Now that Donald Trump, like Barack Obama before him, has failed to remove Syria’s Bashar al-Assad by means of American training of, and supply of weapons to, ‘rebels’ (almost all of whom were actually jihadists) in Syria, Trump, on March 21st, has set into motion a process that is designed to provide a ‘justification’ for an all-out U.S. military invasion of Syria, as a means to ‘defend Israel’.
This strategy pertains to Syria’s Golan Heights region, which is occupied by Israelis. That area of tension would be the trigger-point for the next shot in the anti-Syrian war, which would be the final shot, if it becomes fired. But perhaps Trump thinks that the threat alone will be enough to get Syria’s Government to capitulate. Anyway, the threat was issued by Trump on March 21st. So, here is the history, and documentation (via links), behind this sequence of events — the history that makes sense of Trump’s new American strategy, to conquer Syria (replacing the use of such proxy-forces as were previously used):
On 5-10 June 1967, Israel invaded Syria and Egypt and grabbed from Syria the 690-square-mile Golan Heights area of Syria. Israel has occupied it ever since. The Golan Heights is internationally recognized as being Syrian territory. But Trump now wants to change that and make it Israel’s, just as he had earlier helped Israel to change its capital from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Trump is the first head-of-state (other than Israel’s) to assert publicly that the Golan Heights is part of Israel, not part of Syria. Trump represents (takes his orders from) Israel’s invasion-craving fundamentalist-Jewish Benjamin Netanyahu, who wants to make official, finally, the ‘ownership’, by Israel, of Syria’s Golan Heights. Netanyahu had been expecting America’s war by use of proxies against Syria’s Government to succeed, but it has instead failed, and so an outright American invasion of Syria, by U.S. troops and missiles and bombs, will be needed, like was done to Iraq in 2003, and to Libya in 2011.
Trump also represents Israel’s ally, the equally invasion-craving and equally anti-Syrian, fundamentalist-Sunni Saudi King Salman al-Saud, and his son and heir Crown Prince Salman al-Saud. Both Netanyahu and King Salman want the fundamentalist-Sunni Saud family to control Syria. (Both Netanyahu and Salman want Syria’s land, not necessarily the people who live on it, millions of whom have fled the war in Syria, which pits Syria against the U.S.-allied invading and occupying fundamentalist-Sunni forces, which have been brought in from all over the world.) Apparently, Trump’s instructions from both Netanyahu and Salman are that this part of Syria — the Golan Heights — is to go immediately to Israel, while a means continues to be sought for the rest of Syria to become ruled ultimately by a satrap selected by the Saud family. Trump’s predecessor, Obama, had done everything he could to place Salman in control of Syria this way (by means of proxy-fighters), but failed. Trump is extremely competitive. He’s determined to out-do Obama, in service to America’s masters, whom the U.S. has long been serving: Israel and Saudi Arabia — and, of course (above all), America’s own billionaires, who likewise are united in alliance with both of those two countries’ respective aristocracies, against Syria, and against any other nation that’s (like Syria is) allied with Russia (or even friendly toward Russia, such as Ukraine was, which was successfully flipped to the U.S. in 2014, by a U.S. coup that destroyed Ukraine). The chief U.S. aim, ever since 24 February 1990, has been for Russia ultimately to be conquered and absorbed into The West — brought into America’s empire. Both the Sauds and the regime in Israel are supportive of that U.S. goal, but not primarily focused on it, like America’s billionaires are (they are obsessive against Russia). Israel and the Sauds have their own reasons to want Syria; but, as regards the U.S. regime, Syria’s alliance with Russia is the main reason that Syria must be conquered. That’s the geostrategic reason: isolating Russia, in preparation for ultimately conquering Russia.
