Archive for the On War and Peace in the Mid East! Category

Mr. Cameleon and the Arabs

Posted in On Donald Trump, On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East!, Trump and the Arabs with tags , on May 28, 2017 by playthell

Chillin with the King

Whatever Happened to Radical Islamic Terrorism?

Listening to the accolades heaped upon Donald Trump’s attempt at Middle-East diplomacy, I am reminded of the apocryphal tale of the talking dog.  It didn’t matter what the dog was saying; the fact that the dog was talking at all was cause for praises.  This story could serve as a metaphor or allegory for the low standard set for Trump’s performance as president.  So long as he does not utter some incoherent nonsense, make an outrageous claim, or tell a blatant lie, his public performances are declared a success and thoughtful Americas can comfortably exhale.

Yet even when the bar is set that low, a candid assessment of the President’s performance results reveals a mediocre performance at best and   a soulless, transparent charade at worse; with the President reading speeches prepared for him by others and trying to look deep.  What I saw on the podium was a clueless con-man trying to sell an impossible dream of peace and mutual friendship while choosing sides in the contentious disputes that have shaped the political realities of the contemporary Middle-East – a region rife with wars and rumors of war based on ancient disputes.

Trump’s speech was preceded by comments from King Salman, the Saudi Sovereign, which put forth their vision of the contemporary situation in the region, and appended a wish list for the US President to ponder.  The 50 heads of Muslim nations which supplied the raison d’etre for Trump’s visit, sat stiff as stuffed owls as the respectfully listened to the King while anxiously waiting to hear what Mighty Whitey – leader of the richest and most powerful military nation on earth – had to offer to their collective defense.  For the sad truth is that all of them have a Fatwa – a religious death warrant – issued by Caliph Ibrahim, the Supreme Ruler of the ISIS Caliphate.  Hence they were all dead men living on borrowed time, because their assassins will be seen as instruments of the will of Allah by the Jihadists who view them as apostates, for which the penalty is death!

Under Caliph Ibrahin….the Spawn of Saudi Whabbism

This is the Fate of Apostates!

King Salman, the absolute ruler of Saudi Arabia, presented a fawning speech that often sounded like panegyric to Trump and cast America in the role of Savior of the Saudi’s – indeed the entire Sunni Muslim world – from their enemies, whether Sunni Jihadists or the Persian Shiites of Iran.

Our meeting with His Excellency President of the United States of America, a country enjoying strong bonds of friendship and relationship with many of our countries, does reflect His Excellency’s keenness on enhancing cooperation and coordinating stances in various fields… our 55 Arab and Islamic countries attending the summit today with a population exceeding 1.5 billion, are an important partner in fighting the forces of extremism and terrorism and achieving world peace, security and stability. His Excellency holds many hopes and aspirations for cooperation with the Arab and Muslim worldAs we extend our thanks to and appreciation of His Excellency for his response to attend and participate in this summit, we reaffirm our happiness and gratitude for His Excellency’s choice of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and this summit as His Excellency’s first trip and external participation since assuming office.

As the Saudi King went on to address the issue of Islamic extremism and the scourge of terrorism, which was the central issue of the summit conference, his remarks took on a surreal quality that bore little resemblance to the facts. He declared: “We have to stand united to fight the forces of evil and extremism whatever their source, in compliance with the orders of our true Islamic religion. Islam was and will remain the religion of mercy, tolerance and coexistence..” 

To listen to the mutterings of the King, one would never suspect that Whabbism, the most extreme interpretation of Islam, was born in Saudi Arabia and spread throughout the Islamic world through the financing of Mosques and Islamic education by the Saudi government.  Hence it is no accident that Osama bin Laden, the founder of Al Qaeda, and the majority of the terrorists who launched the devastating 9/11 attack on the US were Saudi Citizens.  Yet, according to the Saudi Monarch: “The Iranian regime spearheads the global terrorism since Khomeini revolution until today. Since 300 years ago, we, in this country, did not witness terrorism or extremism until Khomeini revolution emerged in 1979.”

The fact is that the use of terrorism and mass murder as a means of spreading Islam goes back to the time of the Prophet.  The Jihad, or “holy war,” was the dominant means by which Islam was spread in the middle ages.  And the modern Jihad was hatched in Egypt during the mid-20th century through the theology of the Muslim Brotherhood and was relocated in Saudi Arabia after the Egyptian nationalist leader and military strongman Abdel Gamal Nasser hung the principal theologian of the movement Sayeed Guthb in 1966, and his brother Muhammad Guthb fled to Saudi Arabia, where he was provided the means to establish an Islamic Studies department in King Faisal University.  One of his most enthusiastic students was Osama Bin Ladan!

Hence the Saudi King’s diatribe is a lie, what he accuses Iran of is true Saudi Arabia.  There have been no terrorist attacks sponsored by Iran against the US, or any other Western country.  The Islamist terror attacks on France, Belgium, Amsterdam, and Britain, which has just experience a devastating attack by a terrorist affiliated with ISIS, were all carried out by Sunnis whose radical theology grows out of the fanatical fundamentalism propagated by the Saudis.  King Salman’s speech was self-serving propaganda, disinformation, blatant lies designed to stroke the misguided and none too bright American President, who is clueless on these questions and does not appear eager to learn because it confirms his hostile view of Iran. It is a view of Iran that has gained wide currency among Americans despite the fact that all the terrorist groups that have launched attacks in western nations are Sunnis.

Trumps long and rambling speech that followed the Kings Tirade – a strange mixture of hyperbole, fantasy, historical amnesia, denial of present realities and outright lies – Trump extended the theme of Iran as the focus of evil and source of terrorism in the Middle-East.

Starving terrorists of their territory, their funding, and the false allure of their craven ideology, will be the basis for defeating them.  But no discussion of stamping out this threat would be complete without mentioning the government that gives terrorists all three—safe harbor, financial backing, and the social standing needed for recruitment. It is a regime that is responsible for so much instability in the region. I am speaking of course of Iran.

From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds, arms, and trains terrorists, militias, and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region. For decades, Iran has fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror. It is a government that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing the destruction of Israel, death to America, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room”.

This Condemnation of Iran, which has just held a democratic election to choose its leader, was preceded by abundant praise for the Kleptocratic Islamic Fascist Saudi Regime which is chosen by a medieval process of monarchal sucession:

“I want to thank King Salman for his extraordinary words, and the magnificent Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for hosting today’s summit. I am honored to be received by such gracious hosts. I have always heard about the splendor of your country and the kindness of your citizens, but words do not do justice to the grandeur of this remarkable place and the incredible hospitality you have shown us from the moment we arrived.

You also hosted me in the treasured home of King Abdulaziz, the founder of the Kingdom who united your great people. Working alongside another beloved leader — American President Franklin Roosevelt — King Abdulaziz began the enduring partnership between our two countries. King Salman: your father would be so proud to see that you are continuing his legacy — and just as he opened the first chapter in our partnership, today we begin a new chapter that will bring lasting benefits to our citizens.”

