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John Chuckman

BRITAIN’S DAVID CAMERON WANTS TO USE BOMBS TO PROSPECT FOR GOLD IN SYRIA

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the British Labour Party, is a man of genuine integrity and honesty in his opposition to British bombing of Syria.

Indeed, he is everything the Prime Minister of Britain, David Cameron, is not.

I think we see from the storm in the British press against Corbyn just how much the establishment values integrity and honesty, which is to say, not at all.

Almost every word of Cameron’s on the subject of bombing is deliberately deceptive.

He is in fact an intimate part of “the club” which privately regards ISIS and other murdering rogues as tools to an end, and that end is to destroy Assad and turn Syria into a rump state. The club’s members always falsely describe the situation in Syria as a civil war rather than what it truly is, an invasion of a peaceful land by the creatures of outside powers.

They freely admit ISIS is horrible, innumerable propaganda videos having established the fact for the public, but they make no move to do something genuine about it. They portray the only man who is doing something to help Syria’s brave army, Vladimir Putin, as some kind of evil figure with dreams of empire. There is a stream of propaganda and lies about everything Russia does, from its cruise missiles hitting Iran to its planes bombing hospitals, all offered with zero evidence.

Cameron’s every word on Syria is inappropriate. A British Prime Minister has no business pronouncing on the legitimacy of this or that government, especially one supported by the majority of the country’s people, clans, and armed forces. Cameron himself, posing as some cheap knock-off defender of democracy, positively Churchillian in his own eyes, enjoys the support of about 35% of British voters.

Assad’s government has fought bravely against monsters shipped in by Turkey and supplied by Saudi Arabia, Israel, and America for years now, while David Cameron sat back and pontificated.

Assad is not an angel, but he runs a state with tolerance for all religious groups in a region where that is not common, and he has often been generous in helping those badly hurt by the likes of David Cameron – for example, the millions of refugees created by the criminal invasion of Iraq. The reason Assad is hated by Cameron and his associates in “the club” is his independent-mindedness in not following Washington’s dictates. Cameron functions as a noisy little lap dog yapping and snapping at anyone ignoring his master, always in expectation of another approving stroke on the head. It truly is that simple, and all the rest we read and hear is just noisy propaganda.

Washington and Tel Aviv are determined to see Assad gone. And you must ask yourself why that should be a shared goal of the two most violent societies on earth today, each of them in a state of perpetual war and oppression of millions.

Yes, Turkey and Saudi Arabia hate Assad, too, but they mostly do as they are told by Washington.

And remember, one of those countries, Turkey, is run by a lunatic who assassinates journalists and any Kurdish person he can get his hands on, and the other, Saudi Arabia, is run by a senile absolute monarch who regularly cuts off heads and crucifies people and is conducting an illegal war in Yemen, killing civilians daily.

Those are the characters with which David Cameron shares his bed.

What is really at stake here is virtually never discussed in public: the right of countries to exist in peace without outside interference from aggressive states like America and Israel. The United Nations should be in the forefront of demanding just that, but it has been reduced to servility through internal manipulations and threats, especially threats of withholding American financial support as was done some years back. Ban Ki-moon is perhaps the most ineffectual Secretary General in memory, sometimes sounding like a pope enjoining peace with no one listening.

Britain’s bombing in Syria would be just plain old-fashioned aggression adding to that already being done by ISIS, al-Nusra, and other cutthroats. We don’t know what targets Cameron has in mind, but he simply has no business in the country, and we can be sure that if he were sincere about only attacking terrorists, Syria would have welcomed him in its desperate fight. Cameron just keeps repeating, like an unpleasant child who thinks repetition makes something so, that the government of Syria must go.

The government of Syria has not sought Britain’s help, and contrary to arrogant people like David Cameron, Syria does indeed have a government, as legitimate as most in the world.

The only people doing any bombing with the permission of the government are the Russians, and they are supporting the only people doing any real fighting, the Syrian army.

This is not a small point for all those concerned about the rule of law, which you might think would be a prime concern for those who claim they oppose terror.

It took centuries to establish some rule of law in international affairs, and today states like America and Israel and Turkey ignore it completely.

Good old David Cameron wants to join the mob, getting his bit of attention.

And it can’t have escaped Cameron’s attention how handsomely the war criminal, Tony Blair, has been rewarded for doing his dirty part in tearing apart Iraq. He has been showered with gold and sinecures.

Wouldn’t it be natural for Cameron to expect a bit of that for dropping bombs on Syria?

FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH IN PARIS AND THE UGLY TRUTH OF STATE TERROR

John Chuckman

Mass murder, as that which just occurred in Paris, is always distressing, but that does not mean we should stop thinking.

Isn’t it rather remarkable that President Hollande, immediately after the event, declared ISIS responsible? How did he know that? And if he was aware of a serious threat from ISIS, why did he not take serious measures in advance?

Within days of Friday 13, French forces assaulted an apartment with literally thousands of bullets being fired, killing a so-called mastermind, Abdelhamid Abaaoud. Just how are you instantly elevated to the rank of “mastermind”? And if security people were previously aware of his exalted status, why did they wait until after a disaster to go after him?

Well, the ugly underlying truth is that, willy-nilly, France for years has been a supporter of ISIS, even while claiming to be fighting it. How do I know that? Because France’s foreign policy has virtually no independence from America’s. It could be described as a subset of American foreign policy. Hollande marches around with his head held stiffly up after getting off the phone at the Élysée Palace, having received the day’s expectations from Washington. He has been a rather pathetic figure.

So long as it is doing work the United States wishes done, ISIS remains an American protectorate, and regardless of Hollande’s past rhetoric, he has acted according to that reality. But something may just have changed now.

It is important to note the disproportionate attention in the West to events in Paris. I say disproportionate because there are equally ugly things going on in a number of places in the Middle East, but we do not see the coverage given to Paris. We have bombs in Lebanon and Iraq. We have daily bombings and shootings in Syria. We have cluster bombs and other horrors being used by Saudi Arabia in Yemen. And of course, there are the ongoing horrors of Israel against Palestinians.

We have endless interviews with ordinary people in Paris, people who know nothing factual to help our understanding, about their reaction to the terror, but when was the last time you saw personal reactions broadcast from Gaza City or Damascus? It just does not happen, and it does raise the suspicion that the press’s concern with Paris is deliberately out of proportion. After all, Israel killed about twenty times as many people in Gaza not very long ago, and the toll was heavily weighted with children, many hundreds of them. Events in Paris clearly are being exploited for highly emotional leverage.

Leverage against what? Arabs in general and Muslims in particular, just part of the continuing saga of deliberately-channeled hate we have experienced since a group of what proved (after their arrest) to be Israeli spies were reported on top of a truck, snapping pictures and high-fiving each other as the planes hit the World Trade Center in 2001. What those spies were doing has never been explained to the public. I’m not saying Israel is responsible for 9/11, but clearly some Israeli government interests were extremely happy about events, and we have been bombarded ever since with hate propaganda about Muslims, serving as a kind of constant noise covering the crimes Israel does commit against Palestinians and other neighbors.

It is impossible to know whether the attack in Paris was actually the work of ISIS or a covert operation by the secret service of an ISIS supporter. The point is a bit like arguing over angels on a pinhead. When you are dealing with this kind of warfare – thugs and lunatics of every description lured into service and given deadly toys and lots of encouragement to use them – things can and do go wrong. But even when nothing goes wrong in the eyes of sponsors for an outfit like ISIS, terrible things are still happening. It’s just that they’re happening where the sponsors want them to happen and in places from which our press carefully excludes itself. Terrible things, for example, have been happening in the beautiful land of Syria for four or five years, violence equivalent to about two hundred Paris attacks, causing immense damage, the entire point of which is to topple a popularly-supported president and turn Syria into the kind of rump states we see now in Iraq.

A covert operation in the name of ISIS is at least as likely as an attack by ISIS. The United States, Israel, Turkey, and France are none of them strangers to violent covert activities, and, yes, there have been instances before when a country’s own citizens were murdered by its secret services to achieve a goal. The CIA pushed Italian secret services into undertaking a series of murderous attacks on their own people during the 1960s in order to shake up Italy’s “threatening” left-wing politics. It was part of something called Operation Gladio. Operation Northwoods, in the early 1960s, was a CIA-planned series of terrorist acts on American civilians to be blamed on Cuba, providing an excuse for another invasion. It was not carried out, but that was not owing to any qualms in the CIA about murdering their own, otherwise no plan would have ever existed. The CIA was involved in many other operations inside the United States, from experiments with drugs to ones with disease, using innocent people as its subject-victims.

There have been no differences worth mentioning between Hollande’s France and America concerning the Middle East. Whatever America wants, America gets, unlike the days when Jacques Chirac opposed the invasion of Iraq, or earlier, when de Gaulle removed France’s armed forces from integration within NATO or bravely faced immense hostility, including a coup attempt undertaken by French military with CIA cooperation, when he abandoned colonialism in Algeria.

