Has World War III started — or did the Great War never really end?

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The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (Artwork by Achille Beltrame via Wikimedia Commons)

Many fear that the Alliance missile strikes on Syria on the weekend utilities will trigger another world war, however contributing editor-at-large Tess Lawrence says the first one never ended.

WORLD WAR THREE has started. On Saturday, I heard that said a number of times. 

There is indeed a palpable fear that the Franco British USA Alliance precision missile strikes on some of Syria's chemical weapons utilities will trigger another world war.

It could happen in much the same way that the 1914 St Vitus Day (Julian calendar) assassination in Sarajevo of the heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, led to a bloody armageddon.

Both were shot at close range by the Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip, triggering a sequence of events that led to the First World War, such is the power of the odd angry shot.

The hapless couple had already escaped a bombing in their motorcade earlier in the day and yet after their civic duties, with great trepidation, they got back into their open-hooded double phaeton, despite heightened concerns for their safety, only to become literal sitting targets for their killer.

They apparently died whilst sitting upright, maintaining a surreal regal decorum in the horrifying and bloodied dying seconds of their lives, in what was regarded as a true love match and marriage.

Wikipedia also has a very competent summary leading up to the assassination and subsequent events.

Achille Beltrame's vivid illustration (above right) of the assassination appeared in the Italian weekly, Domenica del Corriere, 12 July 1914, editon and bears an eerie echo to photos and footage of the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas.


The Duchess is depicted turning in distress to assist her mortally wounded husband, reminding the viewer of Jackie Kennedy turning in her seat to help the mortally wounded President John F. Kennedy.

Unlike Jackie, Sophie was also mortally wounded.

In both cases, conspiracy theories of the assassinated and their assassins abound to this day.

Kennedy shot. Jackie leans in to help him. Eerily echoes Beltrame's illustration. (Source: Cirque Du Sirois)

As with contemporary investigations into Russia's involvement with the now President Trump's election campaign, Kennedy's killer Lee Harvey Oswald's ties with Russia were investigated and remain ambiguous.


Last year, the U.S. Government declassified a swag of documents. Among them were some, but not all, of the files relating to Kennedy's assassination and Oswald's contact with Russia's KGB (now renamed the Federal Security Service, the FSS).

The documents make compelling reading. Oswald is cited as visiting the then Soviet Union's Embassy in New Mexico and meeting with the Vice Consul, Valeriy Vladimirovich Kostikov, identified as a member of the notorious Department 13 that specialised in assassinations.

D13's predecessor was the ominously named Directorate of Special Tasks.

Terms like "executive action" and "liquid affairs" meant more than promotion or martinis — unstirred or otherwise.


They invariably meant abducting and liquidating dissenters, perceived and actual spies, wherever they lived, wherever they fled. You can hide but you can't outrun the KGB/FSS, as ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia can attest.

Just weeks ago, they were found in a near death state on a park bench in Salisbury after being exposed to a military grade of the toxic nerve agent Novichok, an ultra fine and lethal powder. 

Britain and its allies assert Russia is the culprit, and the ensuing bristling fued between Russia and Britain is accelerating, and unquestionably has contributed to the Alliance's strikes on Syria for its despicable use of chemical weapons on its own people.


Click onto the Russian Sales website for a collection of commemmorative KGB and FSS badges and information

As far back as 1964 – ten years after the sensational Cold War defection to Australia by diplomats Vladimir and Evdokia Petrov – the CIA was already describing the notorious kidnapping and death squad thus:

Soviet intelligence seeks to neutralize, discredit and destroy anti-Soviet groups by luring emigrés back to the USSR, by penetrating emigré organizations, and by kidnaping (sic) or murdering individual emigrés considered to be particularly dangerous.

Such operations are sometimes designed to demonstrate that the Soviet regime can strike its enemies anywhere in the world ... to create fear, unrest, confusion, and dissension within emigré organizations, and...deter other emigrés from joining their ranks. The planned assassination in February 1954 of Georgiy S. Okolovich, leader of the NTS emigré organization, was to have been a particularly significant step toward achieving this goal, but the act was not carried out because of the defection of state security Captain Nikolay Khokhlov.

