Friday, October 31, 2008

Who is Rahm Emanuel, Obama's prospective Chief of Staff?

As a follow up to my previous post, I would like to introduce Rahm Emanuel to those of you who are not familiar with him. Here are three excellent articles which I highly recommend to you all:

Andrew Cockburn: Meet Rahm Emanuel
John Walsh: How Rahm Emanuel Has Rigged a Pro-War Congress
John Walsh: Emanuel's War Plan for Democrats

I think these three are a *must read* for anyone contemplating an Obama vote.

Currently Obama is being very oblique when asked to confirm the reports that he approached Emanual to offer him this position. This makes sense. Obama is clearly a puppet in all this, and the real decisions will be taken by the puppeteers, In fact, there is a good chance that Emanuel himself is one of the puppeteers in this story so the decision to come out from the safer world of behind the scenes politics is probably his to make. Still, Chief of Staff is an immensely powerful position to hold (just remember Don Regan) and it would allow Emanuel to control Obama's activities 24/7.

Again, the mere fact that Obama would even contemplate placing himself in the hands of a Uber-Zionist like Emanuel should obliterate any hopes anyone could have harbored about Obama being a lesser evil or a candidate for change (although the "change" thing really got voided at the choice of Joe Biden for VP, the ultimate non-change politician).

Guys, don't do it! You will hate yourself for at least four years if you vote Obama.

Either abstain, or vote Nader or McKinney, but don't do this to your conscience. Don't vote for AIPAC's puppet!

OMG! Obama wants Ziocon Rahm Emanuel as his Chief of Staff!

Check this AP news item:

Barack Obama's campaign has approached Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel about possibly serving as White House chief of staff

Rahm Emanuel is, along with Joe Lieberman, just about the most fanatical Ziocon in Congress. He is at least as evil and fanatical as any Richard Perle or Paul Wolfowitz. The simple fact that Obama is seriously considering making him his Chief of Staff really says it all.

You guys who wanted to vote Obama should really take a long hard look at what this newsitem indicates and search your consciences for the answer to the question of whether a vote for Obama would be really a vote for the "lesser evil" or even a vote for "change".

The Saker

Folllwing Syria's example, Libya now also wants a Russian naval base on its soil

Russia to up Mediterranean presence? Press TV reports:

The Libyan president will discuss opening a Russian naval base in Libya during his three-day visit to Moscow, according to a newspaper.

"During these talks the colonel [Muammar Gaddafi] intends to raise the issue of opening a base for Russia's navy in the Libyan port of Benghazi," the business daily Kommersant quoted an unnamed source involved in preparing Gaddafi's visit.

"In line with the Libyan leader's plan, Russia's military presence will become a guarantee of non-aggression from the United States which, despite numerous conciliatory gestures, is not in a hurry to embrace Colonel Gaddafi," said the source on Thursday.

In 1986, US aircraft from Italy bombed Tripoli, Benghazi and the home of Gaddafi that killed over 40 people including his adopted baby daughter.

After 55 years, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met Gaddafi in Libya last month in a move symbolizing the end of years of enmity.

Meanwhile, it seems Russia is going to double its military presence in the Mediterranean Sea after a vessel from its Black Sea fleet restored facilities at Syria's port of Tartus for use by the Russian military.

Earlier reports also said that Gaddafi, starting his visit on Friday, would discuss buying advanced Russian weaponry such as Su-30 fighter planes worth over 2 billion dollars.

Libya has also hosted a Russian frigate sent to fight piracy in the Gulf of Aden.

Gaddafi last visited Russia in 1985 before the breakup of the Soviet Union. Relations between Libya and Russia have warmed since current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited Libya in April 2008.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Vote Independent or Boycott the Elections

By Reza Fiyouzat for Information Clearing House

How long shall we allow the system to kick us in the head, take our money, insult us after taking our money, and still expect us to participate in its frauds? With every passing year, the differences between the two ruling political parties in the U.S. diminish further, and their outlook, conduct and even advertising campaigns merge so much so that their members can be mistaken one for the other.

By now it must be clear that the 'two-party' system is not only no such thing; it is corrupt to the bone.

It should be instructive to recount some major points of Obama's record, but since much of that has been done by far more qualified people, it should suffice to point to what's presented by Matt Gonzalez, in his piece, What Do They Have to Do to Lose Your Vote, in which we find all that is needed to persuade any whose illusions regarding Obama are still unshaken. If, after reading that, you still vote for Obama, then you deserve everything Obama throws at you once in office, and it is you who have no rights to complain.

Despite all that is recounted by Matt Gonzalez, and is known by the left, a good section of the American left is still agonizing over whether or not to vote for this 'lesser' evil! Some qualify this support with: "But, don't have any illusions!" Anybody who supports, even qualified twenty-fold, the notion of voting for a Democratic Party candidate, is already filled with illusions. Such recommendations coming from the 'left' are stunningly amusing if it weren't so infuriating to hear such talk always certified with tons of qualifications, which in turn make the recommendations not just absurd, but highly irresponsible.

Most progressives voting for Obama do so out of their partial blindness regarding the crimes of the American state; they see all the crimes commissioned and executed by the Republicans, but if a Democrat vote-getting team ransacked their very neighborhoods, doing drive-by's at high noon, with 'Vote Democrat' signs on their SUVs, they would most likely not see it. If a Democratic candidate is not too pretty, their answer is simple: it is a vote against Republicans. When pushed for something more positive, more substantial, lacking anything to offer, they argue that Obama-Biden ticket is less scary than McCain-Palin, and so we must make sure they get elected.

The other point they make is that a vote for Obama is a slap in the face of racism. To think that one is fighting racism while voting for a candidate that upholds every racist element of the structures of imperialism is to venture into political oblivion.

