The Ruling Class’s Hatred of Trump …

… is Different Than Yours

by Paul Street

CounterPunch (October 14 2016)

Photo by thierry ehrmann | CC BY 2.0

Much, maybe most, of the nation’s corporate, financial, and imperial establishment loathes Donald Trump. When’s the last time one of the corporate media’s presidential debate moderators actually argue with one of the two major party presidential contenders, as did the wealthy ABC News reporter Martha Raddatz (enraged by Trump’s lack of enthusiasm for a United States military confrontation with Russia in Syria) last Sunday?

More than fifty Republican “national security” “elites” have joined several top Republican office-holders, a good number of typically Republican newspaper editorial boards, and the “liberal” New York Times’ editors in proclaiming Trump too stupid, sexist, juvenile, racist, volatile, ignorant, and vicious to be trusted with the keys to the White House.

The master class’s fear and loathing of Trump – one of their own, sort of – can be detected in the normally Republican-leaning corporate elite. A recent Wall Street Journal report finds that not a single solitary Fortune 100 chief executive has endorsed Trump or donated to his campaign. Hillary Clinton has accepted campaign contributions funds from eleven of these corporate captains. Four years ago, just five F-100 CEOs gave to Obama while a while nearly a third donated to Mitt Romney.

In a recent Times editorial, the Wall Street executive Steve Ratter (the slimy financier Obama put in charge of his Wall Street-friendly auto bailout) noted the “paradox” of the super-wealthy business mogul Trump’s stark unpopularity with those in his own exclusive class:

He has spent his entire career among business executives and yet that constituency is voting with hard cash that he should not be president … no Republican presidential hopeful in memory has been so unpopular in the business community … At a board meeting two weeks ago, I chatted separately with two prominent Republican businessmen, One, the chief executive of a Fortune 100 company, said that he had never voted for a Democrat but couldn’t support Trump. The other a private equity investor who had voted Democratic only once, said that he was so scared of a Trump presidency that he has donated “every cent possible” under the campaign finance rules to Hillary Clinton.

Apparent in campaign finance data, big capital’s preference for the neoliberal and de facto moderate Republican Hillary over Trump is evident also in global stock market. “As Mrs Clinton’s dominance of the first presidential debate became apparent”, Rattner reports, “investors cheered: markets around the world rose and the dollar strengthened … [reliable forecasters estimate] that a Trump victory would cause stocks to lose seven percent, while a Clinton victory would lead to a four percent increase”.

You hate Donald Trump too my fellow lefty (I assume that broad descriptive term covers at least ninety percent of the people who read this essay) and for some very good reasons. I’m no exception. Anyone who doubts my disgust for Trump – not to be confused with admiration or even “lesser evil” tolerance for Hillary Clinton (accurately described as a “right-wing fanatic” and a “lying neoliberal warmonger” even by left thinkers arguing for progressives to vote for her on “lesser evil” grounds) – can go read a recent teleSur English essay in which I attributed Trump’s rise in no small part to the “the vicious culture of neoliberal mass idiocy”.

There’s a big difference, however, between our portside, bottom-up contempt for Trump and the Establishment’s top-down and intra-elite scorn for the Republican presidential nominee. There are probably more than a few members of the United States ruling class who are genuinely offended by some or all of Trump’s worst attributes: racism, nativism, sexism, climate-denialism, and authoritarianism. Still, most folks in the nation’s unelected and interrelated dictatorships of money and empire would certainly be willing to put up with the prospects of a viciously sexist, racist and classist Trump presidency if they didn’t think it would be really bad for business, for US global power, and for the legitimacy of American authority at home and abroad. It isn’t they who would be most victimized by a Trump presidency, after all, and it’s a really big reach to think that any but a few of them could care less about those who would suffer most under a (highly unlikely) A merikanner-Trump administration.

At the same time, Trump has earned equal if not greater disdain from the richly bipartisan ruling class and power elite for saying some curiously accurate and even sensible things that left progressives have reasons to agree with. Here are some of the statements for which Trump cannot be forgiven by a financial and imperial super-class that has never really accepted him as a fellow member despite his wealth:

* “Free trade” (really untrammeled global investor rights) ala Bill Clinton’s North American Free Trade Agreement (“Nafta”) and Barack Obama’s proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (“TPP”) has cost untold masses of “forgotten” working class Americans their livelihoods.

* The American political system is “broken” by big money special interests that undermine and distort democracy – something Trump says he knows all about because of his own history as a deep pockets funder of politicians, including the Clintons.

* The nation is in horrific shape under the rule of corrupt, dollar-drenched “free trade” Democrats and Republicans. Much of the country’s infrastructure is crumbling, for example. Urban Black America is in a terrible state whatever the skin color of the current US and US-born president.

* Hillary’s done nothing, or close to it, across thirty years of not-so “public service” to protect ordinary US citizens against hard times – quite the opposite in fact.

* “Crooked Hillary” Clinton is backed by super-wealthy financial elites who reasonably expect her do their bidding even as she deceptively claims to want to serve the people against the wealthy Few.

* Hillary talks like a friend of working class folks on the campaign trail but tells elite backers behind closed doors that her actual and “private” positions on policy are often quite different and more Establishment-friendly than her (vote-seeking) “public” positions.

* Hillary holds much of the nation’s white working and middle class populace in sheer aristocratic contempt, calling many such people “deplorable” and “irredeemable”.

* The corrupt Goldman Sachs-backed Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee used dirty tricks to undermine and defeat Bernie Sanders.

* Hillary ran a corrupt “pay for play” game with foreign and multinational nations and investors through the Clinton Foundation during her time atop the US State Department.

* Hillary “Queen of Chaos” Clinton (she of the leading US ruling class think-tank The Council on Foreign Relations) has been a recklessly imperial foreign policy disaster, from her support for the disastrous regime-changing invasion of Iraq, her leading of the charge for calamitous regime change in Libya, her determined advance of blood, regime-changing (she hopes) madness in Syria, her (and Obama’s) advance of the Islamic State, and her heedless upping of the ante of geopolitical confrontation with nuclear Russia in Eastern Europe and Syria.

* Policymakers who were serious about wanting to defeat the Islamic State and other barbarian, radical-Islamist jihadists in the Middle East would step back from their sabre-rattling against Russia and Syria, both of whom are dedicated to “crushing ISIS”.

To be sure, my paraphrasing of Trump’s more sensible and accurate statements make them sound more coherent and leftish than they are. I doubt that Trump could be bothered to read more than one page of the left foreign policy analyst Diana Johnstone’s indispensable book Queen of Chaos: The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton (2015). It’s way too much to expect him to include Honduras (see the opening chapter of Johnston’s book for a useful history) in the list of nations that Hillary has helped ruin. Still, the bullet-pointed language above is close enough to what he’s actually said during this election cycle for the nation’s Deep State owners (the real masters behind the marionette theatre of electoral politics) to hate him – this for reasons different than the ones that inform lefties’ disdain for Trump. Even as it leads publicly and in politically correct fashion with the problems of Trump’s sexism, racism, boorishness, and temperament, the thing that t he Establishment really finds most reprehensible about Trump is his unpardonable penchant for telling true tales out of ruling class school – tales that many of us on the left have been telling from less privileged vantage points and without the white-nationalist and sexist venom that leaps off Trump’s noxious persona and out of his mouth. The terrible aspects of Trump that we find most horrific are different from what the ruling class finds most inexcusable about him – though it must be added that smart elites understand that his sexism, racism, nativism, and buffoonery threaten to spark popular uprisings and foreign derision that do not serve elite business and imperial interests. That last is a key point. A Trump presidency could well spark rebellions and resistance the ruling class would very much prefer to avoid.

