We are aware that Donald Trump does not take advice from anyone in his cabinet or inner circle. But when it comes to sanctions, tariffs and red lines, it appears he takes his cues from Russian president Vladimir Putin, Fox & Friends and the voices in his head. When Trump tweeted that he was going …
Apr 25 2018
May 16 2017
For someone who was so concerned as Trump was about national security and revealing American secrets while he was on the campaigned trail, he’s pretty loose with the information when it comes to the Russians. Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador By Greg Miller and Greg Jaffe, The Washington Post …
Apr 12 2017
You really have to work hard to be as inept as the Trump administration. Yesterday’s press conference with Sean Spicer at the helm was a prime example. In an attempt to condemn Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for attacking a village with Sarin gas, Spicer compared him to Hitler but not how you would thing and …
Jan 12 2016
The US funded Saudi Arabian coalition that has been bombing Yemen in the name of fighting terrorism has bombed several more hospitals and clinics since they destroyed a hospital run by Médecins Sans Frontières in early December. On Sunday, Shiara hospital in Razeh District, where MSF has been working since November 2015, was destroyed resulting …
Dec 28 2015
The Obama administration is hell bent to oust Syrian President Bashar al Assad. Determined to repeat the mistakes of Iraq and Libya, and caving to congressional war hawks, the CIA began arming rebels opposed to Assad. What could possibly go wrong? Plenty, apparently the CIA program was hijacked by Turkey and the weapons were diverted …
Dec 04 2015
In early October the medical facility run by Médecins Sans Frontières in Kunduz, Afghanistan was purposely bombed by the United States. Then, on October 26, the US backed Saudi bombed another hospital in Yemen that was run by MSF. A hospital run by international aid group Doctors Without Borders (referred to internationally in French as …
Jun 15 2015
Polytheistic idolatry is the only thing that gets destroyed, says Daesh, which somehow rationalizes the destruction of historical antiquities, as though there can only be one history, apparently a Sunni and/or Ba’athist one. Only statues that are deemed idolatrous would get destroyed or apparently as originals resold with copies destroyed for social media documentation. But what counts as idolatrous in a modern commodity economy.
Daesh is only controlling the mythology reproduced by the media in order to further not the goals of actual religious beliefs, as they are simply looters maximizing accumulatable wealth. One can say that they are even projecting a pre-modern accumulation of dominance and subjugation returning West Asia and North Africa to some pre-capitalist mode of production. Of course the ideological contradictions will flourish as Daesh elites will keep their modern networked social media and slick magazines as well as their modern weapons in an attempt to reduce all other variants of Islam to their hegemony. Daesh are not the Sentinelese or the Auvergnats – they are common crooks, the lowest form of banditry tarted up when they refer to their genocidal barbarism as a “management of savagery“.
ISIS’ efforts to erase pre-Islamic pictorial art successfully communicates their brand image. What ISIS fails to mention is that they are destroying fakes. Blouin Art Info reports that upon the release of the Mosul Museum video, experts determined that “most, if not all’ of the statuary on view were plaster fakes. The officials at the Mosul Museum had previously transported the originals to the Baghdad Museum. The New York Times reported that many of these sculptures were replicas of ancient objects and a portion of the sculptures on display were reconstructed from fragments which included original shards of ancient sculptures.
Fox News’ misreading is that this is something more immoral than the actual activity of the market in art forgery, made complicit often in human history by an entire discipline of art history and archaeology so that Fox’s headline “How ISIS created a terrorist art market“, is simply that they are following practices of pillaging going back even before the period to which Daesh wishes to return if only symbolically.
Of course the killing of suspected homosexuals will deprive Daesh of many of the population from which the making of such artwork come. These are the premodern warlord-despots of an imagination-free fundamentalist world of gender, class, and ethnic subjugation. They predictably lack the civility of the Greeks upon losing their (Elgin) Marbles.
Footage released by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) showed the ruins of Syria’s Palmyra untouched as the militant group claimed it only destroy statues which it deems polytheistic, the Guardian newspaper reported on Wednesday.
