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Hollow victory: US ‘liberates’ Raqqa by destroying it

Campaign to free Raqqa from ISIS ends with total destruction of the city

Alexander Mercouris

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My colleague Adam Garrie has written a vivid description of the footage showing the destruction of the Syrian city of Raqqa, once capital of ISIS’s self-proclaimed ‘Caliphate’ and now reduced to an almost total ruin.  As Adam Garrie rightly says, Raqqa has not been liberated so much as totally destroyed.

This gives rise to many bitter thoughts.

Firstly, it is only last year that Western governments and the Western media were furiously denouncing the Russians for their supposed indiscriminate bombing of the Syrian city of Aleppo, of which a section was at that time occupied by Jihadi fighters aligned with Al-Qaeda.

As I remember all too clearly, the Russians and the Syrian military were regularly accused of committing war crimes in Aleppo, with particular stress given to the supposedly deliberate killing of civilians in Aleppo and the bombing of hospitals the matter.

The question of Aleppo regularly came up in the UN Security Council, leading to angry exchanges and abuse of the Russians there, with the situation becoming so charged that President Putin even felt obliged to put off a visit to France when he was told that French President Hollande would refuse to speak to him.

Meanwhile those Western journalists such as Vanessa Beeley and Eva Bartlett who actually travelled to Aleppo and reported that the situation there was completely different from the way it was  being described were subjected to relentless abuse (which still continues) by the Western media, even as the lurid and on occasion fantastic claims of Russian and Syrian government atrocities which poured out of the Jihadi controlled enclave were given instant credence.

The reality is that Aleppo after the fighting ended there in December emerged intact, and is now once more a populous and industrious city, with the great majority of its buildings still standing, most of its people still there (in fact they remained there throughout the four years of the Jihadi siege) and many of its people who fled coming home.

Though the task of reconstruction is enormous, there is at least a city still left to rebuild, as even the BBC is reporting.

The contrast with Raqqa could not be starker.  Not only is Raqqa all but completely destroyed (the UN says 80% of its buildings have been destroyed, with other eyewitness reports saying there is hardly a building left standing) but it has all happened in total silence, with no words of condemnation from Western governments or the Western media whilst it was happening or since then..

By way of example, David Gardner in the Financial Times has only this to say

…..after a five-month siege spearheaded by Syrian Kurdish fighters under the cover of US air strikes, the black flags have gone, the Isis reign of terror is over, but much of Raqqa lies in rubble

This apparently is a sufficient statement to describe the total obliteration of a whole city.

As for the Guardian – in Britain perhaps the most relentless critic of Russia’s operation in Aleppo last year – in an editorial welcoming ISIS’s defeat in Raqqa it has nothing to say about the city’s destruction at all.

Perhaps given the kind of organisation ISIS is there was no alternative way to defeat it in Raqqa other than to destroy the city.  That is the argument made for example by a commentary by CTV News

……the spectacular devastation of the depopulated city raised questions about the cost of victory against a fanatical opponent and laid bare the difficulties of rebuilding areas where the jihadis put up a ferocious defence, leaving scorched earth and traumatized societies in their wake.

From Fallujah, Ramadi and Mosul in Iraq to Kobani, Manbij and Raqqa in Syria, protracted military campaigns that eventually succeeded in flushing out the militants have left behind a trail of destruction so vast that they appeared to have been undertaken with little regard for the day after….

Still, whether there was another way to wrest control of the city from the extremists is debatable.

Perhaps so, but one wonders why in that case the same argument – or excuse – did not apply last year to Aleppo where the devastation was far less than in “Fallujah, Ramadi and Mosul in Iraq (and) Kobani, Manbij and Raqqa in Syria”.

In reality it is difficult to disagree with the assessment of Major General Igor Konashenkov, the Russian Defence Ministry’s spokesman, who spoke of the “liberation” of Raqqa in this way

Washington’s imagination is that IS controlled in Syria only Raqqa – a provincial city, where about 200,000 lived before the war, and by beginning of the coalition’s five-months operation to liberate it – not more than 45,000.  Compare: Deir ez-Zor with the vast suburbs by the Euphrates before the war had a population of more than 500,000, and it took the Syrian forces with support from the Russian Aerospace Force ten days to liberate all that territory.

The Syrian army’s rapid sweep through territory once held by ISIS, and its successful and rapid liberation with a minimum of destruction of formerly ISIS controlled towns like Palmyra, the ISIS controlled area of Deir Ezzor, and ISIS’s alternative ‘capital’ of Mayadin, does in fact make for a remarkable contrast.

