Pro-government forces, led by the Syrian Republican Guard, have liberated the strategic al-Bishri Mountain as well as the al-Birshri triangle from ISIS and deployed in only about 37 km from the city of Deir Ezzor besieged by ISIS terrorists. Some sources even speculate that government troops advanced 5-10 km further, but this still has to be confirmed.

The Al-Bishri Mountain is one of the highest points in the desert area between Palmyra and Deir Ezzor. With liberation of this strategic location as well as the progress along the Palmyra-Deir Ezzor highway government forces are now able to develop momentum in order to take control over Kobaje and Ash Sholah located en route to Deir Ezzor. The goal of the effort will be to take control over the key roads west and southwest of Deir Ezzor prior launching a direct advance to lift the siege from the strategic city.

At the same time, the ISIS activity in southern Raqqah poses a key threat to the advancing government forces where ISIS terrorists have seized the villages of Ghanim al-Ali, Shuraydah, Jabali and Zawr Shammar after almost a week of heavy fighting.

If ISIS successfully develops momentum along the road to the al-Birshri triangle, the terrorist group will threat the southern flank of government troops in the Palmyra-Deir Ezzor highway area.

In the eastern Hama countryside, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies have liberated Mukaymen, Maksar Janubi, Qastal Shamali, Qastal Wastani and Qastal Janubi. Multiple airstrikes are reported in the ISIS-held area of Uqayribat.

Jaysh Ahrar al-Ashayer and Jaysh Usud al-Sharqiya released a Syrian pilot Lieutenant Colonel Ali al-Helw and 30 Syrian soldiers.

Al-Helw was captured after his MiG-23BN was downed southeastern Syria on August 15. The 30 soldiers were captured by militants during their successful attack on SAA positions in the Suweida countryside on August 19.

No confirmed reports about the details of the deal between the government and US-backed militants are available now.

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Featured image: Russian FM Sergey Lavrov greeting his Saudi counterpart in Moscow, June 2016 (Source: Oriental Review)

Many observers of Russian foreign policy have been left confused over the past couple of years as Moscow’s deft geostrategic maneuverings in the “Ummah” caught them completely off guard, as they never expected for Russia’s “Pivot/Rebalancing to Asia” to take on Muslim proportions in South-Central Eurasia. Most of these same people have difficulty accepting Russia’s moves, and instead have sought to either ignore, downplay, or craft outlandish conspiracy theories about them. The partnerships drawing the most controversy are those which Russia has recently reached with Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, and Pakistan, and the reason why they’ve created such a fuss is because they fly straight in the face of everything that the foreign policy “traditionalists” stand for.

The “progressive” faction of the Russian “deep state” (permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies) understands that their country needs to flexibly adapt to the full-spectrum paradigm changes taking place across the globe as the emerging Multipolar World Order progressively enters into force. This means reconceptualizing Russia’s 21st-century geostrategic role and perceiving it as striving to become the supreme balancing force in the Eurasian supercontinent, which necessitates reaching mutually advantageous arrangements with non-traditional partners. The traditionalists, however, believe that Russia shouldn’t ever diversify from its existing partners in any way that could even remotely upset them, which symbolizes their extremely dogmatic and unflinching approach to the issue.

These traditionalists think that Russia either isn’t serious about its newfound partnerships or is engaging in them out of desperation to “keep one’s enemies close”, refusing to acknowledge that Moscow is actually very committed to deepening relations with each of its new partners and has sincere intentions to enter into multiple trust-building initiatives with them. For example, it’s ridiculous to suggest that Russia’s S-400 (military), Turkish/Balkan Stream (energy), and Astana (diplomatic) ties with Turkey are anything but genuine and designed to bring the two sides closer than at any moment in their histories. The same goes for its OPEC, investment, and potential arms ties with Saudi Arabia; its all-around strengthened partnership with Azerbaijan; and its rapid rapprochement with Pakistan.

All of these moves have shocked the traditionalists, who are fearful that their country has “betrayed” its beloved Syrian, Iranian, Armenian, and Indian partners due to the “irresponsible” forays of the progressives, but that’s not true at all since it was in reality the latter two states which “betrayed” Russia, as the author explained in his recent article questioning whether “Armenia, India, And Serbia Are ‘Balancing’ Against Russia Or ‘Betraying’ It?”. Even in this case, however, Russia still isn’t “betraying” anybody, since it’s simply diversifying and updating its international relationships for in line with the 21st-century geopolitics of the New Cold War in order to better “balance” the affairs of the Eurasian supercontinent, which is also the reason why it’s moved so close to Turkey and Saudi Arabia too in spite of the inferred uncomfortableness that this might make some in Syria and Iran feel.

Given the astounding geostrategic progress that Russia has made in the past couple of years in turning itself into a real force to be reckoned with in the Ummah, it’s extraordinarily unlikely and actually all but impossible that it will backtrack on its latest gains and revert back to the outdated mode of thinking that the traditionalists want it to abide by. The progressives “run the roost”, so to speak, and they’ve made it abundantly clear on numerous occasions that none of these exciting new partnerships are to the “zero-sum” disadvantage of anyone else; rather, they epitomize the “win-win” logic that modern-day multipolarity is becoming known for, whether observers recognize it right now or sometime later on.

If Russia is successful in retaining its “legacy” partnerships while strengthening the new ones that it’s worked hard to acquire, then the traditionalist-progressive “deep state” dichotomy might give way to a single class of “balancers/managers” in the future as Moscow finally fulfills its envisioned 21st-century geostrategic role in Eurasia.

Andrew Korybko is an American Moscow-based political analyst specializing in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China’s One Belt One global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, and Hybrid Warfare.

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Meet “Le Cercle” – Making Bilderberg Look Like Amateurs

September 2nd, 2017 by Graham Vanbergen

The Bildeberg group comically describe themselves as “a diverse group of political leaders and experts.” We are led to believe they are the world’s most secretive organisation. They spend hundreds of thousands of dollars keeping the press away from their sacred agenda and discussions. It has spent decades lying and obfuscating about itself. And yet, the activities of the Bilderberg group genuinely sit in the shade to an even more secretive and dangerous geo-political influencer called – Le Cercle.

Le Cercle originally set up as a Franco-German alliance, is a deep state milieu – an environment where powerful figures can secretly meet. They are careful to commit as little as possible to paper or p.c. – making them hard to hack, leak or track – and for good reason. It is smaller and considerably more secretive than Bilderberg.

Its purpose is to subvert the democratic principles and processes of individual countries and are by nature ideologically ‘hawkish’ – distributing propaganda, stoking fear of communist plots from Russia, vote rigging and hacking the accounts of politicians and prominent global figures. Promoting the ‘war on terror’ has been a major factor in their activities of recent years and in so doing broker weapons deals and setting up false flag operations the world over to suit its own agenda. It is reported that ‘Gladio‘ style attacks, much like the clandestine NATO “stay-behind” sabotage, guerrilla warfare and assassination operations in Europe have been conducted along with illegal business operations, financial fraud and arms dealing – all attributed to this group.

Characters such as Paul WolfowitzPaul Bremer, Donald Rumsfeld and Richard Perle (the original neo-con architects of the Iraq War and subsequent attacks across the Middle East) are all or have been members. Margaret Becket (Labour MP, previously Britain’s Foriegn Secretary, chair of the Intelligence Select Committee, sought to subvert the democratic election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the party), Alan Duncan (Minister of State at the Department for International Development), Norman Lamont (an ex Rothschild banker, former Tory MP and became UK Minister for Defence Procurement just in time to sign the Al-Yamamah arms deal.‎ He was Chancellor of the Exchequer when Black Wednesday transferred around £3,000,000,000 from UK taxpayers to currency traders. He was also European chair of Le Circle). William Hague, (Baron Hague of Richmond PC FRSL is a British Conservative politician and life peer. MP from 1989 and was the Leader of the Opposition from 1997 to 2001).

Jonathan Aitken (British Tory politician, LeCercle Chairman 1993-96), Michael Ancram (ex-chairman Conservative party, shadow foreign secretary, and Chairman of Le Cercle). Ancram was formerly a Member of Parliament (MP) and a member of the Shadow Cabinet. Since 2010 a member of the House of Lords, he is the only marquess in the House of Lords. All are known British contingent Le Cercle members.

In 2000, a single webpage at www.atlanticcircle.com (web-archive doc) described Le Cercle as

“an informal group of European and American professionals – politicians, retired Ambassadors, former Generals, lawyers and active participants in banking, oil, shipping, publishing and trading companies – who are interested in preserving a positive Atlantic dialogue.”

To the UK House of Lords, this group has been described as an “informal group meeting to discuss world affairs.” William Hague once described it as “a political group which organises conferences.” In 2007 the Washington Post (archive-doc) termed it a “foreign policy think tank established during the Cold War that reportedly included senior politicians, diplomats and intelligence agents worldwide.”

David Teacher, Le Cercle and paneuropa researcher, writes that

“the Cercle complex can be seen to be an international coalition of right-wing intelligence veterans, working internationally to promote top conservative politicians who would shape the world.”

The group has two HQ’s – one in the US and one in Europe. The US is more secretive, to the extent it is not known who the current chairman is. In Europe, past Chairs have been high profile figures such as Jonathan Aitken (1993-1996), Norman Lamont (over 10 years) and most recently, Michael Ancram. The Independent reported in 1997 that Jonathan Aiken had been dropped by Le Circle due to the political scandal that surrounded him with his libel and perjury case that ended with a prison sentence.

According to ‘Powerbase.info‘ Le Circle British regulars number about 15, drawn mostly from the rich Tory right. Leading political lights are Paul Channon and Alan Duncan. David Burnside, the former British Airways public affairs chief, is a member – not for his BA work but for his passionate espousal of Ulster Unionism. Viscount Cranborne, John Major’s former senior aide, has attended Cercle gatherings. Brian Crozier, the author and well-known Cold-Warrior with close ties to MI6 and the CIA, is a senior member. Anthony Cavendish, the former senior MI5 man, is an old Cercle hand. Nicholas Elliot, the ex-MI6 officer, used to go to their meetings.

The group meets biannually. Every autumn it meets in Washington DC and earlier in the year it meets in an “overseas” venue, usually in Europe. Approx 70 guests attend over a period of 3-4 days, the vast majority are male and universally classed as extreme right-wing. Bilderberg meetings usually end with mass protests, arrests and ample media coverage, Le Cercle meetings go unreported.

Attendees of Le Cercle are generally found to be part of the deep state – i.e. mostly made up of politicians, spooks, bankers, diplomats, military officers, editors and publishers or experts in geopolitical products such as energy. All are deep political actors with real influence. Members are almost exclusively from western or western-oriented countries. It is noteworthy that many important members tend to be affiliated with aristocratic circles in London and accusations of links to fascism and synarchist (rule by a secret elite) are anything but uncommon in this milieu.

The earliest known public reference to Le Cercle was probably in Time Out magazine’s 1975 leaked documents from the Institute for the Study of Conflict. To date there have been no American commercially-controlled media sources known to have mentioned the group.

Le Cercle was mentioned in 1980 in Der Spiegel (which also published the first article on the Bilderberg group). Le Cercle received more attention after a scandal broke out involving Jonathan Aitken and his libel case involving the Guardian and a Granada TV documentary that involved shady dealings with Middle Eastern elites, when he was European chairman. Members who were contacted by newspapers at the time all refused to answer any questions about the group.

A research proposal by Adrian Hänni noted that

“the Cercle is virtually nonexistent in academic research to this day. There are, as of yet, very few studies of the Cercle that are based on primary sources and meet basic academic standards.”

The 1982 Langemann Papers were the first significant leak to expose the activities of Le Cercle, confirming that the group was actively involved in influencing Western European elections.

There are reports that “throughout the 1970s Le Cercle was actively influencing elections in the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Belgium.”

Earlier documents in the Langemann Papers from November 1979 quote a planning paper by Brian Crozier about a Cercle complex operation “to affect a change of government in the United Kingdom that saw Margaret Thatcher into No10 Downing Street. The operation was set up three years earlier known as “Shield Group.”

In his Diaries, Jonathan Aitken’s close friend, Alan Clark, relates how he went with Mr Aitken and similarly right-thinking friends to a gathering in Muscat, Oman. He describes it as

“an Atlanticist society of right- wing dignitaries” and, later, as “a right-wing think-tank, funded by the CIA, which churns Cold War concepts around”.

It is noteworthy, although unconnected to Le Circle from this research that David Cameron sold three nuclear weapons (with the sanction of Margaret Thatcher), of a foreign state (south Africa’s collapsed apartheid regime), put them in unsafe hands (Oman) resulting in the Conservative party banking of nearly £19 million which then sets the pretext for a conflict that kills a million people in Iraq. All these events are highly likely to be linked one way or another to the activities of members of Le Circle.

Le Cercle has also been accused of actively destabilizing governments which opposed a conservative economic agenda, such as the conservative Monday Club which prepared a coup against Labour government of Harold Wilson. Wilson’s resignation has never been fully explained and was reported by the Guardian as:

Prompted by CIA fears that Wilson was a Soviet agent – put in place after the KGB had, the spooks believed, poisoned Hugh Gaitskell, the previous Labour leader. These MI5 men burgled the homes of the prime minister’s aides, bugged their phones and spread black, anti-Wilson propaganda throughout the media. They tried to pin all kinds of nonsense on him: that his devoted political secretary, Marcia Williams, posed a threat to national security; that he was a closet IRA sympathiser.”

Following a Nasserite coup in Yemen (NewYorkTimes report 1964)  in September 1962, Julian Amery (later Cercle chairman) met with King Hussein of Jordan and agreed to send Cercle attendee Neil McLean to report on the situation after which Amery met with McLean, David Stirling, Col Brian Franks and UK Prime Minister Alex Douglas-Home to organise an unofficial covert mercenary operation that led to crises in the Middle East—in Syria, Yemen and Kuwait.

Le Cercle –  “Iran-Contra”, Arms-to-Iraq, Al-Yamamah arms deal

Wikispooks reports that: “Circle visitor John Carbaugh worked for GeoMiliTech Consultants Corporation, an arms dealing group directly involved in Iran-Contra (history Commons Doc). Others such as Margaret Carlisle were aides to Iran-Contra insiders. Cercle members Paul Channon and Alan Clark (British Conservative MP – served as a minister in Margaret Thatcher’s governments) are connected through their involvement in the Arms-to-Iraq affair ( The Independent report Dec 1992), also to the later chairman Jonathan Aitken, who himself was involved in the Al-Yamamah arms deal as well, as was another later chairman, Norman Lamont. Nadhmi Yuchi (wikileaks) is widely reported as having made a lot of money from arms deals to Saddam Hussein, amongst others. Lacking documents or testimony from Cercle members, inferences about Cercle activities remain unconfirmed.

The stage was set for a coup. The article continues – “Retired intelligence officers gathered with military brass and plotted a coup d’etat. They would seize Heathrow airport, the BBC and Buckingham Palace. Lord Mountbatten would be the strongman, acting as interim prime minister. The Queen would read a statement urging the public to support the armed forces, because the government was no longer able to keep order.”

Although this sounds somewhat far-fetched it was only September 2015 when it was reported that if Jeremy Corbyn did seize power in Downing Street, the military would conduct a ‘mutiny’.

From the Independent:

A senior serving general has reportedly warned that a Jeremy Corbyn government could face “a mutiny” from the Army if it tried to downgrade them. The unnamed general said members of the armed forces would begin directly and publicly challenging the labour leader if he tried to scrap Trident, pull out of Nato or announce “any plans to emasculate and shrink the size of the armed forces.” He told the Sunday Times: “The Army just wouldn’t stand for it. 

This 2015 story is an extraordinary story appearing in national newspapers and has MI5/6 and deep state actors stamped all over it.

Interestingly, the latest generation of British Cercle members, whose predecessors were collectively very keen on joining the European Union, now want to keep Britain out of the emerging European superstate, perhaps having lost faith they can become a significant force within Europe. This would explain how they acted with American billionaires to subvert democracy and illegally swung the EU referendum in favour of a full exit. Carole Cadwalladr wrote about this in The Observer article “The Great British Brexit Robbery.” The paper is now being sued for publishing this scandal.

Le Cercle’s interest in “terrorism” and arms dealing lends support to the suggestion that it may have been important in devising the “War on Terror”.

It seems unlikely to be a coincidence that at least three members of this group (Brian Crozier, Robert Moss, Gerhard Lowenthal) gave presentations at the 1979 Jerusalem Conference on International Terrorism, the seminal event in the development of the establishment’s “War on Terror” narrative. Many of the other speakers were closely connected to known members.

Many members set up “terrorism research” organisations, which sheds new light on the “anti-communist” think tanks that they also set up, such as Interdoc.

Joël van der Reijden (Dutch investigative reporter specialising in the Deep State) infers that Le Cercle may be connected to the Strategy of Tension that the world has been experiencing in recent decades.

Ted Shackley was involved in oil deals after he left the CIA in 1979, facilitated by his close friend and fellow Cercle member, Conrad Gerber and oil smuggler John Deuss.

Funding for the group has changed over the years. The group states that it is “privately funded”. Multinational companies including Philips, Shell, the Ford Foundation and Standard Elektrik Lorenz have given the group money.

Robin Ramsay, editor of Lobster Magazine believes the CIA funds (Globalisation and Covert Politics Report) the group, a claim that Alan Clark also makes in his diaries. In the 1980s, the South African government was a major source of funds.

John E Lewis writes in his book The Mammoth Book of Cover-Ups (extract page) that Le Cercle was funded, amongst others, by the CIA for its “militant anti-leftism as it wars against it enemies more than jaws about them.”

In the last few years Le Cercle has become even more secretive with its activities largely unknown.

Featured image is from the author.

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There’s been speculation lately that the EU might remove some of the anti-Syrian sanctions that it promulgated over the past six years, which would be a godsend to the millions of people who are suffering from the attendant lack of medicine and other humanitarian necessities. Russian, Iranian, and other aid has been pivotal in keeping the population alive during this time, as have of course Damascus’ heroic efforts in doing the best in its ability to provide for its people under such challenging circumstances.

Nevertheless, the West’s anti-Syrian sanctions have still left an indelible impact on society, and it would be a welcome and long-overdue move if they were repealed, which could conceivably happen now that it’s obvious to all that President Assad won’t be ousted from office by the “moderate rebels”. The impressive gains of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) since the beginning of Russia’s anti-terrorist intervention over the past two years, as well as the rapid ones which occurred all throughout this summer, have led observers to conclude that Daesh is on the brink of defeat and that a Moscow-brokered “political solution” might finally be on the horizon.

It’s in connection with the latter forecast about the end of the war becoming a realistic prospect that the EU might sense the “convenient opportunity” to lift the anti-Syrian sanctions in order to advance its own interests. To explain, Brussels might try to link this game-changing humanitarian move to Damascus accepting certain levels of refugee-migrant resettlement, and/or it might make this dependent on Syria agreeing to specific political demands from the “opposition” related to the Russian-written “draft constitution” or other pertinent issues. This tactic of “strings-attached” sanctions relief only works if Syria is desperate enough to go along with it, which is becoming less the case with each passing day.

Thus, it’s worthwhile to wonder whether the EU would provide unconditional sanctions relief to Syria instead, though this move, just like the other one, wouldn’t ever occur unless the US gave the go-ahead for it to happen. In the event that it does, then Washington’s motives would be to use this as a way to help EU firms counter the reconstruction and other deals that Russia, China, and Iran have already been promised by Damascus or are slated to obtain. Although it makes sense for Syria to reward its allies for their loyalty, the economically beleaguered state might come under pressure from Western-backed “civil society” forces because of this.

“Opposition”-leaning citizens might try to stir up trouble by alleging that this is nothing more than “wasteful political corruption” and that the people’s money would be “best served” through an EU-participating open tender bidding process instead. The argument that they’d be basing this off of is that European companies sometimes provide better quality services than their counterparts for a more competitive cost, meaning that the war-torn country could save some of its precious funds by contracting Western firms instead of Eastern ones. The point here isn’t to discuss the merits of this argument, but just to warn that it might become a weaponized infowar tool in the future.

Syrian citizens hold portraits of President Bashar al-Assad as they protest against sanctions outside the EU offices in Damascus, Sept 2011.

Syrian citizens hold portraits of President Bashar al-Assad as they protest against sanctions outside the EU offices in Damascus, Sept 2011.

So long as the EU lifted its unilateral sanctions against Syria, then Damascus could theoretically include some of its companies in this prospective bidding process if there’s enough “grassroots” pressure for it to do so, though taking care to only allow “semi-friendly” nations who haven’t directly contributed to its people’s suffering to take part, such as Hungarian and Swedish ones for example instead of French and British. Even in the event that this scenario doesn’t come to pass, that doesn’t mean that unconditional anti-Syrian sanctions relief couldn’t also strengthen Western interests in the post-conflict country.

For instance, the EU might give tacit preferential trading rights to the “moderate rebels” so that they could attempt to monopolize some industries (whether in the “de-escalation zones” or beyond) and gain an edge over the competition in order to compensate for some of their political-territorial losses. It’s unlikely that the West will cut all of their ties with the proxy forces that they’ve supported for years already, and the same goes for those said surrogates not wanting to snip the umbilical cord that connects them to their patrons, so this could become a creative way for the US and its allies to attempt to establish asymmetrical influence in Syria after the war.

Ultimately, whether it’s the overt Hybrid War weapon of “strings-attached’ sanctions relief or the much more clandestine one of unconditionally removing the economic-humanitarian restrictions on Syria, it can be expected that the West will only do the “right thing” for the “wrong reasons”, and that Syria has every right to be skeptical of the EU’s intentions if such a move ever came to pass. That doesn’t imply that millions of regular people wouldn’t stand to benefit from this, but just that Damascus would do well to be wary of what might actually turn out to be sly maneuver designed to destabilize it with time.

Andrew Korybko is an American Moscow-based political analyst specializing in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China’s One Belt One global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, and Hybrid Warfare.

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Twenty years ago, the Death of Princess Diana

For the record, we bring to the attention of our reader’s the 1999 sworn testimony of MI6 Agent Richard Tomlinson made available to French police investigators and judicial authorities on May 12, 1999.

This article was first  posted on Global Research in October 2003.  This testimony, which has not been the object of media coverage  reveals certain circumstances  pertaining to the death of the Princess of Wales. Tomlinson confirms that on Friday August 28 1998, he delivered “information to Judge Hervé Stephan, the French investigative Judge in charge of the inquest into the accident.” 

1 September 2017

MI6 and the Princess of Wales  

Sworn Testimony by former MI6 Agent Richard Tomlinson 

Attached below is a sworn and testified statement that I have made on 12th May 1999 to the enquiry into the deaths of the Princess of Wales, Dodi Al Fayed, and Henri Paul. I firmly believe that MI6 have information in their files that would assist Judge Stephan’s enquiry. Why don’t they yield up this information? They should not be entitled to use the Official Secrets Act to protect themselves from investigation into the deaths of three people, particularly in the case of an incident of this magnitude and historical importance.

I, Richard John Charles Tomlinson, former MI6 officer, of Geneva, Switzerland hereby declares:

  1. I firmly believe that there exist documents held by the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) that would yield important new evidence into the cause and circumstances leading to the deaths of the Princess of Wales, Mr Dodi Al Fayed, and M. Henri Paul in Paris in August 1997.
  2. I was employed by MI6 between September 1991 and April 1995. During that time, I saw various documents that I believe would provide new evidence and new leads into the investigation into these deaths. I also heard various rumours – which though I was not able to see supporting documents – I am confident were based on solid fact.
  3. In 1992, I was working in the Eastern European Controllerate of MI6 and I was peripherally involved in a large and complicated operation to smuggle advanced Soviet weaponry out of the then disintegrating and disorganised remnants of the Soviet Union. During 1992, I spent several days reading the substantial files on this operation. These files contain a wide miscellany of contact notes, telegrams, intelligence reports, photographs etc, from which it was possible to build up a detailed understanding of the operation. The operation involved a large cast of officers and agents of MI6. One more than one occasion, meetings between various figures in the operation took place at the Ritz Hotel, Place de Vendome, Paris. There were in the file several intelligence reports on these meetings, which had been written by one of the MI6 officers based in Paris at the time (identified in the file only by a coded designation). The source of the information was an informant in the Ritz Hotel, who again was identified in the files only by a code number. The MI6 officer paid the informant in cash for his information. I became curious to learn more about the identity of this particular informant, because his number cropped up several times and he seemed to have extremely good access to the goings on in the Ritz Hotel. I therefore ordered this informant’s personal file from MI6’s central file registry. When I read this new file, I was not at all surprised to learn that the informant was a security officer of the Ritz Hotel. Intelligence services always target the security officer’s of important hotels because they have such good access to intelligence. I remember, however, being mildly surprised that the nationality of this informant was French, and this stuck in my memory, because it is rare that MI6 succeeds in recruiting a French informer. I cannot claim that I remember from this reading of the file that the name of this person was Henri Paul, but I have no doubt with the benefit of hindsight that this was he. Although I did not subsequently come across Henri Paul again during my time in MI6, I am confident that the relationship between he and MI6 would have continued until his death, because MI6 would never willingly relinquish control over such a well placed informant. I am sure that the personal file of Henri Paul will therefore contain notes of meetings between him and his MI6 controlling officer right up until the point of his death. I firmly believe that these files will contain evidence of crucial importance to the circumstances and causes of the incident that killed M. Paul, together with the Princess of Wales and Dodi Al Fayed.
  4. The most senior undeclared officer in the local MI6 station would normally control an informant of M.Paul’s usefulness and seniority. Officers declared to the local counter-intelligence service (in this case the Directorate de Surveillance Territoire, or DST) would not be used to control such an informant, because it might lead to the identity of the informant becoming known to the local intelligence services. In Paris at the time of M. Paul’s death, there were two relatively experienced but undeclared MI6 officers. The first was Mr Nicholas John Andrew LANGMAN, born 1960. The second was Mr Richard David SPEARMAN, again born in 1960. I firmly believe that either one or both of these officers will be well acquainted with M Paul, and most probably also met M. Paul shortly before his death. I believe that either or both of these officers will have knowledge that will be of crucial importance in establishing the sequence of events leading up to the deaths of M.Paul, Dodi Al Fayed and the Princess of Wales. Mr Spearman in particular was an extremely well connected and influential officer, because he had been, prior to his appointment in Paris, the personal secretary to the Chief of MI6 Mr David SPEDDING. As such, he would have been privy to even the most confidential of MI6 operations. I believe that there may well be significance in the fact that Mr Spearman was posted to Paris in the month immediately before the deaths.
  5. Later in 1992, as the civil war in the former Yugoslavia became increasingly topical, I started to work primarily on operations in Serbia. During this time, I became acquainted with Dr Nicholas Bernard Frank FISHWICK, born 1958, the MI6 officer who at the time was in charge of planning Balkan operations. During one meeting with Dr Fishwick, he casually showed to me a three-page document that on closer inspection turned out to be an outline plan to assassinate the Serbian leader President Slobodan Milosevic. The plan was fully typed, and attached to a yellow “minute board”, signifying that this was a formal and accountable document. It will therefore still be in existence. Fishwick had annotated that the document be circulated to the following senior MI6 officers: Maurice KENDWRICK-PIERCEY, then head of Balkan operations, John RIDDE, then the security officer for Balkan operations, the SAS liaison officer to MI6 (designation MODA/SO, but I have forgotten his name), the head of the Eastern European Controllerate (then Richard FLETCHER) and finally Alan PETTY, the personal secretary to the then Chief of MI6, Colin McCOLL. This plan contained a political justification for the assassination of Milosevic, followed by three outline proposals on how to achieve this objective. I firmly believe that the third of these scenarios contained information that could be useful in establishing the causes of death of Henri Paul, the Princess of Wales, and Dodi Al Fayed. This third scenario suggested that Milosevic could be assassinated by causing his personal limousine to crash. Dr Fishwick proposed to arrange the crash in a tunnel, because the proximity of concrete close to the road would ensure that the crash would be sufficiently violent to cause death or serious injury, and would also reduce the possibility that there might be independent, casual witnesses. Dr Fishwick suggested that one way to cause the crash might be to disorientate the chauffeur using a strobe flash gun, a device which is occasionally deployed by special forces to, for example, disorientate helicopter pilots or terrorists, and about which MI6 officers are briefed about during their training. In short, this scenario bore remarkable similarities to the circumstances and witness accounts of the crash that killed the Princess of Wales, Dodi Al Fayed, and Henri Paul. I firmly believe that this document should be yielded by MI6 to the Judge investigating these deaths, and would provide further leads that he could follow.
  6. During my service in MI6, I also learnt unofficially and second-hand something of the links between MI6 and the Royal Household. MI6 are frequently and routinely asked by the Royal Household (usually via the Foreign Office) to provide intelligence on potential threats to members of the Royal Family whilst on overseas trips. This service would frequently extend to asking friendly intelligence services (such as the CIA) to place members of the Royal Family under discrete surveillance, ostensibly for their own protection. This was particularly the case for the Princess of Wales, who often insisted on doing without overt personal protection, even on overseas trips. Although contact between MI6 and the Royal Household was officially only via the Foreign Office, I learnt while in MI6 that there was unofficial direct contact between certain senior and influential MI6 officers and senior members of the Royal Household. I did not see any official papers on this subject, but I am confident that the information is correct. I firmly believe that MI6 documents would yield substantial leads on the nature of their links with the Royal Household, and would yield vital information about MI6 surveillance on the Princess of Wales in the days leading to her death.
  7. I also learnt while in MI6 that one of the “paparazzi” photographers who routinely followed the Princess of Wales was a member of “UKN”, a small corps of part-time MI6 agents who provide miscellaneous services to MI6 such as surveillance and photography expertise. I do not know the identity of this photographer, or whether he was one of the photographers present at the time of the fatal incident. However, I am confident that examination of UKN records would yield the identity of this photographer, and would enable the inquest to eliminate or further investigate that potential line of enquiry.
  8. On Friday August 28 1998, I gave much of this information to Judge Hervé Stephan, the French investigative Judge in charge of the inquest into the accident. The lengths which MI6, the CIA and the DST have taken to deter me giving this evidence and subsequently to stop me talking about it, suggests that they have something to hide.
  9. On Friday 31 July 1998, shortly before my appointment with Judge Hervé Stephan, the DST arrested me in my Paris hotel room. Although I have no record of violent conduct I was arrested with such ferocity and at gunpoint that I received a broken rib. I was taken to the headquarters of the DST, and interrogated for 38 hours. Despite my repeated requests, I was never given any justification for the arrest and was not shown the arrest warrant. Even though I was released without charge, the DST confiscated from me my laptop computer and Psion organiser. They illegally gave these to MI6 who took them back to the UK. They were not returned for six months, which is illegal and caused me great inconvenience and financial cost.
  10. On Friday 7th August 1998 I boarded a Qantas flight at Auckland International airport, New Zealand, for a flight to Sydney, Australia where I was due to give a television interview to the Australian Channel Nine television company. I was in my seat, awaiting take off, when an official boarded the plane and told me to get off. At the airbridge, he told me that the airline had received a fax “from Canberra” saying that there was a problem with my travel papers. I immediately asked to see the fax, but I was told that “it was not possible”. I believe that this is because it didn’t exist. This action was a ploy to keep me in New Zealand so that the New Zealand police could take further action against me. I had been back in my Auckland hotel room for about half an hour when the New Zealand police and NZSIS, the New Zealand Secret Intelligence Service, raided me. After being detained and searched for about three hours, they eventually confiscated from me all my remaining computer equipment that the French DST had not succeeded in taking from me. Again, I didn’t get some of these items back until six months later.
  11. Moreover, shortly after I had given this evidence to Judge Stephan, I was invited to talk about this evidence in a live television interview on America’s NBC television channel. I flew from Geneva to JFK airport on Sunday 30 August to give the interview in New York on the following Monday morning. Shortly after arrival at John F Kennedy airport, the captain of the Swiss Air flight told all passengers to return to their seats. Four US Immigration authority officers entered the plane, came straight to my seat, asked for my passport as identity, and then frogmarched me off the plane. I was taken to the immigration detention centre, photographed, fingerprinted, manacled by my ankle to a chair for seven hours, served with deportation papers (exhibit 1) and then returned on the next available plane to Geneva. I was not allowed to make any telephone calls to the representatives of NBC awaiting me in the airport. The US Immigration Officers – who were all openly sympathetic to my situation and apologised for treating me so badly – openly admitted that they were acting under instructions from the CIA.
  12. In January of this year, I booked a chalet in the village of Samoens in the French Alps for a ten day snowboarding holiday with my parents. I picked up my parents from Geneva airport in a hire car on the evening of January 8, and set off for the French border. At the French customs post, our car was stopped and I was detained. Four officers from the DST held me for four hours. At the end of this interview, I was served with the deportation papers below (exhibit 2), and ordered to return to Switzerland. Note that in the papers, my supposed destination has been changed from “Chamonix” to “Samoens”. This is because when first questioned by a junior DST officer, I told him that my destination was “Chamonix”. When a senior officer arrived an hour or so later, he crossed out the word and changed it to “Samoens”, without ever even asking or confirming this with me. I believe this is because MI6 had told them of my true destination, having learnt the information through surveillance on my parent’s telephone in the UK. My banning from France is entirely illegal under European law. I have a British passport and am entitled to travel freely within the European Union. MI6 have “done a deal” with the DST to have me banned, and have not used any recognised legal mechanism to deny my rights to freedom of travel. I believe that the DST and MI6 have banned me from France because they wanted to prevent me from giving further evidence to Judge Stephan’s inquest, which at the time, I was planning to do.
  13. Whatever MI6’s role in the events leading to the death of the Princess of Wales, Dodi Al Fayed and Henri Paul, I am absolutely certain that there is substantial evidence in their files that would provide crucial evidence in establishing the exact causes of this tragedy. I believe that they have gone to considerable lengths to obstruct the course of justice by interfering with my freedom of speech and travel, and this in my view confirms my belief that they have something to hide. I believe that the protection given to MI6 files under the Official Secrets Act should be set aside in the public interest in uncovering once and for all the truth behind these dramatic and historically momentous events.

SWORN at )

this day of )

1998, before me:- )

A Notary Public

EXHIBIT 1

© Copyright R Tomlinnson, 1999.

:

IAEA Certifies Iran’s Compliance with Nuclear Deal

September 1st, 2017 by Stephen Lendman

VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: stephenlendman.org (Home – Stephen Lendman). Contact at [email protected].

In its latest quarterly report, the IAEA again certified Iranian compliance with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Trump wants cooked CIA intelligence to show noncompliance, giving him a pretext to renege on the deal – not easily with IAEA certification.

Its report states

“(t)he Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material at the nuclear facilities and locations outside facilities where nuclear material is customarily used (LOFs) declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement.”

“Evaluations regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities for Iran remained ongoing. Since Implementation Day, the Agency has been verifying and monitoring the implementation by Iran of its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA.”

Iran hasn’t pursued construction of its Arak heavy water research reactor. It hasn’t produced or tested natural uranium pellets, fuel pins or assemblies designed for the reactor.

Existing uranium pellets and fuel assemblies remain stored – under “continuous Agency monitoring.”

Its stock of low-enriched uranium hasn’t exceeded the agreed limit of 300 kg. Its stock of heavy water is below the permitted 130 ton limit.

It hasn’t “carried out activities related to reprocessing at the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) and the Molybdenum, Iodine and Xenon Radioisotope Production (MIX) Facility or at any of the other facilities it has declared to the Agency.”

It hasn’t enriched uranium above its permitted “3.67& U-235.” The IAEA has continuous access to its nuclear facilities.

Trump’s claim of Iranian noncompliance is false. It’s enrichment activities strictly observe JCPOA guidelines.

Since January 2016, the IAEA certified Iranian compliance eight times – the latest at end of August.

Last week, Trump’s UN envoy Nikki Haley unsuccessfully tried pressuring IAEA officials to inspect Iranian military sites – what America and other NATO members don’t permit in their own countries.

The Trump administration alone among P5+1 nations opposes the JCPOA.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said it represents “the European way to foreign policy,” calling the deal “a commitment undertaken by the entire international community on the one side and Iran on the other, supported by a resolution of the UN Security Council, and certified regularly by the International Atomic Energy Agency.”

If Trump declares Iranian noncompliance in mid-October, America and Israel will be isolated among the world community of nations on this issue.

VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: stephenlendman.org (Home – Stephen Lendman). Contact at [email protected].

My newest book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Featured image is from uae-mission.ae.

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Update: here is the statement posted late on Wednesday afternoon on Arkema’s US website on the current status of the Crosby, TX plant:

Comments from Rich Rowe, President & CEO, Arkema Inc. on our Site in Crosby, Texas 

The nation is dealing with a natural disaster of enormous magnitude in Texas. As part of that, Arkema is dealing with a critical issue at our Crosby, Texas facility.

Please let me begin by thanking our brave and dedicated employees who safely shut down the site before Hurricane Harvey made landfall. Like everyone else in the region, these folks were dealing with personal and family issues caused by the storm, yet they performed their tasks in the most professional manner.

Next, we apologize to everyone impacted by our situation, particularly in combination with the horrible conditions visited upon the region by the hurricane. We are working closely with many governmental authorities and first responders, and we want to thank them for their guidance, professionalism and dedication. People are working around the clock under extremely challenging conditions, and the work thus far has been tremendous. We cherish the strong relationships and support we have received from our neighbors, the United States Department of Homeland Security, Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency, Harris County Fire Marshall’s Office, Harris County Texas Sheriff’s Office,  Federal Emergency Management Agency, and our elected representatives.

Our Crosby facility makes organic peroxides, a family of compounds that are used in everything from making pharmaceuticals to construction materials. But organic peroxides may burn if not stored and handled under the right conditions. At Crosby, we prepared for what we recognized could be a worst case scenario. We had redundant contingency plans in place. Right now, we have an unprecedented 6 feet of water at the plant. We have lost primary power and two sources of emergency backup power. As a result, we have lost critical refrigeration of the materials on site that could now explode and cause a subsequent intense fire. The high water and lack of power leave us with no way to prevent it. We have evacuated our personnel  for their own safety. The federal, state and local authorities were contacted a few days ago, and we are working very closely with them to manage this matter. They have ordered the surrounding community to be evacuated, too. 

We are setting up a call center to handle questions from neighbors and others affected, and a claims center to handle financial claims related to Arkema’s Crosby situation. Also, we’ve reached out to local crisis leaders in Harris County and offered our support. Once more, we apologize for impacting their lives. We thank the governmental authorities who are working closely with us for their guidance and professionalism, and will continue to work with them until this situation is resolved.

Thank you.

* * *

Earlier

Yesterday we reported, that in a potentially disastrous outcome from the Harvey flooding, a chemical plant in Crosby, Texas belonging to French industrial giant Arkema SA, has announced it is evacuating workers due to the risk of an explosion, after primary power was knocked out and flooding swamped its backup generators. The French company said the situation at the plant “has become serious” and said that it is working with the Department of Homeland Security and the State of Texas to set up a command post in a suitable location near our site.

The plant, which produces explosive organic peroxides and ammonia, was hit by more than 40 inches of rain and has been heavily flooded, running without electricity since Sunday. The plant was closed since Friday but has had a skeleton staff of about a dozen in place. Following the flood surge, the plant’s back-up generators also failed. The threat emerged once the company could no longer maintain refrigeration for chemicals located on site, which have to be stored at low temperatures. The plant lost cooling when backup generators were flooded and then workers transferred products from the warehouses into diesel-powered refrigerated containers.

On Tuesday afternoon, the company released a statement which admitted that

“refrigeration on some of our back-up product storage containers has been compromised due to extremely high water, which is unprecedented in the Crosby area. We are monitoring the temperature of each refrigeration container remotely.”

It then warned that “while we do not believe there is any imminent danger, the potential for a chemical reaction leading to a fire and/or explosion within the site confines is real.”

One day later, and with the torrential rains finally over, has the situation at the giant peroxide chemical plant stabilized? Unfortunately, according to Reuters, the answer is no.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday afternoon, Richard Rowe, the chief executive of Arkema’s American operations said that

the company has no way of preventing chemicals from catching fire or exploding at its heavily flooded plant.”

Rowe added that the company now expects chemicals on site to catch fire or explode within the next six days. Since the plant remains flooded by about six feet of water, “the company has no way to prevent” this worst-case outcome.

Anticipating the worst, the company earlier evacuated all remaining workers, while Harris County ordered the evacuation of residents in a 1.5-mile radius of the plant that makes organic chemicals.

Previously, Arkema said that it was working with Homeland Security and the state of Texas to set up a command post near the site. As we reported on Tuesday, Rep. Ted Poe, a Texas Republican, wrote on Twitter that the Crosby plant “is in danger of fire/explosion. The local area is being evacuated. Stay out of area.”

Previously Reuters added that other chemical plants have also shuttered production in Texas because of the hurricane, however none are in such a precarious state. These include Anglo-Swiss chemicals firm Ineos Group Holdings, which said it has been forced to shut down facilities in Texas. Chocolate Bayou Works and Battleground Manufacturing Complex, and INEOS Nitriles’ Green Lake facility are following hurricane procedures and are temporarily shut down, spokesman Charles Saunders said. Huntsman Corp said it has closed six chemical plants in Texas, along with its global headquarters and advanced technology center in Texas.

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Featured image: A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Houston conducts an overflight of a southeastern Houston neighborhood on 27 August 2017. (Source: U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Corinne Zilnicki)

We knew this was coming. This August the rains have come with a vengeance. But we knew something like this was coming. In 2014, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its summary of the expected impacts of climate change. In dry, academic language, the report sets out the evidence: climate change will bring extremes of precipitation: more droughts and more deadly floods. 

Early in the morning on 14 August, heavy rains in Freetown, Sierra Leone triggered a mudslide. Muddy rubble cascaded down the hillside, destroying homes and burying people inside them. The official death toll from this tragedy has now risen to over a thousand.

At the same time, monsoon rains were causing deaths in India and Nepal. In Himachal, two buses with their passengers were swept into a gorge in a landslide. Fatalities from flooding are not uncommon in the summer monsoon season, but this time the heavy rains just kept coming, leading to extraordinary flooding in Nepal, northwestern Indian states and downstream Bangladesh, where the floods submerged over a third of the country.

A storm was brewing

By 24 August, official estimates were 41 million affected across the three nations of India, Nepal and Bangladesh and at least 900 killed. The next day the reported death toll had risen to 1200. And yet this catastrophe was barely reported in the western media.

Meanwhile, a storm was brewing off the southeastern US coast. Having been downgraded to a tropical wave, Harvey picked up energy again and regained hurricane status as it moved across the abnormally warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It also picked up unusual amounts of moisture. As it hit Houston and surrounding areas of Texas, there was no lack of media attention this time.

Experts had warned that Houston was particularly vulnerable to flooding in a warming climate because of several factors. In a low lying plain, with poor draining clay soils, and with the expanding city laying down ever more concrete, the water management plan is in no way fit for increasing storm risks. But this was a storm that would overwhelm even the most well-prepared city.

In the first 72 hours over a metre of rain fell in some areas. Dramatic photographs showed freeways turned into deep rivers, while stranded families sent out desperate pleas for rescue on social media.

Just days earlier, Donald Trump had signed an order scrapping stricter rules around flood risk for federal investment in infrastructure. As Harvey’s rains fell, Trump’s top official at the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, dismissed the subject of linking the storm to climate change. When asked in an interview, Pruitt described those discussing cause and effect as ‘opportunistic’.

Heavy load

So there may be no immediate impetus from disaster to climate action. The media plays an important role here. There are three ways that media can let us down in reporting climate change-influenced disasters.

The first is when the media give prominence to events which are easy to report, rather than those which are truly significant. Harvey is a significant story deserving major coverage. Yet before Harvey hit Texas (and hit the headlines), where were the reports on the South Asian flooding?

Even given the general tendency to treat the deaths of poor people in non-western countries as non-newsworthy, the death toll was then climbing towards a thousand and 41 million affected across three countries. But someone actively following the news could easily be completely unaware of these floods. The story was given cursory coverage then dropped completely out of the news for at least five days, to be picked up again on 29 August, this time more widely.

The second weakness is a failure to be upfront about the links between these disasters and climate change. In the case of Harvey, there are at least three links. One of the most significant is that the warmer than normal waters in the Gulf of Mexico contributed to Harvey’s heavy load of atmospheric moisture.

In the first five days, it dumped some 20 trillion gallons of water on Texas (one sixth the volume of Lake Erie). Warm waters also give hurricanes more energy. Another factor is that storm surge along the coast rides on top of raised sea levels. These are particularly significant on the Gulf Coast of Texas – sea levels there have risen over 30cm in 50 years.

Still devastated

One difficulty journalists have in reporting climate change is sustaining interest in a vast slow-motion catastrophe that plays out over a timescale of decades or more. But right now the drama and tragedy is immediate, and there is no excuse for not being clear about what is at stake and the choices we are making.

The final way the media can fail in their coverage is not to stick around. Flood waters make for dramatic photography. But what comes next can be just as devastating. With a lack of clean water, the displaced people of Bangladesh, especially the children, are at risk of deadly diseases such as cholera.

Many victims of the floods have lost all their possessions. Bangladesh was already experiencing food supply problems after flash flooding wiped out a large part of the rice crop in April. Now more vast areas of crops have been washed away.

And although the US is a rich country, even there, for those who have least, it is hardest to get it back. A year ago, Baton Rouge, Louisiana was hit by one of the worst floods in US history. One year on, poorer neighbourhoods are still devastated. For them, and for the people of Bangladesh, climate change is already here. Will we pay attention?