Palmyra is home to a massive Roman theatre where ISIS reportedly executed 20 foreign fighters earlier this week who had been fighting alongside forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
ISIS militants have reportedly executed at least 400 people in Palmyra since capturing the ancient Syrian city, Syrian state media said earlier this week.
ISIS captured Palmyra – and Iraq’s Ramadi – earlier this month despite months of U.S.-led airstrikes.
A YouTube account believed to be affiliated with ISIS posted a video on May 26 showing parts of the city’s ancient ruins and colonnades. It was not clear when the video was shot.
An activist with an anti-regime group in Palmyra said the ruins have not been damaged adding that ISIS said they would only destroy statues they deem idolatrous.
“They haven’t been damaged and members of the organization [ISIS] told residents that they will not damage the city’s antiquities, but will destroy the idols,” the activist with the anti-regime Local Coordination Committee for Tadmur, was quoted by the Guardian as saying.
“Perhaps it’s because the Palmyra antiquities are mostly columns and large buildings and not statues of people, which they consider idols that must be destroyed, and they have no problem with the other antiquities.”
The ideologically-driven destruction of priceless Iraqi artifacts by Islamic State may be a ruse that actually hides a much more cynical operation, in which fakes are smashed to pieces while real treasures are smuggled out of the country and sold on the black market to fund the terrorist army…
Whether worthless or priceless the verdict for destruction is the same. The current terrorist art and antiquities market is dictated by two factors: (1) can an item be transported to a location where a buyer exists for it, and (2) can the artwork be passed off as legitimate once it arrives.
May 30 2015
The migration of refugees from conflict torn Libya has become a huge humanitarian crisis for European nations, especially Italy. But the solution to stemming the tide of thousands fleeing the region by vessels used by human traffickers isn’t the way.
EU ministers have agreed to launch a sea and air mission that could in its later phases destroy vessels used by human traffickers, which have carried an estimated 1,800 migrants to their deaths in the Mediterranean this year.
An intelligence-gathering operation will herald the mission’s first phase, with the UK expected to offer drones and surveillance equipment as a partial riposte to calls for it to take in more refugees.
In later phases, hostile vessels suspected of harbouring migrants could be boarded, searched, seized or disposed of in Libyan territory or international waters – as long as a chapter 7 UN resolution to authorise the use of force to do so is obtained first. [..]
The mission’s rules of engagement have still to be thrashed out and one diplomat described the deployment of such forces as “the next step in terms of operational details”. The level of collateral damage considered acceptable would also be discussed after the mission was up and running, he said.
The operation will have its headquarters in Rome and be run by an Italian rear admiral, Enrico Credendino, with an initial year-long mandate.
Concerns about the militarisation of the migrants issue will probably be raised at the UN, though, with Libya already describing the mission as very worrying, citing concerns over its potential to mistakenly target fishermen’s boats.
Refugee rights groups fear that bombing the escape routes of people fleeing for their lives from Syria, Eritrea and west Africa – where most migrants begin their journeys – will simply lead to more deaths, away from the public spotlight.
During his interview with Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman in London’s Ecuadoran Embassy, Wikileaks’ founder Julina Assange revealed that Wikileaks has released documents that detail the EU plans for the military intervention against “refugee boats” in Libya and the Mediterranean
Today, WikiLeaks is releasing two classified EU documents, outlining the planned military intervention against boats travelling from Libya to Italy. The more significant of the two documents was written by the combined military defence chiefs of the EU member states. The plan was formally approved by representatives from all 28 countries on 18 May 2015.
Importantly, one of the documents acknowledges that “the political End State [of the military intervention] is not clearly defined” and recommends that the European Commission issue further guidance.
The documents lay out a military operation against cross-Mediterranean refugee transport networks and infrastructure. It details plans to conduct military operations to destroy boats used for transporting migrants and refugees in Libyan territory, thereby preventing them from reaching Europe. The EU member states’ military chiefs advice is that there is a need to:
“[draw] on the full range of surveillance, intelligence and information capabilities available to MS [member states] and Partners, and supported by Brussels (inter alia EEAS [European External Action Service] Single Intelligence Analysis Capacity – SIAC)“.
