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Mosul versus Aleppo: US bombing ‘good, Russian bombing ‘bad’; ISIS ‘bad’, Al-Qaeda ‘good’

The West’s selective indignation concerning Syrian and Russian conduct of the battle of Aleppo, in contrast to Iraqi and US conduct of the battle of Mosul, is not an only an offence against reason and truth. It also excuses Al-Qaeda, which was as responsible for the suffering in Aleppo as ISIS has been for the suffering in Mosul.

Alexander Mercouris

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Anyone casting their mind back to the Western media’s reporting of the battle to liberate eastern Aleppo from the Al-Qaeda led Jihadis in the second half of last year will remember the vivid reporting of supposed Russian and Syrian government atrocities the Western media and Western governments engaged in during the battle.

Thus the Russians and the Syrians were accused of terror bombings of civilians, of deliberately bombing hospitals, with the Syrians specifically accused of ‘barrel-bombing’ ie. of dropping inaccurate improvised home made bombs to kill civilians.

This vast campaign led to heated debates in the UN Security Council, two passionate debates in the British parliament with calls for British military intervention against Syrian and Russia, a refusal by President Hollande of France to meet with President Putin of Russia during a meeting that Putin planned to make to France – and which he accordingly cancelled – and claims that the Russians were committing war crimes in Syria and in Aleppo, and to demands for prosecutions of Russian officials for war crimes.

The UN Secretariat for its part threw its weight behind this campaign, repeatedly calling for ceasefires in Aleppo that appeared to be intended to leave the Jihadis in control of eastern Aleppo, and for humanitarian convoys to be sent to eastern Aleppo, whose effect if not whose purpose would be to resupply the Jihadis there.

The Russians for their part repeatedly agreed to temporary ceasefires and bombing halts, and repeatedly left what they called ‘humanitarian corridors’ open to allow civilians from the besieged districts and Jihadi fighters to leave eastern Aleppo and for UN humanitarian convoys to enter eastern Aleppo.

In the event, until the final collapse of Jihadi resistance in eastern Aleppo in December, very few Jihadi fighters and civilians did in fact leave eastern Aleppo via these humanitarian corridors, and very few humanitarian supplies ever got through.

Western governments and the Western blame placed the blame for this squarely on the Syrian government, alleging that the Jihadi fighters and civilians were too terrified of reprisals by the Syrian government’s security agencies to dare to leave the besieged eastern districts of the city or to trust the Syrian authorities’ guarantees of safe conduct, and that it was the Syrian authorities who were preventing humanitarian supplies from getting through.

Meanwhile the Syrian rescue group – the White Helmets – were given an inordinate amount of favourable publicity, culminating eventually in a documentary about them which has recently been awarded an Oscar.

Lastly, the population of the besieged districts of eastern Aleppo was throughout the summer and autumn repeatedly said – including by the UN Secretariat and its relief agencies – to number 250,000, with this vast number supposedly collectively facing a humanitarian catastrophe.

During the period of the siege I repeatedly made known my doubts about many of these atrocity stories.

I could never see for example the purpose behind the Russians and the Syrians bombing hospitals, and the claims that they were looked to me like war propaganda.

I was seriously concerned that Western governments and the Western media were suppressing information about who was actually in control of eastern Aleppo, though the fact that the dominant group there was Jabhat Al-Nusra – Al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch – hardly seemed contestable.

I was worried that all the claims of Russian and Syrian government atrocities in eastern Aleppo originated entirely from groups controlled by or sympathetic to Al-Qaeda – including the White Helmets – since there were and (because of the nature of these groups) could be no Western journalists present in eastern Aleppo to verify them independently.

I was also concerned that Western governments and the Western media seemed to be largely ignoring reports of atrocities committed by the Al-Qaeda led Jihadis in eastern Aleppo, such as the fact that they appeared to be preventing civilians from leaving the besieged eastern districts of Aleppo so that they could use them as human shields, and regularly murdered civilians who sought to escape from there.

