Why Obama’s assurance of ‘no boots on the ground’ isn’t so reassuring

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A U.S. Marine on patrol. (Rebecca Sell/For The Washington Post)

Rosa Brooks, a law professor at Georgetown University and a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, was an Obama administration appointee at the Defense Department from 2009 to 2011. She is married to an Army Special Forces officer.

Each time I hear President Obama assure us that there will be “no boots on the ground” in Iraq or Syria, I think of my husband’s Army boots, lying in a heap in the corner of the downstairs study. They’re covered in fine dust from his latest Middle East deployment, one that came nail-bitingly close to being extended by an unplanned stint in Iraq.

In the end, he wasn’t sent back to Iraq. He came home in July, though a last-minute change in assignments left most of his civilian clothes stranded in some Army transport netherworld. Deprived of his sneakers and sandals, he wore his Army boots pretty much everywhere this summer, even on playground outings with the kids. Watching grass stains from the local park gradually displace nine months of Kuwaiti dust gave me more happiness than I can say.

Even so, I can’t help feeling queasy every time I hear the president pledge that there will be “no boots on the ground” in America’s newest war. I wonder what that pledge really means — and just why we’re supposed to find it reassuring. It’s a pledge that seems to have everything to do with politics and little to do with the imperatives of strategy or security.

Here’s what “no boots on the ground” apparently doesn’t mean: It doesn’t mean that no U.S. troops will be sent to Iraq or Syria. Reportedly there are already 1,600 U.S. military personnel in Iraq. True, they’re present in an “advisory” role, not in a combat role — but surely one lesson of Iraq and Afghanistan is that combat has a habit of finding its way to noncombat personnel. Enemy snipers and IEDs don’t much care about a soldier’s mission or occupational specialty, and you can bet that fighters of the self-proclaimed Islamic State would be content with the heads of a few American advisers.

It’s also hard to know what publicly reported troop numbers really mean. When the Pentagon issues a Boots on the Ground report (known colloquially as a “BOG report”), it often excludes military personnel on “temporary duty” in combat areas, even though temporary duty may mean an assignment spanning five or six months. Similarly, Special Operations personnel assigned to work under CIA auspices are often left out of the BOG numbers. This makes it hard to know just who’s being counted when officials say there are 1,600 military personnel in Iraq.

“No boots on the ground” also ignores the many nonmilitary American boots (and shoes and sandals) present in Iraq and Syria. Our Baghdad embassy personnel presumably wear some kind of footwear, as do thousands more civilians working as U.S. government contractors in Iraq. In both Iraq and Syria, scores of American civilians also work for nongovernmental organizations and humanitarian aid groups.

The Pentagon keeps careful count of dead and wounded U.S. troops, but the government doesn’t systematically track dead or injured civilians or contractors (many of whom, of course, are U.S. military veterans). Though few Americans know it, there were often more contractors working for the U.S. government on the ground than there were U.S. troops at the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and some estimates suggest that there were as many U.S.-employed contractors who died in those conflicts as there were U.S. troops killed.

Cynics might even suspect that this heavy reliance on contractors was part of an effort to keep those BOG numbers down while outsourcing military risk. After all, no one likes high BOG numbers — the very acronym is suggestive of that most dreaded military outcome, the “quagmire.”

If “no boots on the ground” means playing games with numbers and offloading military risk onto U.S. government civilians and contractors, we should take little solace in presidential reassurances.

And we should feel even less comfort if “no boots on the ground” ends up putting vulnerable local civilians at risk. Remember Kosovo? President Bill Clinton’s refusal in 1999 to put U.S. troops on the ground forced us to rely solely on airstrikes to prevent Serbian ethnic cleansing. To further minimize any risk to U.S. military personnel, we mainly flew sorties at a safe 15,000 feet above the ground. This worked out well for us: Aside from two Americans killed in a helicopter accident in Albania, there were no U.S. fatalities in the 78-day air campaign. It worked out less well for some of the civilians we were trying to protect; in several cases, for instance, NATO pilots mistook convoys of refugees for troop transports, causing scores of civilian deaths.