The plan also acknowledges the possibility of EU military use of force against groups such as ISIL “within the Libyan sovereign area”:
“the threat to the force should be acknowledged, especially during activities such as boarding and when operating on land or in proximity to an unsecured coastline, or during interaction with non-seaworthy vessels. The potential presence of hostile forces, extremists or terrorists such as Da’esh [ISIL] should also be taken into consideration“.
The documents mark a departure from previous EU military strategy in its overt targeting of civilian infrastructure in Libya. Numerous EU countries, including Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom participated in NATO-led air strikes on Libya in 2011.
Transcript can be read here
Oct 22 2014
The Obama administration has decided to arm the Kurdish militants in Kobnani to fight ISIS. What could possibly go wrong?
· Pentagon investigating claims but admits one load missing and it would be embarrassing if it ended up in terror group’s hands
· Turkey criticises arms airdrops saying the strategy will never lead to desired results
A US airdrop of arms to besieged Kurds in Kobani appears to have missed its target and ended up in the hands of Islamic State (Isis) militants.
Video footage released by Isis shows what appears to be one of its fighters for in desert scrubland with a stack of boxes attached to a parachute. The boxes are opened to show an array of weapons, some rusty, some new. A canister is broken out to reveal a hand grenade.
The Pentagon said it was investigating the claim but admitted that one of its airdrops had gone missing. If confirmed, it would be an embarrassment for the US, given the advanced technology available to its air force.
The seemingly bungled airdrop comes against a steady stream of US-supplied weapons being lost to Isis forces, mainly from the dysfunctional Iraqi army. Isis is reported to have stolen seven American M1 Abrams tanks from three Iraqi army bases in Anbar province last week.
Earlier this month, Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States would not act to prevent the Islamic State from seizing Kobani because the Syrian Kurdish town was not a “strategic objective.” But as news cameras on the Turkish-Syrian border showed Islamic State fighters assaulting a town in plain sight, the U.S.-led coalition responded with the most airstrikes of its Syria campaign. The U.S.-led coalition has also begun dropping air supplies of weapons and aid to the Syrian Kurds, a move it had resisted for weeks. Now Turkey says it will open its border with Syria to let Iraqi Kurdish fighters join the fight. The Turkish government had opposed aiding the Syrian Kurds in Kobani because of their links to Turkey’s longtime foe, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the PKK. To help us sort out this complicated picture, we are joined by longtime international law professor and former United Nations Special Rapporteur Richard Falk, who has just returned from four months in Turkey.
Oct 12 2014
Two more different places do not come to mind, yet what we have been witnessing are two instances of the national question which have been in the news recently. I was originally going to write only on Scotland, but the immediacy of the catastrophe that is happening to the Kurds in Syria and the fight being waged against great odds while the world watches (and literally the Turkish army sits in its tanks watching while prevented Turkish Kurds from joining the fight in support of those fighting in Kobaně) needs to be addressed. So I decided to discuss both issues and to ask where the left stands and where it should stand on what should have been termed historically the national question and what criteria we should use to ascertain whether there is a legitimate issue that should be supported.
As we watch the power of states in the advanced capitalist world be weakened through the internationalisation of capital beyond national borders, one would think that the national question (a question arising at the end of the 19th century with the consolidation of nation states like Germany and Italy in the 1870s in the context of the consolidation of bourgeois nationalism and then the creation in the early 20th century of new nation states following the collapse of the Hapsburg and Ottoman Empires, e.g., Hungary, Greece, Czechoslovakia) would have ceased to be a relevant consideration. However, even as we sit here and watch the control over “domestic” capital weaken in state by state (this can be easily seen in the inability to control taxation of profits of MNCs), the issue of the national question still raises its head. This is not only the situation in the post-world war II period of anti-colonialist struggles (e.g., India, Algeria, Mozambique, Zimbabwe), nor the struggle against neo-colonialism and imperialism’s attempts to control the economic and political situations in other countries, but also includes the issue of the rights of nations currently in union, through historical circumstance, or forced through being conquered historically to be part of a state (e.g., The Basque, Catalonia, Scotland, Wales).
