My Common Sense Politics
A Tomahawk cruise missile is launched against Islamic State targets in Syria from the US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke in the Red Sea on September 23, 2014. (Photo: Spc. Carlos M. Vazquez II / US Navy via The New York Times)
The Obama Administration has just announced that they and their coalition allies have begun a fierce campaign in Syria, bombing primarily “hard-targets” in the IS stronghold of Raqqa (about 20 of them). Here’s what is known—and perhaps more importantly—what is not known so far:
“Sunni Arab” Partners
The U.S. was the only non-Arab actor to participate in the Syria raids. Collaborating with the U.S. were five other Arab states: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, Bahrain, and Jordan.
While many pundits have and will continue to describe them as “moderate Arab allies”—what “moderate” usually means is something akin to “compliant with the U.S. agenda in the region.” What may be more significant to note about these powers is that they are all monarchies—in fact, the actors who took part in the strike are most of the region’s surviving dynasties (excluding only Oman, Kuwait, and Morocco).
The Gulf monarchs are far from beloved in Iraq, even among the Sunni population. Readers may remember that the “Sunni” Hussein regime wanted to go to war with the KSA, provoking the U.S.-led Operation Desert Shield; even in the face of the ISIS threat, Iraq has categorically refused to allow ground troops from these countries to operate on Iraqi soil. There is a long enmity between the peoples of Iraq and the Gulf monarchs—and an even deeper enmity between these powers and the Syrians. So the idea that the populations of IS-occupied Iraq and Syria will find these forces and their actions legitimate simply in virtue of the fact that they are “Sunni” is a gross oversimplification that reinforces problematic sectarian narratives even as it obscures important geopolitical truths. Among them:
If anything, the alliance that carried out the strike actually reinforces the narrative of the IS: it will be framed as the United States and its oppressive monarchic proxies collaborating to stifle the Arab Uprisings in order to preserve the doomed status quo.
In a similar manner, it is somewhat irrelevant that salafi and “moderate” Sunni Muslim religious authorities have condemned al-Baghdadi’s “caliphate” as invalid and ill-conceived—in part because it presupposes that most of the foreign fighters who are joining ISIS for ideological reasons are devout, well-informed about fiqh and closely following the rulings of jurists, etc. In fact, the opposite seems to be true, and many of those coming from abroad to join the IS are motivated primarily by factors other than religion. Even much of their indigenous support is from people who join for money, or else due to their grievances against the governments in Iraq and/or Syria—not because they buy into the vision of al-Baghdadi and his ilk. Accordingly, the value of “Sunni buy-in,” framed religiously, is probably both misstated and overstated.
And not only will the involvement of the Gulf kingdoms strikes be extremely controversial on the ground in Iraq and Syria, but also within the emirates who took part in these raids. Syria and the so-called “Islamic State” remain highly polarizing issues across the region—many will be apprehensive of their governments getting involved, others actually support the aspirations of these mujahedeen and view their own regimes as corrupt.
None of the local democracies in Turkey, Tunisia, or Lebanon are taking part—likely because the issue is so polarizing, and each of these countries face so many domestic problems that they cannot be dragged into a potential quagmire. But for this very reason, the governments who are participating will hardly be embraced by the Arab main street: regardless as to whether or not they are ostensibly “Sunni” they are the very sort of powers that ISIS and those who sympathize with them would want to resist or overthrow.
In fact, many of those who oppose ISIS in Iraq, Syria and beyond, across the sectarian spectrum, believe the group to be a U.S. invention and proxy designed to help justify deeper American intervention into Syria. These suspicions have only been deepened by the Administration’s advance broadcasting of its intentions.
No Coordination with the Regime
SEPT. 20, 2014
BAGHDAD — The United States has conducted an escalating campaign of deadly airstrikes against the extremists of the Islamic State for more than a month. But that appears to have done little to tamp down the conspiracy theories still circulating from the streets of Baghdad to the highest levels of Iraqi government that the C.I.A. is secretly behind the same extremists that it is now attacking.
