October 20, 2016
The hypocritical Western heart beats for all except those the US Empire drowns in blood. 
By Stephen Gowans
“In Syria almost everybody is under siege to a greater or lesser degree,” observes the Independent’s Patrick Cockburn.  Most people, however, think the only siege in Syria is the one imposed on (East) Aleppo by Syrian and Russian forces. But siege as a form of warfare is hardly uniquely embraced by the Syrian Arab Army and Russian military. On the contrary, the United States and its allies have been practicing siege warfare in the Levant and beyond for years, and continue to do so. It’s just that US-led siege warfare has been concealed behind anodyne, even heroic, labels, while the siege warfare of countries Washington is hostile to, is abominated by Western state officials crying crocodile tears.
Here’s how the deception works:
Sieges of cities controlled by Islamic State, carried out by US forces and their allies, are called rescue operations, or campaigns to liberate or retake cities—never sieges. Other sieges—the ones carried out by Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly Al Nusra, which, herein, I’ll call Al Qaeda for convenience—are ignored altogether (which might suggest something about the relationship of Al Qaeda’s Syria affiliate to the United States.) And a particularly injurious form of siege—economic sanctions — is presented as a separate category altogether and not siege warfare at all. But sanctions, imposed by rich countries, such as the United States and those of the European Union, on poor countries, such as Syria, are a modern form of siege, and have been called sanctions of mass destruction, in recognition of their devastating character.In the Levant, the sieges which are identified as such by Western state officials, and in train, by the Western mass media, are sieges of cities controlled by Al Qaeda, carried out by Syrian forces and their allies. These sieges—which cause hunger, kill civilians, and destroy buildings—are denounced in the West as ferocious attacks on innocents which amount to war crimes. “Russia’s bombardment backing the siege of Aleppo by Syrian government forces,” notes the Wall Street Journal, “has created a humanitarian crisis.”  A UN Security Council resolution—vetoed by Russia—has called for an end to Russian bombing of Aleppo. British foreign minister Boris Johnson has mused openly about war crimes indictments against Syria and Russia.
Yet US campaigns to drive Islamic State out of Manbij, Kobani, Ramadi, Fallujah, Baiji and Tikrit, and now Mosul, have also caused hunger, killed civilians, and destroyed buildings. Unlike the Syrian military’s siege of East Aleppo, these campaigns have been celebrated as great and necessary military victories, but have, themselves, created vast humanitarian crises.
Cockburn observes that the “recapture” of “cities like Ramadi, Fallujah, Baiji and Tikrit…would scarcely have happened without the coalition air umbrella overhead.”  That is, the cities liberated by Iraqi forces and their US patron were bombed into submission, even though civilians were trapped inside. Iraqi ground forces only moved in after these cities were left in ruins by coalition airstrikes and Iraqi artillery bombardment, as mopping up forces.Rania Khalek, writing in the Intercept, points out that “U.S.-backed ground forces laid siege to Manbij, a city in northern Syria not far from Aleppo that is home to tens of thousands of civilians. U.S. airstrikes pounded the city over the summer, killing up to 125 civilians in a single attack. The U.S. replicated this strategy to drive ISIS out of Kobane, Ramadi, and Fallujah, leaving behind flattened neighborhoods.” 
To recover Ramadi from Islamic State, Iraqi forces surrounded and cordoned off the city.  In addition, the US led coalition bombarded Ramadi with airstrikes and artillery fire.  The bombardment left 70 percent of Ramadi’s buildings in ruins. The city was recovered, but “the great majority of its 400,000 people” were left homeless. 
Iraqi forces also besieged the city of Fallujah, preventing most food, medicine and fuel from entering it.  Militias “prevented civilians from leaving Islamic State territory while resisting calls to allow humanitarian aid to reach the city.”  This was done “to strangle Islamic State”  with the result that civilians were also “strangled.” Inside the city, tens of thousands endured famine and sickness due to lack of medicine.  Civilians reportedly survived on grass and plants.  Many civilians “died under buildings that collapsed under” artillery bombardment and coalition air strikes. The current campaign to recover Mosul is based on the same siege strategy US forces and their Iraqi client used to liberate Ramadi and Fallujah. US and allied warplanes have been bombarding the city for months.  Iraqi forces, aided by US Special Forces, are moving to cordon it off. “Some aid groups estimate that as many as a million people could be displaced by fighting to recapture the city, creating a daunting humanitarian task that the United Nations and other organizations say they are not yet ready to deal with.” 
Writer and journalist Jonathan Cook commented on the utter hypocrisy of Westerners who condemn the Syrian/Russian campaign to liberate East Aleppo from Islamist fighters while celebrating the Iraqi/US campaign to do the same in Mosul. Targeting the British newspaper, the Guardian, beloved by progressives, Cook contrasted two reports which appeared in the newspaper to illustrate the Western heart beating for all except those the US Empire drowns in blood.
Report one: The Guardian provides supportive coverage of the beginning of a full-throttle assault by Iraqi forces, backed by the US and UK, on Mosul to win it back from the jihadists of ISIS – an assault that will inevitably lead to massive casualties and humanitarian suffering among the civilian population.
Report two: The Guardian provides supportive coverage of the US and UK for considering increased sanctions against Syria and Russia. On what grounds? Because Syrian forces, backed by Russia, have been waging a full-throttle assault on Aleppo to win it back from the jihadists of ISIS and Al-Qaeda – an assault that has led to massive casualties and humanitarian suffering among the civilian population. 
Central to Western propaganda is the elision of the Islamist character of the Al Qaeda militants who tyrannize East Aleppo. This is accomplished by labeling them “rebels,” while the “rebels” who tyrannize the cities the United States and its allies besiege are called “Islamic State,” ISIL” or “ISIS” fighters. The aim is to conjure the impression that US-led sieges are directed at Islamic terrorists, and therefore are justifiable, despite the humanitarian crises they precipitate, while the Syrian-led campaign in East Aleppo is directed at rebels, presumably moderates, or secular democrats, and therefore is illegitimate. This is part of a broader US propaganda campaign to create two classes of Islamist militants—good Islamists, and bad ones.
The first class, the good Islamists, comprises Al Qaeda and fighters cooperating with it, including US-backed groups, whose operations are limited to fighting secularists in Damascus, and therefore are useful to the US foreign policy goal of overthrowing Syria’s Arab nationalist government. These Islamist fighters are sanitized as “rebels.”The second class, the bad Islamists, comprises Islamic State. Islamic State has ambitions which make it far less acceptable to Washington as an instrument to be used in pursuit of US foreign policy goals. The organization’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, aspires to lead a caliphate which effaces the Sykes-Picot borders, and is therefore a threat, not only to the Arab nationalists in Damascus—an enemy the organization shares in common with Washington— but also to the US client states of Iraq and Saudi Arabia, which Islamic State attacks. The US objective in connection with Islamic State is to push the organization out of Iraq (and out of areas in Syria that can be brought under the control of US-backed fighters) and into the remainder of Syria, where they can wear down Arab nationalist forces.
Syria’s “moderates”—the “rebels”—if there are any in the sense of secular pro-democrats, are few in number. Certainly, their ranks are so limited that arming them, in the view of US president Barack Obama, would make little difference. The US president told New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman that his administration had “difficulty finding, training and arming a sufficient cadre of secular Syrian rebels: ‘There’s not as much capacity as you would hope,’” Obama confessed.  Obama’s assessment was underscored when “a US general admitted that it had just four such ‘moderate’ fighters in Syria after spending $500 million on training them.”  Veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk dismissed the idea of the “moderates” as little more than a fantasy. “I doubt if there are 700 active ‘moderate’ foot soldiers in Syria,” he wrote. And “I am being very generous, for the figure may be nearer 70.” 
Elizabeth O’Bagy, who has made numerous trips to Syria to interview insurgent commanders for the Institute for the Study of War, told the New York Times’ Ben Hubbard that my “sense is that there are no seculars.”  Anti-government fighters interviewed by the Wall Street Journal found the Western concept of the secular Syrian rebel to be incomprehensible. 
To be clear: Syrian and Russian forces are waging a campaign to liberate East Aleppo from Islamists, whose only difference from Islamic State is that they’re not a threat to the US client states, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. It’s “primarily al-Nusra who holds Aleppo,” US Department of Defense spokesperson Colonel Steve Warren said on April 25, referring to Al Qaeda.  Other militant Islamist organizations, including US-backed groups, are also in Aleppo, intertwined with, embedded with, sharing weapons with, cooperating with, and acting as auxiliaries of Al-Qaeda.
Author and journalist Stephen Kinzer, writing in the Boston Globe, reminds us that:
For three years, violent militants have run Aleppo. Their rule began with a wave of repression. They posted notices warning residents: “Don’t send your children to school. If you do, we will get the backpack and you will get the coffin.” Then they destroyed factories, hoping that unemployed workers would have no recourse other than to become fighters. They trucked looted machinery to Turkey and sold it. 
The Invisible Sieges
While sieges imposed by US-led forces are hidden by not calling them sieges, sieges imposed by Washington’s Al-Qaeda ally are simply ignored.
“Only three years ago,” notes Fisk, the same Islamist fighters who are under siege today in East Aleppo, “were besieging the surrounded Syrian army western enclave of Aleppo and firing shells and mortars into the sector where hundreds of thousands of civilians lived under regime control.”  Fisk observes acidly that the “first siege didn’t elicit many tears from the satellite channel lads and lassies” while the “second siege comes with oceans of tears.” 
To the ignored Al Qaeda-orchestrated siege of West Aleppo can be added “the untold story of the three-and-a-half-year siege of two small Shia Muslim villages in northern Syria,” Nubl and Zahra. Those sieges, carried out by Al-Qaeda against villages which remained loyal to Syria’s Arab nationalist government, left at least 500 civilians dead, 100 of them children, through famine and artillery bombardment.  The “world paid no heed to the suffering of these people,” preferring to remain “largely fixed on those civilians suffering under siege by (Syrian) government forces elsewhere.” And then there’s the largely untold story of the 13 year-long siege imposed on a whole country, Syria, by the United States and European Union. That siege, initiated by Washington in 2003, with the Syria Accountability Act, and then followed by EU sanctions, blocks Western exports of almost all products to Syria and isolates the country financially. This massive, wide-scale siege plunged Syria’s economy into crisis even before the 2011 eruption of upheavals in the Arab world —demonstrating that Washington’s efforts to force Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to step down began long before the Arab Spring. The roots of US hostility to Assad’s government are found in the danger of its becoming “a focus of Arab nationalistic struggle against an American regional presence and interests”  – another way of saying that the Arab nationalist goals of unity, independence and socialism, which guide the Syrian state, are an anathema to the US demand—expressed in the 2015 US National Security Strategy—that all countries fall in behind US global “leadership.”
