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

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.



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 on 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, 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 the 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 fact 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.

This is because 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 paramount 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:

“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,” said Idris Nassan, a senior Kurdish official from Kobani.”

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 unsatisfied 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!


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!


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








Tulsi Gabbard is Right on Syria!

Posted in On War and Peace in the Mid East!, Playthell on politics with tags , , , on November 22, 2015 by playthell

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, waits for a photo with Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, in the Rayburn Room of the Capitol after the new 113th Congress convened on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, in Washington. The official oath of office for all members of the House was administered earlier in the House chamber. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Military Officer, Combat Veteran and Congresswoman

 Barack Obama should listen to her Wise Counsel

While Hillary Clinton rattles her sabers and talks tough in an attempt to show that she is hawkish enough to be Commander-In-Chief, and most members of Congress support the Presidents dual policy of overthrowing the Assad government in Syria and defeating ISIS, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard – a Democrat from Hawaii – is boldly calling this policy what it is: a contradictory plan at war with itself that is doomed to failure!  Her logic is so impeccably clear it is puzzling that President Obama, and the Congress for that matter, does not see it, especially since it is supported by our recent history in the Middle East.  As a wise wag once observed, “To do the same thing over and over yet expect different results is the definition of madness!”

The central theme in Gabbard’s critique of US policy in Syria is that the goals of overthrowing President Assad and defeating ISIS are in conflict; both objectives cannot be achieved simultaneously and that, as in all realpolitique, we have to choose the lesser evil.  And she argues correctly, as does President Vladimir Putin of Russia, that Assad is the lesser evil.

While the two senior GOP Senators who covet the Oval office – John McCain and Lindsay Graham – advocate arming the “Syrian opposition” against Assad, and point to their military experience as policy credentials, Gabbard, who has actual combat experience in the region, unlike these old farts from the Vietnam era – dismisses their arguments and offers the following analysis.

“The US and the CIA should stop this illegal and counter-productive war to overthrow the Syrian government of Assad and stay focused on who our enemy actually is: The Islamic Extremist Groups,” says Gabbard.  “Right now we can see why this is counter-productive…by working to overthrow the Syrian government of Assad we are strengthening our enemies, the Islamic extremists who will lock in and take over all of that country.”

Her reasoning is based on an astute recognition of reality that is supported by logic and the motion of history.  The points she makes that the overthrow of Assad would result in the expansion of Isis by placing control of Syria in their hands; CIA actions at the behest of the Obama Administration to overthrow Assad are illegal and US activities in Syria could result in an “accidental war” with Russia, who is a longtime ally of the Assad regime are irrefutable!

Although there can be no disputing the factual basis of her arguments – all of which I have made in several previous essays – it is a point of view that is seldom voiced by members of Congress.  While I am convinced this dangerous campaign of silence regarding these critical facts about the Syrian situation is partially the result of ignorance, which is bad enough, the imperatives of domestic politics is responsible for the silence of the chicken hawks who are willing to send our young people off to die on foreign soil in yet another misbegotten war while squandering trillions in American treasure and ponds of American blood.

However unlike these armchair warriors who talk tough out on the stump and on the floor of Congress, but will do anything to keep themselves or their progeny out of harm’s way, Gabbard is an officer in the Hawaiian National Guard who has done two tours of duty in Iraq.  Hence to her war is not a rhetorical abstraction she can exploit to win votes: It is a tragic fact.  She has lost friends and comrades in arms to wars in the Middle-East.  And she does not hesitate to cite their views on this matter.  And they all agree that American policy in Syria amounts to dangerous folly.

Major Tulsi Gabbard


Earning her Brass

Although she does not employ this specific language in her criticism of US policy in Syria, her descriptions nevertheless corresponds closely with historian Barbara Tuchman’s view of folly in her important book “The March of Folly,” in which folly is defined as the continued pursuit of a policy that all the observable evidence demonstrates will end in disaster for the pursuer.  By this definition US policy in Syria may well prove to be Barack’s Folly.

This is why the President would do well to listen carefully to the advice of his Hawaiian home girl; for although she is a surfer babe who looks like a Playboy center fold, she is one smart tough cookie.   Hillary should thank her lucky stars Gabbard didn’t decide to throw her hat in the presidential race; given her eloquence, intelligence and fearless independence she might have proven as formidable an opponent as Barack.

