Thursday, July 31, 2014

Arab Spring Upside Down, Plans for Starvation of Gaza

There are two noteworthy stories in today's paper on Israel's ongoing invasion of Gaza. The first is David Kirkpatrick's "Arab Leaders, Viewing Hamas as Worse Than Israel, Stay Silent." For me, David Kirkpatrick and the Arab Spring are synonymous. His reports from Cairo's Tahrir Square in 2011 provided an excellent window on the Egyptian Revolution for Western readers. At that point, the Gray Lady and the U.S. government were in support of the people's movement to topple corrupt strongman Hosni Mubarak.

But times have changed, as Kirkpatrick makes clear in his article. The ferocity of Israel's Gaza invasion is bolstered by the support of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Both nations despise Hamas:
Although Egypt is traditionally the key go-between in any talks with Hamas — deemed a terrorist group by the United States and Israel — the government in Cairo this time surprised Hamas by publicly proposing a cease-fire agreement that met most of Israel’s demands and none from the Palestinian group. Hamas was tarred as intransigent when it immediately rejected it, and Cairo has continued to insist that its proposal remains the starting point for any further discussions. 
But as commentators sympathetic to the Palestinians slammed the proposal as a ruse to embarrass Hamas, Egypt’s Arab allies praised it. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia called President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt the next day to commend it, Mr. Sisi’s office said, in a statement that cast no blame on Israel but referred only to “the bloodshed of innocent civilians who are paying the price for a military confrontation for which they are not responsible.” 
“There is clearly a convergence of interests of these various regimes with Israel,” said Khaled Elgindy, a former adviser to Palestinian negotiators who is now a fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. In the battle with Hamas, Mr. Elgindy said, the Egyptian fight against the forces of political Islam and the Israeli struggle against Palestinian militants were nearly identical. “Whose proxy war is it?” he asked. 
The dynamic has inverted all expectations of the Arab Spring uprisings. As recently as 18 months ago, most analysts in Israel, Washington and the Palestinian territories expected the popular uprisings to make the Arab governments more responsive to their citizens, and therefore more sympathetic to the Palestinians and more hostile to Israel. 
But instead of becoming more isolated, Israel’s government has emerged for the moment as an unexpected beneficiary of the ensuing tumult, now tacitly supported by the leaders of the resurgent conservative order as an ally in their common fight against political Islam.
So there you have it, direct from a foremost scribe of the Arab Spring: the Arab Spring has been rolled back, with Israel, operating in concert with the corrupt Gulf monarchies as well as Egypt, a prime beneficiary.  The July 3, 2013 Sisi coup will be seen in years to come as a critical turning point in the Middle East.

None of the grievances that motivated the popular revolt against the Mubarak regime in Egypt have been addressed. People are being overawed by force of violence. That will continue to be the prescription going forward. And that is why the United States has radically shifted its stance since February 2011. The United States is no longer championing democracy. The Obama administration is more concerned with getting rid of Maliki in Iraq than it is about the rise of Islamic State -- which should tell us something. The plan going forward is for all of us to live in some form of totalitarian society. Whether religiously fundamentalist and anti-technocratic, or hyper-technocratic and profane, it doesn't make any difference to the plutocratic elite pulling the wires.

The second noteworthy offering on the Gaza war by the Gray Lady is Jodi Rudoren's exploration, "Quest for Demilitarization of Gaza Is Seen Getting Netanyahu Only So Far," of what Israel wants to achieve with its current war-crimes orgy. Demilitarization is the stated goal of the Netanyahu government:
Dore Gold, a foreign policy adviser to Mr. Netanyahu, said demilitarization had worked elsewhere in the Middle East, pointing to United Nations Security Council Resolution 687, which required Saddam Hussein to give up weapons of mass destruction after the first gulf war in 1991, and President Bashar al-Assad’s agreement in Syria to turn in chemical weapons last summer. Mr. Gold said that in demilitarization, Mr. Netanyahu now had “a very clear strategic goal.”
The problem is that there is no clear path to that "very clear strategic goal." Unless of course one could imagine Israel driving Gaza's 1.7 million Palestinians into the Sinai, something which might seem unthinkable now but maybe not after a few more weeks of IDF atrocities.

The problem with demilitarization is that it is unenforceable, particularly now since Israel, faced with a return of an Intifada-level of unity among Palestinians, will have to loosen its blockade of Gaza in any lasting ceasefire agreement. Buffer zones won't work because Hamas and Islamic Jihad rockets can be fired from anywhere within Gaza and reach Israel.

No, Israel is not going to bargain. Israel will maintain its campaign of terror and carnage. The only way to break the spirit of the Palestinian people at this point is through mass starvation, and that appears to be option being seriously discussed within Israel:
In the years since, and particularly after Hamas won Palestinian elections in 2006 and routed opposition forces from Gaza the next year, Israel has maintained an uneasy occupation. It restricts fishing and farming zones; monitors goods going in and out, ostensibly for security; and gives rare exit permits, mainly for medical treatment. But it is also Israeli power lines that provide Gaza’s limited electricity and Israeli trucks that, even during the raging fighting of recent days, ferry in milk, rice and sugar. 
“You cannot win against an effective guerrilla organization when on the one hand, you are fighting them, and on the other hand, you continue to supply them with water and food and gas and electricity,” said Giora Eiland, a former Israeli national security adviser. “Israel should have declared a war against the de facto state of Gaza, and if there is misery and starvation in Gaza, it might lead the other side to make such hard decisions.” 
Mr. Eiland has long argued that Israel should engage Hamas as the government of Gaza rather than try to isolate it, and advocated a Marshall Plan to rebuild the battered territory. Until recently, his was a rather lone voice. 
Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s right-wing foreign minister, proffered a plan that would lift all limits on Gaza but seal its borders with Israel, essentially pushing the territory toward Egypt. Others imagined that making life in Gaza miserable might lead to Hamas’s downfall. But that approach failed as poverty helped foment violence, because Israel’s occupation of the West Bank hardly made it seem like paradise, and because the Palestinian struggle is inspired by ideas about liberation and identity. 
Neither idea, in any case, accounted for the fact that Palestinians see Gaza as an integral part of their future state, as promised by the Oslo Accords signed in the mid-1990s. 
“The Gaza Strip is not viable on its own, it’s certainly not viable being blockaded, and it’s not viable if it’s disconnected from the West Bank,” said Diana Buttu, a Palestinian citizen of Israel who lived in Gaza for more than a year and is now based in Ramallah, in the West Bank. “Violence is not just for the sake of violence. Violence is because there are political issues that haven’t been dealt with.”
The Third Intifada will have to pick back up within Israel and the West Bank. Such an uprising is starting to take place, but it is not being reported. Outside of a McClatchy story I saw on Niqnaq's blog, I haven't seen anything about protests by Palestinian Israelis. But they are happening, and they need to grow larger because, as Kirkpatrick makes clear, no state actors are coming to Gaza's rescue.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Chalk Up a 'W' for Great Satan and Expect the Fighting to Rage On

Before getting to the Russian sanctions postmortem, the shape of a future geopolitical order is becoming discernible. The world is to be divided between the United States on the one hand and the Saudis, as the principal Gulf Sheikhdom controlling Islamic State as it stretches from the Mediterranean to Pakistan, on the other. A Greater Israel will be part of the mix. The chief adversaries to be twisted and broken will be the BRICS.

As for the sanctions that Europe approved yesterday, Obama took to the airwaves to announce Russia's isolation from the international community. Certainly Europe pressed harder than in the past. Russian majority-owned banks will be cut off from Western medium- and long-term loans. But the Chinese have plenty of capital. The dual-use technology ban that Europe put into place is being touted on the front page of the Gray Lady as damaging to Russia's ability to tap its Arctic fossil fuel reserves. No one but the West apparently has the know-how and tools to deal with drilling in shale or at deep sea or in the Arctic.

