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26 July 2012


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r whitman

I note that the Ynet piece is an Op-Ed article, not straight news. What do we know about the author, Alex Fishman?



So, you think there is "straight news' about Syria? pl

r whitman

I was implying that this needs to be read with the Bullshit detector turned on.


R. whitman

Never turn it off, including for me. pl


Col: And when the Christians flee Syria, where will they go? Clearly, no one in Washington lost any sleep over the destruction of the Iraqi Christian Community.


Case in point. Erdogan had 8 good years. Now, he's going off the rails. See http://www.todayszaman.com/news-287715-dont-provoke-us-erdogan-says-in-stern-warning-to-syrian-kurds.html

Every politician becomes one big disappointment. (Except George Washington.)

The Moar You Know

Given my life experience with what I've been told would happen/was going on in the Mideast, as opposed to what I found out actually happened (always many years after the fact) I'd say your BS detector should probably just be left on all the time. And not just with regard to the Middle East. Turns out my father was right and the media lies as much as it can get away with about everything, all the time, no exceptions.

I know about four things with a reasonably high degree of competency: Aircraft, guitar building, computer security and firearms. Three of these have always been red meat for the media (hackers are stealing your guns to give to illegal immigrant airline pilots, film at 11!) and I have watched, utterly appalled, as for years the populace is being fed not just incorrect information, but wildly, maliciously wrong information about those three competencies.

I have to assume they do this about everything else as well.

Sadly, the fourth competency, guitar building, the thing that brings me the most joy, has been getting the media BS treatment as well recently, as the monthly op-ed pieces in the WSJ with the CEO of Gibson will show. Sad. I would have liked at least one of my passions to stay out of the arena of politics and the media, but ol' Henry just couldn't help himself.

Medicine Man

Washington knew how to quit while ahead. I bet he was outstanding at cards.

Bill H

This CIA report makes the reporting from CBS News, highly sympathetic to the "freedom fighters," all the more ridiculous. Heroic uprising devoted to justice, freedom and democracy.


Quite apart from the conflicting assessments of who has now, and will in the future, dominant influence in a conjectural post-Assad Syria, I personally find it hard to credit anything being propogated by the CIA. My rough tally of its public "outreach' statements, and revelations about what it did not publicize, is that roughly 1/3 are outright lies, 1/3 distortions, and 1/3 have some semblance to the truth.

Somewhat off topic, I am less concerned about whether (someone at) the CIA is more or less right about the MB or al-Qaeda in Syria than I am about the CIA's continued use of the NYC Police Department as its operational arm for carrying out massive domestic surveillance of Muslims up and down the East Coast with forays as far west as New Orleans. Even the FBI doesn't know about them. Despite these revalations, these manifestly illegal activities continue. As for the notion that the eating habits of some Arab family in Teanek is critical to warding off the secreting of a nuclear device in Bloomberg's executive rest room, I admit to deriving no serenity from that supposedly reassuring mission undertaken in my behalf.

Al Spafford

Same "BS detector" needs to be turned on when reading the "news"!

The Twisted Genius

Dan Murphy has an interesting take on this situation. He surmises that what the CIA does know about the Syrian rebels does not fit into the Administration's preferred narrative. They know the rebels are heavily infiltrated/controlled by the Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood and will dictate the terms of a post Assad Syria. They would rather say feign ignorance than admit this.


Early on in the conflict, there were elements of the rebel opposition that were primarily secular and sought a negotiated peace. Those elements would not stand a chance in a post Assad Syria. A similar situation occurred during the early days of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The first to fill the vacuum were members of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. They were not all fuzzy headed academics. These people really were the best and the brightest and true entrepreneurs. However, they didn't last long. They were quickly shunted aside by the politically astute kleptocrats. The rest was history.

I would think we would have learned that "anyone but Assad" is not a sufficient strategy. Our similar "anyone but Saddam" strategy in Iraq worked out so well. I attended several CENTCOM strategy planning meetings in the late 90s where this, astonishingly, was the sole professed goal.



Come now, don't be petulant. I have far more reason to dislike them than you. pl


Col, what is a good strategy for the US in Syria? All I see are bad options, no real friends worth fighting for there and no dog in the fight. Is our best strategy to sit, watch and wait til there is one left standing?



Yes. pl



DM is an old friend who decided for some reason not to post here any longer. Too bad. pl

Al Spafford

Another Chalabi in the making? This time for Syria?

David Habakkuk


The myopia apparent in the ways in which people in Washington – and London – view events in Syria is simply a continuation of the myopia with which they viewed events in the former Soviet Union in the 1990s. Nothing changes.

The myopia about what was happening in Russia was however slightly dented by the revelations that followed the breaking of the scandal about money-laundering through the Bank of New York in 1999. From one of the articles in which Timothy O’Brien of the NYT broke the story:

“For Russia, the money-laundering investigation at the Bank of New York has further laid bare the real dynamic that has driven events in the country in the last few years.

“ ‘The whole political struggle in Russia between 1992 and 1998 was between different groups trying to take control of state assets,’ said Nodari A. Simonia, deputy director of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, a Moscow research organization. ‘It was not about democracy or market reform.’”

