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Eric Margolis

Doctor Death from Damascus?

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Butcher of Damascus. Gasser of children. Baby Killer of Syria. Tool of Moscow. Cruel despot. Monster.

These are all names the western media and politicians routinely heap on Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad. He has now become the top Mideast villain, the man we love to hate.

As a veteran Mideast watcher, I find all this hard to swallow. Compared to other brutal Mideast leaders, Assad is pretty weak tea. The US/British propaganda effort to paint Assad in blackest colors is having a difficult time.

Mideast leaders who toe the US line and make nice to Israel are invariably called "statesmen" or "president" by the American government and its increasingly tame media. There’s good old President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Egypt, the military dictator who crushed that nation’s only democracy and imposed an iron-fisted rule.  But we will never hear from the US media of Egypt’s political murders, disappearances, secret prisons and torture.  Or that Egypt has been one of the world’s most draconian police states since the era of Anwar Sadat and successor Hosni Mubarak.
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Sarkozy's Hand in the French Cookie Jar?

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There was something refreshing about watching former French president Nicholas Sarkozy being interrogated in a French jail. Particularly since he may soon be accused of conspiracy in the murder of my old friend, Col. Muammar Khadaffi of Libya.

Sarkozy and his former chief of staff, Claude Guéant, are being investigated for secretly accepting at least fifty million Euros from Khadaffi for his 2007 electoral campaign. Such a payment violated France’s maximum permissible limit for political donation, not to mention a ban on foreign financing of candidates and failure to report the payments. Sarko also faces investigation over secret payments from the Gulf oil states.

French political candidates often have to wade through the sewers to finance their campaigns because spending limits were set relatively low to prevent big money from buying the elections, as in the United States.

These charges against Khadaffi and Guéant have been percolating for years with only a muted response. Sarkozy also got into hot water after he was accused of bilking large sums of cash from a senile heiress to France’s L’Oréal cosmetics company.
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Putin Trumps Trump

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In December, 2002, President George W. Bush proclaimed that the US would unilaterally pull out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that had curtailed the development of nuclear missiles and anti-missile systems to defeat them.

The arrogant, dim-witted Bush believed that US space technology was advancing so rapidly that it would neutralize Russia’s force of ICBM missiles.  Bush was just a puppet.  The real power behind him was Vice President Dick Cheney, the leading neocon who sneered at Russia, dismissed it as a mere ‘gas-station,’ and was determined to see the US achieve global dominance. 

In Cheney’s view, the ABM Treaty was holding the US back from this goal.  Bankrupt Moscow would never be able to stand up to the mighty USA.  Moscow warned that reneging on the ABM Treaty would re-ignite a ruinous arms race.  A then little known politician, Vladimir Putin, vowed that Russia would never bend its knee to the US nuclear colossus.

This week, President Putin stunned the world by revealing a new arsenal of nuclear-armed weapons that have stolen a march on Washington and left the warlike President Donald Trump looking foolish.
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Why One War When We Can Have Two!

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"We will continue to prosecute the campaign against terrorists, but great-power competition – not terrorism – is now the primary focus of US national security."  Henceforth Russia and China will be America’s main enemies, with Iran and North Korea thrown in for good measure.


So declared US Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, last week in a statement of profound importance for the world. 
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There is No Justice in Our World

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A gathering of rich oil Arabs pledged $30 billion this week at a meeting in Kuwait to start rebuilding war-shattered Iraq. Sounds nice but these kinds of conclaves are notorious for offering big but delivering little.


The event was billed as helping Iraq repair war damage caused by ISIS. In fact, most of the damage from that short-lived conflict was caused by US bombing and a few Russian air strikes. ISIS, as this column has long been crying in the wilderness, was largely a paper tiger confected by the US, Britain and France to justify their military re-entry into Syria. 

Iraq’s government says it needs at least $88 billion to rebuild war damage. What the US-imposed client regime in Baghdad won’t or can’t say is that the damage to Iraq is far greater than $88 billion and was largely inflicted by US air power in 1990-1991 and 2003.

Iraq was ravaged, as I saw myself while covering the wars. This small nation of 23-25 million souls, a third of whom were in permanent revolt against the Baghdad government, was pounded into rubble by US air power and cruise missiles. First in 1990-1991, then in 2003, everything of value was blown to bits: hospitals, schools, food factories, chemical plants making insecticide, bridges, and communications. In short, all the attributes of a modern state.
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Make Sports, Not War

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Considering that a nuclear conflict over North Korea appeared imminent in recent weeks, the winter Olympics at Pyeongchang, South Korea, is a most welcome distraction – and might even deter a major war on the peninsula.

