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Cozad, Nebraska – The Hundred Meridian No Longer What It Used To Be

April 21, 2018

 

The 100th Meridian marker outside of Cozad, Nebraska. Summer, 2003

  1. Cozad, Nebraska

I’ve been there a number of times, stopping on my way to visit in-laws in eastern Nebraska by the Missouri River. Have stayed there twice in a motel just off of I-80, visited the Robert Henri Museum downtown and once went out to the 100th meridian marker just west of town, Cozad Nebraska and asked Nancy to take my picture there. The main east-west street splitting the town in half, of course, Meridian Ave. And, those lucky enough to be there on August 21, 2017 could have participated in the “Eclipse on the 100th Meridian” event in town, “with activities from 10 am to 2 pm, during the high point of the eclipse that day.

Cozad is a town of a bit less than 4000, farm country right in the path of the transcontinental railroad. It’s just east of North Platte where the largest train repair shop in North America, ney in the world is located. For a short moment, like Gothenburg just to its east, Cozad was a stop on the pony express route west. I wonder what the good people of Cozad are thinking about their current loss of longitudinal prestige. Read more…

Syria and the Brinkmanship Presidency – 3 – 103 Missiles to Destroy the Evidence

April 17, 2018

2013 U.K. demonstration opposing U.S. orchestrated war in Syria to partition the country. They chanted “USA Shame On You”

Writing with his usual insight, acumen and honesty, Jim Wall, in his latest column , argued that the U.S.-U.K.-French bombing of Syria was “designed to distract.” (1) While I believe Wall is on to something important, his article fails to elaborate: designed to distract from what? Still, he’s got a point and a big one. So let’s fill in a few blanks here. As usual, a military strike of this size – 131 missiles is no small attack – as a number of short goals – all of them short-term, none of them with any strategic or even much tactical value to speak of. So…let’s state some of the more obvious – already being raised in the media now here and there: Read more…

Syria and the Brinkmanship Presidency – 2 – The Mayaguez Phenomenon

April 14, 2018

Protesters shout slogans as they wave Iraqi and Syrian flags during a protest against the U.S.-led missile attack on Syria, in Tahrir Square, Baghdad, Iraq, on Sunday, April, 15, 2018. (Hadi Mizban/AP)

Jeffrey Sachs on Syria: “…I think we have to step back and not put this in partisan terms. This is a U.S. mistake that started seven years ago. And I remember the day on your show, when President Obama said, ‘Assad must go,’ and I looked at you and Joe and I said, ‘Huh. How’s he going to do that? Where’s the policy for that?’ And we know they sent in the CIA to overthrow Assad, the CIA and Saudi Arabia, together in covert operations tried to overthrow Assad, it was a disaster, eventually it brought in both ISIS as a splinter group to the jihadists that went in, it also brought in Russia. So we have been digging deeper and deeper and deeper. What we should do now is get out. And not continue to throw missiles, not have a confrontation with Russia. Seven years has been a disaster, under Obama, continuing under Trump. This is what I would call the permanent state, this is the CIA, this is the Pentagon, wanting to keep Iran and Russia out of Syria. But [there’s] no way to do that. And so we have made a proxy war in Syria, it’s killed 500,000 people, displaced ten million, and I’ll say: predictably so, because I predicted it seven years ago, that there was no way to do this, and that it would make a complete chaos, so what I would plead to President Trump, is: get out. Like his instinct told him…”

The Mayaguez Phenomenon

Several days after the United States, UK and France struck Syria with 103 missiles fired both from the air and ships in the Mediterranean, as the dust settles, a clearer picture of the event itself and what it was about has come into focus. It was an event of no strategic importance whatsoever in that it changed nothing on the ground. Even the Bloomsberg business magazine website admitted as much:

While the attack by the U.S., Britain and France destroyed military positions and research facilities linked to chemical weapons, it did little to degrade Assad’s capacity to wage war, or target the fighters from Russia, Iran and Hezbollah supporting him.

A military strike at this point against Syria is more an act of frustration than anything that changes the basic facts on the ground: the balance of power resulting from the defeat of ISIS/al Nusra, etc. has shifted. There is a new, emerging constellation of social forces coming into being to which Washington cannot dictate. Calling all the regional shots is no longer a Washington privilege. Power has somewhat shifted away from the U.S. Israel and Saudi Arabia. It will not be restored, if ever. Bombing Syria with 130 missiles didn’t change this one iota.

