Saturday, October 03, 2015

Hope for Ukraine Ceasefire Holding

In Berlin, All Sides in Talks over Ukraine Signal that Ceasefire Will Hold

by Roger Annis - RT

The ceasefire in Ukraine has been widely respected and the security situation has improved, French President Francois Hollande said after a meeting of the ‘Normandy Four’ countries today in Berlin. However, the Minsk peace accords are unlikely to be fully implemented by the end of the year.

The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France 
and Germany meet in Berlin on Oct 2, 2015

[Report on, Oct 2, 2015 (for accompanying video news report see link. More b/g linked below)]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Presidents Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko had moved closer to one another during the talks. Footage released prior to the meeting showed the Russian and Ukrainian leaders shaking hands.

Hollande and Merkel agreed that the talks, which lasted almost five hours, concluded with a positive outlook. The four leaders managed to reconcile issues concerning the withdrawal of heavy weapons in Eastern Ukraine, Merkel said. “There is hope for progress. We are narrowing the gap between us,” she said after the Normandy Four meeting.

Friday’s talks in Paris were aimed at assessing the progress of the Minsk peace agreements reached by the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France during the previous summit in Minsk, Belarus on February 11-12, 2015.

Merkel said that while progress is visible at every point, no individual stage is close to completion. Hollande also remarked that the final implementation of the peace accords is unlikely to ne in place by the end of the year as was originally planned.

As for local elections to take place in eastern Ukraine, Hollande noted they should take place no later than 80 days after Kiev passes an electoral law [see ‘Read also’ further below]. However, he added that the election in the self-proclaimed Donetsk republic scheduled for October 18 cannot go ahead [sic].

“It’s therefore likely, even certain now, that since we [sic] need three months to organise elections, we would go beyond the date that was set for the end of Minsk, that is to say Dec.31, 2015,” he told a news conference.

Hollande also stressed that humanitarian organizations should be provided with better access to the war-torn regions and the number of crossing points for them should be extended. He added that the prisoner swap procedures should also be sped up. The next Normandy Four meeting of foreign ministers will take place in November.

The previous Normandy Four meeting was held at ministerial level in mid-September, where the sides agreed to step up talks between Kiev and the rebels in Ukraine’s east before winter sets in.

“We expressed satisfaction that the ceasefire is being observed more or less. Separate cases of violation are taking place, but in general we have a positive assessment of what is happening,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters in Berlin on September 13 after that meeting.
“It has not become easier, but I would like to inform you that the talks were far less confrontational than they were last time,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said at that time.

Minsk peace accords: Successes and controversies

The Normandy Four summit meeting held in Minsk on February 11 was then taken to the ministerial level. Marathon talks that followed were difficult and lasted for more than 16 hours, ending well after midnight.

The sides, however, managed to seal a peace deal, which was later called a roadmap towards a solution that would stabilize the situation in the region.

The peace deal called the ‘Minsk-2 Agreements’ envisaged a ceasefire beginning February 15, withdrawal of heavy weapons, prisoner swaps and constitutional changes that should have been implemented in direct dialogue between Kiev and the self-proclaimed republics in eastern Ukrainian. Special status for the regions and decentralization of powers were part of the agreement.

However, a lasting truce was only reached in late August. Kiev and the Donetsk and Lugansk republics have maintained an armistice since September 1, however, both sides still occasionally accuse each other of violations.

The withdrawal of heavy weapons from the demarcation line between the two warring sides was also implemented in September. On September 29, the ‘contact group’ of Minsk-2 reached an agreement for withdrawal of arms with calibers of less than 100mm.

Several prisoner swaps have taken place.[1] Nevertheless, a political solution still remains elusive. Both sides say they are implementing the Minsk-2 accords, but the peace process still lacks direct dialogue between Kiev and the eastern regions of the country.

Constitutional reform introduced several months ago by Kiev rules out special status for eastern Ukraine and suggests instead only “special local governance procedures for the Lugansk and Donetsk regions,” as President Poroshenko told Ukrainian TV Channel 5 in an interview on September 7.

Speaking about the reform of the constitution in the same interview, Poroshenko once again emphasized the amendments he proposed would remove Article 92 of the Constitution, which gives “special status” to individual cities. He said “there would be no special statuses, no parades of sovereignties” in Ukraine.

Moscow continues to insist on the importance of direct dialogue between Kiev and the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.

Read also: Ukraine agrees to joint heavy weapons pullback in agreement with Donbas rebels,
Wall St. Journal, Sept 28, 2015

Decentralization reform in Ukraine,
by Halyna Mokrushyna, New Cold, August 28, 2015

Note by New Cold
[1] While there have been prisoner exchanges since Minsk-2 was signed, the ‘all for all’ exchange envisioned by the agreement has not been implemented due to stalling by Kyiv. In addition, human rights organizations in Ukraine have urged the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics to include in any arrangements over prisoner exchanges with Kyiv that the estimated 1,200 political prisoners presently detained by Kyiv be included. Report here.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Who are the Black Hats? Getting the Facts Straight on Syria

Hillary Offers Syria a Libyan-Iraqi-Style Paradise

by David Swanson - War Is a Crime

Americans may find Syria a bit confusing. David Petraeus, sainted hero, has proposed arming al Qaeda, organized devil. Vladimir Putin, reincarnated Hitler, is bombing either ISIS or al Qaeda or their friendly democratic allies, but he shouldn't be because he's against overthrowing the Syrian government, also run by Hitler living under the name Assad. Hillary Clinton, liberal socialist, wants to create a no-fly zone, but wouldn't that make it hard to bomb all the scary Muslims? 
Wait, are we against Assad or the scary Muslims or both? Aaaaaarrrrgghh! How does this make any sense?

Let's start over, shall we?

Some basic facts?

We'll start with the most uncomfortable fact, but one that helps begin to make sense of everything, OK?

The United States military wants to dominate the earth, has "special" forces active in 135 countries, and has troops stationed in some 180 countries. On a map of the world showing nations with no U.S. troops in them, Syria and Iran stand out like sore thumbs, as once-upon-a-time did Iraq and Libya. Syria not only has no U.S. troops; it has Russian troops, and it's friendly toward Iran, which has no U.S. troops. Overthrowing the Syrian government, like Iraq's and Libya's and Iran's, has been on the Pentagon's bucket list for the 21st century. As early as 2006, the U.S. government had people on the ground in Syria working to overthrow the government. With the 2011 Arab Spring, the U.S. thought it saw an opportunity, and helped turn the protests violent.

The Syrian government is awful and murderous. It used to torture people for the U.S. government. It, indeed, attacks "its own citizens" (which is always who governments attack that aren't escapading around the globe attacking other people's citizens, which in fact most governments never do). If every government that attacked its own citizens had to be overthrown, the list would be unending, and could begin with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan, Israel, Egypt, Iraq, and various other governments just in that region that the U.S. -- far from overthrowing -- props up, funds, and arms with the weaponry used to commit the attacks. Overthrowing foreign governments and launching wars are in fact illegal acts, and rightly so, regardless of the nature of the governments.

The criminal acts of overthrowing the horrible governments of Iraq and Libya resulted in millions of people being killed, injured, traumatized, and turned into refugees, and the creation of not only worse governments but deadly chaos in those nations and spilling out into the rest of the region. This cannot be a model for what to do to Syria.

Russia should not be arming Syria or bombing Syria. We're so well trained to think in terms of war, that when we hear that one side of a war is in the wrong, we imagine that must be an argument for backing the other side. "You don't want the United States bombing Syria? Then you must want Russia bombing Syria! You must want Assad using his deadly 'barrel bombs'!" In fact, nobody should be arming or bombing anyone in Syria. The United States and numerous allies that have been bombing Syria need to stop. Russia, which has just started, needs to stop. The U.S. media says Russia is bombing where there's no ISIS, although it said ISIS was there a week ago and seems to have forgotten. Russia shouldn't stop bombing because it's bombing the wrong people. There are no right people to bomb. The majority of people who die from bombs are civilians. The majority of people involved with any of the many opposition groups in Syria are opportunists and misguided desperate souls. Every single person in Syria is a person deserving better than a crude "barrel bomb" from a helicopter they hear coming or a far more deadly missile from a foreign jet or drone.

A no fly zone is not a zone in which nobody can fly. It's a zone in which the United States claims the exclusive right to fly and to shoot out of the sky anyone else who tries it, and to bomb out of existence any weaponry that could threaten U.S. planes, along with any people who happen to be anywhere near any suspected weaponry or near any locations accidentally hit in the process. The history of human catastrophes facilitated by humanitarian "no fly" zones includes Iraq and Libya. Hillary Clinton, motivated by interest in Libya's oil, wanted a no fly zone in Libya, urged that it be used to overthrow the government, laughed gleefully about killing Gadaffi, and would prefer that you now not look at Libya too closely. A no fly zone for Syria is a declaration of war on Syria.

Hillary Clinton, just to be clear, is not an office holder. She is a private citizen who ought to be shunned from all public discourse. As Secretary of State, she waived restrictions on shipping weapons to brutal governments if they made large "donations" to her foundation. For that, she should be in prison. Nothing worse will be found, no matter how many of her emails are read in a mad pursuit of more minor but colorful offenses.

In 2013, the Obama Administration demanded the right to send missiles into Syria. The plan, kept private, was a massive bombing campaign that would have leveled Syria and set it on a more rapid course toward utter chaos. Obama made claims about chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian government that have never yet been documented, and alleged proof for which fell apart.

The U.S. public helped prevent that attack in 2013 and was, according to polls, even more strongly against arming and training Syrians. So, the CIA and the Pentagon went right ahead with arming and training Syrians. They have had a very hard time recruiting, and have seen their trained and armed troops desert and join other groups, including al Qaeda and ISIS. The U.S. dismissed out of hand a Russian proposal for peace, including Assad stepping down, in 2012, under the delusion that Assad would be quickly overthrown by violence in a manner less advantageous to Russia. That hasn't happened. U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia keep funding and arming ISIS and allied groups. The U.S. keeps arming supposedly "moderate" murderers who supposedly oppose both ISIS and Assad. The various opposition groups keep fighting Assad and each other. And Assad gets support from Russia, and has begun working with Russia, Iran, and Iraq against its opposition / ISIS.

