Nicolas J. S. Davies

Here are 12 ways the US invasion of Iraq lives on in infamy

While the world is consumed with the terrifying coronavirus pandemic, on March 19 the Trump administration will be marking the 17th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq by ramping up the conflict there. After an Iran-aligned militia allegedly struck a U.S. base near Baghdad on March 11, the U.S. military carried out retaliatory strikes against five of the militia’s weapons factories and announced it is sending two more aircraft carriers to the region, as well as new Patriot missile systems and hundreds more troops to operate them. This contradicts the January vote of the Iraqi Parliament that called for U.S. troops to leave the country. It also goes against the sentiment of most Americans, who think the Iraq war was not worth fighting, and against the campaign promise of Donald Trump to end the endless wars.

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Here are 10 ways Trump’s actions against Iran hurt Americans and the region

The U.S. assassination of General Qassem Soleimani has not yet plunged us into a full-scale war with Iran thanks to the Iranian government’s measured response, which demonstrated its capabilities without actually harming U.S. troops or escalating the conflict. But the danger of a full-blown war still exists, and Donald Trump’s actions are already wreaking havoc.

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Iraqis rise up against 16 years of ‘made in the USA’ corruption

As Americans sat down to Thanksgiving dinner, Iraqis were mourning 40 protesters killed by police and soldiers that day in Baghdad, Najaf and Nasiriyah. Nearly 400 protesters have been killed since hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets at the beginning of October. Human rights groups have described the crisis in Iraq as a “bloodbath,” Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi has announced he will resign, and Sweden has opened an investigation against Iraqi Defense Minister Najah Al-Shammari, who is a Swedish citizen, for crimes against humanity.

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Why aren’t Americans rising up like we are seeing across the planet?

The waves of protests breaking out in country after country around the world beg the question: Why aren’t Americans rising up in peaceful protest like our neighbors? We live at the very heart of this neoliberal system that is force-feeding the systemic injustice and inequality of 19th-century laissez-faire capitalism to the people of the 21st century. So we are subject to many of the same abuses that have fueled mass protest movements in other countries, including high rents, stagnant wages, cradle-to-grave debt, ever-rising economic inequality, privatized health care, a shredded social safety net, abysmal public transportation, systemic political corruption and endless war.

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Here's the truth about Trump’s fake withdrawal from our endless wars

On Monday, October 7, the U.S. withdrew 50 to 100 troops from positions near Syria’s border with Turkey, and two days later Turkey invaded Rojava, the de facto autonomous Kurdish region of northeast Syria. Trump is now taking credit for a temporary, tenuous ceasefire. In a blizzard of tweets and statements, Donald Trump has portrayed his chaotic tactical relocation of U.S. troops in Syria as a down payment on his endless promises to withdraw U.S. forces from endless wars in the greater Middle East.

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The failure of militarized neoliberalism is laid bare in Iraq and Haiti

This season could be called the Autumn of Discontent, as people from the Middle East to Latin America and the Caribbean have been rising up against corrupt neoliberal governments. Two of the countries in crisis, Haiti and Iraq, are on opposite ends of the earth but have something important in common. Not only are they reeling from protests against government corruption and austerity programs, like Ecuador and Algeria, but in both Haiti and Iraq, their corrupt neoliberal governments were imposed on them by the use of U.S. military force.

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Will Americans let Trump trigger World War III for Saudi Arabia and Israel?

On Saturday, September 14, two oil refineries and other oil infrastructure in Saudi Arabia were hit and set ablaze by 18 drones and 7 cruise missiles, dramatically slashing Saudi Arabia’s oil production by half, from about 10 million to 5 million barrels per day. On September 18, the Trump administration, blaming Iran, announced it was imposing more sanctions on Iran, and voices close to Donald Trump are calling for military action. But this attack should lead to just the opposite response: urgent calls for an immediate end to the war in Yemen and an end to U.S. economic warfare against Iran.

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Why US sanctions are economic sabotage that is deadly, illegal and ineffective

While the mystery of who is responsible for sabotaging the two tankers in the Gulf of Oman remains unsolved, it is clear that the Trump administration has been sabotaging Iranian oil shipments since May 2, when it announced its intention to “bring Iran’s oil exports to zero, denying the regime its principal source of revenue.” The move was aimed at China, India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey, all nations that purchase Iranian oil and now face U.S. threats if they continue to do so. The U.S. military might not have physically blown up tankers carrying Iranian crude, but its actions have the same effect and should be considered acts of economic terrorism.

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Do any of the Democratic presidential candidates understand the power of peace?

Forty-five years after Congress passed the War Powers Act in the wake of the Vietnam War, it has finally used it for the first time, to try to end the U.S.-Saudi war on the people of Yemen and to recover its constitutional authority over questions of war and peace. This hasn’t stopped the war yet, and President Trump has threatened to veto the bill. But its passage in Congress, and the debate it has spawned, could be an important first step on a tortuous path to a less militarized U.S. foreign policy in Yemen and beyond.

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Bring the troops home, but also stop the bombing

As our nation debates the merits of President Trump’s call for withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan, absent from the debate is the more pernicious aspect of U.S. military involvement overseas: its air wars. Trump’s announcement and General Mattis’ resignation should unleash a national discussion about U.S. involvement in overseas conflicts, but no evaluation can be meaningful without a clear understanding of the violence that U.S. air wars have unleashed on the rest of the world for the past 17 years.

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Will the new House Democrats take on the war lobby?

A new Democratic majority will take charge in the U.S. House of Representatives in January, thanks to a remarkable rebound in public participation in U.S. elections. Based on early data, it appears that over 49 percent of eligible voters showed up at the polls this year, compared to a 70-year low of 36.4 percent in the last midterm in 2014. More than ever before, the Democrats should thank young voters for their success, as 18-to-39-year-olds appear to have voted for them by a two to one margin.

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Who Represents You - Peacemakers, Warmongers or Fence Sitters?

As a foreign policy crisis explodes over the apparent Saudi assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, the failure of the U.S. Congress to assert its constitutional war powers over three years of illegal U.S. military action in the war on Yemen and booming U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners is finally coming home to roost.

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Merchants of Death Profit from the Bombing of Children as a US-Backed War Goes Largely Ignored

As if the horrific Saudi bombing of a Yemeni school bus that killed 44 children on August 9, 2018, wasn’t bad enough, CNN reported that the bomb used in the attack was manufactured by Lockheed Martin, one of the major U.S. defense contractors. Nima Elbagir, reporting for CNN’s Situation Room, showed a map of Yemen pinpointing several other attacks where large numbers of civilians have been killed by bombs from not only Lockheed Martin, but also General Dynamics and Raytheon. It was a rare moment when a mainstream U.S. media outlet made the connection between U.S. weapons and the devastation they wreak.

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How the War Industry Corrupts the U.S. Congress

Former President Jimmy Carter has called U.S. politics a system of “legalized bribery” in which powerful interests spend billions of dollars on lobbying and campaign funding to ensure that members of Congress pay more attention to them than to the general public. With the upcoming midterm elections, we will see the full force of this tsunami of cash washing over our electoral system.

