Monday, October 05, 2015

Syria and Collateral Damage


Illustration: Obama explains terrorism to Putin.  (Not sure where this image originated)

Syria and Collateral Damage
Clarence Darrow

Lately we bombed a hospital of Doctors without Borders.  We have called it "Collateral Damage".

Our 2nd Amendment freaks seem to think that anyone has a right to bear as many arms of whatever kind they want as they guy in Oregon, Mercer, had 14 automatic weapons.  The killings as schools, movie theaters, and churches  are simply "Collateral Damage."

We don't like the Russians defending Syria's official government.  After all, it gives Russia a "foothold" in the Mid-East.  Nothing worse than a foothold, you know.  Nothing collateral about it.  And bombing CIA trained opposition troops, no fair.  

Soon we will put up the Palestinian speech at the U.N., but while we are in the area, Rashid Khalidi now holds the Edward Said Chair at Columbia University.  He helped Obama get elected, but was not invited to the inauguration.  Edward Said was opposed to Oslo in the first place, but that has been over since Arafat and Rabin were murdered. 

Here he is on Syria:


Rashid Khalidi on Syria: The Beginning of This Mess was the 2003 U.S. Invasion of Iraq

Russia has launched airstrikes in Syria for a second day, becoming the latest foreign government to intervene in a war that has already killed over 240,000 people and displaced millions. The move sparked concern from U.S. officials, who say the Russian attacks did not hit ISIL targets but instead struck rebel groups fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, including at least one group trained by the CIA. The United States and Russia have long disagreed about strategy in Syria, with Washington calling for Assad's departure and Moscow backing the Syrian president. Earlier today, the Kremlin said Russia is coordinating with the Syrian military to hit ISIL targets as well as other militant organizations. Russia is at least the 10th foreign government to launch airstrikes in Syria this year. Other countries include the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Australia, Turkey, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. We speak to Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Russia has launched airstrikes in Syria for a second day, becoming the latest foreign government to intervene in a war that has already killed over 240,000 people and displaced millions. The move sparked concern from U.S. officials, who say the Russian attacks did not hit ISIL targets but instead struck rebel groups fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, including at least one group trained by the CIA. The U.S. and Russia have long disagreed about strategy in Syria, with Washington calling for Assad's departure and Moscow backing the Syrian president.
Earlier today, the Kremlin said Russia is coordinating with the Syrian military to hitISIL targets as well as other militant organizations. Russia is at least the 10th foreign government to launch airstrikes in Syria this year. Other countries include the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Australia, Turkey, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. The U.S. and Russian military plan to hold talks as soon as today to avoid clashing in Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry met his Russian counterpart Wednesday to discuss military coordination between the two countries. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke after their meeting.
FOREIGN MINISTER SERGEY LAVROV: We devoted our meeting to the follow-up of what our presidents agreed when they met here on the 28th of September. The first instruction to us was to make sure that the military of the United States, the coalition led by the United States, on the one hand, and the military of the Russian Federation, who now engage in some operations in Syria at the request of the Syrian government, get in touch and establish channels of communications to avoid any unintended incidents. And we agreed that the military should get into contact with each other very soon. Number two, we also discussed what the presidents told us about the promoting political process. We all want Syria democratic, united, secular; Syria, which is a home for all ethnic and confessional groups, whose rights are guaranteed. But we have some differences as for the details on how to get there.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States would welcome, quote, "any genuine effort" by Moscow to target the Islamic State and the Nusra Front, but he criticized Wednesday's airstrikes on other rebel groups fighting President Assad.
SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: I relayed and reiterated the concerns that I expressed in the course of the U.N. Security Council meeting, which was led by Russia today, concerns that we have, obviously, about the nature of the targets, the type of targets and the need for clarity with respect to them. And it is one thing, obviously, to be targeting ISIL. We're concerned, obviously, if that is not what is happening.
AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about Syria and then Palestine, we're joined by Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said professor of Arab studies at Columbia University. He's the author of a number of books, including his latest, Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East.
Professor Khalidi, welcome back to Democracy Now!
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about what's happening right now in Syria. What's Russia doing? What's the United States doing?
