Posts Tagged ‘Syria’

Reblogged from COUNTERPUNCH

September 12, 2013
In Historic First, American Empire is Blocked at the Starting Line
by DAVE LINDORFF

Let’s be clear here. The people of the US and the world have won a huge victory over a war-obsessed US government and an administration that was hell-bent on yet again launching a criminal war of aggression against a country that poses no threat to the US or its neighbors. Overwhelming public opposition in the US and the nations of Europe, as well as most of the rest of the world to a US strike on Syria have forced the US to falter and to accept the idea of a compromise deal offered by Russia.

The Obama administration by all accounts was facing an unprecedented defeat in Congress of its proposed Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) to launch a new Middle East war, this time on the nation of Syria. It is now desperately trying to spin the bad news, with the mindless support of the US corporate media, so as to claim that it has won some kind of victory. The White House, absurdly, is arguing that the Syrian government’s apparent agreement to a surprise Russian plan to place all Syria’s chemical weapons stocks under international control and then to destroy them is somehow the administration’s doing.

The reality: it was a quick move by Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, to grab hold of what Kerry’s State Department staff quickly labeled a “rhetorical slip” by the serial-lying, war-promoting US Secretary of State John Kerry, and run with it, that has produced this backdown by the US administration.

Kerry, in brief impromptu session with reporters following a meeting with Britain’s foreign secretary, was asked an unscreened question by a reporter, who wanted to know “what Syria could do” to avoid a looming US bombing blitz of the country. Kerry, like Obama used to scripted press conferences and puff-ball questions from the US press corp, offered a stumbling, off-the-cuff answer saying Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week …. But he isn’t about to do it, and it can’t be done.”

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, hearing this bumbling answer, took Kerry at his word and immediately announced that Russia would seek Assad’s agreement to such a plan, and would help to ensure its implementation.

Prior to this surprise development, the US was offering Syria no deals. Indeed, the Obama administration was in the midst of a “flood-the-zone” lobbying campaign in Congress and the media, promoting its plan for an aerial blitz of Syria, with Obama scheduled to make a televised pitch at 9 pm ET today to pump Americans up for war.

In order to win support from normally war-crazed Republicans, the White House was expanding the stated goals of the bombing campaign from just a short “shot over the bow” attack to a longer and wider bombing campaign designed to “degrade” Assad’s military and to shift the balance in favor of rebel forces seeking to overthrow the government. There was no talk of any compromise or of any peace feelers; only talk of “red lines” crossed by Syria, and the need to maintain America’s and the president’s “credibility” by striking Assad without mercy. Ships, aircraft, troops and bombs were in place around Syria, in preparation for an attack, which at one point last week seemed just days away.

But as the days have gone on, urgent constituent messages to Congress have poured in, reportedly running 540:1 against a US attack. Britain’s parliament last week voted solidly against allowing that usually supine US ally from joining in an attack, and even in France, where President François Hollande had enthusiastically volunteered to have his country join in the US blitz, public opposition has been enormous and growing, forcing him to back off in his support for war.

It’s not over yet, but it appears that the Obama administration, sensing that it was facing a humiliating defeat in Congress, with perhaps both houses rejecting a war authorization to attack Syria, has decided to grab at the Russian escape offer.

President Obama has grudgingly termed the Russian proposal “potentially positive,” while warning that “we have to be skeptical.” In a bid to derail criticism from pro-war Republicans, he quoted former President Ronald Reagan’s line about his agreement with the former Soviet Union to reduce both country’s nuclear stockpiles: “Trust but verify.”

It is important that the administration and the corporate media not be allowed to “revise” the history of this crisis to claim that the Obama administration won a victory against Syria and its military and diplomatic backer, Russia.

The opposite is true: For the first time in over a century and perhaps in US history, it appears that a US president has been forced by public and international pressure, both at home and abroad, to back down on a plan to attack another nation. This is a huge change in fortune for the imperial war-mongers who, only a decade ago, were talking about the US being the world’s “only superpower,” and about establishing “full-spectrum dominance” over the entire world and preventing other nations from ever achieving the power to challenge the US.

Ten years, two losing wars and at least five pseudo-wars later, China and Russia, separately and working together, have shown that they cannot be so easily bullied, and that they can stymie US power. A resurgent Russia had already announced that if Syria were attacked by the US, it would come to the aid of its ally, and Russian President Vladimir Putin had put teeth in that warning by sending the latest anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles to Syria, and by ordering Russian warships directly into the Eastern Mediterranean where the US had been building up an armada of Tomahawk-missile-equipped destroyers, aircraft carriers and Marine-filled landing ships in anticipation of an attack on Syria. These measures, taken together, had to be viewed with alarm by US military strategists.

If Russia’s peace initiative succeeds, with Syria turning over the chemical weapons stocks (that, as the NY Times reported, it initially developed over the years with the knowing support of British, French, German and US corporate suppliers), it will be a huge blow to the US imperial enterprise.

The US government has finally blinked. More importantly, the American people appear to have begun to finally awake from their 9/11-induced trance. Attempts by Obama and Kerry and by fatuous shills like Republican Sens. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona to claim that somehow Syria’s chemical weapons posed a threat to this country were never taken seriously by the public this time around, even despite shrill scare stories in the US media. Photos and videos of dead gassed children, while eliciting horror among citizens, did not lead to the usual pro-war stampede, as we have lost our blind trust in what our leaders tell us. There was a willingness among the public, for a change, to listen to those pointing out that the administration has no solid evidence to prove that the poison gas attack on Aug. 21 was the Syrian government’s doing.

The coming months will be critical. The war-mongers have been seriously weakened this week, but may feel the need to re-assert themselves by orchestrating some other “existential threat” to America that the public will buy into. All those who want to live in a peaceful world, who want the US to cease being the world’s leading terrorist state, and who want this country to become a law-abiding part of the international community, need to remain vigilant.

To keep the pressure on Congress and the President not to go to war in Syria, go to this site for things you can do.

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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Here’s proof that Syrian Rebels have crossed Obama’s “Red Line,” murdering hundreds of their own tiny children in a savage bid to pull the US into Syria’s conflict. We demand that Obama uphold his “Red Line” and dump Rebels in the trash where they belong!

http://youtu.be/rFFh3FsKCyQ

World View: Ghassan al-Khouly was a builder, husband and father killed by a mortar while guarding an Old City gate in Damascus last week. This is his story.