The United States still dreams of overthrowing Assad on the cheap without a massive U.S. occupation, and without bombing quite the whole country. The U.S. keeps fueling the fires that sooner or later could escalate into the kind of war that could overthrow Assad, generate lots more hatred of the United States, empower ISIS, and kill millions.

Russia hopes to keep Assad or a Russia-friendly government in power without a massive Russian occupation, and without bombing quite the whole country. Russia keeps fueling the fires that sooner or later could escalate into the kind of war that could put an end to major opposition in the short term, generate hatred of Russia, empower ISIS, and kill millions.

The global threat is, of course, that this could escalate into a war between Russia and the United States.

What can be done? From the U.S. side that's not hard to answer, though it may be hard to accept.

Israel: the Wages of Hubris

Israel: the Wages of Hubris and Violence

by Arno J. Mayer - CounterPunch

Israel remains in the grip of a kind of collective schizophrenia. Not only its governors but the majority of its Jewish population have delusions of both grandeur and persecution, making for a distortion of reality and inconsistent behavior.
The Killing of Hadeel al-Hashlamoun

Israeli Jews see and represent themselves as a chosen people and part of a superior Western civilization. They consider themselves more cerebral, reasonable, moral, and dynamic than Arabs and Muslims generally, and Palestinians in particular.

At the same time they feel themselves to be the ultimate incarnation of the Jewish people’s unique suffering through the ages, still subject to constant insecurity and defenselessness in the face of ever-threatening extreme and unmerited punishment.

Such a psyche leads to hubris and vengefulness, the latter a response to the perpetual Jewish torment said to have culminated, as if by a directive purpose, in the Holocaust. Remembering the Shoah is Israel’s Eleventh Commandment and central to the nation’s civil religion and Weltanschauung. Family, school, synagogue, and official culture propagate its prescriptive narrative, decontextualized and surfeited with ethnocentrism. The re-memorizing of victimization is ritualized on Yom Ha Shoah and institutionalized by Yad Vashem.

Israel uses the Holocaust to conjure the specter of a timeless existential peril, in turn used to justify its warfare state and unbending diplomacy. Forever posing as the impossibly vulnerable Biblical David braving the Islamic Goliath, Israel insists all its cross-border wars and punitive operations are strictly defensive, preventive, or preemptive. Yet its leaders, many of them retired senior officers of the armed forces and intelligence services, attribute the exploits of the military to the advanced weapons, exemplary strategists, and uniquely principled citizen soldiers of the country’s formidable “Defense Forces,” one of the world’s mightiest fighting machines.

This self-congratulation passes over the powerlessness of the enemy “other” while it vastly exaggerates Israel’s innate strength to the point of impairing judgment and action. Without the enormous and practically unconditional financial, military, and diplomatic support of the United States and European Union, Israel would be an unexceptional small Middle Eastern nation-state, not an anomalous regional superpower.

Even with this truly uncommon foreign backing (not to mention that of the global diaspora), the Jewish state scores only pyrrhic victories, judging by its failure to significantly enhance its strategic and political position in the Greater Middle East—except for the time gained to further consolidate and expand its fiercely contested “facts on the ground” in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the Golan.

Although its leaders avoid saying so in public, Israel does not want peace, or a permanent comprehensive settlement, except on its own terms. They do not dare spell these out publicly, as they presume the enemy’s unconditional surrender, even enduring submission. Instead the Palestinians continue to be blamed for a chronic state of war that entails Israel’s continuing self-endangerment and militarization. This policy’s underlying strategic premise is the need to prevent any significant change in the West Asian balance of power.

But there is possibly another less delusional reason for their spurning accommodation and negotiation: because of their history of exile and want of political self-rule, Jews and their sages may well be insufficiently mindful of the theory and practice of sovereign statecraft. Admittedly, after 1945 the leaders of many of the new states of the post-colonial worlds were equally benighted. Unlike most of them, however, Israel’s political class and thinkers prize their deep connection with the West, including its philosophic and intellectual heritage, to the point of putting admission to the European Union ahead of rapprochement with the Arab/Muslim world. Yet they seem not to be conversant with the fundamental ideas of the likes of Machiavelli and Clausewitz. Respectively theorists of politics and war, both emphatically propound moderation over unrestraint. Machiavelli puts virtù at the center of his formula for the use of power and force. He does not, however, construe it as a moral principle—as virtue—but as a prescript for prudence, flexibility, and a sense of sober limits in power politics.

Clausewitz theorizes limited war for well-defined and negotiable objectives, the disposition for compromise varying in inverse ratio to the victor’s aims and demands. He cautions above all against “absolute” war in which intellect, reason, and judgment are cast aside. Although he and Machiavelli take account of the interpenetration of domestic and international politics, both conceive them as two distinct spheres. In Israel, domestic politics prevails, with little concern for the reason of international politics.

These insights are particularly relevant for small states. But blinded by their successful defiance of limits and laws, the leaders of Israel take their country of seven million people (over 20 percent of them non-Jewish, mostly Arabs) to be a great power by dint of its outsized armed forces and arms industry. They deceive themselves by assuming the Western world’s support for its military hypertrophy is irreversible. Perverting virtù they launch nearly absolute military expeditions against the radical Palestinian resistance. They also envisage striking resurgent Iran with the most modern American-made and -financed aircraft operated by American-certified Israeli pilots. Nor does Tel Aviv hesitate to send military, technical, and covert “intelligence” missions, as well as weapons, to scores of nations in the Middle East, ex-Soviet sphere, Africa, Asia, and Latin America, not infrequently in concert with Washington.

State terror is all but integral to the latest weapons and tactics with which Israel’s forces engage the Palestinian resistance fighters. Of course the latter also resort to terror, the hallmark of asymmetrical warfare. But it is Israel that sows the wind and reaps the whirlwind. A vicious, endless cycle of vengeance, driven by the clashes of Israel’s overconfident, sophisticated, and regular military forces with crude and irregular paramilitary forces, further intensifies the distrust between Israelis and Palestinians, including Israeli Arabs, most of them Muslim. Though intended to break the will of the armed militias by inflicting unbearable pain on the host society, as in Lebanon and Gaza, the collateral damage of Israel’s campaigns of “shock and awe” only serve to fire the avenging fury of the powerless.

Since Israel’s foundation, the failure to pursue Arab-Jewish understanding and cooperation has been Zionism’s “great sin of omission” (Judah Magnes). At every major turn since 1947-48 Israel has had the upper hand in the conflict with the Palestinians, its ascendancy at once military, diplomatic, and economic. This prepotency became especially pronounced after the Six Day War of 1967. Consider the annexations and settlements; occupation and martial law; settler pogroms and expropriations; border crossings and checkpoints; walls and segregated roads. No less mortifying for the Palestinians has been the disproportionately large number of civilians killed and injured, and the roughly 10,000 languishing in Israeli prisons.

Despite the recent ingloriousness of Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, Israel’s ruling and governing class continues to stand imperious. Yet evidence that the country’s military is increasingly ill-adapted to fight today’s decentralized irregular warfare mounts, while its foreign policy is increasingly incoherent and hostage to the hidebound partisan politics of competing intransigence. Geopolitically unsteady, its relation to Washington is battered by the same heavy winds now buffeting the center and periphery of the American empire.

Even so, emboldened by cutting-edge conventional and unconventional weapons, the governors of Israel, contemptuous of the minuscule and comatose left opposition in the Knesset and the country at large, vow to hold on to most of the archipelago of settlements and all of Jerusalem. They pay lip service to the two-state solution, but all they are prepared to concede to the Palestinians is a cramped pseudo-state with minimal sovereignty, with Gaza severed from the West Bank.

If pressed they might agree to a 30-mile tunnel under sovereign Israeli land to establish an artificial contiguity between fragmented West Bank and fenced-in Gaza Strip. Yet they mean to control all land and maritime borders as well as the airspace and electromagnetic frequencies.

Meanwhile Israel continues to play on the internecine divisions of the Palestinian nation and the discords in the Arab-Muslim world. Its leaders dread nothing more than a reconciliation of the two principal Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah; a Palestinian unity government; and an entente cordiale of the Arab states whose peace proposal, initiated by Saudi Arabia in 2002, they consider fraught with doom. The latest spirit of darkness is non-Arab Shi’ite Iran. Should Tehran’s political power and ideological sway strike fear into the so-called moderate Arab states, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria, these might all rally around the treacherous Arab peace overture. Such a turn would most likely drive Iran to step up its support of radical political Islam throughout the Greater Middle East, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas throughout Palestine, and the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. If Israel responds only with the usual truculence, it will continue to navigate dangerously between the ever more insecure and disoriented anciens régimes of the Arab/Muslim world and an intensifying political unrest whose impulses are both secular and religious.

While the country is fixated on national security—Iran being decried as the latest, and imminent, existential threat—elsewhere Israel is widely perceived to be rapidly eroding what remains of its singular moral capital and international prestige. There are more and more calls for boycotts, embargoes, divestments, sanctions, and prosecutions, while the media are finally giving more space and time to analytic and critical voices. To dismiss or denounce this growing censure of Israel’s policies as an expression of resurgent age-old anti-Semitism—allegedly encouraged and legitimated by the ravings of self-hating Jews—is not to see the forest for the trees. The same holds for Israel’s leaders’ disposition to stigmatize major foreign adversary leaders—Nasser, Arafat, Saddam Hussein, Ahmadinejad—as Hitler redivivus.

But the old reflexes remain, and the prospect of a nuclear and Islamist Iran said to be bent on regional hegemony keeps them quick. With a population of 70 million and some 15 percent of the world’s proven oil and natural gas reserves, Iran is, indeed, a state to reckon with: it has a long history, a strong national consciousness, and a swelling educated middle class. Its two-stage, solid-fueled missiles are capable of carrying conventional and nonconventional warheads a distance of between 930 and 1,200 miles.