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The Staggering Death Toll in Iraq

March 19 marks 15 years since the U.S.-UK invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the American people have no idea of the enormity of the calamity the invasion unleashed. The U.S. military has refused to keep a tally of Iraqi deaths. General Tommy Franks, the man in charge of the initial invasion, bluntly told reporters, “We don’t do body counts.” One survey found that most Americans thought Iraqi deaths were in the tens of thousands. But our calculations, using the best information available, show a catastrophic estimate of 2.4 million Iraqi deaths since the 2003 invasion.

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Why Iraqis May See ISIL as Lesser Evil Compared To U.S.-Backed Death Squads

The mostly Sunni Arab population of western and northern Iraq is faced with a diabolical choice between the brutal rule of IS and the even more murderous rule of their own government. Their life and death predicament is the direct result of past and present U.S. policy in Iraq.

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America's Insane Policy of Committing War Crimes in the Name of Preventing Other War Crimes

"And we read from pleasant Bibles that are bound with blood and skin/That the wilderness is gathering all its children back again." —Leonard Cohen

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Western Imperialists Have Been Bombing Iraq for 100 Years

President Obama's campaign of aerial bombardment against ISIS in Iraq and Syria maintains a British colonial policy designed 100 years ago to avoid the consequences of putting large numbers of boots on the ground in what are now Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

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Why the Showdown with Islamic Extremists Is the War the Pentagon Was Hoping For

