Monday, May 30, 2016

The Truth About Syria: A Manufactured War Against An Independent Country

The people of the world should ask Western leaders and their allies: Why are you prolonging this war? Why do you continue funding and enabling the terrorists? Isn’t five years of civil war enough? Is overthrowing the Syrian government really worth so much suffering and death?

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In late April, President Barack Obama announced that 250 U.S. special operations troops are being deployed to Syria. Unlike the Russian and Iranian forces aiding anti-terrorism efforts in the country, the U.S. military personnel have entered Syria against the wishes of the internationally recognized government.
In terms of international law, the United States has invaded Syria, a sovereign country and United Nations member state. This is the not the first time, though — Arizona Sen. John Mccain crossed into Syria without a visa to meet with anti-government fighters in 2013.
While the new U.S. boots on the ground have officially been dispatched for the purpose of fighting Daesh (an Arabic acronym for the organization known in the West as ISIS or ISIL), they will most likely be working to achieve one of the Pentagon’s longstanding foreign policy goals: violently overthrowing the Syrian government.
As the terrorism of Daesh and other extremists grows more intense, and as millions of Syrians have become refugees, the heavy costs of the U.S. government’s “regime change” operation in Syria should come into question.

Education, health care and national rebirth


The independent nationalist Syrian government, now being targeted by Western foreign policy, was born in the struggle against colonialism. It took decades of great sacrifice from the people of Syria to break the country free from foreign domination — first by the French empire and later from puppet leaders. For the last several decades, Syria has been a strong, self-reliant country in the oil-rich Middle East region. It has also been relatively peaceful.
Since winning its independence, Syria’s Baathist leadership has done a great deal to improve the living standards of the population. Between 1970 and 2009, the life expectancy in Syria increased by 17 years. During this time period infant mortality dropped dramatically from 132 deaths per 1,000 live births to only 17.9. According to an article published by the Avicenna Journal of Medicine, these notable changes in access to public health came as a result of the Syrian government’s efforts to bring medical care to the country’s rural areas.
A 1987 country study of Syria, published by the U.S. Library of Congress, describes huge achievements in the field of education. During the 1980s, for the first time in Syria’s history, the country achieved “full primary school enrollment of males” with 85 percent of females also enrolled in primary school. In 1981, 42 percent of Syria’s adult population was illiterate. By 1991, illiteracy in Syria had been wiped out by a mass literacy campaign led by the government.
The name of the main political party in Syria is the “Baath Arab Socialist Party.” The Arabic word “Baath” literally translates to “Rebirth” or “Resurrection.” In terms of living standards, the Baathist Party has lived up to its name, forging an entirely new country with an independent, tightly planned and regulated economy. The Library of Congress’ Country Study described the vast construction in Syria during the 1980s: “Massive expenditures for development of irrigation, electricity, water, road building projects, and the expansion of health services and education to rural areas contributed to prosperity.”
Compared to Saudi-dominated Yemen, many parts of Africa, and other corners of the globe that have never established economic and political independence, the achievements of the Syrian Arab Republic look very attractive. Despite over half a century of investment from Shell Oil and other Western corporations, the CIA World Factbook reports that about 60 percent of Nigerians are literate, and access to housing and medical care is very limited. In U.S.-dominated Guatemala, roughly 18 percent of the population is illiterate, and poverty is rampant across the countryside, according to the CIA World Factbook.
What the Western colonizers failed to achieve during centuries of domination, the independent Syrian government achieved rapidly with help from the Soviet Union and other anti-imperialist countries. The Soviet Union provided Syria with a $100 million loan to build the Tabqa dam on the Euphrates River, which was “considered to be the backbone of all economic and social development in Syria.” Nine-hundred Soviet technicians worked on the infrastructure project which brought electricity to many parts of the country. The dam also enabled irrigation throughout the Syrian countryside.
More recently, China has set up many joint ventures with Syrian energy corporations. According to a report from the Jamestown Foundation, in 2007 China had already invested “hundreds of millions of dollars” in Syria in efforts to “modernize the country’s aging oil and gas infrastructure.”
These huge gains for the Syrian population should not be dismissed and written off, as Western commentators routinely do when repeating their narrative of “Assad the Dictator.” For people who have always had access to education and medical care, it is to trivialize such achievements. But for the millions of Syrians, especially in rural areas, who lived in extreme poverty just a few decades ago, things like access to running water, education, electricity, medical care, and university education represent a huge change for the better.
Like almost every other regime in the crosshairs of U.S. foreign policy, Syria has a strong, domestically-controlled economy. Syria is not a “client state” like the Gulf state autocracies surrounding it, and it has often functioned in defiance of the U.S. and Israel. It is this, not altruistic concerns about human rights, that motivate Western attacks on the country.

