Kadyrov foundation delivers tons of aid to war-hit regions of Syria

A Chechen charity organization has delivered hundreds of tons of food and other aid to the Syrian people and is now sponsoring the restoration of historical mosques in the country, the government’s press service reports.

In a press release timed to coincide with the 14th anniversary of the Akhmat Kadyrov Public Foundation – the charity group named after the first Chechen president who was killed by terrorists in 2004 – the Chechen government noted that the group had been delivering aid outside the Russian Federation “for a long time and on a broad scale.”

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The area around Chechen parliament being cordoned off for a special operation © Said Tsarnaev

The foundation helped the disaster-stricken residents of the Middle East, Far East and African nations. It has also sponsored the construction of several mosques in Turkey and Israel, the report reads.

Since the beginning of this year, people from the foundation handed out several hundred thousand tons of bread in Aleppo and Damascus as well as thousands of pairs of footwear and sets of clothing. Money provided by the group was used to organize surgery for about 150 women and children who were wounded in the course of the Syrian civil war.

The foundation also provides money for restoration of several historical mosques in the Syrian cities of Aleppo and Homs, the press-service said. The organization was launched in 2004 in memory of Akhmat-Haji Kadyrov, the former Chechen president and father of the current head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov.

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Servicemen of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides in Syria hand out humanitarian aid in Jiba in the Quneitra province, Syria © Sputnik

The group is headed by Akhmat Kadyrov’s widow Aimani. In recent years, it has repeatedly delivered humanitarian aid to various regions affected by armed conflicts, such as Somalia and Syria. A public opinion poll conducted in October last year revealed that 75 percent of Russians would like to see their country continue sending humanitarian aid to Syria even after the war in the country comes to an end.

Forty-five percent said that Russia’s main ally in the Middle East should receive military-technical help and 44 percent backed diplomatic support. Just under a quarter – 22 percent – said that simple monetary aid would be preferable.

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Israel hits nearly all Iran infrastructure in Syria, says ‘if it rains on us, it’ll storm on them’

Jerusalem: Israeli raids overnight hit “nearly all the Iranian infrastructure in Syria”, Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Thursday after strikes Israel says were in response to rocket fire at its forces it blamed on Iran.

“We hit nearly all the Iranian infrastructure in Syria,” Lieberman told a security conference.

“They need to remember the saying that if it rains on us, it’ll storm on them. I hope we’ve finished this episode and everyone understood.” Israel’s army said today it had hit dozens of Iranian military targets in Syria.

It was one of the largest Israeli military operations in recent years and its biggest such raid against Iranian targets, the military said.

Israel carried out the raids after it said around 20 rockets were fired from Syria at its forces in the occupied Golan Heights at around midnight.

It blamed the rocket fire on Iran’s Al-Quds force, adding that Israel’s anti-missile system intercepted four of the projectiles while the rest did not land in its territory. No Israelis were wounded.

Lieberman called the rocket fire “a new phase”.

“We don’t want an escalation, but won’t let anyone attack us or build an infrastructure to attack us in the future,” Lieberman said.

“We’re facing a new reality. The Iranian attempt to bring anti-aircraft systems to our borders and close our skies is intolerable and unacceptable.” The incident came after weeks of rising tensions and followed US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal on Tuesday, a move Israel had long advocated.

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The Syria Narrative Comes Apart – With Guest Sen. Richard Black

Nothing the US government tells us about Syria and the alleged chemical attack at Douma makes any sense. VA State Senator and retired US Army JAG officer Richard Black joins today’s Liberty Report to draw on his experiences traveling to Syria and following the war. He does not believe what Washington is telling us and he makes a very good case for why we are being lied to.

Ron Paul Liberty Report – Archives

Bonus Intercepted Podcast: Ralph Nader on Gina Haspel, John Bolton, Syria, and the “Decrepit” Democratic Party

Subscribe to the Intercepted podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, Radio Public, and other platforms. New to podcasting? Click here.

Ralph Nader is the best known public advocate in modern U.S. history and has run four times for president. On this special episode of Intercepted, we are going to dig deep into several issues facing the country and the world right now. In case you are not familiar with Nader, he rose to prominence in the 1960s after blowing the lid on extreme safety issues with General Motors and other car manufacturers’ products. His book “Unsafe at Any Speed” was an influential investigation and exposé. Throughout his life, Nader has waged countless campaigns aimed at food safety, worker and environmental protections, ending pollution, cronyism in government, financial crimes, and more. Nader simply calls himself a public citizen.

Many Democrats and liberals continue to blame Nader for George W. Bush’s victory in the 2000 election, even though the claim is demonstrably false. But Nader perseveres and, at the age of 84, he continues to wage the very same battles he has from the start of his public life. His latest book, “Breaking Through Power,” chronicles his various battles against the U.S. government, big corporations, and concentrated political power. The latest Intercepted featured an excerpt of our interview with Nader. What follows is the entire conversation in both audio and transcript form.

Jeremy Scahill: Ralph Nader, welcome to this extended episode of Intercepted.

Ralph Nader: Thank you, Jeremy.

JS: Let’s start with Gina Haspel. This campaign that the CIA is publicly waging to support her nomination, leaking or publicizing memos that seem to exonerate her of any direct role in the destruction of torture tapes. First question is just: Have you ever seen anything like the CIA social media campaign that’s being waged right now in an effort to get Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA director?

RN: No, and the reason why, one is that the CIA desperately wants someone from their own ranks, they don’t want an outsider. They’ve been battered at times by Trump and others, which is pretty unheard of for a president to do that. So they’re hunkering down, and they don’t want to lose this one.

JS: Right, but, at the same time, isn’t the CIA supposed to be prohibited from engaging in domestic propaganda? I mean, it does seem like they’re utilizing their social media platforms to campaign for someone that there’s very serious questions about her role in torture, black sites and other issues.

RN: Well, who has ever found a boundary for the CIA? I mean they’re not supposed to deal with overt armed action abroad, according to their original charter, they’re just supposed to collect intelligence, and we know where that’s gone — that’s out of the window.

The CIA does what it wants, under the cloak of secrecy and national security, does whatever it wants, and who’s going to stop it? It has so many feelers all over the country and the world, and they really want her in because they think that Trump is perfectly capable of nominating an outsider who would give them a lot of trouble. And they’ve been jolted more than usual, publicly, as an agency, and they want stability, as they define it. And it doesn’t matter what she did in Asia in terms of the Thailand episode and torture. I mean, that’s what they do. That’s what the CIA does all over the world.

JS: You know it’s interesting, as I watch Trump supporters who are railing against the deep state and saying that, you know, you have all of these powerful people within the CIA/NSA/FBI bureaucracy that are plotting against Trump, the thing that comes to my mind is that if I were a really dark character within the CIA, right now, I’d be very content with Trump being the commander-in-chief because he doesn’t seem to understand the full range of powers that the CIA has. And it seems to me like they’re able to do basically whatever they want right now without much questioning from the White House.

RN: Well that’s been true of prior presidents. They want deniability. They don’t really want to know what the NSA and CIA do. President Obama, President Bush, President Clinton — they don’t want to know that the NSA was dragnet snooping on virtually all Americans, a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment, as well as the FISA Act.

And President Trump is no different in that way. What they are really upset about is: When was the last time we ever heard a president attack “the deep state”? He’s not attacking some rogue outfit in Afghanistan that’s an offshoot and maybe under contract. He’s attacking the military industrial complex’s core secrecy operations and that is freaking out people at the CIA, especially career people who have never been fingered that way from the White House. That’s why they want the stability of this present nominee.

JS: It’s an interesting point that you’re raising. The one pushback that I would have on it though, is that it does seem that given that Trump does not appear to have even a full staff in place right now, and doesn’t seem very committed to any sort of oversight function, that those fears within the CIA and Trump, because he’s railing against the deep state, could be unfounded given that they can continue on with whatever operations they want right now, without anyone really questioning them.

I mean, look at the Senate Intel Committee. The House Intel Committee. They’re running around on this Russia stuff. Are they actually conducting any official oversight of the CIA right now?

