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Joint Investigation Team on MH-17: Why the case is still open

A disregard of Russian technical evidence, a failure to produce US evidence, and a heavy reliance on social media, video, radio intercept, and eye-witness evidence originating from Ukraine, leaves the case open.

Alexander Mercouris

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As widely anticipated the so-called Joint Investigation Team (JIT) investigating the circumstances of the shooting down of MH17 delivered a preliminary report on Wednesday 28th September 2016 which said that MH17 was shot down by the east Ukrainian militia from a location near the town of Snezhnoe with a BUK missile supposedly smuggled to them from Russia.

This theory has been in circulation since almost immediately after MH17 was shot down.  It relies heavily on social media reports and videos of a BUK missile launcher supposedly being moved around eastern Ukraine.  Some of this evidence is also backed by claims by eye-witnesses, and radio intercepts.

The first point to make about the investigation that published these findings on Wednesday is that its instigator is Ukraine.

Ukraine as the country in whose airspace MH17 was shot down has the right to set up an inquiry to look into the facts of the tragedy, and that is what it did.  It also invited a selected group of other countries to join its inquiry, and that is what happened. 

That Ukraine is the instigator of this investigation is confirmed by UN Security Council Resolution 2166 of 21st July 2016, whose paragraph 4 reads as follows:

“(The Security Council) recognises the efforts under way by Ukraine, working in coordination with ICAO and other international experts and organisations, including representatives of States of Occurrence, Registry, Operator, Design and Manufacture, as well as States who have lost nationals on MH17, to institute an international investigation of the incident, and calls on all States to provide any requested assistance to civil and criminal investigations related to this incident.”

(bold italics added)

In other words this is a Ukrainian investigation which certain other countries, namely the  Netherlands, Australia and Malaysia – all allies of the US and of Ukraine – were invited to join, and which they agreed to join. 

Contrary to some claims, this is not an investigation set up by the Security Council, which merely “recognised” Ukraine’s intention to set it up. 

Russia was not invited to join the investigation, and has played no role in it. 

Reports say it was the Ukrainians who carried out most of the field work, and who produced most of the evidence.  The nature of the evidence presented on Wednesday confirms that this is so.  It is the sort of evidence that could only have come from Ukrainian sources.

The countries which agreed to join the investigation were required to sign a non-disclosure agreement which gave Ukraine the right to veto publication any findings of the investigation.  The fact Dutch officials have taken the lead in presenting the findings of the investigation and appear to have played a significant role in it, should not obscure the fact that it was Ukraine that set up the investigation, and which mainly conducted it.

At the time the investigation was set up Ukraine was or ought to have been a suspect in the case.  MH17 was shot down in its airspace at a time of armed conflict. Its military possess the means to shoot aircraft such as MH17 down, and there was at the very least a possibility that they might have shot it down.

Any investigation set up by a suspect in a case in which the suspect continues to play a major role by definition cannot be impartial or independent. This investigation therefore is not impartial or independent.  The fact certain countries agreed to join an investigation set up by Ukraine in such circumstances amounts to a presumption on the part of those countries of Ukraine’s innocence and of others’ guilt.  The fact the report adopts Ukrainian political language (for example the east Ukrainian militia are called “separatists”) is a sign of this.

The report is therefore best understood as what it actually is: a presentation of the prosecution case in the case Ukraine wants to bring against the people it accuses of shooting down MH17.  What has happened is that Ukraine has brought in the help of outside countries – first and foremost the Netherlands but to a certain extent also the US – to lend its case credibility and to strengthen some of its technical aspects.

A  separate investigation into the tragedy was also carried out by the Dutch Safety Board, which reported last year.  This investigation was conducted under the aegis of the International Civil Aviation Organisation. 

This investigation also receives mention in Resolution 2166, whose preamble reads in part as follows

“Stressing the need for a full, thorough and independent international investigation into the incident in accordance with international civil aviation guidelines, noting in this regard the crucial role played by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in aircraft accident and incident investigations, and welcoming the decision by ICAO to send a team to work in coordination with the Ukrainian National Bureau of Incidents and Accidents Investigation of Civil Aircraft in this investigation, following a request for assistance by Ukraine to ICAO and others”.