Claire James is the campaigns coordinator for the Campaign against Climate Change. She tweets at @campaigncc

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The number of dead and the devastation wrought by Hurricane Harvey continue to mount in what is already one of the worst disasters in American history.

The confirmed death toll from the region surrounding Houston, Texas remains at 31, but this is expected to rise rapidly as search-and-rescue teams carry out house-to-house searches now that floodwaters are beginning to subside. Meanwhile, now-Tropical Depression Harvey is making its way up through the Southeast, dumping heavy rains on Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.

At a White House press conference Thursday, Tom Bossert, President Trump’s Homeland Security Advisor, reported that an estimated 100,000 homes have been affected by the storm. AccuWeather, a private weather forecasting company, predicts that total damages from the storm could reach $190 billion, or more than 1 percent of US Gross Domestic Product.

One of the many thousands of homes destroyed by Hurricane Harvey in the greater Houston area. (Credit: Army National Guard, Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon)

Adding to the danger, two explosions Thursday rocked the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, approximately 20 miles northeast of Houston, sparking a fire and sending noxious black smoke into the air. A 1.5-mile radius around the plant was evacuated, and 21 emergency responders were treated for chemical exposure at a local hospital and discharged.

Company officials had warned earlier in the week that the facility, which produces highly volatile organic peroxides, was primed for an explosion after it was inundated by floodwaters and the refrigeration units necessary to keep the chemicals from exploding lost power. More explosions are expected at the plant, and it is not known how many other such facilities in the region are at risk.

Arkema and many other chemical companies opposed additional safety regulations issued by the Obama administration in the wake of several accidents in Texas, including an explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas City in 2013 that killed 15 workers. The Trump administration postponed enforcement of the regulations in June.

Further east, more than 120,000 people in the city of Beaumont, Texas, home to some of the country’s largest oil refineries, were left without access to clean water after the city’s main water pump was overwhelmed by flood waters Wednesday night. The city’s hospital, Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas, was forced to close and transfer patients to other facilities across the region.

In Tyler County, north of Beaumont, the Army Corp of Engineers was forced to open the floodgates of the Angelina-Neches Dam Wednesday, as rising waters threatened to overflow barriers. All residents were told to leave the region immediately.

“Anyone who chooses to not heed this directive cannot expect to be rescued and should write their social security numbers in permanent marker on their arm so their bodies can be identified,” Tyler County Emergency Management warned on Facebook. “The loss of life and property is certain.” The post ended with the declaration: “GET OUT OR DIE!”

Officials at every level of government continue to congratulate themselves on their response to the storm, while the endless media commentary avoids any discussion of those responsible for the disaster. If such a calamity had happened in Russia, China or Iran it would undoubtedly be cited as evidence of government incompetence and the failures of officials and urban planners.

US Vice President Mike Pence, fresh from a trip to West Virginia, where he pushed the Trump administration’s plans or a massive tax handout to the rich, visited Corpus Christi, Texas on Thursday. Pence echoed the empty pledges of other government officials that Washington will assist in ensuring a full recovery.

At a press conference, Pence repeatedly sidestepped questions about whether the White House would insist on budget cuts to offset any emergency federal funding—a position that Pence took as a congressman in 2005 in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Record flooding has wiped out whole swathes of Houston and the surrounding areas. (Credit: Army National Guard, Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon)

The vast majority of Houston-area residents who lack flood insurance will be eligible for only $33,000 in loans from the government to cover building costs and hotel stays. (See, “More than 80 percent of homeowners impacted by Harvey lack flood insurance“)

White House Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced at a White House press conference Thursday that President Donald Trump had decided to donate $1 million of his own money to relief efforts, pocket change for the billionaire real estate developer.

Trump’s PR stunt will be viewed with contempt by the broader population, who have seen tens of thousands left homeless due to negligence by the government and large corporations, including the developers who paved over Houston’s wetlands and prairie lands.

Throughout the week, government officials have promoted volunteerism as the way to confront the flooding that has swept over southeastern Texas. The inept rescue effort by the Coast Guard and other government agencies has been buttressed by the response of thousands of volunteers who have risked their own lives to save people trapped by the floodwater.

The destruction wrought by Hurricane Harvey has exposed the reality of social life in the United States, the richest country in the world. Decades of increasing social inequality, official neglect and the decay of social infrastructure have left the fourth-largest city in the country, Houston, completely vulnerable to the hurricane.

The drowning of Houston comes exactly 12 years after Hurricane Katrina devastated nearby New Orleans and the surrounding area, killing more than 1,800 people. It comes seven years after the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, which killed eleven and produced the worst environmental disaster in the history of the country.

Each of these disasters, in different ways, was the product of criminal negligence on the part of the American financial oligarchy. Trillions of dollars have been made available to bail out Wall Street and finance US military operations abroad, yet nothing has been done to prepare for entirely predictable extreme weather events like Harvey and Katrina. In the case of the BP oil spill, corporate cost cutting and deregulation left the entire region to the mercy of the profit drive of a giant oil company.

Featured image is from Politico.

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Cricket Test Match: Bangladesh’s Victory Over Australia

September 1st, 2017 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

The cricket punter will be delighted by this result. Those favouring status quos and sides with long stretches of dominance will not. The first test match between Bangladesh and Australia in Mirpur was unnervingly close, delighting the home team which still remains callow in international cricketing competition.

Prior to playing the touring Australian side in the test opener of a two-match series, the Bangladeshi record of victories was skimpy, being roughly one in ten. Material, however, was being added. Over the last twelve months, both England and Sri Lanka have afforded scalps to a team that is, least at home, is on the rise.

For Steve Smith, the smarting Australian skipper, history was again being made against his side. Yet again, it was made with the tantalising play of the turning ball on dusty zipping pitches. Chasing a modest 265 for victory made more problematic by conditions, the survivors from the previous day were starting at a cool, confident 2/109.

David Warner, already a masterful centurion and a battling Steve Smith on 37, seemed in charge. But this entire match has been a sequence of false hopes and marked collapses, punctuated by sessions of gritty holdouts and rearguards. The loss of eight wickets for a paltry 86 runs doomed the Australian effort, but it would be folly to dismiss it wholesale.

Stunning as this home team display was, the turning ball remains that all bewitching means that undoes current Australian sides. Solid gains are whittled away; inroads are made with destabilising guile. Poor shot selection, naturally, plays its part. There are also undue burdens played on Warner and Smith, who, when on song, keep the effort consistent and even formidable.

Sri Lanka encountered many of these problems when rolling the visiting Australians with a near casual ruthlessness in a 3-0 home series victory; humbler, less experienced Bangladesh risk doing the same.

The hatchets were duly procured by an unforgiving Australian press. For a scathing Peter Lalor, Australian sides had developed an aversion to winning on the subcontinent spanning 23 matches over 12 years, the result of contracting “an almost fatal dust allergy.”[1] (Not entirely: Australia did net two lonely victories.)

Chip Le Grand of The Australian did not stretch the invalid theme, preferring to employ that tried approach of damning the victors with faint praise while heaping opprobrium upon the defeated.[2] Paupers on about $26,136 a year, in other words, had triumphed over the millionaires, the seditious underclass over the hapless ruling class.

“Although Warner earned his keep with a brilliant second-innings century, others played like millionaires.”

Glen Maxwell was singled out for special treatment, having made a “reckless shot to the first ball after lunch”. For Le Grand, the question had to be asked:

“Did our national team expend too much energy on the Australian Cricket Association picket line and not enough in the nets?”

The Herald Sun pressed the remuneration issue, reminding readers about those cricketers who had been in an ongoing pay dispute with Cricket Australia that had yielded them a five-year agreement worth some $500 million.

“What happened in Dhaka was on one hand wonderful for world cricket and on the other embarrassing for a pack of overpaid prima donnas.”

By all means, strike over pay, went the paper, but “make sure you back it up in the field of play. Losing to Bangladesh is hardly doing that.”

Such acid commentary suggests, according to the solid observations of Assistant Editor to ESNcricinfo Daniel Brettig, the lingering damage sustained by the pay dispute.[3] Cricket Australia’s targeting of the national team during the sniping sessions opened a hunting season that has yet to close, despite the official memorandum of understanding between the combatants.

Another facet of the rage directed against the Australian team comes from the old wisdom of playing foes that merit attention. To lose against a formidable, long engaged opponent (Brettig calls them “bankable”) such as England or India is a far bitter pill to swallow than losing to the unknown, the minnow, the usurper.

Rather than taking the stern, austere ground of criticism, one directed against the well paid, Bangladesh should be feted. Former test players certainly thought so, with India’s Sachin Tendulkar exclaiming that,

“Test cricket is thriving.”[4]

But it was the comment from Pakistan’s formidable bowling all-rounder Wasim Akram that summed up the celebratory note, the exhilaration of the gladiatorial context that tends to get lost in the monetary equation. “Great to see Bangladesh win against mighty Australians. Test cricket still is and always will be the ultimate form of the game.”[5]

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: [email protected]

Notes

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Battlefield America Is the New Normal

September 1st, 2017 by John W. Whitehead

“If we’re training cops as soldiers, giving them equipment like soldiers, dressing them up as soldiers, when are they going to pick up the mentality of soldiers?”— Arthur Rizer, former police officer

America, you’ve been fooled again.

While the nation has been distracted by a media maelstrom dominated by news of white supremacists, Powerball jackpots, Hurricane Harvey, and a Mayweather v. McGregor fight, the American Police State has been carving its own path of devastation and destruction through what’s left of the Constitution.

We got sucker punched.

First, Congress overwhelmingly passed—and President Trump approved—a law allowing warrantless searches of private property for the purpose of “making inspections, investigations, examinations, and testing.”

For now, the scope of the law is geographically limited to property near the Washington DC Metro system, but mark my words, this is just a way of testing the waters. Under the pretext of ensuring public safety by “inspecting” property in the vicinity of anything that could be remotely classified as impacting public safety, the government could gain access to almost any private property in the country.

Then President Trump, aided and abetted by his trusty Department of Justice henchman Jeff Sessions and to the delight of the nation’s powerful police unions, rolled back restrictions on the government’s military recycling program.

What this means is that police agencies, only minimally deterred by the Obama administration’s cosmetic ban on certain types of military gear, can now go hog-wild.

We’re talking Blackhawk helicopters, machine guns, grenade launchers, battering rams, explosives, chemical sprays, body armor, night vision, rappelling gear, armored vehicles, and tanks.

Clearly, we’re not in Mayberry anymore.

Or if this is Mayberry, it’s Mayberry in The Twilight Zone.

As journalist Benjamin Carlson stresses,

“In today’s Mayberry, Andy Griffith and Barney Fife could be using grenade launchers and a tank to keep the peace.”

Contrast the idyllic Mayberry with the American police state of today, where local police—clad in jackboots, helmets and shields and wielding batons, pepper-spray, stun guns, and assault rifles—have increasingly come to resemble occupying forces in communities across the country.

As Alyssa Rosenberg writes for The Washington Post,

“[The Andy Griffith Show] expressed an ideal that has leached out of American pop culture and public policy, to dangerous effect: that the police were part of the communities that they served and shared their fellow citizens’ interests. They were of their towns and cities, not at war with them.”

That’s really what this is about: a war on the American citizenry waged by local law enforcement armed to the teeth with weapons previously only seen on the battlefield

As investigative journalists Andrew Becker and G.W. Schulz reveal,

“Many police, including beat cops, now routinely carry assault rifles. Combined with body armor and other apparel, many officers look more and more like combat troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Thanks to Trump, this transformation of America into a battlefield is only going to get worse.

To be fair, Trump did not create this totalitarian nightmare. However, he has legitimized it and, in so doing, has also accelerated the pace at which we fall deeper into the clutches of outright tyranny.

In the hands of government agents, whether they are members of the military, law enforcement or some other government agency, these weapons of war have become accepted instruments of tyranny, routine parts of America’s day-to-day life, a byproduct of the rapid militarization of law enforcement over the past several decades.

It’s a modern-day Trojan Horse.

Although these federal programs that allow the military to “gift” battlefield-appropriate weapons, vehicles and equipment to domestic police departments at taxpayer expense are being sold to communities as a benefit, the real purpose is to keep the defense industry churning out profits, bring police departments in line with the military, and establish a standing army.

It’s a militarized approach to make-work programs, except in this case, instead of unnecessary busy work to keep people employed, communities across America are finding themselves “gifted” with unnecessary drones, tanks, grenade launchers and other military equipment better suited to the battlefield in order to fatten the bank accounts of the military industrial complex.

In addition to being an astounding waste of taxpayer money, this equipping of police with military-grade equipment and weapons also gives rise to a dangerous mindset in which police adopt a warrior-like, more aggressive approach to policing.

The results are deadly.

As a study by researchers at Stanford University makes clear, “When law enforcement receives more military materials — weapons, vehicles and tools — it becomes … more likely to jump into high-risk situations. Militarization makes every problem — even a car of teenagers driving away from a party — look like a nail that should be hit with an AR-15 hammer.”

The danger of giving police high-power toys and weapons is that they will feel compelled to use it in all kinds of situations that would never normally warrant battlefield gear, weapons or tactics.

Suffice it to say, change will not come easily.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the police unions are a powerful force and they will not relinquish their power easily. Connect the dots and you’ll find that most, if not all, attempts to cover up police misconduct or sidestep accountability can be traced back to police unions and the police lobby.

Just look at Trump: he’s been on the police unions’ payroll from the moment they endorsed him for president, and he’s paid them back generously by ensuring that police can kill, shoot, taser, abuse and steal from American citizens with impunity.

Still, the responsibility rests with “we the people.”

As author Ta-Nehisi Coates reminds us:

The truth is that the police reflect America in all of its will and fear, and whatever we might make of this country’s criminal justice policy, it cannot be said that it was imposed by a repressive minority. The abuses that have followed from these policies—the sprawling carceral state, the random detention of black people, the torture of suspects—are the product of democratic will. And so to challenge the police is to challenge the American people who send them into the ghettos armed with the same self-generated fears that compelled the people who think they are white to flee the cities and into the Dream. The problem with the police is not that they are fascist pigs but that our country is ruled by majoritarian pigs.

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People (SelectBooks, 2015) is available online at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at [email protected].

Featured image is from the author.

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Featured image: Ephraim Benjamin, a Mossad agent [masralarabia]

Libyan security forces have arrested a Mossad agent who held a leading position in Daesh in the north-eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, the Israeli website Inian Merkazi reported.

The Hebrew website whose name translates to “Central Issues”, added that Ephraim Benjamin is a Jewish spy and that he mingled with Libyans following the 2011 revolution that resulted in the ouster of former dictator Moammer Ghaddafi.

Masr Alarabia website described him as one of Mossad’s “Arabists” who are characterised by Arab features and who speak Arabic fluently in local dialects.

Israeli Arabists are known for infiltrating Palestinian protests and arresting demonstrators, as well as assassinating anti-occupation Palestinian activists, according to Masr Alarabia.

Benjamin had reportedly become a prominent imam of a large mosque in Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, then he became a Daesh leader who commanded 200 fighters from the militant group.

The spy, who was known in Libya as Abu Hafs, was arrested two months ago and accused by the Libyan authorities of gathering intelligence information on Daesh for Mossad.

The Israeli website cited the incident as evidence used by Arab media to justify the common conspiratorial argument propagated in some Arab circles about Israel being behind the rise of Daesh in the region.

Libyan media outlets describe Benjamin as the “Mossad sheikh” who was arrested by local authorities.

Daesh began to operate in Libya in 2015. Many believe that the video posted by the group on 12 February of the same year from the city of Sirte, featuring the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians, as the official announcement of the militant group’s emergence in the north African country even if militant operations were believed to have been committed by Daesh prior to that date.

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Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered a crushing rebuke to the perennial optimists roused to hopes of imminent peace by the visit to the Middle East last week of Donald Trump’s adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. At an event on Monday in the West Bank celebrating the half-centenary of Israeli occupation, Netanyahu effectively admitted that US efforts to revive the peace process would prove another charade.

There would be no dismantling of the settlements or eviction of their 600,000 inhabitants – the minimum requirement for a barely feasible Palestinian state.

“We are here to stay forever,” Netanyahu reassured his settler audience. “We will deepen our roots, build, strengthen and settle.”

So where is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict heading if the two-state solution is dead? The answer: back to its origins. That will entail another desperate numbers battle against the Palestinians – with Israel preparing to create new categories of “Jews” so they can be recruited to the fray.

Demography was always at the heart of Israeli policy. During the 1948 war that founded a Jewish state on the ruins of the Palestinian homeland, 750,000 Palestinians were expelled in a campaign that today would be termed ethnic cleansing. By the end, a large native Palestinian majority had been reduced to less than a fifth of the new state’s population. David Ben Gurion, the country’s founding father, was unperturbed. He expected to swamp this rump group with Jews from Europe and the Arab world.

But the project foundered on two miscalculations.

First, Ben Gurion had not factored in the Palestinian minority’s far higher birth rate. Despite waves of Jewish immigrants, Palestinians have held fast, at 20 per cent of Israel’s citizenry. Israel has fought a rearguard battle against them ever since. Studies suggest that the only Israeli affirmative action programme for Palestinian citizens is in family planning.

Israeli demographic scheming was on show again last week. An investigation by the Haaretz newspaper found that in recent years, Israel has stripped of citizenship potentially thousands of Bedouin, the country’s fastest-growing population. Israel claims bureaucratic “errors” were made in registering their parents or grandparents after the state’s founding.

Meanwhile, another Rubicon was crossed this month when an Israeli court approved revoking the citizenship of a Palestinian convicted of a lethal attack on soldiers. Human rights groups fear that, by rendering him stateless, the Israeli right has established a precedent for conditioning citizenship on “loyalty”.

Justice minister Ayelet Shaked underlined that very point this week when she warned the country’s judges that they must prioritise demography and the state’s Jewishness over human rights.

The second miscalculation arrived in 1967. In seizing the last fragments of historic Palestine but failing to expel most of the inhabitants, Israel made itself responsible for many hundreds of thousands of additional Palestinians, including refugees from the earlier war.

The “demographic demon”, as it is often referred to in Israel, was held at bay only by bogus claims for many decades that the occupation would soon end. In 2005, Israel bought a little more breathing space by “disengaging” from the tiny Gaza enclave and its 1.5 million inhabitants.

Now, in killing hopes of Palestinian statehood, Netanyahu has made public his intention to realise the one settler-state solution. Naftali Bennett, Netanyahu’s chief rival in the government, is itching to ignore international sentiment and begin annexing large parts of the West Bank.

There is a problem, however. At least half the population in Netanyahu’s Greater Israel are Palestinian. And with current birth rates, Jews will soon be an indisputable minority – one ruling over a Palestinian majority.

That is the context for understanding the report of a government panel – leaked last weekend – that proposes a revolutionary reimagining of who counts as a Jew and therefore qualifies to live in Israel (and the occupied territories).

Israel’s 1950 Law of Return already casts the net wide, revising the traditional rabbinical injunction that a Jew must be born to a Jewish mother. Instead, the law entitles anyone with one Jewish grandparent to instant citizenship. That worked fine as long as Jews were fleeing persecution or economic distress. But since the arrival of 1 million immigrants following the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the pool of new Jews has dried up.

The United States, even in the Trump era, has proved the bigger magnet. The Jerusalem Post newspaper reported last month that up to one million Israelis may be living there. Worse for Netanyahu, it seems that at least some are included in Israeli figures to bolster its demographic claims against the Palestinians.

Recent trends show that the exodus of Israelis to the US is twice as large as the arrival of American Jews to Israel. With 150 Israeli start-ups reported in Silicon Valley alone, that tendency is not about to end.

With a pressing shortage of Jews to defeat the Palestinians demographically, the Netanyahu government is considering a desperate solution. The leaked report suggests opening the doors to a new category of “Jewish” non-Jews. According to Haaretz, potentially millions of people worldwide could qualify. The new status would apply to “crypto-Jews”, whose ancestors converted from Judaism; “emerging Jewish” communities that have adopted Jewish practices; and those claiming to be descended from Jewish “lost tribes”.

Though they will initially be offered only extended stays in Israel, the implication is that this will serve as a prelude to widening their entitlement to eventually include citizenship. The advantage for Israel is that most of these “Jewish” non-Jews currently live in remote, poor or war-torn parts of the world, and stand to gain from a new life in Israel – or the occupied territories.

That is the great appeal to the die-hard one-staters like Netanyahu and Bennett. They need willing footsoldiers in the battle to steal Palestinian land, trampling on internationally recognised borders and hopes of peace-making.

Will they get away with it? They may think so, especially at a time when the US administration claims it would show “bias” to commit itself to advancing a two-state solution. Trump has said the parties should work out their own solution. Netanyahu soon may have the arithmetic to do so.

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jonathan-cook.net.

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Myanmar Regime Projects Rohingyas as Terrorist “Jihadists”

September 1st, 2017 by Dr. Chandra Muzaffar

The Rohingyas – or at least some Rohingyas – are now being projected as terrorists, as “Jihadists” out to kill Myanmar soldiers and civilians. Myanmar leaders including Aung San SuuKyi have spoken along these lines.

This view of the Rohingyas is being propagated by the Myanmar government with greater zeal since a small armed group called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked security forces on 9 October 2016. These attacks have continued in recent weeks. In this new wave of violence it is alleged that 12 security personnel were killed while the Myanmar military and border police have killed 77 Rohingya Muslims.

The way Aung San SuuKyi and her government colleagues have framed the clashes ignores the brutal massacres committed by the military over a long period of time. The oppression and persecution of the Rohingyas by the State and other forces has been thoroughly documented by the United Nations Human Rights Council and other independent human rights groups. It is well-known that as a community the Rohingyas were stripped of Myanmar citizenship in 1982, deprived of basic human rights, tortured, imprisoned, and forced to flee their home province of Rakhine. This is why there are tens of thousands of Rohingyas living in squalid conditions in Bangladesh or struggling to survive in a number of countries from Malaysia to Saudi Arabia. They have been described by the UN itself as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities.  Simply put, the Rohingyas are the victims of a slow genocide, to quote Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen.

To condemn the violence of a miniscule fraction of the Rohingyas without taking into account their massive marginalisation and severe oppression is a travesty of truth and justice. It is extreme desperation and hopelessness that has forced some of them to resort to violence. Of course, violence is not the solution. It will not help to restore the rights of the Rohingyas, especially their right to citizenship.

Our concern is that the violence will escalate. The signs are already there. Given the underlying religious connotations of the conflict — though the conflict itself is not rooted in religion per se — it is not inconceivable that the violence will spread beyond Myanmar’s borders and engulf Muslim and Buddhist communities in other parts of Southeast Asia. This would be catastrophic for ASEAN, a regional grouping in which 42% of the population is Muslim and another 40% is Buddhist.

Finding workable solutions to the Myanmar — Rohingya conflict is therefore of utmost importance. It is in this regard that the ‘Final Report of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State’ under the chairmanship of former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, deserves the urgent attention of all stakeholders. The Report announced in August 2017 calls for a review of the 1982 citizenship law and notes that

“Myanmar harbours the largest community of stateless people in the world.”

It urges the government to abolish distinctions between different types of citizens.

Other recommendations pertain to reduction of the poverty rate in Rakhine state which is 78%, improving the socio-economic condition of the people, enhancing access to health services and education, ensuring freedom of movement and encouragingpeople’s participation and representation. Though the Report is worded with a great deal of caution and diplomacy, it does send an unambiguous message to the powers-that-be in Myanmar that the status quo cannot be allowed to persist and that change has to take place. That message is significant considering that the Commission was actually initiated by the government.

Will the government take heed? So far there is no indication that it will respond positively to the Commission’s recommendations. This is not surprising. It is the harsh authoritarianism of the government embodied in the power of the military that is primarily responsible for the targeting of the Rohingya as the “ethnic other.” This is what has resulted in the genocide that we are witnessing today.

Even if the Myanmar government does not act of its own volition, the Kofi Annan Report can be used to persuade other governments to pressurise Myanmar to act. Apart from ASEAN governments, special efforts should be made by civil society groups and the media to convince Beijing, Tokyo, New Delhi, Islamabad and Washington and London that they demand that the Myanmar government protects all its citizens without discrimination. If it fails to do so, these capitals should review their economic and/or military ties with Naypyidaw.

It is with the aim of persuading the leadership in Naypyidaw to change its behaviour that the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) is holding its concluding session in Kuala Lumpur on the treatment of the Rohingyas, Kachins and other minorities in Myanmar from the 18th to the 22nd of September 2017. As more and more voices plead for justice and compassion on behalf of the oppressed who knows they may eventually pierce the walls of Naypyidaw.

Dr. Chandra Muzaffar is the President of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST). 

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Myanmar Regime Projects Rohingyas as Terrorist “Jihadists”

September 1st, 2017 by Dr. Chandra Muzaffar

The Rohingyas – or at least some Rohingyas – are now being projected as terrorists, as “Jihadists” out to kill Myanmar soldiers and civilians. Myanmar leaders including Aung San SuuKyi have spoken along these lines.

This view of the Rohingyas is being propagated by the Myanmar government with greater zeal since a small armed group called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked security forces on 9 October 2016. These attacks have continued in recent weeks. In this new wave of violence it is alleged that 12 security personnel were killed while the Myanmar military and border police have killed 77 Rohingya Muslims.

The way Aung San SuuKyi and her government colleagues have framed the clashes ignores the brutal massacres committed by the military over a long period of time. The oppression and persecution of the Rohingyas by the State and other forces has been thoroughly documented by the United Nations Human Rights Council and other independent human rights groups. It is well-known that as a community the Rohingyas were stripped of Myanmar citizenship in 1982, deprived of basic human rights, tortured, imprisoned, and forced to flee their home province of Rakhine. This is why there are tens of thousands of Rohingyas living in squalid conditions in Bangladesh or struggling to survive in a number of countries from Malaysia to Saudi Arabia. They have been described by the UN itself as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities.  Simply put, the Rohingyas are the victims of a slow genocide, to quote Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen.

To condemn the violence of a miniscule fraction of the Rohingyas without taking into account their massive marginalisation and severe oppression is a travesty of truth and justice. It is extreme desperation and hopelessness that has forced some of them to resort to violence. Of course, violence is not the solution. It will not help to restore the rights of the Rohingyas, especially their right to citizenship.

Our concern is that the violence will escalate. The signs are already there. Given the underlying religious connotations of the conflict — though the conflict itself is not rooted in religion per se — it is not inconceivable that the violence will spread beyond Myanmar’s borders and engulf Muslim and Buddhist communities in other parts of Southeast Asia. This would be catastrophic for ASEAN, a regional grouping in which 42% of the population is Muslim and another 40% is Buddhist.

Finding workable solutions to the Myanmar — Rohingya conflict is therefore of utmost importance. It is in this regard that the ‘Final Report of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State’ under the chairmanship of former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, deserves the urgent attention of all stakeholders. The Report announced in August 2017 calls for a review of the 1982 citizenship law and notes that

“Myanmar harbours the largest community of stateless people in the world.”

It urges the government to abolish distinctions between different types of citizens.

Other recommendations pertain to reduction of the poverty rate in Rakhine state which is 78%, improving the socio-economic condition of the people, enhancing access to health services and education, ensuring freedom of movement and encouragingpeople’s participation and representation. Though the Report is worded with a great deal of caution and diplomacy, it does send an unambiguous message to the powers-that-be in Myanmar that the status quo cannot be allowed to persist and that change has to take place. That message is significant considering that the Commission was actually initiated by the government.

Will the government take heed? So far there is no indication that it will respond positively to the Commission’s recommendations. This is not surprising. It is the harsh authoritarianism of the government embodied in the power of the military that is primarily responsible for the targeting of the Rohingya as the “ethnic other.” This is what has resulted in the genocide that we are witnessing today.

Even if the Myanmar government does not act of its own volition, the Kofi Annan Report can be used to persuade other governments to pressurise Myanmar to act. Apart from ASEAN governments, special efforts should be made by civil society groups and the media to convince Beijing, Tokyo, New Delhi, Islamabad and Washington and London that they demand that the Myanmar government protects all its citizens without discrimination. If it fails to do so, these capitals should review their economic and/or military ties with Naypyidaw.

It is with the aim of persuading the leadership in Naypyidaw to change its behaviour that the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) is holding its concluding session in Kuala Lumpur on the treatment of the Rohingyas, Kachins and other minorities in Myanmar from the 18th to the 22nd of September 2017. As more and more voices plead for justice and compassion on behalf of the oppressed who knows they may eventually pierce the walls of Naypyidaw.

Dr. Chandra Muzaffar is the President of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST). 

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2017-2020, Euro Crisis: A Compromise Solution for a Non-democratic Euroland

September 1st, 2017 by Global Europe Anticipation Bulletin (GEAB)

In the GEAB no 109 of November 2016 we wondered if “the euro would survive beyond the year 2017”. Five months later, we wish to deepen and complete our analysis. One reason for the weakness of the euro comes from the political anaemia of the euro zone, which is ultimately far too un-integrated to afford a single currency, or (the other side of the coin, if we may say it this way) afford misconceptions around this single currency for a heterogeneous zone.

The well known thesis driving us on this topic is the anchoring of the governance of the single currency in a common democracy which would immediately set in motion all the principles of solidarity, of economic convergence and upgrading, which would be required in order to make the eurozone a powerful and coherent economic player on a global scale.

But we see this road moving farther and farther away. The projects of a Parliament of the eurozone drafted by some (Schäuble, Macron and Hamon) are dramatically lacking imagination, merely wanting to bring together national and European parliamentarians (all elected on a national basis) from the eurozone into a new “democratic” entity; the latter actually has no chance of bringing Eurolanders together around the governance of their common currency.

The tendencies lean heavily to the massive return of European governance in the hands of the national level (project of the right-wing radicals in particular, but also of the centre wing with its multi-speed Europe project draft, exclusively based on the political strength of the re-legitimised member states, thus always eliminating the euro-citizens from the game … on the pretext that they are too anti-European. When we look at the solutions of all these policies, we can wonder who is truly the most anti-European).

Thus, in spite of our own convictions, here follows the anticipation of a compromise solution, which could bring together the characteristics of a reform of the euro “acceptable” by all (maintaining the euro while strengthening the autonomy of the member states), and acceptable from the point of view of our national leaders, the only masters on board this ungovernable Europe.

Euro currency: design problems

In our November article, we mentioned the case of the German reunification: despite a great disparity between East and West, the dream of a Deutsche Mark was made possible by a sufficiently powerful political will joined by a strong redistribution. However, these two conditions are currently totally absent in the eurozone (ironically, one of the most reluctant countries to increase solidarity seems to be Germany, who has experimented with the need for massive redistribution and who, back then, has seen that it was not even enough to completely bridge the gap between East and West).

Figure 1 – GDP per inhabitant in different German Länders, 2011. Source: Die Zeit.

The designers of the euro currency imagined that the latter would force political union, that it would be a crucial step towards strengthening a solidarity-based Europe. Almost twenty years after the introduction of the euro and in the light of the Greek crisis and all the other European psychodramas, there are unfortunately no signs of such a thing. Moreover, it is still not the case and it will not be in the near future either, given the exclusively national priorities promoted by most of our leaders … This poses a real problem, since the euro is designed to function only in a highly-integrated zone.

For example, the eurozone summit, which normally takes place twice a year, has not had a meeting since July 12, 2015, and has fully delegated the governance of the eurozone to the ECB which advances alone, without any political mandate, on the sole legitimacy granted to it by the treaties in terms of inflation rate (to be maintained at around 2%).

The criticism is known: the competitiveness of the eurozone countries have diverged too much since the introduction of the euro, but they cannot adjust their exchange rate to rebalance. This would require a significant redistribution of the most competitive countries to compensate for their deficit balance; but that redistribution is non-existent since no fiscal union or common budget exists. On the other hand, if we wanted to replace this redistribution by some good monetary policy, we would run up against the famous “impossible trinity” which shows that it is impossible to reconcile everything: with the “fixed exchange rate regime” imposed by the euro, and with the free mobility of capital within the zone, countries cannot possibly adopt a monetary policy adapted to their situation.

fig 102

Figure 2 – The impossible Trinity of Mundell: the three vertices are impossible simultaneously. Source: Wikipedia.

This disparity between the countries of the eurozone, or rather their divergent trajectories due to a lack of political union, is indeed a real problem in designing the euro, unless a redistribution occurs within the monetary union. The so-called North-South divide in Europe is mirrored in the monetary policy habits of the European countries: before adopting the Maastricht convergence criteria, devaluations are frequent in the South in order to restore competitiveness to the economy obtained by the North more readily through “labour market reforms” (aka wage moderation)… Don’t miss our entire report in the latest GEAB bulletin / No 114, April 2017.

Featured image is from GEAB.

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Featured image: National guardsmen rescue residents stranded by flooding after Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast, 27/08/2017, Houston, Texas. (Credit: Planetpix/Alamy Stock Photo)

VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: stephenlendman.org (Home – Stephen Lendman). Contact at [email protected].

Flood-prone Houston was woefully unprepared for days of torrential rainfall. Its drainage system can’t handle it.

Its regulatory policy is lax. Its overdevelopment eliminated green space. Its damaged oil refining, fuel and chemical facilities exacerbated the disaster, turning much of the area into a toxic swamp, land, air and water affected – certain to gravely harm public health.

Houston Health Department spokesman Porofirio Villarreal said there’s no need to test floodwater.

“It’s contaminated. There’s millions of contaminants.”

Exposure is hard to avoid.

Well water used by hundreds of thousands of residents in affected areas is contaminated. Before Harvey, Houston drinking water was ranked 6th worst in the nation.

Earlier water quality tests found 18 chemicals exceeding federal and state health guidelines. The national average is four.

Forty-six pollutants were detected, including benzene and other carcinogens. The national average is eight. Illegal alpha particles were found, a form of radiation.

City water was unsafe before Harvey. It’s much more hazardous to human health now.

Regulatory laxness is commonplace in America. Significant industrial disasters happen nationwide, aside from what acts of nature cause.

According to Political Correction, the 11 most significant ones in the last century included:

“Hawk’s Nest Tunnel: At least 764 dead

Texas City Port Explosion: Approx. 4,000 casualties

Consol No. 9 Mine Disaster: 78 dead

Sunshine Silver Mine Fire: 91 dead

L’Ambiance Plaza Building Collapse: 28 dead

Exxon Valdez Spill: 11M-30M gallons of crude spilled

Phillips 66 Explosion: 23 dead

Imperial Foods Fire: 25 dead

BP Refinery Explosion: 15 dead

Upper Big Branch Mine Collapse: 29 dead

Deepwater Horizon Drilling Disaster: 11 dead”

The International Business Times (IBT) said “Texas Republicans helped chemical (company Arkema) lobby against safety rules” – likely contributing to two August 31 explosions at its Crosby plant, 25 miles from Houston, releasing toxic smoke and chemicals into the air and water.

“The effort to stop the chemical plant safety rules was backed by top Texas Republican lawmakers, who have received big campaign donations from chemical industry donors,” IBT explained.

The plant was earlier fined for 10 “serious” violations this year. Five of the company’s six plants are near Texas’ southeast coast. Floodwaters pose a serious risk for further explosions, releasing more toxins into the air and water.

The Trump administration was instrumental in blocking chemical plant safety regulations. Supportive federal and state lawmakers received large industry political contributions.

Texas Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz got $408,000 and $234,000 respectively from the chemical industry over the course of their political careers.

It buys a lot of industry-friendly legislation and regulatory laxness.

The death toll from Hurricane Harvey stands at 31 so far. The human health toll, unfolding for months and years ahead, could be staggering – likely tens of thousands of area residents harmed, maybe millions, on their own with little or no federal or state aid.

VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: stephenlendman.org (Home – Stephen Lendman). Contact at [email protected].

My newest book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

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UN Says 27 Dying Each Day in US-led Siege of Raqqa

September 1st, 2017 by Bill Van Auken

United Nations Deputy Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien told the UN Security Council Wednesday that 27 people are being killed each day by the US-led siege of Raqqa. The Syrian city, controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, has been subjected to unrelenting US airstrikes and artillery bombardment for nearly three months, turning much of it into rubble.

Some 270,000 people have been driven out of the city, turned into homeless refugees, while an estimated 25,000 civilians remain trapped under the American firestorm. They are without food, access to clean water, electricity or medical care. Reports have come out of Raqqa that its residents have been reduced to eating grass and leaves to stave off starvation.

The UN’s chief adviser on the prevention of genocide, Adama Dieng, issued a separate statement condemning the “horrendous situation faced by civilians caught up in the offensive to retake the city from ISIS,” while the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein charged that “civilians—who should be protected at all times—are paying an unacceptable price.”

In other words, a war crime of monstrous dimensions is unfolding in plain sight, while its perpetrator, US imperialism, enjoys complete impunity.

On its Twitter account, the local monitoring group, Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, posts photographs daily of babies, children, men, women, the elderly and entire families perishing under the US bombs, missiles and shells, along with the utter devastation of the city’s residential neighborhoods.

The siege of Raqqa follows close on the heels of the even larger scale war crime consummated this summer in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, once the country’s second largest, where the death toll from nine months of bombing and shelling by the US and its Iraqi government allies has been estimated as high as 40,000.

All of this carnage is virtually blacked out of the US media, which only last year was engaged—in close coordination with the US government—in a full-throated campaign of feigned moral outrage over the Russian-backed offensive by the Syrian government to retake eastern Aleppo from Al Qaeda-linked and US-armed Islamist “rebels.”

Then the charge of “war crimes” was repeated incessantly; now there is only silence. Nothing could provide a more devastating exposure of the hypocrisy of “human rights” imperialism, the stock in trade of the Democratic Party, the so-called liberal press and the various pseudo-left groups that orbit around them, chiding Washington for failing to intervene more aggressively on the supposed behalf of the Syrian people.

Behind the lies and hypocrisy about human rights and terrorism, driving the current US interventions in both Iraq and Syria—like the continuous wars waged by US imperialism in the region over the past quarter century—is the attempt by Washington to assert its hegemony over the oil-rich Middle East at the expense of its regional and global rivals and thereby reverse the declining global position of American capitalism by means of military force.

The mass killing in Raqqa is part of an arc of US slaughter, stretching from the Horn of Africa through the Middle East and into South Asia, from Somalia to Afghanistan. US bombings, drone missile attacks and special operations kill missions are daily claiming the lives of innocent and impoverished civilians.

Everywhere, the US military is escalating its operations and changing its rules of engagement to pursue what US Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis described earlier this year as “annihilation tactics.”

On Thursday, Mattis announced that the Pentagon has begun a major military escalation in Afghanistan, committing what are reportedly another 4,000 American troops to the nearly 16-year-old US war.

The announcement of the escalation came immediately on the heels of the Pentagon’s admission that it had “low-balled” the number of troops already in Afghanistan, concealing the real scale of US operations from the American people. Instead of the official tally of 8,448 American troops, there are really 11,000 there today. Whether this includes all the so-called “temporary” deployments of troops rotated in and out is not clear. After the latest escalation, there will be at least 15,000 on the ground in Afghanistan.

While the Pentagon had said that its troops deployed in Iraq numbered 5,000, and in Syria, 500, it now acknowledges that both figures were also deliberate underestimates, with thousands more actually on the ground there as well. The US media slavishly echoed Pentagon figures that it knew to be false.

The Afghanistan escalation will spell a further increase in civilian casualties, which are already spiraling as a result of US operations. The United Nations mission to Afghanistan recorded a 43 percent increase in civilian deaths resulting from US airstrikes during the first six months of 2017 compared to the same period last year.

In three separate strikes beginning on Monday, at least 40 civilians, most of them women and children, were killed by US bombs dropped on Herat and Logar provinces.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has launched a major escalation of a bloody decades-long intervention in the strategically located but impoverished nation of Somalia, on the Horn of Africa, carrying out a campaign of drone strikes and special operations kill missions. Last Friday, US special forces troops operating with regime elements raided the village of Barire in the early morning hours, capturing 10 civilians and summarily executing them one by one. Outraged villagers brought the bodies, which included women and children, to the capital of Mogadishu to protest the massacre.

And in Yemen, the Trump administration has stepped up the indispensable arms and logistical support that Washington was already providing under Obama to a Saudi-led war that has assumed near-genocidal proportions. Saudi bombing raids have killed more than 12,000 civilians since the onset of the war in 2015, with the US supplying the bombs and missiles, including cluster munitions, banned under international law.

The latest US-Saudi atrocity occurred on Wednesday when bombs struck an oil tanker and gasoline station, igniting a fire that killed 13 people, all of them burned alive. Last week, an airstrike hit a hotel and three-story apartment building killing some 60 people.

The massive destruction of infrastructure and the blockading of Yemen’s ports and airspace have brought the country’s 22 million people to the brink of starvation while creating the conditions for the worst cholera epidemic in world history. Fully half a million Yemenis are infected, half of them children. The death toll from the disease has already reached 2,000 and is rapidly rising.

These war crimes are carried out behind the backs of the American people. The multiple and escalating interventions—virtually unreported by the media—are waged without a semblance of Congressional authorization or debate. Both Democrats and Republicans provide unstinting support to American militarism, an essential instrument for furthering the global looting operations of the ruling financial oligarchy.

Massive resources are lavished on the US war machine, while essential public services and social infrastructure are gutted, leaving millions unprotected from and devastated by increasingly frequent catastrophes like Hurricane Harvey.

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About 10 years ago, Tim Wu, the Columbia Law professor who coined the term network neutrality, made this prescient comment: “To love Google, you have to be a little bit of a monarchist, you have to have faith in the way people traditionally felt about the king.”

Wu was right. And now, Google has established a pattern of lobbying and threatening to acquire power. It has reached a dangerous point common to many monarchs: The moment where it no longer wants to allow dissent.

This summer, a small team of well-respected researchers and journalists, the Open Markets team at the New America think tank (where I have been a fellow since 2014), dared to speak up about Google, in the mildest way. When the European Union fined Google for preferring its own subsidiary companies to its rival companies in search results, it was natural that Open Markets, a group dedicated to studying and exposing distortions in markets, including monopoly power, would comment. The researchers put out a 150-word statement praising the E.U.’s actions. They wrote,

“By requiring that Google give equal treatment to rival services instead of privileging its own, [the E.U.] is protecting the free flow of information and commerce upon which all democracies depend.”

They called upon the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice and state attorneys general to apply the traditional American monopoly law, which would require separate ownership of products and services and the networks that sell products and services.

Google has been funding New America for years at high levels. Within 24 hours of the statement going live, Google representatives called New America’s leadership expressing their displeasure. Two planned hires for the Open Markets team suddenly were canceled. Three days later, the head of the Open Markets team, the accomplished journalist Barry C. Lynn, received a letter from the head of the think tank, demanding that the entire team leave New America. The reason? The statement praising the E.U.’s decision against Google was, according to New America President Anne-Marie Slaughter, “imperiling the institution.” (As of this writing, Slaughter has denounced the story as false, claiming that Lynn was dismissed for failures of “openness” and “collegiality.”)

When Google was founded in 1998, it famously committed itself to the motto: “Don’t be evil.” It appears that Google may have lost sight of what being evil means, in the way that most monarchs do: Once you reach a pinnacle of power, you start to believe that any threats to your authority are themselves villainous and that you are entitled to shut down dissent. As Lord Acton famously said,

“Despotic power is always accompanied by corruption of morality.”

Those with too much power cannot help but be evil. Google, the company dedicated to free expression, has chosen to silence opposition, apparently without any sense of irony.

Google did not always operate this way in relation to think tanks, even those it funded. The head of Google’s parent company, Eric Schmidt, served on the board of New America starting 2000 and was chairman from 2008 through May 2016. The Open Markets institute has long studied excessive corporate power and argued for the importance of antimonopoly laws. They were not previously punished for their work.

But in recent years, Google has become greedy about owning not just search capacities, video and maps, but also the shape of public discourse. As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, Google has recruited and cultivated law professors who support its views. And as the New York Times recently reported, it has become invested in building curriculum for our public schools, and has created political strategy to get schools to adopt its products.

This year, Google is on track to spend more money than any company in America on lobbying. In 2015, it was the third biggest corporate spender, paying more than Exxon Mobil, Lockheed Martin or the Koch brothers on lobbying. Much of what it is spending its money on has nothing to do with technical details regarding its search engine and everything to do with using its power in its search engine to shut out some competitors and build power over others.

It is time to call out Google for what it is: a monopolist in search, video, maps and browser, and a thin-skinned tyrant when it comes to ideas.

The imperial overreach of Google in trying to shut down a group of five researchers proves the point that the initial release from Open Markets was trying to make: When companies get too much power, they become a threat to democratic free speech and to the liberty of citizens at large.

In 1948, in the Supreme Court case U.S. v. Columbia Steel Co., Justice William O. Douglas explained that the traditional philosophy of American antitrust law is that “all power tends to develop into a government in itself. Power that controls the economy … should be scattered into many hands so that the fortunes of the people will not be dependent on the whim or caprice, the political prejudices, the emotional stability of a few self-appointed men.”

Google is forming into a government of itself, and it seems incapable of even seeing its own overreach. We, as citizens, must respond in two ways. First, support the brave researchers and journalists who stand up to overreaching power; and second, support traditional antimonopoly laws that will allow us to have great, innovative companies — but not allow them to govern us.

Google’s actions forced the Open Markets team to leave New America. But, thankfully, it did not succeed in silencing them entirely. Open Markets will continue on as a separate organization, which I will chair. Their work exposing corporate monopolies and advocating for regulation is more important than ever. Google shows us why.

Zephyr Teachout ran for governor of New York State in 2014. She teaches constitutional and property law at Fordham University Law School. Her latest book, Corruption in America, is a history of the corrosive influence of money in politics.

