TBR News December 31, 2016

Dec 31 2016

The Voice of the White House  

Washington, D.C. December 31, 2016: “For many years, the country has been effectively run by a loose-knit but very effective oligarchies composed of major business and industrial entities, aided by such agencies as the CIA, the Federal Reserve, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and what are called the Neo-Cons. Getting the support of Congress is only a matter of the amount of bribe money exchanging hands and Presidents, not wishing to be assassinated or deposed, eagerly cooperate in any project the overlords deem necessary. This control element has complete control over the traditional print media and the newer television news entities, all of whom publish whatever transparent, but supportive, lies their masters require. Russia has become an enemy, accused of all manner of ludicrous “attacks” on the United States. Why Russia? She has many wonderful natural resources like oil, the Jewish elements in the Neo-Cons have a visceral hate of Russians because in the 19th century, Imperial Russia harassed their Jewish population, forcing many of them to immigrate to the United States. And overall, the United States is a strong practitioner of the Might is Right school of thought. America is devoid of any form of diplomacy other than the barely disguised program of military threats and the subversion and internal destruction of any other nation that dares to defy it. The Clinton defeat shocked all of the overlords and one sees in their hysteria, signs of the beginnings of a defeat of their organizations. The oligarchs see this as a revolution but it is, in fact, an evolution and they are on the very dirty end of a very  short stick.”

UN Security Council approves Russian-drafted resolution on Syria ceasefire

December 31, 2016


The UN Security Council has unanimously passed a resolution drafted by Russia that endorses a nationwide Syrian ceasefire, which was earlier brokered by Moscow and Ankara.

The draft resolution prepared by Russia was officially presented to the UNSC on Friday, a day after Moscow sent the texts of two agreements signed by the Syrian government and seven armed opposition groups to the UN body.

The documents that “establish a ceasefire as well as obliges the Syrian government and the opposition to start direct talks in Astana in late January,” Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin told journalists on Friday, speaking about the documents he presented at the Security Council meeting together with a draft resolution supporting the ceasefire in Syria.

He also said that all groups that genuinely want to join talks between the Syrian government and the opposition in Astana scheduled for early 2017 are welcome in the Kazakh capital.

Security Council members welcomed the agreements reached through the mediation of Russia and Turkey, and stressed the importance of its “full and immediate implementation.”

The Security Council also expressed its support for the “efforts taken by Russia and Turkey and aimed at stopping violence in Syria and launching a political process.” Council members stressed that they see the Astana meeting as an important step in the process toward the reconciliation of the Syrian conflict.

The UN body also reaffirmed its commitment to the “sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic” and reiterated that the only way to resolve the Syrian crisis is to begin a complex inter-Syrian political process.

Western countries expressed cautious optimism about the agreements brokered by Moscow and Ankara. The US deputy ambassador to the UN, Michelle Sison, said that the US expects the truce to be observed across the whole of Syria while the British deputy UN envoy Peter Wilson said that a system is required to independently monitor the ceasefire.


Did Russia Hack the Election? 7 Times the CIA Influenced Foreign Politics Around The World

December 20, 2016

by Tom O’Connor


Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner is the latest Republican senator to support a special Congressional committee to investigate allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election, he announced Monday. The committee would also look into other cyber security threats against the nation.

Following conclusions by both the FBI and CIA stating that Russia was likely behind the hacks targeting Democrats and their emails, which were made public by whistleblower organization Wikileaks, Gardner joined other lawmakers in condemning Russia for apparently trying to influence the election. Arizona Sen. John McCain also accused Moscow of attempting to “destroy democracy” during an interview with CNN Sunday.

“This is the sign of a possible unraveling of the world order that was established after World War Two, which has made one of the most peaceful periods in the history of the world. We’re starting to see the strains and the unraveling of it, and that is because of the absolute failure of American leadership,” McCain said.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose presidential campaign was apparently Russia’s target, and President Barack Obama have also warned of the dangers that Moscow-sponsored hacking could present. Washington has long had its hand in a history of foreign coups, revolutions and invasions, especially most of which occurred in the post-World War Two era McCain praised as a time of stability.

Here are just a few examples of the U.S.’ involvement in foreign governments around the world.

  1. Russian Civil War (1918-1920)

One of the U.S.’ first major attempts to influence a foreign government occurred directly after World War I. Russia entered the war as an empire within the Allied Powers. The U.S. did not get involved in the war until Russia’s withdrawal, which occurred as the result of a series of internal revolutions, which saw the Bolsheviks, or Red communists, rise to power. Once on top, the Bolsheviks faced opposition from other leftists and right-wing armies, which banded together to try and take down Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin.

The Bolsheviks had broken off all former “imperial” treaties, seized foreign property and encouraged the spread of communism, leading Allied countries including the U.S. to sponsor the so-called “White” forces against the Red Army. The communists ultimately won and remained firmly in power for the next 70 years under the banner of the Soviet Union. The U.S.’ decision to back Moscow’s early opponents was a primary factor in the rift in relations between the two superpowers.

  1. Italy, 1948 General Election

The Central Intelligence Agency, or CIA, was formed in 1947 in the wake of World War Two. While the threat of Nazism had dissipated, the “specter” of communism took its place as the U.S.’ great rival in Europe. Moscow had secured communist satellite states throughout Eastern Europe, comprising the Soviet Union and its allies, and Washington sought to fortify friendly nations in the West. During the 1948 Italian general election, the CIA, headed by future U.S. President Harry Truman, covertly reached out to Christian Democrat Alcide de Gasperi and offered financial and political support against his socialist opponents. Gasperi won the election with 48 percent of the vote thanks and the CIA repeated this strategy in Italian elections for the next 24 years.

“We had bags of money that we delivered to selected politicians, to defray their political expenses, their campaign expenses, for posters, for pamphlets,” F. Mark Wyatt, a late former CIA operative involved in the operation, told CNN in a 1995 interview.

  1. Iran, 1953 Overthrow Of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh

Shortly after its inception, the Cold War between Washington and Moscow became the CIA’s primary concern not just in Europe, but around the world. The CIA only public admitted in 2013 its role in the overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, making it the earliest foreign coup officially claimed by the agency.

Mossadegh was a Western-educated, politically influential politician in Iran who successfully championed efforts to nationalize the country’s oil industry. The move angered British companies who operated in Iran and the CIA decided to execute an operation known as TPAJAX or Operation Ajax, through which the CIA had Mossadegh placed under house arrest where he remained until his death in 1967. The U.S. and the U.K. also sponsored Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, Shah of Iran. Pahlavi maintained a formidable security force and his harsh resistance eventually turned against him and his allies in the West when he was overthrown during the 1979 Iranian Revolution that installed the country’s current government.

