First published in March 2015

Prominent academic and author Dr Michel Chossudovsky warned that the so-called war on terrorism is a front to propagate America’s global hegemony and create a New World Order.

Dr Chossudovsky said terrorism is made in the US and that terrorists are not the product of the Muslim world.

According to him, the US global war on terrorism was used to enact anti-terrorism laws that demonised Muslims in the Western world and created Islamophobia.

Elaborating on his argument, Dr Chossudovsky said that NATO was responsible for recruiting members of the Islamic state while Israel is funding “global jihad elements inside Syria”.

Dr Chossudovsky, who is also the founder of the Centre for Research and Globalisation, further emphasised that the global war on terrorism is a fabrication, a big lie and a crime against humanity.

Echoing Dr Chossudovsky’s arguments, Malaysia’s prominent political scientist, Islamic reformist and activist Dr Chandra Muzaffar said that the US has always manipulated religion to further its global hegemony on sovereign states.


 “The Globalization of War is undoubtedly one of the most important books on the contemporary global situation produced in recent years. 

In his latest masterpiece, Professor Michel Chossudovsky shows how the various conflicts we are witnessing today in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq and Palestine are in fact inter-linked and inter-locked through a single-minded agenda in pursuit of global hegemony helmed by the United States and buttressed by its allies in the West and in other regions of the world.”   Dr Chandra Muzaffar, President of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST)

The Globalization of War: America’s “Long War” against Humanity

Michel Chossudovsky

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The Globalization of War, America’s Long War against Humanity  can be ordered directly from Global Research Publishers. 

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“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” — H. L. Mencken

Cultural Marxism is a strange catch-all term being thrown around a lot these days. Why is it strange? Because if you scratch below its surface all that seems logical melts into air.

The term ‘cultural Marxism’ is used to cover feminism, multiculturalism, identity politics, civil rights, postmodernism and globalism. It has also been used recently to describe multiculturalist curricula in the education system.

Let’s take a look at these concepts in a little more detail:

Feminism

Marxist ideas about women covered ideas of equality and examined the historical and contemporary position and exploitation of women. Marx and Engels wrote about death from overwork, cheap labour, women and children in the mills, etc. They appear to have had a low opinion of feminism. In a letter from Engels to Paul Ernst, Engels writes:

“Furthermore, I am not at all acquainted with what you call the feminist movement in Scandinavia; I only know some of Ibsen’s dramas and have not the slightest idea whether or to what extent Ibsen can be considered responsible for the more or less hysterical effusions of bourgeois and petty bourgeois women careerists.”

Therefore, the inclusion of feminism into the meaning of cultural Marxism is odd.

Multiculturalism

Marxist ideas are based on the idea of citizenship and the state, that all citizens should be treated equally under the law with the common identity of “citizen”. However, it seems that the deeper the political and financial crises of the state and the subsequent whittling down of the rights of the citizen, the more emphasis is put on multicultural policies, as if to provoke the majority population into negative reactions. Marxist ideology was reflected in Article Two of the constitution of the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic of 1918 whereby citizenship was held:

“(22) The Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic, recognizing the equal rights of all citizens, irrespective of their racial or national connections, proclaims all privileges on this ground, as well as oppression of national minorities, to be contrary to the fundamental laws of the Republic.”

One description of multiculturalism in Western countries, notes that multiculturalism “was seen to combat racism, to protect minority communities of all types, and to undo policies that had prevented minorities from having full access to the opportunities for freedom and equality promised by the liberalism that has been the hallmark of Western societies since the Age of Enlightenment.”

If it was necessary for minority groups to fight for rights, “to protect minority communities”, “to undo policies that had prevented minorities from having full access” to opportunities then it seems that this too also has very little to do with Marxist ideology. Being involved in the struggle for basic rights does not necessarily mean you are a Marxist.

Identity politics and civil rights

The same can be said for identity politics whereby people of a particular religion or race form exclusive political alliances and move away from traditional broad-based party politics. It is true that minority cultural groups have experienced exclusion in the past and today, and fight for their rights but Marxist ideas focus on the concept of class, not race, religion or ethnic group. Marxist politics is formulated on the basis of class struggle not the political objectives of individuals or minority groups.

Postmodernism

Strangest of all is the inclusion of postmodernism in descriptions of Cultural Marxism. Postmodernism is a movement characterised by an attitude of rejection of metanarratives such as Marxism. A metanarrative (or grand narrative) is a theory that tries to give a totalizing, comprehensive account of history, culture etc based upon the appeal to universal truth. Postmodernism calls into question various assumptions of Enlightenment rationality, the idea of man free from Church-run society. Yet such Enlightenment ideas form the basis of Marxist philosophy and socialist ideology.

Globalism

Globalism is a word associated with with world-systems or other global trends. The term is associated with “post-war debates debates of the 1940s in the United States. In their position of unprecedented power, US planners formulated policies to shape the kind of postwar world they wanted, which, in economic terms, meant a globe-spanning capitalist order centered exclusively upon the United States.” Again, not very Marxist concepts, cultural or otherwise. You are more likely to find Marxist ideas in anti-globalisation movements.

It can be seen from all of the above that the basic ideas associated with cultural Marxism have more in common with crises of neo-liberalism and international capitalism than with Marxism. It may be true that the origins of ‘cultural Marxism’ lie in the Frankfurt school of the 1930s in the attempts of critics like Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse and Walter Benjamin to mix Marxist ideas with Freud to break down the effects of the church and state on revolutionary consciousness but it seems that later anything not associated with the conservative values of the nationalist “white”  Christian became ascribed to cultural Marxism.

Monolithism

While the neo-nationalist right ascribes many different ideas and movements to cultural Marxism it can be shown that in the main they all actually benefit the political right. This is through monolithism (something having a uniform or inflexible quality or character), an approach that can be used as a sleight of hand to implement other agendas. Below are three different ways monolithism can be used to stifle dissent.

It is in the education system that we can begin to see monolithism being used to appear progressive and concerned with minority issues (multiculturalism) while at the same time implementing a right wing agenda. For example, recent changes in the French education system have been criticised for devoting more time to a 14th century Malian king, Mansa Kankan Mussa, (who was also a great scholar, an economist as well as an art lover!) compared to the study of Napoleon or even replacing French revolution lessons. By treating French history as monolithic (i.e. for the political right the threatening (revolutionary) and non-threatening elements can be treated as one), the baby can be thrown out with the bathwater, and the revolutionary tradition of the French people can be safely removed from the education system. Therefore the progressive parts of French history can be removed while appearing to be concerned about minority history. The added bonus is that non-threatening ethnic historical figures can be chosen too.  (A more subtle approach than in Ireland where the study of History is being made optional at junior cycle in the secondary schools)

The second way dissent can be silenced using monolithism is to portray minority groups as being made up of similar people all sharing similar views. As Kenan Malik writes:

“Multiculturalists tend to treat minority communities as if each was a distinct, singular, homogenous, authentic whole, each composed of people all speaking with a single voice, each defined primarily by a singular view of culture and faith. In so doing, they all too often ignore conflicts within those communities. All the dissent and diversity gets washed out. As a result, the most progressive voices often gets silenced as not being truly of that community or truly authentic, while the most conservative voices get celebrated as community leaders, the authentic voices of minority groups.”

The ‘authentic’ conservative gets privileged over the dissenting critic, once again serving the political right.

A third way monolithism works is in the change from the Marxist idea of class struggle (the proletariat vs the bourgeoisie) to categories of the oppressed vs the oppressor (a postmodern non-class concept). Yet again, we see a non-Marxist idea being ascribed to cultural Marxism. The oppressor is changed from the bourgeoisie to all privileged people. So for example, white people become the ‘oppressor’ and black people become the ‘oppressed’, the privileged vs the underprivileged, despite the fact that white people can have very varied economic backgrounds from very poor to ultra-rich. This way of grouping people (colour, creed, ethnicity) creates identities which are not class-based and therefore, from the perspective of the political right, also non-threatening.

Moving targets

It is ironic that what the main targets described by the term cultural Marxism all have in common is the removal of the class (or individual) dissenting elements, or simply have no connection with Marxist ideology at all. The overriding concern, then, is that politics will be reduced to competing groups realigned along specific cultural boundaries, all blind to clever elite manipulation. Firing the term cultural Marxism at any divergent social, cultural or political activity will not enlighten people about what is really happening under their noses but will send them off tilting at windmills instead.

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Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin is an Irish artist, lecturer and writer. His artwork consists of paintings based on contemporary geopolitical themes as well as Irish history and cityscapes of Dublin. His blog of critical writing based on cinema, art and politics along with research on a database of Realist and Social Realist art from around the world can be viewed country by country here. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

Myriad agencies, funded by Western governments, foundations, and NATO, continue to erect barriers to freedom of thought and expression in the West’s post-democratic, New Fascist, societies.

The totalitarianism implicit in these restrictions means that colonial media is monochromatic, tightly framed, and ubiquitous. There is no “free exchange” of ideas, a necessary foundation of democratic societies. Hence, messaging that promotes wars of aggression, and dysfunctional economic ideologies remains ascendant in the public sphere.

The public is led to believe that never-ending criminal wars and vast outflows of public monies to the military industrial complex are normal and necessary. Similarly, publicly bailed-out, predatory, diseconomies are presented as the only viable economic models.  Socially-oriented, (democratic) political economies, we are told, “do not work”.  The public remains unaware that Empire wages criminal economic and “kinetic”, terrorist-supporting warfare, against societies that seek to determine their own political economies.  Socially-oriented political-economies in countries such as Libya, Iraq, Syria, Nicaragua, Venezuela and on and on, are constantly under attack, and not allowed to thrive. Empire targets these countries criminally, aggressively, and perpetually.

The covert barriers which create bounded, framed restrictions on freedoms of expression create a “chilling effect” that promotes self-censorship, and disappears evidence-based truths which would otherwise counter-balance narratives from media conglomerates, all of which are unduly impacted, and subservient to “establishment” pressures from Big Oil, Banking, Military Industrial Complex, Big Pharmaceutical, and other monopolies.

Thought leaders who step outside of the confines of Establishment narratives are targeted. The University of Sydney’s warrantless suspension of best-selling author and Senior lecturer, Prof. Tim Anderson[1], from his teaching duties, is a case in point. Not only does his suspension create a “chilling effect”, and a culture of academic self-censorship, but it also restricts the amount of evidence-based research that reaches the public arena.

Military/Intelligence fronts, such as the Integrity Initiative[2]– well-funded by state agencies and even NATO[3]– add to the oppression, not only by targeting individuals for smear campaigns, but also by guaranteeing a non-stop flow of war propaganda.

Time and again, policymakers use Private Intelligence Contractors (PICS) as sources of fake intelligence that they wrap around previously planned policies, to give an air of credibility to war propaganda. Have we forgotten already the lies used to justify the West’s supremely criminal destruction of Iraq? All of the post-9/11 wars (and beyond) were sold to gullible domestic populations by means of well-planned strategies of deception.

It is an unequal battle, but the broad-based public must first free itself from foundational war lies if we are to make transformative changes. Foremost amongst these lies is “The War On Terrorism”. The public needs to understand that this War on Terror myth is cover for criminal wars of conquest. Our governments and their agencies support the terrorists. Pretending that the West is fighting ISIS and other terrorists (i.e al Qaeda) prolongs the suffering of its victims, past, present, and future. It is not a war against ISIS. It never was. The West and its allies support all of the terrorists in Syria, (and beyond), including ISIS.

If the public can be disabused of the “War on Terrorism” myth, then it will be ready for mass social unrest and mobilizations for fundamental reforms.  Incremental reforms only bolster Establishment positions by providing illusions of democratic policymaking.

For starters, Canada needs to leave NATO, cut its military budget, end its “neoliberal” diseconomy, instate a socially-oriented economy, and regain its sovereignty and democracy.

Given all of the structural barriers that we face, these goals may never be achieved, but we still “win” when we at least struggle for justice.

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Mark Taliano is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG) and the author of Voices from Syria, Global Research Publishers, 2017.

Notes

[1] Prof. Tim Anderson, “STEPHEN GARTON’S OVERREACH: INTELLECTUAL FREEDOM AT THE UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY.” Avant Garde, 12 December, 2018.( https://avantgarde2009.wordpress.com/2018/12/12/stephen-gartons-overreach-intellectual-freedom-at-the-university-of-sydney/?fbclid=IwAR1MpVAZX-F7LcuwbZvSzHAio1mN-L2BemweI7IVMuBrEGrjRjT-sRSRLpc) Accessed 19 December, 2018.

[2] Mohamed Elmaazi and Max Blumenthal, “Inside The Temple Of Covert Propaganda: The Integrity Initiative And The U.K’s Scandalous Information War.” Gray Zone,17 November, 2018. (https://grayzoneproject.com/2018/12/17/inside-the-temple-of-covert-propaganda-the-integrity-initiative-and-the-uks-scandalous-information-war/) Accessed 19 December, 2018.

[3] George Eliason, “A Crisis in Intelligence: Unthinkable Consequences of Outsourcing U.S. Intel. (Part 3)” Consortium News, 18 February, 2018.( https://consortiumnews.com/2018/02/18/a-crisis-in-intelligence-unthinkable-consequences-of-outsourcing-u-s-intel-part-3/?fbclid=IwAR2DKmAtaSMattb28apQZ-gCJ61stFYP3jem97t93PLm-bSpQLGp-0Z_4No) Accessed 18 February, 2018.


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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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Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir made a historical visit to Syria, the first for an Arab leader since war was imposed on Syria in 2011. El-Bashir landed onboard a Russian airplane at Damascus airport, an indication of Moscow’s efforts to bring Syria back into the Arab – and international – fold. During seven years of war, Sudan never closed its embassy in Damascus.

El-Bashir was not travelling alone. Sudan would not take such a huge step without the support of its allies. The Sudanese president is a close partner of Saudi Arabia and the Emirates in their destructive war on Yemen. The purpose of his visit is to lay  down the road to Damascus for more Arab leaders, who are expected to pay tribute to president Bashar al-Assad in 2019. Their goal is to elbow aside the Islamic Republic of Iran, the only Islamic country omnipresent with friendly forces on the Damascus scene.

This is not the first contact between Arab countries and Syria since 2011: Egypt maintained its close diplomatic-political-security relationship with Syria throughout the years of war. Bahrain, the Emirates, Oman, Lebanon and Jordan are present today in Syria. On the western front, Italy is preparing to re-open its embassy, while Germany and France were not absent in recent years.

The arrival of el-Bashir onboard a Russian plane indicates the determination of President Vladimir Putin to sew a spider’s web of relationships between the Middle East, the West and Syria. Putin aims to see Syria resume diplomatic relations with Arab and other countries. Russia and Syria dismiss the conditions the US is seeking to impose for reconstruction of the country and would like to see its unwelcome forces leave the Levant.

El-Bashir came to Syria at a time when the Middle Eastern countries acknowledge that their plan to create a failed state in the Levant has failed. Their goal was a failed state, not a new regime; their unlimited support to the Takfiree groups (i.e. the “Islamic State” ISIS and al-Qaeda) was pushing Syria towards total chaos, posing significant dangers to neighbouring countries with the exception of Israel. Tel Aviv welcomed both extremist religious groups, embraced them, and supported their presence on its border throughout the years of war in Syria.

After many years of war, the Syrian president is today harsher in his approach towards Israel, although he does not necessarily intend to initiate an attack to regain Syrian territory  occupied by Israel in the Golan heights. Assad is happy to see a local Syrian resistance, similar to the Lebanese Hezbollah, developing along the borders and in other parts of the country.

Assad has not changed his stand towards Iran. On the contrary, years of war taught him to rely on those, like Iran, who offered billions of dollars to support the Syrian economy and sent tons of weapons and thousands of men to protect Syria’s integrity.

The Syrian president has never flagged in support of Hezbollah. Since 1982 and until today, the Lebanese group received weapons and financial support through Syria. But today the bond is stronger than ever, particularly as Hezbollah offered hundreds of men killed in the battlefield and thousands of wounded for the unity of the Levant.

But yes, Assad’s position towards Hamas has changed. He rejects any mediation from the secretary general of Hezbollah Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and from Iran to bring back Hamas into the “axis of the resistance”. Assad considers the time is not ripe to reconcile with the Palestinian group because hundreds of its members fought within the ranks of ISIS and al-Qaeda and were responsible for the killing of Syrians.

The position of the Syrian president was firm throughout the war, notwithstanding the reach of ISIS (called Jabhat al-Nusra in 2013 before Joulani, its leader, declared loyalty to Ayman Zawaheri) to al-Abbaseyeen square in Damascus, threatening the government and the presidency. Saudi Arabia and the US offered to recognise Assad as the legitimate president of Syria in return for abandoning Hezbollah, Iran, and Hamas. Well aware of the treachery of his interlocutors, Assad refused and instead relied on trustworthy partners, i.e. Hezbollah and Iran (and Russia later on in 2015), to help him win the war imposed on his country.

El-Bashir’s visit expresses the will of his sponsors to recognise Assad’s victory and his leadership of Syria for fear of leaving him in the hands of Russia and Iran, who are reaping the rewards of their victory in Syria.

The young Bashar who became president at the age of 35 is today 53 years old with unparalleled political and war experience. Assad is pragmatic and by no means an ideologue. He will have no problems dealing with Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the US, the countries which spearheaded the war against Syria and caused its destruction. Even more, Assad is ready to welcome these countries and invite them to have a piece of reconstruction even if trust will be absent. That is called the art of the impossible.

Recognition of Assad as president of Syria by the countries responsible for years of war will open the doors of investment for anyone willing to participate even if the US occupies northeast Syria for decades and if Turkey maintains its occupation of north-west of Syria.

El-Bashir wants Damascus to return to the Arab League – who expelled Syria in 2012 – when he is recognised by the Arabs as the legitimate president of the country. Syria is a state and will behave as such, not seeking revenge but offering a part of the Damascene cake to share with everyone prepared to help rebuild the country.

The visit of the Sudanese president was planned for more than a year and was blessed by the countries who took the most radical stand against Assad; these countries have accepted their defeat and recognize that Syria shall not fall. Turkey is also reconsidering its position, as evident from the recent statement of foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu: “if the [Syrian] elections are democratic and trustworthy, we will consider all possibilities [to cooperate with Assad in case of his re-election]”. The Turkish-Syrian relationship is much more complicated than the Arab-Syria relationship. Ankara’s troops occupy a part of Syria and are protecting al-Qaeda and its allies in Idlib, but President Erdogan shares a common goal with Damascus: both seek the withdrawal of the US occupation forces and to prevent the Kurds from protecting US forces and imposing their enclave in north-east Syria.

The door to recognising Assad as the president of Syria is open to all Arabs without exception, along with their investment to rebuild the country. It is time to bury the Arab axe of war in the Levant.

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James Perloff: Cece, I’m so delighted to have a chance to interview you. I should probably start by letting my readers know how I found out about you. The local paper in my town (Burlington, Mass.) had reported that Verizon was planning to build seven new wireless transmitters on utility poles in our neighborhoods. I wrote a letter opposing it to the newspaper and to the town selectmen. Then an “awake” person in Burlington, who had read my letter, alerted me that you would be speaking at the Burlington Public Library on October 16 about the hazards of wireless microwave radiation and how people can protect themselves from it. I attended; you gave an outstanding, science-based talk, and I’m going to embed it at the end of this interview so people can watch for themselves.

Cece Doucette: Thanks, Jim, it’s an honor to do this interview with you.

As you mention, another Burlington resident reached out to see if I could help educate about the risks of today’s wireless technology. She had been to a screening of the new film Generation Zapped earlier this year. It won Best Documentary at the D.C. Independent Film Festival and is a great way to learn about the health effects of wireless technology directly from leading world scientists, doctors, public health experts and patients.

There wasn’t time to schedule in a screening of Generation Zapped at the Burlington Public Library as their sponsored films are set months in advance. So, I agreed to give a talk at the library instead. It was a pleasure to meet you there after reading your letter to the Burlington Small Cell Committee.

JP: Please tell my readers a little about your background, and how you became an activist and educator on the hazards of wireless technologies.

CD: I used to help lead our local education foundation in Ashland, Massachusetts. We kept hearing about the 21st Century Classroom and all the technology that would be needed. Our town doesn’t have budget for that, so I helped run seven campaigns to bring this technology into our schools, and much of it was wireless. Following that, I went to work directly for our schools as our district grant coordinator. In that role I helped secure many grants that also brought wireless technology into our classrooms.

Then, at book group one night, a girlfriend who is an electrical engineer mentioned there could be something up with wireless technology and health. So, I asked our IT director about it, and he didn’t know anything but said he’d check it out. He came back and said the FCC says it’s fine.

However, by that point I’d already begun my own investigation and found, literally, thousands of peer-reviewed published studies from all over the world showing wireless technology is biologically hazardous.

I began sharing my findings with our school administrators and upon reading the legal fine print that comes with wireless devices, they started taking precautions. Little did we know at the time in 2014, Ashland became the first public school district in the U.S. to do so.

JP: You know, Cece, before doing this interview, I downloaded and watched Generation Zapped. And I have to say that, one of the things that really struck me about that film is the number of credentialed scientists, from around the world, who are speaking out about these issues. This really puts it out of the realm of what some might call “tin foil hat conspiracy theories.”

CD: Indeed, the industry would prefer that we keep this issue on the fringe using terms like “tin foil hat conspiracy” so the public won’t take it seriously. Once you hear there is harm from wireless though, you can find the credible science very easily. All you have to do is look. The BioInitiative Report is a compendium of the studies, and shows what the harm is. If you’re more of an audio/visual learner, Generation Zapped allows you to hear directly from some of the world’s leading researchers, doctors and public health experts.

JP: In fact, one of the things that impressed me during your live presentation was how professional it was. It was the sort of talk I would expect at a corporate executive briefing—and by that I don’t mean dull, I mean professional. You are in fact a tech writer by trade, are you not?

CD: Thank you, Jim. Yes, I earned a Master of Technical and Professional Writing from Northeastern University, as well as a Bachelor’s degree in Communication.

JP: When I was watching Generation Zapped, I asked myself why these scientists were willing to be so outspoken, and my own conclusion is this: the risk of harm from wireless radiation not only threatens humanity, these scientists know it threatens their own health and that of their families. And what’s that compared to perhaps a little ridicule from a few mercenary quarters of the media? No one wants to get sick, period. And that’s a consideration that overrides politics, theology, or anything else that might divide us. Microwave radiation doesn’t discriminate.

CD: Indeed, our scientists take a significant risk in speaking out about the harm from wireless radiation as the industry has been known to makes large donations to their research institutions, and then their research labs are closed down if they report negative findings. However, many scientists have courageously banded together and authored international appeals to protect the public. More than 240 experts from around the world have submitted the International EMF Scientists Appeal to the United Nations, World Health Organization, and all its member states calling for public protections.

JP: When people go online, and find reports that say wireless technology is harmless or “there is no evidence of harm,” they are normally looking at industry-sponsored studies, isn’t that correct? Not unlike the studies that the cigarette industry once funded saying there was no link between smoking and cancer.

CD: That is correct. Harvard put out a report called Captured Agency: How the Federal Communications Commission is Dominated by the Industries it Presumably Regulates. In it they indicate the wireless industry has commandeered the FCC and is using the big tobacco playbook to suppress evidence of wireless harm while promoting their toxic products.

JP: Actually, Cece, before we go any further, I’d like to define some of our terms: “microwave,” “electromagnetic field (EMF),” and “radiation,” because some people, myself included, feel challenged when trying to understand phenomena that are not visible to the naked eye. So, if you would, please define these terms on a lay level, and let us know if there is any distinction between the microwaves used by Wi-Fi and those used by microwave ovens.

CD: I was initially confused too. All of our digital technology sends data packets back and forth using invisible microwave radiation signals. These are also known as radiofrequency radiation (RF) signals or electromagnetic fields (EMFs). With a microwave oven, you have very high power for a short amount of time. With today’s wireless technology, you have lower power but it’s pulsing all the time unless you know to turn it off when not in use. Otherwise every device, router, access point and cell tower sits there pulsing radiation at you whether you need to communicate with it or not.

The science now shows that it is the nature of the signal that is harming us. Wireless antennas send a spiked, erratic pulse that is disrupting our own biological signals at billions of cycles per second. Over time, the cumulative effects add up, so it is best to reduce wireless exposures and choose hard-wired technology.

JP: Now in your talk you referred to the vast number of peer-reviewed scientific studies that have documented the health issues being caused by wireless technologies. Could you give us a sampling of some of these health problems, and identify some of the major studies that have shed light on them?

CD: In November 2018, the U.S. National Toxicology Program’s $30M study found clear evidence that wireless radiation causes tumors in the Schwann cells lining the hearts of male rats. They also found some evidence of brain tumors and DNA damage among other findings. Another large 2018 study at the Ramazzini Institute in Italy also reported similar cancer and DNA findings.

This is just the tip of the iceberg though. Other studies link wireless radiation to infertility, autism, Alzheimer’s, neurotoxicity, genotoxicity and more.

In the short-term, many adults and children experience symptoms that neither they nor their doctors have been educated to recognize as microwave sickness. This might include insomnia, headaches, nose/ear bleeds, dizziness, fainting, seizures, skin heating/rashes/tingling, nausea, anger, anxiety, depression, fatigue, cognitive impairment, suicidal ideation, addiction and more.

JP: And it’s my understanding that even some insurance companies are starting to recognize these risks and refusing to insure against illness induced by Wi-Fi?

CD: Yes, Lloyd’s of London, Swiss Re and others recognize wireless radiation as a leading risk and have put exclusions in their policies. The industry is not insured so they pass those liabilities onto the consumer in their fine print warnings, or onto our states and towns in the contracts they sign for equipment installations.

JP: You have put together a huge online information repository so that people can readily access facts about wireless dangers. Would you please give us that link?

CD: I’m happy to; folks are welcome to peruse my research repository as a launch point into their own investigations: https://sites.google.com/site/understandingemfs

JP: During your presentation, one of the things that jumped out at me—perhaps because I’m not a smartphone user—is that these devices don’t merely receive EMFs, they transmit EMFs. So it’s a two-edged sword—it’s not just the radiation people are absorbing from cell towers, it’s the devices that they carry on them. You mentioned that these phones usually have multiple transmitter antennae—can you identify some of these by function?

CD: That’s right, our devices are two-way transmitters. They are sending out signals to make a handshake with the nearest cell tower or router, and are receiving data from those outside antennas.

A cell phone has multiple antennas. There are separate ones for cell calls, data, Bluetooth, wi-fi, locator and by now a public hotspot antenna as the industry is using us as their network. Each independently pulses radiation all the time unless we know to turn them off when not in use. If we don’t, we risk harming ourselves by using and storing them on our bodies.

In Generation Zapped, we see a woman who developed several different cancer tumors in the footprint of where she carried the cell phone in her bra for years.

We also know our sperm counts as a nation are down 50%, and the science shows wireless radiation mutates the DNA of sperm, causes fewer sperm to be viable, and slows the motility of the sperm in just four hours.

The American Cancer Society reports colon and rectal cancers are doubling and quadrupling among our young adults.

JP: As a matter of fact, during my service as a registered nurse, I helped take care of a popular young man who died from a brain tumor, which originated right next to where he chronically held his cell phone on his job. And then, of course, the same thing happened to Senator Ted Kennedy, who came from our home state.

CD: Yes, and Senator John McCain too. He died of a brain tumor on the left side of his head. He was left-handed and that’s where he held the cell phone to his head. He’d already had other types of tumors removed from that side of his neck and throat too.

JP: Also, a certain small percentage of the public has developed personal sensitivity to EMFs, have they not? I think a medical analogy might be when an individual develops an allergic reaction to a particular antibiotic. Even though most people don’t get the same reaction, for that person it’s very real. And unfortunately, when people develop the symptoms of EMF sensitivity, they are often dismissed as imagining things and having a “psychological” problem.

CD: It’s like where we were with Lyme Disease a decade ago. Doctors haven’t been trained on electrical sensitivities, so some will infer that it’s all in the patient’s mind when in fact it is caused by environmental triggers of wireless radiation. Environmental health doctors, however, are aware and treating patients for this. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine, in fact, put out a position statement to school superintendents indicating our schools should use hard-wired technology and not expose children to wireless radiation.

Another group, Physicians for Safe Technology, offers A Clinical Approach to Electrohypersensitivity including insurance codes. See this.

JP: There seems to be an assumption amongst the public that if a product is on the market, it must be safe. In the case of wireless devices, I was shocked to learn from you that the industry did only one very limited safety test.

CD: There was no safety testing done. They used an untested theory that you must have heat from a device to have harm, and they simply put gel into a mannequin’s head to see how much heat it would take to raise the temperature of the gel. The FCC set the public radiation exposure limits based on that heat model, with no regard for the thousands of studies that show harm at the non-thermal level. They never tested their exposure limits to see if they cause biological harm.

JP: I think we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Smart Meters. What can you tell us about these devices?

CD: These are digital devices replacing the mechanical analog devices we have at our homes and offices to measure consumption of electricity, gas, water and solar power. They have a wireless transmitter to capture usage data and send it off to the utility company, thereby eliminating the need to pay a meter-reader to walk the neighborhoods.

While only one reading a month is needed for billing, the “smart” meters actually pulse radiation all day and night with no informed consent by the consumer. That can be very dangerous if someone is sleeping right on the other side of the wall, or if the utility company installs a bank of these on a multi-unit dwelling.

The “smart” meters usually aren’t grounded either, so the radiation can hop onto the home’s electrical wiring and water pipes, in essence turning the home into a toxic radiation antenna.

Some utility companies offer an opt-out so you can retain the safer analog meters, but others don’t.

JP: You know, I get the impression that the word “smart” has been hit upon as a way to market wireless devices, similar to when, decades ago, Madison Avenue discovered they could sell products more easily by using the phrase “new and improved.” Naturally, everyone wants to be “smart.” But putting one’s health at risk is not smart at all.

CD: No, it’s not, but marketing influences are very strong, so it’s up to each of us to learn about this and make truly smart choices for ourselves and our loved ones.

JP: Now we have 5G being planned for, which is a radically different form of wireless, and yet—surprise, surprise—no safety testing has been done on it. Could you break down for us just what 5G is, and how they plan to implement it?

CD: 5G means fifth generation technology. Even though the NTP and Ramazzini studies determined in 2018 that wireless causes cancer and DNA damage, the industry and the FCC are pushing hard and fast to put in toxic infrastructure throughout our towns for 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT).

They’ve maximized profits in the portion of the electromagnetic radiation spectrum that carries 4G and the earlier generations’ data signals (2G, 3G). What’s left of the spectrum is poor quality short millimeter waves that can’t carry signals very far.

So their solution is to put up more infrastructure for shorter data hops to connect to. That means more cell towers at closer range, every 2 to 12 houses, inside our neighborhoods, right on poles in the public access right of way outside our bedrooms. This will severely harm our children, making it very difficult to be able to focus at school.

As happens to some when “smart” meters go in, many near these new 5G “small cell” installations may begin to experience headaches, insomnia, skin abnormalities, irregular heartbeats, nosebleeds, anxiety, depression, anger, cognitive impairment and more.

The 5G little waves can’t go through buildings very well, so 5G will also incorporate the signals from the many cell towers and antennas we currently have for the earlier generations of technology. All so they can put toxic radiation antennas in everything you own and connect it to your phone: your appliances, games, baby diapers, etc., to gather your data and sell it to product manufacturers.

The industry and FCC are pushing right now at the federal and state levels to take away home rule rights from our towns so they can force in this toxic infrastructure.

They have already submitted applications for “small cell distributed antenna systems” in many of our communities, so it would behoove us to educate our towns quickly in hopes of establishing local by-laws to forbid any kind of wireless communication facility anywhere near our homes or schools. Your readers should feel free to share the pages from my research repository with their town leaders, who likely have no idea this is happening: For Municipal Leaders5G & IoTCell Towers. Once they learn, many begin to push back on industry as your town did in Burlington, Massachusetts.

JP: OK, next I’d like to talk about what people can do to protect themselves, their families and their communities. Let’s start on a personal level—what can folks do right in their homes to reduce wireless risks?

CD: I’d suggest folks get ahold of a wireless radiation detection meter; otherwise it’s easy to miss signals.

In my home, we use hard-wired computers, mice and keyboards. Our printer is hard-wired too with an Ethernet cable, and we simply turn off the antennas in each device once we’re hooked up with Ethernet.

We swapped out the DECT cordless phones for regular phones. We bought a TV that has an Ethernet jack, and hard-wired that too, then turned off the wireless signals in the settings.

We figured out how to hard-wire my daughter’s iPhone too with an adapter. She was very excited to have the faster speeds, and was especially happy to realize that by using hard-wiring, it isn’t eating into her data plan – which we make her pay for out of pocket if she goes over her monthly allocation of minutes.

JP: A friend of mine called my attention to a website called Antenna Search which enables people to locate cell towers and antennae that are in the proximity of any address. This could help people who, for example, are making decisions on buying a home. Any thoughts on this site?

CD: Yes, it is a good resource to know what is near you. That said, there is no guarantee the industry won’t put up a new one near you, especially if the town allows 5G antennas to be put up inside our neighborhoods. So, it’s best to educate yourself and your town administrators on the risks of wireless.

JP: When you gave your presentation, you had an Acoustimeter with you. Could you briefly explain what these are, and how they are useful?

CD: The Acoustimeter is a wireless radiation detection device that shows with green/yellow/red light indicators what your levels of exposure are. I use it to ensure my home is as safe as I can make it, and to teach others with.

JP: I have to admit, I had long resisted buying an Acoustimeter, partly because of the expense, and partly from resistance to having to learn how to use another tech device. But after your talk, I did purchase one. They can be on the expensive side—please tell us what Ashland has done to make these freely accessible.

CD: It took me three tries, but eventually, after I educated our Selectmen and our Library Trustees on wireless risks, I was awarded a $400 grant by our town to put an Acoustimeter on loan in our public library for our residents to borrow.

Our local cable station, WACA-TV, was kind to help me do a public service video to teach people how to use it to identify common exposures in our homes and suggestions for remediation.

JP: That is such a great idea. And what is the Ashland public school system doing to help safeguard its students?

CD: When our schools learned about the fine print warnings that come with each device and tell us not to use them on our bodies, we became the first in the nation to begin taking precautions.

We have a sign hanging in our classrooms with guidance to turn off the wi-fi when not in use, to turn off the devices when not in use, and to never use a device on one’s body. Our administrators are waiting for higher authorities, however, to tell them to turn off the wi-fi and choose hard-wired connections instead.

JP: It’s my understanding that the Massachusetts State Legislature now has as many as nine bills concerning wireless safety under consideration, and that you’ve played a role in generating some of them. Please tell us about some of these bills, and how they came about, because I think it would be an inspiration to some of my readers.

CD: When I realized our schools were not actually turning off the wireless and that the children are still exposed, I met with my State Senator Karen Spilka. I educated her and measured her cell phone and her district director’s laptop. Both devices went off the charts with radiation exposure.

Senator Spilka introduced a bill on my behalf to form a commission to get the right bright minds together at the state level to address wireless radiation and public health. Others around the state have done the same and we have bills to give people a choice for safer utility meters, provide safe technology in schools, raise the fine print and give the public the right to know wireless is hazardous at the point of sale, label wireless products with warnings, train our medical community, and protect the public from high voltage power lines (another form of toxic man-made radiation). Your readers can see the bills here, and perhaps share them with their own legislators to emulate.

Residents are working with their legislators on proactive bills in Michigan, Maryland and New Hampshire too, so others should be encouraged to follow suit.

JP: Cece, I’d like to mention a recent victory we had over a wireless threat in my own hometown, something you and I both contributed something to. It’s an example of how local action and networking can succeed.

As I mentioned at the top, our local paper had reported Verizon was planning to build seven new wireless transmitters in our neighborhoods. This seemed to be moving us in the direction of 5G. One was slated to go up just a couple of blocks from my home, right by a preschool. I wrote a letter opposing it to the newspaper and to the town selectmen. Then an “awake” person in Burlington, who had read my letter, alerted me that you would be speaking at the town library on the hazards of microwave radiation. I attended, and so did one of the town selectmen.

On the following Monday, the selectmen met to decide on the proposal; Verizon had their attorney there. The selectmen announced they had just received what amounted to an ultimatum from the FCC, basically ordering them to accept the transmitters.

I think at this point I should make reference to the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which states:

 “No State or local government or instrumentality thereof may regulate the placement, construction, and modification of personal wireless service facilities on the basis of the environmental effects of radio frequency emissions to the extent that such facilities comply with the Commission’s regulations concerning such emissions.”

Cece, the telecommunications industry is using this law as a gun to the head of local governments, forcing them to accept wireless installations regardless of any safety concerns, just so long as the installations conform to the standards of 1996. That was back when cell phones were “2G.” But as we know, wireless technology has vastly evolved since 1996, and thousands of new studies have documented the harm being done by wireless. Clearly, the safety standards of 1996 are an outdated dinosaur. Would you comment?

CD: I agree. In 2012 the U.S. Government Accountability Office instructed the FCC to “formally reassess the current RF energy exposure limit, including its effects on human health.” Although hundreds of expert testimonies were submitted, the FCC has failed to respond.

We need to be calling and/or writing to our federal legislators to let them know that is not okay, and remind them it is their duty to protect public health over corporate profits.

Connecticut’s Senator Blumenthal recently asked the FCC to substantiate their claim that 5G is safe, and we should encourage each of our legislators to do the same: provide the studies they say indicate wireless radiation is safe.

JP: Getting back to what happened in my hometown, Verizon’s attorney spoke. Then the public was heard. The only citizens at the meeting who spoke against the proposal were myself and this one other “awake” person. After we commented, we shook our heads and looked down, as we were sure we had no chance against Verizon.

However, the selectmen informed the attorney that they would comply and accept the transmitters provided Verizon met certain conditions, such as annual recertification of the devices. The Verizon attorney then said he had no choice but to withdraw the proposal. Apparently he didn’t want a precedent set where Verizon could be regulated by a town.

Now, I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point Verizon returns with the proposal, perhaps armed with some ruling that the town’s actions were illegal—but in the meantime we were rejoicing; we literally hugged the selectman who stymied Verizon. I think the selectman who attended your talk had gotten the word out. I hope I haven’t misrepresented anything, so I’m going to link to a local article about the meeting.

CD: That is a great example of how civic involvement is important. I suspect the Selectmen had already drafted their small cell policy before I spoke at the library since they had been meeting on this for the better part of a year, but perhaps they also benefited by learning from my talk what the biological risks are.

JP: Well, in any event, I think the make-break point here was that our local officials had become educated about wireless hazards. You found this to be vital in your own dealings with the Massachusetts legislature, did you not?

CD: I did. The industry has been so effective at promoting the benefits of technology and suppressing evidence of harm, that it is not reasonable to expect that anyone would know there are serious risks. So, it takes education to bring them up to speed before we can expect them to take action to protect their constituents.

When the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure learned about this issue, they assigned a research analyst to investigate. After reading the published science showing biological effects, they wrote their own bill in April to address wireless radiation.

JP: Looking at this more globally, I learned from your presentation that the European Parliament is taking these issues very seriously.

CD: Yes, the film Generation Zapped indicates this too. Several countries are way ahead of us on this issue. France has a national law banning wireless around small children, and in the upper grades, the default is that wireless is turned off except when needed. Cell phones are banned from schools.

The Mediterranean country of Cyprus has issued an EMF Declaration with a 16-point fact sheet to educate and protect the public.

JP: And you also mentioned that India has reduced the limits on EMFs astronomically below the levels allowable in the U.S.

CD: Yes, their limits used to be where ours still are in the U.S., and they have set new limits with a 90% reduction.

JP: Would you say that American citizens should be urging their representatives in Congress to revise the 1996 Telecommunications Act, so that it conforms to current scientific safety research?

CD: Definitely. There is a government website that makes it easy to contact your elected officials at all levels: local, state and federal. A simple phone call by many can make a difference as the offices log in how many calls they are getting on different issues and respond accordingly.

JP: Another encouraging thing I learned from your talk is that in 2018 the United States Conference of Mayors issued a statement strongly opposing the FCC’s allowing the telecommunications industry to intrude on the rights of local government.

CD: That’s true. The FCC and industry are trying to take away local home rule rights from our towns so they can force in toxic infrastructure for 5G. They are also looking to low-ball our towns with a cap on how much a municipality can charge the industry for rental space to put up the antennas. As municipalities catch on, they are fighting back as the Conference of Mayors did.

JP: Earlier you mentioned a Harvard study called “Captured Agency” that documented how the FCC is dominated by the telecommunications industry. As a medical professional, it reminds me of the CDC and FDA, some of whose top personnel have had “revolving door” relationships with Big Pharma corporations.

CD: Unfortunately, that is true. The Environmental Health Trust has documentation that shows the CDC and FDA have acted in less than honorable fashion with wireless radiation too.

JP: Before we wrap up, Cece, any last thoughts?

CD: We are fortunate to have quick ways today to come up to speed on this issue. Folks can now purchase Generation Zapped on-line, and the non-profit Wireless Education has half-hour on-line training courses that quickly distill the science, risks, what other countries are doing, and medically recommended best practices for safe technology use.

There is a Schools & Families Course, as well as a Corporate Induction Safety Course. Each provides a handy tip sheet at the end, and are ready to train entire schools and workforces for a small licensing fee to help cover overhead expenses.

I recommend folks get educated, then educate loved ones and colleagues before going to public servants for policy changes. If you go it alone, you may be easily dismissed. A group of well-informed citizens, however, can help bring important change.

JP: How can people best get in touch with you?

CD: Via email at [email protected].

JP: Cece, I want to thank you for a very informative interview, and for the time you generously gave me. It’s been a delight to speak with you.

CD: You’re very welcome, Jim; thank you for learning about the risks of wireless radiation and encouraging others to do the same. I realize this issue will be new to many of your readers, but I hope they won’t take too long before investigating and taking action. We are all at risk of serious harm from wireless radiation and the sooner we use our voices for change, the safer our world will be for our children and theirs.

Here is Cece Doucette’s October 2018 talk at the Burlington, Massachusetts Public Library, where I first made her acquaintance. It was recorded by BCAT, the local public television station. The talk was followed by an informative Q & A session, which was unfortunately not recorded:

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Withdrawal from Syria?

December 21st, 2018 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

According to various news reports, the validity of which is always questionable, US President Donald Trump has ordered the withdrawal of all US troops from the portion of Syria illegally occupied by US troops.

This report is surprising as only a few days ago the US Department of Defense declared that any Syrian, Russian, or Iranian action against ISIS in the part of Syria occupied by US troops was “unacceptable.” See this.

In other words, the Pentagon declared that the part of Syria still in ISIS’s hands was under US protection and was not to be attacked by Syria and its allies.

The question before us: Is Trump’s reported order of withdrawal going to happen?

It is too soon to say. As I write no support for Trump’s withdrawal order has been reported in the media. Even the official statement by the White House’s own spokesperson, Sarah Sanders, is unclear:

“We have started returning United States troops home as we transition to the next phase of this campaign.” See this.

In other words, the campaign against Syria is not over, but “the next phase” apparently doesn’t need US troops. What is the next phase? Until we know the answer, we do not know whether Washington’s campaign against Assad is over.

Perhaps a decision has been made to bypass Syria for now and to knock out Iran before the Russians can intervene there.

The presstitutes, at home and abroad, who serve Israel and the Military/Security Complex and never the Truth, are opposed to ending the campaign against Syria.

The Guardian, once a legitimate working class newspaper, but now to all appearances a CIA asset, writes that Trump’s “walking away now is a remarkable gift for ISIS.”

Bloomberg, continuing its campaign against Trump, reported that Trump’s withdrawal order “left Washington’s Kurdish allies in the lunch,” subject to Turkey’s disposal. Even worse, according to Bloomberg, Trump’s withdrawal “leaves Syria’s future in the hands of Moscow and Tehran, allies of President Bashar al-Assad whose intervention in the conflict averted his potential defeat.”

Warmonger US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a total disgrace to the electorate who put and keeps this fool in office, quickly demurred from Trump’s sensible decision. War forever is Graham’s policy. It proves he is a tough guy who stands up for America.

Mark Dubowitz, chief exercutive officer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (an extinct political species in the West), who “has closely advised the Trump administration,” said that “pulling U.S. troops out of Syria would be a gift to Putin and to the mullahs in Tehran. And it would be a disastrous gift for the region.” See this.

Brett McGurk, Trump’s special envoy to the fake “global coalition to defeat ISIS,” an organization created and financed to create deceptive cover for the support of ISIS, disavowed Trump’s reported decision:

“Enduring defeat of a group like this means you can’t just defeat their physical space and then leave.”

Israel, which has reduced the President of the United States to a two-bit Israeli puppet, as it intends to do also to President Putin of Russia, is unlikely to permit Trump to withdraw US troops from Syria.

Why? The answer is that Syria and Iran, which is also on the Trump/Israeli hit list, support the only army in Lebanon worthy of the name—the Hezbollah militia that prevents Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanan.

Israel’s goal of occupying southern Lebanon is part of the Zionist plan for Greater Israel—from the Nile to the Euphrates. There is also the issue of the water resources in southern Lebanan, which Israel covets. If Syria and Iran can be reduced to the chaos, death, and destruction that Israel has caused in the Middle East through their neoconservative agents in Washington, Hezbollah would be left without any financial and military support, enabling Israel to seize southern Lebanon.

Many in the Western world have never heard of Israel’s interest in Lebanon. With the extraordinary control that the elite have established over communications and explanations, people are unaware that the American assault on the Middle East began with the neoconservatives’ published agenda of overthrowing the Middle East including Saudi Arabia, whose leadership saw the writing on the wall and went over to the Israeli side. The neoconservative agenda, as General Wesley Clark made clear, was handed to the Pentagon and became official US policy. 

Israel operating through their neoconservative agents successfully used the United States to destroy Iraq, Libya, Somalia, almost Syria until the Russians intervened, and to demonize Iran and set Iran up for attack. The cost to the US taxpayers runs in the trillions of dollars. Americans also paid the costs in the deaths and maiming of relatives and loved ones, and in the sullied reputation of their country, now widely regarded as a war criminal government.

Despite these massive blows Israel has delivered against the United States, blows unmatched by those of any enemy, Israel has gone on to compromise the independence of 26 US state governments, with another 13 up for grabs. See this.

How do we explain the capture of the mighty United States by a tiny numerically insignificant people who are isolated in the world?

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Dr. Paul Craig Roberts is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

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The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) makes the point in their most recent report that trade deals outside of the EU are unlikely to make Brexit worth it on economic terms. Trade agreements with countries from the U.S. to China would only mitigate Brexit’s impact on U.K. GDP by 0.2 percentage points.

However, the trade deal that the Brexiteers want is achieved through a hard Brexit. This means predominantly doing a deal with America. From the statistics we do have, there’s no point in signing a trade deal with Donald Trump’s finger lickin chlorine soaked chick’n arrangement. Britain exports £100 billion to the USA annually. We import about £60 billion from the USA. Donald Trump will demand a halt to the USA/UK trade deficit of £40 billion (as he has with other trading partners) and whatever deal is done, it has no way to fill the void left by the reduction of GDP with the current Brexit plan, let alone a hard Brexit.

The scenarios being published as we get closer to the 29th March are starting to point in one direction and one direction only – to a recession. The depth of that recession will be a point of discussion over the coming years. And as our article says in “The real cost of Brexit” the numbers look absolutely horrific – worse than expected on all fronts.

The NIESR report makes no statistical reference to what might happen under a scenario that sees Britain crashing out the EU without a deal, which the Bank of England said could be as bad as a 7.7 per cent hit to GDP. To put that in context, assuming this fall in economic activity as predicted by the BoE, Britain would face the pound dropping by about 25 per cent – forcing a spike in inflation, property prices would plunge probably by about the same and unemployment would rise to 7.5 per cent or thereabouts.