The primary goal of the current U.S. airstrikes in Syria and Iraq isn’t civilian protection, but Obama has suggested that this is at least a secondary motivation. In his speech this past week to the U.N. General Assembly, for instance, he asserted that the Islamic State “has terrorized all who they come across in Iraq and Syria. Mothers, sisters and daughters have been subjected to rape as a weapon of war. Innocent children have been gunned down. . . . Religious minorities have been starved to death. In the most horrific crimes imaginable, innocent human beings have been beheaded. . . . The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force. So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.”

It’s hard to argue with the importance of dismantling a “network of death,” but no matter how careful we are, U.S. airstrikes in Syria and Iraq will also end up killing some innocent civilians. Without eyes and ears on the ground, we’re more likely to make tragic targeting mistakes. We have to hope we’ll do more good than harm, but it’s hard to feel confident of that.

Numerous respected military and defense leaders — from Army Gen. Martin Dempsey , current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to retired defense secretary Robert Gates — have argued in recent weeks that ground troops will probably be required if our strategy is to be effective. So far, events seem to be proving them right: In Iraq, seven weeks of airstrikes have done little to push Islamic State fighters out of the territories they control, despite close U.S. coordination with Iraqi army units. In Syria, we have no similar local force with which to coordinate, creating a risk that U.S. airstrikes will increase the chaos without fundamentally reducing the threat to local civilians — or, in the longer term, to the United States.And that’s most worrisome of all — the possibility that our insistence on “no boots on the ground” also offloads present risks onto the future. Relying on airstrikes alone may merely prolong a bloody and inconclusive conflict, or strengthen other actors who are just as brutal as Islamic State fighters, from the regime of Bashar al-Assad to the al-Qaeda-linked rebels of Jabhat al-Nusra.Insisting that we’ll never commit U.S. troops to this fight plays right into every jihadist narrative, reinforcing America’s image as an arrogant but cowardly nation — happy to drop bombs from a distance but unwilling to risk the lives of our troops. Each time we reinforce that narrative, we give jihadist recruiting another big boost.

 

For a decade, we’ve relied on drone strikes as a top counterterrorism tool in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, but a few thousand dead terrorism suspects later, it’s far from clear that we’ve made ourselves safer. If anything, the global jihadist movement appears to have gained strength. As a former Defense Intelligence Agency director, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, recently noted: “In 2004, there were 21 total Islamic terrorist groups spread out in 18 countries. Today, there are 41 Islamic terrorist groups spread out in 24 countries.” Ultimately, our efforts to destroy the Islamic State from afar may similarly spark the creation of even more jihadist groups.

“I will not commit you . . . to fighting another ground war in Iraq,” Obama told troops at Central Command headquarters this month. I appreciate his desire to do right by America’s military personnel: My husband’s boots, like those of so many other members of the armed forces, have already gathered too much dust in too many dangerous places, over too many years. Right now, I want those boots to stay exactly where they are: here, at home.

But I don’t want to trade the safety of U.S. troops today for the safety of our children tomorrow. If Obama’s promise of “no boots on the ground” means we’ll be fighting a war of half-measures — a war that won’t achieve our objectives and that may increase the long-term threat — I’m not sure, in the end, that it’s a promise I want him to keep.

Putin: Downing of Russian jet over Syria stab in the back by terrorist accomplices

2713698 10/07/2015 A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 lands at the Hmeimim air base in Syria. Dmitriy Vinogradov/Sputnik

2713698 10/07/2015 A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 lands at the Hmeimim air base in Syria. Dmitriy Vinogradov/Sputnik

 

Turkey backstabbed Russia by downing the Russian warplane and acted as accomplices of the terrorists, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.

“This incident stands out against the usual fight against terrorism. Our troops are fighting heroically against terrorists, risking their lives. But the loss we suffered today came from a stab in the back delivered by accomplices of the terrorists,” Putin said.

Objective monitoring data confirmed no attempts of Turkish plane to establish communication or visual contact with Rus crew

 

Жители столицы провели митинг протеста у посольства Турции в Москве

 

Follow LIVE UPDATES on Russian warplane shot down at Syria-Turkey border

Putin said the plane was hit by a Turkish warplane as it was traveling at an altitude of 6000 meters about a kilometer from the Turkish border. It was hit by an air-to-air missile launched by a Turkish F-16 jet. The crash site is four kilometers from the border. The plane posed no threat to Turkish national security, he stressed.

