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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

The Hamas offensive of October 7 caught the Israel Defence Forces asleep at their posts. This  weekend’s drone strike against Tower-22, a US troop base in northeastern Jordan, caught the US Army troops asleep.

The response, according to President Joseph Biden’s statement, is that “we will hold all those responsible to account at a time and in a manner our choosing….we know it was carried out by radical Iran-backed militant groups operating in Syria and Iraq.”   General Lloyd Austin, the US Secretary of Defense, repeated: “Iran-backed militias are responsible for these continued attacks on U.S. forces, and we will respond at a time and place of our choosing.”  

Donald Trump, campaigning to defeat Biden in the November election, declared in an election  statement, reported in full  by a Russian military blogger, “this brazen attack on the United States is yet another horrific and tragic consequence of Joe Biden’s weakness and surrender. Three years ago, Iran was weak, broke, and totally under control. Thanks to my Maximum Pressure policy…This attack would NEVER have happened if I was President, not even a chance. Just like the Iranian-backed Hamas attack on Israel would never have happened, the war in Ukraine would never have happened, and we would right now have peace throughout the World. Instead, we are on the brink of World War 3.”  

This is how the psychopathic liar now fights the demented on behalf of the genocidalists to trigger all-fronts war in the Middle East.

The details of the Tower-22 attack, and Iran’s reinforcement at the Strait of Hormuz, reveal that the Arabs and the Iranians are ready and waiting. The Russians too.

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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

For the time being, there are no official photographs of the meeting in Moscow on Thursday evening at the Russian Foreign Ministry between Mikhail Bogdanov, the deputy foreign minister and chief Russian negotiator in the Middle East and Africa, and  Mohammed (Mukhameddov) Abdelsalam leading a  delegation of the Ansarallah government of Yemen, known as the Houthi movement.  

The absence of photographs does not mean a blackout. 

Bogdanov’s communiqué said “special attention was paid to the development of tragic events in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict zone, as well as the aggravation of the situation in the Red Sea in this regard. In this context, the missile and bomb attacks on Yemen undertaken by the United States and Great Britain, which are capable of destabilizing the situation on a regional scale, were strongly condemned.”

This is the plainest signal to date of Russian backing for the southern front of the Arab war against Israel, and the link which the Houthis have made between the Israeli blockade of Gaza,  the genocide of the Palestinians, and the Red Sea blockade which the Houthis have imposed on vessels owned or directed by Israeli shipowners,  US naval fleet, and American-flagged and other vessels carrying military and civil cargoes to Israel or reload ammunition for future attacks on Yemen.

At the same time across Moscow, unusually large delegations of officials of the Russian Security Council, led by Nikolai Patrushev, and Ali-Akbar Ahmadian, special presidential representative and Secretary of Iran’s National Security Council, have been meeting to discuss a detailed agenda which Patrushev’s communiqué calls a “wide range of Russian-Iranian security cooperation” and “the practical implementation of the agreements reached at the highest level.” 

In an open statement for reporters, Ahmadian told Patrushev: “”America’s grandeur has shattered, and today, it cannot even rally its traditional allies. A country that considers itself a superpower is engaged in war against resistance groups and the people of the region.”  

The display of Russian support for the Axis of Resistance  against Israel and the US is unprecedented. The Foreign Ministry and Security Council meetings confirm there is now a new definition of “terrorism” in Russian warfighting strategy, in which there is both public and secret support for Hamas, the Houthis, and other groups in Lebanon and Iraq fighting for national liberation against Israel and the US.

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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

When a man is drowning, he reportedly sees excerpts from his life story flashing in review in the two minutes it takes for his lungs to fill up with water, stopping the heart and cutting off the oxygen supply to his brain.

When an Italian writer recently attempted over two hundred and eighty-five pages to imagine what President Vladimir Putin is really like, he drowned before he got to the truth.  But not before he managed a great deal of hand-waving and hyper-ventilation which is also typical of drowning victims.