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Recapitulation of the Facts of the Korean War

November 7, 1950:  “Just when there was a lull in the fighting and it looked as if peace were possible, MacArthur staged a gigantic and murderous raid directly across from the Chinese frontier, destroying most of a city in an area where bombings had been forbidden to prevent border violations.” “There were reports,” The New York Times said October 15, that General MacArthur had ordered the first bombings of North Korean cities without authorization from Washington.” “General Stratemeyer, commander of the Far East Air Forces described the attack:  ‘when fighter planes swept the area with machine guns, rockets, jellied gasoline bombs.

They were followed by ten of the superforts which dropped 1,000-pound high explosive bombs on railroad and highway bridges across the Yalu River and on the bridge approaches. After this, ‘the remaining planes used incendiaries exclusively on a two and a one-half mile built-up area along the southeast bank of the Yalu.’  The Air Force claimed that ninety percent of the city had been destroyed….There is an indifference to human suffering to be read between those lines which makes me as an American deeply ashamed of what was done that day at Sinuiju…

The mass bombing raid on Sinuiju November 8 was the beginning of a race between peace and provocation.  A terrible retribution threatened the peoples of the Western world who so feebly permitted such acts to be done in their name.  For it was by such means that the pyromaniacs hoped to set the world on fire.’” I.F. Stone, “The Hidden History of the Korean War, 1952, pages 178-179

Introduction. The Betrayal of the Founder of the United Nations, United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

FDR 1944 Color Portrait.tif

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

All United Nations Security Council actions against North Korea are based upon an illegal and ruthless betrayal of the intent of United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the founder of the United Nations, the cherished organization which he established to preserve world peace. Perhaps the most scandalous betrayal of President Roosevelt has been  the  endorsement, by the United Nations Security Council, on June 27, 1950, of the attack on North Korea, in cynical and vicious violation of Roosevelt’s trust. This is the historic context of current United Nations venal and biased actions against North Korea. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in conceiving the United Nations, demanded that all Security Council resolutions be adopted by consensus, and only by consensus. President Roosevelt declared it categorically imperative that both the United States and the Soviet Union be in agreement in order for any United Nations action to be legitimate. As detailed in his letter to the Security Council of July 13, 1950, Soviet Deputy-Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko exposed the fact that “the Security Council, by its decision of 27 June, 1950 violated this most important principle of the United Nations organization.”

The consequence of this illegal resolution of June 27, 1950, and subsequent resolutions concerning North Korea  were an attempted racist genocide of the North Korean people, and brought the world to the brink of World War III.

Part I. The History, 1950-1953

July 13, 1950, Letter from Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko to United Nations Secretary-General, Trygve Lie:

“The illegal resolution of 27 June, 1950, adopted by the Security Council under pressure from the United States Government, shows that the Security Council is acting not as a body which is charged with the main responsibility for the maintenance of peace, but as a tool utilized by ruling circles of the United States for the unleashing of war. This resolution of the Security Council constitutes a hostile act against peace. If the Security Council valued the cause of peace, it should have attempted to reconcile the fighting sides in Korea before it adopted such a scandalous resolution. Only the Security Council and the United Nations Secretary-General could have done this. However, they did not make such an attempt, evidently knowing that such peaceful action contradicts the aggressors’ plans. It is impossible not to note the unseemly role played in that whole affair by the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Trygve Lie. Being under the obligation, by virtue of his position, to observe the exact fulfillment of the United Nations Charter, the Secretary-General, during discussion of the Korean question in the Security Council, far from fulfilling his direct duties, on the contrary obsequiously helped a gross violation of the Charter on the part of the United States government and other members of the Security Council. Thereby the Secretary-General showed that he is concerned not so much with strengthening the United Nations Organization and with promoting peace, as with how to help the United States’ ruling circles to carry out their aggressive plans with regard to Korea.”

U.S. Air Force attacking railroads south of Wonsan on the eastern coast of North Korea (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Criminally Ignored in this Security Council “consideration” of the crisis in Korea is the letter dated 7 December 1950, from North Korea’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pak Hen En, at Sinuiju, Korea, to the Security Council, describing the monstrous military slaughter to which the North Korean people were being subjected, and which was previously acknowledged by General Stratemeyer.

“They are waging war not only against armed forces but above all and chiefly against the civilian population. With the methodicalness of civilized barbarians, the American armed forces, bombing from the air, from the sea and by other means, have destroyed all the big industrial enterprises in Korea and a majority of the medium-sized and smaller enterprises, wiped small and large towns from the face of the earth, destroyed villages, and now that winter is coming on they have begun the systematic destruction of the remaining settlements. American aircraft carry out over a thousand sorties daily to bomb Korean towns and villages. Using scorched-earth tactics, the American air force drops on towns and villages in which there are no military targets of any kind an enormous quantity of incendiary and high-explosive bombs, destroying houses and private property of peaceful inhabitants, leaving millions of persons homeless and destitute. The systematic bombing of the remaining inhabited places became especially intense in the second half of October. American aircraft bombed and destroyed the towns of Sunchon, Kyachen, Gudyan, Hichen, Denchen and Koin. In November American aircraft systematically bombed and practically completely destroyed the towns of Kanggye, Sinuiju, Yideyu, Senchen, Gusen, Tmichen, Cholsan, Buktin, Kosan, Manpo, Tyungandin, Hweren and others. In the town of Kanggye out of 8,000 buildings less than 500 remain; in Sinuiju out of 12,000 buildings about 1,000 remain, in Chinnampo out of 1,500 buildings about 200 houses remain….The American interventionists are prepared to destroy every living thing, to turn Korea into a desert in order to carry out their rapacious plans for the enslavement of the Korean people.  ….The American imperialists have issued a tacit ultimatum to the Korean people, either submit to the domination of American imperialism or we will destroy every living thing in your country.”

U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk said that the United States bombed “everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another.” After running low on urban targets, U.S. bombers destroyed hydroelectric and irrigation dams in the later stages of the war, flooding farmland and destroying crops, and, of course, starving and drowning vast numbers of  North Koreans.

Part II. The Current Crisis

Today, 67 years later, no peace treaty  between the US and North Korea has been signed. Various factions of the US military are now calling for “preventive war” against North Korea. North Korea is desperately attempting to protect itself from a repetition of the devastation and slaughter of the first war against the DPRK.

At the UN Security Council meeting on August 5, 2017, Chinese Ambassador Liu called for:

“the establishment of a peace mechanism based on the suspension for suspension initiative, which calls for the DPRK to suspend its nuclear and missile activities, and for the United States and the Republic of Korea to suspend their large-scale military exercises….Beefing up military deployment on the peninsula is not in the interest of realizing denuclearization there or of maintaining regional peace and stability.”

At the same Security Council meeting, Russian Ambassador Nebenzia stated:

“All must understand that progress towards the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula will be difficult so long as the DPRK perceives a direct threat to its own security. For that is how the North Koreans view the build-up in military activity in the region, which takes on the forms of frequent wide-ranging exercises and manoeuvres by the United States and allies as they deploy strategic bombers, naval forces and aircraft carriers to the region….We hope that the assurances provided by the Secretary of State of the United States were sincere, and that the United States is not seeking to dismantle the existing situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or to forcibly unite the peninsula or intervene militarily in the country….Sanctions must not be used for the economic asphyxiation of the DPRK or to deliberately worsen the humanitarian situation.  …Such sanctions may lead to the significant deterioration of the living conditions of the North Korean people –incidentally, as the United Nations humanitarian agencies are warning about.”

Resolution 2371, adopted at this meeting, can only be described as deliberate sadistic action by the drafters of the Resolution.

Resolution 2371 States:

“10. Decides that the DPRK shall not supply, sell or transfer, directly or indirectly, from its territory or by its nationals or using its flag vessel or aircraft, seafood (including fish, crustaceans, mollusks, and other aquatic invertebrates in all forms), and that all States shall prohibit the procurement of such items from the DPRK by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, whether or not originating in the territory of the DPRK, and further decides that for sales and transactions of seafood (including fish, crustaceans, mollusks, and other aquatic invertebrates in all forms) for which written contracts have been finalized prior to the adoption of this resolution, all States may allow those shipments to be imported into their  territories up to 30 days from the date of adoption of this resolution with notification provided to the Committee containing details on those imports by no later than 45 days after the date of adoption of this resolution.”

On August 18, the Associated Press in Beijing reported:

“Furious Chinese businesspeople said Friday that Beijing’s decision to enforce U.N. sanctions on North Korean seafood imports would hobble the economy of an entire northeastern city in China, sparking a rare public protest earlier this week after the surprise move suddenly choked off border trade. Anger swept the city of Hunchin, home to hundreds of seafood processing plants, after Beijing began refusing entry Tuesday to trucks carrying tons of North Korean seafood.”

Current relentless provocations of the DPRK seem designed and determined to infuriate North Korea, and seem intent upon the perpetuation of hostilities, a pattern alarmingly reminiscent of the first Korean War, endorsed, with dubious legality, by the United Nations.

On August 16, the UN Secretary-General held a stake-out with the UN press, and began by saying that more than three million people were killed in Korea, “with a civilian death rate higher than World War II. The Korean peninsula was left in ruins.” The Reuters correspondent asked :

“Ahead of the joint military exercises next week between the US and South Korea, which North Korea tends to see as an escalation of tensions, what’s your message to the North Korean leader and to President Trump ahead of those exercises?”

The Reuters correspondent phrased the question in a balanced way, which would have given the Secretary-General an opportunity for a balanced, impartial answer. Surprisingly, the Secretary-General failed to call on all parties to respect the need for de-escalation, and instead, he replied with a one-sided attribution of blame, and he stated, erroneously:

“everything started with the build-up of a potential nuclear capacity and of a number of missiles to be able to deliver that capacity.”

His accusation that North Korea was responsible for the perilous situation on the Korean peninsula is a distortion of the facts. Is he unaware of the statement by North Korean Ambassador Pak to the Security Council on October 14, 2006:

“The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has clarified more than once that it would feel no need to possess even a single nuclear weapon once it was no longer exposed to the United States’ threat and after that country had dropped its hostile policy towards the DPRK and confidence had been built between the two countries.”

The first of two Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptors is launched during a successful intercept test - US Army.jpg

The first of two Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptors is launched during a successful intercept test. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The Secretary-General’s reply to Reuters would have satisfied the US, the UK and France, but he was clearly ignoring the explicit statements by China and Russia, both of whom place equal, if not greater responsibility for this crisis upon the United States-Republic of Korea perpetual military provocations, exacerbating tensions on the peninsula, and perpetuating the state of alarm which has necessitated North Korea arming itself by all necessary means, to prevent the repetition of the horror inflicted upon it by the US, with the blessing of the UN between 1950-1953. The Secretary–General did not address the menace of the THAAD missiles which the United States has placed in South Korea, and which both Russia and China have stated, repeatedly, present an existential threat to their own survival, and which potentially destabilize the entire Eurasian continent.

For the past decades, the DPRK has repeatedly requested the Security Council to convene, on an emergency basis, meetings todiscuss  and halt the provocative US-ROK military maneuvers. All urgent requests by the DPRK have been denied by the Security Council, which holds emergency meetings called by the US so frequently that the Security Council schedule appears to be determined by the US. Although, on August 16, 2017, the Reuters correspondent provided the opportunity for the UN Secretary-General to appropriately show at least token acknowledgement and respect for the agonies of the North Korean people, who are continually terrorized by these US-ROK manoeuvers, he  failed to acknowledge the destructive and  provocative character of the US-ROK military manoeuvers, thereby tacitly endorsing these dangerous, chronic threats to the survival of North Korea.

And inevitably, under these circumstances, as the Chinese-Russian call for “suspension for suspension” is ignored with impunity by the US-ROK, and, indeed, by the Secretary-General, himself, and since, on August 21 the US-ROK, with impunity, held their military exercises, often provocatively entitled “Decapitation of Head of State,” and “Invasion of Pyongyang,” North Korea, understandably, subsequently, (and it must be emphasized, subsequently),  on August 28 launched another ballistic missile, provoked by the recalcitrant US-ROK military exercises which had instigated this vicious spiral.

Predictably, in its servile fashion, the Security Council, which failed to hold an emergency meeting condemning the US-ROK military provocations, in its melodramatic and bellicose fashion held an emergency meeting at 8PM on August 29, “condemning the August 28 ballistic missile launch by the DPRK.” Yet, in a curiously revealing, and certainly unintended way, the Security Council confessed its barbaric cruelty toward North Korea by listing its barbaric sanction resolutions, a lengthy list of torture: Resolution 1675 (2006, 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013) 2270 (2016), 2321 (2016) 2356 (2017), 2371 (2017).  In effect, when the UN Security Council is brought before the bar of history, and condemned for crimes against humanity, it will have made the investigators’ work easier by so neatly listing its attempts to strangle the life out of the North Korean people. This most recent resolution exposes the sadistic and malicious intent of these resolutions, as fish have nothing to do with construction of nuclear weapons, and the prohibition of sale of fish, one of the indispensable sources of income for the innocent people of North Korea, is one of the cruelties intended to starve the Korean people, and break their spirit. For their courage and integrity shames and condemns the opportunism, greed and psychopathology that defines the behavior of their tormenters.

Carla Stea is Global Research’s correspondent at United Nations Headquarters, New York, N.Y.

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Recapitulation of the Facts of the Korean War

November 7, 1950:  “Just when there was a lull in the fighting and it looked as if peace were possible, MacArthur staged a gigantic and murderous raid directly across from the Chinese frontier, destroying most of a city in an area where bombings had been forbidden to prevent border violations.” “There were reports,” The New York Times said October 15, that General MacArthur had ordered the first bombings of North Korean cities without authorization from Washington.” “General Stratemeyer, commander of the Far East Air Forces described the attack:  ‘when fighter planes swept the area with machine guns, rockets, jellied gasoline bombs.

They were followed by ten of the superforts which dropped 1,000-pound high explosive bombs on railroad and highway bridges across the Yalu River and on the bridge approaches. After this, ‘the remaining planes used incendiaries exclusively on a two and a one-half mile built-up area along the southeast bank of the Yalu.’  The Air Force claimed that ninety percent of the city had been destroyed….There is an indifference to human suffering to be read between those lines which makes me as an American deeply ashamed of what was done that day at Sinuiju…

The mass bombing raid on Sinuiju November 8 was the beginning of a race between peace and provocation.  A terrible retribution threatened the peoples of the Western world who so feebly permitted such acts to be done in their name.  For it was by such means that the pyromaniacs hoped to set the world on fire.’” I.F. Stone, “The Hidden History of the Korean War, 1952, pages 178-179

Introduction. The Betrayal of the Founder of the United Nations, United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

FDR 1944 Color Portrait.tif

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

All United Nations Security Council actions against North Korea are based upon an illegal and ruthless betrayal of the intent of United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the founder of the United Nations, the cherished organization which he established to preserve world peace. Perhaps the most scandalous betrayal of President Roosevelt has been  the  endorsement, by the United Nations Security Council, on June 27, 1950, of the attack on North Korea, in cynical and vicious violation of Roosevelt’s trust. This is the historic context of current United Nations venal and biased actions against North Korea. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in conceiving the United Nations, demanded that all Security Council resolutions be adopted by consensus, and only by consensus. President Roosevelt declared it categorically imperative that both the United States and the Soviet Union be in agreement in order for any United Nations action to be legitimate. As detailed in his letter to the Security Council of July 13, 1950, Soviet Deputy-Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko exposed the fact that “the Security Council, by its decision of 27 June, 1950 violated this most important principle of the United Nations organization.”

The consequence of this illegal resolution of June 27, 1950, and subsequent resolutions concerning North Korea  were an attempted racist genocide of the North Korean people, and brought the world to the brink of World War III.

Part I. The History, 1950-1953

July 13, 1950, Letter from Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko to United Nations Secretary-General, Trygve Lie:

“The illegal resolution of 27 June, 1950, adopted by the Security Council under pressure from the United States Government, shows that the Security Council is acting not as a body which is charged with the main responsibility for the maintenance of peace, but as a tool utilized by ruling circles of the United States for the unleashing of war. This resolution of the Security Council constitutes a hostile act against peace. If the Security Council valued the cause of peace, it should have attempted to reconcile the fighting sides in Korea before it adopted such a scandalous resolution. Only the Security Council and the United Nations Secretary-General could have done this. However, they did not make such an attempt, evidently knowing that such peaceful action contradicts the aggressors’ plans. It is impossible not to note the unseemly role played in that whole affair by the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Trygve Lie. Being under the obligation, by virtue of his position, to observe the exact fulfillment of the United Nations Charter, the Secretary-General, during discussion of the Korean question in the Security Council, far from fulfilling his direct duties, on the contrary obsequiously helped a gross violation of the Charter on the part of the United States government and other members of the Security Council. Thereby the Secretary-General showed that he is concerned not so much with strengthening the United Nations Organization and with promoting peace, as with how to help the United States’ ruling circles to carry out their aggressive plans with regard to Korea.”

U.S. Air Force attacking railroads south of Wonsan on the eastern coast of North Korea (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Criminally Ignored in this Security Council “consideration” of the crisis in Korea is the letter dated 7 December 1950, from North Korea’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pak Hen En, at Sinuiju, Korea, to the Security Council, describing the monstrous military slaughter to which the North Korean people were being subjected, and which was previously acknowledged by General Stratemeyer.

“They are waging war not only against armed forces but above all and chiefly against the civilian population. With the methodicalness of civilized barbarians, the American armed forces, bombing from the air, from the sea and by other means, have destroyed all the big industrial enterprises in Korea and a majority of the medium-sized and smaller enterprises, wiped small and large towns from the face of the earth, destroyed villages, and now that winter is coming on they have begun the systematic destruction of the remaining settlements. American aircraft carry out over a thousand sorties daily to bomb Korean towns and villages. Using scorched-earth tactics, the American air force drops on towns and villages in which there are no military targets of any kind an enormous quantity of incendiary and high-explosive bombs, destroying houses and private property of peaceful inhabitants, leaving millions of persons homeless and destitute. The systematic bombing of the remaining inhabited places became especially intense in the second half of October. American aircraft bombed and destroyed the towns of Sunchon, Kyachen, Gudyan, Hichen, Denchen and Koin. In November American aircraft systematically bombed and practically completely destroyed the towns of Kanggye, Sinuiju, Yideyu, Senchen, Gusen, Tmichen, Cholsan, Buktin, Kosan, Manpo, Tyungandin, Hweren and others. In the town of Kanggye out of 8,000 buildings less than 500 remain; in Sinuiju out of 12,000 buildings about 1,000 remain, in Chinnampo out of 1,500 buildings about 200 houses remain….The American interventionists are prepared to destroy every living thing, to turn Korea into a desert in order to carry out their rapacious plans for the enslavement of the Korean people.  ….The American imperialists have issued a tacit ultimatum to the Korean people, either submit to the domination of American imperialism or we will destroy every living thing in your country.”

U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk said that the United States bombed “everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another.” After running low on urban targets, U.S. bombers destroyed hydroelectric and irrigation dams in the later stages of the war, flooding farmland and destroying crops, and, of course, starving and drowning vast numbers of  North Koreans.

Part II. The Current Crisis

Today, 67 years later, no peace treaty  between the US and North Korea has been signed. Various factions of the US military are now calling for “preventive war” against North Korea. North Korea is desperately attempting to protect itself from a repetition of the devastation and slaughter of the first war against the DPRK.

At the UN Security Council meeting on August 5, 2017, Chinese Ambassador Liu called for:

“the establishment of a peace mechanism based on the suspension for suspension initiative, which calls for the DPRK to suspend its nuclear and missile activities, and for the United States and the Republic of Korea to suspend their large-scale military exercises….Beefing up military deployment on the peninsula is not in the interest of realizing denuclearization there or of maintaining regional peace and stability.”

At the same Security Council meeting, Russian Ambassador Nebenzia stated:

“All must understand that progress towards the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula will be difficult so long as the DPRK perceives a direct threat to its own security. For that is how the North Koreans view the build-up in military activity in the region, which takes on the forms of frequent wide-ranging exercises and manoeuvres by the United States and allies as they deploy strategic bombers, naval forces and aircraft carriers to the region….We hope that the assurances provided by the Secretary of State of the United States were sincere, and that the United States is not seeking to dismantle the existing situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or to forcibly unite the peninsula or intervene militarily in the country….Sanctions must not be used for the economic asphyxiation of the DPRK or to deliberately worsen the humanitarian situation.  …Such sanctions may lead to the significant deterioration of the living conditions of the North Korean people –incidentally, as the United Nations humanitarian agencies are warning about.”

Resolution 2371, adopted at this meeting, can only be described as deliberate sadistic action by the drafters of the Resolution.

Resolution 2371 States:

“10. Decides that the DPRK shall not supply, sell or transfer, directly or indirectly, from its territory or by its nationals or using its flag vessel or aircraft, seafood (including fish, crustaceans, mollusks, and other aquatic invertebrates in all forms), and that all States shall prohibit the procurement of such items from the DPRK by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, whether or not originating in the territory of the DPRK, and further decides that for sales and transactions of seafood (including fish, crustaceans, mollusks, and other aquatic invertebrates in all forms) for which written contracts have been finalized prior to the adoption of this resolution, all States may allow those shipments to be imported into their  territories up to 30 days from the date of adoption of this resolution with notification provided to the Committee containing details on those imports by no later than 45 days after the date of adoption of this resolution.”

On August 18, the Associated Press in Beijing reported:

“Furious Chinese businesspeople said Friday that Beijing’s decision to enforce U.N. sanctions on North Korean seafood imports would hobble the economy of an entire northeastern city in China, sparking a rare public protest earlier this week after the surprise move suddenly choked off border trade. Anger swept the city of Hunchin, home to hundreds of seafood processing plants, after Beijing began refusing entry Tuesday to trucks carrying tons of North Korean seafood.”

Current relentless provocations of the DPRK seem designed and determined to infuriate North Korea, and seem intent upon the perpetuation of hostilities, a pattern alarmingly reminiscent of the first Korean War, endorsed, with dubious legality, by the United Nations.

On August 16, the UN Secretary-General held a stake-out with the UN press, and began by saying that more than three million people were killed in Korea, “with a civilian death rate higher than World War II. The Korean peninsula was left in ruins.” The Reuters correspondent asked :

“Ahead of the joint military exercises next week between the US and South Korea, which North Korea tends to see as an escalation of tensions, what’s your message to the North Korean leader and to President Trump ahead of those exercises?”

The Reuters correspondent phrased the question in a balanced way, which would have given the Secretary-General an opportunity for a balanced, impartial answer. Surprisingly, the Secretary-General failed to call on all parties to respect the need for de-escalation, and instead, he replied with a one-sided attribution of blame, and he stated, erroneously:

“everything started with the build-up of a potential nuclear capacity and of a number of missiles to be able to deliver that capacity.”

His accusation that North Korea was responsible for the perilous situation on the Korean peninsula is a distortion of the facts. Is he unaware of the statement by North Korean Ambassador Pak to the Security Council on October 14, 2006:

“The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has clarified more than once that it would feel no need to possess even a single nuclear weapon once it was no longer exposed to the United States’ threat and after that country had dropped its hostile policy towards the DPRK and confidence had been built between the two countries.”

The first of two Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptors is launched during a successful intercept test - US Army.jpg

The first of two Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptors is launched during a successful intercept test. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The Secretary-General’s reply to Reuters would have satisfied the US, the UK and France, but he was clearly ignoring the explicit statements by China and Russia, both of whom place equal, if not greater responsibility for this crisis upon the United States-Republic of Korea perpetual military provocations, exacerbating tensions on the peninsula, and perpetuating the state of alarm which has necessitated North Korea arming itself by all necessary means, to prevent the repetition of the horror inflicted upon it by the US, with the blessing of the UN between 1950-1953. The Secretary–General did not address the menace of the THAAD missiles which the United States has placed in South Korea, and which both Russia and China have stated, repeatedly, present an existential threat to their own survival, and which potentially destabilize the entire Eurasian continent.

For the past decades, the DPRK has repeatedly requested the Security Council to convene, on an emergency basis, meetings todiscuss  and halt the provocative US-ROK military maneuvers. All urgent requests by the DPRK have been denied by the Security Council, which holds emergency meetings called by the US so frequently that the Security Council schedule appears to be determined by the US. Although, on August 16, 2017, the Reuters correspondent provided the opportunity for the UN Secretary-General to appropriately show at least token acknowledgement and respect for the agonies of the North Korean people, who are continually terrorized by these US-ROK manoeuvers, he  failed to acknowledge the destructive and  provocative character of the US-ROK military manoeuvers, thereby tacitly endorsing these dangerous, chronic threats to the survival of North Korea.

And inevitably, under these circumstances, as the Chinese-Russian call for “suspension for suspension” is ignored with impunity by the US-ROK, and, indeed, by the Secretary-General, himself, and since, on August 21 the US-ROK, with impunity, held their military exercises, often provocatively entitled “Decapitation of Head of State,” and “Invasion of Pyongyang,” North Korea, understandably, subsequently, (and it must be emphasized, subsequently),  on August 28 launched another ballistic missile, provoked by the recalcitrant US-ROK military exercises which had instigated this vicious spiral.

Predictably, in its servile fashion, the Security Council, which failed to hold an emergency meeting condemning the US-ROK military provocations, in its melodramatic and bellicose fashion held an emergency meeting at 8PM on August 29, “condemning the August 28 ballistic missile launch by the DPRK.” Yet, in a curiously revealing, and certainly unintended way, the Security Council confessed its barbaric cruelty toward North Korea by listing its barbaric sanction resolutions, a lengthy list of torture: Resolution 1675 (2006, 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013) 2270 (2016), 2321 (2016) 2356 (2017), 2371 (2017).  In effect, when the UN Security Council is brought before the bar of history, and condemned for crimes against humanity, it will have made the investigators’ work easier by so neatly listing its attempts to strangle the life out of the North Korean people. This most recent resolution exposes the sadistic and malicious intent of these resolutions, as fish have nothing to do with construction of nuclear weapons, and the prohibition of sale of fish, one of the indispensable sources of income for the innocent people of North Korea, is one of the cruelties intended to starve the Korean people, and break their spirit. For their courage and integrity shames and condemns the opportunism, greed and psychopathology that defines the behavior of their tormenters.

Carla Stea is Global Research’s correspondent at United Nations Headquarters, New York, N.Y.

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Charlottesville and the Battles of History

September 1st, 2017 by Mumia Abu-Jamal

Featured image: Malcolm X (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The events surrounding Charlottesville, Virginia have a resonance far beyond the borders of Old Dominion. Even though they began as a strictly local affair, they quickly assumed a national character, because this strictly local event stems from the nation’s history—a history that remains not only contested but bitterly unresolved.

That history, of course is the toxic poison of White Supremacy, and the trigger thereof—African Slavery—the intentional, centuries-long economic, social, communal and psychic exploitation of Africans for the financial and psychological benefits of the White Nation. This toxin has tainted the bloodstream of the Nation, and infected all segments of society, and was integral to the very development of Whiteness as a core identity for millions of people who call themselves “Americans.”
As we look at protests rolling throughout the country, the first thing we must recognize is that this isn’t about monuments. Nor is it about the Civil War.

It is about the Present. It is about how this country will define itself, how it sees itself, and how it understands its future.

But history, true history is more about today than yesterday, for it is the pathway to tomorrow, and it lives or dies in the minds of the young who learn, or unlearn, how this country came to be, and what role they play in the days to come.

The great Black freedom fighter, Malcolm X repeatedly said,

“Of all our studies, history best rewards our research.”

He knew this not only because he was taught this by his Teacher (Honorable Elijah Muhammed) but because he learned this in the very expression of his life. For, as a state prisoner, a man so hated that he was called “Satan,” his learning of a deeper history of Black people literally made him a new man. It gave him confidence, it turned his loathing into loving, it gave him purpose—and perhaps more importantly, perspective.

Perspective. How to look at the world. How to interpret it. How to understand why things are the way they are. That’s the real value of History.

It teaches Perspective of Now—not Then.

And that’s the reason why monuments, turned green by oxidation and pigeon poop, are seemingly at the center of these controversies.

The Trump presidency signaled a Great Leap – Backwards. It was the expression of a deep, profound fear of the Future, of Change, of Transformation. So, they hold on to Yesterday, invoking Tradition—as if the central Tradition of America wasn’t—and isn’t—Black Slavery, which launched it into and Economic and World Power.

Charlottesville is thus a turning point—a pivot point upon which the Nation turns back, or moves forward, creating a New History.

This only the people of America will decide.

Mumia Abu-Jamal is the author of Writing on the Wall.

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Should V.P. Mike Pence Become America’s President?

September 1st, 2017 by Eric Zuesse

On August 26th, Morning Consult headlined “More Voters Want Pence as President Than Trump, Poll Shows” and reported that “In a choice between the president of the United States and his second-in-command, more voters say Vice President Mike Pence should take charge of the country.”

On August 27th, Axios bannered “First Cohn, now Tillerson, turn on Trump”, and reported that U.S. President Donald Trump’s Chief Economic Advisor, Gary Cohn of Goldman Sachs; and President Trump’s Secretary of State, ExxonMobil’s Rex Tillerson, were rejecting Trump for his fence-riding about hate-groups such as nazis and KKK. 

That’s just the latest stage in a multi-stage process, of forcing Trump out and bringing Pence into the White House.

There’s increasing talk now of replacing Trump with his Vice President, who Constitutionally is the first-in-line-of-succession to the Presidency.

As I had reported March 6th, “The palace coup is on, to replace Trump by Pence”; but it’s much farther along today, than it was at that time.

First, the Establishment tried to replace Trump by Pence for allegedly having stolen the election from Hillary Clinton (allegedly via assistance from Vladimir Putin), and they’ve been preparing to impeach him for that and for his widely believed general corruption. But now, increasingly, they don’t even want to wait that long, but are instead organizing to implement a quicker method, which the Democratic Party commentator Keith Olbermann had first publicized on 23 November 2016, headlining “The Surprisingly Easy Way to Get Rid of Donald Trump”. No House impeachment, and no Senate trial, are even necessary: all that’s necessary in this alternative method is for the Vice President to write to the Cabinet that the President isn’t able to discharge his powers and duties as the President, and for half of the Cabinet to agree on that. Pence would then automatically become Acting President. But then, within about three weeks, the House and the Senate would need to vote on whether the Vice President will remain in office as the Acting President, or else to restore the elected President. (Of course, if Pence and his supporters in the Cabinet lose such a congressional vote, Trump might fire them.) In order for Pence to remain as the Acting President, two-thirds of each chamber would need to vote for Pence. If all of the non-Republicans vote for Pence, that would be 48 Senators (or 48% of that body) and 194 Representatives (or 44.6% of that body). Getting to the required 67% would then need only 19 Senate Republicans out of the 54, and 95 House Republicans out of the 246. That would be 36% of Senate Republicans, and 39% of House Republicans. (Perhaps a majority of Republicans would vote for Pence, in each chamber. In that case, some of the non-Republicans could vote for Trump and yet still Pence remain as the Acting President.) Pence could already have the votes he’d need, but that’s presuming his roughly three weeks as Acting President would be favorably covered by the nation’s newsmedia, which presumption would likely be true, since they obviously want Trump to be replaced by Pence — and the sooner the better. (And, as Acting President, Pence would be certain to avoid doing anything at all controversial during that period of temporary service. After all, if Pence loses such a vote in Congress, his own political career will be promptly ended.) For Trump even to challenge Pence’s allegations in such a case, might cause Congress to enter immediately into the impeachment-and-trial route, which might cause Trump to become federally charged on criminal counts shortly after he becomes convicted in the Senate, if he becomes convicted there. He’d then be facing ordinary American ‘justice’, but with an extremely hostile press. Either way, Trump’s brand-value would collapse, but if he becomes removed as an incompetent, he’s less likely to become imprisoned.

What, then, would the U.S., and the world, face if Pence becomes President? He has an extensive record in politics, and his record is consistently conservative, but actually beyond being only that: he is a neoconservative, pro-theocratic, pro-aristocratic, pro-mega-corporate (especially pro-international-corporate), true-believer. Another way to categorize him is as a fundamentalist Christian neoliberal neoconservative, who would be a dream-come-true for America’s military-industrial complex: ‘policeman to the world’. Even if Trump is trying to give the generals everything they want, they could increase their demands if Pence becomes established as the President and Commander-in-Chief. They’d have the lock-solid backing of the Congress, and of the President, and of the newsmedia. And of religious fundamentalists. And, anyone who would challenge a President in that circumstance, would then be quickly labelled un-American. Such outcomes are becoming increasingly likely.

Pence is a solid neoconservative and passionately supported invading Iraq; he was a full-bore George W. Bush fundamentalist-Christian Republican, and remained that at least up till the time when Trump chose Pence as his running-mate, on 15 July 2016.

Indiana’s Governor Mike Pence became chosen by Trump as his Vice Presidential running-mate because Trump needed, and Pence already strongly had, the support both of the Koch brothers (and their political network of billionaires who together funded the Tea Party segment of the Republican Party) and also of the fundamentalist Christian community (including the “Moral Majority” Jerry Falwell network, and the “Christian Coalition” Pat Robertson network). Pence describes himself as “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican — in that order.” And, as The Hill has reported, “Pence has long had close ties to the Koch network.” That means he’s committed to eliminating the federal regulatory agencies, especially the Environmental Protection Agency, but all others being at least greatly weakened if not turned over completely to control by the corporations they regulate. The petroleum Koch brothers are famously libertarian, and this means especially liberty for corporations (particularly the biggest ones), but most of all for their own corporation, which is the second-largest privately held corporation in the U.S. What’s religious doctrine for fundamentalist Christians, is economic doctrine for economic libertarians; and, ever since the founding of libertarianism in the 1940s, fundamentalist Christians (such as Gary North) have been prominent libertarians.

What Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas have been on the U.S. Supreme Court, Mike Pence would be in the White House. All three men not only are (and were) patriarchal, but are (and were) intensely partisan right-wing fundamentalist Christians whose conception of “religious freedom” is largely comprised of religious slavery in which the U.S. federal government will be imposing, by means both of law and policy, Christianity and biblical law, upon atheists, and upon agnostics, and upon adherents to non-Christian faiths — requiring them to be funding, in their taxes, some Christian monuments and activities (including private schools). To these Christian fundamentalists, “freedom of religion” means freedom only within religion, and only with Christianity on top (and with Judaism close behind because the Bible includes the Jewish Scripture, the Pentateuch).

Of course, that accepts but subordinates Muslims, but it also accepts but subordinates Hindus and many others, and so it borders on racism (though of a Christian sort), even if it’s not quite racism. (It’s more accurately categorized as supremacism.) And, as one would expect, Pence is solidly for the death penalty, and for ‘tough’ policing, and against homosexuals, and against abortions (as also are/were Scalia and Thomas). ‘God’s Law’ tends to be harsh. And, when Pence, as (or campaigning to be) a public official, describes himself as “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican — in that order,” what’s omitted from that list is more important than what’s on it; “an American” isn’t even on the list of what he thinks himself primarily to be; and, a U.S. public official whose top responsibility is to carry out the U.S. Constitution, isn’t being merely ignored in the self-characterization by a public official such as that; it’s being implicitly negated by that person’s stated commitment to a supposedly ‘higher’ Law than the U.S. Constitution: to ‘God’s Law’ (the Ten Commandments etc.), in this country, where no mention, at all, is even made of “God,” much less of “Christ,” in our Constitution. They want their unAmerican selves, to define “American” for everyone, but the Founders had already defined “American,” by their Constitution; and, though they tolerated, as being Americans, persons of any beliefs at all (including even Nazis, and even Communists), no one except by means of an Amendment to the Constitution that they wrote, would be authorized to revise the definition that they wrote. Any poseurs who would try to do otherwise and rewrite the Constitution (so as to subordinate it to some ‘God’, or otherwise) are revolutionaries, even if (such as Pence) of a sort that seeks to restore something closer to the type of government that this country’s Founders overthrew and replaced. A revolution can be backward; not every revolution is necessarily forward; and a conservative revolution in America can go back to the aristocratic system that preceded our democratic one — go back to Americans being subjects in a kingdom, instead of citizens in a democracy. It has already almost happened, and Pence could complete it.

The Democratic Party’s “Think Progress” blog is accurate in its claims and documentation in their article “Mike Pence, your friendly neighborhood ‘theocrat’”, where Pence’s biblical views regarding homosexuality, abortion, and other biblically condemned matters, are linked to, so that one can explore those issues in depth, to understand the President’s commitments, if and when Pence becomes the President. 

Prior to Trump’s having selected Pence on 15 July 2016 as his V.P. running-mate, Pence’s only articles or statements about his vision for the nation and for the Republican Party were published at his campaign site “Mike Pence for Congress,” between 1991 and the year 2000, when he finally won a seat in Congress. So, the quotations here will be from that time, and they show what the unvarnished Pence is. The dates he said these things are all no later than 17 April 2000 (as is indicated by the earliest URL listing them being where the “20000417” means that it was recorded on 17 April 2000, and so the articles with these titles were linked-to at Pence’s site by no later than that date). 

Here, then, is the unvarnished Mike Pence, before he was able to hire speechwriters etc., to polish his apple, or to give himself a mental facelift:

“Time for a quick reality check. Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill.”

“Global warming is a myth.”

“The blame-ocracy has concluded that social conservatives, read that pro-life, pro-family voters, were the cause of the [Republican] party’s troubles. … It brings to mind the adage of that great Republican President Calvin Coolidge who said, ‘not all Republicans are stupid people but all stupid people are Republicans.’ The idea that relegating 40% of the GOP vote to second class status is a prescription for victory had to have been concocted in the twisted mind of some overpaid political consultant. … The reason I am optimistic is, apart from God’s sustaining grace, quite simple. Republicans, from George Washington to George W. Bush just have better ideas. … Eventually, Republicans will return to the promotion of those great ideas.” 

That last one is remarkable: George Washington was a “Republican,” and Calvin Coolidge was a “great” President who said that “all stupid people are Republicans” — and Pence seconded the thought.

But Pence seems to have convinced all the Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives. And so they did “return to the promotion of those great ideas.” Wikipedia notes that, “In January 2009, Pence was elected by his GOP colleagues to become the Republican Conference Chairman, the third-highest-ranking Republican leadership position.” Evidently, they all agreed with Pence, that Calvin Coolidge had it right, that “all stupid people are Republicans” (even if not necessarily with George Washington’s having been a Republican before there was even any Republican Party). (Wikipedia: “Founded in the Northern states in 1854 by anti-slavery activists, modernizers, ex-Whigs, and ex-Free Soilers, the Republican Party quickly became the principal opposition to the dominant Democratic Party and the briefly popular Know Nothing Party.” George Washington died in 1799. Pence’s timeline was a little off.)

However, a google-search for the field — “all stupid people are republicans” coolidge — shows “No results found for coolidge ‘all stupid people are republicans’.” On the other hand, a facebook post from a New York Democrat, Mitchell Joseph, dated 25 February 2013, did say exactly what, prior to 2001, Pence had attributed to Coolidge. Furthermore, a Democratic Underground discussion in 2004 focused on exactly that same phrase: “Not all Republicans are stupid, but all stupid people are Republicans.” So, that statement can be described as a bipartisan opinion: bipartisan between Democrats, from at least 2004-2013, and the Indiana Republican Mike Pence in 2000 (and, presumably, all House Republicans at the time when Barack Obama was becoming President in 2009 and they all voted Pence their #3 leader). 

And, Donald Trump’s choice of Pence to be Vice President of the U.S. proves Trump himself to be one of the stupid Republicans, regardless of what Calvin Coolidge said. Evidently, Trump was going after voters like himself.

Here was Representative Pence’s statement in the U.S. House, on 25 February 2003, supporting George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq (after Bush had failed to win U.N. authorization to do that):

“The United States Security Council adopted Resolution 1441. We hear a great deal about new resolutions. I applaud the President’s effort to try and exhaust all diplomatic means this week.

But let us be clear what 1441 said. Mr. Speaker, number one, it said that Iraq is guilty. No objective observer doubts that Iraq has violated 17 U.N. resolutions.

Number two, it said that Iraq could remedy its guilt through disarmament and disclosure.

Number 3, if it refused to remedy, it would be a material breach, and serious consequences should flow.

Mr. Speaker, Baghdad is guilty. Baghdad refuses to remedy. Serious consequences are in order. I stand with the President of the United States.”

He even confused the U.N. Security Council with being a branch of the U.S. Government.

When the United Nations Security Council, on 8 November 2002, adopted Resolution 1441, the U.S. promised

“This resolution contains no ‘hidden triggers’ and no ‘automaticity’ with respect to the use of force. If there is a further Iraqi breach, reported to the Council by UNMOVIC, the IAEA or a Member State, the matter will return to the Council for discussions as required.” 

On that basis, Russia and China and France allowed it to pass. On November 13th, Iraq agreed to comply with the Resolution. Weapons inspectors returned to Iraq on November 27th, led by Hans Blix of UNMOVIC and Mohamed ElBaradei of the IAEA. No WMD were found, but the U.S. and UK intended to call the Security Council back into session to authorize invading Iraq because the inspectors said that there remained “presently unresolved disarmament issues” and the need for continuing their work. On 10 March 2003, French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac announced that France would veto any authorization for an invasion unless and until Iraq ordered the weapons-inspectors out or else blocked their inspections, which Iraq was fully cooperating with.

A majority of UNSC members then indicated that they would vote against any resolution leading to war. America’s pretense to be acting in compliance with U.N. resolutions ceased immediately. The U.S. didn’t call the Security Council to meet (as the U.S. had promised to do if it would propose to invade), because now clearly the U.N. would not authorize an invasion. The U.S. and UK thus simply went rogue on the U.N. The U.S. ordered the U.N. weapons-inspectors out, because the U.S. was going to invade and bomb there, regardless, so the inspectors would possibly die if they stayed. The U.S. was now in open violation of the U.N. The ‘hidden triggers’, which the U.S. had promised didn’t exist, turned out to have been the combination, of Resolution 1441 itself, plus of America’s lie about how the U.S. would interpret it, and about what America’s intention at introducing it was: America’s intention was actually an invasion with or without U.N. authorization but preferably with such authorization. Pence’s support for the U.S. invasion and massacre of Iraqis continued, regardless. Nobody knows what Trump felt about the invasion (except that he didn’t think it was being done in the most effective way, which better way — to do an evil thing — he never specified), but Pence clearly and passionately supported all of it. Furthermore, Pence is supported not only by the fundamentalist Christians, and by the Kochs’ network of libertarian billionaires, but also by the entire neoconservative establishment, who ran G.W. Bush’s foreign policies. He also has consistently supported NAFTA, and supported President Obama’s proposed TPP, TTIP, and TISA trade treaties, all of which were ardently supported by America’s international corporations (the chief — if not only — beneficiaries of those treaties).

Here were some of Trump’s voters during the Republican primaries. Pence was selected so as to appeal to them and to the Kochs, and to the neoconservatives, and to the religious right, and to the neoconservatives. Pence is even more of a Republican than Trump is. If and when the people who control the Republican Party decide to replace Trump by Pence, they’ll probably succeed at achieving America’s most-hard-right turn, ever.

Trump made some of his pre-election pitches to progressives, but Pence never even pretended to be a progressive, at all. If Pence becomes President, the far-right Republican Party will be totally and unequivocally in control. This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not totally in control now: Trump’s promises to progressives turned out to have been all lies. But Pence is a deeply committed far-right Republican. He has no commitments whatsoever — not even lying ones — to progressives. The fact that Democrats want to replace Trump by Pence shows that today’s Democratic Party is, itself, only fake ‘progressives’.

Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard sometimes condemn the Democratic Party, but perhaps ultimately they’ll have to abandon it altogether (and run for elections only as themselves, no Party — which was the way America’s Founders intended American politics to be run). The idea of a non-partisan public official is the bedrock ideal upon which the Founders planned America. Tragically, they failed, and this is the ultimate result of that failure. The problem in America isn’t that the aristocracy are funding only two Parties; it’s that they are funding any at all. The Founders tried but failed, in this their dearest of all hopes. All they achieved now is to have replaced the British aristocracy with an American aristocracy (albeit without titles of ‘nobility’). We’re finally back to square one, after 241 years.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

This article was originally published by Strategic Culture Foundation.

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Durable Conspiracies: Twenty Years After Princess Diana’s Death

September 1st, 2017 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

It has been two decades, and a stocktake of the conspiracy theories over the circumstances of Princess Diana’s death in the Pont de l’Alma road Tunnel will reveal the same inventory as were spawned in the immediate aftermath of her demise. No response short of fanciful will do; no planned horror, however improbable, can be dismissed. Importantly, there must be some schema, a nefarious design intended to snatch away this figure’s life.

The nature of myth has its own powers, its own resilience. Making the late princess into a myth served the ambitions of New Labour and the Blairite program, which promoted its own fictions through the dense web of spin and policy. “Call me Tony” Blair was a perfect accompaniment to the pop assemblage that was the People’s Princess, confections of managed public relations.

The People’s Princess still exerts a profane power from beyond the grave. She is still deemed “extraordinary” (a common mistake), and worthy of floral tributes outside Kensington Palace. An example of this wearisome nonsense is provided by Mara Klemich, visiting from Sydney:

“We had never met her and been nowhere near her, but I think she touched so many people because of who she was, the way she conducted herself in the context of where she was living and who she became.”[1]

To be sustainable as a myth, it was necessary to develop, as Roland Barthes put it in his Mythologies, a set of meanings, essentially rendering them as natural, rather than crafted by the foibles of human intent. This compelling point leads us to conclude that looking at the myth is less significant than the story teller behind it. The show is nothing without its producer.

