ThereAreNoSunglasses

American Resistance To Empire

Trump To Designate Mexican Cartels As “Terrorist Organizations”…Is Mexico New Objective In War On Terror?

Trump: narco-terrorist designation has been under consideration for months. Trump: narco-terrorist designation has been under consideration for months.

Trump says drug cartels will be designated terrorist organizations

 

Mexico will seek high-level meeting with US to discuss the designation

The United States will designate Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations, U.S. President Donald Trump said in an interview Tuesday, triggering a request by Mexico for high-level bilateral talks.

“They will be designated . . . I have been working on that for the last 90 days” Trump told political commentator Bill O’Reilly.

“We’re losing 100,000 people a year to . . .what’s coming through Mexico,” Trump said, referring to narcotics trafficking. “They [the cartels] have unlimited money . . . it’s drug money and human trafficking money . . .”

Trump’s remarks prompted a swift response from the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs (SRE).

“The foreign secretary [Marcelo Ebrard] will establish contact with his counterpart, Michael R. Pompeo, in order to discuss this very important issue for the bilateral agenda,” the SRE said in a statement.

“In accordance with the good relations . . . between both countries, the Mexican government will seek a high-level meeting as soon as possible to present Mexico’s position and understand the point of view of United States authorities.”

Ebrard said Tuesday that he believed designating cartels as terrorists was unnecessary and stressed that Mexico will not allow a United States intervention in Mexico, an assertion repeated by President López Obrador on Wednesday.

He said he did not wish to start an argument on the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S. so his message to Donald Trump was a brief one: “Cooperation yes, interventionism no. And that’s where we shall leave it.”

López Obrador also offered hugs to U.S. citizens in celebration of the holiday.

Trump’s affirmation that the terrorist designation will be made came two days after the LeBarón family, who lost nine members in a suspected cartel ambush this month, posted a petition to a White House website that calls on the United States government to do exactly that.

But conservative U.S. lawmakers have been urging the Trump administration to classify cartels as terrorists since early this year.

The president sent Thanksgiving hugs to Americans at his press conference Wednesday morning.
The president sent Thanksgiving hugs to Americans at his press conference Wednesday morning.

Two Republican party representatives called for the move in a February letter to Secretary of State Pompeo, and soon after Trump endorsed the idea, telling the news website Breitbart, “we’re thinking about doing it very seriously . . . Mexico, unfortunately, has lost control of the cartels.”

Once a group is designated as a terrorist organization, it is illegal under U.S. law for people to knowingly offer support. Members of the organization are barred from entering the United States and those already in the country face deportation.

Financial institutions that become aware they have funds linked to a terrorist group must block the money and notify the U.S. Treasury Department.

Some of the implications of the designation were aired by Mexican columnist León Krauze in The Washington Post last week. He wrote that a terrorist designation of Mexican cartels “would greatly complicate an already strained bilateral agenda.”

He said “the U.S. government would be immediately granted a set of blunt diplomatic instruments that could have unforeseen consequences for both countries.” He noted that U.S. intelligence capabilities and the government’s ability to antagonize people suspected of assisting cartels would both increase.

“. . . While the situation in Mexico is undeniably difficult, the designation of some of the country’s cartels as terrorist organizations seems disproportionate and counterproductive,” Krauze wrote.

Arturo Sarukhán, a former Mexican ambassador to the United States, told Milenio TV that a designation could have “very broad and brutal political, diplomatic, financial, economic and commercial consequences.”

The move would reinforce “this narrative of Mexico as a threat to the national security of the United States,” he said.

The editor of the newspaper El Economista argued that the planned designation is politically motivated, writing in an opinion piece that “the president knows that attacking Mexico can offer him a high return from his electoral base.”

Luis Miguel González contended that the move would further complicate U.S. ratification of the new North American trade agreement and could cause the bilateral relationship to plummet to “new lows.”

He predicted that the U.S. president will increasingly use Mexico as a punching bag as the 2020 presidential election draws closer.

“. . . Will Trump take the Mexican piñata out of the garage? You can bet that he will. Perhaps he won’t dare to break it because of the high risk that implies . . .” González wrote.

“[But] maybe he will because he likes strong emotions, because he’s a supporter of protectionism more than free trade and . . . because he doesn’t like Mexico. It’s as simple as that.”

Iran arrests 8 ‘linked to CIA’ during unrest–state media

Iranian women holding national flags and pictures of the Islamic republic’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, take part in a pro-government demonstration in Tehran, November 25, 2019. /VCG Photo

Iranian security agents arrested at least eight people linked to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) during last week’s unrest over gasoline price hikes, the official news agency IRNA reported on Wednesday.

“These elements had received CIA-funded training in various countries under the cover of becoming citizen-journalists,” the Intelligence Ministry told IRNA.

Among them, “six were arrested while attending the riots and carrying out (CIA) orders and two while trying to… send information abroad,” said ministry authorities.

The unrest, which began in October, soon lost control with banks, petrol pumps and police stations vandalized in some areas by protesters.

Iranian officials have so far confirmed five fatalities and around 500 arrests, while some organizations gave largely different numbers indicating more deaths.

The branch of a local bank that was damaged during demonstrations against petrol price hikes in Shahriar, west of Tehran, November 20, 2019. /VCG Photo

Upon the end of the fuel protest, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday that the violent turnout following the oil price hike was a plot set by the United States.

“The people foiled a deep, vast and very dangerous conspiracy on which a lot of money was spent for destruction, viciousness and the killing of people,” said Khamenei on the state TV.

Condemning the U.S. interference in the unrest and showing support for the Iranian government, large numbers of Iranians across the country went on the street holding slogans and images of their leaders on Wednesday.

It was not the first time that the ministry claimed that they identified CIA affiliated spies in the nation.

Back in July, the agency said that they had arrested in total 17 by March 2019, the end of last Iranian calendar year. Some received death penalty and some were sentenced to long imprisonment.

The head counter-intelligence official said that the spies were working for industries across fields including infrastructure, cyberspace and nuclear programs, while leaking vital information to the foreign enemy.

U.S. President Donald Trump then denied the accusation on Twitter and called the report of arrests “false.”

(With input from Reuters)

US Hong Kong bill nothing but a vain attempt to interfere in China’s internal affairs

US Hong Kong bill nothing but a vain attempt to interfere in China’s internal affairs

More than 100 residents of Hong Kong, mostly young people, awaken the city by sending their best wishes to the nation and the city at Wan Chai’s Golden Bauhinia Square, on Sept 17, 2019. [Photo/China Daily]

The US Senate passed the so-called Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 on Tuesday local time despite strong opposition from the Chinese government.

As a barefaced encouragement to the Hong Kong rioters, this act neglects facts and truth, applies double standards and blatantly interferes in China’s internal affairs.

It is in serious violation of international law and basic norms governing international relations, stirring up trouble against the Chinese people including the Hong Kong compatriots and once again exposing the US hegemonic way of thinking to the entire world.

The US should know that any such bill is nothing but a vain attempt and doomed to fail. It must withdraw the black hand behind the Hong Kong affairs.

Over the past few months, demonstrations in Hong Kong triggered by the revision of the extradition bill have continuously escalated, challenging the bottom line of law, morality and humanity.

The rioters have smashed buildings, committed arson, paralyzed the traffic, assaulted the police officers, injured innocent citizens and even besieged universities and threatened to turn them into riot bridgehead.

They have not only seriously infringed upon the personal safety, freedom of speech and other basic human rights of the Hong Kong citizens, including the police officers, but also undermined the rule of law and social order, wreaked havoc on Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, challenged the bottom line of the principle of “one country, two systems”, and positioned Hong Kong in an extremely dangerous situation.

The US, however, turned a blind eye to the crimes committed by the radicals. Under the guise of human rights and freedom, it has grossly interfered in the affairs of Hong Kong and China’s internal affairs, vilified the central government and the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), and openly supported the illegal activities to oppose China and destabilize Hong Kong.

Sovereign equality and non-interference in other sovereign countries’ internal affairs are the most fundamental and important principles of the international law. For a long time, many developing countries, including China, have suffered from foreign interference in their internal affairs. Normally, such interference was in the name of human rights and freedom.

As for this time, the US has adopted a series of policies to manipulate the rioters, fully revealing the country’s ill intention of and double standards in meddling in other countries’ internal affairs under the guise of human rights and freedom.

The US has never stood up for Hong Kong when the place was colonized by Britain and deprived of human rights and freedom, but it decides now to make irresponsible and slanderous remarks about Hong Kong that enjoys unprecedented rights and freedom.

In fact, the US itself has kept a poor record on human rights, yet it dares to openly comment on Hong Kong, a region with higher ranking in terms of freedom and rule of law.

When dealing with demonstrations back home, the US government authorized the police to suppress the protesters ruthlessly. However, the US officials criticized the Hong Kong police who have been enforcing the law in a restrained and rightful manner, which is a total disregard of the public demand for ending violence and chaos and restoring order in the Hong Kong community.

At a dangerous moment when Hong Kong is sliding towards the abyss of “terrorism”, the American politicians, by pushing forward the latest bill regardless of the interests of the general public of Hong Kong, are indeed creating a “safe haven” for the thugs, creating obstacles for the SAR government to stop violence and chaos, and threatening those who uphold the rule of law and order.

The US has fully exposed its absurd and hypocritical double standards by trampling on international law and the basic norms governing international relations, as well as its true intention to conduct hegemonic practices under the disguise of human rights and democracy.

Numerous facts have proven that American politicians never care about Hong Kong’s public welfare, democracy, or human rights.

By destroying Hong Kong’s position as the international financial, trade and shipping center, intimidating the righteous people who stop violence and control chaos, and blatantly “paving the way” for the thugs, they are doing nothing but gaining political capital and containing China’s development through the chaos in Hong Kong.

At present, stopping violence, curbing chaos and restoring order are the most pressing task for Hong Kong, representing the broadest public will and the most important human right in Hong Kong.

Any attempt by the US to destabilize Hong Kong and impede China’s development is wishful thinking. Hong Kong is a part of China, and its affairs must be handled within the framework of the constitution of the People’s Republic of China and the basic law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

The Chinese government will never allow external forces to do whatever they want on the Hong Kong affairs. No country should expect China to turn a blind eye to any attempt of undermining its sovereignty, security and development interests.

The Chinese government is unshakable in its determination to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests, to implement the principle of “one country, two systems”, and to oppose any external interference in Hong Kong affairs.

Playing the “Hong Kong card” is doomed to fail. Any bill that violates the basic norms of the international law and international relations and interferes with China’s internal affairs will be a scrap of paper.

The US must recognize the current situation, pull back from the cliff, and stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs so as to avoid inviting trouble. If the US does not follow through, China will take strong measures as counteraction, and the US must bear all the consequences.

US Hong Kong Act Direct Interference In Hong Kong Government, Far Surpassing Any Foreign Interference Here

Furious China threatens retaliation over US law on Hong Kong–“The nature of this is extremely abominable, and harbours absolutely sinister intentions.” 

Oil falls as US rights bill fuels tensions with China

Gold Prices Recover Amid Concerns Over Hong Kong, Sino-U.S. Relations

Republican Senator Marco Rubio, one of the leading advocates of the bill, said in his speech: “Today, the United States Senate sent a clear message to Hong Kongers fighting for their long-cherished freedoms: we hear you, we continue to stand with you, and we will not stand idly by as Beijing undermines your autonomy.”–Is HK Human Rights and Democracy Act a piece of scrap paper?

Why Hongkongers owe Donald Trump nothing, despite the steadfast support of Congress

 

Hong Kong’s self-styled saviour does not deserve the gratitude of the city’s citizens. Mr Trump may have signed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act but his words show whose side he is really on.

American presidents engage in realpolitik, this is a given. They have to make tough decisions and sometimes have to keep schtum about horrors being committed beyond their borders. At best, when they go about this business they will, as the Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky put it, ask themselves “how will it look to the boys in the camps?”. Yet for all the sentimental thoughts in the world they nevertheless act as Washington’s head.

donald trump

Donald Trump. File photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Congress, by contrast, is where the heart is at – and boy, has this heart bled in recent months. Since millions of Hongkongers took to the streets in opposition to the proposed extradition bill with Beijing, there has been an outpouring of solidarity from senators and members of Congress alike. This support has remained steadfast as one demand expanded into five in the face of violent police suppression. All which shows that although Hong Kong can easily slip off Capitol Hill’s radar goodwill towards the city’s pro-democracy movement remains widespread.

We’ve been here before. Following the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown, Congress was quick to help Hong Kong. Immigration reforms ensured that more Hongkongers would have access to an escape hatch should the city’s autonomy quickly deteriorate post-handover. More importantly, in 1992 Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell pushed through the Hong Kong Policy Act ensuring special treatment for the territory providing Beijing obeyed by its promise of One Country Two Systems. In recent years this law, and the threat to revoke it, has given Washington significant leverage over an overly zealous Chinese Communist Party.

This month, now in the lofty position of Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell has once again been part of passing through Congress landmark Hong Kong legislation, despite some unnecessary delays on his part. The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act increases the level of executive reporting and orders the US executive to impose sanctions on individuals responsible for suppressing basic freedoms. While the bill proposes visa bans, and asset freezes, for perpetrators it also ensures that arrested pro-democracy protestors do not face visa blocks. All in all, these are substantial measures which also send a strong message to China.

October 14 chater garden rally US human rights and democracy act

Photo: Studio Incendo.

Despite the overwhelming level of support on the Hill for the bill, Trump spent a week refusing to say whether or not he will sign it. Surprise, surprise – this arch-mercantilist was more concerned about his precious trade deal. Not that this mattered so much. Barring a presidential veto the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act would have become law anyway, given that it has passed both houses of Congress.

In the end, Trump did sign, as many expected he would, but it should be noted without much public fanfare. A short accompanying statement from Trump said: “I signed these bills out of respect for President Xi, China, and the people of Hong Kong.” Words so banal they can hardly be presented as the message of solidarity for the city’s pro-democracy movement which many Republican’s, like McConnell, have been urging him to make.

Yet the lackluster signing of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act is totally in line with the President’s track record. Throughout the past few months, Mr Trump has remained suspiciously silent. His state department and its chief, Mike Pompeo, have talked tough. His Vice-President has blasted Beijing on a range of issues, including Hong Kong, over the past year. Yet the few remarks made by Trump # have been stupefyingly facile if not downright stomach churning.

October 14 US rally Hong Kong Human Rights Democracy Act Chater Garden

A poster of US symbol Uncle Sam with the phrase “Fight for Freedom, stand with Hong Kong.”

Of course silence from the White House is nothing new. As mentioned earlier Trump is not the first man to sit in the Oval Office to opted for the ‘pragmatic course’. Yet even Barrack Obama, who was keen to avoid fuelling Beijing’s foreign interference line during the Umbrella occupations, told General Secretary Xi:

[T]he United States, as a matter of foreign policy but also a matter of our values, we are going to consistently speak out on the right of people to express themselves, and encourage the elections that take place in Hong Kong are transparent and fair and reflective of the opinions of people there.

At the height of tensions this summer, as Chinese paramilitary vehicles moved along the Shenzhen-Hong Kong border, Trump did little to live up to his title of Leader of the Free World, saying it is a ‘very tough situation’ ‘I just hope it gets solved’. Quite a contrast to the moral and purposeful statement of his predecessor is it not?

More gut wrenching still has been the level of  praise heaped on the “King” of China by the current Commander-in-Chief. “I’m also standing with President Xi” Trump told Fox & Friends upon the Senate’s approval of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. “He is a friend of mine. He is an incredible guy” he went on to say about the dictator responsible for the vast network of concentration camps in Xinjiang.

More outrageous still has been Trump’s attempt to present himself as Hong Kong’s saviour, after having just sucked up to the man responsible for squeezing the city. In years to come, those digging through the archives will have a better idea of whether or not Trump himself saved Hong Kong from a fourteen-minute obliteration. For now, however, I think it is safe to assume that this is just more Trump bluster. Whatever the president said to persuade Xi from rolling back the tanks I cannot imagine. Whatever it was would stand in stark contrast to the weaselly promise, reported by Politico, which he made to stay quiet about a Chinese government crackdown during a phone call with Xi in mid-June.

Trump’s lacklustre signing of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, along with his history of silence, interrupted with pro-Xi outbursts, tells you exactly who the president’s friends are and who he is his prepared to stand by. Those flying the Star-Spangled Banner on the streets of Hong Kong are not wrong to do so, there are many in Washington who care deeply about freedom in the city. Sadly, at this moment in time, this group of people does not include the top decision-maker.

Sadistic Murder and Attempted Genocide Is Only “Terrorism” When Committed By Our Enemies

Terrorism: Propaganda Versus Reality

There is hardly an accusation more damning in American political discourse than to be declared a “sponsor of terrorism.” We are used to certain countries, primarily Iran, being labeled by government officials and media outlets as state sponsors of terrorism. In the case of Iran, this claim is certainly true. But Sun columnist Michael Johns ’20, echoing a statement by former President George W. Bush, takes this accusation to the extreme by claiming that Iran is the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism. The recent historical record, however, shows that this is far from true: It is the United States that routinely tops the list of rogue states with little regard for international law and diplomatic norms.

To make such an accusation against a country merits an investigation into its veracity. Johns references Iranian support for violent non-governmental actors such as the Lebanese militant-political party Hezbollah and Shi’ite militias in Iraq, as well as its ties to the Houthi rebels in Yemen, as proof that Iran reigns world champion of terrorism. In analyzing Johns’ and Bush’s accusation, it will be helpful to consider some of the most extensive instances of international terrorism since the 1979 Iranian Revolution brought about Iran’s current regime.

First, we turn to the ongoing Yemeni Civil War, the “worst humanitarian crisis in the world,” according to international observers. The suffering is far from limited to traditional wartime deaths, which number at just under 100,000 so far. Some 85,000 children under the age of five died of starvation as of November 2018, a result of a famine caused by a military blockade of Yemen. It is unlikely that this famine and the indiscriminate targeting of civilians via airstrikes will come to an end soon, as the state-terrorist perpetrator’s principal military ally has blocked all efforts to end its patronage of the regime committing these crimes.

But the perpetrator of these atrocities is not the Iranian-backed Houthi Movement, and Iran is not the unrepentant enabler: The perpetrator is Saudi Arabia, and its patron is the U.S. Executive Branch. Saudi Arabia regularly commits the same types of outrageous human rights violations against its own citizens for which Johns rightly condemns Iran. We can therefore conclude not only that Iranian support for the Houthi rebels in Yemen is not an example of Iran’s alleged supremacy in the realm of international terrorism, but that a closer look at the reality of the war in Yemen paints a radically different picture of who is sponsoring “terrorism” in the country.

Johns’ next example of Iranian terror is the regime’s support for Hezbollah, a Lebanese political-military faction that emerged as an armed Shi’a-Islamist opposition to the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon in the 1980s. Hezbollah is best remembered in the U.S. for perpetrating bombings against Israeli-allied and American targets in Lebanon during the country’s civil war. Iran has been a consistent ally of Hezbollah since its founding.

