GWOT

Why the U.S. “war on terra” is a fraud

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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Originally published in Asia Times on April 30, 2015

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A new scathing report by the Nobel prize-winning Physicians for Social Responsibility has revealed that more than 1.3 million people were killed only during the first ten years of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan alone. What was formerly known as GWOT — or, in Dubya-speak, “war on terra” — was Orwellianized by the Obama administration into “Overseas Contingency Operations” (OCO).

Crucially, the report does not even cover OCO’s trail in Libya, Syria, Somalia and Yemen (one war “won” by NATO/AFRICOM; one ongoing civil war; and two targets of Obama’s nefarious “kill list”.) Moreover, the figures on AfPak and Iraq are far from being the latest. And the total estimate of lethal casualties is considered “conservative”.

The record shows that this OCO killing machine ran amok for almost 15 years against whole swathes of the planet — not to mention burning trillions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer funds — and had absolutely zero effect in containing terrorism. Rather the contrary; Asia Times readers are aware of how I’ve defined GWOT as the gift that keeps on giving.

And it all started way before 9/11 — and the official Dubya enshrinement of GWOT.

Where’s my jihadi visa?

One just needs to read Michael Springmann’s book Visas for al-Qaeda: CIA Handouts that Rocked the World. Springmann, a former State Department official, currently practices law in the Beltway. Crucially, he was the head of the visa section of the U.S. consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia between 1987 and 1989. Until, as part of a very convoluted story, he lost his job; and embarked on the long and winding road towards becoming a whistleblower.

Springmann’s revelation that the Jeddah consulate was a CIA base comes as no surprise — as the free flow of visas was essential to the so-called “Arab Afghans” who were engaged in the 1980s jihad against the former USSR.

And the ball kept rolling. While researching his book, Springmann also found out that 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 got their visas in Saudi Arabia; 11 in Jeddah and 4 in Riyadh. Springmann discovered these visas were approved by one Shayna Steinger – “hired directly out of Columbia University with a master’s degree as an FSO4, which is a very high rank for somebody right out of school with no background, experience, or training. And she was supposed to have given very questionable answers to the 9/11 Commission investigating what went on in Jeddah.”

After 9/11, Springmann also tried to get in touch with the FBI to tell his story. He’s still waiting for their call (Lars Schall’s interview with Springmann is here.)

Springmann has no doubt the whole genesis of the “war on terra”, pre-9/11, was a racket involving the CIA and the State Department. As he writes, “the international terrorists the United States recruited for wars in Afghanistan and Bosnia thirty-odd years ago are still involved in the fighting elsewhere today. Bosnia wasn’t the only place those saddle tramps and gunslingers were employed. The visas the State Department issued to them then are now tied to the current administration’s continuing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. The fanatics I saw get travel papers during my time at Jeddah are either directly involved in or trained those directly involved in fighting U.S. forces today.”

Talk to the RAND

There’s nothing new under the GWOT/OCO sun. GWOT/OCO is a mere rebranding of what the Pentagon in the early “axis of evil” days of the Cheney regime called the Long War. And its future was duly conceptualized later on in 2008 by the RAND Corporation report Unfolding the Future of the Long War.

RAND clearly prescribed what has become the new normal. Washington supports the petrodollar GCC racket – House of Saud on top – whatever happens, always in the interest of containing “Iranian power and influence”; diverts Salafi-jihadi resources toward “targeting Iranian interests throughout the Middle East,” especially in Iraq and Lebanon, hence “cutting back … anti-Western operations”; and keeps propping up al-Qaeda — and ISIS/ISIL/Daesh — GCC sponsors and “empowering” viciously anti-Shi’ite Islamists everywhere to maintain “Western dominance.”

Technically, the Long War is a fabulous bonanza for the industrial-military complex. Geopolitically, it cuts both ways; it wreaks havoc via Divide and Rule across the Muslim world, and is also a war by proxy on Iran.

Few will remember that the Long War concept was first formulated in the “axis of evil” era by the Highlands Forum, a relatively obscure, neo-con infested Pentagon think tank. Not accidentally the RAND Corporation is a major “partner”.

And now, with Long War practitioners such as current Pentagon supremo “Ash” Carter, his deputy Robert Work, and Pentagon intelligence chief Mike Vickers, in charge of the self-described “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” Obama administration’s military strategy, continuity is the new normal.

And diversification, of course. Nick Turse’s new book, Tomorrow’s Battlefield: US. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa reads like a hallucinatory trip along the Pentagon’s pivot to virtually the whole continent, fully deploying OCO to fight “terra” via AFRICOM.

OCO is forever. Happy trails, and have a good kill.


Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Can China and Russia Squeeze Washington Out of Eurasia?

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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The Future of a Beijing-Moscow-Berlin Alliance

China Russia

Published in Tom Dispatch on October 5, 2014

 

A specter haunts the fast-aging “New American Century”: the possibility of a future Beijing-Moscow-Berlin strategic trade and commercial alliance. Let’s call it the BMB.

