Tuesday, May 24, 2016

I don't know therefore I am

This essay asks why so few Americans know or care about last week's American-led coalition attacks against the two ISIS capitals, Raqqa in Syria and Fallujah in Iraq.  The U.S. coalition, including Russia, Saudi Arabia, and now Kurds and Iraqi forces, had been relatively quiet for several weeks while the highly complex "peace talks" played out (see Applied Amnesia below).  During these weeks of relative quiet there were widespread media reports of impending attacks by the U.S. coalition against Raqqa and Fallujah.  The launching of those attacks early last week would seem, then, to be an important story, one that you would expect to find covered or at least mentioned throughout mainstream media.  That has not been the case.  Regardless of your view of the war, you have to wonder why some segments of the mainstream media are consistently not reporting these attacks, as if they were not happening.  

When the stories broke last Tuesday, the coverage showed a striking pattern.  The attacks were covered extensively on the Internet.  There were stories on the National Public Radio site (e.g. U.S.-Backed Forces Launch Two Major Offenses Against ISIS:  http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/05/25/479480583/u-s-backed-forces-launch-two-major-offensives-against-islamic-state), the Daily BeastBBC World News and many other siteshowever there was not one reference to the attacks on the three nightly TV network news programs, CBS, NBC and ABC.  [Update, 5/28: Five days into the ongoing battles, there has yet to be mention of them on the network news].  Someone seems to have given the networks the word: Do not direct public attention to the attacks on Raqqa and Fallujah.

Further amnesia regarding the attacks appears in the presidential race: there has been no reference to the coalition attacks from Trump, Sanders or Clinton.  

The result: As far as the American public's attention goes, the attacks are not happening.

Why is this lack of attention important to someone somewhere?  In both cities, Raqqa and Fallujah, there was fear that the battles to retake them would involve significant civilian casualties.  Maybe civilians are wounded and dying right now, in our name, while we read about everything else except their plight.  If that is not happening now, it will be soon.  We're going to sleep-walk our way into this war.  

Maybe it's just me- I prefer to be awake when being sold a war.

Postscript, 5/27:  Various sources continue to report on the attacks, e.g. CNN Politics posts photos of U.S. special-ops forces on the front lines near Raqqa (http://www.cnn.com/2016/05/26/politics/gallery/syria-special-ops/index.html).  On the other hand, the Los Angeles Times and New York Times, both usually on top of world events, have featured virtually no coverage of the attacks this week, in line with the TV networks.  Americans can access plenty of information, but if it's absent from the big opinion-making organs, it doesn't sink in.  Thus the American public's attention is not on these battles.  

Conspiracy theories are by nature hard to prove, even those, like mine, that are correct, but there is evidence for the two main contentions in this essay:

1.  There is little or no mainstream reporting on the attacks on Raqqa and Fallujah.

Test: Scroll through the internet looking for the stories.  Watch CBS, NBC or ABC news tonight, or check last night's programs online. Try the major papers (for the fourth day running, there is no coverage in the L.A. Times).  If the lack of reporting is not as I've described, let me know at doug.lasken@gmail.com.

2.  
Americans do not know that their country is leading major attacks on two foreign cities.

Test: Go up to anyone you know, or someone you just met, or the next person you see, and ask, "What's the latest on the U.S. coalition attacks on Raqqa and Fallujah?"  Let me know if you hear anything other than, "The what?"


Insert George Orwell quote here........

[Cheryl Lubin and I discuss foreign policy, and whatever else comes up, on her show, In Our Times- http://latalkradio.com/content/our-times- next Tuesday, 5/31 at 5:00pm, or download the podcast later]


Monday, May 02, 2016

Report from the California GOP convention (with updates)

Why is one major political party collapsing, and the other teetering, just as we walk into a Mideast war?  Is our democracy less important to maintain when we're soon to be controlled by war hysteria?

I attended the California State Republican Convention in Burlingame last weekend, where I talked for twenty minutes with state Party Chair Jim Brulte and made notes on what I saw.  

