Neocons Object to Syrian Democracy

Exclusive: President Obama has infuriated Official Washington’s neocons by accepting the Russian stance that the Syrian people should select their own future leaders through free elections, rather than the neocon insistence on a foreign-imposed “regime change,” reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

The Washington Post’s editorial board is livid that President Barack Obama appears to have accepted the Russian position that the Syrian people should decide for themselves who their future leaders should be when the Post seems to prefer that the choice be made by neoconservative think tanks in Washington or other outsiders.

So, in a furious editorial on Friday, the Post castigated Secretary of State John Kerry for saying after a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow that the Obama administration and Russia see the political solution to Syria “in fundamentally the same way,” meaning that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could stand for election in the future.

Russian President Vladimir Putin greets Secretary of State John Kerry before meetings at the Kremlin on Dec. 15, 2015. (State Department photo)

Russian President Vladimir Putin greets Secretary of State John Kerry before meetings at the Kremlin on Dec. 15, 2015. (State Department photo)

The Post wrote: “Unfortunately, that increasingly appears to be the case, and not because Mr. Putin has altered his position. For four years, President Obama demanded the departure of Mr. Assad, who has killed hundreds of thousands of his own people with chemical weapons, ‘barrel bombs,’ torture and other hideous acts. Yet in its zeal to come to terms with Mr. Putin, the Obama administration has been slowly retreating from that position.”

The Russian position, which Obama finally seems to be accepting, is that the Syrian people should be allowed to choose their own leaders through fair, internationally organized elections, rather than have outside powers dictate who can and who can’t compete in a democratic process. Obama’s previous stance was that Assad must be prevented from running in an election.

But that meant the Syrian bloodshed and resulting chaos now spreading across Europe and into the U.S. political process would continue indefinitely as the United States took the curious position of opposing democracy in favor of an insistence that “Assad must go,” a demand favored by U.S. neocons and liberal interventionists, Israel and regional Sunni “allies,” such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar.

To the chagrin of the Post’s editors, Obama finally ceded to the more democratically defensible position that the Syrian people should pick their own leaders. After all, if Obama is right about how much the Syrian people hate Assad, elections would empower them to implement their own “regime change” through the ballot box. But that uncertain outcome is not what the Post’s editors want. They want a predetermined result — Assad’s ouster — regardless of the Syrian people’s wishes.

And regarding the editorial, you also should note the reference to Assad killing “his own people with chemical weapons,” an apparent allusion to the now-discredited but still widely accepted (inside Official Washington at least) claim that Assad was behind a lethal sarin gas attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013.

To this day, the U.S. government (or, for that matter, the Washington Post) has not presented any verifiable evidence to support the Assad-did-it allegation, but it nevertheless has become an Everyone-Knows-It-To-Be-True “group think” based on endless repetition, much as Official Washington concluded that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein had WMD stockpiles, based on the fact that it was stated as flat fact by lots of Important People, including the Post’s editorial writers.

Official Washington’s epistemology seems to be that if enough Important People say something is true, then it becomes true regardless of where the actual evidence leads. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Collapsing Syria-Sarin Case.”]

Hypocritical Outrage

Other parts of the Post’s attacks are equally dubious in that the Post’s editors — who were all-in for the “shock and awe” bombing of Iraq and wouldn’t think of sharing blame for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed as a result of President George W. Bush’s Washington Post-endorsed invasion — are now outraged over Syria’s homemade “barrel bombs” and blame Assad for all the deaths, even though many of the dead were Syrian soldiers killed by Islamic jihadists, armed and financed by U.S. “allies,” Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and others.

And, by the way, some torture blamed on Syria was carried out in coordination with the Bush administration’s “extraordinary rendition” program as part of the “global war on terror.” For instance, Canadian citizen Maher Arar, who was seized by the U.S. government at New York’s Kennedy International Airport in September 2002 while  on his way home to Canada, was shipped to Syria as a suspected Al Qaeda member. Arar was tortured in Syria before being cleared of suspicions by both Syria and Canada, according to a later Canadian investigation.

But, hey, you don’t expect The Washington Post’s neocon editors to give you any honest context, do you?

The more immediate issue is the Post’s fury over the prospect that the Syrian people would be allowed to vote on Assad’s future rather than have it dictated by neocon think tanks, Islamic jihadist rebels and their Turkish-Saudi-Qatari-Israeli-CIA backers.

The Post’s editors wrote, “On Tuesday in Moscow, Mr. Kerry took another big step backward: ‘The United States and our partners are not seeking so-called regime change,’ he said. He added that a demand by a broad opposition front that Mr. Assad step down immediately was a ‘non-starting position’, because the United States already agreed that Mr. Assad could stay at least for the first few months of a ‘transition process.’”

Kerry “now agrees with Mr. Putin that the country’s future leadership must be left to Syrians to work out,” the Post’s outraged editors wrote. Yes, you read that correctly.

Though the Post predicted on Friday morning that the notion of the Syrian people being allowed to decide their future leaders was “a likely recipe for an impasse,” later on Friday the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously in favor of a roadmap for a cease-fire in Syria, negotiations on a transitional government and elections within 18 months after the start of talks.

The agreement makes no reference as to whether Assad can or cannot run in the new U.N.-organized elections, meaning apparently that he will be able to participate surely to the additional dismay of the Post’s editors.

Many Obstacles

Obviously, the U.N. plan faces many obstacles, especially the continued insistence on “regime change” from Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other Sunni-led regional governments, which disdain Assad who is an Alawite, an offshoot of Shia Islam. Further condemning Assad in their eyes, he seeks to maintain a secular government that protects Christians, Alawites, Shiites and other minorities.

The Saudis, Turks and Qataris have been among the leaders in supporting violent Sunni jihadists, including Ahrar al-Sham and Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, which operate under the Saudi umbrella called the Army of Conquest, which has received hundreds of sophisticated U.S.-made TOW missiles that have proved devastating in killing Syrian government troops. Israel also has provided some support to these jihadists operating along the Golan Heights.