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Barakat al-Shamas who was standing guard with him, said: “I heard the sound of a shell coming in and I threw myself on the ground. When I got up I saw there was so much blood that I knew Ghassan must be dead.” Barakat was wounded with a piece of shrapnel penetrating his right hand as well as his neck and left leg.

Ghassan al-Khouly, an unemployed labourer who specialised in tiling floors, was one of the latest of an estimated 93,000 Syrians to have died since the start of the civil war in March 2011. Other than the fact he was a Greek Orthodox Christian, his experiences were not very different from those of many other Syrians caught up in the war.

His widow, Nour al-Sabek, says that until two years ago he was fully employed but when the rebels came all that was finished. They hold outer suburbs of Damascus where most of the new construction was, and as a Christian he did not dare go there. Everybody who is not a Sunni Muslim Arab assumes they are in danger of being killed, kidnapped or robbed in rebel-held areas. Forced to stay in the centre of the city he tried to eke out a living by doing odd jobs fixing electrical wiring, setting up satellite dishes and flooring. His family became poorer.

I started to learn about the life and death of Ghassan al-Khouly after I heard four rifle shots fired at regular intervals while I was walking to the great Umayyad Mosque in the Old City just before Friday prayers. It did not sound like a gunfight, and it turned out the shots had been fired by an honour guard bringing a body home for the funeral later in the afternoon. We learned the name of the dead man but were told that it was not a good moment to see his widow and her two sons. But if we wanted to know what had happened we should talk to Barakat al-Shamas, who had been wounded in the same incident but was just back from hospital.

I knew that Ghassan and Barakat had both been in the National Defence Force (NDF), a 60,000-strong militia organisation that has been publicised abroad as being a ferocious pro-government paramilitary organisation, freshly trained to turn the tide of war in Syria. The NDF may contain such units but in the Old City of Damascus its members are very much like the Home Guard in Britain in 1940. Everybody between the ages of 20 and 65 is meant to join, and many are quite elderly.

We met Barakat, not looking at all intimidated by his experiences, surrounded by friends sitting in the guest room of his house. He extended his right hand which was covered with a blood-stained bandage as if he had forgotten for a moment that he cannot shake hands with anybody.

I was surprised by the age of the two men who had been doing sentry duty: Barakat said he is 65 and Ghassan, the dead man, was 10 years younger. A photograph of Ghassan was on his death notice announcing funeral arrangements which had been pasted to walls in the Old City. The picture had the de-personalised look of head-and-shoulders ID photos, but showed a narrow-faced serious-looking man with a black moustache.

The rebels regularly fire mortars into districts of Damascus they do not control. This is difficult to stop because the rebels jump out of a car, take a mortar and a shell from the boot, fire it and are gone in a few minutes. This is their reply to government artillery which fires constantly at rebel-held districts. Ghassan and Barakat could not do much about the mortar attacks, but they were meant to stop rebels infiltrating through the Bab al-Sharqi, the Eastern Gate, into the Old City. “Old men are better at this because they know everybody who lives here and can pick out strangers,” said a local observer.

“Our shift was meant to end at 2pm,” recalled Barakat. He and Ghassan had moved to the north side of the gate to stay in the shade. It was then that the mortar bombs came down, one on either side of the gate. They did not leave much of a crater in the hard ground, but, aside from hitting the two guards, the shrapnel peppered an empty school bus and smashed its windscreen.

Nobody could be certain where the mortar was fired from but they thought it might have been Eastern Ghouta, a rebel stronghold to the east of Damascus under pressure from government forces. The mortar fire is the rebels’ way of showing they are still in business.

The outside world focuses on the Syrian refugees that have fled the country, but millions have also fled to the uncertain safety of Damascus where they are crammed into houses. Christians, once 6 per cent of Syria’s 23 million population, feel particularly vulnerable. Wael al-Shamas, the son of Barakat who works in a bank and speaks fluent English, described how the world he lived in was increasingly confined to a few Christian districts. He said: “I don’t have the courage to go outside these areas.” He said a problem for the Christians is that they do not have many places to flee to where they are safe. They are also often unemployed.

 

There are other less obvious difficulties. Wael said his father suffered from diabetes, and so far the government provided medicine free but he was worried what would happen if that stopped because buying it privately was very expensive. He added: “There is also a transport problem simply getting the medication from one side of the city to the other.”

All over Damascus day-to-day living is getting more difficult and expensive. There is still cheap government-subsidised bread, but there are long queues outside bakeries. Everything which is not subsidised is costing more and even people with jobs are paid in rapidly devaluing Syrian pounds. Last weekend, the pound’s value fell 30 per cent against the dollar before making a partial recovery. The streets of the Old City which would have been packed with pilgrims and tourists around the great monuments two years ago are empty. The restaurant of the Four Seasons Hotel still serves four different wines by the glass but had only a single customer.

I went to see Ghassan’s widow, Nour al-Sabek, in the family house where she was living with her two sons, Shadi and Sherbel. A friend had said he was worried that she would have nothing to live on, her close relatives and friends had also lost their jobs. As people came to pay their respects, the family sat near a large picture of the dead man. I asked Nour why her husband had joined the National Defence Force since it paid almost no money.

She replied that he loved his country and was frightened for his church, his children and his friends. Others said there were about 600 Christians in the neighbourhood who had joined the NDF and eight had been killed by mortars, snipers and bombs. Nour described how her husband had tried to scrape together a living by doing occasional jobs in the last two years. There was discussion among family members about the probability of Nour getting a lump sum from the government and a pension because her husband had been martyred. They thought this likely, going by past experience, but not absolutely certain.

While we spoke there was the booming of outgoing artillery in the background but nobody paid any attention to it since this has been typical background noise in Damascus for the past year. There was not much talk of general politics until Ebtisam, a thin, short, nervous-looking woman who was the sister of the dead man, asked me: “Why does your country send weapons to Syria? Without foreign support we would finish the rebels.” She said that in the past she could walk home in the middle of the night, but now I must ask my brother to pick me up.”

