Category: Weapons of Mass Destruction


War is a frivolous waste of resources spurred on by frivolous greedy mongers…

Photo by Stefan Krasowski | CC BY 2.0

We are fighting in Korea so we won’t have to fight in Wichita, or in Chicago, or in New Orleans, or in San Francisco Bay.

— President Harry S Truman, 1952

Why has this tiny nation of 24 million people invested so much of its limited resources in acquiring nuclear weapons? North Korea is universally condemned as a bizarre and failed state, its nuclear posture denounced as irrational.

Yet North Korea’s stance cannot be separated out from its turbulent history during the 20th Century, especially its four decade long occupation by Japan, the forced division of the Korean peninsula after World War II, and, of course, the subsequent utterly devastating war with the United States from 1950-1953 that ended in an armistice in which a technical state of war still exists.

Korea is an ancient nation and culture, achieving national unity in 608 CE, and despite its near envelopment by gigantic China it has retained its own unique language and traditions throughout its recorded history. National independence came to an end in 1910 after five years of war when Japan, taking advantage of Chinese weakness, invaded and occupied Korea using impressed labor for the industries Japan created for the benefit of its own economy. As always the case for colonization the Japanese easily found collaborators among the Korean elite Koreans to manage their first colony.

Naturally a nationalist resistance movement emerged rapidly and, given the history of the early 20th Century, it was not long before communists began to play a significant role in Korea’s effort to regain its independence. The primary form of resistance came in the form of “peoples’ committees” which became deeply rooted throughout the entire peninsula, pointedly in the south as well. It was from these deeply political and nationalistic village and city committees that guerrilla groups engaged the Japanese throughout WWII. The parallels with similar organizations in Vietnam against the Japanese, and later against the French and Americans, are obvious. Another analogous similarity is that Franklin Roosevelt also wanted a Great Power trusteeship for Korea, as for Vietnam. Needless to say both Britain and France objected to this plan.

When Russia entered the war against Japanese in August of 1945 the end of Japanese rule was at hand regardless of the atomic bomb. As events turned out Japan surrendered on 15 August when Soviet troops had occupied much of the northern peninsula. It should be noted that American forces played no role in the liberation of Korea from Japanese rule. However, because the Soviets, as allies of the U.S., wished to remain on friendly terms they agreed to the division of Korea between Soviet and American forces. The young Dean Rusk, later to become Secretary of State under Kennedy and Johnson, arbitrarily drew a line of division across the 38th Parallel because, as he said, that would leave the capital city, Seoul, in the American zone.

Written reports at the time criticized Washington for “allowing” the Red Army into Korea but the fact was it was the other way around. The Soviets could easily have occupied the entirety of Korea but chose not to do so, instead opting for a negotiated settlement with the U.S. over the future of Korea. Theoretically the peninsula would be reunited after some agreement between the two victors at some future date.

However, the U.S. immediately began to favor those Koreans who had collaborated with the Japanese in the exploitation of their own country and its people, largely the landed elites, and Washington began to arm the provisional government it set up to root out the peoples’ committees. For their part the Soviets supported the communist nationalist leader, Kim Il-Sung who had led the guerrilla army against Japan at great cost in lives.

In 1947 the United Nations authorized elections in Korea, but the election monitors were all American allies so the Soviets and communist Koreans refused to participate. By then the Cold War was in full swing, the critical alliance between Washington and Moscow that had defeated Nazi Germany had already been sundered. As would later also occur in Vietnam in 1956, the U.S. oversaw elections only in the south of Korea and only those candidates approved by Washington. Syngman Rhee became South Korea’s first president protected by the new American armed and trained Army of the Republic of Korea. This ROK was commanded by officers who had served the Japanese occupation including one who had been decorated by Emperor Hirohito himself and who had tried to track down and kill Kim Il Sung for the Japanese.

With Korea thus seemingly divided permanently both Russian and American troops withdrew in 1948 though they left “advisers” behind. On both sides of the new artificial border pressures mounted for a forcible reunification. The fact remained that much of rural southern Korea was still loyal to the peoples committees. This did not necessarily mean that they were committed communists but they were virulent nationalists who recognized the role that Kim’s forces had played against the Japanese. Rhee’s forces then began to systematically root out Kim’s supporters. Meanwhile the American advisers had constantly to keep Rhee’s forces from crossing the border to invade the north.

In 1948 guerrilla war broke out against the Rhee regime on the southern island of Cheju, the population of which ultimately rose in wholesale revolt. The suppression of the rebellion was guided by many American agents soon to become part of the Central Intelligence Agency and by military advisers. Eventually the entire population was removed to the coast and kept in guarded compounds and between 20,000 and 30,000 villagers died. Simultaneously elements of the ROK army refused to participate in this war against their own people and this mutiny was brutally suppressed by those ROK soldiers who would obey such orders. Over one thousand of the mutineers escaped to join Kim’s guerrillas in the mountains.

Though Washington claimed that these rebellions were fomented by the communists no evidence surfaced that the Soviets provided anything other than moral support. Most of the rebels captured or killed had Japanese or American weapons.

In North Korea the political system had evolved in response to decades of foreign occupation and war. Though it was always assumed to be a Soviet satellite, North Korea more nearly bears comparison to Tito’s Yugoslavia. The North Koreans were always able to balance the tensions between the Soviets and the Chinese to their own advantage. During the period when the Comintern exercised most influence over national communist parties not a single Korean communist served in any capacity and the number of Soviet advisers in the north was never high.

Nineteen forty-nine marked a watershed year. The Chinese Communist Revolution, the Soviet Atomic Bomb, the massive reorganization of the National Security State in the U.S. all occurred that year. In 1950 Washington issued its famous National Security Paper-68 (NSC-68) which outlined the agenda for a global anti-communist campaign, requiring the tripling of the American defense budget. Congress balked at this all-encompassing blueprint when in the deathless words of Secretary of State Dean Acheson “Thank God! Korea came along.” Only months before Acheson had made a speech in which he pointedly omitted Korea from America’s “Defense perimeter.”

The Korean War seemed to vindicate everything written and said about the” international communist conspiracy. In popular myth on June 25, 1950 the North Korean Army suddenly attacked without warning, overwhelming surprised ROK defenders. In fact the entire 38th Parallel had been progressively militarized and there had been numerous cross border incursions by both sides going back to 1949. On numerous occasions Syngman Rhee had to be restrained by American advisers from invading the north. The Korean civil war was all but inevitable. Given postwar American plans for access globally to resources, markets and cheaper labor power any form of national liberation, communist or liberal democratic, was to be opposed. Acheson and his second, Dean Rusk, told President Truman that “we must draw the line here!” Truman decided to request authorization for American intervention from the United Nations and bypassed Congress thereby leading to widespread opposition and, later, a return to Republican rule under Dwight Eisenhower..

Among the remaining mysteries of the UN decision to undertake the American led military effort to reject North Korea from the south was the USSR’s failure to make use of its veto in the Security Council. The Soviet ambassador was ostensibly boycotting the meetings in protest of the UN’s refusal to seat the Chinese communists as China’s official delegation. According to Bruce Cumings though, evidence exists that Stalin ordered the Soviet ambassador to abstain. Why? The UN resolution authorizing war could have been prevented. At that moment the Sino-Soviet split was already in evidence and Stalin may have wished to weaken China, something which actually happened as a result of that nation’s subsequent entry into the war. Or he may have wished that cloaking the UN mission under the U.S. flag would have revealed the UN to be largely under the control of the United States, which indeed it was. What is known is that Stalin refused to allow Soviet combat troops and reduced shipments of arms to Kim’s forces. Later, however Soviet pilots would engage Americans in the air. The Chinese were quick to condemn the UN action as “American imperialism” and warned of dire consequences if China itself were threatened.

The war went badly at first for the U.S. despite numerical advantages in forces. Rout after rout followed with the ROK in full retreat. Meanwhile tens of thousands of southern guerrillas who had originated in peoples’ committees fought the Americans and the ROK. At one point the North Koreans were in control of Seoul and seemed about to drive American forces into the sea. At that point the commander- in-chief of all UN forces, General Douglas MacArthur,  announced that he saw unique opportunities for the deployment of atomic weapons. This call was taken up by many in Congress.

Truman was loathe to introduce nukes and instead authorized MacArthur to conduct the famous landings at Inchon in September 1950 with few losses by the Marine Corps vaunted 1st Division. This threw North Korean troops into disarray and MacArthur began pushing them back across the 38th Parallel, the mandate imposed by the UN resolution. But the State Department claimed that the border was not recognized under international law and therefore the UN mandate had no real legal bearing. It was this that MacArthur claimed gave him the right to take the war into the north. Though the North Koreans had suffered a resounding defeat in the south, they withdrew into northern mountain redoubts forcing the American forces that followed them into bloody and costly combat, led Americans into a trap.

The Chinese had said from the beginning that any approach of foreign troops toward their border would result in “dire consequences.” Fearing an invasion of Manchuria to crush the nascent communist revolution the Chinese foreign minister, Zhou En-Lai declared that China “will not supinely tolerate seeing their neighbors invaded by the imperialists.” MacArthur sneered at this warning. “… They have no airforce…if the Chinese tried to get down to Pyongyang there would be a great slaughter…we are the best.” He then ordered airstrikes to lay waste thousands of square miles of northern Korea bordering China and ordered infantry divisions ever closer to its border.

