Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Steve Jobs
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Omar Khadr is not a Terrorist

Omar Khadr was not a terrorist then, and isn't one now. He was never a terrorist. Yes, I get that might leave some frothing, but the truth needs to be spoken.

At the age of ten Khadr was taken, along with other male family members, by his father to live in a Taliban ruled Afghanistan. Then 911 happened. At the time the Taliban ruled most of Afghanistan, with a small faction known as the "Northern Alliance" fighting a losing battle with them for that control. Post 911 the US government demanded the Taliban government of Afghanistan, yes I said "government of Afghanistan" because that is what they were in 2001, hand over 911 mastermind Osama Bin Laden to them. The Afghan government refused on the traditional Islamic grounds that he was an "invited guest" in their country, and they were therefor obligated not to hand him over. At least that's what they said.

Bottom line is that didn't wash with the US and a small coalition of countries, and under a UN mandate they went to war with Afghanistan. It was a war. Not a policing action. Not an anti-terrorist operation. So let's agree on that point, because it is important. The United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and others went to war with the ruling power in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, US President George Bush, and many US politicians, claimed that if you supported the terrorists you were in fact a terrorist yourself. That was pretty convenient for the US government as they then treated Taliban (then the Afghan Armed Forces) as enemy combatants, or more accurately "unlawful combatants".

In reality, the captured Taliban forces in Afghanistan were really prisoners of war. By skirting the use of the proper term "prisoner of war", and by housing these people in Cuba, the US was able to skirt international and for that matter their domestic law. That allowed the US to, as former US President Obama said: "we tortured a few folks." Bush and company referred to it as "enhanced interrogation".

On July 27, 2002, Omar Khadr was involved in a battle against US Delta force soldiers. A battle for his life. One small battle, or more accurately "fire fight" in the midst of a far larger war. He was severely injured with two massive bullet exit wounds to his chest, and a lost eye - among other injuries. In the midst of the chaos he is alleged to have thrown a grenade that killed a US medic, and cost another US serviceman an eye. For this act he was charged with a war crime. But was it a war crime? Battle is chaos no matter what you might think. The old saying that the plan only lasts as long as the first contact with the enemy holds true. In order for this act to be considered a war crime he would have to be deliberately attempting to kill a marked medic. In any case, whether he did or didn't commit a war crime is not the issue here.

The issue here is whether he is a "terrorist" or a "prisoner of war". Certainly the US medic who saved his life on that day did not consider him as a terrorist:

"This is a human life. This is war. This is something that most people can't fathom, and they want to be real quick to give an opinion just because it makes them feel good about themselves ... but there's more to this story than just talking points."

The Canadian Press story then goes on to summarize Donnie Bumanglag's take on the circumstances:

"At the time, he is clear that Speer and Morris were grown men who had signed on the line to become elite professional soldiers, knowing the risks of their jobs. On the other hand, Bumanglag also makes it clear he empathizes with the young Canadian who was taken by his father to another country and thrown into an ideologically motivated war over which he had no control."

You can't put it any more truthfully, or correctly then that. You can read Donnie Bumanglag, the medic who saved Khadr's life, here . I highly recommend it. As a retired infantry soldier/officer, I admire Bumanlang's professionalism for calling it as it was. Strip away the whole political spin job of if you're not with us you are a terrorist - as Bush put it. Understand that professional soldiers are volunteers. I was one myself. You sign up. You know your health and life are at risk. You know when you go into combat that it is war. You know that an enemy that surrenders is a prisoner of war, and entitled to Geneva Convention protection - just as we would expect for our own. It is only the opportunistic, and morally bankrupt political class, that have in turn influenced some of the same in the military class, to see a bogey man when in fact you ought to see a prisoner of war.

Bottom line is this, Khadr did not, to the best of my knowledge: massacre civilians; hijack an aircraft; kill athletes at an Olympics; or any other normally terrorist associated acts. How pathetic, and insecure in ourselves do we have to be to label other people as terrorist because they fight on the battlefield for what they believe? Is that what we have become in Canada? Simple minded, unquestioning, and brain washed by US propaganda used to justify breaking international law in the treatment of prisoners? Has our collective soul become that poisoned? It sure seems that way.

The polls show a majority were against the actions of our Prime Minister when he did the right thing by upholding values we as Canadians have always upheld - until we became brain washed that is. Now the Conservatives are going to the US to try and humiliate our government to score political points. That is just too morally corrupt to even speak about. It's as if we can't enforce our own Constitution, because it might upset the US government's sense of moral superiority. That's what it boils down to. You're either with us or against us. Your national values are of no consideration. All options are on the table. There is no right or wrong way. Just our way. This is a war on terror, and we define terrorists as those that oppose us. In case you haven't noticed, every other tin pot country in the world began labelling opponents to them as "terrorists". It's the new catch all phrase. Every time it is used it loses its original meaning - those that terrorize. Was a 15 year old kid, facing a US Delta Force unit in a fire fight, being a terrorist? Or was he more likely a child soldier scared shitless? Common sense should tell you that he wasn't "terrorizing" anyone at all, and in fact he was likely the only one "terrorized" in that firefight.

Whether you like it or not, whether you agree or not, there is no question that Omar Khadr was never a terrorist. He was a child soldier at best. He fought in self-defence against one of the most elite special forces units (Delta Force). A mismatch if there ever was one. You could say he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. You could say he was brain washed by his father, and 5 years in Taliban Afghanistan. You could say he fought in self-defence for his life. One thing you cannot say with any credibility at all is this 15 year old kid, as he was then, was a terrorist. To say otherwise is to make comment on your own conditioned reasoning.


Omar Khadr as a 15 year old "terrorist"


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Are we being de-humanized?

Take a moment and have a good long look at our world today - specifically our scientific world. I've found myself doing that quite frequently as of late. We appear to be on the verge of a new technological revolution that is the modern day equivalent of the personal computer revolution of prior decades. Almost suddenly, artificial intelligence has sprung upon us in a great wave of media hype. Self-driving cars, robots (yes even sex robots), robotic weapons of war are all on the verge of joining such miracles of modern know how as the drones that now dot the earth doing the nasty business of killing people from a video terminal. Brave new world indeed.

These technologies all have intended consequences, but they also have many unintended consequences - at least to the normal mind. Take for instance cellular phones. Two decades ago the mobile phone, as it was known, was strictly a tool for well off business people to remain in contact while literally mobile. It's use then exploded when much cheaper versions were marketed to the public. They became popular, but it wasn't until those cellular phones became mini-computers that owning one became a must. Now every child, and every adult has one. Even the poorest populations,  the least able to afford such luxuries (like India for example) find a way to get them and become "connected". All these years later humans have gone from being "erectus" to becoming "hunched". Hunched meaning that whether walking, sitting, or even communicating people have their heads and necks bent down toward the source of their interest - the "smart" phone screen.

There is an ominous warning for all of us from the cellular revolution - we are changing. Not the sort of change that elevates the human spirit, but rather the sort of change that isolates humans one from another. That's perhaps the best way to characterize the effects of our current technological dependency - "human isolation". Take that a step further. Consider what the technological community has in store for us. Self-driving cars for instance. Why do we need self driving cars? We have all the necessary skills to drive our own cars - at least most of us. Perhaps the reasoning is us humans will have more time then to focus our attention on other tasks - like starring endlessly into our smart phones...

The real kicker though has to be the personal robotic evolution. You may have noticed that the biggest media splash on robotics has been reserved for sex robots. Last I checked there were roughly the same number of each sex in most populations, so why the need for robots to do the job? Would it free us from having to have a relationship with our significant other so that we could maintain a normal sexual relationship? Perhaps it will free us from having a relationship with another human at all. A robot for cleaning and housework. A sex robot for that need. And of course cyber space will satisfy the need to communicate and socialize. However, is it really sex to have a one way gratification with a piece of machinery? Is it really independent living when a robot feeds you and cleans up after you? Is it really freedom to travel in a vehicle that drives without you?

Some people will say yes. The more technology the more freedom. The one question these people normally have a hard time answering is: The freedom to do what? Also, freedom at what cost? We don't have to travel to see the world anymore - simply watch tv, or if that's too old fashion, get an app and watch other people do it. There's also things like Google Earth. We don't have to count money anymore, simply press a button on your smart phone and it can count and send it for you. With "artificial intelligence" you won't have to think anymore, so more time to think doesn't seem to be in the equation.

It would seem that technology, present and in the near future, really just has one definite effect on us all: we are becoming much less human. We are in fact becoming more like the machines that are sold to us as making our lives that much easier. That much less stressful. Strange then that modern life is wholly characterized by massive stress throughout the world, and whole masses of people who "just can't find the time" or are "too busy". That's an odd by product of a technological revolution meant to make our lives better isn't it? The rat race, the road rage, the violent crime, the break down of the family and marriages all signal something quite different.

The real and true effect of all this technology, soon to be compounded with much more dangerous evolutions, is the isolation of the individual person from those around him/her. That isolation takes us back to a time before humans gathered into communities from their individual caves. It takes us back to a time when we could not communicate with each other, except perhaps with grunts and groans. It turns us away from human values like compassion, empathy, love, understanding, and the like. In its place it leaves us with rationalization, efficiency, etc. We have become emotionless observers of others framing our existence as a species into the cold calculations of technological dependence. We cannot think for ourselves. We cannot act for ourselves. Unless we have a machine to assist us with it. After all, we now live in a world where we are seriously discussing the "ethical ramifications" of having sex with a machine. Need I say more.