“We know about who made Daesh,” said Bahaa al-Araji, a deputy prime minister, using an Arabic shorthand for the Islamic State on Saturday at a demonstration called by the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr to warn against the possible deployment of American ground troops. Mr. Sadr publicly blamed the C.I.A. for creating the Islamic State in a speech last week, and interviews suggested that most of the few thousand people at the demonstration, including dozens of members of Parliament, subscribed to the same theory. (Mr. Sadr is considered close to Iran, and the theory is popular there as well.)
How ISIS Works
With oil revenues, arms and organization, the jihadist group controls vast stretches of Syria and Iraq and aspires to statehood.
September 20, 2014
nsnbc : The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) decided to reject an Israeli bid to host the 2020 European Championships. The decision comes after UEFA President Michel Platini, in 2010, said Israel must allow Palestinian sport to continue to prosper, or face the consequences.
The decision came also after intense lobbying from the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign that calls for international initiatives against Israel in response to Israel’s continued occupation of Palestine, settlement policy, and discrimination against Palestinians as well as Arab Israelis and other minorities which it compares to South Africa’s apartheid. The BDS campaign is supported by world renown celebrities such as Nobel Peace laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu from South Africa.
The 2020 Championships will take place in 13 cities. On Friday, the UEFA announced that it had turned down the Israeli Football Association’s bid to host some of the matches in Jerusalem. Israel was one out of only six countries whose bid was turned down.
The international BDS campaign writes on its website that 75 Palestinian football teams and NGOs wrote to UEFA President Michel Platini, stressing that holding the 2020 games in Jerusalem would be tantamount to rewarding Israel for its massacre on more than 2,100 Palestinians, including more than 500 children during its 2014 assault on the Gaza Strip.
The coordinator of the BDS campaign in Gaza, Abdulrahman Abunahel, commented on the situation of Palestinian athletes, saying:
“Israel has launched a war on football in Palestine: footballers have been killed, stadiums bombed and players have been refused permission to travel to matches. UEFA must suspend the membership the Israeli Football Association if it continues to maintain its links with the Israeli state that practices occupation, colonisation and apartheid.”
September 20, 2014
Finian Cunningham (SCF)
The Scottish independents may have lost the vote in this week’s historic referendum on secession, but they have won a decisive fight – with the winning argument that the United Kingdom is a broken-down entity in drastic need of democratic overhaul.
And it is not just within Britain that the essence of this argument is resonating. The Scots’ push for independence, or at the very least for acquiring more democratic powers, is serving to fuel separatist sentiments across Europe, in Spain’s Catalonia region, Belgium, Italy and elsewhere.
Indeed, it could be said, the issues raised by the Scots of democratic accountability, more equitable economic policies, and more independence in international relations as opposed to subservience for example to NATO group think, all such issues resonate not just with “separatists” but to many ordinary citizens right across the EU.
The Spanish government in Madrid even threatened to veto an application to the European Union from an independent Scotland. That’s a measure of how concerned Madrid was taking the Scottish “contagion” spreading to its own borders.
So, for now, the Spanish central government, like the London government, may be feeling relieved over the Scottish referendum and its apparent vote for the status quo. But they would be foolish to rest on their laurels. They should know that at a deeper level the popular ground is shifting beneath them.
The issue of Scottish independence, and the underlying debate about democracy functioning for people instead of elite power, is not going to go away merely with this week’s referendum result. Once an idea catches on, it becomes irreversible.
Far from celebrating its apparent victory, the British status quo is on the retreat after the result. The constitutional flaws and democratic deficit of the existing United Kingdom have been demonstrably exposed; and a clamour for radical change is now in the air even among those voters who apparently supported the Union.
Across the UK, regional media greeted the Scottish vote not with crowing over a pro-Union victory but rather with further questions on how greater devolution is needed and must be delivered throughout Britain. That call for devolution will undermine the traditional London seat of British government, which is seen as one of the most centralised and undemocratic in Europe. Brussels better take note.
The high turnout of the Scottish electorate this week is less about a positive endorsement of the existing UK, and more about a groundswell for substantive political change.
The largely English establishment that has resided cozily up to now in London is seen as dead wood that needs to be torn up and jettisoned. This is because the Scottish referendum has set off a dynamic for greater decentralisation of powers from London, not just to Scotland, but to all the other regions that make up the United Kingdom.