And my, were there stories to pick from, a vast pantheon teeming with variants as to how Diana died. One common conspiracy centres on a misunderstanding of causation. Goldie Lookin Chain, a Welsh rap outfit, would summarise this neat point in Guns Don’t Kill People, Rappers Do.[2] In the case of the princess, those with cameras did it, even if the ultimate responsibility should lie with a drunken driver and the poor choices made on the day on road safety.

The stubborn nexus with power – that the princess was somehow getting too big for her fancy boots – remains a noisy, if astonishingly misplaced theme. One can’t make bricks without straw, as the expression goes, and straw was supplied at various intervals: in 2008 by former MI6 operative Richard Tomlinson, and then by former SAS sergeant, soldier N, in 2013.

Both figures were particularly keen to push the theory that Diana’s driver had been blinded with lethally intended consequences. For Tomlinson, the suggestion of using a strobe light to blind a chauffeur was penned own in an MI6 document from 1992 listing three methods of how best to kill Serbian leader Slobodan Milošević.[3]

The mystery soldier N confided in his spouse about a flashing light deployed by a hit squad that distracted the driver at a crucial moment. Soldier N, we might say, was as pure as driven slush, arrested and detained along with SAS sniper Danny Nightingale in 2011 for having illegal weapons and ammunition.[4] It did not take the Met long to dismiss his plagiarised account.

Mohamed Al-Fayed, whose son Dodi also perished with Diana, has been the most vigorous devotee of the conspiracy brand, blaming the Duke of Edinburgh. Here, the royal precedent to murder one’s own returns to form.

For Al-Fayed, the design on the princess was simple: the couple would die at the hands of the security services because they had intended to marry. (Those seeking current grist for the mill suggest that the princess was intending to reject any marriage proposal – the old business goes on.)

The fuss kicked up by the grieving, somewhat unhinged father led to the stripping of Harrods’ four warrants granting the store the right to declare its appointment by the Royal Family to supply goods. But hate sustains, and Al-Fayed busied himself with sniffing around the Duke of Edinburgh’s alleged Nazi links. The world was spared witnessing the ex-Harrods owner’s celluloid product claiming the same. Unfortunately, it has not been spared much else.

Each body of evidence has failed to convince the punters. The French Magistrates, for one, were never going to satisfy the Diana clan. (Their scepticism was fuelled by a good deal of anti-Gallic passion: if the Frogs did not do it, they certainly made it easier.)

“The vehicle’s driver,” concluded the 1999 report, “was in a state of drunkenness and under the undue influence of medication incompatible with alcohol, a state that prevented him from keeping control of his vehicle when he was driving at speed.”[5]

Chauffeur Henri Paul hardly needed strobe lighting.

On the other side of the Channel, the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Paget revealed, after draining more resources, personnel and time, not to mention 800 pages, that “all the evidence at this time” pointed to “no conspiracy to murder any of the occupants in the car. This was a tragic accident.”[6] Instead of allaying doubts in December 2006, when it was released, there were those who refused to be convinced.

Nothing in terms of evidence would ever refute or repudiate the myth producing industry behind the princess. On the contrary, this steadfast refutation of evidence, the fanatical resolve to reject the empirical, provided a foretaste of that modern staple we now know as “fake news”. The conspiracy complex was more Donald Trump than Donald Trump, and troublingly post-modern in turning all matters foundational and solid to dust. And in that dust is the grand sinister design.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: [email protected]

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Paul Robeson: The Artist as Revolutionary

September 1st, 2017 by Hugo Turner

Featured image: Paul Robeson (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Paul Robeson was larger then life. He was a giant in every sense of the word. The brilliant Gerald Horne has written a biography attempting to tell the amazing story of Paul Robeson “Paul Robeson: The Artist as Revolutionary.” Paul Robeson was an athlete, lawyer, singer, scholar, actor, but above all he was a revolutionary. His true passion was the study of languages and he hoped to unite humanity through his studies he knew Greek, Latin, Hebrew, French, German, Spanish and Russian, he taught himself to read Chinese in 3 months, he studied the languages of Africa.

Fleeing apartheid America for Britain Robeson was catapulted into stardom, wealthy, his company desperately sought by monarchs and aristocrats. Yet unlike so many celebrities he sacrificed everything on behalf of the common man, the working class. He preferred the cause of the welsh miners, of black sharecroppers living under American Jim Crow apartheid, the peasant of China, the workers of the Soviet Union.

He gave up his film career rather then appear in roles that reinforced racist stereotypes. He gave up his singing career to help spark the civil rights movement. He enraged his fellow Americans by refusing to give up his friendship with the Soviet Union at the height of McCarthyism. Even with his career destroyed he gave what money he had left to the cause of African liberation playing a pivotal role in that struggle. Paul Robeson was far ahead of his time even as he battled apartheid at home he was battling apartheid in South Africa. He was one of the worlds great Internationalists. In his time he was not only the world’s most famous black man he was the world’s most famous American. Everywhere they played his records he was beloved. In India, in the Soviet Union, in Britain, Canada, and Australia, in Latin America where Pablo Neruda was among his admirers, in Africa, in the Caribbean, in China, and Japan everywhere he was a superstar.

Even more revealing were his enemies, he angrily confronted President Truman demanding an end to lynching and the mutilation of black soldiers as he pounded on the President’s desk, Truman turned purple with rage. He defied the House Un-American Activities Committee calling them fascists to their faces. John Foster Dulles and the State department were terrified of his every move and took his passport preventing him from traveling. The FBI kept him under constant surveillance  believing he had the potential to become a “Black Stalin.” The CIA launched propaganda campaigns worldwide to try to counter and discredit him. The New York Times and the mainstream media attempted a complete press blackout on the subject of Paul Robeson. He survived multiple attempts to assassinate him. Huge mobs of homegrown fascists attempted to lynch him. People were paid small fortunes to denounce him. Others had their careers ruined merely for knowing him. He was one of the harshest critics of the Truman Doctrine and the Cold War.

He was speaking out against the war in Vietnam back in 1954. He was an enemy of imperialism and colonialism. He was an enemy of capitalism. He was an enemy of fascism at home and abroad. He was an enemy of racism and sexism. He was an enemy of war. An enemy of censorship and lies he was hated for speaking the truth in a world dominated by American propaganda. He exposed to the whole world to the ugly reality that underlay the American exceptionalist myth bringing the United States to trial before the United Nations and charging it with genocide. The international pressure he was able to bring to bear played a major role in ending American Jim Crow Apartheid although for Robeson this represented only a tentative first step. Paul Robeson believed only Communism could truly bring true equality to America and the world.

Here I Stand (book).jpg

Paul Robeson wrote of his childhood in his autobiography “Here I Stand” which I also highly recommend Robeson quickly turns the book from an Autobiography to a platform where he can describe his political struggles and his blueprint for the future of the civil rights movement. Paul Robeson’s father was born a slave but managed to escape to freedom becoming the Reverend William Drew Robeson. He instilled in Robeson a lifelong love of learning. Paul Robeson was born April 9 1898. His mother Maria Louisa Bustill Robeson was a school teacher who came from a long line of free blacks. She was known for her charity work, but died in a fire when Paul was only a child. Later Robeson would be famous for his rendition of the song “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child” Robeson had 5 siblings. His father was a well respected as the leader of the local black community who managed the difficult task of maintaining his dignity when negotiating with the white community while at the same time avoiding provoking them into lynching him. It was from his father that he learned his love of languages and inherited his powerful baritone voice.

It was from his brothers that a rebellious spark was lit in him. His brother Bill Robeson advised him if attacked “Stand up to them and hit back harder then they hit you” Paul sang in the church and was a star pupil at school. Robeson spent his early childhood in Princeton New Jersey and levels harsh criticism of Woodrow Wilson Dean of Princeton University and a strict segregationists who barred blacks from the University then went on to further expand and intensify Jim Crow nationwide after becoming President. Robeson would go to Rutgers where he was the only black student. Before heading for university he won 3rd place in a statewide speaking competition giving a fiery oration penned by the Abolitionist Wendell Phillips in praise of the Haitian Revolutionary Toussaint L’Ouverture that must have terrified his audience with it’s talk of fire, poison and total war in resistance to the French imperialists attempt at invading Haiti to reinstall slavery. Later in Robeson would play the role of Toussaint on the stage in a play by C.L.R. James based on his classic book “Black Jacobins”.

It was at Rutgers that Robeson would achieve nationwide fame as a football star. When he first joined the team his racist team mates hated the idea of having a black player and brutally attacked him at practice beating him so badly that he was hospitalized for a week. Robeson wanted to quit but his father and brother convinced him to return. When he returned a team mate stomped on Paul’s hand ripping out his fingernails and Paul went on a rampage knocking down his team mates and lifting one above his head. His team mates learned not to mess with him and Paul went on to be the greatest defensive end of his time. He was also a star at basketball, baseball and track and field. At the school Robeson also acted and sang and picked up a love of Shakespeare from a sympathetic professor.

Paul Robeson studied law at Colombia University and got his degree but gave up on being a lawyer when a secretary at his law firm refused to take orders from a black man and his firm barred him from handling important cases. It was at Colombia that he met his wife Eslanda Goode Robeson who deserves a biography of her own. Like Robeson she spoke multiple languages and she shared his radical politics and would help manage his career. She would go on to become a journalist who specialized in the liberation of Africa. After Robeson quit the law firm he turned to professional football to make a living. His star continued to rise and it was even widely believed at the time that if he had wanted he could have become the world heavy weight boxing champion. Instead he capitalized on his celebrity by winning a starring role in a play. He didn’t have much confidence in himself as an actor but trained intensively. Strangely he would one day become one of the first famous method actors thanks to his Russian friends.

It was while in the play that the director upon hearing Robeson sing had songs added to the play. The play “Voodoo” would take Robeson to London and it was there that he became a superstar. Characteristically on the boat ride over he would befriend the Welsh passengers after dropping by to listen as they sang their folk music. Robeson felt a special connection to Celtic peoples and never tired of pointing out the connections between black and Celtic culture like the impact of Irish folk music on Negro spirituals. Because of his love of languages he was no ordinary singer but a cultural theorist always seeking to unite humanity through his study of the languages and folk music of various cultures. In London due to his powerful physical presence, his charisma, and his deep baritone voice he became a superstar. Soon he was sought after by the cream of London society while back in America despite his fame he wasn’t even allowed to eat at the New York restaurants. In Britain by contrast he was welcome in the homes of the aristocrats and could stay at the finest hotels. Had he been an ordinary celebrity this meteoric success would be enough. The son of a slave now kept the company of kings he was rich and famous.

However it was not fame and riches that interested Robeson. His true passion was the liberation of his people. So long as they were subjected to Jim Crow back home he could not feel truly free. It was in London that he would undergo a radical political awakening. Because of his love of languages he decided to take some courses at the School of Oriental and African studies. He learned Yoruba, Efik, Benin, Ashanti, and other African languages and was stunned by the cultural sophistication they revealed. There he met many African students including future African Revolutionaries Kwame Nkrumah, Nnamadi Azikwe, and Jomo Kenyatta.

He would become lifelong friends with them and would found and fund the Council on African Affairs that would play a vital role in the liberation of Africa. More and more Robeson realized the similarities between the struggles against colonialism and the struggle against Jim Crow. He also loved to talk to African sailors to learn more about life in Africa. Because of his love of the ordinary working man Robeson was always willing to sing for Unions giving inspiration to striking workers. This is how he became introduced to communism and Gerald Horne believes he likely joined the CPGB the British communist party. He befriended the famous Indian born communist R. Palme Dutt and other leading British communists like Harry Pollitt. Robeson read Marx and Lenin in German and Russian. He sang for the Jewish refugees of Nazism. He also befriended the leaders of the Indian independence movement and would be a lifelong friend of Nehru. It was his interest in Africa that would lead him to visit the USSR he was struck by the similarity of the Yakuts a people in Central Asia who Robeson believed had much in common with the people of Africa. He wanted to see how the Revolution and the Construction of socialism had affected them and saw the progress and modernization socialism had brought them in so short a time as further proof that colonial peoples were ready for self rule. Thus when an audience member challenged him to visit the Soviet Union he accepted.

Robeson already spoke Russian and always felt a deep spiritual connection to Russia because they were a nation of serfs while his people were slaves. His favorite author was the Russian poet Pushkin who was of African descent. One of Robeson’s heroes was Ira Aldridge a former slave who escaped to England and became a star shakespearean actor like Robeson and also like Robeson would make a second home in Russia.

However before arriving in the USSR Robeson made a stop in Nazi Germany where he was harassed by Fascists nearly getting himself killed by standing up to a pack of Nazi storm troopers. It was his second trip to Germany and he had received a much warmer reception during the Weimar republic needless to say. This brief stop in Germany further cemented Robeson’s commitment to Anti-Fascism and he would become one of the leading Anti-fascists of his day. In the Soviet Union in contrast Robeson was mobbed by people who were stunned by his flawless Russian. Everywhere he went in the soviet union people begged him to make his home there.

He met with the film maker Eisenstein and the two would spend years trying to come up with a film project they could both work on. Robeson claimed that it was in the Soviet Union that he felt for the first time that he had finally escaped racism and was truly free. Just as the Soviet Union fell in love with the Paul Robeson so Robeson fell in love with the Soviet Union. He was amazed at the rapid progress being made in turning the country from backwards feudalism to the worlds first modern Socialist state. He was relieved to finally be in a country where racism was a crime and being black wasn’t. Unlike so many others he would refuse to betray the Soviet Union no matter how loudly the politicians and media tried to demonize it.

He would also meet with his black friends and comrades William Patterson and Ben Davis while in Moscow and the three of them would fight for both an end to Jim Crow and for the cause of Communism for decades to come. Ben Davis was Robeson’s best friend a Communist who would win election to New York’s city Council before being illegally kicked out of office and then imprisoned for years during the McCarthy Era. William Patterson was the communist attorney for the Scottsboro boys, and International Labor Defense and then worked with Robeson on “The We Charge Genocide campaign” and many other causes he was imprisoned during the McCarthy era. Horne also wrote biographies of William Patterson and Benjamin Davis if your interested in learning more. All 3 were civil rights pioneers erased from mainstream history because they were communists.

As I discussed in my article “Black Bolshevik: Harry Haywood” Communists were at the forefront of the Civil Rights movement for decades a fact erased from our history. As Horne points out Malcolm X and Martin Luther King would rise to prominence due to the vacuum left by the marginalization of Paul Robeson and other Communists in the 1950’s. Robeson and W.E.B DuBois shared a deep mutual respect and their struggles often paralleled one another. Throughout the 20’s and 30’s Robeson would travel back and forth from Harlem to London and his worldwide fame boosted his reputation in the United States. He would work with the NAACP (which would later turn on him in the McCarthy era) and with his communist comrades in the cause of civil rights. He also lent his support to the Unions and to Roosevelt’s new deal. He would work for African liberation.

File:George Palmer with Prime Minister Walter Nash, Paul Robeson & Eleanor Roosevelt (9436897143).jpg

Seated before the microphones (L. to R.) were David Jenkins, a young New Zealander who was working in the US and who asked the questions on behalf of the listeners; Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, then America’s First Lady; Paul Robeson, great American actor and singer; Mr. Deems Taylor, distinguished American music critic and author; Hon. Walter Nash, New Zealand’s Minister to the US and later Prime Minister; and Mr. George Palmer, the Superintendent in charge of maintaining the Statue of Liberty. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Robeson was also a prominent anti-fascist. He traveled to Spain during the civil war to sing for the loyalist troops battling fascism. He risked his life by traveling to the front lines and he and his wife got used to life in the war zone. He also joined in solidarity with the resistance in Ethiopia which the Italian fascists had invaded. With British anti-fascists he joined mass demonstrations against the appeasement of Hitler. At the same time he lent his support to those resisting British imperialism in Africa, the Caribbean, Ireland, and India. His council on African Affairs was one of the worlds most important Pan-African organizations counting Nkrumah, Azikwe, and Kenyatta as members and allied to the ANC in Africa. However it was the start of World War 2 which would force him to leave London and return to the US which would have tragic consequences after the war when Robeson would be trapped in his racist and reactionary homeland. However during the war Robeson’s main concern would be the struggle with fascism at home and abroad.

Horne has written a couple books on the topic of the attempts of Japan to woo black Americans to their side. Throughout history black Americans have been forced to seek alliances with America’s enemies against their true enemy namely America itself. This a theme that runs through Horne’s work in books like the Counter Revolution of 1776, Negro Comrades of the Crown, and Black Jacobins on how black alliances with Britain and Haiti ended slavery. Just as Robeson looked to Russia many blacks like the future Malcolm X looked to Japan as the first non-white superpower. Of course as their many war crimes revealed the Japanese were brutal fascists and imperialists who killed tens of millions in China and the rest of Asia. However Ironically by setting up native run puppet governments in the countries it seized from from the European imperialists like Indonesia Japan did hasten the collapse of Colonialism although their actual goal was to build an empire of their own. Thus Robeson provided a valuable service during the war by producing pro-American propaganda and siding against Japan although Robeson was doubtless also motivated by his love for China and Russia. Throughout the war he would use his talents to support the war effort and to support President Roosevelt performing patriotic songs on nationwide radio.

However at the same time he continued to battle fascism at home by refusing to perform before segregated audiences. At some locations the local police showed up to attempt to force the halls to segregate harassing the concert goers. Other shows had to be cancelled. Robeson also helped found the Civil Rights Congress which would lay the groundwork for the civil rights movement. While supporting the war effort he did not abandon his quest to transform America by ending Jim Crow segregation. He also continued to fight on behalf of the union movement always ready to lend his talents on the front lines of the labor struggle. Thus for the FBI and the House Un-American activities and other American fascists he remained an enemy and doubtless during the war they were already plotting their revenge. Robeson little suspected the dangerous forces that were building in his homeland where reactionaries were boiling with rage over Roosevelt’s new deal and secretly wished the US was fighting on the side of Hitler and not against him. The leading anti-communists were also the leading fascists and racist segregationists. During World War 2 Robeson was tolerated but before it had even ended FDR was dead and the new President Truman a KKK member was launching the “Cold War” against the Soviet Union and the people of the whole World.

Most sensed the new direction things were going and decided to conform with the new cold war hysteria similar to the revived anti-Russian hysteria gripping the United States as I write. Paul Robeson possessed a quality rare in American political life namely integrity. He was not going to give up his struggle simply because the people of his country had gone insane. He would remain a friend to the Soviet Union, he would continue his struggle to end Jim Crow, and he would continue to work for the liberation of Africa. He would also battle the McCarthyite purges refusing to abandon his friends like Ben Davis in the Communist Party which the government had outlawed. Gerald Horne sees Robeson’s confrontation with Truman as the pivotal moment when Robeson brought down the wrath of the American empire. Leading a delegation of protestors demanding the government intervene to stop a wave of lynchings many aimed at returning black soldiers Robeson confronted Truman in his office demanding action. As he pounded on the presidents desk demanding federal intervention Truman turned purple with rage. How dare a black man (in private Truman always referred to blacks with the N-word)  speak  to him like this.

Robeson quickly became public enemy number one. The FBI followed his every move and believed because of his close ties to the USSR that he was one of the most powerful leaders in the American communist party. They believed he planned to become a Black Stalin. The state department was terrified of his support of African Liberation and Anti-Imperialism worldwide. Robeson continued to maintain contact with men like Nkrumah and Nehru. The government was equally worried by the damage he was doing to America’s reputation by exposing the murder and oppression blacks faced in the so called “land of the free” or what Horne more accurately calls the “former slaveholders republic.” Robeson would outrage the empire again when he would tell a Paris Peace conference that he did not believe American blacks would ever fight a war against the Soviet Union where racism was illegal in defense of America where they were still treated as second class citizens. Worse instead of recanting he continued to repeat this statement even in front of the House Un-American activities where he also lectured them on the history and theory of Marxism which he pointed out was created in London not Russia.

The government recruited ungrateful black celebrities like Jackie Robinson to denounce Robeson despite the fact that it was only because of Robeson and William Patterson that major league baseball was forced to let Jackie Robinson play. Robeson would later be avenged by Malcolm X who would later mercilessly mock Robinson for his treachery to Robeson. If only blacks and other Americans had listened in Robeson they could have avoided dying on behalf of the American empire in Korea and later Vietnam both wars opposed by Robeson. Robeson would also be a major backer of Henry Wallace’s campaign for president. Wallace a champion of civil rights and of friendly relations with the Soviets had been removed from the Vice Presidency in a soft coup in 1944 that had allowed Truman to take his place as VP and become president. The Wallace campaign became the focus of those forces who wanted to end the cold war, advance the new deal, and battle racism and sexism. It ended of course in complete failure as Wallace was bashed as a communist. If only Robeson had succeeded in creating a viable third party back then we might have avoided the political bankruptcy of our own time where both parties fight over who more slavishly serves the cause of capitalism and endless war.

Robeson had defied the empire again and again and the empire did not just sit idly by. A massive Anti-Robeson propaganda campaign was launched black leaders were bribed to denounce him while his former friends in the NAACP sought to distance themselves from him. A secret deal was made with the black misleadership class that if they avoided criticizing America’s insane and racist foreign policy which sought to keep Africa, Asia, and Latin America in chains and to destroy the Socialist world, the black misleaders would be rewarded with gradual reforms. Of course they also had to avoid any association with communism or socialism so these gradual reforms would leave blacks under poverty, oppression and low intensity warfare as history has since shown. Jim Crow would be replaced by mass incarceration and brutal police drug wars. The black community and other minorities relegated to America’s ghettoes would be flooded with guns and drugs like some third world country Mexico or Jamaica for example targeted for destabilization. During the 1960’s and 1970’s the Black Panthers would revive Robeson’s more radical vision of communism and opposition to the American empire. In the 1960’s Robeson would again be hailed as a hero by a new more radical generation but they would be crushed murdered or imprisoned. They would Replaced by cowardly opportunists yet again. We can only hope that some where out there are men and women with the courage integrity and vision of a Paul Robeson who will demand the radical changes our society needs today.

Like the Black Panthers Robeson was also targeted for destruction in fact not only was he demonized and spied upon but he would survive several assassination attempts. Once someone sabotaged his car in the hopes that he would die in a fatal car crash. He was also attacked by angry mobs intent on lynching him on at least 3 occasions. The most infamous was in Peekskill New York where Robeson was scheduled to sing before 10,000 union members and left leaning concert goers. The local GOP elites saw a chance to kill Robeson. They recruited an angry mob of fascists and the right wing Veterans of Foreign Wars that was 15,000 men strong and launched an attack on the audience chanting “Hitler was Right” and shouting of their intent to lynch Robeson. Instead of protecting the crowd the police and state troopers joined in the mayhem mercilessly beating the concert goers. Only the heroic defense organized by union members who defended the concert goers prevented a blood bath. Many were brutally beaten and Robeson barely escaped with his life.

The next attack on Robeson came from the State department which removed his passport claiming that Robeson’s criticism of Jim Crow, friendship with the Soviet Union, and support for African liberation were a threat to national security. Although Robeson’s popularity had plummeted at home where he was widely hated he was still beloved around the world. Even Britain which had been waging a cold war since 1917 and which had played a major role in sparking the postwar cold war with Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech still loved Robeson the singer and actor even if they did not approve of his politics. The whole world still loved Robeson and he had become wildly popular in China after the revolution as well. In Africa in, India, in Latin America, in Russia, in Europe Robeson was a major star. By taking away his passport the US sought to cut him off from his supporters around the world and to destroy his career which he used to fund his support of many causes. In 3 years Robeson’s income dropped from over a $100,000 dollars ( worth millions today) to a mere $2000 dollars. When Robeson tried to book concerts in the US they would be cancelled due to threatened riots. Most people might have reconsidered their uncompromising stance but of course Robeson remained defiant. He announced that he would dedicate himself full time to the struggle for Civil Rights working with William Patterson and others in the Civil Rights Congress and starting his own newspaper called “Freedom” to give a voice to the struggle. Nelson Mandela would be on the cover long before most Americans had heard of him while in South Africa the ANC played Robeson’s songs at their marches.

Robeson of course continued his struggle for African Liberation through the Council on African Affairs before it was later banned as a subversive organization along with the Civil Rights Congress. Robeson and Patterson would bring the US up before the UN on charges of genocide. Their “We Charge Genocide” petition was translated into many languages and read around the world. It helped pressure the empire into ending Jim Crow. Robeson was right to link the struggle against Jim Crow to African Liberation as once African nations became independent their diplomats began to arrive in Washington where experiencing Jim Crow for themselves they became disgusted at the treatment they received. The empire realized it would have to end Jim Crow or risk alienating all of Africa which was their real motive for the end of Jim Crow not any moral awakening on the part of the ruling class as Horne points out. Robeson also continued his support for American Communists and the return of his passport was long delayed by Robeson’s refusal to answer whether he was a communist party member because he believed it violated people’s right to privacy. During this period Robeson’s career was only kept alive by his concerts at black churches. He was also always ready to sing for free for a worthy cause like opposition to the fascist coup in 1950’s Guatemala.

In 1956 despite 12 years of demonization, marginalization, harassment, surveillance, and attempted assassination Robeson remained defiant. He was called before the House Unamerican Activities committee or HUAC again. During their earlier confrontation he had explained that revolutions emerge from poverty and exploitation explaining how Marxism was a byproduct of the poverty and exploitation resulting from the industrial revolution to a bunch of racist southern congressman who weren’t sure who they hated more blacks or “commies.” This time he would be even more shockingly honest. They asked him about his remarks in Paris about Black Americans refusing to fight the Soviet Union. He told them he had not meant merely black Americans but the entire third world reminding them that at Bandung the third world had declared they would not be foot soldiers for the American empire and it’s War on China and Russia. He explained again that the Soviet Union was the first country where he had felt free of racism and bragged of sending his son to school there. He pointed out yet again  that the State Department  had admitted they had taken away his passport to prevent him from fighting for civil rights. The enraged racist congressman could take no more

ROBESON: I stand here struggling for the rights of my people to be full citizens in this country and they are not. They are not in Mississippi and they are not . . . in Washington. . . . You want to shut up every Negro who has the courage to stand up and fight for the rights of his people. . . . That is why I am here today. . . .

MR. SCHERER: Why do you not stay in Russia?

MR. ROBESON: Because my father was a slave, and my people died to build this country and I am going to stay here and have a part of it just like you. And no fascist- minded people will drive me from it. Is that clear!

This was Robeson’s famous response to Racism, Fascism, and McCarthyism a moment of  heroism that still has the power to inspire defiance 60 years later. In the end it was Robeson’s Internationalism that would free him from the cage that was apartheid, anti-communist, America. Through his love of languages and his love of liberation Robeson had made friends around the world. A world wide campaign was mounted to force the State Department to return Robeson’s passport. Robeson still had friends at the highest levels in Britain and they campaigned for many years on his behalf. Russia, Africa, and India also kept up the pressure on the United States. In Canada he teamed up with Mine Mill and Smelters Workers to give a yearly Peace Arch concert where Robeson sang across the border which was both a protest against McCarthyism and it’s travel ban and an effort to fight anti-communist purges in Canada’s labor Unions.

It is still fondly remembered there as a Canada’s 50’s version of Woodstock.  Finally Robeson was allowed to travel and his career again took off. He was mobbed by adoring crowds in London and then Moscow. Horne believes that ill health and overwork were responsible for the breakdown that followed. Robeson’s Son and I however believe that he was dosed by the CIA with an MK-Ultra drug like BZ. In any case Robeson had a mental breakdown and when he had recovered from that the death of his wife from cancer in 1965 turned him into a recluse. Robeson would spend the final years of his life shunning the spotlight although his life and legacy would inspire a whole new generation of radical activists like James Forman of SNCC as well as black celebrities like Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte who Robeson privately mentored. Robeson would live quietly with his family until his death in 1976.

Today Paul Robeson is more relevant then ever. He is a hero for our times. His courageous stand against McCarthyism should inspire us to oppose this current wave of anti-Russian hysteria and cold war 2.0 Insanity. His internationalism should inspire us to oppose the American empire around the world. Robeson would have been a voice for Peace. Robeson would have opposed both the rise of Fascism in Ukraine and it’s ugly return to America in Charlottesville. He would have been an inspiration to the Black Lives Matter movement, and the movement to end mass incarceration and the war on drugs, Robeson would advise them to seek support worldwide. He would demand an end to the murder of black people. He would oppose America’s War on the Planet from Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, DRCongo, Colombia, and everywhere else. With the rise of the internet and his talent for languages he would have mobilized the whole world against imperialism, racism, war and Capitalism. Robeson would teach us all how to dream big a better world is possible then this where 62 people have more wealth then 3.5 billion. He would have continued to fight for communism, for socialism, for national liberation. Although Robeson is gone his example continues to inspire the world.

Sources

A special thanks to @Zaganashikwe for sending me valuable information on Robeson.

Gerald Horne has written yet another masterpiece on Paul Robeson the culmination his years of work on Black communism and black internationalism. His book Paul Robeson: The Artist as Revolutionary is a must Read. I also highly recommend “Here I Stand” by Paul Robeson nearly every page of which is as relevant today as it was in 1958 and every page is full of the defiant spirit of Paul Robeson.

A Gerald Horne lecture on Paul Robeson

https://youtu.be/-7A2rL51JxY

Ranjeet Brar of the CPGB-ML on Paul Robeson

https://youtu.be/cGvzu9LHCLA

My article on Gerald Horne’s book Counter-Revolution of 1776

http://anti-imperialist-u.blogspot.com/2016/02/the-counter-revolution-of-1776.html

My Article on Gerald Horne’s book Confronting Black Jacobins

http://anti-imperialist-u.blogspot.com/2017/03/confronting-black-jacobins.html

My article on Black Bolshevik by Harry Haywood revealing the vital but forgotten role of communists in the civil rights movement. Paul Robeson also helped fund Haywood’s work.

http://anti-imperialist-u.blogspot.com/2015/11/black-bolshevik-harry-haywood.html

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With the news that the US is now turning the Black Sea coast of Ukraine into a de-facto giant military base, the mind begins to wonder how such a flagrant occupation of sovereign land by the West can happen in a country that is officially not at war with anybody, and isn’t formally in either the EU or NATO blocs…

Proceeding from the illegal seizure of power in Kiev in 2014, the West promised Ukraine an improved quality of life in exchange for some raw materials, in the style of “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours”. Except here it was “you massage my back with oil, and I’ll flog yours with a big pole”. The “marvelous” EU was used as a carrot on a stick to pull Ukraine away psychologically from the Russian nation; now the IMF demands deforestation across the country in exchange for more credits. Smiling “butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth” characters tempted the locals to taste the forbidden fruit and chant “Russia go home” on every street corner. The people were played against each other using the “they said this about your mother”style of incitement, exactly like what was done in Yugoslavia vis-a-vis Bosniaks and Serbs. Thanks to the complete manipulation of history by stooges like Vladimir Vyatrovich and by fifth-column NGO nests like the Yeltsin Center, the Ukrainian people (and some of the Ukrainian Russians) are spoon-fed the narrative “the Soviet Union is bad, Uncle Sam is your savior”.

These are only a few drops in the ocean of examples of how the US managed to carve a crevice for itself in Ukraine with the aim of serving as a guarantor (bargaining chip) of a) the West’s diplomatic manoeuvring in Syria either directly or through NGOs, and b) the West’s geographic positioning in relation to conquering more land to feed the ever-increasing number of hungry mouths back home, and to spread Liberalism in general. Generally speaking, the fourth generation “war” in Ukraine can be divided into 3 categories: the media, the ground, the law.

The media: the dissemination – via the media owned by the military-industrial complex (MIC)/oligarchs – of simulacra designed to depict the army of the territory being invaded by Anglo Saxons as the aggressor, and also the civilians fleeing the conflict as seekers of “democracy”. In Ukraine, the oligarch-owned TV channels are“112”“ZiK”“Espreso”, “TSN”, and so on, and on the Internet the MIC controls propaganda outlets such as “Euromaidan press”“Stopfake”“The Interpreter”“The Moscow Times”, and so forth. Collectively, they are tasked with keeping the narrative “Russia is the enemy” alive in the minds of the population, while at the same time covering up the war crimes of the Ukrainian Army and its associated Banderist formations.

The ground: the movement of military equipment to different parts of the country to give the illusion that there is a war ongoing against some imaginary enemy, despite the fact that no war was officially declared by the Kiev authorities. For example, columns of tanks on trains can be seen in the Kherson region almost weekly, the movement of “Grad” and other MLRS systems from one village in Donbass occupied by the Ukrainian Armed Forces to another one almost daily, and military exercises in the West of the country and near the Crimean border happen at least monthly. Why? Because companies like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon need to make money by exploiting Ukroboronprom. No theatre of military operations – no profit. Simple.

The law: the gradual stripping of the country of anything that was left behind after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The current constitution of Ukraine took effect after the coup in 2014 and this decision was taken by Aleksandr Turchynov, who was illegally placed in the Presidents chair by John Tefft and his band of thugs after Viktor Yanukovych fled the country via helicopter. Currently every law that is enacted either forbids something pertaining to the Russian world or tries to pull the country further into the West’s orbit: healthcare and pension reforms, land market, a ban on St. George’s Ribbons and communist symbols as a whole, TV and Radio language quotas, allowing Canadian troops (and NATO in general) to “legally”operate across the entire country, etc. Since the current government in Kiev is illegal, the passing of these bills is also illegal.

And as a result of all three of these categories converging together, we have the current situation in the country. The media, the ground, and the law are all completely controlled by the Washington-London-Brussels axis. And the media, the ground, and the law ensure that the vast majority of Ukrainians perceive the US’ presence on Ukrainian soil as “friendly”. This process was slow to develop – it began in 2014, the inevitable military clashes happened between those who accepted the coup and those who didn’t, but after the signing of Minsk Agreements-2 in February, 2015, these hostilities became less intense. Putin knew very well that the ground operations had to be slowed in order to prevent NATO from establishing a base in Donetsk or Lugansk. As a result, Russia increased the pace in Syria – the heart of the latest US-Russia standoff, and this started the process of the Nazis and Oligarchs in Ukraine devouring each other because of the US’ reduced capacity to feed the fire in Ukraine without firstly reducing its size (allowing the DPR/LPR to have special status and in general shaping Ukraine’s future without Donbass or Crimea). Now the US has not only come away empty-handed from Syria and Iraq, it risks leaving the poker hall without a house to go back to or a car to drive there.

Now the Ukrainian crisis is at its slowest and most critical phase, and nothing is expected to change much until Raqqa in Syria and Anbar in Iraq are liberated from ISIS, much to the Western world’s dismay. That is why Kurt Volker – the US State Department’s special representative to Ukraine – simply repeats the same mantra about “Russia being guilty” and that the crisis is “crippling US-Russia” relations. America is simply buying time, because nothing went to plan in Syria, and nothing went to plan in Ukraine. Currently the US actually can’t leave Ukraine because it needs some form of outpost in order to participate in future energy, trade, and currency wars.

So, referring back to the original question “how such a flagrant occupation of sovereign land can happen in a country that is officially not at war with anybody, and isn’t formally in either the EU nor NATO bloc”, it is possible to say that when the US is very desperate, which it is now more than it ever has been before, such “abracadabra” magic tricks as the entire Ukrainian coast of the Black Sea being occupied by Uncle Sam become more and more frequent. However, the West knows very well that Donbass and Crimea is lost, so, like all good stock traders, there is a time when it’s necessary to cut losses and move on – to Afghanistan, for example!

Ollie Richardson is a Paris-based geopolitical analyst.

All images, except the featured image, in this article are from the author.

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The Kurdish-led “Syrian Democratic Forces” recently announced that the US has a strategy for military, economic, and political influence in northern Syria for decades to come.

The US of course denied the implication that it was planning to occupy this strategically positioned territory, though one would do well to remember that it already has 10 bases there, according to Turkish sources who disclosed such information last month. It’s possible that some of the facilities aren’t intended to be permanent and are just temporary bases being used for tactical reasons, but it’s very unlikely that the US will voluntarily withdraw from every one of them. This isn’t mere speculation either, as SDF spokesman Talal Silo suggested that northern Syria could be an alternative to the US base in Turkey’s Incirlik. Bearing in mind how American arms and training have transformed the Kurdish-led SDF into a conventional standing army, and how considering this force is strategically wedged between Russia’s Syrian and Turkish partners, the argument can be made that the US has every self-interested reason to maintain its troop deployment and bases in this part of the Mideast, so it makes sense why there’s talk about a decades-long military, economic, and political strategy being formulated right now.

As the saying goes, “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry”, and so too could all of the US’ long-term strategic planning amount to nothing if it isn’t careful, particularly in terms of how it manages the de-facto formalization of a sub-state Kurdish-run entity in northern Syria. Turkey has already said that it would do anything to stop its emergence, and the latest reports that Ankara will launch joint anti-terrorist operations with Tehran against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq imply that it would also have Iran’s support in this initiative as well. Moreover, Syria is adamant about restoring Damascus’ legitimate authority all across the country, and President Assad already said that he doesn’t recognize the unilateral so-called “federalization” that the Kurds announced in spring 2016. For all intents and purposes, it appears as though a regional coalition is forming again the prospects of an American-backed Kurdish-led polity being carved out of northern Syria, with the many US troops and bases there being the only thing holding this bloc back from attacking in the coming future.

Taking into account that the US seems poised to forcibly protect its interests in “Rojava” and will respond militarily to any multilateral liberation campaign in the region, especially one which targets its troops and bases, then its planned decades-long occupation of northern Syria might already be a fait accompli so long as it can find a way to “legitimize” it. To that end, the US is using its military forces to freeze the status quo and preserve all Kurdish gains east of the Euphrates, after which it will back up its demands with brinksmanship if need be, with the precedent already being set of the US attacking the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) on several occasions. So long as it has the military and political willpower to prevent the Kurds from being dislodged from the region, and that’s a key qualifier especially in the face of Turkish threats, the US can then force the de-facto “formalization” of the on-the-ground political reality of northern Syria being run by a pro-American Kurdish-led “federation”, which is what it’s wanted for a couple of years already.

The post presented is the partial transcript of the CONTEXT COUNTDOWN radio program on Sputnik News, aired on Friday Aug 25, 2017:

Andrew Korybko is an American Moscow-based political analyst specializing in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China’s One Belt One global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, and Hybrid Warfare.

Featured image is from the author.

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A months-long investigation which tracked and exposed a massive covert weapons shipment network to terror groups in Syria via diplomatic flights originating in the Caucuses and Eastern Europe under the watch of the CIA and other intelligence agencies has resulted in the interrogation and firing of the Bulgarian journalist who first broke the story. This comes as the original report is finally breaking into mainstream international coverage.

Investigative reporter Dilyana Gaytandzhieva authored a bombshell report for Trud Newspaper, based in Sofia, Bulgaria, which found that an Azerbaijan state airline company was regularly transporting tons of weaponry to Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Turkey under diplomatic cover as part of the CIA covert program to supply anti-Assad fighters in Syria. Those weapons, Gaytandzhieva found, ended up in the hands of ISIS and al-Qaeda terrorists in Iraq and Syria.

While it’s long been understood that the US-Gulf-NATO coalition arming rebels inside Syria facilitated the rapid rise of the Islamic State as the group had steady access to a “jihadi Wal-Mart” of weapons (in the words of one former spy and British diplomat), the Trud Newspaper report is the first to provide exhaustive documentation detailing the precise logistical chain of the weapons as they flowed from their country of origin to the battlefield in Syria and Iraq. Gaytandzhieva even traveled to Aleppo where she filmed and examined labeled weapons shipping containers held in underground jihadist storehouses.

The Bulgaria-based journalist obtained and published dozens of secret internal memos which were leaked to her by an anonymous source as part of the report. The leaked documents appear to be internal communications between the Bulgarian government and Azerbaijan’s Embassy in Sofia detailing flight plans for Silk Way Airlines, which was essentially operating an “off the books” weapons transport service (not subject to inspections or tax under diplomatic cover) for the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), Saudi Arabia, Israel, Germany, Denmark, and Sweden. Silk Way Airlines has been the subject of other recent investigations involving weapons supplies for the Saudi war on Yemen. In addition, the military monitoring site Balkan Insight has exposed similar weapons cargo flights in and out of neighboring Serbia.

Silk Way Airlines flight over Birmingham (UK). Image source: Flickr

But perhaps the more explosive finding involves private American companies contracting with the US government to help train and equip militants in Syria. An investigative series by Buzzfeed – the first of which was published in 2015 – named military contractor Purple Shovel LLC as the recipient of two no-bid contracts totaling more $50 million as part of the US train and equip program for Syria. Gaytandzhieva’s report definitively links Purple Shovel and other private American military contractors to the Azerbaijan Silk Way Airlines shipments. One leaked memo includes a cargo manifest for multiple tons of anti-tank grenades purchased in Bulgaria by Purple Shovel which were ostensibly designated for the official consignee – the Ministry of Defense of Ajerbaijan – but which never made it to Ajerbaijan. The documents, however, reveal that the military cargo was offloaded at Turkey’s Incirlik air base, which is one of the US and NATO’s main command centers for covert operations in Syria.

Though Gaytandzhieva’s report is months old and began through a series of smaller investigations, it gained little traction in Western or international press, even though it was promoted on social media and discussed among some of the world’s foremost experts on Syria and the Middle East. However, on Sunday Qatar-based Al Jazeera featured the story while reporting the shocking news that Gaytandzhieva had been interrogated by Bulgarian authorities before being fired from her newspaper:

Gaytandzhieva said on Thursday in a tweet that she was fired from her job at Trud after she was interrogated by the Bulgarian national security which tried to find out her sources.

She said she first got suspicious of the weapons transferred to Syria when she found Bulgarian-made weapons at the hands “terrorists” in Aleppo while reporting on the Syrian war there.

She said that she then traced those weapons to its Bulgarian manufacturer only to find out that those weapons were legally exported to Saudi Arabia, which in turn supplied it to “terrorists” in Syria.

Al Jazeera is now belatedly highlighting the story in the midst of the current Qatari-Saudi diplomatic war which has resulted in a general airing of dirty laundry as each side continues to accuse the other of supporting terrorism. Regardless, Al Jazeera’s coverage constitutes the first time this story has entered the mainstream. While we’ve reported the recent Trump decision to end the CIA covert program of regime change in Syria, it appears the apparatus for external weapons shipments to jihadists in Syria remains in place through the continuing Silk Way Airlines weapons pipeline. As Al Jazeera reports:

Speaking to Al Jazeera by phone on Sunday from Bulgaria, Gaytandzhieva said: “Saudi Arabia, UAE and the US must stop using the cover of Silk Way Airlines diplomatic flights to supply Eastern European weapons which end up in the hands of terrorists around the world. Diplomatic flights are exempt from checks and inspection.”

Tracking weapons from Eastern Europe to Syrian al-Qaeda: December 2016 Bulgarian news broadcast by Dilyana Gaytandzhieva. Brief English commentary begins at 1:00 mark. The report investigates Bulgarian origin rockets and weaponry said to have been in possession of Nusra Front (AQ in Syria). Leaked documents would later confirm Bulgarian weapons shipped to Saudi Arabia as part of the covert Syria program.

Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) also carried out their own lengthy investigations which are consistent with Trud News journalist Gaytandzhieva’s findings. Infographic source: Balkan Insight

The CIA program relied heavily on US ally Saudi Arabia to arm anti-Assad jihadists, and while it appears that the White House recently ended the CIA side of things, there’s no evidence to suggest that Saudi Arabia or other participating allied countries ever ceased or even slowed their part of the operations. Also, given that both the CIA and Pentagon contract with private firms acting as middle men to get weapons to the Syrian battlefield, it is uncertain if all aspects of the CIA program have really been shut down. Historically, the CIA has sometimes farmed out legally questionable activities to private contractors for the sake of ‘plausible deniability’. Furthermore, the Pentagon side of the program, which supplies Kurdish and Arab groups in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) appears to be ramping up of late.

Given the latest development of Trud Newspaper firing its own journalist and Bulgarian authorities attempting to locate her sources, it is entirely possible and likely that pressure is building for Trud to remove the story from its website. The new Al Jazeera story has brought fresh international attention to Gaytandzhieva’s findings, which is sure to increase the controversy.

Below are excerpts from the original Trud report with images of select leaked documents. The original report contains dozens of downloadable leaked memos which were translated with contents summarized by Dilyana Gaytandzhieva.


Government docs leaked by hackers (“Anonymous Bulgaria”) reveal weapons pipeline to terrorists in Syria:

According to these documents, Silk Way Airlines offered diplomatic flights to private companies and arms manufacturers from the US, Balkans, and Israel, as well as to the militaries of Saudi Arabia, UAE, and US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), and the military forces of Germany and Denmark in Afghanistan and of Sweden in Iraq. Diplomatic flights are exempt of checks, air bills, and taxes, meaning that Silk Way airplanes freely transported hundreds of tons of weapons to different locations around the world without regulation. They made technical landings with stays varying from a few hours to up to a day in intermediary locations without any logical reasons such as needing to refuel the planes.

U.S. sends $1 billion worth of weapons

Among the main customers of the “diplomatic flights for weapons” service provided by Silk Way Airlines are American companies, which supply weapons to the US army and US Special Operations Command. The common element in these cases is that they all supply non-US standard weapons; hence, the weapons are not used by the US forces.

According to the register of federal contracts, over the last 3 years American companies were awarded $1billion contracts it total under a special US government program for non-US standard weapon supplies. All of them used Silk Way Airlines for the transport of weapons. In some cases when Silk Way was short of aircrafts due to a busy schedule, Azerbaijan Air Force aircrafts transported the military cargo, although weapons never reached Azerbaijan.