Hand-waving and hyper-ventilation about the leadership of Russia in the present war can make a best-seller in the states which are losing the war. The Financial Times which is owned by Japan and written in England recommends the book for portraying “Putin as a lone wolf who works as others sleep.”   He’s also a cross between a wolf and a pitbull — “a power animal. You end up killing everyone because, in a way, that guarantees your survival. That’s why the last [depiction] of Putin in the book is him alone in a graveyard — with his dog, of course. The dog is always important.”  

Indeed — dogs take five times longer than men to drown. So they see more flashbacks before they succumb.   

The Italian’s name is Giuliano da Empoli – that’s Julian of Empoli, a medieval town turned nondescript industrial zone, which is too far from the sea — sixty kilometres — to drown in. It is only a brisk walk, however, to submerge in the Arno River which marks the northern boundary of the old town.

Da Empoli claims, as do the promotions of the book in the anti-Russia propaganda organs, that he is writing about Putin and how power is exercised in Russian politics. Da Empoli’s method is to have the author’s narrator, a shrinking violet type, interview his opposite, a brash character modelled after Vladislav Surkov (lead image), onetime Kremlin plotter and plodder with the Ukraine portfolio, and self-styled ideologist in chief. In the outcome, the book’s Surkov character reveals next to nothing about the real Surkov’s performance – that’s a discovery which da Empoli, lacking the sources, hasn’t made himself.

More to the point, the book’s title Wizard of the Kremlin    reveals that the alchemy attributed to  Putin is what the alchemical combinations of melanosis (blackening), leucosis (whitening), xanthosis (yellowing) and iosis (reddening) have always proved to be – an illusion of words, a fantasy of colours, a PR trick people are persuaded to pay to believe. At seventeen dollars for da Empoli’s paperback, that’s a more costly illusion than the cheap enlightenment of reading this to the end.

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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

There is no lack of confidence in Donetsk that the war will be won, but no conviction when exactly that will be.

A Ukrainian heavy artillery salvo hit the Kirovsky district market, on the western outskirts of  Donetsk city on Sunday,  killing at least 27 people, and wounding about as many. The New York Times reported falsely “it was not possible to independently confirm which side launched the strike.”  

The reaction in Donetsk, and also in Moscow, is that the incident triggers serious questioning of how the Russian military operations can be failing still to drive long-range Ukrainian artillery, rockets and missiles far enough westwards to protect the civilians of Donetsk region; and also  the three other accession regions of expanded Donbass; as well as the Russian border regions to the north of Belgorod, Bryansk, and Kursk.

The daily operations briefing and bulletin from the Ministry of Defense in Moscow are reporting exceptionally high casualty rates for the Ukrainian side – 860 last Thursday; 1,005 on Monday; 700 on Tuesday. The bulletin,  which is blocked on the internet in many of the NATO allied states, also reveals a rising toll on the US and NATO-supplied long-range guns, and a changing ratio for Russian army operations each day from defence to offence.

Still, sources in Donetsk and Moscow acknowledge that although the pace and impact of Russian  operations along the line of contact have been growing in recent days, the east-to-west depth of the demilitarized zone required for long-term security remains a hope and military ambition —  not yet the reality on the ground, or in the economy of Donetsk.

Donetsk business sources say they are actively planning for the reconstruction of the region’s mining and metals fabrication industries, and they are negotiating terms of financial assistance for both with the federal authorities, as well as the regional administration. The sources said this week they are sure that in the plans now being discussed there will be no return of the Ukrainian oligarchs who controlled Donetsk’s economy in the past, especially Rinat Akhmetov,  Igor Kolomoisky,   and Victor Pinchuk.  

The Donetsk sources said the most pressing problem at the moment is the lack of manpower to return from the fighting to work; the sources are considering importing North Koreans to fill the manpower gap.

For the longer term, the conviction in Donetsk is that there will also be no return of the criminal gangs who had dominated the local economy in parallel with, and accommodated by the oligarchs. “From the Russian side,” said a business figure in the steel industry, “I am sure the recovery and reconstruction will be done with a heavy hand. No mafia.”

In a lengthy interview just published in Moscow,    the Donetsk regional government’s plan for reviving the local economy has been presented in detail.  Vladislav Vasilivev, the deputy regional chief for the economy, does the talking. Donetsk business sources, who have read the interview, confirm the details.

