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Russia Just Defied the West …

… by Doubling Down in the Middle East

by James Holbrooks (October 10 2016)

If there was ever any question, Russia signaled Monday it intends to be involved in Middle Eastern affairs for a very long time, as Russian officials announced plans to build a permanent naval base in Syria right as Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Erdogan sealed the deal on a new oil pipeline in Turkey.

“In Syria, we will have a permanent naval base in Tartus. The corresponding documents have been drafted”, Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov said at a Federation Council meeting on Monday. “We hope that we will soon ask you to ratify these documents”.

Reuters described the move as “further evidence Russia is building up its capabilities in Syria” and “another sign it is digging in for the long haul to help prop up President Bashar al-Assad”.

Russia already has a permanent air base in Syria, from which it conducts joint strikes with the pro-Assad Syrian military against US-backed rebels.

As the deputy defense minister was making his comments in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Erdogan attended a gathering of the World Energy Congress in Istanbul, where each expressed a desire to move forward with the long-proposed Turkish Stream pipeline.

“We are providing energy for the EU for the past fifty years. We are now working on a second project”, Putin said at the meeting. “We are discussing the Turkish Stream with Erdogan and our other partners and we want to bring this about”.

As a separate meeting, Erdogan said, “We look positively at the Turkish Stream project. Our efforts are continuing.”

The pipeline, which was first proposed in 2014, will carry natural gas through Turkey and on to the European Union. It marks a further strengthening of ties between Turkey and Russia that began back in August.

As Underground Reporter highlighted earlier this year, Putin and Erdogan reportedly “buried the hatchet” regarding the shootdown of a Russian jet by Turkish forces at a meeting between the two men in Saint Petersburg. Talks about proceeding with the Turkish Stream pipeline began immediately after.

Friendly cooperation between Russia and Turkey presents something of a problem for the United States, with Turkey, a supposed American ally, and Russia supporting the Assad regime the US has worked so hard to eliminate. The situation was further complicated when Turkish tanks rolled across the border into northern Syria in late August.

Since then, the violence has intensified. The latest attempt by the US and Russia at achieving a Syrian ceasefire was a disaster, and diplomacy officially cratered last week when the US suspended talks with Russia and Putin reneged on a nuclear pact with Washington.

Now, with Russia announcing plans to establish a permanent naval base in Syria and Putin locking the pipeline deal with Erdogan, one thing is being made abundantly clear – Russia, despite the wishes of those in Washington, DC, has no intention of backing out of the Middle East anytime soon.


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Categories: Uncategorized

Western Hypocrisy

And Why It Makes the World a Dangerous Place

by Michael Jabara Carley

Strategic Culture Foundation (October 16 2016)

The West has always been a great trembling hive of hypocrisy, portraying itself as liberal, progressive, civilised and democratic. You know the descriptors; the list is very long. Take the United States, for example, it is the “shining house upon the hill”: just, altruistic, democratic, with a “mission to extend individual liberties throughout the world”.

“Our cause has been the cause of all mankind”, Lyndon Johnson declared during the 1964 presidential election campaign. To reinforce his argument Johnson cited President Woodrow Wilson, who had similar things to say about American virtue. Nothing has changed: listen to Barack Obama talk about the altruism of the United States. “We are the ‘exceptional nation’ “, he often says.

These western and especially US virtues are mobilised to justify policies, wars, covert activities which are not virtuous at all. Let’s start with Wilson. He is best known for the “Fourteen Points”, national self-determination, “democracy”, open agreements, and so on. “Do as I say, not as I do”, Wilson might have cautioned in the backroom. He did not, for example, anticipate “self-determination” for the Philippines, a US colony, or closer to home, for American “Negros”.

You see, Wilson was a segregationist and supporter of Jim Crow and the Ku Klux Klan. We need the KKK, Wilson believed, to keep “colored folks” in line, especially those who came back from France having served in the US armed forces. They might think they were entitled to the same rights as white people. As American blacks were to be subject to Jim Crow, so Bolsheviks in Russia were to be subjected to Entente military intervention to put an end to their socialist revolution.

Then of course there was World War Two. It is during this war that the United States and Great Britain got into the habit of destroying cities and civilian infrastructure, and killing large numbers of civilians. It is true that Nazi Germany set the precedent for targeting civilians, and few people questioned the destruction of German cities and the mass killing of civilians in Cologne, Hamburg, Dresden, Berlin and other places.

The “krauts” had it coming. So did the Japanese, most of their cities were burned to the ground. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed with the first atomic bombs. “Military targets”, said accidental President Harry Truman, “we had to do it to save the lives of American soldiers”. He lied. The American government knew very well that Japan was beaten and ready to surrender. The United States wanted to intimidate Iosif Stalin, with atomic bombs the USSR did not yet have. Did the Americans truly believe they could intimidate Marshal Stalin?

The end of World War Two led to the resumption of the Cold War, Act II (Act I having started in 1917). With Great Britain reduced to the status of a vassal state, the United States took the lead in defending “free” peoples against the menace of communism. Unfortunately, there was a chasm between the image and the reality. The US government unleashed the CIA to buy politicians and elections and overthrow governments it did not like. Iran, Guatemala, Cuba were early examples. That was the fate reserved for Vietnam too, except there, Washington bit off more than it could chew.

The United States sabotaged Vietnamese elections in 1956 because, according to US president Dwight Eisenhower, the communist leader Ho Chi Minh would have won eighty percent of the vote. Not much respect for democracy there: it turns out that the United States was only comfortable with “democracy” when their clients won. When they couldn’t win, elections were rigged, bought with CIA money, or sabotaged. “Leftists, communists, eccentrics, not wanted here”, was a sign America might have hung out on the doors of its embassies worldwide.

In Vietnam the United States hijacked the south and ran it through puppets. A terrible war ensued: the World War Two pattern of targeting cities and civilians was repeated. The US government declared that it was not bombing North Vietnamese cities, but Toronto Star correspondent Michael Maclear drove up from the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone to Hanoi and found just about every city and town along the way had been flattened or badly damaged by American bombing. Civilians were fair game, US claims to the contrary notwithstanding. Estimates range from two to six civilians killed for every Vietnamese combatant. These figures are certainly on the low side given US carpet bombing and use of napalm and chemical defoliants.

It is true that most of the Vietnamese people were united with their armed forces in resisting US aggression. So the distinction between civilian and soldier was necessarily blurred, much to the frustration of US authorities. Then there was the My Lai massacre in March 1968 when nearly five hundred men, women and children were gunned down by American soldiers. The massacre made the pages of Life magazine, not good publicity for the American war of aggression in Southeast Asia.

The United States lost that war because of the remarkable resistance of the Vietnamese people, though they paid a high price for driving out the American invader. Defeat however did not long chasten US authorities. In 1973 the CIA overthrew the democratically elected Chilean government of Salvador Allende. A neo-fascist took his place, which was fine with Washington. In the 1980s the United States backed Islamist fundamentalists in Afghanistan against the USSR. “They’re sons of bitches”, Americans might have agreed in a rare moment of candour, but “they are our sons of bitches”.

The point is that the American claims of altruism and promotion of democracy were bogus. As long as the USSR existed, the United States could not run completely amuck although the US rampage in Southeast Asia was bad enough. After the collapse and dismemberment of the USSR, the United States felt the last restraints on its power fall away. Nato was expanded up to Russia’s western frontiers. Yugoslavia was destroyed and dismembered without any reference to international law. The United States and its Nato vassals backed Islamist terrorists and gangsters in Bosnia and Kosovo, following the Afghan pattern. “They’re our terrorists and gangsters”, the Americans might have said, “and therefore we’re alright”. Serbia was bombed, its infrastructure destroyed, civilians were killed. Not even crocodile tears were shed in the west over the dead Serbian civilians.

Since the destruction of Yugoslavia, the list of US and western covert or overt wars of aggression is long. Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Ukraine, Syria, Yemen have all been destroyed or are being destroyed by the United States and its Nato or regional vassals in the name of “responsibility to protect” (“R2P”) and “democracy” proselytization. The west’s allies are Wahhabi terrorists (again), Daesh, Nusra, Al-Qaeda and various iterations of them, as well as fascists in the Ukraine. It is an extraordinary American rogues’ gallery, like a long police line-up of felons. But “not to worry”, the Americans would no doubt repeat, “they’re our Islamists and our fascists, and working for us, which makes everything alright”.

Everywhere the United States leaves its footprints, along with those of the British and French depending on location, you will find ruins and victims. Iraq and Libya are in chaos and infested with Al-Qaeda terrorists. War drags on in Afghanistan after fifteen years. In the Ukraine the US-backed fascist coup d’etat has only partially succeeded and a crisis there could irrupt at any time. In Yemen a Saudi invasion has butted into formidable resistance.