Nowhere in Trump’s speech does he mention the fact that all protest against the Saudi government is banned by law, and carries severe penalties ranging from mutilations to death!  The Saudi’s claim that this prohibition of dissent, which is a complete denial of democratic expression, is based on Sharia Law.  Hence the Saudi government cite chapter 4, verse 83 of the Koran to legitimize their police state tactics.  The text reads “And when it comes to them a concern for security or fear they divulge it, but if they had referred [their concern] to the Apostle and to those in a position of authority among them, those who are able to draw the right conclusion would have known [what to do]; and had it not been for the grace and mercy of God upon you, you would have followed Satan, except for a few” 

This passage was cited in a declaration of March 10, 2011 – three months after the commencement of the “Arab Spring” uprisings that swept several Arab tyrants from power – issued by the Council of Senior Religious Scholars, giving religious sanction to the Saudi government to suppress all “deviant and partisan connections and anything that leads to disunity and fragmentation of the nation.”  Which in effect means all protest against government policy.  Since unlike Catholicism or the Anglican Church there is no Pope or Arch Bishop, the “Senior Scholars” are the final arbiters of what Koranic text says. Just as the US Constitution means whatever the majority of the nine sitting Justices at the time says it means.

This is why the Saudi’s rejoiced at Trump’s statement:

I stand before you as a representative of the American People, to deliver a message of friendship and hope. That is why I chose to make my first foreign visit a trip to the heart of the Muslim world, to the nation that serves as custodian of the two holiest sites in the Islamic Faith. In my inaugural address to the American People, I pledged to strengthen America’s oldest friendships, and to build new partnerships in pursuit of peace. I also promised that America will not seek to impose our way of life on others, but to outstretch our hands in the spirit of cooperation and trust….And so this historic and unprecedented gathering of leaders—unique in the history of nations—is a symbol to the world of our shared resolve and our mutual respect.”

In other words, you can do whatever you want to your citizens and not to worry about American interference. Before Trump could even return to American soil, the results of this new-found license from the “Insane Clown President,” as crack US journalist Matt Taibbi titled his recent book about Trump, the Sunni tyrant king Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah of Bahrain, unleashed a violent attack on some Shiite demonstrators who were peacefully protesting the arrest of Imam Sheikh Isa Qassim, the spiritual leader of the Shiite majority for performing religious duties.  Thus far there are reports that several protestors were injured in the attack and at least two have died!  The Iranian government has issue a statement blaming Trump for the murders.  That Trump envisions this as the path to peace in the Middle-East is another sign of his cluelessness; the Editor of Foreign Policy magazine calls Trump’s shameless embrace of these autocrats “un-American.”

Hence it is easy to see why these Arab tyrants prefer Trump to President Obama, who persistently criticized their record on human rights and insisted that the extension of democratic rights to their citizens was essential to peace and prosperity in the region.  Whereas Obama emphasized the Golden Rule, Trump stressed the rule of gold:

“Now, there is even more blessed news I am pleased to share with you. My meetings with King Salman, the Crown Prince, and the Deputy Crown Prince, have been filled with great warmth, good will, and tremendous cooperation. Yesterday, we signed historic agreements with the Kingdom that will invest almost $400 billion in our two countries and create many thousands of jobs in America and Saudi Arabia.”

Upon hearing of the US-Saudi deal, Iran’s Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, sneeringly tweeted “Iran—fresh from real elections—attacked by @POTUS in that bastion of democracy & moderation. Foreign Policy or simply milking KSA of $480B?”

Trump also stressed a willingness to supply Saudi Arabia, and by implication the other tyrants in the room, with state of the art American weaponry:

This landmark agreement includes the announcement of a $110 billion Saudi-funded defense purchase — and we will be sure to help our Saudi friends to get a good deal from our great American defense companies. This agreement will help the Saudi military to take a greater role in security operations. We have also started discussions with many of the countries present today on strengthening partnerships, and forming new ones, to advance security and stability across the Middle East and beyond.  Later today, we will make history again with the opening of a new Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology — located right here, in this central part of the Islamic World. This groundbreaking new center represents a clear declaration that Muslim-majority countries must take the lead in combating radicalization, and I want to express our gratitude to King Salman for this strong demonstration of leadership.”

There was much frippery about the will of God in Trump’s speech, which I am certain the conferees took with a grain of salt from this ungodly man. “Will we be indifferent in the presence of evil? Will we protect our citizens from its violent ideology? Will we let its venom spread through our societies? Will we let it destroy the most holy sites on earth?”  And judging from their blasé body language, Trump’s recounting of Islam’s glorious past in grand gluttonous phrases fared no better:

?The Middle East is rich with natural beauty, vibrant cultures, and massive amounts of historic treasures…Saudi Arabia is home to the holiest sites in one of the world’s great faiths. Each year millions of Muslims come from around the world to Saudi Arabia to take part in the Hajj. In addition to ancient wonders, this country is also home to modern ones—including soaring achievements in architecture.  Egypt was a thriving center of learning and achievement thousands of years before other parts of the world. The wonders of Giza, Luxor and Alexandria are proud monuments to that ancient heritage.  All over the world, people dream of walking through the ruins of Petra in Jordan. Iraq was the cradle of civilization and is a land of natural beauty. And the United Arab Emirates has reached incredible heights with glass and steel, and turned earth and water into spectacular works of art.”

In a room full of murderous Sunni tyrants with a death warrant on their heads, Trump could have quit after he promised American might would aid them in their fight against Shitte Iran; supply American arms; and join them in the fight against their fellow Sunni Jihadist. And most important is what Trump didn’t say.

No mention of the vicious oppression of women and gay people.  Not a hint that the Jihadist movement is fueled by a lack of democracy and the squandering of their countries wealth by avaricious rulers whose actions are unchecked by a free press. Independent secular courts, or popular dissent.  And not one reference to the phrase “Radical Islam,” for which Barack Obama was severely criticized by Trump and his Republican comrades!  It was the most dramatic about face I have yet witnessed in an American President on foreign soil.  Hence where many in the US press are waxing eloquent about the success of Trump’s parley with the Arabs, I am reminded of the old radio detective “Mr. Chameleon.”  If I had to characterize the gathering I’d sum it up as a meeting between the Joker and the thieves.

Dead Men Standing!
Trump Closing Ranks with the Sunni Tyrants

Anyone who wishes to take the time to read my essays on the Invasion of Iraq – see “The Prophetic Commentary on Iraq,” The Arab Spring, “Sleeping in the Same Bed Dreaming Different Dreams, or the 12 essays on the Occupy Wall Street Movement, especially “Will Wall Street Rebels End up Like Jack the Bear” – will recognize that they now read like PROPHECY!  I point this out not to merely boast about my prescient powers, but to offer a good reason why you should take the prediction I am offering now seriously.

I am certain that when future historian examines the results of the policies Trump announced on this trip, they will conclude that its main affect was to help solidify and grow the Jihadist movement.  I say this because – as Professoe Luther P. Gerlach pointed out in his seminal study of mass movements “People,Power, Change” – the most powerful stimulus to a mass transformative movement for change is a real and clearly identifiable enemy who opposes their goals.  Hence I predict that the open embrace of Trump – whom many on the “Arab Street” view as the great Satan – by the tyrannical Arab regimes, will prove to be a colossal blunder that could exceed that of the Bush invasion of Iraq!