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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

By Russian oligarch standards, Vladimir Lisin (lead image) – iron-ore and coalminer, steelmaker, land and sea transporter, shipbuilder — is the only honest one.

In the acquisition, enlargement,  and protection of his asset holdings over thirty years, he has also managed to defeat the dishonest ones, starting with Oleg Deripaska,  then Mikhail Prokhorov,  then Victor Rashnikov,   not to mention offshore raiders like George Soros and David Reuben of the Trans World Group.  

Those who have known Lisin longest, including me, don’t put this down to his factory-floor  origins, to his two PhDs and fluent English – Lisin is the best educated of the oligarchs —  nor to his alliances with Soviet and Yeltsin-era politicians. “Straight and honest was his character”, says an American metals trader today, who worked with him in the 1990s. “The disputes [with Lisin] were not easy,” says Oleg Korolev, between 1998 and 2018 the governor of Lipetsk region, where Lisin’s main steel production is based, “but they always ended objectively and fairly.”

“[He is] one of the most original stars in the oligarchic firmament,” concludes the latest business media profile published in Moscow a few days ago.   “He has never aspired to power, like, for example, [Vladimir] Potanin, but has such an administrative resource that even [Anatoly] Chubais in exile, according to rumours, has been asking [Lisin] to intercede for him with the Kremlin’s decision makers. He hasn’t poked his nose into erstwhile political projects, like [Roman] Abramovich…He has not received any special state awards, unlike his colleague, Hero of Labor of Russia Rashnikov, but no one will deny his powerful personal contribution to the development of NLMK and to the country’s economy. He did not participate in the loans-for-shares schemes or in the semibankirschina.  Nevertheless, he has created one of the most advanced, diversified, and effective business empires which his colleagues on the Forbes list can envy.”

And yet, since the start of the Special Military Operation two years ago, Lisin has been stripping the assets of the group in which his shareholding control is about 80%.  He has been selling both steelmaking and transportation businesses to independent buyers, not nominees; from them in return he has received between $3.5 billion and $4 billion in cash from the deals.  

At the same time, he has preserved the original Novolipetsk Steel Metallurgical Combine (NLMK), the core of his group, plus the coal and iron-ore mines and energy sources which supply NLMK, and enable it to produce cheaper steel than its domestic or foreign competitors.

This is what turf bookmakers call an each-way bet – on steelmaking in the domestic Russian market to support and profit from the Russian victory over the US and NATO in the Ukraine; and on cash banked through the UAE, outside the reach of US and European economic warfighters and sanctioneers, and also the Russian tax man.  

Still at risk in this wager are Lisin’s castle and grouse shoot in Perthshire, Scotland; a home in Geneva; a motor yacht he calls Socrates, and a Bombardier airplane. Hedging that risk are his steel plants in Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy,  and the US which continue to be so vital for the political survival of the regimes in those states, not to mention their defence industries, that they have secured quota-busting concessions until 2024 or longer, in order to keep importing Lisin’s Russian steel products for their production lines.    

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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Alexei Kudrin (lead image) — the state finance factotum President Vladimir Putin promoted for his entire federal government career until in the war against the Ukraine and the US the president couldn’t protect him any longer —  has lost his half-billion dollar payoff.

Kudrin’s long-held ambition to succeed Putin in the Kremlin with US backing ends with the oligarchs and state bankers about to take over Yandex and cutting Kudrin’s stake in the deal by at least two percent and several hundred million dollars. This last cut is not only the deepest for Kudrin: the oligarchs and bankers are making public this week that Putin is not protecting Kudrin any longer.

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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

When your enemy dupes you into compounding your mistakes, without achieving your military objectives, he is leading you into an escalation of force which will defeat you, sooner or later. Later is more costly, defeat more ruinous, so the Arab-Iranian alliance against Israel and the US is waging the long war they were never before believed capable to fight.  