The documents leaked from the Embassy include shocking examples of weapon transport. A case in point: on 12th May 2015 an aircraft of Azerbaijan Air Forces carried 7.9 tons of PG-7V and 10 tons of PG-9V the supposed destination via the route Burgas (Bulgaria)-Incirlik (Turkey)-Burgas-Nasosny (Azerbaijan). The consignor was the American company Purple Shovel, and the consignee – the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan. According to the documents, however, the military cargo was offloaded at Incirlik military base and never reached the consignee. The weapons were sold to Purple Shovel by Alguns, Bulgaria, and manufactured by Bulgaria’s VMZ military plant.

According to the federal contracts registry, in December of 2014 USSOCOM signed a $26.7 million contract with Purple Shovel. Bulgaria was indicated as the country of origin of the weapons.

US covert program sent Bulgarian weapons to Al Qaeda via private military contractor 

On 6 June 2015, a 41-year old American national Francis Norvello, an employee of Purple Shovel, was killed in a blast when a rocket-propelled grenade malfunctioned at a military range near the village of Anevo in Bulgaria. Two other Americans and two Bulgarians were also injured. The US Embassy to Bulgaria then released a statement announcing that the U.S. government contractors were working on a U.S. military program to train and equip moderate rebels in Syria. Which resulted in the U.S. Ambassador to Sofia to be immediately withdrawn from her post. They very same weapons as those supplied by Purple Shovel were not used by moderate rebels in Syria. In December of last year while reporting on the battle of Aleppo as a correspondent for Bulgarian media I found and filmed 9 underground warehoused full of heavy weapons with Bulgaria as their country of origin. They were used by Al Nusra Front (Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria designated as a terrorist organization by the UN).

Saudi Arabia – sponsor and arms distributor

Besides the USA, another country that has purchased huge quantities of Eastern-European weapons and exported them on Silk Way Airlines diplomatic flights is Saudi Arabia. In 2016 and 2017, there were 23 diplomatic flights carrying weapons from Bulgaria, Serbia and Azerbaijan to Jeddah and Riyadh. The consignees were VMZ military plant and Transmobile from Bulgaria, Yugoimport from Serbia, and CHIHAZ from Azerbaijan.

The Kingdom does not buy those weapons for itself, as the Saudi army used only western weapons and those weapons are not compatible with its military standard. Therefore, the weapons transported on diplomatic flights end up in the hands of the terrorist militants in Syria and Yemen that Saudi Arabia officially admits supporting.

Report links internationally transported weapons to ISIS

On 5 March 2016, an Azerbaijan Air Force aircraft carried 1700 pcs. RPG-7 (consignor: Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan) and 2500 pcs. PG-7VM (consignor: Transmobile Ltd., Bulgaria) for the Defense Ministry of Saudi Arabia. Diplomatic flights from Burgas Airport to Prince Sultan Airport on 18 and 28 February 2017 each carried a further 5080 psc. 40 mm PG-7V for RPG-7 and 24 978 psc. RGD-5. The weapons were exported by Transmobile, Bulgaria to the Ministry of Defense of Saudi Arabia. Such munitions and RPG-7 originating in Bulgaria can often be seen in videos filmed and posted by the Islamic State on their propaganda channels.

Weapons on Silk Way flight manifests appear on the Syrian battlefield months after arrival in Turkey and Saudi Arabia

The 41.2-ton cargo from Baku and Belgrade included: 7.62 mm cartridges, 12 pcs. sniper rifles, 25 pcs. M12 “Black Spear” caliber 12.7x108mm, 25 psc. RBG 40×46 mm/6M11, and 25 pcs. Coyote machine gun 12.7×108 mm with tripods. The same heavy machine gun appeared in videos and photos posted online by militant groups in Idlib and the province of Hama in Syria a few months later. The aircraft also carried: 1999 psc. M70B1 7.62×39 mm and 25 psc. M69A 82 mm. On 26 February 2016, a video featuring same M69A 82 mm weapons was posted on YouTube by a militant group calling itself Division 13 and fighting north of Aleppo.

Interestingly, the aircraft that carried the same type of weapons landed in Diyarbakir (Turkey), 235 km away from the border with Syria. Another type of weapon, RBG 40 mm/6M11, which was from the same flight and supposedly destined for Congo too, appeared in a video of the Islamic Brigade of Al Safwa in Northern Aleppo.

After Turkey, the aircraft landed in Saudi Arabia and remained there for a day. Afterwards it landed in Congo and Burkina Faso. A week later, there was an attempted military coup in Burkina Faso.

Full report and downloadable copies of leaked documents are also available here.

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Featured image: Faure Gnassingbé (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Unrest swept the West African state of Togo beginning on August 19-20 when an opposition coalition CAP 2015 and the Pan African National Party (PNP) demanded the resignation of the current government of Faure Gnassingbe.

The Gnassingbe family has dominated Togolese politics since 1967 when Faure’s father, Etienne Gnassingbe Eyadema, staged a military coup which overthrew President Nicolas Gunitzky. Four year prior to this putsch on January 13, 1963, Sgt. Etienne Eyadema, had removed and assassinated President Sylvanus Olympio. After the 1967 coup against Gunitzky, Eyadema became president of the country.

On August 30, fifteen members of the PNP were sentenced to terms of detention. The defendants were accused of damaging public property. Twelve other leaders were acquitted due to lack of evidence.

Nonetheless, no witnesses were called to testify during the trial which was held less than two weeks after the arrests occurred. Advocates for the PNP have denounced the legal proceedings as illegitimate.

One of the fifteen leaders sentenced was PNP Secretary General, Dr. Kossi Sama. The opposition figures received prison terms of five to nine months.

A lawyer for the defendants said the trial was politically motivated. The lack of evidence presented and the circumstances surrounding the opposition leaders’ arrests revealed the lack of objectivity by the court.

Paul Dodi Apevon, a lawyer for the defendants, said of the hearings:

“All they’ve said today is that people damaged public property, but no-one has testified to this. There is nothing in the prosecution case that names a witness who could prove that they were seen somewhere doing a specific crime.”

Togo Rebellion Gains Support in Diaspora

Thousands of people went out into the streets on August 19-20 in at least two cities inside Togo, the capital of Lome and the northern city of Sokode, where seven people were reportedly killed. Solidarity protests also occurred in Ghana, Gabon and New York City.

During the course of the unrest, seven soldiers were taken into custody by the opposition forces in response to the deaths of protesters. All seven of the troops were eventually released by the demonstrators.

Togo opposition on the march for removal of neo-colonial regime in Lome (Source: Abayomi Azikiwe)

Protests against the continuing rule of the Rally for the Togolese People (RPT) headed by Faure Gnassingbe were perhaps the most significant in Ghana, where the Ewe nationality is separated between the two neighboring states in the east of the country. Large rallies in Ghana by Togolese nationals prompted requests from various political quarters for mediation by the newly-elected government in Accra headed by New Patriotic Party (NPP) President Nana Dankwa Akufu-Addo.

The August 19-20 demonstrations have demanded the reinstallation of the previous 1992 constitution which mandated a multi-party political system where presidents can only serve two terms in office. Nonetheless, ten years later the constitution was amended to allow Eyadema Gnassingbe to run for a third time. He died in office in 2005.

In contravention to the constitution after Eyadema’s death, Faure was sworn in as president prompting widespread criticism. However, in an election later that year, Faure Gnassingbe won the elections continuing the political rule of the family.

The RPT government has responded with repression by the security forces and the sentencing of key political leaders in the PNP. Police and soldiers utilized teargas and other crowd control methods to clear the streets of opposition protesters.

Gnassingbe is attempting to discredit the PNP and other opposition parties by staging demonstrations in support of the government in Lome. Prime Minister Selorm Klassou led marches of RPT supporters where participants wore t-shirts with the image of Gnassingbe and chanted slogans praising his rule as president.

As a result of the repressive conditions prevailing inside the country, opposition parties cancelled planned demonstration for August 30-31. Protest actions are now scheduled for September 6-7.

They are demanding that all political prisoners be released immediately and a speedy departure of the RPT administration. The opposition coalitions appealed to the population to attend the hearings where political prisoners were sentenced.

In a joint statement released by CAP 2015, the Group of Six and the PNP, they emphasize:

“In response to the expectations of the Togolese people, Cap 2015, the Groupe des 6 and the PNP agreed on Wednesday (Aug. 23) to join forces to bring about the liberation struggle of Togo. Already, Cap 2015, the Group of 6 and the PNP have made arrangements to contact other opposition political parties, civil society organizations, the Diaspora and all patriots, so that they can reinforce this great movement of national liberation.”

International Implications of the Togolese Unrest

At present President Gnassingbe is the Chair of the regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Consequently, pressure is being placed on both ECOWAS and the African Union (AU) to address the present political crisis in Togo.

A civil society organization known as the Foundation for Security and Development (FOSAD) issued a statement on August 25 calling for ECOWAS to acknowledge the demands of Togo’s opposition parties.

The Executive Director of FOSAD, Ms. Afi Yakubu, said in the declaration that:

“The loss of two lives on 19th August is enough for the regional bodies to move in and initiate a dialogue between the Government of Togo and the opposition. It has become obvious that the periodic demonstrations and agitation of the opposition is growing and gaining grounds. It will be unfair and unfortunate to lose another life on this same ground when the indicators are glaring.” (Ghana News Agency)

Another organization in Ghana, the ECOWAS Community Development Media Network (ECOWAS CDP), condemned the violence in Togo as well. The CDP decried the role of the Togolese security forces in their attempts to suppress freedom of speech and association.

The CDP statement related to the role of the security forces emphasizes:

“The counter attacks by government defeats the purpose of a growing democracy and rather portrays Africa as a continent where democracy and rule of law exist only on paper and not in reality. Civil unrests create social and economic inequalities, widens poverty gap and leaves women, children and the physically challenged in extremely vulnerable positions. Women and children are likely to be displaced and subsequently forced to take refuge in neighboring countries if the peace is not restored.”

This same memorandum from the CDP continues noting:

“Infrastructure and systems built over the years could also be destroyed if immediate steps are not taken to arrest the conflict in time. Similarly, intra-regional trade between Togo and other countries within the ECOWAS sub-region could suffer severely in a situation that could lead to the loss of livelihoods of the majority of citizens who could be trading on the commodity markets or engage in transit trade. The CDP Network believes that while the protests are within the rights of the people, the President of Togo and his political allies are expected to protect the very people they seek to govern, and since he cannot govern an empty country without its people, immediate steps should be taken to safeguard the peace of that country.”

Ghana and Togo have a shared history from the early days of independence in the 1950s and 1960s. Ghana’s first Leader of Government Business, Prime Minister and President Dr. Kwame Nkrumah (1951-1966) campaigned for the merger of the two states which were divided by the advent of German, French and British imperialism in West Africa.

Nevertheless, Olympio wanted the succession of the eastern region inhabited by the Ewe population in order for it to join Togo. Despite efforts by Olympio to initially distance the early Togolese government from Paris, eventually France gained greater influence after independence.

Gnassingbe Eyadema, who served for years in the French military fighting on the side of imperialism in both Vietnam in the early 1950s and Algeria in the subsequent years of the struggle by the National Liberation Front (FLN) between 1954-1961), oversaw the expansion of the security forces after 1963. The recent unrest in Togo has resulted in Ghana heightening its security on the border with its neighbor.

A high-level Ghana governmental delegation led by the Ministry for National Security visited Togo on August 25 on a mission to mediate a settlement between the Gnassingbe administration and the opposition led by the PNP. Whether these efforts are successful largely depends upon the decisions of the ruling PKT in Lome related to whether the national bourgeoisie will loosen its control over the Togolese state.

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Public Health Emergency in Southeastern Texas

By Stephen Lendman, August 31, 2017

Houston and surrounding areas face a likely public health disaster because of huge amounts of toxins released into the air and water, turning the area into a dangerously polluted swamp.

Two Explosions at Flooded Arkema Chemical Plant in Texas, Evacuation Zone, Devastating Consequences?

By Tyler Durden, August 31, 2017

As Arkema stores organic peroxides at several locations on the site, the threat of additional explosions remains, it said, adding that the best course of action is to let the fire burn itself out.

As Historic Flooding Grips Texas, Groups Demand Nuclear Plant Be Shut Down

By Jon Queally, August 31, 2017

“This storm and flood is absolutely without precedent even before adding the possibility of a nuclear accident that could further imperil millions of people who are already battling for their lives.”

Houston, Hurricane Harvey and Capitalism’s ‘Unnatural Disaster’. We Need a New System of Political Governance

By Party for Socialism and Liberation, August 31, 2017

The immediate cause of the crisis is record rainfall, in some places over 50 inches in just a few days. But like Katrina and virtually every other major natural disaster, the crisis has been worsened  by an abject lack of government readiness.

Hurricane Harvey Shows What Climate Disruption-Amplified Flooding Can Do

By Dahr Jamail, August 31, 2017

What made Harvey so brutal? Scientific studies have shown for quite some time that Anthropogenic Climate Disruption (ACD) amplifies the impacts of hurricanes by causing them to have larger storm surges, higher wind speeds and greater rainfall amounts. All of these are driven by the amount of heat in the oceans.

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The Korean Powder Keg

August 31st, 2017 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

It was famously dubbed the European power keg, a term deemed appropriate by such strategists as German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. Such figures feared the imminent release of violence in the Balkans, the sort that just might unravel the grand European plan for armed stability at the start of the Twentieth Century. A light, a spark, and we could call the whole strategic game off.

The Korean peninsula is beginning, at least superficially, to resemble such a place, a geographical entity lost in the sound and fury of theatrical nods, prods and incitements. Any ballistic missile you have can be bettered; any military manoeuvre you consider, I can do supremely better.

Such nonsense remains costly nonsense in only a monetary sense, till the next mistake, an error induced by mechanical defect or human misjudgement. (Ultimately, all of this is human all too human.) The mechanisms to draw back, to restrain, are not there in the absence of any bilateral connection between Washington and Pyongyang. That hotline remains distinctly chilly.

This week’s latest round of demonstrative punches featured a missile launch intended to carry a “large-sized nuclear warhead” over Japan. Kim Jong-un has also made his intentions clear through the DPRK news agency that more testing will take place with the Pacific as a potential theatre of operations.

Projectiles overflying Japan are far from new. Pyongyang dared to do so in 1998, 2009, 2012 and 2016. Each time such projectiles were fired, the same reason was cited: they were intended, not as provocative military actions but to deliver satellites.

As students of the North Korean theatre make clear, there is nothing too surprising in these aggressive efforts to accelerate the ballistic missile program.

“If there was a surprise,” poses Ankit Panda, “it’s the rate at which Pyongyang has been crossing various technical milestones.”[1]

Panda, as with some commentators, doesn’t fall for the gruel dished out by such states as Australia and the USA that the Korean despot is mad, bad and dangerous to know. Dangerous and bad, yes, but hardly mad. Each test, he reminds his readers, supplies valuable technical information; each missile venture serves as appropriate, suitably dangerous material to improve the diplomatic position with the United States when these powers reach the negotiating table.

The menacing question concerns those pot holes such a project will encounter on route. Given the paltry machinery in place that would defuse a mistake, or its consequences, the big canvass of political engagement should be considered – now.

It will certainly put to bed such ramblings as those of Peter Jennings of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, who sees war on the peninsula as imminent (give it months, he claims), and an anti-ballistic missile system as necessary, even for distant Australia.

“We have all grown used to the idea that,” scribbles the pessimist, “putting aside the Middle East aside – mass slaughter in military conflict doesn’t happen any longer. That assumption is wrong.”[2]

Jennings’ fearful screed seems even more concerned with Daddy Trump than usurper Kim, a channelled Freudian complex of abandonment should the chips be truly down. In any high noon standoff, will Washington be there to defend its friends? Jennings is far from sure, taking on board the view of US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who has the unsurprising view that the US could not give its allies “a veto when it comes to defending the homeland.”

Such nerve tingling is bound to reverberate well in Pyongyang. There is interest there in dividing the US bloc, keeping Seoul, Tokyo and Canberra concerned that warming Washington’s bed with unequivocal loyalty may be misplaced. This is a true World of Trump, where the self-interested will gain, and where power speaks with deafening volume.

In the event that a big canvass approach is taken to this problem, it will have to start with tentative daubs of paint. There are ventures to be made, perhaps a cessation of military tests and operations such as the ongoing Ulchi-Freedom Guardian exercise, a moratorium on testing, followed by grand reassurances about bringing a brash Kim from the cold, where he is doing rather well.

Elements of this were considered by Chinese officials in the US-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue held in Washington on June 21st, advancing the ideas of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.[3] These entail, first, the suspension of US-South Korean military exercises, traded for a more wishful suspension of North Korean testing and missile development. China would hold the financial strings by keeping an eye on Pyongyang’s compliance.

The grand reassurance, those steps that will ultimately lead to throwing water rather than fire on the powder keg, must, ultimately, come from the United States. Sovereignty and duration are the two factors that matter to the North Korean regime.

Doing so would also reassure a terrified Japan, a state which has spent much in acquiring sea-based interceptors, be it the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 system, and the Standard Missile-3 Aegis.[4] The population, meanwhile, is boning up on evacuation drills and a defence budget with increased funding for anti-ballistic missile defences.

Any united front from Washington cannot, at present, be expected. The visionaries are not so much confused as suffering from poor sight. While Trump may well hector from the platform of Twitter, what matters, ultimately, is that uncomfortable chat with Kim Jong-un. For that reason, even such figures as Secretary of Defence James Mattis are keeping the diplomatic avenue open. (Not such a Mad Dog is Mattis these days.) It is an avenue that will have to be taken before the lunatic fringes seize the centre stage.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: [email protected].

Notes

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At the start of the August congressional recess, Senator Bernie Sanders announced that he will introduce a senate bill this September “to expand Medicare to cover all Americans.” Since the election, the movement for improved Medicare for all, has been urging Sanders to introduce a companion to John Conyers’ HR 676: The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, which currently has a record 117 co-sponsors in the House and is considered the gold standard by the movement.

Recent reports are that Sanders’ bill falls far short of HR 676 in fundamental ways. In fact, Sanders’ bill is a multi-payer system not a single payer system. His bill reportedly would allow private insurers to compete with the public system, allow the wealthy to buy their way out of the public system and allow investor-owned health facilities to continue to profit while providing more expensive and lower quality health care.

As a leader in the Democratic Party in the Senate, Sanders is trying to walk the line between listening to the concerns of his constituency, which overwhelmingly favors single payer health care, and protecting his fellow Democrats, whose campaigns are financed by the medical industrial complex. Sanders needs to side with the movement not those who profit from overly expensive US health care.

Today, August 30, Health Over Profit for Everyone steering committee members and supporters sent the letter at the end of this article to Senator Sanders raising specific concerns and urging Senator Sanders to amend his bill before it is introduced.

CLICK HERE TO SEND AN EMAIL TO SENATOR SANDERS.

There are two realities

It has become the practice in Washington, DC to offer weak bills, which fail to address the roots of the crises we face, to make them ‘politically feasible’. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is an example of this. It was a compromise with the health insurance, pharmaceutical and private hospital industries from the start – an attempt to appease them with public dollars in exchange for greater access to care. The ACA was built on a foundation of private industry even though the priorities of those industries are profit for a few, not health for everyone. That faulty foundation has perpetuated the healthcare crisis – tens of millions without health insurance, tens of millions more who have health insurance but can’t afford health care and poor health outcomes including tens of thousands of deaths each year.

There are two realities that must be considered. The healthcare crisis will not end until a system is put in place that guarantees universal comprehensive and affordable healthcare coverage through National Improved Medicare for All or another form of single payer system such as a national health service. That is what we call the ‘real reality’, and it simply won’t change until there are real changes in policy that solve it. The political reality of what is ‘politically feasible’ is the other reality. This reality will change as people organize and mobilize to demand what they need. Politicians change their positions when they believe it is necessary to maintain their position of power. It is the task of movements to change what is politically feasible.

The movement for National Improved Medicare for All has been working for decades to educate, organize and mobilize the public to change the political reality. And it is working. There is broad public support for Improved Medicare for All and legislation in the House that articulates the demands of the movement. What is needed now is a companion bill in the Senate that is as strong as HR 676. Once that is introduced, activists will work to secure support for it.

Sanders has it backwards. Rather than starting from a position of strong legislation and building support for it, he is starting from a position of weak legislation that he considers to be more politically feasible. By doing so, he is losing the support of the movement that he needs to pass expanded and improved Medicare for all.

To Sen. Sanders: We cannot begin from a position of compromise

Activists versus legislators

This is where it is important to recognize the difference between activists and legislators. Activists and legislators have different priorities. Activists work to solve crises. Their dedication is to an issue. Legislators work to maintain their position, whether it is re-election, seats on committees, good standing with other legislators or continued funding from Wall Street or other wealthy interests. Legislators compromise when they believe it is in their personal best interest. Activists can only compromise when it is in the interest of solving the crisis they face.

To win National Improved Medicare for All, activists need to follow the principles outlined in I.C.U.:

The “I” stands for independence. Activists must keep their allegiance to their issue independent of the agenda of legislators and political parties. The goal is to solve the healthcare crisis, and politicians from both major parties will need to be pressured to support Improved Medicare for All. Remember, the movement is going against the interests of the big money industries that finance members of Congress.

The “C” stands for clarity. Legislators will attempt to throw the movement off track by claiming that there are ‘back doors’ to our goal or smaller incremental steps that are more ‘politically feasible’. They will use language that sounds like it is in alignment with the goals of the movement even though the policies they promote are insufficient or opposed to the goals of the movement. This is happening right now in the movement for Improved Medicare for All. Numerous people, who consider themselves to be progressive but who are connected to the Democratic Party, are writing articles to convince single payer supporters to ask for less.

And the “U” stands for uncompromising. Gandhi is quoted as saying that one cannot compromise on fundamentals because it is all give and no take. When it comes to the healthcare crisis, the smallest incremental step is National Improved Medicare for All. That will create the system and the cost savings needed to provide universal comprehensive coverage. Throughout history, every movement for social transformation has been told that it is asking for too much. When the single payer movement is told that it must compromise, that is no different. The movement is demanding a proven solution to the healthcare crisis, and anything less will not work.

The momentum is on the side of the movement for National Improved Medicare for All. Act now to push Sanders to amend his bill so that it matches HR 676. Sign and share the petition tool, and read the letter below to understand the concerns about Sanders’ bill.

CLICK HERE TO SEND AN EMAIL TO SENATOR SANDERS.


Dear Senator Sanders,

For almost fifteen years the movement for National Improved Medicare for All has organized around HR 676: The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, introduced each session since 2003 by Congressman John Conyers. As you know, HR 676 has 117 co-sponsors so far this year. This legislation is considered by the movement to be the gold standard framework for a universal healthcare system in the United States.

We appreciate your support for Improved Medicare for All and the work that you have done to elevate the national dialogue on Improved Medicare for All. We hope to continue to work with you to make this a reality in the near future.

To that end, we are writing to share our concerns about the legislation that you are planning to introduce. These concerns are based on what we have learned about your legislation without having the benefit of reading a draft of it.

In order to maintain the cohesion and strength of the movement for Improved Medicare for All, the legislation in the senate must be in alignment with HR 676. This is important so that the movement is unified and so that the process begins from a position of asking for what we want and need, rather than starting from a position of compromise. It is the task of the movement to build political support for the legislation in Congress.

Here is a list of our concerns:

  1. We oppose the inclusion of copayments and deductibles in an Improved Medicare for All bill.

As outlined in the recent letter to you from Physicians for a National Health Program, including copayments adds administrative complexity and creates a barrier to care, which leads to delay or avoidance of necessary care. Economic analyses indicate that the administrative and other savings inherent in a well-planned single payer system offset the added expense of eliminating copayments and deductibles. HR 676 does not include copayments. The movement for Improved Medicare for All has coalesced around the elimination of these financial barriers to care.

  1. We support a rapid transition to National Improved Medicare for All. The Medicare system was implemented within a year of passage without using computers. Unlike when Medicare became law, the United States now has basic infrastructure in place for a national health insurance based on Medicare. We urge you to utilize the timeline in HR 676, which would start the universal system in less than two years, rather than delaying or phasing it in by age group over time. Beginning with a universal system allows savings and cost controls that can be used to provide comprehensive benefits without cost sharing.
  2. We support a single payer healthcare system. We understand that your legislation will allow employers to continue to provide employee health insurance that duplicates what the national health insurance covers to avoid conflict with the Employee Retirement and Income Security Act (ERISA). We urge you to include a carve out of ERISA for national health insurance so that the new system is a single payer system. Without doing so, your bill will be a multi-payer system. This is required to achieve administrative simplicity and significant cost savings. HR 676 allows private insurance that does not duplicate the benefits of the system. Employers and unions would be able to provide extra benefits beyond what the system covers.
  3. We support a universal system. We understand that your legislation will allow health providers to opt out of the national health insurance system. This would create a parallel health system for the wealthy and undermine the quality of the public system. Universal systems are of higher quality than tiered systems because they create a social solidarity in which everyone has an interest in making the system the best it can be. We urge you to reject a tiered healthcare system as healthcare is a human right and should not be based on wealth.
  4. We oppose inclusion of investor-owned health facilities. Investor-owned health facilities treat health care, which is a necessary public service, as a commodity for profit. These facilities have an incentive to cut corners, under and over treat and charge higher prices. The result is higher cost and lower quality. We urge you to reject profiteering in the healthcare system so that the bottom line is improving the health of our population, not profits for Wall Street.

The above concerns are based on what we know about your legislation at present. We do not know if they are warranted because we have not read the text. Upon reading it, there may be additional concerns.

We hope that you will share the draft text of your legislation with us and address the above concerns before it is introduced. Our support for your Improved Medicare for All legislation will depend upon whether or not it will serve as a companion to HR 676. If it is, we are ready to work in our states to build political support for it. If the above concerns are not addressed, then your bill will not be a single payer Improved Medicare for All bill and we believe it will undermine the movement for HR 676.

We recognize that legislators tend to compromise from the start to build political support for legislation. This has served as a failed strategy because the final legislation is too weak to accomplish its goals. We suggest a different approach of beginning from a position of what is required to solve the healthcare crisis. We have organized for too long to concede from the start on these fundamental principles.

Signed,

Vanessa Beck, Health Over Profit for Everyone Steering Committee

Claudia Chaufan, MD, California Physicians for a National Health Program*

Andy Coates, MD, past president, Physicians for a National Health Program*

Dena Draskovich, Leader of Indivisible Omaha and disabled citizen*

Margaret Flowers, MD, director of Health Over Profit for Everyone

Leslie Hartley Gise MD, Clinical Professor Psychiatry, University of Hawai’i*

Leigh Haynes, People’s Health Movement-USA*

Joseph Q Jarvis MD MSPH, Utah*

Stephen B. Kemble, MD, Physicians for a National Health Program advisory board, past president of Hawaii Medical Association*

Edgar A Lopez MD, FACS, member, Physicians for a National Health Program, Kentuckians for Single Payer*

Ethel Long-Scott, Women’s Economic Agenda Project (WEAP)*

Eric Naumburg, MD, co-chair Maryland chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program*

Carol Paris, MD, president, Physicians for a National Health Program*

George Pauk, MD

Julie Keller Pease, MD, Topsham, Maine

Julia Robinson, MD, People’s Health Movement-USA*

Anne Scheetz, MD, Illinois Single-Payer Coalition, Physicians for a National Health Program and steering committee of Health Over Profit for Everyone*

James Squire, MD Physicians for a National Health Program Western Washington*

Mariel Scheinberg, OMS 4, Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine*

Lee Stanfield, Health Over Profit for Everyone Steering Committee and Single Payer Tucson NOW*

Bruce Trigg, MD, Public Health and Addiction Consultant

John V. Walsh, MD, California Physicians for a National Health Program*

Robert Zarr, MD, past president, Physicians for a National Health Program*

Kevin Zeese, co-director of Popular Resistance

*For identification purposes only.

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Yesterday a neighbour voiced misgiving about the smart meters which the government decided to offer as part of measures to upgrade our energy supply and tackle climate change. They are said to give the user more control over energy consumption, help him/her to understand the bills, end estimated readings and show the cost of energy used.

In 2014 This is Money (click on link for clearer text) reported fears that two-thirds would not work and the meters would not save money and the Telegraph earlier this month published six important reasons to ’say no to a smart meter’ which may be read by following this link. But not one was related to misgivings which have been reported for some years.

In 2012, environmental health Professor David Carpenter, founder of Albany School of Public Health, and author of 370 peer-reviewed publications, issued a public letter on the plausible toxic risks of intensive, pulsed-microwave smart metering. His letter Smart-meters: Correcting the Gross Misinformation was signed by 50 international health experts:

“We, the undersigned … have co-authored hundreds of peer-reviewed studies on the health effects of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) … Mass deployment of smart grids could expose large chunks of the general population to alarming risk scenarios … More than a thousand studies done on low intensity, high frequency, non-ionizing radiationgoing back at least fifty years, show … biochemical changes which … may lead to diseases.” 

Findings: ‘minimal risk’ – aka some risk; ‘exaggerated concerns’ – aka some but possibly lower causes for concern

In 2013, the fears of residents’ opposed to smart meters, which led to bans in two regions of California were  dismissed in the Huffington Post as ‘pseudoscience, making the greatest inroads in the United States’:

“Some claim ‘electromagnetic hypersensitivity,’ or in other words that radiation from devices such as smart meters cause dizziness, fatigue, headaches, seizures, memory loss or other maladies. Others claim that smart meters cause cancer. Similar episodes have occurred in the UK, Canada and elsewhere”.

A 2010 13-nation study commissioned by the World Health Organization was cited in the Huffington Post article as clear scientific evidence of safety as regards  cancer, because it found “at most a very minimal and partially contradictory link between cancer risk and heavy cell-phone usage. Along this line, concerns that cell phone usage by pregnant mothers endangers their fetuses are wildly exaggerated”. On 31st May 2011, the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), referring to mobile phone usage, classified radio frequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans, based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer.

In April this year this site reported that Sarah Knapton, Science Editor of the Telegraph, had reported that new analysis of government statistics by researchers at the charity Children with Cancer UK found that there are now 1,300 more cancer cases a year compared with 1998, the first time all data sets were published – a 40% rise.

Dr Denis Henshaw, Professor of Human Radiation Effects at Bristol University, the scientific adviser for Children with Cancer UK, said many elements of modern lifestyles are to blame:

  • air pollution was by far the biggest culprit
  • obesity,
  • pesticides
  • solvents inhaled during pregnancy,
  • circadian rhythm disruption through too much bright light at night,
  • radiation from x-rays and CT scans,
  • smoking during and after pregnancy,
  • magnetic fields from cables and power lines,
  • magnetic fields from gadgets in homes,
  • and potentially, radiation from mobile phones.

British Gas quotes Public Health England:

“PHE states there is no evidence to suggest that exposure to the radio waves produced by smart meters poses any health risk. In addition, they state that the exposure from smart meters are lower than from other appliances we use today like televisions and microwaves, and likely to be thousands of times lower than from a mobile phone. Their website states: ‘the evidence to date suggests exposures to the radio-waves produced by smart meters do not pose a risk to health’. For more details on smart meters and health, see PHE’s website”. The article has been removed from the website and is now archived – standard practice for controversial material.

Better to be safe than sorry? Adopt the precautionary principle detailed in Article 191 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (EU), which “aims at ensuring a higher level of environmental protection through preventative decision-taking in the case of risk . . . the scope of this principle . . . covers consumer policy, European legislation concerning food and human, animal and plant health.

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Government forces, led by the Syrian Republican Guard, have overrun the ISIS defense north of Sukhna and liberated Al Khuwayliyah, Khan al-Baghala, the Subai’i Mount, the Daba Mount, the Khashm Baghal Mount and the nearby areas, according to pro-government sources.

If reports are confirmed, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies are now in a striking distance from the ISIS-held village of Kabbajb located in only about 50km from Deir Ezzor.

East of Salamiyah, the SAA and the National Defense Forces (NDF) have captured Jawasiyat Janubi, Haddaj, Rasm Zaynab, Taybah, Tahmaz, Bir Ghazalah, Kherbet Amarah and Wadi Khullah taking control over the entire eastern flank of the ISIS-held town of Uqayribat.

ISIS is in a no win situation in the area and soon government forces will take control over the entire eastern countryside of Salamiyah.

The SAA and tribal forces have been repelling another large ISIS attack in southern Raqqah. Late on Monday, ISIS deployed its elite forces and launched another offensive against government forces near Maadan entering in the Wadi Ubayd oil field, Wadi al-Tarab, Rajm Sulayman, Nuzayzah, as-Salam Alaykum and the nearby areas. On Tuesday, government forces launched a counter-attack and reportedly regained the points lost to ISIS south of Ghanem Ali. However, on Wednesday, an intense fighting continued in the area.

ISIS was using manpower and military equipment that had been freed after the large retreat from central Syria.

According to ISIS, government forces lost at least 50 soldiers and 3 vehicles in the recent clashes. The group also claimed that it seized few artillery guns, at least 1 battle tank as well as other weapons and munitions during the clashes in the Ghanem Ali area.

The US-led coalition’s warplanes accidentally carried out airstrikes on the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the city of Raqqah, according to reports in the Arab media. The incident reportedly took place in al-Haramiyeh neighborhood and resulted in killing of 10 SDF fighters.

US-led coalition troops have engaged Turkish-backed militants in a firefight near the SDF-held town of Manbij in northern Syria, the coalition spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon said on Tuesday. The firefight between US-led coalition troops and pro-Turkish militants was the recent in a series of tensions between Washington and Ankara over the US support to Kurdish militias remaining a core of the SDF. Ankara describes the US support to the Kurdish-dominated SDF as a threat to its security.

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Flagship Resort in Damascus Backs to Peaceful Life

August 31st, 2017 by Sophie Mangal

Featured image: Partly destroyed altar of Zabadani Church

According to the statements of local authorities, Zabadani resort town in Damascus province, which is located 25 kilometers from the Syrian capital, is now fully liberated after the fierce clashes between Syrian Army and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham militants (ex. Al-Nusra front). Residents who left the city more than five years ago began to return home and manage their life.

It is worth noting that prior to the outbreak of hostilities Zabadani was regarded as one of the flagship resort in Syria. The town was popular due to its favorable location near the Barada River (not far from the Syrian-Lebanese border) and attracted tourists with its extraordinary mountain scenery and picturesque landscapes.

Happy people on the streets of newly liberated Zabadani

In recent years the town was run by HTS militants, but after the defeat they were forced to retreat, leaving behind only ruins. Before the war, the population of the town was around 190,000 people. Currently this figure is only 80,000.

Unfortunately, most of the houses in the town are partly destroyed because of militant’s actions, and now they will have to be demolished to build new buildings. Rehabilitation works is not yet in full swing, but the Syrian engineers have already conducted mine- sweeping in the area. This fact allowed builders to prepare the central part of the town for large-scale reconstruction works.

Destroyed streets of Zabadani

The restoration of the railway station and railway communication with Damascus is also planned in nearest future (the rail road that connects the capitals of Syria and Lebanon goes through Zabadani).

Local residents reported to Inside Syria military correspondence, that the electricity and water supply have already been restored as well as an access to drinking water. At the same time, a number of grocery stores and pharmacies were reopened.

The majority of Zabadani population is orthodox Christians, so the local authorities decided to rebuild the main Orthodox Church, as it altar was partly destroyed as a result of a mortar attack. Despite the partial destruction of the Church, the priests are holding church services and parishioners bring saved icons.

A Sunday Church service

Restoration of peace in Zabadani and in Damascus province as a whole has become possible due to cessation of hostilities and establishment of de-escalation zones. Via such initiatives by the Syrian government and the guarantor states of Syrian ceasefire (Iran, Russia and Turkey) more and more militants laying down weapons and joining nationwide reconciliation plan. For its part, civilians can safely return to their homes, knowing that they are no longer threatened.

Reports concerning the liberation of the new settlements have started to emerge more frequently. This brings hope that the entire country will be soon completely liberated from terrorist organizations and illegal armed groups.
Despite the war in Syria isn’t yet over, the de-escalation zones have actually accelerated post-war reconstruction process. The government forces and the nation demonstrated to the whole world an incredible willpower in fighting terrorism and the persistence of character in confronting all kinds of external threats.

Sophie Mangal is a special investigative correspondent and co-editor at Inside Syria Media Center where this article was originally published.

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UN Secretary-General’s Hollow Call to Lift Gaza Blockade

August 31st, 2017 by Stephen Lendman

VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: stephenlendman.org (Home – Stephen Lendman). Contact at [email protected].

When has the UN done anything significant to help beleaguered Palestinians, especially Gazans suffocating under illegal blockade – imposed for political, not security, reasons!

The UN serves Western interests, mainly America’s, doing nothing to hold Israel accountable for decades of high crimes against millions of Palestinians and regional countries.

No one becomes UN secretary-general without Washington’s approval, appointed to serve its interests and those of its allies.

The world body head and key officials consistently fail to observe their own charter principles – doing nothing “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind.”

They never denounce flagrant US-dominated NATO high crimes of war, against humanity and genocide.

They don’t uphold fundamental human rights when violators are Western countries.

After publishing an important Richard Falk/Virginia Tilley report, titled “Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid,” discussing how Israel persecutes and dominates defenseless Palestinians, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres ordered it pulled, instead of praising its accuracy and urging more reports like it.

It’s what his charter principles obligate him to do – upholding human rights, “maintain(ing) international peace and security,” serving the “common interest,” doing the right things at all times, according to international law.

On Sunday, Guterres arrived in Israel on the pretext of helping to find a solution to the longstanding Israeli/Palestinian conflict – knowing it’s unattainable because Washington and Israel want endless conflict and instability. Peace defeats their sinister agenda.

Following meetings with Netanyahu and Israeli officials, Guterres met with longtime Israeli collaborator Abbas, followed by a photo-op in Gaza.

He called for what he’s done nothing to achieve – Palestinian national reconciliation and lifting of Israel’s decade-long illegal blockade.

Calling Gaza “one of the most dramatic humanitarian crises” he’s seen – ignored the world body doing nothing to end it since illegally imposed in mid-2007 – in response to Hamas’ January 2006 democratic election as Palestine’s legitimate government.

Like his predecessors, Guterres hasn’t acknowledged it, pretending Abbas serves legitimately – selected, not elected, Palestinian president.

Saying it’s “important to open closures,” announcing release of $4 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund for UN operations in Gaza, repeating his support for a two-state solution, urging Israel and Palestinians live side-by-side in peace, and calling on Palestinian factions to unit accomplished nothing toward ending their suffering at the hands of a ruthless occupier.

Ahead of his press conference, families of Palestinian political prisoners protested near Israel’s Erez border crossing with Gaza against Guterres’ entry to the Territory.

He’s an imperial tool like his predecessors. He declined to meet with Hamas’ leadership, in deference to Israel and Washington, an unacceptable affront.

His visit accomplished nothing toward ending Palestinian suffering – Washington and Israel united against their interests, Guterres doing nothing to change things responsibly during seven months in office. Expect nothing from him ahead except meaningless rhetoric, the way the UN always operates.

As secretary-general, Guterres is part of the longstanding problem, not the solution.

VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: stephenlendman.org (Home – Stephen Lendman). Contact at [email protected].

My newest book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

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The US Military Project For the World

August 31st, 2017 by Thierry Meyssan

In the first part of this article, I pointed out the fact that currently, President Bashar al-Assad is the only personality who has adapted to the new “grand US strategy” – all the others continue to think as if the present conflicts were simply a continuation of those we have been experiencing since the end of the Second World War. They persist in interpreting these events as tentative by the United States to hog natural resources for themselves by organising the overthrow of the pertinent governments.

As I intend to demonstrate, I believe that they are wrong, and that their error could hasten humanity down the road to hell.

US strategic thought

For the last 70 years, the obsession of US strategists has not been to defend their people, but to maintain their military superiority over the rest of the world. During the decade between the dissolution of the USSR and the terrorist attacks of 9/11, they searched for ways to intimidate those who resisted them.

Harlan K. Ullman developed the idea of terrorising populations by dealing them a horrifying blow to the head (Shock and awe) [1]. This was the idea behind the use of the atomic bomb against the Japanese and the bombing of Baghdad with a storm of cruise missiles.

The Straussians (meaning the disciples of philosopher Leo Strauss) dreamed of waging and winning several wars at once (Full-spectrum dominance). This led to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, placed under a common command [2].

Admiral Arthur K. Cebrowski suggested reorganising the armies in order to facilitate the treatment and sharing of a wealth of data simultaneously. In this way, robots would one day be able to indicate the best tactics instantaneously [3]. As we shall see, the major reforms he initiated were soon to produce poisonous fruit.

US neo-imperialist thought

These ideas and fantasies first of all led President Bush and the Navy to organise the world’s most wide-ranging network for international kidnapping and torture, which created 80,000 victims. Then President Obama set up an assassination programme mainly using drones, but also commandos, which operates in 80 countries, and enjoys an annual budget of 14 billion dollars [4].

As from 9/11, Admiral Cebrowski’s assistant, Thomas P. M. Barnett, has given numerous conferences at the Pentagon and in military academies in order to announce the shape of the new map of the world according to the Pentagon [5]. This project was made possible by the structural reforms of US armies – these reforms are the source of this new vision of the world. At first, it seemed so crazy that foreign observers too quickly considered it as one more piece of rhetoric aimed at striking fear into the people they wanted to dominate.

Barnett declared that in order to maintain their hegemony over the world, the United States would have to “settle for less”, in other words, to divide the world in two. On one side, the stable states (the members of the G8 and their allies), on the other, the rest of the world, considered only as a simple reservoir of natural resources. Contrary to his predecessors, Barnett no longer considered access to these resources as vital for Washington, but claimed that they would only be accessible to the stable states by transit via the services of the US army. From now on, it was necessary to systematically destroy all state structures in the reservoir of resources, so that one day, no-one would be able to oppose the will of Washington, nor deal directly with the stable states.

During his State of the Union speech in January 1980, President Carter announced his doctrine – Washington considered that the supply of its economy with oil from the Gulf was a question of national security [6]. Following that, the Pentagon created CentCom in order to control the region. But today, Washington takes less oil from Iraq and Libya than it exploited before those wars – and it doesn’t care !

Destroying the state structures is to operate a plunge into chaos, a concept borrowed from Leo Strauss, but to which Barnett gives new meaning. For the Jewish philosopher, the Jewish people can no longer trust democracies after the failure of the Weimar Republic and the Shoah. The only way to protect itself from a new form of Nazism, is to establish its own world dictatorship – in the name of Good, of course. It would therefore be necessary to destroy certain resistant states, drag them into chaos and rebuild them according to different laws [7]. This is what Condolezza Rice said during the first days of the 2006 war against Lebanon, when Israel still seemed victorious –

“I do not see the point of diplomacy if it’s purpose is to return to the status quo ante between Israel and Lebanon. I think that would be a mistake. What we are seeing here, in a way, is the beginning, the contractions of the birth of a new Middle East, and whatever we do, we have to be sure that we are pushing towards the new Middle East and that we are not returning to the old”.

On the contrary, for Barnett, not only the few resistant people should be forced into chaos, but all those who have not attained a certain standard of life – and once they are reduced to chaos, they must be kept there.

In fact, the influence of the Straussians has diminished at the Pentagon since the death of Andrew Marshall, who created the idea of the “pivot to Asia” [8].

One of the great differences between the thinking of Barnett and that of his predecessors is that war should not be waged against specific states for political reason, but against regions of the world because they are not integrated into the global economic system. Of course, we will start with one country or another, but we will favour contagion until everything is destroyed, just as we are seeing in the Greater Middle East. Today, tank warfare is raging in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt (Sinaï), Palestine, Lebanon (Ain al-Hilweh and Ras Baalbeck), Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia (Qatif), Bahreïn, Yemen, Turkey (Diyarbakır), and Afghanistan.

This is why Barnett’s neo-imperialist strategy will necessarily be based on elements of the rhetoric of Bernard Lewis and Samuel Huntington, the “war of civilisations” [9]. Since it is impossible to justify our indifference to the fate of the people from the reservoir of natural resources, we can always persuade ourselves that our civilisations are incompatible.

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According to this map, taken from one of Thomas P. M. Barnett’s power point slides, presented at a conference held at the Pentagon in 2003, every state in the pink zone must be destroyed. This project has nothing to with the struggle between classes at the national level nor with exploiting natural resources. Once they are done with the expanded Middle East, the US strategists are preparing to reduce the North West of Latin America to ruins.

The implementation of US neo-imperialism

This is precisely the policy which has been in operation since 9/11. None of the wars which were started have yet come to an end. For 16 years, on a daily basis, the living conditions of the Afghan people have become increasingly more terrible and more dangerous. The reconstruction of their state, which was touted to be planned on the model of Germany and Japan after the Second World War, has not yet begun. The presence of NATO troops has not improved the life of the Afghan people, but on the contrary, has made it worse. We are obliged to note the fact that it is today the cause of the problem. Despite the feel-good speeches on international aid, these troops are there only to deepen and maintain the chaos.

Never once, when NATO troops intervened, have the official reasons for the war been shown to be true – neither against Afghanistan (the responsibility of the Taliban in the attacks of 9/11), nor Iraq (President Hussein’s support for the 9/11 terrorists and the preparation of weapons of mass destruction to attack the USA), nor Libya (the bombing of its own people by the army), nor in Syria (the dictatorship of President Assad and the Alaouite cult). And never once has the overthrow of a government ever put an end to these wars. They all continue without interruption, no matter who is in power.