Its likelihood is being seriously discussed at the highest levels in Beijing and Moscow, and viewed with interest in Berlin, New Delhi, and Tehran. But don’t mention it inside Washington’s Beltway or at NATO headquarters in Brussels. There, the star of the show today and tomorrow is the new Osama bin Laden: Caliph Ibrahim, aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the elusive, self-appointed beheading prophet of a new mini-state and movement that has provided an acronym feast — ISIS/ISIL/IS — for hysterics in Washington and elsewhere.

No matter how often Washington remixes its Global War on Terror, however, the tectonic plates of Eurasian geopolitics continue to shift, and they’re not going to stop just because American elites refuse to accept that their historically brief “unipolar moment” is on the wane. For them, the closing of the era of “full spectrum dominance,” as the Pentagon likes to call it, is inconceivable. After all, the necessity for the indispensable nation to control all space — military, economic, cultural, cyber, and outer — is little short of a religious doctrine. Exceptionalist missionaries don’t do equality. At best, they do “coalitions of the willing” like the one crammed with “over 40 countries” assembled to fight ISIS/ISIL/IS and either applauding (and plotting) from the sidelines or sending the odd plane or two toward Iraq or Syria.

NATO, which unlike some of its members won’t officially fight Jihadistan, remains a top-down outfit controlled by Washington. It’s never fully bothered to take in the European Union (EU) or considered allowing Russia to “feel” European. As for the Caliph, he’s just a minor diversion. A postmodern cynic might even contend that he was an emissary sent onto the global playing field by China and Russia to take the eye of the planet’s hyperpower off the ball.

Divide and Isolate

So how does full spectrum dominance apply when two actual competitor powers, Russia and China, begin to make their presences felt? Washington’s approach to each — in Ukraine and in Asian waters — might be thought of as divide and isolate.

In order to keep the Pacific Ocean as a classic “American lake,” the Obama administration has been “pivoting” back to Asia for several years now. This has involved only modest military moves, but an immodest attempt to pit Chinese nationalism against the Japanese variety, while strengthening alliances and relations across Southeast Asia with a focus on South China Sea energy disputes. At the same time, it has moved to lock a future trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), in place.

In Russia’s western borderlands, the Obama administration has stoked the embers of regime change in Kiev into flames (fanned by local cheerleaders Poland and the Baltic nations) and into what clearly looked, to Vladimir Putin and Russia’s leadership, like an existential threat to Moscow. Unlike the U.S., whose sphere of influence (and military bases) are global, Russia was not to retain any significant influence in its former near abroad, which, when it comes to Kiev, is not for most Russians, “abroad” at all.

For Moscow, it seemed as if Washington and its NATO allies were increasingly interested in imposing a new Iron Curtain on their country from the Baltic to the Black Sea, with Ukraine simply as the tip of the spear. In BMB terms, think of it as an attempt to isolate Russia and impose a new barrier to relations with Germany. The ultimate aim would be to split Eurasia, preventing future moves toward trade and commercial integration via a process not controlled through Washington.

From Beijing’s point of view, the Ukraine crisis was a case of Washington crossing every imaginable red line to harass and isolate Russia. To its leaders, this looks like a concerted attempt to destabilize the region in ways favorable to American interests, supported by a full range of Washington’s elite from neocons and Cold War “liberals” to humanitarian interventionists in the Susan Rice and Samantha Power mold. Of course, if you’ve been following the Ukraine crisis from Washington, such perspectives seem as alien as any those of any Martian. But the world looks different from the heart of Eurasia than it does from Washington — especially from a rising China with its newly minted “Chinese dream” (Zhongguo meng).

As laid out by President Xi Jinping, that dream would include a future network of Chinese-organized new Silk Roads that would create the equivalent of a Trans-Asian Express for Eurasian commerce. So if Beijing, for instance, feels pressure from Washington and Tokyo on the naval front, part of its response is a two-pronged, trade-based advance across the Eurasian landmass, one prong via Siberia and the other through the Central Asian “stans.”

In this sense, though you wouldn’t know it if you only followed the American media or “debates” in Washington, we’re potentially entering a new world. Once upon a time not so long ago, Beijing’s leadership was flirting with the idea of rewriting the geopolitical/economic game side by side with the U.S., while Putin’s Moscow hinted at the possibility of someday joining NATO. No longer. Today, the part of the West that both countries are interested in is a possible future Germany no longer dominated by American power and Washington’s wishes.

Moscow has, in fact, been involved in no less than half a century of strategic dialogue with Berlin that has included industrial cooperation and increasing energy interdependence. In many quarters of the Global South this has been noted and Germany is starting to be viewed as “the sixth BRICS” power (after Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa).

In the midst of global crises ranging from Syria to Ukraine, Berlin’s geostrategic interests seem to be slowly diverging from Washington’s. German industrialists, in particular, appear eager to pursue unlimited commercial deals with Russia and China. These might set their country on a path to global power unlimited by the EU’s borders and, in the long term, signal the end of the era in which Germany, however politely dealt with, was essentially an American satellite.

