White Helmets for dummies – the mannequin challenge


WHILE White Helmets boss, Raed Saleh, was addressing sponsors and fans in the British Parliament on November 22, his group’s latest media stunt was being panned by foes and embarrassed friends, alike.

The White Helmet Mannequin Challenge video was hastily pulled off the RFS (Revolutionary Forces of Syria Media) site, as social media lit up on the remarkable similarities between the staged production and White Helmets’ supplied footage that has become a staple ingredient of western television news bulletins.

In an apology to the BBC – one of the chief purveyors of White Helmets “news” – the organisation said the stunt had not been sanctioned by its leadership and volunteers responsible had been “disciplined”.

In a statement, run by the BBC on November 24, the White Helmets acknowledged the involvement of their members.

“The video and the related posts were recorded by RFS media with Syria Civil Defence (White Helmets) volunteers, who hoped to create a connection between the horror of Syria and the outside world, using the viral Mannequin Challenge,” the statement read.

“This was an error of judgement, and we apologise on behalf of the volunteers involved.

“The video was not shared on our official channels, and we took immediate action to discipline those involved and prevent incidents such as this from happening again.”

The big problem, of course, was that the stunt looked very much like all the other footage the Helmets have been supplying to news outlets around the world – same style, same production values even, is seemed, the same dust and blood.

The Helmets are a self-described “civil defence” organisation operating in terrorist-held regions of Syria.

They are active in areas controlled by proscribed terrorist organisations affiliated with Al Qaeda and DAESH.

Funded by NATO countries, including the US, and largely trained in Turkey, the Helmets supply a steady flow of high production-value “news” footage to western media outlets and an even steadier flow of anti-government propaganda.

They are authors of repeated reports that the last hospital in eastern Aleppo has just been destroyed by government/Russian forces. There is every chance you will see one of them on the news tonight.

Just how many last hospitals there are, or were, in eastern Aleppo has never been made clear.

And, for a non-political, civil defence organisation, they run some odd  lines – like advocating foreign military attacks on their country and urging the US to impose a no-fly zone that would allow terrorist organisations to operate more freely.

The White Helmets are not, of course, the official Syrian civil defence organisation and nor are they recognised by it. The services of that organisation are widely advertised, and available to Syrian citizens who dial 113.

Increasingly, however, that established and internationally-recognised service is being disrupted and denied to Syrians by organisations linked with the White Helmets.

The Helmets are not widely available to Syrians in need, and nor are their services advertised to the general public.

The official Syrian civil defence organisation was formed in 1953 and is recognised by the International Civil Defence Organisation (ICDO) and the United Nations.

The closest the White Helmets have come to that was when the Syrian civil defence organisation link on the ICDO website was hacked so that visitors were redirected to a White Helmet propaganda site.

The reason their Mannequin Challenge stunt caused so many raised eyebrows is because of the striking similarities the hammed-up footage bore to news reports the group has been passing off as genuine.

British ‘citizen journalist-blogger’ Eliot Higgins summarised the “gulp factor” among apologists when he hit Twitter on the eve of the White Helmet chief’s parliamentary performance, in London, to admit “gotta say, seems pretty dumb of the White Helmets to do the mannequin challenge …”

Higgins is one of dozens, if not hundreds, of western bloggers who use the White Helmets information, and their footage, to illustrate, his anti-Damascus take on Syria

This article examines the latest White Helmets tactical balls-up.

While the following Cross Talk segment discusses the White Helmets with a group of western journalists, some of whom have actually been to Syria.

White Helmets giving the game away!

Another fine performance!

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Aleppo – freedom on hold

Still waters ... Raqqa on the Euphrates (Zelda, creative commons licence

Still waters … Raqqa on the Euphrates (Zelidar, creative commons licence)

WHY the interminable messing around about freeing the people of Aleppo from their  tormentors?

Since Russian air power flew to the aid of the Syrian armed forces and their allies on the ground, it appears they have had both the capacity, and the will, to do the job.

But their task has been repeatedly hampered by stalling measures, undertaken at the UN and elsewhere, by the US, Gulf states and a range of non-government players.

Terrorists, headed by Al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise, stormed the country’s then largest city, home to 2.5 million people, in 2011, carving out control over more than 200,000 people in Aleppo’s east, and using every ceasefire to attack the 750,000 still in the government-controlled west.

Their tactics of shooting prisoners, brutalising civilians and using others as human shields have been widely documented.

