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Among those who came from around the country to participate in the first-ever March for Science in Washington, D.C., was Julia Olson, executive director and chief legal counsel for Our Children's Trust, which has filed a landmark lawsuit on behalf of 21 young people all under the age of 21. The lawsuit argues the government has failed to take necessary action to curtail fossil fuel emissions. Democracy Now! spoke with Olson and some of her young clients.

AMY GOODMAN: Hundreds of thousands came out around the world. Thousands came down in the downpour to the National Mall. Among those who came from around the country to participate was Julia Olson, executive director and chief legal counsel for Our Children's Trust, which has filed a landmark lawsuit on behalf of 21 young people under the age of 21. The lawsuit alleges the government has failed to take necessary action to curtail fossil fuel emissions. I spoke to Olson and some of her young clients.
JULIA OLSON: I'm Julia Olson. I'm the executive director of Our Children's Trust. And I'm a lawyer representing 21 young people who filed a lawsuit against the government. They're now suing the Trump administration and the whole fossil fuel industry for violating their fundamental constitutional rights to a climate system that will protect them and their future.
AMY GOODMAN: So, but thisI remember, when we broadcast from Stanford University, you were suing the Obama administration.
JULIA OLSON: That's right. And now we have a new president and a new administration that is denying the facts of climate change. And so, it's a very interesting situation, where Obama admitted that these kids are facing a crisis, and now we have an administration working hand in hand with the industry to fight them.
AMY GOODMAN: And on what grounds are you suing?
JULIA OLSON: It's a case under the U.S. Constitution. This is about the Fifth Amendment and these young people's rights to life, liberty and property. It's also their right to have their public trust resources, like their atmosphere and their oceans, protected for them and for their kids and grandkids.
AMY GOODMAN: So, why don't you introduce us to some of the plaintiffs right here?
JULIA OLSON: Sure. I'd love to. So, over here
AMY GOODMAN: We're passing a sign that says, "President Trump & Fossil Fuel Industry... #YouthvGov See you in court."
JULIA OLSON: So, this is Hazel. She's one of our younger plaintiffs. And Hazel's from Eugene, Oregon.
AMY GOODMAN: Hazel, can you talk about why you're here today in your T-shirt in the pouring rain?
HAZEL VAN UMMERSEN: Well, I'm from Oregon. And in Oregon, all it does is rain. And it's extremely important for us young people to stand up to our government, where the adults are doing nothing to prevent climate change and to stop the harmful effects of ocean acidification and sea level rising.
AMY GOODMAN: How old are you?
HAZEL VAN UMMERSEN: I'm 12 years old.
AMY GOODMAN: How did you get involved with this lawsuit?
HAZEL VAN UMMERSEN: Well, I went to a camp with Julia Olson. I met Kelsey Juliana, and I became very inspired by her and many of the other plaintiffs that are now on this case. And I believed in this cause. We have hope, and we have the power to change.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think is getting in the way?
HAZEL VAN UMMERSEN: I think our president, currently, who I feel is one of the biggest climate deniers, with a pretty substantial control of power, and he does not believe that science is real. He thinks it's a hoax made up by the Chinese, but we have science to prove him wrong. We will see him in court, and we will win.
While this is good news [IMO], I fear when it gets up to the newly 'packed' Supreme Court, it may be overturned.


A Huge Defeat For Trump As Federal Judge Blocks His Order Cutting Funds To Sanctuary Cities

By Jason Easley on Tue, Apr 25th, 2017 at 5:34 pm
President Trump's first 100 days of failure continued as a federal judge has blocked his executive order that cuts funds to sanctuary cities.

[Image: Trump-pouting.png]

President Trump's first 100 days of failure continued as a federal judge has blocked his executive order that cuts funds to sanctuary cities.The AP reported, "A federal judge on Tuesday blocked a Trump administration order to withhold funding from communities that limit cooperation with U.S. immigration authorities, saying the president has no authority to attach new conditions to federal spending. U.S. District Judge William Orrick issued the temporary ruling in a lawsuit against the executive order targeting so-called sanctuary cities. The decision will stay in place while the lawsuit works its way through court."Stop me if you have heard this one before, but the judge blocked Trump's executive order because it was too broad and impacted grants and funding that are not related to immigration. The system of checks and balances in our federal government has once again done its job.The Trump administration can not rule unilaterally. They can't simply decide to gut all federal funding to sanctuary cities. Trump continues to fail as president because he doesn't understand that the Executive Branch is only one of three equal branches of government. Trump is having his dreams of an imperial presidency checked on a regular basis.It's fitting that as Trump approaches his 100th day in office, the president has been handed another crushing defeat.

Trump's Pentagon Bombs Caves Built by the CIA

[Image: 042017_KNPost1.png]After the United States dropped a GBU-43B, or Massive Ordnance Air Blast bombthe largest conventional bomb in its arsenalon a tunnel complex in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan, both WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden tweeted the complex was built by the CIA.
"Those tunnels the U.S is bombing in Afghanistan? They were built by the CIA," WikiLeaks tweeted on April 13.
"Those mujahedeen tunnel networks we're bombing in Afghanistan? We paid for them," Edward Snowden tweeted on the same day.
Both cited an article published by The New York Times on September 11, 2005, four years after the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington.
It is worth quoting the Times at length:
"The first time bin Laden had seen the Tora Bora caves, he had been a young mujahedeen fighter and a recent university graduate with a degree in civil engineering. It had been some 20 years before, during Washington's first Afghan war, the decade-long, C.I.A.-financed jihad of the 1980's against the Soviet occupation. Rising to more than 13,000 feet, 35 miles southwest of the provincial capital of Jalalabad, Tora Bora was a fortress of snow-capped peaks, steep valleys and fortified caves. Its miles of tunnels, bunkers and base camps, dug deeply into the steep rock walls, had been part of a C.I.A.-financed complex built for the mujahedeen. Bin Laden had flown in dozens of bulldozers and other pieces of heavy equipment from his father's construction empire, the Saudi Binladin Group, one of the most prosperous construction companies in Saudi Arabia and throughout the Persian Gulf. According to one frequently told story, bin Laden would drive one of the bulldozers himself across the precipitous mountain peaks, constructing defensive tunnels and storage depots." (Emphasis mine.)
This fact was not reported by the establishment media after the MOABMother of All Bombswas dropped in Nangarhar, allegedly on a faction of the Islamic State said to have occupied the tunnel and cave complex.
The Tora Bora caves, known locally as the Spīn Ghar cave complex, are also located in Nangarhar on the border with Pakistan.
According to reports, fighters from the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP) present at the complex when the MOAB was dropped were from Uzbekistan and Pakistan and included a group of Orakzais and other tribal fighters from the Tehrik Taleban Pakistan, veterans of Pakistan's tribal area insurgency who were forced across the border by the Pakistani military in the Zarb-e Azb offensive, launched in June 2015, according to Borhan Osman, Kate Clark, and Martine van Bijlert writing for the Afghanistan Analysts Network.
[Image: 042017_KNPost2.png]Nangarhar is in the same region as the Khost province. In 1986 during the CIA engineered war against the Soviets in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden and the Pakistani intelligence service ISI worked together to build a tunnel complex in Khost.
Matthew Forney of Time Magazine visited part of the Tora Bora cave complex. "For the first time, the infamous man-made caves of Tora Bora were thrown open," he wrote on December 11, 2001. "These weren't the five-star accommodations with internal hydroelectric power plants and brick-lined walls, areas to drive armored tanks and children's tricycles, and tunnels like capillaries that have captured the world's imagination. Such commodious quarters might exist higher in the White Mountains, but these were simply rough bunkers embedded deep into the mountain. They were remarkable nonetheless."
Noted Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid wrote in his book, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, bin Laden "helped build the Khost tunnel complex, which the CIA was funding as a major arms storage depot, training facility, and medical center for the Mujaheddin, deep under the mountains close to the Pakistan border. For the first time in Khost he set up his own training camp for Arab Afghans, who now increasingly saw this lanky, wealthy and charismatic Saudi as their leader."
The Guardian (11/13/2000), The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (9/23/2001), the Hindu (9/27/2001) and other newspapers reported the CIA had helped build the complex (see 1986: Bin Laden Works Indirectly with CIA).
Although the establishment media briefly touched on Osama bin Laden's connections to the CIA prior to and shortly after the 9/11 attack, since that time any serious mention of the connection has either found its way to the memory hole or is dismissed as a baseless conspiracy theory. The CIA insists it had no relationship with the Saudi later said to be assassinated on the orders of President Barack Obama (in fact, numerous news reports state bin Laden died of natural causes in December, 2001; this was reported by the Egyptian newspaper al-Wafd on December 26, 2001).
Omission, however, does not change historical fact. According to Michael Scheuer, head of the CIA's first bin Laden unit, between 1980 to 1989 about $600 million passed through Osama bin Laden's charity fronts. Most went to Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK), also known as Al-Kifah, and came primarily from rich donors in the Persian Gulf. The money was used to supply the Mujahideen fighting against the Soviets (See Robert Dreyfuss: Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam; The New Yorker also reported this on January 24, 2000 but the article has since disappeared from the internet). Elements of the Mujahideen eventually splintered into al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
As noted, MAK was also supported by Pakistani intelligence. "MAK [is] nurtured by Pakistan's state security services, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, the CIA's primary conduit for conducting the covert war against Moscow's occupation," NBC News reported on August 24, 1998, well before the official narrative on Osama bin Laden changed following 9/11. A United Press International article published on June 14, 2001 states that "bin Laden worked closely with Saudi, Pakistani, and US intelligence services to recruit mujaheddin from many Muslim countries."
"With the support of Pakistan's military dictator, General Zia-ul-Haq, the U.S. began recruiting and training both mujahideen fighters from the 3 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan and large numbers of mercenaries from other Islamic countries," writes Phil Gasper. "Estimates of how much money the U.S. government channeled to the Afghan rebels over the next decade vary, but most sources put the figure between $3 billion and $6 billion, or more. Whatever the exact amount, this was "the largest covert action program since World War II"much bigger, for example, than Washington's intervention in Central America at the same time, which received considerably more publicity."
How much of this money was spent on the Khost and the Nangarhar province cave and tunnel complexes is unknown.
The MOAB bombing in the Nangarhar province is not the first time the US targeted caves and tunnels in Afghanistan. In November, 2001 the CIA urged then President Bush to attack the caves of Tora Bora where it was said Osama bin Laden was hiding (although this is improbable considering the Saudi was deathly ill and passed away a few weeks later).
"A fierce debate was raging inside the upper reaches of the US government. The White House had received a guarantee from [Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf in November that the Pakistani army would cover the southern pass from the caves," writes Ron Suskind, author of The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11.
Musharraf and the Pakistanis, however, didn't live up to their end of the deal and al-Qaeda fighters were allowed to escape after a ceasefire arranged by US-allied warlord Haji Zaman Ghamsharik and Hazrat Ali. The US also made the escape possible by refusing Brigadier General James Mattis (currently Donald Trump's Secretary of Defense) to move around 4,000 troops into the Tora Bora area to seal off the caves. The New York Times later reported the Bush administration secretly concluded "that the refusal of Centcom to dispatch the marinesalong with their failure to commit US ground forces to Afghanistan generallywas the gravest error of the war."
The recent MOAB bombing and the earlier attack on Tora Bora reveal a distinct patternthe United States is in the business of covertly creating terrorist organizations and infrastructure and using these to perpetuate the war on terror and thus permitting a huge windfall realized by the military industrial complex and associated industries.
The Mother of All Bombs attack was not a strategic military move by the Pentagon. It is a political stunt designed to send a message to North Korea as tensions between the Hermit Kingdom and the United States reach an unprecedented level. It is also being used to shore up consensus for the use of large munitions. According to polls, the bombing is supported by nearly 70 percent of the American people.
According to former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the use of the weapon "an immense atrocity against the Afghan people."
Despite claims by the government the bomb killed 96 militants, we will never know for sure the extent of the damage or the real number of casualties. On Thursday, Defense Secretary James Mattis said during a trip to Israel he does not intend to discuss damage estimates. "For many years we have not been calculating the results of warfare by simply quantifying the number of enemy killed," Mattis said.
Journalists have not been allowed to access the area.

