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Man behind the Curtain for al-Qaeda in Syria is Assad

Monday, April 24, 2017

A valuable admission: #Russia controls #Syria & #Putin runs the war

In its rush to defend Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his regime from charges of committing the mass murder of civilians with sarin at Khan Sheikhoun on 4 April 2017, the Russian website Pravada Report made what I think is an extremely valuable and important admission:
Now the media are trumpeting that it was Assad's troops that used chemical weapons in Idlib. This is absolute nonsense, because it is Russian headquarters that supervise all combat actions in the region. Assad will not be able to use any aircraft unless the Russian command in Hmeymim gives permission for this.
Pravada Report comes out of Moscow and is seen as a Putin mouthpiece. This statement is attributed to an unnamed "Russian expert." Hmeymim air base in Latakia is the main Russia airbase in Syria and after Trump's cruise missile strike against Shayrat airbase, Assad moved all his fighters to it. The Russian high command in Syria is stationed at that base. They have advanced Russian surveillance instruments there that track the movement of all aircraft moving through Syrian airspace. Russian SIGINT [signals intelligence] and the Russian spy agency GRU are also located there. Syrian operational staff officers also work out of that base. Two days after the sarin attack, the Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said in a news conference @35:20:
We are coordinating on a daily basis with Russia.
Yes, that is the polite term for it. I "coordinate" on a daily basis with my boss too.

In the case of the United States military assistance command to The Republic of Vietnam [MACV], there was never any doubt about who was really running the war. Those who think Assad is still running the war just don't understand how these things work. The Washington Post, which discovered and translated the secret "status of forces" agreement that allows the Russian military to operate in Syria described it as giving Moscow "carte blanche."

If the Pravada statement is true, and that seems very likely, if "it is Russian headquarters that supervise all combat actions in the region" for their side, it means that the decision to use sarin on Khan Sheikhoun, and to bomb the hospital, were Russian decisions. It also means that anyone who looks to the United Nations to end this tragedy is a fool because those committing the atrocities have veto power over anything the UN might want to do about it. This been shown time and time again in the six years they have been attempting to put down this uprising. The UN never stopped the US from killing more than 3 million Vietnamese, and the UN will never stop Russia from killing millions of Syrians for the same reason.

It also means that all our brave Assad Advocates with their one-sided "Cui Bono" argument that Assad had nothing to gain by using sarin on Khan Sheikhoun can pack it in, because Assad didn't make that decision, almost certainly, Putin did. Those "who benefits" questions needs to be put to Putin not Assad, and Putin operates on a much bigger playing field than just Syria. Putin can almost certainly be counted on to be more concerned that the US president he worked so hard to elect was getting into trouble because of his Russian connections than what affect a sarin strike may have on Assad's standing.

Clearly Trump has benefited greatly, not from the chemical attack of course, but from the opportunity to respond and thus stage a falling out with Putin just when he needed it badly. Before the attack, the major news story in the US was the growing scandal about Trump's ties to Moscow. The new revelations around this story haven't stopped coming since the sarin attack. Two days after the attack, Rep. Devin Nunes attempts to sabotage the congressional investigation fell apart and he was forced to step aside. Then Paul Manafort announced he was registering as a foreign agent. It was revealed that a FISA warrant had been issued for Carter Page. European intelligence agencies started talking about what they had, and we found out the FBI has an investigation going. Most likely both Trump and Putin knew this, and much more was about to be coming out as the sarin attack was being planned. The sarin attack, at a cost of 87 Syrian lives, was just the set up, the payoff was Trump's attack on the airbase.

a very polite way to make war...

Two things make the attack on Shayrat airbase look like a staged rather than a real confrontation:

1.) We know that Trump gave the Russians plenty of advanced notice, so they and the Syrians could get their people and planes safely away before the attack. As a result, they suffered really minimal losses. Trump didn't even bomb the runways. As a result, they were able to resume air operations from the base the very next day.

2.)  Russia has its most advanced air defence systems in Syria, S-300s and S-400s, and they didn't even try to shoot down Trump's cruise missiles.

The Aviationist reported:
[L]ater reports say that most of the aircraft based there were evacuated before the strike, and initial footage from Shayrat seems to show at least some areas of the airports, including taxiways, shelters, aprons, etc. with little or no damages.
According to Pentagon, the Russians were informed ahead of strike.
Noteworthy, the TLAMs [BGM-109 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles ] flew across the MEZ (Missile Engagement Zone) of the S-400 missile battery the Russians deployed to Latakia to protect the Russian air contingent deployed there in 2015.

Did Russia’s most advanced anti-aircraft defense system detect the missiles? For sure there are no reports of any of the BGM-109 intercepted by the S-400.

Designated SA-21 “Growler” by NATO, the S-400 is believed to be able to engage all types of aerial targets including aircraft (someone says even VLO – Very Low Observable ones), drones and ballistic and cruise missiles within the range of 250 miles at an altitude of nearly 19 miles. Equipped with 3 different types of missiles and an acquisition radar capable of tracking up to 300 targets within the range of over 370 miles, the Triumph (or Triumf) is a system made of 8 launchers and a control station.

Supported by effective EW (Electronic Warfare) capabilities, the S-400 fires missiles against aerial targets flying at 17,000 km/h.

So, at least on paper, all non-stealth aircraft and missiles would hardly be able to dodge S-400 missiles. Assuming that the Russians probably detected at least some of the Tomahawks flying fast and low towards their targets at Shayrat Airbase it’s not clear why the Triumf did not attempt to intercept any of the TLAMs launched by the US destroyers,
Perhaps, considered that they were informed beforehand, they simply decided to let them pass.
Why would they do that? They would have been shooting down drones, not even killing US pilots. They had that capability. Why didn't they use it? One can only conclude that they allowed the Syrian base to be attacked, and maybe that was because, as the Aviationist speculates, Trump was so nice and polite about notifying them in advance about his attack. That's warfare in the Milo Minderbinder tradition. If ever an attack seemed staged, this was it.

If we apply the "Cui Bono" test to Assad's opposition, it just doesn't work. If the argument favored by the "anti-imperialist" Left is that 2013 sarin attack that killed 1400 opposition supporters was staged by the opposition to get Obama to intervene in the name defending his "red-line," how much sense does it make for them to try the same thing with a lot less casualties with Trump, who hates Obama, after his administration just announced three times its support for Assad remaining in power? It just doesn't fly.

If we ask instead: "How would Putin benefit?" We can provide answers that really takes off. That is how Cui Bono answers the question of what happened and why in this particular chain of events.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Why is Russia Today attacking Rep. Maxine Waters?

In Sunday's post I noted that if the sarin attack on Khan Sheikhoun and the US attack on the Shayrat airbase was given the cui bono, or "who benefits" test, clearly Donald Trump won out big time. Before the sarin deaths and his cruise missile response, he was way down in the polls. Most importantly, things had been coming to a head in the investigation into his ties to Vladimir Putin. Trump's Nunes gambit had fallen apart, and although we didn't know it at the time, Paul Manafort was preparing to register as a foreign agent, we were about to find out that a FISA warrant had been issued on Carter Page, European intelligence agencies were about to weigh in, and much, much more. He badly needed to be rescued. Just about any mass casualty event that allowed him to look presidential would do, and Bashar al-Assad, at Putin's prodding, was only too happy to help him out.

There is some evidence that the Trump and Putin were cooperating on the airbase strike. Rawstory said:
Two U.S. military officials told Matthew Cole at The Intercept Thursday that this plan would “overwhelm Russian air defense systems used by the Syrian military.” 
Although Russia has some of its most advanced air defense systems in Syria, the need to overwhelm them proved unnecessary because they stood down and never even tried to shoot down Trump's Tomahawks. Rawstory also stated:
ABC News reported early Friday that the Syrian military seemed to know that something might happen. Eyewitnesses claim the military then evacuated personnel and moved equipment before the strike took place.
I said this scenario was highly conspiratorial and therefore pretty unlikely because it sees Assad doing the sarin attack so that Trump could bomb the quickly emptied airbase and have a big show of falling out with Russia, proving to everyone that there couldn't possibly be any collusion between Trump and Putin.

