— Stan (@StanM3) May 3, 2018
* * *
As a Saudi-led coalition wades into the fight for Yemen – currently under siege from Houthi rebels who are backed by Iran – Robert Fisk examines the much wider-reaching repercussions of this escalating conflict
– The battle for the Middle East’s future begins in Yemen as Saudi Arabia jumps into the abyss (Independent, March 27, 2015):
Saudi Arabia has jumped into the abyss.
Its air attacks on Yemen are a historic and potentially fatal blow to the Kingdom and to the Middle East.
Who decided that this extraordinary battle should take shape in the poorest of Arab nations? The Saudis, whose King is widely rumoured in the Arab world to be incapable of taking decisions of state? Or the princes within the Saudi army who fear that their own security forces may not be loyal to the monarchy?
– 25 Quotes About The Coming War With Syria That Every American Should See (Economic Collapse, Aug 29, 2013):
If Barack Obama is going to attack Syria, he is going to do it without the support of the American people, without the approval of Congress, without the approval of the United Nations, and without the help of the British. Now that the British Parliament has voted against a military strike, the Obama administration is saying that it may take “unilateral action” against Syria. But what good would “a shot across Syria’s bow” actually do? A “limited strike” is not going to bring down the Assad regime and it is certainly not going to end the bloody civil war that has been raging inside Syria. Even if the U.S. eventually removed Assad, the al-Qaeda affiliated rebels that would take power would almost certainly be even worse than Assad. Even in the midst of this bloody civil war, the rebels have taken the time and the effort to massacre entire Christian villages. Why is Barack Obama so obsessed with helping such monsters? There is no good outcome in Syria. The Assad regime is absolutely horrible and the rebels are even worse. Why would we want the U.S. military to get involved in such a mess?
– Robert Fisk: The truth is that after Israel’s air strikes, we are involved (Independent, May 5, 2013):
If the EU and US say nothing about these attacks, approval is granted
Lights in the sky over Damascus. Another Israeli raid – “daring” of course, in the words of Israel’s supporters, and the second in two days – on Bashar al-Assad’s weaponry and military facilities and weapons stores. The story is already familiar: the Israelis wanted to prevent a shipment of Iranian-made Fateh-110 missiles reaching Hezbollah in Lebanon; they were being sent by the Syrian government. According, at least, to a ‘Western intelligence source’. Anonymous, of course. And it opens the old question: why when the Syrian regime is fighting for its life would it send advanced missiles out of Syria?
Terror, terror, terror, terror, terror. Here we go again. Israel is going to “root out Palestinian terror” – which it has been claiming to do, unsuccessfully, for 64 years – while Hamas, the latest in “Palestine’s” morbid militias, announces that Israel has “opened the gates of hell” by murdering its military leader, Ahmed al-Jabari.
Hezbollah several times announced that Israel had “opened the gates of hell” for attacking Lebanon. Yasser Arafat, who was a super-terrorist, then a super-statesman – after capitulating on the White House lawn – and then became a super-terrorist again when he realised he’d been conned by Camp David; he, too waffled on about the “gates of hell” in 1982.
And we journos are writing like performing bears, repeating all the clichés we’ve used for the past 40 years. The killing of Mr Jabari was a “targeted attack”, it was a “surgical air strike” – like the Israeli “surgical air strikes” which killed almost 17,000 civilians in Lebanon in 1982, the 1,200 Lebanese, most of them civilians, in 2006, or the 1,300 Palestinians, most of them civilians, in Gaza in 2008-9, or the pregnant woman and the baby who were killed by the “surgical air strikes” in Gaza last week – and the 11 civilians killed in one Gaza house yesterday. At least Hamas, with their Godzilla rockets, don’t claim anything “surgical” about them. They are meant to murder Israelis – any Israelis, man woman or child.
As, in truth, are the Israeli attacks on Gaza. But don’t say that or you’ll be an anti-Semitic Nazi; almost as evil, wicked, unspeakable, devilish and murderous as the Hamas movement with which – again, please don’t mention this – Israel happily negotiated in the Eighties when they encouraged this bunch of mobsters to take power in Gaza and thus decapitate the exiled super-terrorist Arafat. The new exchange rate in Gaza for Palestinian and Israeli deaths has reached 16:1. It will rise, of course. The exchange rate in 2008-9 was 100:1.
And we are myth-making too. The last Israeli war in Gaza was such a stunning success – “rooting out terror”, of course – that their supposedly élite units couldn’t even find their own captured soldier Gilad Shalit, eventually produced last year by Mr Jabari in person.