Last but by no means least, I was troubled that Western governments and the Western media seemed to conflate the besieged Jihadi controlled eastern districts of Aleppo with the whole city of Aleppo, ignoring the fact that even if the claim that 250,000 civilians were trapped in eastern Aleppo was true, it would only represent a fraction of Aleppo’s total population, the great bulk of whom were in the government controlled areas and appeared to support the government.

The collapse of Jihadi resistance in eastern Aleppo proved that some at least of the claims made by Western governments and the Western media during the siege were untrue.

It turned out for example that the number of civilians trapped in eastern Aleppo was far less than the 250,000 that was claimed, and that most of them seized the opportunity to flee to the government controlled areas of western Aleppo as soon as Al-Qaeda’s control of the besieged eastern districts of Aleppo weakened.

As for the Jihadi fighters themselves, they were evacuated from eastern Aleppo together with their families and any civilians who wanted to go with them, as the result of an agreement with the Syrian government which was brokered by Russia and Turkey, without the mass reprisals against them and their families and the civilians fleeing with them – which many claimed would happen – taking place.

Since the end of the siege Aleppo has been largely peaceful, with little sign of resistance by its people against the Syrian government, and with increasing signs of life in the city slowly returning to normal, though the task of reconstruction is colossal.

Perhaps the most encouraging sign of all is that there are growing reports of increasing numbers of people who had fled the city during the war returning there, with the UN reporting that as many 500,000 people who had fled Syria during the war returning there in the last few months.

As for evidence to support some of the specific atrocity claims made during the siege, such as the claims about the deliberate bombing of hospitals, this has been hard to find, and since the end of the siege Western governments and the Western media seem to have lost interest in the matter.

Having said all this, there is of course no doubt that huge damage was done to Aleppo during the battle and that many civilians were killed and wounded there, though who was responsible for any specific death or damage is never easy to say.

What is however truly fascinating is to compare what happened in eastern Aleppo last year with what has happened in Mosul last year and this.

Rather than describe it myself I will reproduce one of the many accounts of the devastation of Mosul which have been provided by an actual eyewitness, the British journalist Patrick Cockburn, in my opinion and in the opinion of many other people the single best Western reporter of the recent wars in the Middle East

The people of Mosul got rid of Isis, but at terrible cost to themselves. Great stretches of west Mosul lie in ruins, some areas so badly hit that it is impossible to even visit them because the streets are choked with debris. I was in al-Jadida district where local people all complained that there had never been many Isis fighters, but, whenever a sniper fired a shot from a large building, the troops on the ground would call in airstrikes to demolish it.

One aspect of the war does not come across in much of the media reporting. It is clear, looking at wrecked streets towards the centre of the city, that much of the damage has been caused not by airstrikes, but  by artillery and rocket fire that have knocked chunks out of buildings in a haphazard way. One can see the artillery of the Federal Police, a paramilitary force, near the airport road to the south of Mosul. Much of the bombardment of west Mosul, as opposed to the east, was in the shape of shells and rockets  fired in the general direction of the enemy rather than at specific targets.

Nobody knows how many people were killed, but, talking to survivors, the number must be very large. One unconfirmed report says that civil defence workers have already pulled 2,000 bodies from the rubble. The Airwars monitoring group says that 5,805 civilians may have died in west Mosul between 19 February and 19 June. The authorities may not be trying to very hard to find out the true figure: one observer caustically noted that hundreds of planes, drones and artillery pieces were mobilised to bombard Mosul, but, on one day last week, only a single bulldozer could be found to aid the search for bodies buried under the ruins of the Old City.

The horrific civilian loss of life is explained in part by the merciless determination of Isis to prevent civilians from escaping and depriving them of human shields. Isis snipers shot people who tried to flee and Isis officials welded shut the metal doors of houses with people packed inside. It is difficult to think of any other example of a siege in which civilians have been herded together like this to deter air or artillery attack.

There is a compelling and meticulous account by Amnesty International of the bombardment called At Any Cost: The Civilian Catastrophe in West Mosul.  Out of thousands of attacks in west Mosul, it investigates and documented 45 attacks that “it had reasonable grounds to attribute to Iraqi government or US-led coalition forces. These 45 attacks alone killed at least 426 civilians and injured more than 100.” The report should be read by everybody interested in why so many died in west Mosul.

