Syrians Return Home As the Terrorists Are Pushed Out

July 7th, 2017 by Steven MacMillan

After six years of fighting a brutal and long war against foreign-backed terrorist proxy forces, the Syrian army – and its allies – have made significant gains in recent months. The Syrian army’s recent triumphs include liberating many areas in the Homs province, reaching the Iraqi border in what was described as a “strategic turning point in the war,” in addition to securing the Aleppo province from ISIS. It is clear that the Syrian army has the upper hand in the conflict, a fact that the hawks in Washington, London, Brussels, Riyadh and Tel Aviv find too difficult to stomach. 

As the Syrian army prevails on the ground, capturing territory from the militants in the process, hundreds of thousands of Syrians are returning to their homes. As Andrej Mahecic, the spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Refugee Agency, said in a press briefing at the end of June, many Syrians are returning “to their homes” partly due to a “real or perceived improvement in security conditions” in many regions recently liberated:

“[The] UNHC is seeing a notable trend of spontaneous returns to and within Syria in 2017. Aid agencies estimate that more than 440,000 internally displaced people have returned to their homes in Syria during the first six months of this year. In parallel, UNHCR has monitored over 31,000 Syrian refugees returning from neighbouring countries so far in 2017. 

The main factors influencing decisions for refugees to return self-assisted mostly to Aleppo, Hama, Homs, Damascus and to other governorates are primarily linked to seeking out family members, checking on property, and, in some cases, a real or perceived improvement in security conditions in parts of the country.” 

Although the conflict is far from over, and the rebuilding of Syria will likely cost hundreds of billions of dollars, many Syrians can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. The defeat of foreign-backed mercenaries and the stabilization of Syria has always been of central importance to help solve part of the refugee/migrant crisis that has gripped Europe in recent years.

Syrian Arab Army in Quneitra (Source: Al Masdar News)

Short of any extremely reckless action by the West and its allies, the Syrian army will continue to liberate large parts of the country from the foreign-backed militants, paving the way for more internally and externally displaced Syrians to return to their homes. In their desperation however, the enemies of Syria may again stage a false flag chemical weapons attack and blame it on the Syrian government, in an attempt to justify a major military intervention to turn the tide.

The Need to Resist Balkanization 

The second option available to the enemies of Syria is to continue the agenda of attempting to Balkanize Syria into different micro-states and mini-states, with the West clearly using Kurdish factions in an attempt to further this strategy. Ideally, the enemies of Syria wanted to force regime change in Damascus and then Balkanize the country into multiple rump states, although with regime change looking increasingly unrealistic, Balkanization in itself has become a central objective of the West.

There is literally an abundance of evidence that supports the thesis that Balkanization is a major goal of the West and its allies. In 1982, Oded Yinon, an Israeli journalist who had close connections to the Foreign Ministry in Israel, wrote an article titled: “A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties.” In the document, Yinon detailed how the “dissolution of Syria” into “ethnically or religiously unique areas” was a primary objective of Israel:

“Lebanon’s total dissolution into five provinces serves as a precedent for the entire Arab world including Egypt, Syria, Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula and is already following that track. The dissolution of Syria and Iraq later on into ethnically or religiously unique areas such as in Lebanon, is Israel’s primary target on the Eastern front in the long run, while the dissolution of the military power of those states serves as the primary short-term target. Syria will fall apart, in accordance with its ethnic and religious structure, into several states such as in present day Lebanon, so that there will be a Shi’ite Alawi state along its coast, a Sunni state in the Aleppo area, another Sunni state in Damascus hostile to its northern neighbor, and the Druzes who will set up a state, maybe even in our Golan, and certainly in the Hauran and in northern Jordan” (p.11, point 22).

A decade later, an article appeared in an extremely influential US publication which echoed the strategy advocated by Yinon. Published in the 1992 issue of Foreign Affairs, the magazine of the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR), the article was titled: Rethinking the Middle East, and was written by Bernard Lewis, the British-American historian, neoconservative and CFR member. In the article, Lewis outlines how many Middle East states could disintegrate into a “chaos of squabbling, feuding, fighting sects, tribes, regions and parties:”

“Another possibility, which could even be precipitated by fundamentalism, is what has of late become fashionable to call ‘Lebanonization.’ Most of the states of the Middle East—Egypt is an obvious exception—are of recent and artificial construction and are vulnerable to such a process. If the central power is sufficiently weakened, there is no real civil society to hold the polity together, no real sense of common national identity or overriding allegiance to the nation state. 

The state then disintegrates—as happened in Lebanon—into a chaos of squabbling, feuding, fighting sects, tribes, regions and parties. If things go badly and central governments falter and collapse, the same could happen, not only in the countries of the existing Middle East, but also in the newly independent Soviet republics, where the artificial frontiers drawn by the former imperial masters left each republic with a mosaic of minorities and claims of one sort or another on or by its neighbours.” 

In 2013, the former US Secretary of State and CFR member, Henry Kissinger, revealed his desire to see Syria Balkanized into “more or less autonomous regions” whilst speaking at the Ford School:

“There are three possible outcomes. An Assad victory. A Sunni victory. Or an outcome in which the various nationalities agree to co-exist together but in more or less autonomous regions, so that they can’t oppress each other. That’s the outcome I would prefer to see. But that’s not the popular view…. I also think Assad ought to go, but I don’t think it’s the key. The key is; it’s like Europe after the Thirty Years War, when the various Christian groups had been killing each other until they finally decided that they had to live together but in separate units. So that is the fundamental issue, and we’re beginning to move towards that” (from 27.35 into the interview).

Then at the end of 2015, Foreign Affairs published an article titled: Divide and Conquer in Syria and Iraq; Why the West Should Plan for a Partition. It was written by Barak Mendelsohn, an Associate Professor of Political Science at Haverford College and a Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. In the article, he argues that the “solution” to the current crisis in Syria and Iraq is the Balkanization of these countries into multiple micro-states, creating an “independent Sunni state” (or Sunnistan) in the process: 

“The only way to elicit indigenous support is by offering the Sunnis greater stakes in the outcome. That means proposing an independent Sunni state that would link Sunni-dominated territories on both sides of the border. Washington’s attachment to the artificial Sykes–Picots borders demarcated by France and Britain a century ago no longer makes sense. Few people truly believe that Syria and Iraq could each be put back together after so much blood has been spilled. A better alternative would be to separate the warring sides. Although the sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shias was not inevitable—it was, to some extent, the result of manipulation by self-interested elites—it is now a reality.” 

This is just a snapshot of the evidence that proves that the enemies of Syria want to Balkanize the country, with the Brookings Institution being another US think tank that has advocated this strategy, in one form or another, ad nauseam. Officials in Syria are well aware of this plan however, that is why the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, has repeatedly emphasised that he wants to recapture all of Syria.

Steven MacMillan is an independent writer, researcher, geopolitical analyst and editor of  The Analyst Report, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

Featured image from New Eastern Outlook

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Democracy in Nepal Passes a Second Test

July 7th, 2017 by Barbara Nimri Aziz

Featured image: Pro-democracy protests in Nepal (Source: GEOCITIES.ws)

Listen to our Monday morning commentary 7:45 am on WBAI NY, 99.5 fm, livestreaming worldwide www.wbai.org 

Nepal’s 28 million citizens have waited 20 years for the elections that finally took place during recent weeks (with the final 10 percent of ballots still being counted). These are nationwide elections for city, ward and village chairpersons, mayors and councils– positions vacant for two decades. These newly elected officials might offer some order and hope to citizens’ largely stagnant lives for too long. The democracy they had welcomed with the overthrow of the monarchy brought them little beyond party and ethnic squabbles and ineffective governance from Kathmandu, their corruption-infected capital.

The U.S. public and American media are usually fixated on human trafficking, Hindu goddesses, Buddhist monks and Himalayan lore when pausing momentarily to glance at Nepal. The U.S. State Department has shown little interest in the country’s determined although lumbering course into democracy as well.

This infant republic was created in 2008, brought about in large part by a hard-fought Maoist revolution that forced the government to sign a cease fire and accept Maoist participation in the nation’s governance. A plethora of parties fighting for dominance led to unsteady coalitions, while a succession of Maoist and Marxist-Leninist leaders shared a fragile leadership, almost by rotation. Not the color of democracy the U.S. would endorse and celebrate. Even when the 240 year old monarchy was abolished in 2008, there was no audible cheering in Delhi, London or Washington.

Nevertheless this awakened people forged indomitably ahead. While the central government operated by patching together a constituent assembly to function as a parliament, divvying up the leadership among the major parties to solidify the democracy, a new constitution for the republic was essential. A constitution would define election zones and administrative districts, allocate seats, qualify candidates and voters, and set standards for the campaign and polling processes of the new democracy. Meanwhile identity politics became an increasingly contentious issue, further delaying accord on the constitution.

Finally in 2015 the constitution was voted in, paving the way for these elections. After 20 years without representative local government, citizens–from isolated mountainous regions to densely populated tropical plains, in every city and village–have their opportunity to try out democracy in their own neighborhood.

This long anticipated event drew many aspiring newcomers to declare their candidacy: young challengers, women (by law entitled to 30% of seats), and dalit (discriminated castes) who, like women, had not previously considered leadership positions. On its side, the citizenry has proved surprisingly engaged in this election. Farmers took precious time from planting season and faced hazardous travel conditions during the monsoon rains, to cast their ballots.

Unhampered by their infancy as a democracy and aware of the opportunity to counter a pervasive culture of squabbling pretenders and corrupt party politics, Nepalis today are somehow optimistic about new possibilities. They still feel the effects of the vacuum in leadership in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquake. Because no local authorities were in place to systematically coordinate aid, compensation and repairs of damaged buildings and roads were neglected or haphazardly managed.

An astonishing average 70% turnout at the polls has surprised many observers. Especially city people did not expect their uneducated citizens and villagers they had judged as ‘politically illiterate’ to exhibit such keenness. Kathmandu residents closely following the results interviewed in recent days seemed optimistic. Villagers’ response is also impressive because travel is hazardous during the monsoon rains; and this is the planting season when farmers, women and men who constitute majority of the population, are occupied in their fields.

As for the results, beyond the high turnout, there have been some upsets in party standing: first, we see generally lower support across the country for the Maoist Party; it registers a weak third place in the polls. Maoists played a major role in Nepal’s transition to democracy and the establishment of the republic after the 2006 cease fire with their leaders holding the premiership at various times since then. But during their dominance over the past decade, they’ve earned a reputation for corruption on the same scale as other parties.

With almost all the results tabulated for the 15,000 posts being contested, the outcome is clear and consistent nationwide. Leading the polls unequivocally with 133 local units is the Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML or MLN) in coalition with the Communist Part of Nepal (CPN). (Note: In regards to the leftist designation of Maoist and UML, none are as socialist as might be expected: e.g. none have carried out land reform.) They’re followed by wins in 115 localities by the centrist Congress Party which dominated politics in Nepal’s pre-republic era. What surprises B. Shrestha, a Nepali colleague contacted by phone is the outcome in the Terai (the plains area bordering India). There, the UML is leading, taking precedence over small regional ‘ethnic’ parties.

The results seem to be a turnaround for the region which had taken a hostile stance towards the dominant parties and held up the signing of the constitution. Its embrace of the UML-CPN is a sign that the Terai is more firmly a member of the republic. (On another front, poor showing by the royalist party suggests that Nepal’s monarchy is truly put to rest.)

Many women candidates succeeded in wining both mayoral and deputy mayoral positions. Their success follows a constitutional mandate and the standard set by three women in Nepal’s top positions, including president, in the central government. This will surely become a watershed for an increased presence of women not only at the national level but also in local leadership.

Last October, as the American presidential campaign was drawing to a close, I joined a family of Sherpa friends around a warming wood stove at their family home in the mountains. When conversation turned for a few moments from their own party politics to the U.S election, someone commented:

“Well, if in 240 years the Americans haven’t worked out everything, Nepal, in less than 15 years, isn’t doing so badly.”

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Trade Conflicts Hang Over G20 Summit

July 7th, 2017 by Nick Beams

As the Trump administration seeks to place its offensive against North Korea and China at the centre of the two-day G20 summit of world leaders that begins in Hamburg, Germany, today, trade conflicts will be very much present.

The most explosive issue is whether the US takes action under 1962 legislation that allows the president to limit steel imports on “national security” grounds. This has been described as the “nuclear option” on trade.

The US administration has been considering a report ordered by Trump in April on the impact of steel imports. It was initially thought the president would make an announcement on whether to invoke the legislation before the G20 met, but a decision has been delayed until after the summit.

While Chinese imports are the main target, any measures will also hit European steel producers, amid warnings such action would provoke retaliatory action by the European Union. Speaking on conditions of anonymity, a French official told reporters in a briefing on the summit that if measures were directed against European exports,

“we would obviously react very quickly, and we are getting prepared.”

The Trump administration’s threatened measures on steel, part of its “America First” agenda, are being driven by major US steel corporations, with the support of the steel industry trade union bureaucracy.

Speaking to Bloomberg, John Ferriola, the chief executive officer of Nucor, the largest US steel producer, said that for US steel firms to make the necessary return on capital they needed to operate at 85–87 percent capacity. This meant that imports should occupy 10–15 percent of the market. At present, imports make up about 26 percent of the US market.

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Source: osha.gov

Apart from China, the countries most affected would be Brazil, Canada, South Korea and members of the European Union. China maintains that its exports to the US are largely lower-grade steel, which US firms do not want to produce.

The steel issue is only the sharpest expression, to this point, of a much wider conflict that goes to the very nature of trade relations among the major powers.

This underlying conflict broke into the open at the G20 finance ministers’ meeting in March when US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin vetoed communiqué wording that spoke of the need to “resist protectionism.”

Since then, a form of words has been used at other high-level economic meetings, including the G7 summit in late May, to cover up the breach by referring to free trade that is “fair and mutually beneficial.” Some variation of this wording is likely to be adopted at Hamburg.

While the drafters of the G20 communiqué haggle over the wording, however, the differences are widening as evidenced by the US withdrawal from the Paris climate change accord. Following the G7 summit in May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that the days when Europe could rely on “others” were “over to some extent” and “we Europeans must really take our destiny into our own hands.”

The differences with the US have become even more explicit since then.

Last week, Merkel predicted “very difficult” talks over trade and climate change at the G20 meeting and spoke of “obvious” disagreements with the US.

“Whoever believes the problems of this world can be solved by isolationism and protectionism is making a tremendous error,” she told the German parliament.

In an interview with Die Zeit, published on Wednesday, Merkel elaborated further.

“While we are looking at the possibilities of co-operation to benefit everyone, globalisation is seen by the American administration more as a process that is not about a win-win situation but about winners and losers,” she said.

The Trump administration is particularly targeting Germany, China and, to some extent, Japan—the countries with the largest trade surpluses with the US—insisting that the present global trade order is working to their benefit at the expense of the US.

On the European side, in the lead up to the German elections in September, Merkel is under pressure from the opposition social democrats, who are calling for a more aggressive stance against the US. On Wednesday, SPD parliamentary leader Thomas Oppermann urged Merkel to isolate Trump at Hamburg, saying “appeasement” would lead “to the erosion of Western values.”

The growing tensions between the US and Europe were underscored on Wednesday when the European Union and Japan announced overall agreement on a trade deal. Both sides have agreed to the broad framework of a pact, with many details still to be worked out.

The timing of the announcement, on the eve of the summit, was highly significant. Negotiations have been underway for more than four years and many issues have still to be ironed out. The announcement was made in order to send a clear message to the US.

Claudia Schmucker, head of the globalisation program at the German Council on Foreign Relations said:

“In my view it will be 19 against one at the G20, and the European Union will try to take over the role of the US in respect to trade. It’s a direct answer to what Trump stands for.”

The EU-Japan talks were effectively put on hold while Japan negotiated with the Obama administration over the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But Trump’s scuttling of the TPP, in one of his first presidential acts, and the breakdown of negotiations between the EU and the US over a trade and investment agreement, clearly led to decisions in Tokyo and Brussels to push ahead.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), has tried to tread a fine line between the conflicting interests of the US, Europe and other major powers. In a briefing note to the summit, IMF head Christine Lagarde said that while growth prospects for the world economy were strengthening, they could be jeopardised without greater co-operation.

In remarks directed to the US, she said “no country is an island” and called on the G20 “to strengthen the global trading system and reaffirm our commitment to well enforced rules.”

On the other hand, reflecting the Trump administration’s criticism of Germany’s persistent trade surpluses, she called for Germany to undertake greater public spending. A “more expansionary fiscal stance in Germany” would raise potential output and have “positive spillover effects to other euro area economies where there is still cyclical slack.”

Such calls for a greater balancing of the world economy will fall on deaf ears. The Trump administration will take no notice of pleas to reverse its “America First” agenda, any more than Germany will ease its constrictions on government spending and the maintenance of budget surpluses, which it regards as the foundation of its economic and financial strength.

The G20 became the premier global economic forum following the 2008 financial crisis, with pledges to promote greater collaboration. Almost a decade on, it has become a battleground for the assertion of the economic interests of each against all.

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The war in Libya was caused not so much by any internal dissent but rather by the West’s need for continued economic expansion, which Western elites view as part and parcel of the post-Cold War “end of history”, a still-potent messianic ideology which gives the West the license to attack anyone, anywhere, to achieve its mercantilist objectives, and which gives the necessary humanitarian “fig leaf” for the benefit of the politically correct faction of Western societies.

Naturally, politically correct Westerners have been unbothered by the “humanitarian interventions” invariably making the situation far worse, and Libya has not been an exception. Since the fall of the regime of Muammar al-Gaddafi, Libya has not experienced any political, financial or even social stability, as the country is witnessing a state of constant fighting between all parties despite the absence of any religious or sectarian differences between the populations. Libya turned from one of the richest countries in the world to a failed state.

The current war in Libya began in 2014, with most of the fighting being between the internationally-recognized Tobruk-based Libyan Interim Government centered on the House of Representatives that was elected democratically in 2014, an Islamist National Salvation Government founded by the General National Congress based in Tripoli city, and the UN-backed Government of National Accord also based in Tripoli.

The Libyan Interim Government has the allegiance of the Libyan National Army under the leadership of General Khalifa Haftar and enjoys the support of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates directly, with indirect support from both the United States, Britain and Russia, with the latter country’s affinity to Haftar clearly demonstrated when the Libyan general boarded the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier in January 2017, as the ship was returning home from its combat mission off the coast of Syria. It is a secular entity and has the sole legitimate power in Libya. Since 2014, Egypt has supplied many light and heavy weapons to the Libyan National Army led by Khalifa Haftar, which included several MiG-21 fighters. The United Arab Emirates also provides financial support to Haftar and has a small airbase in eastern Libya, including AT-802 turboprop light attack aircraft and WingLoong UAVs which appear to be operated by Erik Prince’s Academi (formerly Blackwater) Private Military Company.

The emergence of the Libyan Interim Government was made possible by the withdrawal of House of Representatives support for the Government of National Accord, whose power has since greatly decreased.

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General Khalefa Haftar (Source: Magharebia / Wikimedia Commons)

Instead, the chief opponent of the LIG is the Islamic government of the General National Congress, also called the Salvation Government,  which is led by the Muslim Brotherhood with support from a coalition of Islamic groups known as the Dawn of Libya. It is believed that one of the combat groups of the General National Congress was involved in the assassination of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens in 2012. The Muslim Brotherhood are also accused of providing political cover to ISIS during its expansion in Libya before 2014, which is a plausible accusation considering Qatar’s tangible support to both ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood.

It too enjoys international support by Qatar, Turkey, and Sudan, with the former two countries playing roles identical to they played in the Syrian conflict. Qatar’s considerable contribution includes financial support to the General National Congress and smuggling arms using C-130 military cargo planes in cooperation with Sudan, while Turkey has smuggled arms to the Dawn of Libya using ships. Turkey also benefits from illegal oil trade with the militia, according to unconfirmed reports.

Since 2014, ISIS has had strong influence in much of Libya, especially in Darnah east of Banghazi, but this influence of the terrorist organization has shrunk over time. However, Libya is one of the bases of recruitment and money laundering for ISIS, where ISIS is believed to have received indirect support from Turkey, Qatar and the General National Congress. Moreover, ISIS views Libya as an operating base from which to stage expansion into countries of the Sahel and to aid ISIS cells operating in Tunisia and Egypt.

Completing the list of warring parties, Tuareg forces control southwestern Libya, including Amazigh and Ghat area, and are considered indirect allies of the General National Congress.

Given the balance of forces outlined above, the conflict in Libya would have come to a close years ago had it not been for the direct involvement of the Qatar-Turkey alliance, whose aggressive acts against Syria had likewise escalated that conflict. To be sure, the Qatar-Turkey alliance was one of convenience, with the two parties pursuing different objectives which simply happened to be not mutually exclusive.

For Turkey, the aim of the game at the time was neo-Ottomanism. Both Syria and Libya are, after all, parts of the former Ottoman Empire, with the former being wrested from its grasp by the French and the British at the end of World War I, and the former falling to Italy in Italo-Turkish War of 1911-1912. For Qatar, the objective was establishing oneself as a regional power player not only independent of Saudi Arabia but also equivalent to it, a task that would have been greatly facilitated by establishing Qatar-friendly regimes in Libya and Syria, extending Qatar’s control over the region’s hydrocarbons, and gaining access to new markets in Europe. That final point of the Turkey-Qatar strategy was welcome by European factions favoring continued eastward expansion because the Qatari gas pipeline could be used as a political weapon against Russia.

However, that coalition proved too weak to overcome the resistance of legitimate government forces in Libya and Syria, particularly after the direct Russian military involvement in Syria spelled the end of the “Assad must go” campaign, and it never managed to secure the support of the United States for either of its objectives. The US, for its part, attempted to sponsor its own jihadists in Syria or favored the Saudi-led efforts. Therefore it was only a matter of time before either Turkey or Qatar realized its strategy was doomed and sought to pursue a different course of action. Turkey proved the weaker link in that coalition thanks to, ironically, US enlistment of the Kurds as its proxy army in Syria. Faced with an impossible to dislodge Russian presence in Syria, Turkey opted to change its aims to become an “energy gateway” to Europe by joining forces with Russia in the form of the Turkish Stream pipeline.

Worse, while initially the West was generally in favor of any and all forms of “Arab Spring”, including the Turkish-Qatari efforts in both Syria and Libya, by 2016 it was becoming clear the downsides were outweighing the positives. The refugee crisis, in particular, that became a potent political issue threatening the unchallenged liberal status quo had forced a re-evaluation of the policy, lest the likes of Front National or AfD come to power in Europe. Even the US, which did not receive a flood of Middle East refugees, was affected.  On April 11, 2016, Obama was forced to admit that Libya was the “worst mistake” he had committed during his presidency as the mistake was that the United States did not plan for the post-Gaddafi era. He was not doing it because of any sorrow for the citizens of countries he despoiled, but rather because the resulting chaos was now negatively affecting Hillary Clinton’s chances to win.

But it was Donald Trump who delivered what surely will be a fatal blow to Qatar’s international ambitions, first by giving a green light to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states to pounce on Qatar, and then directly accusing it of sponsoring terrorists. The ensuing blockade of Qatar meant that the country’s leaders would have little time or money to continue financing militants in Libya or Syria. Indeed, shortly after the Qatar blockade was imposed, the Russian military stated the war in Syria, other than the fighting against ISIS, had practically ground to a standstill.

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Saif Al Islam Gaddafi (Source: Times of Oman)

Considering that Turkey and Qatar have been the main obstacles to ending the war in Libya, Turkey’s defection followed by the US-authorized Saudi political and economic assault on Qatar have implications not only for Syria but also for Libya. Indeed, there are already many signs the political situation in Libya is evolving. Arguably the biggest development in recent months was the release of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, Muammar Gaddafi’s son, by a Tobruk-based militia upon a request from the House of Representatives. With Saif al-Islam Gaddafi being wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged atrocities committed by the Libyan government during the 2011 war, the fact of his release indicates the political fortunes are now favoring the House of Representatives and Marshal Haftar, a shift also suggested by British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s statements in support of Haftar playing  an important role in Libyan politics and the new French President Macron’s admission the war in Libya was a major mistake.

But here the Western officials seem to be following the trends rather than making them, as the root cause of the shift appears to be the sudden weakening of Qatar’s positions in the region. Egypt is a clear beneficiary of that weakening and is intent on pressing its advantage, to the point of pro-Sisi Egyptian media actually advocating bombing of Qatar. The Qatari disarray is also made apparent by LNA’s recent announcement that the Qatari opposition has provided the LNA with a list of Libyan citizens who worked for Qatar’s intelligence services.

Qatar’s situation is not an enviable one. For the time being Turkey’s military support and the US unwillingness to allow Saudi Arabia to utterly devastate Qatar are enough to allow it to maintain a brave face. But in the longer term it needs to find an accommodation with at least one of the key power players in the region, such as Saudi Arabia, US, or…Russia. The fact of growing Turkey-Russia cooperation on a variety of issues and Qatar’s outreach to Russia in the form of a foreign minister visit and the simplification of visa rules for Russian citizens, suggests that Qatar is at least contemplating realigning its alliance membership. However, considering that all of the three above-named powers are on the opposite side of the barricades as far as Libya is concerned, it seems unlikely Qatar can maintain its proxy war there even with Turkey’s support. Therefore, almost no matter what Qatar decides to do next, it will have no choice but to write off Libya as a total loss, an act that will hasten the end of this tragic six-year war.

Voiceover by Oleg Maslov

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Featured image is a screenshot from the video above

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Featured image: Mikis Theodorakis, “Fabrik” Hamburg, 1971 (Source: Heinrich Klaffs / Wikimedia Commons)

In an article entitled “No to the new Crime!”, Mikis Theodorakis is denouncing the “illegal”, as he characterizes it, “International Conference on Cyprus”, held those days in Geneva. (1)

The composer, a world known symbol of the struggles for Freedom and a resistant himself, against both the Nazi-occupation of Greece and the colonels’ junta, is characterizing the Geneva Conference as criminal, illegal, contrary to the European Law and likely to lead to the abolition of the Republic of Cyprus.

For Theodorakis, this illegal Geneva Conference and the abolition of the Republic of Cyprus currently being attempted are part of preparations for a new great war against Iran and, behind that, against Russia. For the purposes of this war it is necessary, he writes, for the West to have full control of Cyprus, Crete and mainland Greece.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (Source: Independent Balkan News Agency)

Theodorakis deplores the decision of the Greek and Cypriot governments to participate in such a conference, in this way according recognition to the role and say of third countries on Cyprus. At the same time, in a dramatic personal appeal to Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, he calls upon him to reflect on the responsibilities he is undertaking as he is led towards a treacherous action against Cyprus, bringing a national disaster upon the Greek people.

What is the Geneva Conference?

The Geneva Conference, which provoked the anger of a man who constitutes one of the Greek national symbols, is formally organized by the UN Secretary General Guterres, but essentially is the achievement of  the neocon former Assistant Secretary of State of the United States Victoria Nuland (the architect of the Ukrainian crisis), with the willing assistance, as ever, of the European Commission and its president Juncker and for the purpose of abolishing Democracy in Cyprus and making the island a colony of the United States, Britain and Israel.

This was all foreshadowed in the previous draft resolution of the Cyprus problem, the so-called Annan plan, rejected in a referendum in 2004. That plan provided – as now – for full equation of the Greek Cypriot majority (82%) and Turkish Cypriot minority (18%). Because, of course, in all likelihood it would not have been possible to take any decision, provision was made for appointment by the UN Secretary General of foreign officials and judges who would govern the state and even appoint their successors!!!

In view of the international situation and the forces usually operating and influencing the UN Secretary-General, he would necessarily appoint only officials and judges enjoying the confidence of the United States and Britain, and indirectly also of Israel because of the influence that that state has on  American and British diplomacy in the Mediterranean.

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Greek government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos says peace talks in Geneva to solve the Cyprus problem were making “positive progress” but crucial issues remained open. Tzanakopoulos said Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras would attend the talks in Geneva “if there was a prospect for a solution.” (Source: in-cyprus.com)

The reason that the Geneva Conference is being convened now is the low probability that Cypriot citizens would vote in favour of such a “solution” in a referendum. In essence the Conference is usurping the constituent power of the Cypriot people and transferring it to third countries!!! Because they cannot take the Cypriot state away from its citizens on the basis of their own vote, they are attempting to do so with the signatures of the President of Cyprus and the Greek government.

If such a goal is achieved, if Cyprus will be transformed into a colony of the “Sea Powers”. This would constitute a colossal strategic victory for the American-British-Israeli neoconservative “Empire of Chaos”, which is responsible for the wars that have virtually demolished the Middle East over the last 15 years.

It will also represent a strategic defeat not only for the Greek people but also, indirectly but clearly, for the most vital interests of Russia in Europe and the Middle East, as well as for the prospect of a democratic and independent Europe.

The EU will be taking another momentous step towards conversion into a totalitarian structure, with the transformation of a second member-state, after Greece, into a protectorate.

Mr. Guterres seems to be coveting the distinction of another Portuguese politician, Barroso, who through participation in the meeting in the Azores assisted in preparations for the invasion of Iraq. Now Guterres in Geneva is launching preparations for the great war against Syria and Iran.

Three states are participating in the Geneva Conference: Britain, Turkey and Greece. Both Britain and Turkey have waged bloody wars against Cyprus to block its independence. Τhe state whose fate is being decided at this Orwellian Conference, namely the Republic of Cyprus, is not officially represented! The President of Cyprus is there as the leader of the “Greek Cypriot community” (!), a terminology introduced to Cyprus by British colonialists.

The Cypriot President consented to this conference despite the protests of the Cypriot public. The consent was extracted under intense pressure from Victoria Nuland and against a background of media controversy over his being blackmailed with the case of the Russian oligarch Lebedev, whose affairs were managed by Anastasiades’ law firm and whose fate depends on the American courts and the American government. (2)

As for the government in Athens, financially at the mercy of its creditors since the capitulation of 2015, has handed over all of its foreign and defense policy to the US and Israel, despite Greece’s traditionally strong ties with the Arab world and with Russia.

Notes

1. The article of Mikis Theodorakis in Greek can be found here

http://www.mikistheodorakis.gr/el/politics/1400/?nid=5270

2. http://www.defenddemocracy.press/%ce%b1nastasiades-under-pressure-to-abolish-now-his-own-state-and-bring-turkey-into-the-eu/

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Climate change means colder winters, heavy rains and lots of environmental hazards for many people. But for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), climate change means uninhabitable weather conditions, forced migration and loss of traditional income. It is a real threat that might make the region uninhabitable.

The MENA region is considered the world’s driest region: it is the home to six percent of the world’s population yet it contains 12 countries that face extreme water scarcity – including Tunisia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Algeria.

According to The World Bank, the MENA region has less than two percent of the world’s water supply.

Climate change is already affecting the MENA region in dire ways, but it is expected that climate change will cause extreme heat to spread across more of the land for longer periods of time.

This will make some countries like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia uninhabitable because it will create humid heat conditions at a level incompatible with human existence.

It will also play a major role in reducing growing areas for agriculture – which is one of the most important sectors in the region.

The rising temperatures will keep increasing the pressure on crops and water resources, which will eventually lead to an amplified level of migration and risk of conflict.

The MENA region has experienced a tremendous amount of environmental hazards due to climate change effects.

Between 2006 and 2010, Syria experienced extreme droughts that turned 60 percent of the country into dry desert, making large regions to become economically impoverished.

In 2013 heavy and continuous rains in most of Sudan have led to floods that destroyed 25,000 homes and left hundreds of thousands of people with no work, home, or even family.

The UAE has also suffered a lot from climate change effects: in 2008 at least three people were killed and 350 injured in a horrific 60 vehicle pile-up due to heavy fog.

In 2016, Tunisia’s rainfall dropped by 30 percent causing agricultural losses of nearly two billion dinars.

It is clear now that the MENA region has no option but to go “green”. Adaptation along with mitigation measures will be essential to build up the resilience needed to cope with the changes.

There is an urgent need for governments to invest in new clean-energy innovations that will effectively reduce greenhouse gases emission and halt rising temperature.

Morocco has been a good example on this by making climate change adaptation a national priority and setting the country on a path to green growth.

Green Moocco Plan

The country made a strategy called Green Morocco Plan which is focused on agricultural adaptation and sustainable water and land management.

Tunisia is another good example of a country that is well on its way, since it recently decided to include the protection of environment in its new constitution.

Bahrain opened its first solar plant factory this year which shows the government interest in renewable energy investments.

MENA’s climate is ideal for renewable energy technologies, the abundant sunshine and open spaces could be a perfect source for sustainable power sources such as solar and wind power.

Some countries in the region are setting good examples and moving forward with their plans for a better environment.

Others are still depending on fossil fuel industries as their main source of energy, with the leading role for this part going to Saudi Arabia, holding a large part of the region from tackling the issue in a proper way.

The people who have little to no contribution in the issue of climate change are the one suffering the most from its effects.

Therefore, tackling climate change should be every countries’ first priority, because by standing up against climate change we are laying the foundations for a more stable future and less poverty.

This is absolutely necessary if we want to make sure the next generation will have a chance to live in a good environment.

This article originally appeared on Climate Tracker

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Bitter Conflicts Dominate G20 Summit in Germany

July 7th, 2017 by Bill Van Auken

The two-day G20 summit convenes in Hamburg, Germany today, dominated by global economic and political crises, threats of military confrontation and multisided geostrategic conflicts. The atmosphere resembles nothing so much as a meeting between greater and lesser mobsters in which no one knows who will be the first to shoot.

First held in 2009 in London, the G20 Summit was supposed to serve as a forum for a collective effort by the major powers to rescue world capitalism from the financial meltdown begun on Wall Street in 2008 and to ward off the danger of protectionism. Today, under the impact of the ever-deepening and insoluble capitalist economic crisis, the conflicts between these powers have become so advanced, severe and unconcealed that there is every reason to believe that this could be the last of these world gatherings.

US President Donald Trump set the tone for a summit of bitter and open confrontation by preceding his arrival in Germany with a trip to Poland, which has been sharply at odds with Germany’s rise as the new hegemon in Europe. Hosted by one of the most right-wing governments on the European continent, he delivered a fascistic speech warning of the collapse of “our civilization” and calling for a struggle “for family, for freedom, for country, and for God.” Invoking Polish resistance to German occupation in the Second World War, Trump left no doubt that he was seeking to align the US with Poland in order to pursue American imperialism’s present-day rivalry with Germany.

Trump also addressed the 12-central and east European nation “Three Seas Initiative Summit” in Warsaw, a body that follows in the tradition of the so-called Intermarium alliance formed in the 1920s by various fascistic and nationalist regimes directed against both the Soviet Union and Germany and supported by the US.

The agenda of the White House echoes the statement of then-US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who in 2003 denounced France and Germany for failing to support the US drive to war against Iraq, dismissing them as “old Europe” and indicating that Washington was oriented to a “new Europe” composed of the former Warsaw Pact states in the east.

A decade and a half later, the geostrategic conflicts exposed by the divisions over Washington’s criminal war against Iraq have metastasized, affecting every area of relations between Europe and America and playing out on a global stage.

Trump comes to Hamburg as the personification of the backwardness, criminality and parasitism of America’s ruling financial oligarchy. His aim is to use the threat of war, from a potentially world catastrophic attack on North Korea to an equally dangerous confrontation with Iran and Russia in Syria, to bludgeon US imperialism’s rivals into submission to his administration’s economic nationalist, “America First” agenda.

Trump, however, is by no means alone in pursuing an aggressive imperialist agenda. German Chancellor Angela Merkel held her own meeting in the run-up to the G20 summit with China’s President Xi Jinping, both invoking free trade and climate change, condemning protectionism and implicitly opposing the policies of the Trump administration. Merkel embraced Beijing’s “One Belt, One Road” project of developing infrastructure for transport and energy networks linking China to Central Asia, Russia, all of Europe and the energy resources of the Middle East, an initiative viewed by Washington as an existential threat.

G20 in Hamburg

Source: Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung / Creative Commons License

Xi’s government, confronting growing military pressure from Washington both on the Korean peninsula and in the South China Sea, is seeking to forge closer bonds with a rising and increasingly independent—both politically and militarily—German imperialism.

To the same end, he preceded his trip to Germany with a two-day visit to Moscow, where he and Putin defied Washington’s demands that China starve North Korea into submission after Pyongyang’s test firing of an ICBM. Instead, they issued their own demands for the US to remove its antiballistic missiles from South Korea and halt its provocative military exercises on the peninsula.

Meanwhile, on the very eve of the summit, the European Union and Japan announced the conclusion of a free trade pact that would encompass a third of the world’s GDP. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared that the agreement demonstrated “our strong political will to fly the flag for free trade against a shift toward protectionism.”

“Although some are saying that the time of isolationism and disintegration is coming again, we are demonstrating that this is not the case,” European Council President Tusk added.

The agreement has been struck at the expense of US-based transnationals and both statements were clearly directed against Trump, who on the eve of the summit wrote on Twitter:

“The US made some of the worst trade deals in world history. Why should we continue these deals with countries that do not help us.”

With the continuously escalating conflicts between the economic powers that constitute the core of the world economy, the increasingly open and acrimonious divisions within the NATO alliance itself, and the forging of multiple pacts directed at furthering the interests of one or another power against its rivals, the situation resembles more and more that described by Lenin during World War I in which the imperialist powers were “enmeshed in a net of secret treaties with each other, with their allies, and against their allies.”

The rising threat of war and the breakdown of international institutions that were created in the aftermath of the United States’ emergence from World War II as the dominant imperialist power are the end product of processes that have matured over the quarter century since the Stalinist bureaucracy’s dissolution of the Soviet Union.

The emergence of what US strategists described as a “unipolar moment” set the stage for a series of imperialist wars and interventions in which US imperialism sought to exploit its military advantage to counterbalance its declining position in the world economy.

While these wars shattered Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Ukraine and other countries, claimed millions of lives and unleashed the greatest refugee crisis since World War II, they utterly failed to alter the fortunes of US imperialism.

Now, a new stage of the crisis has been reached in which Washington’s global rivals are challenging US imperialism’s global hegemony.

Underlying these increasingly dangerous developments are the fundamental contradictions of the world capitalist system between, on the one hand, globally integrated and interdependent economy and its division into antagonistic national states, and, on the other, between the socialized character of global production and its subordination, through the private ownership of the means of production, to the accumulation of private profit by the ruling capitalist class.

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An abandoned theater in Hamburg, Germany, is a protest site in anticipation of Friday’s G20 summit. (Source: UPI.com)

Imperialism’s only means of resolving these contradictions is through a new world war that poses the destruction of humanity. These same contradictions, however are laying the foundations for a revolutionary upsurge of the working class on an international scale.

As the International Committee of the Fourth International spelled out in its 2016 statement “Socialism and the Fight Against War”:

“The great historical questions arising from the present world situation can be formulated as follows: How will the crisis of the world capitalist system be resolved? Will the contradictions wracking the system end in world war or world socialist revolution? Will the future lead to fascism, nuclear war and an irrevocable descent into barbarism? Or will the international working class take the path of revolution, overthrow the capitalist system, and then reconstruct the world on socialist foundations? These are the real alternatives confronting humanity.”

Featured image from Wikimedia Commons

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Donald Trump delivered a speech in Warsaw Thursday morning, but it will be studied far more carefully in Berlin and Moscow. So hostile was the population of the Polish capital to the visit by the US president that the ruling (Law and Justice) PiS party, which shares Trump’s outlook of semi-fascistic nationalism, had to bus in supporters from the rural areas to make a respectable—and suitably enthusiastic—crowd.

The speech touched several bases required of any US president, and particularly Trump, battered by months of allegations by the intelligence apparatus and media—aimed at pushing him to take a more aggressive stance against Moscow—that Russia intervened into the US presidential election to favor his candidacy. He reaffirmed, in categorical fashion, the obligation of the US government under Article Five of the NATO charter to respond militarily to any attack on any member of NATO.

Trump had previously cast doubt on the possibility of the US going to war with Russia, a potential nuclear cataclysm, in response to a border clash in Estonia, Lithuania or Latvia, the three Baltic republics ruled by viciously anti-Russian right-wing governments. Article Five does not cover Ukraine, which is not a NATO member.

The US president claimed that his previous criticisms of NATO were sparked by the disparity between the US financial contribution and those of its European allies, and that this had been vindicated by a flood of promises of greater military spending from these countries. He then added,

“To those who would criticize our tough stance, I would point out that the United States has demonstrated not merely with words but with its actions that we stand firmly behind Article 5, the mutual defense commitment.”

Trump also singled out Russia for criticism, declaring,

“We urge Russia to cease its destabilizing activities in the Ukraine and elsewhere and its support for hostile regimes, including Syria and Iran, and instead join the community of responsible nations in our fight against common enemies and defense of civilization itself.”

The most important passages in the speech, drafted for Trump by his foreign policy team and delivered without any obvious deviations, declared sympathy for the plight of Poland, trapped geographically between more powerful nations, Germany and Russia, sometimes partitioned or overrun by them. The speech was delivered at the site of a memorial to the Warsaw uprising by the Polish Home Army in 1944, which was bloodily suppressed by the Nazis.