First I'd better explain to my blue readers why I would attend a state GOP convention. I'm registered "decline to state," but for several years I've been interested in the Republican Party as a potential alternative to the war-mongering Democrats, who have used their top-dog status and skillful duplicity to bring us closer to war than Bush and the Neo-Cons ever dreamed (see essays below).  

My hope was that the Republicans would follow the Democratic playbook of 1985 and re-invent themselves in their moment of crisis, a crisis brought on by its embrace of the Tea Party, which claims about 30% of the electorate and repels everyone else.  1985 is the year another major American political party revamped itself in the face of repeated failure.  After Ronald Reagan's landslide victory over Walter Mondale there was talk of the demise of the Democratic Party, reminiscent of talk today about the end of the Republican Party.  But unlike the GOP, the Democrats, under the guidance of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), undertook a self-study, identified their problem as an overly leftist agenda and found solutions in sharp turns to the right in welfare and trade.  To impress the electorate with the meaningfulness of its change, the Party picked public fights with progressives like Jesse Jackson.  The chair of the DLC was Arkansas governor Bill Clinton, who resigned to run successfully for president.   

I was certainly wrong about the GOP doing something like that.  The Party has shown no interest in self-analysis, expressing shock that Mitt Romney lost the last presidential election, and shock again this time that Jeb Bush, after spending $130 million on his campaign, would drop from the primaries as if no one had ever heard of him.  The clever minds of the DLC would have spotted the problem in an instant: the Republican Party will not publicly renounce the Tea Party.  That omission has ended the hopes of every centrist Republican candidate from Romney to Bush.

The GOP's faltering image helped Bill Clinton and continues to help President Obama and Hillary Clinton, and one might suspect a collusion between the parties in which the Republicans take the fall with unpopular positions (e.g. from Romney's primary opponent Senator Rick Santorum- never refuted by Romney: the Founders did not intend separation of church and state; abortion doctors should be charged with murder; contraception reduces sex to "mere pleasure") leaving the Democrats, by comparison, with a rational glow.  If so, the problem may have been that as time passed GOP leaders began to take this arrangement for granted and left the helm, allowing the Party to weaken to the point that the opportunist Donald Trump could corral it into submission.

The culture shift has been sudden.  Thus my interest in attending the Republican state convention last weekend.  I thought I might see a party in shambles, with factions colliding chaotically so that, at last, leaders might wake up and figure out how to survive and maybe even offer some resistance to Democrats.  I thought this even though national Party leaders had already shown their fatalism.  Senator Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House and chair of the Republican National Convention, was asked by a student what young Republicans should do if they see no candidate to support.  Continuing the GOP path to oblivion, Ryan advised that they should not approach the November election as a "vote for a person," adding, "I'm not trying to push you one way or another."  Why not?  

Similarly, after Reince Priebus, Chair of the Republican National Committee, met with Trump on April 1, Trump emerged to claim the Party would now rally behind him, while Priebus made no comment, staying in his office until all the reporters were gone.

[Update, 5/12:  Today Ryan and Priebus, who have so far declined to endorse Trump, met with him for the first time since the Indiana primary, when he became the presumptive nominee.  The three issued a statement describing the meeting as "a very positive step towards unification."  In terms of the art of the deal, the interpretation would be that Ryan and Priebus folded, allowing Trump to get the GOP for a bargain basement price, though you might critique Trump for buying something, regardless of price, that he won't be able to sell for more later.]

Back to the California convention, the big event Friday, lunch with Trump, was sold out ($175, are you kidding me!), but Trump's remarks were widely reported.  He told the audience, "I want the Party to unite behind me, but frankly, if it doesn't, I'll win anyway."   Reports said the audience "applauded politely."  In another universe they would have demanded their money back, at the least.  The state Party has for years made much of Ronald Reagan's alleged "11th Commandment": Thou shalt not attack another Republican.  Any candidate who appeared to do so was the target of intense opprobrium from the leadership on down.  Apparently not any more.