In Syria the US and Anglo-French-led attempt to overthrow the Syrian government has failed. Not only did the United States run up against a formidable Syrian resistance inspired by Syrian president Bashar el-Assad, but it has run up against the Russian Federation, Iran, and Hezbollah. They are allied with the Syrian government against the invasion of US and western supported Islamist mercenaries, armed, financed, trained, and sheltered by Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan, and Apartheid Israel.

Russia has played the principal role in checking the US-led war of aggression against Syria. Of course, President Vladimir Putin has tried to finesse the United States into abandoning its terrorist allies and joining a coalition to destroy the Wahhabi invaders. As I write these lines, the Russian effort has failed; as well it might, since the United States is addicted to subversion and wars of aggression as a drug user is addicted to narcotics. But Russia had to try, and I suppose, will continue to try, to persuade the United States to go cold turkey.

In the meantime its French and British vassals accuse Russia and Syria of war crimes, fulminate about the surrounded, victimized Wahhabi terrorists in Aleppo. The very same who have made films showing their decapitation of Syrian POWs and officials, Christians and any others who don’t embrace their practice of Islam. Further forms of cruelty include execution by drowning or being burned alive in cages, or crushed by tanks. Women are raped, and stoned if they don’t submit; refugees seeking to escape Al-Qaeda authority are flogged, crucified, decapitated, buried alive, or shot (the latter form of execution being for the Wahhabis a rather banal, merciful way of killing victims).

It is these terrorists who the United States and its vassals support in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria. They have abandoned the argument about the Wahhabis being “our terrorists” for another to the effect that they are “our moderates”. This line is just as preposterous and bogus as all the other US justifications for war, though President Putin and his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, have played along trying to persuade the United States to see reason. The Russian strategy has failed, as its other peace strategies have failed, because, inter alia, there are no Islamist “moderates” to separate from the so-called genuine terrorists. “Our moderates” is a fiction and a US cover for its support of Al-Qaeda and its various allies, largely foreign mercenaries fighting against the secular, legitimate government of Syria.

The only result, so far, of Russian efforts is that US generals threaten “to beat” Russia as never before. The French president threatens Russia and Syria with war crimes indictments, and various British politicians, including the Foreign Secretary, fulminate about Nazi-like bombardments of poor, innocent “moderates” who in fact use Aleppo civilians in their diminishing zone of occupation as human shields, summarily executing those who attempt to escape. In the much larger part of Aleppo which the “moderates” do not control, they deliberately target civilians.

Will there ever be an end to the hypocrisy and double standards? From Wilson to Johnson, to Obama, we have been subjected to a pack of lies. The US and western narrative about Syria, as elsewhere, is false to the last syllable. The “shining house upon the hill” is a myth. A dark charnel house filled to the ceiling with victims of US and European neo-colonialism would better represent the reality. But don’t expect any western governments to look inside that house. “Collateral damage”, the Americans would say, “and a price worth paying”. Myths and lies conceal the real foreign conduct of the United States and its vassals, but that unfortunately is nothing new. The question now is whether Americans, Europeans and Canadians are willing to risk a gratuitous war with Russia for a pack of lies, in defence of the US-led Al-Qaeda invasion of Syria. We, all of us, need to decide quickly, before it is too late.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Warnings of a New World War

The US-Russia confrontation over Ukraine and now Syria is far more dangerous than is understood by mainstream US analysts as Russia lays down clear warnings that are mostly being ignored.

by Gilbert Doctorow

Consortium News (October 14 2016)

In an interview with the Bild newspaper on October 8, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is known for his cautious rhetoric, described the present international situation in the following woeful terms:


… unfortunately it is an illusion to believe this is the old Cold War. The new times are different; they are more dangerous. Previously, the world was divided, but Moscow and Washington knew each other’s red lines and respected them. In a world with many regional conflicts and dwindling influence of the great powers, the world becomes more unpredictable.


For these reasons, said Steinmeier, “The USA and Russia must continue talking with each other”. He concluded his appeal with fairly balanced recommendations to resolve the humanitarian crisis in east Aleppo, urging both Russia and the other powers to apply their influence with their clients on the ground.

Sad to say, this call to reason fell on deaf ears. On the same day, a US State Department spokesman explained to journalists Washington’s decision over the weekend to end the joint peace process with Moscow, saying that there was “nothing left to talk about with the Russians”.

Meanwhile, the Russian side took as the last straw this unilateral and trumpeted decision of the Americans to bury the deal signed on September 9 between Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that had taken fourteen hours to negotiate and was seen as a triumph of cooperation versus confrontation.

De facto, from the Russian view, that deal was sabotaged on September 17 by the Pentagon when US and coalition aircraft bombed a Syrian government military outpost at Deir Ezzor killing more than sixty Syrian soldiers. And de facto, the Russians had suspended the implementation of the ceasefire on September 23 when they renewed heavy bombing of east Aleppo in close collaboration with the Syrian air force and ground units. Now that the US had formalized the end of cooperation over Syria, Russia set out its own full-blooded response which it called a “radical change in relations” between the two countries.

Several of the components of the Russian response of October 3 and over the week to follow were noted in the US and Western mainstream media. We heard about the decision to cancel the bilateral convention concluded with the US in 2000 on reprocessing excess weapons-grade plutonium for electricity generation. This was widely considered to be of marginal importance, since the US had been unable to implement its part of the bargain for lack of appropriate conversion installations and costs of upwards of $18 billion if it did what was necessary.

We heard about Russia holding civil defense exercises to provide for forty million citizens, though no one could make much sense of it. We heard about the announcement of the Russian Ministry of Defense that it now has brought to Syria and made operational its most advanced air defense missile systems, the S300 and S400, but Pentagon spokesmen professed to be dumbfounded and asked rhetorically what was the purpose of the move.

Finally, we all heard this week that Russia has officially deployed its hypersonic, potentially nuclear-tipped, 500 kilometer-range Iskander ground-to-ground missiles in its Kaliningrad enclave on the Baltic Sea sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania. The Polish military officials immediately expressed dismay, feeling under threat and said they were putting all their defense facilities on alert. But Pentagon spokesmen said there was no reason to view this deployment as different from the last deployment in Kaliningrad two years ago, which was just a training exercise.

Playing Down the Danger

From the foregoing, it would appear that the US government was keen to play down to the general public the significance of the separately noted Russian moves last week. It is in this context that one must appreciate what an unofficial but authoritative Russian state television program last Sunday night did to add a few more important dots, to connect them all and to interpret for laymen what is the significance of the Russian démarches.

The state television program on the Rossiya 1 channel, Vesti nedeli (News of the Week), is presented by Dmitri Kiselyov. This two-hour show on prime time is the single most widely watched news broadcast in Russia with tens of millions of viewers. However, in cases like the October 9 show, the real hoped-for audience of the first half-hour segment was in Washington, DC, where its intent was to pour cold water over hotheads in the Pentagon and CIA – and bring the American leadership back to its senses.

Dmitri Kiselyov is not merely the anchorman of Vesti nedeli. He is also the boss of all news and information programming on state radio and television. He is tough and wears his patriotism on his sleeve. We may assume that what he says has been approved by the Kremlin.

Because of the importance of the message Kiselyov was delivering, I am going to quote heavily from my transcript of his narrative, only making minor cuts:


This past week relations between the USA and Russia went through a sharp but expected turn. To bend over backwards further in the face of [American] lies has lost all sense and is simply harmful. By bending over backwards we mean looking for diplomatic compromises.

We held endless expectations that the USA will finally separate the non-terrorists from the terrorists [in Syria]. We waited more than a year for this. But it is clear they did not want to. They are taking us and the whole world for fools. America is working on the side of Al Nusra [Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate], providing them with diplomatic cover; providing them with additional arms; helping them by their supposedly mistaken bombing of a Syrian army position.

See the outbursts of anti-Russian statements in the US mass media. If we continue with the Americans, our very presence in Syria will lose sense. Instead, working with the legal Syrian government, we can rid the country of terrorists, thereby ensuring security of the Middle Eastern region, Russia and Europe.


Kiselyov continued:


Those who want to can join us. The US seemed to want to join, then thought again and cut their military cooperation with Russia over Syria on Monday, with one exception, the channel of communication to avoid military clashes in Syria remains in force. For the time being.

Formally the situation returned to where it was before September 9 when Kerry and Lavrov reached their agreement on a truce. But then [US Defense Secretary] Ashton Carter entered the picture. He opened a second front. He forced Kerry to fight on two fronts. If Kerry previously thought he was competing with the Russians, now he came under “friendly fire” from the Pentagon.

American forces directly bombed a Syrian military outpost. This was no mistake. It was coordinated with the terrorists, who followed up with an attack. Then there came a camouflaged attack on the humanitarian convoy near Aleppo [September 20]. Finally, it became clear to Moscow that diplomacy is merely a “service” for the Pentagon. Kerry, in intellectual style, justifies the actions of the Pentagon. Often, post factum.

