Western Economic and Military Groupthink on Parade This Week

By   /   April 22, 2018  /   30 Comments

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So while leaders from European superpowers, Five Eyes nations and the Commonwealth parade, in self-congratulatory back slapping and hand shaking in front of the cameras, they engage in lock step and group think, marching as one over firing missiles at Syria that are actually aimed at Russia, in a real battle for supremacy of the ‘There is No Alternative’ approach to economic management, monetary policy, growth, trade and the neo-liberal agenda.

While the Facebook nation’s eyes and hearts are focused on Jacinda looking resplendent and pregnant with Clarke Gayford in Buckingham Palace with the Queen, my mind is on the people of Syria and Palestine.

The pomp and ceremony, the costumes and finery, of the visit of Commonwealth leaders, including our own, to the Palace, is a compelling distraction from the business of economics and war which has been the real agenda in the week-long visit of the Prime Minister’s delegation abroad.

The sight of ‘our pregnant Jacinda’ means the visit ends on a high PR note. Confirmed by her rankings among Time magazine’s 100 most powerful people and footing it with the heavy hitters among world leaders, many New Zealanders feel renewed pride and confidence in our place in the world.
However, that place in the world, and that pride, shouldn’t be uncritical either. Let’s not forget the purpose of these meetings, and their focus on trade, not so much on human rights. You can be sure the western, neo-liberal consensus, has been shored up by all the bilateral and multilateral cups of tea and hand shaking, and discussions behind closed doors. Conveniently for many leaders present, and those in association, the western attack on Syria, the diplomatic dance, the discussions on trade and security, the military parades and ceremonies, were convenient distractions from troubles like protests and low polls at home.

Trade and security were at the top of the agenda, but ultimately however, security in question was more about security of trade than security of the world’s dispossessed.

The US-led airstrikes of Syrian bases, unsanctioned by either the UN or domestic governmental mandates, were appropriately under discussion. But the airstrikes themselves were an agenda set by the west and so were the terms of debate. When Jacinda Ardern talked about the Five Eyes partners reaffirming their commitment to ‘rules-based order’, it was western rules she referred to, not so much, international law.

The French constitution requires the Government to inform Parliament of military action but not necessarily to vote. France’s participation in a show of power in the Middle East may well have been a convenient diversion from protests and state services shut downs and university blockades. US domestic law bans the use of hostile force without Congressional authorisation. But bombing another country to divert attention away from illicit liaisons was a strategy deployed by former US President Bill Clinton, and while current President Donald Trump faces unsavoury allegations about prostitution, extra-marital affairs and blackmail, diversionary US airstrikes on another continent have precedent.

British Prime Minister Theresa May was not bound to seek Parliamentary support for military action but it’s customary to do so. Without basis she said the airstrikes were right both legally and morally. She said, ‘it’s always been clear that the Government has the right to act quickly in the national interest’.

The purported justification for the ‘allied’ forces airstrikes in Syria, was in response to the alleged chemical weapons attack on the last rebel stronghold in Syria, in Douma, East Ghouta. We all agree chemical weapons are bad. But whether they were used in this instance is less clear. America and the UK say they have evidence of the attacks they’re not prepared to disclose.

Some mainstream media reports have clearly emotionalised and fabricated information to support the claim of a chemical weapons attack. CNN for example, interviewed refugees who arrived in Turkey before the alleged attacks occurred, but could still smell chlorine on a young girl’s backpack. The White Helmets, Syria’s UK backed ‘Civil Defence’ force provided photos as evidence of the attack which were taken from a film set.