But it seems to me that the technology moratorium is largely a public relations stunt. The big BP and ExxonMobil deals appear to be untouched, and Europe included an exemption for any items that pertain to the gas industry. This is from "Coordinated Sanctions Aim at Russia’s Ability to Tap Its Oil Reserves," by Peter Baker, Alan Cowell and James Kanter:
The American and European actions were intended to largely, though not precisely, match each other. The United States cut off three more Russian banks, including the giant VTB Bank, from medium- and long-term capital markets and barred Americans from doing business with the United Shipbuilding Corporation, a large state-owned firm created by Mr. Putin. The Obama administration also formally suspended export credit and development finance to Russia. 
The European Union adopted similar restrictions on capital markets and applied them to Russian state-owned banks. It imposed an embargo on new arms sales to Russia and limited sales of equipment with both civilian and military uses to Russian military buyers. Europe also approved new sanctions against at least three close Putin associates, but did not identify them publicly.
European governments moved ahead despite concerns that Europe would pay an economic price for confronting the Kremlin more aggressively. While their actions went far beyond any previously taken against Russia over the Ukraine crisis, they were tailored to minimize their own costs. The arms embargo, for instance, applies only to future sales, not to the much-debated delivery by France of Mistral-class helicopter carriers that resemble bigger aircraft carriers. And the energy technology restrictions do not apply to Russian natural gas, on which Europe relies heavily.
Still, Great Satan has to be given his due. The United States was able to stampede Europe, notably Germany's Angela Merkel, into adopting its position. I didn't think this possible. I thought Germany's economic interests were too great and the U.S. too heavy handed, but I was wrong. The only thing that I can hang my hat at the end of the day is that Germany did not go "all in." Gazprom has been shielded.

What was critical in shifting Europe was MH17. Even though as the crash date of July 17 recedes it appears that the Kiev junta was certainly responsible, the traumatic event is what pitched the EU into the U.S. camp. Neil MacFarquhar, the Gray Lady's minister of propaganda stationed in Moscow, reports today in "As Sanctions Pile Up, Russians’ Alarm Grows Over Putin's Tactics" that
“They were not anticipating the West to make radical moves, costly moves,” said Nikolai Petrov, an independent political analyst. “What is happening is different from what they wanted and what they expected.” 
He and others pointed to the downing of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 over embattled southeastern Ukraine on July 17 as upsetting the balancing act that Mr. Putin had managed to pull off to maintain support from the public, hard-line nationalists, the security services, the oligarchs and the more liberal business community. 
“Until this catastrophe, Putin’s calculations were pretty good in terms of being able to win any tactical battle,” Mr. Petrov said.
“In my opinion, we face a critical situation today,” Lev Gudkov, the director of the Levada Center, an independent polling organization, told a weekend seminar audience. “But our society does not realize it against a backdrop of patriotic and chauvinistic euphoria.” 
That euphoria was rooted in the relatively bloodless, seemingly costless annexation of Crimea in March. The public expected that the rest of the crisis in Ukraine would be resolved with similar ease. 
“The situation began changing dramatically after the crash of the Boeing,” Mr. Gudkov said. “According to our research, reaction inside the country was quite weak, but the Western European public has drastically changed its attitude towards Russia.”
Indeed, poll results released Tuesday by the Levada Center showed the Russian public barely concerned about sanctions. More than 60 percent of respondents thought they would have little or no impact on them. Mr. Putin remains hugely popular.
Note that the content of MacFarquhar's reporting actually refutes the headline to his story. Russians are unperturbed about the possibility of greater sanctions. This happens more often than you would expect at "the newspaper of record," a sure sign of propaganda.

As fighting rages around the wreckage of MH17, and the junta baldly lies that it is not violating the ceasefire governing the crash site, word is that Kiev has given carte blanche to a contingent of armed Dutch and Australian military personnel to roam the crash site war zone. Niqnaq has the story, "this is the scenario i have in mind":
… ITAR-TASS is reporting that Kiev has cut a deal with the Dutch to allow them to mount a 700-member armed investigation force of military and non-military specialists, and allow them free rein to move through Ukraine. The Ukrainians don’t even need to send a sniper to deliberately shoot at the investigators on-site. Just the fact that 700 angry and armed Australians and Netherlanders marching into a war zone from the enemy side will inevitably provoke a violent response from the rebels. As soon as blood hits the ground, an ‘outraged’ NATO will come charging in, and total war will erupt. It’s pretty clear now why Poroshenko didn’t stick to the ceasefire. Who needs a false flag operation when you have such compliant pawns to sacrifice …
So while Great Satan can celebrate a victory, his work of despoliation is not yet through. Novorossiya still has to be smashed to pulp. Here is where the United States best proceed with caution, something that MH17 proves it is not prone to do. Russia will not accept a Western military garrison or an ascendant Nazi junta on its border. So expect the fight to continue.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

U.S. Full-Court Press Against Russia Covers Kiev's Weakness

The newspaper today is loaded with stories pertaining to Russia and the Ukraine. The place to begin is not with the front page "bombshell," written by government mule Michael Gordon, on alleged Russian violation of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) Treaty. That story has been waiting on the back burner for the U.S. to serve up at the appropriate time.

The appropriate time is now. Along with a ruling by a panel in The Hague awarding $50 billion to shareholders of Yukos oil company for its seizure by the Russian government, and the new raft of sanctions being debated and implemented today in Brussels, the U.S. assertion that Russia is in violation of the INF is part of a full-court press. And our question should be why now.

I have an answer. The answer is the junta in Kiev is in trouble. The inherent instability in the coup coalition of Svoboda/Right Sector Nazis and Fatherland neoliberal predators was made manifest last week when putsch prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk tendered his resignation, paving the way for new elections this fall. The clock is ticking. The Donbass uprising has to be put down in the next few months in order for the Kiev junta to begin implementing the IMF reforms; otherwise, Kiev will run out of money.

But the current junta offensive is not going well, despite assurances from Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for the junta's fascist security council. Let's turn to Andrew Kramer and David Herszenhorn, "Officials Pull Back From Crash Site as the Army Puts Pressure on Rebels":
Fighting raged farther east along the highway as well, overnight and through the day. Outside Shakhty-20, a coal mining town on the road, a photographer who was passing through Monday morning saw the scorched hulks of Ukrainian armored personnel carriers in the road, and the bodies of Ukrainian soldiers lying about. 
The Ukrainian offensive was intensive enough that the separatists’ military commander — a Russian citizen who uses the name Igor Strelkov, or Igor the Shooter — held a news conference on Monday to deny rumors that he had fled the city or that important positions had fallen.
“Everywhere, the fight was tough,” he said. “They attacked from the north and the south. As a result of the fierce fighting, most of the advance was pushed back.”

The Malaysian airliner was on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17 when it fell from the sky over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people aboard. Ukrainian and American officials say that a Russian-made surface-to-air missile fired from territory held by separatist rebels brought the jetliner down. The Kremlin and the rebels say the Ukrainian government was responsible for the crash.

Asked at the news conference if he had shot down the plane, Mr. Strelkov said that he would not have known how, even though he once served as a guard in an air defense unit. He also denied that his forces had the type of missile the United States says brought down the plane. “I did not have under my command any Buk systems, so I could not have ordered them to shoot at the airplane of Malaysia Airlines,” he said. “My subordinates did not do it.” 
In Kiev, Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the government’s security council, said the Ukrainian offensive had made gains, capturing a hilltop World War II monument complex that rebels have used for weeks as a stronghold. The claim could not be independently verified. In Donetsk, Mr. Strelkov said the site had not fallen.
The polite way the Gray Lady has devised for the serial mendacity of Lysenko and other junta representatives is to mention that the claims could not be independently verified.