As the U.S. escalates its bombing campaign against ISIS (or IS or ISIL), U.S. officials seem to have found an enemy we can all love to hate and fear.  ISIS beheads hostages, conducts brutal ethnic cleansing and has links to Al-Qaeda.  DC power players have eagerly embraced a small war made to order to restore America's wounded military pride after the first Iraq debacle. 
The contrived nature of the narrative presented by U.S. officials was evident from the outset if one cared to look behind the propaganda screen.  As the U.S. bombing campaign began, German Left Party MP Ulla Jelpke told a press conference in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) on August 11th that the Yazidis on Mount Sinjar were rescued by the Kurdish PKK, who the U.S. government classifies as "terrorists."  Refugees told Jelpke that they were saved by "Allah and the PKK," not by U.S. bombing.  
Ulla Jelpke hailed the PKK as the most effective force fighting ISIS and other jihadis in Syria and Iraq, and she condemned Turkey for its role on the other side, providing bases, training and support to the jihadis.  Even as Turkey has kept its border with Syria open to a flood of fighters and weapons, it has closed it to shipments of food and humanitarian supplies to Rojava, now home to thousands of Yazidi refugees.  As Jelpke said, "If the US government and its allies are going to wage a serious struggle against ISIS, they must first end the support for the jihadis coming from Turkey and the Gulf states." 
At the same time, journalist Judit Neurink, who has spent the past 5 years training local journalists in Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, told Belgium's De Standaard newspaper that reports of ISIS massacres were exaggerated and based mainly on rumors.  De Standaard asked, "Is the United States' bombing based on a false hypothesis?"  She replied, "Yes.  The US is bombing because the battle was approaching too close to Erbil, where a small American base lies.  The Yazidis are useful to add a humanitarian sauce.  Indeed there are also Christians fleeing.  But if you act only for the Christians, other religious communities in the world would attack you.  Now this Yazidi tragedy suited the Americans politically and the stories are exaggerated.  Terrible things happen and have happened, that's a fact.  But we have no numbers, no details."  
But the Yazidis served their purpose for U.S. propaganda.  The line was crossed, the bombing was under way and the United States was at war in Iraq… again.  It would be naive to think that U.S. intelligence agencies knew less of the real picture than Jelpke and Neurink.  But the domestic propaganda campaign has succeeded and a majority of Americans tell pollsters they approve of the bombing.  The U.S. is building a "coalition of the willing" on a similar basis, persuading allies of the political benefits of aligning with U.S. policy.  But the U.S. coalition excludes all three forces that are best placed to resist and marginalize ISIS: the Syrian Army; the PKK; and Iraq's Sunni tribes.
After initially helping to drive out Iraqi government death squads, ISIS has outlived its purpose to Sunni Arab tribal leaders in northern and western Iraq.  Most Sunni Iraqis don't want to be part of a fundamentalist Islamic state like Saudi Arabia, where 19 people were beheaded in August for offenses ranging from witchcraft to drug possession.  Most Iraqi Sunnis just want civil and political rights in their own country, Iraq.  But they justifiably fear the return of Shiite death squads more than they fear ISIS.
After Shiite militiamen killed 70 people at a Sunni mosque in Diyala province on September 22nd, a reporter for the Guardian embedded with a group of militiamen in Diyala reported, "For these men, the Sunnis as a whole are the enemy, regardless of whether they are ISIS supporters or not."  One militiaman told theGuardian that they do not kill women, children or old people, implying that adult men are a different story, but another told the Guardian, "When I liberate an area from ISIS, why do I have to give it back to them?  Either I erase it or settle Shia in it."  Another added, "If it's for me, I will start cleansing Baghdad from today."    
What all the forces resisting ISIS really need from the U.S. and its allies is to call off the U.S.-backed Iraqi government's death squads, and to end our funding, arming and support for ISIS' allies in Syria.  Instead Congress has voted to provide more weapons and training to jihadis in Syria.  Meanwhile the U.S. bombing campaign is enhancing ISIS' prestige, helping it to attract an estimated 6,000 new recruits since August.  If the goal of U.S. policy was to make a dire situation worse for the people of Syria and Iraq, it's hard to see how we could do a better job of it.
For Americans, this campaign brings together many of the familiar themes of the history of U.S. military expansion since the end of the Cold War, and it raises many of the same questions and problems.  U.S. officials are evidently encouraged by similarities to the 1991 First Gulf War, a model they revere but have failed to replicate: an unpopular enemy; a limited objective; domestic political support; a broad international coalition to do the fighting and pay for it; and the promise of "victory" over a villainous enemy to win the acclaim of a grateful world.  But the two campaigns have other things in common that should give us pause.
Like the current bombing campaign, the short-lived victory over Iraq in 1991, which ultimately led to the present crisis, was designed with another, distinctly political, purpose in mind: to save the Cold War U.S. military from the threat of substantial disarmament.  On the basis of that war, U.S. officials adapted their Cold War military machine from the nominally defensive purpose that had justified building it in the first place to a force that aspired to "full-spectrum dominance" of the entire planet, based on huge investments in surveillance and weapons technology.  But instead of being a force for stability and security as U.S. leaders claim, the U.S. post-Cold War military has achieved the exact opposite, depriving millions of people in dozens of countries of whatever stability and security they previously enjoyed, at the cost of more than $10 trillion dollars to U.S. tax-payers.
In December 1989, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, former senior officials Robert McNamara and Lawrence Korb testified to the Senate Budget Committee that the military budget could safely be cut in half over 10 years to leave us with what would now be a $267 billion military budget after adjusting for inflation.  In the summer of 1990, Congress began debating serious cuts in the military budget.
Then Iraq invaded Kuwait, after receiving the infamous "green light" from U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie.  Whatever Glaspie's orders or intentions, Kuwait certainly had a green light from the U.S. to play hardball with Iraq over disputed territory, oilfields and OPEC production quotas, with the assurance that the U.S. would come to its rescue if this provoked a war with Iraq.  Sure enough, U.S. aircraft carriers were steaming towards Kuwait and Iraq within hours of the Iraqi invasion, and the predicament of the post-Cold War U.S. military influenced what followed as much as that of Kuwait, which, like the plight of the Yazidis, was opportunistically highlighted and exaggerated.
While most Americans saw the end of the Cold War as a chance for peace, many U.S. officials saw it as a new chance for war.  Pentagon adviser Michael Mandelbaum told the New York Times, "For the first time in 40 years, we can conduct military operations in the Middle East without worrying about triggering World War III".  Heightened inter-service rivalries shaped the war plan, as Lawrence Korb told the Washington Post, "Even the reserves are scheduled to be sent… The reserve lobby recognized that their future funding may be jeopardized if their units do not get involved."  And President Bush rejected Iraqi offers to withdraw from Kuwait and avoid the war that would save the U.S. military industrial complex.
Following Bush's model, Obama's coalition-building gives his war a veneer of legitimacy, but it will also open up new markets for U.S. weapons makers.  In 1991, after a bombing campaign that killed tens of thousands of Iraqis and inflicted destruction that a UN report called "near-apocalyptic", U.S. planes and pilots were dispatched straight to the Paris Air Show to drum up new business for U.S. weapons makers.  The next two years set new records for U.S. arms exports, and the U.S. has maintained a 40% share ofglobal arms exports ever since.  
