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The White Helmets ‘Aleppo boy’ story is exposed as a fake

The family of Omran Daqneesh, the boy whose picture was plastered across the Western media in August last year, say that the story constructed around him was faked by Al-Qaeda.

Alexander Mercouris

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Back in August 2016, at the height of the fighting in Aleppo, international media headlines were dominated by the story of the so-called ‘Aleppo boy’, who was supposedly pulled from the rubble following a Russian or Syrian air strike, and whose photograph was plastered across the Western media.

At the time The Duran registered its doubts about this story.  My colleague Alex Christoforou revealed the Jihadi sympathies of the photographer who had taken the now famous photograph, whilst P.T. Carlo complained about the way the media were manipulating the story.

We were right to be skeptical.  The boy in question – Omran Daqneesh – it turns out is alive and well and living in Aleppo with his family, who are furious at the way his story was manipulated.

Omran’s father, Mohammad Daqneesh, says his son was only lightly injured, that he knows nothing of any air strike, that his son was injured from falling rubble caused by an unidentified explosion, and that he resisted intense pressure from the Al-Qaeda led Jihadi who were at that time in control of eastern Aleppo and their White Helmets collaborators to corroborate their story.  Independent evidence now casts doubt on the theory that the explosion was caused by an air strike.

The family’s complaints – first made to the Syrian media – have received only a fraction of the media attention the original ‘Aleppo boy’ story was given.  Most of the Western media has ignored the family’s complaints.

There have even been a few desperate attempts to discredit the family by claiming either that they are Assad supporters or that they have been coerced by the Syrian authorities into making their complaints.  The following comments in the Daily Telegraph are a typical example

It is possible the family felt forced to take part in the interview for their own safety.

Omran’s older brother Ali, aged ten, was killed in the same strike that injured Omran.

Kinana Allouche, a pro-regime journalist, posted photographs of herself interviewing Omran and his family. “The child Omran, those who tried to shed Syrian blood mislead the news that he was hit by the Syrian Arab Army,” she wrote. “Here he now lives in the Syrian state with its army, its leader and its people.”

(bold italics added)

Note how the Daily Telegraph persists in referring to “the same strike” that caused Omran’s injuries and Ali’s death even though their father Mohammad Daqneesh says he knows nothing of one.

These claims about the family have now been exploded by the redoubtable independent journalist Eva Bartlett, who has interviewed Omran’s father Mohammad Daqneesh and who has met with Omran himself.  Her detailed account of her meeting with Mohammad and Omran Daqneesh can be found here

In any rational world this incident should finally explode the credibility of the White Helmets, the Oscar winning group which has now been exposed as manipulating and largely fabricating the whole story of the ‘Aleppo boy’, and whose Jihadi connections Rick Sterling has previously exposed.

In reality, the West’s heavy investment in the group mean that it will continue to be cited as a reliable source until the Syrian war has ended.

The major point however about this story is one I have made repeatedly.

The story of the ‘Aleppo boy’ came out of eastern Aleppo whilst Al-Qaeda was in control there.  No news story coming out of any area of Syria controlled by Al-Qaeda should however be assumed to be true without independent corroboration, which because of the absence of independent observers or journalists on the ground in Al-Qaeda controlled areas of Syria is in practice hardly ever forthcoming.

It is better therefore to report stories coming out of Al-Qaeda areas of Syria with strong health warnings, making it clear that they cannot be assumed to be true.

Here is what I wrote about all this in relation to the claims that were circulating last year about the supposed bombings of hospitals in Aleppo

Though the Western powers and the Western media pretend otherwise, there is no doubt that the dominant forces in the Jihadi controlled areas of Syria are ISIS and Al-Qaeda. Both are militantly anti-Western and any Western journalist travelling in the areas that they control would be at serious risk. If only for that reason few of them do so, though in truth the days when Western media agencies employed large numbers of special correspondents and on-the-spot reporters are long passed.

What that means in practical terms is that reports that  come out of the Jihadi controlled areas of Syria – including eastern Aleppo – and which appear in the Western media, are reports made at second hand. Western reporters do not tour the sites of the allegedly bombed hospitals. Rather the Western media is simply passing on reports from eye witnesses or alleged eye witnesses of the attacks, and reporting them as true. The same applies to Western governments, including the US government.