And, so, Trump has decided to be not only the first American President but the first international head-of-state outside Israel who has publicly committed the United States to formally recognize the Golan Heights — that land which was stolen from Syria — as being legally Israeli land. It’s to be done right now, regardless of when (or whether) the U.S. ever succeeds in ousting Syria’s existing non-sectarian Government. In fact, it will provide the U.S. a pretext to invade Syria directly (by a U.S. invasion), instead of (as until now) via mere proxy-forces such as Al Qaeda-led “boots on the ground” fighting to overthrow Syria’s Government. (In 2013, the BBC’s “Guide to the Syrian rebels” said “There are believed to be as many as 1,000 armed opposition groups in Syria, commanding an estimated 100,000 fighters.” In 2015, “The Soufan Group has calculated that between 27,000 and 31,000 people have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join the Islamic State and other violent extremist groups from at least 86 countries.” These are large proxy-forces. In Syria, they were led by the U.S.-backed Syrian branch of Al Qaeda. The U.S. under Obama insisted that Russia not bomb Syria’s Al Qaeda, and this demand scuttled the cease-fire negotiations. Obama’s protection of Al Qaeda in Syria continued under Trump.)
This U.S.-backed Israeli theft of the Golan Heights will enable America to invade Syria directly and heavily, when and if Syria reacts militarily against Israel’s seizure of its land. Trump appears now to want to do this, and maybe is even hoping for Syria to respond militarily, so as to provide an excuse (based on America’s alliance with Israel) for an all-out U.S. invasion against Syria: ‘defense of an ally’. America has failed to conquer Syria with mere proxy forces (such as Al Qaeda); this would be the next step — U.S. troops, bombers, and missiles, en-masse. The presumption is that Russia would not defend Syria. That’s a very risky assumption, but Trump is a very bold man.
Trump announced, on March 21st, that “After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability.” He thereby made clear that America is a slave to the racist-apartheid Israeli regime and will violate the intentions of all the rest of the world’s leaders except Israel’s, in demanding international recognition of this land as being a part of Israel.
This threat against Syria was not made just casually.
On March 13th, Politico headlined “New Trump administration report softens language on Israeli-occupied Golan Heights”, and Nahal Toosi reported:
The State Department’s newest Human Rights Report describes the Golan Heights as “Israeli-controlled” instead of “Israeli-occupied,” a linguistic change sure to fuel criticism that the Trump administration is bucking global consensus on Israel’s reach.
The change comes as conservative U.S. lawmakers are pushing to have the Golan Heights recognized as part of Israel. If President Donald Trump goes along with that, it would be the latest of several pro-Israel moves on his part, including moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv….
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) recently said he would push Congress to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. “To give this up would be a strategic nightmare for the State of Israel. And who would you give it to?” Graham said.
The shifts in the U.S. approach to the region, which activists say has largely been to the detriment of Palestinians, come as the Trump administration prepares to release its proposal to resolve the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The proposal, spearheaded by Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, is expected to be unveiled after Israel’s elections in April, though no firm date has been set.
Finian Cunningham has brought public attention to a self-interested reason why Trump might be determined to assist Netanyahu to make Golan Heights legally israeli territory. Headlining at Strategic Culture, on March 19th “US Duplicity over Golan Demolishes Posturing on Crimea”, he wrote:
There has been previous speculation that Trump is doing the bidding for a US-based oil company, Genie Oil, which is linked to his administration through his son-in-law Jared Kushner’s family investments. The New Jersey company has a subsidiary in Israel, is tied to the Netanyahu government, and has long been aiming to drill the Golan for its abundant oil resources.
However, there also is another possible reason, and Cunningham touched upon it, too: an intention for Trump to offer to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin a trade-off offer, that in return for Putin’s rejecting the repeatedly-shown-by-polling strong desire of the residents of Crimea for Crimea to be part of Russia instead of part of Ukraine, and for Putin to force Crimeans to become again ruled by Ukraine (as they had been between 1954 and 2014), the U.S. will now stop demanding that the residents of Golan Heights be part of and legally ruled by Israel, instead of for them to be ruled again by Syria as they always were.
But what is clear is that Trump definitely does now intend to legalize Israel’s control over Golan Heights, and that this has been a hope of every Israeli Administration since 1967.
