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Eric Margolis

Escape from Aleppo

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AMMAN JORDAN – I haven’t seen many miracles in my decades of travel around the globe, particularly not in the strife-torn Mideast.

But last week I participated in a real miracle in Jordan as the splendid Four Paws International group staged a daring rescue of 13 wild animals trapped in the wartime hellhole of Aleppo, Syria.  It appeared to be a mission impossible.

Syria has been torn apart for the past six years by a bloody civil war that has killed over 400,000 people and reduced many parts of this beautiful country to ruins.  Half the population has become refugees.  The ancient northern city of Aleppo, Syria’s largest, was laid waste.

Just outside Aleppo lies a wrecked 40-acre amusement park cum zoo that once held hundreds of imprisoned wild animals to entertain children.  The animals were abandoned in their cages in the midst of constant gunfire and shelling.  Many were killed; the rest were left to starve to death or die of thirst.  Some starving Syrians shared their meager rations with the animals.

No one else cared about these abandoned creatures that included five lions, two tigers, two Asian black bears, two hyenas and two Husky dogs.
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Time to End the Lost Afghan War

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Media reports claim President Donald Trump let loose on his generals behind closed doors, blasting them royally for their startling failures in Afghanistan, America’s longest war.

The president has many faults and is a lousy judge of character. But he was absolutely right to read the riot act to the military brass for daring to ask for a very large troop and budget increase for the stalemated Afghan War that has cost $1 trillion to date.

Of course, the unfortunate generals are not really to blame. They have been forced by the last three presidents to fight a pointless war at the top of the world that lacks any strategy, reason or purpose – and with limited forces. But they can’t admit defeat by lightly-armed Muslim tribesmen.

The truth is, simply, that America blundered into the Afghan War under President George W. Bush who needed a target for revenge after the humiliating 9/11 attacks. Instead of blaming Saudi Arabia, a US protectorate which was clearly involved in the attacks, Bush went after remote but strategic Afghanistan and cooked up the Osama bin Laden bogeyman story.

Sixteen years later, the US is still chasing shadows in the Hindu Kush Mountains, rightly known to history as "Graveyard of Empires."
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The Great White Father Comes to Saudi Arabia

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The Great White Father came to Saudi Arabia last week to harangue some 50 Arab and African despots on the glories of Trumpism, democracy and the need to fight what the Americans call terrorism.

Having covered the Mideast for many decades, I cannot think of a more bizarre or comical spectacle. Here was Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s most repressive regimes, hosting the glad-handing US president who hates Islam and the Mideast with irrational passion.

I was amazed to learn that Trump’s speech to the Arab and African attendees had been written by pro-Israel ideologue Stephen Miller, a young senior White House staffer from California who is an extreme Zionist. How very bizarre.

Not only that, Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, who are also strongly pro-Israel, were with him. So too was the powerful commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, another ardent pro-Israel cabinet member with whom I spent a weekend last year. Billionaire Ross performed the traditional Saudi sword dance with skill and verve.

Listening to Trump and Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, blast Iran as the font of terrorism provided another big joke. Trump’s tirade against Tehran was delivered in Saudi Arabia, a feudal monarchy that holds no elections, cuts off the heads of some 80-90 people annually, and treats women like cattle.
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President Trump: You Can't Fight the Whole World

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Maybe the president believes he’s won a great victory over the wicked Syrians by lobbing cruise missiles at one of their underused air bases. Maybe Trump believes that he’s scared the evil Russians and the too big for their sampans Chinese into obedience.

His 22,000 lb MOAB terror bomb on Afghanistan should keep those pesky Taliban quiet for a while even though the Pentagon claimed the intended target was a group- Khorosan – that may not actually exist.<

Those major malefactors, the crazy North Koreans, could be about to feel America’s full military might if they so much as twitch.

Not content with nearly stirring up a new war with North Korea, President Donald Trump is now waving the big stick at another of Washington’s favorite bogeymen, Iran. For the Trumps, Iran is poison.

In recent days, President Trump has threatened to renounce the six-power nuclear agreement to freeze or shrink Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. This sensible pact was signed during the Obama administration by the great powers: US, Britain, France, Russia, Germany and China. Trump appears willing to abrogate the treaty and outrage the other great powers just because he hates Iran for some reason and, it appears, Muslims in general.

The Trump administration seems increasingly influenced by Israel’s far right Netanyahu government. In fact, PM Netanyahu often appears the most moderate member of his rightist coalition which is dominated by militant West Bank settlers.
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France: Will ‘La Morosite’ Win the Vote?

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I watched the final French presidential debate last Thursday night with fascination and even a measure of admiration. France has some very intelligent, well-educated politicians. They are fine until they get into office but then must begin pleasing France’s fractious voters. And they must deal with the rising tide of jihadist violence in France, as witnessed by the shooting of police officers on the Champs Elysée on Thursday. This could help far right candidate Marine Le Pen.
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Bomb the Usual Arabs

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It seems that every new US president has to prove his machismo…or make his bones, as wiseguys say…by bombing the usual Arabs.  By now, it’s almost a rite of passage.  The American public loves it.

