Egypt’s purported military deployment to Eritrea is threatening to spark a multinational conflagration in the powder keg Horn of Africa region.

This part of the world has always been tense and at risk of war, especially in the past few years ever since Ethiopia began constructing the Grand Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile River. The Horn of Africa became a zone of competition in the “Gulf Cold War” following the GCC and Egypt’s campaign against Qatar last year, and it’s this combination of water wars and proxy wars that makes the region so volatile. The latest developments concern Egypt’s purported dispatch of troops to the western Eritrean base of Sawa near the Sudanese border, which in turn prompted Khartoum to recall its ambassador from Cairo, officially declare a “potential security threat from Egypt and Eritrea” in the area, and fortify the frontier.

Egypt and Eritrea both deny that any troops were sent to Sawa, but some reports indicate that this move was actually in response to Turkey clinching a deal to develop the Sudanese island of Suakin near Port Sudan late last year which some observers suspect to be a front for secretly building a naval base in the Red Sea. Ankara and Cairo have been at odds with one another ever since President Sisi’s 2013 coup against pro-Turkish Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi and President Erdogan’s apparent sponsorship of this same organization that’s banned in Egypt and most of the GCC states. Both parties evidently have interests in the Horn of Africa and now seem to be countering one another in this strategic space.

Greater Horn of Africa map

Greater Horn of Africa map (Source: author)

President Erdogan’s visit to Khartoum late last year was recently followed by Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki’s trip to Cairo last week where he met with his Egyptian counterpart and both leaders pledged to “support the security and stability in the region”, hinting that the rumors about the development of fast-moving military ties between the two allies in the War on Yemen might actually be true. If so, then this would be a very destabilizing event because of Eritrea’s history of supporting armed militants in the surrounding states, including the Al Shabaab terrorist group that resulted in the country’s ongoing sanctioning by the UNSC since 2009.

 

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir told his Russian counterpart in late November that the US wants to divide his country into five parts, and it appears as though he’s now convinced that Eritrea is tasked with executing this scenario just like it’s already trying to do against Ethiopia. Egypt, which has a serious bone to pick with Ethiopia over the Grand Renaissance Dam and is presently experiencing very strained relations with Sudan over this issue and Khartoum’s port deal with Ankara, likely sees a strategic opportunity to “kill three birds with one stone” by destabilizing its two regional rivals while establishing a military patronage relationship with an envisioned client state crucially located at the mouth of the Bab el Mandab chokepoint.

Egypt and Eritrea are now aligning against Ethiopia and Sudan, with Saudi Arabia and the UAE supporting the former pair while Qatar and Turkey back the latter one. China has a naval base in nearby Djibouti while Russia was offered one in Port Sudan, so both multipolar Great Powers have a stake in the peaceful outcome of this developing crisis and could potentially help mediate a solution to it just like how Beijing suggested it could do last summer between Eritrea and Djibouti.

The post presented is the partial transcript of the CONTEXT COUNTDOWN radio program on Sputnik News, aired on Friday Jan 19, 2018:

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

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Why this title? – Because Greece doesn’t have to continue playing the card of the victim, nor being masochist. Greece seems to suffer under the Stockholm Syndrome – she is in love with her hangman. Greece could change this. Exit the prison, exit the EU and exit the euro. Greece could return to her sovereign national currency, her own sovereign central bank, make her own monetary policy and implement it with a sovereign public banking system that works solely for the Greek economy. Within less than 10 years Greece would have recovered and would even be able to pay back some of her illegally begotten debt.

Although, here it must be added, according to international law, most of Greece’s debt was imposed by the troika under illegal circumstances. It’s also called “odious debt”, the description of which reads “In international law, odious debt, also known as illegitimate debt, is a legal doctrine that holds that the national debt incurred by a regime for purposes that do not serve the best interest of the nation, should not be enforceable. Such debts are, thus, considered by this doctrine to be personal debts of the regime that incurred them and not debts of the state.” This doctrine is complemented by a similar one inscribed in the charter of the IMF that says that the IMF shall not make any loans to a country in distress, that will unlikely be able to reimbursed the debt and pay the debt service.

There is not a day that goes by without Greece making the headlines as being abused by the troika (IMF, European Central Bank – ECB and the unelected European Commission – EC) and by the Germans. Here are three of the latest examples, but there are many more – “Destroying Greek, Plundering Greece. The Latest Update” (by Leonidas Vatikiotis); “Austerity: Public Hospital Halts Chemotherapy, turns away Cancer Patients, because ‘Budget Exceeded’”; and “Greece Crisis: Cancer Patients Suffer as Health System Fails” (Giorgos Christides).

Already years ago, The Lancet reported an increase in Greek suicide rates and child mortality. The misery is indeed real and mounting every day. The western imposed atrocities also abound on a daily basis. Salary cuts – and at least five pensions reductions since 2010, an almost completely dismantled social safety net. Those who depend on it are generally poor. More than 4 million people out of a population of 11 million live at or under the poverty line; 15% live in absolute and abject poverty. About 28% of children live in absolute poverty, meaning malnutrition and diseases, stunting growth and brain development. At least a generation of Greek may be in part intellectually challenged, possibly implying health hazards and restricting economic development over the next 20-some years. Unemployment is hovering around 25% – 30%, with close to 50% for youth (18-35 years). The outlook is grim and promises to become even grimmer.

Public hospitals and schools are either privatized or closed because of lack of budget. Medication is scarce, as part of imposed import restrictions, imposed by Greece’s lovely European neighbors and allies or overseas masters. Specialized and expensive medication, for example cancer medicine, are especially scarce. People die from flu, from colds, from pneumonia – even intestinal diseases that could normally be healed as a matter of routine, but there are not enough antibiotics available. Austerity – budget cuts. Thanks to the brothers from Europe – and again their masters form overseas.

Greece has absolutely no control over her budget anymore. She had to sign this responsibility over to Brussels for what? – another ‘rescue package’ – what else. In September 2016, the Greek Parliament had to approve hurriedly, in less than a week’s time, a 2000-page text of legislation, drafted by Brussels in English, unreadable in this short time for most of the Greek Parliamentarians, with which the Greek Parliament signed away not only all of the publicly owned enterprises and infrastructure to the “European Stability Mechanism” (ESM) for 99 years, during which period all of it may be offered to fire sale prices for privatization, or outright demolition; but, as if this was not enough, the Parliament also signed away its sovereign authority over the Greek budget to Brussels.

Can you imagine? This in the 21st Century. It has not happened since in 1933 the Bundestag, the German Parliament, signed over all decision-making power to the “Führer” – Mr. Adolf Hitler. This is outright EU imposed fascism. The world watches silently – and in full complicity – the literal dismantling of a sovereign country, with the esclavisation and impoverishment of the population that goes with it.

This, though, is not news. It’s rather well-known. It has been written about umpteen times, by umpteen journalists and writers, to greater or lesser extent criticizing the troika, the Greek government, the EC / IMF / BCE imposed austerity, as all three know very well that austerity does not work, nowhere. Never did.

So, why repeat it here, in yet another article? – Because it must be said again and again, and repeated ever so often, until the Greek governing body listens. Greece could stop this bloodletting and misery for the majority of her people almost instantly – by quitting the euro, and by quitting the European Union. She would not be left alone. Acts of Solidarity would come from Asia, Latin America and even Africa. Such offers were already made in 2014 and 2015. But they were not heeded, since the Greek elite wants to part of the EU elite, rubbing elbows, being part of this nefarious club. Many pictures, too many, have been circulating of Mr. Tsipras and his buddies laughing and cajoling with the Lagarde’s and the Junker’s of this world.

Greece could have exited the EU and Eurozone from day one – with the first rescue package in 2010. But she didn’t, for whatever reason. Maybe personal threats to the Tsipras family and Government and / or the “left-wing” Syriza party? – We don’t know, but all is possible in a western civilization where opponents of the Master hegemon in Washington and his dark handlers, are simply assassinated. John Perkins, explains clearly how this works in his bestseller “Confessions of an Economic Hitman”.

But what about integrity of the leaders, of the party, their obligation to the Greek people? Integrity and support foremost to the average Greek, not the Greek elite which way before the troika-Germany onslaught, transferred billions of their euro holdings to Switzerland and other western safe havens. The Tsipras Government’s duty to the vast majority of Greek, who have to survive from their daily work and miserable pensions, has been betrayed. For these people integrity would have called for quitting the Eurozone and the EU.

Why holding on to a European Union that only despises Greece by its non-action, by watching passively over the destruction of their brother? There are no trustworthy allies in the EU. They are all beholden to Brussels and to Washington. There are only greedy enemies. Greece has been singled out as an example for worse to come. Other mostly southern EU countries that were given the insulting name, PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain), would be treated equally, i.e. sucked into oblivion – if they would dare to resist the systematic milking by the western financial system.

This EU – euro system cannot be reformed. And since abolishment or the simple collapse which is clearly written on the wall, is being extended at all cost, including the blood and lives of the Greek population, there is only ONE WAY for Greece to safe itself – LEAVE THE EURO – LEAVE THE EU.

Greece’s debt today (January 2018) is € 320.2 billion, or 190.4% of GDP (€ 168.2 billion) – and steadily mounting – with an annual interest of € 17.6 billion, increasing at the rate of € 557 per second (€ 48.1 million per day) – See the Greek Debt Clock. So, there is no relief in sight, no matter what western pundits and the IMF are saying. All lies, as is usual in the western world. Greece will never get out of her mountain of debt, while being a member of the euro-zone and the EU.

Greece – wake up, you have the opportunity to walk out of the EU and save the lives of more than half of your population, who are at risk of famine and deadly diseases – Mr. Tsipras and Co. no matter what lengthy theories and economic projections the elite economists who want to save their billions of euros hidden in safe havens, will present to you – it is your duty, your civil obligation as an elected official, elected by the people, to honor the people’s lively interests and to exit this horrendous repressive and abusive club, called European Union.

Greece – you must regain your sovereignty.

Leaving the EU and the euro does not mean you are leaving Europe. Greece, as every pupil knows, is geographically anchored in Europe. Greece is one of the most dramatically beautiful southern European countries and will continue to be visited by millions of tourists from around the world, and naturally from Europe. Other nations will want to trade and deal with Greece and her charming, friendly and smiling people. Friendliness and beauty is one of the key trademarks of Greece. Greece will gain even more respect for standing up for herself.

It’s late – but never too late. Take back your local autonomous currency, take control of your economy through local public banking with low or no interests to stimulate yours – the Greek economy – not the German, not the European economy, but the Greek national economy. Within less than 10 years Greece would have recovered from the current depression. Others have done it, like Argentina, or even Germany, especially after WWII. You will not be left alone. Support, if needed, will be there, particularly from the East, from where the future is. Think of China’s One Belt Initiative (OBI) – which already is linked up with Greece through the Greek port of Piraeus. OBI is a multi-trillion-euro economic development program that will encompass China, Russia, Eurasia, eventually all the way to the western rim of Europe, securing jobs, scientific and cultural development, transcontinental land-and sea transport, trading and more – over the next few hundred years. The west is gone; passé. It’s greed and war-driven economy is slowly but surely committing suicide.

If Greece is not seizing this last-ditch opportunity to exit the euro and to exit the EU, to literally safe her people’s skin, one might legitimately ask, has Greece become a convenient victim, subservient to its own elite and the Brussels-Washington masters, or is she simply masochistically enjoying her misery, borne, incidentally, by 80% of her population?

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Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a former World Bank staff and worked extensively around the world in the fields of environment and water resources. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for Global Research, ICH, RT, Sputnik, PressTV, The 21st Century (China), TeleSUR, The Vineyard of The Saker Blog, and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. He is also a co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance

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It is exactly as I told you. Russiagate is a conspiracy between the FBI, the DOJ, and the Hillary campaign to overturn Donald Trump’s election. We have treason committed at the highest levels of the FBI and Department of Justice and the Democratic National Committee.

If you believed one word of Russiagate, you now must laugh or cry at your incredible gullibility.

This scandal should also bring down the presstitute media who have done the dirty work for the conspiracy against Trump.

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This article was originally published by Paul Craig Roberts Institute for Political Economy.

Featured image is from The Duran.

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“My guess is the elites letting Team Trump rig the election with faith based voting machines and blocking minorities from voting means the fracking crash is going to happen faster than our rulers expected, he will be able to implement nastiness in response and take the blame for the economic impact.”  – Mark Robinowitz [1]

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As these words go to publication, millions are expected to take to the streets in centres across the United States, Canada and around the world, all in demonstrations timed with the anniversary of President Trump’s inauguration.

The thrust of the Womens’ March on Washington and its various affiliates is getting more women involved in electoral politics and ratcheting up the voter-turn-out as the mid-term Congressional elections approach.

Healing social divides, most notably around gender, sexual orientation, race, and immigration seem to be the defining issues motivating citizens to action. Interestingly, there seems to be less attention paid to urgent human security concerns related to military interventions, surveillance culture, and economic upheaval.

By and large, elected representatives are prisoners to other forces entrenched in society. In particular, the various corporate lobbies, or ‘special interests’ arguably have much more of an influence on decision-making than the gender of the politician in question. Further, an advanced technological civilization has basic material requirements in terms of energy and resources that need to be met to secure the prosperity of society members at all levels.

Analysts like Peter Dale Scott invoke the concept of the ‘Deep State’ as a way of referring to a permanent governing infrastructure behind the scenes that attends to these fundamental building blocks of society. The approach, at least in the U.S., typically involves forms of violence against the vulnerable including military expansionism, covert activities, and theft.

If elites are able to finance and manipulate election campaigns and election results in their favour, then what are the economic and other considerations in the background prompting the election of Trump and directing his policies in the future? That is the subject of this week’s Global Research News Hour radio program.

We first hear from J. David Hughes, author of two reports on shale oil and gas plays in the U.S. released in December 2016. He is convinced that the Energy Information Administration is overly optimistic about the energy picture of the U.S. and that a near-future short-fall of domestic supply could have damaging long term implications for America’s ‘energy independence.’ This interview was originally conducted a year ago.

Next we speak to commentator and past guest Mark Robinowitz. Robinowitz maintains that Trump was installed a year ago in order to take the fall for an inevitable economic collapse and to introduce unpopular military and other measures which would likely be continued under a future president, Democratic or Republican, male or female.

Robinowitz updates us on his thinking, elaborating on who exactly comprises the different factions within the U.S. ‘Deep State’.

J. David Hughes is an earth scientist who has studied the energy resources of Canada for four decades, including 32 years with the Geological Survey of Canada as a scientist and research manager. He is also a fellow with the Post Carbon Institute.

Mark Robinowitz is a writer, political activist, ecological campaigner and permaculture practitioner and publisher of oilempire.us as well as jfkmoon.org. He is based in Eugene, Oregon.

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The Global Research News Hour airs every Friday at 1pm CT on CKUW 95.9FM in Winnipeg. The programme is also podcast at globalresearch.ca . The show can be heard on the Progressive Radio Network at prn.fm. Listen in everyThursday at 6pm ET.

Community Radio Stations carrying the Global Research News Hour:

CHLY 101.7fm in Nanaimo, B.C – Thursdays at 1pm PT

Boston College Radio WZBC 90.3FM NEWTONS  during the Truth and Justice Radio Programming slot -Sundays at 7am ET.

Port Perry Radio in Port Perry, Ontario –1  Thursdays at 1pm ET

Burnaby Radio Station CJSF out of Simon Fraser University. 90.1FM to most of Greater Vancouver, from Langley to Point Grey and from the North Shore to the US Border.

It is also available on 93.9 FM cable in the communities of SFU, Burnaby, New Westminister, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Surrey and Delta, in British Columbia, Canada. – Tune in  at its new time – Wednesdays at 4pm PT.

Radio station CFUV 101.9FM based at the University of Victoria airs the Global Research News Hour every Sunday from 7 to 8am PT.

CORTES COMMUNITY RADIO CKTZ  89.5 out of Manson’s Landing, B.C airs the show Tuesday mornings at 10am Pacific time.

Cowichan Valley Community Radio CICV 98.7 FM serving the Cowichan Lake area of Vancouver Island, BC airs the program Thursdays at 6am pacific time.

Campus and community radio CFMH 107.3fm in  Saint John, N.B. airs the Global Research News Hour Fridays at 10am.

Caper Radio CJBU 107.3FM in Sydney, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia airs the Global Research News Hour starting Wednesday Morning from 8:00 to 9:00am. Find more details at www.caperradio.ca

RIOT RADIO, the visual radio station based out of Durham College in Oshawa, Ontario has begun airing the Global Research News Hour on an occasional basis. Tune in at dcstudentsinc.ca/services/riot-radio/

Notes:

  1. http://oilempire.us/trump.html#p7EPMc1_1

Complex Power Play in Libya

January 20th, 2018 by Richard Galustian

The fighting around the vicinity of Tripoli’s Mitiga airport continues with the airport still closed, in flames.

As previously reported, seasoned US State Department man, Jeffery Feltman, now with the UN, recently visited Libya followed on the heels of the French Foreign Minister Le Drain, to persuade all parties to adhere the the LPA agreement – an impossibility.

The GNA Government and post of Prime Minister for Fayez Serraj was ‘created’ by the UN in December 2015, enough time, you would think, to get a grip on at least the capital.

But further information has come to light that the continuing attack on the Prison located in the grounds of Mitiga Airport, that started last week, has additional objectives. They were designed, not only to free Islamic extremists like AQ and ISIS members held in the prison run by Abder Raouf Kara’s RADA force. But also reports did not reveal that the attacking militias had belonged, until then, to the forces loyal to the government appointed by the UN, of Fayez Serraj but, and here is the real kicker, they were also, and still are, close allies of former ‘rogue’ Islamic extremist Prime Minister Khalifa al Ghwell and radical religious Grand Mufti al Ghariani based in Tripoli still (sometimes Misrata too!). These two gentlemen are seeking to destabilise the UN’s PM Fayez Serraj any way they can.

This is Matiga Airport before the attack (Source: author)

As a consequence, Serraj reached out to eastern Libya strong man, Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar, which, if he agrees to become involved, could have the effect of isolating even destroying the Mitiga attacking militias and their radical allies both in Tripoli and in Misrata.

Initially the RADA militia force countered the attack with assistance from 10 or so other militias ‘loyal’ (paid mercenaries in effect) to the UN Libyan appointed government, including those led by a key militia player, Haitem Tajouri. They were assisted by an American reconnaissance aircraft based in Pantelleria, which flew over Tripoli while fighting started last Monday. Begs the question why they didn’t mobilise aircraft from Pantelleria when Ambassador Stevens was being attacked in Benghazi, but that’s another story.

Its worth for a moment to discuss this Base. Though the international airport in Malta is used by Italian, British, French and US aircraft of varying types to undertake surveillance operations in particularly in Libya’s Gulf of Sirte, the most mysterious position, used by mainly US intelligence forces to watch over the Tunisian and Libyan skies, remains at Pantelleria.

This small Italian island, under 60 km off the coast of Klibia in Tunisia, has become a busy airfield for ‘private’ air intelligence companies, who rent aircraft not only to the US but also to other countries like France, Italy and the EU.

Meanwhile Russian officials are rumoured to want to construct a military base near Tobruk, but Russia is anyhow at the moment increasingly active in its support for Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar. Russian military intelligence officers are in Tobruk and Benghazi and Russian Special Forces are said to be giving close support to some of Haftar’s elite units.

But Russia’s political involvement in Libya is even more important than its military one. The meeting in mid-December in Moscow between Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and Bechir Saleh, Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s former chief of staff, purpose was to develop tribal contacts overall in Libya but, above all, in the southern Fezzan region, where Saleh still has especially good contacts with the tribes.

Moscow in turn also has contacts in Tripoli and Misrata via the very effective Chechen connection. Russian-Libyan contact group chairman Lev Dengov, who is also a special adviser to Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, keeps regular contact with Haftar’s opposition factions in Tripoli and Misrata.

The complex super power Libyan game between the West, in the form of the US, UN, EU & NATO, continues with opposing equal intrigue from the Russians.

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Gallup surveyed in 134 countries in 2017, and on January 18th reported that:

Median approval of U.S. leadership across the 134 countries surveyed in 2017 reached 30%, the lowest point since Gallup began tracking this measure annually in 2007. Disapproval of U.S. leadership increased almost as much as approval declined. The 43% median disapproval, up 15 points from the previous year, was a new record as well, not only for the U.S. but for any other major global power [there were three others — Germany, Russia, and China — that] Gallup asked [this question] about in the past decade.

The map showing country-by-country results indicates declining approval of U.S. leadership in all countries in the Western Hemisphere, except no change in Jamaica and Trinidad-&-Tobago. There were 9% decline of approval of America’s leadership in Venezuela, and declines ranging from 14% to 40% in all other countries throughout the Western Hemisphere. The biggest decline in the Hemisphere, 40%, occurred in Canada.

In Europe, there were declines in all countries except improvements (increased approval) in Macedonia 15%, Belarus 11%, Poland 8%, Slovakia and Montenegro 7%, Russia 6%, and Ukraine 4%. The biggest change was the 42% decline in approval of U.S. leadership in Norway, but close behind that was the 38% decline in Netherlands. Norway, Canada and Netherlands exhibited the biggest of all the declines in approval of U.S. leadership, among all the 134 nations surveyed.

In Asia (including some Middle Eastern countries), there were increases only in Israel 14%, Iraq 9%, Lebanon and Azerbaijan 7%, Nepal 6%, Kazakhstan 5%, Mongolia 4%, Uzbekistan 2%, and Tajikistan and Palestine 1%.

Africans seem to be the most pleased of all peoples with the change from Obama to Trump. There were approval-increases by 17% in Liberia, 8% in Mauritius and Benin, 7% in Ethiopia, 6% in Sierra Leone, 5% in Ghana, 4% in Chad and Algeria, 2% in South Sudan, and 1% in Nigeria and Zambia and Morocco. The biggest decline in approval was 17% in Tanzania. Egypt and Saudi Arabia weren’t included among the 134 sampled countries. 

Here were the results Gallup reported regarding the leadership in the three other countries: China, Russia, and Germany.

In 2017, globally among the 134 countries, 41% approved of the leadership in Germany. 31% approved of the leadership in China. 30% approved of the leadership in U.S., and 27% approved of the leadership in Russia. The figure regarding Russia had reached its all-time low of 22% in 2014, due to U.S. propaganda for U.S. President Barack Obama’s coup in Ukraine ending democracy there in February 2014 (it was portrayed instead as a ‘revolution’ in Ukraine, which ‘had a mostly democratic and liberal character’), and propaganda against Russia’s response to that U.S. coup, which coup had actually instituted fascism and even outright nazism in Ukraine, though Ukraine’s new leaders were lionized by the U.S. Congress as heros of democracy. Even outright nazis from the new government were honored by Western legislatures. During that same year, 2014, when America pulled off its bloody coup in Ukraine, America’s leadership was globally approved by 45%. In that year, Germany’s leadership was approved by 41%. China’s leadership was approved by 29%. And, as mentioned, Russia’s approval was 22% — half of America’s. Now that Trump has become the U.S. President, that U.S./Russia ratio has declined from 45%/22% in 2014, to 30%/27% — from around two-to-one in America’s favor, to near equality between the two nations’ leaderships’ global approval. Whereas Obama had fooled the world to think that he’s a decent person, Trump doesn’t seem even to care much about what the world-at-large thinks of him.

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

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How the Establishment Undermines American Democracy

January 20th, 2018 by Philip Giraldi

There is a growing consensus among many observers in Washington that the national security agencies have become completely politicized over the past seventeen years and are now pursuing selfish agendas that actually endanger what remains of American democracy. Up until recently it has been habitual to refer to such activity as the Deep State, which is perhaps equivalent to the Establishment in that it includes financial services, the media, major foundations and constituencies, as well as lobbying groups, but we are now witnessing an evolutionary process in which the national security regime is exercising power independently.

In a devastating critique former Central Intelligence Agency operations officer John Kiriakou has described how the Democratic Party, as part of its frenzied effort to bring down President Donald Trump, has embraced a whole group of former intelligence and law enforcement officers who appear to be on the same side in seeking a more responsible and accountable executive branch but who are in reality pursuing their own agenda.

Formerly intelligence and law enforcement agencies acted under the direction of the White House but without any political bias. Transitions from Democratic to Republican administrations were consequently seamless for the employees of CIA, FBI, DIA and the NSA, but this has changed. In the 2016 election a line-up of retired senior officers from those organizations openly supported the Clinton campaign and even went so far as to construct elaborate conspiracy theories regarding Trump and his associates, including the claim that Donald Trump is actually an agent of Russia.

The desire to discredit and ultimately delegitimize Trump even involved some active duty senior officers, including John Brennan, Director of CIA, who exploited Agency relationships with foreign intelligence services to develop information on Trump, and James Comey of the FBI who initiated an investigation of Trump’s associates. Both were involved in the later surfacing of the notorious Steele Dossier, a collection of fact mixed with fiction that sought to destroy the Trump presidency even before it began.

Kiriakou cites recent activity by Brennan as well as former NSA and CIA head Michael Hayden as well as former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, all of whom have been politically active. The three men appear frequently on television as self-described “senior statesmen,” but, as Kiriakou observes they are “…monsters who have ignored the Constitution…and international law. They have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.” They together with lesser figures like George Tenet, Jose Rodriguez, Michael Morell and John McLaughlin authorized technical spying on nearly everyone, torture, rendition of suspects so they could be tortured by others, random killing of “profiled” foreigners and targeted killing of American citizens. Brennan was in charge of a “kill list” for President Barack Obama.

Former Reagan Assistant Treasury Secretary Paul Craig Roberts meanwhile asks why liberal international organizations like Amnesty International are fundraising to oppose Trump when the real threat to a better and safer world and country is coming from the largely unaccountable “security agencies, the police, the neoconservatives, the presstitute media and the Republican and Democratic Parties?”

Antiwar activist Justin Raimondo also picks up the gauntlet, describing how the national security agencies and the Democratic Party have joined forces to create a totally false narrative that could lead to nuclear war. They and the media appear to truly believe that

“…the country has been taken over by Vladimir Putin and the Russian State…Trump is an instrument in their hands, and the independence of the United States has been fatally compromised: the president and his top aides are taking their orders from the Kremlin.”

He concludes that

“Our intelligence agencies are at war with the executive branch of government…to reverse the [2016] election results.”

Raimondo believes that Trump is being particularly targeted because his unpredictability and populism threaten the wealth and power of the elites and he notes

“If you think they’ve ruled out assassination you’re being naïve.”

Raimondo believes that something like a civil war is coming, with the war party Establishment fighting to defend its privileged global order while many other Americans seek a return to normal nationhood with all that implies. If true, the next few years will see a major internal conflict that will determine what kind of country the United States will be.

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Philip Giraldi, Ph.D. is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest.

Featured image is from the author.

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The Mask of Deception: Corporations vs. Civil Society

January 20th, 2018 by Graham Vanbergen

In the United States, corporations have effectively highjacked civil society by marinating the non-profits in money. Combined with $1billion spent on out of control lobbying each year, citizens have almost no protection from predatory corporate practices. The same scene is set to emerge in post Brexit Britain, where the disintegration of public interest regulation with what amounts to a corporate coup d’état will be executed with similar precision.

Leading civil rights groups are now heavily bankrolled by corporations in an unlikely partnership that aims to kill real evidenced or fact based information in areas of public interest such as climate change and health.

Chris Hedges, the Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist and Princeton Professor, makes some stunning conclusions from his interview with Russell Mokhiber, editor of Corporate Crime Reporter on his show ‘On Contact‘ at RT.com.

For instance, the American Heart Association accepts large donations from the beef industry and corporations like Dominoes Pizza. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) which claims as its mission statement: “we lead the fight against the deadly consequences of diabetes and fight for those affected by diabetes” is underwritten by by Coca-Cola, Cadbury-Schweppes, Hershey’s Chocolate and Oscar Meyer processed meats – that specialises in the manufacture of hot dogs, sausages and bacon. It is clear what the strategy was. The ADA wouldn’t come out against these companies for what they produce and how they peddle it, instead focusing on calories consumed and lack of exercise as the problem, as if all of the misleading advertising, especially to kids, doesn’t have an impact.

Another example is the Sierra Club –  an environmental organisation in the United States that was founded in 1892, in San Francisco, California, by the Scottish-American preservationist John Muir. It’s advertising line is “Explore, enjoy and protect the planet.” It is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organisation with three million members and supporters. The RT interview goes on to say that the fracking industry donated $25 million to the Sierra Club, who does not openly disclose who their corporate donors are. Why would the fracking industry with its well known environment destroying practices invest that much money in the biggest mouthpiece of environmental activism?

In the meantime, the animal industry such as beef farmers and processed meat manufacturers have all but completely silenced the food/health civil society non-profits of America that were acting in the public interest, through their donations and sponsorships. According to Open Secrets, last year, agribusiness spent an eye-watering $128 million on lobbying government alone.

Even the World Wildlife Fund gets sponsorship from the meat industry. It notched up $13million in one year and due to public criticism it no longer discloses who or how much it now gets from such corporate donors. Indeed, the revelation of this news was actually (pandaleaks) banned in Britain as WWF took out injunctions to stop publication of its awkward revenue stream.

And the real revelation here is that under a law called the ‘Patriot Act’ of 2001, which has been updated several times in the US, it now classifies the publishing of information that could damage the profits of the meat industry an act of terrorism.

To all intents, public interest and consumer groups across America now represent an arm of the corporate public relations and lobbying businesses.  Other nefarious examples of public information manipulation include climate denial non-profits disguised to look like activism and campaigning but who are actually funded by the fossil fuel industry.

The clear purpose of corporate donations is to increase budget spending for the non-profit and then threaten to withdraw it if it speaks against the donor industry or organisation.

Is this a problem in the UK?

Transparency International, founded in 1993 are based in Berlin, Germany. Its nonprofit purpose is to take action to combat corruption and prevent criminal activities arising from corruption all over the world. They have over 100 affiliate countries. The US branch was closed down this year because it was found that the board of directors in the US office were dominated by lawyers from big corporations who were defending them against corruption lawsuits.

According to Hedges, the Transparency International head office in Berlin has also been implicated in its own scandal of accepting money from corporations convicted of bribery.

The London office whose bankers are HSBC, get donations from the likes of Shell BV and GlaxoSmithKline with other investors in the business forum via a ‘Premium Membership’ costing up to £20,000 each that includes Barclays plc, Lloyds Bank and RBS. Others included (either now or previously) are British American Tobacco (BAT) and Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC).  BAT ended up suing PwC for $1billion for its involvement in the promotion of tax avoidance “on an industrial scale.” PwC’s accountants  were also involved in the Tesco scandal – after a whistleblower at the supermarket revealed profits had been over-inflated for years.

The long list of criminality conducted by the likes of RBS, Lloyds Banking Group and HSBC are now legendary and needs no explanation.

Perhaps it should not be of much a surprise to learn that a significant donor to Berlin based TI is, or was, Britain’s Dept for International Development. One scandal of many involving the DfID was giving money to the government of Tanzania, whose officials then siphoned off over $122million facilitated by ‘foreign (British) bankers’ which then found itself in safe (British) offshore tax havens. In addition, Global Witness has stated that the

DfID currently spends around £150 million [$184 million] in aid contributions [annually] in Democratic Republic of Congo, yet $1.36 billion in mining revenues were lost via British tax havens and London-listed companies.”

Full Fact the fact-checking charity in the UK is developing a system of live politically based fact-checking with $500,000 (£380,000) of funding from charitable foundations backed by two billionaires: one being the the Hungarian-born investor George Soros. Full Fact are also backed with donations from GoogleFacebook, and City of London Corporation – who between them have a long list of fines for corruption, bribery and/or illegal practices. The City of London Corporation in the ‘square mile’, described as London’s ‘Rotten Borough‘ facilitates some of the biggest financial crimes the world has ever witnessed.

Soros was fined in 2002 by the French government for insider trading and in 2008 for stock manipulation,  was fined $2.5million in 2010 for attempting it to bring down a European bank. US based newspaper The Daily Caller accused a Soros-funded militant group to be present at the recent G20 Protests in Hamberg with financial sponsors being the Soros-funded Alliance for Global Justice. This event ended with €12 million of damage to Hamburg and several hundred injured police officers. Soros has also been accused of using his Open Society Foundation and U.S. diplomatic connections to interfere with the government of Macedonia, and is currently being sued for $10billion for meddling in African politics for his own personal gain.

Wikimedia Foundation, which has Wikipedia in its information stable is funded by such names as Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Chevron and Exxon Mobil to name just a few of the companies who have received some of the biggest fines for their criminal activity over decades.

Investing £$millions by highjacking public interest non-profits and charities is not the only way of getting a deceitful message across to the masses. In Britain today, a corporate coup d’état at the heart of government is secretly destroying civil society protections built up over the generations.

In an irony worthy of comedy series ‘Yes Minster’  corporations such as PepsiCo, Mars and Diageo were put at the heart of writing government policy on obesity, alcohol and diet-related disease almost as soon as the Conservative’s arrived in office in 2010. Civil Society was not represented.

Alcohol policy was chaired by the head for the lobby group of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association. Just as ludicrous was the tackling of the nation’s diet and health related problems which included the mouthpieces of the processed food manufacturers, fast food companies, and even Compass, the catering company famously derided by Jamie Oliver for its turkey twizzlers on school menus. The Guardian wrote an article that reported how a government public policy team was set up to tackle calories in food and drink which was chaired by PepsiCo, owner of Walkers crisps. The nation’s policy on physical activity was chaired by the Fitness Industry Association, which is the lobby group for private gyms and personal trainers. The list is breathtakingly shameless.

One can now understand why, for instance, that minimum pricing on alcohol was not implemented years ago, which Public Health England stated was because of a lack of evidence. It was indeed such a political issue that alcohol pricing was a manifesto pledge, but subsequently U-turned on. This was irrespective of the evidence presented by an extensive Lancet report and research from Sheffield University in which their report said “More working years are lost to alcohol than the 10 most frequent cancer types combined.” Both were rejected without comment.

The trouble now is that Britain has no umbrella defence system such as the European Union to stop this corporate coup d’état of government derived public policy. Not that the EU is by any means clean from corruption of course. In the meantime, it is clear, with people like Liam Fox who is Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, Britain’s trade deals will be written by the corporations who intend to pillage the nation as they have already so successfully done in the USA.

Let’s not forget that in 1997, Liam Fox (famous for being one of the biggest stars at the centre of the ‘expenses scandal’) founded a Think Tank called Atlantic Bridge under the patronage of Margaret Thatcher.

It boasts a list of past directors, or “Advisory Council” members that included the likes of Michael Gove, George Osborne, William Hague, Boris Johnson, Norman Tebbit, Malcom Rifkind and Chris Grayling. All are found clustered around the more extreme right hand of British politics, many of whom have direct influence in the internal political struggle for Britain’s outcome of international trade and Brexit negotiations. It’s UK executive director was Adam Werrity who caused Liam Fox’s forced resignation as Defence Secretary after his …. ‘conflict of interest’ scandal!

Atlantic Bridge was also made up from the far Right Tea Party and Republican party in the USA. This is a group that is profoundly opposed to taxpayer functions like the NHS, are pro-austerity, pro-nativism, protectionist, full of nationalists and don’t like foreigners, except when they are dropping bombs on them. Atlantic Bridge was also in a partnership program with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a free-market organisation with extensive links to American State Legislators and corporate and industrial groups. These are the famed and very dangerous neocons who are looking for full confrontation with North Korea, Russia and China and caused the world order to disintegrate by attacking the Middle East. These same people are courting senior British Tory MP’s in advance of the rush to cash in on a less regulated UK Plc after Brexit.

Is it any wonder that a number of American billionaires, some listed above, with transnational interests, were able to illegally swing Britain’s EU referendum, get a Brexit result, in order to infect the public policy protection systems of the sixth largest trading nation on earth – to be ‘liberated’ and then plundered.

You can see where this is going.

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Feed the Homeless in America, Get Fined or Arrested

January 20th, 2018 by Stephen Lendman

VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: 

stephenlendman.org 

(Home – Stephen Lendman). 

Contact at [email protected].

The state of homelessness in America is appalling, a largely unreported issue, the problem ignored by Washington, doing little or nothing to address it.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, on any given night, over 550,000 Americans are homeless – forced to sleep outside, in an emergency shelter or transitional housing.

Homelessness is a poverty issue, affecting the working poor and unemployed – housing and rental costs increasingly unaffordable.

In 2014, around seven million Americans doubled-up with family or friends, for many prelude to homelessness.

A recent HUD report revealed increased homelessness last year, saying it comes at a time of an affordable housing crisis.

According to an Apartment List National Report, rents were higher in 89 of America’s 100 largest cities last year.

