It is hard to envisage sympathy for a person who made a name as a home secretary (prisons, detentions, security and such) taking the mast and banner of her country before hopeless odds, but inadequate opponents will do that to you.  Vicious, venal and underdone, the enemies from within Theresa May’s own Tory ranks resemble the lazily angry, the fumingly indulgent.  These are the same men, and a few women, who managed to derive enormous satisfaction from a Britain pampered and spoiled by EU largesse but questioning of its bureaucracy and demands.  Patriotism has an odd habit of making one jaundiced, but manic self-interest will also do that to you.

May remains British prime minister after a botched effort to overthrow her within conservative party ranks.  She faced the unenviable situation of being stonewalled in Europe and by Parliament itself.  President of the European Council Donald Tusk assured May that the deal for the UK leaving the EU is not up for renegotiation, “including the backstop”.

The border with Ireland – soft, hard, or middling – is proving to be a rattling affair.  Should it go “hard”, Britain will find itself trapped.  As The Irish Times noted,

“It evokes genuine fear, not least in those who live near the Border or rely on trade for their livelihoods or count themselves among the silenced majority in Northern Ireland who voted Remain.”

As for Parliament, May has ducked and weaved in putting the deal to its irritable members, thereby depriving MPs a hack at sinking it.  May fears, rightly, defeat over a proposal that has satisfied few.  What is now being run in certain circles is the idea of “indicative votes” which might throw up various Brexit models (Canada-styled; Norwegian adapted).

The May plotters, however, showed the skills and talents of marksmen who end up shooting themselves in a fit of drunken enthusiasm on a poorly planned hunt.  The leadership challenge on December 12 served to demonstrate a good level of incompetence, amplified by the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson.

The fact that May received 200 votes against 117 to stay on as PM was not enough for the righteous Rees-Moog, who spoke as if some inscrutable victory for the rebels had been attained.

“She said in 2017 she would lead the Conservative Party if she had the support of the parliamentary party.”

It was clear that a third of members voting against her suggested she did not.

“So if she honours her word she will decide in the interests of the party and the nation she will go.”

This all seems to amount to a stay of execution.  May survives, but faces daggers on a daily basis.  Home Secretary Sajid Javid is nipping at her heels in the hope to land a blow.  Welfare Secretary Amber Rudd has made it public that she likes the idea of a UK-EU arrangement along the lines of Norway’s relationship with the union.  Naturally, as with so many such ideas, the EU response is automatically assumed.

The idea of a second referendum, long seen as the ultimate betrayal of the Brexit result, has received more than a decent fanning.  Vast swathes have changed their mind since the populist up swell of 2016, goes the view of conservative Dominic Grieve and New Labour’s former spin doctor Alastair Campbell on Good Morning Britain, a bastion of rusted reaction few can match on British television.   The panel, as ever, was on the hunt for the elusive idea of democracy in Britain, and found wanting.   The Remainers remain desperately confused.

If there is a good reason to be suspicious of a second referendum, former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s endorsement of it would be one.  Frankly Tony, whose rule was characterised by long spells of deception and arrogance (remember the Iraq War?), had a singular contempt for democracy that should not be forgotten. He is now spending time slumming in Brussels in the hope that people will take notice, advocating for a second people’s vote.  Should parliament be unable to reach agreement on each of the forms of Brexit being put forth, he suggests, “then the logical thing is to go back to the people.”

To Blair can be added May’s own de facto deputy prime minister, David Lidington and chief of staff at 10 Downing Street Gavin Barwell.  The latter has supposedly discussed the issue of a second people’s vote with Chancellor Philip Hammond and Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd.

May is having none of it.  “Let us not break faith with the British people by trying to stage another referendum.” To do so “would do irreparable damage to the integrity of our politics, because it would say to millions who trusted in democracy, that our democracy does not deliver.”

Brexit is the great exercise of imperfection, an experiment that the EU would like to quash just as many in the UK would like to see reversed.  It has been disheartening and cruel; it has divided and disturbed. It has also demonstrated levels of marked mendacity fitting for countries British citizens tend to mock.  Facts have become fictions; fictions have been paraded as exemplars of truth.  The dark spirits have been released, and there are not going to be bottled any time soon.

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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]

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The arrest of Chinese telecommunications CFO Meng Wanzhou has sent shockwaves through the global markets. The context of the smartphone industry and the challenges facing big monopolies from Russia and China is vital background information for anyone who wants to understand these recent, dramatic events.

One of the favorite talking points of defenders of free markets is “capitalism made your iphone.” According to the meme, those who believe in socialism or Marxism are presented as total hypocrites if they own smartphone as only the profit system’s rewarding of entrepreneurship could ever produce such a technological creation.

However, a little investigation reveals that the entire premise of the meme is false. The first cellphone was created by Leonid Ivanovich Kupriyanovich, a Moscow-based engineer in 1955 who conducted his research in state-run facilities. Furthermore, the screens of most smartphones are illuminated by Light Emitting Diodes (LED), the first of which was invented in 1927 by Oleg Vladimirovich Losev. Losev was also a Russian who conducted his research in state sponsored facilities.

The computer revolution itself can largely be attributed to the work of Alan Turing and his decoding machine created during the Second World War. This research was done in the context of heavy military control over industry, when Britain was aligned with the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany, hardly a free market situation.

Cell-phones are simply not the product of some objectivist fantasy about a misunderstood “great man” tinkering in his garage unabated and untaxed. Cell phones, LED lights, and the Computer Revolution itself came about as a result of central planning, and the overall mobilization of society by the state to reach technological and production goals.

Today, the largest cell phone manufacturer on earth is Huawei Technologies based in the Chinese tech hub of Shenzhen. This huge manufacturer of smartphones that are purchased and celebrated all over the world, is closely tied to the Chinese government and military.

The Chief Financial Officer of Huawei was recently arrested in Canada at the request of US officials. Meng now faces extradition to the United States. Charges have not formally been named, but it is widely speculated that it is related to accusations that Huawei has violated US sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Independent Telecom on the Rise

It is perhaps a strange coincidence that just as Huawei’s CFO has been arrested, Yandex, the Russian internet corporation has announced that it is producing a smartphone of its own. On December 5th, the world became aware that soon a “Yandex Phone” produced by the government subsidized tech entity will be available for purchase. Yandex has also recently gotten in on the ride hailing and other high tech endeavors.

Even the deeply impoverished nation of Angola, led by the Socialist MPLA, was able to create its own independent cell phone company. Isabel Dos Santos utilized revenue from the state controlled oil corporation, and assistance from the People’s Republic of China, to create and expand a corporation called Unitel. Santos push for the creation other independent telecommunications apparatus in southern Africa and in Portuguese speaking countries.

Prior to the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the US FBI urged Americans not to buy Chinese smartphones. The reason given was the corporation’s ties to the Chinese government, and fears that information could be compromised.

However, it is widely known thanks to the revelations of Edward Snowden, that the National Security Agency of the United States has a close relationship with many American cellular and tech companies. Google, Facebook, Apple, and other high tech companies have routinely cooperated with federal officials, and the individuals whose information is being subpoenaed or requested from the tech giants is often never informed that their privacy has been violated.

In the context of a rising challenge to the western smartphone monopolies by independent manufacturers around the world, one must find it suspicious that Federal Officials in the USA have suddenly become concerned about the privacy of American citizens, and alleged sanctions violations by China’s telecommunications giant.

One must wonder if underneath the hysteria, there is a desperate attempt to preserve a western semi-monopoly that is quickly slipping away.

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Caleb Maupin is a political analyst and activist based in New York. He studied political science at Baldwin-Wallace College and was inspired and involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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Brazil: Fascism on the Verge of Power?

December 17th, 2018 by Jörg Nowak

The extreme right-wing candidate Jair Bolsonaro won the Brazilian presidential elections on 28 October in the second round with a margin of 11 million votes (all in all about 58 million or 55 per cent) against the candidate of the Workers’ Party (PT) Fernando Haddad with 47 million votes, representing 45 per cent of the vote. Another 40 million Brazilians did not vote or cast empty ballots instead. What is to be expected from the incoming presidency that starts on January 1, 2019? And why did voters turn to the radical right after 13 years of governments led by presidents from the PT plus two years of an interim neoliberal government that came to power via a parliamentary coup?

The spectacular fact is not what is visible at first sight – that the PT candidate Haddad lost – but that the traditional right-wing parties, the Brazilian Democratic Movement (PMDB) and the Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB), sank into meaninglessness. Their candidates, Meirelles of the PMDB, the traditional party of rural elites and the incumbent president Michel Temer, got 1.2 per cent in the first round of the elections, and Geraldo Alckmin of the PSDB, the party of urban elites and the middle-classes, got 4.8 per cent of the votes.

The PMDB and the PSDB have never been mass parties with a fixed ideology, but rather, elite formations that moulded their ideology from left to right and back again, and all the while exercising a staunch right-wing agenda in practice. Thus, Bolsonaro was able to replace the traditional right by being a member of a nano-sized party, the Partido Social Liberal (PSL), that he had joined only on January 5, 2018.

The PT defended its position as the main opposition party, and as the biggest party bloc in parliament, despite fierce anti-PT propaganda from Bolsonaro and from all other opposition parties. The strongholds of the PT are the regional states in the poor Northeast, where Haddad obtained victories in both rounds and where regional governors from left-wing parties were elected.

Corruption, Crime, Family Values

One basis for the success of Bolsonaro was the anti-corruption movement that had swept the country with massive demonstrations in 2015 and 2016 and which formed the popular basis for the impeachment of president Dilma Rousseff in 2016. The parliamentary wing of the anti-corruption movement, primarily the PMDB, was swallowed by its own success, since demonstrators developed a general anti-establishment sentiment, primarily directed against the PT, but also against the PMDB and the PSDB. A large number of politicians of all three parties went on trial or were convicted in the ongoing anti-corruption investigations, not the least of which was the powerful evangelical Eduardo Cunha from the PMDB who orchestrated the impeachment of Rousseff, and who is now in jail.

The issue dominating Bolsonaro’s campaign, apart from family values, corruption and unemployment, was unequivocally public security. Brazil saw 60,000 homicides in 2016. This is a rate of 27 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. Only a few countries like Honduras and Venezuela have a higher homicide rate, while in violence-ridden Mexico it is 16 per 100,000, in the U.S. 5, in the UK 0.9 and in Germany 0.85. Apart from homicides there is a high number of robberies and burglaries in Brazil – in other words, Bolsonaro tapped into an area which comprises a serious issue for many citizens in Brazil.

Bolsonaro’s proposals in this regard are quite simple. Not only the possession (which is already legal) but also the carrying of firearms shall be legalised, and policemen that kill ‘gangsters’ shall not face any investigations. It is quite obvious that the latter proposal invites all kinds of misuse, including the killing of political opponents, business competitors and so on. The Brazilian police force is today already one of the most violent ones worldwide since 5,000 out of the 60,000 homicides in 2016 were committed by policemen in service. Thus, it is easy to understand that Bolsonaro’s proposals will not lead to a decrease in crime, and if anything, the opposite. Nonetheless, he was able to tap into the frustration about rising crime, which is a topic that earlier governments did not tackle enough, since homicide rates kept rising. This rise is highly unequal across regions. The states of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro saw very high crime rates in the 1990s but now have a homicide rate of around 10 per 100,000 inhabitants, while in the North and the Northeast of the country, homicide rates increased significantly.

The reasons for the rise in crime were not debated during the election campaign by any of the candidates. Paradoxically, the rise in crime was one of the side effects of the social programs of PT. These brought much more income to the poor states in the North and the Northeast, which also meant that poor people could afford to buy illegal drugs for the first time.1 This led to an expansion of the two main crime syndicates, Comando Vermelho and Primeiro Comando do Capital, in Rio and Sao Paulo to the North, respectively. These two groups established a truce regarding the division of their territories in the Southeast of Brazil, but the expansion north led to fighting for market share in the poorer regions – among themselves and against the respective local mafia. The PT governments of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Lula) and Dilma Rousseff had not shown much coherent initiative in engaging in public security – not really a classic area of action for social-democratic governments.

A third reason for Bolsonaro’s victory is a longer-term development. This involves the rise of evangelical churches, which command a growing wave of conservative social values that emanate from them. These are not churches in the traditional sense but commercial empires that even see bankruptcies and mergers, and acquisitions at times. They maintain political parties and influential TV channels. Similar to what emerged in the 1980s and the 1990s in the U.S., Bolsonaro consistently used the argument of a moral majority, accusing the left of ideological indoctrination, primarily through the public education system. During the electoral campaign, much of Bolsonaro’s ire was directed against topics like sexual education in schools and gender studies in general, and everything that has to do with feminism.

It was mainly these three ingredients – corruption, public security and conservative family values – that managed to form a seemingly coherent profile for voters. Taken together, Bolsonaro successfully created an image of the ‘Left’ consisting of intellectuals detached from the everyday life concerns of ordinary people, while he instead was speaking the ‘real’ language of the people, addressing their ‘real’ problems – a tactic all too well known from predecessors like Erdogan, Modi and Trump.

A striking phenomenon of the whole presidential campaign was that there was literally no public debate about policies; Bolsonaro had withdrawn himself from any public debates after the knife attack against him on September 6, 2018. Much of his campaign relied on fake news sent via whatsapp groups, which had an extraordinary effect. Any debates that happened occurred with obscure groups on social media and thus out of the traditional public realm. As an example, fake news claimed the PT’s incoming government planned that the state would decide the gender of children and that children would become the property of the state after reaching the age of five. Surveys found that 70 to 80 per cent of the receivers of this fake news believed the content.

Yet the background to this shift to the radical right reflects more than just the rise of the evangelical churches, whose members today encompass about 27 per cent of the Brazilian population. The power centres that support the rise of Bolsonaro include agribusiness, mining companies, the financial bourgeoisie and the Brazilian military. Apart from the military, they are composed both of national and international factions and are not exclusively located in the Brazilian power structure. While the Brazilian manufacturing industry’s support for Bolsonaro was not overwhelming due to his ideas on the liberalization of foreign trade, the bosses of German companies Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen – Volkswagen was for a long time Brazilian’s largest private employer – expressed unrestricted enthusiasm.

A balance-Sheet of the Workers’ Party in Power

But apart from the elites, why did the population move electoral support away from the PT governments to this odd coalition of evangelicals, Chicago boys and military generals that will take power in 2019? For an explanation, we have to go back to the time of the governments led by presidents Lula and Dilma Rousseff of the PT.

There are two explanations as to why the PT lost popular support. The first involves Rousseff’s shift toward more state intervention and the subsequent withdrawal of the bourgeoisie’s support for her government after 2013; and second, the classic PT constituency of the working class became unhappy with the too many compromises that the PT presidents made with the ruling classes.

Although these two explanations seem to contradict each other, they both hit a point. Rousseff’s government came under fire from both sides simultaneously. She did not support the large strike movements in 2011 and 2012 demanding higher wages in construction and the public sector, which she saw as being at odds with her neo-developmentalist agenda; thus, she could not use the popular drive of those strikes as support for her own project.

The two terms of Lula’s presidency have been seen as a success, since extreme poverty was reduced significantly, the minimum wage rose above inflation, and a high number of formal jobs were created. But these initial successes hit a ceiling: 95 per cent of the newly created jobs were low waged, and workers started to expect more after 10 years of social democracy. Infrastructure in health, transport and education had improved but were still deficient, and the conditions of work did not see fundamental changes. The industrialization program that Lula had started and that was taken over by Rousseff created many jobs in construction, but with miserable working conditions despite most funding for it coming from public coffers.

Rousseff tried to deepen the nature of social-democratic state intervention by lowering notoriously high Brazilian interest rates and putting a cap on energy prices. The problem was that she did this in a technocratic vein, without securing political support for it and without a powerbase of her own. In this way, it was easy for the bourgeoisie to disrupt this strategy.

In short, the main strategy of Lula and Rousseff in power relied on widening income-redistribution via compromises with the ruling class and participation by the broad masses in individual consumption but not on the active mobilization of the popular masses. This came with important side effects that now turn out to compliment the story of the PT in power.

First, capital concentration continued to increase between 2002 and 2014, primarily in landed property, agribusiness, the food sector and in the garment, construction and steel industry. Acquisitions by Brazilian companies in other countries such as Argentina, Peru, Ecuador and Paraguay played a considerable role.

Second, public financial support for large agribusiness rose much faster than public support for smaller scale family agriculture. In 2003, when Lula came to power, support for agribusiness was five times higher than that for family agriculture. By 2015, one year before Rousseff left office, it rose to an amount that was six times higher. In addition, although agrarian reform proceeded during the presidencies of Fernando Henrique Cardoso in the 1990s and during Lula’s presidency until 2010, it stalled completely during the first mandate of Rousseff from 2011 on.

Third, the Brazilian economy became much more dependent on raw material exports during the presidencies of Lula and Rousseff, due to the expansion of trade relations with China. This is reflected in a steep fall in the amount of exports and value-added in manufacturing, and a corresponding rise in the agricultural and extractive industries. Primary commodity exports rose from 28 per cent of exports in the early 2000s to 50 per cent in 2015, and the contribution of industry to national GDP sank from 27.8 per cent in 1988 to 14.5 per cent in 2010. Once commodity prices went down, the Brazilian economy stuttered and shrunk in 2014 and 2015. A lack of R&D and high-tech industrial sectors led to a renewed dependence on raw material demand on the world market.

Fourth, evangelical churches were integrated into political alliances and granted huge tax relief during the 2000s. The Igreja Universal, as one example, which is now one of the most important supporters of Bolsonaro, had previously supported the PT-led governments.

Fifth, the Brazilian military saw an increase in funding during the 2000s and was granted the lead role in the United Nations Haiti Mission in 2004, where Brazilian commanders subsequently committed massacres among poor residents and social movement activists. The leader of the Brazilian mission in 2004 and 2005 was general Augusto Heleno, today one of the key figures in Bolsonaro’s team and a staunch defender of the military regime from 1964 to 1985. He is set to hold the important post of the Office of Institutional Security, which provides immediate advice to the president on military and security matters.

In short, the PT presidents nurtured many of their natural enemies, thinking they could co-opt and pacify them. This actually worked for a while but made them stronger in the long-term. One has to underline here also that both Lula and Rousseff disconnected to a certain extent from the PT itself during their presidencies, and that their presidencies were based on coalitions with the rural conservative PMDB and other old-style clientelist parties. Given that the PT never had more than 20 per cent of the seats in parliament, the room for manoeuvre was limited, and not all these were mistakes immediately attributable to the PT. In the “Mensalao” scandal in 2005-2006, it was revealed that important leading figures of the PT paid deputies of other parties in order to get legislation passed, which throws a light on its political weakness. But since their presidential candidates were in power from 2003 to 2016, the PT as a whole was made responsible for the aftermath.

Bolsonaro’s crude coalition is to some extent an expression of desperation from the side of the ruling class. The PT, with its moderate gains for the popular masses and social movements, is demonized in the eyes of the Brazilian bourgeoisie with its irrational hatred of the poor majority of the population. But the enormous problems of the Brazilian social formation will hardly be tackled by the new government, not even in the interests of the bourgeoisie. While Bolsonaro has delegated much responsibility for economic issues to the ultra-liberal Paulo Guedes, Bolsonaro himself oscillates between ultra-liberalism and statism, and it is impossible to say at this point what the economic program of the government will be. Once an ultra-liberal proposal has been sanctioned in public by Bolsonaro, he takes it back a week later.

This schema has repeated itself now various times in the past weeks. Guedes himself, who will head a super-ministry that includes the three earlier ministries of Finance, Industry and Planning, does not seem to have a well thought-out plan apart from liberalizing and privatizing everything. He is at the same time facing an investigation by the federal police due to the suspicion that one of his financial companies illegally appropriated millions from the pension funds of state companies. It would not at all be surprising if Guedes were dumped in the coming months. But who will replace him? The only figure in the government to be taken seriously could be Sergio Moro, the judge and former head of the anti-corruption investigation, who will be the minister of Justice and Security. The fact that he threw Lula, who was leading with a wide margin against Bolsonaro in opinion polls, into police custody in April 2018 (the case is not yet fully decided), and is now entering the government himself, leaves more of a bad taste in the mouth.

If one would hold the incoming government to account on the basis of its promises, voters should expect results at least in terms of a fall in crime and in unemployment. This will be hard enough to achieve on its own, given the complete lack of a proper plan and program with the incoming government. But the government will first of all have to deal with pension reform. 70 per cent of the Brazilian budget is spent on pensions for public sector workers and military personnel. The bigger portion of the deficit comes from military pensions, since soldiers usually start to receive their pension at the age of 50 and get 100 per cent of their former salary, while their daughters receive a pension also. From Guedes’ point of view, a number of privatizations are on the table: the refineries of Petrobras, the entire company Eletrobras and considerable parts of the public education system. But in this respect also, Bolsonaro keeps changing his mind.

Observers have identified three wings in the new government: the political wing around the evangelical Onyx Lorenzoni, the military wing and the economic wing, headed by Guedes. Obviously, there is considerable disunity among these three factions, and Bolsonaro’s low level of overall competence as an integrating figure means that a general consensus is missing. How the new government will fare will depend a lot on an agreement between these three wings on a coherent program and whether this program will meet with success in at least a few areas.

In order to kickstart growth and employment, a classic state investment program in R&D and public subsidies for industrial development would be necessary, which is completely at odds with Bolsonaro’s economic wing. Such a program would require that the military wing gains preeminence, which will not be to the liking of the financial bourgeoisie. Bolsonaro’s lack of a coherent economic program might be the biggest Achilles heel and can easily cost him popular support. It is obvious that voluntarism dominates, and the fact that the Brazilian bourgeoisie could not come up with a better option says a lot about its own rotten state.

In any case, a coup by the military, in the sense of immediately exercising power, is not on the agenda. If deemed necessary, the military will try to strengthen its influence within the government. Any form of immediate rule by the military would put at serious risk its own legitimacy as an institution in case the government fails to deliver, and hence, diminish its influence, which is still considerable. In this respect, some observers say that the strong presence of the military in the new government could be one of the few chances to get rid of its overarching influence, which was never diminished to an extent comparable with Argentina or Chile after the end of their respective dictatorships, since the military will be held accountable for the success or failure of that government.