Under US siege warfare, unemployment shot up, factories closed, food prices skyrocketed and fuel prices doubled.  “Syrian officials” were forced “to stop providing education, health care and other essential services in some parts of the country.”  Indeed, so comprehensive was the siege, that by 2011 US “officials acknowledged that the country was already under so many sanctions that the United States held little leverage.” 
Western siege warfare on Syria has blocked “access to blood safety equipment, medicines, medical devices, food, fuel, water pumps, spare parts for power plants, and more,”  leading Patrick Cockburn to compare the regime change campaign to “UN sanctions on Iraq between 1990 and 2003.”  The siege of Iraq—at a time when the country was led by secular Arab nationalists who troubled Washington as much, if not more, than the secular Arab nationalists in Syria vex Washington today—led to the deaths, though disease and hunger, of 500,000 children, according to the United Nations. Political scientists John Meuller and Karl Meuller called the siege a campaign of economic warfare amounting to “sanctions of mass destruction,” more devastating than all the weapons of mass destruction used in history.  When the West’s siege warfare on Arab nationalist Iraq ended in 2003 it was immediately resumed on Arab nationalist Syria, with the same devastating consequences.
According to a leaked UN internal report, the “US and EU economic sanctions on Syria are causing huge suffering among ordinary Syrians and preventing the delivery of humanitarian aid.”  Cockburn notes that “Aid agencies cited in the report say they cannot procure basic medicines or medical equipment for hospitals because sanctions are preventing foreign commercial companies and banks having anything to do with Syria.”  “In effect” concludes the veteran British journalists, “the US and EU sanctions are imposing an economic siege on Syria as a whole which may be killing more Syrians than die of illness and malnutrition in the sieges which EU and US leaders have described as war crimes.” Meanwhile, a U.S. Navy-backed blockade of Yemen’s ports —in other words, a siege— has left much of the country, the poorest in the Arab world, “on the brink of famine.”  Last year, a United Nations expert estimated “that 850,000 children in the country of 26 million” faced “acute malnutrition” as a result of the US-backed siege. The blockade amounts to “the deliberate starvation of civilians,” the UN expert said, which constitutes a war crime.  “Twenty million Yemenis, nearly 80% of the population, are in urgent need of food, water and medical aid,” wrote British journalist Julian Borger last year. The siege, also backed by Britain, has created “a humanitarian disaster.” 
That Washington protests so vehemently about the humanitarian consequences of Syria’s campaign to liberate East Aleppo from Al Qaeda, while US forces and their allies kill civilians through airstrikes, artillery bombardments and siege-related famine and disease in campaigns to capture territory from Islamic State, Yemen’s Houthi rebels, and Syria’s secular Arab nationalists, invites the obvious question: Why the double standard? Why does the Western heart beat for the civilians harmed in the campaign to liberate East Aleppo but not for the civilians harmed by Western campaigns to bring territory under the control of the United States and its proxies?
The answer, in short, is that Al Qaeda is a US asset in Washington’s campaign to overthrow the Arab nationalists in Damascus, and therefore Washington objects to military operations which threaten its ally. On the other hand, Washington sparks one humanitarian crisis after another in pursuit of its foreign policy goal of coercing submission to its global leadership. Jabhat Fatah al-Sham’s value to Washington resides in its implacable opposition to the secularism of Syria’s ruling Arab nationalist Ba’ath Party, and its willingness to accept the Sykes-Picot boundaries drawn up by Britain and France after WWI. Thus, the Syrian al-Qaeda outfit limits its operations to working toward the overthrow of secularists in Damascus. Washington is unwilling to accept radical Islamists seizing control of the Syrian state, but is willing to work with Al-Qaeda to eliminate a common enemy.
Washington plays a similar game with Islamic State, by calibrating its military campaign against the bad Islamists, in order to prevent them from threatening Iraq and Saudi Arabia while at the same time using them as a tool to weaken Syria’s Arab nationalist state. US airstrikes have been concentrated in Iraq, reports the Wall Street Journal. The air war focusses on Islamic State targets in Iraq, explains the newspaper, because “in Syria, U.S. strikes against the Islamic State would inadvertently help the regime of President Bashar al-Assad militarily.”  Likewise, France has “refrained from bombing the group in Syria for fear of bolstering” the Syrian government.  The British, too, have focused their air war overwhelmingly on Islamic State targets in Iraq, conducting less than 10 percent of their airstrikes on the Islamist organization’s positions in Syria.  The New York Times reports that “United States-led airstrikes in Syria … largely (focus) on areas far outside government control, to avoid … aiding a leader whose ouster President Obama has called for.”  Hence, US-coalition “airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria” have been so limited as to make them “little more than a symbolic gesture.”  Fisk sums up the phony war against Islamic State in Syria with a sarcastic quip: “And so we went to war against Isis in Syria—unless, of course, Isis was attacking Assad’s regime, in which case we did nothing at all.” 
Consistent with the US approach of employing Al Qaeda as a cat’s paw against Syria’s secular Arab nationalists, any military operation which sets back Al-Qaeda’s campaign to overthrow the Assad government is a blow against a US foreign policy objective. Those who implore the United States to join Russia in a coalition to destroy Islamist militancy in the Muslim world miss the point. Washington only abhors jihadists when they threaten the United States and its satellites; otherwise, the US state embraces militant Islam as a useful tool to be used against secular governments which refuse to submit to the international dictatorship of the United States.
Owing to the harm they inevitably inflict on non-combatants, it is easy to condemn military campaigns to liberate cities occupied by enemy forces. But it is much more difficult to suggest a realistic alternative to using force to extirpate enemies from urban redoubts. Compromise and negotiation? For the United States, compromise means Arab nationalists stepping down and yielding power to US puppets—not compromise, but the fulfillment of US objectives. Washington isn’t interested in compromise. It has declared that it can and will lead the world, which means it is determined to set the rules. But even if there were a willingness in Washington for compromise, why should the United States have a role to play in deciding Syria’s political future? We can’t be true democrats, unless we fight for democracy in international relations. And we can’t have democracy in international relations if the United States and its allies intervene in other countries, enlisting jihadists to carry out their dirty work, in order to have a say in a political transition, once their mujahedeen allies have created a catastrophe.
What’s more, even had Damascus and its Russian ally concluded that the humanitarian consequences of attempting to drive Al Qaeda out of East Aleppo were too daunting to warrant a siege campaign, the day of siege would only be delayed. Were Syria’s secular Arab nationalists to yield power under a US negotiated political settlement, the United States, acting through its new Syrian client, would arrange the siege of the city to crush its former Islamist allies, who could not be allowed to challenge the new US marionette in Damascus. Only this time, the siege would be called a rescue operation, the label “rebel” would be dropped in favor of “radical Islamist terrorist,” the ensuing humanitarian crisis would be duly noted then passed over with little comment, and hosannas would be sung to the US military leaders who slayed the Islamist dragon.
On October 19, a Swiss journalist confronted Assad on civilian deaths in East Aleppo. “But it’s true that innocent civilians are dying in Aleppo,” the journalist said. Assad replied: “The “whole hysteria in the West about Aleppo (is) not because Aleppo is under siege…Aleppo has been under siege for the last four years by terrorists, and we (never) heard a question (from) Western journalists about what’s happening in Aleppo (then) and we (never) heard a single statement by Western officials regarding the children of Aleppo. Now they are asking about Aleppo…because the terrorists are in bad shape.” The Syrian Army is advancing “and the Western countries—mainly, the United States and its allies (the) UK and France” feel “they are losing the last cards of terrorism in Syria.” 
My book Washington’s Long War on Syria is forthcoming April 2017.
1 Adapted from Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham, 1897. “Our bishops scream to high heaven when the Armenians are violated by the Turks, but say nothing about the much worse crimes committed by their own countrymen. The hypocritical British heart beats for all except those their empire drowns in blood.”
2 Patrick Cockburn, “The silent devastation of Daraya: Capture of suburb is a big step toward Assad winning the battle for Damascus,” The Independent, September 8, 2016
3 Anton Troianovski and Amie Ferris-Rotman, “Germany hosts Putin and Poroshenko for Ukraine summit,” The Wall Street Journal, October 18, 2016.