The Dutch Safety Board investigation said that MH17 was shot down by a BUK missile but failed to identify the precise launch point, and did not name those responsible for launching the missile. 

It is often claimed that the Dutch Safety Board was prevented by paragraph 3.1 of Annex 13 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation (which says that “it is not the purpose of this (investigation) to apportion blame or liability”) from identifying the launch point and from saying who was responsible for the launch of the missile.  This is to confuse the question of “blame and liability” – which depends on circumstance and intention – with the wholly separate question of cause.

The Dutch Safety Board decanted the question of the location of the launch point and the identity of those responsible to the team that reported on Wednesday.  It is difficult to avoid the feeling that this was done because as the Dutch Safety Board investigation was carried out under ICAO rules the Russians were parties to it and had a right to submit evidence and receive and comment on the findings.  By contrast since the Russians have no role in the investigation which reported on Wednesday, they were frozen out of its work. 

I have discussed the Dutch Safety Board report at length.  Briefly in my opinion it suffered from two fundamental flaws. 

The first was the failure to discuss the verified presence of Ukrainian BUK missile launchers in the area where MH17 was shot down.  Here is what I had to say about that

“The elephant in the room that the report refuses to see is however the Ukrainian BUK missile launchers we know from Russian satellite imagery were present in the area at the time of the tragedy.

Attempts to discredit the Russian images of these launchers have been made by the Ukrainian authorities and by Bellingcat. They have ended in abject failure. The presence in the area at the time of the tragedy of these launchers is incontrovertible.

The report in fact admits that the Ukrainians were known before the tragedy to have had anti-aircraft systems capable of shooting down MH17 in the area. The report does not however say that some of these were BUK missile launchers.

The report makes no reference to these launchers though their relevance to the question of how MH17 was shot down is all too obvious.

The silence about the Ukrainian BUK missile launchers contrasts oddly with the report’s lengthy discussion of the anti-aircraft systems the militia was believed to possess before the tragedy took place. Inconclusive speculations about militia anti-aircraft systems were apparently considered more worthy of inclusion in the report than incontrovertible evidence of the presence of Ukrainian BUK missile systems, despite the fact that it was a BUK missile that shot MH17 down, and despite the fact the Ukrainians have a previous history of shooting down civilian airliners with such missiles.

As it happens the report confirms that neither the Dutch nor it seems the intelligence agency of any other Western power believed before the tragedy that the militia possessed anti-aircraft systems capable of shooting MH17 down, even though other Ukrainian aircraft had been shot down in the previous days over the same area, and even though the area was under the close observation of Western intelligence agencies.

The silence in the report about the Ukrainian BUK missile launchers continues the pattern of Western silence about these launchers that has been evident ever since the Russians first revealed them in their intelligence presentation of 21st July 2014. It is doubtful that more than a tiny fraction of the Western public knows about them. If it did it would radically alter the Western public’s view of the tragedy.”

The second arguably even more fundamental flaw was the way the evidence of Almaz-Antey, the Russian company which manufactures the BUK missile system, was misrepresented

“The single greatest flaw of the report is its failure to take heed of the Russian technical advice – specifically that of Almaz-Antey – even though it is the properties of a Russian weapons system – the BUK missile of which Almaz-Antey is the manufacturer – which is being discussed.

In the case of Almaz-Antey insult is added to injury by the way its advice is misrepresented in the report so as to make it seem that Almaz-Antey has corroborated the Dutch Safety Board’s view that the missile was launched from within the 320 square kilometre area the Dutch Safety Board identifies as the probable launch area. Almaz-Antey actually pinpoints the launch point as being outside this area, but the report makes no mention of the fact.

Even if Almaz-Antey’s objectivity as a Russian state company is doubted, its expertise as the BUK missile’s manufacturer ought to grant its opinion a measure of attention and respect. It should at the very least be the subject of comment and discussion, even if it is in the end rejected.”

Almaz-Antey has pinpointed the launch site not in the 320 square kilometre area from where the Dutch Safety Board says the missile was launched, but from a different area near the village of Zaroshchenskoe near Shakthorsk where Russian military satellite imagery has shown a Ukrainian BUK missile launcher present at roughly the time of the tragedy.