Such arguments can only come from people who do nothing whatsoever to change the really existing political life of the U.S. in between presidential elections. But, of course, every four years they must express some political recommendation of sorts, and out of desperate frustration, due to seeing the political field as only what the system presents (i.e., due to the fact that they do not act as subjective agencies), they can only decide which system-provided choice is less harmful. This is the gist of their dilemma.

So long as the left in the U.S. does not create its own independent institutions, so long as there is no institutional alternative that can channel people's grievances, and so long as there is no political party representing the working classes along a socialist outlook, the current balance of forces will continue to work increasingly against the working people and those interested in a more just society, and no matter how learned we might be, we will end up supporting the 'lesser' of the two evil parties dominating the people; in other words, supporting the imperial system.

What to do then? For starters, a good half of the eligible voters have been conducting a de facto boycott of the presidential elections, since they instinctively and correctly realize that the two ruling parties do not represent them. So, why not join them?

The only thing that can transform 'apathy' into an actual political force is to organize the non-voters, and we can only do so by addressing their (which is ours too) concerns. A boycott of the elections should be done with the purpose of announcing to the non-voting public that another way is possible, and must be sought and created to bring about political change. This other way must engage them, the non-voting population, with a strategic vision, while making a serious effort to build a real party of opposition.

This, in turn, requires a genuine opposition party-building effort. The Populists in the 19th century did not agonize over whether or not to vote for the lesser evils of their days. They built their own party. Granted, by the end of the 19th century, the Democrats had pretty much swallowed them whole, by adopting key elements of their platform reflecting their social demands, while watering them down, and blunting their force. But, the organizing spirit of the Populists is something to learn from. The lesson: Build your own party! Oppose both ruling parties consistently.

Within the context of building a real opposition party, then, a boycott as a tactical move makes political sense. It would bring coherence and political direction to the energies not wasted in the electoral fraud (yet sitting still), it potentially gives a voice to the energies not burned in the electoral game presented by the system as an opiate (to paraphrase Max Kantar). But, simply not-voting by itself (i.e., without an announced boycott) is also useless.

* * *

In lieu of a disclaimer, I must say that I respect anybody who votes for Nader or McKinney (Amee Chew makes a great case for supporting McKinney in her October 29 Counterpunch piece), as a way of registering their opposition to the 'two party' monopoly. I have argued in previous articles that, IF you think by voting you can bring change, then know that the only change worth voting for is the kind presented in the platforms of the independent candidates. Also, voting for independent candidates as a way of registering your support for people who are actually addressing our problems is a way of getting a real tally of how many people actually oppose the establishment candidates and support real change.

My argument for a boycott addresses a different sub-set of the population affected by this system, whether we vote or not. The point here is that regardless of the outcome of these elections, which is the continuation of the empire and its deep-rooted corruptions, we need to look past the elections and think how to build a long-term strategy for a real movement for fundamental change. This must include addressing those who do not vote.

People who do not vote are not participating for very good reasons. However, in the absence of a loud boycott, their non-participation gets interpreted as 'conceding' or 'apathy'. My point here is that, NO, this is not apathy. In fact it makes perfect logical sense, and it is far more honest than participating in fraudulent elections that only re-produce illusions about America, the 'world's greatest democracy'; illusions that only buttress the imperial system.

I come from the so-called Third World, in which boycotting elections is a political tool the masses, and the parties that stand with them, employ with good effect. Imran Khan's party (Insaf) in Pakistan, for example, boycotted the last elections there, and it was an organized message sent to the establishment that the rulers would not get a stamp of approval from the real opposition. This, far from re-creating 'apathy' or 'conceding' the elections, actually makes governments nervous. In Iran, for another example, you are required to take your birth certificate with you when you vote, so the authorities can stamp it, so they can see who has not participated, so they can do onto you what they will, should you have to deal with the authorities at some point.

So, boycott is actually a very powerful political tool, because it gives political voice to those who refuse to participate. Simply sitting at home and not announcing that you are boycotting is a different matter. Boycott is a political move, with a long-term vision in mind.

The American people are fed a huge lie every four years that their voices can make a difference. Really? It didn't make a jot of difference in 2006, when people, out of pure illusion, voted into the Congress a majority of Democrats with the hope that they would bring the war of occupation in Iraq to a speedy end. As George Carlin would have said, people might as well have wished on a rabbit's foot!

It didn't make any difference when a huge majority of the American people kept yelling down the jammed Congressional telephone lines, and over-stuffed Congressional email inboxes with, "Don't give my money away to those scum sucking swine!" The people's 'representatives' stole people's money anyway and handed it over to the banksters in broad daylight!

So, to repeat, what's the point of voting for establishment people? Except getting demoralized, such behavior has no other effect.

If influential people on the left, or even political parties on the left, such as the Communist Party, had spent the last thirty years of their collective lives, using their influence and authority, building truly oppositional parties, maybe for the past two presidential elections they wouldn't have to recommend voting for such a corrupt bunch of people, and instead could recommend voting for a truly oppositional party that really channeled people's grievances, with some (even if symbolic) presence in the legislature.

So, instead of wringing our hands over whether or not to vote for an evil, which is only a tiny bit less so, let us recognize the necessity of building a truly oppositional party. The first step in that direction is to either vote for independent candidates or conduct a boycott of these elections with the declaration that voting is bunk until real political alternatives representing people's needs are built. Don't waste your vote, and don't encourage the establishment bastards.

Reza Fiyouzat can be reached at:

Half of Bank Bailout Money Going to Shareholders

This from today's Democracy Now:

The Washington Post reports major US banks are on pace to spend more than half their bailout money on rewarding their shareholders. The thirty-three banks are set to receive some $163 billion in government bailouts. Half of that sum would go toward paying off shareholders over the next three years. The Bush administration touted the bank bailout as necessary to resume lending. But Treasury officials say the banks would never accepted loans if they weren’t allowed to redistribute dividends to shareholders. Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York is calling for the suspension of dividend payments at bailed-out banks. This comes as the New York Times reports the insurance company American International Group has rapidly used most of its $123 billion government loan with little account for where the money has gone. AIG has drawn some $90 billion in government money so far.