Perhaps the most extensive example of state-sponsored terrorism contemporary to the emergence of Hezbollah is that of the Contra War in Nicaragua. The Contras were a collection of paramilitary organizations and mercenaries receiving funding, intelligence, training, and arms from the CIA for most of the 1980s. They systematically killed civilians and attacked public spaces in order to bring the popular Nicaraguan government to its knees, a tactic that an honest observer might refer to as “terrorism.” Contra fighters routinely committed the types of gruesome executions we tend to associate with ISIS. In 1986, the World Court ruled that the Reagan Administration had violated international law in aiding the Contras, and Nicaragua continues to seek billions in reparations. By 1990, the Contra-led assault on Nicaragua had claimed over 30,000 lives — an example of terror contemporary to the first phase of Hezbollah terror in Lebanon, but on a much larger scale. Atrocities of larger magnitude were carried out at the same time in El Salvador and Guatemala, perpetrated by U.S.-backed military dictatorships rather than rouge rebel armies, all part of a strategy of financing groups violently opposed to political reform in Central America.

With so many examples of U.S.-backed terrorist groups and murderous regimes contemporary to each instance of Iranian sponsorship of terror, you begin to wonder how Johns and so many other American commentators have managed to present the narrative that Iran is the leading sponsor of terrorism in the world. The U.S. government does have a list of state sponsors of terrorism that includes only Iran, Syria, Sudan and North Korea. All are authoritarian regimes that brutalize their own populations. But curiously absent from the list are the chief U.S.-backed human rights abusing states of our time, such as Saudi Arabia and the Arab Gulf States, Egypt, Israel, Colombia and the Philippines, to name a few.

It is therefore revealed what is meant by “terrorism” in the vernacular of many American government officials and political commentators: “Terrorism” is a term which categorically excludes any state, paramilitary or rebel army that commits acts of politically-motivated violence so long as it is allied (or directed by) the U.S. If we want to “reign in Iran’s brutal regime” with any sense of moral high ground, then perhaps it is time to have an honest discussion about state-sponsored violence in the world and reject the blinding, hyper-nationalist ideology that refuses to recognize terrorism as such unless it is committed by an official enemy.

Jacob Brown is a Ph.D. candidate in applied mathematics at Cornell University. He can be reached at jtb257@cornell.edu. Mapping Utopia runs every other Tuesday this semester.

THEY LIVE, WE SLEEP–BEWARE THE GROWING EVIL IN OUR MIDST

They Live, We Sleep: Beware the Growing Evil in Our MidstJohn W. Whitehead, Rutherford
Waking Times

“You see them on the street. You watch them on TV. You might even vote for one this fall. You think they’re people just like you. You’re wrong. Dead wrong.” — They Live

We’re living in two worlds, you and I.

There’s the world we see (or are made to see) and then there’s the one we sense (and occasionally catch a glimpse of), the latter of which is a far cry from the propaganda-driven reality manufactured by the government and its corporate sponsors, including the media.

Indeed, what most Americans perceive as life in America—privileged, progressive and free—is a far cry from reality, where economic inequality is growing, real agendas and real power are buried beneath layers of Orwellian doublespeak and corporate obfuscation, and “freedom,” such that it is, is meted out in small, legalistic doses by militarized police armed to the teeth.

All is not as it seems.

This is the premise of John Carpenter’s film They Live, which was released more than 30 years ago, and remains unnervingly, chillingly appropriate for our modern age.

Best known for his horror film Halloween, which assumes that there is a form of evil so dark that it can’t be killed, Carpenter’s larger body of work is infused with a strong anti-authoritarian, anti-establishment, laconic bent that speaks to the filmmaker’s concerns about the unraveling of our society, particularly our government.

Time and again, Carpenter portrays the government working against its own citizens, a populace out of touch with reality, technology run amok, and a future more horrific than any horror film.

In Escape from New York, Carpenter presents fascism as the future of America.

In The Thing, a remake of the 1951 sci-fi classic of the same name, Carpenter presupposes that increasingly we are all becoming dehumanized.

In Christine, the film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel about a demon-possessed car, technology exhibits a will and consciousness of its own and goes on a murderous rampage.

In In the Mouth of Madness, Carpenter notes that evil grows when people lose “the ability to know the difference between reality and fantasy.”

And then there is Carpenter’s They Live, in which two migrant workers discover that the world is not as it seems. In fact, the population is actually being controlled and exploited by aliens working in partnership with an oligarchic elite. All the while, the populace—blissfully unaware of the real agenda at work in their lives—has been lulled into complacency, indoctrinated into compliance, bombarded with media distractions, and hypnotized by subliminal messages beamed out of television and various electronic devices, billboards and the like.

It is only when homeless drifter John Nada (played to the hilt by the late Roddy Piper) discovers a pair of doctored sunglasses—Hoffman lenses—that Nada sees what lies beneath the elite’s fabricated reality: control and bondage.

When viewed through the lens of truth, the elite, who appear human until stripped of their disguises, are shown to be monsters who have enslaved the citizenry in order to prey on them.

Likewise, billboards blare out hidden, authoritative messages: a bikini-clad woman in one ad is actually ordering viewers to “MARRY AND REPRODUCE.” Magazine racks scream “CONSUME” and “OBEY.” A wad of dollar bills in a vendor’s hand proclaims, “THIS IS YOUR GOD.”

When viewed through Nada’s Hoffman lenses, some of the other hidden messages being drummed into the people’s subconscious include: NO INDEPENDENT THOUGHT, CONFORM, SUBMIT, STAY ASLEEP, BUY, WATCH TV, NO IMAGINATION, and DO NOT QUESTION AUTHORITY.

This indoctrination campaign engineered by the elite in They Live is painfully familiar to anyone who has studied the decline of American culture.

A citizenry that does not think for themselves, obeys without question, is submissive, does not challenge authority, does not think outside the box, and is content to sit back and be entertained is a citizenry that can be easily controlled.

In this way, the subtle message of They Live provides an apt analogy of our own distorted vision of life in the American police state, what philosopher Slavoj Žižek refers to as dictatorship in democracy, “the invisible order which sustains your apparent freedom.”

We’re being fed a series of carefully contrived fictions that bear no resemblance to reality.

The powers-that-be want us to feel threatened by forces beyond our control (terrorists, shootersbombers).

They want us afraid and dependent on the government and its militarized armies for our safety and well-being.

They want us distrustful of each other, divided by our prejudices, and at each other’s throats.

Most of all, they want us to continue to march in lockstep with their dictates.

Tune out the government’s attempts to distract, divert and befuddle us and tune into what’s really going on in this country, and you’ll run headlong into an unmistakable, unpalatable truth: the moneyed elite who rule us view us as expendable resources to be used, abused and discarded.

In fact, a study conducted by Princeton and Northwestern University concluded that the U.S. government does not represent the majority of American citizens. Instead, the study found that the government is ruled by the rich and powerful, or the so-called “economic elite.” Moreover, the researchers concluded that policies enacted by this governmental elite nearly always favor special interests and lobbying groups.

In other words, we are being ruled by an oligarchy disguised as a democracy, and arguably on our way towards fascism—a form of government where private corporate interests rule, money calls the shots, and the people are seen as mere subjects to be controlled.

Not only do you have to be rich—or beholden to the rich—to get elected these days, but getting elected is also a surefire way to get rich. As CBS News reports, “Once in office, members of Congress enjoy access to connections and information they can use to increase their wealth, in ways that are unparalleled in the private sector. And once politicians leave office, their connections allow them to profit even further.”

In denouncing this blatant corruption of America’s political system, former president Jimmy Carter blasted the process of getting elected—to the White House, governor’s mansion, Congress or state legislatures—as “unlimited political bribery… a subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect, and sometimes get, favors for themselves after the election is over.”

Rest assured that when and if fascism finally takes hold in America, the basic forms of government will remain: Fascism will appear to be friendly. The legislators will be in session. There will be elections, and the news media will continue to cover the entertainment and political trivia. Consent of the governed, however, will no longer apply. Actual control will have finally passed to the oligarchic elite controlling the government behind the scenes.

Sound familiar?

Clearly, we are now ruled by an oligarchic elite of governmental and corporate interests.

We have moved into “corporatism” (favored by Benito Mussolini), which is a halfway point on the road to full-blown fascism.

Corporatism is where the few moneyed interests—not elected by the citizenry—rule over the many. In this way, it is not a democracy or a republican form of government, which is what the American government was established to be. It is a top-down form of government and one which has a terrifying history typified by the developments that occurred in totalitarian regimes of the past: police states where everyone is watched and spied on, rounded up for minor infractions by government agents, placed under police control, and placed in detention (a.k.a. concentration) camps.

For the final hammer of fascism to fall, it will require the most crucial ingredient: the majority of the people will have to agree that it’s not only expedient but necessary.

But why would a people agree to such an oppressive regime?

The answer is the same in every age: fear.

Fear makes people stupid.

Fear is the method most often used by politicians to increase the power of government. And, as most social commentators recognize, an atmosphere of fear permeates modern America: fear of terrorism, fear of the police, fear of our neighbors and so on.

The propaganda of fear has been used quite effectively by those who want to gain control, and it is working on the American populace.

Despite the fact that we are 17,600 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist attack; 11,000 times more likely to die from an airplane accident than from a terrorist plot involving an airplane; 1,048 times more likely to die from a car accident than a terrorist attack, and 8 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist , we have handed over control of our lives to government officials who treat us as a means to an end—the source of money and power.

As the Bearded Man in They Live warns, “They are dismantling the sleeping middle class. More and more people are becoming poor. We are their cattle. We are being bred for slavery.”

In this regard, we’re not so different from the oppressed citizens in They Live.

From the moment we are born until we die, we are indoctrinated into believing that those who rule us do it for our own good. The truth is far different.

Despite the truth staring us in the face, we have allowed ourselves to become fearful, controlled, pacified zombies.

We live in a perpetual state of denial, insulated from the painful reality of the American police state by wall-to-wall entertainment news and screen devices.

Most everyone keeps their heads down these days while staring zombie-like into an electronic screen, even when they’re crossing the street. Families sit in restaurants with their heads down, separated by their screen devices and unaware of what’s going on around them. Young people especially seem dominated by the devices they hold in their hands, oblivious to the fact that they can simply push a button, turn the thing off and walk away.

Indeed, there is no larger group activity than that connected with those who watch screens—that is, television, lap tops, personal computers, cell phones and so on. In fact, a Nielsen study reports that American screen viewing is at an all-time high. For example, the average American watches approximately 151 hours of television per month.

The question, of course, is what effect does such screen consumption have on one’s mind?

Psychologically it is similar to drug addiction. Researchers found that “almost immediately after turning on the TV, subjects reported feeling more relaxed, and because this occurs so quickly and the tension returns so rapidly after the TV is turned off, people are conditioned to associate TV viewing with a lack of tension.” Research also shows that regardless of the programming, viewers’ brain waves slow down, thus transforming them into a more passive, nonresistant state.

Historically, television has been used by those in authority to quiet discontent and pacify disruptive people. “Faced with severe overcrowding and limited budgets for rehabilitation and counseling, more and more prison officials are using TV to keep inmates quiet,” according to Newsweek.

Given that the majority of what Americans watch on television is provided through channels controlled by six mega corporations, what we watch is now controlled by a corporate elite and, if that elite needs to foster a particular viewpoint or pacify its viewers, it can do so on a large scale.

If we’re watching, we’re not doing.

The powers-that-be understand this. As television journalist Edward R. Murrow warned in a 1958 speech:

We are currently wealthy, fat, comfortable and complacent. We have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information. Our mass media reflect this. But unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse, and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it, and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late.

This brings me back to They Live, in which the real zombies are not the aliens calling the shots but the populace who are content to remain controlled.

When all is said and done, the world of They Live is not so different from our own. As one of the characters points out, “The poor and the underclass are growing. Racial justice and human rights are nonexistent. They have created a repressive society and we are their unwitting accomplices. Their intention to rule rests with the annihilation of consciousness. We have been lulled into a trance. They have made us indifferent to ourselves, to others. We are focused only on our own gain.”

We, too, are focused only on our own pleasures, prejudices and gains. Our poor and underclasses are also growing. Racial injustice is growing. Human rights is nearly nonexistent. We too have been lulled into a trance, indifferent to others.

Oblivious to what lies ahead, we’ve been manipulated into believing that if we continue to consume, obey, and have faith, things will work out. But that’s never been true of emerging regimes. And by the time we feel the hammer coming down upon us, it will be too late.

So where does that leave us?

The characters who populate Carpenter’s films provide some insight.

Underneath their machismo, they still believe in the ideals of liberty and equal opportunity. Their beliefs place them in constant opposition with the law and the establishment, but they are nonetheless freedom fighters.

When, for example, John Nada destroys the alien hyno-transmitter in They Live, he restores hope by delivering America a wake-up call for freedom.

That’s the key right there: we need to wake up.

Stop allowing yourselves to be easily distracted by pointless political spectacles and pay attention to what’s really going on in the country.

The real battle for control of this nation is not being waged between Republicans and Democrats in the ballot box.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the real battle for control of this nation is taking place on roadsides, in police cars, on witness stands, over phone lines, in government offices, in corporate offices, in public school hallways and classrooms, in parks and city council meetings, and in towns and cities across this country.

The real battle between freedom and tyranny is taking place right in front of our eyes, if we would only open them.

All the trappings of the American police state are now in plain sight.

Wake up, America.

If they live (the tyrants, the oppressors, the invaders, the overlords), it is only because “we the people” sleep.

About the Author

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute, where this article (John Lennon Was Right: The Government Is Run by Maniacs for Maniacal Means) was originally published. He is the author of A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State and The Change Manifesto.

Turkey Blasts American Use of Terrorists To Fight Terrorists In Syria

Turkey foils plan ‘cooked’ in Pentagon’: Expert

With its anti-terror operations, Turkey thwarts emergence of terror corridor near its borders, says think-tank chief

Nazli Yuzbasioglu
Turkey foils plan 'cooked' in Pentagon’: ExpertBurhanettin Duran, Director of the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA)

ANKARA 

Having carried out three counter-terrorism operations in northern Syria, Turkey prevented the emergence of a terror corridor on its southern border, foiling plans made in the U.S. Department of Defense, according to an expert.

Burhanettin Duran, Director of the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA), spoke to Anadolu Agency about separate deals Turkey reached with the U.S. and Russia on northern Syria, as well as Ankara’s fight against the terror groups PKK/YPG and Daesh, also known as ISIS.

Referring to a recent Pentagon report claiming that Daesh took advantage of a U.S. plan to pull part of its troops out of the region where Turkey was conducting an anti-terror operation, Duran said the report was a response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s withdrawal decision which was partially due to pressure from Ankara.

Duran argued that the Barack Obama administration in the U.S. sought to fight Daesh terrorists with another terror group — the PKK/YPG — and did not care about the damage to the region.

“That [policy] was inherited by Trump,” he said, adding that the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) made brought Trump to support the PKK/YPG despite his initial inclination to cooperate with states, not non-state actors.

According to Duran, ties between PKK/YPG and U.S. had reached such a high level that Washington began to push for them to be elevated from a “tactical” relationship to “strategic”. In doing so, it sought to use the terror group against Iran, or else turn it into a state-like structure that would protect U.S. interests in the region.

He went on to say that Turkey’s anti-terror campaigns in northern Syria — the Euphrates Shield, Olive Branch and Peace Spring operations — prevented the formation of such a terror corridor.

Duran said that through the report, the Pentagon expressed its disdain at Turkey for foiling these plots that it “cooked up”, by raising the most common issue about the Syrian conflict: Daesh.

– PKK/YPG not solution to Daesh trouble

Turkish operations in the region have the potential to eradicate Daesh infrastructure, unlike what is suggested by the Pentagon report, according to Duran.

He argued that Daesh first emerged in the prisons of Iraq following the U.S. invasion in 2003, then shifting to Syria. “Given that Daesh could emerge even when [Iraq] was under full control of the U.S., what sort of Daesh [alternatives] could emerge in a region controlled by PKK/YPG?” he asked.

He added that the fight against Daesh should be conducted by state actors, or else the grassroots levels of the terror group would remain alive.

– Safe zone deals with US, Russia

Underlining that recent agreements for a safe zone in northern Syria with the U.S. and Russia were in accordance with Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring, Duran noted that these agreements indicated that the first phase of Ankara’s fight against the PKK/YPG was complete.

However, the terror group had yet to be removed from the 444-kilometer (276 miles) area by Russian and U.S. forces, he said.

Duran stressed that Turkey exhibited a balanced policy in its relationships with the U.S. and Russia, saying: “This balance is an approach centering on Turkey’s national interests.”

He added that “leader diplomacy” was practiced by all three countries and that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s talks with his American and Russian counterparts led to concrete results on the ground that enabled Turkey’s three anti-terror operations and contributed to its fight against PKK/YPG terrorists.

– PKK/YPG use of Syrian oil as ‘crime’

He underlined that the U.S. did not seek to fully dismantle the terror group and continued to use it south of safe zone boundaries on the pretext of “protecting oil”.

“It is a crime in terms of international law,” he said, referring to the PKK/YPG and Syrian oil. “Both in the sense of violating the sovereignty of the Syrian state and openly supporting a terror group.

“Turkey wants the agreements reached with the U.S. and Russia to be implemented and, if necessary, it can conduct operations in the region thought to be under control of the U.S. and Russia,” he said.

Duran underlined that Washington followed an asymmetric policy towards Turkey, which it must change. He said this asymmetric relation could not be imposed on Turkey under a strategic partnership or NATO.

In addition, he said Russian efforts to use Turkey by creating a conflict within NATO would not work out.

– Operation Peace Spring

Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring on Oct. 9 to eliminate terrorists from northern Syria, east of the Euphrates River to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees, and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.

Ankara reached two separate deals with the U.S. and Russia to pause the operation to allow PKK/YPG terrorists to withdraw from a planned safe zone, where Turkey wants to repatriate the refugees.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and EU — has been responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children and infants. The YPG is the PKK’s Syrian offshoot.

*Writing by Ali Murat Alhas

Architect of Mideast Conflagration, Jeffrey Feltman, Still Lighting Fuses In Lebanon

[Feltman’s only concern is in keeping Lebanon divided and agitated to the highest possible extent, until they can be persuaded to follow US direction and evict Hezbollah, while once more surrendering their economic well being to their former Gulf masters.]

Jeff Feltman’s ‘really great plan’ for Lebanon–October 28, 2010

Ambassador Feltman Gets Demoted from State Dept. To United Nations

The Original Syrian Media Report Revealing Bandar/Feltman Plan To Destroy the Middle East

Hariri to Feltman–Give me a chance, and I will f *** Hezbollah

Syria: The terror operation of Jeffrey Feltman

Jeffrey Feltman Is Coming To Ukraine–the Man Who Starts and Manages the Bush/Obama Civil Wars

Feltman Says 2019 a ‘Turning Point’ for Lebanon, Urges Release of U.S. Military Aid

W460

Former U.S. State Department undersecretary and ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman has testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism on the current situation in Lebanon in light of the unprecedented popular uprising that erupted on October 17.

Below is the full transcript of the testimony titled “What’s Next for Lebanon? Examining the Implications of Current Protests”:

“I thank the Subcommittee for inviting me to share my analysis on the situation in Lebanon, especially as it relates to U.S. interests.

I must begin by noting that I represent only myself before you today; the Brookings Institution does not take any institutional positions on policy positions. I would also like to emphasize at the outset that Lebanon’s current protests are not about the United States, and we should avoid anything that would change the focus to the United States. But the results of the protests could affect U.S. interests positively or negatively. That is why I very much welcome Congressional attention to Lebanon at what could be a pivotal moment in the country’s history.