With this in mind I sat down to talk with the California Party Chair, Jim Brulte.  Brulte was kind enough to give me his time because he had read my articles, several published in GOP journals, advocating GOP rejection of the Tea Party, as described above.  We had exchanged views via email and I had found him to be a reasonable guy.

The first thing I wanted to ask Brulte was, "What about Trump?" but I sensed from watching his colleagues Priebus and Ryan that this would be a non-starter, so I tried to approach the subject obliquely by mentioning a prominent Republican commentator who had advised that the California GOP should play on its strengths, winning local elections in rural areas (where the Tea Party is strong) and forgoing major efforts to elect Republicans to big-stakes seats like governor, senator or president, leaving those for the Democratic cities to elect.  Brulte strongly denied that the Party is weak in the cities, citing as evidence the appointment of a Republican to chair the South Coast Air Quality Management District, covering L.A., Orange and several other counties.  Fine, but surely there's even more compelling evidence than that.  Brulte offered none, suggesting that yes, indeed, the party has decided to take the rural areas and give up the cities.

I attempted to go directly into a Trump discussion by noting that Trump waffles on positions important to the Tea Party, like abortion, and I asked Brulte if the Party would feel the need to represent Tea Party beliefs in response.  Brulte said forcefully, "That's policy, and I will not discuss policy with you."

That wraps up the substantive elements of my conversation with Jim Brulte.  As I walked through the convention, watching people from a variety of factions chat happily with people in their own groups, I realized why the chaos and resulting evolution I had anticipated were not happening.  The Republican Party today is not a political party.  It's a social club to which people who dislike the Democratic Party are invited, regardless of their reasons for disliking Democrats.  

As if to reinforce this idea, a lady approached me with a flyer and told me that the Tea Party California Caucus meeting was starting soon.  I asked why my convention agenda had not shown a Tea Party Caucus meeting and she said that the Tea Party is no longer affiliated with the Republican Party, it just has its meeting in the middle of the convention.  The brochure explained that the meeting was titled: "The right to Bear Arms in California, A Panel Discussion of the 2nd Amendment."  In search of insight, I followed the sizable crowd into the meeting room.  On the stage a large sign read, "TPCC Freedom Raffle, Featuring these great prizes: A Weatherby PA-08 Shotgun; Front Sight Firearms Training; (2) 4-Person Survival Packs."

Gene Hoffman, founder and chairman of Calguns Foundation, and Chuck Michel, president of the California Rifle and Pistol Association, talked about how much they like Governor Jerry Brown because after the Governor accepted the "low-lying fruit" of background checks, he realized that nothing more could be gained by legislation.

Tim Donnelly, former assemblyman and candidate for governor, notorious for being arrested for attempting to carry a loaded handgun onto a Southwest flight, described how he got his AK 47 ready to protect his family after the San Bernadino attack.  You can’t beat this party for diversity.

The GOP certainly offers a "big tent."  That used to be the phrase for what a political party needs.  But a big inert tent is what a jellyfish would be if it didn't have a central nervous system.

Many observers expect the GOP national convention in July to bring the chaos I thought I might see in Burlingame, but if California is any indication, Trump will acquire this party like any of his other properties, do with it what he wants, and no one within the Party will feel that he or she has any influence in the matter.  There are unknowns coming towards us in this election, but the fate of the Republican Party is, unfortunately, now known.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Obama in Riyadh: Three dimensional chess (with updates)

The latest chapter in the deceptive narrative of our growing involvement in the Middle East involves President Obama's trip on 4/20 to the Saudi capital of Riyadh for a summit of Gulf states fighting ISIS, followed a few days later by his announcement in London that he would authorize an increase in U.S. troops in Syria.  Leading up to this trip, in what appear strategic feints of candor, the media delivered a series of startling revelations about Saudi Arabia and its relationship with the U.S.  Over the past week we learned from 60 Minutes that the Saudi's were likely involved in 9/11, and that this information is contained and classified in 28 pages from the official 9/11 report that the President has fought to keep classified, and we learned from reviews of Pulitzer Prize winner Dexter Filkins' new book, The Forever War, that the Saudi's knew where Osama bin Laden was hiding for many months before the U.S. did and assisted Pakistan in concealing the information from the U.S.   