Instead of joining those who seek diplomatic ways to refigure the balance of regional power, Israel advocates an all-out economic embargo of Iran backed by the threat of air strikes. The hardliners’ aim: to trigger a regime change by way of a color revolution covertly fomented by the U.S. and Israel. They warn that Tel Aviv will make good on this threat of aerial assaults on Iran’s nuclear sites to delay or prevent it from developing the ultimate weapon. Even respected politicians and public intellectuals swear that in extremis Israel will strike without approval from Washington, confident the U.S. will have no alternative but to provide military and diplomatic cover, all the more so now that Israel can use America’s five military bases in the Holy Land as blackmail.

In March 2009, Barack Obama and Shimon Peres saluted the Iranian people and government on the occasion of Noruz, the start of the Persian new year. Obama stressed the “common humanity that binds us together” and insisted it was in the interest of both countries that “Iran should take its rightful place in the community of nations.”

Peres struck a radically different note. He urged Iranians to reclaim their “worthy place among the nations of the enlightened world” as he laid out the conditions in their country: “There is great unemployment, corruption, a lot of drugs, and general discontent. You cannot feed your children enriched uranium, they need a real breakfast. It cannot be that the money is invested in enriched uranium and the children are told to remain a little hungry, a little ignorant.” Iran’s children suffer only because “a handful of religious fanatics take the worst possible path.” Rather than heed President Ahmadinejad, who in 2006 questioned the Holocaust, the citizenry should “topple these leaders…who do not serve the people.” Besides, while “they are destroying their [own] people, they won’t destroy us.”

The accusations are rich. Even now the independence of the Israeli judiciary is compromised, secularism is losing ground, xenophobia is rampant, and, still and always, the Palestinian minority is reduced to second-class citizenship. In brandishing the Iranian threat, Israel’s faction-ridden but consensual political class merely perpetuates its rule by fear, which, according to Montesquieu, sows the seeds of despotism.

Israelis must ask themselves whether there is a point beyond which the Zionist quest becomes self-defeatingly perilous, corrupting, and degrading. Although the Judeocide marks the nadir of the history of the Jewish people, it is not its defining moment and experience. The mythologized millennial exile of the Jewish people was anything but an unrelenting dark age: there was a vital Jewish life before the Shoah, and it resumed full force after 1945, in both Israel and the diaspora. It is neither to profane the Holocaust nor to desecrate the memory of its 5 to 6 million victims to recall their membership in a vast confederation of over 70 million killed during World War Two, some 45 million of them civilians. It is simply to point up that the Jewish catastrophe was inextricably tied into the most murderous and cruel war in the history of humanity, a war uniquely ferocious because of its crusading furies, and not because of a divine narrative about the Jews.

The Greater Middle East is a seething cauldron of domestic and international conflicts. All the nations of this perennially contested geopolitical space will have to adjust to the emergence of a multipolar world system and the attendant waning of the American empire. This great and accelerating change in international politics coincides with the breakneck globalization of economics, finance, and science, which subverts national economies while simultaneously fostering a new mercantilism whose terms are set by a new concert of Great Powers.

Israel’s leaders are at a crossroads: either they stick to their guns and are forced into a reconfigured geopolitical reality they cannot outwit or overmaster, or they decide of their own accord to temper their hubris and rein in their propensity to vengeance. What should they choose at a moment when Israeli society is facing a decline in Jewish immigration, a rise in Jewish and Israeli emigration, and an upturn in draft dodging (to say nothing of how this disenchantment may be affecting the steep rate of assimilation and intermarriage in the diaspora)?

To begin, Israel’s governors and public intellectuals should rethink the fundamental premises, objectives, and strategies of the policies followed since 1948. They might do well to recall one of Theodor Herzl’s earliest ideas: in exchange for a Jewish commonwealth serving as “an outpost of civilization against barbarism” in Palestine, which was considered a link in Europe’s “rampart against Asia,” the Great Powers would guarantee its existence “as a neutral state.” To be sure, even for most Israeli Jews the crass orientalism of this vision is out of season. But the notion of a neutral state ought not to be dismissed lightly. The present garrison state is not about to become, as Herzl envisioned, “a light unto the nations”—let alone the diaspora.

Next, they might admit to themselves that small nations do not have the prerogative to speak loudly and carry a big stick, and that they keep tempting fate by stubbornly staying Israel’s nuclear course. This defiance cannot help but increase the perils of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and Central Asia from which Israel will not be immune. Betting a tiny country’s security and survival on a momentary regional head start in state-of-the-art warheads, aircraft, missiles, unmanned drones, cluster bombs, and cyber weapons is, again, delusional. Inevitably Iran and other states will challenge its imperiousness, in the process exposing the entire region to the unthinkable doctrine of mutually assured destruction premised on both attacker and defender having a fail-safe deterrent in the form of a second-strike nuclear or chemical-biological capability. Although Tehran may still lack an effective missile air defense system, it has test-fired high-speed missiles whose range puts it within striking distance of Israel. But Iran has two additional trumps: a foothold near the northern entrance to the narrow Strait of Hormuz, the world’s single most vital energy chokepoint; and a critical geopolitical proximity to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Rather than lead the regional nuclear and biological charge, Israel should issue a call for a nuclear-free Middle East along with the announcement of a significant reduction of its own outsized atomic arsenal and armaments industry, which are both counterproductive and provocative. Tangible and symbolic, such a military cutback could be paired with a signal that Israel is prepared to seriously discuss the Palestinian refugee issue. This might take the form of expressing remorse and assuming partial moral responsibility for the exodus of over 700,000 Palestinian Arabs in 1947-49 and of mounting an international effort to make amends in the form of reparations in line with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194 (Article 11).

In the aftermath of the bloody and destructive invasion a donors’ conference raised some $4.5 billion for the relief and reconstruction of Gaza. While the bulk of the aid was pledged by the Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia, the U. S. committed $900 million for the Palestinian Authority and $300 million for relief in Gaza. What if these monies had been raised earlier? Had they gone to reparations, deployed as a confidence-building measure, the region might have been spared the politically toxic and humanly lethal Lebanon and Gaza incursions.

Overtures of this nature, seconded by other nations, might be preliminary steps to Israel’s at long last specifying base lines for a negotiated agreement on security, borders, settlements, Jerusalem, holy places, and water resources. Such a turnaround and agenda would spell the renunciation of the secular and religious diehards’ inveterate reach for the Jordan River and reliance on the strategy of the Iron Wall. To seek a conciliation and accommodation with the restive Palestinian political class, edgy Arab regimes, and turbulent Islamic world is to forsake the Joshua-like martial and closed Zionism of Weizmann, Jabotinsky, Ben-Gurion, Begin, Netanyahu, and Barak. It would call for and make possible a recovery of the repressed Isaiah-like humanist and open Zionism of Ahad Haam, Martin Buber, Judah Magnes, Ernst Simon, and Yeshayahu Leibowitz for either two demilitarized states or a single bi-national state for two peoples with open borders, the separation of state and religion, universal civil and social rights, and ecumenically informed cultural reciprocity.

The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only at dusk for political actors as well as philosophers. Israel’s leaders, reflecting more critically on Herzl’s belief in the need for an imperial patron, must grasp the implications of the incipient decline of the American empire for Israel’s future. Paradoxically the waning of Washington’s hegemony in the Greater Middle East is likely to chasten Israel’s pride and give enlightened and cosmopolitan Zionism a new if difficult lease on life. But insofar as the U.S. fights its decline tooth and nail, Israel’s power elite is also more likely to remain implacable, at all risks and hazards for their own country and the diaspora.

This essay was originally published in the June 2009 edition of CounterPunch.

Arno Mayer is the Dayton-Stockton Professor of History, Emeritus, at Princeton. He can be reached at
More articles by:Arno J. Mayer

Blowing Truth: Wikileaks and The Empire

Wikileaks v. The Empire: The Revolutionary Act of Telling the Truth

by John Pilger - CounterPunch

 [Remarks at the launch in London of The WikiLeaks Files, with an introduction by Julian Assange.] 

George Orwell said, “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

These are dark times, in which the propaganda of deceit touches all our lives. It is as if political reality has been privatised and illusion legitimised. The information age is a media age. We have politics by media; censorship by media; war by media; retribution by media; diversion by media – a surreal assembly line of clichés and false assumptions.

Wondrous technology has become both our friend and our enemy. Every time we turn on a computer or pick up a digital device – our secular rosary beads — we are subjected to control: to surveillance of our habits and routines, and to lies and manipulation.

Edward Bernays, who invented the term, “public relations” as a euphemism for “propaganda”, predicted this more than 80 years ago. He called it, “the invisible government”.

He wrote, “Those who manipulate this unseen element of [modern democracy] constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of …”

The aim of this invisible government is the conquest of us: of our political consciousness, our sense of the world, our ability to think independently, to separate truth from lies.

This is a form of fascism, a word we are rightly cautious about using, preferring to leave it in the flickering past. But an insidious modern fascism is now an accelerating danger. As in the 1930s, big lies are delivered with the regularity of a metronome. Muslims are bad. Saudi bigots are good. ISIS bigots are bad. Russia is always bad. China is getting bad. Bombing Syria is good. Corrupt banks are good. Corrupt debt is good. Poverty is good. War is normal.

Those who question these official truths, this extremism, are deemed in need of a lobotomy – until they are diagnosed on-message. The BBC provides this service free of charge. Failure to submit is to be tagged a “radical” – whatever that means.

Real dissent has become exotic; yet those who dissent have never been more important. The book I am launching tonight, The WikiLeaks Files, is an antidote to a fascism that never speaks its name.

It’s a revolutionary book, just as WikiLeaks itself is revolutionary – exactly as Orwell meant in the quote I used at the beginning. For it says that we need not accept these the daily lies. We need not remain silent. Or as Bob Marley once sang: “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery.”

