C-Span Press Conference – No War on Syria

I just watched this press conference on “The US Military Role in Syria” with Norman Solomon, David Swanson, John Kiriakou, Mathew Hoh and Christy Edwards, a legal authority on International Law as it pertains to war. The Press Conference, hosted by Normon Solomon on behalf of RootsAction.org, grows out of a campaign called “No US Warplanes Over Syria“, co-sponsored by RootsAction.org, Veterans for Peace, The Nation Magazine, The Daily Kos, World Beyond War and Watchdog.net. They speakers have different slants on the issue but all agree that the US needs to get out of Syria AND the Middle East, and stop threatening North Korea.

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Google Limits Public Discourse

People do need to understand how challenging the current environment is for everyone. I was talking yesterday to a friend about how the background information is becoming more and more difficult to access. Even alternative news sites have a cycle of sorts related to what information they focus on. Drone information in particular has been under attack for some time.

As the peak for drone news collapsed, a site that regularly published my work rejected a major research piece on military drones and the ways in which drone news was distorted and covered up in mainstream sources.   The main editor wrote me thank you for the piece, but the person actually posting articles chose to ignore it.   Drones didn’t interest him or her.

Currently I rarely, if ever, see an article focused on a drone strike in Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Somalia or any of the other countries where drone strikes have significantly increased since the beginning of this year.     Today my aggregator turned up several articles claiming that Chinese, Iranian and Russian drones are getting in the way of US business as usual.    But,  my feed no longer reports any US drone strikes despite the fact that  they have significantly increased since Trump came into office. If you look at it, you would think that military drones, targeted killing and spying are on an asymptotic approach to zero. You would never dream that military drone strikes have doubled under President Trump.

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Trump & Putin on the Sidelines

The first (as far as we know) in person meeting of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 meeting got of to a rather awkward beginning with the international press flashing away and the two Presidents seated side by side at the center of a half moon, flanked by their foreign policy Gurus, Tillerson  and Lavrov, with translators perched behind their shoulders.   All  were clearly uncomfortable coming into the meeting, although Trump managed a respectful handshake.   Their words were formal and correct but their body language was telling a different story.   The tensions of the last months have definitely taken a toll.  However, at the very end of the event after the press event was called to a close, Putin leaned in and said something to Trump that caused them both to smile.

I made a little slide show of amusing  moments from this  bizarre meeting:

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Pious Hobby Lobby’s Shady Hobby

It appears that Hobby Lobby, the pious purveyor of fundamentalist Christianity and would be denier of basic reproductive healthcare services to women,  is also a supporter of cynical Muslims and Zionists in the business of plundering the Middle East.   How rich is that?   Actually, it’s very rich.    Steve Green, President of Hobby Lobby, is a collector of early bibles and ancient artifacts.   If you have a fortune, why not spend it on something that enriches society?   $6.4 Billion ought to be enough to make some real headway.   In that light, the Green family who own Hobby Lobby are building a Museum of the Bible in Washington DC.   They have been gathering artifacts for it since 2009, and are very proud of their work.

However, their philanthropy looks a little different in light of their recent payment of $3 Million to resolve a civil case brought by the Department of Justice for their recent purchases of artifacts looted from Iraq through a dealer in the United Arab Emirates.

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On Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump

Donald Trump’s early fascination with Russia and the Russian President Vladimir Putin led to some absurd comparisons that claimed to show that somehow the two men are ‘alike’.      Whether you like either of these men or no, it is clear that they are very different individuals with different personalities, styles and capacities.   I responded to of these supposed comparisons that came to my attention recently as follows:

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Nation Wreckers, Inc

Brett H. McGurk is an American lawyer and diplomat who was appointed by President Barack Obama on 23 October 2015 as Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL.