Since both questions impact significantly on the issue of anti-imperialist in theory and practice, they bring to the fore issues that the Left needs to address. Inevitably, there will be differences among the Left due to different perspectives on the both the acceptance of the right of self-determination, the issue of nation-state themselves, and how this impacts upon anti-imperialist struggles.
Oct 05 2014
Last Tuesday, in his speech to the UN General Assembly, the Prime Minister of Israel added a new power to the “Axis of Evil”. According to Netanyahu, “Militant Islamists” (including not only ISIS in Iraq and Syria but Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon and other Al Qaeda groups in Africa and the Middle East)”, want to dominate the world like the Nazis; only unlike the Nazis, they believe in a “Master faith” instead of a “Master Race”
Obama, in his speech four days earlier announcing that he would begin Air Strikes in Syria, also discussed “extreme fundamentalism” in the Middle East. Although he did not specify Islamists as the only fundamentalists, he emphasized the necessity of eliminating these groups and, using a combination of the idea of “American Exceptionalism” and a retread of the colonial playbook where the civilized countries (read mostly white, western) have to quell the extreme militant fundamentalists (read “savages”)in the Middle East. This was of course, his justification for invading Syria and bombing ISIS.
The “Axis of Evil”, originally inspired b the Nazis in World War II, was recreated by George W. Bush in 2002 and initially included three Nation States –Iraq, Iran and North Korea –and became Bush’s excuse to invade Iraq. Under his administration, this concept was later expanded to include Cuba, Libya and Syria. The American president offered no evidence to support what we now know was slander and had much more to do with protecting US oil interests than protecting the American people, not to mention the lives of other peoples of the world.
Of the original six members, Cuba and North Korea are effectively quarantined by Western-imposed embargoes, isolated from balanced international relations and development. Of the other four, Iraq and Libya, were invaded by US-led forces in the name of fighting Islamic terrorism, and have been destroyed and realigned to serve Western interests.
It is no accident that Obama is targeting one of the two remaining members, Syria, while changing the stakes from targeting a specific country to the concept of “extreme (read Islamic) fundamentalism” which is much broader and not hampered by nation state boundaries blurring the lines of what is legal and illegal under international law as well as increasing the threat of endless war since it is unclear what nation state you would negotiate with to end the war.
In analyzing the current crisis with ISIS, an historical analysis provides some perspective. Since the 1970’s, capitalist interests have morphed into a toxic combination of religious fundamentalism and extreme militarism to achieve their economic goals — whether that is the reawakening of the Christian-based KKK and the rise of the Patriots and Tea Party in the United States; the Evangelicals, military dictators and death squads in Latin America; the Orthodox Zionist Jews and the concept of a Greater Israel in the Palestinian conflict; or extreme Islamic fundamentalism in the larger Middle East.
It is unclear why this fundamentalism has such appeal these days – maybe it’s because the world is scarier as we globalize and people want to retreat to the “good old days”, to concepts they believe will not change. Maybe it’s because fundamentalism is unquestioning and based on faith rather than reason and it makes it easier for the 1% to manipulate the rest of us. Maybe it is because religious fundamentalism is not restricted by national borders and makes it easier to rationalize the new global paradigm. Maybe it is a combination of all of these.
Whatever the reason, the drums of war are rumbling again, and we are hoping that the drum beats will be loud enough to drown out the voice of reason by finding a new enemy. An enemy who can be the bad guy — pure evil that must be squelched mercilessly which we can only do with war. We, of course, are the “good guys” and wear the white hat because, as always, “God (and a white supremacist morality) is on our side.”
But I would suggest it is not Islamic extremists, terrorists, drug lords, rogue states, corrupt regimes, authoritarian superpowers or Eastern Block” (the “Red Menace sans Communism)who are “the enemy.” It is the multinational oil interests, the military industrial complex and the American government and its allies who are the real “axis of evil.” It is the system of capitalist corruption, exploitation and enrichment that has put the world into poverty, conflict and on the brink of yet another major war.
Sep 24 2014
Are the Syria strikes an illegal war? By what authority has President Barack Obama ordered these attacks? The administration says that it doesn’t need congress to approve it and congress, along with the courts, has surrendered its responsibility.
