PRESIDENT TRUMP, SHOW US THE EVIDENCE

With no evidence to back up their claim, the U.S. has decided to blame Syria and Moscow for the most recent chlorine gas attack near Damascus. Such accusations are a dangerous attempt to bring the world closer to another Great War, this one between the U.S. and Russia, the world’s two biggest nuclear weapons powers. Have we not yet learned the lessons of Iraq? Wasn’t it enough that our neoconservatives and war hawks like John Bolton drove the intervention and destruction of Iraq, destroying a nation, its people and its cultural heritage?  Are we not now looking at a bogus Weapons of Mass Destruction claim all over again with mass media led by the NY Times and the Washington Post broadcasting these accusations as fact without skepticism or any investigation of their own?

When will there be some accountability for our military industrial complex, their political lackeys and media enablers and promoters? Will we the people continue to be the complacent, uninformed public to whom our leaders can pitch yet another war while we yawn and agree even when that new war is being launched in our name?

Investigative journalist Rick Sterling, writing on April 10th in Consortium News, suggests we review some historical facts about the lies our leaders have perpetuated to get us into war.

“The invasion of Vietnam with over 500 thousand US soldiers was preceded by a phony Gulf of Tonkin incident where a US ship was supposedly attacked by a North Vietnamese vessel.

“The 1991 attack on Iraq and subsequent massacre of Iraqi soldiers and civilians was preceded by the fabricated testimony of the Kuwaiti Ambassador’s daughter pretending to be a nurse who had witnessed Iraqi soldiers stealing incubators and leaving Kuwaiti babies on the floor.

“In 2003 the US launched the invasion of Iraq leading to the death of over a million Iraqis based on the WMD lie and other fabricated evidence provided by the CIA and uncritically promoted by the mainstream media.

“In 2011 the US-led NATO attacks on Libya with the stated purpose to ‘protect civilians’ from massacre. Again, this campaign was based on lies and the real result was an explosion of extremism, a destroyed country and the killing of over 50,000 civilians.

“In August 2013, we were informed of a massive sarin gas attack on the outskirts of Damascus. The US asserted that Assad had crossed Obama’s ‘red line’ and the US needed to intervene directly. Subsequent investigations revealed the gas attack was perpetrated by a Turkish supported terrorist faction. Both Robert Parry of Consortium News and investigative journalist Seymour Hersh discovered the evidence and brought it to the public’s attention.

“In April 2017 it was the same accusations and despite strong evidence of fraud Trump ordered missile strikes on a Syrian air base which killed thirteen people including four children.”

As I wrote in The Syrian, “Wasn’t it true that the U.S. and its regional allies had decided that Syria should be dismantled, destroyed, and put in the hands of a puppet state amenable to U.S. dictates? Isn’t that what the U.S. had tried unsuccessfully to do in Iraq? Is it possible that such actions, if repeated often enough, eventually erode the global mechanism that strives to maintain stability and security through a balance of power based on legitimacy and responsible behavior? And if that is lost, what is left but a few powerful nations and wealthy individuals ruling and determining policy for their own greedy wants?”

 Isn’t this what we are seeing today? The neoconservatives and war mongers in concert with regional allies and jihadists trying to destroy Syria. In my forthcoming book Damascus Street, due to be published June 1 by Calumet Editions, I have a scene between the newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to Syria and a Lebanese intelligence agent.

“The goal here is to render Assad irrelevant,” said the Ambassador. “We deploy jihadists to capture and hold large sections of the country and make it impossible for the government to control the state. Our plan breaks the country into disconnected enclaves each ruled by an al-Qaeda affiliate.”

The Lebanese asks: “And you expect this to be done by a bunch of head-chopping jihadists?”

“No, they’re the fodder who will lead the charge. We’ll send in our Special Forces to do the heavy work and then initiate a country-wide no-fly zone.”

The Lebanese: “That’s still a tall order, especially if the army still supports Assad. And I don’t suppose Iran will sit idly by, or Hezbollah or the Russians for that matter.”

“Agreed, it’ll be a hell of a mess, but sometimes you need to do ugly things to make the right things happen.”

Again, the Lebanese: “But why turn Syria into another Iraq? Iraq had a highly educated successful middle class with good jobs, and now it’s a destroyed country.”