A 2017 National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (NLCHP) report, titled Housing not Handcuffs, said laws criminalized homelessness in 187 cities since 2006 – prohibiting sleeping in public places, living in vehicles and sharing food.

The NLCHP explained

“(a)lthough many people experiencing homelessness have literally no choice but to live outside and in public places, laws and enforcement practices punishing the presence of visibly homeless people in public space continue to grow.”

In too many places across America, the nation’s homeless are criminalized for their misery – instead of federal, state and local authorities taking responsible steps to alleviate the problem.

National Alliance to End Homelessness CEO Nan Roman explained “(u)nsheltered homelessness is on the rise, and major cities are feeling it most,” adding:

“Ending homelessness is a complex, long-term effort. For several years we’ve seen homeless systems become more efficient and effective and getting people into housing.”

“But the effectiveness of the homeless assistance efforts cannot make up for the increasing number of people who become homeless because they simply cannot afford housing.”

“In the short run, we will need more investment in effective homelessness programs. In the longer run, we need to address the increasing inability of poor and low income people to find affordable places to live.”

In California on a single night in 2016, over 20% of the state’s 39 million residents experienced homelessness – a shocking indictment of a major inadequately addressed issue.

New York City ranks highest in US homelessness, followed by Los Angeles, Boston, Washington, DC, San Francisco, and Phoenix.

The Chicago Coalition of the Homeless estimates around 125,000 Chicagoans experience homelessness over the course of a year – a major problem any time, a serious health issue in frigid weather.

Some cities prohibit feeding the homeless. Atlanta issues fines. So do Houston and Daytona Beach. Tampa arrests people feeding the homeless without permit permission.

According to the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH), at least 33 US municipalities prohibit handing out free food.

El Cajon in suburban San Diego arrested 12 activists from the Break the Ban group for feeding homeless city residents. A 2017 ordinance prohibits it.

Volunteer Matthew Schneck said

“(i)f I’m going to be arrested for something, let it be for feeding the homeless.”

“It was absolutely necessary to beak this law until they were willing to enforce it, and, now that they have, we will continue this fight in court,” Shane Parmely stressed.

Mark Lane called the ban “an excuse,” explaining

“we have a problem with Hepatitis A, but you don’t battle that by not feeding homeless people.”

“You battle that by giving them proper restroom facilities, proper hand washing facilities, and vaccinations, education.”

The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties condemned the arrests, executive director Norma Chavez Peterson saying:

Dr. Martin Luther King was deeply concerned about ending poverty and hunger in America.”

“I have no doubt that if he were alive today, (he’d) stand with people who would share food with the hungry; and he would stand against those who would call this a crime.”

An uncaring nation is the real issue, serving its privileged class exclusively, largely ignoring hardships its most vulnerable people endure.

*

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the CRG, Correspondent of Global Research based in Chicago.

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.”

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2017 saw the US scorched by record-breaking wildfires in California, record-breaking rainfall events like Hurricane Harvey in Houston (just one of the three most expensive hurricanes to ever hit the US, which all occurred in 2017), damaging hail events, tornadoes, and extreme droughts that wiped out crops.

These extreme weather events, most of which were fueled at least in part by anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD), cost the US nearly a third of a trillion dollars ($306 billion) over the past year.

That is more money than the US government spent on transportation, housing and community, international affairs, energy and the environment, and science, combined, in 2015.

Read full article here.

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A review of a classified document outlining what is described as extensive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act abuse was made available to all House members Thursday and the revelations could lead to the removal of senior officials in the FBI and Department of Justice, several sources with knowledge of the document stated. These sources say the report is “explosive,” stating they would not be surprised if it leads to the end of Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel investigation into President Trump and his associates.

The House Intelligence Committee passed the motion along party lines Thursday to make the classified report alleging extensive ‘FISA Abuse’ related to the controversial dossier available to all House members. The report contains information regarding the dossier that alleges President Trump and members of his team colluded with the Russians in the 2016 presidential election. Some members of the House viewed the document in a secure room Thursday.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., offered the motion on Thursday to make the Republican majority-authored report available to the members.

“The document shows a troubling course of conduct and we need to make the document available, so the public can see it,” said a senior government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the document. “Once the public sees it, we can hold the people involved accountable in a number of ways.”

The government official said that after reading the document “some of these people should no longer be in the government.”

The document also apparently outlines “several problematic” issues with how FISA warrants were “packaged, and used” state several sources with knowledge of the report.

Over the past year, whistleblowers in the law enforcement and intelligence community have revealed to Congress what they believe to be extensive abuse with regard to FISA surveillance, as previously reported. 

The dossier was used in part as evidence for a warrant to surveil members of the Trump campaign, according to a story published this month. Former British spy Christopher Steele, who compiled the dossier in 2016, was hired by embattled research firm Fusion GPS. The firm’s founder is Glenn Simpson, a former Wall Street Journal reporter who has already testified before Congress in relation to the dossier. In October, The Washington Post revealed for the first time that it was the Hillary Clinton campaign and the DNC that financed Fusion GPS.

Congressional members are hopeful that the classified information will be declassified and released to the public.

“We probably will get this stuff released by the end of the month,” stated a congressional member, who asked not to be named.

But the government official, who viewed the document said

“it will be tough for a lot of people to see this and especially the media, which has been attempting to de-emphasize the dossier. It’s going to punch a hole in their collusion narrative.”

The House vote to make the report available to all members is a major step in exposing the long-guarded classified documents obtained by the House Intelligence Committee over the past year. It allows members of the House to view the report and could quickly lead to a motion to declassify the report for the public, numerous House members told this reporter.

“It’s a (House Intelligence) committee document that deals with the assessment on the Department of Justice, FBI and the oversight work that is being conducted by the committee,” said a congressional source, which spoke on condition that they not be named.

*

Sara Carter is an award winning National Security/War Correspondent. 

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Imperial Disaster

January 19th, 2018 by Mark Taliano

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently announced that the U.S. occupation of Syria would continue until three conditions are met:

  • ISIS must be destroyed
  • Assad must go
  • Refugees must be returned to Syria

His words are an obscenity. They are also a smokescreen to disguise actual realities and imperial intentions. Not only is the U.S. occupation criminal according to Nuremburg Principles, but the diktats themselves are either unattainable or redundant, and therefore doomed to fail – which is the intent.

The first demand, that ISIS must be destroyed is intentionally unattainable since ISIS are U.S. assets, and so they will be there as long as the U.S. is there. The U.S. has no intention of eliminating its foremost pretext for waging war against humanity.

Leading Australian academic expert on the Middle East, Jeremy Salt, explains in these words what we should already know:

The war on Syria goes on. It is not over as many have said: but for outside intervention it never would have started. Even though the ISIS has been virtually destroyed in Syria, thus fulfilling the rationale for its forces being there, the US is refusing to leave. It has been playing a double game, declaring war on the ISIS while clandestinely cooperating with it in various ways. It wanted a Salafist principality in eastern Syria and the Islamic State gave it one. ISIS fighters criss-crossed the Syrian desert, towards Mosul and Palmyra, without the US intervening, although satellite reconnaissance would clearly have shown these lines of pickup trucks kicking up the summer dust. US Special Forces passed through Islamic State positions on the way to Deir al Zor, the US shipped takfir fighters out of Raqqa with their families and the US has been training takfiris rebranded as ‘rebel’ fighters at its Al Tanf base.[1]

And Salt’s accurate assessment above only scratches the surface of the West’s duplicity and criminality. Tillerson’s repugnant statements also included this gem, as reported by Daniel McAdams in “Breaking – Tillerson Unveils ‘New’ US Syria Plan: ‘Assad Must Go!’ ”:

“US troops will remain in Syria to prevent the Syrian government from re-establishing control over the parts of Syria abandoned by a defeated ISIS. So the legitimate government of Syria will be prevented by an illegal United States military occupation from reclaiming its own territory? This is supposed to be a coherent policy?”[2]

McAdams is describing longstanding US policy of using terrorist assets such as ISIS as place- setters. ISIS will occupy, destroy, terrorize, and depopulate an area so that “liberators” can take their place as new occupiers.[3]

Tillerson’s Regime Change utterance, the familiar “Assad must go!” refrain, also represents criminal duplicity, since it is the Syrian government and its allies who are defeating Western terror proxies in Syria. If Assad goes, the terrorists will stay.

As McAdams points out, Libya (which pre-invasion had the highest HDI in Africa) now hosts slave auctions[4] (as well as being a terrorist hub), about half a million have perished in Iraq (from 2003-2011)[5] thanks to that invasion (and this figure does not include over 500,000 children and about one million others murdered by pre-war sanctions). And of course the neo-Nazi infested Kiev junta’s downward-spiraling political economy – another imperial project – is also a disaster.[6]

Finally, the diktat that refugees must be returned to Syria is also beyond ridiculous, since they are already flooding back into liberated areas of Syria, and they will never flood back to a U.S.-occupied, sectarian, terrorist- infested Syrian. But again, that is the duplicitous intent.

The U.S. and its Coalition vassals – including Canada – seek to destroy Syria.  If Tillerson’s demands are met, this is what will happen. And the overseas holocaust will deepen. Those who control the crumbling U.S. Empire must surely be Satanic.

*

Notes

[1]Jeremy Salt, “The US Coalition-Financed ‘Siege’ of East Ghouta Supported by BBC Propaganda.”  21WIRE

16 January, 2018. (http://21stcenturywire.com/2018/01/16/us-coalition-financed-siege-east-ghouta-supported-bbc-propaganda/) Accessed 18 January, 2018.

[2] Daniel McAdam, “Breaking – Tillerson Unveils ‘New’ US Syria Plan: ‘Assad Must Go!’ “ Ron Paul Institute For Peace And Prosperity. 17 January, 2018. (http://www.ronpaulinstitute.org/archives/featured-articles/2018/january/17/breaking-tillerson-unveils-new-us-syria-plan-assad-must-go/#.Wl_h52wyWOU.twitter) accessed 18 January, 2018. 

[3] Mark Taliano, “War Crimes As Policy.” Global Research. 17 November, 2017. (https://www.globalresearch.ca/war-crimes-as-policy/5618777) Accessed 18 January, 2018.

[4]Slave auctions in Libya caught on camera.” News.com.au. 4 December 2017. (https://nypost.com/2017/12/04/slave-auctions-in-libya-caught-on-camera/) Accessed 18 January, 2018.  

[5] Kerry Sheridan, “Iraq Death Toll Reaches 500,000 Since Start Of U.S.-Led Invasion, New Study Says.” Agence France Press . 15, October, 2013/Updated 06 December, 2017. (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/15/iraq-death-toll_n_4102855.html) Accessed 18 January, 2018.  

[6] Alexander Mercouris. “2017: The Ukrainian economy’s dismal year|

Ukrainian economy continued to weaken as inflation rose and living standards fell.” The Duran.

13 January, 2018. (http://theduran.com/2017-ukrainian-economys-dismal-year/) Accessed 18 January, 2018.


Order Mark Taliano’s Book “Voices from Syria directly from Global Research.  

Taliano talks and listens to the people of Syria. He reveals the courage and resilience of a Nation and its people in their day to day lives, after more than six years of US-NATO sponsored terrorism and three years of US “peacemaking” airstrikes.

Mark Taliano combines years of research with on-the-ground observations to present an informed and well-documented analysis that refutes  the mainstream media narratives on Syria. 

Voices from Syria 

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Author: Mark Taliano

Year: 2017

Pages: 128 (Expanded edition: 1 new chapter)

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Big Power Diversions: Olympic Diplomacy on the Korean Peninsula

January 19th, 2018 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

The more overtures, sudden but entirely appropriate, being made by North Korea to their South Korean counterparts, the more concern seems to emanate from quarters in Washington and Tokyo.  A recurring streak in these engagements is the fear that Pyongyang is simply prevaricating, distracting and diverting: they are having us all for fools.

This betrays the whole premise of how US policy, and to a good degree that of Japan, has been linked to an obsession to place nuclear weapons dismantling and removal as a first step of talks rather than a final outcome with an enduring peace settlement

Such a settlement, by its very composition, would have to normalise affairs between both Koreas, end the armistice with a peace treaty, with the possible icing on the cake being a Nuclear-Weapons Free Zone. But surely, a declaration of non-hostility on the part of Washington might be a good start? 

Initial freezes in terms of testing (ballistic weapons, the nuclear program) complemented by a suspension or delay of large military exercises by the United States and South Korea, would then follow as a way of smoothing the way.

In many security channels, this might seem like very large pie in a very distant sky. Various powers, led by the United States, see a North Korean nuclear weapons program as satanic, untenable, the freakish sore of the international comity.  It must be removed, excised, disarmed, or shackled.  But even in the darkest moments of theatre, bluster and boisterousness, talks have been taking place.  There have been discussions, albeit quietly held, reverberating in the background.  

These talks have lead, in balletic, searching format, to Olympic diplomacy.  In a sense, it is fitting.  The Olympics have often been the scene of protest, propaganda and boycotts, a grandiose and costly hypocrisy that crushes the host city even as it drains its coffers.  But this occasion at Pyeongchang promises to be slightly different, returning the games to their initial, if contrived purpose: to promote peaceful engagement in sporting ventures and a cessation of hostilities for the duration of the event.

The security mandarins in Washington and Tokyo are seemingly not convinced.  Last weekend, it transpired that President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, had made a secret journey to San Francisco to discuss North Korea’s nuclear weapons program with Japan’s Shotaro Yachi of the national security council, and officials from South Korea.  The agenda item – the recent resumption of communications between Pyongyang and Seoul – was treated with some scorn, with Olympic diplomacy here deemed a diversion that will have little if any impact on the nuclear weapons program.

Again, the narrow horizon, the chatter of small minds prevailed, evinced by such remarks by McMaster to Fox News’ Bret Baier at the Reagan National Security Forum in California.  For McMaster, the nuclear program is a bacillus that requires expunging with immediacy, leaving little, if any room, for accommodation.  Being alarmed is a way of being.

“I think it’s increasing everyday,” he spoke with orthodox, rehearsed urgency. “It means we’re in a race.  We’re in a race to be able to solve this problem.”

(On this score, McMaster is hardly being original, having insisted on this futile contest for months.)  While there were “ways to address this problem short of armed conflict” this was a “race because he’s getting closer and closer and there’s not much time left.”  Such a sinister suggestion, the self-clapping in irons that restricts diplomacy because the war monger longs to reach for his weapon.

As Leon Sigal, Director of the Northeast Asia Security Project at the Social Science Research Council explained to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee last year, denuclearisation was the “ultimate goal”.  However, “demanding that Pyongyang pledge that now will only delay a possible agreement, enabling it to add to its military wherewithal and bargaining leverage in the meantime.”

This point is being insistently ignored by a set of policy makers in Washington, leaving no room for manoeuvring, theatre, dissimulation, in short, all aspects that are vital to the resolution of lingering disputes.  Senator Lindsey Graham, for one, claimed on Wednesday that Seoul was “undercutting what Trump’s trying to do” in allowing Pyongyang to participate at the Winter Olympics.

What McMaster is alluding to is brutal, surrendering simplicity: come out with your hands up, surrender your weapons, and all will be well.  He does this by insisting that,

“The greatest immediate threat to the United States and to the world is the threat posed by the rogue regime in North Korea and his continued efforts to develop a long range nuclear capability.”

In Vancouver, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson carried out his usual double act in a press conference following a meeting with Canadian, Korean, Japanese and UN Command officials.  He began with “one policy and one goal”: “the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.”  The pressure of sanctions, long shown to be ineffective in having any actual impact on Pyongyang’s weapons program, would continue, albeit in a more targeted way.  Combating the evasion of sanctions and interdiction to prevent “ship-to-ship transfers” was also discussed.

Then came a slight adjustment in tone: while “maximum pressure”, one designed to push Pyongyang to denuclearisation talks, buttressed by a “resolute military option” had been the object of the Trump administration, Vancouver provided a different setting, featuring “constructive discussions about how to push our diplomatic efforts forward and prepare for the prospects of talks.”  All to the good, though heavily qualified by the next spurt of bellicosity from President Trump himself.

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

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US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson vowed yesterday that American imperialism will not relent from its neo-colonial ambition to overthrow the Russian- and Iranian-backed Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad. In a display of imperialist arrogance, Tillerson declared that the US will maintain military forces inside Syria indefinitely and not accept any government in Damascus that does not function as an American client state.

Tillerson reaffirmed the determination of the US to pursue regime-change in Syria in a speech to the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in California. It was fitting that his address was hosted by former Bush administration National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, an individual who should be indicted for war crimes for her role in the illegal invasion of Iraq.

The fraudulent pretext that the sole motive of the US in Syria was to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been cast aside. Throughout his speech, Tillerson repeatedly denounced Iran for supporting the Syrian government. The representative of the power that invaded Iraq and props up monarchical dictatorships in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states accused Tehran of seeking “dominance in the Middle East.” He declared that the US was committed to “reducing and expelling malicious Iranian influence from Syria.”

Tillerson also demanded that Russia cease its backing for Damascus and “put new levels of pressure on the regime” to step aside and accept the installation of an American-controlled puppet state. The US objective, he asserted bluntly, was the “departure of Assad.”

The criminality, and hypocrisy, of the American ruling class has no limit. Amid the hysterical accusations of “Russian meddling” in the US elections, Tillerson baldly asserted that the United States will decide the fate of Syria. Among the political forces that the US is working with are the very Islamist extremists that Washington exploited to justify its intervention into the seven-year civil war that has ravaged the country.

The recklessness of the policy outlined by Tillerson is immense. In pursuit of regime-change, the US is seeking to effectively partition Syria, formally carving off the north into an American protectorate under the control of Kurdish nationalist forces, while placing the eastern region of the country under Islamist militias.

Tillerson asserted that the US will channel so-called reconstruction aid into the areas held by its proxies, while seeking to enforce an economic embargo against the areas controlled by the Syrian government. The US zone will be protected from Syrian forces by the 2,000 US military personnel already in the country, and by US Air Force assets based in Iraq and the Gulf states.

The day before Tillerson’s speech, a spokesperson for the US forces in the Middle East announced plans to assemble and arm a 30,000-strong anti-Assad militia. Among those whom the US intends to enlist are hundreds of former ISIS fighters and members of Al Qaeda-linked Islamist militias, such as the Al Nusra Front.

A major aim of the US plans is to sabotage and derail the Russian-led steps toward the convening of talks on ending the civil war in Syria. A conference is scheduled to take place in Sochi, Russia next month, to which various anti-Assad factions have been invited. Now, these elements have instead been provided with open-ended US military and financial backing to continue fighting.

It is estimated that the Syrian war has resulted in at least 500,000 deaths since 2011. More than five million people have fled the country as refugees, and at least six million more have been displaced from their homes within Syria. Entire cities and towns have been reduced to rubble by the indiscriminate bombardments carried out by all sides in the murderous conflict.

Tillerson’s speech portends not only the continuation of the horrors inflicted on the Syrian masses, but a major escalation of the violence.

The US agenda has been rejected by the Syrian government already. The Syrian foreign ministry issued a statement that said:

“The American military presence on Syrian land is illegitimate and represents a blatant breach of international law and an aggression against national sovereignty.”

Immediately on the horizon is the danger of large-scale military confrontations between US-backed forces, on one side, and the Syrian Army and the Iranian, Iraqi and Lebanese volunteers who are fighting alongside it in various Shiite militias. Having defeated rebel forces elsewhere in the country, the focus of Syrian government operations is shifting to retaking opposition-held territory in the north and east. In the air, these operations are still backed by Russian aircraft and helicopter gunships.

The obvious question posed by Tillerson’s speech is whether American forces will attack Russian aircraft, with all the ramifications such an action would carry.

There is also the danger that US attacks in Syria could lead to open war with Iran or ignite a new civil war inside Iraq, with Shiite militias taking up arms against the American-backed government in Baghdad.

Turkey, a NATO ally of Washington, is no less opposed to the US plans. The Turkish government insists that the US-backed Kurdish nationalist YPG militia is a front for the separatist Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), which it condemns as a “terrorist” organisation and has brutally suppressed inside Turkey for decades. Last weekend, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan bitterly accused the Trump administration of “creating a terror army on our border.”

While Tillerson’s speech yesterday gave verbal reassurances to “address Turkey’s concern with PKK terrorists” and vowed “close cooperation,” the fact remains that Washington is backing a formation that the Turkish ruling class views as a threat to its internal stability and territorial integrity. Erdogan has made repeated warnings that Turkey is prepared to invade northern Syria to prevent the YPG from consolidating the area into a de-facto Kurdish statelet. What would be the response of the United States?

The new stage in US imperialist intrigue in the Middle East is a further indictment of the myriad pseudo-left formations that supported the conspiracy to overthrow the Assad regime, claiming that the American-backed rebels were carrying out a “revolution” for “democracy.” All those who opposed the US regime-change operation, including the World Socialist Web Site, were accused of “knee-jerk anti-imperialism.”

Seven years on, the pro-imperialist character of the US proxy forces, whether it be the Kurdish nationalist formations or the Al Qaeda-aligned Islamist militias, is undeniable. As was the case from the outset, they are serving as Washington’s tool to undermine Iranian and Russian influence in the Middle East and assert American dominance over the oil-rich region.

The outcome is the vastly heightened danger of a regional war or war between nuclear-armed powers.

*

Featured image is from South Front.

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How do Canadians look at the sequence of Nuclear Scare events in the Far East – culminating, for now, in Vancouver, Canada on Tuesday, January 16? What do Canadians make of the strange events? Are the scare events real? Or are we Canadians being brainwashed?

We know that the warning systems for detection of long-range, inter-continental ballistic missiles have been working for many decades almost without a hitch …. Have they begun failing … just now, conveniently?

A few days ago (Saturday in Hawaii, January 13, 2018) not only did someone push the wrong button – that sent out a warning of an approaching missile, but it took people at the system thirty-eight minutes to change the message. (It might be wrong to say “to correct the error” because it may not have been an error.) 

And … in a way that throws more suspicion on the matter …  it happened again on Tuesday, January 15, in Japan.  That alert, sent out by the national broadcaster, was recalled after two minutes. One way of looking at the sequence is that Hawaii is a U.S. State and a fake message can be kept working for longer than in Japan, a U.S. satellite that, nonetheless, has some independence. (A person can imagine the Japanese agreeing to a fake warning in Japan, but only for a very brief time.)

And why would a Japanese broadcaster (which has sent such “J Alerts” in the past when North Korea really sent missiles in the direction of Japan as part of testing) send a fake “J Alert” to a population that is very sensitive when it comes to nuclear matters? Who knows why the alert systems in two locations would fail just as … just as … Canada and the U.S.A. were sponsoring a meeting (not in Ottawa or Washington) but in North America’s most northern big, Pacific city: Vancouver, British Columbia, in order to talk (privately and publicly) about the ways they have  – to beat up North Korea.

The important points to register are that at the closed meeting (1) Russian and China were not invited (nor was North Korea), (2) the countries invited were all allies of the U.S.A. in its war in Korea in the 1950s to prevent Korea from choosing its own form of government, and (3) recent talk out of Washington is that it is possible to have a winning war against North Korea “without huge loss of life” [a sly way of saying without using nuclear bombs, perhaps] … and, we may assume,  the occasion of Olympic Games may just do the trick … when North Korea’s guard may be down.

In the “closed-door-talks” in Vancouver we do not know what agenda was put forward. We do not know what actions were agreed upon. We only know the Public Relations speeches given by Tillerson and Freeland.

That brings us to the “international event” in Vancouver, Canada, hosted by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Canada’s Foreign Minister, Chrystia Freeland (who, one may speculate, is not a free agent since she was caught seriously lying to Canadians – and the world – about her Nazi collaborationist Ukrainian grandfather.  That means, one has to believe, she is vulnerable at all times to being attacked internationally or by power at home … if she doesn’t play the game set out for her by Canada’s “masters”.)

If the events of the last week are connected (as they seem to be) then Canadians may have been subjected to a huge Brainwash. Fake intercontinental missile events just before “closed-door-talks” with a lot of public “reasoning” and no real information released in Vancouver … all making clear that the U.S.A. and its craven colonial partners want to ramp up sanctions and enforcement of sanctions against North Korea (“wicked”, “mad” North Korea which wants to protect itself against U.S. invasion). But the Vancouver gathering may want more – a non-nuclear war with North Korea (while there is time!!!)

And all is set out in Vancouver by agents who are hawkish-but-reasonable-to-the-brainwashed … agents who have already made of North Korea a Public Relations Madhouse (for we, the brainwashed) because the country, North Korea, wants Defence Structures that assure the U.S. cannot do to North Korea what it has done to Iraq, Libya, and … until stopped … Syria (which, nevertheless, has been torn to shreds by the U.S. desire for ‘regime change’ there – a phrase meaning a shift from independent government to the status of a U.S. colony). And here in the U.S. colony, in Vancouver, all of us among the brainwashedknow the U.S.A. is our dearest friend and always has been.  And it has even been suggested (in a roundabout way) that if we cooperate on this matter – (who knows? no promises) – Canada may get what it wants as a devoted colony in the NAFTA talks (deadlocked as I write).

Some will say I am indeed brainwashed … by some electronic mole from North Korea planted in my brain as I sleep….  And – in this precarious world – who knows? The ‘some’ who say that may be right. And so we have to think and be alert … in all directions.

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In 2018 twelve Latin American countries from Mexico to Peru will hold elections at different levels, presidential, legislative and municipal. [1] Of the twelve elections, seven are for their respective presidents in Costa Rica, Cuba, Paraguay, Colombia, México, Brazil and Venezuela. What are the expectations? I will focus on four of those elections: Mexico and Colombia because they might represent more typical or traditional electoral processes in Latin America and also because they have certain relevance in the region; and Venezuela and Cuba, because they operate on distinct social premises and they represent unique processes based on special circumstances, like Venezuela, or based on independently developed social model like Cuba.

Mexico

Geopolitical analyst Andrew Korybko wrote a year ago in The Duran,

“Donald Trump is inspiring a new generation of Mexican nationalists.” [2]

Andrés Manuel López Obrador (agosto 2017).jpg

Andrés Manuel López Obrador (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

This may well explain the reported lead of left-leaning nationalist Andrés Manuel López Obrador (nicknamed AMLO) at the polls. He had been an unsuccessful challenger in previous presidential elections and is now running as a candidate for the coalition Movimiento de Regeneración Nacional (MORENA – Movement of National Regeneration).

His next contender may be rightwing Ricardo Anaya, candidate for an odd coalition of the conservative Partido Accion Nacional (PAN – National Action Party) – that formed government twice with Vicente Fox (2000) and Felipe Calderon (2006) – and the leftist Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD – Party of the Democratic Revolution).

The reasons why elections in Mexico are important are multiple. On the social front, Mexico is the recipient of the new anti-immigration policy of U.S. President Trump threatening with deportations and a closure of the border with a solid wall, that by all accounts is a contentious issue among Mexicans on both sides of the border.

On the trade front, Mexico is under the insecurity of what will happen with the NAFTA agreement. Will it be revised or cancelled all together? This may turn out to be a divisive issue among voters bound to sway them to one or the other candidate if they even make it to the polls.

Perhaps AMLO’s popularity is making a few people in Washington nervous when they also hear that he is considered to be another Hugo Chavez determined to increase public expenditures to fight poverty, which is not a minor issue in Mexico.

It is important to mention that there are no socialist parties candidates because parties like the Communist Party of Mexico or the Workers’ Revolutionary Party are not officially registered and therefore do not take part in the elections.

Colombia

Elections in Colombia will take place in May and cannot be dismissed because the country is the main U.S. political-military grip on the rest of the region through its U.S. bases, and therefore holds unique influence. Venezuela is surely watching this outcome with some concern. That situation is expected to continue even when candidates are forming new alliances to distance themselves from the old conservative guard, and a brand new political party is in the picture.

The former FARC, now a political party using the same initials but renamed Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Común (Alternative Revolutionary Force of the Common [People]), will participate in the elections following the recent Peace Accord with the Santos government. The FARC ex-commander, Rodrigo Londoño (aka Timoleón Jiménez or Timochenko) is now a presidential candidate. His chances of winning the elections are not great but he definitely represents a different option if Colombians would like to seek one. Londoño has a clear advantage among farmers and indigenous people in small rural areas where the FARC had support, however, he must appeal to the urban population with clear programmatic alternatives in order to hold real chances.

The other aspiring candidates try hard to appear to be different to the Colombian voters by forming new coalitions. For instance, the rightwing Centro Democrático (Democratic Centre), founded by former president Alvaro Uribe, has elected Ivan Duque as its presidential candidate and has an alliance with the Partido Conservador (Conservative Party), but they both coincide in their fierce opposition to the Peace Accord and in favour of giving a tax break to multinationals.

On the other hand, the centre-left Coalición Colombia (Colombia Coalition) will present Sergio Fajardo as its candidate. It is another alliance of several parties that favours the Peace Accord with the FARC and promises to fight corruption.

It is unlikely that the president will be elected in the first round of polls. The second round will take place in June.

Venezuela

If the previous two elections in Venezuela in 2017 for governors and city mayors are any indication, without doubt Nicolas Maduro will be re-elected as president in November 2018 if not earlier.

Despite the serious U.S. threats of military intervention, severe sanctions and virtual financial blockade affecting Venezuela’s oil industry, Maduro’s main political platform is based on social programs, together with fighting corruption and strengthening the economy that is now seriously critical. The Maduro government has shown tangible commitment to the wellbeing of the population and has consistently called to peace and dialogue with the opposition despite the street violence of 2017.

However, the extreme rightwing opposition has refused to participate in most elections and has claimed electoral fraud without any foundation. This attitude is likely hiding the lack of popular support that would become evident if the largely divided opposition participated in elections.

So far Venezuelans have given a clear mandate to Chavismo and the governing party Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV – United Socialist Party of Venezuela) in what is called Bolivarian Revolution. The ideology is based on an unrelenting sense of sovereignty and independence with a strong commitment to a constitutional and democratic process leading to peace, and a declared rejection of any type of U.S. intervention.

Cuba

The fourth important election in 2018 will take place in Cuba on April 19. Although the election is for the more than 600 members of the National Assembly of the People’s Power, the event has implications for the country’s presidency due to its unique process.

Raul Castro declared last year that he would not seek re-election to the legislature; so Cubans can expect a change in what is called the “historical leadership”. But according to observers, the change will have no transcendence on the Cuban social system and people’s lives.

There are several reasons that make the Cuban election unique:

1) There are no political parties involved, not even the Communist Party of Cuba can nominate or have candidates.

2) Individual candidates (who are not required to be party members) are nominated at their community (district) level, and elected by direct secret ballot to become members of the National Assembly of People’s Power (or Parliament) for a five year mandate.

3) Half of the National Assembly members must come from social organizations, i.e. students, women, labour organizations, etc. in order to have a cross-sectional representation of society in the decision making.

4) It is the newly elected legislative body that elects, from among themselves, 31 members of the Council of State to run the daily tasks of the country while the National Assembly is not in session.

5) The Council of State in turn selects who will be the president of the country and other high ministerial officials. [3]

Because of this unique electoral process with no direct vote for a predetermined presidential candidate, predictions are also more complex. The one thing that we can safely predict is that Cuba will remain socialist for the foreseeable future.

Concluding remarks

There is no doubt that in 2017 Operation Condor 2.0 has been underway in Latin America and has caused a regressive impact in the region, which make the round of new elections in 2018 particularly important to watch.

Under normal circumstances in democratic and internally determined processes we would focus on the political issues been offered by candidates and political parties during their election campaigns. However, elections in Latin America, and in many other countries for that matter, present more intricacies and often are those intricacies that determine the outcome of presidential elections. More specifically, lack of transparency, foreign interference or electoral fraud is a real prospect when democracy is just a handy label but not the practice. [4] Let the current situation in Honduras be a case in point.

If Mexicans would dare to lean to the left with Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, an electoral fraud becomes a real possibility as political analyst Andrew Korybko suggests and AMLO himself fears. [5] In fact, a U.S. pre-emptive info war, which is accusing Russia of “meddling” in the Mexican elections, has already started. [6] We all know where that leads.

A similar situation could arise in Colombia where voters could see the FARC, the new player in the game, as a clear break from the traditional bourgeois parties and their morphed versions. However, given the lack of support for the referendum on the peace accord in 2016 with less than 50% of votes and about 60% abstentions, the rightwing parties may be feeling safe.

In a different scenario, Colombians, especially those who have normally abstained from voting, may be alerted and react to the fact that, in the same year that the Santos government was recognized for its achievement on peace, 170 social leaders were murdered in the country. [7]

Contrary to mainstream media propaganda, Venezuela has proven to have transparent and fair elections. When in 2015 the governing party, PSUV, lost the majority in the National Assembly, there was no cry of fraud. Instead, the rightwing Assembly botched its opportunity of push their political agenda by attempting to swear in deputies fraudulently for which it was declared in contempt.

As mentioned before, the accusations of electoral fraud from some elements of a divided opposition may be more a pretext for excluding themselves from the election process for fear of showing the poor popular support they have. In the presidential elections this year it is expected that the Venezuelan opposition will do the same.

However, at the time of writing, conversations on “coexistence” and “combating economic aggression” are taking place in the Dominican Republic between some more moderate groups of the opposition and the government. That may change things as an agreement may be reached and other presidential candidates may be postulated.

From an international point of view it is disconcerting that some governments like Canada, the U.S. and the European Union would take sides and become protectors of the more radical opposition instead of supporting those within the opposition that are willing to negotiate. This requires a separate analysis but what transpires is not edifying for those “democratic” governments.

Outstanding as an outlier is the electoral system in Cuba. It is rarely spoken about and when it is, the mainstream media describes it as “not democratic”. But there is more to it than meets the eye.

Most strikingly, at no point there is money involved in the process. In fact, there are no expensive political campaigns and, with a few exceptions, National Assembly members do not receive additional pay aside from what they perceive from their regular job, which they maintain during their mandate. In such an open and decentralized system with no parties or money interest, it is hard to conceive any possibility of fraud. In fact, if the trend of previous elections continues, more than 95% of the population will turn out to vote freely with only a fraction of spoiled ballots. This must be looked at in comparison with the voters turn out in multiparty systems.

Finally, the year 2018 might turn out to be a very busy year for the U.S. State Department, CIA and the Southern Command headquarters (SOUTHCOM), located in Doral, Florida. To watch and control so many elections requires a high state of alert, intelligence gathering and readiness to intervene in order to defend their kind of “democracy”. I say this quite consciously because I take it for granted that the U.S. government will continue to interfere in the internal affairs of Latin America unless unity, “not only economic but political”, becomes a reality, as Fidel Castro said.

*

Notes

[1] http://www.celag.org/calendario-electoral-2018-2019/

[2] http://theduran.com/donald-trump-stimulates-mexican-nationalism/

[3] For a more detailed description of Cuba’s electoral system consult: “Cuba and its Neighbours – Democracy in Motion” by Canadian author Arnold August [Fernwood Publishing, 2013]

[4] Further reading about interventions in Latin America: “Open Veins of Latin America” by Eduardo Galeano [Monthly Review Press, 1977] and “Masters of War – Latin America and U.S. Aggression” by Clara Nieto [Seven Stories Press, 2003]

[5] https://orientalreview.org/2017/12/30/2018-outlook-latin-america/

[6] https://orientalreview.org/2018/01/13/us-meddling-mexicos-election-accusing-russia/

[7] https://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/170-Social-Leaders-Killed-in-Colombia-in-2017-Report-20180107-0011.html

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Today TransCanada released a statement claiming it had garnered enough shipping commitments for the Keystone XL pipeline to make it financially viable. To get that support TransCanada requires a bailout pledge from Canada’s Alberta government to ship 50,000 barrels of oil per day for 20 years, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s office confirmed. TransCanada has yet to announce whether they intend to build the pipeline, even if the remaining numerous legal and regulatory hurdles are overcome. In response to this news, Adam Scott, Senior Advisor, Canada at Oil Change International, released the following statement:

“When even Enbridge is calling this a subsidy, you know Alberta’s XL bailout is another desperate attempt at a lifeline for a pipeline that will never be built. Keystone XL would be a disaster for the climate, and watching governments bend over backwards to be a part of that is heartbreaking in a year where you could barely catch your breath between climate disasters.

“Any project that needs a government bailout amid a quagmire of ongoing legal and regulatory challenges has little chance of moving forward.

“Nebraskans, supported by communities across the continent, continue to stand up against the pipeline, and they will not stop until this saga ends with TransCanada abandoning this doomed project.”