While Turkey, a member of NATO, denies assisting terrorists, its intelligence services have been implicated in helping Nusra Front operatives carry out the Aug. 21, 2013 sarin gas attack outside Damascus, with the goal of pinning the blame on Assad and tricking Obama into ordering a devastating series of air strikes against Syrian government forces. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Was Turkey Behind Syria Sarin Attack?”]

Turkey also has allowed the hyper-brutal Islamic State to transit through nearly 100 kilometers of openings on the Syrian-Turkish border, including passage of vast truck convoys of Islamic State oil into Turkey for resale, a reality that Obama recently raised with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has long promised but failed to seal the border. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “A Blind Eye Toward Turkey’s Crimes.”]

At home, President Obama also faces political difficulties from Israel and from Official Washington’s alliance of neoconservatives and liberal interventionists who have made Assad’s ouster a cause célèbre despite the disastrous experiences overthrowing other secular regimes in Iraq and Libya.

In the past, Obama has been highly sensitive to criticism from this group, including nasty comments on the Post’s editorial page. But the Post’s ire on Friday suggests that at least for the moment Obama is putting pragmatism (i.e., the need to stop the Syrian killing and the global insecurity that it is causing) ahead of neocon/liberal-hawk ideological desires.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

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39 comments for “Neocons Object to Syrian Democracy

  1. December 19, 2015 at 7:43 pm

    the current presidential administration sitting the white house, along with the “neo-cons” are but tentacles of “the powers that be (PTB)” which rule washington. this decision to vote in favour of Syrians choosing their leadership is just another rouse.
    coupled with support from the leadership of the Russian Federation, the efforts of Syrian secular Sunnis, Alawites, and Christians to defend their right to life, have forced the PTB to modify their strategy.
    the desire to finish off hopes of Arabic secular republicanism, have not been abandoned. the impetus gained from high jacking the “Arab Spring” by supporting wahabist death squads in Libya and Syria has ground to a halt, but the demands remain.
    … what do the think tanks prescribe?
    a strategic withdrawal, regroup, and renew the attack from a different angle.
    it will now fall to the funding of friendly (read puppet) political opponents in any future elections. with the weight of cnn, al-jazeera, and bbc backing washington’s choice on the Syrian ballot.

    • Kathleen Walsh-White
      December 19, 2015 at 9:01 pm

      I wonder if you have any idea as to how dangerous is your comparison of Neocons with the Obama Administration. Totally out of focus remark, to say the least. Obama came in to the White House with a mandate, and an agenda and the Right Wing set forth a fierce agenda…at the behest of Kevin McCarthy and the more vicious members of that Gang, to make sure he could get nothing done. Further, please…consider the history of Syria and the machinations that set up the current problems, put forth during and even before World War One…we don’t serve any good purpose by venting our own frustrations through inaccuracy and hot rhetoric.

      • Zachary Smith
        December 19, 2015 at 9:48 pm

        I wonder if you have any idea as to how dangerous is your comparison of Neocons with the Obama Administration.

        Wow. Obama stuffs his Administration with neocons, and you don’t believe the fact ought to be even mentioned?

        Regarding the warmongering WP’s editorial, I notice they didn’t even have the guts to sign the sorry thing.

      • Peter Loeb
        December 21, 2015 at 12:15 pm

        ONE TINY STEP…OR MAYBE NONE

        The optimism in many areas of Mr. Parrish’s article seem
        unwarranted. In fact there is no need at all for B. Assad
        to “compete” in an election. Most have noticed that this
        is a restatement of the US’s affirmation that Syria needs
        a government with which “Syrians (sic) can be comfortable”.
        Read: With which Americans and Israeli’s can be comfortable.

        The UN Security Council has opposed regime change always
        in line with its basic principles. With regard to Syria it
        specifically opposed it in 2014. It did the same on November
        20, 2015. Both of these resolutions were ratified by the
        the US (they were unanimous).

        Both affirmed the UN Security Council’s commitment to

        1. Syria’s independence

        2. Syria’s territorial integrity

        3. Syria’s sovereignty.

        Both these resolutions urged support of the present Syrian
        Government in fighting “terrorists” (Council language),
        (“foreigners) who must withdraw. So-called opposition groups
        were urged to support the Syrian Government.

        Consider for a moment the number of governments that
        do not follow entirely “democratic” principles? Wherein
        is the right of the United Nations to organize any “elections”
        to change these governments?

        Mr. Parry correctly notes the fabricated and invariably
        false accusations by the “civilized” world (aka the US) of
        the evil monster it considers the present Syrian Government
        to be.

        At last, the CIA torture program “extraordinary renditions”
        has been mentioned. This international engine for terror
        has also operated in so-called US allies as Morocco, Jordan
        and other friends of the US. This program has been no
        secret for years.

        The bombing of a site in Damascus of a few days ago and
        the assassination of a member of Hizbollah was not
        mentioned. This officer may indeed have opposed the
        State of Israel. In fact such opposition is not particularly
        unusual. The facts about this attack and the assasination
        are, as yet, unclear.

        Perhaps Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Quatar, Israel and
        Jordan should all have new “elections” in which
        none of those currently ruling should be entitled
        to participate. Perhaps there would indeed be
        the free enterprise paradise which America has always
        said would bloom in many deserts. In reality,
        there would be chaos and increased bloodshed.

        The neocons which the present Administration has
        gathered around it over many years reflect the
        real views of the Administration they have served.

        A real change towards US support of the Syrian Government
        is unlikely to say the least.

        (Note: Saudi Arabia was not required to have a meaningful
        election under UN supervision before being given
        billions of dollars in weapons only recently. As one
        writer has observed, women’s rights are often brought
        up when there is a propaganda need for the US. Such was
        the case in Saudi Arabias great step forward in the
        so-called exercise of “democracy” recently. The same
        issue was used in Afghanistan and subsequently dropped
        when no longer useful for the US. (See: Jean Bricmont,
        HUMANITARIAN IMPERIALISM.)

