By Jeremy Salt
Just when he thought he had the biggest weapon in the world, Donald was trumped by Russia, which apparently has a bigger one. This was just after Donald thought he had proved the point by dropping a nine-metre long, 9500-kg bomb on Afghanistan, blast yield equivalent to eleven tons of TNT, not quite nuclear, just below. The media reaction was the same as after the smart missiles fired into Baghdad in 1991, hushed awe, at the size of the bomb, at the size of the crater. The impact was designed to be felt in Moscow, Beijing and Pyongyang: don’t mess with us, we’re dangerous. So, Donald, weren’t 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles fired into Syria enough? Anyway, why call it the ‘mother of all bombs’, when it’s almost always daddy who starts wars.
Albert L. Weimorts Jr of the US Air Force Research Laboratory developed this weapon. Congratulations, Al, may your heirs long remember you for your small contribution to the end of civilisation.
There seems no end to the irresponsibility of the people we elect to govern us. They lie all the time. Just in the last half century the lives of millions of people have been extinguished as the result: 3.5 million in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos; more than three million during a decade of sanctions against Iraq (1990-2012); more than a million, probably, since the invasion of Iraq in 2003; tens of thousands in Libya and about half a million in Syria so far. Apart from the dead, millions of people have been maimed for life or born with genetic defects, from the use of the defoliant Agent Orange in Vietnam and depleted uranium shells in Iraq. Countless millions more have been driven from their homes, scattered far and wide across their own land or across its borders. Many of the refugees from Syria were Iraqis who had fled their country only a few years earlier. Iraq was the greatest outpouring of refugees since Palestine in 1948 but that was only until Syria came along. These same governments are also giving the Saudis the arms they need to kill Yemenis. While the families mourn the dead, the politicians responsible for all these acts of mass murder play golf and go to church. Life going on as usual, because we have no mechanism for punishing the powerful, only the weak.
Donald Trump ordered the missiles to be fired into Syria in between taking bites out of a piece of chocolate cake. Rarely before have we seen such a combination of the catastrophic and the inane. Having dropped the biggest bomb, and having warned North Korea against testing an ICBM that could reach the US, the US tested the latest variant of another weapon in its arsenal, a nuclear ‘gravity’ bomb. Threatened by Trump North Korea put its forces on high alert. So did South Korea, which will have to bear the brunt of the destruction if Trump actually orders an attack on the north. From being a candidate who promised no more wars, no more regime change operations, we need the money back home (etc.), Trump has turned into a president who has tasted war and likes it.
The accusation that Bashar al Assad organised a chemical weapon on his own people at KLhan Shaikhun has come from all ‘world leaders’ through the media and their mouthpieces at the UN. Now Theodor Postol, the MIT emeritus professor who, along with Seymour Hersh, exposed the lies behind the chemical weapons atrocity around Damascus in 2013, says there is no evidence of a chemical weapons strike from the air at Khan Shaikhun. Analysing the evidence, he concluded that the dispenser of the chemical toxin was a metal tube and not a missile. It was exploded on the ground by and was not even set off by the air strike on a takfiri weapons depot that contained chemical weapons for future use, as originally thought possible. Professor Postol says the White House claims, repeated by Nikki Haley at the UN, were ‘obviously false.
Shortly after Khan Sheikhun reports came in of hundreds of people being killed by chemical weapons toxins released after a US-led air attack on an Islamic State arms depot in the village of Hatla in eastern Deir al Zor province. The attack was launched at 5.30 pm on April 12 and continued until 5.50pm. It started a fire which was not put out until 10.30. Chemical weapons in the bombed depot released clouds of white smoke which turned yellow. According to official Syrian sources, hundreds of people, Islamic State terrorists, including foreign mercenaries, and civilians died from asphyxiation. One does not have to believe this, one can remain sceptical until the facts are in but this attack was not even mentioned in the mainstream media.
Deir al Zor was quickly followed by the bombing of Shia civilians being transferred from the villages of Fu’a and Kafraya in exchange for takfiris and their families allowed out of Madaya and Zabadani. The released civilians were clustered in or around seven buses when the bomb went off, killing 126 people, including 68 children, figures likely to rise as the severely wounded die. The takfiris first lured children into their trap by offering them potato crisps. How evil is this, and yet there has been no response from Donald Trump and other western leaders. They lied about Khan Shaikhun, and here gory truth is pushed into their faces and they have nothing to say.