One American News visited the area and found no evidence of a chemical weapons attack. Acclaimed and award winning journalist Robert Fisk, found no evidence either, and instead found doctors at the medical clinic where treatment of victims occurred, (dousing with water), who said the chemical weapon use never happened. Instead, the story goes, residents remaining living in bombed out basements and underground shelters subsequent to the absolute destruction of their homes, suffered from a mix of heavy bombardment and a dust storm, and experienced oxygen starvation as their makeshift refuges filled with dust and smoke. In some accounts, unharmed people were encouraged to run to the clinic where they were unwittingly doused with water, and in other reports, victims raced for help against the conventional, but no less powerful, forces of bombs and dust. In the clinic, White Helmets cried out ‘gas’, ‘gas’, and so history was written, and a legend was born.

As they say, in war, one of the first casualties is truth. With this war now going since 2011, truth lies beneath buried cities and the bodies of dead innocents. Even the Syrian Observatory on Human Rights, a pro-rebel organisation confirmed the shelling and dust scenario yet chemical weapons were given as the provocation for the breach of international law in attacks on a sovereign nation.
Elsewhere however, there are reports of more than forty men, women and children dead in a two room shelter, frothing at the mouth from chlorine poisoning; rooms where according to Associated Press, a ‘strange smell still lingered’, nine days after the attack. A chemical weapons attack at the hands of opposition forces, they say.

Obviously the proper course of action in face of these allegations, would be to call in the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons before military action is taken, and through recourse to the United Nations. But the inevitable Russian UN Security Council veto made such a referral a less preferred path for the western heavies, and unilateral airstrikes on Syrian targets were the sanction of choice.

The airstrikes have been criticised as a breach of international law which forbids the use of unilateral force except in self-defence. UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn says the US/UK/French airstrikes with the support of the rest of the west, makes real accountability for war crimes and use of chemical weapons less likely, not more. Donald Trump says the strikes were in response to the Syrian disregard for international law in using chemical weapons, and ‘our Jacinda’ agrees, ‘the use of chemical weapons could not be tolerated without a response’, she said and given that Russian veto, and the need to protect western national and collective interests, she ‘absolutely understands’ the reasoning behind the attacks. The NZ Green MP and human rights lawyer Golriz Ghahraman however, says the airstrikes lack even the pretense of lawful sanction. While it’s not known if there really was a chemical weapons attack, and if so, who perpetrated it, and without exhausting diplomatic and other potential resolutions, military action against Syria is ad hoc and unjustified.

Golriz says we’ve been sold a story that elevates the moral authority of the US, UK and France, against Russia. And trotting along behind to encourage that sense of moral authority are Australia, Canada, the EU, NATO and New Zealand. Are we bound to adopt Five Eyes policy and threat definition just by being members? And what sort of strategy is bombing selected, alleged Syrian chemical weapons sites anyway? The western bombing of sites last year in response to the Khan Sheikhoun chemical weapons attack achieved little. The latest intervention does not seek to oust Syrian President Assad, does not seek regime change, does not seek accountability for the last seven years of atrocities against the Syrian people and their civilisation. There is no strategy to end the Syrian crisis, and no real plan to end chemical weapons use in Syria either by the government or opposition. That Russia and Syria were informed through media signalling and ‘deconfliction channels’ so to prevent casualties and losses, shows what a farce this really is.

According to some commentators, there’s no moral authority for the west in any of this. Mehi Hasan writing for Al Jazeera, says the western airstrikes were brazenly illegal and rather pointless, and that western humanitarianism is a sham. If western intervention is driven by universal human rights then why is there no similar response to the atrocities inflicted upon the people of Palestine? Maybe these rights are in practice, only selectively universalised. Hasan notes in Syria that conventional weapons at the hands of Assad have been tools in crimes against humanity and war crimes even more lethal than chemical weapons. The indiscriminate bombing of homes, schools, utilities and medical facilities, starvation as a weapon of war, the deployment of an estimated 68,000 barrel bombs since 2012, shooting of protestors, torture, people ‘disappeared’, on any scale seem of less consideration than scores killed by chemical.