Syria needs reform, not terrorism


In 2012, Syria ratified a new constitution in response to the protests during the Arab Spring. In compliance with the new constitution, Syria held a contested election in 2014, with international observers from 14 countries.
One thing that distinguishes Syria from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, and various other U.S.-aligned regimes throughout the region is religious freedom. In Syria, Sunnis, Christians, Alawites, Druze, Jews, and other religious groups are permitted to practice their religious faith freely. The government is secular, and respects the rights of the Sunni Muslim majority as well as religious minorities.
In addition to religious freedom, Syria openly tolerates the existence of two strong Marxist-Leninist parties. The Syrian Communist Party and the Syrian Communist Party (Bakdash) openly operate as part of the anti-imperialist coalition supporting the Baath Arab Socialist Party. Communists lead trade unions and community organizations in Damascus and other parts of the country.
Though Syrian President Bashar Assad is an Alawite, his wife, Asma, is Sunni like the majority of the country. Historically, the biggest opponents of the Syrian government have been supporters of the Muslim brotherhood, with a bloody episode taking place in 1982. Hoping to heal the longstanding tension, President Assad has made many gestures of solidarity toward the Sunni community in recent years. He has made a point of engaging in religious practices not commonly done by Alawites, such as praying in mosques and studying the Quran.
Shortly after fighting began in 2011, the Syrian government granted autonomy to Kurdish regions andtransferred political authority to leftist Kurdish nationalist organizations.
Syria’s political system is certainly in need of reform and modernization, and representatives of the Syrian government such as U.N. Ambassador Bashar Al-Jaafari readily admit this. However, the civil war which has raged across Syria for the last five years, is not about reform, democratization or modernization.
The BBC published a “guide to Syrian rebels” in 2013. Among them are not only the infamous “Islamic State” organization, which now horrifies the world, but also the Nusra Front, previously known as Al-Qaida in Syria. Other organizations with names like the “Islamic Front,” the “Islamic Liberation Front,” and the “Ahfad al-Rasoul Brigades” are also listed.
While Western media presents the Syrian civil war as a “battle for democracy” led by “revolutionaries,” the primary goal of almost every insurgent organization is creating a Sunni caliphate — one that does not actually suit Sunnis though, but rather a perverted politicized version of Sunnism created by Saudi Arabia to ideologically control that region. The unifying religious perspective of the Syrian “rebels” is the interpretation of Sunni Islam practiced and promoted by Saudi Arabia, known as Wahhabism.

