Self-centred US gets the Trump it deserves

By Ameen Izzadeen
Americans came out in their thousands to protest against the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States. Today is the 17th day since they first took to the streets on November 9 crying ‘He is not my President’. The liberal use of the F-word showed the intensity of their anger. Protests were largely peaceful, but in some areas they turned violent. But where are they now? They came, they protested and they disappeared.
The protesters were a motley crowd and mainly in liberal states like New York, Oregon and California. Some protested shouting ‘Dump Trump’ because they were angry their beloved candidate Hillary Clinton was not elected though she won the popular vote by a massive majority of more than 2 million.
The migrants protested crying ‘Build bridges, not walls’, because they feared Trump would deport them.
The Muslims protested stressing that “Muslim rights are human rights” because they feared they would be subjected to racial profiling and would be the target of hate crime. The Jews protested because Trump appeared anti-Semite.
“No Trump! No KKK! No fascist USA!” was the cry of those who feared that Trump would be an authoritarian president and would undermine the United States’ democratic traditions. The feminists shouted “My body, my choice!”
Some feared Trump would reverse the progress made in combating climate change while others thought he would be illiberal, irrational and could not be trusted with the nuclear code. But where are these protesters now?
The anti-Trump movement is today largely confined to some universities and online. Online petitions attract millions of signatures in support of a demand that the Republican Party Electoral College delegates switch their support to Hillary Clinton on the basis that she won the popular vote. Moves are now underway to persuade the Republican Electoral College delegates to vote for Clinton or a compromise candidate from the Republican Party when they vote on December 19. Trump has 290 delegates and Clinton 232. Though the success of such a move appears farfetched, it is constitutionally possible. In California and Oregon, some even went to the extent of initiating the legal process for their states to declare independence from the US. Even this impulsive move taken in anger is also unlikely to succeed. Some are even talking about impeaching Trump.
The failure to sustain the protests is a weakness of US civil society. The failure is not only because of the lack of energy or will power on the part of the protesters to sustain their civic action, but also because of their inconsistency in standing up against injustice. Sadly, US civil society reflects selective morality which is, in other words, hypocrisy. Mostly their hypocrisy is unintentional or due to their vulnerability to fall prey to media spins.
The US people power movements such as the civil rights movement of the 1960s had been an inspiration to many people around the world to bring about positive change. But, of late, US civic action groups have lost their momentum. They last tasted success when the Americans wanted troops back home from Vietnam. The anti-war movement was started by peace activists and leftist intellectuals in the latter part of the 1960s at a time when a majority of the Americans were supporting the US military involvement in Vietnam. But, over the years, the anti-war movement lost its moral high ground and assumed a self-centred character with a large number of Americans, worried about the rising US death toll and the staggering 25-billion dollar war bill, joining the protests to demand the troops be brought back.
Then in 2011, we saw protests in Wall Street against the so-called one percent. Occupy Wall Street was a good protest for a good cause aimed at highlighting the social inequality in the US. It called for a more equitable distribution of the country’s wealth, 95 percent of which was controlled by just five percent of the population.
The protesters realised that the bourgeois democratic elite from the two main parties were taking them up the garden path. But they failed to sustain the protests until their objective was achieved. In the end, the protests that lasted two months only provided the middle class youth and the working class a space to vent their anger at social inequalities. If they had succeeded in forcing the government to adopt sweeping reforms, we would not have had Trump as president-elect.
The white working class by voting for Trump who was not a full blooded Republican showed their frustration at the two main parties. But by making Trump win, they have given new life to racists. The Nazi salute is back. Hate crime has sharply increased. Muslim women are afraid to wear hijab. Where is the world’s oldest democracy heading?
Moral depravity is the crisis the United States’ democracy is facing today. It is evident not only in the system but also in civil society. The system was so bankrupt that its main candidates for the 2016 elections were not the best the American democracy would like to have. One was widely seen as a war monger responsible for the destruction of Libya and the carnage in Syria, while the other was a maverick billionaire businessman who has little or no respect for the minorities and women and refuses to believe that climate change is real.
US civil society’s moral depravity was evident during the US war on Iraq – call it the plunder of Iraq. It was a war for oil, but a majority of the Americans justified it. Even the liberals, now crying foul over Trump’s victory, backed the war — just as some European Communists justified colonialism. Of course, there were marches, but none lasted long enough to stop the war.
US civil society’s moral depravity was also evident when the Americans – largely due to their lack of interest in the rest of the world — remained silent when their government engineered a protest in Ukraine against a democratically elected president and overthrew him in 2014. They said little or nothing when their country funded a military backed revolution that overthrew Mohamed Mursi’s democratically elected government in Egypt. They did not protest when the US went to war and destroyed Libya, nor when their country backed its Gulf allies to start a civil war in Syria. They object not when their country openly endorses Israel’s oppression and illegal activities in the occupied Palestinian territories. They protest not when nearly 4 billion dollars in American taxpayers’ money is doled out annually to Israel, a highly developed country, while scores of poor countries beg for US aid and get little. If they oppose Trump, then they should also oppose their country’s direct and indirect wars across the world, its neo-colonialist programmes and its double standards on human rights issues. But let’s forgive them, for a majority of them know not what they are doing because their worldview is shaped by the largely corrupt Corporate Media, which is part of the so-called establishment.