It’s no consolation that the bombing of hospitals, schools, homes and the very means of survival in Palestine also go unmarked by the west. Governmental hearts bleed for purported victims of chemical weapons in Syria, but not those killed by conventional warfare in the same state or Palestine. This moral blindness says Mehi Hasan, means western action is morally bankrupt, and cynically hypocritical. And in terms of a Russian UN Security Council veto as justification for unilateral military action against Syria, let’s remember that the US has used its UN veto in favour of Israel 42 times. Last weekend when Israeli forces shot 773 people with live ammunition, including fleeing protestors in the back, killing 17, those same western nations conspiring to attack Syria, said relatively little.
So when the UK, France and America claim pursuit of national interests to justify targeting 100+ cruise missiles into three Syrian targets, what interests are they defending? The right to define the rules of the political and economic game? The right to sanction or support action dependent on previous alliances? The pursuit of geopolitical strength, access to resources, oil, trade, and trade routes? A liberal world order?

Indeed, with austerity budgets here in New Zealand and abroad, and protests in the public and private sectors, and with the challenges and opportunities of Brexit and free trade, meetings between the leaders of trading nations couldn’t be more important.

Liberal interventionism is the foreign policy doctrine that says liberal states should intervene in other sovereign states to pursue liberal objectives. Methods include both invasion and ‘humanitarian’ aid. Proxy wars and weapon sales are means to this end. The 2019 US budget asks for equipment and weapons for 65,000 partnered troops in Syria, apparently to fight ISIS and to support border security. That requisition includes 25,000 AK47s, 1500 light machine guns, 500 heavy machine guns, 400 rocket launchers, 95 sniper air rifles, and mortars for the ‘Syrian Democratic Front’, a ‘terrorist’ group working in Syria. At that rate, insecurity and violence is guaranteed.

So while leaders from European superpowers, Five Eyes nations and the Commonwealth parade, in self-congratulatory back slapping and hand shaking in front of the cameras, they engage in lock step and group think, marching as one over firing missiles at Syria that are actually aimed at Russia, in a real battle for supremacy of the ‘There is No Alternative’ approach to economic management, monetary policy, growth, trade and the neo-liberal agenda.

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  1. David Stone says:

    Very good Christine
    The attack on Syria seems pointless except to boost the ratings of three insecure heads of government. I doubt that it will help any of them in the long run, probably the reverse.
    But the missile attack might have been intended to be much more damaging than it was. It seems to have taken out only the chemical testing facility and cancer research centre that was inspected last by ONCW in September ’17 and reported on last month as all clear for chemical weapons. It was doubtless warned to evacuate. But it was probably not the focus of missile defence by Syria either . Their military bases that were also targets seem to have been almost completely protected by Syria’s obsolete Russian ABMs. We might be looking at a different scenario if more had gotten through.
    What are they going to do next? There will be more fake gas attacks for certain. They get such a wonderful response. How much of the western public is going to suck it up next time? How long will it take for Jacinda to call enough?
    D J S

    • David Stone says:

      And good on Golriz and the Greens . They are looking like the only party with integrity at the moment. Staying with their TPPA position and seeking truth before condemnation on this.

  2. Historian Pete says:

    “The indiscriminate bombing of homes, schools, utilities and medical facilities,shooting of protestors, torture,starvation as a weapon of war,people disappeared,on any scale seem of less consideration than scores killed by chemicals [by Assad].
    I quite agree Christine. Except I have yet to see any believeable evidence that any of this happened.Barrel bombs, as you well know, are a less lethal bomb than a conventional bomb, like those supplied by the U.S. and Britain to the Saudis, to cruelly bomb the people of Yemen!lAnd Mehi Hasan is a Wahabbi extremist who has always supported the anti Assad forces.Al Jazerra criticizes The U.S. Empire over Palestine, but supports it over Syria. Much like you do Christine! The people on the ground like Vanessa Bealey do not agree with you. Nor do the people of Damascus apparently, as they poured out into the streets in a demonstration of support for Assad after the U.S. Empire Fourth Reich criminal attack!Your post is thinly veiled propaganda for the U.S. criminal Empire.