Major Gabbard on the Battlefield
tulsi_gabbard_in battle
A fearless leader of men

 An important part of the Congresswoman’s critique of US Syria policy is her observation that the overthrow of Assad will simply be a repeat of the catastrophic events in Iraq, Algeria, Egypt, et al.  In each case she correctly argues, a “secular dictatorship” was overthrown by the US and her allies only to result in an Islamic Jihadists take it over of the government.  It is astonishing that proponents of overthrowing the Assad government could have failed to grasp this tragic reality and wish to take us there again in only a decade.  If ever the philosopher George Santayana’s axiom rang true it is now: “Those who refuse to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat its mistakes.”


This is a Multi-Media Presentation

Double click to watch Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard present her argument
Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
November 2015


On the “Deconfliction” Policy in Syria

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , on October 3, 2015 by playthell
Kerry and Larov at deconfliction meeting
 Kerry and Foreign and Sergi Lavrov trying to avoid disaster

A Clear and Present Danger!

The gravity of the situation in Syria – where the US and Russia both have armed forces operating, with drones and planes flying around dropping bombs all over the place – was clearly reflected in the faces of John Kerry and Sergei Lovrov as they announced their policy of “deconfliction” in Syria at the United Nations.  Tasked with devising a policy designed to prevent an accidental clash between the US and Russian military forces deployed in Syria – the consequences of which are too frightening to contemplate, except for those religious fanatics who believe they are going to ascend to heaven when the earth goes up in the flames of nuclear holocaust – the American Secretary of State and the Russian Foreign Minister have given us “deconfliction,” a new word coinage of uncertain intent conjured up to explain a hastily drafted policy.

However what is all too clear is that the two top foreign policy officials of the world’s greatest military powers felt the situation in Syria is so serious that taking measures to prevent an accidental conflict between their countries cannot be postponed or confused by employing provocative language, or inciting tensions with jingoistic posturing.  Hence when they called for an immediate meeting of Russian and American military commanders in Syria, to work out the details of a strategy to implement the newly minted policy of “deconfliction,” I let out a sigh of relief.   I view this move as evidence that the Obama Administration has finally accepted reality in Syria.

However anyone who watched President Vladimir Putin of Russia on CBS’ Sixty Minutes last Sunday heard him present a coherent policy on Syria that recognizes the political and religious conflicts in the region – which are often the same thing – and explicate the dire consequences of following the ill-conceived, unrealistic, policy of the American government.  Putin correctly recognized that the very existence of ISIS is the result of the epic failures of past US decisions in the Middle East – like the invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Sadam Hussein.  And he astutely warns that present US policy based on the overthrow of the Assad regime will lead to an even worse disaster.

Vladimir Putin interviewed by Charlie Rose

Putin’s policy is to support the existing Syrian government against the insurgent forces because they are controlled by Islamic Jihadists, many of whom support ISIS, the dreaded enemy that both the US and Russia have vowed to wipe out. And while he exempts the “Free Syrian Army” from the “terrorist” list he does not know how many Jihadist are within their ranks ut would support negotiations between them and the Syrian government once the Jihadist have been defeated. The Russian President’s analysis on Sixty Minutes was cogent and fully takes the facts on the ground into consideration.  The most important fact is that everywhere strong secular leaders have been overthrown the Islamic forces come to power because there is no countervailing force to resist them.   Arming these anti-government insurgents is clearly folly because the arms inevitably end up in the hands of the Jihadists.  Hence this cure is demonstrably worse than the disease.

The most striking revelation provided by Putin’s interview is that the Russians have clearly defined objectives in Syria: shoring up the Assad government while assisting in the fight against the anti-government insurgents.  By comparison the US has no clear policy and thus our strategy is in disarray.  The US is committed to the overthrow of the Assad government but has no idea who will replace it.  Calls from the Republican right to arm some factions demonstrates that they have learned nothing from our recent history in the region.