While it is clear that 86 civilians were murdered and hundreds injuried, this far-fetched idea that the whole Syrian sarin thing just might be a show hatched up to divert our attention away from Trump's Moscow ties has been gaining some currency. Lawrence O'Donnell has been saying that the Trump-Putin theory can't be ruled out on his MSNBC show. The Washington Post reported on it in "MSNBC host’s conspiracy theory: What if Putin planned the Syrian chemical attack to help Trump?", 8 April 2017. It says:
“Wouldn't it be nice,” O'Donnell asked a nodding, smiling Rachel Maddow, “if it was just completely, totally, absolutely impossible to suspect that Vladimir Putin orchestrated what happened in Syria this week — so that his friend in the White House could have a big night with missiles and all the praises he's picked up over the past 24 hours?”

The theory was impossible to rule out, O'Donnell said, because of the Trump campaign's ties to the Russian government.
According to the Washington Post, O'Donnell picked up this conspiracy theory from Bill Palmer. On 8 April early AM he published "Syria gas attack and Donald Trump’s military response don’t add up – unless Putin orchestrated it." In it he opined:
But Vladimir Putin knows full well that a gas attack like this was likely to prompt at least some kind U.S. military response against Assad. So Putin wouldn’t have been behind this unless he wanted the U.S. to take military action in Syria. And the only logical reason for Putin to want that is if he was trying to set up a win for Donald Trump, which could boost his historically low approval rating. It would also allow Trump to paint himself as being willing to go against Russian interests, as an argument against the most serious charges in the worsening Trump-Russia scandal.
Maxine Waters
Congresswoman Maxine Waters, a African American Democrat from Los Angeles with a long history of activist, has made the impeachment of Donald Trump her new mission in life. She spoke at the Tax Rally in Washington, DC on Saturday, April 15th. Heather Digby Parton reported on that in Salon, 17 April 2017:
The anti-Trump resistance is very much a grassroots effort, but there are leaders emerging. One of the most vocal is Rep. Maxine Waters, a Democrat who represents Los Angeles. Appearing at the Washington Tax Day march last Saturday, Waters put it bluntly: “I don’t respect this president,” she said. “I don’t trust this president. He’s not working in the best interests of the American people. I will fight every day until he is impeached!” Then she led the crowd in a chant of “Impeach 45!” It doesn’t get any more resistant than that.
She is also starting to raise these questions about the Syria strike. Reporting for the Huffington Post, Lauren Windsor wrote:
At the rally before the march, Waters vowed to fight every day until Trump is impeached and questioned the motives behind the U.S. attack on Syria. She believes Syria to be “phony tension between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, all being hyped up by the White House, still trying to distract us.”

After her speech, I asked the congresswoman whether she believes Putin and Assad were colluding to help take the heat off of Trump from the investigations into his ties with Russia. She believes that Putin and Trump are “tied at the hip,” the tension is a charade, and that the end-game is getting the oil sanctions lifted for drilling in the Arctic.

She must have hit a nerve because RT.com, formerly known as Russia Today, came down on her like a ton of Brexits. It published this vicious attack on her, 17 April 2017:
‘People like Maxine Waters put Democratic Party at risk by proposing loony conspiracies’

17 Apr, 2017 16:44
The Democratic Party should not give any more publicity to Congresswoman Maxine Waters because she is discrediting the Party among thinking Americans and people around the world, says Charles Ortel, geo-politics writer.

US Representative Maxine Waters has accused President Trump on of being “in bed” with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

At a rally on Saturday in Washington, DC, Waters said she considered Syria to be “phony tension between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, all being hyped up by the White House, still trying to distract us.”

The Democrat from Los Angeles added: “They [The Russians] see Trump as helping them to lift the sanctions so they can drill in the Arctic for the oil that Tillerson negotiated on behalf of Exxon with Putin.”
I've seen RT be insulting before, but this piece is just downright mean spirited:
Charles Ortel, the private investor, and writer said that Maxine Waters is a lady “who has had many firsts to her credit.”

“For that, some people do respect her. But when she opens her mouth and says things that are this stupid – she deserves to be fully exposed and fully criticized,” Ortel told RT.

In his opinion, some of the comments by the Democratic congresswoman are just “bizarre ravings.”

“This is the kind of raving that comes out of people on the right and the left frankly, who walk around wearing tin foil hats. It makes no sense whatsoever that the president of the US and the Russian president would engage in this type of loony conspiracy theory putting many lives at risk,” he said.

He added that on both sides of the political spectrum “there are people who are not deep thinkers, who surround themselves with other simple minded people, who fall victim to the type of loony theories that many people like to think about.” More...
In a piece titled "Donald Trump's War Crimes", 5 April 2017, Truthout, Marjorie Cohn reports:
Over the past month, the US-led coalition has killed an inordinate number of civilians.

"Almost 1,000 non-combatant deaths have already been alleged from coalition actions across Iraq and Syria in March -- a record claim," according to Airwars, a non-governmental organization (NGO) that monitors civilian casualties from airstrikes in the Middle East. "These reported casualty levels are comparable with some of the worst periods of Russian activity in Syria."
This reality makes the claim that the presidents of the US and Russian would refuse to take such self-serving actions because they wouldn't want to put many lives at risk, ring hollow.

Personally, I am coming to believe that Trump's empty airbase strike was "a play within a play," which would make this four hundred year old observation by Hamlet's mother still the perfect response to Mother Russia's slander of Maxine Waters:

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Why would Assad use sarin in Syria now?

This question is again being raised by those that don't think the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad is responsible for the sarin attack that killed 86 civilians in Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib province on 4 April 2017. In Assad's defense they argue that he was already winning the war and had nothing to gain by such a provocative act, for example in a piece published by Portside on 15 April 2017, titled "Cui Bono, Who Benefits," Uri Avnery asks the question:
Why did Assad do it? What did he have to gain?

The simple answer is: Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
With the help of Russia, Iran and Hizbullah, Assad is slowly winning the civil war that has been ravishing Syria for years, He already holds almost all the major cities that constitute the core of Syria. He has enough weapons to kill as many enemy civilians as his heart desires.

So why, for Allah's sake, should he use gas to kill a few dozen more? Why arouse the anger of the entire world, inviting American intervention?

There is no way to deny the conclusion: Assad had the least to gain from the dastardly deed. On the list of "cui bono", he is the very last.
Some think this apparent lack of motive makes for a compelling argument for Assad's innocence. Dina Formentini and Chris Ernesto make the same argument in a Counterpunch piece titled "Assad Had the Upper Hand So Why Would He Gas His Own People?," 11 April 2017:
This major policy statement by the US took regime change off the table, and was obviously great news for Bashar al-Assad. Combined with Syrian military gains on the ground, Assad was in the strongest position he’d been in since the war in Syria began.

So, why 5 days later would he gas his own people?
These are just two examples but the Internet is crawling with many more because it is a staple of all of the Assad defenders. Whether they are from the "anti-imperialist" Left, or the Alt-Right, whether they agree Assad bombed a terrorist warehouse that released the sarin, or claim the sarin was released by the terrorists after Assad dropped a conventional bomb on the street, they all agree that it is ridiculous to think Assad would risk the outrage when the is so close to winning without it.

The principal flaw in this argument, this time, is that it was made by many of these same personalities after the sarin attack that killed more than 1400 on 21 August 2013. It was widely held then also, that he was so close to winning that it would be ridiculous for him to risk direct Western military intervention by carrying out the sarin attack he was then accused of. Here are a few examples of that era from just one source, Counterpunch. Andrew Levine used "Cui Bono" to defend Assad in that attack, 27 August 2013:
Maybe Assad really is culpable; he has never been a leader who bothered much about ethical side constraints, and he does seem intent on holding onto power by any means necessary.