It will be a long and winding road. The Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, is still addicted to a strong Atlanticist agenda and a preemptive obedience to Washington. There are still tens of thousands of American soldiers on German soil. Yet, for the first time, German chancellor Angela Merkel has been hesitating when it comes to imposing ever-heavier sanctions on Russia over the situation in Ukraine, because no fewer than 300,000 German jobs depend on relations with that country. Industrial leaders and the financial establishment have already sounded the alarm, fearing such sanctions would be totally counterproductive.

China’s Silk Road Banquet

China’s new geopolitical power play in Eurasia has few parallels in modern history. The days when the “Little Helmsman” Deng Xiaoping insisted that the country “keep a low profile” on the global stage are long gone. Of course, there are disagreements and conflicting strategies when it comes to managing the country’s hot spots: Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjiang, the South China Sea, competitors India and Japan, and problematic allies like North Korea and Pakistan. And popular unrest in some Beijing-dominated “peripheries” is growing to incendiary levels.

The country’s number one priority remains domestic and focused on carrying out President Xi’s economic reforms, while increasing “transparency” and fighting corruption within the ruling Communist Party. A distant second is the question of how to progressively hedge against the Pentagon’s “pivot” plans in the region — via the build-up of a blue-water navy, nuclear submarines, and a technologically advanced air force — without getting so assertive as to freak out Washington’s “China threat”-minded establishment.

Meanwhile, with the U.S. Navy controlling global sea lanes for the foreseeable future, planning for those new Silk Roads across Eurasia is proceeding apace. The end result should prove a triumph of integrated infrastructure — roads, high-speed rail, pipelines, ports — that will connect China to Western Europe and the Mediterranean Sea, the old Roman imperial Mare Nostrum, in every imaginable way.

In a reverse Marco Polo-style journey, remixed for the Google world, one key Silk Road branch will go from the former imperial capital Xian to Urumqi in Xinjiang Province, then through Central Asia, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey’s Anatolia, ending in Venice. Another will be a maritime Silk Road starting from Fujian province and going through the Malacca strait, the Indian Ocean, Nairobi in Kenya, and finally all the way to the Mediterranean via the Suez canal. Taken together, it’s what Beijing refers to as the Silk Road Economic Belt.

China’s strategy is to create a network of interconnections among no less than five key regions: Russia (the key bridge between Asia and Europe), the Central Asian “stans,” Southwest Asia (with major roles for Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey), the Caucasus, and Eastern Europe (including Belarus, Moldova, and depending upon its stability, Ukraine). And don’t forget Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, which could be thought of as Silk Road plus.

Silk Road plus would involve connecting the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridor to the China-Pakistan economic corridor, and could offer Beijing privileged access to the Indian Ocean. Once again, a total package — roads, high-speed rail, pipelines, and fiber optic networks — would link the region to China.

Xi himself put the India-China connection in a neat package of images in an op-ed he published in the Hindu prior to his recent visit to New Delhi. “The combination of the ‘world’s factory’ and the ‘world’s back office,’” he wrote, “will produce the most competitive production base and the most attractive consumer market.”

The central node of China’s elaborate planning for the Eurasian future is Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang Province and the site of the largest commercial fair in Central Asia, the China-Eurasia Fair. Since 2000, one of Beijing’s top priorities has been to urbanize that largely desert but oil-rich province and industrialize it, whatever it takes. And what it takes, as Beijing sees it, is the hardcore Sinicization of the region — with its corollary, the suppression of any possibility of ethnic Uighur dissent. People’s Liberation Army General Li Yazhou has, in these terms, described Central Asia as “the most subtle slice of cake donated by the sky to modern China.”

Most of China’s vision of a new Eurasia tied to Beijing by every form of transport and communication was vividly detailed in “Marching Westwards: The Rebalancing of China’s Geostrategy,” a landmark 2012 essay published by scholar Wang Jisi of the Center of International and Strategic Studies at Beijing University. As a response to such a future set of Eurasian connections, the best the Obama administration has come up with is a version of naval containment from the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea, while sharpening conflicts with and strategic alliances around China from Japan to India. (NATO is, of course, left with the task of containing Russia in Eastern Europe.)

An Iron Curtain vs. Silk Roads

The $400 billion “gas deal of the century,” signed by Putin and the Chinese president last May, laid the groundwork for the building of the Power of Siberia pipeline, already under construction in Yakutsk. It will bring a flood of Russian natural gas onto the Chinese market. It clearly represents just the beginning of a turbocharged, energy-based strategic alliance between the two countries. Meanwhile, German businessmen and industrialists have been noting another emerging reality: as much as the final market for made-in-China products traveling on future new Silk Roads will be Europe, the reverse also applies. In one possible commercial future, China is slated to become Germany’s top trading partner by 2018, surging ahead of both the U.S. and France.

A potential barrier to such developments, welcomed in Washington, is Cold War 2.0, which is already tearing not NATO, but the EU apart. In the EU of this moment, the anti-Russian camp includes Great Britain, Sweden, Poland, Romania, and the Baltic nations. Italy and Hungary, on the other hand, can be counted in the pro-Russian camp, while a still unpredictable Germany is the key to whether the future will hold a new Iron Curtain or “Go East” mindset. For this, Ukraine remains the key. If it is successfully Finlandized (with significant autonomy for its regions), as Moscow has been proposing — a suggestion that is anathema to Washington — the Go-East path will remain open. If not, a BMB future will be a dicier proposition.