Image result for stephen bannon

Stephen Bannon (Source: Don Irvine / Wikimedia Commons)

Trump himself knows next to nothing of the geography or history of Poland, or any other country, for that matter. These lines were undoubtedly prepared for him by the National Security Council and fascistic aides like Stephen Bannon, and the clear purpose of the material was to fan the flames of anti-German and anti-Russian sentiment, both in Poland and more broadly in Europe.

This is in keeping with the new orientation of US foreign policy, which regards the European Union as a major economic and (potentially) strategic adversary dominated by Germany, and therefore makes common cause with the EU members most antagonistic to Brussels—first of all Britain, which is pursuing Brexit, and secondly Poland, which has repeatedly clashed with the EU over the ultra-right and antidemocratic measures of the PiS government.

Trump deliberately associated himself with the viciously anti-immigrant policies of the PiS, claiming that, like his own administration, the government in Warsaw was not persecuting immigrants but rather fighting terrorism, which both Trump and the PiS identify with the Muslim countries and Muslim minorities in Europe and the United States.

Trump invoked religion repeatedly as the key to the history of the Polish people, claiming that the collapse of the Stalinist regimes should be dated on June 2, 1979, when “one million Poles gathered around Victory Square for their very first mass with their Polish Pope,” and “one million Poles sang three simple words: ‘We Want God’.”

He continued,

“Their message is as true today as ever. The people of Poland, the people of America, and the people of Europe still cry out ‘We want God’.”

Actually, Europe is a largely secular society, and Poland is a relative backwater with its powerful Roman Catholic hierarchy and priest-ridden rural population—the price paid for decades of persecution of socialist and left-wing thought by the Stalinist bureaucracy.

From his glorification of (Christian) religion, Trump went on to demonize Muslims, declaring,

“We are confronted by another oppressive ideology—one that seeks to export terrorism and extremism all around the globe. America and Europe have suffered one terror attack after another.”

He urged Russia to join the Western powers “in our fight against common enemies and in defense of civilization itself.”

In perhaps the most remarkable passage of a fascistic speech, Trump announced he has identified “yet another danger … invisible to some but familiar to the Poles: the steady creep of government bureaucracy that drains the vitality and wealth of the people.”

In one paragraph, the US president managed to conflate the danger of ISIS terrorism and the apparently equal menace of environmental regulations by the EPA. He told his audience,

“We must work together to confront forces, whether they come from inside or out, from the South or the East, that threaten over time to undermine these values and to erase the bonds of culture, faith and tradition that make us who we are.”

There was a definite anti-Semitic subtext in the speech, thinly disguised by a perfunctory one-sentence reference to the Holocaust and the extermination of the Jews of Poland. But there was no mistaking the undertones of an address that hailed the Polish people, their culture and religion—the word “Polish” appears 25 times in the seven-page text of the speech—and makes exactly one reference to the Jews, and no mention of anti-Semitism. In addition, Trump did not visit either the memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto uprising or the recently opened Museum of the History of Polish Jews, honored as the 2016 European Museum of the Year.

The speech referred to the Holocaust—the systematic murder of six million Jews, half of them in Poland—as merely one in a list of “evils beyond description.”

The speech was concluded on a note likely supplied by Bannon, a devotee of the pronouncements of Mussolini and other Italian fascists. Trump argued

“the defense of the West ultimately rests not only on means but also on the will of its people to prevail and be successful and get what you have to have. The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive.”

The evocation of “will” as the decisive category is significant. It is not for nothing that Leni Riefenstahl’s propaganda film on the German Nazi Party’s 1934 congress in Nuremberg was given the title “Triumph of the Will.” Trump may not know, but Bannon certainly does, the fascist pedigree of this particular piece of right-wing rhetoric.

Featured image from @SebastianLedwon/Twitter via Encyclopedic News

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The Madness of War

July 7th, 2017 by Julian Rose

It is essential to constantly remind ourselves, that war, apart from a very few exceptions, is a symptom of madness. Yet war is a disease which is largely taken for granted; considered ‘normal’ and unless it involves a large swathe of humanity, ignored. How did we allow ourselves to be trapped by such insanity?

In 2017, wars are as prevalent as ever. They are being manifest in the Middle East, in Africa, in South America, and in a lesser form, in almost all countries of the World. They are the result of a failure to recognize that killing another is actually killing one’s self. A failure to grasp that humanity is a collective made up of millions of individuals, all of whom share a common ancestry and, on a subconscious plain, a common aspiration and destiny.

There is no victory in war. War is an admission of defeat. When humans resort to mass killing of each other we see an expression of failure, never success. Not so long ago war was glorified and, for the victor, held up as an expression of supreme national pride. In fact, such an attitude was predominant in the species for thousands of years.

However two World Wars put an end to the hubris. The levels of destruction were so great and so many millions died brutal and ugly deaths, that a kind of ‘war weariness’ set-in amongst the survivors, and a new sense of the futility of it all became integrated into societies which had undergone the experience. The world looked like it might have learned its lesson; people had pounded each other, and the natural environment, into a sickening pulp, and there was no glorious aftermath. Just a sense of what ‘peace’ could actually mean.

There were – and are – still some who find war ‘exciting’, whose own lives are too dull and routine to find any thrill in the act of daily living. They look-on at wars in foreign territories as extensions of their own angst and frustrations. Such individuals find temporary comfort in watching others die.

This condition is more prevalent than many might realize; it is symptomatic of a world crushed by meaningless routine and managed by those lacking any manifest vision of something more deeply fulfilling to awaken starved imaginations.

Of course, a history of war will reveal that whole civilizations were born and dissolved via victory and defeat on the battlefield. It was believed that these blood baths were a price worth paying for the great accumulation of national wealth which followed them, if one was on the winning side. It is sobering to reflect that much of the fine architecture of old Europe is a result of plundered wealth.

War is made no less destructive by the fact that it can now be carried out by people sitting in air conditioned ‘cockpits’ in Houston. People trained to kill ‘at a distance’. People whose chance of being themselves attacked by those they target, being pretty much nil. This type of killing is one step away from the ‘robotic soldier’, the envisioned battle field of the future and a direct of extension of the war games kids (and adults) play on their electronic gismos.

But look, it’s still the same underlying disease. It’s still the fascination with the idea of somehow ‘coming out on top’ and having it over ‘an inferior’. It’s still reveling in destruction, on all plains of planetary life.

Children play war games. I used to play ‘Cowboys and Indians’. I was indoctrinated into ‘war thinking’ from a very early age. It was just after World War Two, and life in Britain was steeped in stories of heroism carried out by ‘our boys’ against the Nazis. Toy soldier armies ranged against each other across the sitting room floor as parents looked on with quiet acceptance. We soon graduated on to ‘cap guns’ and staged mock battles around the garden bushes and trees.

But nobody got killed in these ‘war games’ and the ground wasn’t turned into a sea of craters and toxic mud by our childhood antics. Other matters eventually attracted our curiosity and interest, and the guns and bows and arrows were dumped, unlikely to be seen again.

If mankind would only grow up, the same situation would repeat around the world. Adult individuals, blessed with a little responsibility and the slimmest glimmer of wisdom, would ‘move on’ to areas of interest that expressed an eagerness to support the planet, and not destroy it. A wish to explore new horizons of consciousness, and not to regress into thoughtless thuggery. A desire to meet and enjoy the company of other races and nationalities, and not to put a gun to their heads.

How can this madness have gone on so long? How can war still ‘be taken for granted’ in 2017?

Even those who argue vociferously for cutting back excessive CO2 emissions on the planet, don’t call for an end to war and ‘war games’ that are responsible for a large part of these emissions. They fail to realize that here is to be found the single largest transmission of toxic CO2 when set against any other global activity. I’m including a brief summary of the US position in 2013, just to illustrate the point:

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Source: Oil and Gas People

“According to its own study, in 2013 the Pentagon consumed fuel equivalent to 90,000,000 barrels of crude oil. This amounts to 80% of the total fuel usage by the federal government. If burned as jet fuel it produces about 38,700,000 metric tons of CO2. And the Pentagon’s figures do not include carbon produced by the thousands of bombs dropped in 2013, or the fires that burned after the jets and drones departed. ” (Counter Punch).

Most environmentalists and climate change campaigners also ‘take war for granted’, it seems. It has been etched into our bones by an endless indoctrination process. A process whose symptoms can also be found in the way we are urged to be ‘aggressive’ and ‘competitive’ in order to make progress within the demands of the status quo. How much of what is called ‘education’ is about bringing out our creative potential instead of our aggressive potential? And how much is about cramming us with the means to ‘succeed’ in the mostly cut throat world of business and indeed, almost all professions?

We see the symptoms of aggression in daily life, and fail to question it. Is it any wonder that we fail to question war?

War is the most favored tool of the controlling powers. It supplies the coffers of the military industrial complex with an endless demand for production of weapons. The state then gets the pay-off and looks for another war to keep the cycle of death going. It is also a valuable diversionary tool for distracting the general public, while unpopular and controversial issues are pushed through the system, with only a few noticing.

Of course a great prize for warmongers in general, is anticipation of the breaking out of mother of all wars. And indeed, the ever looming threat of genocide never seems far off at the hands of those who play with power the way children play with their toy guns and swords, but without any of the child’s creativity. Today, in the USA in particular,  megalomania has become wedded with a sort of Russian Roulette approach to who might present the next useful target for a bombing run or drone attack.

Witness how high the stakes get set in this fiendish game. Witness the Russian Federation and President Putin being ever further provoked by the West to take an aggressive step that could trigger a mega war scenario. The vicious taunting, without a shred of evidence to give it credence, is a mark of the madness which all too often grips those in power. Those who are determined to diminish all of life to a poisoned arrow of fabricated fear, which, if ever launched, would take all of humanity with it.

Let us be sure to keep a close eye on those whom we elect to administer our countries. The intoxication which comes with power is a very dangerous addiction, particularly when the play things at such people’s disposal are weapons of mass destruction. We need, more than ever, to be able to recognize the symptoms of megalomania and not confuse it with ‘strong leadership’. It is a major weakness in the delivery of what is called democracy, that so many people are still so easily fooled by those ‘standing for election’.

We are being pushed by ‘anti-life’ forces, some of whose origins are less than human, to see the planet and its people as expendable. To accept lies, deception and crude power-play as something akin to ‘normal’. To feel that it is not in our powers to bring deep change to a washed-out and degraded status quo. To believe that war is an ‘acceptable’ way of shifting around the totems of power.

It’s time we not only woke up, but got out of bed too. The hour is late, and this should add a significant degree of urgency to our endeavors. Mankind is blessed with deep powers of positive potential and these powers are far greater than the force which drives the war mongering anti-life minority. We are close to a tipping point in the growth of conscious awareness amongst caring human beings.

The key will be to channel this awareness into taking measures to regain control of our destinies.

To rid this world of those who hold its fate in their numb, insensitive hands. To act in unison and to defy all efforts to divide and conquer our growing sense of purpose and endeavor.

We can and we will, put an end to the madness of war. We must not wait for war to put an end to us.

This article first appeared on www.connorpost.com

Julian Rose is an early pioneer of UK organic farming, a writer and international activist. He is currently President of The International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside. Julian is also the author of two acclaimed titles: ‘Changing Course for Life’ and ‘In Defence of Life’. You can purchase these books and read more at www.julianrose.info

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The First Deputy Foreign Minister of the Syrian Arab Republic Faisal Mekdad said on July 4, that the United States had carried out a missile strike at the Shayrat airbase guided by one more White Helmets’ fake made specifically to compromise the Syrian authorities.

Deputy Minister stressed the government of Syria has a report photo and video materials of which confirm the guilt of the militants. Mekdad also noted that Washington should carefully study the possible actions of the official Damascus and its allies in response to any new aggression.

Against the backdrop of the fighting terrorists in Raqqa and Mosul, the Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) offensive and the overall situation in Syria have been developing positively for Damascus. The parallel process of peaceful settlement in Astana and Geneva is also bearing fruit. Such tendencies in the military-political and the military-diplomatic spheres cause a very serious negative reaction among the enemies of the Syrian people. Therefore, the U.S. is trying to take the initiative away from the Government of Syria by the brute force and the military intervention.

The provocations that have been taking place since 2011 throughout almost the entire period of the military operations in Syria, unfortunately lead to a negative reaction and unreasonable aggressive actions on the part of the United States very often.

It is especially outrageous from the U.S. to declare a possible preparation for a new chemical attack by the SAA and subsequent White House’s response against the background of the use of white phosphorous munitions by the U.S.-led International Coalition in Raqqa which is prohibited by the international law. It is also worth noting the recent terrible airstrikes of the still the same coalition in the village of Kishik Zyyanat in the southern countryside of Hasaka province on July 4, which resulted in death of nine civilians.

At the same time, the militants of various terrorist groups helped the U.S. to increase tensions by carrying out terrorist attacks in Damascus. Such actions can only be described as an attempt to disrupt the peace process. It looks like ‘someone’ stubbornly does not want to sit at the negotiating table and to return to a peaceful life. It is obviously in the interest of terrorists, some representatives of the so-called moderate opposition and the United States to continue to torment Syria with the war in the hope that the official Damascus will surrender.

On the contrary, the Syrian Arab Army on Monday announced a ceasefire in the southern provinces of the country until July 6. In order to support the peace process, military operations in Daraa, Kuynetra and Suwayda were stopped. Such actions prove the fact that, Damascus seeks peace and negotiations no matter what, unlike the U.S. and rebels. In so doing, these acts of terrorism and information warfare generated in tandem are unlikely to frighten the will of the Syrian people for peace. It is because of these efforts that the talks in Astana were held quite successfully, no matter what.

Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov noticed that the participants had taken yet another important step towards peace and stability on the Syrian land. The guarantor countries, in turn, expressed their satisfaction with the process of determining the boundaries of the de-escalation areas and decided the joint working group would finalize all the operational and technical conditions of all the de-escalation areas. Thus the process of the political settlement continues.

Apparently, in order not to increase the already serious flows of disinformation aimed at disrupting the process of the peaceful settlement the reliability and validity of information received from all the sources including notorious international organizations and Governments must be carefully weighed and analyzed by the U.S. The White House should work out more peaceful strategy of their behavior in the Middle East and Syria in particular if they really want to highlight their commitment to peace as they usually declare.

The actions of the U.S. and their allies below therefore address this issue:

#1. Total BS: Fake Chemical Attack!

A lot of media raised the storm of a new chemical attack being prepared by the Syrian Government.

Who is the real film-maker?

People started organizing public opinion polls as it is something like a reality show.

What the masterminds were planning to do next?

The Free Syrian Army (FSA) just faked news of one more Syrian Arab Army’s chemical attack in Ayn-Tarma (Ein Tarma, also spelled  Ain Terma, is a suburb of Damascus in Syria, located 3 kilometers east of Old Damascus, just north of the Barada River, within an area called the Eastern Ghouta), exactly five days after the U.S. statement on the matter.

It is understandable as the film about chemical attack and chemical weapons (CW) has already been produced and the reporters are ready. “Coming this July on pro-opposition channels, a new reality show!”

The video to be analyzed by imaging experts is available here.

You see, the movie was already made and somebody just paid to raise a storm about the allegedly tragedy.

The reaction of the Syrian High Command was not long in coming:

The SAA’s top command denies all accusations of preparing chemical attacks stressing that the Government Army has never used chemical weapons in the past, and would never use it in the future. The SAA does not have any chemical weapons, so the information campaign of the West is nothing but lies and deception.

Below are some comments from Twitter:

This might be a “justification” for another U.S. strike after a new Oscar for fake video (like White Helmets) is awarded.

Who may believe that Assad decided to start using chemical weapons after 6 years of war and now that the SAA is winning invaders?

Which country has killed more civilians in the Middle East, Syria or the U.S.?

It all means that the Rebels are in danger of losing the battle of Ayn-Tarma, and Jobar two. Only the brainless believe this ‘Chemical Weapons’-campaign.

#2. The International Coalition Takes Lives

According to Inside Syria Media Center’ military correspondents, the Air Force of the U.S.-led International Coalition attacked Kishik Zyyanat village in the southern countryside of Hasaka province on July 4. As a result of the new massacre committed nine civilians were killed.

In addition, not so long ago the aircraft of the Coalition carried out three other air strikes at the city of al-Mayadin (It is a city in eastern Syria. It is the capital of the Mayadin District, part of the Deir ez-Zorr Governorate. Mayadin is located about 44 kilometers southeast of Deir ez-Zor) and also at the village of At-Deblyan, on June 28, killing at least 90 civilians including women and children. Incidents resulted in considerable material damage.

Official Damascus has repeatedly accused the U.S. and its allies of striking at the civilian infrastructure and civilians in Syria under the pretext of fighting terrorism.

#3. The Terrorist Attack in Damascus

According to Reuters, there was a powerful explosion today at the Tahrir Square in the center of Damascus on July 2. As a result, eight people lost their lives and at least 12 sustained injuries of various levels of severity. For the lives of the latter’s are now fighting doctors. They have brought quality medical care.

The first reports say, there was a suicide bomber, who was in the car at the time of the explosion.

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According to Inside Syria Media Center correspondents from Damascus, the police had followed three vehicles with terrorists, two of which were stopped. The third car was surrounded by policemen in the center of the city at the Tahrir Square. The suicide bomber did not surrender to the authorities. Instead, he detonated an explosive device.

To be recalled is that earlier the Syrian security forces prevented two attacks of the terrorists in the industrial zone in the suburb of the country’s capital. Both militants were eliminated. The more so, a double terrorist attack was committed in Damascus on March 15, 2017. More than 30 people have affected by the explosions.

Sophie Mangal is a special investigative correspondent and co-editor at Inside Syria Media Center.

All images in this article are from Inside Syria Media Center.

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At present time you are investing billions of dollars, euros, rubles, yens, yuans etc. on the research of the functioning of human brain. You all compete in the development of weapons enabling remote control of the human nervous system, organism and mind. You have developed systems capable of killing people in large areas of the planet or producing pains and sicknesses in them, damaging DNA of evolving organisms, altering people‘s states of mind, their emotions and even thoughts.

At the same time you are hiding the existence of those weapons from your citizens by subjecting them to your National Security Information legislations while training operators of those weapons on unwitting citizens of your states. While claiming to promote democracy, human rights or  humanism, you have created a world, where human freedom, human health and human life have no protection whatsoever against attacks committed by your own agencies. Even the political or democratic events in your countries can no longer be trusted, due to your secret possession of those weapons.

Should you continue in the policy of secrecy of those weapons, the world will be evolving toward a new totalitarian system, where citizens will have no defense against mental or physical cruelty of their governments.

Therefore we call on you to declassify those weapons, to create legislations which would protect the citizens of your countries against such attacks and to create agencies, which, in cooperation with human rights organisations, would detect energetic attacks on your citizens and search for their sources.

You are defending secrecy and classification of those weapons by the possible war that may erupt between some of you, but it only proves again that your desire for power outweighs your proclaimed effort to promote democracy or to search for stability and security in the world. Your inability to establish reasonable, polite and non-violent relationships among yourselves again proves that at least some of you (especially the USA) are seeking a totalitarian power in the world.

Despite your unwillingness to stop this insanity, we have confidence that your citizens’ growing awareness of your possession and use of those weapons will make them oblige you to enact the legislation we are proposing.

Signed by:

The Worldwide Campaign Against Electronic Torture, Abuse And Experimentation
Australia

ICATOR – International Coalition Against Electronic Torture And Robotization of Living Beings
Belgium

Toronto Targeted Individuals
Canada

Worldwide Campaign to stop the Abuse and torture with mind control technologies
China

Spolek za zákaz manipulace lidské nervové soustavy radiofrekvenčním zářením
Czech Republic

EUCACH
European Coalition Against Covert Harassment Europe

ADVHER
Association de Victimes de Harcèlement Électromagnétique et en Réseau
France

TCVN
Technological Crime Victims Network
Japan

STOPEG Foundation
STOP Electromagnetic weapons and Gang stalking
Netherlands

STOPZET
Stop Zorganizowanym Elektronicznym Torturom
Poland

Stop organized electronics tortures and killing weapons on new physical principles – Moscow Committee for the Ecology of Housing.
Russia

White TV
Sweden

Les
London End Stalking
United Kingdom

TIA
Targeted Individuals Association
United Kingdom

ICAACT
International Center Against Abuse of Covert Technologies
United States of America

PACTS, International
People Against Covert Torture and Surveillance, International
United States of America

ACOFOINMENEF
Associazione contro ogni forma di controllo ed interferenza mentale e neurofisiologica
Italy

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The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has continued advancing against militants in the area of Ayn Tarma east of Damascus.  According to pro-government sources, the SAA has liberated 10 more buildings in the direction of the Ayn Tarma roundabout.

Syrian Air Force warplanes carried out 13 air strikes on the positions of Faylaq al-Rahman and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in Ayn Tarma and Jobar areas.  The SAA killed more than 15 HTS fighters and destroyed a vehicle. Faylaq al-Rahman was able to damage an SAA tank and to destroy a BMP vehicle.  The militants claimed that they repelled the SAA push in eastern Damascus.

On Wednesday, Russian Tu-95MS strategic bombers struck ISIS targets in Syria with X-101 cruise missiles. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the cruise missile strike destroyed three large arms and ammunition depots, and a terrorist command center near the city of Uqayribat in the province of Hama. The strike was made from a range of about 1,000 kilometers.  The Tu-95MS bombers took off from an airfield in Russia.

According to experts, an intense bombing campaign in the Uqayribat area preceedes a large anti-ISIS operation aimed at liberating the whole eastern Hama countryside from ISIS.

The US-led coalition announced that the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have captured 18% of Raqqah city so far.  The SDF allegedly advanced in Old Raqqah and took control of the road leading to Saif al-Dawla Mosque in the middle of the city.

According to opposition sources, US service members are participating in the battles alongside SDF members.  ISIS claimed that 12 SDF fighters were killed on Wednesday in Sukarat, Souk al-Hal, and Sour Baghdad in eastern and southern Raqqah.

Voiceover by Harold Hoover

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Featured image is a screenshot from the video above

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Selected Articles: US Warmongering Against North Korea

July 7th, 2017 by Global Research News

The latest missile test by North Korea was damned by the US as a serious threat to global security. Not surprising. All the right minds with the right awareness of global affairs substantially know that these ballistic missile programs of North Korea are but for defense, never for first strikes. Will the US use this act as a pretext for a pre-emptive move against North Korea? Global Research has compiled some good reads below for your thoughts.

On Tuesday, the DPRK conducted its latest ballistic missile test. Secretary of State Tillerson lied, calling it an ICBM launch, “represent(ing) a new escalation of the threat to the United States, our allies and partners, the region, and the world.” (Stephen Lendman)

*     *     *

North Korea vs. America: Trump’s Better Things to Do?

By Kim Petersen, July 06, 2017

Trump has spent 166 days of his life in office (at time of this writing) “doing” (more accurately having others do at his direction, and the same distinction would hold for Kim Jong-un) these supposedly better things that others might not deign to do.

The Long, Dirty History of U.S. Warmongering Against North Korea

By Christine Hong, July 06, 2017

Almost seventy years ago, we entered into a war with North Korea that has never ended. At the time, only a handful of Americans raised their voices in opposition. Let’s not let the historical record reflect our silence now.

Even a US ‘Surgical Strike’ Against North Korea Could Lead to Full-Scale War

By Jason Ditz, July 06, 2017

Even administration officials readily admit that a full-scale war with North Korea is “a war we don’t want.” After almost 70 years of armistice, North Korea has retaliatory capabilities that would devastate South Korea, killing millions, and the large US military contingent in South Korea would be sitting ducks.

North Korea and the “Axis of Evil”

By S. Brian Willson, July 06, 2017

It is now believed that the population north of the imposed 38th Parallel lost nearly a third its population of 8 – 9 million people during the 37-month long “hot” war, 1950 – 1953, perhaps an unprecedented percentage of mortality suffered by one nation due to the belligerence of another.

Provocative US Response to Latest North Korean Missile Test

By Stephen Lendman, July 06, 2017

North Korea threatens no one, not America or any other nation. Russia’s Defense Ministry explained the Tuesday launch flew around 535 km, reaching an altitude of 510 km before falling harmlessly into the Sea of Japan – calling the missile an intermediate-range ballistic one, not an ICBM.

Political Transition in the Republic of Korea, Sunshine 2.0, Demilitarization and the Peace Process

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky, June 09, 2017 

President Moon’s commitment to cooperation with North Korea coupled with demilitarization, will require redefining the ROK-US relationship in military affairs. This is the crucial issue.

In the present context, the US has de facto control over ROK foreign policy as well as North South Korea relations. Under the OPCOM agreement, the Pentagon controls the command structure of the ROK armed forces.

Global Research is a small team that believes in the power of information and analysis to bring about far-reaching societal change including a world without war.

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Featured image: Plato’s Cave reimagined for the Hollywood era  (Photo by: Derek Swansonn)

Tom Secker and Matthew Alford report on their astonishing findings from trawling through thousands of new US military and intelligence documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

The documents reveal for the first time the vast scale of US government control in Hollywood, including the ability to manipulate scripts or even prevent films too critical of the Pentagon from being made — not to mention influencing some of the most popular film franchises in recent years.

This raises new questions not only about the way censorship works in the modern entertainment industry, but also about Hollywood’s little known role as a propaganda machine for the US national security apparatus.

***

When we first looked at the relationship between politics, film and television at the turn of the 21st century, we accepted the consensus opinion that a small office at the Pentagon had, on request, assisted the production of around 200 movies throughout the history of modern media, with minimal input on the scripts.

How ignorant we were.

More appropriately, how misled we had been.

We have recently acquired 4,000 new pages of documents from the Pentagon and CIA through the Freedom of Information Act. For us, these documents were the final nail in the coffin.

These documents for the first time demonstrate that the US government has worked behind the scenes on over 800 major movies and more than 1,000 TV titles.

The previous best estimate, in a dry academic book way back in 2005, was that the Pentagon had worked on less than 600 films and an unspecified handful of television shows.

The CIA’s role was assumed to be just a dozen or so productions, until very good books by Tricia Jenkins and Simon Willmetts were published in 2016. But even then, they missed or underplayed important cases, including Charlie Wilson’s War and Meet the Parents.

 
Jon Voight in Transformers — in this scene, just after American troops have been attacked by a Decepticon robot, Pentagon Hollywood liaison Phil Strub inserted the line ‘Bring em home’, granting the military a protective, paternalistic quality, when in reality the DOD does quite the opposite. (Source: Medium)

Alongside the massive scale of these operations, our new book National Security Cinema details how US government involvement also includes script rewrites on some of the biggest and most popular films, including James Bond, the Transformers franchise, and movies from the Marvel and DC cinematic universes.

A similar influence is exerted over military-supported TV, which ranges from Hawaii Five-O to America’s Got TalentOprah and Jay Leno to Cupcake Wars, along with numerous documentaries by PBS, the History Channel and the BBC.

National Security Cinema also reveals how dozens of films and TV shows have been supported and influenced by the CIA, including the James Bond adventure Thunderball, the Tom Clancy thriller Patriot Games and more recent films, including Meet the Parents and Salt.

The CIA even helped to make an episode of Top Chef that was hosted at Langley, featuring then-CIA director Leon Panetta who was shown as having to skip dessert to attend to vital business. Was this scene real, or was it a dramatic statement for the cameras?

James Bond and Domino are rescued via a plane and skyhook that was loaned to the production by CIA front company Intermountain Aviation — Thunderball (Source: Medium)

The Military’s Political Censorship of Hollywood

When a writer or producer approaches the Pentagon and asks for access to military assets to help make their film, they have to submit their script to the entertainment liaison offices for vetting. Ultimately, the man with the final say is Phil Strub, the Department of Defense’s (DOD) chief Hollywood liaison.

If there are characters, action or dialogue that the DOD don’t approve of then the film-maker has to make changes to accommodate the military’s demands. If they refuse then the Pentagon packs up its toys and goes home. To obtain full cooperation the producers have to sign contracts — Production Assistance Agreements — which lock them into using a military-approved version of the script.

This can lead to arguments when actors and directors ad lib or improvise outside of this approved screenplay.

On set at Edwards Air Force base during the filming of Iron Man, there was an angry confrontation between Strub and director Jon Favreau.

Favreau wanted a military character to say the line, ‘People would kill themselves for the opportunities I have’, but Strub objected. Favreau argued that the line should remain in the film, and according to Strub:

‘He’s getting redder and redder in the face and I’m getting just as annoyed. It was pretty awkward and then he said, angrily, “Well how about they’d walk over hot coals?” I said “fine.” He was so surprised it was that easy.’

In the end, this compromised line did not appear in the finished film.

One of several scenes for Iron Man filmed at Edwards Air Force Base (Source: Medium)

It seems that any reference to military suicide — even an off-hand remark in a superhero action-comedy adventure — is something the DOD’s Hollywood office will not allow. It is understandably a sensitive and embarrassing topic for them, when during some periods of the ever-expanding and increasingly futile ‘War on Terror’, more US servicemen have killed themselves than have died in combat. But why shouldn’t a movie about a man who builds his own flying suit of armour not be able to include such jokes?

Another one-line quip that was censored by the DOD came in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies.

When Bond is about to HALO jump out of a military transport plane they realise he’s going to land in Vietnamese waters. In the original script Bond’s CIA sidekick jokes ‘You know what will happen. It will be war, and maybe this time we’ll win.’

This line was removed at the request of the DOD.

Strangely, Phil Strub denied that there was any support for Tomorrow Never Dies, while the pre-eminent scholar in the field Lawrence Suid only lists the DOD connection under ‘Unacknowledged Cooperation’.

But the DOD are credited at the end of the film and we obtained a copy of the Production Assistance Agreement between the producers and the Pentagon.

The DOD-approved version of the HALO scene in Tomorrow Never Dies

Vietnam is evidently another sore topic for the US military, which also removed a reference to the war from the screenplay for Hulk (2003). While the military are not credited at the end of the film, on IMDB or in the DOD’s own database of supported movies, we acquired a dossier from the US Marine Corps detailing their ‘radical’ changes to the script.

This included making the laboratory where the Hulk is accidentally created into a non-military facility, making the director of the lab an ex-military character, and changing the code name of the military operation to capture the Hulk from ‘Ranch Hand’ to ‘Angry Man’.

‘Ranch Hand’ is the name of a real military operation that saw the US Air Force dump millions of gallons of pesticides and other poisons onto the Vietnamese countryside, rendering millions of acres of farmland poisoned and infertile.

They also removed dialogue referring to ‘all those boys, guinea pigs, dying from radiation, and germ warfare’, an apparent reference to covert military experiments on human subjects.

The documents we obtained further reveal that the Pentagon has the power to stop a film from being made by refusing or withdrawing support. Some movies such as Top GunTransformers and Act of Valor are so dependent on military cooperation that they couldn’t have been made without submitting to this process. Others were not so lucky.

The movie Countermeasures was rejected by the military for several reasons, and consequently never produced. One of the reasons is that the script included references to the Iran-Contra scandal, and as Strub saw it ‘There’s no need for us to… remind the public of the Iran-Contra affair.’

Similarly Fields of Fire and Top Gun 2 were never made because they couldn’t obtain military support, again due to politically controversial aspects of the scripts.

This ‘soft’ censorship also affects TV. For example, a planned Louis Theroux documentary on Marine Corps recruit training was rejected, and as a result was never made.

It is impossible to know exactly how widespread this military censorship of entertainment is because many files are still being withheld. The majority of the documents we obtained are diary-like reports from the entertainment liaison offices, which rarely refer to script changes, and never in an explicit, detailed way. However, the documents do reveal that the DOD requires a preview screening of any project they support and sometimes makes changes even after a production has wrapped.

The documents also record the pro-active nature of the military’s operations in Hollywood and that they are finding ways to get involved during the earliest stages of development, ‘when characters and storylines are most easily shaped to the Army’s benefit.’

The DOD’s influence on popular culture can be found at all stages of production, granting them the same kind of power as major studio executives.

Agencywood: The CIA and NSA’s Influence on Movie Scripts

Despite having far fewer cinematic assets the CIA has also been able to wield considerable influence on some of the projects they have supported (or refused to support).

There is no formal CIA script review process but the Agency’s long-serving entertainment liaison officer Chase Brandon was able to insert himself into the early stages of the writing process on several TV and film productions.

The new recruits arrive at CIA training facility The Farm in The Recruit

Brandon did this most prominently on the spy thriller The Recruit, where a new agent is put through CIA training at The Farm — an obvious vehicle for inducting the audience into that world and giving them a glimpse behind the curtain. The original story treatment and early drafts of the script were written by Brandon, though he is only credited on the film as a technical advisor, covering up his influence on the content.

The Recruit includes lines about the new threats of the post-Soviet world (including that great villainous justification for a $600 billion defense budget, Peru), along with rebuttals of the idea that the CIA failed to prevent 9/11. And it repeats the adage that ‘the CIA’s failures are known, but its successes are not’. All of this helped to propagate the idea that the Agency is a benevolent, rational actor in a chaotic and dangerous world.

The CIA has also managed to censor scripts, removing or changing sequences that they didn’t want the public to see. On Zero Dark Thirtyscreenwriter Mark Boal ‘verbally shared’ his script with CIA officers, and they removed a scene where a drunk CIA officer fires an AK-47 into the air from a rooftop in Islamabad, and removed the use of dogs from the torture scenes.

In a very different kind of film, the hugely popular romantic comedy Meet the Parents, Brandon requested that they change a scene where Ben Stiller’s character discovers Robert De Niro’s (Stiller’s father-in-law to be) secret hideaway. In the original script Stiller finds CIA torture manuals on a desk, but Brandon changed that to photos of Robert De Niro with various dignitaries.

Ben Stiller discovers that Robert De Niro is working for the CIA — Meet the Parents (Source: Medium)

Indeed, the CIA’s ability to influence movie scripts goes back to their early years. In the 1940s and 50s they managed to prevent any mention of themselves appearing in film and TV until North by Northwest in 1959. This included rejecting requests for production support, meaning that some films were never made, and censoring all references to the CIA in the script for the Bob Hope comedy My Favourite Spy.

The CIA even sabotaged a planned series of documentaries about their predecessor, the OSS, by having assets at CBS develop a rival production to muscle the smaller studio out of the market. Once this was achieved, the Agency pulled the plug on the CBS series too, ensuring that the activities of the OSS remained safe from public scrutiny.

While very little is known about the NSA’s activities in the entertainment industry we did find indications that they are adopting similar tactics to the CIA and DOD.

Internal NSA emails show that the producers of Enemy of the State were invited on multiple tours of NSA headquarters. When they used a helicopter to film aerial footage of Fort Meade, the NSA did not prevent them from using it in the movie.

According to a 1998 interview with producer Jerry Bruckheimer, they changed the script at the NSA’s request so that the wrongdoings were the actions of one bad apple NSA official, and not the agency in general.

Bruckheimer said:

‘I think the NSA people will be pleased. They certainly won’t come out as bad as they could have. NSA’s not the villain.’

This idea of using cinema to pin the blame for problems on isolated rogue agents or bad apples, thus avoiding any notion of systemic, institutional or criminal responsibility, is right out of the CIA/DOD’s playbook.

NSA headquarters at Fort Meade — Enemy of the State (Source: Medium)

In all, we are looking at a vast, militarised propaganda apparatus operating throughout the screen entertainment industry in the United States.

It is not quite an official censor, since decisions on scripts are made voluntarily by producers, but it represents a major and scarcely acknowledged pressure on the kind of narratives and images we see on the big and small screens.

In societies already eager to use our hard power overseas, the shaping of our popular culture to promote a pro-war mindset must be taken seriously.

***

Tom Secker and Matthew Alford are co-authors of the new book, National Security Cinema: The Shocking New Evidence of Government Control in Hollywood.

Secker is a British-based writer who covers the security services, Hollywood and the history of terrorism. He runs the SpyCulture blog which can be supported via Patreon.com. His work has been covered by The Mirror, The Express, Salon, TechDirt and elsewhere.

Dr Alford is a Teaching Fellow in the Department of Politics, Language and International Studies at the University of Bath. His documentary film based on his research, The Writer with No Hands, was premiered in 2014 at Hot Docs, Toronto and won runner-up at the Ammar Popular Film Festival, Tehran.

Published by INSURGE INTELLIGENCE, a crowdfunded investigative journalism project for people and planet. Support INSURGE to keep digging where others fear to tread.

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Featured image: Museum of Capitalism (Source: CityLab)

Museums that house a collection can do so with two consequences: they approve and collaborate with the subject matter (the Tate’s pandering to Tracy Emin’s menstrual, sex stained bed, as a case in point), or stridently take issue with it, lecturing visitors. (The Holocaust museum.)

The Museum of Capitalism tells its visitors of a mission to educate “this generation and future generations about the ideology, history, and legacy of capitalism.” In so doing, there is more than a scant suggestion that we have somehow moved into something after capitalism.[1]

Walking to its location near Jack London Square is ample preparation. It is desolate and coarse: sterile, cold buildings, suddenly punctuated by a wine shop teaming with patrons and tasting options; run down sheds suddenly turned into sharp apartment complexes in spurts of gentrification.

Appropriately enough, the museum is housed within an Oakland waterfront office building, a pop-up exhibition featuring a range of themed items ranging from the Capitalist Bathroom Experience (we all defecate, don’t we?) to Mindfulness techniques for the baton wielding, trigger-happy police force. Visual artists predominate. Even the building itself is revealed as an anatomised version of capitalism, ushering the viewer to move through set pieces of power and production.

The museum suggests a counter, a form of resistance against the state. The premise is obvious enough: it is the state that has done more than anything to provide the conditions that enable capitalism to flourish, be it through military industrial complexes, policing, land use, labour and commodities. As Darwin Bondgraham notes,

“this museum of capitalism is also a museum of government under capitalism.”[2]

But there is nothing to suggest the transcending of capitalism, despite the valiant attempt to consider alternatives through feminist discourse, anarchism, environmental regeneration, and community solidarity. A range of these are supplied in Oliver Ressler’s multi screen showing “Alternative Economics, Alternative Societies” (2003-2008).

Inevitably, there are a range of displays that poke fun at corporate misbehaviour, though this is done with degrees of savage humour and sombre consideration. Yet this is the United States, and Oakland is a belt where enterprise and the capitalist urge exist like viral excitements. Outside the museum is the waterfront with glistening boats that are gaudy rather than tasteful, monsters on the sea that float defiantly.

No matter. The museum’s website insists on the wisdom of Raymond Williams:

“To be truly radical is to make hope possible, rather than despair convincing.”

The capitalist project, a point signaled at in the exhibits, was propagandised as not something of despair, but promise. It was erroneously tied to the notion free markets would somehow entail sound democratic practice and more accessible responsible representatives. What did happen, in time, was a surrender of that relevant representation, a literal sell-out to the boardroom, the corporatocracy.

What, then, of this form of human organisation that seems, in the scheme of existence, a short one? The museum does not necessarily promote a world instead of capitalism, or after it. There is, in fact, a significant contemporary dimension to what is on show.

This contemporary dimension features installations that speak of the casualties of capitalism. The sub-prime mortgage catastrophe, the names of banks closed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, can be viewed as corpses of finance.

The destruction of the singular experience that current processes of capitalism inflict is also evident in Chip Lord’s nine-channel video installation “Peak Air Travel: To & From” (2016). The modern global airport city entails the leveling of uniqueness into a dreary, drone-like existence. It brings to mind a remark made by British comedian Paul Merton: to go to an airport in China is never to leave one, terrifying as they are in their identical construction.

There is a final irony netted by the museum’s display. While being free, the cost has to borne in some way. Tipping, the private customer initiative always encouraged in the United States to pad out poor wages, is encouraged. And the museum itself has been appropriated as part of the regenerative theme of capitalism behind the district’s new “image”.

As Jack London Improvement District Executive Director Savlan Hauser claimed,

“Jack London is an established waterfront destination, but has lacked this kind of cultural anchor… a Museum of Capitalism is the kind of thing our neighbourhood has been missing.”[3]

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

Notes

[2] https://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/seeing-state-power-inside-the-museum-of-capitalism/Content?oid=7843611

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The Trump-Putin Meeting and the Fate of the Earth

July 6th, 2017 by Norman Solomon

Any truthful way to say it will sound worse than ghastly: We live in a world where one person could decide to begin a nuclear war — quickly killing several hundred million people and condemning vast numbers of others to slower painful deaths.

Given the macabre insanity of this ongoing situation, most people don’t like to talk about it or even think about it. In that zone of denial, U.S. news media keep detouring around a crucial reality: No matter what you think of Donald Trump or Vladimir Putin, they hold the whole world in their hands with a nuclear button.

If the presidents of the United States and Russia spiral into escalating conflicts between the two countries, the world is much more likely to blow up. Yet many American critics of Trump have gotten into baiting him as Putin’s flunky while goading him to prove otherwise. A new barrage of that baiting and goading is now about to begin — taking aim at any wisps of possible détente — in connection with the announced meeting between Trump and Putin at the G-20 summit in Germany at the end of this week.

Big picture: This moment in human history is not about Trump. It’s not about Putin. It’s not about whether you despise either or neither or both. What’s at stake in the dynamics between them is life on this planet.

Over the weekend, more than 10,000 people signed a petition under the heading “Tell Trump and Putin: Negotiate, Don’t Escalate.” The petition was written by RootsAction to be concise and to the point:

“We vehemently urge you to take a constructive approach to your planned meeting at the G-20 summit. Whatever our differences, we must reduce rather than increase the risks of nuclear war. The future of humanity is at stake.”