But the cui bono? (who benefits?) principle suggests the opposite. The Syrian government plainly has enough popular support to withstand the forces arrayed against it. Indeed, it seems to be winning the war.
Stanly Johny chimed in, 30 August 2013:
The Assad government says it is rebels who used chemical weapons. Backers of the regime asks why it should use such weapons at a time when it’s already making gains in the civil war.
Ajamu Baraka thought Hillary Clinton much more dangerous than Donald Trump. Last year he was the Green Party vice presidential candidate and together with his running mate, Jill Stein, they diverted enough progressive votes to put Trump in the White House, but in 2013 he was part of the Assad didn't do it chorus, 2 September 2013:
The justification for this breech of the United Nations Charter is based on the dubious claims made by an insurgency, armed and trained by those same western powers and their regional allies, that a chemical attack was launched by the al-Assad government. An attack that illogically and irrationally took place at the precise moment the Syrian government was clearly winning the war against the so-called rebel forces and when United Nations inspectors were already in the country.
Now do you see the problem with this argument? It seems rather lame to have argued after the 2013 sarin attack that Assad wouldn't have done it because he was on the verge of winning, and then come back after the civil war has been raging on for another four years to make that same argument, that he wouldn't have done it in April 2017 because he is still on the verge of winning. It just has a kind of "fool me twice, shame on me" feel to it. So maybe we should start looking at some reasons why Assad may have used sarin.

In past blog posts, I have pointed out that chemical weapons, while relatively ineffective against a prepared enemy force, are a preferred weapon for use in the suppression of rebellious civilian populations because it can injure or kill people without destroying property. For precisely that reason, milder chemical agents like tear gas and pepper spray are legal and used by almost every government on the planet. Given the growing intensity of the class struggle worldwide, it is not much of a stretch to imagine a bourgeois desire to bring back stronger toxics, and a plan to use the Syrian conflict to normalize their return. This is in fact, what has been happening. Chemical weapons, once effectively banned, have now been used dozens and dozens of times in the past 5 years, and not just in Syria anymore.

Since Assad's concerns are more immediate, I don't think his desire to normalize the use of CW would play a big role in his decision to use them, but I do think those with broader concerns, in Moscow, Tehran, and even Washington, might see the normalization of CW use as a big win, and be willing to push Assad in that direction. That argument applies to all the CW attacks but also explains why some must be so massive and graphic as to make the news. If people don't know chemical weapons are being used with impunity, their return can't be normalize.

With regards to this most recent attack and response, the cui bono question gets much more complicated. Clearly Donald Trump benefited big time. Before the sarin deaths and his cruise missile response, he was way down in the polls. Most importantly, things had been coming to a head in the investigation into his ties to Putin. Trump's Nunes gambit had fallen apart, and although we didn't know it at the time, Paul Manafort was preparing to register as a foreign agent, we were about to find out that a FISA warrant had been issued on Carter Page, European intelligence agencies were about to weigh in, and much, much more. He badly needed to be rescued. Just about any mass casualty event that allowed him to look presidential would do, and Assad, at Putin's prodding, was only too happy to help him out. I admit this scenario is highly conspiratorial and therefore pretty unlikely. It sees Assad doing the sarin attack so that Trump could bomb the empty airbase and have a big show of falling out with Russia, proving to everyone that there couldn't possibly be any collusion between Trump and Putin. Assad isn't the prime beneficiary in this scenario either, again he would be doing it at the behest of a patron, but that happens quite often. Those gifts are rarely free.

But perhaps the best argument for why Assad would use sarin again in spite of all the downsides, can be found in a couple of tweets I saw this morning:

These tweets mean that after all these years, and all they have been through, the revolutionary cultural movement we have come to associate with Kafranbel is not dead. That means the people's democratic movement that is the Syrian Revolution is not dead! Shooting unarmed protesters couldn't kill it. The arrests and tortures in his Gulag couldn't break it. His sarin attack on a Damascus suburb in 2013 couldn't kill it. He unleashed the jihadists but ISIS couldn't kill it. All his barrel bombs and cluster bombs since couldn't kill it. Even with massive military aid from Russia and Iran, they still can't kill it, and the cowardly attack on the civilian convoy won't break it either! To hear Assad, and his supporters tell it, he has been on the verge of winning since day one, and here we are, having sacrificed six years and half a million Syrian lives, and he still can't kill it!

That is because the spirit of revolution lives in the hearts of the people. It is not a question of numbers killed or territory conquered, as long as the flames of liberty remain alive in the people, the revolution is not defeated. In point of fact, it can never be defeated, only delayed. Braking the revolution requires breaking the people's spirit. This is why such horrific violence is employed against civilians. LBJ-Nixon thought they could whip the rebellion out of the Vietnamese and killed more than three million trying. Assad has killed a half million of his own people and still they will not bow down to him. A sarin attack, especially if there is no effective response from the world, is extremely demoralizing, and after six years he is becoming increasingly desperate and willing to try anything. I think that is the main reason why he used sarin on civilians in Khan Sheikhoun, 4 April 2017.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Did Trump just kill thousands of people in Afghanistan?

MOAB blast radius on New York City
The big news yesterday was that United States President Donald Trump dropped the largest bomb on people since the atomic bombs dropped on Japan to end World War II. The MOAB also known as the mother of all bombs, is the largest non-nuclear bomb in the US arsenal. It has a blast radius of more than a mile, which is to say that if it were set off in lower Manhattan it would destroy most everything on the lower half of the island. Fortunately, it didn't go off in New York City, it went off in the Achin district of Nangarhar, Afghanistan. We are told that the MOAB was tasked with taking out a deep ISIS tunnel network, and early reports say that 36 ISIS members were killed.
So far there has been little talk of civilian casualties and the feeling is given that this was an isolated mountain valley up in the northeastern corner of Afghanistan with nobody around except these terrorists. Otherwise Trump never would have used a weapon designed for Iraq but never used by Bush or Obama for fear of massive collateral damage, right?

Even in the time I have to Google before work this morning, I have found something that indicates that may not be the case. Pajhwok Afghan News put the population of the district at 150,000 less than a year ago:
Why Daesh chose Achin district as its base in Afghanistan

By Pajhwok
May 09, 2016 - 18:01
JALALABAD (Pajhwok): The Islamic State (IS) -- or so called Daesh -- has chosen the Achin district of eastern Nangarhar province as its headquarters for a variety of reasons.

The district’s proximity to the Durand Line, a contested borderline haunted by militants of all stripes, and easy weapons and logistical supply routes seem to have driven the rebel group’s choice of its HQ..

Geography and tribal structure

Achin district is located 35 kilometers southeast of Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar. The Durand Line, Kurram Tribal Agency and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa lie cheek by jowl with Nazyan Kot, Ghanikhel and Spin Ghar and Achin district.

Achin has an area of 350 square kilometers and a population of 150,000 --all of them Pashtuns from Shinwari and Alisher Khel tribes. Majority of residents of the district are reliant on agricultural, cultivating wheat, maize, potatoes, cotton, onion and others crops.

Where Daesh fighters came from

A source close to the group confided to Pajhwok Afghan News that five years ago when Pakistani forces launched operations in Orakzai and Khyber agencies, families of Daesh fighters started sneaking into Achin. Most of them were Pakistani militants.

The rebels then built seminaries and cultivated local residents, as well as the Taliban, the source said, adding the predominantly Salafi fighter gradually joined forces with Daesh. The move caused differences within the Taliban groups.

Salafis from Kunar, Nuristan, Nangarhar and a number other provinces joined Daesh in Achin and converted the district into their stronghold. Daesh wanted to extend sweep to the north through Sarobi and Tagab districts, but its plans had been foiled by Afghan and foreign forces, the source revealed.