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Witness Trump’s Speech at the Saudi Summit
https://youtu.be/BoYDP2cWH-A
Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
May 28, 2017
 

 

 

 

Arabian Knights

Posted in Barack's Second Inaugaration, On Donald Trump, On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East!, Trump and the Arabs with tags , on May 21, 2017 by playthell

Donnie Dancing with the Sheiks

 Building Mid-East Policy on Sinking Desert Sands

The Donald’s moves in the Saudi Sword dance were as awkward and out of step as his evolving Middle East policy. Which is a lot like building your castle on sinking sands.  If the paramount objective of US policy in the region is to promote peace, Trump could not have made a worse beginning.  Alas, the House of Saud, whose 3000 princes control everything and own most of the vast wealth created from oil revenues is one of the world’s most corrupt, anti-democratic regimes.  And unless you happen to believe that “Allah” bequeathed his “gift” of oil to the Royal Family the Saudi regime is also a kleptocracy.

It is a regime with a medieval conception of the relation of the people to the monarchy and the official religion, and it is enforced with the iron fist of the police state – all things that Englishmen in America overthrew in a war with their mother country Great Britain in the 18th century that created the United States!   And while Donald Trump genuflects before the Arabian King, his regime is widely despised by many of the King’s subjects, as well as militant young Muslims throughout the Middle East.  I believe that this Newfound relationship with the House of Saud will prove more costly to the US than it is worth.

For instance, Trump was practically giddy about signing a deal with the corrupt Saudi regime for 110 billion dollars and he says the Saudis have pledged to spend another 300 billion dollars in the US.  And while the US quietly sold even more weapons to the Saudi’s under the eight years of the Obama Administration – due to the long standing US-Saudi alliance – Trump’s slavish genflection before the King of a regime that is hated by both the secular progressive forces and the Islamic Jihadist among the Sunnis, while expressing hostile intent toward Iran, the giant Shiite nation who share a border with the Saudis, is a prescription for armed conflict throughout the mid-east region and we have yet to see what he will promise the Israelis.

Donnie Genuflecting Before the Tyranical Saudi King

Selling American Integrity for Petro dollars

After signing the arms deal Trump turned to the camera and announced that it would create “JOBS! JOBS! JOBS!   However that is problematic since the Saudi’s want many of these Americans weapons to be manufactured in Arabia. Yet it is a good bet that showering arms on the reactionary Saudi’s with no restrictions on their use could ignite a wider war than we have yet seen in the Middle-East.  And it will surely involve direct engagement of US forces in a war that could pit the US against Iran and all the anti-Saudi forces in the Sunni world, including anti-royalists’ insurgents within Saudi Arabia!   In this scenario, the 400 billion dollars that the Saudi’s have pledged to spend in the US will prove to be chump change when we subject it to a cost/benefit analysis.

We need only consider the fact that the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the war of choice in Iraq, is projected to cost a total of four trillion dollars by a Noble Prize winning economist at Columbia University.  To put this enormous sum in perspective, it is twice the amount of money that the American Society of Civil Engineers estimated it would have cost to completely rebuild the entire infrastructure of the US: roads, bridges, power grid, create a high-speed train system, etc.  And it is four times the paltry trillion dollars that Trump has request for infrastructure development. Trump has asked for.  Alas, the war that could result from the US arming the backward House of Saud with advanced US weaponry will make the conflict spawned by the invasion of Iraq look like a dress rehearsal for the real thing.

On the eve of America’s invasion of Iraq I wrote a 3,000 word critical essay titled “The Iraq Attack: Bushes March of Folly,” warning against the aggressive action and pointing out that it was based on a bogus analysis of the role Iraq supposedly played in the 9/11 attack on US soil.  That essay now reads like prophecy and can be read on this cite under the title: “The Prophetic Commentary on Iraq” at https://commentariesonthetimes.me/2009/08/07/the-prophetic-commentary-on-iraq/.

My careful analysis of the real reason for the Iraq invasion, How the Iraq War Was spawned in a Think Tank,” can also be read on this cite at https://commentariesonthetimes.me/2011/05/06/the-iraq-war-was-spawned-in-a-think-tank/.  Furthermore, my essays on the Arab Spring, which were written in real time as events unfolded, are also posted on this site under different titles, are full of accurate predictions.  Hence, I have a solid and easily verifiable record of analysis and prediction of developing conflicts Middle East.

I have cited my record of successful prediction in the turbulent Mid-East not to brag, but to point out why you should pay attention to what I am saying on the present issue.  And my paramount point here is to say that the direction American foreign policy is taking under the puppet President Donald Trump should be question not applauded, and anxiety not jubilation is the proper response to it.  After all, despite the attempt at an instant makeover, Trump is a clueless buffoon with no independent understanding of the critical issues in the Middle-East.  In truth, he is an embarrassing ignoramus and pugnacious anti-muslim bigot who just a few weeks ago was advocating killing he families of terrorists – which would have included several prominent Saudi families such as the Bin Ladins, who are very close to the Royal Families.

So what is the reason why Trump is being embraced by the House of Saud?  Well, Trump is interested in making big arms deals with the Saudi’s without any moral restraints on how or where they are deployed, and he is foolishness enough to wade into an 1800 year old conflict between the Sunnis and Shiites based on an obscure theological dispute. President Barack Obama, a brilliant and highly moral man with an in-depth understanding of the complex problems of the Middle-East, who had promised those of us who voted for him to withdraw American forces from the region, did impose moral constraints on US dealings with the Saudi’s and pursued a more balanced policy in the region to the extent that vital American interests would allow.

The difference between President Obama’s knowledge of the critical contemporary issues and their historical evolution, and Trump’s ignorance of them, explains why Trump’s first trip to the Middle East was to Saudi Arabia and President Obama went to Egypt. For a better understanding of this see: “Of All the Places in the Muslim World, Why Egypt” at https://commentariesonthetimes.me/2009/09/17/of-all-the-places-in-the-muslim-world/. Just as Bush’s failure to understand the issues around the historical reasons why Osama bin Ladin and Saddam Hussein could not possibly be allies, caused him to buy a rationale for the disastrous invasion of Iraq.  And Trump’s ignorance of the history and present conflicts in the Middle East threatens to lead us into an even wider war into the region.

A gaggle of TV talking heads are making much of how well Trump and the Saudi Royals are hitting it off.  But there is no mystery here, it can be summed up in the old addage: “Birds of a feather flock together.”  The House of Trump and the House of Saud have a lot in common.  Both revere unchecked power and a disdain for a free press, independnt courts, and protest from the people.

Both Trump and the Saudi Royals worship personal wealth, dwell in vulgar opulence without a care for the impoverished multitudes beyond self-serving lip service, and both view women as basically the property of men.  And both want to keep America on a petroleum based economy.  In view of these realities, it is wise to view “The Donald’s” diplomacy with a jaundiced eye: skepticism not jubliation should guide our conclusions.

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The Vulgar Opulence of The House of Saud

 

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How the King’s Subjects Live

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The House of Trump

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Trump’s Voters

She believes Donald Trump is her Savior

But other Poor Folks know better!

Detroit: The Decaying Post Industrial City

Urban Warriors: The Boggs Institute:

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Watch Donnie Do the Sword Dance with Saudi Shieks
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f35TUFmCtYY
 Watch Trump Sing the 110 Billion Arms Deal
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0Vu6djvsPk
Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
May 21, 2017

Was Sarin Gas Used in Syrian Attack?

