PUTIN READIES FOR WAR, COLD OR HOT

The Orbiting Eye takes note as Trump corrals his hawks into a war cabinet and Vladimir Putin sends out warning signals. Where will this end?

EVEN FROM a great height the Orbiting Eye’s vision is clouded by the flames and smoke rising from Planet Earth. Fissures are opening up across the tortured soil, a raft of plastic far bigger in area than many countries is floating in the oceans and toxins are sinking to the bottom of the deepest sea trench. We, the human species, seem to be at war with the planet itself, surely a suicidal war if ever there was one, along with war against ourselves.

BOLTONThe Orbiting Eye sees no attempt to put out these fires but only more fuel being thrown into the flames. To take one example, how else can the appointment of John Bolton as Donald Trump’s national security advisor be understood? What has “national security” to do with Mr Bolton?

The true connection is not “national security” but aggressive war. Mr Bolton was a founding member of the Project for the New American Century, the neo-conservative collective whose mandate called for widespread “regime change” in the Middle East and beyond. The process began with Afghanistan and was quickly succeeded by Iraq, where hundreds of thousands of civilians died as a result of the 1990-91 war and the decade of sanctions that followed.

Many of these deaths were caused by diseases spreading from the aerial destruction of infrastructure (sewerage and water purifying facilities). Other deaths and birth deformities were caused by the use of uranium-depleted ammunition. The death toll was particularly high among children aged under five.

As if Iraq had not taken enough punishment the US went to war again in 2003. Whereas Iraq had invited retaliation in 1990 by invading Kuwait, in 2003 there was no such justification. This was an outright war of aggression, launched on a platform of lies which the media gulped down, such a war being defined at the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal in 1945 as the “supreme international crime”. Half a million Iraqis are estimated to have died from “war related” causes just between 2003 and 2011, while, according to figures compiled and published by Nicolas Davis and Medea Benjamin in March this year, 2.4 million Iraqis have died since 2003.

Argue if you like that these figures are inflated but enough Iraqis have died, certainly well over one million, for their deaths to qualify as a major war crime and collectively as a crime against humanity. Steal a pocket handkerchief from the nearest Woolworths and the police will be called but no one responsible for these genocidal attacks on Iraq since 1990-1 has ever been punished – not Tony Blair, not George W. Bush and not the government ministers and media scribblers who supported these mass killings.

Now we have John Bolton, an ardent supporter of the war on Iraq and the advocate of military action against other targets. He has constantly called for “regime change” in Iran, a country which has not launched a war of aggression for more than two centuries, compared to the numberless wars and incursions launched by the US and Israel since 1945. Iran does not have nuclear weapons (unlike Israel) and is not developing them. The nuclear issue is no more than the pretext for the planned destruction of a country which stand in the way of US-Saudi-Israeli hegemony.

Mr Bolton was once (2005-6) the US ambassador, a body of which he once remarked: “The [UN] secretariat building in New York has 38 storeys. If you lost ten stories today it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.” On another occasion he even said” “There is no United Nations. There is an international community that occasionally can be led by the only power left in the world and that’s the United States, when it suits our interests and when we can get others to go along.”

His contempt for UN resolutions and laws falls into the same destructive category. He is a regular commentator on Fox News and is connected with right wing institutions such as the American Enterprise Institute and bodies even more right wing, such as the Gatestone Institution. His tendencies seem to be openly psychopathic. Such people were once called “hawks” but Mr Bolton is more of a vulture, currently hovering above what he hopes will be the next target.

pompeoMr Trump’s other recent appointments include Michael Pompeo as Secretary of State. Once the director of the CIA, Mr Pompeo has the same aggressive views on Iran, believing, along with John Bolton that the nuclear agreement signed with Iran in 2015 should be scrapped, something Israel has been campaigning for. It is doubtful whether Mr Trump or any of his senior officials have read through this agreement, which in fact gives the US a degree of control over Iran’s nuclear development that in many eyes is inconsistent with national sovereignty. However, as the Orbiting Eye has already pointed out in this article, the nuclear issue is simply a red herring, dragged over the path repeatedly to conceal the true motive behind the propaganda war, which is the destruction of the Islamic government in Tehran, whatever the human cost.