Earlier, Trump had made clear that he wouldn’t do anything about Saudi Crown Prince Salman al-Saud’s barbaric torture-murder (and lies about that revenge-murder) of a Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Trump also makes clear that the U.S. will do nothing against the Salmans’ effort to starve to death the Shiite Houthis in Yemen by bombing their food-supply lines. All of that is fine with Donald Trump. This is how competitive he is. He is all-out competitive, and especially wants to out-do Obama on what he can, and to un-do Obama on what he can (such as he does by trying to destroy Obama’s gift to drug companies, Obamacare).
America supplies the training and weapons for both the Saudi and Israeli militaries. Trump’s secret National Security Policy (as introduced to the press on 19 January 2018) said that, “Though we will continue to prosecute the campaign against terrorists that we are engaged in today, … Great Power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of U.S. national security.” By “Great Power competition,” it refers to, as being the chief enemies, “revisionist powers as different as China and Russia are from each other, nations that do seek to create a world consistent with their authoritarian models, pursuing veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic and security decisions.” Isn’t that an excellent description of the U.S. Government, regardless of whether it’s also accurately describing either Russia, China, or any other? It certainly sounds like Big Brother’s propaganda in today’s world. But does America really need more wars? Should America’s Government really be policeman of the entire world? Indeed: of any part of the world except itself? The lying Trump had won his office by promising never to advocate any such “policeman of the world” role; but here he’s doing exactly that — for the clear benefit of America’s masters: Netanyahu and Salman and America’s oil and gas companies and all other U.S. billionaires. He represents them — not the people who had voted for him. (And, certainly, also, not the people who had voted against him. The U.S. electorate certainly are not represented by America’s Government. That’s just an established and confirmed fact.)
If the reason why Trump is now backing Israel’s aim to legalize its seizure of Golan Heights is to serve Israel’s desire for more territory, and to serve the desire of both Netanyahu and Salman for the Sauds to take ultimate control over Syria, then that would be a geostrategic aim, instead of an aim to enrich Trump’s daughter and her husband Jared Kushner by oil-wealth from Golan Heights. This geostrategic aim would be that there will be a trade-off of Golan Heights for Crimea: Israel will win legal control over Golan Heights, and Ukraine will win legal control over Crimea. However, what if Putin says no to that? There could then be an invasion by Syria against the Israelis who are occupying Golan Heights, followed by an invasion of Syria by both Israel and the United States, and a responding invasion by Russia against both Israel and the United States, ending perhaps in World War III, an annihilating global nuclear war. What would therefore be likelier would be that when Putin says no, Trump will propose — and Putin will accept — that the U.N. will oversee free and fair and U.N.-supervised elections, both in Golan Heights and in Crimea, and that the will of the majority of the residents in each of these two areas will determine what country they are part of. That would avoid WW III, and it also would be face-saving for the leaderships both in U.S. and in Russia. Of course, if the personal enrichment of Trump’s family is instead the motive, then the U.S. Congress will be far less supportive of Israel’s side in this matter than they have been up till now.
Democrats in Congress, and professional neoconservatives generally, not only are blindly suportive of Israel’s Government, but they allege that ‘Putin made Trump President’. They do this despite the fact that the Republican Trump Administration wants to escalate its Democratic Party predecessor Obama’s war (which started in 2012) against Russia; so, this accusation against Trump doesn’t really make much sense. Like the neoconservative advisor to international corporations Ian Bremmer said on 22 March 2018, in the neoconservative TIME magazine, “Putin Won. But Russia Is Losing.” That’s how Bremmer’s international clients want to view things — as if Russia, not the U.S., is the perpetrator of invasions and coups constantly, ‘perpetual war for perpetual peace’ — that it comes from Russia, instead of from America. But it’s obviously a lie.
