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Massive death toll from US bombing in Mosul; what does the West now say about Aleppo?

Massive death toll after US air strike on ISIS held Mosul. Will West admit it was wrong about Russian air strikes in Al-Qaeda held Aleppo?

Alexander Mercouris

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The Iraqi military and its US led coalitions backers have announced what might as well be called a ‘humanitarian pause’ in the battle against ISIS in Mosul.

This came after confirmation that a US air strike on the city on 17th March 2017 killed 150 civilians.  This is how the Guardian reports details of the strike and the pause

Iraqi military leaders have ordered a pause in their push to recapture west Mosul from Islamic State as international outrage mounted over a series of airstrikes that killed at least 150 people in one district of the embattled city alone.

Rescuers continued to retrieve bodies from the rubble of the Mosul Jadida neighbourhood on Saturday, more than a week after the coalition attacks, which are believed to have led to one of the highest civilian tolls in the region since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Civil defence workers say they have pulled more than 140 bodies from the ruins of three buildings and believe dozens more remain under the rubble of another, a large home with a once cavernous basement in which up to 100 people had hidden last Friday morning.

Locals at the site said the enormous damage caused to the homes and much of the surrounding area had been caused by airstrikes, which battered the neighbourhood during a pitched battle between Isis members and Iraqi forces.

The UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, Lise Grande, said: “We are stunned by this terrible loss of life.” Chris Woods, the director of the monitoring group Airwars, said: “The al-Jadida incident alone is the worst toll of a single incident that I can recall in decades. I cannot think of a higher toll from a single event.

As the scale of the disaster became apparent, Iraqi military sources confirmed they had been ordered not to launch new operations in east Mosul, echoing a statement from a federal police spokesman that cited concern about civilian casualties as a reason for a pause.

This comes only a few months after Western governments and the Western media engaged in a fiery campaign against Russian bombing during the fighting in eastern Aleppo, with allegations of war crimes against the Russians being banded about together with threats to establish a no-fly zone over the city and stern denunciations of Russian conduct from the pulpit of the UN Security Council.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a website that strongly supports the Syrian opposition and whose reliability some have questioned, puts the total number of civilians killed in eastern Aleppo during the final stages of its liberation from the Al-Qaeda led Jihadis between November and December 2016 as 465 of whom 62 were children.  To be clear this is a death toll from all causes, with some people said to have been executed by the Jihadis themselves and by no means all the others caused by the bombing.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also claims that 142 civilians, 42 of them children, were killed as a result of Jihadi shelling in Syrian government controlled western Aleppo during the same period.  That is something the Western media – with no reporters in any part of Aleppo during the fighting – has barely reported at all.

To be clear in stating these figures – which some people, given their source will doubtless anyway wish to dispute – I make no false claims and no false charges, whether about Russian bombing in Aleppo or US bombing in Mosul.

Nor do I draw any unwarranted comparisons between the conduct of the two bombing campaigns.  The fact that more than 150 civilians are said to have been killed in a single US coalition air strike in Mosul by comparison with a total civilian death toll from all causes in eastern Aleppo during the final month of the fighting there of 465 probably means that the death toll of civilians killed by US bombing in Mosul is higher – possibly much higher – than was the death toll of civilians killed by Russian bombing last year in eastern Aleppo.  However Mosul is a much bigger city than was easrern Aleppo and the areas of Mosul still controlled by ISIS appear to be far more densely populated than were the Jihadi controlled areas of eastern Aleppo, so it is not surprising that the death toll in Mosul is higher.

For the record, I do not believe that the US-led coalition deliberately targets civilians or civilian targets in Mosul, any more than I believe the Russian air force deliberately targeted civilians or civilian targets (including hospitals) in Aleppo last year.  Nor do I believe that the bombing campaign in the one case is being conducted more negligently or with less heed for civilians than was the other.

Where a ruthless and fanatical Jihadi terrorist movement embeds itself in a civilian area and takes civilians as hostages to use them as human shields, which is what happened with the Al-Qaeda led Jihadis in eastern Aleppo last year, and which is what is happening with the ISIS led Jihadis in Mosul now, deaths amongst civilians if these areas are to be liberated from the Jihadis are unavoidable.  All that can be done in such cases is to take such measures as are possible to try to mitigate these losses, including by establishing ‘humanitarian corridors’ for the civilians to leave, and ‘humanitarian pauses’ to enable them to do so.