“In 1953, the United States played a significant role in orchestrating the overthrow of Iran’s popular Prime Minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh. The Eisenhower Administration believed its actions were justified for strategic reasons; but the coup was clearly a setback for Iran’s political development. And it is easy to see now why many Iranians continue to resent this intervention by America in their internal affairs,” former Secretary of State Madelaine Albright said in a 2000 speech.

  1. Congo, 1960 Overthrow of President Patrice Lumumba

In the mid-20th century, a number of so-called third world countries experienced a wave of independence movements. Patrice Lumumba was an influential figure calling for Congolese independence from its colonist Belgium. After his release from prison, he attended the talks that ultimately freed the country.

Lumumba became the country’s first democratically elected prime minister, yet instability followed when Belgium intervened amid reports of whites being targeted and to protect its interests such as its profitable mineral industry in the Congo. As the Belgian occupied the nation, Lumumba appealed to the U.N., which sent peacekeeping troops and requested Belgium to withdraw and halt support for allied militias. Belgium refused and instead sponsored separatist republics containing the country’s vast mineral reserves. The U.S. sided with Belgium, leaving Lumumba to turn to the Soviets for assistance. In response, the U.S. and Belgium conspired against the Congolese prime minister leading to his capture and execution at the hands of Congolese and Belgian mercenaries in 1961. He was replaced by pro-Western military leader Joseph Mobutu, who led the country until 1997.

  1. Cuba, 1961 Bay Of Pigs Invasion

The CIA had a long, tumultuous relationship with late former Cuban President Fidel Castro, who overthrew U.S. ally Fulgencio Batista and forged close ties with Washington’s Cold War rival Moscow.

The U.S. initially supported Castro’s revolutionary cause before it took a socialist undertone. Once Castro enacted economic reforms that nationalized U.S. properties, the short-lived alliance unraveled and President Dwight D. Eisenhower imposed harsh trade sanctions against Havana, which exist to this day. Castro responded by becoming closer to Moscow and its Soviet-style administration.

The U.S. trained and equipped Cuban rebels for the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, but the attack was thwarted by Cuban forces. Defense officials then drafted Operation Northwoods, an ultimately rejected false flag operation that proposed orchestrating a terrorist attack in the U.S. and blaming the Castro government in order to incite war. Many have tried to record the numerous CIA-backed plots to kill the Cuban leader, with some putting the number as high as 638 attempts on Castro’s life. Some of the more cartoonish proposals allegedly included exploding cigars and employing one of Castro’s former lovers who could not bring herself to poison the Cuban leader.

Around the period when U.S. relations with Cuba were at their tensest point, the CIA was able to successfully sponsor a coup in another Caribbean nation, providing “material support” for the assassin of Rafael Trujillo Dominican Republic.

6 – Indonesia, 1965 Anti-Communist Purges

In 1965, six senior Indonesian army generals were kidnapped and killed by Indonesian military officials claiming to be from the 30 September Movement. The Indonesian government branded it a coup attempt and blamed it on the communists. The armed forces, led by General Suharto, began to systematically imprison, torture and kill anyone suspected of having communist ties. President Sukarno demanded order, but was eventually overthrown by Suharto. Officials within the CIA have admitted to supplying names of communists and providing support for the purges that killed over 400,000 people.

“It really was a big help to the army. They probably killed a lot of people, and I probably have a lot of blood on my hands, but that’s not all bad. There’s a time when you have to strike hard at a decisive moment,” Robert J. Martens, a former member of the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta’s political section and later State Department consultant, told the Washington Post in 1990.

Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, the CIA supported the coup and execution of South Vietnamese leader and ally Ngo Dinh Diem, whose oppression of Buddhists frustrated Washington.

7 – Chile, 1973 Overthrow Of President Salvador Allende

The date Sept. 11th has a very different meaning for many Chileans, especially those that remember the political crisis that followed the military coup against socialist President Salvador Allende and the rise of right-wing military leader Augusto Pinochet.

Allende was elected president in 1970, despite CIA-backed attempts to disrupt his success. It continued its attempts to sabotage the Chilean economy and Allende’s socialist policies. In 1973, General Pinochet led a military assault on the presidential palace, during which Allende allegedly committed suicide. Pinochet took power and began a campaign of forced disappearances against leftists, with over 3,000 missing and a further 27,000 affected by human rights violations.

The CIA continued to work with Pinochet and others in the violent Washington-supported campaign of repression against leftist ideology in South America known as Operation Condor that killed up to 60,000 people across Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Prior to Chile, the CIA sponsored Latin American, anti-communist coups in Guatemala in 1954 and Brazil in 1961.


Russia Hysteria Infects WashPost Again: False Story About Hacking U.S. Electric Grid

December 31 2016

by Glenn Greenwald

The Intercept

The Washington Post on Friday reported a genuinely alarming event: Russian hackers have penetrated the U.S. power system through an electrical grid in Vermont. The Post headline conveyed the seriousness of the threat:

The first sentence of the article directly linked this cyber-attack to alleged Russian hacking of the email accounts of the DNC and John Podesta – what is now routinely referred to as “Russian hacking of our election” –  by referencing the code name revealed on Wednesday by the Obama administration when it announced sanctions on Russian officials: “A code associated with the Russian hacking operation dubbed Grizzly Steppe by the Obama administration has been detected within the system of a Vermont utility, according to U.S. officials.”The Post article contained grave statements from Vermont officials of the type politicians love to issue after a terrorist attack to show they are tough and in control. The state’s Democratic Governor, Peter Shumlin, said:

Vermonters and all Americans should be both alarmed and outraged that one of the world’s leading thugs, Vladimir Putin, has been attempting to hack our electric grid, which we rely upon to support our quality-of-life, economy, health, and safety. This episode should highlight the urgent need for our federal government to vigorously pursue and put an end to this sort of Russian meddling.

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy issued a statement warning: “This is beyond hackers having electronic joy rides – this is now about trying to access utilities to potentially manipulate the grid and shut it down in the middle of winter. That is a direct threat to Vermont and we do not take it lightly.”

The article went on and on in that vein, with all the standard tactics used by the U.S. media for such stories: quoting anonymous national security officials, reviewing past acts of Russian treachery, and drawing the scariest possible conclusions (“‘The question remains: Are they in other systems and what was the intent?’ a U.S. official said”).