Does Trump mean the things he says that overlap with left critiques of Hillary Clinton and of the broader US domestic and imperial order? I have no idea what really goes in the sociopathic brain of “the Donald”. The fascistic right (and Trump may be partly neo-fascist at some level) has a long history of mimicking certain parts of left rhetoric (the Nazis advanced national “socialism” after all) to gain mass appeal. Some of Trump’s more seemingly left-friendly rhetoric strikes me as part of a calculated strategy to win disaffected Bernie fans along with working class votes. Another source could be intra-elite spite, highly personal bitterness at an Ivy League-minted aristocracy that has never really accepted the crude man-child Donald Trump into its inner and upper circles. Whatever the motivation behind his jabs at the ruling elite and its imperial policies, an American ruling class that is still quite far from embracing fascism even in a mild and Trumpian form is not about to pardon Trump for giving crude voice to such critiques from within the top .01 percent and on a vast public stage.

Meanwhile, Trump – now eleven points behind actually crooked Hillary in national polls and with just a one-in-six chance of winning – is useful to the ruling class in a curious and dark way. Nearly three months after the predictable (and predicted) surrender of the somewhat sincerely populist, social-democratish Bernie Sanders campaign, Trump aids and abets the reigning corporate media and politics’ culture’s longstanding project of slandering populism as a reactionary and backwards instinct of the foolish, unwashed masses – the “bewildered herd”.

Elite commentators love to mock and marginalize the childish mindset of those who think that everyday people (the “rabble”) should actually be in charge of their own societal and political-economic affairs (imagine!) and thereby deprive elites of their supposed natural right to rule. Linking such populism to right-wing cretins like Donald Trump – a recurrent habit at places like The New York Times and CNN – is one of the ways in the slander is advanced, helping clear the way for more politically correct neoliberals like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to seize the nominal reins of executive branch power at least in Washington.

The Ruling Class’s Hatred of Trump is Different Than Yours

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Obama Stepped Back from the Brink

Will Hillary?

by Mike Whitney

CounterPunch (October 12 2016)

The American people need to understand what’s going on in Syria. Unfortunately, the major media only publish Washington-friendly propaganda which makes it difficult to separate fact from fiction. The best way to cut through the lies and misinformation, is by using a simple analogy that will help readers to see that Syria is not in the throes of a confusing, sectarian civil war, but the victim of another regime change operation launched by Washington to topple the government of Bashar al Assad.

With that in mind, try to imagine if striking garment workers in New York City decided to arm themselves and take over parts of lower Manhattan. And, let’s say, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decided that he could increase his geopolitical influence by recruiting Islamic extremists and sending them to New York to join the striking workers. Let’s say, Trudeau’s plan succeeds and the rebel militias are able to seize a broad swathe of US territory including most of the east coast stretching all the way to the mid-west. Then – over the course of the next five years – these same jihadist forces proceed to destroy most of the civilian infrastructure across the country, force millions of people from their homes and businesses, and demand that President Obama step down from office so they can replace him with an Islamic regime that would enforce strict Sharia law.

How would you advise Obama in a situation like this? Would you tell him to negotiate with the people who invaded and destroyed his country or would you tell him to do whatever he thought was necessary to defeat the enemy and restore security?

Reasonable people will agree that the president has the right to defend the state and maintain security. In fact, national sovereignty and security are the foundation upon which the international order rests. However, neither the US media nor the US congress nor the White House nor the entire US foreign policy establishment agree with this simple, straightforward principle, that governments have the right to defend themselves against foreign invasion. They all believe that the US has the unalienable right to intervene wherever it chooses using whatever means necessary to execute its regime change operations.

In the case of Syria, Washington is using “moderate” jihadists to topple the elected government of Bashar al Assad. Keep in mind, that no one even disputes WHAT the US is doing in Syria (regime change) or that the US is using a proxy army to accomplish its objectives. The only area of debate, is whether these “moderates” are actually moderates at all, or al Qaida. That’s the only point on which their is some limited disagreement. (Note: Nearly everyone who follows events closely on the ground, knows that the moderates are al Qaida.)

Doesn’t that strike you as a bit bizarre? How have we gotten to the point where it is “okay” for the US to topple foreign governments simply because their agents are “moderate” troublemakers rather than “extremist” troublemakers?

What difference does it make? The fact is, the US is using foreign-born jihadists to topple another sovereign government, the same as it used neo Nazis in Ukraine to topple the government, the same as it used US troops to topple the sovereign government in Iraq, and the same as it used Nato forces to topple the sovereign government in Libya. Get the picture? The methods might change, but the policy is always the same. And the reason the policy is always the same is because Washington likes to pick its own leaders, leaders who invariably serve the interests of its wealthy and powerful constituents, particularly Big Oil and Israel. That’s how the system works. Everyone knows this already. Washington has toppled or attempted to topple more than fifty governments since the end of World War Two. The US is a regime change franchise, Coups-R-Us.

Hillary Clinton is a charter member of the regime change oligarchy. She is a avid Koolaid drinker and an devoted believer in American “exceptionalism”, which is the belief that “If the United States does something, it must be good”.

Hillary also believes that the best way to resolve the conflict in Syria is by starting a war with Russia. Here’s what she said on Sunday in her debate with Donald Trump:

Clinton: “The situation in Syria is catastrophic. And every day that goes by, we see the results of the regime by Assad in partnership with the Iranians on the ground, the Russians in the air … I, when I was secretary of state, I advocated and I advocate today a no-fly zone and safe zones.”

Repeat: “I advocate today a no-fly zone and safe zones”.

This is a very important point. Hillary has supported no-fly zones from Day One despite the fact that – by her own admission – the policy would result in massive civilian casualties. And civilian casualties are not the only danger posed by no-fly zones. Consider the warning by America’s top soldier, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford. In response to a question from Senator Roger Wicker (Republican, Mississippi) on the potential dangers of trying to “control Syrian airspace”, Dunford answered ominously,

Right now … for us to control all of the airspace in Syria would require us to go to war against Syria and Russia.

This is the Hillary Doctrine in a nutshell: Confront the Russians in Syria and start World War Three. If there’s another way to interpret Dunford’s answer, then, please, tell me what it is?

Hillary also added that, “we have to work more closely with our partners and allies on the ground”.

This means that the Obama-CIA policy of supporting militant jihadists on the ground to topple an elected government will continue just as it has for the last five years. Is that what Hillary supporters want; more intervention, more escalation, more Iraqs, more Syrias?

She also said this: “I do support the effort to investigate for crimes, war crimes committed by the Syrians and the Russians and try to hold them accountable”.

Readers should pause for a minute and really try to savour the convoluted absurdity of Clinton’s comments. As we pointed out in our analogy, Putin and Assad are trying to reestablish the central government’s control over the country to establish security the same as if Obama found it necessary to fight armed rebels in lower Manhattan. Governments have the right to govern their country. This shouldn’t be hard to understand. What Hillary is proposing is that the Syrian and Russians (who were invited by Assad) be prosecuted for fulfilling the sworn duty of every elected leader while – at the same time – the countries (like the US) that have (by their own admission) armed, trained and financed foreign invaders that have torn the country to shreds and killed more than 400,000 civilians, be let off Scott-free.