It was the terrible devastation of this bombing campaign, worse than anything seen during World War II short of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that to this day dominates North Korea’s relations with the United States and drives its determination never to submit to any American diktat.

General Curtis Lemay directed this onslaught. It was he who had firebombed Tokyo in March 1945 saying it was “about time we stopped swatting at flies and gone after the manure pile.” It was he who later said that the US “ought to bomb North Vietnam back into the stone age.” Remarking about his desire to lay waste to North Korea he said “We burned down every town in North Korea and South Korea too.” Lemay was by no means exaggerating.

On November 27, 1950 hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops suddenly crossed the border into North Korea completely overwhelming US forces. Acheson said this was the “worst defeat of American forces since Bull Run.” One famous incident was the battle at the Chosin Reservoir, where 50,000 US marines were surrounded. As they escaped their enclosure they  said they were “advancing to the rear” but in fact all American forces were being routed.

Panic took hold in Washington. Truman now said use of A-bombs was under “active consideration.” MacArthur demanded the bombs… As he put it in his memoirs:

I would have dropped between thirty and fifty atomic bombs…strung across the neck of Manchuria…and spread behind us – from the Sea of Japan to the Yellow Sea- a belt of radioactive cobalt. It has an active life of between 60 and 120 years.

Cobalt it should be noted is at least 100 times more radioactive than uranium.

He also expressed a desire for chemicals and gas.

It is well known that MacArthur was fired for insubordination for publically announcing his desire to use nukes. Actually, Truman himself put the nukes at ready and threatened to use them if China launched air raids against American forces. But he did not want to put them under MacArthur’s command because he feared MacArthur would conduct a preemptive strike against China anyway.

By June 1951, one year after the beginning of the war, the communists had pushed UN forces back across the 38th parallel. Chinese ground forces might have been able to push the entire UN force off the peninsula entirely but that would not have negated US naval and air forces, and would have probably resulted in nuclear strikes against the Chinese mainland and that brought the real risk of Soviet entry and all out nuclear exchanges. So from this point on the war became one of attrition, much like the trench warfare of World War I. casualties continued to be high on both sides for the duration of the war which lasted until 1953 when an armistice without reunification was signed.

Of course the victims suffering worst were the civilians. In 1951 the U.S. initiated “Operation Strangle” which officialls estimated killed at least 3 million people on both sides of the 38th parallel, but the figure is probably closer to 4 million. We do not know how many Chinese died – either solders or civilians killed in cross border bombings.

The question of whether the U.S. carried out germ warfare has been raised but has never been fully proved or disproved. The North accused the U.S. of dropping bombs laden with cholera, anthrax, plague, and encephalitis and hemorrhagic fever, all of which turned up among soldiers and civilians in the north. Some American prisoners of war confessed to such war crimes but these were dismissed as evidence of torture by North Korea on Americans. However, none of the U.S. POWs who did confess and were later repatriated were allowed to meet the press. A number of investigations were carried out by scientists from friendly western countries. One of the most prominent concluded the charges were true. At this time the US was engaged in top secret germ-warfare research with captured Nazi and Japanese germ warfare experts, and also experimenting with Sarin, despite its ban by the Geneva Convention. Washington accused the communists of introducing germ warfare.

Napalm was used extensively, completely and utterly destroying the northern capital of Pyongyang. By 1953 American pilots were returning to carriers and bases claiming there were no longer any significant targets in all of North Korea to bomb. In fact a very large percentage of the northern population was by then living in tunnels dug by hand underground. A British journalist wrote that the northern population was living “a troglodyte existence.”In the Spring of 1953 US warplanes hit five of the largest dams along the Yalu river completely inundating and killing Pyongyang’s harvest of rice. Air Force documents reveal calculated premeditation saying that “Attacks in May will be most effective psychologically because it was the end of the rice-transplanting season before the roots could become completely embedded.” Flash floods scooped out hundreds of square miles of vital food producing valleys and killed untold numbers of farmers.

At Nuremberg after WWII, Nazi officers who carried out similar attacks on the dikes of Holland, creating a mass famine in 1944, were tried as criminals and some were executed for their crimes.

So after a horrific war Korea returned to the status quo ante bellum in terms of political boundaries but it was completely devastated, especially the north.

I submit that it is the collective memory of all of what I’ve described that animates North Korea’s policies toward the US today which has nuclear weapons on constant alert and stations almost 30,000 forces at the ready. Remember, a state of war still exists and has since 1953.

While South Korea received heavy American investment in the industries fleeing the United States in search of cheaper labor and new markets it was nevertheless ruled until quite recently by military dictatorships scarcely different than those of the north. For its part the north constructed its economy along five-year plans and collectivized its agriculture. While it never enjoyed the sort of consumer society that now characterizes some of South Korea, its GDP grew substantially until the collapse of communism globally brought about the withdrawal of all foreign aid to north Korea.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, as some American policymakers took note of the north’s growing weakness  Secretary  of Defense Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz talked openly of using force finally to settle the question of Korean reunification and the claimed threat to international peace posed by North Korea.

In 1993 the Clinton Administration discovered that North Korea was constructing a nuclear processing plant and also developing medium range missiles. The Pentagon desired to destroy these facilities but that would mean wholesale war so the administration fostered an agreement whereby North Korea would stand down in return for the provision of oil and other economic aid. When in 2001, after the events of 9-11, the Bush II neo-conservatives militarized policy and declared North Korea to be an element of the “axis of evil.” All bets were now off. In that context North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, reasoning that nuclear weapons were the only way possible to prevent a full scale attack by the US in the future. Given a stark choice between another war with the US and all that would entail this decision seems hardly surprising. Under no circumstances could any westerner reasonably expect, after all the history I’ve described, that the North Korean regime would simply submit to any ultimatums by the US, by far the worst enemy Korea ever had measured by the damage inflicted on the entirety of the Korean peninsula.

(Acknowledgement to Bruce Cumings and I.F. Stone)

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April 30, 2017

By Stephen Gowans

A day before my book Washington’s Long War on Syria was sent to the press, I read a short essay by a notable Canadian, Norman Bethune. The essay was titled Wounds. Bethune was a skilled and innovative surgeon who was at the forefront of the fight for public health care in Canada. But he’s mainly known for participating in two wars in the late 1930s: The Spanish Civil War and the Second Sino-Japanese War. In the Second Sino-Japanese War Bethune joined Mao’s forces as a frontline surgeon in the resistance against Japanese efforts to colonize China.

In an April 27, 2017 Telesur interview, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad argued that US presidents “merely implement” policies formulated by US “financial institutions,” “big arms and oil companies,” as well as “the intelligence agencies” and “the Pentagon.” It was in China that Bethune wrote his essay, a…

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Trump's Fog of WarA blank expression, try, pod, raise a canvas, ink blot, coin, phrase, draw some lines… then cross them, cover them up, add a few more chemicals and what emerges? Is it History, Art or the Art of War History?

World News - US Missile Attack on Syria - Reuters handout

Russia, Iran Warn U.S. They Will “Respond With Force” If Syria “Red Lines” Crossed Again

Competing Gas Pipelines Are Fueling The Syrian War & Migrant Crisis

Don’t let anyone fool you: As we have detailed since 2013, sectarian strife in Syria has been engineered to provide cover for a war for access to oil and gas, and the power and money that come along with it.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect recent Wikileaks revelations of US State Department leaks that show plans to destabilize Syria and overthrow the Syrian government as early as 2006.  The leaks reveal that these plans were given to the US directly from the Israeli government and would be formalized through instigating civil strife and sectarianism through partnership with nations like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and even Egypt to break down the power structue in Syria to essentially to weaken Iran and Hezbolla. The leaks also reveal Israeli plans to use this crisis to expand it’s occupation of the Golan Heights for additional oil exploration and military expansion.

Images of Aylan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy who washed up dead on Mediterranean shores in his family’s attempt to flee war-torn Syria, have grabbed the attention of people around the world, sparking outrage about the true costs of war.

The heart-wrenching refugee crisis unfolding across the Middle East and at European borders has ignited a much needed conversation on the ongoing strife and instability that’s driving people from their homes in countries like Syria, Libya and Iraq. It’s brought international attention to the inhumane treatment these refugees are receiving if — and it is a major “if” — they arrive at Europe’s door.

In Syria, for example, foreign powers have sunk the nation into a nightmare combination of civil war, foreign invasion and terrorism. Syrians are in the impossible position of having to choose between living in a warzone, being targeted by groups like ISIS and the Syrian government’s brutal crackdown, or faring dangerous waters with minimal safety equipment only to be denied food, water and safety by European governments if they reach shore.

Other Syrians fleeing the chaos at home have turned to neighboring Arab Muslim countries. Jordan alone has absorbed over half a million Syrian refugees; Lebanon has accepted nearly 1.5 million; and Iraq and Egypt have taken in several hundred thousand.

Although it’s not an Arab nation or even part of the Middle East, Iran sent 150 tons of humanitarian goods, including 3,000 tents and 10,000 blankets, to the Red Crescents of Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon via land routes to be distributed among the Syrian refugees residing in the three countries last year.