“Pro-government forces relied heavily upon explosive weapons with wide area effects such as IRAMs (Improvised Rocket Assisted Munitions),” it says. “With their crude targeting abilities, these weapons wreaked havoc in densely populated west Mosul, where large groups of civilians were trapped in homes or makeshift shelters.” This is important because the government officials and the western media sometimes contrast the indiscriminate Russian and Syrian government bombardment of East Aleppo with the accurate and discriminating Coalition backed assault on west Mosul.

The crass response of the leaders of the US-led coalition who orchestrated the attack on west Mosul is telling and shows that we are back in the Vietnam era when American officers were happy to volunteer that they were destroying populated areas in order to save them.

What is fascinating about this account is how it echoes almost exactly many of accusations made against the Syrian government and the Russians during the fighting in eastern Aleppo.

Thus we read of massive and indiscriminate shelling and bombing of civilian areas and general indifference by the Iraqi and US authorities to the plight of civilians, thousands of whom as a result have been killed.

We also read of patterns of behaviour by the ISIS fighters in Mosul which seem in all respects identical to those claimed by the Syrians and the Russians for those of the Al-Qaeda led Jihadi fighters in eastern Aleppo.

Thus both the ISIS fighters in Mosul and the Al-Qaeda led Jihadi fighters in eastern Aleppo are accused of treating civilians as human shields, preventing them from quitting Mosul and eastern Aleppo, and murdering them in both cases if they attempted to do so.

Given the fanatical ideology of both groups, which is so similar as to be all but identical, that is not surprising.

There are however some verifiable differences in the conduct of the two battles.

Unlike the Syrians and the Russians, the Iraqis and the US never to my knowledge at any point during the fighting in Mosul declared any bombing halts or ceasefires – ‘humanitarian pauses’ – or set up any ‘humanitarian corridors’ to allow civilians and ISIS fighters to flee the city.

The Russians also deny that they ever actually carried out any air strikes on eastern Aleppo, saying that such air strikes as took place there were strictly the work of the Syrian military, and were largely carried out by helicopters.

In a sense therefore Iraqi and US conduct of the battle of Mosul was more ruthless than was that of the Syrians and the Russians during the battle of eastern Aleppo.

The biggest difference is however the completely different ways that Western governments and the Western media have responded to the two battles.

Unlike what happened during the battle of eastern Aleppo, the battle of Mosul has provoked no heated debates in the UN Security Council, no passionate debates in the British parliament, no refusal by President Macron of France to meet with President Trump of the US – on the contrary they have just had a friendly meeting in France – and no claims of the US committing war crimes in Iraq and in Mosul, and no demands for prosecutions of US officials accused of committing these war crimes.

As for the Western media, its reporting of the devastation of Mosul has been relatively scant, in no way approaching the indignant saturation coverage given to the battle of Aleppo last year, with the blame for the devastation laid squarely on ISIS, and with barely any criticism of US conduct at all.

At this point I will make my own position clear: though I am prepared to accept that US and Iraqi conduct of the battle of Mosul is open to severe criticism, I also think that the primary blame for the devastation of Mosul and for the death and suffering of civilians there rests with ISIS.

The same however was equally – or still more – true of the battle of Aleppo last year: the primary blame for the devastation of eastern Aleppo and for the death and suffering of the civilians there rests with Al-Qaeda and the Al-Qaeda led Jihadis who until last year where in occupation of Aleppo’s eastern districts.

It cannot be said sufficiently strongly, or repeated sufficiently often, that Al-Qaeda and ISIS are both fanatical and murderous terrorist organisations, utterly heedless of human life in a way that has not been seen since the defeat of the Khmer Rouge.  When confronting two such completely ruthless organisations massive suffering and devastation is unavoidable if great population centres like eastern Aleppo and Mosul are to be freed from their control.

For this reason, and despite all the criticisms which are being made of the conduct of both sieges, I consider both eastern Aleppo and Mosul liberated territories, and I unequivocally welcome the defeat of Al-Qaeda and ISIS in both places.