Mr Jabari was the “No 1 shadowy leader” of Hamas, according to the Associated Press. But how on earth can he be shadowy when we know his date of birth, family details, his years of imprisonment by Israel during which he changed allegiance from Fatah to Hamas? So while I’m on it, those years of Israeli imprisonment didn’t exactly convert Mr Jabari to pacifism, did they? Well, no tears then; he was a man who lived by the sword and died by the sword, a fate which, of course, will not afflict Israel’s warriors of the air as they kill civilians in Gaza.
Washington supports Israel’s “right to defend itself” then claims a spurious neutrality – as if Israel’s bombs on Gaza didn’t come from the United States as assuredly as the Fajr-5 rockets come from Iran.
– Robert Fisk: Aleppo’s poor get caught in the crossfire of Syria’s civil war (Independent, Aug 24,2012):
Our writer meets the civilians who have been stranded on the streets by a brutal conflict
– Robert Fisk: ‘No power can bring down the Syrian regime’ (Independent, Aug 22, 2012):
After gaining exclusive access to Bashar al-Assad’s army officers, our writer reports from the Aleppo front line
You know it’s all true when the taxi driver turns off the motorway towards Aleppo. In front lies a mile of empty road, disappearing into the heat haze on its way to one of the oldest cities in the world.
But a halo of brown smoke embraces the horizon and the driver knows better than to follow the motorway signs from the airport. He turns left, gingerly bouncing over the broken median rail, then between two huge piles of rocks like a frightened cat. In front of us is a sea of burnt houses and wrecked cars, through which we drive slowly. The engine cuts out in the way my dad’s car used to in France on bad post-war petrol, the accelerator cutting out nervously as we drive past two rubbish trucks upended to form a makeshift road-block.
But these are phantom check points. There are no gunmen, no militiamen, no al-Qa’ida, no “terrorists”, no “gangs”, no “foreign fighters” – how one grows sick of these eternal semantics – and not a civilian soul, because this battle is over – for now.
– Robert Fisk: Condemn me, but get your facts right first (Independent, Mar 10, 2012):
Here we go again. This libellous and racist quotation comes from an email sent to The Independent by “Bernadette”, a member of a pro-Israeli lobby group in Australia.
“Robert Fisk is the most anti-Semitic, rabid, prejudiced, blithering fool in Britain, if not the world – he is a non-journalist, in fact he’s a raving idiot with a very small mind and a very large ego. He stops at nothing to put his personal anti-Semitic message across, which he gets sent to him from the where? [sic] the Middle East, not through any personal investigation; he tells any number of lies that gullible, unthinking people can’t wait to agree with. He’s a pawn of the Muslims – may he enjoy them when they set up sharia law in Britain and Europe – which is what they intend doing – chances are, if he makes one slip, they would turn on him and have him stoned to death, or even publicly behead him. Unfortunately far too many people are totally fooled because of people like him.”
I don’t care about the vicious personal abuse – that’s what you get from pro-Israeli lobby outfits when they don’t like you – though I do care about the appalling sloppiness in the letter’s use of English grammar. But what really enrages me is the suggestion that my life is in danger, that I will be “stoned to death” or even publicly beheaded. Last time I faced this sort of filth, it came from the actor John Malkovich who told the Cambridge Union that he would like to shoot me and George Galloway. Quite apart from associating me with a jerk like Galloway, Malkovich spawned a heap of vileness on the internet from even less rational people, one of whom portrayed my face covered in blood with the caption: “Malkovich is jumping the queue.”
Desperate to avoid US military involvement in Libya in the event of a prolonged struggle between the Gaddafi regime and its opponents, the Americans have asked Saudi Arabia if it can supply weapons to the rebels in Benghazi. The Saudi Kingdom, already facing a “day of rage” from its 10 per cent Shia Muslim community on Friday, with a ban on all demonstrations, has so far failed to respond to Washington’s highly classified request, although King Abdullah personally loathes the Libyan leader, who tried to assassinate him just over a year ago.
Washington’s request is in line with other US military co-operation with the Saudis. The royal family in Jeddah, which was deeply involved in the Contra scandal during the Reagan administration, gave immediate support to American efforts to arm guerrillas fighting the Soviet army in Afghanistan in 1980 and later – to America’s chagrin – also funded and armed the Taliban.
But the Saudis remain the only US Arab ally strategically placed and capable of furnishing weapons to the guerrillas of Libya. Their assistance would allow Washington to disclaim any military involvement in the supply chain – even though the arms would be American and paid for by the Saudis.