On 23 February 2018, James George Jatras, at Strategic Culture, bannered “What Would an ‘America First!’ Security Policy Look Like?” and he provided his answer: it would look very different from Trump’s actual foreign policies. But I would put it another way: it would look like a country that isn’t trying to take over the world, and like a country that would eliminate most if not all of its hundreds of foreign military bases. U.S. President Eisenhower warned, near his last day in office, against growth in the “military-industrial complex,” but subsequently it has swallowed this country whole. Most Americans love that: the military is, by far, the highest-respected of all institutions in America. Is this the new Sparta? Maybe the new Rome? Or even the new Nazi Germany. With nuclear weapons. And both Republicans and Democrats support it, as if to do otherwise is ‘unpatriotic’.
On 8 June 1967, Israel intentionally attacked and sank the USS Liberty, slaughtering 34 of our sailors, and injuring another 172. The official U.S. government inquiry by an independent study Commission headed by Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, found that, “after eight hours of aerial surveillance, Israel launched a two-hour air and naval attack against the USS Liberty, the world’s most sophisticated intelligence ship.” “Unmarked Israeli aircraft dropped napalm canisters on the Liberty’s bridge, and fired 30mm cannons and rockets into our ship.” “Israeli torpedo boats later returned to machine-gun at close range three of the Liberty’s life rafts that had been lowered into the water by survivors to rescue the most seriously wounded.” “There is compelling evidence that Israel’s attack was a deliberate attempt to destroy an American ship and kill her entire crew.” “Israel committed acts of murder against American servicemen and an act of war against the United States.” “The White House deliberately prevented the U.S. Navy from coming to the defense of the Liberty.” “Surviving crewmembers were later threatened with ‘court-martial, imprisonment or worse’ if they exposed the truth; and were abandoned by their own government.” “The White House deliberately covered up the facts of this attack from the American people.”
But those (plus America’s own billionaires) are the two countries that America’s President actually represents (in addition to America’s own billionaires, who are more concerned to conquer Russia and to control China).
America’s alliances reflect the interests of America’s billionaires, and that’s all. America’s military represents them, and that’s all. Today’s America is fundamentally different from FDR’s America. It is no democracy.
Author’s note: first posted at strategic-culture.org
Back to an Authoritarian Past? Elections in Baja California
On the 2nd of June2019 Mexico held local elections that proved to be a successful referendum on the incumbent president’s popularity. These elections were the first ones after his inauguration on December 1st, 2018. Despite a declining economy and increasing levels of violence, his ruling party, the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), gained major wins and further extended his influence across 6 states: The governorships in Baja California and Puebla; Tijuana’s Mayor’s seat; and legislative majorities in the local congresses of Baja California and Quintana Roo.
Baja California has become key in recent weeks in the process of democratisation in the country. After 30 years of being the ruling party in the state, the National Action Party (PAN), was defeated by MORENA. Conditions are set in Baja California are set for an intense post electoral process with serious consequences for the incumbent administration, and for the prospects of democracy in Mexico: On Monday 8th of July, the local Congress approved an extension to the current term of the governor from 2 to 5 years.
The choice of Jaime Bonilla as MORENA’s candidate was a troublesome one. Bonilla was resident of the American state of California until very recently, and a militant of the American Republican Party. The problem lies on the way he was chosen as candidate and his Republican militancy in the United States. Bonilla’s candidacy was propped up when Andrés Manuel López Obrador travelled to Baja California and agreed to publicly share a photo with the candidate, in a style that mirrored the very old authoritarian practices of the former hegemonic party Institutional Revolutionary Party, (PRI). MORENA’s obstinacy materialised to ensure the extension of the term once he was elected.
A 2014 constitutional reform mandated that the governor of the state of Baja California elected in 2019 would serve a 2-year term. This was done to align the state’s gubernatorial elections with the federal mid-term elections of 2021. MORENA argued that a 2-year term administration would prove to be more expensive and create higher political and economic uncertainty in the state. If such argument is allowed to be used this time, this could set a dangerous precedent to disappear institutions and extend terms of future administrations in order to make public administration more cost-effective. This is not a plausible justification and represents a serious setback.