(This article first appeared in the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka)

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Trump Presidency: Fear is the Key

By Ameen Izzadeen
We said last week that it was too early to judge the United States’ president-elect Donald Trump, notwithstanding his outrageous campaign utterances. But as days pass by, our fears are only increasing however much we say “give him a chance.”
Soon after his unforeseen victory, he appeared cool, calm and composed. His acceptance speech after the November 9 victory was uncharacteristic of the political monster we saw on the campaign trail. He was sending a message to the Americans and the world that he could be trusted and there was no need to entertain fears about his presidency.
Later, in interviews with the Wall Street Journal and CBS, he acted president-like. In a composed manner, he answered the tough questions, displaying that he had the temperament to be the leader of the world’s most powerful country. Yet the fear about his presidency grows with each day.
The president-elect is now receiving daily briefings from the officials who are responsible for the United States’ security and economy. He is being briefed about US secret programmes, foreign policy goals and wars across the world. The president-elect, analysts say, will have to work with America’s friends and allies if he hopes to succeed in tackling world issues. They say he won’t be able to put into practice his protectionist economic policies. Soon he will learn that the United States will stand to gain by following a free trade policy. Soon he will realise that if he follows his protectionist economic policy, the very people who voted for him would be hard hit. They would have to pay more than double or treble the price of a ‘made-in-China’ product to buy a ‘made-in-USA product’.
In what could be Trump’s first tryst with reality as far as the United States’ multiple wars are concerned, two US soldiers and two contractors died in a bomb blast last week in Afghanistan. He would surely have been briefed about why the Americans were still there – fifteen years to be exact. President Obama, driven by his idealistic principles, set a 2014 deadline to withdraw US combat troops from Afghanistan, but he changed his mind probably upon being convinced by the Pentagon strategists that the troops’ presence was necessary to pursue US geopolitical interests in the region where China and Russia are increasingly asserting themselves.
On Monday, addressing a White House news conference, President Obama acknowledged that the office of the president was not a blank cheque. The popular president had a piece advice for Trump. He said: “Regardless of what experience or assumptions he brought to the office, this office has a way of waking you up. …and those aspects of his positions or predispositions that don’t match up with reality—he will find shaken up pretty quick, because reality has a way of asserting itself.”
Despite such assurances, the fear about the Trump presidency keeps growing.
Fear not the Trump presidency, supporters may say, and claim that the Republican party big wigs who were opposed to Trump’s candidacy now control Congress and they can keep him in check. Despite such checks and balances, the fear about the Trump presidency looms large.
This is because Trump is different and could be irrational. A PBS documentary on Trump suggested that his entry into the 2016 election fray was not to serve America but to take revenge on Obama for publicly ridiculing him at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Obama’s jokes there came in the form of a satirical response to the Trump-initiated controversy over his birth certificate. Instead of taking Obama’s jokes at their face value in keeping with the tradition, the egotistical billionaire saw it as public humiliation. Some analysts believe that it was at this dinner that Trump resolved to run for the presidency and take revenge on Obama, the first Afro-American president of the United States. Trump appears to have a rebellious schoolboy mentality. So he could be dangerous and all his good behaviour since his victory could be a red herring. He cannot be trusted with the nuclear code. Fear is the key factor of his presidency. The US has never before had a president who embraces conspiracy theories. He says climate change is a hoax made in China. It is an understatement to say that the world fears the Trump presidency.
The fear that is gripping the United States has split the country right down the middle. One section fears that the Trump presidency could undermine American values and harm the minorities and the environment. The fear has driven them to protest against his presidency with slogans such as “He Is Not My President’.
Fear is also the stock of Trump supporters. It was this fear the white middle class had that powered the Trump victory.
Fear — call it xenophobia — is a political tool that self-centered politicians use clinically to grab power. This type of fear instills in the majority a ‘victim mentality’ and incites them to hate the Muslims, the Mexicans and other minorities, the imagined cause of all their problems. And Steve Bennon, named this week as chief strategist and counselor to president-elect Trump, is the chief advocate of this fear.
“Fear is a good thing. Fear is going to lead you to take action,” Bennon, head of the ultar-rightwing news portal, Breitbart News, said in a 2010 interview.
He was also reported to have said he was a ‘Leninist’. “Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal, too,” the Daily Beast quoted him as saying. “I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”
An out and out white supremacist, he played a key role in the Trump victory. His presence in the Trump team stokes fears among the minorities. He is an anti-Semite and the US Jews, who are said to be in control of the ‘Establishment’ which the Trump team wants to dismantle or reorganise, are feeling, perhaps for the first time since the end of World War II, that they are not part of America.