External Interests

Already mentioned was the strong significance of external forces like mining companies, agricultural traders and the international financial bourgeoisie for Bolsonaro’s project. In general, the external orientation of Bolsonaro’s government aims for a tight link with the U.S., both politically and economically. Bolsonaro already made signs he will approve the sale of one of the few national champions of Brazil, the aerospace company Embraer, to Boeing. Even the neoliberal government of Temer showed strong hesitation in backing the sale.

In economic terms, this close relationship with the U.S. will only strengthen the subordination of the Brazilian bourgeoisie to other powers. Brazilian agribusiness does not have much room for manoeuvre in weakening its links to China, since it profits immensely from the trade spat between China and the U.S. and is in direct competition with U.S. agribusiness, especially in the area of soybeans. Three of the four large trading companies in Brazilian agribusiness are mainly U.S.-based (Cargill, Bunge, Archer Midlands), and they will support the maintenance of economic links with China.

One of the sectors in Brazil that currently sees significant investment is the oil sector. Various rounds of sales have taken place for the drilling rights for oil located in the so-called pre-salt geological layer that was discovered in 2006. This discovery will put Brazil on the map in terms of known oil reserves at least until 2050. In the last five bidding rounds in autumn 2018, it was mainly British, Norwegian and U.S. oil companies that received the major stakes, with smaller parts left for Chinese companies and Brazilian Petrobras.

In this vein, the realignment of the Brazilian government with U.S. interests is mainly about securing the vast natural resources in Brazil for the traditional imperialist bloc. Countless new mining projects for gold, iron and other minerals are currently planned in the Amazon, and the potential for Brazil to become a large petropower itself will be effectively prevented by the new government because it aims to subordinate national interests to U.S. imperialist interests with the sale of drilling rights to British companies BP and Shell, to U.S. companies ExxonMobil and Chevron and to the Norwegian Statoil.

Again, this can lead to some conflicts between the ultra-neoliberal and the military wings of the government, but it is not unlikely that the military , with its more statist aspirations, will have to bow down to the power of the national and international financial bourgeoisie. In this respect, we should not underestimate how Brazilian agribusiness, the powerhouse of the Brazilian economy, is today closely intermingled with the interests of the financial bourgeoisie, since it profits more from speculation with land than from the sale of agricultural commodities.

Contradictions of the New Wave of Right-Wing ‘Anti-Globalism’

Another international dynamic is the current wave of right-wing ‘anti-globalist’ governments, not the least of which is the U.S. government under Trump. We should not overestimate the stability of these governments. What we see up to now is that they do not have a stable political support base and are not able to rally the state apparatuses behind them in a coherent way. This is what distinguishes them from traditional fascism. They are also not capable of doing away with elections but have to limit themselves to manipulating them.

Since other than in the 1920s and 1930s, industrial employment is shrinking due to technological developments, these governments will also have much bigger problems in managing the economic contradictions they will face. For example, the ultra-right-wing foreign minister of the incoming Bolsonaro government, Ernesto Araújo, does not refrain in repeating that globalization is piloted by ‘cultural Marxism’. Given that the future economics minister, Paulo Guedes, got rich in international finance (as did other figures of ‘economic nationalism’ like Steve Bannon and Jacob Rees-Moog), these ideological bubbles of the extreme right-wing seem ridiculous. But especially in the area of family values, the attacks against gender studies and feminism have worked in a country like Brazil that has seen one of the highest incidences of violence against women and homosexuals for decades. Apart from offering a distraction from the blunt contradictions in the governmental agenda, the anti-feminist attacks will most likely lead to a spike in violence against women and other persons that do not conform to the ultra-conservative agenda. Violence in the rural areas where political assassinations have never stopped and have increased significantly in the past two years, will reach new record numbers. The rights of traditional communities, indigenous people, landless workers and maroons for their own land have been seen as an obstacle to more mining and agricultural projects by Bolsonaro. But the bigger change could occur in urban areas if political oppression is stepped up there too.

It is obvious that Bolsonaro still faces a high rate of rejection among the population, given the high number of voters for Haddad and the high number of non-voters. Social movement mobilizations will be stronger if the government makes mistakes, and large mobilizations can be expected in any case. In particular, the landless workers’ movement Movimento de Trabalhadores Sem Terra (MST), the urban-based homeless movement Movimento de Trabalhadores Sem Teto (MTST) and the more recent incarnations of the women’s movements have a high capacity for mobilization. The parliamentary opposition is pretty much split but might cooperate on crucial legal projects. Since the agribusiness caucus is firmly behind Bolsonaro, he might be able to get important projects through parliament. One can be sure that the high amount of repression against social and labour movements will increase further and that pro-gun propaganda will motivate both paramilitaries and the police to use arbitrary violence as they please.

Nevertheless, this is not yet a program for a hegemonic fascism, which needs a positive agenda to some extent. Ailton Krenak, one of the most well-known indigenous leaders in Brazil, was asked about his expectations of the new government in the second half of November. He responded, “Well, we have been surviving for 518 years. I am rather concerned about white people and how they will deal with this.”

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Jörg Nowak is a political scientist at the University of Nottingham (UK) and co-editor of the magazine Rupture. His latest publications are “The Spectre of Social Democracy” in the Global Labour Journal, issue 3/2018, and the edited collection Workers Movements and Strikes in the Twenty-First Century. A Global Perspective. Rowman & Littlefield, 2018, co-edited with Peter Birke and Madhumita Dutta.

Note

1. For readers of Portuguese, this interview with José Maria Nóbrega from Federal University of Campina Grande, provides more insight into this issue: Alessandra Duarte: Nordeste nao está preparado para aumento da criminalidade, December 14, 2011.

Featured image is from The Bullet

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The Myth of Western Democracy

December 17th, 2018 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

How does the West get away with its pretense of being an alliance of great democracies in which government is the servant of the people?

Nowhere in the West, except possibly Hungary and Austria, does government serve the people.

Who do the Western governments serve? Washington serves Israel, the military/security complex, Wall Street, the big banks, and the fossil fuel corporations.

The entirety of the rest of the West serves Washington.

Nowhere in the West do the people count. The American working class, betrayed by the Democrats who sent their jobs to Asia, elected Donald Trump and the American people were promptly dismissed by the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton as “the Trump deplorables.”

The Democrats, like the Republicans, serve power, not the people.

In Europe we see the squashing of democracy everywhere.

British prime minister May has turned Brexit into subservience to the EU. She has betrayed the British people and has not yet been hung off of a lamp post, which shows how acceptance the British people are of betrayal. The British people have learned that they do not count. They are as a nothing.

The Greeks voted for a leftwing government that promised to protect them from the EU, IMF, and big banks, but promptly sold them out with austerity agreements that destroyed what remained of Greek sovereignty and Greek living standards. Today the EU has reduced Greece to a Third World country.

The French have been in the streets in revolt for weeks against the French president who serves everyone except the French people.

There are currently massive protests in Brussels, Belgium, with half the government also resigning in protest against the government signing a pact that will replace the Belgian people with migrants from Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. The corrupt and despicable governments who signed this pact represent foreigners and George Soros’ money, not their own citizens.

Why are citizens so powerless that their governments can elevate the interest of foreigners far above the interests of citizens?

There are a number of reasons. The main one is that the people are disarmed and are propagandized to accept violence from the state against them, but not to deliver violence in return against the governments’ illegal use of force against citizens.

In short, until the conquered peoples of Europe kill the police, who serve the ruling elite and delight in inflicting brutality against those whose taxes pay their salaries, take the weapons from the police, and kill the corrupt politicians who have sold them out, the peoples of Europe will remain a conquered and oppressed peoples.

Some time past Chris Hedges, one of the remaining real journalists, made it clear that without violent revolution to excise the tumor of government superiority over the people, freedom throughout the West is dead as a doornail.

The question before us is whether the Western peoples are too brainwashed, too firmly locked in The Matrix, to exhausted to stand up and defend their freedom. Resistance is happening in France and Belgium, but the government that sold out Greece hasn’t been hung off of lamp posts. Americans are so brainwashed that they think Russia, China, Iran, Syria, North Korea, and Venezuela are their enemies when it is perfectly clear that their Enemy is “their” government in Washington.

Except for my American readers, Americans are locked in The Matrix. And they will kill in order to stay in The Matrix, where the controlled explanations are reassuring. Anyone who looks to Washington for leadership is an idiot.

Washington is a master of propaganda. Washington’s propaganda has even infected the Russian government, which from all reports stupidly believes that accommodation to Washington is the secret that will make Russia successful.

It is a foolish government that relies on agreements with Washington.

What it comes down to is this: If acceptance of provocations avoids war, that is the correct policy, but if acceptance of provocations encourages more provocations until war is unavoidable, then a more robust response to provocations is the correct policy. A more robust response introduces caution into the process, whereas acceptance of provocations encourages the aggressor.

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

Featured image is from IndymediaUK

India Caught Between Iran and Saudi Arabia

December 17th, 2018 by Andrew Korybko

The following is an interview in which geopolitical expert Andrew Korybko offers his analysis of Saudi Arabia’s decision to offer new investments to India at a time when the US is leveraging its main south Asian partner against its partnership with Iran. The interview was originally published in the Farsi publication Basirat and in English on Eurasia Future.

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Saudi Arabia is seeking to deepen its ties with India through new investments, so what industries does it plan to focus on?

According to a report by Reuters released after Prime Minister Modi’s meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) at his private residence in Buenos Aires just prior to the G20 Summit, the Kingdom wants to invest in the South Asian state’s “National Investment and Infrastructure Fund”, but it also announced its future interest to expand its presence in India’s energy, technological, and agricultural sectors too.

What is the main purpose of these investments?

Officially speaking, India purses a policy of so-called “multi-alignment”, whereby it attempts to “balance” between various Great Powers to its own advantage, claiming that its relations with one aren’t aimed against those with another. That, however, may not be the case when it comes to Saudi Arabia’s promised investments. There’s nothing wrong in principle with any country investing in another one’s infrastructure, especially if it’s as decrepit and dangerous as India’s is, but this will inevitably strengthen relations between the two states and likely lead to the Kingdom clinching future deals in the energy, technological, and agricultural sectors too, like it announced its intent to do.

It’s the first-mentioned of these three that could most immediately concern Iran’s strategic interests because Saudi Arabia might be trying to replace the Islamic Republic’s market share in the South Asian state, thereby gradually weaning it off of Iranian energy imports during the period of its current US sanctions waiver in exchange for the quid pro quo of investment in tangible sectors of the economy like infrastructure, technology, and agriculture. The US has proudly boasted of its plans to interfere with Iran’s energy exports through sanctions in order to destabilize its economy, and India might be tempted to go along with this scheme if Saudi Arabia offers it a “deal that it can’t refuse”.

What interests does Prime Minister Modi have in these potential investments?

Everything that India does from now until the general elections in May needs to be seen through the prism of domestic electoral politics, which would therefore cast Saudi Arabia’s investments as valuable support for incumbent Prime Minister Modi by allowing him to portray the deals as delivering tangible dividends to the influential agricultural lobby and the rest of his mostly impoverished populace. This in turn could greatly increase his reelection prospects by diminishing growing domestic anger at some of his neoliberal economic policies after basically using these investments to ‘buy votes’ from each sectors’ respective constituents.

India doesn’t care whether its energy needs are met by Iran, Saudi Arabia, or whoever else, so long as the price is competitive and importing the said resource doesn’t carry with it any additional costs. In terms of its existing energy cooperation with Iran, while the price being offered might seem more attractive than Saudi Arabia’s at first, the political and economic costs associated with violating the US’ recently reimposed unilateral sanctions regime could incentivize India to go along with this Saudi plan by gradually decreasing its purchase of Iranian oil simultaneous with replacing it with Saudi imports instead.

It should be understood that for as much as India talks about so-called “multi-alignment” and loudly reiterates its commitment to multipolarity, the rising Great Power is redirecting the military-strategic attention towards the US and is reportedly in talks about reaching a future free trade agreement with it. Prime Minister Modi’s ruling BJP doesn’t see Iran as a marketplace for its goods and services like it does the US, instead considering the Islamic Republic to basically be a cheap gas station and a convenient highway facilitating its exports to Central Asia and Russia.

To put it bluntly, India’s real-sector economic trajectory has less to do with Iran and much more to do with the US, especially if compared in aggregate non-energy terms, so it’s extremely unlikely that the country will continue to purchase Iranian resources at the same level as it currently is if Saudi Arabia offers to replace these imports at a similar price point but without the political risks involved. From India’s perspective, it would have every self-interested reason to “multi-align” with Saudi Arabia under those circumstances, especially considering the domestic electoral context in which these deals are being negotiated.

What role does the US play in this game?

There’s no direct evidence tying the US to Saudi Arabia’s plan to divert India’s energy imports away from Iran and towards the Kingdom instead, but it’s self-evident that the success of this scheme would dovetail with America’s grand strategic interests by depriving Iran of billions of dollars of potential revenue in the long-term. Behind the scenes, however, it wouldn’t be surprising if the US is “encouraging” India to “seriously consider” Saudi Arabia’s proposals, possibly hinting that its anti-Iranian sanctions waiver won’t be renewed unless New Delhi makes concrete progress on decreasing its share of Iranian oil imports and replacing them with Saudi Arabia’s.

Through this tactic, the US would essentially be weaponizing its sanctions waivers against its Indian ally just like it’s weaponizing the actual sanctions themselves against Iran, reminding New Delhi of the Damocles’ Sword hanging over its leadership’s head which could come crashing down if the waiver is lifted prior to May’s election. Not only that, but the US might make any future anti-Chinese military cooperation contingent on India distancing itself from Iran, through in a phased and orderly manner via Saudi oil replacements that doesn’t inadvertently destabilize its economy and reduce Prime Minister Modi’s reelection prospects.

What’s your assessment about the success of Saudi Arabia’s “dollar diplomacy” in the long term?

Saudi Arabia’s so-called “dollar diplomacy”, whether carried out through dollars or perhaps even another current one day in the future, will likely remain pretty successful because of the excess cash that the Kingdom has to spend in trying to court new countries to its side in international disputes. India will probably never be openly “anti-Iranian”, but it could very well be tempted into disguising tacitly anti-Iranian energy moves vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia by claiming that they’re actually nothing more than the latest iteration of its “multi-alignment” policy.

Looking even deeper, however, Saudi Arabia’s new approach to India is less about “dollar diplomacy” as it’s been traditionally understood to be per se and more about offering it mutually advantageous partnerships in several economic spheres, seeing as how Riyadh isn’t exactly “buying off” New Delhi as much as it’s investing huge amounts of capital in the country with the expectation of receiving something more tangible than just political benefits in return. These sorts of relationships are less controversial to the recipient state’s citizens and much more sustainable over the long-term than simple “dollar diplomacy”.

What effect has Khashoggi’s killing had on Saudi Arabia’s “dollar diplomacy”, and has it intensified since then?

It’s difficult to tell what effect Khashoggi’s killing has had on Saudi Arabia’s “dollar diplomacy” and whether it’s intensified much since then because the only high-profile example of the country offering a multidimensional strategic investment partnership to another after that happened has been with India, but it can be expected that this model will increasingly become the norm as people across the world begin to scrutinize their governments’ acceptance of traditional Saudi “largesse”. Saudi Arabia’s intent of “buying off” new partners will never change, but the form that it takes will evolve from its naked bribery to mutually advantageous investment partnerships that are defended by the recipient on the grounds of advancing “multi-alignment”.

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

With the 2018 World Cup in Russia behind it, the soccer world’s focus shifts to the 2022 tournament in Qatar. Politics and the Gulf’s internecine political and legal battles have already shaped debate about FIFA’s controversial awarding of World Cup hosting rights to Qatar. The battles highlight not only the sport’s dominance in the Middle East by autocratic leaders but also the incestuous relationship between politics and sports that is at the root of multiple scandals that have rocked the sports world for much of this decade and compromised good governance in international sports.

Three men symbolize the importance of soccer to Gulf autocrats who see the sport as a way to project their countries in a positive light on the international stage, harness its popular appeal in their cultural and public diplomacy campaigns, and leverage it as a pillar of their efforts to garner soft power: Qatari emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and his nemeses, United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and Saudi sports czar, Turki al-Sheikh, one of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s closest associates.

To be sure, tension between Qatar and its Gulf detractors was spilling onto the soccer pitch long before the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt took their opposition to Qatari policies to a new level with the imposition in June 2017 of a diplomatic and economic boycott of Qatar. Since then, debate about the Qatari World Cup has been further politicized with the Gulf crisis driving efforts to deprive Qatar of economic and soft power benefits it derives from its hosting of the tournament, if not of the right to host the mega-sports event.

The UAE-Saudi efforts took on added significance as Qatar and its detractors settled in for the long haul. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt will likely face difficult choices if the Gulf crisis persists when the World Cup, the first such mega-tournament to be held in the Middle East, kicks off in Doha in late 2022.

Difficult choices

The choice would involve potential political risk. It would be between maintaining the boycott that has cut off all air, sea and land links between Qatar and its detractors at the expense of fans in a soccer-crazy part of the world in which little evokes the deep-seated emotions associated with religion and football or effectively breaching the embargo to evade political backlash and ensure that supporters have access to a sports milestone in the region’s history. The starkness of the boycotting states’ dilemma would be magnified if any one of them were to qualify for the Qatar World Cup and would be enhanced if they were to play the host country or, for example, Iran.

The issue of ability to attend is magnified by expectations that the demography of fans attending the World Cup in Qatar may very well be a different from that at past tournaments. Qatar is likely to attract a far greater number of fans from the Middle East as well as Africa and Asia. The Asian Football Confederation’s Competition Committee has already urged governments to exempt football teams from travel bans and would almost certainly do the same for fans.

As a result, the UAE-Saudi effort to undermine the Qatar World Cup is about more than seeking to deliver a body blow to Qatar. It is also about avoiding being further tied up into knots in an anti-Qatari campaign that has so far failed to break the Gulf state’s resolve, force it to concede, and garner international support. The campaign is multi-pronged and doesn’t shy away from violating laws as is evident in Saudi bootlegging to deprive beIN, the sports franchise of Qatar’s state-owned Al Jazeera television network, of the fruits of acquired rights to broadcast World Cup tournaments and European competitions at the risk of being penalized and/or taken to court by the likes of FIFA and the English Premier League. Saudi media reports that the government has launched an anti-piracy campaign, confiscating more than 4,000 illegal receivers that hacked beIN failed to put an end to the bootlegging.

Signalling the political importance that men like the crown princes and Sheikh Tamim attribute to sports, a former top UAE security official, Lt. Gen. Dhahi Khalfan, suggested that the only way to resolve the Gulf crisis would be for Qatar to surrender its World Cup hosting rights. “If the World Cup leaves Qatar, Qatar’s crisis will be over … because the crisis is created to get away from it,” Mr. Khalfan said.

Mr. Khalfan spoke at a time that leaked documents from the email account of Yousef Al-Otaiba, the UAE ambassador in Washington and a close associate of the country’s crown prince, revealed a UAE plan to undermine Qatar’s currency by manipulating the value of bonds and derivatives. If successfully executed, the plan would have allowed Qatar’s distractors to argue that the Gulf state’s financial problems called into question its ability to organize the World Cup.

Serving national interests

Mr. Al-Sheikh, the chairman of the kingdom’s General Sport Authority, makes no bones about harnessing sports to serve the kingdom’s interests. With a career in security rather than sports, he was unequivocal in his assertion on the eve of Saudi Arabia’s debut in the 2018 World Cup in Russia that he made decisions based on what he deemed “Saudi Arabia’s best interest,” reaffirming the inextricable relationship between sports and politics.

Barely 24 hours before the World Cup’s opening match, Saudi Arabia made good on Mr. Al-Sheikh’s assertion that the kingdom’s international sports policy would be driven by former US President George W. Bush’s post 9/11 principle of “you are either with us or against us.”

With Morocco’s bid for the 2026 World Cup in mind, Mr. Al-Sheikh had warned that “to be in the grey area is no longer acceptable to us. There are those who were mistaken in their direction … If you want support, it’ll be in Riyadh. What you’re doing is a waste of time…,” Mr. Al-Sheikh said. Mr. Al-Sheikh was referring to Morocco’s refusal to join the anti-Qatari campaign. Adopting a Saudi Arabia First approach, Mr. Al-Sheikh noted that the United States “is our biggest and strongest ally.” He recalled that when the World Cup was played in 1994 in nine American cities, the US “was one of our favourites. The fans were numerous, and the Saudi team achieved good results.”

Mr. Al-Sheikh was manoeuvring at the same time to ensure that the kingdom has greater say in international soccer governance, including issues such as the fate of the Qatari World Cup and a push to extend international isolation of Iran to the realm of sports. To do so, Saudi Arabia backed a proposal to speed up the expansion of the World Cup to 48 teams from 32, which is scheduled to kick off in 2026, by making it already applicable to the 2022 World Cup. Saudi Arabia hopes that the expansion would significantly complicate Qatari preparations for the event. Implementing the expansion in 2022 would strengthen UAE and Saudi efforts to petition FIFA to force Qatar to agree to co-hosting of the World Cup by other Gulf states, a proposal that was incorporated in the UAE plan to undermine Qatar’s currency.

In an indication of things to come, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in early 2018 thwarted a UAE-Saudi attempt to get Asian tournament matches that were scheduled to be hosted by Qatar moved to a neutral venue. The AFC warned the two countries that they would be penalized if they failed to play in Doha or host Qatari teams.

Mr. Al-Sheikh’s moves were part of a two-pronged Saudi-UAE effort. Global tech investor Softbank, which counts Saudi Arabia and the UAE among its largest investors, is believed to be behind a $25 billion proposal embraced by FIFA president Gianni Infantino to revamp the FIFA Club World Cup and launch of a Global Nations League tournament. If approved, the proposal would give Saudi Arabia a significant voice in global soccer governance.

