My Common Sense Politics
The vice president of the local council of Iraq’s Saladin Province made the announcement on Thursday, adding that the troops, along with their vehicles, would be stationed at the Speicher airfield in the city of Tikrit, located 140 kilometers (87 miles) northwest of the capital, Baghdad.
Washington has already sent 1,600 troops to Iraq, most recently on September 10, when an additional 475 soldiers were deployed to the country. The US claims most of them serve as advisers to Iraqi and Kurdish forces or provide security for the US embassy and the international airport in the Iraqi capital.
Washington has also been conducting airstrikes against the positions of the Takfiri ISIL militants in Iraq. The Iraqi official, meanwhile, confirmed that there are dozens of military advisors on the ground in the province.
The deployment comes as US President Barack Obama said earlier this month that he would not pursue another ground war in Iraq after US troops’ pullout from the country in 2011.
“As your commander in chief, I will not commit you and the rest of our armed forces to fighting another ground war in Iraq,” said Obama in a speech to troops at US Central Command headquarters in Florida on September 17.
Senior religious and political figures in Iraq, including Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, have in recent days called on the Baghdad government not to rely on foreign powers in the battle against the ISIL.
Political experts believe that the real objective of the so-called international coalition recently formed by Washington to fight ISIL is to expand the US military presence in the region.
By Paul Craig Roberts
September 28, 2014
One might think that by now even Americans would have caught on to the constant stream of false alarms that Washington sounds in order to deceive the people into supporting its hidden agendas.
The public fell for the lie that the Taliban in Afghanistan are terrorists allied with al Qaeda. Americans fought a war for 13 years that enriched Dick Cheney’s firm, Halliburton, and other private interests only to end in another Washington failure.
The public fell for the lie that Saddam Hussein in Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction” that were a threat to America and that if the US did not invade Iraq Americans risked a “mushroom cloud going up over an American city.” With the rise of ISIS, this long war apparently is far from over. Billions of dollars more in profits will pour into the coffers of the US military security complex as Washington fights those who are redrawing the false Middle East boundaries created by the British and French after WW I when the British and French seized territories of the former Ottoman Empire.
The American public fell for the lies told about Gaddafi in Libya. The formerly stable and prosperous country is now in chaos.
The American public fell for the lie that Iran has, or is building, nuclear weapons. Sanctioned and reviled by the West, Iran has shifted toward an Eastern orientation, thereby removing a principal oil producer from Western influence.
The public fell for the lie that Assad of Syria used “chemical weapons against his own people.” The jihadists that Washington sent to overthrow Assad have turned out to be, according to Washington’s propaganda, a threat to America.
The greatest threat to the world is Washington’s insistence on its hegemony. The ideology of a handful of neoconservatives is the basis for this insistence. We face the situation in which a handful of American neoconservative psychopaths claim to determine the fate of countries.
Many still believe Washington’s lies, but increasingly the world sees Washington as the greatest threat to peace and life on earth. The claim that America is “exceptional and indispensable” is used to justify Washington’s right to dictate to other countries.
The casualties of Washington’s bombings are invariably civilians, and the deaths will produce more recruits for ISIS. Already there are calls for Washington to reintroduce “boots on the ground” in Iraq. Otherwise, Western civilization is doomed, and our heads will be cut off. The newly created propaganda of a “Russian threat” requires more NATO spending and more military bases on Russia’s borders. A “quick reaction force” is being created to respond to a nonexistent threat of a Russian invasion of the Baltics, Poland, and Europe.
Usually it takes the American public a year, or two, three, or four to realize that it has been deceived by lies and propaganda, but by that time the public has swallowed a new set of lies and propaganda and is all concerned about the latest “threat.” The American public seems incapable of understanding that just as the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth, threat was a hoax, so is the sixth threat, and so will be the seventh, eighth, and ninth.
Moreover, none of these American military attacks on other countries has resulted in a better situation, as Vladimir Putin honestly states. Yet, the public and its representatives in Congress support each new military adventure despite the record of deception and failure.
Perhaps if Americans were taught their true history in place of idealistic fairy tales, they would be less gullible and less susceptible to government propaganda. I have recommended Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick’s The Untold History of the US, Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the US, and now I recommend Stephen Kinzer’s The Brothers, the story of the long rule of John Foster and Allen Dulles over the State Department and CIA and their demonization of reformist governments that they often succeeded in overthrowing. Kinzer’s history of the Dulles brothers’ plots to overthrow six governments provides insight into how Washington operates today.