    • Christine Rose says:

      I’m amazed you read it like that again Historian Pete. It’s a critique of American foreign policy and intervention

      • David Stone says:

        I had to read it again to see where Pete was coming from. But your paragraph quoting Mehi Hasan where he (she?) talks about the conventional weapons war crimes attributed to Assad , without questioning whether he could defend his people against the jihadists in any other way, and pointing out that US and allies operated in at least as forthright manner in Mosul and Raqqa causing at least as much “collateral damage” to local trapped human shield populations will be what he is referring to.
        D J S

        • Francesca says:

          Medhi Hasan’s piece has been taken off the Intercept website. All the comments were very critical of him
          From Moonofalabama:

          On the same day the BBC, Guardian and Sky News published smear pieces against ‘bots’ the Intercept published a piece by Mehdi Hasan bashing an amorphous “left” for rejecting a U.S. war on Syria: Dear Bashar al-Assad Apologists: Your Hero Is a War Criminal Even If He Didn’t Gas Syrians.

          Mehdi Hasan is of course eminently qualified to write such a piece. Until recently he worked for Al Jazeerah, the Qatari government outlet which supports the Qatari sponsored al-Qaeda in its war against Syria. The Mehdi Hasan piece repeats every false and debunked claim that has been raised against the Syrian government as evidence for the Syrian president’s viciousness. Naturally many of the links he provides point back to Al Jazeerah’s propaganda. A few years ago Mehdi Hasan tried to get a job with the conservative British tabloid Daily Mail. The Mail did not want. During a later TV discussion Hasan later slammed the Daily Mail for its reporting and gerneral position. The paper responded by publishing his old job application. In it Mehdi Hasan emphasized his conservative believes:

          I am also attracted by the Mail’s social conservatism on issues like marriage, the family, abortion and teenage pregnancies.”

          Moonofalabama is a German blogger, sometimes his spelling and grammar reflects that English is a second language, but he’s usually pretty careful about facts

      • Historian Pete says:

        Here are some interesting facts for you Christine from
        “Syrias Sunnis and the regimes resilience.” -Combatting Terrorism Centre- At West Point.
        1. Most of the Syrians Armies weapons are pre 1970 Soviet made. [That is why they , like the Palestinians have to make primitive rockets , they have to make their own weapons like barrel bombs. And the CIA then makes this into a propaganda construct.[the Israelis/CIA do the same to the Palestinians].]
        2. 70% of the population of Syria is Sunni.
        3.Sunni Moslems make up the majority of the pro-Assad Syrian Arab Army[60-65%]. Many hold high government positions.
        4.Interestingly the prominent role of Alawites[Shia sect] has not translated into special privileges for this group in general.
        5. 100% of the Syrian Opposition Army is Sunni.ie their opposition is very sectarian.
        6.The opposition want to have Sunni Sharia rule as per the lovely Saudi regime/Isis.
        7.A majority of the Syrian population don’t want this, they want a secular society. The only one on offer is Assads.

        When you look at the options available for the Syrian people you can see why they are a lot more enthusiastic about Assad than the alternative.You can see why the people that Robert Fisk and Vanessa Bealey spoke to on the ground in Damascus have no sympathy for the Syrian opposition.You can see why the Syrian people- Shia, Sunni, Christian, Druze, and a half a dozen other sects, have joined the Syrian Army and have fought the combined forces of Isis/Jihadi Sunnis, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Republics, and the U.S.Empire to a standstill.At the end of the day it is about what the Syrian People want, not what the U.S. Empire can force on them, like they have done in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya,and Yemen, and what they have threatened to do in Venezuela, Iran, and North Korea!!!

      • Kaya3 says:

        Hi Christine, you need to read it again yourself. Anyone thinking critically will read it exactly as Historian Pete has indicated. Most of the rest of it is good, but there is far too much of this type of statement being made everywhere without a shred of evidence to support it. Particularly the “barrel bomb” bullshit. They are a propaganda construct for idiots who think “precision weapons” are somehow safe and sanitary. Duh.