The investigation team which reported on Wednesday has repeated and compounded these flaws. 

It has nothing to say about the Ukrainian BUK missile launchers, whose presence is not acknowledged.  As for Almaz-Antey’s evidence about the launch point being Zaroshchenskoe, that was summarily dismissed by Wilbert Paulissen, the Dutch chief investigator, with these words

“From the wealth and diversity of the other evidence gathered by the JIT, we have no doubt whatsoever the conclusions that we’re presenting today are accurate and that conclusion is that on 17 July flight [2014] MH17 was shot down by a Buk missile, shot from farmland in Pervomaiskiy and the system was brought in from the Russian Federation territory and then returned to the Russian Federation afterwards.”

This fails to address the scientific basis of Almaz-Antey’s evidence.  Instead what Paulissen is in effect saying is that because his team has a “wealth and diversity of other evidence” they feel they can just ignore it.

As to what that “wealth and diversity of other evidence” is, that became all too clear during the presentation on Wednesday: a mixture of social media reports, intercepted radio communications, videos, and eye-witness testimony, all of which must ultimately come from Ukrainian sources, and most of which has been in the public domain for a long time.  Scientific evidence is discussed in the report but barely featured in the press conference and goes unmentioned in most Western media reports.  As Almaz-Antey somewhat acidly commented

“In today’s event the JIT presented the conclusions it has arrived at so far. In the course of the presentation the technical aspects of the investigation were not touched upon. Practically none of them was mentioned.”

Almaz-Antey continues to complain that its expert advice – unparalleled in this field – is going unheeded

“As early as in May, when the documents were turned over to Dutch experts, we understood that they were unlikely to be used for certain reasons. That is why the Russian side sent classified documents to the International Technical Commission on July 29, 2015 and submitted the main characteristics, which correspond to a model used by Almaz-Antei. The commission did not take account of that document.”

Almaz-Antey also says that because its evidence is being ignored the entire model of the tragedy upon which the team is working is wrong

“the entire model was from the outset built for only one version that the missile flew towards the airliner [i.e. from the Snezhnoye settlement].  The full-scale experiment as well as all the previous and subsequent experiments made the Almaz-Antey experts to conclude that the Dutch version of a missile exploding on a head-on course was unreliable. There is a whole number of factors, the unreliable damages in the first place, which prove that.”

This has been the consistent pattern from the earliest days of the tragedy.  The Russians have made public and have provided both teams of investigators – the Dutch Safety Board and the investigators who reported on Wednesday – with reams of technical evidence including scientific tests, satellite imagery and radar pictures.  The fate of this evidence is however to be either misrepresented or ignored.

Meanwhile the US, which immediately after the tragedy claimed to have evidence that pinpointed the location of the missile launch, and which said it was in “militia controlled territory”, refuses to make public the evidence upon which it made that assertion. 

The team on Wednesday claimed the US concurs with its finding the missile was launched from militia controlled Snezhnoe and has provided a statement that supposedly explains the reasons why it on the basis of the evidence in its possession it came to this conclusion.  However since the US has not disclosed the evidence upon which this reasoning is based there is no way to corroborate this.   Instead we are asked to accept that the fact the US has shown its evidence to Dutch intelligence (which agrees with its analysis) is corroboration enough.

In a bizarre twist the US is now actually saying that it is the findings of the team which are corroborating its assertions

“The Team’s interim findings corroborate Secretary Kerry’s statement in the days following the tragedy that MH17 was shot down by a BUK surface-to-air missile fired from Russian-backed, separatist-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine.”

(bold italics added)

Whilst it is difficult to know quite what to make of this, on the face of it it suggests that the claims the US made in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy about the launch point were not as conclusive or as factually based as the US led everyone to think they might be.  Why if they were would they need the team’s “corroboration”?

Regardless of that, the current position is that whilst the Russians provide a deluge of technical evidence, and the US publishes none, the team which reported on Wednesday bases its conclusions principally on information originating from Ukrainian sources.  This of course includes the eye-witness, radio intercept, video, and social media evidence etc.

Most of this evidence has already been in the public domain for some time, where it has been vigorously contested.  There is for example much argument about the interpretation of some of the radio intercept evidence, much of which does not seem to be very conclusive, and which is capable of being interpreted in different ways.

