British Conservative war secretary celebrated Assad’s victory


This video from Britain says about itself:

General Election 2017: Marr Show: Emily Thornberry gets Michael Fallon on meeting and celebrating Assad (14 May 2017)

14 May 2017

Labour‘s Emily Thornberry wipes the floor with CONservative Michael Fallon, when it’s revealed he went to Syria, and met Assad to celebrate his becoming leader of the country. Tories tried to keep that quiet. Fallon had no response other to rake up some old bullshit on Jeremy Corbyn.

Sir Michael Fallon is the British War Secretary … oops, I should use the euphemism ‘Defence Secretary’. As such, he is responsible for bombing Syria without permission of the Syrian government and/or the United Nations, so against international law. Officially, that bombing is against ISIS; in fact, for oil and other imperialist interests; and it kills mainly civilians, not ISIS fighters.

Recently, Sir Michael Fallon’s Conservative Foreign Office colleague Boris Johnson said that the British government should expand the bombing of Syria into regime changing bombing without permission of the British parliament, following Donald Trump’s attack on an Syrian airbase. Regime change war in fact makes Trump‘s USA, and Theresa May‘s Britain, allies of ISIS, al-Qaeda and similar groups.

The Donald Trump administration, and its British Conservative poodles, justify regime change war on Syria by claiming that Assad is supposedly worse than Adolf Hitler.

That is radically different from Fallon’s earlier attitude towards Assad (compare Donald Rumsfeld in the USA, from pal of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein to regime change warrior on Iraq).

By Peter Lazenby in Britain:

Thornberry brings down Fallon on BBC

Monday 15th May 2017

Defence Secretary forced to admit Assad party

TORY so-called “attack dog” and Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon suffered a serious mauling on live TV yesterday in being exposed for having celebrated the re-election of Syrian President Bashar Assad a decade ago.

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry pulled him up on BBC’s Andrew Marr Show for his hypocrisy in criticising Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for engaging in peace talks in Northern Ireland 30 years ago.

Sir Michael was left stuttering and floundering when Ms Thornberry asked him where he was on May 27 2007. “No, but I’m sure you’re going to tell me,” he replied.

She continued: “You were in Syria and you were celebrating, at a reception, the reelection of President Assad with 99 per cent of the vote.

“Now I am not going to judge you on your going to a reception for Assad, and I don’t think you should judge Jeremy for trying to talk to people who might be open to a settlement in Northern Ireland.”

Suddenly remembering his visit, Sir Michael squirmed: “There is a little bit of a difference. It was a parliamentary visit. An all-party visit. MPs have gone every year during better times in the relationship.”

Ms Thornberry said: “But you were at a party.”

He responded: “I don’t recall any party. I remember a fact-finding visit to Syria.”

Andrew Marr intervened: “But did you meet Assad when you were there?”

Sir Michael: “I did meet Assad. Indeed.”

Mr Marr: “Did you shake his hand?”

Sir Michael: “Indeed I met Assad.”

Ms Thornberry: “And you celebrated his re-election.”

Sir Michael: “I did not celebrate his re-election.”

Ms Thornberry: “But that was what the reception was for. It was a celebration of his re-election.”

Western countries had on-off relationships with the Syrian regime before the civil war.

During the 2000s it was a favourite destination for the US to send kidnapped people to be tortured.

Ms Thornberry continued by saying Sir Michael had earlier claimed that she had wanted to negotiate “the future of the Falklands.”

“That is bollocks,” she said.

“There is an election and people need to make decisions on the basis of truth.”

After he raised the issue of the Falklands again, she said: “Oh, come on Michael! You really cannot just make this up as you go along.

“People need to make decisions in the general election based on facts and based on information, proper information, and it isn’t right for you to go slinging around dead cats the way that you do.”

Trump’s air force keeps killing Syrian civilians


This video from the USA says about itself:

20 July 2016

During the bombing campaign against ISIS, the US military “mistook” a large group of civilians for enemy combatants and bombed them. Almost sixty civilians were killed in the attack. Cenk Uygur, Ben Mankiewicz (What The Flick?), John Iadarola (ThinkTank), and Michael Shure, hosts of The Young Turks, break it down. Tell us what you think in the comment section below.

“US air strike killed nearly 60 civilians, including children, in Syria on Tuesday after the coalition mistook them for Islamic State [ISIS] fighters.

Some eight families were hit as they tried to flee fighting in their area, in one of the single deadliest strikes on civilians by the alliance since the start of its operations in the war-torn country.

Pictures of the aftermath of the dawn strikes on the Isil-controlled village of Tokhar near Manbij in northern Syria showed the bodies of children as young as three under piles of rubble.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strikes appeared to have been carried out in error, with the civilians mistaken for Islamist militants.