Saturday, September 27, 2014
Posted by VINEYARD SAKER
The context: a double declaration of war
Listening to Poroshenko a few days ago and then to Obama at the UNGA can leave no doubt whatsoever about the fact that the AngloZionist Empire is at war with Russia.
Yet many believe that the Russian response to this reality is inadequate. Likewise, there is a steady stream of accusations made against Putin about Russia's policy towards the crisis in the Ukraine. What I propose to do here is to offer a few basic reminders about Putin, his obligations and his options.
First and foremost, Putin was never elected to be the world's policeman or savior, he was only elected to be president of Russia. Seems obvious, but yet many seem to assume that somehow Putin is morally obliged to do something to protect Syria, Novorussia or any other part of our harassed world. This is not so. Yes, Russia is the de facto leader of the BRICS and SCO countries, and Russia accepts that fact, but Putin has the moral and legal obligation to care for his own people first.
Second, Russia is now officially in the crosshairs of the AngloZionist Empire which includes not only 3 nuclear countries (US, UK, FR) but also the most powerful military force (US+NATO) and the world's biggest economies (US+EU). I think that we can all agree that the threat posed by such an Empire is not trivial and that Russia is right in dealing with it very carefully.
Sniping at Putin and missing the point
Now, amazingly, many of those who accuse Putin of being a wimp, a sellout or a naive Pollyanna also claim that the West is preparing nuclear war on Russia. If that is really the case, this begs the question: if that is really the case, if there is a real risk of war, nuclear or not, is Putin not doing the right thing by not acting tough or threatening? Some would say that the West is bent on a war no matter what Putin does. Okay, fair enough, but in that case is his buying as much time as possible before the inevitable not the right thing to do?!
Third, on the issue of the USA vs ISIL, several comment here accused Putin of back-stabbing Assad because Russia supported the US Resolution at the UNSC.
And what was Putin supposed to do?! Fly the Russian Air Force to Syria to protect the Syrian border? What about Assad? Did he scramble his own air force to try to stop the US or has he quietly made a deal: bomb "them" not us, and I shall protest and do nothing about it? Most obviously the latter.
In fact, Putin and Assad have exactly the same position: protest the unilateral nature of the strikes, demand a UN Resolution while quietly watching how Uncle Sam turned on his own progeny and now tries to destroy them.
I would add that Lavrov quite logically stated that there are no "good terrorists". He knows that ISIL is nothing but a continuation of the US-created Syrian insurgency, itself a continuation of the US-created al-Qaeda.
From a Russian point of view, the choice is simple: what is better, for the US to use its forces and men to kill crazed Wahabis or have Assad do it? And if ISIL is successful in Iraq, how long before they come back to Chechnia? Or Crimea? Or Tatarstan?
Why should any Russian or Syria soldier risk death when the USAF is willing to do that for them? While there is a sweet irony in the fact that the US now has to bomb it's own creation, let them do that. Even Assad was clearly forewarned and he obviously is quite happy about that.
Finally, UN or no UN, the US had already taken the decision to bomb ISIL. So what is the point of blocking a perfectly good UN Resolution? That would be self-defeating. In fact, this Resolution can even be used by Russia to prevent the US and UK from serving as a rear base for Wahabi extremists (this resolution bans that, and we are talking about a mandatory, Chapter VII, UNSC Resolution). And yet, some still say that Putin threw Assad under the bus.
How crazy and stupid can one get to have that kind of notion about warfare or politics? And if Putin wanted to toss Assad under the bus, why did he not do that last year?
Sincere frustration or intellectual dishonesty?
But that kind of nonsense about the Syria is absolutely dwarfed by the kind of truly crazy stuff some people post about Novorussia. Here are my favorite ones. The author begins by quoting me:
"This war has never been about Novorussia or about the Ukraine."
and then continues:
That statement is too vacuous and convenient as a copout. Do you really mean to say that the thousands of people murdered by shelling, the thousands of young Ukrainian conscripts put through the meat grinder, the thousands of homes destroyed, the more than 1 million people who have turned into refugees... NONE of that has anything to do with Novorussia and Ukraine? That this is only about Russia? Really, one would wish you'd refrain from making silly statements like that.