Complimenting the Saudi FIFA bid is an effort to expand the kingdom’s influence in the 47-nation AFC, the largest of the world soccer body’s constituent regional elements. To do so, Saudi Arabia unsuccessfully tried to create a new regional bloc, the South West Asian Football Federation (SWAFF), a potential violation of FIFA and AFC rules. The federation would have been made up of members of both the AFC and the Amman-based West Asian Football Federation (WAFF) that groups all Middle Eastern nations except for Israel and is headed by Jordanian Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein, a prominent advocate of soccer governance reform.

The initiative fell apart when the Asian members of SWAFF walked out in October 2018 in the wake of the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The killing could also jeopardize Saudi efforts to gain control of the AFC with the Al-Sheikh-backed candidacy of Saudi Football Federation chief Adel Ezzat, who resigned in August 2018 to run for the office..

Benefits outstrip reputational risk

Mr. Al-Sheikh and his boss, Prince Mohammed, share with the crown prince’s UAE counterpart and namesake, a belief that the public diplomacy and soft power fruits of harnessing sports outstrip reputational risks. Simon Pearce, Abu Dhabi’s director of strategic communications and a director of Manchester City, the British club bought by UAE Crown Prince Mohammed’s brother but controlled by the de facto Emirati ruler’s men, said as much in leaked emails to Mr. Al-Otaiba, the UAE ambassador in Washington.

The emails discussed the UAE’s registration of a new soccer club, New York City Football Club, as the United States’ Major League Soccer newest franchise. Mr. Pearce argued that Abu Dhabi’s interests in the US political environment are best served by associating New York City FC with City Football Group, the Abu Dhabi government’s soccer investment vehicle, rather than the government itself to evade criticism stemming from the Emirates’ criminalization of homosexuality, its less than stellar record on women’s rights and its refusal to formally recognize Israel despite maintaining close security and commercial relations with the Jewish state.

The UAE’s sports-related investments, guided by the crown prince, much like the acquisition of important Qatari sports stakes on the behest of Sheikh Tamim also give Gulf states political leverage and create additional commercial opportunity. The investments constitute the flip side of large amounts of Gulf money being channelled to influential think tanks, particularly in Washington. In a series of notes in 2012, Mr.  Pearce advised Prince Mohammed, a man obsessed with perceived threats posed by any form of political Islam and a driving force in the campaign against Qatar, to tempt than British prime minister David Cameron to counter what he described as Islamist infiltration of the BBC’s Arabic service in exchange for lucrative arms and oil deals.

To illustrate the UAE and Qatar’s sway in European soccer, Nicholas McGeehan, an independent researcher and former Human Rights Watch executive focussed on the region, looked at recent bookies odds for the Champions League. Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City was the favourite followed by Qatar’s Paris Saint-Germain. Third up was Bayern Munich, whose shirts are sponsored by Qatar, fourth was Barcelona, which recently ended a seven-year sponsorship deal with Qatar, and fifth Real Madrid that sold the naming rights to its new stadium to Abu Dhabi.

Saudi and UAE public relations efforts to generate public pressure for a deprival of Qatari hosting rights were at times mired in controversy. The launch in May of the Foundation for Sports Integrity by Jamie Fuller, a prominent Australian campaigner for a clean-up of global soccer governance, backfired amid allegations of Saudi and UAE financial backing and Mr. Fuller’s refusal to disclose his source of funding.

Saudi and UAE media together with UK tabloid The Sun heralded the launch in a poche London hotel that involved a reiteration of assertions of Qatari wrongdoing in its successful World Cup bid. Media like Abu Dhabi’s The National and Saudi Arabia’s Al Arabiya projected the launch as pressure on FIFA to deprive Qatar of its hosting rights. “It is no secret that football’s governing body is rotten to the core. (FIFA) will rightly come under renewed pressure to strip Qatar of the competition and carry out an internal investigation in the wake of the most recent allegations. The millions of fans eagerly anticipating 2022’s festival of football deserve better,” The National said. Saudi-owned Ash-Sharq Al Awsat newspaper reported that a June 2018 FIFA Congress would hold a re-vote of the Qatari hosting. The Congress didn’t.

Qatar remains vulnerable

Despite so far successfully having defeated efforts to deprive it of its hosting rights, Qatar remains vulnerable when it comes to the integrity of its winning bid. The bid’s integrity and Sheikh Tamim’s emphasis on sports as a pillar of Qatari soft power is at stake in legal proceedings in New York and Zurich involving corruption in FIFA and potential wrongdoing in the awarding of past World Cups. Qatar has suffered reputational damage as a result of the question marks even if the Gulf crisis has allowed it to enhance its image as an underdog being bullied by the big boys on the block.

To Qatar’s credit, it has introduced reforms of its controversial kafala or labour sponsorship system that could become a model for the region. In doing so, it cemented the 2022 World Cup as one of the few mega-events with a real potential of leaving a legacy of change. Qatar started laying the foundations for that change by early on becoming the first and only Gulf state to engage with its critics, international human rights groups and trade unions.

Even so, Qatar initially suffered reputational damage on the labour front because it was relatively slow in embracing and implementing the reforms. Qatar’s handling of the Gulf crisis suggests that it has learnt from the failure of its initial response to criticism of its winning 2022 bid when it acted like an ostrich that puts its head in the sand, hoping that the storm will pass only to find that by the time it rears its head the wound has festered, and it has lost strategic advantage.

The integrity issue remains Qatar’s weak point. For activist critics of the awarding of hosting rights to Qatar, there are two questions. One is, who do they want to get in bed with? Qatar’s detractors, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia hardly have stellar human and labour rights records. If anything, their records are worse than that of Qatar, which admittedly does not glow.

The second question critics have to ask themselves is how best to leverage the World Cup, irrespective of whether the Qatari bid was compromised or not. On the assumption that it may have been compromised, the question is less how to exact retribution for a wrong doing that was common practice in global football governance. Leveraging should focus on how to achieve a fundamental reform of global sports governance that has yet to emerge eight years into a crisis that was in part sparked by the Qatar World Cup. This goes to the heart of the fact that untouched in efforts to address the governance crisis is the corrupting, ungoverned, and incestuous relationship between sports and politics.

Siamese twins: sports and politics

The future of the Qatar World Cup and the Gulf crisis speaks to the pervasiveness of politics in sports. The World Cup is political by definition. Retaining Qatar’s hosting rights or depriving the Gulf state of the right to host the tournament is ultimately a choice with political consequences. As long as the crisis continues, retaining rights is a testimony to Qatar’s resilience, deprival would be a victory for its detractors.

As a result, the real yardstick in the debate about the Qatari World Cup should be how the sport and the integrity of the sport benefit most. And even then, politics is never far from what the outcome of that debate is. Obviously, instinctively, the optics of no retribution raises the question of how that benefits integrity. The answer is that the potential legacy of social and economic change that is already evident with the Qatar World Cup is more important than the feel-good effect of having done the right thing with retribution or the notion of setting an example. Add to that the fact that in current circumstances, a withdrawal of hosting rights would likely be interpreted as a victory of one side over the other, further divide the Arab and Muslim world, and enhance a sense among many Muslims of being on the defensive and under attack.

The silver lining in the Gulf crisis may be the fact that it has showed up the fiction of a separation of sports and politics. FIFA, the AFC, and the Confederation of African Football (CAF), seeking to police the ban on a mixing of sports and politics, have discovered that it amounts to banging their heads against a wall. Despite their attempts to halt politics from subverting Asian tournaments, domestic and regional politics seeped into the game via different avenues.

As a result, FIFA and its regional confederations have been tying themselves up in knots. In a bizarre and contradictory sequence of events at the outset of the Gulf crisis, FIFA president Infantino rejected involving the group in the dispute by saying that “the essential role of FIFA, as I understand it, is to deal with football and not to interfere in geopolitics.” Yet, on the same day that he made his statement, Mr. Infantino waded into the crisis by removing a Qatari referee from a 2018 World Cup qualifier at the request of the UAE. FIFA, beyond declaring that the decision was taken “in view of the current geopolitical situation,” appeared to be saying by implication that a Qatari by definition of his nationality could not be an honest arbiter of a soccer match involving one of his country’s detractors. In FIFA’s decision, politics trumped professionalism, no pun intended.

Similarly, the AFC was less principled in its stand towards matches pitting Saudi Arabia and Iran against one another. Iranian club Traktor Sazi was forced in February to play its home match against Al Ahli of Jeddah in Oman. It wasn’t clear why the AFC did not uphold the principle it imposed on Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia in the case of Iran. “Saudi teams have been able to select host stadiums and cities, and Saudi teams will host two Iranian football representatives in the UAE and Kuwait. In return, Iranian football representatives should be able to use their own rights to choose neutral venues,” said Mohammad Reza Saket, the head of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Football Federation in a letter to the AFC.

Soccer governance bodies have long struggled to maintain the fiction of a separation in a trade-off that gave regulators greater autonomy and created the breeding ground for widespread corruption while allowing governments and politicians to manipulate the sport to their advantage as long as they were not too blatant about it. The limits of that deal are currently being defined in the Middle East, a region wracked by conflict where virtually everything is politicized.

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This article was originally published on the author’s blog site: The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer.

Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and co-host of the New Books in Middle Eastern Studies podcast. James is the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, a book with the same title and a co-authored volume, Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa as well as Shifting Sands, Essays on Sports and Politics in the Middle East and North Africa and just published China and the Middle East: Venturing into the Maelstrom

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Two years of Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu as a Middle East peacemaking team appear to be having a transformative effect – and in ways that will please neither of them.

The American public is now evenly split between those who want a two-state solution and those who prefer a single state, shared by Israelis and Palestinians, according to a survey published last week by the University of Maryland.

And if a Palestinian state is off the table – as a growing number of analysts of the region conclude, given Israel’s intransigence and the endless postponement of Mr Trump’s peace plan – then support for one state rises steeply, to nearly two-thirds of Americans.

But Mr Netanyahu cannot take comfort from the thought that ordinary Americans share his vision of a single state of Greater Israel. Respondents demand a one-state solution guaranteeing Israelis and Palestinians equal rights.

By contrast, only 17 per cent of Americans expressing a view – presumably Christian evangelicals and hardline Jewish advocates for Israel – prefer the approach of Israel’s governing parties: either to continue the occupation or annex Palestinian areas without offering the inhabitants citizenship.

All of this is occurring even though US politicians and the media express no support for a one-state solution. In fact, quite the reverse.

The movement to boycott Israel, known as BDS, is growing on US campuses, but vilified by Washington officials, who claim its goal is to end Israel as a Jewish state by bringing about a single state, in which all inhabitants would be equal. The US Congress is even considering legislation to outlaw boycott activism.

And last month CNN sacked its commentator Marc Lamont Hill for using a speech at the United Nations to advocate a one-state solution – a position endorsed by 35 per cent of the US public.

There is every reason to assume that, over time, these figures will swing even more sharply against Mr Netanyahu’s Greater Israel plans and against Washington’s claims to be an honest broker.

Among younger Americans, support for one state climbs to 42 per cent. That makes it easily the most popular outcome among this age group for a Middle East peace deal.

In another sign of how far removed Washington is from the American public, 40 per cent of respondents want the US to impose sanctions to stop Israel expanding its settlements on Palestinian territory. In short, they support the most severe penalty on the BDS platform.

And who is chiefly to blame for Washington’s unresponsiveness? Some 38 per cent say that Israel has “too much influence” on US politics.

That is a view almost reflexively cited by Israel lobbyists as evidence of anti-semitism. And yet a similar proportion of US Jews share concerns about Israel’s meddling.

In part, the survey’s findings should be understood as a logical reaction to the Oslo peace process. Backed by the US for the past quarter-century, it has failed to produce any benefits for the Palestinians.

But the findings signify more. Oslo’s interminable talks over two states have provided Israel with an alibi to seize more Palestinian land for its illegal settlements.

Under cover of an Oslo “consensus”, Israel has transferred ever-larger numbers of Jews into the occupied territories, thereby making a peaceful resolution of the conflict near impossible. According to the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, that is a war crime.

Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor of the court in The Hague, warned this month that she was close to finishing a preliminary inquiry needed before she can decide whether to investigate Israel for war crimes, including the settlements.

The reality, however, is that the ICC has been dragging out the inquiry to avoid arriving at a decision that would inevitably provoke a backlash from the White House. Nonetheless, the facts are staring the court in the face.

Israel’s logic – and proof that it is in gross violation of international law – were fully on display this week. The Israeli army locked down the Ramallah, the effective and supposedly self-governing capital of occupied Palestine, as “punishment” after two Israeli soldiers were shot dead outside the city.

The Netanyahu government also approved yet another splurge of settlement-building, again supposedly in “retaliation” for a recent upsurge in Palestinian attacks.

But Israel and its western allies know only too well that settlements and Palestinian violence are intrinsically linked. One leads to the other.

Palestinians directly experience the settlements’ land grabs as Israeli state-sanctioned violence. Their communities are ever more tightly ghettoised, their movements more narrowly policed to maintain the settlers’ privileges.

If Palestinians resist such restrictions or their own displacement, if they assert their rights and their dignity, clashes with soldiers or settlers are inescapable. Violence is inbuilt into Israel’s settlement project.

Israel has constructed a perfect, self-rationalising system in the occupied territories. It inflicts war crimes on Palestinians, who then weakly lash out, justifying yet more Israeli war crimes as Israel flaunts its victimhood, all to a soundtrack of western consolation.

The hypocrisy is becoming ever harder to hide, and the cognitive dissonance ever harder for western publics to stomach.

In Israel itself, institutionalised racism against the country’s large minority of Palestinian citizens – a fifth of the population – is being entrenched in full view.

Last week Natalie Portman, an American-Israeli actor, voiced her disgust at what she termed the “racist” Nation-State Basic Law, legislation passed in the summer that formally classifies Israel’s Palestinian population as inferior.

Screen grab from Haaretz

Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister’s grown-up son, voiced a sentiment widely popular in Israel last week when he wrote on Facebook that he wished “All the Muslims [sic] leave the land of Israel”. He was referring to Greater Israel – a territorial area that does not differentiate between Israel and the occupied territories.

In fact, Israel’s Jim Crow-style policies – segregation of the type once inflicted on African-Americans in the US – is becoming ever more overt.

Last month the Jewish city of Afula banned Palestinian citizens from entering its main public park while vowing it wanted to “preserve its Jewish character”. A court case last week showed that a major Israeli construction firm has systematically blocked Palestinian citizens from buying houses near Jews. And the parliament is expanding a law to prevent Palestinian citizens from living on almost all of Israel’s land.

A bill to reverse this trend, committing Israel instead to “equal political rights amongst all its citizens”, was drummed out of the parliament last week by an overwhelming majority of legislators.

Americans, like other westerners, are waking up to this ugly reality. A growing number understand that it is time for a new, single state model, one that ends Israel’s treatment of Jews as separate from and superior to Palestinians, and instead offers freedom and equality for all.

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

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

Nine Things to Buy with $5 Billion Instead of a Border Wall

December 17th, 2018 by Lindsay Koshgarian

On Thursday Congress passed a stopgap funding measure to keep parts of the federal government open until December 21, when Congress must pass another spending measure or again face a government shutdown.

President Trump has said that he will veto any bill that doesn’t give him the $5 billion he has demanded for his border wall, even if it causes parts of the government to shut down and send federal employees into the holidays without their regular paychecks.

Five billion dollars is not huge in a federal discretionary budget of more than $1 trillion. But it’s an incredibly meaningful sum to any number of smaller federal government programs.

Here are nine things we could buy for $5 billion instead of a border wall:

1. Provide Medicaid for 1.4 million people

The number of uninsured Americans has plummeted since the Affordable Care Act, with 16 million more non-elderly Americans insured than before(elderly Americans are eligible for Medicare). But, 28 million Americansremained uninsured at the end of 2016.

At the program’s current costs, $5 billion could provide Medicaid – cost-effective, quality insurance – for 1.4 million Americans. That’s like giving free, quality health insurance to the entire state of New Hampshire.

2. More than double federal spending on energy efficiency and renewable energy

Climate change is real, and it’s here. Sure, it’s depressing that the United States budget for energy efficiency and renewable energy is a paltry $2 billion. Adding $5 billion to make the total $7 billion that wouldn’t be enough to slow climate change, but it would be better than building a wall.

3. Give the Environmental Protection Agency a 60% Raise

Continuing on the environmental theme, this federal defender for clean water, clean air, protection of endangered species, safe disposal of toxic waste, land conservation and even food quality and safety has been under assault by the current administration. A $5 billion raise would be enough to raise its budget by 60%, from $8.2 billion to $13.2 billion.

4. Increase federal aid to public K-12 schools by 30%

The primary source of federal aid to public schools is the Title I program that provides federal funding to schools that serve lower income students. More than half of all public schools in the United States benefit from the program. In 2017, Title I grants to public schools totaled $14.9 billion.

An additional $5 billion would be a 30% increase to this aid, and could make a big difference to our schools. U.S. schools are old, and many are desperately in need of updates, like expansion to accommodate growing enrollment, and energy retrofits to control spiking energy costs. The $5 billion spike wouldn’t be enough to solve the problems, but in a world where citizens launch GoFundMe campaigns to raise $75,000 for school heaters, it would be a good start.

5. Fund the National Endowment for the Arts through 2051

Babies born this year will turn 33 in the year 2051, and with a $5 billion raise, the National Endowment for the Arts would still be funding artists all over the country. And yet, President Trump suggested zeroing out funding for the National Endowment for the Arts – a little less than $150 million each year.

Since its founding in 1965, the NEA has spent just $5 billion in all, supporting more than 145,000 grants to artists, writers, and performers. NEA support helped create the Vietnam veterans memorial in Washington, DC; the Sundance Film Festival; and is currently partnering with the Department of Defense to implement creative arts healing programs for veterans with traumatic brain injury.

6. Double heating assistance for low-income households

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance program provides support to low-income households to help them afford heating and cooling costs. Its 2017 budget was just short of $3.4 billion, so a $5 billion increase could more than double it.

With its $3.4 billion budget, LIHEAP helps about 6.7 million families afford heat, and 1 million families afford cooling.

7. Resettle 11 times more refugees than we did in 2018

In 2018, the U.S. helped to resettle just 22,491 refugees in our cities and towns, down from 84,995 refugees in 2016. The cost of resettlement for those refugees was just under $1.7 billion.

Increasing the budget for refugee resettlement by $5 billion would allow the U.S. to accept 11 times more refugees than we did in 2018, or 253,000 desperate people.

What’s more, in recent years more than half of refugee applicants were children.

8. Double funding for substance use and mental health

With the United States facing a disturbing decline in life expectancy, experts have blamed both an opioid epidemic and a historically high suicide rate. Substance abuse and mental health should be near the top of the list for increased funding.

And yet the current budget for the main federal agency that handles both substance abuse and mental health, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), received just $4.1 billion in federal funds in 2017. Adding $5 billion to that could more than double current funding.

9. Double funding for citizenship and immigration services

Immigration policy isn’t all about walls and deportations. Citizenship and Immigration Services is the anti-ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which handles deportations.) This is the agency that guides new Americans on the path to citizenship. Its budget in 2017 was just under $4 billion. The program naturalizes around 700,000 new citizens each year, and has naturalized more than 100,000 members of U.S. armed services since 2001.

With a $5 billion raise, you could double its budget.

Author’s note: All budget figures are from NPP analysis of data from the Office of Management and Budget unless otherwise noted.

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Featured image: Border wall stretches for miles into the rolling landscape on the outskirts of Nogales, Arizona. This kind of fencing is impassable to most wingless wildlife. Photo by Rebecca Kessler for Mongabay.

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Weaponizing Humanitarian Aid

December 17th, 2018 by Prof. Mel Gurtov

Long ago, US foreign aid programs honored the principle that humanitarian aid should be treated separately from economic and military assistance to governments. Public Law 480 (popularized as “Food for Peace”), which began under President Eisenhower in the 1960s and expanded under President Kennedy, was mainly intended (in Kennedy’s words) to “narrow the gap between abundance here at home and near starvation abroad.” It was a simple and ethical goal, though it applied only to “friendly” countries and therefore had the secondary aim, as Kennedy admitted, to be a barrier against communism.

The original humane goal has now vanished, and the secondary political aim has taken its place. The Trump administration is explicitly using humanitarian aid as another weapon to sanction adversaries. North Korea is the prime example. After decades providing humanitarian aid by private citizens and NGOs, Americans will no longer be able to send or deliver it: the decision includes denial of permission to travel to North Korea to deliver aid. Programs that made perceptible contributions to economic development and health care in North Korea, and built trust, will now be grounded.

The American Friends Service Committee, Nautilus Institute, Mercy Corps, Northwest Medical Teams, and other well-established NGOs are among the affected organizations.

All this in the name of the Trump administration’s policy of “maximum pressure” to force North Korea to take tangible steps toward verifiable denuclearization. The administration justifies the ban as necessary to protect Americans from being taken prisoner and eliminate a source of hard currency for the North Korean regime. But those are excuses; humanitarian aid is a carrot now turned into a stick because Trump’s summit meeting with Kim Jong-un has failed to bring denuclearization any closer to realization and has no interest in an incentives-based engagement strategy.

Keith Luse, executive director of the National Committee on North Korea, a group that supports engagement, points out in a message to members (which includes me) that “a line has been crossed.”

American citizens and NGOs have provided humanitarian assistance to that country for decades. Whether motivated by a faith-based perspective—or out of a compassionate nature—all have been committed to saving the lives of the neediest of North Korea’s citizens, including children, the elderly and pregnant mothers. Thousands of North Koreans neglected by their own government, particularly in rural areas, know their lives have been impacted, or saved because of the intervention of the American people. It has become clear that the Trump Administration regards the provision of humanitarian assistance to the North Korean people as a legitimate target for its maximum pressure campaign.

Despite improvements in its economy, North Korea’s public health and food circumstances remain dire. The World Food Programme reports a shortfall of over $15 million for its work in North Korea.

Ten million people—40 percent of the population—are said to be undernourished, and roughly 20 percent of children suffer from chronic malnourishment. The White House, where the president periodically extols his friendship with Kim Jong-un, has said nothing about the human condition in North Korea. But even if it did, US termination of humanitarian aid to North Korea would undermine its criticisms of human rights there.