Posted in Guest Commentators, On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , , on April 18, 2017 by playthell
  At the Scene of reported Sarin Gas Attack
 A Brief Clinical and Epidemiologic Comparison with the Japan Attacks

The June 27, 1994 sarin terrorist attacks in Matsumoto, Japan, and on March 20, 1995, in the Tokyo subway, provide the most through epidemiologic and pathologic case reports currently available for the evaluation of mass poisonings with this extremely toxic gas. The facts regarding the Japanese attacks are as follows.

  • In Matsumoto members of the Aum Shinrikyo group released sarin in a residential area. It was a) an attempt to murder magistrates deliberating a real estate dispute; and b) an assessment of the poison’s efficiency for mass murder. The logistics of the crime included a refurbished refrigerator truck containing a heater for vaporization of twelve liters of liquid sarin, and powerful fans to diffuse a thick cloud of gas near the residencies of the involved judges. The sarin was 70 percent pure.
  • Over six hundred residents and rescuers were poisoned, fifty-eight were hospitalized, and seven were killed. The calculated mortality-morbidity ratio was approximately 1.16 percent (7/600). (“Sarin Poisoning in Matsumoto, Japan, The Lancet 7/29/1995)
  • On March 20, 1995, during the peak of morning rush hour a second sarin attack disrupted several Tokyo subway lines. This attack was focused on the stations close to the Tokyo National Police Agency and other central government centers. Aum Shinrikyo members punctured plastic bags of liquid sarin in subway cars jammed with workers headed to government offices. The liquid sarin was 30 percent pure.
  • More than six thousand passengers and rescue workers were injured—eight hundred required hospital treatment or evaluation and twelve died. The mortality/morbidity ratio was 0.18 percent. (Yanagisawa, N. “Sarin Experiences in Japan,” Journal of Neurologic Science.
Sarin Victims in Tokyo Subway

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II – On April 4th, helicopters or airplanes of the Syrian Arab Army dropped airborne ordnance over the village of Khan Sheikhun, Idlib Provence, Syria. The village was under the supervision of several groups currently in armed opposition to the government of President Bashar Al-Assad. Mr. Assad’s government has secured the support of the Russian armed forces, the Lebanese Hezbullah, and Iranian forces under the command of the Iranian revolutionary guard.

  • Casualty reports were extremely variable. Injury numbers ranged from three hundred to more than five hundred, and reported deaths ranged from early accounts of fifty-eight to eighty-seven. Later sources reported fatalities in excess of one hundred, with children’s deaths ranging from ten to twenty-seven. Many of the major world journals, such as the New York Times have reported mortalities in the ranges above.
  • Thus the reported mortality-morbidity would range from approx 72/500 to 100/300. This gives a range of 14.4 percent and 33 percent. Expressed in percentages, this represents an increase between 1,241 percent and 16,666 percent. The purity was not reported. However, earlier studies of weaponized sarin, in this region, particularly in the Iran-Iraqi War, had a purity in the 30-60 percent range.

Discussion:

The reported Iblid mortality-morbidity ratios are incompatible with sarin use as the etiological agent in the attacks of April 4, 2017 Khan Sheikhoun, Iblid Provence, Syria.

This could be due to several reasons:

  1. Another unidentified chemical agent was used.

2- Differing mortality-morbidity due to the differing mechanisms of gas dissemination. However, the two Japanese poisonings had, markedly, more intensive, prolonged exposures, which should have produced higher mortality-morbidity rates.

3-The differing availability of treatment and evacuation? While the Japanese civil defense was better equipped overall, the organizations involved in Syrian rescue operations had basic response preparations for the gas attacks and were able to evacuate injured patients to better-equipped Turkish medical facilities.

4- The casualty count was exaggerated.

5- The 1994-95 Japanese studies were unreliable.

 

Conclusion:

Currently no credible evidence exists confirming sarin as the etiologic agent responsible. Hence the claim that sarin was the etiologic agent is highly unlikely.

Sources:

“At Least 58 Killed in Alleged Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria.” April 4, 2017.www.independent.co.uk, accessed April 4, 2017

Khaddar, Kareem, Schams Elwazer, et al. “Suspected Gas Attack in Syria Reportedly Kills Dozens.” CNN. April 7, 2017.

“Worst Chemical Attack in Years in Syria; U. S. Blames Assad.” April 4, 2017. New York Times.

Seto, Yasuo. “The Sarin Gas Attack in Japan and the Related Forensic Investigation.”www.opcw.org, accessed April 11, 2017.

“Scores Reported Killed in Gas Attack on Syrian Rebel Area.” April 4, 2017. Reuters.

Yanagisawa, N. “Sarin Experiences in Japan: Acute Toxicity and Long-term Effects.” Journal of Neurologic Science. November 1, 2006.

——. “Sarin Poisoning in Matsumoto, Japan” The Lancet, July 29, 1995.

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By: Dr. Joseph Harris, MD
April, 2017
Harlem, New York
Note: Dr. Harris has worked as a physician in Rawanda and other war zones. he was participant at Doctor’s Without Borders when the were awarded  the Nobel Peace Prize.

 

April Fools?

Posted in On Donald Trump, On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East!, Uncategorized with tags , on April 7, 2017 by playthell

Dumb and Dumber

Trump Strikes Syria!

“All Motion is Not Progress” observed Mao Tse Tung, a revolutionary philosopher and leader of the great Chinese Revolution.  Americans who are applauding the strike on Syria with 59 Cruise missiles, at a cost of nearly 30 million dollars for the missiles alone, should take a pause and consider the implications of this action by our government.  The paramount questions that begs an answer is: what is the strategic objective of US policy in Syria, and what role does this strike play in achieving that goal?

Based upon the public pronouncements of Donald Trump, who ordered the strike, and his surrogates the answers to these questions are elusive.  This is because we have a President for whom the complexities of international relations are at best a mystery, as is the art and science of governing in general.  Hence for years he has been an ardent opponent of the US taking any action against the Assad government.  The comments of this tweeting twit on Twitter are prolific on this question.

Yet when a chemical weapon was dropped on a group of Syrian civilians, some reports claim in was the deadly Sarin gas, Trump was quick to blame it on President Obama’s weakness in failing to act in 2013, when somebody launched a gas attack in Syria. The criticism of President Obama’s failure to take military action is based on the fact that he had drawn a “Red Line” in the sand that would prompt an American military response if Assad crossed it.

However, President Obama’s reluctance to act militarily in this case was based on several factors: Uncertainty as to who employed the gas; the fact that he had pledged to voters that he would end America’s protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and keep us out of new wars in the Middle-East, and failure of the US Congress to authorize a military attack on Syria which he requested.  Many people who voted for Obama did so based upon his promise of pursuing peace, I know I did.

Hence in my view, President Obama’s management of the Syrian situation displayed Solomonic wisdom. Furthermore, I would argue that this was characteristic of his approach to foreign policy in a turbulent time that witnessed the revolutionary outburst of mass movements collectively called the “Arab Spring,” the conflict in the Ukraine which could have thrown us into a military conflict with a nuclear armed Russia, and the rise of the militant Islamic Caliphate called ISIS, which arose from the ashes of the misbegotten US attack on Iraq.  How fortunate we would be if only Trump were only half as wise.