4 Patrick Cockburn, “Iraq’s ‘ramshackle’ Mosul offensive may see Isis defeated but it will expose deep divisions between the forces involved,” The Independent, October 18, 2016
5 Rania Khalek, “US and EU sanctions are punishing ordinary Syrians and crippling aid work, UN report reveals,” The Intercept, September 28, 2016
6 Helene Cooper, Eric Schmitt and Michael R. Gordon, “U.S. set to open a climactic battle against ISIS in Mosul, Iraq,” The New York Times, October 7, 2016
7 Patrick Cockburn, “Air strikes on ISIS in Iraq and Syria are reducing their cities to ruins,” The Independent, May 27, 2016
9 Matt Bradley, “Iraqi blockade of occupied Fallujah takes toll on civilians,” The Wall Street Journal, January 31, 2016
10 Tim Arango, “In effort to defeat ISIS, US and Iran impede one another,” New York Times, April 25, 2016
11 Matt Bradley, “Iraqi blockade of occupied Fallujah takes toll on civilians,” The Wall Street Journal, January 31, 2016
12 Tim Arango, “Iran-led push to retake Falluja from ISIS worries U.S.” The New York Times, May 28, 2016; Rania Khalek, “US and EU sanctions are punishing ordinary Syrians and crippling aid work, UN report reveals,” The Intercept, September 28, 2016
13 Matt Bradley, “Iraqi blockade of occupied Fallujah takes toll on civilians,” The Wall Street Journal, January 31, 2016
14 Tim Arango, “Iran-led push to retake Falluja from ISIS worries U.S.” The New York Times, May 28, 2016
15 Helene Cooper, Eric Schmitt and Michael R. Gordon, “U.S. set to open a climactic battle against ISIS in Mosul, Iraq,” The New York Times, October 7, 2016; Missy Ryan, “Mosul offensive poses key test for U.S. strategy against Islamic State,” The Washington Post, October 14, 2016
16 Helene Cooper, Eric Schmitt and Michael R. Gordon, “U.S. set to open a climactic battle against ISIS in Mosul, Iraq,” The New York Times, October 7, 2016
17 Jonathan Cook, “Guardian front page channels Orwell’s 1984,” Jonathan Cook Blog, October 17, 2016
18 Thomas L. Friedman, Obama on the world,” The New York Times, August 8, 2014
19 Patrick Cockburn, “The West has been in denial over how to tackle the threat of Islamic State,” Evening Standard, November 19, 2015
20 Robert Fisk, “David Cameron, there aren’t 70,000 moderate fighters in Syria—and whosever heard of a moderate with a Kalashnikov anyway?” The Independent, November 29, 2015
21 Ben Hubbard, “Islamist rebels create dilemma on Syria policy”, The New York Times, April 27, 2013
22 Nour Malas, “Islamists gain momentum in Syria”, The Wall Street Journal, February 27, 2013
23 Sam Heller and Avi Asher-Schapiro, “’The regime can’t be trusted’: Inside Syria’s Aleppo as a shaky truce begins,” Vice, May 5, 2016
24 Stephen Kinzer, “The media are misleading the public on Syria,” The Boston Globe, February 18, 2016
25 Robert Fisk, “No, Aleppo is not the new Srebrenica—the West won’t go to war over Syria,” The Independent, August 4, 2016
27 Robert Fisk, “Syria civil war: The untold story of the siege of two small Shia villages – and how the world turned a blind eye,” The Independent, February 22, 2016
29 Nada Bakri, “Sanctions pose growing threat to Syria’s Assad”, The New York Times, October 10, 2011
30 Moshe Ma’oz, Bruce Cumings, Ervand Abrahamian and Moshe Ma’oz, Inventing the Axis of Evil: The Truth about North Korea, Iran, and Syria, The New Press, 2004, p .207
31 Nour Malas and Siobhan Gorman, “Syrian brass defect, bouying rebels”, The Wall Street Journal, March 9, 2012.
32 Joby Warrick and Alice Fordham, “Syria running out of cash as sanctions take toll, but Assad avoids economic pain”, the Washington Post, April 24, 2012
33 David E. Sanger, “U.S. faces a challenge in trying to punish Syria”, The New York Times, April 25, 2011
34 Rania Khalek, “US and EU sanctions are punishing ordinary Syrians and crippling aid work, UN report reveals,” The Intercept, September 28, 2016
35 Patrick Cockburn, “The silent devastation of Daraya: Capture of suburb is a big step toward Assad winning the battle for Damascus,” The Independent, September 8, 2016
36 John Mueller and Karl Mueller, “Sanctions of mass destruction,” Foreign Affairs, May/June 1999
37 Patrick Cockburn, “US and EU sanctions are ruining ordinary Syrians’ lives, yet Bashar al-Assad hangs on to power,” The Independent, October 7, 2016
40 Maria Abi-Habin and Adam Entous, “U.S. widens role in Saudi-led campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen,” The Wall Street Journal, April 12, 2015
41 Shuaib Almosawa and Ben Hubbard, “A roar at a funeral, and Yemen’s war is altered,” The New York Times, October 9, 2016
42 Shuaib Almosawa, Kareem Fahim and Somini Sengupta, “Yemeni government faces choice between a truce and fighting on,” The New York Times, Aug 14, 2015
43 Julian Borger, “Saudi-led naval blockade leaves 20m Yemenis facing humanitarian disaster,” The Guardian June 5, 2015
44 Maria Abi-Habib, “Islamic State remains unchallenged from its sanctuary in Syria”, The Wall Street Journal, August 10, 2014
45 Matthew Dalton, “Reports on Islamic state plans in Europe fueled French move to prepare Syria strikes, The Wall Street Journal, September 15, 2015
46 Patrick Cockburn, “Government has no strategy, no plan and only ‘phantom’ allies in Syria, scathing Commons report reveals,” The Independent, September 22, 2016
47 Anne Barnard and Hwaida Saad, “ISIS fighters seize control of Syrian city of Palmyra, and ancient ruins, “The New York Times, May 20, 2015
48 Patrick Cockburn, “Chilcot report: Tony Blair, the Iraq war, and the words of mass destruction that continue to deceive,” The Independent, July 4, 2016
49 Robert Fisk, “I read the Chilcot report as I travelled across Syria this week and saw for myself what Blair’s actions caused,” The Independent, July 7, 2016
50 “President al-Assad to Swiss SRF 1 TV channel: Fighting terrorists is the way to protect civilians in Aleppo,” SANA, October 19, 2016
Allying with political Islam: The United States’ tactical alliances with Al Qaeda and its associates in Syria
Originally posted July 15, 2016
Updated July 18, 2016
By Stephen Gowans
Summary. The New York Times reported that the United States has refrained from systematically attacking Al Qaeda’s franchise in Syria because US-backed fighters coordinate and are enmeshed with the outfit. The newspaper also reported that the Pentagon had refrained in 2015 from attacking ISIS militants in and around the Syrian town of Palmyra in order to further the US foreign policy goal of regime change in Damascus. The United States has a long history of forming tactical alliances with political Islam to counter secular Arab nationalists, whom it views as inimical to its interests of dominating the Arab world, with its vast petroleum resources. Syria, whose constitution describes the country as “the beating heart of Arabism” and “bedrock of resistance against colonial hegemony on the Arab world,” is the last of the secular Arab nationalist states opposing US domination and control of the region.
Unlike Russia, the United States “has refrained from systematic attacks against the Nusra Front,” the newspaper reported. That is because “United States-backed rebel groups often coordinate their activities” with Al Qaeda fighters, Times reporters Gardiner Harris and Anne Barnard wrote.
A myriad of articles in mainstream US newspapers, including the New York Times, have previously documented the existence of extensive combat coordination between al-Nusra and US-backed fighters, noting that so called “moderate” rebels are enmeshed with, cooperate with, are ideologically similar to, fight alongside of, coordinate with, share arms with, and operate under licence to, Al Qaeda in Syria. 
In fact, so highly integrated are US-backed fighters with Syrian Al Qaeda forces that Russian attacks on Nusra Front positions have amounted to attacks on US-proxies, raising objections from Washington, and denunciations of Moscow for what Washington says are actions to prop up the Syrian government rather than fight terrorists (creating a false narrative by implication that the forces on the ground acting to topple Arab nationalists in Damascus do not use terrorist methods.)
Yet, al-Nusra, the outfit the United States has refrained from systematically attacking, has been branded a terrorist organization by the United Nations Security Council.  The obvious implication is that if US-backed insurgents are fighting alongside of and coordinating with the terrorist Nusra Front, then they too are very likely using the same terrorist methods for which the Nusra fighters–with whom they’re enmeshed–have been condemned. This would explain why in 2013 US “President Obama waived a provision of (US) federal law designed to prevent the supply of arms to terrorist groups to clear the way for the U.S. to provide military assistance to ‘vetted’ groups fighting” the Syrian government.  Obama’s waving of the arms-to-terrorists ban amounts to a White House admission that the fighters it’s backing are terrorists.
Moreover, the Security Council’s resolution “Calls upon Member States… to redouble and coordinate their efforts to prevent and suppress terrorist acts committed specifically by (ISIS)…as well as (al-Nusra), and all other individuals, groups, undertakings, and entities associated with Al-Qaeda” (emphasis added). Clearly, the US-backed insurgents’ coordinating with, cooperating with, fighting alongside of, sharing arms with, and operating under license to, Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, amounts to an association with the officially designated terrorist organization. The US-backed fighters, then, fall within the ambit of actions prescribed for UN member states by the Security Council. This means that not only is Washington not complying with the resolution, it is actively subverting it, by supporting individuals, groups, undertakings, and entities associated with Al Qaeda.
On July 14, US Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss a proposed agreement which would see the two countries coordinate their attacks “to ensure that strikes aimed at Nusra do not hit United States-backed groups.”
The proposed accord worries some members of the US political establishment, who believe Kerry has agreed to commit US forces to attacking the Nusra Front, which they see as a highly effective weapon against the Syrian Arab Republic. Since Arab nationalist-removal, not terrorist-removal, remains Washington’s principal goal in Syria, attacking the Qaeda fighters would militate against achievement of a key US foreign policy objective, these critics contend.
The Atlantic Council, for example, a US-based think tank funded by wealthy individuals and foundations, major corporations, and the US government, warns that combined US-Russian attacks on the Nusra Front could “effectively end the Syrian opposition,” an admission that the insurgency in Syria is dominated by Al Qaeda’s foot soldiers.
That there is no significant semblance of moderation in Syria’s armed opposition is indicated by concerns in Washington that weakening Al Qaeda will “effectively end the Syrian opposition,” and worries within the US political establishment that Kerry’s agreement with Putin could lead the United States to a point where it is “under Russian pressure to attack other rebel groups, like the Army of Islam,” an ideological cognate of al-Nusra, which also seeks to replace Syria’s secular republic with an Islamic state under Sharia law.
Washington has created a false dichotomy between terrorists and rebels, and the dichotomy has been adopted uncritically by the New York Times. Reporters Harris and Barnard wrote that, “One of the great complications…is figuring out which groups should be considered rebels focused on ousting the Assad government — a goal the United States supports — and which are aligned with Al Qaeda or the Islamic State, organizations that Washington has designated as terrorist and has vowed to defeat.”
This draws a false distinction between rebels focused on ousting the Assad government (rebels who, it is implied, don’t use terrorist methods and aren’t committed to creating an Islamic state in Syria, though neither is true) and Al Qaeda and the Islamic State (who, Washington’s narrative implies, aren’t focussed on ousting the Assad government, which, of course, they are.) The reality is that Al Qaeda, ISIS, the Army of Islam, and a slew of other jihadist groups enmeshed with al-Nusra and backed by the United States do use terrorist methods, are focussed on ousting the Assad government, and do seek to create an Islamic state in its place. There is no dichotomy. When in 2012 the United States officially designated the Nusra Front a terrorist organization, “moderate” fighters launched a protest under the banner “We are all Jabhat al-Nusra,”  affirming the point.