We will review tonight the radical changes in our relations with America. This includes the dispatch to the region of three of our cruise missile vessels with Kalibr on board. The roll-out in Syria of additional air defense systems S300. The dispatch to Egypt of 5,000 of our paratroopers. The tearing up of our agreements with America in the atomic sphere. And the civil defense exercise of the past week which involved 200,000 civil defense personnel covering forty million population. To my recollection such a constellation of events never before took place.



Terrorists and Hostages

Kiselyov went on:


The center of attention has been east Aleppo, still in control of terrorists with hundreds of thousands of civilians kept hostage as a human shield. They execute people who want to leave. We cannot tolerate this anymore. The terrorists are not capable of abiding by agreements. The Syrian army is carrying out a storm operation.

There is so much lying and shrieking going on in the world about this … It’s a serious matter that the US is looking at Russia’s actions to combat terrorists in Syria as a threat to its own exceptionalism. The scenario is not developing according to the US plan, so what is the sense of all the claims to US domination and leadership. It looks as if Barack Obama will leave office before Bashar Assad. And their nasty tricks against Russia, the sanctions, aren’t working …

To be sure, Washington has loudly announced that it is shifting now to the so-called Plan B. Formally there are no details. But in general terms, everyone understands what we are talking about. Plan B is when America applies in Syria direct military force. It is not hard to guess against whom, against Bashar Assad, the government army, and that means against the armed forces of Russia, who are present in Syria on legal grounds.

Can we exclude such a variation? No. We cannot exclude provocations to justify the start of war, as happened in the past in the two world wars. The Vietnam War also began with a provocation organized by the Americans. See the false pretenses for invading Iraq and the action in Libya. US ignored international law, decided there can be no obstacles in the path of their assaults.


Kiselyov continued:


Moscow reacted calmly to Plan B. Russia saddles up slowly, but then rides fast. To understand how Russian-American relations have just quickly changed directions, we have to rewind and go back to the start of the week. Let us now scrupulously go over events since Monday.

First I want to direct your attention to the very public speech of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin. He spoke more quietly and more slowly than usual. Formally it was to open the session of the new 7th Duma. But it was addressed to the very core issues of our souls and minds. His words were not about draft laws, but to the essence of the moment. Putin considered it important to talk about the general basis of support. He spoke about unity of the people as an essential element for the existence of our country. Strength is essential to maintaining our statehood.

At this Duma session, Putin introduced draft law to halt the convention on plutonium with the USA.


Kiselyov here makes an association between Putin’s speech to the Duma and the draft law halting the convention on plutonium that would not be obvious to outsiders. Still more important, he called attention to the contents of that draft law, beginning with the reason given for this event, namely what is called a


radical change in circumstances, the emergence of a threat to strategic stability as a result of hostile actions of the United States of America in relation to the Russian Federation and the inability of the United States of America to ensure execution of the obligations it assumed to reprocess the excess weapons grade plutonium in accordance with the Agreement and the protocols to the Agreement.


Kiselyov then moved to the all-important Point 2 of the draft law. The text was projected onto the television screen, with its provisions highlighted in yellow as Kiselyov read from it. The highlighted passages are as follows:


The validity of the Agreement and protocols to the Agreement can be renewed after the elimination by the United States of America of the causes which have led to a radical change in the circumstances which existed on the day of the coming into force of the Agreement and the protocols to the Agreement on condition:

(1) that the military infrastructure and numbers of the contingent of troops of the United States of America stationed on the territories of member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (“Nato”) which entered Nato after 1 September 2000 be reduced to their levels on the day of coming into force of the Agreement and protocols to the Agreement

(2) that the United States of America renounces its hostile policy with respect to the Russian Federation which must be expressed:

    (a) by the repeal of the 2012 law of the United States of America (Sergei Magnitsky law) and the repeal of provisions of the 2014 law of the United States of America in support of freedom of Ukraine directed against Russia

    (b) by the cancellation of all sanctions introduced by the United States of America with respect to separate subjects of the Russian Federation – Russian individuals and legal entities

    (c) compensation of damages borne by the Russian Federation as a result of the sanctions indicated in line (b) of this point, including losses from the introduction of necessary counter-sanctions against the United States of America

    (d) presentation by the United States of America of a clear plan for irreversible reprocessing of plutonium coming under the scope of the Agreement.


A Breathtaking Ultimatum

Kiselyov rightly called these provisions an “Ultimatum” addressed to the White House. Their scope is breathtaking. But the Kremlin’s message to Washington was action, not just words.

Kiselyov explained that on Tuesday the government stopped an ongoing program of scientific contacts with the US in the nuclear field. On the same day it cancelled a program of cooperation between Rosatom and the US Department of Energy over nuclear reactors.

Then, as Kiselyov noted, the Russians “moved from the brakes to the gas pedal”. They dispatched three missile bearing naval vessels from the Black Sea fleet to the Eastern Mediterranean as a back-up in case the US proceeds on Plan B. These are equipped with two types of missiles: the Kalibr cruise missile which may be nuclear tipped and has a 2,600 kilometer range for striking ground targets plus the supersonic Oniks for attacking ships.

Also on what he chose to call “Black Tuesday”, the Russian government confirmed that it has installed its S300 air defense system in Syria. For the explanation, Kiselyov pulled up video recordings of the televised statement by the chief of the press and information service, the Russian Federation Ministry of Defense Igor Konashenkov, who was responding to questions about the Syrian campaign.

Konashenkov said the air defense was installed because of US and French threats to impose a “no fly zone” and because of the lessons learned from the US coalition strike against Syrian forces at Deir Ezzor on September 17. Konashenkov stressed that there will likely be no time for any hot-line discussions with Americans about stealth aircraft or incoming missiles: they will be shot down, “whatever the dilettantes” in American military circles may think.

He explained that Russian military are in settled areas across Syria performing humanitarian work and dealing with local Syrian militia who are laying down their arms under Russian-brokered deals. Therefore, any US air strikes in Syria will likely also hit Russian forces, which is utterly unacceptable.

Next, Kiselyov reminded his audience, on Wednesday, Russia officially notified Washington that it deems the missile defense installations that the United States has built in Romania and is building in Poland are in violation of the convention on intermediate-range missiles since they can be used for offensive as well as defensive rockets.

Russia is not presently withdrawing from the convention on intermediate-range missiles, which was the single biggest arms control agreement of the Reagan-Gorbachev years, but it is preparing the way for abrogation at its choosing. This was the context for Moscow’s announcement on the same day that they have installed their Iskander missile system in Kaliningrad. The suggestion is that this is permanent, not linked to any exercises.

During the same week, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced an unprecedented military exercise in Egypt with dispatch there of 5,000 paratroopers equipped with new, desert-condition uniforms and a new design parachute.

Russian Overseas Bases

According to Kiselyov, Russian Deputy Minister of Defense Pankov said his ministry is reviewing the question of reestablishing military bases in Cuba and Vietnam. And, on the anniversary of its launch into space of the first Sputnik, Moscow celebrated the Day of the Rocket Corps by showing clips of recent “awesome” rocket launches.

Summing up, Kiselyov acknowledged that all these events give the impression of a highly charged atmosphere. They are, he said, all the consequence of America’s steady campaign of expanding Nato, its renunciation of the ABM treaty, its color revolutions, its vilification of Russia, and its information war based on lies. These unfriendly acts had to be a stop.

He asked rhetorically: is this dangerous? To which he responded in the affirmative.

And yet, if Russia is morally and physically prepared for war with the United States to defend what it sees as its national interests, including in Syria, Kiselyov ended the half-hour segment of his weekly news wrap-up on a non-belligerent note. He said the message of the Russian government was its preparedness for the worst while it hopes for better outcomes. He quoted Dmitri Peskov, Putin’s press secretary, who insisted that Russia is always ready for cooperation.

Bad as the enumeration of Moscow’s “radical change in relations” with the United States sounds, the overview of Russian actions and intentions on the Kiselyov program was not exhaustive. In the same week, there were leaks of Russian plans to establish what never existed in the Cold War, a naval base in Egypt, which it is said would support their operations in the Western Mediterranean.

It bears mention that the whole subject of military bases abroad came up on another prime-time flagship program of Russian state television, the October 9 edition of “Sunday Evening with Vladimir Soloviev”, the most popular and respected talk show of the same Rossiya 1 channel.

In a departure from common practice, this edition featured only Russian panelists, mostly of high standing.  The single highest-rated politician panelist was Irina Yarovaya, the tough-as-nails and very smart Duma deputy known best as the author of what Edward Snowden called the Big Brother law this past July. Yarovaya was newly named as Deputy Chair of the State Duma and opened the show, which focused on US-Russian relations and comparative military strength.