Infighting over the formation of the Trump transition team and the likely cabinet is making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Reports spoke of ‘knife fights’ between various personalities. Some have quit the team in disgust while others frown upon the role Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner plays. It is said that Kushner, who is married to Ivanka, wanted Governor Chris Christie removed from the post of the chief of the Trump transition team, because Christie, when he was serving as an attorney general, had sent his father to jail for tax evasion. Revenge politics: Like father-in-law like son-in-law.
Need we say that Trump’s election will put governance in the United States in a stinky swamp?
(This article first appeared in the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka)

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Let’s give Trump a chance

By Ameen Izzadeen
When George W. Bush, a highly disliked president worldwide for his gung-ho policies and wars across the globe, was reelected in 2004, the London Daily Mirror, in a banner headline, asked, “How can 59,054,086 people be so dumb?”
Though no global newspaper had a similar headline On Wednesday, many people who hoped for a Hillary Clinton victory and feared the triumph of Donald Trump asked, “How could 59,611,678 Americans be so idiotic?”
Post-mortem examinations are galore as to how Trump won. CNN analyst Van Jones invented a word to call the victory a ‘whitelash’, meaning it was the angry white vote or revolt against an Afro-American President. Some blamed the third party candidate for the Hillary Clinton defeat, while others pointed their fingers at FBI chief James Comey for announcing the reopening of the email probe during the final stages of the campaign. Some criticised Clinton’s strategy, style and failure to say what each segment of the voting public wanted to hear from her. Her plan to revive the economy was unappealing. She virtually personified the establishment which the average voter wanted to defeat. In the end, it is a combination of all these factors that led to the Trump victory. So it is unfair to label all those who voted for Trump as racist, uneducated and illiberal.
Trump was easy to beat but the Democratic Party insisted on fielding Clinton, a highly disliked candidate. The party leadership conspired to defeat Bernie Sanders, her contender for the party’s nomination. Many analysts say if Sanders had been the party’s candidate, he would have defeated Trump. Being a businessman, Trump used his skills, acumen and marketing strategies to reach the voter. He was like the crafty salesman who sold refrigerators to Eskimos. And his voters knew politicians rarely keep their promises.
Now that Trump, who was vilified by his opponents as an obscene charlatan and no respecter of women’s dignity has been elected, the question is, “Will he make America great, in keeping with his campaign slogan, or will he drag America into depravity?
In his acceptance speech on November 9, Trump appeared uncharacteristic of his usual self. Instead of the usual ‘lock her up’ remark, he sounded gracious and spoke highly of Clinton. He appealed for American unity. The wall and the ban on Muslims entering the United States did not figure in the victory speech. The speech gave an indication that President Trump may be different from Candidate Trump and allayed, to some extent, the fears he was stoking by his outlandish utterances on the campaign trail.
His world-shaking victory was remarkable – a political earthquake with immeasurable magnitude, because his own party leadership had abandoned him. His was a virtual lone battle. Although Clinton won the popular vote, he won the electoral college, defying opinion polls and pundits’ predictions.
Trump’s victory cannot be construed as America’s unwillingness to send a woman to the White House. Rather it is about hope and delivery. Obama was elected not because the Americans wanted their first Afro-American president. He won because the American people saw him as a leader who could deliver. His slogan ‘Yes we can’ was so appealing that the working class, the whites, the blacks and the Hispanics, gathered around him.
So this time, too, the voters, especially in the mid-America, wanted change, and placed their faith in a non-politician who thought differently, campaigned differently, and appeared as a leader who could deliver, who could improve the lot of the working class people struggling to make ends meet.
His party is now rallying behind him and it now controls both the houses of Congress and the Supreme Court.
In the United States, the President cannot be a dictator even if he or she wants to be one. The government system comprising powerful democratic institutions is well protected with checks and balances, giving little space for abuse of power. For instance, Trump as President will not be able to declare martial law without Congressional approval. Neither can he use his powers as Commander-in-Chief in an arbitrary manner to order armed forces to deport Muslims or Mexicans. Any unconstitutional act or abuse of power can lead to the impeachment of the President. Besides, US laws demand that troops disobey unlawful orders even if such orders come from the Commander-in-Chief. Also US laws – especially, the Posse Comitatus Act – do not permit the military to engage in law enforcement activities unless Congress approves such a role. So there is little possibility that Trump will become a Hitler.
There is also the extra-constitutional mechanism – the establishment or the Oligarchy — in operation to check the powers of the President. Trump may have stood against the Oligarchy. But once in office, he will have to go along with it.
During the hustings, he declared that the system of election was rigged and that he would drain the swamp of corruption. But once in office, whether he would be able to clean the stables is a big question. John F. Kennedy after being elected as President tried to be independent of the system, but he was assassinated.
