It is so difficult these days to know the truth about news events. Regarding the events in Syria in the last couple of days, I can't help asking myself a few questions. Did President Assad need this? Highly unlikely. Did President Trump need something like this? Desperately. His presidency was beginning to look dead in the water. Does the US action seem likely to have taken more than a couple of days planning? Possibly. Isn't there also a remarkable parallel between the US action and Israeli action over the past fortnight making the whole thing seem less spur of the moment than it is being presented as? Suspicious. Does the whole thing sound similar to weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Eerily so. Is it interesting that the US response was to destroy the airfield where any international inspection into the truth of the matter would be likely to start investigation? Wouldn't they have wanted to see if there were signs there of chemical weapons? There seem to be no truly independent sources of verification of the conflicting stories either way. I don't like the look of it.

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Very ominous indeed.  The first question you posit David nails this.  Assad surely wants the Russian involvement in his country but has nothing to gain by giving the US an excuse to bomb at will and destroy the government. The media so quickly takes as truth that Assad used the chemical weapons and we have heard these gross lies before about weapons of mass destruction as you say. This particular action seems to have been made though in a way to minimise casualties of soldiers, to avoid civilian casualties and to avoid Russian casualties.  It may have been designed to give the impression Trump can be trusted in these 'clinical' strikes.  Now that Putin has withdrawn cooperation in identifying whose planes belong to which country it seems fighting between Russian and the US is virtually inevitable. In that sense this action could be all about positioning the US so that Russia can be blamed in the near future for causing a 'hot' war there.

It has also been suggested that the real target of the propaganda dimension was China. All this happened while the mini summit meeting with China was going on in Florida. The suggestion is that this was Trumps way of saying that the US is prepared to use force against, eg. North Korea. It seems unlikely, however, that China will actually be intimidated by this sort of thing.

Someone posted a meme on Facebook the morning after the raid. Against a gray background, a question was asked in white letters: "Is this our Reichstag Fire?" More than one of us is suspicious this was intended as a diversion against Congress's investigations into the question of ties to Russia within the Trump campaign. Nothing like a war to distract. And then there's the North Korea angle. I'm personally less concerned about how well the raids seem planned -- contingency plans are drawn up continually for any number of military scenarios, and no doubt the raid simply tweaked a contingency plan involving that particular air field, possibly by removing the chemical storage facilities as a target, a reconfiguring of missile nose cone guidance systems and internal maps that would take mere minutes to do. I share everyone's worry, however, about how rapidly and how seriously this can escalate, especially now that Russia has closed the radio communication channel betweeen their and American aircraft.

Thanks, Steve. Militarily, I think the Americans will be concerned that only about a third of their missiles got through and that the airfield in question appears already to be back in operation. The Russians will be concerned that a third of the missiles did get through - if there is another similar incident they will be looking for a better score next time. Neither side looks 100% effective.

In terms of propaganda, it does look like a diversion and a way of making Trump seem tough on Russia. It seems that even talking to Russians is regarded as a kind of treachery in Washington so it is difficult for Trump or his team members to survive with anything less than an anti-Russian stance.

For the ordinary person it is difficult to know what is really happening when there are flatly contradictory messages and no independent verification. We know from long experience that not everything Russia says is true and not everything the US says is a lie, but, generally speaking, I seem to notice that their fibs are of different kinds. American (and British) lies are mostly designed to keep the public on-side whereas Russian lies are mostly connected with some military objective. Now, of course, there is an overlap here, but it does produce a distinction of style. The West generates narratives with good guys and bad guys that will run well in the press. Russia is more concerned with disguising its deployments, though they are gradually becoming more ironic - (eg. today, on Boris Johnson cancelling his Russia visit the Russian statement is "Theatrics in lieu of argument").

I don't think that Russia has any intention of escalating. At the moment, in Syria, they are winning. They don't want that to change. The US is desperate to look relevant but is in a difficult position as between the Turks and the Kurds and in having little presence on the ground. This whole thing started, one imagines, as a result of US encouragement of rebel groups against Assad and it was probably thought in Washington that it would all be over as quickly as Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, but Russia had made it clear that they were not going to allow it. The US should have taken that more seriously. Given Russian and Iranian support it is difficult to see any group other than Assad's winning in the end unless the US decides on a whole scale invasion - but as that would put them directly against the Russian I can't see it. America might support the creation of a Kurdish homeland, in order to have Kurds as their main ally, but that will pit them against Turkey. Strategically, the US has a lot of fly-by-night "allies" who will only remain on-side as long as it suits them, whereas there is a sense that one knows who Russia's friends are and the bonds are much stronger.