Despite losing many dreaded commanders and leaders, Daesh still has several training centres in Achin. Nangarhar police spokesman, Col. Hazrat Hussain Mashraqiwal said: “Daesh has chosen Achin as its base where the rebels could easily receive supplies from across the Durand Line.” More...
For those interested in what ISIS is going in Afghanistan, this article is well worth reading in full. The point I want to make is that this was no empty place, no doubt civilian were killed and the potential that thousands were killed is real and the media should stop acting like that is not even an issue until we know a lot more. Clearly, this was an important ISIS stronghold, but if thousands of civilians were slaughtered in the process of wiping it out, it will prove to be both a humanitarian and political disaster.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Democracy Now debuts new lie about Khan Sheikhoun sarin attack

Almost from the beginning, opinions about the cause of the sarin attack that killed more than 80 civilians in Khan Sheikhoun, 4 April 2017, have fallen into two camps. Most media outlets, intelligence agencies and governments have agreed with reports from eye witnesses on the ground that what happened was that a Syrian jet dropped a sarin bomb on them.

The Assad regime, and its supporters in Moscow, don't dispute the fact that a Syria warplane dropped something or that civilians died from sarin, but they say that the chemicals came from a terrorist warehouse that was bombed with a conventional bomb, and it was the stuff in the warehouse that did the real damage. RT.com stated, 4 April 2017:
The Syrian Air Force has destroyed a warehouse in Idlib province where chemical weapons were being produced and stockpiled before being shipped to Iraq, Russia’s Defense Ministry spokesman said.

The strike, which was launched midday Tuesday, targeted a major rebel ammunition depot east of the town of Khan Sheikhoun, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.

The warehouse was used to both produce and store shells containing toxic gas, Konashenkov said. The shells were delivered to Iraq and repeatedly used there, he added, pointing out that both Iraq and international organizations have confirmed the use of such weapons by militants.
Sputnik News stated 12 April 2017:
MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Russia stands by its assertion that the Syrian forces struck a militant chemical weapons production facility on April 4, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Wednesday.
"According to our absolutely reliable information, the point at issue are Syrian Arab Republic air force's Su-22 airstrikes on a site controlled by terrorists where chemicals were produced," Ryabkov told reporters.
Using that logic, the US could have gone ahead and bombed the dikes in North Vietnam, something it never did, and then denied responsibility for the mass drownings because it didn't drop any water. The best that can be said of the Assad/Russian explanation is that if it happened as they insist, then they took advantage of preexisting conditions to cause the chemical massacre of civilians.

Perhaps seeing the weakness of this original lie, or more likely because the whole sarin in the "terrorist warehouse" thesis is falling apart, today Democracy Now floated a third explanation that the conspiracy theorists will love. Now the new story is that the terrorists released the sarin in the street to implicated the Assad regime and get western support. If that sounds familiar, you were alive in 2013. To promote this new story, host Amy Goodman brought in a well known pair of Putin apologists, Stephen Cohen,  a contributing editor at The Nation magazine, and Jonathan Steele, former Moscow correspondent for The Guardian. Steele led off in introducing this new thesis:
JONATHAN STEELE: But as Lavrov pointed out in his remarks with Tillerson when they were having their joint press conference, the Syrian government has written to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, offering an inquiry, offering access to the airfield that was hit by the American cruise missiles, but also calling, quite legitimately, for the rebels to give access to the site where the sarin gas was used, to see whether indeed it was caused by an airstrike or caused by somebody on the ground who was doing a dirty trick to try and discredit the Syrian government.
This is indeed a very new tact because, as we see above, the official Russian/Assad version is that they released the sarin when they bombed the warehouse that was storing it. Amy Goodman quickly reminded him that this explanation has already been disproved:
AMY GOODMAN: The Guardian examined the warehouse and silos directly next to where the missile had landed. And Shaheen says they, quote, "found nothing but an abandoned space covered in dust and half-destroyed silos reeking of leftover grain and animal manure." He went on to write, quote, "Residents said the silos had been damaged in air raids six months ago, and had stood unused since then." Your response?
The warehouse was an important food source for this rebellious community. No doubt that is why it was bombed. It was left empty because the people know that if they tried to use it, it would just be bombed again.

Amy could have added that the missile crater was in the street, not in the warehouse. There was no recent strike on the empty warehouse. In any case, Steele had to concede the point, which would mean that the story being told by the Assad regime and the Russians is false, even if this new theory is plausible. This is a point nobody bothered to raise on Democracy Now because they are hoping to slip the new lie in over the disproved lie without anybody noticing:
JONATHAN STEELE: Well, that’s true. I mean, that report is accurate. But the crucial evidence is: Where did the sarin gas come from? 
That quickly he concedes that Damascus and Moscow have been lying about the murder of 80+ civilians with sarin. However, he is ready to advance a whole new theory in defense of Assad, and remember, this is a man who thinks a question is evidence:
And Professor Theodore Postol of MIT has just come out with a report trying to discredit the White House statement of the day before, a four-page White House statement. And Postol argues that the 122-millimeter rocket tube that is lying on the ground, that has been shown to reporters and others who’ve come to the site, was not broken open by impact with the ground, but by something that crashed onto it from above. That suggests it has to have been broken by somebody standing on the ground, putting explosives onto it from above, rather than being something that was dropped from an aircraft from on high.
We know from his past work, as well as from this statement that Postol has a very biased view. He is out to discredit the White House statement which repeats what the Syrians under attack said happened. The Democracy Now crowd would rather leave the Syrians out of this, so they only address the claims of Western sources.

Democracy Now co-host Nermeen Shaikh asked Cohen to weigh in:
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Stephen Cohen, I’d like to ask you: If, in fact, as Russia and the Assad regime claim, they had nothing to do with this chemical weapons attack, what do they believe—who do they believe is responsible?
But they didn't claim they had nothing to do with it, Shaikh. They said they bombed a warehouse containing CW in a civilian area on purpose. That was their story. Cohen seemed to have forgotten that too:
STEPHEN COHEN: Well, we come back to where we began. That’s what they asked Tillerson. They showed him their intelligence, which corresponds to what Jonathan says. And, by the way, Jonathan Steele is one of the preeminent journalistic authorities on Russia and knows a lot about the Middle East. I take very seriously what he told you.
So Cohen strokes Steele, and backs up his story, claiming the Russian showed Tillerson the evidence, and just like that ---- they've replaced the lie about the bomb in the terrorist warehouse full of chemical weapons with a new one about how the terrorist released the sarin in the street.

They are helping the child killers, and they do it all with a straight face.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

Click here for my posts on the 2016 US Election
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Monday, April 10, 2017

Julian Assange on Democracy Now: Revising the history of his Trump support

Democracy Now dedicated the whole hour to an interview with Julian Assange today, and the best thing about it was Allan Nairn, long time investigative journalist and activist, who Amy Goodman brought in to debate Assange. After Assange noted that we had two terrible choices in this election, Nairn said:
I agree with that. However, I would note that the Trump campaign thought that WikiLeaks was on their side.

Now, the idea, that Mr. Assange just suggested, that Trump and Clinton were equally dangerous, two different deadly diseases, I think is wildly and gruesomely mistaken. Clinton represented a criminal establishment. But Trump and the people he brought in with him make it worse, make it even more criminal. This idea that it was just a choice between the lesser of two evils, well, in politics, in life, you fight like hell to have good choices, to have better choices—in this case, Sanders was a better alternative—but once that is no longer possible, then of course you choose the lesser evil. What do you want, more evil? More killing? More pollution? More abuse of immigrants? More racism? More impunity for corporations? More aid to death squads? More spending for the military? All of that is what you get with Trump, in distinction to the bad—the other bad things you would have gotten with Clinton. And the win of Clinton was not—or, I’m sorry, the victory of Trump was not equally as bad as it would have been if Clinton had lost. It’s a catastrophe. It’s an utter catastrophe. And those who are poorest, those who are already most oppressed and most vulnerable, are the ones who are suffering most as a result.
Nairn got to this very eloquent summary of the problem with the "don't vote for the lesser-of-two-evils" thesis via this rather childish exchange:
ALLAN NAIRN: OK. Well, my view of this is that during the campaign, WikiLeaks often suggested that Trump would be less dangerous than Clinton.

JULIAN ASSANGE: No, we didn’t.

ALLAN NAIRN: I think you did.

JULIAN ASSANGE: No, we didn’t.