If anything, Hollande has been as cloyingly obsequious towards America’s chief interest in the Middle East, Israel, as a group of Republican Party hopefuls at a Texas barbecue fund-raiser sniffing out campaign contributions. After the Charlie Hebdo attack, Hollande honored four Jewish victims of the thugs who attacked a neighborhood grocery store with France’s highest honor, the Legion of Honor. I don’t recall the mere fact of being murdered by thugs ever before being regarded as a heroic distinction. After all, in the United States more than twenty thousand a year suffer that fate without recognition.

Israel’s Netanyahu at the time of the Charlie Hebdo attack actually outdid himself in manic behavior. He barged into France against a specific request that he stay home and pushed himself, uninvited, to the front row of the big parade down the Champs-Élysées which was supposed to honor free speech. He wanted those cameras to be on him for voters back home watching.

Free speech, you might ask, from the leaders of Egypt, Turkey, the UAE, and Israel, who all marched in front?  Well, after the free-speech parody parade, the Madman of Tel Aviv raced around someone else’s country making calls and speeches for Jewish Frenchmen to leave “dangerous” France and migrate “home” to Israel. It would in fact be illegal in Israel for someone to speak that way in Israel to Israelis, but illegality has never bothered Netanyahu. Was he in any way corrected for this world-class asinine behavior? No, Hollande just kept marching around with his head stiffly up. I guess he was trying to prove just how free “free speech” is in France.

But speech really isn’t all that free in France, and the marching about free speech was a fraud. Not only is Charlie Hebdo, the publication in whose honor all the tramping around was done, not an outlet for free speech, being highly selective in choosing targets for its obscene attacks, but many of the people marching at the head of the parade were hardly representatives of the general principle.

France itself has outlawed many kinds of free speech. Speech and peaceful demonstrations which advocate a boycott of Israel are illegal in France. So a French citizen today cannot advocate peacefully against a repressive state which regularly abuses, arrests, and kills some of the millions it holds in a form of bondage. And Hollande’s France enforces this repressive law with at least as much vigor as Israel does with its own version, in a kind of “Look, me too,” spirit. France also has a law which is the exactly the equivalent of a law against anyone’s saying the earth is flat: a law against denying or questioning the Holocaust. France also is a country, quite disgracefully, which has banned the niqab.

Now, America’s policy in the Mideast is pretty straightforward: subsidize and protect its colony Israel and never criticize it even on the many occasions when it has committed genuine atrocities.  American campaign finance laws being what they, politics back home simply permits no other policy. The invasion of Iraq, which largely was intended to benefit Israel through the elimination of a major and implacable opponent, has like so many dark operations backfired. I call the invasion a dark operation because although the war was as public as could be, all of America’s, and Britain’s, supposed intelligence about Iraq was crudely manufactured and the reasons for undertaking an act which would kill a million people and cripple an entire country were complete lies.

America’s stupid invasion created new room for Iran to exert its influence in the region – hence, the endless noise in Israel and Saudi Arabia about Iran – and it led directly to the growth of armed rabble groups like ISIS. There were no terrorists of any description in Saddam’s Iraq, just as there were no terrorists in Gadhafi’s Libya, a place now so infested with them that even an American ambassador is not safe.

Some Americans assert that ISIS happened almost accidentally, popping out of the dessert when no one was looking, a bit like Athena from the head of Zeus, arising from the bitterness and discontents of a splintered society, but that view is fatuous. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens by accident in this part of the world. Israel’s spies keep informed of every shadowy movement, and America always listens closely to what they say.

It is silly to believe ISIS just crept up on America, suddenly a huge and powerful force, because ISIS was easy for any military to stop at its early stages, as when it was a couple of thousand men waving AK-47s from the backs of Japanese pick-up trucks tearing around Iraq. Those pick-up trucks and those AK-47s and the gasoline and the ammunition and the food and the pay required for a bunch of goons came from somewhere, and it wasn’t from Allah.

A corollary to America’s first principle about protecting Israel is that nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in Israel’s neighborhood that is not approved, at least tacitly, by the United States. So whether, in any given instance of supply and support for ISIS, it was Israel or Saudi Arabia or Turkey or America – all involved in this ugly business – is almost immaterial. It all had to happen with American approval. Quite simply, there would be hell to pay otherwise.