But to return to the line of thought that I was pursuing, the offensive is not meeting with resounding success. Add to that the shift in the narrative that has taken place over the last week and is still ongoing as to who is at fault for bringing MH17 down. The week following the July 17 crash of the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet it was a foregone conclusion that the Novorossiyan militia, operating with Russian technical guidance, was to blame. That has shifted, with the unanswered questions piling up and the Kiev/U.S. case falling flat. So that now whenever MH17 is mentioned the standard form is to say that on the one hand Kiev/U.S. blames the rebels, while on the other the rebels/Russia blame the junta. For a sample of why Kiev/U.S. are running scared on the MH17, look at Lavrov's forceful statement:
In Moscow on Monday, the foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, repeated a Russian call for the United States to make public whatever proof it has that Flight 17 was brought down by a missile fired from rebel-controlled territory. “We do not understand why the Americans, who say that they have strong evidence to support their accusation, why they do not show that evidence,” he said at a news conference. 
Mr. Lavrov also said that the United Nations should guarantee security at the crash site, and he called on Ukraine to respect a United Nations Security Council resolution adopted on July 21 asking all parties to refrain from any action that would complicate the investigation.
The last paragraph refers to the agreement to cease hostilities within a 24-mile radius of the wreckage site. The junta is in direct violation of the UNSC resolution due to its offensive. So when serial liar Lysenko says "[W]e have information that terrorists from time to time are shelling the plane crash area, in particular from mortars and artillery, in order to destroy all possible evidence,” he is really talking about the junta.

Sabrina Tavernise and Noah Sneider report from Donetsk in "Enmity and Civilian Toll Rise in Ukraine While Attention Is Diverted" another reason for the big PR roll out by the United States. Kiev is losing the "hearts and mind" war. Even spook-infested Human Rights Watch is accusing the junta of war crimes:
In a report released on Thursday, Human Rights Watch documented four instances of the use of unguided Grad rockets, which killed at least 16 civilians in and around Donetsk in nine days. While both rebels and Ukrainian forces use the rockets — descendants of World War II-era weapons — the investigation “strongly indicates that Ukrainian government forces were responsible” for the four attacks. 
“Using these kinds of weapons in populated areas is a violation of the laws of war,” said Ole Solvang, senior emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch. “International allies of the Ukrainian government — the United States, the European Union — should condemn this use and urge the government to stop.”
The junta's indiscriminate shelling in the urban centers of Luhansk and Donetsk, backed up by HRW, has given Russia all the justification it needs to rationalize an invasion of Ukraine for humanitarian purposes. All Russia need do is invoke the Kosovo precedent.

The U.S. is on shaky ground. That is the big picture. And true to form the U.S. is covering up its wobbliness with a lot of noise and bluster. It is a shame to see Europe bamboozled into placing more sanctions on Russia. The capital markets ban of Russian banks accessing medium- and long-term loans will no doubt hurt, but I don't think it is an existential threat. The dual-use machinery ban, depending on what gets placed on the black list, could be extremely damaging. Dual-use sanctions are what drove Iraq into poverty and caused the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children, eliciting the famous Madeleine Albright quote, "We think the price is worth it."

Already reservations are being voiced that this could drive Russia into more bellicose behavior, manifesting the very outcome that U.S.-led sanctions are designed to avoid. But for the United States the goal has not been the territorial integrity of Ukraine or peace and harmony. For the Unites States the goal all along has been to reestablish the Cold War, to rebuild a wall between Europe and Russia.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Taliban Resurgent in Afghanistan + No Exit in Gaza

It is easy to tune out news coming from Afghanistan with all that is going on these days. World War Three, or, at the very least, a new Cold War, is being launched in southeastern Ukraine, what is known as the Donets Basin, or Donbass. The century-old Sykes-Picot Middle East is being remade with U.S. support, both tacit and manifest. And China is looking at protracted conflict with its many neighbors and the United States over access to the China Sea.

So it is easy to skip stories like Azam Ahmed's "Taliban Making Military Gains in Afghanistan, " which appeared in the Sunday paper yesterday, the gist of which is the Taliban is resurgent:
At a time when an election crisis is threatening the stability of the government, the Taliban’s increasingly aggressive campaign is threatening another crucial facet of the American withdrawal plan, full security by Afghan forces this year.

“They are running a series of tests right now at the military level, seeing how people respond,” one Western official said, describing a Taliban effort to gauge how quickly they could advance. “They are trying to figure out: Can they do it now, or will it have to wait” until after the American withdrawal, the official added, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the coalition has officially ceded security control. 
Interviews with local officials and residents in several strategic areas around the country suggest that, given the success of their attacks, the Taliban are growing bolder just two months into the fighting season, at great cost to Afghan military and police forces. 
In Kapisa, a verdant province just north of Kabul that includes a vital highway to northern Afghanistan, insurgents are openly challenging and even driving away the security forces in several districts. Security forces in Tagab District take fire daily from the Taliban, who control everything but the district center. Insurgents in Alasay District, northeast of Kabul, recently laid siege to an entire valley for more than a week, forcing hundreds of residents and 45 police officers to flee. At least some of the local police in a neighboring district have cut deals with the Taliban to save themselves.
To give you an idea of how dire the loss of authority in Kapisa is, Bagram Airfield, the seat of U.S. power in Afghanistan, lies just outside the boundaries of the province.

This morning Carlotta Gall and Taimoor Shah report in "After Losing Province in 2010, Afghan Taliban Strike Back" that the Taliban, in addition to bold moves north of Kabul, are simultaneously making an audacious move to assert control of Kandahar:
In an annual public statement over the weekend for the holiday of Eid al-Fitr, the Taliban’s supreme leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, reiterated his determination to re-establish an Islamic emirate in Afghanistan. The proof was borne out by a multifront offensive in Kandahar involving hundreds of Taliban fighters that was seemingly timed to take advantage of Eid al-Fitr, which closes the holy month of Ramadan.
The question is not if but when the Taliban returns to power. The situation is similar to when the Soviets pulled out. The contested presidential election pitting candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani against one another is likely to devolve into some form of armed conflict. The Taliban will sweep in with the promise of restored order. Then, very soon, we will have an Islamic State stretching from northern Syria up to the border of Iran before picking back up in Afghanistan and running all the way to the Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas. The pressure on Iran will be enormous.

This morning Jodi Rudoren and Ben Hubbard in "Despite Gains, Hamas Sees a Fight for Its Existence and Presses Ahead" have a useful synopsis of where we are with the war raging between Israel and Hamas in Gaza:
With large sections of Gaza devastated and the Palestinian death toll topping 1,000, Hamas waffled over the weekend on the United Nations’ calls for a “humanitarian pause” in hostilities. It said Saturday night that such a pause was unacceptable as long as Israeli troops maintained positions and limited operations inside Gaza, then hours later declared its own pause without conditions, a bewildering back-and-forth that made it difficult to glean a clear strategy.
Politically isolated after breaks with Syria, Iran and especially Egypt, and its effort at reconciling with the Palestinian factions that rule the West Bank having failed to bear fruit, Hamas has all but given up on governing Gaza to focus on the battlefield. Israelis have expressed outrage that thousands of tons of concrete built a vast network of tunnels rather than schools or hospitals, but that argument has little traction in Gaza, where many see violence as the only language that works.
Though weary of war, many Gazans see the so-called resistance as the only possible path to pressing Israel and Egypt to open border crossings, and to ending Israel’s “siege” on imports and exports and naval “blockade.” Hamas and its backers in Qatar and Turkey have also been calling for a seaport and airport in the coastal enclave.
“The only option left for us was to defend ourselves and to make Israel bleed the way that we have been bleeding all these years,” said Ahmed Yousef, a former Hamas official who remains close to its leaders. “It is not acceptable to go back to a situation where we are being squeezed to death and where the whole society is being paralyzed.”
Faraj al-Loul, a plumber shopping for vegetables on Sunday in a Gaza City market, echoed the opinions of many residents interviewed who said life had become so miserable that they were willing to suffer the high costs of war if it could bring change. 
“We want a cease-fire, of course, but it has to be based on the demands of the resistance,” he said. “If they refuse to open the crossings, then we’ll all become martyrs, God willing.”
Michael Gordon provides a summary, "Even Gaza Truce Is Hard to Win, Kerry Is Finding,"
of the U.S. Secretary of State's shuttle diplomacy last week to secure a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. It does not look good. Israel reacted negatively to the tentative agreement that Kerry concocted, which would have locked in a week-long ceasefire during which negotiations over an "enduring solution" to Gaza's myriad crises would begin.
After five days of marathon diplomacy in Egypt and Israel, Mr. Kerry presented Mr. Netanyahu with a confidential draft, titled “Framework for Humanitarian Cease-Fire in Gaza.” 
A version of the document, which was presented on Friday, stated that a seven-day cease-fire was to be established by Sunday. 
Two days later, talks would begin in Cairo between Israel and the Palestinians on achieving an “enduring solution” to the crisis in Gaza, a phrase that Hamas could read as the lifting of the economic embargo and that Mr. Netanyahu could interpret as the neutralization of the group’s military threat to Israel. 
The draft, which was obtained by The New York Times, noted that the parties would “refrain from conducting any military or security targeting of each other.” But it did not explicitly call on Israel to stop sealing the tunnels during the humanitarian pause. Those operations have continued during recent cease-fire efforts, creating anger on the Palestinian side.
Clearly, this favored the Israelis because it gave them a way to stop their slaughter of innocents while maintaining the status quo ante. Everyone knows that Israel will never allow Gaza to open its borders. So they could have played the bargaining charade, deescalated the violence in Gaza and then when talks inevitably foundered and Hamas resumed its rocketry, Israel could have responded in a way that was not based on military overkill.