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If the proposed Monsanto-Bayer merger goes through, the new company would control more than 25 per cent of the global supply of commercial seeds and pesticides. Monsanto held a 26% market share of all seeds sold in 2011. Bayer sells 17% of the world’s total agrochemicals and also has a seeds sector. If competition authorities pass the deal, the combined company would be the globe’s largest seller of both seeds and agrochemicals.

It marks a trend towards consolidation in the industry with Dow and DuPont having merged and Swiss seed/pesticide giant Syngenta merging with ChemChina. The mergers would mean that three companies would dominate the commercial agricultural seeds and chemicals sector.

In response to the Monsanto-Bayer merger, after it was announced in 2016 the US National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson issued the following statement:

“Consolidation of this magnitude cannot be the standard for agriculture, nor should we allow it to determine the landscape for our future… We will continue to express concern that these megadeals are being made to benefit the corporate boardrooms at the expense of family farmers, ranchers, consumers and rural economies… [there is an] alarming trend of consolidation in agriculture that has led to less competition, stifled innovation, higher prices and job loss in rural America.”

For all the rhetoric that we often hear about ‘the market’ and large corporations offering choice to farmers and consumers, the evidence is restriction of choice and the squeezing out of competitors. Over the years, for instance, Monsanto has bought up dozens of competitors to become the largest supplier of genetically engineered seeds with seed prices having risen dramatically.

Consolidation and monopoly in any sector should be of concern to everyone. But the fact that the large agribusiness conglomerates specialize in a globalised, industrial-scale, chemical-intensive model of farming should have us very concerned. Farmers are increasingly reliant on patented corporate seeds, whether non-GM hybrid seeds or GM and the chemical inputs designed to be used with them. Monsanto seed traits are now in 80% of corn and more than 90% of soybeans grown in the US.

By its very nature, the economic model that corporate agriculture is attached to demands expansion, market capture and profit growth. It might bring certain benefits to those farmers who have remained in agriculture, if not for the 330 farmers in the US who leave their land every week (according to data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service).

But in the US, ‘success’ in agriculture has largely depended on over $51 billion of taxpayer handouts over a 10-year period to oil the wheels of a particular system of agriculture designed to maintain corporate agribusiness profit margins. And any ‘success’ fails to factor in all the external social, health and environmental costs. It is easy to spin failure as success when the parameters are narrowly defined.

Moreover, the exporting of Green Revolution ideology and technology throughout the globe has been a boon to transnational seed and agrochemical manufacturers, which have benefited from undermining a healthy, sustainable indigenous agriculture.

The main players in the global agribusiness sector rank among the Fortune 500 corporations. These companies are high-rollers in a geo-politicised, globalised system of food production whereby huge company profits are linked to the worldwide eradication of the small farm (the bedrock of global food production), bad food, poor healthrigged tradeenvironmental devastationmono-cropping and diminished food and diet diversity, the destruction of rural communities, ecocidedegraded soilwater scarcity and droughtdestructive and inappropriate models of development and farmers who live a knife-edge existence and for whom debt has become a fact of life.

Does the world need it?

Britain is a leader in intensive, corporate-dominated agriculture. But is this the model of agriculture the world should rely on?

Let us turn to campaigner and environmentalist Dr Rosemary Mason to appreciate some of the consequences of this model. She has just written an open letter to Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England and Chief Medical Advisor to the UK government. Although written to Davies, the letter is intended for the four Chief Medical Officers of Health for England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland and Public Health England.

Her letter is essentially a plea to highly placed officials to act.

Mason provides a stark reminder of the impacts of the agrochemical/agribusiness sector, its political power and its effects on health. She draws attention to a report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, which states unequivocally that the storyline perpetuated by the likes of Bayer’s Richard van der Merwe (in this piece) saying we need pesticides and (often chemical-dependent) GMOs to feed the world is a myth.

The report is 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 of the report call for a comprehensive new global treaty to regulate and phase out the use of dangerous pesticides in farming and move towards sustainable agricultural practices. They say:

“excessive use of pesticides is very dangerous to human health, to the environment and it is misleading to claim they are vital to ensuring food security.”

Mason notes that chronic exposure to pesticides has been linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, hormone disruption, developmental disorders and sterility. Certain pesticides can persist in the environment for decades and pose a threat to the entire ecological system on which food production depends.

One of the report’s authors, the UN expert on Toxics Baskut Tuncakwrote in the Guardian:

“Our children are growing up exposed to a toxic cocktail of weedkillers, insecticides, and fungicides. It’s on their food and in their water, and it’s even doused over their parks and playgrounds. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most ratified international human rights treaty in the world (only the US is not a party), makes it clear that states have an explicit obligation to protect children from exposure to toxic chemicals, from contaminated food and polluted water, and to ensure that every child can realise their right to the highest attainable standard of health. These and many other rights of the child are abused by the current pesticide regime. These chemicals are everywhere and they are invisible. The only way to protect citizens, especially those disproportionately at risk from exposure, is for governments to regulate them effectively, in large part by adhering to the highest standards of scientific integrity.”

Mason offers Sally Davies and her colleagues evidence that suggests rising UK Mortality rates point to a critical, unprecedented health epidemic. Arguing that the heavy use of agrochemicals in the UK is a major contributory factor, she notes Cancer Research UK (CRUK) is protecting the agrochemical industry due to its strategic influence. As a result, the mainstream narrative on cancer focuses on the role of alcohol (see this also) and ‘lifestyle choices’ while sidelining the strong evidence that agrochemicals are having.

Rosemary Mason asks Sally Davies if she is aware that the UK Department of Health is working with industry, again citing evidence in support of her claim.

As someone who has written extensively on the adverse impacts of glyphosate, Mason refers Davies to research that links Monsanto’s glyphosate-based Roundup with liver damage.

If the National Health Service in the UK is experiencing a crisis – as indeed it is – due to rising rates of morbidity (not withstanding the effects of poor funding and creeping privatisation), surely these spiralling rates of diseases must be addressed. And where better to start by shining the light on agrochemicals rather than blaming individuals for lifestyle choices and alcohol consumption? 

For instance, a report by ‘Children with Cancer UK’ in 2016 said there were 1,300 more cases per year of cancers in children, particularly in young adults, compared with 1998. While the medical correspondent from The Telegraph has mentioned pesticides as a possible cause, a spokesperson from CRUK said there is no evidence of environmental factors.

Among the various statistics Mason provides are those indicating that colon cancer had risen by 200%, thyroid cancer has doubled, ovarian cancer is up by 70% and cervical cancer is up by 50% since 1998.

Yes, despite the evidence, the corporate media in Britain is silent about pesticides, which partly results from the corporate sponsorship of the UK Science Media Centre; so any science against the corporations can be suppressed by interested parties, including AstraZeneca, Coca Cola, Syngenta, BP and Monsanto.

While Mason produces figures to show the massive increase in a range of agrochemicals over the years, the Chief Scientist for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Professor Ian Boyd, points out that once a pesticide is approved there is no follow up. There is also no follow up as to the impacts of not just one chemical but the cocktail of agrochemicals out there and how they interact when in the human body and within the environment.

And let’s not forget that many of these agrochemicals were fraudulently placed on the commercial market in the first place without proper testing.

Readers can read Mason’s letter in full here, where she also discusses a potential UK-US trade deal with the US and the impacts on the lowering of food and environmental standards and subsequent relations with the EU.

The impacts of the Monsanto-Bayer deal and the contents of Rosemary’s letter to the Chief Medical officers of the UK are just the tip of an iceberg. There is a lot more that could and has been said on the impact of agribusiness giants on the globalisation of bad food and poor healthecological degradationsoil healthocean dead zones as well as the chemical contamination of our food by the handful of food conglomerates that now increasingly dominate the supply chain.

Alternative approaches and solutions exist but the political influence and financial clout of transnational corporations means that ‘business as usual’ prevails.

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Peace Should be Integral to the Women’s March

January 19th, 2018 by Cindy Sheehan

There is one thing missing from the upcoming Women’s March publicity and philosophy: the urgent need for Peace not War!

The March will speak out against hate, discrimination and exploitation. That’s good.

The March will also speak out strongly in favor of equality, women’s reproductive choice and respect for all people regardless to disability, gender, orientation, etc.. That’s also good.

But the subject of US military aggression and war is essential. We hope that many marchers will include this in their signage and discussions. Despite many antiwar groups and individuals actively advocating for “peace” to be in the platform/demands of the March, this is the second year peace is being minimized or ignored by the organizers.

For the past century the US has intervened aggressively against governments the Washington establishment does not like. A partial list includes Philippines, Korea, Guatemala, Iran, Cuba, Chile, Vietnam,Angola, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama, Somalia,  Haiti, Afghanistan, Iraq, Venezuela, Honduras,  Libya and Syria!

These acts of “regime change”  have killed millions of people including many thousands of our own youth, both women and men. They have resulted in hundreds of thousands returning home injured physically or psychologically. Mothers, wives, sisters, aunts, and other family and friends have been profoundly, permanently, and unnecessarily handed a lifetime of pain and sorrow because of the US war machine.

Shouldn’t it be a priority to change the policies and acts of economic aggression and military intervention that result in violence, war and destruction?

Shouldn’t we address the causes of the refugee crisis as well as the symptom? After all, most refugees never wanted to leave their homelands.

We are sure that most of the women and allies who will be attending the Women’s March agree with us on the need for action and protest against our ongoing wars.

The escalating military budget is driving our country further and further into debt. Meanwhile infrastructure is decaying, health care and housing is diminishing and education is underfunded. College students now graduate with astronomical student debt. Meanwhile there is growing police oppression.

We must include PEACE in our march because unless we can stop the trend, a nuclear war is going to destroy civilization.  There is no such thing as a winnable nuclear war. Resisting the war machine and dismantling ALL nukes should be essential elements in our activism. The continuity of human life on our planet is at stake. These are Women’s issues.

As we demand a change in tone and behaviour in the White House, we must also demand a change in US international foreign policy away from militarism and aggression.

The demand for peace not war should be integral to the Women’s March.

*

Cindy Sheehan is the mother of Specialist Casey Sheehan who was killed in Iraq in 2004; she is an antiwar activist, author of seven books, Executive Producer and host of Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox.

Rick Sterling is an investigative journalist.  

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Why Bitcoin’s Fallen by Half

January 19th, 2018 by Dr. Jack Rasmus

I recently was asked for my view of why Bitcoin prices have collapsed nearly by half this past week. From a high of near $20,000, it fell below $10,000. Other ‘altcoins’ (Ethereum, Ripple, etc.) have collapsed in price as much or more. Why after rising from $900 this time in 2017, and peaking at nearly $20,000 by late last year, has the price collapsed? Will it recover to prior peaks? Is this the beginning of the crypto currency bubble implosion?

Here are the two questions the news agency asked me to answer:

1) Why did Bitcoin fell 45% comparing to December 2017? (if you look closely at graphics there’s a definite connection between Chinese New Year in January and bitcoin’s fall for at least last four years.)

2) Is bitcoin a bubble? Please give a short argument on your answer.

Here’s my explanation for the bubble, the current correction, and what’s driving bitcoin and crypto currencies. It’s an economic analysis, in contrast to the many simplistic historical correlations that purport to pass as explanations.

To address your specific questions 1 and 2:

The reason bitcoin fell 45% is the reversal, or anticipated reversal, of the same forces in 2017 that drove its price from around $1k to almost $20k. The escalation of its price was due to intensifying demand while supply was held more or less controlled by the initial offerings. Demand forces included the prospect in 2017 that bitcoin would remain unregulated and untaxed. That enabled investor ‘pumping and dumping’. Another demand factor was the emerging legitimation of bitcoin by the launching of futures trading by the US commodity exchanges, CME and CBOE at year end. Another was the stagnant price of gold futures, and money flowing from gold price speculation to crypto currencies (a substitution effect). Another was the general ‘risk on’ speculative investing psychology of the year. Another was the spread of companies trying to raise equity funding by proclaiming they were a ‘blockchain’ developer, whether they were or not. Another was the proliferation of other initial altcoin offerings, as their prices rose a complimentary price effect boosted bitcoin (and vice versa). All these factors played a role in driving bitcoin demand, while its supply did not rise in tandem.

Nearly all these forces reversed after the end of 2017 and prices collapsed for bitcoin and other altcoins. Profit taking by large initial investors played a role, as they sold their coins (thereby increasing the supply on the market that also depressed prices as falling demand did so as well). Talk of regulation grew by governments and central banks. China, Korea and other countries announced they banned or would intervene, especially with the manipulation of new companies raising equity funding by renaming themselves with some reference to ‘blockchain’. Central banks globally planned to meet to discuss what to do, as well as regulatory institutions. (Should central banks issue their own digital currencies, which they eventually will do, that will sharply depress altcoin prices by boosting supply). Sellers in general flooded the market for coins, as they dumped their holdings. With the possibility of more regulation comes the likelihood of some kind of taxation as well, a big factor in price speculation. Money flowed back from bitcoin to gold futures speculation—the substitute commodity speculative play. Spillover effects from bitcoin price declines impacted other altcoins, and vice-versa.

All these are ‘causal’ explanations. In contrast, to argue simply that it is Chinese new year correlation effects is nonsense. Most of the bitcoin buying is in Asia, but not in China where it is banned and where the central bank and government are now cracking down on speculators in general. 40% of bitcoin buying was located in late 2017 in Japan—the origin of the market by Nakamoto—and much of it a ‘retail buyer’ herd frenzy.

This may not be as short an answer as you like, but the truth is seldom ‘short’.

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US Cuts Half Its Aid for Palestinian Refugees

January 19th, 2018 by Stephen Lendman

VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: 

stephenlendman.org 

(Home – Stephen Lendman). 

Contact at [email protected].

Economic conditions in Occupied Palestine already “scream.” The Trump administration, in cahoots with Israel, just made things tougher by cutting half of US aid to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA).

It goes for healthcare, education and other social services – vital for around five million Palestinian refugees and their descendants in Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan – victims of Israeli aggression in 1948 and 1967.

UNWRA defines a Palestinian refugee as “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict” – along with others affected the same way during Israel’s Six Day War of aggression.

For starters, theTrump administration is withholding $65 million of a $125 million payment to UNWRA due this month – maybe all aid to be frozen or ended later, an act of collective punishment, a US and Israeli specialty, flagrantly violating international law.

On January 2, Trump disgracefully tweeted:

“(W)e pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect.”

“They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue peace treaty with Israel…(W)ith the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”

Washington and Israel want unconditional Palestinian surrender, subjugation under Tel Aviv’s repressive boot, not peace both countries abhor.

An unnamed US official said

“(t)here is a need to undertake a fundamental reexamination of UNRWA, both in the way it operates and the way it is funded.”

The PA responded to Trump’s move, accusing Washington of “complicity with the Israeli occupation by attempting to remove another permanent status issue off the table.”

US administrations have always been complicit with the Jewish state since its 1948 creation, disdainful of Palestinian rights and welfare.

PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi blasted the Trump administration’s aid freeze, saying

it’s “following Netanyahu’s instructions to gradually dismantle the one agency that was established by the international community to protect the rights of the Palestinian refugees and provide them with essential services.”

“It is also creating conditions that will generate further instability throughout the region and will demonstrate that it has no compunction in targeting the innocent. Once again the US Administration proves its complicity with the Israeli occupation.”

Netanyahu wants UNWRA eliminated, discussed in a previous article.

Aid cuts will grievously harm “the most vulnerable segment of the Palestinian people, (depriving them) of the right to education, health, shelter and a dignified life,” Ashwari explained.

Washington provides over $350 million annually to UNWRA, about one-third of its budget. Neocon Nikki Haley called for a total freeze unless Palestinians bow to the will of Washington and Israel.

Cutting aid to UNWRA inflicts enormous harm on long-suffering Palestinian refugees, deepening a humanitarian crisis in Gazan and other refugee camps.

UNWRA head Pierre Krahenbuhl said cutting aid by Washington threatens “the dignity and human security of millions” of Palestinians, along with threatening regional security.

He called for a global fundraising effort to make up the shortfall caused by Washington’s despicable action, adding:

“At stake is the access of 525,000 boys and girls in 700 UNRWA schools, and their future.”

“At stake is the dignity and human security of millions of Palestine refugees, in need of emergency food assistance and other support in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”

“At stake is the access of refugees to primary health care, including pre-natal care and other life-saving services. At stake are the rights and dignity of an entire community.”

Israel’s Ziofascist UN envoy Danny Danon praised Washington’s move, disgracefully saying

“(i)t’s time for this absurdity to end…”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a weak-kneed statement, saying

“I am very concerned, and I strongly hope that in the end it will be possible for the United States to maintain the funding of UNRWA in which the US has a very important share” – instead of blasting Washington’s despicable move.

A State Department letter explaining it said additional US funding depends on major UNWRA changes demanded by Washington and Israel.

Both countries are using long-suffering Palestinian refugees as pawns to get PA officials to bow to their will – pressuring them to sacrifice the rights and welfare of their most vulnerable people.

*

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the CRG, Correspondent of Global Research based in Chicago.

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.”

After Donald Trump called Haiti and African nations “shithole countries” and exclaimed, “We should have more people from Norway,” Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia) noted that being a racist “must be in his DNA, in his makeup.” Trump’s offensive characterization of Haitians and the entire continent of Africa, the latest in his pattern and practice of racist epithets, imperils legal protection for the 800,000 “Dreamers” who have been able to remain in the United States under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

On September 5, 2017, Trump rescinded the DACA program, effective March 5, 2018. Attorney General Jeff Sessions incorrectly declared that Barack Obama had overstepped his legal authority when he established DACA, as I explained previously.

Indeed, US District Judge William Alsup disagreed with Sessions and ordered the Trump administration to shield existing DACA enrollees from deportation until the courts could rule on the legal challenges to the program. Alsup concluded that plaintiffs contesting the rescission of DACA would likely prevail on the merits of their constitutional and statutory claims.

Ironically, Trump’s habit of spewing racist bile has come back to bite him. In his ruling, Alsup wrote there is “a plausible inference that racial animus towards Mexicans and Latinos was a motivating factor in the decision to end DACA.” Alsup cited Trump’s rhetoric against Mexicans and Latinos during the presidential campaign, specifically calling Mexicans “rapists” and referring to migrants crossing the border as “animals.”

After rescinding DACA, Trump reacted to the overwhelming opposition to his decision by tossing the ball to Congress, tweeting, “Congress has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama administration was unable to do). If they can’t I will revisit this issue!”

Two days later, Trump tweeted,

“For all of those (DACA) that are concerned about your status during the six month period, you have nothing to worry about — No action!”

The president’s “shithole” words were uttered in a meeting called to save the Dreamers. It appeared there was a bipartisan consensus to reinstitute DACA with a path to citizenship for Dreamers; allocate “border security” funding, including money for Trump’s “beautiful wall”; prevent Dreamers from sponsoring their parents for legal immigration status; and end the diversity visa lottery system.

Trump sought “a bipartisan bill of love,” pledging to sign any bill that came to his desk as long as it contained money for “the wall.”

But pressure from right-wing hardliners, who Trump considers his base, scuttled the deal in the volatile meeting in which he made the grotesque remarks. Trump also stated, “Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out,” indicating an intention to remove Haitians from the United States.

The initial reaction from the White House was revealing. One official told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins:

The President’s “shithole” remark is being received much differently inside of the White House than it is outside of it. Though this might enrage Washington, staffers predict the comment will resonate with his base, much like his attacks on NFL players who kneel during the National Anthem did not alienate it.

But after the firestorm erupted in response to his outrageous comments, Trump denied uttering the words “shithole countries” or “take them out,” insisting, “I am not a racist.”

Astoundingly, although several attendees at the meeting confirmed Trump’s “shithole” comments, Sens. David Perdue (R-Georgia) and Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) said Trump had not used that language. According to the Washington Post,

“[t]hree White House officials said Perdue and Cotton told the White House that they heard ‘shithouse’ rather than ‘shithole,’ allowing them to deny the president’s comments on television over the weekend. The two men initially said publicly that they could not recall what the president said.”

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), who was present in the meeting, confirmed that Trump used the phrase “shithole countries” several times. But whether Trump said “shithole” or “shithouse” to refer to other nations is insignificant. Both are equally insulting.

Trump’s Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen also tried to shield the president, testifying under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee, “I did not hear that word.”

Earlier in the week, Trump had ended temporary protected status for 200,000 people from El Salvador, effective September 2019; many of them have been in the United States for 20 years. In November, Trump had halted temporary protected status for 59,000 Haitians, who are still reeling from the earthquake and cholera epidemic that have devastated that country.

Trump’s use of racist language in regard to immigrants — including those from Haiti — is, of course, nothing new. The New York Times reported Trump’s comments during a meeting in June 2017:

Haiti had sent 15,000 people. They ‘all have AIDS,’ [Trump] grumbled, according to one person who attended the meeting and another person who was briefed about it by a different person who was there. Forty thousand had come from Nigeria, Mr. Trump added. Once they had seen the United States, they would never ‘go back to their huts’ in Africa, recalled two officials, who asked for anonymity to discuss a sensitive conversation in the Oval Office.

Democrats insist that reaching a deal to protect the Dreamers is a prerequisite to securing their votes to continue funding the government. Trump blames the Democrats for the impending government shutdown, tweeting, “DACA is probably dead because the Democrats don’t really want it, they just want to talk and take desperately needed money away from our military.”

But Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) told the New York Times,

“To believe that you can successfully blame Democrats for a shutdown over the DACA debate is naïve.”

Graham, who also attended the controversial meeting, confirmed to Sen. Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) that Trump said “shithole countries.” Graham said he had confronted Trump about the president’s words during the meeting.

The deadline to fund the government is Friday, January 19. Trump’s racist tantrum has put not only DACA, but also the entire government, in jeopardy.

Trump has appealed Alsup’s ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. It remains to be seen whether the appellate courts or Congress will ultimately save DACA.

*

Copyright, Truthout. Reprinted with permission.

Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, and an advisory board member of Veterans for Peace. She is co-author (with Kathleen Gilberd) of Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent. The second, updated edition of her book, Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues, was published in November. Visit her website: MarjorieCohn.com. Follow her on Twitter: @MarjorieCohn.

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As Noam Chomsky has often remarked:

‘liberal bias is extremely important in a sophisticated system of propaganda.’ One major news outlet that Chomsky had in mind was the New York Times, but the same applies in the UK. As a senior British intelligence official noted of the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan: ‘It is always helpful for governments who want to get the Guardian readers of the world on board to have a humanitarian logic.’

This suggests that respected liberal media like the New York Times and Guardian are key battlegrounds in the relentless elite efforts to control public opinion.

On January 15, the Guardian was relaunched as a tabloid with a ‘new look’. Katharine Viner, the paper’s editor, proclaimed in all seriousness:

‘we have a special relationship with our readers. This relationship is not just about the news; it’s about a shared sense of purpose and a commitment to understand and illuminate our times. We feel a deep sense of duty and responsibility to our readers to honour the trust you place in us.’

Those words – ‘shared sense of purpose and commitment’, ‘duty’, ‘responsibility’, ‘honour’, ‘trust’ – imply an openness to readers’ comments, even to criticism; an important point to which we return below.

Viner continued:

‘We have grounded our new editions in the qualities readers value most in Guardian journalism: clarity, in a world where facts should be sacred but are too often overlooked; imagination, in an age in which people yearn for new ideas and fresh alternatives to the way things are.’

The grand declaration to honour the yearning of its readers ‘for new ideas and fresh alternatives to the way things are’ rings hollow. This, after all, is a paper that fought tooth-and-nail against Jeremy Corbyn. As Rob Newton pointed out via Twitter, linking to a lengthy series of screenshots featuring negative Guardian coverage:

‘The “left liberal” Guardian’s campaign against @JeremyCorbyn was as relentless as the right-wing Daily Mail & The SunHere’s the proof

Vacuous phrases continued to pour forth from the editor on the ‘new look’ paper:

‘Guardian journalism itself will remain what it has always been: thoughtful, progressive, fiercely independent and challenging; and also witty, stylish and fun.’

‘Fiercely independent and challenging’?

When the Guardian Media Group is owned by The Scott Trust Limited, a ‘profit-seeking enterprise’? (In other words, it is not a non-profit trust, with many readers still mistakenly holding a romantic vision of benign ownership.)

When the paper is thus owned and run by an elite group of individuals with links to banking, insurance, advertising, multinational consumer goods, telecommunications, information technology, venture investment, corporate media, marketing services and other sectors of the establishment? When the paper remains dependent on advertising revenue from corporate interests, despite the boast that ‘we now receive more income from our readers than we do from advertisers’. When the paper has actually ditched journalists who have been ‘fiercely independent and challenging’?

However, it is certainly true that the Guardian ‘will remain what it has always been’: a liberal pillar of the establishment; a gatekeeper of ‘acceptable’ news and comment. ‘Thus far, and no further’, to use Chomsky’s phrase. But, as mentioned, the Guardian will not go even as far in the political spectrum as Corbyn: a traditional left Labour figure, rather than a radical socialist proclaiming ‘Revolution!’ or an anarchist itching to bring down global capitalism.

Meanwhile, readers can expect the ‘new look’ Guardian to continue its attacks on Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, such as the recent smear piece by ex-Guardian journalist James Ball that began scurrilously:

‘According to Debrett’s, the arbiters of etiquette since 1769: “Visitors, like fish, stink in three days.” Given this, it’s difficult to imagine what Ecuador’s London embassy smells like, more than five-and-a-half years after Julian Assange moved himself into the confines of the small flat in Knightsbridge, just across the road from Harrods.’

Ball went on, dripping more poison:

‘Today, most of those who still support Assange are hard-right nationalists – with many seeing him as a supporter of the style of politics of both Trump and Vladimir Putin.’

When we challenged Ball via Twitter for evidence of these foolish claims, he was unable to provide any. His facile response was:

‘The WikiLeaks twitter feed is a pretty good start tbh [to be honest]’

That Katharine Viner’s Guardian would happily publish such crude propaganda in an ostensibly ‘serious’ column speaks volumes about the paper’s tumbling credibility as well as conformity to power.

No doubt, too, this liberal ‘newspaper’ will continue to boost Tony Blair, the war criminal whose hands are indelibly stained with the blood of over one million people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere. But, for the Guardian, he will forever be a flawed hero, someone they have worked hard to rehabilitate in recent years, constantly seeking out his views and pushing him as a respectable elder statesman whose voice the public still needs to hear.

The essence of the Guardian was summed up by satirical comedian reporter Jonathan Pie on the day of the relaunch:

‘New design. Same old virtue signalling, identity politics obsessed, champagne socialism (minus the socialism), barely concealed contempt for the working classes bullshit I presume though.’

The Empty Rhetoric Of Seeking ‘Uncomfortable’ Views

One of the Guardian stalwarts helping to project an illusion of consistent challenge to authority is long-time columnist George Monbiot. We were once admirers of Monbiot, and we still respect his environmentalist writing, particularly on the imminent dangers of climate disruption…up to a point (for instance, he never properly addresses the key issue of the corporate media, including the role of his own paper).

But well over a decade ago, we first started challenging Monbiot on his serious blind spots and establishment-friendly ignorance when it came to foreign policy. In more recent years, we have even been smeared by him, in a pitiful manner akin to that of Oliver Kamm of Murdoch’s Times, an inveterate supporter of Western ‘interventions’, on whom Monbiot often seems to rely for his slurs.

A recent piece by Jonathan Cook, once a Middle East Guardian reporter, is a skillful skewering of Monbiot’s stance. Monbiot has repeatedly attacked those who dare question Washington-approved narratives on Syria, Rwanda and the Balkan Wars. Anyone who challenges Western government propaganda claims about Syria, for example, is condemned as an Assadist or conspiracy theorist. His targets have included Noam Chomsky, Edward Herman, John Pilger, university professors Tim Hayward and Piers Robinson, and Media Lens.

On Twitter last month, Monbiot alleged that Hayward and Robinson ‘have disgraced themselves over Syria’. But when has Monbiot ever excoriated Guardian columnists Jonathan Freedland and Natalie Nougayrède, Nick Cohen of the Observer, David Aaronovitch of The Times and John Rentoul of the Independent, all of whom have ‘disgraced themselves’ over US-UK wars of aggression?

And why is Monbiot’s focus so skewed to ‘their’ war crimes rather than ‘our’ war crimes? The editor of the Interventions Watch blog searched Monbiot’s Twitter timeline in December 2017 and found he had mentioned ‘Syria’ in 91 tweets and ‘Yemen’ in just three tweets. With rare exceptions, virtually the entire UK political and media system has disgraced itself over Yemen – currently the world’s greatest humanitarian catastrophe. This should be a key central concern for any honest dissident commentator today.

Cook writes of Monbiot:

‘Turning a blind eye to his behaviour, or worse excusing it, as too often happens, has only encouraged him to intensify his attacks on dissident writers, those who – whether right or wrong on any specific issue – are slowly helping us all to develop more critical perspectives on western foreign policy goals than has been possible ever before.’

He adds that the many leftists:

‘who defend Monbiot, or turn a blind eye to his hypocrisy, largely do so because of his record on the environment. But in practice they are enabling not only his increasingly overt incitement against critical thinkers, but also undermining the very cause his supporters believe he champions.’

Cook sums up:

‘All indications are that Monbiot lacks the experience, knowledge and skills to unravel the deceptions being perpetrated in the west’s proxy and not-so-proxy wars overseas. That is fair enough. What is not reasonable is that he should use his platforms to smear precisely those who can speak with a degree of authority and independence – and then conspire in denying them a platform to respond. That is the behaviour not only of a hypocrite, but of a bully too.’

We will return later to that point of dissidents being denied a platform to reply. Meanwhile, Monbiot has not responded to Cook, as far as we are aware.

Ironically, of course, the Guardian sells itself as a fearless supporter of ‘open’ journalism, delivering ‘the independent journalism the world needs’. But, once again, there are always safe limits. Tim Hayward, mentioned above, is Professor of Environmental Political Theory at Edinburgh University. He recently recounted what happened after the Guardian published a long piece by Olivia Solon, a senior technology reporter for Guardian US in San Francisco. Solon argued that critical discussion of the White Helmets in Syria had been ‘propagated online by a network of anti-imperialist activists, conspiracy theorists and trolls with the support of the Russian government’.

After publishing this hit piece, the Guardian essentially shut down all discussion, refusing even to grant a right of reply to those who had been maligned, including independent journalists. Hayward described what happened after publication:

‘What the Guardian did next:
• quickly closed its comments section;
• did not allow a right of reply to those journalists singled out for denigration in the piece;
• did not allow publication of the considered response from a group of concerned academics;
• did not respond to the group’s subsequent letter, or a follow up email to it;
• prevaricated in response to telephone inquiries as to whether a decision against publishing either communication from the group had or had not been taken;
• failed to respond to a message to its Readers’ Editor from Vanessa Beeley, one of the journalists criticised in the article.’

George Monbiot played his part too, says Hayward:

‘tweeting smears against critics and suggesting they read up about “the Russian-backed disinformation campaign against Syria’s heroic rescue workers”.’

This was disreputable behaviour from a ‘progressive’ journalist who claims that:

‘I believe that a healthy media organisation, like a healthy university, should admit a diversity of opinion.’

The Guardian journalist added that newspapers, including his own, ‘should also seek opposing views and publish them too, however uncomfortable this might be.’ Monbiot’s own behaviour exposes these words as empty rhetoric.

Guardian Looks Beyond Corbyn To The Next ‘Centrist’ Candidate

Meanwhile, the Guardian is looking beyond the time when Corbyn is Labour leader. A recent article by Ian Sinclair in the Morning Star argues that the Guardian is putting its weight behind Emily Thornberry, Corbyn’s shadow foreign secretary. A Guardian interview with her was, unusually, advertised well over a week in advance of publication. It was a major feature in which she was described as ‘a key architect of Labour’s comeback, and widely tipped to be the party’s next leader’. But there was very little in the piece about the policies she espouses, not least foreign policy issues.

One such issue is the Middle East, which was wholly absent from the Guardian interview. Last November, Sinclair observes, Thornberry proclaimed that Israel ‘stands out as a beacon of freedom, equality and democracy’. And, in a December speech to Labour Friends of Israel, she described former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres as ‘a hero of the left, of the state of Israel and of the cause of peace.’

Sinclair points out:

‘In contrast, in 2005, US dissident Noam Chomsky called Peres “an iconic mass murderer,” presumably for his role in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians that led to the creation of Israel and for being head of government when Israel shelled a United Nations compound in Lebanon in 1996, killing over 100 civilians.’

Thornberry’s comments on Israel, says Sinclair, ‘are a cause for concern for those who want to see an anti-imperialist, humane attitude towards international affairs’. He continues:

‘Thornberry is the perfect candidate for Guardian “centrist” types who would like to neuter Corbynism — someone who can gain the backing of significant numbers of Corbyn supporters while at the same time diluting the movement’s relative radicalism by returning the Labour Party to safer, Establishment-friendly ground.’

The indications are that the ‘new look’ Guardian will be happy to promote a potential Labour leader who soft-pedals Israel’s crimes. This is part of a bigger picture of the paper offering little more than token criticism of elite Western power. We should not be surprised. No amount of redesign can gloss over the structural issues that ensure the Guardian remains very firmly a liberal pillar of the establishment and essentially a guardian of the power-friendly status quo.

*

Featured image is from Media Lens.

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Video: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Strategic Role of Foreign Military Bases

January 19th, 2018 by Coalition Against U.S. Foreign Military Bases

Chair: Leah Bolger

Local Welcoming Remarks: The Rev. C. D. Witherspoon; The Peoples Power Assembly, Baltimore

Opening Remarks: Alfred L. Marder, President, U.S. Peace Council

Keynote Speakers: Ajamu Baraka, President, Black Alliance for Peace; Ann Wright, Retired U.S. Army Colonel; CODEPINK, Veterans for Peace

International Speakers:

Rabindra Adhikari, National Organizer, Black Alliance for Peace; Miguel Figueroa, President, Canadian Peace Congress;

John Lannon, Member of the Executive of PANA (Peace and Neutrality Alliance); Founding Member of Shannonwatch, Ireland;

Elsa Rassbach, Member of Coordination Committee, Stop Air Base Ramstein

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Ukraine’s 2014 Maidan Massacre helped oust President Yanukovych with Russia painted as the perpetrator. 

Oliver Stone interviews Russian President Vladimir Putin, Yanukovych and others exposing the role the U.S. played in destabilizing the region.

Watch the full documentary below.

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Fearing that peace might break out with the two Koreas talking to each other, Washington instructed South Korean President Moon Jae-in to keep the message about anything but peace. It is not just Trump. A former top official for the Obama administration warned Moon that South Korea was not going to get anywhere with the North Koreans unless they have the “US behind them”. Humiliating, that is like saying that Moon’s “button” is not as big as Kim’s. The metaphor is exactly how the Washington elite see South Korea: as Washington’s obedient proxy state. The official went on to say,

“If South Koreans are viewed as running off the leash, it will exacerbate tension within the alliance”.

Running off the leash! Now more humiliation, is South Korea a US poodle? Instead President Moon Jae-in is showing that he has teeth, and that South Koreans want their country back from US humiliating domination.

During the talks it was agreed for North Korea to participate in the Winter Olympics in February.  The two countries will even march together under a common flag, and future talks between the two are planned to reduce tension. Trump continues to bluster, while the two Koreas have “engaged in the most substantive direct talks in years”. Neocons such as John Bolton are outraged that North Korea has proven once again that it is willing to come to the negotiation table. Bolton says it is a dirty trick and that North Korea is “taking advantage of a weak South Korean government”, adding more insulting humiliation. To Washington, South Korea talking peace is weak, running off the leash and going it alone without its US master. The North using the peace option is seen as a provocation and propaganda that Washington will not tolerate.

In retaliation the US sent more nukes to Guam, and put the state of Hawaii on a full alert that a “ballistic missile was inbound“. The nukes outbound to Guam are real; the ones inbound to Hawaii were fake, just like the ability of the billion dollar THAADS to shoot them down. Too conveniently the Hawaii false alarm comes just as the US and its vassals are readying for what the US plots to be a show of solidarity and unity on killer sanctions against North Korea. The US wants its chorus to perform the tragedy of telling North Korea to obey or watch 500,000 of their children die. As Madeleine Albright said about Iraq’s 500,000 dead children from US sanctions, “the price is worth it“. The US does not think the price of diplomacy is worth it though.