The media reactions, as Alex Pfeiffer documents, were exactly what one would expect: hysterical, alarmist proclamations of Putin’s menacing evil:

The Post’s story also predictably and very rapidly infected other large media outlets. Reuters thus told its readers around the world: “A malware code associated with Russian hackers has reportedly been detected within the system of a Vermont electric utility.”

What’s the problem here? It did not happen.

There was no “penetration of the U.S. electricity grid.” The truth was undramatic and banal. Burlington Electric, after receiving a Homeland Security notice sent to all U.S. utility companies about the malware code found in the DNC system, searched all their computers and found the code in a single laptop that was not connected to the electric grid.

Apparently, the Post did not even bother to contact the company before running its wildly sensationalistic claims, so they had to issue their own statement to the Burlington Free Press which debunked the Post’s central claim (emphasis in original): “We detected the malware in a single Burlington Electric Department laptop not connected to our organization’s grid systems.”

So the key scary claim of the Post story – that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electric grid – was false. All the alarmist tough-guy statements issued by political officials who believed the Post’s claim were based on fiction.

Even worse, there is zero evidence that Russian hackers were responsible even for the implanting of this malware on this single laptop. The fact that malware is “Russian-made” does not mean that only Russians can use it; indeed, like a lot of malware, it can purchased (as Jeffrey Carr has pointed out in the DNC hacking context, assuming that Russian-made malware must have been used by Russians is as irrational as finding a Russian-made Kalishnikov AKM rifle at a crime scene and assuming the killer must be Russian).

As the actual truth emerged once the utility company issued its statement, the Post rushed to fix its embarrassment, beginning by dramatically changing its headline.

The headline is still absurd: they have no idea that this malware was placed by a “Russian operation” (though they would likely justify that by pointing out that they are just stenographically passing along what “officials say”). Moreover, nobody knows when this malware was put on this laptop, how, or by whom. But whatever else is true, the key claim – “Russian hackers penetrated U.S. electricity grid” – has now been replaced by the claim that this all shows “risk to U.S. electrical grid.”

As journalists realized what did – and did not – actually happen here, the reaction was swift.

This matters not only because one of the nation’s major newspaper once again published a wildly misleading, fear-mongering story about Russia. It matters even more because it reflects the deeply irrational and ever-spiraling fever that is being cultivated in U.S. political discourse and culture about the threat posed by Moscow.

The Post has many excellent reporters and smart editors. They have produced many great stories this year. But this kind of blatantly irresponsible and sensationalist tabloid behavior – which tracks what they did when promoting that grotesque PropOrNot blacklist of U.S. news outlets accused of being Kremlin tools – is a by-product of the Anything Goes mentality that now shapes mainstream discussion of Russia, Putin and the Grave Threat to All Things Decent in America that they pose.

The level of group-think, fear-mongering, coercive peer-pressure, and über-nationalism has not been seen since the halcyon days of 2002 and 2003. Indeed, the very same people who back then smeared anyone questioning official claims as Saddam sympathizers or stooges and left-wing un-American loons are back for their sequel, accusing anyone who expresses any skepticism toward claims about Russia of being Putin sympathizers and Kremlin operatives and stooges.

But it’s all severely exacerbated by social media in ways that we don’t yet fully understand. A large percentage of journalists sit on Twitter all day. It’s their primary window into the world. Because of how intense and raw the emotions still are from Trump’s defeat of Clinton, the social media benefits from tweeting and publishing unhinged claims about Trump and Putin are immense and immediate: thousands upon thousands of re-tweets, a rapidly building follower count, and huge amounts of traffic.

Indeed, the more unhinged it is, the greater the benefits are (see some of the most extreme examples here). That’s how otherwise rational people keep getting tricked into posting and re-tweeting and sharing extremely dubious stories that turn out to be false.

And that’s to say nothing of the non-utilitarian social pressures. It’s not news that coastal elites – particularly media and political figures – were and are virtually unified in their unbridled contempt for Trump. And we have seen over and over that any time there is a new Prime Foreign Villain consecrated – now Putin – U.S. media figures lead the campaign. As a result, any denunciation or accusation toward Trump or Russia, no matter how divorced from reason or devoid of facts, generates instant praise, while any questioning of it prompts instant peer-group denunciation, or worse.

Few things are more dangerous to the journalistic function than group-think, and few instruments have been invented that foster and reinforce group-think like social media, particularly Twitter, the platform most used by journalists. That’s a phenomenon that merits far more study, but examples like this one highlight the dynamic.

In this case, the effect is a constant ratcheting up of tensions between two nuclear-armed powers whose nuclear systems are still on hair-trigger alert and capable of catastrophic responses based on misunderstanding and misperception. Democrats and their media allies are rightly alarmed about the potential dangers of Trump’s bellicose posture toward China, but remarkably and recklessly indifferent to the dangers of what they themselves are doing here.

* * * * *

Those interested in a sober and rational discussion of the Russia hacking issue should read the following:

(1) Three posts by cyber-security expert Jeffery Carr: first, on the difficulty of proving attribution for any hacks; second, on the irrational claims on which the “Russia-hacked-the-DNC” case is predicated; and third, on the woefully inadequate, evidence-free report issued by the Department of Homeland Security and FBI this week to justify sanctions against Russia.

(2) Yesterday’s Rolling Stone article by Matt Taibbi, who lived and worked for more than a decade in Russia, entitled: “Something About this Russia Story Stinks.”

(3) An Atlantic article by David A. Graham on the politics and strategies of the sanctions imposed this week on Russia by Obama; I disagree with several of his claims but the article is a rarity: a calm, sober, rational assessment of this debate.

Since it is so often distorted, permit me to once again to underscore my own view on the broader Russia issue: of course it is possible that Russia is responsible for these hacks, as this is perfectly consistent with (and far more mild than) what both Russia and the U.S. have done repeatedly for decades.

But given the stakes involved, along with the incentives for error and/or deceit, no rational person should be willing to embrace these accusations as Truth unless and until convincing evidence has been publicly presented for review, which most certainly has not yet happened. As the above articles demonstrate, this week’s proffered “evidence” – the U.S. Government’s evidence-free report – should raise rather than dilute suspicions. It’s hard to understand how this desire for convincing evidence before acceptance of official claims could even be controversial, particularly among journalists.