What is shocking is that those who recognise this truth in one place – Mosul – pretend to be blind to it in another – Aleppo.

I say “pretend” because I do not believe that those many people in Western governments and the Western media who waxed so indignant about the conduct of the Syrians and the Russians in Aleppo last year are really blind to the truth of it in both places.

Doing so however is not just an offence against reason and truth.

Those who engage in these games of selective indignation, whether because they adhere to some grand geopolitical strategy or because of some visceral hatred they have for Russia, should understand that it is not principally the US and the Iraqis whose conduct in Mosul that they are making excuses for.

Those whose conduct they are principally excusing and defending are Al-Qaeda, which along with ISIS is the organisation which is directly responsible for most of the death and destruction which has happened over the course of the Syrian war.

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President Putin signs law blocking fake news, but the West makes more

Western media slams President Putin and his fake news law, accusing him of censorship, but an actual look at the law reveals some wisdom.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The TASS Russian News Agency reported on March 18th that Russian President Vladimir Putin signed off on a new law intended to block distorted or untrue information being reported as news. Promptly after he did so, Western news organizations began their attempt to “spin” this event as some sort of proof of “state censorship” in the oppressive sense of the old Soviet Union. In other words, a law designed to prevent fake news was used to create more fake news.

One of the lead publications is a news site that is itself ostensibly a “fake news” site. The Moscow Times tries to portray itself as a Russian publication that is conducted from within Russian borders. However, this site and paper is really a Western publication, run by a Dutch foundation located in the Netherlands. As such, the paper and the website associated have a distinctly pro-West slant in their reporting. Even Wikipedia noted this with this comment from their entry about the publication:

In the aftermath of the Ukrainian crisis, The Moscow Times was criticized by a number of journalists including Izvestia columnist Israel Shamir, who in December 2014 called it a “militant anti-Putin paper, a digest of the Western press with extreme bias in covering events in Russia”.[3] In October 2014 The Moscow Times made the decision to suspend online comments after an increase in offensive comments. The paper said it disabled comments for two reasons—it was an inconvenience for its readers as well as being a legal liability, because under Russian law websites are liable for all content, including user-generated content like comments.[14]

This bias is still notably present in what is left of the publication, which is now an online-only news source. This is some of what The Moscow Times had to say about the new fake news legislation:

The bills amending existing information laws overwhelmingly passed both chambers of Russian parliament in less than two months. Observers and some lawmakers have criticized the legislation for its vague language and potential to stifle free speech.

The legislation will establish punishments for spreading information that “exhibits blatant disrespect for the society, government, official government symbols, constitution or governmental bodies of Russia.”

Insulting state symbols and the authorities, including Putin, will carry a fine of up to 300,000 rubles and 15 days in jail for repeat offenses.

As is the case with other Russian laws, the fines are calculated based on whether the offender is a citizen, an official or a legal entity.

More than 100 journalists and public figures, including human rights activist Zoya Svetova and popular writer Lyudmila Ulitskaya, signed a petition opposing the laws, which they labeled “direct censorship.”

This piece does give a bit of explanation from Dmitry Peskov, showing that European countries also have strict laws governing fake news distribution. However, the Times made the point of pointing out the idea of “insulting governmental bodies of Russia… including Putin” to bolster their claim that this law amounts to real censorship of the press. It developed its point of view based on a very short article from Reuters which says even less about the legislation and how it works.

However, TASS goes into rather exhaustive detail about this law, and it also gives rather precise wording on the reason for the law’s passage, as well as how it is to be enforced. We include most of this text here, with emphases added:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law on blocking untrue and distorting information (fake news). The document was posted on the government’s legal information web portal.

The document supplements the list of information, the access to which may be restricted on the demand by Russia’s Prosecutor General or his deputies. In particular, it imposes a ban on “untrue publicly significant information disseminated in the media and in the Internet under the guise of true reports, which creates a threat to the life and (or) the health of citizens, property, a threat of the mass violation of public order and (or) public security, or the threat of impeding or halting the functioning of vital infrastructural facilities, transport or social infrastructure, credit institutions, energy, industrial or communications facilities.”