In the introduction, Julian Assange explains that it is never enough to publish the secret messages of great power: that making sense of them is crucial, as well as placing them in the context of today and historical memory.

That is the remarkable achievement of this anthology, which reclaims our memory. It connects the reasons and the crimes that have caused so much human turmoil, from Vietnam and Central America, to the Middle East and Eastern Europe, with the matrix of rapacious power, the United States.

There is currently an American and European attempt to destroy the government of Syria. Prime Minister David Cameron is especially keen. This is the same David Cameron I remember as an unctuous PR man employed by an asset stripper of Britain’s independent commercial television.

Cameron, Obama and the ever obsequious Francois Hollande want to destroy the last remaining multi-cultural authority in Syria, an action that will surely make way for the fanatics of ISIS.

This is insane, of course, and the big lie justifying this insanity is that it is in support of Syrians who rose against Bashar al-Assad in the Arab Spring. As The WikiLeaks Files reveals, the destruction of Syria has long been a cynical imperial project that pre-dates the Arab Spring uprising against Assad.

To the rulers of the world in Washington and Europe, Syria’s true crime is not the oppressive nature of its government but its independence from American and Israeli power – just as Iran’s true crime is its independence, and Russia’s true crime is its independence, and China’s true crime is its independence. In an American-owned world, independence is intolerable.

This book reveals these truths, one after the other. The truth about a war on terror that was always a war of terror; the truth about Guantanamo, the truth about Iraq, Afghanistan, Latin America.

Never has such truth-telling been so urgently needed. With honourable exceptions, those in the media paid ostensibly to keep the record straight are now absorbed into a system of propaganda that is no longer journalism, but anti-journalism. This is true of the liberal and respectable as it is of Murdoch. Unless you are prepared to monitor and deconstruct every specious assertion, so-called news has become unwatchable and unreadable.

Reading The WikiLeaks Files, I remembered the words of the late Howard Zinn, who often referred to “a power that governments can’t suppress”. That describes WikiLeaks, and it describes true whistleblowers who share their courage.

On a personal note, I have known the people of WikiLeaks for some time now. That they have achieved what they have in circumstances not of their choosing is a source of constant admiration. Their rescue of Edward Snowden comes to mind. Like him, they are heroic: nothing less.

Sarah Harrison’s chapter, ‘Indexing the Empire’, describes how she and her comrades set up an entire Public Library of US Diplomacy. There are more than two million documents, now available to all. “Our work,” she writes, “is dedicated to making sure history belongs to everyone.” How thrilling it is to read those words, which also stand as a tribute to her own courage.

From the confinement of a room in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, the courage of Julian Assange is an eloquent response to the cowards who have smeared him and the rogue power seeking revenge on him and waging a war on democracy.

None of this has deterred Julian and his comrades at WikiLeaks: not one bit. Isn’t that something?

The WikiLeaks Files: the World According to the US Empire is published by Verso.

John Pilger can be reached through his website:
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Anderson and Cyrus Right About Wolf Cull

Anderson and Cyrus Right About Wolf Cull

by Chris Genovali/Paul Paquet - Raincoast Conservation

Vancouver Island-born actor Pamela Anderson and American singer Miley Cyrus have rightly weighed in on British Columbia’s wolf cull, resulting in a stage tantrum by our elected entertainers, i.e. provincial politicians.

Premier Christy Clark’s awkward and derisive response to Anderson and Cyrus for having called out the unscientific, unethical and unwarranted B.C. wolf cull was inappropriately personal toward the two celebrities, while being factually incorrect about the cull. Evidently, Clark’s B.C. Liberal Party sitcom is in dire need of new scriptwriters.

In fairness to the premier, representatives from all the provincial parties in the B.C. legislature have, to varying degrees, repeated the misinformation and misconceptions propagated by anti-science, anti-large- carnivore, pro-wolf-cull cheerleaders such as the B.C. Wildlife Federation.

Below, we offer five reasons why provincial politicians of all stripes who are supporting the cull, or straddling the fence, should reconsider where they stand on the issue:

One. Killing wolves will not improve caribou recovery. Ostensibly to protect caribou, the B.C. government has been engaging in wolf-sterilization experiments and wolf-killing programs for more than a decade.

These initiatives have not resulted in any measurable benefits for caribou (as stated in the B.C. Wolf Management Plan). Alberta’s wolf cull, as reported in the Canadian Journal of Zoology in 2014, failed to achieve any improvement in boreal woodland caribou adult female survival, or any improvement in calf survival, and as such had no long-term effect on population dynamics.

Two. Habitat quality is the most important component of caribou recovery. Because it likely takes hundreds of years to establish an adequate biomass of tree lichen to sustain mountain caribou populations, deforestation is a major reason for the decline of caribou numbers and their failure to recover.

The B.C. government made the decision decades ago to knowingly destroy critical caribou habitat with flooding for hydro, logging, access roads and other human activities. It fully knew the consequences but chose to ignore the harm to caribou.

In the south Selkirk, only 19 caribou remain in an unviable population that is already functionally extinct. Habitat that supports a larger herd needs to be completely protected from logging and all human activities, and the herd needs to be re-established through careful reintroductions, which will require decades.

This is the only way a viable caribou population can persist. Killing all the wolves to give the public appearance that the province cares about caribou makes no difference to this population. It is already lost.

Three: Wolves are not the only predators of caribou. Wolves do eat caribou, but so do cougars, grizzly bears, black bears, wolverines, lynx and bobcats.

A 1999 study on the South Selkirk caribou found “most adult mortality was attributable to predation, particularly by cougars.” Additionally, contrary to recent wildlife federation propaganda, an “explosion of wolves” has not occurred.

In fact, the province estimates the B.C. wolf population to be approximately half that of the grizzly bear population.

Four: The wolf cull is a slaughter that causes indefensible suffering to wolves. Caribou and wolves coexisted for millennia before caribou herds were severely diminished by habitat loss (in both B.C. and Alberta), irreparably so in some cases. Slaughtering wolves inhumanely (i.e. by aerial gunning, neck snares and poison) reflects fear and intolerance, at best.

The province is killing wolves now to ostensibly conserve the caribou herds that it was responsible for decimating through decades of conscious choices not to protect caribou habitat. There are no reasonable ecological or economic reasons to kill wolves. Moreover, there are clearly no tenable ethical reasons to induce such harm and suffering.

Five: The ends do not justify the means. Wolf culls involve killing hundreds of wolves, and over the longer term, likely thousands.

In making moral judgments, people tend to regard harm as more serious if it is deliberate, rather than unintentional. Both recreational and institutional killing of wolves are rightly viewed as more serious acts than unintentional killing. Similarly, people may regard harm as less significant if done for a seemingly worthwhile purpose. This is a slippery slope.

Principled justifications used to sanctify unethical practices that cause harm and suffering are not worthy purposes and are an unethical rationale for killing wolves.

Chris Genovali is executive director of Raincoast Conservation Foundation. Paul Paquet, PhD, is Raincoast’s senior scientist and a large-carnivore expert.

Head-On: The Coming Middle East Collision

Heading Toward a Collision: Syria, Saudi Arabia and Regional Proxy Wars

by Jennifer Loewenstein - CounterPunch

A recent Guardian article (“Saudi Arabia says there is no future for Assad in Syria”) Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeil is quoted saying, “This [the Syrian civil war] could be a more lengthy process and a more destructive process but the choice is entirely that of Bashar al-Assad.”

The foreign minister did not specify how Assad would be forcibly removed, only that Saudi Arabia would tolerate nothing short of a complete regime change in Syria. Jubeil but claimed that Saudi Arabia is backing “moderate rebels” in the civil war.”

The Saudis are indeed backing ‘moderate’ rebels — if the Nusra Front, an al-Qaida affiliate is considered ‘moderate’. It is ostensibly allied with Saudi Arabia.) With memories of Afghanistan in mind, Saudi Arabian officials are genuinely concerned about “blowback,” and for good reasons. A branch of Islamic State (aka: ISIS or ISIL) in Saudi Arabia has already carried out attacks in its northeastern, predominantly Shi’ite province and against the Saudi government itself. Saudi officials are well aware that Islamic State, with its own roots in Saudi Wahhabism (an extreme form of fundamentalist Islam) the ruling family could come under attack, in part because of its close relationship to Washington.

A February 2014 report by Reuters reported that Saudi Arabia had recently banned its citizens from fighting in ‘foreign wars’, promising 3-20 years imprisonment for violating this law. It also banned its citizens from sending material support to certain Jihadi groups fighting in Syria. It cannot stop private individuals inside or outside the Kingdom from giving millions to support the actions of ISIS, however, considered by some to be a form of ‘Islamist fascism’.

After nearly six months of a brutal response by the Syrian military to non-violent protesters in Dera’a, Syria where protests for certain government reforms began in 2011, a number of people turned to armed conflict to fight the regime. This opened the door to a host of competing outside proxies arming and supporting a variety of groups within Syria, upping the stakes of the war considerably. In particular, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and the U.S.- knowingly or unknowingly – aided the rise of ISIS.

The United States has a long history of trying to topple the Ba’athist government in Syria, ruled by Hafez al-Assad for 40 years and now by his son, Bashar. A secret document leaked to the press by Wikileaks revealed that State Department and CIA officials sought to destabilize Syria for years, in part by stoking sectarian tensions between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, and through support of anti-regime Islamist factions, some of which fled to Syria after the US ‘surge’ in Iraq in 2007. US officials now claim to be arming and training only ‘moderate rebels’ now – not understanding that many ‘moderates’ have defected to, or are fighting against and losing to, ISIS and its affiliates. This helps account for the flow of arms into Syria, and into the hands of ISIS members, that has radically changed the character of the war, turning it into an even bloodier disaster.