LEBANON MATTERS TO THE UNITED STATES

There are two common perceptions of Lebanon in the United States. One view is romantic, seeing a multi-confessional, relatively open democracy and vibrant society, offering incredible culture, cuisine, history and hospitality. According to the alternative view, Lebanon, with a bloody civil war and where U.S. Marines and diplomats have been butchered, is a dangerous outpost of Iran threatening U.S. interests in the region and beyond.

With some truth in each description, I would like to open by reviewing how tiny Lebanon affects U.S. interests in big ways. Most obvious is Iran’s projection of its malign regional role via its most successful export, the terrorist organization Hezbollah with its advanced capabilities to threaten Israel and other U.S. allies. In addition, the risk of Sunni extremist groups and Al-Qaida or ISIS establishing strongholds in Lebanon has largely receded, thanks to impressive, sustained efforts by the Lebanese Armed Forces. But, as happened in Iraq, these gains can quickly erode, with international implications, without continued vigilance.

The history of Hezbollah and of Sunni terrorist groups demonstrate vividly why Lebanon’s overall stability is in our interest: Iran exploited Lebanon’s civil war, the post-2003 internal conflict in Iraq, and the more recent civil wars in Syria [Syria was never a civil war, it has always been a war of Western and Arab aggression…the “civil unrest” was instigated by Western agitators, then armed by Western smugglers] and Yemen [Yemen was never a civil war, it was an insurgency, a spontaneous revolution of an oppressed people.] to establish deep roots that prove difficult to eradicate. Civil wars, in other words, become vehicles for the expansion of Iran’s influence. Chaos is also a fertile breeding ground for Al-Qaida-type terrorists, as in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia.

Russia also eyes Lebanon as a venue to continue its aggressive expansion of its regional and Mediterranean role. Russia is entrenched in Syria, and Russian mercenaries enabling General Haftar’s assault on Tripoli in Libya gives Moscow a toehold on the southern Mediterranean. Lebanon’s three ports and offshore hydrocarbon reserves, if exploited by Russia, would add to the sense that Russia is winning in the eastern and southern Mediterranean, at our expense. With over 400 Chinese nationals in UNIFIL in southern Lebanon, China, too, may see potential in Lebanon’s ports and location – and the Lebanese may find China’s 5G technology hard to resist, given the sorry state of Lebanon’s current telecommunications networks.

Closer to Lebanon, Bashar al-Assad, who for a supposedly strong-man dictator is embarrassingly dependent on Russia, Hezbollah and Iran to reassert his control over most of Syria, [To defend against an Arab-financed international aggression led by the United States.] would undoubtedly love to posture again as a regional power broker by reversing his 2005 humiliation [Does Feltman refer to the 2005 murder conspiracy to kill Syria’s ally, Leb. PM Rafik Hariri as “2005 humiliation” (SEE: Rafik Hariri’s Business Dealings More Relevant Than Beirut Phone Records)?], when the combination of Lebanese protests and international pressure led by President George W. Bush forced him to end abruptly Syria’s long-time oppressive military occupation of Lebanon. Russia, never happy with President Bush’s focus on Lebanon’s freedom, may be happy to facilitate the restoration of Syrian hegemony over its small neighbor, especially as convenient cover for Russia’s own objectives in Lebanon.

In short, Lebanon is a venue for global strategic competition. Others will happily fill the vacuum if we cede ground.

However dysfunctional Lebanon’s democracy is, we also have interests in seeing an Arab, Mediterranean country with relatively strong civil liberties, democratic traditions, and multi-confessional co-existence succeed. With their strong international connections, most Lebanese aspire to be linked politically, culturally, economically, and financially, to the traditional West – Europe and North America – than with Iran, Russia, or China. There is a natural affinity between most Lebanese and the West that can work to our advantage. But as citizens of a small, vulnerable country in a dangerous region, the Lebanese will also, not irrationally, look for reliable external partners. As frustrating, “needy,” and complicated as Lebanon can be, we need to play the long game and not allow Iran, Syria, China, or Russia to exploit our absence.

LEBANON’S CURRENT PROTESTS COINCIDE WITH U.S. INTERESTS

Over the years, many of us have marveled at the neat theatrical trick Lebanon has perfected: somehow staying politically and economically afloat, amidst conditions and lamentations that suggest imminent collapse. Predictions of Lebanon’s doom have often proved, if not wrong, then at least premature. This time, it appears that the curtain may come down on this gravity-defying act. Not only is the management of Lebanon’s internal and external debt increasingly complicated in a no-growth economy, but the public is by and large weary of, or even enraged by, the sectarian script and excuses that establishment political leaders use to advance their narrow political or financial interests at the expense of the country at large. The confessional patronage spoils that grease the Lebanese economy are now increasingly understood as a system to keep people confined to sectarian prisons. Meanwhile, income equality is on the rise, and job creation in decline. As a result, the entire Lebanese political system is now under hostile public scrutiny, and even Hezbollah has become a target of widespread criticism, a topic I will discuss in more detail below.

As the media reporting indicates, the cross-sectarian nature of the demonstrations that erupted in October (when the government tried to impose a tax on WhatsApp messages in a straw-that-broke-the-camel’s back moment) is refreshing and inspiring in the Lebanese context. Sunnis, Christians, Shia and Druse are all in the streets, describing themselves as Lebanese first rather than falling back on their confessional identity. The significance of these protests outweighs that of the movement that began on March 14, 2005, after the murder of Rafiq Hariri, because, this time, the Shia have joined. Moreover, the 2005 protests were aimed at Syria’s occupation of Lebanon, which a significant part of the population – again, largely Shia – found less intolerable than most of the country. Today, the protestors focus on domestic issues – jobs, garbage collection, utility services and so forth – which can unify rather than divide the Lebanese. There is, in other words, widespread “bottom up” pressure for change in Lebanon.

While, to reiterate, the protests are not about the United States, the demonstrations and the reactions to them by Lebanese leaders and institutions fortunately coincide with U.S. interests. Hezbollah has long strutted as “invincible,” “clean” and “anti-establishment” compared to other Lebanese parties. Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah’s speeches – four and counting – hoping to discredit the demonstrations have undermined Hezbollah’s carefully cultivated narrative more effectively than years of U.S. efforts to do so.

Nasrallah, peddling absurd theories of foreign interference, called for an end to demonstrations; they continue. He told the Shia protestors to go home; some did, but most did not. He said the government should not resign; Prime Minister Hariri did just that. So much for invincibility. Nasrallah’s insistence that President Michel Aoun remain in office and his dismissal of the proposal for early parliamentary elections smear Hezbollah indelibly with the political establishment and the stench of the accompanying corruption that the protesters want eradicated. Hezbollah can no longer claim credibly to be “clean,” and its participation in the now-resigned, despised government damaged its claims to deliver services more effectively than others. In terms of the public perception of its political role, Hezbollah is now relegated to the same rubbish heap as the other discredited Lebanese parties.

In addition, Lebanon’s citizenry is unlikely to forget that Hezbollah and its junior partner Amal sent thugs on motorcycles to beat up the demonstrators. This brutality resurrected memories Hezbollah would prefer remain buried: In May 2008, Hezbollah and Amal seized swaths of Beirut and surrounding areas to block government efforts to dismantle Hezbollah’s parallel secure telecommunications link. Scores were killed before the army took control. While Hezbollah demonstrated no qualms about killing and even starving mass numbers of civilians in Syria, any attempt to repeat the May 2008 offensive at home in Lebanon would evaporate Hezbollah’s already diminished “resistance” pretext entirely. For years, the United States has tried to prompt the Lebanese to face the fact that Hezbollah and its rockets create the danger of war with Israel rather than provide protection from Israel. Hezbollah’s rhetorical and physical reaction to the current demonstrations may wake up more Lebanese – including the Shia, essential to undermining Hezbollah’s popularity — to that grim reality.

The current demonstrations also constructively undermine the partnership between Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), a Christian party, of President Aoun and his son-in-law, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassile. In midwifing an alliance between Hezbollah and FPM in 2006, Bassile is the architect most responsible for Hezbollah’s ability to pretend to represent a national, cross-confessional movement and transcend its narrow Iranian and sectarian agenda. The FPM alliance slapped a veneer of Christian cover onto Hezbollah and thus became the primary vehicle for expanded Hezbollah influence inside government institutions: no longer was Hezbollah restricted by the “Shia quota” in Lebanese sectarian ratios, since Hezbollah could rely on the FPM’s Christian share as well. Bassile has long exploited the sincere concern the United States and other countries have about the status of Christians in the Middle East precisely to divert scrutiny of his personal enabling of Hezbollah and his corruption. Bassile has now become the personification of everything that provokes and enrages the protestors, while his presidential father-in-law’s speeches (including one suggesting that people unhappy with Lebanon’s status quo were free to emigrate) reflect someone seriously out of touch with the national mood. So far, Hezbollah is sticking with its alliance with the FPM. But the value of this asset has dropped considerably and adds to growing public disenchantment with the Hezbollah brand overall.

By contrast, the reputation of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), which has managed largely to stay out of politics, has, for the most part, headed upwards. There have been some problems and discrepancies in the LAF’s reaction to the protests — the LAF protected demonstrators in Beirut against Hezbollah and Amal thugs, while units in Nabatieh, in the south, looked the other way; LAF fire killed one demonstrator last week. But overall, the LAF has responded with professionalism and restraint to what from both security and political angles must be a most trying situation: what would we Americans think if persistent protests prevented us from reaching our airports, hospitals, schools or jobs? Moreover, the LAF has been forced to operate and take risks with no coherent political guidance – or cover – from Lebanon’s civilian leadership and with veiled threats from Hezbollah to clear the protests. In recent days, to the dismay of the demonstrators, the LAF has moved more forcefully to open streets and roads, to allow schools, businesses and public buildings to re-open.

While its record has not been perfect, in general the LAF’s performance has been admirable in these circumstances. The contrast to the Hezbollah thugs on motorcycles could not be clearer, and the LAF’s behavior compares favorably to the Iraqi, Egyptian or Syrian security forces’ reaction to protestors. The LAF can be an example of how public respect for an independent, capable and credible national institution can start to chip away deference to a sectarian one. This, too, is a phenomenon not about us but certainly in our interest – and one to be nurtured.

Some in Washington may ask if the LAF should now prepare to confront Hezbollah kinetically and disarm Hezbollah by force. That would be a recipe for civil war, and, as noted above, Iran and its proxies as well as Al-Qaida tend to thrive in civil war situations. We need to think more long term. In general, LAF officers, protective of their independence, know how much the army’s capabilities and professionalism have improved thanks to sustained U.S. training and equipment, and the Lebanese public is starting to recognize that, too.

A 2007 counter-terrorism operation compared to the LAF’s more recent CT efforts demonstrate this improvement. In 2007, the LAF labored from May until September to liquidate Fatah al-Islam, a Sunni terrorist organization inspired by Al-Qaida. Through the course of the battle, 158 LAF soldiers and officers were killed (along with 222 Fatah al-Islam terrorists), over 50 civilians died, and the entire Nahr al-Barad Palestinian refugee camp, previously home to over 30,000 people, was destroyed. Now, the LAF conducts rapid and effective counter-terrorism operations including on the Lebanese-Syrian border with minimal civilian or army casualties. A 2017 operation to clean eastern Lebanon of over 700 ISIS fighters took a mere ten combat days, with seven LAF killed. The LAF arrested over 3,000 Sunni extremists in 2017 and several hundred more last year. Proud of their institution and mindful of increased public support, LAF officers already whisper resentment of Hezbollah’s arrogant dismissal of the LAF. It is only a matter of time before this resentment comes out into the open.

However unappealing the occasional tactical accommodation, especially in the Hezbollah-dominated south, we should recognize that the LAF-Hezbollah relationship is not an eternal romance. The United States deserves credit for contributing to the LAF’s professionalism and improved capabilities, and thus its enhanced local respect and independence. I regret that the current review suspending – I hope only briefly — U.S. Foreign Military Financing (FMF) to the LAF has interrupted a predominantly good news story about LAF-U.S. cooperation, while giving Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran a convenient talking point about U.S. unreliability.

DYSFUNCTIONAL LEBANESE ECONOMY MAY FORCE A CHANGE IN DIRECTION

While the demonstrations have focused on immediate issues of jobs, garbage, and services, they take place against the backdrop of a looming financial crisis. As one of the highest debt-to-GDP ratios in the world – exceeding 150 percent – Lebanon has long teetered on the brink of financial disaster. The ability of the banking system to pursue clever financial engineering to prevent a plunge off the cliff seems to have run its course. With a tightening of visa restrictions for Europe and the United States, with a decline in employment possibilities in the Gulf states, the traditional outlet for Lebanon’s youth – jobs (and possibly emigration) abroad – has lost its power to reliably churn large amounts of foreign currency remittances back into the Lebanese economy.

But the real problem is persistent economic stagnation. Debt can be managed in an environment of economic growth. Lebanon’s GDP, even before the current demonstrations, was projected to expand by only 0.02 percent this year in real terms. Privatization of state assets – telecom, electricity – could produce revenues, if the privatization schemes could be trusted, as well as improve services over the longer term. And certainly credible, transparent governance, where the public good rather than personal gain motivates the political leadership, can contribute to economic improvements. A significant difference would derive from new investment and a return of Arab Gulf tourists, companies, and financial deposits.

Yet success in attracting Western and GCC investors will remain elusive without significant changes. Western and GCC investors will look elsewhere for opportunities if the Lebanese remain complacent about being part of what is seen as the Iranian/Syrian axis and if they tolerate an only intermittent commitment to transparency and rule of law. More pointedly, investors and tourists will not return in sufficiently large and predictable numbers as long as Hezbollah can on a whim pull Lebanon into war, with no reference to public opinion or government oversight. The Lebanese themselves will need to choose the path leading either to perpetual poverty or potential prosperity, by determining whether they will continue to accept poor governance combined with the effective veto over government decisions that Hezbollah insists upon (while simultaneously rebuffing any public accountability for Hezbollah’s own often deadly actions). Lebanese voters may not be able to strip Hezbollah of its arsenal overnight, but they can seize the next electoral opportunity to strip Hezbollah of the parliamentary partners it uses as force multipliers to assert its will politically: thus, Nasrallah’s red line against early elections.

THE PROTESTS MAY NOT PRODUCE IMMEDIATE CHANGES, BUT A CONSTRUCTIVE PROCESS HAS BEGUN

As of this writing, it is not clear that Lebanon’s besieged political class has any clue what kind of government might satisfy the demands of the street. The candidate currently being discussed for the premiership, businessman and former Finance Minister Mohamed Safadi, does not seem to represent a break from past practices, as initial hostility on the streets indicates.

Arguing that they are concerned about safety in a country where political leaders and social activists have been routinely murdered, the demonstrators have intentionally rejected the idea of promoting leaders out of the protests to negotiate on their behalf. This leaves an inchoate impression about who and what might be acceptable. (One has images of the scenes from the movie and play “Network,” of people shouting from the windows about “not wanting to take it anymore,” but without any clear proposal about what would replace the status quo.) This is an ominous sign that the status quo establishment figures, otherwise so divided, might find common cause in evading accountability and replacement, since the “street” might be less united than the picturesque demonstrations (complete with pots of bougainvillea as decoration) suggest.

Moreover, in contradiction to the carefully nurtured non-sectarian image of the demonstrations, some public frustration in Sunni-majority areas such as Tripoli emerged that “Sunni interests” were damaged when PM Hariri (a Sunni) resigned, when Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri (Shia) and President Aoun (Christian) remained in place. Lebanon’s sectarian ghosts will be hard to exorcise.

After the missteps of Nasrallah’s speeches, Hezbollah must be recalculating along with other status quo leaders about how to retain their prerogatives while somehow managing the popular mood. According to one rumor, some traditional sectarian leaders are musing about allowing an authentically technocratic cabinet to emerge – in the belief that the technocrats will “own” the predicted financial collapse, thus paving a way for the traditional leaders to pick their way through the financial rubble in a rush back to power. The preliminary (if temporary) nod to Safadi, however, suggests that the protestors are not going to get the purely technocratic cabinet they appear to want. But the sustained, widespread criticism of Lebanon’s political class, sectarianism, and of Hezbollah have broken significant taboos. Furthermore, Syria’s proxies in Lebanon and Iran’s proxies in Lebanon – once viewed as virtually indistinguishable, singing their “resistance” duet in sinister harmony – show nascent but unprecedented signs of divergence. Even if not all the potential gains are realized immediately, 2019 is a turning point for Lebanon.

THE U.S. CANNOT DETERMINE BUT CAN INFLUENCE THE OUTCOME

The 2005 protests, which successfully forced the entrenched Syrian military and intelligence assets to leave Lebanon, offer an important lesson for today: the value of domestic initiative combined with external support. Had, say, the United States and France pushed 14 years ago for the Syrians to decamp to their side of the border, and had the Lebanese stayed home, the Syrians could have resisted the external pressure to go. Had the United States and France been looking away, uninterested, when the Lebanese took to the streets in such massive numbers, the Syrians would have displayed no qualms in crushing the demonstrations by force. The combination of Lebanese on the streets in massive numbers and the attention by the international community, led by the United States under President George W. Bush and France under President Jacques Chirac, gave the Syrians no viable option except the exit.

As in 2005, sustained attention and interest today – by Congress, by the Administration, by the UN Security Council, by others — can help protect the demonstrators. But the demonstrations cannot continue indefinitely, especially as average citizens tire of interruptions to daily lives and worry about the economic costs of paralysis. Sustained U.S. interest, attention and messaging can make a difference as the Lebanese struggle to decide how to proceed beyond the home-grown protests.

The trick for us is nuance. It would be unwise to interfere directly in Lebanese political decisions, which would make it too easy for Nasrallah (or Syria, Iran or Russia) to cite credible examples in predictable attempts to discredit the protestors and their demands as U.S.-directed. Nor should we be seen to be in the business of picking Lebanon’s next prime minister (Safadi or anyone else) or specific cabinet ministers; those are exclusively Lebanese decisions. But as our own national interests and those of our regional allies will be affected by what happens in Lebanon, we have a responsibility to clarify our own views by our action and by our words. The Lebanese deserve to understand fully what the implications will be of the decisions they make on cabinet appointments and policies.

As a first step, the military assistance now under review should be rapidly released. This would put the U.S. on the side of national, credible institutions. At a time when the LAF’s popularity is trending mostly upwards compared to what appears to be Hezbollah’s reputational decline, we can reinforce what is, for us and for Lebanon, a positive momentum. Release of the assistance would also undermine the ongoing attempts by Hezbollah, Iran, Syria and Russia to entice the Lebanese into their orbits by calling into question U.S. reliability. Our military aid is never provided unconditionally; we also benefit from the partnership with the LAF. Our expectation that the LAF would improve its professionalism and readiness has been demonstrated vividly by successful counter-terrorism measures and by the (mostly) appropriate response to the protests. The United States can link the release of the FMF with an insistence that the LAF remain outside of politics and treat peaceful demonstrators with equal respect across the entire country, in Nabatieh as well as Beirut.