By Tim Gatto
20 September, 2014 Countercurrents.org
Let's all admit it, the wars we have been fighting in the Middle East have been for resources, mostly oil. When something happens in other parts of the World that are devoid of resources, we invariably ignore it. One only has to look at the situation in Darfur, where people were starving en masse, and we turned a blind eye. If the country isn't in a strategic area, or it has no resources we want, we ignore whatever is happening there.
While we have been using our military to protect and seize the resources we need to keep our economy rolling along, China has been reaching out and making trade deals with other nations and sending men, materials and money to help them improve their situations. Of course they have asked for something in return, and that is to buy Chinese products and use Chinese engineers and contractors to help build their infrastructures. China is firmly entrenched in Latin America, Africa and in other regions of the globe.
Some economists have said that China has already overtaken the US as the World's largest economy. It is also possible, now that Washington has foolishly installed a fascist government in Kiev and caused the Ukraine to basically separate, while blaming Russia and Putin. Now, because of the sanctions the EU and the US has put into place against Russia, that country has seeming fallen into the arms of China.
This has dire consequences for the US. When Obama was re-elected he heralded his "pivot to Asia" doctrine. He wasn't kidding. The United States did attempt to do this but it seems nobody in Asia wanted us there. We tried to re-lease Cam Ron Bay from the Vietnamese and they said no dice. We tried to worm our way into Burma but they, likewise, didn't want us. We did however, get the Japanese to re-arm and got the Australians to let us station Marines there, but we didn't get the big bases we wanted. The Philippines wanted no part of us. The move was a dismal failure.
So what is an Empire to do now that everyone wants us to go away? Well, we always have the Middle East to play with. The only problem is that even if we control the entire Middle East, the Russians still control the natural gas that flows into Europe. This is the primary reason that the EU was reluctant to put sanctions on Russia. Our puppet continent now faces another few years of recession thanks to their friends in Washington. It may even get very cold in some nations this Winter if Russia decides to turn the gas taps off.
Some, like Pepe Escobar and a few others have even predicted that very soon the Russians and the Chinese would stop recognizing the US Dollar as the World's Reserve currency. This is Washington's nightmare. The problem with that scenario is that we could no longer just print money and increase balances on computers by adding a few more zeros to the balance sheets.
So what is Washington to do? Too bad that after World War II we decided (or rather people like the Dulles brothers did) to try to rule the world (or at least subjugate it) with military means. It may have been a good idea at the time, but constantly propping up the economy with spending on the military industrial complex has its limitations. Sooner or later, when you export everything but your defense industry out of the country, jobs become scarce and your economy gets, shall we say, get a little sluggish?
September 17, 2014
NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft is nearing its scheduled Sept. 21 insertion into Martian orbit after completing a 10-month interplanetary journey of 442 million miles (711 million kilometers).
Flight Controllers at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Littleton, Colorado, will be responsible for the health and safety of the spacecraft throughout the process. The spacecraft's mission timeline will place the spacecraft in orbit at approximately 6:50 p.m. PDT (9:50 p.m. EDT).
"So far, so good with the performance of the spacecraft and payloads on the cruise to Mars," said David Mitchell, MAVEN project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "The team, the flight system, and all ground assets are ready for Mars orbit insertion."
The orbit-insertion maneuver will begin with the brief firing of six small thruster engines to steady the spacecraft. The engines will ignite and burn for 33 minutes to slow the craft, allowing it to be pulled into an elliptical orbit with a period of 35 hours.
Following orbit insertion, MAVEN will begin a six-week commissioning phase that includes maneuvering the spacecraft into its final orbit and testing its instruments and science-mapping commands. Thereafter, MAVEN will begin its one-Earth-year primary mission to take measurements of the composition, structure and escape of gases in Mars' upper atmosphere and its interaction with the sun and solar wind.
"The MAVEN science mission focuses on answering questions about where did the water that was present on early Mars go, about where did the carbon dioxide go," said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator from the University of Colorado, Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. "These are important questions for understanding the history of Mars, its climate, and its potential to support at least microbial life."