        —-Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

  2. Always an Optimist
    December 19, 2015 at 8:30 pm

    Compliments on the usual excellent reporting. This acceptance of a democratic election for the Syrian government appears that it might actually become an encouraging first step. But 2 major hurdles remain.
    The first is that Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar et al. must be persuaded to cut support of ISIS. I suspect that ISIS is a geopolitical project of powerful factions within these countries, and it won’t be easy to get these proponents to give up. Even as Turkey’s attachments are now emerging, the great magnitude of vested interests are coming to light.
    The third hurdle is managing Syrian elections. Who and what parties will be admitted to the ballot? How will the Syrian electorate be determined? What criteria can be used for voter eligibility, especially within the Syrian diaspora? How many members of a defunct ISIS will melt into the population, to skew the vote, or to riot during or after the elections?
    I sure hope someone is thinking ahead.

    • Roberto
      December 19, 2015 at 9:21 pm

      Neocons will never give up. The real answer is for western citizens to identify them intermediately and give them the proper respect.

      Stop buying anything advertised by the WP, for example.

      • December 20, 2015 at 5:26 am

        WP is owned by Jeff Bezos. Boycotting WP won’t help much, one has to boycott amazon.com.
        http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/boycotts/boycottamazon.aspx

        • Roberto
          December 20, 2015 at 6:39 am

          Just an example. There are a thousand examples a day that will come the way of the average citizen. For example, back in the Bush days one of the talking points was “We are at war now.” Whenever I heard the talking point, I knew that I was dealing with either an idiot or a neocon. At any rate, someone whom I was wasting my time on.

    • December 20, 2015 at 6:30 am

      It will not be possible to persuade Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar with nice talking , they have to be isolated, quarantined, restrained. Don’t forget about UAE, Kuwait, the USS Israel (unsinkable aircraft carrier), France, Britain, and the more or less rogue CIA elements and Pentagon special ops.

      If there would be any chance of persuading some of the IS supporting powers, Dr. Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin would try hard and they indeed tried hard countless times until it became clear, that every attempt to negotiate was only perceived as weakness.

      What are the more promising methods of persuasion? The PKK could be armed with the newest TOW’s, Masoud Barzani could be deposed, Yemen’s Houthis could be armed with more MANPADS. Oil and natural gas installations plus transport in the Gulf could be sabotaged.

      Maybe some of this is happening already and no one knows (fortunately).

      As for the IS supporters in the “civilized” West. A second Lehman Brothers, a blowup of the trillion Dollar derivatives market, mass defaults and crushing depression will surly be persuasive.

      As sad as it is, nothing less will do.

      Or could a President Trump, in all his slyness and fickleness, turn things around? Imagine when Ashton Carter, Samantha Powers, Victoria Nuland, Susan Rice finally hear: “You are fired.”

      One shouldn’t hold ones breath though.

      • Roberto
        December 20, 2015 at 6:47 am

        Not holding my breath either, but yeah, I thought the sane thing to do was to get them out of there . “You’re fired!”

      • Kiza
        December 21, 2015 at 3:19 am

        Samantha, Vicky and Susi as checkout-chicks, now that would be a very good reason to change the regular supermarket.

  3. Abe
    December 19, 2015 at 9:03 pm

    The geopolitical stakes in the Middle East have just gotten higher by an order of magnitude. Take a little-known Newark, New Jersey oil company, the contested Golan Heights between Syria and Israel, add a reported major oil discovery there just as Russia’s bombing campaign in Syria goes into high gear, shake it vigorously and we have a potential detonator for World War III.

    Initially–going back more than a decade when Washington neo-conservative think-tanks and the Bush-Cheney Administration were devising their Greater Middle East regime-change agenda–competing natural gas pipelines through Syria to Turkey or via Lebanon to the Mediterranean played a definite “supporting” role in Washington’s war on Syria’s Assad. Now oil, lots of oil, comes into the play, and Israel is claiming it’s theirs. The only problem is that it isn’t. The oil is in the Golan Heights which Israel illegally took from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War.

    Genies and Genocide: Syria, Israel, Russia and Much Oil
    By F. William Engdahl
    http://journal-neo.org/2015/10/26/genies-and-genocide-syria-israel-russia-and-much-oil-2/

  4. Andrew
    December 19, 2015 at 9:55 pm

    Just because the O’bomber regime APPARENTLY is willing for the Syrian people to select their own government, should not be inferred to mean they will not attempt to control, manipulate, subvert, hinder or subvert that government.

    Granted, it was during the Bush regime, but look at the US’s response to Hamas winning the Palestinian election.

    Or the O’bomber regime’s meddling in Ukraine to instigate a coup.

    We can also go back to the US’s meddling in Iran and Iraq more than half a century ago to bring down democratic governments there; which are probably a major contributors to the present conditions in both countries.

    Anyone who thinks the O’bomber regime is sincere about the Syrian people selecting their own government is naive.

  5. Abe
    December 19, 2015 at 10:22 pm

    Turkish officials were involved in illegal transport of oil from Iraq long before the emergence of the so-called Islamic State (ISIL/ISIS/IS/DAESH). Their illegal trade expanded to the Syrian Arab Republic with the intensification of the conflict in Syria. Turkey, however, is not the only player involved in the illegal oil trade in Syria and Iraq. The operations of the Anglo-Turkish company Genel Energy PLC, which works in Iraqi Kurdistan and Malta, illustrates the constellation of financial and energy sector interests involved […]

    Were escalated war and the plunder of Syrian oil foreseen and part of the equation? It is worth mentioning that the Anglo-Turkish energy company has been involved in illegal export of Iraqi oil to Israel, appeared to be working to integrate the energy infrastructure of the Eastern Mediterranean with Israel and Turkey, and was planning on announcing a deal to work with a «consortium responsible for oil and gas explorations in Lebanon» in 2012. This would all only be feasible if regime change in Damascus took place and compliant regimes were established in Syria and Lebanon. A noteworthy omission by Nat Rothschild to the British journalist Simon Goodley that certain locations in the world were outside of the limits of Genel Energy, including Venezuela and post-Soviet Central Asia, confirms that geopolitical rivalries are taken into consideration in the Anglo-Turkish company’s operations.