A war between the world’s two nuclear superpowers could extinguish human life on a gigantic scale while plunging the Earth into cataclysmic “nuclear winter.”

“Recent scientific studies have found that a war fought with the deployed U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals would leave Earth virtually uninhabitable,” wrote Steven Starr, a senior scientist with Physicians for Social Responsibility. “In fact, NASA computer models have shown that even a ‘successful’ first strike by Washington or Moscow would inflict catastrophic environmental damage that would make agriculture impossible and cause mass starvation.”

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists explains why, since last year, it has moved the risk-estimate “Doomsday Clock” even closer to apocalyptic midnight — citing as a major factor the escalation of tensions between the U.S. and Russian governments.

So, the imminent meeting between Trump and Putin will affect the chances that the young people we love — and so many others around the world — will have a future. And whether later generations will even exist.

I put it this way in a recent article for The Nation:

“Whatever the truth may be about Russian interference in the U.S. election last year, an overarching truth continues to bind the fates of Russians, Americans and the rest of humanity. No matter how much we might wish to forget or deny it, we are tied together by a fraying thread of relations between two nations that possess 93 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons. Right now it is not popular to say so, but we desperately need each other to enhance the odds of human survival.”

In that overall context, stoking hostility toward Russia is, uh, rather short-sighted. Wouldn’t it be much better for the meeting between Trump and Putin to bring Washington and Moscow closer to détente rather than bringing us closer to nuclear annihilation?

Norman Solomon is the coordinator of the online activist group RootsAction.org and the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. He is the author of a dozen books including “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”

Licensed under Creative Commons. The original source of this article is CounterPunch.

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Following a successful ICBM test by the Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK, also referred to as North Korea), United States president Donald Trump behaved in what he considers an unpresidential fashion and took to twitter:

North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life? Hard to believe that South Korea…..

….and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!

“[T]his guy” is obviously a reference to the supreme leader of the DPRK, Kim Jong-un. One also draws the conclusion from the tweets that the tweeter engages in better things to do with his life. So what are the better things president Trump does with his life?

  • Could it be that being commander-in-chief of a US special forces unit that launched an attack in Yemen killing scores of civilians, including an women and children, is a better way of spending one’s life?
  • Is invading Syria (since the US was uninvited, the US troops are “invaders” according to Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad), bombing Syrian troops, and shooting down a Syrian plane in Syrian airspace is a better way?
  • Is ordering the dropping of the so-called mother-of-all-bombs in Afghanistan a fruitful way to spend one’s life?

  • Is agitating against Iran, a country that has never attacked the US nor is a military threat to the US, a better use of time?

  • Is the US allying with the head-chopping, hand-chopping, misogynistic Saud clan (who are among the bankrollers of ISIS that the US is purportedly fighting in Iraq and Syria) a wise choice of friends? The Sauds are currently carrying out a war crimes extravaganza in Yemen, where children are dying of cholera due to the siege. Is devoting a part of one’s life to maintain such an alliance the best way?

  • Is provoking China by sending US warships into Chinese claimed territorial waters a better way to spend time — especially when Trump is calling upon China to exert pressure on the DPRK?
  • Is installing the THAAD missile system in South Korea to the consternation of ChinaRussia, DPRK, and the host state, South Korea a profitable (outside of military industries) endeavor? To any sane observer, the mere contemplation of an offensive missile attack by the DPRK on any country is unfathomable; such an attack would be sheer lunacy. It would, assuredly, augur the end of the Kim clan in the DPRK.

  • Finally, how does anyone expect the DPRK to respond to massive war maneuvers in its nearby sea by an implacable foe who refuses to sign a non-agression pact or peace treaty? The US is a foe who, after World War II scrapped a united Korean people’s government, divided the country, and engaged in a war against the north of Korea that claimed the lives of up to 10 million Koreans.

Trump has spent 166 days of his life in office (at time of this writing) “doing” (more accurately having others do at his direction, and the same distinction would hold for Kim Jong-un) these supposedly better things that others might not deign to do.

Kim Petersen is a former co-editor of the Dissident Voice newsletter. He can be reached at: [email protected]. Twitter: @kimpetersen.

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The Saudi/UAE campaign against Qatar quickly turned into a mess. Qatar did not fold as had been expected. There was no plan B. The instigators of the plan have now to fear for their head.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar have all build up and pamper extremists groups fighting in other countries. They supply money, weapons and political and media support to various kinds of murderous Takfiris. Unlike the other three, Qatar not only supported arch-conservative Salafists but also groups aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood. The MB do not accept the primacy of the Arab absolute monarchs. They provide an alternative way of governing by adopting some democratic participation of the people. That makes them an imminent danger to the Saudis and other family dictatorships. The military dictator of Egypt, which joined the Saudis on the issue, had led a coup against the elected MB government of his country.

In the view of the Saudis and the other three Qatar had to be reigned in. While its media arm Al-Jazeerah Arabic promotes the sectarian and anti-Iran positions the Saudis support, it also promotes the Muslim Brotherhood. That needed to be stopped.

On June 5 the four countries launched a boycott and blockade of Qatar. Three weeks later they issued a list of demands to Qatar which could be summed up as “surrender your sovereignty or else …”. The “offer” was designed to be refused. It practically demanded total capitulation while threatening more sanctions and even war.

As MoA predicted on June 7, two days after the spat started, Qatar did not fold. It has hundreds of billions in monetary reserves, international support from its liquefied gas customers and allies, and it secured supplies and support from Turkey and Iran. It simply did not response to the “offer” in time for the ultimatum’s end.

The Saudis blinked first. On Sunday the ultimatum was prolonged for two days. Yesterday Qatar responded with its own demands which were, like the “offer”, designed to be refused. It also announced that it would increase its liquefied gas exports by a third which threatens to take market share and income away from the Saudis. It reminded the UAE that 80% of its electricity supplies depend on natural gas delivered from Qatar.

Today the Saudis, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain met to discuss further consequences and new measures against Qatar. The Gulf media predicted more sanctions.

But the gang of four decided to do … nothing:

The foreign ministers of four Arab countries, meeting in Cairo, said they regretted Qatar’s “negative” response to their list of demands.

The Saudi foreign minister said further steps would be taken against Qatar at the appropriate time, and would be in line with international law.

The meeting came as the deadline for Qatar to accept the list of demands or face further sanctions expired.

This is a huge embarrassment for the clown princes of the UAE and Saudi Arabia. They, Mohammad bin Zayed and Mohammad bin Salman, are the instigators of the campaign against Qatar. The meeting today had to deliver some penalty against Qatar for not giving in to any demand: some additional significant sanctions , a more intense blockade, some threat of military strikes. But the meeting came up with … nothing.

Image result for Mohammed bin Zayed and Mohammed bin Salman

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed visits Saudi Arabia, on the right is Mohammad bin Salman (Source: Pinterest)

The clown princes had shot their wad on the very first day. They could not come up with any new measures that were agreeable. Kuwait and Oman reject to push Qatar out of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the UAE would lose all its international businesses in Dubai should the Qatari gas supplies, and thereby its electricity, shut down. An additional blockade of Qatar is impossible without the agreement of the U.S. Russia and other big states.

Such a huge loss of face will have consequences. When the Saudi clown prince launched the war against Yemen he expected, and announced, that Sanaa would fall within days. Two years later Sanaa has not fallen and the Saudis are losing the war. Qatar was expected to fold within days. But it has enough capital and income to sustain the current situation for many years to come. The war against Yemen and the sanctions against Qatar were indirectly aimed against Iran- the Saudis’ cpsen arch-enemy. But without investing even a dime Iran is now the winner from both conflicts. MbS, the Saudi clown prince, has twice proven to be a terrible strategist who endangers his country.

The Saudi King Salman and his son said that neither of them will take part in the upcoming G-20 meeting in Hamburg. Rumors have it that they fear an imminent coup should one of them leave the country.

No one should be surprised if the Salman era finds a bloody end within the next week or month.

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The new Israeli law giving police power to block websites that purportedly publish “criminal” or “offensive” content follows a similar blockade of various websites in Palestine by the 13-year president of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas – all in the name of “law and order”, “peace” and “fighting terrorism”.

The equation is simple and has long been propagated by Israel through its hasbara apparatus: Palestinian armed resistance to Israel’s oppression equals terror. Hasbara misinformation against Palestine and Palestinians on the Internet is legitimate paid work in Israel; Palestinian outlets speaking for the Palestinian struggle for liberation are illegitimate (criminal) forms of expression and activity:

Since before the “war on terrorism” in the West even began, the very concept of terrorism has been reduced by Israeli propagandists into an arena whereby Palestinian armed resistance by individuals or Hamas or any other militant Palestinian group is automatically regarded as terror. In a catch-22, non-violent Palestinian resistance, on the other hand, is dubbed as “incitement to terror”. [Source: Israel’s Illegitimate Tactics Against Palestinian Armed Resistance vs. Legitimate Global Security Concerns]

Israel is taking advantage of a world-wide political development concerning freedom of expression that is meant to combat terrorism. Turning the tables around in a typical Zionist tactic of portraying itself as victim, Israel is exploiting this global dilemma in how to balance freedom of expression in legitimate arenas with hate-mongering – especially the kind reflecting intolerance and populism that might foment acts of violence and terrorist “cell formation”.

But there is a big difference between websites that educate on Israel, share facts that expose Israel’s Apartheid regime in Palestine and influence opinions to stand up for Palestinian rights and liberation on the one hand, and websites that spew hatred with the objective of inciting terrorism and wanton destruction on the other.

In blocking websites that expose its illegitimacy, the Israeli Government is also continuing a long tradition of brainwashing its own Jewish population with Zionist dogma and myth, in the same way it mobilized to “educate” American Jews after 1967, when Zionist myths began to unravel “as a result of Palestinian history books published in English, such as Nafez Nazzal and Ibrahim Abu-Lughod’s work, as well as an increasingly visible Palestinian armed resistance movement.” [Source: On American Zionist Education: An excerpt from ‘The Politics of Teaching Palestine to Americans’]

Since the failure of the so-called two-state “solution” (or Oslo Accords) to the problem of partitioning Mandate Palestine in 1948 and the creation of a Jewish state on a territory of Palestine, there has been a significant shift in how Israel is perceived worldwide, especially in connection with its claim to being the only democracy in the Arab world.

As Ilan Pappe explains in Ten Myths About Israel, Israel was never a democracy before or after 1967, when it occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip and annexed East Jerusalem:

Israel is not the only democracy in the Middle East. In fact, it’s not a democracy at all. … The myth that a democratic Israel ran into trouble in 1967 but still remained a democracy is propagated even by some notable Palestinian and pro-Palestinian scholars — but it has no historical foundation. … Systematic cruelty does not only show its face in a major event like a massacre. The worst atrocities can also be found in the regime’s daily, mundane presence. … The litmus test of any democracy is the level of tolerance it is willing to extend towards the minorities living in it. In this respect, Israel falls far short of being a true democracy… Israeli Land Policy Is Not Democratic. …The Occupation Is Not Democratic… Destroying Palestinians’ Houses Is Not Democratic. … Crushing Palestinian Resistance Is Not Democratic. …Imprisoning Palestinians Without Trial Is Not Democratic. … What we must challenge here, therefore, is not only Israel’s claim to be maintaining an enlightened occupation but also its pretense to being a democracy. Such behavior towards millions of people under its rule gives the lie to such political chicanery. [Source: No, Israel Is Not a Democracy]

Having been founded by settler-colonial European and East European Zionist Jews, whose political vision was very much shaped by the Western civilization from where they originated (including the practice of European sovereignty, domination and subjugation over non-Western peoples), Israel has always boasted of being a Western-style democracy.

Israel has also angled to be compared favorably with the Arab world’s democratic deficit, directly and indirectly implying that the obstacle to democratic change in the Arab world was to be found, not in the region’s historical institutional framework, but rather in “Arab culture” – i.e., Islam itself. [For a discussion of this latter hypothesis, see Eric Chaney’s article, Democratic Change in the Arab World, Past and Present: https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/2012a_Chaney.pdf]

Mandate Palestine today is under Israeli sovereignty – all of it. It is true that the Palestinian Authority has administrative control of the West Bank and Hamas has a similar control in the besieged Gaza Strip since 2006, when it won the legislative elections and then was prevented from governing.

But such control is severely limited and contingent on Mahmoud Abbas’s continued cooperation with Israel’s “security needs” over and above the much more urgent needs of the Palestinian people to realize their rights, especially self-determination and dignity.

Unfortunately, the United States and its foreign policy allies vis-à-vis Israel, the European Union and Great Britain, have long enabled Israel’s brutal policies against the Palestinian people. Under the Oslo Accords (1993) and the Paris Protocol (1994), aid to the Palestinian territories was “militarized” to complement (not fight against) the vast US military aid given to Israel to secure its own territory in Palestine.

In other words, aid to Palestinian Arabs ignored the human reality of a people struggling to survive for seventy years – first their ethnic cleansing and denial of return to their own land and homes and then occupation, annexation of East Jerusalem, siege of the Gaza Strip, and uninterrupted and continuing Jewish colonization meant to complete their dispossession.

Today over 12 million people live in Israel, the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip – primarily Jews and Palestinian Arabs, both Christian and Muslim. As estimated in 2014 by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), there are 6.08 Palestinian Arabs currently living in the Palestinian territories, including Israel (worldwide, Palestinians number an estimated 12.37 million).

Each one of these people, and not only Jews, is entitled to full human rights, “including religious liberty; freedoms of expression and association; equal opportunity regardless of ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, etc.; and due process of law.” That includes access to information on the Internet.

Rima Najjar is a Palestinian whose father’s side of the family comes from the forcibly depopulated village of Lifta on the western outskirts of Jerusalem. She is an activist, researcher and retired professor of English literature, Al-Quds University, occupied West Bank.

Featured image from Globes English

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Ten “Lies that Capitalists Tell Us”

July 6th, 2017 by William Hawes

While idiotic supporters of our two-party system wring their hands over the sensationalist nonsense reported by the mainstream media, we thought it might be worth touching on the most dangerous lie of all-time: capitalism. It’s an all-encompassing delusion, including: the myth of continual technological progress, the mendacious assumptions of endless economic growth, the lie that constant bombardments of media and consumer goods make us happy,  and the omissions of our involvement in the exploitation of the planet and the resources of distant, poorer nations, among other things.

We’ve taken the time to hash out some of the most pernicious mendacities we’ve come across in our (relatively) young lives, in the workplace, in our private lives, and in the media.

***

Please share these counter-arguments far and wide, in order to educate your fellow citizens, and, if necessary, to provide the intellectual beat-downs needed when arguing with pro-capitalists. So without further ado, here is our list of the most devious “Lies that Capitalists Tell Us”:

1) Wealth will “trickle down”

It’s hard to believe an economic policy that conjures images of urination could be wrong, but the idea is as bankrupt as the lower classes who have been subjected to the trickling. Less than ten people now have the financial wealth equivalent to half the planet, and the trickling seems a lot more like a mad cash-grab by the (morally bankrupt) elites. Rather than trickle down, the 1% and their lackeys have hoovered up the majority of new wealth created since the 2008 crash. After 40 years of stagnant wages in the US the people feel more shit on than trickled upon.

It’s not a mistake that the elite reap most of the profits: the capitalist system is designed this way, it always has been, and will be, until we the people find the courage to tear it down and replace it with something better.

2) I took all the risks

It can be argued the average employee takes far more risks in any job than the average person who starts a business with employees. The reason being is that the person starting a business usually has far more wealth, where most Americans can’t afford a 500 dollar emergency. Meaning if they lose a job or go without work for any stretch it means some tough decisions have to be made. A person with even a failing business cannot be fired, but the employee can be fired for almost any reason imaginable, they are operating without a net at all times.

The capitalist uses all sorts of public infrastructure to get his/her company off the ground. From everything to the roads to get you to your job, colleges, public utilities, tax breaks, electricity, etc. Even the internet itself was created from public research. Yet still, elite business owners still have the audacity, and are so full of hubris, that they believe in the hyper-individualist, macho, rugged-cowboy/pioneer façade they affect.

3) I could pay you more if there were less government regulations 

Many capitalists argue that layers of government bureaucracy prevent them from paying their employees a fairer, living wage. This is a huge whopper, as our regulations (like no child labor, a minimum wage, disability and worker’s compensation, basic environmental impact studies, etc) actually provide safety against the worst type of exploitation of workers and destruction of the land by corporations. Without these minimum regulations, an age of even more outright neo-feudalism would occur, where employees could be laid-off and rehired ad-infinitum, based on downward market wage forces, at the wishes of ever-more capricious owners, management, and CEOs.

4) If you work hard, one day you can be rich like us (We live in a meritocracy)

America is not a meritocracy, and no one should think it is. There exists no tie to the intelligence of work done or the amount of it that guarantees success. Rather to be rich depends more on either being born into it, or being exceptionally good at exploiting others so one may take the bulk of the proceeds for themselves. This is the magic formula for wealth in this ever so “exceptional” land – exploit, exploit, exploit.

Inheritance & exploitation is how the rich get rich. To understand the exploitation aspect takes some understanding of how the rich function. Next to none of the super rich become that way solely by meritocracy. Their income is created through complex webs of utilizing leverage usually to extract some form of passive income. They are the rentier class or con artists, or both.

You only have to look at what the rich are dabbling in. Like Robert Mercer for instance, who made his money via “a hedge fund that makes its money by using algorithms to model and trade on the financial markets.” . Skimming money off corrupt financial markets hardly seems like a worthwhile activity that contributes anything to humanity, it’s a hustle.

Or take Bill Gates, who did some programming for a few years, poorly, and became rich by landing a series of deals with IBM initially, and then by passively making money off the share values of Microsoft. The late Steve Jobs may have been one of the more hands-on billionaires, but even he required thousands of enslaved asian hands to extract the kind profits Apple was able to make.

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson almost certainly has organized crime links, as if owning a casino wasn’t enough of a con to begin with.

Rich DeVos became a billionaire by running a pyramid scheme most are familiar with called Amway.

The Walton family, owners of Wal-Mart, pays a median wage of 10 bucks an hour (far below a living wage), they strong arm vendors, and also rely on products made with working conditions that resemble old world slavery, while having more wealth than the bottom 40% of Americans.

There’s just no way to make that kind of money without having a major market advantage and then profiteering off it. Lie, cajole, coerce, manipulate, bribe, rig, and hustle. These are the tools of the rich.

No one is worth this kind of money and everyone needs each other’s help to function, but in the minds of the rich they consider themselves the primary cogs in the machine worthy of their money for doing not much else than holding leverage over others and exploiting it.

5) This is as good as it gets (there is no alternative, TINA) 

Through a process of gaslighting and double bind coercion the choices we are fed are propagandized via controlled media outlets owned and operated by elites. We are told our choices must be between the democrats or republicans, attacking the Middle East or face constant terrorism, unfettered capitalism or state run communism. We are given binary choices that lack all nuance, and nuance is the enemy of all those who seek to control and exploit. They feed us a tautology of simpleton narratives which unfortunately do exactly what they hoped, keep people dumb and biting on their red herrings.

Capitalists make it seems as if there is no alternative because they hoard all the money, have all the hired guns, and pay off teams of servile lawyers, judges, and lobbyists to write and enforce their anti-life laws. Capitalists demand “law and order” whenever their servant classes get too restless. In general, the most hardened, dogmatic capitalists exhibit bewilderment and/or disgust at genuine human emotions like joy, creativity, spontaneity, and love. Many capitalists have an unconscious death wish, and want to drag the rest of us and the mother Earth down with them.

Capitalists have stolen all the farmlands, hold all the patents to technology, and don’t pay enough to mass amounts of citizens to get out of the rat race and get back to the land, to live off of. The screws are turned a little tighter every year. If we are not done in by massive natural disasters or an economic collapse, expect a revolution to occur, hopefully a non-violent one.

6) We give back to the community 

Corporations set out to create non-profits as a public relations move. They cause the problems and then put small band-aids on the gaping wounds they have directly contributed to and use the charity as a source of plausible deniability to obscure the fact that they are exactly what we think they are: greedy.

Handing out bread-crumbs after you’ve despoiled, desecrated, and bulldozed millions of hectares of valuable habitat is not fooling anyone. The elite one-percenters are the enemies of humankind and the biosphere itself.

7) The system (and economic theory) is rational and takes into account social and environmental costs

People tend to think someone somewhere is regulating things to keep us safe. They look around and see sophisticated technology, gleaming towers in the sky, and what they believe to be is a complex intelligent world. But in truth no one is running the show. The world functions as a mad cash grab driven by neo-liberal ideology. Our leaders are driven by power, fame, and money, and exhibit strong psychopathic, sociopathic, and narcissistic traits.

The problems of modern industrial capitalism and its impact on the world is clear – our exploitation of the resources, people, and other species are a direct result of our consumer based infinite growth model. Just a few of the problems we face are species extinction, climate change, ocean acidification, and a toxic carcinogen filled trash dump of a planet that reached population overshoot decades ago.

If the system was rational, we would begin planning to lower birth rates to decrease the world’s population, and voluntarily provide education, decent, dignified jobs, as well as birth control and contraception to women worldwide.

We live by money values, and think in money terminology. When we discuss healthcare the topic arises about how to pay for it before nearly anything else. The priority isn’t on saving lives but how to pay for things. Yes, how will we pay for healthcare when banks can create money on a computer through the magic of fractional reserve banking, which they often use to bail out their crony friends. The money isn’t real but the implications of restricting it from the populace are. Money is created out of thin air by the magic of the Federal Reserve, yet we have all heard our bosses, and the pricks in Washington complaining that “we don’t have enough money for that” when it comes to healthcare, improving schools, and humanitarian relief for the poorest parts of the world.

Again, if the system was rational, world poverty would be solved within a few short years. Money destined for weapons and “defense” could be used domestically as well as abroad to Africa, South Asia, and Latin America, and there is more than enough money (75 trillion is the annual world GDP, approximately 15 trillion in the US alone) to pay for a good home, clothing, and food for every family worldwide, with an all-renewable powered energy grid.

8) The future will be better

When Trump’s slogan make America great again was on the lips of every alt-right fascist, most of us stopped to ask, when was it great? The truth is that politicians have been promising something better since the inception of this country and better has never arrived.

There is always another expensive war to fight and another financial meltdown occurring on average every eight years. Wait, you might say, what about those sweet post-WWII growth years brought about by the New Deal? The sad truth is those years were only materially beneficial to white, middle-class men, who were highly sexist, racist, and complicit in incubating today’s consumer-driven Empty Society.

The post-WWII era was an aberration in our history and the result of having more jobs available than people, but as the country rapidly exploited its natural resources and reached the limits of linear growth while the population exploded the leverage that allowed people to have higher wages receded. Even though efficiency increased enormously, the people lost leverage to demand higher wages.

Without leverage held by the people capitalism will return to its status quo goal – exploit, and that’s just what it did. In the US, corporations grew richer and the people grew poorer starting from the mid 1970’s to the present.

9) It’s Just Business 

Employees devote years of their lives to companies and when they are let go they are told it’s nothing personal, it’s just business. This is how all bad news is delivered even when personal, it’s says we are cold-hearted organizations that adhere to a bottom line first and human needs second. So know when they say “it’s just business” what they are saying is understand we are sharks, and acting like a shark is just what we do.

This is also the logic behind defending war crimes and similar atrocities. Nations like the US claim they have a “responsibility to protect” civilians from terrorists. Then, when American bombs kill civilians (or their proxies use US-made weapons), they are referred to as “collateral damage”.

10) Financial markets & debt are necessary

The health of the entire economy is too often gauged by the stock markets. But the reality about financial markets is they are extraneous gambling machines designed to place downward pressure on companies to post good numbers to elevate share prices. These financial markets funnel capital to a smaller and smaller number of multinational corporations every year, and perpetuate non-linear economic growth (and therefore more pollutants, CO2, pesticides, strip mining, razing of forests) that is killing the planet.

Debt is the most fundamental lie in our economy. Money is only supposed to be a tool to move goods efficiently around a market, but for money itself to be a wealth engine is a Ponzi scheme. And we all know how that ends.

For a wider taste of our oeuvre, visit Reason Bowl Radio to watch Jason expose the Trump administration for the sorry sacks of sh**t that they are and discuss current events, as well as Jason and Bill’s commentary and ramblings about topics such as psychedelics, the nature of consciousness, and reflections on how to effect social change.

William Hawes is a writer specializing in politics and environmental issues. He is author of the ebook Planetary Vision: Essays on Freedom and Empire. His articles have appeared online at CounterPunch, Global Research, Countercurrents, Gods & Radicals, Dissident Voice, The Ecologist, and more. You can email him at [email protected]. Visit his website williamhawes.wordpress.com.

Jason Holland is a writer. Visit his blog Reasonbowl.com. He can be reached at [email protected] com or follow him on twitter @ReasonBowl. Watch him on his Youtube channel at Reason Bowl Radio.

Featured image from Kim Seidl via Shutterstock/samdiesel via iStock/Salon

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Although one of the provisions of the Minsk Agreements is the withdrawal of all foreign military entities from Donbass, Ukraine and its Western allies headed by the US continue to relentlessly allege a Russian military presence in the region. For its part, Russia has denied such allegations, responding that it is an observer country to the same extent that the other countries that signed the Minsk Agreements are, i.e., Germany and France.

However, reports periodically come from Donbass which allow us to take a fresh, sober look at the real situation on the ground there. Just recently in conversation with Donbass militia volunteers, I repeatedly heard accounts of Western troops present in the ranks of the Ukrainian army in the capacity of instructors or as active fighters. Meanwhile, the Americans and Canadians do not hide the fact that they are training the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ units (such as at the Yavoriv polygon in the Lvov region), but they categorically refuse to admit that their servicemen (usually from commando units) are present at the frontline and fighting on the side of the UAF. On the other hand, my friends from the DPR army have reported that they have especially often observed Canadian and Polish troops present at the frontline. 

Fresh information just arrived the other day from the Lugansk People’s Republic. The LPR’s Ministry of Internal Affairs’ hotline received a call from a resident of the town of Popasnaya (under Ukrainian control), who said that English-speaking, foreign troops have appeared in the town. The caller described them as dressed in white and grey NATO camouflage and armed with foreign small arms. 

LPR intelligence sources have since released the following report:

“According to preliminary findings, the unknown troops in question are US citizens and call themselves American volunteers. They have brought with them some kind of electronic equipment stored in metal boxes and suitcases. At the present moment, these mercenaries are awaiting the arrival of voltage converters since their hardware is not designed to work with 220 voltage networks.”

While accusing Russia of meddling in the conflict in Donbass, the Americans, Canadians, and their European NATO allies are directly involved in the conflict, specializing in training the UAF in sabotage and terroristic warfare, as well as electronic intelligence and radio-electronic warfare. The UAF does not wield such expertise and equipment in the likes of what the American army and NATO countries’ armies boast – and which has now apparently surfaced in Donbass. 

Translated by J. Arnoldski

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Featured image: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence with Army Gen. Vincent K. Brooks at the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea, April 17, 2017. (Source: D. Myles Cullen / Progressive.org)

As the latest North Korea crisis unfolded, and Donald Trump swapped campaign plowshares for post-inauguration swords, Americans took to the streets demanding that the President release his tax returns and then marched for science. There were no mass protests for peace.

Although the substance of Trump’s foreign policy remains opaque, he had campaigned on an “America First” critique of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s liberal interventionism in Libya and, to his own party’s mortification, blasted George W. Bush’s neoconservative adventurism in Iraq.

Once in the White House, though, Trump announced he would boost the U.S. military budget by a staggering $54 billion and cut back on diplomacy, while pushing the United States to the brink of active conflict with North Korea. None of this provoked a major backlash. To the contrary, Trump’s surprise bombing of Syria, which, his administration declared, doubled as a warning for North Korea, garnered him across-the-aisle praise from hawks in both parties and his highest approval ratings so far.

The American public’s quietism with regard to the prospect of renewed U.S. aggression against North Korea is remarkable. It stands in stark contrast to the broad anti-war galvanization in the post-9/11 lead-up to the U.S. war in Iraq and the widespread protests against the Vietnam War in an earlier era.

To some degree, it recalls the muted mid-twentieth century political terrain that led to the Korean War—a brutal, dirty, and unresolved conflict that set the model for subsequent U.S. intervention. One of the few voices of opposition, Paul Robeson, in a critique that resonates to this day, lambasted his fellow citizens’ “meek conformity with the policies of the war-minded, the racists, and the rich.”

That “the maw of warmakers [was] insatiable” in Korea, as Robeson remarked in 1950, could be seen in the massive devastation of human life. The Korean War was an asymmetrical conflict in which the United States monopolized the skies, raining down ruin. Four million Koreans—the vast majority of them civilians—were killed. Chinese statistics indicate that North Korea lost thirty percent of its population. In North Korea where no family was left unscathed by the terroristic violence of the Korean War, anti-Americanism thus cannot be dismissed as state ideology alone.

More than almost anyone in the world, North Koreans know intimately what it means to be in the crosshairs of the American war machine. In May 1951, writer and activist Monica Felton observed that in the course of her travels through North Korea as part of an international fact-finding delegation,

“the same scenes of destruction repeated themselves over and over again . . . . The destruction, in fact, is so overwhelming that if the war is allowed to continue—even for another few months—there will be nothing left of Korea. Nothing at all.”

It is no coincidence that the phoenix serves as one of North Korea’s national emblems.

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Senator Lindsey Graham (Source: Truth Revolt)

Then, as now, Korea rested in the hazy recesses of American consciousness, mostly out of sight, mostly out of mind. When recently asked to comment on the catastrophe that would ensue were Trump to authorize a preemptive strike against North Korea, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, responded with chilling candor:

Yes, it would be terrible, but the war would be over there. It wouldn’t be here. It would be bad for the Korean peninsula, it would be bad for China, it would be bad for Japan, it would be bad for South Korea, it would be the end of North Korea but what it would not do is hit America.

Although famously at odds with Trump on numerous other matters, Graham here captured the pyrrhic spirit of the President’s “America First” foreign policy, a self-privileging worldview that allows for untold ruin and suffering so long as they remain far from our shores.

Graham’s statement is in keeping with the time-honored American tradition of envisioning apocalypse for North Korea—a tradition that survived the Cold War’s end and has served as through-line across successive U.S. presidencies. In recent days, we have been told that the United States must entertain all possible scenarios against North Korea as an interloper in the nuclear club, including a preemptive nuclear strike.

It has been drilled into our heads that North Korea poses a clear and chronic danger, a threat not just to the United States and its allies in Asia and the Pacific, but also to all of humanity. Yet as Donald MacIntyre, Seoul bureau chief for Time magazine during the George W. Bush era, has observed, when it comes to North Korea, Western media has faithfully adhered to a “demonization script” and in so doing has helped to “lay the groundwork for war.” Conditioned by jingoistic portraits of the North Korean enemy—“axis of evil,” “outpost of tyranny,” “rogue state”—and complacent in our displacement of risk onto them, not us, we consent to North Korea’s extinction in advance.

Instability in Korea has, for several decades, lined the pockets of those who profit from the business of war. Indeed, the Korean War rehabilitated a U.S. economy geared, as a result of World War II, toward total war. Seized as opportunity, the war enabled the Truman administration to triple U.S. defense spending, and furnished a rationale for the bilateral linking of Asian client states to the United States and the establishment of what Chalmers Johnson called an “empire of bases” in the Pacific. General James Van Fleet, the commanding officer of UN forces in Korea, described the war as “a blessing” and remarked, “There had to be a Korea either here or some place in the world.”

As Cumings writes:

[I]t was the Korean War, not Greece or Turkey or the Marshall Plan or Vietnam, that inaugurated big defense budgets and the national security state, that transformed a limited containment doctrine into a global crusade, that ignited McCarthyism just as it seemed to fizzle, and thereby gave the Cold War its long run.

Fast-forward to the present: the portrait of an unpredictable nuclear-armed North Korea greases the cogs of the U.S. war machine and fuels the military-industrial complex. Within Asia and the Pacific, this jingoistic portrait has justified the accelerated deployment of missile-defense systems in Guam and South Korea, the strategic positioning of nuclear aircraft carriers, the sales of military weapons, war exercises between the United States and its regional allies, and a forward-deployed U.S. military posture. Even as China is without question the main economic rival of the United States, an armed and dangerous North Korea furnishes the pretext for a heavily militarized U.S. presence in the region.

File:Korean War, train attack.jpg

While trains were used to transport U.S. Soldiers and their equipment during the Korean War, trains in North Korea were targets of attack by U.S. and other U.N. forces. Here, U.S. forces target rail cars south of Wonsan, North Korea, an east coast port city. (Source: U.S. Army Military History Institute / Wikimedia Commons)

Unsurprisingly, few media outlets have reported on North Korea’s overtures to the United States, even as these, if pursued, might result in meaningful de-escalation on both sides. To be clear: peaceful alternatives are at hand. Far from being an intractable foe, North Korea has repeatedly asked the United States to sign a peace treaty that would bring the unresolved Korean War to a long-overdue end.

It has also proposed that the United States cease its annual war games with South Korea—games, we must recognize, that involve the simulated invasion and occupation of North Korea, the “decapitation” of its leadership, and rehearsals of a preemptive nuclear strike. In return, North Korea will cap its nuclear weapons testing. China has reiterated this proposal. The United States maintains that its joint war games with South Korea are simply business as usual and has not seen fit to respond.

With the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism rearing their heads in our current moment, we have cause to be gravely concerned. During his recent anti-North Korea tour of Asia and the Pacific, Vice President Mike Pence grimly stated, “The sword stands ready,” with no sense that plowshares might be in the offing. The implication in the Trump administration’s words (“all options are on the table,” “rogue state,” “behaving very badly”) and deeds (the U.S. bombings of Syria and Afghanistan) is that force is the only lingua franca available, and that with North Korea, we must learn war over and over again.

Almost seventy years ago, we entered into a war with North Korea that has never ended. At the time, only a handful of Americans raised their voices in opposition. Let’s not let the historical record reflect our silence now.

Christine Hong is an associate professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and an executive board member of the Korea Policy Institute. She has spent time in North Korea, including as part of a North American peace delegation.

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Even administration officials readily admit that a full-scale war with North Korea is “a war we don’t want.” After almost 70 years of armistice, North Korea has retaliatory capabilities that would devastate South Korea, killing millions, and the large US military contingent in South Korea would be sitting ducks.

At the same time, the Trump Administration is eager to play up their readiness for war, and belief that they have myriad military options, which is raising concerns about the possibility of a limited engagement, or some sort of surgical strike.

Experts, however, seem virtually unanimous in their opinion that a limited military exchange wouldn’t be limited for long, with North Korean retaliation likely in the case of any attack, with the situation progressively escalating into the full-scale war.

Exactly how North Korea would respond to a limited attack is anyone’s guess, with many hoping he wouldn’t immediate “go nuclear.” Yet few doubt that they’d respond in earnest with their substantial conventional arsenal,  and that the US would respond to their response, and so on.

This is particularly true because even the most limited US attack on them will necessarily be seen as “the beginning of the end,” with bigger attacks only a matter of time, and the US giving the impression that a military exchange is their end-game.

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.

Featured image from Antiwar.com

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The public is being poisoned, disease rates are spiraling, waterways are contaminated, soil is being degraded, insects, birds, invertebrates and plant diversity are in dramatic decline. Humanity and the planet are being poisoned for profit.

We are experiencing an assault on life by the agrotoxins industry, which is in fact contributing to a sixth mass extinction. Armed with a harmful chemical cocktail of highly profitable agrotoxins, ranging from disease-causing glyphosate to bee-killing neonicotinoid insecticides, biocide manufactures are waging biological and chemical warfare on us all under the guise that they are serving humanity by helping to feed the world.

They promote the message that their products are essential to our survival. They promote a fundamentally ecologically, socially and economically damaging model of agriculture facilitated by Washington, the World Trade Organization, World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

They say that without their agrotoxins and chemical-dependent (GM) seeds, crops would be ravaged by pests or yields would be too low. They use smear campaigns directed towards critics and employ public relations and corporate-funded science in an attempt to mask their sheer ignorance of the real, long-term damage their proprietary inputs are having.

And all the while, research is being shaped to sideline what is really happening. Drugs companies and biocide manufacturers are joined at the hip. They fund research and research institutes and help shape a narrative about disease courtesy of compliant media organisations or media organisations which they actively fund, such as the Science Media Centre.

The integrity of public institutions is comprised due to the political influence and financial clout of corporations like Monsanto and Bayer. They distort science, hijack agencies co-opt or position people in key roles (for example see this and this regarding the Trump administration) and engage in forms of criminality that should in a better world see their CEOs being hauled into court for their part in facilitating crimes against humanity and the natural environment (see this too, which provides some graphic images of the consequences of agrotoxins in South America).

Evaggelos Vallianatos worked for the US Environmental Protection Agency for 25 years and says that morally bankrupt governments and regulatory agencies have allowed companies to destroy honeybees, essential pollinators, for decades. He says that the triumph of the aggressive form of farming promoted by the agrotoxin corporations has meant the sidelining of science and the formal, state-supported addiction of farmers to pesticides. He adds that the petrochemicals industry drafted the pesticide laws in the US and Europe and stated:

“Such blatant power grab infused everything about pesticides with loopholes, secret to the public but crystal clear to the industry and most regulators, politicians, and environmentalists. Testing pesticides for health and ecological effects became a brutal abuse of science. It is a display of concern in a strategy of deception. For example, the massive fraud of the Industrial Bio-test Laboratory made no difference to the corruption engulfing the “registration” of farm sprays. Registration equals government approval with little if any reliable data. From the 1950s to the 1970s, IBT made up most of the results of testing hundreds of pesticides, drugs, and a myriad of other chemicals. Despite the public revelation of the gangster-like behavior of this American lab, and no doubt questionable practices in countless other labs all over the world, nothing happened to eliminate lab corruption.”

Lapdog politicians and prominent agencies and individuals protect the culprits. Some attack critics for fear-mongering, pretending to care for people while their actions expose them as hypocrites. Well-paid people in public office serve these companies, not the public. Equally well-paid career scientists and pseudo-journalists act as corporate mouthpieces.

Little wonder then that on 28 June 2016, the unelected European Commission unilaterally announced that the license for glyphosate was to be extended for 18 months without meaningful restrictions. This was after member states repeatedly could not reach an agreement to renew the approval.

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Biocide chemical (Source: TORAY)

Unfortunately, the biocide industry is a growth industry (which of course neoliberal apologists – regardless of the consequences – will no doubt hail as being good for ‘gowth’ or ‘development’). From the US and Argentina to India, the industry has rolled out its seeds and poisons with devastating impacts on people’s lives and the environment.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food Hilal Elver criticises global agricultural corporations. She concurs with others by saying their pesticides are unnecessary for feeding the world. In response, these companies engage in fear mongering and smears in an attempt to denigrate alternative approaches to agriculture that have no need for such companies and their chemicals.

In a recent report, Elver and Baskut Tuncak were severely critical of the global corporations that manufacture pesticides, accusing them of the “systematic denial of harms”, “aggressive, unethical marketing tactics” and heavy lobbying of governments which has “obstructed reforms and paralysed global pesticide restrictions”.

The authors say pesticides have “catastrophic impacts on the environment, human health and society as a whole”, including an estimated 200,000 deaths a year from acute poisoning. They conclude:

“It is time to create a global process to transition toward safer and healthier food and agricultural production.”

Elver says,

“The corporations are not dealing with world hunger, they are dealing with more agricultural activity on large scales.”

In other words, they are not feeding the world but shaping global agriculture to suit their interests, regardless of the impact on world hunger, food security, health and the environment.

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Dr Rosemary Mason (Source: Chemical Concern)

Environmental campaigner Dr Rosemary Mason has been compiling evidence about agrotoxins and corporate influence for years. Her numerous documents cite peer-reviewed research, expert opinion and official reports and statistics. Her analyses are based on science and her findings and conclusions are placed into appropriate historical, political, economic and sociological contexts.

Most of her documents comprise open letters to key agencies and officials, and most of the responses she receives – when she does receive a response – are standard soundbite public relations or something that might well have been written by the pesticide industry.

Rosemary Mason writes to Guy Smith of the National Farmers’ Union

In a new 13,000-word open letter to the National Farmers’ Union (containing all relevant supporting evidence), Mason outlines many of the issues discussed above. It would be pointless to attempt to cover everything Mason says in detail. Readers can access the letter themselves to look at the data and the arguments she puts forward to make her case.

She reiterates many of the points she has previously made, not least pertaining to the devastation of her nature reserve in South Wales and the corrupt practices of agencies in the US, UK and Europe that have ignored the science and impacts of glyphosate in order to ensure it remains on the commercial market.

In her letter, she notes that in June 2017 Guy Smith stated that there is no scientific consensus on a three-year study on neonicotinoid insecticides and bees. He quoted the UK Science Media Centre (SMC), an agency that calls upon lobbyists to pose as experts.

