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Top 10 Lies, Damn Lies, and Lies About Syria

By David Swanson. This article was fist published on davidswanson.org

1. Chemical weapons are worse than other weapons.

This is not the case. Death and dismemberment are horrific regardless of the weapon. No weapon is being used legally, morally, humanely, or practically in Syria or Iraq. U.S. bombs are no less indiscriminate, no less immoral, and no less illegal than chemical weapons -- or for that matter than the depleted uranium weapons with which the United States has been poisoning the area. The fact that a weapon has not been banned does not create a legal right to go into a country and kill people with it.

2. Chemical weapons use justifies the escalated use of other weapons.

Does shoplifting justify looting? If a Hatfield poisoned a McCoy, would another McCoy be justified in shooting a bunch of Hatfields? What barbarism is this? A crime does not sanction another crime. That's a quick trip to hell.

3. Important people we should trust know who used chemical weapons.

No, they do not. At least they do not know that the Syrian government did it. If they knew this, they would offer evidence. As on every past occasion, they have not done so.

4. The enemy is pure evil and will answer only to force.

The U.S. government and its proxies have sabotaged peace negotiations numerous times over the past several years, maintaining that Assad would have to step down or -- preferably -- be overthrown by violence before anything could be negotiated. This does not make the U.S. government pure inhuman evil, much less does it make the Syrian government that.

5. If you don't want to bomb Syria with one enemy's name on your lips, you hold the firm belief that said enemy is actually a saint.

This piece of stupidity gets people accused of loving and holding blameless the Syrian government, the Russian government, the U.S. government, ISIS, and various other parties. In fact, the reasonable thing to do is to hold all killers responsible for their killing because of the crime, not because of who commits it.

6. U.S. war-making in Syria is defensive.

This is the opposite of reality-based thinking as war-making endangers us rather than protects us. Someone should ask Donald Trump to remember the Maine. You may remember that Spain wanted the matter brought to a neutral arbiter, but the United States wanted war, regardless of any evidence. That's been the typical move over the centuries: careful maneuvering into war, not away from it. Trump, by the way, is already up to his bloody elbows in several wars inherited from Obama -- wars no less immoral and illegal slaughters because of their connection to either of those presidents. The question of who blew up the Maine is, at this point a truly dumb one. The important point is that the U.S. didn't want to know, wanted instead to rush into a war before anyone could find out. Typically, the desire to avoid information, and not some other consideration, is the reason for the urgency in war-making.

7. Peace was tried in 2013, and it failed.

No. What happened was that Obama and his administration tried to pull off the same stunt that Trump is trying now, and the public rose up and refused to allow it. So, instead of a massive bombing campaign, Syria got more weapons, more trainers, more troops, and a medium sized bombing campaign. That's very different from actually shifting direction and offering Syria diplomacy, aid, and disarmament.

8. The U.S. government's goal is peace.

The long openly stated goal of powerful players in the U.S. government is to overthrow Assad.

9. Syria is as boring and unconcerning as numerous other ongoing U.S. wars.

In reality, Syria is a war that risks fighting between the United States and Russia, while each is armed with far more than enough nuclear weapons to destroy all life on earth. Creating a profitable conflict between the U.S. and Russia is a likely actual motivation of some hawks on Syria.

10. Making everything worse with yet more violence is the only option left.

That's not an option at all. But these are: aid, reparations, negotiations, disarmament, the rule of law, truth and reconciliation.

--

David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson's books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015, 2016, 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.

Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.

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The Essential Pundit Take: ‘Trump Became President’ by Bombing Syria

By Jim Naureckas. This article was first published on FAIR.

Fareed Zakaria on Trump airstrikes

Fareed Zakaria: Presidents “don’t need to go to a pesky Congress every time they want military force.”

“I think Donald Trump became president of the United States” last night, CNN host Fareed Zakaria said when asked about the significance of Trump’s airstrikes on Syria (New Day, 4/7/17). “I think this was actually a big moment.”

His explanation is worth quoting at length for its distillation of the classic pundit attitude toward presidential violence:

Because candidate Trump had said that he would never get involved in the Syrian civil war. He told President Obama, you cannot do this without the authorization of Congress. He seemed unconcerned with global norms.

President Trump recognized that the president of the United States does have to act to enforce international norms, does have to have this broader moral and political purpose. President Trump realized, as every president has for many decades now, that presidents always believe they have inherent legal authority as commander in chief. And they don’t need to go to a pesky Congress every time they want military force.

It’s entirely true that candidate Trump felt differently. Candidate Obama felt differently than President Obama on these issues.