There was once a time when the Western media was careful to say that it was unable to confirm the stories it was reporting itself, and that it was relying on local sources in reporting the news it was publishing. This at least provided consumers of news with a health warning, if the news came from one side or another in an armed conflict.

For quite some time now, the Western media has also stopped doing this. The result is that it requires a very high degree of attention on the part of the Western media listener or reader to know that the source of a story is not the media itself. Inevitably the number of people who are able or willing to give that amount of attention is very small.

What this means in the Syrian case is that all the reports of the attacks on the hospitals are provided by persons who to a greater or lesser extent operate under Jihadi control.  In northeast Syria that essentially means Al-Qaeda contol.

This does not in itself mean that bombing of hospitals never takes place.  However, what it does mean is that the scope for Al-Qaeda to manipulate the stories is boundless.  In any war situation, the risk of accepting unconfirmed accounts of events by one party to the conflict is great. When the party in question is Al-Qaeda – a violent internationally proscribed terrorist organisation – the risk of doing so is even greater.

In my opinion, the risks of doing so in the Syrian case are so great that at the very least, before the reports are published, the Western media ought to be under a duty to make origins of the reports clear. It is easy to imagine what the effect on the Western public of a report that the Syrian air force had bombed a hospital in eastern Aleppo would be, if the report was introduced with the words ‘Sources linked to Al-Qaeda say……’ and concluded with the words ‘…..we are unable to confirm this report’.

It is not after all as if the Western media has not time after time been shown the danger of uncritically accepting reports from one side in a conflict in the Middle East. In 1990 the Western media reported a completely untrue story of how Iraqi troops in Kuwait stole incubators, casting aside babies, in Kuwaiti hospitals.

In 2002 and 2003 the Western media uncritically repeated stories of Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction, which also turned out to be untrue.

In 2011 the Western media published a flood of atrocity stories detailing massacres supposedly carried out in Libya by Gaddafi’s troops, which a British House of Commons Committee now admits were untrue.

What makes the news situation in Syria especially concerning is that some of the people who in 2011 were busy spreading untrue atrocity stories in Libya seem to be the same people who are now busy spreading what are most probably untrue atrocity stories in Syria. Western governments and the Western media are presumably aware of the fact. The Western public is, however, never told of it.

The reason for this very partial reporting is that the Western media is united in supporting the Western objective of regime change in Syria. It therefore publicises stories of alleged atrocities committed in Syria by the Syrian army and the Russians, whilst suppressing reports of actually much more credible atrocities committed by the Al-Qaeda led Jihadis – such as the report by the Russian Defence Ministry from a few days ago of the Jihadis violently dispersing a civilian protest against them in eastern Aleppo with a heavy machine gun.

Where uncorroborated claims of atrocities made by one side are given maximum publicity, and far more credible reports of atrocities by the other side are suppressed or ignored, there is no longer truthful news reporting.  Rather it becomes a case of war propaganda.  For that reason when I read reports of the intentional bombing of hospitals by the Syrian or Russian air force, I discount them.

Though the battle for Aleppo ended many months ago, this remains a very topical issue.

The most recent example of unwarranted credence being given to a story coming out of an Al-Qaeda controlled area of Syria concerns the alleged chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun in April this year, which led to a US cruise missile attack on Syria’s Al-Shayrat air base.

Even the US government has given credence to this story, and done so moreover in an official report.  Here is what I have written about that

Since the videos and witness statements were made in Syria, more often than not by people who are Syrians, President Assad is again the undisputed expert on their reliability and provenance.  Moreover since he is the prime suspect and the videos and the witness statements make accusations against him, what he says about them deserves particular attention

As you know, Khan Sheikhoun is under the control of al-Nusra Front, which is a branch of Al Qaeda, so the only information the world have had till this moment is published by Al Qaeda branch. No-one has any other information. We don’t know if the whole pictures or videos that we’ve been seeing are true or fabricated. That’s why we asked for investigation to what happened in Khan Sheikhoun. This is first….