Putin said the plane was targeting terrorist targets in the Latakia province of Syria, many of whom came from Russia.

Russia has for a long time been aware of oil going from Syria under the control of terrorists to Turkey, Putin said. The money finances terrorist groups.

IS has big money, hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars, from selling oil. In addition they are protected by the military of an entire nation. One can understand why they are acting so boldly and blatantly. Why they kill people in such atrocious ways. Why they commit terrorist acts across the world, including in the heart of Europe,” the Russian leader said.

The downing of the Russian warplane happened despite Russia signing an agreement with the US to prevent such incidents in Syria, Putin stressed. Turkey claims to be part of the US-led coalition fighting against IS in Syria, he added.

The incident will have grave consequences for Russia’s relations with Turkey, Putin warned.

We have always treated Turkey as not only a close neighbor, but also as a friendly nation,” he said. “I don’t know who has an interest in what happened today, but we certainly don’t.”

The fact that Turkey did not try to contact Russia in the wake of the incident and rushed to call a NATO meeting instead is worrisome, Putin said. It appears that Turkey want NATO to serve the interests of IS, he added.

A Clinton Story Fraught With Inaccuracies: How It Happened and What’s Next?

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Make no mistake. A Clinton presidency would be disastrous – the worst of all possible deplorable choices, none worthy of any public office, all aspirants beholden to wealth, power and privilege exclusively.

 

By Margaret Sullivan – Public Editor’s Journal

July 27, 2015 10:00 am

Updated: July 28, 2015 | The story certainly seemed like a blockbuster: A criminal investigation of Hillary Rodham Clinton by the Justice Department was being sought by two federal inspectors general over her email practices while secretary of state.

It’s hard to imagine a much more significant political story at this moment, given that she is the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination for president.

The story a Times exclusive — appeared high on the home page and the mobile app late Thursday and on Friday and then was displayed with a three-column headline on the front page in Friday’s paper. The online headline read “Criminal Inquiry Sought in Hillary Clinton’s Use of Email,” very similar to the one in print.

But aspects of it began to unravel soon after it first went online. The first major change was this: It wasn’t really Mrs. Clinton directly who was the focus of the request for an investigation. It was more general: whether government information was handled improperly in connection with her use of a personal email account.

Much later, The Times backed off the startling characterization of a “criminal inquiry,” instead calling it something far tamer sounding: it was a “security” referral.

From Thursday night to Sunday morning – when a final correction appeared in print – the inaccuracies and changes in the story were handled as they came along, with little explanation to readers, other than routine corrections. The first change I mentioned above was written into the story for hours without a correction or any notice of the change, which was substantive.

And the evolving story, which began to include a new development, simply replaced the older version. That development was that several instances of classified information had been found in Mrs. Clinton’s personal email – although, in fairness, it’s doubtful whether the information was marked as classified when she sent or received those emails. Eventually, a number of corrections were appended to the online story, before appearing in print in the usual way – in small notices on Page A2.

But you can’t put stories like this back in the bottle – they ripple through the entire news system.

So it was, to put it mildly, a mess. As a result, I’ve been spending the last couple of days asking how this could happen and how something similar can be prevented in the future. I’ve spoken to the executive editor, Dean Baquet; to a top-ranking editor involved with the story, Matt Purdy; and to the two reporters, Matt Apuzzo and Michael S. Schmidt.

Meanwhile, I heard from readers, like Maria Cranor who wanted clarification and explanation on The Times’s “recent, and mystifying, coverage of the HRC emails. It appears that your reporters relied on leaks from the Gowdy committee to suggest that Clinton was involved in some kind of criminal malfeasance around the emails. The subsequent walk backs have not been effective, or encouraging. Please help us retain our wavering confidence in the Times’ political coverage!” (Her reference is to the Republican congressman, Trey Gowdy.)