In discussing the SMC, Mason quotes Colin Macilwain, a science policy writer, who says:

“The London SMC was set up because UK scientific leaders were upset that environmentalists had successfully fought the introduction of genetically modified food; they felt that the UK media were too susceptible to environmental scare stories about new technologies.  Despite the fears of the SMC founders, the British press — led by the BBC, which treats the Confederation of British Industry with the deference the Vatican gets in Rome — is overwhelmingly conservative and pro-business in its outlook. It is quite unperturbed by the fact that SMC sponsors include AstraZeneca, BP, Coca-Cola, L’Oreal, Monsanto, Syngenta (as well as Nature Publishing Group) but not a single environmental non-governmental organization (NGO) or trade union.”

Mason then proceeds to discuss the disturbing impacts on humans and the environment of endocrine and nervous system disrupting chemicals. She also highlights how numerous scientists and important scientific findings have been ignored or attacked because they offended industry interests.

As with her previous open letters, Mason brings to Guy Smith’s attention the verdict of the Judges of the International Monsanto Tribunal and the worrying findings about loss of biodiversity contained in State of Nature Report 2016 compiled by 50 organisations.

Mason quotes Guy Smith as having said

“intensification of farming had ended in the early 1990s.” that farmers “were using less fertiliser and pesticides than ever.”

However, Mason provides evidence to show that pesticide residues on British food are increasing annually. Moreover, pesticide usage statistics show a massive increase in glyphosate between 2012 and 2014.

Mason wrote to NFU President Meurig Raymond on 22 October 2015. In his response, Raymond defended the rights of farmers to use chemicals to protect their crops even though Mason had informed him that they were damaging the brains of children. Mason says that it is though the pesticides industry drafted the reply.

In her letter, Mason highlights the links between Cancer Research UK (CRUK) and the agrotoxin sector and how research funding and the narrative about disease has been distorted to protect the industry. She shows how Syngenta, AstraZeneca and the UK government have a mutually beneficial relationship with each other at the expense of the British people: one corporation promotes cancer, the other tries to ‘cure’ it.

Glyphosate and other pesticides earn billions for the industry, while pharmaceutical companies enrich themselves from the sales of statins, anti-hypertensives, antidepressants, diabetic medication, anti-cancer drugs, weight -reducing drugs, vaccines and drugs to treat dementia etc.

Mason a good deal of space to inform Guy Smith about the specific chemicals that cause various diseases. She notes that glyphosate is a carcinogen and refers to Prof Chris Portier of the International Agency for Research into Cancer who wrote to President Juncker to say that EFSA’s studies on glyphosate were flawed.

Mason’s take-home points include:

1) The EU has been brainwashed by industry as have UK farmers due to the industry’s aggressive tactics.

2) Governments are more concerned with protecting industry interests than public health or the environment.

3) Monsanto is in big trouble. It faces many lawsuits in the US about glyphosate causing cancer and false advertising that glyphosate doesn’t affect humans.

4) Monsanto is likely to end up in the International Criminal Court accused of ecocide and possibly genocide.

5) By the time Monsanto has been hauled through the courts, industry shills and agencies might think twice before saying glyphosate doesn’t cause cancer.

The CEOs and board members of companies like Monsanto, Bayer and Syngenta, as well as key co-opted figures in various government and regulatory bodies, should be made to answer for the health- and environment-destroying actions they facilitate (see this on Bayer and this on Monsanto). While capitalism as a system fuels many of the problems outlined by Mason and we must challenge it, when faced with potential long-term jail sentences, certain figures might begin to think twice about the devastating consequences of their actions.

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“The US is setting up its military bases in the territories that were liberated from Daesh by our fighters during the fight against terrorism,” – Senior Representative of the US armed, proxy, SDF forces.

With very little fanfare from the western media, the US is quietly creating a hostile military footprint inside Syria.

By establishing a chain of airbases, military outposts and missile bases inside Syria, the US is illegally, stealth-occupying a sovereign nation. The number of US military installations in Syria has increased to eight bases according to recent reports, and possibly nine according to one other military analyst.

We should also not forget the malevolent presence of Israel in the criminally annexed southern Syrian territory of the Golan Heights. This could just as easily be included in the list of US military outposts inside Syria.

Two regional intelligence sources disclosed mid-June that the US military moved a new truck-mounted, long-range rocket launcher from Jordan to a US base in al-Tanf in Southeastern Homs, near the Iraqi and Jordanian borders, stepping up its presence in the area.

The sources said the (High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems – HIMARS) had moved into the desert garrison, which saw a buildup in recent weeks as tensions escalate after the US-led coalition struck positions of the Syrian forces to prevent them advancing toward the al-Tanf base.

“They have arrived now in al-Tanf and they are a significant boost to the US military presence there,” one senior intelligence source said, without elaborating. “The HIMARS had already been deployed in Northern Syria with US-backed forces battling ISIL militants”, he added.

The missile system’s deployment at al-Tanf would give US forces the ability to strike targets within its 300-kilometer range. ~ FarsNews

A report in FarsNews today goes so far as to suggest that the US has now established a total of six military air-base facilities. This might represent wishful thinking on behalf of the geopolitically ambitious Kurdish factions who are seeking establish an independent state inside Syria [it must be noted that many Syrian Kurds oppose this agenda and have remained loyal to Syria]:

“The US has set up two airports in Hasaka, one airport in Qamishli, two airports in al-Malekiyeh (Dirik), and one more airport in Tal Abyadh at border with Turkey in addition to a military squad center in the town of Manbij in Northeastern Aleppo,” Hamou said.

In March 2016, a Reuters report also discussed the US establishment of military air-bases in North East Syria, in Hasaka and in Northern Syria, in Kobani. Both areas that are controlled by Kurdish forces, maintained by the US, and championed by Israel in their bid for statehood and independence from Syria which would inevitably entail the annexing of Syrian territory.

“The Erbil-based news website BasNews, quoting a military source in the Kurdish-backed Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), said most of the work on a runway in the oil town of Rmeilan in Hasaka was complete while a new air base southeast of Kobani, straddling the Turkish border, was being constructed.” ~ Reuters

US CENTCOM were quick to deny such a blatant violation of International law with familiar doublespeak that left room for the interpretation that the US was indeed preparing to empower its Kurdish proxies in their bid for “independence”.

“Our location and troop strength remains small and in keeping with what has been previously briefed by defense officials,” he said in a statement. “That being said, U.S. forces in Syria are consistently looking for ways to increase efficiency for logistics and personnel recovery support.” (Emphasis added)

In April 2017, CENTCOM announced that they were “expanding” the airbase in Kobani:

“The Air Force has expanded an air base in northern Syria to assist in the fight to retake the city of Raqqa from the Islamic State, U.S. Central Command said. The base is near Kobani, which is about 90 miles north of Raqqa, the last urban stronghold for ISIS in Syria. It gives the United States an additional location to launch aircraft to support U.S. and other anti-ISIS forces in the campaign to recapture the city, said Col. John Thomas, a spokesman for Central Command.”

The following video was taken from Operation Inherent Resolve Facebook page. A United States Air Force MC-130 crew prepares for a resupply airdrop over an undisclosed location in Syria. Watch ~

Airmen from the 621st Contingency Response Group have been deployed to modify and “expand” the Kobani airbase, with the stated intention of supporting anti-ISIS coalitions on the ground in Syria.

The fundamental flaw with US Coalitions is that they do not include the Syrian Arab Army, Russia and their allies who have been systematically fighting ISIS & NATO state extremists, since the start of the externally waged war against Syria. The US coalition is, in reality, an uninvited, hostile force, violating Syria’s territorial integrity, operating under the false pretext of combating ISIS while many reports expose the collusion between US coalition command & forces and ISIS.

On the 18th June, the US downed a Syrian fighter jet, on an anti-ISIS mission. The Syrian jet was brought down in Rasafah, in the southern Raqqa countryside.

The “flagrant attack was an attempt to undermine the efforts of the army as the only effective force capable with its allies … in fighting terrorism across its territory”, the statement said. “This comes at a time when the Syrian army and its allies were making clear advances in fighting the [Islamic State] terrorist group.“ ~ Syrian Arab Army statement

Contingency

US Airforce illustration showing how the Contingency Response Group operates. 

With this increase in US military activity inside Syria, the number of civilian deaths under US coalition airstrikes has also been dramatically increasing. CENTCOM has admitted responsibility for the deaths of 484 civilians in their alleged anti-ISIS operations in Iraq and Syria but it is extremely likely that this figure is being artificially lowered from its realistic level:

29th June: Eight civilians were killed and others were injured in a new massacre committed by the aircrafts of the US-led international coalition on al-Sour town in northern Deir Ezzor.

Local and media sources confirmed that warplanes of the US-led coalition launched raids on civilians’ homes in al-Sour in the northern countryside of Deir Ezzor province, claiming the lives of eight people and injuring many others. ~ SANA

US Military Footprint is Strategically Placed

The US military footprint has been strategically placed inside Syria. The US has been waging a war against the sovereign nation of Syria for over six years in an attempt to secure “regime change” and the creation of a suitable puppet regime, compliant to US hegemony in the region. It has failed. Its multiple proxies have been consummately driven out and forced to retreat by the Syrian Arab Army and its allies. A recent article in the Duran demonstrates the Russia effect on the battles to liberate Syria from the clutches of NATO and Gulf state terrorists.  The following two maps were taken from the article:

End-of-June-map

Situation in Syria at end of June 2017. 

September 2015 map

September 2015, just before Russia launched their legal intervention against terrorism in Syria at the invitation of the internationally recognised Syrian government.

Based on information regarding the US military bases in Syria, even with some variation ref numbers of bases versus outposts, we can pinpoint the main areas of concern for Washington:

The US bases are concentrated in the areas controlled by their currently, preferred proxies, the SDF in the north of Syria and the Maghawir al Thawra  & Southern Front militant forces, close to Al Tanf on the Syrian border with Iraq:

map_of_syria2

In a recent article for the American Conservative, political analyst, Sharmine Narwani laid out the US agenda, in establishing a military camp at Al Tanf and the abject failure of this military strategy:

“Re-establishing Syrian control over the highway running from Deir ez-Zor to Albu Kamal and al-Qaim is also a priority for Syria’s allies in Iran. Dr. Masoud Asadollahi, a Damascus-based expert in Middle East affairs explains: “The road through Albu Kamal is Iran’s favored option – it is a shorter path to Baghdad, safer, and runs through green, habitable areas. The M1 highway (Damascus-Baghdad) is more dangerous for Iran because it runs through Iraq’s Anbar province and areas that are mostly desert.”

If the U.S. objective in al-Tanaf was to block the southern highway between Syria and Iraq, thereby cutting off Iran’s land access to the borders of Palestine, they have been badly outmaneuvered. Syrian, Iraqi, and allied troops have now essentially trapped the U.S.-led forces in a fairly useless triangle down south, and created a new triangle (between Palmyra, Deir ez-Zor, and Albu Kamal) for their “final battle” against ISIS.”

In the North, we can speculate that the US is trying to create optimum conditions for an autonomous Kurdish region and the eventual partitioning of Syria, following the already skewed US road map.  According to Gevorg Mirzayan, Associate Professor of Political Science at Russia’s Finance University, Kurds control 20% of Syrian territory, when ISIS is defeated the likelihood is that they will want to declare a “sovereign” state.  This would play into, not only US, but primarily Israel’s hands.

The US/Israeli agenda has clearly been to form a buffer zone inside all Syrian borders from North to East to South preventing Syrian access to neighbouring country borders & territory and reducing Syria to a geopolitically isolated, internalized peninsular. This plan was discussed by Syriana Analysis:

“We’ve even set up a base at Al Tanf in the southern part, it’s an American base within the country of Syria,” Black said. “You can’t get a more obvious violation of international law than to actually move in and set up a military base in a sovereign country that has never taken any offensive action towards our country.” ~ Senator Richard Black

The US is relentlessly flaunting international law, as it has throughout this protracted conflict – it has established, inside Syria, almost as many bases as it has set up in its regional, rogue state allies, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Syria, a country that the US has been punishing for over six years, via economic, media and militant terrorism. The lawlessness of the US hegemon has now reached epic proportions and threatens to engulf Syria and the region in sectarian conflict for a while yet thanks to its Machiavellian meddling in a sovereign nation’s affairs on almost every front.

However, the US has consistently underestimated its foe and apparently failed to factor in the Russian military capability. On Wednesday, Russian Tu-95MS strategic bombers struck ISIS targets in Syria with X-101 cruise missiles, as reported by South Front.

The strike was made from the range of about 1,000 kilometers. The Tu-95MS bombers took off from an airfield in Russia.” 

From a practical military perspective, the US is out of its depth in Syria and no amount of proxies are going to change that fact, it remains to be seen to what extent the US will further bury itself in a swamp of its own making before it concedes defeat to the steadfastness of the Syrian people, the Syrian Arab Army and the Syrian state.

As Paul Craig Roberts has said recently:

“What Planet Earth, and the creatures thereon, need more than anything is leaders in the West who are intelligent, who have a moral conscience, who respect truth, and who are capable of understanding the limits to their power.

But the Western World has no such people.”

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

Here’s what’s most important to understand. Following cessation of hostilities on the Korean peninsula in late July 1953, an uneasy armistice persisted to this day.

A heavily fortified 2.5 mile Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separates North and South. Occasional incidents occur.
Truman’s war never ended. Its origin was misreported.

Repeated US-orchestrated cross-border provocations by South Korea against Pyongyang got the DPRK to respond in self-defense – its legitimate right under international law.

Peace on the peninsula hasn’t existed since 1950. Trump’s bullying and provocative behavior threatens Korean war 2.0.

He’s risking an unthinkable nuclear conflict, one nuclear power against another, assuring devastating consequences if war on the peninsula is launched – assuring losers, not winners.

Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs are solely for defense, not offense. Throughout its history, it never attacked another country.

It’s legitimately concerned about possible US-launched war on the peninsula. It’s wanted normalized relations with Washington and the West for decades.

US administrations from Truman to Trump refused. Tensions remain high. Occasionally things escalate. Washington bears full responsibility every time – clear evidence it rejects diplomatically ending decades of hostile relations toward the DPRK.

Its sovereign independence is the issue, not its leadership. Washington wants all nations subservient to its interests – color revolutions and aggressive wars its strategies of choice to achieve its objectives.

On Tuesday, the DPRK conducted its latest ballistic missile test. Secretary of State Tillerson lied, calling it an ICBM launch, “represent(ing) a new escalation of the threat to the United States, our allies and partners, the region, and the world.”

North Korea threatens no one, not America or any other nation. Russia’s Defense Ministry explained the Tuesday launch flew around 535 km, reaching an altitude of 510 km before falling harmlessly into the Sea of Japan – calling the missile an intermediate-range ballistic one, not an ICBM.

The US Pacific Command reported the same information. Tillerson ignored it, willfully heightening tensions. Calling North Korea a “global threat” gives Washington an excuse for more provocative behavior.

On July 4, US Forces Korea issued a statement, saying the

“Eighth US Army and Republic of Korea (ROK) military personnel conducted a combined event exercising assets countering North Korea’s destabilizing and unlawful actions on July 4.”

“This exercise utilized the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) and the Republic of Korea Hyunmoo Missile II, which fired missiles into territorial waters of South Korea along the East Coast.”

“The system can be rapidly deployed and engaged. The deep strike precision capability enables the ROK-US Alliance to engage the full array of time critical targets under all weather conditions.”

“The ROK-US Alliance remains committed to peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and throughout the Asia-Pacific. The US commitment to the defense of the ROK in the face of threats is ironclad.”

Fact: Threatened by possible US aggression, programs pursued by North Korea’s military aim solely to defend the nation if attacked.

Fact: America and its rogue allies are “committed to” endless wars of aggression and other disturbing provocations, “not peace and prosperity” anywhere – the latter for its privileged class and cronies exclusively.

Fact: Nations America targets belligerently, and others menaced by its bullying and aggressive behavior, threaten no one. Their sovereign independence leaves them vulnerable. Washington wants them transformed into US vassal states, their resources plundered, their people subjugated.

Resolving decades of US hostility toward Pyongyang requires diplomatic outreach by both sides.

The DPRK is willing to engage responsibly any time. Like its predecessors, the Trump administration is not. War on the Korean peninsula remains an ominous possibility.

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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Featured image: US Army paratrooper in Afghanistan’s Konar province (Photo: Spc. Lorenzo Ware/US Army. Source: Wikicommons)

The war in Afghanistan is the longest war in US history. Now in its 16th year (and third US President), one might expect the war to be winding down; however, with a resurgent Taliban, and ISIS allegedly present in the country as well, President Trump has recently delegated authority over prosecution of the war to the Pentagon. Now, additional US and NATO troops are being deployed to Afghanistan, and Secretary of Defense James Mattis (together with National Security Advisor HR McMaster) is developing a new, more aggressive strategy for the war. In short, there is no end in sight.

Although other wars have claimed this title in the past, Afghanistan is referred to by many as ‘the forgotten war.’ Even though it has been responsible for the deaths of thousands of US troops and many more people from Afghanistan, it sits nowhere near the forefront of public consciousness; it is more a vague blob in the public’s peripheral vision. Nine years ago, in July 2008, PBS aired a video report from their correspondent embedded with US troops in Afghanistan. Even then, at a time before George W Bush had vacated the Oval Office, the title of the video was “Afghanistan: The Forgotten War“. Then, eight years later at the height of 2016 presidential race, the LA Times published an editorial called “Afghanistan: The campaign’s forgotten war“, in which the author points out that neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump even bothered to mention Afghanistan in their convention speeches.

Trump was critical of US military interventionism during his campaign however, and even before his bid for the presidency began, he was in the habit of taking to Twitter to lambast the Obama administration for perpetuating the war in Afghanistan.

But that did not stop Obama – who promised to end the war by 2014 – from leaving the White House in January 2017 with 8,400 US troops still stationed in Afghanistan. It is also not stopping Trump himself from reversing course and presiding over the next escalation of US involvement in the country.

With the Taliban now in control of more territory than it has been since the US first went into Afghanistan in 2001, and the supposed appearance of ISIS in the country, one has to wonder what the last 16 years have really been about.

Surge 4.0

For the past few weeks, the American mainstream press has been reporting on Pentagon plans to send additional troops to Afghanistan. Although the number 4,000 has been widely circulated, no official announcements regarding the number or strategy have yet been made. The new strategy is set to be publicly announced in mid-July, and it looks as though more US troops will be sent to Afghanistan to add to the 8,500 American troops already in country. Similarly, fifteen of the twenty-nine NATO member nations so far have also agreed to send more troops to Afghanistan to add to the current NATO presence of 5,000 troops. (It should be noted that there is not currently a US or NATO combat mission in Afghanistan; instead, foreign troops are there on a mission to train Afghan forces.)

There is serious doubt among informed observers as to whether an additional few thousand troops will make any difference. After the number 4,000 had been suggested, General Jack Keane, former vice chief-of-staff of the US Army, suggested that between 10,000 and 20,000 additional troops were needed to make a difference. Similarly, in the past few days, former CIA director and defense secretary Leon Panetta also weighed in, echoing Keane’s opinion that 4,000 troops would not change the momentum.

As Danny Sjursen (the author of the article below) points out, the upcoming ‘surge’ in troop levels would be the fourth such move made by the US, following three similar increases by Bush and Obama in the years 2008-2010. It is beginning to look like escalating (or, in the case of Bush, starting) war in Afghanistan is something of a rite of passage for new presidents, as all three commanders-in-chief who have presided over the war have done so within the first year of their first terms. The question is, what is the US government actually trying to achieve, and is ‘winning’ even possible?

Remember how the mainstream media treated the surge orchestrated by General David Petraeus in Iraq in 2007. The idea of the surge was received with fawning adoration throughout the media, and even by President Bush, who played his part in helping to advertise and hype up the strategy. And afterwards Petraeus had no problem taking all the credit for his ‘success’.

Except it wasn’t a success. Its goals of ending sectarian violence and reconciling Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds were noble, but were not achieved with any meaningful staying power; the destabilization originally introduced by US intervention ultimately prevailed, and ISIS was the result. The point is that in Iraq, the surge was a triumph of marketing, a rebrand, a new sexy cover for a grisly reality. According to the Boston Globe:

“For Americans, the myth of the victorious surge is so seductive because it perpetuates an illusion of control. It frames the Iraq War as something other than a geostrategic blunder and remembers our effort as something more than a stalemate. What’s more, it reinforces the notion that it’s possible to influence events around the world, if only military force is deployed properly. It’s a myth that makes victory in the current Iraq mission appear achievable.”

Now replace the word ‘Iraq’ with ‘Afghanistan’.

One sad and daunting possibility is that Afghanistan has become a sort of operations ‘incubator’ used by the West, that one of the purposes served by a perpetual US and NATO presence there is to provide real-life training and experience to their troops, and to test weapons and equipment. Over time, a very significant number of foreign troops can be cycled in from various countries, and those countries then benefit from being able to test out new weapons, bombs, combat methods, training, and operational procedures and tactics. This prospect is even mentioned in Danny Sjursen’s article:

“As one high-ranking Afghan official recently lamented, thinking undoubtedly of the first use in his land of the largest non-nuclear bomb on the planet, ‘Is the plan just to use our country as a testing ground for bombs?’”

If that is even partly the case, the West requires a theater of war containing a long, infinitely extendable conflict in order to fulfill these requirements for the wider military-industrial complex. In Afghanistan, that’s exactly what they have.

A Flawed Strategy

In a recent article by independent journalist Gareth Porter, he points out that the US strategy in Afghanistan has a fatal flaw, which goes a long way toward explaining why the war is not being ‘won’:

“The real reason for the fundamental weakness of the US-NATO war is the fact that the United States has empowered a rogues’ gallery of Afghan warlords whose militias have imposed a regime of chaos, violence and oppression on the Afghan population – stealing, killing and raping with utter impunity.”

In Porter’s view, American objectives and methods in ousting the Taliban may have been short-sighted, as the Taliban came to power partly as a response to the sexual violence and predatory behaviour of Afghan ‘warlords’.

“The organization [Taliban] appeared in 1994 in response to the desperate pleas of the population in the south – especially in a Kandahar province divided up by four warlords – to stop the wholesale abduction and rape of women and pre-teen boys, as well as the uncontrolled extortion of tolls by warlord troops. The Taliban portrayed themselves as standing for order and elementary justice against chaos and sexual violence, and they immediately won broad popular support to drive the warlords out of power across the south, finally taking over Kabul without a fight.”

Ever since the invasion in 2001, the US has played favorites with the warlords, pitting various leaders against one another; helping selected ones to become more powerful, allowing some to become regional governors, putting others on the CIA payroll, and eventually turning their private militias into the national police. Over the years several different US commanders have taken the reins of the war in Afghanistan, but this strategy of using the warlord militias persisted, since there was no other adequate source of manpower to provide security, not only for the general population in Afghanistan but also for the US-NATO coalition troops themselves.

The occurrence of ‘green-on-blue’ attacks by Afghan police or military against US/coalition forces (such as the one last month that killed three American soldiers) may be largely attributable to the strategy of using warlord militias, but it is worth mentioning that the Taliban also actively infiltrates both the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police. Moreover, in Helmand and Kandahar provinces in particular, profits from the drug trade provide temptation to every element in society. As one article stated,

“the two provinces burdened with the bulk of green-on-blue attacks are Helmand and Kandahar. It is no coincidence that these areas are where the Taliban are strongest, and where the country’s highest levels of opium poppy cultivation help fund the insurgency.”

Although the frequency of green-on-blue attacks has declined (corresponding with the reduced US presence in Afghanistan), the number of different groups and interests represented on the ground make for an exceedingly complex web of relationships in which it is not always easy to see an attack coming.

Coupled with the flawed and failing US strategy of alliances is an unwillingness to admit defeat amongst both civilian and military managers of the Afghan war. The combination of these two factors could be a significant contributing factor as to why the conflict shows no signs of ending. In an interview with Gareth Porter, radio host and antiwar activist Scott Horton made the point this way:

“It is the case that every one of these guys in the war cabinet are heavily invested in some sort of spin that they won or are winning, or that there is some kind of positive light at the end of the tunnel, because each and every one of them is wrapped up in it. [Secretary of Defense] Mattis was in the original war, and was the head of CENTCOM for a time in charge of the war. [National Security Advisor] McMaster was in charge of counter-corruption during the Petraeus-Obama surge in 2009-2012. You have the Secretary of Homeland Security who apparently has quite a bit of sway, Kelly, whose son died in Helmand province in Petraeus’ surge, and they’re not going to want to admit that that was a sunk cost lost, for understandable reasons. Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well, has been in charge of the Afghan war. So these men have everything to lose by admitting that they lost.”

Porter agrees that there are other contributing factors to the war being seemingly unending and unwinnable, such as:

“the careers of the US officers who serve there; the bureaucratic stakes of the Joint Special Operations Command and the CIA in their huge programs and facilities in the country; the political cost of admitting that it was a futile effort from the start. Plus, the Pentagon and the CIA are determined to hold on to Afghan airstrips they use to carry out drone war in Pakistan for as long as possible.”

A word that frequently gets used with regard to the Afghan conflict is “stalemate“. After nearly 16 years, the Taliban now exercises control over about 40% of the territory in Afghanistan. They have allies such as the Haqqani network resupplying them from bordering Pakistan – considered something of a safe haven for terrorists despite being a US ally. As Danny Sjursen writes:

“if all goes well (which isn’t exactly a surefire thing), that’s likely to be the best that Surge 4.0 can produce: a long, painful tie.”

These criticisms may sound harsh to those hoping that the coming surge will make a difference, but the problems (and questions) regarding America’s involvement in Afghanistan are far deeper and broader than those presented above.

Fraud, Waste & Abuse

On a financial level, corruption and waste rule the day on both the Afghan and American sides of US involvement – and there is an astounding amount of money at stake. While the overall war has cost US taxpayers around a trillion dollars so far, funds appropriated for reconstruction stand at over $117 billion. As usual, it looks like money in the form of government contracts may be a reason why there is little urgency to end the war. As Ryan Crocker, former US Ambassador to Afghanistan, said:

“The ultimate failure for our efforts wasn’t an insurgency. It was more the weight of endemic corruption.”

sigar

Source: 21st Century Wire

John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), makes quarterly reports to Congress about his oversight of spending on reconstruction in Afghanistan. Some of SIGAR’s findings over the years have been breathtaking. Take for example SIGAR’s finding that there may be 200,000 “ghost soldiers“, Afghan soldiers whose salaries are US-taxpayer funded but who seem not even to exist except on paper. Or the gas station that cost an absurd $43 million to build, but that nobody uses and about which the Pentagon now has no knowledge. Or the $28 million needlessly spent on uniforms for the Afghan army, in ‘forest’ camouflage, even though woodland covers only 2.1% of Afghan territory.

As of two years ago, there was $35 billion in reconstruction funds spent that could not be accounted for, with many projects failing to meet requirements or specifications. It would seem the contractors winning the bids to rebuild Afghanistan are doing rather well for themselves; underwritten by the US taxpayer, there appears to be no end to the amount of money in the trough. As Sopko told WhoWhatWhy:

“We have spent more in Afghanistan than we did on the entire Marshall Plan to rebuild postwar Europe. The American taxpayer has had to foot that $114 billion bill, so they deserve to know not only the cost but also what it has gotten them.”

Bear in mind that SIGAR only covers reconstruction costs, not appropriations for bombs, arms, planes or other military equipment, vehicles or weaponry.

marine-poppies

A US Marine patrols through a poppy field in Helmand province, Afghanistan (Photo: Cpl. John M. McCall, USMC. Source: Wikicommons)

The Opium Question

Since the US military first invaded Afghanistan in 2001, production of opium in the country has increased dramatically. Although it is impossible to measure exactly how much opium is being produced, the UN produces yearly reports in which it estimates production levels, as well as how much land area is allocated for purpose of growing opium poppies. The latest UN figures for the year 2015-2016 show a significant increase in both the area used for opium cultivation (from 183,00 to 201,000 hectares, a 10% increase), as well as for potential production of opium (from 3,300 tons to 4,800 tons, a 43% increase).

In addition, despite $8.5 billion spent on eradication, the area destroyed by eradication efforts decreased by 91% from 2015 to 2016 (from 3,760 hectares eradicated down to just 355 hectares eradicated), and yield increased by 30% (from 18.3 kg of opium produced per hectare to 23.8 kg). All this places 2016 into the top three years for opium cultivation since the UN Office on Drugs and Crime began monitoring opium in Afghanistan in 1994.

Afghanistan is the world’s largest opium producer by a very wide margin, with a widely cited statistic being that opium from Afghanistan is in 90% of the heroin produced worldwide.

un-afghan-opium

Opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan to 2016 (Image: UNODC. Source: Afghanistan Opium Survey 2016)

War on Drugs?

America’s War on Drugs is rife with contradictions, but the fact that US troops (and DEA agents) have been stationed in a country responsible for 90% of the world’s heroin market for 16 years, with production increasing and eradication declining, is, shall we say, counter-intuitive – especially when one considers that at home, media outlets across the country are reporting daily on America’s heroin and opioid ‘epidemic‘.

According to the CDC, deaths due to opioid overdose in the United States increased by 16% between 2014 and 2015. Between 2002 and 2013, deaths due to heroin overdose nearly quadrupled. (Opioids are a class of drug that includes opiates – natural, opium-derived drugs like morphine – as well as synthetic versions like oxycodone or fentanyl; both are lethal and rapidly-growing problems in the United States.) Of course this is to say nothing about the legions of people languishing in US prisons for the nonviolent crime of drug possession.

To assume that there is no connection between the country that helps supply 90% of the world’s heroin on the one hand, and an explosion in America of heroin-related addiction and death on the other, is foolhardy to say the least.

It is also noteworthy that in July 2000, in cooperation with the UN, the Taliban outlawed the growing of opium, which is why production dropped sharply for the year 2001. As summarized in a 2004 academic paper for the International Journal of Drug Policy:

“Afghanistan was the main source of the world’s illicit heroin supply for most of the 1990s. From late 2000 and the year that followed, the Taliban enforced a ban on poppy farming via threats, forced eradication, and public punishment of transgressors. The result was a 99% reduction in the area of opium poppy farming in Taliban-controlled areas… It is concluded that the reduction in Afghan poppy cultivation was due to the enforcement action by the Taliban. Globally, the net result of the intervention produced an estimated 35% reduction in poppy cultivation and a 65% reduction in the potential illicit heroin supply from harvests in 2001. Though Afghan poppy growing returned to previous levels after the fall of the Taliban government, this may have been the most effective drug control action of modern times.”

If one only ever observed US involvement in Afghanistan, it might begin to look as though perhaps the United States is not actually waging a war on drugs. US troops are there, in the poppy fields, production is rising, and live on Fox News, a USMC lieutenant colonel clearly told Geraldo Rivera

“we provide them [poppy farmers] security, we’re providing them resources”.

However, Afghanistan is not the only instance we have of the US government protecting drug traffickers. Abby Martin explains:

In 2012, a Mexican government official from Juarez told Al Jazeera that the CIA and other international security forces “don’t fight drug traffickers” and that instead, the agency tries to “manage the drug trade.” Back in the fifties, the CIA turned a blind eye to drug trafficking through the Golden Triangle while training Taiwanese troops against Communist China. As William Blum reports in Rogue State: 

“The CIA flew the drugs all over Southeast Asia, to sites where the opium was processed into heroin, and to trans-shipment points on the route to Western customers.”

These are far from isolated incidents. During the eighties, the CIA financially and logistically backed anti-communist contras in Nicaragua who also happened to be international drug traffickers. Former Representative Ron Paul elaborated on the CIA’s notorious corruption when speaking to a group of students about Iran-Contra:

“[Drug trafficking] is a gold mine for people who want to raise money in the underground government in order to finance projects that they can’t get legitimately. It is very clear that the CIA has been very much involved with drug dealings. We saw [Iran-Contra] on television. They were hauling down weapons and drugs back.”

There are certainly questions that the US government has to answer about its relationship with the drug business. But another aspect of Afghan opium production which deserves further investigation is the extent of Chinese involvement in the modern opium trade coming out of Afghanistan. It has been reported that Afghan poppy farmers have begun growing what they call ‘Chinese seed‘, a genetically-modified poppy seed that allow farmers to grow poppies year-round and harvest their crops every two months. In March of this year, CNBC reported that ‘Chinese seed’ was in fact being grown legally in China for pharmaceutical purposes but had somehow crossed the border into Afghanistan.

Last month 21WIRE featured the documentary Afghan Overdose, about the Afghan opium trade, in our Sunday Screening series.

Afghanistan and Empire

To understand how globalist empire-builders view Afghanistan, however, we might direct readers’ attention to a superb video by James Corbett for Global Research’s GRTV. In the video, Corbett explains in a very concise fashion the greater historical and geopolitical context out of which the current conflict in Afghanistan arose.

The video provides evidence as to why 9/11 could not have been the real reason for the US invasion of Afghanistan, and what makes the country an extremely important asset in geopolitical and geostrategic terms. Afghanistan’s position as the world’s preeminent producer of opium alone would make the country very significant on the world stage; according to UN figures from 2010, the market for opiates worldwide is worth $65 billion, although the actual figure today could be considerably higher. Another very important factor making Afghanistan an attractive economic prize is what lies under the ground in the country; in addition to a significant amount of oil and gas, Afghanistan is also home to a vast wealth of minerals such as iron, copper, cobalt, gold and lithium, estimated at over $1 trillion in value. Let’s also not forget its appeal as the potential location for energy pipelines.

As Corbett explains, however, the real value of Afghanistan is its strategic location. Drawing on the geostrategic treatises of Halford Mackinder and Zbigniew Brzezinski, Corbett places Afghanistan at the very center of the new Great Game, the battle between east and west for the crucial region of Central Asia, and ultimately the globe.

Should we really be surprised by any of this? Although the Hollywood/mainstream media/pop-culture view of America is that of a democratic, freedom-loving, law-abiding member of the international community, regular readers of 21WIRE will already be aware that this image is largely a myth. In a recent article for The American Conservative deconstructing the myth of a ‘rules-based international order’, Boston University historian Andrew Bacevich points out that:

“Among the items failing to qualify for mention in the liberal internationalist, rules-based version of past U.S. policy are the following: meddling in foreign elections; coups and assassination plots in Iran, Guatemala, the Congo, Cuba, South Vietnam, Chile, Nicaragua, and elsewhere; indiscriminate aerial bombing campaigns in North Korea and throughout Southeast Asia; a nuclear arms race bringing the world to the brink of Armageddon; support for corrupt, authoritarian regimes in Iran, Turkey, Greece, South Korea, South Vietnam, the Philippines, Brazil, Egypt, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and elsewhere—many of them abandoned when deemed inconvenient; the shielding of illegal activities through the use of the Security Council veto; unlawful wars launched under false pretenses; ‘extraordinary rendition,’ torture, and the indefinite imprisonment of persons without any semblance of due process.”

The United States has not lived up to what the media tells us it is for some time. The war in Afghanistan is no exception.

More on this story from TomDispatch

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Featured image: Al Kindi hospital (Aleppo) as it was being demolished by two truck bombs, December 2013. The operation was carried out by Jabhat al Nusra (see logo top right) and its SA partners. Afterwards the Islamist-linked ‘Physicians for Human Rights’ tried to blame the Syrian Government for this destruction. (Photo: Jabhat al Nusra)

“On June 18 at 6:43 p.m., a Syrian regime SU-22 military jet aircraft dropped bombs near Syrian Democratic Forces fighters south of Tabqah, Syria, and, in accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defense of coalition partnered forces, was immediately shot down by a U.S. F/A-18E Super Hornet aircraft. The coalition presence in Syria addresses the imminent threat ISIS in Syria poses globally. The demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces toward coalition and partner forces in Syria conducting legitimate counter-ISIS operations will not be tolerated.”

This is the propaganda release of the US Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve news release posted on the US Department of Defence website of June 19th regarding the shooting down of a Syrian Su-22 that was attacking ISIS positions in Syria. This is the American attempt to justify a war crime, an act of aggression against Syria.

Let’s examine the claims made in this extraordinary document, this casual admission of guilt.

The Americans first try to lend legitimacy to their proxy forces attacking Syria by inserting the word “democratic” in their name. This is the word always used by the Americans to define any anti-democratic group they support or create. In turn they attempt to delegitimize the Syrian government and people by claiming the plane they shot down was the plane of a “regime” the word they always use when they plan to overthrow that government to replace it with a puppet government of their own.

The phrase “rules of engagement” means simply their own internal orders on when and where to commit acts of aggression against Syria in their invasion and occupation of Syrian territory. “Collective self-defence” is a phrase they like to use to make us fall down laughing hoping thereby to disarm and overwhelm us with the black humour of it all. The United States forces in Syria are aggressors and invaders. They are committing the supreme war crime and all the crimes that flow from that. They have no right of self-defence. They have no rights there at all except to leave or surrender to the Syrian government and apologise for their arrogance and the injury they have caused to the Syrian people. “Coalition partnered forces” means the other members of the criminal group of nations that willingly assist the United States to commit aggression against Syria against all international law and the domestic laws of those countries.

The statement that the Syrian jet was shot down “immediately” suggests that the American fighter was in the area at the time waiting to pounce; that this was not a reaction to an attack but an attempt to impose a no-fly zone over terrorist forces operating with American forces. In effect the Americans are attempting to protect their ISIS proxy forces besieging the government garrison at DeirEs-Zor, a siege the government forces are trying to break.

The Americans tried to excuse the shoot down by claiming that the Syrian jet was attacking their Kurdish proxy forces in one town but the facts are that the Syrian jet was attacking ISIS forces in another location. And of course the Syrians have every right to attack the American proxy forces and the Americans themselves since the Americans are invaders. In essence the Americans have shown that they are ready and willing to enforce their no-fly zone whereas the Syrians and Russians have been content to issue warnings if their forces are attacked. So far they have not acted on those warnings. The question is, will they and when? For this is not an isolated incident.

Source: South Front

On September 17, 2016 US planes attacked Syrian forces at Deir Ez-Zor claiming they were targeting ISIS forces and hit the Syrians “by mistake” a “mistake’ that helped the ISIS forces in their siege of the Syrian base there.

On April 7, 59 cruise missiles, launched from American ships, hit a Syrian air base. They had another excuse used to attempt to justify that.

On May 18 the Americans attacked Syrian government forces, once again it was claimed, for being too near US proxy forces and a US position near the Jordanian border.

Now we have the US once again protecting and assisting the ISIS forces laying siege to the Syrian government base at Deir Ez-Zor. So the claim in the US press release that the US is “addressing the ISIS threat” is a big lie. The US is not conducting counter-ISIS operations. It is conducting operations directly in support of ISIS forces. Since that is now clearly established to be the case then the US is also guilty of all the atrocities, all the war crimes committed by ISIS since ISIS began its operations about 3 years ago.

The criminal dossier composed of American and allied war crimes is getting very thick yet we see no statement from the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court about these crimes. The Americans of course have withdrawn from the ICC but still the Prosecutor could make a public statement about these crimes, condemn them, state that a dossier is open and active at least for investigative purposes but no, she is silent, ever evading her responsibilities.

Meanwhile the Russians stated that the shoot down of the Syrian fighter jet on June 19 shows a “disrespect for the United Nations”, which it is, though “contempt” would have been a stronger word, and called for a “thorough investigation by the US command” into this “flagrant violation of international law.” But the US is certainly not going to investigate itself for its deliberate act of war. The Russians and Syrians know it is a deliberate act of war. So what does this mean, this call for an investigation? One can only conclude that these words are meant to express outrage while the Russians and Syrians assess their options and what has to happen next, for something has to happen or else the Americans will extend their own no fly zone over all of Syria.

The US aggression against Syria has been taken to a new level of direct American attacks. Unless there is an effective defence against these attacks they will escalate and quickly. The Russians and Syrians of course want to avoid a wider war at all costs and they must be saluted for their patience and endurance in the face of these provocations, but is clear that the Americans are intent on pushing and pushing and pushed so far that Iran has reacted and fired its missiles at the ISIS forces this week. They have said they will do it again. They are not waiting for the Russians and Syrians to act,though we must assume they were informed and perhaps approved, for they also are under direct threat from the aggression against Syria.

The Russian air forces have now stated that from now on they will target American and allied air forces that threaten them and their allies. But targeting is one thing. Will they shoot them down? At some point that will have to happen as the Americans are not interested in talking or negotiating anything and only understand the logic of force.

They showed their intentions a few days ago when an F16 approached the Russian defence minister’s plane as it flew to Kaliningrad and had to be warned off by a Russian fighter. The Americans claim they did not know who was on the plane and were just “checking it out” but the Americans knew exactly who was on that plane and what right do they have to do any such thing in international air space? No, that F16 was a dagger at the throat of Mr. Shoigu and the Russian people. It was a death threat, meant to intimidate Russia and the Russian people, a criminal act under international law, an insult, the action of thugs.

Russian military tank in Syria (Source: New Eastern Outlook)

That it happened near Kaliningrad confirms my view stated several times in past articles that Kaliningrad will be a focus for their hybrid war methods since the Russian forces their control the approaches to St. Petersburg, secure Russian access to the Baltic and Atlantic and sit behind NATO lines now running from Estonia, Latvia Lithuania and Poland down to the Donbass republics. The NATO powers would like nothing better than to push the Russians out of Kaliningrad and the Russians, who have reinforced their forces there, know it. The threat made against Mr. Shoigu’s plane is part of American hybrid warfare, an attempt to harass the Russians in Kaliningrad. We can expect further actions there.