The extension of the term from 2 to 5 years is a constitutional violation and electorally speaking it represents a throwback to the old monopolistic practices of the PRI. It also represents a violation to what election means in a democracy. Elections make a fundamental contribution to democratic governance. Because direct democracy. Elections enable voters to select leaders and to hold them accountable for their performance in office. Accountability can be undermined when elected leaders do not care whether they are re-elected or when, for historical or other reasons, one party is so dominant that there is effectively no choice for voters among alternative candidates, parties, or policies. Elections also reinforce the stability and legitimacy of the political community.
More importantly, a country cannot be truly democratic until its citizens have the opportunity to choose their representatives through elections that are free and fair. Elections also need to ensure the respect of essential criteria to be considered fair that include impartial electoral frameworks; credible electoral administration; and respect of electoral results. In the particular case of Baja California, such a reform to extend the term of the governor, should have been discussed, negotiated and ratified in 2017, before the elections of 2018 and 2019 for it to be considered as a legitimate measure. From a constitutional perspective, electoral processes are considered conclusive and each stage is final.
The president has decided to distant himself from the matter and leave this issue in the hand of the judiciary. The president has the attribution to promote an action of unconstitutionality in the Supreme Court of Justice, should he wish to condemn a clear anti-democratic action. Legislators of opposition parties have presented such recourse, and the incumbent Baja California governor has refused to ratify the results. López Obrador’s attempt to distance himself from the decision in Baja California is not an expression of respect and autonomy, it is rather one of consent and complicit that would leave doors open to further unconstitutional actions.
It is worrying bathat López Obrador washes his hands in a clear trampling of the popular will and the constitutional framework. By not defending effective suffrage, the president is validating the right to extend the term of any administration, by simple legislative whim, in any other governmental administration. All this could mean a setback to Mexico’s democracy. Like the PRI, MORENA is a pragmatic umbrella organisation including all sorts of political actors: there is room for everyone: the left, the right, those with a history of corruption, those who are not corrupt. It is back to the future. MORENA could also take over much of the PRI’s old patronage networks. While the PRI has curbed the power of top unions, MORENA has courted them, and part of MORENA’s ascent is based on the territorial grassroots work that the PRI dominated decades ago, let us hope that MORENA does not decide to also start mirroring the old authoritarian, undemocratic practices that allowed the PRI to remain in power for 71 years.
Trump: Rebukes and Worries
It’s one for the history books, as they say. On July 16, 2019, Donald Trump was formally rebuked by the House (in a 240 to 187 vote) for his ‘racist’ tweets on four Congresswomen. The last time the House rebuked a president was William Howard Taft over a 100 years ago.
So what did Trump do? He told the four members of Congress to ‘go-back’ to the ‘the crime infested places from which they came’ instead of ‘viciously telling’ us ‘how our government is to be run.
Three of the women were born in the U.S. and Ilhan Omar was a refugee from Somalia. Not difficult to guess which country was largely responsible for a proxy war in Somalia that overthrew a regime agreed to by warring parties for a rare interlude of peace. The resulting civil war now continues, and Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania are home to more than 2 million Somali refugees. Others have ventured further, to the EU and the US.
Trump’s assessment of all this is uniquely Trumpian. He thinks he has won because he has now got Speaker Nancy Pelosi exactly where he wants her for the 2020 election … in the arms of the squad of four, who he positions as radicals.
Exactly how radical are they? They want a living minimum wage, healthcare for all — something other developed countries already have — a decent shot at education, and they are strongly against Trump’s policies on the southern order. Finally, they want Palestinians to get a fair deal.
Steny Hoyer (aged 80) the Majority Leader and Nancy Pelosi (aged 79), the first woman Speaker of the House of Representatives, both with distinguished decades’ long careers, starting together coincidentally as staffers in the office of Senator Daniel Brewster (Democrat, Maryland), have weathered difficult battles on critical issues as well as the rough and tumble of politics for many a year.