Barack Obama tried to challenge the establishment and bring peace to the Middle East, but failed miserably. He realised that the establishment or the Oligarchy comprising Wall Street, the arms lobby and the powerful media conglomerates, among others, was stronger than the president. Before long Trump will also learn that wars, injustice and mass misery worldwide are part of the dirty strategy that keeps America going. The swamp is too huge to be drained by one man. Besides, he is not a messiah the Americans have been waiting for to turn their country into a haven of morality. The wealthiest person to run for president, Trump is a ruthless ‘hire-and-fire’ businessman, thinking in terms of profits and losses.
But the billionaire real estate tycoon, who is an economics degree holder from the University of Pennsylvania, could be different. He was a boss and would not like to be bossed around by the Oligarchy. We will have to wait and see how just and independent he would be; or how controversial and preposterous his presidency would be.
Give him time. Anti-Trump protests we saw yesterday across America may be little too early, although we read in the social media complaints by Muslim women that Trump’s white supremacist supporters have forcibly removed their hijabs and hurled verbal abuse at them.
Wait for at least the first 100 days in office and see whether he would implement his evil promises such as lifting the ban on torture or see whether the white supremacists such as Ku Klux Clan members will have a field day under his presidency. If such things happen, then put pressure on him to step down or impeach him. Thankfully, the Americans have elections every four years.
(This article first appeared in the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka)

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US election: Not a battle between good and evil

By Ameen Izzadeen
The most unfortunate outcome of the November 8 election for the White House is that one of the candidates is going to win. As Election Day nears, the establishment, which includes the embedded media, has begun to take Donald Trump seriously after getting feedback that a Trump victory is not an improbability, despite his broadsides against women, the Afro-Americans and the Hispanics.
With just four days to go for d-day, the Clinton camp, which only a week or two ago was enjoying a double digit lead in some opinion polls, appears to be jittery. With opinion polls now forecasting a tight race in the wake of FBI chief James Camey’s announcement that the agency has launched a fresh inquiry into Clinton emails, the election is turning out to be a thriller. But for those who fear a Trump victory, it could even be a nightmare in waiting. But this is not a battle between good and evil. Whatever it is, it is not a battle between two holy candidates.
Usually, the American presidential election is a battle between two establishment candidates – candidates supported by the Oligarchy comprising, among others, the party elites, the so-called one percent representing Wall Street, the war lobby and, of course, the Corporate Media. The establishment has its own agenda – power and profits. It controls the candidates.
There were rare exceptions, however. John F Kennedy, though he appeared an establishment candidate, challenged the Oligarchy, the enemy of peace, after his election.
Barack Obama was thought to be another Kennedy, but he seemed to have surrendered to the Oligarchy, realising, perhaps, that he could achieve little or nothing by antagonising the powers behind the scenes.
Perhaps, for the first time since Kennedy, we see an anti-establishment candidate in maverick Trump. His own party stalwarts, the loyal servants of the Oligarchy, oppose him. Perhaps, like Obama, if elected, he would learn the extra-constitutional limitations to the President’s power.
But Trump is neither a Kennedy nor an Obama. Trump is Trump and dangerous. The presidential powers are too sacred to be handed to a man with fear-evoking policies. Reckless — the real estate tycoon questions why the United States has not used nuclear weapons to finish off ISIS. Outlandish — he seems to advocate a policy of killing millions of civilians to destroy a few thousand extremists. Scoffed at by his opponents as a laughable buffoon with a funny hairstyle and destructive viewpoints, Trump called the Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals and vowed to build a wall along the US-Mexico border at Mexico’s expense. To make the United States safe, he vows to impose a blanket ban on Muslims entering the country.
He plays to the gallery – the middle class people, who believe they are being economically victimised and who are angry with the establishment. But his supporters also include the white supremacists, the anti-immigrant and the anti-Muslim. The combination stokes fear of a Hitler in the making.
The US electorate was perhaps not fortunate enough to have a candidate like Bernie Sanders in the fray. The man who lost the party’s candidacy to Clinton is anti-establishment, but certainly not as stupid as Trump. To the Oligarchy, Sanders with his progressive policies appeared more dangerous than Trump. It is now open secret that the party leadership conspired or worked against Sanders to enable Clinton to clinch the party’s nomination.
Will Sanders supporters vote for Clinton or stay away from voting? In the latter case, it would be advantageous to Trump.
In comparison to Clinton, Trump appears to be more focused in offering solutions to the people’s problems, however aghast they may be. He says he will stop China from stealing US jobs, renegotiate NAFTA, cut unneeded regulations and make America the best place in the world to do business.
On the foreign policy front, Trump wants to work with Russia and China to find solutions to global problems. He wants to restructure NATO and the United States’ Defence pacts with allies such as Japan and South Korea. With Trump espousing such views, the United States’ traditional allies are waiting with bated breath to see the outcome of the election. Fearing a victory for the Russians and the Syrians under a Trump presidency, some Middle Eastern nations have even sent millions of dollars to the Clinton campaign.