Some more nuggets of evidence were produced on Wednesday, but I have no doubt they will be quickly contested as well. 

To get a flavour of what is coming, consider the dispute over which party was in control of Zaroshchenskoe, the village near Shakhtorsk from where Almaz-Antey says the missile that shot down MH17 was launched. 

The team on Wednesday supported longstanding Ukrainian claims that on the day of the tragedy Zaroshchenskoe was under militia control.  Since they base their findings on information the Ukrainians give them they could hardly do otherwise.  The claim incidentally appears to be largely based on a radio intercept from June 2015, which would be almost a year after MH17 was shot down.  One might have expected more weight on such a subject to be placed on Ukrainian military records.  Regardless, this claim has been strongly disputed by others who have produced a mountain of evidence which they say proves that Zaroshchenskoe was in fact under Ukrainian control. 

Realistically there was no possibility that a team set up by Ukraine would implicate Ukraine, and no possibility Western leaders and the Western media, with their credibility on the line, would ever press for a truly independent inquiry that might have come to that conclusion.

At this point it is worth reiterating that the presentation on Wednesday does not have the status of a court judgment or a board of inquiry report.  Instead it is a presentation by prosecutors of parts of the case they intend to bring in the (unlikely) event of a criminal case being brought against those they accuse of shooting MH17 down.  That by definition makes the presentation provisional and open to challenge, and especially given Ukraine’s involvement accounts for its structural bias.

If the claim by the team the militia was responsible for shooting down MH17 was a foregone conclusion, have we nonetheless learnt anything new from the evidence they have provided?

Until this evidence is thoroughly and independently examined I cannot say.  However I have to say I doubt it.  None of the new evidence presented on Wednesday looked to me especially compelling.  Radio intercept evidence is always subject to interpretation, eye-witness evidence is rarely reliable, and despite the team’s earnest protestations that the video evidence is reliable, there have been too many cases in the past where that has turned out to be not so.  As for the technical evidence, that is being fiercely challenged by Almaz-Antey, whose expertise in this field is unmatched. 

The fact that the Western media’s reporting of the presentation on Wednesday was so understated – none of the British newspapers made it anything close to a headline story – suggests that they too found the case they heard less than compelling. 

I suspect part of the problem was that so much of this evidence was already known – and was already known to be hotly contested – that in the end it could not be completely persuasive.

The key problem however is that the most important evidence of all simply wasn’t there. 

This is the evidence the US says it has which supposedly pinpoints the launch point, and which in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy the US claimed proved it was the militia which launched the missile that shot down MH17.

Not only does the US continue to refuse to publish this evidence, but it has never given a really satisfactory reason why it refuses to do so. 

If the evidence is so highly classified that it cannot be released – as is often said (though not to my knowledge on the record by US officials) – then the US should never have spoken of it at all.  By doing so the US foreclosed the possibility of a truly open-minded inquiry whilst denying the militia the possibility to refute what is said to be the strongest evidence against them.

There is also the problem that the US has in the past published evidence when it suits it.  The US for example did so in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq war. That evidence turned out to be wrong, a fact which means that few today are prepared to take US claims about its evidence on trust, something the US seems to struggle to understand. Certainly relying on another NATO intelligence agency – in this case Dutch intelligence – to give the US’s evidence its support will convince few people.

Regardless, given that the US has a previous history of releasing this sort of evidence, it needs at the very least to provide a satisfactory explanation of why it is not doing so now if it is going to persuade the doubters.  This is especially so given that the very high stakes in this case make it difficult for many people to believe the US would not have found some way to publish at least some of its evidence if it really wanted to.

In the absence of this evidence the sort of evidence that came from the team on Wednesday looks too much like an attempt to piece together a case that was supposed to have been already proved in the days immediately after the tragedy to convince the skeptics and still the doubts.  The selective way in which some of the facts were presented in what ultimately was the prosecution’s presentation of its case, and the State Department’s rush to claim the team’s findings corroborate its original assertions (rather than the other way round) is only going to reinforce those doubts. 

