January 17, 2017
I’m reposting here an article published today by Moon of Alabama, which I think deserves the widest possible readership. The article makes it absolutely clear that ISIS, which is currently attempting to capture the eastern Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor from Syrian government control, has the support of the United States military, and that the US lied when it claimed that its air attack upon Syrian army positions in Deir ez-Zor last September, in which over 100 Syrian soldiers were killed, was a mistake.
How The U.S. Enabled ISIS To Take Deir Ezzor
The city of Deir Ezzor (Deir ez-Zur) in east-Syria is on the verge of falling into the hands of the Takfiris of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). More than 100,000 civilian inhabitants of Deir Ezzor and thousands of soldiers defending them are in immediate danger of being murdered by the savage ISIS forces. The current situation is a direct consequence of U.S. military action against the SAA and non-action against ISIS.
Deir Ezzor is besieged by ISIS since September 2015. But the city was well defended by its garrison of Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and all further attacks by ISIS were repelled. Supply to the city was hauled in by air through the Deir Ezzor airport and through air drops by the Syrian and Russian airforces. Relief by ground forces and ground supplies are not possible as Deir Ezzor is more than 100 km away from the nearest SAA positions west of Palmyra and as the desert in between is under the control of ISIS.
Four days ago a new attack by ISIS on Deir Ezzor was launched and has since continued. ISIS reinforcements and resupplies had come over months despite air interdiction from the Russian and Syrian airforces. Yesterday ISIS managed to cut off the airport, where the local SAA command and its main supplies are hosted, from the city proper. It is now attacking in full force from all sides. Bad weather makes air support from the outside sporadic and difficult. Unless some unforeseen happens it is only a question of time until the airport and the city fall to ISIS.
The U.S. has condoned and/or even actively supported the imminent ISIS taking of Deir Ezzor by (at least) three measures:
- a massive U.S. air attack on SAA forces in September 2016 enabled ISIS to take a controlling position and to cut off SAA resupplies
- a U.S. attack against a power station in January disabled the last electricity supplies to the city
- U.S. non-intervention enabled ISIS reinforcements from Mosul and west Iraq to Deir Ezzor in east-Syria
On September 16 2016 an hour long U.S. led air attack on SAA positions on the Tharda hills to the south of the airport killed over 100 SAA soldiers, destroyed a big SAA supply dump and several SAA tanks and artillery pieces. Immediately after the U.S. attack ISIS took the hills and has since held them. The positions allow for fire control over the airport of Deir Ezzor.
The U.S. military claimed that the attack was a mistake but a thorough reading of the investigation report of that “mistake” shows that the U.S. military attack was intentionally targeting the SAA to make a political point against an announced U.S.-Russian cooperation agreement to fight ISIS. (Danish airforce F-16 planes and drones under U.S. command had taken part in the attack. After the report was published, the Danish government pulled all air elements from its participation in the U.S. coalition against ISIS.)
Since the U.S. attack in September no significant air supplies have reached Deir Ezzor. Even helicopter landing at the airport is only possible at night and by taking very high risks. The city inhabitants and their defenders are completely cut off.
Early January U.S. airforce attacks destroyed the electricity plant at the Omar oilfield near Deir Ezzor. The plant was the last one to supply the city of Deir Ezzor. Since then only a few military generators and dwindling fuel supplies are left for medical and communication equipment.
When the Iraqi Army plans for retaking the ISIS held city of Mosul were developed and commenced in October the U.S. insisted on leaving a western corridor open for ISIS forces inclined to flee from Mosul into the direction of Deir Ezzor. Hundreds if not thousands of ISIS fighters used the corridor. The U.S. controlled Kurdish forces in north Iraq let ISIS pass from Iraq to Syria. Fearing (correctly) that an ISIS move out of Mosul towards Deir Ezzor would mean the fall of Deir Ezzor Russia and Iran intervened with the Iraqi government. Despite U.S. wishes the Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi ordered his Popular Mobilization Forces (PMU) to cut off the western exit:
Iran was not the only country pressing for the escape to be closed west of Mosul. Russia, another powerful Assad ally, also wanted to block any possible movement of militants into Syria, said Hashemi. The Russian defence ministry did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.One of Assad’s biggest enemies, France, was also concerned that hundreds of fighters linked to attacks in Paris and Brussels might escape. The French have contributed ground and air support to the Mosul campaign.