Meanwhile, with rumors circulating that a high level Saudi prince has written a letter calling for ‘regime change’ in Riyadh, apparently supported by many in the royal family, Saudi Arabia’s own stability could be called into question. The new Deputy Crown Prince, Muhammad (“reckless”) bin Salman, a young, inexperienced leader has been made Defense Minister and is largely responsible for overseeing the Saudi war in Yemen. According to a senior Saudi military officer who defected to Dhahran, many Saudis strongly oppose the war in Yemen. as they witness the most powerful Arab state in the region destroying the people and treasures of the poorest. It has also been claimed that there are rumblings of discontent with the current leadership by Saudi royals in the country (“Saudi Royal calls for Regime Change in Riyadh”, the Guardian, 28 Sept.)

Hardline foreign policies advocated by the newly appointed Interior Minister, Muhammad bin Nayef, have been aimed primarily against Iran – seen as backing Houthi rebels in Yemen as well as pro-Assad forces in Syria. Saudi Arabian and Iranian-backed factions are contributing to the proxy war in Syria, now also complicated by Russian and US airstrikes across the country. These airstrikes are supposed to be a coordinated attack by Russia and the US against ISIS, but what has apparently emerged is that Russia is attacking the US-backed ‘moderate’ rebel forces in an effort to bolster the Syrian regime while the US has been trying – and failing – to support those same forces in order to weaken both Assad and ISIS simultaneously. US efforts have been a disastrous failure, even according to senior military personnel in Washington. Russian-US and Saudi-Iranian goals within an already tumultuous Syria may put the entire region on a collision course.

It is difficult to find a more cynical and deadly scenario in global politics today.

Jennifer Loewenstein is a human rights activist and faculty associate in Middle East Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She can be reached at:
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Thursday, October 01, 2015

Media Finds Religion on Russian Bombing

Bombs Kill Shock

by Craig Murray

October 1, 2015 

After UK and US bombs have been devastating the Middle East for over a decade, killing certainly tens and probably hundreds of thousands of people, including many thousands of children, the media have suddenly noticed this morning that bombs kill an awful lot of civilians. But only Russian bombs, of course. British bombs are cheerful, happy and their shrapnel and blast are brilliantly engineered only to go in the direction of bad guys.

The UK/US bombing of Sirte was approximately 500 times more devastating than the Russian bombings yesterday. Yet strangely there was not one single BBC report on the thousands of civilian casualties they caused in just one of many towns they bombed in Libya.

It is worth pointing out that whether yesterday’s bombing by the Russians was against ISIL or against a different bunch of crazed Islamist rebels, one still supported by the CIA and Saudi Arabia, makes no difference whatsoever to the legal position. It was at the request of the Government of Syria and thus legal. That is not to say I support it. I do not. Bombing kills civilians and just causes more hate.

I have the confidence in my fellow human beings to believe that a substantial number will see through the propaganda and realise British bombs do that too.

My optimism extends to the quite astonishing media attack on Jeremy Corbyn. The scorn and bias of the media in dealing with him has awoken many to the fact that we do not in reality live in a democratic society. People are not free to present alternative ideas to the electorate and obtain a fair hearing for them.

But still I think there will be some effect. For an entire generation, broadcast media and print newspapers had never given the slightest indication that there might be a moral dilemma involved in pushing a button to kill a billion people directly, and set off a chain of events that will destroy all human life. The spluttering fury by the establishment at the revelation that there are in existence the kind of people who would not do that, is a wonder to behold.

But all that rage is revealing the existence of the moral dilemma to people from whom it has been effectively hidden as a topic of legitimate and serious debate. People will start to think. That is why Corbyn is so dangerous to the establishment. He has opened a Pandora’s box of ideas.

Bombing America's Terrorists: What Russia's Intervention Means in Syria

US Complains As Russia Bombs Its Terrorists

by Tony Cartalucci - NEO

The New York Times in its recent article, “Russians Strike Targets in Syria, but Not ISIS Areas,” attempts to frame Russia’s recent actions in Syria as dishonest and dangerous. It reports:

Russian aircraft carried out a bombing attack against Syrian opposition fighters on Wednesday, including at least one group trained by the C.I.A., eliciting angry protests from American officials and plunging the complex sectarian war there into dangerous new territory.

This of course would only make Russia’s actions dishonest or dangerous if groups trained by the US CIA were in fact the “moderates” the US claims they are. However, they are not, and thus Russia’s actions are duly justified as is the expansion of their current policy.

There Are no Moderates, and There Never Were

For months now, after years of headlines confirming the US has been covertly arming militants in Syria for the purpose of overthrowing the government in Damascus, a narrative revolving around tens of thousands of these militants “defecting” to Al Nusra and the so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS/ISIL) has been peddled to the public by the Western media and US politicians to account for the apparent failure of America’s alleged policy of creating an army of “moderates” to both fight ISIS/Al Qaeda and the Syrian government.

In reality, from the beginning, there were never any moderates. Starting as early as 2007, years before the war in Syria began, the US as a matter of policy had long since decided to intentionally fund and support the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood – for all intents and purposes the political wing of Al Qaeda – and begin arming militants affiliated with Al Qaeda itself.

This was revealed in Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh’s 2007 New Yorker article titled, “The Redirection Is the Administration’s new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on terrorism?,” which stated explicitly (emphasis added):

To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

Hersh’s prophetic 9-page report would also reveal that even then, the extremist Syrian Muslim Brotherhood was already receiving funding and support from the United States via Saudi Arabia. His report revealed (emphasis added):

There is evidence that the Administration’s redirection strategy has already benefitted the Brotherhood. The Syrian National Salvation Front is a coalition of opposition groups whose principal members are a faction led by Abdul Halim Khaddam, a former Syrian Vice-President who defected in 2005, and the Brotherhood. A former high-ranking C.I.A. officer told me, “The Americans have provided both political and financial support. The Saudis are taking the lead with financial support, but there is American involvement.” He said that Khaddam, who now lives in Paris, was getting money from Saudi Arabia, with the knowledge of the White House. (In 2005, a delegation of the Front’s members met with officials from the National Security Council, according to press reports.) A former White House official told me that the Saudis had provided members of the Front with travel documents.

By 2011, Al Qaeda’s affiliates in Syria, most notably the Al Nusra Front, began operating nation-wide, taking the lead in the US-backed fight against Damascus. By 2012, when the US State Department listed Al Nusra as a foreign terrorist organization, it was clear even then, that the largest contingent of anti-government forces on the battlefield was Al Qaeda.

The US State Department’s official statement regarding Al Nusra reported that:

Since November 2011, al-Nusrah Front has claimed nearly 600 attacks – ranging from more than 40 suicide attacks to small arms and improvised explosive device operations – in major city centers including Damascus, Aleppo, Hamah, Dara, Homs, Idlib, and Dayr al-Zawr. During these attacks numerous innocent Syrians have been killed.

It is clear that Al Qaeda was not only involved in the conflict since its beginning, but also led it. This betrays current US rhetoric that Al Qaeda had only entered the fight later on, seizing on the chaos created by “moderates” and their fight with Damascus. It is clear that it was Al Qaeda itself that drove that chaos from the beginning, and is still driving this chaos to this day.

The Rhetorical Pipeline

To explain how America’s fictional “moderate” army has been displaced on the battlefield in Syria by Al Qaeda and ISIS, the US claims that its multi-billion dollar nearly 5-year operation has suffered from massive defections.

The Guardian would report in its article, “Free Syrian Army rebels defect to Islamist group Jabhat al-Nusra,” that:

Syria’s main armed opposition group, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), is losing fighters and capabilities to Jabhat al-Nusra, an Islamist organisation with links to al-Qaida that is emerging as the best-equipped, financed and motivated force fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

The International Business Times would report in its article, “Four Years Later, The Free Syrian Army Has Collapsed,” that:

The Nusra Front, aka Jabhat al-Nusra, has picked up thousands of men who once fought under the umbrella of the FSA during the past three years. It offers its soldiers hundreds of dollars a month in salary and food installments. The soldiers in the FSA did not receive any monthly stipend. When extremist groups such as the Nusra Front gained ground in Syria and received millions of dollars in cash and weapons from wealthy businessmen in the Gulf states and Libya, the moderate rebels “had no other choice,” Jarrah said. “They feel like they are cheated, so they join ISIS.”

The Daily Beast would report in its article, “Main U.S.-Backed Syrian Rebel Group Disbanding, Joining Islamists,” that:

The Syrian rebel group Harakat al-Hazm, one of the White House’s most trusted militias fighting President Bashar al-Assad, collapsed Sunday, with activists posting a statement online from frontline commanders saying they are disbanding their units and folding them into brigades aligned with a larger Islamist insurgent alliance distrusted by Washington.

Harakat al-Hazm would take with them to Al Qaeda and ISIS, millions of dollars worth of sophisticated US weapons, including US-made anti-tank TOW missiles.

The most recent US supported group, the fabled “Division 30,” has also allegedly defected to Al Qaeda – assuming they weren’t Al Qaeda militants from the beginning. The Telegraph in its article, “US-trained Division 30 rebels ‘betray US and hand weapons over to al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria’,” reported that:

Pentagon-trained rebels in Syria are reported to have betrayed their American backers and handed their weapons over to al-Qaeda in Syria immediately after re-entering the country.

Fighters with Division 30, the “moderate” rebel division favoured by the United States, surrendered to the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, a raft of sources claimed on Monday night.

What this news, admitted to by the West itself, of these US-backed “moderates” joining Al Qaeda’s ranks by the thousands proves is that at the very least America’s policy of building up a moderate opposition has failed entirely. What documented evidence stretching back as far as 2007 proves is that the US had no intention of building up a moderate opposition in the first place, and news of “defections” are simply cover for the direct funding and arming of Al Qaeda and ISIS in Syria.

At the very least, Russia bombing these groups either having already defected to Al Qaeda, or inevitably going to defect to Al Qaeda, is doing the Pentagon a favor.

Russia is Bombing Al Qaeda 

This leads back to the most recent New York Times article. Russia is not arbitrarily bombing “moderates” backed by the US in Syria to stave off allegedly “legitimate” opposition to the government in Damascus – Russia is bombing terrorists who are either operating under the banner of Al Qaeda but are portrayed as otherwise by the US, or will inevitably end up turning their fighters and weapons over to Al Qaeda. Russia is bombing Al Qaeda.