Yarovaya remarked on how in 1992 the US defense budget was 77 times greater than Russia’s whereas last year it was just ten times greater. Today, she noted, the US accounts for 36 percent of total global military expenditures while Russia represents four percent. Why does the United States need this disproportionately sized military establishment? Answer: to dominate the political landscape. In this context, she explained, Russia now is throwing cold water on that notion of domination.

At this point, the second-ranking politician on the show entered the debate with an important qualification. Vladimir Zhirinovsky is the leader of the nationalist LDPR party, which did remarkably well in the September elections and was given the Duma committee chairmanship of foreign relations as a reward, another detail of Russian political life that has gone virtually unnoticed in US and Western commentary.

Zhirinovsky insisted that the correlation of military capabilities is more favorable to Russia than the gross figures suggest. After all, he explained, a large chunk of the US defense budget goes on toilet paper, sausages and similar housekeeping expenses in support of its 700 foreign bases.

Notwithstanding that caustic remark about bases generally and eyes-open understanding that such force projection is also debilitating, Zhirinovsky later in the program suggested that Russia would do well to establish 100 overseas bases.

To understand properly what this question of possible Russian military bases overseas means, we have to recall that, in the not so distant past, Vladimir Putin pointed to the country’s having no overseas bases as a distinguishing point setting Russia apart from superpowers. We have no ambition to be a superpower, he said then.

The Risky US “War Party”

Those in the US “war party” who talk about Putin’s dream of reestablishing the Soviet Union are repeating endlessly complete nonsense. But there is a dream, a very new dream in Moscow which did not exist until  the present direct and existential confrontation with the US that Russia will be understood to be not just a great power but a superpower with global interests.

In this sense, by presenting Russia with hostility and enormous challenges, the United States has been creating the very Russia it fears.


All of the information that I have used in this commentary are open source. The television programs are all accessible as they are to the US intelligence officers stationed in the US embassy in Moscow. They are also accessible to any Russian-speaking analysts in Langley who happen to be interested since they are posted within 24 hours on

Moreover, the CIA has its own agent taking part in the prime-time talk shows several days a week. He is a welcome and paid guest of the Russian state television because of his outstanding Russian language skills and his defense of the policy line coming from Washington, which makes him the American that Russian viewers love to hate.

In this capacity, he rubs shoulders regularly with the leading Russian politicians on the shows and has a chance, in the breaks, to put to them the kind of question that one such politician said he raised a week ago: “Will there be a war?”

If the US intelligence establishment is doing its job professionally, and we must assume that is the case, then they have been briefing President Obama and the two presidential candidates on the developments in US-Russian relations that I have outlined above.

In that case, a puzzling and scandalous question arises:  why has the President not said a word about the “radical change in relations” with Russia? And why is it that neither candidate when asked about how to respond to the killings in east Aleppo on Debate Two, that very same evening, on October 9, were clueless.

Indeed, the remarks of Hillary Clinton to the effect that the United States must stand up to the Russians and impose a “no-fly zone” in Syria missed the point that to do so now will mean destruction of US aircraft and naval vessels, or, in other words, the onset of World War Three. Either she and her policy team do not have their eye on the ball or they are playing a reckless game.

For his part, Donald Trump came out marginally better on the issue of what to do about east Aleppo. He said that, as he understands, it’s lost already. That appraisal is much closer to reality.

The end result of the official silence in the US about Russia’s message of defiance and about its military wherewithal in place in Syria to defend what it construes as its national interest is that as a nation the US is flying blind.


Gilbert Doctorow is the European Coordinator of The American Committee for East West Accord. His most recent book is Does Russia Have a Future? (2015).

Categories: Uncategorized

The Ruling Class’s Hatred of Trump …

… is Different Than Yours

by Paul Street

CounterPunch (October 14 2016)

Photo by thierry ehrmann | CC BY 2.0

Much, maybe most, of the nation’s corporate, financial, and imperial establishment loathes Donald Trump. When’s the last time one of the corporate media’s presidential debate moderators actually argue with one of the two major party presidential contenders, as did the wealthy ABC News reporter Martha Raddatz (enraged by Trump’s lack of enthusiasm for a United States military confrontation with Russia in Syria) last Sunday?

More than fifty Republican “national security” “elites” have joined several top Republican office-holders, a good number of typically Republican newspaper editorial boards, and the “liberal” New York Times‘ editors in proclaiming Trump too stupid, sexist, juvenile, racist, volatile, ignorant, and vicious to be trusted with the keys to the White House.

The master class’s fear and loathing of Trump – one of their own, sort of – can be detected in the normally Republican-leaning corporate elite. A recent Wall Street Journal report finds that not a single solitary Fortune 100 chief executive has endorsed Trump or donated to his campaign. Hillary Clinton has accepted campaign contributions funds from eleven of these corporate captains. Four years ago, just five F-100 CEOs gave to Obama while a while nearly a third donated to Mitt Romney.

In a recent Times editorial, the Wall Street executive Steve Ratter (the slimy financier Obama put in charge of his Wall Street-friendly auto bailout) noted the “paradox” of the super-wealthy business mogul Trump’s stark unpopularity with those in his own exclusive class:



He has spent his entire career among business executives and yet that constituency is voting with hard cash that he should not be president … no Republican presidential hopeful in memory has been so unpopular in the business community … At a board meeting two weeks ago, I chatted separately with two prominent Republican businessmen, One, the chief executive of a Fortune 100 company, said that he had never voted for a Democrat but couldn’t support Trump. The other a private equity investor who had voted Democratic only once, said that he was so scared of a Trump presidency that he has donated “every cent possible” under the campaign finance rules to Hillary Clinton.



Apparent in campaign finance data, big capital’s preference for the neoliberal and de facto moderate Republican Hillary over Trump is evident also in global stock market. “As Mrs Clinton’s dominance of the first presidential debate became apparent”, Rattner reports, “investors cheered: markets around the world rose and the dollar strengthened … [reliable forecasters estimate] that a Trump victory would cause stocks to lose seven percent, while a Clinton victory would lead to a four percent increase”.

You hate Donald Trump too my fellow lefty (I assume that broad descriptive term covers at least ninety percent of the people who read this essay) and for some very good reasons. I’m no exception. Anyone who doubts my disgust for Trump – not to be confused with admiration or even “lesser evil” tolerance for Hillary Clinton (accurately described as a “right-wing fanatic” and a “lying neoliberal warmonger” even by left thinkers arguing for progressives to vote for her on “lesser evil” grounds) – can go read a recent teleSur English essay in which I attributed Trump’s rise in no small part to the “the vicious culture of neoliberal mass idiocy”.

There’s a big difference, however, between our portside, bottom-up contempt for Trump and the Establishment’s top-down and intra-elite scorn for the Republican presidential nominee. There are probably more than a few members of the United States ruling class who are genuinely offended by some or all of Trump’s worst attributes: racism, nativism, sexism, climate-denialism, and authoritarianism. Still, most folks in the nation’s unelected and interrelated dictatorships of money and empire would certainly be willing to put up with the prospects of a viciously sexist, racist and classist Trump presidency if they didn’t think it would be really bad for business, for US global power, and for the legitimacy of American authority at home and abroad. It isn’t they who would be most victimized by a Trump presidency, after all, and it’s a really big reach to think that any but a few of them could care less about those who would suffer most under a (highly unlikely) Amerikanner-Trump administration.

At the same time, Trump has earned equal if not greater disdain from the richly bipartisan ruling class and power elite for saying some curiously accurate and even sensible things that left progressives have reasons to agree with. Here are some of the statements for which Trump cannot be forgiven by a financial and imperial super-class that has never really accepted him as a fellow member despite his wealth:

* “Free trade” (really untrammeled global investor rights) ala Bill Clinton’s North American Free Trade Agreement (“Nafta”) and Barack Obama’s proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (“TPP”) has cost untold masses of “forgotten” working class Americans their livelihoods.

* The American political system is “broken” by big money special interests that undermine and distort democracy – something Trump says he knows all about because of his own history as a deep pockets funder of politicians, including the Clintons.

* The nation is in horrific shape under the rule of corrupt, dollar-drenched “free trade” Democrats and Republicans. Much of the country’s infrastructure is crumbling, for example. Urban Black America is in a terrible state whatever the skin color of the current US and US-born president.

* Hillary’s done nothing, or close to it, across thirty years of not-so “public service” to protect ordinary US citizens against hard times – quite the opposite in fact.

* “Crooked Hillary” Clinton is backed by super-wealthy financial elites who reasonably expect her do their bidding even as she deceptively claims to want to serve the people against the wealthy Few.

* Hillary talks like a friend of working class folks on the campaign trail but tells elite backers behind closed doors that her actual and “private” positions on policy are often quite different and more Establishment-friendly than her (vote-seeking) “public” positions.

* Hillary holds much of the nation’s white working and middle class populace in sheer aristocratic contempt, calling many such people “deplorable” and “irredeemable”.