Still, the battle plan did not foresee closing the road to the west of Mosul until Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi agreed in late October to despatch the Popular Mobilisation militias.
Despite a fast advance by the PMU from the south against Tal Afar to cut off the escape road many ISIS fighters in west Iraq were able to flee across the border and towards Deir Ezzor with their equipment in tact. They reinforced the ISIS troops now attacking Deir Ezzor. The U.S. has uncontested air superiority over west Iraq and east Syria but did not once intervene against the large scale move.
If ISIS takes Deir Ezzor it will likely kill (as it did on other occasions) all captured SAA troops and anyone it believes to have cooperated with them. The soldiers know this. They will fight down to the last bullet. But without any reinforcements and resupplies their chances are slim.
When the Syrian government besieged al-Qaeda forces in east-Aleppo the “western” media and the various “Syrian opposition” propaganda outlets were running an all out campaign in support of the besieged Takfiris. There is no such campaign in support of the civilians and soldiers in Deir Ezzor. In their few reports about the imminent fall of Deir Ezzor “western” publications even resort to outright lying. Thus claims the Daily Telegraph:
The US-led coalition, as well as the Russians, have been bombing the jihadists in Deir Ezzor for the last 18 months but have been unable to dislodge them.
No significant U.S. air attacks have been flown against ISIS forces around Deir Ezzor at all. All attacks flown by the U.S. in the area have been against Syrian government troops or their supporting infrastructure.
The U.S. official rhetoric about fighting ISIS is not supported by observable facts on the battle field. One can only conclude that the U.S. military does not only condone but supports ISIS in gaining control over Deir Ezzor despite the extreme high risk for anyone left in the city.
This [is] likely to further the larger long term plan of installing a “Salafist principality” in western Iraq and eastern Syria that creates a justification for the U.S. military to stay in the area to “fight ISIS” and which can be activated against the Syrian and Iraqi government whenever convenient. U.S. President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry have both admitted that they earlier allowed ISIS to grow in Iraq and Syria for exactly such political purposes.
January 7, 2017
Above is a link to a document, released yesterday by Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, titled Background to “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections”: The Analytic Process and Cyber Incident Attribution. I’ve skimmed through it; although the document asserts, without presenting any evidence, that Russia engaged in cyber espionage against US political organizations and hacked state and local electoral boards (see pp. 2-3), most of the document actually consists of a diatribe against the network RT, which it blames for consistently and publicly favoring Mr. Trump’s candidacy over Mrs. Clinton’s. E.g., on p. 4, it notes that “On 6 August, RT published an English-language video called ‘Julian Assange Special: Do WikiLeaks Have the E-mail That’ll Put Clinton in Prison?’ and an exclusive interview with Assange entitled ‘Clinton and ISIS Funded by the Same Money.'” The document says nothing as to whether it is true that Mrs. Clinton and ISIS are funded by the same money, that is, by Saudi Arabia and Qatar; it simply presents RT’s reporting this as evidence of unfair bias. Nor does it argue that e-mails possessed by WikiLeaks do not contain evidence of criminal activity by Mrs. Clinton; instead, it insinuates that a Russian media outlet has no business reporting on this possibility.
Surely most Americans who choose to watch RT are aware that that news outlet is funded by the Russian government, just as Americans who choose to watch the BBC are aware that that outlet is funded by the government of Great Britain. If in fact many Americans do find the reporting on RT of interest, it may be because they see America’s mainstream media as, in important ways, failing to do their job of keeping the public informed. Or, to put it more simply, a lot of Americans are tired of being “entertained” and lied to by news organizations that should be telling them plainly what their own government is doing; if they can get better information from abroad, so be it. In fact, the CIA has a long tradition of attempting to shape the way news is presented in this country (do a search on “Operation Mockingbird“). Read in the light of that history, Clapper’s document can be seen as expressing chagrin at the US intelligence community’s inability to shape the public narrative in ways that it used to.
Perhaps it is even the case that some Americans, reflecting on our foreign policy, are unhappy with what our government has been doing in recent years in places like Syria, Libya, and Ukraine, and would like to see a change in direction. Perhaps some Americans, seeing a choice between favoring Saudi Arabia and its jihadist proxy troops on the one hand, and a practical cooperation with Russia on the other, favor the latter policy. It is remarkable that this document nowhere considers that as a real possibility — that is, that the American public are educated enough to make up their own minds on things that matter, and might actually favor a cooperation with Russia.