Saudi Arabia was yesterday drafting up to 10,000 security personnel into its north-eastern Shia Muslim provinces, clogging the highways into Dammam and other cities with busloads of troops in fear of next week’s “day of rage” by what is now called the “Hunayn Revolution”.
Saudi Arabia’s worst nightmare – the arrival of the new Arab awakening of rebellion and insurrection in the kingdom – is now casting its long shadow over the House of Saud. Provoked by the Shia majority uprising in the neighbouring Sunni-dominated island of Bahrain, where protesters are calling for the overthrow of the ruling al-Khalifa family, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is widely reported to have told the Bahraini authorities that if they do not crush their Shia revolt, his own forces will.
The opposition is expecting at least 20,000 Saudis to gather in Riyadh and in the Shia Muslim provinces of the north-east of the country in six days, to demand an end to corruption and, if necessary, the overthrow of the House of Saud. Saudi security forces have deployed troops and armed police across the Qatif area – where most of Saudi Arabia’s Shia Muslims live – and yesterday would-be protesters circulated photographs of armoured vehicles and buses of the state-security police on a highway near the port city of Dammam.
“Massacre – it’s a massacre,” the doctors were shouting. Three dead. Four dead. One man was carried past me on a stretcher in the emergency room, blood spurting on to the floor from a massive bullet wound in his thigh.
A few feet away, six nurses were fighting for the life of a pale-faced, bearded man with blood oozing out of his chest. “I have to take him to theatre now,” a doctor screamed. “There is no time – he’s dying!”
Others were closer to death. One poor youth – 18, 19 years old, perhaps – had a terrible head wound, a bullet hole in the leg and a bloody mess on his chest. The doctor beside him turned to me weeping, tears splashing on to his blood-stained gown. “He has a fragmented bullet in his brain and I can’t get the bits out, and the bones on the left side of his head are completely smashed. His arteries are all broken. I just can’t help him.” Blood was cascading on to the floor. It was pitiful, outrageous, shameful. These were not armed men but mourners returning from a funeral, Shia Muslims of course, shot down by their own Bahraini army yesterday afternoon.
A medical orderly was returning with thousands of other men and women from the funeral at Daih of one of the demonstrators killed at Pearl Square in the early hours of Thursday.
I came to the latest uproarious US diplomatic history with the deepest cynicism. And yesterday, in the dust of post-election Cairo – the Egyptian parliamentary poll was as usual a mixture of farce and fraud, which is at least better than shock and awe – I ploughed through so many thousands of American diplomatic reports with something approaching utter hopelessness. After all, they do quote President Hosni Mubarak as saying that “you can forget about democracy,” don’t they?
It’s not that US diplomats don’t understand the Middle East; it’s just that they’ve lost all sight of injustice. Vast amounts of diplomatic literature prove that the mainstay of Washington’s Middle East policy is alignment with Israel, that its principal aim is to encourage the Arabs to join the American-Israeli alliance against Iran, that the compass point of US policy over years and years is the need to tame/bully/crush/oppress/ ultimately destroy the power of Iran.
There is virtually no talk (so far, at least) of illegal Jewish colonial settlements on the West Bank, of Israeli “outposts”, of extremist Israeli “settlers” whose homes now smallpox the occupied Palestinian West Bank – of the vast illegal system of land theft which lies at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian war. And incredibly, all kinds of worthy US diplomats grovel and kneel before Israel’s demands – many of them apparently fervent supporters of Israel – as Mossad bosses and Israel military intelligence agents read their wish-list to their benefactors.
I have, of course, been outraged at armed men boarding ships in international waters, killing passengers on board who attempt to resist and then forcing their ship to the hijackers’ home port. I am, of course, talking about the Somali pirates who are preying on Western ships in the Indian Ocean. How dare those terrorists dare to touch our unarmed vessels on the high seas? And how right we are to have our warships there to prevent such terrorist acts.
But whoops! At least the Israelis have not demanded ransom. They just want to get journalists to win the propaganda war for them. Scarcely had the week begun when Israel’s warrior “commandos” stormed a Turkish boat bringing aid to Gaza and shot nine of the passengers dead. Yet by week’s end, the protesters had become “armed peace activists”, vicious anti-Semites “professing pacifism, seething with hate, pounding away at another human being with a metal pole”. I liked the last bit. The fact that the person being beaten was apparently shooting another human being with a rifle didn’t quite get into this weird version of reality.