All objective observers of US foreign policy during the Obama administration agree that his actions were well thought out and based on a strategic vision of international relations; he sought to build effective alliances with concerned parties in troubled areas of the world, and acted deliberately not impulsively.   None of this is true of Donald Trump.  He has no strategic vision because he does not appear to have ever thought deeply about anything beyond his next real estate or branding deal.  His abdominal ignorance of the problems that he must now address is exemplified by his recent observation “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated,” and his sudden discovery that there are atrocities being committed against children in Syria.

Trump’s ignorance and indifference to the enormity and complexity of the Syrian conflict was exemplified in the policy statement by his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson: “The fate of President Assad will be determined by the Syrian people.”  To begin with, this was a repudiation of the Obama doctrine that the pre-condition for a permanent settlement which could bring peace to Syria was the removal of Assad from office. Tillerson’s announcement was no fluke; it was a restatement of a long-held belief of his boss, whose views on the matter are widely documented in the public record.

Hence Trump’s attempt to blame President Obama for the recent gas attack is the acme of hypocrisy! It is the pronouncement of a shameless charlatan and pathological liar. At the time, while others condemned Obama for his restraint in Syria, “The Donald” praised it!   His attempt to cast blame on Obama now is a transparent attempt to shift the blame from his ill-conceived policy of support for Assad expressed by Tillerson: Which is the real cause of the chemical attack. Since both Trump and Tillerson are novices at politics and foreign affairs, they failed to recognize that their statement was viewed by Assad as a green light to do whatever he wanted!

Viewed from this perspective, Trump’s attack on Syria must be seen as a smoke screen designed to deflect his responsibility for the horrendous gas attack on Syrian civilians; which the whole world viewed with stunned horror.  Hence, like the clueless scatter brain that he is, Trump acted on impulse and attacked Syria.  This is not part of any strategic plan because he has none.  This is verified by the fact that just a few days ago he had no problem with Assad’s leadership – as Tillerson’s policy statement nad Trump’s long record of support for the Syrian butcher will testify.

All observable evidence suggest that Trump gave no more thought to this assault on a sovereign country – with no attempt to get the support of the United Nations, the Arab League, the US Congress, or any of the regional powers – than his pre-dawn Twitter attacks.  It is an erratic, irrational, temper tantrum with no thought about its consequences.  And as the dawn of a new day approaches – Alas, I am writing this in the wee hours because the gravitas of the questions raised by this latest American military assault invades my dreams and destroys any attempt to sleep – we can only wonder what new dramas it will bring.

Just as when George W. Bush invaded Iraq with the spectacular bombing spree labeled “Shock and Awe,” millions of Americans are applauding this attack on Syria by American military forces.  I titled my essay on Bush’s attack “March Madness,” and I warned of its unintended consequences;which verily came to pass pretty much as I predicted.  I am titling this essay “April Fools?”  The title reflects my contention that this strike is not well thought out and the unintended consequences could prove disastrous.

Aside from the fact that we might have injured or killed some Russian military personnel, which would throw us into a crisis with a nuclear armed Russia that can reduce every city in the United States to a pile of radio-active rubble in a half hour from now, this attack on Syria is as illegal under international law as was the invasion of Iraq.  Yet after all is said and done, the most alarming thing about this attack is the real possibility that Trump launched it to improve his popularity in the opinion polls, where his approval rating is at a historic low.

As cynical as this sounds, when we consider the fact that Trump closed America’s doors to the children of war torn Syria seeking refuge in America, despite pictures every bit as horrible as those from the gassing, a thoughtful person cannot help but view his present concern for their welfare with a jaundiced eye, a cynical attempt to benefit from their tragedy.  As depraved as this seems, it is typical behavior for a “con man” with “no moral center;” which is how Donald J. Trump was routinely described by his fellow Republicans…..before he won the election, moved into the Oval Office, and promised to make all their right-wing dreams come true.

One of the most troubling questions raised by this attack is, if Trump can so quickly turn on a Head of State whom he has supported for years, what effect will this have on other nations at whom Trump has directed a steady stream of threats and invective such as North Korea, Iran and even China.

As I write the Chinese leader is visiting with Trump at his palatial estate in Florida, where he spends almost as much time as he spends in Washington, at great expense to American tax payers.  Although his home town, New York City, is much closer: he dare not come here.   In fact, Trump is so dispised in this city he may never be able to come home again!  It will be interesting to hear what Chinese President, Xi Jinpin, has to say about the attack on Syria.  Being a disciplined political actor skilled at the art of diplomacy I suspect his remarks will be restrained, respectful of the norms that mediate relations between nations.

Xi Jinping is here on a mission to improve relations with the US, China’s main trading partner.  As the leader of a nation with 20% of the world’s population, the Chinese are very careful to avoid military conflicts despite their formidable armed forces.  It is a policy that serves them well; it has allowed them to modernize at a rapid pace and grow the second largest economy in the world, which is predicted to surpass the US in GDP by 2050.

The paramount principle that guides Chinese foreign policy is non-interference in the affairs of other sovereign countries.  And they stick to this policy without significant deviation.  They have the largest army in the world but no foreign bases or troop deployments.  On the other hand, the US, with a fraction of China’s population have bases and soldiers all over the world and are fighting in multiple wars that seem unending.

The amount of blood and treasure we expend on foreign military adventures – along with the failure of the plutocrats to pay their fair share of taxes – is the principal reason why we cannot afford to rebuild our aging crumbling infrastructure, which is essential to our prosperity.  The Chinese see this all to clearly, and they are determined not to follow our example of meddling in everyone’s affairs as if the Gods gave America a mandate to rule the world.

This is why I am convinced that the Chinese will not play the role of disciplining North Korea for developing a nuclear weapons program that the US has assigned them. And given the US attack on Syria, the North Koreans are probably going on a war footing for real, imperiling the future of South Korea, which would be devastated if a war broke out on the Korean peninsula.

However listening to the pundits and the politicians on both sides of the aisle, as they raise their voices in something resembling victory cheers, I dispair for the prospects of peace.  The danger of perpetual war is real and is reflected in the comment of that old warmongering chameleon John McCain: “This is not the beginning of the end….but the end of the beginning.”  

History will judge Trump and his belicose confederates with unrelenting candor…and their deadly devious deeds will be duly noted.  But, alas, dealing with the unintended consequences of the Twittering Twit’s impulsive bombing of Syria, remains the burden of all Americans at this moment.

It’s On!

The US War on Syria has begun!
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Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard Dissents

Tellin it like it is!