It should be noted that another vision of the Eurasian economic future is also on the horizon. Washington is attempting to impose a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) on Europe and a similar Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on Asia. Both favor globalizing American corporations and their aim is visibly to impede the ascent of the BRICS economies and the rise of other emerging markets, while solidifying American global economic hegemony.

Two stark facts, carefully noted in Moscow, Beijing, and Berlin, suggest the hardcore geopolitics behind these two “commercial” pacts. The TPP excludes China and the TTIP excludes Russia. They represent, that is, the barely disguised sinews of a future trade/monetary war. On my own recent travels, I have had quality agricultural producers in Spain, Italy, and France repeatedly tell me that TTIP is nothing but an economic version of NATO, the military alliance that China’s Xi Jinping calls, perhaps wishfully, an “obsolete structure.”

There is significant resistance to the TTIP among many EU nations (especially in the Club Med countries of southern Europe), as there is against the TPP among Asian nations (especially Japan and Malaysia). It is this that gives the Chinese and the Russians hope for their new Silk Roads and a new style of trade across the Eurasian heartland backed by a Russian-supported Eurasian Union. To this, key figures in German business and industrial circles, for whom relations with Russia remain essential, are paying close attention.

After all, Berlin has not shown overwhelming concern for the rest of the crisis-ridden EU (three recessions in five years). Via a much-despised troika — the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Commission — Berlin is, for all practical purposes, already at the helm of Europe, thriving, and looking east for more.

Three months ago, German chancellor Angela Merkel visited Beijing. Hardly featured in the news was the political acceleration of a potentially groundbreaking project: an uninterrupted high-speed rail connection between Beijing and Berlin. When finally built, it will prove a transportation and trade magnet for dozens of nations along its route from Asia to Europe. Passing through Moscow, it could become the ultimate Silk Road integrator for Europe and perhaps the ultimate nightmare for Washington.

“Losing” Russia

In a blaze of media attention, the recent NATO summit in Wales yielded only a modest “rapid reaction force” for deployment in any future Ukraine-like situations. Meanwhile, the expanding Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a possible Asian counterpart to NATO, met in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. In Washington and Western Europe essentially no one noticed. They should have. There, China, Russia, and four Central Asian “stans” agreed to add an impressive set of new members: India, Pakistan, and Iran. The implications could be far-reaching. After all, India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is now on the brink of its own version of Silk Road mania. Behind it lies the possibility of a “Chindia” economic rapprochement, which could change the Eurasian geopolitical map. At the same time, Iran is also being woven into the “Chindia” fold.

So the SCO is slowly but surely shaping up as the most important international organization in Asia. It’s already clear that one of its key long-term objectives will be to stop trading in U.S. dollars, while advancing the use of the petroyuan and petroruble in the energy trade. The U.S., of course, will never be welcomed into the organization.

All of this lies in the future, however. In the present, the Kremlin keeps signaling that it once again wants to start talking with Washington, while Beijing has never wanted to stop. Yet the Obama administration remains myopically embedded in its own version of a zero-sum game, relying on its technological and military might to maintain an advantageous position in Eurasia. Beijing, however, has access to markets and loads of cash, while Moscow has loads of energy. Triangular cooperation between Washington, Beijing, and Moscow would undoubtedly be — as the Chinese would say — a win-win-win game, but don’t hold your breath.

Instead, expect China and Russia to deepen their strategic partnership, while pulling in other Eurasian regional powers. Beijing has bet the farm that the U.S./NATO confrontation with Russia over Ukraine will leave Vladimir Putin turning east. At the same time, Moscow is carefully calibrating what its ongoing reorientation toward such an economic powerhouse will mean. Someday, it’s possible that voices of sanity in Washington will be wondering aloud how the U.S. “lost” Russia to China.

In the meantime, think of China as a magnet for a new world order in a future Eurasian century. The same integration process Russia is facing, for instance, seems increasingly to apply to India and other Eurasian nations, and possibly sooner or later to a neutral Germany as well. In the endgame of such a process, the U.S. might find itself progressively squeezed out of Eurasia, with the BMB emerging as a game-changer. Place your bets soon. They’ll be called in by 2025.

 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Operation Tomahawk The Caliph

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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THE ROVING EYE

1927000_Page__2

Originally published in Asia Times on September 24, 2014
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

The Tomahawks are finally flying again – propelled by newspeak. 42 Tomahawks fired from a Sixth Fleet destroyer parked in Mare Nostrum, plus F-22s raising hell and Hellfires spouted by drones, that’s a neat mini-Shock and Awe to honor Caliph Ibrahim, aka Abu Bakr al -Baghdadi, self-declared leader of Islamic State.

It’s all so surgical. All targets – from “suspected” weapons depots to the mayor’s mansion in Raqqah (the HQ of The Caliph’s goons) and assorted checkpoints – were duly obliterated, along with “dozens of”, perhaps 120, jihadis.