The only short-term advantage the U.S. got out of the bombing is that it destroyed the evidence of the alleged chemical attack. Washington was nervous that the UN inspectors would contradict their claims that the Assad government was responsible. Other than that, nothing was gained.

One could argue that even Washington knew the futility of these strikes beforehand. But they (the high level leadership in Washington) felt they had to “do something” and these days, “something” virtually always means a military strike rich in symbolism but with no political or strategic value whatsoever, a “show of force” to suggest that the United States is still a world power, that it matters. As American economic and diplomatic influence wanes, increasing Washington relies on raw military power, or its threat as the main instrument of foreign policy. It also gives confidence to regional allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, both of which hesitate to use military action unless Washington its lesser minions (France, UK) are involved. Read more…

Syria and the Brinkmanship Presidency – 1

April 14, 2018

Damascus. 1981. The flag is still flying.

(Note: this past evening a combined U.S., UK. French missile attack on Syria took place, ratcheting up the danger of unleashing a regional conflict with the spectre of nuclear war lurking in the shadows. From the earliest reports coming in this is what we know: On the early morning of April 14, 2018 a combined air and sea attack from U.S., UK, France. 103 missiles was launched against targets in Syria. Initial reports state that  71 of these missiles were intercepted by 30-year-old Russian-made, but Syrian controlled and manned anti-aircraft missiles. Neither Russia nor Iran took the bait and struck back militarily, giving Washington and its allies (UK, France) a pretext to raise the military ante. Am still concerned about Israeli-Saudi.

As noted in social media: hours after the strike, people are dancing in the streets of Damascus: “This is the 1st time in history where a capital, Damascus, is hit by foreign power and people celebrate it in the street few hours later, challenging the attackers and expressing their solidarity with the government by dancing in the street: boosted today.”

Outside of the narrow confines of  U.S., UK and French ruling circles and their pliant media, it will provoke global, well deserved outrage. )

As noted in social media: hours after the strike, people are dancing in the streets of Damascus: “This is the 1st time in history where a capital, Damascus, is hit by foreign power and people celebrate it in the street few hours later, challenging the attackers and expressing their solidarity with the government by dancing in the street: boosted today.”

1. In Washington Diplomacy is Dead; Today it’s all about brinkmanship

Diplomacy, so to speak, has taken a back seat in U.S. foreign policy for sometime. Today it’s much more about brinkmanship, threatening war, including nuclear war, seeing if the other side (North Korea, Syria) will blink first and then exacting concessions, otherwise known as blackmail, from friends and adversaries alike. It is also, as in the case of Syria, a way to cover what has been a seven year military failure to overthrow the Assad government and partition the country. With the State Department increasingly gutted and led by jackasses appointed  with the expressed goal of undermining or destroying its diplomatic role, it’s the Defense Dept., ie., the military has become the main agent of U.S.foreign policy. 

The ritual, potentially deadly, has a pattern to it: threaten war in an increasingly vulgar and juvenile war of words in a sequence resembling an exchange of “pre-duel” insults in a Western shootout with Trump playing John Wayne. (which one was more stupid, less articulate?). More difficult to strike North Korea, it has nuclear weapons, easier to strike Syria, ravaged by war and with no nukes.

The pattern: threaten war as the Trumpty-Dumpty Administration did with North Korea last fall, heightening not just regional but global fears. Among other things, on a more profound level, Washington was testing China, knowing that there are genuine tensions between China and N. Korea. In such a crisis, the question emerges: how far will China go to defend its annoying ally? Can the pressure Washington is exerting create a split between the two. Washington is always trying to play divide and conquer, whether it’s in the Middle East or East Asia. In the case of Syria, similarly, the idea is to bait Iran and Russia to respond directly to a U.S.-led attack, providing the pretext to turn on either of them militarily.

Then weigh the consequences and see how many concessions bringing the world to the edge of world war can yield. But Trumpty Dumpty – not even a minor league player when it comes to foreign policy – found himself outmaneuvered from the outset by the Chinese. I wonder if Trump has a slogan on his desk that says something like: “Donny boy – don’t mess with the Chinese. Remember they are smarter and stronger than you; find a weaker opponent to bully.” And they are powerful and if there is one thing about bullies  – they only mess with nations that are weaker, not stronger or as strong. And so where it came to attacking North Korea, Trump was essentially forced to back down and he did, in search for weaker adversaries.