Turkey has taken in nearly 2 million refugees to date. Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Erdogan made international headlines for opening his nation’s arms to migrants, positioning himself as a kind of savior in the process.

A paramilitary police officer carries the lifeless body of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi after he drowned when the boat he and his family members were in capsized near the Turkish resort of Bodrum early Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015. (Photo: Nilüfer Demir/DHA)

Meanwhile, Gulf Arab nations like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have provided refuge to zero Syrian refugees.

While there’s certainly a conversation taking place about refugees — who they are, where they’re going, who’s helping them, and who isn’t — what’s absent is a discussion on how to prevent these wars from starting in the first place. Media outlets and political talking heads have found many opportunities to point fingers in the blame game, but not one media organization has accurately broken down what’s driving the chaos: control over gas, oil and resources.

Indeed, it’s worth asking: How did demonstrations held by “hundreds” of protesters demanding economic change in Syria four years ago devolve into a deadly sectarian civil war, fanning the flames of extremism haunting the world today and creating the world’s second largest refugee crisis?

While the media points its finger to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s barrel bombs and political analysts call for more airstrikes against ISIS and harsher sanctions against Syria, we’re four years into the crisis and most people have no idea how this war even got started.

This “civil war” is not about religion

Citing a lack of access on the ground, the United Nations stopped regularly updating its numbers of casualties in the Syrian civil war in January 2014. Estimates put the death toll between 140,200 and 330,380, with as many as 6 million Syrians displaced, according to the U.N.

While there is no question that the Syrian government is responsible for many of the casualties resulting from its brutal crackdown, this is not just a Syrian problem.

Foreign meddling in Syria began several years before the Syrian revolt erupted.  Wikieaks released leaked US State Department cables from 2006 revealing US plans to overthrow the Syrian government through instigating civil strife, and receiving these very orders straight from Tel Aviv.  The leaks reveal the United State’s partnership with nations like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and even Egypt to use sectarianism to divide Syria through the Sunni and Shiite divide to destabilize the nation to weaken Iran and Hezbolla.  Israel is also revealed to attempt to use this crisis to expand it’s occupation of the Golan Heights for additional oil exploration.

According to major media outlets like the BBC and the Associated Press, the demonstrations that supposedly swept Syria were comprised of only hundreds of people, but additional Wikileaks cables reveal CIA involvement on the ground in Syria to instigate these very demonstrations as early as March 2011.

FILE - In this Monday, Dec. 19, 2011 file photo, Syrians hold a large poster depicting Syria's President Bashar Assad during a rally in Damascus, Syria. Some activists expressed regret that one year later their

Just a few months into the demonstrations which now consisted of hundreds of armed protesters with CIA ties, demonstrations grew larger, armed non-Syrian rebel groups swarmed into Syria, and a severe government crackdown swept through the country to deter this foreign meddling. It became evident that the United States, United Kingdom, France, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey would be jumping on the opportunity to organize, arm and finance rebels to form the Free Syrian Army as outlined in the State Department plans to destabilize Syria. (Just a few months ago, WikiLeaks confirmed this when it released Saudi intelligence that revealed Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia had been working hand in hand to arm and finance rebels to overthrow the Syrian government since 2012.)

These foreign nations created a pact in 2012 called “The Group of Friends of the Syrian People,” a name that couldn’t be further from the truth. Their agenda was to divide and conquer in order to wreak havoc across Syria in view of overthrowing Syrian President Bashar Assad.

A Free Syrian Army soldier carries his weapon at the northern town of Sarmada, in Idlib province, Syria, Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012. (AP Photo)

The true agenda to hijack Syria’s revolt quickly became evident, with talking heads inserting Syria’s alliance with Iran as a threat to the security and interests of the United States and its allies in the region. It’s no secret that Syria’s government is a major arms, oil and gas, and weapons ally of Iran and Lebanon’s resistance political group Hezbollah.

But it’s important to note the timing: This coalition and meddling in Syria came about immediately on the heels of discussions of an Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline that was to be built between 2014 and 2016 from Iran’s giant South Pars field through Iraq and Syria. With a possible extension to Lebanon, it would eventually reach Europe, the target export market.

Perhaps the most accurate description of the current crisis over gas, oil and pipelines that is raging in Syria has been described by Dmitry Minin, writing for the Strategic Cultural Foundation in May 2013:

“A battle is raging over whether pipelines will go toward Europe from east to west, from Iran and Iraq to the Mediterranean coast of Syria, or take a more northbound route from Qatar and Saudi Arabia via Syria and Turkey. Having realized that the stalled Nabucco pipeline, and indeed the entire Southern Corridor, are backed up only by Azerbaijan’s reserves and can never equal Russian supplies to Europe or thwart the construction of the South Stream, the West is in a hurry to replace them with resources from the Persian Gulf. Syria ends up being a key link in this chain, and it leans in favor of Iran and Russia; thus it was decided in the Western capitals that its regime needs to change.

It’s the oil, gas and pipelines, stupid!

Indeed, tensions were building between Russia, the U.S. and the European Union amid concerns that the European gas market would be held hostage to Russian gas giant Gazprom. The proposed Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline would be essential to diversifying Europe’s energy supplies away from Russia.

Turkey is Gazprom’s second-largest customer. The entire Turkish energy security structure relies on gas from Russia and Iran. Plus, Turkey was harboring Ottoman-like ambitions of becoming a strategic crossroads for the export of Russian, Caspian-Central Asian, Iraqi and Iranian oil and even gas to Europe.

The Guardian reported in August 2013:

“Assad refused to sign a proposed agreement with Qatar and Turkey that would run a pipeline from the latter’s North field, contiguous with Iran’s South Pars field, through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and on to Turkey, with a view to supply European markets – albeit crucially bypassing Russia. Assad’s rationale was ‘to protect the interests of [his] Russian ally, which is Europe’s top supplier of natural gas.’”

Note the purple line which traces the proposed Qatar-Turkey natural gas pipeline and note that all of the countries highlighted in red are part of a new coalition hastily put together after Turkey finally (in exchange for NATO’s acquiescence on Erdogan’s politically-motivated war with the PKK) agreed to allow the US to fly combat missions against ISIS targets from Incirlik. Now note which country along the purple line is not highlighted in red. That’s because Bashar al-Assad didn’t support the pipeline and now we’re seeing what happens when you’re a Mid-East strongman and you decide not to support something the US and Saudi Arabia want to get done.

Knowing Syria was a critical piece in its energy strategy, Turkey attempted to persuade Syrian President Bashar Assad to reform this Iranian pipeline and to work with the proposed Qatar-Turkey pipeline, which would ultimately satisfy Turkey and the Gulf Arab nations’ quest for dominance over gas supplies. But after Assad refused Turkey’s proposal, Turkey and its allies became the major architects of Syria’s “civil war.”

Much of the strategy currently at play was described back in a 2008 U.S. Army-funded RAND report, “Unfolding the Future of the Long War”:

“The geographic area of proven oil reserves coincides with the power base of much of the Salafi-jihadist network. This creates a linkage between oil supplies and the long war that is not easily broken or simply characterized. … For the foreseeable future, world oil production growth and total output will be dominated by Persian Gulf resources. … The region will therefore remain a strategic priority, and this priority will interact strongly with that of prosecuting the long war.”

In this context, the report identifies the divide and conquer strategy while exploiting the Sunni-Shiite divide to protect Gulf oil and gas supplies while maintaining a Gulf Arab state dominance over oil markets.

“Divide and Rule focuses on exploiting fault lines between the various Salafi-jihadist groups to turn them against each other and dissipate their energy on internal conflicts. This strategy relies heavily on covert action, information operations (IO), unconventional warfare, and support to indigenous security forces. … the United States and its local allies could use the nationalist jihadists to launch proxy IO campaigns to discredit the transnational jihadists in the eyes of the local populace. … U.S. leaders could also choose to capitalize on the ‘Sustained Shia-Sunni Conflict’ trajectory by taking the side of the conservative Sunni regimes against Shiite empowerment movements in the Muslim world…. possibly supporting authoritative Sunni governments against a continuingly hostile Iran.”

The report notes that another option would be “to take sides in the conflict, possibly supporting authoritative Sunni governments against a continuingly hostile Iran.”

This framework crafted an interesting axis: Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, U.S., Britain and France vs. Syria, Iran and Russia.

Divide and conquer: A path to regime change

With the U.S., France, Britain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey — aka, the new “Friends of Syria” coalition — publicly calling for the overthrow of Syrian President Bashar Assad between  2011 and 2012 after Assad’s refusal to sign onto the gas pipeline, the funds and arms flowing into Syria to feed the so-called “moderate” rebels were pushing Syria into a humanitarian crisis. Rebel groups were being organized left and right, many of which featured foreign fighters and many of which had allied with al-Qaida.

Saudi Arabia's permanent representative to the League of Arab States Ahmad al-Qattan, center, attends the Arab League summit in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, March, 29, 2012. The annual Arab summit meeting opened in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on Thursday with only 10 of the leaders of the 22-member Arab League in attendance and amid a growing rift between Arab countries over how far they should go to end the one-year conflict in Syria. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

The Syrian government responded with a heavy hand, targeting rebel held areas and killing civilians in the process.