The U.S. Ambassador: “I guess it depends on what kind of world you want to have. The US wants to see a world where terrorists and their backers are defeated. We’re just trying to contribute to the greater good of the region.”

We now know that the U.S. has been working all along with ISIS, reincarnating them as yet another anti-Assad “rebel” force. And to succeed in their regime change agenda, the U.S. needed some measure of support from mass media Thus, the Weapons of Mass Destruction perpetuation all over again. It is the bad guys using chemical weapons on their own people while we the people are led to believe the Syrian government is so incredibly stupid that they keep using chemical weapons and giving the U.S. a justification to bomb their country.

This dangerous game continues to work because we the people are too busy and too overwhelmed by our own problems to see what our government is intent on doing—carrying out their long-term plan of regime change in Syria in an effort to weaken Iran and Hezbollah.

International lawyer Francis Boyle argues that the U.S. stands poised to strike Syria in yet another display of its unbridled militarism. “It is the unlimited imperialists like Alexander, Napoleon and Hitler who are now in charge. The serial imperial aggressions launched, waged and menaced by the neoconservative Republican Bush Junior administration, then the neoliberal Democrat Obama administration and now the reactionary Trump administration threaten to set off World War III Unless we the people stand up and insist on no more wars.

The Syrian is available for purchase here: Amazon

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GAZA, AN OPEN-AIR PRISON

The Gaza Strip, an area one-eighth the size of Rhode Island, represents one percent of historic Palestine. The strip is approximately twenty-five miles long and seven miles wide and is home to close to two million Palestinians making it the most densely populated place on earth. It is almost impossible to get into Gaza. To its north is the Eretz Crossing, a literal military/bunker-style installation controlled by Israel. Its eastern border, the site of the April 2018 demonstrations, is also controlled by Israel. To the west is the Mediterranean, patrolled by Israeli war ships and to the south is Rafah, a border Gaza shares with Egypt.

In 2012, myself and thirty-two other Americans were privileged to visit Gaza but to do so we had to first meet in Cairo. Against a demand made by the American ambassador to Egypt that for security reasons we cancel our planned visit to Gaza, we refused and instead turned to the Egyptian government for a military escort.  We left Cairo in the dead of night, our two small vans, accompanied by two white military tanks, and traversed the Sinai, a six-hour trek, before reaching Rafah, our entry point into the Gaza strip. This had been the first opportunity in over ten years for any group to visit Gaza and we were determined to make it happen.

The history of Gaza spans 4000 years. For centuries it served as a caravan hub of strategic importance linking southeast Asia to Europe. Pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves are but a few of the spices and goods that passed through Gaza and moved the world economy. Gaza has also weathered the region’s major empires-the Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, romans, Byzantines, Arabs and Ottomans

The founding of the state of Israel in 1948 changed Palestine’s map dramatically. Over 700,000 Palestinians were forced to flee their homes. Those in neighboring towns and villages were pushed into Gaza which had come under Egyptian administrative rule. During the June 1967 war Israel occupied Gaza and cut it off from Egypt. It was at that time that Israel also militarily occupied east Jerusalem, the west bank and Syria’s Golan heights.  See Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with Both Sides for more details.

Until ’67, the Gazan economy was primarily agriculture and fishing based. After their lands were confiscated to build Israeli settlements and their orchards uprooted, Palestinians were obliged to become day laborers inside Israel.

In 2000, then prime minister Ariel Sharon abruptly closed the border between Israel and Gaza and overnight 100,000 men lost their day jobs in Israel. Once the most skilled labor force in the middle east, these men were reduced to aid-dependent consumers with a production sector at almost zero.

In 2005 Ariel Sharon carried out what he called a “unilateral disengagement” from the Gaza strip, pulling some 7,000 Israeli settlers who had occupied Gaza for 38 years (and using up most of the water) and placing them in settlements in the west bank.  These settlers comprised ½ of 1% of the population in Gaza yet they occupied 20% of the land while an additional 10% was kept under Israeli military control.

After the settlers withdrew the Palestinian authority made plans to revitalize Gaza’s economy. However, in order to accomplish this, they needed Israel’s cooperation.  Instead, Israel surrounded Gaza with concrete walls and high fences and strictly controlled all access in and out of the strip, including the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt for both people and goods.