So why does the US continue running interference on their behalves?

The key to unlocking the mystery of Aleppo, John Wright argues, is understanding the  significance of Raqqa – a good two hours drive east on the bank of the Euphrates River.

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What hand will The Donald play on Syria?

High stakes - Obama appears to have trumped Clinton but where will the wild card fall?

High stakes – Obama appears to have trumped Clinton but where will the wild card fall?

WHAT does the election of billionaire property developer and reality tv star, Donald Trump, mean for terrorised Syrians?

Some pro-Syrian commentators have hailed Trump’s rise to the top job in Washington as a breakthrough but that city’s leading newspaper counsels caution, warning Trump’s position on Syria remains “opaque”.

While Trump appeared to nail his campaign colours to fighting terrorism, which would put him on the same page as Damascus, his rhetoric was often contradictory.

At the same time, he signalled, he would boost military spending, put US strategic and military interests first, second and third, and argued, he was the natural champion of the US military establishment.

Those, broadly, are the general sentiments that took George Bush to the war in Iraq that unleashed Al Qaeda, DAESH and the contagion still terrorising the region.

There must be doubt over the ability and will of Trump, a foreign policy rookie, to stand up to the CIA and establishment hawks when the pressure for war is on.

Undoubtedly, his key election opponent Hillary Clinton was a warmonger. She backed Bush’s Iraq adventure and gave plenty of evidence for the observation of one commentator that she had never met a war she did not want a part of.

While, it is the opaque future that matters now, it might in fact be time to reassess two-term President Obama’s influence on the Syrian conflict.

While arming rebels and terrorists he has fought against two secretaries of state, Clinton and John Kerry, who wanted the US to up that ante by several magnitudes –  delivering the terrorists heavy weapons and instituting a no-fly zone that would, most likely, have either hamstrung Syrian resistance and/or led to a shooting war with Russia.

Late into the election campaign, which she lost despite attracting more votes than Trump, Clinton was still advocating the no-fly zone advocated by Syria’s Al Qaeda franchise, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, and its key backers, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.

In the dying days of September, Kerry told a gathering in the Netherlands he had “lost the argument with Obama” over backing Syrian rebels with military force, Reuters and the New York Times, reported

Two days after Americans delivered their verdict on Clinton’s White House ambitions, Obama announced in a sharp change of approach, the US would be focusing its Syrian activities on targeting the terrorists.

The move underlines the extent to which Obama is prioritising counter­-terrorism over efforts to pressure President Bashar al-Assad to step aside, the Washington Post reports.

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Al sham – the name says it all

Allies like these ... Al Nusra photo shows its fighters executing prisoners in Aleppo

Allies like these … Al Nusra photo shows its fighters executing prisoners in Aleppo

WHEN are the lads from Al-Qaeda not such a bad lot, after all?

When they having a crack at the Middle East’s last remaining secular government, it seems.

That’s right, Al Qaeda – the mob who flew into the west’s consciousness by aiming planes at New York’s World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, before returning to their core business of brutalising populations across the Middle East – are getting a makeover.

Apparently, if you read the western press, the boys in the beards are not Public Enemy Numero Uno any more.

Instead, the west is fixated on its latest offshoot, ISIS or DAESH and, particularly, the US-backed campaign to drive it out of Iraq.

To be fair, DAESH has brought a new level of sectarian terror to Iraq and neighbouring Syria, using mass murder, sexual slavery and torture to brutalise a range of ethnic and religious communities.

Nobody should ever forget the horrific images of caged Yazidi women being transported to terrorist meat markets on the backs of pick-up trucks.

But nor should it be forgotten that ISIS/DAESH, Al Qaeda and Jabhat al Nusra were created by the same men, exclusively, for the same terrifying purpose.

Because, over the border in Syria, Al Qaeda still lives, as barbarous and sectarian as ever it was.

The organisation, originally funded and armed by the CIA in its effort to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan, is, effectively, the dominant rebel force trying to wrest control of Aleppo from the Syrian Government.

For five years now, its fighters, organised under the Jabhat al-Nusra banner, have held the western sector of what was once Syria’s largest city with more than two million people.

That number has halved since the terrorists arrived, with between 220,000 and 250,000 of them stuck, or in some instances, electing to remain in the rebel-held sector.