I think that concept is wildly, gruesomely mistaken. There was the argument—well, it’s just—

JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, that’s fine—it’s fine for you to say that, but you should understand that, no, we didn’t. In fact, I was asked that question directly on Democracy Now! at the time about what my position was, asked which one I preferred. And my response is, being asked this question is being asked: Do I prefer cholera, or do I prefer gonorrhea?
Well, we have to say there is some evidence to support Nairn's claim, and critique Assange's historical revisionism. Even his 25 July 2016 "Choosing Between Trump or Clinton is Like Picking Between Cholera or Gonorrhea" appearance on Democracy Now that he raised in his defense supports Nairn's argument. True, Assange's seems to think the "deep state" controls everything "So it doesn’t make much difference in the end," but then he spent the whole show bashing Clinton with hardly a critical word against Trump.

There is also a very one-sided Twitter history:

Likewise, he was critical of only one presidential candidate when he appeared on Sean Hannity's FoxNews segment Assange on the dangers of a Hillary Clinton presidency, 7 September 2016.

I guess Harris just better shut up then!

More on this later.

There is also this: After the election Julian Assange did an interview with di Stefania Maurizi for the Italian website Repubblica, 23 December 2016. This excerpt is from that interview:
What about Donald Trump? What is going to happen?

"If the question is how I personally feel about the situation, I am mixed: Hillary Clinton and the network around her imprisoned one of our alleged sources for 35 years, Chelsea Manning, tortured her according to the United Nations, in order to implicate me personally. According to our publications Hillary Clinton was the chief proponent and the architect of the war against Libya. It is clear that she pursued this war as a staging effort for her Presidential bid. It wasn't even a war for an ideological purpose. This war ended up producing the refugee crisis in Europe, changing the political colour of Europe, killing more than 40,000 people within a year in Libya, while the arms from Libya went to Mali and other places, boosting or causing civil wars, including the Syrian catastrophe. If someone and their network behave like that, then there are consequences. Internal and external opponents are generated. Now there is a separate question on what Donald Trump means."
Before we get to Assange's meaning of Trump, we must note the chauvinism with which he deals with the Libyan people and their aspiration to live in a Libya not ruled by the murderous Gaddafi dictatorship. When he accuses Hillary Clinton of being "the chief proponent and the architect of the war against Libya," one might assume he is talking only about NATO intervention in the Libyan civil war that had been going on for more than a month before that, but as we read further we see no recognition of a civil war on his part at all. No role for Libyans except in the dying. He puts the number at 40,000. Linux Beach and most knowledgeable sources think it closer to 30,000. No matter. Julian Assange blames all of these deaths on Hillary Clinton, even though the Gaddafi regime had killed thousands upon thousands before the no-fly zone was imposed. Whether it was 30,000 or 40,000 that died in that war, we have only to look to Syria to approximate what the situation would have become in Libya had Gaddafi been given Assad's immunity for murder. Most likely, the Libyan conflict, like the Syrian one that started a month later, would still be going on with maybe 200,000 Libyans dead, and still counting.

Gaddafi hired mercenaries from Mali to suppress his own people. He armed these mercenaries. When the Libyan people defeated him, there were no foreign armies on the ground, those mercenaries fled back to Mali with Gaddafi's weapons and started making trouble. All of this is Hillary Clinton's fault, in the mind of Julian Assange. He doesn't even see contradictions among the people of Mali as the source of that conflict. He accuses "arms" of "causing civil wars." Oppressed people escape his equation entirely. This is how he can say the war wasn't for an ideological purpose. Libyans on both sides would disagree, but who asked for their opinions?

Julian Assange also blames what he thinks of as Hillary's War for the refugee crisis in Europe even though very few Libyans have been leaving Libya in the historic refugee streams leaving Libya for Europe in the past few years. The greatest number have come from Syria, fleeing areas being bombed without a no-fly zone. Others have been fleeing active wars in sub-Saharan Africa and as far away as Afghanistan. These refugee crossings also took place during Gaddafi's time. The difference is now, due to the increased violence, especially in Syria, they are much greater, and Gaddafi is no longer there to extort billions of euros from Europe in return keeping refugees in detention facilities, or simply taking them out to the desert to die.

Sharing a podium in Rome with Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in 2010, this is how Col Gaddafi spoke of the European refugee crisis before it was all Hillary Clinton's fault and while Gaddafi was demanding $6.3 billion a year from the EU to slow it down, Gaddafi warned:
"Tomorrow Europe might no longer be European, and even black, as there are millions who want to come in. We don't know what will happen, what will be the reaction of the white and Christian Europeans faced with this influx of starving and ignorant Africans. We don't know if Europe will remain an advanced and united continent or if it will be destroyed, as happened with the barbarian invasions."
This is the kind of political leadership Assange likes, which brings us to something else Assange says above: Immediately after he blames the European refugee crisis on Hillary's War, he accuses it of:
"changing the political colour of Europe"
Just what do you suppose he meant by that?

To hear Julian Assange tell it, the revolutionary struggle of the Libyan people did not exist. To the extent they participated at all, they were the unwitting agents in a bid to put Hillary Clinton in the White House. He doesn't even mention US President Barack Obama, who happened to be Clinton's boss at the time.

Now back to Assange's opinion of Trump. This is the next question in the interview:
What do you think he means?

"Hillary Clinton's election would have been a consolidation of power in the existing ruling class of the United States. Donald Trump is not a DC insider, he is part of the wealthy ruling elite of the United States, and he is gathering around him a spectrum of other rich people and several idiosyncratic personalities. [Is "idiosyncratic personalities" wikispeak for white nationalists? - LB] They do not by themselves form an existing structure, so it is a weak structure which is displacing and destabilising the pre-existing central power network within DC. It is a new patronage structure which will evolve rapidly, but at the moment its looseness means there are opportunities for change in the United States: change for the worse and change for the better."
This definitely sounds to me like he thinks Donald Trump is the lesser of two evils. What do you think?

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Sunday, April 9, 2017

Trump's strike against Assad: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

This is my early assessment of Trump's Syria strike.

1.) The Good

Anyone who has followed Trump's rhetoric on the campaign trail and beyond knows that he was bound to make a military "show of force" somewhere in the world early in his presidency. If that be the case. What better target than Assad, especially after this flagrant crime - dropping sarin from aircraft on civilians?

Apparently it was a limited one-off strike against a military airbase far from civilian population centers, so hopefully the real civilian casualty rate is low, no matter what the Assad regime and Russians say. They always lie about such things. To hear them tell it, they have yet to kill a single civilian in Syria:

From those who still claim there is no real proof that Assad was behind the 21 August 2013 sarin attack, I have yet to hear them respond to this United Nations report:

The air strike has given the Syrian people a much needed boost. They are celebrating the strike in Syrian refugee camps all around the world and also in Syria:
“It was the happiest news that I’ve heard in my life,” said Ahmad, a resident of Khan Sheikhoun, a witness to the apparent chemical attack on Tuesday who lost friends and neighbors. His name has been changed to protect his identity.

Had Obama made even a weak symbolic gesture like this after Assad's 21 August 2013 sarin attack, al Qaeda and ISIS never would have been able to capitalize on the West's failure to act as they did. Maybe, ISIS wouldn't have been able to recruit enough fighters to take Mosul so soon after. Sometimes even symbolic gestures, or the lack of them, can be very powerful. But I think their celebration misplaced and premature.

A message really did need to be sent to Assad. I do believe that if something like this had been done by Obama after 21 August 2013, with or without congressional approval, the world would be a very different place now. This wouldn't be happening again. ISIS wouldn't be the force it is now. Russia wouldn't be the dominate force in Syria now. The Syrian refugee crisis wouldn't be the massive tragedy it has become. Trump wouldn't be president. See my hundreds of blog posts on Syria since 2011 for details. But now it is too little to late.