As I said, the only source is Al Qaeda, we cannot take it seriously. But our impression is that the West, mainly the United States, is hand in glove with the terrorists. They fabricated the whole story in order to have a pretext for the attack, It wasn’t an attack because of what happened in khan Sheikhoun. It’s one event, its stage one is the play that we saw on the social networking and on TVs, and the propaganda, and the stage two is the military attack. That’s what we believe is happening because it’s only few days – two days, 48 hours – between the play and the attacks, and no investigations, no concrete evidence about anything, the only thing were allegations and propaganda, and then strike…..

The allegation itself was by Al Qaeda, al-Nusra Front, so we don’t have to investigate who, they announced it, it’s under their control, no-one else. About the attack, as I said, it’s not clear whether it happened or not, because how can you verify a video? You have a lot of fake videos now, and you have the proof that those videos were fake, like the White Helmets for example, they are Al Qaeda, they are al-Nusra Front who shaved their beards, wore white hats, and appeared as humanitarian heroes, which is not the case. The same people were killing Syrian soldiers, and you have the proof on the internet anyway. So, the same thing for that chemical attack, we don’t know whether those dead children were killed in Khan Sheikhoun? Were they dead at all? Who committed the attack if there was an attack? What’s the material? You have no information at all, nothing at all, no-one investigated.

We can contrast this with what the US government’s white paper has to say about these videos and witness statements

We are certain that the opposition could not have fabricated all of the videos and other reporting of chemical attacks.  Doing so would have required a highly organized campaign to deceive multiple media outlets and human rights organizations while evading detection.  In addition, we have independently confirmed that some of the videos were shot at the approximate times and locations described in the footage.

This is far from being a comprehensive refutation of President Assad’s points.  On the contrary the words “we are certain that the opposition could not have fabricated all of the videos” seem to at least concede the possibility that “the opposition” might have fabricated some of the videos.

The most worrying point however is that the white paper falsifies who was actually in control of Khan Sheikhoun at the time of the attack, and who was therefore in control of the territory where the videos and the witness statements were produced.  As President Assad says, it was Al-Qaeda operating through one of the kaleidoscope of names it uses to conceal its identity, with the name it is now using in Syria being “Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham”.

Al-Qaeda’s current name “Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham” replaces its previous name “Jabhat Al-Nusra”.  However it remains the same organisation, which continues to be classified by the US as a terrorist group.  It is “Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham” – ie. Al-Qaeda – which launched the recent offensives in Damascus and in northern Hama, the latter being the cause as the US white paper admits of the Syrian air force attack on Khan Sheikhoun.  It is this same group – Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham ie. Al-Qaeda – which controls Khan Sheikhoun.

The fact the white paper falsifies Al-Qaeda’s involvement by referring to the group in control of Khan Sheikhoun merely as “the opposition” must inevitably cast doubt on this part of the white paper.

Would Al-Qaeda be capable of organising “a highly organized campaign to deceive multiple media outlets and human rights organizations while evading detection”?  I suspect that most people – if they knew Al-Qaeda was involved – would answer yes.

In this case there is also the further factor that “the multiple media outlets and human rights organizations” are strongly biased against the Syrian government, which might make them all too easy to deceive.

As it happens any number of people have studied the videos and have cast doubt on what they purport to show.  A good example is the independent investigation carried out by the Lebanese journalist Abdel Karim previously published by The Duran.

In conclusion though the videos and the witness evidence make a circumstantial case, the way the white paper treats them shows that they are far from conclusive, and the fact that the white paper both falsifies their provenance and concedes at least the possibility of some fabrication is a sign that even the US has doubts about them.

Reading these words in light of what we now know about the story of the ‘Aleppo boy’ highlights the reasons for concern.  We now have proof in the case of the ‘Aleppo boy’ that Al-Qaeda did stage “a highly organized campaign to deceive multiple media outlets and human rights organizations while evading detection”.  Why then assume that they did not succeed in doing the same thing in connection with the alleged chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun?