I would also recommend that we find ways publicly to reinforce the position that we do not want to see the financial or political collapse of Lebanon (lest chaos and civil war provide further opportunities for Iran, Syria and Russia to interfere) – but that our ability to mobilize financial and economic support depends on decisions from the Lebanese themselves, including the composition and policies of Lebanon’s next government. Yes, we are willing to stand with Lebanon, but on the basis of how the Lebanese wish to proceed. If the Lebanese government finally addresses the questions of governance and accountability, the international community can respond; if the government returns to “business as usual,” we will not be able to mobilize support to prevent collapse. With the demonstrators calling for a technocratic rather than political government, our public messaging can emphasize our expectation that a new Lebanese government, if it seeks international support, should effectively and immediately address the reform aspirations of the Lebanese people.

While the decisions are theirs, the Lebanese, who have long lived complacently with the contradiction of self-identification with the West while harboring an Iranian terrorist subsidiary, need to understand the implications of the path they choose. In previous financial crises in Lebanon, Arab Gulf states shifted foreign currency deposits to the Lebanese Central Bank temporarily to shore up reserves; this could be repeated. The U.S., along with France and others, can lead engagement with the International Financial Institutions regarding support to Lebanon. With the right people and policies in place, a new Lebanese government might finally implement the reforms that could trigger release of a reformulated $11 billion assistance package pledged at an international conference in Paris in 2018. Such measures would offer the Lebanese officials a brief respite, while they enact reforms — long promised, never delivered, and now demanded by the population — to put Lebanon’s finances on a sustainable footing and to promote economic growth. But given past foot-dragging, the burden is on the Lebanese officials to overcome domestic and international skepticism, by choosing credible faces and policies for the incoming cabinet. Continued cronyism, corruption and coddling of Hezbollah will lead ever downward, while reform, accountability, transparency and reliance on national institutions instead of Hezbollah can attract the type of support to lead to a better destination, with the United States and others offering support and partnership. That should be our message.

Over the long term, U.S. interests in Lebanon would be best protected by what the Lebanese people indicate that they want: a prosperous, democratic, independent, fully sovereign, peaceful Lebanon, reliant (including for security) on effective, transparent government institutions subject to public accountability. With the right government in place and with renewed international support, this should not be impossible to achieve. At a bit more than 10,000 square kilometers, Lebanon is smaller than the New York City metropolitan area. The population of greater New York exceeds 20 million, whereas Lebanon, even including Syrian and Palestinian refugees, has a population of well under 7 million. Surely it can’t be that difficult to provide reliable electricity, internet, and garbage collection to a Lebanese citizenry that, in general, is both well-educated and internationally connected. Nor should it be that expensive under the right leadership to attract support to put the financial situation on a better course: to put this in perspective, Lebanon’s entire external debt (around $35 billion) is in line with the estimates of what Saudi Arabia is bleeding every year in pursuing a war in Yemen ($25-40 billion).

By releasing the military assistance now, by demonstrating we are paying close attention, and by making crystal clear the implications, good or bad, of the choices the Lebanese make, we can serve our own interests, contribute to the calculations the Lebanese will make regarding cabinet and policy decisions, and prevent a vacuum that others would fill to our detriment. I again thank Congress and this Subcommittee for focusing on U.S. interests in Lebanon.”

China Blasts US At G20 Meet As the “the world’s biggest source of instability”

KEY POINTS
  • Meeting Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok on the sidelines of a G20 foreign ministers meeting in the Japanese city of Nagoya, Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi did not hold back in his criticism of the United States.
  • “The United States is broadly engaged in unilateralism and protectionism, and is damaging multilateralism and the multilateral trading system. It has already become the world’s biggest destabilizing factor,” China’s Foreign Ministry cited Wang as saying.
China Wang Yi Trade 190723 EC
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks at a news conference after restoring diplomatic ties with Kiribati on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, U.S. September 27, 2019.
Mark Kauzlarich

The United States is the world’s biggest source of instability and its politicians are going around the world baselessly smearing China, the Chinese government’s top diplomat said on Saturday in a stinging attack at a G20 meeting in Japan.

Relations between the world’s two largest economies have nose-dived amid a bitter trade war – which they are trying to resolve – and arguments over human rights, Hong Kong and U.S. support for Chinese-claimed Taiwan.

Meeting Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok on the sidelines of a G20 foreign ministers meeting in the Japanese city of Nagoya, Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi did not hold back in his criticism of the United States.

“The United States is broadly engaged in unilateralism and protectionism, and is damaging multilateralism and the multilateral trading system. It has already become the world’s biggest destabilizing factor,” China’s Foreign Ministry cited Wang as saying.

The United States has, for political purposes, used the machine of state to suppress legitimate Chinese businesses and has groundlessly laid charges against them, which is an act of bullying, he added.

“Certain U.S. politicians have smeared China everywhere in the world, but have not produced any evidence.”

The United States has also used its domestic law to “crudely interfere” in China’s internal affairs, trying to damage “one country, two systems” and Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity, he added.

China was incensed this week after the U.S. House of Representatives passed two bills to back protesters in Hong Kong and send a warning to China about human rights, with President Donald Trump expected to sign them into law, despite delicate trade talks with Beijing.

China runs Hong Kong under a “one country, two systems” model whereby the territory enjoys freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China like a free press, though many people in Hong Kong fear Beijing is eroding this. The government denies that.

Wang said that China’s development and growth was an inevitable trend of history that no force could stop.

“There is no way out for the zero-sum games of the United States. Only win-win cooperation between China and the United States is the right path.”

For the First Time Ever, Marijuana Legalization Bill Clears Congressional Committee

Vote To Federally Legalize Marijuana Planned In Congress Next Week

For the First Time Ever, Marijuana Legalization Bill Clears Congressional Committee

Photo: Ed Andrieski (AP)

 

A bill to remove marijuana from federal controlled substances lists, expunge federal convictions and arrests, and allocate resources to communities that have suffered under the U.S. government’s war on drugs passed 24-10 in the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, ABC News reported.

Passing a bill through committee is just one step on the road towards a piece of legislation becoming law. Rolling Stone reported that it must pass through several other House committees, and the Republican-controlled Senate is unlikely to move on it. But the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019 (MORE Act) is the first marijuana-legalization bill to ever pass committee stage in the federal legislature. In addition to the aforementioned provisions, the MORE Act would also create a Cannabis Justice Office and levy a five percent tax on the sale of marijuana in states which have already legalized the drug. The bill would still leave it up to individual states as to whether to remove their own penalties against marijuana—federal authorities have already loosened enforcement in those states.

Polls have shown overwhelming public support for ditching weed prohibition. Gallup recently released a report finding that support for legalization held steady at 66 percent in 2018 and 2019. Meanwhile, the supposed scientific case for marijuana criminalization, which largely relies on the argument that weed is a “gateway drug” that leads users down the path to riskier drugs like meth or heroin, is falling apart even as weed convictions have helped explode U.S. prison populations. Marijuana is currently listed as Schedule I by the U.S. government, which has also restricted scientific research into its effects.

“States have led the way—and continue to lead the way—but our federal laws have not kept pace with the obvious need for change,” Nadler said in a statement. “We need to catch up because of public support and because it is the right thing to do.”

One Republican on the committee was more circumspect.

“I don’t think a majority of the Republicans will support this bill,” GOP Representative Ken Buck, a member of the Judiciary Committee, told CNBC. “It is even less likely that the Senate would take it up. Therefore, I would just suggest that we deal with other bills that we can get a much larger bipartisan support from.”

Virtually all of the leading Democratic candidates for president support marijuana legalization, with former Vice President Joe Biden mocked on the debate stage Wednesday night for expressing his support of the gateway drug theory and running on a platform that would keep marijuana as a Schedule II drug. With Pew Research Center polling about 78 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents saying marijuana should be legal, and another recent poll by Data for Progress and Civis Analytics finding even a majority of Trump supporters are in favor, Biden seems to have staked out an extremely unpopular position at a very bad time.

While the Trump administration has largely refrained from interfering with state-level legalization initiatives, ABC noted he’s unlikely to sign a legalization initiative into law. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement in August that Trump donated part of his 2019 salary to federal promotional campaigns warning about the dangers of marijuana. Former Trump attorney general Jeff Sessions went full Reefer Madness on the issue, while successor Bill Barr has indicated that while he would prefer to keep marijuana illegal, he is fine with a “more federal” approach that would retain federal prohibition but allow individual states to set their own laws.

No, Our Boys Are Not “Killing Machines”

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No, Our Boys Are Not “Killing Machines”

Trump’s war crimes pardons show how little the commander in chief understands the American military.

Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher on July 2 in San Diego.
Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher on July 2 in San Diego.
Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

President Donald Trump’s pardoning of three service members convicted or accused of war crimes has been decried for eroding military discipline and tainting the country’s image. But the action also indicates that the commander in chief knows little about the U.S. armed forces or the wars they’ve been fighting.

The three pardoned are Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, Army Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, and Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher. Lorance was freed after serving six years of his 19-year sentence for shooting a group of civilians in Afghanistan, then covering it up. Golsteyn was awaiting trial for allegedly murdering an unarmed Afghan civilian.

Gallagher stabbed an ISIS fighter who was undergoing surgery for a battle wound, shot two civilians from a sniper’s nest in Iraq, and threatened to kill his subordinates if they informed on him. (He was ultimately acquitted on six other charges but convicted of posing for an “unofficial photo” with a corpse.)

In October, when he announced that these cases would be reviewed, Trump tweeted, “We train our boys to be killing machines, then prosecute them when they kill!” This notion of trained “killing machines” comes from war movies—and bad ones, at that. In reality, American troops are trained as much in when not to shoot their weapons as they are in how to shoot them.

This was particularly true of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the crimes in question were committed. They were counterinsurgency wars, in which winning the “hearts and minds” of civilians was as important as killing bad guys. Killing bad guys at all was to be avoided, if possible. The U.S. Army’s counterinsurgency field manual, supervised by Gen. David Petraeus, who later commanded forces in both wars, stated: “A defection is better than a surrender, a surrender better than a capture, and a capture better than a kill.” And: “An operation that kills five insurgents is counterproductive if the collateral damage or the creation of blood feuds leads to the recruitment of 50 more.”

But these debates concerned the possibility of “collateral damage”—i.e., the accidental death of civilians. No one in these debates defended deliberate murder.

The impermissibility of deliberately or carelessly killing civilians long predates Petraeus’ field manual. It’s enshrined in the Law of Armed Conflict, an international code of warfare drafted in 1949, which was also adopted into U.S. law and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. In a phone interview, Geoffrey Corn of the South Texas College of Law describes the idea behind the law:

The international legal authority to kill and destroy is contingent on individuals operating under responsible command. The function of a commander is to prepare soldiers to navigate the moral abyss of mortal conflict, to use violence in a regulated manner in the interests of the state.

Corn said that this principle, known as “responsible command,” is “baked in everything about the Law of Armed Conflict.” It applies not only to soldiers who violate its tenets but also to those soldiers’ commanders, whether or not they were directly complicit in the crime.

Eugene Fidell, a lawyer specializing in military law and a lecturer at Yale Law School, told me that, by this standard, Trump as the commander in chief could be seen as violating the Law of Armed Conflict. “The tenet of command responsibility holds that a commander can be punished if he fails to take steps to prevent war crimes committed by his troops—or to punish them afterward,” Fidell said. By pardoning these three, Trump in a sense violated that tenet.
Certainly he sent a message that service members who commit similar acts in the future might receive the same leniency.

When asked about this, Corn pointed out that under U.S. law, the president’s right to issue pardons and acts of clemency overrides his obligations as a commander under international law. However, Corn added, “In the eyes of someone in a foreign country, Trump acted inconsistently with international law and the Geneva Conventions.”

Some officers are particularly disappointed by the Golsteyn pardon because Trump took his action before the military justice system had a chance to operate. Corn, who also advised Golsteyn’s attorneys, said that trial could have answered some knotty questions about the meaning of “civilian” and whether it is illegal for a soldier to kill a member of an enemy organization away from the battlefield. It was certainly a “breach of discipline,” Corn said, but it’s not clear whether it constituted a war crime.

Trump issued the pardons against the advice of Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and several military commanders.

Andrew Exum, a former Army Ranger platoon commander and Pentagon official, tweeted after news of Trump’s pardons, “This is a sad day for the tens of thousands of us who led troops in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan who were proud of the way in which we maintained our good order and discipline in the face of many challenges. These men, now pardoned, remain a disgrace to our ranks.”

To which Petraeus, who has since retired, commented on his LinkedIn page: “I share Andrew’s sentiments and thinking.”

Retired Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told me that Trump’s action “has the potential of undermining the rule of law in the military justice system completely. We can’t take the law into our own hands in war. The idea that war has changed so much that the laws are constraining is a fallacy. War has always been a mess.”

Both Parties Defend “The System” Against Those Who Would Tear It Down and Rebuild It

[If both Obama and Trump’s Att. Gen. Barr are tearing into the radical Left for “going too far”, then that seems like a clear sign that this time “the Left” has gotten it right.]

“Yet there Barr was, denouncing the Left for engaging ‘in the systematic shredding of norms and undermining of the rule of law.'”–William Barr’s chilling vision of unchecked presidential power

Barack Obama Warned 2020 Democrats Not To Go ‘Too Far Left.’ Far Left Democrats Are Returning Fire.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to guests at the Obama Foundation Summit on the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology on October 29, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Last week, former President Barack Obama had some choice words for the slate of 2020 potential Democratic presidential nominee, warning those who hope to take on President Donald Trump not to go “too far left.”

Now some far-left Democrats want to cancel Obama.

Using the hashtag “#TooFarLeft,” leftists like Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and former Hillary Clinton advisor Peter Daou sniped back at Obama, bashing the former president for being out of touch with the modern Democrat Party.

“Even as we push the envelope and we are bold in our vision, we also have to be rooted in reality,” Obama told a group of Democrat donors at a dinner event on Friday evening. “The average American doesn’t think we have to completely tear down the system and remake it.”

Obama seemed to be referencing Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), specifically, and some Democrats’ plan to replace the Affordable Care Act — a hallmark piece of legislation from the Obama White House — with a costly and expansive “Medicare for All” plan that would likely strip away Americans’ private insurance options and hike taxes on Americans across the board, but he didn’t make any specific statements.

“I don’t think we should be deluded into thinking that the resistance to certain approaches to things is simply because voters haven’t heard a bold enough proposal and if they hear something as bold as possible then immediately that’s going to activate them,” he added.

His theories are borne out by poll numbers. A recent New York Times/Siena College poll that shook the Democratic slate to the core showed the “moderate” former Vice President Joe Biden as the only candidate challenging President Donald Trump in “battleground” states, not “progressives” like Warren and Sanders. More recent polls in Iowa show Biden and the recently moderate South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg leading the field. Buttigieg jumped more than 10 points in the poll, leapfrogging Sanders and Warren.

Warren, conversely, has been in a polling free-fall.

But if Obama speaks the truth, Democrats — particularly far-left Democrats — aren’t interested in hearing it. In response to Obama’s comments, “#TooFarLeft” started trending on Twitter, as progressives attempted to prove Obama wrong.

“TOO. FAR. LEFT,” tweeted Daou, taking credit for the hashtag. “I launched the  tag because I’ve had it with Republicans, media elites, and corporate Dems enabling fascists while denigrating those who seek economic and social justice as ‘too far left.’ I’d like to ONCE hear them complain America is too far right.”

More importantly, Omar chimed in.

Even Hollywood got involved, chastising their once-favorite politician.

“I am #TooFarLeft because I believe that we cannot let greed cause the collapse of the ecosystem that supports all human life on earth,” tweeted sitcom star Jon Cryer.

It turns out, they might have noticed Obama wasn’t the savior they thought he was:

Dear @BarackObama, While you are comfortable in your $15 million mansion, Americans are suffering. People are dying because they can’t afford Healthcare, people are homeless, children go without school meals, the planet is dying. Is it really #TooFarLeft to care about humanity?” one former fan snapped back.

Omniviolence Is Coming and the World Isn’t Ready

 

Warning: This video is dramatized and has not happened!

Omniviolence Is Coming and the World Isn’t Ready

POSTED BY: PHIL TORRES VIA NAUTILUS

Emerging bio-, nano-, and cyber-technologies are enabling criminals to target anyone anywhere and, due to democratization, increasingly at scale.Screengrab via The Future of Life Institute/YouTube

IThe Future of Violence, Benjamin Wittes and Gabriella Blum discuss a disturbing hypothetical scenario. A lone actor in Nigeria, “home to a great deal of spamming and online fraud activity,” tricks women and teenage girls into downloading malware that enables him to monitor and record their activity, for the purposes of blackmail. The real story involved a California man who the FBI eventually caught and sent to prison for six years, but if he had been elsewhere in the world he might have gotten away with it. Many countries, as Wittes and Blum note, “have neither the will nor the means to monitor cybercrime, prosecute offenders, or extradite suspects to the United States.”

Technology is, in other words, enabling criminals to target anyone anywhere and, due to democratization, increasingly at scale. Emerging bio-, nano-, and cyber-technologies are becoming more and more accessible. The political scientist Daniel Deudney has a word for what can result: “omniviolence.” The ratio of killers to killed, or “K/K ratio,” is falling. For example, computer scientist Stuart Russell has vividly described how a small group of malicious agents might engage in omniviolence: “A very, very small quadcopter, one inch in diameter can carry a one-or two-gram shaped charge,” he says. “You can order them from a drone manufacturer in China. You can program the code to say: ‘Here are thousands of photographs of the kinds of things I want to target.’ A one-gram shaped charge can punch a hole in nine millimeters of steel, so presumably you can also punch a hole in someone’s head. You can fit about three million of those in a semi-tractor-trailer. You can drive up I-95 with three trucks and have 10 million weapons attacking New York City. They don’t have to be very effective, only 5 or 10% of them have to find the target.” Manufacturers will be producing millions of these drones, available for purchase just as with guns now, Russell points out, “except millions of guns don’t matter unless you have a million soldiers. You need only three guys to write the program and launch.” In this scenario, the K/K ratio could be perhaps 3/1,000,000, assuming a 10-percent accuracy and only a single one-gram shaped charge per drone.

Will emerging technologies make the state system obsolete? It’s hard to see why not.

That’s completely—and horrifyingly—unprecedented. The terrorist or psychopath of the future, however, will have not just the Internet or drones—called “slaughterbots” in this video from the Future of Life Institute—but also synthetic biology, nanotechnology, and advanced AI systems at their disposal. These tools make wreaking havoc across international borders trivial, which raises the question: Will emerging technologies make the state system obsolete? It’s hard to see why not. What justifies the existence of the state, English philosopher Thomas Hobbes argued, is a “social contract.” People give up certain freedoms in exchange for state-provided security, whereby the state acts as a neutral “referee” that can intervene when people get into disputes, punish people who steal and murder, and enforce contracts signed by parties with competing interests.

The trouble is that if anyone anywhere can attack anyone anywhere else, then states will become—and are becoming—unable to satisfy their primary duty as referee. It’s a trend toward anarchy, “the war of all against all,” as Hobbes put it—in other words a condition of everyone living in constant fear of being harmed by their neighbors. Indeed, in a recent paper, “The Vulnerable World Hypothesis,” published in Global Policy, the Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom argues that the only way to defend against a global catastrophe is to employ a universal and invasive surveillance system, what he calls a “High-tech Panopticon.” Sound dystopian? It sure does to me. “Creating and operating the High-tech Panopticon would require substantial investment,” Bostrom writes, “but thanks to the falling price of cameras, data transmission, storage, and computing, and the rapid advances in AI-enabled content analysis, it may soon become both technologically feasible and affordable.” Bostrom is well-aware of the downsides—corrupt actors in a state could exploit this surveillance for totalitarian ends, or hackers could blackmail unsuspecting victims. Yet the fact is that it may still be a better option than suffering one global catastrophe after another.