Inevitably that gives time for the Jihadis to re-supply and re-organise, making the fight against them harder and more prolonged.  It was nonetheless what the Russians and the Syrians repeatedly did during the fighting in Aleppo last year, and it is what the US led coalition and the Iraqis have been obliged to do in Mosul now.

Where I do draw parallels is not in the actions of the two air forces but in the completely different way Western governments and the Western media have reported the result of the bombings in the two battles.

In the case of Aleppo the coverage, and the denunciations of the Russians which went with it, were completely over-the-top, and became frankly hysterical.  By contrast until now the bombing in Mosul was barely being reported at all.  To the extent that it ever got mentioned it seemed to me it was all too often done as part of some further criticism by the Western media of their perpetual whipping boys – Sputnik and RT – for daring to report it.

As for the Western media itself drawing parallels or comparisons between the bombing campaigns in Aleppo and Mosul, that was of course something which was completely out of the question.  Even today, as more information about the US coalition air strike of 17th March 2017 trickles in, all the British media outlets which I have looked at studiously avoid saying anything about it.  Only the Independent’s Patrick Cockburn, in his exemplary coverage of the wars in Iraq and Syria, has ever commented on it

What the noisy campaign against the bombing in Aleppo and the silence up to now about the bombing in Mosul tell us, together with the refusal to draw the obvious comparison between the two and the harsh treatment of anyone who did, is that the outcry about the bombing in Aleppo last year was propaganda pure and simple.

The real concern was not for the civilians in Aleppo but for the fact that the Jihadis in the city were about to be defeated, with the civilians being cynically used as props and pawns in a propaganda game which colluded in Al-Qaeda’s use of them as human shields.

Many will of course say that this was obvious all along.  Perhaps it was, but it is still unnerving to see it exposed so quickly and so completely.

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Understanding the Holodomor and why Russia says nothing

A descendant of Holodomor victims takes the rest of us to school as to whether or not Russia needs to shoulder the blame.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One of the charges that nationalist Ukrainians often lodge against their Russian neighbors is that the Russian government has never acknowledged or formally apologized to Ukraine for the “Holodomor” that took place in Ukraine in 1932-1933. This was a man-made famine that killed an estimated seven to 10 million Ukrainians , though higher estimates claim 12.5 million and lower ones now claim 3.3 million.

No matter what the total was, it amounts to a lot of people that starved to death. The charge that modern-day Russia ought to apologize for this event is usually met with silence, which further enrages those Ukrainians that believe that this issue must be resolved by the Russian acknowledgement of responsibility for it. Indeed, the prime charge of these Ukrainians is that the Russians committed a genocide against the Ukrainian people. This is a claim Russia denies.

To the outside observer who does not know this history of Russia and Ukraine’s relationship, and who does not know or understand the characteristics of the Soviet Union, this charge seems as simple and laid out as that of the Native Americans or the blacks demanding some sort of recompense or restitution for the damages inflicted on these societies through conquest and / or slavery. But we discovered someone who had family connections involved in the Holodomor, and who offers her own perspective, which is instructive in why perhaps the Russian Federation does not say anything about this situation.

Scene in Kharkiv with dead from the famine 1932-33 lying along the street.

The speaker is Anna Vinogradova, a Russian Israeli-American, who answered the question through Quora of “Why doesn’t Russia recognize the Holodomor as a genocide?” She openly admits that she speaks only for herself, but her answer is still instructive. We offer it here, with some corrections for the sake of smooth and understandable English:

I can’t speak for Russia and what it does and doesn’t recognize. I can speak for myself.

I am a great-granddaughter of a “Kulak” (кулак), or well-to-do peasant, who lived close to the Russia/Ukraine border.

The word “кулак” means “fist” in Russian, and it wasn’t a good thing for a person to be called by this label. A кулак was an exploiter of peasants and a class enemy of the new state of workers and poor peasants. In other words, while under Communism, to be called a кулак was to bring a death sentence upon yourself.

At some point, every rural class enemy, every peasant who wasn’t a member of a collective farm was eliminated one way or another.

Because Ukraine has very fertile land and the Ukrainian style of agriculture often favors individual farms as opposed to villages, there is no question that many, many Ukrainian peasants were considered class enemies like my great grandfather, and eliminated in class warfare.

I have no doubt that class warfare included starvation, among other things.

The catch? My great grandfather was an ethnic Russian living in Russia. What nationality were the communists who persecuted and eventually shot him? They were of every nationality there was (in the Soviet Union), and they were led by a Ukrainian, who was taking orders from a Georgian.

Now, tell me, why I, a descendant of an unjustly killed Russian peasant, need to apologize to the descendants of the Ukrainians who killed him on the orders of a Georgian?

