Saturday, March 19, 2016

Fear and Whackiness on the Trump Campaign Trail


 by Jordan Ray Correll

March 19, 2016

So, if you know me or my friend, Seth Quackenboss, then you know that we often get ourselves into ridiculously wacky situations, especially when we're together. Yesterday was one of those days.

We decided to drive down to Fayetteville in order to hear a certain orange politician speak. Yes, you guessed it. We went to a Donald Trump rally.

Now, I am not a supporter of Mr. Trump in any way, shape, or form. I'm quite inclined to a certain berning sensation that I've been experiencing for some time. But that's beside the point. The point is, we thought that we were in for a time of jokes and hilarity.

And at the beginning, it was.

Jordan Ray Correll and his friend Seth
Quackenboss pose with a Trump sign
at a Trump rally in Fayetteville, NC
March 9, 2016

There were a few speakers before Trump came out and they were not well organized at all. They were comical. One man, a veteran, said that he had shed blood on 7 continents. And unless I missed the great Antarctica War, I highly doubt that's true. Let it be known for the record, that I am not against veterans in any way shape or form. I just thought that particular comment was funny. Because I doubt he actually wounded someone in Antarctica. But a more plausible explanation would be that he was doing penguin research and accidentally pricked a penguin and it bled. Anyway…

One speaker also said that we needed to get rid of 911 calls and we all need to handle our problems ourselves. Well...that's highly unlikely. I can't imagine that people will start forgoing 911 calls when their house in burning down in order to try and extinguish the fire themselves. But, ya know, it's a nice thought.

So those were my laughable moments. Trump was about to come out. We had our signs ready. We were going to go all out. Yelling and screaming and whatnot. Because, why else were we there if not to join the spectacle? He comes out. People go crazy. For the first twenty to thirty minutes I sat there with high expectations of hilarity. After half an hour, my feelings turned extremely grim. I was scared and upset. Let me explain...

Trump basically said the same few things the whole time. He knows exactly what will get a cheer from the crowd and he says it. He mentioned his wall several times. About five or six if I can remember correctly. At one point he said "We're going to build a wall. And who's going to pay for it?" And the crowd yelled, "Mexico!" and then they lost their minds. Now, we all know exactly why this is stupid. So I won't elaborate. It was just very unsettling. He mentioned ISIS several times. About ten. But not exactly how to stop ISIS. Just comments like, "We're gonna get ISIS," and "ISIS is going down." Blanket statements. He did say that for America to win again (any sort of winning, not just against ISIS) we have to go outside of the law and he isn't afraid to do it. And that's unsettling for several reasons. But I'm just reporting the facts. And that was all he said on policy. Completely void of content or substance. Just statements that would get the crowd cheering.

Now, let's talk about the protesters. There were many. I think throughout the hour long rally, there were roughly 15-20 groups of protesters. Some of them were individuals and some were in groups. They popped up throughout the rally here and there. And some of them were yelling and causing a ruckus but some of them were just standing there with their anti-Trump shirts or their pro-whoever else shirts. They were all removed. Peaceful or violent.

One man had a shirt that said "Love is the answer," and he was thrown out. Trump's comment on this man was, "And love is very important but I mean, who's making love to that guy?" And my stomach churned. A few minutes later, a woman stood up not far from where the other man was and starting protesting. She was removed. Trump's comment was, "She was with the other guy. They're actually a couple. A *clears throat* beautiful *gagging noises* couple." And the crowd laughed and cheered. It was horrifying.

But out of everything I saw, the crowd was the worst part. I have never seen more hateful people in my life.

Everyone was just filled with so much hatred. If a protester had a sign, even the peaceful ones, they would take the sign from them, rip it up, and throw it back at the protesters. Whenever a protester would get removed, the crowd would yell horrible things. Once, after a protester was removed, Trump said,

"Where are these people coming from? Who are they?" 

A lady, sitting not 5 feet from me, said, "Well hopefully when you're president, you'll get rid of em all!" Get rid of them? Get rid of anyone who opposes Trump? It was sickening. I felt truly nauseous. And these people loved the protesters. They loved the drama and the chaos. And Trump fed upon it. It was easily one of the strangest and most uncomfortable things I've ever witnessed. I could just hear the horrible things being spoken around me and it made my skin crawl.

Needless to say, there was very little laughter on my part. I thought this was going to be joke...and it was, but for a very different reason.

I implore you, if you're thinking about voting for Trump, reconsider. You are only promoting chaos and hatred. I witnessed it firsthand. And trust me, this is not something you want to see in person. This is not what you want to happen to our country.

After the Soul Is Gone: Kerry's Dead-Eye Conversion Complete

Kerry Sought Missile Strikes to Force Syria's Assad to Step Down

by Gareth Porter - MiddleEast Eye

March 14, 2016

Jeffrey Goldberg’s newly published book-length article on Barack Obama and the Middle East includes a major revelation that brings US Secretary of State John Kerry’s Syrian diplomacy into sharper focus: it reports that Kerry has sought on several occasions without success over the past several months to get Obama’s approval for cruise missile strikes against the Syrian government.

Photo: US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) watches
as US President Barack Obama speaks following
a meeting with the National Security Council (NSC)
25 February, 2016 State Department in Washington, DC

That revelation shows that Kerry’s strategy in promoting the Syrian peace negotiations in recent months was based on much heavier pressure on the Assad regime to agree that President Bashar al-Assad must step down than was apparent. It also completes a larger story of Kerry as the primary advocate in the administration of war in Syria ever since he became Secretary of State in early 2013.

Goldberg reports that “on several occasions” Kerry requested that Obama approve missile strikes at “specific regime targets”, in order to “send a message” to Assad – and his international allies – to “negotiate peace”. Kerry suggested to Obama that the US wouldn’t have to acknowledge the attacks publicly, according to Goldberg, because Assad “would surely know the missiles’ return address”.

Goldberg reports that Kerry had “recently” submitted a “written outline of new steps to bring more pressure on Assad”. That is obviously a reference to what Kerry referred to in Senate testimony in February as “significant discussions” within the Obama administration on a “Plan B” to support the opposition that would be more “confrontational”. Kerry made no effort in his testimony to hide the fact that he was the chief advocate of such a policy initiative.

But Goldberg’s account makes it clear that Obama not only repeatedly rejected Kerry’s requests for the use of force, but also decreed at a National Security Council meeting in December that any request for the use of military force must come from his military advisers in an obvious rebuff to Kerry. Immediately after Kerry had suggesting that a “Plan B” was under discussion in the administration, it was a senior Pentagon official who dismissed the idea that any confrontational move was under consideration, including the well-worn idea of a “no-fly zone”.

Kerry’s campaign for cruise missile strikes actually began soon after he became secretary in February 2013. At that point Assad was consolidating his military position, while al-Nusra Front and its extremist allies were already in a dominant position within the armed opposition, according to US intelligence. It was hardly a favourable situation for trying to build an opposition force that could be the instrument of the negotiated settlement he had in mind.

At Kerry’s urging Obama signed a secret presidential “finding” in May 2013 for a covert CIA operation the objective of which was to provide enough support to the rebels so they wouldn’t lose, but not enough so they would win. But that was a compromise measure that Kerry believed would be inadequate to support a negotiated settlement.

He wanted much more an urgent programme of aid to the opposition, and he resorted to a shady bureaucratic tactic to advance his aim. Beginning in March 2013 and throughout that spring, the armed opposition accused the Assad regime of using Sarin gas against opposition population centres on several occasions. The evidence for those accusations was highly doubtful in every case, but Kerry seized on them as a way of putting pressure on Obama.

In June 2013, he went to the White House with a paper assuming the truth of the accusations and arguing that, if the United States did not “impose consequences” on Assad over his supposed use of chemical weapons, he would view it as “green light” to continue using them. At a National Security Council Meeting that month, Kerry urged shipments of heavy weapons to the rebels as well as US military strikes, but Obama still said no.

After the 21 August 2013 Sarin attack in the Damascus area, Kerry was the leading figure on Obama’s national security team arguing that Obama had to respond militarily. But after initially agreeing to a set of US missile strikes on regime targets, Obama decided against it. One of the reasons was that director of National Intelligence James Clapper acknowledged to him privately that the intelligence was not a “slam dunk”, according to Goldberg’s account.

In lieu of a missile strikes, however, Obama agreed in October 2013 to a very risky major escalation of military assistance to the Syrian opposition. That fall the Pentagon sold 15,000 US TOW anti-tank missiles to the Saudis, and throughout 2014, the Saudis doled them out to armed groups approved by the United States. Dispensing anti-tank missiles was a reckless policy, because it was recognised by then that many of the groups being armed were already fighting alongside Nusra Front in the northwest. The missiles were crucial to the capture of all of Idlib province by the Nusra-led “Army of Conquest” in April 2015.

Kerry was ready to take a risk on Nusra Front and its allies becoming unstoppable in order to jump-start his strategy of diplomatic pressure on Assad. But Kerry overplayed his hand. The Assad regime and Iran feared that the newly strengthened military force under Nusra Front control might break through to take over the Alawite stronghold of Latakia province. They prevailed on Russian President Vladimir Putin to intervene with Russian airpower. As the Russian campaign of airstrikes began to push back the extremist-led military forces and even threaten their lines of supply, Kerry’s strategy to pressure the Assad regime to make a major diplomatic concession became irrelevant.

Kerry’s demands for US cruise missile strikes became even more insistent. Without them, he argued, he couldn’t get the Russians to cooperate with his peace negotiations plan. Goldberg quotes a “senior administration official” as saying, “Kerry’s looking like a chump with the Russians, because he has no leverage.”

