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Sunday, September 10, 2023

A few thoughts on the question of Biden's age

Ten years ago I was looking for a job as a Linux Systems Administrator and already 64 years old. Before I found the position at Rackspace Hosting that I would work for six years, I suffered a number of rejections that I suspect were age related. I get that. If an employer is faced with a choice between two applicants with comparable skill sets. i.e. either would make a capable Linux Systems Administrator, the vote may go to the younger applicant, even after much internal debate over the age question, for reasons I see no need to detail. I'm now retired, yet I still get job offers—because the IT industry has failed to train enough good Linux people, and BECAUSE, and this is the important point for our present discussion—

In a contest between an applicant who knows Linux, and one who doesn't, the question of age doesn't even come up!

Surprise! Surprise!

The main job of the President of the United States is to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

If one candidate, namely Joe Biden, vows to do just that, and has already done a pretty good job of it, and the other candidate, namely Trump, or one of his mini-mes, thinks the Constitution can, and should be "suspended," and has already taken many measures to undermine and circumvent it, the question of age shouldn't even come up.

It's like if you were looking to hire a Linux Systems Administrator, and you interviewed a guy who said: "Look, I don't know the Linux operating system, don't even like it, but I think you should be running everything on Windows, and I really know Windows." You might even entertain his ideas for changing the system. But your decision about whether to hire a Linux person or this Windows guy would depend on him convincing you to throw out the system you've been using, and buying his. Again, applicant age considerations would fade into the background.

The paramount point here is that the two candidates represent two radically different visions of the United States. A vote for Biden is a vote for keeping the US the constitutional bourgeois democracy it has been for more than 200 years. A vote for Trump is a vote for replacing that with a white supremacist, misogynistic, autocracy and a mob boss operating as a virtue king.

Now I ask you: Where does age even enter into the equation on that question?

Anyone arguing that Biden's age should play a big role in this election is actually arguing for ending the US tradition of being a constitutional democracy, and using Biden's age as a way to get there.

my 2¢ worth..

Clay Claiborne

10 September 2023

Monday, August 21, 2023

Ten Years Ago Today: How the Left supported Assad's use of sarin against Syrians

More of today's world than most people realize was shaped ten years ago when the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad challenged the conscious of the world by murdering more than 1400 Syrians, including hundreds of children, with the deadly nerve agent sarin. Much of what has happened since, has happened because of what he was allowed to get away with then.

That being the case, this would seem to be a good time to review my extensive contemporary writings on the subject:

Eleven years ago yesterday, US President Barack Obama made the famous "red-line" threat that he was to renege upon ten years ago. Within hours of his "threat," I wrote this:

08/20/2012 Obama "green lights" Assad's slaughter in Syria
In our culture a "green light" tells you when it is safe to do something, and while it can't be said that what Assad is doing has Obama's approval, he would prefer that he resigns, it can at the very least be said that he has Obama's acquiescence.
originally published on the Daily Kos, as was what followed:

08/23/2012 Assad's Redline and Obama's Greenlight! In that, I wrote:
My Monday diary, UPDATED: #Obama "green lights" #Assad's slaughter in #Syria, has been roundly condemned among Kossacks here, earning it an unprecedented 31 donuts.

However, it has been much appreciated by others much closer to the struggle and shared, liked or tweeted more than 200 times and the idea is finding resonance among Syrian activists as exampled by the articles below...
I also promised this exhaustive original research, which I published three weeks later:

09/14/2012 Barack Obama's Courtship of Bashar al-Assad
This history of the relationship between the Obama administration and the regime of Bashar al-Assad has been done as an investigative partnership organised by WikiLeaks. I have been privileged to have access not only to the usual open source medias but also to three generally "closed source" databases highly relevant to my search, thanks to Wikileaks.
On the day of the attack, I published these:
After the top US General, Martin Dempsey, told US Representative Eliot Engel on Monday that the Barack Obama administration opposes intervening militarily in Syria, the Assad regime today slaughtered over a thirteen-hundred Syrians with a chemical weapons attack, most of them women and children.
A mother in Damascus, found her child among a row of dead children | 21 Aug 2013

08/21/2013 Assad Knows: Chemical Attacks Kill Children First!
A few late night thoughts.

Clearly these latest chemical attacks are the most terrible the Syrian people have witnessed. But there is something else about them. Something about the timing. They come almost a year to the day of Obama's famous "red-line" proclamation, almost as if Assad was mocking him.

There is something else. Something much darker.

I wrote Assad's New Strategy: Nothing Makes People Flee Like Murdering Their Children three weeks ago and it is terrible but it is true.

There is something else I realized this evening, as I posted the pictures of the dead and dying children: A chemical attack disproportionately affects children, it has a definite bias in favor of killing them - and Assad knows this!
Followed in quick succession by these:
I am reprinting an AntiWar.com blog post in full because I think this one should haunt them forever:
08/29/2013 Obama's Dilemma and Assad's Opportunity
Obama's current dilemma is of his own making. He set it up almost precisely a year ago when he stumbled into the White House Press room and warned Assad not to cross his red-line. Obama has had a long working relationship with Assad and has never supported regime change in Syria but for political reasons he has been forced to feign support for the democratic struggle and opposition to Assad's use of military power to suppress his people.

08/29/2013 Bashar al-Assad is a Brutal Mass Murderer
Those like Amy Goodman and her guest yesterday on Democracy Now, Phyllis Bennis, try to obscure who is slaughtering Syrians by blowing smoke around this latest chemical attack, should consider that they are defending a mass murderer who has killed tens of thousands with conventional weapons and is actively killing children even as they mount a defense of him.
08/30/2013 Obama Denied Gas Masks to Assad's Victims
Knowing that Assad is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Syrians and laying waste to some of the oldest cities on Earth, it saddens me greatly to see members of the US peace movement marching under the banner of this dictator, as was the case yesterday:
"Peace activists" marched with the pro-Assad reactionaries

08/31/2013 The case for ‘Hands off Syria’
Racan Alhoch: It comes as no surprise to me that the proponents of ‘Hands off Syria’ have been keeping their hands off Syria for almost three years now.
08/31/2013 Win-Win for Assad as Obama Response to CW Put on Hold
Is there any thing else Barack Obama could do to make things better for his good buddy Bashar al-Assad?
09/01/2013 The Courtship Continues: Obama's New Gift to Assad

My display on Venice Beach Ocean Front Walk

09/01/2013 Anti-War in Form, Pro-War in Essence
G. Sabra Jr.: "No war with Syria" is something a progressive like Phyllis Bennis and a reactionary like Rand Paul -- who wishes Bennis didn't have abortion rights, the right to vote, or enjoy affirmative action -- can get together on.
09/02/2013 How Obama Helped Assad Kill with Poison Gas in Syria
The United States has an excess supply of gas masks left over from the Iraq War filling up warehouses all over the region and yet Obama turned down persistent requests for them from the people Assad was killing even after he started killing them with gas.
09/03/2013 Who Used Sarin in Syria?
Still there have been strong currents on the Left who claim that they are clueless about who could be behind this genocidal attack. They dismiss the prima facie evidence as they dismiss the pictures of dead children. They talk like lawyers for Assad, demanding he be given the benefit of the doubt, no matter his other crimes. They counsel nothing should be done until all are satisfied by indisputable proof. They wonder "Why the rush?" They are not very concerned with preventing future attacks.

There is another strong current on the Left that is striving to blame the victims. They are trying desperately to exonerate the Assad regime and come up with some theory on how Assad's opposition, the "rebels" are behind all of the chemical attacks, including this most recent one,..
09/07/2013 My dare to Ray McGovern & VIPS on Syria CW attack
[Y]ou absolve the Assad Regime of responsibility for the chemical weapons attacks that took place in the Damascus area on 21 August without ever referencing the vast amount of carnage caused by aircraft, Scud missiles and heavy artillery that the Assad regime is solely responsible for.

That alone, makes your chemical weapons memo a depraved defense of a mass murderer!
09/08/2013 Why would Assad use CW with UN Inspectors in Syria?
After the attack, the UN investigators weren't allowed to go anywhere near Ghouta. They couldn't even leave their hotel without Syrian government permission and their Syrian government minders. This is the key fact that undermines the claim that Assad wouldn't do it because the UN investigator were in town. What real difference did it make? They could have been on the other side of town or the other side of the planet; it would have made no difference since it would be four days before they were allowed to access the chemical weapons attack sites in Ghouta.
1. The regime should have held a press conference next day blaming the attack on the rebels, the terrorists, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey as it has done after Khan Alassal CWA attack in Aleppo in April 2013. This is a great chance for the regime to discredit the rebels once and for all. Instead the regime denied the attack completely as if it did not happen for the first 3 days.
09/09/2013 Witness to CW Attack: When Paradise turned to Hell.
This was written by Luna Watfa and published anonymously before she was arrested and tortured by Assad's thugs for photographing the children he murdered with sarin, and transmitting those pictures to media Assad didn't control:
Eastern Ghouta became today a symbol of death for the whole world to see. It has become a living hell in which souls die silently, along with all the details of a previous life, humans, trees, and stones.