Did I read this correctly?! "The banks would never accepted loans if they weren’t allowed to redistribute dividends to shareholders". THE BANKS WOULD NOT HAVE ACCEPTED?!

Can anyone imagine a more arrogant attitude from the banks which the shareholders are now asked to bail out?

This just goes to show who really holds power in the USA.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Why negotiating with the Taliban is both stupid and immoral (UPDATED!)

There are increasing signs that the USraelian Empire is trying to negotiate some kind of deal with the Taliban including their chief, Mullah Omar. Some are rejoicing at this development seeing it as a way to finally get the US out of Afghanistan. I would agree with such optimistic hopes if the issue was only getting the US out of Afghanistan, but there is far more at stake here than that.

First, the term "Taliban" is somewhat vague and it is often used interchangeably with the term "Pashtun". Furthermore, "Taliban" is almost always assumed to be an movement specific to Afghanistan. The problem with that is that this use of these terms is that it obfuscates two very important realities: not all Pashtuns are Taliban and the Taliban themselves are not a purely Afghan force. Simply put: the Taliban movement is a creation and an outgrowth of Pakistani Wahabism which spread to Afghanistan by means of the Pashtun ethnic group which live on both sides of the Pakistani-Afghan border.

The Pashtuns are a *minority* in Afghanistan, about 40%, but they are still the single largest ethnic group (the second largest group, the Tadjiks, are only about 30% and the next largest groups are the Uzbeks and the Hazaras, both number something close to 10%). As I said, not all Pashtuns are Talibans, but even assuming that 100% of Pashtuns would support the Taliban, this still means that the Taliban do not represent the majority of the people of Afghanistan.

So why is the Empire trying to negotiate with the Taliban?

Simple: because their real power base is in Pakistan.

This is worth repeating again: the real power base of the Taliban is in Pakistan.

There are still a lot of myths about Reagan's "heroic freedom fighters" out there. Like the myth which says that the Mudjahideens booted the Soviets out of Afghanistan. That's nonsense. Consider this: after the Soviet withdrawal the in February 1989 it took the heroic freedom fighters three years (until April 1992!) to take Kabul following an extremely bloody civil war. It took the defection of the Uzbek general Dostum to make it possible for the anti-Najibullah forces to take Kabul. All these are undisputed facts. So then ask yourself a simple question: how could the Mudjahideens "boot out" the Soviets if they could not even take Kabul as long as Dostum was defending it? The answer is simple: the Soviets left because of the deep political crisis in the Soviet Union and not because of Reagan's "freedom fighters". Besides, as any Soviet who fought in Afghanistan will tell you, the Pashtuns are rather pitiful fighters which the Russians looked down upon. In contrast, the Russians had the deepest respect for the formidable Tadjik fighters of the late Ahmad Shah Masood (I remember how a former commander of the KGB Spetsnaz unit "Kaskad" told me that Masood's best men were "at least as good as our best guys" not only in terms of courage - which the Pashtuns also had - but in terms of actual combat skills).

Another myth about the Pashtuns is that the US military defeated the Taliban in 2001. This is not so. It was the Northern Alliance (Tadjiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras and others) which defeated the Talibans on the ground while the US only provided them with (very valuable) support from the air and with FACs on the ground. Furthermore, the Taliban rapidly decided not to oppose the invasion and to withdraw to the countryside and mountains to wait for a better time. A lot of them, in fact, left for Pakistan.

Now this is crucial here: it was Pakistan which provided a safe heaven for the anti-Soviet resistance during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and it is arguably only this safe heaven which prevented the Soviets from truly crushing the Pashtun resistance (the Tadjiks in the Panshir Valley in the northeast of the country were the only ones who actually did successfully resist several Soviet attacks and did not seek cover across the border). Likewise, today's main problem for NATO is the Waziristan province of Pakistan were the Taliban and their Pakistani allies are hiding.

To sum up: the Afghan Pashtuns are nowhere near the formidable force which the media portrays them to be and their real power resides in the fact that they have found a safe heaven in Pakistan. I could add here that the almighty Pakistani secret service, the ISI, has, from day one, been the real Godfather of the anti-Soviet resistance and then of the Taliban movement, with US assistance, of course.

There is one inescapable conclusion from all this: negotiating with the "Taliban" really means negotiating with the Wahabis in Pakistan. This is not, repeat *not*, negotiating with the "Afghan people". I would even argue that negotiating with the Taliban is, in fact, negotiating with the worst enemies of the Afghan people.

I am sure that everybody remembers the kind of regime the Taliban had put into place after they took Kabul: from the banning of music and kites, to the constant executions of people for the smallest of crimes, to the ever present terror squads in the streets to the infamous destruction of the Buddhas in Bamyan - the Taliban were every bit as ugly, crazy and evil as the US propaganda painted them to be (yes, sometimes even the US propaganda can say the truth). And just as the US propaganda accused them to be, the Taliban were the closest and most dedicated allies of Osama Bin-Laden, al-Qaeda and the rest of the Wahabi crackpots worldwide.

But maybe it would be possible to negotiate some kind of deal by which those crazed Wahabis would keep to themselves and only turn Afghanistan into some hellish medieval nightmare but leave the rest of the world alone?

Forget it.