That Israel interpreted Kerry's proposal as pro-Hamas is a bad sign, a mark of a nation seriously out of whack. Netanyahu's government appears to be pushing for genocide in Gaza in order to stop the rockets. The political situation favors Israel. Hamas' siding with the Salafis in Syria isolated it from Iran and Hezbollah. Morsi's ouster by the military in Egypt eliminated the group's chief benefactor. In the United States, there is no politician who will stand up to Israel.

Expect the slaughter of Palestinians to continue.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Woods

I have to be out the door in twenty minutes to run a road race of 5,000 meters, which should be humbling because I am dealing with the aftereffects of a foot injury, and I am therefore not properly trained up. In any event, before going to bed last night, I watched this video of Sleater-Kinney performing "Entertain" on The Henry Rollins Show.

"Entertain" was a track off the band's final album, The Woods (2005). The Woods is a fin de si├Ęcle record. The nation was better off united against Bush than bamboozled by Barack. But we didn't know that at the time.

At the time I was maintaining two girlfriends simultaneously. I would often listen to The Woods on a Sony Walkman as I walked home from work, more often times than not on my way to meet one the girlfriends. The Woods is an album of great depth and a lot of ballsy noise. The ladies from the Pacific Northwest tied things off with a lot of style. It is a record worthy of study.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

All-New Ultimates #4

There is a lot I could say about yesterday, which was one of those dispiriting conveyor-belt Fridays where all energy has evaporated due to the daily commute and the horrible pettiness of working in the modern office space, but I'll confine it to two thoughts.

The first came to me when, on my walk home in the evening, I passed a young blue-black woman on the sidewalk. I felt myself dissolving, spontaneously disappearing as I looked at her beautiful face and skin. My last girlfriend was a dark-skinned black woman. So I am obviously still carrying that patterning around with me. But the feeling I felt wasn't prurient or run-of-the-mill lust from a guy who hasn't had a girlfriend in over four years. It was more primordial. I felt like an infant lost who suddenly finds his mother. Which should tell you something, brothers, about our relationship to our wives and girlfriends.

The next thought was one that hit me when I got home and dealt, exhausted as I was, a bachelor returning back to the cave, with the chore of feeding myself. I got to thinking, What price am I paying to live in such a corrupt and predatory society as are these United States? Granted, I am not a willing accomplice to all the crimes being committed. Nonetheless I am, as a citizen and taxpayer of this Great Satan, culpable. The thought added to my feeling of exhaustion.

I went to bed early and I dreamed two stunning dreams. In one I was back in New York City living in a tenement with my beautiful girlfriend Mary. Outside in the inky black street at night I happened across a huge mountain lion of pure muscle. It was death incarnate, and it was bearing down on me hard when all of a sudden out of nowhere a guy, a pretty big guy, comes up and saves me, tackles the mountain lion. The two of them battle in a bloody death struggle. The big guy, who I think is black, runs the cat off but not without sustaining serious injuries. I am worried that he has been infected and that he will now turn into a huge cougar that will stalk the midnight city streets looking for prey.

In the other dream, the latter of the two, I was in a crowded house with family and friends. One guest, a friend, a guy I knew from my Green Party days, was being disruptive. He was shitting in his hands and then wiping them on people and handling dinnerware. He shook my hand. Then he jumped out a second-story window.

But this morning things are much better. I have been enjoying the Shinyribs record Gulf Coast Museum (2013). "Sweet Potato" is a great song. Kevin Russell tears it up in the video above. Rock'n'roll. It is still alive.

Last Saturday, I hit a sweet spot last Saturday by reading the current run of All-New Ultimates. The one that particularly appealed to me was All-New Ultimates #4. It is a cheesecake issue where the heroes -- Kitty Pryde, Dagger, Black Widow and Bombshell hit the beach at Coney Island for some girltalk. Below are six scans from All-New Ultimates #4. The cover and five interior pages of bikinis and sand. The cover artist is David Nakayama. Interior page art is supplied by Amilcar Pinna. The story is written by Michel Fiffe.

Art. It is alive.

Friday, July 25, 2014

MH17 Crash Site Canard + Maliki on His Way Out, So U.S. Moves the Goal Posts

Yatsenyuk submits his resignation as the junta prime minister of Ukraine, clearing the way for new parliamentary elections this fall. Europe is set to announce today a list of targets for a new round of sanctions against Russia. And the Western media monopoly persists in the canard, even when stories it publishes prove the exact opposite, that there is a Russian-backed conspiracy to tamper with evidence and block access to the Malaysia Airlines crash site in eastern Ukraine. Let's start there, with Sabrina Tavernise and Thomas Erdbrink and the misleading headline "Ukraine Disaster in Search of an Investigation":
There were a few new faces at the site on Thursday. Three Australian investigators worked in the field, joining three Malaysians. Before departing Thursday, the Malaysians said that they were surprised at the amount of access they had to the site and that they felt safe, Mr. Bociurkiw [a spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] said. 
There have been widespread reports of looting, but Mr. Bociurkiw said his monitoring group, which has now spent more time at the site than any other, had not seen any. The Malaysians said they had seen valuables in the fields untouched, he noted, including a bottle of duty-free perfume, auto parts, backpacks full of belongings, a watch and some jewelry.

The Dutch Safety Bureau said in a statement that an initial examination showed that both of Flight 17’s so-called black boxes had been damaged, but that their memory chips were intact. The bureau added that there was “no evidence or indications of manipulation” of either the cockpit voice recorder or the flight data recorder, and that the data from both had been downloaded by experts from Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch in Farnborough, England.
Given the high-volume mendacity of the junta, one wonders what the condition of the black box would have been if it had fallen into the hands of Kiev instead of the DPR. What is important to note is the prevalence across a wide range of stories -- stories coming out of Kiev and Brussels and D.C. -- of the bald lie that the Novorossiyan militia is somehow restricting access to the site and impeding the collection of evidence. This is such a bald lie, supported by not a single shred of evidence, that it leads me to believe that it is being used to 1) justify a Western military footprint in Donetsk, and 2) dismiss any evidence that emerges which shows the junta was to blame. That is why the crash-site story is being kept alive, even as Tavernise makes clear there is no story there. It is strange to see the prestige press engaged in conspiracy theories. In this case though there are no inconvenient facts exposed or complex theories limned; it is all bald lies and misleading headlines.

Speaking of bald lies, the goal posts are now being moved on the "It's All Maliki's Fault" canard. You'll recall from last month that as soon as Islamic State launched its blitzkrieg that captured Mosul the messaging across all sectors of the Western media and government was that the success of the ultra-jihadis was due to the Iraqi prime minister's authoritarianism driving normal Sunnis into the ranks of the Salafis. Therefore Maliki had to go.