The post-Cold War U.S. military budget has never fallen below its Cold War baseline of an inflation-adjusted $390 billion.  At $600 billion it is higher today than at the peak of the Vietnam War or the Reagan arms build-up.  Giving credit where credit is due for its long-term effect on global military spending, the First Gulf War may have been the most expensive war ever fought.
Similar interests are at work today.  All four major U.S. weapons makers have hit all-time highs on the stock market since the bombing began: Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and, not least, General Dynamics, the family firm of Chicago's Crown family, who have bankrolled much of Barack Obama's political career.
A headline in Fortune magazine on September 13th crowed: "The war on ISIS already has a winner: the defense industry."  The article reported, "…defense analysts are pointing to a pair of sure-bet paydays from the new campaign: for those making and maintaining the aircraft, manned and unmanned, that will swarm the skies over the region, and for those producing the missiles and munitions that will arm them."  It listed Hellfire missile maker Lockheed Martin, Tomahawk cruise-missile maker Raytheon and munitions maker General Dynamics as well-positioned "to reap the biggest windfall." 
If the President gets his way, the Third Gulf War, like the First, will forestall serious cuts in the U.S. military budget or any reorientation of the militarized U.S. economy to address the pressing needs of the American public.  Any small reduction in weapons sales to the Pentagon will be balanced by the marketing value of a high-tech bombing campaign to generate a surge in U.S. weapons exports, as in the 1990s, adding fuel to a world on fire.
Another disquieting parallel between 1990 and 2014 is that Saddam Hussein and ISIS were both creations of the CIA.  These monsters are undoubtedly "our" monsters.  What does it say about our leaders that they reserve their most self-righteous fury for those who do their dirty work but then turn to bite the hand that feeds them, a select club that also includes Manuel Noriega and Osama Bin-Laden?
The CIA hired 22-year-old Saddam Hussein in 1959 to assassinate General Qasim, the revolutionary leader who overthrew the Western-backed Iraqi monarchy in 1958.  The plot failed and the CIA whisked Hussein to safety in Beirut, wounded in the leg by one of his fellow assassins, then to Cairo, where he was a regular visitor at the U.S. Embassy.
With CIA support, the Baath Party overthrew and killed Qasim in 1963, and Hussein rose through its ranks to become President of Iraq.  The U.S. and other Western allies supplied him with weapons to wage war with Iran, including chemical weapons and DIA satellite intelligence to target them.  Two months after Hussein used chemical weapons against Iraqi Kurdish villages, Donald Rumsfeld arrived in Baghdad to negotiate closer relations and reopen the U.S. Embassy.  Only when Hussein invaded U.S. ally Kuwait did he become the new bete noir of U.S. propaganda.
The U.S. and its allies have spent 3 years deploying and arming proxy forces to overthrow the government of Syria: flying in weapons and jihadis from Libya in unmarked NATO planes; setting up command centersand training camps in JordanTurkey and now Saudi Arabiathrowing open the Turkish border to flood Syria with special forces, jihadis and weapons from TurkeySaudi ArabiaQatarthe Balkans and elsewhere; cynically scheming to undermine the Annan peace plan in 2012; and rejecting abundant evidence that U.S. proxies in Syria were more brutal and dangerous than the government they were sacrificing the people of Syria to overthrow.  Now that the propaganda bubble has burst in President Obama's face, ISIS has become America's new bete noir, or should we say "the new Saddam Hussein"? 
The huge U.S. investment in its tools of violence creates dangerous corrupting influences on the policy process in Washington, but it also comes with a high cost when it comes to dealing with the problems it creates in the real world.  As a U.S. general famously remarked, "When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail."  Neoconservative U.S. foreign policy is, by definition, a hammer in search of nails.  But, to state the obvious, every problem is not a nail.  The world has real problems that our corrupt, militarized government lacks the moral, diplomatic and intellectual resources to solve, and more hammering can only make things worse.
But even after President Obama himself declared that there is "no American military solution" to the problems the U.S. and its allies have caused in Iraq and Syria, he promptly reverted to the default option: bombing.  When you only have one tool, the pressure to "do something" means only one thing: bombing to prevent ethnic cleansing, but which actually triggered ethnic cleansing, in Kosovo; bombing to restore warlords to power in Afghanistan and flood our own streets with heroin; bombing to destabilize nuclear-armed Pakistan; bombing to support jihadi militias and plunge Libya into chaos; bombing to push Yemen to the verge of disintegration; bombing to plunge Somalia back into chaos every time it tries to pick itself up off the floor; and bombing to shock and awe Iraq into an endless state of war.
After 94,000 U.S. air strikes since 2001 have spread chaos and violence to country after country, our morally, legally and intellectually bankrupt leaders still have only one response: more bombing.  Substituting an addiction to billion-dollar bombers for a real foreign policy based on the American public's interest in peace and international cooperation leaves them without real tools to fix the damage they've done. They rummage around in their embarrassingly limited tool-box, and like Monty Python's Spam-loving Vikings, all they can come up with is: bombing, bombing, bombing, bombing and bombing.
In 1928, when world leaders drafted and signed the Treaty for the Renunciation of War, or the Kellogg Briand Pact, they renounced "war as an instrument of national policy," and then hung German leaders for violating it.  The U.N. Charter, the enduring international vision and legacy of President Roosevelt, expanded that commitment to peace and international law.
Since 1990, the U.S. has restored war as an instrument of national policy, on the myopic and arrogant presumption that the collapse of its strategic enemy would permit it to reshape the world through the illegal threat and use of overwhelming and deadly violence.  To overcome the political and legal obstacles toits policy of aggression, the U.S. has developed a sophisticated strategy of "information warfare" to demonize its enemies and politically justify its aggression.  It has adopted the techniques of Hollywood and the advertising industry to create false narratives and choices, appealing to fear, racism and the worst aspects of human nature, while abusing and manipulating the best instincts of young Americans who volunteer to serve their country: their humanity, their courage to defend the downtrodden and their belief in freedom, justice and democracy.
We must somehow find the political will to speak truth to power and to elect and empower new American leaders who will make a historic recommitment to peace, disarmament, diplomacy and the rule of law.  There are things that we can all do to make our voices heard:  
- Work with Peace ActionUnited For Peace and JusticeWin Without WarVeterans For Peace,Progressive Democrats of America, the Green PartyRootsAction, or whichever peace movement groups are the best fit for you.  
- Call your Representatives' staffers before and after they vote on critical war and peace issues.  Check Peace Action's Congressional Voting Records to see how your Reps have voted in the past, pay attention to how they vote in future and start holding them accountable.  Some progressive Democrats take brave stands for peace, but get little recognition for it, so learn to tell the difference between a real peacemaker and a warmonger, Democratic or Republican.   
Just as Iraqis deserve better than a choice between ISIS and Shiite death squads, you don't have to settle for a choice between war criminals with different letters after their names.  But you can't elect real peacemakers if you can't tell the difference.  If you made a mistake with Obama, you're not alone.  Have you met the Nobel Committee?  But please, don't get fooled again!