The Balkanization of Syria & Iraq: The Roadmap to US-Israeli Hegemony in the Middle East

[FONT=Open Sans][Image: 042317_BASPost1.png]We are often told that the invasion and occupation of Iraq and the war in Syria are disastrous failures of Western foreign policy. This article, however, argues that the architects of these wars were, and are, well aware of the destabilising consequences of their military efforts, and in fact, had always regarded the breakup of Iraq and Syria along sectarian lines as a desirable outcome. The millions of deaths and injuries resulting from these horrific wars, as well as the displacement of several more millions, then, are nothing more than "collateral damage" to achieve US-Israeli hegemony in the region. Viewed from this perspective, post-9/11 Western Middle East policy in retrospect is not a failure, but a success.
Part I: Partition, the only solution?
"Let's look at the reality on the ground in the Middle East: Iraq and Syria are effectively partitioned along sectarian lines. [...] In the current, chaotic moment, we see two post-imperial systems collapsing at once: the state boundaries drawn by the Versailles Treaty in 1919 to replace the Ottoman Empire [...], and a U.S.-led system that kept the region in a rough balance [which has been shattered] by America's failed intervention in Iraq. The line in the sand', as author James Barr called the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement to partition the region, is dissolving before our eyes, and the primary beneficiaries are ruthless Islamic terrorists."[1]-David Ignatius, member of the Council on Foreign Relations, in a 2014 article in the Washington Post
In early 2016, then US Secretary of State John Kerry claimed that "it may be too late to keep [Syria] as a whole," and that "I know that [partition] is the best way to try to end the war and it is the only alternative available to us if indeed we are going to have a political settlement."[2] Kerry coined the possible breaking up of Syria as "plan B," making it sound like the proposal was a desperate move to save the peace. Both the Syrian government and the armed opposition rejected federalism, let alone partition, however,[3] and even the Kurdish National Council strongly denounced the federalism declaration of its PYD rivals in the wake of Kerry's statement.[4] In addition, Maram Susli has pointed out that partitioning Syria would happen along sectarian lines instead on whether or not any particular state would be able to sustain its population. Therefore, as Syria's scare water resources, as well as its agriculture and oil, would end up in the hands of only a small percentage of the population, perpetual war between divided Syrians would be the likely result.[5] So, if breaking up Syria is a recipe for endless conflict between weakened enclaves and is opposed by almost all Syrians, why did Kerry brought it up? Was it just a hastily mistake in his otherwise brave humanitarian endeavour to save the Syrian populace, or are there other agendas at play?
[Image: 042317_BASPost2.png]Actually, Kerry's plan B sounds an awful lot like the plan A of various Anglo-American policy makers, strategists, think tanks and imperialist organs. Six months prior to Kerry's statement, the Brookings Institute argued for the establishment of Western-backed "safe zones" that would eventually develop into more or less autonomous areas.[6] In October 2015, the author of the Brookings article, Michael O'Hanlon, specified his vision of Syrian balkanisation in an op-ed for Reuters as follows:
[COLOR=#000000]"One largely Alawite (Assad's own sect) [sector], spread along the Mediterranean coast; another Kurdish, along the north and northeast corridors near the Turkish border; a third primarily Druse, in the southwest; a fourth largely made up of Sunni Muslims; and then a central zone of intermixed groups in the country's main population belt from Damascus to Aleppo."[7]
From 2013 onwards, variations to this plan have repeatedly been proposed by US establishment figures, such as Henry Kissinger for instance, who in June 2013 contended that he preferred "an outcome in which the various nationalities agree to co-exist together but in more or less autonomous regions." Interestingly, he also claimed that although he supported the expulsion of Assad, he prioritised balkanising Syria.[8] John Bolton, another neocon war-hawk, advocated for the creation of an American-backed Sunni state, which he admitted would be "unlikely to be a Jeffersonian democracy for many years," in an op-ed for the New York Times. This would counteract "the vision of the Russian-Iranian axis and its proxies," he asserted, because "their aim of restoring [the] Iraqi and Syrian governments to their former borders is a goal fundamentally contrary to American, Israeli and friendly Arab state interests."[9]
Most proponents of balkanisation imagine a threefold partition into an Alawitestan - perhaps ruled by Assad, but perhaps not - and Kurdistan aside from a Sunni heartland.[10] A year before ISIS declared its caliphate, Robin Wright, scholar at two Washington-based think tanks, even proposed a Sunni state crossing the Sykes-Picot border into Iraq:
"Syria has crumbled into three identifiable regions, each with its own flag and security forces. A different future is taking shape: a narrow statelet along a corridor from the south through Damascus, Homs and Hama to the northern Mediterranean coast controlled by the Assads' minority Alawite sect. In the north, a small Kurdistan, largely autonomous since mid-2012. The biggest chunk is the Sunni-dominated heartland. Syria's unraveling would set precedents for the region, beginning next door. Until now, Iraq resisted falling apart because of foreign pressure, regional fear of going it alone and oil wealth that bought loyalty, at least on paper. But Syria is now sucking Iraq into its maelstrom. [...] Over time, Iraq's Sunni minority - notably in western Anbar Province, site of anti-governments protests - may feel more commonality with eastern Syria's Sunni majority. Tribal ties and smuggling span the border. Together, they could form a de facto or formal Sunnistan."[11]
[Image: 042317_BASPost3.png]Barak Mendelsohn, in an article in Foreign Affairs - the quarterly of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) - bluntly called "Divide and conquer in Syria and Iraq: why the West should plan for a partition," also argued for a US-backed "independent Sunni state that would link Sunni-dominated territories on both sides of the border."[12] Although most of the time this dramatic measure is promoted as a solution to the only recent threat posed by ISIS, disclosed DIA documents reveal that the US and their allies desired a Sunnistan based on the principles of Salafi Islam at least since 2012, prior to ISIS's emergence. "If the situation unravels," the documents obtained by Judicial Watch show, "there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality [aka Islamic State] in Eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition [defined elsewhere in the document as the West, the Gulf countries and Turkey] want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime."[13]
For Iraq, division was of course already longer on the table. Plans to split the country into three parts have often been advocated by US officials since the 2003 invasion of the country. Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the CFR, was the first to officially propose a three-state solution - "Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the center and Shiites in the south" - in an op-ed for the New York Times a mere eight months after the US and Britain had entered Iraq.[14] Three years later he adjusted his plan to try to get all parties on board, reformulating it as "unity through autonomy" by way of decentralisation in an article published in the same newspaper, which he co-authored with Joe Biden, future Vice President under Obama and likewise a CFR member.[15] Also in 2006, retired Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Peters outlined a map comprising a divided Iraq that circulated widely in US and NATO military circles,[16] and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice provisioned the rise of a "new Middle East" out of the ashes of Israel's aggressive assault on Lebanon.[17] By 2007, amid rising sectarian violence, many Anglo-American strategists and think tanks that would years later push for the balkanisation of Syria began to argue that breaking up Iraq into three statelets would be the only viable solution to the conflict their governments had created. Indeed, in January 2007, John Bolton, one of the leading architects of the 2003 invasion, stated that the US had no strategic interests in keeping Iraq united,[18] and later that year, the Brookings Institute's Saban Center produced a paper calling for the "soft partition" of Iraq.[19] Interestingly, the report was co-authored by Michael O'Hanlon, who in 2015 was one of the first to call for the establishment of "safe zones" in Syria, which essentially is just a stepping stone towards partition.
[Image: 042317_BASPost4.png]Although officially the above-mentioned map for a "new Middle East" envisaged only the loss of Syria's upper northeastern part in favour of a "Free Kurdistan," leaked Wikileaks cables show that the US was as far back as 2006 already working on fomenting a civil war in the country. William Roebuck, at the time chargé d'affaires at the US embassy in Damascus, clearly expressed hostility towards the Syrian leadership, focusing an entire briefing assigned to both Washington and Tel Aviv to possible actions to destabilise the Assad government. Aside from highlighting Kurdish complaints, he advised his superiors to coordinate more closely with Egypt and Saudi Arabia to fan the flames of sectarian tensions between Sunni and Shia Muslims inside the country.[20]
Although plans to break up Iraq and Syria into microstates based on religion or ethnicity are always presented as humanitarian efforts, they completely ignore the fact that it is Western post-9/11 policy that created much of the problems to which NATO strategists and officials are now offering self-serving solutions. In Syria, balkanisation proponents suggest that their ideas are the only solution to a civil war that has naturally unfolded after the Syrian people rose up against the dictatorial and tyrannical Assad government in the wake of the "Arab Spring" protests in northern Africa. They fail to mention, however, that rather than a civil war, the six-year debacle is actually an artificial proxy war on Syria; a war that likely would not have happened - or at least would not have raged on for so many years and killed so many people - absent 1) the financial, logistical, ideological and armaments-support that Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and NATO provided from the very onset of the conflict to the armed insurgency, and 2) the influx of foreign jihadis from all around the world from 2012 onwards, who were allowed to cross the borders into Syria by the Turkish and Jordanian governments and were often trained by the CIA in advance.[21]
[Image: 042317_BASPost5.png]Furthermore, they completely disregard the popular support the government maintained throughout the whole conflict, which can almost completely be established by admissions in sources linked to Assad's adversaries. A Turkish poll from late 2011 showed that only 5% of the Syrian respondents supported violent protest, while 91% opposed it,[22] and a Qatar-sponsored enquiry from around the same time found that 55% of the Syrian population wanted Assad to stay.[23] In addition, an internal NATO study in 2013 estimated that 70% supported the president in contrast to a mere 10% support for the armed opposition.[24] After constitutional amendments following a referendum, the first real democratic and competitive presidential elections in decades were held in 2014. Although Western media were quick to dismiss the credibility of the elections, the over 100 international observers present - coming from allied (e.g. Russia and Iran) as well as nonpartisan (e.g. Brazil, Venezuela and Uganda) countries around the world - issued a statement in which they declared that the elections were "free and fair" and were held "in a democratic environment, contrary to Western propaganda."[25] Assad won the elections against his two opponents with 88,7% of the vote, with a massive participation rate of 73,4%.[26] This means that a staggering 64% of the eligible voters chose for Assad to remain in power, which is more than double of the 26% of the eligible American voters that put Donald Trump into office. As Sunnis make up 75% of the population and Alawites only 11%, this completely shatters the false representation put forward by Western media and officials of the Syrian government's rule as a sectarian Alawite dictatorship suppressing a Sunni majority.
In Iraq, on the other hand, tensions between the Sunnis, Shias and Kurds had existed for several decades, although the image of a sectarian divided country prior to the war is to a large extent an American self-fulfilling prophecy as well.[27] The architects of the 2003 invasion were nonetheless well aware of the ethnic and religious tensions, however, and they clearly sought to exploit them. In 1996, David Wurmser, Richard Perle and Douglas Feith predicted the chaos that would follow an invasion not long after they published their Clean Break report, a neocon-Israeli policy plan that sought the removal of Saddam Hussein and the containment of Syria. Contrary to arguments of certain scholars, they believed that Iraq would be "ripped apart by the politics of warlords, tribes, clans, sects, and key families" because "underneath facades of unity enforced by state repression, [the country's] politics is defined primarily by tribalism, sectarianism, and gang/clan-like competition."[28] In addition, Carne Ross, a British diplomat who negotiated several UN Security Council resolutions on Iraq, admitted in retrospect that in the build-up to the Iraq war "we would frequently argue, when the US raised the subject, that regime change' was inadvisable, primarily on the grounds that Iraq would collapse into chaos."[29] The American intelligence community, too, knew the consequences of a potential invasion. A 2007 report published by the US Senate Intelligence Community revealed that many of the country's intelligence documents had predicted that violent sectarian divides would follow an invasion. Specifically, intelligence assessments that widely circulated within the Bush administration in January 2003, three months before the war, suggested that an "American invasion would bring about instability in Iraq that would be exploited by Iran and al Qaeda terrorists."[30]