So I think that what is interesting is even the way in which he justified his actions, President Trump did–for the first time, really, as president, he talked about international norms, international rules, about America’s role in enforcing justice in the world. It was the kind of rhetoric that we have come to expect from American presidents since Harry Truman, but it was the kind of rhetoric that President Trump had pointedly never used, either on the campaign trail nor in his inaugural.

So I think there has been an interesting morphing and a kind of education of Donald Trump.

Note the assurance with which Zakaria insists that a military attack on a sovereign state, unauthorized by the United Nations and unjustifiable in terms of self-defense, signifies a new respect on Trump’s part for “global norms” and “international rules.” Clearly, for Zakaria as for most pundits, the norm is that international law does not apply to the president of the United States–a doctrine that is usually referred to by the euphemism “American exceptionalism.”

Note, too, the contempt with which Zakaria dismisses the idea that a “pesky Congress” should constrain a president’s ability to make war; who needs a constitutionally mandated declaration of war when you’ve got a “broader moral and political purpose”?

Zakaria’s remarks recalled the comment by CNN‘s Van Jones (2/28/17) after Trump celebrated the widow of a Navy SEAL who died in a botched raid in Yemen that killed nine children: Trump “did something tonight that you cannot take away from him. He became president of the United States.” They also recall the prediction made by Alex Pareene (The Concourse, 3/1/17) after the pundit reaction to that speech:

Now that Trump has learned that there is a direct relationship between a president’s body count and how “presidential” the mainstream political press considers him to be, the whole world is fucked.

But Zakaria also evoked a voice from an earlier generation of war punditry, the New York TimesR.W. Apple (12/21/89), who said after the elder President George Bush invaded Panama that Bush had completed

a presidential initiation rite [joining] American leaders who since World War II have felt a need to demonstrate their willingness to shed blood to protect or advance what they construe as the national interest…. Panama has shown him as a man capable of bold action.

Apple (8/12/90) later praised Bush as “tough,” “determined” and “statesmanlike” after Bush warned following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait that “American soldiers and American hostages may have to die.” “In forceful terms, Mr. Bush sought to prepare the whole American nation for the prospect of bloodshed,” was how Apple put it.

MSNBC: Tomahawk missile

One of Brian Williams’ “beautiful” Tomahawk missiles on MSNBC.

Zakaria was not the only talking head striking nostalgic notes as he commented on the US’s latest violence. Brian Williams, reporting the breaking news on MSNBC (4/6/17), rhapsodized about the beauty of the Tomahawk missile:

We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two Navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean. I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: “I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons.” And they are beautiful pictures, of fearsome armaments making what is, for them, a brief flight over this airfield.

Williams’ enthusiasm recalled the weapons fetishism of the 1991 Gulf War, which featured CNN (1/16/91) describing the “sweet beautiful sight” of bombers taking off from Saudi Arabia, and CBS correspondent Jim Stewart (1/17/91) raving about “two days of almost picture-perfect assaults.”


Jim Naureckas is the editor of FAIR.org. You can find him on Twitter at @JNaureckas.

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Russia-Baiting Pushed Trump to Attack Syria -- and Increases the Risks of Nuclear Annihilation

By Norman Solomon.

Vast efforts to portray Donald Trump as Vladimir Putin’s flunky have given Trump huge incentives to prove otherwise. Last Thursday, he began the process in a big way by ordering a missile attack on Russia’s close ally Syria. In the aftermath of the attack, the cheerleading from U.S. mass media was close to unanimous, and the assault won lots of praise on Capitol Hill. Finally, the protracted and fervent depictions of Trump as a Kremlin tool were getting some tangible results.

At this point, the anti-Russia bandwagon has gained so much momentum that a national frenzy is boosting the odds of unfathomable catastrophe. The world’s two nuclear superpowers are in confrontation mode.

It’s urgent to tell ourselves and each other: Wake up!

The dangers of a direct U.S.-Russian military conflict are spiking upward. After the missile attack, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that it was suspending a memorandum of understanding with the United States to prevent mid-air collisions over Syria. And Russia’s prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, issued a statement referring to “our now completely ruined relations” and declaring that the United States was “on the verge of a military clash with Russia.”

These ominous developments are a longtime dream come true for ultra-hawks like Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who’ve gained leverage in an alliance with numerous congressional Democrats. The neocons and the “liberal interventionists” really have something going now, after propagating the meme that Trump is a Putin puppet.

At this perilous moment in human history, the quality of the Democratic Party leadership was embodied in a tweet last month from the Democratic National Committee’s new chair, Tom Perez, who sent out this message about a weekly address by President Trump: “Translated from the original Russian and everything.”