Obama, who had already succumbed in 2014 to domestic political pressure to begin bombing the Islamic State, saw no reason to get into even deeper war in Syria in support of Kerry’s plan – especially under the new circumstances. Assad was not likely to step down, and in case, the war would only end if Nusra Front and its Salafist-jihadi allies were no longer able to get the heavy weapons they need to fight the regime.

The real origin of the present Syrian peace negotiations is thus Kerry’s ambition to pursue the illusory aim of winning a diplomatic victory in Syria by much greater pressure on the Assad regime. Ironically, in setting in motion the military build-up of an al-Qaeda-dominated armed opposition, Kerry sowed the seeds of the military reversal that ensured the failure of his endeavour. As a result he became the rather pathetic figure shown in Goldberg’s account pleading in vain for yet another US war in Syria.

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of the newly published Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Isolated, Demonized, and Dehumanized by the West: North Korea from the Inside

DPRK: Isolated, Demonized, and Dehumanized by the West

by Andre Vltchek - Dissident Voice

March 18th, 2016

Soon, most likely, there will be new brutal sanctions imposed against North Korea. And there will be massive provocative military exercises held, involving the US and South Korea (ROK). In brief, it is all ‘business as usual’: the West continues to torture DPRK; it is provoking it, isolating, demonizing and dehumanizing it, making sure that it wouldn’t function normally, let alone thrive.

Border at Panmunjom from DPRK side

The submissive Western public keeps obediently swallowing all the shameless lies it is being served by its mainstream media. It is not really surprising; people of Europe and North America already stopped questioning official dogmas a long time ago.

 One of hundreds free public spaces in DPRK

North Korea (DPRK) is depicted as some insane, starving, subnormal and underdeveloped hermit state, whose leaders are constantly boozing and whoring, murdering each other, and building some primitive but lethal nukes, in order to destroy the world.

One of many Pyongyang theatres

Those of us who are familiar with DPRK know that all this is one bundle of fat, shameless lies. Pyongyang is an elegant, well functioning city with great public housing, excellent public transportation, public places and recreational facilities, theatres, sport facilities and green areas. And despite those monstrous sanctions, the countryside is much more prosperous than what one sees in the desperate Western ‘client’ states like Indonesia and Philippines.

North Korean Country Road

At least there is something; there have at least been a few decent reports that have been written about those grotesque lies and the Western propaganda.

But the essential question remains: ‘Why is the West so obsessed with demonizing North Korea?’

And the answer is simple: Like Cuba, North Korea dared to step on the toes of Western colonialism and imperialism. Sacrificing its sons and daughters, it helped to liberate many African countries, and it provided assistance to the most progressive forces on the most plundered and devastated continent.

This is one thing that the West never forgives. It lives off the unbridled plunder of all continents; it essentially thrives by looting its colonies. Those countries that assisted the liberation struggles, those nations that fought for freedom of the colonized world – Soviet Union/Russia, China, Cuba and the DPRK – were designated by Western ideologues as the most ‘dangerous’ and ‘evil’ places on Earth.

DPRK free public housing… is this what the west hates about DPRK?

In Europe and North America, conditioned masses (they have been actually profiting from the colonialism and neo-colonialism for decades and centuries), are stubbornly refusing to comprehend this main reason why the Empire has made the people of North Korea suffer so terribly for years and decades.


My comrade, Mwandawiro Mghanga, Chairperson of SDP and also a Member of the Executive Committee of Africa Left Networking Forum (ALNEF) based in Dakar Senegal, wrote for this essay:

The Social Democratic Party of Kenya (SDP) condemns the unjustified sanctions against North Korea (DPRK) instigated by imperialism led by the United States of America. We are aware that imperialism has never stopped its cold and hot war against DPRK that through one of the greatest patriotic, heroic and revolutionary anti-colonial and anti-imperialist national liberation armed struggles succeeded in winning true independence in the northern half of Korea. When it invaded North Korea, US imperialism like Japanese colonialism earlier, suffered one of the most humiliating military defeats it will never forget in its reactionary history. We also know that the US and the West hates DPRK with venom for refusing to be a puppet of imperialism like South Korea. A dirty false propaganda war is waged against DPRK for refusing the capitalist and neo-colonial path of slavery, under-development and exploitation of person by person and instead choosing the path of development for freedom and humanity, socialism.

We in Africa will not accept to be cheated by imperialists who have always been part and parcel of our problems. Imperialism is not and has never been a friend of Africa but its enemy. African patriots and revolutionaries will never allow imperialism to tell us who our friends are. For we know whom our friends are! And North Korea has always been Africa’s true friend. When the whole of the African continent was under Western colonialism, Korea under the revolutionary leadership of comrade Kim Il Sung was fighting Japanese colonialism and showing solidarity with Africa at the same time. After DPRK, in the name of socialist internationalism increased its moral, military and other material support to African countries in their struggle for liberation from colonialism, imperialism and apartheid. Immediately after independence from colonialism in the 1960s, thousands of Africans, including Kenyans, received free higher, technical and specialised education in the DPRK. DPRK not only offered arms, finance and other material solidarity to Namibia, South Africa, Angola and Mozambique in the war against apartheid and imperialism, but it also actually sent internationalist revolutionaries to Africa to fight side by side with Africans for Africa. DPRK fought with Egypt and Africa during the 1967 war against the brutal Zionist regime of Israel supported by the Western countries. Today DPRK is together with African countries in the demand for a new just international order. In this DPRK is blamed by imperialism and imperialist puppet regimes for being in the forefront and showing by its own example that a new just international order cannot be but anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, it must be socialist.

North Korean internationalism is legendary, just as Cuban internationalism is. And this is the least that we can do right now, when the country is facing new tremendous and brutal challenges – to recall how much it gave to the world; how much it had already sacrificed for the sake of humanity!

North Korean made sedans

I spoke to people in Windhoek, who with tears in their eyes recalled North Korea’s struggle against (South African) apartheid-supported regimes in both Namibia and Angola. Naturally, South African apartheid used to enjoy the full support of the West. To repay that favor, South African troops joined the fight against North Korea and China during the Korean War.

Public Pool

As mentioned by Mwandawiro Mghanga, North Korea fought against Israel, its pilots flew Egyptian fighter planes in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. DPRK took part in the liberation struggle in Angola and it fought in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Lesotho, and Namibia and in the Seychelles. It provided assistance to the African National Congress and its epic struggle to liberate South Africa from apartheid. In the past, it had aided the then progressive African nations, including Guinea, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Mali and Tanzania.

Arthur Tewungwa, Ugandan opposition politician from the Uganda People’s Congress Party (UPC) compares the involvement of the DPRK and the West in his country and the African Great Lakes region:

Uganda benefited from its relationship with North Korea in the 1980s when it helped the government to fight against the Museveni rebels who were supported by the US and UK. Morally, compared to the DPRK, the latter two have no leg to stand on with all the bloodshed they triggered in the Great Lakes Region.


Has North Korea been fully abandoned, left to its fate? Has it been ‘betrayed’?

Christopher Black, a prominent international lawyer based in Toronto, Canada:

…The fact that the US, as part of the SC is imposing sanctions on a country it is threatening is hypocritical and unjust. That the Russians and Chinese have joined the US in this, instead of calling for sanctions against the US for its threats against the DPRK and its new military exercises, which are a clear and present danger to the DPRK, is shameful. If the Russians and Chinese are sincere why don’t they insist that the US draw down its forces there so the DPRK feels less threatened and take steps to guarantee the security of the DPRK? They do not explain their actions but their actions make them collaborators with the USA against the DPRK.

The situation is bleak, but most likely not fatal; not fatal yet.

Jeff J. Brown, a leading China expert based in Beijing, does not hide his optimism when it comes to the Sino-Russian relationship with the DPRK:

There is not a lot that North Korea does in the international arena, that Baba Beijing does not have its hand in. They are two fraternal communist countries and 65 years ago, the Chinese spilled a lot of blood and treasure to save North Korea from the West. Mao Zedong’s son died on the Korean War battlefield, fighting against Yankee imperialism. There are two million ethnic Koreans living along the border with North Korea and another half a million Northerners living and working in China. Koreans are a recognized minority in China. No other country in the world understands North Korea like China does. This closeness is emblematic of their common border, the Yalu River, which is so shallow, you can wade across it. They also share boundaries with another key ally, Russia. China is North Korea’s very, very big brother and protector. Frankly, vis-à-vis the upcoming UNSC sanctions against North Korea, I think the West is getting played like a drum, and it is the drum that gets the crap pounded out of it.

Of course, both China and Russia have their long land borders with North Korea -roads and railroads inter-connecting all three countries. According to my sources in Moscow and Beijing, it is highly unlikely that the two closest allies of the DPRK would ever go along with the new sanctions, whether they are officially ‘supporting them’, or not.

But the logic used by Christopher Black is absolutely correct: it is the West that should be suffering from the toughest sanctions imaginable, not DPRK.

It is the West, not North Korea, which has murdered one billion human beings, throughout history. It is the West that colonized, plundered, raped and enslaved people in all corners of the planet. What moral mandate does it have to propose and impose sanctions against anyone?

We are living in a twisted, truly perverse world, where mass murderers act as judges, and actually get away with it.

North Korea spilled blood for the liberation of Africa. It showed true solidarity with robbed, tortured people, with those whom Franz Fanon used to call the “Wretched of the Earth”. That is why, according to perverse logic (which has roots in the Western religious and cultural fundamentalism), it has to be punished, humiliated, and even possibly wipe off the face of the earth.

Not because it did something objectively ‘bad’, but because the objectivity lost its meaning. Terms ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are now determined by only one criterion: ‘good’ is all that serves the interests of the Western Empire, ‘bad’ is what challenges its global dictatorship.