How can societies counterattack omniviolence? One strategy could be a superintelligent machine—essentially, an extremely powerful algorithm—that’s specifically designed to govern fairly. We could then put the algorithm in political charge and, insofar as it governs as something like a “Philosopher King,” not worry constantly about the data collected being misused or abused. Of course, this is a fantastical proposal. Even the real-world use of AI in the justice system is fraught with problems. But at this point, do we have a better idea for preventing the collapse of the state system under the weight of widespread technological empowerment?

Perhaps a completely new idea will emerge that can preserve the current system—if we even want it preserved. Or perhaps emerging technologies won’t empower people as much as I and others anticipate. It could be that offensive technologies will actually lag behind defensive technologies, making it very difficult to execute a successful attack. It could also be that before omniviolence and democratization undercut the state, civilization collapses because of climate change-linked stressors like lethal heatwaves, megadroughts, coastal flooding, rising sea-levels, melting glaciers and polar ice caps, desertification, food supply disruptions, disease outbreaks, biodiversity loss, species extinctions, and mass migrations. If we ended up living as hunter-gatherers again, the main worry would be sticks and stones, not designer pathogens and artificial intelligence.

Civilization is an experiment. We may not get the results we’re expecting. So humanity would do well to hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

Phil Torres is a scholar of global catastrophic risks, and author of several books. His essay, “Superintelligence and the Future of Governance: On Prioritizing the Control Problem at the End of History,” appears in the 2018 anthology, Artificial Intelligence Safety and Security. His articles have been published in TIME, Slate, Nautilus, Motherboard, and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Follow him on Twitter @xriskology.

but in the case of a slave society, this hiding from responsibility by the people will eventually become deadly

The Elite Controllers Fear the Individual and Individual Intelligence

This once great country of America has gone through many changes, and these changes, while implemented by the design of its true rulers, are not understood by the huddled masses that have been taught to accept mediocrity as desired normalcy. The ruling class fully understands that the only way to control people, and to finally control the world, is to stifle individual excellence by creating a society that refuses to think. This has been accomplished through planned conflict, the instilling of fear, the total control of education by the puppet state, by building dependence through public welfare, and by dominating most all positions of power in a myriad of state, corporate, and important intellectual appointments.

“At its root, the logic is that of the Grand Inquisitor, who bitterly assailed Christ for offering people freedom and thus condemning them to misery. The Church must correct the evil work of Christ by offering the miserable mass of humanity the gift they most desire and need: absolute submission. It must “vanquish freedom” so as “to make men happy” and provide the total “community of worship” that they avidly seek. In the modern secular age, this means worship of the state religion, which in the Western democracies incorporates the doctrine of submission to the masters of the system of public subsidy, private profit, called free enterprise. The people must be kept in ignorance, reduced to jingoist incantations, for their own good. And like the Grand Inquisitor, who employs the forces of miracle, mystery, and authority “to conquer and hold captive for ever the conscience of these impotent rebels for their happiness” and to deny them the freedom of choice they so fear and despise, so the “cool observers” must create the “necessary illusions” and “emotionally potent oversimplifications” that keep the ignorant and stupid masses disciplined and content.” 
~ Noam Chomsky, Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies

This quote by Chomsky is correct in that it describes the current condition of the general populace, but is incorrect in that it claims free enterprise is the problem. There is no free market in this country, and there has not been a free market for many years. We live in what is best described as a fascist oligarchy, one that relies on the premise of state and corporate partnership. Without that dynamic in place, the situation would not be as dire as it is today.

It is important to state that I believe the common people are not incapable of intelligent thought, but have given in to the pressure from their self-appointed overseers, and accepted a subordinate position in society. They have been programmed to suppress their curiosity, and therefore have chosen to hide from responsibility. I refer to this attitude as a fear of freedom, as freedom requires much work, a strong moral base, an active intellect, and constant defense of self-rule. It is difficult to achieve and even more difficult to keep, so most are willing to take the easy way. By doing so, tyranny of the masses is always the resulting societal structure.

In any society such as this, what the common people perceive as freedom is in realty a type of controlled servitude. While this should be easily recognized by most, it is not, and this is mainly due to a fear of the truth. So pretending that the threat does not exist allows the underclass to avoid conflict, but only temporarily. This avoidance is a natural protection measure, but in the case of a slave society, this hiding from responsibility by the people will eventually become deadly.

The monopoly of power that is held by the few over the rest of society is all consuming, and the ultimate control sought by these elites is getting ever closer to fruition. It has been affected over long periods of time through incremental measures. It did not happen overnight, but over centuries, and at this point, the final objectives desired are within sight.

This is the most dangerous time for man as I see it, as the elite design for future economic decision-making for all is to be placed in the hands of so-called chosen experts, with power over the entire world economy. All economic decisions are to be based on a controlled allocation for society, which is simply centrally planned socialism, with a top-down hierarchy of control by the few. This ruling system is known as Technocracy, and when implemented, it will be the end of liberty.

I do not make these assertions lightly, and this is not theory, it is the current state of affairs. Consider the division among the general population, and the hatred amongst the masses. This is not natural, but has been put in place purposely to achieve a particular outcome by those controlling the now ignorant and indoctrinated general population.

The new world order that is desired by the ruling class is getting ever closer to becoming reality. This is not conjecture or some wildly fantastic science fiction, but is a plan that is gaining momentum due to a society consumed by blind indifference.

In past history when a ruling class went too far, and exceeded all the bounds of accepted power, the people arose, and a new system emerged. But can that happen in this country in this time of extreme political change and concentrated power? The creation of conflict that is evident today is a driving force in bringing about a world run by the few. And the common people are already relegated to a position of cogs in the wheel of society, as opposed to thinking for themselves and taking control of their own lives. This phenomenon must change in order for freedom to survive, and a reversal of the power structure must be forthcoming, if Americans are once again to control their own destiny.

This United States has been the most deadly warmongering nation in the history of mankind

Why Oppose War?

War is the greatest plague that can afflict humanity, it destroys religion, it destroys states, it destroys families. Any scourge is preferable to it. ~ Martin Luther

How could any decent human being not oppose war? War is the scourge of mankind, it is the destroyer of entire civilizations, and if taken to the ultimate test, will be the destroyer of all living things on earth. The logic of this statement is not accepted by those who foment and prosecute war, and it is not understood by the masses of common people that support the aggressor state due to false patriotism and statolatry. The worship of the state in this country has reached levels that are beyond the bounds of sanity, and this could lead to a perilous end.

I have struggled all my life to understand the human desire to support war and country. I have always wondered how anyone could support the maiming, torture, displacement, and total destruction of war, where millions of innocent men, women, and children are slaughtered, and their homelands laid to waste. Why do I abhor war when so many others do not? Why does it sicken me, but drive the masses to a religious fervor of national pride? How can the lives of so many be disregarded, and mass killing be ignored or seen as glorious? This is a human flaw that is not only unconscionable, but impossible for me to understand.

This United States has been the most deadly warmongering nation in the history of mankind, and even in its short existence of 243 years, America has been at war over 93% of the time.  That is 226 years of war out of 243. This statistic is staggering, especially considering that virtually all U.S. wars, domestic and foreign, have been wars of aggression, and never for actual defense. This alone is reason for condemnation of the state, and reason for the American populace to finally awaken to the truth that this country is the world’s greatest terrorist threat to mankind.

The U.S. has 800 military bases in over 70 countries outside U.S. borders. An empire of this magnitude dwarfs all other countries. America’s so-called greatest enemies, Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea, have bases in just 12 countries combined. Other than former Soviet provinces, Russia has bases in just 3 other countries, China in 5, Iran in 4, and North Korea has none. Most all of these country’s foreign bases are located in neighboring regions. The U.S has encircled Iran with 45 bases, and along with NATO is also positioned around Russia’s border. And of course, the U.S. has a major military presence on North Korea’s border as well, and has since it invaded North Korea 69 years ago. Obviously, the only country today that is a deadly world threat is the United States, and other than a few allies, almost no country is safe from possible or probable U.S. aggression.

The reality of the costs of war are not limited to life and limb, but also adversely affect every aspect of economics, commerce, basic moral and psychological foundations, and liberty. War allows for the powerful to gain more control, and for the government to expand its reach. War supporters and media perpetuate lies, propaganda, and nationalism that are used as excuses by the general population to falsely demonize all other cultures that are in the crosshairs of the U.S. hegemonic state.

The costs of war are deep-seated and long-lasting, and the scars of conflict remain permanently embedded in the minds and souls of the innocent victims. Even as the pain subsides, the anger continues to fester long after the aggression has quieted. The result is a continued risk of blowback that can escalate into even more war. This vicious cycle leads to never-ending war, and that is what is sought by the warmongers and war profiteers, and those ruling elites seeking to eliminate individual sovereignty in order to gain global societal control.

War is madness, but it is madness that is purposely planned and designed. It is not random, it is not legitimate; it is simply an elaborate plot meant to achieve a desired end for those holding the strings. Those are the very rich ruling elites, the banking magnates and powerful corporate heads that control the money and the politicians. They have self-motivated objectives that are never in the interest of the people at large. Due to their powerful influence of the Federal Reserve Banks, they hold a monopoly on all money production, and therefore have control of the entire monetary policy of the U.S. They also control the political class, those pawns elected under the guise of democracy who falsely claim to represent the common man. In reality, they are no more than puppets in this game of power.

What this means is that the very few control the many. Since only a limited number of elites are in control, large numbers of people have a great advantage. Using this advantage to oust the current power structure has not been evident in the past, but it must be in the future if peace and sanity are to win the day. Political remedies are worthless at this juncture in my opinion, but all out anarchy is not the only answer to throwing off the chains of this powerful elite. But banding together in solidarity to stop the rampant tyranny in place today is necessary. A mass resistance will favor the people, and cause a change of course. Demanding the abolishment of the Federal Reserve will cut off the head of the snake, and shut down the war machine. This will force the political class to take notice, and will strike fear in the hearts of all who resist a peaceful path.

So why oppose war? War is maiming and killing. War brings starvation and poverty. War destroys economies. War breeds hate and division. War destroys families, and orphans children. War is terror and fear. War is immoral. War is evil.

“Peace is the only battle worth waging.” ~ Albert Camus

Vote To Federally Legalize Marijuana Planned In Congress Next Week

A key congressional committee plans to hold a historic vote on a bill to end the federal prohibition of marijuana next week, two sources with knowledge of the soon-to-be-announced action said.

US-POLITICS-CANNAIBIS
AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

The legislation, sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and set aside funding to begin repairing the damage of the war on drugs, which has been disproportionately waged against communities of color.

Those programs—such as job training and legal aid for people impacted by prohibition enforcement, loans for small cannabis businesses owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals and efforts to minimize barriers to licensing and employment in the legal industry—would be paid for with a new federal five percent tax on marijuana sales instituted under the bill, and some of them would be administered by a new Cannabis Justice Office in the Department of Justice.

The proposal, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, would also provide for resentencing and expungement of records for people previously convicted of cannabis offenses and would shield immigrants from being denied citizenship status over marijuana.

It currently has 55 cosponsors, all but one of whom are Democrats.

A Senate companion is being led by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), a 2020 presidential candidate, though it has not yet been scheduled for action in the GOP-controlled chamber.

Politico reported on Saturday that Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), who is not a member of the panel, vaguely mentioned upcoming committee consideration while speaking at a conference in Southern California.

The congresswoman reportedly didn’t clarify that the legislation would be formally “marked up,” or voted on, a detail that sources shared with Marijuana Moment in recent days. A Judiciary Committee spokesperson hasn’t responded to several inquiries about the pending vote.

The planned action on the bill, which would also block federal agencies from denying public benefits or security clearances over marijuana use, follows a hearing a Judiciary subcommittee held in July that examined the connection between marijuana legalization and racial justice.

The markup will provide the opportunity for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to file amendments to the bill, and could shed further light on an emerging divide between cannabis reform supporters who feel it is essential to address past drug war harms and equity in the cannabis industry immediately and those who believe it makes more sense to advance more limited, states’ rights-focused legislation that could stand a better chance of advancing through the Senate and to President Trump’s desk.

Those tensions surfaced both during the Judiciary hearing this summer as well as in the lead up to the House floor vote on the cannabis banking legislation. Some pro-legalization groups went so far as to ask leadership to delay the scheduled vote on the financial services bill because they took issue with what is seen as an industry-focused proposal moving ahead of one containing restorative justice provisions such as the MORE Act.

In response to those concerns, top Democrats such as Nadler and House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) pledged that while they were moving ahead with the banking vote, they also saw the importance of following up by advancing more comprehensive cannabis legislation.

Advancing the MORE Act or a similar descheduling proposal through committee and onto the House floor would make good on that pledge.

It’s less certain how the Senate would react to House passage of a far-reaching bill to end federal marijuana prohibition. Some advocates believe that only a more modest proposal to exempt state-approved cannabis activity from federal prohibition stands a chance in the Republican-controlled body.

That bill, the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act, would not formally deschedule marijuana under the CSA and doesn’t include measures aimed at ensuring equity in the legal industry for communities most harmed by the drug war.

President Trump has voiced support for the less far-reaching bill, which is led by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO).

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Hong Kong Protests Resemble Apache Uprisings w/Flaming Arrows Flying Overhead

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Under a November full moon, hundreds of young people dressed in black set about turning several of Hong Kong’s top universities into fortresses, well stocked with improvised weapons.

FILE PHOTO: An anti-government protester holds a bow as he stands at a makeshift gate during a standoff with riot police at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China November 14, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo

At City University, protesters used ping pong tables, potted plants, furniture, sports equipment, and bamboo to form a network of barricades to block roads and fortify the entrances to the student residence complex.

Hundreds of protesters wearing gas masks and helmets tore up piles of paving bricks and ceramic tiles to hurl at police, while others stockpiled dozens of petrol bombs, distributing them to their forward positions.

Small groups sat chatting as they fashioned garden hose and nails into spikes to puncture car tires.

The scene this week was repeated at nearly half a dozen campuses across Hong Kong, where demonstrators say they have been forced into taking a harder line by the government.

Until now, the anti-government protesters have used fast-moving, hit-and-run tactics to “be like water” and avoid arrest in clashes with police.

But now with protesters beginning to wield bows and arrows and occupying improvised breastworks, the tactics threaten to take the pro-democracy campaign to a new level of risk for all sides.

The protesters say their non-violent efforts have been met by brutal police tactics, and their weapons are needed to protect themselves.

Police have shot and wounded at least three protesters.

“It has never been a fair war zone,” said 23-year-old Josh, as he watched protesters practice shooting arrows at Baptist University (BU).

“We have nothing, only masks and the police have guns. We’re only trying to defend ourselves.”

Another protester said he had begun to throw bricks after seeing police attack demonstrators.

“We try every peaceful means but we fail,” said Chris, 19, a student from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

“We would probably throw petrol bombs and bricks because we don’t want our friends to be injured,” he said, breaking into tears as he described police crackdowns.

“I’m willing to die for Hong Kong.”

The protesters seem increasingly intent on forcing a showdown, as small raiding parties vandalize shops and block roads, tunnels, and rail lines in widening areas around their campuses.

Authorities said protesters had turned the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) into a “weapons factory”, prompting a crackdown on Tuesday that left many people injured in fiery clashes.

Students accused police of turning the campus into a war zone and said they have no choice but to defend themselves.

Protesters have fortified parts of the campuses of Polytechnic University and University of Hong Kong (HKU), in addition to CUHK, BU, and City University.

Graphic: Escalating violence in Hong – here

Reuters Graphic

‘RIOTOUS ACTS’

For the first time, protesters have been arming themselves with bows and arrows looted from university sports offices. Police said flaming arrows, a signal flare, and even electric saws had been wielded against officers.

On Thursday, police said protesters dropped flower pots and fired several arrows at officers near Polytechnic University. There were no casualties.

Protesters could be jailed for two years for assaulting a police officer, while “wounding with intent” could mean life, police said.

The city education secretary chided university authorities over “riotous acts” on campuses. HKU President Xiang Zhang called on students not to provoke the police into entering the campus.

“If there are any who are planning to do anything with serious consequences, such as actions likely to injure people, I appeal to them NOT to,” he said.

Demonstrators are angry about what they see as police brutality and meddling by Beijing in the freedoms guaranteed under a “one country, two systems” formula introduced when the territory returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

China denies interfering and has blamed Western countries for stirring up trouble.

Police deny using excessive force but have unleashed unprecedented amounts of tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and water cannons.

In a possible preview of tactics to come, police used an armored truck with officers firing less-than-lethal rounds to break up a barricade in the business district on Wednesday.

CUHK had become a “battlefield for criminals and rioters”, a police spokesman said.

“Where did all these petrol bombs and weapons come from?” spokesman Tse Chun-chung asked reporters. “We have strong suspicion that the school was used as a weapon factory.”

‘GOOD SHOW’

At City University, the dorm buildings echoed to the sound of protesters pulling up and heaping paving bricks to use as projectiles.

They knocked back cases of drinks then filled the bottles with a mixture of oil and petrol.

Protesters with less experience used plastic bottles to practice throwing.

At one point, the operation got more organized as supplies of food, water and medical equipment were carried in.

“There are a lot of petrol bombs,” said one 16-year-old school student who felt compelled to join the fray.

“It’s set to be a good show.”

A sense of purposeful anarchy reigned. Some protesters picked up litter, sorting it for recycling, while here and there a couple waded through the crowd, masked and in black, holding hands.

University officials were nowhere to be seen, except for the residence guards who sat at their desks as protesters appropriated everything in reach.

Occasionally, lookouts would sound the alarm, sparking a flurry of activity and shouts as black-clad figures crouched behind barricades, umbrellas and homemade shields at the ready.

Some anxious international students scurried past, suitcases in hand. Others took photos.

Volunteer medics set a up a first-aid station in a hall.

“I’m not afraid to get hurt, but I’m afraid of being arrested, because it means a loss of freedom,” said 19-year-old student named Thomas, as he strapped on plastic guards on his forearms and shins.

“And freedom is why I’m here.”

Reporting by Kate Lamb and Josh Smith; Additional reporting by Jessie Pang; Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Robert Birsel

US Shale Oil Boom Rapidly Going Bust

“U.S. shale is slamming on the brakes”

by Nick Cunningham via OilPrice.com,

A few high-profile shale executives say the glory days of shale drilling are over

In a round of earnings calls, the financial results were mixed. A few companies beat earnings estimates, while others fell dramatically short.

But aside from the individual performances, there were some more newsworthy comments from executives on the state of the industry. A common theme emerged from several notable shale executives: the growth frenzy is coming to an end.

The chief executive of Pioneer Natural Resources, Scott Sheffield, said that the Permian basin is “going to slow down significantly over the next several years,” and he noted on the company’s latest earnings call that the company is also acting with more restraint because of pressure from shareholders not to pursue unprofitable growth.

“I’ve lowered my targets and my annual targets, a lot of it has to do with…to start with the free cash flow model that public independents are adopting,” Sheffield said.