The “Arab Springs”, which were born of an idea from MI6 and directly inspired by the “Arab Revolt of 1916” and the exploits of Lawrence of Arabia, were included in the same US strategy. Tunisia has become ungovernable. Luckily, Egypt was taken back by its army and is today making efforts to heal. Libya has become a battlefield, not since the Security Council resolution aimed at protecting the population, but since the assassination of Mouamar Kadhafi and the victory of NATO. Syria is an exception, because the state never fell into the hanads of the Muslim Brotherhood, which prevented them from dragging the country into chaos. But numerous jihadist groups, born of the Brotherhood, have controlled – and still control – parts of the territory, where they have indeed sown chaos. Neither the Daesh Caliphate, nor Idleb under Al-Qaïda, are states where Islam may flourish, but zones of terror without schools or hospitals.

It is probable that, thanks to its people, its army and its Russian, Lebanese and Iranian allies, Syria will manage to escape the destiny planned for it by Washington, but the Greater Near East will continue to burn until the people there understand their enemies’ plans for them. We now see that the same process of destruction has begun in the North-West of Latin America. The Western medias speak with disdain about the troubles in Venezuela, but the war that is beginning there will not be limited to that country – it will spread throughout the whole region, although the economic and political conditions of the states which compose it are very different.

The limits of US neo-imperialism

The US strategists like to compare their power to that of the Roman Empire. But that empire brought security and opulence to the peoples they conquered and integrated. It built monuments and rationalised their societies. On the contrary, US neo-imperialism does not intend to offer anything to the people of the stable states, nor to the people of the reservoirs of natural resources. It plans to racket the former and to destroy the social connections which bind the latter together. Above all, it does not want to exterminate the people of the reservoirs, but needs for them to suffer so that the chaos in which they live will prevent the stable states from going to them for natural resources without the protection of the US armies.

Until now, the imperialist project ran on the principle that “you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs”. It admitted that it had committed collateral massacres in order to extend its domination. From now on, it is planning generalised massacres in order to impose its authority – definitively.

US neo-imperialism supposes that the other states of the G8 and their allies will agree to allow their overseas interests to be “protected” by US armies. That should pose no problem with the European Union, which has already been emasculated for a long time, but will have to be negotiated with the United Kingdom, and will be impossible with Russia and China.

Recalling its “special relationship” with Washington, London has already asked to be associated with the US project for governing the world. That was the point of Theresa May’s visit to the United States in January 2017, but she has so far received no answer [10].

Apart from that, it is inconceivable that the US armies will ensure the security of the “Silk Roads” as they do today with their British opposite numbers for the sea and air routes. Similarly, it is unthinkable for them to force Russia to genuflect, which has just been excluded from the G8 because of its engagement in Syria and Crimea.

Translated by Pete Kimberley

Theirry Meyssan is a political consultant, President-founder of the Réseau Voltaire (Voltaire Network). Latest work in French – Sous nos Yeux. Du 11-Septembre à Donald Trump (Right Before our Eyes. From 9/11 to Donald Trump).

Notes

[1] Shock and awe: achieving rapid dominance, Harlan K. Ullman & al., ACT Center for Advanced Concepts and Technology, 1996.

[2] Full Spectrum Dominance. U.S. Power in Iraq and Beyond, Rahul Mahajan, Seven Stories Press, 2003.

[3] Network Centric Warfare : Developing and Leveraging Information Superiority, David S. Alberts, John J. Garstka & Frederick P. Stein, CCRP, 1999.

[4] Predator empire : drone warfare and full spectrum dominance, Ian G. R. Shaw, University of Minnesota Press, 2016.

[5] The Pentagon’s New Map, Thomas P. M. Barnett, Putnam Publishing Group, 2004.

[6] “State of the Union Address 1980”, by Jimmy Carter, Voltaire Network, 23 January 1980.

[7] Certain specialists of the political thinking of Leo Strauss interpret this in a completely different way. As far as I am concerned, I am not interested in what the philosopher thought, but what is being said by those who, rightly or wrongly, speak to the Pentagon in his name. Political Ideas of Leo Strauss, Shadia B. Drury, Palgrave Macmillan, 1988. Leo Strauss and the Politics of American Empire, Anne Norton, Yale University Press, 2005. Leo Strauss and the conservative movement in America : a critical appraisal, Paul Edward Gottfried, Cambridge University Press, 2011. Straussophobia: Defending Leo Strauss and Straussians Against Shadia Drury and Other Accusers, Peter Minowitz, Lexington Books, 2016.

[8] The Last Warrior: Andrew Marshall and the Shaping of Modern American Defense Strategy, Chapter 9, Andrew F. Krepinevich & Barry D. Watts, Basic Books, 2015.

[9] « The Clash of Civilizations ? » & « The West Unique, Not Universal », Foreign Affairs, 1993 & 1996 ; The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, Samuel Huntington, Simon & Schuster, 1996.

[10] “Theresa May addresses US Republican leaders”, by Theresa May, Voltaire Network, 27 January 2017.

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Curing Incurable Leukemia

August 31st, 2017 by Tony Cartalucci

Featured image: A virtual cure for leukemia – paid for by taxpayers and charity, hijacked and sold for nearly half a million dollars by pharmaceutical giant, Novartis. 

While Americans squabble over irrelevant political diversions, a revolutionary breakthrough in human healthcare has yielded its first FDA approval – a therapy that literally cures otherwise incurable leukemia.

It is the first of many therapies that re-engineer human cells in living patients to reprogram more resilient immune systems and even repair damaged or aging organs.

What would seem like headline news has instead squeaked through as a whimper – not because it is insignificant – but because of how this monumental breakthrough has been hijacked by special interests and how these interests plan on making Americans pay twice for its development behind a smokescreen of public ignorance.

Thanks to a media focused more on dividing and distracting Americans regarding irrelevant political charades, due diligence in researching the story was either sidestepped intentionally, or a result of unprofessional and incompetent journalism.

Taxpayers and Charity Paid First

For the past 20 years, American taxpayers through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) helped fund a revolutionary cancer treatment that sidesteps devastating and ineffective chemotherapy and instead, re-engineers a patient’s own immune system to find and destroy tumors.

LLS supporters organize events all over the country to raise tens of millions of dollars for cancer research including the development of therapies and the funding of clinical trials. LLS money was key to what Novartis alleges is its own “breakthrough.” 

In clinical trials, patients suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) who were not responding to traditional therapies and would otherwise die, were not only cured, but would enjoy permanent remission.

The most stunning success story was that of Emily Whitehead, a young girl who is approaching her sixth year in remission. At the time of her experimental treatment in 2012, she was estimated to only have days left to live.

Literally on her deathbed in 2012, Emily Whitehead has been cancer free after receiving treatment in clinical trials funded by charity. The media is now rewriting history, attributing the breakthrough and thriving patients like Emily Whitehead to Novartis. 

The revolutionary procedure has paved the way for similar “gene therapies” augmenting the human immune system to fight off and eradicate some of the most confounding diseases of our time.

The therapies are designed in a laboratory and introduced to patients through a single infusion. For a pharmaceutical industry built on perpetually treating symptoms with refillable prescriptions rather than producing permanent and enduring cures, this new form of therapy represents the end of their business model.

MIT’s Technology Review, in an article titled, “FDA Approves Groundbreaking Gene Therapy for Cancer: The treatment will be sold by Novartis for $475,000,” would report:

David Mitchell, founder of an advocacy group called Patients for Affordable Drugs, said in a statement that the $475,000 cost is “excessive” and claims the federal government spent $200 million in early research on CAR-T therapy before Novartis purchased rights to the treatment. The group recently met with the company to appeal for a “fair” price for its therapy. Previous estimates predicted a price tag between $600,000 to $725,000.

Technology Review, along with other mainstream media sources including the New York Times, NPR, CNN, and the London Guardian have all categorically failed to mention the role of both the NIH and charity foundations like LLS.

It is either a matter of lazy journalism where press releases are mindlessly churned into “news articles,” or deliberate disinformation to leave readers intentionally uninformed, protecting the interests of pharmaceutical corporations in the same manner the press has protected and promoted wars for the defense industry.

In most articles, concerted attempts are made to portray the $475,000 price tag as more reasonable than previous “expert” estimates. One article published by STAT even claimed the nearly half million price tag was a “bargain.”

Few articles even mentioned David Mitchell, and fewer still mentioned his point regarding the role public funding played in “Novartis’ breakthrough.” LLS’ role in developing the therapy was only mentioned in one article returned by Google News, published by Markets Insider.

The Sick and Dying Will Pay Again 

Novartis clearly did not develop this breakthrough. It merely bought the license to commercialize and market it to the public.

While Novartis claims the staggering price tag of $475,000 per patient represents the only way for it to recuperate its so-far undisclosed investment in commercialization, many suspect Novartis along with other pharmaceutical corporations of hijacking public and charity funded gene therapies to set a new precedent – one in which a single infusion that provides a lifetime of health is paid for by the patient, insurers, and taxpayers for a lifetime – regardless of the actual cost of producing it.

In reality, the cost of curing Emily Whitehead in 2012 under highly experimental conditions, using customized equipment cost under $20,000. The head researcher, University of Pennsylvania’s Dr. Carl Junehas repeatedly stated in public that while the cost was under $20,000 when he and his team provided the therapy, upon commercialization, with automation it should cost even less.

Dr. Carl June headed the team that developed the CAR T cell gene therapy that saved Emily Whitehead’s life. He has publicly stated that under experimental conditions, the therapy cost under $20,000, yet now Novartis is charging $475,000 per patient even after “commercialization.” 

In a 2014 lecture by Dr. Carl June, published online by University of California Television, he would also note specifically (emphasis added):

We couldn’t get funding from the National Cancer Institute to do that trial. You know, we’re in a real problem, disarray right now in national funding of research. It was all done by philanthropy. We received a lot of money over the last 15 years from the Leukemia [& Lymphoma] Society and they’ve been the primary ones that developed this. There was no industry support available. 

While undoubtedly Novartis invested money in commercializing the therapy, it surely did not invest in producing the breakthrough. And if taxpayers and charity can fund the bulk of the research and development behind this revolutionary breakthrough, it certainly can create a trust to provide affordable public access to it.

Stealing from Charity

It appears that Novartis and other pharmaceutical giants have used charity organizations like LLS as a means to subsidize their research and development budgets, shifting costs of development to the charitable, and keeping the profits to themselves.

In an e-mail from LLS in regards to allegations that Novartis is using charity to pad its research and development budget, representatives stated:

At LLS, we work toward finding cures and ensuring blood cancer patients have access to treatments. Over our 68-year history, we have invested more than $1 billion in research to advance lifesaving treatments and cures.

Over two decades ago, LLS began investing in research conducted by Carl June, MD, and his team at the University of Pennsylvania and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. We funded the academic researchers working to develop this treatment, and had no role in Novartis’s licensing of the therapy. 

Our partnership with Novartis is completely unrelated to CAR-T development. Novartis, as do other pharmaceutical companies, provides funding to LLS to support our patient education and support services.

Not only did the LLS representative fail to counter claims against Novartis and its abuse of charity, it appears that LLS is itself confirming Novartis licensed and is overcharging for a therapy it played no role in actually developing.

When asked to clarify LLS’ relationship with Novartis and what role – if any – Novartis played in developing a therapy it is now charging nearly half a million dollars for per patient, LLS representatives failed to respond.

Gene Therapy Will Change Everything – Once Big-Pharma is Out of the Picture 

Imagine a future where heart failure or cancer requires only a trip to a local clinic where healthcare professionals access a database of therapies, synthesize one for a patient and provide them with an infusion in a single day. Imagine only needing to come a day or week later for a follow up to check on the therapy’s efficacy. Imagine paying as much for this as you would for treating a sore throat.

This is a future quickly becoming a possibility – but for now – only a possibility.

With pharmaceutical giants like Novartis wielding immense lobbying and media influence and seeking to protect their multi-billion dollar multinational monopolies over human healthcare, such a future will only ever be a possibility – not a reality.

Demolishing these antiquated obstacles to human progress first requires raising awareness of not only the pharmaceutical industry’s deep corruption and predatory abuse, but also the technical aspects of emerging technologies like gene therapy that do not cost “$475,000” to provide to patients and with genuine research, development, and commercialization, could be offered for less than current and ineffective therapies already on the market.

So-called “professional journalists” have categorically failed to provide even the most basic information regarding the background and development of this latest breakthrough, giving Novartis a head-start in extorting the public the villain’s sum of nearly half a million dollars for a therapy already paid for by taxpayers and charity.

Such injustice can only continue as long as it goes unreported by the media and uncontested by activists and innovators. Increased awareness means a public more able to manage its resources and support for charity and private enterprise that is able to provide a complete, transparent, and equitable pipeline from research and development to providing affordable access to patients.

Technology is offering modern civilization the tools to cure virtually any ailment for increasingly affordable sums, but only if we are able to move past the antiquated pharmaceutical industry attempting to horde and restrict access to them.

This article was originally published by Land Destroyer Report.

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Featured image: “Empire always, then and now, cloaks itself in the garments of mystification and deceit,” says Bill Ayers. (Photo: Lloyd Lee / Flickr)

Seven months into the so-called administration of President Donald Trump, things are going further off the rails with each passing day. From the fires of war to attacks on health care to the stoking of the white supremacist far right, living in the bowels of a rotting empire has, perhaps, never been as intense.

As questions swirl around the nature of contemporary resistance, another period of rising protest comes to mind: the Vietnam-war era, when radical political activism in this country reached new levels.

In 1970, the Weather Underground Organization (WUO), a group that emerged out of Students for a Democratic Society, issued a “Declaration of a State of War” against the US government, and shortly thereafter began carrying out bombings against symbols of US Empire, including even the Pentagon itself. Targeting mostly government buildings and several banks — and taking care not to injure human beings — the actions were designed to “bring the war home” in order to highlight imperial injustices against the oppressed, and the egregious violence of US imperialism.

Having interviewed the founding members of this group before, Truthout now brings you their perspectives on the media, why they did what they did, and where they see things going from here in the US and beyond.

The Role of the Media

Bernardine Dohrn, one of the co-founders and a leader of the WUO, discussed the media’s coverage of the Vietnam War and other liberation movements around the world at that time. What she shared is particularly poignant, given the crisis of the media in the age of President Donald Trump.

She spoke of the US military being keenly aware of the need to control the media’s message during the Vietnam War.

“[The Media’s role was] so important that the US military learned to never again allow independent journalists into their war zones,” Dohrn explained. “[Significantly], the mainstream media never again allowed images of human people, families, women or children who suffer the consequences of US bombings or invasions.”

With the dominant media avoiding these responsibilities, one of the many roles the WUO played was, according to Dohrn, to communicate to the public the ways in which people, cultures and whole civilizations were suffering under US air strikes and CIA repression.

“The media was plenty corporatized during the ’60s and ’70s, and it was the anti-war movement in concert with the Black Freedom Movement and the returning vets who changed the hearts and minds of the US people from 1965-1968,” she said.

WUO member David Gilbert told Truthout he believes it was the strength of the anti-war movement, and the US losses in Vietnam, that finally pushed sectors of the media to start reporting some of the truth about the war.

He echoes Dohrn’s point that the media was already corporatized back then (though the conglomerates were not nearly as large as they are today), and the pro-war bias of the media was just as real as it is now.

“An example was the use of napalm bombs, designed to cling to and burn through flesh, on civilians,” Gilbert said. “The mainstream media completely whited-out these horrible war crimes.”

In fact, in January 1967 a radical magazine, Ramparts, published a series of color photos of children and babies burned by napalm.

“That’s the point when some of us became absolutely frantic to stop the war,” Gilbert said. “But it also exposed the mainstream media for what they were covering up.”

According to Gilbert, by 1967 a whole network of small radical papers had a combined readership of roughly 6 million, making up a crucial wing of the movement. Of course, it was therefore ripe for targeting by intelligence agencies.

“An important part of the FBI and police offensive to beat the radical movements was to destroy the radical media, a campaign that’s detailed in Geoffrey Rips’s UnAmerican Activities,” he said.

By the late ’60s, largely due to constant pressure from the increasingly powerful anti-war movement, portions of the media started to come around to presenting some of the realities of the Vietnam War. Plus, by then, it was clear the US was likely going to lose the war, US brutality abroad was being exposed to the world, and the political upheaval on the home front was becoming white hot.

Gilbert went on to explain how, then as now,

“The hawks waged a concerted campaign to blame that on ‘the liberal media,’ to the point that this lie has become accepted today.”

At that time, the myth of the “liberal media” accomplished several things for the right wing, according to Gilbert.

“It’s covered up the truth that the US military machine was defeated by a Global South nation, it’s convinced the public that the ‘truth lies somewhere in between’ the hawks and the media, when in fact the media didn’t do nearly enough to expose the injustice and horrors of the war, and it’s intimidated the media, which fell into line as pure propaganda organs in subsequent wars.”

Naomi Jaffe, one of the WUO’s founding members who joined in solidarity with movements for Black self-determination, agreed with Gilbert in that pressure from the anti-war movement was a leading factor that pushed the media to share more images of the war. However, she was quite critical of the overall role the media played during Vietnam.

“Remember the Gulf of Tonkin? Not a hint of independent reporting ever questioned it until long after the war was over,” Jaffe told Truthout. “The body counts? Regular reports of how the US was winning by killing more ‘Viet Cong’ every week than could possibly have existed overall.”

Bill Ayers, who is married to Dohrn, was also a leader and cofounder of the WUO.

“Empire always, then and now, cloaks itself in the garments of mystification and deceit,” Ayers said. “The message from the corporate media was unambiguous: the US loves peace and fights only when it must, and always selflessly in defense of freedom and democracy.”

For example, Ayers says, the New York Times announced that it saw the “light at the end of the tunnel” — the turning point when the war would at long last be turned around and won — days before the decisive defeat during the Tet Offensive in 1968. In 1966, Walter Cronkite, CBS anchor and the most trusted journalist of his generation, presented a fawning interview with the puppet and fascist Nguyen Cao Ky and called him the George Washington of Viet Nam.

“The lies and misdirection go on and on,” Ayers said. “And don’t believe the narcissistic media today rewriting its role in moving the country against the war 50 years ago, making itself a forerunner and a major actor, heroizing its efforts and turning reality on its head.”

Ayers said it wasn’t the media that played a role in helping end the war in Vietnam, it was, by far, the decisive actions of the Vietnamese people themselves “in defeating the most potent military force on earth.” He pointed out,

“Vietnam was engaged in an authentic social revolution, deep and broad, in which peasants and workers were massively engaged in the overthrow of colonialism and foreign control as well as feudal relationships and capitalism itself.”

Moreover, Ayers said, this revolution was part of “the anti-colonial and Third World moment, a context that allowed us to understand the revolution in Vietnam as part of a world phenomenon sweeping from South Africa to Egypt to Chile to Indonesia.”

He also pointed to “the important role of the underground — popular or alternative or movement — press in the US, and its ability to tap international sources like the Cuban media, for example, to uncover the truth of events.”

He sees the typical narrative — the idea that the military draft made the war real in the eyes of the US public, and the media cemented that reality, helping to end the war — as skewed. It “buys into a simplistic and largely self-serving explanation,” Ayers said. “The Vietnamese revolution and war resistance at home impacted the media coverage, not the other way around.”

A Mandate for Solidarity

The WUO was grounded in a politics of solidarity with the oppressed, including economic, status and race-based oppression.

“The most immediate impetus to underground action was the government’s refusal to end the war and, most particularly, the lethal attacks on the Black Liberation Movement,” Gilbert said, of why he joined. “Twenty-eight Black Panthers were killed between 1968 and 1971. So, first and foremost we moved on to illegal actions as a fundamental mandate for solidarity, in the context, as argued above, of the sense of responsibility, of world revolution.”

Gilbert referred to the bombings carried out by the WUO as “armed propaganda,” as there was no pretense of having a military impact, in addition to the fact that the bombings were carried out with the greatest care not to kill or injure any people.

“The point of the actions is their effect on consciousness by spotlighting the forces — government and corporate — responsible for damage and death to the oppressed, and to show people that there are still creative and daring ways to fight the powers-that-be despite repression,” Gilbert explained. “Each action was accompanied by a well-reasoned communiqué explaining the political issues involved.”

Ayers explained that they acted because they were outraged at the injustices, and because they thought a more just world was within their reach — that their sacrifices would count for something.

“These elements are each indispensable if we are to ignite a progressive social struggle,” he said. “Knowing that things are unjust or terrible is never quite enough. We always need a vision and a palpable sense of the world we’re fighting for.”

Ayers noted that this vision is essential for a sense of sustained motivation, at both the individual and the collective levels.

“The world is as it is, a mass of contradictions and tragedies, rich with beauty and human accomplishment and possibility, vicious with human denial — an organism that both drains us and replenishes us, gives us life and kills us,” he said. “What gets me up in the morning is all the unnecessary suffering, the undeserved pain, and also a sense that we can and must do better.”

Jaffe pointed out that US “mainstream society” — the recipient of the loot of US global dominance — does not represent the majority of humanity.

“Our view of ‘mainstream’ needs to be global and relate to those whom Arundhati Roy calls ‘the subjects of Empire,'” she said. “One of the most electrifying breakthroughs in consciousness for me, as I think for many others of my generation, was Malcolm X exhorting us to stop referring to people of color as ‘minorities,’ because people of color are the vast majority of the people of the world.”

All of the WUO members agreed that the confluence of consciousness between the most oppressed groups in the US and the rest of the world created the wave of hope and possibility that — without ever being “mainstream” — came to define the ’60s and ’70s. That type of confluence is crucial, Jaffe said, for any real liberation.

“It would necessitate the overthrow of the US ruling class and its role as the dominant world power,” she said. “But understood as being in the interests of the vast majority of humanity, that goal becomes imaginable.”

Sense of Urgency

An imaginable set of goals is essential because, Gilbert points out, our resistance to the US ruling class must take on a sense of great urgency.

“Capitalism has us hurtling towards a climate catastrophe that could ruin the Earth as a habitat for any sizable human population and, of course, has exterminated or threatened countless other species,” he said. “Already, the effects of climate change have killed huge numbers of people, greatly intensified local conflicts over diminishing resources and created large numbers of desperate climate refugees.”

Gilbert sees climate disruption as having the potential to unite people around the world behind a shared goal. However, he says, climate disruption doesn’t affect everyone equally, and it’s crucial to center the most marginalized people, who tend to be the most impacted.

“The movement can’t be on the terms of a relatively privileged, small sector,” Gilbert said. “We always need to put the interests, visions, aspirations of the most oppressed, the vast majority, in the forefront.”

Ayers also sees the need for a massive social revolution. He argues that we must become even more radical, in the strict sense of the term — we must reach more thoroughly to the root of things.

“We need to study, learn, organize, talk to strangers, mobilize, display our ethical aspirations publicly,” he said, adding that on the important issues of the last two centuries, political radicals from Jane Addams and Emma Goldman, to John Brown and Harriet Tubman, to Eugene Debs and W.E.B. Du Bois, have gotten it right.

“The legacy continues with the work of Ella Baker and Septima Clark, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X … and on up to today,” Ayers added. “Of course, as Ella Baker said, ‘Martin didn’t create the movement, the movement created Martin,’ and it’s true: For every remembered leader there were hundreds, thousands putting their shoulders on history’s wheel.”

Dwelling in Possibility

Today, future prospects certainly appear dire on many fronts.

Nevertheless, all of the WUO members Truthout interviewed still have their eyes fixed on the goals of true justice and liberation, and they believe it remains possible to bring about that liberated world. From the US’s rigid educational system to its brutal incarceration system to the violence of borders, Ayers says a wholly different vision is within reach. The promise of that radical vision is what sparked WUO’s actions decades ago, and it remains relevant.

“We wanted to say goodbye to schooling that’s arid, dry, self-referencing and self-satisfied, to teaching as a trivial pursuit of the obvious, to deference, didacticism, ego and complacency in a heartless world, to prisons and border guards and walls — whether in Palestine or in Texas — and to quarantines, deletions and closures,” Ayers explained. “We wanted to welcome the unknown, to say hello to jumping off the edge, to endlessly learning how to live again and how to love anew, to the dance of the dialectic.”

During the advent of the WUO and its time of existence, Ayers said they tried to embrace relentless curiosity, simple acts of kindness, the complexity and wonder of humanity, the poetics of resistance, history, agency, world peace and inner peace. They wanted to embrace the surprising and contradictory harmonies of love at all times — the hope that love held out for a better world.

In other words, it wasn’t a small vision.

“We wanted free love and free land, free food and free housing, dancing in the streets and daring to taste it all with a kiss,” Ayers said. “So, my expansive and expanding dreams are not realized, of course, not yet, not in my lifetime, but neither are they dimmed nor diminished. I’ve tried to live with one foot in the mud and muck of the world as it is, and another foot striving toward a world that could be, but is not yet. Like other freedom lovers, I’m still trying to dwell in possibility.”

Dohrn draws much strength from the many current justice movements like Black Lives Matter, and Undocumented and Unafraid, because,

“They point to the world we want to live in, as they invite solidarity and build unity.”

Jaffe acknowledges that while the Trump victory “certainly stirred many to action,” she believes that hope, not despair, is the best spur to action. She believes it is necessary to have a radical analysis that goes beyond the mainstream tenets emerging in the post-election furor.

“We need an analysis that sees Democrats and Republicans as two wings of the same ruling class and Trump not as a blip on the march of progress,” she said, “but a continuation of the white supremacy, corporatization, totalitarian surveillance, mass incarceration, and global aggression that are firmly grounded in [the US’s] 400-year history of enslavement and genocide.”

Ayers commented that he has no nostalgia for the ’60s, which have now been thoroughly commodified and sold back to us as a set of distorted myths and symbols.

“It happened — and it was neither as brilliant and ecstatic as some would have it, nor the devil’s own workshop as others insist — and it’s time to move on,” he said. “Whatever it was, it remains prelude to the necessary changes and fundamental upheavals just ahead. Let’s get busy living, loving, linking arms and rising up right now.”

What do we need in order to jump in? Ayers sees the necessary tools everywhere.

“Humor and art, protest and spectacle, the quiet, patient intervention and the angry and urgent thrust — and the rhythm of and recipe for activism is always the same: We open our eyes and look unblinkingly at the world as we find it; we are astonished by the beauty and horrified at the suffering all around us; we dive into the wreckage and swim as hard as we can toward a distant and indistinct shore; we dry ourselves off, doubt that our efforts made enough difference, and so we rethink, recalibrate, look again and dive in once more,” Ayers said. “Organize, mobilize, agitate, resist, build the social movement, connect. Repeat for a lifetime.”

Dahr Jamail, a Truthout staff reporter, is the author of The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan (Haymarket Books, 2009), and Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq (Haymarket Books, 2007). Jamail reported from Iraq for more than a year, as well as from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Turkey over the last 10 years, and has won the Martha Gellhorn Award for Investigative Journalism, among other awards.

Copyright, Truthout. Reprinted with permission.

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Video: ISIS Goes All-in in Southern Raqqah

August 31st, 2017 by South Front

On August 30, the ISIS-linked news agency Amaq claimed that ISIS fighters killed two Russian military service members near Uqayribat town in the eastern Hama countryside. Amaq claimed that the two Russian soldiers and several Syrian soldiers were killed when ISIS repelled their attack towards Uqayribat town.

However, from the photos released by Amaq, it cannot be concluded that the bodies were those of Russian military servicemen. The two soldiers could be some private military contractors operating on the side of the Syrian government or just members of some pro-government group.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) 5th Assault Corps’ ISIS Hunters liberated al-Mushayrifah and deployed to within only about 2 km from the southeastern entrance to Uqayribat.

Separately, government troops took control of Mukaymen Janoubi near Taybah.

ISIS deployed additional reinforcements to southern Raqqah in order to boost its offensive against the SAA Tiger Forces and pro-government tribal forces in the area.

Clashes are still ongoing in the Ghanim Ali village area and both sides claim that they are taking upper hand in this battle. However, it seems that ISIS will not be able to deliver enough damage to stop the SAA advance in central Syria.

The SAA further advanced along the Palmyra-Deir Ezzor road and recaptured the Harbisha area from ISIS. The advance came amid intense airstrikes on ISIS targets in central Syria.

Syrian and Russian warplanes bombed ISIS in Aksh, Um Mail, Abu Jubilat, al-Qastal al-Shamali, al-Qastal al-Wastani, and al-Qastal al-Janubi in the eastern Hama countryside, and in Saria’at Junid, the al-Qriah hill and al-Mukbat areas around Deir Ezzor city.

The Russian Military Police has deployed in the towns of Shehba and Afrin in northern Syria in order to set up military observation posts and to provide additional security to the area, according to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Further deployments of Russian Military Police units in the YPG-held area in northwestern Syria show the growing Russian influence in the area. Meanwhile, Kurdish militias in northeastern Syria remain under almost a direct influence of the US-led coalition.

Voiceover By Harold Hoover

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In discussions about the ‘roles’ countries play in the new multipolar world, it is often said that Russia provides the geo-political muscle while China provides the economic engine of a world where the US is no longer a singular hegemon.

However, with Russia’s economy turning from resilient to growing and with China becoming ever more involved in world-affairs ever since the announcement of One Belt—One Road in 2013, it is becoming clear that China too has a great deal to say about the wider geo-strategic environment.

For the last three years, the US had crossed several geo-strategic red lines for Russia. First there was the fascist coup in Kiev which occurred in February of 2014. Simultaneous to the US engineering a coup that brought a deeply hostile regime to a country which for centuries was an integral part of Russia and which since 1991 represented a fraternal nation, America was busy arming and funding Salafist terrorists in Syria, a country where Russia has maintained a Navy base at Tartus since 1971, one year after Hafez al-Assad became President.

Russia was not going to idly sit by as the US crossed a bridge too far. The answer came in two forms: first there was instant recognition of Crimea’s referendum on re-joining Russia and in September of 2015, it came in the form of Russia agreeing to militarily support the Syrian government’s fight against terrorism.

For China, Donald Trump is rapidly crossing as many redlines in his first years of office as Obama did vis-à-vis Russia in his second term.

From Trump sabre rattling over Korea to repeated violations of Chinese maritime sovereignty in the South and East China seas to Trump’s burgeoning public friendship with Prime Minister Modi of India, China is not at all happy with Trump.

Now by threatening a trade war with China and by accusing China’s ally Pakistan of being inept and unhelpful in Afghanistan while calling on India to particulate actively in the conflict, China may have reached a similar boiling point that Russia did over Syria and Ukraine.

China has already made its position clear on the matter, defending the actions of its Pakistani ally and warning both Washington and New Delhi not to make any moves that could threaten Chinese interests in the region.

Afghanistan and neighboring countries.

China’s Foreign Ministery spokeswoman Hua Chunying has stated that Pakistan “has made great sacrifices and contributions to fighting terrorism”. She added,

“The international community should fully affirm the efforts by Pakistan”.

Hua further stated,

“Donald Trump talked about close US-Indian relations, we are glad to see the development of normal and friendly relations between these countries if these relations do not harm other countries’ interests and create positive conditions for regional development”.

The meaning of this message is clear enough: Do not use India to interfere in China’s regional interests, namely its economic cooperation with Pakistan and other endeavours to begin the initial phase of One Belt—One Road in South Asia.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is vital to One Belt—One Road and both Beijing and Islamabad openly acknowledge this. The prominence of Pakistan in One Belt—One Road is such that neither country can afford to have anyone sabotage or interfere with the process.

Therefore, it is in China and Pakistan’s joint interest to finalise a tentative Afghanistan peace process as quickly as possible. This means a peace process that would involve dialogue between Kabul and the Taliban.

Donald Trump has said that at some stage the Taliban could come into an America led peace process, but not before US troops re-double their fight against the Taliban, a fight which Taliban leaders have promised America will lose. In other words, Trump’s strategy is hardly worthy of the name, just as the same could be said of his two immediate predecessors in the White House.

The US has continually agitated China on all sides of its One Belt—One Road commercial superhighway. By brazenly inviting India to dig deeper into Afghanistan while criticising Pakistan in very definite terms, Donald Trump may just have done enough to lead China to do in South Asia what Russia did in Syria—stand up for an ally and drawing a line firmly in the sand against US expansionism and geo-political meddling.

Adam Garrie is managing editor at The Duran.

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Featured image: Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaks to supporters of Donald Trump at a rally in Phoenix, Arizona, June 18, 2016. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

On Friday, less than two weeks after refusing to unequivocally condemn the white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Donald Trump granted former Arizona Sheriff Joseph Arpaio a rare presidential pardon, calling the notorious racist an “American patriot.” The pardon is noteworthy for many reasons.

First, it demonstrates Trump’s utter disdain for the rule of law. US District Judge Susan Bolton convicted Arpaio of criminal contempt for showing “flagrant disregard” of a 2011 court order that he cease racial profiling. Nevertheless, for 18 months, Arpaio, who called himself “America’s toughest sheriff,” continued his racist practice of detaining Latinos without reasonable suspicion.

“The fact that Arpaio is quite literally convicted of being in criminal contempt of the courts is a big selling point for a president who has evinced nothing but contempt for the judicial branch since before he took office,” Dahlia Lithwick wrote at Salon.

Second, the pardon sends a clear message to Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn and anyone else whom special counsel Robert Mueller subpoenas to testify in his Russia investigation. Trump could pardon them, too, if they refuse to cooperate and are held in contempt of court. No need to make a deal and testify against the president or his family members in order to receive lenient treatment.

Third, the pardon telegraphs to Trump’s right-wing base that he’s still pursuing their racist, anti-immigrant agenda even though presidential advisors Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, both widely associated with white nationalism, have left the White House.

“The white supremacists, Neo-Nazis and others the president excused heard his endorsement of racist and illegal policing loud and clear yet again,” Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, stated.

Perhaps most significant is what the pardon says about the president. It demonstrates beyond doubt that Trump and Arpaio share the same values. Both men are racist to the core. Neither has any respect for the law. And both retaliate against those who criticize their actions. Like Trump, Arpaio attacked judges who ruled against him.

Both Trump and Arpaio championed the “birther movement.”

The editorial board of the Arizona Republic wrote,

“By pardoning Arpaio, Trump made it clear that institutional racism is not just OK with him. It is a goal.” The pardon “elevates Arpaio once again to the pantheon of those who see institutional racism as something that made America great.”

“Pattern or Practice of Unconstitutional Policing”

After a comprehensive investigation, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division concluded in a 2011 report that Arpaio’s Sheriff’s Department in Maricopa County, Arizona, engaged in a “pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing.” The 22-page report  documented the use of excessive force, routine punishment for detainees who didn’t speak English, a “wall of distrust” between officers and Latino residents, and “a chronic culture of disregard for basic legal and constitutional obligations.”

The report came to the following conclusions:

  • Latino drivers in Maricopa County were four to nine times more likely to be stopped than similarly situated non-Latino drivers.
  • Roughly one-fifth of the stops of Latino drivers were conducted without probable cause or reasonable suspicion, in violation of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.
  • Under Arpaio’s leadership, deputy sheriffs treated Latinos “as if they [were] all undocumented, regardless of whether a legitimate factual basis [existed] to suspect” they were illegally present in the US.
  • Arpaio’s office “engaged in a pattern or practice of retaliating against individuals for exercising their First Amendment right to free speech.” People who mounted peaceful protests against the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office were illegally arrested.

Cruel and Sadistic Practices

For many years, Arpaio, who served as Maricopa County Sheriff for 24 years, housed detainees in what he called his personal “concentration camp,” an outdoor jail in Phoenix. Temperatures reached 145 degrees in the camp, causing shoes to melt. In order to humiliate people incarcerated in the jail, Arpaio made them wear striped uniforms and pink underwear. They were forced to work on chain gangs.

A federal appeals court ruled that Arpaio’s deputies unlawfully withheld adequate food and maintained dangerously high temperatures. The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals determined those practices violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments.

The Justice Department report found that Arpaio’s deputy struck a Latino man with his patrol car, “pinning D.D. under the vehicle and dragging him for more than ten feet,” causing serious injury, including broken bones. Another deputy forcibly removed a Latino man from his car, “twisting his arm, head, and neck and causing E.E. to fall and hit his face on the pavement.”

Nathan Robinson, writing for Current Affairs, documented the beating and tasering of a man with schizophrenia. Arpaio’s deputies “dragged Atencio’s unconscious body back to his cell, where he was stripped naked and left on the floor.” He never regained consciousness. Another man died after deputies beat and suffocated him in a “restraint chair.” The families of these men received settlements of $8 million and $1 million, respectively.

The Phoenix New Times tweeted:

“Prisoners there died at an alarming rate, often without explanation.”

“One of [Arpaio’s] jailers nearly broke the neck of a paraplegic guy who had the temerity to ask for a catheter.”

“By 2015, [Arpaio’s] fondness for racial profiling had cost the county more than $44 million [in settlements of lawsuits against the office].”

Opposition to the Pardon

Civil liberties organizations have lined up to denounce Friday’s pardon.

Juan Cartagena, president and general counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF, wrote on HuffPost that Trump’s pardon of Arpaio “is both a slap in the face to the thousands of Latinos who were racially profiled in Arizona and an unbridled rejection of the role of our federal courts to curb unconstitutional behavior.”

The pardon imperils people of color, said Janet Murguia, president of UnidosUS.

“Every person of color in this nation has been put in harm’s way because of this action and that is unconscionable,” she noted.

National Lawyers Guild President Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan stated,

“This act of pardon is not one of mercy, but an act of aggression, signaling to all that Arpaio’s policies of terrorizing and condoning violence against Latinos and immigrants will not only be tolerated, but encouraged.”

Some leading Republicans, including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) and Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), also criticized the pardon.

“The president has the authority to make this pardon,” McCain observed, “but doing so at this time undermines his claim for the respect of the rule of law as Mr. Arpaio has shown no remorse for his actions.”

Ryan said,

“Law enforcement officials have a special responsibility to respect the rights of everyone in the United States. We should not allow anyone to believe that responsibility is diminished by this pardon.”

Trump has suggested that police officers effectuating arrests should bang suspects’ heads against police car doors, which would violate the Fourth Amendment. The conservative Washington Examiner editorialized that the pardon demonstrates “once again Trump really means ‘busting heads’ when he says ‘law and order’…. But ‘law and order,’ if the words have any meaning, has to apply to government actors as well. Lawless sheriffs promote disorder, and that’s what Arpaio did to get himself convicted.”

Three days before issuing the pardon, Trump telegraphed his intention to a gaggle of supporters at the Phoenix Convention Center. When he asked the crowd,

“Was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?” they applauded.

Arpaio was not convicted for doing his job. He was convicted for violating the law he was sworn to uphold. Trump, a soulmate of the racist, sadistic Arpaio, pardoned him for shamelessly breaking the law.

Alejandra Gomez, co-executive director of Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA), said,

“Arpaio built his work on terror and fear…. Arpaio built the foundation for Trump’s agenda.”

Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild and deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. Her books include The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse; Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law and Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues. Visit her website: MarjorieCohn.com. Follow her on Twitter: @MarjorieCohn.

Copyright, Truthout. Reprinted with permission.

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Monday, August 28, a group of Serbs expelled during the First Kosovo War took advantage of the law on the return of refugees and came to the so-called Republic of Kosovo to rebuild the church in the Mishutishte village. A bus with former residents of the village was stopped in Prizren by units of the Kosovo special police forces who arrested the former 74-year-old resident of Bogdan Mitrovich village accusing him of committing criminal and war crimes during the war in Kosovo.

The detention aroused indignation among the rest of the bus passengers but the special forces threatening with weapons took the old man with him and put him in Prizren prison. Marko Djuric, the director of the government Office for Kosovo and Metohija, declared the incident was an act of ethnic cleansing and religious pressure on the Serb minority in the province.

Such actions conducted by the police special forces really causes bewilderment regarding the First war in Kosovo occurred in 1998-1999. At that time, the arrested peasant was 55-56 years old so it means that Bogdan could not serve in the army or the police and his main occupation was agriculture. But he seemed an especially dangerous criminal for the Kosovo authorities and therefore his arrest was arranged with maximum solemnity and pomp – with the special forces, screams, threats and detention of the weakest and most vulnerable old man.

As a result of this operation, the restoration of the temple was completely disrupted. The bus with the Serbs was sent back and their permission for reconstruction was canceled. Thus, the government of Pristina not only held an indicative and illegal detention but also violated the right of people to freedom of religion.

The church in the village of Mishutishte needs to be rebuilt and people cannot return to their homes. By their actions, the Kosovo government show their intention to see the Serbs neither as an ethnic minority nor as a separate religious group. Such a case is another vivid example of the complete discrepancy between the statements of the President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci made on the western camera and the terrifying reality.

Goran Lompar is a free journalist and postgraduate at University of Donja Gorica, Montenegro.

Featured image is from the author.

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Israeli occupation forces demolished Palestinian schools in four West Bank communities ahead of the new scholastic year, depriving several hundred children of proper classrooms and forcing some to meet under the sun or in makeshift tents.

All the schools were destroyed under the pretext that they did not have building permits, which are almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain.

A total of 55 schools are presently threatened with demolition and “stop work” edicts.

Last month, Holland complained to the Israeli government after Dutch solar panels providing electricity to a school in the village of Abu Nawar were confiscated.

Norwegian Refugee Council Director Hanibal Abiy Worku said:

“Just when they were due to return to the classroom, Palestinian children are discovering their schools are being destroyed.”

He asked:

“What threat do these schools pose to the Israeli authorities? What are they planning to achieve by denying thousands of children their fundamental right to education?”

Roy Yellin of the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem answered his second question by saying the systematic demolitions are “designed to drive Palestinians from their land”.

And their country, if I might add.

More than 300 EU and internationally funded structures in the occupied West Bank were demolished last year, the highest number since Palestinians began to record demolitions.

As the occupying power, Israel is legally obliged to provide education, as well as other essential services to Palestinians living in areas under its control. But Israel has never assumed its obligations, which have largely been performed by the UN, foreign governments and international organisations.

Consequently, Israel has escaped its fundamental responsibilities. Having achieved freedom from these responsibilities, Israel has routinely tried to destroy facilities — schools, wells, roads and public structures — provided to the Palestinians by outsiders who rarely complain or make a high-profile fuss.

Demolition and destruction of anything meant to serve Palestinians is one aspect of Israel’s policy towards them.

Israel is granted everlasting impunity and is certain to ignore the European Union demand that it reconstruct or return the school buildings it has demolished or seized.

At this time, Israel can afford to dismiss criticism and complaints from Europe and the Arab world for two reasons. First, the international community is preoccupied with multiple crises in this region and derived from this region: the Syrian conflict, the campaign against Daesh, the pointless war destroying Yemen, and taqfiri-linked attacks in Europe and elsewhere.

Few politicians notice what Israel is doing in the occupied Palestinian territories, formerly the focus of regional international attention.

Concern for Palestinians has been overtaken by massive flows of refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere into Europe.

Empathy and a desire to help these refugees have ebbed, and European governments are now deporting to Greece those who first landed in that country although it is suffering from a devastating economic crisis.

Second, the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency has created serious uncertainty over the country’s regional policies.

Although Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had more than 20 meetings with US officials since Trump’s inauguration, he has no idea what his administration plans to do on the Palestine-Israel front.

He said Washington is in “chaos”.

While some Trump envoys reiterated to him the US commitment to the “two-state solution”, involving the emergence of a Palestinian state, and US opposition to colony construction the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Abbas said he does not know what these envoys told Israel.

Although he refrained from saying so, Abbas’ concern must have deepened when, during the visit of Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and envoy Jason Greenblatt, the “two-state solution” was not mentioned although it has been the basis of US and international peace efforts for more than two decades.

Palestinian officials quoted by Israel’s liberal daily Haaretz said the US team was not only “biased in Israel’s favour”, but was also “reciting [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s talking points”.

This is hardly surprising because Kushner, Greenblatt and US Ambassador David Friedman are all strong supporters of Israel.

Kushner’s father has long been a donor to Israel. When visiting the US on one occasion, Netanyahu spent a night at the Kushners’ residence in New Jersey. Kushner enterprises hold in partnership with Israeli businessman Raz Steinmetz $150 million worth of real estate in 15 buildings in New York City.

Greenblatt has lived for some time and performed guard duty at the Jewish seminary at the Etzion Bloc in the West Bank and does not see colonies as obstacles to peace.

His only contacts with Palestinians were with builders, gardeners and menial workers in that colony.

Friedman heads an institution that opposes the two-state solution and provides $2 million a year to the West Bank Bet El colony, which secured donations from the Kushner family.

Trump has not ruled out the two-state solution, but said that only the sides can decide on how to proceed: “I’m looking at two-state and one-state” models, he stated last February, after taking office.

This means, of course, that Israel decides, as it is militarily, politically and economically in a position to dictate terms to the Palestinians and the international community.

Israel wants neither option, but to maintain the status quo while it builds colonies and demolishes Palestinian schools and houses.

The New York Times headline on the story about Kushner’s visit said it all:

“For US Mideast negotiators, keeping the Palestinians involved is a victory.”

After they left Ramallah, Kushner and Greenblatt issued a “two-line statement saying that the Palestinians had agreed not to bolt from the American-led process”, Mark Landler, reported.

The Palestinians should have bolted precisely because it is led by Trump, and Trump has no intention of doing anything that would displease Netanyahu and Israel’s hawks.

Arab cheerleaders who expressed optimism over the Kushner-Greenblatt visit should be ashamed. Instead, they should have encouraged Abbas to boycott.