Foreign fighters, chemical weapons and child soldiers


A large number of the insurgents are not Syrian. Impoverished people from throughout the Middle East have been recruited to fight against the Syrian government. Facilities in Bahrain train recruits to kill, and send them to Syria.
Terrorist training facilities exist in many other U.S.-aligned Gulf states. Foreign fighters from as far away as Malaysia and the Philippines have been found among the ranks of the foreign Wahhabi insurgents that are trying to depose the Syrian government.
The flow of violent insurgents into Syria is not accidental. It has been directly facilitated by the U.S. and its allies. The CIA has spent billions of dollars on training camps in Jordan for anti-government fighters.
The U.S.-aligned regimes of Turkey and Saudi Arabia are openly supporting the Nusra Front, the Al-Qaida-linked organization that has already killed tens of thousands of innocent people in Syria. Gen. David Petraeus has called for the U.S. to join these efforts and begin sending arms directly to the Nusra Front.
The Israeli government has made a point of aiding the Wahhabi extremists by providing them medical care in the occupied Golan Heights. Israel has also made a point of targeting allies of the Syrian government with airstrikes.
While Western media has highlighted allegations that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons,Carla Del Ponte from the United Nations confirmed that the foreign-backed insurgents have long been been using sarin nerve gas and other chemical weapons.
As the insurgents make life unlivable in Syria, kidnapping for ransom, bombing schools and hospitals, beheading people, torturing people, they do it with thousands of child soldiers among their ranks. Impoverished children from across the Arab world have been recruited to work toward violently overthrowing the Syrian government, according to UNICEF.
Between 50 and 72 percent of the population lives in areas controlled by the Syrian government. Meanwhile, even USAID confirmed that the turnout in Syria’s 2014 elections was more than 70 percent.
While the barrage of foreign fighters and extremists, aligned with a minority of the population and armed by Western powers and their allies, is committed to bringing down the Syrian government, the Syrian people clearly disagree. The fact that the Syrian government remains strongly intact after a five-year onslaught shows that the country is dedicated to preserving its independence. Time magazine and other mainstream media outlets have even been forced to admit that President Assad is unlikely to be deposed.

How can the war end?


As foreign fighters have flowed into Syria, hundreds of thousands of people have died over the last five years, and Western media continues to blame the Syrian government for the conflict. However, the war would have been a very short one if not for the foreign support given to the extremists.
As an independent country with a centrally planned economy, Syria has serves as an example to the world. It has proven that without neoliberalism and Western economic domination, it is possible to improve living conditions and develop independently. The Syrian government has made huge sacrifices to aid the Palestinian people and their resistance against Israel, and this has been a contributing factor to Syria’s inclusion on the State Department’s State Sponsors of Terrorism list. Syria has close economic relations with Russia and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The war in Syria is not a domestic conflict. This is a war imposed on Syria by Israel, the U.S., and other Western capitalist powers. The primary promoter of Wahhabi extremism around the world has been the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a U.S. client state. Turkey and Jordan, U.S.-aligned countries bordering Syria, keep their borders open so that weapons, supplies and money can continue to flow into the hands of Daesh and other anti-government terrorists.
At least 470,000 people are dead, and millions of others have been forced to become refugees, but Western leaders and their allies do not end their campaign. The insane chorus of “Assad Must Go” has transformed a small, domestic episode of unrest into a full-scale humanitarian crisis. The war has nothing to do with the calls for democratic reform and the peaceful protests of 2011.
As Daesh now threatens the entire world, the consequences of the Wall Street regime change operation, promoted with “human rights” propaganda, are becoming far more extreme. The Syrian government rallies a coalition of Christians, Communists, Islamic Revolutionaries, and other forces who are fighting to maintain stability and defeat Takfiri terrorism. (The term “Takfiri” refers to groups of Sunni Muslims who refer to other Muslims as apostates and seek to establish a caliphate by means of violence.)
The only real peace plan for Syria is for the U.S., France, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan, and other powers to end their neoliberal crusade. The internationally recognized and recently re-elected Syrian government could easily defeat the insurgents if foreign meddling ceased.
As U.S. media bemoans the humanitarian crisis, somehow blaming on the Syrian government and its president, and the U.S. directly sends its military forces into the country, the people of the world should ask Western leaders and their allies: Why are you prolonging this war? Why can’t you just leave Syria alone? Why do you continue funding and enabling the terrorists? Isn’t five years of civil war enough? Is overthrowing the Syrian government really worth so much suffering and death?