Well, come to find out, now that it appears that Maliki is on his way out, he really isn't the problem after all. The Kurds selected their choice for president yesterday, clearing the way for the Shia to select their candidate for prime minister and seating a new government. According to Tim Arango and Suadad al-Salhy in "Iraq Picks New President to Confront Militant Threat":
The Parliament voted to approve Fouad Massoum, 76, a Kurdish politician and former guerrilla fighter against Saddam Hussein’s regime, as the country’s new president. He replaces Jalal Talabani, a Kurd who had been president since 2005 and was seen as a rare unifying figure among Iraq’s many factions but has been largely absent from the political scene since suffering a stroke in late 2012.

“Everyone likes him,” Abbas al-Bayati, a Shiite lawmaker, said of Mr. Massoum. “He is a moderate man and was agreed to by everyone.”
A week before, Parliament elected Salim al-Jubouri, a moderate Sunni Islamist, to the position of speaker, which was the first step in forming a new government after national elections in April. Under an informal political bargain forged after the toppling of Mr. Hussein in 2003, the Iraqi presidency is held by a Kurd, the speaker of Parliament is a Sunni Arab and the position of prime minister, the most powerful post, goes to a Shiite. 
The next political step, the selection of a new prime minister, will be more fraught. That process will determine the future of Mr. Maliki, who has been in power since 2006 but who has become an increasingly polarizing figure as the insurgency has grown and sectarian violence has intensified to a level not seen since 2006 and 2007.
Mr. Maliki has insisted that he will seek a third term, but he faces an array of opponents and has lost support from abroad. American officials, who believe he has become too divisive to lead the nation out of its current crisis, have been working behind the scenes to push Iraq’s leaders to select someone else. And Iran, which exerts enormous influence here, has signaled it would like to see new leadership. 
Last week, several Iranian officials, including Ali Shamkhani, a top national security official, visited the holy city of Najaf, in southern Iraq, and conveyed to religious leaders that Iran would prefer that Mr. Maliki be replaced, according to a senior Shiite lawmaker in Baghdad. 
But even if Mr. Maliki were replaced, there is little sense that the Iraqi political class would be able to establish a new political bargain that could bring peace. “There’s no glue to hold whatever grandiose governing coalition that emerges together,” said Ramzy Mardini, an Iraq expert and fellow at the Atlantic Council. He added, “the idea that if Maliki should leave and then we’d be on the path of reconciliation and compromise is wishful thinking.”
Lo and behold! Once the Iranians line up with Great Satan and agree that Maliki should be ushered off the main stage in order to get down to business of smashing the caliphate rising and piecing Iraq back together the story is changed. Now it is not Maliki's fault but the inherent politically instability of Iraq. Brett McGurk was back in front of Congress arguing for a friendly neighbor policy towards Islamic State:
In testimony before the House on Wednesday, Brett McGurk, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Iran and Iraq, portrayed an increasingly decentralized Iraqi government as the most likely way forward. “There is a recognition in Iraq that from the center out you’re never going to fully control all of these areas, and particularly given the capacity of ISIL,” he said, using an alternative acronym for ISIS.
Combine that with yesterday's soft focus almost loving portrayal of Islamic State's stewardship of Raqqa that appeared on the front page of the Gray Lady and it is not hard to make out the handwriting on the wall. The caliphate, backed by the United States and its client Gulf Sheikhdoms, is the answer the people of the Middle East are being given to the question raised by the Arab Spring.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Bees are Dying as are Palestinians and Soon it Will be Our Turn

At a certain point during the day on Thursday the realization dawns on me that I am going to make it through another week. Friday is on the horizon, and with it the promise of a bit of rest and relaxation. When I realize I am going to make it I feel relief. The repetition of the rat race becomes less demanding. It seems as if I have a little more room to move.

But yesterday, let me just say this about yesterday before moving to a brief treatment of the hollowness, the stupidity of John Kerry's ceasefire negotiations. I can't get out of my head this OpEd I read a few weeks back by Mark Winston, a Simon Fraser University professor, "Our Bees, Ourselves: Bees and Colony Collapse." I was telling a coworker about it. Honeybee colonies are collapsing because of mono-crop agriculture, overuse of pesticides, overwork due to being hauled by tractor trailer from one field to the next to perform pollination duties. And this Simon Fraser University professor thinks the same thing is going to happen to us homo sapiens because the same basic conditions apply: We are basted in chemicals, sustained by mono-crop agriculture, and we are overworked:
Honeybee collapse has been particularly vexing because there is no one cause, but rather a thousand little cuts. The main elements include the compounding impact of pesticides applied to fields, as well as pesticides applied directly into hives to control mites; fungal, bacterial and viral pests and diseases; nutritional deficiencies caused by vast acreages of single-crop fields that lack diverse flowering plants; and, in the United States, commercial beekeeping itself, which disrupts colonies by moving most bees around the country multiple times each year to pollinate crops.
The real issue, though, is not the volume of problems, but the interactions among them. Here we find a core lesson from the bees that we ignore at our peril: the concept of synergy, where one plus one equals three, or four, or more. A typical honeybee colony contains residue from more than 120 pesticides. Alone, each represents a benign dose. But together they form a toxic soup of chemicals whose interplay can substantially reduce the effectiveness of bees’ immune systems, making them more susceptible to diseases.
These findings provide the most sophisticated data set available for any species about synergies among pesticides, and between pesticides and disease. The only human equivalent is research into pharmaceutical interactions, with many prescription drugs showing harmful or fatal side effects when used together, particularly in patients who already are disease-compromised. Pesticides have medical impacts as potent as pharmaceuticals do, yet we know virtually nothing about their synergistic impacts on our health, or their interplay with human diseases.
Observing the tumultuous demise of honeybees should alert us that our own well-being might be similarly threatened. The honeybee is a remarkably resilient species that has thrived for 40 million years, and the widespread collapse of so many colonies presents a clear message: We must demand that our regulatory authorities require studies on how exposure to low dosages of combined chemicals may affect human health before approving compounds.
Honeybees are ancient and very stable. So much so that Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe hypothesize that they came fully formed from outer space. The fact that honeybees are dying now in great numbers is a very bad sign not just for them but for all life on the planet. Humans will not be spared. A great die off is coming our way.

Winston's solution is let some things return to the wild. Capitalists will actually make more money:
Bees also provide some clues to how we may build a more collaborative relationship with the services that ecosystems can provide. Beyond honeybees, there are thousands of wild bee species that could offer some of the pollination service needed for agriculture. Yet feral bees — that is, bees not kept by beekeepers — also are threatened by factors similar to those afflicting honeybees: heavy pesticide use, destruction of nesting sites by overly intensive agriculture and a lack of diverse nectar and pollen sources thanks to highly effective weed killers, which decimate the unmanaged plants that bees depend on for nutrition.
Recently, my laboratory at Simon Fraser University conducted a study on farms that produce canola oil that illustrated the profound value of wild bees. We discovered that crop yields, and thus profits, are maximized if considerable acreages of cropland are left uncultivated to support wild pollinators.
A variety of wild plants means a healthier, more diverse bee population, which will then move to the planted fields next door in larger and more active numbers. Indeed, farmers who planted their entire field would earn about $27,000 in profit per farm, whereas those who left a third unplanted for bees to nest and forage in would earn $65,000 on a farm of similar size. 
Such logic goes against conventional wisdom that fields and bees alike can be uniformly micromanaged. The current challenges faced by managed honeybees and wild bees remind us that we can manage too much. Excessive cultivation, chemical use and habitat destruction eventually destroy the very organisms that could be our partners.
And this insight goes beyond mere agricultural economics. There is a lesson in the decline of bees about how to respond to the most fundamental challenges facing contemporary human societies. We can best meet our own needs if we maintain a balance with nature — a balance that is as important to our health and prosperity as it is to the bees.
But any such common sense has difficulty gaining traction in a world dominated by greed, lies, vanity and stupidity. Case in point is the U.S. Secretary of State's shuttle diplomacy to secure a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza. As Michael Gordon and Rick Gladstone report, "Kerry Claims Progress Toward Gaza Truce, but Hamas Leader Is Defiant," he is only talking to, on the Palestinian side, the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas will be able to deliver nothing:
But even as Mr. Kerry pressed his case with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, a defiant note was struck by one figure whom the secretary of state has conspicuously not talked with: Khaled Meshal, the political leader of Hamas. 
“Everyone wanted us to accept a cease-fire and then negotiate for our rights,” Mr. Meshal said at a news conference in Qatar, his home in exile, taking aim at the very approach Mr. Kerry has sought to nurture. “We reject this, and we reject it again today.” 
Mr. Kerry has emphasized that his immediate goal is to obtain a cease-fire, after 16 days of fighting that has killed nearly 700 Palestinians, 32 Israeli soldiers and three Israeli civilians.
Kerry is trying to secure an immediate ceasefire with only a promise to address substantive issues later. We know what some of those issues are -- an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza, open borders and ports, release of Hamas political prisoners, etc. -- and we also know that Israel has no intention of budging on any of them without some form of Gaza demilitarization backed up by intrusive inspections. Hamas will not agree to this. Furthermore, Israel has stated there will be no ceasefire until leadership is satisfied Hamas' tunnels have been identified and destroyed.

