Tag Archives: Azov Brigade

the ‘crisis’ in Ukraine has never ended, but it has become an embarrassment…

Paul Moreira is an acclaimed French filmmaker. Yet even before his latest documentary “Ukraine, les masques de la révolution” [Ukraine: Masks of the Revolution] was premiered on February 1st by Canal+ he already faced fierce criticism having provoked outrage both in Ukraine and France. You can read an English translation of Moreira’s response to his critics here and watch the film embedded below:

http://www.liveleak.com/ll_embed?f=746f31a732b5

Ulrich Heyden is a German journalist and author. Since 1992, he has been a freelance correspondent in Moscow for German media, including for Telepolis. He was co-producer of the 45-minute documentary film (sub-titled in English) released in February 2015 and entitled “Wildfire: The Odessa atrocities of May 2, 2014″.

This film again interviews eyewitnesses of the arson attack on the Trade Union House in Odessa which left 48 people dead on that day, and asks whether the massacre was a pre-planned operation to quell opposition to the new government that came into power two months earlier following the “Euromaidan revolution”.

Most prominent of those alleged to have orchestrated events is neo-Nazi Andrey Parubiy, a co-founder of the Social Nationalist Party of Ukraine and leader of the “self-defence forces” of the Maidan, who was afterwards invited as a guest to Ottawa and Washington and more recently was welcomed by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London.

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Before continuing, I would also like to direct attention to an alternative article – one published back in March 2014 by antiwar.com shortly after the massacre in Independence Square and entitled “What Color is Ukraine’s ‘Color Revolution’?” Here are just a few extracts drawn from the beginning, middle and end:

As the real nature of Ukraine’s “democratic” and allegedly “pro-Western” opposition becomes all too apparent, the pushback from the regime-change crowd borders on the comic. The War Party is stumbling all over itself in a frantic effort to cover up and deny the frightening provenance of the neo-fascist gang they’ve helped to seize power in Kiev. […]

Outside the “we are all Ukrainians now” bubble, however, people are sitting up and taking notice. A Reuters piece spotlights the general uneasiness about the exact color of this latest US-sponsored “color revolution”:

“When protest leaders in Ukraine helped oust a president widely seen as corrupt, they became heroes of the barricades. But as they take places in the country’s new government, some are facing uncomfortable questions about their own values and associations, not least alleged links to neo-fascist extremists.” […]

I don’t know which is more alarming: the entrance into government of a party that traces its origins back to a fighting battalion affiliated with Hitler’s SS, or the sight of US officials whitewashing it. They’re flying the Confederate flag and the Celtic cross in Kiev, and the first African American President is hailing them as liberators. That’s one for the history books! 1

Click here to read the full article.

And here to read an extended post also from March 2004 in which I analysed the facts and misinformation as available at the time of Maidan.

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Ukraine has been thrust into a new political crisis after the economic minister and his team tendered their resignations complaining of ingrained corruption, which has replaced the simmering separatist conflict as the country’s main obstacle to reform.

The economic minister, Aivaras Abromavičius, resigned on Wednesday [February 3rd], and was followed on Thursday by his first deputy, Yulia Kovaliv, and the rest of his team. Two deputy ministers and Ukraine’s trade representative have also resigned. The parliament has reportedly begun debating whether to accept the resignations.

writes Alec Luhn in an article entitled “Economic minister’s resignation plunges Ukraine into a new crisis” published by the Guardian in February. The same piece continues:

A former fund manager born in Lithuania, Abromavičius was one of a group of reform-minded foreign officials hired for their international experience and lack of local corruption networks after a pro-western government took power in 2014.

His resignation letter on Wednesday marked a major blow to the president, Petro Poroshenko, and the coalition government, who have come under increasing fire for the slow pace of reforms. The International Monetary Fund has been holding up a $1.7bn bailout to demand harsh cuts to the pension system and a stronger fight against corruption. 2

A fortnight later and the crisis took another turn when President Petro Poroshenko asked Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to resign, saying “he has lost the support of the governing coalition”:

In a statement, Mr Poroshenko said it was “obvious” that there was demand for a “complete reset of the cabinet”.

“The cabinet has lost the coalition’s trust,” he said.

“To restore this trust, therapy is not enough. One should resort to surgical means,” the president added, saying a new cabinet could be formed by the existing parliamentary coalition. 3

From a BBC article published on February 16th which includes this image:

What the original caption to this BBC image fails to point out is that “the nationalist Svoboda (Freedom) party” pictured is neo-Nazi.

At the time of the Maidan, Arseny Yatsenyuk (or “Yats”) had been the preferred choice of Victoria Nuland and the US State Department. 4 Then, once Yatsenyuk was appointed Ukraine’s interim Prime Minister, Washington’s man quickly asserted himself, saying:

 “We are to undertake extremely unpopular steps as the previous government and previous president were so corrupted that the country is in a desperate financial plight,” Mr Yatsenyuk told BBC Ukrainian.

“We are on the brink of a disaster and this is the government of political suiciders! So welcome to hell,” he added. 5

The kamikaze mission Yatsenyuk had in mind involved the unleashing of Greek-style austerity measures, served up very much to the satisfaction of the IMF and EU. So welcome to hell indeed!

But Yatsenyuk was already paying a hefty price for leading Ukraine on his admitted “suicide mission” and soon became one of the most despised elected leaders anywhere in the world. Worse, he made himself unpopular inside the Verkhovna Rada, and particularly so after he branded opposition MPs “morons” during a debate last December. Their response was a now familiar one – a periodic Rada brawl ensued (Yats is the one with the bouquet!):

On April 14th, Yatsenyuk, Nuland’s favourite and head of the Open Ukraine Foundation, which is in turn partnered by Nato, the US State Department, Chatham House, and the National Endowment for Democracy among other organizations 6, was finally forced out of office. He had been Prime Minister for a little over two years.

A month later, on May 20th, under the banner “National requirement – no surrender”, thousands of troops from the far-right Azov Brigade (one of the militias leading the battle against anti-Kiev separatists) gathered on the streets of Kiev and surrounded the Rada to demand an end to the Minsk accord and to block concessions allowing local elections in Donbass. Unsurprisingly, the western media turned a blind eye to events, but you can find an extraordinarily downplayed account in Ukraine Today beneath the tagline “Activists set off firecrackers but no clashes reported”:

According to Ukraine’s police, nearly 2,000 people took part in the rally, whereas organizers said about 8,000 activists were brought together. The march resulted in a rally outside Ukraine’s Parliament building (Verkhovna Rada). The protest was held in a peaceful manner, but from time to time the activists would set off firecrackers and flares. 7

Meanwhile, Russia Today reported:

If the Kiev authorities hold elections in the Donbass region, the activists will remove the entire Ukrainian parliament and Petro Poroshenko’s government, and will find new members of parliament, said Andrey Biletsky, the founder of the nationalist Azov battalion.