The only problem being, of course, that I never made it in the first place :-)
Of course, it is rather obvious that I meant that FOR THE ANGLOZIONIST EMPIRE the goal has never been the Ukraine or Novorussia, but a war on Russia. All Russia did was to recognize this reality.
Again, the words "do you really mean to say that" clearly show that the author is going to twist what I said, make yet another strawman, and then indignantly denounce me for being a monster who does not care about the Ukraine or Novorussia (the rest of the comment was in the same vein: indignant denunciations of statements I never made and conclusions I never reached).
I have already grown used to the truly remarkable level of dishonesty of the Putin-bashing crowd and by now I consider it par for the course. But I wanted to illustrate that one more time just to show that at least in certain cases an honest discussion is not the purpose at all. But I don't want to bring it all down to just a few dishonest and vociferous individuals.
There are also many who are sincerely baffled, frustrated and even disappointed with Russia's apparent passivity. Here is an excerpt of an email I got this morning:
I guess I was really hoping that perhaps Russia, China The BRICS would be a counter force. What I fail to understand is why after all the demonisation by the U.S and Europe doesn't Russia retaliate. The sanctions imposed by the West is hurting Russia and yet they still trade oil in euros/dollars and are bending over backwards to accommodate Europe. I do not understand why they do not say lift all sanctions or no gas. China also says very little against the U.S , even though they fully understand that if Russian is weakened they are next on the list. As for all the talk of lifting the sanctions on Iran that is farcical as we all know Israel will never allow them to be lifted. So why do China and Russia go along with the whole charade. Sometimes I wonder if we are all being played, and this is all one big game , which no chance of anything changing.
In this case the author correctly sees that Russia and China follow a very similar policy which sure looks like an attempt to appease the US. In contrast to the previous comment, here the author is both sincere and truly distressed.
In fact, I believe that what I am observing are three very different phenomena all manifesting themselves at the same time:
1) An organized Putin-bashing campaign initiated by US/UK government branches tasked with manipulating the social media.
2) A spontaneous Putin-bashing campaign lead by certain Russian National-Bolshevik circles (Limonov, Dugin & Co.).
3) The expression of a sincere bafflement, distress and frustration by honest and well-intentioned people to whom the current Russian stance really makes no sense at all.
The rest of this post will be entirely dedicated to try to explain the Russian stance to those in this third group (any dialog with the 2 first ones just makes no sense).
Trying to make sense of an apparently illogical policy
By Elizabeth Palermo, Staff Writer
September 26, 2014
German logistics company DHL recently announced it is launching a new drone delivery service to get "urgently needed goods," such as life-saving medicines, to certain remote locations.
The company's plan is to use small, parcel-carrying drones to deliver medications and emergency supplies to Juist, an island in Germany's North Sea, where more traditional delivery options (such as ferries or trains) aren't always available. The drone service is a continuation of DHL's "parcelcopter research project," which launched in December 2013.
But the DHL drones have changed significantly since their maiden flight, DHL officials said in a statement. For one thing, they've been modified to endure the high winds and rain that they may face over the North Sea. The parcelcopter 2.0 can reach altitudes of 164 feet (50 meters) and can fly as fast as 40 miles per hour (64 km/h). The drone is also capable of flying for extended periods of time — about 45 minutes before needing to be recharged — enabling it to make the roughly 7.5-mile (12 km) journey to Juist, according to DHL officials. [See photos of DHL's delivery drones]
Sunday, September 28th, 2014
The late Gore Vidal called The Times the “Typhoid Mary of American journalism” for good reason.
The so-called “newspaper of record” is more laughing stock than source for legitimate journalism.
Its news, information and analysis are heavily filtered. Fiction and popular myths substitute for facts.
Monied interests are supported at the expense of popular ones. Vital truths are systematically buried.
Managed news misinformation substitutes. So do Big Lies on issues mattering most.
Imperial wars are called liberating ones. Ravaging and destroying one nation after another is considered humanitarian intervention.
Wars are supported in the name of peace. Might justifies right. Plunder is called economic development.
Civil liberties are suppressed for our own good. Irresponsible government and corporate interests are wholeheartedly endorsed. Beneficial social change is considered heresy.
The market (aka as casino capitalism) works best so let it, we’re told. Patriotism means supporting Washington right or wrong.
The Times is America’s lead propaganda instrument. Misinformation masquerades as legitimate journalism.
Whenever America goes to war or plans one, Times correspondents, contributors and editors march in lockstep.