haspelgina_cia_leadThe third appointment leading to the conclusion that Mr Trump now has a war cabinet in place is the nomination of Ms Gina Haspel as the director of the CIA. This should not regarded as any more a triumph for feminism than the prominence of Rosa Klebb in the James Bond Movie From Russia with Love. Rosa dealt with her country’s enemies by lashing out at them with sharp steel-tipped shoes; Ms Haspel, as supervisor of the CIA’s “black” interrogation and torture site in Thailand in 2002, could choose from waterboarding, “rectal feeding’, locking suspected terrorists in coffin-sized or even smaller boxes and other “enhanced interrogation techniques. ” The torture at these sites was the precursor to the Abu Ghraib scandal of 2003. Ms Haspel illegally destroyed 92 videos of torture sessions at the Thailand “Cat’s Eye” site. Defending herself against accusations of committing war crimes, she said she was only obeying orders. Haven’t we all heard that somewhere before? Could it have been at Nuremberg?

skripalLike many others, the Orbiting Eye connects these appointments with Syria and the closing of “western” ranks against Russia following the poisoning in Britain of a former spy and his daughter, Sergei and Yulia Skripal. “Whose spy?” is the first question. Mr Skripal, a Russian intelligence agent, was a double agent, spying for Britain, and thus primarily a British spy. He was caught and jailed for treason in 2004 but released to Britain in 2010 as part of a spy exchange. Mr Skripal was of no further use to Russia but was obviously still useful to whoever it was decided to poison him and poor Yulia, who was presumably collateral damage, allegedly with the “Novichok” nerve agent.

There is no point in adding further to the speculation, beyond saying that, so far, speculation is all there is. Without the evidence, let alone the proof, the British government has blown the Skripal affair into a full-blown crisis with Russia. Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May, of whom it may be reasonably said that the confrontation with Russia is a convenient distraction from what appears to be her terminal domestic problems as leader, expelled 23 Russian diplomats. This was soon followed by the expulsion of 60 by the US, including 12 assigned to the Russian delegation at the UN, along with the closure of the Russian consulate at Seattle. Fourteen European countries (France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, the Czech republic, Croatia, Hungary and Rumania) immediately announced plans to expel a varying number of Russian diplomats. Me-too Australia is chucking out two Russians.

Whoever is benefitting from the poisoning of Mr Skripal, it is not Russia. It has no interest in this washed-up former spy and no reason for wanting to kill him. The benefits all go to those seeking to push the confrontation with Russia to an even more dangerous level. Bear in mind that there has been no evidence of Russian involvement in the Skripal affair, let alone of the accusation that Vladimir Putin himself ordered it.

boris jBritain’s foreign secretary, the “flaxen Saxon” Boris Johnson, said he had been told by someone at Britain’s Porton Downs chemical weapons research centre that Russia was the source of the nerve agent. Who that person was we don’t know, assuming that Mr Johnson was telling the truth. The true opinion from Porton Downs was revealed in a High Court hearing on an application to take more blood samples from the Skripals, when Justice Williams said samples had tested positive for the Novichok nerve agent “or something closely related to it”. This is the truth, not the claim of the flamboyant and forever publicity-seeking Boris Johnson. The scientist said to have developed the nerve agent, Vil Mirzayanov, published the formula in 2008 and says many countries could have samples and, specifically, that Britiah could have synthesised it. In any case, to identify it positively as Novichok surely means that Porton Downs must have had its own sample.

The anti-Russian campaign went into high gear after the Democrats lost the 2016 elections. No evidence has ever been delivered that Russia interfered in the US election but the accusation is still being repeated by Democrats who refuse to accept that people would not vote for Hillary Clinton because they didn’t like her and by the neo-conservatives because they have another weapon with which to attack their favourite target. The two camps have a mutual interest. We are back to the 1950s, when the tentacles of the communist octopus reached everywhere, when anyone who disagreed with “the west” had to be a Soviet tool; African leaders then and Hizbullah, Iran and Syria Russian “proxies” now.