* The corrupt Goldman Sachs-backed Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee used dirty tricks to undermine and defeat Bernie Sanders.

* Hillary ran a corrupt “pay for play” game with foreign and multinational nations and investors through the Clinton Foundation during her time atop the US State Department.

* Hillary “Queen of Chaos” Clinton (she of the leading US ruling class think-tank The Council on Foreign Relations) has been a recklessly imperial foreign policy disaster, from her support for the disastrous regime-changing invasion of Iraq, her leading of the charge for calamitous regime change in Libya, her determined advance of blood, regime-changing (she hopes) madness in Syria, her (and Obama’s) advance of the Islamic State, and her heedless upping of the ante of geopolitical confrontation with nuclear Russia in Eastern Europe and Syria.

* Policymakers who were serious about wanting to defeat the Islamic State and other barbarian, radical-Islamist jihadists in the Middle East would step back from their saber-rattling against Russia and Syria, both of whom are dedicated to “crushing ISIS”.

To be sure, my paraphrasing of Trump’s more sensible and accurate statements make them sound more coherent and leftish than they are. I doubt that Trump could be bothered to read more than one page of the left foreign policy analyst Diana Johnstone’s indispensable book Queen of Chaos: The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton (2015). It’s way too much to expect him to include Honduras (see the opening chapter of Johnston’s book for a useful history) in the list of nations that Hillary has helped ruin. Still, the bullet-pointed language above is close enough to what he’s actually said during this election cycle for the nation’s Deep State owners (the real masters behind the marionette theater of electoral politics) to hate him – this for reasons different than the ones that inform lefties’ disdain for Trump. Even as it leads publicly and in politically correct fashion with the problems of Trump’s sexism, racism, boorishness, and temperament, the thing that the Establishment really finds most reprehensible about Trump is his unpardonable penchant for telling true tales out of ruling class school – tales that many of us on the left have been telling from less privileged vantage points and without the white-nationalist and sexist venom that leaps off Trump’s noxious persona and out of his mouth. The terrible aspects of Trump that we find most horrific are different from what the ruling class finds most inexcusable about him – though it must be added that smart elites understand that his sexism, racism, nativism, and buffoonery threaten to spark popular uprisings and foreign derision that do not serve elite business and imperial interests. That last is a key point. A Trump presidency could well spark rebellions and resistance the ruling class would very much prefer to avoid.

Does Trump mean the things he says that overlap with left critiques of Hillary Clinton and of the broader US domestic and imperial order? I have no idea what really goes in the sociopathic brain of “the Donald”. The fascistic right (and Trump may be partly neo-fascist at some level) has a long history of mimicking certain parts of left rhetoric (the Nazis advanced national “socialism” after all) to gain mass appeal. Some of Trump’s more seemingly left-friendly rhetoric strikes me as part of a calculated strategy to win disaffected Bernie fans along with working class votes. Another source could be intra-elite spite, highly personal bitterness at an Ivy League-minted aristocracy that has never really accepted the crude man-child Donald Trump into its inner and upper circles. Whatever the motivation behind his jabs at the ruling elite and its imperial policies, an American ruling class that is still quite far from embracing fascism even in a mild and Trumpian form is not about to pardon Trump for giving crude voice to such critiques from within the top .01 percent and on a vast public stage.

Meanwhile, Trump – now eleven points behind actually crooked Hillary in national polls and with just a one-in-six chance of winning – is useful to the ruling class in a curious and dark way. Nearly three months after the predictable (and predicted) surrender of the somewhat sincerely populist, social-democratish Bernie Sanders campaign, Trump aids and abets the reigning corporate media and politics’ culture’s longstanding project of slandering populism as a reactionary and backwards instinct of the foolish, unwashed masses – the “bewildered herd”.

Elite commentators love to mock and marginalize the childish mindset of those who think that everyday people (the “rabble”) should actually be in charge of their own societal and political-economic affairs (imagine!) and thereby deprive elites of their supposed natural right to rule. Linking such populism to right-wing cretins like Donald Trump – a recurrent habit at places like The New York Times and CNN – is one of the ways in the slander is advanced, helping clear the way for more politically correct neoliberals like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to seize the nominal reins of executive branch power at least in Washington.

Categories: Uncategorized

Obama Stepped Back from Brink

Will Hillary?

by Mike Whitney

CounterPunch (October 12 2016)

The American people need to understand what’s going on in Syria. Unfortunately, the major media only publish Washington-friendly propaganda which makes it difficult to separate fact from fiction.  The best way to cut through the lies and misinformation, is by using a simple analogy that will help readers to see that Syria is not in the throes of a confusing, sectarian civil war, but the victim of another regime change operation launched by Washington to topple the government of Bashar al Assad.

With that in mind, try to imagine if striking garment workers in New York City decided to arm themselves and take over parts of lower Manhattan. And, let’s say, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decided that he could increase his geopolitical influence by recruiting Islamic extremists and sending them to New York to join the striking workers. Let’s say, Trudeau’s plan succeeds and the rebel militias are able to seize a broad swathe of US territory including most of the east coast stretching all the way to the mid-west.  Then –  over the course of the next five years –  these same jihadist forces proceed to destroy most of the civilian infrastructure across the country, force millions of people from their homes and businesses, and demand that President Obama step down from office so they can replace him with an Islamic regime that would enforce strict Sharia law.

How would you advise Obama in a situation like this? Would you tell him to negotiate with the people who invaded and destroyed his country or would you tell him to do whatever he thought was necessary to defeat the enemy and restore security?

Reasonable people will agree that the president has the right to defend the state and maintain security. In fact, national sovereignty and security are the foundation upon which the international order rests. However, neither the US media nor the US congress nor the White House nor the entire US foreign policy establishment agree with this simple, straightforward principle, that governments have the right to defend themselves against foreign invasion. They all believe that the US has the unalienable right to intervene wherever it chooses using whatever means necessary to execute its regime change operations.

In the case of Syria, Washington is using “moderate” jihadists to topple the elected government of Bashar al Assad. Keep in mind, that no one even disputes WHAT the US is doing in Syria (regime change) or that the US is using a proxy army to accomplish its objectives. The only area of debate, is whether these “moderates” are actually moderates at all, or al Qaida. That’s the only point on which their is some limited disagreement. (Note: Nearly everyone who follows events closely on the ground, knows that the moderates are al Qaida.)

Doesn’t that strike you as a bit bizarre? How have we gotten to the point where it is “okay” for the US to topple foreign governments simply because their agents are “moderate” troublemakers rather than “extremist” troublemakers?

What difference does it make?   The fact is, the US is using foreign-born jihadists to topple another sovereign government, the same as it used neo Nazis in Ukraine to topple the government, the same as it used US troops to topple the sovereign government in Iraq, and the same as it used Nato forces to topple the sovereign government in Libya. Get the picture? The methods might change, but the policy is always the same. And the reason the policy is always the same is because Washington likes to pick its own leaders, leaders who invariably serve the interests of its wealthy and powerful constituents, particularly Big Oil and Israel. That’s how the system works. Everyone knows this already. Washington has toppled or attempted to topple more than fifty governments since the end of World War Two.  The US is a regime change franchise, Coups-R-Us.

Hillary Clinton is a charter member of the regime change oligarchy. She is a avid Koolaid drinker and an devoted believer in American “exceptionalism”, which is the belief that “If the United States does something, it must be good”.

Hillary also believes that the best way to resolve the conflict in Syria is by starting a war with Russia. Here’s what she said on Sunday in her debate with Donald Trump:

Clinton:  “The situation in Syria is catastrophic. And every day that goes by, we see the results of the regime by Assad in partnership with the Iranians on the ground, the Russians in the air … I, when I was secretary of state, I advocated and I advocate today a no-fly zone and safe zones.”

Repeat: “I advocate today a no-fly zone and safe zones”.

This is a very important point. Hillary has supported no-fly zones from Day One despite the fact that – by her own admission –  the policy would result in massive civilian casualties.  And civilian casualties are not the only danger posed by no-fly zones. Consider the warning by America’s top soldier,  Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,  General Joseph Dunford. In response to a question from Senator Roger Wicker (Republican, Mississippi) on the potential dangers of trying to “control Syrian airspace”, Dunford answered ominously,

Right now … for us to control all of the airspace in Syria would require us to go to war against Syria and Russia.

This is the Hillary Doctrine in a nutshell: Confront the Russians in Syria and start World War Three.  If there’s another way to interpret Dunford’s answer, then, please, tell me what it is?

Hillary also added that, “we have to work more closely with our partners and allies on the ground”.

This means that the Obama-CIA policy of supporting militant jihadists on the ground to topple an elected government will continue just as it has for the last five years.  Is that what Hillary supporters want; more intervention, more escalation, more Iraqs, more Syrias?