In the United Nations, the US position makes Russia and China look good. Their representatives have called for rewarding North Korea for its diplomacy and its focus since April 2018 on economic development rather than on the byongjin line of parallel military and economic development. Moscow and Beijing have both argued in the Security Council for North Korean exemptions from UN sanctions. A Chinese foreign ministry statement of June 12, 2018 said:

The UN Security Council resolutions that have been passed say that if North Korea respects and acts in accordance with the resolutions, then sanction measures can be adjusted, including to pause or remove the relevant sanctions. China has consistently held that sanctions are not the goal in themselves. The Security Council’s actions should support and conform to the efforts of current diplomatic talks towards denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, and promote a political solution for the peninsula.

But to date Washington, with veto power in the Security Council, has taken a firm line on UN sanctions. In the White House’s view, reflected for example in a statement of August 29, 2018, China’s food and fuel assistance to North Korea—which typically amounts to 70 percent of North Korean imports—is “not helpful.” The White House is fighting a losing battle, however. Since the Trump-Kim summit, leakage in the UN sanctions regime has increased significantly as neither Russia nor China feels duty bound to honor it as before, particularly when it comes to oil. South Korean humanitarian aid also enters the picture as inter-Korean talks move ahead. North-South Korea agreements so far have greatly reduced military tensions along the demilitarized zone and at sea, paving the way for renewal of a South Korean-funded industrial zone and resort complex just across the DMZ in the North. But the Trump administration stands in the way of South Korean aid to the North.

In response to Seoul’s interest in lifting trade and investment sanctions, Trump said:

“They won’t do it without our approval. They do nothing without our approval.”

North Korea is not an isolated case. Iran is also subject to “maximum pressure” and worse—meaning regime change—as became apparent in a speech by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on May 28, 2018. Officially, Trump’s imposition of sanctions on Iran following withdrawal from the Obama-era nuclear deal separates humanitarian aid from US sanctions on Iran’s banks, oil, airlines, and other industries. But in fact humanitarian aid requires the same bank processing as any other aid, making food and medicine imports hard to find under US sanctions. As Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said:

“The US has imposed financial sanctions on Iran. When you want to transfer money, the bank does not ask whether it goes for food or other items—that is why sanctions always hit food and medicine.”

Economic sanctions do hurt. Iran’s Zarif has said as much, while also saying that sanctions “strengthen the resolve to resist. The North Koreans have not acknowledged the pain but have demanded an end to US sanctions as a condition of further dialogue. A major problem with sanctions, surely applicable to Iran and North Korea, is that they arouse nationalist resistance in the targeted regime. Studies of sanctions show, moreover, that they have a poor record when it comes to forcing policy changes
As for sanctions on humanitarian aid, the core issue is moral as well as economic. The people most affected by such sanctions are, of course, those who are most in need of basic necessities. Political leaders, the military, and residents in the capital rarely suffer. Moreover, loss of direct contact by aid groups with ordinary people undermines opportunities to build goodwill and nurture diplomatic engagement. In short, weaponizing humanitarian aid has no upside even in a policy based on “maximum pressure.”

The future of humanitarian aid is grim. The sheer number of people in need around the world almost defies imagination. Food and health deficits in North Korea and Iran pose one kind of humanitarian need. They are in caught in the middle of international rivalries, like the half-million Yemenis displaced by war and the “caravans” of people fleeing Central American violence and trapped in Mexico. But then there are the over 60 million displaced and transnational refugees and migrants who are victims of natural catastrophes (including climate change), war, and persecution.

Five countries—Afghanistan, Myanmar, Somalia, Syria, and South Sudan—account for two-thirds of today’s refugees according to Mercy Corps and Amnesty International. The global map is pockmarked with encampments, many of them permanent, as governments struggle either to support or find a way to remove hundreds of thousands of people. Governments that put out the welcome sign for such people, like Germany and Lebanon, risk being ousted by the current tidal force of anti-immigrant sentiment. And in the United Nations, refugee fatigue is an old problem, and funding relief has long since become a mission impossible.

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Mel Gurtov, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University.

Featured image is from The Unz Review

Why the United States Has Not Won a Real War Since 1945

December 17th, 2018 by Philip Giraldi

If anyone is still wondering why the United States has not won a real war since 1945, I offer up the example of retired U.S. Army Colonel Wes Martin, who writes for Town Hall and reportedly also has appeared as an expert commentator on Fox. Town Hall is a purveyor of a certain type of “American conservatism.” It was founded by the Heritage Foundation on the principle that the United States is ordained by God as uber alles. Though it features many good writers and even genuine conservatives it occasionally goes off the rails. Its latest incarnation features an article entitled “Obama-loving country music star Tim McGraw partners with terror-sponsoring communists.”

Colonel Martin’s bio includes his service as the Senior Antiterrorism Officer for all Coalition Forces in Iraq and Commander of Camp Ashraf, which is where the military arm of the Mojahedin e Khalq (MEK) terrorist group was camped while Saddam Hussein was still in power. MEK, consisting of Iranian dissidents, was being used by Saddam to carry out low-intensity warfare against Iran. It was placed under American military protection after the fall of Baghdad in 2003.

Martin’s latest foray in Mullah-bashing is a December 10th article entitled “Iran’s Continuing Misinformation Campaign.” It is a defense of MEK, which he describes as a victim of Iranian propaganda. Martin frames his argument around a critique of a November 9th report entitled “Terrorists, cultists – or champions of Iranian democracy?  The wild, wild story of the MEK” that appeared in The Guardian, but, in reality, most of his piece is about himself.  The Guardian article, written by Arron Merat, provides an in-depth analysis of MEK, how it developed, and what it is doing today. It does, to be sure, come down on the side of MEK being both a cult and a terror organization, which is what Martin disputes.

Martin’s article, like all of his pieces appearing on Town Hall, is nearly unreadable. It includes gems like “The Iranian dissidents have a primary target of the ayatollahs misinformation campaign” and also “This was the first time in U.S. history, and perhaps world history, where one country was invaded and with it came the entrapment of a large military force dedicated to the removal of a third of the country’s leadership.” I’m sure Colonel Martin actually meant something in those two sentences but I am at a loss to figure out what it might be.

Martin reports that MEK first came on to his “radar” in 2003 after the invasion of Iraq by U.S. forces, which is part of his problem, which might be described as seeing what one wants to see. He conducted “an assessment on the MEK and determined they were not a threat.” But other evidence, which Martin should have considered, suggests that MEK was not just a group of Iranian dissidents. A study prepared by the Rand Corporation for the U.S. government conducted interviews at Camp Ashraf and concluded that there were present “many of the typical characteristics of a cult, such as authoritarian control, confiscation of assets, sexual control (including mandatory divorce and celibacy), emotional isolation, forced labor, sleep deprivation, physical abuse and limited exit options.”

MEK made the transition from terrorist group to “champions of Iranian democracy” by virtue of intensive lobbying of Iran haters. The Guardian article also describes how “A stupendously long list of American politicians from both parties were paid hefty fees to speak at events in favor of the MEK, including Giuliani, John McCain, Newt Gingrich and former Democratic party chairs Edward Rendell and Howard Dean – along with multiple former heads of the FBI and CIA. John Bolton, who has made multiple appearances at events supporting the MEK, is estimated to have received upwards of $180,000. According to financial disclosure forms, Bolton was paid $40,000 for a single appearance at the Free Iran rally in Paris in 2017.”

It apparently never occurred to Martin that the group had a whole lot of history before he appeared on the scene and it began buying American politicians. It may not have been an active threat in 2003, when confronted by overwhelming U.S. military force, but it sure was anti-American back in the 1970s, to include the assassination of at least six U.S. Air Force officers and civilian defense contractors. The ambush in which two air force officers were murdered by MEK was reenacted for each incoming class at the Central Intelligence Agency training center in the late 1970s to illustrate just how a terrorist attack on a moving vehicle might take place.

Colonel Martin is inevitably a harsh critic of President Barack Obama, mentioning in passing that

“Unfortunately, the State Department policy under the Obama administration was intent on appeasing the Iran regime.”

It is an assertion for which there is scant evidence apart from Obama’s clearly expressed reasonable desire to negotiate an end to any possible Iranian nuclear weapons program. In fact, Obama’s Secretary of State Hillary Clinton removed the group from the State Department terror list in 2012, and then arranged for its relocation to a safe site in Albania, where it still resides.

In another article on “evil” Iran, obviously an obsession with Martin, he states that

“The fundamentalists in Tehran were almost overthrown during the vast national uprisings of 2009 (predating the Arab Spring). While former President Obama and former Secretary Clinton stayed silent, in favor of their nuclear deal with the regime…”

Martin is dead wrong that the regime was almost overthrown. It was never threatened. And, of course, it would have been difficult for Obama to have remained silent in 2009 over the “nuclear deal” which was not signed until 2015.

Martin also has problems with the Guardian article’s assertion that MEK derives from an “Islamist-Marxist” ideology. He observes “In other words, the MEK is composed of God-fearing atheists.  He needs to pick one or the other, because Islam and Marxism do not mix.” Actually Marxism, as a primarily social and economic framework, is not necessarily anti-religious, particularly when religion inspires the workers as part of the class struggle. Political Marxism and religious zealotry can coexist. The communist Tudeh Party of pre-revolutionary Iran was reportedly full of Islamists. And MEK does indeed have both Marxist and Islamic roots. It helped to overthrow the Shah in 1979 through cooperation with the religious parties but then turned against the clerics after they had succeeded in assuming control of the revolution.

Martin also completely ignores MEK’s anti-American, anti-capitalist and anti-colonialist roots. It began as a radicalized student group in Iran in the 1970s that attacked U.S. businesses and was viscerally opposed to the United States presence. The Guardian article describes how one of its songs went “Death to America by blood and bonfire on the lips of every Muslim is the cry of the Iranian people. May America be annihilated.”

Colonel Martin saves his best for last as he fulminates

“Iran, the number one nation-state exporter of terrorism, is also the number one exporter of propaganda. Iran’s MOIS [Ministry of Intelligence and Security] will fight the truth with lies, deceit, and manipulation of facts.  MOIS expends great effort to neutralize the MEK as the primarily threat to the Iranian regime.”

That Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism is often asserted by folks like Colonel Martin and John Bolton but rarely elaborated on, particularly given the fact that the United States operates worldwide with intelligence officers, spec ops and drones that kill lots of people on a regular basis without any declarations of war. Who has Iran killed lately? And when it comes to propaganda, no one does it better or more aggressively that the U.S. and Israel, even if no one believes any of it anymore.

What it comes down to is that people like Colonel Wes Martin, unfortunately proliferating in the U.S. government, hate Iran for a whole lot of reasons that have nothing to do with national security. Israel and its lobby are certainly an element as is the need for enemies to feed the paranoia that drives and funds the military industrial complex. Martin reveals his ignorance when he objects to what he believes to be Iranian government efforts to “neutralize the MEK as the primarily (sic) threat to the Iranian regime.” That claim is complete nonsense. MEK worked with Saddam Hussein to kill Iranians, just as it earlier killed Americans. It is hated in Iran and has little support inside the country. It is a terrorist group, currently being used by the CIA and Israel’s Mossad to assassinate and otherwise kill still more Iranians. This is why luminaries like Mike Pompeo and John Bolton and Colonel Martin love it, not because it is poised to bring democracy to Iran.

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This article was originally published on American Herald Tribune.

Philip M. Giraldi is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer who served nineteen years overseas in Turkey, Italy, Germany, and Spain. He was the CIA Chief of Base for the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 and was one of the first Americans to enter Afghanistan in December 2001. Phil is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a Washington-based advocacy group that seeks to encourage and promote a U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East that is consistent with American values and interests. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image: Col. Wesley Martin Speaks in front of the White House, April 14, 2015. Image credit: usflhr.org

The Vocabulary of “Economic Deception”. Dr. Michael Hudson

December 17th, 2018 by Prof Michael Hudson

The whole focus of classical economics is to tax wealth not income, and obviously, the tax burden was going to fall on the wealthy, on the landlords first and foremost, then on the bankers and then on the monopolists. That was what socialism was, the idea of creating an economy with a circular flow that the taxes would be paid by the wealthy and the government would use this tax revenue to spend on infrastructure, schools, productive credit to help the economy and to make economies more competitive. It seems that in that sense socialism was going to be the most efficient capitalist economy.

I’m Bonnie Faulkner. Today on Guns and Butter, Dr. Michael Hudson. Today’s show: The Vocabulary of Economic Deception. Dr. Hudson is a financial economist and historian. He is President of the Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trend, a Wall Street financial analyst and distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City.  His 1972 book Super-Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empireis a critique of how the United States exploited foreign economies through the IMF and World Bank. His latest books are, Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Destroy the Global Economyand J Is for Junk Economics – A Guide to Reality in an Age of Deception. Today we discuss J is for Junk Economics, an A to Z guide that describes how the world economy really works, and who the winners and losers really are. We cover contemporary terms that are misleading or poorly understood, as well as many important concepts that have been abandoned – many on purpose – from the long history of political economy.

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BONNIE FAULKNER:Dr. Michael Hudson, welcome to Guns and Butter again.

MICHAEL HUDSON:Well, it’s good to be back, Bonnie.

BONNIE FAULKNER:You write that your newest book, J Is for Junk Economics, a dictionary and accompanying essays,was drafted more than a decade ago for a book to have been entitledThe Fictitious Economy. You tried several times without success to find a publisher. Why wouldn’t publishers at the time take on your new book?

MICHAEL HUDSON:Most publishers like to do books that are like the last book that sold well. Ten years ago people thought that the economically was doing just fine, and I was looked at as a kind of Dr. Doom, which did very well for me in the 1970s when I was talking about where the economy was going. But they wanted upbeat books, and they wanted, really, if I’m going to talk about the fact that the economy’s polarizing and getting poorer, how you can make a million dollars as the economy gets poorer people get more strapped and the economy polarizes. I didn’t want to write a book about how to get rich by riding the Republican or neoliberal dismantling of the economy. If I wanted to do that, I would have stayed on Wall Street as a Wall Street analyst.

I wanted to explain how the way in which the economy was getting rich was actually impoverishing it, and what seems to be getting better and better was really masked by the words that were used by the media, by television, by The New York Times. They were euphemizing all of what was happening.

In other words, a euphemism is something to make a bad trend look good. So if a landlord gets rich by exploiting the tenants and forcing them all out, that’s called wealth creation. Or if you can distract people to celebrate wealth and splendor at the top of the economic pyramid then they’re going to not be so aware of the bottom 99% and how things are doing below the top 1%.

BONNIE FAULKNER: Could you describe the format of J Is for Junk Economics – A Guide to Reality in an Age of Deceptionas an A-to-Z dictionary with additional essays? It seems to me that this format makes a good reference book that can be picked up and read at any point.

MICHAEL HUDSON: That’s exactly what I intended it to be. I had written the companion volume basically as an outline of my economic theory, Killing the Host, which was how the financial sector was taking over the economy in a parasitic way. But I think that I saw with the vocabulary that if people have a basically clear set of economic concepts, basically those of classical economics – value, price, rent – and a basic knowledge of what the leading economists said and just the words, that the words would almost organize themselves into a worldview. A correct vocabulary and understanding of what the words meant would sort of imply, gradually you put it all together and they all form an inter-connected system.

At the same time, I wanted to show how junk economics uses euphemisms and what Orwell called doublethink to confuse people about the economy. I found in academia that the role of most what’s called think tanks, which are really lobbying institutions, is to do what advertisers for toothpaste companies and consumer product companies do: They try to present images that are meant to portray their product, in this case neoliberal economics, dismantling of protection of the environment, dismantling of consumer protection, stopping of prosecution of financial fraud, all of this is wealth creation instead of impoverishment for the economy at large. So basically, this book reviews the whole economic vocabulary and the language that people use to describe the reality.

Sixty years ago, when I was in college, at that time they were still teaching the linguistic ideas of Benjamin Lee Whorf. Whorf’s idea was that people’s language affects how they perceive reality, and different cultures and different linguistic groups have different modes of expression. I found at that time that if I was going to, say, a concert and speaking German, I would be saying something that was substantially different from if I was speaking English. At that time, there weren’t many English-speaking people that went to hear classical music, at least not on the upper ranks of the orchestra buildings that I could afford seats in.

I realized that, let’s look at the economic vocabulary as propaganda, and if we can understand how the words that you hear are largely propaganda words or where they’ve changed the meaning around to exactly the opposite of what the classical economists meant, then you can untangle the propaganda and you can juxtapose a more functional vocabulary that helps you understand what’s actually happening.

BONNIE FAULKNER:You write that “the terms rentier and usury that played so central a role in past centuries now sound anachronistic and have been replaced with more positive Orwellian doublethink,” which is what you’ve begun to explain. In fact, your book J is for Junk – A Guide to Reality in an Age ofDeceptionis all about the depredation of vocabulary to hide reality, particularlythe state of the economy. Just as history is written by the victors, you point out that economic vocabulary is defined by today’s victors, the rentier financial class. How is this deception accomplished?

MICHAEL HUDSON: Well, it’s accomplished in a number of ways. The first way was to stop teaching the history of economic thought. When I went to school – again, 60 years ago – every economics graduate had to study the history of economic thought. You’d get Adam Smith, Ricardo and John Stuart Mill, Marx, Dublin, and their analysis was they had a common denominator. This common denominator was to focus on society’s unearned income, which they called rent. They wanted to say there’s a distinction between productive work and unproductive work. There’s a distinction between wealth and overhead. And the classic analysis was that of the physiocrats and David Ricardo, of landlords, saying, look, the landlord class inherits its wealth from ancestors who conquered the land by military force, and the landlords extract rent but they don’t do anything at all to create a product. They don’t do anything at all to create output. The same with other recipients of rent. And the word that was used through the 19thcentury was rentier. It’s a French word, and the word rent in French meant the income from a government bond. It was a coupon clipper. It was interest.

So the classical economists all had in common a description of rent and interest as something that a real free market would get rid of. To Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill down to Marx and the socialists, a free market was one that was free of a parasitic overclass that got money without doing any work. They got money by purely exploitative means, by charging rent that didn’t have to be paid, by charging money for interest, by charging money for public services and public utilities that a well-organized government should provide freely to people instead of letting privileged people put up toll booths on roads and toll booths for technology and patent rights and things that just enabled them to extract wealth. So the whole focus of economics up until World War I was the contrast between production and extraction.

Well, ultimately there was an economic fight and the parasites won. The first thing the rentiers, the financial class, the monopolists, the 1% did was to say, “We’ve got to stop teaching the history of economic thought so that people don’t even have an understanding that there is such a thing as economic rent. We have to take the slogan of the socialist reformers,” which was a free market, “and say that a free market is one free from socialism not free from the parasites, not free from landlords, not free from bankers, and not free from monopolists.” So they turned the vocabulary upside down to mean exactly the opposite, and in order to promote this deceptive vocabulary they had to erase all memory of the fact that these words originally meant something just the opposite.

BONNIE FAULKNER:How has economic history been rewritten by redefining the meaning of words? What is an example of this? For instance, what does the word reform mean now as opposed to what reform used to mean?

MICHAEL HUDSON:Well, reform used to mean something that was social democratic. Reform used to mean getting rid of special privileges, getting rid of monopolies, letting labor organize. It meant controlling the prices that monopolies could charge, and it meant regulating the economy to prevent fraud and to prevent exploitation and to prevent unearned income.

Well, today’s neoliberal vocabulary, the Nobel prize reflects the neoliberal economics curriculum, and reform means getting rid of socialism. Reform means stripping away all of labor protection. It means deregulating the economy. It means getting rid of any kind of price controls, getting rid of protections in labor, getting rid of consumer protections, getting rid of environmental protection. It means creating a lawless economy where the 1% are completely in control without any checks and balances at all. So reform today means getting rid of all of the reforms that were promoted in the 19thand early-20thcentury.

BONNIE FAULKNER:What were the real reforms of the progressive era?

MICHAEL HUDSON:Well, you had labor unions, to begin with, to protect labor. You had limitations on the work week and the work day, how much work people could do. There were safety protections. There was protection of the quality of food and consumer goods to prevent dangerous goods. There was the whole New Deal legislation that began to take basic monopolies of public service such as roads, communications systems, out of the hands of monopolists and make them public so that instead of using a road or communications, the phone system, to exploit people by charging whatever the market would bear, you’d provide basic needs at the lowest possible costs or even freely so that the economic would have a low cost of living and a low overhead.

The whole idea of reform was to get rid of socially unnecessary income. The idea was that if landlords were going to get rent for properties that they did nothing to improve but just raise the rents whenever cities built more transportation or more parks or better schools, all this rent would be taxed away.

And initially the income tax was a basic reform in 1913 and 1914. The idea was only 1% of America’s population had to pay an income tax. Most people were tax-free, because the idea was that you wanted to tax the wealthiest 1% or 2%, the people who simply lived off their bond holdings or lived off their stocks or lived off their monopolies or their real estate, and you didn’t want to tax labor and you didn’t want to tax industry, the companies that actually produced something. Well, these reforms made America the most productive, lowest-cost, competitive and also the most equal economy in the entire world.

But gradually this has been undermined more and more, and now, if you’re a monopolist or if you’re a bankster or a financial fraudster or a land speculator, your idea of reform is to get rid of all of these laws that protect consumers, that protect tenants, that protect homebuyers, that protect the public at large, and protect the country’s atmosphere, free air and free water. So if you’re a coal company or an oil company, your idea of reform is to get rid of the Clean Air Act, as the Trump administration has been doing.

The counterpart to junk science is junk economics, to defend all of this idea that a world without any laws at all against the wealthy, that laws are only against the poor, only against consumers, for instance for downloading music or stealing somebody’s patented songs or controls, that the world is turned inside out this way.

BONNIE FAULKNER: According to 19th-century classical economists, what is fictitious capital and why is this distinction no longer made in economics?

MICHAEL HUDSON:That’s a wonderful question. The word fictitious capital is usually associated with Marx, but it actually was used by many people in the 19thcentury. It was even used by right-wing libertarians such as Henry George.

Fictitious capital was the idea that somebody could have wealth in the form of a claim on society that was purely extractive, but it wasn’t a means of production. Real capital was supposed to be a means of production – a factory, machinery, tools, things that were used to produce output. But capital in the form of an ownership privilege like owning a building or land or a patent or a monopoly and charging whatever you could did not add anything to production at all; it was purely extractive.