Rather than trying to control the internal sectarian divisions, Washington actually even further exacerbated them during the occupation. In abolishing the Iraqi army (as well as large parts of the massive state sector), thereby making some 400.000 armed and embittered soldiers jobless, the US created a vacuum that was filled by a Sunni-dominated insurgency. To counteract that insurgency in the short term, the occupation started to back the larger Shia population and effectively gave them control over the central government. Shia leaders were soon running militias and death squads of their own, however, and due to Iran's influence with Iraq's Shia community, Washington began to support extremist Sunni jihadis, thus abetting the rise of al-Qaeda in Iraq, which would eventually morph into ISIS.
Part II: Divide and rule: the US-Israeli quest for a new regional order
"The Iraqi situation cannot be separated from the Palestinian issue. Our failure in dealing with the Iraqi situation means our failure in dealing with the Palestinian issue. [This war] will give them [the Israelis] the ability to completely surround the [Arab] resistance and will lead to the final solution; that is, a peace imposed by the Israelis, which is rejected by us all. And this could lead to the partition of Iraq in order for Israel to gain legitimacy in the region. When Israel would be surrounded by smaller nations, divided, Israel will gain then its legitimacy politically and socially. So when we are talking about the Iraqi situation, let us not forget our brothers in Palestine, and let us not forget the legitimate rights of the peoples in Syria and Lebanon."[31] -Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the Arab League two weeks before the 2003 Iraq war
The Israeli-American goal is "the drawing of a new map for the region. [Partitioning Lebanon, Syria and Iraq would leave Israel surrounded by] small tranquil states. I can assure you that the Saudi kingdom will also be divided, and the issue will reach to North African states. There will be small ethnic and confessional states. In other words, Israel will be the most important and strongest state in a region that has been partitioned into ethnic and confessional states that are in agreement with each other. This is the new Middle East."[32]
[Image: 042317_BASPost6.png]Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah in an interview with Seymour Hersh in 2007
The idea of balkanising the Middle East has deeper roots than the current era of imperialism under the guise of the fraudulent "war on terror." The carving up of the Arab world was brought up for the first time in NATO strategist circles by British-American historian Bernard Lewis. Lewis - a British military intelligence officer during the Second World War, advocate of the clash of civilisations theory, longtime supporter of the Israeli right and, you guessed it, member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) - wrote an article as far back as 1992 called "Rethinking the Middle East," published in the CFR's own Foreign Affairs. In it, he predicted the "lebanonisation" of the Middle East:
"Most of the states of the Middle East - Egypt is an obvious exception - are of recent and artificial construction [sic][33] and are vulnerable to ["lebanonisation"]. If the central power is sufficiently weakened, there is no real civil society to hold the polity together, no real sense of common national identity or overriding allegiance to the nation-state. The state then disintegrates - as happened in Lebanon - into a chaos of squabbling feuding, fighting sects, tribes, regions and parties."[34]
According to Lewis, American policy is mainly aimed at preventing adversarial regional hegemony (whether in the form of multilateral pan-Arabism or in the form of one strong regional power) that would establish monopolistic control over the Middle Eastern oil reserves. The US does not pursue this policy of "lebanonisation" in a classical imperial fashion, hints Lewis, but instead by invigorating Islamic fundamentalism, as religious opposition groups are the only ones that have at their disposal a network outside the control of the state.[35] Hence, just like Zbigniew Brzezinski would advocate for playing out the newly-created weak states in Central Asia and the Caucasus region and the ethnic minorities residing in them against each other in order to maintain American hegemony over Eurasia five years later,[36] Lewis laid out a model for American domination by divide and rule over the Arab world.
But there is another player involved, however, one that would benefit even greater from the disintegration of Syria and Iraq, who happen to be two of its main adversaries. The tactic of breaking up existing Arab states into small and inter-fighting weakened microstates was described in detail for the very first time not by an American or European strategist, but an Israeli one. Oded Yinon, a journalist with a past in the country's Foreign Ministry, published an article called "A strategy for Israel in the nineteen eighties" in the journal of the World Zionist Organisation in 1982, in which he argued that in order for his country to become an imperial regional power, it must affect the division of all existing Arab nations into microstates based on ethnicity or religion. According to Yinon:
"Lebanon's total dissolution into five provinces serves as a precedent for the entire Arab worldincluding Egypt, Syria, Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula and is already following that track.The dissolution of Syria and Iraq later on into ethnically or religiously unique areas such as in Lebanon, is Israel's primary target on the Eastern front in the long run, while the dissolution of the military power of those states serves as the primary short term target. Syria will fall apart, in accordance with its ethnic and religious structure, into several states such as in present day Lebanon, so that there will be a Shi'ite Alawi state along its coast, a Sunni state in the Aleppo area, another Sunni state in Damascus hostile to its northern neighbor, and the Druzes who will set up a state, maybe even in our Golan. [...] Iraq, rich in oil on the one hand and internally torn on the other, is guaranteed as a candidate for Israel's targets. Its dissolution is even more important for us than that of Syria. Iraq is stronger than Syria. In the short run it is Iraqi power which constitutes the greatest threat to Israel. [...] Every kind of inter-Arab confrontation will assist us in the short run and will shorten the way to the more important aim of breaking up Iraq into denominations as in Syria and in Lebanon. In Iraq, a division into provinces along ethnic/religious lines as in Syria during Ottoman times is possible. So, three (or more) states will exist around the three major cities: Basra, Baghdad and Mosul, and Shi'ite areas in the south will separate from the Sunni and Kurdish north. It is possible that the present Iranian-Iraqi confrontation [1980-1988] will deepen this polarization."[37] (emphasis added)
[Image: 042317_BASPost7.png]Ironically, according to Yinon, "this state of affairs will be the guarantee for peace and security in the area in the long run."[38] Of course, he means that weakened Arab enclaves in a state of perpetual warfare with one another will bring "peace and security" only to Israel. Interestingly, some analysts have pointed out that the area Yinon wanted balkanised roughly coincides with "Greater Israel," which, according to Theodor Herzl, extends all the way from the Brook of Egypt [i.e. the Nile] to the Euphrates."[39] Indeed, just as biblical references are often used in legitimising the colonisation of Palestine, Zionist mythology might one day strengthen Israel's imperial claims over the Arab world as well. This is not to say that Israel seeks to annex large parts of the Middle East, but rather that it wants to establish a new regional order in which the Zionist state asserts control over an ethnically and religiously diverse Arab world.
Noam Chomsky has called this the "ottomanisation" of the Middle East; that is, the recreation of the state of affairs that existed prior to the arrival of the European colonialists but with Israel replacing the Ottoman Empire as the dominant power exercising hegemony. Chomsky further noted that Israel's drive for an Ottoman-style imperial domination over the Arab world has been advocated by figures in the Israeli mainstream as well, such as Daniel Elazar, president of the Jerusalem Institute for Federal Studies, and Yoram Peri, former advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and European representative of the Labor Party. The former argued that ethno-religious communities, not states, are the natural form of organisation in the Middle East and suggested as an alternative to the present-day situation an Ottoman millet system, which was a system in which each ethno-religious group had its own internal administration but under Ottoman rule; while the latter observed that a "true revolution" was taking place, in which Israeli foreign policy is gradually replacing co-existence for hegemony, as the country is increasingly becoming committed to the destabilisation of the region. Rather than seeking recognition with the status quo, Peri advocated that Israel should use its military dominance to expand its borders and to create a "new reality," a "new order."[40]
It is remarkable that most major Middle East conflicts following the publication of the Yinon plan served this agenda. In the short run, before 9/11, the US-backed Muslim Brotherhood insurgency in Syria's Hama,[41] the Iran-Iraq war[42] and the First Gulf War[43] all weakened Ba'ath central governance or at least led to outrage and isolation from the international community, and in the long run, the post-9/11 Anglo-American invasion and occupation of Iraq and the NATO-Gulf-Turkey-orchestrated proxy war on Syria reinforced the minorities mentioned by Yinon and eventually brought partition into the picture.
Although a common-held view about the 2003 Iraq invasion is that it was all about oil, Israeli pressure played a pretty unacknowledged yet fundamental role as well. In their in depth article called "The Israel lobby and U.S. foreign policy," distinguished American professors John Maersheimer and Stephen Walt have shown that the central focus of American foreign policy lies not in its own interests but rather in its relationship with Israel. Writing at the height of the US occupation of Iraq in 2006, Maersheimer and Walt put forward a myriad of evidence that Israeli pressure in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks was absolutely crucial in the final push towards Washington's decision to invade Iraq.[44] British-Israeli journalist Jonathan Cook further corroborated this thesis in his eye-opening book Israel and the clash of civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the plan to remake the Middle East, published in 2008. When the US invaded Iraq, Cook argued, it broke with its traditional policy of rewarding and punishing strongmen and resorted instead to regime overthrow and direct occupation. This policy change, which predictably brought sectarian divide with it, was opposed by the oil industry as well as the US State Department, however, as both preferred the old tactic of replacing Saddam Hussein with another US handpicked dictator. Rather than the oil giants, Cook concluded, it was the Israel lobby that persuaded the neocons that this new policy of invasion and occupation would be beneficial not only to Israel, but to American interests, too.[45]
[Image: 042317_BASPost8.png]A full month prior to the invasion of Iraq, senior Israeli officers were already foreseeing a domino effect, with the fall of Saddam Hussein's Iraq followed by the demise of Israel's other enemies, from the PLO's Arafat to Hezbollah's Nasrallah, the ayatollah in Iran, Libya's Gaddafi and Syria's Assad.[46] Just after the US started military operations in March, Uzi Benziman wrote in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz that "after the war in Iraq, Israel will try to convince the US to direct its war on terror at Iran, Damascus and Beirut."[47] Once Baghdad fell in mid-April, Israeli officials, the Zionist lobby in the US and pro-Israel American officials started to put pressure on actions against Syria,[48] and since the outbreak of the war on Syria, many of them have voiced support for Assad's extralegal removal from office. In December 2016, Israel's right-wing defense minister, Avigdor Liberman, reiterated that the balkanisation of the Middle East would be vital to Israeli "national interests:"
"Many of the countries in the Middle East were established artificially, as a result of the Sykes-Picot Agreement and based on colonial considerations that did not take into account the pattern of inhabitance and the deep sectarian rifts within the respective societies. Thus, to genuinely solve the region's problems, borders will have to be altered, specifically in countries like Syria and Iraq. Boundaries need to be redrawn between Sunnis, Shia and other communities to diminish sectarian strife and to enable the emergence of states that will enjoy internal legitimacy. It is a mistake to think that these states can survive in their current borders."[49]