Virtually all of the arms that were used against American forces in Afghanistan and Iraq were manufactured and delivered to the region by the US government.  That is the plain fact of the matter.  It goes without saying – but I must say it so that my remarks will not be seized upon by conspiracy theorist and add to the confusion – when the US armed these insurgent groups they considered them allies against Communist influence in the region.  Some clueless policy wonks came up with the silly idea that because Americans were Christians, “People of the Book” and “Children of Abraham” like them this gave us a leg up over the communists with the Islamic fundamentalist.

They took our weapons, killed the Marxists, then turned them against us, our clients like the Saudi Royal family, the Egyptian government and their religious rivals like the Shia..  The result is the Taliban, al Qaeda, Al Nusra, ISIS, and only Allah seems to know what’s next.  Hence to arm ANY faction in Syria would be criminal folly that will only add to the tragic waste of American blood and treasure in the region.  And unless the US and Russian governments can coordinate their military efforts in Syria the result could be make the conflict with ISIS look like a play pen fight.  And as of this writing the principle of “deconfliction” appears to be the best way out of this perilous imbroglio.

Joining forces with Russia and Iran is without a doubt the best approach to defeating ISIS. Alas, when we hear the howls rising from Congress, driven by the demands of the Israel Lobby, the major influence in shaping US policy in the region, there is little likelihood that such a sensible policy will be pursued.   If the Republican right considers cutting deals with President Obama to govern the US as a betrayal of their constituents, they will surely view any alliance the President makes with Russia and Iran an act of treason! And it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if they attempted to impeach him for it!  After all, some have called for his impeachment for exercising his executive authority to foil Republican attempts to prevent him from governing effectively.

In this sense President Putin is far better positioned to play an effective role in the war against ISIS than President Obama, who is reduced by a Congress controlled by the Grand Obstructionist Party to spouting pious platitudes about the oppressiveness of the Assad regime even as we remain close allies with the Saudi Royal family – a murderous desert monarchy that promotes medieval religious practices enforced by modern police state tactics, again employing weapons supplied by the US.

I know this analysis will sound distasteful to many Americans – especially the avowed “American Exceptionalists” in the Republican Party.  But these are grave matters that involve the survival of modern civilization and even life itself on this planet. Hence it is both a sin and a shame to sacrifice honest analysis for self-serving fables; to reject truth in favor of national pride.  It is axiomatic that the first casualty of war is truth.  However we are not at war yet…at least not a hot one that involves the use of armed forces. And all parties must do everything in their power to keep the peace….because any military conflict between tihe US and Russia will involve NATO and the Russians will be forced to go on  nuclear alert and that could lead to doomsday!

With American and Russian War Planes firing Missiles
World War III could accidently break out in Syria!

It is precisely because the present situation in Syrian, where American and Russian forces are operating in a theater of war, is so dangerous that a policy of de-confliction is imperative.  We need to emphasize the objectives we hold in common and compromise where we disagree.  This is no picayune task, but failure to resolve the antagonisms between the US, Russia and Iran in Syria represents a clear and present danger to all mankind.


Watch President Putin on Sixty Minutes 
Watch Secretary Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov

US Employing Wrong Strategy Against ISIS

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East!, Uncategorized with tags , , on September 6, 2015 by playthell
ISIS Leader Caliph Ibrahim: The Sword of Allah

On Repeating the Mistakes of History

American foreign policy and diplomacy seems to have lost its way. While we spend thousands of hours in league with other nations negotiating a treaty to prevent Iran from acquiring a single primitive atomic bomb – which the US Senate is threatening to reject – a US led NATO is engaging in activities in Eastern Europe that could accidently lead to a nuclear war that would destroy all life on this planet in an hour!  And our search for an effective strategy against ISIS, a clear and present menace to much of the world, has proved an exercise in futility characterized by a series of fool’s errands alas.  In fact, all the evidence suggests that US policy makers have learned nothing from the disastrous adventure in Iraq under George Bush.

While there are myriad lessons to be learned from that catastrophe, I believe the most important is to understand that the US invasion of Iraq as a response to Al Qaeda, the perpetrator of the 9/11 attack on the US, was a cold and cynical deception.   It was clear to all serious students of politics in the Islamic world that Iraq had no relationship to al Qaeda; yet Dirty Dick Cheney, Donny Rumsfeld and their henchmen among the policy wonks like Dr. Paul Wolfowitz argued that their objective was to prevent Al Qaeda from obtaining weapons of mass destruction.  Hence these incompetent ideologues invaded Iraq, when subsequent events have shown that the wisest course of action for US policy would have been to form a military alliance with Sadam Hussein against Osama bin Ladin.  This would have been a piece of cake!