If you save the village that had been designated by the Empire as a place to be raped and pillaged, you will be punished in the most sadistic and brutal manner. North Korea did exactly that. Except that it did not save just one village, but it helped to liberate an entire continent!

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

• First published in New Eastern Outlook

André Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker, and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His latest book is Exposing Lies of the Empire. He also wrote, with Noam Chomsky, On Western Terrorism: From Hiroshima to Drone Warfare. Andre is making films for teleSUR and Press TV. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and the Middle East. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter. Read other articles by Andre.

EU and Turkey Reach Refugee Expulsion Deal; Ready to Seal Borders

European Union and Turkey reach deal to seal borders and expel refugees

by Jordan Shilton  - WSWS

19 March 2016

A summit between the 28 European Union (EU) heads of government and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu produced an agreement yesterday in Brussels aimed at hermetically sealing off Europe’s borders to the millions of refugees fleeing war zones in the Middle East and North Africa.

Unveiling the deal after two days of talks, EU Council President Donald Tusk declared it would apply to refugees arriving in Greece after March 20. Refugees arriving on the Greek islands by crossing the Aegean Sea will be returned to Turkey, following the completion of a farcical asylum procedure in Greece. In exchange, the EU pledged to accept one Syrian refugee via legal means for every Syrian sent back to Turkey from Greece. This process will commence on April 4.

On top of the €3 billion offered to Turkey thus far, the EU has agreed to pay an additional €3 billion to Ankara by 2018. Turkey will also be offered the prospect of visa-free travel within the 28-state bloc for its citizens and the opening of a new chapter in negotiations over Turkish membership in the EU.

The claim that the deal is aimed at securing protection for refugees according to international law is a fraud. Turkey, a state gripped by a low-level civil war, where democratic rights are trampled under foot and political opponents of the regime suppressed, is to be declared a “safe country”, even though it has not fully implemented the UN Refugee Convention. This makes the asylum procedure formally offered in Greece practically irrelevant, since all refugees can be rejected on the grounds that they must first seek asylum in Turkey.

Moreover, Syrian refugees will only be accepted into the EU to the extent that others are prepared to risk their lives crossing the Aegean, which is patrolled by NATO warships and where well over 300 refugees have already drowned this year.

Expressing the indifference of the ruling elite to the plight of the millions fleeing war and poverty, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated in a blunt message to the refugees, “Whoever sets out on the dangerous route is not only risking their life, they also have no prospect of success.”

The deal’s reactionary character was expressed in the fact that even the far-right Hungarian Prime Minister, Victor Orban, whose country has been sealed off by border fences since last year, praised it for placing no obligations on individual EU member states to accept refugees.

Turkish Prime Minister Davutoglu also hailed the agreement as “historic.”

Even reports in the mass media acknowledged that the deal effectively means the abandonment of any commitment to the right to asylum. An Associated Press story noted that the EU-Turkey deal meant the “outsourcing” of refugee protection to Turkey. Whereas an earlier draft instructed Turkey to treat refugees in accordance with international law, the final agreement merely contained the provision that Ankara adhere to those legal standards deemed “relevant.”

Refugees who do make it to Greece will be put to the back of the line when they return to Turkey, making it virtually impossible for them to make it to Europe legally.

In an indication of what is to come, reports emerged on Friday that Turkish coastguard boats and helicopters had detained 3,000 refugees on their way to the Greek island of Lesbos.

The deal agreed to unanimously by all EU governments is a blatant repudiation of the basic democratic right to asylum. In the wake of World War II and the horrific crimes of the Nazis, the capitalist powers felt compelled to establish the right to asylum as a fundamental tenet of international law. The UN Refugee Convention passed in 1951 guaranteed refugees not only the right to seek protection from war, discrimination and persecution in another country, but to be provided with access to jobs, education and social services.

The EU has committed to accept a mere 72,000 refugees, under conditions where close to 3 million Syrians alone are stranded in Turkey, and up to half of Syria’s population are either internally displaced or have fled to other countries. This is a return to the policies of the 1930s when the so-called democratic countries of Europe and North America accepted a token number of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution.

Greek Interior Minister Panagiotis Kouroumblis directly compared the Idomeni camp on the Macedonian border with a Nazi concentration camp. “This is a modern Dachau, the result of the logic of closed borders,” said the member of the Syriza-led government in Athens, which has deployed troops to detain refugees and is acting as Europe’s gatekeeper.

Significantly, the final agreement contained the provision that when the number of 72,000 refugees is reached, the “one in, one out” mechanism will be suspended and no more refugees will be admitted to the EU from Turkey.

In 2008, when the global financial system stood on the verge of collapse, no expense was spared to bail out the banks and investors whose actions brought the world economy to the brink of collapse. But when it comes to providing for the basic necessities of life for millions of desperate refugees, no resources are forthcoming.

The catastrophic conditions that have created the mass of refugees now blocked at Europe’s borders are themselves the product of the actions of the imperialist powers. The NATO bombardment of Yugoslavia in 1999, the invasion of Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11, the war of aggression against Iraq in 2003, the NATO-led air war to topple the Gaddafi regime in Libya in 2011, and the ongoing regime change operation to overthrow the Assad regime in Damascus—to mention only the most prominent examples—have resulted in the destruction of entire societies. Hundreds of thousands have been killed and millions have been forced to flee their homes.

The reliance on Turkey to block these refugees from reaching Europe will mean that they will be returned to the war zones they have sought so desperately to flee. Ankara is in the midst of a conflict with Kurdish separatists in the southeast of the country, where the Turkish army has launched a series of military operations resulting in hundreds of casualties. The Islamist government has also stepped up repression of journalists and the media, suppressing the Zaman newspaper, a publication critical of the government.

Notwithstanding the public pose of unanimity, the agreement on deterring the millions fleeing war cannot disguise the fact that deep differences remain within the EU itself. The closure of borders to keep out refugees, seen most recently with the decision by Austria and its Balkan neighbours to unilaterally impose border controls, threatened to tear the EU apart.

The deal was a “great success” for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, according to Die Welt. Merkel explicitly praised the deal because it embodied her demand for a “European solution” to the crisis. This call has nothing to do with any desire to assist refugees but is bound up with the interests of German big business to prevent the collapse of freedom of movement within the Schengen zone, from which it has been the main beneficiary over the past two decades.

For its part, France is less supportive of the concessions made to Turkey. French President Francois Hollande emphasised on Friday that Ankara would have to fulfill all 72 requirements before the removal of visa restrictions for Turkish citizens to travel within the EU would be implemented, according to Reuters.

Within the European working class, there is deep opposition to the sealing off of the EU’s borders and the patrolling of the surrounding waters by NATO warships. Significantly, in spite of the incessant right-wing propaganda by the media and established political parties, German daily Die Welt reported the results of a poll Friday that showed 51 percent of respondents in favour of opening the border at Idomeni.

There is no reflection in the political establishment of the widespread sympathy among working people for the refugees, however. The so-called “left” is fully on board with the anti-refugee policy. In Germany, the Left Party is backing Merkel’s policy, embodied in the deal with Turkey. In Greece, the Syriza government of Alexis Tsipras has joined hands with Davutoglu in upholding Fortress Europe.

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Killing the Messenger, Illuminating the Message: The Murder of Berta Caceres

Shine the Light of Truth on Poor Honduras

by John Grant - This Can't Be Happening

March 19, 2016

Since the coup, Honduras has become one of the most dangerous places in the world. - Amy Goodman

Since a June 2009 coup in Honduras, violence beneficial to rightist power brokers and international corporations -- violence directed against activists for the poor and indigenous -- has skyrocketed.

News of this rarely reaches mainstream America.

The real story is that the US government, as in the past, talks pretty but is an accessory in Honduras’ descent into murder.

Murder victim Berta Caceres,
co-founder of COPINH, fought
for the rights of the poor

On March 3rd, Berta Caceres, co-founder of COPINH, the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, was assassinated by killers who broke into her home in La Esperanza (in English, Hope) at 1AM. Gustavo Castro Soto, a Mexican environmental activist who witnessed the murder and was himself shot twice, has been refused permission to return to Mexico and is hiding out in the Mexican embassy in Tegucigalpa. The financial officer of COPINH has been interrogated four times at length by police; she told Amy Goodman it’s an effort to suggest the murder was due to internal COPINH politics. Another COPINH activist, Nelson García, was killed last week. Police say Garcia’s killing was an “isolated” act. “Hundreds of activists have been killed. It’s just a nightmare in Honduras,” says Greg Grandin, a history professor at New York University, referring to the period since the 2009 coup. (See Amy Goodman and Democracy Now for the full story. [1])

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was President Obama’s secretary of state at the time of the 2009 coup. At dawn on June 28th, a military unit invaded the home of duly elected President Manuel Zelaya, a timber baron, woke him from his bed at gunpoint and flew him to Costa Rica. Ms Clinton and President Obama expressed obligatory regret over the coup, then did absolutely nothing to turn it around. Rumors spread of secret US involvement on a direct or indirect basis. After a brief hiatus, military aid was reinstated in full to the Honduran military. Secretary Clinton publicly called for nations around the world to support the government installed by the coup and pushed preparations for new elections. Ms. Clinton is very skilled at working this kind of political knife-in-the-kidney operation with a bright PR smile, all the time counting on the American people to have little interest in the comings and goings of a place like Honduras. Unlike the SNAFU in Benghazi, her Republican enemies have no interest in criticizing her for running cover for a coup that removed a left-leaning president in Honduras.