But is Clinton the deliverer the US has been waiting for?
In her victory, we can only be happy that, at last, the United States has got its woman president. But the US election is not a gender war. It is about making America economically strong and globally a peacemaker, not a war monger. This is where Clinton, the establishment candidate, fails miserably. With apologies to the bard, she can add colours to the Chameleon. When the Monica Lewinsky episode dogged her husband’s presidency, she described the issue as “a vast right wing conspiracy.” But today, she is the right wing’s favourite candidate.
To appease Sanders supporters, the good Democrats who stand up for justice and equality, she promised to pursue his progressive policies. She declares she is an enemy of Wall Street and says she will do whatever it takes to rein in Wall Street. But Wikileaks revealed last month that Clinton held fund raising speeches at Goldman Sachs, one of the institutions which precipitated the 2008 financial crisis.
Wall Street thinks that she is its candidate, whatever she says on political platforms. Wall Street bankers have contributed more than $56 million to Clinton’s presidential campaign. Trump’s campaign received just $243,000 from donors in the same sector, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.
With regard to world peace, Clinton appears to have little interest. Commenting on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, Clinton, according to an email leaked by Wikileaks, believes “a Potemkin peace process was better than no peace process at all.” A staunch supporter of Israel, she confirms that the US-led peace pushes are nothing but deception and helped prolong the Palestinian suffering and helped Israel to perpetuate its oppression in the occupied territories.
On regime change, she appears to have a fetish for it. “We came, we saw, he died,” was Conqueror Clinton’s much celebrated quote on the killing of Muammar Gaddafi by US-supported rebels. In what could be a direct confrontation with Russia, Clinton, who pushed Obama into the Libyan war, wants to impose a no-fly zone over Syria.
In Honduras, one of the poorest countries in America, she justified a 2009 military coup that removed President Manuel Zelaya, who had begun to implement progressive land reforms. His pro-peasant policies were not to the liking of the transnational agribusinesses. He needed to be removed and was removed. Clinton justified this undemocratic exercise and preposterously supported the coup. Yet she is tipped to be the winner, with a 75 percent victory chance.
It is unlikely that the world will be a better place than it is today whichever candidate wins.
(This article first appeared in the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka)

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Nato, Russia buildup raises doomsday spectre

By Ameen Izzadeen
While people the world over are more interested in the November 8 US presidential election and all the succulent stories coming from the campaign trail, a crisis of nuclear war proportions is gathering pace behind their backs.
Hostilities between Russia and the United States are on the rise. Since the Ukrainian crisis of 2014, relations between the two countries have been marked by fiery exchanges of words and moves and counter moves aimed at checking each other on the chess board of global conflicts. The developments surrounding the present cold-war-like situation evoke memories of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis that brought the world perilously to the brink of a nuclear war.
On Wednesday, Nato rushed four battle groups to the Russian border in a move that is seen as linked to the ongoing Syrian war.
In Syria, the unexpected entry of Russia last year upended the US plans which were set in motion on behalf of its West Asian allies such Israel, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to oust the Bashar al-Assad regime. When President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian fighter jets to attack ISIS positions, describing the terror group as an existential threat to Russia’s security, the US and its Middle Eastern allies had no option but to grudgingly welcome it. What else could they do? Could they have rushed in to defend ISIS from Russian bombs? Could they have convened the United Nations Security Council to condemn Russia just as they tried to do this month to prevent Russia from freeing Aleppo from the clutches of the extremists? Global public revulsion against ISIS was so overwhelming then that it placed the US in an untenable situation and forced it to allow Russia into West Asia, a region which the US considered as its exclusive domain.
Russia’s war against ISIS in Syria was quite different to the US war on the terror group, which was ironically supported by Washington’s allies. The recent Hillary Clinton emails leaked by Wikileaks exposed their ‘run-with-the-hare-and-hunt-with-the-hounds’ antics.
Outsmarted, the architects of the Syrian war gnashed their teeth and waited for the opportune moment to hit back. Turkey, part of the US-led alliance in Syria, fired the first shot by shooting down a Russian fighter jet on the border with Syria in September last year. Russia’s response was measured and more focused. The economic sanctions Russia imposed on Turkey eventually brought Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Moscow with an apology. This came in the aftermath of the failed military coup in August and against the backdrop of allegations that the US supported the coup.
Turkey then inked a pipeline deal with Russia on October 10 when Putin was in Istanbul for the World Energy Congress. This was another masterstroke by Russia.
The new pipeline will eventually replace the South Stream pipeline which goes through Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria. The latter two states have backed the European Union sanctions on Russia following President Putin’s annexation of Crimea in the wake of the US-instigated coup against Viktor Yanukovych, the democratically elected pro-Russian president of Ukraine, in 2014. The new pipeline means these countries would lose their transit fees.