It is thought Tuesday’s bombing was among the first by jets taking off from Incirlik air base in Turkey since it reopened after the failed coup.”*

Read more here.

By Bill Van Auken in the USA:

US bombs kill 11 civilians in Syria

12 May 2017

US airstrikes on a village north of the Syrian city of Raqqa killed at least 11 civilians, including four children and six women, a UK-based monitoring group reported Wednesday.

The bombing raid, which was launched just before midnight, is part of a protracted air war being waged by the US military that has killed and wounded thousands of civilians in both Syria and neighboring Iraq over the past three years.

In Syria, the airstrikes, ostensibly aimed against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), are being carried out without any authorization from either the United Nations or the government in Damascus, making them acts of aggression and war crimes.

The monitoring group Airwars has cited reports of as many as 13,407 civilians killed in both Iraq and Syria in 1,298 separate attacks by US and allied warplanes. The death toll has soared in the past few months as the Pentagon has provided massive air support to Iraqi government forces and militia groups besieging the northern city of Mosul, and carried out a parallel bombing campaign in conjunction with the advance of a force comprised primarily of the Kurdish YPG militia, backed by US special operations troops, against Raqqa in Syria.

The Pentagon has refused to acknowledge all but a handful of these killings—it recently raised its absurdly low estimate to 352—while the US media, which has churned out endless war propaganda over Syrian civilians killed in attacks by government forces and their Russian allies, has virtually ignored the bloodbath inflicted by Washington’s air war.

The latest bombing, which struck the village of al-Salihiya, also severely wounded several civilians, with the death toll likely to rise. It follows by just days an earlier report of US bombs killing 10 civilians as they were driving through the desert southwest of Raqqa.

The stepped-up bombing raids have facilitated the YPG’s overrunning of the town of Tabqa and a nearby strategic dam on the Euphrates River about 30 miles southwest of Raqqa, which ISIS proclaimed its Syrian capital after taking control of it in 2013, driving out or killing its substantial Alawite and Christian minority populations.

The YPG’s conquest of Tabqa came just a day after the Pentagon announced that US President Donald Trump had authorized the direct arming of the Kurdish militia, a move that provoked heated protests from Turkey, Washington’s NATO ally, which views it as a branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought the government in Ankara for Kurdish autonomy for over three decades. Late last month, Turkish warplanes attacked YPG positions in Syria, killing at least 20 of the militia’s fighters. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is set to visit Washington beginning next Monday and has said he will appeal to Trump to reverse his decision.

Trump’s meeting with the Turkish president will follow his White House talks Wednesday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. According to media reports, the substance of Trump’s discussion with Lavrov centered largely on Syria, with the US president demanding that Moscow “rein in” both the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad and its closest ally, Iran.

Moscow has attempted to secure US support for an agreement reached earlier this month in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, between Russia, Turkey and Iran on the creation of four separate “de-escalation zones” in Syria, to halt fighting and airstrikes in areas under the control of the so-called “armed opposition,” excluding ISIS and the group formerly known as the Al Nusra Front, Syria’s Al Qaeda affiliate.

The Trump administration has remained noncommittal in relation to the zones, while the Pentagon has indicated that it has no intention of changing its air war because of the deal. Washington apparently orchestrated a protest and rejection of the zones by representatives of the so-called “rebels,” the Islamist forces armed and funded by the CIA, centering on Iran’s role in the agreement.

US imperialism is not interested in ending the conflict in Syria, but rather in stoking it in order to secure Washington’s original aim of regime change. The arming of the YPG is part of a steady escalation of the US intervention in Syria, which has seen the number of US troops operating in the country double over the past few months. Moreover, the Trump administration used the pretext of a chemical weapons attack, attributed without any substantive evidence to the Syrian government, to launch an attack that rained 59 cruise missiles on a Syrian government air base last month.

Meanwhile, US troops are participating in massive military exercises in Jordan, close to the Syrian border, prompting growing speculation that a US invasion may be in preparation. Photographs taken by Syrian drones have shown massed armor and large numbers of attack helicopters deployed near the border. Photographs also were posted on a “rebel” website appearing to show US special operations troops training a “moderate rebel” faction known as Mughawir al-Thowra in Syria’s al Tauf region near both the Jordanian and Iraqi borders.

While Washington escalates its intervention in Syria, the bloody US-backed siege of Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, continues to grind on into its eighth month, with thousands of civilians killed and hundreds of thousands driven from their homes.

Some 600,000 Iraqis have fled the death and destruction unleashed by the offensive, while as many as 450,000 more remain trapped in the war zone, which is moving with increasing ferocity into Mosul’s crowded Old City.

The International Committee of the Red Cross warned Wednesday that those still inside Mosul were facing “very stark choices.”