In the North Korean-Chinese case, given that the North Koreans have nuclear weapons and long-range missile systems,  Washington “wisely” (perhaps a poorly chosen word) – or at least “correctly” – understood that attacking North Korea would provoke a strong Chinese response, military, economic or both, to say nothing about how South Korea would respond. At a certain moment the Trump Administration understood it was not the China-North Korean alliance that would fracture but the U.S.-South Korean one that was on the verge of fracture. And so Washington found a pretext to back down (the Olympics) and the tense situation in East Asia cooled some, at least temporarily, and with it the war danger there, that most definitely included the threat of nuclear confrontation.

2. Some geo-political considerations about placing Syria in U.S. military cross-hairs.

But the brinkmanship continues, it’s only the target that changes from North Korea to …da da, da da…Syria. Would not have been all that hard to predict given the propensities of the prez himself and his stable of foreign policy Islamophobic wackos, Pompeo and Bolton, that the Middle East would be the next in line. Attacking Syria has several goals, none of which has any strategic value whatsoever in terms of changing the regional balance of power that has resulted from the U.S. defeat (yep that is the word) in Syria. If the brinkmanship towards N. Korea was a way to test a Chinese response, attacking Syria is meant to provoke Iran and Russia to respond militarily.

To date, to their credit, neither has taken the bait to their credit.

On another level the plan was – and there is a plan, referred to as the Doha Protocol – to partition Syria using proxies like ISIS, al Nusra and the like. It utterly failed. To strike Syria is a way of punishing it for not capitulating pure and simple. It “gives confidence” to U.S. main regional allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia to be more aggressive towards Iran and Syria.

There are, as usual, domestic considerations to any U.S. military actions – united the country behind the current maniac leader at a time when Trumpty-Dumpty’s polls are sagging and ne needs something to boost Republican chances for the mid-term elections this year. He might also fear the momentum towards impeachment, knowing that the Dems will probably support any strike against Syria, as they will.

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Links:

Syria and the Brinkmanship Presidency – 2

Syria and the Brinkmanship Presidency – 3

Syria and Nuclear War

April 12, 2018

US-led attempt to partition Syria (as it did de facto in Iraq and Libya) has failed. Sore losers, Washington hopes to regain through war, what it has lost in terms of the shifting regional balance of power, supported in this effort by Israel and Saudi Arabia. Dangerous moment (Map – Le Monde Diplomatique)

(The following article, from the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center in Boulder, appeared in today’s Boulder Daily Camera. It warns of the danger of war, including nuclear war, essentially as a result of the Trump Administration’s reckless foreign policy.)

Peace Train Column for Friday, April 13, 2018

Syria and Nuclear War

By Tom Mayer

 

No sane person wants a nuclear war.  But in a world loaded with nuclear weapons a nuclear war might happen anyway.  One place where a nuclear war might start is Syria.  A military confrontation between Russia and the United States, the world’s foremost possessors of nuclear weapons, is quite possible in Syria.  Such a confrontation could escalate into a nuclear war if either side believed nuclear weapons were necessary to avoid a humiliating defeat.

Although the United States is clearly the world’s foremost military power – U.S. military expenses exceed those of the next nine countries combined – Russian stakes in Syria are greater than those of the United States.  Syria is much closer to Russia than to the USA.  Syria is Russia’s only reliable ally in the Arab World. Russia’s alliance with Syria gives it access to the Mediterranean.  Russia supports the Assad government partly to control insurgencies and terrorist attacks within its own country.  Moreover, the Russian people strongly endorse Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy.  These political realities mean that Russia will not back down in a military confrontation with the United States regarding Syria.

The U.S. concerns in Syria are more peripheral (and also contradictory).  In Syria, and elsewhere, the United States needs to maintain the credibility of its armed forces.  Israel and Saudi Arabia, both U.S. allies, want the United States to remain in Syria.  Israel desires a weak Syria which cannot challenge its annexation of the Golan Heights or support Palestinian resistance.  Both Israel and Saudi Arabia fear the emergence of a Shite block including Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Hezbollah in Lebanon.  The United States, like Israel and Saudi Arabia, wants to overthrow the Assad government, but this government remains the indispensable force combatting jihadist terrorism in Syria.

