American Resistance To Empire

It is time to teach colonial history in British schools

It is time to teach colonial history in British schools

Growing up in Britain, I knew nothing of the many crimes the British Empire had committed against my Iraqi ancestors.

Members of the Mesopotamia Commission at the 1921 Cairo Conference, including Gertrude Bell, T E Lawrence (fourth from the right, second row) and Winston Churchill (centre front row) [Getty]
Members of the Mesopotamia Commission at the 1921 Cairo Conference, including Gertrude Bell, T E Lawrence (fourth from the right, second row) and Winston Churchill (centre front row) [Getty]

If you grew up in Britain, like me, you probably would not be able to recall being taught anything substantial about British colonial history in school.

The British curriculum dedicates plenty of attention to the violence of others – in Nazi Germany or during the American Civil War – and goes into great detail on a few events in medieval and pre-Victorian English history, like the Plague, the Great Fire of London, and the reign of Henry VIII. But a British school would not teach you anything about the brutality of British colonialism.

We were told nothing of the concentration camps the British army ran during the Boer War, the Bengal famine of 1943 or the massacres of Kenyans in the 1950s.

In school, I heard nothing of the many crimes the British perpetrated against my Iraqi ancestors. No textbook ever mentioned that Winston Churchill, so deeply venerated as a hero and a brilliant statesman, openly endorsed a chemical attack on Iraqi civilians when they demanded independence from Britain.

The British curriculum did not teach me that Britain invited Iraqi leaders for negotiations, only to kidnap and imprison them, that it sent planes to bomb civilians when they refused to pay taxes or that it burned and destroyed villages and towns to quash revolts.

Since I left school thirteen years ago, the situation has hardly changed. When, in 2010, the British government decided to overhaul the curriculum, then-education secretary, Michael Gove, decided to invite an apologist of empire, historian Niall Ferguson, to help. As a result, British textbooks still whitewash the British Empire and fail to address the foundations of white supremacy on which colonialism was built and the lasting impact of imperial policies on colonised peoples.

It was only through the stories of my grandfather – who recounted watching from his window the British march through Baghdad – that I learned there was more to the British Empire than they were teaching us at school.

The uncomfortable feeling of not knowing led me to research extensively the shared history of Britain and Iraq, which inspired me to write a novel set during the colonisation of Mesopotamia.

For me, there’s something empowering about finally being able to level the playing field when it comes to one-sided narratives about the British Empire by telling the story of the colonised, rather than the coloniser.

Yet, the dominant whitewashed narrative of British colonial history seems to be deeply ingrained in the British psyche. Today 49 percent of Britons still think that the British Empire was a force for good that improved the lives of colonised nations and only 15 percent think it left them worse off, according to a survey by market research company YouGov.

There also seems to be a persistent nostalgia for that colonial past. The truth is that in today’s Britain, colonialism sells.

Brits still rush to buy products that play on their romantic notion of colonialism, whether cushions from UK retailer Dunelm Mill’s Colonial Chic line or an  Old Colonial burger from chain restaurant Gourmet Burger Kitchen.

They still enjoy watching TV shows about the lives and romances of rich white people in the colonial era, such as Downton Abbey and Indian Summers, which make no mention of how the wealth displayed on the screen was acquired.

They still go to cinemas to see Victoria and Abdul portray Queen Victoria as an exceptional open-minded monarch and a gracious friend of an Indian servant, as if she wasn’t profiting from the subjugation and oppression of Indians; or watch The Queen of the Desert tell the story of British diplomat and orientalist Gertrude Bell, conveniently leaving out the part about her enabling British colonialism in the Middle East and drawing the arbitrary borders of the Iraqi state.

The commodification of colonialism has even made it to institutions of higher education. In 2015, the Oxford Union decided it was a good idea to serve a drink called “colonial comeback” during a debate on colonial legacy and reparations.

In fact, Oxford University, an institution that has educated half of Britain’s political elite (its rival, Cambridge, educating the other half), has witnessed a pushback against its own colonial past.

Students have called for the decolonisation of the Oxford curriculum, which, they say, is Eurocentric and excludes contributions by women and people of colour.

They have also brought the Rhodes Must Fall campaign to campus, calling for the removal of a statue of Cecil Rhodes, a British colonial official who is seen by many as the architect of apartheid in South Africa. Their struggle was suppressed by wealthy donors who threatened to cut funding to the institution.

There is still widespread support for revisionism and white-washing of history in conservative institutions like Oxford and beyond. It is unsurprising that it was an Oxford scholar who last year penned an op-ed in The Times defending Britain’s colonial legacy, telling Brits: “Don’t feel guilty about our colonial history”.

This attitude has been adopted by much of the British political elite as well. When asked in 2013 to apologise for the 1919 Amritsar Massacre, in which British troops shot dead hundreds of Indians, then-British Prime Minister David Cameron said: “I don’t think the right thing is to reach back into history and to seek out things that we should apologise for.”

The problem with Cameron’s statement is that colonialism cannot be just relegated to history, forgiven and forgotten.

Its legacy continues to disadvantage former colonies, where artificial borders, the unequal distribution of resources, or their exhaustion have led to conflict, impoverishment and underdevelopment.

Its logic continues to inform political and foreign policy in Britain and elsewhere to this day. It was colonialist thinking that led PM Tony Blair in 2003 to drag the country into another occupation of Iraq, shattering its economy and security and killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

We need a curriculum based on an honest, contextualised reading of British history which teaches about the brutality of colonialism. It should educate children about the economic, political and social advantages they enjoy today as a result of the colonial extraction and plunder their country engaged in during the colonial era.

We will not lose anything by acknowledging the crimes of our past. The only way to avoid repeating our mistakes is by learning from them.

As Indian politician and author Dr Shashi Tharoor has highlighted, it’s “a bit of an embarrassment that you can get a History A Level in this country without knowing anything about colonial history.”