MAVEN launched Nov. 18, 2013, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying three instrument packages. It is the first spacecraft dedicated to exploring the upper atmosphere of Mars. The mission's combination of detailed measurements at specific points in Mars' atmosphere and global imaging provides a powerful tool for understanding the properties of the Red Planet's upper atmosphere.
September 3, 2014
In October 1962, the United States threatened to go to war with Russia over the Cuban missile crisis. That high-stakes drama came about after Washington learned that Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev had overseen the installation of ballistic missiles on the Caribbean island, some 90 miles from the US mainland. Never mind that the nascent military alliance between Moscow and the socialist government of Fidel Castro was a inviolable matter between two sovereign states – Washington was apoplectic that Soviet missiles were permitted anywhere near its territory. The then US President John F Kennedy was impelled to go to war over the issue, even if that meant igniting an all-out thermonuclear conflagration.
In the end, the standoff was resolved, in part through a mutual personal understanding between Kennedy and Khrushchev that such a catastrophic war had to be avoided at all costs. The Soviet Union eventually withdrew its missiles after receiving a guarantee from the White House that there would no follow-up US invasion of Cuba, as in the failed CIA-backed Bay of Pigs assault of April 1961. In addition, Kennedy gave a commitment to reciprocate US missile withdrawal from Turkey's territory bordering with the former Soviet Union.
Now fast-forward 52 years. The US-led NATO alliance this week announced that it intends consolidating its military presence in Eastern Europe, the Black Sea and the Baltic states. Ahead of a NATO summit in Wales, NATO secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen has called for the setting up of «reactive battalions» along Russia's border. The contingency would include the eventual placement of ballistic missiles and it builds on recent dispatches of NATO warships and fighter aircraft in the region.
Moscow, in response, said it is now revising its defense doctrine to take reciprocal measures to protect its territory. «When NATO troops are approaching our borders, of course, we develop a plan. I recall NATO's commitment not to expand the bloc's territory eastward», said Russian Public Chamber deputy secretary Sergei Ordzhonikidze.
That referred commitment of no NATO eastwards expansion was given by American leaders to Russian counterparts throughout the 1990s following the demise of the Soviet Union. Yet what has happened over the past two decades is the exact opposite – the relentless encroachment of NATO military along Russia's borders. The conflict in Ukraine over the past year has served to provide Washington with a tenuous rationale for escalating NATO contingencies in the region on the back of unfounded claims about Russia's invasion and annexation of Ukrainian territory.
Economic sanctions imposed by Washington and its European allies – the latest round announced this week – are applied with the same reckless abandon as NATO build-up. No concrete evidence of alleged Russian malfeasance in Ukraine is produced to validate sanctions or NATO battle plans. It is all done as a fait accompli on the basis of assertion. US President Barack Obama says Russian military intervention in Ukraine is «plain to see» while not presenting a shred of credible evidence. Britain's premier David Cameron and German chancellor Angela Merkel, among others, sound like echo chambers for White House words, calling for more punitive sanctions and NATO «readiness».
Moscow is right to denounce such Western conduct as «hysterical» and divorced from reality. The US and its European subordinates have created the conflict in Ukraine by subverting the elected government in that country to install a wholly illegitimate regime in Kiev. The fascist nature of this regime has no mandate to rule and especially over the pro-Russian populations in the east of the country, which the Nazi-honoring junta in Kiev despises as «sub-humans». Since the Western-backed regime launched its so-called «anti-terror operation» in April in the eastern regions, more than 2,500 people – mainly civilians – have been killed. Some one million people have been displaced from their homes, according to the United Nations. Much of the violence has stemmed from Kiev's military forces indiscriminately bombarding civilian centers around the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk. There have been credible reports of the use of cluster bombs, white phosphorus incendiaries and unguided Grad rockets.
September 15, 2014
The gruesome beheading of a British aid worker by the ISIS terror group in Syria over the weekend provoked a stern warning from Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron who vowed to "hunt down the murderers" for their "act of pure evil".