Just as any species can eventually become extinct, mankind is no different. Perhaps it is even becoming arguable that mankind is already extinct, and a "machine-kind" has replaced him in the name of "progress". Perhaps we are now incapable of independent thought, or emotion unless we are prompted  to it by some artificial means - and by those that control those means. In that way it seems we have in a sense become the "androids" of science fiction lore. Half human. Half machine. Unable to feel real emotion, or express it, and simply created for efficiency. If we aren't there yet, then we better be very aware of the dangers these new "artificial intelligence miracles" hold for us. We can't afford, as a world, to become any less human than we already are. We can't afford to inherit the earth, but lose our souls. Our souls are what makes us different than any other species. Without that soul we can easily face the same extinction that many species before us have.


Sunday, July 9, 2017

Omar Khadr's Settlement

The case of Omar Khadr has created a lot of upset in certain circles in Canada. As a teenager, Khadr was spirited off to Afghanistan, by his father, to take up the fight against the US military in that country. Clearly brain washed, Khadr was a 15 year old left by his father to fight a grown man's war. During a fire fight with American troops he stands accused (and convicted in the US) of throwing a grenade that killed a US combat medic. He was captured barely alive and, after having sustained severe wounds, including the loss of an eye, was spirited off to an the Bagram Air base. Here he was treated for his wounds, extensively interrogated, and then extradited to the infamous Gitmo prison in Cuba. That's the gist of the story that most Canadians associate with him.

That back story is not the reason Khadr just received $10.5 million dollars from the Canadian government, along with an official apology. It has absolutely nothing to do with it at all. The reason Khadr was compensated so lavishly in an arbitration settlement by the Canadian government was not to "reward a terrorist", as some politicians and self-interested groups are putting it. Far from it. The reason he received what he got was a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada that the Canadian government had violated his Charter rights by using agents of CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Agency) to interrogate him in Cuba, who then passed that information to their US counterparts, which resulted in him remaining in a situation that not only violated the Geneva Convention, but also the Charter. The reason it violated the Charter was the participation of the Canadian government, against its own citizen, in a process that involved torture and suspension of any and all human rights.

This is from the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in 2010:


 "Canada actively participated in a process contrary to its international obligations and
contributed to K's ongoing detention as to deprive him of his right to liberty and security of the
person, guaranteed by section 7 of the Charter, not in accordance with the principles of     fundamental justice.... The Charter applies to the participation of the Canadian officials in a regime later found to be in violation of fundamental rights protected by international law....There is a sufficient connection between the government's participation in the illegal process and the deprivation of K's liberties and security of the person.

The interrogation of a youth without access to counsel, to elicit statements about serious criminal charges while knowing that the youth had been subjected to sleep deprivation and while knowing that the fruits of the interrogation would be shared with the prosecutors, offends the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth."

 I found it insightful, given the Supreme Court of Canada's finding in favour of Khadr, to view Khadr's submissions to the Court, which included a very disturbing excerpt from an interview conducted with him by CSIS agents. I place this in here to give the story some balance, and because it sheds a light on why the Supreme Court made the decision it did.

CSIS:  You look tired. Okay, so I brought you a burger. It’s very hot though. What’s
 happening?
OMAR:  [indiscernible]
CSIS:  Pardon me?
OMAR:  … something that’s very important, but I’m afraid to say it.
CSIS:  Okay, take your time and could you do me a favour today while we’re talking? Just
 make sure you talk nice and loud, so I can keep that air conditioning on so we’re cool.
OMAR:  There’s something that I’m scared to say.
DFAIT:  You don’t have to be scared of anything from us.
CSIS:  What are you scared to say?
OMAR:  Promise me you’re going to protect me.
CSIS:   Why don’t you just tell us what it is you have to say?
OMAR:  Promise me you are going to protect me from the Americans.
CSIS:  From the Americans?
OMAR:  Yes.
CSIS:  Okay, what’s going on with the Americans?
OMAR:  Promise me that you are going to protect me if I tell you.
CSIS:  Well we can’t protect you if we don’t know what it is that you have to say directly.
OMAR:  Promise me you’re going to protect me if I tell you.
CSIS:  Well, the only thing I’ll promise is that I’ll listen to you, and I’ll talk to the
 Americans for you here.
OMAR:  And after you go?
CSIS:  Pardon me?
OMAR:  And after you go?
CSIS:  And after I go, then I’ll listen to what you know, then I’ll come back and talk to you
 again. Make sure everything’s alright. Tell me what’s changed from yesterday.
OMAR:   I’m scared to tell you.
CSIS:   Well, I’ll tell you, there’s not much we can do, unless I know what you’re talking
 about.
OMAR:  Everything that I said to the Americans was not right, I just said that because they
 tortured me very badly in Bagram. So I had to say what I said.

The conversation shows, quite clearly, a terrified youth. It is important to remember that.

Now the Conservative Party, and some veterans among others, have spoken out publicly against any financial settlement with Khadr - this group also includes former Prime Minister Harper. Ironically, the Supreme Court found that it was the deliberate actions of the Harper government that led directly, and profoundly to the violation of Khadr's Charter rights. It was the political decision of the then Prime Minister to align himself completely and without hesitation to the American invasion of Afghanistan and other US military foreign interventions. The attitude that prevailed was that when it came to "terrorism" there were no boundaries restraining the western powers and how they responded. The Khadr story is simply a footnote of that policy. Essentially, the Harper government's policy was the end justified the means. That was the US policy as well, which resulted in torture being used against prisoners.

Bottom line is this, the ends do not justify the means. The Charter of Rights enshrines that very view. Our governments in Canada, federal and provincial, have their hands tied by the Charter so as not to violate the freedoms and rights we as Canadians take for granted. Those rights and freedoms are so much a part of who we are as a people that any violation of them is really a violation of us - or that is how it should be treated. Unfortunately, during the ongoing wars in the Middle East, Canadians have become numb in many cases, and fail to respect that people from the areas of war are just that - people. A really good example of this was the recent "celebration" of a Canadian soldier's sniper shot that killed an insurgent in Afghanistan. I was left with the very disturbing impression that Canadians viewed this "achievement" in the same way one might view the killing of an animal in a hunt. It is a reoccurring theme that has somehow permeated our core beliefs since the start of all these Middle Eastern wars - that people from this area are somehow "inhuman" and not viewed with the same humanness as say the soccer mom down the street. The Harper government's treatment fit that billing, and the Supreme Court of Canada saw it in that light.

As Canadians we've been here before. It wasn't that long ago that all people of Japanese ancestry were herded into concentration camps for the duration of the Second world War - in Canada. It wasn't that long ago that Aboriginal people were herded into residential schools - in Canada. We are not as Lilly white and pure as we like to see ourselves. We have a history of sacrificing other peoples rights to suit our own agendas - as ugly and disturbing as that is to admit. Omar Khadr is just the latest case of the ends justify the means. The latest victim. Luckily for Khadr we now have the Charter, which we did not back in the aforementioned cases, and he had recourse. He used that recourse. The Supreme Court of Canada agreed with him, and wholly condemned the federal government's actions.

Mr. Harper, and the rest of the people who believe the end justifies the means, and justice is allocated based on the colour of your skin, have been served a message by the highest court - the days of the ends justify the means are over. Nothing can be more serious for a citizen, other than death, than to have their dignity stripped from them by a government that violates the very code meant to protect them from such actions. It is the social contact of all humans across the planet - we agree to be governed by you within these limits. It's often referred to as a constitution. The federal government violated Khadr's and it paid the price for it. Not enough Canadians stood up against their government to stop it from happening, and so we will all pay that bill. No matter who you think you are, or what you think of another, you are only ever their equal, and the Charter ensures it stays that way. Thank God.    


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Russia and the US are Wrong in Syria

The United States is wrong in Syria, and the Middle East in general. Wrapping naked ambition in the cloak of national interest only serves to accentuate the gross abuse of power it wields there. There is no recognizable high ground, or moral imperative, that the US can trot out to justify its flagrant disregard for the rules of international law and state craft. It has to be said, and it must be said by people of good conscience, that the US is behaving like a barbaric, unrestrained colonial empire from the pages of our world's darkest history.

Having covertly, but obviously, supported the Islamic State in its attempt to overthrow the Assad government in Syria, the US now finds itself in the position of "Plan B". Plan B means upping its support for the Kurds to split Syria in half while green lighting Saudi Arabia and its allies into a coalition directly opposing Iran. In other words, having failed to overthrow Assad, the US is now aiming to make the new battlefield Iran itself. The newly named Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia said as much when he stated the upcoming battlefield would be in Iran and not in Saudi Arabia. In effect, the US has established Saudi Arabia as the attack dog of the Middle East.

Saudi has been very aggressive in its war of regional influence with Iran over the last year. It invaded Yemen after to counter an Iranian-friendly Houthi uprising deposed the Saudi-friendly president of the country. It led an "Arab NATO" exercise of 350,000 troops aimed directly at invading Syria. It has just recently led an economic and geographic blockade of the Iranian-friendly Qatar. On and on it goes. Essentially, the US is now employing Saudi directly in the region, which means Iran will become even more involved in the region, and so it goes. Bottom-line is this, the US is escalating the world's path to war in the Middle East like a child playing with matches in the fire works factory.