And praise those “over 40” (Samantha Power) or “over 50” (John Kerry) international allies in the coalition of the unwilling; America is never alone, although in this case mightily escorted, de facto, only by the usual Gulf petrodollar dictatorships and the realm of King Playstation, Jordan, all none too keen to engage in “kinetic activities”.

Aseptic newspeak aside, no one has seen or heard a mighty Gulf Cooperation Council air force deployed to bomb Syria. After all the vassals are scared as hell to tell their own populations they are – once again – bombing a fellow Arab nation. As for Damascus, it meekly said it was “notified” by the Pentagon its own territory would be bombed. Nobody really knows what the Pentagon is exactly telling Damascus.

The Pentagon calls it just the beginning of a “sustained campaign” – code for Long War, which is one of the original denominations of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) anyway. And yes, for all practical purposes this is a coalition of one. Let’s call it Operation Tomahawk The Caliph.

I am Khorasan
Hold your F-22s. Not really. The tomahawking had barely begun when an Israeli, made in USA Patriot missile shot a Syrian Su-24 which had allegedly “violated” Israeli air space over the Golan Heights. How about that in terms of sending a graphic message in close coordination with the Pentagon?

So this is not only about bombing The Caliph. It is a back-door preamble to bombing Bashar al-Assad and his forces. And also about bombing – with eight strikes west of Aleppo – a ghost; an al-Qaeda cell of the mysterious Khorasan group.

No wonder global fans of the Marvel Comics school of geopolitics are puzzled. Two simultaneous villains? Yep. And the other bad guy is even more evil than The Caliph.

Astonishing mediocrity Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, has defined Khorasan as “a group of extremists that is comprised of a number of individuals who we’ve been tracking for a long time.”

The Obama administration’s unison newspeak is that Khorasan includes former al-Qaeda assets not only from across the Middle East – including al-Qaeda in Iraq and Jabhat al-Nusra – but also Pakistan, as in an ultra-hardcore extension of the Pakistani Taliban.

What a mess. Al-Qaeda in Iraq is the embryo of ISIS, which turned into IS. Jabhat al-Nusra is the al-Qaeda franchise in Syria, approved by CEO Ayman al-Zawahiri. Both despise each other, and yet Khorasan holds the merit of bundling Caliph’s goons and al-Qaeda goons together. Additionally, for Washington Jabhat al-Nusra tend to qualify as “moderate” jihadis – almost like “our bastards”. Too messy? No problem; when in doubt, bomb everybody.

The Caliph, then, is old news. Those ghostly Khorasan goons are the real deal – so evil that the Pentagon is convinced their “plotting was imminent” leading to a new 9/11.

The ghost in the GWOT machine
Khorasan is the perfect ghost in the GWOT machine; the target of a war within a war. Because Obama in fact launched two wars – as he sent two different notifications to Congress under the War Powers Resolution to cover both The Caliph and Khorasan.

And what’s in a name? Well, a thinly disguised extra demonization of Iran, why not – as historic Khorasan, the previous Parthia, stretched from mainly Iran towards Afghanistan.

Khorasan is theoretically led by The Joker, sorry, al-Qaeda honcho Muhsin al-Fadhli, born in Kuwait in 1981, a “senior facilitator and financier” to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq, in the priceless assessment of the State Department. Although Ayman al-Zawahiri, ever PR-conscious, has not claimed the credit, the Pentagon is convinced he sent al-Fadhli to the Syrian part of the Caliphate to attract Western jihadis with EU passports capable of evading airport security and plant bombs on commercial jets.

The Treasury Department is convinced al-Fadhli even led an al-Qaeda cell in Iran – demonization habits die hard -, “facilitating” jihadi travel to Afghanistan or Iraq.

And what a neat contrast to the Society of the Spectacle-addicted Caliph. Khorasan is pure darkness. Nobody knows how many; how long they’ve existed; what do they really want.

By contrast, there are about 190,000 live human beings left in bombed out Raqqa. Nobody is talking about collateral damage – although the body count is already on, and The Caliph’s slick PR operation will be certainly advertising them on YouTube. As for The Caliph’s goons, they will predictably use Mao tactics and dissolve like fish in the sea. The Pentagon will soon be bombing vast tracts of desert for nothing – if that’s not the case already.

There is no “Free Syrian Army” – that Qatari myth – anymore. There are no “moderate” jihadis left in Syria. They are all fighting for The Caliph or for al-Zawahiri. And still the Obama administration extracted a Congressional OK to train and weaponize “moderate rebels”.

US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power – Undisputed Queen of Batshit Craziness – at least got one thing right. Their “training” will “service these troops in the same struggle that they’ve been in since the beginning of this conflict against the Assad regime.” So yes – this “sustained campaign” is the back door to “Assad must go” remixed.

People who are really capable of defeating The Caliph’s goons don’t tomahawk. They are the Syrian Arab Army (roughly 35,000 dead so far killed in action against ISIS/ISIL/IS and/or al-Qaeda); Hezbollah; Iranian Revolutionary Guards advisers/operatives; and Kurdish militias. It won’t happen. This season’s blockbuster is the Empire of Chaos bombing The Caliph and the ghost in the GWOT machine. Two tickets for the price of one. Because we protect you even from “unknown unknown” evil.