BONNIE FAULKNER:You say that by the late-19thcentury “reform movements were gaining the upper hand, that nearly everyone saw industrial capitalism evolving into what was widely called socialism.” How would you describe the socialism that classical economists like Mill, Ricardo or Marx envisioned?

MICHAEL HUDSON:Well, they all called themselves socialists and there were many kinds of socialism. The Christians promoted Christian socialism, and they believed that capitalism was a transitory stage of sort of the remnants of feudalism, leaving the wealthy landlord hereditary ruling class in power that was created by military invasions of England, France, Germany, the rest of Europe. And the whole idea was that socialization would run factories and operate land and provide public services for the economy at large to grow instead of imposing austerity and letting the wealthy classes expose the rest of the economy at large.

So socialism, until World War I, was increasingly popular because everybody thought, well, capitalism’s evolving. There’s no such thing as capitalism as such; everything is in motion. What the classical economists that sort of culminated in Marx spelled out was, let’s look at the laws of motion of society. Let’s see where it’s all leading.

And the idea not only of Marx as a socialist but of American business school professors like Simon Patten of the Wharton School said, well, the economy that is going to dominate the world is the economy that is the most efficient in preventing monopoly, in preventing absentee land ownership, in preventing economic rent and in using almost all of its income for wages and profits, not for rent or interest or monopoly rents.

And so the business class itself in the United States, in Germany, even in England was in favor of reform. This all stemmed very largely from the battle that occurred in England after the Napoleonic Wars were over in 1815 when Ricardo, representing the banking class, was arguing against Reverend Malthus, the population theorist, who was also the lobbyist for the landlord class. Malthus was urging agricultural protectionism for the landlords so that they would get more and more rent from their land as prices were high, and Ricardo represented the banks and said, look, if you have high food prices in order to generate more rents for the agricultural landlords, then you’re going to have high labor costs, and if you have high labor costs then England cannot be the industrial workshop of the world. In order for England to become the industrial supreme power, we have to overcome the landlord class. We don’t protect it; we do just the opposite – we protect industry.

Well, at that time, Ricardo’s banking class was also a carryover from the Medieval period. And in the Medieval period, Christianity had banned the charging of interest as being unchristian, so the banks were able to make their money not by calling their loans interest but by making a foreign exchange transaction called agio– and so the banks even Ricardo’s day in the 19th century, made most of their money by financing foreign trade and charging foreign exchange fees. Your listeners will know, if you’ve ever tried to change money at the airport, what a big rake-off the change booths take there compared to the local banks here.

Well, later in the 19thcentury, bankers began to shift increasingly. Especially as land ownership became democratized more and more people in the population began to own their land.

So today, we’re no longer in the situation that existed 200 years ago in England. You have almost two-thirds of the American population owning its own homes. In Scandinavia and much of Europe 80% of the population are homeowners. So they don’t pay rent to the landlords, but what they do instead is they pay their income as interest to the mortgage lenders. Because nobody has enough money to buy a few-hundred-thousand-dollar home with the cash in their pocket. They have to borrow the money. And the income that used to be paid in rent to the landlord is now paid as interest to the bankers, and so you have the same kind of exploitation today that you had then.

Well, the socialists already by the late-19thcentury were advocating that, wait a minute. Money doesn’t have to be the gold and silver that the wealthy classes create. Every government can create its own money. That’s what the United States did in the Civil War with the greenbacks. It simply printed the money. So there was an idea that not only should the land be owned by the public sector, by the government, but that banking should be a public utility so that you wouldn’t have to pay the kind of fees that you have today. Land would be fully taxed so that instead of paying an income tax, either by labor or even by industry, people would pay tax on wealth.

The whole focus of classical economics was to tax wealth not income, and obviously, the tax burden was going to fall on the wealthy, on the landlords first and foremost, then on the bankers and on the monopolists. That was what socialism was, the idea of creating an economy with a circular flow, that the taxes would be paid by the wealthy and the government would use this tax revenue to spend on infrastructure, schools, productive credit to help the economy and to make economies more competitive. And it seemed that, in that sense, socialism was going to be the most efficient capitalist economy until the word was highjacked by the Russian Revolution, which of course became a travesty of Marxism and a travesty of the word socialism.

BONNIE FAULKNER:You write that, “Today’s anti-classical vocabulary accordingly redefines free markets as ones that are free forrent extractors and that rent and interest reflect their recipients’ contributiontowealth, not their privileges to extract economic rent fromthe economy.” How do you differentiate between productive and extractive sectors, and how is it that the extractive sectors, essentially finance, insurance and real estate, actually hurt the economy?

MICHAEL HUDSON:Well, take finance, insurance and real estate as an example. If you’re a real estate developer or a lobbyist you want to lower the taxes on real estate so that when people are able to pay more and more money to rent because the economy’s getting richer, or when a property in a neighborhood becomes more valuable because the government will build a new subway – like in New York, the Second Avenue subway – that’s going to increase the land values quite a bit.

The landlords all along the subway line uptown simply raised the rents. Now, that meant that they’re getting more wealthy and if people are lucky enough to have a condo or a townhouse up there then they get more wealthy, but none of this actually creates more living space, none of this creates more output. It simply means that the government has spent an enormous amount of money – about $10 billion – on this subway extension, and instead of recapturing this money by taxing the increased land value all along the subway route, they’ve taxed the workers in New York. They’ve taxed the labor. They’ve issued bonds whose interest have to be paid by local real estate taxes of everybody not just on the Upper East Side. And the wages of everybody. So that kind of real estate wealth is unproductive; it’s unearned income because the landlords didn’t increase the value of this property on the Upper East Side, the City did by building the subway.

Same thing with insurance. When Obama passed the Republican Obamacare law for the pharmaceutical industry and the health management industry the cost of medical care went way, way up in the United States and essentially was organized in a way to be a giveaway to the financial monopolies that run the healthcare programs and finance them and the pharmaceutical monopolies.

So none of this increased expense that people are undergoing to pay for medical care actually increases the quality of medical care. In fact, in America, the more that’s paid for medical care, the more the service declines, because the increase in medical care is paid to health insurance companies that spend all their money trying to legally fight against the consumer, against people who try to recover the cost of their medical care. So the effect is predatory and not productive.

And then, finally, you have finance. You have finance taking almost all of the growth in GDP. In the last ten years, since the Lehman Brothers crisis and the Obama bailout, has gone to the biggest banks. And the government has spent $4.3 trillion of basically creating reserves and bailing out the large banks that were insolvent as a result of bad loans and outright financial fraud ten years ago, banks like Citibank and Wells Fargo and Bank of America. So their activities – the fraud, the junk mortgage loans – all of this is unnecessary and merely predatory. None of this behavior has actually increased wealth, and in fact, there’s a growing understanding today that the financial sector has become so dysfunctional that it is simply a dead weight on the economy, that it’s burdening the economy down with increasing financial charges – you can think of student loans as an example – instead of actually helping the economy grow.

BONNIE FAULKNER:So just to reiterate, what is the classical distinction between earned and unearned income?

MICHAEL HUDSON:Basically, this distinction follows from the theory of value and price. Value of a product is the actual, necessary costs of production: the labor costs and the raw materials and machinery, and what it costs to physically, tangibly produce a good. Price is what people are willing to pay. And the margin of price over and above value, the gap, was what they called economic rent.

The focus of classical value theory was to simply isolate this economic rent as unearned income. It was the aim of society either to prevent it from occurring in the first place by anti-monopoly regulation or by public land ownership, or to tax it away in cases where you can’t help it going up. For instance, it’s natural for neighborhoods to become more valuable and high-priced over time as the economy gets richer, but it doesn’t cost more to build buildings there, especially if a building was built 100 years ago and rents keep going up and up and up on buildings that are already in place, this increased rent does not reflect any cost of production at all. It’s a free lunch.

Well, the neoliberals, most notoriously Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago, kept saying, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Well, almost all of the money of the richest 1% on this country is a free lunch. All their wealth has been a free lunch. And of course they’re going to say, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch; we earn our wealth.” That’s what people like the Wall Street firms Goldman Sachs say: “Our partners are the most productive in the country because look at how much we’re paid.” But they don’t earn their wealth. The economy would get along much better without Goldman Sachs, without banks being run the way they are and without the financial system or the health insurance system or real estate being organized in the way that it is.

BONNIE FAULKNER:I noticed that you used the term rent for unearned income. Is rent the same as profit or not?

MICHAEL HUDSON:No. Profit is earned. The idea is that if you invest in a factory to produce cars or consumer goods you’re actually producing something and profit isn’t … The classical economist all viewed profit as an element of cost, because if you’re going to have a private ownership economy – and the socialists still were talking about private ownership but private ownership in a system that was run to benefit society as a whole. If you make a profit by a productive act, then you’ve earned the money; you’ve earned it by being productive.

But economic rent is very different from profit. Rent is not earned by building a factory. If the pharmaceutical companies earn rent it’s for charging much more for the drugs they produce than it actually costs to produce the drugs – especially if the research and development for the drugs is all paid for by the government in the first place and simply given away to the pharmaceutical companies, as is the rule today. So rent is a super-profit. Rent is something over and above profit. Profits are necessary to induce investors to keep producing more and helping society, but rent is not necessary at all. If you got rid of the rent, you wouldn’t discourage production at all because that’s purely an overhead charge whereas profits are a production charge.

BONNIE FAULKNER:Well, thank you for that distinction between rent and profit. That’s a very important thing to understand.

MICHAEL HUDSON:I probably describe it more clearly in the book where I give the quotations.

BONNIE FAULKNER:You point out that interest and rent are reported as earnings, as if bankers and landlords produce gross domestic product in the form of credit and ownership services. How do you think that interest and rent should be reported?

MICHAEL HUDSON:They should be called interest and rent. You have the wealthiest classes having taken over the national income accounting system to represent what they’re doing not as overhead, not as parasitism but as actual production.

For instance, suppose you have a credit card and you miss a payment, you miss a payment on, say, a student loan or your electric bill or your rent, and the credit card company says, well, we’re raising your interest charge from 11% to 29%. This 29% is called financial services in the national income account, and the financial service is simply charging more of a penalty rate. The pretense is that everything that a bank charges, penalties or higher interest, is providing a service instead of extracting money.

Now, the classical economists would have taken all of this financial rake-off and subtracted it from output and said, look, this is the overhead; this has to be subtracted from the cost of doing business and living. But instead, it’s just been in the last generation that all of this financial income has actually been added to the gross national product accounts instead of subtracting it as the classical economists would have done or simply not counting it, as used to be done before a generation ago.

I don’t think there’s any school economics department in the United States that actually teaches national income accounting. The last I taught a course in that was at the New School here in New York in 1971, but I don’t think there’s been any treatment of it.

And you can be sure that most reporters and the financial press don’t get into the nitty-gritty of going through these national accounts, so they don’t realize that all of a sudden the national accounts have been turned into a self-serving basically propaganda celebration for the exploiters. And pretending that the economy is going up when a realistic description would show that the economy is going down but that the 1% are extracting more and more and imposing austerity, as the American economy becomes more debt-ridden, as student debt goes up, as mortgage debt goes up, and as people have to pay more for medical care and for basic needs. All of this is treated somehow as if the economy is getting richer because the 1% are counting all of their takings as a product not as a cost.

BONNIE FAULKNER:How does government fiscal policy, taxation and expenditure influence the economy?

MICHAEL HUDSON:Well, that’s what modern monetary theory is all about. When a government runs a deficit, it pumps money into the economy. For instance, the United States is able to run deficits and avoid the kind of unemployment and austerity that you have in Europe. I think in one of our talks on this show before I talked about the problem that Europe is having. They’re not allowed to run – under the constitution of the Eurozone, Eurozone countries are not allowed to run a budget deficit of more than 3%, and they actually aim at a surplus. That means that the government doesn’t provide the economy with money, it doesn’t spend money into the economy. Instead, people have to get their money by borrowing from the banks and paying more and more interest, and the result is that all of Europe is on the road to looking like Greece looks or Italy looks – completely debt-strapped economies that are kept artificially alive by the government creating money only to give to the banks but not to spend into the economy to help it recover and to help support demand.

The classical economists said the proper role of government is to create more and more social infrastructure. It should be the government that builds roads not private enterprise making toll roads. It should be the government that provides public health not private sector health companies that are going to charge extortionate prices for their drugs and whatever the market should bear. It’s the government that should run the prisons not private prison companies that simply use cheap labor to make a profit and advocate that more and more people get arrested for them to make more and more of a profit incarcerating them.

So the question is, what is the government going to spend money on, and how can it spend money into the economy in a way that helps it grow? Imagine if this trillion dollars a year that’s spent on arms and military in California and the districts of all the key congressmen on the budget committee. Imagine if this military spending were actually spent in building up roads, schools, transportation, providing free medical care. This country could become a utopia. But instead, the wealthy classes have kidnapped government and taken it over to spend on themselves instead of on the economy at large.

BONNIE FAULKNER:Interest is tax deductible whereas profit is taxable. Does the tax deductibility of interest have a major impact on the economy as a whole?

MICHAEL HUDSON:Yes, because it encourages companies to raise money by going into debt. This tax deductibility of interest led to the whole corporate raiding movement of the 1980s.

Suppose that a company makes $100 million a year in profit and is paying this out to its stockholders in dividends. This profit was taxed at that time, in the 1980s, at 50%, so you could only spend $50 million to the stockholders. The stockholders basically, then as today, were mainly of the wealthiest layer of the population. Well, the corporate raiders said, look, I can borrow enough money from the banks to buy this company and I’ll buy all the stockholders out, I’ll make a public issue, I pay off the stockholders and instead of having stock we have debt. Well, now the company can pay $100 million of earnings all in interest instead of only $50 million earnings to stockholders.

So the wealthiest classes in the United States and in other countries decided that we don’t want to own stocks anymore; we want to own bonds because corporations can pay twice as much in interest as they can stocks.

Well, the advantage of companies paying stocks is when business conditions become bad and profits fall you can cut back the dividend. But if you have borrowed the money and you owe this $100 million to bondholders and your earnings suddenly go down, then you’re insolvent and you go bankrupt.

The result was not only a wave of bankruptcy ever since the 1980s as companies become more and more debt-pyramided, but also the companies heads will go to the labor unions and say, “Well, you know, we’re going to have to declare bankruptcy and I’m afraid that’s going to wipe out all of your pension funds. You can save us from bankruptcy by changing your pension fund around, and instead of getting the guaranteed retirement pension that we promised you, we’ll get a defined contribution plan where all you know is what you’re going to pay in every month and we’ll pay you whatever’s left when you retire.”

So basically, the shift from an equity economy into a debt economy has not only enriched this wealthy class at the top – all the statistics turned around in 1980 for almost every country when this occurred. But also, by indebting the companies it’s made them much more fragile and much more higher cost, because now, companies have to factor in the price of all these interest payments to the bondholders and the corporate raiders who’ve taken them over instead of not having it at a cost as under equity.

BONNIE FAULKNER:Well, do you think that changes should be made to the tax deductibility of interest?

MICHAEL HUDSON:Sure. If interest were to be taxed, that would leave less motivation, less incentive for companies to keep adding to debt. It would stop the corporate raiding movement. It would be a precondition for companies being run to minimize the cost of what they produce and to serve their labor force more and their consumers and their customers rather than exploiting them, so this shift in the tax policy is a precondition.

Basically, I think wealth should be taxed not income. I think the FICA wage withholding that now absorbs almost 16% of most wage-earning income, that shouldn’t be paid for for Social Security. The wealthy people don’t have to pay any Social Security contribution at all if they earn more than about $115,000 or $116,000 a year. They don’t have to pay any Social Security contribution or Medicare contribution on their capital gains. The idea is to make labor pay for all of the Social Security and then to give so much money away to Wall Street that they’ll say, oh, there’s no more money, system’s bankrupt; we’re going to wipe out Social Security just as so many companies have wiped out the pensions. And the economy becomes a grab-bag for the rich.

BONNIE FAULKNER:What about monetary policy, interest rates and the supply of money in circulation? Who controls monetary policy and how does it affect the economy.

MICHAEL HUDSON:The biggest banks put their own lobbyists in charge of the Federal Reserve, which was created in 1913 and ‘14 by Woodrow Wilson to take monetary policy out of the hands of the Treasury and put it in the hands of Wall Street. So basically, it’s the lobbyists for the banking system that control the money supply, and they want to make sure that money goes into the banks without the banks being regulated, without a single banker being jailed for fraud that caused the crash. Basically, they’ve turned the banking system into a predatory monopoly instead of the public service that it was supposed to be before the private takeover.

So the monetary policy really is debt policy, because money is debt and the question is, what kind of debt is the economy going to have? How are you going to put money into the economy? Are you going to put money into the economy by providing credit to build more factories, to build more output, to rebuild American manufacturing, to rebuild America’s infrastructure, or are you going to give money to the banks simply to charge more money for people to buy homes, more money for people to get an education as it goes up in price and then foreclose on the homes or demand huge payments from the students?

So monetary policy is debt policy, and debt policy is, essentially, the debts are owed by the bottom 90% to the wealthiest 10%. So monetary policy is how the 10% can extract more and more interest, rent and capital gains from the economy by making money by impoverishing the economy rather than by helping it get richer.

BONNIE FAULKNER:The economy is always being planned by someone or some force, be it Wall Street, the government or whatever, it’s not the result of natural law, as you point out in your book. It seems like a lot of people think that the economy should somehow run itself without interference. Could you explain how this is an absurd idea?

MICHAEL HUDSON:Well, it’s an example of the rhetoric overcoming people’s common sense. Every economy since the stone age has been planned. Even in the stone age people had to plan when to plant the crops, when to harvest them, how much seed you had to keep over for the next year. You had to operate on credit during the crop year to get beer, draft animals. Somebody’s in charge of every economy.

So today when they talk about an unplanned economy, they mean no government planning. They mean all the planning should be taken out of the hands of government and put in the hands of the 1%. And they say if the 1% control the economy it’s not a planned economy anymore because it’s not planned by government, it’s planned by Wall Street. So the question, really, of our economy is, who’s going to plan the American economy? Is it going to be the government of elected officials or is it going to be Wall Street? And Wall Street euphemizes its central planning by saying this is a free market, meaning it’s free of any government control over what we do.

BONNIE FAULKNER:You emphasize the difference between the study of the 19th-century classical political economy and modern-day economics. How and when and why did political economy become economics?

MICHAEL HUDSON:Well, if you look at the books of what almost everybody wrote in the 19thcentury, they called it political economy because economics is political. Economics is what politics has always been about. Who’s going to get what? Or as Lenin said, who-whom? Who’s going to do it to whom? It’s all about how society’s going to make a decision as to who’s going to get wealth and how they are going to get wealth. Are they going to get wealth by acting productively or in parasitic ways? So everything economics is really political.

Well, an attempt has been made by the new central planners of the economy, Wall Street, to pretend that what we’re doing is not political. When we’re cutting taxes on ourselves that’s a law of nature. That’s not politics. There’s nothing you can do about it. Or as Margaret Thatcher said, “There is no alternative.”

So the idea is to make people think there is no alternative because if they’re getting poorer and poorer, if they’re losing their home by defaulting on a mortgage, if they have to pay more and more money on the student loan so that they can’t afford to buy a home, or if they have to find the only kind of jobs they can get driving an Uber car, that’s their fault. That there is no alternative, that that’s just nature, is not the way in which the economy is mal-structured.

The whole attempt is to make people think, you are powerless. You cannot change what we do because we 1% control the economy and we are nature. We’re god. There’s nothing you can do about it. Your poverty is natural. It’s not the result of our takeover since 1980. It’s not a result of our predatory behavior. It’s not a result of our capturing the Justice Department so that none of our bank fraudsters has gone to jail. It’s the law of nature itself.

BONNIE FAULKNER:In your chapter on M – of course, we have chapters from A to Z – in your chapter on M, you have an entry for Hyman Minsky, an economist who pioneered modern monetary theory and explained the three stages of the financial cycle in terms of rising debt leveraging. What is debt leveraging, and how does it lead to a crisis?

MICHAEL HUDSON:Debt leveraging means to buy something on credit. As an example, we’ll take home ownership in the United States. In the 1940s, ‘50s and even in the 1960s, if you took out a mortgage, the banker would look at your income, and the idea was that on the one hand, that the house you buy, the mortgage for your house shouldn’t absorb more than 25% of your income, more than a quarter. The idea was that you’d have enough money out of the income you have to pay the interest charge and the amortization and basically be able to pay off the mortgage 30 years later at the end of your working life. So the first stage of the economy he called the hedge stage, meaning that you’ve hedged your bets, meaning that the economy can afford to carry its debts.

In the second stage of the economy, banks began to lend more and more and loosen their lending standards so that mortgages would absorb much more than 25% of the income. At a certain point, people could not afford to amortize, that is to pay off the mortgage; all they could do was to pay the interest charge. By the 1980s the federal government was lending up to almost 40% of somebody’s income and the mortgages were written without any amortization at all. All of the mortgage was paid simply to carry the existing mortgage debt on a home. The banks didn’t want to ever be repaid. They just wanted to collect interest on as much money as they could. That was the second stage.

Finally, Minsky said, the Ponzi stage was when the homeowner didn’t even have enough money to pay the interest charge but had to borrow the interest. So this was how Third World countries had gotten through the 1970s and the early 1980s. The government of, let’s say Mexico or Brazil or Argentina, would say, well, we don’t have the dollars to pay the debt, and the banks would say, we’ll just add the interest onto the debt. Same thing with a credit card or a mortgage. The mortgage homeowner would say, I don’t have enough money to pay the mortgage, and the bank would say, well, just take out a larger mortgage; we’ll just lend you the money to pay the interest.

That’s the Ponzi stage and it was named after the Ponzi scheme, Carlo Ponzi. That’s the stage that the economy entered around 2007, 2008. That’s what caused the crash, and we’re still in that stage now. The debts have all been left in place, as you and I have spoken about before, and people are having to borrow the interest. If you’re on a credit card and you have to pay a monthly bill but you really don’t have enough money to pay down the debt, well, your credit card balance is going to go up and up and up every month simply by adding the interest charge onto the debt.