The New York Times article would also claim:

“By supporting Assad and seemingly taking on everybody fighting Assad,” Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said Wednesday, Russia is “taking on the whole rest of the country that’s fighting Assad.” Some of those groups, he added, are supported by the United States and need to be part of a political resolution in Syria.

Indeed, Russia is undoubtedly bombing militants supported by the United States, but that is only because the United States has intentionally supported Al Qaeda and ISIS in Syria. At any time if the United States truly wanted to strike an irreparable blow at ISIS forces, it could simply seal off the Turkish border across which the summation of ISIS’ supplies, fighters, weapons, and vehicles flow. By securing the Turkish-Syrian border to the north, and the Jordanian-Syrian border in the south, the United States could strangle ISIS out of existence in a month, if not sooner.

That it has intentionally allowed ISIS supplies to flow out from under the nose of its allies and its own military forces stationed both in Jordan and in Turkey, indicates the the US at the very least is tacitly perpetuating the existence of ISIS – but most likely is actively involved in filling the trucks bound for ISIS in Syria as well.

US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter claims that the Russian position is “doomed,” in what appears to be a pledge by the United States to resist Moscow’s attempts to stamp out Al Qaeda groups in addition to taking on and eliminating ISIS.

Some might consider doubling down on a policy of backing terrorists that will inevitably be revealed to the world, and a policy that has thus far failed to topple the Syrian government which is now being bolstered by Russian, Iranian, and possibly Chinese forces, is a policy that is ultimately doomed.

And finally, it must be noted, for those still doubting ISIS is in fact an intentional creation of US foreign policy, that ISIS is now fighting the combined military forces of Syria, Hezbollah, Iran, Iraq, and now Russia. One must ask themselves who has the material resources, finances, and operational capacity to support a single army capable of taking on a multinational coalition of this size. Where, if not from the US and its regional allies, is ISIS deriving the source of its fighting capacity?

Claiming to fight ISIS, while so transparently supporting them, is indeed a doomed position, one doomed to fail today, and one doomed to eternal condemnation in the future.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazineNew Eastern Outlook”.

Should America Protect Al Qaeda from the Russians?

Should US Ally with Al Qaeda in Syria?

by Robert Parry - Consortium News

October 1, 2015

The key sentence in The New York Times’ lead article about Russian airstrikes against Syrian rebel targets fell to the bottom of the story, five paragraphs from the end, where the Times noted in passing that the area north of Homs where the attacks occurred had been the site of an offensive by a coalition “including Nusra Front.”

The World Trade Center’s Twin Towers burning on 9/11. 
(Photo credit: National Park Service)

What the Times didn’t say in that context was that Nusra Front is Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, an omission perhaps explained because this additional information would disrupt the righteous tone of the article, accusing Russia of bad faith in attacking rebel groups other than the Islamic State.

But the Russians had made clear their intent was to engage in airstrikes against the mélange of rebel groups in which Al Qaeda as well as the Islamic State played prominent roles. The Times and the rest of the mainstream U.S. media are just playing games when they pretend otherwise.

Plus, the reality about Syria’s splintered rebel coalition is that it is virtually impossible to distinguish between the few “moderate” rebels and the many Sunni extremists. Indeed, many “moderates,” including some trained and armed by the CIA and Pentagon, have joined with Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, even turning over U.S. weapons and equipment to this affiliate of the terrorist organization that attacked New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001. Lest we forget it was that event that prompted the direct U.S. military intervention in the Middle East.

However, in recent months, the Israeli government and its American neoconservative allies have been floating trial balloons regarding whether Al Qaeda could be repackaged as Sunni “moderates” and become a de facto U.S. ally in achieving a “regime change” in Syria, ousting President Bashar al-Assad who has been near the top of the Israeli/neocon hit list for years.

A key neocon propaganda theme has been to spin the conspiracy theory that Assad and the Islamic State are somehow in cahoots and thus Al Qaeda represents the lesser evil. Though there is no evidence to support this conspiracy theory, it was even raised by Charlie Rose in his “60 Minutes” interview last Sunday with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The reality is that the Islamic State and Al Qaeda have both been leading the fight to destroy the secular Assad government, which has fought back against both groups.

And, if these two leading terror groups saw a chance to raise their black flags over Damascus, they might well mend their tactical rifts. They would have much to gain by overthrowing Assad’s regime, which is the principal protector of Syria’s Christians, Alawites, Shiites and other “heretics.”

The primary dispute between Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, which began as “Al Qaeda in Iraq,” is when to start a fundamentalist caliphate. The Islamic State believes the caliphate can begin now while Al Qaeda says the priority should be mounting more terrorist attacks against the West.

Yet, if Damascus falls, the two groups could both get a measure of satisfaction: the Islamic State could busy itself beheadings the “heretics” while Al Qaeda could plot dramatic new terror attacks against Western targets, a grim win-win.

One might think that the U.S. government should focus on averting such an eventuality, but the hysterical anti-Russian bias of The New York Times and the rest of the mainstream media means that whatever Putin does must be cast in the most negative light.

The Anti-Putin Frenzy

On Thursday, one CNN anchor ranted about Putin’s air force attacking “our guys,” i.e., CIA-trained rebels, and demanded to know what could be done to stop the Russian attacks. This frenzy was fed by the Times’ article, co-written by neocon national security correspondent Michael R. Gordon, a leading promoter of the Iraq-WMD scam in 2002.

The Times’ article pushed the theme that Russians were attacking the white-hatted “moderate” rebels in violation of Russia’s supposed commitment to fight the Islamic State only. But Putin never restricted his military support for the Assad government to attacks on the Islamic State.

Indeed, even the Times began that part of the story by citing Putin’s quote that Russia was acting “preventatively to fight and destroy militants and terrorists on the territories that they already occupied.” Putin did not limit Russia’s actions to the Islamic State.

But the Times’ article acts as if the phrase “militants and terrorists” could only apply to the Islamic State, writing: “But American officials said the attack was not directed at the Islamic State but at other opposition groups fighting against the [Syrian] government.”

Unless The New York Times no longer believes that Al Qaeda is a terrorist group, the Times’ phrasing doesn’t make sense. Indeed, Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front has emerged as the lead element of the so-called Army of Conquest, a coalition of rebel forces which has been using sophisticated U.S. weaponry including TOW missiles to achieve major advances against the Syrian military around the city of Idlib.

The weaponry most likely comes from U.S. regional allies, since Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and other Sunni-led Gulf states have been supporting Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and other Sunni rebel groups in Syria. This reality was disclosed in a Defense Intelligence Agency report and was blurted out by Vice President Joe Biden.

On Oct. 2, 2014, Biden told an audience at Harvard’s Kennedy School: “our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria … the Saudis, the emirates, etc., what were they doing? They were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of military weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad, except the people who were being supplied were Al Nusra and Al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.” [Quote at 53:20 of clip.]

Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front also has benefited from a de facto alliance with Israel which has taken in wounded Nusra fighters for medical treatment and then returned them to the battlefield around the Golan Heights. Israel also has carried out airstrikes inside Syria in support of Nusra’s advances, including killing Hezbollah and Iranian advisers helping the Syrian government.

The Israeli airstrikes inside Syria, like those conducted by the United States and its allies, are in violation of international law because they do not have the permission of the Syrian government, but those Israeli and U.S. coalition attacks are treated as right and proper by the mainstream U.S. media in contrast to the Russian airstrikes, which are treated as illicit even though they are carried out at the invitation of Syria’s recognized government.

Obama’s Choice

Ultimately, President Barack Obama will have to decide if he wants to cooperate with Russia and Iran in beating back Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and other jihadists – or realign U.S. policy in accord with Israel’s obsession with “regime change” in Syria, even if that means a victory by Al Qaeda. In other words, should the United States come full circle in the Middle East and help Al Qaeda win?

Preferring Al Qaeda over Assad is the Israeli position – embraced by many neocons, too. The priority for the Israeli/neocon strategy has been to seek “regime change” in Syria as a way to counter Iran and its support for Lebanon’s Hezbollah, both part of Shia Islam.

According to this thinking, if Assad, an Alawite, a branch of Shia Islam, can be removed, a new Sunni-dominated regime in Syria would disrupt Hezbollah’s supply lines from Iran and thus free up Israel to act more aggressively against both the Palestinians and Iran.

For instance, if Israel decides to crack down again on the Palestinians or bomb Iran’s nuclear sites, it now has to worry about Hezbollah in southern Lebanon raining down missiles on major Israeli cities. However, if Hezbollah’s source of Iranian missiles gets blocked by a new Sunni regime in Damascus, the worry of Hezbollah attacks would be lessened.

Israel’s preference for Al Qaeda over Assad has been acknowledged by senior Israeli officials for the past two years though never noted in the U.S. mainstream media. In September 2013, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, then a close adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told the Jerusalem Post that Israel favored the Sunni extremists over Assad.

“The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren told the Jerusalem Post in an interview.
“We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” He said this was the case even if the “bad guys” were affiliated with Al Qaeda.

And, in June 2014, then speaking as a former ambassador at an Aspen Institute conference, Oren expanded on his position, saying Israel would even prefer a victory by the brutal Islamic State over continuation of the Iranian-backed Assad in Syria. “From Israel’s perspective, if there’s got to be an evil that’s got to prevail, let the Sunni evil prevail,” Oren said. [See’s “Al-Qaeda, Saudi Arabia and Israel.”]

So, that is the choice facing President Obama and the American people. Despite the misleading reporting by The New York Times, CNN and other major U.S. news outlets, the realistic options are quite stark: either work with Russia, Iran and the Syrian military to beat back the Sunni jihadists in Syria (while seeking a power-sharing arrangement in Damascus that includes Assad and some of his U.S.-backed political rivals) — or take the side of Al Qaeda and other Sunni extremists, including the Islamic State, with the goal of removing Assad and hoping that the mythical “moderate” rebels might finally materialize and somehow wrest control of Damascus.