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“The countries which agreed to join the investigation were required to sign a non-disclosure agreement which gave Ukraine the right to veto publication any findings of the investigation.”
Do we have a copy of this agreement? I think it’s important to see that Ukraine has, in fact, a veto over any content in this report.

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Fake news media FREAK OUT over Trump and NATO (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 172.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the media meltdown over remarks that U.S. President Trump may have made with regard to NATO, and how neo-liberal war hawks championing the alliance as some sort of foreign policy projection of peace and democracy, are really just supporting aggression, war, and the eventual weakening of the United States.

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Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO, Authored by David Swanson:


The New York Times loves NATO, but should you?

Judging by comments in social media and the real world, millions of people in the United States have gone from having little or no opinion on NATO, or from opposing NATO as the world’s biggest military force responsible for disastrous wars in places like Afghanistan (for Democrats) or Libya (for Republicans), to believing NATO to be a tremendous force for good in the world.

I believe this notion to be propped up by a series of misconceptions that stand in dire need of correction.

1. NATO is not a war-legalizing body, quite the opposite. NATO, like the United Nations, is an international institution that has something or other to do with war, but transferring the UN’s claimed authority to legalize a war to NATO has no support whatsoever in reality. The crime of attacking another nation maintains an absolutely unaltered legal status whether or not NATO is involved. Yet NATO is used within the U.S. and by other NATO members as cover to wage wars under the pretense that they are somehow more legal or acceptable. This misconception is not the only way in which NATO works against the rule of law. Placing a primarily-U.S. war under the banner of NATO also helps to prevent Congressional oversight of that war. Placing nuclear weapons in “non-nuclear” nations, in violation of the Nonproliferation Treaty, is also excused with the claim that the nations are NATO members (so what?). And NATO, of course, assigns nations the responsibility to go to war if other nations go to war — a responsibility that requires them to be prepared for war, with all the damage such preparation does.

2. NATO is not a defensive institution. According to the New York Times, NATO has “deterred Soviet and Russian aggression for 70 years.” This is an article of faith, based on the unsubstantiated belief that Soviet and Russian aggression toward NATO members has existed for 70 years and that NATO has deterred it rather than provoked it. In violation of a promise made, NATO has expanded eastward, right up to the border of Russia, and installed missiles there. Russia has not done the reverse. The Soviet Union has, of course, ended. NATO has waged aggressive wars far from the North Atlantic, bombing Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Libya. NATO has added a partnership with Colombia, abandoning all pretense of its purpose being in the North Atlantic. No NATO member has been attacked or credibly threatened with attack, apart from small-scale non-state blowback from NATO’s wars of aggression.

3. Trump is not trying to destroy NATO. Donald Trump, as a candidate and as U.S. President, has wondered aloud and even promised all kinds of things and, in many cases, the exact opposite as well. When it comes to actions, Trump has not taken any actions to limit or end or withdraw from NATO. He has demanded that NATO members buy more weapons, which is of course a horrible idea. Even in the realm of rhetoric, when European officials have discussed creating a European military, independent of the United States, Trump has replied by demanding that they instead support NATO.

4. If Trump were trying to destroy NATO, that would tell us nothing about NATO. Trump has claimed to want to destroy lots of things, good and bad. Should I support NAFTA or corporate media or the Cold War or the F35 or anything at all, simply because some negative comment about it escapes Trump’s mouth? Should I cheer for every abuse ever committed by the CIA or the FBI because they investigate Trump? Should I long for hostility between nuclear-armed governments because Democrats claim Trump is a Russian agent? When Trump defies Russia to expand NATO, or to withdraw from a disarmament treaty or from an agreement with Iran, or to ship weapons to Ukraine, or to try to block Russian energy deals in Europe, or to oppose Russian initiatives on banning cyber-war or weapons in space, should I cheer for such consistent defiance of Trump’s Russian master, and do so simply because Russia is, so implausibly, his so-inept master? Or should I form my own opinion of things, including of NATO?