The Russians tried just that in Chechnya with the so-called Khasavyurt Agreement signed in 1996 only to have the Chechens actually invade Daghestan in 1999 forcing the Russians to go right back into Chechnya and to "finish the job" (although the bulk of the Chechen forces were rapidly defeated a low-scale insurrection is still active in Chechnya even today). You can safely count on the Taliban sooner or later doing something similar with Tajikistan, Iran, Indian controlled Kashmir or even China. But even if by some kind of newly found self-restraint the Taliban agreed to stay within the confines of "their" territory (Afghanistan and Pakistan) the nightmare would not stop. First, because all the non-Taliban in the region would fight for their survival and, second, because the risk of a nuclear armed Pakistan becoming "Talibanized" are all too real.

Still, one can recognize these risk and still favor an American withdrawal from Afghanistan since, after all, it is not any business of the USA to be the world's policeman and protect the continent from the Taliban. However, there is a logical fallacy here: withdrawing the US forces from Afghanistan does not entail negotiating with the Taliban. I, for one, would even argue that the best way to get the US out of Afghanistan would be to negotiate with all the regional forces opposed to the Taliban: Iran, Russia, India, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and, in a second phase, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and China. That is the beauty of it: *all* the region's countries are firmly opposed to what the Taliban represent and *nobody* wants these crazies back in power.

Finally, there is another consideration which should prompt everybody to agree to a regional solution to this issue: the problem of "Afghanistan" is really the problem of *Pakistan*. And Pakistan is one hell of a problem indeed! After all, this is the only nuclear power in the world which is essentially in a constant state of civil war and nobody knows when or how this civil war will end. Even worse, there are at least two major powers which blindly support Pakistan for their own narrow interests: China tries to use Pakistan against India and the USA which tries to use Pakistan against Russia and Iran. These two countries are in many ways the prime culprits for the 'nuclear powder keg" which Pakistan has turned into. Is there a way to fix the mess these two have created?

I don't see any other solution than defeating the Wahabis in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. I don't believe that there is any possibility to negotiate anything with these guys, and I don't believe that they could somehow be isolated or otherwise contained. If history does teach us anything it is that there is no point in negotiating with crazed fanatics hell-bend on taking on the rest of the planet. Furthermore, I cannot conceive of anything more immoral than pretending to negotiate with "the Afghan people" while in reality handing over Afghanistan to a *minority* of crazed thugs.

Alas, the Empire in its disarray seems to be determined to do exactly that. True to its trademark policy of short-term "solutions" an attempt to negotiate some kind of deal with the Taliban is what we should expect next. In the minds of the Imperial High Command this would allow the Empire to partially relive (or extricate) its bogged down forces from Afghanistan while taking on step further along its new found anti-Shia grand strategy (the so-called "Redirection"). The only result from this kind of policy will be to force Russia and Iran to dramatically increase their support for the Tadjiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras while tensions between India and Pakistan will flare up. In short: these planned "negotiations" will achieve only one thing: to make a bad situation infinitely worse.

UPDATE: I just came across this very interesting story: it appears that the Pentagon is opposed to the idea of dealing with Mullah Omar. Petraeus had declared that "The key there is making sure that all of that is done in complete coordination, with complete support of the Afghan government and with President Karzai". Well, since Karzai is a long time US puppet and CIA agent we can take him out of this sentence and rephrase it like this: "The key there is making sure that all of that is done in complete coordination, with complete support of the Afghan government"; in other words - the folks from the Northern Alliance which hold all the important ministries in the "Afghan government" went apeshit at the idea of dealing with Omar and made the US back down from this crazy idea.

Good for them.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Is the Empire rehabilitating the notorious Mullah Omar?

Amazing stuff. First, there was the information that the Hamid Karzai had invited Mullah Omar back to Afghanistan (which he probably never left anyway, but we know what he meant) and now it's the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Patrick S. Moon who is quoted as saying that Omar would be taken off the US list of sought terrorists.

Yep, that's right. He is the guy whose refusal to hand over Bin Laden was used as a pretext by the USA to attack and invade Afghanistan. That's the same Mullah Omar who was given the title of "Commander of the Faithful" of the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan". He is the same Mullah Omar who is a long time and very close friend of Osama Bin Laden and who even married Bin Laden's eldest daughter. In fact, Bin Laden generously financed Mullah Omar's struggle for power. One could say that the two are more then friends or relatives - they are the very embodiment of Wahabi terrorism in the face of al-Qaeda.

And now Mullah Omar is generously taken off the list of bad guys.

I look forward to see how the corporate media will spin this one...

Putin Suggests Russia, China Ditch Dollar in Trade Deals

RIA Novosti reports that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin proposed on Tuesday that Russia and China gradually switch over to national currency payments in bilateral trade, expected to total $50 billion in 2008.

"We should consider improving the payment system for bilateral trade, including by gradually adopting a broader use of national currencies," Putin told a bilateral economic forum.

He admitted the task would be tough, but said it was necessary amid the current problems with the dollar-based global economy.

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao described strengthening bilateral relations as "strategic."

"Mutual investment by Russia and China has already exceeded $2 billion, this is a very good index," Jiabao said.

He praised the success of numerous projects, including additional construction of China's Tianwan nuclear power plant and the opening of a joint pharmaceuticals center in Moscow.

A number of large Russian companies, including state-run oil producer Rosneft and aluminum champion RusAl, are seeking to develop investment projects in China, Jiabao said.

The Chinese premier said bilateral cooperation in the helicopter industry, mechanical engineering, the energy sector, timber production and innovation sector was also showing signs of progress.

"China is a staunch supporter of Russia's accession to the WTO, but is categorically against politicizing the issue," Jiabao said.

The Russian premier invited Chinese investors to join Russian timber projects.

"We welcome both domestic and foreign investment in Russia's timber sector," Putin said. "As one of the largest consumers of our products, China could be a source of such investment."

He also offered Beijing Russia's assistance in developing a large passenger plane on the basis of Russia's experience with its wide-bodied Il-96 aircraft.