What about the Russian, Kazakh golodomor (Russian rendering of the same famine)? What about the butchers, who came from all ethnicities? Can someone explain why it’s only okay to talk about Ukrainian victims and Russian persecutors? Why do we need to rewrite history decades later to convert that brutal class war into an ethnic war that it wasn’t?

Ethnic warfare did not start in Russia until after WWII, when some ethnicities were accused of collaboration with the Nazis and brutal group punishments were implemented. It was all based on class up to that time.

The communists of those years were fanatically internationalist. “Working people of all countries, unite!” was their slogan and they were fanatical about it.

As for the crimes of Communism, Russia has been healing this wound for decades, and Russia’s government has made its anticommunist position very clear.

This testimony is most instructive. First, it points out information that the charge of the Holodomor as “genocide!” neatly leaves out. In identifying the internationalist aspects of the Soviet Union, Ukraine further was not a country identified as somehow worthy of genocidal actions. Such a thought makes no sense, especially given the great importance of Ukraine as the “breadbasket” of the Soviet Union, which it was.

Secondly, it shows a very western-style of “divide to conquer” with a conveniently incendiary single-word propaganda tool that is no doubt able to excite any Ukrainian who may be neutral to slightly disaffected about Russia, and then after that, all Ukrainians are now victims of the mighty evil overlords in Moscow.

How convenient is this when the evil overlords in Kyiv don’t want their citizens to know what they are doing?

We saw this on Saturday – taken to a very high peak when President Petro Poroshenko announced the new leading “Hierarch” of the “Ukrainian National Church” and said not one single word about Christ, but only:

“This day will go down in history as the day of the creation of an autocephalous Orthodox church in Ukraine… This is the day of the creation of the church as an independent structure… What is this church? It is a church without Putin. It is a church without Kirill, without prayer for the Russian authorities and the Russian army.”

But as long as Russia is made the “problem”, millions of scandalized Ukrainians will not care what this new Church actually does or teaches, which means it is likely to teach just about anything.

Russia had its own Holodomor. The history of the event shows that this was a result of several factors – imposed socialist economics on a deeply individualized form of agrarian capitalism (bad for morale and worse for food production), really inane centralized planning of cropland use, and a governmental structure that really did not exist to serve the governed, but to impose an ideology on people who really were not all that interested in it.

Personal blame might well lay with Stalin, a Georgian, but the biggest source of the famine lay in the structures imposed under communism as a way of economic strategy. This is not Russia’s fault. It is the economic model that failed.

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Mueller Finally Releases Heavily Redacted Key Flynn Memo On Eve Of Sentencing

Alex Christoforou

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Via Zerohedge


Having initially snubbed Judge Emmet Sullivan’s order to release the original 302 report from the Michael Flynn interrogation in January 2017, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has finally produced the heavily redacted document, just hours before sentencing is due to be handed down.

The memo  – in full below – details then-national security adviser Michael Flynn’s interview with FBI agents Peter Strzok and Joe Pientka, and shows Flynn was repeatedly asked about his contacts with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and in each instance, Flynn denied (or did not recall) any such conversations.

The agents had transcripts of Flynn’s phone calls to Russian Ambassador Kislyak, thus showing Flynn to be lying.

Flynn pleaded guilty guilty last December to lying to the FBI agents about those conversations with Kislyak.

The redactions in the document seem oddly placed but otherwise, there is nothing remarkable about the content…

Aside from perhaps Flynn’s incredulity at the media attention…

Flynn is set to be sentenced in that federal court on Tuesday.

Of course, as Christina Laila notes, the real crime is that Flynn was unmasked during his phone calls to Kislyak and his calls were illegally leaked by a senior Obama official to the Washington Post.

*  *  *

Full document below…

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Don’t Laugh : It’s Giving Putin What He Wants

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself.

Caitlin Johnstone

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Authored by Caitlin Johnstone:


The BBC has published an article titled “How Putin’s Russia turned humour into a weapon” about the Kremlin’s latest addition to its horrifying deadly hybrid warfare arsenal: comedy.

The article is authored by Olga Robinson, whom the BBC, unhindered by any trace of self-awareness, has titled “Senior Journalist (Disinformation)”. Robinson demonstrates the qualifications and acumen which earned her that title by warning the BBC’s audience that the Kremlin has been using humor to dismiss and ridicule accusations that have been leveled against it by western governments, a “form of trolling” that she reports is designed to “deliberately lower the level of discussion”.