Pursuant to the document, in case of finding such materials in Internet resources registered in accordance with the Russian law on the mass media as an online media resource, Russia’s Prosecutor General or his deputies will request the media watchdog Roskomnadzor to restrict access to the corresponding websites.

Based on this request, Roskomnadzor will immediately notify the editorial board of the online media resource, which is in violation of the legislation, about the need to remove untrue information and the media resource will be required to delete such materials immediately. If the editorial board fails to take the necessary measures, Roskomnadzor will send communications operators “a demand to take measures to restrict access to the online resource.”

In case of deleting such untrue information, the website owner will notify Roskomnadzor thereof, following which the media watchdog will “hold a check into the authenticity of this notice” and immediately inform the communications operator about the resumption of the access to the information resource.
The conditions for the law are very specific, as are the penalties for breaking it. TASS continued:

Liability for breaching the law

Simultaneously, the Federation Council approved the associated law with amendments to Russia’s Code of Administrative Offences, which stipulates liability in the form of penalties of up to 1.5 million rubles (around $23,000) for the spread of untrue and distorting information.

The Code’s new article, “The Abuse of the Freedom of Mass Information,” stipulates liability for disseminating “deliberately untrue publicly significant information” in the media or in the Internet. The penalty will range from 30,000 rubles ($450) to 100,000 rubles ($1,520) for citizens, from 60,000 rubles ($915) to 200,000 rubles ($3,040) for officials and from 200,000 rubles to 500,000 rubles ($7,620) for corporate entities with the possible confiscation of the subject of the administrative offence.

Another element of offence imposes tighter liability for the cases when the publication of false publicly significant information has resulted in the deaths of people, has caused damage to the health or property, prompted the mass violation of public order and security or has caused disruption to the functioning of transport or social infrastructure facilities, communications, energy and industrial facilities and banks. In such instances, the fines will range from 300,000 rubles to 400,000 rubles ($6,090) for citizens, from 600,000 rubles to 900,000 rubles ($13,720) for officials, and from 1 million rubles to 1.5 million rubles for corporate entities.

While this legislation can be spun (and is) in the West as anti-free speech, one may also consider the damage that has taken place in the American government through a relentless attack of fake news from most US news outlets against President Trump. One of the most notable effects of this barrage has been to further degrade and destroy the US’ relationship with the Russian Federation, because even the Helsinki Summit was attacked so badly that the two leaders have not been able to get a second summit together.

While it is certainly a valued right of the American press to be unfettered by Congress, and while it is also certainly vital to criticize improper practices by government officials, the American news agencies have gone far past that, to deliberately dishonest attacks, based in innuendo and everything possible that was formerly only the province of gossip tabloid publications. The effort has been to defame the President, not to give proper or due criticism to his policies, nor credit. It can be properly stated that the American press has abused its freedom of late.

This level of abuse drew a very unusual comment from the US president, who wondered on Twitter about the possibility of creating a state-run media center in the US to counter fake news:

Politically correct for US audiences? No. But an astute point?

Definitely.

Freedom in anything also presumes that those with that freedom respect it, and further, that they respect and apply the principle that slandering people and institutions for one’s own personal, business or political gain is wrong. Implied in the US Constitution’s protection of the press is the notion that the press itself, as the rest of the country, is accountable to a much Higher Authority than the State. But when that Authority is rejected, as so much present evidence suggests, then freedom becomes the freedom to misbehave and to agitate. It appears largely within this context that the Russian law exists, based on the text given.

Further, by hitting dishonest media outlets in their pocketbook, rather than prison sentences, the law appears to be very smart in its message: “Do not lie. If you do, you will suffer where it counts most.”

Considering that news media’s purpose is to make money, this may actually be a very smart piece of legislation.