More fallout from the botched US raid on Syrian village

The shit is hitting the fan after the botched US raid on the Syrian village near the Iraqi border and even nominal US allies such as the Maliki government and even Fouad Siniora (!!) in Lebanon are condemning this aggression. Other protesting voices include Qatar, the OIC, the Arab League, Russia and China. Even the otherwise 'tame and lame' EU "voiced concerns" about this raid (which just goes to show that the EU is even more under the US boot than the Maliki government or Siniora). Iran also warned that the US should not try this kind of trick with Iran.

In the West the corporate press is doing an excellent job keeping this story as low profile as possible but then, it really matters little what the TV watching idiots in the West think about any of that. What matters is that this botched raid is nothing short of a PR-disaster in the entire Middle-East. Yet again, the Americans come out of this looking stupid, incompetent and phenomenally arrogant.

The UK's Guardian put it well in an article called Syria, the US goes at it alone again: Yesterday's raid into the Middle Eastern country was yet another example of Bush's often disastrous approach to the 'war on terror'.

To fully measure the boundless imbecility of it all one needs to remember that the Baathist regime of Assad in Syria has been, for a long while already, a very faithful and trustworthy ally of the USA in the self-declared GWOT (Global War on Terror): heck, they even kindly agreed to detain and torture high-security detainees kidnapped by the CIA goons and then turn them back to the Americans. Does anyone seriously believe that the USA would allow the Syrians to detain and interrogate any al-Qaeda members if at the same time Syria was protecting al-Qaeda?! And if not, then the Americans could have easily asked the Syrian to detain and torture or kill any presumed al-Qaeda members hiding right across the Iraqi-Syrian border. But no, they went in themselves, in broad daylight of all things, and did what US Special Ops do best: bungle a raid and shoot a bunch of civilian bystanders.

[The gross incompetence of US special ops never ceases to amaze me. The Brits, the Russians or the Israelis would have gone in quietly and either bombed the place or snatched their targets without anyone even knowing who did it. For that, of course, they would have needed to either bring (or get) some vehicles to a landing zone about 10km outside any inhabited area and they would have done so at night. The cowboys decided to come in with guns blazing and ended up being filmed by cellphone cameras. And I bet you that, like in Grenada (arguably the most inept military operation of all times) the morons who conducted this raid will get medals and promotions].

One could expect anything from the Maliki government in Iraq of course, but my guess is that the SOFA thing is dead and that the latest US fiasco will prove to be the final blow to this deal.

US raid on Syria 'will hamper SOFA'

Exactly as I predicted:

Press TV reports that An Iraqi lawmaker has warned that Sunday's attack on Syria would negatively affect a security pact the US is insisting to sign with Iraq.

"The air strike will send a negative message to Iraq's neighbors," MP Abbass al-Bayati told Voices of Iraq news agency on Tuesday.

US commandoes onboard four helicopters attacked a Syrian border region on Sunday, killing at least eight civilians and wounding several others. Washington claims all victims of the attack were members of a terrorist network. Syrian officials and witnesses, however, have dismissed the allegations.

Al-Bayati said the timing of the US attack was wrong and could have negative consequences.

"I hope that this air strike will not affect the Iraq-Syria relations that have recently started to improve," the parliamentarian added.

The remarks were made just hours after the Iraqi Parliament voiced concern about the attack and called on the government to launch a probe into the incident and inform the legislative body.

Syria termed the incursion as a terrorist act and warned of retaliatory measures if the US launched similar attacks.

The military operation has also fueled the speculations that Washington might use Iraqi soil as a launch pad for further wars in the region if Baghdad signs the so-called Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).

The controversial agreement has sparked outrage among Iraqi political and religious leaders who say SOFA would virtually put the war-torn country under the US's tutelage.

Iraqi VP: US blackmailing Iraq over SOFA

Press TV reports:

The US military has threatened to halt vital services in Iraq if Baghdad refuses to sign a controversial US security pact with Washington.

In addition to halting all military actions, US forces would cease activities that support Iraq's economy, educational sector and other areas- 'everything' - Tariq al-Hashemi, Iraq'sVice President told the US newspaper McClatchy.

According to al-Hashemi, many Iraqi politicians view the move as 'political blackmail'.

Hashemi went on to say that Gen. Raymond Odierno, the top US military commander in Iraq, had provided Iraqi officials with a three-page list of the services which would be suspended if Iraq did not sign the so-called Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).

The Iraqi Vice President said the threat 'caught Iraqi leaders by surprise'. "It was really shocking for us," he said. "Many people view this attitude as a kind of blackmail."

According to the US daily, US Embassy officials have confirmed that a lengthy list has been handed over to the Iraqi government.

The newspaper added that the services the US provides include protection of Iraq's principal borders, its oil exports, shipping through the Arvand Rud (Shatt al-Arab) and all air traffic control over Iraq.

Washington has been pushing for the signing of the security pact which would grant the US the right to set up military bases inside the country.

The controversial treaty, however, has sparked outrage among Iraq's political and religious leaders who consider the agreement as a blatant infringement on the country's sovereignty.

Yes, this was (yet another) US screw-up (UPDATED!)

Now I am sure of it. First, watch this:

Notice a couple of things:

1) the footage of the attack was shot in daylight. That is *not* how you would conduct any real anti-insurgency raid (they happen at night). From the footage one can only conclude that even small arms fire (nevermind MANPADs) could have easily taken out these helicopters (had any insurgent force been there to begin with, of course).

2) there appears to be absolutely no Syrian censorship of any kind: footage is freely shown, eyewitnesses are interviewed. This is not at all how the Syrian regime and its paranoid security and intelligence services would handle the situation if anything remotely important had been located there.

3) The Syrian representative to the UN confirmed the "two helicopters and eight man" figures. Earlier reports spoke of four helicopters which leads me to believe that we are talking about 2 helicopters landing the soldiers and two more providing cover from the air. This is wholly inadequate for a real counter-insurgency operation which would have required a far more substantial force to cover the inserted soldiers.