This is not a case of Iranian aggressive action against its neighbors. Nor is it the case that Russia is attempting to physically extend its influence or power in the region. The battle ground in Syria is an excellent case in point. The US and its allies were not invited by the Syrian government to militarily intervene in the conflict there. Prior to the Islamic State's armed insurrection in Syria the country was firmly in the grip of Russian and Iranian influence. That was the status quo, and has been for decades. There was no attempt by Syria to expand its influence. In fact, years before, Syria completely withdrew its military from Lebanon. In other words, there were no grounds for any country becoming involved militarily on Syrian soil.

Israel, which has up to recently been fairly prepared to remain on the sidelines while its enemies killed each other, has become more and more involved in the regional fight. Its air force has conducted numerous attacks on the Syrian army in the last year with apparent impunity. Furthermore, and in a sign of things to come, its ministers have made comments insinuating a coming invasion of Lebanon to take on Hezbollah - another Iranian ally in the region. Hezbollah has not been conducting any military assaults on Israel, but it has been an invited military ally of Assad in the current conflict.

It is a fair conclusion that prior to Russia's direct military intervention in Syria, with Iran and Hezbollah in tow, that the US, Israel, and Saudi were prepared sit back and covertly support the various Islamic militant groups that were tearing Syria apart. However, after the Russian led alliance stopped, and then reversed, theses groups battle field successes, all bets were off. It is all a matter of record now. No imputation of fact or speculation is required.

While the US has grossly abused its power and position to drive the world to the brink of war, the Russians are not without fault - just for the opposite reason. The Russians have been far too uncommitted for a country that purports to lead the bloc which seeks a multi-polar world. Russia is failing both Syria and its vision of a multi-polar world by not forcefully coming to the aid of an ally in crisis. By the way, China could also be included in that criticism. Both Russia and China have very large militaries, and both have the capacity to employ those forces far from home. Before now, well before now, the Russians should have deployed forces on a divisional level to assist in the destruction of militant groups in Syria.

Unfortunately, for regional and world stability, the Russians have decided to give Syria piece meal assistance rather than decisive support. Instead of a division or two of Russian troops rolling over the militant groups, and ending the war there swiftly and decisively, the Russians committed some air force support, but left control of the ground to Syria's army and Hezbollah. A minimal risk scenario for Russia, but not the actions of a world power intent on creating a multi-polar world. In effect, a timid response. That has left the door open to the US on the ground in Syria, and the US has taken advantage of that.

Less than a year ago there were essentially no US forces on the ground in Syria. Today the US has established at least one base, if not more, in Kurdish held Eastern Syria. Ditto for the southern border of Iraq and Syria, where the US has now established a base with missile artillery that has an effective range of 300 km. Now, instead of the Russians having to simply rid Syria of militant ground forces, they must engage American forces directly to free Syria from uninvited guests. The prospect of having to engage US forces that have invited themselves onto Syrian territory raises the spectre of a Russian-American direct conflict.

Make no mistake, the current crisis in Syria and now the Middle East in general, is as much a fault of Russian inaction as it is of US intervention. This cannot be overstated. The Americans no longer take Russian threats over Syria seriously, because Russia has failed to adequately respond to US and Israeli strikes against the Syrian armed forces. The US and Israel have been able to impose military action upon a key Russian ally with no consequences whatsoever. This is where the blame for Syria's destruction and the danger for our world meet. A habitually aggressive superpower vs a habitually over cautious superpower creates an imbalance that leads to conflict on a global scale. Russia by its lack of serious military commitment in Syria is for all intense and purposes appeasing the US, and in doing so emboldening the US to go ever further with its plans for the Middle East - and the world in general.

The only solution for the crisis of balance we face in the world is for the Russian and Chinese governments to become resolute in their responsibilities as world powers. That doesn't mean Russia and China should become overly aggressive with their militaries,  but a minimum requirement of a super power is to safeguard its weaker allies against the aggressions of another state - particularly another super power state. If Russia and China fail to take decisive action in Syria, and force the Americans out by facts on the ground, it won't be long before we will have the following wars: an Israeli invasion of Lebanon; a Saudi led war on Iran; and God knows what from there. The Russians and Chinese have a responsibility to act so this does not occur - for the world's sake. Balance in world affairs, in line with the rule of international law, must be restored to this place we call home, or the natural consequence may be that none of us have a home anymore. 



Monday, April 17, 2017

War in North Korea?

I said some time ago (years actually) that the United States is facing two choices: war with China; or surrender of its position as global financial king. Two stark choices with no grey area. Why? That answer is a little more complicated.

Since the Berlin Wall fell in the 90's the Chinese have adopted a deliberate policy to out play the Americans at their own game - capitalism. Essentially, the Chinese are mimicking the path the US took to super power status. Firstly, they became very disciplined and kept their cost of production of goods and services to the bare bone, thereby capturing the lion's share of global manufacturing trade. Secondly, they stayed out of wars. Security for China became a gradual building of their military capabilities without the expense of fighting wars in the process. Thirdly, they became a lender to nations all over the world, thus spreading their political and economic influence to the point they are indispensable. Much like the early American policies of industrialization, free trade, open seas, and non-interventionism. Now China is what the US used to be, and the US has become what the British Empire was. We all know what happened to the Empire.

China's dominant financial position globally has allowed it to lead in the development of BRICS, Eurasia, and its own version of the IMF. In other words, the Chinese, along with Russia have turned the world economic, and therefore political, order on its head. The US is now attempting to pivot. US encouragement of Britain exiting the EU is a good example. The US is  desperately trying to  create a viable trading bloc to counter Eurasia/BRICS. It is apparent that their answer is a British Commonwealth 2.0 -  ie: US, Canada, Britain, Australia, etc. In a strange little clue, former Vice-President Biden, after making his final remarks on the make election loss, whispered "God save the Queen" as he walked from a still live mike. The truth is that no combination of countries can stand up to the resources, demographics, etc of the combined Eurasia/BRICS.

The US has had some successes putting dents in BRICS though. Most notably in South America. The pro-Russian leaderships in Brazil and Argentina have been replace by more western oriented leaders. Also, the President of South Africa is under intense pressure to resign, including resignation of his finance minister. So far that hasn't worked, and South Africa has a new finance minister. While these are victories for the US, and have somewhat stymied the Chinese/Russian momentum, they are no where near enough to hobble Eurasia.

The real dent in the Eurasian shield, however, must be made in China. That brings us North Korea - China's proverbial guard dog on its southern border. Trump has offered the Chinese a carrot and stick approach on North Korea. If the Chinese denuclearize North Korea the US will offer it better trade terms and not label it a currency manipulator.(which is closer to blackmail, because either you are a currency manipulator or you aren't) The Chinese, having just seen the stick approach offered to Russia in Syria, are taking the Americans seriously. They have a mutual defence pact with North Korea, as does Russia. An attack on one is an attack on all. That's why 150,000 Chinese troops have been moved to the border with North Korea. Russia has also stockpiled troops on its small border with North Korea. They are there to defend North Korea should it be required, and not to stem refugees as the western media has been playing it.

Meanwhile the Americans are moving a carrier strike group to the shores off North Korea. In addition, new intelligence has a total of two other aircraft carriers joining the group within the next ten days - about the time joint US/South Korean forces finish their massive annual war games. The US also has positioned massive air power at its various bases throughout the region.

The question is: Will all this result in war. The answer is yes. It is not a matter of North Koreas nuclear program, or Syria's "rabid dictator", or Russia's "meddling" in Europe, or China's "sea grab" in the South China Sea. No it's not any of these things. They are just stuff to spin to get the US people worked up and scared. The reason is Empire - either there will be one or their won't. The US simply cannot allow itself to lose at the economic game it set up. The only way to stop that is to create a world war that defeats China and Russia, but mostly China. After that, if there is a world left, the US will redraw the economic rules once again to keep them on top. While China and Russia stockpile gold, either to underpin their currencies or to pay for a major war, the US maintains the same course of ruinous debt, now even moving to strip the only real safeguards from their securities markets - a safeguard designed to stop a repeat of the Great Depression. So, if you've been thinking the world has been on its head, and kind of crazy the last while, well that's a reasonable interpretation of the chaos caused by the moves underway.

Nobody can say with certainty what will happen when the "Great American Armada" approaches North Korea. Traditionally, armadas haven't faired well in this kind of scenario. The North Koreans did give a bit of a hint though. During their massive military parade to honour the "Day of the Sun" the speaker stated North Korea will use its "own style" of nuclear war if necessary. One has to interpret that as an unconventional use of nuclear weapons. It may well be that the missiles and launching platforms paraded last weekend are a bit of a ruse. North Korea is well adept at deception. It may well be something far simpler, which the US may not be able to neutralize easily with their own missiles. Perhaps tunneling or submarines acting as delivery vehicles, rather than missiles. After all, how hard would it be for North Korea to retrofit some of its subs with a nuclear war head making them the delivery vehicles. A sub only has to get so close off shore to detonate itself and destroy an American city without launching a single missile. Ditto for the American Armada. A sub close by detonates and takes the works down. Three aircraft carriers is a real tempting target for them. So are we heading for war in North Korea, and elsewhere? The answer is yes. Unfortunately, the Americans are unable to accept the consequences of being economically outplayed, and are willing to take the whole house down with them. My sole hope is that technological superiority on one side or the other will prevent total waste being wrought over our planet.
















Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Tragic Truth About the Muskrat Falls U-Boat Wreck - U-180

It was August 20, 1944, Bordeaux, France - at the U-boat pens. The Allies had broken out from their foothold in Normandy, and the USSR had crushed the German army and began its invasion of Romania. Five days earlier the US had invaded Southern France in an operation codenamed "Anvil". The German occupation of France was at its end, and the remnants of the German forces were desperately fleeing for Germany, or in the case of the U-boats - the sea. It was under these dangerous and chaotic circumstances that the Captain of U-180 prepared to take her out to sea on his maiden mission as the U-boat's commander.

Rolf Riesen, the commander, was not a fervent Nazi, but he was a very patriotic German. He was also a family man who loved his family dearly, but saw them very rarely since joining the German Navy in 1938. He considered joining the navy his patriotic duty, and was very committed to the "higher cause". His served as a junior officer on the German heavy cruiser Lutzow until the end of 1941. He then transferred to the destroyer and torpedo boat holding division. Deciding to take a different tact, Riesen undertook U-boat training until September, 1942, and then served as a watch officer on U-198 until February, 1944. He then undertook U-boat commander training for three months, and on April 2, 1944 he took command of U-180 - his final command.  This story, although of major historical import, is dedicated to the memory of  Oberleutnant zur See Rolf Riesen, the last commander of U-180.

Rolf Riesen as a watch officer in 1942


Rolf Riesen just before leaving on his final mission 2 years later



Riesen supervised the loading of his beloved first command before going to sea. However, there were a number of wood crates in his boat that he had no idea of their contents. He was a very meticulous officer, keen on details, but a very superior officer gave him the "it's on a need to know basis and you don't need to know" speech. As a loyal and dedicated officer he did not question his superior. Little did he know the crates contained u-234 - uranium. What he did know was they were stowed below, with other cargo stored upon them. He also knew his orders had him sailing for Japan, which was not an uncommon destination for the "black boats" of the German U-boat fleet.

"Black boats" meaning U-boats involved in transporting special cargos of uranium, mercury, weapons technology etc to Japan, and often bringing gold bullion back as payment to Germany. U-180 had been used in a well documented secret mission to transport Indian nationalist politicians to a Japanese sub for delivery to India earlier in the war, but her Mercedes engines were too loud and left an oil trail to be used again. She was mothballed, but then brought back having her engines pulled, new engines added, a state of the art snorkel and radar installed, and other modifications which improved her operations significantly. As he left Bordeaux on that August day, Riesen had no idea of the horror and betrayal that lay in wait for him from members of his own crew - many of them had no idea either.

U-180 left port with three other U-boats bound for Japan. They had an escort ship on the surface to protect them from sudden air or naval attack. Shortly after they submerged the escort ship reported that all U-boats had cleared the minefield and were en route. So far so good. However, just as the voyage started Riesen was confronted in private by MtrOGfr Helmut Hantschel. Riesen had befriended Hantschel, as much as a U-boat Captain would, he trusted the young man. They were all young men to Riesen as he was considered an old man in the U-boat service. What Riesen didn't know was young Hantschel was not a naval officer. His real name wasn't even Hantschel. He was, in fact, an SS officer acting under direct orders from Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler. His mission: take control of the U-180, and its cargo of uranium, and deliver it to the Americans at the Goose Bay Air Force base in Labrador, Canada. A grand plan to resettle Nazis after the war had been launched by Hitler's number one man, Martin Bormann. Bormann gave the order to Himmler, and Himmler gave the order directly to Hantschel.

Hantschel, for his part, was a fanatic Nazi with an almost psychopathic obsession with power. This was a dream mission for him, and he gladly accepted even though he had never been on a U-boat before. The confrontation between Riesen and Hantschel was nothing less than the deliberate killing of the Captain. Hantschel took a large knife from the sub's galley and plunged it in one single stroke through Riesen's heart. Riesen died almost immediately. As only a portion of the crew were aware of the plan to take over U-180, the killing needed to be kept secret to maintain order on the boat. To do this Hantschel used his experiences as a medic with the SS to carve Riesen into pieces. His remains were then placed in the rear torpedo tube and the Captain was expunged into the sea. And so begins the deliberate mutiny of U-180.

Surprisingly, perhaps, the absence of the Captain was kept under guard for days afterward. Days later three crew members suffered the same fate as they challenged the mutineers over the Captain's disappearance and the ship's mission. Most of the crew was unaware that the U-boat was heading for Canada rather than Japan. That was the way Hantschel and his mutineers wanted it kept. It was impossible to operate the U-boat over the trans Atlantic voyage without the various expertise of those on board, and complete discipline and control was absolutely necessary for success. It had to be a well oiled machine.

However, just a day before U-180 was to arrive at its destination in Labrador, a major battle broke out between the crew that was loyal to the mutineers and those that hadn't realized their mission had changed. In this one altercation, approximately half the crew were killed. Of an original crew of 56, only 24 were left now. Given the close proximity to the Goose Bay base, and wanting to remain submerged, the dead crew were left on the U-boat. Shortly after this final battle among the crew, Hantschel happened across a Canadian destroyer fishing with dynamite off the town Rigolet. read the media story here Years later, a then renamed Hantschel ( now Ernst Oscar Henschel) would relay to a sailor on that boat how he watched them fish with dynamite through his periscope. At that time Hantschel, or Henschel as he was then known, was a doctor in the Saskatchewan community of Prince Albert. Having been refused entry into the US after the war due to his "service" in the SS, Henschel emigrated to Canada at first.

U-180 then made its way up Lake Melville to a predesignated position just out to shore from the Goose Bay Air Force base. It was nighttime, and pitch black. The U-boat surfaced, and dispatched a dingy, with wooden crates, to a small supply/maintenance dock just south of the base (the dock no longer exists). There it was met by armed US servicemen. In the confusion and tension of the moment, 2 of the German U-boat men were shot to death by a US soldier when they made sudden moves he wasn't expecting. The uranium was eventually completely transferred. In accordance with the original plan given to him back in Germany, Hantschel and the remaining crew took the U-boat up the Churchill River on the surface. They used only their electric engines to power the boat to remain quiet in transit. However, even with these precautions they were heard and spotted by two Innu hunters in the area.

At the predesignated location, just south of Muskrat Falls, the crew scuttled U-180 in accordance with standard operating procedures of the German U-boat fleet. Charges were placed at the bow, rear, and centre of the boat. The dead crew members from the battle amongst the crew the day before, and the newly killed members from the supply dock, were left on board the U-boat as she sunk. However, even the scuttling didn't go well as two men were killed and two injured during the scuttling process. By the end of the mission only 15 crew members of the original 56 had survived.

The survivors of U-180, with the exception of Hantschel and a few others, were forced to stay in North America. Hantschel and the others were transported back to Germany to confirm the mission was successful. Ironically, Hantschel is shown graduating from Charles University of Prague, medical school, just six months later. He ended his career in medicine back in the United States as professor and chairman of the Medical College of Wisconsin, and has an annual award named after him. read here (notice the brief reference to his service in the German Navy) His wife, who he met in London in 1950, also became a well known doctor in the area. Today only two survivors of the horror and treachery that was U-180 are still alive. Both are now old men in their late 90's. One still has a keen mind, but the other unfortunately does not. The keen minded survivor was a fellow officer who loyally served under Captain Riesen, but as a young officer he was terrified to turn against the mutineers - with good reason as the history shows. He now lives with deep remorse and nightmares about his experience on U-180.

In the end, although the seizing of U-180 was a preplanned operation by the highest levels of the Nazi Party and the SS, the attempt to use the uranium as a bargaining chip with the Allies was apparently unsuccessful. The US double crossed their German partners, but got the uranium in any case for the Manhattan Project. U-180 remains unexplored on a sandy river bank near Muskrat Falls as a ghostly reminder of human tragedy, the ruthlessness of the dark world of Nazi Germany, and almost the last bit of evidence that the Germans and the Americans had cut a deal for uranium while still at war with each other in Europe. Meanwhile, the families of the men lost in U-180 have no idea what really happened to them on that dark voyage during the dying days of the war. Perhaps it may have been better that way, but for the necessity to observe the significant historical moment the wreck of the U-180 represents. It is the truth of the matter that counts now. It has been 75 years since U-180 sunk in Labrador's waters, yet the Government of Canada will still not release what documents they have on the matter. The grounds for the refusal - "releasing the information may cause harm or embarrassment to an ally." It was always hard to fathom how such an old story, and a forgotten wreck, could cause injury and/or embarrassment to an ally, but given the truth of what really happened to U-180 and its uranium cargo, well, perhaps it should.



Here are my previous stories on the U-boat wreck of Muskrat Falls:

Updated - Evidence of the Muskrat Falls U-boat Wreck
http://rocksolidpolitics.blogspot.ca/2016/06/the-evidence-of-muskrat-falls-u-boat.html

The Muskrat Falls U-boat Cover Up - emails
http://rocksolidpolitics.blogspot.ca/2016/07/the-muskrat-falls-u-boat-cover-up-emails_65.html






















Sunday, April 9, 2017

On the Edge of World War III

It's ironic, in a way, that my country of Canada is today celebrating a bloody victory over Germany during World War I at Vimy Ridge, meanwhile the current world desperately races to repeat a similar but worse slaughter. Sad and ironic.

The United States, hand-in-hand with Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia had planned to take over Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon to erase Iranian influence in the region. Saudi Arabia's job was to take out the Iranian allied Houthi in Yemen. The American and Israelis left the job of Syria to Islamic militants. Lebanon hasn't happened yet, but that will likely be left to the Israelis. That was the plan. Once that was finished the goal no doubt was to turn the sights on Iran itself. All this had the benefit of not just an American dominated and controlled Middle East, but also a relegated and isolated Russia, which in turn would isolate China. A grand strategy if you will.