    According to the South African journalist Khareen Pech, these interlocked directorship and companies are part of a labyrinth of networks that profit off insecurity and war […]

    The Israeli Connection and the Port of Ceyhan

    It is also no coincidence that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu backed Massoud Barzani’s takeover of Kirkuk and other disputed territories in Iraq. Barzani and Netanyahu even called for the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan simultaneously in 2014. In fact, with the help of Turkey and Genel Energy, the Kurdistan Regional Government used its energy links to Turkey to transport oil through the Kirkuk-Ceyhan Pipeline to Israel. Large oil conglomerates, like BP and Exxon Mobile, were afraid to buy this oil publicly due to the threat it could pose to their existing deals in Iraq. Thus, according to Kurdistan Regional Government Natural Resource Minister Ashti Hawrami, Israel and Malta became key actors for avoiding detection of the smuggled oil from Iraq.

    Turkish-ISIL Oil Trade: The Roles of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Britain, and Israel
    By Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya
    http://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2015/12/19/turkish-isil-oil-trade-did-turkish-military-enter-mosul-protect-oil-trade-iii.html

  6. Oleg
    December 19, 2015 at 11:10 pm

    Your point that “…it nevertheless has become an Everyone-Knows-It-To-Be-True “group think” based on endless repetition…” reminded me of the following passage:

    “The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly and with unflagging attention. It must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over. ”

    This quote is from a book chapter entitled “War Propaganda”. The book itself is “Mein Kampf” written by a certain Adolf Hitler in 1925.

    The original German version for those who may be interested:

    “Aber alle Genialität der Aufmachung der Propaganda wird zu keinem Erfolg führen, wenn nicht ein fundamentaler Grundsatz immer gleich scharf berücksichtigt wird. Sie hat sich auf wenig zu beschränken und dieses ewig zu wiederholen. ” (P. 202)

    So in fact the Post’s and other MSM tactics are far from being new. I wonder if they realize who they are actually learning from. Perhaps it is wise to remember what was the outcome of the use of such practices in Nazi Germany.

    • Abe
      December 19, 2015 at 11:46 pm

      “Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. […] in almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons […] who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.”

      Edward L. Bernays, Propaganda (1928)
      http://asset-4.soupcdn.com/asset/0324/0984_4ce7.pdf

      incorporated the literature from social science and psychological manipulation into an examination of the techniques of public communication. Bernays wrote the book in response to the success of some of his earlier works such as Crystallizing Public Opinion (1923) and A Public Relations Counsel (1927). Propaganda explored the psychology behind manipulating masses and the ability to use symbolic action and propaganda to influence politics.

      Walter Lippman was Bernays’ unacknowledged American mentor. Lippman’s work The Phantom Public (1925) greatly influenced the ideas expressed by Bernays in Propaganda.

  7. F. G. Sanford
    December 20, 2015 at 12:29 am

    I was listening to the Democratic Debate, but it became so nauseating I had to stop. The Republicans are completely delusional, but at least they’re comical. The Democrats just spent an enormous amount of time debating how and when Assad must go, apparently oblivious to the fact that the decision has already been made. Hillary was bordering on apoplexy advocating a “no fly zone”, obviously unaware that one already exists. The Russians have implemented it. Kerry just came back from Moscow gleaming with the news that now, “Assad can stay”. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall in that meeting! Sounds like Kerry left with a platter carrying two scoops of gluteus maximus…“full spectrum dominance” suddenly looks like “full rectum prominence”. Here we are, choosing someone to run USA, and the only thing these people can get worked up over is who is going to run Syria. I was particularly amused by Hillary’s admission that she had little understanding of encryption and information gathering. All the candidates seemed to support encryption “back doors”, failing to realize that terrorists won’t be relying on commercial software products, so only loyal American citizens will be targets of surveillance. Martin O’Malley, who spoke with a quivering voice and looked like he forgot to shave, seemed to think that Ambassador Chris Stevens was trying to, “gain an understanding of the region” when he lost his life. Senile old Bernie was quickly dispatched more than once by the moderators, appearing to lack the prowess needed to parry their interruptions. He even seemed to be rooting for Hillary, who was her usual war-mongering bloodthirsty self. She did admit that backing dictators while promoting democracy was not working very well, but maybe she thinks we can make up for that by getting Saudi Arabia to support democratic reform in Syria. Who better to usher in a new era of enlightened self-interest? The pundits will declare that Hillary “won” this round. My condolences to the Bern-outs. But as Abe and other commenters have pointed out above, this charade effectively isolates the voting public from realizing who’s really in charge. It was a great evening for the “deep state”.

    • Joe Tedesky
      December 21, 2015 at 2:58 am

      If it weren’t so sad, it would be funny. We Americans should just call up central casting in Hollywood, and hand some actors scripts, and be done with it. It worked with Reagan, so why not? All of our so called presidential candidates lie so bad, it proves how misinformed the American public is. Although, you could hold out hope, that Americans are delving into alternative news sources via the Internet, and that’s my hope, while keeping my fingers crossed. My other hope is, that the younger generation of voters coming up, see through this madness, and change it all for the better. Oh, and this Hillary for president thing, isn’t even camouflaged by any stretch of unbiased sponsorship, so why not crown her, and be done with it.

    • Kiza
      December 21, 2015 at 3:41 am

      An idea, which came to my mind whilst watching the final Democratic debate, was that to torture prisoners of “war on terror”, instead of waterboarding the CIA should be showing the presidential debates. I am sure that every terrorist, and every other prisoner for that matter, would self-execute after watching a dozen (six from each side). The sheer stupidity of the “Candidates” is mind-boggling. Only Trump would not be a reason for suicide, because of his inspirational hair-do.