Eastern Ghouta woke up on 13 / Shawal / 1434, corresponding to August 21/2013 because of the sound of rockets fired from the brigade 155. The 12 rockets fell in Zamalka and Ain Tarma around two-thirty in the morning (2:30 A.M). These towns have high population density and they are far from the military front-line. Most people were asleep and they awoke to an enormous tragedy, people fell dead and those who were asleep, did not ever wake up. The scene was very painful.
09/09/2013 Why did Assad Regime first Deny CW Attack if Blameless?
In the immediate aftermath of the chemical attack, the Syrian government didn't act like an injured party. It acted like a guilty party. It hoped that it could cover up the chemical attack completely. Rather that act to rescue the injured and preserve the evidence for the UN investigators, it denied the investigator access for four days while it bombarded the area, destroying evidence and killing witnesses.
09/11/2013 Secret Intel Source of Ray McGovern & VIPS Revealed!
So it would appear that the source of VIPS intelligence is not active CIA case officers speaking to old colleges like Ray McGovern, Philip Giraldi, Larry Johnson and Ann Wright on the q-t, it is Yossef Bodansky writing for the pro-Assad, pro-Qaddafi, pro-Russian website Global Research.
09/12/2013 BREAKING: New Chemical Attack reported in Syria
The use of chlorine clearly sets up this attack to be blamed on the opposition and the silence on this attack by the mainstream media and the Obama administration (In the hope that they could just sweep this inconvenient attack under the carpet, so to speak?) now allows the Assad regime and friends to "reveal" this attack in a manner of their choosing. Obama is being so played on this!
09/16/2013 UN hints Assad used Russian rockets in sarin gas attack
The United Nations has this day released a report on its investigation into the attack that took place in the Damascus suburbs in Syria on 21 August 2013. The investigation found that sarin gas rockets were used to kill hundreds while they slept. While the report was not allowed to name the perpetrator, all the evidence points to the Assad Regime. Furthermore, it would appear that the source of some of the rockets used in the chemical attack is the very country that is expected to oversee Assad disarmament of chemical weapons, Russia!
Graphic from UN Report

Confirming what I wrote a year ago in Barack Obama's Courtship of Bashar al-Assad, the Obama Administration is now joining with Russia and China in blocking the International Criminal Court prosecution of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for war crimes.
09/25/2013 Where Robert Fisk's defense of Assad falls down
When that story could no longer cut the mustard sarin, the Russians bought into the Mint Press story about how rebels in a tunnel bungled a bottle of gas given them by Saudi Prince Bandar and caused all the deaths, still without rockets. Now that story has been completely discredited. So finally they admit that Russian rockets were involved, just as I wrote on the day the UN report came out.
09/26/2013 More on ex-journalist Robert Fisk's defense of Assad
When Robert Fisk advances this thesis, he does it with a flourish worthy of an ex-journalist turned propagandist and he does it in the name of unnamed UN employees...
10/02/2013 The Courtship Continues: Obama stopped French strike on Assad
It seems that the French, which did their own investigation of the chemical attack in Damascus, [ see this and this in English, and official report in French here ], and drew their own conclusions, were already warming up jets for a strike against Assad's missile batteries and command centres of the 4th Armoured Division in charge of chemical weapons, when US President Barack Obama made them call it off. 
10/07/2013 The Courage of Ghouta in a Craven World
The bombardment of the rebellious communities of East and West Ghouta continues today just it did for months before the sarin gas attack of 21 August brought these neighbourhoods to the attention of the world. Now, in return for a promise to give up his chemical weapons, Assad is being welcomed in from the cold. Meanwhile, he has tightened his siege of those communities to the point were he has cut off all food and medical supplies, electricity and telephone, and a craven world looks the other way as he is being allowed to starve to death the children who survived his poison gas attack.
10/14/2013 Why the return of chemical weapons is a big deal
One day people will rue the day that poison gas was re-introduced into class warfare and the antiwar movement sat on its hands.

Poison gas is the perfect ultimate weapon for the bourgeois to use against the proletariat. That is why Assad is using it now.
10/18/2013 Disillusion in Syria’s Armed Opposition
Mohammed Alaa Ghanem, Syrian American Council: As top politicians representing the Syrian opposition pushed their case with world leaders on the sidelines of the opening of the U.N. General Assembly, a dozen rebel brigades inside Syria, fed up with waiting for elusive Western support, issued a joint statement rejecting their political leaders and called on both military and civilian groups in Syria to “consolidate under an Islamic framework ... with Sharia as the main source of legislation.”
11/24/2013 How Obama has supported Assad's gas murder always
The facts and history described in this article reveals a US government that had come to accept the routine "tactical" use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime against his opposition, and indirectly supported their effective use both by denial of basic protective devices to those being gassed and by a public denial of the fact that they were being gassed. This story reveals a damning history of US government complicity with the Assad Regime's gas murder and its biggest flaw is that it tries to excuse this trail of evidence as "missteps" and "miscalculations."
The struggles against the Assad apologists for his sarin murders continues to this day:
[Hersh] agrees with Assad that the only real choice for Syria's future is between the jihadists and his regime, and given those choices, he favors the Assad Regime.

It is important to understand that this is where Seymour Hersh is coming from in evaluating Whose sarin?, because, for all of Seymour Hersh's historic accomplishments, it is little more than another poorly written and poorly sourced piece designed to muddy the waters as to who is responsible for the sarin gas attack in Ghouta on 21 August this year. 
01/28/2014 Ex-journalist Robert Fisk: One is reminded of Goebbels
Joseph Goebbels was Adolph Hitler's chief propagandist, and while Assad is no Hitler and Fisk is no Goebbels, it should be remembered that Goebbels was a journalist who fashioned himself a left-winger before he started shilling for a fascist dictator.
03/09/2014 UN: Assad sarin used in attacks | The Left's response?
Flying under the headlines this week, while all eyes are focused on the clouds gathering over Ukraine, the United Nations published the 7th report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic. This report was published on 5 March 2014 although it is dated 12 February 2014. This report goes further than the UN has ever gone before in placing the blame for the use of poison gas in Syria squarely on the Assad Regime. 
Almost a decade before Sy Hersh attempted to exonerate Putin for any responsibility for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline sabotage, he busied himself attempting to exonerate Assad for the sarin murders. I took him on with a vengeance! 

04/08/2014 Seymour Hersh's Believe It or Don't
Repetition is at the heart of the Assad-Putin propaganda method, what might also be called the RT method. It is widely supported by the "non-(NATO) interventionist" Left. You make up a lie and you keep repeating it. Lack of proof is not an obstacle, just keep repeating it. Anonymous sources won't impeach its credibility as long as you keep repeating it. Even after it has clearly been disproved, you pay that no never mind and you keep repeating it.
04/10/2014 Seymour Hersh's chemical weapons fetish
The purpose of this essay is not to add more proofs of Assad's responsibility for the poison gas attacks, but put that in a larger context and to point out that most of those killed in the Syrian conflict have been killed with conventional weapons and the vast majority of those have been killed by the Assad regime, so no matter how you slice it, Hersh et al are defending a mass murderer while ignoring all those murders by non-chemical means.
04/13/2014 After Hersh lays smoke screen, Assad lobes gas bombs
His piece became like a call to action for Assad supporters everywhere to renew the claims that Assad didn't do it, repeat all the Fall conspiracy theories, and try to build unity among the conflicting versions. For example, Mint Press came out in support of Hersh, in spite of the fact that they had been supporting a version of how the rebels gassed themselves that involved untrained rebels in a tunnel bungling a big tank of sarin given to them by Saudi Prince Bandar. Hersh's current version has the Turks ramroding al Nursa, and using missiles, no Bandar, no tank, no tunnel. But nevermind about that, these Assad supporters are flexible, the main point is that Assad didn't do it and the rebels did. That is why all those that had formerly promoted a version that had the CIA and/or Qatar masterminding the chemical attacks were as quick as Mint Press to jump on the Hersh campaign bus.
05/10/2014 The appeasement of Putin began in Syria
My hands-down favorite gangster movie is The Godfather and when we speak of Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin we are definitely in gangster territory. There is a famous scene when Don Vito Corleone, the Godfather, realizes who his real nemesis is: “Tattaglia is a pimp. He never could have outfought Santino. But I didn't know until this day that it was Barzini all along.”