    • G.A.P. says:

      Totally agree %100 with your reply Historian Pete,and yes Christine i read your blog exactly the same way that Pete did. I wonder how many have actually listened to Vanessa Bealey one of the very few reporters to have actually been on the ground in Syria and not reporting from there various front rooms in the UK.

      • Sam Sam says:

        This just shows how “everyone knows” is dependent on where you are (you’re in New Zealand, right?). Near as I can tell (mainly judging from TDB to be honest), in Western countries “everyone knows” that Assad did the attack and if you suggest otherwise you’re an apologist. Just like “everyone knew” in the that Saddam had WMD and if you suggested otherwise you were a Saddam apologist, or maybe French.

        “Everyone knows” is what to pick out of background noise.

  3. Francesca says:

    Thanks Christine
    When this is all over one way or another(gulp) and if there is sufficient infrastructure to allow it, I wonder if there will be anything for the Syrian disaster, like the Chilcott report, or the UK parliamentary report on Libya.
    It is now conventional wisdom that the Iraq adventure was a total catastrophe with repercussions down the line for decades
    The Libyan report has not been widely discussed in the media, perhaps because it highlighted the media’s culpability in whipping up the conditions necessary for public acceptance…lies, lies and more lies about Ghadaffi the monster and impending genocide
    I accept that the Assads, father and son, are on record as coming down hard on the Muslim brotherhood and extremists in general, brutally hard, in the interests of a secular and undivided Syria,for the majority of Syrians
    However I am withholding judgements on Sadnaya and deliberate targeting of civilians, gas attacks etc, until I can be assured that the information we are fed has been stripped of partisan agendas.
    While I’m waiting, I prefer to do my own research.

  4. Francesca says:

    Really good piece Christine, so heartening to have a skilled writer lay it all out so thoroughly

  5. Ike says:

    Great article Christine. and congratulations to the Greens for refusing to join the misinformed politicians in the other parties.
    The latest article from the Saker gives us all cause for concern as an American Carrier group steams towards Syria.


    Unfortunately Jacinda Ardern missed the real “nuclear free moment” of her government and that was to stand up to the manipulation and lies of the UK/USA/NATO and demand a real rules based approach to this conflict and not some fictitious construct of Teresa May.
    As Gerald Celente says, “When all else fails they take you to war”

  6. Ike says:

    One minor correction to your article:
    “Obviously the proper course of action in face of these allegations, would be to call in the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons before military action is taken, and through recourse to the United Nations. But the inevitable Russian UN Security Council veto made such a referral a less preferred path for the western heavies, and unilateral airstrikes on Syrian targets were the sanction of choice.”

    The Russians vetoed the US proposal to bring in the OPCW because it was constructed in such a way as take a long time and dilute the outcome and the preplanned US strikes could go ahead. Russia had another proposal that was rejected by the USA. Sweden also offered a proposal which Russia accepted but the USA rejected.In the end the OPCW went in anyway after much delay blamed on the Russians but actually because of a heavily US influenced UN.

    • Francesca says:

      It was the JIM(joint investigative mechanism) resolution proposed by the US that Russia vetoed.This would have identified the culpable party
      Instead Russia proposed that a JIM be given another year renewal, with the entire Security Council being given the responsibility for assigning guilt, but this draft was not passed

    • David Stone says:

      The Russians and the Syrians called for the OPCW to come in immediately. They were one day away when the attack took place. What the Russians vetoed was a proposal to create a new and different parallel branch of the UN that would be given the authority to not only to determine what happened but to place the blame for what happened. Ie to act as investigator, judge and jury. Russia did not believe it would create an impartial body . And it would have taken months to set up so an inspection would have been postponed till way past it’s usefulness. The OPCW is already in existence to perform the appropriate function. That is what it was set up for.
      D J S

      • Brigid says:

        The OPCW have finally, after much prevaricating by the Australian commander, visited the site in Ghouta and taken samples.