  8. Alec
    December 20, 2015 at 4:34 am

    ” be allowed to choose their own leaders through fair, internationally organized elections …”

    What a joke … how can that happen when neo cons don’t allow free and fair elections in US or UK …. MSM gives sanders seconds in air time and hours to neo cons …

  9. Brendan
    December 20, 2015 at 5:34 am

    I still don’t see any change in Obama’s position on Assad. He still says that he knows what the Syrian people want, namely to get rid of Assad. He also continues to refuse to give Syrians the choice to do that themselves in free and fair elections. He said the following only two days ago:

    “I think that Assad is going to have to leave in order for the country to stop the bloodletting and for all the parties involved to be able to move forward in a non-sectarian way. He has lost legitimacy in the eyes of a large majority of the country.”
    https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/12/18/press-conference-president-121815

    It’s true that John Kerry has been gradually moving closer to abandoning plans for toppling Assad, but as Secretary of State he is the one who has to deal with the negotiations and the reality of what is going on in the Middle East. Obama, on the other hand, is able to stick to his simple “Assad must go” message.

  10. Abbybwood
    December 20, 2015 at 6:19 am

    Just two days ago Mr. Assad and his wife attended a Christmas choral presentation at a Catholic church in Damascus:

    http://www.intifada-palestine.com/2015/12/bashar-al-assad-has-more-popular-support-than-the-western-backed-opposition-poll/

    According to this, Assad has more popular support than the “Western” backed opposition (McCain’s and Graham’s buddies).

  11. Antiwar7
    December 20, 2015 at 7:38 am

    Excellent article, but in describing the Syrian war dead, it forgot to mention the civilians killed by the rebels.

  12. Abe
    December 20, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    Saudi Arabia, Public Relations, and Jewish Ethics

    In March 2014, Richard Edelman, the President & Chief Executive Officer of the public relations company Edelman, delivered a speech to the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. The speech was titled “Leading a Jewish Family Business”. Here’s a little excerpt:

    “the soul of our firm is shaped by more than these principles, but values which can be defined as essentially Jewish.

    “For my father, being Jewish meant running an ethical business at any cost. (And to be clear, there are plenty of examples of unethical businessmen in our religion.) But my father deeply believed that being ethical in business was the most important manifestation of his Jewish faith.

    “I will never forget a senior Edelman executive telling me the story of a large foreign client visiting my dad in Chicago to congratulate him on winning his account.

    “In the course of the conversation, the client asked for a 5 percent commission for ‘delivering’ the business to Edelman. My father raised his voice, got deeply red and said, ‘Get out of my office before I kick you in the pants. You have some nerve coming in here shaking me down. We are a professional firm and you insult me deeply.’

    “My father believed in the ethical practice of public relations. No front organizations, no covert operatives spreading malicious rumors. Not every client deserved representation, he would say.”

    Examples of Edelman’s “ethical practice of public relations” include using front groups to help the American Petroleum Institute reduce the perceived environmental damage caused by oil companies. Edelman was commissioned by TransCanada Corporation to run campaigns supporting the Keystone XL pipeline, a proposed pipeline to carry tar sands oil from Canada to refineries on the Gulf coast of Texas. Edelman also developed a strategy for the proposed Energy East pipeline intended to carry tar sands oil through Québec, en route to a deep water harbor at Cacouna, Quebec for export abroad in supertankers and to refineries in New-Brusnwick. This resulted in a major controversy when documents leaked to Greenpeace revealed that Edelman had made unethical proposals to sway public opinion in favor of its client. TransCanada distanced itself from those proposals as soon as the “dirty tricks” were published in the press.

    The government of Saudi Arabia is a principal client of the Edelman firm.

    In October 2015, the Intercept revealed “Saudi Arabia Continues Hiring Spree of American Lobbyists, Public Relations Experts” with Edelman at the top of the list. Edelman’s contract calls for the firm to “engage with opinion influencers, establish media engagement opportunities for [sic] principal, and assist in opinion editorial placement”.

    And here’s Journalist Pepe Escobar’s reported on Riyadh’s latest PR maneuver:

    “NATO’s ‘new’ master plan, twisting and turning, still slouches towards the prime objective: ‘liberating’, Libya-style, northern Syria and allow it to be occupied either by “moderate rebels” or in the worst case scenario Syrian Kurds, which in theory would be easily manipulated.

    “ISIS/ISIL/Daesh would be in this case ‘contained’ (Obama administration lingo) not in eastern Syria but actually expelled to the Iraqi western desert, where they would solidify a Sunnistan. Erdogan also badly wants a Sunnistan, but his version is even more ambitious, including Mosul.

    “This is all happening while a gaggle of Syrian ‘moderate’ rebels met – of all places – in Wahhabi/Salafi-Jihadi Central Riyadh to choose a delegation of 42 people to ‘select the negotiators’ of future Syrian peace talks.

    “Once again they agreed ‘Assad must go’ even during the transition process. And that ‘foreign forces’ must leave Syria. Obviously that excludes the tsunami of mercenaries paid and weaponized by Riyadh alongside Doha and Ankara.

    “Any sound mind would ask how the House of Saud gets away with it: choosing who is a ‘moderate’ in a nation they are heavily involved in destabilizing. Simple: because Riyadh owns a gaggle of US lobbyists and handsomely rewards PR gurus such as Edelman, the largest privately owned PR agency on the planet.”

    NATO’s got a brand new (Syrian) bag
    By Pepe Escobar
    https://www.rt.com/op-edge/325845-natos-syrian-us-escobar/

    • Kiza
      December 21, 2015 at 3:54 am

      Apparently, after Kerry’s visit, US and Russia are writing up a list of the “moderate rebels” who are not to be bombed. They are selecting between all The Headchoppers, The Livereaters, The Childrapists, The Gasolinedousers, The Saringassers and so on that the Saudi money can buy.

  13. Abe
    December 20, 2015 at 4:16 pm

    Any sound mind would ask how the House of Zion gets away with it: claiming to be a ‘Jewish and democratic’ nation in a region whose democracies they are heavily involved in destabilizing. Simple: because Tel Aviv owns a gaggle of US lobbyists and handsomely rewards its neocon and liberal interventionist agents in the United States government and media, the largest war propaganda agency on the planet.

