. companies stood to make a fortune in rebuilding it. Haliburton, founded by Dick Cheney, who just happened to be vice president when Iraq was invaded, made billions upon billions of dollars as a result. And thirteen years after the invasion, the ever-practical Hillary Clinton, while running for president, said that “It’s time for the United States to start thinking of Iraq as a business opportunity.” Add to that the fact that any Middle Eastern countries in chaos helped strengthen apartheid Israel, the lobbies of which U.S. elected officials bow down to, so that was, at the very least, an added bonus, if not a prime reason for the invasion.

And now the great orange U.S. leader, President Donald Trump, is threating another Middle Eastern country, this time Syria. He, along with the leaders of England and France, want to punish the government of Syria for a chemical attack that Syrian leaders, and the United Nations, say Syria didn’t commit. England’s Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn has called for restraint, and wants to await the evidence, and he is condemned as a traitor for wanting to adhere to due process. Russia’s Vladimir Putin is seen as complicit in the attack, but he, too denies Syrian government involvement, and wants to see the incident investigated. It is also worth noting that, after Trump bombed Syria following another such attack, even his military spokesman said there was no evidence the Syrian government was behind it.

But in the U.S., Congress is united in demanding action, and there seems to be little resistance coming from the populace, not that that makes any difference to the oligarchs anyway.

Does it take a particularly insightful reader to see some parallels here? This writer thinks not. Another false flag is being hoisted up the pole, and U.S. citizens are rallying around it.

To whom does it make sense that the Syrian government, with the U.S. just looking for some excuse to bomb it, and while it is continually freeing areas of its nation from U.S.-supported terrorists, would commit war crimes against its own people?

If the Syrian government isn’t behind the recent chemical attack, who, we must ask, is?

Let’s look at the usual suspects, of which there is actually only one. The U.S. has been supporting terrorists in Syria for years, and seeks the overthrow of that government, as it sought the overthrow of Iraq fifteen years ago. And, as with Iraq, there need be no plan for the governance of Syria; a Syria in chaos is better, in the U.S. view, than a peaceful Syria aligned with Iran. So by arranging a chemical attack on Syrian people, Trump, filled with righteous indignation, can bomb that nation.

Is there any benefit to apartheid Israel in all this? One must remember that Jared Kushner, another close advisor to Trump, and his son-in-law to boot, who seems to have disappeared from the radar these last few weeks, has close ties to illegal settlements, and is a personal friend of Israeli Prime Murderer Benjamin Netanyahu. And Syria is closely allied with Iran, Israel’s most bitter enemy, which is assisting the government of Syria in ridding itself of U.S.-backed terrorists. Iran is growing in power and influence in the Middle East, and Netanyahu cannot countenance any threat to Israel hegemony in that part of the world. So some reason to attack Syria, any reason, even a completely fabricated one, will do just fine for the U.S.

Is it possible that some cooler heads surrounding Trump might prevail? When pigs fly. His new National Security Advisor, the unhinged and unstable John Bolton, has described himself as ‘not much of a carrot guy’, indicating that he prefers the use of the stick. That apparently means that he would rather use bombs than diplomacy. He disdains international law, saying it is designed to constrain U.S. power (he might actually be right there; anything that can be done to constrain U.S. power is beneficial to the world).

Trump needs to tread cautiously, however, although he probably won’t. Russia and Iran will not take kindly to any U.S. attack on Syria, and there are rumours that such an action would also displease the government of China. While Trump may consider each of these countries an enemy to the U.S., he will be much better served by tiptoeing around them, rather than provoking them. But Trump never tiptoes, and he always provokes. The consequences of doing so this time around could be cataclysmic.

Originally published by AHTribune.

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Filed under Human Rights, Iran, Israel, Militarism, Syria, U.S. Politics

IRAN THREATENS ISRAELI HEGEMONY IN THE MIDDLE EAST

The United States’ corporate-owned and thereby government-controlled media does not provide much coverage of the situation in Syria. For the U.S. government, an informed populace is a dangerous populace, so the media tells the people who and what to care about: the Olympics Games, of course, are worthy of countless hours of coverage, as is reporting on the investigation into the possibility that Russia worked with the campaign of Donald Trump to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. Russia has been a popular enemy of the U.S. for decades, so this is merely a new chapter in an old but much-liked story. But U.S-caused sufferings in Syria, or Palestine, or Yemen, or Iraq, or Afghanistan, etc., etc., are not for the U.S. citizenry to concern itself with.

For years, the U.S. supported outside agitators to fight the legitimate government of Basher Al-Assad, thereby causing untold suffering for the innocent people of Syria. A year ago, the U.S. intensified its bombing of Syria to punish Assad for using chemical weapons against his own people, a charge that was not proven then, and has been completely debunked since. Even the U.S. Secretary of Defense, the disgraceful Jim Mattis, admitted in January that there was no evidence linking Assad to the use of chemical weapons.

But a lack of U.S. press coverage should not be confused with inaction in Syria. The fighting continues, with Assad’s forces, assisted by Russia and Iran, taking back more of the country from the foreign-supported ‘rebels’. The situation is complex, and we will attempt to make sense of it.

The major players are Syria, Russia, Iran, Lebanon (specifically Hezbollah) and the apartheid Zionist regime of Israel. The U.S. is still a player, but its influence has been reduced. Anywhere that U.S. political and military influence is reduced in the world can only be a good thing.