RASHID KHALIDI: Well, what we have now is a civil war that's developed into a quite massive proxy war. As you mentioned, 10 countries have launched airstrikes. Others are engaged in backing different factions in the Syrian civil war. And it has become a much more complex conflict as result of this external intervention. In fact, to some extent, it has become more of a proxy war than a civil war.
And I think that—I think that we have all kinds of dangers as a result of this, not just of this latest Russian escalation, but of the fact that parties on the other side—Saudi Arabia, Turkey and so forth—are likely to up their backing for their favorite faction. So, I think we're going to see an increasingly grim phase of the war instead of a move toward some kind of political solution, which is the only way to end this. There's no military solution to this—in the short run, anyway.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Rashid Khalidi, Saudi Arabia, you mentioned, is one of the countries fighting this proxy war in Syria, and they've come out very strongly condemning Russian attacks. Could you talk about what Saudi Arabia's interests are in Syria and who they have been backing?
RASHID KHALIDI: Well, Saudi Arabia and the countries of the Gulf have been involved for a very long time in what I would call a regional cold war with Iran. And this has a power aspect, and it has a sectarian aspect. They've been backing Sunni groups in Iraq. They've been backing the Sunni opposition in—primarily Sunni opposition in Syria. And they have also been backing—or at least people in these countries, countries like Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Qatar, individuals, wealthy individuals in these countries, have also been backing some of the most extreme groups in the region—al-Qaeda itself, the Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra, another—an al-Qaeda-affiliated group in Syria. These groups have their own sources of funding within these countries, especially the Islamic State in Iraq. They control resources. But they get hundreds of millions of dollars from donors in the Gulf countries, and this money is largely unimpeded. So, Saudi Arabia, its nationals and the nationals of other Gulf countries are actually supporting some of the most extreme groups around, partly as a means of supporting Sunnis, as they see it, against Shia, and partly as a way of opposing the Syrian regime and the Iraqi government, both of which they see as aligned with Iran.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who appeared on 60 Minutes and talked about his policy in Syria.
PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: [translated] We support the legitimate government of Syria. And it's my deep belief that any actions to the contrary, in order to destroy the legitimate government, will create a situation which you can witness now in the other countries of the region or in other regions—for instance, in Libya, where all the state institutions are disintegrated. We see a similar situation in Iraq. And there's no other solution to the Syrian crisis than strengthening the effective government structures and rendering them help in fighting terrorism, but at the same time urging them to engage in positive dialogue with the rational opposition and conduct reform.
AMY GOODMAN: So, in this extended interview with Charlie Rose, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said, yes, he supports Assad in Syria, that he believes, though, that he has the same goal not to have an al-Qaeda or ISIS takeover of Syria, and feels that keeping Assad in will do that, and used the example of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, that he was taken out and then look what happened, also talked about Libya. Can you talk about these examples?
RASHID KHALIDI: Well, I mean, the overthrow of those two dictators in Libya and in Iraq, which in both cases was done in a completely heedless manner as to what would follow, certainly has created two of the worst situations in modern Middle Eastern history. There's no question of that.
But just to speak to what the Russian president said, the part of the problem he's not talking about is the sectarian part of the problem, the fact that the Syrian regime has disadvantaged Sunnis, the fact that the Syrian regime's dictatorship, its brutality and so on and forth, is what provoked the uprising in the first place. And so, he throws in, in his interview, a word about reforms. The problem is a political problem, it's not a military problem. And a core part of the problem is the nature of that dictatorship. And so, what one has to do to resolve this is to square that circle, to get a new formula whereby you will not have a sectarian-dominated government in Damascus, and at the same time to prevent this—to fill this vacuum with a government that has some kind of support, so as to prevent groups like the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front from taking over, which is the way things are going. The United States and others talk about a moderate opposition. The overwhelmingly dominant forces in Syria in the opposition are hard-line radical Islamist groups, whether they are the Islamic State or Jabhat al-Nusra or others. And that's the trend. Things are going much more in that direction as far as the opposition is concerned.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Rashid Khalidi, could you give us some sense of what accounts for the increased sectarianism that you pointed to in Syria as well as in Iraq?