However, as they say, a plan only lasts as long as its first contact with the enemy. Saudi Arabia, with American assistance, was able to oust the Houthi government in Yemen, but has been unable to proceed much past that. The traditional Houthi lands of Yemen remain in Houthi control and the Saudis are bogged down in a hopeless quagmire. The Sunni Islamic State was unable to capture Iraq as Iran intervened just as they were at the gates of Bagdad. A Sunni victory in Iraq would have brought that country into US control, rather than the current state of Iraq as a Shia friendly government to Iran. As the Islamic State retreated out of Iraq, Russia intervened in Syria. Again, the Islamic State was right at the doorsteps - this time in Damascus. As it became clear to the Americans, that ISIS could not take Iraq, they jumped on the band wagon to destroy ISIS so they could stay in the game.

So much for Plan A, the Americans turned to plan B. Plan B calls for a direct American invasion of Syria, in conjunction with Turkey and Israel (perhaps even with the Saudis). While the partition of Syria seems to be the goal at the moment, it may well be a ruse. The US has been shipping equipment and men to Lebanon and Jordan on the quiet. However, as an example, that quiet was shaken yesterday as 20 US tanks and infantry had to intervene at the Syrian/Jordan border to rescue their new allied militia, which had become encircled by ISIS. In other words, the US has assembled significant forces in Jordan. Earlier this week there were reports of US ships delivering equipment and men to Lebanon. Furthermore, it's common knowledge that the US has moved most of the 82nd Airborne into the Syrian theatre, as well as special forces nd artillery units. This buildup is being complimented by two new US air bases in Eastern Syria. All in all, the US are preparing to take all of Syria - not just a simple partition of it.

On the Russian border, US and allied forces have been mobilizing from one end to the other. A move that serves the purpose of tying Russian forces down on their own border, thereby limiting their flexibility to respond to such conflicts as Syria, and establishing a force to attack Russia with. In other words, the West is attempting to pin Russia down while it manoeuvers to destroy its influence and power in the Middle East. If Russia sits back in a defensive posture, and allows the US to impose its will on the Middle East, then Russia will be next. It's only a matter of time.

As worrisome as all this is, the US is also acting against China. A US carrier task force, also referred to as a "strike force" is enroute to the waters off  North Korea. US President Trump has stated that if China will not reign in North Korea, well, then the Americans will. It seems that Trump is making good on his threat. We can expect a strike on North Korea's nuclear program, including arms, but also on the massive artillery forces poised to level Seoul, capital of South Korea. It has been estimated that the North could level Seoul with conventional artillery in hours - if not less. That ability has always been the North's greatest guarantee of non-intervention by the US. However, with a strike looming, it makes sense that the US would also be planning a massive bombing campaign of those artillery forces north of Seoul.

China, meanwhile, can not simply stand by idly while this happens. It has been targeted by the US itself for its claims in the South China Sea. All this must be in the US calculations. It's safe to say that if the Americans conduct the assault on North Korea that is expected, they will also in effect be going to war with China. Engaging China militarily also means engaging China economically, and the US has no hope of winning that one. It is very probable that China will release the "Chinese nuke", which is dumping all its American debt and currency on the market at once, thereby crashing the world economy. Even a simple strike on North Korea, that results in the North leveling Seoul, would more than likely be enough to crash the world's stock exchanges and currency markets.

I wonder if the Western world, with our fat cat life styles and Walmart mentalities, can fathom the result of an international financial collapse? The reality is most people will not even commit their minds for a moment to consider it. Ditto for the massive destruction caused by a conventional or nuclear war. Yet, we sit right on the precipice of it all. Watching as if somehow it wasn't our responsibility to think or speak of it, or against it. A great gaggle of sheep herded to the slaughterhouse doors, but taking comfort that there are other sheep before us, closer to the executioner's axe, and therefore we're okay for the moment. It can't happen to us. We're safe and sheltered from it all. It's really a damning commentary on us all to be frank. With all our education, technology and civilization we can't muster a better way than hoping the executioner gets tired before the sheep in front of us turns into us.




Thursday, April 6, 2017

Is Russia being outplayed in Syria?

Make no mistake, the Syrian war is about to become an international conflict in a major way. The proverbial "wizard's chess" is in full play. With the chemical weapons explosion that occurred in Northern Syria this week the dogs of war are moving quickly, and some players are frankly coming into the light.

Take Israel for instance. Israel's approach until now has been to kill two birds with one stone. There really isn't a better scenario for Israel than Islamic militants killing Syrians soldiers, and vice a versa. That's been going on for years now, and both of these enemies of Israel have now been significantly weakened by the experience. That's the good news for Israel. The bad news is that Russia and particularly Iran have decided to move in and help save Syrian President Assad, and frankly Syria itself, from becoming another part of the Islamic State. Perhaps this eventuality was not foreseen by the architects of the Syrian civil war, or perhaps it was. In any case, the Russian/Iranian involvement has raised the stakes of Israel or the US intervening to new heights.

Two very significant incidents have developed this week with Israel and the Syrian conflict. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, Jared Kushner, Trump's Jewish son-in-law, has managed to force Trump's Steve Brannon out of the National Security Council. That's a big one if you want to clear the way for a strike on Syria, and this a move against Russia. This author has expressed concern from the beginning that Trump's appointment of Kushner as Special Advisor on the Middle East created an obvious conflict of interest given his religious back ground, and the view he may take of Israeli actions. Then, literally just hours later, came the news that the Israeli Cabinet is meeting this Sunday to discuss a "humanitarian" intervention in Syria. This after several airstrikes on Syria in the last few weeks. It is clear that given the Russian/Iranian/Hezbollah success on the ground in Syria that Israel wants the US, and others to join it in taking down the Assad government by force.

Trump himself, having suffered near paralysis in attempting to govern the US as President, appears to be moving toward the "establishment" position on Syria that he had so vehemently rejected. His reasoning that the chemical "attack" gives him no choice is almost laughable. Consider that several mass casualty incidents have happened in the last few weeks by the American air force on schools and mosques in both Syria and Iraq. In Mosul alone, last week, over 200 people, yes including many children and babies, were blown to pieces when the mosque they were attending was struck by a US bomb. Is it somehow okay they were slaughtered by being blown to bits rather than suffocated by gas as happened in Syria? Or is it that because it was a US bomb it was somehow less of an indictment than a Syrian bomb? This entire argument enters the theatre of the absurd - which is where this reasoning of Trump's best rests.

The truth is that all the evidence in Syria has pointed toward a serious, and permanent US intervention and partitioning of Syria for some time now. Trump's shift in position is merely him aligning with the forces that were already at play in Syria. That's good news for them, but potentially catastrophic news for the rest of the world. The question is, though, will Russia rise to the occasion or be relegated back to the backbenches?

Much has been made of the Russian intervention in Syria, and too some extent with good reason. Russia has firmly tilted the balance in favour of the Syrian government with its air forces, and its strategic anti-missile forces in particular. With the S-400 batteries Russia moved into Syria, the Russian air defence forces can impose an almost complete air defence umbrella over all of Syria - except its most North eastern region. Those systems are capable of taking out any US, Turkish or Israeli aircraft, as well as their missiles - including cruise missiles fired from the US fleet off Syria's coast. In addition, Russian naval units have their own cruise missiles, and anti-ship missiles deployed with their naval units off the Syrian coast.

The real question for Russia is this: Are you serious about Syria or not? Some would say that Russia's commitment to defend Syria proves they are serious, and to some degree that is obvious. However, what is Russia actually willing to commit to on the ground? This is where they are being out-flanked by the US, Turks, and soon to be Israelis. Russia has a relatively small ground force in Syria, which leaves it very vulnerable and reliant on the somewhat unreliable Syrian army. Putin has failed to match the foreign forces in Syria by committing Russian divisions to the fight. Where the US has just assigned a good part of the 82nd airborne to the fight in Iraq, but mostly for Raqqah, the Russians have not matched it with their own airborne. And so it goes. It appears Russian President Putin's defensive posture is focused on the Russian border with Europe as NATO builds a small deterrent there, and not on saving Syria for the Russian sphere of influence.

If Russia is more committed to Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah than their troop numbers show, will Russia defend Syria against a US and/or Israeli strike against it? Certainly it could if it wanted to. The S-400 is a state of the art defence system. The Russian naval group is armed to the teeth, and Iran has offered Russia one of its airbases nearby to for its air forces. Is Russia prepared to allow Israel to oust Iran from its position of influence in Syria, and also by ricochet Lebanon?

There are many moves afoot right now - including major moves with China and North Korea. However, the strategic position of Russia and Iran in the Middle East is what is at stake right now. Make no mistake. If Putin gets cold feet and allows the US to run rough shod over Syria, even more than it has already, Russia's credibility as a super power in the region is over ... ditto Iran. If that happens then Obama will have been right to refer to Russia as a "regional power". Of course, that would defy Russia's strength and history, but only time will tell how far Putin will go to protect that. Will Russia impose its own no-fly zone over Syria backed by its S-400's and air force? Will Russia commit meaningful forces to the ground fight so as not to be out flanked at every turn by Western- backed militaries?  Nobody knows for sure except Russian President Putin himself. As much as it is Syria's time of truth, it is also very much Russia's. In a game of poke chest a super power doesn't turn and walk away.