In recent days, four very specific reports evaluating the long-term economic impact of Brexit have been published. The interesting point to note here is that they all agree on two key points, that

A) Theresa May’s deal will definitely hurt the economy over the next decade or longer, and

B) exiting with no deal would be significantly worse.

To make matters worse, the U.K. government’s own study, also published last week, found that GDP would be as much as 10.7 per cent lower in 15 years in the worst-case scenario. But that would still be in excess of 7 per cent over 10 years, which falls in line with the other reports including the BoE.

From parliament.uk comes a report dated 11th December from the Treasury Committee that clearly states the government is at best concealing the truth about the outcomes of Brexit by simply not modelling the obvious.

Commenting on the Report, Nicky Morgan MP, Chair of the Treasury Committee, said:

“Despite differing views on Brexit between members of the Treasury Committee, our report on the economic analysis of the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration has been agreed unanimously.

“The aim of this report is not to recommend how MPs should vote, but to ensure that MPs are as informed as possible when it comes to choosing a division lobby.

“Yet the Government has made this difficult to achieve. The Committee is disappointed that the Government has modelled its White Paper, which represents the most optimistic reading of the Political Declaration, rather than a more realistic scenario.

“The Committee is also disappointed that the Treasury has not analysed the backstop and fails to include short-term analysis of any of the scenarios, including impacts on public finances and on regional and sectoral job losses or gains.

In other words, the government are not providing statistics based on realistic outcomes, only those that make the government argument for Theresa May’s Brexit look more optimistic. There are no estimates provided for a disorderly or unmanaged no-deal scenario.

In the meantime, Bloomberg reports that British hopes for a sweeping post-Brexit trade deal with the U.S. are nothing more than a pipe dream, a senior U.K. official said, dismissing a key argument put forward by supporters for leaving the European Union. If this is the case, Liam Fox who said signing these deals would the easiest thing in the world is also hiding the truth.

“Even Prime Minister Theresa May’s closest allies realize any agreement with Donald Trump’s administration will be lopsided and prioritize the interests of the world’s biggest economy, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because a U.S. trade accord remains a top government priority.”

Bloomberg reported last October that the U.S. is threatening to block Britain from joining a 46-nation public procurement agreement when it leaves the EU in March, a move that would deny British companies access to a near $2 trillion marketplace in order to force Britain into a deal it does not want.

The idea that a protectionist Trump administration would offer the U.K. anything other than unfavourable terms is completely unrealistic, the senior British official said. The government would be forced into accepting U.S. demands on agriculture, completely open up the NHS and other markets such as chemicals, cosmetics and the like.

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While the White House has still provided no comprehensive details on the real form of the so-called US troops withdrawal from Syria, the move has already had impact on the development of the conflict.

Early on December 20, Turkish media released several reports several reports and a video claiming that about 150 US trucks with weapons and equipment had been moved from Syria to Iraq late on December 19.

Reports in the mainstream media citing various sources suggest that the US-led coalition is also going to evacuate its base in the area of al-Tanf and to halt an aerial campaign in the country. If these reports are confirmed, militant groups operating in the area could find themselves abandoned in face of superior forces of the Damascus government.

According to pro-government sources, the Syrian Arab Army and Iranian-backed militias are currently deploying reinforcements to eastern Syria. Earlier reports appeared that the Russian military had set up several positions near the al-Tanf zone.

The so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which are now the main US proxy in northeastern Syria, condemned Trump’s decision to reduce the US military involvement in an official statement. The statement claimed that the decision would have “dangerous consequences” to international security and that it is “disappointing the hopes of the peoples of the region for security and stability.”

The SDF still hopes that if the US withdraws, France and the UK, two other countries that have special forces deployed in the war-torn country, would help it to keep the seized territories under control. However, its representatives have already initiated negotiations with Damascus.

According to the existing data, one of the suggestions is that the SDF would transfer control over oil and gas fields on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River to the Damascus government. In response, the Syrian Arab Army would have to set up a network of checkpoints on the border between Turkey and the SDF-held part of Syria.

Meanwhile, the security situation continues to remain complicated in the Idlib demilitarization zone where members of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other militant groups have carried out several attacks on SAA positions.

If the situation, by some reason, escalates in eastern Syria, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and its allies will likely use it to increase military pressure on the SAA in northern Hama and northern Latakia.

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Mattis Out as Trump Regime War Secretary

December 21st, 2018 by Stephen Lendman

Did Mattis quit or was he pushed? He once said he wouldn’t resign as war secretary. He’d have to be sacked.

According to major media reports, he clashed with Trump over his announced pullout of US forces from Syria and Afghanistan.

On Thursday, the NYT, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and other US media reported that President Trump ordered around half of the 14,000 US forces in Afghanistan to return home in the coming weeks – on top of his announced pullout of US forces from Syria.

Whether what’s coming sticks to what he announced remains very much in question. More on this below.

In his “resignation” letter, Mattis said

“(b)ecause (Trump has) the right to have a secretary of (war) whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position.”

“The end date for my tenure is February 28, 2019, a date that should allow sufficient time for a successor to be nominated and confirmed…”

Mattis turned truth on its head claiming “the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world…”

Freedom, other democratic values, and rule of law principles are rejected by bipartisan US hardliners. Comprising a dominant majority of America’s ruling class, their goal is achieving and maintaining control over all other nations, premeditated war their favorite strategy.

Mattis lied pretending Pentagon forces are used “for the common defense.” Washington’s only enemies are invented ones. No real existed since WW II ended.

Yet endless US wars rage, notably post-the 9/11 mother of all false flags, a pretext for maintaining a permanent war footing at home and abroad.

Police state laws target ordinary Americans, increasingly enforcing totalitarian rule. Invented enemies unjustifiably justify smashing one nation after another, wanting all sovereign independent governments eliminated, risking nuclear war with Russia, China, and/or Iran.

Ruling authorities in NATO member states oppose what democratic governance is supposed to be all about, what’s true about the US most of all. Mattis lied pretending otherwise.

He lied claiming Washington aims to defeat ISIS – the scourge it created and supports, along with al-Qaeda, al-Nusra, and other terrorist groups in the Middle East and elsewhere.

They’re used as proxy US forces, supported by Pentagon-led terror-bombing, massacring civilians most of all, along with destroying vital infrastructure – what Mattis directed as US war secretary.

His predecessors operated the same way. So will his successor. Peacemakers aren’t considered for the job. Advancing America’s imperium prioritizes waging endless wars of aggression.

All political and military officials involved in US warmaking are unindicted war criminals, including congressional members for authorizing naked aggression funding – most of all US presidents as commander-in-chief of the nation’s armed forces.

Mattis lied claiming “China and Russia…want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model (sic) — gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions — to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies.”

All of the above claims apply to the USA most of all, along with its key NATO allies and partnered countries, including Israel, the Saudis, Egypt, Japan, South Korea, and many others.

The “common defense” Mattis referred to involves endless wars of aggression against one sovereign independent nation after another, what he signed on to as war secretary, the way he operated when heading field commands – the highest of high crimes gone unpunished.

Advancing America’s imperium through endless wars of aggression and other hostile actions won’t change under his successor.

Nor will Trump’s announced troop pullouts from Syria and Afghanistan change a thing. French European Affairs Minister Nathalie Loiseau said “we are staying in Syria” to fight ISIS, the Macron regime supports along with Washington, Britain, Israel, the Saudis, Turkey, and other key US imperial partners.

French Defense Minister Florence Parly tweeted:

“ISIS has been weakened more than ever, but it has not been wiped from the map nor has its roots. It is necessary that the last pockets of this terrorist organization be definitively defeated militarily,” – a pretext for continuing endless war in Syria for regime change, using ISIS jihadists, not combatting them.

Will troops from France and perhaps other US allies replace Pentagon forces in Syria and Afghanistan, leaving the status quo in both countries unchanged?

Will Trump about-face on his announced pullouts from both countries? Time and again, he says one thing and does another.

Jack Kennedy’s announced pullout of US forces from Vietnam by end of 1965 led to his state-sponsored assassination.

Will a sinister plot be hatched against Trump if he follows through on withdrawing all Pentagon forces from Syria, Afghanistan, and perhaps other US war theaters?

Reportedly he wants aerial operations in Syria ended along with withdrawing US forces on the ground from northern and southern parts of the country.

According to USCENTCOM (the command Mattis earlier headed),

“(a)s long as there are US troops (in Syria), we will conduct air and artillery strikes in support of our forces. We will not speculate on future operations.”

Separately, so-called Syrian Democratic Forces, largely comprised of Kurdish YPG fighters, may relinquish control of northern parts of the country they hold in return for military help from Damascus against a Turkish offensive on their positions.

Assad officials have yet to comment on this issue. On Thursday, Syrian UN envoy Bashar al-Jaafari dismissed Trump’s pullout announcement unless and until “we…see if this decision is genuine or not.”

Despite earlier announced US troop pullouts, Pentagon forces remain in all countries Washington attacked post-9/11.

If past is prologue, expect no change in Washington’s imperial agenda ahead, including where US forces are deployed.

At most, perhaps a change in tactics alone may follow Trump’s announcements – in pursuit of longstanding objectives for unchallenged global dominance.

A Final Comment

At his annual marathon Q&A session on Thursday, Putin responded to a question on whether Russia aims to achieve control over other countries, saying:

“When it comes to ruling the world, we know very well where those who are trying to do exactly that have their headquarters,” adding “it’s not in Moscow.”

There’s no ambiguity about Washington’s aim, what Putin clearly meant, what everyone everywhere paying attention understands.

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Award-winning author Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected]. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG)

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

The loss-averse President Donald Trump, who campaigned on a platform to “defeat ISIS, sought to uphold his election-season slogan by declaring “historic victories against ISIS” as a reason for his Wednesday decision to end US military presence in Syria.

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Amidst the steady gains of the Syrian army, which has reclaimed land from ISIS and various rebel factions since 2016, Trump has sought to market the destabilization of Syria as a success in his presidency.

Though US military withdrawal is always a cause to celebrate, a steady geopolitical undercurrent shows that the move only represents a shift in strategy in loss minimization for the Gulf-Israel-US axis in the Middle East.

The decision was decried by right wing war hawks, such as Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio–as well as many Hollywood liberals pinning it as evidence of alleged Putin-Trump collusion.

The Syria Democratic Forces urged the U.S. to not withdraw, warning that the cessation of support and presence will have “serious repercussions” that will “create a vacuum” in the region.

The withdrawal represents a loss in regime change objectives from the US and its allies, something the US envoy to Syria James Jeffrey explicitly has said the country is no longer interested in, coming soon after Syria regained over 90 percent of its territory.

In September, it was revealed that Israel, in cutting its losses, stopped arming and funding rebel groups that reports disclosed they were secretly supporting for years. Like its Zionist ally, the US too has decided to cut its losses and not further rock the boat between itself and Turkey.

Military failures and excessive expenditures have made direct war campaigns highly unpopular for the US following Iraq and Afghanistan. Since then, the US’s strategy post-war on terror has been to pursue more covert strategies.

These have been carried out through proxy wars, support of Western-backed rebel groups, media censorship and manipulation, and maintaining or increasing support and funding to NATO and GCC allies and Israel.

The US has supported the YPG in hopes of utilizing the separatist faction as a proxy and reliable alternative to other rebel groups , helping it gain territory and grounding against ISIS in Syria. This has put it in conflict with Turkey, who considers the YPG a “terrorist” group. While the US has more faith and assurance in the group  as a reliable and long-term proxy ally, Turkey has long harbored deep antagonisms to the groups separatist ambitions.

The disagreement has prompted a deal by Turkey demanding that the US withdraw SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) presence, an alliance led by the YPG,  from the Manbij by the end of 2018.

Both the US and Turkey hope that the tides will turn in NATO favor, Turkey plans to launch an operation against the Kurdish group soon, forestalling a complete territorial liberation and victory for Syria, and expected to prolong at least some US military presence in the country.

The second condition for US presence in the country, aside from the pretext of ISIS activity, is the stronger subtext of countering Iran’s allies.

Meanwhile, the ceasefire over Yemen has garnered similar reactions that applaud the US for supposedly pulling back on its campaigns of violence in yet another part of the world.

When the US Senate voted last week to end US support of the war in Yemen, passing 56 to 41, a buried provision of the House and Rules Committee’s “Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 would block any vote or further discussion of the US involvement in the war in Yemen.

“6. Section 2 provides the provisions of section 7 of the War Powers Resolution (50 U.S.C. 1546) shall not apply during the remainder of the One Hundred Fifteenth Congress to a concurrent resolution introduced pursuant to section 5 of the War Powers Resolution (50 U.S.C. 1544) with respect to Yemen.”

On Thursday, President Trump signed the bill into law.

The US push for a UN brokered ceasefire in Yemen, like its withdrawal in Syria, comes after 4 years of incurred losses by the US-backed Saudi coalition after a devastating siege and blockade beginning in March 2015.

The ceasefire is pushed amidst continued aggression against Ansarullah forces in the past few days, including the US-Saudi launch of warplane raids against the Sana’a international airport.

Attempts at holding to the ceasefire continue to be impeded diplomatically and militarily by Saudi Arabia and the US, continuously reneging upon the agreement that it only hopes will disarm Yemeni forces, and thus, wage an easier final offensive against.

The U.S. and Saudi Arabia also hope to malign the terms of the truce to specify condemnation of Iran as allegedly playing a role in prolonging the conflict. The draft resolution, under US pressure, now condemns both Iranian support and “unmanned aerial vehicle attacks by the Houthis against neighbouring countries.”

Russia has rejected the draft resolution on these terms.

Despite the language,  the Yemeni popular forces agreed to respect the terms of the ceasefire, responding only to foil the aggression launched by the Western supported Gulf coalition.

Yahya Saree, brigadier of the Yemeni armed forces, said that the Yemeni army and popular committees are “committed to the cease-fire in Hodeidah,” complicated by the recurrent US and Saudi violations.

The army spokesman added that more than mortar shells have been fired at Hodeidah’s residential areas in violation of the ceasefire, including the US-Saudi launch of 26 airstrikes across various locations in 24 hours.

Meanwhile, the US has refocused its efforts on both confronting Iran directly via soft power through sanctions and dealing with Israeli pressure to take action against Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Last week, the US rejected Israel’s request to sanction Lebanon after the Zionist state began operations to destroy cross border tunnels on its side off the border.

Though Saudi Arabia and Israel have been intensely pressuring Lebanon to target Hezbollah in Lebanon, the US is reluctant to take further action, as a supplier of foreign and military aid to the country and its armed forces.

On Tuesday, the US expressed its ‘deep concerns” over its supposed growing political as well as military influence, condemning its allies in Lebanon’s government for giving it “cover” and “a veer of legitimacy.”

Across the Middle East, the US is reluctant to expend much more effort in direct involvement or combat–yet it does not signal willingness to stop its support of its allies in the region.

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Even the neo-con warmongers’ house journal The Guardian, furious at Trump’s attempts to pull US troops out of Syria, in producing a map to illustrate its point, could only produce one single, uncertain, very short pen stroke to describe the minute strip of territory it claims ISIS still controls on the Iraqi border.

Of course, the Guardian produces the argument that continued US military presence is necessary to ensure that ISIS does not spring back to life in Syria. The fallacy of that argument can be easily demonstrated. In Afghanistan, the USA has managed to drag out the long process of humiliating defeat in war even further than it did in Vietnam. It is plain as a pikestaff that the presence of US occupation troops is itself the best recruiting sergeant for resistance. In Sikunder Burnes I trace how the battle lines of tribal alliances there today are precisely the same ones the British faced in 1841. We just attach labels like Taliban to hide the fact that invaders face national resistance.

The secret to ending the strength of ISIS in Syria is not the continued presence of American troops. It is for America’s ever closer allies in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf to cut off the major artery of money and arms, which we should never forget in origin and for a long time had a strong US component. The US/Saudi/Israeli alliance against Iran is the most important geo-political factor in the region today. It is high time this alliance stopped both funding ISIS and pretending to fight it; schizophrenia is not a foreign policy stance.

There has been no significant Shia Islamic terrorist or other threat against the West in recent years. 9/11 was carried out by Saudi Sunni militants. Al Qaida, ISIS, Al Nusra, Boko Haram, these are all Sunni groups, and all Saudi sponsored. It is a matter of lunacy that the West has adopted the posture that it is Iran – which has sponsored not one attack on the West in recent memory – which is the threat in the Middle East.

The origin of this stance appears to lie in the fact that the Shia group Hezbollah proved to have the only military force among Israel’s neighbours capable of halting an Israeli invasion. After the disastrous invasion of Iraq resulted in an Iran friendly regime in Baghdad, the US decided for balance of power reasons to back Saudi regional power plays, only for Saudi Arabia to fall into the hands of the psychopathic warmonger Mohammed Bin Salman who escalated an already flawed policy to breaking point.

The chaos of this incoherent and counterproductive strategy is, peculiarly enough, what the neocons actually want. Perpetual war and destabilisation in the Middle East is their goal. One of the findings I had not expected to discover in writing Sikunder Burnes was that the British had been deliberately exploiting and exacerbating the Shia/Sunni divide as early as 1836 to the Imperial purpose. Today, by keeping Arab populations poor and politically divided, the neo-cons believe that they enhance the security of Israel, and they certainly do facilitate the access of western companies to the oil and gas of the region, as we see in destabilised Iraq and Libya.

The Clintons and Blair were the apotheosis of the capture of the mainstream “left” political parties by this neo-con Imperialist agenda in the Middle East. Sanders, Trump and Corbyn were the first politicians with any chance of power for many decades who did not pay lip-service to the neo-con agenda. Trump’s lack of enthusiasm for Cold War politics has been neutralised from any possible action on his part by the ludicrous lie that Russia hacked his election. Furthermore his greed has led to deals with Saudi Arabia which have largely undercut his declared preference for non-interventionism. And now in Syria, the very hint that Trump may not be fully committed to the pursuit of perpetual war has the entire neo-con establishment, political media and NGO, screaming in unison, both sides of the Atlantic.

I have written before that Trump may be a rotten President for Americans, but at least he has not initiated a major war; and I am quite sure Hillary would have done by now. For a non-American, the choice between Hillary and Trump ended up in balancing on one side of the scale the evil of millions more killed and maimed in the Middle East and the launching of a full on, unreserved new Cold War, against on the other side of the scale poorer Americans having very bad healthcare and social provision and America adopting racist immigration policies. I do hope that the neo-con barrage today arguing for more American troops in the Middle East, will help people remember just how very unattractive also is the Hillary side of the equation.

It is also very helpful in revealing the startling unanimity of our bought and paid for political, media and NGO class here in the UK.

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Following Wednesday’s unexpected and dramatic full and “immediate” withdrawal of all US forces from Syria, Turkey has announced it will not play ball on Iran sanctions. According to a translation of the Turkish president’s words on Thursday during a previously planned summit with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Ankara, journalist Abdullah Bozkurt reports,

“Turkish president Erdogan says Turkey won’t support US sanctions on Iran which he claims puts regional security and stability at risk, vows to take all measures to minimize impact of sanctions on trade between the two countries, pledges support to Iran in difficult times.” 

This is huge given that the complete US reversal in policy comes following a phone call last week between President Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, wherein Erdogan is reported to have pressed the Kurdish problem and presence of US troops. The United States needs Turkey as a key regional economy if it hopes to effectively strangle Iran through sanctions. Without Erdogan, analysts believe, Iran will be able to weather the storm long term.

For the past week Erdogan has threatened to launch a full-scale cross border assault on US-backed Kurdish forces in Syria, which Turkey has long considered a terrorist extension of the outlawed PKK. Currently Turkey’s military is reportedly mustering forces and tanks along deployment points at the Syrian border. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has said the military is “intensely” preparing for a major operation against Syrian Kurds in Manbij, Aleppo Governorate, and to the east of the Euphrates. Turkish Anadolu Agency reported the defense minister promised to “bury” the Syrian Kurds.

Prior to Trump’s announced Syria pullout, the promised large-scale assault and ongoing future operations would have eventually brought American troops and advisers under fire, who’ve found themselves in the awkward position since entering Syria of training Syrian Kurdish militias on the one hand, and coordinating broadly with NATO ally Turkey on the other.

However, Trump’s announced troop withdrawal has defused the crisis of American troops being caught in the middle, and along with it the possibility of a US-Turkey clash. Thus the US withdrawal is considered a major concession for Erdogan, which no doubt Trump was hoping to maintain as a key ally against Iran. That hope has now been dashed with Erdogan’s speech Thursday.

This also comes a day after the US approved the sale of $3.5bn in missiles to Turkey amid negotiations for Ankara to buy anti-air defense missiles from Russia. On Wednesday the State Department informed Congress that the plan includes transfer of 80 Patriot missiles, 60 PAC-3 missile interceptors and related equipment. A number of analysts were quick to note the deal had been firmed up immediately prior to Trump’s announced Syria pullout.

But despite the multi-billion dollar weapons sale, hawks in Congress and in the president’s own administration will use Erdogan’s Thursday announcement to “stand by Iran” as fodder for arguing against bringing the troops home, and continuing Syria ground operations in order to counter Iranian expansion.

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Leaving Syria: President Trump’s Withdrawal

December 21st, 2018 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

“The President announced an apparently impulsive decision that shook the world, showed little sign of nuanced consideration, confounded top advisers and by the end of the day left Washington in chaos and confusion.”  So goes a typical contribution from CNN, this time by Stephen Collinson, pooh-poohing President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out some 2,000 US troops based in Syria.

Trump had, whether intentionally or otherwise, touched a sentiment that has seethed underneath the US character at stages of the imperium’s muddled history.  “Torn between nostalgia for a pristine past and yearning for a perfect future,” scribbled that self-important sage and practitioner of US foreign relations, Henry Kissinger, “American thought has oscillated between isolationism and commitment.”

Isolationism has become a pejorative used to scold and denigrate any movement that supposedly moves the US imperial machine away from its policing role.  Cheered on from the international relations galleries, the US as an international sergeant has hardly bettered the world, often finding its clay feet in countries it needlessly deployed forces to.  (It’s all in the name of national security, of course.)  Nor can it ever have been said to be truly isolationist in any strict sense.

Between the War of 1812 against Great Britain and the Spanish-American War of 1898, the US maintained a posture of intervention, interference and influence at the regional level, thus designating it an assertive “hemispheric” power.  “Security,” suggested historian John Lewis Gaddis, “could best be assured… by making certain that no other great power gained sovereignty within geographic proximity of the United States.”

It also proved a violation of that keen injunction made by the all too intelligent President John Quincy Adams in his July 4th address in 1821, one that still sums up the US mission in all its doomed sanctimonious glamour.  “Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will be her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be.”  But be wary of going abroad “in search of monsters to destroy”; to do so might make the US “dictatress of the world” while no longer being “the ruler of her own spirit”.

Trumpland is a tense, manic place, one where chiding allies and high-fiving authoritarian figures might be permissible; but it is also one that eschews the stifling nature of relationships that entangle.  Alliances, like love affairs, can cloy after awhile.  Accusations of infidelity and poor bedroom performance are bound to follow.

Such an approach is bound to leave powers collaborating with Washington in the lurch, a point exemplified by the latest Syria announcement.  “Does the USA,” tweeted Trump on Thursday, “want to be the Policeman of the Middle East, getting NOTHING but spending precious lives and trillions of dollars protecting others who, in almost all cases, do not appreciate what we are doing?  Do we want to be there forever?  Time for others to finally fight…”

For Trump, no one should have raised an eyebrow, or had a complaint.  “Getting out of Syria was no surprise.  I’ve been campaigning on it for years, and six months now, when I very publicly wanted to do it, I agreed to stay longer.”  In what was a classic deferral of authority in the Syrian campaign, a backhanded admission of sorts, he noted how “Russia, Iran, Syria & others are the local enemy of ISIS.”  Why do their blood shedding work?  “Time to come home & rebuild.”

Where Trump reverts to full throttle idiosyncrasy (his critics would term it immodest derangement) is his novel assessment of attitudes of those three states at imminent US withdrawal.  “Russia, Iran, Syria & many others are not happy about the US leaving, despite what the Fake News says, because now they will have to fight ISIS and others, who they hate, without us.”  The focus, rather, was on the US “building by far the most powerful military in the world.  ISIS hits us they are doomed!”

To round off the announcement, one of the last stalwarts resisting the fever of resignation and sacking that has afflicted the administration, announced his departure.  US Defence Secretary General Jim Mattis added his name to a pre-Christmas evacuation party that has made the Trump tenure one of the most eventful in US history.  His view on leaving remained that of the more orthodox defenders of the US imperium, with its umbrella of “alliances”.

“While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world,” he banally enunciated in his resignation letter, “we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies.”

Other politicians keen to keep the US brand in foreign military theatres were also dismayed at the move.  House Democrat leader Nancy Pelosi was “shaken by the news because of the patriot that Secretary Mattis is.”  The general had proven to be “a comfort to many of us as a voice of stability in the Trump administration.”

Senator Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), having argued that the US troops stationed in Syria were “vital to our national security interests” (he never coherently articulated how) seemed personally stung by the announcement. “I’m going to give you an honest evaluation. I am willing to support a Democrat if he followed sound military advice.  I’m willing to fight a Republican if you don’t.”

After reading Mattis’ resignation letter, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) felt that the US was “headed towards a series of grave policy errors which will endanger our nation, damage our alliances & empower our adversaries.”  For Rubio and his extensively spread ilk in the foreign interventionist complex, Adams’ warning of 1821, given an awkward Trump twist in 2018, is not just history but another, very distant country.  Empire is its own global and lengthy commitment; to withdraw from any theatre is an admission that it is running out of gas and giving cheer to rivals.

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Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research. Email: [email protected]

An apparent order by US President Donald Trump for the withdrawal of all 2,000 US troops deployed in Syria over the next 60 to 100 days has sparked consternation and sharp opposition from the Pentagon, top Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill as well as Washington’s NATO allies.

The withdrawal order, which was leaked to the media by senior officials within the administration and the military, was given what apparently constituted a confirmation by a brief tweet from Trump Wednesday declaring,

“We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.”

This was followed later in the day by a statement from White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders, declaring,

“We have started returning United States troops home as we transition to the next phase of this campaign,” adding, “The United States and our allies stand ready to re-engage at all levels to defend American interests whenever necessary.”

The White House announcement was followed by yet another statement from the Pentagon, whose spokeswoman Dana White flatly contradicted the US president, declaring that “the coalition has liberated ISIS-held territory, but the campaign against ISIS is not over.” ISIS is an acronym for the Islamic State terror group.

“We will continue working with our partners and allies to defeat ISIS wherever it operates,” she said, giving no details as to a timeline, noting “force protection and operational security reasons.”

Meanwhile, Reuters quoted an unnamed US official as stating Wednesday that all US State Department personnel operating inside Syria were being evacuated from the country within 24 hours.

The official also said that the withdrawal plans flowed directly from an agreement reached between Trump and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a telephone conversation last Friday.

“Everything that has followed is implementing the agreement that was made in that call,” the official said.

The call was reportedly made to discuss Turkey’s concerns over the presence of the Syrian Kurdish separatist YPG militia near the Syrian-Turkish border. The YPG is the main element of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the proxy ground force that the US has backed in northeastern Syria. Erdogan, whose government views the YPG as an extension of the Turkish Kurdish separatist PKK, against which Ankara has waged a decades-long counterinsurgency campaign, has repeatedly threatened that a Turkish intervention against the YPG is imminent. Turkish forces, including armor, have reportedly been deployed to the border.

While Washington is no doubt anxious to avoid a potential military confrontation with Turkey, a member of the NATO alliance, the Trump White House has taken other measures aimed at restoring US-Turkish relations, which have been strained since the abortive July 2016 military coup, which enjoyed covert backing from Washington.

Just hours before the withdrawal announcement, the State Department informed Congress of a proposed $3.5 billion dollar deal to sell Turkey Patriot anti-ballistic missile systems, manufactured by Raytheon. Ankara had previously signaled its intention to buy S-400 surface-to-air missile systems from Russia. Such a purchase would have precluded Turkey’s purchase of US F-35 warplanes, and would have brought the country’s relations with NATO to a breaking point.

The announced withdrawal of US troops may signal a green light to the Erdogan government to launch its threatened invasion of eastern Syria and drive Kurdish forces from the border. In the absence of US troops, the YPG may seek to reach an accommodation with Damascus, restoring control of the region to the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad.

The illegal US occupation of Syria, begun under the Obama administration in October 2015 without authorization from either the United Nations or the Syrian government, was expanded under Trump, with at least 2,000 US troops deployed in northeastern Syria as well as special forces near the borders with Iraq and Jordan in the south.

The launching of the so-called war on ISIS in Syria signaled a shift from the failed US strategy of “regime change” based upon CIA support for Al Qaeda-linked militias in a bloody war to bring down the Assad government. US troops on the ground in Syria coordinated a savage campaign of airstrikes and bombardments that reduced the city of Raqqa and other towns controlled by ISIS to rubble.

While during the presidential campaign of 2016 Trump had vowed to withdraw US troops from Syria, Pentagon, intelligence and other national security officials had dissuaded him against acting on the promise.

Figures like Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis, National Security Advisor John Bolton and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford have reiterated—including just weeks ago—a strategy based on an open-ended US military presence in Syria aimed at rolling back both Iranian and Russian influence and ultimately securing Washington’s original aim of overthrowing Assad and imposing a more pliant puppet regime in Damascus.

For his part, Dunford stated earlier this month that the US military was only one-fifth of the way towards its goal of training and arming a force of 35,000 to 40,000 proxy troops in northeastern Syria to provide “security” over what would effectively be a US protectorate carved out of the Middle Eastern country.

In occupying northeastern Syria, the US military and its proxies have seized control over roughly a third of the country, including, most crucially, Syria’s oil and natural gas fields as well as its eastern border with Iraq. By maintaining this domination, Washington’s aim was to preclude any reunification and reconstruction of the war-ravaged country and continue the murderous conflict until the US achieved its strategic aims.

The announcement of the planned withdrawal drew sharp criticism from leading Republicans in Congress, who appeared to have been blindsided by the shift in policy.

Senator Lindsey Graham described the withdrawal as “a huge Obama-like mistake,” invoking previous Republican criticisms of Obama for withdrawing US troops from Iraq in 2011.

“The decision to pull out of Syria was made despite overwhelming military advice against it,” Republican Senator Marco Rubio tweeted. “It is a major blunder. It [sic] it isn’t reversed it will haunt this administration & America for years to come.”

Also apparently caught unawares by the apparent shift in US policy in Syria was Washington’s closest NATO ally. British Defense Minister Tobias Ellwood issued a statement declaring that he “strongly disagreed” with Trump’s decision. “It [ISIS] has morphed into other forms of extremism and the threat is very much alive,” he said in a tweet.

Among those who did receive an advance warning was Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“The US administration has told me that it was the president’s intention to pull out their troops from Syria. They clarified that they have other ways to wield their influence in that arena,” he told the Israeli daily Haaretz.

The main instrument of US “influence” has been devastating US airstrikes, which have been launched from bases in Qatar and elsewhere in the Middle East. Meanwhile, the US maintains a force of at least 5,000 troops across the border in Iraq, capable of delivering artillery fire into eastern Syria.

The announced withdrawal of US troops from Syria will undoubtedly intensify the internecine conflicts within the US ruling establishment and state, while at the same time increasing tensions within the Middle East. It is not a harbinger of any deescalation of the armed conflicts in the region. With or without “boots on the ground” in Syria, Washington’s military aggression against Iran and Russia will only intensify.

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It is worth starting by noting that a high percentage of the Integrity Initiative archive has been authenticated. The scheme has been admitted by the FCO and defended as legitimate government activity. Individual items like the minutes of the meeting with David Leask are authenticated. Not one of the documents has so far been disproven, or even denied.

Which tends to obscure some of the difficulties with the material. There is no metadata showing when each document was created, as opposed to when Anonymous made it into a PDF. Anonymous have released it in tranches and made plain there is more to come. The reason for this methodology is left obscure.

Most frustratingly, Anonymous’ comments on the releases indicate that they have vital information which is not, so far, revealed. The most important document of all appears to be a simple contact list, of a particular group within the hundreds of contacts revealed in the papers overall. This is it in full:

Tantalisingly, Anonymous describe this as a list of people who attended a meeting with the White Helmets. But there is no evidence of that in the document itself, nor does any other document released so far refer to this meeting. There is very little in the documents released so far about the White Helmets at all. But there is a huge amount about the Skripal case. With the greatest of respect to Anonymous and pending any release of further evidence, I want you to consider whether this might be a document related to the Skripal incident.

The list is headed CND gen list 2. CND is Christopher Nigel Donnelly, Director of the Institute for Statecraft and the Integrity Initiative and a very senior career Military Intelligence Officer.

The first name on the list caught my eye. Duncan Allan was the young FCO Research Analyst who, as detailed in Murder in Samarkand, appears in my Ambassadorial office in Tashkent, telling me of the FCO staff who had been left in tears by the pressure put on them to sign up to Blair’s dodgy dossier on Iraqi WMD. During the process of clearing the manuscript with the FCO, I was told (though not by him) that he denied having ever said it. It was one of a very few instances where I refused to make the changes requested to the text, because I had no doubt whatsoever of what had been said.

If Duncan did lie about having told me, it did his career no harm as he is now Deputy Head of FCO Research Analysts and, most importantly, the FCO’s lead analyst on Russia and the Former Soviet Union.

Now let us tie that in with the notorious name further down the list; Pablo Miller, the long-term MI6 handler of Sergei Skripal, who lived in Salisbury with Skripal. Miller is the man who was, within 24 hours of the Skripal attack, protected by a D(SMA) notice banning the media from mentioning him. Here Pablo Miller is actively involved, alongside serving FCO and MOD staff, in a government funded organisation whose avowed intention is to spread disinformation about Russia. The story that Miller is in an inactive retirement is immediately and spectacularly exploded.

Now look at another name on this list. Howard Body. Assistant Head of Science Support at Porton Down chemical weapon research laboratory, just six miles away from Salisbury and the Skripal attack, a role he took up in December 2017. He combines this role with Assistant Head of Strategic Analysis at MOD London. “Science Support” at Porton Down is a euphemism for political direction to the scientists – Body has no scientific qualifications.

Another element brought into this group is the state broadcaster, through Helen Boaden, the former Head of BBC News and Current Affairs.

In all there are six serving MOD staff on the list, all either in Intelligence or in PR. Intriguingly one of them, Ian Cohen, has email addresses both at the MOD and at the notoriously corrupt HSBC bank. The other FCO name besides Duncan Allan, Adam Rutland, is also on the PR side.

Zachary Harkenrider is the Political Counsellor at the US Embassy in London. There are normally at least two Political Counsellors at an Embassy this size, one of whom will normally be the CIA Head of Station. I do not know if Harkenrider is CIA but it seems highly likely.

So what do we have here? We have a programme, the Integrity Initiative, whose entire purpose is to pump out covert disinformation against Russia, through social media and news stories secretly paid for by the British government. And we have the Skripals’ MI6 handler, the BBC, Porton Down, the FCO, the MOD and the US Embassy, working together in a group under the auspices of the Integrity Initiative. The Skripal Case happened to occur shortly after a massive increase in the Integrity Initiative’s budget and activity, which itself was a small part of a British Government decision to ramp up a major information war against Russia.

I find that very interesting indeed.

With a hat-tip to members of the Working Group on Syria, Media, and the Propaganda, who are preparing a major and important publication which is imminent. UPDATE Their extremely important briefing note on the Integrity Initiative is now online, prepared to the highest standards of academic discipline. I shall be drawing on and extrapolating from it further next week.

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Federal Court Blocks Trump Asylum Ban Again

December 21st, 2018 by American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

A federal court has again blocked the Trump administration’s new asylum ban.

The American Civil Liberties Union, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Center for Constitutional Rights were in court earlier today successfully seeking the preliminary injunction in this case, East Bay Sanctuary v. Trump. The groups previously obtained a temporary restraining order that expired today.

Below is reaction to the ruling issued today by Judge Jon Tigar of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco:

ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt, who argued the case, said:

“The court has once again made clear that the Trump administration cannot do an end-run around the decision by Congress to provide protection to vulnerable individuals regardless of where they seek asylum. This ruling will save lives.”

Baher Azmy, CCR legal director, said:

“This administration continues to try to govern without the most elementary understanding of the roles of the three branches of our government, that Congress makes laws and the courts are there to act as a check on both Congress and the president. So today, as before, the court made clear that the president does not have the power to overturn decades-old asylum law and the international law obligation to permit individuals to seek asylum from terrifying persecution at home.”

Melissa Crow, SPLC senior supervising attorney with the SPLC’s Immigrant Justice Project:

“Today’s ruling provides some hope that the Trump administration will be forced to reconsider its inhumane policies concerning asylum seekers. These policies and related practices have created the crisis at our southern border and can and will have tragic consequences until they are ended. In addition to fighting these policies in our courts, Congress should continue to expand its oversight in these areas and use its power to ensure federal agencies are in compliance with the law.”

The case, East Bay Sanctuary Covenant v. Trump, was brought on behalf of East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, Al Otro Lado, Innovation Law Lab, and the Central American Resource Center in Los Angeles.

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Cuba: A U.S. Obsession

December 20th, 2018 by Gabriela Ávila Gómez

The Trump administration has closed the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Havana, as of December 10, requiring Cubans to travel to the office in Mexico City to acquire visas to the U.S.

Cuba has, for years now, been a recurrent theme on the agenda of the many U.S. administrations that have passed through the White House. The same phrases are repeated and the rhetoric is the same, and while bilateral relations had improved briefly, the Trump government has done away with that progress, almost entirely.

One of the latest moves took place on International Human Rights Day, which Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “celebrated” by announcing that he had sent a letter to Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez – that reached the press before its recipient – in which he expresses his “concern” for human rights in Cuba.

Despite the fact that Cuba’s commitment to human rights has been demonstrated time and time again, and noted by representatives of multilateral organizations who have visited the island, U.S. attacks have not ceased. Immediately after the Pompeo letter was published, many Cuban figures and leaders responded through various media:

The President of Cuba’s Councils of State and Ministers, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, tweeted,

“The U.S. has no moral authority to talk about human rights; its discourse is hypocritical, dishonest, and reflects double standards. Does anyone know of a more cruel violation of human rights than the economic, commercial and financial blockade of Cuba?”

Also on Twitter, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez addressed Pompeo, demanding:

“Lift the blockade. Reestablish the issuing of visas for Cubans. Stop the repression of immigrants, minorities, and the poor.”

Likewise, the Foreign Ministry’s General Director for the United States Carlos Fernández de Cossío stated,

“If the United States were truly interested in the human rights of Cubans, it would not impose a criminal economic blockade that punishes the entire country, nor create more obstacles to orderly emigration and consular services, on which tens of thousands of Cubans depend.”

Fernández de Cossío was referring to the Trump administration’s decision to close the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office in Havana, as of December 10, requiring Cubans to make the journey to the USCIS office in Mexico City, which has assumed jurisdiction over immigration and travel to the United States previously addressed here.

It should be recalled that as of November last year, the majority of USCIS services in Cuba were transferred to U.S. consulates in other countries, but now, with the closure of the office in Havana, permanent residents in that country will be also affected. If while in Cuba, they lose their “green card” which serves as a re-entry permit to the United States, these individuals are obliged to rearrange their papers elsewhere.The decision will also affect the Family Reunification Program.

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North Korea Slams Hostile US Sanctions and Pressure

December 20th, 2018 by Stephen Lendman

Washington negotiates in bad faith, consistently making unacceptable demands, offering nothing in return but empty promises to be broken.

A key sticking point in US/Pyongyang talks is the Trump regime’s refusal to ease sanctions – nor offer any good faith guarantees, failing to yield anything on issues mattering most to the DPRK.

Last week, Russia’s UN and other international organizations in Vienna representative Mikhail Ulyanov noted that Pyongyang took “a number of important steps towards denuclearization,” expressing support for its actions.

He called on the Trump regime to respond “by similar steps toward easing sanctions pressure (and providing) security guarantees…in line with” Security Council Resolution 2375, provision 32, adding:

“Reliable international security mechanisms are necessary in the region to prevent recurrence of the situation which has developed around the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian nuclear program.”

Resolution 2375, supported by Russia and China, imposed unacceptable sanctions on the DPRK after its sixth nuclear test – its program pursued solely for self-defense because of the threat of US aggression on the country.

Provision 32 calls for “keep(ing) the DPRK’s actions under continuous review…prepar(ing) to strengthen, modify, suspend or lift the measures as may be needed in light of the DPRK’s compliance, and, in this regard, expresses its determination to take further significant measures in the event of a further DPRK nuclear test or launch.”

No “international security mechanisms” and guarantees are good enough in dealing with the US, consistently breaching international treaties, conventions, and bilateral agreements unaccountably.

Since Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un met in Singapore last June, his regime failed to observe mutually agreed on principles.

Hardliners Pompeo and Bolton in charge of Trumps geopolitical agenda have treated the DPRK disdainfully, the way they conduct themselves in relations with all sovereign independent states.

Things began unravelling straightaway after June summit talks. Washington continues to maintain maximum pressure for full denuclearization and compliance with other US demands before agreeing to ease unjustifiable restrictions on Pyongyang.

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry slammed the Trump regime earlier, saying its government is still waiting for Washington to begin instituting what was agreed on during Kim Jong-un/Trump June 12 summit talks.

“(T)he US responded to our expectation by inciting international sanctions and pressure against the DPRK,” it stressed, “attempting to invent a pretext for increased sanctions against the DPRK.”

“As long as the US denies even the basic decorum for its dialogue partner and clings to the outdated acting script which the previous administrations have all tried and failed, one cannot expect any progress in the implementation of the DPRK-US joint statement, including the denuclearization.”

The DPRK showed good faith by ceasing its nuclear and ballistic missile tests, along with dismantling its nuclear test site.

In return, the Trump regime offered nothing but unacceptable hardline demands – proving it has no intention of observing summit principles agreed on, further proof it can never be trusted.

On Sunday, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry accused the Trump regime of “bringing the DPRK-US relations back to the status of last year, which was marked by exchanges of fire,” adding:

If Trump officials “believed that heightened sanctions and pressure would force Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons, it would count as (its) greatest miscalculation, and it will block the path to denuclearization on the Korean peninsula forever – a result desired by no one.”

Trump hardliners imposed “sanctions (on various) companies, individuals and ships of not only the DPRK but also Russia, China and other third countries…”

The Trump regime is repeating the unacceptable way its predecessors dealt with Pyongyang, maintaining hostile relations instead of taking steps to restore peace and stability on the peninsula, an objective it opposes, clear from its actions.

They show hardliners in charge of Trump’s geopolitical agena reject normalization with Pyongyang, choosing brinksmanship instead.

The Korean peninsula remains a hugely dangerous tinderbox because of their unacceptable actions. They risk a return to “fire and fury” rhetoric in the new year turning hot.

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Award-winning author Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected]. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG)

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

On December 19, President Donald Trump once again used Twitter to announce that the US had defeated ISIS and that the US would be withdrawing its troops from Syria.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed that the US has started returning troops home and transiting to “the next phase of this campaign”. She recalled that “the United States and our allies stand ready to re-engage at all levels to defend American interests whenever necessary, and we will continue to work together to deny radical Islamist terrorists’ territory, funding, support and many means of infiltrating our borders”.

No further details were provided officially. According to media reports, State Department personnel were set to be evacuated from Syria within 24 hours. The alleged timeframe for troops pull-out, there are at least 2,000 US service members, is 60-100 days.

However, taking into account the wording of the statement and the US experience of “troops withdrawal” from Afghanistan and Iraq, it can be expected that the US will reduce the number of personnel deployed on the ground, but will not withdraw fully.

US Special Operations Forces will likely remain on the ground and additional forces of US-linked private military companies will be deployed to “defend American interests”.

The US announcement caused hysteria on social media among opponents of the Damascus government, Russia and Iran as well as among supporters of Kurdish armed groups – the YPG, YPJ and the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) clamed said that the SDF leadership was “shocked” and described the decision as a “stab in the back”.

Aldar Khalil, co-president of the executive body of the Movement for a Democratic Society (TEV-DEM), even came up with the statement that the SDF had never placed their hopes on foreign troops.

The TEV-DEM is a coalition of several Kurdish parties, the most powerful of them is the Democratic Union Party (PYD). Representatives of these parties lead the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), which is the political wing of the SDF.

It’s interesting to observe how every time when Washington announces a possible withdrawal from Syria the SDF political attitude moves from “the US is our only partner” to “we are ready for negotiations” and then returns back if the withdrawal does not happen.

If the withdrawal really does take place, it will open a window of opportunity for the SDF to negotiate a possible political deal with the Damascus government. On the other hand, if the SDF continues to pursue an anti-Damascus policy and to release unsustainable demands, the group may run out of time and face another Turkish military operation, like has happened in Afrin.

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The war of words between Tony Blair and Theresa May over the last few days is quite revealing – not of Blair’s known position regarding the Brexit mess, but because the Prime Minister’s rant showed her weakness.  Her position is unsustainable and the last thing she wanted was unwelcome comments from an ex-Prime Minister.

She had, after all, just come back from Brussels yet again, carrying no hope from the EU negotiators, but then she had offered no new ideas to put on the table.  The agreed withdrawal text was ‘the best deal’ she could get, and Parliament had been refused the chance to vote against it – a vote she had promised then taken away.

The spat started with Tony Blair speaking on BBC’s Today programme* prior to a speech he was due to make later that day.  His predecessor John Major, had already publicly given his support for 2 options: another referendum (the Peoples Vote) and revoking the Article 50 withdrawal.  Blair had also backed the People’s Vote.

Screengrab from The Guardian

There is currently no majority in Parliament for May’s deal or any other, including crashing out of the EU with no deal at all,   Blair said there could be majority support among MPs for a new EU poll if Parliament ended up “gridlocked”, and certainly more MPs are saying so.  He added that

he admired Mrs May’s determination but suggested that, with so many MPs opposed to the backstop and other parts of the deal, this was becoming a weakness and she must realise she was “in a hole… and there is literally no point in carrying on digging”.

All very reasonable but this did not please Theresa May.  She issued an explosive statement, demonstrating just how touchy and vulnerable she’s feeling.  She said the ex-PM’s backing for a second referendum was deliberately sabotaging her bid to make EU leaders compromise on the Irish backstop.  To quote:

There are too many people who want to subvert the process for their own political interests rather than act in the national interest.  For Tony Blair to go to Brussels and seek to undermine our negotiations by advocating a second referendum is an insult to the office he once held and the people he once served.  We cannot, as he would, abdicate responsibility for this decision.”

There are three points to note here. First, ‘her bid to make EU leaders compromise…’  After all this time and months of negotiation, her government has not abandoned its arrogant and self-important attitude towards the EU, something many of us find embarrassing.  How many more times does the EU have to say ‘no more negotiations’ before they will be believed?

Secondly, her government’s ‘responsibility for this decision’.  The decision is no decision.  Brexit MPs and supporters have never produced a genuine plan for Brexit.  It has been about nothing but leave the EU and its regulations.  What happens then is not their problem.  On May’s side there has been a complete failure to enable Parliament to come up with any ‘decision’.  That is her problem, and indeed her responsibility.

Thirdly, according to the Independent, ‘Mr Blair is understood not to have visited Brussels for several months, and it is unclear what prompted the timing of Ms May’s attack.’  Blair, of course, defended his position, being somewhat better at that than May (he’s had a lot of practice), saying that if Parliament cannot come to a clear decision, it is logical to go back to the people.