    • Abe
      December 20, 2015 at 11:29 pm

      There is a perverted logic to Israel’s repeated use of the Big Lie—Große Lüge […]

      By painting a picture of an army that never attacks civilians, that indeed goes out of its way to protect them, the Big Lie says Israelis are civilized and humane, and their [FILL-IN-THE-BLANK] opponents are inhuman monsters. The Big Lie serves the idea that the slaughter in [FILL-IN-THE-BLANK] is a clash of civilizations, a war between democracy, decency and honor on one side and Islamic barbarism on the other. And in the uncommon cases when news of atrocities penetrates to the wider public, Israel blames the destruction and casualties on [FILL-IN-THE-BLANK].

      George Orwell in his novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” called this form of propaganda doublethink. Doublethink uses “logic against logic” and “repudiate[s] morality while laying claim to it.” The Big Lie does not allow for the nuances and contradictions that can plague conscience. It is a state-orchestrated response to the dilemma of cognitive dissonance. The Big Lie permits no gray zones. The world is black and white, good and evil, righteous and unrighteous. The Big Lie allows believers to take comfort—a comfort they are desperately seeking—in their own moral superiority at the very moment they have abrogated all morality.

      The Big Lie, as the father of American public relations, Edward Bernays, wrote, is limited only by the propagandist’s capacity to fathom and harness the undercurrents of individual and mass psychology. And since most supporters of Israel do not have a desire to know the truth, a truth that would force them to examine their own racism and self-delusions about Zionist and Western moral superiority, like packs of famished dogs they lap up the lies fed to them by the Israeli government. The Big Lie always finds fertile soil in what Bernays called the “logic-proof compartment of dogmatic adherence.” All effective propaganda, Bernays wrote, targets and builds upon these irrational “psychological habits.”

      This is the world Franz Kafka envisioned, a world where the irrational becomes rational. It is one where, as Gustave Le Bon noted in “The Crowd: A Study of the Public Mind,” those who supply the masses with the illusions they crave become their master, and “whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim.” This irrationality explains why the reaction of Israeli supporters to those who have the courage to speak the truth—Uri Avnery, Max Blumenthal, Noam Chomsky, Jonathan Cook, Norman Finkelstein, Amira Hass, Gideon Levy, Ilan Pappé, Henry Siegman and Philip Weiss—is so rabid. That so many of these voices are Jewish, and therefore have more credibility than non-Jews who are among Israel’s cheerleaders, only ratchets up the level of hate.

      […]

      The Big Lie destroys any possibility of history and therefore any hope for a dialogue between antagonistic parties that can be grounded in truth and reality. While, as Hannah Arendt pointed out, the ancient and modern sophists sought to win an argument at the expense of the truth, those who wield the Big Lie “want a more lasting victory at the expense of reality.” The old sophists, she said, “destroyed the dignity of human thought.” Those who resort to the Big Lie “destroy the dignity of human action.” The result, Arendt warned, is that “history itself is destroyed, and its comprehensibility.” And when facts no longer matter, when there is no shared history grounded in the truth, when people foolishly believe their own lies, there can be no useful exchange of information.

      Why Israel Lies
      By Chris Hedges
      http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/why_israel_lies_20140803

      • Name
        December 21, 2015 at 11:44 am

        @Abe

        Fascinating post.

        You obviously spend a lot of time thinking about these issues.

    • Abe
      December 20, 2015 at 11:40 pm

      We invaded Iraq because a powerful group of pro-Israel ideologues — the neoconservatives — who had mustered forces in Washington over the previous two decades and at last had come into the White House were able to sell a vision of transforming the Middle East that was pure wishful hokum […]

      The evidence for this causation is at every hand.

      […] this goes back to rightwing Zionism. It goes back to Norman Podhoretz and Irving Kristol launching neoconservatism in the 1970s because they said that the dovish policies of the Democratic Party were a direct threat to Israel– an analysis continued in this day by Norman Braman, Marco Rubio’s leading supporter, who says that the U.S. must be a military and economic power in order to “sustain” Israel.

      An Economist blogger wrote several years ago that if you leave out the Zionism you won’t understand the Iraq war:

      “Yes, it would be ridiculous, and anti-semitic, to cast the Iraq war as a conspiracy monocausally driven by a cabal of Jewish neocons and the Israeli government. But it’s entirely accurate to count neoconservative policy analyses as among the important causes of the war, to point out that the pro-Israeli sympathies of Jewish neoconservatives played a role in these analyses, and to note the support of the Israeli government and public for the invasion. In fact any analysis of the war’s causes that didn’t take these into account would be deficient.”

      Many writers, including Joe Klein, Jacob Heilbrunn, and Alan Dershowitz, have said the obvious, that neoconservatism came out of the Jewish community. And I have long written that the Jewish community needs to come to terms with the degree to which it has harbored warmongering neoconservatives, for our own sake.

      But America needs to come to terms with the extent to which it allowed rightwing Zionists to dominate discussions of going to war. This matter is now at the heart of the Republican embrace of the war on Iran. There is simply no other constituency in our country for that war besides rightwing Zionists. They should be called out for this role, so that we don’t make that terrible mistake again. And yes: this issue is going to play out frankly in the 2016 campaign

      The U.S. is at last facing the neocon captivity
      By Philip Weiss
      http://mondoweiss.net/2015/05/facing-neocon-captivity

  14. Joe Tedesky
    December 21, 2015 at 12:22 am

    Seymour Hersh just wrote this;

    http://www.lrb.co.uk/v38/n01/seymour-m-hersh/military-to-military

    I won’t give away all the interesting parts of Hersh’s reporting, but I will tell you this, there are some good people in Washington. We just need to know who they are.

    • Abe
      December 21, 2015 at 3:55 am

      Barack Obama’s repeated insistence that Bashar al-Assad must leave office – and that there are ‘moderate’ rebel groups in Syria capable of defeating him – has in recent years provoked quiet dissent, and even overt opposition, among some of the most senior officers on the Pentagon’s Joint Staff. Their criticism has focused on what they see as the administration’s fixation on Assad’s primary ally, Vladimir Putin. In their view, Obama is captive to Cold War thinking about Russia and China, and hasn’t adjusted his stance on Syria to the fact both countries share Washington’s anxiety about the spread of terrorism in and beyond Syria; like Washington, they believe that Islamic State must be stopped. […]

      For someone on the inside, with access to the most secret intelligence, speaking openly and critically can be a career-ender. Informed dissent can be transmitted by means of a trust relationship between a reporter and those on the inside, but it almost invariably includes no signature. The dissent exists, however. […]

      The Joint Chiefs and the DIA were constantly telling Washington’s leadership of the jihadist threat in Syria, and of Turkey’s support for it. The message was never listened to. Why not?