Another reader, Paul Kingsley, demanded a refund for his Friday paper. “We all deserve one,” he wrote to me. And, complaining about the lack of transparency and the errors, he added:

1) please repost the original reporting;
2) provide an explanation as to how it made it to press and what was wrong.
3) what are you going to do to prevent such inaccurate bias in the future?
4) are you going to minimize using unnamed sources?

The story developed quickly on Thursday afternoon and evening, after tips from various sources, including on Capitol Hill. The reporters had what Mr. Purdy described as “multiple, reliable, highly placed sources,” including some “in law enforcement.” I think we can safely read that as the Justice Department.

The sources said not only was there indeed a referral but also that it was directed at Mrs. Clinton herself, and that it was a criminal referral. And that’s how The Times wrote it initially.

“We got it wrong because our very good sources had it wrong,” Mr. Purdy told me. “That’s an explanation, not an excuse. We have an obligation to get facts right and we work very hard to do that.”

By Friday afternoon, the Justice Department issued a terse statement, saying that there had been a referral related to the potential compromise of classified information, stating clearly that it was not a criminal referral. Mr. Purdy says he remains puzzled about why the initial inaccurate information was confirmed so clearly. (Update: Other news outlets also got confirmation of the criminal referral as they followed The Times’s story. They did not report, as an earlier version of this post suggested, that she herself was the target of the referral.)

There are at least two major journalistic problems here, in my view. Competitive pressure and the desire for a scoop led to too much speed and not enough caution. Mr. Purdy told me that the reporters, whom he described as excellent and experienced, were “sent back again and again” to seek confirmation of the key elements; but while no one would discuss the specifics of who the sources were, my sense is that final confirmation came from the same person more than once.

The reporters and editors were not able to see the referral itself, Mr. Purdy said, and that’s the norm in such cases; anything else would be highly unusual, he said. So they were relying on their sources’ interpretation of it. All at The Times emphasized that the core of the initial story – the request for an investigation – is true, and that it was major news, as was the later development.

Hindsight’s easy, but I’ll take a stab at it anyway. Here’s my take:

First, consider the elements. When you add together the lack of accountability that comes with anonymous sources, along with no ability to examine the referral itself, and then mix in the ever-faster pace of competitive reporting for the web, you’ve got a mistake waiting to happen. Or, in this case, several mistakes.

Reporting a less sensational version of the story, with a headline that did not include the word “criminal,” and continuing to develop it the next day would have been a wise play. Better yet: Waiting until the next day to publish anything at all.

Losing the story to another news outlet would have been a far, far better outcome than publishing an unfair story and damaging The Times’s reputation for accuracy.

What’s more, when mistakes inevitably happen, The Times needs to be much more transparent with readers about what is going on. Just revising the story, and figuring out the corrections later, doesn’t cut it.

Mr. Baquet, who is a former Times Washington bureau chief, told me Sunday by phone that he faults himself on this score, and he would do it differently now.

“We should have explained to our readers right away what happened here, as soon as we knew it,” he said. That could have been in an editor’s note or in a story, or in some other form, he said.

“The readers of The New York Times got whipsawed,” by all the conflicting reports and criticism, he said.

He agreed, as Mr. Purdy did, that special care has to come with the use of anonymous sources, but he believes that the errors here “may have been unavoidable.” And Mr. Purdy said that he thought The Times probably took too long to append a correction in the first instance.

But, Mr. Baquet said, he does not fault the reporters or editors directly involved.

“You had the government confirming that it was a criminal referral,” Mr. Baquet said. “I’m not sure what they could have done differently on that.”

None of this should be used to deny the importance of The Times’s reporting on the subject of Mrs. Clinton’s email practices at the State Department, a story Mr. Schmidt broke in March. Although her partisans want the focus shifted to these errors, the fact remains that her secret email system hamstrung possible inquiries into her conduct while secretary of state both by the news media and the public under the Freedom of Information Act and by Congress. And her awarding to herself the first cull of those emails will make suspicion about what they contained a permanent part of the current campaign.

Nevertheless, the most recent story is both a messy and a regrettable chapter. It brings up important issues that demand to be thought about and discussed internally with an eye to prevention in the future.