5. Trump is not working for, and was not elected by, Russia.According to the New York Times, “Russia’s meddling in American elections and its efforts to prevent former satellite states from joining the alliance have aimed to weaken what it views as an enemy next door, the American officials said.” But are anonymous “American officials” really needed to acquire Russia’s openly expressed opinion that NATO is a threatening military alliance that has moved weapons and troops to states on Russia’s border? And has anyone produced the slightest documentation of the Russian government’s aims in an activity it has never admitted to, namely “meddling in American elections,” — an activity the United States has of course openly admitted to in regard to Russian elections? We have yet to see any evidence that Russia stole or otherwise acquired any of the Democratic Party emails that documented that party’s rigging of its primary elections in favor of Clinton over Sanders, or even any claim that the tiny amount of weird Facebook ads purchased by Russians could possibly have influenced the outcome of anything. Supposedly Trump is even serving Russia by demanding that Turkey not attack Kurds. But is using non-military means to discourage Turkish war-making necessarily the worst thing? Would it be if your favorite party or politician did it? If Trump encouraged a Turkish war, would that also be a bad thing because Trump did it, or would it be a bad thing for substantive reasons?

6. If Trump were elected by and working for Russia, that would tell us nothing about NATO. Imagine if Boris Yeltsin were indebted to the United States and ended the Soviet Union. Would that tell us whether ending the Soviet Union was a good thing, or whether the Soviet Union was obsolete for serious reasons? If Trump were a Russian pawn and began reversing all of his policies on Russia to match that status, including restoring his support for the INF Treaty and engaging in major disarmament negotiations, and we ended up with a world of dramatically reduced military spending and nuclear armaments, with the possibility of all dying in a nuclear apocalypse significantly lowered, would that too simply be a bad thing because Trump?

7. Russia is not a military threat to the world. That Russia would cheer NATO’s demise tells us nothing about whether we should cheer too. Numerous individuals and entities who indisputably helped to put Trump in the White House would dramatically oppose and others support NATO’s demise. We can’t go by their opinions either, since they don’t all agree. We really are obliged to think for ourselves. Russia is a heavily armed militarized nation that commits the crime of war not infrequently. Russia is a top weapons supplier to the world. All of that should be denounced for what it is, not because of who Russia is or who Trump is. But Russia spends a tiny fraction of what the United States does on militarism. Russia has been reducing its military spending each year, while the United States has been increasing its military spending. U.S. annual increases have sometimes exceeded Russia’s entire military budget. The United States has bombed nine nations in the past year, Russia one. The United States has troops in 175 nations, Russia in 3. Gallup and Pew find populations around the world viewing the United States, not Russia, as the top threat to peace in the world. Russia has asked to join NATO and the EU and been rejected, NATO members placing more value on Russia as an enemy. Anonymous U.S. military officials describe the current cold war as driven by weapons profits. Those profits are massive, and NATO now accounts for about three-quarters of military spending and weapons dealing on the globe.

8. Crimea has not been seized. According to the New York Times, “American national security officials believe that Russia has largely focused on undermining solidarity between the United States and Europe after it annexed Crimea in 2014. Its goal was to upend NATO, which Moscow views as a threat.” Again we have an anonymous claim as to a goal of a government in committing an action that never occurred. We can be fairly certain such things are simply made up. The vote by the people of Crimea to re-join Russia is commonly called the Seizure of Crimea. This infamous seizure is hard to grasp. It involved a grand total of zero casualties. The vote itself has never been re-done. In fact, to my knowledge, not a single believer in the Seizure of Crimea has ever advocated for re-doing the vote. Coincidentally, polling has repeatedly found the people of Crimea to be happy with their vote. I’ve not seen any written or oral statement from Russia threatening war or violence in Crimea. If the threat was implicit, there remains the problem of being unable to find Crimeans who say they felt threatened. (Although I have seen reports of discrimination against Tartars during the past 4 years.) If the vote was influenced by the implicit threat, there remains the problem that polls consistently get the same result. Of course, a U.S.-backed coup had just occurred in Kiev, meaning that Crimea — just like a Honduran immigrant — was voting to secede from a coup government, by no means an action consistently frowned upon by the United States.

9. NATO is not an engaged alternative to isolationism. The notion that supporting NATO is a way to cooperate with the world ignores superior non-deadly ways to cooperate with the world. A nonviolent, cooperative, treaty-joining, law-enforcing alternative to the imperialism-or-isolationism trap is no more difficult to think of or to act on than treating drug addiction or crime or poverty as reason to help people rather than to punish them. The opposite of bombing people is not ignoring them. The opposite of bombing people is embracing them. By the standards of the U.S. communications corporations Switzerland must be the most isolationist land because it doesn’t join in bombing anyone. The fact that it supports the rule of law and global cooperation, and hosts gatherings of nations seeking to work together is simply not relevant.