As the veteran Middle East correspondent Patrick Cockburn wrote in 2014: The “Syrian military opposition is dominated by ISIS and by Jabhat al-Nusra… in addition to other extreme jihadi groups. In reality, there is no dividing wall between them and America’s supposedly moderate opposition allies.” 
Nusra Front is not the only UN Security Council-designated terrorist organization which the United States has been accused of refraining from attacking. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has repeatedly argued that the United States is only managing ISIS—that is, attacking it enough to prevent it from threatening US oil interests in Iraq, but not so much that ISIS will be eliminated as a tool to counter secular Arab nationalists in Damascus. He cites as evidence the fact that ISIS continued to expand in Syria despite the United States leading a coalition of dozens of countries against the Al Qaeda break-away organization, and that Islamic States’ expansion was only halted and reversed when Russia intervened militarily in the country, with Damascus’s imprimatur. The United States, he concludes, lacks the political will to destroy ISIS, because the Islamist organization remains useful to Washington’s project of toppling the Syrian government. By contrast, Moscow, which doesn’t share Washington’s regime-change goal, has the political will to destroy ISIS, and therefore has been more effective against it. 
While it’s easy to dismiss Assad’s view as partial, it does resonate with mainstream Western sources. For example, on May 20, 2015, the New York Times’ Anne Barnard and Hwaida Saad reported that the United States refrained from attacking “Islamic State militants in and around Palmyra” in order “to avoid … aiding a leader whose ouster President Obama has called for.”  And the US Congressional Research Service has concluded that “US officials may be concerned that a more aggressive campaign against the Islamic State may take military pressure off the” Syrian government. 
Veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk summed up the US-led coalition’s campaign against ISIS this way: “And so we went to war against Isis in Syria—unless, of course, Isis was attacking (the Syrian republic), in which case we did nothing at all…” 
“Many people do not realize that the United States has had a long history of flirting with political Islam,” writes scholar Mohammed Ayoob. That flirtation goes back to at least the 1950s when Washington enlisted “Saudi Arabia, the ‘fundamentalist’ kingdom par excellence” to help counter “Arab nationalism as the unifying force in the Arab world. American policy makers perceived Arab nationalist regimes, such as Egypt, Syria and Iraq…to be…inimical to American interests.”  Those interests included US control of the Arab world’s vast petroleum resources.
Washington has had considerable success in eliminating secular opposition to its hegemony in the Middle East and North Africa, the Mashriq and the Maghreb. Egypt has been co-opted; the Anglo-American 2003 invasion of Iraq eliminated that country’s Arab nationalists, who are now proscribed from holding positions in government; and Arab nationalists in Libya were swept away by a combined NATO-Islamist assault in 2011. Syria remains as the last redoubt of secular Arab nationalism. (The country’s constitution defines Syria as the “beating heart of Arabism” and “the bedrock of resistance against colonial hegemony on the Arab world and its capabilities and wealth.”) And Washington seems intent on relying on its hoary tactic of forming tactical alliances with jihadists to crush the opposition of secular nationalists to the region’s domination by the United States and its Western allies.
The United States has a troubled relationship with terrorism and terrorists. It has a long history of pursuing state-terrorist activities, defined as the deliberate politically motivated infliction of harm on non-combatants by a state, including fire bombings of German and Japanese cities during WWII; the nuclear annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; massive terror bombing campaigns, including napalm use, during the Korean War; the carpet bombing of Indochina; the deliberate destruction of civilian infrastructure during the first Gulf War and the 1999 air war on Yugoslavia; the 1990s sanctions of mass destruction against Iraqi civilians, which led to numberless deaths, reaching perhaps a million or more; the 2003 “shock and awe” campaign unleashed on Iraq, and on and on ad nauseam. This has been accompanied by temporary tactical alliances with non-state terrorists, including the mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, the forerunners of Al Qaeda; the contras in Nicaragua; and today, a tactical alliance with ISIS, al-Nusra, and support for al-Nusra-embeds in Syria.
The US priority in Syria is Arab nationalist-elimination, and not the elimination of Islamist terrorists, who remain useful to Washington in clearing away the last of the Arab nationalist state obstacles to total US hegemony over the Arab world.
My book Washington’s Long War on Syria is forthcoming April 2017.
1. Gardiner Harris and Anne Barnard, “John Kerry meets Vladimir Putin to discuss new Syria plan,” The New York Times, July 14, 2016.
2. Journalist and writer Max Blumenthal has referred to Israel as JSIL, the Jewish State in the Levant. While the allusion to ISIL is intended facetiously, it does call to mind certain important parallels between Israel and the Islamic State.
First, both are founded on religion and give priority to anyone who adheres to the right one. Zionists go further than Islamists in referring to their co-religionists as a people whereas Islamists refer to Muslims only as members of a community. There exist no Jewish people, in the original sense of people as a group sharing a common language and territory.
Second, both ISIL and JSIL were founded on terrorism, that of the former obvious, and requiring no elaboration; that of the later, mostly absent from public discourse, but scholarly documented, all the same. Jewish irregulars, led by Yitzhak Shamir and Menachem Begin, men who would later become prime ministers of the Jewish state, used terrorist methods against British Mandate authorities in Palestine, and against the indigenous Palestinians; in the first case, to compel the British to end their mandate and turn Palestine over to Jewish rule, and in the second, to drive Palestinians from their homes, to alter the demographic character of a future Jewish state in order to ensure it included a large majority of Jews.
Third, both are implacably opposed to Syrian Arab nationalism. ISIL opposes the Syrian republic because it is a secular state based on ethnic identity rather than an Islamic state based on religious identity. JSIL opposes the Syrian republic, because the latter insists that the settler state based on Jewish religious identity which was implanted by force and colonization on Arab territory be dismantled and the usurped territory it occupies be returned to its rightful owners and incorporated into a larger Arab secular state.
3. Jay Solomon, “U.S., Russia agree to implement Syria cease-fire,” The Wall Street Journal, February 22, 2016; Karen de Young, “U.S. Russia hold Syria cease-fire talks as deadline passes without action,” The Washington Post, February 19, 2016; Karen Zraick and Anne Barnard, “Syrian war could turn on the battle for Aleppo,” The New York Times, February 12, 2016; Farnaz Fassihi, “U.N. Security Council unanimously votes to adopt France’s counterterrorism resolution,” The Wall Street Journal, November 20, 2015; Sam Dagher, “Syria’s Bashar al-Assad Tries to Force the West to Choose Between Regime, Islamic State,” The Wall Street Journal, October 9, 2015; Anne Barnard and Michael R. Gordon, “Goals diverge and perils remain as U.S. and Turkey take on ISIS,” The New York Times, July 27, 2015; Sam Dagher, “Militants seize oil field, expand Syrian domain”, The Wall Street Journal, July 3, 2014.
4. “Security Council ‘Unequivocally’ Condemns ISIL Terrorist Attacks, Unanimously Adopting Text that Determines Extremist Group Poses ‘Unprecedented’ Threat,” United Nations, November 20, 2015, http://www.un.org/press/en/2015/sc12132.doc.htm
5. Joel Gehrke, “Updated: Obama waives ban on arming terrorists to allow aid to Syrian opposition,” Washington Examiner, September 15, 2013.
6. Mark Landler, Michael R. Gordon and Anne Barnard, “US will grant recognition to Syrian rebels,” The New York Times, December 11, 2012.
7. Belen Fernandez, “Book review: The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising,” The Middle East Eye, September 3, 2014.
8. In a July 1, 2016 interview with Australian television Assad said: “Actually, we welcome any effort to fight terrorism in Syria, any effort, but this effort first of all should be genuine, not window-dressing like what’s happening now in northern Syria where 60 countries couldn’t prevent ISIS from expanding. Actually, when the Russian air support started, only at that time when ISIS stopped expanding.” “President al-Assad to SBS Australia: Western nations attack Syrian government openly and deal with secretly,” SANA, July 1, 2016.
9. “ISIS fighters seize control of Syrian city of Palmyra, and ancient ruins,” The New York Times, May 20, 2015.
10. Christopher M. Blanchard, Carla E. Humud Mary Beth D. Nikitin, “Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response,” Congressional Research Service,” October 9, 2015.
11. Robert Fisk, “I read the Chilcot report as I travelled across Syria this week and saw for myself what Blair’s actions caused,” The Independent, July 7, 2016.
12. Mohammed Ayoob, The Many Faces of Political Islam: Religion and Politics in the Muslim World, The University of Michigan Press, 2011, p. 164.
Defiant Syria: On A Journey Through Syria, A Canadian Anti-War Activist Discovers The Country’s Resilient Spirit
July 8, 2016
By Stephen Gowans
Last April, veteran anti-war activist Ken Stone travelled to Syria as part of a seven person solidarity mission with the people of Syria, becoming one of the first tourists to visit liberated Palmyra. Stone recounts his trip in Defiant Syria: Dispatches from the Second International Tour of Peace to Syria.
The short book is part travelogue, part diatribe against those sections of the political left which reliably support US-led interventions in formerly colonized countries, and part trenchant critique of Canadian foreign policy in connection with Syria.
“I was surprised,” he writes, “at the resilience of the Syrian spirit. I expected to find Syrians depressed, exhausted, and pessimistic after five long years of war. Instead, they were full of life and defiance.”
Part of that defiance was expressed in the Syrian government insisting, over the objections of Western powers, on holding parliamentary elections in April, as mandated by Syria’s 2012 constitution, which was drafted and popularly ratified in response to the demands of the opposition in 2011.
Stone was in Damascus on the day of the election, and devotes a chapter of his book to the mechanics of parliamentary democracy in Syria and what he observed as Syrians went to the polls. He draws a contrast between the government controlled capital, where calm prevailed and residents were determined to cast their ballots, and nearby Ghouta, where “all kinds of foreign mercenaries hold the population hostage and in terror.”
I was struck, reading this, by another contrast. On top of parliamentary elections, Syrians elect their president, and the last presidential election in 2012 was open to multiple candidates. In contrast, there are no elections held in jihadist-controlled territories. The jihadists, not only ISIS and al Nusra, but many of the mislabelled “moderate rebels,” doted on by Western countries, and who are enmeshed with al-Nusra, view democracy as idolatry, and don’t favor it for the successor state they envision.