Since 9-11 America's Insane Foreign Policy -- Continued Under Obama -- Has Killed a Million and Created ISIS

Editor's note: On Wednesday night President Barack Obama gave a nationally televised address in which he vowed that the United States would "degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL."

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3 Ways America Enables Slaughter in Gaza

American debate on the hundreds of civilian deaths in Gaza and the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict is polarized between feelings of sympathy with civilian victims on either side and mutual vilification of the Likud-led government of Israel and the Hamas-led government in Gaza.  But it may be more constructive for Americans to think about the role that the U.S. government plays in perpetuating this never-ending and heart-rending conflict.

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The Victory of Popular Resistance In Occupied Iraq

Tom Hayden has described the public debate in the United States over the popular uprising in Iraq as a "battle over memory."  But few Americans have ever accepted the enormity of U.S. aggression and other war crimes in Iraq, so this debate is largely taking place in a parallel universe, divorced from the reality of what our government and our armed forces have done to the people of Iraq.  For the second time in just over a decade, Iraqis find themselves abandoned and alone in their quest for justice, and for the rights that are theoretically guaranteed to them and to all human beings.

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We Should Slice the Pentagon Budget - It Would Save Trillions and Rescue America

Next week, Congress will begin debate on a roughly $601 billion Pentagon budget for FY2015.  Before we let this pass unchallenged, let's take a few minutes to put it in some historical perspective.

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Fiery Chaos in Odessa: 42 Perish After Ukrainians Launch Waco-Like Assault

The death toll in Odessa stands at 42 people killed, most of them burned to death or suffocated by smoke inhalation in the inferno at the Trade Unions House.  There is no dispute over who were the victims and who were their killers.  The victims were pro-Russian protesters who had occupied the building.  The attackers who set fire to it with petrol bombs were members of Right Sector, the ultra-Nationalist strike force of the U.S.-backed coup that overthrew the elected government of Ukraine in February.  

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93 Countries Who Have Changed Their Minds About Obama

During the Bush years, people all over the world were horrified by America's aggression, human rights abuses and militarism. By 2008, only one in three people around the world approved of the job performance of U.S. leaders. The election of President Obama broadcast his message of hope and change far beyond U.S. shores, and Gallup's 2009 U.S.-Global Leadership Project (USGLP) recorded a sharp rise in global public approval of U.S. leadership to 49 percent.

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America's Coup Machine: Destroying Democracy Since 1953

Soon after the 2004 U.S. coup to depose President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti, I heard Aristide's lawyer Ira Kurzban speaking in Miami.  He began his talk with a riddle: "Why has there never been a coup in Washington D.C.?"  The answer: "Because there is no U.S. Embassy in Washington D.C."  This introduction was greeted with wild applause by a mostly Haitian-American audience who understood it only too well.

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35 Countries Where the U.S. Has Supported Fascists, Drug Lords and Terrorists

The U.S. is backing Ukraine's extreme right-wing Svoboda party and violent neo-Nazis whose armed uprising paved the way for a Western-backed coup. Events in the Ukraine are giving us another glimpse through the looking-glass of U.S. propaganda wars against fascism, drugs and terrorism. The ugly reality behind the mirror is that the U.S. government has a long and unbroken record of working with fascists, dictators, druglords and state sponsors of terrorism in every region of the world in its elusive but relentless quest for unchallenged global power.  

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We Need To End the Disastrous Failure Of The War On Terror

Twelve years into America's "war on terror," it is time to admit that it has failed catastrophically, unleashing violence, war and instability in an "arc of terror" stretching from West Africa to the Himalayas and beyond.  If we examine the pretext for all this chaos, that it could possibly be a legitimate or effective response to terrorism, it quickly becomes clear that it has been the exact opposite, fueling a global explosion of terrorism and a historic breakdown of law and order.

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The Price of America Having the Greatest Military in the World? It's Destroying the Country