Such tactics aren’t just McCarthyite. They are baiting, goading and pressurizing Trump to prove that he’s willing to clash with Russia after all.

Those tactics are a far cry from what’s actually needed -- truly independent investigations -- in order to address the charges that Russia interfered with the U.S. election last year. We most definitely do not need the kind of baiting and goading that creates enormous pressure on Trump to show he’s willing and able to go to the brink of war with Russia.

Make no mistake. With 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons at the ready in the United States and Russia, pushing to heighten tensions between the two countries is playing with thermonuclear fire.

Early this year, citing the escalation of those tensions, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved its “Doomsday Clock” even closer to midnight. “In 2017, we find the danger to be even greater, the need for action more urgent,” the Bulletin declared. “It is two and a half minutes to midnight, the Clock is ticking, global danger looms. Wise public officials should act immediately, guiding humanity away from the brink. If they do not, wise citizens must step forward and lead the way. “

People at the grassroots must lead, pushing and pulling the official leaders to follow. To stop the current war train -- and to quite possibly rescue the fate of the earth -- we must get a grip. If we depend on the “leadership” in Congress, all that we hold dear will drift into still-greater jeopardy.

With Congress now in recess, most legislators are back home -- and they should hear from us. Pick up the phone, make an appointment to visit their district offices, or show up without an appointment.

Right now, in one minute, you can send an email to your senators and representative with your own message or with this one: “As a constituent, I urge you to make a public statement that you support a complete cutoff of funds for U.S. military actions in Syria. This step is vital to prevent our country from adding to the deadly violence in Syria -- and to halt the momentum toward a military confrontation with Russia that could end with escalation into a horrific nuclear exchange.”

Detente between the United States and Russia will be necessary for bringing peace to Syria. The same goes for reducing -- instead of increasing -- the chances that nuclear weapons will destroy us all.

What passes for leadership on these matters in Congress will not save us. On the contrary, right now the congressional leaders are serving as enablers for what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the madness of militarism.”

 

Even the better statements from Capitol Hill about the April 6 missile attack have been grimly inadequate. So, Senator Chris Murphy warned of “the potential quagmire of Syria,” while Senator Bernie Sanders said: “I’m deeply concerned that these strikes could lead to the United States once again being dragged back into the quagmire of long-term military engagement in the Middle East.”

Expressing concern about a “quagmire” is all well and good, but falls far short of acknowledging what’s at stake.

On Sunday, the Washington Post published a sobering -- and frightening -- article by the person who was the national security adviser for Joe Biden during his last two years as vice president. “If the Trump administration and the Kremlin are not able to come to a meeting of the minds on Syria,” wrote Colin Kahl, “it could set the two nuclear powers on a dangerous collision course.”

Kahl, now an associate professor in security studies at Georgetown University, sketched out a plausible scenario: “The Syrian dictator (perhaps prodded by Russia or Iran) may attempt to test Trump again, hoping to prove the president is a ‘paper tiger.’ And Trump, having invested his personal credibility in standing firm, may find himself psychologically or politically compelled to respond, despite the very real risks that it could result in a direct military clash with Russia.”

And, Kahl added, “Given Russia’s vital interests in Syria, Moscow is not likely to respond positively to U.S. ultimatums and maximalist positions. If the administration does not find a way to give the Kremlin a face-saving way out, conflict is much more likely than accommodation.”

Kahl’s article concluded: “Sinking into a Syrian quagmire would be bad enough. World War III would be far worse.”

_____________________

Norman Solomon is the coordinator of the online activist group RootsAction.org and the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. He is the author of a dozen books including “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”

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Syria Airstrikes Instantly Added Nearly $5 Billion to Missile-Makers’ Stock Value

Jen Wieczner. This article was first published on Fortune.
Raytheon stock surged Friday morning, after 59 of the company's Tomahawk missiles were used to strike Syria in Donald Trump's first major military operation as President.

Trump ordered the airstrike on the Syrian government Thursday night in retaliation for a deadly chemical weapons attack on civilians earlier this week that killed as many as 100 people. The U.S. blamed the attack on the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Tomahawk missile used in the strike is made by Raytheon (rtn, +1.47%), whose stock opened 2.5% higher Friday, adding more than $1 billion to the defense contractor's market capitalization.

The shares of other missile and weapons manufacturers, including Boeing (ba, +0.83%), Lockheed Martin (lmt, +1.17%), Northrop Grumman (noc, +0.90%) and General Dynamics (gd, +0.93%), each rose as much as 1%, collectively gaining nearly $5 billion in market value as soon as they began trading, even as the broader market fell.