 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Arab Spring, Jihad Summer

From the keyboard of Pepe Escobar

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THE ROVING EYE

caliphate

Originally published in Asia Times on July 2, 2014
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

 

Welcome to IS. No typo; the final goal may be (indiscriminate) regime change, but for the moment name change will do. With PR flair, at the start of Ramadan, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS, or ISIL – the Islamic State of the Levant – to some) solemnly declared, from now on, it will be known as Islamic State (IS). 

“To be or not to be” is so … metaphysically outdated. IS is – andhere it is – in full audio glory. And we’re talking about the full package – Caliph included: “the slave of Allah, Ibrahim Ibn ‘Awwad Ibn Ibrahim Ibn ‘Ali Ibn Muhammad al-Badrial-Hashimi al-Husayni al-Qurashi by lineage, as-Samurra’i by birth and upbringing, al-Baghdadi by residence and scholarship”. Or, to put it more simply, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. 

IS has virtually ordered “historic” al-Qaeda – yes, that 9/11-related (or not) plaything of one Osama bin Laden – as well as every other jihadi outfit on the planet, to pledge allegiance to the new imam, in theological theory the new lord over every Muslim. There’s no evidence Osama’s former sidekick, Ayman “the doctor” al-Zawahiri will obey, not to mention 1.5 billion Muslims across the world. Most probably al-Qaeda will say “we are the real deal” and a major theological catfight will be on.


After all, in Syria, ISIL as well as Jabhat al-Nusra were initially fighting under the banner of al-Qaeda, until the brand – in spectacular fashion – decided to dump al-Baghdadi. He and ISIL went too far – with all those videos of decapitations and crucifixions and serial profanation of Shi’ite, Sufi and Christian sanctuaries. 

Al-Baghdadi, born Ibrahim al-Badri in Samarra, is an average Sunni Iraqi cleric with a degree in pedagogy from the University of Baghdad. His alter ago was born after Shock and Awe in 2003, and soon metamorphosed into a de facto serial killer – blowing up Shi’ite kids at ice-cream shops or scores of women at Shi’ite weddings. 

ISIL’s track record in Syria includes banning every flag apart from its own; the destruction of any “polytheist” temple or sanctuary (except if it is Sunni); and strict imposition of Islamically correct women wear. Most of all, it is a track record of terror. This is not an army, rather a well-trained militia of professional mujahid, European passport holders included, with battlefield experience in Iraq, Afghanistan and, to a lesser degree, Chechnya. Heavy weaponizing is petrodollar-financed – the usual, wealthy “Gulf donors”, which does not exclude official connections. 

Sources of income diversified mightily when ISIL captured the oilfields surrounding Deir Ezzor in Syria; and after the recent offensive across Niniveh province in Iraq, they were able to lay their hands on vast arsenals of heavy artillery, lots of cash and gold bullion and, why not, US Humvees left behind. Their trademark, of course, are those columns of brand new white Toyota Land cruisers – free off road advertising Toyota HQ in Japan may not find particularly welcome. 

Loaded with oil and profiting from tax revenue, IS is now firmly on its way to provide (minimal) services and support a (mighty) Jihadi Army – much like the Taliban from 1996 to 2001. One may be sure IS will continue its massive “social engagement” strategy; talk about a chatty Caliphate which loves YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. No wonder they are a hit among Google generation recruits – as well as becoming fund-raising aces via gruesome videos. In thesis, indoctrination progresses hand in hand with “charity work”; residents of Aleppo, for instance, can dwell on how ISIL (gruesomely) looks and feels on the ground. 

Mission forever unaccomplished
It’s unclear how the new IS reality will play on the ground. The new Caliph has in fact declared a jihad on all that basket of corrupt and/or incompetent Middle East “leaders” – so some fierce “battle for survival” reaction from the Houses of Saud and Thani, for instance, is expected. It’s not far-fetched to picture al-Baghdadi dreaming of lording over Saudi oilfields – after decapitating all Shi’ite workers, of course. 

And that’s just a start; in one of their Tweeter accounts IS has published a map of all the domains they intend to conquer within the span of five years; Spain, Northern Africa, the Balkans, the whole Middle East and large swathes of Asia. Well, they are certainly more ambitious than NATO. 

Being such a courageous bunch, the House of Saud is now tempted to accept that imposing regime change on Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq is a bad idea. That puts them in direct conflict with the Obama administration, whose plan A, B and C is regime change. 

Turkey – the former seat of the Caliphate, by the way – remains mute. No wonder; Ankara – crucially – is the top logistical base of IS. Caliph Erdogan’s got to be musing about his own future, now that he’s facing competition. In theory, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Jordan are all saying they’re ready to fight what would be a “larger-scale war” than that gift that keeps on giving, the original, Cheney junta-coined GWOT (global war on terror). 

And then there’s the future of the new $500 million Obama fund to “appropriately vetted” rebels in Syria, which in fact means the expansion of covert CIA “training facilities” in Jordan and Turkey heavily infiltrated/profited from by IS. Think of hordes of new IS recruits posing as “moderate rebels” getting ready for a piece of the action. 