RASHID KHALIDI: Well, in a certain sense, both of these regimes, the Baath regime of Saddam Hussein and the Baath regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, had a sectarian core to them, although they were nominally secular regimes. But I think that the beginning of the story has to be the destruction of the government in Iraq and its replacement by the United States occupation—not just taking the top of the pyramid off, but completely removing everybody who had any knowledge of how to govern in Iraq. Anyone who was connected to the Baath Party was, in the de-Baathification process, removed. In doing that, the state, that had been built up over more than a century, was basically removed. And the people who came in were almost entirely sectarian themselves, the people who came in with the occupation forces. And so, a Shia-dominated government, which basically did not know how to run the country and which has proven to be endlessly corrupt, was put in place. And that triggered a sectarian reaction among the Sunnis of Iraq. And that's where the Islamic State started. And that then spread to Syria, where a similar analogous sectarian process has developed against the Alawi-dominated regime of Bashar al-Assad. So, part of this is the ripples from the Iraqi invasion. Nobody in this country seems to want to talk about that. This really is the beginning of this mess, is 2003, 12 years ago.
AMY GOODMAN: Defense Secretary Ashton Carter warned Russia's strategy in Syria was doomed to fail, speaking Wednesday. This is part of what Carter said.
DEFENSE SECRETARY ASHTON CARTER: There is a logical contradiction in the Russian position—and now its actions—in Syria. Russia states an intent to fight ISIL, on one hand, and to support Bashar al-Assad and his regime, on the other. Fighting ISIL without pursuing a parallel political transition only risks escalating the civil war in Syria—and, with it, the very extremism and instability that Moscow claims to be concerned about and aspire to fighting. So this approach—that approach is tantamount, as I said then, to pouring gasoline on the fire.
In contrast, our position is clear, that a lasting defeat of ISIL and extremism in Syria can only be achieved in parallel with a political transition in Syria. And we will continue to insist on the importance of simultaneously pursuing these two objectives. Now, I would hope that Russia would join us in pursuing these objectives—which they claim to share—in parallel, rather than in a sequence that cannot succeed.
AMY GOODMAN: That is Ash Carter, the defense secretary. Speaking Wednesday, Republican Senator John McCain blasted Obama's Syria policy.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Russia's intervention in Syria will prolong and complicate this horrific war, and the main beneficiary will be ISIL, which has fed off the ethnic and sectarian divisions fostered by the Assad regime. It is tragic. It is tragic, my fellow Americans, that we have reached this point—a Syrian conflict that has killed more than 200,000 people, created the worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War II, spawned a terrorist army of tens of thousands and now created a platform for a Russian autocrat to join with an Iranian theocrat to prop up a Syrian dictator. It did not have to be this way. But this is the inevitable consequence of hollow words, red lines crossed, tarnished moral influence, leading from behind and a total lack of American leadership.
AMY GOODMAN: Columbia University Professor Rashid Khalidi, respond to Senator McCain and to the defense secretary, Ash Carter.
RASHID KHALIDI: Well, there's so much to say. I think American policy in Syria has been an absolute mess. But I think that the thing that the United States had to do, at the same time as it should have been trying to deal directly with both the Iranians and the Russians over Syria, would be to rein in its own allies. A large part of the problem has been Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries pouring support into the most extreme forces in Syria.
I would also say, in response to what Secretary of Defense Carter said, that it is in fact true that what the Russians are doing is not directed at the Islamic State. The Islamic State's fiefdom is far to the east of the areas that the Russians have been launching airstrikes against in the last two days. What they are doing is backing, shoring up the Syrian regime in the backbone area of central Syria, the area between Damascus, Homs, Hama and the coast, which is the only area that the regime controls and which is an area which ISIL is not very near. So, it is a right mess.
I think American policy has been appallingly confused. I think that it has been confused in different directions than Senator McCain seems to be suggesting. Really, you need to cut a deal, and you need to knock heads together. The United States needs to knock the heads of its own allies together—Saudi Arabia, which is out of control in Yemen and is acting in a very unrestrained manner in Syria, as are a number of American allies, and Iran and the Soviet—and Russia—there's a slip for you—Iran and Russia, both of which are just backing the Assad regime to the hilt, and, in fact—I agree with Secretary Carter—are helping to increase sectarian tensions. Every external party is responsible in some measure for this incredible mess—the 10 countries that are bombing Syria, or have been bombing Syria, and the countries that have been pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into some of the most extreme groups on Earth in the Syrian opposition.
AMY GOODMAN: What is the single most important thing you think the U.S. should be doing right now in regards to Syria?
RASHID KHALIDI: A deal has to be cut. Some means of ending this war as quickly as possible has to be found. This involves bringing all of the external parties to a certain kind of understanding—which will not be easy. It may take a very, very long time. It will be very, very hard. And I think finding the way to do that will actually be harder than finding a formula for Syria itself. In other words, reconciling the completely contradictory objectives and aims of these eight or 10 countries that are engaged in a proxy war in Syria is going to be the hardest thing to do.