None of this has stopped the former NATO colonial powers from backing the democracy-adverse jihadists. Nor has it stopped Washington and its NATO allies from working with democracy-abominating Arab monarchies—which, by the way, were installed by the colonial powers—to bring down an elected government in Damascus whose guiding political philosophy is anti-colonialism and freedom from foreign interference.
Framed this way, it’s not difficult to see who the villains are in this piece, and what lies at the root of the war—not a revolutionary eruption of civil society for democracy but a reactionary eruption of former colonial powers, in alliance with Wahhabi-inspired Islam, for renewed domination of Syria.
If the claim about the United States and its allies forging an alliance with Sunni sectarian Islamists seems extreme, consider this: In March, the Wall Street Journal quoted Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the United States, and now a member of the Israeli parliament, declaring that “If we had to choose between ISIS and Assad, we’ll take ISIS.”
Mainstream commentators, from journalists Robert Fisk and Patrick Cockburn of the Independent to Anne Barnard and Hwaida Saad of the New York Times, along with the United States’ own Congressional Research Service, have either described the US-led coalition’s fight against ISIS in Syria as largely symbolic or standing down when Islamic State attacks Syrian government forces. Washington is reluctant to stop ISIS from doing as much damage as it can in Syria, a form of collusion with the Wahhabi-inspired Sunni sectarians, in pursuit of a shared goal of ousting Assad, whose crime appears to be adherence to secular Arab nationalist goals of freedom from foreign interference, Arab unity, and socialism.
In a similar manner, British foreign secretary Philip Hammond, with an imperial arrogance befitting an official of the empire, told the New York Times last November that if al-Qaeda accepts the West’s conditions, it should be allowed to contribute to shaping Syria’s future, but not Assad, the elected president.
As for al Nusra, whose fighters are regularly patched up in Israeli hospitals and then sent back across the border to continue their fight against secularism and non-sectarianism, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal have run article after article noting that US-trained rebels are enmeshed with, cooperating with, ideologically similar to, sharing arms with, and embedded with the al Qaeda affiliate in Syria.
None of this is lost on Stone, who blames Washington, and its military alliance NATO, for Syria’s tribulations. A “cabal of mainly western NATO countries with the help of various Arab monarchs” has “recruited, trained, and coordinated” the insurgents, he writes. NATO’s sponsorship of jihadists—whom Stone calls terrorist mercenaries—is the root cause, in his view, of the chaos that plagues the country.
Stone argues that a direct line of causation can be traced from another aspect of the chaos of Syria to the West’s interventionist policies in the Middle East, namely, the refugee crisis in Europe. “It’s no accident,” he writes, “that the wave of refugees that has literally washed ashore on the coastlines of Southern Europe, dead and alive, is composed mostly of Syrians, Libyans, and Afghanis, precisely the victims of NATO military interventions in those three countries.”
The implications for how to resolve the refugee crisis are clear, says Stone. The “lesson is that, if you don’t want to turn millions of innocent civilians into refugees and subsequently find them at your frontiers, you should oppose military interventions in other countries.”
This should resonate with Canadians, whose government has agreed to settle 25,000 refugees from the war-torn country. It is “a fine humanitarian gesture,” Stone notes, but is “treating the symptom rather than the disease.” The “war could end in months,” he predicts, “if the predominantly NATO countries, who have organized the aggression against Syria” brought an end to “their support of the foreign mercenaries operating in that country and leaned on Turkey and Jordan to close their borders to them.”
Stone fulminates against “otherwise intelligent people” who’ve fallen for the myth that the Syrian insurgency is a democratic uprising of civil society against a brutal dictator, rather than a regime change operation sponsored by Washington and its satellites, in the pattern of Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, Honduras, Libya, and Somalia.
“It’s not as if Syria is the very first government targeted for regime change by the USA,” he writes. Still, “there is never a shortage of ‘leftists’ in the West who can be either bought or convinced through their incredible naïveté, warped political outlook, or Eurocentric arrogance, that the motives of the Empire are good,” he observes.
Stone reserves particular venom for an article that appeared in the September 2015 issue of The New Internationalist. A retired teacher colleague of Stone’s went out of his way to place a copy of the magazine, featuring the article “The forgotten revolution of Syria,” in Stone’s hands so he could read it in advance of his trip to Syria. Stone dismissed it as “shit.”
The Hamilton-based activist bids us to contrast “the hostile treatment with which the Canadian government unfairly treats the secular and pluralist Syrian government to the friendly treatment (including arms sales and an open invitation to fund mosques across Canada) it offers to the despotic and sectarian Saudi Arabian monarchy, the fountainhead of Wahhabi terrorism around the world.”
Stone also takes Ottawa to task for provide refuelling, reconnaissance, and transport aircraft services to the US-led Coalition, which violates Syria’s sovereignty by carrying out military operations in the country without the slightest regard for the wishes of Syrians or their elected government. This makes Canada “an accomplice, not directly involved in bombing Syria, but doing something akin to driving the getaway car rather than actually robbing the bank,” Stone observes.
The veteran leftist also faults the Canadian government for sending 800 Canadian military trainers to reinforce Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq. He argues that this is part of an effort to detach the pro-West Kurdish north completely from Iraq by making it militarily independent of Baghdad.
Stone left Syria sanguine about its future. Restaurants and nightclubs filled with people at night, Syrians singing patriotic songs, dancing, and making ambitious plans to reconstruct their lives—all of this imbued him with a spirit of optimism about a country whose people continue to defy Western machinations to undermine their right to choose their own government, guide their economy in their own way, and choose their own future.
Defiant Syria is available online as an e-book or in paper by sending an e-mail to the Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The book will be officially launched in Toronto on July 14. See here for details.
July 6, 2016
By Stephen Gowans
I wrote on July 4 in The Jewish Colonization of Palestine and the Recalcitrance of the Natives that United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 of 1947 was the first official two-state proposal. Actually, a decade earlier, in 1937, Britain’s Peel Commission recommended the partition of Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states. The commission’s report, and not Resolution 181, contained the first official two-state proposal. The Peel Commission plan was rejected by both sides, adumbrating the repudiation of Resolution 181 a decade later. A two-state proposal, then, has been around, in one form or another, for nearly 80 years, and in all those years, one side or both, has rejected it in practice, if not always in words.
Given the proposal’s uninspiring record of repeated repudiation, it beggars belief that two-state proponents should continue to think it has much of a chance of being accepted. The only conditions under which one can conceive of it being accepted by the Palestinians is if they become so ground down that they eventually capitulate and accept whatever crumbs are offered them; that is, if after decades as refugees, under Israeli military occupation, incarcerated in the open air prison of the Gaza Strip, or as third class Israeli citizens, they finally give up, and accept to live forever on their knees, though the chances of that happening seem vanishingly small. All the same, two-state proponents may welcome this unlikely outcome, and celebrate it, but what they would celebrate? Peace? Perhaps. But also the triumph of a grave injustice. And without justice, peace cannot last long.
The moral case against Jewish colonization of Palestine is formidable. The legitimacy of political authority is derived from the consent of the governed. Neither the British colonial authorities nor the Zionist state ever had the consent of the Palestinians. UN Resolution 181 (which is irrelevant anyway since it has never been implemented and was rejected by Jewish forces in 1947 and 1948 when they conquered territory beyond the limits the resolution proposed for a Jewish state) was rejected by the Palestinian majority whose lives would have been profoundly and unalterably affected by it.
As Tomis Kapitan pointed out (The Israeli-Palestine Conflict, 1997), the British had no right to give Palestine as a gift to anyone, and even if they did, London had pledged support for Arab independence throughout the Middle East to an established monarch (Sheriff Hussein of Mecca) before it issued the Balfour Declaration, whose pledge was made to an amorphous body, “the Jews”, lacking political form and juridical definition.
Moreover, Palestinians have a natural right to self government, independent of the promises, declarations, resolutions and preferences of the British, the United States, the United Nations, and the Diplomatic Quartet.
Hence, add to the moral concerns about the two-state proposal, the reality that its history shows it to have long been considered by one or both sides as undesirable, and the conclusion must be that it is untenable as a serious proposal, on moral grounds as well as on the practical grounds that its proponents quite mistakenly believe recommends it.
An alternative proposal that at least has the benefit of being just, morally defensible, and sensitive to the rights of indigenous people to self-determination, is a single, secular, democratic state, in which all citizens, Jews, Muslims, and Christians, are equal, and to which all Palestinian refugees are free to return.
July 4, 2016
“It is easy for us who have never been victims of foreign conquest and are still living in our homes to vehemently denounce the violence of evicted Palestinians.” 
“Palestine is an occupied land stolen from its native people and time does not make it a property of the thief.” 
By Stephen Gowans
In 1939, Hitler ordered Poland to be depopulated and colonized by Germans. Poland had a substantial Jewish population. Less than 10 years later, in 1947 and 1948, Zionists—who, like Hitler, believed that Jews were a national collectivity, in addition to being a religious one, and that Jews ought to establish a homeland outside of Europe—ethnically cleansed Palestine, a former Ottoman territory, of a large part of its indigenous Palestinian population. The goal was to establish a Jewish state in Palestine to be colonized by Jewish settlers, mainly from Europe. The Zionists used terrorist methods to induce the Palestinian population to flee, and refused to allow them to return, turning nearly a million of them into refugees. The property of Palestinians who took flight and were barred from returning was taken over—that is, expropriated without compensation—by Jewish settlers.
In May of 1948, Zionist forces proclaimed the formation of a Jewish state in the Palestinians’ country, a date Palestinians mark as the Nakba, or catastrophe. The Jewish state controlled 78 percent of Palestine. Many of the Palestinians whom Jewish terrorists had forced from their homes lived in refugee camps in the remaining 22 percent of their country. This was made up of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. In 1967, Zionist forces completed their military conquest of Palestine in toto, imposing military rule on parts of the Palestinians’ country they had failed to conquer in 1948. Since then, Israel has engaged in a process of creeping Judaization of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, building Jewish-only settlements, connecting them by Jewish-only roads, and denying building permits to Palestinians.