In Sadam we would have found a wise, willing and ruthless ally; exactly what we needed to defeat the Jihadists in al Qaeda.  He was wise because no one had been more effective in suppressing Muslim fundamentalist militants i.e. “Jihadists” than the secular military strongmen of the Islamic world.   Abdel Gamel Nasser of Egypt, and his successors Anwar Sadat (who was assassinated by a Muslim fanatic) and Honsi  Mubarak.  Mummar Quadafi of Lybia; General Musharif in Pakistan, and Sadam Hussein in Iraq were all cut from the same mold as anti-Jihadist strongmen.

Sadam and al Qaeda were natural enemies because according to the theology of al Qaeda all Arab heads of secular states are apostates.  And the penalty for apostasy is death!    The only legitimate governments are those based on Sharia Law in their view.  Hence if al Qaeda came to power in Iraq Sadam was a dead man. Thus it was either madness, or a grand deception, guided by the advice of right-wing Republican policy wonks in The Project for a New American Century, that led George Bush to invade Iraq in response to an attack by Jihadists from Egypt and Saudi Arabia, America’s closest allies in the Middle-East.  (See: “How the Iraq War was Hatched in a Think Tank” on this blog)  It would be like us getting attacked by Canadian terrorists and invading Mexico in retaliation.  As silly as it sounds, the decision to invade Iraq was not a jot or tittle smarter.

Now we are facing a far more deadly Jihadist enemy that al Qaeda, The Islamic State of Iraq, Syria and the Levant aka ISIL or ISIS.  Whereas al Qaeda is a stateless organization consisting of loosely coordinated cells spread around the world that can be activated to carry out clandestine surprise attacks, ISIL is an actual 21st century Islamic Caliphate with a government structure that is divided into civilian and military departments, a tax collection system and a sizable territorial base that is divided into provinces.  But most of all it is a base for revolutionary Islamic forces who ae pledged to cleanse the Islamic world of apostates and then spread the law of Muhammad to the entire world.

Ready to die for Islam…..
ISIS Militants II
And Kill Too!

ISIS Burns Pilot

Even Committ Mass Murders….

ISIS Mass Killings

In the Name of God!

As with al Qaeda, ISIS is first of all concerned with its enemies in the Muslim world, those who refuse to accept their version of Islam as the one true doctrine.  The question of what sacred edicts and scripture actually mean in the real world has been the cause of much bloodshed throughout history – especially among the Semitic monotheists i.e. Christians, Muslims and Jews – but with ISIS it has become a matter of life and death as it was in the medieval world.  And to make matters even more horrifying they have greatly expanded the definition as to which acts qualify as apostasy.

Originally apostasy had to do with denying the divine mission of the Prophet Muhammad or rejecting his teachings, but under ISIS’s theology it can range from selling alcohol and shaving your beard, to voting for a Muslim candidate in an election and being s Shite.  All Shiites are considered Apostates because they innovated on the original teachings of the prophets such as praying at the gravesides of departed Imams, and the public self-flagellation rituals that are central to Shiite religious practice.  For these eighteen hundred year old theological disputes Caliph Ibrahim, the absolute ruler of ISIS who holds a PhD in Sharia Law, thinks all Shiites should be put to the sword.  Hence it is perfectly acceptable to blow up their Mosques and murder them where the practice their apostasy!