It’s time to change that.

Ruqaya Izzidien’s novel The Watermelon Boys, set during and after the British conquest of Baghdad, is released on 30 August by Hoopoe Fiction.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance. 

Balfour Declaration at 100: Seeds of Discord

Al Jazeera World

Balfour Declaration at 100: Seeds of Discord


Pentagon Prepares False-Flag Attack In Idlib, In Last-Ditch Defense of Proxy AL-NUSRA Terrorist Forces, Led By the Dimutive Al-Jolani

[Lavrov: Russia Submitted Proof of Planned Chemical Attack in Idlib to UN, OPCW]

“Julani said al-Nusra had been instructed by the overall leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, to avoiding launching attacks abroad that might jeopardise its operations in Syria…Al-Nusra Front doesn’t have any plans or directives to target the West. We received clear orders not to use Syria as a launching pad to attack the US or Europe in order to not sabotage the true mission against the regime.”

(SEE: The layers of fiction surrounding Al Nusra chief Abu Mohammed Al Jolani).

[Looks a bit frail and weak, doesn’t he? (According to several independent sources, Jabhat al-Nusra leader, Abu Mohammed al-Julani, is in critical condition, Russian Defense Ministry said —Russia’s Aerospace Forces eliminate 12 Jabhat al-Nusra commanders in Syria ).  The previous photo of the ghost leader below portrayed a full of life young terrorist.]

Syrian militant leader slams Turkey and defends evacuations in new video

Abu Mohammed al-Jolani said that the former al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham had become the ‘greatest defender of Sunnis’ in Syria

The leader of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) militant group has described it as the only legitimate defender of Sunni Muslims in Syria, and said Turkey was not a reliable ally against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

In a video posted on Facebook, Abu Mohammed al-Jolani, leader of the group formerly known as the Al-Nusra Front, said that both HTS’s enemies and allies recognised that the group had “now become the greatest defender of Sunnis in Syria”.

He warned that the ceasefires agreed between rebel groups and pro-government forces in the south of country would not be repeated in the north, and urged rebel forces to shun negotiations with Assad.

Most previously rebel-held areas of Syria, including the major cities of Homs and Aleppo, have returned to government hands in recent years. Idlib, which is largely controlled by HTS and its allies, is the last remaining rebel stronghold in the country.

“The weapons of the revolution and jihad… are a red line on which concessions are unacceptable, and they will never be put on the negotiations table,” said Jolani.

“We urge our people in Aleppo to remain steadfast. The mujahideen will not fail you.”

He added that the rebels should not expect Turkish observation posts to protect them against Assad’s government. Under an agreement inked in Kazakhstan, Iran, Russia and Turkey have established observation posts across Syria to monitor “de-escalation zones” nominally designed to prevent hostilities.

He warned that the Turkish posts were “something we cannot rely on because the political positions may change at any moment”.

Jolani also defended the decision to allow the evacuation of the Shia-majority villages of Foua and Kafraya, claiming it had removed the danger of “sectarian militias” and denied Iran an excuse to attack.

The two villages, located in the Idlib governorate, had been besieged by rebel forces since 2015, and has been a major point of contention between the rebels and the government.

The evacuation saw 7,000 people leave the two villages in return for hundreds of prisoners being released from Assad’s prisons.

Idlib infighting

Idlib has seen massive unrest in recent years due to rebel infighting, the capture of much of the province by Turkish-backed forces, and the looming threat of an assault by Assad and his allies to retake the province.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, since April, 270 people – including 55 civilians – have been killed in attacks from all sides in Idlib, and adjacent parts of Hama and Aleppo provinces.

While much of the violence has been attributed to HTS and the Turkish-backed National Front for Liberation, others have blamed sleeper cells belonging to the Islamic State (IS) group.

The Observatory said that the province had been witnessing “mass assassinations” and that since Monday alone at least 13 rebel fighters had been killed.

Although IS and Al-Nusra Front both originated as part of the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State in Iraq, the two became enemies after the former declared a caliphate in 2014. Al-Nusra Front rebranded as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham in July 2016, officially severing ties with al-Qaeda. In January 2017 they merged with other rebel groups to form HTS.

On Wednesday, US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser warned Assad against the use of chemical weapons in any future assault on Idlib.

“We now see plans for the Syrian regime to resume offensive military activities in Idlib province,” John Bolton told a press conference during a visit to Jerusalem.

“We are obviously concerned about the possibility that Assad may use chemical weapons again,” he said.

He added that the US would respond “very strongly” to any chemical attack.

The US, France and Britain launched joint missile strikes on Syrian in April targets in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack in eastern Ghouta that killed scores of people.

Since 2011, following the brutal repression of anti-Assad protests, Syria’s civil war has killed more than 400,000 people and displaced millions.

Source: Syrian militant leader slams Turkey and defends evacuations in new video | Middle East Ey


Trump Preparing Secret Sneak-Attack Reversal of American Medical/Recreational Marijuana Movement

Inside The Trump Administration’s Secret War On Weed

The Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee wants to counteract positive marijuana messages and identify problems with state legalization initiatives, according to documents obtained by BuzzFeed News.

Leah Millis / Reuters

WASHINGTON — The White House has secretly amassed a committee of federal agencies from across the government to combat public support for marijuana and cast state legalization measures in a negative light, while attempting to portray the drug as a national threat, according to interviews with agency staff and documents obtained by BuzzFeed News.

The Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee, as it’s named in White House memos and emails, instructed 14 federal agencies and the Drug Enforcement Administration this month to submit “data demonstrating the most significant negative trends” about marijuana and the “threats” it poses to the country.

In an ironic twist, the committee complained in one memo that the narrative around marijuana is unfairly biased in favor of the drug. But rather than seek objective information, the committee’s records show it is asking officials only to portray marijuana in a negative light, regardless of what the data show.