Taking all this into account, it might be easier to grasp why Ze'ev Schiff, the military correspondent of Ha'aretz, proclaimed just before Israel's 1982 Lebanon war that the best that can happen for Israeli interests in Iraq is its dissolution into three states;[50] or why American-born Israeli journalist Caroline Glick in 2007 postulated that Israel should wage a preemptive war against Damascus as a follow-up to Washington's invasion of Iraq in order to destroy Syria's central authority;"[51] or why a leaked 2012 e-mail forwarded by former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton revealed Israel's welcoming of a destructive ethnic standoff in the Middle East, because "the fall of the House of Assad could well ignite a sectarian war between Shiites and the majority Sunnis of the region drawing in Iran, which, in the view of Israeli commanders would not be a bad thing for Israel and its Western allies;"[52] or finally, why Efraim Inbar, an Israeli think tank director, recently expressed his belief that the destruction of ISIS would be a strategic mistake for his country, saying that "allowing bad guys to kill bad guys sounds very cynical, but it is useful and even moral to do so if it keeps the bad guys busy and less able to harm the good guys."[53]
Part III: Different president, same plan
"As the international community continues to search for ways to resolve Syria's civil war, this Perspective argues that recent developments in Syria and the region - including the cessation of hostilities that was sponsored by Russia, Iran, and Turkey - reinforce the prospects for a national ceasefire based upon agreed zones of control backed by external powers. [...] After nearly six years of humanitarian catastrophe and geopolitical upheaval from Syria, the prospects of the removal of the Assad regime and a near-term transition to the moderate opposition' are poorer than ever. But there is a chance for the new administration in Washington to make real progress on de-escalating the conflict and contributing to stability in Syria if it focuses on a realistic but achievable end-state: a decentralized Syria based on agreed zones of control recognized and supported by outside partners."[54] -RAND Corporation in its third proposal for a "peace plan" for Syria in February 2017
While Hillary Clinton was the pre-eminent candidate for war in the 2016 US presidential elections, Donald Trump campaigned on a more non-interventionist policy. Campaign-Trump spoke out against attacking the Syrian government many times, suggesting that American involvement could embroil his country into a global war with Russia. Although he said he would continue the war against ISIS, he expressed reservations about supporting the "moderate rebels" and also about ousting Assad, as he shared a mutual enemy with him.[55] On 30 March, following steady Syrian army military gains throughout the country, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced a dramatic u-turn in Washington's long-held policy of removing Assad, stating that "the long term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people."[56] Following Tillerson's remarks, a senior Trump administration official admitted that the policy change is "a measure of just realism, accepting the facts on the ground," adding that "Assad is never going to have sufficient force to reassert control over the whole country."[57] A week later, however, both Trump and Tillerson signalled they again sought Assad's expulsion.[58] The reason? Assad, in a most suicidal move one can think of, supposedly gassed his own people in an area of no strategic significance on the eve of peace talks that would most likely have consolidated his future.
While at first hand it looked like Trump's Middle East policy would have differed to some extent from that of his predecessor, it does not seem likely that he is going to put a halt to the agenda of balkanisation. To the contrary, a few days into office, Trump said he "will absolutely do safe zones" and reportedly requested the Pentagon and State Department to craft a plan within 90 days for setting them up.[59] Moreover, the temporarily frozen CIA funding of "moderate rebels" was restored in early April after a Western, Gulf and Turkey-backed new military alliance was set up, with al-Qaeda clone Ahrar al-Sham likely to play a dominate role.[60] Finally, the debate over "safe zones" coincides with the increased involvement of US troops and military assets into both Syria and Iraq,[61] which would in all likelihood further exacerbate sectarian tensions as the US keeps playing the divide and conquer-game by providing logistical support and funding to ethnic and religious minorities with whom it is aligned. Following the recent missile strikes on a Syrian army airbase near Homs, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster even advised Trump to sign off on a plan that would put 150.000 troops on the ground in Syria.[62]
All this suggests that Trump is not really in charge of US foreign policy. In addition to his unconditional support for Israel, a myriad of hawkish war-hungry generals occupy senior posts in the Trump administration. In his article "The president who loved generals," William Hartung has shown that Trump's foreign policy will in all probability be led by the military rather than by diplomats.[63] Indeed, investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed has observed that:
"the Trump regime is not operating outside the deep state, but mobilizing elements within it to dominate and strengthen it for a new mission. [It] is not acting to overturn the establishment, but to consolidate it against a perceived crisis over a wider transnational deep system [and] to save the deep state from a decline caused by the failures of successive American administrations. [...] It would be mistaken to assume that Trump's conflicts with the US intelligence community mean he is necessarily at odds with the military-industrial complex. On the contrary, his defense appointees and advisors are embedded across the military-industrial complex."[64]
So, while mainstream pundits opposed to the Trump administration - such as the New York Times(Thomas Friedman; Bilderberg attendee and member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and the Trilateral Commission) and the Guardian (Hamish de Bretton-Gordon)[65] - keep advocating for the breakup of Syria, Trump happily follows their advice. Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security advisor, even suggested a multinational occupation of Syria in a 2015 interview with Der Spiegel:
"The sad fact is that we have to put troops on the ground. We won't succeed against this enemy [ISIS] with air strikes alone. [...] We can learn some lessons from the Balkans. Strategically, I envision a break-up of the Middle East crisis area into sectors in the way we did back then, with certain nations taking responsibility for these sectors. [...] The United States could take one sector, Russia as well and the Europeans another one. The Arabs must be involved in that sort of military operation, as well, and must be part of every sector."[66]
[Image: 042317_BASPost9.png]The Trump administration, and the influential generals in it, are thus likely to follow orders from the Pentagon. Therefore, current US policy might be close to a strategy for partitioning Syria as laid out in a three-part series called A peace plan for Syria published by RAND corporation, a think tank closely aligned to the Pentagon. The first paper was initiated after Philip Gordon, senior fellow at the CFR and Bilderberg attendee, resigned as advisor to Obama and wrote an op-ed for Politico arguing for radical decentralisation in September 2015.[67] In the first RAND report, the authors, among them Gordon, claimed that establishing "safe zones" was "far better than the status quo and far more practical than any of the available alternatives;"[68] in the second piece, they presented a number of options, ranging from decentralisation to autonomy;[69] and in the last one, published in February 2017, they advised the new administration to enforce a balkanised Syria by establishing "control zones," even though by then the Syrian army had retaken Aleppo and had made other military and diplomatic gains that shattered RAND's previous plans.[70]
From their first publication onwards, RAND, just like Kissinger (who started advising Trump not long after his election), prioritised breaking up Syria over Assad's removal, and in their last article, the authors even acknowledged that "it is now virtually certain, and widely accepted, that Assad will remain in power for the foreseeable future."[71] Moreover, whereas they in 2015 envisioned the sovereign Syrian government's "control zone" to stretch only from the border area with Lebanon from Damascus through Homs to Hama to the Latakia and Tartus governorates along the Mediterranean coast, they were now forced to accept government control over the whole of Western Syria, including Aleppo and Palmyra but absent the area around Daraa in the south and Idlib and the Kurdish and Turkish controlled areas in the north. RAND did not recommend the US to leave the cleansing of the remaining pockets of the Western- and Gulf-backed terrorist insurgency to the Syrian government, however, the latter which has proven to be capable of doing just that with the help of the Russians, certainly if foreign countries would stop aiding and abetting the jihadis. Rather, the think tank proposed to carve out as much territory from sovereign Syria as possible, which they deemed possible because:
"In the west, the regime would be primarily focused on consolidating its rule, stamping out pockets of resistance, dealing with extremist threats from JFS [Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly Jabhat al-Nursah, aka al-Qaeda] in Idlib, and rebuilding areas devastated by six years of war. Russia and Iran, having committed to preserve the Assad regime but not to assist in efforts to reconquer the areas it does not currently control, would focus their assistance on reconstruction and defense, rather than continued offensive operations."[72]
[Image: 042317_BASPost10.png]RAND recognised that Idlib will likely fall to the government, but that does not mean that Turkey, the Gulf states, Israel and the US are going to let their proxies go down without a fight. Due to an agreement Turkey made with Russia, Turkish-supported armed groups, with their weapons, were allowed to leave for Idlib in the wake of east Aleppo's liberation from years of extremist occupation.[73] Indeed, thanks to the Western media's hypocritical outcry surrounding the retaking of Aleppo and their heroisation of the foreign-backed jihadis, thousands of al-Qaeda-linked fighters were allowed to be bussed out to rebel-held Idlib.[74] In addition, two days after the Khan Shaykhun chemical weapons attack in early April, the CIA restored logistical support and funding to the insurgents in northern Syria after a new military alliance of "rebel groups" was set up to "consolidate military control over Idlib province, the western part of Aleppo province and parts of Latakia province" under the auspices of the "Friends of Syria" coalition.[75]
According to a "Free Syrian Army" (FSA) source, Turkey is planning to install a unified rebel army to lead a second phase of Turkish operations in Syria which would focus on Idlib province.[76] In addition, RAND estimated that it is unlikely that Turkey will give up the territories it acquired under Operation Euphrates Shield, adding the possibility that Turkey will seek to further expand its "control zone" to include al-Bab (which it indeed captured from ISIS not long after the publication of RAND's report) and Manbij (currently still under Kurdish control). As Turkey is now training a "Free Syrian Police" to assist the FSA with "secondary operations," it does indeed look like Turkey is not going to leave Syria any time soon.[77] Regarding the Kurdish-Turkish rivalries in northern Syria, RAND foresaw a freezing into three zones of control - two Kurdish zones, separated by an Arab one controlled by the FSA and backed by Turkey. It concluded that "the United States could continue to support - but also restrain - both its Kurdish and Turkish partners," or in other words, play them out against each other.
In the south, RAND claimed that the opposition around Daraa, where the foreign-backed jihadi insurgency started in March 2011, is comprised of more moderate Western-backed groups. As the area does not pose a strategic risk to Damascus any longer, the authors postulated, the Syrian government might tolerate them in the context of a national ceasefire. In light of this, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in early April expressed his desire to establish a buffer zone against Syria, Iran and Hezbollah on Syria's border with Israel and Jordan.[78] This would undoubtedly further decrease the chances of Israel ever giving back the illegally occupied Golan Heights to Syria. As an American company linked to Dick Cheney has obtained the right to explore oil and natural gas in the Golan Heights from the Israeli government in 2013, this would benefit the US, too.[79]