Something About This Russia Story Stinks

Nearly a decade and a half after the Iraq-WMD faceplant, the American press is again asked to co-sign a dubious intelligence assessment

December 30, 2016

by  Matt Taibbi

Rolling Stone

In an extraordinary development Thursday, the Obama administration announced a series of sanctions against Russia. Thirty-five Russian nationals will be expelled from the country. President Obama issued a terse statement seeming to blame Russia for the hack of the Democratic National Committee emails.

“These data theft and disclosure activities could only have been directed by the highest levels of the Russian government,” he wrote.

Russia at first pledged, darkly, to retaliate, then backed off. The Russian press today is even reporting that Vladimir Putin is inviting “the children of American diplomats” to “visit the Christmas tree in the Kremlin,” as characteristically loathsome/menacing/sarcastic a Putin response as you’ll find.

This dramatic story puts the news media in a jackpot. Absent independent verification, reporters will have to rely upon the secret assessments of intelligence agencies to cover the story at all.

Many reporters I know are quietly freaking out about having to go through that again. We all remember the WMD fiasco.

“It’s déjà vu all over again” is how one friend put it.

You can see awkwardness reflected in the headlines that flew around the Internet Thursday. Some news agencies seemed split on whether to unequivocally declare that Russian hacking took place, or whether to hedge bets and put it all on the government to make that declaration, using “Obama says” formulations.

The New York Times was more aggressive, writing flatly, “Obama Strikes Back at Russia for Election Hacking.” It backed up its story with a link to a joint FBI/Homeland Security report that details how Russian civilian and military intelligence services (termed “RIS” in the report) twice breached the defenses of “a U.S. political party,” presumably the Democrats.

This report is long on jargon but short on specifics. More than half of it is just a list of suggestions for preventive measures.

At one point we learn that the code name the U.S. intelligence community has given to Russian cyber shenanigans is GRIZZLY STEPPE, a sexy enough detail.

But we don’t learn much at all about what led our government to determine a) that these hacks were directed by the Russian government, or b) they were undertaken with the aim of influencing the election, and in particular to help elect Donald Trump.

The problem with this story is that, like the Iraq-WMD mess, it takes place in the middle of a highly politicized environment during which the motives of all the relevant actors are suspect. Nothing quite adds up.

If the American security agencies had smoking-gun evidence that the Russians had an organized campaign to derail the U.S. presidential election and deliver the White House to Trump, then expelling a few dozen diplomats after the election seems like an oddly weak and ill-timed response. Voices in both parties are saying this now.

Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham noted the “small price” Russia paid for its “brazen attack.” The Democratic National Committee, meanwhile, said Thursday that taken alone, the Obama response is “insufficient” as a response to “attacks on the United States by a foreign power.”

The “small price” is an eyebrow-raiser. Also, like the WMD story, there’s an element of salesmanship the government is using to push the hacking narrative that should make reporters nervous. Take this line in Obama’s statement about mistreatment of American diplomats in Moscow:

“Moreover, our diplomats have experienced an unacceptable level of harassment in Moscow by Russian security services and police over the last year.”

This appears to refer to an incident this summer in which an American diplomat was beaten outside the diplomatic compound in Moscow. That followed a 2013 case in which a U.S. diplomat named Ryan Fogle was arrested in similar fashion.

Fogle was unequivocally described as a CIA agent in many Russian reports. Photos of Fogle’s shpionsky rekvisit, or spy kit – including wigs and a city map that were allegedly on his person – became the source of many jokes in the Russian press and social media. Similar to this hacking story here in the states, ordinary Russians seemed split on what to believe.

If the Russians messed with an election, that’s enough on its own to warrant a massive response – miles worse than heavy-handed responses to ordinary spying episodes. Obama mentioning these humdrum tradecraft skirmishes feels like he’s throwing something in to bolster an otherwise thin case.

Adding to the problem is that in the last months of the campaign, and also in the time since the election, we’ve seen an epidemic of factually loose, clearly politically motivated reporting about Russia. Democrat-leaning pundits have been unnervingly quick to use phrases like “Russia hacked the election.”

This has led to widespread confusion among news audiences over whether the Russians hacked the DNC emails (a story that has at least been backed by some evidence, even if it hasn’t always been great evidence), or whether Russians hacked vote tallies in critical states (a far more outlandish tale backed by no credible evidence).

As noted in The Intercept and other outlets, an Economist/YouGov poll conducted this month shows that 50 percent of all Clinton voters believe the Russians hacked vote tallies.

This number is nearly as disturbing as the 62 percent of Trump voters who believe the preposterous, un-sourced Trump/Alex Jones contention that “millions” of undocumented immigrants voted in the election

Then there was the episode in which the Washington Post ran that breathless story about Russians aiding the spread of “fake news.” That irresponsible story turned out to have been largely based on one highly dubious source called “PropOrNot” that identified 200 different American alternative media organizations as “useful idiots” of the Russian state.

The Post eventually distanced itself from the story, saying it “does not itself vouch for the validity of PropOrNot’s findings.” This was a very strange thing to say in a statement that isn’t an outright retraction. The idea that it’s OK to publish an allegation when you yourself are not confident in what your source is saying is a major departure from what was previously thought to be the norm in a paper like the Post.

There have been other excesses. An interview with Julian Assange by an Italian newspaper has been bastardized in Western re-writes, with papers like The Guardian crediting Assange with “praise” of Trump and seemingly flattering comments about Russia that are not supported by the actual text. (The Guardian has now “amended” a number of the passages in the report in question).

And reports by some Democrat-friendly reporters – like Kurt Eichenwald, who has birthed some real head-scratchers this year, including what he admitted was a baseless claim that Trump spent time in an institution in 1990 – have attempted to argue that Trump surrogates may have been liaising with the Russians because they either visited Russia or appeared on the RT network. Similar reporting about Russian scheming has been based entirely on unnamed security sources.

Now we have this sanctions story, which presents a new conundrum. It appears that a large segment of the press is biting hard on the core allegations of electoral interference emanating from the Obama administration.

Did the Russians do it? Very possibly, in which case it should be reported to the max. But the press right now is flying blind. Plowing ahead with credulous accounts is problematic because so many different feasible scenarios are in play.

On one end of the spectrum, America could have just been the victim of a virtual coup d’etat engineered by a combination of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, which would be among the most serious things to ever happen to our democracy.

But this could also just be a cynical ass-covering campaign, by a Democratic Party that has seemed keen to deflect attention from its own electoral failures.