Here it is important to reiterate a point which in all the various discussions about ISIS’s defeat in Raqqa gets almost completely forgotten.

This is that the US had no legal authority to bomb ISIS in Raqqa in the way it did.  Raqqa is a Syrian city in Syria, and its population are (or were) Syrians.  The US nonetheless bombed Raqqa to destruction in order to ‘liberate’ it from ISIS, even though it did so without the agreement of the Syrian government or of the UN Security Council.

By any objective assessment the US’s bombing of Raqqa violated international law, a fact all but confirmed by the convoluted arguments US lawyers have come up with in order to justify the US’s armed intervention in Syria (I discussed these arguments in detail right at the start of the US intervention in Syria and showed why these arguments are wrong in an article I wrote for Sputnik which can be found here).

During the furore last year over the bombing of Aleppo there was much wild talk of Russian officials being prosecuted for war crimes.  In reality Western governments have produced no evidence that the Russians committed any war crimes in Aleppo, a fact which a parliamentary report in Britain has admitted.

By contrast there is at least a prima facie case that the bombing of Raqqa – illegal, disproportionate and obviously indiscriminate as it clearly was – is indeed a war crime, though needless to say there is no possibility that any US official will be prosecuted for it.

The outstanding question about Raqqa, and the one which is the most difficult to answer, is why the city had to be destroyed in the way it was.

There are disagreements about the number of ISIS fighters in Raqqa but the highest total I have seen is that there were 6,000 before the battle began (other estimates are much lower; one I saw put the number as low 2,000).

This is significantly less than the total number of Jihadi fighters engaged in the ‘Great Battle of Aleppo’ last year, which at its peak may have been as high as 30,000.

Given the relatively small number of ISIS fighters in Raqqa, why did the siege take so long (four months) leaving the city so completely destroyed?

Possibly the Kurdish fighters the US used to fight ISIS in Raqqa were simply not up to the job.  There may not have been enough of them, and they may not have been adequately trained.  The YPG – the core of the ‘Syrian Democratic Forces’ which ‘liberated’ Raqqa – is ultimately a locally raised militia rather than a trained army, and – like the Peshmerga in Iraq – it may not be the formidable force it is sometimes made out to be.

There are also reports that some elements of the Arab population of Raqqa were less than happy that their ‘liberators’ were Kurds, and that this made them less forthcoming with intelligence about ISIS positions than had been expected.  By contrast one of the reasons the Syrian army has been fighting ISIS so successfully in eastern Syria is because of the abundant intelligence it receives from local people.

Possibly the US was obliged to make up with air power for the failure of the Kurds on the ground, and their inability to obtain good intelligence about ISIS’s positions.

However judging from the history of US wars it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the reason Raqqa was so completed destroyed was because the US ultimately didn’t care whether it was destroyed or not.

This has been the recurring pattern of US war fighting ever since the Second World War: unconstrained bombing to achieve mostly ill-though-out political objectives heedless of the cost or the consequences for the local people.

The result is wars that seem to go on forever amidst terrible destructiveness, and which in the end almost invariably fail.

Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s former President, at Russia’s Valdai Forum recently described this style of war-fighting and its terrible effect

But soon, we began to get troubles. Extremism arrived again, violence erupted again, terrorism arrived again. And the US did not pay attention to where it was coming from. It began bombing Afghan villages, it began killing Afghan people, it began putting Afghan people in prisons. And the more they did the more we had extremism.

Raqqa was destroyed because ultimately the US military knows no other way.

The result in Raqqa is there for all to see.  The US made a desert, and calls it peace.

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BBC producer admits Douma attack was false flag that nearly sparked Russia – U.S. hot war (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 176.

Alex Christoforou

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BBC producer Riam Dalati believes that the scenes caught on video from a hospital in Douma, Syria were staged, all in an effort driven by jihadist terrorists and White Helmet “activists” to draw the U.S. and its allies into full on confrontation with Syria, and by extension Russia.

The viral images caused a media firestorm in 2018, showing children allegedly suffering from chemicals, as main stream media channels, like the BBC itself, called for war with Assad.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the BBC producer’s stunning admission, after a 6 month investigation, that reveals the “‘chemical attack” hospital scenes in Douma were completely staged.

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Via RT


Emotive scenes of Syrian civilians, among them crying, choking, half-naked children, dominated the airwaves in April last year after rebel-affiliated mouthpieces reported yet another “chemical attack by the Assad regime” in the town of Douma. Disturbing reports, including some from the controversial White Helmets, claimed scores of people had been killed and injured.