The US continues to block efforts at diplomacy, and express its contempt for South Korea’s elected President Moon Jae-in. He was elected on a peace platform by the South Korean people. Moon’s predecessor Park Geun-hye sang from the US hymnbook until she got caught with her hand in the cookie jar. In 2017 the South Korean people went to the street and demanded the granddaughter of former dictator Park Chung Hee be impeached, and now she is in prison. Peace is not anything that Washington’s plutocrats want to hear, although the South Korean people like the sound of it, and elected Moon their president by a wide margin. The self-interests in Washington preferred the corrupt warmonger Park. She carried the US’s tune with perfect pitch, even (allegedly) conspired to assassinate the North’s Kim Jong-Un. The message of the humiliation from US apparatchiks is that if Moon does not change his tune the US will try to undermine South Korea’s democracy with a regime change project might be in his future. The US habitually meddles in other’s elections, and wants to keep tensions high on the Korean peninsula, keep the South Koreans in line, make North Korea a boogeyman, frighten the American people, station 30,000 US troops in South Korea with wartime operational control, buy more multi-billion dollar THAADS from Lockheed Martin, and divide the Korean people. Even at the risks of a nuclear war, which the US proposes making easier.

The establishment nearly went to war with North Korea in 1994 until Bill Clinton negotiated peace. The neocons in Washington and the mainstream media keep saying that North Korea refused to come to the negotiating table. Clinton’s decision to use diplomacy instead of threats proved the warmongers wrong again. It was the US all along that refused to talk, preferring belligerence and threats just as it does now. Once Clinton showed a willingness to bargain, then a nuclear deal was struck. The deal was called the Agreed Framework. What North Korea wanted then for it to suspend its nuclear program was for the US to halt the massive military exercises on North Korea’s border, a non-aggression guarantee, compensation for abandoning its needed electric producing nuclear reactors, and relations with the US. Now the situation with North Korea is back to where it was in 1994. George W. Bush reversed the path of peace when he came into the White House. In 2001 he tore up the Agreed Framework, put North Korea on the Axis of Evil list in 2002, invaded Iraq in 2003, and hanged Saddam Hussein in 2006. Very predictably North Korea resumed its nuclear program for self-defense against a paranoid and unpredictable USA that sees enemies to attack under every bed.

President George W. Bush and President Kim Dae-Jung proceed through an arrival ceremony at The Blue House in Seoul, Republic of Korea, Feb. 20. "I understand how important this relationship is to our country, and the United States is strongly committed to the security of South Korea. We'll honor our commitments. Make no mistake about it that we stand firm behind peace in the Peninsula." White House photo by Paul Morse

President Bush & President Kim Dae-Jung Meet in Seoul (Source: US Department of State)

Bush scrapped the Agreed Framework, and told then South Korean President Kim Dae-jung that future talks with North Korea were dead. Kim Dae-jung had come to visit Bush shortly after winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his Sunshine Policies of peace with North Korea. Instead of welcoming President Kim and his peace efforts, Bush humiliated him by shockingly calling North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-il a dwarf. North Korea predictably withdrew from the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003 and resumed work on its nuclear program. A month later Bush called out North Korea to pay particular attention to Libya as an example of how a country is welcomed into the international community when it unilaterally gives up its nuclear defense program. North Korea paid attention and it was listening when Muammar Gaddafi said in a 2008 speech that “one of these days America may hang us like they did Saddam “. In 2011 Gaddafi met a brutal death at the hands of US proxies; he was anally raped with a bayonet and left to rot on public display in a meat locker. Before Gaddafi’s corpse was even cold a hysterically glowing Hillary Clinton cackled “we came, we saw, he died”, hahaha“. Now fast forward to 2018 and the US is threatening war against North Korea again.

The US has been abusing Korea since 1871 when it first invaded it with an expeditionary force of Marines to forcibly open trade. Korea just wanted to be left alone, but the US forced Korea to sign an exclusive trade treaty in 1882 at the point of a gun. In exchange for that unequal trade agreement the US promised Korea protection. In 1910 the US proved that its promise was worthless. Instead of protection, President Theodore Roosevelt stabbed Korea in the back by conspiring with Japan. Roosevelt had enthusiastically supported Japan in the Russo-Japanese War. Japan pre-emptively attacked the Russian fleet at Port Arthur in a sneak attack. Teddy congratulated Japan for their brilliance…in 1941 his nephew Franklin would call a Japanese sneak attack “a day of infamy”. After Japan and Russia ground down to a bloody stalemate, Japan secretly appealed to Teddy to open negotiations. Roosevelt acted as a (dis)honest broker in negotiating the Treaty of Portsmouth, for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize. Japan won the spoils of the war. Roosevelt had a secret deal that Japan could have Korea and the US would take the Philippines. In 1945 the US deceived Korea again. Instead of liberating Korea from the Japanese occupation, the US occupied Korea for 3 more years until 1948 and then blocked its independence. The US was largely responsible for the division of Korea and backing dictatorships in South Korea until 1993. Americans do not know the US treachery, but Koreans do. Why would they trust the USA now?

In order to understand North Korea, one must start with the “anticolonial and anti-imperial state growing out of a half-century of Japanese colonial rule and a half-century of continuous confrontation with a hegemonic United States”, as Bruce Cumings writes in his book North Korea: Another Country. In order to understand South Korea one should take a similar approach. The Japanese colonization of Korea in 1910 was greeted with cheers from the USA. Teddy Roosevelt encouraged Japan to have its own Japanese Monroe Doctrine for Northeast Asia. The Japanese were harsh rulers, and Koreans remember colonial times as a national humiliation. Under the Japanese the Korean economy grew rapidly, but Koreans will rightly argue that little of it helped the average Korean. Like the Korean “comfort women” sex slaves during World War Two, Koreans were forced to obey their Japanese masters. Some Koreans complied reluctantly, some willingly and some enthusiastically. Many, but not all of the enthusiastic collaborators came from the landed aristocratic class of Koreans known as the yangban. Other collaborators were traitors that saw advancing their economic and social status by collaborating. After the division of Korea in 1945 many of the yangban class and collaborators fled to the South where they felt safe with the US occupation army, and for good reasons. The North was redistributing the yangban’s vast landholdings. Many of the yangban and collaborators were safer in the US occupied south. Some went on to achieve leadership in business and government in South Korea. For instance, the future South Korean dictator Park Chung-hee (from 1963 until his assassination in 1979) had collaborated with the Japanese as a lieutenant in the Japanese army in Manchuria fighting against the Korean resistance fighters.

Korea has a long history of thousands of years. It united as one people in the 7th century and remained so until after World War Two. The US had started planning for the occupation of Korea six months after Pearl Harbor, according to Bruce Cumings. The day after Japan surrendered a future Secretary of State Dean Rusk drew a line at the 38th Parallel where the US proposed that Korea be divided, and the Russian allies agreed. Thousands of Koreans protested in the streets. They were told that a trusteeship was temporary until elections. Instead the US feared that the people would elect a communist government, and so they rigged a fraudulent election for a separate government in the South. The United Nations rubber stamped it. As in the South, the North then held separate elections for the Supreme People’s Assembly which then elected Kim Il Sung, a famous anti-Japanese guerrilla resistance leader since 1932. The US and South Korean propaganda portray that North Korea was a puppet and satellite project of the Soviet Union. This is probably the US projecting its own imperial intentions. Cummings says that no evidence exists that the Soviets had any long-term designs on Korea. They withdrew all of their military from North Korea in 1948.

General Douglas MacArthur, UN Command CiC (seated), observes the naval shelling of Incheon from USS Mount McKinley, 15 September 1950 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

North Korea has experience with US brutality. During the Korean War the US bombed Korea for 3 years, wiped out 20% of its population and destroyed every city, village and vital structure. President Truman threatened to bomb them with the atomic bomb, and General Douglas MacArthur planned to use 30 nuclear bombs which were shipped to a US base in Okinawa. Truman fired MacArthur not because MacArthur wanted to use nukes, but because Truman wanted someone more loyal he could trust with them. Truman pre-authorized MacArthur’s replacement General Matthew Ridgeway to use the nuclear bombs at his discretion. The US public is oblivious to US recklessness with nuclear bombs and is passive about what is done in their name. The Korean War (1950 to 1953) is called the Forgotten War because the US public has amnesia. Whatever propaganda they do remember is a flawed version of history put out by the US government. Oblivious, passive and amnesia are why all US wars of aggression are quickly forgotten as the US moves on to the next one.

After the US military occupation of South Korea from 1945 to 1948, South Korea was ruled by US backed repressive dictators until the first democratic election in 1993.  The first despot that the US installed was Syngman Rhee in 1948. Rhee was a practically unknown in Korea because he had lived in the USA from 1912 until 1945, when he was flown back to Korea by the US military. The US pumped billions of dollars into South Korea to make it a showplace of US-style capitalism during the Cold War, but South Korea did not develop under either democracy or a free market, according to Ha-Joon Chang, the author of Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism.

For many decades North Korea outpaced South Korea in economic development and in their standard of living until the 1970’s. With the 1991 demise of its most important trading partner the Soviet Union, North Korea fell on very hard economic times. Then it suffered two floods and a drought in the 1990’s that resulted in famines. On top of that the US has imposed killer economic sanctions. So now US propaganda constantly reinforces the belief that North Korea is an economic failure that cannot even feed its own people. While the US touts that South Korea is an economic miracle of democracy, capitalism and free markets. Little is ever mentioned about the economic collapse of South Korea in 1997, which the US had to rescue with a financial bailout package that reached $90 Billion. The package included IMF loans that came with humiliating conditionalities of austerity. The minister of finance Lim Chang Yuel went on TV, humiliated and begging for the South Korean people’s forgiveness.

Despite all the propaganda otherwise, North Korea is not only willing to sit down at the table with the US, but it has long been proposing negotiations to a deaf USA ear. What North Korea says it wants today are the same things that were negotiated with Clinton in the Agreed Framework: security, compensation, and economic relations with the US. There is nothing unreasonable that North Korea is asking for, and that is probably why the US refuses to negotiate. It does not want peace for its own insane naked imperialism reasons. Instead the US wants continued hostilities; otherwise if it wanted peace it would welcome diplomacy.

It is the US that is unpredictable. One day Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says that the US is willing to hold unconditional talks with North Korea. Then he says the US won’t. Trump says that he will destroy North Korea with fire and fury, and then he says he would “absolutely talk to North Korea’s Kim on the phone”. It is the US that is paranoid and finding enemies everywhere: Cuba, Afghanistan, Syria, Venezuela, Iran, and Russia to name just a few. The US enemies list has nothing to do with democracy, freedom and human rights. If it did the US would not be friends, allies, and benefactors to brutal kingdoms, monarchies, dictators, fascists and human rights abusers such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, Honduras, Haiti, and Ukraine, for example. US foreign policy is based on hegemony, empire, power, corporate interests, corruption and self-interests of the high and mighty, not democracy and human rights.

Who is paranoid? Compare how much of a threat the US is compared to North Korea. Since World War Two North Korea has not invaded anybody. The Korean War (1950 to 1953) was a civil war and authoritative historians such as I. F. Stone, Bruce Cumings, and David Halberstam agree that the South was responsible for instigating it too. Korea itself has not invaded anybody since the 16th century.

The US has attacked at least 32 countries just since WW2. North Korea has a defense budget of only $7.5 billion, compared to the US $1 Trillion. North Korea has developed nuclear weapons because the US has been threatening it with nuclear destruction since 1950, introduced nuclear weapons into South Korea in 1957 in violation of the armistice agreement and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The US keeps practicing regime change decapitation invasions and nuclear attacks against North Korea. North Korea has an estimated arsenal of 20 nuke bombs that are not a threat to the US’s 15,000 nuclear arsenal. Instead the US is an asymmetrical and existential threat to North Korea and every other non-compliant small country. North Korea has nuclear weapons because it does not want to humiliate itself by being a US poodle.  When are the American people going to wise up to the US propaganda and false cries that the evil wolf is at the door again?

*

David is a progressive columnist writing on economic, political and social issues. His articles have been published by OpEdNews, The Greanville Post, The Real News Network, Truth Out, Consortium News, Global Research, and many other publications.   David is active in social issues relating to peace, race and religious relations, homelessness and equal justice. David is a member of Veterans for Peace, Saint Pete for Peace, CodePink, and International Solidarity Movement.

This article was first published by The Greanville Post, revised January 17, 2018.

Sources

North Korea: Another Country”, by Bruce Cumings.

“The China Mirage: The Hidden History of American Disaster in Asia,” by James Bradley.

“Korean Mind: Understanding Contemporary Korean Culture”, by Boye Lafayette De Mente

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At 5 o’clock on the morning of November 13, more than 200 Haitian police officers raided the Grand Ravine area of Port-au-Prince. There was a series of loud explosions, followed by gunfire. For the next six hours, the commotion didn’t stop. The neighborhood was under siege.

What had started as an anti-gang operation in a poor and largely forgotten neighborhood — in a poor and largely forgotten country — ended in the summary execution of innocent civilians on a school campus.

The police officers were working with the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti. It was launched in October, a reboot of a previous mission that had begun in 2004, when thousands of U.N. troops were sent to Haiti following a coup d’etat, tasked in part with restoring stability and reinforcing national police capacities.

And though the U.N. mission issued a statement days after the raid calling for a prompt investigation by Haitian authorities, it did not publicly acknowledge its own role in the operation. But in late December, a U.N. spokesperson confirmed to The Intercept for the first time that the mission had helped plan the raid, though it distanced itself from the civilian deaths.

“The reported civilian death[s] were not part of the planned operation but of a unilateral action conducted by some [Haitian police] officers after the conclusion of the operation,” the spokesperson, Sophie Boutaud de la Combe, wrote in an email.

The raid of the school, according to the U.N. statement, was done without authorization, without alerting the police hierarchy, and outside of the operational plan.

Boutaud de la Combe said that, a day after the raid, the U.N. “conducted an internal enquiry with all the unit commanders who participated in the operation.” The U.N. inquiry, not previously reported, absolved the U.N., finding that U.N. police did not fire their weapons and only “secured the perimeter” of the school, she said.

“None of the [U.N. police] unit proceeded to the location at Maranatha College where the alleged killings took place,” the spokesperson wrote. “The planned portion of the operation went relatively well. The post-operation unilateral initiative of some HNP members to conduct a high risk search, proceeding outside of the operational cadre, without advising the hierarchy, without authorization and contravening the operation plan was not part of the planned operation.”

When I arrived at the Maranatha Evangelical College campus, traveling with a broadcast team from Al Jazeera four days after the raid, it was immediately obvious something heinous had transpired.

The blood that stained the concrete was still wet, unable to dry in the blanket of fog and mist that kept the capital unusually cool that particular week. Water pooled in the courtyard’s clogged drain had turned a dark red, partially obscuring an empty tear gas canister. The smell of the violence still hung in the heavy air.

Classrooms and offices had been ransacked, the contents of closets, drawers, and bookcases spilled across the floors and through the doorways. Light crept in through holes left by bullets that had pierced through the thick concrete. Sometime since the raid, someone had swept another five empty tear gas canisters and close to 100 heavy artillery shells into a pile.

The morning we arrived, faculty and students were meeting to mourn those who had been killed. The school was still closed. They gathered in one of the small classrooms, closed the door to us outsiders, and began to sing. The religious hymns — deep, soulful melodies — echoed throughout the courtyard where they mixed with cries of grieving victims and family members anxious to tell their stories.

“I must kill myself,” Monique Larosse, whose nephew was shot in this courtyard days earlier, told us. “Why did they kill him when they know he was not one of the bad men? He was someone who went to church, studied, and had principles.”

The stories Larosse, along with other survivors and family members, told me make clear something went horribly wrong on that mid-November day. While there’s a lot still unclear, one thing is for certain — the official narrative is at odds with what the people of Grand Ravine say they witnessed and experienced. And they are a far way off from finding justice.

Tear gas canisters and ammunition swept into a pile at Maranatha campus in Port-au-Prince, on Nov. 17, 2017.

Tear gas canisters and ammunition swept into a pile at Maranatha campus in Port-au-Prince, on Nov. 17, 2017. (Photo: Jake Johnston)

Located near the southern entrance to Haiti’s sprawling capital, Grand Ravine is built on a hillside with picturesque views of the Caribbean Sea. And yet, it’s a downtrodden neighborhood.

Haphazard construction with paltry regulation has left neighborhoods, including Grand Ravine, with little to no infrastructure or government services. Many areas are only accessible by foot.

Narrow, misshapen alleys ascend through the concrete homes secured with rusted sheet metal.

Amid all this is the Maranatha Evangelical College, which has operated here since the 1940s. Despite the name, it offers classes for neighborhood kids beginning in preschool. The campus is a mashup of school buildings, houses and a healthy number of full-size trees, a dissonant image in a city overwhelmed by concrete. A low wall marks it off from the surrounding area.

The only entrance to the elevated campus is a sloping, winding road that sits behind a large metal gate. The campus is a refuge, an oasis of calm in a section of Haiti rife with gang activity.

Grand Ravine is a “red zone,” the label international forces give to the country’s most violence-prone areas. In December 2016, Grand Ravine’s most powerful gang leader, Junior Decimus, was arrested at the airport when he attempted to travel abroad. Soon after, according to a report by local rights organization Justice and Peace, an armed conflict began as others sought to consolidate control of the neighborhood.

“Bursts of automatic weapons sang during the day, while police officers from the nearby station watched helplessly,” according to a hard copy of the organization’s report.

In October, the month before the police raid, groups of armed youth set up roadblocks, robbing cars in plain sight as they passed.

The same month, thousands of U.N. soldiers stationed in the country since the 2004 coup d’etat withdrew. Brought to Haiti to restore “stability,” the foreign troops have been involved in multiple deadly raids into neighborhoods similar to Grand Ravine. The international community has spent hundreds of millions training the Haitian police for the U.N.’s eventual departure.

The U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti ended its mandate in October, but the U.N. is by no means gone. In place of troops, the U.N. created a smaller successor mission composed of a few thousand police officers. In early November, together with the local police force responsible for the capital, that new U.N. mission helped plan the anti-gang raid into Grand Ravine.

The November 13 raid was one of the first major acts involving the new mission, and the response will define the future of the U.N.’s relationship with the people of Grand Ravine — and the success of the newly empowered local police force.

At 6:30 that mid-November morning, Armand Louis received a phone call from Maranatha College, the school he has directed for the last 30 years. Something was wrong. The police raid had spilled onto the school’s campus.

When he arrived nearly two hours later, tear gas was already being employed by police, according to an investigation by the National Network of Human Rights Defenders, a local human rights organization known by its French acronym, RNDDH, and confirmed in an interview with Louis. The following account is based on Intercept interviews with multiple witnesses, whose recollections mirror those included in RNDDH’s subsequent report on the massacre.

Police opened and searched classrooms, ransacking them in an apparent attempt to locate gang members hiding on campus. They didn’t find any.

There was a brief period of calm. People still on campus gave water to police. The burning in their eyes from the tear gas subsided.

An hour later, Louis said, the school’s guard, Julio Fongene, approached him and said that a number of gang members had threatened him and were hiding in a storage facility on campus. Louis informed the police.

When officers attempted to dislodge the hiding gang members, two police officers were shot. The gang members fled. It does not appear that any were apprehended, as the police have not made public any arrests of those responsible for shooting the officers.

U.N. units composed of police from Jordan and Senegal responded to reports of shots fired and arrived at the school. According to the U.N., they administered first aid to the injured police officers and secured the perimeter.

But on campus grounds, Haitian police proceeded to punish the bystanders caught up in the violence.

First, they shot and killed Fongene, the guard, witnesses said.

Police then accused Louis of setting them up. They dragged him into the central courtyard, where some faculty members and people who live on campus were present. The officers beat him with a chair, causing significant injuries to his head and torso. The Protestant Evangelical Baptist Mission of Haiti, affiliated with the school, included an account of the beating in its statement describing the events, and it was confirmed in an interview with Louis and in the RNDDH report.

Faculty tried to intervene. David Jean Baptiste, a professor, was beaten and then shot five times, including a bullet to the head. The courtyard grounds where he died remained bloodstained for days after.

Vanel Danger lives on the school’s campus and is responsible for the cafeteria. He told The Intercept that an officer put a gun to his head and threatened to pull out his teeth if he didn’t cooperate. Danger dropped to his knees and begged for his life. Danger told the officer he had given him water just an hour earlier, RNDDH reported. Danger was spared. But many more weren’t so lucky.

Louis told The Intercept he was handcuffed by an officer in a U.N. uniform and hauled off, bloody and beaten, to jail.

When the police finally left the campus, around 11 a.m., nine civilians lay dead in the courtyard — five of whom had been shot in the head. Not a single firearm was recovered, suggesting that the killings were “summary executions,” RNDDH reported.

The bodies were not removed until the next afternoon.

Ransacked school room at Maranatha campus in Port-au-Prince, on Nov. 17, 2017.

Ransacked school room at Maranatha campus in Port-au-Prince, on Nov. 17, 2017. (Photo: Jake Johnston)

Four days after  the raid, the alleys that weave around the campus and through the neighborhood’s hilly landscape were largely deserted. Groups of young kids watched us from rooftops. Darting eyes peering from behind small openings in concrete homes followed us throughout the neighborhood.

Very few of them wanted to speak.

“There are many more” victims of this and other shootings, a local resident and student at the school explained. “They are afraid,” added the student, whose name The Intercept is withholding out of concern for their safety.

Though the anti-gang raid ended with a schoolyard massacre, questions linger about what happened outside the campus, where the raid began. At first, the police acknowledged seven civilian deaths — all of which occurred at the school. Overall, the police made 32 arrests, but haven’t acknowledged any deaths outside of the school.

But in its investigation, RNDDH concluded that one of the people found dead on campus had been pulled out of his house in the surrounding neighborhood that morning and brought to the school only after his death.

The total death toll remains unknown.

Doresne Jean, director of the Saint Claire morgue in downtown Port-au-Prince, said that eight bodies had arrived from Grand Ravine on Tuesday, the day after the raid — more than the police originally acknowledged. But Jean said there were surely more.

“Maybe the police moved some bodies,” Jean said, “because we had five or six people come here to ask if we had their relatives.” They were not on the list of bodies already received.

Justice and Peace, the local human rights organization that has been monitoring violence in neighborhoods such as Grand Ravine, was one of the first to investigate the massacre. Rovelsond Apollon, an observer there, said his organization had confirmed 12 dead, but that the real total would likely never be known.

Not that many people, even in Haiti, are paying attention to what happens in Grand Ravine.

“A hundred or even 200 could die there and nobody would know,” Apollon said.

Four days after the raid a single shoe sits in the middle of the Soccer field behind Maranatha College in Port-au-Prince, on Nov. 17, 2017.

Four days after the raid, a single shoe sits in the middle of the soccer field behind Maranatha College in Port-au-Prince, on Nov. 17, 2017.

“I don’t know how I am going to live without my son,” Gina Napolean told us from the school’s courtyard, the grief visible on her face just four days after the massacre. Her only son, 22-year-old Kens Napoleon, had been the family’s breadwinner. He was killed by a shot to the head. She put the blame squarely on the government, who she accused of “sending the police to kill our children.”

It’s not just that politicians exert control over the police, Apollon said — they are involved with the gangs themselves. His organization has interviewed young people with heavy weaponry that is not easy to acquire, he explained, and they said the weapons had been provided by politicians.

“Politicians and authorities are not innocent in what happened, because they, too, play their part in the violence,” he said. The politicians, for their part, have not publicly addressed these accusations.

But since the raid, nearly every government official or institution has avoided taking responsibility.

Asked about the raid, the police chief simply said it was planned by the local captain and the new U.N. mission. Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant told the press that the specifics of field operations were outside his purview. Both blamed poor planning for the bloodshed.

The operation was compromised from the beginning. Police officers told local human rights investigators that confidential information about the operation was circulating even before it took place.

A former Haitian military official later told me that he found out about the raid when he heard it being discussed on an open radio channel on November 12, the day before it was launched. A gang leader later called in to a local radio show, alleging that a rival gang from a different neighborhood had participated with police in the raid itself. Others have suggested the raid was an attempt to recover a cache of guns that authorities had distributed in the neighborhood weeks earlier. And so the rumor mill in Haiti churns.

The U.N.’s statement — that its officers were stationed only at the perimeter of the school — contradicts the statements made by Louis, who told me he was handcuffed by a U.N. agent on campus. The U.N. insists that it was uninvolved because its officers were not in the courtyard, but the entrance where they say they were stationed is set just below the scene of the massacre.

The new U.N. mission is ostensibly focused on justice, but Apollon noted that Haiti has seen many international missions throughout its history. “They all failed,” he said, because they do not understand the Haitian reality.

In Haiti, he said, impunity reigns.

Near two months after the massacre, no one has been publicly held responsible. The police inspector general has completed an investigation and passed it on to a judge, who could order the arrest or dismissal of officers involved. One police officer accused of involvement is already missing, according to the inspector general. Families of nine victims, including those of the two police officers, received a one-time payment of about $1,500 for funeral expenses. But none of the intellectual authors of the botched raid appear to have been identified or questioned.

Instead, it was Louis, the school’s director, who was arrested for complicity in the death of the two police officers. After being publicly beaten with a chair at the school he had overseen for 30 years, Louis was held in a Port-au-Prince jail for more than a week.

Under pressure from religious organizations and the school’s faculty, Louis was eventually released for health reasons. But he still has not returned to the school.

“In a country like mine,” Louis wrote to me weeks later, “it is hard to take our leaders at their word.” That, he continued, was “why we need to know what the real motive [of the raid] was.” The public authorities have not yet interviewed him. Do “they really want everything to be investigated properly?” he said, “or was this all planned?”

Apollon said continued raids would do little to address the fundamental problems afflicting neighborhoods such as Grand Ravine. Rather, violence stems from the total absence of the state in such areas, and it will continue so long as the population’s needs are not met. What residents need, he said, “is education.”

After the raid, the school was closed for two weeks.

“We need school,” a student at Maranatha told me that day in the courtyard. “Without education, what hope do we have?”

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Full Spectrum Arrogance: US Bases Spanning the Globe

January 19th, 2018 by Ann Garrison

“There are 50,000 troops still in Germany, still winning World War II three quarters of a century later.”

Late last year, a divided Congress approved a military spending bill of 700 billion dollars , more than either the President or the Pentagon had requested. Hundreds of billions will go to U.S. military bases and troops on foreign soil. The US is the largest, most lethal military power in human history with seven geographic commands spanning the globe, but that didn’t stop the new Coalition Against U.S. Foreign Military Bases from holding its first conference at the University of Baltimore from Friday to Sunday, January 12 to 14.

Here are just a few voices from the conference:

Leah Bolger, retired US military commander, full-time peace activist, and past President of Veterans For Peace:

“This conference is the first action, the first event, of a relatively new coalition, which is a coalition against US foreign military bases that has come together with 13 charter organizations. We are joined to address the issue of US foreign bases which are everywhere—somewhere between 800 and 1000. It’s ridiculous.”

David Swanson, co-founder of World Beyond War and author of the books “War is a Lie ” and “War is Never Just ”:

“Y’know, I watch a lot of basketball games because the University of Virginia is so darn good and I’m just disgusted because at every single game, they thank the troops for watching from 175—sometimes they even say more than 177— countries. They thank the “almost a million” men and women serving our country. They don’t explain what the service is, they don’t explain why they have to be in 177 countries. They don’t explain that there are only about 200 countries on earth, and that there are at least a dozen more countries they’re not telling us about. These are the ones they admit to.

Anytime you have this nation attacking another nation, that is a crime that all of us can be united in opposing.”

“What are they doing there? What are they needed for? In some cases, it’s thousands; in some it’s ten thousands. There are 50,000 troops still in Germany, still winning World War II three quarters of a century later. It’s insanity and of course it costs hundreds of billions of dollars. People who think that we’re running low on money and we can’t afford things should understand that we could afford anything we wanted if we didn’t do things this stupid.”

Ajamu Baraka, Black Agenda Report Editor, Founder of the National Black Alliance for Peace, and 2016 Green Party vice presidential candidate:

“We have a task before us this weekend. We have to struggle among ourselves to build a base line for unity because we know that all of us may not be there in terms of being prepared to take a clear class line, we may not be in full agreement about what national oppression and national liberation mean, we may not agree about the character of this state. But we can agree that anytime you have this state involved in direct intervention, anytime you have this nation attacking another nation, that is a crime that all of us can be united in opposing.”

Full Spectrum Arrogance: US Bases Spanning the Globe

The Real News Network, based there in Baltimore, livestreamed the event from gavel to gavel, and I produced a brief KPFA Radio-Berkeley News report while watching and downloading audio. However, I seemed to be the only other press beyond the websites of the conference participants themselves to take any interest. So on Monday I nominated the conference and its full spectrum arrogance video archive for a Project Censored Award . I recommend all eight sessions now on the YouTube :

  1. Public Meeting/International Night,
  2. The Environmental and Health Impact of U.S. Foreign Military Bases,
  3. History and Economic Costs of U.S. Foreign Military Bases,
  4. US Foreign Policy and the Strategic Role of Foreign Military Bases,
  5. South America and Guantanamo,
  6. The Middle East: US/NATO Plan,
  7. AFRICOM and the Invasion of Africa,
  8. Coalition’s Future Plan of Action

In the final session, reps from the 13 founding organizations met to hammer out their unity statement and plan the next conference. The location isn’t yet set, but it will take place on US-occupied foreign soil, so there’s a world of possibilities.

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Ann Garrison is an independent journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2014, she received the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for her reporting on conflict in the African Great Lakes region. She can be reached at @AnnGarrison or [email protected] 

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Selected Articles: The Pentagon’s New Syria War Plan

January 18th, 2018 by Global Research News

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Syrian Air Defense Ready to Destroy Turkish Warplanes If They Attack Afrin – Deputy FM

By South Front, January 18, 2018

Syria’s Air Defense Forces are ready to react to any Turkish hostile action in Afrin and the Damascus government will consider the Turkish military operation there as an act of aggression, deputy foreign minister Faisal Meqdad told reporters on January 18, according to the state-run news agency SANA.

Breaking – Tillerson Unveils ‘New’ US Syria Plan: ‘Assad Must Go!’

By Daniel McAdams, January 18, 2018

In a speech at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and introduced by President George W. Bush’s Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Secretary Tillerson vowed that the United States military would continue to occupy Syrian territory until three conditions are met.

U.S. Creates Kurdish/Terrorist “Border Force” in Syria to Define Borders of Kurdistan

By Brandon Turbeville, January 18, 2018

For those that hoped Trump would bring a more sensible approach to the Western-induced Syrian crisis, it is almost for certain that those hopes have been officially dashed with the revelation of the Trump administration’s new policy regarding the SDF, Kurds, a new border force, and the logical partitioning plan that is obviously moving forward.

US to Set Up 30,000-strong “Border Force” in Syria

By Peter Symonds, January 18, 2018

In a provocative step that immediately fuelled tensions with Turkey and Russia, the US announced last weekend the establishment of a 30,000-strong Border Security Force (BSF) in enclaves of Syria under the control of the American proxies fighting to topple the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad. The BSF will be dominated by fighters from Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), alongside elements from various Islamist militias.

Watch as ISIS and Al-Nusra Smuggle Money into Syria Using Vehicles with Red Cross Logos

By Paul Antonopoulos, January 18, 2018

A video has been uploaded of huge amounts of cash that was smuggled into Syria for ISIS and the Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Nusra Front using Red Cross logos on the boxes the money was stored in.

Syria’s Kurdish Led SDF: “Border Force” or “Terror Army”?

By Andrew Korybko, January 18, 2018

The US announced that it will train a 30,000-strong “border force” of the Kurdish-led SDF in Northern Syria in a controversial move that was immediately slammed by Turkey as the creation of a “terror army”. President Erdogan has long been opposed to the establishment of a de-facto Kurdish statelet along his country’s southern border, and the US strategy is playing right into his greatest fears.

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Is Bitcoin a Reaction to US Dollar Hegemony?

January 18th, 2018 by Federico Pieraccini

Blockchain technology and the birth of the so-called cryptocurrencies finds deep roots in three contributing factors: the advance of technology: the manipulation of global economic and financial rules; and the persistent attempt to weaken the national economies of countries that geopolitically challenge the US power system. In this first article I address these issues from a financial point of view, in the next analysis I intend to dive into the geopolitical aspects and broader the perspective on how Russia, China and other nations are taking advantage of a decentralized financial system.

Many national economies seem to have begun the process of protecting themselves from what seems like an inevitable economic trend. De-dollarization — dumping dollars for other goods of value — has become popular not only with countries but also with ordinary individuals as a result of global technological growth and increasing access to the Internet. The financial markets are generally reflecting this same trend.

The US dollar is the world’s most dominant reserve currency. The planning and financial rules that accompany this situation are decided in the United States for the benefit of Washington and a few of her allies. This has been reflected in the creation of the petrodollar, the abolition of the gold standard, and the most recent financial crisis of 2008, with the senseless process of quantitative easing. All these economic decisions have been made with the precise aim of prolonging American domination of the global economy, artificially propping up an unsustainable financial system.

The practical consequences of this unsustainability have led over time to thoughts of a practical alternative, both to escape from the domination of the dollar and to re-anchor the economy to real value. The need to circumvent this situation has become especially urgent for countries with a large amount of dollar-denominated debt, or where they face the prospect of being excluded from the SWIFT international payment system.

It is therefore not accidental that countries like Iran and Venezuela, but also Russia and North Korea, have resorted to alternative methods to operate in the global economic space. Washington’s political decision in 2012 to remove Iranian banks from SWIFT immediately set off alarm bells for several countries. The need to escape from the possibility of being excluded from SWIFT became urgent for countries under the threat of Washington. An alternative payment system was thus born in 2015, christened the Cross-Border Interbank Payments System (CIPS), unsurprising founded by China. Basically a copy of the SWIFT system, it serves the role of being a backup system should the Americans seek to exclude from SWIFT recalcitrant countries. A more radical solution has been sought by Venezuela, with the country creating its own virtual currency. President Maduro has announced the creation of a crypto state currency based on the value of oil and supported by barrels of oil worth over five billion dollars. Venezuela has been forced to take this step because of a scarcity of US dollars in the country brought on by the economic warfare visited on the it by Washington, which has succeeded in driving the country into a deep crisis.

This search for fresh liquidity is a gamble for Maduro, who even hopes to be able to trade with allied countries in the new currency, thus circumventing international bans. Even North Korea is said to operate in bitcoin, thereby circumventing the international system of prohibitions and blockades.

The sanctions on Russia, and the influence that Washington exerts with the dollar on the global economic system, has led Moscow and Beijing to a de-dollarization agreement, establishing the yuan gold standard. Russia sells hydrocarbons to China, which pays for them in yuan, then Russia immediately converts the yuan into gold at the Shanghai Gold Exchange, in the process bypassing Washington’s sanctions.

This situation is being replicated in country after country. The United States increases financial and economic pressure on countries through such international bodies as the IMF and the World Bank, then these countries organize amongst themselves to push back against the interference. Technology has facilitated this strategy of decentralization against the center that is London and Washington, the financial heart and primary cause of manifold global problems. Firstly, the possibility of the unlimited printing of dollars has distorted global economies, inflating stock markets and causing national debts to grow out of control. Even the gold markets are manipulated by virtue of the abundance of easy money and such ponzi-scheme tools as derivatives and other forms of financial leverage. All too predictably, as seen in 2008, if it all comes crashing down, the central banks are going to bail out their partners through the mechanism of quantitative easing, guaranteeing unlimited cashflow and leaving taxpayers, along with the small players in the financial markets, to carry the burden.

It is probably too early for the common man to understand what is happening, but in fact the dollar is depreciating in relation to some more tangible assets. But gold continues to be corralled by parallel financial mechanisms and other financial instruments created for the sole purpose of manipulating the financial markets on which the common man depends in search of modest gains. As with others, the gold market suffers from the combine power of the US dollar, centralized financial institutions and market manipulation. Entities such as the FED (and their owners), criminally colluding and working with private banks, hedge funds, rating agencies and audit companies, have made immense wealth by driving the world into a debt scam that has stripped normal citizens of their future.

What is happening in the cryptocurrency markets in not only occurring in parallel with the spread of the Internet, smartphones and the increasing ability to operate in the digital world, but is also seen as a safe haven from centralized financial regulators and central banks; in other words, from the dollar and fiat currencies in general. Whether bitcoin will prove to be a wise long-term investment is yet to be seen, but the concept of cryptocurrencies is here to stay. The technology behind the idea, the blockchain, is a definitive model for decentralized economic transactions without any intermediary that can manipulate and distort the market at will. It is the antidote to the debt virus that is killing our society and spreading chaos around the world.

