On Second Thought - April 2017

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Terrorist front group 'White Helmets' raises false flag

over gas attack in Idlib; Syria entirely without motive

Last week, the Trump administration announced it was abandoning a failed US policy of regime change in Syria. This week, however, the White House suddenly back-flipped, saying Syrian leader Bashar al Assad “must go”.

The dramatic U-turn in US policy was, of course, in reaction to the reported chemical weapons incident in Syria’s Idlib province on Tuesday morning in which over 80 people were allegedly killed. Among the dead apparently were some 30 children.

Such a vigorous contradictory response from the Trump administration is strongly suggestive that the incident was an orchestrated political stunt; carried out for the purpose of achieving that very outcome by the Syrian militants and their foreign sponsors. It wouldn’t be the first time such a false flag device has been attempted to influence US policy in Syria.

Within minutes of the alleged attack in Khan Sheikdoun, in Syria’s northern Idlib province, Western governments and media were rushing to blame the Syrian air force for dropping chemical weapons on the town. Such claims were based entirely on images and information released by the discredited so-called rescue group, the White Helmets, who are reportedly affiliated with the Nusra terror organization. There was no attempt at verification by Western outlets, just straight-to-screen broadcast.

Speaking in the White House Rose Garden on Wednesday, alongside Jordan’s King Abdullah, a visibly emotional Donald Trump lamented “innocent little babies” having been massacred.

“And I will tell you that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me, big impact. That was a horrible, horrible thing,” Trump said. “I’ve been watching it, and it doesn’t get any worse than that.”

The US president accused the Assad government forces of carrying out the attack, which he said “crossed many, many lines”.

Meanwhile, US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley openly accused Russia of being complicit in the alleged massacre. During a heated emergency meeting of the Security Council, Haley held up photographs purporting to show Syrian children dying from chemical weapons.

“How many children have to die before Russia cares?” asked the US ambassador. She also warned that Washington was prepared to use unilateral military action against the Syrian government if Russia “continued to shield” its Syria ally.

“When the United Nations consistently fails in its duty to act collectively, there are times in the life of states that we are compelled to take our own action,” Haley said.

Haley’s views on US military intervention were also echoed the same day by Vice President Mike Pence. He too accused Russia of complicity in the apparent killings and said that “all options were on the table” for his country’s response regarding Syria.

The rush to condemn was reflected in the hasty UN draft resolution drawn up by the US, Britain and France. Russia’s acting deputy ambassador Vladimir Safronkov noted that the entire Western position was based on discredited sources like the terrorist-linked White Helmets.

“Taking the White Helmets at face value is not professional and not serious,” said Safronkov. He also added that the Western position was driven by an ideological expedience for “regime change” in Syria.

The last major deadly incident in Syria allegedly involving chemical weapons was in August 2013, when hundreds of civilians, including children, apparently died from exposure to the nerve agent sarin.

As with this week’s incident, Western governments and media were quick to accuse Syrian armed forces of carrying out the supposed attack in East Ghouta, a militant-held suburb of capital Damascus. Horrific images of children gasping for air were likewise given saturated coverage by Western media outlets.

The then Obama administration asserted “conclusively” that the Assad government was guilty of “heinous crimes”. Washington was on the verge of taking unilateral military action because of “red lines crossed”. It was only due to Moscow’s last-minute diplomatic intervention in September 2013 that US military involvement was averted, when a deal was struck by which the Syrian government vowed to decommission its chemical weapons arsenal under the auspices of the UN-affiliated Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

The Assad government insisted back then that it did not carry out the East Ghouta attack even though it was willing to comply with the Russian-brokered decommissioning deal. It later emerged from investigative reports and Syrian testimonies that the East Ghouta chemical weapons massacre most likely was carried out by militants as a propaganda stunt aimed at forcing the Obama administration’s hand to act on its “red line” threats of military intervention in Syria against the Assad government.

