Syria, Sarin and Oil

War drums beat for US/NATO intervention (air war) in Syria, supposedly to punish the Bashar al-Assad regime (the government) over the use of chemical weapons, blamed on it instead of rebel forces.

Were hundreds of Syrian civilians killed with chemical weapons in a government attack out of desperation, or by a surreptitious rebel attack as a provocation? Gwynne Dyer’s op-ed states the reality of the situation in Syria very clearly (link below).

My article though “old” is still useful to show what is theoretically possible as a minimally violent resolution of the Syrian Civil War that is based around the destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles (link below also).

But, such a resolution is not realistically possible because none of the numerous combatants nor their rich and powerful sponsors really care about the global public health, safety and security concerns regarding chemical weapons, nor the regional issues of establishing non-authoritarian (democratic or non-dictatorial) governments and regional peace. They each want power, absolutely.

The political power sought (or trying to be maintained) in Syria is that which can be exercised by wealth, and the richest form of wealth for buying power is materially tied to the earth as petroleum: fossil fuel economics.

Syria is a conflict between two combines:

— the Sunni Persian Gulf oil kingdoms and NATO capitalism, who support rebel forces that include al-Qaeda militias (can we call these Wahhabi militants?), and

— a loosely connected Shiite regional bloc of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, the Alawite centered Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, probably the sympathies (and more?) of the Iraqi Shiite dominated government, the full involvement of Iran, and the diplomatic (and perhaps other technical) support of Russia and China.

The control of fossil fuel resources is the major super-power or geo-political obsession of our time. Global warming and climate change be damned, it’s all about hydrocarbon-based chemical energy providing industrial-strength economic and military power, and that being turned to political advantage internationally, ultimately, I think, out of pure ego. Gorillas thump their chests as warnings and displays of power, we (in the form of our governing elites) do this.

The combines at war in Syria have rival schemes for piping Central Asian oil wealth:

— Iranian and Iraqi oil could be piped west through Syria to the Mediterranean, to feed (addict?) the hungry NATO market, and potentially northeast from Iran through a cooperative Afghanistan directly to China.

— A US-favored route for extracted Central Asian oil would be south (from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan) through Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Arabian Sea, where this oil would be loaded onto tankers to join the shipping traffic from the Arabian Peninsula.

— Another US-favored route involves its NATO partner Turkey: pipelines west from Central Asia across or around the Caspian Sea north of Iran, across Azerbaijan and Georgia, west across Turkey, and from there to Europe.

— Pipelines from Asiatic Russia could transport oil west, through Belarus and Ukraine (assuming cooperation) to Europe, or veer south to the Black Sea, and then be transferred to tankers which would have to pass through the Turkish-controlled choke point of the Bosphorus (the Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles strait together form the Turkish Straits). A pipeline from Caucasian Russia (east of Turkey) south through Georgia and Azerbaijan (assuming cooperation) or, further east, across the Caspian Sea could connect to pipelines radiating out of Iran.

For its deep-pocket foreign sponsors, the Syrian Civil War is a local and visible flash-point in their much larger and often quiet and discrete global oil chess game.

Gwynne Dyer: An appalling attack and an unwinnable war

Sarin In Syria
14 May 2013


The Volcano Behind Oakland

“Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.”
(Genesis 3:19)

“I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee.”
(Ezekiel 28:18)

“Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee.”
(text by Augustus M. Toplady, 1740-1778, music by Thomas Hastings, 1784-1872)

The Volcano Behind Oakland
12 August 2013

Have Fun and Be Kind.


My comments on Frank Rich’s (NYT columnist) article about accepting lack of privacy (as technologically and socially inevitable) and viewing Edward Snowden as unimportant (deluded rather than heroic), are included in an article by Swan’s editor Gilles d’Aymery (which includes a web link to Frank Rich’s article).

Blips #137 (by Gilles d’Aymery)
12 August 2013

Also in the August 12 issue of Swans is a letter (by Darrell Johnson) to the editor on the Snowden Affair, privacy, and government overreach beyond the 4th Amendment, which cites my views (favorably).

Darrell Johnson’s letter to the Swans editor on the Snowden Affair
12 August 2013

The earlier article of mine, which is cited in Blips #137 and was probably in Darrell Johnson’s mind, is:

Tony Judt, Edward Snowden and “The Excluded”
1 July 2013

Some of my comments regarding the Snowden Affair were among those I posted on my blog (and are cited in Blips #137).

The Damned Human Race (Still)
1 August 2013


Last night I read Tony Judt’s essay on Hannah Arendt (1), and it all became clear to me:

They were all “chance survivors of a deluge,” as she put it in a 1947 dedication to [Karl] Jaspers, and wherever they ended up, in New York, Paris, or Rome, they were constrained, like Camus’s Sisyphus, to push the boulder of memory and understanding up the thankless hill of public forgetting for the rest of their lives.

Today I read Judt’s book review of Camus’s last novel Le premier homme, first published in 1994.

It occurs to me that this sums up Judt’s work as well: Chance survivor of a deluge, constrained to push the boulder of memory and understanding up the thankless hill of public forgetting for the rest of his life.