“The prevailing marijuana narrative in the U.S. is partial, one-sided, and inaccurate,” says a summary of a July 27 meeting of the White House and nine departments. In a follow-up memo, which provided guidance for responses from federal agencies, White House officials told department officials, “Departments should provide … the most significant data demonstrating negative trends, with a statement describing the implications of such trends.”

As several states have approved laws allowing adults to use and purchase cannabis, critics have contended lax attitudes will promote drug abuse, particularly among youth, and they have pressed for a federal crackdown. The White House at one point said more pot enforcement would be forthcoming, though President Donald Trump has never said he was onboard with that agenda and he announced in June that he “really” supports new bipartisan legislation in Congress that would let state marijuana legalization thrive.

However, the committee’s hardline agenda and deep bench suggest an extraordinarily far-reaching effort to reverse public attitudes and scrutinize those states. Its reports are to be used in a briefing for Trump “on marijuana threats.”

“There is an urgent need to message the facts about the negative impacts of marijuana.”

“Staff believe that if the administration is to turn the tide on increasing marijuana use there is an urgent need to message the facts about the negative impacts of marijuana use, production, and trafficking on national health, safety, and security,” says the meeting summary.

The White House declined to discuss the committee’s process, but indicated it was part of an effort to remain consistent with the president’s agenda.

“The Trump Administration’s policy coordination process is an internal, deliberative process to craft the President’s policies on a number of important issues facing the American people, and ensure consistency with the President’s agenda,” Lindsay Walters, Deputy White House Press Secretary, told BuzzFeed News.

None of the documents indicate that officials are seeking data that show marijuana consumption or legalization laws, which have been approved in eight states, serve any public benefit or do a better job of reducing drug abuse.

Coordinated by White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the committee met on July 27 with many of the largest agencies in the federal government, including the departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and State. An unclassified summary of the meeting, obtained by BuzzFeed News, says the memo is “predecisional and requires a close hold.” And it says the notes were not to be distributed externally.

The White House followed up the next week by sending agencies and other departments — including the departments of Defense, Education, Transportation and Veterans Affairs, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency — instructions to submit two-page, bulleted fact sheets that identify marijuana threats and issues with the initiatives by Aug. 10.

While spokespeople at those agencies declined to comment on the committee itself, asked if the Education Department had submitted its response to the White House, Liz Hill, a spokesperson for the agency, told BuzzFeed News this week, “I’m told we did turn it in on time to the WH.”

A State Department spokesperson told BuzzFeed News, “The State Department regularly coordinates with ONDCP on a wide range of drug control issues. For specific questions about the Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee, we refer you to ONDCP.”

Neither the ONDCP officials or White House press office responded to requests from BuzzFeed News to comment on the committee.

Departments were told to “identify marijuana threats; issues created by state marijuana initiatives; and consequences of use, production, and trafficking on national health, safety, and security.”

Joseph Eid / AFP / Getty Images

The agencies should also provide an example of a “story, relating an incident or picture, that illustrates one or more the key areas of concern related to use, production, and trafficking of marijuana,” the White House guidance says. The agencies were asked to describe how the drug poses threats to their department and the consequences of marijuana “on national health and security.”

“We are asking each agency to provide information on marijuana,” White House ONDCP staffer Hayley C. Conklin wrote in an email to department leaders on Aug. 1. She cited the guidance document, saying, “it will assist you in providing the appropriate information.”

Contacted by BuzzFeed News about the committee, Conklin told BuzzFeed News, “Thank you so much for calling, but I cannot comment,” then hung up the phone.

A number of agencies also declined to comment — including the departments of Labor, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and Transportation.

None of the 14 agencies BuzzFeed News contacted for this story, the DEA, or the White House denied the marijuana committee’s existence.

John Hudak, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, blasted the committee’s slanted approach to the facts and the “alienating effort on behalf of the president. ”

“This is a terrible political move by the administration,” he told BuzzFeed, saying that the committee’s agenda betrays Trump’s pledges to protect states from federal intervention — a position with overwhelming public support.

Hudak added it would be “policy malpractice” to only collect one-sided data. “The coordination of propaganda around an issue that the president ostensibly supported is fairly unprecedented.”

“This is a president who is not serious about states rights and regulatory reform in areas like drug policy, and is not serious about telling the truth to the American people or members of Congress from his own party,” Hudak said, pointing to Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican, who authored legislation that would protect states rights on marijuana and has praised Trump on the issue.

Gardner’s office did not reply to requests to comment on the committee.

Colorado Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat who is also running for governor this year, slammed the committee in a statement Wednesday. ”Pres. Trump is flailing on marijuana policy, sometimes saying the states should decide, while also allowing the Attorney General and other prohibition supporters in his purview to run amuck. If the White House is actually spreading misinformation about marijuana to undercut states’ rights, it’s appalling but not out of the ordinary for President Trump and his gang of prohibition supporters,” Polis said.

Although the White House said last year that it expected “greater enforcement” of marijuana in states where it’s legal, Trump has since suggested he’d support Gardner’s legislation to allow states to legalize marijuana untouched by the Justice Department. The move seemed to jab at Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has relentlessly threatened a pot crackdown. As leader of the Justice Department, Sessions has recited 1980s-style rhetoric about saying no to marijuana.

But Americans have diverged from the federal government’s hardline stance on pot prohibition — with eight states having now legalized its adult recreational use and authorizing systems to sell it like alcohol. A Quinnipiac University poll in April found that 63% of Americans support legalization.

While marijuana consumption rose in the 15 years before Colorado and Washington became the first states to start allowing adults to buy marijuana in 2013, according to JAMA Psychiatry, federal data indicate marijuana abuse disorder has dropped nationally since then.