If you haven't read or heard Nikki Haley's full statement to the UN about the Syria CW attack, I highly recommend it. I think they are among the most eloquent and powerful words delivered by any US UN representative. Titled Remarks at an Emergency UN Security Council Meeting on Chemical Weapons in Syria, 5 April 2017. They began:
It was interesting to hear of the talk from my Russian colleague about the independent investigations and the importance of them, because this entire Security Council decided on what the Joint Investigative Mechanism would be and decided what it would do, and it was actually voted on unanimously. And the joint mechanism came back and said that the Syrian government committed chemical weapons acts against their own people three different times. But somehow now we don’t like what the Joint Investigative Mechanism does. More ...
That is a powerful rebuke to those that say we must wait for the results of an independent investigation. Been there, done that.

And although Trump took unilateral action against Assad, and everybody from Democracy Now to PressTV has misquoted Haley to say she called for unilateral US action [with Press TV, saying 'The United States threatens to take “its own action”' when the quoted phrase can't be found in Haley's statement], that is not what it literally says, it correctly calls for collective action that disallows the Russian veto.

But that is the Good.

2.) The Bad

This the one lighthearted tweets I sent out on Wednesday, but I think it reflects a certain truth, that the arrogant know-it-all Trump is coming face to face with the reality that there is a lot he doesn't know. The way I account for his reaction Wednesday:
“I will tell you that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me – big impact,”
is basically shock. It's quite possible he never really had to confront what is happening in Syria, look upon the images of dead children. Certainly, US media has made them easy to avoid, especially in his world. In 2013 he was tweeting against Obama striking Assad.

So what I read most in his statement is the shock of the moment, at the pictures he woke up to, and he got angry. He's human after all. But I have no doubt he will quickly recover his equilibrium and return to the old line. You see, I'm from Atlantic City. We have that in common. So I know that if shock at the devastation he himself has caused, let alone capitalism in general, has not long ago had a lasting impact and turned him away from the dark side, it won't happen now.

Trump did this entirely on his own authority. He neither sought congressional authority or public approval for his actions. This was probably illegal and entirely unwarranted. Unwarranted, first because his party controls both houses of congress. If Obama had claimed the need to act without congressional approval because he saw a moral imperative and was saddled with a congress that would deny him just because he was asking, he would have had a point, but Trump can't make that argument.

There is also the Cui Bono Test, and there is no question that Trump benefited greatly from this strike.  On Tuesday morning, when the sarin bombs fell on Khan Sheikhoun, the Trump presidency was at historic lows in popularity ... more on that later.

3.) The Ugly

It would appear that this strike took place because one man, US President Donald Trump, was forced to confront the carnage that has been going on in Syria fir six years, and got angry. We can only wish that the deaths of children at his own hand in Mosul three weeks ago would have caused such revulsion. It is never a good idea to order military action when you are angry.

It confirmed my worst fears, that the man who now has his hand on the nuclear trigger is willing to order airstrikes at a moment's notice, and little consultation, based on his emotional state at the time:

If the US Peace and Justice movement mobilizes to protest these air strikes against Assad in a way they haven't since the last time he was threatened for using sarin, in a way they haven't about the 8,000 other US airstrikes on Syrian soil, in a way they didn't about Trump's 17 March bombing in Mosul, and in a way they never have to protest the murder of a half-million Syrians, that too will be part of the ugly.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Noam Chomsky regurgitates 2012 Putin propaganda to excuse latest sarin murders

Today on Democracy Now, Noam Chomsky regurgitated an old propaganda line that had been discredited years ago as his principle response to the latest horrible catastrophe in Syria. He seems to hold the US responsible for all acts of violence committed by the Assad regime in the past four years because, according to the Russians, it miss an opportunity to get Assad out in 2012:
NOAM CHOMSKY: Syria is a horrible catastrophe. The Assad regime is a moral disgrace. They’re carrying out horrendous acts, the Russians with them.

AMY GOODMAN: Why the Russians with them?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, pretty simple reason: Syria is their one ally in the whole region. Not a close ally, but they do have—their one Mediterranean base is in Syria. It’s the one country that’s more or less cooperated with them. And they don’t want to lose their one ally. It’s very ugly, but that’s what’s happening.

Meanwhile, there have been—it’s kind of like the North Korean case we were discussing. There have been possible opportunities to terminate the horrors. In 2012, there was an initiative from the Russians, which was not pursued, so we don’t know how serious it was, but it was a proposal to—for a negotiated settlement, in which Assad would be phased out, not immediately. You know, you can’t tell them, "We’re going to murder you. Please negotiate." That’s not going to work. But some system in which, in the course of negotiations, he would be removed, and some kind of settlement would be made. The West would not accept it, not just the United States. France, England, the United States simply refused to even consider it. At the time, they believed they could overthrow Assad, so they didn’t want to do this, so the war went on. Could it have worked? You never know for sure. But it could have been pursued.
That is the Russian story: That somehow there was this brief window of opportunity to get rid of Assad and the West blew it. Many writers discredited this incredible tale when the anti-imperialists first started peddling it in 2015. Linux Beach wrote about it in much greater detail than Chomsky's allusion [ It works best as an allusion ] in Is Assad Putin's puppet and did Russia offer him up in 2012?, 18 September 2015.

Here is an excerpt from that post:
The view that Assad's opponents are instruments of Western imperialism is one that is promoted by the Assad regime and long popular among his "anti-imperialist" supporters, so it is not surprising that they believe that the three Western leaders the Russian message was directed to have the power to stop those fighting Assad. What is surprising is that they have been so quick to embrace a story that implies that Assad is not really the sovereign ruler of Syria that they claim. If the Russians have the power to determine what he does, he is their puppet. In order to believe the headline that the West 'ignored Russian offer in 2012 to have Syria's Assad step aside' you have to believe A) that the Russians were actually in a position to deliver on their promise, i.e., they actually had the power to make Assad step aside, and B) The offer was directed at those that had the power to speak for the Syrian opposition.

Besides which, if the Russians had such control over Assad, they should have been asked to stay his horrific and one-sided violence. Short of Assad stepping aside, a halt to wanton attacks on civilian targets and the wholesale machine gunning of peaceful protesters, would have done wonders for the peace process. On the other hand, if the Russians were unwilling or unable to have Assad tamp down the violence before he stepped aside, why should the opposition believe that he will ever be made to step aside?

The main problem with this story is that its chauvinist view of the Syrian civil war as a proxy war is at odds with the reality on the ground. The Assad regime is supported by the Russians and Iranians, Hezbollah and Iraqi militias, but its main power base is in Syria. His opposition is also "home grown," grown out of the 40 years of brutality this regime has heaped upon its people. They get their weapons from defectors, or raiding army stores. They also have foreign backers, including Arab nationalists, but they march to their own various drummers. This peace offering was bogus in the first place because those involved were not the ones doing the direct fighting, so they weren't the ones that could make the peace.

There are other problems with the story. So far it rests on the word of one man. Churkin has refused to confirm it, and beyond the question of whether Putin had the power to determine if Assad would stay or go, there is the question of whether Churkin really had the power to speak for Putin. Sir John Jenkins – a former director of the Middle East department of the UK’s Foreign Office who was preparing to take up the post of ambassador to Saudi Arabia in the first half of 2012 – said "I would have replied I wanted to hear it from [President Vladimir] Putin too before I could take it seriously." In any case, when the UN sponsored peace talks later took place in Geneva in June, this secret offer to have Assad step down was nowhere to be found.
Please read that post in full to understand just how shameful it is that Norm Chomsky sees in the vicious murder of so many children. another opportunity to blame the US by repeating the lying excuses of the killers.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Dennis "the Menace" Kucinich

Recently former Congressman Dennis Kucinich attempted to come to the rescue of Donald Trump. He wrote an opinion piece for Fox News titled I'm no fan of Trump's but he's got a point about wiretapping, 10 March 2017, in which he claimed:
President Trump’s assertion that his phones at Trump Tower were tapped last year has been treated as hilarious—and in some circles as beyond contempt. But I can vouch for the fact that extracurricular surveillance does occur, regardless of whether it is officially approved. I was wiretapped in 2011 after taking a phone call in my congressional office from a foreign leader.
Now, supposedly "Left" sources are citing this Kucinich tale. Today it even showed up in a  piece called The Real Russiagate by Paul Craig Roberts and Michael Hudson in counterpunch:
It seems that this has been going on for many years now. Former Rep. Dennis Kucinich has dropped a bombshell about what appears to be his own illegal surveillance under Obama’s NSC.
Once the facts behind Dennis Kucinich's wiretapping came out he only succeeded in revealing his own ties to tyranny. That counterpunch is still promoting this nonsense only serves to highlight their own subservience to Putin, and now Trump.