Quoting Biletsky, as cited by RIA Novosti, saying:

“Today is just the beginning, but it is not the last rally. We must be vigilant, to expect this betrayal [Donbass elections] every second, because they [Kiev authorities] will try to hold these elections quietly … In case of treacherous elections, we will oust the parliament and the presidential administration, and find new deputies.” 8

Then, a few days later on May 25th, an even more shocking event took place:

Amid a divisive debate in Ukraine on state honors for nationalists viewed as responsible for anti-Semitic pogroms, the country for the first time observed a minute of silence in memory of Symon Petliura, a 1920s statesman blamed for the murder of 50,000 Jewish compatriots.

Although the single major media outlet in the western world that actually reported on the story was The Times of Israel.

The report continues:

The minute was observed on May 25, the 90th anniversary of Petliura’s assassination in Paris. National television channels interrupted their programs and broadcast the image of a burning candle for 60 seconds, Ukraine’s Federal News Agency reported.

Adding:

Separately, the director of Ukraine’s Institute of National Remembrance, Vladimir Vyatrovich, said in a statement on Monday that Kiev will soon name a street for two other Ukrainian nationalists — Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych — who are widely believed to be responsible for lethal violence against Jews. […]

Bandera and Shukhevych collaborated with Nazi forces that occupied what is now Ukraine and are believed to have commanded troops that killed thousands of Jews. Once regarded by Ukrainian authorities as illegitimate to serve as national role models because of their war crimes against Jews and Poles, Petliura, Bandera and Shukhevych are now openly honored in Ukraine following a revolution spearheaded by nationalists in 2014. 9

Click here to read the full report in The Times of Israel.

Meanwhile, on the same day [May 25th], again slipping silently under the radar of the vast majority of the western mainstream media – failing to attract the attention of journalists at the BBC, the Guardian and The Independent – was a breaking story of more immediate Ukrainian atrocities:

The United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) has suspended its visit to Ukraine after being denied access to places in several parts of the country where it suspects people are being deprived of their liberty by the Security Service of Ukraine, the SBU.

“This denial of access is in breach of Ukraine’s obligations as a State party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. It has meant that we have not been able to visit some places where we have heard numerous and serious allegations that people have been detained and where torture or ill-treatment may have occurred,” said Sir Malcolm Evans, head of the four-member delegation.

The statement released by the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, continues:

“The SPT expects Ukraine to abide by its international obligations under the Optional Protocol, which it ratified in 2006. We also hope that the Government of Ukraine will enter into a constructive dialogue with us to enable the SPT to resume its visit in the near future and so work together to establish effective safeguards against the risk of torture and ill-treatment in places where people are deprived of their liberty,” said Sir Malcolm 10

Which brings us to last Friday [June 3rd], when the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) issued a 53-page report detailing violations of human rights committed by both sides in the conflict.

The International Business Times broke the silence and reported:

The Ukrainian spy agency the SBU is torturing pro-Russian rebel sympathisers and as the conflict in the east of Ukraine rages on, Kiev is demonstrating an entrenched disregard for human rights, the United Nations has said.

For the first time, revelations have emerged of a Ukrainian government-backed torture regime and the UN details five secret government detention centres. The report also outlines prisoner abuse and murders by pro-Russian rebel groups. 11

The same article also links to The Times, seemingly the single major western newspaper to report on this UN report:

Ivan Simonovic, UN assistant secretary-general for human rights, said that in some areas Kiev’s “disregard for human rights” had become entrenched and systemic and needed to be urgently addressed.

The UN report documents hundreds of cases of illegal detention, torture and ill-treatment of detainees — both by pro-Russian armed groups and by government agencies.

It draws attention to prisoner abuse and murders by pro-Russian rebel groups, but also exposes the scale and brutality of Ukraine’s government-backed torture programme for… 12

But to read the rest of the report which is entitled “Kiev allows torture and runs secret jails, says UN”, you will need to log in.

So here is part of the preliminary statement of the United Nation’s report (all bold highlights are added):

Since mid-2014, OHCHR has, recorded some 1,500 accounts from victims, witnesses and relatives. These accounts show that all parties are responsible for human rights violations and abuses and violations of international humanitarian law. Above all, these testimonies – and the civilian casualty data collected – demonstrate that civilians have paid the greatest price for this conflict. [p6 §2]

Since the start of the security operation, hundreds of people accused of involvement in or affiliation with the armed groups have been detained and charged under existing counter-terrorism provisions. Individuals detained by Ukrainian authorities in connection with the armed conflict have been tortured and ill-treated, and continue to face systematic violations of their due process and fair trial rights. In many cases, criminal proceedings against individuals charged with terrorism offenses have brought the lack of independence and impartiality of the judiciary and legal profession into harsh relief. Further, in conducting the security operation and armed conflict, Ukrainian authorities have often run afoul of the principle of non-discrimination through adopting policies that distinguish, exclude, and restrict access to fundamental freedoms and socio-economic rights to persons living in the conflict-affected area. The Government has applied special measures to the conflict zone, lowering human rights protection guarantees and derogating from a number of international treaty obligations. [p6–7 §4]

Reprinted below is a further selection that details a few of the worst abuses and atrocities committed by the Ukrainian police, army, secret service (SBU) and other groups affiliated to the Ukrainian government including neo-Nazi brigades such as the so-called ‘Azov Battalion’.

One note of caution before continuing: the report primarily distinguishes between Ukrainian government forces and “the armed groups”, which is the chosen label used to distinguish anti-Kiev rebel forces. However, given that no formal distinction is made in the report, we are left to infer that every mention of “armed groups” attaches only to the rebel groups and never to forces allied with the government. Since the war has largely been fought by “armed groups” on both sides (Azov and related far-wing militia spearheading the pro-government offensive), as a choice of phraseology, this unfortunately permits an unnecessary degree of ambiguity:

The armed conflict between the Government of Ukraine and the armed groups of the ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ and ‘Luhansk people’s republic’ continues to be fought without due regard for civilian protection. [p9 §13]

Ukrainian armed forces and armed groups continue to lay landmines, including anti-personnel mines, despite Ukraine’s obligations as a State party to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. Credible estimates indicate that mines contaminate large areas of agricultural land in east Ukraine, often in areas which are poorly marked, near roads and surrounding civilian areas. This has resulted in civilians being killed and maimed, often while walking to their homes and fields. These risks are particularly acute for people living in towns and settlements near the contact line, as well as the 23,000 people who cross the contact line every day. [p9 §14]

Water filtration stations and other essential infrastructure have been damaged in hostilities in the shelling of densely-populated civilian areas, as the parties to the conflict have failed to take all feasible precautions in attacks to protect and prevent the destruction of objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population. [p10 §15]

Ukrainian armed forces and armed groups have appropriated residential property of local residents for military use… In many cases, this has forced the owners or residents to leave their homes and in some cases, their communities. [p10 §16]