        Such fools, there will be no evidence of chlorine after 5 days. Not that there was any in the first place.
        But I will bet a million or two that the OPCW will determine, as they’ve done before, that due to their inability to visit the site in a timely manner, (avoiding mentioning that it was their choice to NOT visit the site in a timely manner) were not able to form a conclusion on the matter, BUT have grave concerns that Assad done it.

        • David Stone says:

          I think the OPCW stuck to what their proper roll was pretty well in the Skripal poisoning case when you get in to what they actually said. I think they will act with integrity here too.

        • Francesca says:

          Agreed Brigid
          There are now issues of “national security”
          If there was no chemical attack, the whole edifice of lies comes tumbling down
          What loss of face and prestige for those long time colonists and meddlers in the ME, France and the UK
          Trump at least has the option of turning on his advisers for false intelligence and conduct a purge, Nikki Haley first .
          And surely compensation must be in order.
          And if doubt is cast on the White Helmets, how about our own National govt via Murray McCully turning over tax payers money to the WH.It’s illegal to fund terrorists
          This will all be covered up in the most stringent way

          • Brigid says:

            Oh god. I didn’t realise McCully had funded the WH. Might be time to take some action about this. You game?

            • Francesca says:

              I wrote to him outlining their background
              and where the Syrian Campaign in general was coming from .
              He replied in a very formatted way that NZ was proud to support the WH.
              We also sent over a fireman type to trainn them on dealing with fires. This took place in Turkey I’m assuming some sort of report would have been in order.
              I also pointed out that the White Helmets , with all the millions of dollars they are given, don’t appear to be subject to any audit process
              NZ taxpayers shouldn’t be paying money to unvetted suspected terrorists, and should have some sort of transparent accounting of where their money is being spent.

  7. dave brown says:

    This post and the commentary are way off the mark because none of it is based on a critical yet partisan involvement with the Syrian revolution for 7 years. Here’s an eye opener for those who want their eyes opened from Australian socialist Michael Karadjis blog.


    • Sam Sam says:

      The Syrian war is ending and Assad is the victor much to the dismay of western consensus. Meh.

    • David Stone says:

      Well that does nicely encapsulate the narrative the western MSM and western leaders would like us to believe, and hoping we will believe. But until there is a free election that allows the Syrian people to make their views clear, with Assad as an option , and they reject him ,fewer and fewer people are swallowing it.

    • Ike says:

      I would caution readers of the article linked above. In a brief read through I noticed comments such as The USA had helped Assad by bombing ISIS. Bullshit! The USA used quelling ISIS as a justification for being in Syria. We all remember the long lines of ISIS fuel tankers taking oil for ISIS to Turkey, completely safe from US bombs. What about the plumbers truck , still bearing its US sign-writing and adapted by ISIS as a gunship. What about the huge cache’s of weapons from US and European sources uncovered by the Syrian army. This war would have been over years ago if it wasn’t for the illegal presence of US and NATO forces. What was a minor insurrection has resulted in the devastation of Syria because of the unwelcome actions of US and NATO. With such an obvious lie I question the whole article.

    • Lone comet says:

      Thanks for this link, this sounds like a spot on analysis and rings true, from what I can tell from my fireside. I guess that’s why only the victor will be the one who emerges from this complex web of death and destruction . and means the place will continue to be pulverized until the last man standing. Probably Assad.

    • Sam Sam says:

      There’s been a lot of deaths to get to this point. There’s just one more to go. When democracy Syrian style elects a representative of there choice Assad will be finished.

  8. Sam Sam says:

    One thing I think normies fail to consider is when capitalism yanky style collapses. Either capitalism Chinese style will emerge or we get a multipolar world where China, Russia, India, Brazil, South Africa become the dominant rulz based systems.

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