But whatever criticism we may level at the Russians for not acting more forcefully against the American threat must be tempered with a respect for the Russian leadership and their ability to assess the situation and react appropriately for there is this difference between the Russians and the Americans; the Americans telegraph every move they make, their intentions are clear, their strategy understood. But the Russian play things closer to the vest, insist on talking while preparing for something else, for they understand very well from their historical experience Sun Tzu’s dictum that the side that knows when to fight and when not to will take the victory.

But the real criticism must lay at the feet of the anti-war movement in the west that, except for some isolated initiatives, by small groups and concerned and active individuals, is almost paralyzed, or taken over by the “interventionists,” those deluded people who think they can solve all problems through war.  This is the case in the USA, Canada, and Europe generally. Kept off-balance and confused by repeated “terrorist” attacks always attributed to whoever the enemy is deemed to be, a few years ago Al-Qaeda, now the US construct, ISIS, and by a massive propaganda campaign in the media, too many who claim in earnest to love peace and humanity call for war and death.  I have no answer to the question of how to revive the peace movement so that it can have an effect on world governments.  Others, I hope, do. But if I were able to speak with President Trump and the war faction that goads him on, to the Canadian prime minister who acts as his simpering puppet, I would repeat what an Indian sage once said to Alexander The Great, who was slaughtering his way across the world,

“Every man can possess only so much of the earth’s surface as this we are standing on. You are but human like the rest of us, save that you are always busy and up to no good, travelling so many miles from your home, a nuisance to yourself and others. Ah, well! You will soon be dead, and then you will own just as much of this earth as will suffice to bury you.”

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The Democratic Party’s Deadly Dead-End

July 6th, 2017 by Nicolas J S Davies

Featured image: Sen. Bernie Sanders speaking to one of his large crowds of supporters. (Photo credit: Sanders campaign)

The most encouraging trend in the otherwise bleak landscape of Western politics is the success of the “new kind of politics” unveiled by Bernie Sanders in the U.S., Jeremy Corbyn in the U.K., and parallel movements, parties and candidates in other countries.

In their recent campaigns, Sanders and Corbyn laid out specific progressive policies to address the real-life problems facing their constituents and their countries and to raise taxes on the wealthy and corporations to fully fund healthcare, education and other vital public services. This represents a dramatic U-turn from the vague, deceptive talking points of “center-left” Democratic, Labour and Socialist politicians of the past generation, under cover of which they quietly sold out their constituents to corporate, plutocratic and military-industrial interests.

In 2002, when Margaret Thatcher was asked to name her “greatest political achievement,” she smiled her best cat-that-swallowed-the-canary smile and purred, Tony Blair and New Labour.”

The true measure of the Reagan-Thatcher counterrevolution was not how Reagan and Thatcher changed their own parties’ policies but that they remade their opposition in their own image and thus marginalized progressive politics for a generation in both their countries, clearing the way for the neoliberal transformation of society.

Reagan and Thatcher launched a race to the bottom that politicians in France, Germany, Japan and the rest of the developed world soon joined in with. They slashed taxes on the wealthy and corporations, cut funding for everything but weapons, war and debt, privatized public services, and abandoned the principle that the wealth and power of wealthy countries should benefit all their people.

Western experts also fanned out across Eastern Europe to impose neoliberal “shock therapy” that caused soaring unemployment and shocking declines in living standards and life expectancy.

The DLC: the U.S.’s New Labour

The corporate-funded Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), which took over the leadership of the Democratic Party between the 1988 and 1992 elections, was the U.S. equivalent of Blair’s New Labour in the U.K. But unlike New Labour, the DLC downplayed its takeover of the Democratic Party instead of dressing it up in a splashy rebranding campaign.

President Bill Clinton, First Lady Hillary Clinton and daughter Chelsea parade down Pennsylvania Avenue on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 1997. (White House photo)

Lax campaign finance laws already left the U.S. political system wide open to corruption, or “legalized bribery” as former President Jimmy Carter has called it, through lavish fundraising, political advertising and corporate lobbying. The DLC Democrats launched a campaign to match the Republicans in fundraising from the wealthy and corporations, and “Slick Willie” Clinton sold the DLC’s new model of “center-left” corporate politics to the public, veiling the radical nature of his plutocratic agenda behind talking points drafted by corporate-funded think tanks and spin doctors.

It has tragically taken three decades for a majority of Americans to wake up to this plutocratic corporate buyout of their political system, first by Reagan’s Republicans, but then, decisively, by the Democrats who dropped the other shoe and left the public at large effectively unrepresented and marginalized.

Hillary Clinton’s dramatic 2016 defeat by one of the most unpopular figures in U.S. political history should have been a clarion call to the middle management of the Democratic Party — members of Congress, senior Congressional staff, and local and state party leaders — that the DLC model of politics had run its course.

Nobody in the Democratic Party more explicitly symbolized the corrupt DLC political model than the Clintons. Bill Clinton was the DLC’s fourth chairman from 1990 to 1991, and his election as President in 1992 cemented the DLC’s control of the Democratic Party. The first six chairmen of the DLC were all Southern men in the Clinton mold, and the DLC was never chaired by a woman in its 26-year history. (The DLC closed its doors in 2011.)

But Hillary Clinton’s defeat was hardly the first signal that the DLC Democrats had had their day. Corporate Democrats suffered a bloodbath in the 2010 midterm election. Even as the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) enjoyed a net gain of four seats in the House in 2010, 36 percent of non-CPC Democrats were tossed out on their ears, losing 67 of their 185 seats.

The CPC was founded in 1991 by Sen. Bernie Sanders and five progressive Democrats, and it has grown to be the largest Democratic caucus in Congress, with 73 current House members representing the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

If the 2010 election should have woken the Democrats from their complacency, the public disillusionment revealed by record low turnout in the 2014 mid-term should have rung the alarm bells off the wall. As Bernie Sanders repeated in almost every stump speech in 2016,

“When voter turnout is high, Democrats and progressives win. When voter turnout is low and people are demoralized, Republicans win.”

And yet the overwhelming majority of Democratic members of Congress, including most members of the Progressive Caucus, still backed Clinton over Sanders in the 2016 presidential primary. Despite repeated and increasingly dire warnings, culminating in political suicide in 2016, the Democratic Party still refuses to repudiate or reform its failed, corrupt DLC model of politics.

Like other aspects of neoliberalism, the Reagan-DLC model is so entrenched and so successfully insulated the political class from accountability to the public that they just can’t believe the game is up.

After the election, Progressive Caucus co-chair Keith Ellison ran for the chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), on a platform to reform the party and restore integrity to the DNC, which flagrantly pulled strings for Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary. But right-wing Democrats led by Haim Saban opened their wallets for an ugly campaign to smear Ellison, the first Muslim in Congress as an anti-Semite and dig up the votes to defeat him. When Saban and Company’s new DNC chair Tom Perez joined Bernie Sanders on a so-called “Democratic Unity” tour, he was booed from Maine to Miami.

As Claire Sandberg, Sanders’ former digital organizing director told Vice News,

“The (Democratic Party) Establishment is like a doomsday cult; no matter how thoroughly their predictions (are) refuted by reality, they just dig in deeper in their incoherent worldview, with devastating consequences for the rest of us.”

Jon Ossoff v. Harry Truman

The latest Democratic fiasco is Jon Ossoff’s defeat by a 3.8 percent margin by Karen Handel in a special election in Georgia, despite spending $30 million on a campaign that broke the record for legalized bribery in a U.S. House race. To add insult to injury, Karen Handel is the former vice president of the Susan Komen Foundation who resigned over its support for Planned Parenthood in 2012. How much more self-inflicted humiliation can the Democrats stand?

On the same day, fellow Democrat Archie Parnell did a bit better than Ossoff, losing to Republican Ralph Norman by a margin of only 3.2 percent in an equally Republican-leaning district in South Carolina, despite only spending $500,000 and being all but ignored by national Democratic Party power brokers and fundraisers.

Could a share of the millions fruitlessly lavished on Ossoff have put Parnell over the top? We’ll never know. Or is the corporate Democratic Party machine now so toxic that its coolness to Parnell actually helped his candidacy?

If that is the case, it raises questions about the very purpose and existence of the Democratic Party. Could the Dems be doomed to go the way of PASOK in Greece or the Socialists in France, former ruling parties suddenly reduced to single digits by recent elections? Is that what it would take to revitalize U.S. politics? Should Sanders and progressives inside and outside the Democratic Party start a new People’s Party, as “Draft Bernie” activists at the recent People’s Summit in Chicago were calling for?

While Ossoff was a well-connected former Congressional staffer, a young celebrity candidate hyped by party leaders, Parnell was a self-deprecating retired tax attorney who ran as his own man, staking out straightforward policy positions that appeared to reflect his own judgments of what was important to his neighbors in South Carolina, not the calculations of career political consultants.

Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Great Britain’s Labour Party. (Source: Consortiumnews)

Parnell is a former Goldman Sachs executive, not a Sanders- or Corbyn-style democratic socialist, but he followed Sanders and Corbyn’s model of politics in the sense that he responded to the concerns of working- and middle-class voters in his district and vowed to take on powerful corporate interests.

The first issue on the “Issues” page of Parnell’s website was “Taxes and Big Corporations.” He promised to, “use his decades of experience and detailed knowledge of the tax code to make big corporations pay their fair share. He knows how to close the loopholes that allow big companies to stash trillions of dollars overseas (Parnell worked for Goldman Sachs in Hong Kong), and will use that revenue to strengthen our infrastructure and create jobs here at home.”

By contrast, the “Priorities” page of Ossoff’s website began with a section on “Our Economy” that dodged any commitment to take on powerful interests, parroting the corporate Democratic line with non-committal strings of focus-group-tested buzz-words like this:

“Jon will stand up in Congress for a dynamic, forward-looking, fiscally responsible economic policy that maximizes opportunity for entrepreneurs, workers, and investors.”

Besides not committing Ossoff to doing anything at all, this kind of nonsense maintains the pretense that politics can please everyone, rich and poor, without confronting conflicting interests or power disparities between different classes or sectors of society.

In practice, corporate Dems and Republicans alike have used this kind of vague, non-committal language as a smoke-screen for the concentration of more and more power and wealth in the hands of a ruling class that is oblivious to the lives and problems of the rest of humanity. In a televised debate with Handel, Ossoff pledged not to bite the hand that feeds him by raising taxes on the wealthy, and came out against universal publicly-funded healthcare.

The Ossoff fiasco illustrates the dead-end into which the DLC Democrats have driven their party. As long as their primary goal is to raise the money they need to run corrupt multi-million dollar campaigns, their party can never honestly address the real concerns of the people whose votes ultimately decide the result. Once the public finally caught on to the corporate Democrats’ deceptive game, the Dems were bound to reap a whirlwind of righteous popular anger.

As President Harry Truman said in a speech in 1952,

“The people don’t want a phony Democrat. If it’s a choice between a Republican and a Republican in Democratic clothing, they’ll take the genuine article every time.”

Truman understood that betrayal and outrage are more potent political forces than arguments about which party’s policies are more evil than the other’s.

The Corrupt “Middle of the Road” 

Because the Democratic Party has become first and foremost a fundraising and bribery machine, the only thing that Democratic leaders seem to have gleaned from Bernie Sanders’s success is that his presidential campaign raised millions of dollars in small donations from working- and middle-class people. So, corporate Democrats have latched onto grassroots fundraising as an element of Sanders’s “political revolution” that they can embrace – not issues such as universal healthcare, free college tuition and a $15 minimum wage. Now they are worried that Ossoff’s defeat may have killed that golden goose.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. (Source: Consortiumnews)

What anyone without a vested interest in the Democratic Party could have told the party bigwigs is that Bernie Sanders’s fundraising success was not a gimmick that could be replicated in isolation from other aspects of his campaign. It was the result of a public upsurge of support for a refreshingly honest, independent and perennially marginalized politician who offered concrete solutions to the real problems of American politics and society — problems largely created, swept under the rug and ignored for a generation by a corrupt political establishment.

As on so many other fronts, the corporate Democrats are caught in a trap they have set for themselves with their deceptive, monetized model of politics.

In 2008, they fabricated a myth that Barack Obama had raised a record share of his funding from small donors. But an apples-to-apples comparison of official records showed that he only raised 24 percent of his funds from donors who gave less than $200, about the same as both Kerry and Bush in 2004.

A well-publicized study by the Campaign Finance Institute (CFI) kept the Obama small donor myth alive by treating people who donated to both his primary and general election campaigns as if they were two different people, magically transforming many who gave more than $200 into twice as many smaller donors and boosting his small donor percentage from 24 percent to 30 percent in the primary and 34 percent in the general election in the CFI study.

Now the CFI has backtracked and cites the 24 percent figure. By contrast, both Trump and Sanders really did raise more of their funds from small donors – 44 percent for Sanders and 58 percent for Trump, compared with only 22 percent for Clinton.

The real danger of the Ossoff fiasco is the same one the corporate Democrats keep creating and recreating for their party, that their slick, deceptive brand of politics is so tainting their identity that it will undermine real progressive Democratic candidates in 2018 and beyond.

After a generation of corporate politics, it is vital that both journalists and the public learn to tell the difference between corrupt corporate Republicans and Democrats on the one hand and genuine, well-motivated grassroots candidates on the other. This distinction may ultimately be more important to the political future of the country than the choice between Republicans and Democrats, and telling the difference does not require an advanced degree in political science. A quick look at any candidate’s website can usually tell us most of what we need to know.

I already contrasted Archie Parnell’s promise “to make big corporations pay their fair share” of taxes with Jon Ossoff’s pledges to his wealthy benefactors. Ossoff also fully embraced Ronald Reagan’s tired old saw that the government should be “run like a business.” His so-called “accountability plan,” which aimed only to trim government waste, not to hold politicians accountable to their constituents for their policies or their corruption, included a section headed “Bringing the Government up to Private Sector Standards,” a classic theme of pseudo-technocratic “centrist” politicians.

Despite or maybe because of working on Capitol Hill for five years, Ossoff didn’t seem to understand that the federal government’s most critical responsibilities involve public services like healthcare, education, social welfare and infrastructure, for which the neoliberal “business” model has proved to be damaging and dangerous.

Ossoff’s political posture appeared to be calculated to position himself directly between the progressive wing of the Democratic Party and the Southern conservative “Blue Dogs,” a throwback to Bill Clinton’s “triangulation” strategy from the 1990s — even though the Blue Dogs have been reduced from 54 seats in Congress in 2008 to 18 now.

As Texan progressive activist Jim Hightower says,

“There ain’t nothing in the middle of the road but yellow lines and dead armadillos.”

The center in “center-left” has always been a euphemism for pro-big-business, and American voters have had 30 years to judge the effects of this calculated, cynical kind of politics on their country and their lives.

Americans are now divided, not so much between the deceptive pitches of corporate Democrats and Republicans, but between desperately hoping for a new kind of politics that honestly addresses the reality of their lives on the one hand and giving up on “politics” altogether on the other.

Moral Bankruptcy on War and Peace

Nowhere is the moral bankruptcy of the Democratic Party more evident than on questions of war and peace. Americans chose Obama over Clinton in 2008 in large part based on Clinton’s vote for the Iraq War authorization and Obama’s decision to speak at an anti-war rally in Chicago in October 2002, in which he called the illegal planned invasion “a dumb war.”

But in his book, The Audacity of Hope, Obama wrote that he hesitated to speak at that anti-war rally because, “on the merits I didn’t consider the case against war to be cut-and-dried.”

In fact, military-industrial power brokers like Chicago’s Crown family had backed Obama’s political career right from the start and knew him far better than the general public, who were meeting him for the first time through his award-winning marketing campaign. The Crown family were among Obama’s top national fundraising “bundlers” in 2008 and former General Dynamics’ CEO Lester Crown, the patriarch of the family, hosted an elite fundraiser for Obama at his home in Chicago.

Once elected, Obama dropped more bombs and missiles on more countries than Bush, and expanded the violence and chaos of Bush’s “war on terror” to Libya, Syria and Yemen. Obama spent more money on weapons and war than any president since World War II (even after adjusting for inflation), and rewarded General Dynamics with a steady stream of profits from expanded production of Virginia class submarines ($2.5 billion each), 39 new Arleigh Burkedestroyers to be built over 20 years ($1.8 billion each) and three new Zumwalt destroyers ($7.5 billion each, including development costs, more than an aircraft carrier).

Obama and a Democratic Congress ordered the Zumwalt destroyers in April 2009 over the objections of the Navy, which called the Zumwalt, “a ship you don’t need,” as the program had already become an operational, engineering and procurement nightmare.

Admiral Jay Johnson, the former chief of naval operations who had championed the Zumwalt program, was by then Vice Chairman, and soon to be CEO, of General Dynamics. The Zumwalt destroyers are vulnerable to modern anti-ship missiles, and the first ship launched, the USS Zumwalt, had to be towed out of the Panama Canal in December 2016 after its propellers jammed and it ran aground.

As a major supplier of bombs and ammunition, General Dynamics has also profited handsomely from the U.S. bombing of Iraq and Syria, which is now the heaviest U.S. bombing campaign since the bombing of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, with over 84,000 bombs and missiles dropped since 2014.

The various Al Qaeda splinter groups tearing Syria apart have all been armed with some share of the thousands of tons of weapons the Obama administration and its allies flooded across Syria’s borders since 2011. These include thousands of howitzers, rocket launchers and other heavy weapons, and over 315 million rounds of ammunition, as Gareth Porter expertly catalogued in a recent article.

Democratic Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii has introduced the “Stop Arming Terrorists Act,” which would prohibit any further U.S. arming of Al Qaeda-linked terrorists in Syria or anywhere else. But only 14 of her colleagues have co-sponsored her bill and eight of them are Republicans. The six progressive Democrats who have signed on are Welch, Lee, Conyers, Khanna, Rush and De Fazio.

In the Senate, Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, has taken the lead in opposing arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the U.S.’s despicable role in the Saudi-led war on Yemen. The bill Murphy sponsored with Senators Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, and Al Franken, D-Minnesota, to stop a small part of the latest Saudi arms sale failed by 53-47, thanks to five Democrats who voted with the Republican majority: Donnelly, Manchin, McCaskill, Nelson and Warner.

Senator Bill Nelson, from my home state of Florida, has long been known as the “Senator for Lockheed Martin.” But it is a new low, even for Nelson, to prioritize profits from U.S. arms sales over the dangerously precarious lives of the starving and cholera-stricken children of Yemen.

In its markup for the 2018 national defense authorization, the House Armed Services Committee has approved consideration of Barbara Lee’s amendment to repeal the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), the legal fig-leaf with which Pentagon and White House lawyers still pretend to justify the rivers of blood shed in the name of September 11th and the “global war on terror.”

Saudi King Salman bids farewell to President Barack Obama at Erga Palace after a state visit to Saudi Arabia on Jan. 27, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Barbara Lee was the only member of Congress in either chamber with the wisdom and courage to vote against the AUMF in 2001. How many will stand with Barbara Lee this time to consign the AUMF to the garbage can of history?

Predictably, neither the Ossoff nor Parnell campaigns offered any new or progressive positions on U.S. war policy. Ossoff’s website had a long-winded statement of unconditional support for Israel, with no mention of human rights, occupation or settlements, nor any word on the plight of the Palestinians at all, and he threw in a threat of destabilizing new sanctions against Iran for good measure.

This kind of blatant pandering to the Israel lobby is another cynical staple of the DLC model of Democratic politics. Ossoff touted his five years as a national security staffer but avoided specific policy proposals, while Parnell’s website promised only to keep the local Air Force base open and support military veterans.

The U.S. has been at war for over 15 years. Its wars have killed hundreds of times the number of Americans killed on September 11th. No country destroyed by the U.S. war machine has yet emerged from the violence and chaos unleashed on it, making them all fertile ground for Al Qaeda and ISIS recruiters, who flaunt their capacity to keep striking back in surprising places, from San Bernardino and Manchester to the Philippines and West Africa to the heart of Kabul’s fortified Green Zone.

Yet no Democratic Party leader has presented any proposal to deescalate an increasingly global asymmetric war that keeps spreading and spinning farther out of control. As the Trump administration looks only to dangerous and potentially catastrophic escalation on every front, where is the Democratic alternative?

Beyond Inverted Totalitarianism

Gabbard’s bill on Syria, Murphy’s initiatives on Yemen and Lee’s AUMF repeal bill are all tests of whether the Democratic Party can become relevant again to the future of our country and the world. Bernie Sanders’s campaign got a shot in the arm when Gabbard joined him on the campaign trail and took on the questions of war and peace that he had timidly avoided.

Sanders’s continued silence or even quiet support for U.S. war policy is a dangerous and disturbing element in an otherwise honorable progressive stance, and the position he has earned as America’s most popular politician gives him both a platform and a responsibility to address critical foreign policy issues as well as domestic ones.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii. (Source: Consortiumnews)

Sanders would do well to have a serious discussion about foreign policy with Jeremy Corbyn, whose progressive views and expressions of concern for the lives of working people and their families do not stop at the borders of his own country. Corbyn’s domestic and foreign policy positions therefore form a coherent and consistent whole that makes sense to the public, who keep rallying around him despite regular predictions of catastrophic defeat by both his Tory opponents and Margaret Thatcher’s pride and joy, the New Labour/Blairite wing of his own party.

In his 2006 book, Democracy Incorporated, Sheldon Wolin described our present neoliberal political and economic system as “inverted totalitarianism,” differing from classical totalitarianism in that, instead of just abolishing the tools of democracy, our rulers have coopted them to use for their own purposes.

Wolin observed that the inverted form of totalitarianism seems to be a more palatable and therefore sustainable way to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of a privileged ruling class than the classical totalitarianism of the Twentieth Century.

But the genius of inverted totalitarianism is also its weakness. As long as the institutions of democracy still exist, even in their present hollowed-out and corrupted form, the wealthy and powerful face the danger that the public will one day discover its voice and its power, stop voting for corporate-backed celebrity politicians like Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and develop a “new kind of politics” that offers real solutions to our most serious problems, from poverty, inequality and for-profit healthcare to war, terrorism and climate change.

A sign at a Bernie Sanders rally in Washington D.C. on June 9, 2016. (Photo credit: Chelsea Gilmour)

The refusal of the Blairites and Clintonistas to see the writing on the wall for their 1990s brand of politics is costing the people of the U.K, the U.S. and the world very dearly. But the sleeping giant of democracy is stirring beneath the astro-turf of the American dream.

The Sanders and Corbyn campaigns, Podemos in Spain and connected movements around the world may be the first green shoots of a just, peaceful and sustainable future — but only if we recognize that it is up to all of us to both nurture them and hold their leaders accountable on the critical questions of our time.

Nicolas J S Davies is the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.  He also wrote the chapters on “Obama at War” in Grading the 44th President: a Report Card on Barack Obama’s First Term as a Progressive Leader.

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A bandeira dos EUA nos três mares da Europa

July 5th, 2017 by Manlio Dinucci

Será um triunfo para o presidente Trump quando, no dia 6 de julho, chegar de visita a Varsóvia. A Polônia, assegura a Casa Branca, é “fiel aliado na Otan e um dos mais estreitos amigos da América”. Com efeito, é a ponta de lança da estratégia dos EUA e da Otan que arrastou a Europa a uma nova guerra fria contra a Rússia.

Na Polônia, para onde foi transferida em janeiro a 3ª Brigada de blindados dos EUA, foi deslocado, sob o comando dos EUA, um dos quatro grupos de batalha da Otan “com presença avançada reforçada”, com funções anti-Rússia.

A Polônia tem também o mérito de ser um dos quatro países europeus da Otan que realizaram o objetivo, exigido pelos EUA em 2014, de destinar mais de 2% do PIB a despesas militares. Em compensação, anuncia Varsóvia, a Polônia não contribuirá para o “Fundo para a Defesa” lançado pela União Europeia em 22 de junho.

A Polônia do presidente Duda tem, assim, aos olhos de Washington, todas as credenciais para assumir outro encargo importante, qual seja o de lançar e dirigir a “Iniciativa dos Três Mares”, um novo projeto que reúne 12 países compreendidos entre o Báltico, o Mar Negro e o Adriático: Polônia, Lituânia, Letônia, Estônia, Hungria, República Tcheca, Áustria, Bulgária, Romênia, Croácia, Eslovaquia e Eslovênia.

Todos membros da União Europeia, razão pela qual o presidente Duda define a Iniciativa como “um novo conceito para promover a unidade europeia”. Mas esses países são ao mesmo tempo, todos, exceto a Áustria, membros da Otan sob o comando dos EUA  mais ligados a Washington do que a Bruxelas.

A “Iniciativa dos Três Mares” será batizada pelo presidente Trump na conferência que se realizará em Varsóvia em 6 de julho, mas foi concebida pela administração Obama.

Esta foi anunciada em 25 de agosto de 2016 com a Declaração Conjunta de Dubrovnik, que a apresentava como uma iniciativa visando a “conectar a economia e a infraestrutura da Europa central e oriental de Norte a Sul, expandindo a cooperação nos setores de energia, transportes, comunicações digitais e na economia em geral. O objetivo oficial é “tornar a Europa central e oriental mais segura e competitiva”. Os EUA se ocuparão disto.

No seu discurso na Conferência dos Três Mares, anuncia a Casa Branca, o presidente Trump “se concentrará no desenvolvimento da infraestrutura e na segurasnça energética, evidenciando entre outras coisas as primeiras remessas de LNG (gás natural liquefeito) americano à Polonia imediatamente nos próximos meses”. Um terminal no porto báltico de Swinoujscie, que custou cerca de um bilhão de dólares, permitirà à Polônia importar LNG estadunidense numa quantidade de 5 bilhões de metros cúbicos anuais, que podem subir a 7,5 bilhões.

Através deste e de outros terminais, entre os quais um que foi projetado na Croácia, o gás proveniente dos EUA ou de outros países por meio de empresas estadunidenses, será distribuído com gasodutos a toda a “região dos três mares”.

O objetivo do plano é claro: golpear a Rússia, fazendo cair a sua exportação de gás para a Europa (obietivo que só pode ser realizado se a exportação do gás estadunidense, mais caro que o russo, for incentivada com fortes subvenções estatais); ligar ainda mais aos EUA a Europa central e oriental não apenas militarmente mas também economicamente, em concorrência com a Alemanha e outras potências europeias; criar dentro da Europa uma macrorregião (a dos três mares) com soberania limitada, diretamente sob influência dos EUA, que de fato fracionaria a União Europeia e se alargaria à Ucrânia e outros países.

O mapa político da Europa está para ser mudado de novo, mas a bandeira estrelada e listrada continua fincada.

Manlio Dinucci

Artigo em italiano : Sui Tre mari dell’Europa bandiera Usa

Fonte : ilmanifesto.info

Artigo publicado em Il Manifesto.

Tradução de José Reinaldo Carvalho para Resistência

Manlio Dinucci é geógrafo e jornalista

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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced a 50 percent increase in the minimum wage Sunday, effective from July 1, with the monthly minimum wage increasing from 65,021 to 97,531 bolivars.

The salary increase will include public workers, teachers, doctors, firefighters, police officers and military personnel, among others. The president also raised the salary scales of other public administration workers in addition to an increase in food allowances, which went from 15 to 17 Tax Units.

Through the National Constituent Assembly, the president will also propose a law that allows for the regulation of prices and the application of legal action against speculators, stressing the importance of the fight against speculation and the need for legislation to control prices to put an end to the right-wing economic war that the Venezuelan people suffer.

At a commemorative event for the 14th anniversary of the Robinson Mission — Venezuela’s literacy and primary education program — Maduro said,

“We need the constituent assembly to protect and create useful and stable jobs for the country and the Venezuelan family.”

Maduro also urged people to be on alert for more coup plots.

“I want to alert the people because the conditions are very different, the revolution then was on the defensive without social policies. Today is very different because since Commandante (Hugo) Chavez founded the missions, the people have had to defend them. Unlike in 2002, when the people defended a dream, today we defend a reality: the great missions,” he added.

In a live radio and television broadcast, Maduro recalled that during the economic subversion of 2002, the opposition not only hid all essential products but also sabotaged the distribution of domestic gas, among other types of gas.

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I actually forced myself to watch the documentary The White Helmets, which is available on Netflix. It is 40 minutes long, is of high quality cinematographically speaking, and tells a very convincing tale that was promoted as “the story of real-life heroes and impossible hope.”

It is overall a very ., so much so that it has won numerous awards including the Oscar for Best Documentary Short this year and the White Helmets themselves were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. More to the point, however, is the undeniable fact that the documentary has helped shape the public understanding of what is going on in Syria, delivering a Manichean tale that depicts the “rebels” as always good and Bashar al-Assad and his government as un-redeemably evil.

It has been reliably reported that celebrities like George Clooney, Justin Timberlake and Hillary Clinton really like the White Helmets documentary and have promoted it with the understanding that it represents the truth about Syria, but it is, of course, not the whole story. The film, which was made by the White Helmets themselves without any external verification of what it depicts, portrays the group as “heroic,” an “impartial, life-saving rescue organization” of first responders. Excluded from the scenes of heroism under fire is the White Helmets’ relationship with the al-Qaeda affiliated group Jabhat al-Nusra and its participation in the torture and execution of “rebel” opponents. Indeed, the White Helmets only operate in rebel held territory, which enables them to shape the narrative both regarding who they are and what is occurring on the ground. Because of increasing awareness of the back story, there is now a growing movement to petition the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to revoke the Oscar based on the complete and deliberate misrepresentation of what the White Helmets are all about.

Exploiting their access to the western media, the White Helmets have de facto become a major source of “eyewitness” news regarding what has been going on in those many parts of Syria where European and American journalists are quite rightly afraid to go. It is all part of a broader largely successful “rebel” effort to manufacture fake news that depicts the Damascus government as engaging in war crimes directed against civilians.

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White Helmets on Netflix (Source: Netflix)

The White Helmets have certainly saved some lives under dangerous circumstances but they have also exaggerated their humanitarian role as they travel to bombing sites with their film crews trailing behind them. Once at the sites, with no independent observers, they are able to arrange or even stage what is filmed to conform to their selected narrative. They have consistently promoted tales of government atrocities against civilians to encourage outside military intervention in Syria and bring about regime change in Damascus. The White Helmets were, for example, the propagators of the totally false but propagandistically effective claims regarding the government use of so-called “barrel bombs” against civilians.

The White Helmets were a largely foreign creation that came into prominence in the aftermath of the unrest in Syria that developed as a result of the Arab Spring in 2012. They are currently largely funded by a number of non-government organizations (NGOs) as well as governments, including Britain and some European Union member states. The United States has directly provided $23 million through the USAID (US Agency for International Development) as of 2016 and almost certainly considerably more indirectly. Max Blumenthal has explored in some detail the various funding resources and relationships that the organization draws on, mostly in Europe and the United States.

Former weapons inspector Scott Ritter has described how the White Helmets are not actually trained to do the complicated rescue work that they depict in their self-made videos, which have established their reputation by ostensibly showing them in action inside Syria, rescuing civilians from bombed out structures, and providing life-saving emergency medical care. As an expert in Hazardous Materials handling with New York Task Force 2 USAR team, Ritter reports that

“these videos represent de facto evidence of dangerous incompetence or, worse, fraud… The bread and butter of the White Helmet’s self-made reputation is the rescue of a victim—usually a small child—from beneath a pile of rubble, usually heavy reinforced concrete… The techniques used by the White Helmets are not only technically wrong, but dangerous to anyone who might actually be trapped… In my opinion, the videos are pure theater, either staged to impress an unwitting audience, or actually conducted with total disregard for the wellbeing of any real victims.”

Ritter also cites the lack of training in hazardous chemicals, best observed in the videos provided by the White Helmets regarding their activity at Khan Sheikhun on April 4th. He notes

“As was the case with their ‘rescues’ of victims in collapsed structures, I believe the rescue efforts of the White Helmets at Khan Sheikhun were a theatrical performance designed to impress the ignorant and ill-informed… Through their actions…the White Helmets were able to breathe life into the overall narrative of a chemical weapons attack, distracting from the fact that no actual weapon existed….”

But perhaps the most serious charge against the White Helmets consists of the evidence that they actively participated in the atrocities, to include torture and murder, carried out by their al-Nusra hosts. There have been numerous photos of the White Helmets operating directly with armed terrorists and also celebrating over the bodies of execution victims and murdered Iraqi soldiers. The group has an excellent working relationship with a number of jihadi affiliates and is regarded by them as fellow “mujahideen” and “soldiers of the revolution.”

So by all means let’s organize to revoke the White Helmets’ Oscar due to misrepresentation and fraud. It might even serve as a wake-up call to George Clooney and his fellow Hollywood snowflakes. But the bigger take-away from the tale of the White Helmets would appear to be how it is an unfortunate repeat of the bumbling by a gullible U.S. government that has wrecked the Middle East while making Americans poorer and less safe.

A group of “moderates,” in this case their propagandists, is supported with weapons and money to overthrow a government with which Washington has no real quarrel but it turns out the moderates are really extremists. If they succeed in changing regime in Damascus, that is when the real nightmare will begin for minorities within Syria and for the entire region, including both Israel and Saudi Arabia, both of which seem intent on bringing Bashar al-Assad down. And the truly unfortunate fact is that the Israelis and Saudis apparently have convinced an ignorant Donald Trump that that is the way to go so the situation in Syria will only get worse and, unless there is a course correction, Washington will again richly deserve most of the blame.

Featured image from The Unz Review

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In recognition of the U.S. Independence Day the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea launched some remarkable fireworks.

DPRK State TV confirmed a successful launch and the basic data others had measured (video).

The announcement comes nearly exactly six month after President Donald Trump issued this prediction.

That forecast turned out to be false.

Jonathan McDowell @planet4589 – 7:02 AM – 4 Jul 2017
Recap: North Korea launches Hwasong-14 ICBM at 0040 UTC Jul 4 from Kusong’s Panghyon Airport 933 km eastward to Sea of Japan, 2802 km apogee

More official pictures of the launch were published. The North Korean head of state Kim Jong-Un attended.

North Korea fired the missile at a steep trajectory reaching a very high apogee. This limited the range of the test launch. The flight time of 37 minutes was extremely long. Recalculating the data into a more normal trajectory the maximum flight range of the missile is estimated to be 6,700 kilometers with a normal payload. Launched from North Korea it could cover Alaska but not the lower 49 states. With a light warhead, possibly a small nuclear load, the range could be up to 10,000 kilometer and cover at least the north-western states.

Trump will be rightfully blamed for the braggadocious formulation of his tweet. But one can not blame him for not stopping North Korea’s missile development. A war on North Korea would also destroy South Korea and have implications far beyond the peninsula. Only the end of U.S. military maneuvering around Korea and the perspective of a full peace agreement could have achieved a stop of North Korea’s development. The U.S. Congress would support neither. Trump tried to press China to reign in North Korea, But China has no reasonable way to do that. One could just as easy blame former U.S. presidents – Clinton for breaking his agreements with North Korea, Bush for his general hostility and Obama for his do-nothing excuse of “strategic patience”.

North Korea has very good reasons to perceive the U.S. as vicious enemy and to never trust any U.S. statement or agreement. It needs nuclear weapons for its self-defense. As it can not trust any of its neighbors it needs strategic independence. That has now been achieved.

The U.S., and Trump personally, has been just been “shown the finger” by a small underdeveloped state. One wonders how Trump and the official U.S. it will react to that.

All images in this article are from Moon of Alabama.

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

On July 4, Putin and Xi Jinping concluded two days of informal and formal talks in Moscow – above all else, affirming the vitally important relationship between themselves and their countries.

Putin called Xi’s visit “a key event in terms of building bilateral relations” now and henceforth, adding:

“Economic issues have always been in the center of our attention, but we are not only dealing with this, we are taking steps to unite our efforts on the international arena, the security area, and fight against modern threats and challenges.”

China is Russia’s largest trading partner. Considerable potential remains to be developed. Each nation contributes significantly to the economic health of the other.

“President Putin and I attach great significance to trade and economic cooperation between China and Russia and (their) development,” said Xi.

“Trade and economic ties are far-reaching and offer enormous potential in practical cooperation between our countries. China maintained its status as Russia’s largest trading partner for the seventh year in a row.”

“Trade turnover amounted to $69.53 billion and grew by 2.2% compared to 2015.” During the first five months of 2017, it “surged 26%. Expectations are that trade turnover may be over $80 billion” by year-end.

A China/Russia investment fund is involved in the Far East of both countries. A Russian company floated Panda Bonds on China’s exchange for its ambitious One Belt One Road initiative.

Both leaders urge a denuclearized Korean peninsula, a freeze in Pyongyang’s ballistic missile program, provocative US-led regional war games halted, resolving issues with Pyongyang diplomatically, belligerence ruled out, respecting the DPRK’s sovereignty, and removal of so-called Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile systems in South Korea.

They’re more about targeting Russia and China than the DPRK. Unrelated to their stated goals, they gravely threaten the strategic security of neighboring countries. Their presence undermines regional peace and stability.

Trump and neocons infesting Washington threaten humanity. Sino/Russia ties represent a vital counterforce to the unprecedented menace they pose.

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

On July 4, Putin and Xi Jinping concluded two days of informal and formal talks in Moscow – above all else, affirming the vitally important relationship between themselves and their countries.

Putin called Xi’s visit “a key event in terms of building bilateral relations” now and henceforth, adding:

“Economic issues have always been in the center of our attention, but we are not only dealing with this, we are taking steps to unite our efforts on the international arena, the security area, and fight against modern threats and challenges.”

China is Russia’s largest trading partner. Considerable potential remains to be developed. Each nation contributes significantly to the economic health of the other.

“President Putin and I attach great significance to trade and economic cooperation between China and Russia and (their) development,” said Xi.

“Trade and economic ties are far-reaching and offer enormous potential in practical cooperation between our countries. China maintained its status as Russia’s largest trading partner for the seventh year in a row.”

“Trade turnover amounted to $69.53 billion and grew by 2.2% compared to 2015.” During the first five months of 2017, it “surged 26%. Expectations are that trade turnover may be over $80 billion” by year-end.

A China/Russia investment fund is involved in the Far East of both countries. A Russian company floated Panda Bonds on China’s exchange for its ambitious One Belt One Road initiative.

Both leaders urge a denuclearized Korean peninsula, a freeze in Pyongyang’s ballistic missile program, provocative US-led regional war games halted, resolving issues with Pyongyang diplomatically, belligerence ruled out, respecting the DPRK’s sovereignty, and removal of so-called Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile systems in South Korea.

They’re more about targeting Russia and China than the DPRK. Unrelated to their stated goals, they gravely threaten the strategic security of neighboring countries. Their presence undermines regional peace and stability.

Trump and neocons infesting Washington threaten humanity. Sino/Russia ties represent a vital counterforce to the unprecedented menace they pose.

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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The Kurds Under Erdogan’s Tyrannical Governance

July 5th, 2017 by Prof. Alon Ben-Meir

Tens of thousands have been killed over 40 years of bloodletting between Turkish forces and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and tragically there seems to be no end in sight. In May 2016, President Erdogan stated that military operations against the PKK will continue until “the very last rebel is killed.” What is alarming about Erdogan’s statement is that he still believes he can solve the conflict through brutal force. Erdogan does not understand that he cannot wish the Kurdish problem away—a problem that will continue to haunt him and the country for countless more decades unless a solution is found that respects their cultural and fundamental human rights.

There are 15 million Kurds, representing nearly 18 percent of the Turkish population. Like their Turkish counterparts they are largely Sunnis, but their cultural distinction trumps their religious beliefs. They are fighting to preserve their ethnic identity, fearing that otherwise their culture and language would fade away and die.

The history of the conflict is long, complicated, and painful. In the 1970s Abdullah Öcalan raised awareness about the Kurds’ plight, which was followed by crackdowns by successive Turkish governments, leading to the formation of the PKK and further escalation of violence over the years.

Image result

Former flag of PKK (Source: CRW Flags Inc.)

Under intensifying domestic and EU pressure, Erdogan agreed to restart negotiations in late 2012, which collapsed by July 2015. In the wake of the failed military coup in July 2016, Erdogan moved to crush the PKK and Kurdish aspirations, even though to date there has been absolutely no proven connection between the Kurds and the coup plot. His rampage against the Kurds continued despite the US’ and EU’s call to stop his heavy-handed approach that grossly violated their basic human rights. Only recently, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim announced in the Kurdish city of Diyarbakir that around 14,000 Kurdish teachers will be suspended, falsely accusing them of having ties with the PKK.

What made matters worse was Erdogan’s authorization to launch a fierce attack on PKK forces who were embedded in a civilian Kurdish-majority community in the southeast. A UN report documented human rights violations including killings, disappearances, torture, destruction of houses, and prevention of access to medical care, while leaving the area in ruins.

Between July 2015 and December 2016, more than 2,000 were killed, including 1,200 civilians and 800 members of Turkish security forces, and more than 500,000 were displaced. Hundreds of members of the Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) were put behind bars on charges of collaborating with the PKK. Erdogan continues to refuse to negotiate, insisting that the PKK is a terrorist organization and must be brought to heel by military force.