December 21, 2016
The following is another extract from a Facebook discussion. I had originally posted an article by Stephen Gowans titled “How an evidence-free CIA finding alleging Russian interference in the US election was turned into an indisputable ‘truth’“; this raised objections from an old friend of mine; then (after much spilling of ink) another friend in New Jersey, who is a teacher, remarked that some of the sources I was citing would be rejected by her in her Freshman writing class as unreliable. This was my response to her.
First, I would point out that, of those sources which you say would not stand the test of credibility in your freshman writing class, one of them (the consortiumnews document) was written by a group of retired intelligence professionals whose credentials include “former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA,” … “former United States Senator,” … “Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Middle East, CIA,” and so on; another source is a journal called the Belfast Telegraph, which basically reports the personal testimony of a career UK diplomat, Craig Murray, who says that he met the person who leaked the DNC documents to Wikileaks and that that person is an insider, not a foreigner, an American, not a Russian; if you don’t trust the Belfast Telegraph’s account of this, you can go to Craig Murray’s own webpage, and read what he has to say about it: https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/…/cias-absence-conviction/ If what you tell your Freshman writing students is that statements made by former senators, ambassadors, and members of the intelligence community are not to be trusted when those statements conflict with declarations made by the CIA and the consensus opinion presented by the New York Times and NPR, then I would submit that you are teaching your Freshman students to be dutiful parrots of an officially sanctioned narrative and not critical thinkers.
I appreciate your attempt to understand where I am coming from here, and I do not generally unfriend people unless they have a habit of being egregiously unfriendly. I think that, if you look through my Facebook page over a number of years, you will find that, from the beginning of the Syrian war, I was skeptical of the official American position, namely, that Assad is a tyrant and that the people trying to depose him are democracy-loving freedom fighters. One reason why I was skeptical of this is that, having worked in Albania and having known people who visited Syria in the past, I know that that country was, at least until this war began, the religiously most tolerant country in the Arab world. Very early in that war, two Orthodox bishops were abducted; they haven’t been heard from since, and have presumably been killed. This abduction was done by the people my government has been supporting and touting as freedom-fighters — people who also happen to be supported and funded by Saudi Arabia, one of the most oppressive, religiously intolerant countries in the world and a major US ally. It is one incident, but, for me, it had a certain decisive effect; it helped bring home to me the extent to which the American humanitarian rationale to this war is a lie. Virtually everything I have learned about the war since then has confirmed for me the utter falsity of the narrative about this war which most people accept as fact: that we are virtuous humanitarians, that the Russians, coming to the aid of the Syrian government, are bloodthirsty murderers, that we are genuinely committed to destroying ISIS, etc., etc. It’s all lies and propaganda, and most people, yourself included, seem quite oblivious of the extent to which so-called reputable media outlets like the New York Times and NPR feed their readers a steady diet of propaganda on issues like this.
That is perhaps why I am inclined to be skeptical towards the pronouncement by Mr. Obama and the CIA and the FBI that Mr. Trump’s presidential victory was due to the work of “Russian hackers.” I have learned, by long experience, that most of what comes out of the mouths of people like John Kirby, Samantha Powers, John Kerry and the like is (if you’ll pardon the expression) bullshit, and that Mr. Obama, who has hired these career liars to spread this manure far and wide, is himself a consummate liar and generally not to be trusted when he pontificates on American virtue and Russian perfidy.
Of course, you don’t have to believe me, and probably won’t. But the claim that people who do report on these things, who present other points of view differing from the approved narrative of the mainstream are, by definition, mere peddlers of “fake news,” or that, because a number of sources report a narrative that differs radically from the approved one, they “harbor biases” (perhaps they are biased towards the truth) is simply insulting to one’s intelligence. It supposes that educated people cannot make their own decisions, on the basis of reason and experience, about what sources of information they should trust; they need to have someone else make these decisions for them. If that is the attitude you are teaching your students, you are doing them a disservice.
November 12, 2016
Yesterday, a former student of mine, whom I count as a friend, requested on Facebook that any Facebook friends of hers who voted for Trump unfriend her. This is my response.
In compliance with your request on Facebook yesterday, I am unfriending you. But, for the sake of past friendship, I would ask that you read the following account of why I voted for Mr. Trump this past Tuesday. My decision came down to basically two issues: the issue of war, and the issue of crime.