CIA Arrogance and Imaginary “Invincibility” Handed 30 US Spies To Chinese Executioners

[Is the same thing now underway in Russia? (SEE: CIA’s Kremlin Spies Suddenly Go Dark)]

The CIA falsely believed it was ‘invincible’ in China — here’s how its spies were reportedly discovered and killed in one of the biggest blows to the agency

CIA Memorial Wall
The CIA Memorial Wall at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.
Alex Wong / Getty Images


  • A new Foreign Policy report cites sources detailing how the communication system between the CIA’s spies and handlers in China nearly a decade ago was compromised.

  • The vulnerability contributed to the deaths of at least 30 spies, the sources said.

  • This internet-based system, imported from operations in the Middle East, was apparently brought to China under the assumption that it could not be breached.

  • But, according to the report, the program actually had telltale links to the CIA that would have allowed China to work out what was going on.

A firewall used by the CIA to communicate with its spies in China compromised their identities and contributed to their executions by the Chinese government, several current and former intelligence officials told Foreign Policy magazine in a report published Wednesday.

In a two-year period starting in 2010, Chinese officials began accurately identifying spies working for the US.

Chinese authorities rounded up the suspects and executed or imprisoned them before their handlers were able to determine what was going on.

“You could tell the Chinese weren’t guessing,” one of the US officials said in the report. “The Ministry of State Security were always pulling in the right people.”

“When things started going bad, they went bad fast.”

US intelligence officials cited in the report are now placing the lion’s share of the blame on what one official called a “f—– up” communications system used between spies and their handlers.

This internet-based system, brought over from operations in the Middle East, was taken to China under the assumption that it could not be breached and made the CIA “invincible,” Foreign Policy reported.

David Petraeus Leon Panetta
Two former CIA directors, David Petraeus and Leon Panetta.
Dan Kitwood/John Javellana/Reuters


“It migrated to countries with sophisticated counterintelligence operations, like China,” an official said.

“The attitude was that we’ve got this, we’re untouchable.”

Intelligence officers and their sources were able to communicate with each other using ordinary laptops or desktop computers connected to the internet, marking a stark departure from some of the more traditional methods of covert communication.

This “throwaway” encrypted program, which was assumed to be untraceable and separate from the CIA’s main communication line, was reportedly used for new spies as a safety measure in case they double-crossed the agency.

Unbeknownst to the CIA, however, this system could be used to connect with mainstream CIA communications, used by fully vetted CIA sources.

According to the report, the vulnerability would have even allowed Chinese intelligence agencies to deduce it was being used by the US government.

china police
A police officer in Beijing.


The Chinese set up a task force to break in to the throwaway system, Foreign Policy said, but it was unclear how they ultimately identified people.

The consequences for this breach were grim.

About 30 spies were reportedly executed, though some intelligence officials told Foreign Policy that 30 was a low estimate.

The US officials were reportedly “shell-shocked” by the speed and accuracy of Chinese counterintelligence, and rescue operations were organized to evacuate their sources.

The last CIA case officer to meet with sources in China reportedly handed over large amounts of cash in hopes that it would help them escape, Foreign Policy said.

The CIA has since been rebuilding its network in China, but the process has been an expensive and long endeavor, according to The New York Times, which in 2017 first reported on the suspected vulnerability and sources’ deaths.

Joint Chief’s Chairman Dunsford Blasts Inflationary Pentagon/UN ISIS Force Estimates

“ISIS, like its parent organization, Al-Qaeda In Iraq, exists to serve the Pentagon’s need for a credible enemy, in the right place at the right time. Its force numbers have always been a matter of convenience for Pentagon/CIA public diplomacy efforts to paint the image of a convincingly threatening Islamist terrorist force. By both US and Russian kill estimates, the original force, originally estimated at 30,000 fighters, has been bombed into oblivion several times over. Remember the origin of ISIS.”

US General Dunford Casts Doubt On Pentagon Islamic State Report

By Jeff Seldin

A top U.S. military official is pushing back against the Pentagon’s own estimates which suggest the Islamic State terror group has retained significant capabilities in Iraq and Syria, and is “well-positioned” to rebuild its lost caliphate.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, challenged recent estimates from both the U.S. Defense Department and a United Nations report, indicating IS still has anywhere from 20,000 to 32,000 fighters in the two countries despite the collapse of its self-declared caliphate.

“I saw the recent reports of over 30,000 fighters,” Dunford told reporters Tuesday during a rare news conference with Defense Secretary James Mattis at the Pentagon. “I don’t have high confidence in those particular numbers.

“We’re focused on dealing with what remains a threat in [the] Euphrates River Valley. We know there are remaining residual pockets of ISIS inside Iraq,” Dunford added, using an acronym for the terror group. “But I certainly would not say ISIS has the same strength that it had at its peak.”

​Defense and intelligence officials have long been wary of using numbers alone to measure the effectiveness of the campaign to destroy IS, calling any such effort, at best, an imperfect science. And some senior officials have likewise voiced concerns, internally, that the newest estimates may be misleading, possibly counting family members or others with strong connections to IS, though not themselves likely to fight.

Iraq, Syria IS force strength

But the new estimates, contained in a report issued by the lead inspector general for Operation Inherent Resolve, along with a subsequent report from the United Nations, have raised concerns.

The inspector general report, citing Defense Department figures, said IS likely had more than 17,000 fighters in Iraq and another 13,100 to 14,500 in Syria, only 4,000 to 6,000 “remained in the U.S. military’s areas of operation.”

Together, the numbers come close to the U.S. Defense Department estimates of the size of the IS fighting force at its peak in 2015, when officials said the group had about 33,000 fighters at its disposal.

When questioned about the new estimates, the Pentagon told VOA via an emailed statement that IS “is well-positioned to rebuild and work on enabling its physical caliphate to re-emerge.”