Certainly, what is wrong or right matters, but what we must face here is a reality that neither side can ignore and expect to find a solution that can exclusively meet the requirements of either side. After more than four decades of bloody conflict that has claimed the lives of so many, and the destruction from which hundreds of thousands of Kurds and Turks have suffered, when will Erdogan come to his senses that the solution lies only in peace negotiations?

What is worse is that the international community, especially the EU and the US, has been publicly silent about Erdogan’s transgressions and ruthlessness. They often cite Turkey’s role in fighting ISIS, its NATO membership, and its geostrategic importance as an energy hub as the reason behind their unwillingness to pressure him to change direction.

That said, and regardless of the challenges that Turkey faces—including the fight against ISIS, a deteriorating economy, domestic upheaval aggravated by the failed coup, and the pressure of hosting three million refugees—nothing justifies Erdogan’s outrageous purges.

His utter disregard for human rights by jailing scores of Kurdish journalists, arresting a dozen Kurdish parliamentarians, employing collective punishment tactics against Kurdish towns and villages, and attacking Syrian Kurds whom he accuses of providing aid to the PKK, only further heightens tensions throughout the country, invites terrorism, and leads to increasing social and political polarization.

As a believer who preaches the gospel of Islamic values, he vilifies and violates these values and conveniently justifies the indiscriminate killing of innocent Kurdish men, women, and children, and still shamelessly claims self-piety.

Erdogan’s demagoguery is second nature to him. As President Kennedy said in the 1960,

“Voices preaching doctrines wholly unrelated to reality… [delude themselves that] strength is but a matter of slogans.”

Erdogan claims that Turkey is a full-fledged democracy, but he is dismantling the last vestiges of the country’s democratic governance that he himself promoted during his first and second terms in power.

He claims that the Kurds have equal political and human rights like any other Turkish citizen, and points out the fact that there are 110 Kurdish parliamentarians. True, they are equal under the Turkish constitution, but in practice are systematically discriminated against in government appointments, business contracts, job opportunities, and education.

Erdogan simply does not grasp the fact that even if the Kurds were treated equally in every walk of life, what they want is in line with and even complimentary to the framework of Turkish democracy. They are not seeking a state of their own, but simply to live freely as loyal Turkish citizens and enjoy their customs, folk music and dance, and way of life consistent with their long and rich cultural heritage.

The irony is that while Erdogan wants the Kurds to be loyal citizens, he never understood that their allegiance to the country depends on the way they are treated, the rights they are granted, and the civility they are accorded. To demand from the Kurds unconditional loyalty while robbing them of their basic rights only further alienates them and forces them to seek, fight, and die for autonomous rule if not independence, which he is bent on preventing.

I do not support, and I condemn any individual or group who uses brutal force for political or social gains regardless of its source, motivation, ideology, or belief. Erdogan and the PKK are equally guilty, and must pause and think where all this killing and destruction will lead to, when at the end of the day they will still have to coexist and face one another.

When violent extremism is on the rise, when human rights are fair game, when terrorism is surging, when ethnic violent conflicts are escalating, and when thousands of men, women, and children are slaughtered, leaders of conscience must not add fuel to the raging regional fires that have been consuming us unmercifully and relentlessly.

The PKK must not play into the hands of dictators like Erdogan by killing innocent civilians; as long as they are viewed as a terrorist group, they will not receive any support from influential civic organizations and the Turkish population in general.

To shed the stigma of being a terrorist organization, the PKK must declare a unilateral ceasefire and express its readiness to enter peace negotiations unconditionally, which would increase public pressure on Erdogan to resume peace talks.

Absent American leadership, the EU must assume upon itself the responsibility to use its enormous political and economic leverage to stop Erdogan from pursuing ruthless methods and policies not only against the Kurds, but his own fellow Turkish citizens. Erdogan’s nationalist zealotry is dividing the country and could potentially lead to widespread violence among the Turks, while further intensifying regional instability.

Mr. Erdogan, wake up. You will not succeed in killing every PKK fighter—not only because of the nature of guerilla warfare, but primarily because of the Kurds’ determination to preserve their rich cultural heritage, language, and fundamental human rights. They will remain resolute and will outlast you, regardless of how much pain and suffering they endure under your tyrannical governance.

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.
[email protected] Web: www.alonben-meir.com

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Nearly three weeks after the Grenfell Tower inferno, anger is growing in the surrounding Lancaster West housing estate in North Kensington. The callous treatment of survivors by council authorities and the Conservative government, the state’s cover-up of the death toll and its failure to press criminal charges against those responsible are fuelling protest and indignation.

Locals told a World Socialist Web Site reporting team that hundreds of residents in the low-rise council houses next to Grenfell Tower are still without gas and hot water. The boilers that supplied their homes with gas were located in the basement of Grenfell Tower and destroyed by the fire. Despite this, many residents—including at least one from the burnt-out tower block—are still being charged rent.

Hundreds have been forced to rely on makeshift and temporary accommodation in nearby hotels, churches and community centres and many were left homeless for days.

Mo At-Tu, 18, lives on Grenfell Walk, directly opposite Grenfell Tower

Mo At-Tu, 18, lives on Grenfell Walk, directly opposite Grenfell Tower. He lost five members of his family in the fire—his aunt Fouza; his uncle Abdul; and their three children, Yasin, 21; Nurhuda, 15; and Mehdi, eight.

His friend, Jake Patten, 20, lives on Clarendon Road, just around the corner from the Tower.

Mo explained,

“I was living with my cousins on Grenfell Walk. When the fire happened, we got evacuated by the police and they didn’t tell us where to go. They just left us out there on the street. I was sleeping out on the streets for about six or seven days, with another 10-15 residents. Westway [Leisure Centre] wouldn’t let us in, because apparently, there was a waiting list, and it was pretty upsetting. How can you be outside, just getting little mattresses supplied by St Clements Church, which obviously helped, but not that much. On Thursday, I saw [Prime Minister] Theresa May myself, and she just walked straight past me and every single other resident when we were shouting her name.”

Hundreds of residents of the low-rise blocks were in the same situation, being moved from hotel to hotel.

“The next day, you’re out on the streets and they’re not able to sort any accommodation out for you.’’

Jake added,

“The government has done nothing. No one has been around. My sister-in-law, she lives in the block here. She’s been staying at my mum’s house for nearly three weeks because there’s no hot water, no electricity and no gas—and there’s 500-600 homes, just in this little area alone.”

Jake Patten, 20, lives on Clarendon Road, just around the corner from the Tower

Jake was in Grenfell Tower 15 minutes before the fire started and was called by a friend who told him the Tower was on fire. He filmed the blaze on his phone and the footage was later aired on BBC’s Panorama. The video shows how fast the flames spread up from level four, with firefighters attempting to douse the flames from the narrow street-level approach to the Tower, with just a single hose.

Asked if the fire brigade had easy access to the building, Jake said.

“No! I’m telling you, this area was all good before they built the school, the swimming pool. If you look at the film Kidulthood [shot in West London and released in 2006] you are going to see what this area used to be like. As soon as they did that up, that’s when it became a death trap. Where the school is, there were three football pitches and there was a big car park to fit a hundred cars. That’s enough to get 50 fire engines in.”

Mo agreed:

“There was no easy access for them to get in.”

Asked if they saw fire engines having difficulty getting in, Jake said,

“Yes. Very difficult. They were recording it themselves on their mobile phones on their way here to put out the fire. They were on the way here and filming it and they were literally shocked. They were saying there is no way we are going to be able to put this out in time. It was spreading so quick. Within 15 minutes the building was all alight. Within 25 minutes it had spread all around. I couldn’t sleep for three days because of the fire… because I was angry and shocked.”

“The real word is not getting out there in the media. The truth hasn’t got out there yet. These people don’t want to realise the answers yet.” Jake added, “The BBC is telling nonsense.”

Mo said,

“They don’t want to release the answers yet. They want to make the area go quiet. In the first couple of days [after the fire] this area used to be packed. Now it’s going quiet bit by bit.”

On Theresa May’s visit in the days after the fire, in which she refused to meet survivors or local residents, Mo said,

“What actually hurt me is that you’re the prime minister yourself and you paid us no respect. On the first days she came, she just literally walked past everyone. She only went to speak to the police and fire brigade. She realised she made a mistake and she came back the next day, but it was too late for that, so obviously, everyone was trying to chase her down the road. She’s all for the rich,” said Jake.

Asked why he thought the government was not releasing the true number of fatalities, Mo said,

“To be honest I think they can’t release the number as it looks like it’s worse than a terrorist attack and it looks like someone just got a bomb and dropped it there. Because even if someone did try to do a terrorist attack, nothing like this would happen. It wouldn’t destroy everyone. This has basically destroyed everyone at a certain time when everyone was at home, asleep.”

Both Mo and Jake agreed that the council was operating a policy of social cleansing to force working class people out of the borough.

Jake said,

“They are moving everyone to the north like Leeds, Bristol, Manchester.” Mo agreed: “They’ve been planning this for more than 10 years. They’ve been planning to get the poor people out of the area. And the other thing I don’t get is that they put the old people on the top floors and the young people on the bottom floors. People who are disabled in a wheelchair on the top floor! Think about it. If there is a fire how are they going to escape?”

While WSWS reporters spoke with Jake and Mo, a woman angered by the lies over the death toll, Linda Maidment, came over. She exclaimed,

“It’s disgusting! Why don’t they report it?”

Pointing at Grenfell Tower, she said,

“There’s 600 people living in that block. Six hundred, and they’ve only reported 80 fatalities. We’re not stupid. We know how many people were in that block. We saw them all on fire and they are not doing anything for them.”

Linda lives in Avondale Park Road. She explained her son and husband watched the fire develop for six minutes before the fire engines arrived, because they closed the nearby Ladbroke Grove fire station. “Where are the fire engines for the people?

“There are people who died in there and they are not telling us who they are. Where are all these people—the 600 people? And they are saying it’s 80 people [dead]. It’s absolutely rubbish and they can’t possibly think that the people around here believe that there are only 80 people.”

Asked why she thought the government was lying, she said,

“Because there would be a riot. Because of everything that is going on.”

All images in this article are from TruePublica.

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Overview

The political turmoil in the United Kingdom following Prime Minister Theresa May’s re-election with a reduced, precarious majority and the implications for the UK’s negotiations to leave the European Union have overshadowed Britain’s other foreign policy concerns. Among other repercussions, it casts doubt on the way in which the UK will mark the centennial of the Balfour Declaration later this year. As is well known, the fateful letter, signed by Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour on November 2, 1917, promised British support of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, completely disregarding the sovereign rights of the Palestinian people who lived there.

Prior to the elections May had described the declaration as “one of the most important letters in history” during a speech to a Conservative Friends of Israel meeting, and said it was “an anniversary we will be marking with pride.” May’s comments suggested that the British Embassy in Tel Aviv would host a large celebration to honor the occasion. In addition, President Reuven Rivlin invited the royal family for an official state visit to coincide with the anniversary. Though the Queen is unlikely to travel, Prince Charles may attend.

Now it is an open question as to whether May – or indeed the Conservative Party – can stay in power. This provides the Palestinians with an opportune moment to regroup in their efforts, hitherto unsuccessful, to use the Balfour centennial to begin to address Britain’s century of ill-treatment toward the Palestinians. 1

This commentary traces Britain’s treatment of Palestine and the Palestinians since the time of Balfour’s letter, demonstrating a largely consistent pro-Israel stance over the decades. It then considers the consequences that Brexit and the recent elections may have for the Palestinian cause, and concludes with recommendations regarding the kind of apology Palestinians should demand of Britain in light of these past and current events.

One Hundred Years of Bias

Theresa May’s fawning to the Conservative Friends of Israel came as no surprise. Britain’s involvement in Israel and Palestine has consisted of an almost unwavering support for the Zionist project since its colonial inception. Despite claims of a commitment to peace, Britain has shown that it is Israel’s ally first and foremost. This can be seen in its continued arms trade with Israel, despite resultant complicity in Israeli war crimes. Britain has also failed to sanction Israel for its continued settlement building in the West Bank, which has doubled since the Oslo Accords, with over half a million settlers in areas that would constitute a Palestinian state. Moreover, the British government continues to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS), the global nonviolent grassroots campaign for Palestinian rights. 2

A century ago, Christian Zionist ideology, which sought to facilitate the return of Jews to the Holy Land to fulfill a biblical prophesy, guided Britain’s political elite. This cadre included the prime minister, Lloyd George, who led the coalition government. Just over a month after the Balfour Declaration, General Edmund Allenby took Jerusalem from the Ottoman forces, marking the beginning of British colonial rule in Palestine. Though this rule ended at the establishment of the State of Israel in May 1948 and the forcible displacement of and denial of return to the majority of the Palestinian population, British interference in Palestine would continue thanks to Britain’s unwavering commitment to Zionism.

Zionism found support in the British Labour Party, which was sympathetic to a movement it saw as a socialist Jewish liberation project. It is thus unsurprising that the party publicly supported the Balfour Declaration. However, after the 1967 occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Golan Heights, more critical voices began to emerge. This coincided with international recognition of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel’s shift to the right.

File:Palest against british.gif

1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine against the British (Source: Hanini / Wikimedia Commons)

Under Tony Blair’s rebranded “New Labour,” the party renewed its support for Israel. In fact, Israel’s most ardent supporter in recent British politics is Blair, who from the very beginning of his political career in the early 1980s, was a member of the pro-Israel lobby group Labour Friends of Israel (LFI). During his premiership he visited Israel several times, and   among his closest advisors and biggest fundraisers.

Under Blair’s successor, Gordon Brown, human rights activists brought attention to Britain’s relations and particularly its military trade with Israel during Israel’s 2008-2009 Cast Lead offensive in Gaza. A 2014 parliamentary report confirmed that the Israeli army used weapons from the UK in its attacks, which killed over 1,400 Palestinians, most of them civilians. Yet calls from activists demanding that the UK cease its arms trade with Israel have come to naught, and relations between Britain and Israel continue unabated.

The current Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has a different stance on Palestine. He has been hounded for his decades of support for the Palestinian cause, particularly for his affiliation with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Critics dubbed him a Hamas supporter and an anti-Semite. After his election, the party endured an anti-Semitism scandal that saw the suspension of several party members, including the Jewish activist Jackie Walker, who in a Facebook post referred to the African slave trade as a holocaust. Corbyn subsequently launched an inquiry headed by the barrister and human rights advocate Shami Chakrabarti. The inquiry published its report in June of 2016 and confirmed that despite these claims, Labour is not overrun by anti-Semitism. Many saw the scandal as part of an ongoing attempt by pro-Israel and pro-Blair figures to weaken and undermine Corbyn. Overall, it demonstrates how serious it is for a leading British political figure to take a pro-Palestine stance. The Conservative Party particularly encouraged the attacks on Corbyn.

British Foreign Policy on Palestine: What’s Next?

In the wake of May’s failed attempt to expand her majority, it is now unclear what form Brexit will take. But if Britain leaves the European Union as planned in 2019, some argue that Palestinians may benefit. Ilan Pappe, for example, suggests that Brexit could be an “opportune moment to advance Palestinian freedom” in that Israel would lose its advocate in the EU. As such, EU countries could put forward more initiatives to back Palestinian rights without being blocked by a staunchly pro-Israel Britain. Two months before the Brexit referendum, Prime Minister David Cameron used this argument to support his anti-Brexit stance while addressing a Jewish charity:

“When Europe is discussing its attitude toward Israel, do you want Britain – Israel’s greatest friend – in there opposing boycotts, opposing the campaign for divestment and sanctions, or do you want us outside the room, powerless to affect the discussion that takes place?”

By promising to fight against BDS within the EU, Cameron catered to pro-Israel groups whose fears of Palestinian activism increased in 2015 after the European Commission issued its interpretive notice that products made in Israeli settlements bound for the EU be labeled as such. The UK’s stance against BDS stands in contrast to European countries such as Sweden, Ireland, and Holland, which have affirmed BDS as a legal example of free political expression.

While an EU without Britain might be able to operate more freely in its support for Palestinians (Israel can still count on strong support from central and Eastern European countries to block initiatives for a just peace), the inverse is also true: Israel’s “greatest friend” would have fewer checks on it from European countries that support Palestinian rights. This could allow Britain to impose draconian restrictions on those in the country who support the Palestinian cause, particularly those affiliated with BDS.

The Kind of Apology Palestinians Need and Deserve

Image result for balfour declaration

Balfour Declaration as published in The Times, 9 November 1917 (Source: The Times of London / Wikimedia Commons)

The Balfour Declaration has shaped the Palestinian experience. The signing over of Palestine to a European settler colonial enterprise and the disregard for the rights of the indigenous people is the essence of the Palestinian condition. This disregard continues today, manifested in the charade of the “peace process,” which allows Israel to continue its expropriation of Palestinian land and expansion of a Jewish state while simultaneously professing its pursuit of “peace.”

British officials have a common refrain when they discuss Balfour and the 1948 Nakba: They often state that Palestinians should stop talking about the past and instead focus on the future. This call for the dismissal of past events as bygones is a tactic often invoked by those in positions of power in peace process discourses around the world, particularly in contexts of colonialism and settler colonialism. However, when the past infiltrates the present, as is the case for every Palestinian, whether in Ramallah, Haifa, the Bourj Al Barajneh refugee camp in Lebanon, or the wider diaspora, the demand to forget is impossible.

Palestinians rightly desire a British apology for the letter that helped birth this ongoing oppression. However, initiatives in pursuit of this goal must be wary of several pitfalls. First, using a discourse, as some Palestinians do, that stresses that the Balfour Declaration has not fulfilled its obligations to the Palestinian people is problematic, as it suggests that the document holds legitimacy. The declaration was a colonial document that gave legitimacy to a settler colonial project and as such, Palestinians should not use it to further their struggle or to claim their human rights.

Second, while an apology is important, it must not come as an empty, symbolic gesture, as has happened in many other colonial contexts. Indeed, scholars have written about the limitations of settler state apologies, arguing that in most cases these apologies neutralize the historical narrative while simultaneously ignoring the ongoing oppressive relationship between the state and the indigenous people. 3 An apology must therefore come with the recognition that the past is not in the past, that the settler colonial project is ongoing, and that Britain continues to be complicit in the suffering of the Palestinians through its diplomatic and trade relations with Israel.

As such, any apology campaign must also demand British policy changes that would sanction Israel and hold it to account for its international human rights violations. In this way, the Balfour Declaration would not be historicized as a thing of the past, but would be revealed as a document whose legacy continues to have drastic and devastating consequences for the Palestinian people. Until the British government reconsiders its largely default position and makes a commitment to real policy change, it will continue to propagate the destructive and repressive decision it made a century ago.

Notes

1. These efforts include a plan to sue the British government for the declaration announced by Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Malki at an Arab League summit last year, and a petition demanding an apology for the letter, to which the government responded by largely re-stating its position

2. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign won a major legal victory against one such attempt to demonize BDS in court on June 22, 2017. 

3. Jeff Corntassel and Cindy Holder, “Who’s Sorry Now? Government Apologies, Truth Commissions, and Indigenous Self-determination in Australia, Canada, Guatemala, and Peru,” Human Rights Review 9 (4): 465-489.

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In 1932, Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein conducted a correspondence subsequently published under the title ‘Why War?’ See ‘Why War: Einstein and Freud’s Little-Known Correspondence on Violence, Peace, and Human Nature’. In many ways, this dialogue between two giants of the 20th century is symbolic of the effort made by many humans to understand that perplexing and incredibly damaging feature of human experience: the institution of war.

In a recent article, the founder of peace research, Professor Johan Galtung, reminded us of the legacy of Freud and Einstein in this regard and reflected on their dialogue, noting some shortcomings including their failure to ‘unpack conflict’. See ‘Freud-Einstein on Peace’.

Of course, Freud and Einstein weren’t the first to consider the question ‘Why War?’ and their dialogue was preceded by a long sequence of individuals and even some organizations, such as the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and War Resisters’ International, who sought to understand, prevent and/or halt particular wars, or even to understand and end the institution itself, as exemplified by the Kellogg-Briand Pact in 1928 outlawing war. Moreover, given the failure of earlier initiatives, many individuals and organizations since Freud and Einstein have set out to understand, prevent and/or halt wars and these efforts have taken divergent forms.

Image result for Mohandas K. Gandhi

Mohandas K. Gandhi (Source: Bio.com)

Notable among these, Mohandas K. Gandhi was concerned to develop a mode of action to deal with many manifestations of violence and he dramatically developed, and shared, an understanding of how to apply nonviolence, which he labeled satyagraha (holding firmly to the truth),  in overcoming large-scale violence and exploitation. He successfully applied his strategic understanding of nonviolence to the Indian independence struggle against British colonial rule. But while Gandhi was happy to acknowledge his debt to those who had gone before, he was not shy in proclaiming the importance of finding new ways forward:

‘If we are to make progress, we must not repeat history but make new history. We must add to the inheritance left by our ancestors.’

My own journey to understand human violence was caused by the death of my two uncles, Bob and Tom, in World War II, ten years before I was born. My childhood in the 1950s and 1960s is dotted with memories of my uncles, stimulated through such events as attending memorial services at the Shrine of Remembrance where their war service was outlined. See ‘My Brothers’ on my father’s website.

But by the early 1960s, courtesy of newspaper articles and photos, I had become aware of exploitation and starvation in Africa and elsewhere, and as a young university student in the early 1970s I was reading literature about environmental destruction. It wasn’t just war that was problematic; violence took many other forms too.

‘Why are human beings violent?’ I kept asking. Because I thought that this question must have been answered somewhere, I kept reading, including the work of Freud and Karl Marx as an undergraduate, but also the thoughts of many other scholars, such as Frantz Fanon, as well as anarchists, feminists and those writing from other perspectives which offered explanations of violence, whether direct, structural or otherwise.

By the early 1980s I had started to read Gandhi and I had begun to understand nonviolence, as Gandhi practised and explained it, with a depth that seemed to elude the activists I knew and even the scholars in the field that I read.

Separately from this, I was starting to gain a sense that the human mind was not something that could be understood well by viewing it primarily as an organ of thinking and that much of the literature and certainly most of the practitioners in the field of psychology and related fields, especially psychiatry, had failed to understand the emotional depth and complexity of the human mind and the implications of this for dealing with conflict and violence. In this sense, it was clear to me, few had understood, let alone been able to develop, Freud’s legacy. This is because the fundamental problem is about feeling (and, in relation to violence, particularly suppressed fear and anger). Let me explain why.

Violence is something that is usually identified as physical: it involves actions like hitting, punching and using weapons such as a gun. This is one of the types of violence, and probably the one now most often lamented, that is inflicted on indigenous peoples, women and people of colour, among others.

Separately from this, Gandhi also identified exploitation as violence and Galtung elaborated this concept with his notion of ‘structural violence’. Other forms of violence have been identified and they take many forms such as financial violence, cultural violence and ecological violence. But violence can be more subtle than any of these and, hence, much less visible. I have given two of these forms of violence the labels ‘invisible violence’ and ‘utterly invisible violence’. Tragically, ‘invisible violence’ and ‘utterly invisible violence’ are inflicted on us mercilessly from the day we are born. And, as a result, we are all terrorized.

So what are ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence?

Source: Daily Express

In essence, ‘invisible’ violence is the ‘little things’ we do every day, partly because we are just ‘too busy’. For example, when we do not allow time to listen to, and value, a child’s thoughts and feelings, the child learns to not listen to themselves thus destroying their internal communication system. When we do not let a child say what they want (or ignore them when they do), the child develops communication and behavioural dysfunctionalities as they keep trying to meet their own needs (which, as a basic survival strategy, they are genetically programmed to do).

When we blame, condemn, insult, mock, embarrass, shame, humiliate, taunt, goad, guilt-trip, deceive, lie to, bribe, blackmail, moralize with and/or judge a child, we both undermine their sense of Self-worth and teach them to blame, condemn, insult, mock, embarrass, shame, humiliate, taunt, goad, guilt-trip, deceive, lie, bribe, blackmail, moralize and/or judge.

The fundamental outcome of being bombarded throughout their childhood by this ‘invisible’ violence is that the child is utterly overwhelmed by feelings of fear, pain, anger and sadness (among many others). However, parents, teachers and other adults also actively interfere with the expression of these feelings and the behavioural responses that are naturally generated by them and it is this ‘utterly invisible’ violence that explains why the dysfunctional behavioural outcomes actually occur.

For example, by ignoring a child when they express their feelings, by comforting, reassuring or distracting a child when they express their feelings, by laughing at or ridiculing their feelings, by terrorizing a child into not expressing their feelings (e.g. by screaming at them when they cry or get angry), and/or by violently controlling a behaviour that is generated by their feelings (e.g. by hitting them, restraining them or locking them into a room), the child has no choice but to unconsciously suppress their awareness of these feelings.

However, once a child has been terrorized into suppressing their awareness of their feelings (rather than being allowed to have their feelings and to act on them) the child has also unconsciously suppressed their awareness of the reality that caused these feelings. This has many outcomes that are disastrous for the individual, for society and for nature because the individual will now easily suppress their awareness of the feelings that would tell them how to act most functionally in any given circumstance and they will progressively acquire a phenomenal variety of dysfunctional behaviours, including many that are violent towards themselves, others and/or the Earth.

Moreover, this emotional (or psychological) damage will lead to a unique combination of violent behaviours in each case. And some of these individuals will gravitate to working in one of the social roles that specifically requires, or justifies, the use of ‘legitimized violence’, such as the violence carried out by police, prosecuting lawyers, magistrates and judges, as well as that inflicted by the military. Others, of course, will operate outside the realm of legitimized violence and be labelled as ‘criminals’.

But, you might be wondering, what is the link between what happens in childhood and war?

The answer is simply that perpetrators of violence, and those who collaborate with them, are created during childhood. And these perpetrators and collaborators are all terrified, self-hating and powerless – for much greater detail of the precise psychological characteristics of perpetrators of violence and their collaborators, see Why Violence? and Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice – and they go on to perform all of the key roles in creating, maintaining, equipping, staffing and legitimizing the institutions of war and in conducting it.

If it weren’t for the violence to which we are all mercilessly subjected throughout childhood, there would be no interest in violence or war of any kind. If we were raised without violence, we would be naturally peaceful and cooperative, content to spend our time seeking to achieve our own unique evolutionary potential and to nurture the journey of others as well as life itself, rather than just become another cog in someone else’s military (or other bureaucratic or corporate) machine.

If any of the above resonates with you, then I invite you to make ‘My Promise to Children’.

In addition, if further reducing the violence in our world appeals to you, then you are also welcome to consider participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’, signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’ and/or considering using the strategic framework on one or the other of these two websites for your campaign to end violence or war in one context or another: Nonviolent Campaign Strategy and Nonviolent Defense/Liberation Strategy.

A child is not born to make war. But if you inflict enough violence on a child, and destroy their capacity to become their own unique and powerful self, they will be terrorised into perceiving violence and war as their society wants them to be perceived. And violence and war, and the institutions that maintain them, will flourish.

If we want to end war, we must halt the adult war against children as a priority.

Robert J. Burrowes has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of Why Violence?. His email address is [email protected] and his website is here.

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Canadian Imperialism Flexes Its Muscles

July 5th, 2017 by Benoît Tanguay

When Justin Trudeau stated that, “Canada is back,” it could have been interpreted as just another one of those hollow phrases which he is so good at. With the unveiling of Canada’s new defence policy on June 7th, we now understand better what he meant.

As part of this new policy, the Trudeau government has announced massive increases in the defence budget, particularly the purchase of fighter jets and battleships. This indicates, above all, an important shift in Canadian foreign policy; in particular, the need for a more independent role in relation to the United States, as well as increased participation in imperialist wars. Turbulence on the international scene is causing the cards to be re-shuffled, and the Canadian bourgeoisie intends to take advantage of this to advance its interests

Feminist fighter jets

Apart from vague words and attempts to embellish imperialist violence (they even speak of “progressive, feminist foreign policy”), the document titled Strong, Secure, Engaged, contains important budgetary commitments. These commitments amount to increases in defence spending of $62.3 billion over the next 20 years. The defence budget will thus be increased to $18.9 billion in 2016-2017 and will reach a peak of 33.4 billion in 2027-2028 – an increase of 75%. This money serves not only to improve existing equipment and infrastructure, but also to purchase new weapons and increase the size of the armed forces.

The new policy aims to increase the size of the Canadian armed forces by 3,500 soldiers, 1,500 reservists and 605 new special operations personnel. In the field of military intelligence, 120 new posts will be created, most notably with the aim of improving Canada’s presence in cyberspace: “a purely defensive cyber posture is no longer sufficient” states the document.

Above all, the biggest part of the pie will go to the purchase of arms. A total of 88 fighter jets and surface combat vehicles will be purchased for the cost of 19 and 60 billion dollars respectively. The Liberals are more than doubling the arms spending contained in the Conservatives’ previous plan, which already included $9 billion for aircraft purchases and $26 billion for combat vessels. These purchases serve to double the proportion of the defence budget allocated to major equipment purchases from last year, increasing from 10.84 per cent in 2016-17 to 19.77 per cent in 2017-2018.

While Trudeau calls himself feminist and progressive, he spends billions of dollars taken from the pockets of Canadian workers on imperialist wars. Many people will be shocked by this militarist turn on the part of Trudeau, but this is not that surprising. This is not happening because Trudeau is a bloodthirsty warmonger but because Canada is a capitalist country with imperialist interests around the world. Trudeau must act to defend these interests, whether he calls himself a ‘feminist’ or not.

When workers demand higher wages, or better pensions or money for healthcare and education, we are told that the cupboards are bare. However, when it comes to buying fighter jets, battleships and hiring more soldiers to invade and bomb foreign lands and protect imperialist interests around the world, the money is easily found. This exposes point blank the hollow posturing of Trudeau who uses his progressive language to distract people from his real agenda. Only through fighting capitalism, can we fight against war and militarism and use these huge sums of money for the common good instead of destruction. A socialist program would spend these billions on healthcare, education, public transit, and modern infrastructure for native reserves.

Canadian militarism

Chrystia Freeland

This increase in military spending can be better understood in the light of the recent speech delivered in the House of Commons by Foreign Affairs minister Chrystia Freeland the day before. She announced a more active and independent role for Canada on the world stage, including on the military front, due to the upheavals suffered by the world “liberal, democratic” order. She began by outlining growing global instability, most notably with, “Russian military adventurism and expansionism,” the failure of western powers in Syria as well as in Ukraine, and the rise of China. Following this, Freeland, using veiled but harsh language, condemned the powerlessness of the United States to preserve the “postwar order” – in other words, the domination of the big western powers over half of the planet. Therefore, “For Canada that course must be the renewal, indeed the strengthening, of the postwar multilateral order.” The message sent by the minister is clear: the Canadian bourgeoisie can no longer rely on the United States to protect its imperialist interests. They need to look for other options.

The minister has thus announced a more active role for the Canadian military. It is with this in mind that we must understand the massive spending increases in the defence budget.

“Canadian diplomacy and development sometimes require the backing of hard power,” she said, “To rely solely on the U.S. security umbrella would make us a client state.”

Canada needs to have a “capable, professional and robust military” if it wants to have a say and not simply leave “the Great Powers to settle among themselves.” She announced that Canada would seek a two-year mandate on the UN Security Council. She also highlighted Canada’s military deployment in Latvia this summer. This NATO mission essentially consists of placing troops on the Russian border to act as cannon fodder, in order to justify Canadian intervention in the event of a Russian invasion of Europe.

The new defence policy aims to allow the Canadian armed forces to simultaneously lead, “two sustained deployments of approximately 500-1500 personnel in two different theatres of operation, including one as a lead nation,” in addition to several other smaller deployments of a shorter duration.

It must be noted that the desire of the Canadian bourgeoisie to make greater use of military force is nothing new. Previous defence policies in 2005 under the Liberals and 2008 under the Conservatives already increased the defense budget by 35% from 2005-2011. This allowed them to increase the size of the Canadian armed forces by several thousand as well as carry out major equipment upgrades. This tendency towards militarism was only halted by the economic crisis and the deficit reduction policy adopted by Harper as a result.

Canada is far from being the ”Care Bear” peacekeeping nation described in nationalist mythology. Although it is a middle power and it is far from spending as much on its armed forces as the United States, Canada remains an imperialist nation. It is one of the main imperialist forces in the mining industry in Africa and defends the interests of Canadian multinationals there whose abuses were revealed in the book Noir Canada. Canada played an important role in the coup d’etat against Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti in 2004. Canada also participated in military missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria.

Jean-Bertrand Aristide

Rebels lynch police informant after taking city of Gonaives, Feb. 22 2004 (Source: Pierre Evans/LATINPHOTO.org via Albion Monitor)

The decline of the United States

Since the second world war, Canadian foreign policy has been intrinsically linked with that of its neighbour. More than 70% of Canada’s trade is with the United States as well as over 42% of foreign direct investment. Canada’s largest area of investment in the US is finance and insurance, totalling $131-billion in 2014. Canadian imperialism’s connection with US banks has meant that Canada gained a secondary dividend from the profits of US imperialism. The biggest catastrophe for the Canadian bourgeoisie would be anything that cuts off this flow of trade and dividends. From this position came a foreign policy closely aligned to that of the United States.

But the Canadian bourgeoisie cannot fail to notice the weakness of its traditional ally. The weakness of the United States is actually not a military one (no nation comes close to rivaling their military might), but a political one. The Trump presidency has reverted to a policy of US isolationism with the attempt to “Make America Great” at the expense of everyone else. The relative decline of American imperialism is marked by growing tensions between the big Western allied powers in NATO as they tend to become more and more independent from the United States. Donald Trump taking power has only added fuel to the fire. The recent NATO summit revealed the extent of the transatlantic divergences. At the meeting in Brussels, Trump sent a clear message to his allies.

Going against tradition during his speech at this meeting, Trump would not confirm his commitment to Article 5 of the North Atlantic treaty, central to NATO, which deals with the principle of collective defense between allies. The American president rather severely criticized his allies for failing to meet the minimum of 2% of GDP spent on defence required by NATO. The message to the European countries – continue in this direction and you will no longer be able to count on our protection – has only exacerbated the tensions. The declaration of German chancellor Angela Merkel upon exiting the summit demonstrated the breadth of the gulf which separates these great powers:

“[Europe must] really take our fate into our own hands…The times in which we could rely fully on others — they are somewhat over” she said.

As Ivo H. Daalder of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs noted in the New York Times,

 “This seems to be the end of an era, one in which the United States led and Europe followed”.

The New York Times pointed out:

“With the United States less willing to intervene overseas, Germany is becoming an increasingly dominant power in a partnership with France.”

The rise of tensions between Europe and the United States is only the continuation of the slow decline of the American empire which has accelerated in recent years. The resounding failure of the adventure in Iraq and Afghanistan was followed by the intervention of Russia in Georgia in 2008, against which the US was powerless. Since then, the humiliations have accumulated. The coup d’etat in Ukraine should have been a relatively simple operation but it ended in the annexation of Crimea by Russia. In Syria, the inability of American imperialism to overthrow Bashar al-Assad and the subsequent passage of Turkey over to the side of Russia demonstrated that the giant has feet of clay. The recent hostility coming from the Philippines towards the United States – and the new orientation of the archipelago towards China – is another sign of the weakness of the American empire.

Canada’s new direction is part of the same determination recently expressed by Europe to no longer count on the United States. David Bercuson, of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, pointed out in a letter in the Globe and Mail:

“When Canada first joined the NORAD agreement back in 1959, we contributed about a third of the assets of the bi-national command…Today that contribution has slipped to under one-sixth. Everything else is done by the United States. We contribute about as little as we can get away with. Why? Because we take U.S. protection for granted. What if we can’t? What if Mr. Trump comes up with some new, ridiculous notion that if we don’t do more, the U.S. won’t cover the slack.”

A new commercial direction

But the clearest message from Chrystia Freeland’s speech in the House of Commons was that Canada now intends to set its “own clear and sovereign course.” While reaffirming Canada’s current commitments to the United States, Freeland indicated that they wanted to increase Canada’s participation in international organizations, in particular to bring Canada closer to Europe. To this end, she insisted on the importance of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), “our historic trade agreement with the European Union.” Freeland also stated that CETA was just the beginning and that Canada would intensify its efforts to establish new trade agreements.

The American ruling class is in crisis and is fighting over the way to get out of the impasse. The arrival of Trump in the presidency, the abandonment of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the rise of protectionist tendencies are an expression of this crisis. It has therefore become more and more risky for Canada to put all its eggs in the U.S. basket. The privileged trade relationship with the world’s leading power, which has benefited Canada until recently, is turning into a burden as the United States threatens to drag its northern neighbor down with them. The result is that Canada finds itself stuck with its main trading partner in a serious political crisis, headed by a fanatic willing to sabotage trade agreements at the foundation of the relationship between the two allies. The renegotiation of NAFTA and the reopening of the softwood lumber dispute can only confirm to the Canadian bourgeoisie that it is time to expand its trade horizons. CETA is particularly important in this respect, since it provides the opportunity for the Canadian bourgeoisie to forge more trade links with the second biggest market in the world.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

The last few years have also seen Canada try to establish trade relations with Asian countries. Following the sabotage of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) by Trump, Justin Trudeau spoke on the phone with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe to establish a bilateral trade agreement. At the last Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in May, trade ministers from the other 11 countries of the deceased TPP, including Canada, agreed to discuss a revised version of the trade agreement, without the United States. In addition, other initiatives indicate an increased focus on Asia, including the establishment in Jakarta in 2016 of an embassy dedicated specifically to Canada’s relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which would pave the way for Canada’s inclusion in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) between the ASEAN countries and China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand. There are also the beginnings of exploratory discussions with China with the aim of forming a bilateral agreement.

Economic crisis, political crisis

Of course, it would be absurd to think that the Canadian bourgeoisie could conduct a foreign policy that is truly independent of the United States, especially with regards to the military. Canada has no military bases abroad. However, in a situation of economic and diplomatic turbulence and tension, and considering the presence of the unpredictable Trump in the White House, it becomes risky for the Canadian ruling class to depend too much on the United States. Conflicts within NATO, instability and wars in the Middle East, changes in historic allegiances, and tensions in the China Sea all point to storms on the horizon, of which the Canadian bourgeoisie is well aware.

The Canadian ruling class therefore has every interest in developing its military capabilities in order to defend its national interests in the coming conflicts that will inevitably emerge. Global instability means that the next few years will see other regional conflicts in which the great powers will re-divide the spoils of imperialism. The growing powerlessness of the United States offers an opportunity for Canadian imperialism to advance its pieces on the chessboard with greater independence.

Although Canada is not in a position to truly compete militarily with the big players, the ruling class hopes to use its military to both advance its own imperialist interests, most notably in Africa, where they are already present in the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, and as a bargaining chip with the United States. Considering the upcoming NAFTA renegotiation, as well as negotiations in the softwood lumber industry and the Boeing-Bombardier dispute, we can expect that Canadian imperialism will propose to participate in or conduct a military adventure with the United States, in exchange for compromise in the ongoing trade negotiations. Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan said recently that he is considering sending new troops to Afghanistan.

The uptick of the world economy has not been able to resolve the deep contradictions that undermine capitalism. Protectionist impulses demonstrate an attempt by the various national bourgeoisies to protect their domestic market, while the countless shenanigans and closed door negotiations to establish trade agreements indicate that they are playing a tug-of-war, trying to get a bigger share of the world market. This inevitably results in increased tensions and turbulence. Military force is sometimes the only way to solve these tensions. As Clausewitz put it, “war is the continuation of politics by other means.” To which Lenin added, “Politics is concentrated economics.”

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An inspiring story of a man who, driven by his conscience and sense of honor, took a stand that created unexpected consequences. His actions not only transformed his life, but impacted an entire nation. Complementing Brian’s story are profiles of other veterans and peace advocates who share the common belief that dissent and standing up for peace in America is more courageous than going to war.

This important film also features: Daniel Ellsberg, Ron Kovic, Roy Bourgeois, Medea Benjamin, Blase Bonpane, Martin Sheen, Alice Walker, Amy Goodman, Ramsey Clark, Camila Mejia, Phil Donahue, Col. Ann Wright, David Hartsough, David Swanson, Chelsea Manning, Charlie Clements, Charlie Liteky, Duncan Murphy, George Mizo, Jack Ryan, Bruce Gagnon, Daniel Ortega, Cindy Sheehan, Michael Lindley & Ed Ellis.

Music by Joan Baez, Jackson Browne, Creedence Clearwater, Barry McGuire & Malcolm Payne.

Vietnam veteran S. Brian Willson paid the price for peace as he was run over and nearly killed by a military train during a non-violent protest at The Concord Naval Weapons Station in California on September 1st, 1987. The train was carrying weapons that were to be shipped to Central America and used to kill innocent civilians in Nicaragua, El Salvador & Guatemala. Since then, Brian has not stopped calling attention to the US government’s defiance of international law through waging endless illegal wars.”PAYING THE PRICE FOR PEACE” exposes the truth about the United States’ addiction to war and the lies it perpetuates in order to wage ongoing violence. Brian’s story is very moving, inspirational and educational.

Click here for the full trailer.

“PAYING THE PRICE FOR PEACE: The Story of S. Brian Willson” produced & directed by Bo Boudart, narrated by Peter Coyote, with Associate Producer Frank Dorrel, is now on AMAZON.COM. You can rent the film for $5.00 or buy it for $20.00.