In 2006 Hamas won democratically held elections which were monitored by then president jimmy carter. Israel and the us expected Abbas’s Fatah party to win. Instead, the Palestinians in both the west bank and Gaza, fed up with the corruption within the Fatah ranks, voted Hamas into power. They won 76 out of the 132 seats in the Palestinian parliament. The first thing Hamas did when it won elections was to propose a long-term truce with Israel. It has since agreed to accept a peace treaty based on the ’67 borders which is an implicit recognition of the state of Israel, a constant demand both of Israel and the us government. The truce offer was ignored by both Israel and the us. Instead, reprisals for voting the wrong way quickly followed both from the us in the form of sanctions and Israel which cut off the Gaza strip from the rest of the world, creating an open-air prison with some 1.7 million inmates, 55% of whom were under the age of 18.

The Gaza Strip could have become a prosperous Mediterranean region with its rich agriculture and a flourishing fishing industry, a highly educated population, marvelous beaches and good financial prospects due to the recent discovery of extensive natural gas supplies found within its territorial waters. By coincidence or not, this was precisely when Israel intensified its naval blockade along Gaza’s coastline. Since then, Gaza has been subjected to numerous Israeli assaults not least of which was the 2014 51-day pounding of Gaza resulting in 2,217 dead, 11,000 wounded and 111,000 homes damaged or destroyed, the vast majority of which have yet to be rebuilt because Israel strictly rations the building material it allows into Gaza.

The Gaza of 2018 is a radically impoverished political powder keg where aid dependence went from 10% in 2000 to 80% with no autonomy and on the brink of ecological disaster through a combination of Israeli assaults and economic destabilization. While this also occurs in the west bank, Gaza is so tiny and its circumstances so extreme it serves as a sad illustration for understanding phenomena like aid- dependence, agricultural dumping and cash-crop farming. Gazans have essentially been discarded as an exploitable work force with Gaza being transformed into a cage full of consumers.

An Israel committee actually decides what to allow in on a weekly basis from a list which reflects their own market surplus. Economists estimate that for every dollar of aid which enters Gaza a portion ends up in Israeli pockets to the tune of a 120% profit. Gazan fruit trees, for example, are destroyed then Israeli fruit is sent in and sold at inflated prices serving as a profitable dumping ground for Israeli products. Since the borders are closed and since Gazan manufacturing and farming has been systematically destroyed either by Israeli bombs or by a ban on imports, Gazans are obliged to a large extent to depend on Israel to send in consumer goods which it does to the enormous benefit of its own export market. Ironically all of the millions of dollars poured into Gaza by the international community serves as an indirect subsidy for Israel.

Israel has worked hard to achieve its closure policy of reducing necessary imports and altogether banning the entry of things like factory equipment, machines and raw materials like cement as well as banning all exports. Gaza used to be famous for its strawberries and flowers. Not anymore. As for foods allowed into Gaza, according to Dov Weisglas, advisor to then prime minister Olmert, “the idea is to put Palestinians on a diet but not to make them die of hunger.” Israeli health officials actually calculate the number of calories Gazans need to avoid malnutrition. These figures are then translated into the number of truckloads Israel allows into Gaza each day.

Currently 90% of the water is unsafe for human consumption. In refugee camps water comes 15 minutes a day and is only fit for toilet use. The un estimates that by 2020 there will be no water in Gaza.

Israel has repeatedly claimed self-defense for its actions in Gaza, claiming it is only responding to rocket attacks from Hamas. Prior to the cast lead attack in December 2008, Hamas had maintained a 9-month truce. The goldstone report charged with reviewing the deadly assault on Gaza revealed that Hamas had indeed maintained its part of the truce agreement while Israel was the one who initiated aggressive behavior. Israel, therefore, cannot claim self-defense when it is the aggressor, nor can it claim self-defense when it is militarily occupying Palestinian land.

 

According to Israel’s defense minister, Avidor Lieberman “there are no innocent people in the Gaza Strip. Everyone is connected to Hamas, everyone gets a salary from Hamas, and all the activists trying to challenge us and breach the border are Hamas military wing activists.”

You are mistaken, Mr. Lieberman. The vast majority of Gazans are innocent people tired of living in an outdoor prison and cut off from the rest of the world. They are simply demanding their most basic human rights.

This book is available for purchase here: Amazon