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Friday, October 02, 2015

Putin v. Idiots?



Illustration: I just barely found this in time as I was looking for an illustration.  Carlos Latuff depicts the situation exactly.

Putin v. Idiots
Alexander Hamilton

            So Russia is bombing in Syria.  Russia was invited, so it is the only country bombing there legally. 

            Lavrov said "We are very polite people and don't go where we are not invited."

            Photos of the wounded and dead appeared even before the first Russian planes took off, giving a strange meaning to the term "time-lapse photography."

            Any of our readers, and many more who are not our readers, know that the fall of the government in Iraq and the government in Libya, both instigated by the "West", had been disasters.  They have had bad consequences for everyone except weapons manufacturers.  We have pointed this out ad nauseum -- in fact we predicted it at the time.  The main point of this is to make more available a copy of the English version of Putin's address to the General Assembly. Still, here is a brief summary:

            There has been considerable confusion, mostly deliberate, as to what it means.  For example, John McCain was busy recently complaining about Russia bombing what we call "moderate" rebels.  Even worse, we know these are good guys, he points out, because they are CIA trained.  Well, so was Pinochet.  I think the issue of overthrowing governments we do not like has been settled, that whatever government a country has belongs to it, but apparently whatever opposition there is to any government, if it is CIA trained, is more legitimate.  As best we can make out, that seems to be the prevailing opinion on our "mainstream media," or Corporate Media, here in the U.S.

            Now what would a CIA trained militia be trained to do? 

            I think we made it clear that it was not a good idea to kill Saddam Hussein and to take over his country.  This is despite the fact that we saw videos of our own people arming him so that he would attack Iran.  It was clear that he had no weapons of mass destruction.  He had no link to the Taliban.  Osama bin Laden despised him, mainly because of his co-operation with us.  However, Georgie decided to invade and overthrow his government and then dismantle it.  Once that happened, there was nobody left who could run anything.  This was called "debathification."  As a result, we spend trillions, lost thousands of lives, etc.  The country is still a wreck and, if anything, very close to Iran.  The only nuclear weapons development in Iran took place under the Shah, but we digress.

            We did the same in Libya more recently, having learned nothing from our mistakes in Iraq.  The results are clear and we see refugees coming from there by the thousands.  Under Gaddafi, most of the people who moved to Libya stayed there and were employed.

            In other words, removing the basic infrastructure of a country, its government, leaves it in a mess and it becomes a haven from terrorists.  ISIL started in Iraq and spread.  It is in Libya now.  It is in Syria now.  Our solution is to remove the legitimate government of Syria.  See, if we remove Assad, ISIL will go away.  I'm not making this up.

            So, Putin's idea is to support Assad as Syria has official relations with Russia.  If the government of Syria is helped to become more secure, it will then be able to fight ISIL.  The so-called "moderate rebels" are most heavily concentrated in areas near the Russian ports or bases.  They can hardly expect impunity, CIA trained or not.

            The other argument made is that this is a way to take our minds off Ukraine.  Well, in Ukraine there are influential groups calling for war with Russia and who call themselves Nazis.  They do not like to be called "Neo-Nazis," mind you, just Nazis.  The Government there is a result of a coup, one that we liked and we have Hillary saying that Yaz would be a good choice (he is one of the puppets we liked).

            Here is the text, English version, of Putin's address to the U.N.:

Mr. Secretary General,
Distinguished heads of state and government,
Ladies and gentlemen,
The 70th anniversary of the United Nations is a good occasion to both take stock of history and talk about our common future. In 1945, the countries that defeated Nazism joined their efforts to lay a solid foundation for the postwar world order. Let me remind you that key decisions on the principles defining interaction between states, as well as the decision to establish the UN, were made in our country, at the Yalta Conference of the leaders of the anti-Hitler coalition.
The Yalta system was truly born in travail. It was born at the cost of tens of millions of lives and two world wars that swept through the planet in the 20th century. Let's be fair: it helped humankind pass through turbulent, and at times dramatic, events of the last seven decades. It saved the world from large-scale upheavals.
The United Nations is unique in terms of legitimacy, representation and universality. True, the UN has been criticized lately for being inefficient or for the fact that decision-making on fundamental issues stalls due to insurmountable differences, especially among Security Council members.
However, I'd like to point out that there have always been differences in the UN throughout the 70 years of its history, and that the veto right has been regularly used by the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China and the Soviet Union, and later Russia. It is only natural for such a diverse and representative organization. When the UN was first established, nobody expected that there would always be unanimity. The mission of the organization is to seek and reach compromises, and its strength comes from taking different views and opinions into consideration. The decisions debated within the UN are either taken in the form of resolutions or not. As diplomats say, they either pass or they don't. Any action taken by circumventing this procedure is illegitimate and constitutes a violation of the UN Charter and contemporary international law.
We all know that after the end of the Cold War the world was left with one center of dominance, and those who found themselves at the top of the pyramid were tempted to think that, since they are so powerful and exceptional, they know best what needs to be done and thus they don't need to reckon with the UN, which, instead of rubber-stamping the decisions they need, often stands in their way.
That's why they say that the UN has run its course and is now obsolete and outdated. Of course, the world changes, and the UN should also undergo natural transformation. Russia is ready to work together with its partners to develop the UN further on the basis of a broad consensus, but we consider any attempts to undermine the legitimacy of the United Nations as extremely dangerous. They may result in the collapse of the entire architecture of international relations, and then indeed there will be no rules left except for the rule of force. The world will be dominated by selfishness rather than collective effort, by dictate rather than equality and liberty, and instead of truly independent states we will have protectorates controlled from outside.
What is the meaning of state sovereignty, the term which has been mentioned by our colleagues here? It basically means freedom, every person and every state being free to choose their future.
By the way, this brings us to the issue of the so-called legitimacy of state authorities. You shouldn't play with words and manipulate them. In international law, international affairs, every term has to be clearly defined, transparent and interpreted the same way by one and all.
We are all different, and we should respect that. Nations shouldn't be forced to all conform to the same development model that somebody has declared the only appropriate one.
We should all remember the lessons of the past. For example, we remember examples from our Soviet past, when the Soviet Union exported social experiments, pushing for changes in other countries for ideological reasons, and this often led to tragic consequences and caused degradation instead of progress.
It seems, however, that instead of learning from other people's mistakes, some prefer to repeat them and continue to export revolutions, only now these are "democratic" revolutions. Just look at the situation in the Middle East and Northern Africa already mentioned by the previous speaker. Of course, political and social problems have been piling up for a long time in this region, and people there wanted change. But what was the actual outcome? Instead of bringing about reforms, aggressive intervention rashly destroyed government institutions and the local way of life. Instead of democracy and progress, there is now violence, poverty, social disasters and total disregard for human rights, including even the right to life.
I'm urged to ask those who created this situation: do you at least realize now what you've done? But I'm afraid that this question will remain unanswered, because they have never abandoned their policy, which is based on arrogance, exceptionalism and impunity.
Power vacuum in some countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa obviously resulted in the emergence of areas of anarchy, which were quickly filled with extremists and terrorists. The so-called Islamic State has tens of thousands of militants fighting for it, including former Iraqi soldiers who were left on the street after the 2003 invasion. Many recruits come from Libya whose statehood was destroyed as a result of a gross violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1973. And now radical groups are joined by members of the so-called "moderate" Syrian opposition backed by the West. They get weapons and training, and then they defect and join the so-called Islamic State.
In fact, the Islamic State itself did not come out of nowhere. It was initially developed as a weapon against undesirable secular regimes. Having established control over parts of Syria and Iraq, Islamic State now aggressively expands into other regions. It seeks dominance in the Muslim world and beyond. Their plans go further.