One day soon Obama will come to realize that Assad is a pimp and it has been Putin all along. 
11/16/2015 The Imperial Left's sarin song: still "Regime Change" after all these years!
The revolution was less than two weeks old, 27 March 2011 when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was asked on Face the Nation"Can we expect the United States to enter the conflict in the way we have entered the conflict in Libya?" Her answer was "No. Each of these situations is unique, Bob." The headline that went out the next day wasClinton: No attack on Syria.
12/14/2015 From Luna Watfa: Death accompanies you on every step This was written after she was released from Assad's custody, and was making her way to Germany:
To die in Syria is very likely. However, at least you have a fighting chance on this horror trip. Therefore, you take that chance and put the most valuable thing on the line that you have: yourself, in the hope to being able to start a new life.
12/15/2015 Truth Revealed: 2013 East Ghouta sarin attack was done by aliens!
Anyone who's ever seen Invasion on the Body Snatchers knows what's going on here.
12/24/2015 From Luna Watfa: "Do not stop, keep going ... keep moving!"
It took me two weeks to reach Germany. I thought the waiting and suffering would now have an end - but I was wrong. 
01/05/2016 Luna Watfa: Enemy of Syrian State admitted sarin photos were fakes!
Most in the opposition couldn't understand why Obama would renege on his promise and fail to strike Assad. Luna's SNC contact was so confident that the US was about to act that he told Luna that no more photographs would be required. When the US and other world powers failed to act after Assad's big sarin attack, it had a devastating impact on the morale of his opposition. Beyond Assad, those extremists that had long warned against western treachery were the biggest beneficiaries. 
Luna was finally released 25 February 2015 from the women's prison in Adra after more than a year in the regime's custody. She then reunited with her husband Basel in Turkey and they have since made their way to Germany. Luna is still looking forward to being reunited with her children - Sara, 13 and Obada, 16.

After all this, Patrick McCann now thinks that Assad is responsible for the sarin murders. He wrote me, 11 November 2015:
Despite being unsure of the veracity of those who report it (e.g. John Kerry), I believe that Assad may very well be guilty.
He still doesn't understand that is was not John Kerry but Luna Watfa that he was calling a liar, and it was Luna Watfa that paid the price.
02/01/2016 From Luna Watfa: Under The Mercy of Potentials 2

Brothers and sisters from Syria, Aleppo. Happily waiting 
at Budapest train station to move towards Austria the day 
when Germany closed its borders at night. Hungary. 13/9/2015.

He seems to equate Arab with Islamic which is odd since the Arab that murdered his father, Sirhan Bishara Sirhan was a Palestinian Christian. 
07/19/2016 In spite of UN deal Assad continues to make & use chemical weapons
Obama never planned to carry out his red-line threat, and so this Left opposition was helpful. Instead he supported a Russian program that required Assad to give up all the CW weapons and production facilities he was willing to admit to having.
09/29/2016 Chemical Weapons attacks expand beyond Syria
When most of the Left supported US President Barack Obama's decision to renege on his promise to take military action if Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons on his people, others warned that this acceptance of the re-introduction of the formerly banned weapons against mass rebellion would be followed by a wider use and a darker future. Now Amnesty International is reporting that Sudanese dictator, Omar al-Bashir, has been using chemical weapons for the first time in the Darfur conflict.
04/05/2017 Noam Chomsky regurgitates 2012 Putin propaganda to excuse latest sarin murders
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:
04/16/2017 Why would Assad use sarin in Syria now?
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,...
04/26/2017 Sincerely yours, Theodore A. Postol
"Sincerely yours?" Really? Who signs a scientific paper about a chemical weapons attack "Sincerely yours?" The answer is Theodore A. Postol, Professor Emeritus of Science, Technology, and National Security Policy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, when he is trying to use the mantles of science and position to pull the wool over our eyes.
04/28/2017 Please Re-Tweet as Ted Postol beats a hasty retreat
Poor Postol. He wants so badly to please his Syrian Sister, but no matter how hard he tries, he can't seen to get it right. First he rushes to press with his own theory of how Assad didn't do it, only to discover his theory blows their alibi. So he ditches his theory to back their alibi, and in his zeal to find new proofs for them, ends up calling them out for lying again.
04/30/2017 Dr. Postol's "correction" shows he still needs Reading Comprehension 101
Doctor Theodore A. Postol, Professor Emeritus of Science, Technology, and National Security Policy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology issued a "correction" yesterday. This correction didn't explain the apparent contradiction between his earlier theory that jihadist terrorists set off a chemical pipe-bomb in the street and his current support for claims by the Russians and the regime that they bombed a terrorist arms depot that stored chemical weapons. 
05/01/2017 Postol's Apostles & the normalization of chemical weapons use
Human Right Watch published this May Day a four minute video that graphically documents what I have feared most would result from the world's indifference to the suffering of the Syrian people. That has been the normalization of the use of chemical weapons against rebellious civilian populations. The HRW reports how the Assad regime has regularized the use of chemical weapons in the past six months while the world paid it no never mind. Only with the 92 sarin murders at Khan Sheikhoun has the matter made the news again, and this has again brought out Assad's defenders to blame the victims and "question the evidence." In the cases of attacks that don't make the news they don't question the evidence because they don't have to be bothered.
05/03/2017 Reading Comprehension 101 for MIT Professor Dr. Ted Postol
I know you faced a certain amount of ridicule along these lines because in critiquing the French Report, you "missed" that when they referred to the sarin attack that occurred on 29 April 2013 in Saraqib, they were talking about a different attack than the one that occurred in Khan Sheikhoun last month. So I'd like to begin with some words of encouragement. When last you wrote and made a "correction" to that original critique of the French report, you said you thought that report focused on the sarin attack of 29 August 2013, and "does not report on the details of the attack on April 4." With this new paper from you, I see that you have found those details. This shows that you are making progress already!

There are forces, some on the Right and some on the Left, that speak out on questions related to Syria only when the slaughter that has been raging for the past five years rises to a level that floods it into the mainstream media. Then they jump into action to defend those that have unquestionably been responsible for the overwhelming proportion of murders in Syria by arguing that it can't be proven that these particular murders were committed by regime forces. These people are what I call

05/12/2017 Dr. Ted Postol misreads the HRW Report on Khan Sheikhoun
Doctor Theodore A. Postol, Professor Emeritus of Science, Technology, and National Security Policy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology believes these local residents don't know what they are talking about, or worst, they are part of a deep state conspiracy that involves obviously the White House, as usual, the French, a couple of guys in England, and now apparently also Human Rights Watch.  In spite of those odds, his Syrian Sister can rest assured that Dr. Ted is as yet undaunted in his defense of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
06/27/2017 Putin: More chemical attacks being prepared in Syria
When this headline appeared in Russian media just days after the sarin gas attack in Khan Sheikhoun killed over a hundred civilians it got almost no notice in the United States.
07/04/2017 Sy Hersh's incredible secret source
Sy Hersh's latest defense of Assad, Trump's Red Line, published by Welt, 25 June 2017, makes the bold claim that we are the victims of fake news and there really were no victims of a sarin attack in Khan Sheikhoun in April. His claim has been lauded and repeated by a number of commenters, including Scott Ritter and Ray McGovern, who like Hersh himself, are people I use to admire.
An important post by Brian Whitaker, Former Middle East editor of The Guardian, 1 July 2017. Republished from his website www.al-bab.com.
07/07/2017 Seymour Hersh exposes Russian & Syrian lies about sarin attack
Dr. Ted said that jihadist terrorists set off a sarin pipe bomb in the middle of the street. He said they staged it as a "false flag" attack while a Syrian war plane was overhead, however he did agree with just about every other investigation, including now the OPCW, on one important point - that there was a chemical attack. Hersh denies even this! Postol said in his initial report
The only indisputable facts stated in the White House report is the claim that a chemical attack using nerve agent occurred in Khan Shaykhun, Syria on that morning.
Now Hersh and his supporters dispute what even Ted Postol found indisputable! We've come a long way in two months. What's the saying?: "Like it never even happened!"

07/10/2017 Russia admits sarin used in spite of Sy Hersh fantasy
If Hersh is right about the original target and reason for hitting it, and he is also speaking truth when he says both the Russians and Syrians made sure this was well known my all players in the region, why have they never made these claims and in fact made quite contradictory claims?

Why is this story a Hersh exclusive? It's because he is feeding us the whole cloth.