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ABC’s Ted Koppel admits mainstream media bias against Trump [Video]

The mainstream news media has traded informing the public for indoctrinating them, but the change got called out by an “old-school” journo.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Fox News reported on March 19th that one of America’s most well-known TV news anchors, Ted Koppel, noted that the once-great media outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post, have indeed traded journalistic excellence for hit pieces for political purposes. While political opinions in the mainstream press are certainly within the purview of any publication, this sort of writing can hardly be classified as “news” but as “Opinion” or more widely known, “Op-Ed.”

We have two videos on this. The first is the original clip showing the full statement that Mr. Koppel gave. It is illuminating, to say the least:

Tucker Carlson and Brit Hume, a former colleague of Mr. Koppel, added their comments on this admission in this second short video piece, shown here.

There are probably a number of people who have watched this two-year onslaught of slander and wondered why there cannot be a law preventing this sort of misleading reporting. Well, Russia passed a law to stop it, hitting dishonest media outlets in their pocketbook. It is a smart law because it does not advocate imprisonment for bad actors in the media, but it does fine them.

Going to prison for reporting “the truth” looks very noble. Having to pay out of pocket for it is not so exciting.

Newsmax and Louder with Crowder both reported on this as well.

This situation of dishonest media has led to an astonishing 77% distrust rating among Americans of their news media, this statistic being reported by Politico in 2018. This represents a nearly diametric reversal in trust from the 72% trust rating the country’s news viewers gave their news outlets in 1972. These statistics come from Gallup polls taken through the years.

 

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Empire Of Absurdity: Recycled Neocons, Recycled Enemies

Despite America’s military threats, bellicose speechifying, brutal sanctions, and Cold War-style conflict-framing, the incumbent Maduro seems firmly in control. 

Antiwar

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Authored by Major Danny Sjursen (ret.) via AntiWar.com:


There are times when I wish that the United States would just drop the charade and declare itself a global empire.

As a veteran of two imperial wars, a witness to the dark underside of America’s empire-denial, I’ve grown tired of the equivocation and denials from senior policymakers. The U.S. can’t be an empire, we’re told, because – unlike the Brits and Romans – America doesn’t annex territories outright, and our school children don’t color its colonies in red-white-and-blue on cute educational maps.

But this distinction, at root, is rather superficial. Conquest, colonization, and annexation are so 19th century – Washington has moved beyond the overt and engages in the (not-so) subtle modern form of imperialism. America’s empire over the last two decades – under Democrats and Republicans – has used a range of tools: economic, military, political, to topple regimes, instigate coups, and starve “enemy” civilians. Heck, it didn’t even start with 9/11 – bullying foreigners and overturning uncooperative regimes is as American as apple pie.

Still, observing post-9/11, post-Iraq/Afghanistan defeat, Washington play imperialism these days is tragicomically absurd. The emperor has no clothes, folks. Sure, America (for a few more fleeting years) boasts the world’s dominant economy, sure its dotted the globe with a few hundred military bases, and sure it’s military still outspends the next seven competitors combined. Nonetheless, what’s remarkable, what constitutes the real story of 2019, is this: the US empire can’t seem to accomplish anything anymore, can’t seem to bend anybody to its will. It’s almost sad to watch. America, the big-hulking has-been on the block, still struts its stuff, but most of the world simply ignores it.

Make no mistake, Washington isn’t done trying; it’s happy to keep throwing good money (and blood) at bad: to the tune of a cool $6 trillion, 7,000 troop deaths, and 500,000 foreign deaths – including maybe 240,000 civilians. But what’s it all been for? The world is no safer, global terror attacks have only increased, and Uncle Sam just can’t seem to achieve any of its preferred policy goals.

Think on it for a second: Russia and Iran “won” in Syria; the Taliban and Pakistan are about ready to “win” in Afghanistan; Iran is more influential than ever in Iraq; the Houthis won’t quit in Yemen; Moscow is keeping Crimea; Libya remains unstable; North Korea ain’t giving up its nukes; and China’s power continues to grow in its version of the Caribbean – the South China Sea. No amount of American cash, no volume of our soldiers’ blood, no escalation in drone strikes or the conventional bombing of brown folks, has favorably changed the calculus in any of these regional conflicts.