Pipeline politics is certainly a casus belli for the Syrian civil war. It was not so much the Arab Spring that turned the peaceful country into a hellhole. Rather, it was Syria’s rejection of a Saudi-Qatari proposal to accommodate a pipeline that would take the two Gulf countries’ gas to Europe via Turkey. This prompted the war under the guise of a people power protest campaign. The Saudi-Qatari pipeline, if constructed, would have adversely affected Syria’s key ally Russia also, because Russia, hit by western economic sanctions and the oil-price plunge – engineered by Saudi Arabia — is now heavily dependent on its oil and gas exports to Europe for economic survival.
There is another less-talked about oil story. In 2013, an Israeli-American joint project was set up to extract new found oil in the Golan Heights, a Syrian territory occupied by Israel following the 1967 war. Israel has no right under international law to exploit the territory’s resources. Israel’s interests would be served if a pro-Israeli government is set up in Damascus – a government that would cede the Golan Heights to its Zionist neighbour.
The entry of Russia into Syria to prop up the Assad regime has shattered the dreams of the war’s architects who did not care about the suffering they would inflict on civilians. They thought that just as they got rid of Muammar Gaddafi of Libya within a few months, they could throw out Assad also – what a costly mistake by a greedy few!
In the ongoing Mosul war by Iraqi troops under US guidance, the Syrian war architects find another opportunity to hit out at Russia. The strategy is to drive the ISIS fighters from Iraq into Syria to make them fight Russia and thereby prevent a Russian-Syrian victory in Aleppo. If Aleppo is liberated, it could mean the Syrian war is all but ended in favour of Assad.
Not unaware of this strategy, Russia, in a bid to increase its fire power in Syria, is sending a flotilla of warships, including an aircraft carrier and nuclear-powered submarines to the Mediterranean.
As Russia frustrates the designs of the Syrian war architects, Nato, on Wednesday, launched a countermove, urging its members to contribute to its biggest military build-up on Russia’s borders since the Cold War. Its call signalled the opening up of another protracted quarrel with Moscow. Nato could now tell Russia that if it wants Nato out of its backyard, then it should get out of Syria.
On Wednesday, Britain sent tanks, drones and 800 troops to Estonia as part of this Nato build-up. France, Denmark, Italy and other members were expected to join the four battle groups led by the United States, Germany, Britain and Canada to go to Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. In anticipation of this buildup, Russia has already deployed its nuclear-weapon capable Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad near the Polish border.
On Tuesday, Russia unveiled its largest ever nuclear missile which is capable of destroying the whole of France. The unveiling of the RS-28 Sarmat missile, which Nato scornfully calls Satan 2, came weeks after the Kremlin held a mega military drill over four days. The drill which involved a mock evacuation of 40 million people, raised questions whether Putin was preparing for a nuclear war. Russia has also fortified its defences in the Black Sea region which Turkish President Erdogan has said is becoming a “Russian lake”.
With Hillary Clinton, the war party’s favourite, set to win the US elections, the situation is only likely to be exacerbated, warranting the watchers of the doomsday clock to bring the long hand a minute or two closer to midnight. The clock was set to three minutes to midnight in January because of the threats posed by climate change and nuclear war. The only redeeming feature is that nuclear powers do not go to war. But that’s not a rule.
(This article first appeared in the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka)

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Mosul: Secret motives amid human misery

By Ameen Izzadeen
Iraqi troops, backed by the United States, the Kurdish Peshmerga militia and a host of Shiite irregular forces and Sunni tribal fighters, have launched a much-overdue and much publicised battle to free Mosul from the clutches of the terror group ISIS.
Though initial battlefield successes have encouraged the Iraqi government and the United States to declare that they were ahead of schedule, reports yesterday indicated that the battle will go on for weeks or even months while a big question looms large over the safety of some 1.5 million civilians trapped in the city or being used as human shields by the ISIS.
As the battle continues, the humanitarian crisis, thankfully, is receiving the attention of international humanitarian agencies and the media. But what is worrying is that the refugee flow has not started in a big way yet. Just a few thousand people have fled villages in the outskirts of Mosul. UN officials say they can only accommodate 60,000 refugees whereas they expect at least 700,000 people to flee the war zone. In days to come, Mosul, the last ISIS stronghold in Iraq, will face ruthless bombardment even more severe than what Fallujah experienced in May this year.
To win a city, you have to destroy it, regardless of what happens to its civilian population. This seems to be the thinking of the military strategists of many countries nowadays. This was Russia’s policy in Chechnya – and now in Aleppo. The Americans are no better. They destroyed city after city in Iraq ahead of ground troops making their way into Iraq. The Israelis are probably the worst, as the scale of atrocities they carried out in Gaza and South Lebanon shows. The arrogant conduct their wars but not before dumping the international convention on warfare into the dustbin. Many fear that the killing of civilians in unusually large numbers in wars could soon be accepted as a norm, no matter how ghastly it is. Of course, the perpetrators write off civilian deaths due to their disproportionate military response as collateral damage or even a price worth paying for, given their ‘just’ cause or the ‘noble’ objectives they pursue.