This week, Damascus again categorically denied that its forces had used chemical weapons in Idlib province. The Syrian government said all such weapons had been disposed off under the 2013 disarmament.

Syrian foreign minister Walid Muallem said his country’s forces have never used chemical weapons nor ever would, even “against terrorists”.

So, what did happen in Idlib this week? Russian military spokesmen said that Syrian air strikes in the area may have struck a munitions depot used by the Nusra terror group for the manufacture of chemical weapons, resulting in the accidental release of toxic materials. The foreign-backed militants are known to have carried out several attacks involving chemical weapons in the past. It is thus plausible that such a depot existed in the militant-held town of Khan Sheikdoun.

Still, a more sinister possibility is that the militants used the cover of Syrian air strikes to stage a deadly release of chemicals, knowing full well the lethal consequences, with cameras at the ready.

Notably, the images and video footage released by the White Helmets “aid responders” show no sign that those suffering from chemical exposure were caught up in the aftermath of an air strike. The location indeed appears to be a depot, and the people appearing to administer aid and recording the video footage seem to be doing so with a strange air of calm deliberation.

At one point in the video footage, three semi-conscious adult males are dragged from prone positions on a floor and then propped up against a pillar. The “aid responders” then walk away, but the video footage of the “victims” continues to run. Is that the expected action of “humanitarian responders”?

Last week, the Trump administration announced at the UN that the removal of Syrian President Assad was “no longer a priority” as under Obama. That marked a significant shift from Washington pursuing regime change.

Days later, however, in the aftermath of the supposed chemical weapons atrocity in Idlib, the Trump administration is threatening to military action against Assad. Both Washington and the European Union have redoubled their calls for the “Assad regime to step down”.

Moreover, the Trump administration is blaming Russia for having complicity, and is uttering dark warnings to Moscow to “reconsider its support” for Assad.

US ambassador Nikki Haley asserted the alleged atrocity had “all the hallmarks” of the “Assad regime”.

What she really meant to say was “all the hallmarks” of a false flag propaganda stunt. A stunt in which the blood of “little babies” bemoaned by Trump is really on the hands of Western-backed militants. (More)

Is Putin the 'Preeminent Statesman' of Our Times?

A commentary from the political right by Patrick J. Buchanan

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of the new book The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority. To find out more about Patrick Buchanan and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators website at www.creators.com.

Friday 31 March 2017 "If we were to use traditional measures for understanding leaders, which involve the defense of borders and national flourishing, Putin would count as the preeminent statesman of our time.

"On the world stage, who could vie with him?"

So asks Chris Caldwell of the Weekly Standard in a remarkable essay in Hillsdale College's March issue of its magazine, Imprimis.

What elevates Putin above all other 21st-century leaders?

"When Putin took power in the winter of 1999-2000, his country was defenseless. It was bankrupt. It was being carved up by its new kleptocratic elites, in collusion with its old imperial rivals, the Americans. Putin changed that.

"In the first decade of this century, he did what Kemal Ataturk had done in Turkey in the 1920s. Out of a crumbling empire, he resurrected a national-state, and gave it coherence and purpose. He disciplined his country's plutocrats. He restored its military strength. And he refused, with ever blunter rhetoric, to accept for Russia a subservient role in an American-run world system drawn up by foreign politicians and business leaders. His voters credit him with having saved his country."

Putin's approval rating, after 17 years in power, exceeds that of any rival Western leader. But while his impressive strides toward making Russia great again explain why he is revered at home and in the Russian diaspora, what explains Putin's appeal in the West, despite a press that is every bit as savage as President Trump's?

Answer: Putin stands against the Western progressive vision of what mankind's future ought to be. Years ago, he aligned himself with traditionalists, nationalists and populists of the West, and against what they had come to despise in their own decadent civilization. (More)

Spring reflections on baseball

To link to the excitement you should pay attention

By Nigel Aplin
Sports Editor

American conservative journalist and political commentator George Will is a serious baseball fan and a life-long supporter of the Chicago Cubs, a team that last year won its first World Series championship since 1908. Will’s 1990 book Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball took a deep dive into the so-called “thinking man’s game” and it quickly became one of the most popular baseball books, occupying the New York Times list of non-fiction best-sellers for nine weeks following its publication.