Washington is now left to deal with the consequences of its demented actions against its geopolitical adversaries. The decision to remove Iran from the SWIFT system, and the ongoing economic war against Russia and Venezuela, have pushed the People’s Republic of China to obviate any direct attacks on its financial system by creating an alternative economic system. The goal is to warn the United States and her allies that an economic alternative exists and is already operational, ready to be opposed to the Euro-American system if necessary. Washington does not seem to want to renounce the role of manipulator and ruler of world speculative finance, and the obvious result of this is the creation of a financial system that is slowly working against the current one. Lack of anonymity and the centrality of systems seem to be the two fundamental elements of the current financial system that orbits around London and Washington. An anonymous, decentralized and technologically reliable system could be exactly what Washington’s geopolitical adversaries have been looking for to end the US-Dollar hegemony.

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Federico Pieraccini is an independent freelance writer specialized in international affairs, conflicts, politics and strategies.

This article was originally published by Strategic Culture Foundation.

Featured image is from the author.

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Yesterday (2017-01-16) Canada hosted a meeting of Foreign Ministers to discuss the situation concerning North Korea and nuclear weapons. What it amounted to was a bunch of U.S. sock puppets gathering to display subservience to the incredible double standards and lies promulgated by the U.S. It should be noted that the 20 invitees were the countries that had militarily supported the UN vote as the U.S. took advantage of a boycott by the USSR and the absence of China in order to start the international part of the war in the first place. Except of course, Russia and China, who also participated in the war, with the latter handing the U.S. one of its largest battlefield defeats in the process, were not invited.

As host of the event, Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland welcomed the participants, and in particular noted the presence of “Rex Tillerson, my friend.” She then laid out the clear parameters of U.S. foreign policy, saying

“No true progress can be made in addressing instability in the Korean peninsula until North Korea commits to changing course and verifiably and irreversibly abandoning all of its weapons of mass destruction.”

Umm, where to start? Perhaps we could start with Libya, who voluntarily gave up their nuclear program and ended up on the hit list of a U.S. created no fly zone. Well sure, they had oil, and Chinese investments, and a plan to create a gold based African currency, but really what we wanted was democracy and freedom – you know, the kind that the al-Qaeda group in eastern Libya were attempting to set up.

Or we could go back to Iraq, where there was no nuclear program, no weapons of mass destruction, no al-Qaeda, no Taliban, nothing to do with 9/11. There was only the lying and conniving of the U.S. as it sought to destroy another ‘regime’ – oh, and oil, and a bit of gold, and again the desire to sell oil not using the U.S. petrodollar.

But maybe one should simply look at the incredible double standard of the U.S. As the only country to ever have used nuclear weapons – unnecessarily as current historians indicate (it was about Russia – oh wait, it still is in the global picture – one of Freeland’s favorite bête noires) – a signatory to the NPT which states,

“Article VI – Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

The U.S. has abrogated that section and others on an ongoing basis, with actions against Iran and Russia, and for Israel, indicating as usual that their word is not worth the ink their names are signed with.

Later she commented,

“We in Canada understand…that it is vital that we come together…to confront aggression. Nowhere in the world do we see the proliferation of weapons and materials of mass destruction on the scale of North Korea’s programs.”

First off, “we” do not understand your perspective, other than as a shill for the U.S. empire. North Korea’s nuclear program is miniscule when compared to that of the U.S., Russia, Israel, Pakistan and India (the latter three are also outside the NPT). The U.S. in particular, under both Obama and Trump, have started a huge process of recalibrating their nuclear forces, the largest sector of the U.S. economy.

Freeland continues,

“We cannot stand by and let this threat persist. At stake are the safety and security of all the people of the world.”

Actually, that is true, but not for Freeland’s intentions. Yes, safety and security are at stake but mainly because of the U.S. known “first strike” nuclear planning, their known tendency to bomb the shit out of countries that don’t obey them (thus they become “shitholes”), and the general ignorance, hubris, arrogance, and lack of critical thought in all U.S. state agencies.

Sorry, I interrupted Ms Freeland,

“As a global community we have shown both by word and in deed that we will not accept North Korea as a nuclear threat to the world.”

Yes, in deed “we” certainly have. The U.S. signed on to the Iranian treaty that puts upon Iran the most stringent inspection terms of any IAEA actions in the world. At the same time Trump threatens to pull out of the treaty every six months which effectively kills any desire for other countries to invest in Iran, thus further limiting their economy. At the same time, old sanctions (an act of war in itself) are not removed, and new ones are imposed and threatened.

Did I mention Iraq and Libya? Yes I think I did.

It is the U.S. posturing, its arrogance, superciliousness, and above all its stated first strike nuclear policy that is the greatest threat to world peace today. The global community – in this case in Vancouver consisting of 20 countries, (admittedly a bit better than the 9 that supported the U.S. on the Jerusalem embassy vote) – has not shown anything by word and deed, but generally has been the victim by word and deed of many, many U.S. imperial actions against those that do not kowtow to their military/industrial/corporate/financial/political complex.

More from Freeland,

“Our message is clear. The pursuit of nuclearization will bring you neither security nor prosperity. Investing in nuclear weapons will lead only to more sanctions and to perpetual instability on the peninsula.”

Once again, all too true for the wrong intentions. That instability is brought about by U.S. interference in the region, aimed not so much at North Korea as at China and Russia. The history of South Korea indicates that prosperity is brought about by killing thousands of one’s own citizens who disagree with whichever U.S. supported dictator is in place at the time, supported by Japanese military functionaries, and then said dictators support the large Korean oligarchs – the chaebols – that control the largest businesses of all kinds in South Korea.

That would be North Korea’s fate if it gives up its nuclear weapons – an imposed dictatorship of some kind after another incredibly cruel and brutal U.S. attack . Having suffered complete devastation by the U.S. air force at the end of the Korean war, and now witnessing current actions against Iraq and Libya, the North Koreans would be well advised to keep their nuclear arsenal.

Canada and the U.S. always invoke the “international community” and “global community” aspects of their wishes and desires, wilfully oblivious to the information that indicates that these communities see the U.S. as the largest threat to world peace today. As the U.S. empire continues to slowly degrade itself to the level of a “shithole” country, Ms Freeland, on Canada’s behalf, is very willing to kiss her “friend’s” ass and take Canada down the hole with them.

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Featured image: Sir David Attenborough (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Few documentaries have had quite this impact, so much so that it has ushered in the unfortunate combination of war and plastic, two terms that sit uneasily together, if at all.  Tears were recorded; anxiety levels were propelled as Sir David Attenborough tore and tugged at heart strings in his production Blue Planet II.  The oceans, warned the documentary maker, is becoming a toxic repository, and humans are to blame. 

More than eight million tons of plastic eventually finds an oceanic destination.  Decomposition will take centuries.  For Attenborough, one scene from the series stood out. 

“In it, as snowflakes settle on the ground, a baby albatross lies dead, its stomach pierced by a plastic toothpick fed to it by its own mother, having mistaken it for healthy food.  Nearby lies plastic litter that other hungry chicks have regurgitated.”   

For Attenborough, plastic supplies a certain demonology for the environmental movement, a vast and urgent target that requires mass mobilisation and action.

“There are fragments of nets so big they entangle the heads of fish, birds, turtles, and slowly strangle them.  Other pieces of plastic are so small that they are mistaken for food and eaten, accumulating in fishes’ stomachs, leaving them undernourished.”

To firstly declare war against something deemed valuable, even indispensable, to preservation, distribution and storage over a multitude of products, to name but a few purposes, is lofty.  To also identify the casus belli against the inanimate again finds haunting resonance with other failed conflicts: the war against drugs, for instance, or that against terrorism. Will this war go the same way?

Guilty consciences are powerful motivators, and fewer guiltier than the affluent, or mildly affluent.  Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May is one, a figure who has decided to embrace the environmental cause with vote grabbing enthusiasm.

“In the UK alone,” she intoned, “the amount of single-use plastic wasted every year would fill 1,000 Royal Albert Halls.”

May’s direction is far from surprising.  There is Attenborough propelling a movement, and there are the votes that went begging in 2017.  A Tory think-tank, Bright Blue, found that many who refused to vote for her party in the last general election considered environmental initiatives key.  Its polling “shows that climate change is the second highest issue younger people want senior politicians to discuss more, second only to health, and actually the top issue for 18- to 28-year-olds.”

In getting on the cart against plastic, May has attempted, unconvincingly, to reassure critics that moving Britain out of the EU would not result in a lowering of environmental standards.  Britannia will remain responsible.  Her government, she spoke with confidence at London Wetland Centre, would “leave the natural environment in a better state than we found it”. 

What Sir David says, goes, though May has suggested a slow approach that would eradicate all avoidable plastic waste in the UK by 2042.  (What, then, is unavoidable?  The question remains unanswered.)  “Plastic-free” aisles are to be encouraged; taxes and charges on takeaway containers are being proposed.  None of these, it should be noted, entails Parliamentary regulation, retaining the old British approach of gradualism in action. No revolutions, please.

Supermarket chains smell climbing profits, luring the ecologically minded to shelves and fridges like willing prey.  One such outlet is Iceland, a chain that wasted little time getting on the radio and airwaves to ride the green belt.  Targets have been advertised, and it promises to remove plastic packaging from all its own labelled products over the next five years.  Even better, goes the fine print, it will enable those with less heavily laden wallets to shop and stay green.

Companies such as Proctor & Gamble, makers of Head & Shoulders Shampoo, have collaborated to produce a recycled shampoo bottle using plastic found in beaches.  This, in turn, pads out it advertising campaigns.  Use our shampoo, and feel good about yourself.

The guilty consciences were whirling and emoting on BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday as callers spoke of efforts to spend a week free of plastic, but ignobly failing before their friends, neighbours and fellow citizens, all of whom had managed to go one day further.  There were accounts about how French and German supermarkets ensure that fruits and vegetables are free, emancipated from the confines of plastic, and, it would seem, ready to salve the conscience of the green consumer.

In Britain, Attenborough’s environmental influence has become priestly for such individuals as Oswestry schoolteacher Mandy Price.  She has roped her daughter in as well in what has become a social media campaign featuring #doitfordavid, shared 125,000 times within a matter of hours.

“It has been shared on every continent apart from Antarctica,” praises Emily Davies of the Border Counties Advertiser.

This arms race of satisfying a bruised conscience has an undeniable merit in so far as it acknowledges some of the disastrous consequences of humanity’s addiction to the accessible and the easy.  Ambitious Mandy, for instance, speaks of her Facebook page “receiving photographs from lots of different people who are collecting plastic, even from holidaymakers in Cuba who have seen the posts and have recorded their own two-minute beach clean on the beautiful oceans there.”

But within such wars lie the seeds of, if not failure, then the coming of another problem.  In the British case, enduring snobbery is pointed to.  In Australia’s Northern Territory, environmental groups conceded in dismay that a ban single-use plastic bags less than 35 microns in thickness introduced in 2011 had not reduced plastic bag litter at all. On the contrary, the amount had increased.

This is a battle against human behaviour, against patterns of consumption and use in the human estate. It is, if nothing else, an attempt at behavioural adjustment and revolution.  Such a tall order, such a mission, but one that provides Mandy with rosy affirmation rather than dimming scepticism. 

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

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The Department of Homeland Security announced Wednesday that Belize, Haiti and Samoa will no longer be eligible for temporary work visas. The announcement is scheduled to be published by the Federal Register on Thursday, exactly a week after U.S. President Donald Trump referred to African nations and Haiti as “shithole” countries during an Oval Office meeting on immigration reform.    

During the meeting where the president discussed the status of the roughly 800,000 immigrants who had benefited from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, by shielding them from deportation, which was terminated by his administration, Trump had reportedly questioned why the U.S. needs to take in immigrants from “shithole” countries, rather than from countries like Norway sparking criticism by lawmakers and social and political actors who slammed Trump’s racism and overall immigration policies.

The H-2A and H-2B visas given to seasonal workers in agriculture and other industries are available to citizens of 80 countries. Haiti had been included in that list since 2012, after a successful lobbying campaign by humanitarian groups and both Republican and Democratic lawmakers to make Haiti eligible for short-term worker visas that could help Haitians recover from the catastrophic 2010 earthquake.

DHS’s official notice provides reasons for the elimination of each country. In the case of Belize the notice cites concerns over human trafficking and for Samoa it claims the Samoan government does not cooperate in accepting back their nationals once they’ve been ordered to leave the U.S..

For Haiti, the document claims the measure was taken due to a “high rate of overstaying the terms,” and to recipients’ “historically demonstrated high levels of fraud and abuse.”

DHS’s reason to ban Haitians from the visas does not hold up. According to Reuters, a 2016 DHS report claims that only 65 Haitians entered the United States on H-2A visas for agricultural work, and an amount “too low to report” entered on H-2B visas for non-agricultural seasonal work during the 2016 fiscal year.

This is not the first immigration measure taken by the Trump administration that affects Haitians. In November 2017, the DHS announced its decision to terminate the Temporary Protected Status granted to Haiti under the former President Barack Obama on Jan. 21, 2010 as an immediate response to the Jan. 12 earthquake.

The measure had allowed 59,000 Haitians to stay in the U.S. legally but it will expire this Monday, leaving many Haitian immigrants under threat of deportation.

Featured image is from GrafFiotech.

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Confirming that the US military presence inside Syria had little to do with fighting ISIS, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson unveiled in detail today the real US strategy for Syria: overthrow of the Assad government. 

In a speech at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and introduced by President George W. Bush’s Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Secretary Tillerson vowed that the United States military would continue to occupy Syrian territory until three conditions are met:

First: ISIS must be destroyed. 

This condition is made all the more problematic by the well-reported fact that it is the United States government that at every turn seems to pull ISIS chestnuts out of the fire. From handing them weapons to allowing them to escape when they are trapped in places like Raqqa, it almost seems like the US does not want to really see the end of ISIS.

Second: Assad must go. 

Tillerson’s admission that this is a sine qua non for any US military departure from Syria confirms that the Trump foreign policy is no different from that of Hillary Clinton or her former boss, President Obama. Recall that as part of his “thank you” tour, President-elect Trump reiterated promises made by candidate Trump to break with the past:

We will pursue a new foreign policy that finally learns from the mistakes of the past. We will stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments. …In our dealings with other countries we will seek shared interests wherever possible…”

It is clear that he lied, as it is reported that he signed off on this new Syria strategy last month at a meeting of his National Security Council.

Secretary Tillerson said today that new elections should be held in Syria and that President Assad should lose:

The United States believes that free and transparent elections … will result in the permanent departure of Assad and his family from power… Assad’s regime is corrupt, and his methods of governance and economic development have increasingly excluded certain ethnic and religious groups… Such oppression cannot persist forever.

Tillerson’s speech reveals that the old myth about the Syrian people “rising up” to overthrow Assad is still very much viewed as Gospel truth in Washington:

…our expectation is that the desire for a return to normal life … will help rally the Syrian people and individuals within the regime to compel Assad to step down.

Translation: we are going to continue to make life miserable for you until you overthrow Assad. Then it will return to “normal.” Presumably the people of Syria understand what “normal” life after a US “liberation” looks like from examples like LibyaIraq, and Ukraine.

Tillerson also made the bizarre assertion that US troops will remain in Syria to prevent the Syrian government from re-establishing control over the parts of Syria abandoned by a defeated ISIS. So the legitimate government of Syria will be prevented by an illegal United States military occupation from reclaiming its own territory? This is supposed to be a coherent policy?

Third: Refugees must be returned to Syria.

Secretary Tillerson said today at Stanford University:

America has an opportunity to help people who have suffered greatly. The safe and voluntary return of  refugees serves the security interests of the U.S. and our allies and partners. We must give Syrians a chance to return home and rebuild their lives.

But the one event that led to the biggest return of refugees back to Syria was violently opposed by the US government: the Syrian government’s liberation of east Aleppo from al-Qaeda control!

For additional consideration:

The US military is busy creating a 30,000-strong Kurdish militia to reportedly guard Syria’s borders with Turkey and Iraq. NATO-ally Turkey is violently opposing US moves to further arm Kurd groups that it considers terrorist.

The discredited “Free Syrian Army” (FSA) is back in Washington begging the Trump Administration to re-open the CIA weapons pipeline. The FSA is perhaps best known for immediately handing any weapons it gets from Washington directly to al-Qaeda in Syria. Will Trump’s neocon-filled ecosphere convince him to once again put some wind in al-Qaeda’s sails?

Will Congress awake from its slumber and finally dust off the part of the Constitution directing the Legislative Branch to decide on matters of war and peace? It’s probably an ill-advised bet, however there are a few whispers on Capitol Hill that a shift in US military focus from anti-ISIS to anti-Assad and anti-Iran might be slightly problematic.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has just unveiled a 100 percent neocon approved “new” US policy for Syria: No more pussyfooting around. We won’t abandon our project in Syria like Obama “abandoned” Libya (presumably, as the neocon myth goes, on the verge of becoming a new Switzerland after its “liberation” only to be thrust back into the mire by Obama’s premature withdrawal).

President Trump is set to out-neocon the neocons with this foolish and destructive policy. The showman is shown to be nothing but a fraud.

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Featured image is from the author.

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Croatia’s Far Right Draws Strength From Diaspora

January 18th, 2018 by Sven Milekic

Scattered over almost two centuries across the globe – in Germany, the US, Canada, Argentina and Australia – most members of the Croatian diaspora are still closely linked to their homeland.

The Croatian state responds in kind; it pledges to take “special care” of Croats living abroad, a pledge outlined in the country’s 1990 constitution. Subsequently, Croatia has set up the Central State Office for Croats Abroad, as well as a government body, the Council for Croats Abroad.

More controversially, some in the diaspora maintain close ties with the extreme right in Croatia, pushing a very sympathetic view of the Fascist Ustasa movement that ran the so-called Independent State of Croatia, NDH, under German-Italian patronage during World War II.

In late December, the appointment of Ante Juric, a prominent representative of the Croat community in Australia, to the government’s Council, attracted media attention.

Controversy arose after Juric told a Croat-language TV show on Australia’s SBS radio that the NDH was not a reviled Nazi satellite state but “a Croatian state, and I’m glad it was – while [its leader, Ante] Pavelic was for me one of the greatest Croats in history”.

Right-wingers in Germany rely on Church

People gathered in a Catholic mission in Frankfurt to watch Jasenovac – the Truth – projection organised by the Croatian right-wing party, In the Name of the Family – Project Homeland. Photo: In the Name of the Family – Project Homeland

Germany is home to the biggest Croat community in Europe, numbering some 440,000 people – equal to just over 10 per cent of Croatia’s total population.

Searching for better life, many Croats left what was then Yugoslavia for Germany back in the 1960s, and this trend has continued, increasing after Croatia joined the EU in 2013.

Danijel Majic, a German-Croat journalist who writes about right-wing extremism in Germany for the daily Frankfurter Rundschau, says the connections between parts of Croatian diaspora in Germany and the far right in Croatia are well established.

Croatia’s conservative Christian values NGO, “In the Name of the Family”, has a de facto branch in Germany. This was the NGO that pushed successfully for a referendum in Croatia in 2013 on marriage, defining it as an exclusively heterosexual union and effectively blocking the path to legalised gay marriage.

The NGO also helped file a successful plea for the legal rehabilitation of Filip Lukas, an intellectual close to the Ustasa regime. In July, the Zagreb County Court quashed the verdict passed decades ago by Yugoslav courts, rehabilitating him in full.

Majic says the Catholic Church provides important help for rightist movements among the émigrés.

“The only serious infrastructure among the Croat émigrés in Germany are the missions of the Catholic Church there … Since they the only ones that can offer venues for different political rallies or debates, almost exclusively for rightist politicians and NGOs,” he says.

While Majic says the German Catholic Church often “is not informed” about the activities organised within Croat Catholic missions, they are part-financed by the German Catholic Church, which is also financed partially from the German state budget.

Among those visiting these missions is Croatia’s far-right TV star Velimir Bujanec, host of the controversial TV show, Bujica, which is shown on the four biggest local TV stations in Croatia and aired abroad.

He has become increasingly influential thanks to the high-level guests appearing on his show, and his acquaintances, who include Croatia’s President, Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic.

Another controversial figure, Admiral Davor Domazet Loso, recently visited the German cities of Munich, Stuttgart and Offenbach on a mission organised by a Croatian priest.

In September, as tensions peaked between Croatia and Slovenia over the disputed waters in the Piran Gulf, Domazet Loso released an inflammatory statement declaring that the Croatian military “could be in Ljubljana in two days”.

Majic says events in the diaspora are organised also with the help of right-wing news sites, like Dnevno.hr and its weekly magazine 7 dnevno.

“It is a part of an obvious system, a political concept under which the Catholic Church, in a way, fosters far-right positions,” Majic adds.

Goal is to rewrite wartime history

One of the more controversial events organised for Croatian communities abroad was the screening of Jasenovac – the Truth, a documentary on the Ustase-run concentration camp made by Jakov Sedlar (image on the right).

The film that premiered in Zagreb in April 2016, was screened also in cities across Germany, such as Berlin, Munich, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Offenbach and Darmstadt.

Croatian right-wing party In the Name of the Family – Project Homeland, tied to the NGO, organised some of these screenings.

It has been fiercely criticised for seeming to downplay the crimes committed by the Ustasa in the camp, where over 83,000 Serbs, Roma, Jews and leftists were killed between 1941 and 1945.

Majic says the right-wing radicals in the diaspora constantly push a narrative that the Ustasa “weren’t as bad as the Communists”, and even that “the Ustasa weren’t villains at all”.

The recent verdict of the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, ICTY, against six Bosnian Croat officials, and the suicide in court of one of those convicted, Slobodan Praljak, resonated strongly among Croatian communities in Germany, with the Church clearly taking the side of those who claimed Praljak was innocent and blamed the ICTY for his death.

After some Croat Catholic missions announced that Church services would be held in Germany for Praljak, the German Catholic Church distanced itself with a statement noting that “pastoral staff serving the dioceses should not question the verdict of The Hague Tribunal”.

Memories of the Croatian war of independence in the 1990s also loom large among the Croatian diaspora in Germany; back then, many members of the diaspora were actively involved in it.

Croatian communities collected money to buy arms for Croatia, which was under a UN-imposed embargo on arms reaching former Yugoslavia. They also assisted the Croat side in the three-way war in Bosnia from 1992 to 1995, between Bosnian Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks.

“I remember that Croats in Frankfurt gathered money to buy a tank for the HVO [the Bosnian Croat armed force] in Kupres [in Bosnia] … I also remember how young men went to the war in Croatia as well. Some would go to fight during the vacation and then return to work in Germany,” Majic says.

Community in Latin America is in decline

Argentinian Croats protesting against former Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic statements on post-WWII crimes committed by anti-fascist Partisans. Photo: Facebook

Another sizeable Croat community is located in Argentina, which is home to around 250,000 of people of Croat decent.

However, many of these left what was then Austria-Hungary back in the 1900s, and have weaker ties to the country.

In Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, only around 5,000 of them have Croatian citizenship and can vote in the country’s elections.

The first wave of Croats reached Argentina in the later 19th and early 20th centuries. Mostly came for economic reasons, after a vine disease devastated the vineyards on which many people depended in the coastal region of Dalmatia.

The second wave of arrivals that came after World War II, were mostly affiliated to the Ustasa regime, reaching Argentina from refugee camps in Italy and Austria, after the Communists took power in Yugoslavia in 1945.

Among them were some of the highest NDH officials, including Pavelic himself, as well as Eugen “Dido” Kvaternik who was in charge of the NDH concentration camps.

Along with them came Catholic clergy and intellectuals who opposed the new Communist regime.

While the role of the Latin American diaspora was strong during Yugoslav times, when it was seen as a dissident hub, its role has declined since the 1991-95 war in Croatia.

During the 1990s, however, members of the diaspora in Argentina gathered money to buy arms for Croatian forces in both Croatia and Bosnia. Arms were bought from Argentina and the deals involved some of top Argentinean officials, including the then President, Carlos Menem.

In 2013, an Argentinean court jailed Menem for seven years for taking part in an illegal shipment of arms to Croatia defying the UN embargo. The sentence was later commuted to house arrest.

Some Croats from Argentina went to Croatia to fight during the war as volunteers. One of them, Branko “Pilino” Pilsel, who was killed by the Yugoslav army in 1991 in Dalmatia, still has a special place in the memory of the community in Argentina.

Kazimir Katalinic, who was 18 when he left Yugoslavia in 1945, wrote a four-volume book, From Defeat to Victory, chronicling the Croatian diaspora from 1945 to 1990, which the far-right former Culture Minister of Croatia, Zlatko Hasanbegovic, helped to promote.

However, the influence of the radical diaspora in Argentina had faded, as former NDH officials or political dissidents slowly die away.

The turnout of Croat voters in Argentina in Croatia’s recent elections or referendums has been low.

Due to their lack of interest and because they can only cast votes in Buenos Aires, only 181 people voted in the second round of the Croatian presidential elections in 2015 and 130 in the parliamentary elections in 2016.

While now small in size, the diaspora in Argentina remains mostly oriented to the right. Its members voted against Croatia’s accession to the EU in 2012, and in favour of defining marriage as an exclusively heterosexual union in the 2013 referendum.

More radical elements among them also downplay the crimes committed in Jasenovac.

In 2017, at the Croat community centre in Buenos Aires and on their radio show Croacias Totales, members of a revisionist Croatian NGO, the Society for Research into the Threefold Jasenovac Camp, held lectures in which they insisted that Jasenovac had not been a concentration camp after all.

Despite much documentation and historical research to the contrary, the NGO claimed that Jasenovac was merely a labour camp under the Ustasa – and only became a death camp when the Communists took over.

Most members of the Croatian diaspora there follow the Croacias Totales radio show, which also has its website, as well as a Facebook page. These sites closely follow various events in Croatia, and replay controversial messages from Croatian clergy, among others.

Other radio shows such as Bar Croata and Croacia en mi corazon [Croatia in my heart], are all present on Facebook as well.

Some in the diaspora in Argentina keep up with the far right in Croatia by watching TV shows like Bujica and Markov trg, which was put under a temporary ban of local Z1 TV in 2016 after its host, Marko Juric, warned people in Zagreb to beware of so-called “Chetniks” lurking in the city’s Serbian Orthodox church.

Members of the diaspora in Argentina also criticised the recent verdict against six Bosnian Croat officials in the papers and radio shows.

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All images in this article are from the author unless otherwise stated.

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Media Lies About Fake News

January 18th, 2018 by Eric Zuesse

A major new Gallup report that was issued on January 16th headlined “American Views: Trust, Media and Democracy” (it’s issued in conjunction with the Knight Foundation) and it finds that “Internet-only news websites” are the least-trusted of all newsmedia. 

54% trusted “Your local newspaper.”

52% trusted “National network news.”

51% trusted “Major national newspapers.” 

46% trusted “Cable news.”

38% trusted “News aggregators.”

36% trusted “Internet-only news websites.”

How did you learn that Saddam Hussein was “only six months from developing a [nuclear] weapon”? It was from the U.S. President, and from all of the stenographic ‘news’media, which was all of them, but especially the most-trusted ones: newspapers, TV, radio, and magazines. They enabled George W. Bush to invade and destroy Iraq, and more.

How did you learn that Libya should be invaded? It was from the same ones. They enabled Barack Obama to invade and destroy Libya, and Syria, and more.

How did you learn that dictatorship ended in Ukraine in February 2014’s “Maidan revolution,” instead of that that democracy ended in Ukraine then, and that it was instead a U.S.-engineered coup d’etat which happened there, no authentic ‘revolution’ at all. And this major-media lie thus ‘justified’ and led to the destruction of Ukraine, by U.S. President Obama.

The fake ‘news’ that affected history the most came from newspapers, magazines, TV, and radio. But the truth (such as you’ll see documented at those last links, the first of which is to a news-report which was produced by a lone individual from observers on the ground who had uploaded from their cellphones etc.) was available only at “internet-only news websites” — the type of sites that Americans respect the least.

Why do the public trust most the worst liars, the pumpers of the most viciously fake ‘news’? They do it because they’ve been taught to believe the most-successful newsmedia the most.

They’ve been taught that in order to be successful in newsmedia, the newsmedium needs to be reliably truthful, instead of to pump what the billionaires want you to think — to manipulate your mind and warp your view of reality the way they want.

All of those lies came from the owners and advertisers of the U.S. newsmedia and of the U.S. Government (which are the same owners and advertisers), the people who control the ‘best’ (i.e., worst) Government that big-money can buy — and does buy.

The only newsmedia that enable the reader to click onto a link and come directly (or at least indirectly) to allegations’ sources, are online news-sites that have the journalistic integrity to demand their writers to provide the links for all contentious allegations that are being made, so as to enable the reader to verify (or else invalidate — but the reader is doing this; no one is imposing such judgments upon the reader) what the allegation’s source is, and thus to evaluate it on his or her own. TV doesn’t do that. Radio doesn’t do that. Newspapers (even online ones) don’t do that. Magazines (even most of the online ones) don’t do that.

Why don’t they do that? TV, radio, and print media can’t. The bad online media don’t do it, because their owners don’t want to empower their audience; they want to persuade their audience to believe what the owners and the advertisers want them to believe. 

That’s the way to success in the news-business: to shape the ‘news’ in order to fool the public in the ways that the owners and advertisers want the public to be fooled. It’s salesmanship; it is PR; and, in America — where it’s often taught in some of the same academic departments, “Communications,” which teach both PR and ‘journalism’ — it is the management of the public’s perceptions, in the ways that the owners and advertisers want.

And the only way to get around it is to click onto links and find out what the real story is. Any merely passive access to ‘news’ is simply an invitation to being fooled, being manipulated by wealthy people’s ulterior motives, which are very private.

This is how America has come to be the way it now is — increasingly private, decreasingly public.

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

Syria’s Air Defense Forces are ready to react to any Turkish hostile action in Afrin and the Damascus government will consider the Turkish military operation there as an act of aggression, deputy foreign minister Faisal Meqdad told reporters on January 18, according to the state-run news agency SANA.

“We warn the Turkish leadership that if they initiate combat operations in the Afrin area, that will be considered an act of aggression by the Turkish army,” the deputy foreign minister said adding that if a Turkish warplane attacks Syria it will become a legitimate target.

Meqdad continued emphasizing that Afrin and other northern areas of the country, currently not under control of Damascus, are still the territory of Syria.

The statement comes after Turkish top officials have once again announced that Turkish forces are ready to launch a military operation against Kurdish militias in northern Syria, particularly in the area of Afrin.

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Featured image is from South Front.

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Behind the backs of the US and world populations, social media companies have built up a massive censorship apparatus staffed by an army of “content reviewers” capable of seamlessly monitoring, tracking, and blocking millions of pieces of content.

The character of this apparatus was detailed in testimony Wednesday from representatives of Facebook, Twitter, and Google’s YouTube before the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, chaired by South Dakota Republican John Thune.

The hearing was called to review what technology companies are doing to shut down the communications of oppositional political organizations. It represented a significant escalation of the campaign, supported by both Democrats and Republicans, to establish unprecedented levels of censorship and control over the Internet.

Armed with increasingly powerful artificial intelligence systems, these technology companies are free to remove and block the communications of their users at the behest of the government, in a seamless alliance between Silicon Valley and the major US spy agencies.

Monika Bickert, head of Global Policy Management at Facebook, told lawmakers that the social media giant now employs a security team of 10,000 people, 7,500 of whom “assess potentially violating content,” and that, “by the end of 2018 we will more than double” the security team.

This group includes “a dedicated counterterrorism team” of “former intelligence and law-enforcement officials and prosecutors who worked in the area of counterterrorism.” In other words, there is a revolving door between the technology giants and the state intelligence and police forces, with one increasingly indistinguishable from the other.

Bickert pointed to the growing use of artificial intelligence to flag content, saying Facebook does not “wait for these… bad actors to upload content to Facebook before placing it into our detection systems,” bragging that much of the “propaganda” removed from Facebook “is content that we identify ourselves before anybody” else has a chance to view it.

She added that Facebook has partnered with over a dozen other companies to maintain a blacklist of content, based on “unique digital fingerprints.” This means that if a piece of content, whether a video, image, or written statement, is flagged by any one of these companies, it will be banned from all social media. This database now includes some 50,000 pieces of content and is constantly growing, officials said.

In other words, the technology giants have created an all-pervasive system of censorship in which machines, trained to collaborate with the CIA, FBI, and other US intelligence agencies, are able to flag and block content even before it is posted.

Juniper Downs, global head of Public Policy and Government Relations at YouTube, likewise boasted that Google uses “a mix of technology and humans to remove content,” adding that YouTube relies on a “trusted flagger program” to provide “actionable flags” based on the flaggers’ experience with “issues like hate speech and terrorism,” words that imply that these “trusted flaggers” are connected to US intelligence agencies.

“Machine learning is now helping our human reviewers remove nearly five times as many videos as they were before,” Downs said, adding that Google’s censorship machine is virtually automated. She said that this year there will be “10,000 people across Google working to address content that might violate our policies.”

Downs declared that since June YouTube has “removed 160,000 videos and terminated 30,000 channels for violent extremism.” The company has “reviewed over two million videos” in its collaboration with “law enforcement, government,” and “NGOs.”

Downs stated that Google is actively engaged in promoting what she called “counter-speech,” that is, the promotion of propaganda narratives. She also pointed to Google’s Jigsaw program as deploying “targeted ads and YouTube videos to disrupt online radicalization,” and “redirecting” users to content that Google approves of.

The hearing also featured the testimony of Clint Watts, a former FBI official, former US Army officer, fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, and a leading promoter of social media censorship.

Watts presented the hearing with an unhinged justification for what these massive powers might be used for, in a hypothetical scenario he dubbed “Anwar Awlaki meets PizzaGate.”

“The greatest concern moving forward,” he said, “might likely be a foreign intelligence service, posing as Americans on social media, infiltrating one or both political extremes in the US and then recruiting unwitting Americans to undertake violence against a target of the foreign power’s choosing.”

In this formulation, social opposition, what he calls the “political extremes,” including left-wing politics, is the product of foreign intervention and therefore treasonous. It is also defined as “terrorist” in content and therefore criminal.

Watts expressed extreme fear over the widespread growth of opposition to the policies of US imperialism. He arrogantly decried, “Lesser-educated populations around the world predominately arriving in cyberspace via mobile phones will be particularly vulnerable to social media manipulation.”

The content of Thursday’s testimony points the far-advanced preparations for the establishment of police state forms of rule.

The effort to control speech online is driven by a ruling elite that is immensely fearful of social opposition. Amid growing social inequality and the ever-mounting threat of world war, broad sections of the population, and in particular the working class, are increasingly disillusioned with the capitalist system. Having no social reform to offer, the ruling elites see censorship as the only means to prop up their rule.

Given the explosive content of the statements made at Thursday’s hearing, it is extraordinary that they received no significant coverage in either the print or broadcast media.

The hearing took place just one day after the World Socialist Web Site carried its live webinar, “Organizing Resistance to Internet Censorship,” featuring WSWS chairperson David North and journalist Chris Hedges.

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Next week will see some 2,500 bankers, hedge fund managers, corporate CEOS, government officials and celebrities descend once again on the Swiss Alpine resort of Davos for the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Paying $55,000 a head as the price of admission, one could well assume that the representatives of the financial and corporate oligarchy drawn to the annual meeting, and the lavish parties that accompany it, have a lot to celebrate.

The Bloomberg Billionaires Index published last month established that the fortunes of the world’s wealthiest 500 billionaires—many of whom will be in attendance—rose 23 percent over the past year, making them $1 trillion richer than at the end of 2016. And the obscene amounts of wealth keep rolling in, with the Dow closing at 26,000 Wednesday, recording its fastest ever 1,000-point rise.

Yet the principal report issued as the basis for the four days of meetings and closed-door discussions presents a picture of a global ruling elite living in mortal fear that growing economic and social crises, and, above all, the threat of world war and social revolution, may rob them of not only their fortunes, but their heads as well.

Titled “Fractures, Fears and Failures,” the WEF’s 2018 Global Risks Report includes subheads such as “Grim Reaping,” “The Death of Trade,” “Democracy Buckles,” “Precision Extinction”, “Into the Abyss”, “Fears of Ecological Armageddon” and “War without Rules.”

The report was drafted in conjunction with a survey conducted among nearly 1,000 banking and business executives, government officials and academics, which found that 93 percent of them feared a worsening of confrontations between the major powers in 2018. Fully 79 percent foresaw a heightened threat of a major “state-on-state” military conflict. The report cited both the confrontation between the US and North Korea, which has created the greatest threat of nuclear war since the height of the Cold War, and the increasingly complex inter-state conflicts produced by Washington’s military intervention in Iraq and Syria.

The fears of global war are well-founded. Last month, US President Donald Trump presented his new National Security Strategy, targeting Russia and China as “revisionist powers” standing in the way of the US assertion of global hegemony, and outlining an aggressive first-strike nuclear war policy, including against adversaries using conventional or cyber weapons.

