The Greanville Post • Vol. VIII All captions, well-deserved insults, and pull quotes provided by the editors, not the authors. Mon, 26 Jan 2015 01:36:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Soviet Prisoners of War: Forgotten Nazi Victims of World War II Mon, 26 Jan 2015 01:35:29 +0000

Jonathan North

Generalmajor Erich von Manstein

Generalmajor Erich von Manstein. Of old aristocratic Prussian stock, he was active in the invasion of the Soviet Union and the Siege of Sevastopol, and was promoted to field marshal on 1 July 1942. He also participated in the Siege of Leningrad.

As the dust settled over Europe in the summer of 1945 and war-ravaged Europeans began the slow process of recovery, the leadership of the Wehrmacht attempted to present itself as untainted by the crimes committed by the Reich. Field Marshal Erich von Manstein artistically painted a picture in his memoirs of the gulf that “separated soldiers’ standards and those of our political leadership.”  He was not alone. Many other generals busied themselves glossing over the abundant explicit examples of their own complicity with the Nazi regime. Meanwhile, those in the dock at Nuremberg sought to deflect their own guilt by laying the blame at the feet of Adolf Hitler and his SS minions.

This campaign of selective memory picked up steam as relations between the former Allies deteriorated and experienced officers of the Wehrmacht were seen as possible assets in any future war between the West and the Soviet Union. By 1946 the impression that the Wehrmacht had fought a chivalrous war, despite the pressure from above to be brutal, was becoming accepted as gospel by some in the West. Even with the passage of 60 years, this impression remains largely unchallenged. While it is true that the Wehrmacht generally fought within the recognized rules of war in Western Europe, the conflict on the Eastern Front was entirely different. In the vast expanse of the Soviet Union, the Wehrmacht was responsible for some of the worst excesses of the war.



Manstein gave testimony at the main Nuremberg trials of war criminals in August 1946, and prepared a paper that, along with his later memoirs, helped contribute to the myth of a “clean Wehrmacht”—the myth[1] that the German armed forces were not culpable for the atrocities of the Holocaust. In 1949 he was tried in Hamburg for war crimes and was convicted on nine of seventeen counts, including the poor treatment of prisoners of war and failing to protect civilian lives in his sphere of operations. His sentence of eighteen years in prison was later reduced to twelve, and he served only four years before being released in 1953.

As a military advisor to the West German government in the mid-1950s, he helped re-establish the armed forces. His successful memoir, Verlorene Siege (1955), translated into English as Lost Victories, was highly critical of Hitler’s leadership, and focused strictly on the military aspects of the war while ignoring its political and ethical contexts. Manstein died in Munich in 1973. SOURCE: WIKIPEDIA

Hitler’s war against the Soviet Union fused ideological aggression with racial impetus and colonial aspirations that resulted in a conflict of unsurpassed brutality. Rather than being an unwilling participant in this brutal struggle, the Wehrmacht was a loyal and enthusiastic player. One of the most telling examples of its participation in war crimes was its treatment of Soviet prisoners of war. Statistics show that out of 5.7 million Soviet soldiers captured between 1941 and 1945, more than 3.5 million died in captivity.

Several reasons have been advanced by those seeking to explain this gruesome statistic. The first is that the Soviet Union had not signed international conventions protecting prisoners of war, and therefore its soldiers could expect no protection under international law. Another frequently quoted explanation, one used by Wehrmacht officers testifying at Nuremberg, suggests that the German military was simply overwhelmed by the number of prisoners and that the mass deaths were an unfortunate but natural consequence of insufficient resources. Such factors as weather, battle conditions on the Eastern Front, epidemics and problems with food supply are often cited as other possible reasons.

Nuremberg Trials. Defendants in the dock. The main target of the prosecution was Hermann Göring (at the left edge on the first row of benches), considered to be the most important surviving official in the Third Reich after Hitler's death. (US Gov./CC)

Nuremberg Trials. Defendants in the dock. The main target of the prosecution was Hermann Göring (at the left edge on the first row of benches), considered to be the most important surviving official in the Third Reich after Hitler’s death. In the end, only a few paid the ultimate price and many unrepentant Nazis were quickly reabsorbed into West Germany’s social fabric, and later the Western “struggle” against Communism. (US Gov./CC) / Click images to expand them to max. res.

Careful scrutiny, however, shows how frail these arguments are. Germany’s armed forces played their role as the vehicle for the Reich’s expansion to the full, and through their own deliberate policies caused the premeditated death of millions of POWs.

Before Operation Barbarossa began in 1941, the Wehrmacht determined that Soviet prisoners taken during the upcoming campaign were to be withdrawn from the protection of international and customary law. Orders issued to subordinate commands suspended the German military penal code and the Hague Convention, the international agreement that governed the treatment of prisoners. Although the Soviets had not signed the Geneva Convention regarding POWs, the Germans had. Article 82 of the convention obliged signatories to treat all prisoners, from any state, according to the dictates of humanity.

In March 1941, Hitler issued what has come to be known as the ‘Commissar Order,’ which clearly spelled out the future nature of the war in Russia. The coming conflict was to be ‘one of ideologies and racial differences and will have to be waged with unprecedented, unmerciful, and unrelenting hardness.’ It also instructed Hitler’s subordinates to execute commissars and exonerated his soldiers of any future excess. ‘Any German soldier who breaks international law will be pardoned,’ the Führer stated. ‘Russia did not take part in the Hague Convention and, therefore, has no rights under it.’

At a subsequent gathering to explain the application of this order to senior army officers, General Edwin Reinecke, the Reich officer responsible for the treatment of POWs, told his audience: ‘The war between Germany and Russia is not a war between two states or two armies, but between two ideologies — namely, the National Socialist and the Bolshevist ideology. The Red Army [soldier] must be looked upon not as a soldier in the sense of the word applying to our western opponents, but as an ideological enemy. He must be regarded as the archenemy of National Socialism and must be treated accordingly.’ Reinecke continued with the admonishment that this must be made plain to every officer taking part in the operation,’since they were apparently still entertaining ideas which belonged to the Ice Age and not to the present age of National Socialism.’ Under the direction of the Commissar Order, immediately after capture all Soviet political officers should be killed and that thereafter, under a’special selection program of the SD [Sicherheitsdienst, the Nazi Party’s security service], all those prisoners who could be identified as thoroughly bolshevized or as active representatives of the Bolshevist ideology’ should also be killed.

On September 8, 1941, three months after the start of Operation Barbarossa, Reinecke reminded his subordinates, ‘the Bolshevik soldier forfeited every claim to be treated as an honorable soldier and in keeping with the Geneva Convention.’ Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, chief of the Abwehr (German intelligence), objected to Reinecke’s assertions but was quieted by Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, who reminded the admiral, ‘This struggle has nothing to do with soldierly chivalry or the regulations of the Geneva Conventions.’ It is interesting to note that while Hitler’s armies felt themselves relieved from the ‘niceties’ of international law during the campaign, the soldiers of their Finnish, Italian and Romanian allies regularly acknowledged the rights of Soviet soldiers under their protection.

The other feeble line of reasoning to explain away the mass deaths of Russian POWs is that the supply problems were out of the generals’ control. Here again, however, the facts fail to support the argument. From the very beginning, German military planners expected large numbers of prisoners. Four months before the opening of the campaign, the Wehrmacht calculated that it would capture at least 2 to 3 million prisoners — 1 million in the first six weeks.

The true explanation for the millions of deaths lies in the Wehrmacht‘s very deliberate planning of how it was to treat its prisoners. With the war going Hitler’s way in 1941, there seemed little reason to observe the customs of civilized warfare; soon there would be nobody left to object. Rather, what was more important was that the generals prove their worth by demonstrating they were reliable partners in Hitler’s ideological war.

Traditional norms of conduct were discarded even before the campaign opened. In March 1941, as Reinecke was briefing Wehrmacht officers, plans were drawn up for how army units would collaborate with SS General Reinhard Heidrich’s Einsatzgruppen murder squads as the Germans moved eastward. Although a product of Hitler’s twisted mind, the manual explaining the particulars of how the Commissar Order would be applied was drafted by Wehrmacht lawyers. Guidelines for the Conduct of Troops in the Eastcalled for ruthless elimination of active or passive resistance. While it had been customary following earlier campaigns to issue orders absolving German soldiers of guilt, the Barbarossa Jurisdiction Order of May 13, 1941, had provided these protections before the campaign even began. Perhaps more important, German soldiers were informed of this protection and went into Russia believing there would be no consequence for their subsequent actions.

With their plans for invasion and treatment of POWs well in place, the Wehrmacht unleashed Operation Barbarossa on June 22. Its initial success shocked even the victors. The mechanized panzer columns rolled forward almost effortlessly and left in their wake tens of thousands of bewildered Soviet soldiers who were quickly and easily scooped up by infantry units following behind. The cruelty was apparent from the outset. Major General Heinz Hellmich, commanding the 23rd Infantry Division, ordered that white flags were not to be respected. ‘There will be no quarter!’ he raged. A Captain Finselberg of the division’s 6th Infantry Regiment told his troops to take no prisoners, as they were ‘useless consumers of food and anyway a race whose extermination would be a step in the right direction.’ Panzer Group 3 found prisoners guilty of having taken ‘measures against the German Wehrmacht‘ and shot them out of hand. On June 29, Field Marshal Günther von Kluge ordered, ‘Women in uniform are to be shot.’