The outgoing Democrats could just be using an over-interpreted intelligence “assessment” to delegitimize the incoming Trump administration and force Trump into an embarrassing political situation: Does he ease up on Russia and look like a patsy, or escalate even further with a nuclear-armed power?

It could also be something in between. Perhaps the FSB didn’t commission the hack, but merely enabled it somehow. Or maybe the Russians did hack the DNC, but the WikiLeaks material actually came from someone else? There is even a published report to that effect, with a former British ambassador as a source, not that it’s any more believable than anything else here.

We just don’t know, which is the problem.

We ought to have learned from the Judith Miller episode. Not only do governments lie, they won’t hesitate to burn news agencies. In a desperate moment, they’ll use any sucker they can find to get a point across.

I have no problem believing that Vladimir Putin tried to influence the American election. He’s gangster-spook-scum of the lowest order and capable of anything. And Donald Trump, too, was swine enough during the campaign to publicly hope the Russians would disclose Hillary Clinton’s emails. So a lot of this is very believable.

But we’ve been burned before in stories like this, to disastrous effect. Which makes it surprising we’re not trying harder to avoid getting fooled again.

Syria and Yemen – gaping wounds in the Middle East

Another year has passed and again Syrians and Yemenis have been killed in bloody wars. There is no end in sight. But 2016 has shown at least one thing: The road to peace leads through Moscow.

December 31, 2016


In recent months, Syrian and Russian warplanes have almost leveled eastern Aleppo, the enclave held by rebel forces. More and more people have been killed. Many were attacked by surprise in their sleep. For days, their dead bodies lay buried under rubble in the cold streets because the graveyards were full.

But what now? The Syrian flag has been hoisted over the city once again. This is not because diplomats have succeeded in achieving a political solution for war-torn Syria at the numerous peace negotiations in Geneva in 2016. And it is not because the members of the UN Security Council have been able to agree on a resolution, nor is it because one of the agreed ceasefires has lasted.

No, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies, Russia and Iran, have used full force to bring the different rebel groups to their knees through air raids and a strategy of besiegement. In doing this, they fought and starved rebels and civilians alike. “Russia and Iran do not differentiate in this matter,” says Guido Steinberg, Middle-East expert of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin.

Aleppo a symbol for this war

Aleppo has become a symbol of the war in Syria, which has now lasted for almost six years. The town has been divided almost since the start of the fighting – the troops of the Assad regime controlling western Aleppo and rebel groups, consisting of moderates, Islamists, and terrorist fighters controlling eastern Aleppo.

The city is also a perfect example of the weakness of the West’s policies – first and foremost, the United States and its allies did not consistently support the moderate rebel groups. “The victory is a huge success for the Syrian regime and its allies, Russia and Iran,” says Günter Meyer of the Center for Research on the Arab World (CERAW) in Mainz. However, this does not mean that the proxy war is now over. It is a war in which, apart from Iran and Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and a US-led coalition against the terrorist militia “Islamic State” (IS) are involved.

“In the future, the center of hostilities will move to Idlib,” says Meyer. Thousands of rebels from eastern Aleppo have been taken to Idlib province in the northwest of the country, one of the last rebel strongholds in Syria. Meyer is convinced that the regime is going to reconquer this area by using the same strategy they used in Aleppo – starving out the region. But this is only going to work if Syria continues to receive support. “The Syrian state’s fundamental problem is its lack of personnel,” says Steinberg. “This deficit is currently being filled by forces from Russia and Iran, and by additional militias from Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan.”

Russian help

IS’ surprising recapture of the ancient city of Palmyra has shown how fragile President Assad’s army actually is. Palmyra had been under the control of government troops intermittently. “Due to massive external support, the Syrian regime has managed to secure its core territory, but no more than that,” Volker Schwenck, Cairo correspondent for German public broadcaster ARD, told DW.

Since Russia became involved, after launching air raids in September 2015, and after Iran sent thousands of troops and military equipment, Assad has been put in a position of strength. “The Russians are prepared to go a long way,” says Steinberg. “It has become apparent in 2016 that the Russians are determined to keep Assad in power. This won’t change in 2017.”

Even though Assad geographically controls only one-third of the country, he controls the urban areas with about two-thirds of the population. This is also where most of the economic infrastructure of the country is situated, to the extent it has not been destroyed. And this is where he is able to access the Mediterranean.

IS here to stay

“There will continue to be areas where new conflicts will flare up,” says ARD’s Schwenck. Examples are the Kurdish region in the north and northeast of Syria and areas that are currently controlled by IS. According to the British think tank IHS, the area of the self-proclaimed caliphate was reduced from around 90,800 square kilometers (56,400 square miles) in 2015, to 68,300 by the autumn of 2016.

Schwenck believes that the attacks on the Syrian town of Raqqa, the so-called capital of IS, and the attacks on Mosul in Iraq, the most important and most populous stronghold of IS, are a clear indication that the end of the caliphate is only a matter of time.

IS’ territorial losses, however, does not mean the end of this terrorist movement. Schwenck believes that IS fighters will retreat to the Sunni heartlands and that they will continue to be active as an underground movement.

According to Steinberg, they have broadened their front in recent months by “increasingly launching attacks in Europe and by forming regional offshoots in Libya and Egypt. This leads to a wider global presence.”

Steinberg is convinced that a variety of insurgents will overrun the country with terrorist attacks, and that they will continue to be a force to be reckoned with. How strong they will prove to be will depend on the intensity with which Turkey, the US, and Saudi Arabia continue to support these diverse rebel groups.

War in the poorest Arab country

Saudi Arabia is engaged in a second proxy war in the region. Riyadh is actively fighting in Yemen, in a conflict that arose in 2011 as a mass protest, part of the general uprising in the Arab world. The support that the Houthi ethnic group – a Shiite subgroup – has received from Iran has been perceived as reason enough for Saudi Arabia to declare the conflict in Yemen as an attack by Iran against Saudi interests.

The Houthis expelled Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government from the capital, Sana’a, in 2014. In March of the following year, the Saudi-led, US-backed aerial war against the Houthis began.

It was supposed to be a short war, but it has turned into one with no foreseeable end, and has been a tragedy for people in Yemen, the poorest Arab country. Thousands of people have been killed in the conflict, and 21 million of the almost 26 million Yemenis are dependent on emergency aid. When truce negotiations failed in August 2016, Saudi bomber aircraft destroyed the main bridge in the harbour of Houdeidah. This was the main route for aid transport into Sana’a.