Such assessments are a dramatic departure from previous characterizations of the scope of the IS threat, in which collation officials have described a terror organization in “disarray” with fighters “hiding in onesies and twosies amongst the population.”

The new estimates have been even more alarming given that, to date, the U.S.-led coalition has carried out about 24,000 airstrikes, killing close to 70,000 IS fighters, according to some U.S. military officials.

Still, Dunford on Tuesday downplayed the significance of any estimates regarding the number of IS fighters.

“Here’s what I’m confident of — that over the last two-and-half years, ISIS has lost about 98 percent of the ground that they’ve held,” he said. “They’ve lost significant access to resources and the flow of foreign fighters has been significantly reduced. Those are all quantifiable.”

‘Fight is not over’

Dunford said, for now, the U.S. focus is on clearing out the last remaining “significant” pocket of IS fighters, cornered in a small area of Syria’s Middle Euphrates River Valley, an operation slated to get under way shortly with the help of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

​Once that is done, the challenge will be to stabilize the area so that IS cannot return, which Dunford said, “is going to take some time to do.”

“We recognize the fight is not over,” Defense Secretary Mattis said, standing alongside Dunford, adding the approximately 2,000 U.S. troops stationed in Syria will stay there until ISIS is “taken out.”

“If the locals are able to keep the security, obviously during this time we might be reducing our troops commensurate with their ability to deny ISIS a return,” he said.

Yet aside from numbers of fighters, there are other indications the terror group is far from destroyed.

Just last week, IS’s reclusive leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, broke his silence for the first time in almost a year, urging his followers to be patient.

“For the mujahedeen, the scale of victory or defeat is not dependent on a city or town being stolen or subject to that who has aerial superiority, intercontinental missiles or smart bombs,” Baghdadi said in a recording released on social media.

There have also been more reports of a resurgent IS force in Iraq, with attacks reported in recent weeks in Diyala, Salah ad-Din and Kirkuk.

“It would be a mistake to think that the threat has dissipated and that this is just a mop-up operation at this point,” Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior analyst at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told VOA.

Gartenstein-Ross has long thought the initial U.S. estimates for IS fighters in 2014 and 2015 were far too low, arguing the terror group likely had close to about 100,000 fighters at its peak.

But he said the newer estimates of up to about 32,000 IS fighters could well be accurate.

“They have lost territory. There’s no question. They have fewer resources,” he said. “The flipside is we’ve seen this before. Groups like ISIS, after they reach a point where they can no longer control territory, try to come back as insurgent forces, and that’s where numbers matter.”

Carla Babb contributed to this report at the Pentagon.

John McCain Has Finally Done Something for The Greater Good—Died

John McCain b8561

*(Image credit: Official Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Mark Fayloga/flickr)

I hate to differ with the redoubtable Norman Finkelstein, but he was dead (pun intended) wrong when, toward the end of an unsparing obituary for the late dissident-cum-demagogue Christopher Hitchens, he wrote that “every death is a tragedy.” This seemed to me a silly thought from a serious mind. All deaths, after all, are not created equal—nor are all men, but that’s another story for another time. True, many deaths are tragic: civilian casualties of state terror; unarmed individuals gunned down by racist policemen; animals run over by cars in the street or, for that matter, carved up on the blood-soaked floor of the abattoir; anything involving children.

But death is not inherently tragic, any more than life is. To say that death is tragic is to say the same of life, since the former cannot exist without the latter. Death, like oxygen and water, is simply there. Circumstances alone determine whether a visit from the Grim Reaper is tragic, or neutral, or, as is often the case, favorable.

Was Pol Pot’s death tragic? Adolf Hitler’s? Joseph Mengele’s? How about another infamous Joe, surname Stalin—was his death tragic? Henry VIII’s? The Zodiac Killer’s, assuming he’s given up the ghost by now? Will it be tragic when Dick Cheney kicks the bucket? Only if he’s not waterboarded beforehand.

You get the point. None of the above-mentioned deaths were, or will be, tragic, and I don’t have to explain why. Nor should I have to explain why John McCain’s death, now the subject stomach-churning eulogies from every corner of our morally bankrupt “news” media, far from being tragic, is a decidedly happy occasion. But I’m going to anyway.

First things first. McCain was 81 years old. That means he surpassed by more than two years the average life expectancy in the United States, which, trending downward, currently sits at 78.6 years. So, however much we’d like to ascribe his cancer diagnosis to karma, we cannot. Actuarially speaking, McCain had already overstayed his welcome; he was tempting fate merely by being alive. But what’s this business about karma? As Henry Kissinger (a great favorite of McCain’s, incidentally) continues to demonstrate, it’s an illusory concept. Nevertheless, it’s useful in a rhetorical sense, and few if any public figures in the United States are more deserving of it than was John “Insane” McCain. What goes around comes around, as the cliché has it.

It’s no accident that a new bill allocating $716 billion—well over half the discretionary federal budget—to the Pentagon is called the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act. A frantic jingoist (or “patriot” in American newspeak) who never met a war by which he wasn’t visibly aroused, McCain was a walking billboard for US imperialism, and all the mayhem it continues to unleash upon the world. Of course, because our universe is devoid of justice, he died from natural causes rather than a direct hit from a drone strike.

The only tool in Old Man McCain’s shed was the sledgehammer. Consequently, every geopolitical issue looked to him like something that had to be obliterated, as opposed to resolved, and so a demolition project was invariably prescribed. Mother Jones once compiled a list of countries that McCain, at one point or another, wished to apply his patented sledgehammer treatment to.

The list is not exhaustive. It was published before the Euromaidan uprising and subsequent coup in Ukraine, about which, needless to say, McCain was very giddy. This in spite of, or probably because of, the fact that it was spearheaded by neo-Nazi thugs (for a primer, read up on Svoboda and Right Sector).