Later, as their excesses ignited a protracted partisan war, the Germans reacted by issuing harsh orders calling for the execution of any Red Army personnel found in civilian clothing. An order to the 56th Infantry Division stated, ‘Soldiers in plain clothes mostly recognizable by their short hair are to be shot following their identification as Red Army soldiers.’ Villages were razed for sheltering Red Army soldiers, and prisoners were shot in retaliation for partisan attacks or for simply being soldiers. A field court-martial had sentenced a major to demotion for shooting POWs for no particular reason. Hitler intervened and excused the major, stating, ‘We cannot blame lively spirits when they, convinced as they are that the German people are engaged in a unique battle of life and death, reject the Bolshevik world-enemy beyond all commandments of humanity.’

As a reflection of the racial nature of the war, Jewish prisoners were often held for execution by mobile SD squads or by Wehrmacht commanders. Soldiers from the Soviet Union’s Asian republics were frequently shot out of turn, as were loosely defined ‘Communist agitators.’ So too were the wounded. In October 1942, wounded prisoners being held at Stalag 355 were being shot rather than treated. Seventy others, 18 of whom were amputees, were shot near the village of Khazhyn on December 24, 1942.

Those ‘lucky’ enough to escape the arbitrariness of their first moments as POWs were soon herded westward to begin their captivity. The marches were often as terrifying as combat itself. Nikolai Obrynba, a medic in a Soviet militia battalion hastily raised as the Germans pushed on toward Moscow, was captured in the fighting around Vitebsk. He remembered the exhausting march into captivity: ‘It was the fourth day of our march toward Smolensk. We spent the nights in specially furnished pens, enclosed by barbed wire and guard towers with machine gunners, who illuminated us with flares through the entire night. The tail of the column, which stretched from hill to hill, disappeared into the horizon. Whenever we halted, thousands of those dying from hunger and cold remained or they collapsed as we marched along. Those still alive were finished off by soldiers wielding submachine guns. A guard would kick a fallen prisoner and, if he couldn’t get up in time, fired his gun. I watched with horror how they reduced healthy people to a state of complete helplessness and death.’

Leonid Volynsky also remembered such shootings: ‘An exhausted person would be sat at the side of the road; an escort would approach on his horse and lash out with his whip. The prisoner would continue sitting, with his head down. Then the escort would take a carbine from his saddle or a pistol from his holster.’ Later, when confronted with these atrocities, General Alfred Jodl of the high command of the army (Oberkommando des Heeres, or OKH) explained them away with the feeble explanation that ‘prisoners who were shot were not those who could not, but those who did not want, to walk.’

Understandably horrified by what it was seeing, the civilian population became restless and uncooperative. To counteract this, an OKH report of August 1941, just three months after the invasion had begun, stressed that ‘force, brutality, looting and deception should be avoided in order to win over the population’ and that the treatment of POWs was a major source of hatred for the Germans. Alarmed that the will of the troops would be weakened by such kindly treatment toward the enemy, Jodl carefully noted in the margin of the report, ‘These are dangerous signs of despicable humanitarianism.’

Deliberate brutality and forced marches thinned the ranks of the POWs, but it proved to be an insufficient means of ridding the Germans of their unwanted burden. To further winnow the ranks, rations were systematically withheld from the prisoners. Food was earmarked for German use, and the army was to live off the land and dispatch any surplus to the Reich. Captured food worth 109 million Reichsmarks was sent to Germany from Russia between July and December 1941 alone. This distribution of resources was done with the full cooperation of the army, which acknowledged in another report, ‘Thereby tens of millions of men will undoubtedly starve to death.’

Prisoners marched through the rear area of Army Group Center, for example, were getting only 300 to 700 calories a day. Those attempting to supplement this bounty by grabbing food from fields passed along the way were instantly shot. In many cases even the civilian population was barred from assisting the prisoners. Dr. Evgeny Livelisha of the 44th Rifle Division remembered: ‘The peaceful civilians came to meet us, and tried to supply us with water and bread. However, the Germans would not allow us to approach the citizens, nor would they let them approach us. One of the prisoners stepped five or six meters out of the column and without any warning was killed by a German soldier.’

While the initial success of Barbarossa had been significant, the Germans failed to subdue the Soviet Union by the time the first snows fell in November 1941. The worsening weather made combat operations difficult for the German soldiers struggling to reach Moscow and caused the lot of their prisoners to grow even worse. When winter weather made it impossible to move prisoners by road, Wehrmacht directives were issued to have most men transported by rail but only in open wagons. In December 1941, between 25 and 70 percent of prisoners transported in this way perished en route. A prisoner named Gutyrya would be forever haunted by his trip to Stalag 304. ‘The experience in the wagons can hardly be described in words,’ he remembered. ‘Wounds bled and turned everything black. Men died in each wagon. They died of blood loss, tetanus, blood poisoning, or hunger, thirst and suffocation as well as other deprivation. This inhumane ordeal lasted for 10 days. The journey came to an end. At noon they unloaded the men. The dead were thrown out onto the platform.’

Whether by foot or by rail, the ultimate destination of most prisoners in 1941 were Russenlager, camps built specifically to house Russian prisoners and managed by the Wehrmacht. Organizational Order Number 37 of April 30, 1941, stipulated that the camps were to consist of barbed-wire enclosures and watchtowers. The Wehrmacht discounted the need for hospitals or canteens — quicklime and cooking pots were to be provided instead. Few of the camps had barracks of any kind. As cold weather set in, the inmates were forced to dig shelters into the earth. The commandant of Stalag 318 noted that his charges were ‘digging holes in the ground with their mess-kits and bare hands’ as early as September 1941. Pavel Atayan was one of those who resorted to such improvised shelter. ‘You just had to dig yourselves a hole in the ground to sleep in and we slid inside there, four at a time; you had to find room to bend your legs. We were really cold. It was winter. Every day they sent a cart to pick up the dead.’

When the frost and snow came, however, even those shelters were of little use. Many died of exposure in that living hell, but far more died through starvation. The frontline army policy in Russia of withholding food was continued in the camps, which given their fixed location should have been able to receive and distribute what was necessary. Although some prisoners were doubtlessly hungry when captured, the bulk of the deaths in 1941 actually took place hundreds of miles from the front, weeks or months after capture. As administrators of the Russenlager, it was the OKH that set the amount of rations to be supplied or withheld.

The quantity, to say nothing of the quality, of the food received by the Soviet POWs was set far below the minimum required for human survival. Xavier Dorsch noted that in the camp he helped guard at Minsk, ‘The problem of feeding the prisoners being insoluble, they have largely been without nourishment for six to eight days and are almost deranged in their need for sustenance.’ Another guard, Johannes Gutschmidt at Dulag 203, recorded in his diary that conditions in his camp soon reduced the prisoners to beasts. ‘There was nothing to eat, not even any water. Many died. Finally they gave them dry macaroni and they fought over it.’

Victor Yermolayev was on the receiving end of such largess. ‘After a few days, they began throwing us packets of semolina, dehydrated semolina, they threw them to us…some caught them…and others couldn’t. We fell on it like wolves!’

The commandant of Stalag 318, a Colonel Falkenberg, noted on September 11, 1941: ‘These cursed Untermenschen [sub-humans] have been observed eating grass, flowers and raw potatoes. Once they can’t find anything edible in the camp they turn to cannibalism.’ ‘The prisoners live in the open air,’ a witness to conditions at the Karolowka camp reported. ‘At the camp the hunger is so terrible that a mile away they can be heard groaning and shouting `Food.’ They eat grass. Dozens die from starvation.’ A Hungarian tank officer recalled: ‘I woke up one morning and heard thousands of dogs howling in the distance. I called my orderly and asked, `Sandor, what is all that moaning and howling?’ He answered: `Not far from here there is a huge mass of Russian prisoners in the open air. There must be 80,000 of them. They are wailing because they are starving to death.”

Rations scarcely resembled food at all. The prisoners’ bread was specially formulated for Russians by the German Ministry of Food on November 24, 1941. The ministry advised its bakers that ‘a useful mixture consists of 50 percent rye bran, 20 percent residue of sugar beet, 20 percent cellulose flour and 10 percent flour made of straw or leaves.’ When made aware of these conditions, Reichsmarshall Hermann Gring and his staff helpfully suggested that the prisoners be allowed to eat cats. The Ministry of Food replied: ‘Animals not normally consumed will never do much to satisfy the need for meat. Rations for Russians will have to be based on horse meat and meat stamped by inspectors as unfit for human consumption.’

Gabriel Temkin, taken prisoner in 1942, remembered some of those meals. ‘All we were getting to eat was watery soup with pieces of rotten meat, a diet that was literally decimating us. It was the flesh of dead horses killed and lying alongside the roads since the German air strikes in the first week of July that was now to become our staple. The horses, their swollen bellies and open wounds full of white maggots and other parasitic worms, were collected by prisoners on adjacent roads.’

As the campaign continued, conditions in the camps became even worse. The army revised rations — downward. On November 13, 1941, the quartermaster-general, a Colonel Eduard Wagner, stated boldly that sick prisoners ‘should starve’ and that rations for the remaining prisoners should be reduced — just before the onset of winter. Even those enmeshed in the Nazi regime saw that, had the will been there, the prisoners could have been fed. Alfred Rosenberg, the Reich minister of the Eastern Territories, complained to Field Marshal Keitel, ‘In the majority of cases, the camp commanders have forbidden the civilian population from putting food at the disposal of prisoners and they have rather let them starve to death.’ Allied officers at Colditz were barred from sharing Red Cross parcels with Soviet prisoners. In 1940 French POWs had been allowed to take supplies from German reserves. No such rights were granted officials supplying Soviet prisoners.

Under such deplorable conditions, disease began to stalk the camps. Tetanus and blood poisoning, diphtheria, malaria, pellagra, tuberculosis, pneumonia and typhus decimated the camps. In Stalag 304, prisoner Gutyrya remembered that in the wake of starvation, ‘the typhoid fever epidemic began.’ He continued: ‘Up to 500 men died of this illness each day. The dead were thrown in mass graves, one on top of the other. Misery, cold weather, hunger, disease, death. That was camp 304.’