According to UNICEF, a child dies of malnutrition every 10 minutes in Yemen. “The hunger crisis in Yemen is also a result of the economic crisis. There is food, but the people simply cannot afford it anymore,” says Schwenck, who recently visited Yemen. “The war is worsening the situation,” and people in Yemen have given up all hope of peace, he adds. The power vacuum that has been created also offers IS new areas of activity, while al Qaeda has already been active in Yemen for a long time.

Costly war

The war is costing Saudi Arabia a fortune, despite Riyadh receiving financial and military support from Washington. The US felt obliged to placate the Saudi royal family after it signed a nuclear treaty with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s archenemy. Egypt however, has refused Saudi Arabia’s invitations to join Yemen’s war on Riyadh’s side.

This is one of the reasons why the friendship between the two countries has suffered. Iran is still fighting on the side of the Houthis and Saudi Arabia is running out of targets. They have already bombed everything. The war cannot be won from the air, says Schwenck. It could well end with a ceasefire in the new year considering the futility of this conflict, suspects CERAW’s Günter Meyer. A truce for Syria, however, is not in sight, and peace not at all.

Is Obama using Russia to force a wedge between Trump and his party?

If Donald Trump tries to remove Obama’s new sanctions, he could face GOP blowback. If he doesn’t, he could damage his relationship with Putin

December 30, 2016

by David Klion

The Guardian

President Barack Obama’s decision to hit back at Russia for its alleged interference in the US presidential election, by imposing new sanctions Thursday and expelling 35 suspected intelligence officers, comes at a delicate time. With just three weeks remaining in office, Obama is in what is traditionally regarded as a lame duck phase, as a snarky tweet from the Russian embassy in the UK drove home.

But this is no ordinary transition. President-elect Donald Trump is urging Americans “to get on with our lives” rather than act on the intelligence community’s consensus that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee with the intent of swaying the election in his favor. Obama therefore sees this as the last chance to hold Russia accountable and to limit Trump’s options for rapprochement with Vladimir Putin after 20 January.

On Friday morning, Putin announced he would not be expelling US intelligence officers in response, a clear sign of his optimism about the imminent Trump administration. However, Obama has suggested that additional covert actions may be taken against Russia in the near future. A true reciprocal response would involve the release of hacked information about top Russian officials. Russia is a highly centralized kleptocracy, and no one in power has clean hands. The Russian president himself remains stubbornly popular despite his own widely assumed corruption. But any official below him is vulnerable to exposure and disgrace, which the US probably has the capacity to inflict at will.

This kind of weaponized transparency has a certain appeal, as the reactions across the political spectrum to the DNC hacks have demonstrated. But there’s also a dangerous potential for escalation, as neither the US nor Russia has clearly defined cyberwar laws. This danger is exacerbated by the maddening fact that an unstable ignoramus is about to assume control of the US national security apparatus, and no one knows how he might use it.

Trump has consistently indicated a desire to improve US-Russian relations, with the encouragement of several advisers and planned cabinet appointees who have close ties to Moscow. This puts him at odds with the longstanding position of the Republican party, which includes hawks such as Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, both of whom are now pressing for an investigation into Russia’s role in the election.

The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, and House speaker, Paul Ryan, also support this, although CIA sources told the Washington Post that McConnell blocked any investigation prior to the election, a breathtakingly cynical move that explains why Obama is only now retaliating.

Having compromised national security in order to defeat Hillary Clinton, the Republican leadership may now see Trump as expendable. After all, he chose a standard rightwing Republican, the Indiana governor, Mike Pence, as his running mate, which means McConnell and Ryan can always arrange to have Trump impeached if he becomes too much trouble.

For Obama, Russia is thus a uniquely effective wedge issue, with the potential to divide the president-elect from his party. If Trump tries to remove the new sanctions, he could face blowback from Congress; if he doesn’t, his friendly relationship with Putin could be damaged.

If, if, if. It’s dizzying trying to keep track of the conflicting agendas in Washington as Obama tries to salvage any kind of legacy, Trump scrambles to learn the basics of running the country, the GOP leadership moves to consolidate its Faustian victory, the intelligence community tries to compensate for its calamitous failure to prevent any of this and pundits left and right perpetuate confusion and despair. It’s increasingly unclear who’s in charge.

Meanwhile, in the Kremlin, Putin is as securely in power as ever and must be watching with amusement. Two months ago, it looked like Clinton, a staunch critic of Russia, would take control of the world’s most powerful country and enact more confrontational, and perhaps ill-advised, policies everywhere from Syria to Ukraine. Instead, Trump is poised to turn America into something much closer to Russia, except far more divided. And whatever consequences Obama hopes to inflict on Russia are likely to be brief and minor, in contrast to the substantial damage Putin has already inflicted on the United States.

Trump praises Putin for holding back in U.S.-Russia spy dispute

December 41, 2016

by Richard Cowan and Polina Devitt


PALM BEACH, Fla./ MOSCOW-U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on Friday praised Russian President Vladimir Putin for refraining from retaliation in a dispute over spying and cyber attacks, in another sign that the Republican plans to patch up badly frayed relations with Moscow.

Putin earlier on Friday said he would not hit back for the U.S. expulsion of 35 suspected Russian spies by President Barack Obama, at least until Trump takes office on Jan. 20.

“Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!” Trump wrote on Twitter from Florida, where he is on vacation.

Obama on Thursday ordered the expulsion of the Russians and imposed sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies over their involvement in hacking political groups in the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election.

“We will not expel anyone,” Putin said in a statement, adding that Russia reserved the right to retaliate.

“Further steps towards the restoration of Russian-American relations will be built on the basis of the policy which the administration of President D. Trump will carry out,” he said.

In a separate development, a code associated with the Russian hacking operation dubbed Grizzly Steppe by the Obama administration has been detected within the system of a Vermont electric utility, the Washington Post reported on Friday, citing unnamed U.S. officials.

The Russians did not actively use the code to disrupt operations of the utility, the officials told the Post, but penetration of the nation’s electrical grid is significant because it represents a potentially serious vulnerability.

Trump has repeatedly praised Putin and nominated people seen as friendly toward Moscow to senior administration posts, but it is unclear whether he would seek to roll back Obama’s actions, which mark a post-Cold War low in U.S.-Russian ties.

Trump has brushed aside allegations from the CIA and other intelligence agencies that Russia was behind the cyber attacks.” It’s time for our country to move on to bigger and better things,” Trump said on Thursday, though he said he would meet with intelligence officials next week.