Zelaya, who governed from the left, came from a family in the timber industry. In 2013, his wife, Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, ran for president but lost to Juan Orlando Hernández, whose family is into coffee, TV and hotels. Hernandez was described by liberal politician Rafael Pineda Ponce as a cipote malcriado or spoiled kid. Zelaya is now a deputy representing Honduras in the Central American Parliament. One of the precious ironies of this saga is that one of the much-touted reasons President Zelaya was ousted was that he was plotting to change the constitution to allow himself to run for a second term. The Honduran Supreme Court recently eliminated that single term rule, which will allow Hernandez to run for successive terms, beginning in the election next year. Zelaya repeatedly denied a second term was his goal in wanting to change the constitution; he said he wanted to improve the plight of the Honduran poor.

As the United States chooses a new president, consider a little conceptual exercise. Imagine a US special ops unit controlled by angry free-market Republicans jacking up President Obama one morning and flying him quickly from the south lawn to a secret location in Texas, telling the nation and the world in a carefully prepared announcement that, because Mr. Obama was so controversial, for the sake of good order, a unified military institution was convinced the duly-elected president had to be removed and new elections would be set up. Also imagine the extended “mopping up” operation that would follow -- ie, an extended dirty war -- since liberals and progressives would not stop advocating what they had been pressing, and working with, the ousted president to accomplish.

Ousted Honduran President Zelaya, Clinton and Henry Kissinger

In the mind of very successful North Americans like Hillary Clinton the lives of poor people struggling for dignity mean nothing beyond their rhetorical value; the comfort of moneyed interests and good elite-driven order is what counts. Like Donald Trump, she has said she’s not a politician. But that’s a case of politicking by a true artist at the accommodation with power. The Benghazi scandal pales compared to Honduras. The trouble is, as we used to say in the reporter business, nothing becomes a story in the mainstream until it becomes a “pissing contest” among political elites. The only people in America sympathetic to the many murdered Honduran activists are on the marginalized left. Which means no pissing contest, and the story gets lost in the media obsession on scandal and personality.

Berta Caceras’ crime was clear: She was a dedicated and effective voice for the poor vis-à-vis industrial interests like mining and dam building in areas affecting poor and indigenous Hondurans. In 2014, Caceres spoke about US meddling and Secretary Clinton’s double-talk about new elections following the coup.

“The return of the president, Mel Zelaya, became a secondary issue. There were going to be elections in Honduras,” she said.
“And the international community -- officials, the government, the grand majority -- accepted this, even though we warned this was going to be very dangerous and that it would permit a barbarity, not only in Honduras but in the rest of the continent. And we’ve been witnesses to this.”

I’ve harbored a soft spot for Honduras ever since I was deported from there in 1984. I was part of a five-man team of US unionists (I was along as a photographer/reporter) there to talk with union leaders about murders and disappearances under the military government of the time. Honduras was then known sarcastically as “Aircraft Carrier Honduras” and effectively under the rule of US Proconsul John Negroponte, officially known as the US ambassador to Honduras. This was during Ronald Reagan’s Contra War against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua next door. That war was being run by Negroponte from Honduras. Our little band of gringo unionists rocked the boat by speaking in public in Tegucigalpa against the Contra War and US intervention in Honduras. I tried to return to Honduras, but my name was on a list, and a rather nasty police official told me either get on the plane waiting for me on the tarmac -- or I was going to jail.

Honduras means depth in English. My Spanish-English dictionary gives the following phrase as an example: meterse en honduras -- to go beyond one’s depth. In some cases, honduras is translated more specifically as ravine or gulch. The name may be attributable to some Spanish conquistador with a bad first impression. For much of its history Honduras has vied with Haiti as the poorest nation in the western hemisphere. Being so poor means you are a resource-rich plaything of the rich and powerful. (See my TCBH story from May 20, 2010, "Honduras: Bad Faith Down in The Gulch." [2])

Following the coup, the United States tricked up the nation with a network of US bases, some large, some small, all focused on interdicting shipments in the Drug War. At least that’s the public line. Since the failed War On Drugs has linked with the permanent War On Terror, the result is a runaway militarist train that even concerned North Americans are powerless to curb. Though they struggle hard, poor Hondurans don’t fare any better. The really committed ones are targets.

President Obama, his shortcoming in Honduras aside, should be honored for opening relations with Cuba. He’s traveling to Cuba next week, followed by a visit to Argentina, where he has said he plans to declassify US military and police records relating to US involvement in the nefarious “dirty war” of the 1970s and 80s. That’s the period when Henry Kissinger was famous for saying that “the arc of history” did not pass through South America; so whatever happened there didn’t matter. In 1976, when the military government was cracking down violently on the left, he was recorded telling Argentina Foreign Minister Cesar Augusto Giuzzetti, “If there are things that have to be done, you should do them quickly.”

A famous book called Civilization and Barbarism written in 1868 by an Argentine military man named D.F. Sarmiento focuses on a cruel tyrant of the time, Facundo Quiroga. The two abstract nouns of the title characterize a long struggle in Latin American history, leading up to today. Too often, US leaders have felt compelled to cozy up to the barbarians. As FDR famously said about Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua, “He’s a bastard, but he’s our bastard.”

The President should be pressured to do what he says and to release all the dirty details of US complicity in the Argentine dirty war. Corpses of the many leftists “disappeared” were slit open to counter buoyancy and shoved out of airplanes over the sea. Declassifying dirty war secrets is a good instinct and should not stop with Argentina. The facts concerning Honduras reveal a contemporary public policy atrocity that the US has had an unfortunate hand in. Information is like sunlight. The low-level killers and thugs who do the dirty work down in the depths below the elite level of plausible deniability cannot thrive in sunlight.

Donald Trump has it wrong: What will “make America great again” is to create our own truth commission here in Exceptional America. With the right policies, there is so much we could do here in America and in places like Honduras.

Nothing can be done until the truth is out on the table. COPINH and other political groups in Honduras are fighting for an official commission to investigate all the killings. Following the Caceres murder and before the Garcia murder, sixty-two US congress members sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew calling for a review of U.S. security aid to Honduras and an investigation into the killing of Caceres. They wrote: "We are profoundly saddened and angered by the brutal assassination of Berta Cáceres and appalled by our government’s continuous assistance to Honduran security forces, so widely documented to be corrupt and dangerous."

Next, there needs to be a consensus (the 62 US congress members is a good place to start) that opposes the forces of violence unleashed by the 2009 coup -- even if they’re free-market capitalists. This is certainly hard for many American leaders to do, given how entrenched the arrogant Kissinger view of the region is among elites and the dirty US alliances that an honest truth commission would reveal. President Zelaya was keen on lifting the poor in Honduras; over time, the goal was to encourage small businesses leading to more disposable income to buy products and, in the end, an improved local economy. It’s not rocket science: It boils down to the subtitle of E.F. Schumacher’s famous book back in the 1970s Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered.

Cuba has long been a controversial issue. After Obama’s visit, with two Cuban-Americans running for president, we should expect it to rise to the level of a pissing contest in the election. It would be great to see presidential candidate Bernie Sanders raise the matter of rich-on-poor violence in Honduras to that level in debates with Ms. Clinton.


Friday, March 18, 2016

Neolib Posing As Progressive vs. Reality TV Star Posing As Fascist - Ain't American Democracy Grand?

Why I won’t be voting for Hillary in November: A Neolib Posing as a Progressive vs. a Reality TV Star Posing as a Fascist

by Dave Lindorff  - This Can't Be Happening

March 18, 2016

I won’t be voting for Hillary Clinton if she wins the Democratic Party nomination for president, and I won’t heed Bernie Sanders if, as he has vowed to do, he calls on his supporters to “come together” after the convention, should he lose, to support Clinton and prevent Donald Trump or another Republican from becoming president.

Here’s why:

Hillary Clinton on her best days is still a serious menace to both the earth’s continuance as a habitable planet, and to peace. A committed neoliberal who has pursued, both as a senator and as a secretary of state, a policy of economic and military destabilization of sovereign governments, with no regard for the aftermath of such criminality (think Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Venezuela, Libya, Ukraine and Ukraine, but especially Libya, Ukraine and Honduras, which were very much her doing in her last public position as secretary of state), Clinton has made it clear even on the campaign trail that she considers Russia to be an enemy. If elected, she has made it clear she’ll continue a dangerous policy of brinksmanship, pushing for NATO membership of more nations bordering Russia, and moving offensive weapons and troops there too. The stated neoliberal (and neoconservative) goal is to ultimately destabilize Russia so that a) President Putin is removed, and b) so that Russia further fragments into smaller nation-states. This is a mad recipe for World War III, and Clinton, as a new president out to prove her toughness, is a good bet to push things to a point where that war could become a reality.

She would, as president, also continue the long-time US policy of destabilization of elected governments in Latin America, and, in the Middle East, the abject and unqualified support of the virtually fascist government in Israel, as well as of the islamo-fascist arab regimes like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait -- all of which she supported as a senator, and helped facilitate as Obama’s first secretary of state.

A supporter of fracking and of oil exploration, and even of the coal industry, all of which industries are funding her campaign, she will not take any consequential action to combat global warming that would threaten those industries. If she took the issue seriously, why would so many of the top “bundlers” of PAC contributions to her campaign be lobbyists from the energy industry? [1]

If the rule is, judge a woman by who her friends are, let’s look at Clinton’s friends. So how about this rogue’s gallery: , arch-neocon Richard Kagan, a co-founder of the notorious Project for a New American Century (the playbook for the Bush/Cheney administration’s invasion of Iraq and demonization of Syria and Iran), and even G.W. Bush VP Dick Cheney [2], have all praised Clinton and she herself bragged about praise from Kissinger for her work as Secretary of State.