She also said this: “I do support the effort to investigate for crimes, war crimes committed by the Syrians and the Russians and try to hold them accountable”.

Readers should pause for a minute and really try to savor the convoluted absurdity of Clinton’s comments. As we pointed out in our analogy, Putin and Assad are trying to reestablish the central government’s control over the country to establish security the same as if Obama found it necessary to fight armed rebels in lower Manhattan. Governments have the right to govern their country. This shouldn’t be hard to understand. What Hillary is proposing is that the Syrian and Russians (who were invited by Assad) be prosecuted for fulfilling the sworn duty of every elected leader while  – at the same time –  the countries (like the US) that have (by their own admission) armed, trained and financed foreign invaders that have torn the country to shreds and killed more than 400,000 civilians, be let off Scott-free.

It is a great tribute to our propagandist western media, that someone like Hillary can make a thoroughly asinine statement like this and not be laughed off the face of the earth. By Hillary’s logic, Obama could be prosecuted for war crimes if civilians were killed while he attempted to liberate lower Manhattan. The whole idea is ridiculous.

Here’s another Hillary gem from the debate:

I do think the use of special forces, which we’re using, the use of enablers and trainers in Iraq, which has had some positive effects, are very much in our interests, and so I do support what is happening.

“Positive effects”?

What positive effects? 400,000 people are dead,  million more are ether internally displaced or refugees, and the country has been reduced to a Fulluja-like rubble. There are no “positive effects” from Hillary’s war. It’s been a complete and utter catastrophe. The only success she can claim, is the fact that the sleazebag Democratic leadership and their thoroughly-corrupt media buddies have been more successful in hiding the details of their depredations from the American people. Otherwise its been a dead-loss.

Here’s more Hillary:

I would go after Baghdadi. I would specifically target Baghdadi, because I think our targeting of Al Qaida leaders  –

Baghdadi, Schmaghdadi; who gives a rip? When has the CIA’s immoral assassination program ever helped to reduce the fighting, ever diminished the swelling ranks of terrorist organizations, or ever made the American people safer?

Never, that’s when. The whole thing is a fu**ing joke. Hillary just wants another trophy for her future presidential library, a scalp she can hang next to Gadhafi’s. The woman is sick!

Here’s one last quote from the debate::

I would also consider arming the Kurds. The Kurds have been our best partners in Syria, as well as Iraq. And I know there’s a lot of concern about that in some circles, but I think they should have the equipment they need so that Kurdish and Arab fighters on the ground are the principal way that we take Raqqa after pushing ISIS out of Iraq.

Obama is arming the Kurds already, but the Kurds have no interest in seizing Raqqa because it is not part of their traditional homeland and because it doesn’t help them achieve the contiguous landmass they seek for their own state. Besides, arming the Kurds just pisses off Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan who provides a critical airstrip at Incirlik from which the US carries out most of its airstrikes on enemy targets in Syria. In other words, Clinton doesn’t know what the heck she’s talking about.

While there’s no time to get into Hillary’s role in starting the war in Syria, there is a very thorny situation that developed last week that’s worth considering for those people who still plan to cast their vote for Clinton in the November election.

Here’s a quick rundown of what happened: Last Wednesday, the Washington Post leaked a story stating that the Obama administration was considering whether it should directly attack Syrian assets on the ground, in other words, conduct a covert, low-intensity war directly against the regime (rather than just using proxies).

On Thursday, the Russian Ministry of Defense spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov announced that Moscow had deployed state of the art defensive weapons systems (S-300 and S-400 air defense missile systems) to the theater and was planning to use them if Syrian or Russian troops or installations were threatened.

In a televised statement, Konashenkov said:

It must be understood that Russian air defense missile crews will unlikely have time to clarify via the hotline the exact flight program of the missiles or the ownership of their carriers.

Referring to the provocative article in the Washington Post, Konashenkov added:

I would recommend our colleagues in Washington carefully weigh possible consequences of the fulfillment of such plans.

The Russians were saying as clearly as possible that if US warplanes attacked either Russian installations or Syrian troops they would be shot down immediately. Reasonable people can assume that the downing of a US warplane would trigger a war with Russia.

Fortunately, there are signs that Obama got the message and put the kibosh on the (Pentagon’s?) ridiculous plan. Here’s a clip from an article at The Duran which may be the best news I’ve read about Syria in five years. This story broke on Friday and has been largely ignored by the major media:

Following Russian warning of American aircraft being shot down, White House spokesman confirms plan for US air strikes on Syria has been rejected … White House spokesman Josh Earnest confirmed this speaking to reporters on Thursday 6th October 2016.

The president has discussed in some details why military action against the Assad regime to try to address the situation in Aleppo is unlikely to accomplish the goals that many envisioned now in terms of reducing the violence there.  It is much more likely to lead to a bunch of unintended consequences that are clearly not in our national interest.

As critical as I’ve been of Obama over the years, I applaud him for his good judgment.  While the Pentagon warhawks and foreign policy hardliners are relentlessly pushing for a direct confrontation with Russia,  Obama has wisely pulled us back from the brink of disaster.

The question is: Would Hillary do the same?

Categories: Uncategorized

The Myth of the Anthropocene

by John Michael Greer

The Archdruid Report (October 05 28 2016)

Druid perspectives on nature, culture, and the future of industrial society

To explore the messy future that modern industrial society is making for itself, it’s necessary now and again to stray into some of the odd corners of human thought. Over the decade and a bit that this blog has been engaged in that exploration, accordingly, my readers and I have gone roaming through quite an assortment of topics – politics, religion, magic, many different areas of history, at least as many sciences, and the list goes on. This week, it’s time to ramble through geology, for reasons that go back to some of the basic presuppositions of our culture, and reach forward from there to the far future.

Over the last few years, a certain number of scientists, climate activists, and talking heads in the media have been claiming that the Earth has passed out of its previous geological epoch, the Holocene, into a new epoch, the Anthropocene. Their argument is straightforward: human beings have become a major force shaping geology, and that unprecedented reality requires a new moniker. Last I heard, the scholarly body that authorizes formal changes to that end of scientific terminology hasn’t yet approved the new term for official use, but it’s seeing increasing use in less formal settings.

I’d like to suggest that the proposed change is a mistake, and that the label “Anthropocene” should go into whatever circular file holds phlogiston, the luminiferous ether, and other scientific terms that didn’t turn out to represent realities. That’s not because I doubt that human beings are having a major impact on geology just now, far from it.  My reasons are somewhat complex, and will require a glance back over part of the history of geology – specifically, the evolution of the labels we use to talk about portions of the past. It’s going to be a bit of a long journey, but bear with me; it matters.

Back in the seventeenth century, when the modern study of geology first got under way, the Book of Genesis was considered to be an accurate account of the Earth’s early history, and so geologists looked for evidence of the flood that plopped Noah’s ark on Mount Ararat. They found it, too, or that’s what people believed at the time. By and large, anywhere you go in western Europe, you’ll be standing on one of three things; the first is rock, the second is an assortment of gravels and compact tills, and the third is soil. With vanishingly few exceptions, where they overlap, the rock is on the bottom, the gravels and tills are in the middle, and the soil is on top. Noting that some of the gravels and tills look like huge versions of the sandbars and other features shaped by moving water, the early geologists decided the middle layed had been left by the Flood – that’s diluvium in Latin – and so the three layers were named Antediluvian (“before the flood”), Diluvian, and Postdiluvian (“after the flood”).

So far, so good – except then they started looking at the Antediluvian layer, and found an assortment of evidence that seemed to imply that really vast amounts of time had passed between different layers of rock. During the early eighteenth century, as this sank in, the Book of Genesis lost its status as a geology textbook, and geologists came up with a new set of four labels: Primary, Secondary, Tertiary, and Quaternary. (These are fancy ways of saying “First, Second, Third, and Fourth”, in case you were wondering.) The Quaternary layer consisted of the former Diluvian and Postdiluvian gravels, tills, and soil; the Tertiary consisted of rocks and fossils that were found under those; the Secondary was the rocks and fossils below that, and the Primary was at the bottom.

It was a good scheme for the time; on the surface of the Earth, if you happen to live in western Europe and walk around a lot, you’ll see very roughly equal amounts of all four layers. What’s more, they  always occur in the order just given.  Where they overlap, the Primary is always under the Secondary, and so on; you never find Secondary rocks under Primary ones, except when the rock layers have obviously been folded by later geological forces. So geologists assigned them to four different periods of time, named after the layers – the Primary Era, the Secondary Era, and so on.

It took quite a bit of further work for geologists to get a handle on how much time was involved in each of these eras, and as the results of that line of research started to become clear, there was a collective gulp loud enough to echo off the Moon. Outside of India and a few Native American civilizations, nobody anywhere had imagined that the history of the Earth might involve not thousands of years, but billions of them. As this sank in, the geologists also realized that their four eras were of absurdly different lengths. The Quaternary was only two million years long; the Tertiary, around sixty-three million years; the Secondary, around one hundred eighty-six million years; and the Primary, from there back to the Earth’s origin, or better than four billion years.