Can we finally put to rest any reverence for Seymour Hersh's Pulitzer?
05/31/2019 Lies, damned lies, and engineering sub-team reports
Lately, many on the “anti-imperialist” Left have been slaphappy about a “leaked” OPCW engineering sub-team report they think exonerates Bashar al-Assad of the chlorine mass murder that took place in Douma, Syria, 7 April 2018. Like the Trump cabal after Attorney General William Barr said that Robert Mueller found no obstruction, their delight will soon fade when it is shown that the 15-page note to the OPCW is about as valuable as Barr's 4-page “summary” of the Mueller report. I will show why all the theatrics surrounding this 15-page note is much ado about nothing, but first I must set the stage by going into a little history.
The way they talked about this one attack, you should be forgiven for not knowing this was just one of more than 300 chemical attacks in Syria since 2012. Maté, says dozens were killed, so you should be forgive for not knowing that 70 were killed, and over 500 were injured. They made no mention of the current carnage Assad and his Russian patron are causing in Idlib today, even as Grayzone seeks to exonerate them for the war crimes they committed a year ago.
That international ban has largely held, with a few notable exceptions, for more than 85 years. However, now it would seem that chemical weapons are on something of a comeback. This started in 2012 in Syria, where there have been more than 300 reported chemical attacks linked to the Assad regime. But CW hasn't been just for Syria anymore. Since 2012, CW attacks have also been reported in Malaysia, Northern Ireland, Iraq, the UK, and Sudan.

This is a worrying trend that should concern us all.
United States Attorney General William Barr has recently shown us how much we should trust an “Executive Summary” while we are being denied the full report. No one should continue to give this so-called "Executive Summary" a minutes attention as long as the document being summarized is missing and the author is unavailable to validate his work.
Before Ukraine, there was Syria—Hilary has passed.

Clay Claiborne
20 August 2023

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Russia never committed a war crime it didn't deny

If the Russians don't care about preserving Ukrainian people or infrastructure with their invasion of Ukraine, and their practice to this point shows they don't, it makes perfect military sense for them to blow the dam and put all that water between their positions south of the Dnipro River and the Ukrainian forces north of it, just as the Ukrainians are launching their long awaited "Going South" counter-offensive.

Ukraine loses a lot with the dam blown. So will the people of the world for that matter. It will knockout much of the hydroelectric power in a country that has already had much of its electrical infrastructure destroyed by Russia's relendless bombing of it this winter. It also seriously disrupts the water supply, threatening to turn much of what has been called the breadbasket of the world into desert. Recently, Moscow has also been seen taking out combines with missiles. Destroying Ukrainian wheat production is another of the Kremlin's war goals served by the burst dam. The pain of food shortages caused by Russia will be felt far from the battlefields of Ukraine. 

Still, true to form, Russia denies blowing up the Nova Kakhovka dam.

Dmitry Peskov
"We can state unequivocally that we are talking about deliberate sabotage by the Ukrainian side,"
of the Nova Kakhovka dam—while it was under the control of Russian occupation forces, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov only hours after the dam was breached. 

This allowed Democracy Now to claim:

As if that's all we know.
So, Russia denies blowing up the Nova Kakhovka dam, the same way they denied any intention of invading Ukraine in Feb '22 and said Joe Biden was lying on them up until the point their tanks crossed the border. The same way they claimed the 'little green men' that invaded Crimea & Donbas in 2014 weren't Russian soldiers, the same way they denied the downing of MH17, and the murder of the Shripal's with Novichok, the same way they deny bombing hospitals and targeting civilians. Russia never committed a war crime it didn't deny.

On the other hand, the whole world knows who invaded Ukraine, who seized, and is illegally occupying the areas around the Nova Kakhovka dam and the Zaporizhzhia' nuclear power plant. We know who has been murdering Ukrainian civilians, and who has been methodically taking out Ukraine's infrastructure, especially electrical generating facilities—like the dam.

We also know that the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and its leadership, who have been fighting so courageously to protect its people from Russian atrocities, would never do this to Ukraine. Even now, they are frantically working to save people imperiled by the flood—even while still under Russian artillery fire. That's right, the Russians are still trying to kill the people the Kremlin claims the Ukrainians are trying to flood out! 

We also know that chief Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov lies like Trump.

During the 2011–2013 Russian protests in which riot police clubbed protestors, Peskov said that "protesters who hurt riot police should have their livers smeared on the asphalt." So much for his attitude, but we are more concerned with his truthfulness. 

A few of the Lies of Dmitry Peskov

  • Russia had nothing to do with the 2006 polonium poisoning of former Russian intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko.
  • Bashar Assad never used sarin or any CW against his opposition in Syria.
  • Russia had nothing to do with the 2018 Novichok poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skirpal and his daughter Yulia.
  • Russia had nothing to do with the 2020 Novichok poisoning of Alexei Navalny.
  • In the months before Russia invaded Ukraine: Russia has no intention of invading Ukraine. Those claims were just western provocation.
  • Russia never targets Ukrainian civilians or civilian infrastructure, only military targets.
  • It was the Ukrainians who destroyed Mariupol, not the Russian bombardment, and the murdered civilians were killed by Ukrainian "Nazis" and staged to blame Russia.
  • Russia committed no war crimes in Bucha, it was a "well-staged insinuation, nothing else".
  • On 13 September 2022, Peskov said there are no plans to announce a full or partial mobilization in Russia. On 21 September 2022, Putin announced a partial military mobilization.
  • The US orchestrated the "assassination" drone attack on the Kremlin.
Why in the world would journalists report the word of this man, or the government he represents, in denying the latest Russian war crime as though he possessed something like an ounce of credibility?

Clay Claiborne
7 June 2023
An interesting dialogue from Democracy Now's 23 March 2022 show—so 14 months ago:

AMY GOODMAN: Volodymyr Ishchenko, I wanted to ask you about the Azov Battalion [sic.-Regiment], a part of the Ukrainian National Guard, and if you fear that the massive number of weapons going in, that what’s going on right now, is actually strengthening them. You have the first battalion commander — I mean, it’s outwardly, you know, racist, antisemitic. You have first battalion commander, Andriy Biletsky, saying Ukraine’s national purpose was to “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade … against Semite-led Untermenschen [subhumans].” And I’m wondering — you have Facebook allowing praise of neo-Nazi Ukrainian battalion [This is a Russian propaganda talking point. See this blog post for more on Azov and the Ukrainian extreme right.] leading into the war, but not allowing its coat of arms and other things to be shown or them to recruit, but because they’ve been so successful on the battlefield. So I wanted to ask if you could explain who they are and also their role in Mariupol.

VOLODYMYR ISHCHENKO: Biletsky actually moderated some of his positions since the moment he entered big politics. And so, what you’re quoting is coming even before the Euromaidan revolution, before 2014, when he led actually, indeed, an extreme-right group. Although [he] was definitely a very important part of a far-right movement, which is not just military units but also a political party, National Corps, of the explicitly far-right orientation, a paramilitary 

AMY GOODMAN: I have to warn you: We only have a minute and a half.

VOLODYMYR ISHCHENKO: Oh, sorry. Yeah, paramilitary institution, as well. And now, I mean, if you’re sending weapons to Ukraine, I’m not sure if there is any possibility to discriminate who are these weapons getting to. And the problem with this, with Russia invasion, is that one of the results would be that the people like Azov would get probably even more power and even more notoriety for playing some role in this war, specifically in the defense of Mariupol. And yeah, the result would be not great.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you concerned about this?

VOLODYMYR ISHCHENKO: I mean, there are many things that you should be concerned right now, and not — I mean, as always, just one of the many, many, many other things that — I mean, most of Ukrainians are primarily concerned now about the shellings and bombings and rockets that may strike their homes and kill them.

It's all a question of priorities. Amy's priority when discussing the Ukrainian situation is promoting Russian propaganda as best she can.

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Michael Colborne: Ukraine's Azov Movement - a critique


This extensive blog post is the result of a series of discussions on a couple of email lists about the role of the Azov Regiment in Ukraine's fight for independence. I have been planning to rewrite my contributions into a more accessible blog post, and now would seem a good time, because this Tuesday pro-Putin white supremacist Congressperson Matt Gaetz(R-FL) read into the Congressional record Chinese propaganda claiming that US military support for Ukraine was going to the far right “Azov Battalion.” Citing the “Fox News of China” was just another move in his bid to stop that aid.

With the GOP in control of the House, we can expect to see its pro-Trump/pro-Putin wing make a big push to cut off US support for Ukraine's resistance to Russia's war of genocide, and they will be cheered on by their pro-Putin “anti-imperialist” allies such as Code Pink and Veterans for Peace. Since Russian propaganda has pushed so-called “denazification” as one of its key war goals, and has positioned Azov as the poster-child for Nazis in Ukraine, its important that those of us who support the Ukrainian people be clear about what is true and what is lies when it comes to Azov. It's important not to let constant repetition goad us into conceding a point when there's none to be conceded.

Michael Colborne's book, From the Fires of War: Ukraine’s Azov Movement and the Global Far Right (Analyzing Political Violence), is probably the most authoritative work out there on the Azov movement. Now that I have read it, I want to make some comments, and as these are likely to be rather extensive, I'm going to divide them into several parts.

  • One part will say why I think Colborne overestimates the significant of the far right in general in Ukraine, and the Azov movement in particular.
  • One part will ask why he downplays the struggle against the far right and the Azov movement in Ukraine.
  • This first part is a bit of a digression: I want to question the use of a political terminology that is by no means unique to Michael Colborne. 