There is an avalanche of opinions now being expressed on Trump’s attack on Syria, but none is more compelling than that of Congresswonam Tulsi Gabbard, a Democratic Representative from Hawaii.   Congresswoman Gabbard’s remarks are especially important because she is a former combat officer from the Afghan war,  Her experience in combat there has made he a passionate non-interventionists who is hostile to “Chicken Hawks” who promote wars for other’s to fight.  Like Donnie Trump . a notorious Vietnam era draft dodger, who avoided the war not for principled philosophical or religious reasons. but because he was a rich, entitled, cowardly party boy.  The great columnist and native New Yorker, who also hailed from Queens like Donnie, had this to say of his Homie: “Trump is a fake tough guy who couldn’t fight his way out of an empty lot!!!”
Athough celebrated corporate pudits such as Thomas Friedman, the three time Pulitzer Prize winning Foreign Affairs columnist at the New York Times, Joined by David Ignacious and Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, are gushing over the reckless bravado of Donald Trump,  I remain highly skeptical about the mission’s motive, utility and consequences.
Yet because he is such a pompous know-it-all the contrarian in my soul cannot resist pointing out that Tommy Friedman was grieveously mistaken about the Iraq War; he went so far off the beam in supporting Bush’s war of choice with spurious ahistorical arguments that he was forced to write a column apologizng to his readers for having led them astray  by “not asking the right questions.”  On the other hand my essay, written on the eve of the invasion, has withstood the test of time and been confirmed by history.   Titled “The Iraq Attack: Bush’s March of Folly,” it reads as if it were written by Nostradamus, and can be read on this site under the heading “The Prophetic Commentary on Iraq.”
What Friedman and other “major” corporate  mooks of both of both political pursuasions had to say on that subject is analyzed in my essay “How the Iraq War Was Hatched in a Think Tank.”   The fun part of this essay is when their views about the Iraq War is compared to mine!   Alas, what these same pundits had  to say on Trump’s bombing of Syria last night sounds like pompous American exceptionalist bullshit when compared to what  Tulsi Gabbad had this to say about the fake President’s military adventure:
 “It angers and saddens me that President Trump has taken the advice of war hawks and escalated our illegal regime change war to overthrow the Syrian government. This escalation is short-sighted and will lead to more dead civilians, more refugees, the strengthening of al-Qaeda and other terrorists, and a possible nuclear war between the United States and Russia.
This Administration has acted recklessly without care or consideration of the dire consequences of the United States’ attack on Syria without waiting for the collection of evidence from the scene of the chemical poisoning. If President Assad is indeed guilty of this horrible chemical attack on innocent civilians, I will be the first to call for his prosecution and execution by the International Criminal Court. However, because of our attack on Syria, this investigation may now not even be possible. And without such evidence, a successful prosecution will be much harder.”
A Decorated Combat Officer

For more on this remarkable woman search her name on this site.
Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
April 7, 2017

 

 

The World According to Hillary

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On Israel, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , , on April 3, 2016 by playthell
 Hillary Clinton at Stanford
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

 Hillary Clinton Reveals her Core Beliefs on Foreign Policy

Anyone who is listening to the contenders for the Democratic and Republican candidates for president will recognize that Hillary’s expertise cannot be matched by the Republican frontrunners.  Nevertheless, some of her policies make less sense that those of Donald Trump, a loose cannon whose misbegotten election to the US presidency most thoughtful observers of international relations around the world believe would be an unmitigated disaster.

The problem is that some of Hillary’s views on critical internationl issues are calcified relics of her history as a Cold War hawk.  She is committed to interventionist policies and says that NATO is America’s smartest investment.  For one who believes that the maintenance of NATO is a blunder of historical proportions that violates the spirit of the agreement with Russia ending the Cold War, and puts this nation in greater danger of a hot war with Russia than during the Communist era, a war which could go nuclear, the former Secretary of State sounds detached from political reality to me.

It is ironic that with her superior knowledge of foreign affairs Ms. Clinton should show less wisdom that Donald the Clown regarding the aims of US foreign policy.  For instance, Trump opposed the invasion of Iraq and correctly pointed out that the overthrow of Sadam Hussein would destabilize the region.  I had written the same thing on the eve of the invasion (See: “The Prophetic Commentary on Iraq,” on this site)   Today Trump went on the record stating his views on NATO, America’s most important and costly military alliance, and to my shock, surprise and profound disappointment  Trump’s ideas were decidedly more realistic and advanced than those of Clinton’s.

While Clinton champions NATO, Trump questions its continued existence, correctly pointing out that NATO is an anachronism that has outlived its original purpose.  In a recent “on the record” interview with the Editors of the Washington Post – where he first introduced his advisors on foreign policy and national security matters – Trump had this to say regarding America’s leadership of NATO:  “We certainly can’t afford to do this anymore, NATO is costing us a fortune, and yes, we’re protecting Europe with NATO, but we’re spending a lot of money.”  He also questioned the contributions of other members of the alliance “They are not doing anything,” he concludes.  On foreign policy Trump is like a broken clock that is wrong almost all the time but gets it right twice a day.

In order to point out the absurdity and danger of US commitment’s to NATO Trump had this to say regarding the conflict in the Ukraine, one of the most dangerous situations in the world: “

“Ukraine is a country that affects us far less than it affects other countries in NATO, and yet we’re doing all of the lifting. They’re not doing anything. And I say: ‘Why is it that Germany’s not dealing with NATO on Ukraine? Why is it that other countries that are in the vicinity of Ukraine, why aren’t they dealing? Why are we always the one that’s leading, potentially the third world war with Russia.’ “

A more accurate description would be to the second deployment of nuclear weapons in an international conflict, and this time it will be Dooms Day.  World wars are a phenomenon of the twentieth century, the next war between industrial nations will go nuclear and that will spell the end of the homo-sapiens species.  Although Trumps pronouncements lack elegance and are innocent of real erudition, despite their crudity some of them hit home.

His view of the Ukraine situation raises the fundamental questions that we should ask when evaluating America’s role there, a place where we could end up in an accidental war with a Russian military whose nuclear arsenal rivals our own.  And what is worse, because of our commitments to NATO we could become entangled in a military conflict with Russia should they have a military incident with Estonia!  Hence Trump is right to question both the relevance of this 20th century Cold War alliance designed to contain an enemy that has vanished from the face of the earth: The Soviet Union.

The fact that both Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz quickly attacked Trump’s position on NATO, and foreign interventionism in general, testifies to the truth of the axiom “Politics make strange bedfellows.”  The truth is that, despite differences in approach, both Clinton and Cruz deeply believe in the myth of “American Exceptionalism” and they also believe the United States is the rightful leader of the world and all nations must fall in line behind us and follow our wise counsel.  They were unambiguous on this point, and therein lies the problem.  Ironically, Bernie Saunders and Donald Trump are closer in their views of the US role in the world than they are with their party counterparts Clinton and Cruz….and Kaisch too.

Trump’s skepticism about US military involvement in foreign countries is greatly influenced by the amount of American treasure expended on the security of our allies.  For instance he says of South Korea, a country where the US still maintains military bases after 60 years – a blunder the Republican chicken hawks are eager to repeat in Iraq – and has never signed a treaty ending the war we fought on the Korean Peninsula all those decades ago.  “South Korea is very rich, great industrial country,” says Trump,  “and yet we’re not reimbursed fairly for what we do.  We’re constantly sending our ships, sending our planes, doing our war games — we’re reimbursed a fraction of what this is all costing.”