If the question had been simple logistics, as was later claimed, then the offer of outside assistance should have been readily accepted. Such was not the case. A Red Cross overture of vaccination equipment in the winter of 1941, during the epidemic, was rejected by Hitler. Soon the Wehrmacht began to formulate its own system for dealing with the sick and diseased. Many were quarantined in isolation camps; others were shot. In December 1941, one camp commandant noted that 1,000 wounded or sick prisoners had been brought to open-air collection points ‘where they mostly soon perished in the cold.’ At Stalag 324, it became customary for the sick to be shot once a week. An epidemic of dysentery at Stalag 359B led to a grisly final solution. Between September 21 and 28, 1941, Police Battalion 306 launched Operation Chickenfarm, which saw some 6,000 Red Army prisoners shot by German troops — 3,261 of them on the first day. In the subsequent report detailing the murders, victims were described as ‘laid eggs.’

The result of all this abuse was that the daily mortality in an average camp was from 80 to 150 men. By January 1942, this equated to an average of 6,000 men per day. Less than a year after the start of Operation Barbarossa, in April 1942, a total of 309,816 prisoners had died in the camps in Poland alone. One German official in the occupied territories coldly noted that as of February 19, 1942, of the 3.9 million prisoners taken to that point, only 1.1 million remained in the camps. Some 280,000 prisoners, mainly Balts and Ukrainians, had been given the dubious privilege of being sent from almost certain death in the Russenlager to begin the slow death of work as slave laborers. The rest had simply perished.

When the process of ‘disposing’ of excess prisoners through abuse or neglect proved to be inefficient, the Wehrmacht streamlined their system by turning to the experts. Prisoners sent to Munich’s Stalag VIIA for forced labor were inspected upon arrival by local Gestapo agents. Of the 3,778 prisoners who arrived, some 484 were found to be ‘undesirable’ and immediately sent to concentration camps and murdered.

While it is true that in this instance the Wehrmacht did not carry out the actual executions, it had released the prisoners from its control, placed them on the trains that took them to Germany and, once the loading had been completed, marked the prisoners’ identity cards with ‘transferred to the Gestapo.’ Those prisoners sent to Stalag VIIA were not the only ones to receive such treatment. Sachsenhausen concentration camp alone executed 9,090 Soviet POWs between August 31 and October 2, 1941. Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachau, Flossenburg, Gross Rosen, Mauthausen and Neuengamme all received similar ‘deliveries,’ which they handled in a like fashion.

In addition to supplying labor for Germany, the Wehrmacht was also quite happy to provide prisoners for medical experimentation. In one such case, a Dr. Berning killed 12 prisoners from Stalag 310 while performing experiments on their digestive systems. In another, prisoners were shot using dum-dum bullets so the effect of the munitions could be assessed.

Improvised Soviet POW camp, August 1942. (CC BY-SA 3.0 de)

Improvised Soviet POW camp, August 1942. (CC BY-SA 3.0 de)

The policy of deliberate extermination eventually abated as the realization began to sink in that the campaign in Russia would not be the lightning victory that had been planned. Only in the late autumn of 1941, when Germany’s wartime economy began to feel the strain of the now global conflict, was the decision made for the greater employment of POWs. From then on, surviving Soviet prisoners were used as slave labor. Many were dispatched to the Reich’s coal mines — between July 1 and November 10, 1943, 27,638 Soviet POWs died in the Ruhr coal pits alone. Others were sent to Krupps, Daimler Benz or farmed out to countless smaller companies.

Although the generals later claimed that they were busy fighting the war and were thus not responsible for what happened behind the front, the fact remains that the Wehrmacht retained responsibility for the prisoners destined to forced labor, assigning their rations, allocating them to specific industries, guarding the columns as they headed west and maintaining the miserable Russenlager. When the prisoners eventually succumbed, it was Wehrmacht personnel who recorded their deaths and registered and oversaw their burial. Giving the lie to later claims that ‘they did not know,’ German civilians regularly witnessed bands of weary, starving Russian prisoners moving throughout their country.

They were not the only ones. As more and more Russians were sent westward, they were frequently collected in camps that were next to the POW compounds set up for prisoners from the other Allied countries. The abuse of Russian prisoners had become such that American, British and French POWs frequently commented on the mistreatment they witnessed.

After the war, when the full horror of what had transpired in Hitler’s Reich became known, the Allies set up criminal courts to try the worst offenders. While the SS and other police organizations were, correctly, confronted with their crimes, the Wehrmacht largely escaped such scrutiny. Although a few high-ranking generals were tried, including Jodl and Keitel, Wehrmacht personnel who had actively participated in the systematic abuse and murder of Soviet POWs went unpunished.

The fact remains, however, that the Wehrmacht actively assisted in the planning and execution of the war. It is also undeniable that its conduct of the war included a POW system that violated international treaties and the rules of war in its treatment of Soviet prisoners. This was vastly different from its treatment of other Allied prisoners. Contrast the way in which the Wehrmacht safely herded 2 million French prisoners into the Reich in 1940 with the death marches of Russian prisoners of late 1941.

The Wehrmacht actively formulated the way Soviet prisoners should be deprived of the protection of international law, handed prisoners over to the SD for execution, set starvation rations, deprived prisoners of essential medical assistance, organized a system of camps designed to be primitive, farmed prisoners out for slave labor and deprived them of rights normally associated with POW status. Most damning is that those excesses were the result of deliberate planning prior to the invasion of Russia and were not the unfortunate result of the ‘chaos’ of war.

Despite the Wehrmacht‘s feeble efforts to hide its crimes behind a veil of secrecy, Russian soldiers and civilians were well aware of the mistreatment. Such knowledge strengthened the resolve of the Soviets to fight on until it was the Germans who were on the defensive. It also ensured that as Soviet armies advanced westward, their wrath would be terrible.

There can be no excuse for the horrible excesses committed by Soviet troops in Germany, but the Wehrmacht‘s treatment of Russian prisoners might serve as one possible explanation for their behavior. Far more than half the Soviet soldiers taken prisoner by the Germans during the course of World War II died in captivity. Sixty years later, a full accounting of the Nazi regime and the brutality of the war on the Eastern Front requires that politicians, legal authorities, historians and students of the war hold the Wehrmachtaccountable for its actions and seek justice for its victims.


This article was written by Jonathan North and originally appeared in the January/February 2006 issue of World War II magazine


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Putin’s counter-intuitive 8 point peace plan for the Ukraine Mon, 26 Jan 2015 00:43:29 +0000
Putin attending the World Economic Forum in 2009. He may prove a tough poker player. (WEF, via flickr)

Putin attending the World Economic Forum in 2009. He may prove a tough poker player. (WEF, via flickr)

There is a lot of speculation about Putin’s end goal.  They range from “Putin wants to conquer the Ukraine and then Moldova, the Baltic States and (who knows?) even Poland” to “Putin wants to back-stab Novorussia and sell it in exchange for Crimea”.  And these are not just empty speculations, because your assessment of what is happening today will largely depend on what you believe Putin’s end goal is.  For example, if you believe the “Putin is about to sell-out” theory, then the Minsk agreement is just the first phase in a general surrender of Novorussia to the Nazis.  But if you believe that Putin’s end-goal is to regain control of all (or most) of the Ukraine, then the Minsk agreements are just a way to keep the junta at bay while giving it the time to commit economic suicide before striking.  So what is Putin’s end goal?

Putin’s 8 point peace plan:

The Ukrainian newspaper Zerkalo Nedelia, UA, has recently published a fascinating article entitled “Blood Topography” which made a detailed analysis of the line of separation agreed upon in Minsk and whether it should have included the Donetsk Airport or not (it placed the airport on the Novorussian side).  But at the end of the article, the author, Tatiana Silina, writes that according to her sources, Putin’s real peace plan for the Ukraine is composed of all of the following elements:

  1. The federalization of the Ukraine (even if under another label such as “de-centralization”).
  2. A special status for the LNR and DNR which would include the creation of a purely local political authority not subordinated to Kiev.
  3. A full budgetary autonomy.
  4. Full freedom to choose their official language
  5. Full cultural freedom
  6. The right to “choose the vector of economic integration”
  7. The Ukraine must be declared a neutral state
  8. All of the above must be explicitly stated in the Ukrainian Constitution.

Tatiana Silina added, “Putin’s methods may have changed, but not his goal: to attach the Ukraine to Russia“.

Now here is where it gets really interesting.  Consider this: how is it that Silina begins by listing 8 goals which (apparently) are designed to separate the Donbass as much as possible from the Ukraine and then concludes that these goals are designed to attach the Ukraine to Russia?  This is a crucial question, so let me repeat it again:

Why does separating the Donbass from the rest of the Ukraine attach the Ukraine to Russia?

The second question is no less important, and it flows from the first one:

Why does Putin not simply demand the full secession of the Donbass or even its reunification with Russia?

To understand, let’s make a simple but crucial thought experiment.  First, let’s consider if the Donbass fully secedes from the Ukraine and joins Russia and then compare it with Putin’s solution.