“This population is not only exposed to the immediate dangers of the conflict itself and being either targeted or hit as collateral damage, but is also facing the effects of just no longer really having much access to the basic essentials that they need to live,” Peter Hamilton, the ICRC deputy director for the Middle East said Wednesday.

“People don’t have enough to eat, don’t have water,” Hamilton said. “Babies, elderly and so on of course they are very vulnerable and may already be dying.”

American warplanes launched an attack on pro-government forces in southeastern Syria Thursday, near the borders with Iraq and Jordan. The attack is the first time since the April 6 cruise missile assault on the al-Shayrat air base that the US military has targeted forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad: here.

British Conservative war on Syrian government, bypassing parliament?


This 2016 video from the USA is called Noam Chomsky on Syria Conflict: Cut Off the Flow of Arms & Stop Bombing to Stem the Atrocities.

By Lamiat Sabin in Britain:

Anger as Johnson threatens to bypass MPs in rush to war

Friday 28th April 2017

JEREMY CORBYN led criticism of Boris Johnson yesterday after he threatened to bomb Syria without bothering to ask for Parliament’s approval.

The Conservative Foreign Secretary was also told off by Stop The War after declaring it would be “very difficult to say no” if US President Donald Trump calls for a war coalition, citing unproven claims that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad smothered a rebelheld area in Idlib province with sarin gas.

The failed Tory leadership hopeful told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Prime Minister Theresa May would back this plan to bypass a Commons vote.

But Mr Corbyn warned military action should not be taken while inspectors are investigating the chemical weapons allegation.

He added: “Inspectors there are already destroying any stocks of chemical weapons that they find.

“The issue has to be finding a political solution so that the millions who have been forced to flee from Syria are able to return home and the people of Syria are able to look forward to a future.”

Mr Johnson would “love to say yes” to a British-US coalition, Stop the War co-convener Lindsey German said, as it would help the Tories “deflect from their rotten domestic policies” by going to war while painting Mr Corbyn as a “security threat.”

“Everything we know about the military interventions of the past 16 years is that they have solved nothing while creating further terrorism. No wonder Mr Johnson doesn’t want to debate this in Parliament.

“Even some of the MPs who have repeatedly backed war might be able to see that.”

Britain is currently carrying out air strikes in Syria and Iraq against Islamic State (Isis) after MPs voted for it in December 2015. But strikes against the Assad regime were rejected in a 2013 vote.

Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, who voted to bomb Syria in 2015, said such decisions should go to a vote.

There is no legal requirement on the government to seek parliamentary approval, but it has become convention to consult MPs unless there’s an emergency, according to the Commons library.

The US launched an illegal cruise missile strike on a Syrian regime air base this month.

War rhetoric dominates UK snap general election: here.

Friday, 5 May 2017: Tories planning post election war vote on Syria: here.

‘Stop Erdogan’s wars in Syria, Iraq’


This video says about itself:

Cüneyt Özdemir and Kenan Taş Report From Sinjar, Liberated from ISIS Terrorists

7 December 2015

Kenan Taş and Fatih Öztürk have entered Sinjar, a city recently liberated from ISIS terrorists, in the northern part of Iraq. 5N1K producer Kenan Tas reports from the front lines of Iraq, Sinjar, a small city in Northern Iraq where battles between ISIS militants and Kurdish Peshmerga forces where prominent for a long time. Recently, peshmerga forces liberated the town from ISIS militants and 5N1K team was one of the few journalists to enter the tumultuous city.

By Steve Sweeney in Britain:

Activists demand end to Erdogan’s killing of Kurds

Thursday 27th April 2017

PROTESTERS gathered outside the Turkish embassy in London yesterday to demand an “end to murderous attacks” and violations of international law by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government.

The emergency demonstration was called by the British-based Kurdistan Solidarity Campaign as part of a Europe-wide day of action following Turkish air strikes on northern Syria’s Rojava region and the Iraqi town of Sinjar on Tuesday.

Fighter jets attacked People’s Protection Unit positions in the Syrian city of Derik, bombing a radio station and media centre and killing 18 people. Six more were confirmed killed when Kurdish Yazidi positions were targeted in Sinjar.

In an online statement published on Tuesday, the Turkish armed forces said “terrorist targets” had been hit with “complete efficiency.”

But Syrian Democratic Union Party co-chair Salih Muslim warned that the “Turkish attacks support Islamic State [ISIS]” and sources suggested that the air strikes could not have been conducted without the knowledge of the coalition of countries bombing Syria, including Britain.

Protesters urged people yesterday to join them in working for a peaceful solution to the “transnational conflict” and to condemn the murderous attacks and violations of international law by Turkey.

They also condemned the sale of fighter jets to Turkey in a £100 million “deal of shame” struck by Prime Minister Theresa May during a recent meeting with Mr Erdogan in the capital Ankara.