Mainstream media quickly picked up the horrific (but unverified) videos from a Douma hospital, where victims were treated after this “poison attack.” That hospital scene was enough to assemble a UN emergency session and prompt the US-led ‘coalition of the willing’ to rain down dozens of missiles on Damascus and other locations.

But Riam Dalati, a reputable BBC producer who has long reported from the Middle East, took the liberty of trying to sift through the fog of the Syrian war.

He believes Assad forces did attack the town, but that the much-publicized hospital scenes were staged.

After almost 6 months of investigations, I can prove without a doubt that the Douma Hospital scene was staged. No fatalities occurred in the hospital.

Anticipating further queries, he said no one from the White Helmets or opposition sources were present in Douma by the time the alleged attack had happened except for one person who was in Damascus.

Dalati also says that an attack “did happen” but that sarin, a weapons-grade nerve agent, was not used. He said, “we’ll have to wait for OPCW [Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] to prove chlorine or otherwise.”

However, everything else around the attack was manufactured for maximum effect.

The journalist said Jaysh al-Islam, an Islamist faction that fought the Syrian army there, “ruled Douma with an iron fist. They co-opted activists, doctors and humanitarians with fear and intimidation.”

Dalati’s revelations could have become a bombshell news report, but instead it was met with a deafening media silence. His employer preferred to distance itself from his findings. The BBC told Sputnik in a statement that Dalati was expressing “his personal opinions about some of the video footage that emerged after the attack but has not claimed that the attack did not happen.” 

After a while, Dalati restricted access to his Twitter account which is now open only to confirmed followers.

Interestingly, his previous inputs did not sit well with the official narrative either. “Sick and tired of activists and rebels using corpses of dead children to stage emotive scenes for Western consumption. Then they wonder why some serious journos are questioning part of the narrative,” he said in a tweet which he later deleted over “the breach of editorial policy.”

In all, Dalati is not a lone voice in the wilderness. The Intercept has recently run a story that also cast doubt on the mainstream coverage of Douma, although it doesn’t doubt that the attack itself happened. While a veteran British reporter Robert Fisk suggested there was no gas attack at all, saying people there were suffering from oxygen starvation. Witnesses of the “chemical attack,” for their part, told international investigators the story was a set-up.

Moscow, which supports Damascus in its fight against terrorists, has long stated the Douma incident was staged, calling for an international OPCW inquiry. Last year, the Defense Ministry presented what it said was proof the “provocation” was to trigger Western airstrikes against Syrian government forces.

This time, the military recalled a similar 2017 incident in Khan Sheikhoun, where an alleged chemical attack took place. The ministry’s spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Friday that a closer inspection of footage from that location clearly shows this was a set-up as well.

Now the Foreign Ministry has suggested Dalati is being silenced for voicing inconvenient views, with spokeswoman Maria Zakharova asking on Facebook: “A telling story. How about Western advocates of rights and freedoms? Had they accused BBC of censorship and pressuring the journalist?”

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President Trump schools liberals with National Emergency declaration

President Trump skillfully defeats Democrat naysayers, by increasing support for the border wall prior to declaring a National Emergency.

Seraphim Hanisch

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President Trump signed a continuing resolution to keep the US government fully running through the rest of the 2019 fiscal year. The CR contained a $1.374 bn allocation for US border security, and that money includes and pays for the completion of some fifty-five miles of border fence (or wall, or barrier, or “not-a-wall” depending on one’s preferential phrasing.) He also declared a National Emergency, theoretically freeing at least another $8 bn for the continued construction of the border wall.

Yes, it is a wall. And, yes, it is being built right now. And yes, it will be completed. The President of the United States has made this abundantly clear.

Some news reporters talk about this matter still as though there is in fact no wall now, and that there is no construction in progress on any wall. To that we can say, please watch this:

This section of the wall is going up near Santa Teresa, New Mexico. It augments a very well-designed 18 foot wall stretching from west of Santa Teresa, NM to Tornillo, Texas. If someone wants to cross the border without having to negotiate this barrier they have to go very far off the beaten path to do it. President Trump wants to make it even more difficult; in fact, he wants to have the barrier run the entire length of the US-Mexico border.

This second video says a bit more about the situation:

His campaign to get this has been brilliant in terms of getting the American people informed that there is a problem. How did he do this with a press that hates him?

Easy. He made an issue out of it, knowing that the news media has no choice but to cover the President’s every antic, and in so doing, while seeking fodder for criticism, they actually ended up reporting on the actual problem.