Everybody who had gathered to mourn Ghassan al-Khouly said how good relations between Muslims and Christians had been in Syria before the revolt. This has not always been true historically, since between 5,000 and 10,000 Christians were massacred in Damascus over eight days in 1860. But somebody remarked that there had been more Muslims than Christians in Ghasan’s funeral procession. His sons had remained silent while their older relatives talked about their dead father.

But just before I left, Shadi, aged 13 and looking grief-stricken, suddenly said in a loud voice: “The people and the world loved Ghassan al-Khouly.”

U.S Sponsored Al Nusra Rebels Defeated by Syrian Armed Forces
Global Research, May 12, 2013

Recent reports from the ground suggest that America and its allies are losing their covert war in support of the Al Nusra front. In recent weeks, the US sponsored Al Qaeda affiliated rebels have been decimated by the Syrian Armed Forces.

A nationwide offensive has been launched with the support of Russia and Iran. The weapons supply routes of the rebels have been disrupted:

“the [Syrian] army has concentrated on starving, and cutting off “rebel” supply routes and arms corridors, which predominantly run through Northern Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan” (See Buying Time in Syria by Phil Greaves, Global Research, May 11, 2013)

Al Nusra is largely made up of mercenaries recruited in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Covert (Western) special forces and military advisers have also integrated their ranks.

The Al Qaeda affiliated terrorists directly funded by Washington constitute the foot-soldiers of the Western military alliance.

Confirmed by CNN, the Al Nusra terrorists have also been trained in the use of chemical weapons by special forces on contract to the Pentagon:

The training [in chemical weapons], which is taking place in Jordan and Turkey, involves how to monitor and secure stockpiles and handle weapons sites and materials, according to the sources. Some of the contractors are on the ground in Syria working with the rebels to monitor some of the sites, according to one of the officials.

The nationality of the trainers was not disclosed, though the officials cautioned against assuming all are American. (CNN, December 09, 2012, emphasis added

And once these Al Qaeda rebels had been supplied and trained in the use of WMDs by military contractors hired by the Pentagon, the Syrian government would then be held responsible for using the WMD against the Syrian people.

(more…)

Can Washington and Her Allies Stop Syria’s Reconciliation Efforts?

by FRANKLIN LAMB

Damascus — For  more than a year,  analysts and lobbyists have predicted umpteen times that the “tipping point” signaling the Assad government’s collapse was a sure thing and would happen any time now. “It’s just a matter of days, not weeks” President Obama declared back in 2011.

Based on personal observations and interviews with informed people who actually live in Syria, as opposed to the Zionist think tanks and armchair “experts”, this observer concedes that prognosticators are finally right. Over the past few months, I have concluded the long elusive “tipping point” in Syria has indeed been reached and the momentum has shifted decisively in this embattled nation.

But not the tipping point that rebel promoters were hoping for, including the NATO countries.

Rather, momentum here has tipped in favor of the current regime due to its capacity to maintain a slowly rising level of popular support, and good relations with key foreign supporters during the current run up to next year’s Presidential election. Then, it will be up to the Syrian voters to decide who stays, goes, and/or joins in their next government.

I base my tentative conclusions, on among others, the following factors.

The Syrian population here is so tired, so exhausted and beaten down. The killing has gone on for so long. The Syrian people, like Iranians and others I have observed, appear to exhibit a distinctly noticeable, profound and almost moral and religious bond with their countrymen. They personally feel acutely their country’s suffering. People on the streets are very shocked and incredulous at what is going on. Many in fact feel less strongly about either side in the conflict and just want the slaughter to end and for life to return to ‘normal’ without deep revolutionary-across the board-changes for now.

Two days ago mortars hit the campus of Damascus University. By the grace of God there were no casualties-this time. But students report that on average about six mortars or explosive devices hit Damascus every week. While unreported in the media, the attack on Damascus University where the student body has pretty much stayed on the sidelines during the current crisis, is an example of the nerve shattering recognition here that rebels can more or less fire mortars or rockets at will into Damascus, from miles away.

These terrorist attacks are very difficult to stop and constitute an ever present danger for Damascenes. The relatively frequently used small US M252 81mm mortar that can be carried in a deep pocket or under a shirt when strapped, has a bit more than a one mile range (1609 meters). Larger ones can travel several miles when set at between 45 and 85 degrees to the ground according to military sources.

Also, according to students, about five days ago the Tishereen War Panorama Museum was hit with four or five rebel projectiles. The military museum was built to celebrate the October 1973 Yom Kippur War (“Tishreen” means “October” in Arabic). This main tourist attraction is only two miles northeast of the Old City in Damascus.

One also experiences here an attitude that the Assad government is showing signs of learning some serious lessons about the direction that Syria must move in. While number estimates are difficult, increasing numbers of Syrians appear to believe that the current regime is the best solution — at least for now. For now, meaning, until next year’s election.

One also notices in Syria these days that people appear (maybe influenced a bit by the recent spring weather) somewhat more optimistic that things are getting “better” — Warmer weather means less need for mazot (heating oil). People are car-pooling more to decrease dependence on limited benzene. Some flour, still often difficult to find due to rebel burning fields, theft from
supply warehouses and Turkish-condoned destruction of a majority of manufacturing enterprises in Aleppo, is appearing to a degree, brought in from bordering countries.

Many of the shortages — largely caused by the US-led sanctions — are, for now, somehow less severe due to the ingenuity of the Syrian people. The government, too, has been employing some shrewd
countermeasures.

This observer along with others has been critical of the Lebanese government for not doing more for the Syrian and Palestinian refugees forced into their country by the current crisis. While still a serious problem, there has finally developed a life-line of sorts operating from Lebanon into Syria. More consumer goods now move officially from the Masnaa Syrian-Lebanese border crossing where vehicles are checked. Much more food stuffs and essential goods arrive into Syria via many other routes — smuggling routes
established between the two countries, when the French created Lebanon back in 1943.

From Chtoura to Majdal and Anjar, one comes across lines of massive fuel tankers ,as well as trucks loaded with Bekaa valley vegetables like onions, potatoes, carrots, squash, radishes, wheat, barley, lentil, beets, zucchini, cabbage, cauliflower and beans of different varieties. According to my favorite driver, Ahmad, government’s regulations require that these large vehicles line up until 4 p.m. so as not to jam the narrow, potholed and frankly dangerous cliff-hanging roads.