U.S. intelligence agencies say Russia was behind hacks into Democratic Party organizations and operatives before the presidential election. Moscow denies this. U.S. intelligence officials say the Russian cyber attacks aimed to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Russian officials have portrayed the sanctions as a last act of a lame-duck president and suggested Trump could reverse them when he takes over from Obama, a Democrat.

A senior U.S. official on Thursday said that Trump could reverse Obama’s executive order, but doing so would be inadvisable.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called the Obama administration “a group of embittered and dimwitted foreign policy losers.”


Should Trump seek to heal the rift with Russia, he might encounter opposition in Congress, including from fellow Republicans.

Republican John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on Friday that Russia must face a penalty for the cyber attacks.

“When you attack a country, it’s an act of war,” McCain said in an interview with the Ukrainian TV channel “1+1” while on a visit to Kiev.

“And so we have to make sure that there is a price to pay, so that we can perhaps persuade the Russians to stop these kind of attacks on our very fundamentals of democracy,” added McCain, who has scheduled a hearing for Thursday on foreign cyber threats.

Other senior Republicans, as well as Democrats, have urged a tough response to Moscow.

A total of 96 Russians are expected to leave the United States including expelled diplomats and their families.

Trump will find it very difficult to reverse the expulsions and lift the sanctions given that they were based on a unanimous conclusion by U.S. intelligence agencies, said Eugene Rumer, who was the top U.S. intelligence analyst for Russia from 2010 until 2014.

But that might not prevent Trump from improving ties to Russia, said Rumer, now director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a policy institute. “If Mr. Trump wants to start the relationship anew, I don’t think he needs to walk these sanctions back. He can just say this was Obama’s decision,” said Rumer.

As part of the sanctions, Obama told Russia to close two compounds in the United States that the administration said were used by Russian personnel for “intelligence-related purposes.”

Convoys of trucks, buses and black sedans with diplomatic license plates left the countryside vacation retreats outside Washington and New York City without fanfare on Friday.

A former Russian Foreign Ministry employee told Reuters that the facility in Maryland was a dacha used by diplomatic staff and their children. The 45-acre complex includes a Georgian-style brick mansion, swimming pool, tennis courts and cottages for embassy staff.

Neighbors said the Russians were a lively bunch, seen water-skiing in summer and known for throwing a large, annual Labor Day party.

The Russian consulate in San Francisco said on its Facebook page, “We hate to have to say goodbye to close to a dozen of our colleagues, our friends.” Among those expelled was the consulate chef.

Obama had promised consequences after U.S. intelligence officials blamed Russia for hacks intended to influence the 2016 election. Officials accused Putin of personally directing the efforts and primarily targeting Democrats.

Washington also put sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies, the GRU and the FSB, four GRU officers and three companies that Obama said “provided material support to the GRU’s cyber operations.”

(Additional reporting by Ginger Gibson, Jonathan Landay and Yara Bayoumy in Washington, Yeganeh Torbati and Joel Schectman in Centreville, Md., David Ingram at the United Nations, Katya Golubkova and Svetlana Reiter in Moscow and Sergei Karazy and Matthias Williams in Kiev; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Howard Goller and Leslie Adler)

Israel’s never-ending crimes: It’s not just settlements

Israel has not just committed unspeakable acts of genocide but done so with absolute transparency.

December 29, 2016

by Stanley L Cohen


Last week, the world stood fixated at a largely symbolic gesture by the United Nations in which it found the continued Israeli occupation of the West Bank of Palestine to be illegal. Or did it?

Although the UN Security Council, with rare uniformity, chastised Israel for flouting the law of occupation, the resolution, crafted with ambiguous lawyerly precision, left experienced thinkers on the subject debating just what it means.

In its most ambitious read, some would argue it appears that the decree concerned the occupation as a whole, and swept within its prohibitive reach all settlement activity since 1967 when Israel seized the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, from Arab-Palestinian control.

Others view its advisory language as helpful through its continued embrace of the time-tired two-state solution and its apparent call for a return to the status quo ante of some 15 years ago when illegal settlements had not as yet swallowed much more than 60 percent of the West Bank.

In its least appealing landscape painting, it would appear that the resolution seemingly bestows upon already completed settlements de facto legitimacy and addresses only that part of the building glut currently under way or planned for tomorrows yet to come.

To make matters worse, despite its gratuitous dicta, the resolution remains very much a toothless declaration without any enforcement mechanism whatsoever – essentially relying upon a sudden burst of Israeli conscience to reverse a steady march of indifference to international law that has led Israel’s way since the very first day it was manufactured from stolen land in Palestine.

Defiant Netanyahu

Predictable in immediacy and urgency, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threw his weekly tantrum, accusing the world of a dark conspiracy organised by the soon to be ex-President of the United States, Barack Obama, who on his way out of the door after years of obsequious obedience to Israeli will, has suddenly discovered that it’s OK to say no … well … maybe … or perhaps, to its glaring intransigence.

But then again, it’s kind of hard to take seriously “pressure” exerted by a country that has just enriched Israel’s military coffers and occupation to the tune of $38bn.

Not satisfied with the echo of his own vitriol, Netanyahu was just beginning. Next, he singled out Senegal – one of the most impoverished countries in the world and a mover of the resolution – for economic reprisal. Its offence is having the temerity to believe in the rule of law and being housed in the international building with flags of 193 nations and the State of Palestine that sits overlooking the East River of New York City.

Netanyahu told the world just what he thinks of the UN and its resolution when he announced plans to proceed with the building of thousands of new housing units in Jerusalem in particular.

“Israel will not turn its other cheek,” Netanyahu proclaimed as he went on to prophesy a “plan of action” against the UN directly. Not long thereafter he suspended working ties with the UK, France, Russia, China, Japan, Ukraine, Angola, Egypt, Uruguay, Spain, Senegal and New Zealand, those countries that supported the resolution.

Like a dark lord

Netanyahu should quit while he’s ahead, but he just can’t. There is no incentive. Like the hundreds of earlier resolutions critical of Israeli policies, as worded, the most recent condemnation by the UN can do little more than cry out for justice in the night from a state built from the marrow of genocide.

I get “bombast”, “brash” and, at times, even “bully”. However, it’s the two-legged beasts that feed on the innocent I do not. Netanyahu is very much that kind of beast – an ogre who lives in a world surrounded by dark, deadly thoughts. With delusion his ally, dishonesty his friend and death his messenger, he thumbs his nose at the world as his reign of state terror consumes more and more civilian victims guilty of no offence other than breathing the air that surrounds them and seeking a free life.