Though I’m told that Obama privately has made the first choice, he is so fearful of the political reaction from neocons and their “liberal interventionist” pals that he feels he must act like a tough guy ridiculing Putin and denouncing Assad.

The danger from this duplicitous approach is that Obama’s penchant for talking out of multiple sides of his mouth might end up touching off a confrontation between nuclear-armed America and nuclear-armed Russia, a crisis that his verbal trickery might not be able to control.

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 You also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

The Art of Ignoring The Donald

Trumpocrisy: The Donald’s Finances and the Art of Ignoring Conflicts and Contradictions

by Nomi Prins  - TomDispatch

The 2016 election campaign is certainly a billionaire’s playground when it comes to “establishment candidates” like Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush who cater to mega-donors and use their money to try to rally party bases.

The only genuine exception to the rule this time around has been Bernie Sanders, who has built a solid grassroots following and funding machine, while shunning what he calls “the billionaire class” that fuels the super PACs.

Donald Trump, like Ross Perot back in the 1992 and 1996 elections, has played quite a different trick on the money-saturated American political system.

He has removed the billionaire as middleman between citizen plebeians and political elites, and created a true .00001% candidate, because he’s... well, a financial elite unto himself, however conveniently posed as the country’s straight-talking “everyman.”

Despite his I-can-buy-but-can’t-be-bought swagger, Trump’s persona has been carefully constructed to deflect even the most obvious questions of conflict of interest that his wealth and deal-making history should bring up. He claims that he would govern (or dictate) as he is, no apologies or bullshit. But would he? 
Tomgram: Nomi Prins, How Trump Became Trump and What That Means for the Rest of Us

Sometimes when I look at the increasingly bizarre, never-ending campaign for the White House and the staggering fundraising that goes with it, I think to myself: if we were in Kabul, Afghanistan, we would know what this was. We would recognize warlord politics. We would understand that (Bernie Sanders aside) politicians running for the presidency now need patrons -- modern-day Medicis who can fund the super PACs that are increasingly the heart and soul of a process leading to the first $10 billion election. Those billionaire funders are, of course, America’s warlords. In his book No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes, reporter Anand Gopal offers a riveting up close and personal look at how the process works far from home. One of the Afghans he follows is a remarkable woman who, under the patronage of just such a warlord, finds herself a senator in the Afghan Parliament.

In our system, the candidates now first test their “electability” not with voters in primaries, but with a tiny coterie of the super-rich. In the case of the Koch brothers, for instance, they literally audition for support. In twenty-first-century America, these should undoubtedly be considered the real primaries and what happens starting in Iowa and New Hampshire early next year should be thought of as the secondaries. The increasingly fierce contests for money are America’s new electoral reality, the one the Supreme Court let loose on the land with its 2010 Citizens United decision that freed the voice of money to overwhelm the many voices of this country. The process of fundraising has only gained momentum since then and yet this new form of electoral politics is a system still in formation, like molten lava only now beginning to cool and settle into its future shape.

To give credit where it’s due, Donald Trump has kept that lava hot in ways that, under other circumstances, would be amusing indeed. After all, he’s the definition of an American warlord -- and he’s also running for the presidency. It’s an unexpected wrinkle in the coalescence of a genuinely plutocratic electoral system. In other words, The Donald would like to send himself and, as TomDispatch regular Nomi Prins points out today, his money directly to the Oval Office in January 2017, while mocking those helpless peons of the political class who need to turn to people like him to be in the big time. Despite some public discussion of Trump's many bankruptcies, Mr. Art of the Deal has had remarkably free sailing when it comes to what it might mean to put a billionaire in the White House. Conflicts of interest? Don’t even think about it! Prins, author of All the Presidents' Bankers: The Hidden Alliances That Drive American Power, shifts the focus to where it should be -- on The Donald’s finances and the conflicts that make the man and would be part and parcel of any Trump presidency. Tom

Trumpocrisy: The Donald’s Finances and the Art of Ignoring Conflicts and Contradictions

by Nomi Prins

The billionaire-as-president is a new prospect for America. The only faintly comparable situation in our history came before the Crash of 1929, when President Calvin Coolidge, who famously declared that “the business of America is business,” reappointed mogul Andrew Mellon as his treasury secretary, just as President Warren Harding had done before him. A walking conflict of interest, Mellon left Washington during Herbert Hoover’s administration to avoid Congressional scrutiny of his personal business endeavors. He was later investigated by the Department of Justice for falsifying tax information in his own business empire.

Trump is, by his own admission, a dealmaker who has, since the 1970s, utilized self-promotion and his own growing celebrity to make money. Nonetheless, he denies the importance of money itself. His quasi-autobiography, The Art of the Deal, opens with this now-familiar tall tale: “I don’t do it for the money. I’ve got enough, much more than I’ll ever need. I do it to do it. Deals are my art form.”

Today, he asserts that he is worth a cool $10 billion, having long been cagey about just how much he has. That figure, too, may be more scam than reality. Forbes pegs Trump's fortune at $4 billion in its 2015 top billionaires list, where he places 405th in the world and 133rd in the U.S. In his 92-page Federal Election Committee financial filing, which doesn’t require the disclosure of his total wealth, the value of his global enterprises, assets, debts, and income sources are listed in ranges, rather than exact figures. More than 20 items are characterized as worth “over $50 million.”

He has at least $1.4 billion in assets and $285 million in debt, if we use just $50 million as a guesstimate on those items; $2.8 billion in assets and $570 million in debt, if we pick the figure of $100 million instead. In other words, we still don’t know what he’s worth. As with so much else, we just have to take his word for it.

Consider the presidency as Donald Trump’s ultimate deal. And don’t think for a second that if he entered the Oval Office his money and deal-making lust and every conflict of interest that went with them wouldn’t follow him there.

He claims to be an open book -- “the definition of the American success story,” as his campaign website puts it. He wants people to believe (as his acolytes do) that he’s just like us -- except for the hair -- only richer, more successful, and (not to mince words) better. That narrative has, of course, been carefully constructed for our consumption, which means, if he succeeds, we are part of his chosen art form, his deal.

Though you might not know it from the incessant media coverage of his candidacy or his P.T. Barnum-ish self-glorification, there are plenty of pieces missing from his financial story that call into question both his skill as a dealmaker and his business acumen. Though there’s been much discussion of how money from the Koch Brothers and other billionaire donors might influence 2016’s candidates, there’s been little discussion of how Trump might be influenced by the billionaire backing him: himself.

Celebrity Apprentice

The Trump phenomenon has delivered ratings to networks and, arguably, the apolitical to their TV sets. It’s probably sold a lot of cars, judging from the commercials that went with the recent Republican debates. A record 24 million people watched the first one on Fox News. That event was, in fact, such an obvious triumph for Fox that CNN upped the ante, expanding the second debate to a full (some would say endless) three hours. As Trump noted, “I guess it was to sell commercials.” CNN similarly shattered its prior election debate records, averaging 23 million viewers.

All of this has been a boon for The Donald, who clearly has a remarkable ability to glue cameras to him and use the media to his advantage, a skill he honed starting with his first Manhattan deal in 1973. When Trump went on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos on August 23rd, he dispatched Jeb Bush this way: “We need a person with a lot of smarts, a lot of cunning, and a lot of energy. And Jeb doesn't have that,” while dissing Scott Walker as a governor whose “state is really in trouble.” Walker just left the race. Jeb continues to falter. Call it Trump magic.

The Donald has long perfected two proven strategies for winning: attack and deflect. On both counts, he is a TV veteran. Appearing on NBC’s Late Night with David Letterman in 1987 to promote The Art of the Deal, his skill in deflecting attention from aspects of his life that might otherwise diminish his aura was already on full display. When Letterman probed the particulars of Trump’s personal wealth multiple times, he dodged effectively, insisting, “You’ll never get it out of me.” He also deflected his host’s question about the degree to which his father’s money contributed to his success. “He was a solid guy and a bright guy, I learned a lot” was about all Letterman could dig out of him on Fred Trump.

And here’s an irony: for all his edginess, Trump’s savvy in avoiding what might embarrass or confine him makes him much more of a politician that he’d like us to believe. His father, however, provided Trump with far more guidance and help than that “self-made man” would care for us to realize. So let’s start with a little tour of his celebrity apprenticeship.

Fred Trump was born in Queens, New York, in 1905. His own father had emigrated to the United States from Sweden in 1885. He would convert a business in low-income housing into a $300 million fortune.

A year after leaving high school, Fred built his first home in Woodhaven, Queens. “It cost a little less than $5,000 and he sold it for $7,500,” his son proudly wrote years later.

By 1929, Fred was building larger homes. When the Depression hit, he bought a bankruptcy mortgage-service company, which he sold for a profit a year later. In 1934, he returned to building lower-priced homes in the depressed Flatbush area of Brooklyn. During the next dozen years, he would build 2,500 of them in Brooklyn and Queens.

Trump and his father had an "a relationship that was almost businesslike,” The Donald would later write and from Fred he would, he’s testified, learn toughness, though “I also realized that if I ever wanted to be known as more than Fred Trump’s son, I was eventually going to have to go out and make my own mark.”

Think, for instance, of George W. Bush’s urge to surpass his father’s record of political power -- and war making. But don’t imagine for a moment that Trump struck out on his own any more than the young Bush did. Trump recounts his first major deal as Swifton Village, a foreclosed apartment complex in Cincinnati that he said he bought with his father in 1969, while still in college. (Cincinnati Magazine claims the purchase was Fred’s exclusively.) The price was $6 million and in 1972, they resold it for $12 million, according to Trump (and a far more modest $6.75 million according to other estimates).

But Cincinnati was never The Donald’s dream. He wanted Manhattan from the beginning. His first deal there started in 1973 with a desire to purchase the old Penn Central rail yards at 34th Street on the West side of the island.