The Palestinians’ only option is to resume initiatives on the international scene in the hope that European governments — fed up with the US refusal to exert pressure on Netanyahu and Israel’s cruel demolitions of European-built Palestinian schools and other essential infrastructure — might tell the Israelis “enough!”

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Public Health Emergency in Southeastern Texas

August 31st, 2017 by Stephen Lendman

VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: stephenlendman.org (Home – Stephen Lendman). Contact at [email protected].

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price declared a public health emergency in Texas in response to Hurricane Harvey, saying:

“HHS is taking the necessary measures and has mobilized the resources to provide immediate assistance to those affected by Hurricane Harvey.”

“We recognize the gravity of the situation in Texas, and the declaration of a public health emergency will provide additional flexibility and authority to help those who have been impacted by the storm.”

Conditions are dire following six days of heavy rain and severe flooding. Over 20 Houston area hospitals evacuated patients and/or temporarily closed, others operating under emergency conditions.

Roads to the University of Texas MD Anderson’s Medical Center remain impassable. On Monday, employees were told to stay home until further notice.

Houston and surrounding areas face a likely public health disaster because of huge amounts of toxins released into the air and water, turning the area into a dangerously polluted swamp.

Entire neighborhoods and waterways are contaminated. Residents in flood-ravaged areas are in harm’s way, vulnerable to cholera, other bacterial infections, Legionnaires’ disease, mosquito-borne viruses, and other health hazards.

The Texas Department of State Health Services warned of an emerging public health nightmare.

“Avoid contact with floodwater,” it said.

“It may contain bacteria, hazardous chemicals and dangerous debris. Never eat foods that have touched flood water. Even canned goods could become contaminated. Drinking water may not be available or safe to drink.”

Good advice is hard to heed by countless numbers of people surrounded by water flooding their homes, streets and surrounding areas.

On Monday, two reservoirs were drained, drinking water likely becoming mixed with floodwater, making it unsafe to ingest.

Mayo Clinic physician James Steckelberg urged caution in handling food and medications exposed to flood or unsafe municipal water following a hurricane.

Contamination from “toxins or germs…can cause illnesses, such as hepatitis or gastroenteritis” from E. coli bacteria, he explained.

Eat nothing possibly contaminated by floodwater, including “food packed in plastic, paper and cardboard containers that have been water damaged. Discard food and beverage containers with screw caps, snap lids, crimped caps (soda bottles), twist caps or flip tops, and home-canned food if they have come into contact with flood water. These containers cannot be disinfected. If in doubt, throw it out.”

Other bacteria in floodwaters can cause diarrhea, vomiting, fever, stomach pain and dehydration. Bacterial illnesses are commonplace after major hurricanes like Katrina, Harvey and others – some cases causing fatalities.

Bacteria can be ingested by inhaling airborne moisture droplets. Floodwaters make structures vulnerable to mold, especially in humid areas like Houston and surroundings with electrical power out.

Mold spores risk serious health problems, including asthma, other respiratory problems, rashes and allergies.

It’s mosquito season in Texas, standing water hospitable to them multiplying. Some carry serious viruses, including Zika and yellow fever.

The nightmare caused by torrential rain and flooding won’t end when normal weather conditions return.

It’s just beginning, given a continuing public health emergency and enormous task of rebuilding and restoring what severe hurricane winds and rain destroyed.

The cost alone will be staggering. Households inadequately insured or without coverage are out of luck.

According to FEMA data, Houston’s Harris County has 25,000 fewer flood-insured properties than in 2012, a 9% drop. Pasadena southeast of Houston is down nearly 20% – Baytown east of Houston down 22%.

Former federal flood insurance program head Robert Hunter called the figures “unbelievable,” adding:

“When you start to see policies drop like this, FEMA should have done something about this.”

He estimates fewer than two in 10 homeowners with flood damage have insurance coverage.

Tropical Storm Allison 16 years ago was the last area big one causing severe flooding. Uninsured homeowners thought they were safe, a costly mistake they’re stuck with.

VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: stephenlendman.org (Home – Stephen Lendman). Contact at [email protected].

My newest book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Featured image is from FierceHealthcare.

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Featured image: Manuela Cadelli, President of the Magistrates’ Union of Belgium (Source: @ManuelaCadelli / Twitter)

The time for rhetorical reservations is over. Things have to be called by their name to make it possible for a co-ordinated democratic reaction to be initiated, above all in the public services.

Liberalism was a doctrine derived  from the philosophy of Enlightenment, at once political and economic, which aimed at imposing on the state the necessary distance for ensuring respect for liberties and the coming of democratic emancipation. It was the motor for the arrival, and the continuing progress, of Western democracies.

Neoliberalism is a form of economism in our day that strikes at every moment at every sector of our community. It is a form of extremism.

Fascism may be defined as the subordination of every part of the State to a totalitarian and nihilistic ideology.

I argue that neoliberalism is a species of fascism because the economy has  brought under subjection not only the government of democratic countries but also every aspect of our thought.

The state is now at the disposal of the economy and of finance, which treat it as a subordinate and lord over it to an extent that puts the common good in jeopardy.

The austerity that is demanded by the financial milieu has become a supreme value, replacing politics. Saving money precludes pursuing any other public objective. It is reaching the point where claims are being made that the principle of budgetary orthodoxy should be included in state constitutions. A mockery is being made of the notion of public service.

The nihilism that results from this makes possible the dismissal of universalism and the most evident humanistic values: solidarity, fraternity, integration and respect for all and for differences.

There is no place any more even for classical economic theory: work was formerly an element in demand, and to that extent there was respect for workers; international finance has made of it a mere adjustment variable.

Every totalitarianism starts as distortion of language, as in the novel by George Orwell. Neoliberalism has its Newspeak and strategies of communication that enable it to deform reality.  In this spirit, every budgetary cut is represented as an instance of modernization of the sectors concerned. If some of the most deprived are no longer  reimbursed for medical expenses and so stop visiting the dentist, this is modernization of social security in action!

Abstraction predominates in public discussion so as to occlude the implications for human beings.

Thus, in relation to migrants, it is imperative that the need for hosting them does not lead to public appeals that our finances could not accommodate. Is it In the same way that other individuals qualify for assistance out of considerations of national solidarity?

The cult of evaluation 

Social Darwinism predominates, assigning the most stringent performance requirements to everyone and everything: to be weak is to fail. The foundations of our culture are overturned: every humanist premise is disqualified or demonetized because neoliberalism has the monopoly of rationality and realism. Margaret Thatcher said it in 1985: “There is no alternative.” Everything else is utopianism, unreason and regression. The virtue of debate and conflicting perspectives are discredited because history is ruled by necessity.

This subculture harbours an existential threat of its own: shortcomings of performance condemn one to disappearance while at the same time everyone is charged with inefficiency and obliged to justify everything. Trust is broken. Evaluation reigns,  and with it the bureaucracy which imposes definition and research of a plethora of targets, and indicators with which one must comply. Creativity and the critical spirit are stifled by management. And everyone is beating his breast about the wastage and inertia of which he is guilty.

The neglect of justice   

The neoliberal ideology generates a normativity that competes with the laws of parliament. The democratic power of law is compromised. Given that they represent a concrete embodiment of liberty and emancipation, and given the potential to prevent abuse that they impose, laws and procedures have begun to look like obstacles.

The power of the judiciary, which has the ability to oppose the will of the ruling circles, must also be checkmated.  The Belgian judicial system is in any case underfunded. In 2015 it came last in a European ranking that included all states located between the Atlantic and the Urals. In two years the government has managed to take away the independence given to it under the Constitution so that it can play the counterbalancing role citizens expect of it. The aim of this undertaking is clearly that there should no longer be justice in Belgium.

 A caste above the Many

But the dominant class doesn’t prescribe for itself the same medicine it wants to see ordinary citizens taking:  well-ordered austerity  begins with others. The economist Thomas Piketty has perfectly described this in his study of inequality and capitalism in the twenty-first century (French edition, Seuil, 2013).

In spite of the crisis of 2008 and the hand-wringing that followed, nothing was done to police the financial community and submit them to the requirements of the common good. Who paid? Ordinary people, you and me.

And while the Belgian State consented to 7 billion-euro ten-year tax breaks for multinationals, ordinary litigants have seen surcharges imposed on access to justice (increased court fees, 21% taxation on legal fees). From now on, to obtain redress the victims of injustice are going to have to be rich.

All this in a state where the number of public representatives breaks all international records. In this particular area, no evaluation and no costs studies are reporting profit. One example:  thirty years after the introduction of the federal system, the provincial institutions survive. Nobody can say what purpose they serve. Streamlining and the managerial ideology have conveniently stopped at the gates of the political world.

The security ideal 

Terrorism, this other nihilism that exposes our weakness in affirming our values, is likely to aggravate the process by soon making it possible for all violations of our liberties, all violations of our rights, to circumvent the powerless qualified judges, further reducing social protection for the poor, who will be sacrificed to “the security ideal”.

Salvation in commitment

These developments certainly threaten the foundations of our democracy, but do they condemn us to discouragement and despair?

Certainly not. 500 years ago, at the height of the defeats that brought down most Italian states with the imposition of foreign occupation for more than three centuries, Niccolo Machiavelli urged virtuous men to defy fate and stand up against the adversity of the times, to prefer action and daring to caution. The more tragic the situation, the more it necessitates action and the refusal to “give up” (The Prince, Chapters XXV and XXVI).

This is a teaching that is clearly required today. The determination of citizens attached to the radical of democratic values is an invaluable resource which has not yet revealed, at least in Belgium, its driving potential and power to change what is presented as inevitable. Through social networking and the power of the written word, everyone can now become involved, particularly when it comes to public services, universities, the student world, the judiciary and the Bar, in bringing the common good and social justice into the heart of public debate and the administration of the state and the community.

Neoliberalism is a species of fascism. It must be fought and humanism fully restored.

This article was originally published in the Belgian daily Le Soir, 3.3.2016

Translated from French by Wayne Hall

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The Myth of the Liveable City

August 31st, 2017 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

In 2016, the Melbourne-based Herald Sun claimed with some consternation that Melbourne was “set to lose its status as the world’s most liveable city.” That particular, somewhat meaningless status is granted by that great myth maker, the Economist Intelligence Unit, whose Global Liveability Index tends to deceive rather than illuminate. Not that the Herald needed to worry: Melbourne has retained its mantle, and the propagandists are crowing.

The EIU is far from the only player in this game. Mercer Human Resource Consulting has its own Quality of Living Survey, and titled for Vienna as the place to be in its 18th study last year, giving Baghdad the dirtied wooden spoon.[1]

Yet each year, the party balloons are procured with zombie-like predictability for the victors, a fairly unchanging set at the top featuring Melbourne and Vancouver. That’s provided you follow The Economist the way a follower charges after a sadhu.

This is an exam that has been marked in advance, a decision suitably gamed, Melbourne, this grand sized expensive village, which keeps getting top billing. Not even the Herald Sun, as pointed out by Crikey, was necessarily going to go into much detail as to why Melbourne might risk losing that crown.[2]

The ultimate point here is not whether Melbourne has a left-bank culture to swoon over, or a stunning social scene that will enable punters to trip the light fantastic. The EIU rating system is far more prosaic in purpose, a sort of philistine’s guide book for the corporate traveller and big business.

The point is made by Alan Davies of The Urbanist:

“these expatriates are mostly well-paid corporate executives who are far more likely to live in mansions or penthouses than ‘dogbox’ apartments.”[3]

The suburb will be “up-market”; the drive to work will be luxuriant and distinctly averse to public transport; and health care will be covered, not by the public insurer but a private concern sponsored by the company.

The same goes for the Mercer studies, though the slant there is distinctly towards the European continent. These comb the health, education, housing and economic conditions less from the perspective of the trudging main street citizen than the Wall Street flier who may have to be relocated. Whether a city such as Vienna, long famous for its social housing, gets the nod is less significant than the heft it can muster for employees who relocate.

A neat contrast to the EIU finding for top banana was that Mercer were not taken by the fuss around Melbourne, placing it at a more slumming 15 in the rankings and, horror of horrors, behind Sydney. (A superficial comparison in terms of rentals and living cost give that rating a semblance of plausibility.) Between the EIU and Mercer views lie clear differences of opinion for German speaking cities, with the latter proving most amenable to the Teutonic tongue.

The preponderance of Australian and Canadian cities in the Intelligence Unit’s rankings did prompt a quip from the New York Times:

The Economist clearly equates liveability with speaking English.”[4]

The call of those British dominions remains strong for those in the EIU. As the column went on to note,

“Health care and education are important, of course, but, except in the choice of Vienna, neither Mercer nor The Economist seem to have put much emphasis on high culture.”

The boom cities, the exciting, hot pot centres (New York, London or Paris) stocked with treasures (more accurately termed loot) of empires, capital and cosmopolitan cultural sets get shoved down the lists for being, unsurprisingly, places of higher crime, crowding and creaking infrastructure. Flushed excitement matters less in these surveys than sober business deals.

Yet a city like Melbourne would be, to anybody mildly acquainted with it, an odd winner in any case, even by some of the criteria these fluff studies insist on using. It certainly riles Brent Toderian, Vancouver’s chief city planner from 2005 to 2012. Those were the days when his city gazed over others in the list.

Toderian, in classic deflating mode, notes that Melbourne has an “outstanding downtown” but fails pretty miserably in the suburbs, which he deems “ordinary or below-average”.[5] In what would surprise some Melbournians, he pours cold water on praise for the “largest tram network in the world”, noting insufficient “land use and density around the trams” to encourage more use. The car, in short, remains king in the suburbs.

Alternative systems of assessing a city’s liveability merit have little room for the likes of Melbourne or Vancouver. Hong Kong, for instance, topped a study by urban planner and architect Filippo Lovato, whose submitted plan won the EIU’s own effort to come up with a new approach to evaluating liveability.[6]

“Hong Kong, the winner,” went the confident Lovato, “is a very compact city that has managed to maintain its natural heritage, create a dense network of green spaces and enjoy extensive links to the rest of the world.”

Alien references to any Melbourne of Vancouver resident.

It also followed in Lovato’s study that the Australians and Canadians featured less, and, in true civilizational bliss, European cities romped in. Amsterdam, Berlin and Munich made top ten appearances. But such a model was not, ultimately, embraced by the compilers of the EIU index, who remain stuck to the Melbourne-Vancouver nexus. All ascendant corporate logic promises to prevail, while embracing, in large measure, the hoodwinking philistinism that comes with it.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: [email protected]

Notes

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Monsanto: It Ain’t Glyphosate, It’s the Additives!

August 31st, 2017 by F. William Engdahl

Famously corrupt and unscrupulous, Monsanto Corporation has now been discovered in covering up the highly toxic effects of the secret additives it combines with glyphosate in Roundup, the world’s most-used herbicide. The IARC, an agency of the World Health Organization, released a report in March, 2015 that declared the chemical glyphosate to be “probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A).” They were not provided tests that included the effects of glyphosate combined with specific trade secret additives. Monsanto is desperate to hide the true carcinogen in its Roundup weed-killer.

Glyphosate is the largest component of Monsanto Roundup, the world’s largest weed-killer and the toxin mandated in every Monsanto Genetically Manipulated (GMO) planting. But what Monsanto refuses to disclose is what additives it uses, otherwise termed surfactants or adjuvants, ostensibly to give the glyphosate a “turbo” weed-killer effectiveness boost.

Since late 2016 the United States District Court for the Northern District of California has been hearing a case brought by a group of plaintiffs against Monsanto, claiming the firm falsified test results and refused to test the actual commercial mix sold as Roundup, a mix which contains far more deadly chemicals than glyphosate, especially when combined with glyphosate, in order to show its best-selling Roundup to be harmless in recommended doses and non-carcinogenic.

It’s the Surfactants!

On June 30, 2017, attorneys from Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, lawyers for the plaintiffs, released online court documents provided by Monsanto to the Court in the ongoing California case against Monsanto. Those Monsanto secret documents reveal the criminal company collusion to cover up the truth about its Roundup weed-killer.

Among the damning emails from the Monsanto internal documents is an email exchange marked Confidential, dated November 22, 2003, from Donna R. Farmer, PhD., then chief toxicologist at Monsanto responsible for glyphosate products worldwide. Farmer states bluntly,

“The terms glyphosate and Roundup cannot be used interchangeably nor can you use “Roundup” for all glyphosate-based herbicides any more. For example, you cannot say that Roundup is not a carcinogen … we have not done the necessary testing on the formulation to make that statement.” (emphasis added-w.e.)

Another confidential Monsanto email dated December 14, 2010, more than seven years after Donna Farmer’s 2003 admission, states that

“With regards to the carcinogenicity of our (Roundup-w.e.) formulations, we don’t have such testing on them directly, but we do have such testing on the glyphosate component.”

It’s a bit like telling someone you held an African Black Mamba, the world’s fastest and one of the world’s most toxic snakes, and nothing happened to you, so the Black Mamba can be certified as safe for a household pet.

What Monsanto toxicologist Donna Farmer refers to as “the formulation” is the major ingredient, glyphosate, in combination with various surfactants or adjuvants, allegedly used to bind the weed-killer Roundup more efficiently to target weeds in the region of spraying of crops such as GMO corn or soybeans. Monsanto calls the component in Roundup called glyphosate the “active ingredient,” implying, falsely, that the added chemicals are merely passive or inert and harmless.

No tests done

To date the entire global public debate on glyphosate in the USA, the EU and in the rest of the world has been a very sly “red herring,” put out by Monsanto to take attention away from the vastly more toxic cocktail that is sold today as Roundup weed-killer, the world’s most widely used weed-killer. Roundup is far more than only glyphosate, as the email from Donna Farmer admits. Monsanto has deliberately turned the public and legal debate to focus only on glyphosate, as if the rest of their toxic cocktail was just some sugar candy. Are their trade secret additives including chemicals such as formaldehyde? We don’t know. Do they include known carcinogens such as N-ethyl-NNG? We don’t know. Monsanto refuses to tell the public.

The Monsanto secret email exchanges, now public as a result of the California court case, reveal dramatically the collusion of senior US Government officials at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Monsanto to conceal the fact that the EPA never was in possession of the other components of Roundup aside from glyphosate.

Those surfactants are mostly classified as “trade secret” by Monsanto and have not even been made known to the US Government agency responsible for guarding the environmental health of the population, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), yet EPA officials have never made a public issue of the fact.

Among the Monsanto confidential emails released by attorneys in the California law suit on June 30, 2017 is one dated March 5, 2013. In it Monsanto admits internally,

We do not conduct sub-chronic, chronic or teratogenicity studies with our formulations. The long-term exposure has been assessed according to the regulatory requirements in chronic and carcinogenicity studies conducted with the active ingredient glyphosate.” (emphasis added-w.e.).

Teratogenic testing is testing to determine if a drug or chemical contains an agent that can disturb the development of the human embryo or fetus. Teratogens can halt the pregnancy or produce a congenital malformation or birth defect.

On its website, Monsanto gives a picture of serious compliance with government safety testing standards. It states,

“Like all pesticides, glyphosate is routinely reviewed by regulatory authorities to ensure it can be used safely. In the U.S., that’s the job of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and like other regulatory authorities around the world, the EPA’s process is comprehensive and based on the best available science.” (emphasis added-w.e.).

Note that they are careful to say “glyphosate,” and not Roundup. As the California EPA and Monsanto email exchanges reveal, Monsanto is being sly here, as they have not managed over 40 years to give detailed information on all the additives or adjuvants contained today or earlier in its Roundup herbicide. Curiously, they state, “Click here to learn more about the EPA’s current “registration review” underway for glyphosate.,” however as of August 28, 2017 there is no link to any EPA “registration review.” Oops, sorry…

In simple English, Monsanto admits its fraud that it only used tests of the possible carcinogenicity of its so-called “active ingredient” glyphosate. Never did they submit tests of the true Roundup cocktail actually used commercially. The entire EU and US EPA “glyphosate debate” is a hoax, a nefarious fraud.

‘Two Thousand times more toxic’ than glyphosate alone

Independent scientific tests by toxicologists have revealed that it is precisely the added ingredients, the so-called surfactants or Roundup’s “formulations,” in chemical combination with the far less toxic glyphosate base, that are highly toxic and probable carcinogen.

In a peer-reviewed scientific paper published on February 26, 2016 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, a team of toxicologists led by Gilles-Eric Séralini of the Institute of Biology, University of Caen in Normandy, France and András Székács, Director of the Agro-Environmental Research Institute of Hungary’s National Agricultural Research and Innovation Centre, tested the most commonly used glyphosate-based herbicides including Monsanto Roundup. They tested the complete cocktail, including the co-formulants and formulations used in combination with the glyphosate.

What they found should put our hair on end. Instead, it has been swept under the rug by the US Government and the Commission of the EU as well as by a German government eager perhaps to appease the giant German Bayer AG, the prospective new owner of Monsanto.

The Seralini group study demonstrated for the first time that endocrine disruption by Glyphposate-Based Herbicides (GBH) could not only be due to the declared active ingredient, glyphosate, but also to the co-formulants or additives. But it gets much worse than that.

Seralini’s group tested the endocrine disruption of co-formulants in six glyphosate-based herbicides (GBH), the most used pesticides worldwide including Roundup.

Their study concluded,

“The endocrine-disrupting effects of all these compounds were measured on aromatase activity, a key enzyme in the balance of sex hormones, below the toxicity threshold. Aromatase activity was decreased both by the co-formulants alone…and by the formulations, from concentrations 800 times lower than the agricultural dilutions…; while G (glyphosate) exerted an effect only at 1/3 of the agricultural dilution…These results could explain numerous in vivo results with GBHs not seen with G alone; moreover, they challenge the relevance of the acceptable daily intake (ADI) value for GBHs exposures, currently calculated from toxicity tests of the declared active ingredient alone.

Their tests further concluded that the compounded herbicides using glyphosate as base, but including undisclosed “formulations” or surfactants or co-formulants, were vastly more toxic than glyphosate tested alone. They write,

“All co-formulants and formulations were comparably cytotoxic well below the agricultural dilution of 1%.”

Depending on the product, the tests revealed that glyphosate, in combination with co-formulants, could be up to 2000 times more toxic to cells than glyphosate alone.

Yet Monsanto has never revealed its trade secret co-formulants, neither to the US Government as it is compelled to by law, nor to the public.

The Seralini study concludes that

“The declared active ingredients of pesticide formulations are not applied in their isolated form in agricultural use. Other substances (co-formulants) are also added, in order to modify the physico-chemical properties or to improve penetration or stability of the declared active ingredients. The identity of the co-formulants, declared as inert, is generally kept confidential. Moreover, they are not used in medium or long term in vivo toxicity tests of pesticides on mammals for the establishment of their acceptable daily intake.”

By the criteria used in war crimes tribunals after 1945 Monsanto knew or should have known that its Roundup total formulation products were more toxic that glyphosate alone and that independent, reliable safety studies of Roundup and full disclosure of all of Roundup’s additives, the so-called “inert” ingredients was necessary.

Whatever the legal outcome of the California legal case, the plaintiffs and their attorneys at Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman have done a major service to mankind by releasing the confidential Monsanto documents.

The attorneys have sent copies of all documents so far to the EPA Office of Inspector General, presently investigating whether there was illegal collusion between EPA and Monsanto; the California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), which recently listed glyphosate as a substance known to the state of California to cause cancer and is soliciting comments from Baum Hedlund and others to advise about whether glyphosate should be given a safe-harbor; and to the European Parliament members, who recently sent a letter to the judge overseeing the MDL litigation, requesting documents as the EU considers whether it will renew registration of glyphosate for sale in Europe.

F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

Featured image is from the author.

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Why is the world one huge fireball of hostilities, conflicts, threats of economic sanctions, propaganda of lies and mind manipulations, fearmongering – killing – massive killing – 12-15 million people killed since 9/11? – Why is that? And all provoked and executed by ONE country, and her vassals in the form of NATO, stooges of Brussels and the Middle East, and their prostituted proxies, paid mercenary whores, Islamic State, by the one Rogue Nation the world is subjected to – the United States of America.

All that at the cost of trillions of dollars, tax-payers’ money – really? – More likely privately FED, Wall Street created fiat money, pyramid money, based on usury and debt, subjugating debt to be pillaged from the ordinary citizens; but government debt never to be repaid, as per Alan Greenspan (FED Chairman, 1987-2006) to an exasperated journalist who asks, when will the US ever pay back its huge debt? – “Never – we will just print new money”. – So, is it really ‘tax-payers’ money’? – Would tax-payers’ money be able to pay for these trillions and trillion spent on conflicts, wars and hostilities – hundreds of billions spent on propaganda of deception and lies to promote endless assassinations around the globe? Hardly.

Why is it that we live willingly and knowingly in a fraud and greed-economy? – Is living in deception the illusion that keeps ultra-capitalism alive? – That leads us to ever higher grounds of avarice – ending in all-destructive fascism? – Possibly in a globe-annihilating mushroom?

Why do we worship war, if at least 99.99% of the peoples of this globe want peace?

Why do we tolerate such atrocities imposed by one nation – no longer worthy of the term ‘nation’ – destructions of entire countries, civilizations, the cradle of western history? Obliteration of livelihoods for generations to come? – For nothing else but gluttony, for insane accumulation of material goods and power? For world hegemony of a few? Why do we tolerate Inhumanity as our ‘leadership’?

It is well-understood that such ‘leaders’ are put in place not by elections, but by fraud – why do we not throw them out? – Why do we bend over still believing in the lies of democracy – if in the back of our minds a little spark of conscience tells us exactly that we are being betrayed by our governments, not once, not twice – but ALL THE TIME?

And this refers to WE in the WEST.

We know that we are living a falsehood. Is falsehood tolerable for the comfort of not moving out of our armchairs, out of the cushioned blue-pilled matrix, where we would have to face our own reality – that of having lived a life of lies for most of our existence? – Wouldn’t that recognition be a first step to our freedom – FREEDOM – freedom from want, freedom of mind, like in liberty to love our fellow citizens – freedom to embrace Peace?

Why are we not finishing off this monster – which is itself only a hologram, directed by a deep dark state, invisible to the naked eye of common citizens and a shadow government of tyrants, torturers, killers, psychopaths – that direct our everyday lives? – They, these triangle-framed one-eyed underground beasts have to live in secrecy, in darkness. Why?

Are we afraid? – Why can we not shed that fear for a little bit of courage – and find back to human solidarity against this atrocious abuse – the worst ever since the Roman Empire and probably much longer, ever since our modern times of history, dating back to the ascent of monotheism, some 5000 years ago? When the Akkadians overthrew the Sumerian civilization, where women had their natural initiating roles and were equals to men. Monotheism changed all this.

Let’s be clear – nobody is to be wished death; not the murderers of the Pentagon, or of the CIA, NSA, FBI – not the slaughterers of the Military Industrial Complex – nor the financial assassins of the FED, Wall Street, nor the whores of the mainstream propaganda killer ‘fake news’. No – they will eventually face their own Karma. In the meantime, let them live and drown in their own self-made swamp, or rather their suffocating cesspool of sewer.

But we do have to get rid of them – get them out of our lives, get them isolated from our well-being, human well-being, not greed-well-being, as we live today. They must be marginalized. -How?

Economically.

There is a new economic paradigm waiting in the wings, offered by China and Russia, an Economy of Peace. An economy backed by labor, by construction, by research, education – by culture – and by gold. No fiat economy – an economy of Equal Rights and equal benefits for all participants; a non-war based economy, totally contrary of the western usury rent-seeking destructive economy. Who would not be attracted by this new model of Peace Economics?

The new Silk Road – also President Xi Jinping’s OBI – One Belt Initiative, formerly known as  “The One Belt One Road” (OBOR) – an economic development program spanning the entire super-Continent of Eurasia and North Africa, from Vladivostok to Lisbon, and from Shanghai to Hamburg. Every territory in between is invited to participate, in what is possibly the largest and most wide-ranging economic expansion initiative in modern history. It is a multi-trillion-dollar (equivalent) endeavor that could literally stretch out for centuries, creating infrastructure, work, trade, income, new technologies, education- the palette is almost endless – for many areas still largely deprived of human well-being.

The “Road” encompasses land route development from Central China to Central Asia, Iran, Syria, Turkey, Greece, Eastern Europe – construction of ports and coastal infrastructure from Southeast Asia to East Africa and the Mediterranean. In fact, OBI was initiated by President Xi in 2013 and is already well under way. China’s modernization of Greece’s Port of Piraeus, arguably the largest in the Mediterranean, is already part of it.

It keeps Brussels nervous. The hot-rock of mud and corruption is afraid it may ‘lose’ Greece – a NATO country – from their control. Greece diplomatically assures them ‘loyalty’ – nevertheless, thanks to Greek pressure – under these new circumstances – Brussels ‘vassalic’ human rights condemnation and new sanctions directed at China, in Washington’s latest efforts to pressure China on North Korea, were stopped thanks to Greek intervention on behalf of China. Quite a feat, for a small country – downtrodden into financial and abject purposeful economic misery by Germany and the nefarious troika. It shows not only the west’s bluff, but their fear from the East – where Brussels and Washington know very well – the world’s future lays.

This revival of the ancient Silk road with 21st Century technology, as China calls it, also comes with financing to promote basic needs, such as urban planning, water supply, sanitation, food production and distribution. The old axiom of comparative production advantages will be applied in an open market of equals among equals, already begun under the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), signed by Presidents Putin and Xi in May 2015, and rapidly expanding westward.

The OBI is sometimes referred to as the Eastern Marshall Plan. But it should rather and more aptly be called the Xi Plan. It comes with the appropriate financial instruments, foremost the Beijing based Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank (AIIB). The Xi Plan is destined for economic development and peoples’ well-being. Whereas the Marshall Plan was designed for deceit, exploitation and enslavement of Europe with its subservient Bretton Woods Institutions – and it succeeded.

The AIIB is a multilateral development bank. In June 2015, 57 countries signed the Bank’s Articles of Agreement which entered into force on December 25, 2015. The Bank started operations on January 16, 2016. As of March 31, 2017, the Bank’s membership has increased to 70 and new applicants are waiting. AIIB has an authorized capital of US$ 100 billion equivalent with US$ 18.4 billion paid in by 31 March 2017.

Among AIIB’s members are many western countries, conventional allies of the United States, like Germany, the UK, France, many Nordic countries, Australia and others.  Despite the objection of Washington, they have decided to join anyway. They realize the future is in Asia, in the East, much of it represented by this gigantic promising New Silk Road. After having lived through a fake and fraudulent privately run monetary economy for most of the last 200 years -even the staunchest ally and Washington vassal is becoming wary and ready for a new start.

AIIB will be tough competition for the Bretton Woods Institutions, IMF and World Bank, especially since the AIIB will be playing by faire rules – no strangulation structural adjustment loans to privatize social sectors and natural resources, and to plunge developing countries into misery and subjugation with austerity programs no end. The World Bank and IMF records of causing misery and hardship are almost endless. Most developing countries, utterly distrustful of such practices, are just waiting to become members of the AIIB and to enter economic development that actually benefits their people.

Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense, Charles Freeman described the OBOR / OBI project as

 “potentially the most transformative engineering effort in human history. China will become the center of economic gravity as it becomes the world’s largest economy. The ‘Belt and Road’ program includes no military component, but it clearly has the potential to upend the world’s geopolitics as well as its economics.” (NBC News, May 12, 2017)

Even the NYT lauds

“The initiative … looms on a scope and scale with little precedent in modern history, promising more than $1 trillion in infrastructure and spanning more than 60 countries. Mr. Xi is aiming to use China’s wealth and industrial know-how to create a new kind of globalization that will dispense with the rules of the aging Western-dominated institutions. The goal is to refashion the global economic order, drawing countries and companies more tightly into China’s orbit. It is impossible for any foreign leader, multinational executive or international banker to ignore China’s push to remake global trade. American influence in the region is seen to be waning.”

In addition, the BRICS members – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, will meet in early September in Xiamen, the coastal city of China’s Fujian Province to “deepening the BRICS partnership and opening up a brighter future”.

One of the key items on their agenda is the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB) and its Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA). The BRICS NDB is headquartered in Shanghai and will work in parallel with the AIIB to further economic cooperation, growth, and human well-being. The NDB Treaty was signed in July 2015 with a subscribed capital of US$ 50 billion, of which US$ 10 billion paid-in and US$ 40 billion callable. BRICS funding, similar to that of the AIIB, is meant primarily for infrastructure and energy development. Again – the funding is for Peace Economics.

These new financing initiatives will be a serious challenge for the western monetary cabal and a thorn in the eye of Washington’s drive for dollar hegemony. Although AIIB’s and NDB’s capital base is still accounted for in US-dollars, it is likely changing in the near future into a basket-type currency, similar to the IMF’s SDR (Special Drawing Rights), but without the US-dollar.

With this bright perspective of an Economy for Peace from the East, who would want to continue adhere to the western fiat monetary system which has never been based on economic output, but was made to manipulate world economies to the detriment of the working peoples and for the benefit of the private owners and creators of the system, the Rothschilds, Rockefellers, Morgans, Goldman,  et al .

Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a former World Bank staff and worked extensively around the world in the fields of environment and water resources. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for Global Research, ICH, RT, Sputnik, PressTV, The 4th Media (China), TeleSUR, The Vineyard of The Saker Blog, and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. He is also a co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance

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When the CEO of Arkema America, Richard Rowewarned late Wednesday that the company is powerless to prevent an imminent explosion at its Crosby, TX chemical plant, all we could do was wait for the inevitable. We didn’t have long to wait, because just a few hours later, on Thursday morning, Arkema said it has been notified about two explosions at the doomed Crosby plant.

At approximately 2:00am local time, the company announced that two explosions and black smoke were reported. According to ABC, several people were taken to hospital.

A sheriff’s deputy was among those taken to the hospital after inhaling fumes, according to a tweet from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. Nine other deputies drove themselves to the hospital as a precaution.

Arkema had already evacuated workers, and local authorities had cleared the area prior to the blow. From the statement:

At approximately 2 a.m. CDT, we were notified by the Harris County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) of two explosions and black smoke coming from the Arkema Inc. plant in Crosby, Texas. Local officials had previously established an evacuation zone in an area 1.5 miles from our plant, based on their assessment of the situation.

An Arkema spokesperson stated late Wednesday that a fire at the site was inevitable.

“The fire will happen. It will resemble a gasoline fire. It will be explosive and intense in nature… as the temperature rises, the natural state of these materials will decompose. A white smoke will result, and that will catch fire. So the fire is imminent. The question is when,” spokesperson Janet Smith said.

The Arkema Inc. chemical plant on Aug. 30

Rachel Moreno, a spokeswoman for the county fire marshal’s office, said it is unclear whether all residents obeyed the evacuation order for the 1.5 mile radius of the plant, adding that the office has received an unconfirmed report of a woman who may still be in the evacuation zone.

The company also said it is working closely with federal, state and local authorities to manage the situation, according to a statement on its website.

As Arkema stores organic peroxides at several locations on the site, the threat of additional explosions remains, it said, adding that the best course of action is to let the fire burn itself out.

We have been working closely with public officials to manage the implications of this situation, and have communicated with the public the potential for product to explode and cause an intense fire. Organic peroxides are extremely flammable and, as agreed with public officials, the best course of action is to let the fire burn itself out.

We want local residents to be aware that product is stored in multiple locations on the site, and a threat of additional explosion remains. Please do not return to the area within the evacuation zone until local emergency response authorities announce it is safe to do so.

Organic peroxides are a family of compounds that are used in a wide range of applications, such as making pharmaceuticals and construction materials.

Meanwhile, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez stressed during a press conference that “it wasn’t an explosion, I want to be very clear, it was not an explosion…” He instead explained the incident as a series of “pops.”

“There were different organic peroxides of different grades that were released and it created a pop in the containers where they were being stored and some gray smoke initially emanated from it and eventually turned into black smoke” after a fire began, he said.

Gonzalez went on to state that it is “not anything toxic, it is not anything that we feel is a danger to the community at all…” The “pops” occurred inside one of nine 18-wheel box trucks at the site, according to Bob Royall, an assistant chief with the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office.

“There are nine vans. Of the nine, three had lost refrigeration to keep them cool. the other ones are still under refrigeration,” he said, adding that the chemicals are “in containers in cardboard boxes inside the vans.”

Royall added that the incident has played out in the way that authorities anticipated.

“Right now everything is going according to what we thought was going to happen so far. We are in a defensive posture, the fire department is out there on the scene, there is air monitoring being deployed by a contractor by the company to try to find out and watch and see where the smoke might go…” he said.

* * *

As a reminder, on Wednesday the company said it has “no way to prevent” a potentially large explosion and fire at its facility near Houston, after flooding due to Tropical Storm Harvey. The Arkema plant in Crosby, Texas, some 25 miles northeast of Houston, was evacuated late Tuesday. Working with authorities, the company also urged everyone within a mile and a half of the plant to evacuate, and shut down a stretch of Highway 90 that runs alongside the plant, which produces organic peroxides for things like acrylic-based paint.

“We have an unprecedented 6 feet of water throughout the plant,” Arkema’s North American operations Chief Executive Rich Rowe said in a teleconference Wednesday with reporters.

Rowe said that the plant lost primary power and two emergency backup power sources, which led to a shutdown of “critical refrigeration needed for our materials.” He said that means those materials “could now explode and cause a subsequent and intense fire,” and added that “the high water that exists on site, and the lack of power, leave us with no way to prevent it.”

Rowe said about 300 people in all have been evacuated, but said it wasn’t a mandatory evacuation, so he’s not certain whether the 1.5-mile radius around the facility is currently devoid of people. He said it is mostly a rural area, so there are “a limited number of homes” within the area. Rowe said local officials told him the water level in the area could actually continue to rise over the course of the next three to six days, and as such Arkema, which is based in France, believes the chemicals will start to degrade well before that happens.

“And once the chemicals begin to degrade we would be in a situation where we could be looking at a fire and/or an explosion,” he said.

As soon as the chemicals begin to degrade they start to “self-accelerate” in a type of no-turning-back mode, he added.

Rowe didn’t get specific about the amount of chemicals on site or just how big the blast might be, except to say that the analysis of the quantity of chemical is what led authorities to decide on the 1.5-mile evacuation zone they deemed appropriate.

Featured image is from Bloomberg.

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U.S. Airstrikes Are Wiping Out Entire Families in Yemen and Syria

August 31st, 2017 by Counter Current News

The United States is killing entire families in Raqqa, Syria, and enabling Saudi Arabia to do the same in Yemen.

In June of this year, the U.S. led a campaign to retake the city of Raqqa from ISIS fighters while the Russian and Syrian militaries were also attempting to do the same thing. In the first week of fighting, U.N. war crimes investigators warned that the U.S. had already killed 300 civilians from air strikes alone in that seven day period.

Rather than heed that warning, the U.S. has continued the same strategy of pounding Raqqa into the ground despite the likelihood of civilian casualties. Pentagon chief James “Mad Dog” Mattis has dismissed this horror as a mere “fact of life” — a very easy decision to make when the fighting doesn’t concern one’s own relatives. Not to mention that Donald Trump relaxed the rules surrounding air strikes earlier this year, meaning military generals on the ground (including Iraqi forces, for example) can call in airstrikes from the ground with zero oversight.

The result, the Intercept reports, is that entire families are being massacred by U.S.-led air strikes.

“We have seen incidents in which entire families have been wiped out. The scale of things is increasing significantly,” said Alex Hopkins, a researcher at AirWars.

According to Hopkins, there has been a “worrying increase in the rate of mass casualty incidents” in recent weeks, and disproportionate numbers of children are being reported killed in U.S.-led air strikes.

As the Intercept noted, Raqqa is home to very few die-hard ISIS supporters who are fighting to the death to defend its de-facto capital, whereas an estimated 160,000 civilians remain trapped in the crossfire of the city’s fighting.

The Intercept also spoke to witnesses and activists by phone who explained incidents of widespread civilian deaths at the hands of U.S. air strikes. These activists oppose ISIS and are based in Raqqa, according to the Intercept, and their identities remain confidential.

“The planes hit the street where he [father] was walking to go home. There were no ISIS members or headquarters in that street, my father was only 50 meters from home. I wished that he had hurried home that night, but he was too old and it took him time,” one activist said of his father’s death in June.

Drawing on research from Amnesty International and Airwars, the Intercept describes many other instances in which entire families were wiped out:

For instance, a coalition airstrike in Raqqa City on August 14 killed a mother, Nahla Hamoud Al-Aran al-Shehab, and her three children, Marwa, Ahmed, and Mariam. Three days later, another strike killed 30 members of the al-Sayer family, including several children. On August 21, yet another attack killed eight members of the Al-Aliwi family, internally displaced refugees who had previously fled from fighting in their home city of Palmyra.

“Amnesty International researchers also visited a farmhouse in the Hukumya-Salhiya area northwest of Raqqa, where 14 people were reportedly killed in a coalition attack before the campaign to take the city officially began. Amnesty found fragments of GPS-guided American munitions, and judged that ‘from the pattern of destruction there seems little doubt that the house was destroyed by air strikes.’” [emphasis added]

In its most recent report, Amnesty International also explains a scenario in which one Syrian lost her mother, sisters, nephews and nieces “for no reason at all.”

“The planes were circling all night, and we could not even approach the house to get the two injured children out from under the rubble until the following day,” said another member of the family who witnessed the attack. “The bodies were in shreds. We recovered body parts hundreds of meters away.”

Up until the beginning of June, the U.S. only had two personnel investigating casualties in Iraq and Syria full-time. As the Intercept notes, the U.S. military rarely conducts interviews with survivors and regularly discounts the majority of reports on civilian deaths as “non-credible.” This makes it incredibly difficult to verify the exact number of civilian deaths, but it also demonstrates America’s shockingly non-existent commitment to international law. The U.S. military may boast that it takes the utmost care to protect civilians, but are we just supposed to take their word for it?

Featured image is from FAIR.

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Featured image: The South Texas Project nuclear power facility in Bay City, Texas could be under extreme threat from historic flood waters, groups warned on Tuesday. (Photo: STP)

As record-breaking rainfall and unprecedented flooding continue to batter the greater Houston area and along the Gulf coast on Tuesday, energy watchdogs groups are warning of “a credible threat of a severe accident” at two nuclear reactors still operating at full capacity in nearby Bay City, Texas.

Three groups—Beyond Nuclear, South Texas Association for Responsible Energy, and the SEED Coalition—are calling for the immediate shutdown of the South Texas Project (STP) which sits behind an embankment they say could be overwhelmed by the raging flood waters and torrential rains caused by Hurricane Harvey.

“Both the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the STP operator have previously recognized a credible threat of a severe accident initiated by a breach of the embankment wall that surrounds the 7,000-acre reactor cooling water reservoir,” said Paul Gunter, director of the Beyond Nuclear’s Reactor Oversight Project, in a statement by the coalition on Tuesday.

The groups warn that as Harvey—which on Tuesday was declared the most intense rain event  in U.S. history—continues to dump water on the area, a breach of the embankment wall surrounding the twin reactors would create “an external flood potentially impacting the electrical supply from the switchyard to the reactor safety systems.” In turn, the water has the potential to “cause high-energy electrical fires and other cascading events initiating a severe accident leading to core damage.” Even worse, they added, “any significant loss of cooling water inventory in the Main Cooling Reservoir would reduce cooling capacity to the still operating reactors that could result in a meltdown.”

With the nearby Colorado River already cresting at extremely high levels and flowing at 70 times the normal rate, Karen Hadden, director of SEED Coalition, warned that the continue rainfall might create flooding that could reach the reactors.

“There is plenty of reserve capacity on our electric grid,” she said, “so we don’t have to run the reactors in order to keep the lights on. With anticipated flooding of the Colorado River, the nuclear reactors should be shut down now to ensure safety.”

Last week, the STP operators said that safety for their workers and local residents was their top concern, but that they would keep the plant operating despite the approaching storm.

Susan Dancer, president of the South Texas Association for Responsible Energy, said that as residents in Bay City—herself included—were being forced to leave their homes under mandatory evacuation orders, it makes no sense to keep the nuclear plant online.

“Our 911 system is down, no emergency services are available, and yet the nuclear reactors are still running. Where is the concern for employees and their families? Where is the concern for public safety? This is an outrageous and irresponsible decision,” declared Dancer. “This storm and flood is absolutely without precedent even before adding the possibility of a nuclear accident that could further imperil millions of people who are already battling for their lives.”

As Harvey hovers over the coastal region, heavy rains are expected to persist for days even as the storm system creeps toward to Louisiana in the east.

But no matter how remote the possibility, said Gunter,

“it’s simply prudent that the operator put this reactor into its safest condition, cold shutdown.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

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Featured image: Civilian rescue boats rescue Houston residents stranded by the storm. (Source: Liberation News)

The Party for Socialism and Liberation expresses our condolences and solidarity to those who have suffered the loss of loved ones, been injured, or lost their homes and other vital possessions due to the ravages of Hurricane Harvey.

Twelve years to the day after Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans and much of the Gulf coast, millions in southeast Texas are suffering the devastating impact of another huge storm. An unknown number of people are dead or missing, and tens or hundreds of thousands are desperately seeking refuge as the flood waters rise to historic levels. Thousands of heroic volunteers of all nationalities have joined in efforts to rescue thousands trapped on rooftops and nursing homes.

The immediate cause of the crisis is record rainfall, in some places over 50 inches in just a few days. But like Katrina and virtually every other major natural disaster, the crisis has been worsened  by an abject lack of government readiness.

Hurricane Harvey has exposed government at every level as being woefully unprepared to meet the needs of the people. While in ordinary times this reality is somewhat concealed, in times of catastrophe it is fully visible and undeniable.