The Novorussian secession option:

We assume that Kiev agrees with this (out of political, economic or even military necessity).  The Donbass follows Crimea’s example and pretty soon becomes the southwestern region of the Russian Federation.  The first obvious consequence is that the war stops and that the rump-Ukraine becomes much more unitary.  Having lost the potential support of Crimea (gone!) and the Donbass (gone!), other “trouble” regions (Odessa, Nikolaev, Dnepropetrovsk, Zaporozhie, Chernigov, Kharkov) soon basically give up any notion of resisting Kiev and those who cannot accept a Nazi junta are forced to either shut up or relocate (“encouraged” by the Ukie-Nazi slogan “suitcase – train station – Moscow”).  Furthermore, the regime at this point will say that Russia betrayed the Ukraine whose sovereignty she had promised to guarantee when the Ukraine gave up nuclear weapons and that joining NATO is the only way to preserve the rest of the country.  The population will mostly agree.  There is no Russian language constituency left, so Ukrainian becomes the only language, the Russian language media disappears.  The multi-billion effort to rebuild the Donbass becomes “Russia’s internal problem” while the US and EU “aid” is directed only at the comprador elites of the rump Ukraine (aka “privatization” and “opening up of the economy”).  This new Ukraine completes the NATO encirclement of Russia from the Baltic to the Urals.

Novorussian autonomy inside the Ukraine:

Formally, de jure, the Donbass remains part of the Ukraine and thus it remains represented at the state level: the Rada.  Because the LNR and DNR are free to choose their vector of economic development (i.e. join the trade union with Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Armenia), they begin to have a “gravitational pull” on the entire Ukrainian economy.  There is *much* more money made in lucrative contracts with Russia than there is by trying to sell something to the EU.  The Russian language and culture remain vibrant in Novorussia and the effects of that are felt throughout the Ukraine.  In contrast, the Ukrainian language becomes the “dialect of the loser”, the sign of the pauper.  And because the Ukraine remains constitutionally neutral, NATO simply cannot get in.  The economies of all the regions listed above (Odessa, Nikolaev, Dnepropetrovsk, Zaporozhie, Chernigov, Kharkov) become more and more dependent on the “Novorussian special economic zone”.  Since the West has nothing to offer economically, it can only rely on the west-Ukrainian minority to promote the Empire’s interests, which is wholly inadequate to counter the effect of the political and economic power of the eastern Ukraine.

Which of these two scenarios make more sense to you?

The first one basically hands over the Ukraine to the Empire, while the second one uses Novorussia as an unbreakable tether tying the rest of the Ukraine to Novorussia and Russia.  In other words, Tatiana Silina is absolutely correct “Putin’s methods may have changed, but not his goal: to attach the Ukraine to Russia“.

The fact is that to truly (de jure) cut-off Novorussia from the rest of the Ukraine is tantamount to hand over the rest of the Ukraine to Uncle Sam and his EU puppets.  Keeping a nominally unitary Ukraine with the Donbass de facto independent makes it possible for Russia to “reel in” the entire Ukraine.  And since there can be no safety or security for either the Donbass or Russia with a NATO run Nazi regime in power in Kiev, regime change and the full de-nazification of the entire Ukraine is the only viable long term solution to this conflict.  That goal can only be achieved if Novorussia remains nominally part of the Ukraine.

—The Saker

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The moral example of Russia Sun, 25 Jan 2015 23:17:35 +0000


Antonescu and Adolf Hitler at the Führerbau in Munich (June 1941). Joachim von Ribbentrop and Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm Keitel in the background/ Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-B03212 / CC-BY-SA

Nazi collaborator Ion Antonescu and Adolf Hitler at the Führerbau in Munich (June 1941). Joachim von Ribbentrop and Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm Keitel in the background/ Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-B03212 / CC-BY-SA

Thanks to The Greanville Post for bringing my attention to an article by Clara Weiss, (1) and a short documentary regarding the fate of the Romanian dictator and Nazi collaborator, Ion Antonescu. (2)  These, along with my recent discovery of a two-part documentary, “Einsatzgruppen: The Death Brigades” (Part 1 here and Part 2 here)  form a near-perfect crystal of historical knowledge, a unit of knowledge vital for understanding fascism, the perpetrators and the resisters, past and present, especially important because of the current re-emergence of fascism and Naziism in Europe.


First look at the short documentary from 1946.   Four men walking, heads-up, in a calm, beautiful wooded setting,  all immaculately groomed and wearing fine suits, all apparently healthy.  Specifically, they are not naked, bruised, emaciated or cowering with terror.  They are not being beaten or abused by the armed guards escorting them.  They are not shackled.  They are not tied to the posts or hooded before being shot by the firing squad.  In a word, they are allowed a full measure of DIGNITY under the (grim) circumstances — dignity that they, and fascists like them fully denied their millions of victims.  This is a cinematic tour de force — the silence amplifies the chirping of the birds, the crack of the gunshots and the screams of the victims of these fascists — more powerful by virtue of the absence of color and sound.  The toss of the expensive hat near the end — as close to nakedness that these fascist psychopaths get.

Next consider their victims (here and here).

Victims by the hundreds of thousands, forced to strip naked, taunted, humiliated and beaten while being marched to mass graves, where they are forced to arrange themselves sardine-style on top of the still-warm, bleeding bodies of the prior wave of victims, mothers vainly trying to shield their children, before being shot.  The dehumanization of the “Untermenschen” (German for “subhumans”, a term also used by the Ukraine junta’s Yatsenyuk, nicknamed “Yats” by Victoria “Fuck the EU” Nuland, of the Kaganate of Nulands, a cell in the US neocon cabal).

SS chief Himmler, as seen by TIME magazine in 1943.(J.Vaughan, flickr.)

SS chief Himmler, as seen by TIME magazine in 1943.(Via J.Vaughan, flickr.)

Now read the two-part article by Clara Weiss, “The Nazi War of Annihilation Against the Soviet Union” (based on her review of the book, Nazi Policy on the Eastern Front, 1941: Total War, Genocide, and Radicalization, ed. by Alex J. Kay, Jeff Rutherford, David Stahel, Rochester University Press, 2012) to understand more about the past history and see how current events rhyme with that  history.

Weiss says, “The material presented sheds light on the historical background to the criminal policies currently being pursued by US and German imperialism in Ukraine and Eastern Europe.”  Indeed, the US and its lapdogs are actively supporting and promoting the reemergence of fascism and Naziism in Europe in the service of western (Atlanticist) cultural and economic hegemony and unipolarity.  In fact, this is but one of the multiple battlefronts of the U.S. and its Atlanticist partners.  But the common denominator in all of these (worldwide) fronts is dehumanization and lack of respect for other cultures — systematic humiliation, abrogation of dignity and torture.  To name but one recent example, consider the dehumanization and torture employed by the US in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, overt symptoms and signs of moral deficiency and depravity, the antithesis of moral strength and rectitude.  Or, compare the circumstances of the death of Antonescu with the death of Muammar Gaddafi that the US/NATO bears proximate responsibility for.

SS chief Heinrich Himmler inspects a camp for Soviet prisoners of war. 1941. Afforded no protections under international conventions, the German army felt free to treat Soviet prisoners despicably, as animals. 3.5 million died in captivity. (US National Archives)

SS chief Heinrich Himmler inspects a camp for Soviet prisoners of war. 1941. Afforded no protections under international conventions, the German army felt free to treat Soviet prisoners despicably, as animals. 3.5 million died in captivity. (US National Archives)

Again, from “The Nazi War of Annihilation Against the Soviet Union” (3):

“In the Holocaust, the most significant role after Nazi Germany was played by the Romanian fascist regime of Ion Antonescu. Romania joined Operation Barbarossa after Hitler promised Antonescu territorial gains in Transnistria, Bukovina and Bessarabia. All of these territories, and in particular Bukovina (now extinguished from the map), had a significant Jewish population with long historical traditions.

Antonescu early on decided to remove all Jews from these areas’ villages. In Transnistria, a broad network of concentration camps and ghettos was set up. Here, some 250,000 Jews and 12,000 Roma were murdered.

Romanian forces were heavily involved in some of the worst massacres of Jews in what is today Ukraine. In one of the most notorious massacres of the Holocaust, the Massacre of Odessa (October 22-24, 1941), which was directly ordered by Antonescu, some 35,000 Jews were murdered. Providing a glimpse of the barbarity of this orgy of violence, Lower writes:

“Romanian methods of murder included throwing grenades at and shooting Jews who had been crammed by the thousands into wooden buildings. In an act reminiscent of the burning of Strasbourg’s Jews in the fifteenth century, Romanians forced Jews into the harbor square and set them on fire. Except that in this twentieth-century version, the Romanians did not allow Jews to save themselves through conversion (baptism). Thus, the barbarism of the religious wars was outdone by these modern campaigns of colonization and national purification.” [Pp. 205-206]

A few weeks later, at least 48,000 Jews were shot dead in Bogdanivka at Christmas by Romanian soldiers, German SS and Ukrainian militia, as well as other collaborators.

A report from 2004 established that, overall, the Antonescu regime is responsible for the murder of some 280,000 to 380,000 Jews in Transnistria, Bukovina and Bessarabia.

Romanian General and dictator Ion Antonescu

Romanian General and dictator Ion Antonescu

This historical record of the Romanian bourgeoisie is a serious warning to workers of Eastern Europe in light of the fact that the Romanian government is now intimately involved in the imperialist war preparations against Russia, stoking up civil war in Ukraine. (See: Romania joins imperialist war drive against Russia).

After the end of World War II, Antonescu was briefly detained in Russia before being returned to Romania, where he was tried and convicted by the Romanian People’s Tribunals (Tribunalele Poporului), “…set up by the post-world War II government of Romania, overseen by the Allied Control Commission to try suspected war criminals, in line with Article 14 of the Armistice Agreement with Romania which said:  ‘The Romanian Government and High Command undertake to collaborate with the Allied (Soviet) High Command in the apprehension and trial of persons accused of war crimes'”.