When the history of our times is written, an honest accounting will no doubt add Netanyahu’s wicked shadow – and that of his predecessors – to the list of fiends that have seen the world as little more than a playground within which to use their toys of death and despair – always, of course, for the right reasons and always, of course, against the meek and defenceless among us.

In the world of Joseph Stalin, induced famine was the prime weapon of choice, though mass execution and exile helped him dispose of tens of millions he viewed as “enemies of the people”.

To Henry Kissinger, the world, particularly Indochina, was very much a small chess game. Civilians were mere pawns ripe for sacrifice through hi-tech weaponry, including biological and chemical warfare, to enforce his worldview at any cost. Millions lost their lives to his cerebral game board.

To Pol Pot, struggle was little more than purification, erasing through starvation, overwork and execution a quarter of his people whose sole crime was to see life through a prism that collided with his own – no matter how soft their view or backward his sight.

In Rwanda up to half a million women were sexually assaulted, mutilated or murdered, along with an equal number of male Tutsis, as enemy agents of the Hutu state – machetes and rape induced Aids to the plentiful weapons of preference.

Slow-motion genocide

These are but a few of the extremes of genocide, those rare cases we are told noted mostly for mass murder, systemic rape or group starvation – the worst of the worst. Yet, genocide does not demand of us an immediate mountain of bodies or an explosive rage of terror for international law to take hold.

As it turns out, in what increasingly seems to be more than mere passing coincidence, the legal definition of “genocide” enacted by the UN General Assembly was born in 1948, the very same year as Israel – which has since gone on to become both expert at its application and legendary in its denial.

In relevant part, under the applicable Convention, genocide means “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) killing members of the group; (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; or (c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”. Each and every one of these types of genocide has been perpetrated by Israel, seemingly with almost proud boast, and no accountability, for almost 70 unbroken years.

One need not rest upon obtuse historical footnotes to find abundant, indeed systemic, acts of extermination carried out by Israel since 1948 against Palestinians – very much a cognizable “national, ethnical, racial or religious group” as those terms are contemplated and commonly understood and applied under international law.

Beginning with its mass expulsion, rape and murder at the onset of the Nakba (the Catastrophe) Israel has devoted itself to 68 years of non-stop genocide coming up for air only periodically to retool or to change the nature of its weaponry of choice.

What started out with the expulsion, at gunpoint, of more than 700,000 Palestinians from their ancestral homeland set in motion a refugee stampede that has grown to more than seven million displaced and stateless people, providing the world more than a disturbing glimpse of what was to come decades later in Syria.

Never-ending violence

Over the years, Israel has found diverse ways to kill more than 400,000 Palestinian civilians and injure or cripple two to three times as many, including tens of thousands of women and children. Whether by tank fire, rockets, or cluster or phosphorus bombs, it has given new meaning to the evil of willful group slaughter.

In its thirst to ethnically cleanse all of Palestine of its remaining inhabitants, it has made use of starvation, in violation of Additional Protocol I to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, as a method of war targeting foodstuffs, crops and livestock throughout the occupied territories.

In particular, it has destroyed more than a million olive trees which not only serve as an essential mainstay of Palestinian culture but, along with hundreds of thousands of razed fruit trees, constitute key products of a Palestinian national economy largely in various states of ruin.

In Gaza, Israel has targeted hospitals, schools, daycare centres, multi-storey apartment complexes, UN Relief and Works Agency shelters and mental health clinics with a deadly proficiency that would make historic war criminals blush with envy.

It has laid waste to thousands of its hardscrabble built homes and left upwards of a hundred thousand Palestinians internally displaced, indeed homeless – leaving many families at a breaking point.

For the survivors of the Gaza killing fields, Israel has made life unbearable over the past decade though a criminal embargo that not only guarantees insufficient caloric intake, fresh water and medicine, but denies to its 1.8 million survivors building materials essential for the reconstruction of its beleaguered, and largely levelled, infrastructure.

Not satisfied with physical pain alone, with cruel, wanton abandon, it is no stretch to find that its master plan has consciously induced levels of post-traumatic stress disorder unmatched anywhere else in the world.

Given all these palpable elements of ethnic cleansing, it is reasonably projected that Gaza will be uninhabitable by 2020 thereby once again driving several million traumatised refugees out on to the road of an uncertain and dangerous diaspora.

To describe Israel’s Gaza strategy as anything but one intended to cause “serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group” is to deny a very public and systematic orgy of punishment meted out to Palestinian civilians on the basis of group identity and dynamic – and nothing more.

In the West Bank, Israel’s calculus of pain and punishment is largely a difference without a distinction: one that varies in form but not intent or ultimate goal.

Not satisfied with the 531 villages and localities it depopulated and completely eradicated during the early days of the Nakba, since 1967 Israel has stolen, resettled and annexed almost all of the West Bank, including much of East Jerusalem, in clear violation of Article 4 of the Geneva Conventions which prohibit an occupation force from doing little more than erecting limited bases for its own security needs in occupied land.

During this criminal land grab, it has approved, indeed subsidized, the building of illegal housing for some 800,000 – largely immigrant – settlers at the same time it has destroyed almost 50,000 Palestinian structures, largely homes, many of them ages-old, rendering tens of thousands of its indigenous population homeless, often destitute or dependent upon the largesse of already overcrowded housing of family or friends.

Unaccountable as always

None of these facts about Israel’s sordid and deadly history can be dispatched as the product of mere hyperbole or unsupported hearsay.

Claims of Israeli genocide have been substantiated time and time again by a host of independent human rights organisations and NGOs, with no axe to grind, and include findings from respected groups from within Israel, itself.

In point of fact, from its arrogant perch, Israel has not just committed unspeakable acts of genocide but done so with absolute transparency as if to say to the rest of the world: there we did it, and we are well beyond the reach of international law.

Make no mistake about it, the sum total of Israel’s efforts these past 68 years is nothing short of the deliberate infliction upon Palestinians, as a cognizable group, conditions of life and death calculated to bring about their physical destruction in whole or in part.

In the presence of overwhelming evidence of premeditated Israeli genocide, to argue otherwise is to reduce the dark, evil and systematic deeds of Stalin, Kissinger, Pol Pot and the Hutu state to little more than a collection of misunderstood happenstance.

Yes, Mr Prime Minister, you should quit while you are ahead. Today, Israel stands charged with violations of the law of occupation. Tomorrow, it might very well, indeed should, find itself seated in a well-deserved international dock on trial for genocide.


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