First, the issue of war. Mrs. Clinton, as shown by her actions and statements over the past two decades, is a notorious war hawk, one of the architects of the doctrine of “humanitarian interventionism” that is essentially imperialism with a smiley face. In her concern to outdo the Republicans at their own game, she never met a war she didn’t like. As First Lady, she supported her husband’s bombing of Serbia; as senator, she voted in favor of the war on Iraq and supported the Patriot Act; as Secretary of State, she orchestrated the assault upon Libya which left that once prosperous country in ruins; she joked about the brutal sodomizing and murder of Libya’s president, Col. Gaddafi (“We came, we saw, he died”); she helped organize the “rat line” whereby the CIA illegally transported arms from Benghazi to jihadists in Syria via Turkey (one consequence of which was the murder of US Ambassador Chris Stevens, who recognized the danger he was in and had petitioned the State Department in vain for an armed guard); through her protégé Victoria Nuland she orchestrated a violent “color revolution” in Ukraine that has led to a civil war in that country and thousands of deaths; since leaving office, she has continued to back the terrorists fighting to overthrow the legitimate government of Syria – using the bogus excuse that the people we are supporting are “moderates” — and, disastrously, she has called for the implementation in Syria of a “no fly zone,” which could easily lead to a direct military confrontation between the United States and Russia. Many compare the current situation with the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 (frequently referred to as the most dangerous moment in human history), and have pointed out that, if anything, the dangers of nuclear war are greater now than then, partly because the existence of “mini-nukes” makes using nuclear weapons more thinkable, partly because the current Washington political establishment is less restrained and self-critical, more addicted to group-think, and more beholden to foreign governments for guiding US foreign policy. Mrs. Clinton is the perfect embodiment of that political establishment; she seems utterly oblivious to the dangers of war; like her neocon advisers, she is happy to support the expansion of NATO to Russia’s borders, place nuclear missiles on a hair trigger within easy striking distance of cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg, and, at home, direct a constant stream of abuse towards the Russians, blaming them for all of America’s problems including Wikileaks’ revelations about corruption at the DNC and in her own campaign. Among these revelations, there is the fact that Mrs. Clinton received massive funding (illegally) from the governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar when she knew that these governments were funding ISIS and supplying it with arms to murder and rape women and children. This, then, in short, is why I publicly stated long ago that I could not vote for Mrs. Clinton. She is a person with a lot of blood on her hands, and has repeatedly demonstrated bad judgment in the very area where she thinks her credentials are strongest, foreign policy. I saw a vote for Clinton as being a vote for war, for an escalation of proxy regime change wars in Syria and elsewhere, and for the suicidal possibility of nuclear war with Russia and/or China. I rejected this by voting for Trump, who has clearly expressed his intention to end the Syrian war and cooperate with Russia in fighting Islamic terrorism, maintaining this position even in the face of the hypocritical media criticism that he is Putin’s puppet. With Trump, there is at least a possibility that the neocons who have dominated American foreign policy thinking for the past generation will be kicked out of power. I would like to see that.
Then there is the issue of crime. This is a more diffuse and nebulous subject, since the reported criminality of the Clintons is prodigious and multifaceted, but the facts are less easily established; at one level, this criminality involves bribery, money laundering, kick-back schemes, vote-rigging, use of a charitable organization for private enrichment, and the illegal use of a private e-mail server for transmitting classified information; at a deeper level, there is evidence that it involves kidnapping, child abuse, and murder. Because the former allegations are better known, I will focus on the latter. Around the beginning of August this year, I became aware of a string of deaths of at least five people who had been investigating the Clintons, all of whom died within the space of a month, some murdered without apparent motive, others said to have committed suicide; among them were Seth Rich, Sean Lucas, and Victor Thorn. If one does an internet search on “Clinton Body Count” one can find a remarkable infographic chart which, if nothing else, makes it clear that possessing compromising knowledge about the Clintons’ personal activities can be hazardous to one’s health. I have read enough history to understand that the common, benign assumption that American politicians are basically good and do not murder to further their careers is false; among presidents, Lyndon Johnson and the Bushes are men who rose by this nefarious practice. If mainstream news does not report these matters, if they label any attempt to shed light upon them “conspiracy theories,” it is because people in the media would rather keep their comfortable positions by writing pabulum than end up dead like Seth Rich, Sean Lucas, Victor Thorn, Michael Hastings, and other investigative journalists who sought to expose corruption in high places (note that Mrs. Clinton, in a meeting with her staff, expressed a desire that someone would get rid of Julian Assange; at first, they thought she was joking, but it became clear she wasn’t).