Times policy is it’s OK if we do it. Bad guys are nations, groups or individuals Washington opposes.
Terrorism is what they do, not us. Reasons why imperial wars are waged are suppressed.
Wealth, power and privilege alone matter. Sacrificing human lives and freedoms are small prices to pay. Humanity is at risk but who cares.
Ravaging and destroying one nation after another doesn’t matter. Corporate grand theft is OK. So is the unprecedented wealth gap.
Protracted Main Street Depression conditions affecting most Americans aren’t discussed.
Nor unmet human needs, growing poverty, hunger, homelessness, depravation and despair.
Unprecedented corporate and government corruption is ignored. So is government of, by and for monied interests alone.
Sham elections are called democratic ones. Social injustice gets short shrift if any.
Truth is the most dangerous disinfectant. Suppressing it is longstanding Times policy. All garbage all the time on issues mattering most substitutes.
Russia bashing is relentless. Putin is considered public enemy No. 1. Kiev fascist putschists are called democrats.
They’re xenophobic, ultranationist, anti-democratic, anti-Semitic, anti-Russian hate-mongers.
They represent mob rule. They have no legitimacy whatever. Don’t expect The Times to explain.
Lies, damn lies and Big ones substitute for credible news, commentary and analysis.
They’re relentless on Ukraine. For the first time since Nazi Germany’s defeat, reemergent fascism infests Europe’s heartland.
Western leaders support it. John Pilger quoted Professor Terry Eagleton saying “for the first time in two centuries, there is no eminent British poet, playwright or novelist prepared to question the foundations of the western way of life.”
Its most disturbing aspects. Its immorality. Its belligerence. Its lawlessness. Its contempt for popular interests. Its support for wrong over right.
Fri, Sep 26th, 2014
Finian Cunninham (SCF) : The grim discovery of mass graves in southeastern Ukraine this week implicates the Kiev regime in further war crimes. At least three such burial sites have been uncovered in recent days since the withdrawal of Kiev’s military forces from the areas under its control, as part of a belated ceasefire deal.
Meanwhile, Kiev President Petro Poroshenko declared that «the worst of the violence is over» in Ukraine, with the latest ceasefire, he says, holding and Kiev’s forces withdrawing as latterly agreed. In the same speech, Poroshenko claimed that his country is on schedule to gain full membership of the European Union by the year 2020. Perhaps, Kiev’s EU ambitions are concentrating its efforts to end the violence – violence, it has to be said, that Kiev largely instigated in April this year.
But as peace makes a tentative return in eastern Ukraine, the restored calm is giving rise to some eerie discoveries of possible war crimes – the latest being the unearthing of mass graves in territory that was, up to a few days ago, under the control of Kiev’s military forces for the past several months.
Kiev’s military spokesmen have denied accusations from local people in the Donbass regions that its forces are responsible for the alleged atrocities. If that’s the case, then the Western-backed regime must heed Russian government demands to facilitate an immediate international crime investigation.
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has confirmed the location of several graves and the retrieval of human remains. However, the OSCE said it could not give a forensic assessment at this stage about the cause or the perpetrators.
Two of the mass graves were found in a coal mine in Kommunar, near the village of Nzyhnia Krynka, some 35 kilometres northeast of Donetsk city. Another burial place was located in the village itself.
Officials of the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and local residents who returned to the village have accused the Ukrainian National Guard and associated pro-Kiev militia of involvement in the crimes.
Disturbingly, the DPR Prime Minister Alexander Zakharchenko said that more graves are being discovered by self-defence militia with each passing day as local people move back into areas which up until recently had been occupied by Kiev’s military units.
Russia’s foreign ministry has called for an international probe into what appears to be gross human rights violations committed by Kiev’s military units against civilians. Moscow wants the United Nations and the European Council to send human rights representatives to assess the findings.
At least four corpses recovered so far have been identified as those belonging to women. One of the victims was reportedly decapitated, while others were shot in the head after their hands had been bound. There are also emerging reports of bodily remains belonging to several DPR self-defence militia members having been identified in other graves.
The OSCE reported a macabre makeshift plaque implanted near the corpses at one site, presumably left by the killers, which read: ‘Died for Putin’s lies’.
The Western-backed Kiev regime’s denials on this matter have little credibility. Blunt denial has become a routine response from Kiev to all accusations even when irrefutable evidence shows that Kiev’s forces have engaged in violations, such as indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas, sabotage of water and power utilities, or the deliberate lethal targeting of journalists working in the conflict zone. At least three Russian journalists have been killed in recent months.