No matter how much force you use, every US Army manual on winning battles and wars says the same thing.   Captain B.H. Liddell Hart, the British Army strategist of a generation ago, advised that “for success two major problems must be solved — dislocation and exploitation. One precedes and one follows the actual blow — which in comparison is a simple act.”

Today is Tuesday morning — and it is already plain on the Middle Eastern battlefield that the Anglo-American air attacks against Yemeni targets on Friday and Saturday have “dislocated” none of the capabilities of the Ansarallah government in Sanaa and the Houthi military units.  

For exploitation after the air strikes, the initiative has remained instead with the Houthis: they  are continuing their attacks on the US Navy fleet in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, keeping them on guard, but demonstrating they are ineffectual to protect US and Israel-connected shipping now diverting from the area.  “War is a two-party affair,” old Liddell Hart had said, “in order to hit with effect, the enemy must be taken off his guard.” In the Middle East the enemy has been taken off his guard. That’s to say, the Israelis, the Americans, and the British.

Minutes after midnight on Tuesday, Moscow time, Russian military bloggers began relaying the news from Iran and Yemen of new missile attacks against a Greek-American owned bulker in the Gulf of Aden during the afternoon, and hours later at night, a US mercenary forces unit, a US consulate building, an Israeli base, and the home of a leading oil trader in the Kurdish city of Erbil in northern Iraq.

According to Boris Rozhin’s Colonel Cassad Telegram platform, “the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has officially announced that the ballistic missile attack on US and Mossad bases in Iraq was carried out in response to the bloody terrorist attack in Kerman during commemorative events dedicated to Qassem Soleimani.  Local sources in Erbil report at least 8 rocket strikes… At the moment, what is known is that there have been strikes against the following targets by IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] missiles: 1. The American base at Erbil airport. 2. The U.S. Consulate in Erbil. 3. The local headquarters of the Kurdish security service. 4. The private residence of a local businessman [Peshraw Dizayee] associated with the Mossad.  There is a high activity of ambulances in Erbil. There is no clarity about the victims, but it is obvious that there will be numbers of them.”   

US media reporting after several hours of delay claimed there had been explosions near the US consulate in Erbil but “ ‘no US facilities were impacted. We’re not tracking damage to infrastructure or injuries at this time,’ a U.S. official told ABC News.”  On the contrary, Rozhin reported, “according to one of my friends who lives in the centre of Erbil, the blow fell not on the current consulate, but on the new one, which is just being built. There was everything in scaffolding and construction cranes. Eyewitnesses say that they were building something grandiose.”

During Sunday afternoon, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed reported Houthi drone or missile attacks targeting the US Navy destroyer, USS Laboon, which claims to have assisted a USAF fighter to intercept them before they reached the destroyer.  CENTCOM also reported Houthi launches “toward the southern Red Sea commercial shipping lanes.”   

CENTCOM is saying nothing at all about the fate of the two US Navy F-18 pilots, shot down by Houthi air defence during the first raid on Friday morning and missing at sea since then.   Pentagon concealment of the shoot-down —  the first air battle success of its kind– has been camouflaged by a half-dozen press releases about the hospitalization and health of the Defense Secretary, General Lloyd Austin.     “I continue to recuperate and perform my duties from home,” Austin  has claimed.   

According to US Army Lieutenant General Douglas Sims (lead image) who heads the staff advising the Joint Chiefs of Staff on operations:  “The hope would be that any real thought of [Houthi] retaliation is based on a clear understanding that, you know, we simply are not going to be messed with here…I know we have degraded capability.  I don’t believe that they [Houthis] would be able to execute the same way they did the other day.  But we will see.”    In less than 72 hours what Sims could see has had to be concealed from everyone else.

Not in Moscow.

“The Americans need controlled instability to realize their own plans,” Konstantin Dolgov, once a senior Russian diplomat  and now a senator, told Vzglyad. “But this instability has long been out of Washington’s control.”  

Yesterday, January 15, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke by telephone with Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and announced “coordination at all levels, emphasizing the unwavering mutual commitment to the fundamental principles of Russian-Iranian relations, including unconditional respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and other principles of the UN Charter, which will be confirmed in the upcoming ‘big’  interstate agreement between the Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Iran.”  