Hillary and Donald, no degree of separation? 
Deciding who is the worse candidate is a tough call.

Here at home, Hillary is deep in the pocket of the banksters on Wall Street, as Sanders has repeatedly noted on the stump, having taken over $15 million in what amount to bribes from executives in that sector. What earthly good can come of that? (Except to her: much of the money came in the form of “speaking fees” for talks she gave before declaring her candidacy, and so were personal gifts.) Clinton’s also in the pocket of the oil and drug industries, and of the the arms industry.

With friends, or really bosses, like these, the best we could hope for from this wretched politician as president are a few liberal sops like perhaps marginally better enforcement of laws against racial and sex discrimination or unequal pay for women. We won't even see reform of the police, because Clinton is big on law and order, despite her feigned sympathy for some of the mothers of victims of our militarized police on the campaign trail.

The real Clinton sees black victims of police violence as what she has called “superpredators” who have to be “brought to heel,” and she can be expected to continue with policies, like the drug war and like three-strikes-you’re-out sentencing, instituted during husband Bill Clinton’s years in the White House.

These are the policies that have destroyed countless families in African American and Latino communities, and that quickly gave the US the world’s biggest prison population -- composed mostly of blacks and latinos, and almost entirely of the poor.

The evidence of where Clinton’s heart really is: her acceptance of big contributions from the for-profit prison industry that began, and that has grown fat on those very incarceration policies she and Bill have initiated.

Having said this, I am well aware that Trump, that quintessential narcissist money-grubber and (like all successful politicians and business leaders) sociopath, would also not do anything about climate change. But at least he is likely to be more of an isolationist on foreign policy (he has said the US should be friends with Russia, not enemies). He has also not been deferential to Israel, saying he will be “neutral” on Palestine and Israel, and that he will seek “harmony” in the Middle East [3]. Now there’s a refreshing position for anyone running for president to be taking.

Unlike Clinton, a free-trade fanatic, Trump might even dump the disastrous Obama-and-Clinton-negotiated Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) awaiting congressional approval at this date, and revisit older job-killing trade deals like NAFTA. He’s indicated as much, and his own gambling and entertainment businesses doesn’t depend on such deals.

Is Trump a racist? Who knows? As a New Yorker who spent 12 years watching Trump operate, I would suspect not. But here’s the thing: Trump is basically a TV personality acting in a campaign reality show where he plays a candidate. Would he really deport 11 million immigrants if he were elected president? No of course not.

First of all he couldn’t do that as president, and he knows it.

Would he wall off Mexico? No, because it would be too expensive, and even most Texans, Arizonans, New Mexicans and Californians wouldn’t actually want one, since too much of their state’s economies depend on cross-border business.

Congress and the courts would also have to back such draconian projects. It’s all just talk -- a way of getting the low-wattage, fearful and hate-filled white people who are propelling his candidacy to vote for him. In the general election, he’ll have to change his tune in order to win an electoral majority.

Actually, for all the racist and crazy shit Trump has said, he’s also said some good things. Besides proposing a saner foreign policy than Clinton, he has said during this campaign that he favors single-payer Canadian-style health care [4].

In a prior campaign effort back in 1999, he even said he’d favor a 14.5% wealth tax on the assets of anyone worth over $10 million -- a fabulous idea that would raise trillions of otherwise useless dollars and painlessly wipe out much of the national debt or fund expanded Social Security, or whatever. Maybe he’d revive that idea. What’s 14.5 % of Trump’s wealth to him, or to any millionaire or billionaire, after all?

My point is, with Hillary Clinton, we know what we’re getting -- a corrupt war-mongering, duplicitous neoliberal Wall Street shill posing as a progressive. With Trump, we get a narcissistic businessman posing as a fascist. Neither one as president would actually be what they are pretending to be during the campaign.

I’m the first to admit they’re both unsavory human beings, and I won’t vote for either of them, but as far as those who would say that by not voting for Clinton, I’m helping to elect Trump, my reply is this: I know what Clinton will do as president, and that prospect is so frightening that I cannot in good conscience support her. If Trump were to win, we don’t know what he’d do, but it would probably not be to start another war, and certainly not one against Russia or China. I won’t vote for him, because what he is saying on the stump is reprehensible, but I’d feel better with him in the White House than with Hillary there.

By the way, I have to marvel at the suckers, many of them quite educated, who have been saying they like Sanders, but are voting for Clinton because they think she "knows Washington" and would "be able to work across the aisle and get things done." Don't they realize that Hillary Clinton is at least as loathed among Republicans, both among the public and in Congress, as Obama has been? There is no way a Republican Congress, or even a Democratic Senate with a large Republican minority (should we be so lucky as to see control of that chamber pass back to Democrats this fall), will allow Hillary Clinton to pass any legislation remotely important during her term of office.

When it comes to shabby campaign lies, Hillary took the cake when she asked, 
'Where was Bernie when I was trying to get healthcare in '93 and '94?' The answer: 
He was one of her main backers! And she knew that as this thank you card shows.

So for now, I’m all in for Bernie Sanders (my state of Pennsylvania holds its primary on April 26). We’ve got the Democratic Convention here in Philadelphia too, so I plan to be inside as a reporter, and outside on the street, if there is any contest still at that point. But when it’s all over, if the Democrats nominate Hillary Clinton, I’m voting Green in the general election. Hopefully Bernie Sanders, after having pointed out Hillary’s corrupt financing and having been the victim of her campaign of lies, backed by a corrupt corporate media, will rethink his plan to endorse her. But if he does endorse her, I, and I suspect a large segment of his backers, will ignore him.

Clinton is not the lesser of two evils. She is demonstrably worse than Trump in some crucial ways.


Killing Berta: Honduras Rising

Slain Activist Berta Cáceres' Daughter: US Military Aid Has Fueled Repression & Violence in Honduras

by DemocracyNow!

March 18, 2016

Another indigenous environmentalist has been murdered in Honduras, less than two weeks after the assassination of renowned activist Berta Cáceres. Nelson García was shot to death Tuesday after returning home from helping indigenous people who had been displaced in a mass eviction by Honduran security forces.

Bertha Isabel Zúniga Cáceres one of the daughters of Berta Cáceres, the Honduran environmentalist assassinated on March 3.
Lilian Esperanza López Benítez the financial coordinator of COPINH, the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, which Berta Cáceres co-founded.

García was a member of COPINH, the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, co-founded by Berta Cáceres, who won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize last year for her decade-long fight against the Agua Zarca Dam, a project planned along a river sacred to the indigenous Lenca people.

She was shot to death at her home on March 3. On Thursday, thousands converged in Tegucigalpa for the start of a mobilization to demand justice for Berta Cáceres and an end to what they say is a culture of repression and impunity linked to the Honduran government’s support for corporate interests. At the same time, hundreds of people, most of them women, gathered outside the Honduran Mission to the United Nations chanting "Berta no se murió; se multiplicó – Berta didn’t die; she multiplied." We speak with Cáceres’s daughter, Bertha Zúniga Cáceres, and with Lilian Esperanza López Benítez, the financial coordinator of COPINH.

The Plane Crash Investigation That Would Not Land: MH-17 Probe Becomes Curiouser and Curiouser

The Ever-Curiouser MH-17 Case

by Robert Parry  - Consortium News

March 16, 2016

The curious mystery surrounding the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, gets more curious and more curious as the U.S. government and Dutch investigators balk at giving straightforward answers to the simplest of questions even when asked by the families of the victims.

A Malaysia Airways’ Boeing 777 like the one that 
crashed in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. 
(Photo credit: Aero Icarus) 

Exclusive: The shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine has served as a potent propaganda club against Russia but the U.S. government is hiding key evidence that could solve the mystery, writes Robert Parry. 

Adding to the mystery Dutch investigators have indicated that the Dutch Safety Board did not request radar information from the United States, even though Secretary of State John Kerry indicated just three days after the crash that the U.S. government possessed data that pinpointed the location of the suspected missile launch that allegedly downed the airliner, killing all 298 people onboard. 

Although Kerry claimed that the U.S. government knew the location almost immediately, Dutch investigators now say they hope to identify the spot sometime “in the second half of the year,” meaning that something as basic as the missile-launch site might remain unknown to the public more than two years after the tragedy.

The families of the Dutch victims, including the father of a Dutch-American citizen, have been pressing for an explanation about the slow pace of the investigation and the apparent failure to obtain relevant data from the U.S. and other governments.

I spent time with the family members in early February at the Dutch parliament in The Hague as opposition parliamentarians, led by Christian Democrat Pieter Omtzigt, unsuccessfully sought answers from the government about the absence of radar data and other basic facts.

When answers have been provided to the families and the public, they are often hard to understand, as if to obfuscate what information the investigation possesses or doesn’t possess. For instance, when I asked the U.S. State Department whether the U.S. government had supplied the Dutch with radar data and satellite images, I received the following response, attributable to “a State Department spokesperson”: “While I won’t go into the details of our law enforcement cooperation in the investigation, I would note that Dutch officials said March 8 that all information asked of the United States has been shared.”

I wrote back thanking the spokesperson for the response, but adding: “I must say it seems unnecessarily fuzzy. Why can’t you just say that the U.S. government has provided the radar data cited by Secretary Kerry immediately after the tragedy? Or the U.S. government has provided satellite imagery before and after the shootdown? Why the indirect and imprecise phrasing? …

“I’ve spent time with the Dutch families of the victims, including the father of a U.S.-Dutch citizen, and I can tell you that they are quite disturbed by what they regard as double-talk and stalling. I would like to tell them that my government has provided all relevant data in a cooperative and timely fashion. But all I get is this indirect and imprecise word-smithing.”