Due to ongoing heavy shelling in the western outskirts of Donetsk near the contact line, some residents still use bomb shelters on a regular basis, sleeping in damp, damaged basements on a nightly basis. [p11 §19]

On 27 April 2016, civilians waiting to cross a checkpoint in Olenivka village, on the road between Mariupol and Donetsk city, were hit by shelling at night. Four civilians were killed and eight others injured. According to OSCE crater analysis, the mortar rounds were fired from the west-south-westerly direction. This indicates the responsibility of the Ukrainian armed forces. [p11 §20]

As of 1 April 2016, 3,687 criminal cases had been initiated by the National Police of Ukraine into cases of missing people in Donetsk and Luhansk regions since the beginning of the security operation. Besides, 2,755 criminal investigations into abductions or kidnappings had been initiated. The whereabouts of the majority of the missing or abducted persons have been established; hundreds of people, however, remain missing or believed to be in detention (recognized or secret) by the armed groups or Ukrainian authorities. [p13 §26]

Since 1 April 2014, 1,351 unidentified bodies have been recovered in Government-controlled territories of the conflict zone. As of 1 April 2016, 523 of these bodies have been identified while 828 were pending identification. The armed groups have also publicly reported on a number of unidentified bodies in morgues or buried in unmarked graves on the territories they control. In early April 2016, a dozen of bodies of Ukrainian servicemen and members of armed groups were recovered in the Government-controlled territories and in the territories controlled by the armed groups. There are still many bodies of fallen soldiers and members of armed groups that have not yet been recovered. In the ‘Donetsk people’s republic’, at least 430 families are looking for their missing relatives. [p13 §27]

OHCHR received allegations of enforced disappearances, arbitrary and incommunicado detention, torture and ill-treatment committed by Ukrainian law enforcement. Among these were over 20 cases of arbitrary detention and ill-treatment. [p14 §30]

The majority of cases documented during the reporting period concerned incidents in the conflict zone. While the cases from 2014 and early 2015 suggest that volunteer battalions (often in conjunction with the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU)) were frequent perpetrators, information from the late 2015 and early 2016 mostly implicate SBU. Many of these cases concern incommunicado detention in unofficial detention facilities where torture and ill-treatment are persistently used as means to extract confessions or information, or to intimidate or punish the victim. SBU continued to deny practicing secret or incommunicado detention, the mere existence of unofficial detention facilities, and the whereabouts and fate of individuals who were forcibly disappeared. SBU officials continue to maintain that allegations documented by OHCHR are “unfounded insinuations” made by criminals trying to portray themselves as victims. [p14 §31]

On 20 February 2016, a Mariupol resident was transferred to Donetsk as part of a simultaneous release of detainees. Since March 2015, he had been held incommunicado at the Kharkiv SBU. He was apprehended in Mariupol on 28 January 2015 and kept in an illegal detention facility. There, he was reportedly severely tortured and electrocuted by three men who wanted him to identify supporters of the ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ in Mariupol. [p14 §32]

A resident of Mariupol was detained by three servicemen of the ‘Azov’ battalion on 28 January 2015 for supporting the ‘Donetsk people’s republic’. He was taken to the basement of Athletic School No. 61 in Mariupol, where he was held until 6 February 2015. He was continuously interrogated and tortured. He complained about being handcuffed to a metal rod and left hanging on it, he was reportedly tortured with electricity, gas mask and subjected to waterboarding and he was also beaten in his genitals. As a result he confessed about sharing information with the armed groups about the locations of the Government checkpoints. Only on 7 February, he was taken to the Mariupol SBU, where he was officially detained. [p20 §59]

Oleh Kalashnikov, an opposition politician from the Party of Regions affiliated with President Yanukovych, was assassinated on 15 April 2015. After one year, no suspects have been identified and there has been no progress in the investigation.

Similarly, the killing of chief editor of Segodnya newspaper, Oles Buzyna, on 16 April 2015, continues to be investigated. Buzyna was a critic of the Maidan protests and a proponent of close ties between Ukraine and the Russian Federation. The investigation into his killing, which has been going on for over a year, has been marred by procedural irregularities. The case has not yet been submitted to court.

Two suspects arrested on 18 June 2015 were released from detention in December 2015, subject to summonses to appear in court. In April 2015 the Minister of Internal Affairs stated that he would personally oversee investigations into the death of Oleh Kalashnikov and Oles Buzyna. OHCHR observes a lack of progress in criminal cases involving persons affiliated with or perceived as political and ideological supporters of the Government of President Yanukovych. It is essential for justice to be impartial and to hold those responsible for the killings to account. [p23 §70]

Then we have the massacre in Odessa a little more than two years ago on May 2nd, 2014:

OHCHR is also concerned about the lack of progress in the investigation into the House of Trade Unions fire and the failure of the fire brigade to respond. It took the Office of the Prosecutor General almost six months to open a criminal investigation into the negligence of the State Emergency Service of Odesa region and another five months to charge its head under article 135 (leaving in danger) of the Criminal Code. On 1 March 2016, the suspect fled after his deputy and two other subordinates were detained by the police on the same charges. He has since been put on a wanted list. [p25 §79]

OHCHR welcomes the progress made in the investigation into failure of the police to ensure public safety on 2 May 2014. On 26 February, the Office of the Prosecutor General filed an indictment against former Head of Odesa Regional Police, Petro Lutsiuk. He is accused of committing crimes under articles 136 (failure to provide assistance to people whose life is in danger), 364 (abuse of authority or office) and 366 (forgery in office) of the Criminal Code. He is also accused of not implementing a special plan (‘Volna’ – wave) aimed at counteracting public disorder at mass assemblies and gatherings, which led to the death of 48 people and injuries of more than 200. He is also accused of intentionally leaving people in danger. However, as of the date of this report, the court has not completed the preliminary hearing due to procedural delays caused by the absence of the parties to the trial and failure to duly notify all victims about the date of the court hearing. The relatives of victims of the violence and the defendant’s lawyers denounced the poor quality of the indictment in the case and have requested that the court return it to the prosecution for revision. [p25 §80]

The full report can be found here:
http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/UA/Ukraine_14th_HRMMU_Report.pdf.

Click here to read a slightly later post from April 2014 entitled “never let a good Ukrainian crisis go to waste…” in which I investigate the underlying motives for the West’s involvement in the overthrow of Yanukovych.

