Voices from Russia

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

The West’s Missile Strike on Syria: An Act of Raw Imperialism

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Crimes pile up until they become invisible.

Bertolt Brecht

When playwright Bertolt Brecht made this observation, it was the era of fascism and European colonialism in the 1930s. The world split into states privileged by the dint of their power to speak and states forced to listen and obey. This epoch culminated in World War II.

Lamentably, today, the 1930s are back and the crimes once again pile up… so many they’re in danger of becoming invisible. Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Syria, the charge-sheet grows ever longer with no end yet in sight; the latest chapter in this dismal story arrived with the illegal missile strike unleashed against Syria by the USA, UK, and France over an alleged chemical weapons attack carried out in Douma on the outskirts of Damascus by Syrian government forces. I say allegedly because (at time of writing) OPCW inspectors are yet to undertake an on-site investigation to ascertain if such an attack did, in fact, occur and, if so, with what precise chemical weapon or substance. Here we have a situation where not only was this military action illegal under international law, it was undertaken before OPCW inspectors could begin their investigation per the existing and established international protocols set out in the Chemical Weapons Convention. Article IX states:

Pursuant to a request for a challenge inspection of a facility or location, and in accordance with the procedures provided for in the Verification Annex, the inspected State Party shall have: 

  1. a) The right and the obligation to make every reasonable effort to demonstrate its compliance with this Convention and, to this end, to enable the inspection team to fulfil its mandate.

I, for one, am long past the stage of believing that the world is divided between goodies and baddies, with the country I happen to live in, the UK, on the side of the goodies, along with the USA and other countries that come under the rubric of “the West”. It isn’t as easy you think to arrive at this understanding, not when from cradle to grave, the media, culture industry, and political élite condition people in the West to believe that a metaphorical Hadrian’s Wall separates us, the nice civilised people, from the bad barbaric people on the other side. They’d have us believe that Western governments and their loyal journalists and media outlets are noble purveyors of truth and justice, while non-Western governments and their journalists and media outlets are incorrigible liars and propagandists. They’d have us believe that the West only drops its “democracy bombs” in the cause of good, while the barbarians drop their “barbarism bombs” in the cause of evil. The result is acts of raw aggression such as the one unleashed against Syria over the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, dressed up (as ever) in the threadbare clothes of humanitarian intervention.

On this occasion, as with every other occasion when it comes to these chemical weapons attacks, the video footage and other visual evidence used to make the case for the prosecution emanated exclusively from opposition sources within Douma itself…  in particular, the notorious White Helmets organisation, established by former British army officer and private military contractor James Le Mesurier. For some, perhaps, these are mere trifling details, but that this organization operates exclusively in opposition-held Syrian territory and has funding from Western governments, isn’t this sufficient reason to, at least, try to resist suspension of disbelief? To ask is surely to answer. Other pro-opposition organisations involved in shaping the narrative on this latest alleged chemical weapons attack are the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in the UK, and the Syrian American Medical Society. On the latter of these, the Syrian American Medical Society, US author and commentator Max Blumenthal said:

SAMS isn’t merely a group of Syrian doctors tending to the wounded in war-torn areas, nor can we consider it an objective source on chemical attacks and other atrocities. The organisation is a USAID-funded lobbying powerhouse that functions with single-minded determination to stimulate a US-led war of régime-change that’d place Syrian Islamists in power in Damascus.

None of the details, information, or footage of the attack came from an independent or credible source. That’s not difficult to understand when no Western journalist or news crew would dare set foot in any part of the country controlled by the “rebels”, knowing that as soon as they did, they’d be abducted and murdered. Veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk knows what the Syrian government and its people are up against. Writing in the aftermath of the military attack mounted by the USA and its allies, he informed us that in the suburbs of Damascus it wasn’t only Ghouta where jihadist militants were entrenched. Salafi-jihadist militants managed to retain a presence in another suburb of the Syrian capital. In this instance, it’s Daesh, and at the time of writing Syrian troops deploy there to engage in their next operation to secure the capital. Fisk informs us that on 27 March, Daesh surrounded and captured 116 Syrian soldiers in an ambush. The soldiers strayed into the area in the mistaken belief that a ceasefire was in place and it was safe. Subsequently, Daesh took the soldiers away and executed them… they shot some and beheaded the others. In the (by now) accustomed manner, they caught the grisly event on film.

The point that we need to make is that this base barbarism, rife throughout Syria over these past seven years, didn’t take place in a desert somewhere. No, it occurred in 2018 on the outskirts of a major capital city in the Middle East. Imagine for a moment if it was taking place on the outskirts of London or Washington or Paris. Just imagine… or can’t you? Can’t you imagine it? Are you unable to grasp the sheer horror of having on your doorstep the kind of people for whom there’s no constraint or no limit when it comes to wanton murder and massacre?

Precisely because we can’t imagine it, we make an outrageous moral equivalence between a secular nonsectarian government, supported by an army whose soldiers come from every Syrian religious and cultural group, and brutal sectarian butchers intent on genocide. This has passed muster in the West. It led us to the criminal folly of the USA, UK, and France refusing to align themselves with the people on the receiving end of sectarian barbarism in Syria, choosing instead to effectively join forces with the barbarians of al-Qaeda, Daesh, Nusra, and Jaish al-Islam. It’s tantamount to entering a pact with hell.

16 April 2018

John Wight

Sputnik International

https://sputniknews.com/columnists/201804161063614684-crimes-pile-up-invisible/

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Barbara Bush, Former US First Lady, Dies at 92

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Editor:

I read the comments section for the RT report on Barbara Bush’s death, and the tone of much of it repulsed me. You don’t mock a family at a time of death… that’s what my people taught me. I’ll confide that most of us received the same upbringing. Yes… I stand on the other side of the political barricades from the Bushes. There’s no doubt on that, for I’m a loud n’ proud leftist. I also like to think that I’m a decent human being. You don’t dance on anyone’s grave nor mock anyone giving condolences to a grieving family. I bow before the stark reality of death, which comes for all of us. I’m not a Rod Dreher, who mocked Patriarch Kirill for sending condolences to the Castro family on the death of Fidel Castro (His Holiness’ personal friend, I might add). I bow before the Bushes and give them my sincere condolences. I do NOT agree with their politics, but there are things that transcend politics, and if we don’t know that, we’re very poor and wretched human beings, indeed.

Вечная ей память

BMD

The wife of former President George H W Bush and mother of former President George W Bush, Barbara Pierce Bush, passed away at the age of 92. Bush served as both First Lady and Second Lady of the United States and was the mother of 2016 presidential candidate and 43rd Governor of Florida Jeb Bush. During her time as First Lady, she founded the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, a nonprofit that began a number of educational programs across the country. For her work improving literacy, she received The Miss America Woman of Achievement Award in 1997. She also received the Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged in 1995. Bush said of her efforts to promote literacy:

It’s the most important issue we have.

She took an interest in the cause after her son Neil was diagnosed with dyslexia, and made frequent appearances on television and radio encouraging parents to read aloud to their children. In 1984, she wrote a children’s book called C. Fred’s Story. The book detailed the life of the Bushes from the perspective of the family dog. A second collection, Millie’s Book, also included stories about her beloved dogs. She donated all proceeds to literacy charities. In her later years, her children, Jeb Bush and Dorothy Bush Koch, ran the foundation while she remained an honorary chairman.

As First Lady, Bush was uncomfortable with the luxurious lifestyle that sometimes accompanies the presidency. She preferred a small car to a limousine and tried to journey by train or commercial airline whenever she travelled, much to the chagrin of the Secret Service. She was also famously disinterested in high fashion, preferring subtler tastes to designer clothes. Many began to emulate the “Barbara Blue” look, a simple dress with her signature three-strand pearls. A private woman, Bush also argued that the Republican Party should leave personal matters like abortion and homosexuality out of its platform. She once said, according to the Daily Telegraph:

I hate abortions, but I just couldn’t make that choice for someone else.

She also expressed her support for the Equal Rights Amendment, meant to improve gender equality, even though doing so nearly derailed her husband’s chances of becoming Ronald Reagan’s Vice-President in 1980. In 1988, she became the second future First Lady to speak at a national party convention, the first being Eleanor Roosevelt. While she generally stayed out of the limelight during her husband’s presidential campaign, those familiar with the campaign say she played an active role in developing strategy.

During a visit to a paediatric AIDS care centre, Bush also helped dispel myths about how people contract the disease. She was photographed holding a baby infected with the virus, at a time when many incorrectly believed that one could catch AIDS through physical contact. Time magazine credited Barbara Bush with influencing her husband’s decision to increase research funding for the disease. In 1990, she gave a commencement address at Wellesley College alongside R M Gorbachyova, wife of Soviet leader M S Gorbachyov. Confronting criticism from female students that she was too singularly defined by her husband’s actions, Bush gave a stirring speech that is now ranked as one of American Rhetoric’s Top 100 Speeches of the 20th Century. She ended the speech with:

Who knows? Somewhere out in this audience may even be someone who will one day follow in my footsteps, and preside over the White House as the president’s spouse… and I wish him well.

She also became active with the White House Historical Association and helped raise 25 million USD (1.54 billion Roubles. 157.2 million Renminbi. 1.64 billion INR. 31.4 million CAD. 32.2 million AUD. 20.2 million Euros. 17.5 million UK Pounds) to refurbish and restore the presidential residence.

Early Life   

Born in New York City in 1925, Barbara Bush was the daughter of Pauline and Marvin Pierce. Her father was the president of McCall Corporation, a publishing company behind major American magazines like Redbook, Popular Mechanics, and the Saturday Review. She was also a distant relative of Franklin Pierce, the 14th President of the United States. With her three siblings Martha, James, and Scott, Barbara grew up in the New York City suburb of Rye NY. Enjoying bike riding, tennis, and swimming, she attended boarding school in South Carolina as a teenager. At the age of 16, she met her future husband during a dance at Phillips Academy in Massachusetts. They dated for a year and a half, becoming engaged just before George H W went off to serve as a US Navy bomber pilot in World War II. During the war, he named three planes after his fiancée… Barbara, Barbara II, and Barbara III. When he returned in 1945, the two married in Barbara’s hometown.

Together, they had six children:

  • George W
  • Pauline Robinson
  • Jeb
  • Neil Mallon
  • Marvin Pierce
  • Dorothy

Pauline died of leukaemia at the age of four, a tragedy that greatly affected Barbara Bush. She was the grandmother of 17, and great-grandmother of seven. Frequently on the move, Barbara raised the children while her husband travelled on business. Throughout their marriage, they’d move 29 times, though they spent significant time in Texas, where her husband lost a race for the US Senate but later won a seat in the US House of Representatives. It was during her husband’s time as a Texas representative that Barbara first became involved in a number of charity organizations and formed relationships with a number of high-profile diplomats. George H W served as the head of the Central Intelligence Agency in 1976, and the severe secrecy of the job left Barbara feeling isolated. US News and World Report quoted her as saying:

I’d feel like crying a lot and I really painfully hurt.

To overcome her depression, she began volunteer work at a local hospice. She also delivered a number of speeches about the years the Bushes spent in China when George worked for the US Liaison Office. Barbara became Second Lady of the United States in 1980 after George H W became Vice-President under Ronald Reagan. It was during this time that she began to develop her interest in literacy issues. Barbara became First Lady after George H W defeated Democratic rival Michael Dukakis in 1988. Within 100 days of stepping foot inside the White House, Barbara had higher approval ratings than her husband and the Vice-President.

Life After the White House

George H W lost re-election to Bill Clinton in 1992, and the Bush family moved to Houston, Texas in 1993. Barbara continued her work in public service, volunteering with a number of charitable organizations. She became AmeriCares ambassador-at-large, joined the board of the Mayo Clinic Foundation, and supported the Leukemia Society of America, the Ronald McDonald House, and Boys & Girls Club of America. She also helped plan her husband’s presidential library, dedicated in College Station TX in 1997. Bush expressed great pride in her son, George W Bush, who followed in his father’s footsteps to become the 43rd President of the United States after the 2000 election. During his victory speech, George W thanked both of his parents:

Dad, I’m proud to be your son. I’m proud of my mother, who gave me love and lots of advice. I gave her white hair.

Barbara Bush became the second woman in American history to be both the wife and mother of presidents, following Abigail Adams. Several elementary and middle schools across Texas are named after the former first lady. The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland ME is also named for her. She was the author of two autobiographies, Barbara Bush: A Memoir, and Reflections. The Office of George H W Bush stated:

Bush is survived by her husband of 73 years, President George H W Bush, five children and their spouses, 17 grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, and her brother, Scott Pierce.

According to a spokesman, Bush, in failing health, recently decided to forego further medical treatment,. Bush suffered from chronic pulmonary disease, which made breathing difficult, but she was alert and lively up until the night before she passed away.

18 April 2018

Sputnik International

https://sputniknews.com/us/201804181063667477-bush-former-first-lady-us/

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