The seeming legitimacy of these revelations frees me from my usual sense that I need to inform people of subtle things they've missed, although there is one aspect of what is happening that is currently left out of the news: the perception throughout the Middle East (and reported but not noticed in the U.S.) that Saudi Arabia (like Russia) is our ally in a U.S. led coalition, ostensibly to fight ISIS but involved in quite a lot of other things as well.  The Saudi's have distinguished themselves in our coalition by massacring Houthi civilians in Yemen, bombing, among other sites, a Doctor's Without Borders hospital in January (two months after the U.S. bombed one in Afghanistan).  What is a Houthi?  You'll be lucky to find anyone outside a D.C. think tank who knows, or who might have the slightest idea why we would be a close ally of a country that bombs Houthi hospitals.  But it is in our handlers' interest now to turn America's attention to its disagreements with Saudi Arabia, so that we will not notice that Middle East populations perceive Saudi Arabia to be our partner just as it establishes itself as an evil bad guy in the region.  What is the purpose of this double game?  In my view it is to promote the war that elements in our leadership (including the President) desire (for further exploration of this idea see the next two essays on this blog: Our news is as manipulated as Russia's and Applied Amnesia).

And just as the screenwriters of our coming war do not want anyone to notice our close alliance with Saudi Arabia, they divert our attention from another extremely violent partner in our coalition, Russia, which like Saudi Arabia- relatively unhampered by domestic opposition- also bombs civilian targets at will, with no apparent relevance to fighting ISIS, the only plausible goal being to keep the pot boiling through the current "peace" talks.  

All it takes is one Russian jet to buzz a U.S. warship and the American people, like the audience of a cruise ship hypnotist, are mesmerized, chanting together:  We are not like them...we are not like them....

[Update, 5/7: As the Russians conduct a partial withdrawal per the "peace" talks, other elements keep the pot boiling, e.g. the bombing on 5/6 of a Syrian refugee camp which killed at least 30 civilians, (http://www.cnn.com/2016/05/05/middleeast/aleppo-syria-refugee-camp-bombed/), for which no faction has taken responsibility, making each faction susceptible to a different hate-inspiring story] 

Update, 4/21: Saudi King Salman did not greet President Obama when he arrived in Riyadh as he had other world leaders, a seeming snub, but it was reported later that Obama and the King had a two hour meeting which "cleared the air," with much nodding and smiling for the cameras.  Thus both policy ends were met: the need for Americans to see a rift between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia so there will be no American guilt at the Saudi open season on Yemeni civilians, plus a display of solidarity between the two countries to show people in the Middle East the other view, that we are part of the Saudi depredations.  In February U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry did a similar balancing act with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in the wake of Russian attacks on Syrian civilians (see below, Applied Amnesia).  The point of this strategy is to attain a basic ingredient for the war our leaders have in mind: each side must be seething with hatred and fear of the other.

Updates: 4/26, U.N. envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura said a partial truce agreed to in February was "barely alive", and he called on Russia and the U.S. to "intervene at the 'highest level' to save the struggling peace talks" (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-36156865).  The next day, 4/27, Russia bombed a Doctors Without Borders Syrian hospital, "killing at least 14 patients and staff" (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-36158947).  Americans will have forgotten the incident, if they noticed it in the first place, by tomorrow so that we and our ally Russia can present ourselves as the saviors of Syria. To see how we arrived at this point, read Our news is as manipulated as Russia's and Applied Amnesia below.