Israel got a big boost late last night when the FAA lifted its flight ban. No doubt a lot of pressure was placed on the Obama administration. But Meshal is resolute. There will be no ceasefire without a lifting of the blockade:
In Doha, Qatar’s capital, Mr. Meshal outlined his own demands. While Mr. Meshal said that Hamas would not “close the door” for a brief truce to evacuate the wounded and deliver humanitarian aid, he stressed a more lasting agreement would not come until some of the group’s demands were met. 
“We will not accept any initiative that does not lift the blockade on our people and that does not respect their sacrifices,” he said.
So the slaughter will continue. The United States' days as a leading power are over. It no longer commands any moral force. Europe is moving away. Eventually, hopefully soon, the American people will move away as well. By this I mean smash Washington. This will take a new political formation, which, given all the election and campaign finance law revisions of the last twenty years, will basically require a revolution.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

U.S. Case Against Russia in Downing of MH17 Collapses

I think the biggest story pertaining to the Ukraine yesterday did not come from Kiev or Donetsk but Washington D.C. and Brussels. First, in the U.S., unnamed intelligence officials provided a briefing to reporters where they basically walked back all the strident accusations by the Obama administration blaming Russia for the destruction of Malaysia Airlines MH17. Ken Dilanian of the Associated Press reports in "US: No link to Russian gov't in plane downing" that
Senior U.S. intelligence officials said Tuesday that Russia was responsible for "creating the conditions" that led to the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, but they offered no evidence of direct Russian government involvement.

The intelligence officials were cautious in their assessment, noting that while the Russians have been arming separatists in eastern Ukraine, the U.S. had no direct evidence that the missile used to shoot down the passenger jet came from Russia. 
The officials briefed reporters Tuesday under ground rules that their names not be used in discussing intelligence related to last week's air disaster, which killed 298 people. 
The plane was likely shot down by an SA-11 surface-to-air missile fired by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, the intelligence officials said, citing intercepts, satellite photos and social media postings by separatists, some of which have been authenticated by U.S. experts. 
But the officials said they did not know who fired the missile or whether any Russian operatives were present at the missile launch. They were not certain that the missile crew was trained in Russia, although they described a stepped-up campaign in recent weeks by Russia to arm and train the rebels, which they say has continued even after the downing of the commercial jetliner.
Robert Parry posted yesterday in "The Mystery of a Ukrainian Army ‘Defector’" that his Sunday bombshell, that a source within the intelligence community told him that U.S. satellite imagery exists showing Ukrainian troops operating a missile battery at the time that MH17 went down, was obliquely addressed during the briefing when officials opined that the SA-11 could have been operated by a defector:
After last Thursday’s shoot-down, I was told that U.S. intelligence analysts were examining satellite imagery that showed the crew manning the suspected missile battery wearing what looked like Ukrainian army uniforms, but my source said the analysts were still struggling with whether that essentially destroyed the U.S. government’s case blaming the rebels. 
The Los Angeles Times article on Tuesday’s briefing seemed to address the same information this way: “U.S. intelligence agencies have so far been unable to determine the nationalities or identities of the crew that launched the missile. U.S. officials said it was possible the SA-11 [anti-aircraft missile] was launched by a defector from the Ukrainian military who was trained to use similar missile systems.” 
That statement about a possible “defector” might explain why some analysts thought they saw soldiers in Ukrainian army uniforms tending to the missile battery in eastern Ukraine. But there is another obvious explanation that the U.S. intelligence community seems unwilling to accept: that the missile may have been launched by someone working for the Ukrainian military. 
In other words, we may be seeing another case of the U.S. government “fixing the intelligence” around a desired policy outcome, as occurred in the run-up to war with Iraq.
Then there was the decision in Brussels at a meeting of European foreign ministers to draw up a new list of sanctions without actually imposing any. Thomas Erdbrink reports in "Despite Anger Over Downed Jetliner, Europe Shies Away From Sanctions on Russia" that
At Tuesday’s meeting, the foreign ministers agreed to draw up a new, broader list of targets for sanctions, including Russian individuals and entities, said Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign affairs chief. 
But no new additional measures were imposed, reflecting fears among some Europeans that tougher sanctions would invite reprisals by Russia against countries dependent on its energy supplies, harming the Continent’s economic growth.
With the exception of ghoulish updates, seemingly every 45 minutes, on the location of the MH17 passenger corpses as they are returned to Holland, the U.S. sponsored information war that began last Thursday when the Boeing 777 was shot down over Donbass has fizzled.

David Herszenhorn's "Ukrainians, Awaiting International Action After Crash, Fear Complacency" gives vent to the junta's anger that its attempt to pin the blame on Russia and Novorossiya have so far fallen flat:
Even President Petro O. Poroshenko, reluctant to offend allies in the West, has subtly expressed growing exasperation in recent days. He has urged the United States Congress to designate the main separatist groups in eastern Ukraine as terrorist groups, a step he took without first seeking approval from the White House. 
And after a call on Tuesday with the prime minister of Finland, Alexander Stubb, Mr. Poroshenko urged an additional international response. “The Ukrainian president emphasizes that further efforts must be focused on preventing Russia from supporting terrorists,” Mr. Poroshenko’s office said in a statement, adding that he “hopes for international contribution.”
The junta's petulance is nearly identical to the reaction displayed by the Syrian National Coalition when Obama decided at the last moment not to bomb Damascus, choosing instead to go with the Russian-brokered deal to rid Syria of her chemical weapons in the wake of the Ghouta sarin attack.

Then, the Ghouta sarin attack was almost certainly orchestrated by jihadis operating with the support of foreign governments with the intention of blaming the Syrian government and thereby justifying direct Western military intervention. Now, with the destruction of MH17, a similar attempt is being made. The junta has orchestrated an atrocity that it is attempting to blame on Russia in order to elicit greater Western intervention. And the junta is failing.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Novorossiya is Being Born + Netanyahu in Trouble

It is is easy to get discouraged nowadays. Global order, what of it that there was, is coming undone. Regardless of who is to blame for blasting Malaysia Airlines MH17 out of the air -- and I am not convinced that Russia's guilt is a foregone conclusion, which is the position espoused in the main American news organs as they parrot the Obama administration -- it seems to me unbalanced, dangerously divisive, and potentially catastrophic to pin the whole thing on Moscow as part of a strategy to commit Europe to tougher sanctions.

The hope that more and greater sanctions will somehow lead to the Kiev junta's victory seems to me an illusion. If anything, generalized sanctions could have the opposite effect -- committing the Kremlin to go all in and wipe out the fascists once and for all. And there is much to the idea that planners in Washington see this as the ultimate jackpot: dividing Europe from Russia, keeping the military North Atlantic alliance firmly in control.

I think Germany is mindful of this, as is France. Trade with Russia and China represents the future. The United States is the past. That is why it is a safe prediction that no new sanctions will be immediately levied at the outcome of the meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels today. There will be a reprise of last month's performance where tough new sanctions will be threatened in order to appease the U.S. warpig but nothing will actually be done.