Since Syria is religiously diverse, the so-called “Friends of Syria” pushed sectarianism as their official “divide and conquer” strategy to oust Assad. Claiming that Alawites ruled over a majority Sunni nation, the call by the “moderate” U.S.-backed rebels became one about Sunni liberation.

Although the war is being sold to the public as a Sunni-Shiite conflict, so-called Sunni groups like ISIS,  the Syrian al-Qaida affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra (the Nusra Front) and even the “moderate” Free Syrian Army have indiscriminately targeted Syria’s Sunnis, Shiites, Christians and Jews. At the same time, these same foreign nations supported and even armed the Bahraini government, which claims to be Sunni, in its violent crackdown on the majority Shiite pro-democracy demonstrations that swept the nation.

The Syrian government army itself is over 80 percent Sunni, which indicates that the true agenda has been politically — not religiously — motivated.

In addition to this, the Assad family is Alawite, an Islamic sect that the media has clumped in with Shiites, though most Shiites would agree that the two are unrelated. Further, the Assad family is described as secular and running a secular nation. Counting Alawites as Shiites was simply another way to push a sectarian framework for the conflict: It allowed for the premise that the Syria-Iran alliance was based on religion, when, in fact, it was an economic relationship.

This framework carefully crafted the Syrian conflict as a Sunni revolution to liberate itself from Shiite influence that Iran was supposedly spreading to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

But the truth is, Syria’s Sunni community is divided, and many defected to join groups like the Free Syrian Army, ISIS and al-Qaida. And as mentioned earlier, over 80 percent of Assad’s military is Sunni.

As early as 2012, additional rebels armed and financed by Arab Gulf nations and Turkey like al-Qaida and the Muslim Brotherhood, declared all-out war against Shiites. They even threatened to attack Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iraq’s government after they had overthrown the Assad government.

Soon after, the majority of the Muslim Brotherhood rebels became part of al-Qaida-affiliated groups. Together, they announced that they would destroy all shrines — not just those ones which hold particular importance to Shiites.

Hezbollah entered the scene in 2012 and allied itself with the Syrian government to fight al-Nusra and ISIS, which were officially being armed and financed by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. And all the arms were actively being sold to these nations by the United States. Thus, US arms were falling into the hands of the same terror group the US claims to be fighting in its broader War on Terror.

Hezbollah fighters carry the coffin of Hezbollah member Mohammad Issa who was killed in an airstrike that killed six members of the Lebanese militant group and an Iranian general in Syria, during his funeral procession, in the southern village of Arab Salim, Lebanon, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. Hezbollah has accused Israel of carrying out Sunday's airstrike, which occurred on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. Issa was the highest-ranking among the group, and was among the senior cadres who headed the group's operations in Syria against the Sunni-led rebellion. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

According to reports, Hezbollah was and has been been active in preventing rebel penetration from Syria to Lebanon, being one of the most active forces in the Syrian civil war spillover in Lebanon. Despite this, the U.S. sanctioned both the Syrian government and Hezbollah in 2012.

Also that year, Russia and Iran sent military advisers to assist the Syrian government in quelling the terror groups, but Iranian troops were not on the ground fighting during this time.

What was once a secular, diverse and peaceful nation, was looking more like it was on its way to becoming the next Afghanistan; its people living under Taliban-style rule as jihadists took over more land and conquered more cities.

Effects of foreign meddling outweigh self-determination

If you think that was hard to follow, you’re certainly not alone.

Most sectarian civil wars are purposely crafted to pit sides against one another to allow for a “divide and conquer” approach that breaks larger concentrations of power into smaller factions that have more difficulty linking up. It’s a colonial doctrine that the British Empire famously used, and what we see taking place in Syria is no different.

So, let’s get one thing straight: This is not about religion. It might be convenient to say that Arabs or Muslims kill each other, and it’s easy to frame these conflicts as sectarian to paint the region and its people as barbaric. But this Orientalist, overly simplistic view of conflict in the Middle East dehumanizes the victims of these wars to justify direct and indirect military action.

If the truth was presented to the public from the perspective that these wars are about economic interests, most people would not support any covert funding and arming of rebels or direct intervention. In fact, the majority of the public would protest against war. But when something is presented to the public as a matter of good versus evil, we are naturally inclined to side with the “good” and justify war to fight off the supposed “evil.”

The political rhetoric has been carefully crafted to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable. Ultimately, no matter the agendas, the alliances or instability brought on by foreign meddling, the calls for freedom, democracy and equality that erupted in 2011 were real then and they’re real today. And let’s not forget that the lack of freedom, democracy and equality have been brought on more by foreign meddling to prop up brutal dictators and arm terror groups than by self-determination.

Migrant men help a fellow migrant man holding a boy as they are stuck between Macedonian riot police officers and migrants during a clash near the border train station of Idomeni, northern Greece, as they wait to be allowed by the Macedonian police to cross the border from Greece to Macedonia, Friday, Aug. 21, 2015. Macedonian special police forces have fired stun grenades to disperse thousands of migrants stuck on a no-man's land with Greece, a day after Macedonia declared a state of emergency on its borders to deal with a massive influx of migrants heading north to Europe. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

The people in the Middle East once stood united and strong together against foreign meddling, exploitation and colonialism no matter their religious or cultural background. But today, the Middle East is being torn to shreds by manipulative plans to gain oil and gas access by pitting people against one another based on religion. The ensuing chaos provides ample cover to install a new regime that’s more amenable to opening up oil pipelines and ensuring favorable routes for the highest bidders.

And in this push for energy, it’s the people who suffer most. In Syria, they are fleeing en masse. They’re waking up, putting sneakers on their little boys and girls, and hopping on boats without life jackets, hoping just to make it to another shore. They’re risking their lives, knowing full well that they may never reach that other shore, because the hope of somewhere else is better than the reality at home.

Socio-Economics History Blog

  • Russia, Iran Warn U.S. They Will “Respond With Force” If Syria “Red Lines” Crossed Again
    by Tyler Durden, http://www.zerohedge.com
    A statement issued on Sunday by a joint command centre consisting of forces of Russian, Iran and allied militia alliance supporting Syrian President Bashar al Assad said that Friday’s US strike on the Syrian air base crossed “red lines” and it would “respond with force” to any new aggression while increasing their level of support to their ally.

    In the statement published by the group on media outlet Ilam al Harbi, the pro-Assad alliances says that “what America waged in an aggression on Syria is a crossing of red lines. From now on we will respond with force to any aggressor or any breach of red lines from whoever it is and America knows our ability to respond well.”

    Earlier on Sunday the UK’s Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon…

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“Submarines in the desert” (as my deepest gratitude to you) … reproduced ~ WITHLOVE ~

Submarine in the desert 1
Foreword

I have been thinking about writing this post for several months now.  But in a world were everything coming from the heart is misconstrued as some form of posturing, I was frankly afraid to do so.  Also, writing that kind of stuff is not what bloggers do, much less so those who try to run a halfway credible blog.  And yet, every time I got a kind email, a letter or even a gift, I felt that I have to write this.  God knows I am opening myself up for even more misrepresentations as usual, but I think it is well worth it.  My spiritual father always used to say “one soul is more precious then the entire universe“.

So I dedicate this post to that one soul.

Introduction

My life has been one of ups and downs.  Early on, after a pretty nasty childhood, it went up, rather rapidly.  Then came the “fall from (pseudo-) grace” and I lost my career.  It is still too early to go into all the details, but let’s just say that I used to be associated with a “three letter outfit” whose existence was not well-known by the general public and which has since been disbanded.  In my field, I got to the proverbial ‘top’ pretty early on, but soon the war in Bosnia began to open my eyes to many things I had never suspected before.  Then I found out about two things which got me blacklisted in my own, putatively democratic, country: I found out that a group of people had uselessly been murdered as a result of the criminal incompetence of their superiors and I found out that one guy had taken a long jail sentence while all this superiors had managed to walk away from a crime they all had committed.  And even though I never went public, or even told my closest friends about it (to protect them), I was blacklisted and prevented from ever working again.

In those dark days my wonderful wife was always trying to tell me that it was not my fault, that I had never done anything wrong, that I was paying the price for being a person of integrity and that I had proven many times over how good I was in my field.  I always used to bitterly reply to her that I was like a “submarine in a desert”: maybe very good at “something somewhere”, but useless in my current environment (I always used to visualize a Akula-class SSN stranded smack in the middle of the Sahara desert – what a sight that would be!  I wish somebody would use a Photoshop-like software to create that pic).  What I have found out since, is that our planet is covered with deserts and that there are many, many submarines in them, all yearning for the vastness of an ocean.

Modest beginnings at first

I came to the USA in 2002 with only one desire: to leave my past on the other side of the ocean and to disappear, to become an anonymous ‘nobody’ who would be left alone.  More than anything else, I needed time to recover, to lick my wounds and to spend time with the only people who had stood by my without every doubting me: my wife and my kids.