Mr. Baquet and Mr. Purdy said that would happen, especially on the issue of transparency to readers. In my view, that discussion must also include the rampant use of anonymous sources, and the need to slow down and employ what might seem an excess of caution before publishing a political blockbuster based on shadowy sources.

I’ll summarize my prescription in four words: Less speed. More transparency.

After all, readers come to The Times not for a scoop, though those can be great, but for fair, authoritative and accurate information. And when things do go wrong, readers deserve a thorough, immediate explanation from the top. None of that happened here.

(Update: An editors’ note, explaining the errors and stating that corrections should have been handled differently, was published late Monday, and appeared in Tuesday’s paper on page A2.)

“Terrorist International” Takes Shape … Against Russia

Theme: US NATO War Agenda

russian-air-force-400x266On October 1, Turkey and six other countries of the US-led coalition published a joint declaration expressing concern over Russia Air Force strikes against the militants in Syria. The signatories include the United States of America (as expected), the monarchies of Persian Gulf (Saudi Arabia and Qatar that were also expected to join), as well as Great Britain, Germany and France.

The statement actually does not say anything extraordinary. Russia stole the initiative from the West. Instead of following the example of «anti-terrorist coalition» and delivering strikes against Syria’s government forces (which together with Kurds conduct combat actions against the militants of so-called Islamic State), Russia bombed the positions of the terrorists. It allowed the legitimate Syrian government to regroup forces, get a break and finally launch a ground offensive to clear the territory from the terrorist plague.

The expression of concern by the United States is logical and natural: Washington has spent great effort to train the «moderate» Syrian opposition (which mysteriously has turned into a source of weapons and manpower for «immoderate» groups). The start of the Russian operation may incur direct financial losses, let alone damage the image of the US.

There is nothing surprising in the fact that the monarchies of Persian Gulf – Saudi Arabia and Qatar – were eager to sign the statement. One may forget what country Osama bin Laden and the majority of terrorists, who seized the aircraft on September 11, 2001, came from. But it’s impossible to reject the fact that the Gulf monarchies (no matter all the real or imaginary contradictions and disagreements dividing them) are the main sponsors of major terrorist groups operating in the Greater Middle East – from Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and, especially, in Pakistan. In case of Saudi Arabia the overthrow of Bashar Assad is just the first step on the way to do away with Iran, its main opponent in the region.

It’s easy to explain why the declaration was initiated by Turkey. Ankara views the Islamic State as the only force able to nip in the bud the aspiration of Kurds, the divided people, for statehood. It makes pale such things of ‘little importance’ like cheap oil exported by militants from Iraq and Syria with Turkey being the main customer.

It’s worth to mention the position of Europe. The fact that London signed the declaration can be explained by the inability of the 51st US state to stop playing the role of American poodle on a leash. It obediently dances to the US tune. The participation of France and Germany seems to be a bit irrational.

So many things have happened in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Berlin and Paris could have realized that the events seemingly not interconnected meet the logic of US strategy aimed at creating an axis of instability. Its only goal is to preserve the unipolar world where West Europe plays the role of a passive satellite, not an independent actor.

The events in Ukraine occurred exactly when a Europe-Russia energy alliance started to loom and the US-led talks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership got stalled. Just a coincidence, of course.

All these events let the United States to partially achieve the main goal – it has succeeded in driving a wedge between Europe and Russia, but the talks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership did not make much progress. The United States had another ace up its sleeve. The civil war in Syria gave rise to the massive migrant flows threatening the very foundation of the European civilization and making European allies meekly ask the big brother overseas for help.

Russia’s resolute actions in Syria leave no chance for these plans. Supposedly, Europeans should breathe a sigh of relief. But it has not happened as yet.

What is the reason? Has the habit to snap to attention become so deeply enrooted? Have the Europeans left any thoughts about having a choice? Some analysts believe that the US National Security Agency has acquired serious compromising material to blackmail European leaders into agreement with Washington.

The hope is still looming that after some time Europe will realize where its real interests lie. The abovementioned declaration of the seven looks more like a creation of a new instrument of Washington. This time it has the form of an international alliance to support terrorists of the so-called Islamic State.