The idea of U.S. "national security" seems inextricably entangled with the notion of "military supremacy."  Over the past 15 years, this has served to rationalize the most expensive unilateral military build-up in history.  But there is no evidence that having the most expensive and destructive military forces makes Americans safer than people in other countries, nor that restoring a more balanced military posture would leave us vulnerable to dangers we are currently protected from.  Many countries with smaller military forces do a better job of protecting their people by avoiding the hostility that is generated by U.S. imperialism, aggression and other war crimes.
Now, successful diplomacy over Syria's chemical weapons has demonstrated that diplomacy within the framework of international law can be a more effective way of dealing with problems than the illegal threat or use of military force.  Our government claims that its threat of force led to the success of diplomacy in Syria, but that's not really what happened.  It was only when the sleeping giant of American democracy awoke from its long slumber and pried the cruise missiles from our leaders' trigger fingers that they grudgingly accepted "diplomacy as a last resort."  For once in a very long while, our political system worked the way it's supposed to: the public made its views clear to our representatives in Congress, and they listened.  We saved our leaders from the consequences of their own criminality, and their efforts to sell a propaganda narrative that turns that on its head is a sad reflection on their disdain for democracy and the rule of law.
For most of our history, Americans never dreamt of global military supremacy.  At the turn of the 20th century, even as the U.S. waged a genocidal war that probably killed a million Filipinos, American diplomats played key roles in the Hague Peace Conferences and the establishment of international courts, eager to adapt American concepts of democracy and justice to the international arena to develop alternatives to war and militarism.  
In response to the horrors of the First World War, an international social movement demanded the abolition of war.  In 1928, the U.S. government responded by negotiating the Kellogg-Briand Pact, named for U.S. Secretary of State Frank Kellogg, in which all major powers renounced "war as an instrument of national policy."  The treaty failed to prevent the Second World War, but it provided the legal basis for the convictions of German leaders at Nuremberg for the crime of aggression.  And it is still in force, supported by subsequent treaties like the UN Charter and conventions against genocide, torture and other war crimes, under which senior U.S. officials must also eventually face justice.
The allied defeat of Germany and Japan in the Second World War was not the result of American military supremacy, but of an alliance across ideological lines with imperial Britain and the communist Soviet Union, based on mutual trust, vigorous diplomacy and the recognition of a common existential threat.  Most Americans believed at the time that the war would lead to a renewed international commitment to peace and disarmament, not to an American bid for military supremacy.
American, British and Soviet leaders agreed that their common interests required what Roosevelt called "a permanent structure of peace" after the war, through the United Nations and continued great power diplomacy.  The prohibition against the threat or use of force is a key provision of the UN Charter.  But Roosevelt's death deprived America of his vision and personal diplomatic skills just as the complexities of the post-war world began to rear their head.  
Truman mistrusted the Soviets and never shared Roosevelt's commitment to work with them in a spirit of mutual respect.  He quickly fell under the influence of hawkish advisers like his Chief of Staff Admiral Leahy, Ambassador Harriman and Navy Secretary Forrestal, and he condemned the Russians harshly at every turn during negotiations on the contours of the post-war world.  Truman embraced Churchill's self-fulfilling declaration of an "iron curtain" across Europe and his dark view of America's wartime ally as a potential aggressor in the mold of Nazi Germany.
What emboldened the former Senator from Missouri to squander the fruits of Roosevelt's astute diplomacy?  In great part, it was "the bomb."  The U.S. monopoly on atomic weapons in the late 1940s gave rise to a newly aggressive posture in U.S. foreign policy, including desperate calls to destroy the Soviet Union in a massive nuclear holocaust before it could develop its own nuclear deterrent.
Fortunately for all of us, wiser heads prevailed and a nuclear war was avoided. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and wartime American and British military leaders warned that attacking the U.S.S.R. would unleash an even more terrible war than the one the world had just survived.  U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Eisenhower made an early venture into politics with a speech in St. Louis, saying, "I decry loose and sometimes gloating talk about the high degree of security implicit in a weapon that might destroy millions overnight… Those who measure security solely in terms of offensive capacity distort its meaning and mislead those who pay them heed."
Many Americans accepted their government's claims that bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki had shortened the war with Japan and saved American lives, but the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey concluded that, "Japan would have surrendered, even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated."  In fact, Japan's vital supply lines were cut and it was already suing for peace.  The main sticking point was the continued rule of Emperor Hirohito, which the allies eventually conceded in any case.  American leaders from former President Hoover to future President Eisenhower to military intelligence chief General Carter Clarke all opposed using the bomb as barbaric and unnecessary.
But America's monopoly on nuclear weapons transformed U.S. foreign policy after the war.  Even though our leaders have never found any practical way to realize the mirage of omnipotence conjured up by these weapons, they gave them a false sense of ultimate power in a fluid and uncertain post-war world.  Cooperation with the Soviets was no longer imperative, because, in the last resort, we had the bomb and they did not.  
The U.S. and U.K. could not prevent most of the countries of Eastern Europe from falling into the Soviet political and economic orbit once they were liberated by the Red Army and communist resistance forces, any more than the Russians could bring their communist allies to power in Western-occupied France, Italy or Greece.  But the U.S. nuclear monopoly encouraged Truman to take a hard line.  The Truman Doctrine committed the U.S. to militarily oppose Soviet influence across the globe in a long ideological struggle.
As the Soviets developed their own nuclear arsenal, the U.S. invested trillions of dollars and vast human resources in an unrestrained technological arms race.  American warplanes and tanks generally proved superior to Soviet ones in proxy wars around the world, but this was irrelevant to the outcome of guerrilla wars, where the AK-47 became the weapon of choice and a symbol of popular resistance to Western imperialism.  Meanwhile Germany and Japan, excluded and freed from the tyranny of military production, invested all their resources in civilian technology and soon produced better cars and home electronics than either of the "superpowers."
The almost unbelievable record of American militarism since 1945 is that, despite the most sustained and expensive military build-up in the history of the world and the tragic annihilation of millions of people, the United States has not won a single major war.  After overreaching in Korea, bringing China into the war and devastating North and South Korea, it was forced to settle for a ceasefire on the original border.  At least 3 million Vietnamese and 57,000 Americans paid with their lives for the folly of the American War in Vietnam.  Proxy and covert wars in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and other parts of South-East Asia have been just as bloody but no more successful.  America's only real military successes have been limited campaigns to restore friendly regimes in three small strategic outposts: Grenada; Panama; and Kuwait.
Surveying the ruins of U.S. policy at the end of the American War in Vietnam, Richard Barnet put his finger on the irony of America's unique place in world history.  He wrote, "at the very moment the number one nation has perfected the science of killing, it has become an impractical instrument of political domination."
But the lessons of Vietnam were gradually eroded by a revival of U.S. militarism.  George Bush Senior played a critical role as Director of the CIA (1976-7) and the Council on Foreign Relations (1977-9) and then as Vice President and President.  After covert wars in Angola, Afghanistan and Central America, and invasions of Grenada and Panama, Bush refused Iraq's offers to withdraw peacefully from Kuwait in 1991 and instead ordered the massacre of at least 25,000 Iraqi soldiers and civilians.  Bush rejoiced, "By God, we've kicked the Vietnam Syndrome once and for all!"
The fall of the U.S.S.R. was a critical factor in U.S. military expansion in the Middle East.  As Pentagon adviser Michael Mandelbaum said in 1991, "For the first time in 40 years we can conduct military operations in the Middle East without worrying about triggering World War III."  The "peace dividend" Americans expected at the end of the Cold War was trumped by a "power dividend," as policy-makers exploited the fall of the Soviet Union to project U.S. military power around the world.  New interventionist doctrines of "reassurance", "humanitarian intervention", "responsibility to protect", "information warfare" and "preemption" have served as political cover for violating the UN Charter's prohibition on the threat or use of force, culminating in the travesty of Barack Obama's speech justifying war as he accepted the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.
Since Vietnam, we have spent at least another $17 trillion on war and preparations for war - our entire national debt - and killed millions more of our fellow human beings.  Watching General Giap's funeral in Hanoi as I write this today, I have to ask, "What have we learned?"  Our generals have learned how to wage war in other countries with fewer American casualties by using disproportionate violence that kills more civilians than combatants.  This has made war less painful for Americans, but it only underlines its futility and barbarism.  No American general of this generation will be buried with the outpouring of genuine public gratitude and grief we just saw in Hanoi.
Now we have spent 12 years at war in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Somalia (along with covert operations across the entire globe, from Sweden to the Philippines to Colombia).  We have brought death, injury, devastation and chaos to hundreds of millions more people, with no end in sight as the "Long War" keeps spreading from country to country.  Nowhere have our leaders achieved their original stated intentions to reduce terrorism, prevent weapons proliferation or establish democracy. Their increasingly desperate rationalizations for a murderous, out-of-control policy, repeated ad nauseam by a craven corporate propaganda system, can barely disguise their humiliation.
Like Americans in the late 1940s who were desperate to destroy the U.S.S.R. in a "preemptive" nuclear war, some Americans today may still not understand why our military supremacy cannot bring us political power over enemies with fewer resources and inferior weapons.  But, as Eisenhower and other American war leaders understood only too well, the use of force is a blunt and brutal instrument, and more powerful weapons are only more powerful, not magical.  The use of force is always destructive, not constructive, and being killed or maimed by shrapnel and high explosives is no cleaner or kinder because missiles are more expensive or more sophisticated.  Political power is something quite different, requiring popular support and legitimacy and policies that actually solve problems.
So military supremacy is not a trump card to achieve political objectives; the use of force is inherently destructive; and war nearly always causes more problems than it solves.  Killing people to save them from an oppressive government is an absurdity, and "regime change" is generally a euphemism for "regime destruction," with no ability to ensure that what comes after will be better, especially once the violence and chaos of war are added to the problems that led to it in the first place.
Norwegian General Robert Mood led the UN monitors sent to Syria to oversee the failed ceasefire in 2012.  A year later, amid calls for Western military intervention, he reflected, "It is fairly easy to use the military tool, because, when you launch the military tool in classical interventions, something will happen and there will be results.  The problem is that the results are almost all the time different than the political results you were aiming for when you decided to launch it.  So the other position, arguing that it is not the role of the international community, neither coalitions of the willing nor the UN Security Council for that matter, to change governments inside a country, is also a position that should be respected…"   
Threatening the use of force while hoping not to have to use it may seem like a less painful way for our leaders to impose their will on other countries, but in practice this doesn't work very well either.  It forces both sides into positions from which neither can afford to back down,  putting the credibility of our military supremacy on the line over every crisis around the world.  This has turned manufactured disputes over non-existent weapons into a choice between war and political humiliation for American leaders, as we saw with Iraq and, incredibly, are now going through all over again with Iran.  There is great wisdom in the UN Charter's prohibition on the threat as well as on the use of force, because the one leads so predictably to the other.
Despite nearly bankrupting our country, military supremacy remains an expensive national ego-trip in search of a constructive purpose.  Countries that are not cursed with military supremacy have to settle their differences by other means, notably by diplomacy within the rule of international law.  As we have found out over Syria, this is not by any means a worse option, and it offers us a way forward to life after militarism.
The victory of democracy in America's debate over Syria is a small but significant step in the right direction.  Organizing and public outrage transformed formerly passive public opposition to war and militarism into effective action to prevent U.S. aggression.  Now we must tap into the same combination of public sentiment and effective political organizing to actually bring peace to Syria, to restore civilized relations with Iran and to finally turn the tide on the largest, most wasteful and dangerous unilateral military build-up in the history of the world.  This could be an important turning point, but that will be up to us.