The unspoken story of the recent British election and of the US election last year is that the Western media’s credibility has collapsed as more and more people turn to what is wrongly called alternative media for their news.

The story of the Western media’s grotesque abuse of the story of the ‘Aleppo boy’, and of their attempt to suppress news of how it has been discredited, shows why this is so.  Their response has not been to try to regain their credibility by restoring accuracy to their reporting.  Instead it is to accuse others of ‘fake news’, even as they deal in it themselves.

That this is not the way to restore their credibility should be obvious.

One would like to believe that following the revelation of the falsity of the story of the ‘Aleppo boy’, news rooms and editorial offices across the West would be busy with soul searching and agonising about what went wrong, and would be looking for ways to prevent such a thing ever happening again.

Sadly I doubt there is a single person on earth who believes that is happening.

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Precisely. This is something that has to be pointed.

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Airline wars heat up, as industry undergoes massive disruption (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 145.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine the global commercial airline industry, which is undergoing massive changes, as competition creeps in from Russia and China.

Reuters reports that Boeing Co’s legal troubles grew as a new lawsuit accused the company of defrauding shareholders by concealing safety deficiencies in its 737 MAX planes before two fatal crashes led to their worldwide grounding.

The proposed class action filed in Chicago federal court seeks damages for alleged securities fraud violations, after Boeing’s market value tumbled by $34 billion within two weeks of the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX.

*****

According to the complaint, Boeing “effectively put profitability and growth ahead of airplane safety and honesty” by rushing the 737 MAX to market to compete with Airbus SE, while leaving out “extra” or “optional” features designed to prevent the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes.

It also said Boeing’s statements about its growth prospects and the 737 MAX were undermined by its alleged conflict of interest from retaining broad authority from federal regulators to assess the plane’s safety.

*****

Boeing said on Tuesday that aircraft orders in the first quarter fell to 95 from 180 a year earlier, with no orders for the 737 MAX following the worldwide grounding.

On April 5, it said it planned to cut monthly 737 production to 42 planes from 52, and was making progress on a 737 MAX software update to prevent further accidents.

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Via Zerohedge…

Step aside (fading) trade war with China: there is a new aggressor – at least according to the US Trade Rep Robert Lighthizer – in town.

In a statement on the USTR’s website published late on Monday, the US fair trade agency announced that under Section 301 of the Trade Act, it was proposing a list of EU products to be covered by additional duties. And as justification for the incremental import taxes, the USTR said that it was in response to EU aircraft subsidies, specifically to Europea’s aerospace giant, Airbus, which “have caused adverse effects to the United States” and which the USTR estimates cause $11 billion in harm to the US each year

One can’t help but notice that the latest shot across the bow in the simmering trade war with Europe comes as i) Trump is reportedly preparing to fold in his trade war with China, punting enforcement to whoever is president in 2025, and ii) comes just as Boeing has found itself scrambling to preserve orders as the world has put its orderbook for Boeing 737 MAX airplanes on hold, which prompted Boeing to cut 737 production by 20% on Friday.

While the first may be purely a coincidence, the second – which is expected to not only slam Boeing’s financials for Q1 and Q2, but may also adversely impact US GDP – had at least some impact on the decision to proceed with these tariffs at this moment.

We now await Europe’s angry response to what is Trump’s latest salvo in what is once again a global trade war. And, paradoxically, we also expect this news to send stocks blasting higher as, taking a page from the US-China trade book, every day algos will price in imminent “US-European trade deal optimism.”

Below the full statement from the USTR (link):

USTR Proposes Products for Tariff Countermeasures in Response to Harm Caused by EU Aircraft Subsidies

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has found repeatedly that European Union (EU) subsidies to Airbus have caused adverse effects to the United States.  Today, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) begins its process under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 to identify products of the EU to which additional duties may be applied until the EU removes those subsidies.

USTR is releasing for public comment a preliminary list of EU products to be covered by additional duties.  USTR estimates the harm from the EU subsidies as $11 billion in trade each year.  The amount is subject to an arbitration at the WTO, the result of which is expected to be issued this summer.