In the book, Will addresses the common criticism that baseball is generally a slow-moving and boring spectator sport with long pauses and a lack of compelling action, at least compared to North America’s three other popular team sports. Will attributes this sentiment purely to a lack of attention on the part of those who make the claims. He says that for a fan who is truly paying attention, the situation on the diamond and therefore the strategic considerations for the pitcher, batter, base runners and both managers, changes with each pitch delivered as every baseball game presents a relentless intellectual challenge which last for two or three or sometimes even four hours. The pace of a baseball game is dizzying, Will explains, for those who are watching it carefully.

April has brought with it the start of the 2017 Major League Baseball (MLB) season. Six months from now, through 162 regular season games, each of the 30 MLB teams will have won at least a third of its games and each will have also lost a third. What they do with the remaining third will separate the playoff teams from those that will try again next season to become one of them. The best teams will win all of the remaining third of their games and the worst teams will lose all of them.  But, in the first few days of the new season, all teams have a shot at striking the elusive balance which combines pitching, defence, and hitting in the hopes of achieving success in the critical and decisive 54 games which are up for grabs.

What is it about the game of baseball that we find so fascinating and compelling? Why did George Will want to write a book about it? Baseball has a few things going for it that most other sports cannot touch. Here are a few that I think are important. (More)

Will Luis Almagro, Chief of Washinton-funded
Organization of American States  be Trumped?
By Joe Emersberger   

Friday 17 March 2017 — It is always possible to find a self-declared “leftist” or “progressive” somewhere to rally behind a cause of the far right, especially when that cause has U.S. government backing. Organization of American States (OAS), Chief Luis Almagro, the former ally of former Uruguayan President Pepe Mujica, has become a classic example. Almagro is, once again, trying to get Venezuela suspended from the OAS.

Reuters recently quoted a corporate consulting firm as follows:

"The OAS is still seen as a tool of U.S. diplomacy by some in the region, and U.S. policy toward Venezuela does not necessarily play well in Latin America, particularly at a time when U.S. policy toward Mexico threatens to create region-wide rifts." (More)

Nobody's stooge: Le Pen meets Putin

Shows 'French desire for détente with Russia'

Friday 24 March 2017 — Marine Le Pen has been demonized all through her career, so she is no stranger to criticism. Meeting Vladimir Putin is a gamble to attract voters outside her core support who want better relations with Russia, says political author Diana Johnstone.

The French National Front leader is in Moscow and has been meeting with President Putin, their first official face to face.

During the talks, Vladimir Putin stressed the importance of relations with France and said despite having the right to meet any potential candidate, the country has no intention of meddling in April's presidential election. (More)

Under Trump, Pentagon seizing

more control over fighting wars

Saturday 01 April 2017 (Associated Press) — Week by week, country by country, the Pentagon is quietly seizing more control over warfighting decisions, sending hundreds more troops to war with little public debate and seeking greater authority to battle extremists across the Middle East and Africa.

This week it was Somalia, where President Donald Trump gave the U.S. military more authority to conduct offensive airstrikes on al-Qaida-linked militants. Next week it could be Yemen, where military leaders want to provide more help for the United Arab Emirates' battle against Iranian-backed rebels. Key decisions on Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan are looming, from ending troop number limits to loosening rules that guide commanders in the field.

The changes in President Donald Trump's first two months in office underscore his willingness to let the Pentagon manage its own day-to-day combat. Under the Obama administration, military leaders chafed about micromanagement that included commanders needing approval for routine tactical decisions about targets and personnel moves.

But delegating more authority to the Pentagon — and combat decisions to lower level officers — carries its own military and political risks. Casualties, of civilians and American service members, may be the biggest. (More)

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