(All major U.S. stock market indexes dropped slightly in morning trading after the release of the weakest monthly jobs report in almost a year, which increased doubts about the strength of the American economy.)

The technology and equipment of the defense companies, which all have lucrative contracts with the U.S. government, was likely also used in Trump's airstrikes on Syria. Lockheed Martin, for example, makes the Tactical Tomahawk Weapons Control System, one part of a three-pronged system needed to launch the missile; the product calculates the trajectory from a ship to the target. General Dynamics also makes technology used to fire Tomahawk missiles.

Boeing, meanwhile, makes other types of cruise missiles.

Defense contractor stocks have risen in the months since Trump was elected, spurred by his promises of a "historic" increase in U.S. military spending. The budget Trump proposed last month includes an additional $52 billion for the Department of Defense. Boeing stock has gained nearly 21% since the election, while General Dynamics stock is up 14% over the same period. (The S&P 500 has risen roughly 11% since election day.)

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Trumpenstein’s Tomahawk Dog-Wag: on Real and Fake News

By Paul Street. This article was first published on Counterpunch.

Photo by DonkeyHotey | CC BY 2.0

Photo by DonkeyHotey | CC BY 2.0

 

I had five thoughts the minute I heard last Thursday night that the Orange-Tinted Freak Show – the “Unbelievable Baby Man” (Tom Tomorrow) – in the White House had launched 59 Tomahawk missiles into Syria as a response (supposedly) to the Syrian regime’s (alleged) chemical bombing of innocent civilians in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun.

The first thought was that there was something very shady about the claim that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had crossed the chemical weapon “red line.” Assad handed over his chemical weapons stock for destruction years ago. At the same time, it made no political or military sense for him to have provoked the West by deploying whatever chemical weapons he might have retained (or developed since) against innocents. Hadn’t the Trump administration just signaled that removing Assad was not a U.S. priority? Why would Assad want to mess with that?  It didn’t add up.

My second thought was that Trump’s missile attack was very likely an act of theater driven largely by domestic political considerations.  Clockwork Orangatun is plagued by incredibly low public approval numbers and a dismal early policy record.  That has put him in dire need of a “wag the dog” moment – a “national security” event to rally people around the flag, to make him look like a big decisive and powerful man, and to divert public attention from his failures in Washington. The Syrian thing was perfect in that regard.  It was an all-too made-to-order right-on-time pretext.  Bombing Syria (well, hurling some missiles at an old Syrian airfield bearing a handful of broken-down Russian jets) would help Herr Donald look like a “man of action” compared to the weak, “do-nothing” Barack Obama, who passed (as Trump urged at the time) on a chance to bomb Syria after a chemical weapons incident there in 2013.

More importantly, Trump’s Tomahawk raid would help him come out from under the cloud of the preposterous Democratic Party and mainstream media charge that he is a tool or at least an ally of Russia.  Russia is one of Assad’s critical allies.

My third thought was that it was difficult to take seriously Trump’s claim to have been moved to action by horror at the sight of Arab children and babies being murdered. The orange-haired beast has been more than willing to slaughter Arab women, children and other non-combatants in Yemen and Iraq.  The terrible images of Syrian children who have suffered under the civil war there have not driven the vicious Baby Man to reconsider his nativist Muslim travel ban on Syrians.  They have not led him to question the broader American policy of keeping all but a few refugees from (the U.S.-devastated) Middle East (and North Africa) out of the U.S.

My fourth thought was that the Democrats and their media allies bear significant responsibility for whatever terrible consequences might follow from Trump’s missile adventure.  They have been leading the ridiculous charge that Trump is a Kremlin agent.  Surely some of them must have considered the possibility that Trump would be driven to do something to suggest the falsity of the charge by “standing up to Russia.”

My fifth thought is that Trump’s missile spasm was completely illegal under national and international law.  He responded without authorization from Congress, with no call for any sober investigation into who and/or what caused the chemical release in Khan Sheikhoun, and with no effort to garner sanction from the United Nations. (There’s nothing surprising about this, of course. Whoever sits in the White House, the U.S. “imperial presidency” has long and routinely trashed national and global law whenever that law doesn’t suit White House purpose.)

I am hardly alone in having such scurrilous if elementary thoughts. Go to the Website of The Real News Network (RNN) and you can watch RNN host Paul Jay interview former Colin Powell chief-of-staff Larry Wilkerson and the prolific American historian Gerald Horne on what’s really going with Trump and Syria. Wilkerson reports hearing from his sources that the Syrian government may well not be responsible for the chemical attack.