What does this tell us? Quite a lot, I’d argue – but not what the neoliberal/neoconservative alliance of pundits and policymakers are selling. See for these unrepentant militarists the problem is always the same: Washington didn’t use enough force, didn’t spend enough blood and treasure. So is the solution: more defense spending, more CIA operations, more saber-rattling, and more global military interventions.

No, the inconvenient truth is as simple as it is disturbing to red-blooded patriots. To wit, the United States – or any wannabe hegemon – simply doesn’t possess the capability to shape the world in its own image. See those pesky locals – Arabs, Asians, Muslims, Slavs – don’t know what’s good for them, don’t understand that (obviously) there is a secret American zipped inside each of their very bodies, ready to burst out if given a little push!

It turns out that low-tech, cheap insurgent tactics, when combined with impassioned nationalism, can bog down the “world’s best military” indefinitely. It seems, too, that other regional heavyweights – Russia, China, Iran, North Korea – stand ready to call America’s nuclear bluff. That they know the US all-volunteer military and consumerist economy can’t ultimately absorb the potential losses a conventional war would demand. Even scarier for the military-industrial-congressional-media establishment is the logical extension of all this accumulated failure: the questionable efficacy of military force in the 21st century.

Rather than recognize the limits of American military, economic, and political power, Bush II, Obama, and now Trump, have simply dusted off the old playbook. It’s reached the level of absurdity under the unhinged regime of Mr. Trump. Proverbially blasting Springsteen’s “Glory Days,” as its foreign policy soundtrack, the Donald and company have doubled down. Heck, if Washington can’t get its way in Africa, Europe, Asia, or the Mideast, well why not clamp down in our own hemisphere, our traditional sphere of influence – South and Central America.

Enter the lunacy of the current Venezuela controversy. Trump’s team saw a golden opportunity in this socialist, backwater petrostate. Surely here, in nearby Monroe Doctrine country, Uncle Sam could get his way, topple the Maduro regime, and coronate the insurgent (though questionably legitimate) Juan Guaido. It’s early 20th century Yankee imperialism reborn. Everything seemed perfect. Trump could recall the specter of America’s tried and true enemy – “evil” socialism – cynically (and absurdly) equating Venezuelan populism with some absurd Cold-War-era existential threat to the nation. The idea that Venezuela presents a challenge on the scale of Soviet Russia is actually farcical. What’s more, and this is my favorite bit of irrationality, we were all recently treated to a game of “I know you are but what am I?” from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who (with a straight face) claimed Cuba, tiny island Cuba, was the real “imperialist” in Venezuela.

Next, in a move reminiscent of some sort of macabre 1980’s theme party, Trump resuscitated Elliot Abrams – you know, the convicted felon of Iran-Contra infamy, to serve as Washington’s special envoy to embattled Venezuela. Who better to act as “fair arbiter” in that country than a war-criminal with the blood of a few hundred thousand Central Americans (remember the Contras?!?) on his hands back in the the good old (Reagan) days.

Despite all this: America’s military threats, bellicose speechifying, brutal sanctions, and Cold War-style conflict-framing, the incumbent Maduro seems firmly in control. This isn’t to say that Venezuelans don’t have genuine grievances with the Maduro government (they do), but for now at least, it appears the military is staying loyal to the president, Russia/China are filling in the humanitarian aid gaps, and Uncle Sam is about to chalk up another loss on the world scene. Ultimately, whatever the outcome, the crisis will only end with a Venezuelan solution.

America’s impotence would almost be sad to watch, if, and only if, it wasn’t all so tragic for the Venezuelan people.

So Trump and his recycled neocons will continue to rant and rave and threaten Venezuela, Haiti, Cuba, and so on and so forth. America will still flex its aging, sagging muscles – a reflexive habit at this point.

Only now it’ll seem sad. Because no one is paying attention anymore.

The opposite of love is isn’t hate – it’s indifference.

*  *  *

Danny Sjursen is a retired US Army officer and regular contributor to Antiwar.comHe served combat tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan and later taught history at his alma mater, West Point. He is the author of a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet.

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