The campaign against Russia is now beginning to look like a crusade, indicative of something far more ominous than simply who poisoned Mr Skripal and his daughter. “Deus vult! [God wills it]’, Pope Urban called to the crowd in the 11th century when launching the First Crusade. We have had other crusades very recently: John Foster Dulles and Joseph McCarthy’s crusade against communism in the 1950s; the crusade against terrorism launched after 9/11 and now the rapidly developing crusade against Russia and its allies born of a government-inspired media campaign.

Herdlike, the aroused mob is rushing to judgement, unaware of where this might lead, or, more accurately, where it is designed to lead them. It is regarded as deeply threatening in Moscow, where Mr Putin talked very pointedly recently of the capabilities of the newest Russian weaponry. Unlike the US, which has never experienced a foreign war on its soil and, except for a few missiles pointed in its direction from Cuba early in the 1960s, is not ringed by foreign military bases, Russia is hemmed in by US military bases.

Depending on how a base is defined, big or small, radar, missile “defence” or communications, the US has between 600 and 800 bases overseas, many in Europe (Greece, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Bulgaria, Kosovo and the UK) apart from its bases in Israel, the Persian Gulf and elsewhere (including Australia). By comparison Russia has nine overseas bases, mostly in the Caucasus or Central Asia. One is in Moldova, close to the Black Sea, another the air base at Incirlik in Turkey and since 2015, yet another air base at Kheimemim in Syria.

putinRussian apprehensions are born not just of the presence of these bases, or hostility as manifested in US intervention in Ukraine in 2013 but in its wartime experiences. About 26 million Russians, both soldiers and civilians, died in the Second World War. It was the Red Army that turned the war around, not General Montgomery’s campaigns in North Africa or the American-led landing in France. It was Russia that broke the back of Germany military power in a war that probably could have been avoided had Britain and France chosen to join the Soviet Union in a collective security pact against Hitler in the 1930s, at a time when he could have been stopped. The leftist republican government in Spain had already been betrayed and if Britain and France had one main reason for refusing to stand firm with the USSR, it was the hope that Hitler would turn to the east and destroy “bolshevism”. To their dismay, however, he turned west first. Now Mr Putin is seeing “western” forces being aligned against his country once again and the message he is sending is that if the US starts a war, Russia will fight for its life with everything it’s got.

Mr Putin is the son of a war veteran, born seven years after the “great patriotic war “ended. He knows how that war started and he is seeing the symptoms all over again. The anti-Russian propaganda campaign that was launched after the US elections, without so far producing any evidence that Russia interfered in the campaign, is a bit rich, anyway, if not priceless, considering the long history of US interference in elections held in other countries. If anything, Russia’s success in Syria has worsened the situation with the US. It is Russia and the Syrian army that have cleaned up the Islamic State in Syria and that are eliminating its equally vicious ideological clones across the country, disguised by the corporate media as “rebels” or “the opposition”.

The attention given to the “siege” of eastern Ghouta, in the Australian media and elsewhere, twisted the facts out of all recognition. This region, once the garden of Damascus, had been infiltrated and taken over by extremely violent armed groups, backed with arms and money from outside governments. There was no “siege”, only the ultimately successful attempt of the Syrian army to send these people on their way. Of course there was a humanitarian crisis, caused not by Syria but ultimately the governments that decided to wage war on Syria through armed proxies back in 2011, their attempt to secure UN Security Council for an air war along the lines of Libya having failed. Civilians die in wars, which is why people who wage or support aggressive wars need to be punished to the maximum limit, not given the freedom to raise money for their “faith foundation” (Tony Blair), to play golf (George W. Bush) or present their aggressive views on Fox television (John Bolton).

We have now been brought back to the brink of war as it was in the 1930s, the only difference being that the “democracies” are now behaving as recklessly and as brutally as the fascists did back then. Or would a better comparison would be 1914, when the Balkans tinderbox, and then Europe, was finally set alight by one spark, the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie. The Middle East now has a similar range of actors, powerful states and their clients, not always willing to do what they are told, and a host of small, vicious organisations capable of sparking a conflagration, to give some individuals and some governments the war they want.