Jay, Wlikerson, and Horne all agree that Trump’s criminal act of war is rooted in the very “wag the dog” domestic political considerations I immediately suspected. None of them take seriously the notion that Trump was suddenly driven to act by humanitarian concerns.  All of them note that any number of actors other than Assad – including jihadis trying to bring down Assad – might have been the real perpetrators in Khan Sheikhoun.

The Real News Network is a left outlet dedicated to, well…to real news.  It is therefore marginalized in the reigning U.S. media landscape, which is all about the fake news of imperial propaganda. The most depressing thing for me about the Trump missile launch last Thursday wasn’t the action itself.  It was the reporting and commentary it got in the mainstream television I viewed in the aftermath.  Consulting CNN and “P”BS, I was disgusted (though not surprised) to hear outwardly knowledgeable and sophisticated (and deeply indoctrinated) journalists and foreign policy “experts”:

+ Raise no serious questions about the veracity of the chemical bombing allegation.

+ Say nothing whatsoever about the role that domestic political considerations – including desires to boost his approval ratings and to counter Russiagate – certainly played in Trump’s theatrical attack on some Syrian airfields.

+ Take seriously the claim that Trump was driven to act impulsively by moral outrage over the chemical killing of Syrian “children of God.”

The main criticism of the missile attack that I could pick up from the yakking bobble-heads was a faulting of Trump for appearing to have no worked out longer-term strategy behind his action – for acting “impulsively” and “emotionally.” (“P”BS “NewsHour” commentators David Brooks and Mark Shields argued over whether such “impulsivity” was a good thing or not: Brooks liked it “in this case”).  The basic and obvious suspicion that there might have been political calculation (above all a desire to t/Trump Russiagate) behind the missile launch did not seem to cross commentators’ minds at CNN or “P”BS (at least it didn’t during the times I was watching). Trump’s brazen violation of national and international law was completely irrelevant to these power-serving chatterboxes

MSNBC’s disgraceful imperial cheerleader Brian Williams set a new standard for obsequious war worship.  “We see these beautiful pictures, at night, from the decks of these two U.S. Navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean,” Williams ejaculated during a Thursday night broadcast. The anchor even quoted a line from Leonard Cohen, “I am guided by the beauty of our weapons.” Williams continued: “They are beautiful pictures of fearsome armaments making what is for them a brief flight over to this air field.”

It’s hard to imagine a corporate media operative sinking any lower than that. But CNN’s official in-house foreign policy guru, the suave globalist Fareed Zakaria, may have done so. “I think,” Zakaria proclaimed last Friday, “Donald Trump became President of the United States last night.” It was what CounterPunch’s Jeffrey St. Clair calls “yet more proof of the old maxim that you’re not really CEO of the Empire until you’ve killed a bunch of people in a foreign country.” (Though in fact, as St Clair noted, Trump drew his first blood in Yemen last February).

It’s one thing to have an openly disgraced buffoon like Brian Williams (who was kicked off his anchor position atop the NBC Nightly News two years ago for embellishing his overseas reporting with fake claims of having faced enemy fire) wax with sexualized glee over Baby Man’s dog-wagging military thrusts.  It’s another and far worse thing for Zakaria to lend his imperial gravitas to Trump’s sordid projectile escapade, which reportedly moved the Kremlin to disconnect the U.S.-Russia “deconfliction line” – a communication channel meant to help prevent the thermonuclear self-elimination of homo sapiens.

I was on a television-equipped elliptical machine at the University of Iowa Recreation Center when I learned that the Orange Haired Beast had gone Tomahawk.  As I got got off the machine I suggested to a young lady college student working out next to me that she “turn for a second to CNN. I think Trump could be starting World War III.”  She screwed up her face and disgust and said “who cares? I don’t pay attention to that crap.”

That statement might seem criminally apathetic but it makes a certain amount of sense to me.  The dominant U.S. media is a relentless purveyor of endless bullshit on numerous levels but with especially noxious distortion when it comes to U.S “foreign affairs” – an overly polite establishment term for American imperialism. To use a favorite term from the Trump era, it’s fake news. We need real news – like on the Real News Network.

The more you watch of U.S. “mainstream” news coverage without an eye trained to detect propaganda, the dumber and more dangerous to the world and yourself you get.  The planet is probably better off without young Americans watching CNN or “P”BS.  Now if we could get more of them to care about what they can learn at places like CounterPunch and the Real News Network and other left and actual news sites.

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