The fundamental cause of the repeated pattern of government failure is that under the existing capitalist system governments are organized not to serve the interests of the people but instead those of the corporate owners and the super-rich.

The Center for International Policy, a research and policy group based in Washington, says

“a person is 15 times as likely to be killed by a hurricane in the United States as in Cuba.”

How is it possible that socialist Cuba, a blockaded country with far fewer resources, “consistently weathers Category 4 and 5 hurricanes with relatively few casualties”? A New York Times article from 2013 reports:

“Cuba would have suffered a great deal more if not for its well-rehearsed storm preparation system. It is a multilevel process that starts with the young. Grade school students practice evacuations; high-school students monitor neighborhoods to identify weak trees and other hazards. … In the event of a storm, the head of every institution — schools, hospitals, hotels — is considered a member of the Cuban Civil Defense force, responsible for the well-being of people around them. … In Pinar del Río, the province most vulnerable, the government deploys large brigades to prepare for disaster. ‘If you have nowhere to go, then there’s the state shelters with food and water and doctors,’ said María Fajardo, a resident.”

“Hurricane Tips from Cuba,” New York Times,  July 29, 2013. 

Houston, the fast-growing and fourth largest city in the U.S. with a metro population of 6.6  million , is on low, flat land and vulnerable to flooding. The current disaster is the latest and worst of four major flooding episodes in just the past nine years. A major cause is that the city has no zoning laws, so development is largely unplanned. So, too, is emergency preparedness.

A December 6, 2016 article in the Texas Tribune reported:

“As millions have flocked to the metropolitan area in recent decades, local officials have largely snubbed stricter building regulations, allowing developers to pave over crucial acres of prairie land that once absorbed huge amounts of rainwater. That has led to an excess of floodwater during storms that chokes the city’s vast bayou network, drainage systems and two huge federally owned reservoirs, endangering many nearby homes … “

As the hurricane approached, the mayor of Houston, Sylvester Turner, told residents to “stay in place” citing the fear of highways becoming clogged with people, and then flooding. Later, as the flood waters rose, city officials advised residents to move to the second floor of their homes, and then, if the water continued to rise, to their roofs, and “wave white towels to attract attention.”

At the same time, the governor of Texas, a virulent right-winger, Greg Abbott, called for Houston residents to evacuate, but offered no assistance or plan for evacuees. This, too, was reminiscent of Katrina, when those who had the funds escaped New Orleans in chaos, on jammed roads, forced to pay sky-high rates for hotel rooms. Those without resources were left behind, leading to the deaths of more than 1,800 people, overwhelmingly poor and African American, when the levees broke.

As the Texas crisis turned into catastrophe, President Trump tweeted a self-congratulatory,

“Wow – Now experts are calling #Harvey a once in 500 year flood! We have an all out effort going, and going well!”

Later in the weekend he sent out a book recommendation on Twitter, followed by an admission that he had pardoned the criminal sheriff Joe Arpaio as Harvey hit because the TV ratings would be “far higher.”

Houston is home to many oil refineries, all of which were shut down in advance of the storm, in some cases releasing toxic pollutants into flood waters and the air, affecting nearby communities which are disproportionately Latino and African American. One chemicals plant in the northeast edge of Houston, Arkema, is in critical danger of massive explosion because the electrical cooling systems and back-up generators have failed.

Even before the shutdown, some oil executives were talking of gas price hikes when they re-start and gas stocks rose 7%. As always, the corporate profiteers have only one real objective.

Nearly 600,000 undocumented workers live in Houston. While the governor was telling Houstonians to evacuate, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that they were keeping in place internal checkpoints on major highways. Undocumented workers were thus forced to choose between the flood and a potential threat of deportation.

More than 30% of Harris Country, 444 square miles, is under water and hundreds of thousands of residences have suffered water damage that will often require tens of thousands of dollars each in repair costs – if they can be repaired.

While Trump staged a public relations trip to “assess” the damage in Texas, his administration is calling for slashing the federal flood insurance budget and flood insurance subsidies to homeowners who live in areas highly vulnerable to floods.  If enacted, this would raise annual insurance costs to astronomical levels, from present monthly premiums of $100-200 to as much as $2,400.

Presently, the homeowners insurance covers wind damage, but not water damage. Many Houstonians have the former, few have the latter.

The danger in southeast Texas remain acute, with rain still falling, rivers and bayous still rising and old reservoirs and levees in danger of failing. But even if the rain were to immediately stop and the rivers recede, the long-term crisis would only be starting.

Many months and perhaps more of reconstruction are ahead. The Party for Socialism and Liberation salutes all those on the ground in Texas who are engaged in the recovery effort, and we are joining in that effort.

At the same time, what is needed more than ever is a mass people’s movement that demands the federal and state governments provide the assistance and funds – not crushing loans – for rebuilding what has been destroyed, in a long-term sustainable fashion.

We need a new system of political governance. Under capitalism society’s plentiful resources are marshaled by the government to streamline profit-making by bankers, real estate developers and corporations rather than to protect and defend all the people and the environment.

The people’s needs must come first!

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The social media originally developed to help people establish relationships worldwide is towards upheaval. The social media’s superb quality of quick sharing without regional borders has contributed to vicious exploitation such as spying, breeding of discrimination, bigotry, hatred and others along various races and communities. This campaign is particularly impactful on communities with nescience and gullibility who are mindless to judge about good and bad.

However, the social media has happened to be instrumental in many ways in the same poor nations. The social networking has been helpful in calling for enormous civil movements to protest injustice, enforcement of governments into taking action about a concern, disclosure of cases of frauds and corruptions, emergence of true masterminds and masterworks. But it carries even further and perilous disadvantages to a victim nation, if not so much to advanced western countries.

Afghanistan has large less-educated populations who are blindly bogged down into the world of social media and fall into the domain of fabricated and misguiding information of warmongers. The social media by far expedited the effort to shape up public minds. Apart from global problems associated with social media, the same evil-doers bombing the Afghan nation are working to spawn psychological disorder and deep-seated rifts and discord among the nation.

The social media supplies these warring powers with quick data about any movements and even subtle intentions in communities in sensitive regions. The data monitoring powers can retrieve your vocal communication on chatting apps, locate you with GPS and draw a general picture of a community’s trends, sentiments, likes or dislikes and secrets, all by virtue of social media on your Smartphone. To this end, the rollout of free-of-charge social networking applications or newer versions of Smartphones into the market which is enabling cyber espionage is welcomed.

Afghanistan is intended to rot intellectually by getting immersed in a viable war of words, opinions, languages, sects and regions. The waged crooks build profiles under pseudonyms of a renowned public figure or a best-selling artist or an activist and work to ignite a wave of tensions in the form of provocative posts along a community of different languages, religions, ethnics and races.

The covert war propagandists are spending ample funds to incite a soft war over an already intense armed war to mentally subdue progressive folks. This is particularly plausible because of absence of an advanced cyber security system in countries like Afghanistan. Crimes related to virtual world [social media] is termed as cyber crimes in many countries which are dealt with punishment of sorts. The scarcity of the same law in Afghanistan has persuaded meddlers to daringly enter into communities on social media and indulge in sabotaging, hate-spreading and splitting.

A flurry of campaign is directed on social media to force people into flight by sharing fearsome posts and generate a state of brain drain in Afghanistan. Although violence may exist at its climax, but relating to many feared issues, evil propagandists amplify the threat to trigger flight of elites, divestment and a state of desperation and forlorn hope for future.

A Reuters report in 2014 shed light on Iran’s utilization of social media as a means of intelligence. The Iranian hackers created false social media accounts to spy on military and political leaders, ambassadors and personnel from the US, Israel, Afghanistan, Britain, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Syria. It was successful in so doing. According to reports, the Iranian hackers built fictitious profiles posing as famous media crew or defense contractors or so others to befriend targets after securing ties with victims’ friends, relatives and affiliates on social media including facebook and twitter.

For Iran, riding a cyber intervention in unsecured Afghanistan is not a big deal, so is for even aggressive state of Pakistan, an ally of the US. They believe a nation may never succumb by wreaking havoc or bombing unless its brain force [intellectual segment] is put to decay by being fiercely involved in a vortex of mental war.

The US government needs the data received from across social media to stay abreast of situation and thwart attempts of revolution, social outbursts, revolt, rebellion, massive demonstration and others not only in home, but essentially in occupied countries such as Afghanistan. The social activism through facebook and twitter has striking examples within the US. According to an analysis, emotions and reactions behind almost 29 million tweets or facebook posts about four events in 2014 and 2015 gave birth to the Black Lives Matter movement. It prompted rallies and protests in the US. It fostered a sense of solidarity among black communities there.

According to Al-Hayat daily, facebook is a crucial weapon of intelligence for Israel’s Mossad. It keeps a watchful eye on Palestinian’s life and steals important data from target individuals.  Reportedly, the intelligence agency has created a myriad of facebook accounts and each hired officer runs a few of them. Under hectic and precarious situation in occupied Palestinian territories, Israel is curious to collect data about rallying points of resistance movements, mentality, psychological condition as well as public reaction to deadly events.

After receiving the target’s IP address, these agents send links to them under the guise of music/video/image download and penetrate into the personal data right after the victim clicks on the link. Thereinafter, the intelligence officers could view or record whatever happens therein. The Egyptian government had forbidden the use of Viber instant-messaging app among army members for a while after learning about Israel’s spying intents.

The Viber media is founded by Israeli-American Talmon Marco, a graduate of Tel Aviv University’s computer science department and a veteran of Israel’s defense force. These free applications whether premeditatedly built for intelligence purpose or later put into such use is capable of recovering vocal evidences and text messages from around the world.

Leaping into Arab world, the same social media websites played groundbreaking part in sparking Arab Spring. It helped quickened communications and interactions among those involved in political protests. It greased the wheel of violence after people used it to organize pro- and anti-government demonstrations, disseminate information about sedition and most importantly enabled far-regional observers to stay aware of events and disasters in the vivid form.

Some governments blocked access to social media. According to studies, nine out of ten Egyptians and Tunisians used it for protests and awareness-raising, yet the number was quite lower for Syrians and Yemenis.

In Ukraine-Russia tensions, Ukrainian president banned Russian social networking sources including Vkontakte and Odnoklassnik countrywide as part of sanctions imposed on Russia. It believed that the superpower is gaining ground in the country’s political crisis amid annexation of Crimea to Russia.

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My mother and father live just north of Houston. Here is the rather cryptic text message my mother, sent me late Sunday night:

Lost power. Got generator running, fridge on, light, running small AC in morning. Tired. Staying upstairs to escape generator noise.

Trees down. Wind up. Waiting for daylight to use chainsaws. Front entrance flooded.

We are okay. Tired.

Love you,
Mom

Tropical Storm Harvey, which made landfall near Corpus Christi last Friday as a Category 4 hurricane, has stalled over south-central Texas and has been dumping record levels of rain on this population-dense area. The area flooded in Texas, as of Sunday, was, staggeringly, the size of Lake Michigan. At the time of this writing, 450,000 Texans were expected to seek disaster aid.

Meteorologist Eric Holthaus tweeted last week,

“Since the 1950s, Houston has seen a 167% increase in heavy downpours. #Harvey could bring the worst one yet.”

Unfortunately for the people of south Texas, Holthaus was spot on. More than 30 inches of rain have fallen, with an additional 15-25 inches expected in the coming days.

At least five people have died from the storm, and that number is expected to rise. More than 150 major roads in Houston alone are now rivers.

Houston is the fourth largest city in the US, with 6.8 million people in its metro area, and is the petrochemical and refinery hub of the country. It is anyone’s guess how long it will take the city to rebuild and recover.

What made Harvey so brutal? Scientific studies have shown for quite some time that Anthropogenic Climate Disruption (ACD) amplifies the impacts of hurricanes by causing them to have larger storm surges, higher wind speeds and greater rainfall amounts. All of these are driven by the amount of heat in the oceans.

According to a study by Ars Technica, this past winter, for the first time on record, water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico never fell below 73°F. These conditions set the stage for what we are witnessing now: Warming waters intensify the strength and impacts of tropical storms and hurricanes, as previous studies have shown. Additionally, the water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico this summer have been exceedingly warm, creating the prime conditions for a storm like Harvey. ACD is amping up hurricanes.

Now, Harvey will be another name added to the list of other deadly ACD-amplified hurricanes, like Katrina, Ike and Sandy, which have caused record-setting levels of devastation in the US.

“Fuel for the Storm”

In more ways than one, Harvey has been unprecedented, and that is due to ACD’s impacts on the conditions for the storm.

Sea-surface temperatures near Texas were between 2.7° and 7.2°F above average, making them some of the warmest ocean temperatures on Earth. This caused Harvey to ramp up from a tropical depression to a catastrophic Category 4 hurricane in merely two days’ time.

“This is the main fuel for the storm,” Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research told The Atlantic. “Although these storms occur naturally, the storm is apt to be more intense, maybe a bit bigger, longer-lasting, and with much heavier rainfalls [because of that ocean heat].”

Trenberth also told The Atlantic,

“The human contribution can be up to 30 percent or so of the total rainfall coming out of the storm. It may have been a strong storm, and it may have caused a lot of problems anyway — but [human-caused climate change] amplifies the damage considerably.”

Trenberth is the author of a 2011 study titled, “Changes in precipitation with climate change,” which shows how the water-holding capacity of air increases 7 percent for every 1°C warming, which naturally leads to an increase in the atmosphere’s ability to hold water, and sets the conditions for epic rain events like Texas is experiencing today.

“Epic and Catastrophic Flooding”

Late Sunday the National Weather Service announced “epic and catastrophic flooding” had occurred in and around Houston and Galveston, and that the flooding could worsen with additional expected rainfall.

In 2001, Tropical Storm Allison was the worst rainstorm to strike a city in the US in modern history. It caused a deluge in Houston, which left 30,000 homeless, killed 23 in Texas as a whole, and caused severe damage to hospitals and other buildings in downtown Houston.

Harvey may well exceed these records, if rainfall continues as predicted.

Scientists are already warning that the storm is going to cause the most devastating flooding the city has ever seen.

“The economic impact should be greater than any other flood event we’ve ever experienced,” Sam Brody, a scientist at Texas A&M University in Galveston who specializes in natural hazards mitigation, told the Texas Tribune. “And it’s going to take years for these residential communities to recover.”

Harvey is unique in another way as well. According to Stephanie Zick, who is studying tropical cyclones at Virginia Tech University, Harvey is the only storm on record in the Gulf of Mexico to have ever intensified in the 12 hours prior to making landfall.

Given that warming of both the atmosphere and oceans is only going to continue to escalate, a text I received Sunday from a good friend of mine who lives near downtown Houston captured what Harvey portends:

It will take years to recover.

We are all rescuing each other.

Odd to think that our future can be summed up like that.

Dahr Jamail, a Truthout staff reporter, is the author of The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan (Haymarket Books, 2009), and Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq (Haymarket Books, 2007). Jamail reported from Iraq for more than a year, as well as from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Turkey over the last 10 years, and has won the Martha Gellhorn Award for Investigative Journalism, among other awards.

Copyright, Truthout. Reprinted with permission.

Featured image is from AccuWeather.

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Twelve years ago, exactly: 29 August 2005, Hurricane Katrina. The Hurricane Harvey Catastrophe started on Friday 25, 2017

We bring to the attention of Global Research readers an event which has not been covered by the mainstream media.

This article was first published by GR, two weeks after the Katrina disaster of August 29, 2005

The Federal Emergency Management Agency had contemplated the possibility of a Hurricane disaster. In fact, it had simulated in minute detail the underlying consequences in an exercise undertaken in  2004.   

In an open letter to Homeland Security Department Secretary Chertoff, Rep. Henry  Waxman and Chairman of the Government Reform Committee Tom Davis outline the background of the Hurricane Disaster Scenario.

An exercise known as “Hurricane Pam,” was conducted by FEMA and IEM in July 2004:

 “bringing together emergency officials from 50 parish, state, federal, and volunteer organizations to simulate the conditions described above and plan an emergency response. As a result of the exercise, officials reportedly developed proposals for handling debris removal, sheltering, search and rescue, medical care, and schools.”

“The specific disaster scenario contemplated under the contract is strikingly similar to the actual disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina. The contract envisioned that “a catastrophic hurricane could result in significant numbers of deaths and injuries, trap hundreds of thousands of people in flooded areas, and leave up to one million people homeless.” The Scope of Work expressly directed the contractor to plan for the following specific conditions:

• “Over one million people would evacuate from New Orleans. Evacuees would crowd shelters throughout Louisiana and adjacent states.”

• “Hurricane surge would block highways and trap 300,000 to 350,000 persons in flooded areas. Storm surge of over 18 feet would overflow flood-protection levees on the Lake Pontchartrain side of New Orleans. Storm surge combined with heavy rain could leave much of New Orleans under 14 to 17 feet of water. More than 200 square miles of urban areas would be flooded.”

• “It could take weeks to ‘de-water’ (drain) New Orleans: Inundated pumping stations and damaged pump motors would be inoperable. Flood-protection levees would prevent drainage of floodwater. Breaching the levees would be a complicated and politically sensitive problem: The Corps of Engineers may have to use barges or helicopters to haul earthmoving equipment to open several hundred feet of levee.”

The text of the Letter is published below. The original letter is available in pdf and word formats:

http://democrats.reform.house.gov/Documents/20050909123431-75333.pdf

http://democrats.reform.house.gov/Documents/20050909123505-34183.doc

[Text of Letter to Michael Chertoff without footnotes]

September 9, 2005

The Honorable Michael Chertoff

Secretary of Homeland Security

Department of Homeland Security

Washington, DC 20528

Dear Secretary Chertoff:

The House Committee on Government Reform has obtained from the Department of Homeland Security a document describing the “Scope of Work” of a contract issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the development of a “Southeastern Louisiana Catastrophic Hurricane Plan.” We are writing to request any plans and other documents that were developed under this contract.

FEMA’s Scope of Work contemplated that a private contractor, Innovative Emergency Management, Inc. (IEM), would complete the work under the contract in three stages. “Stage One” called for a simulation exercise involving FEMA and the state of Louisiana that would “feature a catastrophic hurricane striking southeastern Louisiana.” “Stage Two” called for “development of the full catastrophic hurricane disaster plan.” And “Stage Three” involved unrelated earthquake planning.

A task order issued under the contract called for IEM to execute “Stage One” between May 19 and September 30, 2004, at a cost of $518,284. On June 3, 2004, IEM issued a press release announcing that it would “lead the development of a catastrophic hurricane disaster plan for Southeast Louisiana and the City of New Orleans under a more than half a million dollar contract with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).” A second task order issued on September 23, 2004, required IEM to “complete the development of the SE Louisiana Catastrophic Hurricane plan.” The cost of this task order was $199,969.

The “Background” section of the Scope of Work stated that “the emergency management community has long feared the occurrence of a catastrophic disaster,” which the document describes as “an event having unprecedented levels of damage, casualties, dislocation, and disruption that would have nationwide consequences and jeopardize national security.” According to the background discussion, the emergency management community was concerned that “existing plans, policies, procedures and resources” would not be adequate to address such a “mega-disaster.”

According to the Scope of Work, the contact “will assist FEMA, State, and local government to enhance response planning activities and operations by focusing on specific catastrophic disasters: those disasters that by definition will immediately overwhelm the existing disaster response capabilities of local, State, and Federal Governments.” With respect to southeastern Louisiana, the specific “catastrophic disaster” to be addressed was “a slow-moving Category 3, 4, or 5 hurricane that … crosses New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain.” The Scope of Work explained:

Various hurricane studies suggest that a slow-moving Category 3 or almost any Category 4 or 5 hurricane approaching Southeast Louisiana from the south could severely damage the heavily populated Southeast portion of the state creating a catastrophe with which the State would not be able to cope without massive help from neighboring states and the Federal Government.

The Scope of Work further stated: “The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness (LOEP) believe that the gravity of the situation calls for an extraordinary level of advance planning to improve government readiness to respond effectively to such an event.”

The specific disaster scenario contemplated under the contract is strikingly similar to the actual disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina. The contract envisioned that “a catastrophic hurricane could result in significant numbers of deaths and injuries, trap hundreds of thousands of people in flooded areas, and leave up to one million people homeless.” The Scope of Work expressly directed the contractor to plan for the following specific conditions:

• “Over one million people would evacuate from New Orleans. Evacuees would crowd shelters throughout Louisiana and adjacent states.”

• “Hurricane surge would block highways and trap 300,000 to 350,000 persons in flooded areas. Storm surge of over 18 feet would overflow flood-protection levees on the Lake Pontchartrain side of New Orleans. Storm surge combined with heavy rain could leave much of New Orleans under 14 to 17 feet of water. More than 200 square miles of urban areas would be flooded.”

• “It could take weeks to ‘de-water’ (drain) New Orleans: Inundated pumping stations and damaged pump motors would be inoperable. Flood-protection levees would prevent drainage of floodwater. Breaching the levees would be a complicated and politically sensitive problem: The Corps of Engineers may have to use barges or helicopters to haul earthmoving equipment to open several hundred feet of levee.”

• “Rescue operations would be difficult because much of the area would be reachable only by helicopters and boats.”

• “Hospitals would be overcrowded with special-needs patients. Backup generators would run out of fuel or fail before patients could be moved elsewhere.”

• “The New Orleans area would be without electric power, food, potable water, medicine, or transportation for an extended time period.”

• “Damaged chemical plants and industries could spill hazardous materials.”

• “Standing water and disease could threaten public health.”

• “There would be severe economic repercussions for the state and region.”

• “Outside responders and resources, including the Federal response personnel and materials, would have difficulty entering and working in the affected area.”

It appears that IEM completed the task order for “Stage One,” the hurricane simulation. An exercise know as “Hurricane Pam,” was conducted by FEMA and IEM in July 2004, bringing together emergency officials from 50 parish, state, federal, and volunteer organizations to simulate the conditions described above and plan an emergency response. As a result of the exercise, officials reportedly developed proposals for handling debris removal, sheltering, search and rescue, medical care, and schools.

It is not clear, however, what plans or draft plans, if any, IEM prepared to complete “Stage Two,” the development of the final catastrophic hurricane disaster plan. The task order for “Stage Two” provided that the “period of performance” was September 23, 2004, to September 30, 2005.

The basis for the award of the planning work to IEM is also not indicated in the documents we received. The task orders were issued to IEM by FEMA under an “Indefinite Delivery Vehicle” (IDV) contract between IEM and the General Services Administration. According to the Federal Procurement Data System, FEMA received only one bid (from IEM) for the task orders.

The documents from the Department raise multiple questions about the contract with IEM and the planning for a catastrophic hurricane in southeastern Louisiana. To help us understand these issues, we request that the Department provide the following documents and information:

(1) Any documents relating to the “Stage One” simulation exercise, including documents prepared for exercise planners and participants, transcripts or minutes of exercise proceedings, participant evaluations, and after action reports;

(2) Any final or draft plans for a catastrophic hurricane in southeastern Louisiana prepared under “Stage Two” of the contract, including any final or draft Catastrophic Hurricane Disaster Plan, Basic Plan Framework, Emergency Support Function Annex, or Support Annex; and

(3) An explanation of the procurement procedures used in selecting IEM for the contract and task orders, as well as a description of IEM’s qualifications and the justification for selecting IEM.

We recognize that Department officials are engaged in ongoing relief efforts, and we do not want to impair those efforts in any way. For this reason, we have tailored our request to the discrete set of documents and information set forth above. To expedite your response to this request, we have enclosed copies of the Scope of Work, task orders, and other documents cited in this letter.

Sincerely,

Rep. Tom Davis Rep. Henry A. Waxman

Chairman Ranking Minority Member

Enclosure


ANNEX

Opening Statement of Chairman Tom Davis

Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for

and Response to Hurricane Katrina

October 19th, 2005

Good morning, and welcome to the Select Committee’s third hearing on the preparation for and response to Hurricane Katrina.

On September 15, before this Select Committee was established by a bipartisan House vote, the Government Reform Committee held a hearing on the early lessons learned from Katrina.  At that hearing, the Committee’s Ranking Member, Henry Waxman, said there were “two steps we should take right away.”

First, he said, we should request basic documents from the agencies.  And second, he said – and I quote – “we need to hear from Michael Brown and Michael Chertoff.  These are the two government officials most responsible for the inadequate response, and the Committee should call them to testify without delay.”

I’m happy to report that we haven’t delayed.  We’ve met and exceeded these goals.  We’re doing the oversight we’re charged with doing.  While many who so urgently called on Congress to swiftly investigate have refused to participate and instead tilt at windmills, we’re investigating aggressively what went wrong and what went right.

And we – those on my side of the aisle, and those Democrats who agree we need to ask tough questions, together — are doing it by the book, letting the chips fall where they may.  I will continue to invite Democrats to join us.  I will continue to give them full and equal opportunity to make statements and question witnesses and help guide the direction of our inquiry.

But regardless of who does and does not show up for our hearings, we have a job to do, and I’m intent on doing it right.

Our goal today is to understand the Department of Homeland Security’s role and responsibilities before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama on August 29, 2005.

I want to thank DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff for being here today so we can discuss the specific actions he took right before, during, and after the storm.  His insight and perspective will be critical as we construct the narrative that will serve as the foundation of our final report.

Although the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Michael Brown have received the most attention from Members of Congress, state and local officials, and the news media in Katrina’s wake, DHS and Secretary Chertoff have primary responsibility for managing the national response to a catastrophic disaster, according to the National Response Plan.

Three weeks ago we heard from Michael Brown.  Today we’ll hear from his boss, the man who ultimately fired him.

We need to find out if Michael Brown had it right when he testified before our committee.  Has FEMA been under-funded and under-staffed?  Has it become ‘emaciated’?  Did Congress undermine FEMA’s effectiveness when we folded it into DHS?

Michael Brown testified that he asked the Department for funding to implement the lessons learned from the Hurricane Pam exercise and that those funds were denied.  He also testified about brain drain, diminished financial resources, and “assessments” of $70 to $80 million by DHS for DHS-wide programs.  He said he wrote memos to Secretary Ridge and Secretary Chertoff regarding the inadequacy of FEMA’s resources.  We will ask the Secretary about these assertions.

And regardless of his response, we are left with the question of whether any of this affected the government’s preparation for and response to Katrina.

We also need to establish the Department’s role and responsibilities in a disaster.  What resources can the Secretary bring to bear?  What triggers the decision to deploy those resources?  During Katrina, how personally involved was Secretary Chertoff in seeking, authorizing, or deploying specific resources?

Michael Brown testified that he had “no problem picking up the phone and getting hold of [Secretary] Chertoff…”  How many times during these difficult days did he make those calls?  What did he ask for?  What did he get?

Michael Brown also testified that he wished he’d called in the military sooner.  Did that require Secretary Chertoff’s involvement?  Did Mr. Brown ask the Secretary to seek military support?  If so, when?

Over the past several weeks, we’ve all boned up on the disaster declaration process outlined in the Stafford Act.  We understand the goals, structure and mechanisms of the National Response Plan.  We’ve learned the alphabet soup of “coordinating elements” established by the Plan: the HSOC (“H-Sock”) and RRCC; JFOs and PFOs; the IIMG.

Now it’s our job to find out how this soup was served.

At the end of the day, we’ll tell a story about the National Response Plan, and how its 15 Emergency Support Functions were implemented with Katrina.  We’ll see how well the ESFs were followed.  Where there were problems, we’ll ask why.  Where even flawless execution led to unacceptable results, we’ll have to return to questioning the underlying Plan.

The American people don’t care about acronyms or organizational charts.  They want to know who was supposed to do what, when, and whether the job got done.  And if it didn’t get done, they want to know how we are going to make sure it does the next time.

Americans know by now that there was no shortage of plans, no shortage of exercises.  They know just as well that there was a profound failure to be proactive, a deep inability to execute.  They understand this was a big, big storm.  But they also understand that too many people viewed preparation and response as “someone else’s problem.”

Under the National Response Plan, the DHS Secretary is the federal official charged with declaring an Incident of National Significance.  Part of that declaration is naming a Principal Federal Official, or PFO, to manage the response.

We only received a handful of the e-mails we requested to and from Mike Brown in time to prepare for this hearing.  We were disappointed, to say the least, that a congressionally mandated committee, with subpoena power, has had to wait this long on a seemingly simple request.  The bulk of the documents we requested did not arrive until late last night.  It’s this sort of inadequate responsiveness to requests for information that has long frustrated many of our Members, and perhaps sheds some light on the Department’s woeful response to Katrina.

But, from the handful of Mike Brown’s emails we did received in a timely manner,  we know that he resented being named the PFO by the Secretary.  What does the Secretary have to say about that?  What does this say about the underlying Plan?

Finally, we hope today to ask Secretary Chertoff what we’re asking all officials as part of our investigation.  Where were you in the days and hours right before, during, and after the hurricane?  What were you doing?  Who were you talking to?  Establishing this timeline will be a key part of the story we end up telling in our report.

Based on the information we have gathered so far – and we have much, much more to gather – it seems that all too often, local, state, and federal leaders were planning in a crisis environment.  A lot of decisions that seemingly should have been made days or months or years before were being made on the fly, or not made at all.

That’s just not good government.

NYU Professor Paul Light wrote recently that “Mr. Chertoff is just about the only official in Washington who can say ‘I told you so’ about FEMA,” based on some of the reforms he outlined last July in his Second Stage Review.  I wonder if Secretary Chertoff believes FEMA’s response to Katrina would have been better if the reforms had been in place on August 29th.

Interviewed by CNN on September 21st, Secretary Chertoff said it is his “responsibility to fix the things that don’t work well.  That’s what we are in the process of doing right now.”  Today we hope to hear his thoughts on exactly what didn’t work well with Katrina, and how the Department’s process of self-examination is proceeding.

With the opening of the 59th Damascus International Fair this month after a five-year hiatus, one can assume with cautious optimism that Syria has won the war against terrorism and Imperialist aggression, if not yet militarily, certainly intellectually and spiritually.

The Fair was a major success with a huge turnover, a victory that the people of the proud and secular Ba’athist Syrian Arab Republic have every right to celebrate, not least because the theme was national revival and infrastructural renewal, with exhibitors from 23 different countries showcasing their products.

The people of Syria have shown tremendous moral resistance and grace ever since its independence in 1946, despite being on the receiving end of perpetual Israeli aggression, and more recently, of Western and Gulfi financed war that has ravaged the country since 2011.

But it is not just Syrians who have demonstrated a great deal of courage under sheer terror and destruction. The Palestinians who are being oppressed, starved, displaced and murdered in the 21st Century by the illegal and genocidal Zionist regime in Tel Aviv have also shown tremendous resilience. What’s more, the Israelis are armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons, while the Palestinians have only stones, guns and the occasional crude rocket to defend themselves with.

As far as I and many others are concerned, there is no such thing as a Palestinian terrorist in Palestine, any more than there is such a thing as an Israeli holding a gun with a clean conscience. The fact that the Zionists are annoyed that the Palestinians don’t shut up and put up, is another matter. What is true, however is that the Palestinians have every right to do as they please in their land, and it is the occupiers, the European immigrant Jews, the colonialists, who are the real terrorists. They have constructed a fake state and made a career terrorizing the natives in the most sickening and inhumane manner imaginable. The Palestinians are surviving against all odds.

I say all odds because other than Syria, Palestine has no real friends in the Arab world. Hamas is an extremist group with a dubious record both militarily and morally. It only exists as controlled opposition, to maintain the status quo. It has failed to protect the Palestinian people, much less liberate them. Nothing good will ever come of Hamas; as far as many are concerned, they are traitors to both Palestine and to the only real ally of Palestine, Syria. Let us not forget that during the Imperialist war on Syria, Hamas was on the same side as al Qaeda/Isis and Israel who have sought to dis-unify and occupy the Levant for decades.

What is quite interesting, is that when the British offered the European Jews part of British Uganda, they rejected the idea and insisted on Palestine due to the biblical connotations, an unrelated but clever marketing tactic that they have mastered to perfection.

I am inclined to believe that the British and the Jews may have known at some level that the Arabs would have been an easy people to occupy and oppress. That is not to say that the Arabs are not good warriors, they are just not trained to kill. Frankly, they could not have chosen a more defenceless people, and there are historical and cultural reasons for this.

Arabs have had it comparatively easy as a people throughout history. They were united and taken care of under the Caliphates and they also enjoyed substantial autonomy under Turkish rule that the Greeks, Serbs, Armenians and others were deprived of. Perversely, this reality has allowed for dis-unification over petty and meaningless matters, precisely because they are intrinsically more united than many other peoples who have struggled for centuries to create what the Arabs have naturally.

The Arabs have a common multi-continent contiguous landmass with many resources, a common language, Islam and Christianity are accepted as two styles of worship of the same God/Allah. All of this has resulted in an Arab culture that has become dis-unified not in spite of, but because of unity.

Germany had to fight a war with its own states and foreign powers (Austria and France) to unify; Russia struggled against centuries of foreign invasion and wars; India is grappling with sectarianism as the socialism of Nehru is subsumed by Modi’s radical Hindu extremism; Philippines suffered centuries of oppression, first under Spain and then under the United States. The Arabs, however have only been colonised by European imperialists as recently as the 20th century, and even though the states of the Arab world are technically independent, many still suffer from the cognitive dissonance of post-imperial malaise combined with a sense of independence and freedom based on the previous thousand years of Arab history.

If the presence of a colonial settler state of Israel combined with American military meddling across the Arab world cannot show the Arabs their existing advantages of historic unity, what can? Instead they have allowed themselves to be manipulated. The Shi’a/Sunni divides are getting worse while previously they had been better. The Arabs, once the most unified people in the world despite healthy local differences, are now fighting amongst one another over small differences. They are dividing and conquering themselves. They have set up their own gallows and then invited the imperialists in to perform the executions.

With the exception of Spanish barbarism in the 15th century, and the crusader aggression, the Arab people have never known suffering like they have in the 20th and 21st centuries. This tragic reality may instill a sense of perspective, and serve as a reminder that they are one people, that they can put their minor differences aside and fight the real enemies: Israel and the West.

There is only one leader in the Arab world today who clearly and sincerely articulates the importance of Arabism and unity against common threats to peace and prosperity. That man is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. While Arab countries stand divided along sectarian lines and remain compromised due to alliances with imperial powers who retard the progress of Arab freedom and dignity, only Bashar al-Assad and the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party can provide a leadership strong enough to bring unity to the Arab world. This is a leadership that emphasises national liberation, personal dignity and collective prosperity. For the Arab world it is a choice between this, and oblivion.

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The Syrian Arab Army (SAA), the National Defense Forces (NDF) and the Qalamoun Shield Forces are working to liberate the ISIS-held area of Uqayribat which was encircled by government forces earlier this month.

The SAA and its allies have recently liberated Kherbet Bil’as, Mushrifat Huwaysis, Kherbet, Kherbet Tawil Bil’as, and Jub Abyad, closing in on ISIS units in Uqayribat.

The town is the last remaining ISIS stronghold in the area north of the Homs-Palmyra highway.  As soon as it’s liberated, government forces will be able to focus on lifting the ISIS siege from Deir Ezzor.

The Russian Aerospace Forces destroyed 26 more pieces of ISIS military equipment, including 4 battle tanks and 2 fortified strong points belonging to the terrorist group, the Russian Defense Ministry reported on Monday.

The failed ISIS advance in the Ghanem Ali area allegedly allowed the SAA to develop momentum along the  Euphrates River.  According to the defense ministry, ISIS is now trying to re-group its forces in the province of Deir Ezzor.

Commanders of two Arab factions within the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Ibrahim al-Banawi and Fayyad al-Ghanim, have reportedly defected to the SAA in the province of Raqqah amid the growing Kurdish-Arab tensions within the SDF.

Earlier, reports appeared that the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) were preparing to arrest both of the commanders as well as some members of their groups: Liwa Jund al-Haramain and Liwaa Suqour al-Raqqa.

Kurdish militias remain the only real military power within the SDF and contribute all possible efforts to consolidate political and military influence in the SDF-held areas.

Meanwhile, the SDF has captured Mansour district and advanced in the Thakanah district in the city of Raqqah.  Pro-Kurdish sources speculate that the entire city will be liberated from ISIS within 1-2 months.

Voiceover by Harold Hoover

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Selected Articles: Heightened Tensions Between Iran and the US?

August 30th, 2017 by Global Research News

Global Research strives for peace, and we have but one mandate: to share timely, independent and vital information to readers across the globe. We act as a global platform to let the voices of dissent, protest, and expert witnesses and academics be heard and disseminated internationally.

We need to stand together to continuously question politics, false statements, and the suppression of independent thought.

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Stronger together: your donations are crucial to independent, comprehensive news reporting in the ongoing battle against media disinformation. (click image above to donate)

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Trump Seeks Rigged Intelligence to Renege on Iran Nuclear Deal

By Stephen Lendman, August 29, 2017

According to London’s Guardian, “US intelligence officials are under pressure from the White House to produce a justification to declare Iran in violation of a 2015 nuclear agreement” – despite no evidence suggesting it.

Iran, Again. Will Israel Start a New War?

By Philip Giraldi, August 29, 2017

Israel believes that bringing Washington into the conflict is doable given that the U.S. media has heavily propagandized against Tehran and that inside-the-beltway groupthink largely perceives Iran as an enemy.

Israeli Defense Minister: Tel Aviv Will Not Allow Iran to Build Military Bases in Syria

By South Front, August 28, 2017

The Lieberman statement was the second Israeli warning in two days. On August 23 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that Israel is ready to defend its interests and to counteract the Iranian influence in Syria.

Real Fake Helicopter Money – CIA Counterfeiting Currencies to Destroy National Economies

By Terje Maloy, August 28, 2017

It is worthwhile to take a look at possibly the same tactic is being used for Iran, where counterfeiting the rial might have been used in an attempt to crash the national currency. Hanke gets enthusiastic about having identified a period of hyperinflation in Iran in 2012.

Netanyahu to Putin: Iran Must Withdraw From Syria or Israel Will ‘Defend Itself’

By RT News, August 25, 2017

When the two leaders met in Sochi on Wednesday, Netanyahu told Putin that any peace deal in Syria must entail the full withdrawal of any Iranian forces from the area.

Trump, Israel and the Pursuit of War on Iran: Trump Hopes that Iran Will Violate Nuclear Deal

By Timothy Alexander Guzman, August 03, 2017

The Trump Administration has notified international inspectors in Vienna that “the possibility of demanding access to military sites in Iran where there is reasonable suspicion of nuclear research or development” the report continued “If the Iranians balk, as seems likely, their refusal could enable Washington to declare Tehran in violation of the 2-year-old deal.” What would that mean? For starters, the U.S. would impose harsh sanctions against Iran which would see retaliatory actions by the Iranians including the complete elimination of the U.S. dollar in its oil trades.

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Whatever the West may think, and no matter what the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri may say publicly, the Lebanese army, in clear coordination with Hezbollah (which is outlawed in many Western countries) as well as with the Syrian army, is now pounding the positions of deadly ISIS/Daesh, right at the border region.

The army began the operation on August 19, 2017, at 5 in the morning, by firing at the terrorists’ positions in Jaroud, Raas Ba’albak and al-Qaa’ using rockets and heavy artillery. It all has an emotional twist: the army commanders declared that the operation was launched in honor of the country’s kidnapped military men and martyrs.

Apparently, Lebanon has finally decided: that, enough is enough! First Al-Nusra Front and now ISIS have to go.

Ignore the fact the Lebanese government went out of its way to say that the Lebanese army is actually not coordinating with Syrian forces, or with Hezbollah. After all, Mr. Hariri just recently returned from Washington, where he met the US President who is treating Syrian President Assad as his personal enemy, and Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. Personally, Mr. Hariri likes the West, and he is very close to its loyal ally, Saudi Arabia, where he was born.

But Mr. Haririwas never elected. Lebanon is using a complex and obscure “confession system”, ‘distributing political and institutional power proportionally among confessional communities’. President has to be a Maronite Christian; Speaker of the Parliament is Shi’a Muslim and Prime Minister has to be a Sunni Muslim.

Therefore, one thing is what Mr. Hariri says, and other what most of the people of Lebanon think or do.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese resistance, politicaland social movement Hezbollah has also declared a joint anti-Daesh (ISIS) offensive with the Syrian army, at the other side of the border. The gloves are suddenly off.

Unlike one month earlier, when Al-Nusra Front was almost totally wiped out by the same coalition but in the end its fighters were spared and offered a transfer to a  ‘safe zone’ inside Syria (Idlib), this time there is not going to be any preliminary negotiation with the most venomous of all terrorist groups in the region. The message is clear: either the unconditional or at least irreversible surrender of all ISIS terrorists, or their total destruction.

By the evening of August 20, the Lebanese army was already holding around 80 square kilometers (roughly 30%) of the area that was previously controlled by Daesh (ISIS).

*

Before I departed from the Lebanese capital for Cairo, Egypt, I drank a few cups of coffee with my good friend, an intellectual from Syria. We were sitting in the middle of Beirut’s Christian neighborhood, Achrafieh.

“Let’s take a ‘selfie’ together,” he said. I was surprised; before he was known to despise social media.

“We are winning,” he said, “and that’s great… But you never know what happens next… There will be, surely, some terrible retaliation. Who knows whether we’ll see each other again, you know… Something may happen to me, or to you, on the way to the airport.”

I knew what he was talking about, and I have written about the situation many times before. Lebanon, in some of the non-Muslim neighborhoods of Beirut, has been literally saturated with so-called “dormant cells”, of various terrorist organizations, particularly ISIS. At any moment they can get ‘activated’, destroying hundreds of lives in this beautiful but long-suffering city.

Beirut is nervous, edgy. Great victories in the mountains liberated tormented local people, and Lebanon is finally regaining its territories. But the terrorists will not disappear from the country overnight. They may be losing big territorial battles, but they are still capable of inflicting terrible casualties on the civilians and even the military.

But so far, everything is moving rapidly, in Lebanon and across the border. The once astonishing number of almost 2 million refugees on its territory has gradually been reduced to 1.5 million, and then adjusted further down to 1.2 million. Soon it may drop well under one million.

Syrians are going back, confident that peace is returning to their scarred land.

The Syrian forces, as well as Russians, Iranians and Hezbollah, are clearly determined to stop the insurgency of several terrorist groups on the Syrian territory, while China is now also playing an increasingly important and positive role.

Most of the terrorist armies are directly or indirectly supported by the West or by its close allies in the Gulf. Turkey is also playing dangerous and deadly games in the region.

*

Almost no one is talking about the final collapse of the Middle East, anymore. Entire nations have been damaged; some went up in flames. Implanted militant Islam served well both the West and much of the Gulf. But Syria survived; it fought bravely and determinedly, supported by its allies and at an enormous cost, it has managed to stop the imperialists and their brutal extremist local offshoots.

While no one is celebrating, yet, the mood in Syria, Lebanon and in several other part of the region is suddenly upbeat.

The West is now fully discredited, while Russia has gained great respect.

As Lebanese and Syrian armies are, with Hezbollah support, conducting offensive against the ISIS, Russian jets, it is reported, killed some 200 terrorists heading for a region of Deirez-Zur in Syria. In the same period of time, US-led strikes killed at least 17 civilians in Raqqah.

Mr. Assad has no illusions about the motives of the Western involvement in the region. As reported on August 20 by SANA Syrian Arab Agency, he recently gave a powerful speech:

“…This conflict is a valuable opportunity for the West to ‘settle the account’ with so many countries and subjugating countries which have refused to bow to the West’s hegemony during the past years or decades, including Syria, Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Belarus among others, even Russia.”

President Assad continued:

“Today the West is facing an existential conflict….living in a state of hysteria whenever there is a state that wants to take part with it in the international decision-making in any field and in any place in the world”.

*

By August 27 2017, it was clear that Daesh (ISIS) fighters were cornered, if not completely defeated. The Lebanese Army agreed to a cease-fire in its offensive, after terrorists decided to lay down arms. Negotiations began. It appears that the ISIS may soon pull out of Lebanese territory to Syria, to a designated zone.

Victory came at a heavy price: the Lebanese Army helicopters were flying helicopters with body bags containing remains of the soldiers, over the capital – Beirut.

Across the border (as was reported by Press TV on August 27), helicopters were used for totally different goals:

“For the second time this week, a helicopter operating under the US-led coalition has transferred members of the Daesh terrorist group in Syria’s eastern Dayr al-Zawr Province, a UK-based monitoring group says… Syrian sources said that the operation was accompanied by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces’ artillery fire… The sources speculated that the airlift was possibly meant to transfer US mercenaries fighting alongside Daesh or the terror outfit’s ringleaders who sought to defect…”

*

Tiny Lebanon is tied to Syria with an umbilical cord. It is a rocky, often extremely complex relationship, but during the historic moments like this it is clear that both countries can and choose to act in unison. The Prime Minister of Lebanon may like to flirt with Donald Trump in Washington and with Saudi Arabia, but the armies of both countries are clearly together, fighting the same enemy. And so is Hezbollah.

To both the Syrian and Lebanese people, it is clear who the real enemies of the region are. And they are definitely not Hezbollah or President Assad.

*

Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. Three of his latest books are revolutionary novel “Aurora” and two bestselling works of political non-fiction: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire” and  Fighting Against Western Imperialism. View his other books here. Andre is making films for teleSUR and Al-Mayadeen. Watch Rwanda Gambit, his groundbreaking documentary about Rwanda and DRCongo. After having lived in Latin America, Africa and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides in East Asia and the Middle East, and continues to work around the world. He can be reached through his website and his Twitter.

This article was originally published by New Eastern Outlook.

Featured image is from New Eastern Outlook.

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