May suggests that Blair’s latest comments are in his own interests.  It is true that Blair has relentlessly popped up to pontificate about the current state of affairs, and that most of those occasions could be seen as self-advertisement and very much in his personal interest.  (On the other hand, the Prime Minister may not be doing all this in her personal interest, but it’s certainly focussed on the interests of the Conservative Party and its survival.)

Blair ignored the people and the national interest when he joined President Bush’s military games.  I and millions of others will find it difficult to ever forgive him for the damage done to Afghanistan and Iraq and their citizens** (and, Mr Blair, please don’t forget that somewhere in the dusty back rooms of the International Criminal Court is a case still to be heard against you for war crimes).

Word has it that whenever he criticises Jeremy Corbyn or suggests a more ‘centrist’ party, Labour membership increases. Sadly, that is now probably balanced by the number of members leaving because of Labour’s very weak position on Brexit.  People joined Labour because of the social reforms promised in the Labour manifesto.  They saw an end to the disastrous Tory ‘austerity’ ideology.  How on earth Labour thinks it can deal with Brexit and deliver on its pledges is beyond me – and anyone else.  Nor would the EU be willing to start negotiations all over again, regardless of Corbyn’s internationalism and negotiating skills.

So, where Brexit and the national interest are concerned, I have to admit Blair is right, and I never thought I would say that.  But then, over the last two years I have had to revise my opinion about several, mostly rightwing, MPs who are doing their best to protect the UK from Brexit and the chaos that May’s predecessor David Cameron and her government have caused.

Blair and his predecessor John Major (who sensibly kept out of politics until Brexit reared its head) were largely responsible for the Good Friday Agreement, which not only brought an end to most of the violence in Northern Ireland; it resulted in the open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.  For trade, traffic and people that border has become almost invisible.  It is in the national interests of both the UK and the RoI to keep it that way, regardless of what Brexiters and Northern Ireland’s DUP MPs claim.  The border issue is the very large and unavoidable hole in the Brexit road.

For Blair and Major, their legacy will include the Good Friday Agreement.  For the politicians of that time, it is something to be proud of, something worth protecting.  And if the negotiators could achieve that, then surely peace could be made between Leavers and Remainers without trashing the UK in the process.

Theresa May’s legacy, on the other hand, will be ‘the hostile environment’, a policy that shames this nation and its people.  And the last two years under her leadership, with her ministers’ inability to negotiate in any real sense with the EU, is also deeply shaming.  Even worse, they have blamed the EU for their failures, accusing them of bullying (Brexit Minister No. 1, David Davis, and blackmailing and bullying (Brexit Minister No. 2, Dominic Raab) while Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt likened the EU to the Soviet Union. This is no way to negotiate your way out of one of the biggest threats to this country’s stability.

Shame, embarrassment, humiliation and unwise rants against a former Prime Minister – what more could Theresa may add to her ‘legacy’ and its place in our history?

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Notes

*You can hear the whole interview here, starting at 2:19:52

**An estimate of 2.4 million Iraqi deaths from the invasion and the following years of violence and unrest.

With what Naomi Klein calls “galloping momentum,” the “Green New Deal” promoted by newly-elected Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) appears to be forging a political pathway for solving all of the ills of society and the planet in one fell swoop. It would give a House Select Committee “a mandate that connects the dots between energy, transportation, housing, as well as healthcare, living wages, a jobs guarantee” and more. But to critics even on the left it is just political theater, since “everyone knows” a program of that scope cannot be funded without a massive redistribution of wealth and slashing of other programs (notably the military), which is not politically feasible.

Perhaps, but Ocasio-Cortez and the 22 representatives joining her in calling for a Select Committee are also proposing a novel way to fund the program, one which could actually work. The resolution says funding will primarily come from the federal government, “using a combination of the Federal Reserve, a new public bank or system of regional and specialized public banks, public venture funds and such other vehicles or structures that the select committee deems appropriate, in order to ensure that interest and other investment returns generated from public investments made in connection with the Plan will be returned to the treasury, reduce taxpayer burden and allow for more investment.”  

A network of public banks could fund the Green New Deal in the same way President Franklin Roosevelt funded the original New Deal. At a time when the banks were bankrupt, he used the publicly-owned Reconstruction Finance Corporation as a public infrastructure bank. The Federal Reserve could also fund any program Congress wanted, if mandated to do it. Congress wrote the Federal Reserve Act and can amend it. Or the Treasury itself could do it, without the need even to change any laws. The Constitution authorizes Congress to “coin money” and “regulate the value thereof,” and that power has been delegated to the Treasury. It could mint a few trillion dollar platinum coins, put them in its bank account, and start writing checks against them. What stops legislators from exercising those constitutional powers is simply that “everyone knows” Zimbabwe-style hyperinflation will result. But will it? Compelling historical precedent shows that this need not be the case.

Michael Hudson, professor of economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, has studied the hyperinflation question extensively. He writes that those disasters were not due to government money-printing to stimulate the economy. Rather,

“Every hyperinflation in history has been caused by foreign debt service collapsing the exchange rate. The problem almost always has resulted from wartime foreign currency strains, not domestic spending.”

As long as workers and materials are available and the money is added in a way that reaches consumers, adding money will create the demand necessary to prompt producers to create more supply. Supply and demand will rise together and prices will remain stable. The reverse is also true. If demand (money) is not increased, supply and GDP will not go up. New demand needs to precede new supply.

The Public Bank Option: The Precedent of Roosevelt’s New Deal

Infrastructure projects of the sort proposed in the Green New Deal are “self-funding,” generating resources and fees that can repay the loans. For these loans, advancing funds through a network of publicly-owned banks will not require taxpayer money and can actually generate a profit for the government. That was how the original New Deal rebuilt the country in the 1930s at a time when the economy was desperately short of money.

The publicly-owned Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) was a remarkable publicly-owned cedit machine that allowed the government to finance the New Deal and World War II without turning to Congress or the taxpayers for appropriations. First instituted in 1932 by President Herbert Hoover, the RFC was not called an infrastructure bank and was not even a bank, but it served the same basic functions. It was continually enlarged and modified by President Roosevelt to meet the crisis of the times, until it became America’s largest corporation and the world’s largest financial organization. Its semi-independent status let it work quickly, allowing New Deal agencies to be financed as the need arose.

The RFC Act of 1932 provided the RFC with capital stock of $500 million and the authority to extend credit up to $1.5 billion (subsequently increased several times). The initial capital came from a stock sale to the US Treasury. With those resources, from 1932 to 1957 the RFC loaned or invested more than $40 billion. A small part of this came from its initial capitalization. The rest was borrowed, chiefly from the government itself. Bonds were sold to the Treasury, some of which were then sold to the public; but most were held by the Treasury. The RFC ended up borrowing a total of $51.3 billion from the Treasury and $3.1 billion from the public.

Thus the Treasury was the lender, not the borrower, in this arrangement. As the self-funding loans were repaid, so were the bonds that were sold to the Treasury, leaving the RFC with a net profit. The RFC was the lender for thousands of infrastructure and small business projects that revitalized the economy, and these loans produced a total net income of $690,017,232 on the RFC’s “normal” lending functions (omitting such things as extraordinary grants for wartime). The RFC financed roads, bridges, dams, post offices, universities, electrical power, mortgages, farms, and much more; and it funded all this while generating income for the government.

The Central Bank Option: How Japan Is Funding Abenomics with Quantitative Easing 

The Federal Reserve is another funding option before the Green New Deal. The Fed showed what it can do with “quantitative easing” when it created the funds to buy $2.46 trillion in federal debt and $1.77 trillion in mortgage-backed securities, all without inflating consumer prices. The Fed could use the same tool to buy bonds ear-marked for a Green New Deal; and since it returns its profits to the Treasury after deducting its costs, the bonds would be nearly interest-free. If they were rolled over from year to year, the government would in effect be issuing new money.

This is not just theory. Japan is actually doing it, without creating even the modest 2 percent inflation the government is aiming for. “Abenomics,” the economic agenda of Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, combines central bank quantitative easing with fiscal stimulus (large-scale increases in government spending). Since Abe came into power in 2012, Japan has seen steady economic growth, and its unemployment rate has fallen by nearly half; yet inflation remains very low, at 0.7 percent. Social Security-related expenses accounted for 55 percent of general expenditure in the 2018 federal budget, and  a universal healthcare insurance system is maintained for all citizens. Nominal GDP is up 11 percent since the end of the first quarter of 2013, a much better record than during the prior two decades of Japanese stagnation; and the Nikkei stock market is at levels not seen since the early 1990s, driven by improved company earnings. Growth remains below targeted levels, but according to the Financial Times in May 2018, this is because fiscal stimulus has actually been too small. While spending with the left hand, the government has been taking the money back with the right, increasing the sales tax from 5 percent to 8 percent.

Abenomics has been declared a success even by the once-critical International Monetary Fund. After Prime Minister Shinzo Abe crushed his opponents in October 2017, Noah Smith wrote in Bloomberg,

“Japan’s long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party has figured out a novel and interesting way to stay in power – govern pragmatically, focus on the economy and give people what they want.”

He said everyone who wanted a job had one; small and midsized businesses were doing well; and the BOJ’s unprecedented program of monetary easing had provided easy credit for corporate restructuring without generating inflation. Abe had also vowed to make both preschool and college free.

Not that all is idyllic in Japan. Forty percent of Japanese workers lack secure full-time employment and adequate pensions. But the point underscored here is that large-scale digital money-printing by the central bank to buy back the government’s debt combined with fiscal stimulus by the government (spending on “what the people want”) has not inflated Japanese prices, the alleged concern preventing other countries from doing it.

Abe’s novel economic program has achieved more than just stimulating growth. By selling its debt to its own central bank, which returns the interest to the government, the Japanese government has in effect been canceling its debt; and until recently, it was doing this at the rate of a whopping $720 billion (¥80tn) per year. According to fund manager Eric Lonergan in a February 2017 article:

The Bank of Japan is in the process of owning most of the outstanding government debt of Japan (it currently owns around 40%). BOJ holdings are part of the consolidated government balance sheet. So its holdings are in fact the accounting equivalent of a debt cancellation. If I buy back my own mortgage, I don’t have a mortgage.

If the Federal Reserve followed suit and bought 40 percent of the US national debt, it would be holding $8 trillion in federal securities, three times its current holdings from its quantitative easing programs. Yet liquidating a full 40 percent of Japan’s government debt has not triggered price inflation.

Filling the Gap Between Wages, Debt and GDP

Rather than stepping up its bond-buying, the Federal Reserve is now bent on “quantitative tightening,” raising interest rates and reducing the money supply by selling its bonds into the market in anticipation of “full employment” driving up prices. “Full employment” is considered to be 4.7 percent unemployment, taking into account the “natural rate of unemployment” of people between jobs or voluntarily out of work. But the economy has now hit that level and prices are not in the danger zone, despite nearly 10 years of “accommodative” monetary policy. In fact, the economy is not near either true full employment or full productive capacity, with Gross Domestic Product remaining well below both the long-run trend and the level predicted by forecasters a decade ago. In 2016, real per capita GDP was 10 percent below the 2006 forecast of the Congressional Budget Office, and it shows no signs of returning to the predicted level.

In 2017, US gross domestic product was $19.4 trillion. Assuming that sum is 10 percent below full productive capacity, the money circulating in the economy needs to be increased by another $2 trillion to create the demand to bring it up to full capacity. That means $2 trillion could be injected into the economy every year without creating price inflation. New supply would just be generated to meet the new demand, bringing GDP to full capacity while keeping prices stable.

This annual injection of new money not only can be done without creating price inflation; it actually needs to be done to reverse the massive debt bubble now threatening to propel the economy into another Great Recession. Moreover, the money can be added in such a way that the net effect will not be to increase the money supply. Virtually our entire money supply is created by banks as loans, and any money used to pay down those loans will be extinguished along with the debt. Other money will be extinguished when it returns to the government in the form of taxes. The mechanics of that process, and what could be done with another $2 trillion injected directly into the economy yearly, will be explored in Part 2 of this article.

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This article was first posted on Truthdig.com.

Ellen Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books including Web of Debt and The Public Bank Solution. A 13th book titled Banking on the People: Democratizing Finance in the Digital Age is due out early next year. She also co-hosts a radio program on PRN.FM called “It’s Our Money.” Her 300+ blog articles are posted at EllenBrown.com.

Featured image is from LifeGate

The following article confirms HuaWei’s lead in 5G telecommunications technology. In this regard, the campaign against Huawei including the arrest of CFO Meng Wanzhou is intent upon undermining China’s  strategic lead in 5G including Huawei’s “All Bands Go to 5G.

At Global Mobile Broadband Forum 2018, Huawei released the “All Bands Go to 5G” strategy for the evolution towards a 5G-oriented wireless target network. This strategy provides suggestions for future development of the wireless network in three key aspects: simplified site, simplified network, and automation.

China is not only the largest producer of cellphones Worldwide, it is a leader in wireless technology. According to an August 2018 report by Deloitte Consulting: “China is winning the race against the United States to build a faster nationwide wireless network that uses 5G technology”

The US dirty tricks campaign (supported by Canada) indelibly seeks to prevent China from taking the lead:

Unless the U.S. moves more quickly, it will be at a major disadvantage when it comes to creating dominant new companies in the emerging space….

Accordingly, countries that adopt 5G first are expected to experience disproportionate gains in macroeconomic impact compared to those that lag,” the report’s authors said.

U.S. companies have been sounding the alarm over a purported race against China over 5G, perhaps playing to the fears and strategic desires of the Trump White House. (Fortune, August 7, 2018)

The following article reviews the evolution of 5G technology and China’s role.

 Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, 20 December 2018

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I. Global commercial use of 5G networks has now entered the fast lane. Massive wireless connectivity has become an inevitable trend.

Data traffic of global mobile broadband (MBB) increases rapidly. By H1 2018, the data of usage (DOU) for a number of global operators has exceeded 10 GB, and that in certain Middle East regions has even reached 70 GB. Data traffic is becoming a necessity following air, water, and food in our daily lives. Releasing data traffic helps to promote positive MBB business cycle in the global wireless industry and ushers in a new era of traffic operation.

New connections based on wireless technologies rapidly develop and are realized among individuals, families, and industries. By October 2018, new fixed wireless access (FWA) services have been put into commercial use on about 230 networks. About 75 million families can now enjoy the benefits of FWA-based home broadband (HBB) services. In the future, the larger bandwidth capability of 5G will provide fiber-like HBB user experience and enable diverse home entertainment applications such as 4K/8K UHD video and AR/VR. At the same time, new IoT connections are becoming a new source of potential growth for operators. LTE NB-IoT is undergoing rapid development and has seen 58 commercial networks around the world, with industry applications providing millions of connections such as smart gas, water, white goods, firefighting, and electric vehicle tracking. 5G technologies will offer more reliable connection capabilities with shorter latency. Massive wireless connectivity has become an inevitable trend.

In 2018, the development of the global 5G industry is accelerating. According to the 5G spectrum report published by GSA, the UK, Spain, Latvia, Korea, and Ireland have officially released spectrum resources dedicated for 5G by August 2018. In addition, 35 countries have scheduled related plans. The 5G industry chain is steadily growing more and more mature. Huawei has released 5G commercial CPEs in 2018, and multiple 5G smartphones will be launched in 2019. According to the report released by GSMA in November 2018, 182 global operators are conducting tests on 5G technologies and 74 operators have announced plans for 5G commercial deployment. Global commercial use of 5G networks has now entered the fast lane.

5G development will enable more commercial application scenarios and promote the continuous development of a digital society. Under such circumstances, Huawei has proposed a new eMBB industry vision for Cloud X featuring smart terminals, broad pipes, and cloud applications. For example, Huawei has shifted the most complex processes of rendering, real-time computing, and service content to the cloud. Thanks to transmission data streams using large bandwidth and ultra-low latency on the 5G network, as well as encoding and decoding technologies that match the cloud and terminals, applications such as Cloud AR/VR can be deployed anywhere anytime.

In 1956, John McCarthy organized the Dartmouth Conference and officially proposed the definition of “artificial intelligence” (AI) for the first time. After 60 years, machine learning and deep learning are now undergoing rapid development. AI technologies can be adopted in the communication industry. AI-based automation of network planning, deployment, optimization, and service provisioning will enable network O&M to be simplified, unleash network potential, and make networks more intelligent.

II. “LTE Evolution+5G NR” is gaining industry’s consensus for 5G wireless target networks. 

In the 5G era, wireless spectrum evolution is divided into two phases:

Phase 1: Sub-3 GHz spectrum resources evolve to LTE and 5G NR high frequency bands are introduced.

Phase 2: Sub-3 GHz spectrum resources evolve to 5G NR. “LTE Evo+NR” is realized on the target network.

Therefore, target network evolution in the 5G era can be summarized as “LTE Evolution+5G NR”. In the process of achieving this goal, the global wireless network faces the following challenges:

  1. OPEX increases year by year. From 2005 to 2017, global operators’ OPEX/revenue percentage is increased from 62% to 75%. In the future, the coexistence of 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G will increase the complexity of network O&M. In particular, site TCO is high. Site deployment still faces several issues such as difficult site acquisition, high engineering costs, and high site rentals.
  2. 4G basic services fall back to 2G or 3G. Generally, insufficient 4G network coverage causes VoLTE services to fall back to 2G or 3G, deteriorating voice experience. NB-IoT/eMTC services also require better 4G network coverage. As a result, it is difficult for operators to shut down 2G and 3G networks. The coexistence of four RATs leads to more complex network operation and presents difficulties in reducing OPEX.

III. 5G-oriented simplified networks are built to effectively meet challenges and promote 5G business success. 

Peter Zhou, CMO of Huawei Wireless Network Product Line, illustrated the evolution strategy for 5G-oriented wireless target network. This strategy aims to help operators resolve the preceding challenges and commercialize 5G. The evolution strategy includes three key aspects: simplified site, simplified network, and automation.

Source: Huawei

Simplified site enables full outdoor base stations and facilitates site acquisition, deployment, and TCO saving.

Along with the development of Moore’s Law, the 7 nm technology has enjoyed widespread commercial adoption throughout the chip manufacturing industry, and BBUs are becoming more and more integrated. In recent years, lithium battery technology has seen rapid development, and the energy density of lithium batteries is far more superior to that of lead-acid batteries. The development of new technologies makes full outdoor wireless base stations a reality. Peter Zhou pointed out, “Using componentized outdoor BBUs, blade power modules, and blade batteries, full outdoor macro base stations can be deployed on poles without shelters or cabinets. This greatly reduces the upgrade cost of existing sites, decreases the difficulty and cost of obtaining new sites, and helps operators reduce TCO by 30% and above.”

Antenna reconstruction is required for 5G deployment on the C-band. Currently, 70% urban sites cannot deploy new antennas due to insufficient antenna space. In order to resolve this problem, Huawei proposes the “1+1” antenna solution. That is, one multi-band antenna is used to support all sub-3 GHz bands, and one Massive MIMO AAU is used to support C-band NR. In total, two antennas are able to support all operator’s frequency bands. This solution greatly simplifies site space, reduces site OPEX, and realizes 5G NR deployment with insufficient antenna space.

Simplified network realizes the construction of an LTE full-service foundation network and ensures “Zero Fallback” for three basic services.

 In the 5G era, the coexistence of multiple RATs (2G/3G/4G/5G) results in complex networks and high O&M costs. Therefore, basic voice, IoT, and data services need to be migrated to the LTE network so that the LTE network becomes the bearer network for basic services and 2G and 3G networks enter the life cycle development phase. Peter Zhou emphasized that, “The LTE network needs to be built as a full-service foundation network to achieve ‘Zero Fallback’ for basic services such as voice, IoT, and data. Therefore, LTE must be planned based on the coverage of basic services rather than the traditional population coverage.”

Aiming to help operators achieve the goal of “Zero Fallback” for three basic services, Huawei has launched the innovative CloudAIR solution to implement cost-efficient and fast LTE coverage on low frequency bands. About 100 networks have deployed CloudAIR. Additionally, Huawei’s innovative RuralStar solution designed for suburban and rural areas effectively satisfies operators’ requirements for low-cost MBB networks, further bridging the digital divide, and allowing more people to enjoy the convenience brought by wireless communications and MBB. RuralStar has been put into commercial use on 35 networks across the world.

AI-based automation is implemented for customers’ work flows to fully unleash network potential.

In the past few years, telecom networks have made many attempts in O&M automation. However, automation for all scenarios and all service processes requires systematic thinking and innovation in terms of architecture and key technologies. Peter Zhou claimed that, “The architecture of AI-based MBB network automation consists of three layers: Cloud AI, network AI, and site AI. Hierarchical automation is performed among these layers. Site AI focuses on single-site automation and embeds AI capabilities into site devices to build smart base stations. Network AI focuses on O&M closed loop and single-domain automation to implement unified management and control in a single domain. Cloud AI provides smart model training, enables cross-domain automation, and supports automatic closed-loop operation for all scenarios and the entire life cycle covering planning & design, deployment, optimization & maintenance, and service provisioning.”

Based on the preceding architecture, two shifts and one capability building need to be completed to enable risk prediction and intelligent identification on networks and automated management and control of mobile networks.

A shift from network element-centric O&M to scenario-centric O&M: In the past, automation mainly focuses on network element O&M. In comparison, AI-based automaton provides functions based on customers’ operation scenarios to implement full-process automation (covering planning & design, deployment, optimization & maintenance, and service provisioning) and full-scenario automation.

A shift from network management to the convergence of control and management: If network management and control cannot be fully converged, configuration management as well as performance monitoring and control cannot effectively form a closed loop. In the future, MAE (Mobile Automation Engine) will implement management and control convergence, effectively handle all tasks in a single domain, and realize single-domain automation.

Building the AI capability at sites: Based on the AI chipset and neural network algorithm, AI capability is implemented in base stations to support automatic feature deployment, performance monitoring, and parameter self-optimization and realize single-site automation.

Peter Zhou said:

“Simplified site, simplified network, and automation help operators reduce TCO, simplify the network architecture, reduce operation costs, and fully unleash the network potential. This lays a solid foundation for the successful commercial use of 5G networks and helps the industry to identify the goal and direction for future network evolution. Huawei also wishes to work more closely with industry partners to innovate continuously, build a 5G business ecosystem, and finally achieve a better connected digital society.”

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The “humanitarian” tragedy in Yemen has been in the news a lot recently. What most media and NGOs fail to clarify is that this is not some mysterious “famine” that has organically transpired as a result of a war – the Yemeni people are being deliberately starved and that starvation is aided and abetted by the UN and a number of its agencies via the illegitimate Resolution 2216 that should never have been adopted in the first place. 

Many have applauded the recent senate vote that appeared to favour debate over the potential U.S withdrawl from Yemen but more astute observers and analysts picked up on the cynical use of the “Farm Bill” to obfuscate and bury the real intention to remain in Yemen:

UN chief, Antonio Guterres has been congratulating himself on “progress made” in the recent Yemeni peace talks in Sweden. An alleged ceasefire was negotiated between Ansarullah (Popular Resistance movement) and the Saudi-backed “rebels”. However, a recent tweet from Yemeni journalist, Hussain Albukhaiti, has revealed that this claim by the U.N is another red herring:

On Friday 14th December I put some questions to the Yemen Minstry of Health speaker, Dr Yousef Al-Haderi.

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Vanessa Beeley: Thank you so much for giving your time to answer my questions. The first must be, in your opinion, what is the war in Yemen about and where will it end? 

Dr Yousef Al-Haderi: Since the first revolution in Yemen on 26 September 1962, these great powers in the world have managed to contain the Yemeni people politically, intellectually and economically so they did not fight us as they have during this ugly war. They enslaved us and ruled us through their puppet presidents.

Yemen’s geographical location, the third best in the world, and Yemen’s rich resources, oil, gas, rock, agricultural and fishing abundance and diversity of landscape should make Yemen one of the world’s wealthiest countries but this has not happened because of this policy of “making us poor to keep us under control”.

The movement that originated in norther Yemen, Saada, called Ansar Allah or as western media like to say, the Houthis, rose out of the poorest societies and it identified the root cause of Yemen’s poverty – the American system and that is why they adopted the slogan “death to the American regime. Their revolution which succeeded on 21st September 2014 then provoked American agents in the region, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, to try to persuade the new government in Yemen, represented by Ansar Allah,to continue the mercenary path of dependence upon the U.S that had been taken by former presidents in Yemen. The Ansar Allah movement and leadership rejected this move completely.

When the global powers, represented by the American, British and Saudi regimes saw that the Ansar Allah movement was able to eradicate all the terrorist entities in Yemen, such as Al Qaeda, which previous Yemeni regimes had been unable to achieve, they sensed the threat that the Ansar Allah movement represented for their colonial projects which had been supported by the deliberate planting of these terrorist groups and they launched the aggression against Yemen on 26th March 2015.

The Saudi-led “Operation Decisive Storm” was launched by the former Saudi Ambassador to Washington (current Saudi Foreign Minister) Adil Al-Jubair from inside the White House. On the first day terrible massacres were carried out among the children of Yemen, one of them in the north of the capital, Sana’a (Bani Hawat) and in the middle of the capital. The same night, children and civilians were deliberately targeted in their homes as they were sleeping. Twenty three days later on the 20th April 2015, a powerful neutron bomb was used in Sanaa and every area of the city was bombarded. Thousands of homes were destroyed. All of these crimes were committed with U.S endorsement and support.

The endgame is clear. After the Saudi coalition was able to bring down a number of Yemen’s provinces in the south – a campaign that was characterised by chaos, murder, assassinations, terror and fear – as witnessed by international NGOs and journalists. We witnessed the establishment of dozens of secret torture and detention centers, similar to those established by the U.S in Iraq, the Abu Ghraib prisons. Even those who support the U.S and its Saudi coalition could not return to Aden, they were refused entry by the U.S Saudi Emirates. The Island of Socotra and the province of Hadramaut were occupied by the U.S. The provinces to the east of Yemen on the border with Oman were occupied by Saudi proxies and forces to open a channel for its oil to the Arabian Sea in the south of the Arabian Peninsula. The Yemeni people living there experienced deepening hunger, poverty and disease, they received no benefits from this occupation.

Today, we are nearing the end of the fourth year of this aggression, which has been mobilised by all the most powerful countries of this world, all the resources of this world and all the armies of this world using all the weapons at their disposal. Weapons that are internationally probhibited like U.S and U.K supplied cluster bombs. We can say that the war will not end until the alliance of aggression breaks down and the Saudi regime collapses. The alliance has attempted to weaken us with every weapon in their arsenal – bombing, starvation, disease, cholera, terrorism, diptheria, malnutrition, malaria – but they do not understand that we will not yield until Yemen is free, we will never surrender even if they occupy our homes and lands.

The cessation of this aggression depends entirely upon the vigilance and humanity of the peoples of this world, not upon their criminal governments who profit from our suffering.

VB: Do you have any hope in the current peace talks in Sweden?

Dr YaH: There is no hope in the current peace conversation, and the reason is that the other side did not come to dialogue with us, but sent their mercenaries who not have the ability to make decisions. They do not even have the right to return to their country while they claim they “liberated” which translates as an occupation. When we have American, Saudi Arabian and the UAE government representatives at the same table with Ansar Allah, we will be able to say there is hope.

VB: Most people in the West have been sold the idea that fugitive/resigned former President Mansour Hadi is the head of the interationally recognised government in Yemen.You are the Health Minister of the current, constitutionally elected Yemeni government.Please describe the government in situ. Does it have popular support? Why will the international community not recognise this government?

Dr YaH: I am the official spokesman of the Ministry of Health in the Yemeni capital Sana’a, which was formed constitutionally through the Constitutional Council of Representatives, which is still in Sana’a, which is more than the quorum. I believe that the continuation of the international recognition of the Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi as president of Yemen is due to American and Saudi money and the ruling of the United Nations. Hadi presented his resignation on January 19th 2015 and that was preceded by the end of his presidency of consensus on 21st February 2014. His presidencey was extended by one year but he was never constitutionally elected. For me, there is no legitimacy for those who will murder their own people, besiege and starve their own people. He destroys his own people upon instruction from the U.S and the Saudi coalition.

Everyone can see that the entities that promote American hegemony are effectively besieging or killing their own people or putting economic pressure upon their people or simply ensuring the spread of chaos in their country. We see this in Yemen, Syria, potentially in Iran and North Korea among many others. Unfortunately most of the world is subjected to the devastation brought about by American hegemony in varying degrees. The U.S believes, it alone can determine who or what is legitimate or illegal. “Legitimacy” must be determined by the people of sovereign nations not by external and predatory forces.

Hadi’s internationally recognised government has been living, for four years, in the luxury hotels of Riyadh, Dubai, Cairo and Istanbul. It does not exist in Yemen, even in those areas it claims to have “liberated”. It can never go back to Yemen. Our government in Sana’a is recognised by the people of Yemen. It brings stability, freedom and justice. There is no suppression of doctrinal, sectarian or partisan considerations at all.

The number of people living in the areas of Yemen occupied by the Saudi coalition does not exceed 25% of the 27 million Yemenis. 75% live in the areas controlled by the Sana’a’s government and the popularity of this coalition government is evident in the fighting fronts and popular support. They are supported by religious and national factions alike and there is a marked absence of public rejection or uprising against them – something which is a common occurrence in the provinces of the coalition-occupied south.

VB: Does Iran recognise the Yemeni government? Why has Iran not taken a more active role in defending the rights of Yemenis diplomatically?

Dr YaH: Unfortunately the Iranian government has not done enough against the injustice that is the aggression against Yemen. We find more popular support from the American people than from the Iranian government. They refuse to recognise the Sana’a government in terms of diplomatic support and to be honest Iran’s inaction effectively supports the humiliation of Yemen by the International Community.  The Iranian media support covers only economic or humanitarian aspects of the conflict and never addresses the root causes. We have never received any support from Iran even though we would always maintain that the Iranian people are just as humane as the American people and all peoples who stand with the Yemeni people against their global oppressors.

[For further insight into the lack of Iranian and Russian support, listen to Vanessa Beeley’s interview with historian, Dr Isa Blumi – here ]

VB: Has Russia played a role in Yemen since the Saudi coalition aggression began in March 2015? 

Dr YaH: The Russian regime, like the American regime, has special objectives in Yemen and in the Middle East in general. There is an exchange of roles between the two superpowers in the world, in Syria and in Yemen. Russia adopted resolution 2216 without using the veto. This reflects the extent of its complicity. Russia welcomed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the 20th summit in Argentina despite the discovery of his crimes against Yemen and against the Saudi journalist Martyr Jamal Khashoggi.

VB: How many children have died of preventable diseases since the conflict began, because of the blockade on food and medicine? 

Dr YaH: The statistics that I will list for child mortality are not complete as the Ministry of Health is unable to record accurate figures due to specific issues. There are many children who die silently – they die in their homes after their parents were unable to provide them with hospital because of poverty, siege and lack of money, just for example.

Malnutrition: – 2,300,000 children (less than 5 years) with 1:3 suffering from a type of malnutrition, including 400 thousand children with severe acute malnutrition, one child dies every ten minutes (according to UN reports And the World Health Organization).

2890 Yemeni people have been infected with diphtheria since its re-emergence (October 2017 to date), of whom 169 died, children represent 90% of these statistics.

Cholera and associated diarrhea: – About 1357,998 Yemeni people have been affected during the period 27 April 2017 to date, of whom 2678 died, children represent 70% of those deaths.

Malaria and dengue: – There are about half a million Yemeni people suffering from malaria and 30 thousand died from the disease, the majority are children.

130 medicines needed to treat chronic diseases and life saving medicines are not available in the Ministry of Health because of the economic blockade and the closure of Sana’a airport since 8 August 2016 until today. These drugs include kidneys, renal dialysis, cancer, diabetes, thalassemia, heart, epilepsy. Tens of thousands have died as a result of the lack of these medicines, the majority are children.

Since the closure of Sana’a airport on August 8th 2016 until today, some 200,000 Yemenis have been unable to travel abroad to receive appropriate medical treatment that is not available in Yemen. So far, 28,000 patients have died, 40% are children.

VB: Have attempts to import necessary lifesaving items been delayed or denied entry and by whom? Could you give an example of those items?

Dr YaH: Oil and basic foodstuffs and 120 pharmaceuticals have been banned from entering Yemen except through very complex conditions and only by the sea not through Sana’a airport which is closed. Because of the U.N Verification and Inspection mechanism imposed on ships entering Djibouti port, medicines remain blockaded there for months and many medicines will have perished by the time they finally enter Yemen, if at all. Wheat, for example, will be rendered inedible after storage in high temperatures. The procedures do nothing more than add cost onto the items for the already poverty-stricken civilians. The closure of Sana’a airport and the transferral of the National Bank to Aden (from Sana’a) also have a negative effect. For kidney treatment, for example, Sirolims, Ticrolims, Brucraf, Salsypt, Kidney Dialysis, Insulin etc we can only provide enough for 5% of patients through international organisations.

VB: How are the 5000 (or more) kidney patients coping bearing in mind they are unable to receive the necessary dialysis? 

Dr YaH: Eight thousand dialysis patients receive the lowest weekly washings (2 washings each week), although it should be minimum 3 washings per week, and instead of 5 hours per wash, we do only 3 hours (to create time for the rest of the patients) Where dialysis machines work 24 hours / 7 days – 4 dialysis centers have been closed by the Saudi bombardment. 27 centers are still functioning but we are unable to provide equipment or to repair devices thanks to the blockade. We struggle to have enough of the washing solutions.  If we did not have the cooperation of some international organisations and the help of Yemeni society, we would have witnessed another humanitarian catastrophe. Even so, we cannot cover all needs and 1200 patients have died of renal failure as a direct consequence of the blockade.

VB: Does it still apply that any surgeries for cancer will be performed free of charge? 

Dr YaH: In Yemen, there is no health insurance for citizens at all. Health care is charged for even in public hospitals although the payment is less than in private hospitals. This was one of the main reasons for the uprising in September 2014. The new Minister of Health, appointed in June 2018, introduced a policy to reduce the pain and suffering of patients, especially those with cancer and they have access to free procedures in public hospitals in Sana’a. A new law has also been introduced which will enter into legislation in 2019 – the Fund for the care and treatment of cancer. We hope that this will go some way to relieving the suffering of cancer patients.

VB: How many hospitals remain operational across Yemen?

Dr YaH:  In areas governed by the Sana’a government, 79 hospitals provide health services to 75% of Yemenis (24 million Yemenis out of 27-30 million) and 2,000 health centers throughout Yemen.The Saudi coalition air force destroyed 345 health center hospitals completely destroyed or partially destroyed.  Of these, 4 hospitals are run by Doctors Without Borders and about 45% of hospitals and health centers have stopped working because of the blockade. Health work in Yemen is only 55% operational and they are overwhelmed by the spread of epidemiological, psychological and physical diseases.

VB: Right before the talks in Sweden, some injured Yemenis were reported to have been allowed to fly out. How many were able to fly out?

Dr YaH: The 200,000 people who suffer from these physical diseases, such as cancer, heart, kidneys, bone etc have been collectively punished by the coalition of aggression’s refusal to allow them to travel. 28,000 have died as a result. The World Health Organisation and the UN expressed a willingness to conduct two trips per month, 100 patients each trip. Those who managed to travel before the peace talks are the war wounded, whether fighters from the frontlines or the civilians injured in Saudi bombing raids. No more than 50 such patients have been able to leave for treatment and one trip was organised as a prerequisite for the Sana’a delegation to participate in the “peace” talks. 50,000 injured are still waiting for permission to travel for treatment, thousands of them with permanent disabilities.

VB: What is needed most in terms of Humanitarian Aid? What is actually being given in adequate quantities?

Dr YaH: The Yemeni people do not require any assistance actually. They only require that the blockade and siege is lifted and the aggression stopped and that they be allowed to live in peace. We will regulate our own problems peacefully and easily. This is the most important demand from the Yemeni people.

VB: Who is ultimately responsible for the genocide in Yemen? 

Dr YaH: Those who are officially responsible for the genocide in Yemen are those who own the money of mass destruction with which they buy weapons of mass destruction from the countries of mass destruction endorsed by the United Nations of mass destruction and met with global silence while Yemen is being destroyed. The American regime is mainly responsible, the UN and the Security Council follow closely as legal cover for the crimes committed by the US and its Saudi and UAE partners enabling them to commit the atrocities against the Yemeni people. Saudi Arabia and UAE are number three in the responsibility league table and then you have, as number four, the fugitive, illegitimate President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his political team at the UN or working as ambassadors in other countries.

Finally, I always welcome you and your questions at any time and whatever the questions without reservation, and thank you deeply for your constant solidarity with us. People are two types (either your brother in religion or your counterpart in creation) and we live in one land and one race and live one life and our destiny is one … all respect to you and the people of the world.

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This article was originally published on 21st Century Wire.

Vanessa Beeley is an independent journalist, peace activist, photographer and associate editor at 21st Century Wire. Vanessa was a finalist for one of the most prestigious journalism awards – the 2017 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism – whose winners have included the likes of Robert Parry in 2017, Patrick Cockburn, Robert Fisk, Nick Davies and the Bureau for Investigative Journalism team. Please support her work at her Patreon account. 

Featured image: Sara, a 10-year-old at al Thawra hospital in Hodeidah, Yemen, is half paralyzed by diphtheria, an illness that can be prevented by vaccination. She subsequently had to leave the hospital because of the violence. UNICEF/Touma/Yemen/2018

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Imagine, for a moment, a foreign government spying on U.S. citizens, using the most sophisticated cyber-intelligence software available. This government particularly targets students and, through the use of fake Facebook accounts and other means, smears those that criticize its policies. Consider a government that, in addition to these activities, provides U.S. members of Congress with elaborate, all-expenses-paid trips to beautiful resorts, in addition to very generously funding their election and re-election campaigns. It then writes legislation favorable to it, that these members of Congress introduce and vote on.

Currently, Washington, D.C. is all agog over allegations that Russia attempted to influence the 2016 presidential election that brought the incompetent, unstable and erratic Donald Trump to the White House. The investigation into possible collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign makes almost daily headlines. Politicians of all stripes invoke it in one way or another to get favorable sound bytes on the evening news.

Yet no one is investigating, or even talking about, the other country whose government is spying on U.S. citizens, and which is, for all intents and purposes, buying member of Congress and writing U.S. legislation. That country, of course, is Israel.

For years, the U.S. has had a ‘special’ relationship with Israel. This includes providing Israel, a wealthy, prosperous, First World nation, with more foreign aid than it gives to all other nations combines. It means vetoing in the United Nations any resolution criticizing Israel for its many war crimes and crimes against humanity. It means basing U.S. foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, not on what is best for the U.S., but what is best for the Israel.

Although the nature of this ‘special’, albeit dysfunctional relationship has long been known, a documentary recently made by Al-Jazeera clearly exposes it.

In ‘The Lobby’, a pro-Palestinian Jewish man goes undercover as a pro-Israeli lobbyist. He is able to gain the trust and confidence of some of the key players in the pro-Israel lobby network. Among the things exposed by this film are the following:

  • Pro-Israel lobbies work to counter the growing BDS movement on campus through lies, distortions and half-truths;
  • AIPAC (American Israel Political Affairs Committee) has a very close relationship with the editorial board of the influential Washington Post;
  • There is a structured method used by pro-Israel lobbies to get journalists to ask the questions the lobbyists want asked;
  • Intimidation of BDS activists includes threats of assassination;
  • Information on BDS activists and activities is collected and used against them, if possible.

What, one wonders, would the reaction be if Russia, for example, was working closely with a prominent U.S. newspaper to assure that its point of view was reflected? How would members of Congress react if the government of Iran were found to be spying on U.S. students? Yet, due to the ‘special relationship’ that the U.S. has with Israel, violation of U.S. laws are overlooked; the privacy of U.S. citizens can be illegally invaded, they can be threatened with bodily harm by representatives of a foreign government, and the U.S. government will simply look the other way.

It would be one thing if some ragtag groups attempted, even successfully, to commit the crimes against U.S. citizens that Israel commits. But these organizations are well-financed and are affiliated with, and have the complete support of, the Israeli government.

In the movie, the director-general of the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs discusses Israel’s close association with the so-called ‘Foundation for Defense of Democracies’, a Washington, D.C.-based neo-conservative think tank. Sima Vaknin-Gil says this, when discussing Israel’s efforts to track BDS activists: “Data gathering, information analysis, working on activist organizations, money trail. This is something that only a country, with its resources, can do the best. We have FDD. We have others working on this.” Included in FDD’s very pro-Israel bias are frequent criticisms of Iran’s charitable organization EIKO, ‘Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order’, whose mission is to increase the number of schools and other services to the people of Iran.

Why is this allowed? Why does the U.S. allow a foreign government to spy on its citizens for the sole purpose of discrediting them,  influence its newspapers and otherwise interfere in its workings? It is certainly a cyclical pattern.

Pro-Israel lobbies ‘donate’ to the campaigns of members of Congress, who, in turn rely on those very generous donations. In order to keep them flowing in future campaigns, the Congress men and women must then do their master’s bidding. As they do so, the rewards, in the form of contributions and ‘fact-finding’ or ‘educational’ trips, for themselves and their spouses to exclusive Israeli resorts, are provided. With these contributions, the Congress members are re-elected, and they, in turn, reward their benefactors. Any close look at those benefactors’ illegal activities in the U.S., or internationally, simply won’t do.

As a result, apartheid is supported, since any nation with separate laws depending on the ethnicity of the citizen must be considered apartheid. Genocide is also supported and financed, every time Israel bombs the Gaza Strip. Violations of international law are condoned with each new illegal settlement.

The maneuverings of pro-Israeli lobbies which operate far outside of U.S. laws are exposed in this documentary. The way money is laundered, campaign contribution laws are violated, and all the attending corruption are on clear view, often vocalized by the very people committing these crimes.

‘The Lobby – USA’ is an amazing and important film, one that has been marginalized by the U.S. media, much like ‘My Name is Rachel’, the story of Rachel Corrie, a young woman from the U.S. who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer, was repressed short years ago. But the Internet now is far stronger and more ubiquitous then it was when Rachel Corrie’s movie was made. Israel is learning that it can’t hide forever, and ‘The Lobby – USA’ is an important tool in exposing its crimes in the U.S. Its international crimes are well-known, in part due to social media (despite Facebook’s censorship of much information about Israel’s crimes). It is a multi-part film, and is available on Youtube.

It is vitally important for anyone who believes in democracy and justice, and sees those hallmarks of society being violated. A major violator of them on the international stage is Israel. ‘The Lobby – USA’ points this out, with clear, irrefutable facts.

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The Constitutional Right to Boycott Israel

December 20th, 2018 by Stephen Lendman

America’s First Amendment affirms fundamental speech and press freedoms. It prohibits congressional legislation prohibiting the exercise of these rights.

A report by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and Palestine Legal discussed “The Palestine Exception to Speech: A Movement Under Attack in the US.”

It covers “widespread and growing suppression of Palestinian human rights advocacy in the United States” – notably on college campuses against students and teachers.

What’s going on has chilling implications for constitutionally guaranteed speech, media and academic freedoms, including an assault on “higher education to help develop critical thinking,” CCR and Palestine Legal explained.

Their report documents “event cancellations, baseless legal complaints, administrative disciplinary actions, firings, and false and inflammatory accusations of terrorism and antisemitism – that Israel advocacy organizations, universities, government actors, and other institutions have used against activists.”

It includes testimonies of supporters of Palestinian rights, targeted for their activism – in deference to Israel and its US lobby.

According to ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project attorney Brian Hauss, the right to boycott Israel is increasingly threatened in the US, saying:

“The First Amendment squarely protects the right to boycott. Lately, though, a legislative assault on that right has been spreading through the United States –  designed to stamp out constitutionally protected boycotts of Israel.”

In NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co. (1982), a landmark civil rights case, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the organization’s right to boycott white-owned businesses in Mississippi – protesting against segregation and racial injustice, its constitutional right.

The ruling stressed that states may not prohibit peaceful advocacy of a politically-motivated boycott, what First Amendment rights are all about.

In recent years, 26 states enacted legislation violating the Supreme Court’s ruling and fundamental First Amendment rights. They aim to delegitimize BDS activism, prohibiting it, falsely equating it to anti-Semitism.

Beginning in April 2015, anti-BDS legislation and/or executive orders exist in Tennessee, South Carolina, Illinois, Alabama, Colorado, Indiana, Florida, Virginia, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, New York, New Jersey, California, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Texas, Minnesota, Nevada, Kansas, North Carolina, Maryland, Wisconsin, Louisiana, and most recently in Kentucky on November 15, 2018.

Another 13 states are currently considering similar laws, subordinating constitutionally protected rights to Israel’s unlawful apartheid persecution of Palestinians.

Without exception, these laws flagrantly violate the Supreme Court’s 1982 ruling and fundamental First Amendment rights.

In February 2018, Kansas District Judge Daniel Crabtree struck down a state law, requiring all state contractors “certify that they are not engaged in a boycott of Israel.”

The ruling relates to Kansas math teacher Esther Koonz – barred from renewing her teaching contract for her political beliefs.

She supports BDS activism, wanting Israel held accountable for its high crimes against Palestinians.

Kansas House Bill 2409 prohibited state contracts with individuals critical of Israeli actions – a flagrant First Amendment violation.

Judge Crabtree agreed, calling the Kansas law unconstitutional because it “bans (the First Amendment right to support and participate in) political boycotts, which is impermissible.”

Texas elementary school speech pathologist Bahia Amawi was fired for refusing to sign a pro-Israeli pledge, her constitutionally protected right.

Texas law prohibits state employees from “boycott(ing) Israel during the term of the(ir) contact(s),” along with refraining from actions “intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on, or limit commercial relations with Israel, or with a person or entity doing business in Israel or in an Israel-controlled territory.”

On behalf of Amawi, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, sued the state of Texas in federal court, explaining the following:

“Ms. Amawi advocates for boycotts of Israel due to Israel’s continuing violations of international law in its treatment of Palestinians.”

“Specifically, (she) boycotts products created in Israel in support of the peaceful Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.”

She “cannot and will not sign the contract with the ‘No Boycott of Israel’ provision, which is required by state law. As an advocate for Palestinian rights and justice, she cannot in good faith certify or state that she does not boycott Israel, and will not engage in a boycott of Israel.”

She affirmed her constitutional right to boycott Israel, saying

“I couldn’t in good conscience do that.”

“If I did, I would not only be betraying Palestinians suffering under an occupation that I believe is unjust and thus, become complicit in their repression, but I’d also be betraying my fellow Americans by enabling violations of our constitutional rights to free speech and to protest peacefully.”

Her lawsuit states that “(o)n September 17, (she) informed the school district that she would be unable to sign the addendum, citing moral issues.”

“Pflugerville Independent School District informed Ms. Amawi that it would not be able to provide her with payment if she refused to sign the addendum.”

“Ms. Amawi refused to sign and was forced to terminate her contractual relationship with the school district.”

CAIR’s suit is over the state of Texas’ violation of Amawi’s constitutionally protected First Amendment rights, stating:

“Political speech on issues of great national and international importance is central to the purposes of the First Amendment.”

“Speech and advocacy related to the Israel – Palestine conflict is core political speech on a matter of public concern entitled to the highest levels of constitutional protection.”

The landmark 1982 Supreme Court ruling explained above was cited, CAIR saying “(e)conomic  boycotts for the purposes of bringing about political change are entrenched in American history, beginning with colonial boycotts on British tea.”

“Later, the Civil Rights Movement relied heavily on boycotts to combat racism and spur societal change. The Supreme Court has recognized that non-violent boycotts intended to advance civil rights constitute ‘form(s) of speech or conduct that (are) ordinarily entitled to protection under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.”

The lawsuit seeks to render anti-BDS legislation unconstitutional, along with reinstating Amawi as a teacher in the Pflugerville Independent School District.

The right to boycott and otherwise criticize Israel may ultimately be ruled on by the Supreme Court.