By Jonathan Turley, Constitutional Law Professor George Washington University
I just completed a two-city debate with former Bush official John Yoo on executive power with a focus on undeclared wars. It appears Yoo won the debate . . . at least with President Obama. Indeed, Yoo appears to have had Obama at “hello” to quote Jerry Maguire. Without any declaration of war, Obama has launched attacks against targets in Syria – an act of war by any measure and a violation of international law.
We have been discussing the growing concerns over President Barack Obama’s series of unilateral actions in ordering agencies not to enforce law, effectively rewriting laws, and moving hundreds of millions of dollars from appropriated purposes to areas of his choosing. One of the greatest concerns has been his unchecked authority asserted in the national security area.
The most serious acts of unilateral presidential action falls within war powers – powers that the Framers expressly and carefully limited to prevent precisely this type of attack. Of course, the Administration does not use the word “war.” I previously represented members of Congress in challenging Obama’s intervention in the Libyan civil war without a declaration from Congress. In the case, President Obama insisted that he alone determines what is a war and therefore when he needs a declaration. Since the court would not recognize standing to challenge the war, it left Obama free to engage in war operations in any country of his choosing.
Professor Turley joined David Corn, Mother Jones Washington Bureau Chief, on MSNBC’s “The Last Word” with Lawrence O’Donnell to discuss just how legal are these attacks.
By Dan Roberts, The Guardian
Lawyers use Iraq’s right of self-defence and weakness of Syrian regime – which US has undermined – to justify failure to seek UN approval
In a letter to the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, released near 24 hours after attacks began, US ambassador Samantha Power argued that the threat to Iraq from Islamic State, known as Isis or Isil, gave the US and its allies in the region an automatic right to attack on its behalf. [..]
The brief letter did not mention the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, which rested on erroneous claims of weapons of mass destruction and arguably contributed to its current instability, but stresses instead the country’s right to self-defence in the face of this new threat. [..]
The US also argued that there was legal right to pursue Isis inside Syria due to the weakness of that country’s government – a regime the US has been actively urging be undermined by rebel groups for much of the past two years. [..]
Fearing that US politicians up for re-election in November may balk at voting for a third military attack on Iraq and being sucked into a Syrian quagmire, the White House has avoided seeking a fresh authorisation of the use of military force, preferring to rely on early authorisations against al-Qaida granted after the 11 September 2001 attacks.
But this means arguing that Isis is equivalent to al-Qaida, even though the groups are split – logic that several critics in Congress, such as Virginia senator Tim Kaine, have argued is flawed and requires a fresh authorisation to fix.
Power reached for similar arguments in her letter to the UN, arguing that Tuesday’s separate attack on Khorasan rebels in Syria was also an act of self defence by the US due to the group’s closeness to al-Qaida.
By Trevor Timm, The Gusrdian
When it comes to military strikes against Isis in Syria, his administration’s strategy relies on what the meaning of ‘is’ is
Want to decipher what the US military is really doing in Iraq and Syria, or figure out whether its regional war against the Islamic State (Isis) is legal? Good luck. The Obama administration’s secret efforts to redefine the ordinary meaning of key legal terms and phrases has made that near impossible.
For instance, in his Tuesday statement that US airstrikes that have expanded into Syria, Obama studiously avoided any discussion about his domestic legal authority to conduct these strikes. That dirty work was apparently left up to anonymous White House officials, who told the New York Times’s Charlie Savage that both the Authorization of Use of Military Force (AUMF) from 2001 (meant for al-Qaida) and the 2002 war resolution (meant for Saddam Hussein’s Iraq) gave the government the authority to strike Isis in Syria.
In other words: the legal authority provided to the White House to strike al-Qaida and invade Iraq more than a dozen years ago now means that the US can wage war against a terrorist organization that’s decidedly not al-Qaida, in a country that is definitely not Iraq. [..]
So when you hear the words “imminent attack”, “civilians”, militants” or “ground troops” from now on, be careful: if the government says they’re not misleading you, it might only be because they’ve secretly changed the definition of “misleading”.
Public Law 107-40 – the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001
Public Law 107-243 – The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq
Neither one of those laws applies to this situation. The president is in violation of his oath of office.