Finally, ISIS-controlled areas in eastern Syria are to be carved out as well according to RAND. On the grounds that it would "antagonize most U.S. allies in the region" and that somehow the Syrian army, contrary to Washington's "moderate" proxies, would not be capable of preventing a return from ISIS, the authors desired that the US-supported Kurdish forces, along with their Arab auxiliaries, would outstrip and precede the Russian-backed Syrian government's effort to retake Raqqa. They recognised, however, that a Kurdish-controlled Raqqa would not be tolerated by Turkey and thus proposed that the Kurdish component of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) should leave the city once it is taken, leaving behind the Arab "liberators." Lastly, RAND called for a joint American-Russian effort to drive ISIS out of its last stronghold around Deir Ezzor, but given that Damascus already has a foothold there (and held onto it after the US bombed it, supposedly by accident, in September 2016), it acknowledged that the city is likely to fall back under the authority of the Syrian government. Just recently, the US deployed forces along the Syrian-Jordanian border, however, and could therefore nevertheless try to reach Deir Ezzor before the Syrian army following a potential incursion into Syrian territory.[80]
[Image: 042317_BASPost11.png]In this way, the Sunni-dominated heartland the Gulf countries, Turkey, Israel and NATO had long hoped to carve out of sovereign Syrian territory would come about after all. But crucial to that effort is the exclusion of the Syrian government from the operation to remove ISIS from Raqqa. Therefore, when government forces were making rapid gains east of Aleppo and southward alongside Lake Assad, the SDF, with ample support from the US, was able to cross the Euphrates river in March, thereby cutting off possible government advances towards Raqqa (see map). By the end of March, the SDF had also reached the strategically important Tabqa Dam, which sustains its reservoir Lake Assad, thereby gaining control over one of the country's main sources of water for agriculture and livestock.[81] This echoes concerns raised by Maram Susli, who has pointed out that the Kurdish controlled al-Hasakah governorate in northeastern Syria holds many of the country's agriculture and oil riches. Whereas the governorate's wealth was previously shared by all of Syria's 23 million inhabitants, federalism or partition will leave the recourses to only a fraction of the population.[82] The Syrian government might thus have consolidated control over the country's main population centres, less populated parts of the country, with resources that are badly needed to sustain those populous regions, might never return to their previous owners.
Meanwhile in Iraq, the years-long Anglo-American occupation, the subsequent rule by Shia-led governments, stronger autonomy grievances of the Kurds, the rise of sectarian militias and the emergence of al-Qaeda and ISIS have all contributed to further sectarian divide, as Iraqis are killing one another like never before. Now, other minorities aside from the Sunnis, Shias and Kurds are vowing for autonomy, too. In 2016, al-Monitor reported that Turkmens were calling for independence in the centre of Ninevah province, while Christians and Yazidis were opting for their own autonomous areas in the same province as well.[83] In March this year, this eventually resulted in the three minorities presenting a joint statement calling for three contiguous semi-autonomous regions in the country's north: Tal Afar for the Turkmens, Ninevah Plain for the Assyrian Christians and Sinjar province for the Yazidis.[84] It remains to be seen what will happen to Iraq after ISIS has vanished from the face of the earth, but the long process of gradual balkanisation seems almost irreversible today.
# # # #Bas Spliet, Newsbud Analyst & Author, is a bachelor's student in History and Arabic at the University of Ghent, Belgium. He is interested in geopolitics, focusing most of his time on getting a better understanding of wars in the Middle East. Mr. Spliet is proficient in English, Dutch and Arabic, and his analyses can be found at He can be reached at
[1] David Ignatius, "Piecing together the shattering Middle East," Washington Post, 17.06.2014,
[2] Patrick Wintour, "John Kerry says partition of Syria could be part of plan B' if peace talks fail,"Guardian, 23.02.2016,
[3] Sharif Nashashibi, "Is a federal Syria desirable or feasible?", Al-Jazeera, 17.03.2016,; "Syria government, opposition reject federal system: de Mistura," Press TV, 17.03.2016,
[4] Wladimir van Wilgenburg, "Kurdish National Council in Syria condemns federalism declaration by Kurdish rival," ARA News, 19.03.2016,
[5] Maram Susli, "Kerry's plan at balkanizing Syria," New Eastern Outlook, 29.03.2016,
[6] Michael O'Hanlon, "Deconstructing Syria: a new strategy for America's most hopeless war," The Brookings Institute, 30.06.2015,
[7] Michael O'Hanlon, "Syria's one hope may be as dim as Bosnia's once was," Reuters, 06.10.2015,
[8] Paul O'Neill, interview with Henry Kissinger, Ford School (interview, New York, 13.06.2013), 26m00 to 29m05,
[9] John Bolton, "To defeat ISIS, create a Sunni state," New York Times, 24.11.2015,
[10] E.g. James Stavridis, "It's time to seriously consider partitioning Syria," Foreign Policy, 09.03.2016,; James Dobbins, Philip Gordon and Jeffrey Martini, A Peace Plan for Syria (RAND Corporation, 2015),
[11] Robin Wright, "Imagining a remapped Middle East," New York Times, 28.09.2013,
[12] Barak Mendelsohn, "Divide and conquer in Syria and Iraq: why the West should plan for a partition," Foreign Affairs, 29.11.2015,
[13] Defence Intelligence Agency, "Pgs. 287-293 (291) JW v DOD and State 14-812," Judicial Watch, 18.05.2015,
[14] Leslie Gelb, "The three-state solution," New York Times, 25.11.2003,
[15] Joseph Biden and Leslie Gelb, "Unity through autonomy in Iraq," New York Times, 01.05.2006,
[16] Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, "Plans for redrawing the Middle East: the project of a new Middle East'," Global Research, 18.11.2006,
[17] Toby Harnden, "Death and despair amid US pursuit of new Middle East'," Telegraph, 30.07.2006,
[18] "French report: former U.N. envoy Bolton says U.S. has no strategic interest' in united Iraq,"International Herald Tribune, 29.01.2007, as cited in Jonathan Cook, Israel and the clash of civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the plan to remake the Middle East (London: Pluto Press, 2008), 138.
[19] Edward Joseph and Michael O'Hanlon, The case for soft partition in Iraq (Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institute, analysis paper no. 12, June 2007),
[20] William Roebuck, "Influencing the SARG in the end of 2006," 13.12.2006 (Wikileaks, Cable 06 Damascus 5399 a),
[21] Bas Spliet, "The proxy war on Syria," Scrutinised Minds, 03.01.2017,
[22] Mensur Akgün and Sabiha Senyücel Gündogar, The perception of Turkey in the Middle East 2011, transl. Jonathan Levack (Istanbul: TESEV Publications, 2011), 16.
[23] Jonathan Steele, "Most Syrians back President Assad, but you'd never know from Western media," Guardian, 17.01.2012,
[24] Poll: 70% of Syrians support Assad, NATO says," Before It's News, 13.06.2013,
[25] Anahita Mukherji, "Foreign delegation in Syria slams West, endorses elections," Times of India, 05.06.2014,
[26] Tim Anderson, The dirty war on Syria: Washington, regime change and resistance (Montréal: Global Research Publishers, 2016), 33-5.
[27] Sectarian identities indeed date back several centuries in present-day Iraq, but violence did not accompany them as a social constant throughout. The dominating Ba'ath Party was secular, and violently suppressed communitarian or ethnic extremism, as a result of which the social divisions reflected the levels of urbanisation, class differences, political power, tribal membership and national identity more so than sectarian affiliation. But American policy makers tended to see only the sectarian divisions between the Shias, Sunnis and Kurds, thus laying the groundwork for an "imagined community" that became true after the Anglo-American invasion and occupation: Nabil al-Tikriti, "US policy and the creation of a sectarian Iraq," Middle East Institute, 02.07.2008,
[28] Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, Coping with crumbling states: a Western and Israeli balance of power strategy for the Levant (report, December 1996), reprinted at
[29] "The full transcript of evidence given to the Butler inquiry," Independent, 15.12.2006,
[30] Walter Pincus and Karen DeYoung, "Analysts' warning of Iraq chaos detailed," Washington Post, 26.05.2006,
[31] "Arab League summit," C-SPAN, 01.03.2003,, 57m25 to 59m00.
[32] Seymour Hersh, "The redirection," New Yorker, 05.03.2007,
[33] Contrary to what is often asserted, Syria is an exception, too. The term Syria dates back to Roman times, and has been used to describe the area for thousands of years. If Syria is not a historical state, no state is. The Sykes-Picot agreement was indeed a colonial endeavour to divide spheres of influence between France and Britain, but if anything, it did not draw the borders of Syria too large, but rather too small, as historical Syria included Lebanon and Iskandaron, too. As I pointed out in part I, the sectarian divisions in Iraq prior to the 2003 invasion are to a large extent a self-fulfilling prophecy as well.
[34] Bernard Lewis, "Rethinking the Middle East," Foreign Affairs 71, no. 4 (1992): 116-7.
[35] Lewis, "Rethinking the Middle East," 107-16.
[36] Zbigniew Brzezinski, The grand chessboard: American primacy and its geostrategic imperatives(New York: Basic Books, 1997), 123-50.
[37] Oded Yinon, "A strategy for Israel in the nineteen eighties," Kivunim, translated by Israel Shahak (Massachusetts: Association of Arab-American University Graduates, 1982), paragraph 26 and 27.
[38] Yinon, "A strategy for Israel in the nineteen eighties," paragraph 22.
[39] Theodor Herzl, Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzl, vol. 2 (New York: Herzl Press, 1960), 711.
[40] Noam Chomsky, Fateful triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians (London: Pluto Press, 1999), 766-79.
[41] After years of sectarian attacks, the Brotherhood initiated a last final uprising in Hama around the time the Yinon plan was published, which at the same time marked its defeat as a real political force in Syria. The violent crackdown by the Syrian army, however, was met by international outrage. Just like with the events of Daraa in March 2011, which sparked the current crisis, the Islamist militants were backed by foreign countries, and in spite of the fact that the insurrection was initiated by a Brotherhood's ambush in which 70 soldiers were slaughtered, the events are mainly remembered as a government massacre: Tim Anderson, The dirty war on Syria: Washington, regime change and resistance (Montréal: Global Research Publishers, 2016), 15-6.
[42] Although the US provided logistical, intelligence and armaments-support to Iraq in the war, it publicly condemned Saddam Hussein's usage of chemical weapons (many ingredients of which were provide by the US) against Kurdish civilians and Iran, and from the First Gulf War onwards, it was used to ascribe the brutal character of Hussein's rule.
[43] Israel in fact pushed and lobbied the US both via the diplomatic and covert channels very hard to initiate an attack on Saddam Hussein. The Israelis even regarded the American response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait as moderate and wanted a harsher policy, to such an extent that Israeli President Chaim Herzog recommended that the Americans use nuclear weapons. See Harun Yahua, "Plan for Iraq invasion drawn up decades ago," Rense, 10.07.2004,
[44] John Maersheimer and Stephen Walt, "The Israel lobby and U.S. foreign policy," Middle East Policy 13, no. 3 (2006).
[45] Jonathan Cook, Israel and the clash of civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the plan to remake the Middle East (London: Pluto Press, 2008).
[46] Aluf Benn, "Background enthusiastic IDF awaits war in Iraq," Ha'aretz, 16.02.2003,
[47] Uzi Benziman, "Who would give the go-ahead?", Ha'aretz, 22.03.2003, as cited in Cook, Israel and the clash of civilisations, 45.
[48] Maersheimer and Walt, "The Israel lobby and U.S. foreign policy," 59-60.
[49] Avigdor Liberman, "Israel's national security in a turbulent Middle East," Defense News, 02.12.2016,
[50] Ze'ev Schiff, "the Israeli interest in the Iraq-Iran war," Ha'aretz, 02.06.1982, as cited in Chomsky,Fateful Triangle, 769.
[51] Caroline Glick, "Fighting the next war," Jerusalem Post, 19.04.2007, as cited in Cook, Israel and the clash of civilisations, 148.
[52] Wikileaks, "H: New intel Syria, Turkey, Israel, Iran. SID," Hillary Clinton email archive,
[53] Efraim Inbar, "The destruction of the Islamic State is a strategic mistake," BESA Center Perspectives, paper no. 352 (2016).
[54] James Dobbins, Philip Gordon and Jeffrey Martini, A peace plan for Syria III: agreed zones of control, decentralisation and international administration (RAND Corporation, 2017), 1,
[55] Tom McKay, "Here are 45 times Trump said attacking Syria was a bad idea and might start World War III," Mic, 07.04.2017,
[56] Tyler Durden, "McCain furious at Rex Tillerson for saying Assad can stay," Zero Hedge, 31.03.2017,
[57] "US changes its policy on Assad staying in power," New York Post, 31.03.2017,
[58] Jacob Pramuk, "Trump, Tillerson suggest Assad should be removed, in apparent reversal,"CNBC, 06.04.2017,
[59] Julia Edwards Ainsley and Matt Spetalnick, "Trump says he will order safe zones' for Syria,"Reuters, 25.01.2017,
[60] Mariya Petkova, "Syria's moderate rebels' to form a new alliance," al-Jazeera, 06.04.2017,
[61] Whitney Webb, "Safe zones as soft military occupation: Trump's plan for Syria, Iraq is taking shape," Mintpress News, 04.04.2017,
[62] Mike Cernovich, "H. R. McMaster manipulating intelligence reports to Trump, wants 150,000 ground soldiers in Syria," Medium, 09.04.2017,; "Report: US boots on the ground in Syria by June," Russia Insider, 09.04.2017,
[63] William Hartung, "The president who loved generals: Trump's foreign policy will be led by the military, not diplomats," Salon, 10.03.2017,
[64] Nafeez Ahmed, "How the Trump regime was manufactured by a war inside the deep state,"Insurgence Intelligence, 10.02.2017,
[65] Thomas Friedman, "President Trump's real-world Syria lesson," New York Times, 05.04.2017,[URL]