Well, all of this is going to grow at compound interest and the result is an exponential growth that doubles the debt that you have in very little time. That’s what any kind of interest is the rate at which debt doubles. And if debt keeps doubling and doubling, then it’s going to crowd out all the other expenses in your budget, and you’ll have to pay more and more money to the banks for student loans, credit card debts, auto loans, mortgage debt, and you’ll have less and less to spend on goods and services. That’s why the economy is shrinking right now and that’s why people nowadays aren’t able to do what their parents were able to do 50 years ago and basically afford to buy a home that they can live in simply out of paying one-quarter of the income that they earn on the job.

BONNIE FAULKNER:Dr. Michael Hudson, thank you so very much.

MICHAEL HUDSON:Well, it’s good to be here, as always, Bonnie.

I’ve been speaking with Dr. Michael Hudson. Today’s show has been: The Vocabulary of Economic Deception. Dr. Hudson is a financial economist and historian. He is President of the Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trend, a Wall Street financial analyst and Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City.  His 1972 book Super-Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empireis a critique of how the United States exploited foreign economies through the IMF and World Bank.  He is also author of Trade, Development and Foreign Debt, among many others.  His latest books are Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Destroy the Global Economyand J Is for Junk Economics: A Guide to Reality in an Age of Deception. Dr. Hudson acts as an economic advisor to governments worldwide on finance and tax law.Visit his website at michael-hudson.com. That’s michael-hudson.com.

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Federal Court Rules Obamacare Unconstitutional

December 17th, 2018 by Stephen Lendman

On Friday, federal District Judge Reed O’Connor ruled the Obama regime’s 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) unconstitutional over its mandate requiring all Americans buy health insurance, negating their right to opt out.

O’Conner said the mandate “can no longer be sustained as an exercise of Congress’ tax power – calling it “unconstitutional,” other Obamacare provisions invalid.

As part of last December’s great tax cut for the rich heist, legislation signed by Trump eliminated Obamacare’s individual mandate – effective in 2019. The employer mandate to provide healthcare coverage remained in force for companies with 50 or more full-time workers.

The Friday ruling came on the eve of the deadline for Americans to enroll in Obamacare. For now things are unchanged. The ruling will surely be appealed – virtually certain to be decided by the Supreme Court.

The cost of healthcare in America is around double what consumers in other developed countries pay. In cahoots with predatory healthcare providers, Obamacare failed to correct this fundamental flaw.

The program fell way short of promised benefits. Its high cost left millions uninsured, most Americans way underinsured.

Wages of ordinary Americans fail to keep up with rising costs, putting healthcare in the country the way it should be increasingly less affordable annually.

Obamacare made America’s healthcare system more dysfunctional. It’s a rationing scheme boon to predatory providers, enriching insurers, drug companies, and large hospital chains at the expense of universal affordable coverage – everyone in, no one left out, what healthcare everywhere should be all about.

It’s a fundamental human right. Article 22 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says every “(e)veryone, as a member of society, has a right to social security…” Every nation is obligated to provide it.

Article 25 states

“(e)veryone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

Article 30 says

“(n)othing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.”

If the Supreme Court upholds lower court rulings at the district and likely appeals court levels, healthcare for millions enrolled under Obamacare will be hugely disrupted.

On June 28, 2012, the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare by a 5 – 4 ruling, Chief Justice Roberts voting with the majority.

While debate focused on congressional power under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3):

“To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Native American Tribes, majority justices upheld Obamacare as an exercise of US taxing power – despite Obama turning truth on its head denying the law was a tax.

The High Court ruling was pro-business, serving the interests of healthcare giants. Industry lawyers and lobbyists drafted the law to assure its provisions benefitted their clients – what’s behind virtually all US legislation, benefitting privileged interests at the expense of the general welfare.

Twenty-six states sued to overturn Obamacare. The Supreme Court heard the Florida case. It included the others as plaintiffs.

A record pro and con 136 amicus briefs (friends of the court) were filed for court consideration.

Former CIGNA vice president Wendell Potter said Obamacare shifts costs to consumers, offers inadequate or unaffordable access, forces Americans to pay higher deductibles for less coverage, and ends up scamming them.

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling, Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) said it left vital healthcare needs “unmet…Our healthcare crisis” continues to fester.

A key inequity is empowering insurers to “siphon off hundreds of billions of health care dollars (annually) for overhead, profit and the paperwork (they) demand from doctors and hospitals.”

Another major flaw is giving drug industry giants unrestrained power to charge exorbitant prices, raising them hugely to maximize profits, making expensive drugs unaffordable for millions, forcing many people to choose between proper healthcare and other essentials to life and well-being.

Friday’s district court ruling put Obamacare in limbo. The Supreme Court will almost surely decide its fate next year.

A Final Comment

Law Professor Abbe Gluck joined with others in filing an amicus brief, supporting Obamacare’s legality.

Separately, she slammed Judge O’Connor’s ruling, accusing him of flouting established legal doctrine, saying:

He ignored the fact that Congress declined to strike down Obamacare in 2017, ending the individual mandate alone, requiring everyone to have health insurance, stressing the following:

“It’s absolutely ludicrous to hold that we do not know whether the 2017 Congress would have wanted the rest of the ACA to exist without an enforceable mandate, because the 2017 Congress did exactly that when it zeroed out the mandate and left the rest of the ACA standing.”

Judge O’Connor “effectively repealed the entire Affordable Care Act when the 2017 Congress decided not to do so.”

There’s no way to know for sure how an appeals court and the Supremes will rule on this issue.

Make no mistake. Obamacare is the law of the land, passed by Congress, enacted when Obama signed the legislation – despite its serious flaws, benefitting healthcare industry giants at the expense of ordinary Americans.

Most likely, O’Connor’s ruling won’t stand, but there’s no way to know for sure until higher courts rule.

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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 pieces were already put in place during the Wentworth federal by-election, a hopeless, needless gambit that reduced the Coalition government’s majority whilst giving the outgoing Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull a crack at some vengeance.  His successor, Scott Morrison, decided to make himself a prisoner of policy in advance.   That prison cell, it transpired, was Australian policy towards Israel and the thorny issue of recognising Jerusalem as its capital.  In the colloquial words of opposition leader Bill Shorten, “I’m tempted to think it was a sort of rookie mistake by an L-Plate prime minister, but it is a little more serious than that.”

History is peppered with examples of impulsive leaders who insist with a priest’s dogmatism that a policy stance must be embraced, whatever the outcome.  In the case of the US effort to defeat Japan during the Second World War, the language used was that of unconditional surrender.  No exceptions, nothing.  That, in turn, had been conceived in the murderous charnel house of the American Civil War (1861-5), one killing hundreds of thousands on an industrial scale that shocked observers and participants alike.

The massive shedding of blood encouraged General Ulysses S. Grant to accept nothing less than total, unqualified capitulation from the Confederate forces, a sentiment he first expressed in 1862.

“No terms except unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted,” came Grant’s cold message to the generals regarding the fate of 13,000 men at Fort Donelson. “I propose to move immediately upon your works.”

Once out of the lamp, such words never return to it.

As Japan was facing defeat, its officials wondered in childish alarm: would the emperor be preserved in any post-war arrangements?  Keeping the Mikado did, at least, provide some saving grace, an assurance that the foreign devil had not entirely conquered them.  Left unanswered and unclear in US diplomatic communications, Japanese belligerence only concluded with the dropping of two atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  President Harry S. Truman, boxed by the mantra of unconditional surrender, felt no inclination to adjust it – nor could he, without committing electoral suicide.

Pity, then, that the straitjacket of unconditional policies must feature in one of the most contentious topics in international relations: the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.  Having been approved in Cabinet, and revealed to the media, the Australian prime minister had to find a means to accommodate it.  The approach: split the city.

Morrison’s move was to seek an all-ways option, the buffoon convinced of a cleverness no one else sees.  Israel’s claim, with most of is central legal and bureaucratic institutions already located in the west of the city, would be recognised as such.  A future Palestinian capital, of whatever eviscerated homeland might be left, would be acknowledged in the eastern portion.  Not only would he find himself in everybody’s good books with minimum effort, he could claim, rather disingenuously, on keeping the frail two-state solution alive.

Morrison has not given up a chance to remind us how counterfeit a character he is.  Op-shop political prowess eschews reading and history; he is a masterfully ignorant practitioner who finds himself in the arms of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yet still keen to press the idea that international law is being observed.  The point is a generally moot one, given that Israel claims exclusive sovereignty over all of Jerusalem.  Whatever Australia decides on that front would be presumptuous and irrelevant: the cards remain with the powerful, leaving the Israelis “disappointed,” in the words of a senior official, “that the Australian government decided to only recognize West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital”.

In a meek nod to those observers of international law, Morrison has suggested that he would not request a physical relocation of the Australian embassy to West Jerusalem till matters had been sorted between the parties, happy, in the meantime, for a Trade and Defence Office to be established.  Australia, he explained to members of the Sydney Institute, “look forward to moving our embassy to West Jerusalem when practical, in support of and after final status determination”.

What of the reaction?  Nabil Shaath of the PLO advocates a firm stand against the Morrison government’s decision.  “We’re asking the Arab world to include Australia in boycott measures.”  He suggests hitting Australia where it hurts.  “Saudi Arabia is the largest importer of live meat from Australia… I talked to the Saudis and said that ‘you should at least tell the Australians that means we are going to look for other [suppliers].”

Then comes the issue of a $16.5 billion worth trade deal with Indonesia, put on ice in the interim, but bound to be taken off it once anger dies down. (Indonesian officials are as concerned with the reaction of their own citizens as anything else.)  In a generally tepid response, the Indonesian foreign ministry released a statement calling on “Australia and all member states of the UN to promptly recognise the State of Palestine and to cooperate towards the attainment of sustainable peace, and agreement between the state of Palestine and Israel based on the principle of a two-state solution.”  Opposition party members in Indonesia, eyeing future elections, have been more insistent.

Such attitudes of indignation have a rich idealism that tends to flounder in political reality. Many Islamic states do not have the heart for aggressive economic measures when they see the chance for hard dollars.  Their treasure troves are hardly endless.  Besides, much yawning at the Palestinian issue has been taking place in recent years.  Suffering, especially of others, eventually causes fatigue.  Morrison’s crude formula is simple: budgets and bottom lines will hopefully count over rage and principle.

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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]

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The French justice minister has refused to present a prestigious human rights award to Palestinian and Israeli human rights organisations Al-Haq and B’Tselem after being pressured by a French-Jewish organisation.

Nicole Belloubet was supposed to present Al-Haq and B’Tselem with the Human Rights Awards of the French Republic this evening, after the organisations were among five laureates conferred the prestigious prize. The ceremony will take place at the Ministry of Justice in the French capital Paris, to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Yet Belloubet has refused to present the award after receiving a letter from Francis Kalifat, the president of CRIF (Representative Council of the Jewish Institutions of France). CRIF acts as an umbrella of French-Jewish organisations and has regularly lobbied France to support Israeli positions.

In this letter Kalifat called on Belloubet not to present the award, claiming the “two organisations [are] known to call for the boycott of Israel […] which is banned by [the French] criminal code,” the Jerusalem Post reported. Kalifat added that for the French Justice Ministry to present Al-Haq and B’Tselem with the award, “even in the absence of the minister [Belloubet], is insulting justice”.

“I ask you […] not to support the action of those who act in contradiction with our laws,” he implored.

Pressure to withhold the award has also come from Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Tzipi Hotovely, who likewise wrote a letter to Belloubet asking him to reconsider. According to Ynet, Hotovely called France’s decision “a badge of honour to anti-Israeli organisations”, adding:

“B’Tselem is an organisation that bases its activity on unreliable sources in order to harm Israel, while Al-Haq promotes a boycott against Israel and some of the organisation’s members are linked to terror groups, such as the Palestinian Liberation Front.”

Since the decision was announced last week, Israeli ministers have reacted with anger and slammed both France and the NGOs. Israel’s Deputy Minister for Diplomacy, Michael Oren, said:

“France gives its highest award to B’Tselem and al-Haq organisations that accuse Israel of apartheid, delegitimise us internationally, defend terror, and support BDS. The same France cannot claim that it fights antisemitism.”

Meanwhile Israel’s Culture Minister, Miri Regev, labelled B’Tselem “a Trojan horse,” saying the organisation should be ashamed for sharing an award with Al-Haq.

This is not the first time Israel has tried to discredit B’Tselem on the international stage. In October B’Tselem’s executive director Hagai El-Ad gave a speech at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in which he slammed Israel’s occupation and its violations against Palestinians in the occupied territories.

Several days before El-Ad’s appearance, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu branded the organisation a “disgrace”, while Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, said El-Ad’s intention to speak at the UNSC was not only a “disgrace for the organisation, but also the crossing of red lines by foreign countries with an anti-Israel agenda, which finance and invite him to provide ‘evidence’ against us”.

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The US Army, perhaps in need of more ‘boots on the sand’, is revving up its ad campaigns. The latest television ad says it plain and clear: Warriors Wanted!  (see screen shot below) And why not just appeal to the childlike, video game raised young men and women to join up? Then they can get away from having to work a dead end job, or spend years in college studying (at great expense by the way) for uncertain future employment.

Now these low income young kids can serve their country by becoming occupiers of another Arab country that they themselves really don’t understand why they are even IN!

This baby boomer cannot even conceive of how far my nation has regressed culturally. The celebration of violence is rampant! Who would have ever imagined the popularity of what they actually have the nerve to call a sport in Ultimate Fighting? If you have not yet watched one of these (so called) matches, please do; but first sit and watch the gladiator school scene from the 1960 film Spartacus.

US Marines: Ultimate Fighting 

You will see, more or less, just what this newest form of ‘Violence as Sport’ has given us. So, the same young men (and some women) who grew up on violent video games, and then graduated to UFC, make a great source for this new empire’s army of warriors. I am not taking away from the super physical abilities of those who fight in those caged rings, taken right out of Spartacus. Just as with professional boxers and athletes from all sports, these folks are dedicated and train very hard. It is just that to celebrate violence is NOT what we humans are supposed to have evolved out of, and not back into.

When this writer played college football back in the 70s, there were but a few of my teammates who took ‘uppers’ and steroids for better performance. Nowadays, they have to continually drug test all athletes because of the preponderance of new and better forms of these enhancers. Research has also  come out that, in the arena of US phony wars and occupations, the military has given out ‘uppers’ and who knows what else to our soldiers in the Middle East.

It used to be, back in my day, that the rock and roll mantra of ‘Let’s go get stoned’ meant smoking some marijuana and chilling out. Nowadays, it is to get perched like a falcon, ready to attack its prey. Sadly, many of those young men (and some women) who return home from those phony war zones in the desert, become our local police officers. Is that who you want to ‘serve and protect’ your community? Nice young men and women who join up, then get indoctrinated to see all A-Rabs as potential terrorists, get sent to places they never should have been sent to, do terrible killings and return home as ‘damaged (psychological) goods’.

Let’s send those men and women dressed in nice suits who run these phony wars to the hot desert’s hornet’s nest. Hand them the helmets and powerful killing instruments and let them act like the warriors that the commercials trumpet. You’ll see how fast our overseas ‘foreign entanglements’ end.

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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].

Featured image is from CSMonitor.com

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“Imagine that this were your village, or your neighborhood! Imagine that one of those were your house! Imagine that the same thing happened to you! Imagine that you lost a family member, or maybe two, or maybe more! Imagine that your mother, sister, daughter or son is still kidnapped and now in the hands of … ISIS!”  — Syrian Wissam Sliman

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On July 25, 2018, ISIS terrorists attacked Sweida City and villages in the surrounding countryside. The ensuing massacre, one of the bloodiest of the eight-year Syrian conflict, went virtually unreported in the West. The U.S. coalition, illegally occupying Syrian territory, turned a blind eye as the ISIS terrorists that they claim to be waging war on entered the seven villages to the east of Sweida City that were targeted for wanton bloodshed.

At 4 a.m. the terrorist group approached under cover of darkness. They encircled each village, posting snipers around the villages and along the straight road that connects them all, to prevent civilians from leaving or coming to the aid of others. ISIS fighters entered homes and murdered civilians — even children as they slept, unaware of the horror that was approaching. In Shbeki a disabled child was beheaded as he slept. In Shrehi “the roads ran with blood,” according to resident of the village, H. Saab (his full name is not given for security reasons), who lost 35 members of his extended family in the attack.

In September 2018, I visited three of the seven villages that had endured the July attack. Sweida is a province around 110 km to the south of Damascus. It is the home of the Syrian Druze community that has remained steadfastly loyal to the Syrian state and Syrian Arab Army throughout the regime-change war waged against Syria by the U.S. coalition, Turkey, the Gulf States and Israel for eight long years. Until this massacre, the Druze had rarely been catastrophically affected by the conflict. The SAA had successfully kept a check on ISIS advances into the heartland of this fiercely resilient province.

The attack was given cursory coverage by most in the media; it was certainly not marked as one of the most heinous crimes committed by a terrorist group that was effectively enabled and protected by the U.S. coalition embedded in Al-Tanf, 330 km to the northeast of Sweida City and the targeted villages. ISIS fighters moved in from the direction of Tilal Al-Safa, a volcanic desert region situated around 100 km from Sweida City, again to the northeast. At no point did the Al-Tanf military base, bristling with surveillance equipment, detect or react against the ISIS operation. At the time, acclaimed Middle East journalist Elijah Magnier pointed out: “ISIS knew it was possible for its convoy to drive under the eyes of a superpower state [the U.S.] without being disturbed.”

As always, the true victims of this eight-year war will be brushed under the carpet while the focus remains upon the whitewashing of the perpetrators of the crimes against the Syrian people – the “rebel”-washing of the terrorist gangs who have been enabled to roam freely across Syria by the U.S. coalition and its Gulf State financiers of the sectarian ideologues described by the colonial media as “moderates.”

During our drive down to Sweida, I asked our guide, H. Saab, what he believed to be the motive behind these brutal attacks; he responded:

I believe it was to force the SAA to reduce pressure on the ISIS terrorists holding out in Yarmouk Basin close to the border with the illegally Israel-annexed Golan territories. ISIS are given protection in the 55 km buffer zone surrounding the camp and the Syrian Arab Army is not allowed to enter this zone, despite it being Syrian territory. Perhaps it was to allow ISIS an escape route to the U.S. base at Al-Tanf and the buffer zone area where they would receive equipment and protection from the U.S Coalition”

H. Saab also suggested that ISIS may well have wanted to actually take control of the villages, as they would have provided a stronghold that was easy to defend, offering high-ground and networks of ancient caves and underground passageways that could be converted into bunkers and shelter from bombing and artillery fire.

Sweida Syria

The basalt mountain on the road to Sweida. Photo | Vanessa Beeley

Sweida does have an other-worldly aspect to it: the vast stretches of desert, the hillsides dotted with fruit trees and the beautiful basalt mountain that rises out of the ground like a massive, glittering obelisk by the side of the road taking you towards this historically rich Byzantine region. Towns and cities date back to the first century B.C., during which time many were famous for the quality of their wines: Sweida was called Dionysias during Hellenistic and Roman times; Dionysus is the god of wine and the excellent reputation of this ancient wine-producing region persists today.

Sweida Syria

One of the many memorials to martyred soldiers in Sweida. Photo | Vanessa Beeley

I described these surroundings in a piece I wrote in October, “Sweida: A Bloody Massacre Barely Registered by Western Media as ISIS Slaughter Innocent Civilians in their Sleep:”

As we entered the province of Sweida, we began to see the elaborate memorials to martyrs killed in Syria’s war against Western-sponsored terrorism. Our guide told us that these beautiful monuments are in honour of the soldiers who have given their lives in defence of their homeland. Many of these impressive structures are placed at the entrance to villages ‘so their names are remembered for eternity by all those who live because they died.’

We were told that some of these graves also date back to the 1925 ‘Great Syrian Revolt or ‘Great Druze Revolt’ against France. They are wonderful to behold, rising out of the dry desert plains, backdropped by the hills and trees that pepper the landscape stretching out in front of us.”

In September, a pall of grief still hung over the villages, and an understandable anger at the bloodbath they had endured. The anger was largely directed at the U.S. and its allies, particularly Britain. The overriding sense was one of a massacre that could have happened only with the U.S. collusion and collaboration with the ISIS terrorist entity Washington claims to be combatting. The implications of this belief are huge — the raison d’etre of the U.S. coalition in Syria is the “elimination” of ISIS, yet here we have civilians telling us that, in their informed view, ISIS has been protected and its power multiplied by the U.S. in Al-Tanf.

Two-hundred-and-seventy civilians were massacred during the few hours that battles raged between ISIS and civilians, many of whom were armed with nothing more than hunting rifles. Three hundred more men, women and children were injured. Homes were entered by ISIS from 4 a.m. onwards, their inhabitants brutally murdered. The same homes were taken over as sniping nests by the terrorists, and from these vantage points ISIS picked off the dozens of young men who flocked to defend their towns once the initial shock of the attack had dissipated:

Many of our young men, women and children bled to death in the street. Nobody was able to get to them or to transport them to hospital. If they tried, they would be sniped.” – Khaled Saab

Khaled Saab’s mother, father, brother and cousin were martyred in the attack on the village of Shrehi, where 37 civilians were massacred. Khaled told me that he believed the ISIS fighters were high on drugs, very possibly Captagon. “We fired many bullets into them, but they kept fighting” he said.

In January 2017 “at least 137 kg of Captagon — dubbed a ‘jihadist drug’ and ‘the drug of the Syrian conflict’” — was seized at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport in a first for France, customs officials said, adding that “half of the illicit cargo was destined for Saudi Arabia.” Captagon is a psychostimulantthat is used as a performance enhancer by the extremist gangs that have invaded Syria since 2011.

According to Khaled, the ISIS fighters were well equipped with modern and expensive weaponry and vehicles, which he believed to be supplied by the U.S. alliance:

These groups, all of them, are supported by the U.K., U.S. and Gulf States to target and destroy our peaceful towns. Throughout history Syria has sacrificed martyrs and we are ready to sacrifice our souls for our land, despite more than 120 countries attacking us with the terrorist groups as their instrument. They should know we will stand and fight to defend our land and our  people.”