“Russia’s move towards using humour to influence its campaigns is a relatively recent phenomenon,” Robinson explains, without speculating as to why Russians might have suddenly begun laughing at their western accusers. She gives no consideration to the possibility that the tightly knit alliance of western nations who suddenly began hysterically shrieking about Russia two years ago have simply gotten much more ridiculous and easier to make fun of during that time.

Couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the emergence of a demented media environment wherein everything around the world from French protests to American culture wars to British discontent with the European Union gets blamed on Russia without any facts or evidence. Wherein BBC reporters now correct guests and caution them against voicing skepticism of anti-Russia narratives because the UK is in “an information war” with that nation. Wherein the same cable news Russiagate pundit can claim that both Rex Tillerson’s hiring and his later firing were the result of a Russian conspiracy to benefit the Kremlin. Wherein mainstream outlets can circulate blatantly false information about Julian Assange and unnamed “Russians” and then blame the falseness of that reporting on Russian disinformation. Wherein Pokemon Go, cutesy Facebook memes and $4,700 in Google ads are sincerely cited as methods by which Hillary Clinton’s $1.2 billion presidential campaign was outdone. Wherein conspiracy theories that Putin has infiltrated the highest levels of the US government have been blaring on mainstream headline news for two years with absolutely nothing to show for it to this day.

Nope, the only possibility is that the Kremlin suddenly figured out that humor is a thing.

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself. The hypocrisy is so cartoonish, the emotions are so breathlessly over-the-top, the stories so riddled with plot holes and the agendas underlying them so glaringly obvious that they translate very easily into laughs. I myself recently authored a satire piece that a lot of people loved and which got picked up by numerous alternative media outlets, and all I did was write down all the various escalations this administration has made against Russia as though they were commands being given to Trump by Putin. It was extremely easy to write, and it was pretty damn funny if I do say so myself. And it didn’t take any Kremlin rubles or dezinformatsiya from St Petersburg to figure out how to write it.

“Ben Nimmo, an Atlantic Council researcher on Russian disinformation, told the BBC that attempts to create funny memes were part of the strategy as ‘disinformation for the information age’,” the article warns. Nimmo, ironically, is himself intimately involved with the British domestic disinformation firm Integrity Initiative, whose shady government-sponsored psyops against the Labour Party have sparked a national scandal that is likely far from reaching peak intensity.

“Most comedy programmes on Russian state television these days are anodyne affairs which either do not touch on political topics, or direct humour at the Kremlin’s perceived enemies abroad,” Robinson writes, which I found funny since I’d just recently read an excellent essay by Michael Tracey titled “Why has late night swapped laughs for lusting after Mueller?”

“If the late night ‘comedy’ of the Trump era has something resembling a ‘message,’ it’s that large segments of the nation’s liberal TV viewership are nervously tracking every Russia development with a passion that cannot be conducive to mental health – or for that matter, political efficacy,” Tracey writes, documenting numerous examples of the ways late night comedy now has audiences cheering for a US intelligence insider and Bush appointee instead of challenging power-serving media orthodoxies as programs like The Daily Show once did.

If you wanted the opposite of “anodyne affairs”, it would be comedians ridiculing the way all the establishment talking heads are manipulating their audiences into supporting the US intelligence community and FBI insiders. It would be excoriating the media environment in which unfathomably powerful world-dominating government agencies are subject to less scrutiny and criticism than a man trapped in an embassy who published inconvenient facts about those agencies. It certainly wouldn’t be the cast of Saturday Night Live singing “All I Want for Christmas Is You” to a framed portrait if Robert Mueller wearing a Santa hat. It doesn’t get much more anodyne than that.

Russia makes fun of western establishment narratives about it because those narratives are so incredibly easy to make fun of that they are essentially asking for it, and the nerdy way empire loyalists are suddenly crying victim about it is itself more comedy. When Guardian writer Carole Cadwalladr began insinuating that RT covering standard newsworthy people like Julian Assange and Nigel Farage was a conspiracy to “boost” those people for the advancement of Russian agendas instead of a news outlet doing the thing that news reporting is, RT rightly made fun of her for it. Cadwalladr reacted to RT’s mockery with a claim that she was a victim of “attacks”, instead of the recipient of perfectly justified ridicule for circulating an intensely moronic conspiracy theory.

Ah well. People are nuts and we’re hurtling toward a direct confrontation with a nuclear superpower. Sometimes there’s nothing else to do but laugh. As Wavy Gravy said, “Keep your sense of humor, my friend; if you don’t have a sense of humor it just isn’t funny anymore.”

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