In Mosul, the Iraqi military has dropped leaflets warning the fear-stricken civilians of things to come. They advise: “Keep calm and tell your children that it [the bombardment] is only a game or thunder before the rain… Women should not scream or shout, to preserve the children’s spirit.”
Fight ISIS one must, but there should be utmost concern for the safety of innocent civilians who have been at ISIS gunpoint for two years. Mosul’s people who are Sunni Muslims, like the ISIS, also fear the Shiite-dominated Iraqi military. In Iraq, mutual suspicion on sectarian lines is a legacy of the US invasion.
Sadly, at the final US presidential debate on Wednesday, neither Republican candidate Donald Trump nor his Democratic Party rival Hillary Clinton showed any concern for the people of Mosul, though Mosul was a question the moderator threw at the two contenders for the White House.
The US administration, however, has been accusing Russia and the Syrian forces of carrying out an indiscriminate bombing campaign in Syria’s Aleppo with little regard for the safety of some 250,000 people trapped in the conflict zone.
With the safety of civilians being the least of the concerns of the advancing armies, the Mosul operation appears to be moving according to an American script. More than liberating Mosul or uniting the city and the rest of the Nineveh province with Iraq, the Americans appear to be in the campaign with the aim of achieving a much bigger military objective linked to Syria.
This is not what Donald Trump thinks. Trump responding to the question on Mosul during the debate on Wednesday suggested that the US-backed operation was aimed at making Clinton the President.
“The only reason they did it is because she’s running for the office of president. They want to look tough. They want to look good,” he said.
In response, Clinton said, “I’m just amazed that he seems to think that the Iraqi government and our allies and everybody else launched the attack on Mosul to help me in this election… But that’s how Donald thinks, you know, he’s always looking for some conspiracy.”
Trump may be wrong here, but he raised a valid point when he asked why there was no element of surprise in the military operation. He said this had allowed the ISIS to flee. Though Trump saw the publicity hype before the battle as a political move, the bigger picture may be strategic. It appears the US military wants to drive out the ISIS from Mosul and force the group into Syria to fight the Syrian regime.
Analysts who give a counter-narrative to mainstream media viewpoints believe the ISIS was created in 2011under the leadership of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi – by foreign secret service outfits with the connivance of the US – to topple the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria.
But the group became more ambitious when it got more men, munitions and money, and turned its focus on Iraq. In January 2014, it captured Ramadi and Fallujah in Iraq’s Anbar province and in June that year Mosul came under its control. Clinton emails released by whistleblower website Wikileaks confirm that the Democratic Party Presidential candidate knew all along that Saudi Arabia and Qatar were funding ISIS. The question dominating the media should have been: ‘Why did not Hillary let the American people know that the two US allies have been funding a terrorist group?”. The question has been sneakily displaced from public space by Trump’s sexcapades which the Clinton campaign team has been feeding the media.
Now it appears the US had enough of ISIS in Iraq. Syrian military analysts suspect the real purpose behind the US involvement in the battle for Mosul is to drive ISIS cadres into the Syrian theatre and force the Syrian troops to fight ISIS in the eastern regions bordering Iraq. This will be an added strain on the Syrian and Russian troops and could weaken their resolve to capture the strategic city of Aleppo. With the border between Iraq and Syria being controlled by ISIS, many analysts believe that a large number of ISIS members have already escaped to Raqqa, the terror outfit’s capital in Syria.
Hasan Nasrallah, leader of Lebanon’s Shiite militia group Hezbollah which is fighting alongside Syrian troops in Syria was one of those suspicious of the US motive. In a speech to mark Ashoora, Nasrallah drew the attention of the Iraqis to what he saw as the American design in the battle for Mosul. He told the Iraqis, especially the thousands of Shiite militia who have joined the battle to liberate Mosul, that if they did not defeat ISIS in Mosul, they would be obliged to move to eastern Syria to fight the terrorist group there.
Probably in anticipation of this scenario, Syrian troops and their Russian allies are trying to finish off their battle in Aleppo before the fall of Mosul.
(This article first appeared in the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka)

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Syria: Politicisation of human misery

By Ameen Izzadeen
Politicisation of human rights or trying to gain political mileage from human misery is undoubtedly inhuman, if not demonic.
It appears that this is what the powerful nations are doing in Syria. The suffering of the Syrian people, who have been going through hell for the past five years, has become a propaganda tool for the United States and its allies to use against the Syrian regime and its ally, Russia. In the past few weeks, the Syrian Army backed by Russia, Iran and the Hezbollah militia has been making remarkable battlefield advances in its effort to liberate the ISIS-infested eastern part of the historic city of Aleppo.