It is a great tribute to our propagandist western media, that someone like Hillary can make a thoroughly asinine statement like this and not be laughed off the face of the earth. By Hillary’s logic, Obama could be prosecuted for war crimes if civilians were killed while he attempted to liberate lower Manhattan. The whole idea is ridiculous.

Here’s another Hillary gem from the debate:

I do think the use of special forces, which we’re using, the use of enablers and trainers in Iraq, which has had some positive effects, are very much in our interests, and so I do support what is happening.

“Positive effects”?

What positive effects? 400,000 people are dead, million more are ether internally displaced or refugees, and the country has been reduced to a Fulluja-like rubble. There are no “positive effects” from Hillary’s war. It’s been a complete and utter catastrophe. The only success she can claim, is the fact that the sleazebag Democratic leadership and their thoroughly-corrupt media buddies have been more successful in hiding the details of their depredations from the American people. Otherwise its been a dead-loss.

Here’s more Hillary:

I would go after Baghdadi. I would specifically target Baghdadi, because I think our targeting of Al Qaida leaders –

Baghdadi, Schmaghdadi; who gives a rip? When has the CIA’s immoral assassination program ever helped to reduce the fighting, ever diminished the swelling ranks of terrorist organizations, or ever made the American people safer?

Never, that’s when. The whole thing is a fu**ing joke. Hillary just wants another trophy for her future presidential library, a scalp she can hang next to Gadhafi’s. The woman is sick!

Here’s one last quote from the debate::

I would also consider arming the Kurds. The Kurds have been our best partners in Syria, as well as Iraq. And I know there’s a lot of concern about that in some circles, but I think they should have the equipment they need so that Kurdish and Arab fighters on the ground are the principal way that we take Raqqa after pushing ISIS out of Iraq.

Obama is arming the Kurds already, but the Kurds have no interest in seizing Raqqa because it is not part of their traditional homeland and because it doesn’t help them achieve the contiguous landmass they seek for their own state. Besides, arming the Kurds just pisses off Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan who provides a critical airstrip at Incirlik from which the US carries out most of its airstrikes on enemy targets in Syria. In other words, Clinton doesn’t know what the heck she’s talking about.

While there’s no time to get into Hillary’s role in starting the war in Syria, there is a very thorny situation that developed last week that’s worth considering for those people who still plan to cast their vote for Clinton in the November election.

Here’s a quick rundown of what happened: Last Wednesday, the Washington Post leaked a story stating that the Obama administration was considering whether it should directly attack Syrian assets on the ground, in other words, conduct a covert, low-intensity war directly against the regime (rather than just using proxies).

On Thursday, the Russian Ministry of Defence spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov announced that Moscow had deployed state of the art defensive weapons systems (S-300 and S-400 air defence missile systems) to the theater and was planning to use them if Syrian or Russian troops or installations were threatened.

In a televised statement, Konashenkov said:

It must be understood that Russian air defence missile crews will unlikely have time to clarify via the hotline the exact flight program of the missiles or the ownership of their carriers.

Referring to the provocative article in the Washington Post, Konashenkov added:

I would recommend our colleagues in Washington carefully weigh possible consequences of the fulfillment of such plans.

The Russians were saying as clearly as possible that if US warplanes attacked either Russian installations or Syrian troops they would be shot down immediately. Reasonable people can assume that the downing of a US warplane would trigger a war with Russia.

Fortunately, there are signs that Obama got the message and put the kibosh on the (Pentagon’s?) ridiculous plan. Here’s a clip from an article at The Duran which may be the best news I’ve read about Syria in five years. This story broke on Friday and has been largely ignored by the major media:

Following Russian warning of American aircraft being shot down, White House spokesman confirms plan for US air strikes on Syria has been rejected … White House spokesman Josh Earnest confirmed this speaking to reporters on Thursday 6th October 2016.

The president has discussed in some details why military action against the Assad regime to try to address the situation in Aleppo is unlikely to accomplish the goals that many envisioned now in terms of reducing the violence there. It is much more likely to lead to a bunch of unintended consequences that are clearly not in our national interest.

As critical as I’ve been of Obama over the years, I applaud him for his good judgment. While the Pentagon warhawks and foreign policy hardliners are relentlessly pushing for a direct confrontation with Russia, Obama has wisely pulled us back from the brink of disaster.

The question is: Would Hillary do the same?

Obama Stepped Back From Brink, Will Hillary?

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Kicking Philip Green is absurd. Here’s who MPs should be castigating

Simon Jenkins

The Guardian

21st October 2016

The House of Commons is never more absurd than when kicking a man when he is down. Sir Philip Green is finished, one of the most unpopular men in Britain, barely safe even on his own yacht. Indulged, pampered and praised for decades, his life’s work is in ruins. And all MPs can do is call him “a spiv” and vote to strip him of his knighthood, which is not even in their gift. It shows where MPs’ priorities lie, in reputation and baubles.
As the Green empire unravelled over the past year, one thing became glaring. Every branch of the establishment let him get away with his greed. MPs devote an entire day to debating the man, yet all they seem to care about is his honour.
Why no castigation of Green’s factotum chairman, Lord Grabiner? Could it be that he is also a “distinguished” member of the other house of parliament? Why no examination of the antics of Green’s other patsy non-executives during the sale of BHS to the former bankrupt, Dominic Chappell? Perhaps too many MPs are also gracing the boards of enterprises.
Shouldn’t there be government examination of the role of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), accountants to the great and good, whose duty is to protect the shareholders and employees of these corporations from the wilder shores of predatory capitalism? PwC received £2m in audit fees over the critical six years of BHS’s decline, plus £9m for “consultancy”. We might wonder whether perhaps the latter money could be seen to obfuscate the former, which looks like a conflict of interest.
As accountancy professor Prem Sikka wrote of the saga in The Accountant about this matter: “No auditor is going to advance his/her career by being sceptical or robust and losing such a lucrative client.” This is utterly unsatisfactory. So where is the regulator, the Financial Reporting Council? The answer, as Sikka points out, could look like in the pocket of the big accounting firms which always escape these fiascos scot free.
How can the tax affairs of the Green family and its companies have passed muster for a decade with HMRC? Is it because HMRC has a revolving door with the accountancy profession?
And where in the Commons was there castigation of Goldman Sachs, the firm that put its gilded stamp of approval on the transfer of BHS to Chappell? A first-year banking student could see this deal appeared to ditch losses and shaft pensioners.
Why do MPs not call to strip Grabiner of his peerage? Why not demand a ban on public sector consultancies for the useless PwC? Why not exclude Goldman Sachs from all further Whitehall contracts? Are these questions above the pay grade of our poor MPs?
It is not capitalism that is rotten just now, but its frothing-at-the-mouth guardians.

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US-Russia tensions….

… Now More Dangerous than During the Cold War

by Washingtons Blog (October 12 2016)

Germany’s Foreign Minister – Frank-Walter Steinmeier – wrote earlier this month that tension between the US and Russia is worse than during the Cold War:

It’s a fallacy to think that this is like the Cold War. The current times are different and more dangerous. {1}

The head of Britain’s intelligence service, MI6 – Sir John Sawyers – agreed yesterday:

We are moving into an era that is as dangerous, if not more dangerous, as the cold war because we do not have that focus on a strategic relationship between Moscow and Washington {2}.