But there are also operational problems that have become impossible to ignore for the industry. He listed several factors that explain the Permian slowdown: “the strained balance sheets lot of the companies have, the parent-child relationships that companies are having, people drilling a lot of Tier 2 acreage,” Sheffield said. “So I’m probably getting much more optimistic about 2021 to 2025 now in regard to oil price.” In other words, U.S. shale is slamming on the brakes, which may yet engineer a rebound in global oil prices.

He said that this would be good news for OPEC.

“I don’t think OPEC has to worry that much more about U.S. shale growth long-term,” Sheffield said.

“And all that is very beneficial. So we are probably going to be more careful in the years 2021 to 2025 because there’s not much coming on after the three big countries that are bringing on discoveries over the next 12 months Norway, Brazil and Guyana.”

Still, the oil market is starting down a glut in 2020 and OPEC is trying to press its members to tighten up compliance with the production cuts in order to boost prices.

Sheffield wasn’t alone. Mark Papa, CEO of Centennial Resource Development (and former CEO of EOG Resources), was also downbeat on growth prospects.

“At a September investor conference, I predicted that 2020 total U.S. year-over-year oil growth would be 700,000 barrels per day which at that time was considerably below consensus,” Papa said on an earnings call on Tuesday.

“Given additional data I now think that 2020 year-over-year oil growth will be roughly 400,000 barrels per day which is below current consensus.”

He noted that U.S. oil production has been essentially flat for 9 out of the last 10 months, and “it’s likely to slightly decline over the next six months.”

Echoing Sheffield’s comments, Mark Papa said that this wasn’t only due to spending cuts.

“Most people will ascribe the low U.S. growth to capital discipline. But I think the larger reason is what I’ve been talking about for several years the shift to Tier 2 and 3 drilling locations in all shale plays and increasing parent-child issues in the Permian,” Papa said.

He added that this is not a temporary problem.

“I believe U.S. shale production on a year-over-year growth basis will be considerably less powerful in 2021 in later years than most people currently expect,” Papa said. “I’ll leave it to others to opine on what this means for global oil markets.”

Notably, Scott Sheffield of Pioneer Natural Resources went out of his way to castigate the industry for the runaway flaring rates in the Permian.

“We do not connect any new horizontal wells to production unless the gas line is already in place,” Sheffield said. “I think that’s something that should be adopted by all producers in the Permian Basin.”

The tone of his comments seemed to reveal a concern about the industry losing its social license to operate because of rampant flaring and growing concerns about climate change. Sheffield also made an effort to point out that Pioneer does not have exposure to federal land, minimizing risk from a political backlash following the 2020 election.

Meanwhile, Chesapeake Energy saw its share price fall nearly 20 percent on Tuesday after it warned in an SEC filing that low prices “raises substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern.”

Chesapeake is cutting spending dramatically and expects to see its production decline next year. The real question is if Chesapeake’s woes say something broader about the health of the industry.

The company’s CEO seems to think so. “When you see a company like Chesapeake with the strength and quality of our gas portfolio, reducing capital, I think it should be a good indication of directionally where others should be reducing activity as well,” Chesapeake Energy’s CEO Robert Lawler said on an earnings call.

Reasons to Thank the USSR–9 Major American Lies Blaming the Soviets For Our Sins

9 Reasons to Thank the USSR: How We Got the Cold War Wrong

Much of what many of us learned in school about the struggle between the U.S. and USSR was very, very wrong.

Erik Simonsen/Getty

Thirty years ago, one of the most historic DIY projects of all time took place. Berliners took apart the wall that had cut their city in half. Thus began the beginning of the end of the Cold War.

It was a conflict suffused with fear, paranoia, and a whole lot of lies. This means much of what many of us learned in school about the struggle between the U.S. and USSR was very, very wrong.

Here’s the first buried truth. We fired the first shot. Harry Truman rushed to drop the atom bomb to end the war in Japan to prevent the Soviets from joining the battle in the Pacific. Joseph Stalin got the message. The nuclear arms race was underway.

But our enemy, the so-called evil empire, was really a figment of our fevered imaginations. In fact, the people running the Kremlin were frightened frauds running a fundamentally dysfunctional state forever on the verge of collapse.

Given this asymmetry, the Cold War rivalry was actually a mind-boggling waste of money and lives to wage an inherently lopsided contest with a preordained outcome.

American schoolchildren were fed a one-sided view of World War II, capped by the conclusion that our superlative industry and unsurpassed genius were the deciding factors in defeating Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. What would the Cold War have been like if, during history class, American kids learned that the world forever owed a debt of gratitude to Soviet forces and Soviet citizens? Their remarkable resilience saved democracy as much as did George Patton and Iwo Jima.

Here are nine reasons why we should’ve thanked the Russians after World War II instead of engaging them in a decades-long Cold War:

#1: STUNNING SACRIFICE: On the Eastern front, the Red Army suffered more combat deaths at Stalingrad alone than the U.S. armed forces accumulated during the entirety of World War II.

#2: WHAT BOMB: The fight against Japan didn’t conclude only because of America’s atomic attacks. In deciding how soon to surrender, Hirohito and his war cabinet appear to have been more frightened of Stalin’s 11th-hour invasion than of Curtis LeMay’s attempt to bomb the country back to the Stone Age.

#3: UPPER VOLTA WITH ROCKETS: Throughout the Cold War, the Soviet Union struggled to meet the basic requirements of food and shelter. For example, the USSR’s desperate housing shortage could have been ameliorated with taller structures, but the country didn’t possess sufficient raw materials to supply elevators for apartments above five stories.

#4: CHARMING BETRAYAL: The most effective spy cell the Soviets ever had was made up of aristocratic Englishmen schooled at Cambridge. Additionally, multiple physicists working for Britain on the Manhattan Project were Soviet moles and they provided Stalin’s scientists with the blueprints of the atomic bomb even before it was used on Japan. In short, the greatest threat to U.S. national security during the early part of the Cold War may have been our closest ally.

#5: THE REAL MENACE: Joseph McCarthy barely believed a word he said and found zero communists in government roles.

#6: FLAWED GAMESMANSHIP: The domino theory was used first by Dwight Eisenhower to argue that if communist forces in Vietnam succeeded, the contagion of Kremlin-supported regimes could spread to Japan, New Zealand, and Australia. This was a fallacy. Virtually all revolutions during the Cold War were homegrown and, in general, waged to overthrow colonial masters—of all ideologies.

#7: FAKE NEWS: Overall, the U.S. never fell behind the Soviet Union in the development of nuclear weaponry—there was never a bomber gap or a missile gap. The United States developed the first intercontinental nuclear bomber, tested the first hydrogen bomb, launched the first nuclear submarine, introduced the first tactical nuclear weapons, and created the first solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile.

#8: PROLONGED BLOWBACK: In 1977, the Carter administration began a covert CIA program to destabilize the Soviet Union by encouraging ethnic violence and radical Islam in Afghanistan, Soviet Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Chechnya. When the Soviets sent 100,000 troops into Afghanistan on December 27, 1979, the U.S. commitment to the anti-Soviet mujahideen surged. This massive, multi-billion-dollar covert operation ended up hatching global jihad.

#9: CAUTIONARY TALE: Finally, turning the Soviets into enemies after World War II—instead of thanking them—almost killed us all. Multiple national security experts have asserted that sheer luck is the best explanation for why the Cold War did not conclude with a charred and lifeless planet.

Brian T. Brown is the author of Someone Is Out to Get Us: A Not So Brief History of Cold War Paranoia and Madness, published November 5 by Twelve.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Interview With Russian RT-UK TV Channel

SEE: “al-Assad Interviews

President al-Assad in an interview with Russian RT-UK TV Channel:

In spite of all aggression, majority of Syrian people support their Government, Russia helps Syria as terrorism and its ideology have no borders

Damascus, SANA- President Bashar al-Assad affirmed that the majority of the Syrian people support their Government and that’s why we’ve been here for nine years in spite of all this aggression by the West and the Petrodollar in the Arab region, indicating that the Syrian people know the whole story, and they know where their interest lies.

In an interview with Russian RT-UK TV Channel, President al-Assad asserted that Russia is helping Syria in combating terrorism because it defends its people as terrorism and its ideology have no borders, and they don’t see political borders, and the whole world today has become a one arena for terrorism, and Russia adopts and implements the international law in correlation with its national interest, and the interests of its people and with the global stability and with the Syrian interest and the Syrian stability.

President al-Assad indicated that the accusations of chemical weapons attacks have been just allegations and those who spoke about their occurrence must prove his story and provide the evidence, particularly as the “White Helmets” Organization which has fabricated dramas are off-shoot of “Jabhat al-Nusra “terrorist organization.

President al-Assad indicated that Daesh “ISIS” terrorist organization have two partners in stealing the Syrian oil since the year 2014: Erdogan and his coterie, and the Americans who always try to loot the other countries.

President al-Assad affirmed that the Israelis are the enemies of Syria and that they occupy its land, and they have direct relation with the terrorists, and every time the Syrian army advanced against those Al-Nusra terrorists in the south, Israel used to bombard the Syrian troops. So, the link is very clear, and there was correlation between the Israeli operations and the terrorist’s operations

Following is the full text of the interview:

Question 1: I’m Afshin Rattansi in the Presidential Palace in Damascus, Welcome to an RT International World exclusive.  I’m with the President of Syria, Bashar Al-Assad.  Mr. President, thanks for granting us an interview.  I would like to start off with why you are going to give an interview now when you haven’t done for a year and a half?

President Assad:  You are most welcome in Syria. The events in the world in general, in the region and in Syria, after the Turkish invasion have brought Syria front and center once again, this is one reason.  The second – I think public opinion in the world, and especially in the West has been shifting during the past few years.  They know that their officials have told them so many lies about what’s going on in the region, in the Middle East, in Syria, in Yemen. They know there is a lie, but they don’t know the truth; so, I think, it’s time to talk about this truth.  Third, I made so many interviews with Western media outlets; they don’t try to get the information, they try to get a scoop. They don’t try to be objective to bring their audience what’s happening in the world. That’s why, I stopped doing interviews for years.

Question 2: Well okay, we’ve been in a journey from Damascus airport, we saw reconstruction; how many soldiers have been killed; wounded or displaced from your country in the past, since 2011?

President Assad: The stability that you saw during the last 24 hours in Damascus since you arrived is the result of the sacrifice of more than one hundred thousand Syrian soldiers who were martyred or wounded.  So many lives, of course, let alone the thousands or maybe tens of thousands of civilians or innocents who’ve been killed by mortars, by executions, by being kidnapped and killed later or disappeared; their families are still waiting till now.  So, there was a lot of sacrifice in the face of those terrorists.  That’s why you see this stability and reconstruction.

Question 3: Countries that supported you include Iran, of course, Russia.  Before I get on to British and American de facto backing for ISIS and Al-Qaeda in your country, how would you…what would you say to Russian families that had lost their Russian soldiers who had risked and sacrificed their lives for a “dictator”, for a “Middle East Dictator”? What would you say to them, as to why Vladimir Putin should be sending in soldiers to help your government?

President Assad:  You mentioned a very important point.  Even in Syria, no one would die for a person.  People would die, especially en masse for a cause, and this cause is defending their country, defending their existence, their future, rather than somebody coming from another country to die for a person, whether he is a dictator or whatever you want to call him.  So, this is not realistic, this is against the logic that somebody will come, because President Putin sent him to die for another person, or even for President Putin to put all the interests of his country at stake for one person.  This is against the logic.

Actually, Russia, according to officials I mean President Putin, Lavrov and the others, they are defending the Russian interests in different ways.  One aspect if they fight terrorism in another country, whether it is Syria or any other country in the region, that would defend the Russian people because terrorism and its ideology have no borders, they don’t see political borders.  It’s one, let’s say, one arena, the whole world is one arena for terrorism.  Secondly, they implement and they adopt the international law.  According to their point of view, this international law, if it’s implemented, it’s in correlation with their interest, with their national interests.  So, implementing the international law around the world will help the interest of the Russian people.  So, what they’ve been doing is in accordance with their national interests, with the global stability and with the Syrian interest and the Syrian stability.

Question 4:  Now, you know that in media in NATO countries, this country, your government, you personally, are synonymous with chemical weapons attacks.  Let us go back to the twenty first of August, 2013, in Ghouta.  Did your government drop chemical weapons on Ghouta on that date, the twenty first of August, 2013?

President Assad:  The funny thing about that date is that it is the same date when the first delegation, the international delegation that came to Syria to investigate the incident arrived to Damascus, which is only few kilometers from this place; and logically, the Syrian army, if we supposed that it has chemical weapons, it wants to use it, it would not use it on that day, this is first.  Second, they talked about two hundred civilians killed. If you use chemical weapons, you may kill tens of thousands in such area where people are living very close to each other, I mean it’s a crowded area.  Third, that incident only existed in the mind of the Western officials; it’s a narrative that was the pretext to attack Syria.  That’s what I mean. They did not offer any tangible evidence to prove that there was such an attack, and there were many reports that have refuted that report or those allegations.  So, it was only allegation; never, never has the Syrian army used chemical weapons before we handed over all arsenals to the international committee.

Question 5:  Of course, then you took the decision to invite the OPCW into remove chemical weapons.

President Assad:  Actually, we invited them to come because we told them, you should come and investigate because we were hundred percent sure that these are allegations; but, of course, the delegation, not always, unbiased, they are mostly biased.

Journalist:  Well, I mean the President of OPCW Fernando Arias, he may have his own problems with whistleblowers now.  There is no doubt that Ahmet Üzümcü Director General of the OPCW who monitored the destruction here…he said there were gaps, uncertainties, discrepancies in your OPCW monitored destruction of chemical weapons here in this country?

President Assad: Gaps in our report?

Journalist: Yes.

President Assad:  Why they don’t show it?!  Now, it’s been since 2013, we’ve been here, in the same allegation, couldn’t they prove it after six years?  And every time they say, Syria has used chemical weapons.  Is it possible to be under this precise, let’s say, supervision by the whole Western world and we’re going to use it again and again?!  This is not rational; I mean the whole story, we don’t need it, we are advancing.  Every time they talk about using the chemical weapons, it is when we advance, not when we lose.  I mean, even militarily, you may use, if you want to use such a weapon, I’m not talking about the Syrian Army, because we don’t have it anymore, but logically, you can use it when you’re losing ground, not when you’re advancing.

Journalist: So, you deny the use in Jubar, Sheikh Maksoud, Saraqib, and in the area of Aleppo, you presumably deny Khan Sheikhoun, 4th April, 2017. All of these, you deny the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government?

President Assad: Every story was nothing more than allegation.  The one who said there was use of chemical weapons, is the one who should prove his story, he is the one who should offer evidence that it’s been used.

Journalist: But the OPCW did lead Britain and the United States and France to believe they needed it to bomb your country on the basis of that report.

President Assad:  To believe… but believe is one thing, and bringing evidence is another.  So, we are talking about evidence.  What’s the evidence that they have to prove their story? Nothing, they have nothing.

Question 6: Any truth in the rumors, arguably on your side that video evidence was manipulated by rebels using chemical weapons via the Saudi Arabian government, and that chemical weapons were indeed used, but by the so-called “rebels”…

President Assad:  Yes, it is on the YOUTUBE, you can see it.  I mean they staged a play, full play, where somebody plays the role of the victim in many incidents, not only with the chemical weapons, even with bombardments, they stage a play that somebody is being the victim, and then at the end of the shooting, he is a normal person, he stands up and moves normally; you can see it on YouTube.  It is very clear; we can offer you this evidence.

Journalist:  But there is no other evidence beyond that, because the White Helmets supported by the British Foreign Office and recently given extra funding by the Trump administration claim the videos are absolutely true, and that, in fact, the people who’re making these videos saved a hundred and fifty thousand lives in your country up to 2018?

President Assad: Again. it’s very simple to see the same faces of those “angels,” – the White Helmets, – the same faces, the same one in the White Helmets was a fighter with Al-Qaeda.  You can see him.  The images are very clear.  The same one who has been beheading, or cutting heads, and one of them was eating the heart of a soldier.  I mean, this is very common to see on the internet.  I mean no one in this region believe the stunt, the PR stunt of the White Helmets. They are off-shoot of Al-Nusra.

Question 7: Well, the UK state-mandated BBC and Amnesty International are alleging your government killed eleven thousand people using so-called “barrel bombs” since 2012 which would be a violation of Security Council Resolution 2139, and indeed Human Rights Watch’s pointing to satellite imagery, and you talk of YOUTUBE videos saying they are fake videos. These are some of NATO nations biggest NGOs and broadcasters.

President Assad:  No war is a good war. This is a self-evident truth. You always have victims in any war, but to talk about an army or state to go and kill civilians and its own people, this is not realistic for simple reason.  The war in Syria was about capturing the hearts of the people, and you cannot capture the hearts of the people by bombarding them.  The Syrian army was fighting the terrorists, whether there is side fire that affected some civilians, that could have happened and you can have investigation, but how could Syrian people support their state and their president and their army, if they are killing them?

Question 8: Was the only way to regain East Aleppo…did your commanders or you personally authorize the only way to get rid of Al-Qaeda, ISIS-Daesh, arguably backed by Britain and the United States, the only way to get rid of them was Aerial bombardment?

President Assad:  Definitely, and we succeeded.  In some areas, we captured the area without war.  We made negotiations with those groups and they left that area, and then we entered.

Journalist: But you see in the pictures, and you presumably say those pictures are true, of the destruction in East Aleppo.  Was that really the only way to defeat Al-Qaeda and ISIS-linked groups.

President Assad:  Those Al-Qaeda groups in eastern Aleppo used to bombard the civilians on daily basis and killed hundreds of thousands of people in Aleppo.  So, the mission of the Army and the mission of the state is to protect those civilians from those terrorists.  How can we do that without attacking the terrorists?!

Question 9: Well, that’s not shown in media in NATO nations, in your defense. Now, what about the use of double tap strikes by the Syrian and the Russian air force where you bomb a part of east Aleppo and then emergency workers come and you bomb again?

President Assad:  There are a lot of misleading narratives in the West just to show that the Syrian Army is intentionally killing the civilians with no reason, and to show that those, that they called them, like White Helmets or any other hospital which is a headquarter for the terrorists, they say that the Syrian army is only attacking the humanitarian facilities in order for the civilians to suffer.  Actually, what happened is the opposite; that those civilians fled those areas and came to the government side in every place not only in Eastern Aleppo.  Those people now, if you go to Eastern Aleppo, they still live in those areas under the supervision of the government, why didn’t we kill them?  Why didn’t they flee to Turkey?  This itself refutes the Western narrative.

Journalist: But as I said, Raed Saleh the head of the British backed White Helmets spoke on my program and said they are just a humanitarian organization; they are not terrorists at all, despite what you and the Russian government allege.

President Assad: But you have pictures, you have videos, you have proofs. So, we don’t have any allegations.  How did we know?  Through their images.  We can offer you all these evidences. We have evidences.

Question 10: I mean going back a little to the first demonstrations in Daraa, in Damascus, there is a famous, again BBC state-mandated British media program in which Walid Jumblatt of the Druze in Beirut who said to camera that you authorized the killing of thirteen-year old Hamza al-Khateeb, is that true? And they then interviewed a succession of people saying the mistakes you made led to what happened. It wasn’t the British and American backing of Al-Qaeda and ISIS-Daesh in your country?