In May of this year, Charles Lister a fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington and an authority on Syrian jihadism, described Al Nusra’s war against the government in Damascus as one of two remaining jewels in Al Qaeda’s crown. He identified the other as the operations of its murderous Yemeni arm – Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Flag of convenience ... Al Qaeda franchise has vanished from narrative

Flag of convenience … Al Qaeda’s franchise has vanished from narrative

So, why has Al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise managed to virtually disappear from the broader western narrative?

While the Obama regime has been financing and training anti-Syrian rebels, it has also been holding out against increasing pressure to go the full George Bush by, in the first instance, supplying heavy armaments and imposing no-fly zones.

These initiatives are being driven by hawks in the US foreign policy establishment acting in concert with long-standing regional allies Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey – Jabhat al-Nusra’s three principal sponsors.

It is being reported in the US that their aggressive position is supported by the CIA and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

As the push for direct US military action against Syria has grown, advisers and international supporters have been urging Jabhat al-Nusra to play down its real identity and ambition.

This campaign was not helped when Al Nusra chief, Mohammad al-Golani chose his first live interview with Al Jazeera to publicly reaffirm his organisation’s commitment to Al Qaeda and its leaders.

For the all-out war crew in Washington this was the sort of development the diplomatic euphemism “bummer” was adopted to address

Conveniently, their way was cleared by Al Qaeda boss of bosses, Ayman al-Zawahiri himself. In July, al-Zawahiri released an audio statement giving Al Nusra formal permission to announce a split.

Hours later, al-Golani thanked “our brothers, the commanders of Al-Qaeda” and announced his organisation was changing its name from Jabhat al-Nusra (the Victory Front) to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (the Levantine Conquest Front).

The group, however, reaffirmed its goal of turning Syria into an Islamic state.

That’s alright then – appears to have been the general response from the mainstream media in the US and Australia.

From that day, the fact that the battle against Aleppo and the overwhelming majority of its citizens, was being led by Al-Qaeda hard-heads appears to have been largely over-looked.

This was reinforced when last month’s ceasefire, hammered out between Russia and the US, fell at the first hurdle after the US’s “moderate” rebels refused, point-blank, to sever ties with their Al Qaeda/Al Nusra/Al Sham buddies.

It is constantly overlooked when the mass media present news stories, and background pieces, from Aleppo.

Although, as former Newsweek and AAP reporter Robert Parry points out in an October 29 article – The de facto US/Al Qaeda allianceit is not always easy to overlook the obvious 

In Brief

  • Both ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra/Fateh al-Sham are direct Al Qaeda descendants
  • ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi sent fighters from Iraq to Syria to form the Nusra Front in 2011
  • One of them, Abu Mohammad al-Golani was recognised as Nusra Front leader in 2012
  • In 2013, Baghdadi said al Nusra answered to his group, Al Qaeda in Iraq, which has since become ISIS
  • However, Golani broke ties with that group and confirmed allegiance to Al Qaeda Central
  • In July, 2016, Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri gave Golani permission to break formal ties with Al Qaeda
  • Within its first two years in Syria the Nusra Front had claimed responsibility for 57 suicide bomb attacks
  • It has established control over areas in northern, western and southern Syria
  • It is the dominant rebel group fighting for Aleppo
  • In 2016, the Nusra Front began operations in Lebanon, launching attacks on Lebanese military units
  • Al Qaeda, ISIS and the Nusra Front are all recognised as terrorist organisation by the United Nations
  • Australia listed Al Qaeda as a proscribed terrorist organisation in Oct 2002
  • Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was proscribed in Nov 2010
  • ISIS was proscribed, separately, in Dec 2014
  • Jabhat al-Nusra was proscribed in June 2013 and relisted on October 31 2016 to include its “alias” Jabhat Fatah al-Sham

Sources:

www.nationalsecurity.gov…

www.counterextremism.com…

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Chemical weapons, George the 2nd and pork pies

Mission accomplished ... George Bush announces war in Iraw

Mission accomplished … George Bush announces invasion of Iraq

AS liberation battles gather pace in Aleppo and Mosul propagandists continue to muddy the waters.

While the resistance to fundamentalist Islam in Iraq is hailed a fight for freedom by western media outlets, many of those mastheads pour scorn on the same battle across the border in Syria.

And, not just scorn but a relentless barrage of insults, half-truths and straight out lies that coalesce into the type of narrative that led Australian and British leaders to aim two fingers at the United Nations and follow George W Bush into Iraq.

