THOLOS OF ATHENA

Friday, August 17, 2012

SOME THOUGHTS ON THE GUNS OF AUGUST

Outside the Balkans, the assassinations made the headlines for a few days, then dropped from sight. In England, the early summer of 1914 was warm and bright, perfect for tennis at Wimbledon and for the upcoming Henley Regatta; the cloud that threatened to spoil everything was the growing likelihood of civil war in Ireland. The Continent seemed far off. It was "difficult to discuss foreign affairs freely," said one member of the House of Commons, "when our home affairs were in such a particularly evil plight."
 --Adam Hochschild, TO END ALL WARS, p. 81-2 
Empires have come and gone; and after reaching their moment of pomp, they begin scratching in their death cycle, demanding more life blood as the end draws near. There were the Balkan wars of 1912, in the midst of the military rivalries: and in higher circles and even casually in public, there was talk about the General War in Europe that so many thought was inevitable, simply a matter of time.

At the outbreak of the First World War, Britain and France had a defense pact with Czarist Russia, but not much else in common with Russia, politically. The Central Powers stood against them: Germany and the Austria-Hungarian Empire. But some young Bosnians, organized by a Serbian Colonel of the Black Hand secret society, were being trained in their country as terrorists, and sent along to Sarajevo; and they arrived in Serbia on or about June 28, 1914, to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the Austria-Hungarian heir to the throne.

Gavrilo Princip, standing just off the street, suddenly saw his opportunity; and when the car carrying Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, stopped after making a wrong turn, Princip sprang up, leveled his pistol, and shot them both.

As Adam Hochschild goes on to observe in his new history, TO END ALL WARS:

If the Archduke and his wife had not been assassinated, might the war have been avoided? Possibly, but given Austria-Hungary's impatience to crush Serbia and Germany's ambitions to dominate Europe, it is hard to imagine a conflict of some sort not taking place--not when we listen, for example, to the Kaiser, at a court ball in 1913, pointing out the general designated "to lead the march on Paris," or asking, fruitlessly, two successive Belgian kings for the right to begin that march through Belgium, or when we read General von Moltke, in 1915, writing to a friend about "this war which I prepared and initiated."

Syria is under attack by foreign powers, in order to complete a process of softening up the battlefield, to open the way for war against Iran. The economic weapons are used first, followed by covert attacks, such as the recent assassinations of Iranian scientists, followed by an outright aggression against Iran's ally, Syria. And then, when the protections of the alliance are down, Iran will be attacked directly, and severely.

The real crisis, for the current Syrian government, is that it is up against an insurgency that is receiving communications and diplomatic help, as well as money and arms; and it has to cope with mercenary and jihadist soldiers entering the country, which is the most troubling aspect of foreign interference. Russia and China are opposed to direct military intervention and have vetoed Security Council Resolutions that might be used to depose the government by force.

Incredible as it seems, American officials have justified the recent terrorist explosion in Damascus, that killed senior Syrian cabinet officials; and they have further declared a willingness to assist, and arm, religious extremists; if that's what it takes to bring down the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. A statement out of the Council of Foreign Relations, praising the discipline of al-Qaeda, followed this!   This could have been predicted in Tripoli, where the final result for Libya was possible only through sustained rounds of NATO bombing and air support,--with an assist from Qatari irregulars, Saudi money and arms, and the Special OPS. And not long after the dust settled, they moved on; and Syria was lined up as the next target.

The US doctrine of dominance is dangerous; if it means setting up missiles on Russia's border, that can be used for a first strike decapitation of their government; also announcing historic future expansion of US Naval Forces into Asia, pushing into China's sphere of influence. All of this will be happening at the end of a long process in which the Empire destabilizes and topples governments, like it did to Libya and possibly will  Lebanon,-- playing out its hand of economic war and covert war already underway against Syria and Iran.