So a new scheme was worked out. The Quaternary era became the Quaternary period, and it’s still the Quaternary today, even though it’s not the fourth of anything any more. The Tertiary also became a period – it later got broken up into the Paleogene and Neogene periods – and the Tertiary (or Paleogene and Neogene) and Quaternary between them made up the Cenozoic (Greek for “recent life”) era. The former Secondary era became the Mesozoic (“middle life”) era, and was divided into three periods; starting with the most recent, these are the Cretaceous, Jurassic, and Triassic. The former Primary era became the Paleozoic (“old life”) era, and was divided into six periods; again, starting with the most recent, these were are the Permian, Carboniferous, Devonian, Silurian, Ordovician, and Cambrian. The Cambrian started around 542 million years ago, and everything before then – all three billion years and change – was tossed into the vast dark basement of the Precambrian.

It was a pretty good system, and one of the things that was pretty good about it is that the periods were of very roughly equal length. Thus the Paleozoic had twice as many periods as the Mesozoic, and it lasted around twice as long. The Mesozoic, in turn, had three times as many complete periods as the Cenozoic did (in pre-Paleogene and Neogene days) – the Quaternary has just gotten started, remember – and it’s around three times as long. I don’t know how many of my readers, as children, delighted in the fact that the whole Cenozoic era – the Age of Mammals, as it was often called – could be dropped into the Cretaceous period with room to spare on either end, but I did. I decorated one of my school notebooks with a crisp little drawing of a scoreboard that read DINOSAURS 3, MAMMALS 1. No, nobody else got the joke.

In recent decades, things have been reshuffled a bit more.  The Precambrian basement has been explored in quite some detail, and what used to be deliciously named the Cryptozoic eon has now sadly been broken up into Proterozoic and Archean eons, and divided into periods to boot. We can let that pass, though, because it’s the other end of the time scale that concerns us. Since Cenozoic rock makes up so much of the surface – being the most recently laid down, after all – geologists soon broke up the Tertiary and Quaternary periods into six shorter units, called epochs: from first to last, Eocene, Oligocene, Miocene, Pliocene, Pleistocene, and Holocene. (These are Greek again, and mean “dawn recent, few recent, some recent, many recent, most recent”, and “entirely recent” – the reference is to how many living things in each epoch look like the ones running around today.) Later, the Eocene got chopped in two to yield the Paleocene (“old recent”) and Eocene. Yes, that “-cene” ending – also the first syllable in Cenozoic – is the second half of the label “Anthropocene”, the human-recent.

The thing to keep in mind is that an epoch is a big chunk of time. The six of them that are definitely over with at this point lasted an average of almost eleven million years a piece. (For purposes of comparison, eleven million years is around 2200 times the length of all recorded human history.) The exception is the Holocene, which is only 11,700 years old at present, or only about 0.001% of the average length of an epoch. It makes sense to call the Holocene an epoch, in other words, if it’s just beginning and still has millions of years to run.

If in fact the Holocene is over and the Anthropocene is under way, though, the Holocene isn’t an epoch at all in any meaningful sense. It’s the tag-end of the Pleistocene, or a transition between the Pleistocene and whichever epoch comes next, whether that be labeled Anthropocene or something else. You can find such transitions between every epoch and the next, every period and the next, and every era and the next. They’re usually quite distinctive, because these different geological divisions aren’t mere abstractions; the change from one to another is right there in the rock strata, usually well marked by sharp changes in a range of markers, including fossils. Some long-vanished species trickle out in the middle of an epoch, to be sure, but one of the things that often marks the end of an epoch, a period, or an era is that a whole mess of extinctions all happen in the transition from one unit of time to the next.

Let’s look at a few examples to sharpen that last point. The Pleistocene epoch was short as epochs go, only a little more than two and a half million years; it was a period of severe global cooling, which is why it’s better known as the ice age; and a number of its typical animals – mammoths, sabertooth tigers, and woolly rhinoceri in North America, giant ground sloths and glyptodons in South America, cave bears and mastodons in Europe, and so on – went extinct all at once during the short transition period at its end, when the climate warmed abruptly and a wave of invasive generalist predators (that is, your ancestors and mine) spread through ecosystems that were already in extreme turmoil. That’s a typical end-of-epoch mess.

Periods are bigger than epochs, and the end of a period is accordingly a bigger deal. Let’s take the end of the Triassic as a good example. Back in the day, the whole Mesozoic era routinely got called “the Age of Reptiles”, but until the Triassic ended it was anybody’s guess whether the dinosaurs or the therapsid almost-mammals would end up at the top of the ecological heap. The end-Triassic extinction crisis put an end to the struggle by putting an end to most of the therapsids, along with a lot of other living things. The biggest of the early dinosaurs died off as well, but the smaller ones thrived, and their descendants went on to become the huge and remarkably successful critters of the Jurassic and Cretaceous. That’s a typical end-of-period mess.

Eras are bigger than periods, and they always end with whopping crises. The most recent example, of course, is the end of the Mesozoic era 65 million years ago. Forty per cent of the animal families on the planet, including species that had been around for hundreds of millions of years, died pretty much all at once. (The current theory, well backed up by the data, is that a good-sized comet slammed into what’s now the Yucatan peninsula, and the bulk of the dieoff was over in just a few years.) Was that the worst extinction crisis ever? Not a chance; the end of the Paleozoic 251 million years ago was slower but far more ghastly, with around ninety-five per cent of all species on the casualty list. Some paleontologists, without undue exaggeration, describe the end-Paleozoic crisis as the time Earth nearly died.

So the landscape of time revealed to us by geology shows intervals of relative stability – epochs, periods, and eras – broken up by short transition periods. If you go for a walk in country where the rock formations have been exposed, you can literally see the divisions in front of you: here’s a layer of one kind of rock a foot or two thick, laid down as sediment over millions of years and then compressed into stone over millions more; here’s a thin boundary layer, or simply an abrupt line of change, and above it there’s a different kind of rock, consisting of sediment laid down under different climatic and environmental conditions.

If you’ve got a decent geological laboratory handy and apply the usual tests to a couple of rock samples, one from the middle of an epoch and the other from a boundary layer, the differences are hard to miss. The boundary layer made when the Mesozoic ended and the Cenozoic began is a good example. The Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary layer is spiked with iridium, from space dust brought to earth by the comet; it’s full of carbon from fires that were kindled by the impact over many millions of square miles; and the one trace of life you’ll find is a great many fungal spores – dust blown into the upper atmosphere choked out the sun and left most plants on Earth dead and rotting, with results that rolled right up the food chain to the tyrannosaurs and their kin. You won’t find such anomalies clustering in the rock sample from the middle of the epoch; what you’ll find in nearly every case is evidence of gradual change and ordinary geological processes at work.

Now ask yourself this, dear reader: which of these most resembles the trace that human industrial civilization is in the process of leaving for the rock formations of the far future?

It’s crucial to remember that the drastic geological impacts that have inspired some scientists to make use of the term “Anthropocene” are self-terminating in at least two senses. On the one hand, those impacts are possible because, and only because, our species is busily burning through stores of fossil carbon that took half a billion years for natural processes to stash in the rocks, and ripping through equally finite stores of other nonrenewable resources, some of which took even longer to find their way into the deposits we mine so greedily. On the other hand, by destabilizing the climate and sending cascading disturbances in motion through a good-sized collection of other natural cycles, those impacts are in the process of wrecking the infrastructure that industrial society needs to go its merry way.

Confronted with the tightening vise between accelerating resource depletion and accelerating biosphere disruption, the vast majority of people in the industrial world seem content to insist that they can have their planet and eat it too. The conventional wisdom holds that someone, somewhere, will think of something that will allow us to replace Earth’s rapidly emptying fuel tanks and resource stocks, on the one hand, and stabilize its increasingly violent climatic and ecological cycles, on the other.  That blind faith remains welded in place even as decade after decade slips past, one supposed solution after another fails, and the stark warnings of forty years ago have become the front page news stories of today. Nothing is changing, except that the news just keeps getting worse.

That’s the simple reality of the predicament in which we find ourselves today. Our way of life, here in the world’s industrial nations, guarantees that in the fairly near future, no one anywhere on the planet will be able to live the way we do. As resources run out, alternatives fail, and the destructive impacts of climate change pile up, our ability to influence geological processes will go away, and leave us once more on the receiving end of natural cycles we can do little to change.