The British victim was named as David Haines, a 44-year-old aid worker, who had been held hostage in Syria for many months. A graphic video released by his killers shows Haines kneeling on the ground dressed in an orange jumpsuit as a masked executioner severs his throat with a knife. The dead man's prone body is then filmed with a decapitated, bloody head placed on the corpse's back.
Some analysts have disputed the veracity of the video, saying it is a fake. But Haine's foreboding demeanor and his final words spoken to the camera tend to verify the recording as genuine. The British government has also stated that it believes the footage to be authentic.
Haines was the third Westerner to be apparently murdered by the ISIS militants in the past four weeks using the same macabre ritual.Earlier this month, on September 3, a video showed American journalist Steven Sotloff also being decapitated in the same grisly manner. Two weeks before that, another abducted American citizen, James Foley, also a journalist, met the same grim fate at the hands of his captors.
A fourth man, another British national named as Alan Hemming, is feared to be the next ISIS victim, with unconfirmed video footage of his execution also posted this weekend.
The shocking scenes of brutality have sparked public outrage in the US and around the world. President Barack Obama addressed the nation in a prime-time television broadcast last week in which he declared that American forces would track down and destroy the ISIS terrorists. The group is also known by the alternative acronyms IS or ISIL, referring ostensibly to an aspired fundamentalist Islamic caliphate that incorporates Iraq and Syria. At the same time that Obama was addressing the nation, US secretary of state John Kerry was in the Middle East drumming up support for an American-led international coalition to launch military strikes against ISIS, whose strongholds are in northern Iraq straddling the border with eastern Syria.
ISIS has been a prominent force among a myriad of militant cohorts that have been waging war against the Syrian state since March 2011. There is substantial evidence that Western governments have been covertly supporting ISIS and other extremists under the guise of assisting the "moderate rebels" for the ultimate purpose of destabilizing the Assad government of Syria and regime change. Assad is a staunch ally of Russia and Iran, and therefore is in the Western crosshairs for regime change.
Sept 5, 2014
Forget about alleged Russian aggression and land grabbing in Ukraine – the real problem for the United States is Vladimir Putin. To be more precise, the real problem is a strong, independent Russia under the leadership of President Putin, a Russia that stands up for its national rights, respect for international norms and which is not prepared to simply roll over to placate American hegemonic selfish interests, like propping up its bankrupt dollar.
As the American-led NATO military alliance meets in Wales this week, it is obvious that Washington and its European minions are thrashing around trying to find a new purpose for an organization that was formed 65 years ago during the Cold War. The summit in the Welsh city of Newport is being billed as «the most important meeting of NATO since the end of the Cold War» – might we wonder why? – more than two decades ago.
US President Barack Obama is in attendance with 60 world leaders, including those of the 28 NATO member states. Shamelessly, there is much high-flown rhetoric about «defending Europe from Russian aggression». NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen even had the gall to state, at the opening of the conference, that «Russia is attacking Ukraine».
«So we continue to call on Russia to pull back its troops from Ukrainian borders, and stop the flow of weapons and fighters into Ukraine», said Rasmussen without a modicum of evidence, or even a semblance of citing evidence.
The day before the NATO summit opened, Barack Obama, speaking in Estonia, used the very same kind of provocative rhetoric, accusing Russia of aggression in Ukraine and violating international law. The American president rolled off slanderous words about «Russian-financed, Russian-armed, Russian-trained, Russian-supported and often Russian-directed separatists in Ukraine».
As Russia’s envoy to NATO, Alexandr Grushko, said of such accusations mouthed by Western leaders, «they are not facts, they are forgeries». Grushko said that NATO was escalating tensions with Russia without any evidence to support its reckless conduct. «There have been no troop build-ups or movements of military hardware», he added.
We create our own future by our own beliefs, which control our actions. A strong enough belief system, a sufficiently powerful conviction, can make anything happen. This is how we create our consensus reality, including our gods. - Reverend Mother Ramallo, Sayyadina of the Fremen
$ PEOPLE MIGHT SAY ITS FAKE BUT BELIEVE IN THEM AS MUCH AS YOU BELIEVE IN WHAT YOUR GOVERNMENT IS HIDING FROM YOU $
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Image: Ares Face Infraspectrographic Properly Processed Data by Keith Laney