This is even more dramatic when you realize that the US and Soviets came within seconds of all-out nuclear war on numerous occasions during the Cold War. And only the courage of US and Soviet individuals to say no {3} when their superiors told them to fire nuclear weapons – in the face of mistaken readings – saved the planet from nuclear war {4}.

And many experts warn {5}that we’re drifting towards nuclear war today {6}. Indeed, former US Secretary of Defence William Perry said in February:

The likelihood of a nuclear catastrophe today is greater than it was during the Cold War {7}.

Postscript: The American government and mainstream media cast all of the blame on Russia. But many top US diplomats and intelligence officials disagree {8}. And see {9}.











German Foreign Minister and Former MI6 Boss: US-Russia Tensions Now More Dangerous than During the Cold War

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Pentagon By-Passes President and Begins Low Intensity Stealth War in Syria

by Mike Whitney
CounterPunch (October 07 2016)

Last Wednesday, at a Deputies Committee meeting at the White House, officials from the State Department, the CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff discussed limited military strikes against the (Assad) regime … One proposed way to get around the White House’s long-standing objection to striking the Assad regime without a UN Security Council resolution would be to carry out the strikes covertly and without public acknowledgment.

– Washington Post

Call it stealth warfare, call it poking the bear, call it whatever you’d like. The fact is, the Syrian war has entered a new and more Zdangerous phase increasing the chances of a catastrophic confrontation between the US and Russia.

This new chapter of the conflict is the brainchild of Pentagon warlord, Ash Carter, whose attack on a Syrian outpost at Deir Ezzor killed 62 Syrian regulars putting a swift end to the fragile ceasefire agreement. Carter and his generals opposed the Kerry-Lavrov ceasefire deal because it would have required “military and intelligence cooperation with the Russians”. In other words, the US would have had to get the greenlight from Moscow for its bombing targets which would have undermined its ability to assist its jihadist fighters on the ground. That was a real deal-breaker for the Pentagon. But bombing Deir Ezzor fixed all that. It got the Pentagon out of the jam it was in, it torpedoed the ceasefire, and it allowed Carter to launch his own private shooting match without presidential authorization. Mission accomplished.

So what sort of escalation does Carter have in mind, after all, most analysts assume that a direct confrontation between the United States and Russia will lead to a nuclear war. Is he really willing to take that risk?

Heck no, but not everyone agrees that more violence will lead to a nuclear exchange. Carter, for example, seems to think that he can raise the stakes considerably without any real danger, which is why he intends to conduct a low-intensity, stealth war on mainly Syrian assets that will force Putin to increase Russia’s military commitment. The larger Russia’s military commitment, the greater probability of a quagmire, which is the primary objective of Plan C, aka-Plan Carter. Take a look at this clip from an article in Tuesday’s Washington Post which helps to explain what’s going on:

US military strikes against the Assad regime will be back on the table Wednesday at the White House, when top national security officials in the Obama administration are set to discuss options for the way forward in Syria …

Inside the national security agencies, meetings have been going on for weeks to consider new options to recommend to the president to address the ongoing crisis in Aleppo, … A meeting of the National Security Council, which could include the president, could come as early as this weekend.

Last Wednesday, at a Deputies Committee meeting at the White House, officials from the State Department, the CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff discussed limited military strikes against the regime …

The options under consideration … include bombing Syrian air force runways using cruise missiles and other long-range weapons fired from coalition planes and ships … One proposed way to get around the White House’s long-standing objection to striking the Assad regime without a UN Security Council resolution would be to carry out the strikes covertly and without public acknowledgment, the official said. {1}

Don’t you think the Washington Post should have mentioned that Carter’s sordid-little enterprise is already underway?

Consider the bombing of Deir Ezzor, for example. Doesn’t that meet the Post’s standard of “US military strikes against the Assad regime”?

Sure, it does.

And what about the two Syrian bridges US warplanes took out over the Euphrates last week (making it more difficult to attack ISIS strongholds in the eastern quadrant of the country)? Don’t they count?

Of course, they do.

And let’s not forget the fact that Carter’s jihadist buddies on the ground launched a mortar attack on the Russian embassy in Damascus on Tuesday. That’s another part of this low-intensity war that’s already underway. So all this rubbish about Obama mulling over these “new options” for “military strikes” is complete hogwash. Plan Carter is already in full swing, the train already left the station. The only thing missing is presidential authorization which probably isn’t necessary since Il Duce Carter decided that it was his turn to run the country.

Now check out this clip from a Memo to the President from a group of ex-US intelligence agents who [felt] compelled to warn Obama about (among other things) “asserting White House civilian control over the Pentagon” Here’s an excerpt:

In public remarks bordering on the insubordinate, senior Pentagon officials showed unusually open skepticism regarding key aspects of the Kerry-Lavrov deal. We can assume that what Lavrov told his boss in private is close to his uncharacteristically blunt words on Russian NTV on September 26:

“My good friend John Kerry … is under fierce criticism from the US military machine. Despite the fact that, as always, [they] made assurances that the US Commander in Chief, President Barack Obama, supported him in his contacts with Russia … apparently the military does not really listen to the Commander in Chief”.

Lavrov’s words are not mere rhetoric … Policy differences between the White House and the Pentagon are rarely as openly expressed as they are now over policy on Syria. {2}

How shocking is that? When was the last time you read a memo from retired Intelligence agents warning the president that the Pentagon was usurping his Constitutional authority? That sounds pretty serious, don’t you think?

Bottom line: The Pentagon is basically prosecuting their own little war in Syria and then chatting up the policy with Obama when they damn-well feel like it. Here’s more from the Washington Post:

The CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff … expressed support for such “kinetic” options, the official said … That marked an increase of support for striking Assad compared with the last time such options were considered. (Washington Post)

Of course they want to bomb Assad. They’re losing! Everyone wants to bomb someone when they’re losing. It’s human nature. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. It’s a very bad idea. Just like supporting Sunni extremists is a bad idea. Just like giving shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles (MANPADS) to fanatical crackpots is a bad idea. How crazy is that? And how long before one of these religious nutcases use their new toys to take down an Israeli or American jetliner?

Not very long, I’d wager. The idea of doubling-down on homicidal maniacs (by providing them with more lethal weapons) is really one of the dumbest ideas of all time, and yet, the Pentagon and CIA seem to think that it’s tip-top military strategy. Here’s one last blurb from the Washington Post article:

Kerry’s deputy, Antony Blinken, testified last week that the US leverage in Russia comes from the notion that Russia will eventually become weary of the cost of its military intervention in Syria. “The leverage is the consequences for Russia of being stuck in a quagmire that is going to have a number of profoundly negative effects”, Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (Washington Post)

See? There it is in black and white. “Quagmire”. The new “Plan C” strategy is designed to create a quagmire for Putin by gradually ratcheting up the violence forcing him to prolong his stay and deepen his commitment. It’s a clever trap and it could work, too. The only hitch is that Putin and his allies appear to be making steady headway on the battlefield. That’s going to make a lot harder for Syria’s enemies to continue the provocations and incitements without triggering massive retaliation.