As usual in the region, Saudi Arabia’s role was to supply money, buying weapons from America and others and transshipping them to ISIS. Ever since 9/11, Saudi Arabia has been an almost pathetically loyal supporter of America, even to the extent now of often cooperating with Israel. That couldn’t happen before an event in which the majority of perpetrators proved to be Saudi citizens and which led to the discovery that large amounts of Saudi “go away” money had been paid to Osama bin Laden for years. But after 9/11, the Saudis feared for the continuation of their regime and now do what they are told.  They are assisted in performing the banking function by Qatar, another wealthy, absolute state aligned with the United States and opposing the rise of any possibly threatening new forces in its region.

Of course, it wasn’t just the discoveries of 9/11 that motivated Saudi Arabia. It intensely dislikes the growing influence of Iran, and Iran’s Shia Muslim identity is regarded by Sunni sects in Saudi Arabia in much the way 17th century Protestantism was viewed by an ultramontane Catholic state like Spain. The mass of genuine jihadists fighting in Syria – those who are not just mercenaries and adventurers or agents of Israel or Turkey or the Saudis – are mentally-unbalanced Sunni who believe they are fighting godlessness. The fact that Assad keeps a secular state with religious freedom for all just adds to their motivation.

ISIS first achievement was toppling an Iraqi government which had been excessively friendly to Iran in the view of Israel, and thereby the United States. Iraq’s army could have stopped them easily early on but was bribed to run away, leaving weapons such as tanks behind. Just two heavy tanks could have crushed all the loons in pick-up trucks. That’s why there was all the grotesque propaganda about beheadings and extreme cruelty to cover the fact of modern soldiers running from a mob. ISIS gathered weapons, territory, and a fierce reputation in an operation which saw President al-Maliki – a man disliked by the United States for his associations with Iran and his criticism of American atrocities – hurriedly leave office.

From that base, ISIS was able to gain sufficient foothold to begin financing itself through, for example, stolen crude sold at a discount or stolen antiquities. The effective splitting up of Iraq meant that its Kurdish population in the north could sell, as it does today, large volumes of oil to Israel, an unheard of arrangement in Iraq’s past. ISIS then crossed into Syria in some force to go after Assad. The reasons for this attack were several: Assad runs a secular state and defends religious minorities but mainly because the paymasters of ISIS wanted Assad destroyed and Syria reduced in the fashion of Iraq.

Few people in the press seem to have noted that ISIS never attacks Israel or Israeli interests. Neither does it attack the wheezingly-corrupt rulers of Saudi Arabia, the Islamic equivalent of ancient Rome’s Emperor Nero. Yet those are the very targets a group of genuine, independent warrior-fundamentalists would attack. But ISIS is not genuine, being supplied and bankrolled by people who do not want to see attacks on Israel or Saudi Arabia, including, notably, Israel and Saudi Arabia. ISIS also is assisted, and in some cases led, by foreign covert operators and special forces.

There does seem to be a good deal of news around the idea of France becoming serious in fighting ISIS, but I think we must be cautious about accepting it at face value. Putin is reported as telling ship commanders in the Mediterranean to cooperate and help cover the French aircraft carrier approaching. Hollande keeps calling for American cooperation too, as Putin has done for a very long time, but America’s position remains deliberately ambiguous. A new American announcement of cooperation with Turkey in creating a “safe zone” across the border with northern Syria is a development with unclear intentions. Is this to stop the Kurds Erdogan so despises fighting in the north of Syria from establishing themselves and controlling the border or is it a method for continued support of ISIS along the that border? Only time will tell.

I do think it at least possible Hollande may have come around to Putin’s view of ISIS, but America has not, and the situation only grows more fraught with dangerous possibilities. I’ve long believed that likely America, in its typically cynical fashion, planned to destroy ISIS, along with others like al-Nusra, once they had finished the dirty work of destroying Syria’s government and Balkanizing the country. In any event, Israel – and therefore, automatically, America – wants Assad destroyed, so it would be surprising to see America at this point join honestly with Putin and Hollande.

America has until now refused Russia any real support, including such basic stuff as sharing intelligence. It cooperates only in the most essential matters such avoiding attacks on each other’s planes. It also has made some very belligerent statements about what Russia has been doing, some from the America’s Secretary of Defense sounding a lot like threats. Just the American establishment’s bully-boy attitude about doing anything which resembles joining a Russian initiative does not bode well.

After all, Putin has been portrayed as a kind of Slavic Satan by American propaganda cranking stuff out overtime in support of Ukraine’s incompetent coup-government and with the aim of terrifying Eastern Europe into accepting more American weapons and troops near Russia’s border, this last having nothing to do with any Russian threat and everything to do with America’s aggressive desire to shift the balance of power. How do you turn on a dime and admit Putin is right about Syria and follow his lead?