 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The New Conservative Party Leader Is...

As leadership races go, the race to replace Stephen Harper has been a very low key affair - with a few exceptions. It is a peculiar mix of back room types, previous ministers and even a flashy billionaire for good measure. There has been some very controversial, bordering on out right racist comments made by a number of the front runners - which have marred the race with a distasteful brush. Comments like "Canadian values" tests, bans based on race, and the list goes on. Comments that do not belong in Canadian society let alone a race to lead one of Canada's two contending political parties. A disgraceful race to the guttural bottom.

There is Bernier from Quebec who was sprinkled with pixy dust way back by then Prime Minister Mulroney. Carefully groomed through the ranks, Bernier was seen as a Quebec star apparent until he left confidential national security notes in his Hells Angels girlfriend's bedroom. He was demoted out of Cabinet for that "little mishap", placed in a very quiet place, and kept out of the lime light so he could be brought back at a time like this. Aside from his major mistakes, Bernier is a non-starter outside Quebec. Look to Bernier as a king maker for an Ontario-based contender.

Then there is Kevin O'Leary, the out spoken and somewhat detested billionaire who has made a public career out of running people into the ground - not exactly appealing. Apart from his corrosive personality, O'Leary brings a jump to the race as he does his best to impersonate Donald Trump - for better or worse. The truth is by the time the next Canadian election will be held, the already notorious Trump will be viewed in a much dimmer light. Hardly the role model to lead your party into an election in Canada. For that reason, and that reason alone O'Leary should be ruled out.

The person I initially thought would have the best shot at leadership was Kellie Leitch. Well educated, and well known in Conservative circles, Leitch has all the connections to get her to the top. However, and it always struck me odd, the unwritten rules really forbid a backroom-type from running for the front room, yet that is exactly what Leitch is doing. Even more odd, even bizarre, is her choice of the "Canadian values" flag as her standard. She has really caused herself some significant brand damage with that position - the kind of damage that sticks and never goes away.

Which brings me to the best choice for a brand new leader - Erin O'Toole. O'Toole is an experienced politician. He took the absolutely poisoned Department of Veterans Affairs over from Julian Fantino - a man who managed  to completely isolate the Conservatives military vote. In reality, O'Toole's rescue of Veterans Affairs shows he can take a severely damaged brand, and turn things around completely. That is the true test of a good politician and leader. O'Toole is also from Ontario, where the Conservatives need to win big. He is unassuming, down to earth, friendly, but also serious. He inspires trust - a key necessity for the Conservatives. He is also the perfect contrast to Trudeau. He is not flash and dash with no substance. It cannot be emphasized enough that the perfect foil to Trudeau's terrible performance will be key in the next election.

Now having stated that Erin O'Toole should be the next leader of the Conservative Party, I wonder if the Party itself can see the forest for the trees. Will it be another case of a pre-set leadership race, with  pre-planned alliances giving us the all too predictable result - as has been the case in the past? Will Bernier cross the floor to Leitch to crown her, and she in turn make him her Quebec lieutenant? Or could it be visa versa? Time will tell, but the Conservatives need to make the right decision this time. No Harper like candidate (read Leitch or O'Leary). No Quebec-first candidate (read Bernier). No Mr. Nice Guy but no substance candidate (like the ex-Speaker). What they need is a reasonable and trustable person, who has a good record in government with no associated negative baggage. That bill fits Erin O'Toole perfectly. If the Conservative Party of Canada has learned anything, the next Conservative Party leader will be Erin O'Toole.



 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Syria is for Syrians

You could be excused for thinking the world has taken a madness pill, and jumped off the deep end. Whether it is the schizophrenic American political scene, the deep and divisive European internal political battles, the Middle East in turmoil, or the fact that the stock markets continue on as if nothing is happening, the place has lost the plot. Speaking of lost the plot, this post focuses on the almost unbelievable actions of foreign nations in Syria, and what may well come next.

Let's start with the rules. The Laws of Wars encompassed within the Convention of the Hague, 1907, specifically defines how a war amongst nations must be declared:

"Article 1

The Contracting Powers recognize that hostilities between themselves must not commence without previous and explicit warning, in the form either of reasoned declaration of war or of an ultimatum with conditional declaration of war."

The United States and Turkey signed this Convention. Ironically, Syria did not. Now Syria is the victim of hostilities perpetuated upon it by two countries who have solemnly sworn not to do so. All the rest flows from this. When the Syrian "uprising" began it was people on the streets - unarmed people. They didn't have small arms, artillery, tanks, or anti-aircraft weapons. Where did all that come from? They didn't have bank accounts with hundreds of millions of dollars to fund a 4 year long conventional war against their own government. Where did that come from? It came from the United States, Turkey and Saudi Arabia - that's where.

Having abandoned the very basic convention of declaring a war on Syria, there was no reason to believe that the rest of the war would be any different. No rules. No holds barred. The law of the jungle where might is right seeped into the country of Syria. Hundreds of thousands have been slaughtered in the name of ... regime change. That's really what it boils down to. The Russians and Iranians want to keep a strategic ally in the region, and the Americans, Turks and Saudis want them gone. Let's not disgrace the name of democracy and liberty by suggesting the war in Syria has a thing to do with those tenants of freedom.

So where are we going from here in Syria? The map below will tell you where we are now:



As you can see, the blue area in the top to middle part of this picture is the area of Northern Syria controlled by Turkey after it invaded with armed militia supporters. The yellow areas are controlled by essentially the Kurds (backed with armed Americans). The green areas are controlled by the Syrian, Russian, and Iranian forces. Several things come to mind. Firstly, the Kurds are quite divided in the territories they hold. To the west they hold large parts of northern Aleppo. To the east they hold the areas around Manbij. In between them the Turks hold the area around Al-Bab. What makes things tricky for the Kurds is they cannot unite their territories in the east and west without engaging Turkish forces, which would give Turkish President Erdogan the excuse he needs to go full in with large military forces. So, realistically, the Kurds have no hope of holding the area of Northern Aleppo.

They also have no realistic hope of holding their territories on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River centered on Manbij. As I write this, Syrian and Russian forces are making big advances shown as pink on the map. (see operational map below) They are pushing to and reaching the Euphrates River to  the southern flank of the Kurds Manjib beach head. It is now only a matter of time before the Kurds will have to withdraw from the Manbij area to the eastern bank of the Euphrates River. Here their position is far more defensible from the Syrian army, and to a lesser extent the Turkish Army.



That makes the Euphrates River the new dividing line in the battle for Syria - the divide between the Kurds/Americans and everyone else. There is, however, a weak link in that line of defence - Deir al- Zour. This city and nearby airbase is controlled by the Syrian army, and is located to the south of Al- Raqqa (the ISIS self declared capital on the Euphrates. This map gives you a good idea of the area and the cities involved:


 
Deir al- Zour bridges the Euphrates and leaves any Kurdish partition of  North Eastern Syria highly vulnerable. In fact, it makes such a complete partition almost impossible to defend. Currently, the Kurds and Americans are concentrating their forces on the battle to retake Al-Raqqa. They have it surrounded on three sides with its back to the Euphrates. The US has just deployed 2200 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division, and 1000 reservists to Kuwait in preparation for the final battle of Al-Raqqa. They have also deployed air mobile artillery, and the 400 troops that go with it, directly to the Al-Raqqa front. As of this morning the Americans and Kurds were within 50 km of the northern gates to Al-Raqqa. It may be a grind, but ISIS has no hope of winning that battle. Al-Raqqa will be laid to waste by American artillery and air strikes.

What comes then? Well, if the American and Kurdish intention is to create a Kurdish territory out of North eastern Syria, which this writer considers a foregone conclusion, then a battle for Dier-al-Zour will be next. It is a strategic must to seal a gaping hole in the Euphrates River defence concept. That will involve the Americans and Kurds attacking the Syrian and Russian military located there. A dangerous proposition indeed.

It has always been the case, since the ISIS advance was halted on the door steps of Bagdad, that the real danger of foreign powers throwing international law to the wind would play itself out once their common menace had been eliminated. We are almost at that point now. Mosul is essentially finished for ISIS. Al-Raqqa is surrounded. It's like the final weeks of Nazi Germany for ISIS right now. What unfolded after Nazi Germany fell was the iron curtain, the Berlin Wall, and the Cold War. Will that happen in Syria? Will the Americans put the brakes on and hold the Kurds to the eastern banks of the Euphrates? Will the Syrians and Russians be prepared to allow that to happen while they turn their attention toward the areas around Damascus and Ibdib that still require action to rid them of Islamic and Turkmen militias? Would that be a fatal move for Syria? And what of Turkey? Would it be prepared to allow a new Kurdish region to be added to the autonomous Kurdish region in Northern Iraq? That would leave just the South Eastern area of Turkey for the Kurds to capture and form their treasured vision of a united Kurdistan - one that already has the implicit and military backing of the United States.

The most plausible scenario, given the pragmatic chess strategy of Russian President Putin, is that the Syrians take the western bank of the Euphrates, and the Kurds/Americans take the Eastern bank - for now. Then the Russians and Syrians will turn their focus to the pockets of resistance in North Western Syria, and isolated pockets around Damascus and their border with Lebanon (Hezbollah and Iran likely playing a predominant role there). It seems Putin is willing to forestall any one-on-one confrontation with the US until after his rearmament program is finished - around 2020. In the mean time he is in the defensive mode, as is clearly demonstrated in the conflict in Eastern Ukraine. The problem with his strategy, as can be quite clearly seen in the Ukraine conflict, is that it gives the Americans time to establish positions in the area, and reinforce/bolster the local military. Now, instead of Russia taking on an isolated Ukrainian military of 50,000 it faces an unofficially NATO aligned country with over 200,000 troops. The same scenario is almost certainly going to play out in the Kurdish territories. In some ways, if you're Putin, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't.