Yet despite these insights Trump often comes across as some sort of idiot savant when discussing national security issues; he is like the proverbial cow that gives a good bucket of milk then kicks it over.  For example his insane in the brain suggestion that South Korea and Japan should develop their own nuclear arsenals!    And his whacko plan to construct a wall on the Mexican border and coerce the Mexican government into paying for it; or his proposal to ban over a billion Muslims from the US, despite the fact that many are coming from countries America considers valued allies; or his call to attack the families of terrorists – a war crime reminicent of the Nazis!

Alas, to the horror of thoughtful people all over the globe, Trump took his animus toward Muslims to the point of utter madness in suggesting that he may nuke ISIS, and refused to take the option of firing nukes in Europe “off the table.”  Anybody who understands anything about nuclear weapons knows that they are weapons of mass genocide against civilian populations!  Hence, to even contemplate such a crime against humanity makes Trump unfit to be President – either because he is a dangerous ignoramus who does not understand the implications of what he is proposing, or he is the type of morally deformed cretin that would casually commit mass murder.  Next to this guy, and Teddy Cruz too, Hillary looks like a paragon of Solomonic wisdom…as dangerous and antiquated as some of her core beliefs are!

We need only examine her views on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians as expressed in her speech before AIPAC – American Israel Public Affairs Committee – the most important organization in the all-powerful Israel Lobby, which maintains an effective strangle hold over US Middle East Policy.  Her performance was a shameful genuflection before the policies of the Israeli government, no matter how outrageous those policies appear to thoughtful principled Americans interested in a just peace in that troubled region.

Hillary Goes Nuts at AIPAC!

Hillary Clinton speaks to AIPAC

The Beleagured Palestian People are Invisible to her
 While this is what the rest of the world is witnessing
Palestinian GirlA Palestinian town reduced to rubble with the advanced weapons supplied by the US

To hear Hillary tell it only the Israeli’s have justified grievances; she showed no objectivity at all and no empathy for the plight of the beleaguered Palestinian people.  It is hard to know how to evaluate her statements.

The Real World of Palestinian Children

Palestinia boy in the sights of Israeli Soldier

Forever in the Gunsights of armed Israeli Settlers and Soldiers!

If Hillary truly believes her version of the relations between Israel and the Palestinians she is a nincompoop who never should have been Secretary of State, because despite the voluminous intelligence reports available to her about the realities of the region she appears to have learned nothing alas.  On the other hand, if she does not believe this Barney and Bailey view of Israeli/Palestinian relations then she is a shameless charlatan.  Hence we are left to pick our poison: Charlatan or fool for president!

As I write Clinton is demonizing President Putin with a paranoid view of his designs on Europe  that is a relic of the Cold War era, while attacking Trump for his suggestion that the US greatly reduce its role in NATO.  Yet even a cursory interrogation into the nature of this alliance should raise a red flag for those who want to steer this country away from a policy of perpetual war – and the increasing possibility of a catastrophic war with Russia.   Alas, whatever the considerable virtues of Hillary Clinton, she is no dove in matters of war and peace.

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem New York
 March 25, 2016

To Hell with The Turks!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , , , on February 11, 2016 by playthell

Erdogan of Turkey

Recep Tyyip Erdogan: President of Turkey

Barack’s Restraint in Syria is the Right Policy

The recent outburst by Recep Erdogan, President of Turkey, accusing the US of supporting terrorists in Syria is a slap in the face of an ally whose military might alone prevented Putin from leveling part of his country, maybe even bombing major cities like Ankara or Istanbul, when he recklessly shot down a Russian fighter Jet that he claims drifted into Turkish air space while flying a combat mission over Syria.

If anybody had doubts about the extent of Erdogan’s recklessness that incident should have convinced them.  If Putin had not exercised restraint – a decision the Republican controlled Congress would have impeached president Obama over had he shown similar restraint if an American plane had been downed by Iranian fire – the US and Russian would have been at war.

By virtue of our treaty commitments as a member and dominant power in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, we would be required to come to the aid of Turkey with military force.  In such a state of hostility anything could have happened because Russia cannot successfully wage a conventional war against NATO forces, which could be deployed from the territories of countries surrounding Russia that were a part of the Soviet Union until the break-up of the USSR after the fall of the Russian Communist Party in the last decade of the 20th century.

As I have written elsewhere it was extreme folly to expand NATO – a military alliance formed to contain the expansion of the international communist movement in the post-World War II period – into Eastern Europe after the collaspe of communism.   As Professor Stephen Cohen, and other serious scholars of US-Russian relations have pointed out: It was a move that violated the spirit of the accommodation Russia made with the West ending the Cold War.

As I write the leaders of NATO are making plans to supply arms to these former Russian republics, which I view as a step towards doomsday because in any military conflict with NATO Russian will quickly introduce the nuclear deterrent by putting their weapons systems on alert.   And no knowledgeable observor doubts that the Russian nuclear arsenal is quite capable of obliterating every city in the NATO alliance within an hour!

Hence the US is doing a death dance with the devil in forming alliances with little countries whose existence has no real bearing on the national interests of the United States, countries like Turkey. These misguided and dangerous foreign policy decisions are driven by the bogus ideology of “American Exceptionalism,” which underlies the assumption that the US has a divine right, even an obligation, to shape the rest of the world in our superior image.

It is this ideology which keeps the US in a state of perpetual war by promoting the idea that American leadership of the world is essential; it is a refrain that we constantly hear from the Republicans in Congress and is a belief shared by most Americans, including many Democrats, who are willing to squander trillions of dollars on foreign military adventures while our roads are barely traversable in many parts of the country, our bridges are falling down, our electric grid is out of date, and the water supply of an entire city is poisoned by lead from antiquated pipes and Republican budget cuts. The belief in American Exceptionalism has led us into otherwise inexplicable military alliances with third rate countries like Turkey.

After only recently taking an action that could have thrown us into a military conflict with Russia, which could plunge the world into a nuclear holocaust, Prime Minister Erdogan – a pugnacious fool who is perhaps the most admired political figure in Turkey if judged by electoral success – has now accused the Obama administration of supporting Terrorism against Turkey.  After declaring that the US was responsible for “A sea of blood” in Syria, because of its support of Kurdish forces in the YPG, which the US says are the only fighters that have proved effective against ISIS, Erdogan went on the accuse the UN of double crossing them and said to Americans:

I told you many times: Are you with us or with this terrorist organization?  Is there a difference between the PKK and the PYD? Is there a difference with the YPG?  We have written proof! We tell the Americans: ‘It’s a terror group.’ But the Americans stand up and say: ‘No, we don’t see them as terror groups.’”

These comments provide irrefutable evidence that further US military involvement in Syria would be a fool’s errand, extreme folly.  The Syrian conflict is playing out in a theater built on quicksand, and in the fog of war it is hard to tell who’s who.  We have only to carefully consider President Erdogan’s statement to see that this assessment is true.

The paramount objective of the US in Syria is to overthrow the regime of Bashar al Assad and destroy the militant jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria: ISIS.  And they want to do this without putting American “boots on the ground.” This means the actual fighting must be carried out by surrogate forces.  However the problem with US policy is that it is contradictory and therefore they are working at cross purposes.