So we just saw the US launch 59 or 60 $1.5million apiece cruise missiles at a western Syrian airfield to express President Trump’s outrage caused by seeing injured children allegedly caused by a Syrian government toxic gas attack.

But what, Mr. President, about all those Iraqi, Syrian and Afghan babies killed by US B-52 and B-1 heavy bombers?  Or the destruction of the defiant Iraqi city of Fallujah where the US used forbidden white phosphorus that burns right to the bone?

Washington claimed its radar had conclusively identified Syrian warplanes dropping chemical weapons.  This sounds to me to be unlikely.  Where was the US radar? Hundreds of miles away aboard ships? Was the info from Israel or Turkey, both with axes to grind?  Is US radar so sharp that it can tell the difference between a chemical and high explosive bomb at great distance?  Sounds highly fishy to me.
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No One Needs Another Korean War

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Panmunjom, the "peace village" on the incredibly tense demilitarized zone (aka DMZ) between North and South Korea, is one of the weirdest places I’ve ever visited. Tough North Korean soldiers lurk about, watched by equally tough South Korean troops in one-way sunglasses and an aggressive judo ‘warrior’ stance.

When I was filming at Panmunjom, we were warned to beware of North Koreans who could at any moment rush into the main conference room and drag us into North Korea.

It was into this crazy house that the new, jet-lagged US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was transported from turbulent Washington. After a quick look at the DMZ, Tillerson announced `no more Mr. Nice Guy.’ The US had run out of `strategic patience’ with North Korea and will go to war to end North Korea’s ‘threat’ to the US, he warned.

Tillerson, formerly CEO of EXXON, is well-versed in world affairs but the Korean peninsula’s complexities could be too much for him to quickly absorb. Immediately threatening war is no way to begin a diplomatic mission. But Tillerson was obviously reading from a script written by his boss, Donald Trump, whose knowledge of North Asian affairs makes Tillerson look like a Confucian scholar.
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More Mideast Madness as Trump Prepares to March

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We are now moving rapidly into stage II of Levantine Madness as the US boosts its intervention in the war-torn Mideast. 

Five thousand US troops are back in Iraq to bolster the shattered nation’s puppet regime that is propped up by American bayonets. New Iraqi military formations have been formed, totally equipped with modern US M1 Abrams tanks, Humvees, and fleets of trucks. More US forces are on the way.

These US-financed Iraqi units are euphemistically called ‘anti-terrorism forces’ and are supervised by US officers. In fact, what we see is the old British Imperial Raj formula of white officers commanding native mercenary troops.

These Iraqi units are now assaulting ISIS-held Mosul, Iraq’s second city, and smaller towns. Most of America’s Iraqi ‘sepoys’ (as native troops in the British Indian Raj were known) are Shia bitterly opposed to the nation’s minority Sunnis. After its 2003 invasion of Iraq, the US encouraged animosity between Shia and Sunni as a way of breaking resistance to foreign occupation – ‘divide et impera’ as the Romans used to say.
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Red Hysteria Engulfs Washington

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President Dwight Eisenhower’s warning about the dangers of the military-industrial complex made half a century ago ring as loud and clear today. The soft coup being mounted against the Trump government by America’s "deep state" reached a new intensity this week as special interests battled for control of Washington. 

The newly named national security advisor, Lt Gen Michael Flynn, was ousted by Trump over his chats with Russia’s ambassador and what he may or may not have told Vice President Pence. The defenestration of Flynn appeared engineered by our national intelligence agencies in collaboration with the mainstream media and certain Democrats.

Flynn’s crime? Talking to the wicked Russians before and after the election. Big, big deal. That’s what security advisors are supposed to do: keep an open back channel to other major powers and allies. This is also the job of our intelligence agencies. 

There is no good or bad in international affairs. The childish concept of "good guys" and "bad guys" comes from the Bush era when simple-minded voters had to be convinced that America was somehow in grave danger from a bunch of angry Mideast goat herds.
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Trump Bull in the Mideast China Shop

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President Donald Trump is getting ready to plunge into the burning Mideast with all the zeal and arrogance of a medieval crusader. The new administration’s knowledge of the region is a thousand miles wide and two inches deep.

Reviving a truly terrible idea originated by know-nothing Congressional Republicans, Trump proposes US-run safe zones in Syria for refugees from that nation’s conflict. The president went out of his way to insist that such safe zones would spare the United States from having to shelter Syrian refugees.

He should better worry about Chicago where 762 citizens were murdered last year.

At the same time, Trump, declaiming from his new Mount Olympus of New York’s Trump Tower, vowed to impose a 30-day halt on immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen to "protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals."
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