How Australia responds is the last question to be asked here. Its delegate to the Human Rights Council in Geneva has recently sounded off against Syria and Russia, mentioning chemical weapons attacks, not one of which has ever been proved to be the work of the Syrian government or military. All the evidence points in the direction of the violent armed groups supported by outside governments behind the pretence that they are “moderates”, “rebels” or a “free” Syrian army. Australia has verbally supported the war on Syria and has even taken part in it, joining the aerial attack on the Syrian army position near Deir al Zor in 2016, in which perhaps 100 soldiers were killed.

Following the lead set by the US, Australia has now joined the anti-Russian Skripal campaign.

julie bishopStanding side by side like two owls on a fence, Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop opened up on Russian criminality, aggression and recklessness without presenting any evidence for what they were saying. It was all hot air. According to Mr Turnbull, “the brazen attack in Salisbury {England] was an attack on all of us”. Perhaps so, but the truth is that he doesn’t know who launched this attack. Mr Turnbull talked of “credible evidence” that Russia had undermined Brexit and had interfered in the Catalan referendum, in the French elections, in the US elections, when there is no credible evidence for any of this. It is all the product of anti-Russian propaganda. Mr Turnbull talked of Russia undermining the “rules-based international order”. Coming from a country which supported the rule-breaking wars on Iraq, Libya and Syria, not to mention wars going much further back, which between them have killed millions of innocent civilians, this was surely a bit rich.

On the basis of these unfounded allegations Mr Turnbull positioned Australia in the ranks of countries being led in the direction of confrontation and possibly war by a failing British Prime Minister, by an American President who has just been revealed as pulling down his pants in a hotel so an “adult movie” star could whack him on the bottom, by a known torturer now running the CIA, by a national security advisor of whom it has been said that “he never saw a war he didn’t like” and by Saudi Arabia and Israel, who have both been campaigning for a war on Iran.

In the name of crushing the brutal Islamic State, US forces have killed many thousands of civilians in Iraq and Syria. But the back-breaking work of crushing Islamic State has been done by Syrian and Iraqi forces, with air support from Russia. The US did not intervene to stop the sale of contraband oil by Islamic State in Turkey and did not intervene to stop Islamic state seizing Mosul and Palmyra. It has occupied north-eastern Syria with partition apparently in mind and has been retraining and rebranding members of the armed groups who have delivered death and destruction to Syria for almost eight years. Its presence in Syria is a standing violation of international law. It has not stepped back from its agenda, shared with Israel, of breaking up Syria and eventually confronting Iran. Further south, it continues to fund the Saudi war on Yemen, which so far has killed thousands of people and condemned tens of thousands of children to death by starvation.

On March 23, the US agreed to sell Saudi Arabia $1 billion worth of weaponry, including 6700 anti-tank missiles. The given reason for the transaction, according to the US State Department, was that it would “improve the security of a friendly country” which has been and continues to be “an important source” for political stability in the Middle East. In reality, no country, except perhaps for Qatar, has done more since 2011 to destroy political stability in the Middle East.

If there is a central reason for the cold war reignited against Russia, possibly to be followed by a hot war, it is that since its recovery after the collapse of the USSR, Russia is well on the way to recovery. Diplomatically, it has run rings around the US in recent years. It has triumphed in Syria where the US has flopped. It foiled US machinations in the Ukraine, reabsorbing the Crimea and thus Russia’s vital Black Sea naval facilities back into Russian sovereign territory. Mr Trump is no match for Mr Putin, but rather a comic book caricature by comparison, and no recent Secretary of State has been a match for Russia’s Sergei Lavrov. China and Russia are rising powers, “the west” and specifically the US are declining powers. Powerful states rarely accept their decline gracefully. They would rather go down fighting, which is why the US has its sights on Russia first and eventually on China, around which, like Russia, it has been gradually tightening a military noose.

billy hughesMr Turnbull could do worse than follow the advice of Billy Hughes in knowing where to draw the line. By the autumn of 1922, the Turkish nationalists had defeated all but one of their enemies, Britain. The British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, was prepared to go to war again with the Turks and appealed to the Commonwealth and Dominion countries for military support. New Zealand made a token commitment but all the others said no or ignored him.

Billy Hughes, the Australian Prime Minister, passed on the message through the Governor-General that “the Australian people are sick of war. In their view, war except in defence of vital interests, is not only a blunder but a crime … In a good cause we are prepared to venture our all … in a bad one not a single man.”