      Military to Military
      By Seymour Hersh
      London Review of Books Vol. 38 No. 1 (7 January 2016), pages 11-14

    • F. G. Sanford
      December 21, 2015 at 4:26 am

      “The Joint Chiefs and the DIA were constantly telling Washington’s leadership of the jihadist threat in Syria, and of Turkey’s support for it. The message was never listened to. Why not?”

      Brzezinski. This scenario looks like a perfect negative mirror-image of the Kennedy Administration. But I’m guessing it’s probably better to just keep my opinions to myself.

      • Bob Van Noy
        December 21, 2015 at 10:18 am

        I agree with you completely FG Sanford, adding only that perhaps one has to experience this “stuff” in order to recognize it. I’m a dedicated reader but cannot write sufficiently, so what ever you do do not slow your commentary.
        This is yet another brilliant piece of reporting and commentary by Consortium News. Many thanks.

    • Joe Tedesky
      December 21, 2015 at 11:38 am

      “Later that year, Syrian intelligence foiled an attack by al-Qaida on the headquarters of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, and Assad agreed to provide the CIA with the name of a vital al-Qaida informant. In violation of this agreement, the CIA contacted the informant directly; he rejected the approach, and broke off relations with his Syrian handlers. Assad also secretly turned over to the US relatives of Saddam Hussein who had sought refuge in Syria, and – like America’s allies in Jordan, Egypt, Thailand and elsewhere – tortured suspected terrorists for the CIA in a Damascus prison.”
      Seymour Hersh 7 January 2026
      …………………………………………………………..
      Without out an explanation from the CIA, I thought when I read this, why would the CIA do that. Then, I read Hersh’s article a second time, only to realize how there are two factions of interested parties, with apparent different agendas, working against each other inside the U.S. Government. I also thought, of how this type of CIA chicanery, is exactly in line with how false flag patsies are too be made. Okay, I maybe taking this a little to far, but am I?

      If Hersh is to believed, then it becomes plain to see, who is behind this madness in the Middle East. I wonder who all profits from kick backs, for keeping the ISIS trade routes open.

      Note to Sam Parry; start a TV network which will aire the likes of Robert Parry, Seymour Hersh, Paul Craig Roberts, and countless others who report the truth. America needs you to do this.

  15. Abe
    December 21, 2015 at 3:36 pm

    In a January 2012 Salon interview to promote his book “Strategic Vision”, Zbig complained about Israel’s partisans in the United States. According to Brzezinski, the Obama administration “fumbled by getting outmaneuvered by the Israelis […] Domestic politics interceded: The Israelis have a lot of influence with Congress, and in some cases they are able to buy influence.”

    In September 2014, after the coup d’etat in Ukraine and the rise to prominence of ISIS, MSNBC interviewed Brzezinski. Noting that Zbig was about to attend a private dinner at the White House with Obama, Vice President Biden and top policy experts to discuss critical U.S. national security and foreign policy challenges:

    MSNBC: You’ve been a part of the foreign policy establishment for well over half a century. President Obama recently said that “if you watch the nightly news, it feels like the world is falling apart.” But, he said, “the world’s always been messy … we’re just noticing now in part because of social media.” Setting aside the optics of that statement, do you think there’s some truth to that? That today’s challenges are “not something that is comparable to the challenges we faced during the Cold War”? In other words, is the world a safer place today, despite the horrible foreign policy setbacks the U.S. has experience this summer?

    “We are facing a kind of dynamically spreading chaos in parts of the world.”
    Zbigniew Brzezinski
    Brzezinski: Let me answer the question this way. During the Cold War, we were always faced with the risk of a nuclear war. A nuclear war would produce momentous casualties almost instantly. For example, if there were a collision between America and the Soviet Union, within 24 hours more than 80 million people worldwide, and particularly in our respective societies, would be dead.

    This is not what we’re facing. But we are facing a kind of dynamically spreading chaos in parts of the world. Now in the Middle East, but that could spread to other portions of West Asia, to Central Asia, even into Russia, perhaps even into China. It could spread and is spreading somewhat into Africa, and so forth. And then we have this residual, late-Cold War – or Cold War revived – conflict with Russia, not directly by military force, but clearly overly the stability and security and freedom of Ukraine.

    MSNBC: Are those different events the result in some way of the U.S. not exerting its leadership? Is there some way we can solve those problems or are they outside our sphere of influence?

    Brzezinski: Well maybe alternatively, we exerted too much leadership. I was against the war in which the United States attacked Iraq in 2003. I thought it was fraudulent and it has produced a mess in Iraq, which continues to perplex and engage us. When we first went into Afghanistan after the al-Qaida attacks of 9/11, I told the secretary of defense myself that I fully supported the decision to go in and overthrow the Taliban and see if we can destroy al-Qaida. I did not feel we should stay there in order to promote democracy because I thought this would engage us in a prolonged and eventually self-destructive conflict.

    I think we made some errors. We were on top of the world by the beginning of this century. I think our position has dramatically declined. We’re still the strongest, but we’re not necessarily the most respected or the most legitimate leader as the United States historically was prior to the beginning of this century.

    “We were on top of the world by the beginning of this century. I think our position has dramatically declined. We’re still the strongest, but we’re not necessarily the most respected or legitimate.”
    Zbigniew Brzezinski
    MSNBC: How can the U.S. regain that stature and position? Is that possible?

    Brzezinski: Well to some extent it’s impossible because power is more decentralized now – China is certainly a more serious player, for example. But I think it can be regained to some extent by being steadfast, by being true to our principles, and by being cool-headed in what we do. In other words, don’t lapse into total self-isolationism – in effect, defeatism – but don’t become over-engaged militarily. Be very selective about how you do it, with whom you do it, and arrange for the heavy lifting to be done by the parties most directly concerned and most directly affected by the conflict.