Thursday, April 14, 2016

Our news is as manipulated as Russia's


If you follow the news, I have a question for you:  Did you know that President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Kerry and several dozen senior national security officials made a rare visit to CIA headquarters yesterday to discuss ramping up U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war?  As important as such a story is, you probably didn't know about it, and for the same reason I didn't until I read about it in today's Los Angeles Times ("Obama visits CIA HQ as U.S. steps up attacks on ISIS," Los Angeles Times, 4/14/16,
http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-obama-cia-20160413-story.html): it was not reported.  I watched the ABC network news with David Muir last night, after a day of reading online news sources like Daily Beast and Politico, and the CIA visit was not reported anywhere.  You would think an escalation of U.S. involvement in this distant war would be news, but it was left on the cutting room floor in deference to a welter of crime stories and extensive coverage of a Russian jet buzzing a U.S. warship.  I checked the other two networks, CBS and NBC, on their online sites, and, as of today, 4/14, Obama's visit to the CIA has not been reported. 

[Update, 5/7: Three weeks later, though there has been a scattering of reporting on the CIA story, Obama's visit was essentially forgotten the day after it happened- except in the Middle East.  Test the ignorance for yourself: Ask anyone you encounter today what they know about Obama visiting the CIA to discuss the Syrian war.  Prediction: Not one person you ask will know anything about it]

Why did our media treat the CIA visit as an unimportant story?  Probably for the same reason the Russian media does not report Russian fighter jets bombing hospitals in Syria: the news outlets are manipulated into not reporting it.  I can't prove that, but is there anything inherently unsound in the theory?

If you are doubtful, consider this question: Why, for the last three years, has CBS anchor Scott Pelly, every time he refers to Syrian President Assad, called him "the dictator Assad"?  Note: that's every time.

Cross check: Since last Sunday's report on 60 Minutes revealed that the Saudi Arabian leadership was likely involved in 9/11, and since Saudi Arabia, which we're told is an ally of the United States in our war on ISIS, has been bombing hospitals and civilian markets in Yemen, and since we've known for years that Saudi women are treated like chattel and the nation's dissenters live in constant terror of severe punishment, you might think Scott Pelley would start referring to "the dictator Salman," or worse.  Watch for yourself.  It's not going to happen.

You can make up your own mind about whether the United States needs to manipulate its news.  My point is that it does, and much of the media, including the three TV networks, are complicit.  For more about how we are being manipulated into a war, see the post below, "Applied amnesia."



Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Applied amnesia

[Update, 5/7: I began this essay on January 28, the day President Obama announced that he would accept more civilian casualties in Syria.  That statement marked the beginning of a spike in tension in the Middle East- barely felt in America- that was achieved through artful use of the political amnesia that is normal for comfortable societies.  Now, as the prediction in this essay, that the outcome of the U.S. coalition "peace" talks would be increased violence, has come true, with Secretary of State John Kerry calling the situation "out of control" (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-36183569), the two-party political process that is supposed to give us our next president is coming apart.   Why the timing?  Perhaps our handlers don't see the point of maintaining democracy when we're soon to be controlled by war hysteria.  

I've been struck by the dependability of our forgetfulness, its routine certainty for purposes of controlling public opinion.  Our forgetfulness has made the escalation of this war possible.]

Thursday, January 28, 2016:   There is hard evidence (at least as hard as we're likely to get) that American wars are sometimes staged and manipulated (e.g. revelations by Pulitzer prize winner Dexter Filkins*).   A close reading of the news can detect connections too, as with today's report that President Obama is about to become more aggressive towards ISIS and is ready to accept increased civilian casualties.  He's always been willing to accept civilian casualties, of course, killing hundreds with the recent bombing strikes in Syria and Iraq and untold thousands more with drone strikes throughout his two terms, so this announcement about accepting more civilian deaths is not informational- it appears to have an ulterior purpose.  I speculate that this purpose is to inflame the populations surrounding ISIS troops, who will hear the President say that America knows it is bombing women and children and has decided it's ok.  In this way the President's comment helps ensure that when ISIS strikes again, civilians in Syria and Iraq will resent America enough to provide at least a quiet tolerance of its enemies.  