Those ties go back a long way. In early 2011, while he was still in congress, Kucinich traveled to Damascus and met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Assad had only killed about a thousand Syrians to that point, although thousands more of what later would become millions were already fleeing to Turkey and Lebanon. While he was there, Kucinich held a press conference for the Syrian media. According to Politico, he said of the Syrian dictator that has since destroyed his country and killed a half million of it citizens:
“President Bashar al-Assad cares so much about what is taking place in Syria, which is evident in his effort towards a new Syria and everybody who meets him can be certain of this.”
The Syrian state news outlet, SANA, reported:
The U.S. Congressman described what is taking place in terms of the meetings of opposition and independent figures who are expressing themselves and their views openly and freely as “a largely positive progress”, saying “President Bashar al-Assad cares so much about what is taking place in Syria, which is evident in his effort towards a new Syria and everybody who meets him can be certain of this.”

“President al-Assad is highly loved and appreciated by the Syrians,” said Kucinich, voicing his belief that people in Syria are seeking a real change which is up to them. …
Dennis Kucinich never planned on this press conference and later claimed that what he really meant got lost in translation. His trip to Damascus had been kept secret until he was spotted in Damascus by a CNN correspondent. Then he gave a press conference.

Bashar Assad, meets with Dennis Kucinich in Damascus on Sunday Sept. 2, 2007. (AP Photo Sana)
This was the time of the Arab Spring and the focus of world attention was on the struggle in Libya to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi. The United States and NATO were enforcing a no-fly zone and carrying out airstrikes against Gaddafi's forces. Dennis Kucinich had a bill before congress calling for the US to withdraw from this fight. He was also working closely with the Gaddafi regime in support of its struggle to stay in power. Unlike the bill, this was very hush-hush. They had discussed a trip to Libya to meet with Brother Leader and other Libya officials, but Kucinich deeded it too dangerous and opted to travel to Syria instead.

This was not his first trip to Syria. He went to Damascus with a congressional delegation lead by Nancy Pelosi in April 2007. He went back again in September,  met Assad, and had high praise for him.  He said, in an interview that aired on Syrian TV,  3 Sept 2007:
President Assad showed a real desire to play a role in helping to create a peaceful settlement of the conditions in Iraq, as well as a grander approach towards creating peace.
here is a man, President Assad, who should be respected and appreciated for the role that he has played.
Kucinich was praising Syria for taking in refugees from the Iraq war, and Syrians do indeed have a very honorable history of taking in war refugees; before millions were forced to flee the war made on them by the same Assad that Kucinich spoke so highly of. At the time, Assad's security services were busy supporting networks and safe houses, transport and supplies, for the jihadist fight against the US occupation of Iraq. With Assad's help, from that time until today, those same jihadists became first al Qaeda in Iraq, and then the Islamic State.

Even after the Arab Spring protests that began 15 March 2011 started being met by gunfire from Assad's security forces, Kucinich's support for him held firm. 26 May 2011, he told Cleveland.com:
"I've read where President Assad has made certain commitments, and I would imagine that when things finally settle down, that President Assad will move in a direction of democratic reforms, he has already made that commitment from what I can see."
A week after the Assad regime killed over 1400 civilians with a sarin rocket attack in East Ghouta on 21 August 2013, Dennis Kucinch sent out a letter to 200,000 recipients that pretty much parroted the Assad line on the attack. He opposed any military response to Assad. He said "a flimsy case [was] being made to attempt to justify an attack" and "no definitive proof that Syria’s Assad knew of and directed the chemical weapons attack." He implied strongly that it was "al-Qaida, which leads the opposition" that was behind the attack, and it would be in "callous disregard for our true national interest" to come to the aid of the Syrian people. Assad would have found nothing to complain about in this letter, but Assad wasn't the foreign leader Kucinich is now claiming he was wiretapped talking to.

Kucinich and Gaddafi

Congressman Kucinich was against US support for any UN no-fly zone over Libya from the beginning, even while Gaddafi's forces were wantonly massacring civilians with his tanks, artillery and aircraft. A report from the UNHCR mission to Libya dated 6 June 2011 put the civil war death toll to that point at between 10,000 and 15,000, far ahead of those in Syria at the same time. It would eventually take 30,000 Libyan lives to settle the matter, which thanks in part to the NATO mission, is far short of the on-going carnage to date in Syria.

On 15 June 2011, Kucinich and other house members filed a lawsuit against Obama's support for NATO enforcement of the UN mission over Libya.  This was at a time when the Libyan Transitional National Council was demanding that NATO do more to stop Gaddafi's attacks on Misrata, and the ground truths of Gaddafi's violence were starting to gain attention in the western media. Five days earlier C. J. Chivers reported in the New York Times on the bombardment of Misrata with cluster bombs by Gaddafi's forces, calling it "a form of indiscriminate attack" on civilians.

UNICEF Video | 6 June 2011 | In the besieged city of Misrata, children bore the brunt.

On 16 June 2011, BBC News revealed to the world that on the long night of 21 February, Gaddafi's forces had tricked and massacred between 600 and 700 unarmed protesters in Green Square. On the 17th, BBC News reported that the International Criminal Court believed Gaddafi's forces were using rape as a weapon of war. That same day, Kucinich offered an amendment to defund US operations in Libya.

There was very little support for the Libyan revolutionaries on the US Left. Some groups like ANSWER Coalition and Workers World Party were very vocal in their support for the fascist Gaddafi regime, and there was wide support in the US peace movement generally for the Kucinich proposal, as exampled by this 16th of June appearance on Democracy Now. In her first introductory sentence Amy Goodman ignored the reality that this was principally a conflict among Libyans by seeing it as just another American war:
We turn to the war in Libya and the intensifying debate in Washington over the legality of the war.
Had Democracy Now been covering the Libyan revolt against Colonel Gaddafi prior to the UN resolution to stop his massacres, she would have never spoken of it in such chauvinist terms, and would have realized that we had no business debating the "legality of the [civil] war," only of US participation in it.

Under a Chapter 7 resolution, the United Nations authorized the use of force to protect civilians in a conflict in which Gaddafi's forces had been found to be specifically targeting them. Backers of US President Obama's support for what became a UN\NATO mission over Libya said that its legality was already covered by long established UN treaty obligations. Kucinich and his supporters held the position that any US use of force not covered by a congressional declaration of war was illegal. They also puffed up the relatively small role the US played in the conflict. In spite of the fact the US planes carried out only 17% of the NATO strike missions, the US never lost a soldier, and never had troops on the ground, they saw it as just another US war to be opposed, and looked no further. They viewed the question of protecting civilians from the Gaddafi regime as a false one, or they ignored the plight of the civilians entirely. Libya could have ended up like Syria, for all they cared; and they have done what they can since to make it sound worst than it is.

While Dennis Kucinich was making the rounds and being very vocal in his opposition to Obama's support for the UN mission on legal grounds, the plight of those civilians that mission was tasked with protecting wasn't the only thing he was keeping quiet about. Kucinich was closely coordinating his campaign with representatives of the Gaddafi regime, including soon to be indicted war criminal Saif Gaddafi, and being very hush-hush about it.

Later, after Gaddafi's file were captured, The Guardian would report:
On 22 June a letter sent to Libya's prime minister, Al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi, by a US-based lobbyist for the regime, Sufyan Omeish, noted that Kucinich was "concerned that his personal safety in Tripoli could not be guaranteed." He preferred to conduct meetings with regime officials outside Libya. The plan was for Kucinich to meet "senior Libyan officials, including Gaddafi." The proposed trip never took place. Kucinich visited Syria instead.
That same day Linux Beach begin its focused Libya coverage with No Libyans allowed at ANSWER Libya Forum and disappointed Palestinians published an Open letter to Gaddafi supporter Cynthia McKinney. McKinney was on a speaking tour and supporting the Kucinich bill.