The way this atrocity near Idlib was reported (or not reported) on Sunday by the mainstream media was itself revealing. On its internet lead page, the London Daily Telegraph ran with the Korean missile test, the ‘clamor’ to strip Asma al Assad of her British citizenship, the Turkish referendum, the Bahrain Grand Prix and a comment by Boris Johnson on how Bashar al Assad’s ‘murderous behavior’ had given Russia an opportunity. There was no mention of the Syrian atrocity until a secondary item under the ‘world news’ link. The Sunday Times led with Korea and ‘British islands are a child sex hub’, with Syria run short under a world news heading of ‘Pope condemns suicide blast.’ The Daily Mail led with ‘radiant curtsies for the Queen.’ The Syrian atrocity was so far down it would have been easy to miss.
The Washington Post’s lead page ran first with the Korean missile test and followed with a comment on ‘why would Assad use sarin in a war he’s winning? To terrify Syrians.’ The paper ran a picture of Jared Kushner wearing a military vest, a story on ‘chatty co-workers’ and ’25 of the world’s best photos’ before running the atrocity against the children page under a small ‘word news’ heading.
The New York Times ran a series of Trump stories as its lead, then, reading down, Easter photos, ‘s virtual tour of a larger than life art exhibition’, Turkey’s referendum, ‘bring back 70s style knits’, ‘what kind of pet should Donald Trump get’ and finally under a small world news heading, ‘As atrocities mount in Syria justice seems out of reach on crimes committed by the Syrian government.’ This was a reshash of accusations based on allegedly filched Syrian government documents and photos. There was no mention AT ALL of the civilians just massacred by the takfiris during the population swap near Fu’a and Kafraya. Finally, the Los Angeles Times, another paper of record, ran with Trump’s executive orders followed by local or lightweight stories and finally under the ‘world news’ link a story on Syrian state TV ‘claiming’ the convoy had been hit by a suicide bomb, with ‘pro-government activists’ ‘claiming’ that the vehicle used was a pickup truck ‘purporting’ to deliver food. What really happened would have been any reader’s guess.
What was striking about all these so-called quality newspapers was that in not ONE of them was there a word of outrage, condemnation of and compassion for the victims of the massacre near Aleppo from ANY of the politicians sounding off after the strike on Khan Shaikhun. The only person quoted as speaking out was the Pope. There was no apparent attempt by any of these papers to seek the comments from the politicians who expressed such outrage at the killing of children at Khan Shaikhun. Neither have they had anything to say since Professor Postol exposed the official claims as lies.
In the so-called ‘western’ tradition we have had 2000 years in which an elaborate structure of laws based on ethics and morality has been constructed, which the politicians piss on whenever it suits them. It has all been a waste of time. Forget Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, Justinian, Hobbes, Grotius, or anyone else who might come to mind as the architects of the legal, ethical and moral world order the politicians are turning upside down. At this stage, what is the point of all these laws and codes of behaviour ] when there is no-one and nothing to restrain these people. They operate with complete impunity. They don’t have to learn from their ‘mistakes’ because they are never punished for them and because it is ALWAYS someone else who pays the price, usually brown or black people in a far-off land. No matter how differently they look or talk, they all kill people.
Fareed Zakaria called Trump a ‘bullshitter’ during the campaign, something Trump’s lost supporters would now agree with, but for Zakaria, the neocons and the ‘deep state’ Trump has finally become a real president. He might end up worse than Clinton would have been. He is picking up where Obama left off. Libya and Syria were Obama and Clinton’s wars and Obama flung missiles at many other countries. He only stepped back from bombing Syria in 2013 because he realised he was being set up. He was bad on Palestine as they all are but Trump promises to be worse. He supports full-scale Zionist colonization, he is planning to move the US embassy to Jerusalem and he has just appointed as senior White House advisor his property developer son-in-law Jared Kushner.
A full-blown Zionist, an Orthodox Jew who does not even represent mainstream American Jews, Jared is going to bring peace to the Middle East. Here is a word for word excerpt from the transcript of what Trump had to say recently in a joint interview with The Times and the German newspaper Bild: ‘Ya know what, Jared is such a good kid and he’ll make a deal with Israel that no-one else can … ya know, he’s a natural, he’s a great deal, he’s a natural … ya know what I was talking about, natural … he’s a natural deal maker – everyone likes him.’
So here it is, US foreign policy in the making: it is pathetic, it is inane, it is dangerous, it is stupid, it is folly, it is tragic for everyone, it is the last days of Rome arriving on the banks of the Potomac.
– Jeremy Salt taught at the University of Melbourne, at Bosporus University in Istanbul and Bilkent University in Ankara for many years, specializing in the modern history of the Middle East. Among his recent publications is his 2008 book, The Unmaking of the Middle East. A History of Western Disorder in Arab Lands (University of California Press). He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.