The good, the bad & the ugly: Remembering the events that rocked 2016
1. A lesson in heroism
If there were a 'hero of the year' list for 2016, Russian soldier Aleksandr Prochorenko would certainly be counted among the top contenders.
Prochorenko, 25, was assigned the dangerous task of identifying the coordinates of ISIS targets in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra for Russian-led airstrikes. One day while on duty, his location was uncovered by ISIS terrorists. When they began closing in on him, he did what many people in a similar situation would have found unthinkable: Rather than allowing himself to be captured, Aleksandr called in an airstrike on himself - a decision that also took out the approaching enemy.
John Wight captured the essence of Prochorenko's single act of heroism when he wrote: "I don’t know Aleksandr Prochorenko. I know nothing of his background or what his dreams and hopes were for the future. But I do know that he’s a hero who will never be forgotten, and that the cause for which he sacrificed his life is a righteous one...
Prochorenko will forever symbolize the courage of those who stood in defiance of the most barbaric and inhuman ideology the world has seen since the aforementioned Waffen SS were rampaging across the Soviet Union, murdering and slaughtering every living thing in their path in service to fascism.
2. NATO knockin' on Russia's door
At the same time that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was attempting to convince the world that "NATO does not seek confrontation," and that it is "everyone’s interest to avoid a new arms race," the Western military bloc enlisted a new member, Montenegro, while pushing its game pieces ever-closer to Russia's borders.
However, as Pepe Escobar explained, "The real “measure” is the deployment of the Aegis Ashore system in Romania last week – plus a further one in Poland in 2018. This has been vehemently opposed by Moscow since the early 2000s."
Putin emphasized that NATO's inexorable slide eastward will eventually cause Moscow to "respond adequately" to any threat to its national interests.
3. RIP Eurovision
On an entirely different note, yet no less jarring, the world watched as the annual Eurovision music contest, representing the countries of Europe, fell victim to political intrigue.
In clear violation of the European Broadcasting Union’s ‘No Politics’ rules, the Ukrainian contestant, 'Jamala' (Susana Jamaladynova), took first place with a song that was about the deportation of her Tatar family in Crimea at the orders of Soviet leader Josef Stalin. Stalin suspected the Tatars of supported German forces during World War II.
Needless to say, the topic broached Eurovision's rules.
Neil Clark, looking at the geopolitical situation behind this cultural event, provided his thoughts on why the Establishment allowed a politically charged song against Russia to take top honors: "The prospect of a Russian Eurovision win and next year’s contest being held in Moscow certainly seems to have caused great panic in Western Establishment circles. We’ve already got the next football World Cup scheduled to be held in Russia in 2018 - an event which has come under attack from Russophobes who are calling for boycotts or for the tournament to be transferred; having Eurovision in Russia as well would clearly be too much for them...
"For daring to resist Western regime change plans in Syria and elsewhere, Russia should be sanctioned and isolated and not be hosting international events watched by millions of people around the world!," Clark concluded.
4. What the H*LL?
As if the United States and Europe were in some sort of race to the bottom of the cultural cesspool, it was reported that Satan worship was on the rise in the country whose righteous motto is, "In God We Trust."
Iben Thranholm tackled this devilish phenomenon now sweeping the United States, which is being undertaken by a group that styles itself as 'The Satanic Temple (TST).'
"Founded in 2013, the group fights for political change by pointing out the ostensibly preferential treatment Christianity enjoys in politics," Thranholm wrote. "TST has seven chapters in the USA and Europe, and claims a membership of 100,000. One of the group's objectives is to embed Lucifer in the public school system by establishing afternoon clubs, adoringly dubbed “After School Satan”...
Currently nine clubs are listed under the program, including in Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and Washington DC. The clubs will focus on “rationalism, free inquiry… and fun”, according to a promotional video.
Thranholm cited some disturbing figures from 'God Country': "Seventy percent of those born between 1990 and 1996 with no religious affiliation say religion is not important in their lives. A similar share also report they seldom or never pray and 42 percent say they do not believe in God..."