And there are still the daily unpleasant telephone calls from Israel about Assad. How do you manoeuvre around that when most independent observers today recognize Assad as the best alternative to any other possible government. He has the army’s trust, and in the end it is the Syrian army which is going to destroy ISIS and the other psychopaths. Air strikes alone can never do that. The same great difficulty for Hollande leaves much ambiguity around what he truly means by “going to war against ISIS.”

It is an extremely complicated world in which we live with great powers putting vast resources towards destroying the lives of others, almost killing thousands on a whim, while pretending not to be doing so. We live in an era shaped by former CIA Director Allen Dulles, a quiet psychopath who never saw an opportunity for chaos he did not embrace.

The only way to end terror is to stop playing with the lives of tens of millions in the Middle East, as America has done for so long, and stop supporting the behaviors of a repressive state which has killed far greater numbers than the madmen of ISIS could dream of doing, demanding instead that that state make peace and live within its borders. But, at least at this stage, that is all the stuff of dreams.

 

IRAQ, ISIS, AND INTERVENTION: JUST WHAT IS GOING ON?

John Chuckman

As so often is the case in foreign affairs, we will never know with precision what is happening in Iraq. The governments involved have reasons to disguise what they are doing, and a number of governments are indeed at work there. The press doesn’t spend the resources needed to discover the facts, thus saving government considerable embarrassment and themselves a good deal of work.  But, if you look carefully, there are enough bits of information scattered around to gain an adequate picture of events, just as you might detect what people had been eating from the crumbs and splashes left on a dinner table.

From columnists and editorials, you can find almost any explanation of events in Iraq you care to find, all of them together yielding precisely a huge muddle. My favorite example of confusion is the story which made its way around about the way the United States and Iran were coming together to stop ISIS, each of them having their own reasons for doing so. As it turns out, nothing could be further from the truth. Iran, indeed, cares deeply about stopping ISIS. The United States makes a good deal of noise – what else can it do when pictures are published, intended to inflame public opinion, of prisoners being violently murdered? – but it does nothing of substance because it does not want to do anything.

The less-than 300 troops America sent to Iraq are only for embassy protection, not fighting, the monster embassy the United States forced on occupied Iraq being a private city of spies and communication and resources, totally out of proportion to a country the size of Iraq – if you will, a Middle East branch plant for CIA headquarters in Virginia. Now the United States talks of sending 300 advisers to Iraq’s army. Advisers? Since when does the United States send advisers to a besieged area where it has vital interests? So, too, the matter of air support: Prime Minister al-Maliki is reported to have asked for air support, and the United States is reported to have responded that it will be sent if he resigns. That is a very odd response for a government supposedly having common cause with Iran.

Yes, ships with planes have been sent to the region, but I think they may well be used in a different fashion than how the press speculates.

ISIS (aka ISIL) is often called a powerful and frightening force, but that is almost laughably inaccurate. All estimates of its manpower range from 7 to 15,000 – that is not a lot of soldiers by any standard and no larger than some American street gangs. The Iraq military, in the last numbers I saw, had approaching 300,000 on active service and more than half-a-million reserves. You can find pictures on the Internet of ISIS forces on the move, a rag-tag bunch with small arms riding around in Japanese pick-up trucks. They would be scary for any individual or village, but they wouldn’t stand a chance against even a single division of a modern army. Iraq’s government has many hundreds of armored combat vehicles, including more than 200 heavy tanks, a mix of American M1A1s and Russian T-72s, and several billion dollars’ worth of other high-end military equipment.

So why does Maliki seek American help? The Maliki government is not popular in Iraq, as proves the case so often with governments set up by the United States after its colonial wars. It has all the faults found throughout the Middle East of cronyism, nepotism, etc.  And in a country with great divides of ethnicity and religion – Arabs, Kurds and Sunni, Shia – plus still other regional divides – oil-producing, agricultural, plains and mountains, urban and rural – any central government is bound to suffer unpopularity. Democracy has no history here, so popularity is not necessarily even a relevant criterion. But Maliki also is not popular with his original benefactor, the United States, almost certainly a far more relevant fact.