Kurdistan Solidarity Campaign spokesman Zinar Demeni told the Star: “This is the first time we have people from all parts of Kurdistan, in particular from Basur in Iraq.

“I think we haven’t seen unity like this for some time. People are shouting: ‘Turkish state out of Kurdistan,’ ‘terrorist Turkish state.’”

The Foreign Office was not available for comment by the time the Star went to print.

By James Tweedie:

The [Kurdish Syrian women’s anti-ISIS militia] YPJ argued that the raid by Nato member Turkey could not have occurred without the knowledge of the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve coalition.

“The coalition’s silence is proof and approval of this,” it said, adding that Turkey’s aim was to disrupt the SDF offensive against the Isis stronghold of Raqqa.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavosoglu confirmed that suspicion yesterday, telling reporters: “We told the US, our ally, directly that we would conduct the operation. We told them to move their forces 20-30 km to the south.”

But on Tuesday, US State Department spokesman Mark Toner claimed that Turkey had bombed Syria and Iraq “without proper co-ordination either with the United States or the broader global coalition to defeat Isis.”

“These air strikes were not approved by the coalition and led to the unfortunate loss of life of our partner forces in the fight against Isis that includes members of the Kurdish Peshmerga,” he said.

KURDISH leaders accused Turkey of collaborating with Isis yesterday after the country’s air force killed dozens of militia in Syria and Iraq: here.

SCOTTISH trade unions have vowed solidarity with over 100,000 public-sector workers sacked by Turkey’s right-wing Erdogan regime and have pledged to raise money to support them: here.

Chomsky on Trump’s bombs on Afghanistan and Syria


This 13 April 2017 video from the USA says about itself:

Noam ChomskyTrump’s Bombing of Afghanistan and Syria

Chomsky‘s full talk is here.

See also here.

America’s longest war drags on in Afghanistan: here.

US bombings in Syria and Afghanistan. A new stage in the repudiation of international law. By Mike Head: here.

Neocons Have a Long List of Endless-War Ideas for Donald Trump to Implement: here.

Overall, in the countries encircling Syria, there is very little support among the general population as well as among the intellectuals, for the Western assaults on the country, conducted directly, and indirectly by proxies. Pro-Western regimes and governments are currently governing Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, and all of them are officially supporting the Western military actions: here.

America’s Endless Afghan War: here.

TROOPS EXPECTED TO INCREASE IN AFGHANISTAN “The new plan, which still needs the approval of the president, calls for expanding the U.S. military role as part of a broader effort to push an increasingly confident and resurgent Taliban back to the negotiating table, U.S. officials said.” [WaPo]

Sectarian massacre of Shiite Syrian civilians


This video says about itself:

RAW FOOTAGE: Explosion hits Syrian evacuation bus convoy in Aleppo

15 April 2017

WARNING: DISTURBING IMAGES

At least 100 killed after explosion targets bus convoy in Aleppo transporting residents of two besieged Shia villages. An explosion near a bus convoy waiting to enter the Syrian city of Aleppo killed or wounded several people on Saturday, pro-government media outlets, pro-opposition activists and a monitor reported.

A military media unit run by Damascus ally Hezbollah said a suicide attacker had detonated a car bomb near the convoy.

By Jordan Shilton in the USA:

Syrian rebels massacre at least 126 civilians in suicide bomb blast

17 April 2017

A convoy of buses evacuating residents from the government-held towns of Foua and Kefraya in Syria’s Idlib province was targeted by a suicide bomber Saturday, claiming the lives of at least 126 civilians. The attack occurred west of Aleppo as the buses made their way to government-controlled areas.

The evacuation of the residents of the two towns began Friday morning and was part of a swap deal agreed between the government of Bashar al-Assad and rebel forces. In exchange for allowing the evacuation of residents from Foua and Kefraya, rebels agreed to resettle the populations of Madaya and Zabadani, two towns they control near Damascus. In total, around 7,250 people were evacuated from the four towns. It was part of a broader plan brokered by Iran and Qatar to move up to 30,000 people over a 60-day period.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is linked to the rebels, 68 children were killed in the blast. Other sources have put the figure as high as 80.

The observatory confirmed the blast was caused by an improvised explosive device carried in a vehicle, backing up an earlier report on Syrian state TV which said the attackers used a van meant for delivering aid to gain access to the area.

An al-Jazeera reporter at the scene described how many of the buses were completely destroyed and dead bodies littered the ground. Ambulances rushed those from the scene who had been injured.

Although no group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, it occurred in a rebel-controlled area. Ahrar al-Sham, a conservative Islamist militia, condemned the bombing and called for an international investigation to determine who was to blame.

In stark contrast to the moral outrage expressed by politicians and the media in the wake of the alleged gas attack in Khan Sheikhoun earlier this month, which the Trump administration seized upon to launch an illegal missile strike on a Syrian air base, the death of over 100 Syrians in a suicide bombing—substantially more than the number who died in the alleged gas attack—prompted virtually no condemnation from the Western powers.