The latest inducement to U.S. military action against the Assad government is the recent chemical weapons attack on the city of Douma.   Washington immediately blamed this attack on Assad and his Russian ally, but there is reason to doubt this narrative.  A chemical weapons attack appears entirely contrary to the interests of the Assad regime.  They are winning the war in Syria and Trump was considering withdrawing U.S. military forces.  On the other hand, a chemical weapons attack would be welcomed by be people who want the United States to remain in Syria.  Incidentally, the Syrian Red Crescent found no evidence of a chemical weapons attack in Douma

American armed forces should leave Syria immediately.  They cannot accomplish anything useful in that country.  Their presence increases the danger of military confrontation with Russia.  Bashar al-Assad is indeed a brutal dictator, but dictatorship in Arab countries is a consequence of social structure combined with imperialist intervention.  The institution of dictatorship is not eliminated when foreign forces remove a dictator.  Unfortunately, the most feasible ending of the horrendous war in Syria is continuation of the Assad regime.  In this imperfect world, stable dictatorship is far preferable to continual warfare which pulverizes society.  And it is infinitely preferable to nuclear war.

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For further information on the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, contact this link.

Destroying A Hundred Years of Federal Protection of Migratory Birds: Trump Guts the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Another Koch Brothers’ Production

April 12, 2018

Avocet at Clear Creek Park, South Adams County, Colorado. The rust red coloring of this avocet’s neck and head appears during mating season and disappears again in the late summer when they return to their white coloring. (R. Prince photo)

And of course anything, anything whatsoever that interfers with the profits of the oil industry, whether it is a Middle Eastern government that strikes a hard negotiating stance with energy mulitnationals (Libya, Iraq, Syria) or…or regulations protecting birds (and frankly even that not very effectively) !!…has to bulldozed, eliminated.

 

The Avocets are back. 

Spring, early spring is here in Colorado. It is a special time of year everywhere I suppose, but here between the mountains, foothills and plains a most extraordinary natural symphony of life and color.

Migratory birds are returning. Yesterday (April 9, 2018), walking along Clear Creek, species I hadn’t seen since late October were busy scampering around – avocets, blue-winged and green-winged teals, lesser yellow legs among them. They were a site to see.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology about 450,000 avocets exist, mostly in North and Central America. Although their migration patterns are not well-known, they seem to migrate to coastal areas during the winter, returning to more inland lakes and swamps for the warmer months as they have here on the Colorado Front Range. The American Avocet is one of the world’s four avocet species. The American Advocet is the only one of the four with distinct breeding and non-breeding plumages — its grayish-white head and neck feathers become cinnamon in early spring, as pictured here. Read more…

Sderot Cinema – Israelis Cheer as Military Kill Palestinians in Gaza

April 10, 2018

One of seven Jewish youth arrested at Chuck Schumer’s office, protesting the Senator’s silence on the Israeli massacre of Palestinians in Gaza.

From a statement of IfNotNow, New York, organization of Jewish Youth opposing the Israeli Occupation of Palestinian Territories:

“The decision of the IDF to shoot protesters in prayer, running away, or waving a flag is not just clearly a violation of international law: it is a moral crisis. Nonetheless, leaders in the political and Jewish communities have been largely silent. In particular, as the Democratic Senate Minority Leader and a major figure in the American Jewish community, the silence of Senator Schumer has been deafening. To condemn the shooting of unarmed protesters is neither bold nor brave: it is the bare minimum we should expect from any moral leader.”

Historical Flashback:

Just before the French 1830 invasion and colonization of Algeria, advertisements of the coming military assault and conquest of Algeria appeared in the French press.  For different fees depending on the quality of the lodging, food and drink, anyone willing to pay the price could buy a place on a tourist ship to watch the invasion, sip champagne and cheer on the troops as they slaughtered Algerians. Thousands did, with a lack of human sympathy and strong dose of racism that would characterize the next 132 years of French occupation in Algeria.

The scene was mentioned in a 2013  article in British newspaper, The Guardian:

The French invaded Algeria in 1830. This was the first colonisation of an Arab country since the days of the Crusades and it came as a great shock to the Arab nation. This first battle for Algiers was a staged affair. Pleasure ships sailed from Marseille to watch the bombardment and the beach landings. The Arab corpses that lay strewn in the streets and along the coastline were no more than incidental colour to the Parisian spectator watching the slaughter through opera glasses from the deck of his cruise ship

And now there is Gaza, 2018.

It’s quite a photo.

In it, young Israeli adults are seen smiling and waving at the cameras as they sit on an observation tower in Nahal Oz, outside the fenced-off Gaza strip. They are casually watching a massacre – as if at a sports event – watching Israeli’s snipers wound and kill Palestinians who have come to the barrier for a second Friday to protest the deplorable living conditions in the outdoor concentration camp that has become Gaza. The photo, shared by Nir Dvori a reporter at Israeli Channel 2 television news, appeared on Friday.  Read more…