It’s easier for Brazil to win the World Cup with a team of crybabies with no tactical nous than having US Secretary of State John Kerry and his State Department ciphers understand that the Syrian “opposition” is controlled by jihadis. But then again, they do know – and that perfectly fits into the Empire of Chaos’s not so hidden Global War on Terror (GWOT) agenda of an ever-expanding proxy war in both Syria and Iraq fueled by terror financing. 

So 13 years ago Washington crushed both al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Then the Taliban were reborn. Then came Shock and Awe. Then came “Mission Accomplished”. Then al-Qaeda was introduced in Iraq. Then al-Qaeda was dead because Osama bin Laden was dead. Then came ISIL. And now there’s IS. And we start all over again, not in the Hindu Kush, but in the Levant. With a new Osama. 

What’s not to like? If anyone thinks this whole racket is part of a new live Monty Python sketch ahead of their reunion gig this month in London, that’s because it is.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Burn, Men in Black, Burn

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THE ROVING EYE

isilfighters

Originally published in Asia Times on June 20, 2014
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

Let’s cut to the chase. As in chasing that Zara outdoor summer collection, complete with state of the art assault rifles, brand new white Nike sneakers and brand new, unlimited mileage white Toyotas crossing the Syrian-Iraqi desert; the Badass Jihadis in Black.

Once upon a (very recent) time, the US government used to help only “good terrorists” (in Syria), instead of “bad terrorists”. That was an echo of a (less recent) time when it was supporting only “good Taliban” and not “bad Taliban”.

So what happens when Brookings Institution so-called “experts” start blabbering that the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) is really the baddest jihadi outfit on the planet (after all they were cast out of al-Qaeda)? Are they so badass that by warped newspeak logic they’re now the new normal?

Since late last year, according to US government newspeak, the “good terrorists” in Syria are the al-Qaeda spinoff gang of Jabhat al-Nusra and (disgraced) Prince Bandar bin Sultan, aka Bandar Bush, the Islamic Front (essentially a Jabhat al-Nusra multiple outlet). And yet both Jabhat and ISIS had pledged allegiance to Ayman “the doctor” al-Zawahiri, the perennial gift that keeps on giving al-Qaeda capo.

That still leaves the question of what Men in Black ISIS, the catwalk-conscious beheading stormtroopers for a basket of hardcore tribal Sunnis and Ba’ath party “remnants” (remember Rummy in 2003?) are really up to.

We interrupt this desert catwalk to announce they will NOT invade Baghdad. On the other hand, they are busy accelerating the balkanization – and eventual partition – of both Syria and Iraq. They are NOT a CIA brainchild (how come Langley never thought about it?); they are in fact the bastard children of (disgraced) Bandar Bush’s credit card largesse.

The fact that ISIS is NOT directly in Langley’s payroll does not imply their strategic agenda essentially differs from that of the Empire of Chaos. The Obama administration may be sending a few marines to protect the swimming pools of the largest, Vatican-sized embassy on Planet Earth, plus a few “military advisers” to “retrain” the dissolving Iraqi Army. But that’s a drop of Coke Zero in the Western Iraqi desert. There’s no evidence Obama is about to authorize “kinetic support” against ISIS, even though Baghdad has already green-lighted it.

Even if Obama went ballistic (“targeted military action”), and/or manufactured a new kill list to be itemized by his drones, that would amount to no more than a little diversion. What matters is that the confluent ISIS/Beltway agenda remains the same; get rid of Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki (not by accident the new meme in US corporate media); curb Iran’s political/economic influence over Iraq; fundamentally erase Sykes-Picot; and promote the “birth pangs” (remember Condi?) of vast wastelands bypassing centralized power and run by hardcore tribal Sunnis.

153Mideast Syria Militants Rise Analysis

For the Empire of Chaos, ISIS is the agent provocateur that fell from (Allah’s?) Heaven; the perfect ski mask-clad tool to keep the Global War on Terror (GWOT) in Enduring Freedom Forever mode.

The icing in the (melted) cake is that the House of Saud has officially denied support of ISIS. So this means it’s true, even over Bandar Bush’s carcass. Cue to the official House of Saud and House of Thani narrative about ISIS: they are not in charge of what’s happening in Iraq. It’s all organized by the Ba’athist “remnants”.

Bring on more regime change 
Now for the all-encompassing Iranian angle, because the whole drama, as usual, is mostly about “containment” of Iran. We just need to endure this to confirm it; the same old regurgitation about “evidence” that “Iran and its Syrian allies” have “cooperated” with ISIS and that Bashar al-Assad in Syria has a “business partnership” with ISIS. And don’t forget the scaremongering; what’s ahead is a “nuclear Iran” against a “Sunni Arab world” in which the great bogeymen remains al-Qaeda.

Neo-con propaganda denouncing the US government for being in bed with Tehran against ISIS is, once again, disinformation.