The State Department spokesperson wrote back, “I understand your questions, and also the importance of the view of these families so devastated by this tragedy. However, I am going to have to leave our comments as below.”

Propaganda Value

This lack of transparency, of course, has a propaganda value since it leaves in place the widespread public impression that ethnic Russian rebels and Russian President Vladimir Putin were responsible for the 298 deaths, a rush to judgment that Secretary Kerry and other senior U.S. officials (and the Western news media) encouraged in July 2014.

Once that impression took hold there has been little interest in Official Washington to clarify the mystery especially as evidence has emerged implicating elements of the Ukrainian military. For instance, Dutch intelligence has reported (and U.S. intelligence has implicitly confirmed) that the only operational Buk anti-aircraft missile systems in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, were under the control of the Ukrainian military.

In a Dutch report released last October, the Netherlands’ Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) reported that the only anti-aircraft weapons in eastern Ukraine capable of bringing down MH-17 at 33,000 feet belonged to the Ukrainian government.

MIVD made that assessment in the context of explaining why commercial aircraft continued to fly over the eastern Ukrainian battle zone in summer 2014. MIVD said that based on “state secret” information, it was known that Ukraine possessed some older but “powerful anti-aircraft systems” and “a number of these systems were located in the eastern part of the country.”

The intelligence agency added that the rebels lacked that capability: “Prior to the crash, the MIVD knew that, in addition to light aircraft artillery, the Separatists also possessed short-range portable air defence systems (man-portable air-defence systems; MANPADS) and that they possibly possessed short-range vehicle-borne air-defence systems. Both types of systems are considered surface-to-air missiles (SAMs). Due to their limited range they do not constitute a danger to civil aviation at cruising altitude.”

One could infer a similar finding by reading a U.S. “Government Assessment” released by the Director of National Intelligence on July 22, 2014, five days after the crash, seeking to cast suspicion on the ethnic Russian rebels and Putin by noting military equipment that Moscow had provided the rebels. But most tellingly the list did not include Buk anti-aircraft missiles. In other words, in the context of trying to blame the rebels and Putin, U.S. intelligence could not put an operational Buk system in the rebels’ hands.

So, perhaps the most logical suspicion would be that the Ukrainian military, then engaged in an offensive in the east and fearing a possible Russian invasion, moved its Buk missile systems up to the front and an undisciplined crew fired a missile at a suspected Russian aircraft, bringing down MH-17 by accident.

That was essentially what I was told by a source who had been briefed by U.S. intelligence analysts in July and August 2014. [See, for instance,’s “Flight 17 Shoot-Down Scenario Shifts” and “The Danger of an MH-17 Cold Case.”]

But Ukraine is a principal participant in the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT), which has been probing the MH-17 case, and thus the investigation suffers from a possible conflict of interest since Ukraine would prefer that the world’s public perception of the MH-17 case continue to blame Putin. Under the JIT’s terms, any of the five key participants (The Netherlands, Ukraine, Australia, Belgium and Malaysia) can block release of information.

The interest in keeping Putin on the propaganda defensive is shared by the Obama administration which used the furor over the MH-17 deaths to spur the European Union into imposing economic sanctions on Russia.

In contrast, clearing the Russians and blaming the Ukrainians would destroy a carefully constructed propaganda narrative which has stuck black hats on Putin and the ethnic Russian rebels and white hats on the U.S.-backed government of Ukraine, which seized power after a putsch that overthrew elected pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych on Feb. 22, 2014.

Accusations against Russia have also been fanned by propaganda outlets, such as the British-based Bellingcat site, which has collaborated with Western mainstream media to continue pointing the finger of blame at Moscow and Putin – as the Dutch investigators drag their heels and refuse to divulge any information that would clarify the case.

Letter to the Families

Perhaps the most detailed – although still hazy – status report on the investigation came in a recent letter from JIT chief prosecutor Fred Westerbeke to the Dutch family members. The letter acknowledged that the investigators lacked “primary raw radar images” which could have revealed a missile or a military aircraft in the vicinity of MH-17.

Russian-made Buk anti-aircraft missile battery.

Ukrainian authorities said all their primary radar facilities were shut down for maintenance and only secondary radar, which would show commercial aircraft, was available. Russian officials have said their radar data suggest that a Ukrainian warplane might have fired on MH-17 with an air-to-air missile, a possibility that is difficult to rule out without examining primary radar which has so far not been available. Primary radar data also might have picked up a ground-fired missile, Westerbeke wrote.

“Raw primary radar data could provide information on the rocket trajectory,” Westerbeke’s letter said.

“The JIT does not have that information yet. JIT has questioned a member of the Ukrainian air traffic control and a Ukrainian radar specialist. They explained why no primary radar images were saved in Ukraine.” 

Westerbeke said investigators are also asking Russia about its data.

Westerbeke added that the JIT had “no video or film of the launch or the trajectory of the rocket.” Nor, he said, do the investigators have satellite photos of the rocket launch.

“The clouds on the part of the day of the downing of MH17 prevented usable pictures of the launch site from being available,” he wrote.

“There are pictures from just before and just after July 17th and they are an asset in the investigation.” 

According to intelligence sources, the satellite photos show several Ukrainian military Buk missile systems in the area.

Secretary of State John Kerry denounces Russia’s 
RT network as a “propaganda bullhorn” during remarks 
on April 24, 2014.

Why the investigation’s data is so uncertain has become a secondary mystery in the MH-17 whodunit. During an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on July 20, 2014, three days after the crash, Secretary Kerry declared, “we picked up the imagery of this launch. We know the trajectory. We know where it came from. We know the timing. And it was exactly at the time that this aircraft disappeared from the radar.”

But this U.S. data has never been made public. In the letter, Westerbeke wrote, “The American authorities have data, that come from their own secret services, which could provide information on the trajectory of the rocket. This information was shared in secret with the [Dutch] MIVD.” Westerbeke added that the information may be made available as proof in a criminal case as an “amtsbericht” or “official statement.”

Yet, despite the U.S. data, Westerbeke said the location of the launch site remains uncertain. Last October, the Dutch Safety Board placed the likely firing location within a 320-square-kilometer area that covered territory both under government and rebel control. (The safety board did not seek to identify which side fired the fateful missile.)

By contrast, Almaz-Antey, the Russian arms manufacturer of the Buk systems, conducted its own experiments to determine the likely firing location and placed it in a much smaller area near the village of Zaroshchenskoye, about 20 kilometers west of the Dutch Safety Board’s zone and in an area under Ukrainian government control.

Westerbeke wrote,

“Raw primary radar data and the American secret information are only two sources of information for the determination of the launch site. There is more. JIT collects evidence on the basis of telephone taps, locations of telephones, pictures, witness statements and technical calculations of the trajectory of the rocket. The calculations are made by the national air and space laboratory on the basis of the location of MH17, the damage pattern on the wreckage and the special characteristics of the rockets. JIT does extra research on top of the [Dutch Safety Board] research. On the basis of these sources, JIT gets ever more clarity on the exact launch site. In the second half of the year we expect exact results.” 

Quinn Schansman, a dual U.S.-Dutch citizen killed aboard Malaysia 
Airlines Flight 17 on July 17, 2014. (Photo from Facebook)

Meanwhile, the U.S. government continues to stonewall a request from Thomas J. Schansman, the father of Quinn Schansman, the only American citizen to die aboard MH-17, to Secretary Kerry to release the U.S. data that Kerry has publicly cited.

Quinn Schansman, who had dual U.S.-Dutch citizenship, boarded MH-17 along with 297 other people for a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014. The 19-year-old was planning to join his family for a vacation in Indonesia.

In a letter to Kerry dated Jan. 5, 2016, Thomas J. Schansman noted Kerry’s remarks at a press conference on Aug. 12, 2014, when the Secretary of State said about the Buk anti-aircraft missile suspected of downing the plane:

“We saw the take-off. We saw the trajectory. We saw the hit. We saw this aeroplane disappear from the radar screens. So there is really no mystery about where it came from and where these weapons have come from.”

Although U.S. consular officials in the Netherlands indicated that Kerry would respond personally to the request, Schansman told me this week that he had not yet received a reply from Kerry.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and

Nothin's Gonna Change My World - D'oh

Watch As 1000 Years of European Borders Change in 3 Minutes

What You Look At and What You See

It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see

 by TodayKnowledge



After Supporting Coup, Will Canada Denounce Murders of Honduran Popular and Indigenous Activists?

Another Indigenous Leader Killed in Honduras, Canadian Organizations say Enough is Enough

by MiningWatch Canada

March 18, 2016

Montreal/Toronto/Ottawa - Today, fifty Canadian organizations and networks sent a letter calling on the Canadian Government to pressure Honduran authorities and review Canadian foreign policy after another member of Berta Cáceres’ organization was murdered this week.

On Tuesday, Nelson Noé García Laínez from the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) was murdered in the community of Río Chiquito. The Indigenous leader was on his way home from helping a group of families that government security forces had just violently evicted when he was shot dead in the face by two unknown gunmen.

In the wake of Berta’s murder on March 3rd, which has generated international shock and dismay, organizations from across Canada find it deeply distressing that the people behind these murders unabashedly continue to pursue and kill members of COPINH.

Amnesty International issued an urgent action on Wednesday describing how COPINH leadership, community radio members, people protesting for justice for Berta Cáceres, one of Berta’s daughters and others have been questioned, stalked, photographed and followed during the past week.

European funders of the Agua Zarca dam project, including Dutch Development Bank (FMO) and FinnFund, responded to the violence by suspending all funding activities to Honduras and deciding to send fact-finding missions to the country.