4) The official reaction is totally atypical. Normally, there would be an orgy of triumphalist statements about how "top al-Qaeda leaders" were killed and about how is "brilliantly executed" operations "sends a message" to "all terrorists and enemies of freedom worldwide" that the USA will "lead the world against the scourge of terrorism" anywhere where the terrorists hide. Instead: 'no comment'. What do you mean, 'no comment'?! You just attacked a sovereign country and you have no comments at all to justify this?!

There is no doubt in my mind that this is yet another monumental screw-up, probably at the local commander level. Also, US intelligence is notoriously poor (they almost never seem to get their targets right) and most of its human intelligence is acquired through very crude and ineffective means (money and torture).

Boundless arrogance, imperial hubris, racism towards the "hadjis" (AYE-rabs, ragheads, gooks, indjuns, niggers, etc. etc. etc.), poor intelligence and political pressure to achieve some "results" are all the trademark of the long list of failed US counterinsurgency operations in history.

The latest one just goes to show that nothing has changed.

UPDATE: I just found the first "explanation" for the US raid. In the Jerusalem Post. Here is what it says:

A US counterterrorism official said American forces killed the head of a Syrian network that funneled fighters, weapons and cash into Iraq.

The raid Sunday targeted the home of Abu Ghadiyah, the nickname for the leader of a key cell of foreign fighters in Iraq, according to the US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence. The US Treasury Department has identified him as one of four major figures in al-Qaida's Iraq wing who were living in Syria.

Also Monday, a villager said US forces grabbed two men and took them away by helicopter during the cross-border raid

Now that is typical stuff. First, its all hush hush, super secret you understand, so no sources other than unidentified US officials "speaking on condition of anonymity". Second, not only did the Americans kill a "top al-Qaeda" leader (they are ALL "top al-Qaeda leaders" you understand), but they even seized two (presumed) insurgents.

Now ask yourself a simple question: if you wanted to seize a "top al-Qaeda leader" which presumably would be protected by a bunch of well-armed and well-trained "al-Qaeda terrorists" - would you send four choppers in broad daylight when you could not only get easily shot down, but when your intended target might be moving around?!

Of course not.

If you wanted to kill somebody an airstrike would do just fine (and would not put your soliders at risk). If you wanted to seize somebody you would do it in the night when your target is stationary, your force protected, your insertion hidden and your chance to get in and out before anyone reacts is maximized.

This official verison is utter nonsense.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Yet another botched US raid?

Take a look at this al-Jazeera report about the US raid in Syria:

From the information slowly trickling in it appears that the US SNAFUed this time again. The fact that any footage at all is coming from this village shows that there was nothing of any kind of value there, be it people or infrastructure. Then the accounts by the civilian victims also points to some rather pathetically inept actions by the Americans (shooting at a woman reaching out to her kid? shooting a fishing dude?!). Then the size of the striking force - 2 or 4 helicopters and 8+ men - is really too small for any serious kind of operation in a foreign (and mostly hostile) country. The latter even makes me doubt whether this was truly an American action and, if yes, what forces were involved. Lastly, it took a while for the US to "verify" that information. That makes no sense at all. Any operation deliberately aimed at a target inside Syria would have had the direct supervision of the Pentagon brass and White House.

So here is my guess: yes, the Americans did it, but they probably did not realize that they had entered Syrian territory (GPS malfunction?). Sending such a small force into Syria just does not sound credible to me. Unless we hear a dramatically different account of what actually took place I think we can safely dismiss this latest raid as yet another US screw-up in the GWOT.

Finally, you can just imagine how that kind of imperial hubris and arrogance will be received in Iraq which is already up in arms about the SOFA the US is trying to impose. It is just basic common sense to see that if the US does not give a damn about international law, national borders of sovereign countries or the UN Charter (all of which have been grievously violated in the latest raid), it would be naive to the extreme to expect Uncle Shmuel to abide by any SOFA.

I can just about hear the laughter in Tehran...

The Imperial crackpots are at it again: Ha'aretz confirms US strike on Syrian town

Ha'aretz: U.S. confirms strike on Syria that killed eight

A U.S. military official confirmed late Sunday an American helicopter attack in an area along Syria's border with Iraq, which left 8 people dead and three people wounded.

Syria condemned the attack, which it called "serious aggression."

The raid indicated the desert frontier between the two countries remains a key battleground, more than five years into the Iraq war. The U.S. official said the attack targeted elements of a robust foreign fighter logistics network and that due to Syrian inaction the U.S. was now "taking matters into our own hands." (this guy has clearly never heard of this thing called 'international law' - VS)

A government statement carried by the official Syrian Arab News Agency said the attack occurred at the Sukkariyeh Farm near the town of Abu Kamal, five miles (eight kilometers) inside the Syrian border. Four helicopters attacked a civilian building under construction, firing at the workers inside shortly before sundown, the statement said.

Syria's Foreign Ministry said it summoned the charges d'affaires of the United States and Iraq to protest the strike.

A resident of the nearby village of Hwijeh, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information, said the aircraft flew along the Euphrates River into the area of farms and several brick factories.

Some of the helicopters landed and troops exiting the aircraft fired on a building, he said, adding that at least one of the dead was a construction worker.

Iraqi travelers making their way home across the border reported hearing many explosions, said Farhan al-Mahalawi, mayor of the Iraqi border town of Qaim.

The Syrian government said there were civilians among the dead, including four children.

"Syria condemns this aggression and holds the American forces responsible for this aggression and all its repercussions. Syria also calls on the Iraqi government to shoulder its responsibilities and launch and immediate investigation into this serious violation and prevent the use of Iraqi territory for aggression against Syria," the statement said.