The French have a very good saying:”chassez le naturel et il revient au galop” which can roughly be translated as “try to suppress your nature, and it will come back with a vengeance”.  This is what happened to me.  While in 2002 I had promised myself to never analyze anything more complicated that a fiction book, by 2007 I suddenly decided to start a blog.  This blog.  My goal?  Very, very primitive: to write whatever the hell I wanted.  I had spent so many years writing for “big people” who had very narrow limits of what they were willing to read that I decided to indulge in the joy of writing whatever I wanted with no concern or regard for anybody’s opinion.  I had an  itch to scratch I decided to scratch it.

You can still parse the archives of 2007 or 2008 and you will see that I really was making no efforts to reach anybody, make a difference or become popular.  A short and ill-fated contact with Antiwar.com (which ended up in disaster), gave me a few more readers but my readership was still tiny.

My choice of topics did not help.  Years before, I had literally “bumped” into the topic of Hezbollah and, my curiosity picked, I spent a decade studying this movement and its amazing leader.  By 2007 I was an unrepentant Hezbollah-groupie and Nasrallah fanboy and most of the blog dealt with the Middle-East.  The other topic was Russia, simply because this was the country my family came from and which I had professionally analyzed for years.  As for the Ukraine, I don’t think that I ever mentioned it at all.  While I was disgusted with the ignorance and hatefulness of Ukrainian nationalists, I did not care about the Ukraine: “let them soak in their own ‘independent’ and yet pathetic and clearly sinking statelet if they want – I have more inspiring things to look at” was my philosophy at the time.  Sure, I kept an eye on events there, but to me this reminded me of Russia in 1993 – I was disgusted with all the actors and with the entire situation.  Besides, what could happen there which would be worthy of interest?

And sure enough, life proved me wrong (-: again 🙂
Submarine in the desert 3
The big wars of 2013

First, there was Syria and the Russian role in stopping Uncle Sam.  Oh yes, there were the political efforts of the Russian diplomats, and they were ‘bad’ enough.  But less noticed what the fact that Russia sent a hastily assembled but capable naval task force to the Syrian coast.  Not a task force big enough to fight the US Navy, but a task force capable of providing a full view of the skies over and beyond Syria to the Syrian military.  In other words, for the first time the US could not achieve a surprise attack on Syria, not with cruise missiles, not with airpower.  Worse, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah embarked on a covert and overt program of material and technical assistance for Syria which ended up defeating the Wahabi insurgency.  The AngloZionist were absolutely *livid*.  So to teach Putin and those damn Russkies a good lesson, they blew up the Ukraine and, again, Putin did two things they had never expected and which they could never forgive: he did sent forces Crimea but he did not do so in Novorussia: there he helped covertly.  There was no doubt possible: Russia had committed the “Crime of Crimes” of openly defying the will of our planetary overlords.  The Empire’s response was predictable: a full-spectrum ‘war’ on Russia and Putin, albeit not an overtly military one (yet).

For me and my blog, the consequence of this mega-crisis was immediate: the readership literally exploded and, at the suggestion of other (it was not even my idea!), more Saker blogs suddenly began popping up.  From a unknown one man anonymous blog the Saker blog morphed into a global community, and that over less than one year.

[Sidebar: if often fell like a war profiteer.  The worse the situation in the Ukraine, the more readers I get, the calmer, the less.  On a really quiet day I get as little as 20’000 hits, on a really bad day, up to 69’000.  I estimate my more or less regular readership at no more than 30’000]

I am outlining all this to truthfully explain to you that this was never the plan for me.  Not only was this completely unplanned, it even took me by surprise.  In fact, I was so surprised that I could not honestly make sense of it.  Think of it.

Here is a one-man blog, written by some anonymous dude with a silly alias, who repeatedly engages in all sorts of crimethink (like the day when I wrote – to a mainly Arab readership – that I believed that Hamas ought to unconditionally release Gilad Shalit, LOL!) who is neither from the Left, nor from the Right, whose writing is chock full of typos and, frankly, very poorly written sentences and yet this blog suddenly takes off like a rocket.  And you can tell by my writing style that I don’t even take myself too seriously.  But so what in the world has happened here?

Sure, I am a decent analyst, I know Russian and a few other languages, I have studied Russia for all my life and the Middle-East for, well, a little over a decade.  This is not bad, but hardly a reason for such a success.

Then I understood:

It was never about me, but always about you

Along with more daily visitors, I began receiving more and more emails and letters.  And presents.  Often very touching ones.  Just look at the absolutely beautiful drawing of a Saker Falcon I got yesterday (thanks SO MUCH “S.T.”! I will  frame and posted it on my wall)

People who had never met me and who really knew nothing about me were literally pouring kindness over me.  Most emails and letter centered on political issues, but a big minority were expressing much deeper feelings such as gratitude and a desire to morally support.  I was amazed, really.  Then my readers began suggesting that I should place a donation button on the blog.  Many may not believe me here, but that idea had never even crossed my mind.  Eventually, I did (God knows I needed the money) and to my absolute amazement people began donating.  Why?  Why would anybody in our cynical word filled with crooks donate some hard earned and always scarce money to a guy he/she has never met?  Was that just because I was posting materials about Syria or the Ukraine?  Or my oh-so-good analyses?  Hardly.

And then there was also the rage.  Many, many letters were literally oozing with rage.  Rage against the government, its media, the Empire, the lies and the dishonesty.  Rage at having been lied to.  Rage at the humiliation of being treated like a serf or a slave.  Rage at our dysfunctional and self-destructive society.  Before that, I had no idea that so many people were so mad.

The most gut-wrenching letters were often from US servicemen.  They often began with “I consider myself a patriotic American and I love my country which I served for many years in the military but….” and here it inevitably turned into a painful admission that this country was lead by evil crooks, occupied by parasites, owned by a 1% of SOB whom everybody else despises.  And you would simply not believe the kind of stuff these correspondents, including former servicemen, would write about Putin.  It was amazing – I regularly joke that if given a chance to run, Putin might be elected as President of the US of A.

[Sidebar: By the way, I will not post these letters here.  Not even excepts.  First, I want to protect the trust of those who wrote to me.  Second, some of these letters are so amazing and moving that I will inevitably be accused of making them up.  So I will simply forgo presenting any ‘proof’ for my statements.  Believe me or not – makes no difference to me.  And if you don’t – then I guess that yours is not the soul I dedicate this post to anyway]

So there I was trying to figure out – why such an outpouring of kindness for a total stranger (and an anonymous one at that!) and such an outpouring of rage against the society we live in.  And then, I think that I figured it out.
The deserts are filled with submarines (but they are breaking free!)

The Way Out
That’s it.  I had mistakenly believed that I was the only one feeling like a submarine in a desert, but in reality the deserts of our society were filled with people who felt completely alienated.  Several times in the past I posted here the beautiful song by David Rovics “We are everywhere” because with each passing month I began to realize that he was literally right – we are, indeed, everywhere.

What society had done to me – made me completely powerless – it has also done to you.  And just the way it had made me feel like a single lonely nutcase, it made you feel like you were the only one.  I most sincerely believe that the real reason for the success of this blog, its global community, its vibrant discussions and the amazing outpouring of kindness towards me is in the following simple fact: I inadvertently made it possible for many thousands of people to realize they they were not alone, not crazy, not wrong but that quite literally “we are everywhere”!

The second thing that I did, again quite inadvertently, is to empower those who felt powerless to do something, to make a change, to really have an impact.

Our societies are designed to make us feel like prison inmates, serfs or slaves.  We all know that voting is a useless joke, that our rulers don’t give a damn about us, that political dissent is frowned on when it is real, that revolts are crushed in violence, that pluralism is viciously repressed by the prevailing ideology, that our schools brainwash and stupidify our kids and turn them against us, that the home brainwashing appliances like the Idiot-Tube, the radio or the papers are here to do only three things: entertain us, get our money and zombify us.  We know that, but we feel powerless to do anything about it.

By asking for help in my work on the blog and, especially, by allowing for what I call “spontaneous self-organization” (something which I had directly taken from how the Debian community functions) I had given those who shared my goals a readily available means to take action.  And I have to say that the result exceeded my expectations by many order of magnitude (and made me realize that some “amateurs” are at least as good as, or better, then “pros”).  Treat people with respect, give them a chance, and they will do miracles for you!

[Sidebar: if you are interested in how big complex projects can self-organize, please read – online – chapter 2.4 “The Debian Community” pp 46-57 in this book.  Of course, I did not deliberately try to copy the Debian model, but I did apply the “just do it” principle and I let each Saker Blog self-organize in a completely independent manner.  I also see my own role in the Saker community as one of a “benevolent dictator“, another free software phenomenon, though, so far, I have only had to act in this capacity once].

Thanks to my inadvertently stumbling into the fantastic and yet untapped potential of so many good people our community began to grow almost spontaneously (several Saker Blog Team Leaders have also expressed to me the same amazement I was feeling).

Suddenly many “submarines” had found their oceans to show what they were really capable off!