Local residents have also reported abductions and killings of civilians by regime forces since Kiev launched its so-called «anti-terror operation» six months ago to suppress popular dissent in Donetsk and Luhansk against the Western-backed coup in Kiev. The regime dispatched not only regular army units, but also volunteer National Guard battalions, comprised of the neo-Nazi Pravy Sektor paramilitaries operating out of western Ukraine.
Deep learning could transform artificial intelligence. It could also get pretty creepy.
In June 2012, a Google supercomputer made an artificial-intelligence breakthrough: It learned that the internet loves cats. But here's the remarkable part: It had never been told what a cat looks like. Researchers working on the Google Brain project in the company's X lab fed 10 million random, unlabeled images from YouTube into their massive network and instructed it to recognize the basic elements of a picture and how they fit together. Left to their own devices, the Brain's 16,000 central processing units noticed that a lot of the images shared similar characteristics that it eventually recognized as a "cat." While the Brain's self-taught knack for kitty spotting was nowhere as good as a human's, it was nonetheless a major advance in the exploding field of deep learning.
The dream of a machine that can think and learn like a person has long been the holy grail of computer scientists, sci-fi fans, and futurists alike. Deep learning—algorithms inspired by the human brain and its ability to soak up massive amounts of information and make complex predictions—might be the closest thing yet. Right now, the technology is in its infancy: Much like a baby, the Google Brain taught itself how to recognize cats, but it's got a long way to go before it can figure out that you're sad because your tabby died. But it's just a matter of time. Its potential to revolutionize everything from social networking to surveillance has sent tech companies and defense and intelligence agencies on a deep-learning spending spree.
What really puts deep learning on the cutting edge of artificial intelligence (AI) is that its algorithms can analyze things like human behavior and then make sophisticated predictions. What if a social-networking site could figure out what you're wearing from your photos and then suggest a new dress? What if your insurance company could diagnose you as diabetic without consulting your doctor? What if a security camera could tell if the person next to you on the subway is carrying a bomb?
And unlike older data-crunching models, deep learning doesn't slow down as you cram in more info. Just the opposite—it gets even smarter. "Deep learning works better and better as you feed it more data," explains Andrew Ng, who oversaw the cat experiment as the founder of Google's deep-learning team. (Ng has since joined the Chinese tech giant Baidu as the head of its Silicon Valley AI team.)
And so the race to build a better virtual brain is on. Microsoft plans to challenge the Google Brain with its own system called Adam. Wired reported that Apple is applying deep learning to build a "neural-net-boosted Siri." Netflix hopes the technology will improve its movie recommendations. Google, Yahoo, Twitter, and Pinterest have snapped up deep-learning companies; Google has used the technology to read every house number in France in less than an hour. "There's a big rush because we think there's going to be a bit of a quantum leap," says Yann LeCun, a deep-learning pioneer and the head of Facebook's new AI lab.
Last December, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared, bodyguards in tow, at the Neural Information Processing Systems conference in Lake Tahoe, where insiders discussed how to make computers learn like humans. He has said that his company seeks to "use new approaches in AI to help make sense of all the content that people share." Facebook researchers have used deep learning to identify individual faces from a giant database called "Labeled Faces in the Wild" with more than 97 percent accuracy. Another project, dubbed PANDA (Pose Aligned Networks for Deep Attribute Modeling), can accurately discern gender, hairstyles, clothing styles, and facial expressions from photos. LeCun says that these types of tools could improve the site's ability to tag photos, target ads, and determine how people will react to content.
Yet considering recent news that Facebook secretly studied 700,000 users' emotions by tweaking their feeds or that the National Security Agency harvests 55,000 facial images a day, it's not hard to imagine how these attempts to better "know" you might veer into creepier territory.
Not surprisingly, deep learning's potential for analyzing human faces, emotions, and behavior has attracted the attention of national-security types. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has worked with researchers at New York University on a deep-learning program that sought, according to a spokesman, "to distinguish human forms from other objects in battlefield or other military environments."