To them the squad of four appear as upstarts with a brashness and energy that have captured the attention of mainstream news, and had a heretofore unseen impact on social media. They seem unwilling to compromise, and speak as equals despite a half-century age difference and a vast power gap in the House itself.
Not for them the lure of key committee appointments or other such carrots for a successful Congressional career. They are out and out idealists with a platform publicized positively thanks to left-wing websites and social media, and which can not be ignored by the mainstream outlets. The world has changed; no, these four have turned it upside down.
Trump himself has other worries. There is the case against Roger Stone his long-time ally, friend and attorney, who was back in court for disobeying the judge’s gag order. As the case goes forward, we will be back to the 2016 election, the Russian connection, and other efforts to smear Hillary Clinton. Will the calls for impeachment finally find a receptive ear in Nancy Pelosi?
Then there is Iran. Trump’s idea of a better deal is always to walk away from the present one. No matter if its a treaty or an international agreement. Ayatollah Ali Khamanei is not having any of it. People in this country are unaware that most such clerics, in addition to Islamic studies, are experts in jurisprudence and philosophy, are well-read, well-informed, and above all have to be highly intelligent to have been selected for this career path. The Ayatollah wants relief from sanctions first.
Trump’s new envoy to Iran, Senator Rand Paul is a libertarian like his father, and both are anti-war with a particular aversion for America’s misadventures abroad. So there is hope.
Just What Is An American?
The greatest mistake any leader, or moneyed powerful individual, or even masses of people (all 3 of which tend to have the loudest voices) is to culturally appropriate unto themselves, just exactly what it means to be an American, based on their own selfish notion of what it means.
The fact remains that the ideal of Americanism is a concept – a truly growing, organic, ever changing, and ever expanding idea that is enshrined within its founding documents and laws.
For example, the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, US Constitution, Civil Rights Act, and the Equal Rights Amendment, among scores of other acts of legislation, point to an ever growing ongoing journey to forge a new nation, just like ancient Rome did, united by a common destiny, and drawn from different experiences, cultures, cuisines, religions, ethnicities, races, nationalities, and world views.
So when President Trump on July 15, 2019 told four minority female congresswomen in sum and substance to “go back to there they came from” if they “didn’t like America,” he trampled over their own views, ideals, and experiences as Americans.
Quite simply his statement was an appropriation of what it means to be an American, from the point of view of a German/ Irish American senior citizen male, to a group of Latin/ Somali/ Palestinian/ African-American younger females.
Perhaps President Trump should re-visit his own people’s racial history, wherein the Irish were systematically excluded by the previously arrived and established Anglican Protestants, or even with the Germans in America who were actually interred in camps during the periods of World War I & World War II.
The German-American Experience
During World War II, the legal basis for this detention was under Presidential Proclamation 2526, made by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt under the authority of the Alien and Sedition Acts.
With the U.S. entry into World War I, German nationals were automatically classified as “enemy aliens.”
Two of the four main World War I-era internment camps were located in Hot Springs, N.C. and Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia.
Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer wrote that “All aliens interned by the government are regarded as enemies, and their property is treated accordingly.”
The Irish-American Experience
In 1836, young Benjamin Disraeli wrote: “The Irish hate our order, our civilization, our enterprising industry, our pure religion. This wild, reckless, indolent, uncertain and superstitious race have no sympathy with the English character. Their ideal of human felicity is an alternation of clannish broils and coarse idolatry. Their history describes an unbroken circle of bigotry and blood.”
Nineteenth-century Protestant American “Nativist” discrimination against Irish Catholics reached a peak in the mid-1850s when the Know-Nothing Movement tried to oust Catholics from public office.
Much of the opposition came from Irish Protestants, as in the 1831 riots in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
After 1860, many Irish sang songs about “NINA signs” reading Help wanted – no Irish need apply.
The 1862 song “No Irish Need Apply” was inspired by NINA signs in London.
Alongside “No Irish Need Apply” signs, in the post-World War II years, signs saying “No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs” or similar anti-Irish sentiment began to appear as well.
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