Military analysts believe that the victory for the Syrian troops in eastern Aleppo could expedite the end of the civil war in the regime’s favour. This is why the United States and its allies are using every weapon in their armoury to stop the march of the Syrian forces. First, the US failed to honour its part of the deal in the truce it reached with Russia. Then US aircraft killed some 80 Syrian troops in a bombing raid and called it a mistake. But this failed to stop the Syrian-Russian victory march.
The US President Barack Obama who will be in office for only three more months will not commit ground troops in Syria. Neither will he order Nato to carry out more airstrikes on Syrian army positions without risking the possibility of a tough retaliation from Russia which has now deployed its sophisticated S-300 surface-to-air missiles in Syria in a bid to checkmate any further US military adventurism. Yet hawkish Hillary Clinton foolishly calls for the setting up of a no-fly zone over Aleppo to contain the Russians, quite in contrast to Donald Trump’s pledge to work with the Russians to find a solution to the Syrian crisis.
Unable to stop the Syrian Army’s victory march or counter Russia’s military power, the US-led alliance then unleashed its second weapon, propaganda, which is more powerful than bunker busters. US civil rights champion Malcolm X said, “The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.”
Footage from eastern Aleppo began to dominate the Western media coverage of the Syrian war. Front pages carried pictures of bodies of children being recovered from beneath rubble in the aftermath of Russian airstrikes.
In this propaganda avalanche, Syria’s legitimate troops are not referred to as the Syrian military or Syrian forces. Robbed of their legitimacy, they are described in the mainstream western media or Corporate Media as pro-government soldiers or forces loyal to the Syrian regime.
True, civilian massacres should draw universal condemnation, whoever does it. A war crime is a war crime whether it is done by the Syrian forces, the Russians, the Americans or non-state actors such as ISIS.
But singling out war crimes to one conflict is not only hypocritical but inhumane.
When the United States Secretary of State John Kerry last Friday accused Russia of committing war crimes in Aleppo, one wondered whether it was like pot calling the kettle black or ISIS calling al-Qaeda a killer.
“Russia and the {Syrian} regime owe the world more than an explanation about why they keep hitting hospitals, and medical facilities, and children and women… These are acts that beg for an appropriate investigation of war crimes, and those who commit these would and should be held accountable for these actions. This is a targeted strategy to terrorise civilians,” Kerry said.
But the US does not call Saudi Arabia a war criminal for last week’s funeral house massacre in Yemen. Nor did it call Israel by that name for killing some 750 Palestinian children during a month long Israeli bombing in 2009.
Such double standards were evident in the manner that the US protected Israel during the Sabra and Shatila massacre in Lebanon in 1982, the Qana massacre during the 1996 Lebanon war and the civilian deaths during the 2005 attack on Southern Lebanon. Instead of any tough measures, this war crime committing nation receives US$ 4 billion in taxpayers’ money annually as aid from the US. If the money had been given to various cash-strapped UN programmes — instead of Israel, a developed country with some 400 nuclear warheads — the world would have been a better place.
The United States’ own war crimes record is no better than that of Israel which it zealously serves.
Forget Hiroshima and Nagasaki, never mind Vietnam, just look at the United States’ recent wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. These were certainly not wars led by commanders who carried to the battle field copies of the Geneva Conventions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the UN Charter.
The United States’ bombing of Iraq in 2003 was more intense than Russian attacks in Aleppo. Tens of thousands of civilians, including children, died in US strikes codenamed “Shock and Awe”. There is overwhelming evidence to prove that the United States used depleted uranium in Iraq to quash the revolt of the people who sought the freedom of their country.
The Dutch peace group, Pax, in a 2014 report said the data it collected showed that many of the depleted uranium rounds were fired in or near populated areas of Iraq.
Even today, thousands of children in Iraq are dying of cancer or born with serious birth defects because of depleted uranium poisoning. The United States’ use of depleted uranium as a weapon in civilian areas is as appalling as the use chemical weapons by both the regime and the rebels in the Syrian war. But the Corporate Media or the presstitute made very little noise about this war crime.
Civilians also died in Nato airstrikes in Libya. The New York-based Human Rights Watch in a 2012 report said that eight Nato bombing raids killed 72 civilians, a third of them children. But Libyan sources claim that as many as 2,000 civilians were killed by Nato airstrikes on the Gaddafi stronghold of Sirte alone. With the embedded Corporate Media hyping only about atrocities of the Gaddafi regime, the victims of Nato crimes suffered alone.
Similarly in Syria, the Corporate Media won’t mention that on the other side of extremists-controlled eastern Aleppo where some 250,000 people are being used as human shields, some 2.5 million people are leading a normal life in the government-controlled Western Aleppo. They won’t talk about civilians killed in rebel attacks.
It is amid this propaganda war that Moscow and Washington yesterday pledged to resume talks aimed at finding a lasting ceasefire in Syria. But the Syrian crisis being a labyrinth of power games involving, apart from the US and Russia, countries such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran, a solution is possible only if Syria returns to status quo ante.
(This article first appeared in the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka)

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