Chris Bregler, an NYU computer science professor, is working with the Defense Department to enable surveillance cameras to detect suspicious activity from body language, gestures, and even cultural cues. (Bregler, who grew up near Heidelberg, compares it to his ability to spot German tourists in Manhattan.) His prototype can also determine whether someone is carrying a concealed weapon; in theory, it could analyze a woman's gait to reveal she is hiding explosives by pretending to be pregnant. He's also working on an unnamed project funded by "an intelligence agency"—he's not permitted to say more than that.
And the NSA is sponsoring deep-learning research on language recognition at Johns Hopkins University. Asked whether the agency seeks to use deep learning to track or identify humans, spokeswoman Vanee' Vines only says that the agency "has a broad interest in deriving knowledge from data."
… Still Launching Wars with Lies
A funny thing happened on the way to dystopia.
As Western mainstream media fall into the hands of lying billionaires, Zionists, and intelligence agencies (three categories with significant overlap) – and as neoconservatives script big media’s ignoble lies – a surging internet-based alternative media has arisen to challenge the elite’s false narratives. Thanks to alt-media, fewer and fewer people are buying the simplistic feel-good myths peddled by the mainstream.
While most old people still cling to the corporate media worldview, the young are skewing ever-harder toward alternative perspectives. In Thursday’s Scottish independence referendum, for example, the London Daily Mirror reported that 71% of 16-17 year olds voted “yes” while those over 65 voted “no” by a 73%-27% margin.
Why does the vast majority of Scottish young people favor independence, while an equally crushing majority of old people opposes it?
Short answer: Old people still believe BBC propaganda, while the young do not.
During the run-up to the referendum, huge crowds of young people gathered to protest the BBC’s biased coverage of the campaign. John Robertson, Professor of Media Studies at the University of the West of Scotland, said: “My research indicates that our public broadcaster, funded as much by Yes as by No voters, has betrayed its charter on impartiality.”
Older Scots grew up inside the bubble of the mainstream media monopoly. Most do not understand how the BBC and other mainstream outlets used subliminal cues as well as blatant bias to push for a “no” vote; nor do they realize how utterly corrupt their government and media have become.
Younger Scots, by contrast, grew up in the internet era and follow alternative media. Many know that the BBC covered up the Jimmy Saville pedophilia scandal in order to protect Tony Blair and other leading politicians. They know that the BBC reported the “collapse” of World Trade Center 7 twenty minutes before it happened. They know the BBC has worked overtime covering up not only 9/11-anthrax, but also follow-up false flag attacks including the 7/7/2005 London bombings. They know the BBC mis-portrays conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine. And they realize that the Western “democracies” are rotten with election fraud – which makes the mainstream’s refusal to sponsor the usual exit polls in the Scottish referendum highly suspicious.
Just as young people disproportionately support European independence movements while opposing NATO and the EU, they also break with their elders in supporting the Palestinians rather than the Zionists. According to a July 23rd Gallup poll, Americans in the 18-29 years old range opposed Israel’s attack on Gaza by a two-to-one margin; while Americans over 65, who are less likely to use the alternative media, supported Israel’s assault by a 5 to 3 margin.
The neoconservatives – Straussian Zionists who believe the elite should control the masses with Big Lies – are panicked by the success of alternative media. Demonstrating their anguished desperation, America’s two most influential neoconservative publications, Commentary (the hard-line neocons) and Atlantic Monthly (the moderate neocons) just issued a coordinated salvo against alternative media. Both magazines, reading from the same script, are striving to portray the rising alternative media as enemies of the US and the West – an exquisite irony, since the neocons themselves are dual-loyalists at best, traitors at worst, while most of their alternative media enemies are honest patriots.
In the Atlantic Monthly’s new article “Russia and the Menace of Unreality: How Vladimir Putin is revolutionizing information warfare” Peter Pomerantsev falsely charges alternative media outlet Russia Today (RT) with doing what the neocon-dominated Western mainstream media is actually doing. Specifically, Pomerantsev charges that RT “reinvents reality, creating mass hallucinations that then translate into political action.” He says RT is spitting out “outlandish stories about the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine in July” in order to create “a virtual reality that can no longer be mediated or debated by any appeal to ‘truth.’” And he adds: “RT also focuses on conspiracy theories—from 9/11 truthers to the hidden Zionist hand in Syria’s civil war.”
Contrary to Pomerantsev’s thesis, RT has all of these stories right – and is thereby striking a blow against the reality-reinventing, mass-hallucination-creating Western mainstream media. Putin and RT are revolutionizing information warfare not by lying but by seeking the truth.
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.