Fifty-three ISIS fighters were killed by the villagers defending their families and homes. Khaled informed us that the majority were foreign mercenaries:

After we killed the ISIS terrorists, we checked their IDs. They were Chechen, Saudi, Iraqi, Palestinian, Egyptian, Somali. One was wearing a suicide belt, nothing remained of him after he had detonated it.”

Accounts of horror and bloodshed from civilians

During my time in the villages, horrific stories overflowed from every individual I encountered. It was hard to comprehend the scale of the bloodshed that had occurred in a relatively short time between 4 a.m. and the early afternoon, when ISIS terrorists were finally driven back before escaping towards Tilal Al-Safa. Another resident, Ziad Saab, whose brother-in-law had been executed in one of the first houses at the entrance to Shrehi, told me:

We have been affected by terrorism in this area and across Syria, organized by powerful countries — the U.S. and the U.K. and, unfortunately, several Arab countries. The main point I would like to make: all the seven villages attacked by ISIS are “safe;” there is no army presence, no checkpoints, no military zones. ISIS attacked innocent civilian people. The proof is that all the martyrs were civilians.”

Sweida Syria

Six-month-old baby Ghala whose father was gunned down by ISIS terrorists 100 yards from Ziad Saab’s home. Photo | Vanessa Beeley

As we were eating breakfast with Ziad and his family, baby Ghala was brought into the room. Ghala is six months old; her father was gunned down by the ISIS fighters just a hundred yards from Ziad’s bullet-strafed home on July 25. Watching Ghala being held aloft by H. Saab, her gorgeous little face breaking into smiles, it was heartbreaking to comprehend the suffering and loss that so many children in Sweida and across Syria will have to grow up with as a result of this senseless violence.

Wissam Sliman, a Syrian who followed events in Sweida closely, described on Facebook the trauma of the ISIS attacks in the Sweida countryside:

Imagine that this were your village, or your neighborhood! Imagine that one of those were your house! Imagine that the same thing happened to you! Imagine that you lost a family member, or maybe two, or maybe more! Imagine that your mother, sister, daughter or son is still kidnapped and now in the hands of the worst terrorist group ever, which is ISIS!

And above all imagine that it didn’t mean anything to half of your brothers and sisters in humanity in this world, just because they are still sleeping, daydreaming and refusing to wake up! What hurts you is that if they did wake up seven years ago, you would have had many of your beloved ones around you now, but they didn’t, because they are still refusing to wake up!”

Syria Sweida

Shbeki: outside of a home taken over by ISIS for use as a sniper nest. Photo | Vanessa Beeley

In Shbeki, the next village I visited, the violence and bloodshed had intensified. Here, 60 civilians were massacred and 29, mostly women and children, were taken hostage by the fleeing ISIS gangs. I was told, during a visit to Shbeki in November, that only 12 men were available to defend the village early on in the ISIS attack but they managed to hold ISIS at bay until reinforcements arrived shortly after. At the entrance to the village was a burned out car embedded in the rock-strewn earth.

Sweida Syria

A burned out car at the entrance to Shbeki. Photo: | Vanessa Beeley

The car, a Skoda, had once belonged to Bahjat Atallah Saab who tried to rescue Zahi Jadallah Saab and his wife and son, Assem Zahi Saab, a law student. The entire car was targeted when they tried to flee the ISIS attack on Shbeki that began at 4 a.m. on 25th July 2018. The car came under attack by the ISIS snipers before being targeted by an RPG which turned the car into a furnace from which the occupants did not escape. Martyr Bahjat Saab was working as an Arabic language teacher.”  ~ Vanessa Beeley,  Sweida: A Bloody Massacre Barely Registered by Western Media as ISIS Slaughter Innocent Civilians in their Sleep.

In Shbeki we spoke to Hazem, a third-year science research student at Damascus University, who had received news of the attack on his family at 4:40 a.m. on July 25, while he was staying in Sweida City. After a hazardous and circuitous journey to Shbeki, he entered the village at 5:30 a.m. in the midst of the fiercest crossfire between villagers and ISIS.

Sweida Syria

The Madafa, or meeting room, in Shbeki. Photo | Vanessa Beeley

All homes in Sweida have the traditional meeting room, the Madafa, which is always the most resplendent and light-filled room in any home. With the sun pouring through the glass onto the polished marble floors, I listened to Hazem as he recounted the events of that day. He told us that his family and other civilians were rounded up and taken to what is known as the “Bedouin House” at the outskirts of the village. The house faces in the direction of the eastern desert plains that divide Shbeki from the U.S.’ Al Tanf military base.

Sweida Syria

The “Bedouin” house where the men of the village captured by ISIS were executed. Photo | Vanessa Beeley

The ISIS terrorists took all the men outside and executed them in cold blood. Among them were Hazem’s father, brothers, cousin and neighbor. The women and children were then forced outside to see the bodies of their fathers, sons and husbands before they were taken hostage and force-marched towards Tilal Al-Safa. A few of those who had been kidnapped managed to evade their ISIS captors and returned to Shbeki, where they slept in an abandoned house just outside the village until dawn, when they were able to ascertain that the village was still under control of their friends and family. Among those who escaped were Hazem’s mother and sister-in-law. In total, 29 hostages were eventually abducted by ISIS mercenaries.

During the forced-march towards Tila Al-Safa, Hazem’s uncle’s wife, Ghosun Hasan Abo Ammar, had collapsed and had been unable to walk any further. The first group of ISIS fighters left her by the side of the road and refused permission for anyone to stay with her. Later, I was told that another team of ISIS terrorists had followed on behind and had executed her on the road. Her body was eventually retrieved, the next day, 6 km from the village.

Sweida Syria

A photo of Mohannad Thokan Abo Ammar, beheaded by ISIS just eight days after the attack of 25th July, 2018. Photo | Vanessa Beeley

Eight days after the attack, ISIS executed one of the few young men in the group of hostages. Twenty-year-old university student Mohannad Thokan Abo Ammar was brutally beheaded by ISIS according to his family in Shbeki.

Syria Sweida

Left, Tharwat Fazel Abo Ammar, executed by ISIS on October 2, 2018. Right, Zahia Fawaz Al-Gebay, who died from health problems exacerbated by conditions hostages were forced to live in by their ISIS captors, on August 9, 2018. Photos | Courtesy of a Shbeki resident

On October 2, shortly after I left Syria, ISIS executed Tharwat Fazel Abo Ammar. They shot her in the head and filmed the gruesome ending of a young mother’s life to taunt the Sweida civilians and to warn them of further executions if any attempt was made by the SAA to pursue ISIS. Threats were issued by ISIS to conduct further executions if the SAA did not throttle back its military campaign to eradicate ISIS in the Yarmouk Basin, vindicating a theory by H. Saab that this was one of ISIS’ motives behind the attack.

Sweida | Syria

Marwa Essam Al-Abazah, the third female hostage to be executed by ISIS, just five months after her marriage to Majdee Abo Ammar. Photo | Courtesy of a Shbeki resident

Marwa Essam Al-Abazah was the wife of Majdee Abo Ammar, they had married just five months prior. Al-Abazah was the second female hostage to be executed by ISIS.

Before we left Shbeki in September, Hazem asked if it were possible to record a video message about the remaining kidnap victims, almost entirely women and children:

The SAA operation to liberate Sweida

Syria | Tilal Al-Safa

An SAA soldier surveys the unforgiving landscape of Tilal Al-Safa, northeast of Sweida. Photo | Vanessa Beeley

Elijah J. Magnier, Middle East analyst and journalist, described how ISIS terrorists benefited from the U.S. presence in the Al Tanf military base:

ISIS benefited from the U.S. safety [perimeter] around its military base at al-Tanaf, preventing Syrian and Iraqi armies from breaking into this [perimeter] to pursue ISIS when needed. ISIS took advantage of the U.S. measures and used the area to cross for the north where there is the bulk of its forces.”

Almost immediately after ISIS carried out the attacks in Sweida City and the eastern villages, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) ramped up its operations to finally defeat ISIS in the region and to liberate the Sweida kidnap victims, who had been taken deep into ISIS-controlled territory in the volcanic and treacherous terrain of Tilal Al-Safa.

Sweida Syria

The treacherous terrain of the Badiya (desert) at Tilal Al Safa – an ISIS stronghold to the east of Sweida. Photo | Vanessa Beeley

On October 14, 2018, Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported that units of the SAA, in cooperation with allied forces, were continuing to “tighten the noose” around ISIS terrorists in the depths of the rocky escarpments and cliffs of Tilal Al-Safa, the “last stronghold for ISIS in the Sweida eastern Badiya [desert].” The SAA was inexorably advancing, uncovering stockpiles of U.S.- and EU-supplied weapons and ammunition left behind by the retreating terrorists.

On November 27, 2018, a video was released by a Russian Media outlet, Rusvesna, showing SAA soldiers uncovering arms caches in Tilal Al-Safa. SouthFront, an independent media outlet following the Syrian conflict very closely picked up on these videos and reported on them:

The weapons caches contained a U.S.-made TOW anti-tank guided missile (ATGM), three Bulgarian-made Fagot ATGMs, two Soviet-made RPG-22 anti-tank rockets and a Yugoslav-made M79 Osa anti-tank weapon along with five rounds.”

Earlier in November, images taken from the mobile phone of a captured ISIS fighter had shown that the “terrorist group was using U.S.-made assault rifles and a Chinese-made man-portable air-defense (MANPAD) system, FN-6, which had been reportedly supplied with help from the U.S. and Qatar to several Free Syrian Army (FSA) groups in Syria.” The supply pipeline was the failed U.S. “train and equip” program authorized by former U.S. President Barack Obama in 2014 and halted by President Donald Trump in 2017.

The captured ISIS fighters admitted that they had been receiving assistance and weapons directly from the U.S. base in Al Tanf. According to a South Front report, captured ISIS member Abu Abdullah Mayadin told Syrian reporters on November 9:

We received supplies from the U.S. base in al-Tanf through Abu Audi, his brother Saeed and Abu Ali al-Buri [al-Badui]; he is a member of ISIS, he provided us with vehicles and 23mm machineguns.”

On October 20, following negotiations between the Syrian government and ISIS terrorists, six of the hostages were released. Among them were four children — Ya’arub Jba’ai, Mulham Jiba’ai, Ghaida Jba’ai and Amwaj Jba’ai — and two women — Abeer Shaglin and Rasmyia Abu Ammar — according to the SANA report.

While certain corporate  media outlets and “opposition” figures like Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt appeared to exploit the post-ISIS-attack confusion to attempt to drive a wedge between the Druze community and the Syrian government, all civilians I spoke to expressed gratitude for the way in which Syrian President Bashar Al Assad involved himself in the negotiations for the release of the hostages and for the government’s near-daily contact with community leaders to follow up on the progress of the talks.

Their admiration and respect extends to the SAA, which fought a long and arduous campaign to cleanse ISIS from the southern region.

The news everyone had been waiting for

On November 8, 2018, the news finally broke that the SAA had succeeded in liberating the Sweida hostages and had defeated ISIS in Tilal Al-Safa. After what was described by field commanders as an intricate and complex rescue operation, complicated by the ISIS fighters constantly moving the hostages to avoid detection, the surviving hostages returned to emotional and jubilant scenes in Shbeki on November 9.

Syria | Sweida

SAA soldiers in the desert region of Tilal Al-Safa following the liberation of hostages and defeat of ISIS. Photo | Vanessa Beeley

On November 13, President Assad himself received the liberated women and children and their families. The president stated at the time:

The steadfastness of the abductees and their families, their strength and patience during the time of abduction from one side, and the determination of the army heroes ,some of them have sacrificed their soul to liberate the abductees — women and children — from the other side, will be a lesson in patriotism and national act. The State has put the mission of searching about each abductee on top of its priorities to liberate him or her whatever the price was, and it has put all its capabilities to achieve this mission”

A bloodbath ignored

While Human Rights Watch (HRW) described ISIS’ taking of hostages in Sweida as a “war crime,” outrage from the “international community” was muted, to say the least. An HRW report on the incident failed to fully describe the atrocities committed by ISIS in Sweida on the 25th of July. In fact, at the end of the report, HRW denounced the summary executions of two of the ISIS hostage-takers as a “war crime” and concluded — quoting HRW’s deputy Middle East director, Lama Fakih:

“Mob justice and revenge are no answer to ISIS atrocities,’ said Fakih. ‘Without a commitment to justice for violations by all sides, it will be difficult to deter more abuses.’” (emphasis added).

Among the international community, Russia’s foreign minister was one of the very few that condemned the hideous slaughter of civilians in Sweida. The silence from other world leaders and media outlets was an appalling example of their priorities in Syria, which clearly do not include the Syrian people.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres did unequivocally express horror at the ISIS attacks on the same day that they happened, but later statements by UN agencies distorted the view on who must take responsibility.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights placed blame on the Syrian government, claiming that groups of ISIS terrorists included many “who were recently evacuated and relocated from the Palestinian Yarmouk Refugee Camp, Hajar Al Aswad and Al Tadamon areas of Southern Damascus as part of a [Syrian] government reconciliation agreement,” according to OHCHR spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani.

Shamdasani went on to declare that the “government of Syria has a duty to take action to prevent violent acts that may endanger the lives and well-being of civilians — including by not placing armed groups such as ISIS in their proximity.”

The Syrian government has been fighting off a terrorist invasion of their country for eight years — an invasion financed, equipped and armed by the U.S. coalition and its allies in Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Israel. The “placing of armed groups in the proximity of civilians” is entirely the responsibility of the U.S. and its allies and with its statement, the UN demonstrated the extent to which it acts as an outpost for U.S. Empire, supporting U.S. hegemony and globalism in the region.

Alison Banville of BS News, an independent media outlet, emailed Jon Snow of the U.K.’s Channel 4 to ask why it had not covered the massacre in Sweida. The email conversation went as follows:

Jon Snow: Alison, I’m pretty sure we did report it on Channel 4 News… I will try to track it down… thanks for drawing my attention.

Alison Banville: Further to your reply to me below regarding the horrific Sweida massacre in Syria in which you said you ‘think’ Channel 4 News covered it but you’ll check, there still appears to be nothing about it on the Channel 4 News website.

Did the programme really not cover this atrocity? And if not, the question must be asked, why

Below is journalist Vanessa Beeley’s report from on the ground in the villages attacked by ISIS and the shocking testimony of witnesses. Isn’t this what Channel 4 News should have done if journalism is what you do? These are people begging for their voices to be heard. How can you justify not reporting this?

Jon Snow: Like everyone else we are very stretched in Syria… We are now very dependent upon ‘stringers.’ We have never been able to verify what happened… as in so many other cases… and we are reluctant to go beyond what we can verify for ourselves… I’m sorry if this displeases you… but the fake news, unsupported claims do Syria’s agony and loss no favours. (emphasis added)

Not only does Snow appear to be suggesting that the Sweida massacre is “fake news,” it must be noted that the lack of anyone on the ground did not stop Channel 4 from producing “rebel”-biased reports based on evidence produced by the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) propaganda construct, the White Helmets, for example. The simple fact is that the Sweida massacre did not fulfill the requirements of the U.K. FCO to criminalize the Syrian government and its allies while maintaining the myth of a “war on terror,” aka ISIS, in Syria. That is why Channel 4 did not report on this crime against humanity: it was the wrong “humanity.”

The homecoming: Meeting kidnap victims after liberation

Sweida | Syria

In Shbeki, meeting with the liberated ISIS hostages returning to “normal” life with their families. Photo | Vanessa Beeley

Towards the end of November, I headed back to Shbeki to meet with the liberated hostages and their families. It was a cold and foggy day but the familiar warmth of the welcome I received dispelled any gloominess that might otherwise have pervaded the meeting, with the kidnap victims clearly reliving the trauma of the three months they had spent at the mercy of their ISIS captors.

Sweida | Syria

Jawdat Abo Ammar next to the photo of his martyred son, Qussai, fatally injured during the SAA rescue operation in Tilal Al-Safa. Photo | Vanessa Beeley

Sadly during the SAA rescue mission, two young boys among the hostages had been fatally injured, 10-year-old Raafat Abo Ammar and 13-year-old Qussai Abo Ammar. The first person to speak to me about this loss was the father of Qussai, Jawdat Hnidi Abo Ammar, whose wife and daughter Shahed were also among the ISIS hostages along with Qussai:

At the beginning, when we received the liberation news, they called us and told us that the abductees were liberated. In fact, it was a big joy, an indescribable feeling, this was what we have been waiting for so impatiently. Unfortunately the joy was not complete. They told us at the beginning that Qussai and Raafat were injured, we felt something… like a burn in the heart. About 7 o’clock they told us that Qussai and Raafat were martyred, that ripped out our hearts.”

Jawdat sat next to the photo of his son, Qussai, a proud and dignified man but visibly shaken by the events of the last four months. He went on to describe how President Assad had made the liberation of the abductees a priority.

A great thank-you to Mr. President Bashar al-Assad, may he live long, because since the beginning of the attack on our region he sent the minister to us and contacted us — and it was one of his priorities to liberate the abductees. We felt that ourselves on the day when we met him.”

Sweida | Syria

Jawdat with his daughter Shahed who was also among the liberated hostages. Photo | Vanessa Beeley

Jawdat emphatically praised the role of the SAA in the liberation campaign and expressed the love and respect that the majority of Syrians feel for the SAA, whose soldiers are the Syrian people:

A great thank-you to the Syrian Arab Army, protectors of the country, protectors of the land and our honor. Since the beginning of the crisis and for eight years they have been in the midst of a war. Almost all the colonial countries and the Arab countries — in general — joined together against Syria. So they [SAA] deserve a big thank-you and the credit is theirs because they returned the joy to our hearts.”

Jawdat addressed the media and Western government role in dehumanizing the majority of the Syrian people who support their government, their president and army:

Our call is to the major countries — I wish they possessed a shred of humanity so that they could treat people as human beings and not only as numbers. What sin did this child commit to be kidnapped from his house? Or that innocent woman who was sleeping in her home when they [ISIS] came and kidnapped her? I appeal to them to be humane, to feel for humans. God created all of us as humans — deal with us morally. Morals must take priority, even in war.”

Sweida Syria

Jawdat with his wife, Fadia Badi Abu Ammar, also among the liberated hostages. Photo | Vanessa Beeley

Jawdat explained to me that many of the men of the village had been working in the Gulf states when the attack took place. It was five days before they could return home to the tragedy that awaited them. Jawdat’s brother’s family were also among the kidnap victims. Jawdat’s other son, Qais, had managed to escape his ISIS captors early on in the abduction and had returned safely home.

Jawdat also voiced the familiar anger over who was really behind the ISIS invasion of their homes and the mass murder of their families:

The West created these ISIS gangs that have no religion, know nothing about humanity and don’t possess a shred of morals, and backed them with money and weapons, for what? We stand beside our army and beside Mr. President and urge them to wipe the terrorism from the whole land of Syria, and to liberate us from the abomination of terrorism.”

Sweida Syria

Fadia Badi Abo Ammar, wife of Jawdat and mother of Qussai. Photo | Vanessa Beeley

Fadia’s testimony was an emotional journey through loss and trauma. She sat closer to the photo of Qussai and wept many times as she talked to me about the three months of ISIS brutality and abuse they endured.

When the attack began, Fadia had gathered her three children around her — Shahed, Qussai and Qais. They had stayed hidden in their home but ISIS knocked on their door demanding that the men be sent outside. Fadia had remained silent but she described how shots were fired at the house to drive them out. Fadia told me how the terrorists would go to a house and drag civilians onto the street, these civilians would be forced, at gunpoint, to knock at a neighbors house to entice them outside.

Fadia explained how this ruse was used to deceive them also:

When my brother-in-law’s wife came and I heard her voice ‘open the door, don’t be afraid, we want to go to the neighborhood’ and things like that. Of course, I didn’t open the door immediately; I waited because I didn’t want to open the door even if it became safe I didn’t want to go out of the house. My oldest son said ‘No mum, this is my uncle’s wife, probably everything is fine, we want to go to the neighborhood.’ So we opened the door and they [ISIS] said, ‘We want to take you to the school for about an hour then we will bring you back because we want to comb the houses.’”

Fadia was subsequently used by ISIS to persuade other family members to join their group as ISIS moved them towards an agricultural unit. Their mobile phones were taken from them. Initially, the ISIS fighters were claiming they would be held for a short time and then allowed to return home, but the mood changed when it was decided that Fadia and the others would be more useful as hostages, as bargaining chips in negotiations with the SAA and the Syrian government. They were moved out of the village towards Tilal Al-Safa:

They took us to the east of the village for about 15 minutes and after that they took us down to the valleys. We walked for about 10 or 11 hours without water, food or anything, and there were kids, a pregnant woman and old women with us.”

Haltingly, Fadia described the abuse hurled at them by the ISIS fighters: “Of course, they used bad words, ‘you are Kuffar [disbelievers], you are impure’ and things like that.”

Some of the hostages were isolated early on: “They isolated the Martyr Mohannad, the Martyr Qussai, Yaarub and Rajwan, they put them in a tent next to us. They took them, blindfolded their eyes and put them in a tent next to us.”

Fadia described how they were moved from place to place, staying in the first cave for six days before moving on to a different area where they were forced to shelter in a craggy, narrow ravine in the volcanic landscape. They were fed and given water intermittently, the first water they were given “tasted like diesel fuel.” While the adults, mostly women, were subjected to verbal humiliation, the children received beatings and physical abuse:

We went through all kinds of torment; we were starved and deprived of water, they humiliated the kids in front of us and beat them. For us, we were only humiliated by words — ‘you are defectors, you are impure’ — but the kids, they beat them and humiliated them. When they brought water for us we used to send the kids to bring water, there were children with us, one of them was a two-and-a-half-year old baby girl. The kids would go and ask for water, then they would be beaten and come back — Yaarub, Rajwan and Qussai.”