.... assassinations of some emigré leaders have been carried out so skillfully as to leave the impression that the victims died from natural causes. Details of some of the techniques used to achieve this were brought to light in 1961 when professional KGB assassin Bogdan Stashinskiy defected to the West and revealed that he had successfully performed two such missions.

In 1957, he killed Ukrainian emigré writer Lev Rebet in Munich with a poison vapor gun which left the victim dead of an apparent heart attack. In 1959, the same type of weapon was used on Ukrainian emigré leader Stepan Bandera, although Bandera's death was never fully accepted as having been from natural causes.


None of this is to say the "allies" have clean hands in all of this. The state sanctioned execution of Osama bin Laden is a contemporary standout.

The West upped the ante insofar as non-Islamic terrorism is concerned; especially with a foreign national on foreign soil. No "civilised" trial by the First World. No hauling before a War Crimes Tribunal. Just do it. Nike nuke style.

The USA was judge and executioner. And any cheers by the "bad” guys on 9/11 were matched around the world by the cheers of the “bad” guys at Bin Laden's murder. Morally, how can we plead with "savages" about summary executions when we perform them ourselves?

Back to the future past. Do you remember being taught about The Great War? It was to be "the War that ended all wars".

Well, for some, that War continues. For some, hostilities never ceased. Ergo Iraq, Afghanistan, East and South Africas, the Middle East, Egypt, India, Burma, Turkey, Vietnam, Korea, Pakistan, Syria, Jordan, Ethipia and, and, and ... oh, yeah, Vietnam.

Is there a continuum of war? It appears so.



It seems wherever the colonising visible white hand went hither, thither came warring and warmongering. Carpetbaggers of corpses. Carpet bombings. Remember when strafing was in fashion? Civilians continuously caught in the corporate crossfire of those lucrative congenitally modified crops listed on the world's major stock exchanges, the hydra-headed conglommerates of war industria; the careless arms race intent on oblitering the human race for a negotiable price.

The "long weekend" between The Great War and the Second World War, if not Churchill's "darkest hour", was surely the world's darkest hour — as is each and every war when we human beings resort to anihilating each other.

For some, that war continues. For some, hostilities never cease. Same, same. Blah blah. Rhubarb, rhubarb, Rasputin, Richelieu.


No matter what some of the great philosphers and gods of men say, is there such a thing as a "just war"?  Does discussion of even the notion of jus bellum iustum and the philosophies of, say, Sun Tzu, Augustine, Aquinas, or Thrasymachus, Cicero and Plato and KFCs ever help assuage deadly confrontations? 

What of jus ad bellum— what justifies military force? Or jus in bello — ethical warring?

Indeed, is there such a thing as an ethical war? Or should we reconcile ourselves to the notion that some wars are more unjust than others?

There are many other offshoots of the just war theory — including restoration of pulverised buldings and infrastructure. We have yet to aquire the ability to restore the dead to life.

Perhaps in the future, we will take and store the DNA of people killed in wars and clone them back into life in the future, when there is peace. Born again civilians. The walking dead.


Did Macron, May and Trump consider any of the above? One feels that Macron and May may have, and that their advisers would have raised such issues, as well as international law and protocols.

It is difficult imagining Trump doing any such thing. Probably he would first wish to know Tzu's golf handicap. It appears the Donald only reads books that he's written — or someone else has written about him. 

There's a clue about the steadying influence of Macron and May in Trump's notorious “Mission Accomplished “ tweet, where he thanks France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom. Given Trump's ineptitude as Commander in Chief – remember the botched SEAL operation in Yemen?


In his article for the BBC, Marc Weller, Professor of International Law,  University of Cambridge and editor of the Oxford University Press Handbook honed in on the Use of Force in International Law.

The question was posed — Syria air strikes: Were they legal?

Weller wrote:

The three states intervening in Syria now argue that there was no prospect of obtaining a mandate from the ( Security ) Council to confront chemical weapons use by Syria.

In striking Syria, they claim to have fulfilled an international public order function of defending the credibility of the prohibition of the use of chemical weapons in general terms, and enforcing Syria's obligations in particular. 