This policy has been further fleshed out by a draft Nuclear Strategic Posture document to be unveiled by Trump later this month calling for the development of new smaller and more “usable” nuclear weapons for deployment on battlefields in Eastern Europe and Asia, making a full-scale global conflagration all the more likely.

This year’s gathering at Davos—sealed off and surrounded, as always, by thousands of troops and police—will be overshadowed by the attendance of Trump, the first US president to make an appearance since Bill Clinton 18 years ago. Aides indicate that Trump intends to deliver his standard “America First” tirade to the final session of the gathering.

While Trump’s speech may provide a particularly crude rebuff to the official slogan of this year’s forum— “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World” —it will constitute only one of the more noxious symptoms of the unraveling of the entire previous framework for international economy and politics under the impact of capitalism’s deepening contradictions and the incapacity of the various rival capitalist state to create a new “shared future” or mend the world’s fractures.

The contents of the WEF risk report point to the deep and insoluble character of the crisis gripping global capitalism.

The document states that while “headline economic indicators,” i.e., the soaring rise in share prices that have fattened the portfolios of the Davos attendees, are positive, this only “masks continuing underlying concerns.”

“This has been the weakest post-recession recovery on record,” the report states, adding, “Productivity growth remains puzzlingly weak.”

The world capitalist economy, it continues, is beset by “unsustainable asset prices, with the world now eight years into a bull run; elevated indebtedness … and continuing strains in the global financial system.”

In a section titled “Into the Abyss,” the document warns:

“Against a backdrop of domestic and international political strife—and with economic policy-makers already operating in uncharted territory—the eruption of another global financial crisis could overwhelm political and policy responses. A systemic collapse of the sort that was averted in 2007-2008 could push countries, regions or even the whole world over the edge and into a period of chaos.”

In addition to “rising military tensions,” “military buildups,” “proxy conflicts” and multiple “flashpoints” threatening war, the document points to the danger of rising social tensions within every capitalist country.

“In many countries the social and political fabric has been badly frayed by many years of stagnating real incomes,” it states, pointing to figures illustrating decelerating wages and rapidly rising social inequality.

“High levels of personal debt, coupled with inadequate savings and pension provisions, are one reason to expect that frustrations may deepen in the years ahead,” the report states.

It also recalls the 2014 WEF Global Risk Report’s warning that one of the world’s greatest threats was a level of youth unemployment so high that it threatened to create a “lost generation.” The report notes dryly that in the four years since, this level has remained “broadly static.” It warns that with so many millions of young people without work, “generational clashes over fiscal and labour-market policies” may erupt.

Concern over explosive social divisions is coupled with a worried section dealing with the Internet, headlined “Digital Wildfires”. It decries “the intentional use of social media to spread misinformation,” i.e., exposures of the real conditions confronting working people in every country, as a challenge to “global governance.” The report welcomes measures taken by Google and Facebook, as well as governments, to crack down on the “disruptiveness of online misinformation” through outright censorship.

The political conclusions drawn by the report are particularly stark:

“Democracy is already showing signs of strain in the face of economic, cultural and technological disruption. Much deeper damage is possible: social and political orders can break down. If an evenly divided country sees polarized positions harden into a winner-takes-all contest, the risk increases of political debate giving way to forms of secession or physical confrontation. In these circumstances, a tipping point could be reached. A spiral of violence could begin, particularly if public authorities lost control and then intervened on one side with disproportionate force. In some countries—with widespread ready access to weapons or a history of political violence—armed civil conflict could erupt. In others, the state might impose its will by force, risking long reverberating consequences: a state of emergency, the curtailment of civil liberties, even the cancellation of elections to protect public order.”

In other words, the world’s financial oligarchy is assembling in the exclusive and scenic Alpine resort of Davos to hold a frank discussion on the prospects for a new world war, the eruption of social contradictions into civil wars and the imposition of police state dictatorships.

What is described in the WEF report are conditions already emerging in the United States and every major capitalist country.

In 1938, on the eve of the Second World War, Leon Trotsky wrote of a capitalist ruling class that “toboggans with closed eyes toward an economic and military catastrophe.” While the WEF risk report suggests that at least some elements of today’s ruling elite see the catastrophe on the horizon, they are as powerless as their forebears of 80 years ago to prevent it.

This places the greatest urgency upon the working class formulating its own independent strategic response to the global capitalist crisis, based on the perspective of uniting workers of every country in the fight to reorganize society on socialist foundations.

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VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: 

stephenlendman.org 

(Home – Stephen Lendman). 

Contact at [email protected].

Sanctions don’t work. They’re counterproductive. They don’t change how nations operate. They’re illegal unless imposed by Security Council members.

They’re imposed as punishment against sovereign independent states, harming ordinary people in targeted nations, not ruling authorities.

On January 16, foreign ministers from 20 nations met in Vancouver on North Korea – hosted by Washington and Canada.

Participating nations were involved in America’s naked aggression on North Korea in the 1950s – Russia and China not invited because they favor diplomacy, not confrontation.

US and Canadian news releases followed Tuesday’s meeting. Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland announced “a $3.25 million commitment aimed at strengthening the global sanctions regime and countering North Korea’s sanctions evasion and proliferation networks,” explaining:

“The initiative will be implemented in partnership with the United States.”

Both countries want tougher sanctions on the DPRK, circumventing the Security Council’s exclusive authority to impose them.

Others unilaterally, bilaterally or in cahoots with multiple nations are unacceptable and illegal.

During Tuesday’s session, Freeland lied saying

“(t)he grave and growing threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs is a global challenge.”

Fact: North Korea threatens no one. It wants peace and stability on the peninsula, not confrontation or war.

It wants its sovereign independence respected, harsh sanctions removed, and a peace treaty, formally ending the 1950s war. An uneasy armistice is unacceptable, perpetuating tensions, instead of easing them.

It wants the threat of US aggression eliminated, why it continues developing its nuclear and ballistic missile deterrents – solely for defense, not offense.

Together with his Canadian, South Korean, Japanese and UK counterparts on Tuesday, Rex Tillerson called for “maximum pressure” on the DPRK, including tougher sanctions and interdicting North Korean vessels, high seas piracy if implemented, saying Washington “cannot and will not accept (North Korea) as a nuclear state.”

He rejected the Sino/Russian “freeze-for-freeze” approach, urging Washington halt its provocative military exercises with South Korea and Japan in return for Pyongyang freezing its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

It’s a common sense approach the Trump administration finds unacceptable, favoring bullying, brinkmanship and belligerence instead, risking nuclear war on the peninsula, catastrophic if launched, assuring millions of casualties and mass destruction.

Tillerson lied claiming Kim Jong-un “threaten(s) international peace and security through unlawful ballistic missile and nuclear tests.”

US imperial lawlessness threatens regional and world peace and stability. The problem on the peninsula lies in Washington, not Pyongyang.

Instead of favoring responsible diplomacy, US-led Vancouver participants “agree(d) to consider and take steps to impose unilateral sanctions and further…actions that go beyond those required by UN Security Council resolutions.”

Instead of agreeing on ways to ease tensions, they want them escalated.

Tuesday’s Vancouver meeting was a diplomatic disaster, perhaps prelude to US-launched aggression.

On Wednesday, a Russian Foreign Ministry statement said the following:

“The Russian-Chinese road map for the Korean settlement, announced in the Joint Statement of the Russian and Chinese Foreign Ministries of July 4, 2017, aims at a mutually acceptable solution of the entire set of problems exclusively by peaceful political and diplomatic means through a mutual reduction in military activity in the region, direct American-North Korean and inter-Korean negotiations and the discussion of security issues in Northeast Asia in a broad format.”

“No alternative is offered to this document. Nothing constructive was proposed by the participants in” Vancouver.

“Regrettably, we have to state that such events which are conducted hastily and which have a negative effect on functioning of proven multilateral formats, do not contribute to the normalization of the situation around the Korean Peninsula.”

“(O)n the contrary, (Vancouver) aggravated it. The ‘decision’ of the participants to consider introducing unilateral sanctions and other diplomatic measures (is) completely unacceptable and counterproductive.”

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang slammed the Vancouver meeting, saying

“it divide(s) the international community and damage the chances of an appropriate settlement on the peninsula,” adding:

“Only through dialogue, equally addressing the reasonable concerns of all parties, can a way to an effective and peaceful resolution be found.”

Vancouver participants increased chances for war on the peninsula, instead of responsibly stepping back from the brink.

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Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the CRG, Correspondent of Global Research based in Chicago.

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.”

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This article first appeared on GR in August 2017.

The news that President Trump has halted the CIA program to arm and train rebel groups in Syria should be viewed with caution, as the CIA program only represented half of US involvement in Syria. Even if we take this information as completely accurate, and the CIA will cease to be involved in any covert programs in Syria, there is still a giant arm of US imperialism that is going to be heavily involved in the Syrian conflict for the foreseeable future; namely, the Pentagon.

The notion that the CIA was the only branch of the US establishment involved in the destabilization of Syria is nonsense. The US has always had two operations running simultaneously in Syria, with one being ran by the CIA, and other being ran by the Pentagon. As Reuters reported in an article in May of this year, titled: Syrian rebels say U.S., allies sending more arms to fend off Iran threat, military aid has been provided through “two separate channels:”

“Rebels said military aid has been boosted through two separate channels: a program backed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), known as the MOC, and regional states including Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and one run by the Pentagon.”

These two programs have often clashed, as was the case last year, when militias armed by the CIA fought against militias armed by the Pentagon.

The Pentagon has been as involved in the disastrous operation to arm and train rebels in Syria as the CIA has, and has contributed heavily to the mess on the ground.

In September 2015 for instance, it was reported that a Pentagon-armed group of rebels – named Division 30 – handed over their weapons to al-Qaeda in Syria, a scenario that was a common outcome from many CIA operations as well. The Pentagon, never shy to blow an obscene amount of taxpayers’ money on imperial matters, has already wasted hundreds of millions of dollars training and arming rebels in Syria, yet Trump only wants to increase the US war budget. 

Trump: The Man of the Military 

Trump’s decision to halt the CIA program was hardly surprising, considering the support Trump has received from large sections of the military. A look at the backgrounds of the individuals that Trump has given cabinet positions reveals Trump’s close relationship with the military.

The Secretary of Homeland Security for instance, John Kelly, is a retired Marine Corps General and former Commander of US Southern Command. Trump’s pick for the Director of the CIA is even more telling, as Mike Pompeo has his roots in the military, graduating from West Point in the 1980s:

“Mr. Pompeo graduated first in his class at the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1986 and served as a cavalry officer patrolling the Iron Curtain before the fall of the Berlin Wall. He also served with the 2nd Squadron, 7th Cavalry in the US Army’s Fourth Infantry Division.”

Undoubtedly, there are many good forces in the US military (as in any other large organization), and there is nothing wrong with having a military background. But equally, there is also many nefarious forces in the military, and the influence of military-industrial complex is pervasive, constantly agitating for more imperial wars.

With this context in mind, it is hardly surprising that Trump favours the Pentagon program over the CIA one, especially considering the power struggle taking place between the CIA and the military within the US. It should be highlighted that Trump has notcompletely halted all US programs to arm and train militias in Syria, he has merely shutdown one channel.

Pentagon Using Kurds to Balkanize Syria 

The Pentagon has been heavily involved in arming Kurdish forces in Syria, using them as a tool to attempt to Balkanize and fracture Syria into micro-states. In May of this year, President Trump approved a plan – supported by many in the Pentagon – to arm the People’s Protection Unit (YPG), a Kurdish militia operating predominantly in northern Syria.

The YPG is also the controlling militia in the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which includes an array of other militias. In addition to providing arms to the YPG, US special forces have been pictured on the ground in northern Syria working in conjunction with YPG fighters.

When most of the public was distracted by the story of Trump halting the CIA program, footage surfaced showing US armed military vehicles passing through Qamishli – a city in northern Syria on the Turkish border – reportedly on route to Raqqa. The recipients of the vehicles are believed to be either the SDF or US forces directly, who are involved in the battle against ISIS in Raqqa.

If (or when) ISIS is defeated in Raqqa, it will be very interesting to see who ends up controlling the city. It is possible that the Pentagon wants to defeat ISIS in Raqqa, and then hand Raqqa to the Kurds – a scenario that many Kurds would only be too happy with. In March of this year, Saleh Muslim, the co-chair of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) – the political affiliate of the YPG – said that once ISIS is defeated in Raqqa, the city should be incorporated into a Kurdish state in northern Syria. 

The Pentagon’s support for Kurdish forces is clearly part of a strategy to break the northern part of the country away from control of the Syrian government in Damascus. A subservient Kurdish state in northern Syria (which would probably join with Kurdish zones in Iraq and other countries in the future) would allow the US to have a permanent military presence in Syria, and easy access to thenatural resources in the Kurdish region.

The creation of Kurdish state in northern Syria would of course cause a severe breakdown in relations with NATO member Turkey, given the views of the current Turkish leadership that is. Turkey considers the YPG to be an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a group Ankara views as a terrorist organization. Turkey has repeatedly denounced US support for Kurdish groups in Syria, with this being a major source of disagreement between the US and Turkey. It is no coincidence that Turkish state media recently published a list of classified US military bases and outposts in northern Syria, with this information revealing the extent to which the US military is embedded in Kurdish-controlled regions in Syria.

The plan to balkanize Syria is well on its way, and the Pentagon is leading the charge. How Russia positions herself in the coming months will be crucial for the future 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 is from the author.

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Israeli soldiers shot 14-year-old Palestinian Mohammad Tamimi point-blank in the face with a rubber-jacketed bullet on December 14, 2017, in Nabi Saleh, a small village in the occupied West Bank. The boy had to undergo six hours of surgery and was placed in a medically induced coma.

An hour later, Mohammad’s cousin, Ahed Tamimi, slapped and kicked at an armed Israeli soldier. Early the next week, after video of Ahed’s actions went viral, Israeli soldiers raided the Tamimi home at 3 a.m., arresting Ahed and confiscating the family’s phones, computers and laptops.

Ahed has been denied bail and could face years in prison. (Nour Tamimi, a 16-year-old cousin of Ahed’s who is also in the video, was also arrested and has been released on bail. Ahed’s mother Nariman was arrested later that day when she inquired about her daughter, and she remains in custody.)

Erasing the shooting

A January 1 Newsweek article described the incident as Ahed “assaulting Israeli soldiers,” “threatening two Israeli soldiers and then hitting them in the face,” “pushing the soldiers as well as kicking them, hitting them in the face and throwing stones at them.” The piece referred to Ahed’s actions as “assaults” and an “attack.” It failed to report that Israeli soldiers had just shot and severely injured her 14-year-old cousin.

Ahed Tamimi in Newsweek

Newsweek‘s depiction (1/1/18) of Palestinian prisoner Ahed Tamimi (left), “16-year-old who attacked Israeli soldiers.”

CNN (1/8/18) also ran a piece that left out the most serious act of violence that day, as did Reuters (12/28/171/1/18). An Associated Press report (12/28/17) had the same deficiency, leaving the false impression that the soldier was attacked without provocation.

The Newsweek piece also failed to note that the Israeli soldiers are members of a military force that has been occupying the West Bank for 50 years. Nor does CBS’s December 21 account mention the occupation, which structures every interaction between Palestinians and Israelis. (The fact that occupied people have a legal right to resist occupation is left out of all of the articles discussed in this piece.)

A report in the New York Times (12/22/17) does not mention that Mohammad Tamimi was shot in the face with a rubber bullet until the 13th paragraph, as though this fact is of minimal importance. The Times describes Nabi Saleh as having “long-running disputes with a nearby Israeli settlement, Halamish, that Nabi Saleh residents say has stolen their land and water.” The Times does not note that, as a colony on occupied territory, Halamish is illegal under international law.

Normalizing military tribunals

The Newsweek piece says Tamimi “has now been indicted on five counts of assaulting security forces,” and that she is “charged with interfering with the soldiers’ duties by preventing them from returning to their post.” It notes that “in May, she was charged with interfering with soldiers who were trying to arrest a protester throwing stones,” and refers to her indictment two other times, including in the headline. At no point does the article mention that the proceedings are taking place in a military court. Similarly, an Associated Press(1/9/18) report refers to “Israel’s hard-charging prosecution” and “the charges” against Tamimi, without mentioning that she is being tried by the same occupying military that shot her cousin.

Omitting that information makes it sound like Tamimi will receive a fair legal process, but the evidence suggests the opposite. According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Palestinians in the occupied West Bank are subjected to a military court system that “does not grant the right to due process and the rights derived from it,” whereas Israelis illegally colonizing the Occupied Territories have the rights and privileges of a civilian legal system.

In the military courts, the age of majority is 16, which means that Palestinian teenagers can be tried as adults, while 18 is the age of majority for Israelis. Defence for Children International Palestine (DCIP), a group that has consultative status with the UN, reports that Israeli military court judges, who are either active duty or reserve officers in the Israeli military, “rarely exclude evidence obtained by coercion or torture, including confessions drafted in Hebrew, a language most Palestinian children do not understand.” The Israeli military courts’ conviction rate of greater than 99 percent underscores how stacked they are against Palestinians.

Framing Resistance as PR Stunts

The New York Times’ framing of Tamimi’s story suggests that the case’s central issue is whether Palestinians or Israelis would have been better off if the soldier had reacted more violently to being slapped. The Times’ David Halbfinger says

that Israelis could not decide whether the soldiers were virtuous pillars of forbearance and strength . . . or an embarrassing advertisement of national paralysis and vulnerability.

Palestinians, meanwhile,

debated whether the video might have damaged their cause, by showing their oppressors behaving gently, or helped it, by showing that resistance can be effective even when one is unarmed.

The paper even implied that Palestinians may be happy that Tamimi was arrested, writing that “the scene of the young woman being hauled away may have given Palestinians the clear-cut propaganda coup they had been denied by the original confrontation.”

NYT: Acts of Resistance and Restraint Defy Easy Definition in the West Bank

The New York Times (12/22/17) placed the same emphasis on life-threatening violence and social media tactics: “The latest incident, filmed in the family’s backyard, occurred within hours after a cousin of Ms. Tamimi’s was shot in the face with a rubber bullet, and it was streamed live on Facebook on December 15.”

CNN similarly trivialized Tamimi’s arrest, noting that Israelis call her “Shirley Temper” because of “her long ginger curls” and because they accuse her of “starring in carefully choreographed ‘Pallywood’ videos, a dismissive characterization of protests considered staged for the camera.”

While the Times and CNN provide a forum for speculation about whether Palestinians want their own children to suffer because it makes for good public relations, there is much this framing overlooks. For example, none of the above-mentioned articles mention the risk of Tamimi being seriously harmed in Israeli jails. Yet UNICEF charges Israel with subjecting Palestinian youth to “practices that amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention against Torture.” These include children “being aggressively awakened in the middle of the night by many armed soldiers and being forcibly brought to an interrogation center tied and blindfolded, sleep-deprived,” and “threatened with death, physical violence, solitary confinement and sexual assault, against themselves or a family member.”

Israel’s well-documented mistreatment of Palestinian youth is ignored in these reports, which suggests it is not Palestinian parents but Western reporters who are interested in crafting a public relations spectacle.

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Gregory Shupak teaches media studies at the University of Guelph-Humber in Toronto. His book, The Wrong Story: Palestine, Israel and the Media, is published by OR Books.

Featured image is from RT.

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For those that hoped Trump would bring a more sensible approach to the Western-induced Syrian crisis, it is almost for certain that those hopes have been officially dashed with the revelation of the Trump administration’s new policy regarding the SDF, Kurds, a new border force, and the logical partitioning plan that is obviously moving forward.

The new plans announced by the United States involve the creation of a “border force” that is expected to contain around 30,000 personnel to be deployed at the borders controlled by the SDF (Syria Democratic Forces). The force will be trained by the United States and will contain members from the SDF and YPG and will see Kurdish members patrolling “Kurdish areas” while Arab members patrol “Arab areas.”

Naturally, the move has angered Turkey since it is opposed to Kurdish nationalism out of fears that it will inspire Kurdish extremists inside Turkey itself. Russia has also condemned the move claiming that it will lead to partitioning. Syria, for its part, has labeled the Trump administration’s plan as an insult to Syria’s national integrity and appears dedicated to Assad’s promise to liberate every inch of Syrian territory.

As Business Insider reports,

The U.S.-led coalition is working with its Syrian militia allies to set up a new border force of 30,000 personnel, the coalition said on Sunday, a move that has added to Turkish anger over U.S. support for Kurdish-dominated forces in Syria.

A senior Turkish official told Reuters the U.S. training of the new “Border Security Force” is the reason that the U.S. charge d’affaires was summoned in Ankara on Wednesday. The official did not elaborate.

The force, whose inaugural class is currently being trained, will be deployed at the borders of the area controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – an alliance of militias in northern and eastern Syria dominated by the Kurdish YPG.

In an email to Reuters, the coalition’s Public Affairs Office confirmed details of the new force reported by The Defense Post. About half the force will be SDF veterans, and recruiting for the other half is underway, the coalition’s Public Affairs Office said.

The force will deploy along the border with Turkey to the north, the Iraqi border to the southeast, and along the Euphrates River Valley, which broadly acts as the dividing line separating the U.S.-backed SDF and Syrian government forces backed by Iran and Russia.

U.S. support for the SDF has put enormous strain on ties with NATO ally Turkey, which views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – a group that has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey.

Syria’s main Kurdish groups have emerged as one of the few winners of the Syrian war, and are working to entrench their autonomy over swathes of northern Syria.

Washington opposes those autonomy plans, even as it has backed the SDF, the main partner for the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State in Syria.

The coalition said the BSF would operate under SDF command and around 230 individuals were currently undergoing training in its inaugural class.

“Efforts are taken to ensure individuals serve in areas close to their homes. Therefore, the ethnic composition of the force will be relative to the areas in which they serve.

“More Kurds will serve in the areas in northern Syria. More Arabs will serve in areas along the Euphrates River Valley and along the border with Iraq to the south,” the coalition’s Public Affairs Office said.

“The base of the new force is essentially a realignment of approximately 15,000 members of the SDF to a new mission in the Border Security Force as their actions against ISIS draw to a close,” it said.

“They will be providing border security through professionally securing checkpoints and conducting counter-IED operations,” it said, adding that coalition and SDF forces were still engaging Islamic State pockets in Deir al-Zor province.

Source: Activist Post

The “coalition” has stated that the training was already underway. This has prompted a strong response by Turkey. As ABC Australia reports,

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said the US was “playing with fire” by setting a force that would include Kurdish militia.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Washington “is taking worrying steps to legitimise this organisation [YPG] and make it lasting in the region”.

“It is absolutely not possible for this to be accepted,” he said, adding that Turkey “will continue its fight against any terrorist organisation regardless of its name and shape within and outside its borders”.

US support for the SDF has put enormous strain on ties with NATO ally Turkey, which views YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) — a group that has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey and is considered a terrorist group by the European Union, Turkey and the United States.

Turkey has criticised the US for arming YPG and Arab fighters in the SDF, which drove Islamic State (IS) out of Raqqa and other parts of Syria.

“The US sent 4,900 trucks of weapons in Syria. We know this. This is not what allies do,” Mr Erdogan said.

“We know they sent 2,000 planes full of weapons.”

‘We will tear them down’

Mr Erdogan on Saturday said Turkish forces in Syria would “vanquish” Kurdish militia that control the neighbouring region of Afrin, putting Turkey at odds with US-backed forces.

“God willing, in the coming days, we will continue the operation to purge our southern border from terror,” he said in a speech in the eastern Turkish city of Elazig.

Turkish troops entered Idlib three months ago after an agreement with Russia and Iran for the three countries to try to reduce fighting between pro-Syrian government forces and rebel fighters in the largest remaining insurgent-held part of Syria.

But now they have turned their sights on the neighbouring Kurdish-controlled region of Afrin.

“If the terrorists in Afrin don’t surrender we will tear them down,” Mr Erdogan said.

Rojhat Roj, the YPG spokesman in Afrin, said Turkish forces stationed in Syria shelled several Kurdish villages in the Afrin region on Saturday, without causing casualties.

“From our side, there is no shelling at present,” he added.

Mr Erdogan has said the Kurdish YPG militia is trying to establish a “terror corridor” on Turkey’s southern border, linking Afrin with a large Kurdish-controlled area to the east.

In 2016 Turkey launched its Euphrates Shield military offensive in northern Syria to push back IS from the border and drive a wedge between the Kurdish-controlled regions.

“With the Euphrates Shield operation we cut the terror corridor right in the middle; we hit them one night suddenly,” Mr Erdogan said.

“With the Idlib operation, we are collapsing the western wing,” he said, in reference to Afrin.

The traditional borders of Kurdistan extend from Syria, through Turkey, Iraq and Iran.

Turkey fear Kurdish independence in Syria could spark a new push for independence among ethnic Kurds in Turkey.

Mr Erdogan said Turkey expected support and “strategic cooperation” from the US in their “legitimate efforts” in Syria.

“Despite it all, we believe we have common interests with America in the region and hope we can act in concert,” Mr Erdogan said.

“We expect our friends to display an attitude that befits them in this issue of survival that is so sensitive and so critical for our country.

“During the Afrin operation, I hope these powers will not give rise to error by appearing on the same side as the terror organisation.”

It is, of course, ironic that Erdogan would mention a “terror corridor” as reason for his military operations in Syria since it was initially Turkey who operated the “terror corridor” known as the “Jarablus corridor” that saw ISIS fighters trained in Jordan by the U.S. and NATO pouring into Syria along with foreign terrorists belonging to fighting units of various names (but all extremists, essentially ISIS fighters). Many writers such as myself stated early on that Erdogan was, at best, making a huge strategic mistake in encouraging the destruction of Syria since such a move was likely to stir up Kurdish nationalist sentiment both outside and inside Turkey. Now that Erdogan has risked the stability of his own country on pipe dreams of being the next Ottoman Empire, he is worried that the cards he played on his reckless gamble are not going to pay off. Make no mistake, Turkey is not interested in righting its wrongs but in expanding its territory, defending against the Kurds, and continuing to push an Islamist overthrow of the Syrian government. It’s closer partnership with Russia came only as Erdogan came to understand that the U.S. and its “coalition” had very little concern with the overall aspirations of Turkey.

Russia also condemned the plans. ABC, again, reports,

Chairman of the Defence Committee of Russia’s State Duma Vladimir Shamanov told local media Russia would undertake measures as a response to the US-led coalition’s decision to create the “so-called Border Security Force”.

He said the move “stands in direct confrontation” with Russian interests, and they would take measures to stabilise Syria.

The Syrian government stated that the new American-organized force “represents a blatant assault” on Syrian sovereignty and has referred to the US as an illegal occupying force. It also referred to members of the SDF and new American “border force” as “traitors.”

What is becoming more and more clear is that the United States, GCC, Israel, and NATO have determined that the feasibility of destroying the Syrian government in the same manner as in Libya is becoming less and less plausible by the day. Plan B, however, is the partitioning and the “Federalization” of Syria into several independent countries or one country with several “autonomous” zones headed by a weakened central government incapable of maintaining power and steering the ship of state.

The move to create a “border force” is nothing more than an attempt to solidify the borders of “Kurdistan” in Syria and a possible “Sunnistan” in the east. These plans are not reasonable solutions to a crisis, they are imperialism pure and simple and they have existed for decades. Not only Syria’s allies but the American people must oppose this plan as well.

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Brandon Turbeville writes for Activist Post – article archive here – He is the author of seven books, Codex Alimentarius — The End of Health Freedom7 Real ConspiraciesFive Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1 and volume 2The Road to Damascus: The Anglo-American Assault on Syria, The Difference it Makes: 36 Reasons Why Hillary Clinton Should Never Be President, and Resisting The Empire: The Plan To Destroy Syria And How The Future Of The World Depends On The OutcomeTurbeville has published over 1000 articles on a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, and civil liberties. Brandon Turbeville’s radio show Truth on The Tracks can be found every Monday night 9 pm EST at UCYTV. His website is BrandonTurbeville.com He is available for radio and TV interviews. Please contact activistpost (at) gmail.com.

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When an intelligence agency arranges to disseminated fake news it is called “disinformation” and it is a subset of what is referred to as covert action, basically secret operations run in a foreign country to influence opinion or to disrupt the functioning of a government or group that is considered to be hostile.

During the Cold War, disinformation operations were run by many of the leading players in both the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and in the opposition Warsaw Pact. Sometimes the activity and the sponsorship were clearly visible, as when Radio Free Europe and Radio Moscow would exchange barbs about just how bad daily life was in the opposition alliance. Sometimes, however, it took the form of clandestinely placing stories in the media that were clearly untrue but designed to shift public perceptions of what was taking place in the world. The Vietnam War provided a perfect proxy playing field, with stories emanating from the U.S. government and its supporters presenting a narrative of a fight for democracy against totalitarianism while the Communist bloc promoted a contrary tale of colonial and capitalist oppression of a people striving to be free.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) inherited the mantle of covert action operations as a legacy from its OSS predecessor, which had had considerable success in conducting disinformation operations during World War 2. But there was from the start considerable opposition to continuing such programs as they were both expensive and subject to devastating blowback when they were identified and exposed. In Western Europe, powerful domestic communist parties were quick to publicize U.S. intelligence missteps, but nevertheless the ability to manipulate the news and information media to place stories critical of the Soviets and their allies led to major programs that funded magazines and books while also seeking to acquire a cadre of journalists that would produce pieces on demand proved too tempting to ignore.

There has been considerable ex post facto examination of the CIA’s use of covert funding mechanisms including the Congress of Cultural Freedom to fund writers and magazines in Europe, the best known of which were The Paris Review and Encounter out of London. As there was a low intensity war going on against communism, a conflict which many patriotic writers supported, funding magazines and finding contributors to write appropriate material was relatively easy and hardly challenged. Some senior editors knew or strongly suspected where their funding was coming from while some did not, but most didn’t ask any questions because then as now patrons of literary magazines were in short supply. Many of the writers were in the dark about the funding, but wrote what they did because of their own personal political convictions. The CIA, seeking value for money, would urge certain editorial lines but was not always very aggressive in doing so as it sought to allow the process to play out without too much interference.

Opinion magazines were one thing, but penetrating the newspaper world was quite a different story. It was easy to find a low or mid-level journalist and pay him to write certain pieces, but the pathway to actual publication was and is more complicated than that, going as it does through several editorial levels before appearing in print. A recent book cites the belief that CIA had “an agent at a newspaper in every world capital at least since 1977” who could be directed to post or kill stories. While it is true that U.S. Embassies and intelligence services had considerable ability to place stories in capitals in Latin America and parts of Asia, the record in Europe, where I worked, was somewhat mixed. I knew of only one senior editor of a major European newspaper who was considered to be an Agency resource, and even he could not place fake news as he was answerable both to his editorial board and the conglomerate that owned the paper. He also refused to take a salary from CIA, which meant that his cooperation was voluntary and he could not be directed.

CIA did indeed have a considerable number of journalist “assets” in Europe but they were generally stringers or mid-level and had only limited capability to actually shape the news. They frequently wrote for publications that had little or no impact. Indeed, one might reasonably ask whether the support of literary magazines in the fifties and sixties which morphed into more direct operations seeking journalist agents had any significant impact at all in geopolitical terms or on the Cold War itself.

More insidious was so-called Operation Mockingbird, which began in the early 1950s and which more-or-less openly obtained the cooperation of major American publications and news outlets to help fight communist “subversion.” The activity was exposed by Seymour Hersh in 1975 and was further described by the Church Commission in 1976, after which point CIA operations to influence opinion in the United States became illegal and the use of American journalists as agents was also generally prohibited. It was also learned that the Agency had been working outside its founding charter to infiltrate student groups and antiwar organizations under Operation Chaos, run by the CIA’s controversial if not completely crazy counterintelligence Czar James Jesus Angleton.

As the wheel of government frequently ends up turning full circle, we appear to be back in the age of disinformation, where the national security agencies of the U.S. government, including CIA, are now suspected of peddling stories that are intended to influence opinion in the United States and produce a political response. The Steele Dossier on Donald Trump is a perfect example, a report that surfaced through a deliberate series of actions by then CIA Director John Brennan, and which was filled with unverifiable innuendo intended to destroy the president-elect’s reputation before he took office. It is undeniably a positive development for all Americans who care about good governance that Congress is now intending to investigate the dossier to determine who ordered it, paid for it, and what it was intended to achieve.

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Philip M. Giraldi is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer who served nineteen years overseas in Turkey, Italy, Germany, and Spain. He was the CIA Chief of Base for the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 and was one of the first Americans to enter Afghanistan in December 2001. Phil is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a Washington-based advocacy group that seeks to encourage and promote a U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East that is consistent with American values and interests.

Featured image is from Salon.

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US to Set Up 30,000-strong “Border Force” in Syria

January 18th, 2018 by Peter Symonds

In a provocative step that immediately fuelled tensions with Turkey and Russia, the US announced last weekend the establishment of a 30,000-strong Border Security Force (BSF) in enclaves of Syria under the control of the American proxies fighting to topple the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad. The BSF will be dominated by fighters from Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), alongside elements from various Islamist militias.

Having proclaimed the defeat of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Washington has no intention of leaving Syria. It is determined to carve out a swathe of territory from which to prosecute its goal of ousting Assad. The latest move will not only intensify the civil war in Syria but bring the US into direct conflict with Russia and Iran, which back the Assad regime, and Turkey, which regards the YPG as a direct military threat.

Colonel Thomas Veale, a spokesman for the US-led coalition against ISIS, announced that the 15,000 troops of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) would form the core of the new army.

“Currently, there are approximately 230 individuals training in the BSF’s inaugural class, with the goal of a final force size of approximately 30,000,” he said.

Testifying to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last Thursday, David Satterfield, acting US assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, revealed that the Trump administration’s aims, beyond the continued suppression of ISIS, involve the consolidation of the SDF in the north and northeast of Syria, and the countering of Iranian influence.

The war against ISIS was only ever a pretext for advancing US plans for regime change in Damascus as the means for combatting Iranian and Russian influence in Syria. Far from destroying ISIS, the US, which maintains 2,000 troops in Syria, and its local proxies ensured the safety of thousands of armed ISIS fighters. According to Russia, these ISIS fighters are being trained and integrated into anti-Assad forces.

Under pressure to explain why US forces are being kept in Syria, Satterfield blurted out:

“We are deeply concerned with the activities of Iran, with the ability of Iran to enhance those activities through a greater ability to move matériel into Syria. And I would rather leave the discussion at that point.”

In other words, the Trump administration is preparing for a war in Syria to oust Tehran’s ally Assad that could easily spill over into a wider conflict with Iran, and potentially Russia.

At the same time, the US is facing possible Turkish military action that could destroy plans for a pro-American zone in Syria. Turkey, a NATO ally, is deeply concerned about linkages between the YPG and the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which it brands a terrorist group and has long sought to suppress. Three months ago, Turkish troops crossed the border into Syria near the YPG-controlled Idlib enclave in northern Syria.

Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accused the US over the weekend of “taking worrying steps to legitimise this organisation [YPG] and make it lasting in the region.” He warned:

“It is absolutely not possible for this to be accepted.” Turkey would “continue its fight against any terrorist organisation regardless of its name and shape within and outside its borders.”

Erdogan condemned US support for the YPG, declaring on the weekend:

“The US sent 4,900 trucks of weapons in Syria. We know this. This is not what allies do.”

At a rally yesterday he reiterated his determination to “vanquish” the Kurdish militia.

“We have finished our preparations,” he said. “The operation can start any time.” Erdogan accused the US of “creating a terror army on our border,” adding: “What we have to do is nip this terror army in the bud.”

The Syrian government denounced the planned pro-US border force as a “blatant assault” on the country’s sovereignty. The state-run news agency, SANA, cited a foreign ministry spokesperson as insisting that the army was determined to thwart the US “conspiracy, end the presence of the US, its agents and tools in Syria, establish full control over the entire Syria territory and preserve the country’s sovereignty.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday accused the US of seeking to split up Syria, saying it “does not want to keep Syria as a state in its current borders.” Washington was helping “the Syrian Democratic Forces to set up some border security zones.”

Lavrov stated:

“What it would mean is that vast swathes of territory along the border of Turkey and Iraq would be isolated. It’s to the east of the Euphrates River. There are difficult relations between Kurds and Arabs there. There is a fear they are pursuing a policy to cut Syria into several pieces.”

Vladimir Shmanov, chairman of the Russian State Duma’s defence committee, warned that Russia would respond to the planned Syrian border force.

“[It] stands in direct confrontation [with Russia’s interests] and we and our colleagues will certainly undertake certain measures on stabilisation of the situation in Syria,” he said.