Do you know about the Asch conformity experiment? [If not, take a quick look here before reading on].  Well, I think that my oppositional-defiant personality inadvertently crashed at least part of the gigantic Asch conformity experiment our society has become.  I was calling it as I was seeing it and to hell with the consequences (I had so few readers anyways…).  Then, in 2010 I decided to really give a good kick into the sandcastle of our delusions and posted an article entitled “Why am I not hearing the endless rumble of jaws dropping to the floor?”.  In this post I basically repeated something which anybody could verify and which was undeniable: NIST had, by direct implication, admitted that WTC7 had been brought down by controlled demolition.  Furthermore, and contrary to popular belief, NIST has simply no explanation at all for how the WTC1 and WTC2 had fallen.  And yet, this amazing fact was completely obfuscated by the collective Asch experiment being imposed on us.  But the reality is that the 911 issue is just a tip of an iceberg.  Our entire society is one big, long and neverending Asch experiment and most of us, at least on some level, know about it.  We all feel what the Matrix series calls the feeling like a “splinter in our mind”.

I suppose that for types like myself (disrespectful of social dogmas and norms, oppositional and defiant towards authority, rebellious and aggressive by nature, deeply contrarian on an almost knee-jerk level, libertarian in outlook) the outcome of the tension between what I feel and what I am told to feel results in a long battle against the established order and dominant ideology (no wonder another two of my favorite songs of David Rovics are “Burn it down” and “We will shut them down“).  But once a bad guy like myself decided to yank the splinter out of my mind – others decided to give it a try too and that is how it all began.

My gratitude to you

And here is what I wanted to say through all of the above: I know that I personally do not deserve such kindness and gratitude. In reality, the very fact that you have shown me so much kindness also shows that you are truly the one deserving gratitude and praise.  I am just the very very lucky one – you are the kind and generous one.  And, please believe me, this has nothing to do with me engaging in some kind of false modesty – I truly believe it, this is the conclusion I have come to from your letter and your emails.

In conclusion, I want to share a special song with all those of your who have “poured out their souls to me” (Russian expression).  It is from the Russian bard Vladimir Vyssotskii and it is called “Song of the Earth”:

Here are the lyrics (translated by George Tokarev)

Is the earth, as they say, burnt and dried?
Will a seed, as they say, never sprout?
Has the earth, as they say, really died?
No! It’s taken a lengthy time-out!

Mother Earth will forever give birth,
Its maternity isn’t a fiction!
Don’t believe that they burnt down the earth,
No! It’s blackened from grief and affliction.

Trenches, running like scars back and forth...
Bleeding guts black shell-craters expose...
They are open nerves of the earth,
Which unearthly unhappiness knows.

It will stand wars and grief - any thing!
It’s not crippled, though booted and looted...
Don’t believe that the earth doesn’t sing,
That it’s quieted down, diluted!

No, it’s singing as loud as it can
From a trench, from a wound, from a hole!
Since the earth is the soul of Man,
Boots cannot trample down the soul!

This last sentence, “boot cannot trample down the soul!”, speaks, I believe, not only of physical boots, though these are also meant, but also about psychological, ideological, social boots who, no less than the real thing, try hard to trample down on our souls.

Remember the last sentence of Orwell’s 1984? “He loved Big Brother”.  I always absolutely hated that sentence.  Yes, for the purpose of the book, this was the correct ending being, as it was, a warning.  But I always though “hell, no I will always hate Big Brother”, “boots cannot trample down souls”.

What you all, my friends, have proven to me is that there are many of us who will not love Big Brother and that Big Brother has not trampled down our souls.  20 years ago I used to feel like the most lonely man on the planet.  Now, thanks to you, I feel like we are everywhere and I have friend, free fellow humans, all over the planet.

And for that you have my eternal and most heartfelt gratitude,

The Saker
Submarine in the desert 2
PS: note to the Saker-haters: I am fully aware of how easy it is to distort and “rephrase in other words” what I wrote above, and how many ugly and nasty conclusions you can come up with.  At the very least, you will call me either a hypocrite or delusional.  Fine.  You have shown me over and over again that this is a price to pay for honesty.  I did not try to make this text slander-proof and if you want to use that to trash me further – fine.  I just want you to know that I accept that and that I don’t fear you one bit :-p

December 2015 addendum from the Saker:

I consider that the “Submarine in the desert” text above really says everything relevant about me. I also believe that you can tell a tree by its fruits – so my blog is really what people ought to judge me by. However, since others apparently want to know a little more about my past life, I can add the following:

I was born in Zurich, Switzerland, from a Dutch father and Russian mother. My father left us when I was 5, so my mother and my Russian family raised me and this is why I took my mother’s last name. I lived most of my life in Geneva, Switzerland. In 1984 I did my military service in electronic warfare and I was later transferred to the military intelligence service (UNA) as a language specialist where did some work with the Swiss Air Force. I then traveled to the USA where I got a BA in International Relations from the School of International Service (SIS) at the American University and a MA in Strategic Studies from the Paul H. Nitze School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at the Johns Hopkins University. Upon my return to Switzerland, I worked as a civilian consultant for the Swiss Strategic Intelligence Service (SND) writing strategic analyses, primarily about the Soviet/Russian military.  In the military, I was given the Major-equivalent rank of “Technical Officer”, which is a fancy way of saying that I was an analyst. I also worked as an “enemy operations” (“Red Team” in US parlance) specialist for the operational-level training of the General Staff of Swiss armed forces. I then accepted a position for the UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) where I specialized in peacekeeping tactics and operations. This gave me the opportunity to co-author a book on Russian peacekeeping operations with the Major-General I. N. Vorob’ev, of the Russian General Staff Academy. My last work at UNIDIR was about psychological operations and intelligence in peacekeeping which can be downloaded here. At the same time, I also wrote an evaluation of the performance of the Russian military during the first Chechen war for the Journal of Slavic Military Studies which somebody has since uploaded here. The wars in Bosnia and Chechnia really opened my eyes to the real nature of the Empire. Since I thought that I was living in a democracy, I did voice my opinion on these topics and I soon ended up being viewed with suspicion by my former bosses. I quit the UN and took up a position at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) which was probably the worst mistake of my life and which I shall never discuss publicly. By the time I got out of that job, I was basically blacklisted as a “dangerous element” (meaning “disloyal”) by my former bosses (my regular contacts with Russian diplomats and my efforts at providing aid to the Bosnian Serbs probably did not help).  In total disgust, I abandoned my career as a military specialist and re-trained as a software engineer. When 9/11 crashed the IT sector I was unemployed again and I left Switzerland for the USA where I homeschooled our 3 children while doing odd jobs, mostly as a translator (I am fluent in Russian, French, English, Spanish and German) while my wife worked as a veterinarian (now, that our kids have grown up, my wife and I work together). In 2007 I decided to start an anonymous blog, mainly as a psychotherapy for myself, and I called it “Vineyard Saker” – a simple machine-generated anagram of my full name 🙂

Finally, and just for the record, a few points: I never did any intelligence gathering for anybody, though I was approached by the Americans, the Russians and the Swiss do to exactly that, but I turned them all down (just not my cup of tea at all). While my maternal family are all from the Russian nobility, my Dutch DNA is 100% proletarian, and I am quite happy with that mix. To my great regret, I get no help from Russia at all – not money, not information (I would *love* to be a paid “Putin agent” but VVP has not made any offers yet).  All my info is 100% “open source”. My past experience with classified data tells me that it is either highly technical or time-critical but not otherwise better than open source information: 80% of all the good info is out there, in the open, it is just a matter of putting it together correctly. I get a regular trickle of donations from the blog, but nothing major, and only 2 private donors (thanks guys!!) provide most of it anyway. If making money was my big goal, then I assure you that I had plenty of much better opportunities.  My main objective in the immediate future is to (finally) write my thesis for the graduate degree in patristic theology I am working on now, and to set some money aside to visit Russia again (which I have not done since 1996!). Oh, and if you still wonder, no, I am not a Muslim nor am I on any Muslim (or other) payroll.

I am a “proud card carrying member” of the FSFEFF and NRA (yes, I like my freedoms).  Political Compass (https://www.politicalcompass.org/) scores me as a “Left Libertarian”:

The Saker is a Left-Libertarian0Personally, I reject the Left-Right reference system and consider myself an Orthodox “People’s Monarchist” (народный монархист) in the tradition of Lev Tikhomirov, Feodor Dostoevsky, Ivan Solonevich and Ivan Ilyin. Just like the Russian philosopher Berdaev, rather than looking left or right, I rather look *up*!

I also recognize myself in the notion of “Left of labor, Right of values” (Gauche du travail, droite des valeurs) of Alain Soral.  My economics are: laissez-faire capitalism for the family and small business level, socialism for the corporation level and communism for strategic/national level sectors of the economy.

My favorite authors are Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Sergei Lukiianenko.

I play acoustic jazz guitar and my favorite guitarist are Philip CatherineJohn McLaughlinVicente Amigo and Angelo Debarre.  My favorite composers are J.S. Bach, Astor Piazzolla and Roger Waters.

I have over 40 years of freediving experience (which I began long before the Big Blue movie made that lifestyle popular), but now, at 52, I mostly kayak and hike the Florida wilderness.

Now that I wrote all of the above, I still think that it is largely irrelevant.  Judge me not by what I say about myself, but by my blog or, better, my book.  All of the above is true, but these are my *external life circumstances* and they do not say much about who I really *am*.  My writings do.  Study them (if so inclined) and you will know who I am.