Even Ahmad has become involved in the import business. No longer does he transport up to five passengers. Only me who rides “shotgun.” This is because he fills the trunk of his taxi and the back seat with about a dozen tanks of pressurized cooking gas. Ahmad pays $16 per filled tank in Lebanon and sells them in Syria for $50 each. I am not sure why he needs me to ride with him, and why he gives me such a great price, but having an American on board seems to help in some way with some of the checkpoints. Maybe the
novelty distracts the soldiers somehow from his cargo, and they decide to cut him some slack.

For about a decade, starting at about age seven, this observer would almost never miss a Saturday matinee at the Victory theater in Milwaukie, Oregon. I have known since that time that riding shotgun, whether on a stage coach or covered wagon, was not the best seat because you might catch an arrow from “wild Injuns on the warpath” or a bullet from road bandits.

More seriously, regular views are expressed in Syria about the support  levels for the current regime vs. support for the rebels. Admittedly based on nothing very scientific, this observer tends to agree with what he has been hearing from a cross section of the local population. The regime has the fairly strong backing of around 30% of the population. Less than half of that support the rebels. Syrian minorities, including Christians, Shi’a and Alawites,
among others, cast their lot with the regime because they are afraid of the Wahabist/Salafist jihadi types and the breaking up of their country.

I asked a teenager why she supports the current regime. She explained that the Assad regime is doing their best. Despite the rising prices that her parents chronically complain about, she is grateful that “the government has not allowed the cost of telephone service to increase, so I can chat with my friends just like before!” The kid has a point because during this crisis and all the rumors ricocheting around people are staying in contact with loved ones more than ever it seems.

A bit more than 50% do not seem to express firm support for either side and just want the killing to stop and for some sort of normalcy to return. At the same time, they express an opinion something like, “how did our country get into this mess. Let the foreigners go home and we can deal with our problems ourselves.”

Tragically, this plea does not appear to be acted on anytime soon in Washington, Paris, London or Brussels, given the new pledges this week of more “non-lethal” aid to the rebel factions.

If ever there were meaning- and logic-destroying non-sequiturs as in the past few days it is hard to remember when. Faced with the tipping point moving away from the foreign forces and toward the Syrian government and majority population, “Friends of Syria” has stretched beyond recognition the meaning of ordinary phrases like “defensive APC’s,” “non-lethal devices to help pinpoint the locations of the Syrian Arab Army troops,” “weapons to protect the civilian population,” as well as “humanitarian sanctions” that
supposedly but don’t exempt food and medicines.

In fact all of the new Friends of Syria “breakthrough assistance” targets Syria’s civilian population and all are lethal given the uses to which they are put.

History instructs us that as a result of American wars, from Vietnam to the Middle East — it is the civilian population who will pay the price of President Obama’s  “humanitarian assistance” to
selected groups in Syria. This history is well known here by Syrians who understand well the strange paradox of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s  announcement this week of Washington’s desire to speed up the political process aimed at ending the crisis in Syria by backing the armed Wahabist/ Salafist jihadi groups in the country.

This week’s US and European decisions to back Syria’s rebels with direct aid will lead to more bloodshed and encourage “terrorism” in the war-torn country, according to two Sheiks from Syria’s largest tribe who held court recently during tea in the lobby of the Dama Rose Hotel here.

What Washington fears, according to the same interlocutor from the Russian embassy who spoke with this observer for nearly two hours, is the confirmation that the Syrian opposition is ready to immediately enter into negotiations with the Syrian government without preconditions and that President Assad’s departure or even his future status will not be part of the process.

The Russians’ belief that the rebels are finally coming around to
a more realistic approach is gaining support from the population here as well as military and political players. This is more than anathema to Washington and its allies.

For them it is not less than catastrophic and will not be allowed despite NATO’s rhetoric to the contrary. Thus the new fake proposals. The new “Non-lethal aid” has been designed to somehow reverse the “tipping point” that seems to be taking place. These aggressive actions rather than, for example, genuine humanitarian aid given to the 11 neutral international NGO’s operating across Syria, or serious pressure on all sides to show up at the dialogue table, is certain to prolong the conflict and condemn countless
more Syrians to death.

Franklin Lamb is doing research in Syria and is reachable c/o fplamb@gmail.com

By Franklin Lamb

Damascus — There are more than 9000 of them. Predominately young, but of all ages, and all volunteers. They often risk their lives working twelve-hour shifts seven days a week at the Syrian Arab Republic Red Crescent Society (SARCS) Emergency Operation center.

Located at The New Zahera Hospital in Damascus just to the south of Yarmouk refugee camp, SARCS has its main emergency response teams HQ. It is here where Syrians, some Palestinians and even a few from the larger Arab region and the West receive training as qualified paramedics. Two-thirds are students or recent graduates. Not all are supportive of the Assad government, but all are sympathetic towards whoever can end the killing and return life to “pre-events” normalcy.

In the Operations Center, volunteers take phone calls as they stare at a large computer screen displaying a Google Earth close-up view of the areas where emergency responders are urgently needed. Some of the tech-savvy volunteers have highlighted in green the safest routes to the crisis their ambulances should take. The dispatchers get input from police, neighbors, even troops and “others” advising them which streets are currently relatively safe for travel. Snipers are a frequent fact of daily life for the responders, whenever they are “on mission.”

One shift manager described “Google Live,” as a way of denoting on the Google Map an area of activity as it happens. That’s of paramount importance to rescue operations. His team has two problems as they try to secure this capability, one of which is that Google Live is forbidden by the US-led sanctions which, frankly, his team could care less about and they’ve already figured out how to hack into something to get it to work. The main problem is that they need Syrian government approval to set up Google Live properly. They are hoping to get it soon which will help SARCS emergency teams get to their destination faster and safer. How could the United Nations oppose that?

The main emergency operation center is an exciting beehive of activity, staffed by friendly people urgently working to help others. They are dressed in bright orange overalls plainly marked with “SARCS” in red letters. Their ambulances and other vehicles are similarly identified to distinguish them from the rescue vehicles operated by the Ministry of Health.