“This case has been in litigation for 14 years, and the time has come for action. The Administration is preparing to respond immediately when the WTO issues its finding on the value of U.S. countermeasures,” said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.  “Our ultimate goal is to reach an agreement with the EU to end all WTO-inconsistent subsidies to large civil aircraft.  When the EU ends these harmful subsidies, the additional U.S. duties imposed in response can be lifted.”

In line with U.S. law, the preliminary list contains a number of products in the civil aviation sector, including Airbus aircraft.  Once the WTO arbitrator issues its report on the value of countermeasures, USTR will announce a final product list covering a level of trade commensurate with the adverse effects determined to exist.

Background

After many years of seeking unsuccessfully to convince the EU and four of its member States (France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom) to cease their subsidization of Airbus, the United States brought a WTO challenge to EU subsidies in 2004. In 2011, the WTO found that the EU provided Airbus $18 billion in subsidized financing from 1968 to 2006.  In particular, the WTO found that European “launch aid” subsidies were instrumental in permitting Airbus to launch every model of its large civil aircraft, causing Boeing to lose sales of more than 300 aircraft and market share throughout the world.

In response, the EU removed two minor subsidies, but left most of them unchanged.  The EU also granted Airbus more than $5 billion in new subsidized “launch aid” financing for the A350 XWB.  The United States requested establishment of a compliance panel in March 2012 to address the EU’s failure to remove its old subsidies, as well as the new subsidies and their adverse effects.  That process came to a close with the issuance of an appellate report in May 2018 finding that EU subsidies to high-value, twin-aisle aircraft have caused serious prejudice to U.S. interests.  The report found that billions of dollars in launch aid to the A350 XWB and A380 cause significant lost sales to Boeing 787 and 747 aircraft, as well as lost market share for Boeing very large aircraft in the EU, Australia, China, Korea, Singapore, and UAE markets.

Based on the appellate report, the United States requested authority to impose countermeasures worth $11.2 billion per year, commensurate with the adverse effects caused by EU subsidies.  The EU challenged that estimate, and a WTO arbitrator is currently evaluating those claims

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Mueller report takes ‘Russian meddling’ for granted, offers no actual evidence

RT

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Via RT…


Special counsel Robert Mueller’s ‘Russiagate’ report has cleared Donald Trump of ‘collusion’ charges but maintains that Russia meddled in the 2016 US presidential election. Yet concrete evidence of that is nowhere to be seen.

The report by Mueller and his team, made public on Thursday by the US Department of Justice, exonerates not just Trump but all Americans of any “collusion” with Russia, “obliterating” the Russiagate conspiracy theory, as journalist Glenn Greenwald put it.

However, it asserts that Russian “interference” in the election did happen, and says it consisted of a campaign on social media as well as Russian military intelligence (repeatedly referred to by its old, Soviet-era name, GRU) “hacking” the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the DNC, and the private email account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta.

As evidence of this, the report basically offers nothing but Mueller’s indictment of “GRU agents,” delivered on the eve of the Helsinki Summit between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in what was surely a cosmic coincidence.

Indictments are not evidence, however, but allegations. Any time it looks like the report might be bringing up proof, it ends up being redacted, ostensibly to protect sources and methods, and out of concern it might cause “harm to an ongoing matter.”

‘Active measures’ on social media

Mueller’s report leads with the claim that the Internet Research Agency (IRA) ran an “active measures” campaign of social media influence. Citing Facebook and Twitter estimates, the report says this consisted of 470 Facebook accounts that made 80,000 posts that may have been seen by up to 126 million people, between January 2015 and August 2017 (almost a year after the election), and 3,814 Twitter accounts that “may have been” in contact with about 1.4 million people.

Those numbers may seem substantial but, as investigative journalist Gareth Porter pointed out in November 2018, they should be regarded against the background of 33 trillion Facebook posts made during the same period.

According to Mueller, the IRA mind-controlled the American electorate by spending “approximately $100,000” on Facebook ads, hiring someone to walk around New York City “dressed up as Santa Claus with a Trump mask,” and getting Trump campaign affiliates to promote “dozens of tweets, posts, and other political content created by the IRA.” Dozens!