At that time, New York was a complete financial mess. That summer, Trump came across a newspaper story about the Penn Central Railroad bankruptcy filing. Penn Central trustees had hired a small LA-based investment management company led by Victor Palmieri to sell its assets, including its long abandoned yards in the West thirties and sixties. Ever the con artist, Trump recalled, “I couldn’t sell him on my experience or my accomplishments, so instead I sold him on my energy and my enthusiasm.”

Trump initially proposed building middle-income housing on the site with government financing. When the city became mired in financial problems and money for public housing dried up, he switched to Plan B and “began promoting the site as ideal for a convention center.”

Trump still did nothing without his father’s involvement. As their development firm had no official name, they decided to call it the Trump Organization, which covered them both and, they hoped, had a certain gravitas. Over the next several years, Trump solicited support from New York Mayor Abe Beame, who belonged to the same club as his father and to whom his father and he gave money, as he later wrote, “like all developers.” Palmieri would give Trump his virgin credibility with the press as his choice for developer, swearing to Barron’s that “he’s larger than life.”

On July 29, 1974, the New York Times featured a front-page story on how the Trump Organization secured options to buy the two waterfront sites from Penn Central for $62 million. However, it was Mayor Ed Koch who, in 1978, gave Trump’s pet project for a future convention center at West 34th Street his official stamp of approval by agreeing to buy the site. That site would eventually become the Javits Convention Center.

It was the symbolic, if not financial break The Donald had been waiting for. As for the West 60th street site, due to numerous problems, he let the option expire in 1979. In a sense, Donald Trump would never look back, but he would have to look down often enough.

Trump’s Bankruptcies

As Carly Fiorina made crystal clear to almost 23 million Americans in the second Republican debate (the topic had been broached in the first one), Trump’s companies have officially gone bankrupt four times since 1991, or as Trump spun it, “I used the law four times and made a tremendous thing. I’m in business. I did a very good job.”

While that’s a small number of bankruptcies relative to the hundreds of companies that comprise his empire, they represented a fair amount of debt. There was the Trump Taj Mahal (with $1 billion in debt) in Atlantic City in 1991 and the Trump Plaza Hotel in Atlantic City in 1992 (with $550 million in debt). Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts, the company created from the post-bankruptcy ashes of the Taj Mahal, the Trump Plaza, and also Trump Marina in Atlantic City filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection (with $1.8 billion of debt) in 2004. Bankruptcy number four, Trump Entertainment Resorts (the post-bankruptcy company created to take over the remains of Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts) filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection (with $1.74 billion of debt) in February 2009.

While Trump owned 28% of its stock, as he told Bloomberg News upon resigning from the board four days before the $53 million bond payment that forced it into bankruptcy was due, “I have nothing to do with it. I’m not in it. I’m not on the board.”

He continues to argue that the Atlantic City bankruptcies weren’t his fault, but attributable to the casino environment of that moment. Though there is some truth to that, he glosses over his method of creating new companies to purchase the bankrupt ones, after shedding their debts, and his convenient exit timing from management posts to shed blame.

While four of his companies officially went down for the count, he had many companies that didn’t and, as he has repeatedly said, he himself never declared personal bankruptcy (so his credit score likely remains in fine shape). Keep in mind, though, that, hard as it is to find consistent basic information about Trump’s various disasters, the count of his unofficial bankruptcies would undoubtedly run significantly higher. After all, a number of his companies effectively went bankrupt by closing down or being bought out at bargain basement prices.

In 1989, for instance, Trump purchased the Eastern Air Shuttle, connecting New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C. with hourly flights, for roughly $365 million. But the Trump name didn’t carry the day and passengers didn’t pony up for the line’s fancier seats and gold lavatory fixtures. Instead, in 1990 Trump defaulted on the loans he had taken out to finance the company, and its ownership reverted to its creditors, led by Citibank. The Trump Shuttle was then merged into a new corporation, Shuttle Inc., and in April 1992, its routes were assumed by USAir Shuttle, which is one way the rich make problems disappear.

In April 2006, at a Trump Tower gala, Trump’s son Donald, Jr. promised that Trump Mortgage would become the nation's number one home-loan lender. In a CNBC interview shortly afterwards, Trump said, “Who knows about financing better than I do?” Eight months later, the company closed down amid the crashing housing market and negative publicity over an unfortunate hiring choice. Trump’s CEO, E.J. Ridings, had lied on his résumé. His previously advertised “top” spot at one of Wall Street’s “most prestigious banks” turned out to have been as a lowly broker -- for one week. As Trump continually reminds us, he only has the best people work for him.

Then there was “Trump University,” active from 2005 to 2010, where, for $25,000-$35,000, students could assumedly learn how to become real-estate gods like Trump. According to related lawsuits, they were then enticed to take out credit cards under phony business names to help pay for the privilege, and to inflate their income by projecting profits from non-existing businesses.

Earlier this month, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman told the New York Daily News that approximately 600 former students have filed suit against the “university” in Manhattan Supreme Court. Similar suits are pending in California. Schneiderman claimed Trump banked $5 million personally from the scam. Trump had also ignored 2005 warnings not to use the word “university” in the name.

Of course, if ordinary Americans declare bankruptcy due to unforeseen or difficult circumstances, they are regularly stigmatized as lazy deadbeats. The Trumps of our world, however, being rich enough to launch corporate bankruptcy protection filings, are seen as savvy dealers. In this sense, Trump couldn’t have been savvier, since he’s survived one potential financial catastrophe after another. Unfortunately, his experiences have absolutely no applicability to ordinary Americans, even though, as David Dayen wrote at the Intercept, “Everyone would have benefited from relieving primary mortgage debt, the absence of which led to at least six million foreclosures.“

Trump International

It’s evident from Trump’s recent comments that his foreign policy ideas haven’t evolved much since he last seriously thought about running for president in 2011 when he wrote the first version of a campaign book, Time to Get Tough (updated for his 2016 bid).

Then, too, he talked about “getting China to stop playing currency charades,” while declaring his “great respect for the people of China” and blaming “our leaders and representatives” for making terrible deals with their leaders that have cost American jobs. What Trump didn’t discuss then, and doesn’t discuss now, is how U.S. companies, his own included, produce and sell in China because they make more money doing that. Though he regularly complains that we don't manufacture anything here anymore, neither does he bother to explain his own patriotism shortfall, since he and his daughter, Ivanka, have clothing lines made in China (and Mexico, that land of “rapists,” and Bangladesh, a country continuously in violation of human rights for garment workers).

Absent any sense of irony, he has blamed Chinese currency manipulation for making him set up shop in China and claims China is “killing us.” This, though the Chinese stock markets have recently been hammered, the Yuan is weakening, and the country’s growth is slowing, hardly signs of an imminent threat. It’s a great Trumpian combo, though: anti-China anger plays well with the xenophobic crowd, while a weaker Yuan keeps costs down on Trump’s clothing business. A deal, after all, is a deal.

According to the Trump Organization website and his Federal Election Commission financial disclosures, he has operations practically worldwide, but notably not in Russia. Yet Trump has had his eye on doing business there for a long time. As far back as 1987, when it was still the Soviet Union, he wanted to erect a Trump Tower in Moscow’s Red Square. In 2013, he was still talking about the possibility in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Perhaps because of his ongoing business interests (or their mutual maverick styles), Trump, unlike his Republican presidential opponents for whom the Russian president is little short of the devil incarnate, regularly claims that he will have a “great relationship” with Putin.

As for Trump’s Mexican border wall and the fantasy of getting the Mexican government to pay for it, Trump has made hay with the immigration issue. You wouldn’t know, listening to him, that the number of illegal immigrants has dropped significantly since the financial crisis. On the Late Show recently, Trump doubled down on his wall, comparing it to the Great Wall of China and suggesting that “we can have a great and beautiful wall, we'll have our border, and guess what, nobody comes in unless they have their papers." This from the man who has a borderless record of outsourcing jobs and tax revenues to Mexico and elsewhere.

All of this adds up to a vast set of potential conflicts of interest and downright deception should Donald Trump ever set foot in the White House, a subject that is at the heart of what might be called Trumpocrisy in the present campaign, but seldom part of the debate by or about The Donald himself.

The Polls

For now, Trump remains the clear GOP frontrunner in terms of composite polling results. His polling success has been predicated since announcing his candidacy on a cocktail of bravado, media exposure, tactical hits on opponents as if they were competitors for one of his casino deals, and the wholesale avoidance of any serious discussion of the financial baggage he brings with him into the election season. Can there be any question that, for the man who wanted to leave his father’s helping hand behind, bagging the Oval Office would be the ultimate step in outshining Fred Trump’s legacy? It’s less clear what the rest of us get out of it.

Trump assures us that he wouldn’t let his business dealings interfere with his politics, but is he really prepared to step away from all Trump Organization matters globally? Does anyone believe that his deal-making instincts will die in the Oval Office? Or would building Trump Tower in Moscow be the touchstone for any future conversation with Putin about Ukraine and Syria? Would his acts be indicative of what happens -- consider Bill Clinton netting high speaking fees from countries in which then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was conducting foreign policy -- when you fuse public office and private power? In historical terms, it would be as if a Morgan or a Rockefeller were running the country and his private business affairs at the same time, creating the quintessential conflict of public and private interest.

Unfortunately, we are used to politicians saying whatever they think they need to say to be elected president, and falling way short of their campaign promises on the job. Even scarier would be the notion of selling America to the craftiest bidder. The election may be more than a year away, but isn’t it time to dig beneath the carefully crafted persona that is Trump and unearth the person and the full spectrum of his business dealings? To see the real Donald Trump is to plunge into all the conflicts of interest he denies, the financial tricks he dispenses, the crucial details he obfuscates, and the flimflam he offers up day in, day out.

Nomi Prins, a TomDispatch regular, is the author of six books, a speaker, and a distinguished senior fellow at the non-partisan public policy institute Demos. Her most recent book is All the Presidents' Bankers: The Hidden Alliances That Drive American Power (Nation Books). She is a former Wall Street executive.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Nick Turse’s Tomorrow’s Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa, and Tom Engelhardt's latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2015 Nomi Prins