The Mexican Network of Mining Affected Peoples also expressed alarm at Honduran authorities’ inability to protect COPINH and Berta’s family, adding that Gustavo Castro - the key witness to Berta’s murder and also a victim of the attack - faces increasing risk. Gustavo has been prevented from leaving Honduras despite a treaty for mutual cooperation in criminal investigations that would permit him to continue participating in the investigation from Mexico.

In response, Canadian organizations have issued a communiqué calling on the Canadian government to urge Honduran authorities to protect COPINH, Berta’s family and Gustavo Castro; to press Honduras to collaborate with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to involve independent, international experts into the ongoing investigation; to call for Gustavo Castro’s safe and immediate return to Mexico; and that the Lenca people’s right to free, prior and informed consent over mega-projects on their lands be respected.

They also call on the Canadian government to reverse its egregious policy toward Honduras to date.

Following the military-backed coup in 2009, Canada helped undermine efforts for the return of the democratically elected government of President Mel Zelaya and was quick to support and do business with repressive post-coup administrations. Since this time, over 100 environmental activists have been murdered with Berta’s assassination becoming the most widely known. Meanwhile, Canadian authorities pushed for a new mining law and signed a free trade agreement with Honduras to benefit Canadian investors.

These organizations insist that parliament should investigate the Canadian government’s role in Honduras during and since the coup, cut off support to the Honduran government and security forces, and ensure that no public support is provided to any infrastructure or mega-project that does not have the free, prior and informed consent of affected Indigenous communities.

A full copy of the letter sent today is available in English and French. Additional organizational or network sign-ons are welcome. Individuals are encouraged to respond to an online urgent action to Canadian and Honduran authorities in English/Spanish and French/Spanish. Also urge the safe and immediate return of Gustavo Castro to Mexico using this online action in Spanish.

For more information:
Amelia Orellana, (CDHAL), solidared(at)
 Jen Moore, MiningWatch Canada, jen(at)
Raul Burbano, Common Frontiers, Program Director, burbano(at)

Propaganda Stream Feeds War in Syria and Everywhere Else

How Propaganda Feeds War on Syria

by Rick Sterling - Consortium News

March 17, 2016

Western propaganda against countries targeted for “regime change” can be especially insidious because mainstream journalists abandon skepticism and go with the flow, such as the case of Syrian “torture” photos.

There has been a pattern of sensational but untrue reports that lead to public acceptance of U.S. and Western military intervention in countries around the world. For instance, in Gulf War 1 (1990-91), there were reports of Iraqi troops stealing incubators from Kuwait, leaving babies to die on the cold floor. Relying on the testimony of a Red Crescent doctor, Amnesty International ‘verified’ the false claims.

A scene of destruction after an aerial bombing
in Azaz, Syria, Aug. 16, 2012. (U.S. government photo)

Ten years later, there were reports of yellow cake uranium going to Iraq for development of weapons of mass destruction.

One decade later, there were reports of Libyan soldiers drugged on viagra and raping women as they advanced.

In 2012, NBC broadcaster Richard Engel was supposedly kidnapped by a pro-Assad Syrian militia but luckily freed by Syrian opposition fighters, the “Free Syrian Army.”

All these reports were later confirmed to be fabrications and lies. They all had the goal of manipulating public opinion and they all succeeded in one way or another. Despite the consequences, which were often disastrous, none of the perpetrators were punished or paid any price.

It has been famously said, “Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.” This report is a critical review of the so-called “Caesar Torture Photos” story. As will be shown, there is strong evidence the accusations are entirely or substantially false.

Overview of ‘Caesar Torture Photos’

On Jan. 20, 2014, two days before negotiations about the Syrian conflict were scheduled to begin in Switzerland, a sensational report burst onto television and front pages around the world. The story was that a former Syrian army photographer had 55,000 photographs documenting the torture and killing of 11,000 detainees by the Syrian security establishment.

The Syrian photographer was given the code-name “Caesar.” The story became known as the “Caesar Torture Photos.” A team of lawyers plus digital and forensic experts were hired by the Carter-Ruck law firm, on contract to Qatar, to go to the Middle East and check the veracity of “Caesar” and his story. They concluded that “Caesar” was truthful and the photographs indicated “industrial scale killing.”

CNN, London’s Guardian and LeMonde broke the story which was subsequently broadcast in news reports around the world. The Caesar photo accusations were announced as negotiations began in Switzerland. With the opposition demanding the resignation of the Syrian government, negotiations quickly broke down.

For the past two years the story has been preserved with occasional bursts of publicity and supposedly corroborating reports. Most recently, in December 2015 Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report titled “If the Dead Could Speak” with significant focus on the Caesar accusations.

Following are 12 significant problems with the “Caesar torture photos” story:

Almost half the photos show the opposite of the allegations.

The Carter Ruck Inquiry Team claimed there were about 55,000 photos total with about half of them taken by “Caesar” and the other half by other photographers. The Carter Ruck team claimed the photos were all “similar.” Together they are all known as “Caesar’s Torture Photos.”

The photographs are in the custody of an opposition organization called the Syrian Association for Missing and Conscience Detainees (SAFMCD). In 2015, they allowed Human Rights Watch (HRW) to study all the photographs which have otherwise been secret. In December 2015, HRW released their report titled “If the Dead Could Speak.”

The biggest revelation is that over 46 percent of the photographs (24,568) do not show people “tortured to death” by the Syrian government. On the contrary, they show dead Syrian soldiers and victims of car bombs and other violence (HRW pp 2-3). Thus, nearly half the photos show the opposite of what was alleged. These photos, never revealed to the public, confirm that the opposition is violent and has killed large numbers of Syrian security forces and civilians.

The claim that other photos only show “tortured detainees” is exaggerated or false.

The Carter Ruck report says “Caesar” only photographed bodies brought from Syrian government detention centers. In its December 2015 report, HRW said, “ The largest category of photographs, 28,707 images, are photographs Human Rights Watch understands to have died in government custody, either in one of several detention facilities or after being transferred to a military hospital.” They estimate 6,786 dead individuals in the set.

The photos and the deceased are real, but how they died and the circumstances are unclear. There is strong evidence some died in conflict. Others died in the hospital. Others died and their bodies were decomposing before they were picked up. These photographs seem to document a war-time situation where many combatants and civilians are killed.

It seems the military hospital was doing what it had always done: maintaining a photographic and documentary record of the deceased. Bodies were picked up by different military or intelligence branches. While some may have died in detention; the big majority probably died in the conflict zones. The accusations by “Caesar.” the Carter Ruck report and HRW that these are all victims of “death in detention” or “death by torture” or death in “government custody” are almost certainly false.

The true identity of “Caesar” is probably not as claimed.

The Carter Ruck Report says “This witness who defected from Syria and who had been working for the Syrian government was given the code-name ‘Caesar’ by the inquiry team to protect the witness and members of his family.” (CRR p12)

However if his story is true, it would be easy for the Syrian government to determine who he really is. After all, how many military photographers took photos at Tishreen and Military 601 Hospitals during those years and then disappeared? According to the Carter Ruck report, Caesar’s family left Syria around the same time. Considering this, why is “Caesar” keeping his identity secret from the Western audience? Why does “Caesar” refuse to meet even with highly sympathetic journalists or researchers?

The fact that 46 percent of the total photographic set is substantially the opposite of what was claimed indicates two possibilities: Caesar and his promoters knew the contents but lied about them expecting nobody to look. Or, Caesar and his promoters did not know the contents and falsely assumed they were like the others. The latter seems more likely which supports the theory that Caesar is not who he claims to be.

The Carter Ruck Inquiry was faulty, rushed and politically biased.

The credibility of the “Caesar” story has been substantially based on the Carter-Ruck Inquiry Team which “verified” the defecting photographer and his photographs. The following facts suggest the team was biased with a political motive:

–The investigation was financed by the government of Qatar which is a major supporter of the armed opposition.

–The contracted law firm, Carter Ruck and Co, has previously represented Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, also known for his avid support of the armed opposition.

–The American on the legal inquiry team, Professor David M. Crane, has a long history working for the U.S. Defense Department and Defense Intelligence Agency. The U.S. government has been deeply involved in the attempt at “regime change” with demands that President Bashar “Assad must go” beginning in summer 2011 and continuing until recently.

–Crane is personally partisan in the conflict. He has campaigned for a Syrian War Crimes Tribunal and testified before Congress in October 2013, three months before the Caesar revelations.

–By their own admission, the inquiry team was under “time constraints” (CRR, p11).

–By their own admission, the inquiry team did not even survey most of the photographs

–The inquiry team was either ignorant of the content or intentionally lied about the 46 percent showing dead Syrian soldiers and attack victims.

–The inquiry team did its last interview with “Caesar” on Jan. 18, 2014, quickly finalized a report and rushed it into the media on Jan. 20, two days prior to the start of United Nations-sponsored negotiations.

The self-proclaimed “rigor” of the Carter Ruck investigation is without foundation. The claims to a “scientific” investigation are similarly without substance and verging on the ludicrous.

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is involved.

In an interview on France24, David Crane of the inquiry team describes how “Caesar” was brought to meet them by “his handler, his case officer.” The expression “case officer” usually refers to the CIA. This would be a common expression for Professor Crane who previously worked in the Defense Intelligence Agency. The involvement of the CIA additionally makes sense since there was a CIA budget of $1 billion for Syria operations in 2013. Crane’s “Syria Accountability Project” is based at Syracuse University where the CIA actively recruits new officers despite student resistance.