Is it time for America to update its lofty motto?
5. EU gets radical makeover
While the US-led countries continued with their regime-change operations around the Middle East and North Africa, 2016 was the year when the proverbial chickens came home to roost in the form of millions of displaced refugees from war-torn countries, like Iraq, Libya and Syria.
Although this influx of desperate people, anxious to start up a normal life once again, would severely challenge Europe's welfare system at a time of economic hardship, the philanthropist George Soros believed it was time to welcome the migrants with open arms.
In September, he published a letter in the Wall Street Journal entitled, 'Why I’m Investing 500 million USD in Migrants,' that begins: “The world has been unsettled by a surge in forced migration. Tens of millions of people are on the move, fleeing their home countries in search of a better life abroad. Some are escaping civil war or an oppressive regime; others are forced out by extreme poverty, lured by the possibility of economic advancement for themselves and their families.”
Not everybody, however, believes that George Soros' plan will reap positive benefits.
Sam Gerrans took Soros to task for his efforts, arguing that the "forced migration" caused by Western wars would destroy European civilization as we know it: "If anyone still cares, the causes include: attacks by the US and Nato on countries which have done them no harm; Angela Merkel’s open invitation to the third world to move to Europe; material and informational support from Soros-funded organizations."
This is cultural- and ethnic-cleansing in a business suit; it is the de facto usurpation of the nation state as a social construct for the peoples of Europe as part of a multi-purpose war – one designed to destroy oil-rich states and any state with no central bank, while simultaneously collapsing sovereign states," Gerrans concluded.
The question is one that is now dividing Europe in more ways than one: Should Europe welcome these migrants, or close their doors to them despite the fact that Europe cooperated in the illicit regime change operations that triggered this great migration in the first place?
6. Financial Apocalypse now?
Just as everything was looking bright and rosy for the global economy, a more somber - if not outright disastrous - outlook was being tossed about by some of the more respected names in finance.
Following news that Germany's Deutsche Bank had failed to reach an agreement with the US on settling a massive fine stemming from alleged mortgage fraud during the 2008 financial crisis, Jim Rogers, financial commentator and investor, sounded the alarm on the future trajectory of the economy.
Asked what would transpire if Deutsche Bank would go belly up, Rogers responded: "Then the EU would disintegrate, because Germany would no longer be able to support it, would not want to support it. A lot of other people would start bailing out; many banks in Europe have problems. And if Deutsche Bank has to fail – that is the end of it. In 1931, when one of the largest banks in Europe failed, it led to the Great Depression and eventually the WWII."
His prediction caused a lot of people to sit up and take notice.
7. The year of very bad sports
The year 2016 will also be remembered as a time of marked hostility where one would least expect to find it: The world of sports, where good gamesmanship once held reign.
In a highly controversial move, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had recommended a blanket ban for all Russian athletes from the Olympic Games in Rio 2016 over alleged doping. Critics cried foul, saying Russian athletes had been unfairly targeted. In any case, 271 out of 389 Russian athletes were eventually allowed to compete.
This is where good manners took a back seat to raw nastiness.
During the women’s 100m breaststroke final, 19-year-old American Lilly King took gold, while Russia’s Yulia Efimova took the silver. However, in terms of good sportsmanship and international decorum, King fell flat.
As Finian Cunningham explained: King’s boorish victory splashing of water into her Russian rival’s face was later followed by a blunt refusal to shake Efimova’s hand during the subsequent medal ceremony.
"Let’s deal with some facts here," Cunningham continued. "Efimova is based in the US where she has been training for several years. So much then for claims of “Russian state-sponsored doping”.
Efimova, like other athletes, may have unknowingly ingested food supplements that contained prohibited substances.
"Efimova was tested positive for the heart medication Meldonium... The problem arose after Meldonium was put on the proscribed list as a performance-enhancing drug only in January of this year."