Reign of Idiots

Posted on Apr 30, 2017

By Chris Hedges
[Image: Ubu_Trump_590.jpg]
Mr. Fish / Truthdig
The idiots take over in the final days of crumbling civilizations. Idiot generals wage endless, unwinnable wars that bankrupt the nation. Idiot economists call for reducing taxes for the rich and cutting social service programs for the poor, and project economic growth on the basis of myth. Idiot industrialists poison the water, the soil and the air, slash jobs and depress wages. Idiot bankers gamble on self-created financial bubbles and impose crippling debt peonage on the citizens. Idiot journalists and public intellectuals pretend despotism is democracy. Idiot intelligence operatives orchestrate the overthrow of foreign governments to create lawless enclaves that give rise to enraged fanatics. Idiot professors, "experts" and "specialists" busy themselves with unintelligible jargon and arcane theory that buttresses the policies of the rulers. Idiot entertainers and producers create lurid spectacles of sex, gore and fantasy.
There is a familiar checklist for extinction. We are ticking off every item on it.
The idiots know only one word"more." They are unencumbered by common sense. They hoard wealth and resources until workers cannot make a living and the infrastructure collapses. They live in privileged compounds where they eat chocolate cake and order missile strikes. They see the state as a projection of their vanity. The Roman, Mayan, French, Habsburg, Ottoman, Romanov,Wilhelmine, Pahlavi and Soviet dynasties crumbled because the whims and obsessions of ruling idiots were law.
Donald Trump is the face of our collective idiocy. He is what lies behind the mask of our professed civility and rationalitya sputtering, narcissistic, bloodthirsty megalomaniac. He wields armies and fleets against the wretched of the earth, blithely ignores the catastrophic human misery caused by global warming, pillages on behalf of global oligarchs and at night sits slack-jawed in front of a television set before opening his "beautiful" Twitter account. He is our version of the Roman emperor Nero, who allocated vast state expenditures to attain magical powers, the Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang, who funded repeated expeditions to a mythical island of immortals to bring back the potion that would give him eternal life, and a decayed Russian royalty that sat around reading tarot cards and attending séances as their nation was decimated by war and revolution brewed in the streets.
This moment in history marks the end of a long, sad tale of greed and murder by the white races. It is inevitable that for the final show we vomited a grotesque figure like Trump. Europeans and Americans have spent five centuries conquering, plundering, exploiting and polluting the earth in the name of human progress. They used their technological superiority to create the most efficient killing machines on the planet, directed against anyone and anything, especially indigenous cultures, that stood in their way. They stole and hoarded the planet's wealth and resources. They believed that this orgy of blood and gold would never end, and they still believe it. They do not understand that the dark ethic of ceaseless capitalist and imperialist expansion is dooming the exploiters as well as the exploited. But even as we stand on the cusp of extinction we lack the intelligence and imagination to break free from our evolutionary past.
The more the warning signs are palpablerising temperatures, global financial meltdowns, mass human migrations, endless wars, poisoned ecosystems, rampant corruption among the ruling classthe more we turn to those who chant, either through idiocy or cynicism, the mantra that what worked in the past will work in the future, that progress is inevitable. Factual evidence, since it is an impediment to what we desire, is banished. The taxes of corporations and the rich, who have deindustrialized the country and turned many of our cities into wastelands, are cut, and regulations are slashed to bring back the supposed golden era of the 1950s for white American workers. Public lands are opened up to the oil and gas industry as rising carbon emissions doom our species. Declining crop yields stemming from heat waves and droughts are ignored. War is the principal business of the kleptocratic state.
Walter Benjamin wrote in 1940 amid the rise of European fascism and looming world war:
A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned towards the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe, which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.
Magical thinking is not limited to the beliefs and practices of pre-modern cultures. It defines the ideology of capitalism. Quotas and projected sales can always be met. Profits can always be raised. Growth is inevitable. The impossible is always possible. Human societies, if they bow before the dictates of the marketplace, will be ushered into capitalist paradise. It is only a question of having the right attitude and the right technique. When capitalism thrives, we are assured, we thrive. The merging of the self with the capitalist collective has robbed us of our agency, creativity, capacity for self-reflection and moral autonomy. We define our worth not by our independence or our character but by the material standards set by capitalismpersonal wealth, brands, status and career advancement. We are molded into a compliant and repressed collective. This mass conformity is characteristic of totalitarian and authoritarian states. It is the Disneyfication of America, the land of eternally happy thoughts and positive attitudes. And when magical thinking does not work, we are told, and often accept, that we are the problem. We must have more faith. We must envision what we want. We must try harder. The system is never to blame. We failed it. It did not fail us.
All of our systems of information, from self-help gurus and Hollywood to political monstrosities such as Trump, sell us this snake oil. We blind ourselves to impending collapse. Our retreat into self-delusion is a career opportunity for charlatans who tell us what we want to hear. The magical thinking they espouse is a form of infantilism. It discredits facts and realities that defy the glowing cant of slogans such as "Make America great again." Reality is banished for relentless and baseless optimism.Half the country may live in poverty, our civil liberties may be taken from us, militarized police may murder unarmed citizens in the streets and we may run the world's largest prison system and murderous war machine, but all these truths are studiously ignored. Trump embodies the essence of this decayed, intellectually bankrupt and immoral world. He is its natural expression. He is the king of the idiots. We are his victims.

In 19 states so far, laws have been proposed by conservative legislators that would crack down on peaceful protests[SUP]1[/SUP], infringing on our right to free speech, undermining democracy, and putting human lives at risk. Peaceful assembly is protected under the Constitution and these assaults on our First Amendment rights are nothing but scare tactics.
In North Dakota, where we protested with our allies against the Dakota Access Pipeline, a new bill would allow drivers to mow down protesters with their cars. If the driver's actions were "unintentional," the driver would not be held legally accountable for hitting protesters in the street.[SUP]2[/SUP]
A bill moving through the Minnesota legislature would let cities charge protesters with the cost of policing the protest. Protesters found liable for "unlawful assembly or public nuisance" could be sued for the cost of police response.[SUP]3[/SUP]
In North Carolina, a bill would create a new "economic terrorism" felony charge for any protester who caused $1,000 or more in economic damages and who was thought to be attempting to intimidate the government or the public.[SUP]4[/SUP]
These attempts to silence dissent should be huge red flags for anyone who values the First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly. A healthy democracy, speaking truth to power, and political expression, are values fundamental to our nation's identity from the start.
So we cannot let governments and corporations silence us. We must stop these unconstitutional measures now, and your state leaders need to hear from you. These bills are a threat to our democracy, a threat to our ability to enact change, and even a threat to human lives.

cartoon video of the first 100 days....

For a dramatized version of where Trump and Pence want to take the USA, watch The Handmaids Tale on HULU....:Hitler: It's good....very good...and very bleak...written in 1985 by a Canadian writer Margaret Atwood. It is a dystopian tale in a totalitarian theocracy which has overthrown the USA - it fits the current time like a glove. Give Trump and Pence a year or two and it could come to pass.....

Quote:The Handmaid's Tale is set in the Republic of Gilead, a theocratic military dictatorship formed within the borders of what was formerly the United States of America.
Beginning with a staged attack that kills the President and most of Congress, a Christian fundamentalist movement calling itself the "Sons of Jacob" launches a revolution and suspends the United States Constitution under the pretext of restoring order. They are quickly able to take away women's rights, largely attributed to financial records being stored electronically and labelled by gender. The new regime, the Republic of Gilead, moves quickly to consolidate its power and reorganize society along a new militarized, hierarchical regime of Old Testament-inspired social and religious fanaticism among its newly created social classes. In this society, human rights are severely limited and women's rights are even more curtailed; for example, women are forbidden to read.
The story is told in the first person by a woman called Offred (literally Of-Fred). The character is one of a class of women kept for reproductive purposes and known as "handmaids" by the ruling class in an era of declining births due to sterility from pollution and sexually transmitted diseases. Offred describes her life during her third assignment as a handmaid, in this case to Fred (referred to as "The Commander"). Interspersed in flashbacks are portions of her life from before and during the beginning of the revolution, when she finds she has lost all autonomy to her husband, through her failed attempt to escape with her husband and daughter to Canada, to her indoctrination into life as a handmaid. Offred describes the structure of Gilead's society, including the several different classes of women and their circumscribed lives in the new theocracy.
The Commander is a high-ranking official in Gilead. Although he is supposed to have contact with Offred only during "the ceremony", a ritual of sexual intercourse intended to result in conception and at which his wife is present, he begins an illegal and ambiguous relationship with her. He offers her hidden or contraband products, such as old (1970s) fashion magazines, cosmetics and clothes, takes her to a secret brothel run by the government, and furtively meets with her in his study, where he allows her to read, an activity otherwise prohibited for women. The Commander's wife, Serena Joy, also has secret interactions with Offred, arranging for her secretly to have sex with Nick, the Commander's driver, in an effort to get Offred pregnant. In exchange for Offred's cooperation, Serena Joy gives her news of her daughter, whom Offred has not seen since she and her family were captured trying to escape Gilead.
After Offred's initial meeting with Nick, they begin to rendezvous more frequently. Offred discovers she enjoys sex with Nick, despite her indoctrination and her memories of her husband. She shares potentially dangerous information about her past with him. Through another handmaid, Ofglen, Offred learns of the Mayday resistance, an underground network working to overthrow Gilead. Shortly after Ofglen's disappearance (later revealed as a suicide), the Commander's wife finds evidence of the relationship between Offred and the Commander. Offred contemplates suicide. As the novel concludes, she is being taken away by the secret police, the Eyes of God, known informally as "the Eyes", under orders from Nick. Before she is put in the large black van, Nick tells her that the men are part of the Mayday resistance and that Offred must trust him. Offred does not know if Nick is a member of the Mayday resistance or a government agent posing as one, and she does not know if going with the men will result in her escape or her capture. She enters the van with her future uncertain.
The novel concludes with a metafictional epilogue that explains that the events of the novel occurred shortly after the beginning of what is called "the Gilead Period". The epilogue is "a partial transcript of the proceedings of the Twelfth Symposium on Gileadean Studies" written in 2195. According to the symposium's "keynote speaker" Professor Pieixoto, he and colleague, Professor Knotly Wade, discovered Offred's story recorded onto cassette tapes. They transcribed the tapes, calling them collectively "the handmaid's tale". Through the tone and actions of the professionals in this final section of the book, the world of academia is highlighted and critiqued, and Pieixoto discusses his team's search for the characters named in the Tale, and the impossibility of proving the tapes' authenticity. Nevertheless, the epilogue implies that, following the collapse of the theocratic Republic of Gilead, a more equal society, though not the United States that previously existed, re-emerged with a restoration of full rights for women and freedom of religion.



Offred is the protagonist and narrator. She was labeled a "wanton woman" when Gilead was established because she had married a man who was divorced. All divorces were nullified by the new government, meaning her husband was now considered still married to his first wife, making Offred an adulteress. In trying to escape Gilead, she was separated from her husband and daughter. She is part of the first generation of Gilead's women, those who remember pre-Gilead times. Proven fertile, she is considered an important commodity and has been placed as a handmaid in the home of the Commander Fred and his wife Serena Joy, to bear a child for them (Serena Joy is believed to be infertile).[SUP][7][/SUP]
Offred is a slave name that describes her function: she is "of Fred", i.e. she belongs to Fred, her commander, and is considered a concubine. In the novel, Offred says that she is not a concubine, but a tool; a "two legged womb". "Offred" is also a pun on the word "offered", as in "offered as a sacrifice".[SUP][5][/SUP] It is implied that her birth name is June. The women in training to be handmaids whisper names across their beds at night. The names are "Alma. Janine. Dolores. Moira. June", and all are later accounted for except June. In addition, one of the Aunts tells the handmaids-in-training to stop "mooning and June-ing".[SUP][8][/SUP] Miner suggests that "June" is a pseudonym. As "Mayday" is the name of the Gilead resistance, June could be an invention by the protagonist. The Nunavut conference covered in the epilogue takes place in June.[SUP][9][/SUP]

The Commander

The Commander says that he is a sort of scientist and was previously involved in something similar to market research, pre-Gilead. Later, it is hypothesized, but not confirmed, that he might have been one of the architects of the Republic and its laws. Presumably, his first name is "Fred", though that, too, may be a pseudonym.
He engages in forbidden intellectual pursuits with Offred, such as playing Scrabble, and introduces her to a secret club that serves as a brothel for high-ranking officers. Offred learns that the Commander carried on a similar relationship with his previous handmaid and that she killed herself when his wife found out. In the epilogue the academics speculate that one of two figures, both instrumental in the establishment of Gilead, may have been Fred, based on his first name. It is strongly suggested that the Commander was a man named Frederick R. Waterford who was killed in a purge shortly after Offred was taken away, charged with harboring an enemy agent.

Serena Joy

Serena Joy is a former televangelist and the Commander's wife in the fundamentalist theocracy. The state took away her power and public recognition, and tries to hide her past as a television figure. Offred identifies her master's wife by recalling seeing her on TV when she was a little girl early on Saturday mornings while waiting for the cartoons to air. Believed to be sterile (although the suggestion is made that the Commander is sterile-Gileadean laws attribute sterility only to women), she is forced to accept that he has use of a handmaid. She resents having to take part in the monthly fertility ritual. She strikes a deal with Offred to arrange for her to have sex with Nick in order to become pregnant. According to Professor Pieixoto in the epilogue, "Serena Joy" or "Pam" are pseudonyms; the character's real name is implied to be Thelma.