 On White Supremacy & The "Far Right"

As I started reading Colborne's book, which gives a very detailed description of the far right in Ukraine, I kept feeling the need to call out to him and say “You know, these guys are also racists!” My call was finally answered on page 23, when he talks about “the explicitly anti-Semitic Interregional Academy of Personnel Management (MAUP in Ukrainian) an institution which awarded infamous American white supremacist David Duke a doctorate.” Needless to say, this didn't cure my need to have Colborne say explicitly that these Ukrainian far right or neo-Nazi groups or individuals, were also invariably, white supremacists. 

In fact, Colborne uses the terms “white supremacist” only 5 times, usually to describe an American member of the far right community, such as “American neo-Nazi terrorist David Lane” who “remains a favourite of white supremacists the world over.” and “Croatian-American white supremacist Tomislav Sunié.” His two other references to “white supremacist” resulted from a paper he cited that had the term in the title. He used the term “white nationalist” only twice, both times to describe “American white nationalist Greg Johnson.” The terms “white supremacy” and“white nationalism” weren't used at all. He uses the term “racist” three times. Twice he calls something “racist”, including “the U.S.'s Aryan Nations,” and once to say one Ukrainian far right figure born in 1895 was “authoritarian and ruthless, but not racist.” The term “racism” was used six times, four times in connection with “anti-Semitism,” a term he used 35 times.

In contrast, he uses the terms “neo-Nazi(s)” 75 times, and “far right” a whopping 413 times. Clearly, that's his preferred term for groups, people, and political attitudes, in Ukraine, Europe, and beyond that I would prefer to call racist or white supremacist. I infer from Colborne's usage that he sees white supremacy and racism as mainly American problems. In fact, his insistence on using the label “far right,” when I felt more descriptive and historically accurate terminology was appropriate, became such an irritant as I plowed by way through his book, that it caused me to take a rather large detour to examine, as I never had before, the “Right-Left” terminology used to describe political differences. And so, I digress—this is where I want to begin 2023 (originally posted in an email dated 4 Jan 2023):

Why do we use the relatively vacuous terms "Right" and "Left" when its been white supremacy all along?

OK, I exaggerate. It hasn't been white supremacy all along—just since the white race, and with it, white supremacy, was invented between ~1650-1705 in Virginia. So, for almost 400 years. The class struggle predates that by a lot, and misogyny was even earlier. But the class struggle could not—did not, reach its final decisive stage until the capitalist system dominated, and capitalism, on this planet, was developed on the backs of slaves and racial slavery.

Racial slavery became the economic engine for developing capitalism on this planet, and became inseparably linked with how capitalism developed in this instance, and it provided the material basis for the development of a very rich culture of reaction and white supremacy that we often refer to by its preferred labels such as “Conservative” or “Right-wing.” [Note, when I say “material basis” I mean slave-owner money went directly to think-tanks and universities to justify itself, that sort of stuff. It wasn't an ethereal thing. Nothing else in early capitalism had the super-profits to so heavily invest in Reaction & Ideology. ]

While we may easily delineate “Left” and “Right” in the opposing sides in Bacon's Rebellion (1676) when European indentured servants made common cause with African bondsmen to oppose the Virginia governor and English troops, they certainly didn't see it that way. We all know Right and Left didn't have any political meaning until the French Revolution, and for a long time it was rarely applied beyond legislative bodies, only after ~1875 did it start being used as we use it today. After the American Civil War and Reconstruction. After Socialism became a force to be reckoned with. 

Noting that “Thinkers are never keen to reflect on that which enables them to think.” Marcel Gauchet wrote an important piece titled "Right and Left"(1996). I will draw heavily on it in what follows. Of the terminology's origins, he says:

As for their origin, it is presumed to be enough to refer in ritual fashion to the French Revolution. In fact, a great deal of water flowed under the bridge between the Revolution, when people hesitantly spoke of the assembly as divided between a “right side” and a “left side,” and the Restoration, when the terms were permanently enthroned in the parliamentary lexicon. And it is an even bigger jump from the jargon of the Chamber of Deputies to the quintessential emblems of political identity, the fundamental categories of democratic confrontation, that right and left have become for us—usages that were not firmly established until the beginning of the twentieth century. p 241

He goes on to explain why he wrote the piece:

If the established terminology covers up its past, the purpose of this essay is to examine the process by which it became established. p. 242

This is also my purpose in bringing Gauchet into this discussion. He traces the long history of “Right-Left” from the French Revolution to our current usage:

We now turn our attention to understanding how right and left became the primary categories of political identity. This was a long, drawn-out process that lasted more than three quarters of a century, until the first decade of the twentieth century. p. 253

For a very long time, “right” and “left” still referred almost exclusively to the seating arrangements of parliaments. The real political differences, the divisions in the streets, was defined differently—by the colors red and white:

The elections of May 1849 (which, as is ‘well known, set the pattern of political confrontation in France for a long time to come) pitted what ordinary people referred to as the démoc-soct against the réacr (democratic-socialists against reactionaries). The banners flown by the opposing parties also established a very powerful symbolism of colors: reds versus whites. The red-white opposition would remain the key distinction between the two camps for the next half century. In the Breton village of Plozévet in the 1960s, Edgar Morin found that these two colors were still the primary symbols of party affiliation. Well into the twentieth century, long after the terms right and left had taken hold, red and white banners were still flown in times of tension, p.253

I think I need not elaborate on why red was the chosen color of the progressives & revolutionaries. I suspect white was chosen by reactionaries for many of the same reasons they chose to call their cobbled-together would-be master race “white.” I have elaborated on those in some of my other writings, most notably in The white-Left Part 1: The two meanings of white. 

Gauchet links the switch to “Right-Left” terminology to the 1848 revolutions and the winning of universal suffrage:

Universal suffrage immediately created an enormous need for political identification. Everyone was called upon to choose sides. People did so at first by identifying with either the red or the white. It was this opposition that both simplified the terms of conflict to the utmost and allowed people to indicate immediately where they stood. It was not until later that right and left supplanted white and red. The symbolism of color had established deep roots, even insinuating itself into folklore, especially in certain parts of the south. The symbolic battle developed its own panoply of costumes, masquerades, and ritual clashes of color. And of course red and white, both rich in symbolic overtones, were ideally chosen to speak to the imagination and the heart. In the end this makes it all the more mysterious that right and left, despite their cold abstractness, could have achieved the same emotional resonance, the same earnestness of identification or repulsion. p.254

Groups get to chose which colors they put on their banners—red and white were self-selected by those that marched under them, whereas “Left” and “Right” have been forced on us by history—as if but for a coin-toss in the French Revolution, we would be calling the white [Now recognized with all the double-meaning it implies.] supremacists left-wing extremists. And I think the reactionaries got the best of it by claiming the label “Right," after all, most people are right-handed, and that has nothing to do with politics, and for some reason, at least in English, “right” has another meaning, as in “correct” or “better."☺Gauchet goes on: 

The revival of the terms right and left thus came about in the midst of war, the fall of the Empire and the collapse of the Commune, and then the return to normal with a parliamentary regime capped by the approval of the new Republic in 1875. p.255

So, you see the move to substitute left and right for red and white came only after racial slavery had played out, the capitalism it had developed was already beginning to turn into imperialism, and the modern working class was knocking at the door with demands for socialism.

The Commune revived the colors of 1848. In particular it attached an ineradicable luster to the word red (and in consequence to white)—a positive identification for some, a repellent emblem for others. Revolution itself became “red” for its proponents, while “reds” were the very embodiment of bourgeois fears. In fact, the language of denunciation would continue to draw on the Commune for decades, and the language of denunciation would play an important part in familiarizing people with the friend-enemy vocabulary that went along with elections. p.257

So, it was a move to substitute the language of bourgeois democracy for the language of revolution!

From now on, democracy was conceived of as a means of domesticating conflict by organizing the major players on a vast scale and by ritualizing their clash down to its very vocabulary. The replacement of red versus white by left versus right implied acceptance of the reversible two-sided relationship of party supporter and political analyst over the one-sidedness of the partisan. p. 264

But wait, there's more! We also have to consider the philosophical implications of the change:

Because of the very intensity of their contrast, red and white were excellent symbols for implacably opposed camps. p, 264

Dialectical materialism favors revolutionary change, where the new replaces the old—and the capitalist were down with that so long as they were replacing kings and such:

When republicans were battling with monarchist, the objective was clear; both sides believed that when the goal was achieved, the adversary would simply disappear. p. 265

But once they had firmly established their power, that revolutionary view of the political process had to be replaced with the never ending struggle between right and left.

Come what may, there would always be division and discord between a right and a left—such was the promise of perpetual conflict that the two terms in their deepest sense conveyed. p.265
One aspect of the adoption of the right-left pair to delineate sides in the class struggle has been to fake a continuity going back to the French Revolution. As we have seen, that has not been the case. The idea is to present political struggle as always and never ending—the message being that capitalism is here to stay.