The danger of nuclear war between the US and China

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Last week’s G7 summit in Japan was dominated by two interconnected issues: the deepening crisis of global capitalism and the drive to war, in particular the growing danger of a clash between China and the United States in the South China Sea. The inability of the major powers to offer the slightest resolution of the economic breakdown is fuelling national antagonisms and the slide toward conflict.
The US and Japan pressed hard at the G7 gathering for a strong communiqué critical of China that would justify the ramping up of provocative American military incursions within the 12-nautical-mile territorial limit around Chinese-claimed islets. Earlier this month, the US navy conducted a third so-called “freedom of navigation” operation near Fiery Cross Reef in the South China Sea, producing an angry reaction from Beijing and declarations that it would beef up its defences in the area.
In the campaigns currently underway for the US presidency and the Australian federal election, a conspiracy of silence reigns over the preparations for war, aimed at deadening the consciousness of the population to the rising danger of nuclear conflict. Two nuclear-armed powers are facing off not only in the South China Sea, but other dangerous flashpoints such as North Korea and Taiwan, each of which has been greatly exacerbated by Washington’s “pivot to Asia” and aggressive military build-up throughout the region.
An arms race is underway that finds its most acute expression in the arena of nuclear weaponry, delivery systems and associated technologies. Determined to maintain its supremacy in Asia and globally, the US is planning to spend $1 trillion over the next three decades to develop a broader range of sophisticated nuclear weapons and means for delivering them to their targets. The unstated aim of the Pentagon is to secure nuclear primacy—that is, the means for obliterating China’s nuclear arsenal and thus its ability to mount a counter attack. The Chinese response, which is just as reactionary, is to ensure it retains the ability to strike back in a manner that would kill tens of millions in the United States.
The reality of these dangers was underscored last week by the release of a report by the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). It chillingly warned:
“Twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year, the governments of the United States and the People’s Republic of China are a few poor decisions away from starting a war that could escalate rapidly and end in a nuclear exchange. Mismatched perceptions increase both the possibility of war and the likelihood it will result in the use of nuclear weapons. Miscommunication or misunderstanding could spark a conflict that both governments may find difficult to stop.”
While appealing for the two sides to acknowledge the risks and heighten diplomatic efforts to prevent conflict, the UCS analysis offered not the slightest hope that such steps would be taken. The report bleakly declared:
“Lack of mutual trust and a growing sense that their differences may be irreconcilable incline both governments to continue looking for military solutions—for new means of coercion that help them feel more secure. Establishing the trust needed to have confidence in diplomatic resolutions to the disagreements, animosities, and suspicions that have troubled leaders of the United States and the PRC [China] for almost 70 years is extremely difficult when both governments take every effort to up the technological ante as an act of bad faith.”
The intensifying military competition is an unequal one, which only heightens tensions and the danger of war. In the field of nuclear armaments, China is outgunned and outnumbered. While desperately seeking to catch up, the Chinese military is generations behind in the capability of its weaponry and fields an estimated 260 warheads, compared to about 7,000 for the US. Its prime objective is to ensure a credible nuclear deterrent would survive a US first strike. Unlike Beijing, Washington has never ruled out the first use of nuclear weapons.
The Guardian reported last week that China is poised to send submarines armed with nuclear weapons on patrol in the Pacific for the first time. Such a move signals a break with the current policy, under which warheads and missiles were stored separately under the strict control of the top leadership. Armed missiles will now be loaded onto nuclear submarines to enable their immediate launch against continental America in the event of war.
The Chinese leadership has been driven to such measures by the US military build-up in North East Asia, especially the deployment of anti-ballistic missile systems aimed at neutralising China’s ability to strike back. China’s nuclear submarines, however, are comparatively noisy, making them vulnerable to detection and destruction by US attack subs. A new scenario is unfolding in which a jittery Chinese commander could misunderstand an order and, fearing imminent attack, unleash the submarine’s missiles against pre-determined targets.
Nuclear war will not be averted through the diplomacy of major powers, worthless posturing about international nuclear disarmament or the vain hope that nuclear war is so terrible as to be unthinkable. Nuclear strategists have been “thinking the unthinkable” for more than half a century. The last world war ended with the atom bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing some 200,000 people. President Barack Obama’s refusal last week in Hiroshima to offer an apology for those monstrous crimes of US imperialism is a sure sign that new ones are being prepared.
The relentless drive toward a new world war between nuclear-armed combatants stems from the crisis of capitalism and its irresolvable contradictions. Only the working class can end the danger of war by putting an end to the profit system and its outmoded nation state system. That is the significance of the struggle being waged by the International Committee of the Fourth International and all its sections to build a unified anti-war movement of the international working class based on the perspective of socialist internationalism.