A hundred million years from now, as a result, if another intelligent species happens to be around on Earth at that time and takes an interest in geology, its members won’t find a nice thick stratum of rock marked with the signs of human activity, corresponding to an Anthropocene epoch. They’ll find a thin boundary layer, laid down over a few hundred years, and laced with exotic markers: decay products of radioactive isotopes splashed into the atmosphere by twentieth-century nuclear bomb testing and nuclear reactor meltdowns; chemical markers showing a steep upward jolt in atmospheric carbon dioxide; and scattered freely through the layer, micron-thick streaks of odd carbon compounds that are all that’s left of our vast production of plastic trash. That’s our geological legacy: a slightly odd transition layer a quarter of an inch thick, with the usual discontinuity between the species in the rock just below, many of whom vanish at the transition, and the species in the rock just above, who proliferate into empty ecological niches and evolve into new forms.

In place of the misleading label “Anthropocene”, then, I’d like to propose that we call the geological interval we’re now in the Pleistocene-Neocene transition. Neocene? That’s Greek for “new recent”, representing the “new normal” that will emerge when our idiotic maltreatment of the planet that keeps us all alive brings the “old normal” crashing down around our ears. We don’t call the first epoch after the comet impact 65 million years ago the “Cometocene”, so there’s no valid reason to use a label like “Anthropocene” for the epoch that will dawn when the current transition winds down. Industrial civilization’s giddy rise and impending fall are the trigger for the transition, and nothing more; the shape of the Neocene epoch will be determined not by us, but by the ordinary processes of planetary change and evolution.

Those processes have been responding to the end of the so-called Holocene – let’s rename it the Late Pleistocene, given how extremely short it turned out to be – in the usual manner.  Around the world, ice caps are melting, climate belts are shifting, acid-intolerant species in the ocean are being replaced by acid-tolerant ones, and generalist species of animals such as cats, coyotes, and feral pigs are spreading rapidly through increasingly chaotic ecosystems, occupying vacant ecological niches or elbowing less flexible competitors out of the way. By the time the transition winds down a few centuries from now, the species that have been able to adapt to new conditions and spread into new environments will be ready for evolutionary radiation; another half a million years or so, and the Neocene will be stocked with the first preliminary draft of its typical flora and fauna.

It’s entertaining, at least to me, to speculate about what critters will roam the desert sands of Kansas and Nebraska or stalk its prey in the forests of postglacial Greenland. To many of my readers, though, I suspect a more pressing question is whether a certain primate called Homo sapiens will be among the common fauna of the Neocene. I suspect so, though of course none of us can be sure – but giving up on the fantasy that’s embodied in the label “Anthropocene”, the delusion that what our civilization is doing just now is going to keep on long enough to fill a geological epoch, is a good step in the direction of our survival.


John Michael Greer is Past Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America {1}, current head of the Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn {2}, and the author of more than thirty books on a wide range of subjects, including peak oil and the future of industrial society. He lives in Cumberland, Maryland, an old red brick mill town in the north central Appalachians, with his wife Sara.

If you enjoy this blog and can handle discussions of Druidry, magic, and occult philosophy, you might like my other blog, Well of Galabes {3}.





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Hillary Clinton’s Axis of Evil

by Pepe Escobar

CounterPunch (October 13 2016)

Anticipating an outcome of the US presidential election as a remix of the 1972 Nixon landslide, Hillary has also coined, George “Dubya” Bush-style, a remixed axis of evil: Russia, Iran and “the Assad regime”.

That’s not even counting China, which, via “aggression” in the South China Sea, will also feature as a certified foe for the Founding Mother of the pivot to Asia.

And if all that was not worrying enough, Turkey now seems on the path to join the axis. President Putin and President Erdogan met in Istanbul. Moscow positioned itself as ready to develop large-scale military-technical cooperation with Ankara. That includes, of course, the $20 billion, Rosatom-built, four-reactor Akkuyu nuclear power plant. And the drive to “speed up the work” on Turkish Stream – which will de facto strengthen even more Russia’s position in the European gas market, bypassing Ukraine for good, while sealing Ankara’s position as a key East-West energy crossroads. In addition, both Moscow and Ankara back UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura’s position that “moderate rebels” (the Beltway’s terminology) holding eastern Aleppo hostage must be eradicated.

The geopolitical game-changer is self-evident. As much as Erdogan may be a whirling political dervish, impossible to fathom and trust, while Putin is a master of the strategic long game, Moscow’s and Ankara’s interests tend to converge in the New Great Game; and that spells out closer integration in the dawn of the Eurasian Century.

Quite a cup of hemlock for Hillary Clinton, who has already equated Putin with Hitler. Regime change or hot war?

In the appalling spectacle that turned out to be round two of the interminable Trump/Clinton cage match, Donald Trump once again made a rational point – expressing his wish for a normalized working relationship with Russia. Yet that is absolute anathema for the War Party, as in the neocon/neoliberalcon nebulae in the Beltway-Wall Street axis.

The Clinton (Cash) Machine-controlled Democrats once again condemned Trump as a tool of Putin while bewildered Republicans condemned Trump because he goes against “mainstream Republican thinking”.

Here’s what Trump said; “I don’t like Assad at all, but Assad is killing ISIS. Russia is killing ISIS and Iran is killing ISIS.”

Trump’s outlook on Southwest Asia relies on only one vector; destroy ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. That’s what adviser and former Defense Intelligence Agency (“DIA”) director, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, has been infiltrating into Trump’s notoriously short attention span.

Flynn may have admitted on the record that ISIS/ISIL/Daesh’s progress was a “willful” decision taken by the Obama administration. Yet in his disjointed book Field of Fight, Flynn insists that, “the Russians haven’t been very effective at fighting jihadis on their own territory”, are “in cahoots with the Iranians”, and “the great bulk of their efforts are aimed at the opponents of the Assad regime”.

This is a neocon mantra; unsurprisingly, the co-author of Flynn’s book is neocon Michael Ledeen.

From dodgy American Enterprise Institute (“AEI”) and Washington Institute for Near East Policy (“WINEP”) armchair “experts” to former counselors at the State Department, they all subscribe to the laughable view that the remixed axis of evil – now fully adopted by Hillary – is useless against jihadis; the good guys doing the difficult work are “the US-led coalition”. And damn those who dare criticizing the “relative moderates” backed by the CIA.

What Trump said is anathema not only for establishment Republicans who despise Obama for not fighting against the Hillary-adopted remixed axis of evil. The real mortal sin is that it “disregards” core US foreign policy bipartisan assumptions held to be as sacred as the Bible.

Thus the success of the neocon Ash Carter-led Pentagon in bombing the Kerry-Lavrov ceasefire deal which would imply coordinated airstrikes against both ISIS/ISIL/Daesh and the Front for the Conquest of Syria, formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, aka al-Qaeda in Syria.

Neocons and mainstream Republicans blame lame duck Team Obama for the “unholy reliance” on Russia and Iran, while neoliberalcons blame Russia outright. And high in the altar of righteousness, hysteria rules, with the neocon president of the NED calling for the US government to “summon the will” to pull a Putin regime change.

Ready to go nuclear? Hillary Clinton continues to insist the US is not at war with Islam. The US is de facto at war in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan’s tribal areas; involved in covert war in Iran; and has totally destroyed Libya. It’s not hard to do the math.

In parallel, the deafening talk about Washington now advancing a Plan C in Syria is nonsense. There has never been a Plan C; only Plan A, which was to draw Russia into another Afghanistan. It did not work with the controlled demolition of Ukraine. And it will not work in Syria, as Moscow is willing to supply plenty of air and missile power but no boots on the ground of any consequence. That’s a matter for the Syrian Arab Army (“SAA”), Iran and its Shi’ite militias, and Hezbollah.

Ash Carter has threatened Russia with “consequences”. After blowing up the ceasefire, the Pentagon – supported by the Joint Chiefs of Staff – now is peddling “potential strikes” on Syria’s air force to “punish the regime” for what the Pentagon actually did; blow up the ceasefire. One can’t make this stuff up. Major General Igor Konashenkov, Russia’s Defense Ministry spokesman, sent a swift message to “our colleagues in Washington”; think twice if you believe you can get away with launching a “shadow” hot war against Russia. Russia will target any stealth/unidentified aircraft attacking Syrian government targets – and they will be shot down. The only serious question then is whether an out of control Pentagon will force the Russian Air Force – false flag and otherwise – to knock out US Air Force fighter jets, and whether Moscow has the fire power to take out each and every one of them.

So in this three-month window representing the “death throes” of the Obama era, before the likely enthronization of the Queen of War, the question is whether the Pentagon will risk launching World War Three because “Aleppo is falling”.

Afterwards, things are bound to get even more lethal. The US government is holding open a first-strike nuclear capacity against Russia. Hillary firmly supports it, as Trump made clear he “would not do first-strike”.

The prospect of having axis of evil practitioner Hillary Clinton with her fingers on the nuclear button must be seen as the most life-and-death issue in this whole circus.

This piece first appeared at

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