RN: Well no, I wouldn’t say any congressional committee, since the Church Committee, back decades ago, really conducted oversight over the CIA and recommended changes, that was during the Nixon administration. But you have to keep in mind: style, secrecy, being in the corner, not being in the spotlight all of this is essential for the CIA to continue operating. So even though they don’t have to fear Trump [will] engage in any oversight, they fear the kind of sudden shaft of light that comes out of his tweets.

And also they can’t assume that he wouldn’t appoint a crazy to head the CIA. I mean he just appointed a crazy, lawless warmonger, John Bolton, to be his national security adviser. You don’t think that reverberates at the CIA?

JS: Oh, I think absolutely. I’m just trying to say that I think there are a number of complicated dynamics at play obviously. I agree with your analysis, particularly on Senate oversight not really occurring with the CIA for many decades.

What about Mike Pompeo now going over from CIA to State Department?

RN: Well he’s the last person to be appointed head of the nation’s diplomats. I mean Pompeo is a warmonger, his statements when he was a congressman were just off the charts — only to be exceeded by the crazed John Bolton.

Now he’s pulling back, and, you know, he’s moderating and he has to deal with the foreign service. He doesn’t want to disrupt any further a shattered, fractured State Department.

But he is a part of this clique that’s growing around Trump to use armed force regardless of international law or the Constitution or federal statutes. It’s remarkable that he and Bolton don’t believe in the rule of law at all — it’s just, “Bomb ’em.”

And we’re going to get to Bolton, I hope, but they are kin: Pompeo’s a graduate of Harvard Law School and John Bolton’s a graduate of Yale Law School, and they’re the shame of both law schools. It isn’t that they just pursue policies abroad that reasonable people can disagree with. They are constantly pursuing illegal criminal acts of aggression, which is going to put our country into a more insecure posture. How many more years can we rely on the pacific and Atlantic ocean, before our 100 plus year messing around in the backyards of countries over there, propping up dictators and suppressing their own people brutally and playing around with oil politics. How long is that going to be a protected area, before the explosions start in the U.S.?

JS: Well, what do you say to people, and there’s a lot of them, both the never Trumpers and a lot of the so-called liberal Democrats that, that take this line, “Well, General Mattis is the adult in the room or General Kelly is the adult in the room.”

RN: Well the problem is, everything’s relative, isn’t it Jeremy?

JS: Yeah.

RN: The two sources of restraint on a bellicose Trump or a wag-the-dog Trump are the secretary of defense, Mattis, and his chief of staff, General Kelly. But you see, if they can’t work with Pompeo and Bolton, and Bolton is a bolt, he knows how to maneuver, and he knows how to try to get his way, he knows how to intimidate, he has a high energy level, it’s quite conceivable that Kelly will quit. He’s already talked about quitting because of the way Donald Trump has mistreated him, and Mattis privately has said, before John Bolton took the post on April 9th in the White House that he couldn’t work with Bolton. Well, after that he said, well, he will work with Bolton and he met with Bolton.

But, let’s put it this way: If you’re projecting who’s most likely to quit, Mattis and Kelly are far more likely to quit than Pompeo and Bolton. And that’s the danger. That’s the clear and present danger to this country.

JS: Right, and just to add one note on General Mattis, I’ve often thought that it is really a ridiculous line to imply that he is this sort of moderating force when you look at his track record as a commander in Iraq. But, also, his views on Iran, he is a very hawkish military figure that now means that we have only nominal civilian leadership at the Pentagon, because Mattis had to get this exception.

And the case of John Kelly — he was infamous within the military, particularly when he was at U.S. Southern Command, for being a kind of overt xenophobe and very anti-immigrant and yet those two are being described in a positive way as like the responsible ones in the room.

RN: That’s why, that’s why I said it’s all relative, isn’t it? And the critical juncture is going to be in mid-May if Trump gets out of the Iran nuclear decree, and he can because it was never a treaty ratified by the Senate, it was basically an executive order by President Obama. If he gets out of that, the question is: Is Mattis is going to take it? Because Mattis, as a secretary of defense, is a bit more moderate and understands the importance of the Iran nuclear decree compared to his wild, belligerent, Marine-type statements in Iraq.

But is he going to say, “Well, that’s it! I can’t handle it anymore, because once you pull out of the nuclear accord with Iran, you unleash forces out of Netanyahu’s Israel, you create tremendous complications with the other countries that have signed on and are not going to withdraw, including China and Russia, not to mention France and England. So this is a very perilous spring coming up.

JS: Hmm. Yeah, and I mean it’s, if you look at John Bolton’s first hours as national security adviser, it was all about pummelling Syria and launching this attack. What are the top concerns you have about John Bolton being in this non-Senate-confirmed, very powerful position of national security adviser?

RN: Well, first of all, he has a record, a demonstrated record of alienating Muslims and Arabs. He is a prime advocate of anti-Semitism against the Arab people. He is associated with Pamela Geller, the notorious Islamaphobe and web patron out of New York. He has had a record of aggressively supporting the criminal invasion of Iraq under Bush and Cheney, and he says to this day that it was not an error, it was not a mistake. He still pushes for it.

He’s written an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, as many people know, over two months ago, urging the bombing of North Korea. He wants to overthrow the government of Iran. He supports the annexation of the Palestinian West Bank to Israel. He’s out Netanyahu-ed Netanyahu. He’s crazed! I call him a lethal juvenile, because he never asks himself what’s going to happen after you bomb North Korea, or after you try to overthrow Iran, or after you annex the West Bank. And he is the worst possible choice.

Now, having said that, Bolton doesn’t have many friends. He’s a bully toward his subordinates, he’s what’s called an observer once called a “kiss-ass” to his superiors, and that’s one reason why Trump likes him. He doesn’t have many friends in the Senate. The Republicans wouldn’t even confirm him as ambassador to the U.N. — it had to be a recess appointment by President Bush in 2005. So that’s consoling, that he’s alienated so many people. But all he has to do is persuade one person: Donald Trump.

And that’s why there are a number of legal experts now that are about to put out a statement, that the post of national security adviser is a confirmable post, under the appointments clause of the U.S. Constitution. It’s an office of the United States. And, unless the Congress specifically exempts the office from confirmation, it is a confirmable post, and you’re going to have leading experts, Louis Fisher, the leading Constitutional expert out of the Library of Congress, Bruce Fein, maybe Professor [Laurence] “Larry” Tribe, to try to push that. Because it’s retroactive. If Bolton makes a bad move and alienates the Senate in terms of the mid-term elections, the Republicans, anything like that can happen. There’s also an effort in the Congress for a joint resolution disapproving of the choice of John Bolton.

And I remember once I was interviewing Castro in Cuba and it was just a few weeks after Bolton who was working under secretary of state Powell at the time, put out a statement without any authority that Castro was engaged in developing chemical and biological weapons. Well, it was completely false and Colin Powell retracted it, overrode his insubordinate John Bolton who he thinks is a perilous and a disreputable person, by the way, but he won’t say it publicly. That’s Colin Powell. And when I was interviewing Fidel Castro, he was terrified when he heard this. He thought it was a precursor to an attack on Cuba. You can understand — that’s not a particularly paranoid attitude by Castro given our attempts at overthrowing him in prior years.

So you just can’t, you can’t top this belligerent, super, hyper war-hawk who doesn’t think of any consequences. He, also, you know, avoided going to Vietnam. He’s one of these neo-cons. You might ask: How does he keep bouncin’ up, if everybody doesn’t like him? And there are two reasons: One, he’s useful to the military industrial complex’s extreme elements — he wants more and more weapons, more and more contracts, and there are extreme elements of the military industrial complex, that President Eisenhower warned us about, who liked him. And the other is the swarming Israeli lobby which thinks he’s heroic beyond their dreams, and they support him as well. And then you put in the mix the neo-cons who keep popping up in powerful areas and who were heavily responsible for pushing Bush into Iraq, and elsewhere, and that explains why this madman — and that’s an understatement, he really is a madman — he is Dr. Strangelove on steroids. It’s very hard to exaggerate the criticism of one, John Bolton.