This has been an interesting flow of events:

  • Mainstream news slamming the President’s every statement about the need for a wall
  • The fury of Democrat leaders Nancy Pelosi and Charles “Chuck” Schumer in their 100% opposition – their own temper tantrum whilst blaming that tantrum on Trump, who actually acted more like a strict parent than a bratty teenager
  • The very public presentations of Border Patrol experts that Trump arranged, the purpose being to listen to their own expert assessment of the actual needs at the border

This last issue marks a need for even the conservative press to have a wake-up call. Daniel Horowitz wrote a piece in The Conservative Review excoriating President Trump’s signing of this present deal as a “sell out”, noting that:

Trump originally demanded $25 billion for the wall. Then he negotiated himself down to $5.6 billion. Democrats balked and only agreed to $1.6 billion. This bill calls it a day at $1.375 billion, enough to construct 55 miles. But it’s worse than that. This bill limits the president’s ability to construct “barriers” to just the Rio Grande Valley sector and only bollard fencing, not concrete walls of any kind.

Daniel’s point is great for rhetoric because, of course, the President originally did promise a big beautiful concrete wall running the entire length of the border.

However, he missed the point about using bollard-style walls that can be seen through – the Border Patrol agents themselves said this kind of wall is to their advantage. A solid wall prevents natural visibility and the agents were getting rocks thrown at them from people they could not see on the other side. A see-through capability means that people approaching the wall on the other side can be seen and tracked.

This marks an example of conservative ideology being too strongly fixed, just as the liberals’ ideology is fixed at the level of a four-year old child refusing to let someone else play with his toys.

They both do not understand that President Trump is not concerned with ideology. He is concerned with useful results, which he got in this deal.

Now about that National Emergency. Is this really the constitutional crisis Trump’s detractors say it is?

Probably not.

It has been widely reported that the US is currently running under some 31 other national emergencies, and that the one President Trump declared makes it number 32. The rhetoric from the news media and Democrats is centered around the idea that no President has ever used this power to get money that only the Congress can allot.

We also probably already know that this is an irrelevant point – the President is in charge of the national security of the nation, and he can and must do what he can to ensure it. The huge numbers of illegal crossings, nearly half a million in 2018 were largely apprehended and released into the United States, rather than deported. Half a million is far less than the 1.6 million that came through in 2000, but it is also not zero. Half a million is the size of the city of Atlanta, Georgia.

The distractors in the Democrat party and media do not want anyone comprehending this fact, so they try to divert and dissuade. But President Trump has not let any of this get past him. In a media event, the President had parents and relatives of people who were murdered by illegal aliens in a direct face-off with none other than CNN’s provocateur-in-chief Jim Acosta, and the reporter was forced to listen to what these family members had to say about their convictions that the president was correct in his:

Trump pointed to angel moms in attendance, asking them for their thoughts.

“You think I’m creating something? Ask these incredible women who lost their daughters and their sons,” Trump said. “OK, Because your question is a very political question because you have an agenda. You’re CNN. You’re fake news.”

Trump told Acosta the statistics he provided were “wrong” and told him to take a look at the federal prison population for proof.

“See how many of them,percentage-wise, are illegal aliens,” Trump said. “Just see, go ahead and see. It’s a fake question.”

Acosta was subsequently confronted by the angel moms in attendance, after the press conference. As angel moms confronted the CNN reporter, he invited them to appear on the network in the background of a live shot.

“There is no attempt whatsoever to diminish what they’ve gone through, or take away what they’ve gone through, but as you heard in that question that I had with the president … it was really about the facts and the data,” Acosta said on CNN following his exchange with Trump. “Some of these folks came up to me right after this press conference … they’re holding up these pictures of loved ones who lost their lives.”

An angel mom then discussed that a previously deported illegal alien murdered her son.

“President Trump is completely correct on this issue, we need to protect this country,” the angel mom told Acosta.

Acosta actually was a victim of his own passions when he went to the border to a place where the bollard wall presently stands and reported that nothing was happening there. It seemed that he was expecting that there were supposed to be angry mobs on the other side trying to get through. However, no one was there, because it is rather pointless to try to get over this wall at this place. Even liberals were forced to acknowledge Mr. Acosta’s strategic miscalculation.

The new national emergency is about getting results. If we were concerned only with smooth and impressive politics, we could only remark on the President’s success in maneuvering the Democrats (not all of them were slavishly going with the Pelosi-Schumer stance) and his ability to do what he does best – getting his message to the American people, and giving them information with which to decide what they want.