S. Brian Willson has written several incisive articles for Global Research, read them here.

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UNCA media briefing with experts and parliamentarians on the ban treaty’s potential ramifications, the UN High Level Conference and related measures to eliminate nuclear weapons.

WHAT? A media briefing with nuclear experts, parliamentarians and a former UK naval commander, designed to help journalists cover the treaty to ban nuclear weapons, which non-nuclear weapons states are negotiating at the UN now.

Negotiations are on track, and will very likely achieve a treaty on or before July 7. That’s historic, but what will it mean practically? What impact could it have on nuclear weapons states and their allies who are not participating in the treaty, and what will it do to reduce nuclear arsenals and defuse nuclear threats?

That’s an urgent question, since growing conflict between Russia and NATO/European Union and increased tensions in North East Asia and South Asia have made nuclear risks more acute than any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The ban treaty will strengthen the global norm against using nuclear weapons, but additional measures and forums, including the 2018 UN High Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament, are necessary to move the nuclear armed States to phase out nuclear deterrence and negotiate comprehensive nuclear disarmament, say experts who will brief UNCA members and answer questions.

At the briefing presenters will release a new Parliamentary Action Plan for a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World developed by Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament (PNND) in consultation with the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). It outlines parliamentary actions that can implement the ban treaty in non-nuclear countries, and advance nuclear threat reduction and disarmament in nuclear-armed countries and allied countries, based primarily on the nuclear disarmament resolution adopted by the 130th Assembly of the IPU.

The Action Plan highlights opportunities provided by the 2018 UN High Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament (UNHLC), which follows successful, impactful UNHLCs on sustainable development (2015), climate change (2016), refugees and migrants (2016) and oceans (2017).

Briefers will also discuss nuclear weapons divestment actions for which the ban treaty could provide additional impetus. Parliamentary and civil society action has already moved some countries (Norway, New Zealand and Lichtenstein) to curtail investments from their public funds in corporations that make nuclear weapons and their delivery systems. Some banks have been pressured to do the same.

The adoption of the ban treaty could lead to a global nuclear weapons divestment campaign, challenging the power of the nuclear weapons corporations which are influential and effective at lobbying for and extracting huge nuclear weapons budgets from their governments.

WHO? Experts presenting at the UNCA briefing will include:

  • Commander Rob Green — British Royal Navy (Retired), co-director of the Peace Foundation’s Disarmament & Security Centre. He flew nuclear strike aircraft and was in charge of round-the-clock intelligence support for Polaris. He now advocates nuclear disarmament, using his military experience to promote alternative thinking about security.
  • Bill Kidd – Member of the Scottish Parliament. Co-President of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament.
  • Alyn Ware — Global Coordinator, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament. Winner of the Right Livelihood Award and nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • Jonathan Granoff — President Global Security Institute, UN representative for the Summits of Nobel Peace Laureates

WHEN & WHERE? The press briefing will take place on Wednesday, July 5 at 11:00am in the UNCA press room, United Nations Correspondents Association Meeting Room, Secretariat Building, New York, Third Floor, Room S-310. Side interviews are available on request. For more information, please contact Stephen Kent.

Featured image from International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

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Fake News? US-backed Forces Blast Through 8th Century Syrian Wall to Fight ISIS

By Karin Brothers, July 05, 2017

The US-backed forces, fronted by the so-called “Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)”, appeared to come to ISIS’s rescue. On the night of July 3rd, the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), claimed that SDF had “found a way” through the historic wall at “the most heavily-fortified portion of Raqqa”; two 25 meter-long breaches had been blasted through it.

Thinking About Waiting. Time is All We Have…

By Edward Curtin, July 05, 2017

For why else are they waiting without raising their voices in protest against U.S. nuclear first strike policy and the trillion dollar modernization of American nuclear weapons announced by Barack Obama and continuing under Donald Trump?

Jamaica: Marcus Garvey’s Economic Philosophy Has a “Capitalism Problem”

By Dr. Ajamu Nangwaya, July 04, 2017

We cannot use Garvey’s message of liberation to break “mental and physical chains of oppression” without acknowledging and discussing the fact that Marcus Garvey’s philosophy has a capitalism problem.

U.S. Intends to Use Confrontation Between Turkey and Kurds in Northern Syria

By Firas Samuri, July 04, 2017

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday that the U.S. would continue to finance and provide weapons to Syrian Kurdish fighters after the operation in Raqqa, Syria.

Reflections on Canada at 150

By Jim Miles, July 04, 2017

Yes the ruling Liberals under Justin Trudeau includes a select group of diverse people, but they are essentially token representatives concealing larger problems.

Featured image from SURYAA

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The Russian Military Police may be deployed in buffer zones in Syria, Russia’s chief negotiator at the Astana talks and the president’s envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev said on Tuesday when the fifth round of talks started in the Kazakh capital. According to him, the issue, including the status of de-escalation control forces, has not yet been finally agreed. The sides will begin setting up security zones within two-three weeks after signing relevant documents as well as establish a joint coordination center to monitor security in the zones. However, the Russian official pointed out that there are still difficulties in “establishing the lines of contact.”

Syrian government forces have liberated the Tulul Hayl area and advanced near Ramamin in the province of Homs. The Syrian army and its allies, backed up by the Russian Aerospace Forces, are preparing for a major push toward the ISIS-held town of Sukhna at the Palmyra-Deir Ezzor road.

At the same time, Russian and Syrian warplanes expanded number of airstrikes against ISIS along the Deir Ezzor road and in the area of the provincial capital. According to pro-government sources, the airstrikes inflicted major damage to terrorists, including destruction of at least 5 vehicles, but no videos or photos were provided.

Reconciliation negotiations between the government and militants have started in Jayroud area in Rif Dimashq province. The goal of negotiations is to disarm local armed factions and to allow people that want to settle their status to do this. Those who want to leave the area will be able to do this towards Idlib. However, no agreement has been reached.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed up by the US-led coalition, have opened a gap in the ISIS defense in Old Raqqah and captured the Palace of the Maidens and the Abdul Malik School. An intense fighting is ongoing in the area. If the SDF is able to make significant progress in Old Raqqah, it will increase chances for liberation of Raqqah in the near future. The old part of the city is a key ISIS defense point.

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

Allegations and accusations without credible evidence are baseless.

The OPCW’s report on Syria was deeply flawed. Alleged evidence of CW use in Kahn Sheikhoun was fake, not legitimate – provided by anti-Syria sources, including the al-Qaeda-connected White Helmets.

The agency’s so-called fact-finding mission conducted its work in absentia – never visiting Kahn Sheikhoun, not getting a firsthand, on-the-scene account of events from reliable sources.

Its methodology was polar opposite, entirely lacking credibility. No peer-review vetting would accept its report as reliable.

Syria’s Foreign Ministry justifiably blasted it, calling conclusions drawn “fabricated” and “misleading” – suppressing hard truths, producing a narrative Washington and other anti-Syria rogue states demanded, likely “written and prepared in advance by certain circles that are hostile to Syria,” according to its Foreign Ministry.

Sources the OPCW cited are connected to US and UK intelligence. No honest, reliable, transparent, credible investigation was conducted.

Syria eliminated its CWs. No evidence suggests any remain. US-supported terrorists use them often, each time falsely blamed on Damascus.

The shameful OPCW report was

“a fabricated and contrived narrative that has no credibility and cannot be accepted in any manner, because it is removed from logic, and is concocted by a twisted imagination that only thinks about weaving conspiracies and about ways to raise the collapsing morale of terrorist groups following the achievements made by the Syrian Arab Army and its allies on the Syrian ground,” Syria’s Foreign Ministry stressed.

Believe its statement. It’s true. At no time during over six years of US imperial aggression did Syria use CWs against anyone. No evidence proves otherwise.

US-supported terrorists used them numerous times against defenseless civilians and government forces.

Trump ignored US intelligence, saying no evidence suggests use of toxic sarin or any other CW in Kahn Sheikhoun on April 4. Yet he ordered the terror-bombing of Syria’s Shayrat airbase anyway – a lawless, belligerent, outrageous act of aggression.

According to investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, an unnamed Trump administration security advisor said

“(w)e KNOW that there was no chemical attack.”

“The Syrians struck a weapons cache (a legitimate military target) and there was collateral damage. That’s it. They did not conduct any sort of a chemical attack.”

“There has been a hidden agenda all along. This is about trying to ultimately go after Iran…Russia is not going to take this lying down.”

What’s going on “is a big f…ing deal…POTUS” is playing with fire. Russia isn’t likely to respond militarily “unless (its) own assets (and personnel) are threatened.”

And what did Trump’s cruise missile attack accomplish? An unnamed US military source said

“(w)e didn’t hit a damn thing…We basically gave them a very expensive fireworks display.”

“(I)t didn’t really matter whether we elected Clinton of Trump.” Russia is justifiably furious.

On June 29, the State Department commented on the dubious OPCW report – disgracefully saying it “confirm(ed) that sarin or a sarin-like chemical weapon was used on April 4, 2017 in Kahn Sheikhoun, Syria.”

The OPCW’s investigation was “impartial and highly professional…”

“The facts reflect a despicable and highly dangerous record of chemical weapons use by the Assad regime. Through its continued use of chemical weapons and its failure to destroy its chemical weapons program in its entirety, Syria continues to fail to comply with its legal obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and UN Security Council Resolution 2118.”

Fact: The OPCW’s report drew conclusions without credible evidence. It was disgracefully biased, unreliable, dubious and fabricated.

Fact: No evidence shows any CW attack occurred. The incident was staged to lay blame on Syria for what never happened.

Fact: No Syrian CWs exist. They were all eliminated. None were ever used by its military throughout over six years of war. No credible evidence proves otherwise.

Fact: No Syrian Chemical Weapons Convention and Security Council Resolution 2118 violations occurred.

The State Department’s press release turned truth on its head. The Trump administration continues aggression Obama began on a sovereign independent state.

Its objective is destroying Syrian sovereignty, replacing Assad with a pro-Western puppet, isolating Iran, and pursuing regime change against its legitimate government.

That’s how imperialism works – waging endless wars of aggression for wealth and unchallenged dominance, the human cost of no consequence.

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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Don Giovanni (some of us know him as Don Juan) was born in the fire of temptation and vitality. Tirso de Molina gave him shape in The Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest, added more coherent limbs.  

Then came the critics, with Søren Kirkegaard thinking he had the opera’s number, the sense, and the totality of Mozart’s creation which premiered in Prague in October, 1787. 

In his Journals and Papers, comprising 7 volumes, Kirkegaard outlines his exhilarative torment, making his most famous stab in “The Immediate Erotic Stages or the Musical-Erotic”. His character “A” deems the opera harmonious and balanced in terms of content and form, a case of “mutual permeation”. “B” is the moralist, Judge Vilhelm, who stresses the ethical aspect. 

The longer one engages this figure, the more one sees it disappear, vanish into a bundle of emotions and desires. It is the swamp of the conman, a confection of feeling that necessitates the importance of desire. “Don Giovanni, as many have noticed, is a non-person; a bundle of drives without apparent psychological motivation.” The character in Mozart’s opera insists on this theme: “Who I am you shall never know.” 

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Søren Kirkegaard (Source: Wikipedia)

The theme here, as Kirkegaard explains, is musical. (Could it be anything else?) “Mozart’s good fortune is that he has found a subject matter that is intrinsically altogether musical, and if any other composer were to compete with Mozart, there would be nothing for him to do except compose Don Giovanni all over again.”  

In it is an unmistakable genius, but it has also drawn out the snark as being “a notoriously scrappy piece of dramatic construction.” Certainly, the final scene is uneven, and even unnecessary.   

But complaining about operatic dramatic construction is much like lamenting the fat register of deep fried chips.  The issue with Don Giovanni is aesthetic front loading and display. 

Kirkegaard seems tormented by the protagonist. “In certain respects, I can say of Don Juan what Elvira says to him:

‘You murderer of my happiness – for to tell the truth it is this piece which affected me so diabolically that I can never forget it; it was this piece which drove me, like Elvira, out of the cloisters into the quiet night.” 

Don Giovanni remains the well of torment to draw upon, the libertine whose moral (and amoral) engagements tease biblical morality and invite retribution. Why that should has less to do with the desert religions of monotheism as the plain attempt, by humans, to seek retribution.  

His punishment, in the sense of any rake’s damnation, is cheap vengeance that seeks the superstitious formulae while regretting it. It results in delicious dramatic resolution. Sloppy dramatic casting is mended by astonishing operatic rescue. The devil, in every true sense, does have the best tunes. 

The issue of love is fundamental, though it has a Christian backdrop to it, a lament about over eager eroticism and good will (all will, in fact), the sense that one’s number is up if the wick is dipped too often. Beware desire, and take heed of the moralist who sorts out the ledger. 

Kirkegaard has to resort the theme of salvation and suffering, but notes that Don Juan is indulgently, and infuriatingly, aesthetic. Christ, ever a nuisance, played on the holiness of the Word, the inner truth. And how dull it was. 

A man who deigns to love so much, even in rough, take-it-all fashion, to spread his wings and seed amongst the petticoats and the cunning shadow between the thighs, is doomed to a one-way ticket, all expenses paid, by the Stone Statue who seeks revenge. In the way Christ forces a personal issue of dying for sins on the Cross, the statue insists that Don Giovanni has no real choice as a consequence of his behaviour. The ghost, to use the well fashioned Kirkegaard description, “no longer speaks, he passes judgment.”  

The libertine resists for as long as he can, beating off the dining advances of the Commendatore, though fiery hell yawns and pulls with inexorable force. The women (Elvira, Anna and Zerlina), animate, furnish and supply the basis of the opera, but demonstrate inconstancy. The Devil has the best tunes, but each woman here shall her tailored tune from the remorseless rake.  

Figures such as Don Ottavio and Masetto have purposeful arias but little effect in hunting down the libertine, and must be left disappointed despite anger and desperation. Everything Don Giovanni touches is immeasurably transformed and is quite literally unforgettable. 

This particular performance, simulcast on June 30 in the stadium of the San Francisco Giants and the San Francisco Opera, revealed how sharp and witty Don Giovanni, rendered in superb fashion by Ildebrando D’Arcangelo, can be. The jousting and play with Leporello, his servant played by Erik Anstine, is a delight. This is music as all, and fine drama to boot. As Friedrich Nietzsche observed with life tickling reality,

“without music, life would be a mistake.”

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

Featured image from Wikipedia

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Together with lashing out at the anchors of Morning Joe, slamming “garbage” fake news CNN, and suggesting that Greta Van Susteren was fired because she “refused to go along with Trump hate”, President Trump on Saturday blasted the 29 (and rising) states refusing to comply with his election fraud commission’s request for voter data to a commission he created to investigate alleged voter fraud, asking “what are they trying to hide?

Last Wednesday, Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity – which was formed to investigate his claim that millions of illegal votes cost him the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election – sent a letter to all 50 states asking them to turn over voter information including names, the last four digits of social security numbers, addresses, birth dates, political affiliation, felony convictions and voting histories. The request was for information publicly available under each state’s laws. And while some states are providing part of this information, many states immediately raised concerns and voiced their opposition to providing the information, and as of Saturday morning, more than half of all US states – 29 at last count – had refused to comply with the commission’s requests, saying they are unnecessary and violated privacy, according to statements from election officials and media reports.

“This commission was formed to try to find basis for the lie that President Trump put forward that has no foundation,” Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes told Reuters previously in an interview.

Among the states refusing to comply with Trump’s request are both Democratic and Republican states.

Echoing Trump’s skepticism, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the vice chair of the commission, had a similar response to the president on states refusing to comply.

“Frankly, if a state like Kentucky or California won’t provide available information, one has to ask the question, ‘Why not?’” Kobach said Friday during an interview with NPR. “I mean, what are they trying to hide if they don’t want a presidential advisory commission to study their state voter rolls?” he asked.

Several states replied to that question, as the Hill reports.

“There’s not enough bourbon here in Kentucky to make this request seem sensible,” Kentucky’s Democratic Secretary of State, Alison Lundergan Grimes, said on MSNBC. “Not on my watch are we going to be releasing sensitive information that relate to the privacy of individuals.”

Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, a Republican, also said he won’t turn over any information to the panel, telling members of the voter fraud commission to, “go jump in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, took a similar line, calling the Trump investigation an attempt to suppress the vote.

Election officials from both sides of the aisle expressed skepticism about Trump’s claim of voter fraud:

“In Ohio, we pride ourselves on being a state where it is easy to vote and hard to cheat,” said Jon Husted, Ohio’s Republican secretary of state. “Voter fraud happens, it’s rare and when it happens we hold people accountable. I believe that as the Commission does its work, it will find the same about our state.”

Several states, among them California and New York, said participating in the attempt to compile voter data would only serve to legitimize the false and already debunked claims of massive voter fraud,” according to Democratic Secretary of State Alex Padilla. On the other hand, by refusing to participate in the first place, they force Trump himself to question what it is they are hiding.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, both Democrats, said their states would not provide confidential information.

“New York refuses to perpetuate the myth voter fraud played a role in our election,” Cuomo said in a statement. “We will not be complying with this request.”

Even Kansas, where Kobach is secretary of state, will not share voters’ Social Security information with the commission.

“In Kansas, the Social Security number is not publicly available,” Kobach told the Kansas City Star. “Every state receives the same letter, but we’re not asking for it if it’s not publicly available.”

Officials in Connecticut, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Utah and Washington also expressed skepticism and said their states would withhold nonpublic information. North Carolina will provide all but the last four digits of Social Security numbers, dates of birth and driver’s license numbers.

Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea (D) took her criticism further, saying Kobach was unfit to lead the commission, given his record of strict voting laws and a recent court fine for failing to produce documents related to a lawsuit over voting laws.

* * *

Trump has made such allegations of voter fraud before, including claiming that that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election.

Kobach says he does not know if such claims are true but the commission is investigating them. He is an advocate of strict voter identification laws, which he says are necessary to combat fraud. Opponents say those laws hinder access to the polls primarily for elderly and minority voters.

Meanwhile, the Hill reported that officials have raised questions about the commission’s discretion obtaining the confidential documents.

“State statutes permit the [Wisconsin commission] to share confidential information in limited circumstances with law enforcement agencies or agencies of other states,” Haas said. “The presidential commission does not appear to qualify under either of these categories.”

Trump appointed another voter identification supporter, Heritage Foundation fellow Hans von Spakovsky, to the commission Thursday. Von Spakovsky, one of Kobach’s mentors, has long advocated for stricter voter access rules.

As of noon on Saturday, the states who have refused the Commission’s demands are: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

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Thinking About Waiting. Time is All We Have…

July 5th, 2017 by Edward Curtin

“I am waiting for my case to come up
And I am waiting
For a rebirth of wonder
And I am waiting for someone
To really discover America
And wail” – Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Some sullen sage once said that life is what we do while we wait for death. It’s not the kind of wise-guy wisdom I would try to refute, especially since I was one of those precocious kids who saw the skull at his first Pablum banquet. He seemed to be waiting for me even then, and I can only assume he’s waiting still, though, like the dead writer William Saroyan, I can enjoy thinking that an exception will be made in my case.

But wishful thinking aside, there’s no question but that Mr. Death knocks at everyone’s door sooner or later, better never than late, to coin a phrase in reverse and revert to wishful thinking. Nevertheless, it’s hard to deny the fact that he’s coming and everybody’s waiting for his knock. Unless, that is, you are in league with those technologists out in Silicon Valley, such as Ray Kurzweil, who are going to employ technology to knock death dead and live forever. But even Ray is waiting for what he calls the Singularity to kick in (he recently announced a date change from 2045 to 2029) – the day when humans and computers tie the knot and the former get uploaded into the latter and death disappears as humans live in the “cloud.” In the meantime, Ray swallows a few hundred pills a day to keep chugging along until he reaches the promised land. These artificial intelligence folks seem to feel they’re smarter than Plato, Jesus, Buddha, Shakespeare, and other idiots we used to think wise, but I think George Carlin meant to include the Artificial Intelligence crowd when he said,

“Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.”

Of course, rather than knock, Mr. Death just might blow the house down. Although it’s a little impersonal and there will be no introductions, a lot of people are waiting for that. Like the early Christians who were eagerly awaiting the imminent end of the world, most people today are unconsciously waiting for a nuclear holocaust – to be seen on the evening news, of course, or maybe announced by a tweet or an instant message as they scroll their little crystal rectangles to see what’s going down. Everyone will be, that’s what going down. The general consensus seems to be it will solve all problems, which is a brilliant insight in a Humpty Dumpty sort of brillig way in a looking-glass/ technological world where our most amazing technology is the nuclear bomb, rather recently joined in conjugal bliss with the computer that will save us from death.

In any case, what’s there to do? Keep waiting, that’s all, seems to be the popular approach. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think people were looking forward to meeting Mr. Death. For why else are they waiting without raising their voices in protest against U.S. nuclear first strike policy and the trillion dollar modernization of American nuclear weapons announced by Barack Obama and continuing under Donald Trump? Why do they wait in silent fear and trembling as the United States military and CIA maraud across the planet killing and maiming to profit their capitalistic masters? Why do they wait with mouths sealed shut for the neoconservatives in the Trump administration to ignite war with Russia and WW III?

That’s the big picture, so to speak, the big waiting game. Waiting in the smaller sense can also kill you, or keep you going (but don’t ask where), depending on your point of view. There are endless variations to this waiting game with the smaller joined to the larger in a powerful synergy that freezes people in their tracks.

This sense of waiting for something terrible to happen permeates the air these days. The media and government pump out incendiary reports in an endless stream of things to fear in an effort to immobilize the population. Neurotic fears have long been known to be most effective tools of social control. When these can be manufactured in great and continuous numbers, they have a cumulative effect of creating growing social anxiety, which is the case today. It is no accident that the dramatic increase in drug usage to quell anxiety, nervous stress, and depression has occurred concurrently with the mainstream media’s propagandistic outpouring of fear-mongering and the drug industries relentless advertising campaigns for their psychotropicfixes.

The news is constantly suggesting that some “apocalyptic” event is just around the corner. Like: there will be strong thunderstorms at 4:30 PM, or at least a 58.5% chance, so wear your helmet and take shelter. Like: a woman in South Dakota ate a cherry that had a double pit that caused her to almost choke to death, so be very careful eating cherries; “almost” might be “really” in your case. Like: the sun is very hot this year, so never step outside unless you are sprayed with chemical sunscreen from head to toe. Like: there is a bug or bird or some critter that has recently been detected that is carrying a disease so deadly that if it flies by you within 11 ½ inches you will die a slow tortuous death in four days, five at the most. All kinds of neurotic fears are endlessly broadcast to keep folks on their anxiety-ridden toes while the real dangers go unmentioned and bubble under the surface. This is the corporate media’s job, of course, one they have perfected.

Wherever you go in the United States, you can see on people’s faces the strain of waiting for some absurd fear to become a reality. You can almost feel them holding their breaths in nervous anticipation. It keeps people occupied.

Lewis Lapham says it eloquently in the recent issue of Lapham’s Quarterly:

In my capacity as human being, I’ve met with most if not all of the descriptives handed down from antiquity, but in my profession as journalist, I’ve encountered primarily the distinctions between what Sigmund Freud in 1917 defines as real fear and neurotic fear, the former a rational and comprehensible response to the perception of clear and present danger, the latter “free-floating,” anxious expectation attachable to any something or nothing that catches the eye or the ear, floats the shadow on a wall or a wind in the trees. Real fear invites action, the decision to flee or fight dependent upon “our feeling of power over the outer world”; expectant fear induces states of paralysis, interprets every coincidence as evil omen, prophesizes the most terrible of possibilities, ascribes “a dreadful meaning to all uncertainty.

Image result for Edward Bernays

Edward Bernays (Source: Wikipedia)

Ironically, it was Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays, the great red, white, and blue American propagandist,who took his uncle’s insights and used them in the service of corporate and government control. By inducing irrational fears of a foreign enemy – i.e. the Soviet Union in the 1950s – as he urged President Eisenhower, you could distract people from the real threat, which was their own government and the CIA with whom Bernays worked overthrowing the democratically elected of Guatemala, among other evil projects. Fake fears large and small could paralyze the average person and create loyalty to the state and capitalism. They would wait for their protectors to tell them what to do. The present Russia bashing and fear-mongering is straight from Bernays’ play book.

Is it any wonder that Samuel Becket’s Waiting for Godot was such a popular play in the 1950s? Godot never came then and he’s not coming now, but waiting is still the name of the game. The character Vladimir sums up the waiting game:

Was I sleeping, while the others suffered? Am I sleeping now? Tomorrow, when I wake, or think I do, what shall I say of today? That with Estragon my friend, at this place, until the fall of night, I waited for Godot?

Wasn’t it Camus who said you can encounter the absurd on every street corner? While I would agree, I would add that you can also run into Mr. Death while waiting on a street corner. If you are a waiter, meeting him can change your life.

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Andy Warhol (Source: Pinterest)

An absurdly strange thing once happened to me. I was waiting on a street corner in New York City, the southwest corner of 5th Ave. and West 47th St. to be precise, on an eerily silent Sunday morning. The streets were deserted as I waited for The Gotham Book Mart to open. Biding my time and bored while waiting, I walked into the entrance way of a diamond store and was looking in the window at the jewelry that I had zero interest in. Diagonally through the window I could see a face staring at me from the street. Was I hallucinating? A pale, death mask visage, milky white hair, staring and staring, as if immobilized. Chilled by this ghostly apparition as cold as the glittering diamonds, I walked along the glass window to the street, but the face followed along the front window glass, staring at me the whole time. A moving white reflective shadow taunting me. I thought: Mr. Death has found me waiting, so I better get moving and get the hell out of here. But when I got to the street and turned right, the pasty face met me face-to-face, staring through strange round translucent glasses – and then he lifted a tiny device and shot me. “What are you doing?” I shouted as I stumbled back. “I didn’t give you permission to shoot me.”

Shrinking into his whiteness, Andy Warhol turned and meekly walked away, carrying my image with him in his tiny spy camera. No doubt it still exists somewhere since Warhol was a compulsive hoarder of anything he ever touched, his talismans against death, his greatest fear, his obsession.

Poor Andy, he was so afraid of death he shot everything he could see, including me. Time was his enemy, and everything he did was aimed at killing time. He was a stop-time artist, waiting, lurking to get the perfect shot, to sneak up on his own death and shoot it dead. But he never ran into his own death since it was nowhere to be seen, and it snuck up on him when he least expected it.

But he saw me, and I have to thank him for sneaking up and spooking me as I waited that morning for what I didn’t know. He played Mr. Death for me, and made me realize that waiting is a waste of time. And time is all we have, so don’t wait too long.

Edward Curtin is a writer whose work has appeared widely.  He teaches sociology at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. His website is http://edwardcurtin.com/

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ISIS’s last holdout in Syria is in Raqqa; its forces have been backed into an ancient wall that surrounds the old city of Raqqa on three sides. The Rafiqah Wall, first constructed in the 8th century by the Abbasid dynasty, is reported to be over 12 feet high, over a meter thick and stretches over 3 miles around the old city. 

While the wall had been described as an important fortification for ISIS, the advancement of Syrian troops made the wall a trap that could have allowed the ISIS fighters to be completely wiped out. According to a July 3, 2017 TIME article(1), ISIS fighters had taken positions there “to defend the city [sic]” and planted explosive devices at what the article described as “breaks in the wall.” Under the circumstances, the point to planting explosive devices in the wall would only have been to create escape routes. It was apparent from the next day’s news, however, that the “breaks in the wall” were not adequate for escape.

The US-backed forces, fronted by the so-called “Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)”, appeared to come to ISIS’s rescue. On the night of July 3rd, the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), claimed that SDF had “found a way” through the historic wall at “the most heavily-fortified portion of Raqqa”; two 25 meter-long breaches had been blasted through it. Laughably, the article claimed that the two “small” — almost 100-foot — gaps “will help preserve the remainder of the overall 2,500-meter wall”: now US-backed forces might not need to totally demolish the 1300-year old wall.

While Brett McGurk, described as the US envoy for the anti-ISIS coalition, tweeted that the operation was “a key milestone” in the campaign to “liberate the city”, it is evident what was really being liberated.

Karin Brothers is a freelance writer.

Note

1) Hincks Joseph U.S.-Backed Troops Breach the Perimeter of ISIS’ Last Bastion in Syria Jul 03, 2017
http://time.com/4844317/raqqa-syria-isis-wall/

Featured image from SURYAA

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Featured image: Marcus Mosiah Garvey (Source: Bio.com)

The controversy surrounding the May 19th unveiling of a bust of Jamaica’s first national hero and Pan-Africanist Marcus Mosiah Garvey on the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) has led some Garveyites and Pan-Africanists to call for the study and use of his philosophy in the service of African liberation.

Garveyites are up in arms about the Raymond Watson’s created bust of Garvey that bears no resemblance to the most common photographic (re)presentations of this exponent of African Nationalism and racial uplift.

Retired UWI professor and organic intellectual Carolyn Cooper captures mass sentiments on this bust when she states in the article “Taking Liberties with Marcus Garvey” that:

Raymond Watson’s image of Garvey reveals nothing of the authority, passion and power of more full-bodied representations of our national hero. I wouldn’t go as far as cancer. But Garvey seems poorly. His posture conveys passivity. He looks like a weakling. Who approved this diminished portrayal?

Professor Archibald McDonald, pro-vice-chancellor and principal of UWI praised the legacy of Garvey’s anti-colonial, anti-racist and African liberation legacy.

At the ceremony marking the launch of the bust, Professor McDonalds stated that

“In supporting the realisation of this monument to be unveiled, it is our hope that students, faculty members, and visitors to the campus will see a vision of self, one of greatness that breaks the mental and physical chains of oppression that try to tell us that we are anything but worthy and proud.”

However, we cannot use Garvey’s message of liberation to break “mental and physical chains of oppression” without acknowledging and discussing the fact that Marcus Garvey’s philosophy has a capitalism problem.

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Statue of Marcus Garvey in the University of the West Indies (Source: Jamaica Observer)

When many Pan-Africanists engage in conversations about Marcus Garvey and the achievements of his Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), they usually express unbridled praise for the economic development approach of the organization and its founder. But the devil is always in the details.

Marcus Garvey was born on August 17, 1887 in a racist, colonial environment that was hostile to the interests of African-Jamaicans. During the years 1910-1914, Garvey travelled to a number of countries in Latin America and Europe and this experience brought a high level of awareness of the exploited condition of Africans. Garvey created the UNIA in July 1914 in Jamaica and went to the United States in March 1916.

The United States became the organization’s headquarters and prime site of its success and failure. According to Garvey in the book “The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey” by 1921 the UNIA had “900 branches and with an approximate membership of 6,000,000.” Garvey’s claim about the number of members has not been independently confirmed.

Garvey’s commitment to self-reliance and liberation of the global African community led him to place a strong emphasis on business development. In “Philosophy and Opinions” Garvey declares that,

“Chance has never yet satisfied the hope of a suffering people. Action, self-reliance, the vision of self and the future have been the only means by which the oppressed have seen and realized the light of freedom.”

Self-reliant economic development is actually a key element of an oppressed group’s strategy to develop the alternative economic institutions and practices today, which will serve as the seeds of the liberated society of tomorrow. Collective self-reliance will bolster the extent to which an oppressed group or country is able to withstand the pressure or punishment of its enemies.

In the promotion of self-reliance and economic development, Garvey presented a compelling vision of racial upliftment to the labouring classes. He believed that the African working-class could be mobilized behind an anti-colonial project. C.L.R. James remarked on Garvey’s ability to inspire and organize the Afrikan masses:

He deliberately aimed at the poorest, most down-trodden and humiliated Negroes. The millions who followed him, the devotion and the money they contributed, show where we can find the deepest strength of the working class movement, the coiled springs of power which lie there waiting for the party which can unloose them.

Even before the independence movements or national liberation struggles in Africa and the Caribbean, Garvey demonstrated the possibility of bringing the people onto the stage of history. However, retired UWI Professor Rupert Lewis and Garvey expert reported in his text “Marcus Garvey: Anti-Colonial Champion” that the now defunct Workers Party of Jamaica saw the Garvey movement as an ‘alliance of the proletariat and the petty bourgeoisie albeit under petty bourgeois leadership.’

In the effort to ‘create a new people,’ Garvey practised a race-first economic development framework. The late Garvey scholar Tony Martin provides a scope of the UNIA’s portfolio of businesses in his book “Race First: The Ideological and Organizational Struggles of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Improvement Association.” The UNIA operated laundries, tailoring business, grocery stores, printing press, doll making company, the Negro World newspaper, a hat making establishment, shipping company, restaurants and a hotel. It had assets such as trucks and buildings and hundreds of employees.

The range of businesses operated by UNIA is still impressive to many Pan-Africanists, but they are not mindful of the lessons that should be learned from the UNIA and Garvey’s business practices.

W.E.B. Du Bois’s article “Marcus Garvey” in the book “Marcus Garvey and the Vision of Africa” outlines Garvey and the UNIA’s lose financial management practices, inexperience in the shipping business that led to buying unworthy ships at inflated prices, Garvey’s top-down management and leadership style, no knowledge of the “investment of capital and (Garvey had) few trained and staunched assistants” to operate the Black Star Line, the flagship enterprise of the UNIA.

In spite of the positive elements of economic Garveyism, it is not appropriate for African liberation in the 21st century. Many current Garveyites tend to ignore the fact that Garvey’s economic development approach was based on reproducing the exploitative system of capitalism, which would continue to oppress the Afrikan working-class.

Our engagement with capitalism, as enslaved Africans and wage-slaves today, provides us with lived experience of this economic system that puts profit before the needs of the people. Furthermore, capitalism enables the ruling-class minority to economically, socially and politically dominate the working-class majority.

Garvey was quite insistent that capitalism was the path to economic development. In the book “Message to the People: The Course of African Philosophy,” he had this to say about capitalism:

“As a fact, the capitalist of today was the labourer or worker of yesterday…. Hence, the man who wants to go into business commercially, industrially or agriculturally, and win a fortune for himself, cannot and should not be a Communist, because Communism robs the individual of his personal initiative and ambition or the results thereof. Democracy (interchangeable with capitalism), therefore, is the kind of government that offers the individual the opportunity to rise from a labourer to the status of a capitalist or employer.”

In “Philosophy and Opinions” Garvey asserts that,

“Capitalism is necessary to the progress of the world, and those who unreasonably and wantonly oppose or fight against it are enemies to human advancement.”

Garvey naively called for the state to place constraints on “capitalistic interests.” He might have been unaware of the fact that the state serves and protects the interests of the economic elite.

Du Bois’s “new economic solidarity” proposal of the 1930s is still relevant to Afrikan liberation. It called for the creation of a network of consumer cooperatives in order to meet the need of Afrikan-Americans for goods, services and employment. Du Bois promoted his programme as a way to advance Afrikan political empowerment and challenge the dog-eat-dog system of capitalism. You may explore Du Bois’s cooperative economic thoughts in “A Negro Nation Within the Nation” in the book “W.E.B. Du Bois Speaks: Speeches and Addresses, 1920-1963.”

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After Garvey’s return to Jamaica he decided to organize the UNIA (Universal Negro Improvement Association) and was joined by tens of thousands Afro American. (Source: Weblackspirit)

Garveyites and other Pan-Africanist must place the question of the destruction of capitalism at the centre of their organizing programme for African liberation. Such a course of action calls for the recognition of class division within the African race and the need for us to recognize the class struggle between the African labouring classes and African capitalist exploiters.

Our interrogation and critique of Garvey’s capitalism problem does not repudiate useless elements within his outlook on African liberation. We are simply disassociating ourselves from his enthusiastic support for capitalism that is the enemy of the African working-class in Africa and throughout the African Diaspora.

Capitalism is incompatible with human progress and emancipation. Therefore, all people of good conscience must commit themselves to casting this barbaric and soul-destroying economic system into the cesspool of history.

On the matter of the UWI’s Garvey bust, the intense and widespread opposition to this sculpture has led to UWI’s commitment to take it down and replace it with a bust that is reflective of a realistic representation of the Garvey that exists in the popular imagination.

We should not allow this controversy to go to waste. Revolutionary Pan-Africanists and progressive Garveyites should use it to explore a transitional economic development path that rejects capitalism and embraces the self-organization of the labouring classes in the economic, social, cultural and political spheres.

Rupert Lewis offers a challenge to the folks who are focused on how close the statue resembles Garvey as well as UWI’s administrators to address a more concrete question that has relevance to the labouring classes in Africa and the Caribbean.

Lewis asserts that

“Our focus should be centred on the creation of programmes within the UWI that can tackle the development problems of Africa and the Caribbean in the 21st century.”

Many of us are too fixated on symbols and the seductiveness of one-off protest actions, which do not demand the time, dedication and commitment that come with organizing in membership-based organizations with regular programmes, projects and/or an institution-building mandate.

*This essay is an expanded version of an earlier one that appeared in the Canadian based newspaper Share.

Ajamu Nangwaya, Ph.D., is a writer, organizer and educator. Ajamu is a lecturer in the Institute of Caribbean Studies at the University of the West Indies.

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Featured image: Russian-made BMPT Terminator Combat Vehicles (Source: Screenshot from the video below)

Syrian government forces, led by Liwa al-Quds and Hezbollah units, have further advanced against ISIS northeast of the Arak gas field in the eastern part of Homs province. Army troops and their allies have captured a number of hills and reached the important Rammim Hill west of the Hail gas field. By controlling the Rammim Hill, government forces will be able to establish fire control over the vicinity of the Hail gas field and thus soon to retake the field from ISIS. Doing so will also contribute to a wider effort aimed at liberating the strategic town of al-Sukhnah.

According to reports, government forces received an unknown number of Russian-made BMPT Terminator combat vehicles. The vehicles will allegedly be used during the upcoming advance on Deir Ezzor. If confirmed, this will be the first usage of the Russian-made armoured vehicle in a combat environment.

The US-led coalition has airdropped about 100-150 members of US-backed groups of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) from the US-held Al-Tanf area in southeastern Syria to the Al-Shaddadi area in northeastern Syria, according to pro-militant media activists and media outlets.

According to reports, the goal of this move is to set a foothold for a US-backed advance on the government-held city of Deir Ezzor, besieged by ISIS terrorists. Some sources suggest that the US is going to establish a coalition garrison in the border area. Jaysh Maghawir al-Thawra even declared the start of the offensive on Deir Ezzor. However, without direct support from US-led coalition ground forces this seems as merely a PR move. Another obvious target for the US-led operation is the ISIS-held border town of al-Bukamal.

If reports are confirmed, this move will be considered as a common part of a wider US effort aimed at building a buffer zone between Syria and Iraq by seizing as much border area as possible, the goal being to prevent any cooperation between the Syrian and Iraqi militaries.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed up by the US-led coalition, continued storming the ISIS-held part of Raqqah. Slow progress inside the city might be one of the reasons behind the US attempt to launch a separate operation in the border area with Iraq.

Voiceover by Harold Hoover

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In an explosive interview with Megyn Kelly at the 21st St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, systematically destroyed many of the narratives promulgated by the enemies of the Syrian state who seek to turn the country into the new Libya.

Although the panel discussion covered many issues and featured other speakers, one of the most crucial sections was when Kelly questioned Putin over the Syrian conflict.  The opening exchange consisted of Kelly asking the Russian leader whether he believed Assad was an “evil guy?”, allowing Putin to articulate one of the central reasons why Russia supports the Syrian government. Putin emphasized that it is not Assad that Russia is protecting per se; instead, Russia is protecting “the Syrian statehood” from collapsing into an abyss of chaos similar to the one we have seen Libya descend into since 2011:

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Megyn Kelly and President Vladimir Putin (Source: Youtube)

“It’s not President Assad whom we are protecting; we are protecting the Syrian statehood. We don’t want their interior to be a situation similar to that in Libya, or that in Somalia, or in Afghanistan – in Afghanistan NATO has been present for many years, but the situation is not changing for the better. We want to preserve the Syrian statehood. On the basis of resolving this fundamental issue we would like them to move towards settling the Syrian issue through political means. Yes, probably everyone there is to blame for something, but let’s not forget that were it not for active interference from outside, this civil war probably would not have broken out.”

Ever since NATO forced regime change in Libya – through waging a bombing campaign coupled with supporting al-Qaeda connected rebel legions on the ground – it has been in total chaos. The North African country has been a failed state for years, with rebel factions fighting over control of certain regions.

As journalist Neil Clark and others have pointed out, in July 2010, the Telegraph listed Libya as number one on their six best exotic cruise destinations. By August 2011, numerous reports detailed how many factions of the Libyan opposition were slaughtering black people on mass. In 2012, a disturbing video surfaced which purported to show Libyan rebels forcing African prisoners to eat flags while being kept in giant cages. Earlier this year, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that African migrants were being bought and sold in slave markets.

This is just a glimpse into the utter chaos and degradation that Libya has descended into after NATO ‘liberated’ the country back in 2011, and it provides a window into what Syria would be like if the West forces regime change in Damascus.

NATO-led destruction of Libya, 2011 (Source: Sott.net)

“The Militants used Chemical Weapons” 

Putin then moves on to counter the propaganda spread by the enemies of Syria that Assad’s forces had used chemical weapons in April of this year, before highlighting that the militants have a history of using chemical weapons in the region:

“What is President Assad been accused of recently? We know he has been accused of using chemical weapons, but there’s no evidence to support that whatsoever. Right after the incident, we suggested that an inspection should be carried out at the airbase… But they refused to conduct this kind of inspection. So, they’re talking a lot, but not doing much. We suggested that an inspection should be carried out at the site where the strike took place, [but] they’re saying it’s too dangerous. Why is it dangerous if the strike was against the good part of the opposition? No, they say it is too dangerous.” 