The real lesson in all of this is that abandoning the rules of order for expediency can never be sanctioned, and that to see it any other way is to invite chaos to the orderly conduct of societies around the world. It has to be said, because it is patently obvious, that the Americans hold the full responsibility for chaos that their cavalier actions have created in the world. They have changed the term "national interest" into the all encompassing "national right". They have claimed the world as their own with no right to do so. An unfortunate, but predictable consequence of the fall of the Soviet Union. A living case of power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely. They have perverted the "peace dividend" that was so greatly lauded when the Berlin Wall fell into a "we'll take what we want when we want dividend", and in doing so turned the world against them. It is the Americans who were not invited into Syria to help fight ISIS. Just as it was the Americans that fanned the flames of the civil unrest in Syria to begin with, and it was the Americans, in conjunction with the Saudis, that financed it.

The only solution for Syria is that Syrians decide what their country will be. To demand otherwise is to place yourself in a type of arrogance not befitting the average person. Always remember it is not righteous people who start wars, it is the self-righteous. The ones that place their beliefs above all others and enforce them over all others. Recent history has shown that the Americans will not allow the Syrians to decide the future of their country, and that is a terrible indictment upon them. It is also a terrible indictment against the rest of us that we allow this type of "God syndrome" to have a place in the civilized  world we claim ours to be. In that way, Syria today is a reflection on all of us - our greed, our arrogance, our uncaring hypocrisy. The very same traits that have their roots in all our conflicts of the past. It shows that despite all our achievements as a species, when all that is stripped away, we continue to act as though we still carry clubs and dwell in caves. That's the really sad part of it all.      



Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Coup in Washington

The old Chinese proverb "may you live in interesting times" rings so very true these days. A "populist" billionaire is elected as a "man of the people" in the United States, and sends the internal organs of the American elite into convulsion. It's hard to watch what is loosely called the land of the free, and remain uncommitted to one side or the other - by design perhaps. With every passing day the venom grows, the accusations become more shrill, and President Trump becomes more destabilized. It's the type of "regime change" actions we routinely witness the United States commit in the rest of the world now being visited on its own, by its own.

Make no mistake, what is happening in the United Sates right now has absolutely nothing to do with Russia, or any other foreign country. Nor is it some sort of spontaneous movement against a "crazed despot". What we are witnessing is the very calculated destabilization of the American presidency by those that are sworn to uphold the American constitution, and those that aren't sworn but claim to uphold it. In other words, an internal insurrection.

To be fair, Trump seemed to anticipate this sort of reaction to his election - even well before election day. He shrewdly calculated that the American establishment would use all their means to thwart him, and even unseat him. So, right back to the early days of the campaign, he began marshalling people toward a common set of causes in order to create what he termed as "the greatest movement in US history" -  a"Trump Nation" if you will. He was so successful that the US political establishment quickly realized that should they try and impede him that Trump would appeal to his base, which was primarily Republican voters, and they would place decisive pressure on those Republican Senators and members of Congress that stood in his way. In fact, it is quite clear that Trump is not really a Republican at all, but an independent who chose to use the Republican Party as a vehicle to gain office. And his plan succeeded perfectly.

However, since the election, things have changed. It is quite obvious now that the US establishment are not prepared to accept the results of the election - ironically what they accused Trump of preparing to do should he have lost the election. Instead they have chosen to launch a campaign against President Trump, from a multitude of sources, to first destabilize his presidency by eroding his support with his base, and then.. well we'll get to that.

As bizarre as it might seem to be to accuse governmental organizations within the United States of acting to over throw their own duly elected President, it must be said that all the evidence points to that fact. It becomes obvious when you look at previous US intelligence operations in other countries to see the same MO here. The damaging internal intelligence leaks. The 24-7 vicious media attacks. All designed to decimate the credibility of President Trump in the eyes of "Trump Nation" - the source of Trump's power, and incite hatred  and contempt towards the man. Once his credibility has been sufficiently destroyed they will move to replace him.

There are a number of solid pieces of evidence that clearly demonstrate they are maneuvering to distance VP Pence from Trump as we speak. For example, the recent firing of Trump's national security advisor. It has been made clear, especially in the media, that the reason he was fired was for "lying to VP Pence" over his contacts with Russia. Within days of that spin, Pence is jettisoned off to an international security conference in Europe where he is portrayed as "the voice of reason" by the US media. His diplomatic skills are emphasized. There are no peculiar and unflattering pictures of him published. In other words he is being promoted, but by whom?

The choice of Pence as running mate for Trump was often described by the US media as a nod to the Republican establishment, but many people thought it could also prove to be his undoing. Short term gain for long term pain. You will notice that throughout the Republican campaign, and the actual election, not one negative story about Pence has been filed. Why? Through two years of campaigning the media could not find any dirt on Pence? Seems very unlikely. The answer is clear - they're protecting him. Why have they protected him from the get go, and are now not just protecting him, but also promoting him? Cause he's their man. The man they intend to take over from Trump when they move to remove him. The vehicle of removal? With the obvious vilification of Trump by the media on the issue of Russia it seems this will be the chosen route for seeking his impeachment. However, it would seem that impeaching the man before he has barely attained the throne might not be the most prudent course. Then again, when it comes to loss of control, perhaps expediency will trump prudency.   

The US political establishment, and the US security establishment walk hand in hand. Never let that simple fact be lost on you. Therefore, when the political establishment is threatened with a loss of control so is the intelligence establishment. Nobody expected Trump to become President Trump (well some of us did call it) and what we're witnessing now is a sort of emergency surgery by the US establishment. They always had Pence as their go to card, but likely never believed they would need it - if the coverage by CNN is any example.

The bottom line is that the duly elected President of the United States is facing a coup from within the US political, security and media establishments. A very distasteful travesty to be perpetuated upon the "leader of the free world". The expediency of breaking the rules is always tempting to those in power, but it also has devastating consequences that are normally unintended. Whoever chose the expedient assassination of John F. Kennedy likely didn't fully realize that the assassination would create permanent, deep seeded distrust about the American government with the American people. It severely undermined the credibility of the establishment, and has fostered a now almost impenetrable distrust of all the government agencies within government.

Today the preferred method of dealing with these sort of situations is character assassination and not actual assassination. However, the reaction to this action may well be the same. Now many within the US establishment are attempting to show Russian President Putin as the puppet master behind Trump's rise to power. That may be true, or it may not be true. One thing is for certain though, Putin has to be the happiest camper on the block with Trump's election. The Divided States is now more divide than ever - bypassing the Vietnam War era. If something were to happen to President Trump the only real benefactor would be Putin. The internal unrest that would result from a coup against Trump would rip the US apart as "Trump Nation" lost its proverbial mind over his ouster. If he isn't ousted, and the US establishment simply continues to create an atmosphere of chaos within the country, Putin wins here too. Putin would certainly be the man sitting in the nose bleed section, devouring his popcorn as the US imploded. Looking at it from that perspective is even more worrisome, yet all too real to be ignored. Putin may have helped Trump get elected, but he may have done it in careful consideration of the reaction by the establishment to a Trump victory and not any possible sweet deals he could get as a result of his assistance. This seems far more likely to me.

If I had a message for the US establishment it would be: careful what you wish for. For every action there is a reaction, and the unintended consequences of surgery may be fatal for their place they have become accustomed to. Certainly that is what history has shown - in the US or elsewhere. The far better approach is to allow the man to exercise the responsibility he earned by winning the election. Rely and trust in your democratic process. Put aside your ambitions and ego. Let nature take its course. Do not open Pandora's Box. Be careful what you wish for.  If I had a message for President Trump it would be: whoever is feeding you lines that your electoral college seat count is the highest since Reagan's victory is giving you "bad advice" for an intended purpose. I'm a proud Canadian, and happy this isn't transpiring in my country, but this world is for all of us to be responsible for. Coups are not responsible exercises of power. This one, in that way, is no different.


Friday, February 3, 2017

Russia's duty in Eastern Ukraine

As far as civil wars go, the war in Eastern Ukraine is as ugly and hateful as any. It started with a popular revolt in the republics of Lugansk and Donetsk against the removal of the Ukrainian president by popular revolt in Western Ukraine - during the Sochi Olympics. Back then unarmed civilians were standing in front of tanks and armoured personnel carriers to stop Ukrainian troops from entering their cities and towns. People took over government buildings and protested against the government in Kiev. We're a long way from those days now.

With backing from the United States, the Ukrainian government turned its army on the rebels in both Republics. In response, Russia assisted the rebels with arms, intelligence and some allege men. In any case, the popular unrest against the coup in Kiev turned into a war for the two republics independence. Shockingly, and brutally, the Ukrainian government ordered its own military forces to attack the towns and cities of Donetsk and Lugansk, and the death toll of civilians ran into the thousands. The Ukrainian government never seriously looked to negotiate with the people of Eastern Ukraine. They simply tried to put them down. That's were anger over the coup turned into pure hatred. A blood hatred. Too many lives were touched by death and destruction at the hands of their own government to ever forgive.