Some Americans will note Obama's comment and wonder if increasing civilian deaths in Syria is a good idea.  How will Obama handle the doubting Americans?  He will probably use a time-honored vicious circle:  The announcement that the U.S. will accept more civilian deaths means that aggressive behavior and attacks from ISIS will increase, so any American voices objecting to ramped up harm against civilians will be drowned out by cries for revenge.  Other than that, Obama will just rely on our forgetting he ever said anything about increasing civilian casualties.  That amnesia will be complete in a matter of days, though fallout from the comment will continue.

If my analysis is correct, it indicates that we are not so much living in a time of war as acting out a scripted program.   History will remember us as the Sleeping Americans who didn't care about the difference between reality and a reality show.

Update, 2/2/16: U.N. mediated "peace talks" with the Assad regime and the warring factions have begun, a further sign of impending violence.  After enough years of Middle-East "peace talks" that end in renewed conflict,  it does often seem that the covert purpose of  "peace talks" is to drive the combatants to fight  by announcing unacceptable proposals, with the added virtue that the world thinks the parties tried to find peace.

Update, 2/3/16: The U.N. Syria talks did end in violence (Assad's attack to regain Aleppo).  The talks were suspended until February 11.  The resumption of the talks at that time will probably herald a new round of tension and conflict.

Update, 2/5/16: As predicted above, and as expected by our handlers, everyone has forgotten Obama's statement a week ago that he would accept more civilian deaths from U.S. attacks on ISIS.  To test this forgetfulness, ask a few acquaintances today about the comment- it's likely they will know nothing about it.  Meanwhile you can bet that hundreds of thousands if not millions of civilians in the Middle-East are well aware of the comment and are thinking of it today after Russian jets, in support of Assad's move on Aleppo, reportedly killed 21 civilians- adding to a total, with Saudi Arabia's numbers, of thousands of civilians killed in recent actions.  The media audience in the Middle-East sees attacks from Russia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey as coming from a U.S. led coalition, though Americans are trained by their media to see no such coalition, just a conglomeration of ISIS enemies who don't get along with each other.  The Syrian people will make no distinctions today about which member state does the bombing: it will be the American led coalition, acting under Obama's acceptance of civilian deaths.  Meanwhile, an estimated 40,000-70,000 refugees from Aleppo (projected to reach 300,000 if fighting continues) are headed for the Turkish border, where the mood is not generous.  

Update, 2/7/16,  L.A. Times, Pg. 5 ("Syria, Iran warn Saudi Arabia on troops," http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-syria-aleppo-20160207-story.html) reports:  

"On Thursday, Riyadh announced that it would consider sending ground troops [to Syria] to assist a U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State militant group, a suggestion welcomed by the Obama administration."  

The article details the sharp escalation in the conflict that introduction of Saudi ground troops would entail and shows how the region associates that threat of escalation with U.S. policy, as it would with actual Saudi boots on the ground.  What are the chances that many Americans today, on Super Bowl Sunday, with one sentence about a "U.S. coalition" buried in the Sunday paper, will rouse themselves to oppose a dramatic increase in American involvement in the Syrian civil war?  Clearly, since most Americans won't know it's happening, the chances are zero.  We will wake up tomorrow- hungover and oblivious after our sporting Bacchanalia- with no clue that millions of people think we are attacking them.  Then we will be shocked when someone attacks back.  

Update, L.A. Times, 2/10/16, "Islamic State tops a U.S. 'litany of doom,'" by Brian Bennett: "'The group's [ISIS'] leaders are determined to strike the U.S. homeland,' [Director of National Intelligence, James] Clapper said."  Clapper characterized what is in store for America as a "litany of doom."

Update, L.A. Times, 2/11/16, a.m. (http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-us-syria-20160210-story.html)On the eve of resumed U.N. "peace talks," "Russian airstrikes destroyed two hospitals, leaving 50,000 people without critical care."  Russia claimed U.S. bombers did it.  U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry denied that and criticized Russia for hitting civilians, but the Arab world sees Russia's efforts as part of our own.  Indications of this will be detectable in the new "peace talks" underway today.  