In the meantime, the U.S. will have to cast about for new targets of its over-the-top invective. The black box is in possession of Malaysia. The bodies are in transit, allowing for another ghoulish lede in the Gray Lady. But already the story of junta military excess in Donetsk is surfacing. The headlines obscure the real import of the reports, which is that the junta is indiscriminately slaughtering its own civilians.

There is a price to pay for such atrocities. Novorossiya is being born out of all that innocent blood. It is hard to see how Donetsk and Luhansk can ever be reintegrated into the Ukraine other than as a territory subjected to open-ended occupation like Palestine.

It appears that Israel is looking at another failed operation. Each day that passes -- particularly now that Hamas has taken an Israeli soldier prisoner -- Israel's invasion of Gaza is looking more like its botched war with Hezbollah in 2006.

Netanyahu has overreached. How will he get out of the box he has created? The Israelis talk of a deal the likes of which Assad signed in giving up Syria's chemical weapons. They want international inspectors to search out and confiscate Hamas' rockets and close down the tunnels. This is not going to happen. Hamas fighters are proving more worthy adversaries than the IDF anticipated. Western governments are broadcasting their duplicity, constantly hectoring China and Russia and other official enemies about human rights while they defend Israel's slaughter of innocent women and children. Now Kerry, a clown out of Hogarth print, is in Cairo trying to get the Egyptians to craft a ceasefire. But the Sisi dictatorship is a sworn enemy of Hamas. Why would Hamas trust anything that Sisi comes up with? No, Netanyahu is in trouble. His only way out is to yield ground; something he better do quickly because the earth is shifting under his feet. It might be another tunnel.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Robert Parry's Bombshell: CIA Has Proof Junta Brought Down MH17

The place to begin this morning, if you missed it yesterday as did I, is Robert Parry's "What Did US Spy Satellites See in Ukraine?" The story contains the following bombshell:
What I’ve been told by one source, who has provided accurate information on similar matters in the past, is that U.S. intelligence agencies do have detailed satellite images of the likely missile battery that launched the fateful missile, but the battery appears to have been under the control of Ukrainian government troops dressed in what look like Ukrainian uniforms. 
The source said CIA analysts were still not ruling out the possibility that the troops were actually eastern Ukrainian rebels in similar uniforms but the initial assessment was that the troops were Ukrainian soldiers. There also was the suggestion that the soldiers involved were undisciplined and possibly drunk, since the imagery showed what looked like beer bottles scattered around the site, the source said. 
Instead of pressing for these kinds of details, the U.S. mainstream press has simply passed on the propaganda coming from the Ukrainian government and the U.S. State Department, including hyping the fact that the Buk system is “Russian-made,” a rather meaningless fact that gets endlessly repeated. 
However, to use the “Russian-made” point to suggest that the Russians must have been involved in the shoot-down is misleading at best and clearly designed to influence ill-informed Americans. As the Post and other news outlets surely know, the Ukrainian military also operates Russian-made military systems, including Buk anti-aircraft batteries, so the manufacturing origin has no probative value here.
What we know is that as soon as the Malaysia Airlines Boeing went down last Thursday the junta began shrieking that it was the "terrorists" who did it. These assertions were backed up by unnamed USG officials. Since then we have been treated to a steady stream of junta supplied telephone intercepts of gloating militiamen and photographs of missile batteries purportedly being moved across the border into Russia. All this material is passed through to the front pages of the U.S. prestige press without any caveats.

So what we have here is full-blown propaganda campaign, the kind of which we are by now very familiar with. The Ghouta sarin attack of last August comes to mind.

Novorossiyan militia control of the crash site has been one of the main pillars of the Kiev/U.S. propaganda onslaught. From Friday onward the refrain has been that the militia is destroying evidence, desecrating the bodies of passengers, refusing access to OSCE monitors, refusing to release the bodies, etc. Basically, a word picture has been painted depicting the Novorossiyan militia as pirates.

But when you actually move beyond the scare headlines and read these stories in their entirety -- say, for instance, the one by Sabrine Tavernise and Noah Sneider filed yesterday -- a different image emerges. The crash site is in the middle of territory where a war is going on. The Novorossiyans are not refusing to release the bodies; they are waiting for the Dutch to arrive to claim them (which apparently they have just done). There is not a professional crime scene investigation complete with yellow caution tape because there are no police. There is civil war. Instead, you have volunteers doing the work. Where is the evidence, besides the shrill allegations of the junta, that something malign is happening at the crash site? Poroshenko even went as far to blame the Novorossiyans for looting. According to Tavernise and Sneider:
President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine has claimed that rebels stole credit cards from the wreckage. One villager, Elena, who declined to give her last name, strongly disputed that. 
“That is a sin, a big sin in our faith,” she said. “This is a cemetery. Who would take from it?”
So be wary of the headlines, like the latest about Putin being forced under pressure of new sanctions to allow for an international investigation. Putin has never been opposed to an international investigation. He has been the one saying let's not rush to judgment as the U.S. and Kiev are doing; let's wait to see what a proper investigation reveals.

And the whole time Kiev's assault on Donetsk and Luhanks continues.
In Donetsk, a thick plume of dark smoke could be seen rising into the bright blue afternoon sky. One man, a passenger in a blue car that was stopped at a red light, said two people in his building were killed in the fighting. He said he ran out of his house in nothing but his slippers. 
The fighting in Donetsk killed a woman in the Kuibysheva neighborhood, which was hit in the morning, as she walked through a wooded courtyard near a small child’s playground, and two men were found dead nearby. A piece of clothing had been placed over her body, and pools of blood were drying in the sun. A grocery discount card was on the ground near the bloody outline where her body had been.
“They are trying to push the D.N.R. back but they end up hitting us,” said Yevgeny Zhitnikov, a 17-year old resident of the city. “Victory is more important to them than than human life.” 
Said his father, who was arranging bags on the ground for the family to leave to a nearby bomb shelter: “Animals.” 
A series of booms thumped through the courtyard consistent with the sound of a grad rocket. The rockets hit near dentist office complex and a library. 
“Why are people suffering, for what?” said Galina Afrina, a 60-year old retired financial worker who was holding some compote she had made. “We are being told to evacuate.” 
By 2:30 p.m., residents were leaving the nighborood. A woman carrying a large gray cat rushed by. A man carrying a kitten walked a bicycle. 
The rocket that killed the woman had punched a deep hole into the courtyard. Its shape indicated it had been come from the northwest, the area that the Ukrainian government controls. 
There will be a price for the U.S. backing this murderous campaign. Putin's relative silence is not a sign of guilt but of strength. Like Parry's bombshell, the truth is starting to emerge about MH17. And when it does, the fallout will be immense, hopefully great enough to topple Kiev and hopefully to permanently tarnish a warmongering Nobel Peace Prize winning POTUS.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Suffering through Keith Jarrett's "Mirrors." Saved by The Lemonheads' "Nothing True." World War IV.

I can't say that I am Keith Jarrett expert. I do like his music. But this morning I went out, iPod earbuds attached, for an hour-plus run, half of which was accompanied by "Mirrors" off Keith Jarrett's Arbour Zena (1975), and I suffered acutely. It felt like I was being tortured. The strings of the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra cloyed like diethyl ether; Jan Garbarek's sax waddled and dribbled; and Jarrett's keys tinkled like a fat crazy housewife alone with her ironing board on a weekday afternoon.

To top it off, I was exhausted and gasping for breath. I'm working my way back from a significant injury. And if I am not at absolute zero, I'd say I'm definitely below five on a scale of ten, with ten being god-like conditioning and 5.5 being the ability to run at an eight-minute-mile pace over a distance of 5,000 meters.

"Mirrors" lasts for almost 28 minutes. I became transfixed with its interminable length. When was it going to end? Would it ever end? The morning was overcast. A drizzly rain fell. Hardly anyone was out. My run slowed to a jog. The jog slowed to a septuagenarian shuffle. The shuffle towards the end became a mummy's plod.