The reason this is important. Some rebels groups do not hesitate to target any ambulances with RPG’s and other weapons. The Al-Nusra Front and a few other groups insist SARCS ambulances should not be targeted. For example, the day the Yarmouk Palestinian Refugees camp was bombed three weeks ago, leaving many dead and wounded, SARCS ambulances managed to safely enter the camp despite the presence of Al-Nusra. They pulled out 30 victims in half a day.

Volunteers advised this observer that the reason their vehicles are
less likely to be targeted is that SARCS strictly complies with the
Hippocratic oath and keeps politics out of their work as best they can. As this observer witnessed several times first hand, when an emergency call comes in on the 133 line, the dispatcher asks only the location and injury assessment if available, employing the Red, Yellow, Green system. While giving medical care, SARCS volunteers are prohibited from inquiring about political views or details about the circumstances surrounding the injury.

No questions are asked whether the victim is pro or anti-government, sect, nationality, or political affiliation. If the victim has a weapon, the ambulance driver instructs friends of the victim at the scene to take the weapon as none are allowed on the stretcher or in SARCS vehicles.

This is one of the reasons that SARCS emergency response teams have won the general trust of Syrians and NGO’s, who by Syrian law are obliged to work with and consult with other departments of SARCS, such as Disaster Management, to get the international aid as fast as possible to where it is most needed.

There are places and times that the emergency vehicles cannot go. More than four dozen SARCS volunteers have been reported killed or injured while performing their humanitarian work. Yet every bombing and disaster in Syria these days brings more applications to join the SARC volunteer teams. Such is the character of the Syrian people.

Current shortages for emergency services in Syria include medicines, medical equipment, fuel, food, blankets and cooking utensils. Some of
these shortages are the direct and foreseeable result of the US-led
sanctions targeting the civilian population of Syria, with the hope that riots from the cold, malnourished, suffering civilian population will cause the elected Government of Syria to falter. Then the Western goal of regime change might succeed. Yet the history of sanctions targeting civilian populations makes clear that such inhumane punishment fails to achieve the intended political objective. Instead it raises the wrath of the civilian population, and benefits the government in power.

As current events are demonstrating, the designers of the US-led sanctions, who are housed on the second floor of the US Treasury building in Washington DC, including the Office of Financial Assets Control (OFAC), have once more failed to understand the nature and the quality of not only the Syrian people specifically, but civilians in general.

One wonders if, given the process the past few weeks of sanctions having the opposite of intended results, that foreign governments might now be realizing they might have committed serious “assessment errors” in Syria and might now be willing to come to the
negotiating table.

The first thing needed to end the killing and start rebuilding homes, hospitals, infrastructures and, equally essential, democratic freedoms for everyone in Syria, is the presence of those currently absent from the table– namely the Syrians. They are waiting.

Waiting also, is the Syrian Arab Republic Red Crescent Society (SARCS) emergency responders, who 24/7 are doing their life-saving humanitarian work for their country and for anyone who calls their emergency responders on 133.

A note from Blog Editor Susan Lindauer– Rarely has any group or individual deserved a Nobel Peace Prize like the Syrian Arab Republic Red Crescent Society. Certainly they deserve it more than President Barack Obama or Kofi Annan or other groups affiliated with the United Nations, like the U.N. Weapons Inspectors who harassed Baghdad viciously before the War, as puppets of the West, only to discover nothing for their Masters.

Here’s a group that deserves the Peace Prize! Bless them all!

Syria: False Flag designed to discredit Russia.

By Christof Lehmann (nsnbc).

According to an unnamed Russian military diplomat some of the allies behind the “Syrian Opposition” are in the planning stages of a false flag operation which has been designed for the purpose of discrediting the reputation of Russia as an honest broker in the Syrian crisis.

On Friday, 11 January 2012 the Russian military diplomat stated that the involved parties are in the process of recruiting Russian, Ukrainian and Belorussian mercenaries who are supposed to take part in the operation.

The mercenaries would then be deployed to locations in Turkey and Jordan where large-scale scenes, supposed to represent destroyed Syrian villages have long been built for training purposes.

The false Russian mercenaries would then engage in mock fire fights with supposed fighters of the Free Syrian Army and be captured. The captured “actors” are then supposed to be interviewed on camera while admitting that they had been deployed from Russia to “support the Syrian Regime”.

The supposed “confessions of the Russian mercenaries” would then be supposed to be aired on international mainstream media such as CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera and others with the intention to discredit Russia and its diplomatic role with regard to solving the crisis in Syria.

The planned false flag should create the backdrop for a diplomatic row and justify regime change and eventually a military intervention by NATO forces. The false flag is most likely also designed to discredit eventual initiatives toward the deployment of UN Blue Chapcas under supervision of the CSTO.

Christof Lehmann – 12.01.2013 – nsnbc

By Thierry Meyssan

The nature of the Syrian crisis has changed. The process of destabilization that was to open the path for legal military intervention by the Atlantic Alliance has failed. Removing its mask, the United States has publicly announced the possibility of attacking Syria without the approval of the Security Council, as it also did in Kosovo. Washington must be pretending not to have noticed that the Russia of Vladimir Putin is not that of Boris Yeltsin. After being assured of Chinese support, Moscow literally fired two warning shots in the direction of Washington. The continuing violations of international law by NATO and the GCC threaten to unleash a global conflict.

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During the celebration of the victory over Nazism on 9 June 2012, President Putin emphasized the need for Russia to be ready for new sacrifice.

President Vladimir Putin began his third mandate under the sign of sovereignty in the face of direct threats launched against the Russian Federation by the United States and NATO. Moscow has repeatedly denounced the expansion of NATO, the installation of military bases, the deployment of a missile shield on its borders, and the destruction of Libya and the destabilization of Syria.

In the days following his inauguration, Mr. Putin reviewed the Russian military industrial sector, his armed forces and his treaty alliance system. [1] He pursued this course of action while choosing to draw in Syria a line in the sand that must not be crossed. For Putin, NATO’s invasion of Libya was equivalent to the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Third Reich and that of Syria, should it occur, would be comparable to the invasion of Poland that started WWII.

Any interpretation that what is currently happening in the Levant is the result of an internal dynamic of revolution/repression within Syria is not only false but a distortion of the real stakes involved, and simply amounts to more political maneuvering. The Syrian crisis is first and foremost a further stage in the project of “remodeling of the greater Middle East”; a further attempt to destroy the “Axis of Resistance” and the first “war for gas” being played out [2].