Dennis Kucinich was acting as a virtual lobbyist for the Gaddafi regime at the time he was trying to defund the NATO enforcement of the no-fly zone that kept Gaddafi from doing what Assad has been doing for years, but since both he and the Libyans kept these talks a secret, they only came out after the regime was defeated and people got access to their files. In one notable example, as we reported at the time, 31 August 2011, Jamal Eishayyal reported in Al Jazeera/English that he found some papers in the office of Abdullah Alsinnousi, head of Libya's intelligence service that seem to document the communications of several prominent US citizens with the Qaddafi regime in the months before it was overthrown. The following information request is said to be from Congressman Dennis Kucinich:
Good Morning Gentlemen.
This is the Congressman you both spoke with. He is going to fight for us but he has asked us for evidence. I can bring whatever we can gather. If it is sensitive I will carry it, otherwise we can email it. House to vote next week on ending US involvement in Libya
[Probably referring to House Vote 493 - Rejects Authorization of Limited Military Involvement in Libya, 24 June 2011, failed 295 to 123 - ed.]

l. Any corrupt (verifiable) acts by the Opposition leaders. Include any personal motives for instance to make money or gain certain types of power.
2. Any known Al-Qaeda operating in the Opposition.
3. Any evidence of atrocities committed by the Rebel soldiers.
4. Any evidence of Civilian deaths by NATO.
5. Any evidence of arms sales to the Opposition in Benghazi or Misrata, including dates, who sold the weapons, what type and the cost of the deals.
6. Any evidence of weapons being smuggled on boats to Misrata, with dates. and type of weapons.
7. Any evidence that the uprising was a planned event prior to February 17th. Include intercepted communications, names, dates.
8. Evidence supporting that the Regime has a regular practice of hiring African military in its Pan-African units and this was not a new (mercenaries) thing just for the uprising.
9. Communications with the UK and USA prior to the UN bombings to show Regime was trying to negotiate peacefully.
10. Evidence of cease fires by the Regime or withdrawals of troops. Dates, location, description (including why cease fire broke down).
11. Evidence that before the uprising started, there were democratic projects under way, for instance a plan for elections and so forth. This shows that they were already going this way and aren't just saying that now.
l2. Evidence that The Leader had already planned to step down before the uprisings. This shows there was already a transition going on. It also helps him save face for when he does step down because it will look like that was the plan all along.
l3. A list of tribes and location known to be loyal to Regime, those pledging loyalty to Opposition, and the remaining ones that have not pledged either way. The population of each group as well, This shows that the Rebels don't have the full support of the country.
l4 .A list and description (including date and location) of humanitarian efforts by Regime since this started, or their attempts to aid the civilian population, and any efforts blocked by NATO or the Rebels.
It will be used for:
A) A lawsuit against
B) Defending Saif in the ICC
C) Publicity to reform the image of Regime.
D) To help negotiation positions
Other evidence of ongoing communications between Dennis Kucinich and the Gaddafi regime in this period has emerged, and at some point in the later half of June 2011 there were also secret telephone conversations between Kucinich and Gaddafi officials. We know this because those telephone conversations were recorded and those recordings have since been made public. These are the recordings Dennis Kucinich was referring to when he said:
I was wiretapped in 2011 after taking a phone call in my congressional office from a foreign leader.

These tapes were published by the Washington Times in 2015 after Kucinich authenticated them. The Washington Times said it got them in Libya and we have already seen how other materials documenting the Kucinich connections to the Gaddafi regime were found in Libyan state security archives. When they were released, Kucinich didn't challenge the story that these materials came from Tripoli. He didn't make the claim that they were the result Obama White House spying then, but now that he sees the opportunity to make some news while helping another fascist at the same time, he has put a new spin on the old story - and used racist logic to prove it - namely the quality was too good to have been done by Arabs! He wrote in the Fox piece:
The reporters did not say, nor did I ask, who had made the tape. But the paper’s stories referenced “secret audio recordings recovered from Tripoli.”

I have only my suspicions about their true provenance. The quality of the recordings was excellent on both ends of the call.
On 27 June 2011, a youth resistance group in Tripoli upload a video to YouTube about The Free Generation Movement's Project Burn:

On that same day the International Criminal Court in Case No. ICC‐01/11, issued:
a Warrant of Arrest for Mr. Muammar Qadhafi, Saif Al‐Islam Qadhafi and Abdullah Al‐Senussi for their alleged criminal responsibility for the commission of murder and persecution of civilians as crimes against humanity from 15 February 2011 onwards throughout Libya in, inter alia, Tripoli, Benghazi, and Misrata, through the Libyan State apparatus and Security Forces,
The Court found that:
following the events in Tunisia and Egypt which led to the departure of the respective presidents in the early months of 2011, a state policy was designed at the highest level of the Libyan State machinery and aimed at deterring and quelling, by any means, including by the use of lethal force, the demonstrations of civilians against the regime of Muammar Mohammed Abu Minyar Qadhafi (ʺQadhafiʹs regimeʺ) which started in February 2011;
modus operandi, carried out through Libya an attack against the civilian population taking part in demonstrations against Qadhafiʹs regime or those perceived to be dissidents;
although the exact number of casualties resulting from the attack cannot be known due to a cover‐up campaign implemented in order to conceal the commission of crimes by the Security Forces, there are reasonable grounds to believe that as of 15 February 2011 and within a period of less than two weeks in February 2011, the Security Forces killed and injured as well as arrested and imprisoned hundreds of civilians;
there are reasonable grounds to believe that throughout Libya and in particular in Tripoli, Misrata, and Benghazi, as well as in cities near Benghazi such as Al‐Bayda, Derna, Tobruk, Ajdabiya, murders constituting crimes against humanity were committed from 15 February 2011 until at least 25 February 2011 by Security Forces as part of the attack against the civilian demonstrators or alleged dissidents to Qadhafiʹs regime;
there are reasonable grounds to believe that Muammar Qadhafi, as the recognised and undisputed leader of Libya had, at all times relevant to the Prosecutorʹs Application, absolute, ultimate and unquestioned control over the Libyan State apparatus of power, including the Security Forces;
there are also reasonable grounds to believe that, although not having an official position, Saif Al‐Islam is Muammar Qadhafiʹs unspoken successor and the most influential person within his inner circle and, as such, at all times relevant to the Prosecutorʹs application, he exercised control over crucial parts of the State apparatus, including finances and logistics and had the powers of a de facto Prime Minister;
there are reasonable grounds to believe that Muammar Qadhafi and Saif Al‐Islam Qadhafi are both criminally responsible as indirect co‐perpetrators.
Donald Trump once did business the Muammar Gaddafi, he said the deal made him "a lot of money, if you remember." Buzzfeed reported:
Overlooking terrorism that killed Americans, including the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, Donald Trump sought investment partnerships with Muammar al-Qaddafi and the Libyan regime. He rented his Westchester estate to the dictator, tried to set up a face-to-face meeting, and took the Libyan ambassador golfing.
Saif Gaddafi was captured by the Libyans. He eventually was put on trial, sentenced to death in Tripoli, and is reported to still be held in Zintan. Muammur Gaddafi was caught fleeing his last stronghold of Sirte and killed. It has been reported that Bashar al-Assad helped by providing Gaddafi's cell phone number to French spies in return for his regime being spared the "Gaddafi treatment."

Now Dennis Kucinich is blaming Hillary Clinton's loss on FBI director James Comey. Go figure.

Why would Kucinich come to the aid of Trump? Perhaps it is enough to reprieve his long record of supporting authoritarian rulers favored by Trump. This Thursday he will be speaking at a Stop the War rally in London. This group is well known for its support of the Assad regime and we can expect Dennis Kucinich to do whatever he can to deflect blame for this latest sarin attack from Assad.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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