The highlight of the games was the arrival of Kim Yo-jong, the younger sister of North Korea’s ruler, Kim Jong-un. This was the first time a member of North Korea’s ruling Kim dynasty had come to South Korea. Her handshake with South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in was a historic and welcome moment.

So too the planned joint marches by North and South Korean athletes under a new reunification flag.  For all Koreans, this was a deeply emotional and inspiring ceremony.

But not for US Vice President Mike Pence, who was sent by Trump to give the Olympics the evil eye.  He even refused to stand for the joint marchers in a surly act that spoke volumes about his role.  Whether he meets President Moon or Kim Yo-jong remains to be seen. Even a cup of tea between Pence and Kim could end all the crazy talk about nuclear war. Does anyone in Washington know that North Korea lies between China and Russia?
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The Syrian Madhouse Gets Even Crazier

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Last summer, I was positioned just across the border from the Syrian town of Afrin around which Turkish and Kurdish and, possibly, American forces, are now poised for a head-on clash.  It seems crazy to me that anyone would want to fight over this one-donkey farm town.  We were there on a mission to rescue wild animals trapped in a zoo in war-torn Aleppo, Syria.
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Trump Takes on Pakistan

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Henry Kissinger rightly noted that it’s often more dangerous being an ally of the United States than its enemy. The latest victim of this sad truism is Pakistan, a loyal ally of the US since the dawn of our era.

President Donald Trump’s visceral hatred of Muslims (never mind what kind, or why, or where) erupted this week as he ordered some $900 million in US aid to Pakistan to be abruptly cut off. Trump accused Pakistan of lying and deceiving the US and providing a safe haven to Afghan resistance forces of Taliban ("terrorists" in US speak) battling American occupation forces.

Frustrated and outwitted in Afghanistan, US imperial generals, Pentagon bureaucrats, and politicians have been trying to cast blame on anyone they can find, with Pakistan the primary whipping boy. Next in line is the notorious Haqqani network which is blamed for most US military failures in Afghanistan, though its active combat role is modest. I knew its founder, old man Haqqani. In the 1980’s, he was the golden boy of the CIA/Pakistani-led effort to oust the Soviets from Afghanistan.

Why has Washington given billions in aid to Pakistan? In 2001, Washington decided to invade Afghanistan to uproot or destroy the Pashtun resistance movement, Taliban, which was wrongly blamed for the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington. The ethnic Pashtun warriors President Reagan had hailed as "Freedom Fighters" became "terrorists" once the west wanted to occupy Afghanistan.
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Trump's Failed Coup in Iran

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Listen to the state-"guided" US media this past week and you’d believe a series of spontaneous anti-government protests broke out across Iran. The protests, according to President Donald Trump and his Israeli allies, were caused by "anger over Iran’s spending billions on wars in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon and helping the Palestinian movement Hamas." Trump tweeted that Iranians were finally rising up against what he called their hated, brutal regime.

Talk about manufactured news. Most Iranians were elated and proud of their nation’s role in thwarting US plans to occupy much of Syria and overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Assad.  By contrast, the other side in this long proxy war – the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Britain – was smarting with defeat and seeking ways to exact revenge on the hateful trio, Syria, Iran and Russia.

Interestingly, the so-called news of protests over Iran’s military spending did not apparently originate in Iran but rather in Washington which spread it far and wide to our state-guided media. This was clumsy, but the US and Israel were so eager to get this piece of made-up good news out that they forget the basics of propaganda management: wait for the event before you proclaim it.

What in fact was going on in Iran where more than 21 demonstrators have died violent deaths? As a very long-time Iran watcher allow me to explain.
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Mission Creep in Darkest Africa

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The British Empire, which at the end of the 19th century ruled one quarter of the earth’s land surface, is long gone. But its robust successor and heir, the United States, has set about enlarging it.

As I sought to explain in my last book "American Raj – How the US Rules the Muslim World," the US imperium exerts its power by controlling tame, compliant regimes around the world and their economies. They are called "allies" but, in fact, should be more accurately termed satrapies or vassal states. Many states are happy to be prosperous US vassals, others less so.

The US power system has successfully dominated much of the world, except of course for great powers China, Russia and India. Germany and much of Western Europe remains in thrall to post WWII US power. The same applies to Canada, Latin America, Australia, and parts of SE Asia.

There is one part of the globe that has remained free from heavy US influence since 1945, sub-Saharan Africa. But this fact is clearly changing as the US military expands its operations the width and breadth of the Dark Continent.

We are seeing a rerun of the fine old 1930’s film, "Beau Geste" which was taken from a cracking good 1924 Victorian novel by C. Percival Wren. Set in French North Africa, Wren’s dashing French Legionnaires end up defending a remote fort against masses of hostile Arab and Berber tribesman.
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