Commander of Iran’s Basij, General Mohammad Reza Naqudi, was very close to the mark when he said, “Takfiri and Salafi groups in different regional states, especially in Syria and Iraq, are supported by the US”, and that “the US is manipulating the Takfiri terrorists to tarnish the image of Islam and Muslims.” The same applies to Speaker of the Majlis Ali Larijani; “It is obvious that the Americans and the countries around it have made such moves … Terrorism has grown into an instrument for the big powers to advance their goals.”

What this all implies is that Tehran has identified the ISIS catwalk parade for what it is; a trap. Moreover, they are also convinced Washington won’t break with its vassals at the House of Saud. Translation: Washington remains committed to old school GWOT. What Tehran is already, practically, supporting – also with “advisers” on the ground – is a myriad of Shi’ite militias who are being deployed to secure Baghdad and especially the Shi’ite holy cities, Najaf and Karbala.

US Return of the Living Neo-Con Dead, meanwhile, insist on regurgitating their favorite theme; Maliki Maliki Maliki. Nothing of what’s goin’ on in Iraq has anything to do with Shock and Awe, the invasion, occupation and destruction of most of the country, Abu Ghraib, or the vicious, totally Washington-instigated sectarian war (Divide and Rule, all over again). It’s all Maliki’s fault. So he must be booted out. When everything fails – to the tune of trillions of dollars – the neo-con playbook always resets to default; regime change.

Slouching towards Hardcore Sunnistan
It’s all extremely fishy about ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, aka Abu Dua, born in Samarra in 1971, a Saddam “remnant” but – crucially – a former prisoner of the US government in Camp Bocca from 2005 to 2009, as well as a former leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq. It’s no secret in the Levant that ISIS Men in Black were trained in 2012 by US instructors at a secret base in Safawi, in the northern desert of that fiction disguised as a country, Jordan, so they would later fight as Western-approved “rebels” in Syria.

It was al-Baghdadi who sent a batch of Men in Black to set up Jabhat al-Nusra (“good terrorists”, remember?) in Syria. He may have split from Jabhat in late 2013, but still remains in charge of a vast desert wasteland from northern Syria to Western Iraq. He’s the new Osama bin Laden (the gift that keeps on giving, again), the all but certain Emir of an Islamically correct desert Caliphate in the heart of the Levant.

Forget about Osama in the Hindu Kush; this is so much sexier.

A hardcore Sunnistan between Iraq’s Kurdish north and the Shi’te south, swimming in oil, extending all the way to Aleppo, Rakka and Deir ez-Zor in Syria, between the two rivers – the Tiger and the Euphrates – with Mosul as capital, back to its ancestral role of pivot between the twin rivers and the Mediterranean. Sykes-Picot, eat your heart out.

Obviously, al-Baghdadi could not have pulled that awesome feat off all by himself. Enter his top Saddam “remnant” sidekick, Ba’ath party theorist extraordinaire Izzaat Ibrahim al-Douri, who happens to be from strategic Mosul. And most of all, enter the General Military Council for Iraqi Revolutionaries – an awesomely “secret” organization which has had the guile to dribble, like an infernal composite of Lionel Messi and Luiz Suarez, the whole Western intel apparatus, Orwellian-Panopticon NSA included.

Well, not really, because this ISIS-Ba’athist coalition of the willing was brokered by none other than Bandar Bush – while he was still in action, with crucial, lateral input from Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan. No way to trace it all back to the Beltway.

What the General Military Council managed to assemble was no less than all the “remnants” of the good old early 2000s Iraqi resistance, top tribal sheiks, merge it with ISIS, and create what might be dubbed a “Resistance Army” – those Badass Jihadis in Black in their white Toyotas, now the stuff of legend, performing the miracle of being untrackable by the NSA’s satellite maze. They’re so hip they even have their own Facebook page, with over 33,000 “likes”.

Balkanize or bust
Meanwhile, the agenda of the Empire of Chaos proceed unabated. Balkanization is already a fact. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, crucially a Kurd, pledged Kurdish Peshmerga “cooperation” with the Iraq army to keep oil-rich Kirkuk away from ISIS. Like clockwork, the Peshmergas for all practical purposes annexed Kirkuk. Grand Kurdistan beckons.

Grand Ayatollah Sistani, also for all practical purposes, launched a Shi’ite jihad against ISIS. For his part, the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, Sayyid Ammar al-Hakim, all but resurrected their formidable paramilitary, the Badr Corps – very close to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. These are real badasses, against which ISIS does not stand a chance. And Muqtada al-Sadr is launching “Peace Brigades” to protect the Shi’te holy cities and also Christian churches. Civil war rules.

Meanwhile, in the Land of Oz, the Pentagon will certainly be able to extract extra funds for its perennial crusade to save Western civilization from Islamist terror. After all, there’s a (ski masked) neo-Osama bin Laden in da hood.

Although the majority of Iraqis reject balkanization, Sunnis will keep accusing Shi’ites of being Iranian pawns, and Shi’ites will keep accusing Sunnis of being the House of Saud’s fifth column. ISIS will keep getting loads of cash from wealthy Saudi “donors”. The US government will keep weaponizing Sunnis in Syria against Shi’ites and (perhaps) conducting soft “targeted military strikes” for Shi’ites against Sunnis in Iraq. Welcome to Divide and Rule run amok.

 

 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

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