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1 From an article entitled “What Color is Ukraine’s ‘Color Revolution’?” written by Justin Raimondo, published by antiwar.com on March 12, 2014. http://original.antiwar.com/justin/2014/03/11/what-color-is-ukraines-color-revolution/

2 From an article entitled “Economic minister’s resignation plunges Ukraine into new crisis” written by Alec Luhn, published in the Guardian on February 4, 2016. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/04/economic-minister-resignation-ukraine-crisis-aivaras-abromavicius

3 From an article entitled “Ukraine crisis: Poroshenko asks PM Yatsenyuk to resign” published by BBC news on February 16, 2016. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-35585651

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In a leaked conversation posted on YouTube, the state department official Victoria Nuland revealed the White House’s frustrations at Europe‘s hesitant policy towards pro-democracy protests in Ukraine, which erupted late last year. Nuland was talking to the US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt. […]

In the tapes, Nuland and Pyatt discuss the upheavals in Ukraine, and Yanukovych’s offer last month to make the opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk the new prime minister and Vitali Klitschko deputy prime minister. Both men turned the offer down.

Nuland, who in December went to Independence Square in Kiev in a sign of support for the demonstrators, adds that she has also been told that the UN chief, Ban Ki-moon, is about to appoint a former Dutch ambassador to Kiev, Robert Serry, as his representative to Ukraine.

“That would be great I think to help glue this thing and have the UN glue it and you know, fuck the EU,” she says, in an apparent reference to differences over their policies.

“We’ve got to do something to make it stick together, because you can be pretty sure that if it does start to gain altitude the Russians will be working behind the scenes to try to torpedo it,” Pyatt replies.

In the phone call, Nuland suggests that Klitschko, the former world champion boxer, is not yet suited to take a major government role, in contrast to Yatsenyuk.

“I don’t think Klitsch should go into the government,” she apparently said.

“I think Yats is the guy who’s got the economic experience, he’s got the governing experience,” she adds. [bold emphasis added]

From an article entitled “Angela Merkel: Victoria Nuland’s remarks on EU are unacceptable” written by Ed Pilkington, Luke Harding “and agencies”, published in the Guardian on February 7, 2014. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/07/angela-merkel-victoria-nuland-eu-unacceptable

5 From an article entitled “Ukraine crisis: Yatsenyuk is PM-designate, Kiev Maidan told” published by BBC news on February 26, 2014. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-26359150

6 http://openukraine.org/en/about/partners

7 From an article entitled “Azov Battalion marches in Kyiv against local elections in Donbas (video, photos)” published in Ukraine Today on May 21, 2016. http://uatoday.tv/society/azov-battalion-marches-in-kyiv-against-local-elections-in-donbas-652411.html

8 From an article entitled “1000s of Ukraine nationalists vow to oust Poroshenko administration over Donbass elections” published by Russia Today on May 20, 2016. https://www.rt.com/news/343756-ukraine-nationalists-kiev-parliament/ 

9 From an article entitled “Ukraine honors nationalist whose troops killed 50,000 Jews” published in The Times of Israel on May 31, 2016. http://www.timesofisrael.com/ukraine-honors-nationalist-whose-troops-killed-50000-jews/ 

10 From a statement entitled “UN torture prevention body suspends Ukraine visit citing obstruction” released May 25, 2016. http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=20017&LangID=E&version=meter+at+1&module=meter-Links&pgtype=article&contentId=&mediaId=&referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.co.uk&priority=true&action=click&contentCollection=meter-links-click

11 From an article entitled “Ukraine’s spy agency torturing pro-Russian sympathisers in the Donbass alleges United Nations” written by Brendan Cole, published in the International Business Times on June 3, 2016. http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/ukraines-spy-agency-torturing-pro-russian-sympathisers-donbass-alleges-united-nations-1563545

12 From an article entitled “Kiev allows torture and runs secret jails, says UN” written by Maxim Tucker, published in The Times on June 3, 2016. http://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/world/kiev-allows-torture-and-runs-secret-jails-says-un-vwlcrpsjn

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BBC now in bed with Kiev’s fascist Azov Brigade

I have just had the displeasure of watching a BBC news report in which correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes has been embedded with the Azov Brigade. This is shocking because the Azov Brigade (‘Battalion’ is a glorification) is an unashamedly Nazi unit. Here, for instance, is the badge of the Azov Brigade. Their emblem features not only a wolfsangel (more later) but also a Nazi sunwheel or “Black Sun” (please read this earlier post):

The Azov Brigade flag (pictured below) also features the wolfsangel, which is a form of swastika:


Nor is it any coincidence that the wolfsangel is the adopted symbol of the Social-National Assembly of Ukraine (SNA), an association of ultra-nationalist and neo-Nazi organizations and groups founded in 2008, which shares not just an obscene ideology, but the desire to build a “social-national state” in Ukraine. After all, the Azov Brigade’s commander is Andriy Biletsky:

A former history student and amateur boxer, Mr Biletsky is also head of an extremist Ukrainian group called the Social National Assembly. “The historic mission of our nation in this critical moment is to lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade for their survival,” he wrote in a recent commentary. “A crusade against the Semite-led Untermenschen.”

Click here to read the full Telegraph article entitled “the neo-Nazi brigade fighting pro-Russian separatists” from which the above extract is taken.

So pray tell us, editors at BBC news, why is the word ‘Nazi’ completely absent from Rupert Wingfield-Hayes’ report? And why does he quite deliberately play down the issue of overt fascism, whilst playing up the dangers they face?

The impression Rupert Wingfield-Hayes paints is of brave volunteers and defenders of their homeland. “They may only be a few hundred strong,” he says softly, “but if the rebels do attack Mariupol, these men [of the Azov Brigade] will be crucial to the city’s defence.” Thus the portrait is of a merry and courageous band of brothers, but if it helps to understand them better, then here they are parading in front of an actual swastika:

 

Please note: This image was removed. I recovered it again from this site, which includes a careful forensic analysis of the photo and surrounding evidence.

During the last twelve months of the “Ukraine Crisis”, the mainstream media (and the BBC are certainly no exception) have very studiously turned a blind eye to the fascists in Kiev. But now the BBC have sunk to a new low.

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Update:

The Guardian was also recently caught playing down the overt Nazism of Ukrainian fighters, as Stacy Herbert (from Keiser Report) spotted and tweeted:

The meaning of the number 1488 (above her right shoulder) can be found on wikipedia [original footnotes retained]:

The Fourteen Words is a phrase used predominantly by white nationalists. It most commonly refers to a 14-word slogan: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White Children.”[1] It can also refer to another 14-word slogan: “Because the beauty of the White Aryan woman must not perish from the earth.”[2]

Neo-Nazis often combine the number 14 with 88, as in “14/88” or “1488”. The 8s stand for the eighth letter of the alphabet (H), with “HH” standing for “Heil Hitler”.[3]

 

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Oh, what a lovely war…! Gaza, ISIS and Ukraine

The continuing slowness of economic growth in high-income economies has prompted soul-searching among economists. They have looked to weak demand, rising inequality, Chinese competition, over-regulation, inadequate infrastructure and an exhaustion of new technological ideas as possible culprits.

An additional explanation of slow growth is now receiving attention, however. It is the persistence and expectation of peace.

The world just hasn’t had that much warfare lately, at least not by historical standards. Some of the recent headlines about Iraq or South Sudan make our world sound like a very bloody place, but today’s casualties pale in light of the tens of millions of people killed in the two world wars in the first half of the 20th century. Even the Vietnam War had many more deaths than any recent war involving an affluent country.

So says Professor of Economics at George Mason University, Tyler Cowen, writing an opinion piece for The New York Times.

Not enough war! – at first glance Cowen’s argument might appear not just shocking, but plainly nonsensical (or “counterintuitive” as Cowen puts it), although that’s mainly because ordinary folk (such as you and I) are in the habit of forgetting how war is extremely good business – if only for those in the business of war. What Cowen’s article reveals above all, therefore, is a cold calculating detachment that has always been secretly preferred by those moving within select circles. A moral relativism that has come to dominate in our degenerate age of coldly calculating neo-liberal orthodoxy. Cowen is unabashed in telling it like it (i.e., as he wishes to find it), because the vision of a better, saner alternative has been totally abandoned by his type.

He writes:

It may seem repugnant to find a positive side to war in this regard, but a look at American history suggests we cannot dismiss the idea so easily. Fundamental innovations such as nuclear power, the computer and the modern aircraft were all pushed along by an American government eager to defeat the Axis powers or, later, to win the Cold War. The Internet was initially designed to help this country withstand a nuclear exchange, and Silicon Valley had its origins with military contracting, not today’s entrepreneurial social media start-ups. The Soviet launch of the Sputnik satellite spurred American interest in science and technology, to the benefit of later economic growth.1

Reading Cowen’s case for war causes me to remember Orson Welles’ famous speech in The Third Man:

In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”

It reminds me too of the less celebrated scene that leads into Orson Welles’ most famous soliloquy. When high over postwar Vienna, gently rocking in a cabin on that famous old Ferris wheel, Harry Lime (played by Welles), who is racketeering in penicillin, justifies his actions to his old friend Holly Martins (Joseph Cotton), saying that he really shouldn’t worry so much about what happens to ‘the dots’:

Victims? Don’t be melodramatic. Look down there. Tell me. Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever? If I offered you twenty thousand pounds for every dot that stopped, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money, or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to spare? Free of income tax, old man. Free of income tax – the only way you can save money nowadays.”

*

Gaza

The Gaza Strip is tiny. Twenty-five miles long and less than ten miles wide, yet home to nearly two million Palestinians. Unsurprisingly then, it is one of the most densely populated places on Earth. It also happens to be one of the poorest.

Since 2007, Gaza has been blockaded on all sides. And with its air space tightly restricted and regularly patrolled by Israeli fighter jets and drones it is not so much a reservation for Palestinians, the majority of whom are forced to live in refugee camps composed of concrete shacks and open sewers, but also their de facto internment camp. For Gaza as a whole might better be thought of as the world’s largest prison:

Even a single night in jail is enough to give a taste of what it means to be under the total control of some external force. And it hardly takes more than a day in Gaza to begin to appreciate what it must be like to try to survive in the world’s largest open-air prison, where a million and a half people, in the most densely populated area of the world, are constantly subject to random and often savage terror and arbitrary punishment, with no purpose other than to humiliate and degrade, and with the further goal of ensuring that Palestinian hopes for a decent future will be crushed and that the overwhelming global support for a diplomatic settlement that will grant these rights will be nullified.

So begins Noam Chomsky in an article he entitled “Impressions of Gaza” published in late 2012. Chomsky continues:

Punishment of Gazans became still more severe in January 2006, when they committed a major crime: they voted the “wrong way” in the first free election in the Arab world, electing Hamas. Demonstrating their passionate “yearning for democracy,” the US and Israel, backed by the timid European Union, at once imposed a brutal siege, along with intensive military attacks. The US also turned at once to standard operating procedure when some disobedient population elects the wrong government: prepare a military coup to restore order.

Gazans committed a still greater crime a year later by blocking the coup attempt, leading to a sharp escalation of the siege and military attacks. These culminated in winter 2008-9, with Operation Cast Lead, one of the most cowardly and vicious exercises of military force in recent memory, as a defenseless civilian population, trapped with no way to escape, was subjected to relentless attack by one of the world’s most advanced military systems relying on US arms and protected by US diplomacy.2

The Gaza War, as Operation Cast Lead is also known, cost the lives of more than 1,400 Palestinians at least 900 of whom were civilians. Over 4,000 homes were destroyed and more than 50,000 residents displaced. On the Israeli side, ten soldiers were killed (four due to friendly fire) and three civilians also lost their lives. These figures alone show how this previous “Gaza War” was actually no war at all, but a one-sided, single-minded slaughter.

Then, in 2012, there was Operation Pillar of Cloud (sometimes translated, presumably to heighten the absurdity, as Operation Pillar of Defense). A blitzkrieg of aerial bombardment that ended with more than a hundred Palestinian civilians dead. Pillar of Defense – hardly. Pillar of something most definitely… and yet another tissue of lies.

And now, less than two years on, we are in the midst of another massacre being carried out under the even more risibly named Operation Protective Edge. To date more than 1,700 Palestinians have been killed (a number that grows by the hour), the majority of whom are again civilians, and predominately women and children.

For what happens every few years is simply this: the Israeli generals, at the behest of their government, make the decision to “mow the lawn”. Meanwhile, the official pretext remains, that the escalating spiral of violence is solely the fault of Hamas and that hostilities will end only once the firing of Hamas rockets on Israel is stopped. The fact is, of course, that Israeli hostilities are never-ending. That those hostilities will end once Gaza is no longer a prison camp, which is a decision only Israel can make. Meanwhile, the regular collective punishment of the Palestinians for the crimes of Hamas can neither be morally nor legally sanctioned, and from a strategic point of view it is inexpedient in the extreme – presuming that the long-term aim really is to bring an end to the cycles of violence. For whilst clearly in violation of international law, this current outrage is not just extremely damaging to Israel’s international reputation, but also, and inevitably, it is bolstering support for Hamas, and just as their influence was beginning to wane. We must conclude therefore that those in charge of Israel are either remarkably stupid, or that they are more intent on keeping the conflict going, as well as keeping Gaza under siege, rather than seeking any offers of lasting peace.

*

After writing this, I came across an article entitled “Into the fray: Why Gaza must go” written by Martin Sherman, Head of the Israeli Institute of Strategic Studies, and published in the Jerusalem Post. In the piece, Sherman unflinchingly calls for the ethnic cleansing of the Gaza Strip. He writes:

Mowing the lawn’ won’t cut it

The reluctance to face unpalatable realities has spawned new terminology to paper over intellectual surrender, and mask unwillingness to accept the need for regrettably harsh but essential policies.

First, we were told that since there was “no solution” to the Israel-Arab conflict, we should adopt an approach of “conflict management” rather than “conflict resolution.”

Now we have a new term in the professional jargon to convey a similar perspective: “mowing the grass.” This is the name for an approach that entails a new round of fighting every time the Palestinian violence reaches levels Israel finds unacceptable.

Its “rationale” – for want of a better term – was recently articulated by Efraim Inbar and Eitan Shamir of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Bar-Ilan University, as: “The use of force, not intended to attain impossible political goals, but rather [as a] long-term strategy of attrition designed primarily to debilitate the enemy capabilities.”

Sadly, what we have seen is that far from “debilitating the enemy capabilities,” because said enemy keeps reappearing, spoiling for a fight, ever bolder with ever-greater capabilities.

It is an open question just how many more rounds of “mowing” the residents of southern Israel will endure before losing confidence that the government will provide adequate protection and choose to evacuate the area.

No, periodically mowing the lawn is not a policy that can endure for long – it simply will not cut it. The grass needs to be uprooted – once and for all.3

Click here to read Martin Sherman’s full article.

*

ISIS

Where did ISIS come from?” a friend asked a few months ago. Well, although they first spread their obscene wings in the war on Syria, I reminded him, and in common with all factions within al-Qaeda, you can actually trace their ugly origins right back to Saudi Arabia. Then there is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It was al-Baghdadi who officially founded the group he called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) – now translated, for reasons unknown to me, as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (or ISIS) – during April last year. Back then, ISIS were closely affiliated with another al-Qaeda faction known as Jabhat al-Nusra but soon afterwards bloody factional infighting caused a rift and a formal separation from the rest of al-Qaeda.4

More recently again, in fact just a month ago, al-Baghdadi called on other Muslims to rush to the aid of his pan-Islamic caliphate, now simply called ‘Islamic State’, whose caliph is, somewhat unsurprisingly, al-Baghdadi himself.5 At the time indeed the news was full of it – constantly repeating those promotional videos for ISIS. There is a growing concern that British Muslims may be attracted to the Jihadist cause by these glossy new commercials, we kept hearing… like a commercial.

Aside from having generous sponsors in Saudi Arabia and Qatar – and fingers have been pointed toward Saudi Prince Adbul Rahman al-Faisal in particular6 – many in the ranks of this latest batch of Islamists were also more directly assisted with training courtesy of the British, French and US across the border in Jordan. This is denied, of course, since officially we only trained “ the moderates”. But then prior to the well-advertised emergence of ISIS, western powers had become remarkably candid in their disinterest when it came to making careful distinctions between the various “rebel forces”. Any enemy of Assad was a friend of ours.

And, in reality, the moderates in the Syrian conflict had been rather quickly squeezed out (as I pointed out in a number of previous articles), so that when groups like al-Nusra and then ISIS moved in to spearhead the continuing offensive, the West had knowingly continued to back them (I refer the reader again to previous posts and recommend following the “al-Nusra” tag).

Not that this feckless approach to foreign policy is particularly novel. Al-Qaeda was always an American formulation, having been purpose-built to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan. Since which time, its growth has been encouraged less directly thanks to power vacuums which followed in the wake of attacks on Iraq, Libya and Syria. Added to which, weapons and forces from Libya were more deliberately transported into Syria as Seymour Hersh, amongst others, has since exposed. So, and to answer my friend’s question more fully, ISIS is to a very great extent our own monster. For it is western foreign policy that has allowed ISIS to establish itself, and without continued support from the Gulf States – our allies – ISIS might now be rather promptly eradicated.

If the aim is to stop al-Qaeda in their tracks (or at least their latest branch, ISIS), then it would be very much more profitable to pull the whole operation out by its roots – roots that lie fully exposed in Saudi Arabia. So instead of drone attacks or air strikes on Iraq (and in the likely future Syria), why aren’t we sending our ultimatum to the Saudis?

*

Ukraine

The conflict over Palestine goes back some seventy years to the very formation of Israel, and whilst the rise of al-Qaeda across wide expanses of Iraq and Syria can easily be traced to the illegal Iraq War that was ignited by Bush and Blair more than a decade ago (and which has never properly ended), the immediate origins of today’s escalating “crisis” in Ukraine take us back just a few months.

Divisions between East and West regions, pro- and anti-Russia, that had been festering but were mostly dormant found a new expression. What was then widely presented as a grassroots pro-European uprising in fact turning out to be nothing other than a EU-inflamed and US-coordinated colour revolution ending in a bloody coup. Not a glorious liberation from oligarchy, but simply the replacement of one oligarchical coterie with another, more western-oriented oligarchical coterie. Worse, for this new clique were openly affiliated with leading members of the extreme right. The fascist party Svoboda now linked arms with the even more odious Right Sector as both sought a share of power; grabbing the chance of appointing one another into office.

Embedded below is an uncharacteristically candid BBC report about who really seized power in Kiev. It was broadcast in February on Newsnight:

Has the subsequent election (which was not even recognised as legitimate in many Eastern regions) of chocolate magnate Petro Poroshenko as President of Ukraine helped to reign in the extremists? Well, this is the situation as it currently stands: three members of the cabinet including Vice Prime Minister Oleksandr Sych are Svoboda representatives, whilst the speaker of parliament, Oleksandr Turchynov, more recently announced the complete dissolution of the Communist Party faction in the Verkhovna Rada. The banning of political parties is one measure of how far Ukraine is from functioning like a democratic state. Another being the monthly fist fights that take place inside the Rada.

This was April:

And this happened just a few weeks ago:

There is also President Poroshenko himself. The following is taken from a Guardian report published on Sunday July 13th , little more than one month after he had assumed office:

Over the weekend there was an escalation of both military action and rhetoric in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, as Ukrainian jets carried out air strikes against separatist positions. On Friday, 23 Ukrainian servicemen were killed in an attack using Grad missiles.

“For every soldier’s life, the militants will pay with dozens and hundreds of their own,” said Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, after Friday’s attack.7 [bold emphasis added]

Hardly the voice of reconciliation. And lastly, a more recent report, this time from BBC news, which delves into who exactly is fighting on the pro-government side of the conflict:

Mikael Skillt is a Swedish sniper, with seven years’ experience in the Swedish Army and the Swedish National Guard. He is currently fighting with the Azov Battalion, a pro-Ukrainian volunteer armed group in eastern Ukraine. He is known to be dangerous to the rebels: reportedly there is a bounty of nearly $7,000 (£4,090; 5,150 euros) on his head. […]

As to his political views, Mr Skillt prefers to call himself a nationalist, but in fact his views are typical of a neo-Nazi. […]

Mr Skillt believes races should not mix. He says the Jews are not white and should not mix with white people. His next project is to go fight for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad because he believes Mr Assad is standing up to “international Zionism”.

Leaving Mr Skillt’s sordid opinions to one side, what are the thoughts of his comrades in arms?

Not all of Mr Skillt’s views are widely shared in the Azov Battalion, which is about 300-strong in total.

He says his comrades do not discuss politics much, though some of them may be “national socialists” and may wear swastikas. On the other hand, “there is even one liberal, though I don’t know how he got there”, he adds, with a smile in his voice.8

So much for freedom and democracy in Ukraine, an already latest benighted region suffering from an extreme economic crisis, and now deeply fractured by a terrible civil war from which, the UN reports, a hundred thousand refugees have already fled9, and where another thousand civilians have so far lost their lives.10

*

For months, the US-backed regime in Kiev has been committing atrocities against its own citizens in southeastern Ukraine, regions heavily populated by Russian-speaking Ukrainians and ethnic Russians. While victimizing a growing number of innocent people, including children, and degrading America’s reputation, these military assaults on cities, captured on video, are generating intense pressure in Russia on President Vladimir Putin to “save our compatriots.” Both the atrocities and the pressure on Putin have increased even more since July 1, when Kiev, after a brief cease-fire, intensified its artillery and air attacks on eastern cities defenseless against such weapons.

The reaction of the Obama administration—as well as the new cold-war hawks in Congress and in the establishment media—has been twofold: silence interrupted only by occasional statements excusing and thus encouraging more atrocities by Kiev. Very few Americans (notably, the scholar Gordon Hahn) have protested this shameful complicity. We may honorably disagree about the causes and resolution of the Ukrainian crisis, the worst US-Russian confrontation in decades, but not about deeds that have risen to the level of war crimes.11

So writes Stephen Cohen, who is professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton University, in an article published by The Nation magazine on June 30th. A few weeks later, on July 18th, Cohen appeared on Democracy Now! to discuss the ramifications of the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 and the loss of all 298 lives on board. Asked: “what do you think we should understand about what has taken place?”; Cohen began:

The horror of it all, to quote Conrad, watching your reports on Gaza, knowing what I know but what’s not being reported in the mainstream media about what’s been going on in eastern Ukraine cities—these cities have been pounded by Kiev—and now this. “Emeritus,” as you call me, means old. I’ve seen this before. One function of cold war is innocent victims. The people who died, nearly 300, from many countries, are the first victims, nonresidential victims, of the new Cold War. This crash, this shootdown, will make everything worse, no matter who did it.

There are several theoretical possibilities. I am not a conspiracy buff, but we know in the history of the Cold War, there are provocations, people who want to make things worse. So, in Moscow, and not only in Moscow, there are theories that somebody wanted this to happen. I just can’t believe anybody would do it, but you can’t rule anything out.

The other possibility is, because the Ukrainian government itself has a capability to shoot down planes. By the way, the Ukrainian government shot down a Russian passenger jet, I think in 2001. It was flying from Tel Aviv to Siberia. It was an accident. Competence is always a factor when you have these weapons.

Another possibility is that the rebels—we call them separatists, but they weren’t separatists in the beginning, they just wanted home rule in Ukraine—that they had the capability. But there’s a debate, because this plane was flying at commercial levels, normally beyond the reach of what they can carry on their shoulders.

There’s the possibility that the Russians aided and abetted them, possibly from Russian territory, but I rule that out because, in the end, when you don’t know who has committed a crime, the first question a professional investigator asks is, “Did anybody have a motive?” and the Russians certainly had no motive here. This is horrible for Putin and for the Russian position.

That’s what we know so far. Maybe we’ll know more. We may never know who did this.

Click here to read the full transcript or watch the interview on the Democracy Now! website.

Most of the news media went into a rapid and sustained feeding frenzy after the downing of flight MH17, but the question of whether or not it was the Russian separatists who shoot down the plane using “Putin’s Missile” remains hanging. One very laudable exception to the rule was tenacious Associated Press reporter Matt Lee. Here is Lee questioning US State Department spokesperson, Marie Harf, about the lack of evidence being presented. His main question: is there anything besides those uploads on social media? Her flustered answer can be summed up succinctly as no:

In defending the inherent flimsiness of the US position, which is that it’s suddenly common sense to trust in social media, Marie Harf told Lee that the State Department does have other evidence which proves the separatists were responsible, though she intimates that it is too sensitive to be released. But then the same US State Department made identical claims a mere twelve months ago, and had they been believed, we might have been rushed to launch air attacks against Damascus. As it turned out, however, the White House was lying and deliberately exaggerating the evidence they really held about the sarin attack on Ghouta. Contrary to what Marie Harf asserts, therefore, it is common sense to presume that the State Department would be prepared to deliberately lie again.

Click here to read Seymour Hersh’s subsequent disclosure of the US evidence relating to the gas attack on Ghouta.

As the civil war in Ukraine worsens, we have been constantly reminded that this is Putin’s war. Just as the cause of the tragedy of MH17 was “Putin’s missile!” Not that Putin organised the overthrow of an elected government in Kiev, nor that Putin ordered a missile strike against a passenger plane, nor even that Putin’s “separatist” forces are deliberately shelling homes in Eastern Ukraine – the shelling of homes, as in Gaza, is the work of government forces. Putin is not presumed guilty on any of these counts even by his most vehement opponents, but he is found guilty on the grounds that he is covertly backing the anti-Kiev rebels (as we might alternatively call them), and arming them. Guilty, in other words, of doing what the West have done and are very likely still doing in Syria.

I take no pleasure in defending Putin, who is rightly vilified on so many other counts, but the facts remain and should speak for themselves. And it is Russia, not Putin, that we should be talking about in any case. For Russia has her own interests, and so long as Nato continues its encirclement, whoever holds office in the Kremlin will be held to account for protecting those interests. But we are being encouraged to obsess over Putin. What was once Bin Laden, Bin Laden, Bin Laden… is now Putin, Putin, Putin!

Meanwhile, the facts surrounding the crash of MH17 are still unclear. Not only do we not know which army fired the missile, but, with absolute certainty, we still do not know whether it was a missile that brought down the plane. Until a full and independent forensic investigation can establish the truth of what happened, we will continue remain in the dark.

Click here to read an article by Jason Ditz, writing for antiwar.com [July 22nd], which outlines the flimsiness of the evidence thus far presented by the US State Department.

*

Final thoughts

I was exploring the byways of the web recently, scrolling across old territory and keeping a careful eye out for neglected news stories and offbeat opinions, when I came across a Guardian article from a decade ago that firmly arrested my attention. The article began as follows:

Vladimir Putin yesterday rejected Anglo-American claims that Saddam Hussein already possesses weapons of mass destruction and told Tony Blair that the best way to resolve the conflict of evidence is not war, but the return of UN inspectors to Iraq.

With a tense Mr Blair alongside him at his dacha near Moscow, the Russian president took the unusual step of citing this week’s sceptical CIA report on the Iraqi military threat to assert: “Fears are one thing, hard facts are another”.

Times were rather different then, of course – as the closing statement in the same article reminds us:

Mr Blair called Mr Putin “a critical partner for ourselves and the whole of the western world.”

And times were different in another way too:

In his remarks Mr Blair, very much the bridge between the hawks in Washington and wider global scepticism, again said that “conflict is not inevitable” but that the international community must give a “strong and clear signal” to Baghdad to comply with its demands.12

Conflict was indeed not inevitable, but it happened anyway. And as the leakedBush-Blair memo later revealed, only months after meeting with Putin, Blair had been scheming with Bush on plans to launch their invasion – including a discussion of ways they might provoke Saddam Hussein into a confrontation. In the finish, however, no provocation was needed; barefaced lies would be enough.

Today marks a moment precisely a hundred years since the western world first went mad for war. The centenary of the start of that “war to end all wars”. Which didn’t happen: the wars go on. The blood-drenched mud of the trenches providing fertile ground for the rotten fruit of fascism to grow upon. The interwar period turning out to be just a lull before the still greater storm of carnage which was the Second World War – the bloodiest war that the world has ever known. Since when, with a Cold War promptly established against our former ally Russia, conflicts have constantly flared up in places far and wide. For sadly, no other century in history can compete with this last one when it comes to war.

It appears that pressure is rising again, with the many on-going regional wars worsening and spreading, and so one wonders with horrible trepidation where all this might be leading. Especially now that we are giving a “strong and clear signal” not to Baghdad but to Moscow. For what is the West’s real objective when it comes to tightening sanctions on Russia? Is the aim simply to pressure Putin with the hope of unseating him (an unlikely outcome given his current popularity), or will this eventually lead to a full-blown economic war. Sanctions in the past have opened the way for military conflict, so does war against Russia remain unimaginable… well yes, for the sane it does!

But there are also those who dream along the lines of Tyler Cowen. They view war as an opportunity, more than a threat, because they know that war is good for business. “Victims?” says Harry Lime, “Don’t be melodramatic.” Lime is a villain, but he knows the score.

War is a Racket is a pamphlet that was written by America’s most highly decorated soldier, General Smedley Butler. In it Butler explains, in painstaking detail, who actually won the First World War. The major corporations and financiers were its only real victors, he tells us, pointing out how the same can be said for all of the many other wars he helped to fight in. And so, as today we solemnly remember the sacrifice of the millions who laid down their lives a century ago, let this be the lasting lesson we take from that war. “War is a racket. It always has been.” Lest we forget.

*

Update:

Israel’s month-long assault has so far left at least 1,865 Palestinians dead. As Israel pulled its ground forces from the Gaza Strip under the 72-hour ceasefire, Democracy Now! spoke with Jewish author, historian and political activist Norman Finkelstein, to discuss the events of the last month, and what in light of the new ceasefire, the likely outcome of talks will be. He began:

Well, the first thing is to have clarity about why there is a ceasefire. The last time I was on the program, I mentioned that Prime Minister Netanyahu, he basically operates under two constraints: the international constraint—namely, there are limits to the kinds of death and destruction he can inflict on Gaza—and then there’s the domestic constraint, which is Israeli society doesn’t tolerate a large number of combatant deaths.

He launched the ground invasion for reasons which—no point in going into now—and inflicted massive death and destruction on Gaza, where the main enabler was, of course, President Obama. Each day he came out, he or one of his spokespersons, and said, “Israel has the right to defend itself.” Each time he said that, it was the green light to Israel that it can continue with its terror bombing of Gaza. That went on for day after day after day, schools, mosques, hospitals targeted. But then you reached a limit. The limit was when Israel started to target the U.N. shelters—targeted one shelter, there was outrage; targeted a second shelter, there was outrage. And now the pressure began to build up in the United Nations. This is a United Nations—these are U.N. shelters. And the pressure began to build up. It reached a boiling point with the third shelter. And then Ban Ki-moon, the comatose secretary-general of the United Nations and a U.S. puppet, even he was finally forced to say something, saying these are criminal acts. Obama was now cornered. He was looking ridiculous in the world. It was a scandal. Even the U.N. secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, was now calling it a criminal act. So finally Obama, the State Department said “unacceptable,” “deplorable.” And frankly, it’s exactly what happened in 1999 in Timor: The limits had been reached, Clinton said to the Indonesian army, “Time to end the massacre.” And exactly happened now: Obama signaled to Netanyahu the terror bombing has to stop. So, Obama—excuse me, Netanyahu had reached the limit of international tolerance, which basically means the United States.

The youtube clip embedded above is a slightly truncated version of the original. Click here to read the full transcript and to watch the interview on the Democracy Now! website.

Tuesday’s [Aug 5th] Democracy Now! also interviewed Theodore Postol, a professor of science, technology and national security at MIT and a leading missile expert, who believes there is no convincing evidence that Israel’s much-vaunted missile interception system Iron Dome is effective. This has not stopped President Obama signing a bill on Monday which grants an additional $225 million in emergency funding for Israel to replenish its arsenal of interceptor missiles for Iron Dome. American “foreign aid” that will be transferred directly into the pockets of one of America’s largest weapons companies, Raytheon. Postol doesn’t describe this as a racket, but if the Iron Dome is really as unreliable as he claims, then what else can such an enormous transfer of money from public to private hands be called…?

Click here to read the same interview on the Democracy Now! website.

*

To hear more about the rise of ISIS, I also recommend the following Democracy Now! interview with Middle East correspondent for The Independent, Patrick Cockburn, speaking on August 13:

*

1 From an article entitled “The Lack of Major Wars May Be Hurting Economic Growth” written by Tyler Cowen, published by The New York Times on June 13, 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/14/upshot/the-lack-of-major-wars-may-be-hurting-economic-growth.html?smid=tw-share&_r=1

3 From an article entitled “Into the fray: Why Gaza must go” written by Martin Sherman, published in The Jerusalem Post on July 24, 2014. http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Columnists/Into-the-fray-Why-Gaza-must-go-368862

7 From an article entitled “Ukraine’s shelling could have irreversible consequences, says Russia” written by Shaun Walker, published by the Guardian on July 13, 2014. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/13/ukrainian-shell-russian-border-town-donetsk

8 From an article entitled “Ukraine conflict: ‘White power’ warrior from Sweden” written by Dina Newman, published by BBC news on July 16, 2014. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-28329329

9 “Since the start of 2014, approximately 110,000 Ukrainians had arrived in Russia – with only 9,600 requesting asylum – while more than 700 others went to Poland, Belarus, Czech Republic and Romania.”

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48159#.U96_7qOg6Uk

11 From an article entitled “The Silence of American Hawks About Kiev’s Atrocities” written by Stephen F. Cohen, originally published in The Nation magazine on June 30, 2014 (revised on July 7 and July 17). http://www.thenation.com/article/180466/silence-american-hawks-about-kievs-atrocities#

12 From an article entitled “Putin demands proof over Iraqi weapons” written by Michael White, published in the Guardian on October 12, 2002. http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2002/oct/12/russia.politics

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