I've taken this right-left political terminology for granted all my life, and at some point, probably in high school, I learned about the French Revolution bit, and never took it much further than that—until I embarked on this voyage of exploration. I know that it's now so ingrained in our culture and history, that the use of the term pair is unavoidable. Still, I think it's important to know where it came from, and use terminology that is more descriptive and more revolutionary whenever possible. 

Above I recounted the historic transition from “red” and “white” to “left” and “right.” It should be added that now, at least in the US, identifying the two political sides with colors has again come into fashion, except now the reactionaries have seized “red” for their banners, and branded the more progressive, but not revolutionary, side “blue.” Revolution has no place in this political spectrum, and as if to preserve the linearity of right-center-left while still using sharply defined colors, they talk of “purple states & counties." 

—Detour ends—

Even while the Russia-Ukraine war would seem to be a prime example of white-on-white violence, the role of racism as a motivating factor is crustal to understand. That's because Putin's version of fascism and imperialism is grounded in white supremacy. Putin's vision of white supremacy is similar to Hitler's in that not only does he believe that white people are superior to non-white people, and destine to rule over them, he believe that a certain group of white people is superior to all other white people, and are destine to rule over all other white people, and through them, all the people on Earth. It's a delusion that I call “a whiter shade of white.” In this, Putin's grand scheme for world conquest is very similar to Hitler's. The difference is that whereas with Hitler, it was the Aryans that were the master race, with Putin, and his fellow great western chauvinists [another term that doesn't appear in Colborne's book], it's the East Slavs. Just as Hitler's first “special military operations” were directed at uniting the Aryan's under his leadership with a similar end goal in mind. Enter Russian tanks in Ukraine.

Colborne's book is chock full of information, it's missing a lot where the national question and white supremacy are concerned. Apart from his great reliance on the term “far right” to define the fascists and white supremacists in Ukraine, I don't see where it acknowledges that Ukraine is an oppressed nation, or that Putin's desires for imperial conquest are rooted in his vision of himself as the leader of the white world.

Is Michael Colborne making a Mountain out of a Molehill in his book on the Azov Movement?

This is part 2. Part 1 critiqued his overuse of the phrase “far right,” and took a detour to trace the history of how the key symbol pairs that dominates political life moved from the emotional colors “red” and “white,” to sides of our bodies, “left” and “right,” right being naturally favored by most people. The problematic flexibility of the left-right pair showed itself recently on MSNBC when Joe Walsh corrected Symone for referring to the Boebert-Gaetz cabal as the “extremist wing” of the GOP. He pointed out that the entire GOP House caucus was extreme—most were election deniers.

So, I want to begin by uniting with Colborne's definition of the extreme right:

Those on the far right who explicitly reject democracy and favour violence and “other unconventional methods to promote their alternative worldview” are extreme right rather than radical right (Ravndal, 2021). Those on the extreme right explicitly “seek the overthrow of liberal democracy” (Eatwell, 2003) even if, like the Azov movement with its National Corps political party, they also take part in elections. p. 54 

By that definition, all those who stormed the US Capitol two years ago were of the extreme right, as was the president who summoned them, and the 147 congresspeople that voted to overturn the 2020 election results. The current election-denying leadership of the GOP, as well as the election denying, and open white supremacy of much of its rank-and-file, makes one of the two major US political parties extreme right. As I began writing this, Steve Scalise, who once described himself as David Duke without the baggage, was seriously being promoted as a candidate for Speaker of the House. This would make him second in the line of presidential succession. He remains majority leader. In the middle of the night, they finally rammed Kevin McCarthy through—another election denier—another “David Duke without the baggage”—another, what Colborne would call “extreme right,” whereas I might choose more colorful language.

Russia, the other country with a “far right” problem to be considered along with Ukraine's, is run by an authoritarian thug and his neo-fascist United Russia party, supports neo-Nazis worldwide, and claims it has a god given duty to denazify Ukraine. It's in this context that I want to examine Colborne's implied proposition that between Ukraine, Russia and the US, Ukraine is the one with the really serious “far right” problem. 

Is Colborne making a Mountain out of a Molehill?

As I read Colborne's description of the Azov movement, I was underwhelmed by the numbers involved. He puts the Azov Regiment at the center of the Azov movement, and as to its numerical strength:

The Regiment is home to approximately 1,000 soldiers serving at a time, with a few thousand veterans of the Regiment across Ukraine and beyond. p.65
That's a pre-war number, when the AFU was ~ 200K, so ~0.5% of Ukraine's armed forces before the war, and as to the percentage of those that are neo-Nazis:
The ideological orientations of those who fight and have fought within the Regiment isn’t always as clear-cut as assumed, though the Regiment’s leaders have roots in Ukraine’s far right. In 2015, one representative of the Regiment claimed between 10 to 20 percent of the unit were neo-Nazis (Dorrell, 2015). p.65
That's between 100 and 200 neo-Nazis, 600 tops, if the veterans were included. Of course, these are pre-war numbers. The ranks of Azov Regiment have swelled since then, but that's only likely to mean the percentage of neo-Nazis in its ranks has gone down, as the extremists most likely joined the regiment early. The 'AZOV Regiment' account on Twitter now has 187.2K followers, up from 72K in Aug 2021, and 46K in Apr 2017. and its Telegram channel has a whopping 332,528 subscribers. The regiment has received a lot of attention worldwide since the war began. 

This discussion of what percentage of Azov has to be neo-Nazi before we can declare the whole Regiment neo-Nazi, reminds me of discussions about how many black great grandparents you had to have to be declared black. For example, many have been critical of Azov veteran Illia Samoilenko's visit to Israel after he defended Mariupol and was imprisoned and then released by the Russians, because he's a member of the Azov Regiment, saying “How can you entertain these Nazis?” but Haaretz says Samoilenko “personally has no known far-right sympathies." So, what percentage of neo-Nazis taints the whole regiment? Or is it a question of foreign perceptions?

Another far right militia Colborne profiles is the paramilitary wing of the National Corps, known as the National Militia, which was “rebranded as Centuria in 2020,” according to Colborne. With regards to size, he speaks of the “National Militia’s few thousand young, mostly male members,” and later, “a nighttime ceremony with torches, matching black shirts, chants...” that involved “the few hundred assembled Centuria members." p. 71

In the 2014 elections, Right Sector was the strongest far-right force. Colborne says:
Right Sector didn’t take long to underwhelm, with its leader Dmytro Yarosh winning a measly 0.7 percent of the vote in an ill-fated run for the presidency in May 2014. 
He said it had dwindled to a “few hundred members" by 2015 p.84. Contrary to what you may have been led to believe, far right movements really don't seem to have much purchase in Ukrainian politics.

Right Sector was supplanted by National Corps, the political arm of the Azov movement. We get a window into its size and reach when Colborne tells us:
From 2017 to 2019, National Corps officially received more than 8,000 individual contributions from more than 2,000 people and seven companies, for a total of 18.6 million hryvnia (~€580,000; ~$690,000) during that time (Feshchenko et al, 2020)
Those figures more than justify his calling it “a marginal far-right party.” By Colborne's own definition, the election deniers that currently control the Republican Party are extreme right, unfortunately, they are a very long way from being marginal. In the most recent parliamentary elections in 2019, the same election that put Zelenskyy in the presidency, the major far right groups, including National Corps and Right Sector formed the coalition of Svoboda. It got only 2.15% of the vote, and zero seats in parliament.

Colborne also speaks of another neo-Nazi group named Avangard, which he describes as a “small group of at best a few dozen .., based in Kyiv and in Mykolaiv,” and Tradition and Order, “an avowedly Christian far-right group” which was “estimated to be relatively small, perhaps fewer than 100 members.” p.82 Another Ukrainian neo-Nazi group is Freikorps, which Colborne says “has at most a few dozen core members." Once he gets down to groups that are “the initiatives of one or two Azov movement members," p. 79 you get the feeling he's given you a very thorough survey of the Azov movement. 

Well, I am underwhelmed! The Proud Boys claims 203 chapters in 46 US states, up from 119 chapters in Sep. 2020 after a white supremacist POTUS famously asked them to “stand by.” A week ago, members of the NYPD were helping some Proud Boys illegally avoid subway tolls after they attacked a drag queen story hour event at a local library. Nobody should be surprised if some of those cops turned out to be Oath Keepers, a US extreme right group, with a heavy presence in law enforcement, whose leader and members have been found guilty of seditious conspiracy, with a reported 3,000 members in Texas alone, and more than 38,000 nationwide. Such is the breath and reach of just a few “extreme right” groups in the US. There are many more.