Who could make better allies against ISIS than Iran: the greatest nation of Shiites in the world?  Try as I might I can conjure no rival to the Shiite Persians as allies against the Sunni Jihadists.   An August 27 article by Rick Francona – a former air-force intelligence officer and CIA operative stationed in Iraq during the Iraqi invasion of Iran, who now works as a military analyst for CNN – titled “Is your Government lying to you about ISIS?” supplies further evidence in support of my position.  After questioning “the rosy portrayal” of American successes against ISIS forces “coming out of the pentagon,” assuring us that ISIS forces are on the defensive, Col Francona tells us:

I remember the reports of the “success” of the Iraqi Army in ejecting ISIS from the city of Tikrit, when most of the actual fighting was done by Iranian-trained and led Shi’a militias. As the Pentagon assured us that ISIS was now contained, the Islamists mounted a successful assault on the city of al-Ramadi, the capital of al-Anbar province, located on the Euphrates River just 65 miles from Baghdad – all the while under attack from the air. This hardly fits the definition of ‘on the defensive’”

From all observable signs and measurable activities the US is not winning the war against ISIS; they are growing more powerful as I write alas.  And the Republicans are sure to attempt to block any workable strategy.  They are to blinded by ideology, racism and Iranophobia that they propose absurd self-defeating policies and oppose strategies that could lead to success.  It would be crazy to arm the so-called “Free Syrian Army” because if we employ history as our guide it is easy to predict that those arms will end up in the hands of ISIS.

However if victory is the goal of US policy against ISIS an alliance with Iran will insure it!  President Obama’s looming success on the nuclear treaty with Iran will avert the probability of war just now,  but the Republican’s show no signs of concede defeat on Iran policy; the Coker-Cardin bill , which attempts to bar President Obama from waiving the sanctions that were imposed by Congress is their latest effort.  But because this legislation, pretentiously titled “the Iran Nuclear Agreement Act of 2015,” would violate the terms of the treaty, it has no real chance of becoming law unless the Republicans hold the Congress and elect a Republican president in 2016.

However, I believe that running on a platform of repealing the treaty and starting a war with Iran may help win the Republican primary, it will prove a milestone around the necks of Republican candidates that could well sink the Grand Obstructionist Party in the general election.  And that would be a good thing for America….and the world.


Playthell G. Benjamin

On the Road in Cali

September 6, 2015

A Pompous, Duplicitous, Souless, SCHMUCK!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On Israel, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , on August 13, 2015 by playthell
A Phony Windbag for Sale
 Chucky C shows his True Colors

Oy Vey!  How could I have been so wrong about a politician; especially one from New York City that I have been watching for years?  However in my defense I should point out that “watching” a public figure is not the same thing as covering them.  I have never covered Schumer during the years when I was an active member of the New York media.  There just always seemed to be more interesting subjects that commanded my time and attention.

However he is such a ubiquitous figure on the Big Apple political scene you can’t miss noticing him….kinda like the Empire State Building or the Brooklyn Bridge.  But I have always considered him to be a progressive New York Democrat, a champion of liberal policies cut from the same mold as Congressman Andrew Weiner – whose brilliant career as an uncompromising liberal progressive voice was abruptly ended because he couldn’t keep his pecker in his pants; alas Weiner flashed his weenie on the internet and Shazaam damn he was gone!

Although given the stranglehold pro-Israeli Jews have on New york politics, there is no guarantee that Weiner would have behaved any differently were he in the Senate.  Yet as things stand Schmuck Schumer’s sin is far worse than Weiner’s – who only engaged in “safe sex” from a distance, as I argued in my feeble defense of the flasher Congressman from Brooklyn – for Chucky has royally screwed us all.

When he rejected the arduously and creatively negotiated Iran nuclear deal, a great model of diplomatic acumen, he callously broke his dick off in us and we will suffer from this dastardly deed for many moons.  Furthermore, pompous Putz that he is, he had the unmitigated gall to try and play us for fools….to pile insult upon injury, when he tells us that his position on the deal is “a matter of conscience.”

What does he take us for anyway?  We are not the clueless untutored mob that call themselves the “Republican base” and dominate the presidential electoral process in the Grand Obstructionist Party; forcing even reasonably intelligent pretenders to the presidency to say embarrassingly stupid things.  We are New Yorkers Dog!  We are a different breed of animal from those “low information” churls.

The plain truth is that Schumer’s rejection of the Iran treaty is one of the most brazen, unprincipled and shameful acts of political opportunism I have ever witnessed in all my years of observing serious political actors on the stage of history.  What Schumer has tried to camouflage as an “act of conscience,” is in reality a shameless surrender to the demands of the Israel Lobby and its activist arm AIPAC: American Israel Political Action Committee, who is waging a relentless struggle to kill the deal.