9 Ways America Has Fueled the Bloody Civil War in Syria

President Obama's threats against Syria are framed by the carefully crafted image of a responsible superpower reluctantly drawn into a horrific conflict caused by others.  But the reality is very different. 
For more than two years, U.S. policy has quietly fueled the escalation of the conflict in Syria and undermined every effort to bring the Syrian people the ceasefire and peaceful political transition they need and want.  Whoever is directly responsible for hundreds of deaths in the latest alleged chemical weapons incident, the critical covert and diplomatic role the United States has played in a war that has killed at least 100,000 people means that their blood is also on our hands.
As Haytham Manna, a leader of the National Coordinating Body for Democratic Change (NCB) in Syria recently told Le Vif, the largest French language news magazine in Belgium, "The Americans have cheated.  Two or three times they have withdrawn at the very moment that an agreement was in the works… Everything is possible but that will depend mainly on the Americans.  The French are content to follow.  A political solution is the only one that could save Syria."
So, if Manna is correct, we Americans have played a decisive role at the critical moments for war or peace in Syria, including the one we are now confronting.  If it comes as a surprise to you as an American that you are responsible for the horrific nightmare taking place in Syria, please review the well-documented record of what has been done in your name, albeit secretly and without your knowledge in many cases:
1)  As protests spread through the Arab world in 2011, the mostly leftist groups who organized the Arab Spring protests in Syria formed the NCB to coordinate peaceful protests and resistance to government repression.  They agreed, and they still agree, on three basic principles: non-violence; non-sectarianism; and no foreign military intervention.  But the U.S. and its allies marginalized the NCB, formed an unrepresentative "Syrian National Council" in Turkey as a government-in-exile and recruited, armed and trained violent armed groups to pursue regime change in Syria. 
2)  The United States, the United Kingdom, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar began flying in fighters, weapons and equipment to turn the Syrian Spring into a bloody civil war.  Once they had overthrown the government of Libya, at the cost of 25,000 to 50,000 lives, they began adapting the same strategy to Syria, despite knowing full well that this would be a much more drawn-out, destructive and bloody war.
3)   Even as a Qatari-funded YouGov poll in December 2011 found that 55% of Syrians still supported their government, unmarked NATO planes were flying fighters and weapons from Libya to the "Free Syrian Army" base at Iskanderum in Turkey.  British and French special forces were training FSA recruits, while the CIA and US special forces provided communications equipment and intelligence, as in Libya.  Retired CIA officer Philip Giraldi concluded, "Syrian government claims that it is being assaulted by rebels who are armed, trained and financed by foreign governments are more true than false."
4) Over the past two years, we have learned more about who is doing what in Syria.  Anti-government sources acknowledged in June 2013 that 2,100 of the 16,700 rebel fighters killed so far in Syria were foreigners, while only 145 of 41,600 loyalists killed in action were foreign Hezbollah members.
5)  Journalists in the Balkans have reported that wealthy Gulf Arab paymasters fund hundreds of hardened mercenaries from Croatia and elsewhere, who earn up to $2,000 per day as rebel snipers and special forces in Syria.  Saudi Arabia has sent convicts to fight in Syria as an alternative to prison and funded shipments of weapons from Croatia to Jordan.  Qatar has spent $3 billion to pay rebel fighters and ship at least 70 planeloads of weapons via Turkey.  
6) On the diplomatic front, as Haytham Manna told Le Vif, the United States has played an equally insidious role.  As Kofi Annan launched his peace plan in April 2012, the U.S. and its Western and Arab monarchist allies made sure that their Syrian proxies would not comply with the ceasefire by pledging unconditional political support, backed up by more weapons and generous funding.
7) The US joined France and its other allies at three Orwellian "Friends of Syria" meetings to launch what French officials referred to as a "Plan B", to escalate the war and undermine the Annan peace plan.  At the second Friends of Syria meeting, nine days before Annan's ceasefire was due to take effect, the U.S and its allies agreed to provide funds for the Free Syrian Army to pay its fighters, while Qatar and Saudi Arabia pledged to increase their supply of weapons.   
8) Annan finally assembled all the permanent members of the Security Council and other governments involved in the war in Syria in Geneva at the end of June 2012.  The Western powers briefly dropped their previously non-negotiable demand to remove President Assad as the first step in a political transition, so that all sides could finally sign on to the Annan plan.  But then the U.S. and its allies rejected a UN Security Council resolution to codify the agreement and revived their previous demands for Assad's removal.
9) In May 2013, after tens of thousands more Syrians had been killed, Secretary Kerry finally went to Moscow and agreed to renew the peace process begun in Geneva in June 2012.  But since May, the United States has once again reneged on the Geneva agreement and chosen to escalate the war even further, by providing direct weapons shipments and now missile strikes to support its proxies in Syria.
So, far from being reluctantly dragged into a terrible conflict not of its own making, the United States and its allies have in fact followed a quite coherent policy of regime change, modeled roughly on their successful overthrow of the Libyan government in 2011.  The main difference has been the absence of foreign air support for the Syrian rebels.  In Libya, NATO conducted 7,700 air strikes, demolishing Libya's air defenses in the early stages of the campaign and thereafter bombing at will throughout the country.  The fact that Syria possesses a far more extensive, modern, Russian-built air defense system has successfully deterred the West and its Arab royalist allies from following the same strategy in Syria.
Until now that is.  The somewhat arbitrary "red line" regarding chemical weapons is serving as a pretext to launch missile strikes, degrade Syria's air defenses and expose it to future air strikes.  While President Obama tries to assuage liberals with promises of limited and proportionate strikes, there has been a steady parade of hawkish Republicans emerging from closed door meetings at the White House reassured that, as theGuardian wrote on Tuesday, this is indeed "part of a broader strategy to topple Bashar al-Assad."
In fact, Obama admitted in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg for the Atlantic in March 2012 that his entire assault on Syria is itself part of a broader strategy to isolate Iran by destroying its strongest Arab ally.  When asked what more the U.S. could do to topple Assad, Obama laughed and said, "Well, nothing that I can tell you, because your classified clearance isn't good enough."
But enough details have now emerged of the true contours of this policy to make his crocodile tears for alleged nerve agent victims seem grotesque.  The atrocious position in which he has placed the American public in whose name he acts should spur outrage, at a political class who connive in such cynical and murderous policies; at commercial media who laugh all the way to the bank as they misinform and mislead us; and yes, at ourselves for being patsies for serial aggression and genocide, in Vietnam, Iraq and now Syria.
To paraphrase Mr. Obama speaking in Sweden on Wednesday, the world set a "red line" when the UN Charter prohibited the use of military force except in self defense or in legitimate collective security operations mandated by the UN Security Council.  The US Senate set a "red line" when it ratified the UN Charter by 89 votes to 2.  As Obama said, "The international community's credibility is on the line, and America and Congress's credibility is on the line because we give lip service to the notion that these international norms are important."  And when we are talking about war and peace, it is not just our credibility that is on the line, but the very nature of the world that we live in.
So please take a few minutes and call your "Representatives" in Congress to insist that they vote "No" on the authorization of U.S. aggression against Syria.  Ask them instead to pass a resolution recommitting the United States to the June 2012 Geneva peace plan, which starts with a ceasefire by all parties to the conflict, including the United States.            