Despite no ambiguity about First Amendment rights, it’s uncertain how the High Court may rule on this vital issue, given its right-wing majority.

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Award-winning author Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected]. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG)

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

The People’s Christmas: Art, Tradition and Climate Change

December 20th, 2018 by Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin

COME, bring with a noise,
My merry, merry boys,
The Christmas log to the firing ;
While my good dame, she
Bids ye all be free ;
And drink to your heart’s desiring.

With the last year’s brand
Light the new block, and
For good success in his spending
On your psaltries play,
That sweet luck may
Come while the log is a-teending.

Ceremonies for Christmas by Robert Herrick (1591–1674)
(Psaltries: a kind of guitar, Teending: kindling)

No season has so much association with music as the mid-winter, Christmas celebrations. The aural pleasure associated with the tuneful music and carols of Christmas has been reduced in recent years by the over-playing of same in shopping malls, banks, airports etc. yet it is still enjoyed and the popularity of choirs has not diminished.

However, the visual depictions of mid-winter, Christmas celebration have also been popular since the 19th century through books, cinema and television.

The depictions of Christmas range from religious iconography through to the highly commercialised red-suited, rosy-cheeked, rotund Santa Claus.

Yet, between these two extremes of the sombre sacred and the commercialised secular lies a popular iconography best expressed in the realm of fine art and illustration. Down through the centuries the pagan aspects of mid-winter celebration and Christmas such as the Christmas tree, the Yule log, wassailing and carol singing along with winter sports such as ice skating and skiing have been depicted by many different artists. These paintings and illustrations are also beloved for the visual pleasure they afford.

More importantly, they show aspects of Christmas which are becoming more important now in our time of climate change. That is, their depictions of our past respect for nature.

In recent times, as we gradually learned to harness nature for our own ends through developments in science we also became less and less worried about the vicissitudes of nature. Our forebears, however, knew all too well hunger and cold in the depths of winter and in their own religious and superstitious ways tried to attenuate the worst of winter hardship through traditions and practices which would ensure a bountiful proceeding year.

For example, the Christmas Tree is a descendant of the sacred tree which was respected as a powerful symbol of growth, death and rebirth. Evergreen trees took on meanings associated with symbols of the eternal, immortality or fertility (See my article on Christmas Trees here). Evergreen boughs and then eventually whole evergreen trees were brought into the house to ward off evil influences. Burning the Yule log was an important rite to help strengthen the weakened sun of midwinter.

The Christmas Tree (1911)
Albert Chevallier Tayler (1862–1925)

Wassailing, or blessing of the fruit trees, is also considered a form of tree worship and involves drinking and singing to the health of the trees in the hope that they will provide a bountiful harvest in the autumn. Mumming has also been associated with the spirit of vegetation or the tree-spirit and is believed to have developed into the practice of caroling even though mumming is alive and well in many places in Ireland and England. All these nature-based practices seem to have been banned by the church at different times and then gradually integrated into church rituals (presumably because the church was not able to stop them).

Therefore our relationship with nature was demonstrated through winter activities both inside and outside the home. Outside activities consisted of ice skating, caroling, wassailing, bringing home the Yule log and the Christmas tree. Inside activities consisted of large gatherings of family and friends eating, drinking and parlour games. The indulgence of Christmas activities was balanced by an overriding concern that nature had been propitiated or appeased.

One aspect the many depictions of these activities have in common is the festive gathering of large groups of people. Modern depictions of Christmas tend to emphasise the nuclear family gathered around the Christmas tree with the focus on what Santa brought for the children. Thus Christmas today is experienced as a more isolated experience than in the past. The decline of the nuclear family in recent decades with single parent families, divorce, cohabitation, etc has created extended family gatherings more akin to the past village groupings. Outdoor activities have also declined though one can still hear carollers singing on occasion, though still common in city streets.

Many artists of over the years have tried to depict the essence of Christmas and midwinter traditions (see my article on midwinter traditions here) and thus helped to keep them in our consciences.

Let’s look at some of the illustrations and paintings that depict mid-winter festivities over the centuries.

Carole

Carols

Poetry and song are our earliest records of Christmas celebrations. According to Clement Miles the word “‘carol’ had at first a secular or even pagan significance: in twelfth-century France it was used to describe the amorous song-dance which hailed the coming of spring; in Italian it meant a ring- or song-dance; while by English writers from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century it was used chiefly of singing joined with dancing, and had no necessary connection with religion.”[1] The word carol itself comes from the Old French word carole, a circle dance accompanied by singers (Latin: choraula). Carols were very popular as dance songs and processional songs sung during festivals. In medieval times the Church referred to caroling as “sinful traffic” and issued decrees against it in 1209 A.D. and 1435 A.D. According to Tristram P. Coffin in his Book of Christmas Folklore, “For seven centuries a formidable series of denunciations and prohibitions was fired forth by Catholic authorities, warning Everyman to ‘flee wicked and lecherous songs, dancings, and leapings’” (p98).

Banqueting Hall

Mumming

The processional aspects of caroling are linked to mumming, an ancient tradition which was mentioned in early ecclesiastical condemnations. During the Kalends of January a sermon ascribed to St Augustine of Hippo writes that the heathen reverses the order of things as some of these ‘miserable’ men “are clothed in the hides of cattle; others put on the heads of beasts, rejoicing and exulting that they have so transformed themselves into the shapes of animals that they no longer appear to be men … How vile further, it is that those who have been born men are clothed in women’s dresses, and by the vilest change effeminate their manly strength by taking on the forms of girls, blushing not to clothe their warlike arms in women’s garments; they have bearded faces, and yet they wish to appear women.” [2] The original idea of wearing the hides of animals, Miles writes, may have sprung “from the primitive man’s belief ‘that in order to produce the great phenomena of nature on which his life depended he had only to imitate them’. [3]

Indeed, in Ireland, mumming is a tradition that is still going strong. In a recent article in The Fingal Independent, Sean McPhilibin notes that “In North County Dublin the masking would be traditionally made from straw and would have been big straw hats that cover the face and come down to the shoulders.” McPhilibin also states that mumming was “a mid-winter custom that in Ireland and North County Dublin and in parts of England as well, the masking element is accompanied by a play. So there’s a play in it with set characters. It’s a play where the principal action takes place between two protagonists – a hero and a villain. The hero slays the villain and the villain is revived by a doctor who has a magical cure and after that happens there’s a succession of other characters called in, each of whom has a rhyme. So every character has a rhyme, written in rhyming couplets.[…] The other thing to say about it is that you find these same type of characters all across Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, over into Slovenia and elsewhere.”

James Frazer, in The Golden Bough, discusses at length many international examples of people being being completely covered in straw, branches or leaves as incarnations of the tree-spirit or the spirit of vegetation, such as Green George, Jack-in-the-Green, the Little Leaf Man, and the Leaf King.[4]

Wassail

Wassail

The word wassail comes from Old English was hál, related to the Anglo-Saxon greeting wes þú hál, meaning “be you hale”—i.e., “be healthful” or “be healthy”.

There are two variations of wassailing: going from house to house singing and sharing a wassail bowl containing a drink made from mulled cider made with sugar, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, topped with slices of toast as sops or going from orchard to orchard blessing the fruit trees, drinking and singing to the health of the trees in the hope that they will provide a bountiful harvest in the autumn. They sing, shout, bang pots and pans and fire shotguns to wake the tree spirits and frighten away evil demons.

The wassail itself “is a hot, mulled punch often associated with Yuletide, drunk from a ‘wassailing bowl’. The earliest versions were warmed mead into which roasted crab apples were dropped and burst to create a drink called ‘lambswool’ drunk on Lammas day, still known in Shakespeare’s time. Later, the drink evolved to become a mulled cider made with sugar, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, topped with slices of toast as sops and drunk from a large communal bowl.” (See traditional wassail recipe here)

Wassail

The Lord of Misrule

The Lord of Misrule was a common tradition that existed up to the early nineteenth century whereby a peasant or sub-deacon appointed to be in charge of Christmas revelries, thus the normal societal roles where reversed temporarily. The Lord of Misrule “would invite traveling actors to perform Mummer’s plays, he would host elaborate masques, hold large feasts and arrange the procession of the annual Yule Log.”

Mummers by Robert Seymour, 1836

The Mount Vernon Yule Log
Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1863–1930)

The Bean King

During the the Twelfth Night feast a cake or pie would be served which had a bean baked inside. The person who got the slice with the bean would be ‘crowned’ the Bean King with a paper crown and appointed various court officials. A mock respect would be shown when the king drank and all the party would shout “the king drinks”. Robert Herrick mentions this in his poem Twelfth Night: or, King and Queen:

“NOW, now the mirth comes
With the cake full of plums,
Where bean’s the king of the sport here ;
Beside we must know,
The pea also
Must revel, as queen, in the court here.”

Twelfth-night (The King Drinks)
David Teniers the Younger (1610–1690)

The King Drinks (c.1640)
Jacob (Jacques) Jordaens (1593–1678)

Merry Christmas in the Baron’s Hall (1838)
Daniel Maclise (1806-1870)

Merry Christmas in the Baron’s Hall (1838)

Daniel Maclise’s painting Merry Christmas in the Baron’s Hall (1838) contains many aspects of the traditional Christmas festivities. The Lord of Misrule stands in the centre holding his staff and leading the procession of musicians and carolers coming down the stairs. Father Christmas, ‘ivy crown’d’, sits in front of the wassail bowl and is surrounded by mummers (the Dragon and St George sit side by side) and local people. On the left side of the picture we see a group of people playing a parlour game called Hunt the Slipper.

Maclise was influenced by Sir Walter Scott’s poem Marmion: A Tale of Flodden Field, published in 1808. Marmion is a historical romance in verse of 16th-century Britain, ending with the Battle of Flodden in 1513. Marmion has a section referring to Christmas festivities:

“The wassel round, in good brown bowls,
Garnish’d with ribbons, blithely trowls.
There the huge sirloin reek’d; hard by
Plum-porridge stood, and Christmas pie:
Nor fail’d old Scotland to produce,
At such high tide, her savoury goose.
Then came the merry maskers in,
And carols roar’d with blithesome din;
If unmelodious was the song,
It was a hearty note, and strong.
Who lists may in their mumming see
Traces of ancient mystery;
White shirts supplied the masquerade,
And smutted cheeks the visors made;
But, O! what maskers, richly dight,
Can boast of bosoms half so light!”

(See full text here)

It seems that Maclise was also taken enough by the poem to pen his own poem about his painting which was published in Fraser’s Magazine for May in 1838. The poem is titled: Christmas Revels: An Epic Rhapsody in Twelve Duans and was published under the pseudonym, Alfred Croquis, Esq. The painting includes over one hundred figures covering many different traditions of Christmas and in his poem Maclise describes most of the activities taking place as some these excerpts from the poem demonstrate:

“Before him, ivied, wand in hand,
Misrule’s mock lordling takes his stand;
[…]
Drummers and pipers next appear,
And carollers in motley gear;
Stewards, butlers, cooks, bring up the rear.
Some sit apart from all the rest,
And these for merry masque are drest;
But now they play another part,
Distinct from any mumming art.
[…]
First, Father Christmas, ivy-crown’d,
With false beard white, and true paunch round,
Rules o’er the mighty wassail-bowl,
And brews a flood to stir the soul:
That bowl’s the source of all their pleasures,
That bowl supplies their lesser measures”

(See full text here)

Winter Landscapes

Winter Landscape near a Village
Hendrick Avercamp (1585 (bapt.) – 1634 (buried))

The Hunters in the Snow (1565)
Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c.1525-1530–1569)

Winter Landscape with Skaters and Bird Trap (1565)
Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c.1525-1530–1569)

These famous winter landscape paintings by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, such as The Hunters in the Snow and Winter Landscape with Skaters and Bird Trap are all thought to have been painted in 1565. Hendrick Avercamp also made made many snow and ice landscapes coinciding with the Little Ice Age. Three particularly cold intervals have been described as the Little Ice Age: “one beginning about 1650, another about 1770, and the last in 1850, all separated by intervals of slight warming”.

Outdoor Activities: Skating, Markets and Fairs

Patineurs au bois de Boulogne (1868)
Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841–1919)

Russian Christmas
Leon Schulman Gaspard (1882-1964)

The Christmas Market in Berlin (1892)
Franz Skarbina (1849-1910)

Nature-Based vs Anti-Nature

Polydore Vergil (c.1470–1555), the Italian humanist scholar, historian, priest and diplomat, who spent most of his life in England, wrote this about Christmas: “Dancing, masques, mummeries, stage-plays, and other such Christmas disorders now in use with the Christians, were derived from these Roman Saturnalian and Bacchanalian festivals; which should cause all pious Christians eternally to abominate them.”[5]

However,  Clement Miles takes a more positive view of these traditions. He writes: “The heathen folk festivals absorbed by the Nativity feast were essentially life-affirming, they expressed the mind of men who said “yes” to this life, who valued earthly good things. On the other hand Christianity, at all events in its intensest form, the religion of the monks, was at bottom pessimistic as regards this earth, and valued it only as a place of discipline for the life to come; it was essentially a religion of renunciation that said “no” to the world.” [6]

Now we have a religion of consumerism and mass consumption with Santa Claus as its main protagonist. The one extreme of the sacred St Nicholas has flipped over to the other extreme of Santa, the corporate saint. Either way the pious and the consumer pose no threat to the status quo.

Catharsis

There is no doubt that the Christmas festivities were used by elites as a form of social catharsis. The Lord of Misrule and the Bean King, encouraged by raucous mummers and  lively caroling, allowed the lowly to throw off pent-up aggression and feel what it was like to be in a position of power for a very short period of time. This brief social revolution was an important part of midwinter celebrations such as the Roman Kalends and the Feast of Fools. Libanius (c.314–392 or 393), the fourth century Greek philosopher, wrote: “The Kalends festival banishes all that is connected with toil, and allows men to give themselves up to undisturbed enjoyment. From the minds of young people it removes two kinds of dread: the dread of the schoolmaster and the dread of the stern pedagogue. The slave also it allows, so far as possible, to breathe the air of freedom.” [7]

The survivals of an ancient time when man and nature were at peace (see article here), and not enslaved and forced to overexploit our natural resources for the benefit of the few, were allowed to resurface briefly at the time of year when the labouring classes were mostly idle and, once sated, posed little threat. Yet, retaining the memory of past respectful attitudes towards nature and old traditions of social upheaval will go a long way towards healing our damaged home into the future.

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This article was originally published on gaelart.net.

Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin is an Irish artist, lecturer and writer. His artwork consists of paintings based on contemporary geopolitical themes as well as Irish history and cityscapes of Dublin. His blog of critical writing based on cinema, art and politics along with research on a database of Realist and Social Realist art from around the world can be viewed country by country here. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

Notes

[1] Clement A. Miles, Christmas Customs and Traditions: Their History and Significance, Dover Publications, 2017,  p47.
[2] Miles, Christmas Customs and Traditions, p170.
[3] Miles, Christmas Customs and Traditions, p163.
[4] James Frazer, The Golden Bough, Wordsworth, 1994. See: The tree-spirit p297, Green George p126, Jack-in-the-Green p128, the Little Leaf Man p128 and the Leaf King p130.
[5] Hazlitt, W. Carew, Faiths and Folklore of the British Isles, 2 vols, New York: Benjamin Blom, Inc., 1965, p118-19
[6] Miles, Christmas Customs and Traditions, p25.
[7] Miles, Christmas Customs and Traditions, p168.

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The Rand Corporation defines America’s influence operations as… “the coordinated, integrated, and synchronized application of national diplomatic, informational, military, economic, and other capabilities in peacetime, crisis, conflict, and post-conflict to foster attitudes, behaviors, or decisions by foreign target audiences that further US interests and objectives. In this view, influence operations accent communications to affect attitudes and behaviors but also can include the employment of military capabilities, economic development, and other real-world capabilities that also can play a role in reinforcing these communications.”

In a world where communications and social networks are global and accessible to many ordinary people, influence operations are the bread-and-butter of many intelligence agencies as a means of waging low intensity warfare against adversaries. During the past week there have been two accounts of how influencing foreign audiences has worked in practice, one relating to Russia and one to Great Britain.

The Russian story is part of the continuing saga of Russiagate. On Monday, the Senate Intelligence Committee released two reports on Russian operations before during and after the 2016 election to influence targeted groups, to include African-Americans, evangelical Christians and Second Amendment supporters to confuse voters about what the candidates stood for. Russia Internet Research Agency, headed by Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, alleged to be a friend of President Vladimir Putin, reportedly coordinated the effort.

The New York Times, slanted in its coverage of the story, claiming that Moscow was “weaponizing” social media and that it was intended to support the candidacy of Donald Trump who “had a Russian blind spot and an army of supporters willing to believe convenient lies and half-truths.” They also dubbed it “a singular act of aggression that ushered in an era of extended conflict.” Of course, one might note that in 2016 the Times itself had a blind spot regarding Hillary Clinton compounded by a bias against Trump and his “deplorable” supporters, while one must also point out that Russian intentions are unknowable unless one were a fly on the wall inside the Kremlin when the US election was under discussion, so one might conclude that the newspaper is itself spreading something like disinformation.

It is undoubtedly true that Russia had a vital national interest in opposing Clinton, whose malevolent intentions towards Moscow were well known. It is also undoubtedly true that there was a campaign of manipulation of social networks by the Kremlin and its proxies to influence readers and also to assess the development of the two major party campaigns. But it also should be observed that the claim that it was seeking to suppress Democratic voters is not really borne out given the other much more conservative demographics that were also targeted. Indeed, involvement by Russia did not alter the outcome of the election and may have had virtually no impact whatsoever, so the claims by the Times that the world is seeing a new form of warfare is clearly exaggerated to reflect that paper’s editorial stance.

The fact that the Times is trying to make the news rather than reporting it is clearly indicted by its sheer speculation that “The Internet Research Agency appears to have largely sat out the 2018 midterm elections, but it is likely already trying to influence the 2020 presidential election, in ways social media companies may not yet understand or be prepared for. And Russia is just the beginning. Other countries, including Iran and China, have already demonstrated advanced capabilities for cyberwarfare, including influence operations waged over social media platforms.” It is certainly convenient to have all one’s enemies collectivized in two sentences, but the Times manages that quite neatly.

The second story, much less reported in the US media, relates to how the British intelligence services have been running their own disinformation operations against Russia, also using social networks and the internet. The British government has been financing a program that was given the name Integrity Initiative. It has been tasked with creating and disseminating disinformation relating to Russia in order to influence the people, armed forces and governments of a number of countries that Moscow constitutes a major threat to the west and its institutions.

Former British intelligence officer and established Russo-phobe Christopher Nigel Donnelly (CND) is the co-director of The Institute for Statecraft and founder of its offshoot Integrity Initiative. The Initiative ironically claims to “Defend Democracy Against Disinformation.” According to leaked documents, the Initiative plants disinformation that includes allegations about the “Russian threat” to world peace using what are referred to as journalists ‘clusters’ in place both in Europe and the United States.

Even though the Institute and Initiative pretend to be independent Non-Government Organizations (NGOs), they are both actually supported financially by the British government, NATO and what are reported to be other state donors, possibly including the United States.

The Integrity Initiative aside, the United States has also long been involved in influence operations, sometimes also referred to as perception management. Even before 9/11 and after the breakup of the Soviet Union the State Department, Pentagon and National Security Agency were all active on the internet in opposing various adversaries, to include terrorist groups. The CIA has been spreading disinformation using paid journalists and arranging foreign elections since 1947. Sometimes US federal government agencies are operating openly, but more often they are using covert mechanisms and cover stories to conceal their identities. America’s internet warriors are adept at spreading misinformation aimed at target audiences worldwide.

The fact is that spreading disinformation and confusion are what governments and intelligence services do to protect what they consider to be vital interests. It is naïve for the US Senate and America’s leading newspapers to maintain that intelligence probing and other forms of interference from Russia or China or Iran or even “friend” Israel occur in a vacuum. Everyone intrudes and spreads lies and everyone will continue to do it because it is easy to understand and cheap to run. In the end, however, its effectiveness is limited. In 2016 the election result was determined by a lack of trust on the part of the American people for what the establishment politicians have been offering, not because of interference from Moscow.

Originally published on Strategic Culture Foundation

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Trump’s decision to “withdraw” US troops from Syria is being universally praised by all but his “deep state” foes, but things aren’t exactly as they seem and the celebrations might be premature because this deceptive move simply changes the nature of the Hybrid Wars on Syria, Iran, and Pakistan by making them less kinetic but nevertheless equally dangerous. 

Trump supposedly “defied” his foes in America’s permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”) by ordering the “withdrawal” of American troops from Syria, which is being celebrated across the world as a pragmatic peacemaking gesture that’s long overdue. The fact of the matter, however, is that this isn’t the so-called “retreat” that some in the Alt-Media are portraying it as but is actually a cunning move for more cost-effectively advancing the US’ military, political, and ultimately strategic objectives in the Arab Republic and beyond.

On the surface, it appears to some that Trump flinched in the face of Erdogan’s threat to commence an anti-terrorist intervention east of the Euphrates in the US-occupied corner of Syria and basically betrayed America’s Kurdish allies there, but the “withdrawal” should instead be seen as keeping the Kurds in check and preempting a possible Turkish campaign against them there by getting them to curb their ambitions as part of a pragmatic US-brokered deal between them an Ankara. Still, even if Turkey does indeed intervene, then that doesn’t necessarily mean that the YPG-led SDF will be destroyed.

Most observers overlooked the US Special Representative for Syria’s statement earlier this month that his country was deliberating the creation of an Iraqi-style “no-fly zone” following a possible withdrawal of its grounds from there, which the author drew attention to in his piece at the time about how “The US Might Withdraw From Syria If A ‘No-Fly Zone’ Is Imposed In The Northeast”. The argument put forth in that analysis is that it would be much more cost-effective and less risky for the US to control the agriculturally, hydrologically, and energy-rich corner of Northeastern Syria from the air through a “no-fly zone” than through “boots on the ground”.

Under such a scenario, which is veritably plausible following Trump’s public reassurance that the “withdrawal” doesn’t imply the end of its military mission in Syria, the US and some of its “Coalition of the Willing” allies could maintain control of the region through aerial means and therefore keep Turkish, Syria, and especially Iranian forces at bay if they violate the so-called “deconfliction line” that the Pentagon imposed along the Euphrates over the past two years

This could ensure that the US-backed but Kurdish-controlled SDF doesn’t lose its predominant position in the region even in the event that Turkey launches a small-scale intervention there because it could ultimately be “contained” by the US and its allies’ de-facto “no-fly zone”. Thus, given that the “withdrawal” of American troops probably won’t have any practical on-the-ground consequences, this move should therefore be seen as a mostly political one aimed at achieving several objectives.

Most immediately, the optics of an American military “withdrawal” from Syria are supposed to catalyze the stalled peace process and create the conditions for pronounced international pressure to be brought upon Iran to follow suit, which is in alignment with President Putin’s unofficial peace plan for the country which the author touched upon in his piece last month about how “Russia’s Non-Denial About Brokering Iran’s Withdrawal From Syria Is A Big Deal”.

Furthermore, “Israel’s” publicly expressed concerns over this development could push it even further under Russian tutelage as Moscow progressively replaces Washington as Tel Aviv’s patron per the model that the author described in his summer analysis about how “It’s Official, ‘Israel’ Is Now A Joint Russian-American Protectorate”. In hindsight, it shouldn’t be seen as a coincidence that Russian and “Israeli” military officials recently visitedone another in the run-up to Trump’s announcement, suggesting that they were either informed of it in advance or accurately forecast this development and decided to publicly intensify their military relations with each other in response.

Apart from the Syrian-related analytical angle, Trump is also signaling to the Taliban (whether sincerely or not) that the US is seriously contemplating pulling its troops out of Afghanistan too, which is the group’s main condition for continuing the unofficial peace talks between the two sides. That said, it’s doubtful that the US would surrender its strategic presence in the tri-regional crossroads between Central, South, and West Asia and will probably end up replacing any of its “withdrawn” troops with mercenaries, which might be a “face-saving compromise” between itself and the Taliban but one which might deliberately drive a wedge between the so-called “moderate” and “hardline” factions of the second-mentioned and possibly “provoke” dissatisfied elements to “defect” to Daesh (which could in turn be blamed on Pakistan for escalating the ongoing Hybrid War on that country).

Lastly, Trump wants to show the American public that he’s keeping his campaign pledge to (at least conventionally) draw down the War on Syria following the Republicans’ loss of the House last month and ahead of the 2020 elections, knowing that the Democrats will hold his feet to the fire over that unfulfilled pledge and weaponize it as part of election campaign against him if he doesn’t make visible progress on that front (and possibly also in Afghanistan too per the aforementioned scenario). In view of this, domestic political interests might have also played an influential role behind Trump’s decision and the specific timing thereof.

Altogether, while the US’ “withdrawal” from Syria is certainly a welcoming move that will undoubtedly do a lot to advance the stalled peace process in the war-torn country, it’s nevertheless much more of a cunning strategy aimed at comprehensively advancing a wide range of interests than the supposed “retreat” that some are “victoriously” celebrating it as. The US’ Hybrid Wars against Syria, Iran, and also Pakistan aren’t stopping any time soon, but it’s just that they’re evolving in response to new conditions and taking on less kinetic forms that are still more than capable of creatively shaping events in America’s favor so long as its intended targets don’t understand the nature of the new threats that they’re facing.

Originally published on Eurasia Future

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Funny how so many ‘ so called’ Christians kneel and perform such pomp and circumstance every December 25th. All the beautiful Christmas decorations and wonderful seasonal songs are in fitting tribute to … WHAT?   Do any of the myriad of hypocrites and phony spiritual seekers ever actually read what the baby Jesus said as a man:

” And when the people saw him come they said ‘All hail! Behold the king!’ But Jesus answered not; he saw the money changers in the house of God, and he was grieved. The courts had been converted into marts of trade, and men were selling lambs and doves for offerings of sacrifice. And Jesus called the priests and said ‘ Behold, for paltry gain you have sold out the temple of the Lord. This house ordained for prayer is now a den of thieves. Can good and evil dwell together in the courts of God? I tell you NO!’

And then he made a scourge of cords and drove the merchants out. He overturned their boards, and threw their money on the floor. He opened the cages of the captive birds, and cut the cords that bound the lambs, and set them free. The priests and scribes rushed out, and they would have done him harm, but they were driven back; the common people stood in his defense.”

To this writer the priests and scribes were symbolic of today’s religious, political and media hypocrites who flourish in great comfort and style. Jesus laid into them as well:

” Woe unto you , you Pharisees and Scribes! you love the highest seats in synagogues and courts, and bid for salutations in the marketplace. Woe unto you, you tinseled gentry of the land! No man would EVER think of you as servants of the Lord of hosts by what you do… Woe unto you, you masters of the law! You heap great burdens on the sons of men, yea, loads by far too great for them to bear, and you will never help to bear a feather’s weight yourselves… Woe unto you, you masters of the law! You snatch the keys of knowledge from the hands of men… “

Putting materialism and crazy consumerism aside when each Christmas season is once again upon us, please focus on something else for a moment.

Stating it succinctly, those who run our Military Industrial Empire have hijacked Jesus! They begin with the baby born in but a manger, and snatch him right up until he is crucified.

Even that aspect of his ending has been skewed. The fools and hypocrites who run this empire and influence many of its religions will tell you that his purpose here on earth was to ‘ Die for your sins’.

They go on to tell you how the Heaven after our death is all that counts etc etc. Yogananda, the  great Hindu teacher who introduced yoga to the West, and even taught it to Gandhi , revered Jesus as the Logos or The Christ. 

He  revealed how this carnal existence is but a dream, and the manner in which  each of us acts and behaves in this dream is so ever important to what will follow us after we leave this plane.

Reading the New Testament carefully will instruct anyone who really cares that what Jesus stood for was unconditional Love and forgiveness … and just as paramount:  JUSTICE!  As the old saying goes: ” Let justice prevail or may the heavens fall!”

Happy Christmas!

PA Farruggio

December 2018

Philip A Farruggio is a son and grandson of Brooklyn , NYC longshoremen. He has been a free lance columnist since 2001, with over 400 of his work posted on sites like Global Research, Greanville Post, Off Guardian, Consortium News, Information Clearing House, ,Nation of Change, World News Trust, Op Ed News, Dissident Voice, , Activist Post, Sleuth Journal, Truthout and many others. His blog can be read in full on World News Trust., whereupon he writes a great deal on the need to cut military spending drastically and send the savings back to save our cities. Philip has a internet interview show, ‘ It’s the Empire… Stupid’ with producer Chuck Gregory, and can be reached at [email protected] )

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A socialist South Africa led by the working class – this is the vision of the of the newly registered political party, the Socialist Revolutionary Workers’ Party (SRWP).

At the party’s two-day long pre-launch conference, which began on Friday at the Birchwood Hotel in Boksburg, over a thousand delegates from different parts of the country congregated to discuss, among other things, what it means to promote socialism in South Africa.

According to SRWP acting spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola, this was the party’s first national gathering since a decision was taken to establish the organisation.

“This conference is an opportunity for us to get a sense of where we are in terms of the work that we have done over the last year. We will also speak about our values and general socialist principles of fighting for a society where land is owned by the working class, where the wealth is shared among us and where the mineral wealth of the country is owned by the people,” she said.

At a special national congress held by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) in 2013, the organisation made the decision to start a political party that put the needs of the marginalised and most affected by issues like poverty and unemployment, first.

SWRP national convener, Irvin Jim, explained: “In 2013 the central committee of Numsa resolved that we must convene a special national congress to reflect on the fact that the country was on a downward spiral, but only the working class is affected,” he said.

“Workers then decided that the working class must organise itself by forming a worker’s party and, we were very clear at the time, that workers must also present a united front to champion their struggles.That is how the party came about.”

Hlubi-Majola, who is also Numsa’s spokesperson, added, “we had realised that the political system had failed the working class. It was then decided that Numsa would do the work to give birth to a worker’s party whose focus would be to drive the agenda for the working class in South Africa and fight capitalism.”

According to Jim, the pre-launch conference would see the party make decisions as a build-up to the formal launch, which will take place early next year. Jim, who is also Numsa’s secretary-general, said that he was happy with the party’s progress since Numsa’s decision.

“The party is growing fast and has a presence in all nine provinces. We have a sizeable number of national leadership and branches all over the country,” he said.

Jim said that the “party is registered and we are eligible to participate in the elections next year.” However, he wasn’t able to say if the party will contest the elections.

“As communists we have an old view that elections are not necessarily a solution, however, they are a tactic that can be explored to test if we have the support of the working class.”

Earlier this year, the IEC rejected the party’s application to register due to issues relating to its name and logo. But in November the SRWP’s registration was finally approved.

According to Jim, the party is made up of some member’s of SA Federation of Trade Unions, members of the young nurse’s indaba trade union and members of the working class, who have come from other political parties.

Milo Semenya (48), a teacher in Klerksdorp and member of the SRWP, said that he was tired of a government that had not done enough for educators.

“I was a member of the SA Communist Party since 1990, but now I am a member of the SRWP. As educators we experience things like bullying from students, we lack resources and infrastructure. This is because the government is doing nothing to protect us or supply [us with] what we need,” he said.

“SRWP is my hope now. It represents us, the workers, those who work the hardest. I believe they will bring change.”

Earlier this week, former SABC chief operating office, Hlaudi Motsoaneng, launched his own political party, the African Content Movement (ACM), which he said would contest Cyril Ramaphosa’s presidency during the national elections next year.

Featured image: SRWP members hold up the party banner at the pre-launch. Picture: Palesa Dlamini

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“Bring me Goldman Sachs!”

As outlandish as it might sound, Malaysian authorities are in the process of dragging the bank – or at least, some of its employees and subsidiaries – to Malaysia to face criminal charges filed against subsidiaries of the bank, as well as two senior bankers (who have also been indicted in the US), over charges alleging that the bank lied in its bond covenants with the intention of misleading investors in the three bond issuances it handled for 1MDB, and that Goldman knew corrupt Malaysian officials were preparing to loot 1MDB, the sovereign wealth fund at the center of one of history’s largest money laundering scandals, but chose to pursue the deals anyway.

In a guide to how the criminal charges filed yesterday against three subsidiaries of the bank and two of its employees, Bloomberg explained that Malaysian prosecutor M Kurup, who has been tasked with overseeing the case, isn’t playing around. “We want Goldman Sachs here,” he said.

Malaysian trials are similar to the English common law system (upon which they are based):

Criminal court proceedings are public and open to all, barring exceptions made by a judge or a court gag order. (Najib’s lawyers have sought such an order for his case to prevent a “trial by media.”) Malaysia’s legal system won’t be altogether alien to western companies and lawyers, since it’s fashioned on English common law. (Malaysia gained independence from Britain in the 1950s.) So there’s a presumption of innocence for defendants and a requirement by prosecutors to prove a case beyond reasonable doubt. Goldman’s cases would be tried by a judge, highlighting one difference from English law: Malaysia scrapped juries in 1995. The seriousness of the charges — which carry fines for businesses and jail terms of up to 10 years and fines for individuals — means defendants are required to attend. A trial might be delayed or lengthened if the prosecution attempts to subpoena overseas-based personnel. “We want Goldman Sachs here,” said Malaysia’s prosecutor M Kurup.

The bank will be given the opportunity to make its defense – namely, that it was misled by corrupt Malaysian officials.

Goldman said the charges came without a chance for the firm to provide its view. “Certain members of the former Malaysian government and 1MDB lied to Goldman Sachs, outside counsel and others about the use of proceeds from these transactions,” the bank said in a statement. “1MDB, whose CEO and board reported directly to the prime minister at the time, also provided written assurances to Goldman Sachs for each transaction that no intermediaries were involved.” According to Nizam Ismail, a partner at RHTLaw Taylor Wessing LLP in Singapore, a criminal conviction against one or more Goldman units could “affect their status as fit and proper persons” and impact their standings as licensed entities. “Regulators that are regulating Goldman entities worldwide will be watching developments in Malaysia closely,” he said. In the U.S., criminal convictions against banks used to be considered a death sentence, but they’ve become common-place after a flurry of currency-rigging cases.

But perhaps the most concerning aspect of this criminal case is the possible culpability of senior Goldman executives, including CEO David Solomon and CFO Stephen Scherr, both of whom were involved with the committees of senior partners who signed off on the deal. Unlike previous Goldman scandals, 1MDB is unique in that it originated with Goldman’s investment bank – not its trading desk, which is notorious for ripping off the faces of clients, according to CNBC.

“Anyone who’s been there a long time knows you can’t do big things without senior people knowing, period,” said one former Goldman employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he still has dealings with the bank. “No matter how senior you are, there’s always somebody above you. So a lot of people had to decide they were comfortable committing billions of dollars to this.”

Goldman has argued that it couldn’t have known that corrupt Malaysian financier Jho Low was planning to plunder 1MDB (DOJ officials allege $4.5 billion was diverted into slush funds and used to pay bribes). But it’s becoming increasingly clear to all that the bank knew the deals – which generated a staggering $600 million in fees (on $6.5 billion in business) due to the bank’s need to hold the bonds on its books instead of immediately pawning them off on investors. The bank said 1MDB didn’t care about the higher fees because it wanted the capital “right away”. That this also didn’t raise red flags doesn’t reflect well on Goldman’s compliance systems, which current Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed joked “don’t work very well.”

The upshot: As the DOJ probe ramps up and governments from Switzerland and Singapore pursue prosecutions of their own related to the 1MDB fraud, Goldman won’t be able to simply write off the Malaysians as a side show to the maneuvering of prosecutors in the US. And that probably doesn’t bode well for Goldman’s battered share price.

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Updated, December 20, 2018

The unspoken US policy objective behind the arrest of  Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou on trumped up charges, consists in breaking China’s technological lead in wireless telecommunications. 

What is at stake is a coordinated US and allied intelligence initiative to ban China’s Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd from the “next generation” state of the art 5G global mobile phone network.

The intelligence operation is led by “Five Eyes”, a so-called “intelligence-sharing alliance to combat espionage” between the US and its four (junior) Anglo-Saxon partners: UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand.  

Western media tabloids repeatedly refer to legitimate “national security concerns” as a justification for the banning of China’s telecom equipment.

What is at stake is a fierce battle in the global wireless telecom industry. 

Spy Chiefs Meet Behind Closed Doors in Nova Scotia 

On July 17, the spy chiefs from the “Five Eyes” nations travelled from Ottawa to Nova Scotia for a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (who was on a Nova Scotia tour including meetings with NS Premier Stephen McNeil)

The meeting with the “Five Eyes” spy chiefs hosted by Trudeau was held at an (unnamed) coastal resort in Nova Scotia. It was casually described by The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) as “an informal evening after intense talks in nearby Ottawa”. Nearby?

The encounter with Canada’s Prime Minister was neither informal nor spontaneous. His presence at that meeting served to provide a “political green-light” to the “Five Eyes”  “intelligence campaign” against China:

“Trudeau, …  dropped in on the gathering to share some thoughts about geopolitical threats [from China and Russia].

In the months that followed that July 17 dinner, an unprecedented campaign has been waged by those present – Australia, the US, Canada, New Zealand and the UK – to block Chinese tech giant Huawei from supplying equipment for their next-generation wireless networks.

This increasingly muscular posture towards Beijing culminated in last week’s arrest of Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, in Vancouver, over alleged breaches of US sanctions with Iran. (Sidney Morning Herald, December 13, 2018)

CIA Director Gina Haspel and Britain’s MI6 Chief Michael Younger were in attendance. The intent of this meeting was crystal clear. The arrest of Meng Wanzhou was part of a broader intelligence strategy directed against China which had been planned well in advance.

Trudeau’s July 16-17 tour in Nova Scotia was reported upon. Sofar, the Canadian media has failed to mention Trudeau’s July 17, 2018 meeting with the “Five Eyes” chiefs of intelligence.

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Screen-scan  of Wall Street Journal, December 14, 2018

Failure of the US Telecom Industries

It’s what you call “Fair Competition”. Bring in the Spy Chiefs!

Let’s face it : The US based telecom conglomerates are up against the wall.  The industry is in a shambles.

Moreover, the US no longer produces smart phones. Its manufacturing base in Silicon Valley has been closed down. US smart phone companies increasingly rely on China not only for cellphone production but also for the development of intellectual property.

China is not only the largest producer of cellphones Worldwide, it is a leader in wireless technology. According to an August 2018 report by Deloitte Consulting:

China is winning the race against the United States to build a faster nationwide wireless network that uses 5G technology, billed as the mobile industry’s future. Unless the U.S. moves more quickly, it will be at a major disadvantage when it comes to creating dominant new companies in the emerging space….

Accordingly, countries that adopt 5G first are expected to experience disproportionate gains in macroeconomic impact compared to those that lag,” the report’s authors said.

U.S. companies have been sounding the alarm over a purported race against China over 5G, perhaps playing to the fears and strategic desires of the Trump White House. (Fortune, August 7, 2018)

Global Research is based in Montreal.

The complicity of the Canadian government in the arrest of  CFO Meng Wanzhou on behalf of the Trump White House is reprehensible. It puts in jeopardy Canada’s longstanding economic, social and cultural ties with the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

UPDATE

Did the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) play a role in the arrest of Ms. Meng Wanzhou on December 1, 2018?

The arrest of Meng Wanzhou on December 1 in Vancouver coincided with the evening dinner meeting between presidents Xi Jinping and Donald Trump in Buenos Aires on the sidelines of the G-20 summit.

Moreover, according to China’s news agency Xinhua Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau had advanced knowledge of the arrest and did nothing to prevent it from happening:

“…He didn’t notify the Chinese side. Instead, he let this kind of nasty thing to happen and assisted the US side’s unilateral hegemonic behaviour – this has hurt the feeling of Chinese people.”

As outlined above, Prime Minister Trudeau had already granted the green-light to the “Five Eyes” intelligence chiefs at the July 17 secret meeting in Nova Scotia.

Huawei portrayed by CSIS as a threat to National Security

While news reports and official statements intimate that Huawei constitutes a potential cybersecurity risk, Ms. Meng Wanzhou was arrested on December 1, 2018 in Vancouver for allegedly having violated the US sponsored Iran sanctions regime.

What was the role of Canada’s Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) in the arrest of Meng Wanzhou?  CSIS Director David Vigneault hosted the “Five Eyes” meeting of spy chiefs in Ottawa and Nova Scotia on July 17. Prime Minister Trudeau was present at the Novo Scotia meeting.

December 4, 2018: Three days after the arrest of Meng Wenzhou, Canada’s spy chief David Vigneault addressed a luncheon meeting at the Economic Club (EC) of  Canada in Toronto, intimating that “hostile states [China] are targeting large [Canadian] companies and universities”.  According to Vigneault:

 “Many of these advanced technologies are dual-use in nature in that they could advance a country’s economic, security and military interests.”

In his address, Canada’s spy chief warned of the danger of “state-sponsored espionage through technology such as next-generation 5G mobile networks.” (Globe and Mail December 4, 2018)

“Canadian Security Intelligence Service director David Vigneault’s comments come as three of the country’s Five Eyes intelligence-sharing allies have barred wireless carriers from installing equipment made by China’s Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. in the 5G infrastructure they are building to provide an even-more-connected network for smartphone users.

On December 3, 2018, the head of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, known as MI6, publicly raised security concerns about Huawei telecommunications being involved in his country’s communications infrastructure.

Both Canada and Britain are conducting security reviews of the Chinese company’s 5G technology.

Mr. Vigneault said large corporations typically hold the most valuable information but they try to put in state-of-the-art cyberdefences, while Canadian universities are largely unaware how they are vulnerable to economic espionage and the threat of infiltration by unnamed state actors who would use their expertise to gain an edge in military technologies. Huawei has developed research and development partnerships with many of Canada’s leading academic institutions.” (Globe and Mail, December 4, 2018, emphasis added)

It should be noted that the meeting and the specific theme of David Vigneault’s presentation at the Economic Club on December 4, 2018 had been scheduled well in advance of the arrest of Ms. Meng Wanzhou on December 1.  (See Economic Club )
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Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research,  Montreal, December 16, 2018, updated December 20, 2018

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Selected Article

America’s “Cell Phone War” against China: HuaWei CFO Meng Wanzhou Held Hostage by Canada

By Christopher Black, December 14, 2018

It is clear the US is pushing the battle line to our door … We can completely regard the US arrest of Meng Wanzhou as a declaration of war against China.”

China’s Toughness v. Weak-Kneed Russia: Beijing’s Response to Arrest of Meng Wanzhou

By Stephen Lendman, December 14, 2018

In response to the lawless arrest, detention, and mistreatment of Huawei Technologies’ chief financial officer Sabrina Meng Wanzhou by Canadian authorities in Vancouver on December 1, acting as a Trump regime proxy, Beijing demanded her immediate release, warning of “grave consequences” otherwise.

“Five Eyes” Intelligence Agencies Behind Drive Against Chinese Telecom Giant Huawei.

By Nick Beams, December 14, 2018

Evidence has come to light that US operations against the Chinese telecommunications giant HuaWei (华为) and the arrest and detention of one of its top executives, Meng Wanzhou, to face criminal charges of fraud brought by the US Justice Department are the outcome of a coordinated campaign by the intelligence agencies of the so-called “Five Eyes” network.

Trump and China: Towards a Cold or Hot War?

By Marc Vandepitte, December 12, 2018

At first glance, the dispute between the US and China revolves around unfair competition and theft of intellectual property. On closer inspection it is about something much more fundamental, namely frantic attempts by Washington to preserve its hegemony over this planet. Are we heading for a clash between the two titans?

Video: Behind the US Attack on Chinese Smartphones

By Manlio Dinucci, December 12, 2018

After having imposed heavy taxes on Chinese merchandise – 250 billion dollars – President Trump, at the G-20, accepted a “truce” by postponing further measures, mainly because the US economy has been struck by Chinese retaliation.

On World Human Rights Day, the Inhumane Treatment of Huawei Meng Wanzhou by Canadian Authorities Becomes Clearer

By Adam Garrie, December 10, 2018

After summoning the Canadian Ambassador in Beijing, China has now summoned the American Ambassador to discuss the status of Meng Wanzhou – the Chinese political prisoner who remains behind bars in Canada in spite of having committed no wrongdoing.

Trump’s Trade War with China: Imagine What Would Happen if China Decided to Impose Economic Sanctions on the USA?

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky, November 29, 2018

What Trump does not realize is that the trade deficit with China contributes to sustaining America’s retail economy, it also contributes to the growth of America’s GDP.

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Bloomberg in its article, “U.S. House Passes Resolution Opposing Russian Gas Pipeline,” would report:

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a largely symbolic resolution expressing opposition to Gazprom PJSC’s $11 billion Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, on concerns that the project will boost the Kremlin’s control over Europe’s energy supplies.

Bloomberg would also report:

While the resolution is non-binding, it highlights growing Congressional opposition to the Russian project. The Trump administration is reviewing potential sanctions against the European companies involved. The pipeline, which would send Russian gas to Germany, has financing agreements with Engie SA and Royal Dutch Shell Plc, among others.

By passing this resolution, the United States presumes to dictate to all of Europe who they can and cannot do business with.

And while the resolution itself is “non-binding,” the resolution itself admits it:

…supports the imposition of sanctions with respect to Nord Stream II under section 232 of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (22 U.S.C. 9526).

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline circumvents Ukraine through which Russia had previously shipped natural gas to the rest of Europe. The Russian Federation, and before that, the Soviet Union had for decades reliably supplied Europe with natural gas through Ukraine.

It was not until an openly US-backed putsch swept the elected government of Ukraine from power in 2014 and transformed Ukrainian foreign policy into being openly hostile toward Moscow, that gas flow was jeopardized, prompting Russia to pursue alternatives – including Nord Stream 2.

US Dictates to Europe to Save it from a “Russian Dictatorship?”

Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline is not a unilateral project – it includes partners from Germany such as Uniper SE and Wintershall, as well as Dutch natural gas infrastructure and transportation company, Gasunie.

The pipeline has also been approved by the elected German government itself.

German public media, Deutsche Welle (DW), in an article titled, “Germany approves Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline,” would report:

Germany has given a green light to the construction of the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea, the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency said Tuesday.

The decision means all legal hurdles to building a 31-kilometer (20 mile) section of the pipeline in Germany’s exclusive economic zone have been cleared. In January, authorities approved construction of a gas pipeline segment in German territorial waters.

In what is essentially a bilateral deal between Germany and Russia, the US – from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean – “expresses opposition” to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and is preparing to target companies involved to prevent the pipeline’s completion and use.

It is the ultimate irony and the pinnacle of hypocrisy that the US claims in its own resolution that Russia seeks to “control” European energy markets while the US House resolution itself is an open demonstration of Washington’s desire to control European energy policy.

Where Europe buys its energy would presumably be Europe’s – not Washington’s – business. It is unlikely that Washington would respond well to Europe attempting to pressure the United States into drastically changing its energy policy for whatever reason – particularly through coercive economic sanctions.

“Diversifying” Means Buying Anglo-American Petrochemicals 

The US resolution mentions the Southern Gas Corridor as part of US “policy to support European energy security through diversification of supplies.”

That pipeline connects gas taken mostly from the Shah Deniz gas field in Azerbaijan which is jointly owned by British Petroleum and the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR), but also Turkish and Russian interests as well.

What the US resolution does not mention – likely recognizing just how transparent US motivations would be if it did – is the other option the US is promoting EU energy diversification with.

In Politico’s 2014 article, “US pushes for EU energy diversification,” this other option would be spelled out. The article would admit (emphasis added):

In a joint statement issued this morning, the US and EU said that both sides underlined the importance of co-operation on smart grids, energy storage, nuclear fusion, hydrogen and fuel cells, energy efficiency, nuclear and unconventional hydrocarbons (shale gas).