The Soviet death toll fighting the Nazis and their collaborators in World War II was about 30 million.  The Soviets could have tortured Antonescu before executing him, either directly or by Romanian proxy, but they did not.  Instead they set up a judicial process in collaboration with post-war Romania, and the end result is documented in the film.  Allowing Antonescu to maintain basic human dignity and not torturing him were signs of strength and moral superiority, not weakness.

Vladimir Putin, president of Russia.

Vladimir Putin, the vilified president of Russia.

And Russia is still taking the moral high ground.  The US has promoted “color revolutions” in former Soviet states, and NATO has progressively moved its bases across Eastern Europe to Russia’s doorstep.  In response Russia has pursued a non-confrontational, non-aggressive policy of diplomacy and attempted engagement with Europe and the US, figuring that if it played by the rules of the West that it would be accepted as a partner by the West — but the Russophobia has continued, unabated, since the (purported) end of the Cold War.  The US, in concert with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Britain, France and others have created, financed and promoted Wahabi terrorists worldwide, including in Afghanistan, Iraq, Chechnya and Syria, and then use this monster to promote a vicious, generalized Islamophobia — one tool from the imperialism toolbox of the US, employed in the service of its goal of hegemony and unipolarity.  And what is Russia’s policy?  Respect for Islam and recognition that the Wahabi takfiri freaks do not represent the vast majority of Muslims.  Russia sets the example by trying to establish friendly relations with its large Muslim neighbors.  And in response to the US-promoted Nazi coup in Ukraine and subsequent provocations by the US and its lapdogs, Russia has responded with measured, rational steps to protect its vital, regional interests (including accepting Crimea back into the Russian Federation, with no loss of life, after Crimea voted overwhelmingly to secede from Stepan Bandera-stan, i.e. secede from a post-coup, Nazi-worshipping Ukraine deeply hostile to ethnic Russians).

Russia has engaged in careful, patient diplomacy, especially with regard to the very difficult situation in Novorossiya, ethnic Russians in southeast Ukraine who have declared independence from Banderastan Ukraine and who are under attack with heavy weapons by the junta.  (Russian diplomacy is decried as weakness by certain western liberal “armchair revolutionaries” who advocate exactly what the US dearly wants:  direct and overt Russian involvement in a conventional war in Ukraine, solidifying NATO’s tenure in Europe, making Europe dependent on NATO and the US, splitting Europe away from Russia, laying the groundwork for destabilization and regime change in Russia to allow those good ol’ Yeltsin days of oligarchy and kleptocracy to return, with Russia as another vassal and resource colony of the West, and as a consequence, making the ultimate fate of Novorossiya in southeast Ukraine even more tenuous than it already is.)

The brutal cost of Nazism has been forgotten in the West and even in the east (especially today's complicit Poland).

Man showing corpse of a starved infant in the Warsaw ghetto, 1941. The appalling criminality of Nazism has been forgotten in the West and even in the east (including in today’s NATO -complicit Poland).  Where are the prominent Jewish voices protesting Kiev’s rampant infestation with neo Nazis? (Photo origen unknown, Wikipedia)

So, it is not weakness or appeasement for Russia to continue to supply coal and gas to Ukraine and hostile European countries or to be seen as actively brokering peace with its “partners” (like the vile Poroshenko and the duplicitous US and Germany) — instead, these are carefully considered and mostly skillful chess moves in the propaganda component of the fourth-generation war that is being waged.  This is an existential issue for Russia, an existential reality divorced from and transcending by many orders of magnitude the fantasy world of western liberal keyboard activists, professed friends of Novorossiya, who are warm and safe in their suburban homes, pounding out their daily doses of Russophobia and Putin-bashing (“Putin is a coward, Putin is weak, Putin is a traitor, hang the SOB, hang the bastard…”), some with suspect motives and affiliations, some apparently refighting the US Civil War on the side of the Confederacy, some employing juvenile sports team language and analogies, some obviously afflicted with that hypocritical western liberal R2P (responsibility to protect) disease, many with interesting psychological features easily recognizable by those with basic training in psychiatry, and ALL “great supine protoplasmic invertebrate jellies” when it comes to actually doing something about the proximate (root) cause of the problem — US liberal fascism and imperialism, based in and a consequence of late-stage capitalism.  They have no concept or appreciation of the strategy of harm reduction that Russia, under the leadership of Putin, is engaged in.

Petro Porososhenko amid fellow war criminals David Cameron and US lackey NATO chief Gen. Anderss Fogh Rasmussen. (NATO, via flickr)

Petro Porososhenko amid fawning fellow war criminals David Cameron and US lackey NATO chief Gen. Anderss Fogh Rasmussen. (NATO Summit 2014, via flickr)

Perhaps the lives of war criminals like Poroshenko, Yatsenyuk, and the Pravy Sector and Svoboda Nazis will someday be spared by people who know the terrain of the moral high ground and recognize the advantages of imprisoning, but not killing them.


Contributing Editor Daniel Wirt is a pathologist practicing near Houston, Texas, who considers the advanced stage of capitalism in which we live to be the ultimate public health issue — the proximate cause of the rapid destruction of the biosphere and epidemic plague of fascism afflicting humans (including the many “glad tidings of liberal fascism”, per Norman Pollack).He believes that a multipolar world is a necessary prerequisite to avoid human extinction resulting from anthropogenic global warming and biosphere destruction and collapse.  He is a long-time advocate for single-payer healthcare reform in the United States.


(1) Originally published at the World Socialist Web Site,


(3) Part two of this series can be found here.

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SS chief Heinrich Himmler inspects a camp for Soviet prisoners of war. 1941. Afforded no protections under international conventions, the German army felt free to treat Soviet prisoners despicably, as animals. 3.5 million died in captivity. (US National Archives)

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Something to celebrate: Cat rescued from drainpipe after his paws froze. Sun, 25 Jan 2015 19:28:24 +0000

catRescuedFrozenPipeCat Rescued From Drainpipe After Paws Were Frozen to Concrete
Jan 15, 2015
Digital Reporter


It was quite a traumatic day Wednesday for one black cat, now named Jack Frost, in Indianapolis.

“We got a call reporting there was a cat stuck down in a drain tube,” Amanda Dehoney, Indianapolis Animal Care & Control’s deputy chief of kennel operations, told ABC News. “We didn’t realize the cat was frozen to the concrete.”

Unable to get out of the deep drain on his own, poor Jack Frost endured an overnight, if not longer, in the sub-freezing cold.

“With the weather we were having right now, it’s freezing at night and his paws had gotten frozen to the concrete from the ice overnight,” said Dehoney.

People tried to help free the animal by pouring hot water down onto the ice, which did ultimately loosen up his paws, but in turn didn’t make for a very happy cat.

“By the time I got there the hot water had been poured on him and had gotten him unstuck from the ice,” the rescuing officer, Billie Bowling, explained.

An Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer was called in for assistance to help Bowling, holding his legs as he lowered himself down into the hole.

“He just managed to chip away at the ice a little bit and pull him up and get him out of there,” said Dehoney.

Fortunately for Jack Frost, he was found in time to avoid any serious, long-term injury.

“He’s doing really well,” Ellen Robinson, executive director at FACE Low-Cost, Spay/Neuter Clinic, said of the cat’s status. “He’s much happier today, very lovey dovey. He’s a nice cat. His front two paws are really swollen so we’re worried he might have frostbite.”

The clinic will monitor him to see what happens with his feet, but once Jack Frost regains full health he’ll be available for adoption.

In the meantime, he’s in good company during his recovery.

“Last year a kitten got frozen to a water meter and we named him Olaf,” Robinson said. “He lost three feet but he gets around here just fine. This must be our annual frostbite cat.”
World News Videos | ABC World News

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The Secret Life of Hillary Clinton. Sun, 25 Jan 2015 18:50:11 +0000

John V. Walsh


As a loyal member of the imperial establishment, the favorable marketing of Hillary has been a done deal for a long time.  (Via M.Mozart, flickr)

As a loyal and reliably warmongering member of the imperial establishment, the favorable marketing of Hillary has been a done deal for a long time. (Via M.Mozart, flickr)


“We’re going in!”  The Envoy’s voice had the sting of a cold wind cutting across the taiga.   Ratta. Tatta Tat.  The plane out of Ramstein was pelted with a bararage of fire as it descended into Tuzla Air Base in Bosnia.  Ratta Tatta Tat.  One piece of shrapnel pierced the window next to the Envoy’s seat.  She was calm.  “We can’t make it ma’am.  There’s even heavier fire below.”  “That was an order, Major Fenton.”  She was even cooler than her voice in the midst of the panic around her.  “I’m going up front.”

Hillary as seen by artist DonkeyHotey (via Flickr)

Bursting into the cockpit she took the controls and put the plane into a steep dive, getting it below the barrage of bullets.  The plane hit the ground with a fearful bounce, avoiding a crash only because she had become one with the monster jet.  On the tarmac, the plane took gunfire again.  She cried, “We came here on a mission.  We’re going in!  Put down the chutes!” The slides deployed.  Grabbing a rifle from her bodyguard she was the first one down.  Running now, head down, holding rifle aloft with one arm to let the others know the path and with her daughter sheltered under the other, she outpaced them.  And then she and the rest were safe in the hanger.

“I felt the snipers’ bullets whizzing overhead,” she declared to the assembled crowd, now safe.  The hanger burst into applause.  And then she was startled, as from a dream.  The applause erupted in the press conference, as she finished her account.  The worshipping press was mesmerized by her story.  Among those who applauded loudest were those who were with her in Tuzla.  They knew it was all a lie.  Their careers were flourishing, their salaries soaring.  She thanked them all.  Before she knew it, she was whisked off the stage.