(See http://partners.nytimes.com/library/world/global/090599biz-russia-bank.html )

Interestingly, recent research on mafias suggests that, as a result of their obsession with driving a stake through the heart of – actually essentially dead – communist system, Western free market economists advocated policies peculiarly well-adapted to encourage the emergence of a criminalised economy.

In the introduction to his 2011 study ‘Mafias on the Move’, the Italian scholar Federico Varese – now professor of criminology at Oxford – writes:

“A relatively recent body of research has shown that mafias emerge in societies that are undergoing a sudden and late transition to a market economy, lack a legal structure that reliably protects property rights or settles business disputes, and have a supply of people trained in violence who become unemployed at this specific juncture.”

There was actually a kind of low-level civil war in the U.S. Moscow Embassy at the time, with the political people making unavailing efforts to reign in the millenarian fanatics from the Treasury Department. Fascinating interviews by three of the political officers – E. Wayne Merry, Thomas Graham and Donald Jensen – were recorded for the 2000 PBS programme ‘Return of the Czar’.

(See http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/yeltsin/interviews/ )


http://www.thenation.com/article/harvard-boys-do-russia?page=0,0# It seems the Russian kleptocrats had some help.

David Habakkuk


Indeed – Janine Wedel’s account of the role of Harvard in the wrecking of the Russian economy is seminal.

Subsequently, she concluded that Western societies were increasingly displaying some of the same pathologies she had encountered in her work on the communist and post-communist world.

She now writes a column on the Huffington Post site, entitled Shadow Elite, which is both highly informative, and sometimes very funny.

On Richard Perle:

“Perle acted much like a Russian blatmeister--a master manipulator at using informal contacts and privately-hoarded information to advance the cause of the core and its associates. Standard procedures were bypassed or circumvented and quite often disdained, not unlike the dynamics I saw in eastern Europe, where it was a given that the real power resided somewhere in the neverland of state and private.”

On Larry Summers discussing the financial crisis:

“To my ear, Summers himself sounded not unlike communist authorities who deflected blame by simply denying having agency or authority, and striking a disinterested, distancing voice. By the way, in that PBS interview, he said the word ‘mistakes’, ‘error’ or ‘failure’ five times, with his finger pointed not at himself but squarely at Wall Street and corporate America. Arrogance and ignorance, meet evasion and avoidance.”

(See http://janinewedel.info/pubs.html )

Babak Makkinejad

The best strategy is a US-Iran conference at the highest state levels for the disposition of the Middle East.

Once major agreement on main issues have been reached, the conference could be expanded to include other states.

The area between Hindukush to the Mediterranean Sea has to be stablized lest it sprials out of control.

David Habakkuk


There are some incisive remarks in praise of Wedel’s work by E. Wayne Merry – to whom I referred in my earlier comment, in a symposium on follow up to the ‘Harvard Boys do Russia’ article she published in 2000, under the title ‘Tainted Transactions’. They are of particular interest because Merry draws on his experience as Chief Political Officer in the U.S. Moscow Embassy in 1991-4 to provide a highly illuminating analysis of the kind of neo-Bolshevik thinking which has underpinned recent American and British foreign policy:

“Janine Wedel makes a major contribution to the ‘Who lost Russia?’ debate by pulling back some of the protective covering on how the U.S. government sought to impose its economic ideology on post-Soviet Russia. During my years in the political section of the U.S. embassy in Moscow (1991–94), I also saw close up the basic flaws of our Russia policy. First came ignorance, as purveyors of ‘the Washington consensus’ unleashed their dogma on a country they did not understand and, worse, did not wish to understand. Then came arrogance on many levels: the belief that ‘the Washington consensus’ embodied ultimate economic truth (its manifest failures notwithstanding); responding to any doubts about the dogma with accusations of heresy and disloyalty; the view of Russia as an economic wasteland (how it had managed to build all those missiles conveniently ignored) and as a laboratory to refine economic theory (heedless of the banners carried on the streets of Moscow by some of the laboratory animals demanding ‘No More Experiments’).

“Next came authoritarianism, as Washington encouraged a willing group of Russian ‘reformers’ to implement our policies by presidential decree rather than face the compromises of the legislative process, and to create extra-constitutional and clandestine structures of administration to avoid parliamentary oversight or media exposure.

“Lastly came hypocrisy, as Washington officials claimed to be ‘shocked, shocked’ when the government-sanctioned corruption and theft of public property in Russia could no longer be hidden. They then piously demanded that Russian governance be all the things the Treasury and IMF had insured it would not be: honest, accountable, transparent, law-based, public-spirited.

“Thanks are due to Dr. Wedel for her efforts to document this failed policy process but, sadly, she has so far seen only the tip of the iceberg—what remains ‘classified’ is much worse.”

(See http://michael-hudson.com/2000/07/tainted-transactions-an-exchange/ )

The Twisted Genius

David Habakkuk,

Thank you for pointing out those links, especially the Frontline show. I never saw that before and I know I'll enjoy it. I had a ringside seat to the events surrounding the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the early and mid 90s. This was accompanied by the expert commentary of several members of the old Soviet Academy of Sciences.

Medicine Man

He had a row with Tyler as I recall.


So when will Iran propose this idea?

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