President Assad: At the very beginning during the demonstrations, during the first few days, we lost five policemen by shooting, by bullets. How could we talk about peaceful demonstrations while you have policemen killed by…

Journalist: But how could you authorize the killing of a thirteen-year old?

President Assad: …I’m just starting from the very beginning.  So, from the very beginning, I mean the word “peaceful demonstrations” was not correct.  There was shooting, and you can’t tell who’s shooting at police, and who’s the one shooting at the civilians, because in most of the incidents at that time, the police didn’t have even machine guns or pistols.

Journalist: Except this child was tortured?

President Assad:  No, No, that’s not true. He’s not, we never had…

Journalist: cigarette burns on his body…

President Assad:  No, no. He was killed, and there was allegation that he was tortured. He wasn’t tortured, he was killed, and he was taken to the hospital, and I met his parents.  They know the real story.  This is only in the West, in the Western outlets, in the Western media outlets.  This is not the story in Syria.  So, that’s why I’m surprised by those stories that are completely disconnected from our reality.  He is somebody who died, how did he die, who shot him, Nobody knows. It was chaos.  When you have chaotic demonstrations, anyone could infiltrate that demonstration and start shooting in different directions and kill policemen in order to retaliate or vice versa.

Question 11: Have you heard of Anwar Raslan and Eyad al-Gharib who have been arrested in Germany. The Germans are alleging something called Branch 251, one of your torture units, to torture demonstrators?

President Assad: We don’t have torture units.  We don’t have torture policy in Syria.  Why do we use the torture for?  That’s the question, why?  Is it a psychological situation?!  You just want to torture people in this kind of sadism?  Why to torture?  You need information?!  We have all the information.  The majority of the Syrian people supported their government, that’s why we’ve been here for nine years in spite of all this aggression by the West and the Petrodollar in the Arab region.  That’s why, this is the only reason.  So, why do you torture the people, that’s the question.  It’s not a policy.  If you talk about individual incidents, this is only an individual incident that could be done by anyone for revenge, for any other reason.  That could happen in anywhere in the world. But we don’t have such policy. We never believe in that torture could make your situation better as a state, very simply. So, we don’t use it.

Question 12: What did you make of it when the British government sent the Royal navy to intercept an Iranian vessel; they said the Iranian government really was sending heating oil for Syria, are the sanctions from the European Union going to hit the poorest people in Syria this winter?

President Assad:  Exactly.  First of all, this is piracy. This is piracy by the United Kingdom regime, and this is the core meaning of the word “regime”, because regime and piracy and gangs is something similar.  Second, yes they wanted to effect the people in Syria, why?  Because those people were expected to rise against their government during the different stages of the war, but they didn’t.  They were supposed to be supporting the terrorists, the “moderate rebels”, “the angels of White Helmets”, but the people didn’t, they stood with their government.  So, they have to suffer, they have to pay the price.  First of all, they have to learn the lesson that they should have stood with their agenda. Second, this is maybe the last ditch-attempt in order to push them to be against their government.  But they tried it last winter, they tried it before, and it did not work because the people knew the whole story, and they knew where their interest lies.

Question 13: Even when the Global South and you and your government ministers may think it’s natural to accuse NATO governments of supporting AL Qaeda or ISIS, viewers watching this interview in those NATO countries may think this is ridiculous. Why would the British government say, or the Obama government, because I suppose Donald Trump, arguably, has suddenly realized what maybe going on, why do you think they wanted to support AL Qaeda and ISIS-Daesh.

President Assad:  Why? Because of the facts. These facts started with the fact that the American officials before anyone else said in their own words like John Kerry, like Hilary Clinton and many others when they talked about their role in supporting Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan in order to be a tool against the Soviet Union at that time, they said that. This is their modus operandi; it’s not something we invented.

Journalist: They saw 9/11, why would they make the same mistake again?

President Assad: Because the American policy in general depends on trials and errors. They invaded Afghanistan, they got nothing.  They invaded Iraq, they got nothing, and they started to invade other countries but in different ways.  They change the way.  The problem with the Unites States now is that they fight a survival war from their point of view because they are losing their hegemony.  So, they wanted to fight the Russian, the Iranians, the Syrians, whoever said NO, even their allies if they said NO, like the Western governments, they will fight with them.  They need tools; they noticed that in Iraq it did not work by sending their army.  They lost a lot, and they paid the price even inside the Unites States. So, it’s much easier for them to send a proxy.  So, Al-Qaeda is a proxy against the Syrian government, against the Russian government and the Iranian government.  That’s why they’ve been using this, but you have evidence.  How did ISIS rise suddenly in 2014?!  Out of nowhere! out of nothing!  In Iraq and Syria at the same time, with American armaments?!  It’s very clear.  How could they smuggle millions of barrels of oil to Turkey under the supervision of the American aircrafts, how?  Because the Americans wanted to use them against the Syrian Army.  It’s not something we said; the Americans said that, and the facts said the same story.

Question 14: But while this has been going on, you have been talking with international bodies and different interlocutors, what do you make of the UN envoy, Staffan de Mistura, saying in quotations in the past few days “having really fought against what happened in Aleppo, Idlib, and Darayya, I could not be the one that is shaking Assad’s hand and saying MAALESH”, these are the people you are talking to as neutral observers. looking back on it, were any of these people neutral?

President Assad: He cannot be in that position if he is neutral because the United States will only accept puppets. This is their behavior.

Journalist: But you did shake hands with him?

President Assad:  And he asked later to meet me, and I said no.  So, he wanted to shake my hand. He was biased, that’s why he failed. This is why he failed; he was implementing the American Agenda maybe in a little bit smarter way, but it didn’t work because he was biased, that’s why.

Question 15: And what is this Geneva process; there have been some reports that the Syrian delegation is backed by your government but not representing the Syrian government, what is exactly is this Geneva process? Post-conflict? I’m not even sure it’s called that.

President Assad: It’s an American ploy; it’s about gaining in politics what you couldn’t get through the demonstrations first, and through the terrorists later, so you can get it through political process.  That’s why, again, it didn’t work.  That’s why Geneva failed because it was about toppling the government through an interim body, let’s say, it doesn’t matter what is it. Then change the government peacefully and control Syria like they did in many other countries. That’s why Geneva failed, and that’s why we went to Sochi with the Russians.  That’s why Sochi is now working.  We had this delegation last month and they started last week negotiating the constitution.

Journalist: So, when Donald Trump announces…

President Assad: Sorry, you are asking me about this Geneva or about…

Journalist: I was talking about this Geneva.

President Assad:  Now, if you talk about this Geneva, this Geneva is only the venue, the place, the geography, but I mean the political process is still Sochi.  It is Sochi.  It does not matter where we convene, or where we start the negotiation; it’s Sochi.

Question 16: But it goes into mainstream Western media in NATO nations that it is Geneva, not Sochi. And do you believe this curious story that the Russians are saying that the US is stealing 30 million Dollars of oil a month from Northern Syria? Is this a Trump bargaining chip in the Geneva talks, why would a net oil exporter like the US be interested in 30 million Dollars of oil a month?

President Assad: Since ISIS started smuggling Syrian oil and looting Syrian Oil in 2014, they had two partners: Erdogan and his coterie, and the Americans, whether the CIA or others.  So, what Trump did is just announce the truth; he is not talking about something new.  Even when some of the Kurds started looting the Syrian oil, the Americans were their partners.  So, it’s about money, and it’s about the oil, and that’s what Trump said recently.  It is not new at all; it is not related to the talks at all.

Journalist: But arguably, why are you not more angry because obviously that would be a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention on Pillaging of countries’ resources.

President Assad:  Of course, we are angry, every Syrian is angry – definitely.  This is looting, but there is no international order actually, and there is no international law.  But this is not new, to be frank, not only during the war.  The Americans always try to loot other countries in different ways regarding not only their oil or money, or financial resources.  They loot their rights, their political rights, every other right.  That’s their historical role at least after World War II.  So, it’s not something new, it’s not strange or disconnected from their previous policy, but from time to time it takes different shape, and this shape, looting the oil, is the starkest way of the American policy, looting the rights of other people.

Question 17: Was a big part of the war, fossil fuel pipeline access to Europe from the Middle East, that would cut Russian pipeline access to the European Union?

President Assad: This is very realistic, but some say that they ask the President to open Syria for a pipeline, south north, and he said no for Russians – actually, that did not happen.  This is not true, but there was a pipeline that’s coming east west from Iran, through Iraq, Syria to the Mediterranean.  If this one was a reason, it could be.  If the war is about the oil as a factor, yes this is likely to be.  But this is not the only factor; don’t forget that there is a war between the United States and the rest of the world.  Now, we’re talking about tectonic shifting and earthquakes.  Because the world order after World War II has expired, especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union; the one polar world doesn’t work anymore.  So, you have rising powers like Russia, China and India and other countries.  The Unites States does not accept any partner in leading the world, even UK, France, even other big countries, I wouldn’t call them great powers because this is another meaning, they are not great anymore.  They don’t accept partners.  That’s why they are fighting now.  So, the war in Syria is microcosm of the world war III, let’s say, but without armaments; through proxies.  You have different factors.  The oil is one factor of the war, not because of the oil. I don’t think, I don’t believe just because of the oil.

Question 18:  Of course, some might say that Syria historically, your father and yourself have always supported the Palestinians and the UN resolutions governing the Palestinians.  Do you see Israel, which after all many believe to be a nuclear weapons of mass destruction power as influencing policy in the European Commission, in the State Department and in the Pentagon?

President Assad:  Definitely. Israelis are our enemy, they occupy our land, and it’s self-evident, intuitive to be part of anything that could happen against Syria, any plan, any instigation, directly through their relation with the terrorists, and Netanyahu was visiting the terrorists who’ve been treated in their hospitals.

Journalist: Do you believe those pictures are true that the Israeli government was directly supporting Al Qaeda-linked and ISIS-Daesh-linked militants trying to destroy your government?

President Assad:  The Israelis published these photos formally as news; it wasn’t our allegations. Second, every time the Syrian army advanced against those Al-Nusra terrorists in the south, Israel used to bombard our troops, and whenever we advance somewhere else in Syria, their airplanes started committing air strikes against our army.  That’s what’s happening.  So, the link is very clear.  There was correlation between the Israeli operations and the terrorist’s operations. So, first through the terrorists directly, second through the Americans, and third through the Europeans.  They have one agenda and one interest, and before the war not only during the war. So, it’s very normal and expected and likely that the Israeli should be part of all of this.

Question 19: Of course, while Britain, the United States, European powers have aerially bombarded your country to destroy your government, the big news in NATO-nation media was the Al-Baghdadi assassination by the 75th Ranger Regiment in Idlib province. Is it your understanding going on from what you just said that Al-Baghdadi is essentially trained by the United States under torture in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq?

President Assad:  He was in their prisons under their supervision, and the Americans were the ones who released Al-Baghdadi, so they wouldn’t release him without any role, and suddenly Al-Baghdadi became Al-Khalifah of the Muslims in the world as he assigned himself.  He was prepared by the Americans to play that role and we don’t believe this recent story of killing him. Maybe he is killed, but it’s not about what they’ve mentioned. The whole story was about whitewashing the American hand from being hand in a glove with the terrorists during the last, not only few years, but during the last decades.  This is like in the fiction movies when they erase your memory.  They wanted to erase the memory of their public opinion that they were in direct link with those terrorists, especially Al- Qaeda, ISIS and Al-Nusra.  When Saddam Hussein was captured, they showed him.  When he was executed, they showed the event of execution.  When his children were killed, they showed their bodies.  The same with al-Gaddafi.  Why didn’t they show us the body of Bin Laden?  Why didn’t they show us the body of Al-Baghdadi?  Just fake story about being against terrorists and this very sophisticated operation.  Maybe he is killed because he is expired as a person; they needed somebody else, and maybe they wanted to change the whole name of ISIS into another name to bring ISIS as a moderate organization to be used again in the market against the Syrian government.

Journalist: Again, the media has not broadcast that, but of course the Trump administration thanked your government when it came to the assassination of Al-Baghdadi.

President Assad: We are not part of any operation.

Journalist: You are not in dialogue with them.

President Assad: At all, there is no relation between any institution in Syria and any institution in the United States.

Journalist: Nor with EU representatives at the recent Geneva talks?

President Assad: No, no one at all. We don’t have any relation with most of the Western countries who play direct role against Syria.

Journalist:  I know you are antagonistic with NATO-nation Turkey, but Mr. Erdogan and arguably yourself must be aware that Western policy is liable for blowback into the European Union. What have you made of say European Union governments response to the possible outflow of British ISIS-Daesh fighters back into the European Union, how dangerous is it to be in London or Paris or Berlin?

President Assad: Actually, the relation between Erdogan and the EU is two ways: they hate him but they want him. They hate him, they know that he is fanatic Islamist, they know this, and they know that he’s going to send them those extremists or maybe terrorists.

Journalist: He took in many refugees from your country.

President Assad:  Many of them are from Syria and some from them no they come from different areas in the world not only Syria actually, but the majority are Syrians; not all of them are extremists, not the majority of them are terrorists.  Actually, most of the Syrians who left to Turkey, they left because of the terrorism in Syria, because of the bombardment of the terrorists and so on.  So, they don’t want him (Erdogan), but at the same time, they fear him.  But from the other side, let’s say that sending those Syrians and other refugees is dangerous, the most dangerous on Europe is to support the terrorists in Syria, this is the most dangerous part.  So, this is hypocrisy; how can you fear those few millions, the majority of them are moderates and they have few terrorists, while you support those terrorists directly in tens of thousands at least and maybe hundreds of thousands in Syria and you don’t fear that they’re going to go back to your country.

Question 20: Well, the British government takes away the citizenship of British ISIS ex-fighters arguably. Okay, but then presently the fighting in Idlib, Russian warplanes in action there, how far away are you from reintegrating Idlib? Will be there an amnesty for these people that have tried to overthrow your Syrian government?

President Assad:  Militarily, it will not take long time if we start to liberate Idlib, but actually what we do, our plan, is to give a chance for the civilians to leave, and that’s what happening.  But they’ve been, actually, not leaving freely towards the government; they’ve been smuggled, they’ve been, how to say, coming like leakage, few families every week, let’s say, because they could be killed if they want to leave.

Journalist: Southwards or Westwards towards …

President Assad: Southward towards the government, it’s actually southwards or eastwards. This is very important for us to give chance for those civilians to leave in order not to be harmed.

Journalist:  But there are airstrikes backed by Russia and your military forces. There are reports in the past few days that civilians have died, how soon is Idlib is going to be reintegrated?

President Assad:  Those airstrikes are against the terrorist’s facilities, very simply.

Journalist: The humanitarian Organizations?

President Assad: In the Western narrative, in the Western media, the narrative during the nine years of the war that every Syrian or, let’s say, Russian airstrike should be against the civilians and the humanitarian facilities.  Unfortunately, according to them, our bullets and missiles and bombs, they can only kill civilians; they don’t kill militants!  Always as you see.  So, NO, this is again part of the Western narrative and I think just discussing this narrative is just a waste of time.  Again, this is against our interest.  Our interest lies in killing the terrorists in order to protect the civilians, not leaving those civilians, innocents, under the supervision of the terrorists and being killed by them.

Question 21: Okay, but what is the nature of your agreement with the Syrian Defense Forces? So many different names of organizations in your country, many of them, the white hat good guys in NATO nation media, is there power sharing going on, who are the Syrian Defense Forces?

President Assad: With the SDF? No, it’s about regaining control, full control of the territory wherever the Syrian Army moves and brings with it the services of the government.  So, it has full sovereignty over these territories. But this agreement is about the SDF withdrawing 30 kilometers southward in order to remove the pretext of the Turks to invade Syria.

Let’s say, we are in a transitional period because they are going to keep their armaments now, but we invited them to join the Syrian Army.  Some of them said NO, the last few days some of them said YES that they are ready to join the Army, so we do not know what is going on to happen yet, but we invited them to join the Army in order to have a normal situation as it used to be before the war, when the law prevailed and the state prevailed, nobody else.

Question 22: As for Kurdish forces, are they just tired after so many years, I mean, your understanding is they took money from the US and the CIA; now you’re welcoming them back.

President Assad: First of all, the SDF is not only Kurds; it is a mix of Kurds and Arab and others. Second, when we talk about the SDF, the Kurds in the SDF, they represent part of the Kurds. The majority of the Kurds had a good relationship with the government, and the majority of the Kurds supports the government, but this part which is called the PYD is the one who’s been supported by the Americans publicly, their armament, their money, they smuggled oil together, they are American agents, to be frank, most of them, I wouldn’t say all of them, I do not know all of them.   But their policy during the last few years is to invite the Americans to stay, to be angry when America wants to leave and to say: we do not want to join the Syrian Army recently.

Journalist:  Aren’t you saying exactly what Mr Erdogan would say to me about the SDF?

President Assad:  About them?? actually, Erdogan, has his own agenda which is two parts; his own agenda as a Muslim brotherhood, and the American agenda as a puppet.  So it is two parts, but they worked in tandem, these two agendas.  But at the same time, those groups of PYD gave him the excuse and the reason to invade Syria, that does not mean the invasion is legal.  It is illegal in every sense of the word. But, they gave him the pretext, because he has been announcing for years that he wanted to invade the northern part of Syria, and he wanted to clean that area from the “terrorists” and he means the PYD. They kept giving him this excuse, that’s what happened. That’s why they were to be blamed but Erdogan is invader.

Journalist: Okay, but do not you see how NATO or some people in NATO powers may think that the one thing we do not want is peace between Ankara and Damascus? And you are participating in that divide and rule, a system that has been designed in western capitals–no chance of any meetings with Mr. Erdogan?

President Assad:  With him, it is not raised to meet him.  I do not think while somebody is occupying your land will be the preferred one to meet with. We had some few meetings ……

Journalist: You negotiate with your enemies, not your friends?

President Assad:  Yes, we are, but not with Erdogan, not me with him. No. It is on the security level; it happened through the Russians.  It was a tripartite meeting; it happened two or three times.  It led nowhere.  So we are not against the principles to negotiate with enemies, especially when we do not consider the Turks as enemies.  The Turkish people are our neighbors, and we have a common history, and we cannot make them the enemy.  The enemy is Erdogan and his policy and his coteries.  So, to be against those groups in Turkey and in Syria that does not mean that we see eye to eye in another aspect, especially after he invaded Syria, publicly and formally.

Question 23: You see countries that have taken policy decisions like Syria, and I mention Palestinians, I mention historic support for what is seen as liberation movements in the Global South. They turn round to take up neoliberal economics. Last time I was here, all the talk in Damascus amongst your ministers in Damascus, they were talking about privatization.  They were talking about elites in Syrian society, educated at business school like Harvard in the west, is that not the start of the Syrian conflict, when you started to implement neoliberal privatization plans destroying the fabric of this society?

President Assad:  Actually, there was debate about privatization, and as a government, and as a state in general, we refused it; even the unions in Syria, the majority refused the Neo-liberal policies because we know that it is going to destroy the poor, that was before..

Journalist: Everyone was talking about it here in 2009.

President Assad:  No. We moved steps towards liberation, but we still have public sector.  Till this moment, actually, who protected the economy in Syria and the services, is the public sector. Without the public sector, we would not have survived this war.  The role of the public sector, because we are socialist government.