Syria: Where the Obama Doctrine of Covert War Spectacularly Backfired

Barack Obama's rise to power in 2008 raised fundamental questions about the duty of a newly-elected government in a country that has been engaged in war crimes, from aggression against other countries to systematic violations of the Geneva Conventions and human rights laws.
As Obama took office, an Eminent Jurists Panel convened by the International Commission of Jurists and headed by former Irish President Mary Robinson published a report on America's so-called "war on terror".  It found that the U.S. government was applying war rules to people who were not involved in armed conflict and was distorting, selectively applying or simply ignoring binding human rights laws.  It concluded that U.S. violations of international law were neither an appropriate nor an effective response to terrorism and that U.S. leaders had confused the public by framing their counterterrorism campaign within a "war paradigm."  The jurists insisted that established principles of international law "were intended to withstand crises, and they provide a robust and effective framework from which to tackle terrorism."  
People of conscience the world over hoped desperately for an American recommitment to peace and to the rule of law.  But we have been sorely disappointed.  Instead, the Obama administration has maintained the largest military budget since 1945 and expanded many of the most dangerous and troubling aspects of the criminal policies it inherited.
Perhaps the defining feature of Obama's war policy has been the expansion of secret CIA and Special Forces operations, from assassinations by drones, air strikes and JSOC night raids to Special Forces training missions and joint exercises in up to 120 countries each year, double the number when Obama took office.  The Washington Post reported in June 2010 that JSOC had 13,000 troops deployed overseas, including 4,000 in countries where the U.S. was not officially at war.  Special Forces deployments have since increased from 75 to 120 countries, so the number of JSOC troops deployed has likely increased since then too. For more background on JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command), please read my article, "America's death squads," in Z Magazine.
As the Washington Post pointed out, "One advantage of using 'secret' forces for such missions is that they rarely discuss their operations in public.  For a Democratic president such as Obama, who is criticized from either side of the political spectrum for too much or too little aggression, the unacknowledged CIA drone attacks in Pakistan, along with unilateral U.S. raids in Somalia and joint operations in Yemen, provide politically useful tools."
Senior military officers told the Post that Obama was allowing "things that the previous administration did not," and, "They are talking publicly much less but they are acting more.  They are willing to get aggressive much more quickly."
This shift from invasions and occupations to shadowy covert and proxy wars fits the historical pattern that U.S. leaders followed after previous American military disasters in Korea and Vietnam.  The attraction of "war on the cheap" or "leading from behind" is perennially irresistible to American leaders determined to keep projecting U.S. military power while avoiding a political backlash from a war-weary public.  So Obama has followed in the footsteps of Eisenhower, Carter and Reagan, who launched politically attractive covert operations in Iran, Afghanistan and Latin America that left legacies of misery for millions of people, sowing the seeds of future conflicts and blowback. 
The fundamental flaw of "proxy wars" is that proxies are never just proxies.  Like the anti-Soviet jihadis in Afghanistan in the 1980s who eventually formed the Taliban and al-Qaeda, the diverse forces that the United States is counting on to achieve its goals each have interests and goals of their own.  In Syria, the desire to overthrow the government may be the only thing the U.S. and its "allies" have in common.
Qatar has reportedly spent $3 billion to recruit and arm combatants in Syria, including "signing bonuses" of $50,000 each to Syrian soldiers who defect - although few have taken up the offer.  The CIA has coordinated the delivery of at least 70 planeloads of weapons from Qatar to Turkey, Saudi-funded shipments of European arms from Croatia to Jordan and shipments of fighters and weapons from Libya to Turkey in unmarked NATO planes.  Wealthy Gulf Arab paymasters fund hundreds of hardened mercenaries from Croatia and other parts of the former Yugoslavia who reportedly earn up to $2,000 per day fighting in Syria.  Many of these operations began in 2011, even as a Qatari-funded YouGov poll in December 2011 found that most Syrians still supported the government, not the rebels, upsetting the foreign narrative of a popular mass uprising.
Saudi and Qatari money and weapons have been systematically funneled to Jabhat al-Nusra, affiliated with al-Qaeda in Iraq and now the strongest rebel force in Syria, thanks to their generous funding, a core of experienced fighters from Iraq and Libya and the training given to recruits by American, British and French Special Forces in Turkey and Jordan.  The CIA has tried to steer new recruits and weapons to more secular groups, but without much success.  Once fighters are inside Syria, they gravitate to the more effective units led by al-Nusra.
Foreign efforts to form a government-in-exile have likewise been hijacked by the Saudis and Qataris.  Moaz al-Khatib recently resigned as president of the Syrian National Coalition, protesting that it was controlled by Saudi Arabia and Qatar.  Khatib had offered to meet President Assad in January and seemed to be serious about a political resolution of the crisis.  His resignation is a loss that leaves the coalition even more committed to violence.
U.S. reliance on puppets and proxies around the world has always been problematic.  As Gabriel Kolko wrote in 1988, "The notion of an honest puppet is a contradiction Washington has failed to resolve anywhere in the world since 1945."  But the end of the Mubarak regime in Egypt left a dangerous power vacuum in the Middle East that the U.S, U.K., France, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are each scrambling to fill to their own advantage.  
This opportunistic alliance of strategic competitors brought down, raped and murdered Gaddafi in a war that probably killed at least 25,000 people and left Libya in chaos, with Islamist fighters and weapons now overflowing its borders to destabilize the region.  NATO conducted 7,700 air strikes in six months, while British, French and Qatari special forces led Libya's NATO rebels on a mad march from Benghazi to Tripoli replete with racist violence, torture and ethnic cleansing.  Most of the developing world now understands that this was never about protecting civilians as the U.S., U.K. and France pretended to win the blessing of the UN Security Council.
Though all the "Friends of Syria" understood from the outset that regime change in Syria would be more complicated and far bloodier than in Libya, Syria was a prize than none of them could resist, a critical strategic country in the heart of the Middle East.  Whoever could claim the loyalty of Syria's new leaders would be in a much stronger position in the region.  Would France regain the position of influence it lost after its mandate over Syria and Lebanon ended in 1943?  Would the U.K. find the foothold it failed to regain in Iraq?  Would Turkey recover its lost destiny as the dominant regional power?  Could the Emir of Qatar further expand the disproportionate power of his tiny political, military and media kingdom?  Or would fundamentalist Saudi Arabia be confirmed as the divinely appointed leader of the Muslim world?  And what of the outside power that has dominated the region for decades - the United States?  The conflicting interests of Syria's "friends" may explain why their "humanitarian intervention" looks more like a competitive bloodbath.
But as the Syrian government has regained ground against the rebels, the fabricated narrative of its imminent demise has started to crumble.  Western reliance on "information warfare" to trigger the government's collapse has run its course and must now face the reality that the government still controls 13 of 14 provincial capitals and the main roads between them.  As veteran Middle East correspondent Patrick Cockburn recently reported, "… I was able to travel the ninety miles between Damascus and Homs, Syria's third largest city, without any guards and with ordinary heavy traffic on the road.  Friends back in Beirut would shake their heads in disbelief when I spoke about this and politely suggest that I'd been hoodwinked by the regime."
But of course it was Cockburn's friends in Beirut and Western TV audiences who were hoodwinked, and not by the Syrian regime but by the CIA and the Pentagon's "information warfare" operations and the complicity of the Western media.  This should be a dreadful reminder to us all that these propaganda operations are far from victimless crimes.  By torpedoing Kofi Annan's peace efforts in 2012 and counting instead on violence and propaganda to bring down the government, the U.S. fueled a war that has killed nearly 100,000 people and shattered Syrian society.
The "Syrian Observatory for Human Rights" in London recently produced the most detailed figures yet on the casualties of the West's proxy war.  This Western-based, pro-rebel source now acknowledges that more than 40% of those killed have been Syrian soldiers and loyalist militiamen, totaling 41,600.  It also counts 35,500 civilians killed and 16,700 rebels, including 2,100 foreigners, while 145 Hezbollah members from Lebanon have died fighting for the government.
Current calls for the U.S. government to further escalate the conflict with heavier weapons or a "no-fly zone" bombing campaign studiously ignore the CIA and the State Department's role in casting the people of Syria into this crisis in the first place.  But the CIA's coordination of shipments of weapons and recruits from Libya, Qatar, Croatia and elsewhere since 2011 makes a mockery of Washington's hand-wringing over the death and destruction it has caused.  The State Department deliberately undermined Kofi Annan's peace plan by organizing the "Friends of Syria" conferences with President Sarkozy in 2012, where the U.S. and its allies pledged more funds, weapons and unconditional support to their proxy forces instead of pressuring them to accept a ceasefire that the government had agreed to.  With "friends" like these, Syria needs no enemies. 
The new Secretary of State John Kerry seemed ready to reset the diplomatic clock back to the one brief moment of agreement in Geneva on June 30th 2012.  When the U.S., U.K. and France dropped their insistence that President Assad must resign as the first condition of any peace deal, an international consensus was quickly reached on the Annan plan.  But they had second thoughts on their way back to the UN Security Council and promptly killed the deal.  Now, once again, after another brief moment of hope, Geneva II seems to have been indefinitely postponed in favor of escalation.  
For two years, the U.S. and its allies have refused negotiations with the Syrian government because they thought they could achieve their goals by violence.  Now that they are losing ground, they are rejecting a political solution in favor of escalation, not wanting to negotiate from a position of weakness.  Their answer is always greater violence, whether it's to press their advantage when they're winning or to "level the playing-field" when they're losing.  It doesn't take a genius to see that this is a formula for unlimited escalation and mass destruction.
The crisis in Syria is the climax of 15 years of American war crimes that have plunged one country after another into chaos and inflicted death, horror and misery on millions of people.  This has undermined whatever fragile authority the United States possessed to impose its will and its interests in the Middle East or anywhere else.
Obama's tragic choice to try to salvage and repackage the "war on terror" behind the mask of his iconic image as a "peace candidate" and a Nobel Peace Prize winner has spawned a creeping militarism that is slowly but surely enveloping the world in itsbloody tentacles.  The doubling of the U.S. military budget during the Bush years was not matched by potential military competitors, but now China, Russia and others understand that America's resurgent militarism is a bi-partisan affair that they have no choice but to confront.  And America's new partners in war crime, the Kings of the Persian Gulf, have signed the biggest arms deals in history to further militarize the most explosive region on Earth.
The Bush Doctrine of Preemptive War crashed headlong into reality in Iraq, broken by the staggering sacrifices of a successful popular resistance movement.  The Obama Doctrine of Covert War has filled graveyards in Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and several other countries.  But in Syria, Obama's dirty doctrine has also dug its own graveyard.  The covert nature of the U.S. role has become a double-edged sword, enabling it to dodge much of the blame for the horrors it has unleashed, but at the same time handing control on the ground to its proxies, leaving it impotent to either defeat the government or contain the violence.  Obama's impotence in the face of this crisis of his own making exposes the double danger of his aggressive militarism and of the secrecy and deception that shield it from public scrutiny.  
This in turn highlights the failure of a generation of American leaders to formulate a rational foreign policy with goals that the public can support which does not need to be hidden behind a tapestry of secrets and lies.  We deserve so much better of our leaders.  It is never too late to make peace.  
"Information warfare" may empower the U.S. to whitewash its crimes, demonize its enemies and foment incredible violence.  But who really believes that that is a prescription for a better world?  The aggressive use of military force does not bring "security" or "stability" as America's leaders claim.  It brings death, terrible injuries, devastation, chaos and misery, and covert war can be as deadly and destabilizing as naked aggression.  Secret war is not a secret to its victims, only to the brainwashed public back home.
The only moral way forward in Syria now is for Secretary Kerry to marshall whatever authority and influence his office has left to bring America's proxies in Syria to the table, to sign a cease-fire and plan a peaceful political transition led by legitimate representatives of the Syrian people, not by foreign puppets or proxies.  This could include members of the National Coordinating Body for Democratic Change, who launched peaceful protests in Syria in 2011 and who have remained committed to non-violence, non-sectarianism and non-intervention as their revolution has been hijacked and their country destroyed.
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