Here’s an excerpt of McGurk’s statement at a recent press conference,

Unanimously, nobody wants the Syrian regime to come back.  Regime symbols, regime military forces.  In terms of administrative services, teachers, hospitals, who pays those salaries, that is something where the Syrians are going to have to work that out.  We are not in the business of, as I said, nation building operations.             ~ RT, May 21: 10:14

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Aleppo & Homs, A Tale of 2 Cities

Aleppo and Homs, he largest and third largest cities in Syria have been severely impacted over the last 6 years by the ongoing war. The destruction is horrific.   Finally, however, there is peace in which to think about rebuilding.   The opportunity exists to look around and evaluate the damage, and to begin to  think about rebuilding.    Below I have posted 2 very different short videos where the people who live in these cities explain what happened to them, and what activity is currently going on there.   Has restoration begun?  What will it entail?  When, if ever, do people plan on returning to these devastated areas?

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Saving Hodeideh

Nine Senators have apparently sent a letter to the Saudi Ambassador demanding that they not destroy the Yemeni Port City of Hodeideh which is used by the United Nations to bring aid into the country. A campaign has been mounted by US activists to support this effort to save the port of Hodeideh.     On the surface it seems like a compassionate gesture and I’m sure that these Senators must be sincere to have adopted such a hopeless and unpopular cause.   But, I have a message for them.   Wake up! guys.   The people of Yemen are already starving.   Babies are already dying of hunger and thirst, dysentery and all kinds of ordinary childhood diseases that are easily treated in modern medical facilities.    Teenage boys go to war instead of to school.   Men go to war instead of work.   And they are martyred every day in a cruel war of aggression.

For more than 2 years the Saudi airforce, supported by some of their gulf allies and fully backed by US weapons and technical assistance, has been bombing the people and social and civil infrastructure of Yemen.

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Untangling the Conflicting Narratives from Khan Sheikhoun

General Mattis, in a recent interview in Israel, stated that “there can be no doubt” that Syria held back some of it’s chemical weapons in 2013. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) supervised the removal of Syrians chemical weapons which were later destroyed by Americans on a U.S. warship at sea. Russia was not directly involved at all. They OPCW reported that they had got all of the Syrian CW except the ones stored in areas under control of the ‘opposition fighters’. According to an official who reported on Democracy Now! the Syrians were very cooperative and most of what they found there were unopened canisters of precursor chemicals.

Of course this story is still making headlines.   While the US is actually blocking attempts for a thorough investigation, more  organizations are ‘confirming’ that it was indeed sarin that killed or sickened the people in Khan Sheikhoun.

But getting back to examining the narratives.   We have an attack with some kind of gas (asserted to be sarin, but probably chlorine) early in the morning while people were just rising.    We have claims that attack was by a Syrian airplane, but the evidence indicates a ground based device.  Trumps’ people say they saw a plane head from the Shayrat airport to Khan Sheikhoun at the time of this attack.  There are claims that 100s of people were affected, including many children.   Of these, about 30 were taken to Turkey for treatment and though these people point to missing and killed relatives, there is no evidence of the numbers claimed by the videos from Al Nusra.  The Trump team claims to have seen a plane in their satellite imagery in the early morning

The Syrians admit to flying a mission to destroy an ammunition depot around noon.  .   The intended target, however, did not produce the explosion one might expect from detonating a large stash of explosives.   The Syrians usually have good intelligence.   Could the weapons and explosives have been removed?

Can we connect these 2 narratives?

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Rojava – A Popular Project of Empire

States had a hand in that decision as well.   Meanwhile, the time has passed and circumstances are changed.  The countries that currently exist in the Middle East may or may not survive but for us here to decide their fates is a continuation of a gross imperial violation of the rights of the people of that region.

We can’t decide which force in these war torn regions is really the one that will be best for the people there based on our assumptions about their reality.   That is why we have to withdraw from the field rather than attempt to determine what is best for the people and manage events so it will happen.   We can’t control the empire.  We can only resist it’s drive.    For us to decide what is best for the people there is like religious people who think they can apprehend God and God’s will in a particular way.   Our imaginations aren’t big enough to encompass God.  We can’t play god and make decisions for these regions where imperial decision makers have bee wreaking havoc for two centuries.

Rojava is and interesting example of this phenomenon.

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