The US State Department released a weasel-worded statement which, while condemning the killings, sought to strike a pose of impartiality and refused even to identify the rebel Islamist militias as being responsible. “We deplore any act that sustains or empowers extremists on all sides including today’s attack,” said State Department spokesman Mark Toner.

At a comparable stage in the aftermath of the Khan Sheikhoun incident, just hours after the alleged attack, US government officials had already acted as judge, jury and executioner, and were proclaiming the guilt of the Assad regime without presenting any evidence.

President Donald Trump, who invoked the deaths of “beautiful babies” and the need to defend the “civilized world” in justifying his April 6 cruise missile strike, which killed nine civilians, did not even comment on the bloodbath carried out by forces linked to the American CIA.

For their part, the servile corporate-controlled media reported on the incident, if at all, in a largely routine manner.

The New York Times published a lengthy front-page report concentrating almost exclusively on the crimes committed by Assad during the war, alleging that “the largest number of violations by far has been by the Syrian government.” It criticized the failure to bring government officials before the International Criminal Court in the Hague and blamed Russia for blocking any action by the UN Security Council.

The general indifference shown by the political and media establishment to the victims of this brutal massacre exposes once again the hypocrisy of the crusaders for “human rights” in the United States and the European imperialist powers. It demonstrates the fraudulent character of the propaganda campaign in the wake of the alleged gas attack, designed to conceal the real aims of US imperialist intervention in Syria: regime change in Damascus and the consolidation of Washington’s hegemonic position in the energy-rich Middle East against any challenge from its geopolitical rivals.

The reason for the lack of reaction is not hard to find. While it remains unclear precisely which faction of the rebels carried out the mass slaughter, Washington and its Gulf allies have the main responsibility for arming the collection of right-wing Islamist militias fighting the Assad dictatorship and enabling them to continue the civil war. The opposition is now dominated by the al-Nusra Front, which was formerly affiliated to Al Qaeda.

If any journalist were honest enough to follow the evidence, they would have to apportion a significant part of the blame for the bus convoy bombing to the criminal and reckless policies of US imperialism. More than six years after instigating the Syrian civil war, Washington has the blood of an estimated 500,000 Syrians on its hands.

This does not even take into account the upwards of 1 million people killed as a result of the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003, the hundreds of thousands of deaths due to wars either led or sponsored by Washington in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia, and the millions throughout the region forced to flee their homes as a consequence of conflict and societal breakdown.

The highly selective concern shown for “human rights” issues by the representatives of US imperialism is nothing new. Saturday’s bombing came less than a month after a single US air strike launched as part of the ruthless onslaught against Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, claimed the lives of as many as 300 civilians sheltering in a basement. This horrific war crime, coming on top of the thousands of civilian deaths that have occurred since the US-backed offensive was launched last October, was largely buried by the media.

The ruling class considers the deaths of civilians to be collateral damage—a price worth paying in their ruthless struggle to uphold US imperialist interests in the Middle East and around the globe. Barely 24 hours after the bus bombing, Trump’s National Security Adviser General H.R. McMaster vowed in an ABC News interview that Washington was ready to escalate tensions with Russia still further, not only over Syria, but over Europe as well.

McMaster said of Russia’s alliance with Assad, “So Russia’s support for that kind of horrible regime, that is a party to that kind of a conflict, is something that has to be drawn into question as well as Russia’s subversive actions in Europe. And so I think it’s time though, now, to have those tough discussions with Russia.”

‘Nuclear war would kill everyone’


This film trailer video from the USA says about itself:

Psychotic Air Force general unleashes ingenious foolproof and irrevocable scheme sending bombers to attack Russia. U.S. President works with Soviet premier in a desperate effort to save the world. (Original Title – Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb) © 1963, renewed 1991 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Would the present United States President Trump be as eager as the fictional US president in that old movie to save the world from nuclear annihilation?

By Bryan Dyne and Barry Grey:

“In a nuclear war between the US and Russia, everybody in the world would die”

Nuclear experts speak on the dangers of war between the US and Russia

15 April 2017

Since the April 6 cruise missile strike by the Trump administration against a Syrian airbase, tensions between the United States and the European powers and Russia are at their highest level since the cold war. The rhetoric from the US and its allies has centered on defending the unprovoked attack while Russia has responded by increasing its military support for the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

The most recent escalation of these tensions is the dropping of a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB) by the US military in Afghanistan. A MOAB is a 21,600 pound bomb, the most powerful non-nuclear weapon in the US military’s arsenal. It had never before been used in combat.