This argument is somewhat reminiscent of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, supposedly to enforce Baghdad's disarmament obligations imposed by the Security Council in the absence of clear Security Council authorisation. Moreover, in April of last year, President Trump launched 59 cruise missiles against the Syrian air-base at Shayrat. It was claimed that the installation had been involved in a chemical attack in the town of Khan Sheikhun, again to restrain further chemical weapons use.

It is all such an unholy mess.


Well, it mattered enough to President Trump to reclaim the phrase in a retweet of Haley's bolstering of his ego.

However, it was President Barack Obama who used that phrase when referencing Assad's use of chemical weapons, warning him lest he should cross the "red line". Assad used chemical weapons on his people. The red line was crossed. Obama did nothing. Assad continued killing and injuring his people with chemicals and other weapons. The empty threat emboldened Assad.


“Mission Accomplished!” Did you see that? How could the 45th President of the USA say such a stupid thing – even by Trump's low standard. 

Especially given the same false proclamation on a banner behind the 43rd President George W. Bush infamously standing on the deck of aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, after the 2003 illegal invasion of Iraq by the Coalition of the Willing, that included an habitually obeisant Australia to a higher power. We went to war on the lie that Saddam Hussein had chemical weapons of mass destruction.  He did not.

He's reminded us that the invasion of Iraq remains a war without end.

That mission was not accomplished. Nor will it be any time soon. The Iraq war has never ended. There may come a day when these men who led this Coalition of the Killing and their cohorts will be tried for war crimes.

Look at the bloodshed caused. Consider how the region has been torn asunder and new enemies conceived in what is said to be the place of The Garden of Eden. It is no Eden now.

There have been more than 4,000 deaths of US military personnel alone. And tens of thousands of Iraqis killed – and thousands of others killed and displaced and wounded. Families forever fractured.

America, Britain and Australian governments all continue to treat returned war veterans from Iraq, Afghanistan et al, with utter cruel and shameful contempt.


In 2011, The Atlantic published an article from partner, The Wire, by Ujala Sehgal recalling the almost orgasmic praise (really) of Bush as the all conquering hero, some of them calling him “hot.” That's what war does. Feathers up the machismo, the testosterone, like shaking up a duvet.

It takes one back to the future, reminding us of the war fever of those days.

Here's a quote:

'Chris Matthews on MSNBC called Bush a "hero" and boomed, "He won the war. He was an effective commander. Everybody recognizes that, I believe, except a few critics." He added: "Women like a guy who's president. Check it out. The women like this war. I think we like having a hero as our president. It's simple."'

Did you get that? “The women like this war.” Sure we do. We Iraqi grandmothers, partners, mothers, sisters, aunties just love this fucking war. Still do. Just like we grandparents, parents, partners, families and friends of returned veterans and all involved, love it. 


We've been told that the Alliance targeted only specific sites: a chemical weapons storage facility and chemical weapons equipment facility, both near Homs and a scientific research facility closer in  the Damascus region.

The other day, Minister for Defence Marise Payne spole about the Allliance bombings and, responding to a question, said categorically:

"I can confirm that there was no Australian involvement in the strike...”

That is a blatant lie. Here's why.

Firstly, we have participated in bombing strikes in Syria that have contributed to bringing the world to this day. Some of our sorties with our allies have had more catastrophic casualties than others — including the accidental killings of reportedly 62 to 100 "good" Syrian soldiers, fighting Da'ash, Islamic State "bad guys".

Such tragic bungles always fuel propaganda from "the other sides" and given that Marise Payne refused to discuss the botchup with the Australian people, speculation is invited. Come dressed to kill.

In August last year, a BBC article said:

At the start of June, the coalition said its 22,983 air strikes in Syria and Iraq since 2014 had unintentionally killed at least 624 civilians. However, human rights groups believe the true figure is far higher.

Airwars, an organisation that tracks allegations of civilian deaths, said that as of 8 August, coalition air strikes were likely to have killed at least 4,487 civilians.

Syria and Russia and their allies have killed tens of thousands of Syrians and displaced millions of civilians — but they don't bother with even a semblance of a body count. Or what is left of bodies.

To say nothing of the wounded.