Why does it matter if the CIA is connected to the “Caesar” story? Because the CIA has a long history of disinformation campaigns. In 2011, false reports of viagra fueled rape by Libyan soldiers were widely broadcast in Western media as the U.S. pushed for a military mandate. Decades earlier, the world was shocked to hear about Cuban troops fighting in Angola raping Angolan women. The CIA chief of station for Angola, John Stockwell, later described how they invented the false report and spread it around the world. The CIA was very proud of that disinformation achievement. Stockwell’s book, In Search of Enemies, is still relevant.

The accusers portray simple administrative procedures as mysterious and sinister.

The Carter Ruck inquiry team falsely claimed there were about 11,000 tortured and killed detainees. They then posed the question: Why would the Syrian government photograph and document the people they just killed? The Carter Ruck Report speculates that the military hospital photographed the dead to prove that the “orders to kill” had been followed. The “orders to kill” are assumed.

A more logical explanation is that dead bodies were photographed as part of normal hospital / morgue procedure to maintain a file of the deceased who were received or treated at the hospital. The same applies to the body labeling / numbering system. The Carter Ruck report suggests there is something mysterious and possibly sinister in the coded tagging system. But all morgues need to have a tagging and identification system.

The photos have been manipulated.

Many of the photos at the SAFMCD website have been manipulated. The information card and tape identity are covered over and sections of documents are obscured. It must have been very time-consuming to do this for thousands of photos. The explanation that they are doing this to “protect identity” is not credible since the faces of victims are visible. What are they hiding?

The Photo Catalog has duplicates and other errors.

There are numerous errors and anomalies in the photo catalog as presented at the SAFMCD website. For example, some deceased persons are shown twice with different case numbers and dates. There are other errors where different individuals are given the same identity number.

Researcher Adam Larson at A Closer Look at Syria website has done detailed investigation which reveals more errors and curious error patterns in the SAFMCD photo catalog.

9. With few exceptions, Western media uncritically accepted and promoted the story.

The Carter Ruck report was labeled “Confidential” but distributed to CNN, the Guardian and LeMonde. CNN’s Christiane Amanpour gushed over the story as she interviewed three of the inquiry team under the headline “EXCLUSIVE: Gruesome Syria photos may prove torture by Assad regime.” Critical journalism was replaced by leading questions and affirmation. David Crane said “This is a smoking gun.” Desmond de Silva “likened the images to those of holocaust survivors.”

The Guardian report was titled “Syrian regime document trove shows evidence of ‘industrial scale’ killing of detainees” with the subtitle, “Senior war crimes prosecutors say photographs and documents provide ‘clear evidence’ of systematic killing of 11,000 detainees”

One of the very few skeptical reports was by Dan Murphy in the Christian Science Monitor. Murphy echoed standard accusations about Syria but went on to say incisively, “the report itself is nowhere near as credible as it makes out and should be viewed for what it is: A well-timed propaganda exercise funded by Qatar, a regime opponent who has funded rebels fighting Assad who have committed war crimes of their own.”

Unfortunately that was one of very few critical reports in the mainstream media. In 2012, foreign affairs journalist Jonathan Steele wrote an article describing the overall media bias on Syria. His article was titled “Most Syrians back Assad but you’d never know from western media.” The media campaign and propaganda has continued without stop. It was in this context that the Carter Ruck Report was delivered and widely accepted without question.

Politicians have used the Caesar story to push for more US/NATO aggression.

Politicians seeking direct U.S. intervention for “regime change” in Syria were quick to accept and broadcast the “Caesar” story. They used it to demonize the Assad government and argue that the U.S. must act so as to prevent “another holocaust,” “another Rwanda,” “another Cambodia.”

When Caesar’s photos were displayed at the House Foreign Affairs Committee in Congress, Chairman Ed Royce said “It is far past time that the world act…. It is far past time for the United States to say there is going to be a safe zone across this area in northern Syria.”

The top-ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee is Eliot Engel. In November 2015 he said, “We’re reminded of the photographer, known as Caesar, who sat in this room a year ago, showing us in searing, graphic detail what Assad has done to his own people.” Engel went on to advocate for a new authorization for the use of military force.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger is another advocate for aggression against Syria. At an event at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in July 2015, he said, “If we want to destroy ISIS we have to destroy the incubator of ISIS, Bashar al-Assad.”

The irony and hypocrisy is doubly profound since Rep. Kinzinger has met and coordinated with opposition leader Okaidi who is a confirmed ally of ISIS. In contrast with Kinzinger’s false claims, it is widely known that ISIS ideology and initial funding came from Saudi Arabia and much of its recent wealth from oil sales via Turkey. The Syrian Army has fought huge battles against ISIS, winning some but losing others with horrific scenes of mass beheading carried out by ISIS.

The Human Rights Watch assessment is biased.

HRW has been very active around Syria. After the chemical attacks in greater Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013, HRW rushed a report which concluded that, based on a vector analysis of incoming projectiles, the source of the sarin carrying rockets must have been Syrian government territory. This analysis was later debunked as a “junk heap of bad evidence” by highly respected investigative journalist Robert Parry.

HRW’s assumption about the chemical weapon rocket flight distance was faulty. Additionally it was unrealistic to think you could determine rocket trajectory with 1 percent accuracy from a canister on the ground, especially from a canister on the ground that had deflected off a building wall.

In spite of this, HRW stuck by its analysis which blamed the Assad government. HRW Director Ken Roth publicly indicated dissatisfaction when an agreement to remove Syrian chemical weapons was reached. Roth wanted more than a “symbolic” attack on Syrian government forces.

Regarding the claims of “Caesar,” HRW seems to be the only non-governmental organization to receive the full set of photo files from the custodian. To its credit, HRW acknowledged that nearly half the photos do not show what has been claimed for two years: they show dead Syrian soldiers and militia along with scenes from crime scenes, car bombings, etc.

But HRW’s bias is clearly shown in how it handles this huge contradiction. Amazingly, HRW suggests the incorrectly identified photographs support the overall claim. They say, “This report focuses on deaths in detention. However other types of photographs are also important. From an evidentiary perspective, they reinforce the credibility of the claims of Caesar about his role as a forensic photographer of the Syrian security forces or at least with someone who has access to their photographs.” (HRW, p31) This seems like saying if someone lies to you half the time that proves they are truthful.

The files disprove the assertion that the files all show people who were tortured and killed. The photographs show a wide range of deceased persons, from Syrian soldiers to Syrian militia members to opposition fighters to civilians trapped in conflict zones to regular deaths in the military hospital. There may be some photos of detainees who died in custody after being tortured, or who were simply executed. We know that this happened in Iraqi detention centers under U.S. occupation. Ugly and brutal things happen in war times. But the facts strongly suggest that the “Caesar” account is basically untrue or a gross exaggeration.

It is striking that the HRW report has no acknowledgment of the war conditions and circumstances in Syria. There is no acknowledgment that the government and Syrian Arab Army have been under attack by tens of thousands of weaponized fighters openly funded and supported by many of the wealthiest countries in the world.

There is no hint at the huge loss of life suffered by the Syrian army and supporters defending their country. The current estimates indicate from 80,000 to 120,000 Syrian soldiers, militia and allies having died in the conflict. During the three years 2011-2013, including the period covered by the “Caesar” photos, it is estimated that over 52,000 Syrian soldiers and civilian militia died versus 29,000 anti-government forces.

HRW had access to the full set of photographs including the Syrian army and civilian militia members killed in the conflict. Why did they not list the number of Syrian soldiers and security forces they identified? Why did they not show a single image of those victims?

HRW goes beyond endorsing the falsehoods in the “Caesar story”; HRW suggests the cataloguing is only a partial listing. On page 5, the report says, “Therefore, the number of bodies from detention facilities that appear in the Caesar photographs represent only a part of those who died in detention in Damascus.”

On the contrary, the Caesar photographs seem to mostly show victims who died in a variety of ways in the armed conflict. The HRW assertions seem to be biased and inaccurate.

The legal accusations are biased and ignore the supreme crime of aggression.

The Christian Science Monitor journalist Dan Murphy gave an apt warning in his article on the Carter Ruck report about “Caesar.” While many journalists treated the prosecutors with uncritical deference, he said, “Association with war crime prosecutions is no guarantor of credibility – far from it. Just consider Luis Moreno Ocampo’s absurd claims about Viagra and mass rape in Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya in 2011. War crimes prosecutors have, unsurprisingly, a bias towards wanting to bolster cases against people they consider war criminals (like Assad or Qaddafi) and so should be treated with caution. They also frequently favor, as a class, humanitarian interventions.”

The Carter Ruck legal team demonstrated how accurate Murphy’s cautions could be. The legal team was eager to accuse the Syrian government of “crimes against humanity” but the evidence of “industrial killing,” “mass killing,” “torturing to kill” is dubious and much of the hard evidence shows something else.

In contrast, there is clear and solid evidence that a “Crime against Peace” is being committed against Syria. It is public knowledge that the “armed opposition” in Syria has been funded, supplied and supported in myriad ways by various outside governments. Most of the fighters, both Syrian and foreign, receive salaries from one or another outside power. Their supplies, weapons and necessary equipment are all supplied to them. Like the “Contras” in Nicaragua in the 1980’s, the use of such proxy armies is a violation of customary international law.

It is also a violation of the UN Charter which says “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other matter inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations”.

The government of Qatar has been a major supporter of the mercenaries and fanatics attacking the sovereign state of Syria. Given that fact, isn’t it hugely ironic to hear the legal contractors for Qatar accusing the Syrian government of “crimes against humanity”?

Isn’t it time for the United Nations to make reforms so that it can start living up to its purposes? That will require demanding and enforcing compliance with the UN Charter and International Law.

Rick Sterling is an independent research/writer and member of Syria Solidarity Movement. He can be contacted at .