Finally, relief came in the form of "Nothing True" off The Lemonheads' first LP, Hate Your Friends (1987). What a difference. The harmonizing of a young Evan Dando is unparalleled. 


In case you missed it, Alissa Rubin filed a story yesterday, "5 Bombs Explode in Baghdad as Dispute Continues With Jordan," which brought home to me how above board World War IV is. Jordan, which does nothing without the explicit clearance from USG, hosted in Amman this past Wednesday Sunni groups allied with Islamic State in its war with Iraq:
The Jordanian government was not involved in the meeting, but after the groups put out a strident statement asking other nations not to side with the Iraqi government in its conflict with Sunni militants, the Iraqis were angry that Jordan had allowed the meeting to take place.
Iraq recalled its ambassador and the Jordanians apologized on Friday, but Iraqi Parliament members are accusing Jordan of knowing the groups were there and not arresting them.
The groups, which included tribes, former Baath Party members and the Islamic Army, a radical group that has carried out multiple attacks against the government, have been willing to tolerate the presence in Iraq of the militants known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, as a means to get rid of the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

Aliya Nusaif, an Iraqi Parliament member from Mr. Maliki’s State of Law Party, criticized the Jordanians for permitting the meeting, saying, “The government of Jordan should be familiar with such activities.” 
That they did not prevent it or even arrest the people participating suggested “that they knew about it,” she said.
Bear this in mind as the United States continues to press its case in public that Russia is to blame for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Rather than working for a ceasefire, the Obama administration seems intent on framing Moscow. For an interesting counterpoint to the Russophobic media onslaught, check out this article, "The crash of the Boeing 777 is a failed global staged act," by Col. Igor Maatev, which I gleaned from Niqnaq's blog.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Believe Russia, Not Kiev/U.S.

With the Kiev junta dangerously upping the ante on Flight 17, saying that it can prove that Russia supplied the antiaircraft missile battery that was used to destroy the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, Russia fired back. David Herszenhorn reports that,
In Russia on Saturday, the Kremlin announced that President Vladimir V. Putin had spoken by telephone with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, about both the airliner investigation and the need to pursue a cease-fire in southeastern Ukraine.
The two leaders agreed to the need for a “thorough and objective investigation of all the circumstances of the incident,” according to a brief statement on the Kremlin website. 
The Russian government maintained that the Ukrainian military could possibly have shot down the aircraft. The deputy minister of defense, Anatoly I. Antonov, called on Ukraine to hand over all the documents related to its surface-to-air missile systems to the international investigators — once such an inquiry was organized. 
Appearing on the state-run Rossiya 24 satellite, Mr. Antonov said that the rush to blame Russia or the militiamen in southeastern Ukraine smacked of the “information war” that Ukraine and its Western allies had been waging for months. He said that he wanted to know why the Ukraine military deployed its Russian-made SA-11 Buk antiaircraft system in the east of the country since the insurgents have no air force. 
“Are Ukrainian armed forces officials ready to provide international experts with the documents about the number of the air-to-air missiles and surface-to-air missiles that are available for its anti-aircraft-missile systems?” the deputy minister said. “This is a very important question that will allow us to determine what systems were used against the Malaysian Boeing.” 
At a news conference in Washington on Friday, Rear Admiral John F. Kirby said that it would have been difficult for the separatists to have fired the SA-11 without Russian help.
So this is what we know: The narrative appears to be cohering around the idea that Novorossiyan forces could not have brought down Flight 17 without direct Russian assistance; this coming from no less than the Pentagon spokesman. The Novorossiyans deny having anything to do with it. Residents from the area where Flight 17 crashed laugh at the idea of Novorossiyan forces being able to down the passenger jet.

Basically what we have here is Kiev/U.S. saying the Russians did it, and the Russians saying, No we did not. Who do you believe? I think the answer to that is very easy. I believe the Russians. The Russians came up with a peaceful solution to bail Obama out of his disastrous decision to bomb Syria. The Russians saved his presidency, something that they are probably regretting right now. Also -- remember! -- Russia has been the nation at the forefront of calling for negotiations between Kiev and Novorrosiya. Kiev has insisted on unconditional surrender.

Will the fascists in Kiev be able to account for all their antiaircraft missiles?

The Bum Rush is On + Gonjasufi's A Sufi and a Killer

Judging from the Gray Lady's headline, "Insurgents Said to Block Jet’s Crash Site," the "newspaper of record" is returning to wartime propaganda mode where every proclamation by the Kiev junta is presented as fact. The coup government is saying that the Novorossiyans are blocking access to the crash site. There are also new allegations that several SA-11 (BUK-M1) antiaircraft missile systems were schlepped across the border into Russia after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17:
The Ukrainian government on Saturday also provided new details about the missile attack on the passenger jet, saying the rocket was fired from a BUK-M1 antiaircraft system in the town of Snizhne, about 12 miles from the Russian border.

Vitaly Nayda, the head of counterintelligence for the Ukrainian State Security Service, said at a news conference that separatist rebels had been in possession of at least three BUK-M1 systems, and that after the Flight 17 disaster had taken them across the border into Russia . “We have identified the place from which they launched that missile,” Mr. Nayda said. “That area where they launched the missile was under control of terrorist organizations.” 
Officials were certain, he said, that the rebels knew they were aiming at a plane flying above 10,000 meters, or 32,800 feet. While this is in the range of a passenger jet’s normal cruising altitude, he also said that Ukrainian military aircraft sometimes fly that high. “There is no doubt that terrorists knew that they had launched a missile against a plane that was higher than 10,000 meters,” Mr. Nayda said, adding, “We know for sure that the terrorists have the plan to shoot down every military plane, every military plane, even cargo plane, every helicopter, in the air over Donetsk and Luhansk regions.” 
Speaking in Kiev, the capital, Mr. Nayda presented photographs that he said showed the BUK-M1 systems in Donetsk, as well as on the road toward Russia. He said that at 2 a.m. on Friday -- less than 12 hours after the Malaysian jet fell from the skies -- two BUK-M1 systems were taken across the border into Russia and that a third was taken across the border at 4 a.m. along with a vehicle used to help operate the surface-to-air missile system.
This is all fantastic bullshit of course. What we are now witnessing is a propaganda bum rush where the U.S. and its fascist concoction in Kiev are attempting to stampede public opinion towards the blame of Russia. The target audience here is Europe. It is settled wisdom that in a public opinion campaign the side that can shape the narrative first is the side that wins. Regardless of the eventual outcome of the investigation as to what caused the Boeing 777 to blow apart in midair and who is responsible, if the U.S. gets out front first it controls the story.

We saw the exact thing happen with the Ghouta chemical attack last August. Obama came forth stridently and assured the public the Assad regime was to blame. There was no question. The Syrian government fired sarin-laden missiles at its own people, slaughtering innocent women and children. When Obama's ironclad guarantees of Assad's guilt collapsed, when evidence emerged that Jihadis had access to sarin, was there any mea culpa by the administration? Of course not. The U.S. is doing the same thing now with Flight 17.

The Saker has a good overview of what is happening in his post, "Memories, recollections, guesses and speculations about MH17," the first paragraph of which reads:
I think that any analysis of the events surrounding the downing of MH17 should begin with the following admission: no matter what, the AngloZionists will blame Russia. Just like 9/11, there is no way, no amount of evidence, which would affect the unanimous chorus of Imperial doubleplusgoodthinkers in their conclusion that obviously it could only have been "the Russians". So don't expect to come across The Proof which will prove that the Empire is lying because if 9/11 proved anything it is that even hard, undeniable truth can be easily ignored by the elites and their media.
In the meantime, to help relax on this Saturday, check out Gonjasufi's 2010 full-length release, A Sufi and a Killer. Gonjasufi, a.k.a., Sumach Ecks, a Las Vegas yoga instructor, produces lo-fi trip hop that is soothing and quiet. I think you will enjoy it. Recently, the whole album was available to stream for free on YouTube. But now I can only find individual tracks. "Kowboyz&indians," though not my favorite, is usually the cut that is selected: