*Disclaimer: This article features disturbing images.*
Image by the author/homage to Barbara Kruger.
A strong possibility is emerging from findings of weapons inspectors, and from Robert Fisk's dispatches in the Independent and other investigative journalists, that the likeliest perpetrators of recent chemical attacks in Syria were not Syrian army soldiers acting on orders from Assad at all, but the very “rebel forces” (which, contrary to administration propaganda, consist overwhelmingly of al Qaeda operatives and associated jihadists) that war hawks in Congress and Obama have tried, with telling lack of success, to whip up support for among the US citizenry.
Assad has frankly acknowledged having stockpiles of the same sarin gas that was used in the attacks; his regime is presently drawing up inventories of these weapons, having agreed to destroy them under UN supervision, or, if the US should insist on it, simply ship them to the United States, conceivably to be added to our own prodigious stockpiles of the same weapons.
People unfamiliar with weapons forensics have understandably leapt to the inference that since Assad has admitted having such weapons, and quite a lot of them, this proves that he also used them, in the vernacular of today’s political hacks, “against his own people”; however, such chemicals and their delivery devices are indelibly marked to identify their provenance and manufacturer, their smallest movements documented on cargo manifests and certified by end-use certificates and other records. Except, of course, when they are stolen from shipments in transit, or looted from military arsenals; the paper trail of the ones used in Syria apparently begins in Russia and ends in Libya, where they were probably hijacked by jihadists in the chaotic aftermath of Gaddhafi’s overthrow. Other al Qaeda affiliates took Kalashnikovs and similar hardware across the Sahara to Mali during the same period.
Without question, the timely intrusion of Russian president Vladimir Putin into the “debate” over possible American military intervention in Syria (in the form of yet another “limited” cruise-missile attack that will kill no civilians and result in no American “boots on the ground”) has forestalled and potentially neutralized the US initiative for a so-called clinical strike. If Assad is bad news, the disorder and mass death that would follow a successful insurrection in Syria by the people currently trying to overthrow him would inevitably result in a human catastrophe of incalculable proportions. And neither Obama nor the unsinkable turd that is John McCain have done any hard calculation of the actual consequences of another US intervention in the Middle East; both have taken the position that we should fire some ordnance in the vicinity of the offending weaponry, whistle Maytime, and hope for the best. Americans have seen this movie before, and are giving it a thumbs down, after being forced to sit through it or getting slaughtered acting in it once too many times.
For anyone cognizant of Vladimir Putin’s back story, this has been one of those paradoxical demonstrations that “a stopped clock is right twice a day,” or the arguably more salient truism that “50 percent of what any psychopath says is true.” Putin’s New York Times op-ed item of September 11, 2013 incensed many of the American media’s favorite warmongers, especially for its reproving sentences about American exceptionalism (“A dry truth, from a questionable source,” as David Bromwich put it in the London Review of Books, “but impossible to deny”). But the homophobic Christian right, which was already sporting a gay boner for Putin because of his bold support for the persecution of sexual minorities, has been publicly swooning like the corps de ballet in Swan Lake over photographs of his wide manly breast as he gallops through the tundra on his noble steed, enraptured by a “statesman” they believe has made Obama look like a neophyte pansy by comparison.
Meanwhile, Stephen F. Cohen, professor emeritus of the Department of Russian Studies and Politics at NYU—and, it’s worth noting, spouse of Katrina vanden Heuvel, proprietess of the Nation—has graced the antedilivian radical tabloid’s cover with a think piece reproaching those guilty of “mocking a photo of [Putin] bare-chested on horseback” and scolding the “Putinophobic follies” of the former midlevel KGB spook’s critics as “trivial, preposterous, and self-debasing.” Professor Cohen informs us, as perhaps only a professor married to the granddaughter of MCA founder Jules Stein might venture to do quite so imperiously and categorically, that criticism of Putin, at this critical moment, is “trivial, preposterous and self-debasing.”
Rather than risk being accused of triviality or preposterousness (traits often ascribed to the Nation, actually, behind its gilded back) I will let some voices that can’t be dismissed in this cavalier manner speak for themselves. Putin was not struck by lightning while riding that horse to Damascus; recent items in Financial Times and elsewhere reflect that Putin continues—undistracted by the demands of his current role as Prince of Peace in the Middle East—a virulent, uninterrupted campaign to silence GLBT and other minorities, with renewed vigor thanks to his fan base in the more squalid religious precincts of the United States. Putin hasn’t unaccountably swerved off the road while racing down some imaginary highway to democracy just to sideswipe Pussy Riot and Russia’s GLBT community; that’s who he is, and that’s how he rolls.
As I lie here, I sense the distinct presence of the angel of death. It is still possible I’ll be able to evade him, but I fear my feet are no longer as fast as they used to be. I think the time has come to say a few words to the man responsible for my current condition.
You may be able to force me to stay quiet, but this silence will come at a price to you. You have now proved that you are exactly the ruthless barbarian your harshest critics made you out to be.
You have demonstrated that you have no respect for human life, liberty, or other values of civilization.
You have shown that you do not deserve to hold your post, and you do not deserve the trust of civilized people.
You may be able to shut one man up, but the noise of protest all over the world will reverberate in your ears, Mr. Putin, to the end of your life. May God forgive you for what you have done, not only to me but to my beloved Russia and her people.
—Written by Alexander Litvinenko, an opponent of Vladimir Putin living in exile, in a London hospital, two days before his death from polonium poisoning on November 26, 2006.
… polonium-210, which killed [Litvinenko] is manufactured exclusively in Russia. Its production and export are tightly controlled by federal nuclear authorities, and the extraction of the needed dose from the manufacturing chain required top-level intervention in an early stage of the manufacturing process. The authorization for such an intervention had to have come from the president’s office.
—From The Man Without A Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin, by Masha Gessen
Why do I so dislike Putin? This is precisely why. I dislike him for a matter-of-factness worse than felony, for his cynicism, for his racism, for his lies, for the gas he used in the Nord-Ost seige, for the massacre of the innocents that went on throughout his first term as president.
This is how I see it. Others have different views. The killing of children has not deterred people from trying to have Putin’s term in office extended to ten years… Suddenly there appear groups called Marching Together, Singing Together, For Stability, or some other latter-day version of the Soviet Union’s Pioneer movement. A distinctive feature of these pro-Putin quasi-political movements is the amazing speed with which, without any of the usual bureaucratic prevarication, they are legally registered by the Ministry of Justice, which is usually chary of attempts to create anything remotely political. As its first public act, the new movement usually announces that it will attempt to ensure the extension of the term of office of our beloved president.
- From Putin’s Russia, by the journalist Anna Politkovskaya, an opponent of Vladimir Putin assassinated in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building on October 7, 2006.
Did Putin have [Khodorkovsky] arrested because he wanted to take possession of his company [Yukos oil conglomerate] rather than for reasons of political and personal competition? Not exactly. He put Khodorkovsky behind bars for the same reason that he abolished elections or had Litvinenko killed: in his continuing attempt to turn the country into a supersize model of the KGB, there can be no room for dissidents or even for independent actors. But then, independent actors are inconvenient because they refuse to accept the rules of the mafia. And once Khodorkovsky was behind bars, the opportunity to rob him presented itself.
—From The Man Without A Face
On September 9 , at 5 AM, a bomb went off under an apartment building in a shabby working-class neighborhood of Moscow… The building collapsed entirely; the inhabitants were crushed under the rubble. Preliminary estimates put the death toll at 94.
Four days later, shortly after midnight, an even more powerful explosion destroyed another Moscow apartment building, killing 118 people… In just over three weeks, five blasts in Moscow and two in provincial cities claimed the lives of at least 300 people.
The blasts transformed the Russian political landscape. Prime Minister Putin declared the nation beseiged. Paranoia swept Russia’s cities. Police and FSB operatives imposed a regime of heightened security. Horror and grief gave way to fury against the Chechens, who were officially blamed for the blasts. Within days, Russian popular opinion rose overwhelmingly in support of the war in Chechnya. Putin’s approval ratings soared. The young prime minister talked tough, voicing vociferous determination to wipe out the terrorists even if he caught them in the outhouse.
The fact that Berezovsky… Had long maintained a secret relationship with Chechen extremists gave rise to the suspicion that the 1999 apartment bombings had been organized by the Russians themselves. The French newspaper Le Monde carried reports of the Russian arms-export monopoly providing Shamil Basayev’s men with weapons and of a meeting in the resort town of Biarritz in the summer of 1999 between Berezovsky, Alexandr Voloshin (Yeltsin’s chief of staff), and Chechen rebel commanders. Later, Le Monde quoted Berezovsky as saying that the man he met in Biarritz was not a Chechen commander, but Vladimir Putin, on the eve of Putin’s appointment as prime minister.
A week later, the French newspaper Le Figaro asked former Security Council chief Aleksandr Lebed if the Russian government had organized the terrorist attacks against its own citizens. “I am almost convinced of it,” Lebed responded.
—From Godfather of the Kremlin, Boris Berezovsky and the Looting of Russia by Paul Klebnikov
And this is how we roll:
To my friends on the left, I ask you to reconcile your belief in freedom and dignity for all people with those images of children writhing in pain… For sometimes resolutions and statements of condemnation are simply not enough.
—Remarks by Barack Obama in the Address to the Nation on Syria, Septemer 10, 2013
Children killed in CIA drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen between 2004 and 2013, a partial list compiled by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism of the City University of London, UK:
Name | Age | Gender
Noor Aziz | 8 | male Abdul Wasit | 17 | male Noor Syed | 8 | male Wajid Noor | 9 | male Syed Wali Shah | 7 | male Ayeesha | 3 | female Qari Alamzeb | 14| male Shoaib | 8 | male Hayatullah Kha Mohammad | 16 | male Tariq Aziz | 16 | male Sanaullah Jan | 17 | male Maezol Khan | 8 | female Nasir Khan | male Naeem Khan | male Naeemullah | male Mohammad Tahir | 16 | male Azizul Wahab | 15 | male Fazal Wahab | 16 | male Ziauddin | 16 | male Mohammad Yunus | 16 | male Fazal Hakim | 19 | male Ilyas | 13 | male Sohail | 7 | male Asadullah | 9 | male Khalilullah | 9 | male Noor Mohammad | 8 | male Khalid | 12 | male Saifullah | 9 | male Mashooq Jan | 15 | male Nawab | 17 | male Sultanat Khan | 16 | male Ziaur Rahman | 13 | male Noor Mohammad | 15 | male Mohammad Yaas Khan | 16 | male Qari Alamzeb | 14 | male Ziaur Rahman | 17 | male Abdullah | 18 | male Ikramullah Zada | 17 | male Inayatur Rehman | 16 | male Shahbuddin | 15 | male Yahya Khan | 16 |male Rahatullah |17 | male Mohammad Salim | 11 | male Shahjehan | 15 | male Gul Sher Khan | 15 | male Bakht Muneer | 14 | male Numair | 14 | male Mashooq Khan | 16 | male Ihsanullah | 16 | male Luqman | 12 | male Jannatullah | 13 | male Ismail | 12 | male Taseel Khan | 18 | male Zaheeruddin | 16 | male Qari Ishaq | 19 | male Jamshed Khan | 14 | male Alam Nabi | 11 | male Qari Abdul Karim | 19 | male Rahmatullah | 14 | male Abdus Samad | 17 | male Siraj | 16 | male Saeedullah | 17 | male Abdul Waris | 16 | male Darvesh | 13 | male Ameer Said | 15 | male Shaukat | 14 | male Inayatur Rahman | 17 | male Salman | 12 | male Fazal Wahab | 18 | male Baacha Rahman | 13 | male Wali-ur-Rahman | 17 | male Iftikhar | 17 | male Inayatullah | 15 | male Mashooq Khan | 16 | male Ihsanullah | 16 | male Luqman | 12 | male Jannatullah | 13 | male Ismail | 12 | male Abdul Waris | 16 | male Darvesh | 13 | male Ameer Said | 15 | male Shaukat | 14 | male Inayatur Rahman | 17 | male Adnan | 16 | male Najibullah | 13 | male Naeemullah | 17 | male Hizbullah | 10 | male Kitab Gul | 12 | male Wilayat Khan | 11 | male Zabihullah | 16 | male Shehzad Gul | 11 | male Shabir | 15 | male Qari Sharifullah | 17 | male Shafiullah | 16 | male Nimatullah | 14 | male Shakirullah | 16 | male Talha | 8 | male
Afrah Ali Mohammed Nasser | 9 | female Zayda Ali Mohammed Nasser | 7 | female Hoda Ali Mohammed Nasser | 5 | female Sheikha Ali Mohammed Nasser | 4 | female Ibrahim Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye | 13 | male Asmaa Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye | 9 | male Salma Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye | 4 | female Fatima Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye | 3 | female Khadije Ali Mokbel Louqye | 1 | female Hanaa Ali Mokbel Louqye | 6 | female Mohammed Ali Mokbel Salem Louqye | 4 | male Jawass Mokbel Salem Louqye | 15 | female Maryam Hussein Abdullah Awad | 2 | female Shafiq Hussein Abdullah Awad | 1 | female Sheikha Nasser Mahdi Ahmad Bouh | 3 | female Maha Mohammed Saleh Mohammed | 12 | male Soumaya Mohammed Saleh Mohammed | 9 | female Shafika Mohammed Saleh Mohammed | 4 | female Shafiq Mohammed Saleh Mohammed | 2 | male Mabrook Mouqbal Al Qadari | 13 | male Daolah Nasser 10 years | 10 | female Abedal Ghani Mohammed Mabkhout | 12 | male Abdel- Rahman Anwar al Awlaki | 16 | male Abdel-Rahman al-Awlaki | 17 | male Nasser Salim | 19
Previously by Gary Indiana - New York to Bloomberg: Drop Dead