Hence the question that begs to be asked of Senator Schumer is just what is he agonizing over, what are the issues at stake that has so deeply touched his moral core?  To listen to the Senator’s public expressions of angst one is not certain as to the source of his suffering.  Is it fear for the security of Israel, the USA? Or is there nothing more important at stake than salvaging his political career….a courser commentator indifferent to the imperatives good manners and unencumbered by the niceties of language, might just say that old Schmucky Chucky is just covering his ass!

Yet, as is characteristic of pompous poseurs driven by vanity, blind ambition and addiction to power, the Senator attempts to disguise his malignant motives with pious self-serving rhetoric.  However we are fortunate to be living in a nation with a free press, which means that reporters and pundits can say what they want.

Thus even in a city where it is dangerous to disagree with the aims of AIPAC, risking a possible career ending censure from Abe The Inquisitor over at the ADL, ala the great Helen Thomas, we sometimes get pearls of wisdom from thoughtful observers that can be employed in the service of an elusive truth that blind supporters of Israel wish to obfuscate.  They have often tried,  been often denied, but they are certainly willing to be tried again!   However Tom Freedman, the Three times Pulitzer Prize winning Foreign Affairs columnist for the New York Times wrote a very revealing column titled “If I Were An Israeli…”

Freedman poses his argument by viewing the deal through the eyes of three Israeli’s of different status and responsibility: a grocer, a general and the Prime Minister.  “If I were a grocer just following the deal on the radio,” says Freedman, “I’d hate it for enshrining Iran’s right to enrich uranium…If I were an Israeli general, I’d share my grocer’s skepticism, but end up somewhere else (as many Israeli military officers have).  I’d start by recalling what the Israeli statesman Abba Eban used to say when Israeli hawks would argue against taking risks for peace with the Palestinians, that Israel is not ‘a disarmed Costa Rica.’”  Freedman candidly points out a reality that the US and Israeli governments have gone to uncanny lengths to deny in order to maintain the dangerous fiction that the Middle East is a nuclear free zone, arguing that Israel “not only possesses some 100 to 200 nuclear weapons, it also can deliver them to Iran by plane, submarine and long range rocket.”  Even if we take the lowest estimate of 100 the Israeli arsenal would have 40 more nuclear weapons than Great Britain!

Freedman makes yet another point that Israel’s Islamic enemies understand well but is ignored by its all powerful ally the USA.  “Israel plays, when it has to, by what I’ve called ‘Hama rules’ –war without mercy.  The Israeli army tries to avoid hitting civilian targets, but it has demonstrated in both Lebanon and Gaza that it will not be deterred by the threat of civilian Arab casualties when Hezbollah and or Hamas launches its rockets from civilian areas.”

Freedman makes no attempt to disguise the ugly realities of this policy: “It is not pretty, but this is not Scandinavia.  The Jewish state has survived in an Arab Muslim sea because its neighbors know that for all its western mores it will not be out-crazied.  It will play by local rules.  Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah know this, which is why Israel’s generals know they possess significant deterrence against an Iranian bomb.” Given the great superiority of Israeli military might, and its demonstrated willingness to deploy it without restraint, it would take a collective fit of madness among Iran’s political and military leaders in order for them to attack Israel…a death wish.

Thus those who, like Senator Schumer, posit an Iranian attack on Israel as a real threat that should determine America’s posture toward the nuclear treaty negotiated by Secretary of State John Kerry at the behest of President Obama, are either ignoramuses or charlatans cavalierly playing Russian roulette with the fate of Middle East peoples.

As I have argued repeatedly: There is no evidence that the leaders of Iran are any more willing to commit national suicide than any other nation on earth.  Deterrence works, as is demonstrated by the fact that nation’s with huge nuclear arsenals have been restrained from using them by the knowledge that it would result in the nuclear obliteration of their nation.

This has held true for Russia, China, North Korea and even Pakistan, whose nuclear weapon was developed under the reign of General Muhammad Zia, who called it “the Islamic Bomb” and whose nuclear scientists have more than a few Muslim fanatics in its ranks.  Tom Freedman shares my view of the Iranian leadership’s disinclination to commit national suicide. “Iran’s ayatollahs have long demonstrated they are not suicidal. As the Israeli strategists Shai Feldman and Ariel Levite wrote recently in National Interests : It is noteworthy that during its noteworthy that during its thirty six year history the Islamic Public of Iran never gambled its survival as Iraq Saddam Hussein did three times.”