Update, 2/11/16, p.m.The evening news reported that U.N. mediated talks in Munich of the International Syrian Support Group, primarily between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov, agreed to seek a "cessation of hostilities" in Syria, which was further explained as an agreement about whom to bomb and whom to feed.  The news featured long footage of Kerry and Lavrov shaking hands, smiling and talking, allies in this effort.  It took one day for Western populations to forget that Russia bombed two Syrian hospitals (and blamed it on the U.S.).  It will take Syrians longer to forget that handshake.  

The stronger the "cessation of hostilities," the stronger the negative reaction that will follow it.

Update, 2/14/16, CIA Director John Brennan told Scott Pelley on 60 Minutes that ISIS is coming for us with a variety of weapons, adding that ISIS gets an assist from people's need for privacy; The L.A. Times (http://www.pressreader.com/usa/los-angeles-times/20160214/281526520108915/TextView) reported that Russian Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev compared "current tensions" between the U.S. and Russia to the Cold War period after the Cuban Missile Crisis, "...which brought the world to the brink of nuclear war."  

Applied amnesia review: Two days ago, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov and  U.S. Secretary of State Kerry shook hands and smiled for cameras at the International Syrian Support Group where they announced, as noted, agreement on whom they would bomb in Syria and whom they would feed.  After two days the agreement is already vague enough in our memories that Cold War fantasies can be superimposed on it.  By next week, as expected by our handlers, there will be no public memory of a U.S. alliance with Russia, of Russia bombing hospitals the day before the alliance summit [a week after 2/15, no memory of four more Syrian hospitals and a school bombed either by Russia or the U.S., depending on your source], no memory of threats of boots on the ground from our (perceived) ally Saudi Arabia, [Update 2/19: No memory of 38 Syrian civilians killed by "U.S. coalition" bombers, per http://airwars.org/], and no memory of Obama's threat to increase Syrian civilian casualties. 

Update: Monday, 2/22, the U.S. and Russia announced that a "ceasefire"- as opposed to the previous "cessation of hostilities"- will take effect this Saturday, 2/27.  The formulation appears the same: The agreement covers whom to bomb and whom to feed.  There is no mention of the hundreds of Syrian civilians killed by Russia this week and no strong pressure from us for Russian restraint, and there is no mention of the 140 civilians, mostly Alawites- Assad's clan- killed yesterday in car bombings, the identity of the perpetrators open to interpretation, and no mention of continuing massacres of Houthi civilians by our coalition member and close ally Saudi Arabia.

Update, 2/23: The Syrian government agreed to honor the "ceasefire" starting this Saturday, 2/27, an ominous sign.  As the ceasefire progresses, if past patterns hold true, an increasingly tense mood will lead to renewed violence and strengthened involvement of the U.S. in the Syrian civil war.  Bereft of memory, Americans will not know what hit them.

Update, 5/8: As noted above, my prediction that the "peace" talks would end with increased violence has come true, with Secretary of State Kerry calling the situation "out of control" (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-36183569), as if he's surprised.  It's also time to wonder why our system of political parties is coming apart at the same time that we stand at the brink of war.  Here's a preliminary question: Why would a government spend time and money to make archaic political structures relevant when it's anticipating blowing up and tearing down the whole system anyway?  If you're wondering why a government would want to tear itself down, you're entering a realm we used to call Science Fiction.  I recommend my colleague Harry the Human for treatment of this question.  A sample is posted below at http://laskenlog.blogspot.com/2014/04/introducing-harry-human.html

*From Dexter Filkins’, “The Afghan Bank Heist” (http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/02/14/the-afghan-bank-heist):


The vast armies of private gunmen paid to protect American supply convoys frequently use American money to bribe Taliban fighters to stand back. These bribes are believed by officials in Kabul and in Washington to be one of the main sources of the Taliban’s income. The Americans, it turns out, are funding both sides of the war.”

[On Feb. 16 Cheryl Lubin and I discussed applied amnesia, crackpot conspiracy theories and more on her radio show, In Our Times, at http://latalkradio.com/sites/default/files/audio/Cheryl-021616.mp3].