There has been much talk of a two-state solution. But what, exactly, are two states a solution to? The proffered answer is that they are a solution to the irreconcilable goals of Zionists, on the one hand, who seek Jewish colonization of all of Palestine, and Palestinians, on the other, who refuse to accept the colonization of their country. The proposed solution, which isn’t a solution at all, but for both parties an unacceptable compromise, is for the Zionists to accept that they can’t have all of Palestine and for the Palestinians to accept they can’t keep all of their country. If we cast this in terms of the German conquest of Poland, we can see that the compromise entailed in the two-state proposal is completely unacceptable. Imagine that in 1939 the international community had called for Germany and the Poles to accept a two-state “solution” by which Germany colonized part of Poland, and the Poles kept another part—a fraction—of their own country. No one would have accepted this, neither the Germans, who were bent on the military conquest of Poland to establish lebensraum—and had the military muscle to achieve their goal—nor the Poles who, quite rightly, would have rejected the proposal outright, as would anyone else in the same circumstances, except under extreme duress, or unless they shared the politics of the invader as, say Petain shared the Nazi’s virulent antipathy to communism and sympathy for the ancient regime, and so accepted a two-state solution for France.
The first two-state proposal was implied in the Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917, in which one country, Britain, pledged that another country, the Palestinians’, would provide the territory for a Jewish homeland. That declaration, which opened the doors to Jewish immigration to Palestine, sparked decades of conflict between Jewish immigrants to Palestine, the Palestinians and the British colonial authorities, culminating in a major Palestinian insurrection from 1936 to 1939.
The first formal explicit two-state proposal was UN General Assembly Resolution 181 of November 29, 1947, formulated by the United Nations after the British threw the mess they had created into the laps of the new world body. The resolution did nothing to sort out the mess. It called for a Jewish state to be carved out of 56 percent of the Palestinians’ country, and for the Palestinians to content themselves with the minority share of their territory. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who lived in the territory that would come under the jurisdiction of the Jewish state would be forced to live under Jewish rule in their own country. The Zionists were disappointed, because they wanted all of Palestine, but went along anyway because they were being offered more than they had. The Palestinians, not surprisingly, rejected the proposal outright, which, anyone else in their place also would have done. This was hardly an auspicious beginning for a proposal that has since been dubbed a “solution.” How could it be a solution, when a major party to the proposed arrangement rejected it from the very beginning, and for obvious, and entirely justifiable, reasons?
The two-state proposal, then, (not a solution—the term solution is a deception to suggest the scheme is workable) was a bad scheme from the very beginning, and has become significantly worse since. With Zionist forces conquering even more of the Palestinians’ country than Resolution 181 foresaw for a Jewish state, two-state exponents now envisioned a Jewish state in the 78 percent of Palestine that Israel controlled, following the armistice which brought the open hostilities of the Arab-Israeli war to a halt. In other words, the armistice line, rather than the frontiers envisioned by the UN, would now form the boundaries of a Jewish state. This, of course, was favorable to the Zionists, who would have a state even larger than the one they were to receive under Resolution 181. But if Palestinians thought that relinquishing 56 percent of their country to Jewish colonizers was unacceptable, how could they possibly be expected to think that ceding 78 percent was acceptable? Poles would hardly think that ceding one percent of their territory to Germany would have been tolerable, let alone 57 percent. The idea that anyone would think they would accept the loss of 78 percent of their country to a colonizing invader would be considered an insult.
It gets worse. Since its 1967 military conquest of the remainder of the Palestinians’ country, Israel has built Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, connecting them by a reticulation of Jewish-only roads. Under the two-state proposal, Israel is expected to insist on including these Jewish “facts on the ground” in any negotiated arrangement, so that whatever state the Palestinians would be allowed to have, would be located on territory making up only a small fraction of their country, and the territory would be non-contiguous, divided by Jewish settlements, and criss-crossed by Jewish-only roads. Can proponents of the two-state proposal sincerely believe their scheme has the merits of pragmatism and achievability? It wasn’t pragmatic and achievable in its implicit form in 1917 under the Balfour Declaration, nor in 1947 in its explicit form in Resolution 181. What, then, makes two-state proponents think that their proposal is more pragmatic and achievable today, now that it asks Palestinians to accept an even smaller minority share of their country than the UN proposal would have given them?
The Palestinians have refused to capitulate to the colonization of their country. They will not to live on their knees. They are, accordingly, unremittingly censured by people who have never been colonized, and, to the contrary, are citizens of countries with histories of colonization, which either promised Palestine to the Jews in the first place, which they had no right to do, or participated in dividing up the Middle East into Mandates (thinly disguised colonial possessions) without the slightest regard for the wishes of the natives, or which today furnish the colonizers with the arms and diplomatic backing they require to carry out their project.
The major advocate of the two-state proposal, the Diplomatic Quartet, consisting of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and Russia, recently issued a report which takes the Palestinians to task for using violence to resist the Jewish colonization of the remaining parts of their country which Israel hasn’t annexed de jure. The Quartet accepts the violence Israel uses and has used to fit its yoke on the Palestinians, but condemns the violence of the Palestinians to throw off the yoke. The political violence of Nazi Germany in conquering Poland in order to colonize it is considered deplorable, and the Polish resistance to German military occupation is seen as heroic and praiseworthy, but the political violence of Zionist forces in conquering Palestine in order to colonize it is accepted, while the Palestinian resistance to Israeli military occupation is labelled as terrorism.
On July 1, two Jewish settlers were shot and killed, presumably by Palestinians aggrieved at the creeping Judaization of the West Bank. The settlers were attacked near Al-Khalil (also known by its Hebrew name, Hebron.)  This is territory Israel conquered in 1967, and has occupied since. International law prohibits colonization of occupied territory, and the slain settlers lived on the territory illegally. Had Germany colonized Poland, the killing of the Jewish settlers near Al-Khalil would have been tantamount to Polish insurgents (who the Germans would label terrorists) killing German settlers in their country.
But we can go further. Jews who live on territory conquered from the Palestinians prior to 1967 have settled on land from which Palestinians have been displaced by violence. If it would have been legitimate for Polish resistance fighters to attack German settlers on Polish territory, and is legitimate for Palestinian resistance fighters to attack settlers on Palestinian territory conquered since 1967, it is also legitimate for Palestinian resistance fighters to attack settlers on Palestinian territory conquered prior to 1967. The division of the conquest of Palestine along the armistice line of the Arab-Israeli War, marking territory on one side as legitimately conquered, and territory on the other as illegitimately occupied, is completely arbitrary. Zionists have no legitimate claim to any part of the Palestinians’ country, not the territory conquered before 1967, and not the territory conquered after; not up to the armistice line, and not beyond it.
In retaliation for the killing of the settlers, the occupation has locked down Al-Khalil and its surrounding area, and has ordered more occupation troops into the West Bank. 
On the same day, the Quartet identified incorrectly that continued Palestinian violence (i.e., resistance) and Palestinian attacks on civilians (i.e., settlers, but not Israeli attacks on Palestinians) are among the major threats to achieving the Quartet’s favored two-state arrangement.  To the contrary, the major threat to achieving the two-state scheme is immanent in the scheme itself; the proposal is, for reasons already stated, completely impractical and unachievable, having arrived stillborn in the world in 1947, and has shown no signs of life in all the decades since despite simulated efforts to breathe life into the corpse.
Complaints were also made by the Quartet that Palestinians who use violence to resist occupation and colonization of their country are depicted as heroes in the Palestinian media and on social media, that streets, squares and schools have been named after them, and that Palestinian leaders have not condemned them. In other words, Palestinians must not recognize efforts to liberate their country as legitimate and praiseworthy, nor bestow the mantle of hero on fighters for national liberation. Instead, Palestinian insurgents are to be demonized as terrorists.
The report correctly identifies the causes of Palestinian political violence. These include the building of new Jewish settlements, the expansion of existing ones, the construction of Jewish-only roads and the denial of building permits to Palestinians; in other words, colonization. But it does not label colonization as the cause of Palestinian violence. Instead, it presents Jewish colonization and the recalcitrance of the natives as two independent phenomena, the “bad” behavior of both parties. We’re to believe that if only both parties would stop behaving badly, the “solution” of two states could be brought to fruition.
The boldness of the Zionist land grab in the West Bank would be staggering, were it not for the fact that Israel’s audacity in expanding its territory is well established. Area C comprises 60 percent of the West Bank. It is intended to make up the bulk of land for a future Palestinian state under the two-state proposal, yet Israel has seized over 70 percent of the area and has designated it as solely for Jewish use. The remaining 30 percent is effectively off-limits to Palestinians, since it requires building permits which Israeli military authorities almost never grant. 
There are 570,000 Jewish settlers living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, 370,000 in the former and 200,000 in the latter. Over 80,000 settlers live in isolated settlements deep inside the West Bank. The number of settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has doubled since 1993, when the process of building a Palestinian state in a very small part of the Palestinians’ country was supposed to have begun in earnest. 
The Quartet report notes that Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank “raises legitimate questions about Israel’s long-term intentions,” and that these questions are buttressed “by the statements of some government ministers to the effect that the establishment of a Palestinian state will never be allowed.” It also refers to the current situation as “a one-state reality of perpetual occupation and conflict.” 
It’s difficult to deny that the Quartet is colluding in the Zionist project of Judaizing all of Palestine.
First, its demand that Palestinians abandon all resistance amounts to a call for Palestinian capitulation. The only force which has ever successfully opposed colonialism is the recalcitrance of the natives, and people have the right to resist the colonization of their country and to fight for its liberation. To deny them that right would be to accept colonialism as legitimate.
Second, while the Quartet identifies settlement activity as the cause of Palestinian violence, it doesn’t label it as a cause, and treats the cause (colonization) and effect (Palestinian resistance) as equal. Hence, Israel is called upon to stop settlement activity and the Palestinians are called upon to abandon resistance to it. But if settlement activity is wrong, and should cease, how can resistance to it also be wrong? Saeb Erekat, the PLO secretary general, quite rightly complained that the report tries to “equalize the responsibilities between a people under occupation and a foreign military occupier.”  We might also ask, if settlement activity is wrong, shouldn’t it not only be brought to an end, but reversed and undone? The Quartet didn’t call upon Israel to dismantle its settlements or end its military occupation. And the key members of the Quartet haven’t issued a UN Security Council resolution ordering Israel to undertake these actions, though, in principle, a resolution to this effect could be easily arranged were officials in Washington, London, Paris and Brussels so motivated.