A resident of the nearby village of Hwijeh said some of the helicopters landed and troops exited the aircraft and fired on a building. He said the aircraft flew along the Euphrates River into the area of farms and several brick factories. The witness spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.

Syrian state television late Sunday aired footage that showed blood stains on the floor of a site under construction, the wooden beams used to mold concrete strewn on the ground. Akram Hameed, one of the injured who said he was fishing in the Euphrates, told Syrian television he saw four helicopters coming from the border area under a heavy blanket of fire.

"One of the helicopters landed in an agricultural area and eight members disembarked," the man in his 40s said. "The firing lasted about 15 minutes and when I tried to leave the area on my motorcycle, I was hit by a bullet in the right arm about 20 meters (yards) away," he said.

The injured wife of the building's guard, in bed in hospital with a tube in her nose, told Syria TV that two helicopters landed and two remained in the air during the attack. The TV did not identify her by name.

Syria's Foreign Ministry said it summoned the charges d'affaires of the United States and Iraq to protest against the strike.

Qaim, across the border in Iraq, had been a major crossing point for fighters, weapons and money coming into Iraq to fuel the Sunni insurgency.

Iraqi insurgents seized Qaim in April 2005, forcing U.S. Marines to recapture the town the following month in heavy fighting. The area became more secure only after Sunni tribes in western Iraq turned against al-Qaida in late 2006 and joined forces with the Americans.

On Thursday, the commander of U.S. forces in western Iraq said in a briefing with Pentagon reporters that American troops were redoubling efforts to secure the Syrian border, from where some fighters were continuing to enter Iraq.

Maj. Gen. John Kelly said in last week's briefing that Iraq's western borders with Saudi Arabia and Jordan were fairly tight as a result of good policing by security forces in those countries but that Syria was a different story.

"The Syrian side is, I guess, uncontrolled by their side," Kelly said. "We still have a certain level of foreign fighter movement."

"There hasn't been much, in the way of a physical barrier, along that border for years," Kelly said.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem accused the United States earlier this year of not giving his country the equipment needed to prevent foreign fighters from crossing into Iraq. He said Washington feared Syria could use such equipment against Israel.

Though Syria has long been viewed by the U.S. as a destabilizing country in the Middle East, in recent months, Damascus has been trying to change its image and end years of global seclusion.

Syrian President Bashar Assad has pursued indirect peace talks with Israel, mediated by Turkey, and says he wants direct talks next year. Syria also has agreed to establish diplomatic ties with Lebanon, a country it used to dominate both politically and militarily, and has worked harder at stemming the flow of militants into Iraq.

European, American and Arab officials also have increased their visits to the country after years of avoiding it. Most recently, French President Nicolas Sarkozy joined the leaders of Turkey and Qatar in a summit with Assad in Damascus.
Commentary: That kind of raid was to be expected. Ever since Syria was bombed by the Israeli Air Force without any kind of response at all and ever since Imad Mughniyeh was killed (quasi-officially) in Syria by the Israelis (although with obvious Syrian complicity) it was pretty clear that Syria would become the official Imperial whipping boy in the Middle-East. Makes sense: the Syrian regime is either incapable or unwilling (probably both) to offer any kind of meaningful resistance to Uncle Shmuel's provocations. That, in itself,is mind boggling.

Only about 1000 Hezbollah operators beat back the full strength of the Israeli Army (the best Hezbollah forces were actually kept north of the Litani river and never participated in any combat) but Syria, with its far larger armed forces (at least on paper) and it political weight (again, mostly on paper) is totally unable to deter even the most blatantly arrogant and provocative aggressions against its sovereignty. This is totally pathetic: Assad clearly has no credibility at all with the Imperial High Command.

There are lessons for others and, in particular Iran, here. If attacked by the Empire, strike back. Immediately. Sure, this will trigger an imperial 'counter-counter attack' and this might lead to a dramatic, but short term, escalation in the confrontation, but this will also help in the middle to long term. Simply put, the Empire does not need any further confrontations. When the Pakistanis opened fire on US forces in Waziristan and the Empire quietly, but fundamentally, did back down. The same thing happened in Georgia when faced with a show of Russian resolve the Empire had to back down regardless of the humiliation suffered by its stooges.

It appears that Assad is incapable of learning from his past mistakes. Damascus is protesting, summoning US diplomats and expressing its outrage (I can imagine the laughter in Washington and Jerusalem) and that's it. It is painfully obvious that the regime in Damascus in an 'operetta dictatorship' incapable of exerting any meaningful pressure on anyone else in the region.

Let's face it: there are only two credible forces which can stand up to the Empire in the Middle-East: Hezbollah and Iran. The rest of them are either total lunatics (Taliban) or just buffoons (Syria).

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Reports are coming in of a US attack on Syria

This sounds too crazy to be true but then, we are talking about an Empire going crazy so who knows? Anyway, here are some of the reports. But, caveat emptor.

Al Jazeera
BBC News
Press TV

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A vote for either John McCain or Barack Obama is—at best—an act of criminal negligence.

by Mickey Z. for Dissident Voice

You don’t stick a knife in a man’s back nine inches, and then pull it out six inches, and say you’re making progress.

– Malcolm X

Another Election Day approaches and I’m reminded of something the late Pakistani dissident, Eqbal Ahmad said about Noam Chomsky in the book, Confronting Empire (2000): “He (Chomsky) has never wavered. He has never fallen into the trap of saying, ‘Clinton will do better.’ Or ‘Nixon was bad but Carter at least had a human rights presidency.’ There is a consistency of substance, of posture, of outlook in his work.”

But along came 2004…when Chomsky said stuff like this: “Anyone who says ‘I don’t care if Bush gets elected’ is basically telling poor and working people in the country, ‘I don’t care if your lives are destroyed’.” And like this: “Despite the limited differences [between Bush and Kerry] both domestically and internationally, there are differences. In a system of immense power, small differences can translate into large outcomes.”