10. April 4 belongs to Martin Luther King, Jr., not militarism. War is a leading contributor to the growing global refugee and climate crises, the basis for the militarization of the police, a top cause of the erosion of civil liberties, and a catalyst for racism and bigotry. A growing coalition is calling for the abolition of NATO, the promotion of peace, the redirection of resources to human and environmental needs, and the demilitarization of our cultures. Instead of celebrating NATO’s 70thanniversary, we’re celebrating peace on April 4, in commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech against war on April 4, 1967, as well as his assassination on April 4, 1968.

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Turkey prepared to take Syria’s Manbij, won’t let it turn into ‘swamp’ like N. Iraq

Turkey sees the US-backed Kurdish YPG militias as an extension of the PKK and considers them terrorists as well.

RT

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Ankara has “almost completed” preparations for another military operation in Syria and will launch it if “promises” made by other parties about the protection of its borders are not kept, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said.

Turkey still hopes that talks with the US, Russia and “other parties” will allow it to ensure its security without resorting to force but it is still ready to proceed with a military option and will not “wait forever,” Erdogan said. He was referring to Ankara’s plans for the northern Syrian territories east of the Euphrates River, which it seeks to turn into a “security zone”free of any Kurdish militias.

“We are on our border with our forces and following developments closely. If promises made to us are kept and the process goes on, that’s fine. Otherwise, we inform that we have almost completed our preparations and will take steps in line with our own strategy,” the president said, addressing a group of businessmen in Ankara on Monday.

He did not elaborate on the promises made. However, they are apparently linked to the withdrawal of the Kurdish YPG militia from the Manbij area and the regions along the border with Turkey. “We will never allow a safe zone to turn into a new swamp,” Erdogan said, referring to the northern Syrian territories and comparing them to the northern Iraq, where the militants from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – an organization that Ankara considers a terrorist group – have been entrenched for decades.

Turkey sees the US-backed Kurdish YPG militias, which form the backbone of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), as an extension of the PKK and considers them terrorists as well. “Our proposal for a security zone under Turkey’s control aims to keep terror organizations away from our borders,” the Turkish president said.

He went on to explain that Ankara does not seek any territorial gains in its military campaigns in Syria but merely seeks to restore order in the war-ravaged country. “We will provide security for Manbij and then we will hand over the city to its real owners,” Erdogan said. “Syria belongs to Syrians.”

Turkey also seeks to establish a “security zone 20 miles [32 kilometers] deep” into Syria, Erdogan said, adding that he already discussed this issue with the US President Donald Trump. “Those who insistently want to keep us away from these regions are seeking to strengthen terror organizations,” he added.

Ankara has been long planning to push YPG units out of the area east of the Euphrates River. Its operation was delayed by the US withdrawal from Syria. However, Erdogan repeatedly hinted that his patience is wearing thin and he is not ready to wait much longer. He warned Trump against backtracking on his pledge to withdraw some 2,000 US forces out of Syria following a suicide attack in Manbij that killed four Americans. If the US president halted the withdrawal, it would mean that Islamic State (formerly ISIS/ISIL) had won, Erdogan argued.

He has also reiterated that Turkey is ready to take over Manbij “without delay.” The US military is currently working on security arrangements with the Turkish forces to create a buffer zone between Turkey and the Kurdish fighters. The Kurds, meanwhile, invited the Syrian government to take over the city and have reportedly begun to leave the area. Turkey has dismissed the reports saying its a “psyop”.

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Political Knives Dull Themselves on the Rock of Brexit Article 50

The invocation of Article 50 was undertaken by an act of Parliament. And it will take another act of Parliament to undo it.

Strategic Culture Foundation

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Authored Tom Luongo via Strategic Culture Foundation:


Theresa “The Gypsum Lady” May went through an extraordinary twenty-four hours. First, seeing her truly horrific Brexit deal go down in historic defeat and then, somehow, surviving a ‘No-Confidence’ vote which left her in a stronger position than before it.