Now, he may self-destruct, he may say the wrong thing, he may get Trump pretty embarrassed, and we’re all hoping that that will happen, because Trump will give John Bolton the bolt, if it’s a question of embarrassing Trump. But this is what happens when Congress does not obey the Constitution and the requirements of the Constitution on Congress and foreign policy and national security.

JS: Well, it does seem that Trump is more bothered by John Bolton’s very large mustache than any of the concerns that you’re raising. Trump reportedly was waivering on him because of his mustache. And it could be that superficial of a thing that Bolton has food in his mustache one day, Trump could just say, “Alright, you’re outta here.” Rather than it being a policy embarrassment.

One thing you left off the list, I’m sure not intentionally because you just gave a great list of past activities and current positions of Bolton, but also his support for the MEK organization, they say in Iran, but really it’s an exile group, and for years, this was designated, the MEK, as a state, as a terror organization by the U.S. State Department. That’s the Mujahedin-e Khalq, which is the People’s Mujahedin of Iran. He has taken money, has spoken at their conferences, has said that he wants them to be in power in Iran. And Bolton is in league with some pretty prominent Democrats like Howard Dean and others in supporting and taking money from the MEK.

RN: And, unfortunately, Senator Schumer has said many nice things about Bolton because he’s so fervid pro-Israeli military government, and so that’s another factor.

But what you just said Jeremy raises a very serious question about the endurance of Bolton in the White House he has not gotten a top secret security clearance. It is going to take the FBI months — that’s months — to find out whether they are going to come down plus or minus on his top-secret security.

And, of course, what happens in the case of Jared Kushner and others is that Trump gives him a waiver, so he’s obviously giving a waiver, although the press don’t seem to have asked about that, to John Bolton.

But people who know his entanglements, and you just pointed out one. And his contracts and money and who he’s associated with believe that the FBI will not be able to come up with a finding that he deserves a top-secret security clearance. But he’s receiving top secrets right now, day after day. I think that is a possible Achilles’ heel here, especially if the imbroglio over Iran occurs, and if Trump withdraws from the Iran nuclear accord.

JS: Ralph, let me ask you about this recent airstrike festival that Trump and Bolton and the UK and France just participated in where they launched more than 100 cruise missiles and other munitions at a handful of facilities in Syria, supposedly as a response to the Syrian government using chemical munitions in Douma. Why did that happen? Because it clearly didn’t have any impact on any chemical weapons facilities or storage facilities, but maybe start from the beginning: What do you believe of the allegation that was very publicly made by Nikki Haley, and now Donald Trump, that Assad definitely was the party that was in charge of using these chemical weapons?

RN: Well I think the two strikes by Trump in Syria were basically macho strikes — he has to show that he’s tough and strong and commander-in-chief, because it didn’t have any strategic effect.

The other part of your question is very puzzling in terms of trying to find a response, because there are claims on all sides that there have been use of chlorine and sarin gas by various parties, from the Assad regime to forces opposed to him. You can see the rationale — Assad is running short of ammunition and planes, and lethal gas is a way to smoke people out, to use one of George W. Bush’s phrases, in urban areas, and to create terror. And the other side, the rebels, they want to make sure that Assad is associated with chemical weapons, because that will bring the Americans in.

Well, the fact is that we’ve lost the war in Syria, the Russians and the Iranians have far more people on the ground, they have far more strategic interests, and we’re not willing to admit it.

The rest is mopping up ISIS with a couple thousand U.S. soldiers in Syria. ISIS is now being scattered where it can become even more dangerous in other countries. So civil wars are incredibly brutal, more than others. Our civil war killed 700,000 people at a time when our population was about a million or two greater than Syria. So this is a multi-faceted civil war, and the best that can be done here is to try to have an international peace conference, with all the parties that can pull the strings in Syria on Assad, on the rebels and on other factions.

JS: If you look at the history of United Nations investigations in Syria on the issue of use of chemical weapons, as you point out, there are findings of responsibility for the Syrian armed forces under the control of Bashar al-Assad and there also are clear findings of responsibility for the Islamic State and other actors. What I find really, unfortunately not surprising, but really significant to bring up is that so many people, just because the United States government says so, say “Well, this incident must be Assad’s forces using the chemical weapons,” when these strikes that Trump recently ordered took place literally on the day that the OPCW inspectors arrived in Syria to go and do their investigation.

And I think we’re in a dangerous situation where if people are going to take the word of Nikki Haley or Donald Trump on an issue that the United States has a long track record of lying about, including the Iraq war, but also other examples, then we sort of are like led like sheep to our involvement in war crimes or, in bombings that play no strategic purpose even for the stated missions of the United States in Syria.

You get what I’m getting at here — it’s incredible to see Democrats and liberals sort of lapping up what Nikki Haley and the president are saying as though it doesn’t bear any scrutiny. You know, I wouldn’t doubt if Assad was responsible, but shouldn’t we confirm that?

RN: Yeah, it is strange that you know in a day of massive advance surveillance and techniques, remote and otherwise, that that has not been determined.

I think it’s because it’s in everybody’s interest to accuse everybody else that they are using chemical weapons. We should remind listeners that a large amount of Assad’s chemical weapons were given up and transferred to U.S. custody where they were burned on a U.S. warship in the Mediterranean. But obviously he, like most dictators, always wanted to maintain something in reserve because it tends to be a deterrent. That’s all one can say.

I think that we’ve got to focus on the problems that cause the problems over there, here, and when you have the New York Times have a major editorial titled, “Yes, John Bolton Really Is That Dangerous” and American Conservative magazine says that John Bolton is dangerous and that he’s a prevaricator, and a violator of law — that’s the American Conservative magazine. The Times began its editorial saying, “There are few people more likely than Mr. Bolton to lead the country into war.”

So this is the root, here, that is under the control of the people. And people all over, in congressional districts, we gotta wake up here. One percent of the people mobilize in congressional districts representing majority public opinion can turn Congress around. If we turn Congress around, then we can start turning the executive branch around.

So it’s so easy, you know, to get mired into the pros and cons over there and the intrigues and we want to know more facts, of course, what’s on the ground for policy-making but it distracts from our responsibilities here at home to put the heat on only 535 members of Congress from back home. And that’s what we’ve got to focus on.

JS: On a different subject, Ralph, as you’re aware, last Friday the Democratic National Committee filed this lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan against the Russian government, the Trump campaign, individuals that the DNC alleges participated in interfering in the U.S. electoral process in 2016, and they also named WikiLeaks as a party in the lawsuit, even though the suit itself doesn’t allege that WikiLeaks participated in hacking or knew in advance about it at all, it just says Wiki Leaks was publishing the hacked e-mails.

That part of it, to those of us in the media that follow these issues, is chilling because what they’re essentially saying is that news organizations or publishers that publish hacked or stolen material which every publication in this country has done repeatedly, that that’s a criminal or an activity that should be sanctioned or punished.

What is your analysis of this DNC lawsuit naming the Russian government, WikiLeaks, Trump campaign, etc.?

RN: Well, first of all, I think it’s an insurance policy in case the Mueller investigation fizzles, doesn’t come up with conspiracies, doesn’t come up with indictments at the top. They already are starting in terms of indictments at the bottom, in terms of operatives under the Trump campaign. That’s one.

The second is the Democratic National Committee wants to raise money, and it’s a great fundraiser.

The third is that when you file a civil lawsuit like that, you’re much freer to try to get information under subpoena and depositions and get information maybe that the Mueller investigation chooses not to get or not to disclose or the Justice Department.

And four, there’s been criticism that the Democratic National Committee is moribund, it’s hunkering down and it wants to show that it’s in the center of the action.

They got an aggressive plaintiff lawyer’s firm, Cohen Milstein, that know what they’re doing, that have been around a long time, and they’re very aggressive, and I’m sure they’re taking it on a contingent fee, plus expenses. So what’s not to like? From the head of the Democratic National Committee, [Tom] Perez, who will not meet with citizen groups who want to suggest a winning agenda for the Democrats in 2016.