“In Iraqi Kurdistan, the militants used chemical weapons and the world community recognised it. So, they know that the militants have got chemical weapons. But according to the OPCW [Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] Syria has destroyed its stocks of chemical weapons. You see, if pretexts are created without any real willingness to look into the matter, it’s not going to lead us anywhere. Let’s talk substantively. Did Assad make mistakes? Yes, probably a lot of them. But those who oppose him, are they angels? Who [are] murdering people and executing children – beheading people. Should we support those people?” 

On multiple occasions, investigations have indicated that chemical weapons have been used by the Syrian opposition. In May 2013 for instance, the Commissioner of the UN’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry for Syria, Carla Del Pontesaid in an interview that there was evidence which suggested that the rebels, not the Syrian army, used chemical weapons:

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Carla del Ponte (Source: Wikipedia)

“During our investigation for crimes against humanity and war crimes, we collected some witness testimony that [appeared to confirm] that some chemical weapons were used – in particular nerve gas. What appeared to our investigation was that it was used by the opponents, the rebels, and we have no indication at all that the Syrian government have used chemical weapons. Of course, now, the special commission will investigate and tell us what it is exactly. But I was a little stupefied that the first indication we got [was] about the use of nerve gas by the opposition.” 

In regards to the nature of the Syrian opposition, it is not just the Russian President who believes that many of the opposition forces are far from angelic. Even the former Prime Minister of Britain, David Cameron, who was always a strong proponent of forcing regime change in Syria (he was also heavily involved in the Libyan war), admitted in early 2016 that many of the ‘moderate’ rebels actually belonged to “relatively hardline Islamist groups” (i.e. terrorist groups): 

“But if you’re arguing: are all these people impeccable democrats, who would share the view of democracy that you and I have? No. Some of them do belong to Islamist groups, and some of them belong to relatively hardline Islamist groups.” 

Furthermore, a declassified US military intelligence report – by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) – from August 2012, clearly states that the opposition was the walking antithesis of moderate: 

“The Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood and AQI [Al-Qaeda in Iraq], are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.” The report added that “AQI supported the Syrian opposition from the beginning, both ideologically and through the media,” and that “events are taking a clear sectarian direction.” 

False Flags and Provocations 

When Kelly again brought up the chemical weapons attack in April of this year, asking whether the Russian leader believed the videos of the alleged victims of the attack were “fake,” Putin responded by describing the incident as a “provocation” designed to blame the Syrian President:

“As for those people who were killed or who suffered because of the use of weapons – including chemical weapons, this is false information. As of now, we are absolutely confident that this is just a provocation; President Assad didn’t use chemical weapons. All of this was orchestrated in order to accuse him. Moreover, our intelligence services have got information that in another district of Syria, not far from Damascus, there were plans to reproduce this scenario, and we made these plans public. Those who had been planning these actions thought it better not to engage in these actions.”

When Kelly pressed him further, asking: “are we really to believe that the whole thing was staged?”, Putin responded by saying:

“The answer is very simple and you know it. Yes, sarin could have been used by someone, but not by Assad. It could have been used by someone in order to accuse Assad. So, we have to understand who is to blame; otherwise, if there is no true investigation, it is only going to play into the hands of those who orchestrated it. I would like to ask you a question: why didn’t everyone go right away to inspect the airbase, to the spot where chemical weapons allegedly had been used? Why didn’t they want to go to see the aircraft that had been allegedly used to perform the strike? The answer is very simple: because they were afraid that the truth would come to light.” 

Logic alone would tell you that the Syrian government did not use chemical weapons in April. Why would Assad order the use of chemical weapons when the Syrian government had the upper hand in the conflict? Assad may be a lot of things, but he is not suicidal. Why would he give the enemies of Syria justification to bomb the country or launch a full-scale invasion? As the former US congressman and host of the Liberty Report, Ron Paulsaid at the time:

“It makes no sense, even if you were totally separate from this and [you] take no sides of this and you were just an analyst, it doesn’t make sense for Assad, under these conditions, to all of the sudden use poison gasses… I think [there’s] zero chance that he would have done this deliberately.” 

For the sake of the Syrian people, let’s hope that Syria does not become the new Libya.

Steven MacMillan is an independent writer, researcher, geopolitical analyst and editor of  The Analyst Report, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

Featured image from Sputnik

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Foisting Blame for Cyber-hacking on Russia

July 4th, 2017 by Gareth Porter

Recent hearings by the Senate and House Intelligence Committees reflected the rising tide of Russian-election-hacking hysteria and contributed further to it. Both Democrats and Republicans on the two committees appeared to share the alarmist assumptions about Russian hacking, and the officials who testified did nothing to discourage the politicians.

On June 21, Samuel Liles, acting director of the Intelligence and Analysis Office’s Cyber Division at the Department of Homeland Security, and Jeanette Manfra, acting deputy under secretary for cyber-security and communications, provided the main story line for the day in testimony before the Senate committee — that efforts to hack into election databases had been found in 21 states.

Former DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and FBI counter-intelligence chief Bill Priestap also endorsed the narrative of Russian government responsibility for the intrusions on voter registration databases.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, following his address to the UN General Assembly on Sept. 28, 2015. (UN Photo)

But none of those who testified offered any evidence to support this suspicion nor were they pushed to do so. And beneath the seemingly unanimous embrace of that narrative lies a very different story.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has a record of spreading false stories about alleged Russian hacking into U.S. infrastructure, such as the tale of a Russian intrusion into the Burlington, Vermont electrical utility in December 2016 that DHS later admitted was untrue. There was another bogus DHS story about Russia hacking into a Springfield, Illinois water pump in November 2011.

So, there’s a pattern here. Plus, investigators, assessing the notion that Russia hacked into state electoral databases, rejected that suspicion as false months ago. Last September, Assistant Secretary of DHS for Cybersecurity Andy Ozment and state officials explained that the intrusions were not carried out by Russian intelligence but by criminal hackers seeking personal information to sell on the Internet.

Both Ozment and state officials responsible for the state databases revealed that those databases have been the object of attempted intrusions for years. The FBI provided information to at least one state official indicating that the culprits in the hacking of the state’s voter registration database were cyber-criminals.

Illinois is the one state where hackers succeeded in breaking into a voter registration database last summer. The crucial fact about the Illinois hacking, however, was that the hackers extracted personal information on roughly 90,000 registered voters, and that none of the information was expunged or altered.

The Actions of Cybercriminals

That was an obvious clue to the motive behind the hack. Assistant DHS Secretary Ozment testified before the House Subcommittee on Information Technology on Sept. 28 (at 01:02.30 of the video) that the apparent interest of the hackers in copying the data suggested that the hacking was “possibly for the purpose of selling personal information.”

Ozment ‘s testimony provides the only credible motive for the large number of states found to have experienced what the intelligence community has called “scanning and probing” of computers to gain access to their electoral databases: the personal information involved – even e-mail addresses – is commercially valuable to the cybercriminal underworld.

That same testimony also explains why so many more states reported evidence of attempts to hack their electoral databases last summer and fall. After hackers had gone after the Illinois and Arizona databases, Ozment said, DHS had provided assistance to many states in detecting attempts to hack their voter registration and other databases.

“Any time you more carefully monitor a system you’re going to see more bad guys poking and prodding at it,” he observed, “because they’re always poking and prodding.” [Emphasis added]

State election officials have confirmed Ozment’s observation. Ken Menzel, the general counsel for the Illinois Secretary of State, told this writer,

“What’s new about what happened last year is not that someone tried to get into our system but that they finally succeeded in getting in.” Menzel said hackers “have been trying constantly to get into it since 2006.”

And it’s not just state voter registration databases that cybercriminals are after, according to Menzel.

“Every governmental data base – driver’s licenses, health care, you name it – has people trying to get into it,” he said.

Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan told Mother Jones that her I.T. specialists had detected 193,000 distinct attempts to get into the state’s website in September 2016 alone and 11,000 appeared to be trying to “do harm.”

Reagan further revealed that she had learned from the FBI that hackers had gotten a user name and password for their electoral database, and that it was being sold on the “dark web” – an encrypted network used by cyber criminals to buy and sell their wares. In fact, she said, the FBI told her that the probe of Arizona’s database was the work of a “known hacker” who had been closely monitored “frequently.”

James Comey’s Role

The sequence of events indicates that the main person behind the narrative of Russian hacking state election databases from the beginning was former FBI Director James Comey. In testimony to the House Judiciary Committee on Sept. 28, Comey suggested that the Russian government was behind efforts to penetrate voter databases, but never said so directly.

Former FBI Director James Comey. (Source: Consortiumnews)

Comey told the committee that FBI Counterintelligence was working to “understand just what mischief Russia is up to with regard to our elections.” Then he referred to “a variety of scanning activities” and “attempted intrusions” into election-related computers “beyond what we knew about in July and August,” encouraging the inference that it had been done by Russian agents.

The media then suddenly found unnamed sources ready to accuse Russia of hacking election data even while admitting that they lacked evidence. The day after Comey’s testimony ABC headlined, “Russia Hacking Targeted Nearly Half of States’ Voter Registration Systems, Successfully Infiltrating 4.” The story itself revealed, however, that it was merely a suspicion held by “knowledgeable” sources.

Similarly, NBC News headline announced, “Russians Hacked Two U.S. Voter Databases, Officials Say.” But those who actually read the story closely learned that in fact none of the unnamed sources it cited were actually attributing the hacking to the Russians.

It didn’t take long for Democrats to turn the Comey teaser — and these anonymously sourced stories with misleading headlines about Russian database hacking — into an established fact. A few days later, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff declared that there was “no doubt” Russia was behind the hacks on state electoral databases.

On Oct. 7, DHS and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a joint statement that they were “not in a position to attribute this activity to the Russian government.” But only a few weeks later, DHS participated with FBI in issuing a “Joint Analysis Report” on “Russian malicious cyber activity” that did not refer directly to scanning and spearphishing aimed of state electoral databases but attributed all hacks related to the election to “actors likely associated with RIS [Russian Intelligence Services].”

Suspect Claims

But that claim of a “likely” link between the hackers and Russia was not only speculative but highly suspect. The authors of the DHS-ODNI report claimed the link was “supported by technical indicators from the U.S. intelligence community, DHS, FBI, the private sector and other entities.” They cited a list of hundreds of I.P. addresses and other such “indicators” used by hackers they called “Grizzly Steppe” who were supposedly linked to Russian intelligence.

But as I reported last January, the staff of Dragos Security, whose CEO Rob Lee, had been the architect of a U.S. government system for defense against cyber attack, pointed out that the vast majority of those indicators would certainly have produced “false positives.”

Then, on Jan. 6 came the “intelligence community assessment” – produced by selected analysts from CIA, FBI and National Security Agency and devoted almost entirely to the hacking of e-mail of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta. But it included a statement that “Russian intelligence obtained and maintained access to elements of multiple state or local election boards.” Still, no evidence was evinced on this alleged link between the hackers and Russian intelligence.

Over the following months, the narrative of hacked voter registration databases receded into the background as the drumbeat of media accounts about contacts between figures associated with the Trump campaign and Russians built to a crescendo, albeit without any actual evidence of collusion regarding the e-mail disclosures.

But a June 5 story brought the voter-data story back into the headlines. The story, published by The Intercept, accepted at face value an NSA report dated May 5, 2017, that asserted Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, had carried out a spear-phishing attack on a U.S. company providing election-related software and had sent e-mails with a malware-carrying word document to 122 addresses believed to be local government organizations.

But the highly classified NSA report made no reference to any evidence supporting such an attribution. The absence of any hint of signals intelligence supporting its conclusion makes it clear that the NSA report was based on nothing more than the same kind of inconclusive “indicators” that had been used to establish the original narrative of Russians hacking electoral databases.

A Checkered History

So, the history of the U.S. government’s claim that Russian intelligence hacked into election databases reveals it to be a clear case of politically motivated analysis by the DHS and the Intelligence Community. Not only was the claim based on nothing more than inherently inconclusive technical indicators but no credible motive for Russian intelligence wanting personal information on registered voters was ever suggested.

Seal of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (Source: Consortiumnews)

Russian intelligence certainly has an interest in acquiring intelligence related to the likely outcome of American elections, but it would make no sense for Russia’s spies to acquire personal voting information about 90,000 registered voters in Illinois.

When FBI Counter-intelligence chief Priestap was asked at the June 21 hearing how Moscow might use such personal data, his tortured effort at an explanation clearly indicated that he was totally unprepared to answer the question.

“They took the data to understand what it consisted of,” said Priestap, “so they can affect better understanding and plan accordingly in regards to possibly impacting future election by knowing what is there and studying it.”

In contrast to that befuddled non-explanation, there is highly credible evidence that the FBI was well aware that the actual hackers in the cases of both Illinois and Arizona were motivated by the hope of personal gain.

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of the newly published Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

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The Vicious Cyber-War Against Venezuela

July 4th, 2017 by Manuel E. Yepe

Havana. The psychological warfare being waged by the oligarchic opposition in Venezuela –following the strategic and tactical objectives of US imperialism– has strong support in a well-organized Twitter operation that promotes protests from the Miami-based DolarToday platform. This is described in a research article published by the well-known specialist Erin Gallagher.

DolarToday is a US website based in Miami that, according to Wikipedia, “is more known for being an exchange rate reference to the Venezuelan bolivar” and “monitoring the Venezuelan economy.”

Currently, with no other reliable source other than the black market exchange rates, these rates are used by ReutersCNBC, and several media news agencies and networks.

The Economist states in its defense that the rates calculated by DolarToday are “erratic”, but that they are “more realistic than the three official rates” released by the Venezuelan government. It maintains that it is not true that the rates published by DolarToday are manipulated in order to undercut the Venezuelan government.

The DolarToday website has been denounced by the Venezuelan State for setting a parallel dollar artificial price marker (black market). It has also been the target of a lawsuit by the Central Bank of Venezuela for falsifying the country’s exchange rates.

In 2013, President Maduro accused the website of “fueling an economic war against his government, and manipulating the exchange rate.”

“DolarToday is also promoting opposition protests in Venezuela. Its tweets are being boosted by automated accounts that exhibit repetitive, bot-like characteristics and are using a social media management tool called IFTTT (If This Then That) to automate their tweets”, says Erin Gallagher.

“What immediately caught my attention in the #TeamHDP hashtag data were the shared networks between the influencers (real persons of high credibility),” explained the specialist.

Trolls and bots carry out coordinated attacks to create false trends, congest or disrupt networks, and disseminate misinformation. Sometimes they succeed having a respected media –by neglect or mistake– disseminate their fake information and misleading headlines.

“Bots” are automated systems or programs –that can be run on home computers or on sophisticated servers—which use non-existent Twitter accounts to repeat a certain phrase hundreds or thousands of times. Thus they can turn those phrases into “trends”; that is to make them appear among the 10 or 20 topics that Twitter considers the subjects most discussed in recent hours.

Bot experts disguise themselves as “digital marketing companies”, create dozens or hundreds of fake Twitter accounts, and then use “bots” so that these accounts simultaneously tweet certain content, including headlines from news sites.

Because many journalists in the print media, radio and television use Twitter trends to determine what topics to deal with in their media, whoever dominates Twitter trends can get to determine the topics most talked about in the country’s media.

Gallagher says it is relatively easy to discover the use of these systems: when you enter a tag on Twitter and then click “Most Recent”, you will notice that there are hundreds or thousands of accounts tweeting exactly the same phrase.

This is not the first time robotic cyber actions have been observed in Venezuelan networks. Mexican researchers from the platform “LoQueSigue” used, in 2014, bots with the hashtag #PrayForVenezuela, which denounced “the violence, the repression and the supposed “censorship” of the protests in Venezuela,” which became a worldwide trend.

In addition, NoBotsPolitico of Spain documented fake accounts that supported the protests in Venezuela until June 2014, then remained silent for eight months, but went back to tweeting propaganda against Podemos in hashtags related to the 2015 elections in Spain.

Bloomberg published a feature on an investigation of March 2016 titled “How to Hack an Election” about the Colombian hacker Andrés Sepulveda, who worked with a team of hackers to manipulate information about the elections in Latin America. Sepulveda is currently serving 10 years in prison for crimes such as abusive access to computer networks, violation of personal data, espionage, and the use of malicious software during the 2014 election in Colombia.

It is not difficult to guess who controls the automated accounts that support #TeamHDP. The counterrevolution will someday have to answer for so much crime against the Venezuelan people.

Manuel E. Yepe is a lawyer, economist and journalist. He is a professor at the Higher Institute of International Relations in Havana.

Featured image from Twitter

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U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday that the U.S. would continue to finance and provide weapons to Syrian Kurdish fighters after the operation in Raqqa, Syria.

It is noteworthy that such plans completely contradict the Pentagon’s recent promises that arms given to the Syrian Kurds would be taken back after the offensive in Raqqa.

Probably, those promises were aimed solely at lulling Turkey into a false sense of security. It also should be mentioned Ankara does not exclude the possibility of launching another military operation in the north of Syria.

Taking into account Turkey’s principled position towards the Kurdish issue, it is not difficult to guess that this time it is unlikely to stay out.

According to many Syrian experts, Washington’s decision to keep arming Kurds is likely to be a part of the next U.S. plan to escalate the Syrian conflict. Lolita Baldor, a correspondent at Military Times, stresses that the White House intends to use confrontation between Turkey and Kurds. According to Baldor, if the Turkish side decides to conduct a full-scale operation against Kurds, Washington will have another pretext to increase the number of its contingent in Syria.

This will allow the U.S. to strengthen its positions and prevent the successful advancement of the Syrian Army near the territory of Deir ez-Zor, which is rich in oil and natural gas. Such a scenario explains the U.S. intentions to use Kurds, who naively believe that Washington is their true ally.

Against the background of the current events, it becomes extremely difficult to take seriously the words of Jim Mattis that the U.S. does not intend to interfere in the Syrian conflict and promotes political settlement of the Syrian crisis.
Obviously, the U.S. continues to realize its plans in Syria, and it is ready to make every effort to reach its aims.

Follow the latest developments by reading Inside Syria Media Center.

Featured image from Inside Syria Media Center

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Reflections on Canada at 150

July 4th, 2017 by Jim Miles

 July 1st, 2017, was Canada’s sesquicentennial, its one hundred fiftieth birthday. A youngster in comparison to many, not an elder statesman to any. The Canadian maple leaf flag hung on our porch rail, not for pride in our government, but for the realization that by pure chance we live in a remarkable region of the world geographically with a diverse landscape ranging from Atlantic to Pacific and northward to the Arctic oceans. The cultural geography is equally important, representing a large diversity of peoples, from the original indigenous occupants through the colonial-settler immigrants of mostly white European extraction, but including many Chinese, Japanese, east Indians as cheap labour to build the railways and roads. ‘Modern’ immigrants continue with this but also includes war refugees from South Asia, Latin America, and the greater Middle East.  

Diversity is the problem

However diversity has become a problem in precisely the institution where it should be highly valued, Canada’s parliament. Yes the ruling Liberals under Justin Trudeau includes a select group of diverse people, but they are essentially token representatives concealing larger problems.

The main problem has been the Liberal’s scrapping of their intention to change the electoral procedure from the not very democratic “first past the post system” (FPTP) to something that allows for more diversity for the party structure of government, that allows all voices to be heard, that ”your” vote counts.  

Having made electoral reform a central campaign promise, Trudeau scrubbed the idea completely after the mandate for his minister was changed in February of this year. His reason is that he had wanted a preferential ballot (ranked ballot) rather than the proportional representation that was the overwhelming favorite of most concerned citizens.

Interesting as to why he did not just say this from the beginning, but it might not have gained as many votes as a full committee on electoral reform (but also considering that many votes were also votes rejecting the Harper government). His reasoning is illogical as he argued later that ranked voting, as compared to both FTPT and proportional representation did not allow for “strategic voting”.   

Strategic voting is of course the way many people vote in our current system – how to get someone out, someone else in, according to which party has the best chance to do so. The same logic applies to ranked voting, which because of the use of more than one vote actually increases the need to work a good strategy. It is mathematically true that the more options a person has the more one needs to consider strategy – if one understands the statistical possibilities behind a ranked system.

A first vote is obvious for most. A second, third, and however many other votes are allowed would require much awareness of how the different secondary votes would affect the outcome. For that matter, even someone leading after the first round of counting could be defeated by a strong secondary vote for someone who consistently comes up after the various rankings are dropped. Also, someone considered a third choice could win if everyone who voted for a second person chose a wide variety of people none of whom could garner a lead while everyone voted for the same third person. Strategy becomes paramount if the parties wish to instruct their voters how to spread out their votes.  

More obviously though, at least in Canada, a ranked ballot would support whichever party can capture the middle or centrist vote. Canadians on the left would not choose someone on the right as an alternative; similarly those on the right would not choose someone on the left. The secondary, tertiary votes would go to the middle, the position the Liberals hope to consider its home ground. Strategy remains strong, if not devious. 

Proportional representation, the main choice from the various committees and subcommittees, allows for much stronger representation of all voters as the parliamentary seats are proportionally distributed to all parties. This allows smaller parties to achieve some power and those voters will then have their votes count. The larger parties might have to form coalitions or agreements of some kind with smaller parties in order to remain/achieve power, something Trudeau – and to be fair, the Conservatives – are not particularly willing to do. But it is much more fair to the voter, it does require the parties within the system to – more than likely – work together.

In sum, for Trudeau, Canadian diversity is fine, so long as it does not spill over into governance models that would hinder the power of the  major party(ies) in parliament.

Diversity with apartheid?

Another area diversity fails is within Canada’s well established apartheid system for its indigenous people. Yes, Trudeau recognizes that much needs to be done, and superficially talks well about the topic, but there is little progress being made to truly solve the issue.   

As long as apartheid legislation remains in force – the Indian Act of 1876 – with its “reservations” (How can “reservations”, generally small and on poor land that whites did not want, not be considered apartheid?) and separate laws for indigenous people (How can that not be considered apartheid?) little can be accomplished other than a treatment of symptoms but not of the underlying systemic problems.  

Fortunately the Canadian Supreme Court appears to be well ahead of the politicians on this and all cases going before the court have found support for indigenous rights and unceded land claims. The former would include the many treaties that have not been honoured, the many broken promises by the colonial-settler policies of earlier governments. The latter, unceded claims, pertains in particular to the province of British Columbia, where the majority of the land has never been subject to treaties and still can be considered to retain indigenous title.  

The solution is simple in its most drastic form: get rid of the Indian Act, give the indigenous people large swaths of their territory and resources back, compensation for that which cannot be returned, and allow them to govern themselves independently. Many will argue against compensation, but money in our modern computerized central bank zero interest monetary regime truly is ‘cheap’, it can be made to work to the benefit of our GDP – if perhaps not our corporations. Canada needs to negotiate with the independent nations with full respect for the Canadian Charter, the UN Charter of Rights and the UN Declaration of Rights of Indigenous People.

A truly diverse democratic state cannot exist while one group of people, the original inhabitants of the land, are subject to ongoing separate/apartheid laws and conditions.   

Bicentennial diversity

Fifty years from now, Canada will celebrate its bicentennial. I will not be around for it, but it will be interesting for those who are there to see if true progress has been made to fully recognize and do something about Canada’s diversity rather than talk about it at politically opportune moments.  

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Britain: Get Ready to Protest Donald Trump

July 4th, 2017 by Stop the War Coalition

Donald Trump is threatening to visit Britain on the quiet in the next few days.

His sneak visit here is as unwelcome as his proposed state visit. He has endorsed the right-wing fundamentalist regime in Saudi Arabia, dropped the “Mother of All Bombs” on Afghanistan, and the US-led coalition is responsible for many civilian deaths in Mosul. He is a threat to world peace and should be stopped. His travel ban on people from six Muslim countries only helps stoke racism. The protests earlier this year have forced him to arrive by stealth to avoid the opposition to him coming onto the streets.

We need to make sure that there are protests whenever and wherever he appears. Stand up to Trump is urging the biggest possible mobilisation at Downing Street or wherever he tries to visit. Keep checking our website or standuptotrump.uk for updates and start spreading the word.

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On Monday 26 June, the UN conference to negotiate a treaty banning nuclear weapons undertook the first read-through of a revised draft treaty text prepared by the conference president, Costa Rican ambassador Elayne Whyte. Now two weeks into this final round, many in the room expressed some frustration at this further exchange of positions and views. With the clock ticking towards the conference end and target date for adoption of an agreed treaty text on 7 July, many delegates expressed their desire to get stuck into negotiating treaty text, paragraph by paragraph, line by line.

Between Wednesday 28 and Friday 30 June, the negotiating work of the conference proceeded in earnest, with 3 and occasionally 4 separate working groups considering different treaty elements. Though these sessions were closed to civil society, the sense of urgency and commitment was palpable, with delegates meeting late into the night.

At 5 pm Friday, the conference reconvened in Conference Room 1 in open plenary session, to hear reports from the facilitators of each of the working groups on the progress made. One by one, the four facilitating diplomats described a highly positive atmosphere and the achievement of significant progress towards agreed proposed treaty language. When these texts became available a little while later in the evening, it was evident that substantial progress had indeed been made.

I for one felt a considerable sense of relief to see the revised texts, particularly in relation to the most challenging and technically complex area of the treaty, the provisions on national declarations of nuclear weapons related activities, safeguards on nuclear materials, and the pathways by which states which possess or control nuclear weapons could accede to the treaty (articles 2 – 5 in the 27 June draft treaty text). This cluster had the greatest evident potential to bog down the negotiations.

The revised provisions allow for both elimination of all nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons related facilities prior to a state joining the treaty (“destroy then join”); as well as states with nuclear weapons to join the treaty and then eliminate their nuclear weapons program, a “join and destroy” pathway. A number of gaps and loopholes in the previous versions of articles 2 to 5 of the President’s draft have been closed in this revised text, which also provides a greater level of consistency in the requirements of states joining the treaty, and greater internal consistency with the key prohibitions defined in article 1 of the treaty. The clarity, time-bound nature, verifiability and irreversibility embodied in these provisions have been strengthened.

They have been crafted to anticipate future developments in safeguards and verification regimes, and do not allow any state to claim that there is no pathway for them to join this treaty.

Core prohibitions – article 1

The group working on the essential core of the treaty, the prohibitions laid out in article 1, proposed the addition of “threaten to use” in addition to “use” of nuclear weapons as prohibited activities. With encouragement from ICAN, as well as support from the International Committee of the Red Cross, a number of states are advocating that a specific prohibition on engaging in military preparations to use nuclear weapons also be included in article 1.

This would be consistent with the approach taken in the Chemical Weapons Convention, which has been signed by 192 states, including all of those participating in this negotiating conference, and therefore can be expected to have no issue with the inclusion of a similar provision in this treaty. Such language would add clarity that policies and practices of nuclear deterrence, including extended nuclear deterrence, are incompatible with this treaty. Nuclear deterrence is the main justification touted for continued possession of nuclear weapons, including by states which claim to rely on the nuclear weapons of others, such as the 28 states of NATO, South Korea, Japan, and Australia.

While such policies and practices are clearly inconsistent with other provisions of article 1, including to “assist, encourage, or induce, in any way” prohibited activities, and the prohibition on use and threat of use, a clear statement that military preparations to use nuclear weapons are prohibited would strengthen the treaty.

The new draft text also proposes, rather than a specific clause prohibiting “any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion”—language reflecting the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty—that a more general prohibition on testing of nuclear weapons be added to provisions prohibiting states to “develop, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons.” This is positive, as in plain meaning, this broadens the prohibition on testing. (Apart from North Korea, all other nuclear-armed states currently use tests that do not involve nuclear explosions to develop and modernise their arsenals. These subcritical, hydrodynamic, laser and computer-based tests are not prohibited by the CTBT, even if it were to one day enter into force.)

The article 1 working group has yet to resolve the question of transit of nuclear weapons. Thus far, no specific mention of financing of nuclear weapons production is proposed in the prohibitions. Such an inclusion would advance treaty norms and provide further clarity for the prohibition to “assist, encourage, or induce in any way, anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a state party under this Treaty.”

Victim assistance, environmental remediation and international cooperation and assistance

In relation to the victim assistance and environmental remediation, and international cooperation and assistance provisions, the new draft text includes a number of positive changes. The qualification “in a position to do so” has been removed from the obligation of states parties to address the needs and rights of those affected by the use or testing of nuclear weapons. A provision that such assistance should be required “without discrimination” has been added. An obligation on states to undertake appropriate environmental remediation of areas contaminated by the testing or use of nuclear weapons has been added. The provisions for international cooperation and assistance to facilitate the implementation of the treaty have been strengthened. A contested issue remains whether the treaty should in some way recognise the special responsibility of the states that have used or tested nuclear weapons towards victim assistance and environmental remediation.

Institutional arrangements

In regard to institutional arrangements for the treaty, article 9 on meetings of States parties has been strengthened and simplified to specify more clearly a focus on measures for the “verified, time-bound and irreversible elimination of nuclear weapons programs, including additional protocols to this Treaty.”

The provision for relevant non-governmental organisations to be invited to attend meetings of states parties and review conferences of the treaty has been retained.

The number of state ratifications required for the treaty to enter into force has been increased from 40 to 50, a number that should still be readily achievable given the more than 120 states supporting the negotiating mandate for this conference and the more than 130 states participating in these negotiations.

A welcome addition is a specification that the Treaty shall be open for signature at the United Nations in New York at a date to be specified in the next few months.

The Arms Trade Treaty language on relations of this treaty with other agreements has been retained. Unlike the first draft, this proposed text appropriately does not subordinate this treaty to other international treaties and does not give priority to any particular other instrument.

Although the provisions for the unlimited duration of the treaty and the treaty not being subject to reservations, but needing to be accepted in toto by states which join, have been retained, it is disappointing that the proposed draft allows for states to withdraw from the treaty if “extraordinary events” “jeopardise the supreme interests of its country,” language that is at odds with a categorical, humanitarian-based prohibition, and the object and purpose of the treaty as laid out in the treaty’s preamble. While the notice period for withdrawal has been increased from 3 to 12 months, it would be far stronger and consistent with the treaty’s purpose and substance to specify that states cannot withdraw from the treaty. This is the case for a number of other important international treaties, such as the UN Charter itself and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Regrettable, too, is the lack of a provision establishing a secretariat to assist with the treaty’s implementation and promotion. This could however be agreed at a subsequent meeting of states parties, and it is pleasing that the specification of the first meeting of States parties to be convened within one year of the entry into force of the treaty has been retained.

Preamble, and something that doesn’t belong

As it sets the basis for the rest of the treaty, the text of the preamble had been largely agreed prior to Ambassador Whyte submitting her 27 June draft treaty text, and has not been the subject of further negotiations over the past week. From a planetary health viewpoint, it was strengthened in that draft. There is clear reference to the existential threat posed by nuclear weapons, with deep concern expressed about the “catastrophic humanitarian consequences” of any use of nuclear weapons; the “risks posed by the continued existence of nuclear weapons” concerning “the security of all humanity,” and posing “grave risks for human survival.” Impacts on the environment, socioeconomic development, the global economy, food security, and the health of current and future generations, as well as disproportionate impacts on women and girls are included. There is also reference to the clear medical evidence that “the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons cannot be adequately addressed.”

Perhaps the most regrettable aspect of the preamble is its repetition of a big mistake in the NPT, a so-called “inalienable right of its States Parties to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.” This repetition is unnecessary, and is legally potentially fraught repeated outside the context of the NPT’s safeguards provisions. Worse, its affirmation of the world’s most hazardous technology is wrong and counterproductive. Nuclear power spreads radioactive contamination at every stage; leads to creation of massive pre-positioned potential radiological weapons risking catastrophic accidents; is not needed; hinders transition to safe and sustainable energy solutions available now; generates a burden for future generations over geological time of large amounts of long-lived highly radioactive waste; and inextricably creates capacities to generate weapons-usable materials through uranium enrichment or extraction of plutonium from spent reactor fuel. It thus spreads the means for nuclear proliferation, increases the risk of nuclear war, and makes it harder and slower to achieve and sustain a world freed from nuclear weapons. This provision has no place in a treaty banning nuclear weapons, especially one based on humanitarian principles.

Conclusion

While up until the moment of adoption of the treaty it is possible that changes could be made, practically it can be expected that the new draft formulations will by and large see the light of day in the final text, which is likely to be concluded in close to its entirety by 6 July. A new revised text from the conference pesident will be presented in an open plenary at 5 pm on Monday 3 July. Hopefully, that will continue the strengthening of the draft treaty which the negotiations to date have produced, with strong encouragement from ICRC and civil society.

A treaty to comprehensively and categorically ban nuclear weapons is within our grasp, and should be in our hands in less than a week.

The revised texts discussed above can also be accessed at Reaching Critical Will.

Tilman Ruff is co-president of IPPNW and the founding co-chair of ICAN in Australia. He represents the federation on the ICAN International Steering Group.

Featured image from Ralf Schlesener for ICAN

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Featured image: Columbia River in Hanford Reach National Monument, Washington. (Photo via Department of Energy)

KENNEWICK, Wash. (CN) – Groundwater contaminated with radioactive waste from the decommissioned Hanford nuclear facility in Washington state is still “flowing freely” into the Columbia River, a program manager with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said at a meeting of the Hanford Advisory Board.

The announcement came as part of a five-year review of cleanup measures taken at the Superfund site. Officials with the EPA and the Department of Energy said at a meeting Wednesday that the review showed most of the cleanup actions at Hanford were properly “protective,” meaning the public was shielded from the worst of the site’s estimated 500 million gallons of potentially radioactive waste.

Radioactive sludge in shuttered reactors, contaminated soil in landfill sites and equipment that was once used to refine the uranium that fueled the nuclear bomb dropped on Nagasaki were all properly contained, according to the report.

But there was a glaring exception: groundwater contaminated with hexavalent chromium and strontium-90 was still flowing into the nearby Columbia River, according to a presentation from Mike Cline, director of the Department of Energy’s Soil & Groundwater Division.

“Contaminated in-area groundwater is still flowing freely into the Columbia,” EPA Project Manager Dennis Faulk told members of the board.

Source: Courthouse News Service

The stretch of river adjacent to the Hanford nuclear facility, called the Hanford Reach, was declared a national monument in 2000 by then-President Bill Clinton. That designation is now under threat from an executive order by President Donald Trump directing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review the status of 27 national monuments.

The agencies say they will build additional, stronger wells and a “permeable reactive barrier” to hold the toxic water. But the announcement came as the agency mulled major cuts to Hanford’s operating budget under Trump’s proposed budget plan.

Columbia River river deposits (Photo by Rich Steele via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

The EPA and the Department of Energy said the plan would mean cuts totaling $120 million at Hanford.

That worried officials, who said they are already struggling to keep up with cleanup under the current budget.

“We don’t have enough funding as it is to do the work that needs to be done,” said Randy Bradbury, spokesman for the Washington state Department of Ecology’s Hanford Nuclear Waste program. “So the cuts are very concerning.”

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Washington and Berlin on a Collision Course

July 4th, 2017 by Pepe Escobar

The Russia sanctions bill that passed the US Senate by 98:2 on June 15 is a bombshell; it directly demonizes the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, under the Baltic Sea, which is bound to double Gazprom’s energy capacity to supply gas to Europe.

The 9.5 billion euro pipeline is being financed by five companies; Germany’s Uniper and Wintershall; Austria’s OMV; France’s Engie; and Anglo-Dutch Shell. All these majors operate in Russia, and have, or will establish, pipeline contracts with Gazprom.

In a joint statement, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern stressed that,

“Europe’s energy supply is a matter for Europe, not the United States of America”; “instruments for political sanctions should not be tied to economic interests”; and the whole thing heralds a “new and very negative quality in European-American relations”.

An oil trader in the Gulf bluntly told me,

“the new sanctions against Russia basically amount to telling the EU to buy expensive US gas instead of cheap Russian gas. So the Germans and the Austrians basically told the Americans to buzz off.”

A top US intel source, Middle East-based and a dissident to the Beltway consensus, stresses how,

“the United States Senate by a nearly unanimous vote have decided to declare war on Russia (sanctions are war) and Germany has threatened retaliation against the United States if it initiates sanctions.

Germany accused the United States of trying to stop the Nord Stream 2 pipeline of Russia to the EU so that the US can export their liquid natural gas to the EU, making the EU dependent on the United States.”

But then, there’s a possible game-changing aftermath; “That would spell the end of NATO if a trade war between the EU and the United States takes place.”

The usual Brexiteer suspects obviously are falling like a ton of bricks over the “Molotov-Ribbentrop 2 pipeline” – another trademark expression of paranoia by Poland.

They are even demonizing Germany for daring to do business with Russia, “undermining the security and economic interests of Eastern and Central Europe” and – yes, roars of laughter are in order — undermining “American emotional backing for NATO.”

So much pent-up “emotion” even leads to a nasty accusation of betrayal; “We know which side Poland is on. Which side is Germany on?”

What’s really unforgivable though is that Nord Stream 2, in practice, buries for good failed state Ukraine’s $2 billion in revenue from pipeline fees.

File:Nordstream.png

Map of the proposed Nord Stream and connecting pipelines, 2009 (Source: Samuel Bailey / Wikimedia Commons)

Nord Stream 2 is opposed by all the usual suspects; Poland; the Baltic states; Washington; but also the Nordic states. The top official argument is that it “harms EU energy security”. That in itself embeds a massive joke, as the EU has been harming itself in interminable “energy security” discussions in Brussels for over a decade.

Lucrative creative destruction, anyone?

Analyst Peter G. Spengler qualifies the US Senate bill as a

“declared, but not yet executed act of warfare, an act of (sanctions) war against Germany and Austria directly, possible recipients within the EU indirectly.”

Spengler draws attention to the reminder of the FRG/USSR Agreement on Economic Cooperation of 1978 with a 25 years duration 1978 Agreement of Economic Cooperation between the then Federal Republic of Germany and the USSR, designed to last for 25 years; “This agreement together with all the foregoing treaties between West Germany and the Soviet Union were the basis on which [Helmut] Kohl could build his ‘Haus Europa’ with the Soviet Union/Russia from the summer of 1989 in Bonn onwards.”

Crucially, this agreement also included a gas transportation triangle between Moscow, Teheran and Bonn, and was “fiercely but completely clandestinely embattled by the Carter administration, among so many silent wars against the Federal Republic of Germany  in those years.”

And guess who was trying to sabotage the agreement 24/7; recently deceased Polish “Grand Chessboarder” Zbigniew Brzezinski.

So nothing much changed since the late 1970s; Washington demonizing both Tehran and Moscow. The section of the US Senate bill related to Russia is some sort of after thought to yet another hardcore package against Iran, the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act (which includes the Russia sanctions.)

It’s not an accident that the US Senate sanctions bill targets energy; this is a sub-product of a fierce energy war. But what is the US Senate really up to? Call it creative (lucrative) destruction.

Espoo Public Hearing to Discuss Nord Stream 2 Project Held in Kingisepp, Russia

On 30 June 2017 the public hearing to address the documentation on the assessment of potential transboundary environmental impacts of the Nord Stream 2 project was held in Kingisepp, Russia. (Source: Nord Stream 2)

The US Senate is convinced that Nord Stream 2 “would compete with US exports of liquefied natural gas to Europe”. Thus the US government “should prioritize the export of United States energy resources in order to create American jobs, help United States allies and partners, and strengthen United States foreign policy”.

Yet this has absolutely nothing to do with helping “allies and partners”; it’s rather a case of US energy majors getting a little help from their friends/puppets in the Senate. It’s in the public domain how US energy majors donated over $50 million in 2015/2016 to get these people elected.

Watch those Hamburg fireworks

Compared to the US Senate, the role of the European Commission (EC) in the saga remained somewhat murky, until it became clear it will interfere via a “mandate”. This “mandate” will have to be approved by a “reinforced qualified majority” vote by member states, a higher than usual threshold of 72 percent of EU states representing 65 per cent of the population.

Spengler observes how,

“the commission’s continued attempts to get a legal foot in the contracts between European companies and Gazprom would be much more detrimental and potentially efficient than even a President’s signing of the Senate (and House) sanctions law.”

So where will this all lead? Arguably towards an extremely messy clash “between the European Commission/Court of Justice and German/Austrian (plus Russian) jurisdiction.”

The Senate bill will have to be backed by a veto-proof majority in the House; that vote won’t happen before the G-20 in Hamburg. Then it would become law – assuming President Trump won’t squash it.

The key, “nuclear” issue is a non-mandatory clause for the US Treasury to sanction those five Western firms involved in Nord Stream 2. If the law is approved, the White House better ignore it. Otherwise Germany, Austria and France will definitely interpret it as a declaration of war.

Trump and Chancellor Angela Merkel will definitely be on a collision course at the G-20, with Merkel emphasizing discussions on climate change, refugees and no trade protectionism, much to Trump’s disgust. The Russia sanctions bill just adds to the unholy mess. Expect a lot of fireworks “celebrating” those bilaterals in Hamburg.

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