Video clips exist showing McCain delivering swashbuckling speeches to mobs of protesters in Kiev as the crisis approached its boiling point.

Likewise, McCain fetishized the al-Qaeda-led insurgency in Syria, traveling to the war-plagued country and posing for photographs with a few “freedom fighters” in 2013.

Nor did Mother Jones make reference to McCain’s role in the American empire’s war of destruction against Indochina, specifically Vietnam. Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman summed up the outcome of that disastrous adventure in Manufacturing Consent, writing:

In the South, 9,000 out of 15,000 hamlets were damaged or destroyed, along with some twenty-five million acres of farmland and twelve million acres of forest. One-and-a-half million cattle were killed, and the war left a million widows and some 800,000 orphans. In the North, all six industrial cities were damaged (three razed to the ground) along with twenty-eight of thirty provincial towns (twelve completely destroyed), ninety-six of 116 district towns, and 4,000 of some 5,800 communes. Four hundred thousand cattle were killed and over a million acres of farmland were damaged.

Something like three million Vietnamese were killed as a result of the American invasion, most of them civilians. McCain was a bomber pilot during the war. He flew more than twenty criminal bombing missions over North Vietnam (the number of innocent people McCain directly killed is anyone’s guess) until, in October 1967, his plane was downed by a surface-to-air missile. He was captured in Hanoi and imprisoned for five years, eventually confessing to being a war criminal, something he claimed never to have lived down. But don’t get him wrong: McCain wasn’t ashamed of his crimes, just that he buckled under pressure and admitted to them.

In 1970, McCain was interviewed by Spanish psychiatrist Fernando Barral. The doctor, later maligned by McCain as a “Cuban propagandist,” didn’t mince words while speaking of our late, great war hero’s psychological makeup:

From the moral and ideological point of view he showed us he is an insensitive individual without human depth, who does not show the slightest concern, who does not appear to have thought about the criminal acts he committed against a population from the almost absolute impunity of his airplane, and that nevertheless those people saved his life, fed him, and looked after his health, and he is now healthy and strong. I believe that he bombed densely populated places for sport. I noted he was hardened, that he spoke of banal things as if he were at a cocktail party.

McCain would go on to flaunt his lack of human depth in various ways, on various occasions. While campaigning for president in 2000, he was asked a question pertaining to his experience as a POW in Vietnam. “I hate the gooks,” he replied, using the Asian equivalent of “kike” or “nigger.” “I will hate them as long as I live.” (This is hardly surprising—after all, can you carpet bomb a people you don’t hate?) Curiously, or perhaps not, the viciously racist comment barely registered with the press, and did no damage to his absurd reputation as a man of impeccable fortitude and probity. Indeed, he managed to secure the Republican nomination for president eight years later, selecting as his running mate the one and only Sarah Palin, a “very low IQ individual,” as Trump might say.

It goes without saying that McCain was a big fan of NATO expansionism, a deranged policy pushing us to the brink of a military conflict with Russia—i.e. terminal nuclear war. Last year, McCain threw a temper tantrum on the floor of the Senate when Rand Paul thwarted his attempt to hold a vote on Montenegro’s prospective entry into NATO, accusing Paul of “working for Vladimir Putin.” In hindsight, Paul’s riposte seems prophetic. “I think [McCain] makes a really, really strong case for term limits,” he said. “I think maybe he’s past his prime. I think maybe he’s gotten a little bit unhinged.” Were the rogue cancer cells already eroding McCain’s gray matter? It’s difficult to say, as he was never exactly “hinged” to begin with.

If in spite of everything you’re still anxious about drinking to McCain’s death, bear in mind that he was instrumental in the US government’s disgraceful efforts to bury evidence that hundreds of American POWs were knowingly left behind in Vietnam. The sordid affair was presented in great detail by investigative journalist Syndey Schanberg; his myth-shattering article, “McCain and the POW Cover-Up” is required reading for anyone interested in the reality of the “Last Lion of the Senate,” as the New York Times saw fit to label him.

All in all, John McCain was a terrible scourge on our Republic and the world at large. I’d be lying if I said that, upon catching wind of his death, the air didn’t suddenly seem a little fresher, even here in smoggy Saigon. Good riddance to bad rubbish, indeed.


Map: All the Countries John McCain Has Wanted to Attack

Syria, Iraq, Russia, North Korea, and nine other nations the Arizona senator has been eager to bomb, invade, or destabilize.

Even before he was caught playing poker on his iPhone at a Senate hearing on Wednesday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) had already sent a message: Anything less than an extensive aerial assault on the Syrian regime by American forces would be an unacceptable approach to the conflict in the Middle East. This was hardly surprising. Over the last two decades, McCain has rarely missed an opportunity to call for the escalation of an international conflict. Since the mid-1990s, he’s pushed for regime change in more than a half-dozen countries—occasionally with disastrous consequences.Here’s a quick review of McCain’s eagerness for military action and foreign entanglements.


Fighting words: “Providing military assistance to the Free Syrian Army and other opposition groups is necessary, but at this late hour, that alone will not be sufficient to stop the slaughter and save innocent lives. The only realistic way to do so is with foreign air power.”

What he wanted: Airstrikes, culminating in regime change.

What was it good for? TBD.

Angry McCains: Five

IRAQ (part II)

Fighting words: “Leaders always have choices, and history teaches that hard choices deferred—appeasing Hitler, choosing not to deter Saddam Hussein in 1990, failing to act sooner against Al Qaeda—often bring about the very circumstances we wished to avoid by deferring action, requiring us to react in freedom’s defense. America’s leaders today have a choice. It will determine whether our people live in fear behind walls that have already been breached, as our enemies plan our defeat in time we have given them to do it.”

What he wanted: Ground war culminating in regime change.

What was it good for? See above.