Third, on the very same day Israel began meting out collective punishment to Palestinian residents of Al-Khalil for the crime of resistance, the New York Times reminded us who Israel’s principal arms supplier and military patron is. According to the newspaper, Washington has signalled that it is prepared to “substantially sweeten” a 10-year military aid package for Israel, already valued at $30 billion. The new deal would include a pledge to fund missile defense systems in Israel. This would further weaken the pressure Palestinians can bring to bear on Israel through rocket attacks, ensuring that Israel has even less incentive to discontinue its creeping Judaization of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and colonization of the rest of the Palestinian’s country. 
The White House wants the Israelis to use the aid to buy exclusively from US weapons providers, rather than spending some of it on Israeli arms manufacturers. Since 1980, “Israel has been permitted to spend about a quarter of the military aid it receives outside the United States.” It has used this provision to subsidize the development of a domestic arms industry, which is now one of the top 10 arms exporters in the world, competing with US arms makers. No other recipient of US military aid is permitted to make arms purchases outside the United States. 
US military aid is a mechanism for the upward redistribution of wealth from ordinary US citizens, who generate the bulk of tax revenue, to the high-level executives and shareholders of major US weapons manufacturers. Israel uses this transfer of wealth from Joe and Jane Average American to buy US arms to enforce and expand its colonization of the Palestinians’ country.
Washington, then, is completely complicit in the Jewish colonization of Palestine. Its complicity is evidenced in its expropriating part of the emoluments of US citizens to furnish Israel with the means of enforcing its oppression of the Palestinians, in its unquestioning diplomatic support of Tel Aviv, and in its refusal to use its economic, diplomatic and political leverage to facilitate Palestinian efforts to liberate their country from the Zionist yoke. Washington’s formal commitment to the two-state proposal is a ruse, a delaying tactic under the cover of which Israel can carry its modern-day colonization scheme through to its logical conclusion, namely, the total Judaization of the Palestinians’ country.
As for the two-state solution, well, it is not a solution at all. It is, to the contrary, the very problem it deceptively promises to resolve. The problem—the root cause of decades of violence in Palestine since the Balfour Declaration was promulgated in 1917, is the idea that an alien state can be implanted in the Palestinians’ country, whether as a single state encompassing Palestine in its entirety from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, or alongside a separate Palestinian state constituted on only a fraction of the Palestinians’ land. The two-state “solution”, then, is only a particular form of the problem, namely a settler state enveloping some part—and in all cases, two-state proposals have called for it to envelop the major part—of the Palestinians’ country. The solution to the problem is not two states, but a single, secular, democratic state, in which all citizens, Jews, Muslims, and Christians, are equal, and to which all Palestinian refugees are free to return.
1. John Glubb. Forward to George Hajjar, Leila Khaled: The Autobiography of a Revolutionary. Hodder and Stoughton, 1973.
2. Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah. Quoted in “We are required to stay firm,” Syria Times, July 2, 2016.
3. Diaa Hadis and Somini Sengupta, “Israel imposes restrictions on Palestinians in West Bank after attacks,” The New York Times, July 1, 2016.
4. Hadis and Sengupta.
5. “Diplomatic Quarter release report on advancing two-state solution to Israel-Palestine conflict,” UN News Centre, July 1, 2016.
6. Barak Ravid, “Quartet releases report on impasse in Israeli-Palestinian peace: ‘Two-state solution in danger,” Haaretz, July 1, 2016.
8. Hadis and Sengupta.
9. Hadis and Sengupta.
10. Julie Hirschfeld Davis, “U.S. offers to increase military aid to Israel,” The New York Times, July 1, 2016.
11. Hirschfeld Davis.
July 1, 2016
By Stephen Gowans
Today is Canada Day, an annual fete in Canada to honour the birth of the country. In Ottawa, the capital, Canadians dress in the red and white of their country’s flag, set baseball caps with CANADA emblazoned across the front atop their heads, clutch mini Canadian flags in their hands, and make their way to the annual Parliament Hill spectacle, which features massive flags, marching soldiers, and Canadian war planes roaring overhead—the same ones that engaged in foreign bombing missions, including in Libya, where Canadian pilots quipped facetiously but accurately that they were al-Qaeda’s air force.
Canadians have been led to believe by the people who foster mindless patriotism that their country stands for peace, democracy, human rights and freedom. This is eye wash.Consider a recent departure from the country’s self-declared but infrequently adhered to values. The Trudeau government, the latest in a long line of governments committed to facilitating the profit-making of the country’s substantial citizens, is forging ahead with a $15 billion arms deal secured by the previous Harper government to sell light armoured vehicles to an oil rich medieval monarchy in the Middle East. Named after its ruling Saud family, this Arab tyranny abhors peace, democracy and fundamental human rights, leads an illegal unprovoked war on Yemen, and is one of the main arms supplier to al-Qaeda and its allies in Syria—the backward sectarian militants who carry out terrorists attacks which, on the occasions they spill over into Europe, provoke great outcries of indignation, but which occur on an almost daily basis in Syria, typically without comment in Canada.
Add to this the deplorable realities that the tyranny’s retrograde and hate-filled version of Islam is the ideological inspiration for al-Qaeda and Islamic State, and that, difficult as it is to credit, the kingdom’s male despots refuse to allow women to drive automobiles or to exercise much autonomy at all, and you would think that a country that prides itself as standing for peace, democracy, human rights and all that is virtuous, would regard its client as so noxious as to steer a wide berth around any business transactions with it.
So one would think.
Diderot once remarked that humanity would never be free until the last monarch was strangled with the entrails of the last cleric, which may sound anachronistic, considering that Europe was delivered from the oppressions of aristocracy at the end of World War I, or soon after. But the vile institution persists in the Arab world, and Diderot’s words hardly seem anachronistic or harsh to anyone who still has to bear monarchy’s oppressive weight.
Ottawa has “recently hammered out” a deal with six Arab Gulf monarchies, including the aforesaid Saudi tyranny, “that spells out how Canada might deepen its relationship with these countries in coming years,” reports the Globe and Mail’s Steve Chase. To repeat: Ottawa plans to deepen its relationship with these vampires, not eschew them as affronts against humanity, as one might expect a country would which professes to be deeply devoted to progressive humanitarian values.
“The Joint Action Plan,” writes Chase “sets out areas of co-operation between Canada and Arab Gulf states on everything from politics and security dialogue to trade and investment, energy, education and health.”
And to ensure that Canadians continue to be deceived by twaddle about how their country is a paladin of so many virtues, Ottawa won’t let them see what’s in the agreement.
The key to Ottawa’s commitment to deepening its relationship with the Arab Gulf royal dictatorships is the promise of a cornucopia of profits for Canadian investors, banks and corporations. And in Canada, as in all countries where wealthy investors, banks and corporations use their wealth to dominate politics and the state, the decisive organizing principle of the society is not peace-keeping, or democracy, or human rights, but what matters to banks, wealthy investors and major corporations, namely, profit-making.
In the pursuit of private, profit-making, interests, Canada has generally been on the wrong side of history since its founding 147 years ago. And when it has been on the right side, it has been on the right side, for the wrong reasons.
My first rebellion against the cult of Canadian patriotism occurred more than 30 years ago when on a visit to the country’s war museum I came upon a celebratory reference to Canada’s 1918-1919 military intervention in Russia. My siblings’ came earlier, when they refused to stand for the national anthem at school, and were suspended for their insurrection against the forced obeisance to the flag which Canadian schoolchildren are subjected to—a way of creating mindless automatons, programmed for fealty to a State that represents the interests of the country’s upper stratum, and not their own. Patriotism is an instrument of the ruling class to seduce the ordinary people of the country to fight its battles. This was an idea that agitated Hitler. He railed furiously against it in Mein Kampf.
The glorified Canadian military intervention in Russia which aroused my indignation and flight from the patriotic cult was directed against a social revolution engendered by centuries of a Tsarist tyranny and the chaos, destruction and disorganization wrought by World War I. How was this worthy of celebration? And what business was it of Canada’s to intervene militarily in the affairs of another people who posed not the slightest threat to Canada, unless you believed the febrile rhetoric of the time that Bolsheviks were about to launch a revolution in Canada, which (a) would have been an indigenous Canadian affair, if it did happen and (b) what would have been wrong with that? Perhaps, then, Canada could stand for something that means something to ordinary people, like: jobs for all; free university education; universal public health care; public day care; inexpensive public transportation; an end to the exploitation of man by man; self-determination for previously colonized and oppressed people; surcease from exclusion based on race, ethnicity, religion and sex; in other words, all the virtues the Bolsheviks brought to the former Tsarist empire, and for which they are almost never recognized and which Canada tried to put a stop to. To paraphrase Victor Hugo’s remarks about the French Revolution, the Bolshevik Revolution may have been a great blow to the Russian aristocracy and the substantial citizens of Canada, but it was a warm caress for humanity.
Canada’s participation in the imperialist charnel house of World War I—a kind of holocaust against the working people of Europe and the colonial slaves whom the European elites threw into the conflagration—is in no way defensible, and was a reflexive, unthinking commitment to a mother country whose reason for entering the war had nothing whatever to do with the rights of small countries, as it was mendaciously professed to be, and everything to do with preserving the access of the British land-owning, industrial and financial elites to markets, investment opportunities and raw materials in competition with their German rivals.
In 1950, my maternal grandfather, who had enlisted in the Canadian Army during the Great Depression through a kind of economic conscription, joined other Canadians in the UN-denominated US-led “police action” in Korea—an indefensible meddling in someone’s else civil war, on the side of maintaining a US puppet state on the Korean peninsula, to provide Washington with a geostrategic perch from which to dominate East Asia on behalf of Wall Street financiers. The Americans, who arrived on the peninsula in 1945, and immediately swept away the People’s Committees, the first independent Korean government in decades, are still there.
Ever since, Canada has been willing to help the United States fight most of its subsequent neo-colonial wars of domination—in Iraq, Yugoslavia, Haiti, Afghanistan, and now in Syria.