The Saker

Thursday 16th January 2014 – today, whilst working on my current Film Projects I have been compelled to take time out and write my first blog article for 2014 …

Anonymous Motorcycle Driver during "Bangkok Shutdown" march on Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok, Thailand

Anonymous Motorcycle Driver during “Bangkok Shutdown” march on Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok, Thailand

Yuriko Koike, Japan’s former defense minister and national security adviser, was Chairwoman of Japan’s Liberal Democrat Party and currently is a member of the National Diet. In her article titled “Who Lost Thailand?” published on 15th January 2014, Ms. Yuriko Koike writes “Thailand, Southeast Asia’s most developed and sophisticated economy, is teetering on the edge of the political abyss. Yet most of the rest of Asia appears to be averting its eyes from the country’s ongoing and increasingly anarchic unrest. That indifference is not only foolish; it is dangerous. Asia’s democracies now risk confronting the same harsh question that the United States faced when Mao Zedong marched into Beijing, and again when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ousted the Shah in Iran. Who, they will have to ask, lost Thailand?”

As a long time expatriate resident of Thailand there are quarter tones joined as chords that resonate in unison, 21st century composers in sympathetic dissonance, emanating from the trading partner-ships whistling through troubled waters in the East China Sea, the stage of Japan’s dispute with China to the smaller vessels hauling materials on a variety of other covert Whistle-blowers and covered junks conducting business, whilst traveling up and down the Mekong River, a vital chord flowing with life, connecting China, Burma (Myanmar), Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam. From the river’s banks life is bottled up and exchanged in merchandise that ripples through many states, the birth places of many indigenous peoples from Qinghai, Tibet, Yunnan, Shan, Luang Namtha, Bokeo, Oudomxay, Luang Phrabang, Sayabouly, Vientiane, Vientiane, Bolikhamsai, Khammouane, Savannakhet, Salavan, Champasak until eventually the remaining silt branches out and spills into various points and exits Vietnam somewhere between the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea, where sabre-rattling and posturing continues to spread outwards.

The Mekong Delta (Vietnamese: Đồng bằng Sông Cửu Long or in English often transliterated to mean the “Nine Dragon river delta”) could be accurately described as a rather gradual fertile river delta and unlike Japan it is not close to any submarine abyss. Continuing movement on the subduction zone associated with the Japan Trench is one of the main causes of tsunamis and earthquakes in northern Japan, including the megathrust Tōhoku earthquake and resulting tsunami that occurred on 11 March 2011.

People marching during "Bangkok Shutdown" on Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok, Thailand

Despite the “Bangkok Shutdown” the Chao Phraya River continues to flow smoothly through Bangkok, known fondly as the “City of Angels” of the Far East and as with all rivers on the planet it too eventually meets a large body of water to empty into… and waterways are the veins of sustenance for life in all forms, and often are diverted, reformed, dammed and flooded, by natural forces as well as by human beings … as the seasons ebb and flow, the climate changes and prevailing winds of change wreak havok on agriculture and commercial business interests alike, there remains a natural inclination for things to remain in balance.

Perhaps, in a wider context the expressed perspective from Ms. Yuriko Koike shows how much Western ideologies have influenced and shaped the Japanese economy and the Japanese people’s opinion since the United States of America decidedly dropped Nuclear weapons of mass destruction on Hiroshima and Nagasaki back in August 1945? On August 15, six days after the bombing of Nagasaki, and seven days after the Soviet Union’s declaration of war, Japan announced its surrender to the Allies, signing the Instrument of Surrender on 2nd September 1945, commonly acknowledged as officially ending World War II. The bombings’ role in Japan’s surrender and their ethical justification are still debated.

People marching during "Bangkok Shutdown" on Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok, Thailand

Thailand: “Occupy Bangkok” Begins – Published 13th January 2014 is a very interesting and well-balanced account of what’s happened over the last decade to bring about the current protests in Bangkok Thailand being staged against the present Government that was elected by a majority vote supported by a well-financed regime leader living in exile that has used “Thaksinomics” as a political tool to amass a personal fortune; Taksin Shinawatra is himself supported by very strong wealthy global banking powers that want a larger share of the Kingdom’s valuables as well as those of other neighboring countries that have developed more slowly but are also are full of natural resources and deeply fertile environmental jewelry.

In the most recent general election Thailand‘s people voted to put Thaksin Shinawatra‘s sister Yingluck Shinawatra, a member of the Pheu Thai Party, and the 28th and current Prime Minister of Thailand following the 2011 general election into lead a new Government of Thailand. Yingluck is Thailand’s first female Prime Minister and at 45 is the youngest Prime Minister of Thailand in over 60 years.  A Statement delivered by Yingluck Shinawatra, H.E. the Prime Minister of Thailand on the dissolution of the House of Representatives was delivered on 9 December 2013. Many people in Thailand are now protesting against the regime’s manipulation of the country’s legislatures, its infiltration of Government structures and large corporations who have benefited from Thaksinomics.

There is an expressed feeling that the pillars of Government have been abused to such a degree that it has become unacceptable and unconscionable to remain in the shadows. The links in the Thailand: “Occupy Bangkok” Begins – Published 13th January 2014 article also lead to other interesting articles too.

Then on the same day my attention is directed to another article, written by William Pesek, a columnist writing for Bloomberg based in Tokyo, Japan. And this makes me ask the rhetorical question, which more aptly put is an observation: Who Won Japan?

Bloomberg should be ashamed to publish such an article. William Pesek’s views are way too polarized and filled with silly ignorant inaccurate general “sound bite” statements and phrases, such as are contained in “The choice is between Egypt and South Korea. It’s time for Thailand’s 67 million people to decide whether they want to live in a constant state of chaos and socioeconomic stasis (like Egypt), or to move up the economic ladder, Korea-style. The only way democracy works is if a critical mass of the people trust it. In Thailand’s case, that means building credible and independent institutions that provide checks and balances for elected officials. Only strong judiciaries, anti-corruption arms and networks of government watchdog agencies can ensure accountability.” … This, simply put is trashy journalism at its worst and Bloomberg should be careful to call it a “Bloomberg View”.

Bangkok Needs More Bread, Fewer Circuses” By William Pesek
January 15, 2014 11:26 AM EST – Uploaded by UUID:7953017 at 1/15/2014 11:23 AM

William Pesek is based in Tokyo and writes on economics, markets and politics throughout the AsiaPacific region. His journalism awards include the 2010 Society of American Business Editors and Writers prize for commentary.

Since joining Bloomberg in 2000, Pesek’s columns have appeared in the International Herald Tribune, the Sydney Morning Herald, the New York Post, the Straits Times, the Japan Times and many other publications around the world. Pesek began his journalism career writing for the American Banker and Bond Buyer newspapers. He also worked for Dow Jones Newswires, where he wrote the daily credit markets column for The Wall Street Journal. Pesek earned a bachelor’s degree in business journalism from Bernard M. Baruch College-City University of New York.
Reference: http://www.bloomberg.com/view/bios/william-pesek/

The future for the peoples living in Thailand, the Governance of Thailand, it’s prosperity and the prosperity of Thailand’s South-East Asian neighbors is all at stake and will be affected by how things are perceived and the reaction of people not only in Thailand but also throughout the world. Why? Because, trading, imports and exports, for Thailand and ASEAN is contingent upon keeping the rivers flowing, water being proportioned in a balanced and respectable way for life to be sustainable and peaceful.

We pray for a process that will be as painless and as death-free as possible … we are living in interesting times… and we have a ways to travel yet… floods, droughts, come rain and shine, survival is a matter of adapting to change.

Thank you for taking the time to read my article, and here’s wishing you a safe, healthy and successful 2014 as we approach the Chinese Year of the Horse.

Blessings,
James With

PS After writing this article, the following articles were brought to my attention:

By Lewis M. SimonsCan Thailand Avoid Another Coup?“published 16th January 2014 formerly as “Thailand’s Grave Future”

By Credible Reform, Not Shutdown, Needed to End Thailand’s Political Standoff” – 15th January 2014

By @charliecamp6ellThe Nightmare Gets Worse For Embattled Thai PM Yingluck” – 17th January 2014

By Veera Prateepchaikul, Former Editor, Bangkok Post – Opinion “Corruption Award Goes to Rice Scheme”  – 17th January 2014
© Post Publishing PCL. All rights reserved. View Bangkok Post policies at http://goo.gl/9HgTd and http://goo.gl/ou6Ip.

By Voranai Vanijaka in Bangkok Post – Opinion Commentary “With all sides wrong, There can be no right” – 19 January 2014
© Post Publishing PCL. All rights reserved. View Bangkok Post policies at http://goo.gl/9HgTd and http://goo.gl/ou6Ip.

By Thin Lei Win Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation “Shutdown Protests in Bangkok ratchets up risk of violence and coup, ICG warns” on Tuesday, 14 Jan 2014 07:00 AM & “The din of misogyny at Bangkok protests” on Friday, 17 Jan 2014 10:29 AM

Reuters Reporting by Pracha Hariraksapitak; Writing by Alan Raybould “Thai government imposes state of emergency in Bangkok” on Tuesday January 21, 2014 4:47pm IST

By Marc Saxer in Social Europe JournalHow Thailand’s Middle Class Rage Threatens Democracy” on Thursday, 23 January 2014

By William Pesek on Bloomberg Opinion “Thailand Is Only the Tip of Asia’s Iceberg” on Friday, January 24, 2014 5:00 AM GMT+0700

By Pradit Ruangdit in Bangkok Post “Suthep: PDRC is ‘’pro-democracy’’ movement” on Friday, 24 January 2014 at 23.25
© Post Publishing PCL. All rights reserved. View Bangkok Post policies at http://goo.gl/9HgTd and http://goo.gl/ou6Ip.