Video and Audio of Pilots Who Bombed Hospital in Afghanistan

I [WE] want the video and audio recordings of every bombing of the past 14 years. I[WE] want Youtube and Facebook and Twitter full, not just of racist cops murdering black men for walking or chewing gum, but also of racist pilots (and drone “pilots”) murdering dark-skinned men, women, and children for living in the wrong countries. ~ David Swanson,

 

Region: Asia
In-depth Report: AFGHANISTAN

 

medicins-sans-frontieres-logoThere is video and audio. It exists. The Pentagon says it’s critically important. Congress has asked for it and been refused. WikiLeaks is offering $50,000 to the next brave soul willing to be punished for a good deed in the manner of Chelsea Manning, Thomas Drake, Edward Snowden, and so many others. You can petition the White House to hand it over here.

The entire world thinks the U.S. military intentionally attacked a hospital because it considered some of the patients enemies, didn’t give a damn about the others, and has zero respect for the rule of law in the course of waging an illegal war. Even Congress members think this. All the Pentagon would have to do to exonerate itself would be to hand over the audio and video of the pilots talking with each other and with their co-conspirators on the ground during the commission of the crime — that is, if there is something exculpatory on the tapes, such as, “Hey, John, you’re sure they evacuated all the patients last week, right?”

All Congress would have to do to settle the matter would be to take the following steps one-at-a-time until one of them succeeds: publicly demand the recordings; send a subpoena for the recordings and the appearance of the Secretary of “Defense” from any committee or subcommittee in either house; exercise the long dormant power of inherent contempt by locking up said Secretary until he complies; open impeachment hearings against both the same Secretary and his Commander in Chief; impeach them; try them; convict them. A serious threat of this series of steps would make most or all of the steps unnecessary.

Since the Pentagon won’t act and Congress won’t act and the President won’t act (except by apologizing for having attacked a location containing white people with access to means of communication), and since we have numerous similar past incidents to base our analysis on, we are left to assume that it is highly unlikely that the hidden recordings include any exculpatory comments, but more likely conversation resembling that recorded in the collateral murder video (“Well it’s their fault for bringing their kids into a battle.”)

There isn’t actually any question that the U.S. military intentionally targeted what it knew to be a hospital. The only mystery is really how colorful, blood-thirsty, and racist the language was in the cockpit. Left in the dark, we will tend to assume the worst, since past revelations have usually measured up to that standard.

For those of you working to compel police officers in the United States to wear body cameras, it’s worth noting that the U.S. military already has them. The planes record their acts of murder. Even the unmanned planes, the drones, record video of their victims before, during, and after murdering them. These videos are not turned over to any grand juries or legislators or the people of the “democracy” for which so many people and places are being blown into little bits.

Law professors that measure up to the standards of Congressional hearings on kill lists never seem to ask for the videos; they always ask for the legal memos that make the drone murders around the world part of a war and therefore acceptable. Because in wars, they imply, all is fair. Doctors Without Borders, on the other hand, declares that even in wars there are rules. Actually, in life there are rules, and one of them is that war is a crime. It’s a crime under the U.N. Charter and under the Kellogg-Briand Pact, and when one mass-murder out of millions makes the news, we ought to seize that opportunity to draw attention, outrage, and criminal prosecution to all the others.

I don’t want the video and audio recordings of the hospital bombing. I want the video and audio recordings of every bombing of the past 14 years. I want Youtube and Facebook and Twitter full, not just of racist cops murdering black men for walking or chewing gum, but also of racist pilots (and drone “pilots”) murdering dark-skinned men, women, and children for living in the wrong countries. Exposing that material would be a healing act beyond national prejudice and truly worthy of honoring Doctors Without Borders.

RT – Syrian armed forces launch large-scale offensive against ISIS – Syrian General Staff

RT NEWS
Published time: 8 Oct, 2015 07:13
Edited time: 8 Oct, 2015 12:52

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Multiple rocket launchers Grad fire at positions of ISIS militants near the border between Homs and Hama Governorates, Syria. © Michael Alaeddin / RIA Novosti

 

The Syrian Army announced a large-scale offensive aimed at retaking several key cities and regions from terrorist forces after a week-long bombing campaign by Russia targeting the jihadists.