JS: What’s your broader sense of the Mueller investigation, and it seems to me like the goalposts ever widen, and also this shift has occurred from really focusing on is Trump like a sleeper agent or a collaborator-conspirator with Putin, over to, well, we may uncover all this other criminal activity in this investigation. I mean, it doesn’t seem like they, certainly what’s available now in the public, have been able to directly link Trump to any sort of criminal conspiracy with Russians or Putin or Russian entities.

RN: Well, the Mueller investigation is going to lead to a lot of indictments, and they’re going to hand off some of these to the U.S. attorneys because they’re not set up in the Justice Department to pursue them, and, as you know, they’ve already started with the U.S. attorney in New York. They’re finding a lot of things. So far, a lot of economic shenanigans —

JS: Right —

RN: — that’s what they’re finding. The kind that violate international laws, the kind that violate domestic laws, hanky panky, and they’re not really interested in pursuing that directly unless it reaches Donald Trump — which it may!

I mean, you’re talking about an incredibly complex matrix of economic webs and tie-ins with the Russians. You know, he was in bankruptcy, again—and again, he couldn’t get U.S. banks to loan to his casinos, and this was at the time that the Russian oligarchs were pouring money out of Russia, looking for a place to invest. So there are a lot of trails here that can be examined.

This is more murky than your investigation of Blackwater, Jeremy.

JS: Yeah, well —

RN: In terms of the network. So, number one, I think we’re going to get a lot of prosecutions of people who deserve it, but not in the sense of heading toward the top with Trump. As far as whether they ever get anything on Trump — who knows, it’s all speculation.

I think Trump now is more worried about Michael Cohen’s imbroglio with the Justice Department and the seizure of his records by the Mueller team, and by the women who he bought favors from filing civil lawsuits. I think a lot of people don’t understand the enormous information you can get through civil action lawsuits under the law of torts. And someone who does understand that is one called Donald J. Trump.

JS: Right, and as we pointed out before on this show, there’s also a defamation suit that was brought by one of the women who allegedly was sexually harassed by Donald Trump. And she is, her case is based on the idea that Trump has maligned and defamed her by using his very powerful platform to call her a liar and that case, until recently, was brought by Gloria Allred, but it’s proceeding.

You mention Stephanie Clifford, who’s popularly known as Stormy Daniels, her case could result in a tremendous amount of discovery being handed over. And then you have the Sean Hannity aspect of it where he turns out to be, sort of, client number three of Michael Cohen, and he is basically like the shadow, I don’t know what you would even call him, chief of staff to Trump or something? But it’s, yeah, you’re right, the civil cases could end up producing an enormous amount of information that will be of public interest.

RN: And then it might curb his tweetdoms —

JS: We’ll see about that.

RN: Because of the tort law of defamation against a public figure like Donald Trump is great peril to him because he’s so malicious, and willful, and deliberate. Now the argument is under a Supreme Court case, the New York Times case, he can say, “Well the people I’m attacking verbally are public figures.” They’ve gone into the public arena and therefore I cannot be sued by them for defamation, citing the New York Times case.

The answer to that is you get away from the New York Times case if you are willful, deliberate, malicious and provocatory. So, I mean, he is about as willful and malicious in tweets as anybody in the U.S., so he is making himself very vulnerable to a whole slew of defamation cases which going to embroil him, because the fact that he is president means that he’s only above the law on issues of war, on issues of political outlawry. That’s where a president’s above the law. What many people don’t realize is they are beneath the law when it comes to conventional criminal law, which trapped Nixon, obstruction of justice, and conventional tort law, which trapped Clinton in losing his license due to perjury under a deposition. And I don’t think that’s made clear enough, because people think presidents can get away with almost anything, and they certainly have demonstrated that, and you have documented that again and again in your work, Jeremy Scahill, but they don’t understand they cannot get away from the mundane: criminal law and civil law of torts.

JS: Right, and we also saw a kind of replay of that, to a degree, with the recent pardon of Scooter Libby, and you know it was interesting to watch the kind of right-wing and neo-con response to this, where they say, “Aha! Dick Armitage is the one that leaked Valerie Plame’s identity. And, you know, so this wasn’t what Scooter Libby was convicted of.”

And that’s right — he wasn’t convicted of leaking Valerie Plame’s identity, but we know from the court proceedings and from Libby’s own testimony that, in fact, he was ordered by Dick Cheney to do it and he did that to Matthew Cooper of Time Magazine and Judy Miller of the New York Times.

But again Trump, it’s one of the situations, I’m not sure the Trump even knew who Scooter Libby was before he pardoned him. I mean, it sounded like he had some informal conversations with people, the timing with Bolton is quite curious, you know to have —

RN: Well, first of all he wants the allies that he had gotten before he did that, he wants the whole Cheney alliance to support him. He’s never going to get George W. Bush to support him, but he wants the Cheney core, and he wants to set a precedent for future pardons. He said, “Well, you know, I pardoned people who had nothing do with me. I pardoned Scooter Libby.”

People who think Trump is stupid may be right in terms of his understanding reality and history and the things that we would like presidents to be alert and smart about, but when it comes to street smarts and timing and the jugular? You can’t find anybody more proficient.

JS: Well, and James Comey on his big media tour, right now, has said repeatedly that he found Trump to be a man with above average intelligence. What do you make of the whole Comey episode and the way that Comey has sort of proceeded here?

I mean, first of all, you have this lionization of Comey that is happening on a lot of liberal networks and in liberal circles, and he has a track record filled with anti-civil rights, anti-civil liberties actions and his time working in the Bush Justice Department and on and on. But in this specific case, presumably the guy is going to be an important witness in any prosecution or investigation of Trump. And yet, he’s running around just sort of talking about all of this out in open. What’s your sense of the Comey moment?

RN: Well, if I can guess: One, he wants to justify his place in history. He’s caught between what he did to the Clinton campaign and what he’s doing to the Trump campaign, and he wants his explanation out there repeatedly on the mass media.

And, two, there is obviously an economic incentive, he’s not a super-rich man; a bestseller helps the security of his family economically.

And, three, he wants to protect the FBI. I think he’s infuriated the way Donald Trump pejoratively puts down the FBI — when was the last president who’s done that? And that has shaken the FBI to its core, especially with recent resignations by McCabe and others, or firings by McCabe and others.

JS: As a very young reporter, and not so experienced reporter, Ralph, when you were running for president in 2000, I was at a press conference after you launched your campaign, I believe it was in Denver, Colorado, and I asked you at that time, “Would you abolish the FBI?” And I’m wondering your thoughts on that now, whether we should even have an FBI as it currently exists?

RN: J. Edgar Hoover put the FBI on a very bad track because he used his secret files to extort and expand his influence against high members of Congress who might have offended him or presidents and vice presidents, and they were terrified of him. And you never want the secret domestic police to terrify the leading elected figures in our federal government. That has lingered at the FBI. They have an undeserved reputation of excellence, when, again and again, they have fumbled investigations.

However, they do have a level of pride. They haven’t had many conventional examples of being bribed into doing something. And the FBI agents, many of them are lawyers, members of the bar, officers of the court, that adds to their pride and they just can’t believe how they’re being beat up by the president of the United States, and Comey is viewed as their defender, the person who is in the mass media where they cannot be, taking on this man who is damaging and besmirching the reputation of the FBI.

JS: Alright, Ralph, a couple of quick questions: I was asking some colleagues, “If you could ask Ralph Nader something right now, what would you ask them?” One of my colleagues wants to know what you think of driverless cars.

RN: Hype beyond any reasonable belief. We’re not going to see them anytime soon in the next 10 or 20 years. First of all, they cannot mix with driver-driven cars, it’s very, very complex.

The second is, there’s a competition between companies over who is ahead in the driverless car arena, and they get publicity and approbation in the business pages for that, so they have an incentive that’s remote from engineering justification for a driverless car.

Third, there isn’t enough data to back up the claims of Waymo, or Uber, or General Motors, that they’re making. They haven’t really tested in real-life, congested Manhattan Island traffic, for example.