“All levels” includes military coordination. It also means coordination with the Ansarallah representatives in Teheran.

As for the Houthi operations in the Red Sea, Lavrov and Amir-Abdollahian explicitly linked them to the Israeli-American blockade of the Palestinians in Gaza, calling for “an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and unhindered humanitarian access to the enclave to provide urgent assistance to the affected civilian population.”

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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Russianness is now banned in many parts of the unfriendly world.

In Australia the banning started in earnest when the Ukraine war commenced in 2014. Already I had been banned by the state’s Australian Broadcasting Commission, then the commercial mainstream press from 2013. Just before, on September 9, 2012, 3MBS, a public subscription classical music station in Melbourne, invited me to talk about Russia and play my selection of Russian music.  This broadcast, the words in English and the Russian music, can never be heard in that country again.

Much is said in this broadcast, and more played, of the Russian experience of foreboding, of personal loss,  though not of national defeat. Defeat is what the unfriendly countries are inflicting on themselves.

Think about what this means now, wherever you are.  

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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Not since Moses held out his hand and got the Israelites’ god to blow an easterly wind to part the Red Sea, has there been such a prodigious feat on that stretch of water. In the hours following the US and UK bombing and missile attacks on Yemen on Friday morning, the Kremlin ordered that a fence be constructed in the middle of the Red Sea on which President Vladimir Putin (lead image) has told Russian officials to sit.

The Kremlin order required the Foreign Ministry to reserve its condemnation of the attacks for the US and UK; ignore the Arab-Iranian alliance against Israel; and drop mention of Russia’s  earlier commitment to regional Arab-Iranian negotiations with Ansarallah in the Yemen.

The reason is that President Putin refuses explicitly to attack Israel’s blockade of Gaza and genocide of the Palestinians,  which are the declared targets of the Houthi operations and of its political strategy.  Instead, Putin authorized his spokesman Dmitry Peskov to announce: “We have repeatedly called on the Houthis to abandon this practice because we believe it is extremely wrong”.

This was not a repeat. It is the first time since the start of the Palestine war on October 7 that a senior Russian official has characterized the Houthi operations in support of Hamas, or called on the Houthis to desist.

Putin’s fence-seat has also required the Russian Navy squadron to remain at its Syrian base at Tartous, and to limit its naval intelligence-gathering to the eastern Mediterranean, not the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, or the Arabian Sea moving east. The upgraded Kilo-class submarine Ufa, which had been expected to transit the Suez Canal and head east to a planned Pacific Fleet deployment,  has been ordered to remain at berth at Tartous. No fresh Russian Navy reinforcements have entered the Mediterranean from Russia’s northern fleets, nor from the Pacific Fleet which were last seen in India, Myanmar, and Bangladesh in November.  

Instead, the exit westward through the Gibraltar Strait of the fleet oiler Yelnya on December 29, followed by the fleet repair vessel PM-82  are signals the Kremlin has ordered the Navy to keep its distance from both war zones.

The General Staff and Defense Ministry are keeping public silence on the Anglo-American operations in the Red Sea as they were monitored in preparation; tracked on launch; and their results recorded on the ground.   Instead, the Russian military bloggers led by Boris Rozhin of Colonel Cassad, the Militarist, and Rybar run by Mikhail Zvinchuk were reporting the aircraft and missile raids from 0130 Moscow time, several hours before the Associated Press, Reuters, and other western news agencies began their coverage. The milbloggers then followed the operations through the pre-dawn hours while the Anglo-American media remained silent.  Almost in real time, the Russian sources were reporting the collaboration of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE),  and Qatar for airspace transit and US airbase attack launches; as well as the role of the Cyprus airbases for the British aircraft load and launch operations.

Within 90 minutes, Militarist reported “Yemeni sources: there is nothing new in their attacks, the same facilities that were bombed on March 26, 2015 were hit.”  That was at 03:13 Moscow time. Fourteen minutes later Militarist reported that, according to an “official representative of the Houthis: ‘An American F-22 fighter jet was shot down over Sanaa.’”  (Min 03:27). These aircraft are based at the US Air Force base at Al-Dhafra in the UAE.  