What is actually at stake in Syria is not whether Bashar al-Assad will be able to democratize the institutions he has inherited or whether the Wahhabist monarchies of the Gulf will succeed in destroying the last secular regime in the region and impose their sectarianism, but to determine the lines of separation between the emerging power blocs of NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) [3].

Some of our readers will be startled to read the preceding phrase. Indeed, the Western and Gulf media have been hammering the point day after day that President El-Assad is a sectarian dictator working to the advantage of the Alawite minority, while the armed opposition to his authority is portrayed as the incarnation of democratic pluralism. Just a glance at recent events is enough to belie this version.

Bashar al-Assad has successively convened municipal elections, a referendum, as well as legislative elections. All observers unanimously agreed that the elections unfolded in a transparent manner. The degree of popular participation was more than 60% even while the West was denouncing the electoral process as “a farce” and while the Western-backed armed opposition was preventing citizens from getting to the polls in the four districts under its control. At the same time, the armed opposition stepped up its attacks not only against security forces but also against civilians and all the symbols of national culture and of Syria’s multi-confessional character.

They assassinated progressive Sunnis, then randomly killed Alawites and Christians in order to force their families to flee. They burned more than fifteen hundred schools and churches. They proclaimed an ephemeral Independent Islamic Emirate in Baba Amr where they instituted a Revolutionary Tribunal which condemned more than 150 felons, who were then beheaded in public one by one by an executioner.

It is certainly not the woeful spectacle of some vagrant politicians, meeting up at the exiled Syrian National Council and erecting a facade of democracy having no relation to the reality of the crimes being committed by the Free “Syrian” Army, that will prevent the truth from coming out much longer. In the circumstances, who can believe that the secular Syrian regime, whose exemplary character was celebrated not so long ago, would have turned into a confessional dictatorship, while the Free “Syrian” Army, supported by the Wahhabist dictatorships of the Gulf and obeying the injunctions of Takfirist preachers would conversely be advanced as a paragon of democratic pluralism?

The announcement by U.S. leaders of a possible international intervention outside a U.N. mandate in the same fashion as NATO dismembered Yugoslavia elicted both apprehension and anger in Moscow. The Russian Federation, which until now held itself in a defensive position, has moved to take the initiative. This strategic shift flows from the urgency of the situation from Russia’s point of view and favorable shifts on the ground in Syria [4].

Moscow proposes to create a Contact Group on Syria that would bring together the ensemble of concerned states, meaning Syria’s neighbors as well as both regional and international powers. Its purpose is to put in place a forum for dialogue to substitute for the current bellicose approach imposed by the West under the Orwellian rubric, the “Friends of Syria Conference.”

Russia continues to support the Annan Plan—which is in fact the scarcely modified plan submitted earlier by Sergei Lavrov to the Arab League. Russia deplores that the plan was not implemented, assigning responsibility for that failure to the opposition faction which took up arms. According to A.K. Lukashevich, spokesperson at the Foreign Ministry, the Free “Syrian” Army is an illegal organization according to international law. It is assassinating twenty to thirty Syrian soldiers each day yet is publicly supported by NATO states and the GCC in violation of the Annan Plan [5].

Positioning himself as a peacemaker confronting NATO warmongering, Vladimir Putin has demanded that the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) ready itself to deploy its “blue chapkas” in Syria, to both separate the belligerents and combat foreign forces. Nicolai Bordyuzha, secretary-general of the CSTO, has confirmed that he is ready to deploy 20,000 men trained for this type of mission and immediately available [6].

This would be the first time that the CSTO deploys a peace force outside of former Soviet territory. Cut to the quick, Ban Ki-Moon attempted to sabotage the initiative, countering with his own sudden effort to organize a Contact Group. Convening in Washington the Sanctions Working Group of the Friends Of Syria Conference, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defied the Russian proposal and raised the ante in favor of regime change [7].

In Turkey, opposition legislators have visited the Syrian refugee camps. They have confirmed the absence of more than one thousand refugees registered by the United Nations in the main camp and noted, by contrast, the presence of an arsenal in the camp. They have also demanded in Parliament that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan reveal the rising amount of humanitarian aid being given to phantom refugees. The deputies maintain that the refugee camp is a cover for a secret military operation, sheltering in reality combatants, principally Libyans who are using it as a rear base. The deputies are asserting that the combatants are those who were introduced in the district of Houla when the massacre was being perpetrated.

These revelations confirm the accusations of the Russian ambassador to the Security Council, Vitaly Churkin, according to which the Special Representative of Ban Ki-Moon in Libya, Ian Martin, had used U.N. funds destined for refugees to bring al Qaeda combatants into Turkey [8].

In Saudi Arabia, the fracture between King Abdullah and the Sudairi clan has reappeared. At the invitation of the monarch, the Supreme Council of the Oulema issued a fatwa stipulating that Syria is not a land of jihad. At the same time, however, Prince Faisal, the Minister of Foreign Affairs has been calling to arm the opposition against the “Alawite usurper.”

Thursday, June 7 was a day of many significant events. While Ban Ki-Moon and Navi Pillay, respectively Secretary General and High Commissioner of Human Rights, were pleading their case against Syria before the U.N. General Assembly, Moscow proceeded with two test-launches of its intercontinental ballistic missiles.

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The Bulava missile draws its name from an ancient Slavic mace used as a baton by the Marshall of the Cossack Armies.

Colonel Vadim Koval, spokesman of the Strategic Missile Troops of the Russian Federation (RSVN) confirmed the test of a Topol—launched from a silo near the Caspian Sea, but has not confirmed that of the Bulava from a submarine in the Mediterranean. But the firing was observed from all over the Near East, Israel and Armenia and there is no other known armament that leaves similar tracings in the sky [9].

The message is clear : Moscow is ready for world war if NATO and the GCC do not comply with the international obligations as defined in the Annan Plan and persist in aiding terrorism.