The subsequent war, of course, led to Abu Ghraib, Bush’s notorious “mission accomplished” boast and the loss of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives – 654,000 according to an estimate by the British medical jounal Lancet.

It also led to Daesh/Islamic State and the orgy of killings and abuse being visited on Iraq and Syria today.

Sydney University Professor Tim Anderson says much of the blame for the misinformation surrounding the Syrian situation can be sheeted home to journalists who should, and often do, know better.

Prof Anderson has visited Syria to interview Syrians and examine developments for himself. His third book The Dirty War On Syria is being marketed by Global Research Publishers.

In this article, he warns Australians to be wary about partisan journalists who use partisan sources to amplify the call for another war www.globalresearch.ca/watchdogs-to-attack-dogs-western-liberal-media-failures-on-syria/5516530…

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Disown the fundamentalists, Archbishop pleads with West

"We are not asking you to make war for us, but only to end the unjust claims of your allies that want to impose antiquated laws - unbearable for the people of the 21st Century" - Archbishop Jean Clement Jeanbart

“We are not asking you to make war for us, but only to end the unjust claims of your allies that want to impose antiquated laws – unbearable for the people of the 21st Century” – Archbishop Jean Clement Jeanbart

ALEPPO’S Catholic Archbishop is urging the west to drop its support for jihadi fighters and to, instead, back Syrians battling to free their second city.

Monsignor Jean-Clement Jeanbart has called on France and other western nations to turn their backs on fundamentalist rebels that have descended on Syria from around the globe.

As those forces used the two-week Russian-Syrian aerial ceasefire to launch rocket attacks on residential suburbs in Aleppo’s west, and allegations of chemical weapons use resurfaced, Mgr Jeanbart said remaining Christians lived in constant terror.

“The hardest thing for Christians still present in Aleppo is the prospect of having to live, morning and evening with this insecurity – the destabilising, disconcerting uncertainty,” he wrote in Italian.

“Imagining that one day a Muslim fundamentalist state would be imposed on them – for them this is an unbearable nightmare.

“This is why we turn to our brothers in France and throughout the west, and we beg you to help us ensure that this does not happen.

“We are not asking you to make war for us, but only to end the unjust claims of your allies that want to impose antiquated laws – laws unbearable for the people of the twenty-first century who want to be free to choose their culture, lifestyle and, finally, their faith.”

Mgr Jeanbart was appointed Archbishop of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church in 1968.

However, he wrote, it wasn’t just the 18,000 baptised followers of his church in Aleppo who had been traumatised by the jihadi offensive.

“For five years now the terrorists here have been calling the shots,” he said.

“They have sewn terror everywhere, killed tens of thousands of innocent people, destroyed thousands of factories, businesses and institutions of public services, looted houses and stolen, without any concern, assets of the country and its citizens.

”They have made victims of many innocent people, kidnapping and brutally murdering countless people, including nuns, priests and even bishops.”

In his call for a complete re-think of the western position on Syria, published by Global Research on October 29, Mgr Jeanbart said, Syrians had placed their faith in the grace of God “to arouse the consciences of the great decision-makers”.

Moving down a step or two in the pecking order, he wished UN envoy Staffan de Mistura success in any effort he could make towards reviving a peace process that would lead to “long-awaited dialogue between Syrians”.

Over the weekend, Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported, rebels had killed 41 people in the 10-days of the aerial ceasefire and were advancing on suburban Hamadaniyeh.

Videos posted by Al Queada franchise Fatah al-Sham, recently convinced by western backers to change its name, showed jihadis advancing into Hamadaniyeh in tanks.

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Propaganda and the ABC of war

By road, it is 626km from Mosul, Iraq, to Aleppo in Syria – the same distance, give or take a quick detour to pick up a kebab, as Sydney to Grafton in northern New South Wales.

Makes you wonder why most of Australia’s mainstream media, including our national broadcaster, treat the terrorised middle eastern provincial capitals as though they were on different planets, doesn’t it?

Geography, obviously, isn’t the issue. But bias, conscious or unconscious, certainly is.

Experienced journalist John Pilger, argues it is worse than that, though.

In this excerpt from a Counterpunch article, Pilger discusses propaganda – its tools, and the key roles they play in softening people up for war …

Inside the Invisible Government: War, Propaganda, Clinton & Trump

 

Photo by Diego Torres Silvestre | CC BY 2.0

Photo by Diego Torres Silvestre | CC BY 2.0

 

The American journalist, Edward Bernays, is often described as the man who invented modern propaganda.