In an interesting turn of events, a group of hacktivists later released files claiming that top US athletes received approval from WADA to take banned substances. The US anti-doping agency, sports federations and athletes themselves rejected the claims.
8. Crocodile tears
As 2016 headed into its final lap, tragedy struck as Russia’s Ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov, was gunned down as he addressed an audience during an art exhibition in the capital Ankara.
Although most of the media commentary on this heinous act was sympathetic, a couple deranged pieces regarding the assassination managed to surface, which did far more than just add 'insult to injury.'
As Bryan MacDonald explained: "Following the appalling murder of Russia’s Ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov... two particular individuals have penned diatribes so lacking in basic humanity that it’s fair to question their sanity, let alone decency.
The reader will be able to discern the line of 'reasoning' in one of the articles, written by Gersh Kuntzman from New York’s Daily News, from the astonishing headline alone: "Assassination of Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov was not terrorism, but retribution for Vladimir Putin’s war crimes.”
In another article, Brian Whitmore of US state broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty attempted to somehow rationalize Karlov's murder: “Intervening in the Middle East is never, ever without costs," Whitmore tells us. "So yes, the assassination of Andrey Karlov was a tragedy and a crime. It could also turn out to be a harbinger.”
As MacDonald argues, such reckless journalism places "all diplomats in danger as fair game for assassination. For instance, by this logic, if the US ambassador to Afghanistan or Iraq were shot, the Daily News is basically telling us that it can be justified as a response to American aggression against those countries."
9. A Clinton coup?
In December, in the aftermath of Donald Trump's landslide victory over his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, it began to look as if Clinton was angling to take the White House through some back-door machinations.
Things began to look less than 100 percent for The Donald as Jill Stein, the Green Party presidential candidate, petitioned for a recount of votes in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
The idea didn't seem so wild at the time for a "Clinton coup" as the mainstream media was perpetually repeating the footnote that although Donald Trump won the Electoral College (306-232), he failed to win the popular vote - reportedly by 2.5 million votes.
Robert Bridge considered the possibility that Clinton - in similar fashion to George W. Bush in the 2000 election when he won the presidency against Al Gore thanks to the intervention of the Supreme Court - could steal the White House from Trump.
"This ongoing campaign on behalf of Clinton is much more than just sour grapes," Bridge wrote. In fact, it is a war of attrition designed to exert undue pressure on the Electoral College, the rickety institution that got Trump elected in the first place. And although it has never robbed an election from a candidate who has gained the majority of Electoral College votes, there is a possibility – and a very high one in this particular battle - of so-called "faithless electors" tipping this contest in Clinton’s favor.
Despite feverish speculation in the media that the Electoral College would vote against the will of their constituents in favor of Clinton - an unlikely yet possible scenario - Trump went on to formally secure the vote - and the presidency - on December 19.
10. Putin hacks DNC from surveillance aircraft!
As Western leaders became fixated with blaming everything - from Brexit to EU forced migration to fixing the US presidential election - on Russia in general and Vladimir Putin in particular, the best response to the insanity came in the form of political satire.
Danielle Ryan proved that the best way to respond to fake news on such a level is with a healthy dose of humor: "Shocking revelations earlier this week as US intelligence officials confirmed with “high confidence” that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “personally involved” in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.
According to the anonymous sources inside the anonymous US intelligence agency, Putin’s objectives were multifaceted, but the whole thing began as a “vendetta” against Hillary Clinton because she said some mean things about him a few times....
The high level, anonymous and completely trustworthy sources also told a major US news agency that Putin himself had piloted a specially-designed Russian spy plane across the Atlantic to personally direct the still-ongoing hacking operations from the air.
For many, the year 2016 can not make its departure soon enough. It was a year marked by tragedy, war and worsening bilateral relations between two nuclear superpowers. On the upside, 2016 also witnessed the cessation of hostilities in Syria, where the embattled city of Aleppo celebrated its first Christmas since the start of the war.
Hopefully this positive, uplifting trend will carry into 2017 and the world will enter an extended period of peace.
Happy New Year!
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.