While the official target was an ISIS cave and tunnel complex in Nangarhar Province, the real aim was to demonstrate to Iran, Russia, Syria, North Korea, China and any other nation that gets in the way of American imperialism’s global interests that there are no limits to the violence the US military is prepared to unleash on those it considers its enemies.

What is striking about the media coverage of the increasingly acute geopolitical crisis is the lack of discussion–whether it be the New York Times, the Washington Post, Fox News, MSNBC or CNN–of the consequences of a nuclear exchange. The next step up from a MOAB is a low-yield tactical thermonuclear warhead, a weapon that is at least an order of magnitude more destructive. Yet no one in the corporate media has asked: What would happen if such weapons were used in Syria, Iran or North Korea, let alone Russia or China?

This raises two further questions: How close is the current situation to one in which there is a clash and military escalation between the US and Russia that leads to nuclear war? How many people would die in such a conflict?

To shed light on these question, the World Socialist Web Site spoke separately with two experts on the dangers of nuclear war, Steven Starr and Greg Mello.

Steven Starr

Steven Starr is a senior scientist at Physicians for Social Responsibility and an associate with the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. His articles on the environmental dangers of nuclear war have appeared in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and the publication of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies.

World Socialist Web Site: In your opinion, how real is the danger of a military conflict between the US and Russia over Syria or with China over North Korea?

Steven Starr: I think there is a very significant danger of that happening. The Russians are allied with [Syrian President Bashar al-]Assad and have been beating ISIS. They’ve won back Aleppo and it’s made the US media and political establishment hysterical, because that’s not how they wanted the war to end. Trump campaigned for a detente with Russia, for a non-interventionist policy. When [Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson was in Turkey, he said that Assad could stay. But five days after that, the US launched cruise missiles at Syria.

As a result of the attack of 59 cruise missiles by the US on a Syrian airbase, we’ve basically destroyed relations with Russia. We’ve crossed the Rubicon. Russia has suspended the 2015 aviation safety memorandum that had provided 24/7 communication channels aimed at preventing dangerous encounters between US and Russian aircraft. This will give the Russians in Syria the right to decide whether to shoot or not to shoot at US planes. The Russians already own the Syrian airspace and they have stated that they are going to increase Syrian air defense capacity. What happens when US planes start getting shot down by the Russians?

WSWS: One thing worth contrasting is the completely dishonest and false reporting by the corporate media and the scale of the consequences of the policies being pursued. As bad as it is to pump out propaganda on behalf of the American political establishment, when you are pursuing a policy that will result in the destruction of the planet, it assumes a new dimension.

SS: From my perspective, the international “news” published by the papers of record has mostly become propaganda, especially after the events in Ukraine and Crimea in 2014. While you always expect bias in each country’s news reporting, Western media no longer seems constrained by the need to provide hard evidence to support their arguments and allegations. There has been no investigation about the chemical attack in Syria–Trump launched the missile strike before any investigation could be carried out.

The CIA is deeply involved in this process. There are only six megacorporations that control 90 percent of US and Western media, and they do not publish stories that are contrary to Washington’s official party line. Censorship by omission with no dissent permitted is the defining characteristic of what we hear today. The use of “official sources” without supporting factual evidence creates a false narrative that is used to support US military actions.

As a result, there has been a deafening silence in the media about what the consequences of what a war with Russia might mean. When have you heard mainstream media have any discussion about the consequences of a nuclear war with Russia?

WSWS: What would happen if there was another US attack on Syria, perhaps following another manufactured chemical weapons attack?

SS: The situation could escalate very quickly, especially since relations between the US and Moscow have deteriorated to their worst state in history. One report I’ve read is that there are plans to deploy 150,000 US troops to Syria. Given that there are Russian and Iranian troops in Syria (at the request of the Syrian government), it would be an incredibly stupid decision for the US to send large military forces to Syria. It would be very hard to avoid WWIII.

If the US and Russia get into a direct military conflict, eventually one side or the other will start to lose. They either then admit defeat or they escalate. And when that happens, the possibility of using nuclear weapons becomes higher. Once nukes start going off, escalation to full-scale nuclear war could happen very quickly.

WSWS: How catastrophic would that be?

SS: The US and Russia each have about 1,000 strategic nuclear weapons of at least 100 kilotons, all ready to launch within two to 15 minutes. Since it takes about nine minutes for a missile from a US submarine to hit Moscow, this means that the Russian government could retaliate. And these are only the missiles that are on a hair trigger alert.

The US and Russia have 3,500 deployed and operational strategic nuclear weapons (each with a minimum explosive power of 100,000 tons of TNT) that they can detonate within an hour. They have another 4,600 nuclear weapons in reserve, ready for use. There are about 300 cities in the US and about 200 cities in Russia with populations greater than 100,000 people. Given how many nuclear weapons there are, it’s a large chance that most large cities would be hit.