And finally, and this is the one that they never like to talk about at technical conferences, and that is that driverless cars have no defense against remote hacking, and that will terrify anybody who owns a driverless car or is in a driverless car, where the companies can hack their way, they can coerce upgrades, for example. Car dealers can immobilize a car if the installment loan payment doesn’t come in on time. And most ominous is that evil forces, anywhere in the world, can hack these cars and they can hack them at the level of model-year-volume. Let’s say you have two million Toyotas of the same volume, they’ll be able to crash these Toyotas all over the country or the world, and that’s why it’s a no-no and that’s why members of Congress are disgracing, themselves pushing through legislation that is deregulating, to a serious degree of risk, driverless cars and trying to view it as a brand new industry and getting caught up in the hoopla.

So that bill has got to be stopped, Senator Blumenthal, Senator Markey, and others are trying to stop it.

But it just shows you that when the media gets caught up in a technical hype, the consequences are very bad for consumers, they’re very bad for politicians and the media has just got to become much more critical. We need a Jeremy Scahill on autonomous cars.

JS: Well, I mean I do find it fascinating, I was just telling some younger colleagues about your work going back many decades on the seat belt, on the sharp corners within cars, and the basic safety issues— it was a real battle that you had to wage to even get minimal safety considerations accepted in the automobile industry, and it’s still a fight that I, I really wish that more young people right now, especially those that are going to be getting on the road took this stuff seriously.

RN: Well, they’ll take it seriously because there will be more accidents and fatalities, there have been two or three already, and they get a lot of publicity and they sort of slow down this hype acceleration for these autonomous cars.

And that is not to say that semi-autonomous brakes and semi-autonomous devices, many of which are already in cars as standard equipment or options are not good. They are good. But we’re talking about the nth degree of these cars coming up to your place and saying, “Take me where you want me.”

JS: You know, I have to say, Ralph, that when I listen to you talking about Donald Trump and the way that the national security establishment, you know, views him and the FBI right now, and sort of he’s shaking them to their core, I can’t help but sort of daydream what would it be like if we had an actual principled leftist who was in this position rather than Trump, the disrupter, but if we had an actual principled individual as commander in chief, as president of the United States, sort of what that would even look like, if you had sort of the moral equivalent of Trump, on the flipside, somebody that was going after them for the right reasons, the reasons that, you know, you’ve spent your life fighting about.

RN: What it looks like is waging peace. For heaven’s sake, there are enough examples in the last 100 years where waging peace, instead of the first option war, have paid off. And that’s got to be the function of the State Department, which under both Democrats Republicans have been more belligerent, in the statements, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense. Look at Secretary Hillary Clinton that toppled the regime in Libya, against the wishes of Secretary of Defense Gates, and the chaos and violence spreading all over that area of Africa is a tribute to her folly and to her arrogance, and going to the White House and telling Obama to only take a few planes and we’ve got an alternative government ready to replace that of Qaddafi.

So waging peace has a lot of benefits, certainly in every public opinion poll in every country in the world, and that’s not something to be minimized.

Second, I would require the Pentagon budget to be audited. The Pentagon budget is violating federal law since 1992, when Congress passed a law saying that no department or agency can observe the law without providing auditable data to the General Accounting Officer, now called the Government Accountability Office of the U.S. Congress. And every year, the GAO reports on the Pentagon, saying: “Sorry, we don’t have auditable data to audit the sprawling massive budget of $ 700 billion or so now.” And that’s not a technical accounting matter, because that is what puts the trail on billions of dollars being lost in Iraq or Afghanistan, billions of dollars of inventory available, but not locatable, by the Air Force and Air Force warehouses around the world, so they buy them all over again. And it exposes this hallowed defense budget which is being supported automatically by both Democrats and Republicans in the Congress and shows how it’s draining our country as part of a runaway empire. All empires devour themselves, and the Pentagon budget is devouring billions and billions of dollars that could renovate schools and rebuild highways, drinking water systems, sewage systems, public buildings, bridges, public transit, you name it. That’s what a president should be doing — every mayor, every labor union, every chamber of commerce would be behind that kind of public works or infrastructure agenda.

And then, third is you’ve got to empower people on Congress. Congress is the pivotal most important branch of government under the Constitution. It declares war or supposed to, it’s got the appropriations, the tax function, the exposure function, the confirmation of nominee function. And as Warren Buffet once said, there are only 535 of them on Capitol Hill, and we’re 3 hundred million, why can we control them? And I’m amazed how many investigative reporters and good editorialists, they do the right denunciation — it’s imperial, it’s applicable to today’s concerns — but they don’t go back to the districts and say, it never takes more than one percent of the people that has a Congress watchdog hobby, several hundred hours a year, with a few full time people in congressional districts representing a majority opinion, to turn around our foreign and military policy with both conservative and liberal support.

JS: Hmm. Last question, Ralph. Part of the line from a lot of Democrats is that people like Jill Stein and people who were aggressively reporting on Hillary Clinton and on the Podesta e-mails and the DNC hacks, and that this is a charge daily thrown at you, at me, at Glenn Greenwald, and others. What is your response when people say, “Well, look what you gave us with Donald Trump, and Hillary Clinton would have never put us in the peril and danger that we find ourselves in with Donald Trump. Just look: John Bolton is now the national security adviser.”

RN: And the Democratic Party could not landslide the worst Republican Party in history since 1854? The most ignorant, the most corporate indentured, the most warlike, the most corporate welfare supportive, the most bailout-prone Republican Party, anti-worker, anti-consumer, anti-environment? Why don’t they look in the mirror? The Democratic Party is the main scapegoater in American politics. It’s never their fault. It’s never Hillary’s fault. It’s always a Green Party fault. It’s always an independent candidate fault. They’ve lost two presidential elections since 2000, even though they won the popular vote, because the Electoral College took it away from them, there’s a major national citizen effort to have an interstate compact to neutralize the Electoral College.

The Democratic Party is not supporting of that. The Democratic Party doesn’t want to get rid of the Electoral College. They’ve lost twice to the Republicans. And that meant George W. Bush, and that meant Donald J. Trump.

So this scapegoating is nothing more than a sickness of the Democratic Party that cannot unleash new energy. It keeps putting losers in place like Nancy Pelosi. It keeps putting the Democratic National Committee apparatus against any kind of insurgent effort like Bernie Sanders. It’s a sick decrepit party that cannot defend the United States of America against the worst Republican Party in history.

JS: Does anybody ever have to ask you what you really think, Ralph?

RN: Well, what I really think is that we ought to make an accusation, Jeremy, that the Democratic or Republican parties do not really believe in democracy. If they did, they wouldn’t attack the press when the press is uttering inconvenient truths, they wouldn’t attack competitive candidates. Democracy cannot be a democracy if wealth is concentrated in a few hands, and democracy cannot be a democracy if it is not a competitive democracy in a multi-candidate election situation, and the two parties have an autocratic duopoly opposed to those democratic principles.

JS: On that very powerful note, I want to thank you Ralph Nader, very much, for speaking with me.

RN: Thank you, Jeremy Scahill, very much.

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The Intercept

Trump Should Ask Israel to Fund America’s Occupation of Syria

On 16 April 2018, the internationally respected analyst of Middle-Eastern affairs, Abdel Bari Atwan, headlined about Trump’s increasingly overt plan to break Syria up and to establish permanent US control over the parts it wants, “Attempting the Unachievable”. He stated that “The coming few months are likely to prove very difficult for the Americans and very costly, not just in Syria but also in Iraq.” He closed: “Who will cover the costs of this American move? There are no prizes for guessing the answer: it has already been spelled out.” The only country that his article mentioned was Israel: “It would not be surprising if Israel and the various lobbies that support were behind this American strategic volte-face. For Israel is in a state of panic.”