The US announcement that it will train and equip a 30,000-strong military force is a desperate attempt to shore up its position in Syria. Diplomatically, it is Moscow, not Washington, that appears to be dictating the terms of negotiations over Syria, with plans for a conference in Sochi later this month to discuss the country’s future.

Militarily, the US-backed anti-Assad militias have suffered one defeat after another, not only because of Russian and Iranian support for the Syrian army, but because of widespread popular hostility, particularly to the reactionary Al Qaeda-linked elements supported by Washington.

The last remaining major Syrian opposition enclave of Idlib has been the focus of a major government offensive since the beginning of year. Into this volatile mix, the US has declared that it intends to stake out a claim by funding, training and arming a large new proxy army, only compounding the danger of a wider war.

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While much of the early reporting on the Pentagon’s new Nuclear Posture Review has focused on acquiring smaller nukes and using them much more often, the details continue to slowly emerge, and show a scramble to establish more pretexts for nuclear first strikes.

This includes cyberattacks. In hyping up the threat of major cyberattacks that might conceivably put lives at risk, the Pentagon’s document proposes the use of nuclear first strikes against cyber foes, presenting that as the only “realistic” option to such threats.

The “massive cyber attack” narrative is built around the assumption that a particularly severe hack could conceivably knock out a good portion of the US electricity grid, a major cellphone network, or even some of the Internet’s backbone.

Obviously no such hacks have ever happened, but officials have been eager to play them up as a possibility, both as a way to justify more spending on cyberwarfare, and to hype threats posed by whatever enemy they choose to hype.

Which is another problem. US assignments of blame in cyberattacks are rarely grounded in evidence or reality, but rather they blame whoever is politically expedient at the time, whether it’s Russia, China, or North Korea. Such reckless blame is relatively consequence-free when the US just responds with angry threats, but nuclear strikes could quickly start massive, civilization ending nuclear warfare.

Making nuclear war more likely is the general theme of the Nuclear Posture Review anyhow though, and while it’s drawing a lot of criticism for that from former officials and private analysts, it’s not at all clear that within the current administration, this bellicose and irresponsible posture isn’t the whole point.

The Trump Administration has spent its entire time in power easing restrictions on the military, and giving commanders more and more leeway on their operations. It might not be such a surprise for that to spill over into nuclear weapon policy.

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Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.

Featured image is from the author.

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As the Second World War advanced from its early stages, the United States was assessing which sections of the earth it would hold conquest over. American planners had to remain patient, however. A seemingly endless string of conquests for the Nazis had astonished the world – particularly those in the US – and led to Adolf Hitler being crowned as “the new Napoleon”.

In the summer of 1942, under Hitler’s domineering command of the military, the Germans controlled vast swathes of Europe – from Warsaw to Oslo to Paris, and eastwards onto Athens, Kiev and Sevastopol. It was one major victory after another for the Third Reich, blighted by the narrow failure to take Moscow in late 1941 after a celebrated Russian counterattack, and the inability to gain air superiority over Britain.

Yet, by November 1942, Hitler had plunged deeper into Russian territory than even Napoleon in his pomp 130 years before. By this point, Nazi forces had killed many millions of Russians – much of whom were innocent civilians – in “a war of annihilation”, as Hitler had previously said.

Come early November [1942], 90% of Stalingrad had been taken by German infantry after weeks of fierce house-to-house fighting. The swastika was now flying over the tallest building in Stalingrad city centre. Such news prompted a buoyant Hitler to say in an after-dinner speech in Munich that,

“I wanted to take the place [Stalingrad], and you know, we’ve done it. We’ve got it really, except for a few enemy positions still holding out. Now they say, ‘why don’t we finish the job more quickly?’ Well, I prefer to do the job with quite small assault groups. Time is of no consequence at all”.

At this stage, American planners were preparing with certainty for a postwar world split up between the Third Reich and the leader of the Free World. The Nazis would control the whole of mainland Europe and Eurasia, while the US would command the Western Hemisphere, the Far East, and the former British empire. American imperialists gave this unprecedented sphere of conquest a title, “the Grand Area”.

The plans were soon altered, however. Despite Hitler’s assertions, time was catching up on the Germans. Just days later Joseph Stalin, the Soviet Premier, orchestrated another famous counterattack with fresh reserves – smashing the overextended German lines. By November 23 the German 6th Army, which led the conquest over France in 1940, was completely encircled by superior forces.

Come the following year, 1943, it was increasingly clear to the Roosevelt administration that the Germans were heading towards defeat – which is precisely what unfolded two years later. Russia deserved the vast majority of credit for winning the Second World War – which is scarcely ever mentioned – yet Russia was almost destroyed in doing so, losing over 25 million people along with immeasurable damage to her infrastructure.

The US had not suffered invasion or bombing and in 1945 controlled a remarkable 50% of the world’s wealth. The Grand Area was now to be expanded to control as much of Eurasia as possible too. The Americans had a problem to overcome, however – by war’s end the anti-Nazi Resistance had become powerful and contained many Socialist and Communist elements. The traditional order had to be restored.

Resistance factions would not be conducive to American demands and were to be smashed. At this point, the US did not possess the knowledge of infiltration in breaking up undesirable organisations.

Yet there were those who did possess that ability: Nazi leaders who for years had been specialists in undermining the Resistance through covert techniques. Men like Wehrmacht General Reinhard Gehlen, who was head of German intelligence on the Eastern Front (1942-45), where the most atrocious crimes were perpetrated. The US further hired SS Captain Klaus Barbie – “the Butcher of Lyon” – who had performed a key role in destabilising the Resistance in the Netherlands, and from 1942 on, in Nazi-occupied France.

Gehlen himself was initially under the guidance of the US Army, before being overseen by the recently-formed CIA in 1949. Gehlen headed secret espionage activities against the Soviet Union as head of the so-called Gehlen Organisation – with hundreds of ex-Wehrmacht and SS intelligence officers under his command, all with American assurance.

A declassified CIA intelligence document describes him as, “the Master Spy, the Man of Mystery, Spy of the Century”. Later, for 12 years, Gehlen was the first president of the Federal Intelligence Service of West Germany (1956-1968) – and was also the highest ranking reserve officer in the West German military, before being forced into retirement in 1968.

Barbie, formerly of the SS and Gestapo, was recruited by the US Army’s Counterintelligence Corps in 1947 – historians estimate he bears direct responsibility for the deaths of up to 14,000 people. He was accountable for other crimes such as the widespread use of torture, and the deportation of Jewish children to Auschwitz.

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Shane Quinn obtained an honors journalism degree. He is interested in writing primarily on foreign affairs, having been inspired by authors like Noam Chomsky. 

This article was originally published by The Duran.

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On January 16 in Vancouver, the Canadian and US governments hosted a summit meeting of foreign ministers of twenty Western countries which fought against the DPRK (North Korea) during the Korean War of 1950-53.

Although the meeting was billed as an opportunity to find a diplomatic solution to the standoff between the USA and the DPRK over North Korea’s nuclear program, the military option was never off the table. Donald Trump, president of one of the two countries sponsoring the summit, threatened the DPRK with “total destruction” and “fire and fury like the world has never seen.” It’s important to note that such threats are violations of international law. Article 2.4 of the United Nations Charter outlaws even the threat of force against any state.

North Korea was not invited to the meeting. Neither were China and Russia. The Chinese government termed the summit “destructive.”

 “It will only create divisions within the international community and harm joint efforts to appropriately resolve the Korean peninsula nuclear issue,” spokesperson Lu Kang said to reporters in Beijing.1

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov termed the meeting “pernicious and detrimental” and questioned the wisdom of bringing together representatives of the countries which fought North Korea, Russia, and China during the Korean War.2

As the Chinese and Russian governments predicted, the summit turned into a bellicose gathering which decided to tighten the screws on the already all-pervasive economic sanctions against North Korea. The Canadian government pledged to donate $3.25 million to a US State Department program “that will help countries enforce sanctions against the North Korean regime.”And there was a concurrent threat from a US State Department representative of interdicting (that is, boarding) ships on the high seas bound for North Korean ports:

 “We continue to explore all options to enhance maritime security and the ability to interdict maritime traffic, those transporting goods to and from the [North] that support the nuclear and missile program,” said Brian Hook, director of policy planning at the State Department.4

Finally, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson praised countries which had broken off diplomatic relations with the DPRK and encouraged more to do so. Such bellicose talk and action leads easily to military confrontation. And some have pointed out that the participants at the summit could easily turn into the backbone of a new “coalition of the willing” to launch a pre-emptive, and possibly nuclear, military strike at North Korea’s nuclear facilities.5

North Korea Justly Worried

North Korea is nervous about the USA for several valid reasons. First, during the Korean War, US forces laid waste to the country, carpet-bombing its cities, killing 30% of its population. Secondly, the USA has steadfastly refused to sign a peace treaty to end that war. Instead, it maintains a permanent occupation force of 30000 troops just kilometres away in South Korea and conducts huge, regular, and deliberately provocative military exercises close to the Demilitarized Zone and along North Korea’s coasts, containing a “decapitation” component, specifically designed to assassinate the DPRK leadership. In the event of war, US Central Command automatically takes control of South Korea’s military. So, essentially, a hostile power resides along North Korea’s southern border.

Canada’s Unhelpful Role

So far, the Trudeau government has not contributed to a peaceful solution. Instead, Canada sponsored the most recent UN resolution in late 2017 levelling further economic sanctions against the DPRK. Such sanctions are often deadlier than bombs. A half-million Iraqi children died due to ten years of US sanctions.6 Three to four million Syrians were turned into refugees largely due to a Canadian-led economic sanctions regime.7 As in the case of Syria, the economic sanctions levelled against North Korea also deliberately target civilians and are designed to create a sufficient level of civilian unrest for regime change in North Korea to take place.

Danger of Nuclear War

Not finding a peaceful solution to the current crisis could be catastrophic. Since 2002, the USA has classed “tactical” nuclear weapons as conventional weapons to be used, at its discretion, in first-strike pre-emptive attacks. These bunker-busting bombs possess up to twelve times the power of the Hiroshima bomb. Today, fingers on those “tactical” buttons belong to three-star US generals in the field. If war broke out in Korea, and nukes were used, the scenario of a radioactive nuclear winter covering the entire planet would be likely.

What Trudeau Should Do

The Trudeau government could have played a helpful role for peace at the January 16 summit meeting by pushing for a peace treaty finally to end the Korean War. All that exists now is an armistice. It could have helped mentor an agreement between the DPRK and USA to freeze North Korea’s nuclear program at existing levels in return for the USA removing its troops from South Korea and stopping provocative military exercises. The Trudeau government could have set an example in NATO by joining the Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons, which, unlike North Korea, it voted against at the UN. Indeed, a number of anti-war groups held several activities in Vancouver concurrent with the summit calling for all of the above points.

At the very minimum, the Government of Canada could stop perpetuating false stereotypes about North Korea.

One is that the “isolated Hermit Kingdom” is the most dangerous regime on the planet. Actually, North Korea hasn’t been involved in war for sixty-five years. During that time, the USA has intervened militarily in over fifty countries.Clearly, the USA is far more dangerous.

Another is that North Korea’s a rogue state. Actually, North Korea has committed few, if any, violations of international law. On the other hand, the USA wantonly disregards international consensus, for example, by unilaterally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and by attacking many states, in contravention of international law and its own constitution.

A third is that North Korea can’t be allowed to have nuclear ambitions. However, any sovereign state may possess nuclear weapons. The USA has thousands, ranging from “tactical” (one-to-twelve times the explosive power released at Hiroshima) to “strategic” (up to 1000 times Hiroshima). The USA is also the only country ever to use nuclear weapons in wartime, killing over two hundred thousand Japanese civilians in 1945, after the Japanese government offered unsuccessfully on several occasions to surrender. Today, even tiny countries, such as Belgium and Holland have about 50 nuclear weapons each. Turkey, Pakistan, India, and Israel also have nuclear weapons. Why not North Korea?

North Korea observed that, when Saddam and Gadaffi disposed of their weapons of mass destruction, their countries were targeted by the USA. As US Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard noted, while the Vancouver summit was in progress,

“…we know that North Korea has these nuclear weapons because they see how the United States, in Libya for example, guaranteed Gaddafi, we’re not going to go after you; you should get rid of your nuclear weapons. He did, then we went and led an attack that toppled Gaddafi, launching Libya into chaos that we are still seeing the results of today. North Korea sees what we did in Iraq, with Saddam Hussein, with those false reports of weapons of mass destruction…”9

Image result for vancouver summit 2018

Vancouver summit (Source: RT)

The guiding principle at Vancouver should have been that states, which took part in the Korean War, shouldn’t repeat the same mistake. Instead, the hosts, Canada’s Global Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, excluded North Korea, China, and Russia, thus ratcheting up east-west tensions. The participants could have looked out of the venue windows and seen protesters’ banners reading, “Hands Off North Korea!” Instead, they chose to tighten economic sanctions which will cause hunger, privation, and unemployment among North Korea’s civilian population. As Graeme Macqueen and Chris Black wrote recently on this website,

“If we Canadians think a lasting peace with North Korea will be obtained by insulting and starving the population of that beleaguered country we are as foolish, and as heartless, as those who put their faith in bombs.”10

The likelihood is that we will soon see more ships stopped at sea. Just last month, South Korea seized two freighters, docked in South Korean ports, as part of what it called a continuing attempt to stop North Korea’s efforts to evade UN sanctions. The two ships, a Panamanian and a Hong Kong-based vessel, were suspected of transporting oil to North Korea. And according to the latest UN resolution on economic sanctions against North Korea, sponsored by Canada, countries may impound such ships in their own ports. But what happens when ships are boarded in international waters, as suggested by a US State Department official, and those ships are North Korean, Russian, or Chinese?

What happens when the interdicting ships are Canadian military vessels? The Canadian Chief of Defence Staff says Canada has the capability to do so.11

Trudeau and Freeland let Canadians down. In Vancouver, they could have tried to stop the US juggernaut for war with North Korea or at least jumped off. They did neither. Canadians need to ponder that failure.

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Ken Stone is Treasurer of the Hamilton Coalition To Stop The War.

Notes

1 http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/china-scorn-north-korea-meeting-vancouver-1.4482387

2 http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/trudeau-defends-north-korea-meeting-after-russian-chinese-criticism-1.4488960

3 http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/north-korea-summit-vancouver-freeland-tillerson-1.4489166

4 “U.S. State Department officials confirmed last week that they will discuss whether to intercept ships headed in and out of North Korea.” http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/north-korea-summit-vancouver-1.4488338

5https://www.globalresearch.ca/how-canada-can-lead-north-korean-peace-talks-at-vancouver-summit/5625069

Federation of American Scientists; Madeleine Albright, the US Secretary of State during the Clinton administration told Lesley Stahl on the May 12, 1996, edition of 60 Minutes that UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund)– Results of the 1999 Iraq Child and Maternal Mortality Surveys”“we think the price is worth it.”

7 In June of 2013, Canada hosted a meeting of the Economic Sanctions Subcommittee of the “Friends of Syria Group of Countries” in Ottawa, where a comprehensive economic sanctions regime was established against the Government of Syria. http://www.ipolitics.ca/2013/06/24/friends-of-syrian-people-group-to-meet-in-ottawa-tuesday/

8 https://williamblum.org/essays/read/overthrowing-other-peoples-governments-the-master-list

9 https://caitlinjohnstone.com/2018/01/16/gabbard-north-korea-has-nukes-because-they-saw-what-the-us-did-to-libya/

10https://www.globalresearch.ca/how-canada-can-lead-north-korean-peace-talks-at-vancouver-summit/5625069

11 General Jonathan Vance, Chief of the Defence Staff, told The Globe and Mail on Friday that he has “the military capability inside the Armed Forces” to participate in any effort to ensure compliance with UN sanctions.https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/china-russia-dismiss-vancouver-summit-as-counterproductive/article37610583/

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A video has been uploaded of huge amounts of cash that was smuggled into Syria for ISIS and the Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Nusra Front using Red Cross logos on the boxes the money was stored in.

The money was smuggled in from Turkey with vehicles with the same famous Red Cross logo too.

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In response to the video, the official Twitter account of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) stated:

“We have nothing whatsoever to do with the transactions alleged in this video. A fake ICRC logo has been used for the purposes of transporting funds. Our emblems stand for neutral and impartial aid. Any misuse may have a serious impact on ability to reach those in need.”

The ICRC has played a neutral role in the Syrian War providing aid all throughout Syria where they are able to operate. This is in stark contrast to the famous White Helmets who only operate in Al-Nusra controlled areas and claim impartiality despite many of their members found to be jihadist fighters.

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Featured image is from the author.

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Trump’s “Shitholes” Are an Easy Target

January 18th, 2018 by Prof Susan Babbitt

Outrage about “shitholes” is hypocritical.  As is argued at this website, elite “progressives” – Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ali —  accept US power. It’s not just US power. It’s the ideological power of the rich North.

It tells us who thinks. For 24 years, teaching in a Canadian Philosophy Department, I saw three entire continents dismissed, routinely. It is as if they have no thinkers. You learn about Haiti and Nigeria in Sociology or Geography, but not in Philosophy.1

A student says, “I didn’t know Latin American philosophy exists”. She doesn’t know and she is in third year. It is not her fault. No one uses Trump’s colourful language in universities. It is polite, gentrified dismissal, more powerful than Trump’s inanities.

Consider mindfulness, enormously popular, even in medicine. The Buddha is the source but like Marx, he is not read. He is not taught as a philosopher. You might find him in Religious Studies, not in Philosophy.

He’s a scientist, emphasizing cause and effect. You can’t read him seriously without seeing cause and effect. It’s what Marx is about too. Relations, connections. Sensible, scientific ideas about the human condition are not taught. They are dismissed.

Cause and effect is hard, philosophically.  It means we must sometimes be acted upon – by the world, by others – in order to know. Marx said we create the world that creates us. We change the world and it changes us. And so we learn. But we must be able to be changed.

It takes humility – existential, not moral. There is loss, renunciation. Mindfulness is awareness of cause and effect – in body and mind. It is not supposed to be mindfulness of me.

Theravada Buddhist monk, Bikkhu Boddhi, says mindfulness is not taught properly in the West. He says it has been detached from its roots. 2 It may be that it is not understood properly.

He writes:

“The practise of mindfulness thus leads … to a new affirmation and appreciation of the world, so one can joyfully savour each fleeting event, each relationship, each undertaking in its wistful evanescence, unperturbed when it passes”.

In other words, it is about being happy, in the Western sense: experiencing pleasure.

A few hundred years ago, European philosophers drew a line between science and ethics. They distinguished facts about how the world is – science – from facts about how it ought to be – ethics. They said you cannot know how the world ought to be by considering how it is.

The Buddha thought differently: Precisely to the degree that we know the physical reality of the universe – cause and effect – we know how to live. It is because we know connections, dependence. We learn about change, decay, insecurity, and we face all that.

And how we live – ethically – matters to what we know: science. If I harbour ill will, my mind is agitated. Even a small amount of ill-will creates agitation. And when my mind is agitated, I don’t see reality as it is.

Instead, I impose myself upon it. And this is what we learn from liberal academic philosophers. It is reason itself: I reason best, roughly, when I act to realize my deep-seated desires, preferences and life-plans. Or so we’re told. It’s the model: instrumental rationality.

It needs to be rejected, thoroughly. The “shitholes” phenomenon is not just political. It is part of a world view that dismisses some of the world’s great thinkers.

It is a worldview that creates illusions, and we live in fear.

US-Haitian writer, Edwidge Danticat, is surprised that Haitians live well with much less protection from the reality of death. 3 Why is she surprised? Why doesn’t she investigate that reality, fully, and express it as non-surprising? It would be a relief for those debilitated by liberal illusions.

So, even a Haitian writer, proclaiming Haitian roots, dismisses Haiti as a source of ideas about who we are, as human beings, part of a universe we can’t control.

Mindfulness is about knowing reality, as it is. But mindfulness is hard to properly grasp in a landscape of self-centredness and self-absorption, where even higher education spins illusions about existence, and who is permitted to talk about it.

Ironically, we’d be further along, scientifically, if we taught religious philosophers. Thomas Merton, Jean Vanier, Ivan Illich. They are realists, recognizing that life includes death and suffering.

They know silence.  As academic, I’ve not encountered the concept of mental silence. Yet if we respect universal causation, we must also listen: to the world, to its people. We cannot know the world really if intellectual activity is ignorantly informed by fabrications of our own self-importance.

Jose Martí said that when the mind is quiet “intuition springs forth like a caged bird”. We know ourselves as human, he wrote, through nature, and only through nature.

It is a view incompatible with self-absorption. Mindfulness, properly understood, is about loss. As you gain understanding of cause and effect, self-absorption weakens, mercifully. Marx was about looking outward. So was Lenin. They said human freedom is realizing human potential, not doing what you want. The two don’t go together – because of our nature, and the nature of the world, interconnected.

José Ingenieros, brilliant Argentinean psychiatrist who turned his copious talents to anti-imperialism after WW1, led a movement for educational reform, across Latin America. He saw that the entire educational system had brought South America to the feet of the imperialists. 4

If we care about “shitholes”, we might follow his lead. It’d be more interesting, and useful, than targeting Trump.

Puerto Rican Ana Belén Montes helps show the way. She is still silenced in a US jail. 5  Please sign petition here.

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Susan Babbitt is author of Humanism and Embodiment (Bloomsbury 2014).

Notes

1. See https://www.africaresource.com/ for a counter view.

2. “The transformations of mindfulness” in Handbook of mindfulness Ronald E. Purser, David Forbes, Adam Burke eds. (Springer International Publishing,  2016)

3. Danticat, Edwidge (6 October 2013), Writers and Company with Eleanor Wachtel. (Podcast). http://www.cbc.ca/writersandcompany/episode/2013/10/06/edwidgedanticat-interview

4. In Raúl Roa, Bufa subversiva  (Havana: Ediciones la memoria, 2006) 35

5. http://www.prolibertad.org/ana-belen-montes. For more information, write to [email protected] or [email protected]

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The United States cannot be a moral or ethical country until it faces up to the realities of US empire and the destruction it causes around the world. The US undermines governments (including democracies), kills millions of people, causes mass migrations of people fleeing their homes, communities and countries and produces vast environmental damage.

A new coalition, The Coalition Against US Foreign Military Bases, held its inaugural event January 12-14, 2018 at the University of Baltimore in Maryland. The meeting was framed by a Unity Statement that brought together numerous peace and justice organizations. The basis for unity was:

“U.S. foreign military bases are the principal instruments of imperial global domination and environmental damage through wars of aggression and occupation, and that the closure of U.S. foreign military bases is one of the first necessary steps toward a just, peaceful and sustainable world.”

You can endorse the statement here.

US foreign military bases as of 2015. (Source BaseNation.us)

Responsibility to End Global Empire of Bases

Ajamu Baraka of the Black Alliance for Peace and the vice presidential candidate for the Green Party in 2016 opened the conference, describing the responsibility of the people of the United States (USians) to protect the world from US aggression. He argued:

“The only logical, principled and strategic response to this question is citizens of the empire must reject their imperial privileges and join in opposing ruling elites exploiting labor and plundering the Earth. To do that, however, requires breaking with the intoxicating allure of cross-class, bi-partisan ‘white identity politics.’”

This reality conflicts with one of the excuses the US uses to engage in war – so-called ‘humanitarian wars’, which are based on the dubious legal claim that the US has a “responsibility to protect.” The United States is viewed as “the greatest threat to peace in the world today” by people around the world.  Thus, USians need to organize to protect the world from the United States.

US empire is not only a threat to world peace and stability but also a threat to the United States. Chalmers Johnson, who wrote a series of books on empire, warned in his 2004 book, “The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic,” that there were four “sorrows” the United States would suffer. In the 14 years since they have all come true:

“If present trends continue, four sorrows, it seems to me, are certain to be visited on the United States. Their cumulative impact guarantees that the United States will cease to bear any resemblance to the country once outlined in our Constitution. First, there will be a state of perpetual war, leading to more terrorism against Americans wherever they may be and a growing reliance on weapons of mass destruction among smaller nations as they try to ward off the imperial juggernaut. Second, there will be a loss of democracy and constitutional rights as the presidency fully eclipses Congress and is itself transformed from an ‘executive branch’ of government into something more like a Pentagonized presidency. Third, an already well-shredded principle of truthfulness will increasingly be replaced by a system of propaganda, disinformation, and glorification of war, power, and the military legions. Lastly, there will be bankruptcy, as we pour our economic resources into ever more grandiose military projects and shortchange the education, health, and safety of our fellow citizens.”

The footprint of US empire are what Chalmers Johnson called an “empire of bases.” David Vine, the author of  Base Nation, put US empire in context by describing 800 US bases in 80 countries and US military personnel in more than 170 countries. Bases range from so-called Lily Pad Bases of hundreds of troops to town-sized bases of tens of thousands of troops and their families. He noted many bases have schools and they do not need to worry about heating or air conditioning, unlike schools in Baltimore where parents bought space heaters to keep children warm and where schools were closed due to lack of heat.

The contrast between Baltimore schools and military base schools is one example of many of the heavy price USians pay for the military. Vine reported that $150 billion is spent annually to keep US troops on bases abroad and that even a Lily Pad base could cost $1 billion. More is spent on foreign military bases than on any agency of the federal government, other than the Pentagon and Veterans Administration.

The Pentagon is not transparent about the number of US foreign bases it manages or their cost. They usually publish a Base Structure Report but have not done so in several years. The Pentagon only reports 701 bases, but researchers have found many, even significant bases, not included in their list of bases.

According to the No Foreign Bases Coalition:

“95% of all foreign military bases in the world are US bases. In addition, [there are] 19 Naval air carriers (and 15 more planned), each as part of a Carrier Strike Group, composed of roughly 7,500 personnel, and a carrier air wing of 65 to 70 aircraft — each of which can be considered a floating military base.”

The military footprint of the United States shows it is the largest empire in world history. In our interview with historian Alfred McCoy, author of “In The Shadows of the American Century,” he describes how some of the key characteristics of US empire are secrecy and covert actions. This are some of the reasons why it is rare to ever hear US empire discussed in the corporate media or by politicians. McCoy told us this was true for some other empires too, and that it is often not until the empire begins to falter that their existence becomes part of the political dialogue.

Strategies for Closing US Foreign Military Bases

David Vine described an unprecedented opportunity to close bases abroad, to do so we need to build a bigger movement. We also need to elevate the national dialogue about US Empire and develop a national consensus to end it.

Vine pointed to Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric about pulling back from US involvement abroad and focusing on the necessities at home as indicative of the mood of the country. In fact, a recent survey found that “78 percent of Democrats, 64.5 percent of Republicans, and 68.8 percent of independents supported restraining military action overseas.”

McCoy argued that after the globalization of President Barack Obama, which included the Asian Pivot and  efforts to pass major trade agreements, in particular the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), created a backlash desire to focus on “America First.” Both trade agreements, the TPP and TTIP, failed as a result of a political shift in the country, in part created by grassroots movements.

McCoy describes Obama as one of three “Grandmasters of the Great Game” (the other two being Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s National Security Adviser, and Elihu Root, former Secretary of War and Secretary of State at the beginning of the 20th Century) who excelled in being strategic on behalf of US empire. In addition to trade agreements and the Asian Pivot, Obama built on the intelligence apparatus of the George W. Bush era. Even though Obama was a “grandmaster,” he did not slow the weakening of US empire. McCoy sees the inability to account for the unpredictable complexities of US and global political developments as a common weakness of empire strategists.

The conference was divided into regions of the world (with the exception of one session on the impact of  military bases on the environment and health). There will be reports and videos published on each section of the conference on the No Foreign Bases webpage. One common denominator around the world is opposition to US military bases. According to the Unity Statement of the coalition:

“Many individual national coalitions — for example, Okinawa, Italy, Jeju Island Korea, Diego Garcia, Cyprus, Greece, and Germany — are demanding closure of bases on their territory. The base that the U.S. has illegally occupied the longest, for over a century, is Guantánamo Bay, whose existence constitutes an imposition of the empire and a violation of International Law. Since 1959 the government and people of Cuba have demanded that the government of the U.S. return the Guantánamo territory to Cuba.”

One important strategy for success is for US activists to work in cooperation with people around the world who want US military bases to be closed and for the US military to leave their country. Attendees at the conference had traveled to South Korea, Okinawa and other places to protest in solidarity with US activists.

Another strategy that many in the conference urged was the need for education about US imperialism and to tie US militarism abroad with militarized police at home. Similarly, the reality of the US military focusing on black and brown countries abroad highlights a white supremacy philosophy that  infects foreign policy and domestic policy. Members of the No US Foreign Bases coalition also engage in domestic efforts for racial and environmental justice.

Further, the no bases coalition highlights the environmental and health damage caused by foreign and domestic military bases. As the Unity Statement notes, “military bases are the largest users of fossil fuel in the world, heavily contributing to environmental degradation.” Pat Elder and David Swanson described the degradation in and around the Potomac River, writing:

“The Pentagon’s impact on the river on whose bank it sits is not simply the diffuse impact of global warming and rising oceans contributed to by the U.S. military’s massive oil consumption. The U.S. military also directly poisons the Potomac River in more ways than almost anyone would imagine.”

People can find information about the environmental damage being done by the military in their community on the Bombs in Your Backward webpage. World Beyond War held a conference on War and the Environment in 2017. You can view video and summaries from the conference on their site.

Next Steps

The conference attendees decided on some next steps. A national day of action against foreign military bases is being planned for February 23, the anniversary of the US seizing Guantanamo Bay, Cuba through a “perpetual lease” that began in 1903. Activists are encouraged to plan local actions. If you plan an event, contact [email protected] and we’ll post it on the events page. The demands will include closing the base and prison in Guantanamo, returning the land to Cuba and ending the US blockade.

The conference also decided to hold a conference outside of the United States in one of the countries where the US has a foreign military base within the next year. People from some countries were not allowed to attend the inaugural conference this weekend.

And, the coordinating committee will reach out to other peace and justice groups to select a date and place for a national mass action against US wars. This will be organized as quickly as possible because the threat of more wars is high.

This is a key moment for the antiwar movement in the US to make itself more visible and to demand the closure of US foreign bases. In this report on living in a post-primacy world, even the Pentagon recognizes what many commentators are seeing – the US empire is fading. One great risk as the empire ends is more wars as the US tries to hang on to global hegemony. We must oppose war and work for the least damaging end of empire.

Indeed, if the US becomes a cooperative member of the global community, rather than being a dominator, it would be a positive transition. Imagine how much better it would be for everyone in the world if the US collaborated on addressing the climate crisis in a serious way, obeyed international law and invested in positive programs to solve the many crises we face at home and abroad.

During the Baltimore conference, World Beyond War sponsored a billboard  nearby that read, “3% of US military spending could end starvation on earth.” Imagine what a peace budget could look like. The US could invest in domestic necessities including rebuilding infrastructure, a cleaner and safer public transportation system, education, housing and health care. The US could provide aid to other countries to repair the damage it has caused. Members of the US military could transition into a civilian jobs program that applies their expertise to programs of social uplift.

It is imperative that as the US Empire falls, we organize for a smooth transition to a world that is better for everyone. The work of the new coalition to end US foreign military bases is a strong start.

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Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers co-direct Popular Resistance where this article was originally published.

All images in this article are from the authors.

The Unacceptable Risks of Trump’s Nuclear Strategy

January 18th, 2018 by Vladimir Kozin

Last week, the Huffington Post published on its website a draft version of the Trump administration’s updated Nuclear Posture Review, which is to replace Barack Obama’s previous nuclear strategy document that was adopted in 2010.  Despite the fact that the draft is marked “pre-decisional” and can still be amended, knowledgeable American sources claim that this is the document that will officially be presented in February after the president’s traditional speech before Congress.

The American Arms Control Association and the British newspaper the Guardian have already described this paper as “hawkish,” in that it calls for “major changes” in the management of the country’s nuclear arsenal and authorizes the deployment of long-range nuclear cruise missiles, as well as the use of low-yield nuclear warheads.

It would be hard not to agree with these assessments.

The published document tries to make the case that the US is now confronted with an international security situation that is “more complex and demanding,” thus apparently requiring immediate updates to the nation’s nuclear forces.  It eloquently describes how the United States cut back on its strategic and tactical nuclear weapons, only to watch as its “strategic competitors” did not follow its lead.  But at the same time, provision has been made to update the Americans’ nuclear command, control, and communications (NC3) system (hereinafter the corresponding numbered lines from the draft document are noted: 246-254).  The Pentagon is instructed to continue to deploy strategic and tactical nuclear arsenals in its “forward-operating bases.”

Although claiming that the US does not wish to regard either Russia or China as an adversary, everything in the report glibly suggests otherwise.  Despite the acknowledgment that Russia has significantly reduced its strategic nuclear arsenals, the unsupported allegation is made that Moscow is preparing to update its strategic nuclear forces and retains a large number of tactical nuclear weapons.  It remains unclear how such an odd conclusion has been reached about the latter type of weapon, since those numbers have never been released by either side, only the fact that the quantity of such arms has been decreased (to an unnamed level), as part of the process of implementing the “presidential initiatives” of 1991-1992.  Russia and the United States have never sat down at the negotiating table to try to limit or reduce tactical nuclear weapons.

Moscow is also accused, without evidence, of having made nuclear threats against US allies.  There is no proof that Russia has ever done such a thing, and the allegation is all the more galling given the fact that after the US military dropped atomic bombs on Japanthere were seven different times when the Pentagon drew up plans to use nuclear weapons in several regional confrontations and conflicts!

The NPR makes similar complaints about China, claiming that Beijing is modernizing and expanding its nuclear arsenal.

It also mentions the “nuclear ambitions” of North Korea and Iran.

To that end, the new Nuclear Policy Review proclaims the need for a flexible and tailored nuclear strategy (line 94) that will make it possible to adapt the US approach to “deterring one or more potential adversaries in different circumstances.”

Although the reader is assured that the president of the United States may only resort to nuclear weapons in the most extreme circumstances, it is also noted they may be used to protect either the US or its allies and partners from even from the limited use of nuclear weapons by an adversary (104), or from an enemy attack using conventional weapons (141), based on the strategy of extended nuclear deterrence that is provided to US allies in Europe, Asia, and the Asia-Pacific region (213-214 and 855).  The document implies that Washington will continue to abide by the nuclear sharing agreements it has already signed with America’s NATO allies (256-258).  This means that American nuclear weapons will remain stationed within the borders of those allied states, including in Europe.  NATO’s nuclear-sharing policy – in which three countries own nuclear weapons and another five agree to host US nuclear warheads (1219-1221) – will remain unchanged.

There is no doubt that this new policy document, like its predecessor from 2010, will indirectly reiterate the provision that permits a nuclear first strike against any potential enemy of the United States, its allies, or partners.  In order to improve its ability to deliver nuclear strikes, special emphasis is placed on the strengthening of space-based reconnaissance and communications resources.

The US will preserve its traditional strategic nuclear triad and nuclear delivery vehicles, including dual-capable aircraft.  The plans to create an essentially new strategic nuclear triad have been confirmed.  Eliminating any of its three legs has been ruled out (306-308).

Gravity Bomb

The document insists that nuclear weapons must remain in the country for as long as required (121-122).  This likely explains why the US has staunchly refused to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (529).

This new nuclear strategy reaffirms Washington’s earlier statements about the feasibility of using low-yield nuclear warheads – initially mounted on ballistic missiles, and later on the cruise missiles of nuclear submarines, making it impossible to know in advance whether a nuclear or conventional weapon is on board.  Obvious this would greatly upset the global strategic balance.  Nor can strategic stability be attained through the ambitious plan to replace old nuclear warheads with their new versions (451-489).  The document announces that in 2020 the new B61-12 nuclear gravity bomb will be introduced, the accuracy of which is known to suffer from a high ratio of circular error probability (325-326).

The Russian stance in regard to the negotiations over the fate of the New START Treaty and tactical nuclear weapons has been distorted.

Without any proof whatsoever the Russians have been accused of breaching the 1987 INF Treaty, even though the United States has already violated it 92 times since 2001 by using intermediate- and shorter-range missiles as targets to test the effectiveness of its ABM system.  And Washington will violate it once again when it introduces a new American mobile, ground-based, nuclear-tipped cruise missile – which was banned by the 1987 treaty signed by Gorbachev and Reagan – and subsequently deploys that missile on the European continent.

Without offering any evidence, Moscow is also accused of noncompliance with the Treaty on Open Skies, which the Americans did not hesitate to violate first, by introducing unjustifiable restrictions on the zones approved for Russian surveillance flights over the US.  Although no NATO member state has ever ratified the CFE Treaty, Russia was cited as being in breach, although Moscow did ratify this important treaty and later proposed the adoption of the European Security Treaty, which was rejected out of hand by every member of this military alliance of “transatlantic solidarity.”