There is little that happens in the world that Israel doesn’t consider an ‘existential threat’. This includes everything from a sixteen-year-old girl slapping a heavily armed Israeli soldier/terrorist, to Iran’s support for the government of Syria. So Israel requires a safe buffer zone, either annexing lands of other countries (Israel is expert in land theft), or assuring that nations friendly to it control the areas closest to it. Unfortunately for Israel, the number of its friendly nations is constantly shrinking, so in the context of this discussion, only the U.S. and Saudi Arabia fall into that disreputable category.

With Syria growing stronger, and relying more and more on Iran, Israel is once again raising the specter of an ‘existential threat’. “Israeli officialdom sees great risk with Iran building a seaport, airport, permanent military bases or high-precision missile factories, which would enable precise attacks on key Israeli facilities.”[1]

Does not the Iranian government have a responsibility to protect its own citizens? Iran is surrounded by forty U.S. military bases, yet one doesn’t hear members of the Iranian government screaming about existential threats. It, like every other government in the world, the opinions of Israel and the U.S. notwithstanding, is free to form alliances with other countries, trade with them, and establish military partnerships for mutual defense and protection. That Iran wishes to establish a presence in Syria is only different from the U.S. establishing a military presence in countless countries around the world in that Iran will not exploit the people of the host country in doing so.

As the situation is currently progressing, Iran’s influence will extend from Iran, through Iraq and Syria, to Lebanon. This threatens Israeli hegemony in the Middle East, a condition for which the U.S. has paid dearly in billions upon billions of tax dollars, as well as in destroying its mythical reputation as a beacon of peace, freedom and democracy.

Israel is also very concerned about Lebanon, specifically the powerful Hezbollah. Here the ‘existential threat’ is on its northern border, and any conflict between the two nations will have disastrous consequences for both. Add to the current strength of Hezbollah the power of Iran, and the Israeli government has more than adequate reason to think twice before starting a war with either nation.

Russia remains almost neutral; it has diplomatic relations with both Israel and its archenemy, Iran. Therefore, it is seen by some as being able to serve the function of peace broker, working some inexplicable magic to bring stability to the region, and prevent a wider war which would be disastrous for everyone.

Some recent articles in ‘The Crisis’ include puzzling comments that seem to reflect the U.S. perspective of denying self-determination to the people of Syria.

One article states that Russia should broker an agreement between Israel and Iran that would remain in effect “pending a deal on the country’s (Syria’s) future”.[2]

Who, other than the Syrian people, should be charged with making such a deal? Why would this be the responsibility of any outside entity?

The writer of that article also asks this question: “…will the regime make good on its vow to retake the whole country, including the south west?”.  One must ask: why would it not? Foreign-sponsored rebels have caused havoc and suffering throughout Syria for years, taking possession of various part of the country. Syria, with assistance from Russia and Iran, has taken back most of the country. Why would it not “make good on its vow to retake the whole country” from those who have stolen parts of it, killed and terrorized its people, and deprived them of self-government?

Another statement regarding some fantastic deal to be arranged by Russia is equally puzzling: “The best currently anticipated outcome would be a deal whereby Iran and its partners forego building major military infrastructure, including but not only in Syria’s south west, but retain significant influence in the country through other means”.[3] This indicates that Iran will give up something, but get nothing in return; the article doesn’t suggest what apartheid Israel might surrender in exchange for this deal.

On January 9 of this year, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made this most amazing statement:  “We support a free and democratic Lebanon, free of the influence of others. And we know that the Lebanese Hezbollah is influenced by Iran. This influence we think is unhelpful for Lebanon’s long-term future”.[4] This is a puzzling statement from a U.S. politician. Between November 29, 2010 and November 28, 2016, pro-Israel lobbies donated at least $14,169,515.00 to U.S. senators. Between November 29, 2014 and November 28, 2016, those same lobbies contributed $5,863,292.00 to U.S. members of the House of Representatives. Tillerson’s hypocrisy is astounding. One might slightly reword his statement to make it accurate: “We support a free and democratic United States, free of the influence of others. And we know that the U.S. government is influenced by Israel. This influence we think is unhelpful for the U.S.’s long-term future”.

Israel, the Middle East’s major troublemaker, continues to deal with its own internal problems, increasing its official racism by deporting African refugees, maintaining its brutal occupation of Palestine, and now awaiting a decision on whether or not its murderous Prime Minister will be indicted for a variety of crimes, as has been recommended by the authorities that have been investigating him. While a new war would distract the racist Israelis from these issues, the downside of such a war would probably be too costly for Israel to bear.

The best case scenario for the Middle East seems to be the one that is currently happening: decreased influence of the U.S; increasing power and influence of Iran; the Syrian government finally overcoming the outside forces that have been terrorizing the country, and Russia supporting both Syria and Iran. It is hoped that the chaos that plagues Israel, all of its own making, will be sufficient to prevent that nation from igniting the tinderbox that is the Middle East, and that with Iran and Russia growing in power and influence, the entire area can achieve a greater level of peace than it has known in decades.

 

[1] https://www.crisisgroup.org/middle-east-north-africa/eastern-mediterranean/syria/182-israel-hizbollah-and-iran-preventing-another-war-syria

[2] https://www.crisisgroup.org/middle-east-north-africa/eastern-mediterranean/syria/182-israel-hizbollah-and-iran-preventing-another-war-syria

[3] https://www.crisisgroup.org/middle-east-north-africa/eastern-mediterranean/syria/182-israel-hizbollah-and-iran-preventing-another-war-syria

[4] https://www.timesofisrael.com/tillerson-hezbollahs-role-in-lebanese-politics-needs-to-be-recognized/

 

Originally published in the American Herald Tribune.

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