Secondly, the U.S./Australian Pine Gap facilities are perenially involved in forensic satellite intelligence and surveillance that is supplied to our allies (and others) that enable these so-called precision strikes.

Late last year, Radio National's Background Briefing prepared a comprehensive program based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden about the role of Pine Gap on the international stage and the complexities, legal and ethical, of modern warfare.

From the transcript:

Peter Cronau: Australia has stepped into a brave new era of global warfighting. Support for US military operations is taking Australia and our personnel into a murky legal area of extrajudicial killings and military campaigns that have not been sanctioned by the United Nations. And all this is happening with little parliamentary oversight or public debate.

Richard Tanter: The documents show us that Pine Gap is definitely involved in American military operations in Afghanistan, in the Middle East, in fact around the world where necessary. So these documents are confirmation of what we understood Pine Gap to be capable of, and we now know for sure that this is what Pine Gap does.


Last month Panos Moumtzis, the U.N.'s Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis, issued yet another in-vain statement about the plight of civilians.

Turkey's dictatorial President Recep Tayyip Erdogan already has Kurdish blood on his hands, running amok, with bloody and relative ease, taking back Afrin and, in his increasingly bellicose demeanour, has declared:

"We will continue this process until we entirely eliminate this corridor, including in Manbij, Ayn al-Arab, Tal Abyad, Ras al-Ayn and Qamishli."

And he will.

The U.N.'s Security Council, to which we belong is constantly stymied by Russia – a permanent member of the SC - and China. Both may as well be proxies for Assad.


Since the 2011 start of the Syrian Civil War until late February this year, more than 20 resolutions against Syria, including chemical warfare matters, have been put to the Council and 11 of those have been vetoed by Russia. The tally has since risen.

Mina Aldroubi's article in the Abu Dhabi-based The National points out that:

In order to be passed, a resolution needs nine votes in favour and no vetoes by any one of the five permanent members - the US, France, Russia, China and the UK.

Last November Moscow used its veto to block the resumption of a UN investigation into the use of chemical weapons by Mr Assad's forces.

Additionally, Russia and china (sic) also blocked a draft resolution in February that called for sanctions on the parties involved in the chemical weapons investigation, despite passing a resolution in September 2013 that called for the verification and destruction of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile.

...In the wake of the gas attack on Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province last April, where more than 80 people were killed, a draft resolution was drawn up to condemn the attack and call for an international investigation into the perpetrators.

Russia used its veto power while China abstained.

As long as Russia has the power of veto, it will continue to serve only its own vested interests and the interests of its allies rather than the collective good. It is not alone in this.


The United Nations need a complete structural overhaul. No question. Without it, the world wold become even more feral.

Assad is a war criminal by any measure. He has murdered hundreds of thousands of his own people, so far with impunity. Russia's Vladimir Putin has saved him from inevitable demise. Russia is in this to win. It has the might and the militia. And it has Putin, a dictator by any other name. Like Trump and Assad, he is an amoral narcissist who is prepared to sacrifice the welfare of ordinary human beings for vainglory.

In the saving of face and more pending sanctions, Russia, Iran and Syria are regrouping and making relatively benign noises.

How do we pull back from the brink? We pay so much heed to the business of war — and hardly any to the business of peace.


Our Government's failure to acknowledge the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) last year, is testimony to the vacuum of collective intellectual rigour of our parliamentarians and their fear of any public debate that encroaches on their political and financial expediency. 

Apart from being utterly graceless and such bad form, it underscores the political cowardice of our body politic. The thought that a grassroots local activist organisation grew into such a powerful and disntinguished force for the greater good of humanity and the planet, fills them with anathema and dread.

This week, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull attends the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London.

The Skripal poisonings, the strikes on Syria, and what to do about Assad will be no doubt be discussed with Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnston, among others.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) has just had a meeting about the Syria crisis.

All these matters have an immediate impact on Australia. The Pacific region is no longer pacified.

We have neglected our neighbours at our own peril. Any maybe theirs.

We need to refresh. Take a cold shower. Rail against war being the first option.

Blessed are the peacemakers. Even if they don't inherit the earth, they may yet save it from those who are supposed to be the custodians of the human race and the planet upon which, so often, we rudely trample.

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