Ofglen is a neighbour of Offred's and a fellow Handmaid. She is partnered with Offred to do the daily shopping. Handmaids are never alone and are expected to police each other's behaviour. Ofglen is a member of the Mayday resistance. In contrast to Offred, she is daring. She knocks out a Mayday spy who is to be tortured and killed in order to save him the pain of a violent death. Offred is told that when Ofglen vanishes, it is because she has committed suicide before the government can take her into custody due to her membership in the resistance, possibly to avoid giving away any information.
A new handmaid, also called Ofglen, takes Ofglen's place, and is assigned as Offred's shopping partner. She threatens Offred against any thought of resistance. She breaks protocol by telling her what happened to the first Ofglen.


Nick is the Commander's chauffeur, who lives above the garage. By Serena Joy's arrangement, he and Offred start a sexual relationship to increase her chance of getting pregnant. If she were unable to bear the Commander a child, she would be declared sterile and shipped to the ecological wastelands of the Colonies. Offred begins to develop feelings for him. Nick is an ambiguous character, and Offred does not know if he is a party loyalist or part of the resistance, though he identifies himself as the latter. The epilogue suggests that he really was part of the resistance, and aided Offred in escaping the Commander's house.


Moira has been a close friend of Offred's since college. A lesbian, she has resisted the homophobia of Gilead society. Moira is taken to be a Handmaid soon after Offred. She escapes by stealing an Aunt's pass and clothes. Offred later encounters her working as a prostitute in a party-run brothel. She had been caught and chose the brothel over being sent to the Colonies.


Luke was Offred's husband prior to the formation of Gilead. He had divorced his first wife to marry her. Under Gilead, all divorces were retroactively nullified, resulting in Offred being considered an adulteress and their daughter a bastard. Offred was forced to become a Handmaid and her daughter was given to a loyalist family. Since their attempt to escape to Canada, Offred has heard nothing of Luke.

Professor Pieixoto

Pieixoto is the "co-discoverer [with Professor Knotly Wade] of Offred's tapes". He talks in his presentation about "the 'Problems of Authentication in Reference to The Handmaid's Tale'".[SUP][7][/SUP]


The novel is set in an indeterminate future, speculated to be around the year 2005,[SUP][10][/SUP] with a fundamentalist theocracy ruling the territory of what had been the United States but is now the Republic of Gilead. Individuals are segregated by categories and dressed according to their social functions. The complex sumptuary laws (dress codes) play a key role in imposing social control within the new society and serve to distinguish people by sex, occupation, and caste.
The action takes place in the Harvard Square neighborhood of Cambridge, Massachusetts;[SUP][11][/SUP] Atwood studied at Radcliffe College, located in this area.


In Gilead, the bodies of women are politicized and controlled. The North American population is falling as more men and women become infertile (though in Gilead, legally, it is only women who can be the cause of infertility). Gilead's treatment of women is based upon a narrow, fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible, meaning that women are the property of and subordinate to their husband, father, or head of household. They are not allowed to do anything that would grant them any power independent of this system. They are not allowed to vote, hold a job, read, possess money, or own anything, among many other restrictions. A particular quote from The Handmaid's Tale sums this up: "The Republic of Gilead, said Aunt Lydia, knows no bounds. Gilead is within you" (HT 5.2). This describes that there is no way around the societal bounds of women in this new state of government. Handmaids, being not allowed to wed, are given two-year assignments with a commander, and lose their own name: they are called "Of [their Commander's first name]", such as the novel's heroine, known only as Offred. When a handmaid is reassigned, her name changes with her. Their original identities before the revolution are supressed, although while being reeducated as handmaids, they surreptitiously share their names with each other.
In this book, the government appears to be strong though "no one in Gilead seems to be a true believer in its revolution" (Beauchamp). The Commanders, portrayed via Commander Fred, do not agree with their own doctrines. The commander takes Offred at one point to a club in order to have sex with her in an informal setting apart from the Ceremony. The wives, portrayed via Serena Joy, former television evangelist, disobey the rules set forth by their commander husbands. Serena smokes black market cigarettes and expresses the forbidden idea that men may be infertile, and schemes to get Offred impregnated by her chauffeur.

Caste and class

African Americans, the main non-white ethnic group in this society, are called the Children of Ham. A state TV broadcast mentions they have been relocated en masse to "National Homelands" in the Midwest, which are suggestive of the Apartheid-era homelands set up by South Africa. Roman Catholics are only briefly mentioned: nuns who refuse conversion are considered "Unwomen" and banished to the Colonies due to their reluctance to marry and refusal/inability to bear children. Priests unwilling to convert are executed and hung from the Wall. Jews are called Sons of Jacob, also the name of the fundamentalist group that rules the Republic of Gilead. Offred observes that Jews refusing to convert are allowed to emigrate to Israel, and most choose to leave. However, in the Epilogue, Professor Pieixoto reveals that many of the emigrating Jews ended up being dumped into the sea while on the ships ostensibly tasked with transporting them to Israel, due to privatization of the "repatriation program" and capitalists' effort to maximize profits. Offred mentions that many Jews who chose to stay were caught secretly practicing Judaism and executed.

Gender and occupation

The sexes are strictly divided. Gilead's society values reproduction by white women most highly. Women are categorised "hierarchically according to class status and reproductive capacity" as well as "metonymically colour-coded according to their function and their labour" (Kauffman 232). The Commander expresses the prevailing opinion that women are considered intellectually and emotionally inferior to men.
Women are segregated by clothing, as are men. With rare exception, men wear military or paramilitary uniforms, which takes away their individualism as it does the women, but also gives them a sense of bravado and empowerment. All classes of men and women are defined by the colors they wear (as in Aldous Huxley's dystopian Brave New World), drawing on color symbolism and psychology. All lower-status individuals are regulated by this dress code. All non-persons are banished to the "Colonies" (usually forced-labor camps in which they clean up radioactive waste, becoming exposed and dying painful deaths as a result). Sterile, unmarried women are considered to be non-persons. Both men and women sent there wear grey dresses.


Six main categories of "legitimate" women make up mainstream society. Two chief categories of "illegitimate" women live outside of mainstream society:
Legitimate women
[Image: Old_Dutch.gif]

The wings that Handmaids wear are modeled on the Old Dutch Cleanser.[SUP][5][/SUP]

WivesThey are at the top social level permitted to women. They are married to the higher-ranking functionaries. Wives always wear blue dresses, suggesting traditional depictions of the Virgin Mary in historic Christian art. When a Commander dies, his Wife becomes a Widow and must dress in black.DaughtersThe natural or adopted children of the ruling class. They wear white until marriage, which is now pre-arranged. The narrator's daughter has been adopted by an infertile Wife and Commander.HandmaidsFertile women whose social function is to bear children for the Wives. They dress in a red habit that completely conceals their shape, plus red shoes and red gloves. They wear white wings around their heads to prevent their seeing or being seen except when standing directly in front of a person. Handmaids are produced by re-educating fertile women who have broken the gender and social laws. Needing fertile Handmaids, Gilead gradually increased the number of gender-crimes. The Republic of Gilead justifies use of the handmaids for procreation based on biblical stories: Jacob took his two wives' handmaids, Bilhah and Zilpah, to bed to bear him children, when the wives could not (Gen. 30:13), and Abraham took his wife's handmaid, Hagar (Gen. 16:16). Handmaids are generally assigned to Commanders, allowed to live in their houses, but remanded back to Aunts' facilities in the event a Commander is deployed in order to be guarded (and returned to the Commander's house upon his return from deployment). Handmaids who successfully bear children to term assist in raising them for a short time, and are then sent away to a new assignment, never to see the child they bore again. Their success as a Handmaid, however, means they will never be declared an "Unwoman" and sent to the Colonies, even if they never have another baby.AuntsThey train and monitor the Handmaids. They promote the role of Handmaid as an honorable and legitimate one, and a method by which women who have committed crimes can redeem themselves. They directly control and police women; serving as an Aunt is the only role for such unmarried, infertile, and often older women to have any autonomy. It allows them to avoid going to the colonies. Aunts dress in brown. They are the only class of women permitted to read. ("The Aunts are allowed to read and write." Vintage Books, p. 139. However, on p. 100 of the Vintage Books edition: "They played it (the Beatitudes) from a disc; the voice was a man's." In the Anchor Books edition: "They played it (the Beatitudes) from a tape, so not even an Aunt would be guilty of the sin of reading. The voice was a man's. (p.89.)")MarthasThey are older infertile women who have domestic skills and are compliant, making them suitable as servants. They dress in green smocks. The title of "Martha" is based on a story in Luke 10:3842, where Jesus visits Mary, sister of Lazarus and Martha; Mary listens to Jesus while Martha works at "all the preparations that had to be made".EconowivesWomen who have married relatively low-ranking men, not part of the elite. They are expected to perform all the female functions: domestic duties, companionship, and child-bearing. Their dress is multicoloured red, blue, and green to reflect these multiple roles.The division of labor among the women generates some resentment. Marthas, Wives and Econowives perceive Handmaids as promiscuous and are taught to scorn them. Offred mourns that the women of the various groups have lost their ability to empathize with each other. They are divided in their oppression.
Illegitimate women
UnwomenSterile women, the unmarried, some widows, feminists, lesbians, nuns, and politically dissident women: all women who are incapable of social integration within the Republic's strict gender divisions. Gilead exiles unwomen to "the Colonies", areas both of agricultural production and of deadly pollution. Joining them are those handmaids who fail to bear a child after three two-year assignments.JezebelsWomen forced to become prostitutes and entertainers. They are available only to the Commanders and to their guests. Offred portrays Jezebels as attractive and educated; they may be unsuitable as handmaids due to temperament. They have been sterilized, a surgery that is forbidden to other women. They operate in unofficial but state-sanctioned brothels, unknown to most women. Jezebels, whose title also comes from the Bible (note Queen Jezebel in the Books of Kings), dress in the remnants of sexualized costumes from "the time before", such as cheerleaders' costumes, school uniforms, and Playboy Bunny costumes. Jezebels can wear make-up, drink alcohol, and socialize with men, but are tightly controlled by the Aunts. When they pass their sexual prime and/or their looks fade, they are discarded, without any precision as to whether they are killed or sent to "the Colonies" in the novel.


Men are classified into four main categories:
Commanders of the FaithfulThe ruling class. Because of their status, they are entitled to establish a patriarchal household with a Wife, a Handmaid if necessary, Marthas (female servants) and Guardians. They have a duty to procreate, but many may be infertile, as a possible result of exposure to a biological agent in pre-Gilead times. They wear black to signify superiority. They are allowed cars.EyesThe secret police attempting to discover those violating the rules of Gilead.AngelsSoldiers who fight in the wars in order to expand and protect the country's borders. Angels may be permitted to marry.Guardians (of the Faith)Soldiers "used for routine policing and other menial functions". They are unsuitable for other work in the republic being "stupid or older or disabled or very young, apart from the ones that are Eyes incognito" (chapter 4). Young Guardians may be promoted to Angels when they come of age. They wear green uniforms.Men who engage in homosexuality or related acts are declared "Gender Traitors"; they are either hanged or sent to the "colonies" to die a slow death.


In this society, birth defects have become increasingly common.
There are two main categories of human children:
Unbabies, also known as "shredders"Babies born physically deformed or with some other birth defect. They do not last, but Offred does not know or want to know what happens to them. Pregnant Handmaids fear giving birth to a damaged child, or unbaby. Gilead forbids abortion and has done away with other testing to determine prenatal health of a fetus.KeepersBabies that are born alive with no defects.