The situation is extremely dangerous. In these circumstances, it is hypocritical and irresponsible to make declarations about the threat of terrorism and at the same time turn a blind eye to the channels used to finance and support terrorists, including revenues from drug trafficking, the illegal oil trade and the arms trade.
It is equally irresponsible to manipulate extremist groups and use them to achieve your political goals, hoping that later you'll find a way to get rid of them or somehow eliminate them.
I'd like to tell those who engage in this: Gentlemen, the people you are dealing with are cruel but they are not dumb. They are as smart as you are. So, it's a big question: who's playing who here? The recent incident where the most "moderate" opposition group handed over their weapons to terrorists is a vivid example of that.
We consider that any attempts to flirt with terrorists, let alone arm them, are short-sighted and extremely dangerous. This may make the global terrorist threat much worse, spreading it to new regions around the globe, especially since there are fighters from many different countries, including European ones, gaining combat experience with Islamic State. Unfortunately, Russia is no exception.
Now that those thugs have tasted blood, we can't allow them to return home and continue with their criminal activities. Nobody wants that, right?
Russia has consistently opposed terrorism in all its forms. Today, we provide military-technical assistance to Iraq, Syria and other regional countries fighting terrorist groups. We think it's a big mistake to refuse to cooperate with the Syrian authorities and government forces who valiantly fight terrorists on the ground.
We should finally admit that President Assad's government forces and the Kurdish militia are the only forces really fighting terrorists in Syria. Yes, we are aware of all the problems and conflicts in the region, but we definitely have to consider the actual situation on the ground.
Dear colleagues, I must note that such an honest and frank approach on Russia's part has been recently used as a pretext for accusing it of its growing ambitions — as if those who say that have no ambitions at all. However, it is not about Russia's ambitions, dear colleagues, but about the recognition of the fact that we can no longer tolerate the current state of affairs in the world.
What we actually propose is to be guided by common values and common interests rather than by ambitions. Relying on international law, we must join efforts to address the problems that all of us are facing, and create a genuinely broad international coalition against terrorism. Similar to the anti-Hitler coalition, it could unite a broad range of parties willing to stand firm against those who, just like the Nazis, sow evil and hatred of humankind. And of course, Muslim nations should play a key role in such a coalition, since Islamic State not only poses a direct threat to them, but also tarnishes one of the greatest world religions with its atrocities. The ideologues of these extremists make a mockery of Islam and subvert its true humanist values.
I would also like to address Muslim spiritual leaders: Your authority and your guidance are of great importance right now. It is essential to prevent people targeted for recruitment by extremists from making hasty decisions, and those who have already been deceived and, due to various circumstances, found themselves among terrorists, must be assisted in finding a way back to normal life, laying down arms and putting an end to fratricide.
In the days to come, Russia, as the current President of the UN Security Council, will convene a ministerial meeting to carry out a comprehensive analysis of the threats in the Middle East. First of all, we propose exploring opportunities for adopting a resolution that would serve to coordinate the efforts of all parties that oppose Islamic State and other terrorist groups. Once again, such coordination should be based upon the principles of the UN Charter.
We hope that the international community will be able to develop a comprehensive strategy of political stabilization, as well as social and economic recovery in the Middle East. Then, dear friends, there would be no need for setting up more refugee camps. Today, the flow of people forced to leave their native land has literally engulfed, first, the neighbouring countries, and then Europe. There are hundreds of thousands of them now, and before long, there might be millions. It is, essentially, a new, tragic Migration Period, and a harsh lesson for all of us, including Europe.
I would like to stress that refugees undoubtedly need our compassion and support. However, the only way to solve this problem for good is to restore statehood where it has been destroyed, to strengthen government institutions where they still exist, or are being re-established, to provide comprehensive military, economic and material assistance to countries in a difficult situation, and certainly to people who, despite all their ordeals, did not abandon their homes. Of course, any assistance to sovereign nations can, and should, be offered rather than imposed, in strict compliance with the UN Charter. In other words, our Organisation should support any measures that have been, or will be, taken in this regard in accordance with international law, and reject any actions that are in breach of the UN Charter. Above all, I believe it is of utmost importance to help restore government institutions in Libya, support the new government of Iraq, and provide comprehensive assistance to the legitimate government of Syria.
Dear colleagues, ensuring peace and global and regional stability remains a key task for the international community guided by the United Nations. We believe this means creating an equal and indivisible security environment that would not serve a privileged few, but everyone. Indeed, it is a challenging, complicated and time-consuming task, but there is simply no alternative.