The nephew of Sigmund Freud, the pioneer of psycho-analysis, it was Bernays who coined the term “public relations” as a euphemism for spin and its deceptions.

In 1929, he persuaded feminists to promote cigarettes for women by smoking in the New York Easter Parade – behaviour then considered outlandish. One feminist, Ruth Booth, declared, “Women! Light another torch of freedom! Fight another sex taboo!”

Bernays’ influence extended far beyond advertising. His greatest success was his role in convincing the American public to join the slaughter of the First World War.  The secret, he said, was “engineering the consent” of people in order to “control and regiment [them] according to our will without their knowing about it”.

He described this as “the true ruling power in our society” and called it an “invisible government”.

Today, the invisible government has never been more powerful and less understood. In my career as a journalist and film-maker, I have never known propaganda to insinuate our lives and as it does now and to go unchallenged.

Imagine two cities.

Both are under siege by the forces of the government of that country. Both cities are occupied by fanatics, who commit terrible atrocities, such as beheading people.

But there is a vital difference. In one siege, the government soldiers are described as liberators by Western reporters embedded with them, who enthusiastically report their battles and air strikes. There are front page pictures of these heroic soldiers giving a V-sign for victory. There is scant mention of civilian casualties.

In the second city – in another country nearby – almost exactly the same is happening. Government forces are laying siege to a city controlled by the same breed of fanatics.

The difference is that these fanatics are supported, supplied and armed by “us” – by the United States and Britain. They even have a media centre that is funded by Britain and America.

Another difference is that the government soldiers laying siege to this city are the bad guys, condemned for assaulting and bombing the city – which is exactly what the good soldiers do in the first city.

Confusing? Not really. Such is the basic double standard that is the essence of propaganda. I am referring, of course, to the current siege of the city of Mosul by the government forces of Iraq, who are backed by the United States and Britain and to the siege of Aleppo by the government forces of Syria, backed by Russia. One is good; the other is bad.

What is seldom reported is that both cities would not be occupied by fanatics and ravaged by war if Britain and the United States had not invaded Iraq in 2003. That criminal enterprise was launched on lies strikingly similar to the propaganda that now distorts our understanding of the civil war in Syria.

Without this drumbeat of propaganda dressed up as news, the monstrous ISIS and Al-Qaida and al-Nusra and the rest of the jihadist gang might not exist, and the people of Syria might not be fighting for their lives today.

Some may remember in 2003 a succession of BBC reporters turning to the camera and telling us that Blair was “vindicated” for what turned out to be the crime of the century. The US television networks produced the same validation for George W. Bush. Fox News brought on Henry Kissinger to effuse over Colin Powell’s fabrications.

The same year, soon after the invasion, I filmed an interview in Washington with Charles Lewis, the renowned American investigative journalist. I asked him, “What would have happened if the freest media in the world had seriously challenged what turned out to be crude propaganda?”

He replied that if journalists had done their job, “there is a very, very good chance we would not have gone to war in Iraq”.

It was a shocking statement, and one supported by other famous journalists to whom I put the same question — Dan Rather of CBS, David Rose of the Observer and journalists and producers in the BBC, who wished to remain anonymous.

In other words, had journalists done their job, had they challenged and investigated the propaganda instead of amplifying it, hundreds of thousands of men, women and children would be alive today, and there would be no ISIS and no siege of Aleppo or Mosul.

There would have been no atrocity on the London Underground on 7th July 2005.  There would have been no flight of millions of refugees; there would be no miserable camps.

When the terrorist atrocity happened in Paris last November, President Francoise Hollande immediately sent planes to bomb Syria – and more terrorism followed, predictably, the product of Hollande’s bombast about France being “at war” and “showing no mercy”. That state violence and jihadist violence feed off each other is the truth that no national leader has the courage to speak.

“When the truth is replaced by silence,” said the Soviet dissident Yevtushenko, “the silence is a lie.”

The attack on Iraq, the attack on Libya, the attack on Syria happened because the leader in each of these countries was not a puppet of the West. The human rights record of a Saddam or a Gaddafi was irrelevant. They did not obey orders and surrender control of their country.

The same fate awaited Slobodan Milosevic once he had refused to sign an “agreement” that demanded the occupation of Serbia and its conversion to a market economy. His people were bombed, and he was prosecuted in The Hague. Independence of this kind is intolerable.