According to our sources, this this shot across the bow was coordinated with the Syrian authorities. Moscow equally had encouraged Damascus to liquidate the Islamic Emirate of Baba Amr once the authority of President al-Assad was confirmed by constitutional referendum, as it also encouraged the president to wipe out mercenary groups present in the country as soon as the new Parliament and new Prime Minister were installed. The order was given to move from a defensive strategy to offensive action to protect the population from terrorism. The national army moved to attack the strongholds of the Free “Syrian” Army. The combat in the coming days is going to be difficult, all the more so in that the mercenaries possess mortars, anti-tank missiles and, as from now, surface to air missiles.

To lessen the rapidly-increasing tension, France immediately accepted the Russian proposal to participate in an ad hoc Contact Group. Washington hurried Frederic C. Hof to Moscow. Contradicting the statements made the day before by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Mr. Hof also accepted the Russian invitation.

The time is past to lament the expansion of combat into Lebanon, or to conjecture about the possible regionalization of conflict. Over the past sixteen months of the destabilization of Syria, NATO and the GCC have created a situation without exit that might well degenerate into global war.
Thierry Meyssan

“In Libya now the truth is coming out”
author: by Lizzie Phelan
Irish free-lance journalist Lizzie Phelan shares her recent interview by New York Times reporter Robert Mackey, discussing the skewed Western media coverage of Syria and Libya.  Phelan says  “grasping a complex reality does not depend on the amount of information accumulated in favor of any one side, but on the diversity of informed poins of view reflecting a given situation.”  Otherwise, as Phelan says, the first casualty of war will always be truth.

Robert Mackey : Since your impressions of what is happening in Syria seem to be strikingly different from those of many foreign reporters who have worked there recently, I wanted to ask you about how you found your sources and what you think accounts for the different picture painted of the conflict by other journalists. 
 
Lizzie Phelan : First of all I hope that you will give me the opportunity to answer all of your questions in full, so that the context which is always lacking can be provided. I also hope that you will ask all the questions that you proposed when I agreed to do this interview. If not I will myself publish the full questions and my full answers. 
 
This question is flawed, because what you really mean is that my impressions of what is happening in Syria seem to be strikingly different from those reporters from the NATO and GCC countries which have a vested interest in destabilising Syria. Of course my impressions are actually shared by the majority people of this world, from those countries outside of NATO and the GCC and particularly those which are victims of these powers. But because they do not own a powerful media their voices are drowned out by the impressions of the minority reflected in the mainstream media of the NATO and GCC countries. 
 
So in relation to my sources, I find my sources through a number of different means, but my main means is I talk to ordinary people every where I go and in Syria this is not difficult because people are really keen to speak about the crisis in their country, especially to foreigners who they feel strongly have a false impression about their country and current events. This was overwhelmingly, but of course not exclusively, the point of view that I encountered. And this is reflected in my reporting. 
 
In fact, like in Libya, I was so overwhelmed by the volume of people that wanted to talk about their anger at the fabrications in the media of the NATO and GCC countries that my colleague Mostafa Afzalzadeh and I decided to make a documentary so that we could reflect what ordinary Syrian people are really saying. This documentary will actually expose how if it was not for such media the crisis in Syria would have been over before it started and the people of Syria would be living in peace now. 
 
The difference with journalists from mainstream media in NATO and GCC countries is that they come with an agenda, and that agenda is to cover what they call is a “revolution” happening inside Syria and to give substance to the false claims that the Syrian government is a threat to the Syrian people. So if for example they walk down the street and they have 10 people telling them there is no revolution happening in Syria and actually the people want the army to protect them from the terrorists that are flooding the country, and then they have one person who tells them that there is no democracy in Syria, they will discard the 10 as government spies and run with the one person who said something different, I witnessed this myself.
 
If they were to do the reverse and reflect the majority view on the street, then this would undermine the coverage of their media organisations over the previous 10 months that have painted a picture of a government hated by its people, and in turn it would undermine their own credibility as journalists working for those organisations. 
 
But in time they will not be able to supress the truth. However, like in Libya the danger is that the truth only comes out when it is too late, when a country has been successfully destroyed by the NATO and GCC countries, with the vital help of their media. Then the western media can afford to be more honest, although never entirely, because the aims, for example of regime change, of their paymasters have been achieved. 
 

By James Corbett
Global Research, April 14, 2012

“War is a racket. It always has been.” These words are as true now as they were when Major General Smedley Butler first delivered them in a series of speeches in the 1930s. And he should have known. As one of the most decorated and celebrated marines in the history of the Corps, Butler drew on his own experiences around the globe to rail against the business interests that use the U.S. military as muscle men to protect their racket from perceived threats. From National City Bank interests in Haiti to United Fruit plantations in Honduras, from Standard Oil access to China to Brown Brothers operations in Nicaragua, Butler pointed out how intervention after intervention served the business interests of the well-connected even as American taxpayer money went to foot the bill for these adventures. The names and places may have changed, but the old adage holds: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

           
The National Transitional Council that is nominally in charge of what is left of Libya announced this week that they’re beginning a probe of foreign oil contracts brokered during Gaddafi’s reign by his son, Saif al-Islam. Libya is sitting on the largest oil reserves in Africa, and it is no coincidence that within weeks of the start of the NATO campaign last year the rebels had already secured the country’s oil ports and refineries on the Gulf of Sidra and established their own national oil company for negotiating contracts with the invading forces. Although the oil contract probes are supposedly meant to show the transparency of the new “government” and their willingness to root out the graft and kickbacks inherent in the old regime, it’s quietly acknowledged that the process will be used to reward the nations that most visibly supported last year’s invasions and punish those who were more reticent.

           
Surprising, then, that the first companies on the block are Italy’s Eni and France’s Total. Both countries fostered close ties with the NTC last year and France was the first country to officially recognize them as the government of Libya. But now Libya’s general prosecutor is reviewing documents related to these companies for possible financial irregularities. The SEC is getting in on the act, too, requesting documents relating to both companies’ Libyan operations to check for suspected violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The potential blow to the European giants’ share in the Libyan market is especially painful in light of the upcoming Iranian oil embargo that threatens to squeeze the crude imports of Greece, Italy and Spain. Now, as Libya ramps up oil production to pre-war levels the obvious potential winners in the probe are the American and British majors, who could end up eating up some of Eni and Total’s share in Libya’s oil production should the investigation lead to charges.