Did you see the Bolivian chap at the UN?

Firing bombs at somebody seems to be a necessary rite of passage for US presidents - Reagan did it, Clinton did it, Bush, now Trump - it gets them established. At the same time, it does look as if Trump has already lost a good deal of control. The pressure that he has come under from the US establishment since taking office has been enormous. He has lost his closest associates and seems to be in danger of becoming a puppet. This shows, i think, that it is much more difficult to get a country to change direction than one might think. By this Syrian bombing he creates an image as a tough guy but actually seems to demonstrate that the forces in Washington against his original programme are just too strong for him.  There will probably be a sense of betrayal among some of his core supporters.

Looked at in spiritual-psychological terms this development is surely a form of projection - the tensions that cannot be handled within the US get projected out onto other countries - the "axis of evil" as Bush used to call them. The trouble is that the tensions within America are now such that it seems unable to live without some "villains" to fight who can function as the repository of all the badness that cannot be managed at home. If they did not have enemies outside, the country would be consumed with internal battles, as was starting to happen as soon as Trump took office. He has now learnt what his predecessors soon did, that the way to survive is to direct people's hatred elsewhere. I hope this does not lead to war in Korea - I'm going there in August.

Directing hatred is the essential element of a thriving western democracy.  This is the most cohesive state of capitalism. Trump won the election by very clever directing of hatred, he outsmarted all opposition. Racism, sexism, homophobia, religious intolerance, classism; this is where he feels at home. The enemies are ubiquitous and all powerful and all evil, at home, abroad.  This is the culture we westerners are also quite at home with, it has been normalised throughout our lives. Trump the exemplar.  This hatred seems more naked in the English speaking world and is certainly the model that the US, UK and Australia closely follow.

Western European colonialism was the first attempt by any empire for global dominance and expansionism and the baton got passed to the USA last century. Other world powers do not thrive on expansionism but may go there to survive.  If Putin faces Us forces directly he is highly likely to invade Estonia, Latvia or even dare to try Finland again for Baltic and north sea access. Similarly China is building new military capabilities on the nearby islands being created.

Travel to South Korea does seem more than adventurous at this time.  Many cities, Melbourne included, host facilities essential for any US first strike capability. Most people are unaware of such details.  If this does degenerate into open warfare I would prefer to find myself in a front seat; I prefer to not survive for any time in such circumstance.

"Directing hatred is the essential element of a thriving western democracy" - somber thought. However, there is some truth in it. To have a democracy there needs to be some degree of over-arching consensus and this is most easily attained by having an outside enemy (and, sometimes, an inside one too, that can be persecuted, eg. immigrants). Psychologically this connects with attitudes of forced optimism and self-righteousness which are exaggerations of positivity. Exaggeration marks and masks a hidden other side.

More beautiful children dead: BBC: "A huge car bomb has blasted a convoy of coaches carrying evacuees from besieged government-held towns in Syria"

So how is today's news going to be reported? Are we going to hear of how America should stop supporting people who blow up buses full of women and children? Are we going to hear how swift action by Russian troops prevented the incident from escalating? Is there going to be a special UN meeting condemning America and its allies in Syria? The car bomb that blew up the coach of pro-government refugees was, apparently, distributing crisps immediately before it exploded so it was surrounded by children. Is Mr Trump going to condemn this in the same terms as before - all those beautiful children destroyed? This attack, by the "rebels" as the West calls them and the "terrorists" as the Russians call them, seems to have actually targetted children especially, so surely it deserves the same or an even stronger response. Is America going to send cruise missiles against the groups responsible? Of course not. Why? Because it is those groups that the West is supporting and encouraging. War is awful. Hypocrisy makes it worse.

Have not joined this thread, but agree with the whole thrust of it. I feel deeply distrustful of the very stagey recent interventions in Syria and Afghanistan, that seem to be lapped up so uncritically by the BBC and others.

Government hypocrisy at home and abroad adds insult to terrible injury, but it also frightens me how eagerly the press seems to take each increasingly bizarre briefing and run with it. 



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Study Group.

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