As WikLeaks has revealed, it was only when the Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad in 2009 rejected an oil pipeline, running through his country from Qatar to Europe, that he was attacked.

From that moment, the CIA planned to destroy the government of Syria with jihadist fanatics – the same fanatics currently holding the people of Mosul and eastern Aleppo hostage.

Why is this not news? The former British Foreign Office official Carne Ross, who was responsible for operating sanctions against Iraq, told me: “We would feed journalists factoids of sanitised intelligence, or we would freeze them out. That is how it worked.”

The West’s medieval client, Saudi Arabia – to which the US and Britain sell billions of dollars’ worth of arms – is at present destroying Yemen, a country so poor that in the best of times, half the children are malnourished.

Look on YouTube and you will see the kind of massive bombs – “our” bombs – that the Saudis use against dirt-poor villages, and against weddings, and funerals.

The explosions look like small atomic bombs. The bomb aimers in Saudi Arabia work side-by-side with British officers. This fact is not on the evening news.

Propaganda is most effective when our consent is engineered by those with a fine education – Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Columbia — and with careers on the BBC, the Guardian, the New York Times, the Washington Post.

These organisations are known as the liberal media. They present themselves as enlightened, progressive tribunes of the moral zeitgeist. They are anti-racist, pro-feminist and pro-LGBT.

And they love war.

You can read the full article, adapted from a presentation to the Sheffield Festival of Words, here  www.counterpunch.org…

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War is first and foremost a profitable racket

 

No tanks ... Dennis Kucinich

No tanks … Dennis Kucinich

Follow the money – as Hillary Clinton and the US foreign policy establishment prepare for war against Syria, former Congressman Dennis Kucinich says observers should apply the golden rule.

The former Ohio Representative said he spent 16 years at congressional hearings where “pedigreed experts” advocated for wars across the globe with circular thinking “devoid of depth, reality and truth.”

“I remember other hearings where the Pentagon was unable to reconcile over $US1 trillion in accounts, lost track of $12 billion in cash sent to Iraq and rigged a missile defence test.

“War is first and foremost a profitable racket,” he writes in The Nation.

He blames think tanks and their highly paid “experts” who, he says, are often beholden to external interests – including armaments manufacturers and defence contractors.

Kucinich lashed the drive to war on Syria as a classic example.

“The self-identified liberal Centre for American Progress (CAP) is now calling for Syria to be bombed, and estimates America’s current military adventures will be tidied up by 2025, a tardy twist on “mission accomplished,” he says.

CAP, according to media reports, Kucinich says, has received funding from war contractors Lockheed Martin and Boeing who make the bombers it wants to see “raining hellfire” on the people of Syria.

Kucinich won acknowledgement, and no little notoriety, for the rigour of independent research that helped convince 125  fellow Democrats to vote against Bush’s 2002 invasion of Iraq.

You can read Kucinich, and his urgent call for an effective anti-war movement, here http://www.thenation.com/article/why-is-the-foreign-policy-establishment-spoiling-for-more-war-look-at-their-donors/

Photo credit – Huffington Post

Ceasefire extended …

Meanwhile, in Syria the unilateral Russian missile strike ceasefire in eastern Aleppo has been extended into a 10th day.

Initially, the Russians and Syrians announced an 11-hour ceasefire to allow civilians, rebel fighters and the injured to leave the city’s opposition controlled east.

The ceasefire has been extended a number of times although the Russians, and various news outlets, report rebel fighters continue to block civilians from leaving the city, raising fears they will be used as human shields.

Russian deputy foreign minister Sergey Ryabkov, gave the US and the rebel coalition, headed by Al Queada’s Syrian franchise, a serve over the issue in Moscow on Monday

“Our opponents must ensure appropriate behaviour by anti-government groups that, in particular, sabotaged the medical evacuation that was intended,” he told the Interfax news agency.

“Over the last few days, what was needed did not happen.

But not forever

Lebanon-based AMN is reporting Syrian air force planes are dropping leaflets over the city’s east warning jihadis and residents to flee the area.

It reports thousand of leaflets were dropped on Monday, featuring images of dead terrorists, with a warning that rebels should abandon the city or share their fate.

Anti-government forces have repeatedly refused to leave the city in a mirror image of what is transpiring over the border in the Iraqi city of Mosul.