           
China may also have reason to be wary of their standing with the new government. Chinese-Libyan ties were increasingly close in the years leading up to Gaddafi’s ouster, with trade volume having reached $6.6 billion in 2010. In 2007, as the US was beginning to put AFRICOM together and the competitive scramble for African resources was heating up, Gaddafi delivered an address to the students of Oxford University where he praised China’s hands-off approach to investment in Africa. At the time, Gaddafi suggested that Beijing was winning the hearts and minds of Africans with its reluctance to interfere in local politics, while Washington was alienating the population with their heavy-handed interventions. In the wake of the NATO bombing the would-be government of Libya is singing a different tune and relations with China have cooled down. Last August a senior NTC official suggested that China would be punished when it came time to award reconstruction contracts in Libya because of their initial reluctance to support the rebels. Although the statement was downplayed, it was revealed earlier this month that Chinese companies are still waiting to begin negotiations on losses to frozen and outstanding contracts worth $18.8 billion. Relations are still cordial, though, and the Libyan government is assuring China that the contracting companies  will be in a better position to resume negotiations after national elections in June.

           
These latest moves from Tripoli may be as much about projecting the idea that the NTC is actually functioning as a government than anything else, though. Armed militias are still waging violent turf wars throughout the country, with 26 people dying in fighting between rivals in the western town of Zwara earlier this month and 150 dying in skirmishes last month in the southern city of Sabha. One militia stormed a hotel in Tripoli and opened fire, then beat and kidnapped the manager after he told a militia member to pay an outstanding room bill. Last week hundreds marched in Benghazi to call for an end to the violence between the armed gangs. The country is deeply divided along tribal lines and armed militias still occupy government buildings and openly flaunt the pronouncements of the erstwhile government. The idea that the NTC is actually functioning as a government is a pipe dream at this point, but as long as they keep the oil pumping and the victors of last year’s humanitarian love bombing get their spoils, there’s hardly a peep out of Washington, Paris, or London. Smedley Butler wouldn’t be surprised.

           
Meanwhile in Syria, the racketeers’ plans for a Libyan repeat are proceeding apace. Last week we reported on the so-called “Friends of Syria” and their agreement to begin openly funding the rebels to the tune of millions of dollars. This week we have been watching the inevitable, pre-scripted “break down” in Annan’s UN-brokered ceasefire. Exactly on cue, unverified reports from unnamed activists have begun rolling in to the usual media mouthpieces via foreign-based NGOs proclaiming so many people have died in continued fighting. The unacknowledged elephant in the room, however, is that, exactly as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has been attempting to point out all month, it’s impossible to expect a cessation in fighting when you are openly arming, training and funding an insurgent proxy army that is hell-bent on toppling the government. However, Lavrov is banging his head against a brick wall. The ceasefire was never meant to be a ceasefire and it’s all political theater at this point anyway. Any and every unverified rumor of fighting or violence in the country will now be taken as a sign that Assad has broken the agreement and the pressure to get Beijing and Moscow to acquiesce to the toppling of the Syrian government will intensify.

           
In the end, this will not be a carbon copy of Libya. There will be no NATO-led bombardment or large-scale military intervention, because Russia couldn’t allow that to happen. Besides, Syria has Russian supplied surface-to-air missiles and no compunction about using them. Instead, political pressure will increase for Assad to step down and the funds and arms to the rent-a-rebel force will continue increasing until the government is toppled. The dangerous factor in this equation is that neither the west nor China/Russia have blinked yet and there is a significant amount of face to lose for one side or the other in this proxy struggle. The one with the most to lose is clearly Iran, which all things being equal would be a dominant power player in regional politics. All things, however, are not equal. With their oil increasingly embargoed, the sanctions getting progressively tighter, and one of their key allies in the region threatening to topple in favor of a hostile Sunni insurgency, Iran has to know that when and if the Syrian domino falls, it falls on them.

           
At the same time, attention is turning once again to another of the war racketeers’ key interests: Pakistan. There has been newfound congressional interest in the so-called “Free Baluchistan” movement seeking independence for Pakistan’s Baluchi nationals. Citing human rights violations, Rep. Rohrbacher (R-California) has introduced a resolution calling on Pakistan to recognize Balochi self-determination. He has even written an op-ed in the Washington Post where he begins his argument with recourse to human rights and switches seamlessly in the fourth paragraph into noting with evident glee the region’s natural gas, gold, uranium, and copper reserves. 
           

Interestingly, Russia agreed last week to pony up $1.5 billion in financing and technical assistance for a proposed Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. The projected course of the pipeline? It would start in Iran’s southern Assalouyeh Energy Zone and enter Pakistan from the west, crossing straight through Baluchistan. Coincidence, surely. The IP pipeline has had a tumultuous history, complete with plans to run the pipeline all the way to India (an idea from which India has distanced itself but never completely abandoned) and the potential involvement of China, which has flirted with the idea of incorporating the pipeline into a planned logistical network running from the port of Gwadar in Pakistan’s southwest all the way to Xinjiang province. Now, with a proposal for Russian funding on the table the pipeline looks closer than ever to becoming a reality.

           
From the outset, the US has used every bit of leverage it has to get the parties involved to scrap the idea. Diplomatic pressure has been brought to bear on China, Pakistan, and India, with Beijing and New Delhi both appearing to buckle under the pressure and pull out of the project. The US has backed its own alternative pipeline, a Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India route, but that idea is looking less feasible by the day. Iran has nearly completed its share of the proposed IP pipeline, but Pakistan has been hesitant. Now along come the racketeers to fund yet another rebel movement in another geostrategically vital corridor, and before you know it “Free Baluchistan” might derail the project altogether. Look for US pressure on the Pakistani government regarding Baluchistan to increase as the pipeline comes closer to completion.

           
Butler was right. War is a racket, after all. These days the muscle men are rent-a-mobs and insurgents more so than the U.S. military, but the idea is the same: fund, arm and train the fighters to secure the resources and control the strategic areas. In Libya the NATO-backed rebels wrested the oil spigot from the unpredictable Gaddafi. In Syria the “Friends of Syria” are overthrowing a key Iranian ally and taking over an important square on the geopolitical chessboard. In Pakistan, American-backed rebels may succeed in driving a wedge through a key Iran-Pakistan pipeline. And the racket continues. One would do well to remember the grand finale of Butler’s speech: “To hell
with war!”

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