Hillary speaks on her legal career and on the importance of voting rights at ABA meeting in San Francisco. (8.12.2013)  Note the Orwellian motto: "Defending Liberty, Pursuing Justice". (Via S. Rhodes, flickr)

Hillary speaks on her legal career and on the importance of voting rights at ABA meeting in San Francisco. (8.12.2013) Note the Orwellian motto: “Defending Liberty, Pursuing Justice”, sure to be violated by a corporatist like Clinton. (Via S. Rhodes, flickr)

“Hill, what were you talking about?”  Her bewildered husband looked at her in the holding room.  You were never fired on, and you don’t even know how to fly a kite let alone a jet.  “Oh, shut up, Bill.  You underestimate me every time.  Your memory fails you. I was there.  You forget those long hours of learning to do stunt flying when I was president of the Winged Wellesley Women.  For God’s sake don’t quibble about details.  I had to push you to expand NATO when your buddies kept harping on Versailles.”  Bill looked like a puppy that had just been whacked with a rolled up newspaper.  He knew that there had not been so much as a paper plane flown at Wellesley.  He bit his lower lip and fell silent.

The limousine picked them up and whisked them away to her all-important speech, her first State of the Union.  Bill watched her take the podium before the joint session of Congress.

(Credit: DonkeyHotey, via flickr)

(Credit: DonkeyHotey, via flickr)

“The Commander in Chief,” the Speaker announced.  She looked out over the assemblage.  The day was an inferno under an intense sun in Rome, not a cloud in the sky. The Coliseum crowd was going wild, oblivious to the oppressive heat.  “Caesar, Caesar, Caesar” the sweltering mass chanted in unison.  She was now back from the successful North African campaign to a tumultuous celebration, the likes of which Rome had not seen since the days of the first emperor.

The Speaker came forward and placed a laurel crown on her head.  She smiled without showing her teeth and pointed to the ground.  The Speaker knelt and she pointed to her feet.  He kissed her feet, rose and backed away, bowing as he rededed.  She slowly turned 360 degrees looking at each section of the crowd.   Then she deliberately raised her hands high.  Within a few moments the entire crowd fell silent. Slowly she looked around, very slowly in the deadly silence, paused for what seemed like an eternity, then deliberately, loudly declaimed, “We came….. We saw….  He died.”  The assemblage jumped to its feet applauding wildly, insanely.  She had echoed the first Caesar, and she had no doubt that her exploits would far outstrip his.  She was sure that the Libyan spoils would fill the general coffers.   The captured arms were already on the way to Syria for her next campaign.  But again the speech was over before she knew it.  And again she was in the limousine with Bill.   He was distraught.  “Hill, you know Gaddafi was killed in a brutal way when you were head at State.   It was your idea to do that, and it does not look good when you gloat.”  She stared at him scornfully.  “Hill,” he said, “I think you are having one of your days again.  Maybe Dr. Kleinkopf should adjust your meds again.”  “Ridiculous,” she clipped, not even looking his way.

They went back to the White House.  It was late.  Bill went to bed and she went to the White House gym.  She got into her white exercise outfit and was ready to do some yoga.  And then there he was tight there in the gym, also dressed in white with a black belt and lying in the corner doing some stretches.  It was Vlad!  How did he get in?  She had long suspected that there were breaches of security, and she had grown ever more apprehensive since she had entered the Oval Office.  And sure enough there, he was.  Before he could make a move, she moved around him, thinking methodically, “Encircle, encircle.”  Then she flew at him feet first, striking her soles deeply into his chest and shouting , “Encircle and break.” The blow appeared to knock Vlad unconscious; he was motionless.  She touched the inert heap. It was lifeless, cold and wet, the sweat still on the corpse.

But she knew his presence meant that the country was under attack.  Grabbing the red wall phone, she called for Bradford.  In an instant he was there carrying the black briefcases with the presidential seal on the leather.  How she loved those seals and the leather.  “Look at that miserable dictator over there,” she yelled at Bradford, here words echoing in the gym.   He was befuddled.  “That is just a pile of wet towels, Ma’am.”  She did not hear him.  “We have been attacked,” she cried.  “Open the briefcase.”  Bradford looked like a truck had run over him – but he was trained for this and did as told.  She looked in, her retina was quickly scanned and she turned the two keys.  “Done,” she exclaimed triumphantly.  “Nobody messes with the Indispensable Nation.”  The bays to rocket silos all over the planet were rolling back minutes after she spoke.  Bradford was sobbing now.

Sirens were wailing in the White House and throughout the Capital; panic was everywhere.  Rockets from across the seas had now been launched and spotted.  Bill appeared at the door of the gym.  He saw the hysterical Bradford, collapsed on his knees, with the President standing over him, beaming triumphantly but silent.  Bill pulled her to the emergency elevator and they plunged into the shelter deep, deep underground.  Bill was also sobbing now.  But not Hillary; she stood there, erect, adjusting her exercise outfit, with her back against the elevator wall, looking contentedly into the distance, a faint smile on her lips.  Again she had prevailed.  Hillary Clinton, unbending, defiant to the end.

John V. Walsh can be reached at

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A Royal shame: Abdullah leaves a legacy of regional militancy Sun, 25 Jan 2015 18:19:56 +0000 ANDREW KORYBKO

(Credit: Oriental Review)

Abdullah in recent years. Rarely have the eulogies been more hypocritical or misplaced. (Credit: Oriental Review)

King Abdullah is being eulogized in the most unrealistic ways possible, from CNN designating him as a “reformer” to Chuck Hagel calling him “a powerful voice for tolerance, moderation and peace — in the Islamic world and across the globe.” Israeli President Reuven Rivlin takes the cake, however, by proclaiming that “his smart policy contributed greatly to Middle East stability.”

None of these characterizations are true in any way, as Abdullah’s main legacy isn’t one of reform, tolerance, and regional stability, but of destruction, hate, and regional instability. Every contemporary Mideast problem except for the Israel-Palestine issue can be directly traced back to the deceased despot, and in the wake of his death, it’s worth revisiting the legacy of regional chaos that he leaves behind.

The Method Behind The Madness 

Before highlighting the chaos that Abdullah unleashed all across the Mideast, it’s necessary to explore the three primary reasons why he decided to do this in the first place:

Ideological Proselytization:

Abdullah saw a valuable opportunity to promote his Kingdom’s extreme perversion of Islam, the terrorist ideology of Wahhabism, in the aftermath of the US’ War on Iraq in 2003. Although not officially the King until 2005, he had ruled as regent for nearly a decade prior, thereby meaning that Abdullah’s vision was set into motion around the mid-1990s. This gave him the much-needed time to hone Wahhabist institutions and individuals for more effective destabilizing export abroad, which is precisely what began to happen when terrorists took over the anti-US resistance movement in Iraq. The extreme elements that hijacked the movement started focusing more on inciting a sectarian war(previously dormant for centuries) than on battling the American occupiers, which is exactly what Saudi Arabia wanted as part of its pan-regional grand strategy.

The US is Saudi Arabia’s chief ally, hence why Riyadh had an interest in deflecting attacks against its occupation forces and back toward the resistance itself. However, a more sinister strategy was also at play here, and that was the creation of the so-called ‘Sunni-Shia rivalry’ as a weaponized ideological force against Iran. The Saudis identify the Islamic Republic as being their eternal enemy, and although this was never an objectively foregone conclusion, what is important to emphasize here is that Saudi decision makers hold this mistaken belief and accordingly shape their foreign policy around it.

Saudi agents capturing dissident. (Oriental Review)

Saudi agents capturing dissident. (Oriental Review)

They have a paranoid idea that majority-Shia Iran wants to harness its influence among its related believers to exert political influence wherever they reside, including in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province. Thus, Abdullah figured that the Saudis could ‘strike first’ by manufacturing an artificial ‘Sunni-Shia rivalry’ in order to ‘justify’ repressions against the Shia in Saudi Arabia and prevent them from attaining power as ‘Iranian proxies’ in Iraq and Bahrain sometime in the future. In countries such as Yemen and Syria where Shia and Shia-affiliated sects constitute an influential minority, the policy was aimed at inciting religious hatred against them in the hopes that they could be eventually relegated to social and political obscurity. Abdullah’s plan was obviously long-term, but given the intensity of the sectarian war that he launched in Iraq and the lessons his intelligence forces gleaned from such activity, his was able to see demonstrable ‘results’ a couple years later after the ‘Arab Spring’ Color Revolutions. Wahhabism flared throughout the Mideast and Shia communities everywhere found themselves in fear of violent sectarian-led attacks. For the Saudis, this was mission accomplished.

Institutional Expansionism:

The second driving force behind Abdullah’s reign of terror across the Mideast was to spread the influence of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a Saudi-led regional grouping that operates as a multifaceted integrational platform that coordinates militarypolitical, and economic policies. Abdullah’s ambition was to use it as a vehicle for creating regional satellite states, either formally integrated into the organization (such as Bahrain) or living under its military shadow (as it envisioned Yemen to be). Pertaining to Syria and Iraq, Abdullah sought to make them submissive to the GCC’s dictates, in that Syria was unsuccessfully bullied into allowing a gas pipeline to transit its territory (and its subsequent refusal is credited with initiating the war) and Iraq was targeted for trilateral fragmentation so that it could never rival the Saudis again.