It looks like May rightly calculated that the twenty or so Tory Remainers would put party before the European Union as their personal political positions would be terminally weakened if they voted her out of office.

While there is little stomach in the British Parliament for a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, there is less for allowing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to become Prime Minister. And that is the crux of why the incessant calls to delay Brexit, call for a ‘people’s vote’ or, in Corbyn’s case, “take a no-deal Brexit off the table,’ ultimately lead to a whole lot of political knife-fighting and very little substantive action.

The day-to-day headline spam is designed to wear down people’s resistance and make it feel like Brexit getting betrayed is inevitable. That has been the British Deep State’s and EU’s game plan all along and they hoped they could arm-twist enough people in parliament to succeed.

But the problem for them now, since the clock has nearly run out, is the invocation of Article 50 was undertaken by an act of Parliament. And it will take another act of Parliament to undo it.

And I don’t see anyone on the Remainer side working towards that end. That should be your clue as to what happens next.

Why? Because they know they don’t have the time to get that act past Parliament. So, the rest of this is simply a PR campaign to push public opinion far enough to allow for an illegal canceling or postponing of Brexit.

But it’s not working.

According to the latest polls, Brits overwhelmingly want the original Brexit vote respectedLeave even has a 5-6 point lead over Remain.

And, I think Theresa May now realizes this. It is why she invited the no-confidence vote against her. She knew she had the votes and it would give her the ammunition to ignore Corbyn’s hysterical ranting about taking a no-deal Brexit off the table.

Whether she realizes that the only negotiating tool she has with the EU is the threat of a No-Deal Brexit, exactly like Nigel Farage and those committed to Brexit have been telling her for two years is still, however, up in the air.

It looks like she’s finally starting to get it.

The net result is we are seeing a similar outing of the nefarious, behind-the-scenes, power brokers in the public eye similar to what’s been happening in the US with Donald Trump and Russiagate.

May has been singularly unimpressive in her handling of Brexit. I’ve been convinced from the beginning that betraying Brexit was always her goal. Negotiating a deal unacceptable to anyone was meant to exhaust everyone into the position to just throwing up their hands and canceling the whole thing.

The EU has been in the driver’s seat the entire time because most of the British establishment has been on their side and it was only the people who needed to be disrespected.

So, after all of these shananigans we are back to where we were last week. May has cut off all avenues of discussion. She won’t commit to taking ‘no-deal’ off the table to tweak Corbyn. She won’t substantively move on any other issue. This is likely to push her deal through as a last-minute panic move.

Corbyn is still hoping to get new elections to take power, and the majority of MP’s who don’t want to leave the EU keep fighting among themselves to cock up the entire works.

All they are doing is expending pound after pound of political capital beating themselves against their own act of Parliament which goes into effect on March 29th.

By the time that date comes around the frustration, shame and humiliation of how Parliament has mishandled Brexit will make it difficult for a lot of Remainers to hold together their majority as public opinion has decidedly turned against them.

In the past the EU has had that façade of democratic support undermining any change at the political level. With Brexit (and with budget talks in Italy) that is not the case. The people are angry.

The peak moment for Remainers to stage a bipartisan political coup against May should have been the most recent no-confidence vote.

With May surviving that it implies that Remainers are not willing to die politically for their cause.

This should begin to see defectors over the next couple of weeks as they realize they don’t have a hand to play either.

And by May refusing to rule out a ‘no-deal’ Brexit it has finally brought the EU around to throw a bone towards the British. Their admitting they would extend Article 50 is just that. But they know that’s a non-starter as that is the one thing May has been steadfast in holding to.

On March 29th with or without a deal the U.K. is out of the EU. Because despite the European Court of Justice’s decision, Britain’s parliament can only cancel Article 50 at this point by acting illegally.

Not that I would put that past these people, but then that opens up a can of worms that most British MP’s will not go along with. The personal stakes are simply too high.

When dealing with politicians, never bet against their vanity or their pocketbook. In May’s case she may finally have realized she could have the legacy of getting Britain out of the EU just before it collapses.

And all she has to do between now and the end of March is, precisely, nothing.

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