On the other hand, the Maliki government has become quite well disposed towards Iran, far more so than the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Israel like. Some earlier observers of America’s handiwork in Iraq said that the ultimate beneficiary might just prove to be Iran. Israel, in one of the more informative statements made about the situation, said that Iran was far more a threat to the region than ISIS. Maliki’s government forms an important link in an arc of Shiite power through the region from Iran through Syria (Assad is Shia) to Hezbollah in Lebanon (also Shia). The Shia are viewed by many in the Muslim world, which is overwhelmingly Sunni, much the way Protestants in the 17th century were viewed by the Catholic Church, as a minority which has broken old traditions, cultural patterns, and loyalties. All of the great reformers of Protestantism were viewed by the Catholic Church as heretics, and as many Protestants as possible were disposed of in bloody persecutions like the Holy Inquisition or the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. It is actually  the politics and attitudes of the Shia, rather than this or that minor difference in theology, which makes them unwelcome to the folks running Saudi Arabia, much as was the case with the Reformation and Rome, the rulers of Saudi Arabia being in general about as genuinely religious as many of the old hedonistic popes in Rome.

Some observers, early in the American occupation, predicted that Iraq would crumble into three rump states, and to some extent their expectations have proved perceptive. It is not clear that America would have been entirely averse to that development since it would have eliminated a state which might one day again possess the strength to oppose Israel. Saddam Hussein held Iraq together through ruthlessness towards any who were opposed or questioned his central authority, but he did represent more than a simple bloody dictator. He was also building something of a modern secular society with public institutions serving welfare needs, more rights for women, and the advance of education and science – in many ways, his Iraq was the most advanced state in the Arab world, and undoubtedly the growing middle class his policies helped create would have brought democracy one day after his death. The American invasion smashed all of that, leaving little of which to be proud and three regions pulling in different directions. To the degree Maliki has again tried to impose a will on the situation, he naturally has not been popular. And his efforts to work with Iran, a natural and powerful regional ally for him to turn, have made him loathed in Israel and Saudi Arabia.

ISIS, whatever the exact paths from its origins, represents just one more of the rag-tag groups that Saudi Arabia and Turkey, working under the close eye of the United States, introduced into Syria to topple Assad in an engineered civil war. We have many reports of ISIS members with British or American passports. The past Benghazi, Libya fiasco, never explained by Washington, was part of these efforts, the murdered American ambassador running a black operation to collect weapons and radical fighters to ship to Turkey for insertion into Syria when he was caught in what intelligence agencies call “blowback,” a group of those with whom he was dealing turning on him, viewing an available American ambassador as perhaps a more worthy target than Assad. ISIS has expanded its horizons to include Iraq, and it has been encouraged and assisted to do so by the Saudis.

Why do jihadist types hate Assad enough to go there risking their lives? Apart from the natural attractions for some young men of adventure, war, and escape from rules, it is because Assad, like Hussein, actually represents some progressive, modern developments in a large Arab state. He has at his disposal fewer resources, not being a major oil producer like Hussein’s Iraq, but, within the limits imposed on him, Syria exhibits secular tendencies and some openness to modern trends. The great irony of the region is that the very states with which Israel keeps the best relations are absolute ones doing all they can to dampen social progress, places like Saudi Arabia or Egypt.

ISIS is a perfect mechanism for two American goals, the first being to assist in the disposal of Maliki, something which would make Israel very happy because it would cut the Iran connection. Second, ISIS can be used as an excuse for American air attacks into Syria, perhaps even the insertion of limited ground forces there. Assad and the Syrian army have foiled the elaborate secret effort to topple him, and a great opportunity, from America’s point of view, stands to be lost if some additional effort is not made. ISIS being chased into Syria by American jets and Special Forces may just be an opportunity not to be missed: attacks on Syrian forces staged as hot pursuit of repulsive ISIS fanatics. And the fanatics, having served their purpose from America’s point of view, will be slaughtered too. Of course, none of this has anything to do with the welfare of the Syrian people who have endured countless horrors as though their country were a dump site for the toxic wastes of some great corporation.

ISIS has been given waves of publicity for its ferocity and barbarism, but as with all such publicity, we must make allowances for inflated claims. We do have reports that in villages where residents ran from ISIS, they are returning and being treated decently. Would anyone return to place occupied by a wild band of cutthroats? If such a force shows up at a town or village where there is a great deal of dissatisfaction with the Maliki government, it is not hard to see how the locals might run, but how do we explain reports of those who ran away being welcomed back?

The key factor as to whether Maliki can stop ISIS is the loyalty of the army as well as local populations, and that is not certain at all. It is extremely likely that strategic payments to soldiers and others are being made to secure results like those of the early ISIS victories, the funds coming from Saudi Arabia. Soldiers running and leaving behind modern tanks when confronted with a mob in Japanese pick-ups are not credible otherwise. Remember, Iraq is a place where pallet-loads of freshly-printed United States’ hundred dollar bills disappeared in countless payments and bribes to silence various groups active in the violent wake of America’s so-called victory. It is the way the place has worked for a decade of corrupt American influence.