Today, as I write this, the guns of war have shattered what was always a shaky ceasefire known as the Minsk Accord. Minsk was always destined to failure as it never fully took into account the blood hate in Ukraine. I wrote about it back then here . The truth is neither side wants a thing to do with the other. The Ukrainian government is acting as though the people in Eastern Ukraine are trying to steal their territory, and the people who reside there have no right to self-determination. Not a very European view, which the new government there claims to be.

The Ukrainian army has been conducting a "creeping" offensive almost since Minsk was signed, but in recent days that has accelerated dramatically. They have been moving into small towns and areas that were agreed to be no man's land, or left alone by both sides. They were in the de-militarized zone that divided the two sides along the complete front lines. The forces of Donetsk and Lugansk, I call them NAF or Novorossiya Armed Forces, after the name the Lugansk and Donetsk Republics gave their new political entity (Novorossiya = New Russia), are responding to these incursions now. Massive artillery duels between the two sides have escalated dramatically. Civilian areas are being leveled once again, and Ukrainian tanks have been filmed in the "de-militarized" zone near the city of Donetsk.

It appears that a freshly rearmed Ukraine, with masses of new military recruits, is again planning on asserting itself on the two republics. That being the case, where are the guarantor nations of the Minsk Agreement? Russia, Germany and France brokered the deal, but they aren't forcing the Ukrainian government to restrain itself. In fact, they haven't been able to get Ukraine to live up to any of the required steps outlined in the Minsk Agreement. Instead, Minsk has served as a shaky truce at best - often violated over the last three years, but not to the degree it has been today.

Russia, Germany and France have the responsibility to enforce Minsk. Not just the truce aspect of Minsk, but also the structural requirements that the Ukraine government was meant to do under the agreement. While Russia would not have much influence to bring to bare on the government in Kiev, Germany and France certainly could. The United States certainly could. Instead, these governments, including my own in Canada, have turned this into a rearming and retraining exercise of the Ukrainian military - essentially treating Ukraine as a member of the NATO alliance. In other words, there has been no good faith given to the Minsk Agreement, and the sole focus has been meeting force with force.

Russia has a role to play in all this that it has refused, and that is to occupy the two republics. The Ukrainian government feels it has a free hand in attacking when and how it chooses, and most of the casualties that result are civilians. This has to stop. The only way to stop the Ukrainian government from attacking its own civilians in the republics is to place a barrier in front of them that will deliver a much more serious blow to them that they could inflict on the other side. The Russian army would and should constitute such a barrier. I say that not to wave the Russian flag, but in serious reflection on reality. Russia will not, understandably, allow foreign armies enmasse on its border. Nobody would. It would take an army to stop the two sides from killing each other. The majority of both republics either identify themselves as Russian or are Russian speakers. The Russians in these circumstances would be trusted by the people of Donetsk and Lugansk.

Russian military intervention in the republics is necessary, pragmatic, and humane. The Western world needs to come to this conclusion, and support it before all out carnage raises its ugly head there again. The stupid, outdated ideas of Russian imperialism and all that nonsense need to be put to the side. The Russian government must also wake up and smell the coffee. Russia claims to be a source of major influence in the world, and a leader in a new multi-polar world. If that is to be the case, then Russia must exert itself correspondingly if it wants to be taken seriously.

Of course, Russia itself is in the middle of a rearmament program, and in that sense it may not want to bite off more than it can chew - which in a sense is understandable. However, when mass slaughter is happening on your won border, and people of your decent are the victims of a government that shells its own people, then it is incumbent on you to act decisively. By way of example, the Turkish incursion into Syria to establish a "safe zone". Russia could, and should do the same in Donetsk and Lugansk. A safe zone that protects those people from being slaughtered at random by their own government. That isn't being imperialistic or ambitious. It is being humane and showing leadership. It is plain and obvious, that after three years of Minsk, the Ukraine government simply can't resist the temptation to put down the people of Donetsk and Lugansk by force. No further evidence is required. Russia sitting on its hands makes Russia look weak on its own border, and with its fellow Slavs. So, Mr. Putin, show the leadership a leader of the multi-polar world must, and make Donetsk and Lugansk a "safe zone" for the people that live there. Don't they deserve that much?














Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Trump Wars

The United States is at war - with itself at the moment. Donald John Trump, the 45th President of the United States, wants to reverse all the wrongs he sees plaguing his country. Fair enough. New leaders often come in with the strongest of intentions. Nothing new there. This time it's different though. It is said that politics is the game of rich men. Trump won the presidency without having to cut deals with the US establishment. In doing so he cut them out of the power equation they have been used to holding, and that has become dangerous. Only a rich man could do it. One who could fund his own campaign. One who could pay for his own mistakes. That is Trump, and that's exactly what he did.

Now we have the aftermath. An unprecedented situation in western political history which many would welcome, but which also holds real danger for all. Trump is not controlled by the US elite. He now has the power in many ways to act unilaterally on the international scene - including deploying US forces into conflict.  The Chinese refer to politics as war without bloodshed, and to war as politics with bloodshed. A very accurate way to measure the dynamics of mankind. Today we are at the point of war without bloodshed - at least in the West. In the near future we will be immersed in politics with bloodshed - unfortunately for us all.

A troubling sign of  this was Trump's election campaign, and the constant reference to Iran as a pariah state. Another was a similar view of China. In my mind though, the Iran war is more immanent than the Chinese conflict. The reason for that conclusion? In a word - Israel. Trump has made his son-in-law his strategic adviser on the Middle East. His son-in-law is Jewish. That creates an immediate problem of perception. For instance, what if his son-in-law was Saudi or Palestinian? The optics are quite obvious - the strategic advice is more than likely to be slanted in one direction. That creates real danger for the world. It leaves him open to influence.

On the campaign trail, a bombastic Trump promised the crowds that he would "rip up" the Iranian nuclear deal which is just months old. That in itself is troubling. Even more troubling is the fact that such an act is fully inline with Israel's policy on the agreement. Just remember that without a nuclear deal Israel was pressing for a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. It appears that is now back on the table. They aren't talking about it publicly yet, but a curious, foreboding message was just released from the Israeli Prime Minister. The video message is directed at the Iranian people, and not the Iranian government he says. In it he calls the Israeli and Iranian people friends who are being separated by a religious dictatorship (regime). At one point, in the two minute video, he let's slip that the Iranian people will not he under the yoke of this regime much longer. The inference is clear. Iran is on the cusp of being "liberated". Regime change. War is coming, and he is asking the Iranian people to view Israel as a liberator.

That simple insinuation says a few things. Firstly, it says that the Israeli Prime Minister knows there is a war coming with Iran - otherwise he wouldn't have put the words in that context. It also jives with the new US President's view toward Iran. Trump has promised to stop the US's foreign wars, and essentially make the US a pre-World War One isolationist power, so is there a contradiction in his view of Iran? Consider that Israel was prepared to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities prior to the nuclear agreement, but former President Obama would not "green light" that operation. Israel was held back. Now, however, the water on the beans has changed. Trump, it appears, is fully prepared to allow Israel a free hand in dealing with Iran. And that is very dangerous indeed.

It is now almost certain that Israel with attempt to bomb Iran. It's just as certain the Trump will turn a blind eye to it, with a quiet promise the US will back Israel if things get ugly. It's curious that just last week two unidentified drones were spotted over Iran's capital city - one was shot down. It's also interesting that during the same time Russia moved state of the art s-400 anti missile systems into the Moscow area, and placed them on "combat alert". The war of words with China dramatically escalated, as well, to the point Trump threatened China with a naval blockade. China, in turn, said it would not be deterred in the South China Sea by "word bombs" from the US. Clearly the world is moving dramatically toward conflict - armed conflict more likely than not. I suggest the first concrete step in that conflict will be Israel bombing Iran - sadly.

On the face of things it seems odd that Trump would be seeking to repair relations with Russia on the one hand, but raise the spectre of war with Russia's two most important allies, China and Iran, on the other hand. There seems to be a disconnect there. Of course, Trump is accused by his detractors as having many different disconnects on many different issues, so perhaps this is just another case. Or perhaps it is a ruse. Perhaps it's an attempt to split Russia away from China like Hitler tried to do with Britain and Europe. In any event, Russia is not about to abandon its eternal alliance with China, and strategically important alliance with Iran, to make nice with the Americans. That is not going to happen. So when Israel bombs Iran, and Iran and Israel go to war, it would seem inevitable that the US would back Israel and Russia/China would back Iran. Such a situation, if you can put the thought of nuclear destruction out of your mind for a moment, would give Trump the ammunition he needs to block China's access to many markets - a key plank in his way of thinking. Made in America, not made in China, is his goal. It fits pretty nicely.

One last very key point. The US is more divided as a country now than it has been since their civil war. Trump is not the cause, but he is the symptom. As Lincoln said: "a house divided against itself cannot stand." Has there ever been a clearer example of that than today's United States? The US, as a country, is in desperate need of a unifying cause. The US loves to unite for causes. In today's case, Trump is looking to use a war for that purpose. Dislike of Iran is almost universal in the US. It's almost a safe bet that the American people would rally around that - especially if Israel was attacked in retaliation for the bombing of its nuclear facilities. You can hear it now: "USA...USA..USA". Unfortunately, a war for the United States has become almost a national imperative. A patriotic duty to keep the country from breaking apart at the seams. The fact that such a war will almost certainly lead to a wider conflict with Russia and China will likely not mean a lot to a people in desperate need of a unifying cause.

Hope I'm wrong.