Fierce Kurdish Forces to the Rescue
Kurds PKK
PKK Fighters: Reliable Allies against ISIS

To overthrow the Assad regime and defeat ISIS is a paradoxical proposition because the other forces fighting Assad are often indistinguishable from ISIS and thus are only interested in overthrowing the Syrian government and replace it with an Islamic regime.  There may be some forces interested in replacing the dictatorial Assad regime with a liberal western style democracy, but the evidence shows that they are few and far between.

President Obama understands this; that’s why he has steadfastly refused to arm any of the factions, although there are signs that his resistance is crumbling in the face of persistent and slanderous Republican criticism.  The truth be told, the two most effective military opposition forces to ISIS are the Iranians and the Kurds.  Alas, the Iranians are unacceptable to the Republicans and the Kurds are unacceptable to Turkey.

Alas in the swirl of claims, counter-claims, and ancient animosities that fuel the conflicts in the region, one ally’s hero is the other’s villain. Hence while the US views the Kurdish forces as a godsend, the Turks view them as denizens of the devil.  This is because the Kurdish militants in the PKK have been fighting the Turks in a protracted struggle for independence and when they take territory they hold it with the intention of making it part of a new Kurdistan.   But this is of little concern for the US, whose fundamental objective is crushing the ISIS Caliphate ruled by Caliph Ibrahim.  In a New York Times article of August 12, 2015 titled “Why Turkey is fighting the Kurds who are Fighting ISIS,” we are told by Idris Nassan, a senior Kurdish official from Kobani:

“Kurdish fighters have been coordinating with the American military since last October. From cloaked rooms in northern Syria, members of the militia known as the Y.P.G. have relayed intelligence and coordinates for potential airstrike targets to an American operations center hundreds of miles away.The resulting strikes have in turn helped the Kurds seize a broad stretch of territory along the Turkish border from the Islamic State. The role of the coalition jets has been essential to these victories.”  

Since 1978, when the Kurdish Workers Party – PKK- was founded, the Turkish government has attempted to suppress them by force of arms – much like the American Civil War.  According to some estimates thousands of Kurds have been slaughtered by the Turks at a cost of around 450 billion dollars. Not willing to admit the legitimacy of their claims for a national homeland as a human right, the Turks have labeled them “Terrorists.”  But since the US was born as a result of a fight with their British colonial masters many Americans, including the Obama administration, view them differently.

Without this historical perspective it is impossible to make sense of Turkish President Erdogan’s hysterical charge. Alas it is an irresolvable contradiction, we view the Kurds as valued allies in the fight to defeat ISIS, and the Turks view them as dangerous “terrorists” who are trying to dismember the unitary Turkish State.  Erdogan wants Barack to join him in defeating the nationalist goals of the Kurds, but Barack wants no part of that…and rightly so.   The French are also disatisfied with Barack’s refusal to be drawn into extraneous fights that deter or retard the fight against ISIS, and wants him to commit more American forces to the fight.  I say the president should keep his eyes on the prize and to hell with Turkey…France too!

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
February 11, 2016

Playing Russian Roulette with the World!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , , on November 24, 2015 by playthell
Russian Fighter PlaneThe Russian Fighter Shot Down by Turkey
Drifting into Nuclear War over Syria

Caliph Ibrahim is laughing his ass off!   Here the powerful and meddlesome “crusaders” from the East and West – Russians and Americans – the infidels and swine eaters that have come to destroy his Caliphate, are about to destroy each other in a tragic/comic fiasco.   In fact, looking at the issues involved it is hard to foresee a solution that will not end badly.  The only question is how badly.

The Turkish Air Force has shot down a Russian fighter plane flying combat missions over Syria; the Turks say the Russians violated their airspace but the Russians deny it.  The radar records released by the Turks is confusing; which means that even if the Russian aircraft did violate Turkish air space it was  a close call and it lasted only a few moments before the Turks shot them down.

Listening to the television talking heads, even on CNN, one gets no clue as to how dangerous the present situation is. Hence most Americans have no idea of the catastrophe that confronts us as this dangerous drama unfolds.  As I write NATO is in an emergency meeting and President Putin is meeting with his advisors formulating a response.   This is the kind of situation that I have long feared and warned against; the kind of situation that could lead to a military confrontation between the US and Russia.

Looking at the situation objectively, one could argue that this was bound to happen.  The proximity of combat forces on conflicting and sometimes confusing missions made a US/Russian confrontation inevitable. The Russians are in Syria at the invitation of the Syrian government, with whom they are allied.  Hence Russian firepower is directed at all the armed opponents of the Syrian government.

This puts them at odds with the US and NATO, who is committed to overthrowing the Syrian government; which makes NATO de-facto allies of ISIS, Al Qaeda, al Nuesra, and other Islamic Zealots whom NATO has defined as their paramount enemy. Hence the idea of a moderate opposition is a dangerous fiction; any arms that the US gives to anti-Assad forces will end up in the hands of the Jihadists.

As I write the world awaits the Russian response to the Turks and  depending what they decide to do in retaliation, the security of the entire world could suddenly be at stake.  The fact that a third rate country like Turkey could plunge the world into a nuclear holocaust demonstrates in no uncertain terms the folly of the NATO alliance, where the USA is bound to join Turkey and even Estonia in any military conflict in which they are engaged.

This might have made some sense during the Soviet era when were in a Cold War with Russia and forever trying to encircle and outflank them.   But it makes no sense at all today.  Alas, the nature of the alliance means it is a relic from another era, one that endangers US national security far more than it enhances it.  As I write President Obama is making a speech at a news conference with the President of France, whom he is huddling with in an attempt to put together a strategy for destroying the ISIS Caliphate.

However his speech rings hollow against the brewing crisis over the downed Russian plane by a member of NATO.  Yet I have listened intently and there has been no mention of the growing crisis in relations between the US and Russia.   If ever there was a case of not being able to see the forest for the trees this is it!   The eradication of ISIS is a picayune matter when compared to the possibility of an armed conflict between the US and Russia.

If any country had willfully shot down an American plane there would be no question of retaliation with superior military force.  Alas, should Russia respond in the way Americans would we could end up in a war between the world’s foremost nuclear  powers and NOBODY can  say how it will end.  Alas, while the French leader blathers on about building a grand coalition against ISIS at the White House, it seems further and further away.

This point is underscored by the anemic response to a question from reporters to President Obama.  His response was woefully inadequate given the gravitas of the issue.  Instead of expressing regret for the downing of the Russian plane he chose to lecture Russians on their policy of supporting the Assad government.  I thought it was arrogant and unfeeling.  Given the fact that Russia cannot hope to prevail in a military conflict with NATO, it would not surprise me if we find ourselves on the brink of a nuclear confrontation in the following days.

The Russian jet crashed into the Mountains
Turkey-Syria-Russian-warplane-downed.jpg III 
And no one knows where it would lead

When a similar question about Turkey’s downing of the Russian fighter was put to the French Prime Minister, he followed the example of President Obama; pontificating about who the Russians must target in Syria, although they have no clue who is and is not a “terrorist” among the forces fighting President Assad. The self-righteous declarations of the US and French presidents cannot fail to be insulting to the national pride of the Russians. All the pugnacious buffoons who have been calling for establishing “no fly” zones in Syria, like the Republican presidential candidates, should take note.  These are very dangerous times indeed and pugnaceous motormouth airheads can only add to the danger!

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
October 24, 2015