Just over a year after Trump's air-strikes on an Assad regime airbase in response to the Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack, we've witnessed a repeat of this episode—although this time the air-strikes were on wider targets, and carried out in conjunction with British and French forces. In response to last week's chemical attack on Douma in Syria's besieged Eastern Ghouta enclave, missiles and warplanes from the USS Donald Cook in the eastern Mediterranean carried out the first Western strikes on targets around the Damascus area. The following targets are reported to have been hit: the Damascus Scientific Research Center, said to be linked to production of chemical and biological weapons; another purported chemical weapons lab in Barzeh; a chemical weapons storage facility west of Homs; and headquarters of various elite military units. Iranian forces were apparently also targeted, with a base used by the Republican Guard struck. However, this military action looks like it will be no more sustained than that of last April. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis called it a "single shot," and is believed to have put the brakes on the scope "to keep this from escalating." He told reporters after the initial sorties: "Right now we have no additional attacks planned." There are no reports of any deaths in the air-strikes, and the few known casualties are all military personnel. (American Military News, Middle East Eye, Reuters, NYT, CNBC, BBC News)
A few hundred of the several hundreds of thousands trapped in besieged Eastern Ghouta have been allowed to evacuate to rebel-held Idlib governorate through a "humanitarian corridor" supposedly free of regime and Russian air-strikes. The Assad regime and its allies have now managed to split the enclave into three blocs, each surrounded and under bombardment. Aid groups warn that conditions in the enclave surpass even those seen during the 2016 Aleppo crisis. Ghouta's fall looks increasingly certain, leaving Idlib as the last rebel-held pocket of Syria. (Middle East Eye, NYT)
Note just how far things have deteriorated. The Washington Post on Dec. 25 ran a piece, "Kremlin trolls burned across the Internet as Washington debated options," citing FBI sources to the effect that one "Alice Donovan," who wrote several pieces for Counterpunch over the past year, was actually a "probable Russian troll." Although her initial e-mail to Counterpunch said "I'm a beginner freelance journalist," the implication is "she" (who knows?) was really part of a Kremlin-directed propaganda campaign. In a retort, "Go Ask Alice: the Curious Case of 'Alice Donovan'," Counterpunch editor Jeffrey St. Clair responds with one of the most refreshingly blatant displays of cynicism we've seen in a while:
Valerie Plame, an ex-spook beloved by the left, got in hot water when she tweeted an article by fellow ex-spook beloved by the (far) right Philip Giraldi with the lovely title "America's Jews Are Driving America's Wars." In the subsequent outrage, The American Conservative finally gave Giraldi the sack. But Giraldi's Judeophobia seems not to bother others. He continues to have Unz Review for a platform, and they love him over at the (conspiranoid-right) Veterans Today. And the Council for the National Interest predictably continues to embrace Giraldi as their executive director. This outfit, fronted by our nemesis Alison Weir, is just what its name sounds like—a beltway body of paleocon right-nationalists paranoid about Jewish subversion.
The Intercept no doubt pissed off a fair share of its own cultivated readership when it released a top-secret National Security Agency document revealing that Russian military intelligence indeed attempted to meddle in last November's US presidential election. Specifically, the Kremlin's Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) "executed a cyberattack on at least one US voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials" just days before the vote. It is to The Intercept's everlasting credit that they've released this But it is notable that their leading light Glenn Greenwald was not among the journalists involved. So far, his only response to the revelations is to tweet: "Journalism requires that document be published and reported. Rationality requires it be read skeptically." Funny, we don't recall any such skepticism from Greenwald about all the WikiLeaks claims he aggressively hyped—some of which seemed a little dubious.
My ongoing conflict with Gilad Atzmon, professional peddler of the most rank anti-Semitic garbage, appears to be experiencing a new irruption. It emerges that the rascal will be appearing April 30 at Theatre 80 Saint Marks, a venerated cultural institution right in my own neighborhood, Manhattan's East Village. Of course neighborhood residents and other righteous New York antifas have called a protest, just as we did when a Jew-hater was similarly hosted at the supposedly "progressive" Brooklyn Commons last year. You can read the Facebook announcement for the protest. Both Atzmon and Theatre 80 operator Lorcan Otway have gone online with their own responses—and both are riddled with inaccurate claims about Yours Truly. So I have no choice but to clear the air. Here goes...
An apparent chemical attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Shaykhun, Idlib governorate, left at least 80 dead April 4. After a bombing of the town, medics reported a "bloodless massacre," saying that they were treating people with symptoms including fainting, vomiting and foaming at the mouth. The hospital where gas-attack victims were being treated was itself bombed in the immediate aftermath, "bringing down rubble on top of medics as they worked," according to AFP. The opposition-run Health Department in Idlib has provided a list of the names of some 70 dead, with more still being identified. Some of the victims were brought across the border to Turkey for treatment, where several died. Turkish authorities say autopsies revealed evidence of exposure to sarin. The UN Security Council immediately called emergency talks on the attack. On April 4, US warships in the Mediterranean launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Shayrat air-base outside Homs, from where the Khan Shaykhun attack is said to have been launched. This constituted the first US attack on an Assad regime target throughout the course of the war (not counting last year's accident, immediately apologized for). (CNN, CNN, Jurist, BBC News, NYT, NPR)
OK, so now a Jewish youth with dual US-Israeli citizenship has been arrested by Israeli authorities in a joint operation with the FBI and charged with being behind "hundreds" of the recent bomb threats against Jewish community centers in the US and a other countries. The youth's lawyer is saying he suffers from a brain tumor that could affect his behavior. (Haaretz, NYT) This follows the arrest three weeks ago of an African American ex-journo of seeming left-wing sentiment who was said to have undertaken some of the threats to try to pin them on an ex who had spurned him. So, we must ask a second time: are the "false flag" theories reportedly floated by Trump (and certainly by some of his supporters) now vindicated?