Angry McCains: Five



Fighting words: “We should make an immediate statement of our resolve that we no longer intend to tolerate sanction given to our enemies by any nation…Should the Taliban refuse our demand, then they must know that they will be treated as allies of our enemy, and, thus, are themselves our enemies, and will suffer much for their allegiance.”

What he wanted: Osama bin Laden’s head, at any cost.

What was it good for? Ground war culminating in regime change (ongoing).

Angry McCains: Five




Fighting words: “I would arm, train, equip, both from without and from within, forces that would eventually overthrow the governments and install free and democratically-elected governments” (2000). “[I]t does take time, as it did during the period of the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. But we were able to provide them with some weapons and wherewithal to cause the Russians to leave Afghanistan. So we can do it” (2012).

What he wanted: Regime change.

What was it good for? Regime change (12 years—and one ill-considered tweet) later.

Angry McCains: Five



Fighting words: “The best course for us, NATO, Kosovo, Russia and even Serbia is to begin fighting this war as if it were a war, with huge stakes involved, instead of some strange interlude between peace initiatives…To that end, we should commence today to mobilize infantry and armored divisions for a possible ground war in Kosovo.”

What he wanted: Ground war culminating in regime change.

What was it good for? Airstrikes.

Angry McCains: Four


IRAQ (part i)

Fighting words: “It is clear to me that if we fail to act there will be inevitably a succession of dictators, of Saddam Husseins, of which around the globe there is an abundance.”

What he wanted: Ground war in Kuwait.

What was it good for? See above.

Angry McCains: Four



Fighting words: “If they knew where they were, I certainly would send in U.S. troops to rescue them, in a New York minute I would, without permission of the host country. I wouldn’t be waiting for some kind of permission from some guy named Goodluck Jonathan.”

What he wanted: Special ops raid against Boko Haram.

What was it good for? TBD.

Angry McCains: Four

image: mccain



Fighting words: “If [Bosnians] were equipped,especially with TOW missiles, some heavy armor, some tanks, then I think that we could foresee a stable situation.”

What he wanted: Air strikes and military assistance.

What was it good for? See above.

Angry McCains: Three



Fighting words: “I would arm, train, equip, both from without and from within, forces that would eventually overthrow the governments and install free and democratically-elected governments.”

What he wanted: Either regime change by aiding local opposition, or an outright military confrontation.

What was it good for? TBD

Angry McCains: Three



Fighting words: “It’s that old Beach Boys song, ‘Bomb Iran’? Bomb bomb bomb…”

What was it good for? Unspecified air strikes; unspecified support for dissident groups.

What he got: TBD.

Angry McCains: Three


Fighting words: “Today, we are all Georgians.”

What he wanted: Unspecified aggression toward Russia after invasion of Georgia.

What was it good for? Absolutely nothing.

Angry McCains: Two



Fighting words: “Now is the time to fundamentally rethink our relationship with Putin’s Russia. We need to deal with the Russia that is, not the Russia we might wish for. We cannot allow today’s action by Putin to stand without serious repercussions…We should push for the completion of all phases of our missile defense programs in Europe, and move expeditiously on another round of NATO expansion.”

What he wanted: A new Cold War.

What was it good for? Absolutely nothing.

Angry McCains: Two



Fighting words: “NATO should immediately establish and enforce a no-fly zone over Darfur to ensure that Khartoum ends its offensive military flights and bombing raids, as the Security Council has already demanded…[T]he United States should intensify efforts to persuade UN members to commit troops and funds for the UN force in Darfur, and it should develop plans for US logistical support.”

What he wanted: UN troops.

What was it good for? UN troops.

Angry McCains: Two



Fighting words: “We need to have DOD assistance as much as feasible and necessary to prevent Mali from deteriorating further into a chaotic situation.”

What he wanted: Military assistance.

What was it good for? Military assistance.

Angry McCains: Two



Fighting words: “The Arab Spring is coming to China.”

What he wanted: Totally unclear.

What was it good for? Nothing.

Angry McCains: One


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Hidden internal directive on Syria that got no UNSC approval DOES exist – Russian Foreign Ministry

Hidden internal directive on Syria that got no UNSC approval DOES exist – Russian Foreign Ministry

Hidden internal directive on Syria that got no UNSC approval DOES exist – Russian Foreign Ministry
The UN has devised internal guidelines for limiting cooperation with Syria until a “political transition” takes place there, and it was drafted without any consent from the Security Council, the Russian Foreign Ministry has said.

The document in question is entitled ‘Parameters and Principles of UN Assistance in Syria,’ the ministry wrote in a statement to RT. It was issued by the UN Secretariat in October 2017 and provides guidelines for the UN agencies and programs in their work with the war-torn country.

The Secretariat issued the paper without requesting consent or even consulting the UN Security Council or the UN member states, at least on an official level, the ministry noted, adding that the “guidelines” document still “penetrates deeply” into the political situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, thus “going beyond the issue of simple coordination between the UN structures.”

One particular provision of the document explicitly states that the UN “would be ready to facilitate reconstruction” in Syria only “once there is a genuine and inclusive political transition negotiated by the parties.” The Russian ministry described it as an apparent attempt to prevent the international organization from contributing to Syria’s recovery under the current circumstances, while enforcing a “politicized approach of the countries advocating a regime change.”

The directive also implicitly restricts the UN agencies’ cooperation with Damascus, the ministry said, adding that the text of the document says that “UN assistance must not assist parties who have allegedly committed war crimes or crimes against humanity.” The US and its allies in the West have repeatedly accused the Syrian government of various violations of international law and particularly blamed them for chemical weapons incidents that took place on Syrian soil. No hard evidence has ever been presented to substantiate those claims, while the West ignored relevant data provided by the Russian military operating in Syria.