Lead From Behind:

A ridiculously underdeveloped nation, except for its oil infrastructure, Saudi Arabia apes its chief mentor in almost everything concerning war making. Here a view of their war room. (Oriental Review)

A ridiculously underdeveloped nation in terms of technology and actual manufacturing, except for its oil infrastructure, Saudi Arabia apes its chief mentor in almost everything concerning war making. Here a view of their war room. (Oriental Review)

Finally, the US understood the regional value that Abdullah’s goals could have for its global grand strategy, and therefore threw all of its weight behind his destabilizing activities. The American vision for adapting to the multipolar world is to delegate zones of regional responsibility to its close allies (or group thereof), and Saudi Arabia is the Lead From Behind partner for the Gulf. The US wants to use the Saudis and their GCC minions as military proxies for any future conflict with Iran, hence why it and its NATO allies are arming them to the teeth. The US seems to have also fallen for Abdullah’s scam of the ‘Sunni-Shia rivalry’ and his paranoid fears of Iranian interference via this ‘mechanism’, which explains its blind support for the dead ruler’s actions in Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, and Yemen. Instead of the US directly confronting Iran, it simply outsources this responsibility to Saudi Arabia and the GCC, which share the same delusional belief as the US and Israel have about a hidden Iranian hand guiding all sorts of Mideast mischief.

Abdullah’s Hit List

While the story of Pandora’s Box may only be a legend, Abdullah’s Mideast application of it is most certainly not. The former King opened the gates of hell when he unleashed his sectarian war on the masses in an attempt to transform his country into the region’s unrivaled hegemon. Thus, the following should be read as Abdullah’s ‘hit list’:


Abdullah took personal offense to President Assad’s refusal to betray his Iranian allies and kowtow to the Gulf Monarchies, and thus targeted him for elimination. Of course, the US was also planning President Assad’s removal even before then, but this gave Abdullah an even greater reason to work with them to bring his sectarian plans into play in the Levant. He had intended for Syria to be a peripheral satellite of the GCC, but President Assad’s loyalty to his Iranian partners frightened the King and brought about hallucinations of a ‘Shia alliance’ aimed against his country’s interests. Abdullah wasn’t apt enough to identify it for what it properly was – the Axis of Resistance – but instead, given his fixation with Iran, he only saw a sectarian element to it that he became obsessed with destroying. Since Iraq stood between the two and happened to be run by Maliki (a Shiite) at the time, the Saudis instinctively began plans for sucking them into the oncoming destabilization by restarting the sectarian civil war that previously devastated the country.


Saudi-created ISIL gangsters and fanatics murder Syrian troops in cld blood. (Oriental Review)

Saudi/NATO-created ISIL gangsters and fanatics murder Syrian troops in cold blood. (Oriental Review)

For a while, it seemed like Iraq would successfully resist the Saudi-inspired destabilization that was ravaging Syria, since Maliki’s strong arm kept everything together between his country’s Sunni and Shia citizens. However, that was not to last, as ISIL began its massive surgeacross the Syrian border and into Iraq last summer, whereby it acquired unimaginable territorial conquests in an extremely short period of time. This was the final aspect of Abdullah’s northern-directed foreign policy, since he ultimately succeeded in having the Wahhabist militants destabilize Iraq and reignite the sectarian war, which in turn led to Maliki’s soft-coup removal from power and the country’s de-facto fragmentation into three identity-dominated entities.


This small island country was actually Abdullah’s first geopolitical victim, since he ordered the Saudi military to intervene there upon the urgent request of its monarchy. The Shiite majority had been rising up against the Sunni-minority royals and demanding democratic representation and more rights, in a scenario that Abdullah could not refrain from viewing in sectarian (read: ‘Iranian conspiracy’) terms. Nonetheless, Abdullah wasn’t successful in putting down the people’s resistance to their rulers (despite dozens of deaths and hundreds of torture allegations), which still continues to this day amidst an ever-stringent crackdown on the opposition.


Finally, Saudi Arabia’s southern neighbor wasn’t spared from Abdullah’s militant ambitions, although it experienced them in a different way. Given that Yemen is the geopolitical Achilles’ heel of the Kingdom, large-scale destabilization there poses the high risk of spilling over the border and boomeranging back into Saudi Arabia, hence Abdullah’s reluctance for all-out conflict there on par with Syria. Also, the government there was favorably affiliated with the Saudis and comfortably kept under their thumb. However, Abdullah’s obsession over sectarianism meant that he continued to view the Shiite Houthis in the north as proxy agents of Iranian influence, and he was paranoid that if they were able to create a more inclusive and democratic government, then Saudi Arabia might be left with a hostile state on its borders.
When the Houthis rebelled against President Hadi’s GCC-approved plan to arbitrarily federalize the country into six units and dilute their already miniscule representation, the government was forced to concede to a UN-mediated power-sharing agreement. The thing is, that was all just a time-buying ploy, whereby the Saudis sought to retain their man in Sanaa while finding a way to slowly destroy the Houthis. When they finally ordered Hadi to backtrack on the agreement and carry out a pro-Saudi coup, everything disastrously fell to pieces and Riyadh’s agent in Yemen stepped down from the presidency. This left the Houthis as the only real political force still active in the country, which in turn exacerbated Saudi Arabia’s fears of an Iranian conspiracy. Yemen is now on the cusp of a greater conflict, as the Kingdom, convinced of a hidden Iranian hand behind its monstrously failed coup attempt, desperately contemplates its next power move along its vulnerable and exposed southern border.

Yemen's regions. (Oriental Review)

( Oriental Review)

Bonus – The Hitman:

Last but not least, Abdullah, following the template of his American advisors, also sought to outsource some of his country’s regional activity to a degree, ergo the creation of ISIL. Although they deny it, the Saudis created it and were absolutely instrumental in helping the world’s most dangerous terrorist organization come to power. So important has ISIL been to achieving Saudi objectives in Syria and Iraq that it can even be said to function as the ‘hitman’ taking out the members of Abdullah’s ‘hit list’. However, just like with any mercenary gunman, the Wahhbist Frankenstein might finally be turning on its masters, which would present an ironic twist of fate for Abdullah’s lasting legacy.

Concluding Thoughts

As the mainstream media shamelessly ‘mourns’ Abdullah’s passing, millions of his victims across the Mideast are celebrating the death of what they rightfully view to have been the world’s number one terrorist. Never before in modern times has one man had such a wide-ranging effect of death and destruction across the region. Bush’s War on Iraq may have been indirectly responsible for ending the lives of between half a million to one million Iraqis, but one needs to be reminded that most of the violent deaths that occurred weren’t perpetrated by Americans (although that definitely doesn’t excuse them), but by anti-government/occupation forces and ‘unknown actors’ (read: Saudi-supported sectarian terrorists).

The salient point is that Abdullah’s brainchild, the artificial ‘Sunni-Shia rivalry’, cooked up in order to advance his Kingdom’s Wahhabism, spread the GCC’s power, and (as he saw it) supposedly contain and rollback Iran, has resulted in countless deaths that the mainstream media never attributed to him, to say nothing of the hundreds of thousands of casualties and millions of displaced people due to the Saudi-sponsored War on SyriaThis weaponized ideology doesn’t seem set to stop killing for quite some time (if at all), and since it has already proven the capability to outlive its creator, it should deservedly be attributed as Abdullah’s actual legacy.


Andrew Korybko serves as a political analyst and journalist with Sputnik, and currently lives and studies in Moscow. This article was originally posted on ORIENTAL REVIEW.

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Expect Dirty Business as Usual Following Saudi King’s Death Sun, 25 Jan 2015 14:19:18 +0000

Stephen Lendman

Abdullah entering his main palace in 2011. (YouTube screen grab)

Abdullah entering his main palace in 2011. (YouTube screen grab)

World headlines announced Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz’s death. At age 90. After being hospitalized on December 31. Suffering from pneumonia.

His half-brother Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud succeeds him. Aged 79. Reportedly suffering from dementia or Parkinson’s disease.

Initially Reuters headlined “New king, same oil policy.” Changed to “New Saudi king seen holding the line on OPEC policy to keep oil output high.”  The Wall Street Journal headlined “Death of King Unlikely to Alter Saudi Oil Policy.”

The Financial Times headlined “Saudi Arabia’s new King Salman bids to reassure markets.” AP headlined “Saudi King Abdullah, a Gradual Modernizer, Dead at 90.” BBC headlined “Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz dies.” Saying prior to announcing his death, “Saudi television cut to Koranic verses, which often signifies the passing of a senior royal.”

He died on Thursday at 22:00 GMT (5:00 PM New York time). The Washington Post called him “a wily king who embraced limited reform.” The New York Times said he became “a force of moderation.”  A litany of praise followed for one of the world’s most repressive rulers heading a ruthless regime.

James Petras commented earlier. Calling the Kingdom infested with “all the vices and none of the virtues of an oil rich state like Venezuela.” “The country is governed by a family dictatorship which tolerates no opposition and severely punishes human rights advocates and political dissidents.”

Prince Bandar: most probable mastermind of false flag chemical attack in Syria imputed to Assad. (YouTube screen grab TGP)

Prince Bandar: most probable the mastermind of false flag chemical attack in Syria imputed to Assad. (YouTube screen grab TGP)

It “finances the most fanatical, retrograde, misogynist version of Islam, “Wahhabi” a sect of Sunni Islam.” Prince Bandar bin Sultan masterminds Saudi’s terror network, said Petras. Partnered with high-level “US political, military and intelligence officials.”

State terror enforces repressive policies. No opposition is tolerated. Elections when held are farcical. Ruling family dictatorship thugs run things. Expect no meaningful change under Salman. Repressive business as usual continues. Human Rights Watch called Abdullah’s so-called reforms “largely symbolic.” He “failed to secure the fundamental rights of Saudi citizens to free expression, association and assembly.”

Obama paid tribute to his “valued” ally. Saying “(t)he closeness and strength of the partnership between our two countries is part of King Abdullah’s legacy.” One rogue leader praised another. Obama ludicrously claimed Abdullah “took bold steps” for regional peace. Rogue leadership best describes him. A longstanding destabilizing influence. Partnered with Obama’s war on Syria. Supporting extremist takfiris against Assad. Supplying them with chemical and other weapons. Relatively few in number IS beheadings make headlines. Longstanding Saudi practice gets practically no attention.