A high Israeli official was quoted recently saying it was Iran’s influence that is most dangerous in the region, not that of ISIS. Of course, that should tell us a great deal. In this part of the world, Israel’s views count for far more than those of all the other countries put together, at least, so far as the United States’ government is concerned, the ridiculous lopsidedness in that reflecting the best Congress campaign funding can buy.

FAVORITE CONTRADICTIONS AND ABSURDITIES CONCERNING WAR IN IRAQ

John Chuckman

The title could be the name of a television quiz show, although I doubt the subject matter would attract a large audience, especially in that key market of the United States.

Even on progressive and liberal Internet sites in the United States, one finds ritualized deference to “our brave boys.” Well, this just makes me wonder whose boys aren’t brave? Like most human qualities, I imagine bravery is pretty evenly distributed across the human population. In other words, the expression can only be propaganda or uttered out of fear.

Further, I have to say that professional American soldiers, exceedingly well paid and rewarded by world standards, are in fact doing their jobs.

Lastly, I fail to see even a normal display of bravery in the vast, richly-equipped armed forces of the world’s wealthiest country attacking the smaller, far more poorly-equipped forces of a nation with less than a tenth the population and maybe a hundreth the wealth. If this is bravery, then Italians dive-bombing Abyssinia or Germans using tanks on Polish cavalry were brave.

The dreariest, most uninformed words used over and over are those comparing Hussein to Hitler and diplomacy to appeasement. There is no comparison, except in the minds of those who know little history but insist on repeating phrases like “history repeats itself,” having very little idea as to what they are saying.

Germany, despite severe defeat and reparations from the First World War and a terrible depression, in the 1930s remained a major industrial, intellectual, and military power, potentially a great world power. It was re-arming at a furious pace soon after Hitler’s rise to Chancellor. There was no guess work in knowing this; everybody in Europe understood it. There was even a considerable degree of sympathy with the idea that Germany should recover her place in Europe, although few wanted the re-asserted militarism that Hitler brought.

Germany was surrounded, and thereby posed a threat to the stability of, several other major powers, including France and Italy. Moreover, going clear back to the mid-1920s, Hitler had laid out, for anyone to read, his intention of invading the Slavic states east of Germany. This, too, was no secret, and there was even some sympathy with the idea since few Western statesmen liked the Soviet Union.

Hitler made it clear from about 1919 that he detested Jews, Slavs, and Communists, and that, given the means, he would treat them ruthlessly.

Iraq is a small country, with a population less than Canada’s. While it is fairly advanced by the standards of Arab states, it cannot meaningfully be called an advanced country. Apart from the state of its economy and the general level of its development, Iraq is not even in a geographical position to threaten a major power. Iraq has had two wars, both of them with the connivance or at least encouragement, of the United States.

Hussein is a nasty dictator, but he is no different from dozens of others the U.S. has put into place or formed friendly relations with when it suited them. There is no evidence that he has ever had the same visceral hatreds of whole groups and races that Hitler had. He doesn’t like Israel, but then neither do many other people in the Middle East. He has suppressed the Kurds because they seek independence, not because they are Kurds, and in doing so, he is in the company of countries like Turkey and the United States. He is brutal, just as Mr. Sharon is brutal, but unless you want to use the distorted language carelessly flung around in the United States, he has not committed, nor does he have any interest in committing, genocide.

A fundamental point cannot be made too strongly. Iraq is not, nor has it ever been, any threat to the United States. It posses neither the will nor the ability to attack the United States. Iraq did once have a nuclear-weapons program. That program was not aimed at the United States, but at two rival or enemy states, Israel which already has a nuclear arsenal and Iran which shows significant signs of developing one, Iran being of course a country with whom Iraq fought a vicious war during the 1980s. Every genuine expert, from previous and current weapons inspectors to refugee Iraqi scientists, agrees that Iraq’s nuclear program no longer exists.

An annoyingly-ignorant expression is “weapons of mass destruction” (WMD), something first mouthed by the Pentagon under President Clinton. It cannot be too strongly stated that there is only one genuine weapon of mass destruction, and that is a nuclear (or thermonuclear) weapon. It also cannot be stressed too strongly that only one nation has actually used such a weapon.

Recently I heard an American colonel in a brief interview confirm what is widely understood, that if Hussein were to use poison gas, assuming he has some, it would have very little effect on the battle field. Indeed.