Probably 30 percent of US and Russian populations would be killed in the first hour. A few weeks after the attack, radioactive fallout would kill another 50 percent or more.

Nuclear winter, one of the long-term environmental consequences of nuclear war, would probably cause most people on the planet to die of starvation within a couple years of a large US-Russian nuclear war. The global stratospheric smoke layer produced by nuclear firestorms would block most sunlight from reaching the surface of earth, producing Ice Age weather conditions that would last for at least 10 years.

Another rarely discussed consequence of nuclear war is high altitude electromagnetic pulse, or EMP. A large nuclear weapon detonated at high altitude (100-200 miles high) will produce an enormous pulse of electrical energy, which will destroy electronic circuits in an area of tens of thousands of square miles below the blast. A single detonation over the US East Coast would destroy the grid and cause every nuclear power plant affected by EMP to melt down. Imagine 60 Fukushimas happening at the same time in the US.

Greg Mello

Greg Mello is the secretary and executive director of the Los Alamos Study Group, an organization that has researched the dangers of nuclear war and advocated for disarmament since 1989. His research and analysis have been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and Issues in Science and Technology.

WSWS: What role have the Democrats played in the increased tensions between the US and Russia over Syria?

Gregg Mello: Even as recently as 2013, when there was a fake chemical weapon attack in Syria, I don’t think the Democrats were as “on board” with war as they are today. But now, as a result of the candidacy of Hillary Clinton, the Russia-baiting and the neo-McCarthyite hyperbole has really ratcheted up, marginalizing even those within the party who express any amount of skepticism about the official story, such as Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. And this is someone who went to Syria to find out what was really going on. She found that the majority of people in Syria want the US to stop funding the rebels and are happy with the Assad government’s efforts to oust Al Qaeda and ISIS. But she’s being silenced.

WSWS: Could you speak on some of the corporate interests involved in this?

GM: Fifty-nine cruise missiles cost a lot of money. Each missile used costs, I guess, between $1 and $1.6 million, so the strike as a whole cost between $60 to $100 million. That doesn’t include the cost of the deployment of the ships and the other elements that make up a strike. It’s probably twice as much, if you include those elements. In terms of the missiles, if they are replaced, that’s income for whatever company replaces them.

Companies also get free advertising from such a strike. I saw the clip from MSNBC’s Brian Williams, who praised the missiles using the Leonard Cohen line, “I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons.” That’s a priceless advertising clip, especially when the same images and videos of the missiles are on primetime news and across the Internet. I’m sure their stock values, literally and figuratively, went up.

But even this is peanuts compared to the really high dollar amounts that come from continued tensions with Russia and the US government’s need to dominate the world. We’re talking not about millions of dollars, but billions–really, trillions. To maintain the idea that we should be in every part of the world, the US spends on all components of national defense about $1 trillion a year. So it really adds up quickly.

And the US military just got an increase to its base budget that is comparable to Russia’s entire defense budget. In the US, we spend way more money on the military than all of our potential adversaries combined. That’s where the real money is.

We get NATO to buy the latest versions of military equipment, compatible with ours. All of those arms sales plus our own national purchases are worth trillions. That’s what this strike upholds. A military spending pattern on a colossal scale.

This goes along with the geopolitical questions you mentioned.

WSWS: Could you elaborate on the geopolitical questions?

GM: Well, Trump has said that we won’t go into Syria, but there’s no consistent policy on this. Let’s assume there is another strike, will it involve Russia? Will it kill Russians? What will Putin or any other Russian leader feel he needs to do then?

Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies at Princeton and New York University, noted that Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev called American and Russian relations “ruined.” And Medvedev is not a hardliner against the West. For him to say that, you can only imagine what the generals and other hardliners are whispering in Putin’s other ear.

If we make another strike, either with a US airplane or a “coalition” airplane, it could easily be shot down by the high end anti-aircraft weapons that Syria and Russia have deployed. This would lead to an outcry from the US political establishment to do more, to double down on our mistake. All in all, it’s difficult to see how an air campaign could have a decisive effect on the war in Syria without creating an extreme risk of escalation between the US and Russia.

Geopolitically, the situation in Syria has gone so far towards Assad remaining in power and the terrorists being pushed out that a serious US attack on Syria would either fail, or else it would really damage Russian interests, humiliate Russia and kill her soldiers along with Assad’s, and therefore tilt the balance toward WWIII.

The idea that the poisonings in Khan Sheikhoun occurred because of chemical weapons or precursors released by a conventional munitions attack on an Al Qaeda weapons warehouse or workshop, which is the report of the Russian government, makes the most sense given everything we know. The notion that Assad or some rogue element in his army dropped chemical weapons on his own people, just when he is winning militarily and politically, is ridiculous.

Now we see that the US does not want the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons involved in an investigation of the attack. Really?