The government forces “have been keeping the initiative for several years,” said General Ali Abdullah Ayyoub, the head of the Syrian General Staff, announcing the offensive. The offensive was made possible by the effort made by Russia in supporting the Syrian government militarily, Ayyoub said.

“The airstrikes of the Russian Air Force have damaged the capabilities of the international terrorist organization Islamic State and other groups,” the general said.

READ MORE: Less talk, more action: Russian jets destroy ISIS HQs, tanks, munition depots – all in just 1 week

Russian warplanes began attacking terrorist targets in Syria last week, hitting over 100 targets throughout the country. According to Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, Russia “has produced significant results in several days that greatly surpass those achieved by the [US-led anti-ISIS] coalition in over a year.”

 

Syria: Assad’s ground troops launch offensive against IS in Hama and Idlib

 

 

Earlier, local media reported that government forces were deployed in several Syrian provinces with the biggest operation taking place in Hama, 200 kilometers north of the capital, Damascus. Lebanese TV channel Al-Manar said the Syrian army group in Hama advanced some 50 kilometers on Wednesday, taking several towns and strategically important mountain strongholds from militants of the Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, and other terrorist groups operating in the area.

Syrian government forces also went on the offensive in the Idlib province.

The U.S. Is Destroying Europe

 

europe-usa-eu-flags-400x199In Libya, Syria, Ukraine, and other countries at the periphery or edges of Europe, U.S. President Barack Obama has been pursuing a policy of destabilization, and even of bombings and other military assistance, that drives millions of refugees out of those peripheral areas and into Europe, thereby adding fuel to the far-rightwing fires of anti-immigrant rejectionism, and of resultant political destabilization, throughout Europe, not only on its peripheries, but even as far away as in northern Europe.

Shamus Cooke at Off-Guardian headlines on 3 August 2015, “Obama’s ‘Safe Zone’ in Syria Intended to Turn It into New Libya,” and he reports that Obama has approved U.S. air support for Turkey’s previously unenfoceable no-fly zone over Syria. The U.S. will now shoot down all of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s planes that are targeting the extremist-Muslim groups, including ISIS, that have taken over huge swaths of Syrian territory.

Cooke reports:

Turkey has been demanding this no-fly zone from Obama since the Syrian war started. It’s been discussed throughout the conflict and even in recent months, though the intended goal was always the Syrian government. And suddenly the no-fly zone is happening — right where Turkey always wanted it — but it’s being labeled an ‘anti-ISIS’ safe zone, instead of its proper name: ‘Anti Kurdish and anti-Syrian government’ safe zone.

The New York Times reported on July 27th, that,

“the plan calls for relatively moderate Syrian insurgents to take the territory, with the help of American and possibly Turkish air support.”

However, the Times, stenographically reporting (as usual) from and for their U.S. Government sources (and so propagandizing for the U.S. Government), fails to define “relatively moderate,” but all of the “relatively moderate insurgent” groups in Syria cooperate with ISIS and help them to find and decapitate, or sometimes hold for ransoms, any non-Muslims there. Under Assad, Syria has been a non-clerical state, and has enjoyed freedom of religion, but all of the Syrian opposition to Assad’s rule is alien to that. The U.S. is now, even more clearly than before, anti-Assad, pro-Islamist.

Seymour Hersh reported in the London Review of Books on 17 April 2014, that the Obama Administration’s Libyan bombing campaign in 2011 was part of a broader program to bring sarin gas from Libya to the al-Nusra Front in Syria, in order to help produce a gas-attack upon civilians, which the U.S. Administration could then blame upon Assad, as being an excuse to bomb there just as Obama had already so successfully done in Libya. Both dictators, Gaddafi and Assad, were allied with Russia, and Assad especially has been important to Russia, as a transit-route for Russia’s gas supplies, and not for Qatar’s gas supplies — Qatar being the major potential threat to Russia’s status as the top supplier of gas into Europe.