A rare October 2014 Newsweek article headlined “When It Comes to Beheadings, ISIS Has Nothing Over Saudi Arabia.”

America’s “closest Arab ally,” said Newsweek. Kingdom “decapitations are routine.” For “crimes including political dissent.” “(A)nd the international press hardly seems to notice.” Dozens of people have “their heads lopped off” annually.

On average, one every four days. Along with other horrendous forms of punishment. Including whippings involving hundreds of lashes. Sometimes 1,000. Administered about 50 at a time. Too many at once assures extremely painful death.

Newsweek said beheadings occur in public. “People…gather to watch…” British author John R. Bradley calls them the “only form of public entertainment” besides football.  One Saudi executioner, Mohammed Saad al-Beshi, said he beheaded up to seven prisoners a day. Calling it “God’s work.” Newsweek’s article is the exception proving the rule. Virtually none of this makes Western headlines. Especially in America.

Absolute monarchal rule is despotic, lawless and brutal. Police state ruthlessness writ large.


Horrific Saudi crimes aren’t reported. Obama turned truth on its head calling US/Saudi ties a “force for stability and security in the Middle East and beyond.” The State Department publishes annual human rights reports on over 190 countries. Its latest in April 2014.

Discussing Kingdom “human rights problems. (I)including torture and other abuses…”

“(O)vercrowding in prisons and detention centers…”

“(H)olding political prisoners and detainees…”

“(D)enial of due process; arbitrary arrest and detention…”

“(A)rbitrary interference with privacy, home, and correspondence.”

“Violence against women, trafficking in persons, and discrimination based on gender, religion, sect, race, and ethnicity (remain) common.”

“Lack of governmental transparency and access made it difficult to assess the magnitude of many reported human rights problems.”

Known abuses include “arbitrary and unlawful deprivation of life.” State-sponsored kidnappings and disappearances.

“Torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Horrific prison and detention center treatment. Arbitrary arrests and detentions. “Denial of fair public trial(s).”

No due process or judicial fairness whatever. Thousands of political prisoners with no rights whatever. “Arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home or correspondence.” No human or civil rights whatever allowed. Saudi “civil law does not protect human rights, including freedom of speech and the press.”

Internet freedom is verboten. None whatever exists. Nor academic freedom. Nor free cultural expressions. Nor free peaceful assembly and association. Nor freedom of religion. Nor freedom of internal movement, foreign travel and repatriation.

Asylum granted only “if public interest so dictates.” Refugees and asylum seekers prohibited from legally seeking work. Or have access to education, healthcare, public housing, legal services or other social ones. Significant numbers of Saudi residents are legally stateless. Mostly native born ones.

Saudi citizens have no right to change their government. Saud family members maintain total control. Political parties and similar groups are forbidden. So is the right to organize politically. Collective bargaining rights are banned. Discrimination against women excludes them from most aspects of public life. Government is rife with corruption.

Transparency is nonexistent. Internal and international human rights groups are banned. Consensual same-sex conduct is punishable by death or flogging. Civil and human rights abuses are rampant. Absolute monarchal rule is despotic, lawless and brutal. Police state ruthlessness writ large.

An October 2014 Amnesty International (AI) report is titled “Saudi Arabia’s ACPRA: How the Kingdom Silences its Human Rights Activists.” It explains how Saudi officials harass, detain and abuse human rights workers. Going to “extreme lengths to hound critics into silent submission,” said AI.

ACPRA is the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association. Founded in October 2009. Dissolved in March 2013. On March 9, 2013, a so-called Saudi court sentenced two of its leaders to 15 years in prison. For “offenses that included sedition and giving inaccurate information to foreign media.”

According to AI’s Middle East and North Africa program deputy director Said Boumedouha:

“The Saudi Arabian authorities have consolidated their iron grip on power through a systematic and ruthless campaign of persecution against peaceful activists in a bid to suppress any criticism of the state in the aftermath of the 2011 Arab uprisings.”

AI’s report focuses on 11 ACPRA activists. Saudi authorities targeted its founding members. Three currently serve 15-year prison terms. Two are incarcerated without charge. Three others awaited trial when AI’s report was published. Another three were tried. As of last fall they were free. All 11 were harassed. Most were detained short-term or imprisoned for months or years.

Charges besides the one listed above included one or more of the following:

“(B)reaking allegiance to and disobeying the ruler.”

“(I)nciting public opinion against the authorities.”

Equating peaceful demonstrators and dissenters with “terrorism.” According to AI’s report:

“ACPRA members spoke out repeatedly against the detention practices of the Saudi Arabian authorities and were especially critical of the Ministry of Interior and its feared security and intelligence branch, the General Directorate of Investigations (GDI) or al Mabahith, whose officers wield extensive powers and are able to arrest, detain, torture and abuse those they suspect with impunity.”

“(V)irtually all the country’s leading human rights activists are the imprisoned victims of an unrelenting official crackdown on criticism, dissent and other exercise of the right to freedom of expression.”

“Saudi Arabia has long evaded effective international scrutiny for its dire human rights record.” It’s a longstanding US ally. One rogue state supports another. Dirty business as usual continues. Expect no meaningful change ahead.



Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

Visit his blog site at

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#JeSuisAbdullah? Critics slam glowing Western eulogies for ‘reformer’ Saudi king Sun, 25 Jan 2015 02:09:19 +0000
Prince Charles doing Saudi ritual dance during visit in Februay (2014). Via Ancho/flickr.

Prince Charles doing Saudi ritual dance (Arda) during visit to the kingdom in Februay (2014). [Via Ancho/flickr.]

Criticsare taking Western leaders to task for singing the praises of King Abdullah, the recently deceased 90-year-old monarch of Saudi Arabia, whose regime they claim was marred by countless human rights abuses, warmongering and corruption.

US Secretary of State John Kerry described the late king as “a brave partner in fighting violent extremism who proved just as important as a proponent of peace.”

However, prior to a 2013 law which banned terrorist financing, Saudi Arabia had been described as “the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide,” according to US diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks.

Former US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called Abdullah “a powerful voice for tolerance, moderation, and peace,” and lauded his dedication to “advancing the lives of his people at home as well as his country’s leadership abroad.”

kingAbdullah bin Abdul-Aziz Al

Another leaked cable revealed that the Saudi King had urged the US to strike Iran in order to destroy its nuclear program. Abdullah was recorded telling America to “cut off the head of the snake,” in a 2008 meeting with General David Petraeus.

The British establishment, meanwhile, remembers the King warmly, going so far as to request that flags around the country be flown at half-mast all day in honor of Abdullah. A government website notes that “local authorities are not bound by this request but may wish to follow it for guidance.”

Prince Charles has also flown to Saudi Arabia to pay his last respects to the late monarch. The Prince of Wales has made frequent visits to the oil-rich kingdom, even participating in a ritual sword dance alongside members of the royal family last year. He is believed to have been a close friend of Abdullah.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said, “I knew him well and admired him greatly. Despite the turmoil of events in the region around him, he remained a stable and sound ally, was a patient and skillful modernizer of his country leading it step by step into the future.”

Critics note that the monarch repeatedly moved to engineer further conflict in the Middle East. For instance, Abdullah had called on the US to provide more backing to the Sunni rebels fighting to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria.

In an Elysee Palace statement, France also lauded King Abdullah’s “vision of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.”

Despite limited efforts, characterized by Human Rights Watch (HRW) as “marginal advances that failed to secure the fundamental rights of Saudi citizens to free expression, association, and assembly,” Abdullah was unable to curtail his kingdom’s routine rights’ violations, including public floggings of dissidents and executions for sorcery.

And yet, US Vice President Joe Biden expressed admiration for Abdullah’s “efforts to move his country forward.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel, though more measured in her praise, also voiced appreciation for the absolute monarch’s “cautious modernization of his country.”

Abdullah was widely praised in the West for sponsoring an eponymous coeducational graduate-level university, a breach of the taboo in the only country in the world where women are forbidden from driving.

Standing up for basic human rights can be challenging, if not dangerous in the ultraconservative kingdom. King Abdullah’s four daughters, for example, have been kept locked up by their father for some 13 years for speaking out against the country’s oppression of women.

“What is the crime of 99 percent of women in this country, who are basically suffering under male guardianship? A male guardian can do whatever he wants; he can cut off everything and she is left with nothing,” they told RT in an interview last year.

Despite all this, head of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde went so far as to praise Abdullah as a “strong advocate for women.”

“In a very discreet way, he was a strong advocate of women. It was very gradual, appropriately so probably for the country. I discussed that issue with him several times and he was a strong believer,”she said.

Last summer, HRW noted a surge in executions in the kingdom. Between August 4 and August 21, the country executed at least 19 people, eight for nonviolent offense, like drug smuggling and sorcery. Convicted criminals are usually beheaded, though those convicted of crimes of morality such as adultery can be stoned to death.

In recent weeks, thousands gathered at Saudi embassies around the globe to protest the ruling against Raif Badawi, a Saudi blogger who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for setting up a website that undermined general security and mocked religious figures. The blogger had originally been charged with apostasy, or abandonment of religion, a crime that is punishable with the death penalty.

In spite of this seemingly appalling human rights record and sketchy foreign policy peppered with warmongering, Western leaders are putting up a united front of support for the late monarch.

Many have taken to Twitter to lambast the apparent hypocrisy of these venerating eulogies. Some have even coined the #JeSuisAbdullah hashtag, expressing wry scorn for what they believe to be a tyrant glowingly misremembered because of his country’s strategic importance to its Western allies.


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