Sadly, some of our counterparts are still dominated by their Cold War-era bloc mentality and the ambition to conquer new geopolitical areas. First, they continued their policy of expanding NATO – one should wonder why, considering that the Warsaw Pact had ceased to exist and the Soviet Union had disintegrated.
Nevertheless, NATO has kept on expanding, together with its military infrastructure. Next, the post-Soviet states were forced to face a false choice between joining the West and carrying on with the East. Sooner or later, this logic of confrontation was bound to spark off a major geopolitical crisis. And that is exactly what happened in Ukraine, where the people's widespread frustration with the government was used for instigating a coup d'état from abroad. This has triggered a civil war. We are convinced that the only way out of this dead end lies through comprehensive and diligent implementation of the Minsk agreements of February 12th, 2015. Ukraine's territorial integrity cannot be secured through the use of threats or military force, but it must be secured. The people of Donbas should have their rights and interests genuinely considered, and their choice respected; they should be engaged in devising the key elements of the country's political system, in line with the provisions of the Minsk agreements. Such steps would guarantee that Ukraine will develop as a civilized state, and a vital link in creating a common space of security and economic cooperation, both in Europe and in Eurasia.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have deliberately mentioned a common space for economic cooperation. Until quite recently, it seemed that we would learn to do without dividing lines in the area of the economy with its objective market laws, and act based on transparent and jointly formulated rules, including the WTO principles, which embrace free trade and investment and fair competition. However, unilaterally imposed sanctions circumventing the UN Charter have all but become commonplace today. They not only serve political objectives, but are also used for eliminating market competition.
I would like to note one more sign of rising economic selfishness. A number of nations have chosen to create exclusive economic associations, with their establishment being negotiated behind closed doors, secretly from those very nations' own public and business communities, as well as from the rest of the world. Other states, whose interests may be affected, have not been informed of anything, either. It seems that someone would like to impose upon us some new game rules, deliberately tailored to accommodate the interests of a privileged few, with the WTO having no say in it. This is fraught with utterly unbalancing global trade and splitting up the global economic space.
These issues affect the interests of all nations and influence the future of the entire global economy. That is why we propose discussing those issues within the framework of the United Nations, the WTO and the G20. Contrary to the policy of exclusion, Russia advocates harmonizing regional economic projects. I am referring to the so-called "integration of integrations" based on the universal and transparent rules of international trade. As an example, I would like to cite our plans to interconnect the Eurasian Economic Union with China's initiative for creating a Silk Road economic belt. We continue to see great promise in harmonizing the integration vehicles between the Eurasian Economic Union and the European Union.
Ladies and gentlemen, one more issue that shall affect the future of the entire humankind is climate change. It is in our interest to ensure that the coming UN Climate Change Conference that will take place in Paris in December this year should deliver some feasible results. As part of our national contribution, we plan to limit greenhouse gas emissions to 70–75 percent of the 1990 levels by the year 2030.
However, I suggest that we take a broader look at the issue. Admittedly, we may be able to defuse it for a while by introducing emission quotas and using other tactical measures, but we certainly will not solve it for good that way. What we need is an essentially different approach, one that would involve introducing new, groundbreaking, nature-like technologies that would not damage the environment, but rather work in harmony with it, enabling us to restore the balance between the biosphere and technology upset by human activities.
It is indeed a challenge of global proportions. And I am confident that humanity does have the necessary intellectual capacity to respond to it. We need to join our efforts, primarily engaging countries that possess strong research and development capabilities, and have made significant advances in fundamental research. We propose convening a special forum under the auspices of the UN to comprehensively address issues related to the depletion of natural resources, habitat destruction, and climate change. Russia is willing to co-sponsor such a forum.
Ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues. On January 10th, 1946, the UN General Assembly convened for its first meeting in London. Chairman of the Preparatory Commission Dr. Zuleta Angel, a Colombian diplomat, opened the session by offering what I see as a very concise definition of the principles that the United Nations should be based upon, which are good will, disdain for scheming and trickery, and a spirit of cooperation. Today, his words sound like guidance for all of us.
Russia is confident of the United Nations' enormous potential, which should help us avoid a new confrontation and embrace a strategy of cooperation. Hand in hand with other nations, we will consistently work to strengthen the UN's central, coordinating role. I am convinced that by working together, we will make the world stable and safe, and provide an enabling environment for the development of all nations and peoples. Thank you.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Equinox