In short, the Trump administration’s updated Nuclear Posture Review is an extremely negative, aggressive, and explosive document.  Its approval will dramatically complicate the global strategic scenario, undermine international stability, and result in the suspension of a number of arms-control agreements.

US Military Strength

This document, which launches a Cold War 2.0, might also trigger two whole new types of arms races (in addition to the existing nuclear-missile confrontation and proliferation of nuclear weapons): i.e., races to stockpile anti-missile and space weapons.

The new US nuclear strategy will further damage its relations with the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China – relationships that Washington has already thrown under the bus.

If the current US administration does eventually approve this document that entails such perilous consequences for the destiny of our world, then it will be taking risks that are unbefitting the enormous sense of responsibility that the great nuclear powers should feel, share, and retain in order to further peace on our planet and security in the interests of all countries.

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Vladimir Kozin, Ph.D. is an Expert Council member of the Russian Senate’ Foreign Relations Committee, Professor of the Academy of Military Science, former high-ranking diplomat, leading expert on disarmament and strategic stability issues.

All images in this article are from the author.

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The US announced that it will train a 30,000-strong “border force” of the Kurdish-led SDF in Northern Syria in a controversial move that was immediately slammed by Turkey as the creation of a “terror army”. President Erdogan has long been opposed to the establishment of a de-facto Kurdish statelet along his country’s southern border, and the US strategy is playing right into his greatest fears. Speaking to his supporters earlier this week, he bellowed that “a country we call an ally is insisting on forming a terror army on our borders. What can that terror army target but Turkey? Our mission is to strangle it before it’s even born.”

Syrian Deputy Foreign and Expatriates Minister Fayssal Mikdad stated that the US-Kurdish move “is an attempt to divide Syria and prolong the crisis in the country”, and President Assad had previously claimed that Kurdish and other forces who cooperate with the Americans are “traitors”. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters during a large press conference that “this causes serious questions, concerning the maintenance of Syria’s territorial integrity”, though reaffirming that the Kurds are still an integral part of the Syrian nation and will nevertheless be represented in some capacity or another at the upcoming Sochi Summit at the end of the month.

The US is coy about its true intentions in building up a massive force that’s expected to be almost 50% larger than its own Border Patrol at home and deployed along the much geographically smaller area of the Turkish border and the so-called “deconfliction line” with the Syrian Arab Army in the Euphrates River Valley, but some observers are seriously concerned that Washington is trying to transform this anti-terrorist militia into a competent anti-state conventional fighting force, pointing to the large amount of weapons and equipment that they’ve received over the past couple of years. Most alarmingly, however, and in a move that could confirm these suspicions, reports have recently piled in that the US secretly gave MANPAD anti-air missiles to the Kurds, which if true would prove that they’re indeed capable of becoming an anti-state threat, whether to the Syrians, the Turks, or possibly even the Russians.

The Kurdish issue thus risks becoming the first post-Daesh crisis in Syria for this very reason, made all the more urgently important because of Turkey’s threats to eliminate the problem before it matures, and all eyes are on President Erdogan to see if he’ll make a move on the northwestern region of Afrin in the two weeks prior to the upcoming Sochi Summit and inadvertently risk subverting it, which might be exactly what the Americans are trying to tempt him into doing.

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

Featured image is from the author.

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As the new year began, social media and corporate-owned news organizations alike were giving the protests in Iran constant coverage, despite the fact that the protests were relatively small in size and motivated primarily by economics — not politics, as many popular news outlets had claimed. Not surprisingly, these same organizations failed to mention the role of sanctions backed by the West in fomenting the economic troubles facing Iranians.

Soon after — despite U.S. encouragement and financial backing, as well as the key role of the U.S.-trained, Iran-based terrorist group MEK, in fomenting the unrest — the protests in Iran fizzled. It was difficult to know this if one relied exclusively upon corporate media reports, which claimed that the protests were growing by the minute, in some cases using images of past protests from other countries, such as Bahrain and Argentina, and even scenes from movies to support a narrative completely divorced from reality.

Media reports also falsely claimed that the protests attracted thousands of participants while local media and actual video evidence from the protests show much smaller gatherings that — given Iran’s population of 80 million — were insignificant in many cases. The dissolution of the protests understandably left those eager for an excuse to meddle in Iranian affairs, namely the U.S. and Israel, utterly disappointed.

Iran vs. Tunisia protests: the tale of the tape

Image result for tunisian protest tebourba 2018

Protesters in Tunisia, January 2018 (Source: CGTN Africa)

Just as the protests in Iran began to sputter, new protests sprang to life last week — this time in Tunisia. Since Monday night, those protests have escalated significantly and have attracted thousands, despite a violent state response. Unlike those that took place in Iran, the turnout has been continuous, significant and concentrated despite the country’s relatively small size.

To compare, by the fifth day of the protests in Iran, there were demonstrations — many of them numbering less than a hundred — in 24 cities, while after five days the protests in Tunisia have appeared in at least 18 towns. To put these numbers in context, Iran is 10 times larger geographically with a population nearly eight times larger than that of Tunisia. Since the protests began in earnest, there have been six days of demonstrations, which have culminated in violent clashes with Tunisian security forces and hundreds of arrests.

Angered by the government’s austerity budget for the new year — which protesters say will only aggravate the rampant poverty, mass unemployment and inequality prevalent throughout the nation — protesters have failed to be intimidated by the government’s show of force that as of Friday, had resulted in over 770 arrests and the deaths of both protesters and police officers.

Human rights advocates have called the government’s crackdown both indiscriminate and inexplicably violent, as government forces have arrested many non-violent protesters while ignoring looters and vandals. Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, stated:

The Tunisian authorities are targeting people for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly. […] Unrest on Tunisia’s streets must not give the police a green light to retaliate with the unlawful or excessive use of force.”

By all accounts, the protests in Tunisia are everything that the U.S. political establishment had wished the protests in Iran would become. Yet, the media silence regarding the protests in Tunisia has been deafening, especially compared to the widespread coverage garnered by the protests in Iran.

Tunisia’s close relationship with the United States, as well as its key importance as a U.S. military base of operations in Africa, are likely to blame for the media’s lack of interest in the widespread demonstrations.

Tunisia’s role as U.S. regional ally

The U.S. military has long had a presence in Tunisia, particularly during the regime of the formerly U.S.-backed dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was overthrown in 2011 during the Arab Spring. Since then, Tunisia has had no less than nine governments, most of which have continued many of Ben Ali’s policies, including cooperation with the U.S. military and the perpetuation of its police state.

Béji Caïd Essebsi 2015-05-20.jpg

Beji Caid Essebsi (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

However, increased U.S. military cooperation with Tunisia began in earnest in 2015, that April, the U.S. announced it would triple its military aid to Tunisia, which was followed by Barack Obama’s declaration of Tunisia as a major non-NATO ally a month later during a visit from Tunisian president Beji Caid Essebsi. Essebsi and Obama also signed a “memorandum of understanding” during that visit, which would lay the groundwork for Tunisia to become a key part of U.S. military operations in Africa.

In the latter part of 2015, then-Secretary of State John Kerry participated in dialogue sessions between the two countries, sessions which – according to documents leaked to Tunisian media – led the Tunisian government to agree to host an unknown number of U.S. troops within its borders. The content of the agreements made during this time has yet to be made public, leading some to assert that Essebsi’s government was hiding something. A year later, this proved to be true as, despite denying that he had allowed the U.S. access to Tunisian military bases, Essebsi later confirmed that this was the case — after The Washington Post reported that the U.S. had begun using a still unidentified Tunisian military base in June of last year as a base of operations for drones deployed to neighboring Libya.

As geopolitical analyst Martin Berger noted at the time, Tunisia was “gradually evolving into the most reliable partner in the North Africa region” for the United States. U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ visit to Tunisia last November suggested that this evolution was nearly complete, as he called for even greater defense cooperation between the two countries.

Thus, the current unrest could potentially jeopardize the U.S.’ “strategic interest” in Tunisia, especially if the current protests were to translate into regime change or major reforms enacted by the current government. Several reports from recent years have indicated that Tunisians overwhelmingly are opposed to the U.S. presence in their country and that the continued U.S. military presence could foment unrest against the current U.S.-friendly administration of Essebsi.

A free pass to crack down on protests

Another reason for the media’s silence on the protests in Tunisia is a result of the driving force behind the country’s latest austerity budget. The austerity measures or “reforms” are a result of the demands of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union, which were responsible for lending the Tunisian government $2.9 billion in 2015, nearly all of which was used to pay off the country’s already massive debts to international banks.

The unsustainable practice of taking out predatory IMF loans and accruing more debt to pay off existing debt has played out across numerous countries — a prime example being Greece — in recent years, forcing countries to adopt neoliberal and often unpopular reforms in order to satisfy their lenders. As a result, Tunisia’s leadership is in the difficult position of choosing to maintain austerity measures, risking increased unrest, or to ax them and risk angering the country’s would-be masters in the West.

As is too often the case, if unrest takes place in a country allied with the United States, particularly militarily, the U.S. political establishment as well as the media, look the other way – no matter how brutal the crackdown.

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Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News who has written for several news organizations in both English and Spanish; her stories have been featured on ZeroHedge, the Anti-Media, and 21st Century Wire among others. She currently lives in Southern Chile.

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Libya Update: What’s Really Behind the Airport Firefight?

January 18th, 2018 by Richard Galustian

Continuing from my OpEd of the 11th January entitled “Libya Update: Power Struggles Continue – Will the UN Get its Way?“, dramatic further evidence of my assessment came in the form of reports of intense fighting that started over the weekend and dramatically escalated this Monday, in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, leaving over twenty dead and over 60 wounded and the airport closed in flames.

However those reports by mainstream media still fail to mention the most significant casualty of all: The United Nations peace process, called the LPA.

For two years UN diplomats have struggled to make something of the government they created — the Government of National Accord (GNA) — a creature that was supposed to unite Libya and bring peace to a shattered nation.

Instead GNA officials spent Monday huddled in their Tripoli naval base, powerless while militias hammered each other in fighting around the city centre and specifically within Mitiga airport. There is a jail within that vicinity in the airport grounds run by a militia called RADA. They hold ISIS & al-Qaeda members amongst others. The people attacking are trying to get these extremists broken out of jail. That about sums it up.

Several civilian passenger aircraft reportedly received bullet holes to their fuselage whilst parked on the runway. Certainly Air Afriqiyah Airbuses were damaged. Afriqiyah Airways actually announced that all five of its planes were damaged including, their new cargo plane. Buraq Air said two of its newest planes are damaged, and Libyan Wings suspended flights till further notice due to their damaged planes.

Passengers are forced to try going south to an airport near Sabah – Temenhint Airport – or to take flights from Misrata or Djerba, getting there by road. All hours away by car from Tripoli.

Mitiga airport has been the only functioning airport in Tripoli since July 2014, when Tripoli International Airport was destroyed by rival militias fighting for control of the airport.

The GNA was “created” by the UN in December 2015, in Morocco in a place called Skirhat, when the so called LPA document was signed, and has been in Tripoli, as the internationally recognised government since March 2016.

That is enough time, one might think, to get a grip on at least the capital. And yet on Monday night social media was full of claims that GNA prime minister Fayez Sarraj had been spirited to safety by Italian forces, to another safe haven secured in Tripoli and even rumoured to have fled to Tunisia, because he is so unpopular. There is no Libyan security force he can count on.

Every few months Tripoli’s militias erupt in a spasm of violence in their battles to control prime real estate in the Libyan capital, heedless of pleading and visits from UN and other diplomats for peace.

The irony is that the one peaceful part of Libya is the east, which has its own government and a single army, commanded by Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar. The East of Libya also has the majority of the Country’s oil.

The UN choice of prime minister for its puppet government called the GNA, Fayez Serraj, has remained very quiet while paid militias attack the Airport. This is prime evidence of a total lack of leadership and complete impotency.

Perhaps that is why he was installed by the UN: to be a puppet for certain countries’ agenda.This farce and interference by the UN has to end before the country further tears itself apart. That time seems to be drawing closer than it was thought.

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This article was originally published by Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

Featured image is from the author.

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The “false alarm” delivered to a population of 1.5 million in the US Pacific island state of Hawaii on Saturday morning has laid bare the clear and present danger of a nuclear war.

Cell phones lit up with the text message “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” Television and radio broadcasts were interrupted with the chilling announcement that “A missile may impact on sea or land within minutes. This is not a drill.”

For 38 minutes, residents of and visitors to Hawaii were confronted face to face with nuclear Armageddon. Parents frantically sought to find and protect their children, families said last goodbyes and people desperately sought largely nonexistent shelter in anticipation of a nuclear blast.

The fact that this event is so rapidly disappearing from the front pages of major newspapers and is being reduced to a secondary story by television news is itself a disturbing indication of how much more is involved in the Hawaii ballistic missile warning than the public is being told.

The corporate media, working in tight coordination with the US government, is in full containment mode. Monday night, all three US television networks broadcast virtually identical reports based on their admission to Hawaii’s Emergency Management System bunker to support the official story that the chaos was caused by the inadvertent error of a single employee.

The official reaction to what constitutes a social crime committed against an entire population is unfolding according to a well-established pattern. The event and its implications are being minimized. No one is going to conduct an investigation and present findings to the public. There will be no televised public hearings before the US Congress.

The explanation being put out by the state and federal authorities, and parroted by the media, fobs off the nuclear war alert as a mere accident triggered by a single careless worker at Hawaii’s Emergency Management System. The unnamed individual supposedly selected the wrong computer menu option, keying in “Missile Alert” instead of “Test Missile Alert.”

There is no reason that anyone should blindly accept this official story as true. Given the record of the US government in staging provocations and launching wars based upon lies, not only severe skepticism, but outright suspicion is called for.

How could such an accident happen? Once again, a major public event is shrouded in secrecy. Why has the individual allegedly responsible for the “accident” not been named? The claim that the person is being protected against retaliation by enraged citizens is not credible. At the very least, the single individual who is being blamed for the colossal error should have the right to tell his or her side of the story. And even if the incident was triggered by a single mistaken keypunch, that does not explain why it took a full, excruciating 38 minutes for the authorities to send out a follow-up message announcing that the warning had been a “false alarm.”

Even if one were to accept the authorities’ version of events as good coin, such an “accident” constitutes a devastating indictment of the criminal indifference of the US ruling establishment toward the lives and safety of the American people. The existence of such a ramshackle system, employing absurdly primitive software and technology as the supposed first line of defense, only makes clear that the ruling class accepts that nuclear war will mean the deaths of millions and has no serious plan to protect anyone. Just as with every other disaster, natural or otherwise, the incident in Hawaii has exposed the total absence of essential infrastructure and social planning.

That these events unfolded in Hawaii, the scene of the so-called “sneak attack” of December 7, 1941, the “date which will live in infamy” of American lore, make them all the more telling. The headquarters of the US Pacific Command, Hawaii boasts 11 separate military bases comprising units from every branch of the US military.

The significance of Saturday’s nuclear war alert becomes clear only within the context of the advanced state of preparations for a US war of aggression against nuclear-armed North Korea.

A glimpse into the scope of these preparations was provided Monday in a front-page article published by the New York Times. Absurdly, the piece begins, “Across the military, officers and troops are preparing for a war they hope will not come.” Yet the substance of the article makes clear that what is being prepared is not a defense against a North Korean attack, but rather the invasion and conquest of the East Asian country.

The article describes an exercise last month involving 48 Apache gunships and Chinook cargo helicopters practicing “moving troops and equipment under live artillery fire to assault targets.” Two days later, it reports, paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division staged a jump in Nevada that “simulated a foreign invasion.”

Even more ominously, the Times reports that for the first time in years, more than 1,000 US Army reservists have been called up for active duty to man “mobilization centers” used for the rapid movement of troops overseas.

The preparations also include a plan to deploy large numbers of Special Operations troops to the Korean Peninsula under the cover of providing security for next month’s Winter Olympics.

More and more, these actions begin to resemble the run-up to the US war of aggression against Iraq in 2003, with the exception that this time around the American public is being given no warning of impending mass carnage, outside of the raving tweets of the US commander-in-chief.

That the Times article appeared at all—under the byline of Eric Schmitt, the Times’ chief “embedded” reporter and a faithful conduit for the Pentagon and CIA—makes it clear that the military preparations are of such a magnitude that they are becoming broadly known, requiring the “newspaper of record” to attempt to manage the news.

The article also points to divisions between the White House and the Pentagon and within the US military command itself over impending war with North Korea. Trump and his aides reportedly are toying with what has been termed a “bloody nose” attack targeting North Korean nuclear weapons, based on the assumption that Pyongyang would not retaliate.

Within this context, the “accidental” nuclear alert in Hawaii emerges as a necessary link in the chain of preparations for a catastrophic war. Was the “false alarm” itself one more military exercise? Were the people of Hawaii used as guinea pigs to test the public reaction should a US invasion of North Korea prompt the government of Kim Jong Un to fire off its missiles before they could be destroyed?

There is another possible explanation for the false alarm and the prolonged wait for it to be rescinded. The Times also published an article Monday referring to the 1983 KAL 007 incident as an example of how an unintended nuclear war could erupt. It fails to explain, however, that the Korean Airlines passenger jet was shot down by Soviet air defense fighters after it deliberately flew over Sakhalin, the site of numerous top secret Soviet military bases, as part of an operation coordinated with US intelligence agencies. A US spy plane was flying on a parallel course, shadowing the KAL flight, observing the responses of Soviet nuclear installations, radar stations and air bases.

There is no question that once the incoming missile alert was issued in Hawaii, the government and the military, not only in North Korea, but also in China and Russia, were compelled to make their own rapid estimates as to what it meant and how they should respond. The logical conclusion would be that Washington was staging a false pretext for all-out war.

No doubt, military units were placed on alert, weapons were readied or moved and other preparations for possible nuclear conflict were carried out, all under the watchful eyes of US spy satellites, providing intelligence that could prove vital for a planned US invasion of North Korea.

Whatever the cause of Saturday’s nuclear scare, one thing is certain. The missile alert staged in Hawaii constitutes a deadly serious warning. It has exposed before millions the very real threat of nuclear war.

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Conspiracy and Foreign Policy

January 17th, 2018 by Dr. Tim Aistrope

The following text is the Abstract and Introduction of the authors’ study published by Sage Journals.

To access the complete study click here

Conspiracies play a significant role in world politics. States often engage in covert operations. They plot in secret, with and against each other. At the same time, conspiracies are often associated with irrational thinking and delusion. We address this puzzle and highlight the need to see conspiracies as more than just empirical phenomena.

We argue that claims about conspiracies should be seen as narratives that are intrinsically linked to power relations and the production of foreign policy knowledge. We illustrate the links between conspiracies, legitimacy and power by examining multiple conspiracies associated with 9/11 and the War on Terror. Two trends are visible. On the one hand, US officials identified a range of conspiracies and presented them as legitimate and rational, even though some, such as the alleged covert development of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, are now widely considered false. On the other hand, conspiracies circulating in the Arab-Muslim world were dismissed as irrational and pathological, even though some, like those concerned with the covert operation of US power in the Middle East, were based on credible concerns.

Introduction

Conspiracies are common in world politics. Terrorist plots unfold on a weekly basis. Intelligence agencies operate covert programmes of surveillance, sabotage and disinformation on a global scale. States scheme against each other in the national interest. At the same time, conspiracies are often associated with irrational thinking. Allegations about the secret operation of international political power are regularly thought of as paranoid. Of all the ways an idea can be discredited, labelling it a ‘conspiracy’ ranks amongst the most effective. A number of questions inevitably ensue: Which conspiracies are real and which are paranoid? Who decides?

The purpose of this article is to engage this puzzle and to examine the role that conspiracy plays in world politics. We focus on United States (US) foreign policy discourse during the War on Terror, paying particular attention to the way US officials and foreign policy commentators represented claims about conspiracies. Numerous conspiracies were at play after the terrorist attack of 11 September 2001. How did 9/11 happen? Who was responsible for planning and executing the attack? The answers to these questions inevitably lead to secret plots and conspiratorial politics. Here we find terrorist organizations, like Al-Qaeda, operating in secret, infiltrating countries and working on ever-new terrorist attacks. Then we have the subterranean world of CIA operations and all the secret links to legitimate and at times not-so-legitimate actors in the Middle East. Some even go as far as to claim that the CIA itself was secretly involved in the attacks of 9/11. All this is not surprising, for, as Guy Debord (2002) stresses, every major political event inevitably becomes associated with secrecy and competing attempts to explain the seemingly inexplicable. But how are we to make sense of the numerous parallel conspiracies that surround 9/11 and the War on Terror?

We argue that the links between conspiracy and foreign policy can best be understood if we move beyond the conventional understanding of conspiracy as a secret plan drawn up ‘by a group to do something unlawful or harmful’ (Oxford Dictionary Online, 2016). In addition to viewing conspiracy as an act, we should also see perceptions of conspiracies as narratives that are intrinsically linked to power relations and the production of foreign policy knowledge. To argue this is not to suggest that there is no place for approaches that aim to distinguish between claims about conspiracy that have substance and those that do not. However, as we show, there remain serious questions about the power dynamics involved in making such judgments, along with other issues around the relationship between evidence and interpretation.1

Understanding claims about conspiracies in terms of narrative allows us to situate them as part of power relations that legitimize and delegitimize. Indeed, we suggest that the legitimacy of a conspiracy narrative is most closely related to the political position of the actor advancing it.

Such an account is clearly linked to broader conceptions of security as a ‘speech act’ performed by powerful actors in specific political landscapes (Buzan et al., 1998; Balzacq, 2010; Hansen, 2011). Likewise, it resonates with accounts of security that focus on the production of identity and difference, as well as the intersubjective and relational dynamics of world politics (Der Derian and Shapiro, 1989; Campbell, 1992; Burke, 2005; Jackson, 2005, 2007; Jarvis, 2009; Holland, 2013; Duncombe, 2015). Both literatures emphasize the extent to which discourse and context shape the way threats emerge and are understood. In doing so, they also draw attention to the power relations implicated in the production of knowledge about world politics. We recast the perception of conspiracy on these grounds and situate it as an important, though under-theorized aspect of the contemporary security environment.

We suggest that studying the competing conspiracy narratives that spring up around issues of international political controversy like 9/11 is a particularly useful way of understanding how foreign policy knowledge is produced. This is important because such knowledge is often the basis for foreign policy decision-making, including on matters of war and peace.

We begin by outlining the historical pervasiveness of conspiracies in world politics. We then identify and assess three ways the perception of conspiracies has been understood: as the delusions of irrational individuals or groups; as phenomena that are much more central to societal dynamics than is usually held; and as narratives that are legitimized and delegitimized in particular political contexts. All three approaches are useful. The first two have been fairly widely applied, but the approach we highlight has not been well developed in the foreign policy literature.

We examine the issues at stake in the context of competing conspiracy narratives that were evident in the representations of US officials and foreign policy commentators after 9/11. We show that within this interpretive community some conspiracy narratives were taken for granted as normal political claims, while other conspiracy narratives were dismissed as irrational and paranoid.

On the one hand there are conventional narratives about 9/11 around which a foreign policy consensus was established. It was broadly accepted that the terrorist attack was the result of a secret plot by the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda. Yet we show that this view also leaves out a series of equally compelling positions that implicate the USA in the politics that lead up to 9/11. It is now widely understood, for instance, that Al-Qaeda was established as part of the covert war against the Soviet Union’s occupation of Afghanistan in the late 1980s, which was organized and funded by the CIA and implemented by Pakistani Intelligence (Bergen and Reynolds, 2005).

We highlight how prominent views of 9/11 amongst US officials and foreign policy commentators isolated certain conspiracies and presented them as legitimate and rational. And we show that this was achieved even though some of the conspiracies identified, such as those about the covert production of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, were later found to be misleading (Chilcot, 2016).

On the other hand, we show how conspiracy narratives purportedly espoused in the Middle East were written off by US officials and foreign policy commentators. Several surveys conducted in the wake of 9/11 indicated that significant proportions of the population in Arab-Muslim countries did not believe that Al-Qaeda had carried out the attack. According to widespread US media reportage, numerous alternative explanations circulated, including some that saw the USA as secretly involved. Prominent US policy commentators associated these positions with anti-Americanism and an allegedly widespread tendency in the Middle East to hold paranoid conspiracy theories about the role of US foreign policy. The process of depicting the entire Middle East as riven with a paranoid mind-set has broad implications. Many positions identified with Arab-Muslims were dismissed as irrational and pathological, even though some of them, such as concerns about covert US actions or the geopolitical motives of US strategy in the Middle East, were based on credible concerns.

Before we proceed, a short note on definition is in order. We use the terms conspiracies and conspiracy theories throughout the essay. Conventionally the former refers to empirical phenomena, as outlined in the Oxford Dictionary (2016) conception above, whereas the latter is inevitably associated with far-fetched ideas about such phenomena. But we consciously avoid such a stark divide, in part because scholars have not been able to agree on definitions (see Keeley, 1999; and DeHaven-Smith, 2013: 36–41), in part because our main aim is not to settle these definitional disputes but to explore how narratives about conspiracies function politically.

Source

‘Conspiracy and Foreign Policy’ Roland Bleiker and Tim Aistrope, Security Dialogue (2018) 

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Tim Aistrope is Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of New South Wales. Recent publications include Conspiracy Theory and American Foreign Policy (Manchester University Press, 2016), ‘Social media and counterterrorism strategy’ in Australian Journal of International Affairs (70/2016), and ‘The Muslim paranoia narrative in counter-radicalisation policy’ in Critical Studies on Terrorism (9/2016). E-mail: [email protected]

Roland Bleiker is Professor of International Relations at the University of Queensland, where he coordinates an interdisciplinary research programme on Visual Politics. Recent publications include Aesthetics and World Politics (Palgrave, 2009/2012) and, as co-editor with Emma Hutchison, a forum on ‘Emotions and world politics’ in International Theory (3/2014). His new book Visual Global Politics is forthcoming with Routledge. E-mail: [email protected]

Featured image is from Insider Monkey.

The social ills affecting Iran are not a complete invention of the West, which may surprise some. The protests which Iran’s old enemies had leaped upon are an indicator of civil unrest, particularly with regard her younger generations.

More than two thirds of Iran’s 80 million citizens are aged under 35. The demonstrations must have been of some concern to President Hassan Rouhani and his conservative cabinet. An eye-watering forty per cent of this generation are unemployed, and becoming increasingly disillusioned.

The protests, killing at least 21 and which comprised mainly youthful faces, are a result of various economic woes and societal problems plaguing Iran. There has recently been a sharp rise in fuel and food prices, along with reductions in government subsidies. Further, there has been anger over escalating corruption and widening inequality.

Such problems, hardly unique around the world, have drawn seemingly pious concern from the West. This despite the fact the numbers of those protesting were indeed limited – with the totals undergoing exaggeration and exploitation for political purposes.

The United States immediately evoked “human rights violations” in Iran, as expressed by its leader Donald Trump. The American president wrote about his nation’s sympathy for “the great Iranian people” who “have been repressed for many years”.

One could be forgiven for assuming President Trump desires a return to the days when the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, ruled Iran (1953-1979). The Shah’s arrival was made possible by a US/UK intervention, with the murderous dictator being backed to the end by his foreign masters. He was finally overthrown by popular resistance almost four decades ago, a “loss” the US in particular have never forgotten.

During his reign, the Shah compiled “one of the worst human rights records in the world”. The suffering of “the great Iranian people” during 26 years of dictatorship was of little importance. The principal concern was that Iran’s monumental oil reserves remained out of reach of her citizens, and under Western control.

Trump himself, at age 71, is old enough to recall the Shah’s rule. However, it seems the US president is suffering from a case of historical amnesia, when expressing America’s new-found concern for the Iranian nation. He is hardly alone in that respect.

The current “repression” Iran’s people are enduring cannot begin to compare with the experiences of older generations. They are unlikely to have forgotten what true suppression involves.

It could be reasonably argued the US has almost unremittingly interfered in Iranian affairs from 1953 until the present day. This can be traced through either direct American intervention, support of Saddam Hussein in the bloody Iran-Iraq War (1980-88), sanctions, threats, and so on.

As a result of Iran’s tortured history, one could forgive President Rouhani for pinning much of the blame for the protests on his Western “enemies”.

Meanwhile the White House’s press secretary, Sarah Sanders, said the Trump administration would “not remain silent as the Iranian dictatorship represses the rights of it citizens”.

Not mentioned by Sanders is Trump’s huge backing of what may be more suitably labeled “the Saudi dictatorship” – located southwest of Iran across the Persian Gulf. Last summer, the new US government signed an arms deal worth tens of billions of dollars with Saudi Arabia.

This came in addition to predecessor Barack Obama offering the Saudis a staggering $115 billion in arms sales. It was the largest US-Saudi deal until then – with the agreement including the supply of outlawed cluster bombs.

The Saudis’ record with regard human rights makes Iran seem like a paradigm of democracy. A 2017 report by Human Rights Watch on Saudi Arabia detailed that,

Mohammad Bin Salman [has] emerged as the most visible Saudi leader… the Saudi Arabia-led coalition continued an aerial campaign… that included numerous unlawful airstrikes that killed and injured thousands of civilians”.

The report further condemned the Saudi regime for “their arbitrary arrests, trials, and convictions of peaceful dissidents” – while highlighting that “dozens of human rights defenders and activists continued to serve long prison sentences”.

The Saudis’ murderous campaign in Yemen – largely made possible because of weapons deals with the US, along with Britain, France and Germany – has resulted in the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Yet Bin Salman himself has routinely avoided the “dictatorship” tag.

Indeed, the 32-year-old is widely regarded as “the Crown Prince”, despite his deepening complicity in the Yemeni catastrophe. This intervention is in fact harming the Saudis’ increasingly befuddled cause, while sinking its hitherto poor international reputation.

Last month the deputy UN director, Akshaya Kumarreprimanded Bin Salman for “denying to hold any of his own forces accountable for their war crimes [in Yemen]”. Kumar insists that Bin Salman, and other coalition leaders, “should face international sanctions” – which have not been forthcoming. Nor are they likely to be.

Amnesty International’s analysis of Bin Salman’s rule is even more damning. They outlined in October 2017 that,

“The months since the Crown Prince’s appointment have seen no improvements, instead, its already dire rights record has continued to deteriorate”.

Amnesty stress that “

Saudi Arabia remains one of the world’s worst abusers when it comes to human rights”.

Yet the tyranny has for decades remained a darling of the West, who elsewhere profess noble sentiments for human rights infrigements when assigned to official enemies – like Iran, North Korea or Cuba.

Not insignificantly, Saudi governments have long supported terrorist organizations like ISIS and Al Qaeda – supplying the extremist groups with arms, financial support, propaganda tools, etc. At home, Saudi regimes have further spread their extreme Wahhabi doctrines in schools and workplaces.

Despite these abuses, which far outweigh charges leveled against Iran, the Trump administration remains silent. As do other Western powers. Following the Obama government, Trump’s cabinet is complicit in what is an overt famine war against Yemen.

The double standards can be seen elsewhere. In eastern Europe, Washington instigated the 2014 Ukraine coup that installed a notoriously corrupt regime, with ties to far right groups. Indeed, Obama admitted American involvement during an unguarded interview with CNN the following year.

It saw billionaire Petro Poroshenko take over from the illegally ousted and democratically elected Viktor Yanukovych. Over two years after Obama’s interview, and with thousands dead in the ensuing fighting, it was revealed Poroshenko has a 1 per cent approval rating in the Ukraine.

In September 2017 Kenneth Courtis, the former Goldman Sachs managing director and vice-chairman, visited Kiev. Courtis wrote after his trip that,

“The current Kiev regime is the most corrupt and the most incompetent the Ukraine has known since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The degree of popular trust has fallen virtually to zero.”

Instead, what is consistently recounted in the mainstream are examples of Russian “aggression” and “hostility” towards the pro-Western regime. Russia has inevitably involved itself by funding pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukrainian regions, such as Donetsk and Luhansk. Many of the citizens of these areas speak Russian, and have sympathetic feelings toward Moscow.

Amid the bluster, it can be forgotten that the Ukraine lies along Russia’s borders, and is a country with a long history of Western exploitation. It would be interesting to note the American reaction if Russia endeavored to implement a pro-Kremlin regime in Mexico or Canada. One would expect the US’s response to be rather more forcible in that instance.

Western elites have repeatedly condemned Russia for annexing the Crimea in early 2014. Crimea’s annexation was indeed illegal, yet came as a direct response to the American-led Ukrainian putsch. Seldom mentioned is that the Crimea was part of Russia from 1783-1917, and later under the Soviet Union’s domain until 1991.

Elsewhere, there are no reprimands to be heard of the US for its illegal control of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba’s major port, taken at the point of a gun. The assaults on human rights at the US-run Guantanamo prison are particularly egregious – and much more serious than anything attributed to Cuba itself.

It is also worth recalling the American annexation of half of Mexico’s territory during the mid-1840s, after an aggressive invasion whose results stand to the current day. 

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Shane Quinn obtained an honors journalism degree. He is interested in writing primarily on foreign affairs, having been inspired by authors like Noam Chomsky. 

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Kurdish militias operating in Syria have allegedly received a batch of man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADs) from the US, according to rumors spread by pro-opposition sources on January 15.

Kurdish militias – YPG and YPJ – are a core of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that control large areas in northwestern and eastern Syria.

Opposition sources argue that the US had provided MANPADs to the part of the US-backed forces operating in the area of Afrin in northwestern Syria. However, they were not able to provide any evidence to confirm that the so-called “secret deal” between the sides really exists and the SDF had received the MANPADs.

Reports about the MANPADs supplies followed the escalation of tensions between Turkey/pro-Turkish militants and the SDF in northwestern Syria. Turkish forces repeatedly shelled positions of the SDF in the area of Afrin last weekend. The SDF, particularly Kurdish YPG units, responded with shelling positions of pro-Kurdish militants south and east of the Afrin area.

On January 14, the US-led coalition announced that it is working with the SDF to establish a 30,000-strong border security force that will control the Syrian border with Turkey and Iraq.

On the same day, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed that Turkish forces may soon carry out an attack on the city of Afrin and reports appeared that Ankara is deploying additional forces south of it.

On January 15, the Turkish president vowed to “drown” the forming “terror army” [border force] before it’s complete.

“Our duty is to drown this terrorist force before it is born,” AP quoted Erdogan. The president also said that the US role in establishing this force is “unacceptable”.

“This is what we have to say to all our allies: don’t get between us and terrorist organizations, or we will not be responsible for the unwanted consequences,” Erdogan continued threatening that Turkish forces will battle “until not a single terrorist remains along our borders, let alone 30,000 of them.”

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Featured image is from South Front.

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The Iran Deal Still Works, Trump Still Works Against It

January 17th, 2018 by Paul Kawika Martin

In response to reports that President Trump will continue waiving nuclear-related sanctions on Iran while also imposing new non-nuclear sanctions, Paul Kawika Martin, Senior Director for Policy and Political Affairs at Peace Action, released the following statement:

“Trump’s assertion that the Iran nuclear agreement is not in our national security interest is patently false. Thanks to the agreement, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has implemented rigorous verification and monitoring systems that grant us the peace of mind that comes with knowing all of Iran’s potential pathways to a nuclear weapon remain blocked. After two years of verifiable success, the Iran agreement is a paragon of international diplomacy; a testament to the power of dialogue to resolve the most complex and contentious issues between nations. Unfortunately we have a president who’s hellbent on unraveling the achievements of his predecessor, and who’s idea of sound nuclear policy includes a tenfold increase in our nuclear stockpile and threatening other nuclear-armed nations with ‘fire and fury.’

“Thankfully, Trump has signaled that for now, he won’t violate the agreement by re-imposing nuclear-related sanctions on Iran, but the accord is still vulnerable to less direct forms of sabotage. For some time, Congress and the administration have been using non-nuclear sanctions to try to goad Iran into walking away from the deal so they can blame Iran for its collapse. With new sanctions coming down the pike again, and Congress reportedly considering legislation that would seek to unilaterally rewrite the terms of the agreement, these sideways attacks on the Iran accord are still a real threat.

“Walking away from the agreement, or pushing Iran to walk away, would be exceedingly reckless in its own right, risking an end to all inspections and constraints on Iran’s nuclear program and raising the prospect of war. But killing the deal has broader implications for the future of American diplomacy. Just as talks between North and South Korea begin and hopes for direct talks between the U.S. and North Korea abound, Trump is demonstrating that America’s international commitments can be as short-lived as our presidencies. That’s a dangerous signal to send when diplomacy on the Korean Peninsula may be the only way to avert a catastrophic war.”