As for of Bibi Netanyahu’s attempts to kill the deal by getting the US Senate to vote against ratification-  an incredibly hubristic act – thereby checking the power of President Obama to carry out his constitutional responsibility to conduct US foreign policy, Freedman suggests an alternative strategy.    “I’d recognize that that if my lobbyist in Washington actually succeeded in getting Congress to scrap this deal, the result wouldn’t be a better deal. It would be no deal, so Iran would remain three months from a bomb – and with no intrusive inspectors, with collapsing sanctions and Israel, not Iran, diplomatically isolated. So rather than fighting with President Obama, as prime minister I’d be telling him Israel will support this deal but it wants the US to increase what really matters – its deterrence capability….”  Freedman goes on to suggest measures to accomplish this that strikes this writer as silly and redundant.

First of all, I consider the entire fuss about the consequences of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon much ado about nothing.  Should the Iranians get such a weapon they will pose no great danger to anyone because it will become part of Iran’s defensive arsenal not a weapon of aggression which, as we have already established, would be an act of national suicide. Secondly this charade around Iran is taking our attention away from dealing with the real nuclear threat to our existence – indeed the existence of all life on earth – is the creeping threat of an outbreak of war between NATO forces in Eastern Europe and Russia!

In my view the only real explanation for American hysteria about an Iranian bomb is the desire of Israel to maintain its nuclear monopoly in the Middle East, and to a lesser degree the fears of the medieval, corrupt, anti—democratic, Sunni monarchy Saudi Arabia.  Neither objective even comes close to justifying the war that will inevitably result from the scrapping of this nuclear deal with Iran should the Senate reject it, a war that will make the Iraq invasion look like a dress rehearsal for the real drama.

In view of the facts revealed in Mr. Freedman’s erudite and insightful commentary, and the additional points I have elaborated on, the thoughtful observer is forced to ask:” How is it that Mr. Freedman, a mere newspaper columnist, or an independent public intellectual like this writer, can understand these critical questions so much better than Senator Schumer; especially when we can only commentate while the Senator will deliberate…casting a vote that will affect the course of these historic events.

Since Schumer is not, by any objective measure, a fool or ignoramus, his actions suggest that he is a callous charlatan who places his political survival above any sense of a greater duty to support what is best for the people of Israel and America.  Are we to believe that Senator Schumer, a Harvard Law graduate with a well trained staff to brief him on important matters, does not understand the critical points Freedman so adroitly argues in this  Commentary.

Despite the denigration of a Harvard Law education by the brazen buffoonery of Senator Ted Cruz – who sometimes reminds me of the insane in the brain 20th century Democratic Senator Joseph McCarthy, and at other times Daffy Duck alas –we still have a right to expect Harvard Law grads to be armed with basic information about critical issues – not present us with transparently bogus moralizing cynically contrived to confuse the issue…issues of life and death.

I find this kind of cold blooded amoral political calculous beyond despicable!   It is so odious that I could find no words of invective, even employing the language of Chaucer and Shakespeare, powerful enough to fully express my contempt for his scurrilous decision!  This is why I have expended no effort in addressing Schumer’s specific complaints against the deal; I regard them as nothing more than a transparent attempt to justify a foregone conclusion that he knows in his heart and mind to be false.

Many progressive who have supported  Senator Schumer in the past are now running away from him as if he was diagnosed with Ebola.  People who have raised millions of dollars for him such as, whose 8 million members have pledged not to give him another nickel!   And I shall enthusiastically follow their lead!  Schmuck Schumer has permanently torn his ass with me…I wouldn’t vote for Chucky again even if the office up for grabs was village dog catcher!  It is high time that we support real progressives like Senator Bernie Sanders, and bid the homo sapien invertebrates that would try and confuse us by advertising cowardice as virtue,  adieu.

 Sneaky Rascal: Trying to hide his real motives!
Chuck Schumer
But we see you for what you really are!


  Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York 
August 13, 2015