By 2018, Forbes would report in its article, “The U.S. Is Still The Global Natural Gas King,” that:

In 2017, the U.S. produced an average of 71.1 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of natural gas. That’s a 1.0% increase from 2016 production, but not quite good enough to beat the 2015 record of 71.6 Bcf/d.

Forbes would put the numbers in perspective, reporting:

…natural gas production for the entire Middle East was 63.8 Bcf/d. Russia, in second place among countries, saw its natural gas production surge by 8.2%, but at 61.5 Bcf/d that was still well behind the U.S.

But two fundamental problems impede US energy dominance in Europe.

First, Russia has more proven natural gas reserves than the US. Forbes itself would admit that US domination of gas production would only last a few more years.

Second, transporting gas across the Atlantic Ocean as liquid natural gas (LNG) is more expensive than through existing pipelines delivering Russian gas to Europe.

These are not conclusions drawn by Gazprom executives or the Kremlin, but rather America’s own corporate-funded policymakers.

A 2014 Brookings Institution report titled, “Why Russian Natural Gas Will Dominate European Markets,” would admit:

LNG is more expensive, and it will take many years to get other competitive supplies, for instance from the Caspian region, into the market.

If the US cannot possibly compete in free and fair markets, why is Washington so confident it can still “support European energy security through diversification of supplies?” 

US Uses Coercion/Conflict to Compensate for Inability to Compete 

To compensate for America’s inability to compete through free and fair markets, Washington has resorted to a number of more dubious measures.

The 2014 violent overthrow of the Ukrainian government and the subsequently hostile regime Washington is backing in Kiev is one part of this equation.

Provocations including the more recent Kerch Strait incident help maintain political pressure on Moscow and attempt to ratchet up tensions between Moscow and its European energy partners.

Moving NATO up to Russia’s borders through such provocations helps produce and maintain wider tensions and instability amid Russian-European ties.

Passing resolutions opposing Russian pipelines and threatening economic sanctions against companies based in supposedly “allied” states is another measure.

The now 2-year-long “Russiagate” disinformation campaign, vilifying Russia is yet another.

Articles and editorials across the Western media are piggybacking on the “Russiagate” narrative and resulting Russophobia to sell America’s rationale for undermining European sovereignty by dictating who European nations can and cannot do business with.

US State Department-funded and directed Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) in its September 2018 article, “Pipeline From Hell? Nord Stream 2 And Why It’s So Contentious,” is one such example.

The article claims:

Nord Stream 2 has been sharply criticized by several countries, both within the EU and abroad. Opponents of the project fear the pipeline will increase the bloc’s substantial dependence on Russian gas and argue that it runs counter to international sanctions imposed on Russia following its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

The article eventually admits nations “sharply criticizing” Nord Stream 2 “both within the EU and abroad,” are actually the United States and its US-NATO proxies in Poland, the Baltic states, and of course Ukraine.

The article admits:

Germany, Italy, and others still appear to be happy to make deals with Russian gas monopoly Gazprom, but countries from the former Eastern Bloc, such as Poland, have become especially wary of Moscow’s growing influence.

It also admits:

Latvia and Estonia have echoed Polish and Lithuanian concerns. All three Baltic states and Poland have signed a joint letter that calls Nord Stream 2 “an instrument of Russian state policy,” which “should be seen in the broader context of today’s Russian information and cyber-hostilities and military aggression.”

While the article – and many others like it – suggest Nord Stream 2 is an “instrument of Russian state policy” and represents a threat to Europe’s independence, US opposition to the pipeline and Russian energy supplies to Europe in general have manifested itself in the form of political meddling, economic coercion, and even violent coups and conflict as seen in Ukraine from 2014 onward.

At the end of the day, if “Germany, Italy and others are happy to make deals” with Russia, why would the US – self-appointed arbiter of global freedom and democracy – presume to have a say otherwise?

How do deep economic ties between Europe and Russia pose a problem to regional or global peace when the alternative – as the US clearly demonstrates – is not only a growing political, economic, and even military confrontation with Russia – but also the economic coercion and threatening of America’s own European allies?

Little adds up regarding America’s narrative regarding Nord Stream 2. What is clear through objective observation is Washington’s desire to eliminate a competitor at all costs – and to do so not through actual competition, but through coercion and the threat of increasingly dangerous conflict specifically because it cannot compete economically.

Since the US admittedly cannot compete economically, its success or failure will depend entirely on its ability to wield its wide arsenal of “soft power” weaponry – coercion, subversion, sanctions, and conflict by proxy. How far the US will go to ensure success is a matter only time can tell.

Originally posted on New Eastern Outlook

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook”.

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Agreed Rules, COP24 and Climate Change Protest

December 20th, 2018 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

“If children can get headlines all over the world just by not going to school, then imagine what we can alldo together if we really wanted to.” Greta Thunberg at COP24, Dec. 2018 

The world, if it goes off in a burn, will do so courtesy of the rules – or their elastic interpretation.  It was a fine show of contradiction at Katowice, and the Polish hospitality did not deter the 14,000 delegates drawn from 195 countries from bringing forth a beast of regulation to delight climate change bureaucrats for years.  Everyone clapped themselves in way emetic to any bystander suspicious about what had actually been achieved.  The question to ask, of course, is whether this fluffy, self-congratulatory exercise makes it past the canapés and becomes a genuine policy document.

Little progress was actually made on the issue of commitments to cut emissions, even if there was, in principle, an agreement on a set of rules to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement. As things stand, the planet is set to reach 3°C, while the Paris Agreement stresses the need to keep matters manageable to an increase of 1.5°C, which would lead to more modest environmental destruction. Considerable troubling silences persist on the issue of technicalities.  What, for instance, constitutes a suitable, measurable reduction in emissions or who monitors a country’s progress.

There were certain concessions.  Poorer states received more solid reassurances of assistance from wealthier states to deal with greenhouse-gas emissions and attendant environmental challenges.  China was pressed into accepting certain uniform guidelines to measure those emissions.  States who cannot follow the “rules” to reduce emissions must explain why and show a pathway to redress that failure, more a case of nudging than punishment.

Coal advocates would not, however, have left COP24 dispirited.  Poland’s own president, Andrzej Duda, gave a rumbustious display of refusal: his country, with 80 percent of its energy derived from coal, could not be asked to abandon 200 years’ worth of reserves before the idealistic abstinence of any green lobby.  Poland, not the planet, came first.

Michal Kurtyka, COP24’s chair and secretary of state in the Ministry of Environment, saw little by way of contradiction in a performance run by the Polish Coal Miners Band during the talks, nor coal displays in the foyer greeting guests.  It would have been silly, surmised Kurtyka, to dismiss the coal industry.  “There are also energy companies of course engaging in a path of sustainable development.”

But a certain smell lingered at COP24, the sense that the conference had been sponsored by the very same entities whose behaviour was to be controlled and, in the future, abolished altogether.  Kurtyka did little to dispel the aroma.  “I don’t sense that there is a problem with anybody’s participation, provided that we have the same goal.”

The climate change talks were also being held, as it were, in the den of fossil fuel symbolism.  Katowice was made by the legacy of coal rich reserves discovered in the mid-eighteenth century. Such delightful irony, as well, that the city could play host both to such a conference and the largest coal company in the European Union.

This did not deter Joanna Flisowska, a Katowice native and policy coordinator on coal for Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe.  “We can be such a bright example for the transition away from coal if only we could put effort into using these opportunities.”

On other fronts, the climate change lobby has taken something of a battering.  France’s Emmanuel Macron granted some concession to massive protests against fuel-tax rises supposedly designed to curb greenhouse-gas emissions.  Living standards have squared off against environmental policies.

The result of the foot dragging has been to illustrate a growing divide between citizen and government official.  “Hope,” claimed a despondent May Boeve, executive director of the climate change campaign group 350.org, “now rests on the shoulders of the many people who are rising to take action: the inspiring children who started an unprecedented wave of strikes in school to support a fossil-free [sic] future; the 1,000-plus institutions that committed to pull their money out of coal, oil, and gas, and the many communities worldwide who keep resisting fossil fuel development.”

Australia is particularly illustrative of this point, something emphasised by Greenpeace chief executive David Ritter.  “The divide between the Government and the young people of Australia is probably the greatest it’s been since those huge protests of the Vietnam War era, and I think it’s for a similar reason.”

Students of varying ages certainly add to Ritter’s suggestions, with thousands of Australian school children taking to the streets in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Coffs Harbour and Bendigo, to name but a spread of Australian cities, insisting that Prime Minister Scott Morrison heed their calls.  “The politicians aren’t listening to us when we try to ask nicely for what we want and for what we need,” suggested an irate Castlemaine student Harriet O’Shea Carre.  “So now we have to go to extreme lengths and miss out on school.”

It was, however, a 15-year-old Swede by the name of Greta Thunberg, whose single person vigil outside Sweden’s parliament building featured the sign “school strike for climate change”.  Three weeks were spent sitting in front of the Parliament during school hours, though she did return to classes for four days, using Friday as her weekly day of protest.

At Katowice, she made her own mark, a scolding aunt in the body of a disturbed teenager.  “You are not mature enough to tell it like is,” she told delegates in her capacity as a representative of Climate Justice Now. “Even that burden you leave us children.”

Thunberg is right about one fundamental point.  “You have ignored us in the past, and you will ignore us again.”  But to ignore the future in favour of the present, to cobble together an ineffectual regime that privileges current living standards in the hope that devastation can be postponed, is an inherent condition of the species.  Fiddling as the planet burns will continue.

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

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Recent hacked documents have revealed an international network of politicians, journalists, academics, researchers and military officers, all engaged in highly deceptive covert propaganda campaigns funded by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), NATO, Facebook and hardline national security institutions. 

This “network of networks”, as one document refers to them, centers around an ironically named outfit called the Integrity Initiative. And it is all overseen by a previously unknown England-based think tank registered in Scotland, the Institute for Statecraft, which has operated under a veil of secrecy.

The whole operation appears to be run by, and in conjunction with, members of British military intelligence.

According to David Miller, professor of political sociology in the school of policy studies at the University of Bristol and the director of the Organization for Propaganda Studies, the Integrity Initiative “appears to be a military directed push.”

“The most senior government people are professional propagandists and spooks,” Miller explained. “The ‘charity’ lead on this [Chris Donnelly] was also appointed as a colonel in military intelligence at the beginning of the project — a truly amazing fact that suggests this is a military intelligence cut out.”

A minister for the UK FCO has officially confirmed that it has been funding the Integrity Network.

In addition to conducting diplomacy, the FCO oversees both the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) the UK equivalent to the National Security Agency, and the Secret Intelligence Services (SIS) commonly known as MI6.

SOURCE: National Intelligence Machinery, UK government briefing November 2010

The think tank that oversees the Integrity Initiative, the Institute for Statecraft, has also received funding from the British Army and Ministry of Defense.

The entire extremely shady enterprise, as Miller explained, is an elaborate front for the British military-intelligence apparatus. Its covert coordination with friendly politicians and mainstream journalists recalls the Cold War-era intrigue known as Operation Mockingbird.

That scandal involved the unmasking of “more than 400 American journalists who…in the past twenty-five years have secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency,” as Carl Bernstein revealed in a 1977 Rolling Stone report

The exposing of the Integrity Initiative has just scratched the surface of what appears to be a much more sophisticated, insidious, and extremely online version of Operation Mockingbird. With new internal documents appearing each week through a hacker’s organization called Anonymous Europe, the revelations are yielding one of the most potentially explosive national security scandals in recent times.

But even as members of Britain’s parliament thunder with demands for official accountability, the UK and US mainstream media still strangely refuses to touch the story.

Smearing left-wing political figures in NATO member states

The Integrity Initiative claims that it is “counter[ing] Russian disinformation and malign influence,” and indeed, the main players behind it appear intent on hyping the Russian threat to justify ramped up military budgets and a long-term war footing.

Above: An Institute for Statecraft memo emphasizes the need for “ramping up” anti-Russian messaging

But the Integrity Initiative has also trained its fire on perceived subversives inside NATO member states, including the UK.

An article attacking left-wing activists that was listed in the “Recent Posts” section of the Integrity Initiative website

The Integrity Initiative waged a successful covert campaign to destroy the appointment of Pedro Baños to Director of Spain’s National Security Department on the bogus grounds that he was “pro-Kremlin,” thus interfering in the affairs of a fellow EU and NATO member. It carried out the hit job through a hand-picked “cluster” of Spanish politicians and operatives to flood social media and sympathetic outlets with messages demonizing Baños.

Above: an Integrity Initiative document detailing how the group’s clusters destroyed a Spanish national security appointee.

The Integrity Initiative appears to have employed the same tactics to smear left-wing journalists and political figures across the West, including the leader of the UK’s Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn.

Member of Parliament Chris Williamson – a close ally of Corbyn – is now openly and indignantly calling for “a public inquiry into the Integrity Initiative and similar information war efforts being funded by our government.” 

It is not necessarily illegal for the FCO to direct propaganda towards its own citizenry, according to Miller of the Organization for Propaganda Studies. However, he said that “it is not legal for ministers to effectively direct a charity. Thus, if the MoD through military intelligence are effectively running a charity, that would be contrary to law.” 

An abandoned mill in Scotland covers for an active office in London’s “Temple”

To conceal its potentially illegal activities, the Institute for Statecraft has employed a web of deceptions. Not only did they hide their government funding, the outfit listed a fake location as its address.

Mohammed Elmaazi, a co-author of this piece, discovered the elaborately hidden location of the Institute for Statecraft inside a posh warren of barristers’ offices in London. Elmaazi’s swift ejection from the premises confirmed the lengths that this shadowy organization continues to go to to avoid public scrutiny.

The Institute for Statecraft, is a registered charity in Scotland, whose registered office is listed as being an old mill in Fife Scotland involved in the “manufacture of wood and other products.” David Scott of UK Column news, visited the registered office in Fife only to find a “an empty, semi-derelict, partly demolished, building.”

The partially demolished address at Gateside Mills. Photo: David Scott

While the address in Fife, Scotland appears to be a derelict building, the London address listed in the hacked documents is fully operational, so far as Elmaazi could tell.

He located the offices belonging to The Institute for Statecraft at the Embankment at Two Temple Place in London. It shares offices in the basement of a “spectacular neo-gothic mansion” which is owned or leased by The Bulldog Trust, an organization dedicated to “promoting culture and philanthropy”. This area, known as “the Temple,” is filled with barristers’ chambers and used to serve as the precinct for the Knights of Templar.

A Christmas themed projection lights up the walls of 2 Temple Place. Photo: Mohamed Elmaazi

Elmaazi found the offices on December 6, having nearly given up and becoming convinced that he would discover nothing more than was found at the derelict house in Fife. When he arrived at the location, preparations were underway for some sort of Christmas-themed event to be held in the main building on the ground floor. But upon discovering the signs pointing downstairs to the basement, Elmaazi found himself staring at a door with a sign that read, “The Institute for Statecraft / The Fore.”  

Photo: Mohamed Elmaazi

No comment

Elmaazi rang the Institute for Statecraft’s doorbell and was eventually let in by a well-dressed elderly gentleman in a beige overcoat. The man claimed that he worked neither at The Institute nor at The Fore but at “another organization.” He then called out for “Charles.”  Having walked in, Elmaazi could see a few smaller offices to the side, with a larger planned office with tables and computers around the corner.

A man whom Elmaazi presumed was “Charles” came around the corner and called out, “Yes?” He seemed somewhat confused by the journalist’s presence, understandably so as he was there without an appointment. When “Charles” confirmed that he worked with the Institute for Statecraft, Elmaazi identified himself as a journalist and asked if he would be willing to be interviewed. The request was met with a curt refusal.

“Charles” then guided Elmaazi sternly with his hand back to the entrance. When the journalist repeated his request, he was met with stone silence. And that was that.

A “Charles Hart” is listed as the chairman of the Institute for Statecraft, but no photo is available to confirm that Hart was the same “Charles” that Elmaazi met.

The neocon connection

Two buildings away from the Institute for Statecraft, separated only by the home of British American Tobacco, lies the offices of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). This think tank is key organ of the Western foreign policy establishment, pushing military interventionism and promoting the Saudi-backed Syrian opposition-in-exile.

Among the funders of IISS is the Smith Richardson Foundation.

This foundation also happens to be a supporter of the Integrity Initiative, providing it with £45,000 (about $56,600 USD) for covert propaganda activities in Europe and the US. 

The Smith Richardson Foundation was founded by billionaire heir to the Vicks fortune, H. Smith Richardson, in 1935. In 1973, the founder’s son, Randolph Richardson – a free market fundamentalist and long-time patron of neoconservative ideologue Irving Kristol – inherited the organization. 

Kristol’s son, William Kristol, is a co-founder of the Project for a New American Century which openly called for the US to assert itself as the single global hegemon following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Recipients of funding from the Smith Richardson Foundation include a who’s who of neoconservative and militaristic right-wing institutions. The foundation has bankrolled neoconservative outfits like the American Enterprise Institute (to the tune of nearly $10 million since 1998), the Hudson Institute, the Institute for the Study of War, Freedom House, the Hoover Institution, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, along with Democratic Party-aligned think tanks like the Center for New American Security and the Center for American Progress.

“To say the [Smith Richardson] foundation was involved at every level in the lobbying for and crafting of the so-called global war on terror after 9/11 would be an understatement,” wrote Kelley Vlahos in a profile of Nadia Schadlow, a former Trump administration deputy national security advisor who previously worked as the senior program director for Smith Richardson.

Smith Richardson complements a roster of international funders backing the Integrity Initiative’s parent organization:

  1. HQ NATO Public Diplomacy, £12,000 for each inaugural workshop = £168,000
  2. Partner institutions £5,000 for each inaugural workshop = £70,000
  3. NATO HQ for educational video films – free provision of camera team
  4. Lithuanian MOD to provide free all costs for their stratcom team for a monthly trip to support a new hub/cluster creation and to educate cluster leaders and key people in Vilnius in infowar techniques = £20,000
  5. US State Dept, for research and dissemination activities (excluding any activity in USA) = £250,000
  6. Smith Richardson Foundation, £45,000 for cluster activities in Europe and USA
  7. Facebook, £100,000 for research and education activities
  8. German business community, £25,000 for research and dissemination in EU countries

A covert asset in the Bernie campaign?

Elmaazi, the co-author of this piece, was not the only reporter to gain momentary access to the Institute for Statecraft’s hidden location at 2 Temple Place. On December 11, five days after Elmaazi’s visit, Kit Klarenberg of Sputnik Radio entered the covert propaganda mill’s neo-gothic offices. As soon as he identified himself as a journalist, he was angrily ejected by an Institute for Statecraft staffer named Simon Bracey-Lane.

“You need to leave right now!” Bracey-Lane barked at Klarenberg. “You haven’t arranged to see us! Go! Right now! Please leave immediately! Leave!”

Bracey-Lane is a 20-something British citizen with no publicly acknowledged experience in intelligence work. But as Klarenberg noted, there are some unusual details in the young staffer’s bio.

In 2016, Bracey-Lane appeared out of nowhere to work in Iowa as a field organizer for the Bernie Sanders campaign for president.

Simon Bracey-Lane being interviewed in Bernie Sanders’ Iowa field office on January 27, 2016

“I spent a year working, saving all my money, just thought I was gonna go on a two month road trip from Seattle to New York and I thought, you know what? I’m gonna stay and work for the Bernie Sanders campaign,” Bracey-Lane told a reporter for AFP on January 27, 2016.

He said that after he decided to work for Bernie, he first went to England to “get a visa and get everything legal,” then came back to join the campaign in earnest.

Bracey-Lane also claimed to AFP, “I’m not sure there’s a place for me in British politics… I’ve never been struck by an urge to work in my own political system.”

However, a February 1, 2016 profile of Bracey-Lane by Buzzfeed’s Jim Waterson said the Brit-for-Bernie “was inspired to rejoin the Labour party in September [2015] when Corbyn was elected leader. But by that point, he was already in the US on holiday.”

It is clearly odd for Bracey-Lane to tell one reporter that he had never had any interest in British politics, while claiming to another that he had been eager to support Corbyn before he joined the Bernie campaign. What’s more, as Klarenberg reported, Bracey-Lane went on to establish a get-out-the-vote effort for various progressive politicians and parties in Britain’s 2017 general election, gaining inside access to a wide array of campaigns.

The contradiction in Bracey-Lane’s narrative raises serious questions about his real role on the Bernie campaign, as does his suddenly transition from progressive politics to a staff position at a military-backed propaganda farm that waged a covert information war on Corbyn and other left-leaning politicians across the West.

An Institute for Statecraft document on “roles and relevant experience” of the outfit’s “expert team” notes that Bracey-Lane conducted a “special study of Russian interference in the US electoral process.” The document does not make clear when that study was conducted, however, it is listed directly next to its author’s history of work with the Bernie campaign.

“At Thanksgiving, I was asked, why are you meddling?” Bracey-Lane remarked to Reuters, referring to his work for Bernie Sanders. “Which is an interesting way to phrase it, but I was happy to answer: it needs meddling with.”

Those comments take on an entirely different meaning now that the former Bernie field worker has been outed as part of a British military-intelligence influence operation.

In the coming days, the Grayzone will take a closer look at the Integrity Initiative’s activity inside the US, and whether it is interfering in American politics as it has done in other NATO member states.

Mohamed Elmaazi obtained his LLB from SOAS and Masters in International and Comparative law from the American University in Cairo. He worked in human rights law for a number of years before shifting to journalism. He occasionally reports for The Real News Network and currently contributes to Open Democracy, The Canary, and the Grayzone. You can follow him on Twitter @MElmaazi

Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and the author of books including best-selling Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement That Shattered the PartyGoliath: Life and Loathing in Greater IsraelThe Fifty One Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza, and The Management of Savagery, which will be published later this year by Verso. He has also produced numerous print articles for an array of publications, many video reports and several documentaries including Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie and the forthcoming Killing Gaza. Blumenthal founded the Grayzone Project in 2015 to shine a journalistic light on America’s state of perpetual war and its dangerous domestic repercussions.
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Don’t Hold Your Breath on US Troop Withdrawal from Syria

December 20th, 2018 by Patrick Lawrence

The announcement on Wednesday that the U.S. will withdraw all remaining troops from Syria within the next month looked at first like a rare victory for Donald Trump in his admittedly erratic opposition to senseless wars of adventure. “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there,” the president tweeted with an unmistakable air of triumph.

Don’t get your hopes up. Just about everything in these initial reports is either wrong or misleading. One, the U.S. did not defeat the Islamic State: The Syrian Arab Army, aided by Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah militias did. Two, hardly was ISIS the only reason the U.S. has maintained a presence in Syria. The intent for years was to support a coup against the Assad government in Damascus—in part by training and equipping jihadists often allied with ISIS. For at least the past six months, the U.S. military’s intent in Syria has been to counter Iranian influence.

Last and hardly least, the U.S. is not closing down its military presence in Syria. It is digging in for an indefinite period, making Raqqa the equivalent of the Green Zone in Baghdad. By the official count, there are 503 U.S. troops stationed in the Islamic State’s former capital. Unofficially, according to The Washington Post and other press reports, the figure is closer to 4,000—twice the number that is supposed to represent a “full withdrawal” from Syrian soil.

It would be nice to think Washington has at last accepted defeat in Syria, given it is preposterous to pretend otherwise any longer. Damascus is now well into its consolidation phase. Russia, Iran, and Turkey are currently working with Staffan de Mistura, the UN’s special envoy for Syria, to form a committee in January to begin drafting a new Syrian constitution.

U.S. forces conducted a precision airstrike near Sarmada in northwest Syria Nov. 18 that Pentagon says killed a senior al-Qaida leader. (Army photo by 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson)

It would also be nice to think the president and commander-in-chief has the final say in his administration’s policies overseas, given the constitution by which we are supposed to be governed. But the misleading announcement on the withdrawal of troops, followed by Trump’s boastful tweet, suggest something close to exactly the opposite.

As Trump finishes his second year in office, the pattern is plain: This president can have all the foreign policy ideas he wants, but the Pentagon, State, the intelligence apparatus, and the rest of what some call “the deep state” will either reverse, delay, or never implement any policy not to its liking.

Blocking Few Good Ideas

Syria is a case in point, but one among many. Trump announced in March that he would withdraw American troops as soon as the fight against ISIS was finished. By September the Pentagon was saying no, U.S. forces had to stay until Damascus and its political opponents achieved a full settlement. From the new HQ in Raqqa, The Washington Post tells us, U.S. forces will extend “overall control, perhaps indefinitely, of an area comprising nearly a third of Syria.”

This is how 2018 has gone for Trump. This president has very few good ideas, but we can count on his foreign policy minders to block those he does have if they fail to conform to the orthodox playbook—the foreign policy “blob,” as Barack Obama famously called it.

Reversal on Military Budget

Earlier this month Trump complained about the Pentagon’s out-of-control budget and pledged to cut it, if marginally, from its current $716 billion to $700 billion in the 2020 fiscal year. “I am certain that, at some time in the future,” he said in one of his inevitable tweets, “President Xi and I, together with President Putin of Russia, will start talking about a meaningful halt to what has become a major and uncontrollable Arms Race. The U.S. spent 716 Billion Dollars this year. Crazy!”

Raqqa Internal Security Force Training Class receive their initial issue of equipment after training in Ayn Issa, Syria, July 31 2017.(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mitchell Ryan)

Days later the president had a meeting with Defense Secretary James Mattis and the chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services Committee. The White House announced immediately afterward that the three had agreed on a 2020 defense budget of $750 billion: from a 2 percent cut to an increase of nearly 5 percent in the course of one meeting.

Trump’s idea of improving relations with Russia has faced a wall of opposition from the first, needless to say. His summit with President Putin in Helsinki last July ignited a fresh uproar—and his suggestion that Putin come to Washington in the autumn still another. With Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats in the lead, that invitation was mocked to death within days. A New Year’s prediction: There will be no second summit with Putin, probably for the duration of Trump’s term in office.

Among the biggest disappointments of the year has been the administration’s failure to build on Trump’s effort to advance a settlement with North Korea after seven decades of tension in Northeast Asia. The Trump–Kim summit in Singapore last May did what initial encounters between heads of state are supposed to do: It established a working rapport. By that measure, any detached judgment of the meeting would have to count it a success.

But the U.S. press uniformly criticized Trump nonetheless for not coming home with the full details of the North’s nuclear disarmament. These same media have since treated us to the usual stories, sourced from the intelligence agencies, that the North is misleading us once again. Result: A second summit appears to have fallen off the White House’s agenda despite Trump’s statement at the UN last autumn that the two leaders would meet again “quite soon.”

One does not have to entertain any liking for Donald Trump to find this pattern disturbing. It suggests that our foreign policy cliques, wedded to an orthodoxy devoted more or less entirely to U.S. primacy, have positioned themselves—over the course of many administrations—to dictate America’s conduct abroad even to our presidents. There is danger in this, no matter who the occupant of the White House happens to be.

Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, is a columnist, essayist, author, and lecturer. His most recent book is Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century (Yale). Follow him@thefloutist. His web site is www.patricklawrence.us. Support his work via www.patreon.com/thefloutist.

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The manner of which political structures are erected in the United States, ensures that certain personalities inevitably rise to become elected as president. This has particularly been the case post-1945, with America having a string of dubious characters assuming leadership of the most powerful country in history.

Yet one must remember that the US has for generations comprised an empire, which has sought to maintain its strength to any degree possible. Only a certain type of figure can emerge to gain control of such a colossal power. Unreliable individuals like the Vermont senator Bernie Sanders are therefore rejected in favour of known quantities.

To sustain its might, America has felt the need to ignore and attack human rights if required, consistently pursuing policies to benefit its business-class elite and surrounding institutions.

George Kennan, the far-sighted US strategic planner, wrote in February 1948 that, “We should cease to talk about vague and unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization”. Among other things, Kennan recognized that to achieve this “the position of disparity” between rich and poor nations must be preserved, or widened further as the case has been.

Kennan was outlining an empire’s strategies in the aim of conserving its power whatever way necessary, plans not dissimilar to those of major powers in preceding centuries. Kennan’s words have neatly summarized US foreign policy, especially so in the decades following World War II.

To implement its corporate-based ambitions, the US has generally introduced misery and inequality to places where its influence is greatest, from Chile and Colombia, to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

For a government or media figure to exhort that America “is a beacon of freedom and democracy for the world”, is demonstrating not only high levels of naivety, but also a determined inability to grasp historical realities. It is impossible for a superpower to preserve its mastery by pursuing policies that will benefit the world’s general populations, be it in Vietnam, Iraq, Libya, and so on. This disregard for human liberties has been repeated by all imperial states over the past two millenia, dating to the Roman empire.

Should Iraq, for instance, have evolved into a flourishing democracy – as it could have become were its citizens left in peace – US influence in that country (control of oil) would have been wiped out. It was a similar situation in Vietnam, as Washington was faced with possible loss of command in a region of strategic importance. The US military, with presidential authority, decimated Vietnam and its neighbours rather than allow them to “fall like dominoes” and succumb to communism.

In north Africa, Libya is another significant nation; it has the ninth largest oil reserves in the world (more than America or China), while located in a pivotal territory. The US, and its military arm NATO, led the way in smashing Libya to pieces in 2011 so as to retain influence there – while also delivering a blow upon the Arab Spring revolution which was spreading to neighbouring Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria.

As with many US interventions, the March 2011 attack on Libya received broad support from establishment circles, later describing it as a “revolution”, and despite NATO war crimes becoming clear, “a success”.

Whether notable commentators actually believe what they are espousing, it once more reveals a glaring naivety, not to mention irresponsibility, emanating from so-called well educated people. If one should surrender themselves to institutions of power, it can be tempting to enter a domain in which the truth is difficult to locate, let alone perceive.

The result is a mixture of fantasy and self-delusion commonly on display from prominent opinion writers. The human desire for friendship – along with a need to fit in and be accepted by the right people – are other factors posing a menace to independent thinking that questions generally accepted norms.

An ingrained lack of critical, probing thought is surely a common thing at the world’s mass media centres. Yet a requirement to obey and stifle dangerous ideas is also prevalent in parliamentary buildings, universities and schools, where nonconformist beliefs are regularly suppressed or discouraged.

The political historian Gabriel Kolko noted that, “The desire to discover the truth must entail a willingness to challenge conventional wisdom… and to accept all of the potential consequences, some of them very substantial, for doing so. Only a tiny minority is ready to pursue such an innovative course”.

It may not be surprising that crucial problems are overlooked or ignored. The issue of nuclear weapons is hardly debated, and so public awareness of the enormity of this threat is low. This is incredible in itself as there will be a nuclear war before long in some region of the world – unless radical changes arrive which may only be achieved by committed, widespread activism.

In the decades following atomic attacks on Japan, increasingly powerful nuclear weapons have been used many times by US administrations – in the manner through which a bank robber takes money with the aid of a gun, but rarely fires it. There are more than two dozen documented instances of American leaders threatening to detonate nuclear bombs against enemy states (the USSR, China, etc.) so as to achieve certain demands.

Each year, false alarms occur in faulty nuclear weapons systems, be it in America or Russia, detailing a possible attack from the other side. Through sheer good luck no accident has yet occurred, but if such a conflict is to come, it will quite likely be due to an unforeseen incident. The planet is terribly fortunate to have avoided nuclear war so far, which would destroy large parts of the remaining life on our globe.

The means to deliver a nuclear assault has become increasingly sophisticated as the years go by, from jet aircraft to long-range missiles and high-tech submarines. Donald Trump, who may well be the most dangerous US president to date, has increased the likelihood of such a war with his 2018 Nuclear Posture Review. This process lowers the threshold for nuclear engagement, along with developing even more advanced means capable of launching an attack without response. The provocations are occurring “in the immediate vicinity of the Russian borders” as Moscow outlines.

Over the past generation, ongoing US-led NATO expansion up to Russia’s frontiers also increases the risk of a nuclear calamity, tactics broadly accepted and praised. It scarcely requires strong powers of deduction to realize that continually proceeding towards a nuclear superpower (Russia) increases the risk of war breaking out.

Still, a recent Guardian opinion editorial outlined that, “The NATO alliance has helped mould the modern world and ushered in a democratic, liberal world order characterised by open trade and open societies”.

In relation to the second major threat, climate change, Trump’s policies have also been disastrous – in spite of the American leader knowing precisely that the phenomenon is occurring. As Trump admitted over two months ago with regard climate change, “I think that something’s happening”. Yet from the beginning of his presidency in January 2017, he has chosen procedures which are leading to rising emissions in America for 2018 and beyond, in order to amass as much wealth as possible.

Amid other initiatives, Trump has loosened regulations on vehicle emissions, while aiding coal, oil and gas companies so that they can operate unhindered. These actions come as global carbon emissions are at an all time high and increasing, despite climate change first being discussed by government leaders at the 1992 Earth Summit in Brazil. Since the early 1990s, the world’s greenhouse gas rates have risen by over 60%.

The critically important COP24 climate conference, which concluded in Poland last week, was described as “insufficient” due to its hijacking “by short-sighted interests”. This is primarily because of the unwillingness of wealthy nations – those most responsible for emissions – to take firm steps in addressing climate change, leaving much of the burden on poverty-stricken countries.

There have been many wishful thoughts put forward on containing the global temperature rise “to within 1.5 Celsius” of pre-industrial levels; this is a fanciful target, however. As a result of government impotence, it will prove a serious challenge to keep world temperature increases to a 3 Celsius limit, let alone 2 Celsius. That would entail unimaginable climate consequences in decades to come, unless nuclear war intervenes bringing with it dramatic global cooling, crop failure and worldwide famine.

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Brazil’s far-right President-elect Jair Bolsonaro said on Tuesday that he would take all action “within the rule of law and democracy” to oppose the governments of Venezuela and Cuba.

Bolsonaro, who takes power Jan. 1, is a fervent anti-communist who has praised his country’s 1964-1985 military regime. He frequently targets Venezuela and Cuba for verbal attacks, a drastic change from Brazil’s governments under the leftist Workers Party that ruled from 2003 to 2016 and had warm relations with those governments.

Brazil’s incoming president did not provide any details during the Facebook live video when he made his most recent comments on Venezuela and Cuba.

The United States is counting on Brazil under Bolsonaro to be a strategic ally.

In late November, U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton met Bolsonaro in his Rio de Janeiro home to help cement ties.

Bolton said Bolsonaro’s election was a “historic opportunity” for Brazil and the United States to work together on security, economics and other issues.

Bolton hailed Bolsonaro’s election as a positive sign that Brazil would support U.S. pressure on Venezuela’s left-wing government of Nicolas Maduro, which he describes as part of “the troika of tyranny” in the Americas, alongside Cuba and Nicaragua.

Watch video here

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There simply isn’t any point in condemning the Tory party. They are now bereft of common sense, or morality for that matter. They listen to no-one, not even the electorate who are now aghast at not just their performance but their conduct. Their behaviour over Brexit will go down in history, they will never be forgotten, their reputation as the party that stands for good economics, business and stability lies in ruins. They are the party that made Britain an international laughing stock.

It was Europe, the issue for which many Conservatives still glorify Margeret Thatcher’s achievements, that led them to ditch her in 1990. John Major, the next Conservative PM to get involved in fighting over the EU never recovered from the ERM/Black Wednesday debacle that saw him ejected with the largest electoral defeat since the Great Reform Act of 1832. Then there was David Cameron, widely seen as Britain’s worst ever leader who simply walked away from the devastation of his decision. He stupidly attempted to stop Europe being the divisive political issue in his own party by settling this battle between the centre-right and radical right with a referendum – that backfired.

Not content with the gold medal for Britain’s worst leader, the Tories conjure up Theresa May. Her disastrous snap election should have told everyone in the room that this premiership was going down in flames. I warned time and time again that May was not up to the job of Home Secretary let alone lead the country at this most dangerous of moments.

She has single-handedly ruined her own authority, she is no longer believed any more and has absolutely no hope of success.

Watching this Prime Minister is a truly painful experience as she continues to drag us all through the same mindless game of ducking and diving survival techniques.

If there is any justice in the world, this entire political episode will be a stain on the reputation of the Tories forever. Truthfully, they should be disbanded and thrown to the wolves for what they have done.

As I have said before, Brexit has driven them mad. They are supposed to be the guardians of Gt Britain – instead, they are on course to destroy it. And for what?

They have pursued a lost cause which was impossible from the beginning. They then objected all the way to the wire to anything that gave clues of its complete futility. Desperate warnings from the very business groups and business leaders the Tories have classically supported through their own neoliberal ideologies have gone unheard. And the warnings are numerous and loud but they are deaf to its reality.

Their bickering and disputes have led them to attacking each other and even attempting to replace their terrible leader with a worse one whose own Brexit deal is the stuff of fantastical imagination and little else. Other than a hard-Brexit what are they proposing?

Cameron’s referendum folly has caused untold harm. So what now?

With well over one-third of her own party not confident that she should lead – Theresa May is left with one tactic – threatening the nation with a cliff-dive into oblivion or follow her into a slightly less painful catastrophe.

May is holding a gun to parliament’s head, she has spun the chamber and playing Russian roulette with Britain’s future. That’s it. We are all political prisoners to this rancid government.

And to think that the leader of the opposition has made no political capital out of this opportunity other than to create a panto scene of who said what about what women only goes to show the quality and leadership on both sides of the despatch box. Let’s call this out. Jeremy Corbyn is neck-and-neck with a lame duck whose political demise is 100 per cent assured. How is that even possible?

May has not secured any new concessions with Brussels. In fact, on her return, it appears that their position has hardened.

Theresa May’s deal is done. It has agreed on the so-called divorce, the transition period, further negotiations, citizens rights, other legally binding matters and of course, the backstop. If the backstop is rejected, the entire deal is rejected. May was told that her deal would not work but she has continued to drag us through this quagmire.

All other options are ignored. A second referendum is off the table because May says so. The week beginning 14th January is when the next drama plays out in Britain’s most agonising soap-opera. Amongst some of the most stupid political decisions ever including the Balfour Declaration, letting Murdoch into the British newspaper industry and backing Blair to become America’s arse-licking poodle – Theresa May is going to ask for a second time to back something she has already lost at every stage of asking.

And how much evidence-based documentation and information do we need before someone in the Tory party says ‘hang on a moment, we’re going off a cliff in a few weeks time.’ When someone did ask, the response is to put the army on the streets. Brilliant.

We have less than twelve weeks left before what those in the know think will happen – chaos breaks out. But hey – keep calm, it’s only looting, mugging, riots and a bit of gunfire.

The first working day after Brexit is April Fool’s day. It should be dedicated to the Tories. Forever.

It is foolish that this still needs saying at all, but a no-deal Brexit in any format is going to be a real event if Theresa May’s game of roulette fails. That being the case, the Civil Contingencies Act will likely suddenly become part of the lexicon of daily political terminology as the police and armed services equip themselves to deal with the fallout.

What is scary is that most people I talk to believe Theresa May has some sort of cunning plan – a political bunny to be pulled out of the Downing Street hat at the last moment and everyone will be amazed at her skill and intelligence that Britain was saved.

Theresa May cannot get the changes from the EU she promised MP’s after refusing to allow the vote on her deal. She is unable get her deal past the Commons and has to go to a vote on the 21st January. Nothing has changed except we’re closer to heading for the proverbial economic swallow dive.

There is only one set of facts remaining. Britain has a completely weakened Prime Minister unable to lead or govern and unable get her own deal through but is at the same time immune from being overthrown by her own party. But even if she was replaced, the utterly insane would take over and put Britain’s foot to the floor in an extreme version of Brexit called ‘crashing out’ – thus crippling the nation in every economic respect one could think of.

Or parliament could demand this all stops. That they take control of this madness and bring some sanity to the table. Somehow, with Corbyn on one side and some swivel-eyed Tory MP representing the 1850s on the other, this is highly unlikely.

Graham Vanbergen is the Editor of TruePublica and author of Brexit – A Corporate Coup D’Etat

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Crimes Against Humanity: The British Empire

December 20th, 2018 by Paul Gregoire

First published by Sydney Criminal Lawyers and crossposted on Global Research in July 2017.

It was the largest empire ever to have existed. And as the saying used to go, the sun never sets on the British Empire. At its height in 1922, the colonial power was lording it over a fifth of the world’s population and for many of them, the sun never rose again.

Under the policies of British colonialism, people around the globe were subjected to mass famines, atrocious conditions in concentration camps, and brutal massacres at the hands of imperialist troops. The Brits also played an integral role in the transatlantic slave trade.

Although the atrocities of the British Empire are well documented, the myth of the noble colonising power continued into recent decades.

The Migrated Archives

During proceedings in the British High Court in 2010, University of Warwick historian David M Anderson submitted a statement referring to 1,500 files that went missing from Kenya as British rule in the region was coming to an end.

This led the British government to concede that they had hidden or disposed of those files, and many others at a high-security facility north of London. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office was hiding around 600,000 historical documents in breach of the 1958 UK Public Records Act.

The stash included around 20,000 undisclosed files from 37 former British colonies. Indeed, it’s common knowledge that as the British colonial edifice was disintegrating, administrators of the colonies were told to either burn their documents or try and smuggle them out.

The legal proceedings where Mr Anderson made his revelations related to a case brought against the British government by three elderly Kenyans who claimed they’d been tortured and abused by the colonial authorities during the British occupation of their country.

The British gulag in Kenya

The British first moved into East Africa in the late 19th century, and Kenya was declared a Crown colony in 1920. In the 1940s, after half a century of British occupation, a small group of Kikuyu people – the country’s largest ethnic group – formed the Mau Mau movement and vowed to oppose colonial rule.

As word spread, Mau Mau resistance grew and they began knocking off colonial officers and local loyalists. In October 1952, Governor Evelyn Baring declared a state of emergency, which held until 1960.

In 1964, the colonial army began erecting a network of concentration camps. Historians estimate that 150,000 to 1.5 million Kikuyu people were detained. Conditions within the camps were atrocious, and people were systematically beaten and sexually assaulted during questioning.

The grandfather of Barack Obama, Hussein Onyango Obama suffered severe mistreatment in the camp where he was held, which included having pins forced under his fingernails.

The British government, after being continually defeated in the High Court, agreed to settle the Mau Mau case in 2013.

On June 6 that year, then UK foreign secretary William Hague announced 5,000 survivors would each receive £3,800 payment, and he also expressed the nation’s sincere regrets to Kenyans who were subjected to “torture and other forms of ill-treatment at the hands of the colonial administration.”

The desecration in India

It’s said that India was the jewel in the crown of the British Empire. The British East India Company began making avenues into the subcontinent in the 17th century, and India was established as a Crown colony in 1858.

The British Raj systematically transferred the wealth of the region into their own coffers. In the north eastern region of Bengal, “the first great deindustrialisation of the modern world” occurred.

The prosperous two centuries-old weaving industry was shut down after the British flooded the local market with cheap fabric from northern England. India still grew the cotton, but the Bengali population no longer spun it, and the weavers became beggars.

India suffered around a dozen major famines under British rule, with an estimated 12 to 29 million Indians starving to death.

The Orissa famine occurred in north eastern India in 1866. Over one million – or one in three local people – perished. As the region’s textile industry was destroyed, more people were pushed into agriculture, and were dependent on the monsoon.

That year, the monsoon was weak. Crops didn’t grow and many starved to death. The colonial administration didn’t intervene as the popular economic theory of the time reasoned that the market would restore proper balance, and the famine was nature’s way of responding to overpopulation.

When the British finally got out of India, they simply drew a line down the map and partitioned the subcontinent into India and Pakistan. The move led to the mass migration of around 10 million people, and when it escalated into sectarian violence an estimated one million lost their lives.

A southern invasion

The British began invading Australia in 1788, under the pretext that it was terra nullis: a land with no owners. The High Court of Australia abolished the legal fiction of terra nullius in its 1992 Mabo versus Queensland (No 2) ruling.

It was a landmark decision, but not everyone was surprised that the court found that there were actually sovereign people living on the land prior to the arrival of the British. At that time, there were an estimated 750,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living across the continent.

The First Fleet arrived in the vicinity of what is now the city of Sydney in 1788. Around 15 months later, at least 50 percent of the local Aboriginal population was dying due to a smallpox epidemic.

Some historians put the outbreak down to contact with the Macassans from Sulawesi in the far north of the continent. However, others argue that bottles of smallpox were brought across on First Fleet ships, and the disease was then released, either accidentally or with clear intent.

Dozens of massacres of Indigenous people were carried out by the British right up until the 1920s. On June 10 1838, the Myall Creek massacre occurred near Inverell in NSW. This tragedy is well-known as it was the first time Europeans were brought to justice for such an atrocity in Australia.

At the time about 50 Aboriginal men were working for stockmen in the area. One evening the stockmen rode into the local people’s camp, tied up 29 men, women and children, and beheaded them. Seven of the perpetrators were eventually brought to trial and hanged.

Today, in Australia, the colonial legacy continues. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the most incarcerated population on earth.

As of March this year, there were 11,288 Indigenous adults detained in the Australian prison system. First Nations peoples account for only 2.5 percent of the overall Australian adult population, yet they represent 28 percent of the adult prisoner population.

A bloody trail

But these are only some of the crimes perpetrated by the British as they carried the greatest land grab the world has ever seen.

There were the concentration camps in South Africa, where tens of thousands of the Boer population were detained in the first years of the 20th century. The Irish potato famine occurred in the 1840s, leading to the deaths of well over a million people.

There were the torture centres in Aden in the 1960s, where nationalists were kept naked in refrigerated cells. When the Empire was facing communist insurgents during the Malaya Emergency of the 1950s, they simply decided to imprison the entire peasant population in detention camps.

And the list goes on…

Featured image from Sydney Criminal Lawyers

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It is a miserable Season’s Greetings card to Ontarians; a lump of coal called the Education Funding Guide 2019-20. It’s setting us up for cuts to education in the order of 4 cents on the dollar – or about $1 billion out of a $24 billion education budget. Education Minister Lisa Thompson, prefaces this 5-page disaster with the unbelievable comment that “educating our children is the most important job in the world.” In the next breath she outlines a possible 4 percent cut and then asks us how we’d like to do it.

If it’s possible to be clearer about her lack of regard for educating our children, just as I was writing this article Ms. Thompson cut $25 million from the Education Programs- Other (EP-O). This program provides a host of services not usually covered by education grants like community outreach, after-school programs for students on the autism spectrum and leadership for youth. According to the Toronto Star, grants were cancelled outright for tutors in the classroom, support for daily physical activity, a program to promote leaders in racialized communities, as well as another to promote equitable access to post-secondary education.   As usual, the cut came without warning, with an emailed announcement this past Friday night. School Boards don’t yet know how much of the money they were promised for these programs back in March will actually arrive, if any.

This is just another opportunity provided by the Ford government’s so-called ballooning deficit. There are many others:  cancelling the Basic Income Pilot Project, funds for upgrading school buildings, shutting down the Truth and Reconciliation curriculum writing program, getting rid of Ontario’s child advocate – the list goes on.

So, it’s no surprise that cuts are front and centre in the Education Funding Guide. But it also raises some alarming questions under three of its headings:

Efficient Price Setting. One example of efficient price setting is basing payments on the average cost of heating, lighting and maintaining schools per square foot for each student. School boards have fought for years with the province over funding schools based on their actual needs rather than the provincial averages.

For example, boards with old schools have needs that don’t fit a funding formula based on average class sizes needed to maintain newer schools. Averages don’t work for all situations. But the Guide asks the question: Can we go further down this road? Can we make factors like efficient use of space apply to more situations? It leaves the question open as to how this government will define “efficiency.” It looks like a new way of shortchanging school boards.