Meanwhile, the key evidence against IRA’s alleged boss Evgeny Prigozhin is that he “appeared together in public photographs” with Putin.

Alleged hacking & release

The report claims that the GRU hacked their way into 29 DCCC computers and another 30 DNC computers, and downloaded data using software called “X-Tunnel.” It is unclear how Mueller’s investigators claim to know this, as the report makes no mention of them or FBI actually examining DNC or DCCC computers. Presumably they took the word of CrowdStrike, the Democrats’ private contractor, for it.

However obtained, the documents were published first through DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 – which the report claims are “fictitious online personas” created by the GRU – and later through WikiLeaks. What is Mueller’s proof that these two entities were “GRU” cutouts? In a word, this:

That the Guccifer 2.0 persona provided reporters access to a restricted portion of the DCLeaks website tends to indicate that both personas were operated by the same or a closely-related group of people.(p. 43)

However, the report acknowledges that the “first known contact” between Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks was on September 15, 2016 – months after the DNC and DCCC documents were published! Here we do get actual evidence: direct messages on Twitter obtained by investigators. Behold, these “spies” are so good, they don’t even talk – and when they do, they use unsecured channels.

Mueller notably claims “it is clear that the stolen DNC and Podesta documents were transferred from the GRU to WikiLeaks” (the rest of that sentence is redacted), but the report clearly implies the investigators do not actually know how. On page 47, the report says Mueller “cannot rule out that stolen documents were transferred to WikiLeaks through intermediaries who visited during the summer of 2016.”

Strangely, the report accuses WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange of making “public statements apparently designed to obscure the source” of the materials (p.48), notably the offer of a reward for finding the murderer of DNC staffer Seth Rich – even though this can be read as corroborating the intermediaries theory, and Assange never actually said Rich was his source.

The rest of Mueller’s report goes on to discuss the Trump campaign’s contacts with anyone even remotely Russian and to create torturous constructions that the president had “obstructed” justice by basically defending himself from charges of being a Russian agent – neither of which resulted in any indictments, however. But the central premise that the 22-month investigation, breathless media coverage, and the 448-page report are based on – that Russia somehow meddled in the 2016 election – remains unproven.

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Rumors of War: Washington Is Looking for a Fight

The bill stands up for NATO and prevents the President from pulling the US out of the Alliance without a Senate vote.

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Authored by Philip Giraldi via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


It is depressing to observe how the United States of America has become the evil empire. Having served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War and in the Central Intelligence Agency for the second half of the Cold War, I had an insider’s viewpoint of how an essentially pragmatic national security policy was being transformed bit by bit into a bipartisan doctrine that featured as a sine qua non global dominance for Washington. Unfortunately, when the Soviet Union collapsed the opportunity to end once and for all the bipolar nuclear confrontation that threatened global annihilation was squandered as President Bill Clinton chose instead to humiliate and use NATO to contain an already demoralized and effectively leaderless Russia.

American Exceptionalism became the battle cry for an increasingly clueless federal government as well as for a media-deluded public. When 9/11 arrived, the country was ready to lash out at the rest of the world. President George W. Bush growled that “There’s a new sheriff in town and you are either with us or against us.” Afghanistan followed, then Iraq, and, in a spirit of bipartisanship, the Democrats came up with Libya and the first serious engagement in Syria. In its current manifestation, one finds a United States that threatens Iran on a nearly weekly basis and tears up arms control agreements with Russia while also maintaining deployments of US forces in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and places like Mali. Scattered across the globe are 800 American military bases while Washington’s principal enemies du jour Russia and China have, respectively, only one and none.

Never before in my lifetime has the United States been so belligerent, and that in spite of the fact that there is no single enemy or combination of enemies that actually threaten either the geographical United States or a vital interest. Venezuela is being threatened with invasion primarily because it is in the western hemisphere and therefore subject to Washington’s claimed proconsular authority. Last Wednesday Vice President Mike Pence told the United Nations Security Council that the White House will remove Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro from power, preferably using diplomacy and sanctions, but “all options are on the table.” Pence warned that Russia and other friends of Maduro need to leave now or face the consequences.