New Political Earthquake in Brazil: Is It Now Time for Media Outlets to Call This a “Coup”?

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Brazil today awoke to stunning news of secret, genuinely shocking conversations involving a key minister in Brazil’s newly installed government, which shine a bright light on the actual motives and participants driving the impeachment of the country’s democratically elected president, Dilma Rousseff. The transcripts were published by the country’s largest newspaperFolha de São Paulo, and reveal secret conversations that took place in March, just weeks before the impeachment vote in the lower house was held. They show explicit plotting between the new planning minister (then-senator), Romero Jucá, and former oil executive Sergio Machado — both of whom are formal targets of the “Car Wash” corruption investigation — as they agree that removing Dilma is the only means for ending the corruption investigation. The conversations also include discussions of the important role played in Dilma’s removal by the most powerful national institutions, including — most importantly — Brazil’s military leaders.
The transcripts are filled with profoundly incriminating statements about the real goals of impeachment and who was behind it. The crux of this plot is what Jucá calls “a national pact” — involving all of Brazil’s most powerful institutions — to leave Michel Temer in place as president (notwithstanding his multiple corruption scandals) and to kill the corruption investigation once Dilma is removed. In the words of Folha, Jucá made clear that impeachment will “end the pressure from the media and other sectors to continue the Car Wash investigation.” Jucá is the leader of Temer’s PMDB party and one of the “interim president’s” three closest confidants.
It is unclear who is responsible for recording and leaking the 75-minute conversation, but Folha reports that the files are currently in the hand of the prosecutor general. The next few hours and days will likely see new revelations that will shed additional light on the implications and meaning of these transcripts.
The transcripts contain two extraordinary revelations that should lead all media outlets to seriously consider whether they should call what took place in Brazil a “coup”: a term Dilma and her supporters have used for months. When discussing the plot to remove Dilma as a means of ending the Car Wash investigation, Jucá said the Brazilian military is supporting the plot: “I am talking to the generals, the military commanders. They are fine with this, they said they will guarantee it.” He also said the military is “monitoring the Landless Workers Movement” (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra, or MST), the social movement of rural workers that supports PT’s efforts of land reform and inequality reduction and has led the protests against impeachment.
The second blockbuster revelation — perhaps even more significant — is Jucá’s statement that he spoke with and secured the involvement of numerous justices on Brazil’s Supreme Court, the institution that impeachment defenders have repeatedly pointed to as vesting the process with legitimacy in order to deny that Dilma’s removal is a coup. Jucá claimed that “there are only a small number” of Court justices to whom he had not obtained access (the only justice he said he ultimately could not get to is Teori Zavascki, who was appointed by Dilma and who — notably — Jucá viewed as incorruptible in obtaining his help to kill the investigation (a central irony of impeachment is that Dilma has protected the Car Wash investigation from interference by those who want to impeach her)). The transcripts also show him saying that “the press wants to take her [Dilma] out,” so “this shit will never stop” — meaning the corruption investigations — until she’s gone.
The transcripts provide proof for virtually every suspicion and accusation impeachment opponents have long expressed about those plotting to remove Dilma from office. For months, supporters of Brazil’s democracy have made two arguments about the attempt to remove the country’s democratically elected president: (1) the core purpose of Dilma’s impeachment is not to stop corruption or punish lawbreaking, but rather the exact opposite: to protect the actual thieves by empowering them with Dilma’s exit, thus enabling them to kill the Car Wash investigation; and (2) the impeachment advocates (led by the country’s oligarchical media) have zero interest in clean government, but only in seizing power that they could never obtain democratically, in order to impose a right-wing, oligarch-serving agenda that the Brazilian population would never accept.
Brazil's interim President Michel Temer  during a meeting with unionists at the Planalto Palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, on May 16, 2016. Photo: Andre Dusek/Estadao Conteudo. (Agencia Estado via AP Images)