As Craig Snider, Associate Director Business Operations and Service Excellence at the Toronto District School Board said in a submission to trustees:

“Efficient pricing is an economic model that suggests that perfect information is known to set a price. The concern with the example provided (in the Guide), ‘class size’ is that it only addresses averages and space usage not student achievement outcomes. The TDSB would ask: What information was used to set current benchmarks and was student well-being data used in the calculation?”

Outcomes-Based Funding: This funding approach is supposed to “aid students by encouraging schools to focus more on providing supports and clearing the obstacles that prevent some students from achieving their full potential and learning.” An example of this is the Learning Opportunities Grant (LOG) that was introduced in 1998 to funnel more money to school boards where students with lower family incomes needed more support to succeed in school. The LOG was supposed to support early intervention, guidance, individual help for kids as well as parent support. According to the advocacy group People for Education, over the years the LOG has focused less and less on providing those kinds of supports and more on general literacy and mathematics.

Since the Guide doesn’t offer any idea of what other “outcomes” might be funded, are we looking at education funds earmarked for government preferences like Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM)? That certainly was a big interest of the recent “biggest consultation ever” run by the Ministry.

And what about this clearing of “obstacles?” Former TDSB trustee and now MPP Chris Glover argues that between 1998 and 2015 the board faced a “funding shortfall every year and had make cuts each year to programs and services which have never been restored.” He’s describing kindergartens packed with 28 children having to share their education assistants with special needs kids who need to be supervised just to be in school. If the Ford government really wants to clear obstacles, why not just restore the Learning Opportunities Grants to their original purpose?

Accountability and Value-for-Money: Watch this one. The Guide blandly asks if the Ministry of Education should “review targeted areas of the funding formula to increase accountability and value for money.” We certainly don’t want school boards wasting money by purchasing things like specially kitted-out camper vans – that appears to be Mr. Ford’s prerogative. But at a time when schools can barely keep the lights on, what does value for money really mean?

We get a good clue in the Ernst Young report: Managing Transformation: A Modernization Action Plan for Ontario. Ernst Young was commissioned by the government to find the “efficiencies” Mr. Ford promised during the election. It’s here that you can read about funding for “outcomes” as a way of increasing competition between government departments. It recommends that the government “Consider use of alternative approaches to funding including direct funding to individuals and payment for outcomes.” (emphasis added)

Do you hear that door creaking open?  It’s opening up into a room called “Vouchers and Charter Schools.” The idea here is that, if you give people the option to put their tax money where they want, they might opt for sending their kids to a private school or partly government-funded charter school. Presto! This will automatically introduce the discipline of the free market, increase efficiency and save money.

That may be true in Ernst Young’s alternate universe. Here in Ontario, it will further degrade our underfunded and beleaguered public education system. Is that what the Ford government is thinking when it speaks of “value for money?” Chris Glover thinks it’s the “first step to setting up privatization of public schools.”

Let’s remember where Minister started out – that 4 percent cut. No one I spoke to sees this Education Funding Guide as anything other than an announcement of funding cuts. NDP education critic, Marit Stiles likened it to “cutting the entire transportation budget out of the Ottawa Carleton District School or slashing half of the Toronto District School Board’s Budget for Special Education.” Harvey Bischof, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) said the $1 billion dollar cut would have a “devastating effect on program and delivery of services to schools” in a system which is already underfunded. He is also concerned about the safety of teachers and other education workers in schools, reckoning that, in the end, there will be less money to pay support workers to supervise children who, through no fault of their own, may be prone to lashing out when they’re confused of frustrated in a school that doesn’t have the resources to help them.

Head of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) Sam Hammond says these cuts “show absolute disregard for what teachers do.” He too worries about the prospect of a voucher system and charter schools, seeing the option of choice as a red flag announcing serious trouble for public education in Ontario. In a press release he says that “investment, not cuts” is the way forward for public education. He adds that Minister Thompson has so far been mute on the topic of whether or not cuts to education would be the full 4 percent.

If there is a 4 percent cut to funding, school boards have no wiggle room to deal with it. At the TDSB for example, most of its grants are spent as soon as it gets them; there is a small percentage left over for any discretionary expenses and the board is already stuck with nearly $100 million in accumulated deficit (2017 figures). On top of that is a $4 billion backlog in school repairs. A 4 percent cut means, quite simply, the board will have to cut programs

So, what dreadful calamity happened between last spring when a Liberal government came forward with a pre-election budget of spending and now with Doug Ford scraping for pennies?

Nothing. This is all about the appearance of a crisis – namely the $14.5 billion deficit, the Tories say forces them to make cuts everywhere. Inventing a crisis was the philosophy of the last Conservative government under Mike Harris, which went on to solve it by stripping basic services, schools and union contracts until there was indeed a crisis of public spending across the province. The effects are still seen in our crumbling schools.

It’s now the operating principle for Doug Ford’s Tories. The difference is that they work faster and more viciously.

So, what about this crisis? Before the Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne was defeated, it posted a $6.7 billion deficit in its spring budget. Auditor general Bonnie Lysyk argued that a $10.7 billion pension surplus on the province’s books shouldn’t be counted as an asset. That meant the deficit should be $11.7 billion.

Then the Tories just decided it was $14.5 billion. They neglected to ask the province’s chief controller Cindy Veinot what she thought, because she disagreed with them and Ms. Lysyk. She had signed off on the Liberals’ original deficit prediction. Ms. Veinot couldn’t sign off on the Tories’ fiction, so she resigned as provincial controller.

If the hand-wringing over the size of the deficit seems sketchy- that’s because it is. After all, it was Mr. Ford who decided to cancel the cap and trade environmental alliance with California and Quebec. This could have given him billions to wrestle that deficit – however much it is- to the ground. It had already put over $2 billion in Ontario’s coffers. Instead, he’s pledged $400 million over the next four years to encourage the private sector to reduce emissions. He could also hold off on the $275 million tax break for the province’s wealthiest people, but that didn’t happen in November’s mini-budget from Finance Minister Vic Fedeli.

Truth to told, the Tories aren’t fighting hard at all to get that deficit under control. This latest invented “crisis” is about ideology: Ontario being “open for business.” It’s about cutting government services so they can be offered for a price. As Doug Ford undercuts basic social services and education, he pays allegiance to the competitive rigour of the marketplace, or as Ernst Young puts it: “…providing funding to individuals, who can then choose their service providers through a form of market activity and discipline.”

Mr. Ford could provide sufficient and stable funding. But that’s not going to happen. Instead I think, he plans to cut public education to the point that it is unworkable. He’ll leave it to those who can pay the price to have a decent education for their children.

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Since the disintegration of Yugoslavia in the nineties, its former constituent republics have been mired in a state of perpetual conflict.

Nowhere is this more apparent than the contested state of Kosovo.

In 1998, Albanian separatists in the Serbian province of Kosovo i Metohija began a campaign of attacks, with the express objective of creating a unified, ethnically homogenous, Greater Albanian state. Spearheaded by an organization known as the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which is widely regarded by many nations, including the United States, as a terrorist organization, ethnic Albanian militants attacked Serbian security forces, and terrorized civilians in a brutally violent campaign.

As Newton’s Third Law states, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” When Albanian attacks intensified, Serbian security forces rose to meet them, and the world began to take notice. Already an international pariah state following the recent conflicts in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina, Serbia, then known as the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and controlled by Slobodan Milosevic, found itself on the losing end of a public relations battle. The KLA, playing the role of freedom fighters, managed to find allies in many Western nations, including NATO members. What followed was a coordinated campaign against Milosevic’s Yugoslavia, including a highly controversial 78-day bombing campaign. Following this, hostilities officially ended with the passing of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244, which mandated a withdrawal of Serbian forces from Kosovo and the institution of a multinational, United Nation-led peacekeeping force, known as the Kosovo Force (KFOR).

Image on the right:  The ruins of the Church of Saint Elijah (Crkva Svetog Ilije) in Podujevo, which was destroyed by Albanian radicals during the 2004 pogrom.

During the interim period between cessation of major hostilities and the unilateral declaration of independence in 2008, the region of Kosovo has witnessed an increase in tensions between Serbs and Albanians. One key occurrence was an anti-Serbian pogrom in 2004, which essentially amounted to an act of ethnic cleansing, according to Admiral Gregory G. Johnson, then commander of NATO forces in southern Europe. Nearly one thousand homes were destroyed, along with some of the most sacred and historic sites in Serbian Orthodoxy. Tensions became even more strained when, ten years on from the onset of hostilities in 1998, Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia, with the tacit approval of many Western nations. This move was and is seen as highly controversial in that it went against the binding UNSC Resolution 1244, which respects Serbian territorial sovereignty and integrity.

Twenty years have now passed since the opening of hostilities, and problems in Kosovo still run rampant. The economic situation is dire, with the employment rate sitting at 29.8% (while the unemployment rate was 30.5%, and the rate of inactivity was 57.2%) in 2017, according to a Labour Force Survey by the Kosovo Agency of Statistics. The region is experiencing a consistently declining population, as many people journey abroad in hopes of finding better economic prospects. Somewhat ironically, residents in Kosovo, including many Albanians, often opt for a Serbian passport, which they are entitled to under Serbian law (as Kosovo is still held as a Serbian province). They then make use of this document to make their way towards the more prosperous countries of the European Union.

Enter Hashim Thaci and Ramush Haradinaj: the former, a “President;” the latter, a “Prime Minister;” both, former commanders in the KLA; and both, accused of wartime atrocities. Facing an increasingly difficult economic situation in Kosovo, social tensions, and sliding approval ratings, both have run afoul of the other in their efforts to retain popular support, while attempting to stem the flow of emigres and maintain their grip on the region.

Thaci, formerly a key figure in the KLA, now appears to favour the image of a global leader and statesman. He cozies up to many leaders of the most powerful nations on Earth, and seeks to present an optimistic view of Kosovo as a new and rising star amongst the world’s nations. He sits opposite of Serbia’s Aleksandar Vucic in Brussels, where normalization talks between Belgrade and Pristina occur. He purveys the image of a negotiator.

On the other hand, Haradinaj appears to prefer the image of a populist hardliner, one which he has held since his days in the KLA. His bluster and swagger is vaguely reminiscent of Benito Mussolini, and given the option between offering the carrot or the stick, he always opts for the stick. Known for his violent outbursts, Haradinaj was remembered by one British soldier who liaised with him as “a psychopath,” and has been accused of killing both his rivals and enemies. Of the two, Haradinaj is said to enjoy overwhelming support and popularity in Kosovo, more so than Thaci.

Few governments in the world are completely cohesive, and differing viewpoints and priorities often cause conflict. This goes without saying for the government of the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo. Fights and tear gassings in parliament are common, and partisan politics are the norm. However, politics become especially tricky when the President and Prime Minister hold different perspectives. Case and point, the normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo.

Talks between Belgrade and Pristina have always been tense, with bad blood running on both sides of the table. While Aleksandar Vucic’s Serbian government is well-united behind the notion of normalizing relations with Kosovo while maintaining a policy of non-recognition, Kosovo’s strategy is somewhat more divided. Hashim Thaci appeared to have favoured an exchange of territories, likely Northern Kosovo for Serbia’s Presevo Valley, a notion which has piqued the interest of many international observers. For his part, Ramush Haradinaj has bluntly stated his opposition to this plan, responding that such an action would only destabilize the region and lead to war.

Haradinaj’s strategy at reconciliation is more populist. In November of 2018, Haradinaj stirred Albanian sentiments when he announced that Kosovo would institute a tariff on Serbian products, at a rate of 100%, and that this tariff would remain until Serbia recognized Kosovo. This tariff was likely a knee-jerk response to Serbia’s efforts to torpedo Kosovo’s latest attempt to join Interpol, as well as other organizations such as UNESCO. A slap in the face to the Central European Free Trade Agreement, of which Kosovo (through the United Nations’ Mission in Kosovo) is a signatory, Haradinaj’s latest move has been met with near-universal condemnation by world leaders, many who see it as a step backwards for stability in the Western Balkans.

Serbs protesting the imposition of a 100% tariff by the provisional authorities in Kosovo.

The most recent and serious development to normalization between Serbia and Kosovo, as of December 2018, has been the announcement of the provisional institutions in Kosovo to transform the Kosovo Security Forces into the Kosovo Army. Seen by Serbia as the “most direct threat to peace and stability in the region,” denounced by NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg as ill-timed and regrettable, and noted by UN head António Guterres as a cause for concern, there are widespread fears that the creation of this new army will provide a mechanism which Kosovar Albanians may use to expel the remaining Serbian populace in Kosovo. In response, the Serbian government is now under pressure to consider options up to, and including, military intervention, in order to protect its endangered populace. They also asked for an urgent convening of the United Nation’s Security Council, which took place on December 17, 2018. This latest move by the Kosovar provisional authorities is yet another gross violation of UNSC Resolution 1244, and has arguably brought the Western Balkans, a veritable powder keg, to the absolute brink of war for the first time in two decades.

There is little doubt that the provisional authorities in Kosovo feel safe in their actions, for they have previously enjoyed the backing of many of the world’s most powerful nations. However, as they continue to unilaterally increase tensions with neighbouring Serbia, they may find that their list of allies is growing thin, as many nations tire of dealing with their impetuousness. Responses to their most recent moves have been overwhelmingly negative, with the European Union, Germany and the United States (among others) decrying many of these actions as unconstructive and destabilizing. Meanwhile, Serbian lobbying efforts against Kosovo are reaching a fevered pitch. The Serbian government and Foreign Ministry are working overtime to encourage nations to revaluate their positions on Kosovo’s sovereignty, and these efforts have proven successful, with twelve nations so far revoking their recognition of Kosovo.

Coordinated efforts between Serbian non-governmental organizations and actors have also proven effective in subverting Kosovo’s national aspirations. Serbian not-for-profits have assisted in delivering humanitarian aid to Serbian enclaves in Kosovo, many of whose residents live in abject poverty and suffer under a severely oppressive, Albanian dominated regime. These organizations endeavour not only to help their countrymen through material means, but also through the effective dissemination of information about the plight of the Serbian populace in Kosovo to audiences worldwide.

One such effort was the immensely successful #nokosovounesco social media campaign of 2015. Through an intense social media campaign and the circulation of a petition denouncing the Kosovar provisional authorities desire to join UNESCO while remaining unwilling to protect many medieval Serbian heritage sites, Canadian-based humanitarian organization 28. Jun and Serbian-Canadian filmmaker Boris Malagurski were successful in their objective of preventing the provisional authorities in Kosovo from obtaining membership in UNESCO.

These efforts continue to this day; building on the foundation of the #nokosovounesco campaign, a new program titled Dogodine u Prizrenu (Next Year in Prizren) was launched earlier in 2018 by 28. Jun and Mr. Malagurski, with the aim of concluding on the Orthodox New Year, January 14, 2019. The most critical component of the Dogodine u Prizrenu project is the recirculation of the earlier petition denouncing Kosovo’s membership in UNESCO which, as of the end of November, 2018, has attracted over 150,000 signatures. 28. Jun also enjoys the exclusive status as being the only NGO operating in the Western Balkans which has entered into the prestigious Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. This status enabled them to present this petition to Chairwoman Rita Izsak-Ndiaye during a session of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Forum on Minority Issues in Geneva, on November 30, 2018. This latest move has solidified 28. Jun’s position as Serbia’s leading voice on the international stage, and has provided Serbians with another voice by which they can denounce the provisional authorities in Kosovo.

As the Serbian government and private organizations such as 28. Jun continue to curtail the efforts of the provisional authorities in Kosovo to solidify their position as a sovereign nation on the international stage, the Kosovar authorities are playing a dangerous game. In a move reminiscent of the brinkmanship observed during the escalation of the conflict between North and South Vietnam during the early 1970s, the provisional authorities in Kosovo are ratcheting up the tensions in the Western Balkans at every point They are gauging the reactions of Serbia to determine what actions they are able to get away with, despite being in contravention of many international laws and agreements. While Serbia is now reacting passively, and remains open to negotiation and dialogue, it must be known that a nation can only be pushed so far before it is forced to react in a negative manner. In order to ensure peace and stability in the Western Balkans, the provisional authorities in Kosovo must not act rashly and impulsively. Pristina must return to the bargaining table with Belgrade, lest they push the envelope too far and find out the hard way that there are very real consequences to one’s actions.

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Daniel Jankovic serves in the position of Executive Director, North America for 28. Jun, and is an independent analyst. He was educated at the University of Alberta, and currently resides in Calgary.

All images in this article are from the author.

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Moroccan youth today–whether urban- or rural-based–face enormous obstacles toward achieving their own self-development, and creating change that they seek for their families, communities, country, and even world. They are confronted with the statistical reality that the more education they complete, the more likely they will be unemployed. So often they are directed toward mainstay disciplines, not out of the pull they feel toward them, but out of the fact that there are too few alternatives, especially in public sector university settings. On the one hand, they have the important freedom to create the associations, be part of the cooperatives, and form the businesses that they aspire to build. On the other hand, however, their faith in their own social system, society’s sense of fair play, and real freedom to complete what they set out to, is more often than not heavily diminished.

Youth unemployment is more severe in rural places than in the cities. The cash economies that are now the established condition forces them to perform as day-laborers, and that is provided they are fortunate enough to have those chances. Urban migration is the only alternative for so many, even when their real dream is to remain in their communities and build there, where their heart is. The inadequate and unacceptable levels of rural education compel young families to move to cities. Considering the strong will among youth to alter their reality, there are successes, but, way too few, and those that are fortunate enough tp secure funding for new projects appear to be the exception.

With all this said, there is brightness, and the light of change is also rooted in the Moroccan condition. People’s participation in their own development is the law of the land and pervades the social structure by way of policies, programs, and legal obligation. Part of these national frameworks for human development further identifies youth as primary and potentially a most effective vehicle toward catalyzing and facilitating the local participatory development movements sought by the nation. This is to say that youth’s direct engagement in bringing communities together to plan and manage the projects to enhance and fulfill their lives is a key causeway to Morocco’s best future. Said simply: Moroccan sustainable development and how and whether it becomes real for all people will be determined by the role played by the youth of the nation.

But how do we move forward and how does this embody true entrepreneurship? Whenever we are acquiring and forging new skills, we learn best simply by doing it. We coordinate inclusive, local, dialogue by assisting that dialogue. We help others define the projects of their heart and future by doing just that: asking the questions, asking others to respond, aggregating with that more responses, helping others talk it through, until a sense of consensus and direction become defined.

We write and submit successful project proposals by writing, submitting, and following-up. We learn how to create budgets by creating them. We build capacities around evaluating past actions in order to build future courses, by engaging in it. We learn from experience, and so must our youth. Thankfully, there are no preconditions to begin. There is no degree that we must have. There is no status or background that first must be ours. We begin by beginning. And time and life are short, so we must begin now.

We are often taught to think that entrepreneurship comes from our own innovation. We are often encouraged to believe that to be most creative, strategic, and successful, is doing what develops from our own ingenuity, that our own entrepreneurial selves is about ourselves, and rests in our own mind’s ability to invent and decide.

I write this to say that this outlook is categorically false, misleading, and even antithetical to sustainable development and progression toward a satisfied society. Entrepreneurship rests on what we give toward drawing out and realizing the ideas of the people. Innovation is the embodiment of a thousand voices intersecting and made into one agreed upon surge for community development. Our creativity is a reflection of how we assist others in understanding and pursuing their own hopes for the future. Youth entrepreneurship is not an endeavor of individual youths, but is a matter of all youth, building themselves by building their communities’ development course, driven by the public.

I hear and imagine the heavy burden that Moroccan youth experience and the trepidation about the future that they must feel in their hearts. To fulfill the promise of the people’s participation in development, is a truly painstaking and difficult road, without certainty, and with non-linear progress. However, there is reason for gratefulness when the nation sees youth’s role in creating sustainable change, and sees people’s participation as vital to that change. The question before us is: will we give ourselves over to the cause of others and, therefore, the vast multiplicity of what becomes entrepreneurship, and all the resources that are entailed, in order that we can effectively walk this course?

Even though time brings us understanding, today, it is not our friend. There is urgency to this call, to completing the Moroccan model, and to bring, finally, the satisfaction in our and others’ lives that we very seriously need.

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This article was originally published on High Atlas Foundation.

Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir is a sociologist and is president of the High Atlas Foundation, a Moroccan-U.S. organization dedicated to sustainable development.

Featured image: Planning local projects in the Rhamna province of Morocco, with youths’ facilitation. (Source: High Atlas Foundation)

Brexit Update: UK Parliamentary Theatre, “The First Law of Holes”

December 19th, 2018 by Brett Redmayne-Titley

“Doesn’t the Prime Minister realize that she has handed over power…The power that they want, is to be able to demonstrate [EU power] to every other country that might be thinking of leaving the EU.” — Dennis Skinner (MP-Labour/1970-present)

What a difference a day makes, or in the case of UK parliamentary political theatre applied to the ever-changing definition of Brexit; just a couple of hours will do.

Despite her Cabinet having been found in Contempt of Parliament for the first time in UK history due to the cover-up of portions of the very damning Attorney General’s report on Brexit, UK Prime Minister- for now- Theresa May showed her continued contempt: she continued undaunted.

On Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2018, the day before the finale- the Vote -of this two-and-a-half year debacle anxiously awaited by Britons month-after-month, and still somehow called Brexit, our plucky PM would suddenly pull the rug out from under her own continuing farcical sideshow of Parliamentary and Prime Ministerial treason.

Unfortunately for the UK, Ms May, the Energizer Bunny of UK politics, just won’t quit. Does she not know about the first rule of holes?

At 11:30 AM this day, a press release from the PM “assured” all of the UK that the vote would go on as scheduled for 7 PM the next day, Wednesday. To wit, the MPs and Cabinet members that are firmly in Ms May’s tow dutifully hit that day’s noon TV news circuit with similar pablum. For, suddenly at 1:30 PM it was next announced that the long waited for Brexit vote was off by order of Ms May. With her faux-Brexit vote about to go down the tubes faster than the sinking value of the UK pound, Ms May, again having no idea what to do, had opted for that age-old political act of desperation: She punted.

After the MPs ran to the House to attend the emergency session of Parliament in order to be formally notified of her announced weakness, the howls of anger were only superseded by the cacophony of laughter ringing off the walls of the House of Commons, regularly  interspersed by iron voiced House Speaker, John Bercow‘s admonitions that each MP, “will be heard!” This was due to this session being a laugh-a-minute, must see spectacle of distortion, excuses, protestations of innocence, and assurances. Oh, yes…many, many… assurances. All due to this ever more desperate PM trying to defend the indefensible, her ”Deal.”

A deal which Brussels likes very, very much.

Speaker Bercow is a character. He is a turncoat Tory, now in the Labour field of influence. The Cons detest him. It should be noted for those just now tuning in to this far-reaching day-to-day Shakespearian political tragedy, that when it comes to British parliamentary procedure, grandstanding combined with florid oration is the rule. This creates an entertaining aspect very rarely seen in the US Congress, one that borders on the theatrical. Or the farcical. Speaker John Bercow is no exception.

Short, stout, deep complexioned and featuring black bird-like eyes, with his black Speaker’s robe, draped over round shoulders he assumes an almost raven-like posture while observing all from the Speaker’s chair at the far end of the House of Commons. Again and again, he rose to deliver his riveting stare, side-to-side, to every MP. Possessed of the perfect gravel voice, Bercow holds sway with an iron presence, but loquacious voice. He is even-tempered when forceful, but not shy in his rebukes and directions. However, when the Speaker speaks, all again… becomes quiet.

Now that PM May’s chance to speak was over, it was the turn of all the MPs.

“This is a government in a total state of collapse,” said MP Kirsty Blackman (SNP) in an opening salvo. “This government [the Tories] is focused on saving the Prime Minister’s job instead of doing what right for the county!”

Sir William Cash [Cons.] calmly assessed, quite accurately, that beyond the seemingly singular focus on the “Backstop,”  Britain would also lose access to the EU courts and control over its own laws because of the terms of the still existing EU Customs Union. He went on to note, that the PM had not yet released all of the Attorney General’s report for which she was already in contempt. He called on her to do so immediately.

The embattled PM, still unable to “listen,”  despite her protestations to the contrary, deflected immediately; maintaining that her own separately contemptuous, but voluminous Cabinet report on this subject would suffice, instead.

Sir Vincent Cable [Lib-Dem] called the proceedings a “fiasco,” and noted that the myriad of Cabinet indiscretions had caused the Tory government “to lose all authority.” He went on further to forcefully call for labour to commence a full House vote of “no-confidence” in the PM.

Yvette Cooper [Lab.] bolstered his point. “How can she [PM] possibly talk about duty and honour and faith in politics when we can’t trust the most basic things her ministers are saying!”

Still not listening, again, the PM responded instead by pulling her own preferred question from thin air, answering irrelevantly that she had now suddenly realized that the “Backstop” needed work, and thanked her “right honourable college” for bringing it to her attention.

Really.

Well, all this was bringing the House down and the laughs and jeers were rising quickly. This brought Speaker Bercow to his feet again, this time to formally address all present. His forceful voice had been intermittently booming throughout, but now he provided, regarding the PM’s unilateral postponement of the vote today, a reasoned clinical evaluation based on previous parliamentary procedure.

All listened. Or, else.

As Bercow pointed out, the Tory cabinet and Ms May had no authority to cancel the vote without an additional and separate vote by this same seated parliament regarding whether or not to allow a postponement of the current ongoing five days of scheduled debate. Postponement of the Brexit vote was also subject a subsequent vote by parliament. To all this, he said in summation,

“Halting the debate, after no fewer than 167 colleagues have taken the trouble to contribute, will be thought by many members of this house…to… be…discourteous!”

Here he paused, tightly grinning and surveying the entire house row-by-row as the murmurs in the gallery immediately rose before his patented stare brought them down again quickly. He continued, that there were only two ways to conclude the vote.

“The first… and infinitely more preferable… would be for an MP to move at the onset of the day’s debate: that the debate be adjourned. This will give the House the chance to vote whether to terminate the debate.”

The other: Well, that was already a matter of history.

Sitting momentarily, Bercow again allowed the MPs to continue.

Featuring her listening skills again, Ms May’s ears only tuned to a single frequency coming from Brussels, somehow the Backstop regarding the Irish border, one of the most contentious give-ins by the PM, was still in place. This was was outrageous since Ireland had made their opposition clear on this for months prior.

Said, Hilary Benn [Lab.],

“It was her [PM] red-lines that created the problem with the border with Northern Island and lead to such a weak position.” 

Then he added what was likely the most important question at this juncture.

“Can she [PM] tell us of any [EU] leader in the re-negotiations? If not, postponement …is a waste of time!”

Again, Ms May’s ears allowed her to answer her own chosen question, this time with her favourite set of one-liners: Her personal assurances of EU assurances. Yes, she said to the MPs, she had many re-assurances, yet those all failed to have a surname, but they would be willing to renegotiate. All was fine, the PM assured and would be worked out the very next day. She assured the MPs, that once she rushed off to Germany and Denmark she would then bring back- not to worry-a better deal.

Nigel Dodds [D.U.P.] affirmed her delusions, adding,

“This isn’t credible, is it? She talks about reassurances and assurances. But this is [Brexit] a legally binding text!”

She then assured, to howls of laughter and sideways jeers that she had indeed been listening to the will of the Parliament and that she had assurances from EU members that all would end up just fine. Assurances. Not one member received any names of those MEPs who were providing all those assurances.

Apparently unfamiliar with the first rule of holes, the PM’s ears were still not correctly receiving transmissions from Junker and Tusk either.

Junker and Tusk had already made it very clear, publicly, that no new negotiations would take place: Ever! Challenged on this point by Damian Green [Cons], Ms May provided more of her own assurances. The EU, she said, was still willing to renegotiate. Affecting a reassuring tone, she again  boastfully reassured the collective House full of sceptical MPs,

  “…if [EU] assurances are not sufficient, we will go back to the EU for further assurances.”

Really.

Britons would all do well at this time to discuss the true meaning- and risk- of  “assurances,” with Mikhail Gorbachev: perhaps asking him about all those NATO assurances worked out post-1990, once he divested the Soviet Union in exchange for…

How did all those assurances work out?

Wednesday.

So off the Hague the next morning she was, full of smiles as the morning news saw her jet off to her promised, although belated, victory.  Predictably, for those in Parliament correctly tuned into the show, her unfounded assurances, like her leadership, would be proven to be utter rot!

Before tea time on this day that was supposed to feature the Vote, PM May already had the same defeated, puppy dog look that had adorned incoming Greek PM Alexia Tsipras. He, too, returned home from trying to renegotiate with the EU’s Masters of the Universe. May, like Tsipras, had met her match quickly at the hands of the grandmother of death, German Chancellor, Angela Merkel and the grand wizards of EU central control: Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Junker.  All that was missing this time was that skinny, over-tanned, IMF vulture in pearls: Christine Le Garde.

Said Tusk, now translating for the PM,

“I have no mandate to organise any further negotiations. We have to exclude any further opening of the withdrawal agreement.” Crying crocodile tears and showing an unusual sense of humour, he added,

“But of course, we are staying here in Brussels and I’m always at the PM’s disposal.”

Fortunately for those still watching, the final act of her black comedy routine was not over yet. As the PM next flew back to London, hat in hand but now empty of assurances, she was welcomed home by her Conservative Party and was presented with the Triumphal Ornaments of… a Tory vote of [no] confidence.

Enter Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn had yet to drive the knife in for the kill. He doesn’t have too. With Ms May growing more adept each day at political harikari and dragging her party with her, Corbyn can sit calmly and let the Tories feed on their PM. His nuclear option of calling a full House vote of [no] confidence sits each day tucked in his breast pocket just mere feet away as he daily stares at the PM. With the SNC and DUP calling for him to call for a full vote as well as the Labour majority, Corbyn can keep his powder dry for now. With Brussels already handing the PM all the rope she needs to hang herself and her party, her opposition has no better antagonist to exploit than the embattled Ms May.

This day’s Tory [no] confidence vote was as farcical as it was self-serving by the Tory cabinet and their lackeys. Now desperate to save face for the Conservative Party during the rapidly growing awareness that they have been collectively up to no good, they had no choice. After getting the required 48 letters, it was on for the Tories to show their outrage at the PM for the next couple of hours. The script for this act was obvious before the curtain. Only 117 voted against their PM while 200 said she could stay. This was made all the easier for them since this and the total was a secret vote, so no one was accountable for their vote.
Really.

But behind the scene was a far more obvious raison d’etre of the 200. With their PM twisting in the wind, only a political novice would allow for a changing of the guard at No. 10.  It would have meant a new PM. Frontrunners, Boris Johnson, Amber Rudd, and Sajid Javid are not dumb enough to take on this mess that is political suicide for anyone. So the vote was scripted and their final line this day’s performance was, “Let her hang!” 

Thursday.

Having the night before assured parliament that her version of Brexit would come up for a vote by Jan 21 the PM was off to twist her own knives into enough of her MPs in order to get them to turn on their country in favour of the EU. Ms May did finally admit that she knew her deal, the one she falsely calls Brexit, will never pass. In turn, she said rather magnanimously, that she would step down as PM before the 2022 elections.

That joke, of course, wrote itself.

Ignoring the first rule of holes, thus having already provided peerages for MPs willing to turncoat, the Tories next decided to toss the national women’s vote on top of Ms May’s grave. Proving desperation, they reinstated MPs Andrew Griffiths and Charlie Elphicke who were both suspended over sex allegations. Griffiths, the prime minister’s former chief of staff and the MP for Burton and Uttoxeter,  resigned as a minister in July and suspended from the whip after sending hundreds of sexually explicit messages to two women in his constituency. Jess Phillips, the Labour MP for Yardley and a campaigner for women who have been abused, said,

“The message it sends to every person who has complained, those who gave evidence to the Cox inquiry and every person who has been abused, is that the prime minister is not on your side.”

So, Ms May and her Cons must pray for the short-term memory loss of all of the UK’s women voters. And… women vote!

Friday.

The EU, thanks to Ms May has Briton right where it wants it. In the appropriate words of former US president Teddy Roosevelt,

“Once you have them by the balls… their hearts and minds will follow.”

Well, Ms May sure doesn’t have a pair, so the EU will now squeeze the UK parliament and its people… hard!

It’s easy to tell who in this national tragedy is playing chess and who is playing “chequers.” As the now cancelled five-day debate began, and after two-and-a-half years, the European Court of Justice issued an opinion that the UK could just, all-of-a-sudden, unilaterally cancel Article 50 and stay in the EU. Like Greece, Junker and his EU co-conspirators, to which Ms May must now be considered for membership, are about to divide first, and then conquer Britain.

Thanks to this latest EU chess move, the EU would Britain believe it now has more choices, not two. All of them are bad for those who voted to leave the EU and being used in a carrot-and-stick manner by the UK media to fracture voter opinion beyond yes or no. The daily papers now sing the praises of alternatives, when just a week ago they were the collective champions of Yes.

Regardless, all are victories for Brussels.

No matter, first there will be a vote on the bastardized form of Brexit as it stands. So any alternatives begin after a vote sometime before Jan. 21.

1) Vote yes to the deal and take it.

This is a very bad deal and all assurances and reassurances won’t change it. If the vote had been held on Wednesday, it would have been defeated easily. That’s why Ms May stopped it. As has been examined in a previous article, bellowed from the halls of the House repeatedly and quoted herein, the PM’s deal is worse than staying in the EU. This is now, very conspicuously, a possibility should a Yes vote be extracted, bribed, intimidated or cajoled from parliament.

Thankfully, because of the vote, turncoat MPs will be exposed and UK outrage will be given a set of names to remember. So, all will have to consider their political futures and the memory of their voters before expressing their true allegiance on paper.

What yes also means is the end of the Conservative Party’s purchased majority; the accelerated pre-2022 demise of their PM; a new Scottish independence referendum; more opposition SNC seats in the House; a subsequent Labour Party majority and/or ruling coalition; and a formal vote of no-confidence of the full House for the PM. Worse, by far, the likely ascension of Jeremy Corbyn to new PM. All before the next election. If unsuccessful, Corbyn and Labour will slowly unwrap all the rope from Ms May’s neck and use it again to strangle the Cons and any new PM. For Labour, Brexit is the gift that keeps on giving.

For the Cons, political survival is truly at historic levels.

2) Vote No and face the uncertainty of a Hard Brexit.

This is the result of more bad planning by the Cabinet that had not created a plan B- just like Greece- for when the EU would decide to drop their PM down their gallows hole. As of Tuesday, it is universally acknowledged that a No vote is highly likely. As pointed out in a previous article, should a Yes vote prevail- a vote that is not secret this time- Britons will next be able to add up and list the names of their MPs that sold out their voter’s interests and their country. If so, on March 29, 2019 Brits will have to scramble into the unknown without trade agreements in place, new treaties signed, or binding immigration standards, to mention just a few. Without a plan B, one that will have to be debated, and voted on beforehand just like the faux-Brexit deal all of the UK will be suddenly plunged into uncertainty. Uncertainty… and fear.

Fear sells.

The UK media is just as adept at using fear as a political tool of manipulation as their US counterparts. Fortunately, Brits are not, generally, as wilfully ignorant as Americans. The media, as of Wednesday, has lost the ability to promote a Yes vote on Brexit without readers wondering: why?So, daily stories of unsubstantiated but predicted gloom and doom are now suddenly splashed across all major UK newspapers and tabloids. With there being no pro-labour newspaper since the fall of Tony Blair and New Labour, all these rags are aligned to stop Jeremy Corbyn and a return to Old Labour. This allows the media to do its best to promote, like their beloved PM, this underhanded tactic designed to give Brussels and Ms May the final win.

This worked to perfection in all previous elections and referenda of the past thirty-three months. Except Brexit.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson stoked this growing fear this week, telling the Commons that over 3,500 troops are currently being “held at readiness”in case of a disastrous no-deal Brexit.

Merely, cancelling Article 50 is not an option procedurally at this time since the Brexit vote must first be was be finished without further dither by the PM, or a new referendum of this move must take place in an already vote weary Britain. The UK media also touts this daily alongside their fear campaign as a viable option, ignoring how that first Brexit vote turned out and the growing national anger at the Tories, anger that favours Corbyn and old Labour.

No wonder the PM and her cabinet do not support this option.

The Sun newspaper said in a report on Saturday that ministers were divided mainly along two lines of policy, namely preparing for a no-deal Brexit, in which Britain leaves the EU on March 29, 2019, without an agreement with the EU bloc, or planning a new referendum.

Wanna be Prime Ministers Amber Rudd, finance and treasury minister Philip Hammond were promoting the idea of  a second Brexit referendum. Interior minister Sajid Javid and three other senior cabinet members insisted that the government should instead work on its plans for a no-deal Brexit. None of these political opportunists are interested in saving Brexit in its pure form. They are merely testing the winds while preparing for Theresa May’s certain fall before the next election.

“Remaining” in the EU, however, is not a viable option without a new referendum. Ms May and her cohorts maintained again and again throughout the debate and the emergency sessions that this would not happen. The reality of Corbyn and the DUP make this almost certain.

DUP is ferociously opposed to this Brexit deal and wants May out. Since the check for the £1.5 Billion mortita that kept the Tories in power has already cleared, it is not likely they will jump in again with the Tories if a new PM is selected. Without a coalition, the Tories are as toasted as their PM.

It is no longer hyperbole to call the current status of Brexit vote political chaos. The press is already pushing for the path of least resistance: Cancelling Article 50 in order to sway popular opinion and therefore give treasonous PM an excuse, so it is easy to see what the Tories, their PM and the“Primal Forces of Nature” in Brussels, are up to. With this self-created chaos being the two choices of either Ms May’s treasonous EU deal or the fear and uncertainty of a hard Brexit, Brits now face the same unknown that the Greeks faced when they, too, face a decision not accept to their own PM’s “deal.” Similarly, this fear will be the new national selling point over the next few weeks and could possibly provide another win for the EU’s dominance over all of its 28 vassal states.

With every UK newspaper running plenty of column inches promoting this fear, this ongoing saga is far from over.

The First Rule of Holes.

Well, Ms May is now, after her assurances of more EU reassurances were trashed by Junker, Tusk and Merkel, being handed back her shovel by Brussels. Ignoring the first rule of holes, she has come home to punt one more time. She has “assured” Parliament that the final vote- for sure- will be before Jan 19. Yesterday she announced it would be held during the week of the 17th.

Throughout the day today, she has been bouncing from broadcast to broadcast assuring and assuring, which is, it seems, the only card she has left to negotiate, not with Brussels, but with her own parliament and the British people.

On Friday PM May left for the weekend at the EU summit in another failed attempt. May said she was not expecting a “breakthrough” on the Brexit deal at this week’s EU summit. French President Emmanuel Macron has said it is up to the British Prime Minister to come up with a solution to get the Brexit deal through Parliament. “We can have a political discussion tonight, but the legal framework and the agreement that were negotiated are not supposed to change.”

Other EU leaders repeatedly said the same: they were willing to help Ms May by clarifying what was intended, but they were not prepared to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement.

After all this, PM May still managed, somehow, to say:

“I don’t expect an immediate breakthrough, but what I do hope is that we can start to work as quickly as possible on the assurances that are necessary.”

Really.

Signifying that this ongoing saga has at least one final act to play-out, upon returning to the Home Land on Sunday, Ms May was rewarded for her efforts with a brand new full House vote of [no] confidence vote, fresh from her arch enemy Jeremy Corbyn’s breast pocket.

At this juncture, one of her Ms May’s MPs would do well to recite to their PM, who still remains strangely undaunted in her quest for coercing UK servitude, the sage advice of the First Rule of Holes…

Stop… digging!

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Brett Redmayne-Titley has published over 150 in-depth articles over the past seven years for news agencies worldwide. Many have been translated. On-scene reporting from important current events has been an emphasis that has led to multi-part exposes on such topics as the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, NATO summit, KXL Pipeline, Porter Ranch Methane blow-out and many more. He can be reached at: [email protected]. Prior articles can be viewed at his archive: www.watchingromeburn.uk. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

A former servicemen of the Russian Airborne Troops, Aleksandr Dudchenko, has been killed by a mortar shelling in northern Latakia, according to reports in Russian media outlets.

The incident reportedly took place near the town of Kinsaba, where Dudchenko came under fire from the Turkish-backed National Front for Liberation (NFL). Local sources say that he was among Russian private military contractors that operate in the country.

During the past few weeks, the NFL, other pro-Turkish militant groups as well as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) and its allies violated the ceasefire regime in the Idlib de-escalation zone multiple times. On some parts of the contact line, such as northern Hama, they even carried out limited ground attacks, which were repelled.

At the same time, local activists say that Turkish servicemen in cooperation with members of militant groups prevent civilians from leaving the Idlib zone through the existing humanitarian corridor under various pretexts.

These developments are another strong signal that the militancy problem in western Syria cannot be solved by peaceful means alone. In the nearest future, Idlib militants will continue their attacks on positions of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) hiding behind the so-called ceasefire regime and accusing the SAA of violations every time government forces respond to these attacks.

On December 19, State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino officially denied that US President Donald Trump had given a “green light” to a Turkish military operation against Kurdish armed groups east of the Euphrates. According to Palladino, the December 17 remarks by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan were a misstatement.

Meanwhile, the State Department notified Congress of a proposal to sell the Patriot air and missile defense system to Turkey. The potential $3.5 billion deal, which includes 20 missile launchers, is something Turkey had been seeking for a long time before deciding to buy a Russian-made S-400 system. This US move is a part of the ongoing behind the doors bargain between the Trump administration and the Erdogan government on the conflict in Syria and the Turkish stance on Russian and Iranian actions in the region in general.

Iraqi President Barham Salih will make an official visit to Damascus in the next few days for the first time since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, an Iraqi diplomatic source told the Russian state-run news agency Sputnik on December 18. This visit follows the visit of Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir to Damascus on December 17. Al-Bashir became the first Arab leader to travel to Syria since the start of the war. These diplomatic developments show that despite the still complicated situation in the country, Damascus is steadily improving its diplomatic stand in the region.

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What Happens if France’s Yellow Vests Win?

December 19th, 2018 by Andre Vltchek

What if protesters in Paris win, and the French government gives in to all their demands?

What if taxes are reduced, wages increased, President Macron steps down?

I am not talking only about the hikes of the fuel tax; attempts to impose it have been already abandoned. I am not talking about increase of the minimum wage – the government already agreed to raise it by 100 euro per month.

What I am talking about are real, fundamental changes which many protesters seem to be desiring: substantial tax reduction for the majority of French citizens, generous increase in wages and enhancement of social benefits for all.

So, if the Yellow Vests manage to win all this, then what will happen? Who would benefit? But also, who would lose?

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One of my readers recently wrote to me that France should reduce its military budget and from those billions of euro saved, could easily finance demands of the protesters.

Another reader wrote that the richest citizens of France (or call them ‘elites’) should be taxed heavily, and the money saved in this way could be then distributed among the poor and the lower middle class.

Sounds ‘reasonable’? Yes, definitely; reasonable and logical. The only tiny defect is: we all know that it will never happen this way.

President Macron was elevated to the throne by precisely those so-called elites. In return, those rich folks expect their privileges to be guaranteed, even swollen.

And to imagine that a NATO member country (in this case France) would suddenly slash its military budget and from what is saved, start to finance various new social programs for the poor and the middle class, is unrealistic, even childish.

So where will the funds come from, if the French government decides to do something truly ‘radical’; radical at least by the standards of our era of turbo-capitalism: to listen to its own people?

Let me stop beating about the bush and ask my question brutally and concretely: “What if all demands of the Yellow Vests get satisfied; who will pay the bill?”

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To put all this into a context: I write this essay in Hanoi, capital of socialist Vietnam.

Some time ago, I used to live in this city. I spent almost three years here, when it was still poor, and people remembered war, some even the French colonialism.

Right after I arrived, what shocked me the most was that while the Vietnamese people seemed to ‘forgive’ the USA, they had never forgiven the French colonialists.

“Why?” I asked my friends. “How is it possible? Wasn’t the US bombing and killing campaign during the ‘American War’ (which is known in the West as ‘Vietnam War’) terribly brutal, with millions of Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians losing their lives?”

“Of course, it was”, I was readily explained. “But we fought and, despite the terrible losses and hardship, we defeated Americans in relatively short time. And anyway, it was not only them; members of the coalition also consisted of countries like South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Thailand, and of course, France.”

And the story continued:

“The French were occupying and tormenting us for much longer. They also had been humiliating our people, continuously. They enslaved up, tortured us, took our women, they raped them, and they had stolen all that we had.”

Some instruments of rape-torture used by the French in Indochina

Near where I used to live, was a notorious “Central Jail”, equipped with guillotines, torture chambers, solitary confinement cells. Now, on exhibit there, are monstrous instruments used by the French colonizers, to torture and rape captured Vietnamese patriot women: beer bottles, electric wires, walking canes.

Whatever the colonized Indochina had, was stolen: taken to France, in order to finance construction of grandiose theatres, railroads, metro, parks, and universities. And yes, to subsidize formation of that famous French social system which, as the Yellow Vests are now correctly saying, is being dismantled by the French ‘elites’ and by the political system which they are fully controlling.

Vietnamese people fought bravely against the French, finally defeating them during an iconic battle at Dien Bien Phu. But the victorious Vietnamese Communist forces inherited ransacked, divided land, stripped of its resources and even of its art work (several French intellectuals, including famous writer and later Minister of Culture in de Gaulle’s government, Andre Malraux, confessed to stealing art objects from ‘Indochina’, when he lived there as a young man).

Needless to say, that until now, French companies are brutally pillaging many parts of Southeast Asia, through mining and other neo-colonialist projects, as they do in various areas of Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America.

Now ask in Hanoi, ask in Phnom Penh or Vientiane, whether people of ‘Indochina’ (what an insulting and bizarre name was given to this part of the world by the French, during the colonial era!) are supporting Yellow Vests in Paris? Ask whether they think that if they win concessions in Paris, it would improve life in Asia.

Are you guessing what the answer would be?

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I don’t say that demands of the people who are fighting in the streets of Paris are wrong. They are not. They are absolutely legitimate.

French elites are brutal, selfish, even perverse. Present French government is simply serving them, as the US presidents are all serving huge corporations, including those deadly military conglomerates. ‘They should go’, they should disappear, give way to what is logical human evolutionary pattern: a socialist, egalitarian society.

But they are not ready to go. On the contrary. They are robbing, for centuries, the entire planet, and now they went so far as to plunder their own people (who were used to sharing the booty).

French citizens are not used to being plundered. For centuries they lived well, and for several last decades, they were living ‘extremely well’. They were enjoying some of the most generous benefits anywhere in the world.

Who paid for it? Did it matter? Was it ever important to those in Paris, in other big cities, or in the countryside? Were the French farmers wondering how come they were getting generous subsidies when they were producing excessive amounts of food and wine, but also when they were asked by the government not to produce much of anything? Did they often travel to Senegal, or elsewhere in West Africa, to investigate how these subsidies thoroughly destroyed agriculture sector in several former French colonies? Did they care that lives of millions there were totally ruined? Or that as far as Indonesia or Brazil, French corporations have been, aggressively, taking over food and beverage production, as well as food distribution, and that as a result, food prices in many poor countries skyrocketed to double or triple of what they are in Paris, while the local incomes remain, in some cases, only 10% of those in France?

And the food is only one example. But this essay was supposed to be about something slightly different: about the Yellow Vests, and what will happen if all of their demands would be met.

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If we agree that the regime that is governing in France, entire West, and in many of its colonies and neo-colonies, is truly monstrous, perverse and brutal, we have to come to a logical conclusion that it is not going to pay the bill for better medical care, education, as well as lower taxes and higher wages of the ordinary French citizens.

If demands of the protesters are met, there will be someone else who will be forced to cover the bill. Most likely tens of millions, or hundreds of millions will be ‘taxed’. And they will not be living in France, or in the European Union, or even anywhere near.