Turkish family protests that their sons wanted to be martyrs – something which most Turkish family members might say if their relatives had been shot by the Israelis – had been transformed into confirmation that they had been jihadis. “On that aid ship,” a Sri Lankan texted me this week, “I had my niece, nephew and his wife on board. Unfortunately Ahmed (20-year-old nephew) got shot in the leg and now treated (sic) under military custody. I will keep you posted.” He did indeed. Within hours, the press was at his family’s home in Australia, demanding to know if Ahmed was a jihadi – or even a potential suicide bomber. Propaganda works, you see. We haven’t seen a frame of film from the protesters because the Israelis have stolen the lot. No one has told us – if the Turkish ship was carrying such ruthless men – how their terrible plots to help the “terrorists” of Gaza were not uncovered in the long voyage from Turkey, even when it called at other ports. But Professor Gil Troy of McGill University in Montreal – in the rabid Canadian National Post, of course – was able to spout all that gunk about “armed peace activists” on Thursday.
Added: 07. December 2009
More from Robert Fisk:
Robert Fisk, The Independent’s award-winning Middle East correspondent:
“US forces were participating in a civil war in Vietnam while claiming they were supporting democracy and the sovereignty of the country. In Lebanon in 1982, they claimed to be supporting the “democratically” elected President Amin Gemayel and took the Christian Maronite side in the civil war. And now, after Disneyworld elections, they are on the Karzai-government side against the Pashtun villagers of southern Afghanistan among whom the Taliban live. Where is the next My Lai? Journalists should avoid predictions. In this case I will not. Our Western mission in Afghanistan is going to end in utter disaster.”
Change you can believe in!
The man who spotted Karzai’s leadership potential and recruited him to “the fold” was then RAND (the Santa Monica, California think tank, mostly conducting contract research for the Pentagon) program director, now US National Security Council member and special Bush envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad. Like Karzai, Khalilzad is an ethnic Pashtun (born Mazar-i-Sharif, PhD University of Chicago). He headed Bush’s defense department transition team, and served under present US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz in the Reagan State and Bush I Defense Departments. Also like Karzai (whom Mullah Omar once asked to represent the Taliban at the UN), Khalilzad early on supported and urged engagement of the Taliban regime, only to drop such notions when the true nature of the regime became patently obvious by 1998. And one further thing both men have in common is that in 1996/97 they advised American oil company Unocal on the US$2 billion project of a Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan pipeline. In 2000, Khalilzad invited Karzai to address a RAND seminar on Afghanistan; the same year, Karzai also testified before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee and met periodically with Christina Rocca, then a Senate aide (to Kansas Republican Sen Sam Brownback), now the assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs. “To us, he is still Hamid, a man we’ve dealt with for some time,” said a state department official. Such close connections to the US foreign policy, security and intelligence community lay Karzai open to the charge of being an American puppet.
Source: Asia Times
The Times on election fraud:
The head of the UN mission in Afghanistan has been accused by his former deputy of ordering a systematic cover-up to conceal the extent of electoral fraud by President Karzai.
Could there be a more accurate description of the Obama-Brown message of congratulations to the fraudulently elected Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan? First the Palestinians held fair elections in 2006, voted for Hamas and were brutally punished for it – they still are – and then the Iranians held fraudulent elections in June which put back the weird Mahmoud Ahmadinejad whom everyone outside Iran (and a lot inside) regard as a dictator. But now we have the venal, corrupt, sectarian Karzai in power after a poll far more ambitiously rigged than the Iranian version, and – yup, we love him dearly and accept his totally fraudulent election.
And now we are still trying to persuade his opponent to join a national unity government, an administration led by the man whose vote-stuffing was the very reason that same leader of the opposition – the good pseudo-Pashtun Abdullah Abdullah – refused to run in a second round of elections. And Karzai got his fawning congrats from the Obama-Brown twins. So that’s OK then. Wagons Ho. For Westmoreland, read McChrystal. Send in the brave 40,000 to join the rest of the US cavalry as it fights its way west – or rather south-west – to the Khe Sanh of Afghanistan in Year Eight of the War on Terror.
The March of Folly was Barbara Tuchman’s title for her book on governments – from Troy to Vietnam-era America – that followed policies contrary to their own interests. And well may we remember the Vietnam bit. As Patrick Bury, a veteran British soldier of our current Afghan adventure, pointed out yesterday, Vietnam is all too relevant.
Back in 1967, the Americans oversaw a “democratic” election in Vietnam which gave the presidency to the corrupt ex-General Nguyen Van Thieuman. In a fraudulent election which the Americans declared to be “generally fair” – he got 38 per cent of the vote – Thieu’s opponents wouldn’t run against him because the election was a farce.