Photo: Andre Dusek/AP
The first two weeks of Temer’s newly installed government provided abundant evidence for both of these claims. He appointed multiple ministers directly implicated in corruption scandals. A key ally in the lower house who will lead his government’s coalition there — André Moura — is one of the most corrupt politicians in the country, the target of multiple, active criminal probes not only for corruption but also attempted homicide. Temer himself is deeply enmeshed in corruption (he faces an eight-year ban on running for any office) and is rushing to implement a series of radical right-wing changes that Brazilians would never democratically allow, including measures, as The Guardian detailed, “to soften the definition of slavery, roll back the demarcation of indigenous land, trim housebuilding programs and sell off state assets in airports, utilities and the post office.”
But, unlike the events of the last two weeks, these transcripts are not merely clues or signs. They are proof: proof that the prime forces behind the removal of the president understood that taking her out was the only way to save themselves and shield their own extreme corruption from accountability; proof that Brazil’s military, its dominant media outlets, and its Supreme Court were colluding in secret to ensure the removal of the democratically elected president; proof that the perpetrators of impeachment viewed Dilma’s continued presence in Brasilia as the guarantor that the Car Wash investigations would continue; proof that this had nothing to do with preserving Brazilian democracy and everything to do with destroying it.
For his part, Jucá admits that these transcripts are authentic but insists it was all just a misunderstanding with his comments taken out of context,calling it “banal.” “That conversation is not about a pact for Car Wash. It’s about the economy, to extricate Brazil from the crisis,” he claimed in an interview this morning with UOL political blogger Fernando Rodrigues. That explanation is entirely implausible given what he actually said, as well as the explicitly conspiratorial nature of the conversations, in which Jucá insists on a series of one-on-one encounters, rather than meeting in a group, all to avoid provoking suspicions. Political leaders are already calling for his resignation from the government.
Ever since Temer’s installation as president, Brazil has seen intense, and growing, protests against him. Brazilian media outlets — which have been desperately trying to glorify him — have suspiciously refrained from publishing polling data for many weeks, but the last polls show him with only 2 percent support and 60 percent wanting him impeached. The only recent published polling data showed that 66 percent of Brazilians believe legislators voted for impeachment only out of self-interest — a belief these transcripts validate — while only 23 percent believe they did so for the good of the country. Last night in São Paulo, police were forced to barricade the street where Temer’s house is located due to thousands of protesters heading there; they eventually used fire hoses and tear gas. An announcement to close the Ministry of Culture led to artists and others occupying offices around the country in protest, which forced Temer to reverse the decision.
Until now, The Intercept, like most international media outlets, has refrained from using the word “coup” even as it (along with most outlets) has been deeply critical of Dilma’s removal as anti-democratic. These transcripts compel a re-examination of that editorial decision, particularly if no evidence emerges calling into question either the most reasonable meaning of Jucá’s statements or his level of knowledge. This newly revealed plotting is exactly what a coup looks, sounds, and smells like: securing the cooperation of the military and most powerful institutions to remove a democratically elected leader for self-interested, corrupt, and lawless motives, in order to then impose an oligarch-serving agenda that the population despises.
If Dilma’s impeachment remains inevitable, as many believe, these transcripts will make it much more difficult to leave Temer in place. Recent polling data shows that 62 percent of Brazilians want new elections to select their president. That option — the democratic one — is the one Brazil’s elites fear most, because they are petrified (with good reason) that Lula or another candidate they dislike (Marina Silva) will win. But that’s the point: If what is being avoided and smashed in Brazil is democracy, then it’s time to start using the proper language to describe this. These transcripts make it increasingly difficult for media outlets to avoid doing so.