Are protesters of Mouvement des gilets jaunes, thinking about this? Does it matter to them at least a little bit?

It did not in the past, either. Perhaps when few people like Jean Paul Sartre were still alive, these questions were periodically asked. But not lately; not now. Not during this rebellion on Champs-Élysées.

Treatment of Vietnamese women by the French

Do people in France question how many millions would have to die in order to improve the quality of life in the French cities and in provinces?

Or perhaps, to ‘compensate’, to cover the social spending, some country would ‘have to be’ invaded? Would it be Iran? Or maybe Venezuela?

The New York Times, in one of its articles about the French provinces, mentioned that people were complaining they cannot afford to even take their wives to a restaurant for dinner, anymore. That is truly serious, but would it justify a battle for Iran or Venezuela, and their consequent plunder, or would it excuse massacre of further few hundreds of thousands of West Papuans?

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I would suggest something that would help to convince the true internationalists, as well as people all over the pillaged world, that the Mouvement des gilets jaunes is not just selfishly fighting for the benefits that would improve lives of the French citizens, at the expense of many others all over the world:

They should indicate that they understand; that they are not indifferent to others. Say clearly that they are against capitalism and imperialism, against colonialism and plundering of the people and their resources in absolutely all parts of our Planet!

Say that they are for freedom, equality, and fraternity of all human beings, not just French!

Say that this is true revolution, true battle for improving the world, not just for more money, lower taxes, and better benefits exclusively for people who are living in France!

Say that they would never accept any benefits or extra money, if they come from robbing poor and colonized nations of all that have left.

If they do say all this, and if they demonstrate that they truly mean it, I will have to shout Vive la Révolution! and join them – the protesters – wholeheartedly.

But until they do, until I am convinced that their victory would not harm others, millions of others, I’ll continue to be much more concerned about people of Vietnam and Papua, about Iran, Africa, Syria or the entire Middle East, than about whether someone individual in rural France can afford to take his wife for dinner to a restaurant.

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This article was originally published on New Eastern Outlook.

Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. Three of his latest books are Revolutionary Optimism, Western Nihilism, a revolutionary novel “Aurora” and a bestselling work of political non-fiction: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire”. View his other books here. Watch Rwanda Gambit, his groundbreaking documentary about Rwanda and DRCongo and his film/dialogue with Noam Chomsky “On Western Terrorism”. Vltchek presently resides in East Asia and the Middle East, and continues to work around the world. He can be reached through his website and his Twitter.

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

On any given night in the United States 553,000 people experience homelessness, according to the 2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) published by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and sent to Congress on Monday.

The report shows that homelessness is on the rise for the second year in a row. It underscores the harsh reality for broad sections of workers in the world’s richest and most “advanced” capitalist country, under what is routinely described as a “booming” economy.

The report sheds light on many aspects of the worsening social crisis in America. Below are some of its most essential findings:

  • Some 36,000 of those experiencing homelessness on any given night in 2018 were unaccompanied youth (defined as people under the age of 25). Of this subset, almost 90 percent were between the ages of 18 and 24. Just over half of these unaccompanied youth were unsheltered—a much higher rate than for all people experiencing homelessness.
  • Homelessness declined this year for all racial groups except people identifying themselves as white, who saw an increase of four percent. White people accounted for 54 percent of the homeless overall.
  • Half of all people experiencing homelessness were in one of five states: California, New York, Florida, Texas or Washington.
  • In January 2018, 3,900 people were staying in sheltered locations specifically reserved for people displaced by presidentially declared national disasters. These people were displaced from areas struck by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate, as well as regions hit by Western wildfires and other storms or natural disasters.

Largest changes in homeless people in families with children

Among the top factors driving the increase in homelessness is the drastic rise in housing costs in major cities. This is exacerbated by the continuation of wage stagnation, despite a near-record low official unemployment rate.

According to the report, over half of all people experiencing homelessness resided in one of the nation’s 50 largest cities. The most notable increase took place in King County, Washington, which includes Seattle, the sixth most expensive city in the US. Homelessness rates there rose by 4 percent.

In New York City, where the critical loss of affordable housing is well documented, homelessness increased by 2.8 percent. The report revealed that nearly three in 10 people in families that experience homelessness in the US do so in New York, which has an estimated 52,070 people in homeless families.

The rise in homelessness among people in families with children increased in 12 states between 2017 and 2018. The largest increases were in Connecticut, which experienced a 44 percent increase (516 more people in homeless families with children), and Massachusetts, which saw a 17 percent rise (1,959 more people).

The results of the HUD homeless report are damning, and even more so when one considers its significant limitations. The data largely comes from locally conducted “point in time” surveys, which are nearly a year old. This method of data collection involves teams of government workers who take a headcount of everyone they can find living outside on a single night in January.

Homeless man in New York City, Credit: WIkipedia user Lujoma ny

In addition, a number of communities did not participate at all in the 2018 national count, including San Francisco, which has seen an immense increase in homelessness in recent years. It is likely that the number of homeless people in the United States is significantly underreported.

Earlier this year, a report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition revealed that there does not exist a single place in the US where someone working a full-time minimum-wage job could afford to rent a modest two-bedroom apartment. A person working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, would require a $26.87 hourly wage to afford such an apartment without spending more than 30 percent of his or her income. In the nation’s capital, Washington DC, where the current minimum wage is $13.25, one would have to earn $34.48 an hour to afford a modest two bedroom apartment.

These two reports taken together tear to shreds the notion that the Democratic Party’s “radical” demand for a $15 an hour minimum wage would seriously lessen the crisis facing workers. The cost of housing coupled with the attack on wages and full-time work has pushed hundreds of thousands of workers into precarious living situations, if not outright homelessness.

Such conditions are widespread across industries. Nearly 95 percent of the jobs created during the Obama administration were part-time, contract, on-call or temporary. This piecemeal work, referred to as the “gig” economy and cynically sold to the younger generation as “flexible” work, excludes health care and other benefits and is often unreliable.

It has become commonplace for workers to hold down two or three part-time jobs in order to make ends meet and provide for their families. Just 39 percent of Americans say they have enough savings to cover a $1,000 emergency room visit or car repair.

Out of Reach report on minimum wage

As the World Socialist Web Site has documented in the case of Texas Amazon worker Shannon Allen, who has been living out of her car for months after being injured on the job, tens of thousands of workers live one paycheck away from homelessness, though they are employed by some of the largest and richest companies in the world.

Reports have emerged this year documenting the growing number of adjunct college professors, many of whom have a Masters degree or PhD, who are forced to live in their cars. Dubbed the “fast food workers of the academic world,” a quarter of these workers are said to be enrolled in public assistance programs. During the wave of teachers’ strikes that erupted early in the year across the US, thousands of teachers spoke out about being forced because of low wages to take second and even third jobs to make ends meet.

In the auto industry, companies have entered into special “competitive cost structure” agreements with the United Auto Workers under which more experienced “legacy” workers are pushed out of the plants and replaced by low-paid, second- and third-tier workers, making as little as the $9 Michigan minimum wage.

These younger workers are often brought on as temporary part-time (TPT) employees, with no rights and no job security. They can be fired at will. They face the most brutal working conditions, as exemplified by the case of Jacoby Hennings, the 21-year-old TPT worker who held jobs simultaneously at two auto plants in Michigan and allegedly killed himself in the fall of 2017 in the UAW local union hall, under still unexplained circumstances. His story is representative of an entire generation of workers.

The statistics on rising homelessness are all the more significant when one considers that they have not only persisted, but worsened in the midst of the supposedly “booming” US economy.

In the “financial recovery” overseen by Democratic President Barack Obama and continued by Donald Trump, the ruling class has grown richer than ever. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has tripled since 2009, propped up by a new financial bubble created by the Federal Reserve’s $4 trillion in quantitative easing. As the Financial Times wrote at the end of this year’s third quarter: “For the big, diversified US banks—Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo—the story of the third quarter was simple: reap the benefits of a good economy, contain expenses, pay less taxes, buy back shares, and make lots of money.”

These vast fortunes were made on the backs of the working class, whose experience since the 2008 crisis has been a nightmare of immense proportions. Democratic and Republican politicians alike, at the behest of the banks and corporations, used the 2008 crash to create the best possible conditions for the financial oligarchs. This meant gutting social services, casualizing labor, loosening safety regulations and attacking healthcare and other benefits.

The indifference and contempt of the ruling class for the plight of workers is indicated by the official response to the HUD report on homelessness. It went virtually unmentioned by both big business parties and barely reported by the corporate-controlled media.

In the eyes of the banks and corporations, the chronically underemployed and unemployed are seen not as economic refugees, but as what Marx called the “industrial reserve army,” available to provide labor for sudden expansions in production while keeping wages low due to their precarious situations.

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The Mad World of Theresa May Has Lured the EU into a Trap

December 19th, 2018 by Rodney Atkinson

The British Prime Minister’s Brexit has been so epically disastrous that it has trapped the EU into an ideal result for the UK. This is consistent with the upside down world she inhabits where virtually every statement about her Brexit is the opposite of the truth. Her Brexit failure could be the way to a clean clear Brexit with most of the negotiating power shifting to Britain.

It was the Chinese warrior Sun Tzu who wrote some 2,500 years ago in “The Art of War” that an over confident general should “not pursue an enemy who simulates flight” as the retreat could be leading to an ambush. The Spartans successfully used the feigned-retreat tactic at Thermopylae in 480 BC.

Of course Mrs May’s flight is not a feint but a genuine collapse. The EU is jubilant. The surrender document (Withdrawal Agreement) is too good to be true. They charge on and laugh at the failure of the British political class. But they forget they are dealing with the British people not their politicians. Ironically we can turn May’s genuine defeat into a real victory.

Accustomed to top down political power and public obedience the continental politicians (and especially the unaccountable EU Commissioners) did not reckon with:

  • The automatic nature of the UK’s withdrawal
  • The lack of time for another referendum
  • The automatic default option of the “no deal” which is in fact a clear deal based on World Trade Organisation terms
  • That those terms mean a big windfall for the British Treasury when we apply WTO tariffs to German and French exports to the UK
  • That those costs would be on top of the very high price of those exports to the UK market after the Pound’s decline so EU manufacturers will have to reduce their prices and profits
  • The UK keeps its £39bn + exit fee so other EU States will have to pick up the difference

So already the EU is coming up with agreements on citizens rights, air traffic, banking, customs checks, personal data, holiday makers and general transport between the UK and EU and – before March 29th – I am sure much else. Those planes will fly, there will be no problems with medicine recognition, no Mars bar or drinking water shortage, we will not lose our seat at the UN (although we would if we stayed in the EU).

And as the future of the May deal is constructed around the mythical Irish problem (although that is by far the least of its critical defects) we suddenly hear from the European Union that UK citizens will have to pay 7 Euros to go on holidays in the EU after Brexit. So much for the seamless border demanded by the EU between Northern Ireland and the Republic!

Suddenly we will find that what was a disaster and what were unsolvable problems can be solved surprisingly quickly. But only if there is pressure. Only if the UK has a political leader with the spine to assert no deal. Only if the 29th March looms ever closer. Only if French and German industry see the writing on the wall and start to order their politicians to stop playing politics and get a free trade deal done.

When we have left they will come begging to us. But only if we leave with “no deal” and exploit the brilliant incompetence of Theresa May which has caused the EU, with great hubris, to charge into the trap.

May’s Brexit Delusions

The British Prime Minister asserted that she had negotiated a good trade deal when there is no trade deal. There might be one after we are trapped in the EU for at least 2 years but her Withdrawal deal has nothing to do with a future trade deal. She said we need a “deal” to leave the EU but we do not. She said her deal means leaving the jurisdiction of the European Court, the end of free movement, the withdrawal from the customs union and the single market but her deal does none of that. Her deal even means that (unlike when she started) we would no longer have the unfettered right to leave at all!

When seeking votes in the confidence motion to remain leader of her party she lied to MPs by saying that the Democratic Unionist Party (on whom she relies to govern at all) was happy with her deal. They denied it. She said she would not be party leader going into the next election only for her words to be interpreted by her clique as the mere “intention” not to. Subsequently she went back on that and now is committed to going before the next election. Mrs May cannot even rely on her own deceptions!

First the Withdrawal Agreement was going to be put to parliament, then May cancelled at the last moment even as her allies were on the airwaves saying it was going ahead. She had previously told the EU that she would cancel the vote even before her Cabinet knew. Then she went on an ill-fated trip to demand changes to the Agreement but the EU said her ideas were “nebulous”.

  • They did not know what she wanted from them
  • They would not re-negotiate but would find a form of words
  • Mrs May said those words would be legally binding even though the EU specifically said they were not
  • The EU even deleted sentences of support for May from the communique.

But in mad May world she said she had made good progress! She still thinks she can get the deal through the House and that the E.U. is negotiating. That is “self delusion beyond repair” as the late Sir Alfred Sherman used to say – self delusion shared by her own MPs who have just confirmed her as leader!

Theresa May set out the principles for Brexit (because they were precisely what the British had voted for in the referendum) in her 2017 Lancaster House speech. The only way those promises can be fulfilled is by the defeat of her own Withdrawal Agreement and the “no deal” Brexit which she rejects.

The UK Is All Set to Go

Wages are rising, real wages after inflation are rising, employment has reached record levels – all as 132,000 fewer “EU citizens” work in the UK.

And the Pound? Well you have heard of these City economists saying how disastrous leaving the EU will be. But it seems when actually asked to predict the level of the Pound after Brexit next year the major banks all say it will rise from its present level of $1.26! Nomura says massively to just under $1.60. Barclays say around $1.30, JP Morgan and Citi bank say around $1.37 and the French Bank BNPP say $1.47.

While predicting chaos from a no deal Brexit the CBI has just published data of UK manufacturing success with orders growing for a second month in a row in December. The CBI’s monthly order book showed a positive reading of +8, after November’s +10 but well above average levels and a measure of expectations for the three months ahead rose to +14, its highest level since September.

If you want something more vox pop you might like to hear the lead singer of the very successful pop group Iron Maiden, Bruce Dickinson who has said that “Brexit will open the UK to the rest of the World”.

The UK has just announced it will stay in the Common Transit Convention giving “simplified cross border trade for UK businesses exporting their goods” and “provide cashflow benefits to traders and aid trade flow at key points of entry …….. traders will only have to make customs declarations and pay import duties when they arrive at their final destination.” As John Redwood MP says: “How about some apologies from all those who said border friction would be very damaging?”

So Armageddon it is not!

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Eminent Indian economist Professor Utsa Patnaik (Jawaharlal Nehru University) has estimated that Britain robbed India of $45 trillion between 1765 and 1938, However it is estimated that if India had remained free with  24% of world GDP  as in 1700 then its cumulative GDP would have been $232 trillion greater (1700-2003) and $44 trillion greater (1700-1950). Deprivation kills and it is estimated that 1.8 billion Indians died avoidably from egregious deprivation under the British (1757-1947). The deadly impact of British occupation of India lingers today 71 years after Independence, with 4 million people dying avoidably from deprivation each year in capitalist India as compared to zero (0) in China.

Professor Utsa Patnaik is professor emeritus at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Utsa Patnaik is a Marxist economist and taught at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning in the School of Social Sciences at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) from 1973 until her retirement in 2010. She obtained her PhD in economics from Oxford University, UK, and has researched the transition from agricultural  peasant societies to industrial societies, and food security and poverty, especially in India [1]. Utsa Patnaik’s  latest book, co-authored with Prabhat Patnaik, is “A Theory of Imperialism” (2016) [2].

We all know that the British rapaciously exploited India. Professor Utsa Patnaik has estimated the magnitude of the British robbing of India thus:  “Between 1765 and 1938, the drain amounted to 9.2 trillion pounds ($45 trillion), taking India’s export surplus earnings as the measure, and compounding it at a 5 per cent rate of interest” [3-5].

(A) How and by how much did Britain rob India?

After the betrayal and defeat of the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj ud-daulah, at the Battle of Plassey in 1757, the British installed their own puppet, Mir Jafar, as Nawab. The British extracted huge concessions from the defeated Bengalis including land, a monopoly of trade with Europe, and exemption from taxation on internal trade. The British subsequently replaced Mir Jafar with Mir Kasim as Nawab of Bengal.  The Bengalis under Mir Kasim were finally driven to revolt when he was in turn   sacked by the British and replaced by Mir Jafar for a second term.  The Bengalis were defeated at the Battle of Buxar in 1764 , and in 1765 the Moghul Emperor Shah Alam was “persuaded” to grant the power of taxation (diwani) in Bengal to the British East India Company. The British  in turn sub-contracted rapacious revenue collection to Bengalis.

Some of the revenue would go the Emperor and some to the Nawab, with the remainder being retained by the British. The British described this as “farming” the Bengali peasants (ryots), but over-taxing of Bengalis meant that  10 million Bengalis perished in the Great Bengal Famine of 1769-1770. The East India Company used about one third of the collected revenue to buy Indian goods and thus the Bengalis were in effect being paid for their goods through the exorbitant taxes applied to them. 15 years later, exorbitant British taxation led to famine in the Gangetic plain to the west of Bengal. Indeed such British excesses led to the British Parliament (unsuccessfully) impeaching Warren Hastings (first Governor General of India and father by adultery of Jane Austen’s cousin Eliza) for crimes such as the violation of the Begums of Oudh –  he was of course eventually acquitted [6].

By the 1840s the East India Company had dominion over most of present-day India, Pakistan and Bangladesh but the British Government was increasingly keen for greater  involvement in the exploitative proceedings. In 1847 the  British Government introduced a scheme whereby those wishing to buy Indian goods could only do so using Council Bills issued by the British  Crown in London. Traders would pay for such Bills in gold and silver and use them to pay Indian producers who would in turn cash them in for rupees at the local colonial office –  rupees that been exacted by exorbitant taxation [5].

In his book “Inglorious Empire. What the British did to India”, Shashi Tharoor describes how the British looted and de-industrialized India and thus paid for Britain’s Industrial Revolution and violent global dominance: “At the beginning of the eighteenth century, as the British economic historian Angus Maddison has demonstrated, India’s share of the world economy was 23 per cent, as large as all of Europe put together. (It had been 27 per cent in 1700, when   the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb’s treasury raked in £100 million in tax revenues alone.) By the time the British departed India, it had dropped to just over 3 per cent. The reason was simple: India was governed for the benefit of Britain. Britain’s rise for 200 years was financed by its depredations in India” ([7], page 3 [8]). This deadly and merciless taxation was accompanied by massive de-industrialization of India. Thus before the invasion by the British, India led the world in textiles, agriculture and metallurgy, but rapidly became an exporter of raw materials and an importer of goods manufactured in Britain [6- 8].

Professor Utsa Patnaik’s estimate of Britain’s theft from India amounting to $45 trillion (1765-1938) [3-5] can be compared with estimates based on GDP considerations.   According to Wikipedia, India’s share of the world economy declined from 24.4% in 1700 to 4.2% in 1950. India’s share of global industrial output declined from 25% in 1750 to 2% in 1900 [9]. From available data on India’s GDP and India’s share of world GDP since 1700 [10, 11] one can get a very rough estimate of what India’s cumulative GDP could have been from 1700-2003 if the British had not robbed and raped India.

Thus the cumulative GDP (PPP) for India is given below for 6 periods since 1700 (A) at the observed average % of world GDP , and (B) if the average Indian % of world GDP had remained at the pre-British invasion 24.0% in 1770.

  1. 1700-1820: (A) $13.1 trillion (20.3%) versus (B) $15.8 trillion (24.0%).
  1. 1820-1870: (A) $6.2 trillion (14.0%) versus (B) $10.5 trillion (24.0%).
  1. 1870-1913: (A) $7.3 trillion (9.8%) versus (B) $18.0 trillion (24.0%).
  1. 1913-1950: (A) $7.9 trillion (5.5%) versus (B) $34.4 trillion (24.0%).
  1. 1950-1973: (A) $8.3 trillion (3.5%) versus (B) $$56.8 trillion (24.0%).
  1. 1973-2003: (A) $41.5 trillion (5.5%) versus (B) $180.9 trillion (24.0%).

It has taken India 7 decades to partially recover from 2 centuries of rapacious British imperialism.  The difference in cumulative GDP is $316.4 trillion (1700-2003) and $44 trillion (1700-1950), the latter estimate of India’s deprivation being consonant with Professor Utsa Patnaik’s estimate that the British had  stolen $45 trillion from India between 1765 and 1938 [3-5].

(B)  1.8 billion Indians died avoidably from egregious deprivation under the British.

Imposed poverty kills. Poverty-derived  avoidable mortality (avoidable death, excess mortality, excess death, premature death, untimely death, death that should not have happened) can be estimated as the difference between the actual deaths in a country and the deaths expected for a peaceful, decently governed country with same demographics (birth rate and percentage of children) [12].  Below are listed in rough  chronological order some shocking salient features of the deadly impact of   rapacious British imperialism over 2 centuries in British India, Britain’s Auschwitz.

  1. In the 1769-1770  Great Bengal Famine 10 million out of 30 million over-taxed Bengalis starved to death [6, 13].
  1. Scores of millions of Indians perished in man-made famines between the  1769-1770  Great Bengal Famine and the 1942-1945  WW2 Bengal Famine [6].
  1. Using Indian census data 1870-1950,  assuming an Indian population of  about 200 million in the period 1760-1870,  and estimating by interpolation from available data an Indian avoidable death rate in (deaths per 1,000 of population) of 37 (1757-1920), 35 (1920-1930), 30 (1930-1940) and 24 (1940-1950), one can estimate Indian excess deaths of 592  million (1757-1837), 497 million (1837-1901) and 418 million (1901-1947), roughly 1.5 billion in total or 1.8 billion including the Native States [14].
  1. Scores of millions of distant British keeping hundreds of millions of Indians on the edge of starvation was enabled by relatively small numbers of British soldiers and much greater numbers of well-fed Indian soldiers threatening requisite violence [6]. It has been estimated by Amaresh Misra that 10 million Indians were massacred in the decade after the 1857 Indian Mutiny (Indian Rebellion) as reprisals for 2,000 British deaths [15, 16].
  1. Despite a very high birth rate, the Indian population did not increase between 1860 (292 million) and 1934 (292 million) [17]. This is indicative of massive avoidable deaths from imposed deprivation that can be estimated as 745 million (1860-1934) or an average of about 10 million Indian avoidable deaths from deprivation per year [14].
  1. Addressing the House of Commons in 1935, racist, imperialist and mass murderer Winston Churchill made an extraordinary confession in stating of the subjugated Indians: “In the standard of life they have nothing to spare. The slightest fall from the present standard of life in India means slow starvation, and the actual squeezing out of life, not only of millions but of scores of millions of people, who have come into the world at your invitation and under the shield and protection of British power” [6, 18, 19]. 7 years later Churchill commenced  the deliberate starving to death over 4 years of 6-7 million Indians in Bengal, Orissa, Bihar and Assam as the British exported grain from India and slashed grain imports [6].
  1. 8. In the 1942-1945 WW2 Bengali Holocaust (Indian Holocaust, WW2 Bengal Famine) 6-7 million Indians were deliberately starved to death for strategic reasons by the British with Australian complicity (Australia was complicit by denying starving India food from its huge wartime food stores) [6, 12-14,  19-27]. This atrocity has been white-washed from history and general public perception by successive generations of Anglo journalist, editor, politician and academic presstitutes. Indeed perpetrator Churchill made no mention for this atrocity in his 6-volume history “The Second World War” for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature [6].
  2. According  to Professor Utsa Patnaik Indian per capita annual consumption of food  was 200 kg in 1900, but went down to 137 kg during World War II and in 1946 [28]. This is consonant with the following data from my book “Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History”: “The population of India at that time [1940] was about 400 million and total grain production was 50 to 70 million tons annually. The population was growing at a rate of about 5% per year and there was a requirement of net imports of about 1-2 million tons of grain per annum to make up for deficiencies… Behrens’ figures for grain shipments (in tons) for India in 1942-1945 are as follows: 1942 (30,000), 1943 (303,000), 1944 (639,000) and 1945 (871,000). The 1942 shipment involved 2 lots from Australia contracted for at the rate of 15,000 tons per month to supply the Indian Army (the balance of the demand was not shipped that year). 2.4 million men served in the Indian Army during World War 2. This estimate can be “reduced” since not all of these were in the Army at the same time, scores of thousands were in the Mediterranean theatre (250,000 served there), had been captured by the Japanese or had died. Taking the gross Indian annual grain production estimates of about 60 million tons for 400 million people, we see that the average consumption was 0.15 tons per person per year (obviously more for adults and less for children). The annual requirement for about 2 million men in the “reduced” Indian Army was therefore 0.3 million tons. We can arrive at a figure having a similar order of magnitude from the 1942 contracted requirement of 15,000 tons per month i.e. 0.18 million tons for a whole year. If we assume that an Indian Army soldier required 50% more food than the average Indian we would estimate that the annual grain requirement for a 2 million strong Indian Army would be about 0.45 million tons. The average yearly importation in 1942-1945 was 0.46 million tons and thus we can see that the grain actually imported was merely enough to feed the Indian Army” (pages 156-158, Chapter 15 [6]).
  3. Shashi Tharoor in “Inglorious Empire”: “The British left a society with 16 per cent literacy, a life expectancy of 27, practically no domestic industry and over 90 per cent living below what today we would call the poverty line” ([7], page 215 [8]) . As  indicated in (6) above, the life expectancy of 27 years corresponded to about 10 million Indian avoidable deaths from deprivation per year.
  1. Things got much better after Indian Independence. The 1.8 billion avoidable Indian deaths from deprivation under the genocidal British over 2 centuries is not that surprising when one considers that despite modern medicine, antibiotics, and the essential absence of famine, avoidable deaths from deprivation in the period 1950-2005 in India totalled 0.35 billion [14].  Annual avoidable deaths as a percentage of population fell from a genocidal 2.4% per year  in 1947 under the British to 0.35% per year in 2005,  but the population of India increased from 380 million in 1947 to about 1,100 million in 2005. Today 4 million Indians die avoidably from deprivation each year as compared to zero (0) in China that, unlike capitalist India, has overcome endemic poverty [11].
  1. The 3 Laws of Thermodynamics that underlie Chemistry, Physics and industry are (1) the energy of a closed system is constant, (2) the entropy (disorder, lack of information content) strives to a maximum, and (3) there is zero molecular motion in a pure crystal at absolute zero degrees Kelvin (-273. 15 degrees Centigrade).  Polya’s 3 Laws of Economics are based on the 3 Laws of Thermodynamics and posit that (1) Price (P)  – Cost of Production (COP) = Profit (p), (2) deception about COP  strives to a maximum, and (3) No work, price or profit on a dead planet [29].  The major cost of production (COP) in the British Raj was the passive mass murder of 1.8 billion Indians through deadly impoverishment, and in keeping with Polya’s  Second Law of Economics, the British strove to deceive the world about this horror.

The capitalist perpetrator deception continues in a neoliberal One Percenter-dominated world that is existentially threatened by nuclear weapons (a nuclear winter from nuclear war would wipe out most of Humanity and the Biosphere), poverty (15 million people die avoidably from deprivation each year, 4 million in India) and man-made climate change (about 1 million people die from climate change each year but this set to increase to an average of 100 million deaths per year this century if urgent, requisite action is not taken) [30- 32] .  Poverty kills. History ignored yields history repeated [6]. Peace is the only way but silence kills and silence is complicity. Please inform everyone you can.

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Dr Gideon Polya taught science students at a major Australian university for 4 decades. He published some 130 works in a 5 decade scientific career, most recently a huge pharmacological reference text “Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds” (CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, New York & London , 2003).

Notes

[1]. Utsa Patnaik and Prabhat Patnaik, “A Theory of Imperialism”, Columbia University Press, New York, 2016.

[2]. “Utsa Patnaik”, Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utsa_Patnaik .

[3]. Utsa Patnaik in Arindam Banerjee and C. P. Chandrasekhar, editors, “Dispossession, Deprivation, and Development. Essays for Utsa Patnaik, Columbia University Press,  2018.

[4]. “How much money did Britain take away from India? About $45 trillion in 173 years, says top economist”, Business Today, 19 November 2018: https://www.businesstoday.in/current/economy-politics/this-economist-says-britain-took-away-usd-45-trillion-from-india-in-173-years/story/292352.html.

[5]. Jason Hickel, “How Britain stole $45 trillion from India and lied about it”, Al Jazeera, 18 December 2018: https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/britain-stole-45-trillion-india-181206124830851.html .

[6]. Gideon Polya, “Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History. Colonial rapacity, holocaust denial and the crisis in biological sustainability”, G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 1998, 2008 that  is now available for free perusal on the web: http://janeaustenand.blogspot.com/  .

[7]. Gideon Polya, “Review: “Inglorious Empire. What the British did to India” by Shashi Tharoor”, Countercurrents, 8 September 2017: https://countercurrents.org/2017/09/08/review-inglorious-empire-what-the-british-did-to-india-by-shashi-tharoor/ .

[8]. Shashi Tharoor, “Inglorious Empire. What the British did to India”, Scribe, 2017.

[9]. “Economic history of India”, Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_history_of_India .

[10]. “Angus Maddison statistics of the ten largest economies by GDP (PPP)”, Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angus_Maddison_statistics_of_the_ten_largest_economies_by_GDP_(PPP).

[11]. Angus Maddison, “Contours of the World Economy 1-2030AD”, Oxford University Press, 2007.

[12]. “Gideon Polya, “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950”, including an avoidable mortality-related history of every country from Neolithic times and is now available for free perusal on the web : http://globalbodycount.blogspot.com.au/  .

[13]. Paul Greenough (1982),“Prosperity and Misery in Modern Bengal: the Famine of 1943-1944” (Oxford University Press, 1982).

[14]. Gideon Polya, “Economist Mahima Khanna,   Cambridge Stevenson Prize And Dire Indian Poverty”,  Countercurrents, 20 November, 2011: https://countercurrents.org/polya201111.htm .

[15]. Amaresh Misra, “War of Civilisations: India AD 1857”.

[16].  Randeep Ramesh, “India’s secret history: :A holocaust, one where millions disappeared”, Guardian, 24 August 2007: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2007/aug/24/india.randeepramesh .

[17]. Populstat, “India. Historical demographical data of the whole country”: http://www.populstat.info/Asia/indiac.htm .

[18]. Winston Churchill, speech to the House of Commons about Indians (1935); 1. Hansard of the House of Commons, Winston Churchill speech, Hansard Vol. 302, cols. 1920-21, 1935.

[19]. N. G. Jog, “Churchill’s Blind-Spot: India”, New Book Company, Bombay, 1944 (Winston Churchill quoted on p195).

[20]. K.C. Ghosh, “Famines in Bengal 1770-1943” (National Council of Education, Calcutta, 2nd edition 1987).

[21]. T. Das, T. (1949), “Bengal Famine (1943) as Revealed in a Survey of Destitutes of Calcutta”,  University of Calcutta, Calcutta, 1949.

[22]. Gideon Polya, “Australia And Britain Killed 6-7 Million Indians In WW2 Bengal Famine”,  Countercurrents, 29 September, 2011: https://countercurrents.org/polya290911.htm .

[23]. “Bengali Holocaust (WW2 Bengal Famine) writings of Gideon Polya”, Gideon Polya: https://sites.google.com/site/drgideonpolya/bengali-holocaust .

[24]. Amartya Sen,  “Famine Mortality: A Study of the Bengal Famine of 1943” in Hobshawn, E. (1981) (editor), Peasants In History. Essays in Honour of David Thorner (Oxford University Press, New Delhi).

[25]. Cormac O Grada (2009) “Famine a short history” (Princeton University Press, 2009).

[26]. Madhusree Muckerjee (2010), “Churchill’s Secret War. The British Empire and the ravaging of India during World War II” (Basic Books, New York, 2010).

[27]. Thomas Keneally (2011), “Three Famines” (Vintage House, Australia, 2011).

[28]. Prianshi Mathur, “Did you know that back in the  Raj days, British looted Rs 3.2 lakh crore from India?”, India Times, 16 December 2018: https://www.indiatimes.com/trending/wtf/did-you-know-that-back-in-the-raj-days-british-looted-rs-3-2-lakh-crore-from-india-358731.html  .

[29]. Gideon Polya, “Polya’s 3 Laws Of Economics Expose Deadly, Dishonest  And Terminal Neoliberal Capitalism”, Countercurrents,  17 October, 2015: https://countercurrents.org/polya171015.htm .

[30]. “Climate Genocide”: https://sites.google.com/site/climategenocide/ .

[31]. “Too late to avoid global warming catastrophe”: https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/too-late-to-avoid-global-warming

[32]. “Nuclear weapons ban , end poverty & reverse climate change”: https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/nuclear-weapons-ban

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French Government Responds to Mass Protests

December 19th, 2018 by Abayomi Azikiwe

Saturday December 15 marked the fifth consecutive week where thousands of people have held marches and engaged in various forms of civil disobedience throughout France.

Sparked by the imposition of a fuel tax, the “gilet jaunes” (Yellow Vest) movement has exposed the negative impact of the neo-liberal policies of the ruling La Republique en Marche President Emmanuel Macron. Even after the president announced the suspension and eventual elimination of the fuel tax along with other reforms related to minimum wages and pensions, demonstrations still took place the following week albeit in smaller numbers.

The rationale for the fuel tax imposed by Macron was ostensibly to reduce the usage of fossil fuels. This supposed “green energy policy” which includes the reduction in the speed limit disproportionately affects motorists who live outside the central metropolitan areas.

In Strasbourg on the border with Germany and the official seat of the European Parliament, an attack at the Christmas market area on December 11 resulting in the deaths of five people prompted a broadened security presence by the French authorities. International media coverage shifted from the plight of workers and the middle income sectors, to the ongoing “anti-terrorism” narrative.

However, this incident in Strasbourg did not halt the burgeoning consciousness of people surrounding the policies of the Macron administration which is deliberately designed to disempower trade unions and further impoverish large sections of the population. The Yellow Vest movement was conveniently projected as people are required to carry this apparel in their vehicles to indicate emergencies on the streets and railways.

Since the beginning of the demonstrations seven people have been killed. The French government has deployed nearly 70,000 riot police to control the protests. Police agencies have reported tremendous stress among its personnel attempting to quell the unrest and called for their own picket lines outside law-enforcement offices on December 19.

Two days after the fifth straight week of Saturday demonstrations, protesters targeted toll stations to illustrate the rising cost of personal transportation in France. Many of the participants taking part in the demonstrations are those located in the outskirts of major cities threatened with financial ruin due to the policies of the current government.

Protest actions were reported on December 18 at 40 different toll collection outlets. Several locations were set on fire.

These toll station seizures and arsons are complicating security concerns on the highways where the largest firm which administers the outlets, Vinci Autoroutes, issued a warning to drivers traveling on the highways. There were attacks on intersections near tourist towns such as Avignon, Orange, Perpignan, Agde, etc.

Early on December 18, the Bandol toll was firebombed prompting the closing of A50 Highway between Marseille and Toulon. In addition, the Manosque toll station was burned as well.

Vinci Autoroutes is heavily centered in the western and southern regions of France. The increasing attacks on highway locations are damaging the flow of traffic during the holiday season. It was announced by the French authorities that 20 people were arrested on December 18 in connection with the attacks on the toll stations.

Speed radar monitors have been hit as well over the last few weeks. The disabling of these machines mean that traffic citations for speeding cannot be documented depriving the company and the French government of millions in revenues.

Radars-auto.com reported that 1600 traffic monitoring devices have been destroyed by demonstrators. This number accounts for approximately 50% of all such machines in the entire country.

These radar machines yielded 84 million euros (US$96 million) every month during 2017. French Interior Ministry officials refused to provide a specific number of how many radar devices have been taken out in the last few weeks. The state did however note that the cost of repairing the radar monitoring devices could run from 500 to 200,000 euros.

France yellow vest demonstrations during Nov.-Dec. 2018

Conditions Which Sparked Unrest

The developments in France surrounding the Yellow Vest protests are a direct byproduct of the declining standard of living among workers, the poor and disaffected people in the middle classes. The two major political parties which contested in the 2017 runoff elections were the newly-created La Republique en Marche composed of former Socialist Party leaders and conservative elements both of whom are committed to a neo-liberal economic agenda which favors the interests of finance capital far above and beyond the working class and poor, and the National Front, headed by Marine Le Pen, a neo-fascist pro-capitalist party which takes a hardline against immigration from the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe.

Objectively many people in France are suffering from increasing marginalization. This is exemplified by the consistently high jobless rates over the last two decades.

According to a report published by tradingeconomics.com,

“The unemployment rate in France stood at 9.1% in the third quarter of 2018, the same as in the previous period and slightly below market expectations of 9.2%. In metropolitan France only, the unemployment rate was also unchanged at 8.8% in the third quarter as the number of unemployed increased by 22,000 to 2.6 million. The employment rate rose by 0.1% points to 65.9%, its highest level since the early 1980s, and the activity rate moved up to 72.3%, its highest since the series began in 1975. Unemployment rates in France averaged 9.27% from 1996 until 2018, reaching an all-time high of 10.70% in the first quarter of 1997 and a record low of 7.20% in the first quarter of 2008.”

Demands put forward by the Yellow Vest movement has extended beyond economic issues such as toll rates, fuel prices, minimum wages and the high rates of taxation on salaries and pensions. Many within the demonstrations have called for the resignation of Macron and even the overthrow of the Fifth Republic.

Right-wing elements have entered the demonstrations believing that the collapse of the Macron presidency could pave the way for the ascendancy of Le Pen. Yet there is a diversity of political and class interests involved in the protests. Absent of a clearly identifiable national political leadership the movement could potentially be a stage for the ideological struggle which is needed for France to move forward beyond the present neo-liberal impasse.

The left-wing Confederation of Trade Unions (CGT) had called for a strike over energy policy on November 27. Other radical and anarchist elements are seeking to influence the character of the protests as well.

Bruno Drweski, a historian and geo-political analyst working at the National Institute for Eastern Languages and Cultures (INALCO) in Paris, granted an interview to LeftEast online journal where Maria Cernat, a lecturer at the Communications Sciences and International Relations Department of Titu Maiorescu University in Bucharest, Romania, asked several questions about the social character of the Yellow Vest protest movement.

The observations of Drweski emphasize that:

“People are strongly determined not to capitulate, but the main problem is the lack of organization, which on one side makes the movement broader but, on the other leaves it open to provocations, manipulations and social divisions. Even if the general mood is marked with values and slogans that were first used during the French Revolution, it is hard to say if this ‘national-political-social unity’ will prevail so as to force the government to retreat on policies that are pursued not only by the government but also by the EU and the international financial organizations within the frame of the capitalist globalization process.”

International Significance of the French Movement

Throughout the entire European Union (EU) a similar economic and political crisis to what exist in France prevails. Demonstrations have erupted in other countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands.

In Brussels the demonstrations have taken on a decisively right-wing character where on December 15 crowds of people demanded the government of Prime Minister Charles Michel resign over the signing of the United Nations Global Compact on Migration at a conference in Morocco. The aims of the agreement are to develop a comprehensive approach to migration policy internationally.

Ten countries including many former socialist states in Eastern Europe have withdrawn their support for the migration pact. Earlier in July when the Morocco conference was held the United States refused to sign the UN document.

Michel offered to step down presenting his resignation letter to King Philippe on December 18 after a vote of no-confidence in parliament where other parties in the ruling coalition and the opposition refused to back his continuing rule. Right-wing elements in Belgium view the migration pact as encouraging the entry of people from the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

These political developments which are influenced by the economic crisis gripping the western capitalist states could result in both rightward and leftward tilts in the character of the responses by the working and middle classes. Nonetheless, the adoption of a purported “populist” stance on the failure of the neo-liberal governance model provides no solution to the majority of working and oppressed peoples within the capitalist countries.

Western industrialized nations are experiencing limited growth rates with a widening gap between the rich and poor. Attacks on migrants and the nationally oppressed cannot guarantee higher wages and better living conditions for the previously more stable working and middle classes.

Imperialist wars in the last three decades in Iraq, the Balkans, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen and other geo-political regions have drained the national wealth of the western countries. The global recession after 2007 and the large-scale governmental bailouts of the international financial institutions along with the industrialists have further weakened the social fabric of world capitalist system.

Only a movement to genuinely empower the workers and oppressed on a non-capitalist basis provides the potential for moving beyond the present crisis in Europe, North America and the rest of the world.

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Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of Pan-African News Wire. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

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Iraq: The Slums of Mesopotamia

December 19th, 2018 by Bahira al-Sheikhly

It has become obvious that corruption has settled in Iraq since its occupation in 2003. Corruption has multiplied and engulfed all aspects of life.

The emergence of slums in the land of Mesopotamia is but one of the manifestations of the disastrous consequences of occupation and the bottomless corruption of the successive administrations in Iraq. It joins phenomena such as hunger, unemployment and poverty to depict a depressing picture of what has befallen this venerable country.

It is a painful paradox that in the post-2003 period we find Iraqi citizens who have become homeless, living like wild animals in the open while historically Mesopotamia was the perfect haven for man.

Dozens of slums have mushroomed on the outskirts of Baghdad and other cities in Iraq. They emerged from poverty and lack the most basic of amenities. There is no water, no electricity, no sewage and no services. Children in these slums are deprived of education and of life. Most of them eke out a measly daily income or a meagre meal by rummaging through garbage.

Data collected by the Iraqi Ministry of Planning in cooperation with the UN Human Settlements Programme last year show that about 13% of the population of Iraq lives in slums. This percentage is conceivably below the truth because the census did not include the populations of the three provinces of Iraqi Kurdistan (Erbil, Dohuk, Sulaimaniyah) and skipped the provinces of Anbar, Saladin and Nineveh due to the unstable security situations.

The ministry’s data indicated that there were 3,687 slum communities in 12 governorates. With a population of 8 million, Baghdad leads the list with 1,000 slums, followed by the province of Basra (about 3 million inhabitants) with 700 slums. The provinces of Najaf and Karbala close the list with 89 slum areas.

The Ministry of Planning’s survey estimated the number of slum dwellers to be 3.3 million people living in 522,000 housing units. Data also show that 88% of the slums were erected on government land.

Slums started mushrooming around Iraq after 2003. Poor people built houses on abandoned land parcels. Large tracts of government land were seized by party militias, which either built commercial compounds on them or distributed some to the poor in exchange for votes come Election Day.

The problem of slums was exacerbated after the rise of the Islamic State in 2014 with the exodus of thousands of families to big cities and their settling on abandoned tracts of land around them.

There have been deliberate acts of destruction and urban disfigurement in large cities, especially Baghdad. Local authorities have allowed the parcelling of large houses with large yards in the city into small parcels and for buildings to be erected on them.

Authorities also have done nothing to stop buildings being erected on sidewalks and road separators.  Houses have even been built on river banks in blatant disregard for the law or civic behaviour. Extensive corruption is everywhere in Iraq.

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GlobalResearch.ca in 2019

December 19th, 2018 by The Global Research Team

Dear Readers,

As the year slowly draws to a close, we take stock of what 2018 brought us and what 2019 has in store for us. In so doing, one issue stands out like a sore thumb. Despite the best efforts of a small percentage of our core readership, we no longer cover our monthly expenses. Until we are able to reverse this situation, GlobalResearch.ca remains in perilous waters.

To any of you who have already donated or taken out a membership, we are deeply grateful and we apologize if this is becoming repetitious. We too wish we didn’t need to send these requests for support so frequently, but until we can put an end to our monthly deficit, we see no alternative.

We have a large readership for wish we are extremely thankful. If each of our readers made a donation, large or small, or took out a membership with us, we would be well on our way to remedying the situation. With your help, we will continue to strive for peace in 2019 and beyond. We thank you for your support and wish you all the best for the holiday period!

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Madagascar: Electoral Threat to Biodiversity

December 19th, 2018 by Dr Peter H. Raven

In the wake of the COP24 negotiations it is easy to forget that a much less publicised event will be taking place in just a matter of days, although it is one of equal significance to the global environment.

On 19 December, the Malagasy people go to the polls to vote for their choice of one of two remaining candidates in the second round of their presidential election.

Madagascar is home to an extraordinary abundance of biodiversity, a unique and precious assemblage of flora and fauna. The island is nearly twice the size of the British Isles, but with about ten times as many species of organisms.

Significant deforestation 

Perhaps as much as three percent of the world’s species are found in Madagascar, with more than 95 percent of them found nowhere else.  Overall, only five to ten percent of Madagascar’s species has been catalogued by science, although we have found most of the vertebrate animals and plants by now.

Out of necessity, Madagascar’s rural poor are consuming their natural resources directly as much as the people of any other country on earth.  On top of that, illegal logging for export has become a major problem in the relatively small forests that have survived.

Wood from the several species of rosewood that occur on the island has been particularly sought after.  Its deep red wood is prized and most of the accessible trees in Asia have already been harvested.  This wood fetches very high prices globally, and especially in China.

Industrial-scale activities such as lumbering and mining are rapidly destroying most of the natural areas left on the island and the biodiversity that live in them.

These combined forces will continue to destroy the environment unless alternatives are found for the people.  All 111 species of lemurs are unique Madagascar. As a result of the activities outlined above, almost every one is on the brink of extinction, making them the most endangered group of primates on Earth.

Comparisons with Brazil 

Local law enforcement already faces a near insurmountable battle against the global appetite for rosewood.

If former president and current candidate Andry Rajoelina returns to power on 19 December, their job will become essentially impossible. Under his tenure from 2009-2014, illicit exports of wood from the island soared. After coming to power on the back of a military coup, one of his first acts was to tear up legal protections against felling certain hardwoods, thereby enriching himself and a cabal of timber barons.

Comparisons have been drawn to Brazil’s President-elect Bolsonaro, who has pledged to do away with similar environmental protections to make way for mining and industrial-scale farming.

And yet, while it is being lost rapidly, most of the original Brazilian rainforest is still in place. In contrast, approximately 90 percent of Madagascar’s vegetation has been destroyed over the centuries.

Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world, with an average share of GDP of about US $1500, about a tenth of the average in Brazil.  Madagascar’s current population of about 26 million people is estimated to be on its way to doubling within the next 30 years (by 2050). In short, the situation there is even more urgent, if nowhere near as widely known.

Environmental sustainability 

The world needs to learn to care enough about Madagascar’s people to help them attain environmental sustainability, but we seem to be a very long way from that goal.

Recent years have seen a spate of new world leaders gleefully setting the global environmental agenda back by decades.

Madagascar – a biological treasure-house of great significance – has relatively few resources left to exploit. With another Bolsonaro as President, it is the Malagasy people who will suffer most of all. But if they lose, so do we all.

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Dr Peter H. Raven is a renowned botanist and environmentalist. He is president emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Featured image is from The Ecologist

U.S. stocks have not fallen this dramatically during the month of December since the Great Depression of the 1930s.  On Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost another 507 points, and it is now down more than 1,000 points from Thursday’s close.  This fresh downturn has pushed the Dow and the S&P 500 very firmly into correction territory, and the Russell 2000 is now officially in bear market territory.  The ferocity of this stock market crash is stunning many of the experts, and many investors are beginning to panic.  Back in early October, the Dow hit an all-time high of 26,951.81, but on Monday it closed at just 23,592.98.  That means that the Dow has now plunged more than 3,300 points from the peak of the market, and many believe that this stock crash is just getting started.

When it was first being reported that the stock market was on pace for the worst December since the Great Depression, I have to admit that I was skeptical.

But CNBC has the numbers to back up that claim…

Two benchmark U.S. stock indexes are careening toward a historically bad December.

Both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 are on pace for their worst December performance since 1931, when stocks were battered during the Great Depression. The Dow and S&P 500 are down 7.8 percent and 7.6 percent this month, respectively.

And we still have two weeks remaining in December.  If things continue to unravel, we could potentially be talking about a truly historic month for Wall Street.