When it comes to “extreme right” personalities in Ukraine, one name stands above all the rest in Colborne's telling—Andriy Biletsky [Андрій Білецький], the founder of the original Azov Battalion, and acknowledge leader of the Azov movement. He's not much on Twitter, with only 2456 followers, but then his last tweet was 6/15/2020 [https://twitter.com/BiletskyAndriy/status/1272619898771058689 154 likes] But as Colborne points out, Ukrainian politics, especially far right politics, happens much more on Telegram than on Twitter. Biletsky has 72,580 subscribers on Telegram, more than triple the number Colborne cited [20,000], but then he, like many Ukrainians, has received a lot more publicity since the war. He also has a YouTube channel with 22.5K subscribers. Still Biletsky's reach pales in comparison to that of a US far right personality like Tucker Carlson, who pushes the white nationalist “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory on the country's most watched prime time cable “news” show five days a week, and has 5.6 million followers on Twitter, or Lauren Southern, who promotes white nationalism, and fearmongers “white genocide.” to her 510K Twitter followers, or the anti-LGBTQ+ account run by Chaya Raichik, Libs of Tiktok and has 1.7M followers on Twitter, to name just a few.

Another major Ukrainian far right personality that gets 67 mentions in Colborne's book is Olena Semenyaka, [Семеняка Олена] spokeswoman for National Corps and head of the Azov Movement’s International Outreach Office. With responsibilities like that, you'd expect her to be all over social media, and she is. She even blogs on Counter Currents, the site run by American white nationalist Greg Johnson. So, it would be a cheap shot to point out that she has only 127 followers on Twitter because she hasn't used that account since 2014, and she probably tweets out of the @national_corps [Національний Корпус] account, but that has only 10.7K followers. The National Corps Telegram channel has 7,960 subscribers, and its YouTube channel has 84.1K subscribers, now. Everything about Ukraine gets more attention as a result of the war. Another Azov account I found on Twitter @supportAZOVcom has 2,558 followers. [When I searched for “azov” on Twitter, Michael Colborne is top of the list, so he certainly has made a name for himself there.] Another Azov account would seem to be Ukrainian Struggle Centre with 9,454 followers, which is a bit more than Michael Colborne with 8,735. Colborne writes:
Elements within the Azov movement also have good things to say about far-right terrorists. Wotanjugend has referred to Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in the 2006 Norway terror attacks, and Timothy McVeigh, perpetrator of the 1995 Oklahoma City attacks that killed 168 people, as “heroes” (Bellingcat Anti-Equality Monitoring, 2019). p. 52

He says Wotanjugend:

with roots in Russia but now based in Ukraine, is largely led by Russian neo-Nazi, Azov Regiment veteran and Kyiv resident Alexey Levkin. p.49
To me, that sounds like a Russian neo-Nazi problem in Ukraine, but that also makes it Ukraine's neo-Nazi problem, as are the American neo-Nazis that show up in Ukraine. What looks like the Wotanjugend Telegram channel has 1,920 subscribers.

While Ukrainian neo-Nazis may admire American extreme right terrorists, they don't seem to have inspired many in Ukraine, whereas since McVeigh, the US has suffered an endless stream of extreme right, or white supremacist violence, from the racist Charleston Church massacre, through the El Paso “Great Replacement inspired” massacre, to the racist Buffalo grocery store mass shooting, and dozens of others. Colborne wrote about how some OUN members participated in Nazi pogroms in 1941, but if there's anything like the level of racist or anti-Semitic violence we see in the US, in Ukraine these days, he didn't report it. What he does say is:
Fortunately, Ukraine has been spared the ugliness of far-right terror attacks that countries like the United States, Germany and New Zealand have seen in recent years. p.156
Maybe, instead of thanking fortune for sparing Ukraine, we can conclude that possibly Ukraine's far right problem isn't quite as bad as claimed by those quick to call the kettle black.

From a moralistic point of view, Colborne may be absolutely right to say “a far-right movement shouldn’t have a three-story social centre off the main square of a country’s capital,” p. 161. If so, that statement shouldn't be applied only to Ukraine, and far-right movements occupy a lot more than three-stories in Washington, DC. 

I think Colborne gives a proper assessment of the danger the Azov movement poses for Ukraine here, in as much as any extreme right movement poses a threat to liberal democracy in any country where it exists:
They may not be in a position to single handedly destabilize Ukraine’ ...[One wishes the same could be said about the extreme right in the US. - Clay] But the Azov movement's continued presence on Ukraine's social and political scene, even as it remains forever the preserve of a small minority, poses a threat to liberal democracy in Ukraine. p.168
There are at least a couple of reasons why I have done the work, spent the money, and put in the time to produce this blog post. The first is that while I'm not aware of anyone claiming Ukraine doesn't have a problem with white supremacy, or it's far right, any exaggeration of the neo-Nazi problem in Ukraine plays right into the propaganda of the Russian fascists who are gaslighting the world by claiming their genocidal war against Ukraine has as its main purpose the denazification of Ukraine. 

The second reason is that in conclusion, Colborne proposes his own form of Western-imposed “denazification” for Ukraine. While Ukraine is fighting “denazification” being imposed by Russia with tanks and drones, he suggests that Ukraine's western allies condition critical aid on certain “denazification” policies [like taking away their 3-story building?] being carried out by a presumably recalcitrant Zelenskyy government:
Those shouldn’t be the only sorts of conditions applied to Ukraine’s international financial support. One possible way to encourage Ukraine to tackle its far-right problem, particularly the Azov movement, would be to make some funding contingent on specific actions from Ukraine's authorities. Making even relatively small-scale funding contingent on, for example, addressing far-right extremism in the military or placing sanctions and asset freezes against known far-right figures with proven links to violence and criminal behavior. I don’t suggest for a second that Ukraine’s international backers should turn off the taps to Ukraine. But it would be worthwhile for the international community to consider using its enormous financial leverage to persuade Ukraine’s authorities to take action on the far right. p.164
As if they haven't taken any action already. I will examine that assertion in some detail in my next section in this series. 

Colborne is concerned about the growing international influence of Ukraine's extreme right, but that is small potatoes compared to the international influence of America's extreme right. The Avoz movement may not be strong enough to destabilize Ukraine, but the US extreme right is actively destabilizing other democracies. What about sanctions against leading extreme right figures from the US? Jason Miller and Steve Bannon have just been involved in engineering a Jan 6th style insurrection for Bolsonaro in Brazil. Elon Musk just bought Twitter so he could open it back up to extreme right elements that were kicked off before. Shouldn't we be sanctioning them, along with Donald Trump, and Tucker Carlson before we exercise our “parental prerogative” to sanction extreme right figures in Ukraine? 

Symbolism is a big part of what makes a neoNazi in Colborne's eyes. It is almost as if adopting a logo in any way related to the wolfsangel makes them like the SS, but the wolfsangel has a much deeper history in that part of the world. Is it possible most Ukrainians see it differently? Political scientist Andreas Umland told Deutsche Welle that the Wolfsangel “is a pagan symbol that the SS also used," and was “not considered a fascist symbol by the general population in Ukraine." I see in the Confederate battle flag a symbol of racism and hatred just as toxic as the swastika. Until recently it flew over a number of state capitals, and many white people claim they aren't racists for flying it. Could that possibly be true? What does Colborne see when he sees the Confederate flag flying? Is it as bad as the swastika for him?

Colborne may feel he has the moral authority to admonish Ukrainians:
A military unit like the Azov Regiment has no place in a democratic country’s armed forces and should be disbanded. p.163

Presumably, this is because it's 10-20% neoNazi, or maybe a lot less now with all the new recruits. In anycase, they did put up a brave fight in Mariupol, and it bought the rest of the AFU enough time to regroup and mount successful counter-offensives in the East and the South. While Colborne never acknowledges that Ukraine is fighting a war of national liberation, that is what it is fighting, and that makes dealing with one's own ultranationalists a mite tricky. [ We can discuss how black socialists should relate to/or not? black nationalists some other time.] With imperialist nations it's different, of course. 

I certainly don't know all the details, and all sides of their situation, or maybe it's just that I don't share Colborne's arrogance, but I wouldn't be telling them how they should handle the Azov Regiment just now. I would rather trust their better judgement. 

Part 3

Why I think Colborne is wrong to discount the struggle against the extreme right, white supremacists, and neoNazis in Ukraine, and how that denial plays to Russian propaganda.

CBS Morning News is reporting this morning that a number of white supremacist and anti-Semite, extreme right members of Congress have received committee assignments and another failed election-denying GOP candidate has been arrested for hiring people to shoot up the houses of Democratic election officials, but according to Micheal Colborne, Ukraine is the country with the out-of-control extreme right problem that deserve sanctions from its western supporters who have reined in their fascists. So, in part 3 of this critique, I what to address this question:

Is Ukraine struggling against its extreme right?