The OPCW is the world’s policeman for chemical weapons, something the US helped create. They got the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013 for verifying that all of Syria’s chemical weapons had been destroyed. They destroyed them on a US ship. In this case and in every case, the OPCW would carefully study evidence gathered with chain of custody procedures at an accredited laboratory, all of which are essential when matters of war and peace are at stake. It’s the same way you’d collect evidence in a high-profile murder case.

This hasn’t happened for the most recent chemical weapon attack–and the US doesn’t want it to happen. Instead, the US has recently issued a statement of the “facts,” a piece of paper claiming to be from all 17 intelligence agencies, but without letterheads or signatures, which uses weasel words like “we have confidence.” There is no indication what agencies have signed off on this or what actual evidence has been collected. Moreover, an attack like this takes a few weeks to investigate, not a few days.

This all is happening because Syria is one of the more important crossroads between the hydrocarbons of the Middle East and European customers. If you’re going to get oil and natural gas from Qatar to Europe without going through Iran, you have to have pipelines that go through Syria. This is especially important if you don’t want Europe to be dependent on natural gas from Russia, if you want to prevent Germany and Russia and the rest of Asia from further integration economically. The US government does not want Europe dependent on hydrocarbons supplied by Russia or Iran.

So, really, Syria is a proxy war between the US and other regional powers–Iran, allied with Russia–for control over Europe’s gas and oil. In addition, Israel wants control of the Golan Heights in order to drill in that region.

It’s also worth considering that China’s oil production seems to have peaked. The world’s net exports of oil–that is, the oil that can be bought on the international market–are starting to very slowly decline.

Since a barrel of oil will produce more value in countries such as China and India because the workers are paid so much less, China can always outbid the US and Europe for oil. Given a free market, they will. Alongside this problem, the oil-producing countries are using more oil internally as their populations and economies grow, which will inevitably produce a crisis in the availability and affordability of oil. That crisis will be upon us in the 2020s and it implies the potential for great power conflicts over these resources.

You didn’t have this during the Cold War because the US and Russia each had enough resources, as did our allies. But now, the cheap oil is running out and there are no cheap replacements. The potential for conflict, including between nuclear-armed powers, is rising.

WSWS: How many people would die during the first day of such a war?

GM: To a first approximation, in a nuclear war between the US and Russia, everybody in the world would die. Some people in the southern hemisphere might survive, but probably not even them.

Even a couple of nuclear weapons could end the United States as a government and an economy. It wouldn’t take a great deal to destroy the “just in time” supply chains, the financial markets and the Internet. The whole system is very fragile, especially with respect to nuclear weapons. Even in a somewhat limited nuclear war, say a war where only ICBM silos and airfields were targeted, there would be so much fallout from the ICBM fields alone that much of the Midwest would be wiped out, including places like Chicago.

Then there is the problem of the nuclear power plants, which have stored within them and their spent fuel pools and storage areas truly vast amounts of radioactivity. If their electricity supply is interrupted, these plants are quite susceptible to fires and meltdowns, as we saw at Fukushima.

Keep in mind that nuclear war is not one or two Hiroshima-sized bombs. The imagination cannot encompass nuclear war. Nuclear war means nuclear winter. It means the collapse of very fragile electronic, financial, governmental, administrative systems that keep everyone alive. We’d be lucky to reboot in the early 19th century. And if enough weapons are detonated, the collapse of the Earth’s ozone layer would mean that every form of life that has eyes could be blinded. The combined effects of a US-Russian nuclear war would mean that pretty much every terrestrial mammal, and many plants, would become extinct. There would be a dramatic biological thinning.

I think many parts of the US military just don’t get it. I’ve talked to people on the National Security Council and they have the idea that Russia will back down. I begged them, about 18 months ago, to bring in some Cold War era veteran diplomats from the realist school, people like former ambassador to Russia Jack Matlock, who was appointed by Ronald Reagan, to try and convince them that Russia won’t just do what we want, that they have their own legitimate interests that we would do well to understand and take into consideration.

WSWS: What are your thoughts on how to deal with the problem of nuclear war?

I would say that the effort to decrease inequality in the world is at the core of dealing with the threat of nuclear war. We have to get the military-industrial-financial complex off people’s backs. If you have so much power concentrated in so few hands, and have such high levels of inequality, the people in power are blinded by their position. They are insulated from society’s problems. So gross inequality–economic and especially political–leads to sort of political stupidity. It could lead to annihilation. The ignorant masses are not the problem. It’s the ignorance and hubris at the top. It always is.

John Pilger’s The Coming War on China, which was shown last year in Britain and recently screened in several Australian and New Zealand cinemas, is about the US military encirclement of China and the danger of a catastrophic war between the two nuclear-armed powers. The feature-length documentary will be broadcast on Australia’s state-funded SBS network on April 16: here.