“If some influential [UN] donors believe that … it is time to toughen the sanctions regime against Syria, it does not necessarily mean that the UN agencies should be guided by the same irresponsible approach,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in its statement, expressing its hope that the UN Secretariat will review its methods as Syria’s need for humanitarian assistance and reconstruction aid grows, not least due to an increasing number of refugees returning home.

The issue of an alleged “secret directive” having been distributed by the Secretariat throughout the UN system in October 2017 was first raised by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday. He did not name the document but said that it “prohibited the agencies… from participating in any kind of projects aimed at restoring the Syrian economy” until a “political transition” there.

Lavrov also linked the release of the directive with the “absolutely deconstructive” stance of the US on the issue of Syria’s reconstruction. The next day, the office of the spokesperson for the UN secretary-general denied the existence of any such document by saying that neither its department of political affairs nor any other UN entity had issued a “secret directive” on Syria.

Meanwhile, the ‘not secret’ but rather hard-to-find document mentioned by the Russian Foreign Ministry apparently indeed exists: It was briefly mentioned on an official UN website in a temporary job description. However, the text of the document has never been officially made public by any UN agency.

However, a supposed copy of the text of the directive, entitled ‘Parameters and Principles of UN Assistance in Syria’ and dated October 2017, was included as an annex in another paper published by the Global Protection Cluster – a structure directly linked to such UN agencies as the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). This document is still available online.

After declaring its commitment to the UN Charter and the Security Council resolutions, the document indeed states that any UN aid to the reconstruction efforts would be possible only following “political transition.” It also states the UN work should de-facto focus on basic humanitarian assistance only, while any “development and reconstruction activities that are outside this will need to be reflected in other frameworks that are by nature a longer negotiation with governments.”

The paper also openly states that the UN “will not promote the return of refugees.” Apart from prohibiting cooperation with “parties who have allegedly committed war crimes or crimes against humanity,” the guidelines also state that assistance must be “prioritized based on the needs of the population (rather than government-driven),” in what might be potentially considered an indirect attempt to limit the UN agencies’ cooperation with the Syrian government.

Parameters and Principles of Assistance to Syria


Parameters and Principles of UN assistance in Syria
(October 2017)
The following initial parameters and principles shall apply to all UN actors operating in Syria in order to ensure support and assistance is provided to those in need in all areas of Syria. Note that these parameters and principles are to be developed further and would also require setting a due-diligence process to ensure implementation. These principles and parameters, including any further revisions, must also be consistent with the principles of the Charter of the UN and relevant Security Council resolutions.
• Life-saving humanitarian needs remain enormous in Syria and assistance delivery through the most direct routes remains critical. Humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence apply to life-saving humanitarian assistance as well as early recovery and resilience activities with humanitarian objectives. The UN, with the active engagement of the Secretary-General, will endeavour to secure the maximum possible flow of humanitarian assistance into Syria, including through the most direct route, ensuring non-interference with its operations, to sustain operations envisaged in the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP).
• The HRP must remain humanitarian in order to ensure the United Nations can deliver on essential humanitarian activities to save lives and ensure the basic needs for people. Development or reconstruction activities that are outside this will need to be reflected in other frameworks that are by nature a longer negotiation with governments. This is essential given the complex legal and political issues involved.
• Early recovery and resilience activities in Syria, as currently outlined in the HRP, offer an opportunity to go beyond immediate life-saving assistance and offer minimum living conditions for local affected communities.
• The UN will advocate for the full range of durable solutions for IDPs and refugees, in the whole of Syria, support host communities and promote rights-based approaches in accordance with international law and standards. The UN will not promote the return of refugees and IDP, but will support returnees with a view to ensuring the safe, dignified, informed, voluntary and sustainable nature of return and reintegration, as well as the right of Syrians to seek and enjoy asylum.
• Only once there is a genuine and inclusive political transition negotiated by the parties, would the UN be ready to facilitate reconstruction.
• The aforementioned activities are delivered under the following principles:
o Principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence in mind and keeping with basic principles of human rights-based approach to programming, including participation, empowerment, local ownership, and sustainability.
o Assistance must be prioritized based on the needs of the population (rather than government driven) with a particular focus on the needs of vulnerable groups and individuals, in a manner that protects human rights as an outcome.
o It must be delivered in a fair, equitable, non-discriminatory and non-politicized manner.
o The UN shall work directly with communities and households, such that United Nations assistance is delivered with uniformity throughout Syria, regardless of zones of influence.
o The UN shall consider carefully human rights and protection implications, especially with regard to where and how assistance is provided. UN assistance must not assist parties who have allegedly committed war crimes or crimes against humanity.
• UN assistance shall be determined consciously and explicitly without prejudice to the goals of accountability for serious human rights violations, and the goals of legitimate, equitable, and sustainable political settlement.
• The specific needs and vulnerabilities of women shall be at the forefront of UN response planning and implementation.
Implementation and next steps
• A multi-disciplinary working group under the auspices of the UN Syria Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) will monitor adherence to the principles and parameters agreed by the UN system in this strategy, including political, legal, and human rights as well as humanitarian and development dimensions, and will report on this to the Secretary-General.
• UN agencies, funds and programmes should strengthen internal control, monitoring and tracking systems for the implementation of UN and partner programmes in Syria, with a view of taking all reasonable steps to avoid the diversion of or interference with aid assistance.
• A consultative needs assessment would be required that takes account of both needs and principles, including future expectations. Rigorous standards of due diligence should apply, drawing from the principles of the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy.
• The UN shall apply the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights in all areas of its work in Syria, including in its post-agreement planning.
• UN funding modalities should be independent of both government and donors, to the extent possible. In this context, the UN, with the active engagement and advocacy of the Secretary-General, will endeavour to ensure sufficient donor support.
• These agreed parameters shall form the basis of common positions and coordinated advocacy with key member states and donors.