Colborne seems to think not:
The first step in addressing the problem of Ukraine's far right and especially the Azov movement is, of course, to admit that there actually is a problem. p. 151
Here he gives the clear impression that reform in Ukraine's armed forces is something he advocates for, but they have not yet begun:
The United States, France, Germany, Canada and many other countries have begun to reckon with the existence and sometimes rise of far-right extremist elements within their armed forces—Ukraine needs to begin to do the same. p. 129
Reforms in Ukraine’s armed forces would also help curtail the influence of the Azov movement and the far right in general. As Ukraine's key international allies, like the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and others make efforts to tackle the issue of far- right extremism in their militaries, Ukraine must also follow suit. p.161
While the efforts of Ukraine’s allies to combat far-right extremism in their own ranks have certainly been found wanting at times, neither that nor the war with Russian-backed forces can be an excuse for Ukraine’s inaction. p.163
But opinions vary. Here are a few facts from the Stanford Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) about Ukrainian government's moves to curtail the influence of the far right in the Azov Regiment: 
From July 2015 to early 2019 the Ukrainian government removed the Azov Regiment from the frontlines, and restricted them to bases in Yuriivka and Urzuf, southwest of Mariupol. This redeployment was largely due to international criticism of the Regiment, and its predecessor organizations, due to deep ties with the far-right. During this time the Regiment focused on recruitment and training, and participated in major military exercises with other Ukrainian units.

At this point, I don't have much more info than that about what changes took place in that period, but Colborne doesn't even mention these. Is it fair to paint “Azov” as one continuum from the Azov Battalion in 2014 to the Azov Regiment that defended Mariupol in 2022 without even acknowledge these effort to separate the Azov Regiment from the Azov movement? 

I have heard from various sources that most neo-Nazi and extreme right wing elements were rooted out in this period. The Times of Israel reported on this question:

Vyacheslav Lykhachov, a Russia-born Israeli who monitors hate crimes in Ukraine, acknowledges that there were neo-Nazis among the group’s founders in 2014, but says that most far-right ideologues left by the end of the year.

“The rest of the right-wing radicals, who clearly articulated their views, were deliberately cleaned out by the new commandant of the regiment in 2017,” Lykhachov explained

Colborne names a lot of “Azov veterans" that have been at the center of much of the neo-Nazi activity in Ukraine. It would be interesting to learn if these people were actually members of the Azov Battalion or Regiment, and if so, more about the nature of their separation from the service. Here's an example of where I believe Michael Colborne conflates the Azov movement with the Azov Regiment in a way that can be very misleading. In describing a veterans day march:

Less than five minutes behind them, after small columns of veterans of unrelated military units, marched the Azov Regiment itself. Several hundred veterans and supporters, shrouded in smoke from flares, carried flags bearing the Regiment’s Wolfsangel logo. The column was led by Andriy Biletsky, who relinquished command of the Regiment in 2016, with Maksym Zhorin at his side, who took over command until he himself relinquished it in 2017. Almost all were in military uniform from the waist down, wearing matching brown t-shirts with “Ukraine above all!” printed on the back. As they and other marchers got to Maidan, a huge banner had been draped over the glass facade of the shopping mall on Maidan to greet them. “Azov wishes you a happy Independence Day”(“Azov vitaie z Dnem nezalezhnosti!”), it read, again bearing Azov’s logo. The march, in total, drew an estimated 50,000 attendees. p62
Only what he describes doesn't sound like the Azov Regiment itself. It sounds like “several hundred veterans and supporters” led by ex-commanders of the Azov Battalion, whereas for the Azov Regiment itself, I would expect a thousand soldiers in dress uniforms led by the current Regimental commander, but Colborne doesn't mention them as part of the Azov Regiment itself in this march.

Also, in one of those “You're fired!” ,“No, I quit!” controversies, Andiy Biletsky may claim he “relinquished command” but I heard he was kicked out, and that in 2016 they completely banned him from any Ukrainian military service. Colborne may have reasons for promoting Biletsky's version of the separation as he seems to downplay, or discount, any struggle against fascist in the Azov Regiment. 

Another thing worth exploring in Colborne's book is the status of the “Avoz veterans” he seems to credit or blame for everything. Were they veterans of the Azov Regiment, or veterans in the Azov movement, and if they were veterans of the regiment, what was the nature of their separation? We know many, if not most, of the neo-Nazis were kicked out to the Azov Regiment since 2014. Are these some of the Azov veterans Colborne cites as behind everything? 

CISAC also reported on these struggles with the far right:
In 2019, during President Zelensky’s attempted implementation of the controversial “Steinmeier Formula”, which called for elections to be held in separatist-held areas under Ukrainian legislation and with the supervision of the Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe.[61] Part of that process required mutual disengagement of troops and armaments along front lines in the Donbas, a move opposed by some veterans and volunteers who had fought.[62] A small number of volunteers and veterans refused to comply with the Regiment’s ordered withdrawal from the town of Zolote, perceiving it as a concession to the Russians. Biletsky threatened to mobilize further Azov veterans and National Corps activists.[63] Ultimately, Zelensky visited Zolote to attempt to resolve the crisis, resulting in verbal altercations with National Corps activists.[64]

In August 2021, 2020 the Shevchenkivskyi Court of Kyiv took seven Kharkiv-based members of National Corps into custody. They were charged with creating an organized criminal group. National Corps denied their members were guilty and staged a protest outside the President’s Office, leading to clashes against police. Following the violence, Kyiv’s Pechersk District Court took two more members of National Corps into custody for alleged hooliganism.[66]
In August 2021, journalist Leonid XB Ragozin report on this Ukrainian government crackdown on far right forces in a Twitter thread:
THREAD on Azov movement personalities arrested in the latest SBU sweep in Kharkiv. Not among them, but worth mentioning first, is Artem Moshensky, who was shot in the neck on June 30 and transported in a private plane to a hospital in Israel.

Moshensky was one of the leaders of the East Corps, an Azov movement outfit in Kharkiv. The main leader was Oleh Shiryayev, who later split from Azov movement and formed the paramilitary force of Viktor Medvedchuk’s pro-Russian party OPZZh.

Azov movement leader Andriy Biletsky blamed Shiryayev for the assassination attempt. Shiryayev blamed Biletsky. Shiryayev got arrested on July 6. On Aug 2, SBU clamped down on his pro-Russian paramilitary force.

The most prominent of the Azovians arrested in the latest sweep is Serhiy Velychko. From Metallist Kharkiv ultras milieu like most of them, Velychko is famously the author of Putin Khuylo (Putin is a prick) patriotic chant.

Less famously, Velychko was a co-founder of the security company AzGuard (Azov Guard). The other co-founder is Maksym Zhorin, a top figure of the pan-Ukrainian Azov movement. AzGuard’s adverts featured a phone number containing the cyphered Heil Hitler salute - 1488.

AzGuard’s logo copycats that of Wotanjugend - a Russian neo-nazi platform formed around the MOLOTH (Hitler’s Hammer) black metal band, which moved to Ukraine in 2015. Its lead singer Aleksey Levkin became one of Azov’s ideologists.

Another arrested Azovian is Serhiy Kozlyuk, who badly wounded cameraman Vadym Makaryuk in clashes at Barabashova market in Kharkiv in 2019.

Also among the arrested is Artem Subochev, who injured a patrol policeman in Kharkiv in 2016. Local media noted at the time that he appeared in social networks under the nick fcmk1488 and his posts were full of photos showing people making nazi salute

The last of the arrestees for now is Kyrilo Krikunov, who won Kharkiv police championship in sambo (a Soviet martial art) in 2017 as part of the East Corps team. He was evidently an employee of Ukrainian police at the time, like many Azovians.

In spite of his complaints about “Ukraine's inaction” in fighting the far-right extremism, Colborne, himself reports on these actions:

Two American members of the neo-Nazi Atomwaffen Division (AWD) were deported from Ukraine in 2020, p. 147

eight movement members who had been released after being temporarily detained. p.152

As the arrests of members in Kharkiv in August 2021 suggested, the Azov movement also appears to have little compunction about getting involved in alleged criminal schemes.p.160

With the departure of [Azov-friendly]Arsen Avakov from the interior ministry in July 2021 and the Azov movement's subsequent complaints of “repression” from Zelenskyy’s government, are these processes. p.160

what the Azov movement decries in mid-2021 as “repression’—the arrests of members for being involved in an alleged criminal scheme and of others for trying to break through a police cordon to confront Zelenskyy, among other things...p.161
There's enough information out there to show that the Zelenskyy government has made an effort to curve the influence of neo-Nazis and the extreme right in its armed forces, and in Ukrainian politics generally. How effective and sincere those efforts have been is up for debate, but anyone who claims that there has been no effort, or worst, that the Zelenskyy govt is tolerating, or even colluding with, neoNazis is repeating the false propaganda of fascists attempt to subdue an ex-national minority with force.

As Denys Davydov said last week “It's time to help Ukraine, and it's time to change Ukraine.”

Clay Claiborne
2 March 2013