 The struggle over Syria, in 2012, is connected to something else besides the good or evil, or mixture of good and evil, that is President Bashar al-Assad. And the Syrian president has his side of the story. After a serious international incident, in which shore batteries shot down a Turkish jet, which was alleged to be in Syrian air space, there was an international conference in Geneva; and not long afterward, the national broadcast on SANA featured a Turkish journalist who interviewed Assad:

Journalist: I don’t know, Mr. President, if you followed Clinton’s statement in the press conference in which she said that she understood from what Kofi Annan said that President al-Assad should go. How did you understand what Clinton said? 
President Assad: For us, what American officials say has no credibility in general. Second, the American position is already hostile to Syria in this crisis. They are part of the problem. They support the terrorists very clearly. That’s why we are not very interested in what this or that official says during this crisis. 
[...] 
Journalist: There was talk in the Geneva conference yesterday about a transition in Syria, with or without President al-Assad, and about internal, regional and international demands that should be implemented in order to complete the reform process. What is your position in that regard? 
President Assad: Regionally and internationally they have nothing to do with us. We do not accept anything imposed on us from the outside. Everything will be decided internally. If I personally were interested in just holding this office, I would have implemented America’s dictates and the demands made through petrodollars, I would have accepted to sell my stances and principles in return for petrodollars, and what’s more important, I would have accepted the installation of a missile shield in Syria. --Cumhuriyet 
US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, had struggled to put words into the mouth of UN peace envoy, Kofi Annan; but no one was fooled. And yet now, in the record heat of mid-August, there is much more to worry about because war fever in Israel seems to have a grip on the leaders: the obsession or urgency for crushing Iran soon, whatever the US president's inconvenience around election time.

George Galloway warns that we are on the eve of destruction.  "Crusader intervention and occupation of Arab land" is unacceptable;  and sectarian division that pits one religious faction against another is unacceptable; and these are the instruments of violence the empire is using to weaken the people. It is important to admit that the original uprising had every right to rebel against Assad; but they rejected foreign intervention, especially if it meant  salafists,  or al-Qaeda, or other mercenaries, might destroy the one thing that was best in Syria. The isolation of Iran, and the unending threats of war against it, are the costs to that country, for simply standing up to outside domination, and refusing to surrender to what Galloway calls "the big pirates, the big tyrants".

It's a surreal empire, where as many US soldiers are committing suicide as are being killed in the nation's wars. And a republican candidate for president recently ran on the promise to attack Iran, if elected.

Gideon Levy, the Israeli journalist,  warns about the "Escalating Talk of a Military Attack on Iran" going around Tel Aviv at this moment. Levy was interviewed Wednesday, on DemocracyNow!

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Gideon Levy, before we conclude, is it the case that it’s been reported that a majority of Israelis are opposed to any Israeli action against Iran at the moment?
 GIDEON LEVY: No, it changes. The public opinion here is quite brainwashed, like in any other place, and things start changing. It depends how you ask it. There was another poll which showed that, I think, 47 percent of the Israelis are already in favor of an preparation, that over 50 percent believe that if Iran will have nuclear weapons, this means a second Holocaust for Israel. I mean, I wouldn’t go for this, because there is so much information, misinformation in the media that people are really confused and people can be shaken very, very easily. The matter of fact is that almost the entire military and defense establishment of Israel, the present one and the former one, is united in opposing an attack in this time. But still, the decision makers—mainly two, the prime minister and the defense minister, Barak—seem to be very, very devoted to do something.


For 14 hours yesterday I was at work--teaching Christ to lift his cross by numbers, and how to adjust his crown; and not to imagine he thirst till after the last halt. I attended his Supper to see that there were not complaints; and inspected his feet that they should be worthy of the nails. I see to it that he is dumb, and stands at attention before his accusers. With a piece of silver I buy him every day, and with maps I make him familiar with the topography of Golgotha.  
 --Wilfred Owen, (letter to Osbert Sitwell, July 4th, 1918)



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