This campaign is not over, but this particular battle appears to have been won with a lot of hard work.

Slowly, oh, so slowly, it would seem that the forces of common sense are making some headway in America.

 

 

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“This is America” reveals a shocking vision of the United States

The Grammy Award winning Song and Record of the Year feature the very darkest vision of what America has become.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The Grammy Awards are the second of the three most significant musical achievement awards in the United States. Two of the anticipated awards that many fans of this event look forward to learning are the Song of the Year and the Record of the Year.

The Song of the Year is awarded to the songwriters of a given song, where the Record of the Year goes to the artists, producers and engineers involved in crafting the recording (the “record”) of a song. Both categories are huge and both usually go to an artist or organization responsible for a pop song.

It also happens to be that usually the song that is picked is beautiful and in most cases, reflects the character of beauty (whether in music or lyrics or both) for that year.

This year was quite different. Both awards went to Donald Glover, a.k.a. “Childish Gambino” for his song This is America.

This song features a radically different tone than previous winners going back for many years. Though rap remixes are usually less musical, the Grammy winners among these mixes have nevertheless retained some relatively positive, or at least attractive, aspect.

This is America is very different, especially when watched with its video.

Musically, it is genius, though the genius appears to have gone mad. Glover paints a picture of some very positive segments in American life, but then destroys it with his audible form and message that says absolutely nothing positive, but even more so – it doesn’t make sense unless one knows the context.

That context is revealed in the video with frightening images: someone getting their brains blown out (we see the blood fly), a gospel choir shot up with an automatic rifle while they were singing, and cannabis, front and center, being smoked by the artist himself.

This is America?

For Glover, this song and others on his album do seem to reflect that point of view.  Feels like Summer, one of Glover’s other recent songs, also reflects this sense of hopelessness, though it is far more musically consistent. The video gives the most clear contextual information that one could ask for, and while the video is not violent, it features degradation in society, even though the people depicted appear to be trying to make the best of their life situations.

The image Mr. Glover paints of America is a far cry from that which was known to most Americans only twenty years ago, and in fact, in many parts of the country where cannabis is still illegal there is a corresponding sense of positivity in life that is absent in Childish Gambino’s California-esque view of life.

There is a massive change that is taking place in American society. Our music and art reflects this change, and it sometimes even helps drive that change.

The United States of today is at a crossroads.

How many times have we read or heard THAT statement before?  But does it not seem so now? The attempt of identity politics to separate our nation into groups that must somehow fight for their own relevance against other groups is not the vision of the United States only twenty years ago.

Further, the normalization of themes such as drug-use and racism, the perpetuation of one in reality and the other as a mythological representation of how life “really is” in the US is radically bizarre.

In discussions with people who do not live in the United States, we found that sometimes they believed that white-on-black racism really was happening in America, because the media in the US pumps this information out in a constant stream, often with people like Donald Trump as the scapegoat.

But it is not true. Anyone in America’s new “accused class” of white, Christian, European-descent males (and some women who are not feminists), will note that they are not racist, and in fact, they feel persecuted for their existence under the new mantra of “white privilege.”

But it does not matter what they say. The media pumps the message it wants to, and with such coverage it is easy to get to halfway believing it: I know I am not this way, but I guess things are getting pretty bad elsewhere because all of those people seem to be getting this way…

This is the narrative the press promulgates, but upon conversations with people in “those places” we find that it is not true for them, either, and that they may in fact be thinking this is true about us.

Made in America is a visionary song and video. However, the vision is not a dream; it is nothing that anyone in the country would sincerely hope for. Even in Donald Glover’s case – as one of Hollywood’s hottest actors, and as a big success in music, he is far from being one of the “boys in the ‘hood.” In fact, Time Magazine in 2017 named him one of the world’s 100 most influential people.

Certainly his musical work creates a powerful influence, but it also must raise questions, with the main ones being:

  • Are we really like this?
  • Is this what we really want to be as a country?
  • Is this the kind of image we want our children in the US to adopt?

In fact, if Mr. Glover’s work was viewed with care (rather than just as something that is “cool” because the media says it is), it might help us steer away from the cliff that many Americans are in fact heading towards.

We have elected not to link to the video because it is too disturbing for children. It is even too disturbing for many adults. For that reason we are not making it one-click-easy to get to.

Parents reading this opinion piece would do well to screen the video by themselves without the kids around first, before deciding what they want to do. Even though the video is probably something that they have already seen, the parents still stand as the guides and guardians for their children through all the perils of growing up.

These times call for great guardians indeed.

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