No western media report of the first-ever Houthi success against a US warplane has subsequently appeared until the US Central Command (CENTCOM) issued a press statement, almost a day late, that “two U.S. Navy Sailors [are] missing off the coast of Somalia…Out of respect for the families affected, we will not release further information on the missing personnel at this time. The sailors were forward-deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet (C5F) area of operations supporting a wide variety of missions.”  If the “sailors” are in fact US Navy pilots, then the aircraft which the Houthis hit, forcing it to ditch in the sea, was likely to have been an F/A-18 from the USS Eisenhower.  

By the time Moscow was fully at work on Friday morning, Rozhin concluded the raids had been a failure. Iran and Ansarallah hold the operational initiative, he said, and they are calling the US bluff.

“Previously, Iran could only block the Persian Gulf, which threatened a direct clash with the United States, as it was, for example, in the late 80s. Now [Iran] can block the Red Sea with the hands of the Houthis without risk to itself, offering the United States a hopeless war with the Houthis, whose religious concept includes a direct war with the United States and Israel.”  (Min 18:49).

“The United States understands the game that Iran is playing, so they want to limit themselves to a demonstrative and ineffective PR strike, which should at least save the hegemon’s face and prevent Iran from dragging [Washington] into an exchange of blows with the Houthis. Therefore, even during and after the strikes, the United States declared its limitations and unwillingness to continue. But now the Houthis have the initiative, and they can force further steps by the United States, which they [White House] would like to avoid. To do this, it will be enough for them to hit several ships in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the next couple of days. This is exactly what Iran’s response may be, followed by a reaction to the expected actions of the United States, while the reaction, as usual, will affect the actions of Iranian proxies in Iraq and Syria.”

This was also the General Staff assessment reported to Putin.

Peskov’s attack which followed on the Houthis wasn’t so much a lie as “empty, nothing”. “I do not think he is lying,” a Moscow source commented. “Peskov is reaffirming what Putin told Keir Simmons [NBC interview, June 24, 2021] – we are not giving high-tech weapons to Iran and especially to a non-state player like Hezbollah or the Houthi. Yemen has been a fratricidal conflict – the Soviets and Russians have always steered clear of Shia-Sunni wars. But the Houthis have changed their status within a matter of weeks after October 7. The Kremlin too has been taken by surprise by the turn of events. [Since October 7] discussions would have taken place with Teheran and messages would have been sent through Iran with embassy-level contact [with Ansarallah] in Teheran.”

Rozhin has also reported the Russian military situation assessment that the Anglo-American  targeting intelligence had been outdated,  leading to bomb and missile hits on targets of no military value to the Houthi campaign against Israel-connected shipping.  “The images confirm the fact of strikes at several Houthi sites. But the choice of targets raises certain questions: in particular, both the airports and harbours that came under attack were so badly damaged during the bombing of the UAE from 2015 to 2021 and have not been used for obvious reasons for a long time.”  

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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

In a country which is collaborating in genocide, an ancient story of God-ordained slaughter, heroic soldiers, and pitiless blood lust is bound to be required reading in schools and universities, quoted by politicians, even churchmen, and celebrated as one of the greatest epics ever told.

Robin Lane Fox, an ancient Greek historian at Oxford University and the horticulture columnist for the Financial Times, has just published his 400-page proclamation that Homer’s Iliad is just so. This is a stunning defiance of the world around Fox which no gardener worth his salt would dare to claim about his garden.

Now that the English, Americans and others (including the Greeks) are about to commence their  third year of attempting to annihilate Russia on the battlefield, supplying the weapons, troop training, special forces, money, and propaganda; and the same alliance is assisting Israel in its attempt to do the same thing to the Palestinians, it’s time to ask how Homer’s Iliad  is to be interpreted  – and then  if correctly understood, whether it is uncivilized, brutish and immoral to think like Fox urges his readers to do.

From the Greek siege of Troy and their total destruction of the city and the Trojans, there is not so far to travel to Gaza – in geography and morality.

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