The US already donates $ 3.8 billion per year to Israel’s military, in order for Israel to purchase US-made weapons. However, Atwan argues that the costs of this invasion-occupation of Syria are likely to run into the trillions of dollars. The Gross Domestic Product of Israel is only $ 318.7 billion as of 2016. So, America now already donates a bit more than 1% to that amount, and Atwan’s thesis is that Israel will now become instead a net donor to America’s international corporations (funding some of the Pentagon, which then will pay that money to America’s weapons-firms), in order to avoid adding the enormous costs of this increasing invasion-occupation of Syria, onto America’s taxpayers, fighting forces, etc.

I do not consider this enormous reversal of Israel — from recipient to donor — to be likely. Far likelier, in my view, is Saudi Arabia, to finance the invasion.

The GDP of Saudi Arabia is $ 646.4 billion as of 2016, more than twice Israel’s — and the Saud family, who own that country, are accustomed to paying for the services they buy, not having them donated (unless by their fellow fundamentalist Sunnis, to spread the faith). Furthermore, the royal family, the Sauds, are extremely close to America’s leading oil families, who also donate heavily to Republican politicians. Ever since at least 2012, the Sauds have been the US Government’s main partner in the long campaign to overthrow and replace Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, by a Sharia-law, fundamentalist-Sunni, regime, which will do what the Sauds want.

America’s oil companies and pipeline companies, and military contractors such as Lockheed Martin, profit from America’s invasion-occupation of Syria, but US President Donald Trump isn’t doing it only with their welfare in mind; he has an international campaign to press America’s allies to foot a larger percentage of the cost to US taxpayers for America’s military.

Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson participates in a signing ceremony between President Donald Trump and Saudi King Salam at the Royal Court Palace, Saturday, May 20, 2017, in Riyadh. (AP/Evan Vucci)

Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson participates in a signing ceremony between Donald Trump and Saudi King Salman at the Royal Palace, May 20, 2017, in Riyadh. (AP/Evan Vucci)

He wants America’s allies to pay much more, in order for them to be able to enjoy the privileges of staying in America’s alliance against Russia, China, and other countries whose economies threaten to continue growing faster than America’s. US aristocrats fear that such challengers could replace them as the global hegemon or Empire, the über-aristocracy. Empire is expensive, and the general public pay for it, but Trump wants foreign taxpayers to pay a bigger share of these costs in order to relieve part of the burden on US taxpayers. His famous comment about the invasion-occupation of Iraq, “We should have taken the oil”, is now being put into practice by him in Syria. However, that money goes only to corporations, not to the US Treasury.

Which allies could finance escalated war against Syria?

On 24 September 2017, the Wall Street Journal bannered, “US-Backed Forces Seize Syrian Gas Plant From Islamic State”, and reported:

US-backed forces said Sunday they were advancing through eastern Syria after seizing a gas plant there from Islamic State, striking a blow to the terror group’s dwindling finances, which rely heavily on its control of Syria’s oil and gas fields. The plant, one of the most important in the country, is capable of producing nearly 450 tons of gas a day.”

Trump wants the profits from that to go to American companies, not to Syrian ones. That’s the type of arrangement Trump has been favoring when he says “We should have taken the oil.” Syria is allied with Russia, and with Iran, The US is allied with Saudi Arabia and Israel, which are the two countries that call Iran an “existential threat” — and which have been urging a US invasion to overthrow Assad.

The Sauds and their allied fundamentalist Sunni Arab royal families are considering to finance an American-led invasion of Syria. Turkey’s newspaper Yeni Safak headlined on 15 June 2017, “Partitioning 2.5M barrels of Syria’s oil”, and reported:

A meeting was held on June 10 for the future of Syrian oil on the premise of the intelligence of Saudi Arabia and the US in Syria’s northeastern city of Qamishli, which borders with Turkey. One of the US officers who visited terrorist organizations in the Sinjar-Karachok region after Turkey’s anti-terror operation in northern Syria and spokesman for the Global Coalition to Counter Daesh, Colonel John Dorrian, attended the meeting. Representatives from Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia, as well as some tribal leaders from Syria and senior Democratic Union Party (PYD) members attended the meeting. The delegation gathered for the purpose of determining a common strategy for the future of Syrian oil, and decided to act jointly after Daesh. Former President of the National Coalition of the Syrian Opposition and Revolutionary Forces, Ahmed Carba, determined the tribal and group representatives from Syria, and Mohammed Dahlan determined which foreign representatives would attend the meeting. Representatives agreed on a pipeline route. Radical decisions were made regarding the extraction, processing and marketing of the underground wealth of the Haseke, Raqqah and Deir ez Zor regions, which hold 95 percent of Syrian oil and natural gas’ potential.

That’s “taking the oil.” There could be lots of it.

This article also reported that, “Syria produced 34,828,000 barrels of crude oil in the first quarter of 2011 and reached 387,000 barrels per day during the same period” and that, “there are 2.5 billion barrels of oil reserves in Syria.”

On 16 April 2018, Whitney Webb at Mint Press bannered “How the US Occupied the 30% of Syria Containing Most of its Oil, Water and Gas”, and reported:

Though the US currently has between 2,000 to 4,000 troops stationed in Syria, it announced the training of a 30,000-person-strong ‘border force’ composed of US-allied Kurds and Arabs in the area, which would be used to prevent northeastern Syria from coming under the control of Syria’s legitimate government.”

She noted, regarding the area in Syria’s northeast, where US-armed, Saudi-funded, Syrian Kurds are in control: “those resources – particularly water and the flow of the Euphrates – gives the US a key advantage it could use to destabilize Syria. For example, the US could easily cut off water and electricity to government-held parts of Syria by shutting down or diverting power and water from dams in order to place pressure on the Syrian government and Syrian civilians. Though such actions target civilians and constitute a war crime, the US has used such tactics in Syria before.”

She says: “Given the alliance between Syria and Iran, as well as their mutual defense accord, the occupation is necessary in order to weaken both nations and a key precursor to Trump administration plans to isolate and wage war against Iran.”

That type of plan could be worth a lot to Israel, but Yeni Safak headlined on 18 April 2018, “US to build Arab force in NE Syria as part of new ploy: The US is seeking to amass an Arab force in northeastern Syria comprised of funding and troops from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE.” This report said:

The Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said that the kingdom is willing to send troops to Syria in a press conference on Tuesday. The minister noted that discussions on sending troops to Syria were underway. “With regards to what is going on now, there are discussions regarding what kind of force needs to remain in eastern Syria and where that force would come from. And those discussions are ongoing,” said al-Jubeir. He stressed that troop deployment in Syria will be done within the framework of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition and also suggested Saudi Arabia would provide financial support to the US.

How likely is it that Israel would be funding this huge escalation in The West’s invasion-occupation of Syria — an escalation in which fundamentalist-Sunni armies would then be serving Israeli masters? Though Arab royals might find it acceptable, their soldiers would not.

The Sauds are the world’s wealthiest family, and they can and do use the state that they own, Saudi Arabia, as their investment asset, which they aim to maximize. This war will be a great investment for them, and for their allies, in US, UK, Israel, and elsewhere. Israel can’t take the lead in such a matter. But the Sauds and their friends could.

Funding by the Sauds would be the likeliest way. On 21 May 2017, I headlined “US $ 350 Billion Arms-Sale to Sauds Cements US-Jihadist Alliance” and reported that the day before, “US President Donald Trump and the Saud family inked an all-time record-high $ 350 billion ten-year arms-deal that not only will cement-in the Saud family’s position as the world’s largest foreign purchasers of US-produced weaponry, but will make the Saud family, and America’s ruling families, become, in effect, one aristocracy over both nations, because neither side will be able to violate the will of the other. As the years roll on, their mutual dependency will deepen, each and every year.” That turned out to be true — and not only regarding America’s carrying the Sauds’ water (doing their bidding) in both Yemen and Syria, but in other ways as well. Now the Sauds will pitch in to pay tens of thousands of troops in order to dominate over Iran and Shiites, whom the Sauds hate (and have hated since 1744).