But maybe Carter hasn’t thought about that yet.

NOTE: Russia issues warning to Pentagon: Hostile aircraft that threatens Syrian troops will be shot down. This is from a Thursday report on Sputnik International:

The Russian Minister of Defence said that Russian S-300, S-400 air defense systems deployed in Syria’s Hmeymim and Tartus have combat ranges that may surprise any unidentified airborne targets. Operators of Russian air defense systems won’t have time to identify the origin of airstrikes, and the response will be immediate. Any illusions about “invisible” jets will inevitably be crushed by disappointing reality.

No More Deir ez-Zors

“I point out to all the ‘hotheads’ that following the September 17 coalition airstrike on the Syrian Army in Deir ez-Zor we took all necessary measures to exclude any similar ‘accidents’ happening to Russian forces in Syria”, Konashenkov said. {3}






Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (2012). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at More articles by Mike Whitney:

Pentagon Begins Low-Intensity, Stealth War in Syria

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Do We Really Want Nuclear War with Russia ?

The US propaganda war against Russia is spinning out of control, rolling ever faster downhill with a dangerous momentum that threatens to drive the world into a nuclear showdown.

by Robert Parry

Consortium News (October 03 2016)

Through an endless barrage of ugly propaganda, the US government and the mainstream American press have put the world on course for a potential nuclear showdown with Russia, an existential risk that has been undertaken cavalierly amid bizarre expressions of self-righteousness from Western institutions.

This extraordinarily dangerous moment reflects the insistence of the Establishment in Washington that it should continue to rule the world and that it will not broach the possibility of other nations asserting their own national interests even in their own neighbourhoods.

Rather than adjust to a new multi-polar world, the powers-that-be in Washington have deployed a vast array of propaganda assets that are financed or otherwise encouraged to escalate an information war so aggressively that Russia is reading this onslaught of insults as the conditioning of the Western populations for a world war.

While that may not be the intention of President Obama, who in his recent United Nations address acknowledged the risks from imposing uni-polar order on the world, a powerful bureaucratic machinery is in place to advance US propaganda goals. It is operating on a crazed auto-pilot hurtling toward destruction but beyond anyone’s ability to turn it off.

This machinery consists not just of outlets and activists funded by US tax dollars via the National Endowment for Democracy or the US Agency for International Development or Nato’s Strategic Communications Command, but like-minded “human rights” entities paid for by billionaire currency speculator George Soros or controlled by neoconservative ideologues who now run major US newspapers, such as The Washington Post and The New York Times.

This propaganda apparatus now has so many specialized features that you get supposedly “progressive” and “anti-war” organizations promoting a major US invasion of Syria under the guise of sweet-sounding policies like “no-fly zones” and “safe zones”, the same euphemisms that were used as the gateway to bloody “regime change” wars in Iraq and Libya.

There exists what intelligence veterans call a Mighty Wurlitzer, an organ with so many keys and pedals that it’s hard to know where all the sounds come from that make up the powerful harmony, all building to the same crescendo. But that crescendo may now be war with nuclear-armed Russia, which finds in all this demonizing the prelude to either a destabilization campaign aimed at “regime change” in Moscow or outright war.

Yet, the West can’t seem to muster the sanity or the honesty to begin toning down or even showing scepticism toward the escalating charges aimed at Russia. We saw similar patterns in the run-up to war in Iraq in 2002~2003 and in justifying the ouster, torture and murder of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Western propaganda also has enveloped the conflict in Syria to such an extent that the American people don’t understand that the US government and its regional “allies” have been supporting and arming jihadist groups fighting under the command of Al Qaeda and even the Islamic State. The propaganda has focused on demonizing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while downplaying or ignoring the real nature of the “moderate” opposition.

Taking Aim at Putin

In many ways, the Western insistence on “regime change” in Syria ties in directly to the extraordinary escalation of that strategy to seek “regime change” in Russia. In August-September 2013, America’s neocons and liberal war hawks were salivating over the prospect of a US military bombing campaign to devastate Assad’s army as punishment for his alleged role in a sarin gas attack outside Damascus.

Although the intelligence was weak regarding Assad’s “guilt” – and subsequent evidence has pointed to a likely provocation by radical jihadists using home-made sarin and a jerry-rigged rocket – Official Washington was rubbing its hands at the prospect of a retaliatory bombing operation that would punish Assad and advance the cause of “regime change”.

At the last minute, however, President Obama listened to the doubts from his intelligence advisers and rejected what he later called the Washington “playbook” of a military response to a complex problem. To the annoyance of Washington insiders, Obama then collaborated with President Putin in a diplomatic settlement in which Syria surrendered all its chemical weapons while still denying any role in the sarin attack. Obama was accused of weakness for not “enforcing his red line” against chemical weapons use.

The despair over Obama’s failure to bomb the Syrian government and open the path for a long-desired “regime change” in Damascus led to a search for other villains, the most obvious one being Putin, who then became the focus of neocon determination to make him share their pain and disappointment.

National Endowment for Democracy President Carl Gershman took to the op-ed page of The Washington Post in late September 2013 to declare that Ukraine was now “the biggest prize” and represented an important interim step toward eventually toppling Putin in Russia.

Gershman, who is essentially a neocon paymaster dispensing $100 million a year in US taxpayers’ money to activists, journalists and various other operatives, wrote: “Russians, too, face a choice, and Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself”.

Within weeks, US neocons – including Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland and Senator John McCain – were encouraging right-wing Ukrainian nationalists to overthrow Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych, a coup accomplished on February 22 2014, touching off a civil war between Ukraine’s west and east.

As part of that Western propaganda barrage, the Ukraine coup ousting the elected president was hailed as a victory for “democracy” and Yanukovych’s supporters in the south and east who resisted this imposition of illegitimate authority in Kiev became the target of a US-backed “Anti-Terrorism Operation” or ATO.

Led by The New York Times and The Washington Post, the Western media fell in line behind the preferred narrative that there was “no coup”, that there were “no neo-Nazis” spearheading the non-coup (or maybe just a few), that the “Heavenly Hundred” who died in the putsch against Yanukovych had given their lives for Ukraine’s “freedom” even though some of the “heavenly” inconveniently were neo-Nazi street fighters, part of a paramilitary force that had killed some sixteen police officers.

Killing ‘Terrorists’

Given the West’s pro-coup propaganda themes, it became necessary to justify the thousands of eastern Ukrainians slaughtered in the ATO as the killing of “terrorists” or Russian “stooges”, getting what they deserved. The 96 percent vote in Crimea’s referendum to reunify with Russia had to be a “sham” since the West’s narrative held that the Ukrainian people were thrilled with the putsch, so the Crimeans must have voted that way at Russian gunpoint.

The explanation of Crimea’s secession from Ukraine was that Russia “invaded” and “annexed” Crimea although there were no images of an invasion (no tanks crossing Crimea’s borders, no amphibious landings, no paratroopers descending from the sky – because Russian troops were already in Crimea as part of a basing agreement and helped protect Crimea’s inhabitants so they could hold their vote which did represent their desires).

Because the Western propaganda insisted that the new authorities in Kiev were wearing white hats, the Russians had to be fitted with black hats. Every bad thing that happened was automatically Putin’s fault. So, when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17 2014, the West’s propaganda machinery whirred into action, blaming Russia for supposedly giving the ethnic Russian rebels powerful Buk anti-aircraft missiles.