Obama’s top goal in international relations, and throughout his military policies, has been to defeat Russia, to force a regime-change there that will make Russia part of the American empire, no longer the major nation that resists control from Washington.

Prior to the U.S. bombings of Libya in 2011, Libya was at peace and thriving. Per-capita GDP (income) in 2010 according to the IMF was $12,357.80, but it plunged to only $5,839.70 in 2011 — the year we bombed and destroyed the country. (Hillary Clinton famously bragged, “We came, we saw, he [Gaddafi] died!”) (And, unlike in U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, that per-capita GDP was remarkably evenly distributed, and both education and health care were socialized and available to everyone, even to the poor.)

More recently, on 15 February 2015, reporter Leila Fadel of NPR bannered “With Oil Fields Under Attack, Libya’s Economic Future Looks Bleak.” She announced: “The man in charge looks at production and knows the future is bleak. ‘We cannot produce. We are losing 80 percent of our production,’ says Mustapha Sanallah, the chairman of Libya’s National Oil Corporation.”

Under instructions from Washington, the IMF hasn’t been reliably reporting Libya’s GDP figures after 2011, but instead shows that things there were immediately restored to normal (even to better than normal: $13,580.55 per-capita GDP) in 2012, but everybody knows that it’s false; even NPR is, in effect, reporting that it’s not true. The CIA estimates that Libya’s per-capita GDP was a ridiculous $23,900 in 2012 (they give no figures for the years before that), and says Libya’s per-capita GDP has declined only slightly thereafter. None of the official estimates are at all trustworthy, though the Atlantic Council at least made an effort to explain things honestly, headlining in their latest systematic report about Libya’s economy, on 23 January 2014, “Libya: Facing Economic Collapse in 2014.”

Libya has become Europe’s big problem. Millions of Libyans are fleeing the chaos there. Some of them are fleeing across the Mediterranean and ending up in refugee camps in southern Italy; and some are escaping to elsewhere in Europe.

And Syria is now yet another nation that’s being destroyed in order to conquer Russia. Even the reliably propagandistic New York Times is acknowledging, in its ‘news’ reporting, that, “both the Turks and the Syrian insurgents see defeating President Bashar al-Assad of Syria as their first priority.” So: U.S. bombers will be enforcing a no-fly-zone over parts of Syria in order to bring down Russia’s ally Bashar al-Assad and replace his secular government by an Islamic government — and the ‘anti-ISIS’ thing is just for show; it’s PR, propaganda. The public cares far more about defeating ISIS than about defeating Russia; but that’s not the way America’s aristocracy views things. Their objective is extending America’s empire — extending their own empire.

Similarly, Obama overthrew the neutralist government of Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine in February 2014, but that was under the fake cover of ‘democracy’ demonstrations, instead of under the fake cover of ‘opposing Islamic terrorism’ or whatever other phrases that the U.S. Government uses to fool suckers about America’s installation of, and support to, a rabidly anti-Russia, racist-fascist, or nazi, government next door to Russia, in Ukraine. Just as Libya had been at peace before the U.S. invaded and destroyed it, and just as Syria had been at peace before the U.S and Turkey invaded and destroyed it, Ukraine too was at peace before the U.S. perpetrated its coup there and installed nazis and an ethnic cleansing campaign there, and destroyed Ukraine too.

Like with Libya before the overthrow of Gaddafi there, or Syria before the current effort to overthrow Assad there, or the more recent successful overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych, it’s all aimed to defeat Russia.

The fact that all of Europe is sharing in the devastation that Obama and other American conservatives — imperialists, even — impose, is of little if any concern to the powers-that-be in Washington DC, but, if it matters at all to them, then perhaps it’s another appealing aspect of this broader operation: By weakening European nations, and not only nations in the Middle East, Obama’s war against Russia is yet further establishing America to be “the last man standing,” at the end of the chaos and destruction that America causes.

Consequently, for example, in terms of U.S. international strategy, the fact that the economic sanctions against Russia are enormously harming the economies of European nations is good, not bad.

There are two ways to win, at any game: One is by improving one’s own performance. The other is by weakening the performances by all of one’s competitors. The United States is now relying almost entirely upon the latter type of strategy.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.