The Ceremony

"The Ceremony" is a non-marital sexual act sanctioned for reproduction. The ritual requires the Handmaid to lie on her back between the legs of the Wife during the sex act as if they were one person. The Wife has to invite the Handmaid to share her power this way; many Wives consider this both humiliating and offensive. Offred describes the ceremony:
My red skirt is hitched up to my waist, though no higher. Below it the Commander is fucking. What he is fucking is the lower part of my body. I do not say making love, because this is not what he's doing. Copulating too would be inaccurate, because it would imply two people and only one is involved. Nor does rape cover it: nothing is going on here that I haven't signed up for.[SUP][12][/SUP]


In the novel's fictional fundamentalist society, sterile is an "outlawed" word.[SUP][13][/SUP] In this society, there is no such thing as a sterile man anymore. In this culture, women are either fruitful or barren, the latter of which is declared to be an "unwoman" and is sent to the colonies with the rest of the "unwomen" to do life-threatening work until their death, which is, on average, three years.
Atwood emphasises how changes in context affect behaviours and attitudes by repeating the phrase "Context is all" throughout the novel, establishing this precept as a motif.[SUP][14][/SUP] Playing the game of Scrabble with her Commander illustrates the key significance of changes in "context"; once "the game of old men and women", the game became forbidden for women to play and therefore "desirable".[SUP][15][/SUP] Through living in a morally rigid society, Offred has come to perceive the world differently from earlier. Offred expresses amazement at how "It has taken so little time to change our minds about things".[SUP][16][/SUP] Wearing revealing clothes and makeup had been part of her former life, but when she sees Japanese tourists dressed that way, she now feels the women are inappropriately dressed.[SUP][16][/SUP]
Offred can read but not translate the phrase "nolite te bastardes carborundorum" carved into the closet wall of her small bedroom; this mock-Latin aphorism signifies "Don't let the bastards grind you down".[SUP][17][/SUP] The significance of this phrase is intensified by the challenges the book has faced, creating a "Mise en abyme" as both the protagonist and the reader decipher subversive texts.

Genre classification

Further information: Science fiction, Social science fiction, and Speculative fiction
In interviews and essays Atwood has discussed generic classification of The Handmaid's Tale as "science fiction" or "speculative fiction", observing:
I like to make a distinction between science fiction proper and speculative fiction. For me, the science fiction label belongs on books with things in them that we can't yet do, such as going through a wormhole in space to another universe; and speculative fiction means a work that employs the means already to hand, such as DNA identification and credit cards, and that takes place on Planet Earth. But the terms are fluid.[SUP][3][/SUP]
Hugo-winning science fiction critic David Langford observed in a column: "The Handmaid's Tale won the very first Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1987. She's been trying to live this down ever since." He says:
Atwood prefers to say that she writes speculative fictiona term coined by SF author Robert A. Heinlein. As she told the Guardian, "Science fiction has monsters and spaceships; speculative fiction could really happen." She used a subtly different phrasing for New Scientist, "Oryx and Crake is not science fiction. It is fact within fiction. Science fiction is when you have rockets and chemicals." So it was very cruel of New Scientist to describe this interview in the contents list as: "Margaret Atwood explains why science is crucial to her science fiction." ... Play it again, Ms Atwoodthis time for the Book-of-the-Month Club: "Oryx and Crake is a speculative fiction, not a science fiction proper. It contains no intergalactic space travel, no teleportation, no Martians." On BBC1 Breakfast News the distinguished author explained that science fiction, as opposed to what she writes, is characterized by "talking squids in outer space".[SUP][4][/SUP]
In distinguishing between these genre labels science fiction and speculative fiction, Atwood acknowledges that others may use the terms interchangeably. But she notes her interest in this type of work to explore themes in ways that "realistic fiction" cannot do.[SUP][3][/SUP]

Historical context

Fitting with her claims that The Handmaid's Tale is a work of speculative fiction, not science fiction, Atwood's novel offers a satirical view of various social, political, and religious trends of 1980s United States. Further, Atwood questions what would happen if these trends, and especially "casually held attitudes about women" were taken to their logical end.[SUP][18][/SUP] Atwood continues to argue that all of the scenarios offered in The Handmaid's Tale have actually occurred in real lifein an interview she gave regarding Oryx and Crake, Atwood maintains that "As with The Handmaid's Tale, I didn't put in anything that we haven't already done, we're not already doing, we're seriously trying to do, coupled with trends that are already in progress... So all of those things are real, and therefore the amount of pure invention is close to nil."[SUP][19][/SUP] Atwood was also known to carry around newspaper clippings to her various interviews to support her fiction's basis in reality.[SUP][20][/SUP] Atwood has explained that The Handmaid's Tale is a response to those who claim the oppressive, totalitarian, and religious governments that have taken hold in other countries throughout the years "can't happen here"but in this work, she has tried to show how such a takeover might play out.[SUP][21][/SUP]
Atwood's inspiration for the Republic of Gilead came from her time studying early American Puritans while at Harvard, which she attended on a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship.[SUP][18][/SUP] Atwood argues that the modern view of the Puritansthat they came to America to flee religious persecution in England and set up a religiously tolerant societyis misleading, and that instead, these Puritan leaders wanted to establish a monolithic theocracy where religious dissent would not be accepted.[SUP][18][/SUP] Atwood also had a personal connection to the Puritans, and she dedicates the novel to her own ancestor Mary Webster, who was accused of witchcraft in Puritan New England but survived her hanging.[SUP][22][/SUP] Due to the religious nature of Gileadan society, Atwood clearly drew from the Bible for both the title of this novel as well as some of the specific traits and practices of this theocracy.[SUP][23][/SUP] In fact, Atwood has often argued that in order for a coup such as the one depicted in The Handmaid's Tale to occur, religion would have to be evoked:
... if you wanted to seize power in the US, abolish liberal democracy and set up a dictatorship, how would you go about it? What would be your cover story? It would not resemble any form of communism or socialism: those would be too unpopular... Nations never build apparently radical forms of government on foundations that aren't there already. Thus China replaced a state bureaucracy with a similar state bureaucracy under a different name, the USSR replaced the dreaded imperial secret police with an even more dreaded secret police, and so forth. The deep foundation of the US so went my thinking was not the comparatively recent 18th-century Enlightenment structures of the republic, with their talk of equality and their separation of church and state, but the heavy-handed theocracy of 17th-century Puritan New England, with its marked bias against women, which would need only the opportunity of a period of social chaos to reassert itself. Like any theocracy, this one would select a few passages from the Bible to justify its actions, and it would lean heavily towards the Old Testament, not towards the New.[SUP][24][/SUP]
In 1984, when Atwood began writing The Handmaid's Tale, women in the United States were experiencing a reduction in many of the social, political, and economic gains that they had made during the 1960s and 1970s. In her work "'Just a Backlash': Margaret Atwood, Feminism, and The Handmaid's Tale", Shirley Neuman outlines many of the attacks on women that occurred during the Reagan administration:
... women made up an increasing percentage of those in the lowest-paid occupations, and they made no gains or lost ground in the better-paid trades and professions. The number of elected and politically appointed women declined. One-third of all federal budget cuts under Reagan's presidency came from programs that served mainly women, even though these programs represented only 10 per cent of the federal budget. The average amount a divorced man paid in child support fell 25 per cent. Murders related to sexual assault and domestic violence increased by 160 per cent while the overall murder rate declined; meanwhile the federal government defeated bills to fund shelters for battered women, stalled already approved funding, and in 1981 closed down the Office of Domestic Violence it had opened only two years earlier. Pro-natalists bombed and set fire to abortion clinics and harassed their staff and patients; Medicaid ceased to fund legal abortions, effectively eliminating freedom of choice for most teenage girls and poor women; several states passed laws restricting not only legal abortion but even the provision of information about abortion. The debate about freedom of choice for women flipped over into court rulings about the rights and freedom of the fetus. The Equal Rights Amendment died.[SUP][20][/SUP]
The leaders of the New Right and Moral Majority of 1980s America preached against the feminist movement, arguing that feminists "encourage women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians", as explained by former minister Pat Robertson in a letter to his congregation.[SUP][25][/SUP] Women such as Phyllis Schlafly and Tammy Faye Messner built their careers preaching against feminism, telling women to "return home, to let their husbands provide, and to use their femininity and feminine wiles as the core of their success and fulfilment as women".[SUP][20][/SUP] Schlafly and Messner are often viewed as potential inspirations for the characters Aunt Lydia and/or Serena Joy.
Atwood also draws connections between the ways in which Gilead's leaders maintain their power and other examples of actual totalitarian governments. In her interviews, Atwood offers up Iran and Afghanistan as examples of religious theocracies forcing women out of the public sphere and into their homes, as in Gilead.[SUP][20][/SUP][SUP][18][/SUP] The "state-sanctioned murder of dissidents" was inspired by the Philippines, and the last General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party Nicolae Ceausescu's obsession with increasing the birth rate led to the strict policing of pregnant women and the outlawing of birth control and abortion.[SUP][20][/SUP] However, Atwood clearly explains that many of these deplorable acts were not just present in other cultures and countries, "but within Western society, and within the 'Christian' tradition itself".[SUP][24][/SUP]
The Republic of Gilead struggles with infertility, making Offred's services as a Handmaid vital to producing children and thus reproducing the society. Handmaids themselves are "untouchable", but their ability to signify status is equated to that of slaves or servants throughout history.[SUP][24][/SUP] Atwood connects their concerns with infertility to real-life problems our world faces, such as radiation, chemical pollution, and venereal disease (HIV/AIDS is specifically mentioned in the "Historical Notes" section at the end of the novel, which was a relatively new disease at the time of Atwood's writing whose long-term impact was likely still unknown). Atwood's strong stance on environmental issues and their negative consequences for our society has presented itself in other works such as her MaddAddam trilogy, and refers back to her growing up with biologists and her own scientific curiosity.[SUP][26][/SUP]

Critical reception

The Handmaid's Tale was well received by critics, helping to cement Atwood's status as a prominent writer of the 20th century. Not only was the book deemed well-written and compelling, but Atwood's work was notable for sparking intense debates both in and out of academia.[SUP][27][/SUP] Atwood maintains that the Republic of Gilead is only an extrapolation of trends already seen in the United States at the time of her writing, a view supported by other scholars studying The Handmaid's Tale.[SUP][28][/SUP] Indeed, many have placed The Handmaid's Tale in the same category of dystopian fiction as Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World,[SUP][21][/SUP] with the added feature of confronting the patriarchy, a categorization that Atwood has accepted and reiterated in many articles and interviews.[SUP][29][/SUP] Even today, many reviewers hold that Atwood's novel remains as foreboding and powerful as ever, largely because of its basis in historical fact.[SUP][30][/SUP][SUP][31][/SUP] Yet when her book was first published in 1985, not all reviewers were convinced of the "cautionary tale" Atwood presented. For example, Mary McCarthy's New York Times review argued that The Handmaid's Tale lacked the "surprised recognition" necessary for readers to see "our present selves in a distorting mirror, of what we may be turning into if current trends are allowed to continue".[SUP][32][/SUP]

Feminist reading

Much of the discussion around The Handmaid's Tale has centered on its categorization as feminist literature. Atwood does not see the Republic of Gilead as a purely feminist dystopia, as not all men have greater rights than women.[SUP][24][/SUP] Instead, this society presents a typical dictatorship: "shaped like a pyramid, with the powerful of both sexes at the apex, the men generally outranking the women at the same level; then descending levels of power and status with men and women in each, all the way down to the bottom, where the unmarried men must serve in the ranks before being awarded an Econowife".[SUP][24][/SUP] Additionally, Atwood has argued that while some of the observations that informed the content of The Handmaid's Tale may be feminist, her novel is not meant to say "one thing to one person" or serve as a political messageinstead, The Handmaid's Tale is "a study of power, and how it operates and how it deforms or shapes the people who are living within that kind of regime".[SUP][21][/SUP][SUP][29][/SUP] Some scholars have offered such a feminist interpretation, however, connecting Atwood's use of religious fundamentalism in the pages of The Handmaid's Tale to a condemnation of their presence in current American society.[SUP][33][/SUP][SUP][34][/SUP] Yet others have argued that The Handmaid's Tale critiques typical notions of feminism, as Atwood's novel appears to subvert the traditional "women helping women" ideals of the movement and turn toward the possibility of "the matriarchal network ... and a new form of misogyny: women's hatred of women".[SUP][35][/SUP] In a similar vein, Atwood's own work may suggest that "'excessive' feminism" was partially responsible for creating some of the negative attitude towards sex in the Republic of Gilead: in the novel, women fought against pornography's perceived oppression of women by burning racy magazines, and the "women's world" that many feminists fought for was eventually created, although still "policed by men".[SUP][32][/SUP]