    MSNBC: It seems like there’s a contradiction there between the U.S. exerting leadership – standing up for our values and moral vision for the world in a steadfast way – and the realist vision you also espoused, most particularly for Syria, where hundreds of thousands of people have died and the president has stood back. Do you think we made the right choice there in not getting involved earlier? Should we continue to be as uninvolved as possible?

    Brzezinski: I supported the president’s decision not to be involved because I didn’t feel that the parties that were trying to overthrow Assad were dedicated to the establishment of a democratic regime – they were even, in some respects, more fanatical on some issues than Assad.

    http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/zbigniew-brzezinski-isis-ukraine-and-the-future-american-power

    “Why?” asks Seymour Hersh.

    “Brzezinski” is part of the answer.

    Here’s a hint: The “family business” has its own concept of “leadership” and its own “Strategic Vision”.

  16. F. G. Sanford
    December 21, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    Max von Oppenheim, a German banker and amateur archaeologist was probably the first meddler in the Middle East to recognize that “weaponization” of Islam was a strategic possibility. Others refined the “art” during WWII and it was perfected by subsequent “practitioners”. A “Fuller” understanding of these techniques was cooked up by the CIA’s “Team B” which, using an Afghani named Hekmatyar, eventually morphed into Al Qaida. This is all very nebulous, and I’m leaving a lot out. Of course, nobody takes this stuff seriously anyway. But at some point, it’s necessary to understand what the term, “White Russian” refers to. It has nothing to do with “race”. These were the Russians who, whether for ideological reasons or motives of revenge, essentially signed on with the Nazis against the “red menace” of communism. The USA befriended a bunch of these people along with Gehlen’s Nazi intelligence apparatus after WWII. Some prominent Ukrainian exponents were openly serving in the Reagan administration while HW was cooking up his destabilization schemes in the CIA. A great example of a “White Russian” many would recognize is George de Mohrenschildt and his lesser known brother Dmitry, a US intelligence asset. Ideologically, Zbiggy is basically a “White Russian” of Polish extraction. Joe Tedesky, you hit the nail on the head. This is a double game. Back in Kennedy’s day, the CIA and the Joint Chiefs, inspired by their “White Russian” and German ideological informants, were teamed up against the Executive. Today, we’ve got elements of CIA and State teamed up against the Joint Chiefs and the DIA. But this time, the Executive has aligned itself with the CIA and State elements who are, “Shocked, shocked to learn that there are Islamic Fundamentalists and terrorists operating in this “establishment”! They are also, “Shocked, shocked to learn that there are Nazis in Ukraine”! But it’s all in good fun, just a way to keep that cold war military-industrial-defense-congressional perpetual war economy humming along smoothly. Kennedy was going to put a stop to that gravy train, and they obviously couldn’t let that happen. Thus, “negative mirror-image”.

    • Abe
      December 21, 2015 at 5:23 pm

      There was another gravy train that put a stop to Kennedy:

      As noted by Philip Weiss in “When a U.S. president demanded inspections of a nuclear facility in the Middle East (and failed)” http://mondoweiss.net/2015/07/president-inspections-facility

      In The Samson Option: Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy (1991), Seymour Hersh reports that Kennedy was dead-set against Israel getting the bomb and frequently pressured David Ben-Gurion, Eshkol’s predecessor, to agree to inspections at Dimona. Kennedy even sold out his concerns about Palestinian refugees’ return in order to gain concessions on Dimona– much to the consternation of the State Department. Hersh says that the Israelis misled American inspectors at the site, which had gone “critical” in 1962 with the help of the French. And some members of Congress undercut Kennedy’s policy in private communications with the Israelis.

      Lyndon Johnson succeeded Kennedy as president on November 22, 1963, of course. He was also opposed to Israel getting the bomb, Hersh says. “A nuclear Israel was unacceptable.” But Johnson was in the end more accommodating: “By the middle 1960s, the game was fixed: President Johnson and his advisers would pretend that the American inspections amounted to proof that Israel was not building the bomb, leaving unblemished America’s newly reaffirmed support for nuclear nonproliferation.”

      “Unlike Kennedy, Johnson was not eager for a confrontation,” Michael Karpin writes in The Bomb in the Basement. “He preferred compromise.” Israel achieved nuclear capability in 1966, he says.

      Both Karpin and Hersh attribute Johnson’s winking acceptance of Israel into the nuclear club to his sensitivity to the Jewish experience in the Holocaust and the effect of what both men call “the Jewish lobby.”

      • Joe Tedesky
        December 21, 2015 at 5:52 pm

        I don’t see LBJ being that compassionate to anyone, including Jews who suffered through the Holocaust. What I do see is a paranoia newly sworn into office President Johnson, taking every precaution to avoid someone exposing his part within the JFK assassins den. Wouldn’t you think, that with all of the Mafia’s involvement with the JFK assassination, that Myer Lansky had some great inside information. Would it be possible that the Israeli’s had first hand knowledge of every detail, that went into committing this terrible American coup? Another event that Johnson seemed to worry about, was Nixon’s backroom interference of the Paris Vietnam peace talks. There, I believe Johnson didn’t wish to disturb Richard Nixon, as to guard against Nixon’s ratting out LBJ, as to what really happened in Dallas on November 22, 1963. Further more, what made the Israeli’s feel so comfortable in regard to attacking the USS Liberty? Who’s balls were they squeezing?

        • Bob Van Noy
          December 22, 2015 at 7:58 am

          I think that you’re right on Joe Tedesky. The gaming and prostitution “business” was thrown out of Castro’s Cuba and was relocating into Las Vegas. Gaming money was rebuilding as best it could because it wasn’t exactly as laissez-faire as in Cuba. New associations were being formed every where as “special interests” all enveloped in a sort of secret collusion because of the assassination. This was the toxic mix that would wind through all of the sixties the seventies and even to this very day.

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