But we certainly don’t need things to get any worse, because the damage that has already been done has been immense.  The following numbers come from Zero Hedge

  • Dow -12.7% from highs (correction)
  • S&P -13.7% from highs (correction)
  • Nasdaq Composite -17.3% from highs (correction)
  • Dow Transports -19.4% from highs (correction)
  • Russell 2000 -20.6% from highs (bear market)

The Russell 2000 is often an early indicator of where the rest of the market is going, and if that turns out to be the case this time around then we should expect the Dow and the S&P 500 to fall a lot farther.

When asked about this market downturn by CNBC, one equity strategist actually used the “R” word

“The sell-off comes from the risk-off sentiment. Small caps are riskier than large caps, and there are some concerns about the end of a cycle in the U.S. and that we are entering a recession,” said Tobias Levkovich, chief U.S. equity strategist at Citi.

We haven’t even had any sort of a major “trigger event”, and yet stock prices have been steadily falling for weeks.

How bad could things ultimately get if there is some sort of “Lehman Brothers moment” that sets off a full-blown state of panic?

Already, many are using the term “bear market” to describe what is happening.  For instance, Jeffrey Gundlach attracted a huge amount of attention when he made the following statement on Monday…

DoubleLine Capital CEO Jeffrey Gundlach said Monday that he “absolutely” believes the S&P 500 will go below the lows that the index hit early in 2018.

“I’m pretty sure this is a bear market,” Gundlach told Scott Wapner on CNBC’s Halftime Report. The major averages fell to session lows following his comments.

And some high profile stocks are already well beyond bear market territory.  Goldman Sachs is now down 40 percent from the 52-week high, and the banking sector as a whole is just getting crushed.

Trillions upon trillions of dollars of paper wealth has disappeared, and needless to say, hedge funds are starting to go down like dominoes.  Earlier today, a New York Post article used phrases such as “losing their shirts” and “financial wipeout”…

The stars of the biggest hedge funds are losing their shirts as analysts fear a major financial wipeout is imminent.

From Ken Griffin’s Citadel, to Israel Englander’s Millennium Management, one big name after another is racking up negative returns lately, amid bad bets in a saturated market.

On Monday, we witnessed more forced hedge fund liquidations, and that was one of the major factors that pushed prices down

As we noted previously, you are witnessing a massive culling of the hedge fund industry as hundreds of funds are liquidated and thousands more get sizable redemptions. Many of these funds own the same companies—the outcasts from the indexed world, the cheap, the unloved; the same stocks that many other hedge fund managers own. With the hedge fund industry going in reverse, there is suddenly no natural buyer for what must be sold. As a result, you are seeing waves of forced sell orders and few buyers (which for those so inclined, is creating good bargains all around).

Those of you that have been waiting for the stock market to implode can finally stop waiting.

It is here, and it is really, really bad.

Meanwhile, a new survey contains more evidence that average Americans are becoming increasingly pessimistic about the U.S. economy.  In fact, the numbers in the survey were “essentially reversed” from earlier this year…

Overall, 28 percent of Americans said the economy will get better in the next year, while 33 percent predict it will get worse, according to the survey, which was released Sunday. Those numbers were essentially reversed from January, when 35 percent said the economy would get better and 20 percent said it would get worse.

The psychological shift that I wrote about a few weeks ago appears to be accelerating.  It is starting to become exceedingly clear that a major crisis has begun, and now the big question is this – how bad will things get in 2019?

Well, Ron Paul told CNBC that “it could be worse than 1929″…

Paul said Thursday on CNBC‘sFutures Now that “Once this volatility shows that we’re not going to resume the bull market, then people are going to rush for the exits.”  Paul added that “it could be worse than 1929.”  He was referencing the fateful day in October of 1929 when the stock market crashed, and the United States was flung into the Great Depression that lasted ten years. During that year, a worldwide depression was ignited because of the U.S.’s market crash.  The stock market began hemorrhaging and after falling almost 90 percent, sent the U.S. economy crashing a burning.

Will it ultimately be that bad?

Only time will tell, but right now things certainly do not look good, and I have a feeling that they are about to get a whole lot worse.

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Michael Snyder is a nationally-syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is the author of four books including Get Prepared Now, The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.  His articles are originally published on The Economic Collapse Blog, End Of The American Dream and The Most Important News.  From there, his articles are republished on dozens of other prominent websites.  If you would like to republish his articles, please feel free to do so.  The more people that see this information the better, and we need to wake more people up while there is still time.

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Is Canada Huawei Arrest Attempt to Sabotage Trump Xi Talks?

December 19th, 2018 by F. William Engdahl

The arrest of the CFO of the China’s largest telecoms equipment company, Huawei, carries hallmarks of deep state or behind-the-scenes sabotage designed to rupture recent progress between US President Trump and China President Xi Jinping on strategic issues. Here are some elements of the case that smack of insider sabotage from the US side, with complicity of Five Eyes member Canada.

After months of trade tariff clashes between USA and China, US President Donald Trump met with China President Xi Jinping during the Buenos Aires G-20 Summit. There the two issued a positive joint statement in which it was stated that the US on January 1 will impose a “cease-fire” and freeze current tariffs at 10% on the $200 billion of Chinese imports to the US, not raising it to 25% as scheduled. For his part, Xi agreed to resume buying US soybeans and other agriculture and energy products to cut the trade imbalance. Most interesting and little-discussed in western media coverage, on the US request, Xi also agreed to list the controversial chemical Fentanyl as a Controlled Substance, meaning that people selling Fentanyl to the United States will be subject to China’s maximum penalty under the law.

As well, they agreed to immediately begin negotiations on key US issues including forced technology transfer, intellectual property protection, non-tariff barriers, cyber intrusions and cyber theft, services and agriculture to be completed within 90 days or face resumption of the planned 25% tariff raise.

The offer by Xi to control Fentanyl, one of the most deadly synthetic drugs that has caused tens of thousands of deaths in the USA, was notable. According to U.S. law enforcement and drug investigators, China is the main supplier of fentanyl to the United States. There criminal organizations mix the Fentanyl powder with heroin. Also according to the US DEA, China companies ship Fentanyl to key points in Canada and Mexico. From Mexico it is usually repackaged by the Mexican drug cartels and smuggled into the US.

Canada Surprise?

In other words China had agreed to open strategic issues in bilateral relations that could have major positive implications for resolving the trade conflicts and other issues not public. On December 5 in Vancouver Canadian authorities arrested Meng Wanzhou, the CFO and board member of China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd. She is also daughter of the founder and CEO.

The arrest, reportedly on charges of illegal activities in regard to US sanctions on Iran, is unprecedented. In August the US President signed an order banning Huawei hardware in US government communications networks on grounds of national security. Huawei is at the heart of China’s vigorous effort to dominate the emerging 5G communications networks. The company is today the world’s second largest smartphone maker after Samsung and ahead of Apple and the world’s largest manufacturer of telecom network equipment with $92 billion in sales. US President Trump in August authorized a ban on the company’s hardware in US government networks, citing national security concerns – particularly in relation to the rollout of 5G networks.

That there has been growing conflicts between China and Washington over Huawei is clear. What is bizarre about the Canadian arrest of Meng, now on bail and awaiting extradition to the US, is the fact that it took place on the same day Trump and Xi in Buenos Aires were engaged in critical trade talks. According to Trump National Security adviser, John Bolton, the President was not informed beforehand of the Canadian arrest plan.

Whatever the case with many charges of hidden espionage devices embedded in Huawei technology, or Iran sanctions violations, the Canadian arrest of CFO Meng Wanzhou is having explosive consequences inside China. The CCP People’s Daily, in an editorial, wrote on December 9,

“To treat a Chinese citizen like a serious criminal, to roughly trample their basic human rights, and to dishonor their dignity, how is this the method of a civilized country? How can this not make people furious?”

In an unusual step, in the midst of the fray, Donald Trump announced that if necessary to conclude positive China trade talks, he would be ready to intervene with the US Justice Department into the controversy. On December 12 in a Reuters interview Trump stated,

“Whatever’s good for this country, I would do. If I think it’s good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made – which is a very important thing – what’s good for national security – I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary.”

Beijing Response

So far there are more unanswered questions than answers. However, it appears that Beijing is being extremely careful not to allow the affront–ordinarily a huge face loss for the Chinese to have one of their national champion company senior people treated so–to disrupt relations with the Trump Administration. Rather than retaliate by going after the many top US executives in China, it arrested a former Canadian diplomat in Beijing on suspicion of “endangering national security,” as well as a Canadian entrepreneur with business ties to North Korea.

The connections of that former Canadian diplomat are more than interesting.

Michael Kovrig previously worked as a Canadian diplomat in Beijing, Hong Kong and the United Nations. Chinese national security police took him into custody on December 10 in Beijing. Kovrig is officially listed as “North East Asia adviser” for something called the International Crisis Group. 

The International Crisis Group is an NGO with a knack for being involved in key conflict zones such as Myanmar. The magazine Third World Quarterly in a peer-reviewed article in 2014 accused the ICG of “manufacturing” crises.

It was founded by Trump nemesis and Hillary Clinton supporter, George Soros. The Trustees of Kovrig’s employer, the International Crisis Group, include some very notable names. One is of course founder and funder, George Soros. Another trustee is a Canadian billionaire, Frank Guistra. Make a note of the name as it is likely to appear in the news in coming weeks as details emerge of FBI and other US investigations into illegal or shady dealings of the tax-exempt Clinton Foundation. Frank Giustra President & CEO, Fiore Financial Corporation, is a big donor to the Clinton Foundation where he also sits on the board.

His Giustra Foundation works with Elevate Social Businesses, formerly Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership, the International Crisis Group, Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative, and other partners. Guistra’s UrAsia Energy Ltd. appears in the investigation of the infamous Uranium One scandal during Hillary Clinton’s term as Secretary of State, which some believe is the real “Russiagate” scandal. Soon we will know more as litigation in the US proceeds.

In sum, it appears that Xi Jinping has chosen a highly interesting target for retaliation in the Canadian arrest of Huawei’s CFO. To date it appears that, if it were the aim of certain dark networks in US and Canadian governments and intelligence to sabotage any constructive USA-China dialogue by the unprecedented arrest of the Huawei senior executive, it may have backfired. The next weeks will tell more.

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F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook” where this article was originally published. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image is from NEO


seeds_2.jpg

Seeds of Destruction: Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation

Author Name: F. William Engdahl
ISBN Number: 978-0-937147-2-2
Year: 2007
Pages: 341 pages with complete index

List Price: $25.95

Special Price: $18.00

 

This skilfully researched book focuses on how a small socio-political American elite seeks to establish control over the very basis of human survival: the provision of our daily bread. “Control the food and you control the people.”

This is no ordinary book about the perils of GMO. Engdahl takes the reader inside the corridors of power, into the backrooms of the science labs, behind closed doors in the corporate boardrooms.

The author cogently reveals a diabolical world of profit-driven political intrigue, government corruption and coercion, where genetic manipulation and the patenting of life forms are used to gain worldwide control over food production. If the book often reads as a crime story, that should come as no surprise. For that is what it is.

The Real Cost of Brexit Revealed

December 19th, 2018 by True Publica

Many of the national newspapers have recently reported that Theresa May’s Brexit deal will come at a substantial cost to the economy. The Guardian reported, as many others did a few days ago that – “Theresa May’s Brexit deal is expected to cost the UK economy as much as £100bn over the next decade compared with remaining in the EU, according to one of the country’s leading economic thinktanks.” But this is not actually true.

The Guardian said –

“An analysis of the prime minister’s EU withdrawal agreement from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research  (NIESR) suggested that by 2030, Britain would lose GDP growth equivalent to the annual economic output of Wales.

The actual statement put out by the NIESR was –

Our assessment is that trade with the EU, especially in services, will be more costly after Brexit. This is likely to have an adverse effect on living standards in the UK. Our central estimate is that if the government’s proposed Brexit deal is implemented, then GDP in the longer term will be around 4 per cent lower than it would have been had the UK stayed in the EU. This is roughly equivalent to losing the annual output of Wales or the output of the financial services industry in London. This is equivalent to a loss of 3 per cent in GDP per head, worth around £1,000 per annum on average to people in the UK.”

Neither of these statements is absolutely clear due to their ambiguous choice of wording.

I was contacted by an eagle-eyed reader who, after providing some evidence, thought these numbers were misrepresented. To be fair, I was doubtful but contacted the NIESR myself and after some clarification, it dawned on me that the reader was indeed correct. This was in fact, a sickening moment as the consequences of this reality are more than just a bit serious.

Arno Hantzsche, co-author of the original NIESR report, stated in a tweet to the reader:

“the 3.9% figure is the difference in annual GDP relative to Remain reached in 2030 (this difference is building up over the years prior to 2030). We have calculated the cumulative “cost” (i.e. adding up annual differences over 12 years) which is £770bn by 2030, £30bn of which accrue between 2019-20. Hope that clarifies things.“

I then challenged the second co-author Amit Kara, who said:

There is no contradiction. The cumulative loss over 12 years is £770bn. If you had asked Arno what was the loss in the 12th year, he would have said to you £100bn.

The Guardian’s headline and overall article entitled: “Theresa May’s Brexit deal could cost UK £100bn over a decade” is, therefore, misleading.

It should be noted that the NIESR report and other media reports quoting these misleading figures of £100bn over a decade only takes account of Theresa May’s current Brexit deal. It does not make any calculations or assumptions for a no-deal or disorderly Brexit.

Having determined that the actual loss to the economy over the 10 year period 2020-2030 is £770 billion (plus £30 billion in 2019) it is worth making comparisons to figures that are known as facts.

Counting the cost of a decade after the financial crisis

The Institute of Fiscal Studies report in September this year stated that the financial crisis that broke out in 2008 was then followed by the deepest recession experienced in the UK since the Second World War. Its lingering effects continue to blight Britain through austerity measures to this day.

In referring to this ongoing recession the IFS said:

We had got used to the economy, and with it the public finances and household incomes bouncing back strongly following previous downturns. That has not happened this time.

But the stark reality from the IFS makes clear the cost of saving the banks in 2008.

“GDP (national income) is just 11% higher today than it was at its pre crisis peak in 2007–08. As a result the economy is 16%, or £300 billion, smaller than it would have been had it followed the pre-crisis trend. GDP per capita is now £5,900 per person lower than it might have been had pre crisis trends continued.”

From this, we can make some comparisons. The financial crisis caused the most painful, longest recession since not just the Second World War as is often muted but was actually the worst since the 1930’s Great Depression. The expected losses under Theresa May’s Brexit deal is more than double that. Britain is in for seriously tough economic times between 2020 and 2030. In fact, on those numbers, Britain is heading for an economic depression.

What makes matters worse is that Britain is still recovering from the 2008 crisis and there are no economic indicators to say that tax receipts are high enough to end the governments’ austerity programme (and/or reduce the national debt). Add then, the effects of Theresa May’s orderly Brexit due in just three months time and the current austerity measures will need to be intensified for years to come – at the very least until 2030.

One of the effects of austerity is clearly seen in the overall health of the population. According to recently published figures from the Office for National Statistics, Britain’s improvement in life expectancy has slowed at the fastest rate of any leading industrialised nation. That is except for the free-market mainstay of global health corruption that is the United States. It is ony since 2011 that the rate of life expectancy improvements for men has collapsed by over three-quarters; for women, it is worse at 91%. For decades, life expectancy steadily rose in Britain: and then, suddenly, just as the Tories took power and imposed an austerity ideology to save their friends in the city of London, this improvement peaked and then fell.

The British Medical Journal also wrote about the effects of austerity last year. It found that 120,000 extra deaths since 2010 were caused by it. That is 9 times greater than road fatalities in Britain over the same period. These extra austerity-related deaths and reductions in life-expectancy have been attributed to one thing and one thing only – the NHS has suffered the longest squeeze in its funding as a share of the economy since it was founded after the war.

Some other effects of austerity are just as awful. More than 14 million people, including 4.5 million children, are living below the breadline, with more than half trapped in poverty. That’s one million more children in poverty than in 2010. It also represents exactly one third (33%) all children in the UK. A full 12% of the total UK population is in “persistent” poverty, meaning that they have spent all or most of the last four years in poverty.

To put food on the table British households spent around £900 more on average than they received in income during 2017, pushing their finances into deficit for the first time since the credit boom of the 1980s. The financial crisis over the last ten years is the cause of the loss of purchasing power and less money in average household incomes.

In the same ten-year period there has been a dramatic rise in the effects of the housing crisis, health crisis, care crisis and others. For instance, homelessness has increased to such a point that over 500 people have died from it just last year. Some locals councils are speculatively gambling huge sums of money on the property market in an attempt to plug government-imposed funding gaps. Others are already technically insolvent.

How is Britain prepared for an economic depression that would be substantially greater than the longest recession experienced in a hundred years?

The answer – it isn’t. The national debt will likely be pushed to well over 100 per cent of GDP. This is because of the dual effect of higher borrowing to combat lower revenue. Currently, the national debt is about £1.8 trillion or about 85 per cent of total GDP. The interest charges being paid on this amount alone sits at around £48 billion. That is more than half the total education budget of the United Kingdom and 35 per cent higher than Britain’s entire defence spending budget in 2019. And interest rates are rising for the first time in over 20 years.

Remember, this outlook provided by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research is actually a best case scenario because it only takes account of the Brexit deal that Theresa May is proposing and, as you’ve probably read already today thousands of soldiers, sailors and aircrew have just been put on standby to tackle the chaos of a possible no-deal Brexit. No-ones knows what that might look like but the government will soon be making announcements about the Civil Contingencies Act as the threat of civil disturbances will rise exponentially if a disorderly break from the EU goes ahead.

Either way, Britain is in very, very serious trouble.

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There could be no more consequential decision than launching atomic weapons and possibly triggering a nuclear holocaust. President John F. Kennedy faced just such a moment during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 and, after envisioning the catastrophic outcome of a U.S.-Soviet nuclear exchange, he came to the conclusion that the atomic powers should impose tough barriers on the precipitous use of such weaponry. Among the measures he and other global leaders adopted were guidelines requiring that senior officials, not just military personnel, have a role in any nuclear-launch decision.

That was then, of course, and this is now. And what a now it is! With artificial intelligence, or AI, soon to play an ever-increasing role in military affairs, as in virtually everything else in our lives, the role of humans, even in nuclear decision-making, is likely to be progressively diminished. In fact, in some future AI-saturated world, it could disappear entirely, leaving machines to determine humanity’s fate.

This isn’t idle conjecture based on science fiction movies or dystopian novels. It’s all too real, all too here and now, or at least here and soon to be. As the Pentagon and the military commands of the other great powers look to the future, what they see is a highly contested battlefield — some have called it a “hyperwar” environment — where vast swarms of AI-guided robotic weapons will fight each other at speeds far exceeding the ability of human commanders to follow the course of a battle. At such a time, it is thought, commanders might increasingly be forced to rely on ever more intelligent machines to make decisions on what weaponry to employ when and where. At first, this may not extend to nuclear weapons, but as the speed of battle increases and the “firebreak” between them and conventional weaponry shrinks, it may prove impossible to prevent the creeping automatization of even nuclear-launch decision-making.

Such an outcome can only grow more likely as the U.S. military completes a top-to-bottom realignment intended to transform it from a fundamentally small-war, counter-terrorist organization back into one focused on peer-against-peer combat with China and Russia. This shift was mandated by the Department of Defense in its December 2017 National Security Strategy. Rather than focusing mainly on weaponry and tactics aimed at combating poorly armed insurgents in never-ending small-scale conflicts, the American military is now being redesigned to fight increasingly well-equipped Chinese and Russian forces in multi-dimensional (air, sea, land, space, cyberspace) engagements involving multiple attack systems (tanks, planes, missiles, rockets) operating with minimal human oversight.

“The major effect/result of all these capabilities coming together will be an innovation warfare has never seen before: the minimization of human decision-making in the vast majority of processes traditionally required to wage war,” observed retired Marine General John Allen and AI entrepreneur Amir Hussain. “In this coming age of hyperwar, we will see humans providing broad, high-level inputs while machines do the planning, executing, and adapting to the reality of the mission and take on the burden of thousands of individual decisions with no additional input.”

That “minimization of human decision-making” will have profound implications for the future of combat. Ordinarily, national leaders seek to control the pace and direction of battle to ensure the best possible outcome, even if that means halting the fighting to avoid greater losses or prevent humanitarian disaster. Machines, even very smart machines, are unlikely to be capable of assessing the social and political context of combat, so activating them might well lead to situations of uncontrolled escalation.

It may be years, possibly decades, before machines replace humans in critical military decision-making roles, but that time is on the horizon. When it comes to controlling AI-enabled weapons systems, as Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis put it in a recent interview,

“For the near future, there’s going to be a significant human element. Maybe for 10 years, maybe for 15. But not for 100.”

Why AI?

Even five years ago, there were few in the military establishment who gave much thought to the role of AI or robotics when it came to major combat operations. Yes, remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), or drones, have been widely used in Africa and the Greater Middle East to hunt down enemy combatants, but those are largely ancillary (and sometimes CIA) operations, intended to relieve pressure on U.S. commandos and allied forces facing scattered bands of violent extremists. In addition, today’s RPAs are still controlled by human operators, even if from remote locations, and make little use, as yet, of AI-powered target-identification and attack systems. In the future, however, such systems are expected to populate much of any battlespace, replacing humans in many or even most combat functions.

To speed this transformation, the Department of Defense is already spending hundreds of millions of dollars on AI-related research.

“We cannot expect success fighting tomorrow’s conflicts with yesterday’s thinking, weapons, or equipment,” Mattis told Congress in April.

To ensure continued military supremacy, he added, the Pentagon would have to focus more “investment in technological innovation to increase lethality, including research into advanced autonomous systems, artificial intelligence, and hypersonics.”

Why the sudden emphasis on AI and robotics? It begins, of course, with the astonishing progress made by the tech community — much of it based in Silicon Valley, California — in enhancing AI and applying it to a multitude of functions, including image identification and voice recognition. One of those applications, Alexa Voice Services, is the computer system behind Amazon’s smart speaker that not only can use the Internet to do your bidding but interpret your commands. (“Alexa, play classical music.” “Alexa, tell me today’s weather.” “Alexa, turn the lights on.”) Another is the kind of self-driving vehicle technology that is expected to revolutionize transportation.

Artificial Intelligence is an “omni-use” technology, explain analysts at the Congressional Research Service, a non-partisan information agency, “as it has the potential to be integrated into virtually everything.” It’s also a “dual-use” technology in that it can be applied as aptly to military as civilian purposes. Self-driving cars, for instance, rely on specialized algorithms to process data from an array of sensors monitoring traffic conditions and so decide which routes to take, when to change lanes, and so on. The same technology and reconfigured versions of the same algorithms will one day be applied to self-driving tanks set loose on future battlefields. Similarly, someday drone aircraft — without human operators in distant locales — will be capable of scouring a battlefield for designated targets (tanks, radar systems, combatants), determining that something it “sees” is indeed on its target list, and “deciding” to launch a missile at it.

It doesn’t take a particularly nimble brain to realize why Pentagon officials would seek to harness such technology: they think it will give them a significant advantage in future wars. Any full-scale conflict between the U.S. and China or Russia (or both) would, to say the least, be extraordinarily violent, with possibly hundreds of warships and many thousands of aircraft and armored vehicles all focused in densely packed battlespaces. In such an environment, speed in decision-making, deployment, and engagement will undoubtedly prove a critical asset. Given future super-smart, precision-guided weaponry, whoever fires first will have a better chance of success, or even survival, than a slower-firing adversary. Humans can move swiftly in such situations when forced to do so, but future machines will act far more swiftly, while keeping track of more battlefield variables.

As General Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress in 2017,

“It is very compelling when one looks at the capabilities that artificial intelligence can bring to the speed and accuracy of command and control and the capabilities that advanced robotics might bring to a complex battlespace, particularly machine-to-machine interaction in space and cyberspace, where speed is of the essence.”

Aside from aiming to exploit AI in the development of its own weaponry, U.S. military officials are intensely aware that their principal adversaries are also pushing ahead in the weaponization of AI and robotics, seeking novel ways to overcome America’s advantages in conventional weaponry. According to the Congressional Research Service, for instance, China is investing heavily in the development of artificial intelligence and its application to military purposes. Though lacking the tech base of either China or the United States, Russia is similarly rushing the development of AI and robotics. Any significant Chinese or Russian lead in such emerging technologies that might threaten this country’s military superiority would be intolerable to the Pentagon.

Not surprisingly then, in the fashion of past arms races (from the pre-World War I development of battleships to Cold War nuclear weaponry), an “arms race in AI” is now underway, with the U.S., China, Russia, and other nations (including Britain, Israel, and South Korea) seeking to gain a critical advantage in the weaponization of artificial intelligence and robotics. Pentagon officials regularly cite Chinese advances in AI when seeking congressional funding for their projects, just as Chinese and Russian military officials undoubtedly cite American ones to fund their own pet projects. In true arms race fashion, this dynamic is already accelerating the pace of development and deployment of AI-empowered systems and ensuring their future prominence in warfare.

Command and Control

As this arms race unfolds, artificial intelligence will be applied to every aspect of warfare, from logistics and surveillance to target identification and battle management. Robotic vehicles will accompany troops on the battlefield, carrying supplies and firing on enemy positions; swarms of armed drones will attack enemy tanks, radars, and command centers; unmanned undersea vehicles, or UUVs, will pursue both enemy submarines and surface ships. At the outset of combat, all these instruments of war will undoubtedly be controlled by humans. As the fighting intensifies, however, communications between headquarters and the front lines may well be lost and such systems will, according to military scenarios already being written, be on their own, empowered to take lethal action without further human intervention.

Most of the debate over the application of AI and its future battlefield autonomy has been focused on the morality of empowering fully autonomous weapons — sometimes called “killer robots” — with a capacity to make life-and-death decisions on their own, or on whether the use of such systems would violate the laws of war and international humanitarian law. Such statutes require that war-makers be able to distinguish between combatants and civilians on the battlefield and spare the latter from harm to the greatest extent possible. Advocates of the new technology claim that machines will indeed become smart enough to sort out such distinctions for themselves, while opponents insist that they will never prove capable of making critical distinctions of that sort in the heat of battle and would be unable to show compassion when appropriate. A number of human rights and humanitarian organizations have even launched the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots with the goal of adopting an international ban on the development and deployment of fully autonomous weapons systems.

In the meantime, a perhaps even more consequential debate is emerging in the military realm over the application of AI to command-and-control (C2) systems — that is, to ways senior officers will communicate key orders to their troops. Generals and admirals always seek to maximize the reliability of C2 systems to ensure that their strategic intentions will be fulfilled as thoroughly as possible. In the current era, such systems are deeply reliant on secure radio and satellite communications systems that extend from headquarters to the front lines. However, strategists worry that, in a future hyperwar environment, such systems could be jammed or degraded just as the speed of the fighting begins to exceed the ability of commanders to receive battlefield reports, process the data, and dispatch timely orders. Consider this a functional definition of the infamous fog of war multiplied by artificial intelligence — with defeat a likely outcome. The answer to such a dilemma for many military officials: let the machines take over these systems, too. As a report from the Congressional Research Service puts it, in the future “AI algorithms may provide commanders with viable courses of action based on real-time analysis of the battle-space, which would enable faster adaptation to unfolding events.”

And someday, of course, it’s possible to imagine that the minds behind such decision-making would cease to be human ones. Incoming data from battlefield information systems would instead be channeled to AI processors focused on assessing imminent threats and, given the time constraints involved, executing what they deemed the best options without human instructions.

Pentagon officials deny that any of this is the intent of their AI-related research. They acknowledge, however, that they can at least imagine a future in which other countries delegate decision-making to machines and the U.S. sees no choice but to follow suit, lest it lose the strategic high ground.

“We will not delegate lethal authority for a machine to make a decision,” then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work told Paul Scharre of the Center for a New American Security in a 2016 interview. But he added the usual caveat: in the future, “we might be going up against a competitor that is more willing to delegate authority to machines than we are and as that competition unfolds, we’ll have to make decisions about how to compete.”

The Doomsday Decision

The assumption in most of these scenarios is that the U.S. and its allies will be engaged in a conventional war with China and/or Russia. Keep in mind, then, that the very nature of such a future AI-driven hyperwar will only increase the risk that conventional conflicts could cross a threshold that’s never been crossed before: an actual nuclear war between two nuclear states. And should that happen, those AI-empowered C2 systems could, sooner or later, find themselves in a position to launch atomic weapons.

Such a danger arises from the convergence of multiple advances in technology: not just AI and robotics, but the development of conventional strike capabilities like hypersonic missiles capable of flying at five or more times the speed of sound, electromagnetic rail guns, and high-energy lasers. Such weaponry, though non-nuclear, when combined with AI surveillance and target-identification systems, could even attack an enemy’s mobile retaliatory weapons and so threaten to eliminate its ability to launch a response to any nuclear attack. Given such a “use ’em or lose ’em” scenario, any power might be inclined not to wait but to launch its nukes at the first sign of possible attack, or even, fearing loss of control in an uncertain, fast-paced engagement, delegate launch authority to its machines. And once that occurred, it could prove almost impossible to prevent further escalation.

The question then arises: Would machines make better decisions than humans in such a situation? They certainly are capable of processing vast amounts of information over brief periods of time and weighing the pros and cons of alternative actions in a thoroughly unemotional manner. But machines also make military mistakes and, above all, they lack the ability to reflect on a situation and conclude: Stop this madness. No battle advantage is worth global human annihilation.

As Paul Scharre put it in Army of None, a new book on AI and warfare,

“Humans are not perfect, but they can empathize with their opponents and see the bigger picture. Unlike humans, autonomous weapons would have no ability to understand the consequences of their actions, no ability to step back from the brink of war.”

So maybe we should think twice about giving some future militarized version of Alexa the power to launch a machine-made Armageddon.

*

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Michael T. Klare, a TomDispatch regular, is the five-college professor emeritus of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and a senior visiting fellow at the Arms Control Association. His most recent book is The Race for What’s Left. His next book, All Hell Breaking Loose: Climate Change, Global Chaos, and American National Security, will be published in 2019.

Diante do novo governo no Iraque, embaixador iraquiano em Moscou, Mansour Haidar Hadi, comenta na entrevista a seguir com o renomado jornalista Edu Montesanti a vitória de seu país sobre o Estado Islamita (EI) em dezembro do ano passado, a cooperação internacional e ameaças da organização terrorista de ressurgir em território mesopotâmico, que possui uma das culturas mais ricas da história e um povo que, até as imperialistas investidas (invasões, ocupações e guerras) das grandes potências ocidentais pós-I Guerra Mundial atrás de petróleo, convivia harmoniosamente entre si apesar das diferenças religiosas (incluindo árabes muçumanos e judeus). Terror religioso, especialmente islamita, é uma nova moda ocidental (video, videoe jornal).

“Apesar de declarar vitória sobre o EI, ainda existem pequenos núcleos atuando individualmente, o que mostra a derrota de um EI outrora forte para, atualmente, um grupo muito fraco”, afirma o diplomata. O EI permanece ativo na fronteira com a Síria, e de maneira dispera em partes do norte iraquiano..

Alguns “analistas” ocidentais de tendências bem conhecidas, no entanto, têm jogado mais gasolina sobre o fogo iraquiano bem ao gosto de uma certa CIA, segundo o dito popular “secando” para que o mesmo EI criado, financiado e armado pelos Estados Unidos, volte a aterrorizar os iraquianos nesta “Guerra ao Terror” projetada bem antes de 11 de setembro de 2001, para ser interminável.

A seguir, a íntegra da conversa com o embaixador Haidar Hadi.

Edu Montesanti: Alguns estão dizendo que a declaração de vitória do Iraque contra o Estado Islamita no final do ano passado foi prematura. Argumentando que o grupo terrorista continua representando uma ameaça profunda não apenas por sua própria perspicácia como movimento insurgente, alguns analistas também afirmam que o governo iraquiano não conseguiu atender as necessidades básicas da população, como por exemplo remediar divisões políticas e sociais além de estabelecer um projeto comum, uma estrutura nacional que unificasse o país, o que, de acordo com esses analistas, prepara o caminho para mais uma guerra civil devastadora à medida que grupos rivais disputam o controle do Estado iraquiano.

Qual sua visão deste cenário, e quanto o grupo terrorista ainda ameaça o Iraque?

Embaixador Haidar Hadi: A declaração de vitória em dezembro de 2017 veio depois de mais de três anos de luta contra a organização terrorista internacional. Essa vitória foi resultado de esforços conjuntos entre as forças de segurança do Iraque, Unidades de Combate ao Terrorismo, a Peshmerga Curda, Unidades de Mobilização Popular, bem como o apoio das forças da coalizão e da Rússia.

Foi uma vitória bem merecida e não prematura, como alguns podem descrever. Custou vidas de iraquianos inocentes e a destruição de nossa infraestrutura, de maneira que o preço dessa vitória foi alto.

O governo iraquiano, na hora de combater o Estado Islamita, executou tarefas importantes de mãos dadas uns aos outros: tarefa militar, que consistia em lutar contra a organização terrorista internacional e suas afiliadas; e a outra tarefa, proporcionar um porto seguro ao grande número de iraquianos deslocados, obrigados a deixar suas casas, fornecendo-lhes necessidades básicas ou alimentos, água, serviços médicos e, mais importante, um lugar para viver.

O governo também ajudou um grande número de iraquianos a voltar para casa depois de serem libertados, bem sucedido com a ajuda da UNAMI [United Nations Iraq].

A luta contra o EI reuniu os iraquianos, e os aproximou mais que nunca devido à ameaça contra o Iraque como um todo. Declarar vitória sobre o EI provou que a guerra civil nunca ameaçou o Iraque e nunca ameaçará, devido à integração da sociedade iraquiana entre árabes, curdos, muçulmanos, cristãos e outras minorias que vivem juntas há centenas de anos.

Também tem sido dito que a próxima guerra do Iraque provavelmente será civil, entre rivais islamitas xiitas. Qual sua visão sobre isso?

A última eleição parlamentar, ocorrida em 12 de maio de 2018, foi bem sucedida, e a formação do novo governo em Bagdá foi uma mensagem clara e forte de que todos os partidos políticos, incluindo os partidos islâmicos xiitas, trabalharam juntos para garantir o nascimento do novo governo, o qual testemunhamos em outubro quando a maioria dos deputados deu seu voto de confiança ao novo primeiro-ministro Adil Abdulmahdi, e ao seu ministério.

O EI preencheu um vácuo político e ideológico, quando surgiu no Iraque em 2014. Ainda existe algum vácuo hoje?

‫Os iraquianos praticaram o direito democrático nas últimas eleições parlamentares, que provaram que o Iraque saiu da experiência do EI como uma nação mais forte. Os iraquianos conseguiram derrotar o EI não apenas militarmente, mas também ideologicamente.

O enviado da ONU ao Iraque, Jan Kubis, disse que o EI continua ativo na fronteira ocidental com a Síria, e no norte do Iraque realizando ataques dispersos em Kirkuk, Salah, Din e Diyala. Ele também afirmou que o novo governo do Iraque planeja intensificar os esforços para erradicar as células do grupo extremista, e introduzir “medidas robustas” para alcançar a segurança sustentável em todo o país.

Como essas medidas serão colocadas em prática?

Apesar de declarar vitória sobre o EI, ainda existem pequenos núcleos atuando individualmente, o que mostra a derrota de um EI outrora forte para, atualmente, um grupo muito fraco.

Um dos principais alvos do novo governo iraquiano é continuar o trabalho do anterior, com a ajuda e apoio dos parceiros da coalizão bem como da Rússia, para manter a estabilidade sustentável resultante da vitória.

A Conferência Internacional para a Reconstrução do Iraque mobilizouquase 30 bilhões de dólares adicionais de apoio internacional ao país. “Se compararmos o que temos hoje com o que precisamos, não é segredo, evidentemente é muito menor do que o que o Iraque precisa”, disse o ministro das Relações Exteriores do Iraque, Ibrahim al-Jaafari. O que o senhor achou dessa conferência, e do dinheiro mobilizado para apoiar o Iraque, embaixador Haidar?

A conferência que ocorreu no Kuwait em fevereiro passado foi uma mensagem clara de apoio ao Iraque, apesar do resultado decepcionante da conferência.

A delegação russa foi liderada pelo vice-primeiro-ministro com mais de cem empresas, o que mostra o peso do apoio russo. Estamos otimistas diante do apoio dos parceiros para avançar, e fazer parte dos esforços de reconstrução do governo iraquiano.

Na qualidade de embaixador extraordinário e plenipotenciário da República do Iraque junto à Federação Russa, tenho me encontrado com um grande número de empresários russos que demonstraram grande interesse em fazer parte dos esforços de reconstrução.

Nos últimos dias, uma delegação de empresários e investidores russos visitou Bagdá para explorar as oportunidades de negócios, e se reunir com seus colegas.

Acredito que, nos próximos anos, haverá um aumento nas relações entre o Iraque e seus aliados, especialmente a Federação Russa.

Precise de que maneira o Iraque necessita de cooperação estrangeira para, definitivamente, vencer o terrorismo do Estado Islamita.

O EI é uma organização terrorista internacional, e não uma organização local, por isso o Iraque precisará de apoio e corporação de nossos parceiros regionais e internacionais.

Nós vencemos a guerra contra o terrorismo militarmente, mas continuaremos lutando contra o EI ideologicamente. A próxima guerra será de inteligência. O centro de informações conjunto sediado em Bagdá, que conta com especialistas do Iraque, russos, iranianos e sírios que fornecem informações importantes sobre células terroristas, ainda opera no Iraque para que nossas forças militares possam combatê-las.

Até hoje, quantas crianças voltaram do Iraque para a Rússia e países vizinhos, devido à Campanha “Bringing Them Home” [Trazendo-As para Casa], e como está o projeto agora, diante de um novo governo que recentemente subiu ao poder?

O governo iraquiano anterior apoiou muito esta questão delicada, e facilitou o procedimento legal a fim de acelerar o retorno das crianças russas aos seus familiares depois que um de seus pais, ou ambos os pais foram mortos em combates ao lado dos combatentes do EI.

Cerca de 25 crianças com idade inferior a 10 anos retornaram para casa, e continuamos resolvendo este problema através dos canais diplomáticos e legais.

As crianças cometeram o crime de entrar no Iraque ilegalmente, de modo que devem deixar o país sob uma multa de 500 mil dinares iraquianos, cerca de 420 dolares devem ser pagos ao governo iraquiano.

O novo governo está empenhado em continuar resolvendo a questão.

Alguns críticos dizem que durante os anos de Saddam Hussein o país estava sob controle, e havia uma política externa mais independente especialmente do imperialismo dos Estados Unidos, argumentando também que o Iraque, naqueles anos, era considerado pela ONU um dos países árabes que mais respeitavam as outras religiões.

Como o senhor responde a isso? O que mudou no Iraque desde a queda de Hussein?

Durante o regime de Saddam Hussein, os iraquianos viviam sob o medo de serem processados ou executados por uma simples piada sobre Saddam, ou seu regime.

Em 1991, fui forçado a deixar o Iraque com 21 anos de idade porque um dos meus parentes usou meu próprio carro na província de Najaf, durante a insurreição de 1991. Algumas semanas depois, eu estava na lista de procurados da Saddam porque eles supunham que eu estava dirigindo o carro, e sendo parte daqueles que queriam mudar o regime. Minha única opção foi fugir do país porque talvez não tivesse tido a chance de provar que não era eu quem dirigia o carro.

O regime de Saddam causou ao Iraque três grandes guerras invadindo um país vizinho, e recebeu uma sanção de 12 anos [após a Guerra do Golfo de 1991].

Assim era a vida sob um regime brutal. O Iraque era, ainda é e sempre será um dos países árabes que mais respeitam as religiões.

Então, definitivamente e apesar de todos os desafios que enfrentamos, o Iraque agora está muito melhor que o Iraque de Saddam Hussein.

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A Ministra Trenta em mimética pela «paz» no Afeganistão

December 18th, 2018 by Manlio Dinucci

A Ministra da Defesa, Elisabetta Trenta (M5S), aos microfones de uma rádio musical, cantou “Havia um rapazinho que, como eu, gostava dos Beatles e dos Rolling Stones”, dizendo: “Esta música faz-me vir à mente, o valor da paz, um valor inestimável que devemos preservar sempre”. Uma dezena de dias depois, em uniforme de camuflagem no Afeganistão, a Ministra elogiava “a nossa presença armada, fora das fronteiras da Itália, guiada pelos valores da nossa Constituição, numa missão fundamental pela paz”.

A missão é a Resolute Support (Apoio Resoluto), iniciada pela NATO no Afeganistão, em 2015, na continuação da ISAF, uma missão da ONU, da qual a NATO assumiu o comando com um golpe de mão, em 2003. Assim, prossegue a guerra USA/NATO, no Afeganistão, que entrou no seu 18º ano. Foi lançada pelos USA em 7 de Outubro de 2001, com a justificação oficial de perseguir Osama bin Laden, acusado dos ataques de 11 de Setembro, escondido numa caverna afegã sob protecção dos Taliban. Quais foram os verdadeiros objectivos, é revelado pelo Pentágono num relatório divulgado uma semana antes do início da guerra: “Existe a possibilidade de que surja na Ásia, um rival militar com uma base de recursos formidável.” As nossas forças armadas devem manter a capacidade de impor a vontade dos Estados Unidos a qualquer adversário, de modo a mudar o regime de um Estado antagonista ou ocupar um território estrangeiro até que os objectivos estratégicos USA sejam alcançados”.

No período de 11 de Setembro de 2001, houve, na Ásia, fortes sinais de reaproximação entre a China e da Rússia, que se concretizaram quando, em 17 de Julho de 2001, foi assinado o “Tratado de boa vizinhança e de cooperação amigável” entre os dois países. Washington considerava a aproximação entre a China e a Rússia, um desafio aos interesses norte-americanos, no momento crítico quando os EUA estavam a tentar preencher o vazio que a desagregação da URSS tinha deixado na Ásia Central, a principal área, quer pela sua posição geoestratégica em relação à Rússia e China, quer pelas reservas limítrofes de petróleo e gás natural do Cáspio. A posição-chave para o controlo desta área é a afegã. Isso explica o forte compromisso com uma guerra que já custa aos EUA mais de 1.000 biliões de dólares. A actual é apresentada pela NATO como uma “missão não combatente”. Mas, de acordo com os mesmos dados oficiais, a Força Aérea USA lançou sobre o Afeganistão cerca de 6 mil bombas e mísseis, nos primeiros dez meses de 2018. Além de caças e drones armados, são usados ​​bombardeiros pesados ​​B-52, dotados de lançadores giratórios que aumentam em dois terços a já enorme carga do avião, permitindo que solte, numa única missão, até 30 bombas potentes com orientação de precisão.

Além da visível, há a guerra oculta, conduzida por forças especiais USA e aliadas, com a tarefa de assassinar chefias talibãs, ou cidadãos presumidos como tal, e outros considerados perigosos. O resultado é desastroso para a NATO: enquanto aumentam as baixas civis, os Taliban ganham terreno. Na guerra do Afeganistão, a Itália participa sob o comando USA há mais de 15 anos, violando o artigo 11 da Constituição. O seu contingente de 39 participantes,  está em terceiro lugar, depois dos norte-americanos e alemães. Oficiais italianos foram transferidos para Tampa, junto ao Comando USA e no Bahrein como pessoal de ligação com as forças USA.

E enquanto a guerra continua a ceifar vítimas, no orfanato de Herat – comunica o nosso Ministério da Defesa  – militares italianos entregaram cerca de duzentos agasalhos de inverno para as “crianças menos afortunadas”.

Manlio Dinucci

il manifesto, 17 de Dezembro 2018

Artigo em italiano :

La Trenta in mimetica per la «pace» in Afghanistan

Tradução por Luisa Vasconcelos

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La Trenta in mimetica per la «pace» in Afghanistan

December 18th, 2018 by Manlio Dinucci

La ministra della Difesa Elisabetta Trenta (M5S), ai microfoni di una radio musicale, ha intonato «C’era un ragazzo che come me amava i Beatles e i Rolling Stones», dicendo «Questa canzone mi fa venire in mente il valore della pace, un valore inestimabile che dobbiamo preservare sempre». Una decina di giorni dopo, in divisa mimetica in Afghanistan, la ministra esaltava «la nostra presenza in armi fuori dai confini dell’Italia, guidata dai valori della nostra Costituzione, in una missione fondamentale per la pace».

La missione è la Resolute Support (Appoggio Risoluto), iniziata dalla NATO in Afghanistan nel 2015 in prosecuzione dell’ISAF, missione ONU di cui la NATO aveva preso il comando con un colpo di mano nel 2003. Prosegue così la guerra USA/NATO in Afghanistan, entrata nel 18° anno. Fu lanciata dagli Usa il 7 ottobre 2001 con la motivazione ufficiale di dare la caccia a Osama bin Laden, accusato degli attacchi dell’11 settembre, nascosto in una caverna afghana sotto protezione dei talebani. Quali fossero i reali obiettivi lo rivelava il Pentagono in un rapporto diffuso una settimana prima dell’inizio della guerra: «Esiste la possibilità che emerga in Asia un rivale militare con una formidabile base di risorse. Le nostre forze armate devono mantenere la capacità di imporre la volontà degli Stati uniti a qualsiasi avversario, così da cambiare il regime di uno Stato avversario od occupare un territorio straniero finché gli obiettivi strategici statunitensi non siano realizzati».

Nel periodo precedente l’11 settembre 2001, vi erano stati in Asia forti segnali di riavvicinamento tra Cina e Russia, che si concretizzavano quando, il 17 luglio 2001, veniva firmato il «Trattato di buon vicinato e amichevole cooperazione» tra i due paesi. Washington considerava il riavvicinamento tra Cina e Russia una sfida agli interessi statunitensi, nel momento critico in cui gli USA cercavano di occupare il vuoto che la digregazione dell’URSS aveva lasciato in Asia centrale, area di primaria importanza sia per la sua posizione geostrategica rispetto a Russia e Cina, sia per le limitrofe riserve di petrolio e gas naturale del Caspio. Posizione chiave per il controllo di quest’area è quella afghana. Ciò spiega il forte impegno per una guerra costata solo agli Usa già oltre 1000 miliardi di dollari. Quella in corso viene presentata dalla Nato come «missione non di combattimento». Ma, in base agli stessi dati ufficiali, l’Aeronautica USA ha sganciato sull’Afghanistan, nei primi dieci mesi del 2018, circa 6 mila bombe e missili. Oltre a caccia e droni armati, vengono usati i bombardieri pesanti B-52, dotati di lanciatori rotanti che accrescono di due terzi il già enorme carico bellico dell’aereo, permettendogli di sganciare in una singola missione fino a 30 potenti bombe a guida di precisione.

Oltre a quella visibile c’è la guerra nascosta, condotta dalle forze speciali USA e alleate con il compito di assassinare capi talebani, o presunti tali, ed altri ritenuti pericolosi. Il risultato è disastroso per la NATO: mentre aumentano le vittime civili, i talebani guadagnano terreno. Alla guerra in Afghanistan partecipa sotto comando Usa l’Italia da oltre 15 anni, violando l’Articolo 11 della Costituzione. Il suo contingente è al terzo posto, su 39 partecipanti, dopo quelli statunitense e tedesco. Ufficiali italiani sono dislocati a Tampa presso il Comando USA e in Bahrein quale personale di collegamento con le forze USA.

E mentre la guerra continua a mietere vittime, all’Orfanotrofio di Herat – comunica il nostro ministero della Difesa  – militari italiani hanno consegnato circa duecento completini invernali ai «piccoli meno fortunati».

Manlio Dinucci

il manifesto, 17 dicembre 2018

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