That is what I detest in Rich’s article, his recommendation we just go along with it and “forget about it.” He is the self-satisfied voice of the thankless hill of public forgetting, the hypnosis serving enslavement. That is why Manning is being judicially buried and Snowden is being hunted for the same end, because they have made widely memorable that which authority wanted buried from public awareness and, now that it is exposed, submerged into public forgetting as quickly as possible.

1. Tony Judt, “Hannah Arendt and Evil,” 1995, first published in the New York Review of Books, also in the 2008 book of Judt essays, Reappraisals, Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century, (Penguin).


The Damned Human Race (Still)

“The man who is a pessimist before forty-eight knows too much; if he is an optimist after it, he knows too little.” — Mark Twain (in 1902) <JS>

Some time ago I reached the conclusion that the type of writing I and tens of thousands (millions?) of others have done on not-mainstream websites has absolutely no effect on the course of human events, beyond being ephemeral entertainment for people brainy enough to enjoy reading on occasion, and tolerant of the amorphous “leftist” orientation. This is only a sliver of humanity.

In general, egotism and greed will always overwhelm socialism and egalitarianism.

Despite the minority of positive individuals one can find in every new generation, I think our species as a whole is incapable of advancing its thinking widely enough and quickly enough to fundamentally change individual and social behavior, regardless of the consequences and external circumstances. Humanity will cling to its authoritarianism, sexism, biases and prejudices (religions), and its greed (as corruption and capitalism) even to the point of extinction, rather than change.

Regardless of circumstances, there is always an excuse for continuing to “get what you want,” and to “not think.” There is no doubt in my mind that humanity will frack every puddle of buried hydrocarbon gas and sludge, scoop out or burn through every coal seam, and pump out every pool of oil, as soon as it can do so profitably. We will build the biggest cars and truck-cars people can afford, and roll over every piece of ground we can with them, burning up those mined hydrocarbons and spewing the carbonaceous wastes into the atmosphere.

Also, those hydrocarbon fuels will power many many military forces, regular and irregular, to grab control over land and people, and hold onto it. Positive individuals may lessen the suffering of the people they touch, or add uplifting elements to culture as great artists and musicians have always done, but these positive acts will only temporarily relieve the suffering or gloom of individuals fortunate enough to experience them, and none of this will alter the overall trend of the species.

People believe what they want to believe, and they would rather die and destroy the planet than think and act differently.

To me, the great shared tragedy of Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden (and a number of others now in jail or otherwise hounded) is that their deeply humane sentiments and selfless and noble sacrifices are wasted on a feckless, lazy, willfully ignorant and self-absorbed people, the majority of whom are incapable of being appreciative. Wasted patriotism and wasted sacrifice, for a public most of whom have as little regard for maintaining constitutional rights and freedoms as does its political aristocracy. The anthem of that nation is:

“It don’t worry me. You may say that I ain’t free, but it don’t worry me.”


Excerpts from The Damned Human Race, Article V “The Lowest Animal” (1897?), which is included in the volume of sketches and short pieces by Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth: Uncensored Writings, edited by Bernard DeVoto:

Hypocrisy, envy, malice, cruelty, vengefulness, seduction, rape, robbery, swindling, arson, bigamy, adultery, and the oppression and humiliation of the poor and the helpless in all ways have been and still are more or less common among both the civilized and uncivilized peoples of the earth.

For many centuries “the common brotherhood of man” has been urged — on Sundays — and “patriotism” on Sundays and weekdays both. Yet patriotism contemplates the opposite of a common brotherhood.

Women’s equality with men has never been conceded by any people, ancient or modern, civilized or savage.

Indecency, vulgarity, obscenity — these are strictly confined to man; he invented them. Among the higher animals there is no trace of them. They hide nothing; they are not ashamed. Man, with his soiled mind, covers himself. He will not even enter a drawing room with his breast and back naked, so alive are he and his mates to indecent suggestion. Man is “The Animal that Laughs.” But so does the monkey, as Mr. Darwin pointed out; and so does the Australian bird that is called the laughing jackass. No — Man is the Animal that Blushes. He is the only one that does it — or has occasion to.

Man is the only animal that deals in that atrocity of atrocities, War. He is the only one that gathers his brethren about him and goes forth in cold blood and with calm pulse to exterminate his kind. He is the only animal that for sordid wages will march out, as the Hessians did in our Revolution, and as the boyish Prince Napoleon did in the Zulu war, and help to slaughter strangers of his own species who have done him no harm and with whom he has no quarrel.

Man is the only animal that robs his helpless fellow of his country — takes possession of it and drives him out of it or destroys him. Man has done this in all the ages. There is not an acre of ground on the globe that is in possession of its rightful owner, or that has not been taken away from owner after owner, cycle after cycle, by force and bloodshed.

Man is the Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion — several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself, and cuts his throat if his theology isn’t straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother’s path to happiness and heaven.

<JS> Mark Twain on the Damned Human Race, edited and with an Introduction by Janet Smith (1962).