More recently, just before the election, I came across a picture that juxtaposed Mrs. Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta and his brother Tony Podesta with police sketches made some years ago by Scotland Yard in its investigation of the abduction of a three-year-old girl, Madeleine McCann, from a hotel room in Portugal on May 3, 2007. (See http://sli.mg/vbobS8 ) To my thinking, the resemblance of the two brothers to the faces in the police sketches is uncanny, particularly so in the case of John Podesta. Later, I read an article that pointed out that the sketch resembling Tony Podesta shows a small mole over the corner of his right eyebrow; Tony Podesta has a small mole over the corresponding corner of his left eyebrow. Other evidence: Wikileaks’ cache of John Podesta’s emails begins on the day after the abduction (May 4, 2007), suggesting that earlier emails had been erased from the server; also, it shows that John Podesta in fact had visited Portugal, and had business contacts in Praia da Luz where Madeleine McCann was kidnapped. Add to this the Podesta brothers’ acquaintance with Marina Abramovic, their invitation to one of her “Spirit Cooking” affairs (a form of “art” involving blood and semen that is essentially a satanic ritual), perverse artworks in Tony Podesta’s house depicting violence to children, the association of the brothers with the “Comet Ping Pong” nightclub in Washington, D.C., and the frequent appearance in Podesta’s e-mails of pedophile code language: the result was that I became convinced that the Podestas are involved in some form of child trafficking. Other evidence tying this activity with the Clintons: Bill Clinton’s frequent flights on the convicted pedophile Jeremy Epstein’s private jet; Hillary Clinton’s intervention to free Laura Silsby, who was in jail in Haiti after being convicted of trafficking children; the sick behavior of Andrew Wiener, the husband of Mrs. Clinton’s closest adviser, Huma Abedin. The net result of all this is that it appears likely to me that child abuse is part of the political culture to which the Clintons belong, and that the Clintons themselves belong to, and probably are at the heart of, a political child trafficking ring, in which child abuse is used, among other things, for political ends — most likely, for blackmailing potential opponents so as to silence them and keep them in line.
These revelations about the Madeleine McCann abduction were what finally tipped the balance for me. Until that point, I had seriously considered voting for Jill Stein. But, given that I live in a swing state, where the election might have been decided by a few votes, I did not want to do anything that would allow Hillary Clinton to enter the White House. I voted for Trump, with a clear conscience. There are many things that I do not like about Mr. Trump, not least his grotesque private comments about women; I also disagree with him on many matters of policy, particularly concerning the environment and economics. These are important issues, but I considered them less important than preventing nuclear war and preventing a crime syndicate from taking control of the United States government. On both these issues, I am genuinely convinced that Mrs. Clinton represented a real danger. You may disagree. But I hope that the above discussion shows that my vote for Mr. Trump was not done from motives of “racism” or “sexism,” but out of concern for the common good.
September 9, 2016
One of the pages on this blog that used to get a fair amount of traffic is The New Testament read in Greek; it provides a series of links to recordings of every chapter of the New Testament, read by me in the original Koine (this was a project I completed on Christmas Day in 2010). Unfortunately, for the past two years the links on that page were not working; this is because the site on which the audio files had been hosted, Ubuntu One File Service, was closed in July 2014. (The files had originally been hosted at Apple’s MobileMe, which similarly closed in 2012.) Earlier this month, I purchased extra storage capacity at Google Drive, and uploaded the New Testament audio files to that site; I have now repaired the links, and the recordings at the page The New Testament read in Greek should again be accessible to anyone who wishes to hear them.
September 3, 2016
Dictionnaire de la Bible
Edited by F. Vigouroux, with the collaboration of many scholars. Published in 39 fascicles between 1895 and 1912, and brought together into eleven separate volumes in 1912 (each of the five “tomes” of the work takes up at least two physical volumes).
August 31, 2016
The Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique is a massive and invaluable theological reference work, which was begun in 1898 under the editorial direction of Jean Michel Alfred Vacant and continued to appear under successive editors (E. Mangenot, E. Amann) and with various revisions until work on it ended in 1950. Much of it is now in the public domain; the complete text of at least an early version of it is available online, on Internet Archive. Below I provide links to these volumes, and to a few articles from them.