On 21 March 2018, CNBC bannered “Trump wants Saudi Arabia to buy more American-made weapons. Here are the ones the Saudis want”, and reported what Trump had just negotiated with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud, which was a step-up in that $ 350 billion sale, to $ 400 billion. So: Trump is working on the Sauds in order to get them to take over some of the leadership here — with American weapons. It’s a business-partnership.

On 16 April 2018, which was the same day that Atwan suggested Israel would take the lead here, the Wall Street Journal bannered “US Seeks Arab Force and Funding for Syria: Under plan, troops would replace American military contingent after ISIS defeat and help secure country’s north; proposal faces challenges,” and reported that:

The Trump administration is seeking to assemble an Arab force to replace the US military contingent in Syria and help stabilize the northeastern part of the country after the defeat of Islamic State, US officials said. John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser, recently called Abbas Kamel, Egypt’s acting intelligence chief, to see if Cairo would contribute to the effort, officials said. The initiative comes as the administration has asked Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to contribute billions of dollars to help restore northern Syria. It wants Arab nations to send troops as well, officials said.

Israel will participate in this invasion-occupation, but the Sauds will lead it — with US-made weapons. And taxpayers everywhere will lose from it, because invasions just get added to the federal debt. The invading nation goes into debt, which that nation’s public will pay. The invaded nation gets its wealth extracted and sold by the invading aristocracy. It’s happened for thousands of years.

Top Photo | Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before the start of their meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 6, 2018. With Netanyahu, are from left, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Sen. Ron Johnson, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Chairman Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., Ranking Member, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Sen. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del. (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Eric Zuesse is a writer and investigative historian.

© Strategic Culture Foundation

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.

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MintPress News

Why do liberals support ‘madman’ Trump’s Syria strikes? RT’s Lee Camp marvels at ‘resistance’ logic

Liberals and pundits begging Donald Trump to drop more bombs on Syria – even as they paint the president as a “madman” – is nothing short of insane, independent journalist Rania Khalek told Redacted Tonight’s Lee Camp.

During her discussion with Camp, Khalek, who has reported from Syria, marveled at the cognitive dissonance recently on display from the self-described “resistance” movement.

“What about all these liberals who seem to line up behind every war. I mean, how can you still call yourself left-wing?” Camp asked his guest.

“They’re the great resistance, these are the members of the resistance to Trump!” Khalek replied sarcastically. “They’re cheering him on – they’re egging him on to do more. They’re saying it’s not enough. I mean, the New York Times called this operation ‘restrained’. They want more bombs.”

READ MORE: Cover up? Lee Camp destroys Western narrative on Syria (VIDEO)

Camp noted that MSNBC and other outlets that “act like they’re resisting Trump” actually “line up with him on all the pivotal, central issues [facing] this country.”

Khalek pointed out that “every other day of the year, [the pundits] hate Donald Trump, they tell us what a madman he is, that we should be terrified that this man is in charge of America, but when it comes to bombing other countries, suddenly you have to get behind the madman. Right? It’s insane.”

Appearing every Friday on RT America, Redacted Tonight is a satirical take on the news hosted by American comedian Lee Camp. On Thursdays, Camp hosts special interview segments focusing on the week’s biggest hot-button issues.

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RT US News

Defense Contractors Saw $10 Billion Stock Boost Following Syria Airstrikes

Since President Trump announced that he intended to bomb Syria, the stock values of some of the country’s top weapons manufacturers have soared, adding a collective $ 10 billion in market capitalization values over the course of just one week. With Trump delivering on his promise this weekend, the rally on Wall Street continues.

A barrage of 118 (or more) U.S. Tomahawk cruise missiles rained down on Syria Friday night—Trump’s punishment for the alleged chemical weapons attack carried out by Bashar al-Assad’s government in Douma (for which the world is still awaiting hard evidence). Trump’s tweet on April 9 that he would be taking action against Syria launched the stock prices of some of America’s major defense suppliers into the skies, and they are still climbing.

For Raytheon (RTN), the company which manufactures the Tomahawk cruise missiles used against Syria, nearly $ 2.5 billion has been added to the company’s market value. Add together the gains from other top weapons makers Lockheed Martin (LMT), General Dynamics (GD), Boeing (BA), and Northrop Grumman (NOC), and it becomes apparent just how profitable a business war can be.

Lockheed Martin makes the tactical control system, another of the required components of the Tomahawk launch apparatus. General Dynamics, meanwhile, manufactures the missile’s firing system. Boeing builds the B-1 bombers used in the strikes as well as its own variety of cruise missiles, while Northrop Grumman produces radar systems and other bombers, like the B-2 Stealth.

The investor crowd was giddy about the money-making opportunities last week. On the stock tip blog “The Street” on Friday, trader Stephen Guilfoyle was recommending “4 Hot Defense Stocks for Syria,” telling his readers, “The world remains dangerous, and dangerous ‘toys’ are increasingly in demand.”

For the American people, the immediate cost of subsidizing the profits of war was at least $ 165 million—just for the Tomahawk missiles themselves, which cost the government $ 1.4 million each. This, of course, doesn’t account for the tens of millions of dollars or more that it cost to mobilize the equipment and forces necessary to carry out the air strikes.

Even though this round of strikes is being spun as a one-night affair, it is actually part of a sustained campaign in Syria and across the Middle East aimed at protecting U.S. dominance against the growth of Iranian and Russian influence. Almost exactly a year ago, there was a round of air strikes on Syria over another alleged chemical attack, and U.S. troops have been on the ground inside the country since late 2015.

With known war-hawks now holding prominent positions in the cabinet—including John Bolton as National Security Advisor, Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State, and Gina Haspel as head of the CIA—the likelihood that this weekend’s missile strikes were a one-off event are next to nil. All three of these figures were connected with the disastrous war in Iraq under George W. Bush, which was justified by the need to eliminate Saddam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction”—weapons which didn’t actually exist.

Meanwhile, the party on Wall Street carries on, with the promise of even brighter days ahead for defense contractors. Immediately following the bombing, Trump pledged “billions of fully approved dollars” in additional military spending on Saturday morning. Speaking of the U.S. military’s overwhelming power in the world, he continued, saying, “There won’t be anything, or anyone, even close!” That is exactly what this weekend’s air strikes were intended to tell the world

Top Photo | Raytheon CEO Tom Kennedy, left, former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, center, and Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson wait for the arrival of President Donald Trump in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, March 22, 2018. (AP/Evan Vucci)

C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People’s World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left. In addition to his work at People’s World, C.J. currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director of ProudPolitics.


People’s World is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.

Stories published in our Daily Digests section are chosen based on the interest of our readers. They are republished from a number of sources, and are not produced by MintPress News. The views expressed in these articles are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.

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As the US Starts a New War in Syria With No Evidence, Israel Is Murdering Civilians—On Video

syria
A now infamous image of an Israeli soldier detaining a 12-year-old Palestinian boy at a protest near the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh in 2015.

Over the weekend, the United States led a coordinated attack—along with French and British forces—on the sovereign country of Syria. Western nations have ganged up on and attacked this sovereign state, launching countless missiles, hitting civilian targets, and, all of it was based on alleged crimes for which they had no evidence.

After the strikes Friday night, the French and British governments released the supposed evidence they had to justify the act of war carried out by allied nations in Syria. The reports admitted to not having any actual intelligence and the “evidence” was based on “open source” information widely available on the internet.

These open source accounts were little more than videos and testimonies from groups such as the White Helmets—who have been known to create fake videos, support terrorists, and much more. 

To those paying attention to Syria, the White Helmets aiding or even participating in terrorism should come as no surprise and the retaliatory nature of these strikes plays right into the hands of terrorists. Indeed, political analysts are referring to the United States as the “ISIS Air Force.”

To put this into perspective, the United States, Britain, and France launched a coordinated act of war on a sovereign country, based on crimes for which they had almost no evidence, which could potentially be the catalyst for World War 3—and all of it was carried out under the ostensible auspices of humanitarianism.

While there is a tiny chance that Assad did actually release chemical weapons on his own people in order to drive out the remaining insurgents from Douma, it goes against all logic as it would provoke the actions which are now taking place—ensuring the rest of the country is invaded and turned to rubble by US-made missiles.