The development of the United States as a hostile and somewhat unpredictable force has not gone unnoticed. Russia has accepted that war is coming no matter what it does in dealing with Trump and is upgrading its forces. By some estimates, its army is better equipped and more combat ready than is that of the United States, which spends nearly ten times as much on “defense.”

Iran is also upgrading its defensive capabilities, which are formidable. Now that Washington has withdrawn from the nuclear agreement with Iran, has placed a series of increasingly punitive sanctions on the country, and, most recently, has declared a part of the Iranian military to be a “foreign terrorist organization” and therefore subject to attack by US forces at any time, it is clear that war will be the next step. In three weeks, the United States will seek to enforce a global ban on any purchases of Iranian oil. A number of countries, including US nominal ally Turkey, have said they will ignore the ban and it will be interesting to see what the US Navy intends to do to enforce it. Or what Iran will do to break the blockade.

But even given all of the horrific decisions being made in the White House, there is one organization that is far crazier and possibly even more dangerous. That is the United States Congress, which is, not surprisingly, a legislative body that is viewed positively by only 18 per cent of the American people.

A current bill originally entitled the “Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act (DASKA) of 2019,” is numbered S-1189. It has been introduced in the Senate which will “…require the Secretary of State to determine whether the Russian Federation should be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism and whether Russian-sponsored armed entities in Ukraine should be designated as foreign terrorist organizations.” The bill is sponsored by Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado and is co-sponsored by Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey.

The current version of the bill was introduced on April 11th and it is by no means clear what kind of support it might actually have, but the fact that it actually has surfaced at all should be disturbing to anyone who believes it is in the world’s best interest to avoid direct military confrontation between the United States and Russia.

In a a press release by Gardner, who has long been pushing to have Russia listed as a state sponsor of terrorism, a February version of the bill is described as “…comprehensive legislation [that] seeks to increase economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on the Russian Federation in response to Russia’s interference in democratic processes abroad, malign influence in Syria, and aggression against Ukraine, including in the Kerch Strait. The legislation establishes a comprehensive policy response to better position the US government to address Kremlin aggression by creating new policy offices on cyber defenses and sanctions coordination. The bill stands up for NATO and prevents the President from pulling the US out of the Alliance without a Senate vote. It also increases sanctions pressure on Moscow for its interference in democratic processes abroad and continued aggression against Ukraine.”

The February version of the bill included Menendez, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina as co-sponsors, suggesting that provoking war is truly bipartisan in today’s Washington.

Each Senator co-sponsor contributed a personal comment to the press release. Gardner observed that “Putin’s Russia is an outlaw regime that is hell-bent on undermining international law and destroying the US-led liberal global order.” Menendez noted that “President Trump’s willful paralysis in the face of Kremlin aggression has reached a boiling point in Congress” while Graham added that “Our goal is to change the status quo and impose meaningful sanctions and measures against Putin’s Russia. He should cease and desist meddling in the US electoral process, halt cyberattacks on American infrastructure, remove Russia from Ukraine, and stop efforts to create chaos in Syria.” Cardin contributed “Congress continues to take the lead in defending US national security against continuing Russian aggression against democratic institutions at home and abroad” and Shaheen observed that “This legislation builds on previous efforts in Congress to hold Russia accountable for its bellicose behavior against the United States and its determination to destabilize our global world order.”

The Senatorial commentary is, of course, greatly exaggerated and sometimes completely false regarding what is going on in the world, but it is revealing of how ignorant American legislators can be and often are. The Senators also ignore the fact that the designation of presumed Kremlin surrogate forces as “foreign terrorist organizations” is equivalent to a declaration of war against them by the US military, while hypocritically calling Russia a state sponsor of terrorism is bad enough, as it is demonstrably untrue. But the real damage comes from the existence of the bill itself. It will solidify support for hardliners on both sides, guaranteeing that there will be no rapprochement between Washington and Moscow for the foreseeable future, a development that is bad for everyone involved. Whether it can be characterized as an unintended consequence of unwise decision making or perhaps something more sinister involving a deeply corrupted congress and administration remains to be determined.

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