Rebel forces are dominated by terrorists, backed by Turkey and Qatar. The US claims it funds some other “moderate” rebels but the importance, indeed existence, of that faction, is increasingly being questioned by US analysts and independent media

.

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Moderates – what moderates?

Before the carnage ... Aleppo at night

Before the carnage … Aleppo at night

SOME US foreign policy analysts concede it is time for a “ruthless” look at whether CIA-backed fighters in Syria can be considered “moderate”, the Washington Post reports

A senior US official told the Post this week, the battlefield performance of CIA-trained fighters had not improved, and conceded “they’re increasingly dominated by extremists”.

The official, who the newspaper said spoke on condition of anonymity, was reacting to the Obama administration again stone-walling Plan B – a proposal backed by CIA boss John Brennan and Defence Secretary Ashton Carter to ramp up the scale and firepower of weapons the US is delivering to forces opposed to the Syrian Government.

The Post reported the plan had been returned to the too-hard basket during a meeting President Obama held with his national security team in Washington.

It is not the first time senior US officials have all-but conceded the the central argument advanced by Bashar al-Assad’s Government in Damascus – that it is engaged in a fight to the finish with jihadi terrorists.

Last September, the general charged with spending $US500m to train a “moderate” Syrian force, told a Senate armed services committee the CIA program could only put “a handful” of moderates into combat.

How many?

“We’re talking four or five,” General Lloyd Austin, commander of US Central Command, told incredulous committee members.

And, an under-reported factor in the failure of last month’s US-Russia brokered ceasefire was the inability, or unwillingness, of US-funded rebels to disentangle themselves from hardcore terrorists holding east Aleppo.

Jabhat al-Nusra is the Al-Quaeda franchise in Syria. Rebadged JFS, courtesy of a flurry of recent press releases, its fighters are far and away the dominant rebel group in the long-suffering city.

It was a central tenet of the ceasefire that so-called “moderate” rebels had to cut ties with the Al-Quaeda front. The idea, in theory at least, was that the US, Russia and Syria could then concentrate their efforts on defeating the acknowledged terrorists.

The problem, as had been widely predicted, was that US-aligned rebels were unable or unwilling to do this.

This fundamental failure, further strengthened the argument that, effectively, there are no “moderate” rebels operating in Syria. However, it appeared to be largely forgotten after US forces, with Australian and British support, attacked Syrian soldiers observing the ceasefire, sending at least 70 of them back to their families in body bags.

This is worth a look www.washingtonpost.com…



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Australia has Syrian blood on its hands!

Up till now Australia has been trying to keep a low profile in the Syrian conflict. We do what the US tells us to do but we stay out of the front lines as far as possible, presumably because the Australian government has close to zero support from its own people for involvement in another foreign war!

All this has now changed. On September 18th, US forces bombed Syrian army personnel at Deir ez-Zor, and they took Australian fighter jets into the fray with them! The blood-guilt for the death of these young Syrians lies as heavily upon this country now as it does upon those who dragged us into this hell! Perhaps that’s why the US did it – at least in part! Perhaps they needed to bloody their British and Australian allies in order to get them more committed to the process? They must know that the rest of us don’t want to be there!

Of course the US is saying that this is ‘not what they intended to do’. If you listen to the cynical speech of Samantha Power at the UN, she avoids using the word ‘mistake’, and she certainly makes no actual apology for the deaths of all these young Syrians.

Perhaps an apology would have been meaningless anyway. If someone enters your house uninvited and then starts shooting random members of your family, to stop shooting and say, “Oh, sorry! I thought you were someone else” doesn’t make it OK. Rather, it begs the question as to what these gun-toting killers were doing in your house in the first place!

If the US seriously wanted to apologise for this massacre, the first things they would do is get out of the country that they illegally invaded. Of course they are not going to do that, and they are not even going to apologise to the grieving families, but does Australia really have to be a part of all this?

I listen to the speeches of the two UN spokespersons – Samantha Power for the USA and Vitaly Churkin for Russia – and I realise how much my world has changed! I grew up in a world where the Russians were the bad guys who couldn’t be trusted, whereas Uncle Sam was that benign elder figure who might have been a bit quirky in his behaviour with us kids but who always had our backs.

Now I look back and understand what was going on. That old uncle was a peadophile, preying on us kids. He hasn’t changed his ways. He never will. We might not be able to stop him, but we can choose to stop playing with him!

Father Dave

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