“The way the people that perpetuate these false flags [sic] say that Assad is gassing his own people, at the same time, he’s winning the war and the people are flocking back in to go to the territories that he has returned to the government of Syria,” explained former Congressman Ron Paul last week. “But, nevertheless, he’s out there gassing his own people, which makes no sense whatsoever and fewer and fewer people are believing this.”

To illustrate just how grotesque of a sham the attacks on Syria actually are, one need only look at the current atrocities being carried out by Israel and the utter lack of concern, media coverage, and political attention it is receiving.

As TFTP has reported, dozens of Palestinians have been killed and nearly 1,300 have been wounded by live fire and rubber bullets from the Israeli Military—just in the last few weeks—as protests have increased near the border, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza.

Palestinians claim that the protests are a symbol of their desire to speak out again Israel’s occupation of their land and control over their resources. Samer, 27, told the Jerusalem Post that he risked his life to join in the protests because he wanted to take a stand.

“Israel took everything from us, the homeland, freedom, our future,” Samer said. “I have two kids, a boy, and a girl, and if I die, God will take care of them.”

While Israel has falsely claimed that every man or teenage boy who participated in the protests was a “militant” for Hamas, and desrved to die, there was one civilian death that was particularly notable.

Yaser Murtaja, a Palestinian photojournalist, was wearing a jacket that clearly said “PRESS” when he was shot in the chest and killed by an Israeli sniper on Friday. As The Intercept noted, “Either the Israeli sniper could not clearly see who was in the rifle scope—in which case the claim that the use of live fire is precise is shown to be untrue—or the soldier intentionally fired at a journalist, which is a war crime.”

Israel has also been caught on video murdering innocent unarmed people and laughing about it.

Shocking footage also emerged online last month highlighting this brutal treatment of the Palestinian people by the Israeli government. In the video, police are seen throwing a stun grenade at a couple who is running away from them—holding a baby.

The video was taken by an activist for the Israeli human rights group, Yesh Den. In the short clip, the couple is seen fleeing to their home in the village of Burin as four Israeli officers approach them from behind. In spite of the couple posing no threat and holding a baby, one of the officers throws a stun grenade right at them.

But innocent journalists, babies, and random strangers aren’t the only ones being attacked by the state of Israel. The country is also reportedly actively spraying chemical weapons, in the form of toxic herbicides over the crops of innocent farmers.

While Israel claimed that it was just using its planes to get rid of weeds and extra grass along the border with Palestinian territory, Palestinian officials have criticized the interference.

“These chemicals cause damage to agricultural crops and harm farmlands. Israel has no right to spray herbicides on Palestinian farmlands,” Nizar al-Wahedi of the Palestinian Agriculture Ministry told the Anadolu Agency.

Unlike in Syria, we have documented evidence of actual murder, war crimes, and chemical weapons use and the US is not only silent on these atrocities but outspoken over their support for the state of Israel.

To be clear, no one here is advocating for the same action taken on Syria to be carried out on the state of Israel. Instead, this comparison is meant to expose the rife hypocrisy and the ulterior motive behind the war in Syria.

The fact is that conflicts in these countries are none of the United States’ business and pledging US tax dollars and lives to intervene in them is not only unconstitutional, but it creates far more conflict than already exists. 

As TFTP has reported, the war in Syria has been planned for years and it has nothing to do with humanitarian purposes. We would all do wise to remember the false claims of WMDs in Iraq and the horror story created by US intervention thereafter. Indeed, most conflicts throughout US history have been based entirely on lies, propaganda, and false flags.

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Trump wanted to bomb Russian & Iranian targets amid Syria strikes – report

President Donald Trump reportedly favored bombing Russian and Iranian targets in Syria, before Pentagon chief James Mattis talked the US leader out of it.

Trump discussed three military options for Syria last week with his revamped national security team, led by Bush-era hawk John Bolton, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday, citing sources familiar with White House decision-making.

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The US Navy guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey fires a Tomahawk land attack missile April 14, 2018 © Lt. j.g Matthew Daniels

The least expansive option included striking “a narrow set of targets” linked to what the report said were “Syria’s chemical weapons capabilities.” The second option proposed targeting a broader set of Syrian targets, including “suspected chemical-weapons research facilities and military command centers.”

Finally, the most aggressive proposal might have included bombing Russian air defenses in Syria, in order to “cripple the regime’s military capabilities without touching [President Bashar] Assad’s political machinery.”

The latter option, which would have been three times as powerful as the one eventually carried out by the US, the UK and France, was reportedly particularly favored by Trump, pressing his team to consider strikes on Russian and Iranian targets in Syria. The US president was willing to go that far to “get at the Assad regime’s military equipment.”

Defense Secretary Mattis, a retired Marine general who gained notoriety during the 2004 siege of Fallujah in Iraq, took a more reasonable stance on the strikes. He argued that hitting Russian or Iranian targets could trigger a dangerous response from Moscow and Tehran, sources told the newspaper.

However, even newly-appointed National Security Adviser Bolton, who called for Iran to be bombed and who has promoted a muscular policy towards North Korea, did not oppose Mattis’ reasoning. According to WSJ, he realized that “the most robust option might drag the US more deeply into the conflict” and felt “that was too much for his first week on the job.”

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Eventually, Trump approved a “hybrid plan” that saw over 100 missiles raining down on three Syrian targets early on Saturday morning. Announcing the strikes, Washington as well as London and Paris claimed they came in retaliation for an alleged chemical attack in the Damascus suburb of Douma, which they blamed on Assad’s government. Damascus rejected the accusations, while Moscow maintained the chemical incident was orchestrated by the West to provoke the bombings.

Prior to the bombing, some senior Russian officials signaled Moscow was ready to repel inbound US missiles and target their carriers. On April 10, Vladimir Shamanov, formerly an Airborne Troops commander and now head of the State Duma Defense Committee, said the Americans “should not pin hope on their navy groups,” adding Russia could “take all political and diplomatic measures, and also military measures if such need arises.”

On April 11, Russian Ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin warned that “Russian forces will confront any US aggression on Syria, by intercepting the missiles and striking their launch pads.”
Repelling the missile strike, Syrian air defenses managed to shoot down 71 out of 103 projectiles, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

Syria’s Soviet-made S-125, S-200, Buk, and Kvadrat systems were involved in the operation. The Pentagon, however, said Syrian resistance was ineffective and had no bearing on the aerial assault.
The attack was not coordinated with Russia, but “the de-confliction channel [between US and Russian forces] operated before and after the strike,” said Lieutenant General Kenneth F. McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff. “The Russian air defenses weren’t employed” as Syria was hit by missiles, he added.

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RT US News

Will the U.S. Strike on Syria Impact the Alleged Chemical Weapons Attack Investigation?

Last night the U.S. and its allies, France and the U.K. led a military strike against Syria, striking Syrian military targets said to be linked to Syrian chemical weapons programs on the eve of the arrival of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) who is supposed to investigate the alleged chemical attack. Plus, the hottest stories of the week. Newsbud does not take money from advertisers, foundations or NGO’s. We are 100% funded by you, the people. Support Newsbud for a stronger independent grassroots media by subscribing or making a donation today.

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Show Notes 

OPCW Fact-Finding Mission Continues Deployment to Syria

US, France, Britain launch strikes on Syria: Trump

Chemical weapons investigation team arrives in Damascus – OPCW

Russia Call US Aggressor, Washington Locked and Loaded to Hit Syria Again

US-led strikes in Syria without UNSC mandate a violation of international law – Putin

US training Syria militants for false flag chemical attack as basis for airstrikes – Russian MoD

UN accuses Syrian rebels of carrying out sarin gas attacks which had been blamed on Assad’s troops

Syrian Government Accused of Using Chemical Weapons

Russian claims that US is planning a false-flag chemical weapons attack is a distraction, Pentagon says

US found chlorine gas, nerve agent in samples from Syria attack: report

The Latest: Russia says no evidence of gas attack in Douma

Russia claims Syria air defences shot down 71 of 103 missiles

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