As for biological weapons, we all saw what military-grade anthrax, without the high-tech means for its distribution, can do just a couple of years ago in the United States when one of the country’s many home-grown terrorists started sending samples through the mail to prominent public figures (never caught, by the way, just like a number of others including the weirdo who added poison to Tylenol bottles years ago). It was all very nasty, rather scary, but it killed only a few people. Hardly a strategic threat.

Of course, you have to ask yourself that if, indeed, Hussein has some stockpile of these materials, what will be the effect of America’s horrific bombardment on their release and spread? Is this a more intelligent approach than inspection and proper disposal?

Despite Bush’s incoherent blubbering, Iraq has never had dealings with al Qaeda. There is no evidence for this notion whatsoever. Of course, now that the U.S. has invaded the country, and it is fighting for its life, anything becomes possible. Besides, if relations with al Qaeda were a sound cause for war, there were far better candidates.

Al Qaeda was in good part a creation of Pakistan’s intelligence service wishing to manipulate affairs in Afghanistan. But, no, Pakistan is not expected to be attacked any time soon. Instead, it is America’s ally in fighting terror, having been granted numerous bounties and forgiveness of past behavior.

You could make a crude case for attacking Saudi Arabia, certainly no cruder than some of the actual arguments we hear from Washington. Fourteen of the 9/11 desperados were Saudis. But, no, while Saudi Arabia has been called some names in Washington and intimidated into changing some of its practices in making charitable donations, it is under no threat.

The best case for invasion based strictly on al Qaeda dealings, of course, could be made against a giant, secretive organization headquartered in Langley, Virginia, but no threats of any kind have been made against the CIA. Indeed, one expects the organization’s feeding trough has been filled to overflowing with Bush’s astronomical increases in military spending. Yet we know for sure that the good gentlemen of 9/11 entered the United States with valid visas, and we know for sure that the CIA had been in the business for years of arranging just such things as part of its secret nasty work in Afghanistan and other places.

So that leaves Iraq – a country whose ruler has personal animosity towards bin Laden at least as great as that displayed by Mr. Bush towards Yassir Arafat – as the place to attack. Does that make sense to you? No, and it doesn’t to anyone else in the world, outside Washington and those dependent on its bounty or afraid of its wrath.

We have had an entire list of false claims and downright lies from an administration desperate to make a case. Bush has claimed, time and time again, intelligence information he simply never had. If, in fact, he ever had anything decisive, he refused to share it with U.N. weapons inspectors. Instead, on several occasions, U.S.-supplied information sent inspectors on pointless expeditions. Would you call that kind of action supporting or deliberately hurting the U.N.?

Colin Powell’s presentation to the U.N. was de facto proof that the U.S. had no case. Had there been proof, there would not even have been such a presentation. The case would have been made in private to the members of the Security Council. That’s how things are normally done in world affairs.

No, what we got was a show-boat performance intended to sway public emotions, not to supply anyone with facts they did not already have. Powell uttered the same assertions and guesses already heard many times. If that, truly, was the best the CIA could do in coming up with facts for such a seemingly-dire matter, they are seriously wasting American taxpayers’ money.

We have the much-repeated assertion that people like Canada or France or Germany should be supporting their friend. No sensible person can make friendship an argument for supporting a war that most people in the world agree is without legitimate purpose. Should I assist my neighbor who decides to beat members of his family or throw rocks at the windows of the house of another neighbor he happens to hate? Anyway, Canada has always supported legitimate international actions, and it has always paid its dues, but the U.N. did not authorize the violence in which America is now engaged.

The American ambassador to Canada, Mr. Cellucci, has been going around making inappropriate public comments about disappointment in not being supported by friends. An ambassador making such statements, directly interfering in the internal affairs of the country to which he is accredited, would normally be asked to leave. But Mr. Cellucci feels safe continuing to act the diplomatic cretin, because he knows that if Canada were to request his departure, it would be viewed as a hostile act in an already-aggrieved Washington.

There has been much bellowing to the south over a couple of foolish remarks made in Canada concerning Mr. Bush’s mental capacity and character. But such personal comments pale compared to the words of an ambassador, speaking with the full force of his government’s approval, interfering in the internal, democratically-determined affairs of a country like Canada.

In a sense, the ambassador’s willingness to do this over such a sensitive issue only proves again how right Canada’s government has been in following the policy it has. Canada always supports UN-mandated action. It cannot support the dangerous, arbitrary whims of an administration whose poor attitudes and lack of civility are reflected directly in Mr. Cellucci’s remarks.