Journalist: in name!

President Assad:  No, actually we still have public sector, and we still support the poor, we still have subsidies of bread, of oil, of schools, everything, nearly free; education is free in Syria.  So, we have not changed that policy but we opened the doors more for the private sector.  So, you cannot call liberalization; you cannot call it.

Question 24: Was it a coincidence the conflict hit at that time just after your opening up the market.

President Assad: No, it is was not.

Journalist: Arguably, to corruption, more corruption?

President Assad:  No, there was, let’s say, explanation for the reason of the conflict; it does not have anything to do with this.  It does not have anything. They said because there was four years of drought and the people become poorer, no, no.

Journalist: The Climate Change?

President Assad:  No, no, this is not the reason.  This is not correct.  These are explanations, just theoretical. In reality, the problem started when the money of Qatar came to Syria, and we had contact with many of the laborers, and we told them, why do not you come to your workshop, and they said in one hour we take as we take in one week.  It was very simple. They paid them 50 dollars at the very beginning, then later 100 dollars a week which has enough for him to live without work, so it is much easier for him to join the demonstrations.  After that it was much easier for them to take them towards having armaments and shooting, and before that we had very important …..

Journalist: I am sure the Qatari government would deny that?

President Assad:  Of course, definitely.

Question 25: I mean because it was presented at the time, somewhat bizarrely for anyone arguably who knows about the Arab world’s complexity of the Arab spring from the self-immolation of Bouazizi in Tunisia, is that connected to this conflict, the Arab spring, or is that.

President Assad:  Of course, there is. There is interaction in this region because you know the same culture, the same background, the same circumstances, somehow, not completely. Some of the demonstrations at the very beginning were peaceful, to be frank; not every demonstration was infiltrated by militants.  No, that is not true. In some areas, yes.  Some people wanted to go because they wanted to improve their situation.  Some people, they have their own ideas about improving, let’s say, the political system, more freedom, different slogans they said or they used in those demonstrations.  Yes. So, that was mainly by the influence of what happened in other countries like new trend.  But that not why it continued.  That’s why the same people that I’m talking about, they stopped participating in the demonstrations when the shooting started and the extremists started infiltrating, especially the Muslim brotherhood who started leading the demonstrations with Allah Akbar, and using religious slogans in order to give this religious and sometimes sectarian mantle to put this mantle on the demonstrations.

Question 26: Something like that could be happening in Lebanon?

President Assad: Lebanon is a sectarian country; we all know that. Because they have a sectarian constitution.  In Syria, we do not have a sectarian constitution, so it did not work.

Journalist: But I meant the outside influences?

President Assad:  Of course, no one will leave spontaneous demonstration to be spontaneous, but where would it go?  That depends on the awareness of the people.

Question 27: I am going to ask you about the reconstruction. Some people are saying that you are going to be too dependent on China, on Iran. The estimate was 230 billion dollars, I do not know how they calculate these things, do you expect now to see massive reconstruction? Is that what is going to happen now?

President Assad:  Not very soon, because you know there is an embargo on Syria, and the American tried hard during the last two years to not allow any individual, not only companies, who wants to invest in Syria to come.  They said you are under embargo right away. So, many capitals fear coming to Syria because of that embargo.  But it is not the biggest problem.  For the human resources, we have the human resources enough to build our country, we do not need any human resources. We can build it gradually, so I would not worry about `this embargo, but definitely, the friendly countries like China, Russia and Iran, will have priority in this rebuilding.

Journalist: Not European Union Countries?!

President Assad:  Every country which stood against Syria will not have a chance to be part of this reconstruction.

Journalist:  No British Trade deal?!

President Assad: Definitely not.

Question 28: Do you think, actually and it has been raised, that the return of terrorists, as you call them, mass immigration that occurred after the Libyan war and after the Syrian war, they affected BREXIT because of immigration to Europe?

President Assad:  Of course, the far-right has been influenced by this to his own interest. Of course, I am talking about the far-right.  The most important thing – not the political aspect of it – the change in the society, how much Europe is ready, can, or able to integrate those immigrants in their society.  Even before that, mass immigration during the last ten years to Europe, they had a problem in integrating the immigrants in their society.  Now, you have this problem and they have the terrorism that inflicted France and the UK and other countries.  They would be affected because parts of those immigrants are the extremists and the terrorists and the people who do not want to integrate.  They want to go there just because they want to leave this region for different reasons, security, economy …

Journalist: And there will be no security collaboration to help these countries?

President Assad:  No, there is none, and we are not ready.  We said very clearly that we are not going to help any country in security while they work against Syria in every aspect, economy, security and in their politics

Journalist: The head of MI6 on his opening speech, Alex Younger, said that you and Putin “They make a desert and call it peace. The human tragedy is heart-breaking.”

President Assad:  Any British official is in no position to talk about the humanitarian aspect anywhere in the world; they have been part of the invasion in Iraq; they have been partner in killing more than 1.5 million Iraqis; they have been partner in attacking Syria with their missiles and the embargo Syria, and killing hundreds of thousands of Syrians, and at the end, they are American puppets.  They are not independent, to be frank.  So, they are in no position to talk about the humanitarian issues anywhere in the world, let alone their history in India in the past; forget about this colonial era, I am talking about their current in modern history. They are not in a position.

Question 29: Well, just finally then, What about the election here?  Is there going to be a general election in 2021 in Syria?

President Assad: Definitely.

Journalist: And will be there more than one person on the ballot?

President Assad:  Last time, We were three and this time, of course, we are going to have as much as they want to nominate. There are going to be numerous nominees.

Journalist: Mr. President. Thank you.

President Assad: Thank you.

Indian Supreme Court Settles 500-Year Old Muslim/Hindu Time Bomb In Hindutva Favo

NEW DELHI/AYODHYA, India (Reuters) – India’s Supreme Court on Saturday awarded a bitterly disputed religious site to Hindus, dealing a defeat to Muslims who also claim the land that has sparked some of the bloodiest riots in the history of independent India.

Policemen stand guard next to a security barricade on a street, before the Supreme Court’s verdict on a disputed religious site claimed by both majority Hindus and Muslim, in Ayodhya, India, November 9, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

The ruling in the dispute between Hindu and Muslim groups paves the way for the construction of a Hindu temple on the site in Ayodhya, a proposal long supported by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu-nationalist party.

Representatives of the Muslim group involved in the case criticised the judgment as unfair and said it was likely to seek a review of the verdict.

In 1992 a Hindu mob destroyed the 16th-century Babri Mosque on the site, triggering riots in which about 2,000 people, most of them Muslims, were killed across the country.

Court battles over the ownership of the site followed.

Jubilant Hindus, who have long campaigned for a temple to be built on the ruins of the mosque, set off fire crackers in celebration in Ayodhya after the court decision was announced.

Thousands of paramilitary force members and police were deployed in Ayodhya and other sensitive areas across India. There were no immediate reports of unrest.

“This verdict shouldn’t be seen as a win or loss for anybody,” Modi said on Twitter.

“May peace and harmony prevail!”

Still, the verdict is likely to be viewed as win for Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its backers.

It comes months after Modi’s government stripped the Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir region of its special status as a state, delivering on yet another election promise to its largely Hindu support base.

Neelanjan Sircar, an assistant professor at Ashoka University near New Delhi, said the court ruling would benefit the BJP, which won re-election in May, but a slowing economy would ultimately take centre stage for voters.

“In the short term, there will be a boost for the BJP,” said Sircar. “These things don’t work forever … Ram Temple isn’t going to put food on the table.”

Hindus believe the site is the birthplace of Lord Ram, a physical incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, and say the site was holy for Hindus long before the Muslim Mughals, India’s most prominent Islamic rulers, built the Babri mosque there in 1528.

‘MILESTONE’

The five-judge bench, headed by the Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, reached a unanimous judgment to hand over the plot of just 2.77 acres (1.1 hectares), or about the size of a soccer field, to the Hindu group.

The court also directed that another plot of 5 acres (2 hectare) in Ayodhya be provided to the Muslim group that contested the case but that was not enough to mollify some.

“The country is now moving towards becoming a Hindu nation,” Asaduddin Owaisi, an influential Muslim opposition politician, told reporters.

Modi’s party hailed the ruling as a “milestone”.

“I welcome the court decision and appeal to all religious groups to accept the decision,” Home Minister Amit Shah, who is also president of the BJP, said on Twitter.

The Sunni Muslim group involved in the case said it would likely file a review petition, which could trigger another protracted legal battle.

“This is not a justice,” said the group’s lawyer, Zafaryab Jilani.

Muslim organisations appealed for calm.

The Hindu group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh – the parent organisation of Modi’s party – had already decided against any celebrations to avoid provoking sectarian violence between India’s majority Hindus and Muslims, who constitute 14% of its 1.3 billion people.

Restrictions were placed on gatherings in some places and internet services were suspended. Elsewhere, police monitored social media to curb rumours.

Streets in Ayodhya were largely deserted and security personnel patrolled the main road to Lucknow, the capital of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

Ayodhya residents were glued to their televisions and mobile phones for news of the ruling, which delighted Hindus when it came.

“Everyone should come together to ensure that the construction work begins at the site without any delay,” roadside vendor Jitan Singh said over the chants of “Jai Shri Ram” (hail Lord Ram) from fellow shop-keepers.

Turkish State Press Anadolu Reports US Building New Bases In Occupied Syrian Oil Territory

US building new military bases in Syria’s oil-rich area

US sends additional soldiers, armored vehicles, heavy weapons, ammunitions to region

Selen Temizer and Mohamad Misto
US building new military bases in Syria's oil-rich area

The U.S. has started construction of two new military bases in Syria’s oil-rich Deir ez-Zor governorate.

The military bases are being built in the 113th Brigade area and near al-Sur region, according to local sources.

While the footage captured by Anadolu Agency showed that many construction equipment are put into action, it was learnt the U.S. has sent 250 to 300 additional soldiers, armored vehicles, heavy weapons and ammunitions to the region.

After a pause in Turkey’s anti-terror operation in northern Syria, U.S. troops on Friday resumed military patrols around oil reservoirs in northeastern Syria.

Turkey on Oct. 9 launched Operation Peace Spring to eliminate YPG/PKK terrorists from northern Syria east of the Euphrates River in order to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees, and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.

On Oct. 22, Turkey reached an agreement with Russia to force YPG/PKK terrorists to withdraw from the planned terror-free zone with their weapons.

Biden Dares To Call Trump’s Syrian Policies A “giant ISIS recruiting poster”, After Helping Obama Create ISIS

[SEE: What Is the Truth About ISIS]

See “Islamists go where oilmen fear to tread,” “Imperial Plan To Use Civil War As Gas and Oil Valve.” The “War On Terror” is NOT a war on terror, but a war on gas and oil producers outside the US sphere of control. The US policy has been to export terrorists into uncontrolled oil regions, in order to open the door for Pentagon proxy forces. We fight to bottle-up uncontrolled oil nations until they can be brought under US domination, and to artificially manipulate current oil/gas prices.–Ed.

‘Like a giant ISIS recruiting poster’: Trump’s Syrian oilfield occupation slammed by ‘moderate’ rebel recruiter Biden

Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden – who, back in the good old Obama administration days, lobbied for the arming of ‘moderate’ rebels in Syria – slammed Trump for downgrading the US military to an oilfield occupation force.

“Leaving troops behind like [Trump’s] doing now – he says that what he wants to do is we’re going to occupy the oil fields and we’re going to take ‘em,” Biden told the Wall Street Journal. He expressed deep regret that the vacuum left by the withdrawal of US troops has disastrously been filled by the (legitimate) Syrian government, Russia, and (probably worst of all) Iran. Oh, and Islamic State terrorists of course.

That’s like a giant 300-foot recruiting poster for ISIS

As if only a terrorist would oppose an illegal US occupation and deny Americans their God-given right to loot sovereign nations’ natural resources, Biden did not criticize the ‘secure the oil’ policy per se, but rather lamented yet another ‘betrayal’ of US allies.

Back in the days in the Obama administration, Biden lobbied for a $500-million Syrian rebel train and equip program – even though he once admitted that finding even a single ‘moderate’ that was revolutionary enough might prove hard, if not impossible, as it was unlikely there was “a Thomas Jefferson hiding behind some rock, or a James Madison beyond one sand dune.”

The fact of the matter is, the ability to identify a moderate middle in Syria was — there was no moderate middle…

ALSO ON RT.COMWesterners who propped up Islamist ‘moderate rebels’ suddenly realize they’re terrorists as they launch ‘genocide’ of Kurds

So when reports of American weapons regularly falling into the hands of IS and US-backed militants joining the ranks of hardcore jihadists finally reached the mainstream media, Biden famously tried to deflect the blame, claiming it wasn’t Washington’s fault that its own allies had been pouring “hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad.”

After the ‘moderate rebel’ endeavor flopped and turned into a PR disaster, Washington disowned the likes of the Free Syrian Army, but managed to maintain a foothold in northern Syria and capture oil fields in the Deir ez-Zor Governorate with the help of its new ‘boots on the ground’, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

ALSO ON RT.COM‘I like oil!’ Trump reaffirms predatory intentions in Syria as Assad calls him ‘the best’ US president for his honesty

“I like oil! We’re keeping the oil!” Trump proclaimed as he pulled out the troops, making it clear that the only reason the US is maintaining a small (but still illegal) military presence after the pullout is to deny Damascus access to its natural resources. Each month, the US smuggles crude worth $30 million out of Syria, according to Russia’s estimates – which is not only in violation of international law but, ironically, also in breach of its own unilateral sanctions against the war-ravaged state.

Syrian President Bashar Assad, however, gave Trump credit for openly admitting to representing the interests of American lobbies, in stark contrast with the previous ‘Nobel Peace Prize’ administration that posed as the “defenders of human rights and noble and unique American values.”

ALSO ON RT.COMUS smuggles crude worth $30mn per month from occupied Syrian oil fields, violating its own sanctions – Russian Foreign Ministry

Russian Soyuz Rockets Provide Backbone For US Space Program w/Out US-Made Engines

Russia is making more Soyuz spacecraft to help NASA’s ISS missions

NASA warned it might need help for the next year or two.

AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky 

While the US wants to reduce its dependence on Russian rockets, Russia itself is expecting to help for a while yet. Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin recently ordered the construction of two more Soyuz MS spacecraft, one of which will help NASA deliver astronauts to the International Space Station. The decision follows a letter from NASA director Jim Bridenstine warning of a delay in starting American commercial spacecraft flights. The US may need extra seats in 2020 and 2021, Rogozin said, and this extra spacecraft will help in a pinch.

The other Soyuz vessel would be used for a space tourist flight due in late 2021, although this would help free resources for other missions.

Not surprisingly, Russia used the order as a chance to criticize American planning. The country reportedly warned the US that it should have asked for more seats in advance in case its target of a spring 2020 commercial flight didn’t pan out. It takes “at least” two years for Energia to make a Soyuz spacecraft, Rogozin said.

This isn’t necessarily a sign of serious trouble for the US. SpaceX is still hoping for a Crew Dragon trip in early 2020, and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner might not be far behind. However, the extra construction suggests there may not be a rapid transition toward all-American launches — the two countries might have to cooperate for a while yet.

Source: TASS

Al-Baghdadi was US ‘spawn

Earlier, Syrian President Bashar Assad also expressed his doubts about the fate of the notorious terrorist and said that Washington could recreate him “under a different name, as a different individual,” also suggesting the Americans could reproduce “ISIS in its entirety,” possibly “under a different name but with the same thought and the same purpose.”

Al-Baghdadi was US ‘spawn’, his death is still an open question – Lavrov

Al-Baghdadi was US ‘spawn’, his death is still an open question – Lavrov

Russia still cannot verify Washington’s claims about the elimination of the Islamic State leader, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, adding that the US facilitated the rise of the group in the first place.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the (now former) leader of the notorious terrorist group Islamic State  (IS, formerly ISIS) “is or was if he is really dead a spawn of the United States,” the minister told the Russian Rossiya 24 broadcaster.

“ISIS as such came into existence in the wake of the US illegal invasion of Iraq, the collapse of the Iraqi state and the release of extremists that Americans previously kept in prisons there…”

So, to a certain degree, the Americans have now eliminated their own spawn, if it did happen.

ALSO ON RT.COMUS smuggles crude worth $30mn per month from occupied Syrian oil fields, violating its own sanctions – Russian Foreign Ministry

Lavrov also said that the Russian military still do not have enough information to confirm with confidence that the self-proclaimed ‘Caliph’ is indeed dead. “We want to get additional information,” he said.

It was all stated triumphantly and jubilantly. Yet, our military still study the issue and … cannot confirm many US statements so far.

US President Donald Trump pompously announced American special forces neutralized the terrorist leader in “a daring night-time raid” in northwest Syria, yet, his statement was met with skepticism by many. While the Pentagon released drone footage of the raid, it offered little proof regarding the terrorist leader’s demise itself. His mutilated body, found under the rubble of a collapsed tunnel, was allegedly buried at sea, but evidence for this assertion, too, essentially remains classified.

READ MORE: Pentagon declassifies al-Baghdadi raid VIDEO & DETAILS, confirms ISIS leader’s mutilated body buried at sea

 

ALSO ON RT.COM‘Americans will RESPAWN al-Baghdadi’: Assad casts doubt on ISIS leader’s death, draws parallels with Bin Laden’s killing

Russian FM Lavrov Denounces US Oil Grab In Syria As ‘Arrogant and Illegal’:

[SEE: EXCLUSIVE: U.S. HAS PLAN TO SEND TANKS AND TROOPS TO ‘SECURE’ SYRIA OIL FIELDS AMID WITHDRAWAL]

‘Arrogant & illegal’: Lavrov denounces US military’s oil moves in Syria at Russian-Turkish-Iranian press event

‘Arrogant & illegal’: Lavrov denounces US military’s oil moves in Syria at Russian-Turkish-Iranian press event

The US was “arrogant” to send its troops to guard oilfields in Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said, adding that it remains unclear from whom the installations need to be protected.

The actions of the Americans in Syria violate international law, as their presence in the country is “illegal,” Lavrov reiterated, appearing alongside his Iranian and Turkish counterparts at a press-conference in Geneva, Switzerland.

The statement that this [US] presence is needed to protect the oil riches of Syria is arrogant. It turns out that they are being protected from Syria itself.

Washington’s claims that oilfields needed protection from the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group were just a pretext to backtrack on the withdrawal of the US troops from Syria, which had earlier been announced by Donald Trump.

Such a statement sounds especially confusing as “back in March, the US already announced that Islamic State is defeated, crushed,” he reminded the attendance in Geneva.

ALSO ON RT.COMRussian MoD says US protects oil smugglers in Syria, offers aerial images as proof

 

Lavrov, Turkish FM Mevlut Cavusoglu, and Iranian FM Mohammad Javad Zarif got together to discuss the official launch of the Syrian Constitutional Committee to take place in Geneva on Wednesday.

Another pressing issue on the agenda was the ceasefire in northern Syria, which was negotiated by Russia and Turkey in Sochi last week, but was due to expire later on Tuesday.

Cavusoglu warned that any Kurdish units, whom Ankara views as terrorists, remaining in the “safe zone” on the Turkish-Syrian border after the truce ends will be eliminated. However, he pointed out that Turkey trusts Moscow when it said that the Kurds have left the area, per the agreement.