By The Sunday Nation Newspaper “Suthep will be arrested soon, should surrender to avoid violence: Chalerm” and “Advance voting to go ahead” on Sunday, 26 January 2014 at 01:00

By Suttinee Yuvejwattana and Anuchit Nguyen in Bloomberg News “Yingluck Rejects Proposal to Delay Feb. 2 Thailand Election” on Tuesday, 28th January 2014 7:03 PM GMT+0700 To contact the reporters on this story: Suttinee Yuvejwattana in Bangkok at suttinee1@bloomberg.net; Anuchit Nguyen in Bangkok at anguyen@bloomberg.net

By David EimerThai red shirts leader says ‘It’s time to get rid of the elite’” on 30 January 2014 at 10:42AM GMT and previously “Anti-government protests escalate in Thailand amid calls for a ‘people’s revolution’” on 26 November 2013 at 12:04PM GMT and “I can back down no further, says Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra” on 10th December 2014 at 9:45PM GMT and  “Thai Prime Minister considers delaying election as anti-government protesters blockade Bangkok” on 13 January 2014 at 12:19PM GMT and “Thai anti-government protesters threaten to kidnap PM” on 14 January 2014 at 3:21PM GMT and

Does your school teacher have the right to determine who you make friends with in the school playground?
Did your university dictate your choice of study areas?
How was your relationship arranged?

An acceptable and respectable way to live? The right to choose your friends… Today’s online social network communities give people a powerful way to reach out, connect with old friends, make new friendships, develop relationships, set up pages for special interest areas, avenues to learn new things and educate oneself and others…

If Facebook decides for you… If Facebook cuts you off… if

    Facebook

prevents this interactivity or worse destroys relationships and friendships you have nurtured and/or reignited after a long separation… is this right? Is this responsible behavior? I think not… what would you do if your life was attacked in this manner?

How do you consider that kind of behavior? … Is it friendly to “Unfriend” you from an entire social network? Is this right? Who gives an organization the right to POKE and prod with a big stick, leaving one bruised and battered… and alone? We must fight against this type of behavior, just as we must fight against human trafficking and exploitation in this world…

ONLY YOU can answer these questions about YOUR LIFE… And if you accept this, then all good right?

How did you learn what you know? Where did the information come from? Who wrote it? How long ago? What, if anything does history teach us?

On March 17th 2011, India, China, Russia, Germany and Brazil abstained from voting on a United Nations resolution to approve a no-fly zone over Libya. Abstention in voting does not prevent the passing of the resolution to impose a “No-Fly Zone” over Libya… and the UN resolution just passed does not prevent foreign air craft from flying over Libyan air space… and make no mistake, the resolution is not The 1949 UN Resolution Relevant to Libya’s Independence … those who are hell bent on destruction will no doubt take the initiative to attack swiftly … We should ask… Why the hurry man?

Is the United Nations “family” showing cracks of dysfunctional behavior as it grows older? … or is it worse… rather than growing pains, perhaps it is showing signs of rapid rampant cancerous decay like that being emitted from a radioactive interactive meltdown… unfriendly sibling rivalry? Or perhaps the Rules of Engagement (ROE) have changed within the “UN family”? Who’s being “UN-friendly”? Who’s your daddy now? Who’s the Mother? Are the Kids alright? A Rolling Stone gathers no moss!more on Moss & Stones

“In any engagement, the ROE need to balance two competing goals: The need to use force effectively to accomplish the mission objectives and the need to avoid unnecessary force.” … Humanity needs to stave off calamity!

The late 1990s and early 2000s has seen a significant increase in the use of private military contractors, particularly from United States and Britain, being contracted throughout the world. Contractors such as Blackwater are not bound by the same rules of engagement, standing orders, or levels of accountability as are members of a national military force. This is a military policy problem as the wrongful actions that many civilian security companies have taken part in are taken as the action of the force in country; the actions of civilian security forces hired by a national security organization are taken to be the actions of the country directly. And rightfully so right? If a private company has been contracted by a specific country to assist in fighting a war… no matter where a battle is waged… be it on the ground, in space, in cyberspace, or wherever… “Duh… #WINNING”… where’s the ‘sunSheen’? Or is that ‘sunScream’?

The fights against modern piracy and privacy are soundstages on the battlefields of humanity, where generally agreed ROE should be established by all who are affected by involvement within the boundaries of civilization.

The functionality of communications and the use of online global communities should not be dictated or manipulated by organizational borders or power hungry control freaks, rapid fire policy changes, or regional power groups. If Facebook’s administrators determine what, when and how the ROE are implemented and thereby instantaneously affecting over 500,000,000 people who have subscribed to this social network, then what is there between innocent civilians and a black operation from controlling the fate of over half a billion human beings… or humanity as we know it?

Facebook has become a cyber “No Fly Zone” for a contagion afflicting humanity… and this contagion is complex… it is emotional, financial, hysterical, and sacred… it is threatening humanity… it is threatening life on this planet…

Let’s be clear, let’s stand up and voice our rights… “We will not go quietly into the night… We will not go down without a fight!”

Present EARTH WARS, whether economic, social, or spiritual threaten the planet, our humanity, our very existence … Technology, if harnessed properly will provide sustainable existence… and humanity will progress and peace and happiness will be the basis of our existence…
Weather control requires human beings to have attained a level of consciousness that respects all life on our planet and our planet as interconnected and interactive.
Weather warfare conflicts with our planet and humanity.

Information Technology, if controlled for the purposes of profit or motives ulterior to the preservation of humanity and human life, will cause apocalyptic catastrophe.

A Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) known informally as the “Biodiversity Convention”, is an international legally binding treaty. The Convention has three main goals:
1. conservation of biological diversity (or biodiversity);
2. sustainable use of its components; and
3. fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources

The Environmental Modification Convention (ENMOD), formally the “Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques” is an international treaty prohibiting the military or other hostile use of environmental modification techniques. It opened for signature on 18 May 1977 in Geneva and entered into force on 5 October 1978.

It is apparent that these conventions are not being respected … All Human Beings just don’t get it!

Available technology allows for the exponential expansion of existentialism…. the interwoven fabric of communications are vital to shared existence… interactive communities, online social networks… such as Facebook, reaching across the globe connecting hundreds of millions of humans have a social responsibility to connect people; devastation and destruction can be implemented by uncaring, ruthless and ignorant individuals at the mere click of keyboard button, a mouse or voice command … if left unchecked the world as we know it disappears…

UNGA RES. 31/72, TIAS 9614
CONVENTION ON THE PROHIBITION OF MILITARY OR ANY OTHER HOSTILE USE OF ENVIRONMENTAL MODIFICATION TECHNIQUES
Adopted by Resolution 31/72 of the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1976. The Convention was opened for signature at Geneva on 18 May 1977. TEXT PUBLISHED IN: United Nations General Assembly Resolution 31/72, Annex; see Official Records of the General Assembly, Thirty-first Session, Supplement No. 39 (A/31/39), pp. 37-38. International Legal Materials, Vol. XVI, No. 1, January 1977, pp. 88-94 (Engl.); World Armaments and Disarmament, SIPRI Yearbook 1978, London 1978, pp. 392-397 (Engl.); Shindler & Toman, eds., “The Laws of Armed Conflicts.” …

The wiping out of humanity as we know it …it could happen instantly… or it could be a slow, protracted painful removal of everything we base our perception of the world we live in on…

2010 : The International Year of Biodiversity with an emphasis on 2010 Biodiversity Target initiated in 2001. In 2003, Environment Ministers and Heads of delegation from 51 countries in the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) region adopted the Kiev Resolution on Biodiversity at the fifth Ministerial Conference “Environment for Europe” and decided to “reinforce our objective to halt the loss of biological diversity at all levels by the year 2010”.

What has happened?

Is this what human beings, and especially those in positions of great power are viewing as reinforcing and halting the loss of biological diversity? Parties to these conventions committed themselves to a more effective and coherent implementation of the three objectives of the Convention, to achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level as a contribution to poverty alleviation and to the benefit of all life on earth.

The main goals of the International Year of Biodiversity were to:
Enhance public awareness of the importance of conserving biodiversity and of the underlying threats to biodiversity
Raise awareness of the accomplishments to save biodiversity that have already been realized by communities and governments
Promote innovative solutions to reduce the threats to biodiversity
Encourage individuals, organizations and governments to take immediate steps to halt biodiversity loss
Start dialog between stakeholders for the steps to be taken in the post-2010 period.
… Was this achieved? I think not!

Biodiversity is life.
Biodiversity is our life…

We are witnessing great trauma, cataclysmic catastrophe on a level that is posing a real threat to humanity right now… I urge you to action… read, learn and explore the existence and meaning of life and to become involved… Humanity needs YOU!

There’s more to come…