The propaganda momentum was so strong by then that there was no Western support for Russia’s request for a United Nations investigation. Instead the inquiry was largely turned over to the torture-implicated Ukrainian intelligence service, the SBU, upon which the Dutch and Australians, the other two principal members, became increasingly dependent (by their own admissions). Belgium and Malaysia played lesser roles.

The Joint Investigation Committee (“JIT”) considered no serious alternatives to the Russians and the rebels being responsible. For instance, when the JIT released its “report” on September 28 2016, there was no explanation offered for why Dutch intelligence (that is, Nato intelligence) had concluded that the only missile systems in eastern Ukraine on July 17 2014, capable of shooting down MH-17 were controlled by the Ukrainian military. The JIT “report” was silent about where those Ukrainian Buk missile systems were at the time of the shoot-down.

It’s also a bit of a misnomer to describe the JIT’s findings as a “report” since they were really expressed in a series of videos featuring computer-generated graphics supposedly showing a Russian Buk crew driving around Ukraine, mixed in with a few photos from social media of a Buk convoy.

Key to the JIT’s findings were phone intercepts provided by the SBU and assembled to reinforce the impression of Russian guilt. The problem, however, was that except for one intercept in which someone said he’d like to have Buks, the word “Buk” is not mentioned; nor the word “missiles”; nor the word “aircraft”; nor any discussion about shooting down a plane. That was all supposition with an authoritative narrator filling in the gaps.

Ignoring Contrary Evidence

The JIT also ignored evidence that contradicted its conclusions, such as other intercepts reporting that a Ukrainian convoy had penetrated close to the eastern city of Luhansk. The significance of that revelation is that it confirms a point that has been largely ignored, that the Ukrainian military could move almost at will across “rebel-controlled territory”. The notion that the Ukrainian civil war was like World War One with fixed trench lines was simply a fallacy.

The JIT also had to impose a bizarre route for the Russian Buk battery to follow on its way to the supposed firing location south of the remote eastern town of Snizhne. Because the “social media” photos show the Buk convoy heading east toward Russia, not west from Russia, the JIT had to map out a journey that ignored a simple, direct and discreet route from the Russian border to Snizhhe in favour of a trip more than twice as long roaming around eastern Ukraine all the way to Donetsk before turning eastward past a number of heavily populated areas where the Buk convoy, supposedly on a highly secret mission, could be photographed.

The alleged firing location also conflicts with the alleged reason for the Russians taking the extraordinary risk of introducing a Buk system – that it was needed to defend rebel soldiers then fighting mostly in the north against Ukrainian troops and aircraft. For that purpose, the positioning of a Buk battery far to the southeast makes little sense, nor does the decision for a Russian Buk crew to shoot down a commercial airliner flying at 33,000 feet.

JIT’s account of the post-crash exfiltration of the Buk convoy back to Russia also is curious, since again the shortest, easiest and least populated route was ignored in favour of one that went far to the north past Luhansk, the alleged site of the supposed “getaway” video (although the supposed location of the “getaway” video was misplaced by Western media groups trying to pin the blame on Russia).

The confirmed parts of the Buk convoy’s route, that is, along highways east of Donetsk, would fit better with a scenario that, I’m told, received serious consideration from US intelligence analysts, that a Ukrainian Buk system under the control of a rogue military unit loyal to a fiercely anti-Putin oligarch traveled east into what was considered “rebel-controlled territory” to fire on what was hoped to be Putin’s official plane returning from a state visit to South America, that is. to kill Putin.

A source briefed by these analysts said the missile was fired despite the unit’s doubt that the plane was Putin’s. Although it’s unclear to me exactly what the US intelligence consensus ultimately turned out to be on MH-17 (since I have been refused official updates), there would be logic in a Ukrainian hardliner staging such an audacious missile attack deep inside “rebel territory”, since any assassination of Putin would have to be explained as an accidental attack by his own allies, that is, the ultimate case of Putin being hoisted on his own petard.

To evaluate which scenario makes more sense – that the Russians dispatched a Buk missile battery on a wild ride across eastern Ukraine or that a Ukrainian Buk battery penetrated into supposedly rebel-controlled territory with the intent of attacking a civilian plane (although not MH-17) – it would be crucial to have an explanation of where the Ukrainian Buk batteries were located on July 17 2014.

Silence on Dutch Intelligence

Some of the Russia-did-it crowd have dismissed claims that Ukrainian Buk systems were in the area as Russian disinformation, but their presence was confirmed by a report from the Dutch intelligence service, MIVD, relying on Nato information to explain why commercial airliners were still being allowed over the war zone.

The MIVD’s explanation was that the only anti-aircraft missiles that could hit a plane at 33,000 feet were controlled by Ukraine, which was presumed to have no interest in attacking commercial aircraft, and that the rebels lacked any missile system that could reach that high. Clearly, there was an intelligence failure because either some Ukrainian Buk operators did have an intent to strike a civilian plane or the rebels did have a Buk system in the area.

If the JIT were operating objectively, it would have included something about this intelligence failure, either by showing that it had investigated the possibility that Ukrainian Buk missiles were used by a rogue unit or explaining how Western intelligence could have missed Russia’s introduction of a Buk system into eastern Ukraine.

Instead, there was just this video that includes cryptic phone intercepts, assertions about unnamed witnesses and computer-generated graphics “showing” the movement of a Russian Buk convoy along darkened roads in Ukraine.

Despite the unusual nature of this “indictment”, it was widely accepted in Western media as the final proof of Russian perfidy. The evidence was called “overwhelming” and “conclusive”.

Rather than treating the video report as a prosecutor’s brief – a set of allegations yet to be proved – Western journalists accepted it as flat fact, much as they did Secretary of State Colin Powell’s similar presentation on February 5 2003, “proving” that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction. (Powell also used computer-generated images – of Iraq’s “mobile chemical weapons labs” that, in reality, didn’t exist.)

The day after the JIT video report was issued, The New York Times’ lead editorial was headlined, “Mr Putin’s Outlaw State”. It read:

President Vladimir Putin is fast turning Russia into an outlaw nation. As one of five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, his country shares a special responsibility to uphold international law. Yet, his behaviour in Ukraine and Syria violates not only the rules intended to promote peace instead of conflict, but also common human decency.

This bitter truth was driven home twice on Wednesday [September 28]. An investigative team led by the Netherlands concluded that the surface-to-air missile system that shot down a Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine in July 2014, killing 298 on board, was sent from Russia to Russian-backed separatists and returned to Russia the same night …

Russia has tried hard to pin the blame for the airline crash on Ukraine. But the new report, produced by prosecutors from the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine, confirms earlier findings. It uses strict standards of evidence and meticulously documents not only the deployment of the Russian missile system that caused the disaster but also Moscow’s continuing cover-up …

President Obama has long refused to approve direct military intervention in Syria. And Mr Putin may be assuming that Mr Obama is unlikely to confront Russia in his final months and with an American election season in full swing. But with the rebel stronghold in Aleppo under threat of falling to the government, administration officials said that such a response is again under consideration.

Mr Putin fancies himself a man on a mission to restore Russia to greatness. Russia could indeed be a great force for good. Yet his unconscionable behavior – butchering civilians in Syria and Ukraine, annexing Crimea, computer-hacking American government agencies, crushing dissent at home – suggests that the furthest thing from his mind is becoming a constructive partner in the search for peace.