From a meeting of the Pope and a prior President.

The Equinox
Babba Yaga

September 23 or 24 are great days.  Several important things happened.

1) The Vernal Equinox.  This means that day and night are the same length and that from now on the days will be getting shorter, and shorter.  Good.  The temperatures will begin to cool off as well and the damn grass will soon stop growing.

2) Yogi Berra died about this time at the age of 90, reminding us of his famous statement "Always go to people's funerals.  Otherwise, they won't go to yours."  My other favorite is "Nobody eats there any more -- it's too crowded." 

3) The Pope happened to land here, by plane, economy class and then rode in a FIAT Accompli, as I understand it.  I've said that he is the most transformative Pope since Alexander VI, but only one person knew what I meant (and that person studied to become a Priest for awhile).  That was the Borgia Pope.  One other, perhaps, the monster Constantine who edited the Bible is right up there too.

4) Scott Walker dropped out of the Republican Primaries.  He was voted down twice in 4 years by the people of Wisconsin and reinstated by the Koch brothers both times. 

5) I had previously mentioned that I would post the question and answer part of Chomsky's speech, but below is all I could find.

6) I am by no means an authority on the subject, but the Eid started on the 23rd and also the pilgrimage.   717 died in a stampede, attempting to "stone the devil".  You have to stone him 10 times in order for it to count.  Now, it does not seem reasonable that Mohammed envisioned such stampedes and that if he visualized millions trying to carry out that pilgrimage as it is today he would not have prescribed such madness.  Just a guess, mind you. 

7) For a change of pace, however, mobs in Iran are chanting "Death to Al Saud" as a result of the stampede.  Lets the U.S. off the hook for a few days, at least.

8) As a result of Boehner inviting the Pope, and the Pope speaking against the death penalty and selling arms for profit, he resigned for his position as Speaker of the House.  I saw that one coming.


Noam Chomsky on Trump: "We Should Recognize the Other Candidates are Not That Different"

Noam Chomsky weighed in on U.S. presidential politics in a speech Saturday at The New School in New York. In addressing a question about Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, Chomsky assessed the political landscape: "Today's Democrats are what used to be called moderate Republicans. The Republicans have just drifted off the spectrum. They're so committed to extreme wealth and power that they cannot get votes ... So what has happened is that they've mobilized sectors of the population that have been around for a long time. ... Trump may be comic relief, but it's not that different from the mainstream, which I think is more important."


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: After his talk, Professor Chomsky read and answered questions from the audience. This is one of those questions.
NOAM CHOMSKY: "What do you think about the antics of Donald Trump, in tangent to your earlier idea about American exceptionalism?"
Well, actually, I think we should recognize that the other candidates are not that different. I mean, if you take a look at—just take a look at their views. You know, they tell you their views, and they're astonishing. So just to keep to Iran, a couple of weeks ago, the two front-runners—they're not the front-runners any longer—were Jeb Bush and Scott Walker. And they differed on Iran. Walker said we have to bomb Iran; when he gets elected, they're going to bomb Iran immediately, the day he's elected. Bush was a little—you know, he's more serious: He said he's going to wait 'til the first Cabinet meeting, and then they'll bomb Iran. I mean, this is just off the spectrum of not only international opinion, but even relative sanity.
This is—I think Ornstein and Mann are correct: It's a radical insurgency; it's not a political party. You can tell that even by the votes. I mean, any issue of any complexity is going to have some diversity of opinion. But when you get a unanimous vote to kill the Iranian deal or the Affordable Care Act or whatever the next thing may be, you know you're not dealing with a political party.
It's an interesting question why that's true. I think what's actually happened is that during the whole so-called neoliberal period, last generation, both political parties have drifted to the right. Today's Democrats are what used to be called moderate Republicans. The Republicans have just drifted off the spectrum. They're so committed to extreme wealth and power that they cannot get votes, can't get votes by presenting those positions. So what has happened is that they've mobilized sectors of the population that have been around for a long time. It is a pretty exceptional country in many ways. One is it's extremely religious. It's one of the most extreme fundamentalist countries in the world. And by now, I suspect the majority of the base of the Republican Party is evangelical Christians, extremists, not—they're a mixture, but these are the extremist ones, nativists who are afraid that, you know, "they are taking our white Anglo-Saxon country away from us," people who have to have guns when they go into Starbucks because, who knows, they might get killed by an Islamic terrorist and so on. I mean, all of that is part of the country, and it goes back to colonial days. There are real roots to it. But these have not been an organized political force in the past. They are now. That's the base of the Republican Party. And you see it in the primaries. So, yeah, Trump is maybe comic relief, but it's just a—it's not that different from the mainstream, which I think is more important.
AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky, speaking at The New School this weekend here in New York City, "On Power and Ideology." Professor Chomsky is institute professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he's taught for more than half a century. A world-renowned linguist and political dissident, Chomsky has written more than a hundred books; his latest, Because We Say So.
For the full transcript and video and audio of the speech, you can go to We'll also post the full Q&A right there at with Professor Chomsky. What did you find most interesting about this speech? You can tweet us, @democracynow, or go to our Facebook page.
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