As for World War II, Canada was on the right side of that conflict, but for the wrong reason. The country entered the war, because Britain did, and not to fight fascism or the Nazi persecution of the Jews, Sinti, Slavs, homosexuals, communists, socialists and trade union leaders, or to defend the Soviet Union, or to give teeth to the Atlantic Charter, which promised sovereign rights and self-government, but which, as Churchill made clear, would only apply in practice to people under the Nazi yoke, not the British yoke, which included the hundreds of millions of Indians subjugated by Britain. Indeed, Britain’s great colony of India, along with the conquered space of the American West, were models Hitler sought to emulate for Germany. He would build Germany’s West, or its East Indies, in Eastern Europe.Canada’s prime minister at the time, Mackenzie King, who had worked as head of industrial relations research for the Rockefeller Foundation to develop methods for big business to co-opt organized labor, was sympathetic to Hitler’s virulent antipathy to Jews (and communists.) King, who met Hitler, and expressed admiration for the Fuhrer in his diary, wrote that “I would have loathed living in Berlin with the Jews, and the way in which they had increased their numbers in the City, and were taking possession of it in the most important way…It was necessary to get them out, to have the German people really control their own City and affairs.”
Neither did Ottawa have trouble with fascists, so long as they confined their attention to fighting communists and organized labour and focussed their wrath on the citadel of communism, the Soviet Union. So-called premature anti-fascists, like Canada’s Norman Bethune, who travelled to Spain to fight Franco’s reaction to the country’s democratically elected Popular Front government, were looked upon with suspicion, and Ottawa erected legal impediments to Canadians traveling abroad to join the fight. Following World War II, Canada found that it could get along quite well with fascist regimes in Spain and Portugal, to say nothing of the police state dictatorship it helped to defend on the Korean peninsula, or apartheid South Africa.
Behind Parliament, on a small island in the Ottawa River, sits a mock village of the indigenous people on whose land the capital—and country—has been built, an unintentional reminder (lost on most Canadians) that Canada was founded on the dispossession and genocide of the land’s aboriginal people. Canada is, after all, an expression of British colonialism, one of the most vile, destructive, brutal, sanguinary forces, in human history. The sun, it has been said, never set on the British Empire. But nor did the blood ever dry on it either. As Richard Gott has written,
“Wherever the British sought to plant their flag, they were met with opposition. In almost every colony, they had to fight their way ashore. While they could sometimes count on a handful of friends and allies, they never arrived as welcomed guests, for the expansion of empire was invariably conducted as a military operation.”
The British hacked, cut, pushed and slaughtered their way into other people’s lands to plant their flag, and to steal the natural resources of the natives, exploit their labour, and dominate their markets. Canada, a country founded by these colonizers, was no exception.
It’s consistent, then, that Ottawa should maintain an unwavering commitment to the Jewish colonization of Palestine, made possible by Britain’s conspiring with France and Tsarist Russia during the Great War to carve up the dying Ottoman Empire, and turn over Palestine to a British League of Nations mandate, in which was ensconced a commitment to create a Jewish homeland on territory the British had no right to give away. Canada, not surprisingly, allies itself with the Jewish colonizers of Palestine, and therefore against its indigenous people, the Palestinians, and was opposed to the efforts of the autochthonous peoples of Zimbabwe to take back their land from the descendants of the British settlers who hacked, cut, pushed, and slaughtered their way into land they dubbed Rhodesia, after the great paladin of British imperialism, Cecil Rhodes. Rhodes once said “I would annex the planets if I could.”
The Bolsheviks, who were reviled in Ottawa, established suffrage for all, including for national minorities, long before Canada did. Canada didn’t offer universal suffrage, even Herrenvolk (master race) universal suffrage until after WWI, and true universal suffrage had to wait until 1960, when aboriginal Canadians, the dispossessed original inhabitants of the land, were belatedly allowed to vote.
The United States, another Herrenvolk democracy, didn’t effectively achieve universal suffrage until as late as 1965, when the civil and political liberties of black Americans were finally formally secured throughout the country. This late and grudging surrender of white supremacy was partly due to Washington’s need to compete ideologically with the Soviet Union, where racial discrimination—and the idea of a master race—were unthinkable.
What many of us in the United States, Canada and Western Europe hold to be the great social achievements of our countries—the mitigation of discrimination on the basis of sex and religion and racial and national origin, and the development of the welfare state—owe much to the pressures Western elites felt to compete ideologically with the Soviet Union, where discrimination on these grounds was inconceivable and where a robust social welfare state prevailed. With the USSR now defunct, a suicide carried out by the country’s last president, Mikhail Gorbachev—who, for obvious reasons is celebrated in the West, but is widely reviled in Russia—the ideological competition has ceased, and with it, large parts of the welfare state have been dismantled and continue to be demolished.
The French novelist Henri Barbusse, once wrote that the burning question of all time is what is the future of the human race, so martyred by history. To what, he asked, have human beings to look forward to?
Not $15 billion arms deals with monarchs whom Diderot, where he alive, might say ought to be strangled by the entrails of the last Wahhabi cleric; not the dispossession of peoples of their land by usurping settlers from abroad; not denial of self-determination; not wars of neo-colonial re-conquest; not acting as al-Qaeda’s air force to re-colonize the world on behalf of the planet’s dominant imperialist power.
If Canada offered something for the human race, so martyred by history, to look forward to, I would celebrate its founding, or at least, the moment it changed course, and set itself to the service of humanity. But alas, Canada offers nothing but more of the same that has martyred the human race throughout history; not the liberation that Diderot foresaw, but the tyranny he opposed.
May 31, 2016
By Stephen Gowans
On, March 2, 2016 the United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions on North Korea, citing the DPRK’s:
• Nuclear test of January 6, 2016;
• Its satellite launch of February 7, 2016, which the Security Council said relied on ballistic missile technology which could be used as a nuclear weapons delivery system. (Is it possible to launch a satellite without ballistic missile technology?)
There is nothing in international law that says:
• A country cannot have nuclear weapons. True, there exists a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but it is only binding on the parties to it, not on those who declined to join it, (like Israel), or have, (as North Korea has done), withdrawn from it.
• There is nothing in international law that says a country cannot have ballistic missiles.
• There is nothing in international law that says a country cannot launch a satellite.
So, on what grounds has the Security Council imposed sanctions on North Korea?
The Security Council defined the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, as well as their means of delivery, as threats to international peace and security, and therefore branded North Korea’s nuclear test and satellite launch as grave concerns. The Security Council also determined that North Korea’s nuclear test posed a danger “to peace and stability in the region and beyond.”
Article 39 of the UN Charter authorizes the Security Council to “determine the existence of any threat to peace” and to take appropriate measures to eclipse it.
North Korea objected, and for the following—I think, very compelling— reasons:
• The Security Council’s definition of what constitutes a threat to international peace and security makes no reference to violations of international law. All that North Korea has done wrong, it seems, is to have engaged in activities the Security Council doesn’t like, but which all of its permanent members have, themselves, engaged in.
• The resolution uniquely defines the DPRK’s nuclear test and satellite launch as threats to peace, but does not define the nuclear tests or satellite launches of its permanent members in the same way.
This naturally raises the question: Why is launching a satellite, developing ballistic missile technology, and nuclear weapons testing, threats when pursued by North Korea, but not when pursued by the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia—or any other country the Security Council chooses not to single out?
Let me suggest two answers.
#1. The first has to do with what the anthropologist Hugh Gusterson called nuclear Orientalism—the idea that we can live with nuclear weapons in the hands of the five permanent members of the Security Council, but proliferation to Third World countries is enormously dangerous. People in the Third World, according to this view, cannot be trusted to make responsible decisions.
The term Orientalism can be confusing, so let’s use another term—“us vs. them thinking.” That’s really what Gusterson means. In us versus them thinking, “they” are defined as the polar opposite of us. We’re rational, dispassionate, responsible, and adults. They’re irrational, lack impulse control, are irresponsible, and are children, requiring a guiding hand. We can be trusted with nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. They cannot.
The Security Council engages in us vs. them thinking when it expresses great concern that Pyongyang is “diverting” resources to “the pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles while DPRK citizens have great unmet needs.” But Gusterson points out that this argument—which was once used against Pakistan and India when they first acquired nuclear weapons— can be applied just as strongly to Western countries.
For example, the United States spends hundreds of billions of dollars on its military, far in excess of what’s required for national defense, while two million US citizens live without shelter, and another 36 million live below the official poverty line. So why isn’t the Security Council expressing great concern that Washington is “diverting” resources to “the pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles while US citizens have great unmet needs”?
#2. Another reason for uniquely declaring North Korea’s nuclear test and rockets as threats to international peace and security, but not those of the permanent members of the Security Council, is the wish to enforce a nuclear apartheid, the idea of limiting the means of self-defense through nuclear deterrence to a small elite of nations—the permanent members of the Security Council, and a key US military asset, Israel—which can then use their privileged positions as holders of the world’s most formidable weapons to threaten the security, independence and sovereignty of non-nuclear states.
We might like to think of the UN Charter as the best way to promote peace and stability in the world, but whatever its merits as a charter for peace, it is also an instrument for the domination of small countries by the largest and most powerful states. What’s to protect those small states which seek to chart a course of independent self-development outside the orbit of the world’s imperial powers from the depredations of the Security Council’s permanent members? Certainly not the UN Charter, since it accords the Security Council—the world’s largest powers—illimitable authority to penalize small states simply for engaging in activities it doesn’t like, including developing the means to defend themselves, and to launch their own satellites rather than having to depend on large powers to do so on their behalf, for a profit.
And does anyone seriously think that the United States—whose leaders worship the cult of Mars, and which has spread death and destruction from Korea to Vietnam to Afghanistan to Iraq and points in between—can credibly act as the primus inter pares member of a council authorized to preserve peace and international security?
As the political scientist Kenneth Waltz has argued controversially, but not without cogency, the greatest deterrent to war may be nuclear weapons. War against a nuclear armed opponent makes the cost of aggression too incalculable and too uncertain to pursue. Yet, it is precisely the only effective means of deterrence against conquest available to North Korea—a country incessantly threatened by the United States and Washington’s neo-colony South Korea, and soon by its former colonial master, Japan (if Washington has its way)—which the UN Security Council seeks to deny the DPRK.
Is it a concern for peace and international security that motivates the United States and its Security Council cohorts to penalize North Korea ? No. UN Security Council Resolution 2270 originates in a desire–particularly that of the United States–to dominate.