Rich Irony

Granted, there is some rich irony in a major US newspaper, which helped justify illegal aggression against Iraq with false reporting about Iraq buying aluminum tubes for nuclear centrifuges, pontificating about international law.

Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who co-authored the Times’ bogus story about Iraq buying aluminium tubes for nuclear centrifuges.

Indeed, the very idea that any serious person in the United States would lecture other countries about international law would be laughable if the hypocrisy were not delivered in such a serious set of circumstances. For decades now, the United States has been a law onto itself, deciding which countries should be bombed and who should be assassinated.

President Obama himself has acknowledged authorizing military strikes in seven countries during his presidency and many of those attacks were done outside international law. Indeed, the Times editorial appears to urge Obama to launch illegal military strikes against the Syrian government and, not surprisingly, doesn’t mention the US airstrike that killed some 62 Syrian government soldiers just last month, delivering a death blow to the partial ceasefire.

Instead, you get a medley of the Times’ greatest anti-Russian propaganda hits while ignoring the US role in destabilizing and overthrowing Ukraine’s elected government in favor of a harshly anti-Russian nationalist regime that then began slaughtering thousands of ethnic Russians who resisted the coup.

Nor does the Times mention that Russia is operating inside Syria by invitation of the sovereign government, while the US has no such authority. And the Times leaves out how the US government and its allies have covertly armed and funded jihadist rebels who have inflicted many of the hundreds of thousands of dead in Syria. Not everyone, including Syrian soldiers, was killed by Assad and the Russians, although that’s the impression the Times leaves.

A more nuanced account would reflect this murky reality in which sophisticated US weapons, such as TOW missiles, have ended up in the possession of Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate and its jihadist allies. It would acknowledge that many sides are at fault for these tragedies in Syria and Ukraine – not to mention all the bloodshed that has followed the US-led and US-enabled wars that have torn apart the Middle East over the past decade and a half.

The Times might also admit that Putin was helpful in resolving the 2013 sarin crisis in Syria and achieving a breakthrough on the Iran nuclear talks in 2014. But that would not fit the propaganda need to demonize Putin and ready the American people for another, even more terrifying “regime change”, this time in Moscow.

What we can now expect are a series of legal actions brought against Russia in connection with the MH-17 case and other controversies. The goal will be to further demonize Putin and to destabilize Russia, a process already underway with economic sanctions that have helped throw Russia’s economy into recession.

The neocon plan is to ratchet up tensions and pain so Putin’s elected government will somehow collapse with the neocons hoping that some US lackey will take over and allow another round of “shock therapy”, that is, the plunder of Russia’s resources to the benefit of a few favored oligarchs and their American consultants.

However, given the dreadful experience that the average Russian faced from the earlier round of “shock therapy” in the 1990s – including a stunning decline in life expectancy – the more likely outcome from even a successful neocon scheme of “regime change” would be the emergence of a much more hard-line Russian nationalist than Putin.

Whereas Putin is a calculating and rational leader, the guy who follows him might well be an ideologue ready to use nuclear weapons to protect Mother Russia’s honor. After all, it’s not as if one of these neocon “regime change” calculations has ever gone wrong before.

Yet, whichever way things go, Official Washington – and its complicit mainstream media – now appear determined to push Russia into a corner with military encroachments from Nato on Russia’s borders and with criminal accusations before biased international “investigations”. Any misstep in this dangerous game could quickly end life as we know it.


Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. His latest book is America’s Stolen Narrative (2012).

Do We Really Want Nuclear War with Russia?

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The Israel Lobby

… the Syrian War and the Meaning of Empire

by Andrew Stewart

CounterPunch (September 12 2016)

There seems to be a series of debates going on in activist circles these days that are inter-connected, the continued plight of Alison Weir and her abysmal treatment by various NGOs and the issue of who to stand in solidarity with in regards to Syria. Both are informed essentially by one foundational theoretical point, the argument over the role of the neocons in Washington and the Project for a New American Century (“PNAC”), with a significant group of people seeing everything going on in the region rooted in the PNAC policy suggestions that led us down the road to the war on Iraq and continued the brutalization of the Palestinians under George W Bush.

I think that, when we get right down to it, the ideas about PNAC are symptomatic of a kind of racism that needs to be squashed and by this I do not mean racism against white people, usually bandied about in the canard of anti-Semitism. No, what I refer to is a fundamental and irreconcilable delusion about America that only Dr Gerald Horne and a few other scholars like Constance and Ned Sublette have dared challenge.

What defines the debate around Syria right now is whether or not the opposition to Assad, which has been linked to various American NGOs, is a proxy for the United States and whether the events in Syria were part of a typical imperial espionage effort to destabilize the country in the name of American interests. The evidence for this position is very clear, the PNAC agenda included the ouster of the Baath government. However, many argue that the PNAC agenda has ceased to define American policies in the region since Obama took office and such arguments are a mechanical imposition of the opposition to the war on Iraq’s logic onto a conflict that is fundamentally different. Perhaps it bears mentioning that a certain familiarity occurs to me when comparing the debate of support to the Syrian opposition with that of whether the Kosovo Liberation Army was a legitimate opponent of Milosevic.

To my mind, this claim about PNAC is the most mistaken diagnosis of power relations in regards to the Pentagon I have come across in a long time. What we are dealing with is a chicken-and-egg scenario, a question of whether PNAC controlled the Pentagon or whether the Pentagon created PNAC.

To better understand this, we need to go back a century to the start of World War One, the event that caused the entire set of dominoes that have led us here. The question then becomes why did that war happen?

In this regard, the record is monumentally clear. After the unification of Germany and the creation of the first modern welfare state under Bismarck, the German government began to strengthen diplomatic relations with the Ottoman Empire, including in regards to energy markets. The two governments began to formulate a Berlin to Baghdad railway that would have transported oil between those two cities. This was simply unacceptable to the interconnected financial and energy corporations based in London and on Wall Street. This point is key to understand, finance and oil companies are in reality one large conglomeration and have been at least since the transition from coal to oil in the nineteenth century, if not earlier. One needs only look to the convoluted and intertwined family trees of John D Rockefeller, J P Morgan, and Nelson W Aldrich to see how deeply this goes.

It is key to understand these points because it informs the exact reason why the American government first allowed funding of the British and French war efforts before sending troops “over there”. Reams and reams of copy exist now that have obscured this understanding and instead lay the cause of the war on everything from the death of an obscure Austrian princeling to the capitulation of the Second International to colonialism in the Balkans to infinity and beyond. All these events were symptomatic of this fear of the Berlin-Baghdad railway within the oil-finance industrial complex.

The oil-finance industrial complex has had designs on the historic Levant and those same energy markets now for a century. It is a long term goal of the people who own and run America. As such, we need to understand that PNAC was a public relations campaign for this industrial complex that articulated the desires of Wall Street. To suggest that PNAC dictates policy to the Pentagon and not the other way around is based in the delusion that America is a functional parliamentary democracy and not an imperial project whose consolidation dates back to the Civil War. Neocons and neoliberals are press agents disguised as parliamentarians who do the bidding of Wall Street. It perhaps is worth mentioning here also the exact meaning of those words. The neo- prefix does not mean ‘new’ as it does in the word ‘neo-Nazi’. Instead, it designates that politician in question has embraced neoclassical economics, a set of policies and theories that redistributes the wealth of the public sector and 99% of humanity into the coffers of one percent that control the finance capital sector by inverting Keynesian economics. Indeed, while the differences between necons and neoliberals on domestic American social policies were quite profound (abortion, sexual orientation, Affirmative Action), their policies in international colonial policies were identical. In this sense we should identify various implementations of neoliberal policies by foreign politicians as acts of soft-power imperialism driven by Wall Street.