Standing alongside Chomsky was Howard Zinn, saying stuff like this: “Kerry, if he will stop being cautious, can create an excitement that will carry him into the White House and, more important, change the course of the nation.”

Fast forward to 2008 and Chomsky sez: “I would suggest voting against McCain, which means voting for Obama without illusions.” And once again, Howard Zinn is in agreement: “Even though Obama does not represent any fundamental change, he creates an opening for a possibility of change.” (Two word rejoinder: Bill Clinton)

This strategy of choosing an alleged “lesser evil” because he/she might be influenced by some mythical “popular movement” would be naïve if put forth by a high school student. Professors Chomsky and Zinn know better. If it’s incremental change they want, why not encourage their many readers to vote for Ralph Nader or Cynthia McKinney? The classic (read: absurd) reply to that question is: “Because Nader or McKinney can’t win.”

Of course they can’t win if everyone who claims to agree with them inexplicably votes for Obama instead. Paging Alice: You’re wanted down the goddamned rabbit hole.

Another possible answer as to why folks like Chomsky and Zinn don’t aggressively and tirelessly stump for Nader or McKinney is this: 2004 proved that the high profile Left is essentially impotent and borderline irrelevant. Chomsky and Zinn were joined in the vocal, visible, and vile Anybody-But-Bush ranks by “stars” like Michael Moore, Susan Sarandon, Medea Benjamin, Sean Penn, Barbra Streisand, Manning Marable, Naomi Klien, Phil Donahue, Barbara Ehrenreich, Martin Sheen, Bruce Springsteen, Eddie Vedder, Cornel West, etc. etc. and John Kerry still lost.

News flash: The “poor and working people in the country” that Chomsky mentions above are paying ZERO attention to him or anyone like him…and that’s a much bigger issue than which millionaire war criminal gets to play figurehead for the empire over the next four years.

Zinn talks about Obama and the “possibility of change.” It seems odd to be asking this of an octogenarian but: Exactly how much time do you think we have?

Every twenty-four hours, thirteen million tons toxic chemicals are released across the globe; 200,000 acres of rainforest are destroyed; more than one hundred plant or animal species go extinct; and 45,000 humans (mostly children) starve to death. Each day, 29,158 children under the age of five die from mostly preventable causes.

As Gandhi once asked: “What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?”

I promise you this: The human beings (and all living things) that come after us won’t care whether we voted for Obama or McCain in 2008…if they have no clean air to breathe, no clean water to use, and are stuck on a toxic, uninhabitable planet. They’d probably just want to ask us this: Why did you stand by and let everything be consumed or poisoned or destroyed?

Conclusion: A vote for either John McCain or Barack Obama is—at best—an act of criminal negligence.

Mickey Z. is the author of the recently released Bizarro novel, CPR for Dummies, and can be found on the Web at

Friday, October 24, 2008

Russians and Americans sing their love for Sarah Palin

Here we go again!


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Survey: Israel worst brand name in the world

Israel Today reports:

As if Israel’s position in the world in not bad enough, a new survey published in the US Wednesday says that Israel is suffering from the worst public image among all countries of the world.

The study, called the National Brands Index, conducted by government advisor Simon Anholt and powered by global market intelligence solutions provider GMI (Global Market Insite, Inc.), shows that Israel is at the bottom of the list by a considerable margin in the public’s perception of its image.

The Index surveyed 25,903 online consumers across 35 countries about their perceptions of those countries across six areas of national competence: Investment and Immigration, Exports, Culture and Heritage, People, Governance and Tourism. The NBI is the first analytical ranking of the world's nation brands.

"Israel's brand is by a considerable margin the most negative we have ever measured in the NBI, and comes at the bottom of the ranking on almost every question," states report author Simon Anholt.

Anholt believes that the politics of a nation can affect every single aspect of a person's perception about a country. In the light of the recent announcement that the Israeli Foreign Ministry has taken upon itself to re-brand Israel, Anholt comments that to succeed in permanently changing the country's image, the country has to be prepared to change its behavior. He reiterates his strong belief that a reputation cannot be constructed: it has to be earned.

"If Israel's intention is to promote itself as a desirable place to live and invest in, the challenge appears to be a steep one," Anholt concluded.

The survey also indicated that Israel came last in each area by a long margin, including the fact that of the 36 countries ranked, there is nowhere that respondents would like to visit less than Israel. Worse yet, the survey indicates that Israel’s people were also voted the most unwelcoming in the world.

And there was one more unpleasant surprise: Whoever thought that the United States is Israel’s best friend and Israel is loved in the US, the index indicated that Americans ranked Israel just slightly above China in terms of its conduct in the areas of international peace and security.

The 35 countries polled for the study were: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, UK, and the USA.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Russia, Iran and Qatar to form an organization of gas-exporting countries similar to OPEC

Press TV reports:

The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, has defended the formation of an organization of gas-exporting countries similar to OPEC.

Iranian Oil Minister Gholam-Hossein Nozari, his Qatari counterpart Abdulla Bin Hamad al-Attiya and the head of Russia's Gazprom, Alexei Miller, had a Tuesday meeting in Tehran in which the three countries vowed to seriously pursue the formation of an OPEC-like gas group.

Lavrov told journalists on Wednesday that the expansion of natural gas cooperation between Doha, Moscow and Tehran was a 'healthy phenomenon'.

He added that the current fluctuations in oil prices were a negative factor which would affect gas prices as well.

Gazprom's chief executive officer, Miller, said on Tuesday that the three countries would also create a technical committee to implement joint projects.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin said on Wednesday that the country might create an oil reserve to ' work more efficiently with prices on the market'.

ZAG! (updated)


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