In this sense, Wall Street does want to see the ouster of the Assad government because it would benefit their profits. It is a basic fact that Bashar al-Assad, just like Slobodan Milosevic, is not a saint. For all the copy that can be generated about how the war on Yugoslavia was an imperial conquest (true fact), Milosevic was a former financial official who had enacted austerity programs to appease the WTO/World Bank cartel (also true fact), a point brought home by this fantastic lecture by Michael Parenti from 1999. After the collapse of the USSR, Yugoslavia ceased to be a useful buffer between Nato and the Warsaw Pact and the financial parasites moved in for the kill. They were able to get their man Slobo into power but at a certain point he threw up his hands and said “nope, that’s my limit, not going further”. And at that point it was bombs away. This is roughly akin to the way the US has treated Assad since he took power, he did the West’s dirty work in terms of torture and neoliberal policy implementations up to a certain point and then said “enough!”, at which point our man in Damascus became our enemy.

And in this sense also the Israel lobby is another public relations firm not for the Jewish State but for the oil-finance industrial complex. The Zionist movement was a small, sectarian effort lacking any internal coherency or unity until the British enlisted them as a proxy of colonial efforts in Palestine on behalf of the oil-finance industrial complex after World War One. It was only with backing from finance and the oil companies that Zionism was able to gain any footing in Palestine, their efforts had been futile and scattershot in the approximately two decades prior to the outbreak of the First World War. The suggestion that Zionism has somehow hijacked American imperial policy is ridiculous.

The joke that Israel is the fifty-first state carries in it a kernel of truth, the fact that American federal policies are not overridden by state policies, it is the other way around. Now, has Israel gotten a bit pushier than preferred over the past quarter century? Yes, there is no doubt about that, the Likud party has become so obnoxious that they border on megalomaniacal. But the events leading up to the end of Operation Protective Edge in 2014 are instructive here. After worldwide condemnation for the slaughter, culminating in Ban Ki Moon and other American puppets speaking out, President Obama called Bibi Netanyahu and told him it was time to stop and the slaughter ended immediately. That is significant because it tells us who controls what in the US-Israel relationship. The Israel Lobby is an American public relations firm that uses blackmail to hinder debate within the halls of power. But Obama stopped Protective Edge, meaning he controls Netanyahu.

The idea that Zionism controls America is based in a romantic narrative of governance that is racist. The unstated thesis of the entire argument is “Once upon a time America was a benign, good place and then Zionism hijacked our foreign policy, taking us down a path we would otherwise not have walked”.

But that is pure white supremacist fantasy, a Disney vision of history. Gerald Horne makes clear in his The Counterrevolution of 1776 (2016) that America was not a step forward for human decency, instead it was a militant rebellion against the advances of abolition that were taking power in the British Parliament. The commodities targeted by “taxation without representation” were slave-produced ones. The Founders were creating a garrison state to preserve chattel slavery and its political economy. Abraham Lincoln used his American Indian policies to field train the vanguard of American imperial policy that would be implemented in Latin America and the Pacific over the next fifty years. To suggest that Zionism has hijacked American policy is to fundamentally deny that America has been an empire since 1865, something that Gore Vidal spent his entire life disproving through his excellent and quite humorous series of historical novels, Narratives of Empire. In reality, Zionism learned a few things from American imperial policy and implemented mirrors of these policies on the Palestinians. Those who doubt this would do well to engage in an Edward Said-styled literary comparison of any history of the Nakba and Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (1970).

I think part of this issue also stems from the fact that some activists still cannot get over the fact that we never had a functional democracy. They yearn for their idealized American democracy while refusing to acknowledge that, if black and brown voices did not matter in 1776, that means the entire edifice of electoral politics and American parliamentarism is a clever and well-funded farce, defined as an ideological state apparatus by the French philosopher and quasi-Maoist Louis Althusser. This apparatus is quite powerful and underwrote why many activists jumped on the Shachtmanite Chairman Bernie Sanders bandwagon in the last eighteen months.

For those of you who have lives, Max Shachtman was the Trotskyist who went in the opposite direction of people like Ernest Mandel or Tariq Ali. While Mandel and others like him said that one should try to reform the Communist bloc, Shachtman said that the Soviet Union was beyond hope, a total failure that was irredeemable. From here he encouraged his disciples Irving Howe, Bayard Rustin, and Michael Harrington to take the skeleton of the old Norman Thomas Socialist Party and create the Democratic Socialists of America, a left caucus of the Democrats that was intended to push the party of American labor to the left and a European-styled model of social democracy while promoting a Cold War liberal foreign policy that was by 1968 to the right of both Noam Chomsky and Walter Cronkite regarding Vietnam. Perhaps it bears mentioning that, even though Harry Clark cites Harrington’s formulation of the word “neoconservative”, we should lay a good deal of blame at Harrington’s feet for promulgating hasbara in the 1970s and 1980s about how Israel’s Labour Party was a model for the Democrats to emulate despite the fact the highest level of illegal settlement expansion took place under Labour governments.

We should also seriously interrogate the notion of politicians and look to Marx himself for inspiration when dealing with Assad and Putin. He knew exactly what Abraham Lincoln was and was not as a white former railroad lawyer and son-in-law of a slave-owning family. Yet his journalism for Horace Greeley and letters to the president would make you think that the Great Emancipator was a premonition of Lenin. That is not because he was blind to Lincoln’s many massive flaws. Instead it was because he saw the Union Army as an engine of historical progress despite the flaws. Does Vladimir Putin have similar flaws? Yes, many, but his challenge to Nato and the imperial project is objectively a progressive goal and effort despite the flawed engine that delivers it. For those who would rebut me with accounts of Putin’s crimes, which I do not doubt, just take a look at the depravity of Sherman’s march to the sea, a massive moving line of marauders who killed quite a few black and wh ite men and raped quite a few black and white women. Yet Marx called their actions “matchless struggle for the rescue of an enchained race and the reconstruction of a social world”. This is the difference between English empirical thinking and German dialectical thinking. In the former, the morality of the individual actors is key. In the latter, the outcome of the actions in history, despite the individual actors and their flaws, is all that matters.

The way to control American policy is through direct action politics, or, to quote Howard Zinn, “What matters most is not who is sitting in the White House, but who is sitting in and who is marching outside the White House, pushing for change”. Electoral politics is able to be used as a tool to further radicalize voters into militant activists. The delusion otherwise dismisses the fact that abolitionists ended slavery and not legislators, who were forced by abolitionists to pass laws.


Andrew Stewart is a documentary film maker and reporter who lives outside Providence. His film, AARON BRIGGS AND THE HMS GASPEE, about the historical role of Brown University in the slave trade, is available for purchase on Amazon Instant Video or on DVD.

The Israel Lobby, the Syrian War and the Meaning of Empire

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