As the SAA advanced, ISIS would move the hostages deeper into the desert. At one point, Fadia told me they were marching for six days straight. The hostages were given one glass of water per day to be shared among three people and two dates for each hostage. For three days, they were given nothing. When the gunfire drew closer, the terrorists would taunt the children and the mothers by saying they would take the children towards the SAA positions and dig a grave for them so when they were shot, they would fall into the grave.

Fadia remembered the day of their liberation. Qussai had gone to get some water for them in the direction of the fierce clashes between ISIS and the SAA that could be heard close by. Most of the hostages had taken shelter in one of the ISIS trucks but Fadia had crept under the truck and was sitting on the ground when Qussai returned with the water. She testified:

In these moments Qussai and Raafat got injured, I came after hearing my sister shouting ‘Woe to you . . . O Qussai . . . come and see your son.’ I got into the truck and saw that my dear was injured but — thank God — he was still alive and fully conscious. He admonished me ‘Mum, why hadn’t you gotten into the car? Why are you still down there?’ and ‘Mum, what happened to my eye?’

Fadia tried to reassure her young son. The SAA soldiers approached the truck and told the hostages they were safe. Fadia begged one of the soldiers to please take care of her son, Qussai. Shortly after, an ambulance arrived and Qussai was given emergency treatment for his injuries.

We arrived to Palmyra hospital, they told us that Raafat was martyred and that Qussai’s situation is critical and they are going to send him to the military hospital in Homs. So we took him to the military hospital in Homs and an hour or [maybe] 15 minutes after we arrived they told us that he was martyred.”

Sweida Syria

Fadia prepares fruit for the guests in the Madafa after giving her testimony. Photo | Vanessa Beeley

Fadia wept through much of her testimony, the loss of her son still raw despite the relief at their liberation and safe return to their families in Shbeki. She stressed many times that they had returned with their “dignity and honor intact.” She described how Qussai behaved with tenderness and maturity through the experience, taking care of her and the other hostages:

Qussai was a very capable young man for me, his presence with me in captivity, his tenderness, his politeness and his morals; whatever I said to him, he would never say ‘no mum.’ He was loving to the ones who were around me in Sweida, to his uncles and aunts his uncle’s family and his siblings; he was honest with me until the last moment when we were liberated. Even in the moments when we needed water, he brought water for us and didn’t drink a drop of it.”

Fadia’s final words to me were those of a proud and heartbroken mother who had endured horrific trauma and, at the moment of liberation, had been forced to watch her precious child’s life ebb away before her eyes:

Qussai made me feel like it was not a 14-years-old kid who was with me; he made feel that he was a man, a real hero in every sense of the word. He was honest with everyone, he was affectionate with everyone. Praise be to God for His grace, praise be to God. Our God loves him. He took him to His side. Our God loves him and granted him martyrdom and honor.”

Sweida Syria

Soad Adib Abo Ammar, one of the ISIS hostages liberated by the SAA on November 8, 2018. Photo | Vanessa Beeley

Soad Adib Abo Ammar is the mother of four-year-old Lamis and twelve-year-old Mirnah, who were also taken hostage by ISIS.

Soad also described how ISIS starved them, abused them and deprived them of water. She expressed anger at how the children were beaten and humiliated by the terrorists:

Torturing our children in front of our eyes was even more severe to us than the torment of being held captive.”

Soad wanted me to transmit the message I hear so often in Syria. Please would people in the West force their governments to stop financing terrorism and to lift the economic sanctions that are a collective punishment for the Syrian people:

Without the West’s support to the terrorists, people wouldn’t have suffered, children wouldn’t have been displaced and we wouldn’t have lost this big number of martyrs. So we demand that Western people put pressure on their governments to stop supporting  the terrorists so that we can live with our children in peace.”

Sweida Syria

Soad and her daughter Mirnah Hikmat Abo Ammar. Photo | Vanessa Beeley

Soad’s daughter Mirnah told me that she had promised Qussai that she would not go back to school without him. Mirnah sat next to Qussai’s photograph and shyly told me how much she missed him and wished he had returned with her to Shbeki.

Sweida Syria

Four-year-old Lamis, daughter of Soad and Hikmat Abo Ammar. Photo | Vanessa Beeley

Soad’s other daughter, four-year-old Lamis, was probably the most visibly affected by the three months of ISIS captivity. She clung to her father, Hikmat Abo Ammar, and initially refused to maintain eye contact. She wore a pair of red, plastic sunglasses that she was clearly hiding behind. She nestled her head into her father’s neck and would turn away if I approached her. Gradually she relaxed and joined some of the other children playing on the steps outside the Madafa, but the need to feel the reassurance of her father’s arms around her would pull her back inside and to her father.

Sweida Syria

Four-year-old Lamis with her father Hikmat. Photo | Vanessa Beeley

In the following video an SAA soldier scoops a traumatized Lamis up into his arms and asks her if she wants to go home to Sweida on the day of their liberation from ISIS. Then we see Lamis with her father in the Madafa in Shbeki on the day I interviewed the liberated hostages.

Like so many of the other husbands and fathers, Hikmat was working in Saudi Arabia on the day of the attack and was unable to return for five long days. He also described the haunting and devastating tragedy that he was met with upon his return, the long wait for news of his wife and daughters and their eventual return. Hikmat also wanted to ask people in the West to force their governments to stop financing terrorism in Syria.

Hikmat told me that for the duration of the captivity of his wife and children, he couldn’t bring himself to enter their family home.

For three months and 20 days, the period of kidnap, we couldn’t sleep and we didn’t enter our houses because our children were kidnapped so we couldn’t enter them.”

Torment financed by Western governments – and a cry for help

The residents of Shrehi and Shbeki and the five other villages attacked by ISIS on the 25th of July, 2018 have shown extraordinary resilience and fortitude. The dignity of the women I spoke to shone through the trauma they had been forced to experience and the losses they had suffered. The pride in the resistance of a handful of inexperienced local fighters who fought off an attack by a well-equipped, battle-hardened gang of terrorist criminals was expressed by all with whom I spoke.

Sweida Syria

Lamis playing with her father’s mobile phone in Shbeki. Photo | Vanessa Beeley

The fact remains: this massacre should never have happened and it happened because Western governments are financing and arming the terrorist gangs that have invaded Syria. As OHCHR spokeswoman Shamdasani said in their report on the Sweida bloodbath:

The transfer of armed fighters with a history of gross human-rights abuses and contempt towards international law, can mean an increase in the likelihood of violent attacks against civilians like the ones carried out last week in As-Sweida.”

What Shamdasani fails to clarify is that it is the U.S. coalition and its allies, their aligned media and “humanitarian” NGOs are effectively protecting, supporting and enabling the existence of these “gross human rights abusers.”

During my first visit to Shrehi and my conversations with Khaled Saab whose mother, father, brother and cousin had been murdered by ISIS in their family home, the overriding message that I was given by the still grieving civilians was best expressed by Khaled’s words that he spoke so passionately to me:

We defended our land and our homes because this land is mixed with the blood of generations of our people. We will not accept that people without morals or humanity can touch this land. We stay, we will stand and defend this land until we die. Our youth killed these terrorists even though they had very old weapons, very simple weapons. The ISIS fighters had modern, expensive equipment but we still defeated them.” ~ Khaled Saab in Shrehi

Sweida Syria

Lamis clinging to her father at the entrance to the Madafa. Photo | Vanessa Beeley

The Syrian people know who is responsible for their suffering and they have pleaded with us to do something about it. We owe it to four-year-old Lamis, the child martyrs Qussai and Raafat and an entire generation of war-traumatized children across Syria to respond to their call for action.

Watch | An appeal to the West, from another Shbeki resident, Diaa Abo Ammar

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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. You can support Vanessa’s journalism through her Patreon Page.

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Nearly 15,000 immigrant children are being held in a network of detention centers across the United States. Changes implemented by the Trump administration have filled the child jails to near capacity, and the government is considering adding more employees and more beds to make it possible to hold even more adolescents.

The Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the incarceration of immigrant children at more than 100 locations, reported Thursday that the system was 92 percent full. Among the most notorious detention centers is the tent camp on the US-Mexico border in Tornillo, Texas, where approximately 2,800 children are being held in the desert.

Children are being held at Tornillo for an average of 50 days before being released into the custody of sponsors, typically family members already living in the US who will take care of the minor until their status is determined by an immigration judge. New detainees are being brought into the camp faster than they are being released to sponsors.

Conditions that prevail in the detention centers can be traumatic, with reports by children of rapes, sexual abuse and assaults. A significant portion of those being detained are teenage boys from Central America who have crossed into the US without a parent, seeking asylum from poverty and gang violence in their home countries.

The population in the system began to swell after the Trump administration implemented a policy requiring anyone living with potential sponsors for a child to provide their fingerprints and go through a criminal background check.

This has raised fears among potential sponsors that they would be opening up other family members to potential arrest or deportation. At least 41 family or household members were detained for deportation in 2018 after attempting to sponsor a detained child.

The Trump administration has also dramatically escalated its attack on immigrants through mass workplace arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. Such arrests have soared by more than 640 percent, from 311 in 2017 to 2,304 in 2018. Homeland Security agents opened 300 percent more workplace investigation in 2018, rising from 1,681 in 2017 to 6,848.

Among the largest raids carried out this year by ICE took place in June across northern Ohio with the arrest of 146 immigrants at Fresh Mark meat processing plants, and another 114 workers detained at Corso’s Flower & Garden Center landscaping centers. The raids, which resembled military operations complete with helicopters hovering overhead, shattered immigrant communities and tore loved ones away from their families.

“Reducing illegal employment helps build another layer of border security,” Executive Associate Director for Homeland Security Investigations Derek N. Benner boasted in a press release, “and reduces the continuum of crime that illegal labor facilitates, from the human smuggling networks that facilitate illegal border crossings to the associated collateral crimes, like identity theft, document and benefit fraud, and worker exploitation.”

Contrary to Benner’s claims, the Trump administration’s escalation of workplace raids and arrests over the last year is an attack on the entire working class and does nothing to reduce exploitation. Native-born workers have no interest in tearing immigrant fathers and mothers from the children. Moreover, the Gestapo tactics used against immigrants today will be used against all workers as the class struggle escalates.

Under conditions of deepening political crisis and conflict within the state apparatus, Trump is seeking to utilize the issue of immigration to develop a right-wing, fascistic base, including within the military and police forces, by appealing to extreme nationalism and xenophobia.

On Tuesday, Trump threatened to utilize the military to build a “border wall” between the US and Mexico. “If the Democrats do not give us the votes to secure our Country,” he declared in a tweet, “the Military will build the remaining sections of the Wall. They know how important it is!”

Responding to questions about Trump’s proposal, Lt. Col. Jamie Davis told CNN,

“To date, there is no plan to build sections of the wall. However, Congress has provided options under Title 10 US Code that could permit the Department of Defense to fund border barrier projects, such as in support of counter drug operations or national emergencies.”

Trump has already deployed thousands of active duty soldiers to the border to assist Customs and Border Protection, including by fortifying border crossings and stringing concertina wire. What was billed as a limited, temporary military operation to counter the caravans of Central American workers seeking asylum is becoming a permanent deployment inside the US. While some troops have begun to return back to their bases, 2,500 to 4,000 troops are expected to remain through January 31, past the initial December 15 deadline announced by Defense Secretary James Mattis.

Far from opposing Trump’s escalating assault on immigrants and the increasing restrictions on those seeking asylum, the Democratic Party has alternated between silence and begging for an agreement with the administration. During the midterm elections, the Democrats sought to avoid even discussing the issue of immigration, claiming it was a distraction. Even those who present themselves as “progressive,” such as New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, have dropped the call to “Abolish ICE.” Since her election, Ocasio-Cortez has said virtually nothing on immigration.

The Democrats’ fundamental agreement with Trump on the question of immigration was on full display this week during an open White House meeting between the president and Democratic Congressional leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. While Trump belligerently insisted that he would shut down the government if he did not get full funding for a wall, Pelosi and Schumer shot back that they were eager to work with Trump in order to fund increased “border security.”

“We have a disagreement about the wall. Whether it’s effective or not. Not on border security, but on the wall,” Schumer told Trump.

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Joint Statement of US Civil Society Groups in Support of the Peace Process in Korea

December 16th, 2018 by Ann Wright, Ayumi Temlock, et al.

The 2018 has been a year of historic change on the Korean Peninsula. The leaders of North and South Korea met three times, and President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un also held their first summit in Singapore in June.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has invited Chairman Kim to visit South Korea, and President Trump has expressed willingness to meet Chairman Kim in a second summit. We welcome these positive developments for permanent peace in Korea.

In particular, we support the April 27 Panmunjom Declaration and the September 19 Pyongyang Joint Declaration signed between the leaders of South and North Korea, as well as the June 12 Singapore Summit Joint Statement signed between the leaders of the United States and North Korea.

These agreements lessen the danger of war on the Korean Peninsula and create a foundation for a lasting and stable peace regime. The Panmunjom and Pyongyang Declarations signed between the two Koreas opened the door to family reunions, civil society engagement, and concrete steps towards demilitarization.

Likewise, the Singapore Joint Statement emphasized the “establishment of new U.S.-DPRK relations,” away from war and hostility towards normal diplomatic recognition. We applaud the leaders of South Korea, North Korea and the United States, who, on the brink of nuclear war last year, boldly chose the path toward peace.

As concrete steps in the spirit of the Singapore Joint Statement, North Korea has:

  • Suspended its nuclear and missile tests, including destroying the Punggye-ri nuclear test site and inviting outside inspectors to verify that it has been destroyed;
  • Agreed to “permanently dismantle the Dongchang-ri missile engine test site and launch platform under the observation of experts,” as well as dismantle its nuclear facilities in Yongbyon if “the United States takes corresponding measures”; and
  • Returned the remains of fifty-five U.S. servicemen who had died there during the Korean War of 1950-1953.

On the other hand, the United States, thus far, has:

  • Temporarily suspended major war drills with the South Korean military.

While commendable, this U.S. action is insufficient to sustain the normalization process.

In line with the important steps North Korea has taken toward peace and denuclearization and in support of unprecedented peace-building engagement between North and South Korea – demilitarization of the Joint Security Area at Panmunjom, preparations to reconnect highways and railroad lines across the DMZ, and the establishment of a joint liaison office in the northern city of Kaesong – we urge the U.S. government to take the following steps as further confidence-building measures with North Korea:

1) Issue a joint declaration to end the Korean War and negotiate a Peace Treaty to replace the outdated and broken Armistice Agreement. The continuing state of war on the Korean Peninsula is at the root of recurring war threats in Korea. In the Panmunjom Joint Declaration, the two Korean leaders declared as follows:

During this year that marks the 65th anniversary of the Armistice, South and North Korea agreed to actively pursue trilateral meetings involving the two Koreas and the United States, or quadrilateral meetings involving the two Koreas, the United States and China with a view to declaring an end to the war and establishing a permanent and solid peace regime.

Ahead of another summit with North Korea, the United States should commit to declaring an end to the Korean War and demonstrate a willingness to pursue a formal Peace Treaty. Only a genuine and verifiable Peace Treaty between the main parties to the Korean War and the Armistice Agreement can drastically reduce the risk of nuclear and conventional war in Korea. It is the foundation for lasting and stable peace on the Korean Peninsula.

2) Lift broad-based U.S. sanctions against North Korea that harm the most vulnerable and ordinary Koreans as a concrete step toward establishing “new U.S.-DPRK relations.” Further, halt international pressure campaigns to isolate North Korea as this is contrary to the spirit of the Singapore Joint Declaration.

3) Lift the travel ban on U.S.citizens from visiting North Korea. The ban blocks U.S. humanitarian aid projects in North Korea, impedes people-to-people exchanges, and prevents thousands of Korean-Americans, who have family members in North Korea, from visiting them.

4) Establish a liaison office in Pyongyang to facilitate diplomatic engagement between the two countries towards mutual trust and understanding.

 

December 6, 2018

Signed,

Endorsing U.S. Organizations (In alphabetical order, 133 total)

416 Global Networks—San Diego

416 Human Rights & Peace Global Network

615 U.S. Midwest Committee

615 U.S. Seattle Committee

615 West Cost Committee

Action One Korea (AOK) Action One Korea (AOK)

Alliance for Global Justice

American Friends Service Committee

Atlanta SaSaSe

Baltimore Nonviolence Center

Brooklyn For Peace

Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security

Center for Human Rights & International Justice, Boston College

Channing and Popai Liem Education Foundation

Chicagoans in Solidarity with Sewol Ferry Victims and Families

Citizen for Equality Peace And Liberation

Coalition for Peace Action

Coalition of Civic Action for Cheonahnham’s Truth in U.S.A.

Coalition of Koreans in America

Codepink

Community Organizing Center

Concerned Citizens for Change

Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety

D.C. Methodist Church

Deoham Korean American Community Church

Environmentalists Against War

FCNL Peterborough Advocacy Team

Fight For Voter’s Rights(F4VR)

FreedomTrainers

GABRIELA USA

Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space

Good Friends USA

Granny Peace Brigade, New York

Greater Brunswick PeaceWorks

Green Party of the United States Peace Action Committee

Hawai’i Peace and Justice

HOBAK (Hella Organized Bay Area Koreans)

Hope Coalition of New York

Houston Sewol HAMBI

INOCHI/NoWarWithNorthKorea.org

Institute for 21st Century International Relations

International Action Center

Kaua`i Alliance for Peace and Social Justice

Kazakh Foundation

Korea Culture & Heritage Society of LA

Korea Culture & Heritage Society of NY

Korea is One

Korea Peace & Unification Action of Boston

Korea Policy Institute

Korean American Alliance for Peace on the Korean Peninsula

Korean American Civic Action Atlanta

Korean American National Coordinating Council

Korean Americans for Social Justice – Chicago

Korean Book Club of Riverside

Korean Peace Alliance

LA SASASE

LEPOCO Peace Center (Lehigh-Pocono Committee of Concern)

Maine Green Independent Party

Maine War Tax Resistance Resource Center

Malu ‘Aina Center for Nonviolent Education & Action

Massachusetts Peace Action

Maui Peace Action

Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office

Military Families Speak Out

minjok.com

Minjung Solidarity of New York

Missy 100

Mundo Obrero / Workers World Party

Muslim Peace Fellowship

NANUM Corean Cultural Center

National Association of Korean Americans

National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy

National Institute of Hahm Seokhon Philosophy, DC, Indianapolis, NY, Hahm Seokhon Peace Center

Network for Peace and Unification in USA

New Hampshire Peace Action

New Hampshire Veterans for Peace

New Jersey Peace Action

New York Campaign for Peace in Korea

NJ Sewol Truth Seekers

Nodutdol for Korean Community Development

North Carolina Peace Action

Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

Ohana Ho`opakele

One Corea Now One Corea Now

One Heart for Justice

Out of My ultari Now

Oversea Supporters Korean School in Japan

Pan-Korean Alliance for Reunification in USA

Party for Socialism and Liberation – New Hampshire

Peace & Prosperity Forum

Peace Action

Peace Action Maine

Peace Action Michigan

Peace Action New York State

Peace Action Wisconsin

Peace21.org

Peaceworkers

Peoples Budget Campaign

Philadelphia Committee for Peace and Justice in Asia

Popular Resistance

Presbyterian Church (USA)

Presbyterian Peace Network for Korea

PressArirang.org

Progressive Asian Network for Action (PANA)

Rainbow PUSH Coalition

Resources for Organizing and Social Change

S.F. Rohjjang lovers

Samidoun: Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network

San Diego Central Committee of the Peace and Freedom Party of California

SD SASASE

Seattle Evergreen Coalition

SolidarityINFOService

Support Committee for Korean Prisoners of Conscience in U.S.

The Moon keeper in America

The Peace Committee of the Korean Association of the United Methodist Church

The Peace Farm

The United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society

TRACE Collective (Transracial Adoptees Creating Empowerment)

Tri-Valley CAREs

United for Justice with Peace Boston

United for Peace and Justice

United Nations Association of Greater Milwaukee

US Peace Council

Veterans For Peace

Veterans For Peace – NYC Chapter 034

War Prevention Initiative

Washington DC Remembers Sewol

Western States Legal Foundation

Women Against War

Women Cross DMZ

Woori Madang Chicago

World BEYOND War

Young Korean Academy of New York

 

19 Organizations from US, Europe and Asia 

416 Canlelights JKT 416

416 Global Networks 416

416 Global Networks – Ottawa

416 Global Networks – Toronto

416 Network Paris 416

Edmonton Hope Network

Gangjeong UK

Ireland Candlelight Action

June 15 Joint Oceania Committee For One COREA

Korean New Zealanders for a Better Future

National Institute of Hahm Seokhon Philosophy, London, UK headquarters

PEN International San Miguel Center, Mexico

Pika

RemeberingSewol UK

Remenbering Sewol Germany (NRW)

SASASE OTTAWA

Solidarity of Korean People in Europe

STOP the War Coalition Philippines

Vienna Culture Factory

 

59 Individuals

Ann Wright, Retired U.S. Army Colonel, Veterans for Peace

Ayumi Temlock, New Jersey Peace Action

Barbara Nielsen, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, United States Section

Bok-dong Yoon, Korean Adoptees of Hawai’i

Bonnie J Ruggiero, Elder, Presbyterian Church USA

Caleb Carman, Bard College

Carolyn Cicciu, New Hampshire Peace Action

Charles Ryu, Pastor, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, Middletown, New York

Choon Shik Lim, Regional Liaison for East Asia, Presbyterian Church USA

Christine A. DeTroy, Women’s Intenational League for Peace & Freedom, Maine Branch

Clara Lee, PhD student, University of Colorado Boulder

Danielle Saint Louis, Executive Director, Brooklyn Zen Center

Debbie Kim, Gangjeong UK

Debbie Leighton, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom

Diane Nahas, LaGuardia Community College

Donna San Antonio, Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology, Lesley University

Frederick Carriere, Research Professor, Syracuse University

Gar Smith, Co-founder, Environmentalists Against War

Garrett Walker, Party for Socialism and Liberation, New Hampshire

Haeinn Woo, New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine

Hwanhee Kim, George Washington University

Jacquelyn Wells, Entrepreneur/Artist, Oohjacquelina

Jacqui Deveneau, Senior Advisor, Maine Green Independent Party

James Nordlund, Communications Director, National Action Network, Kansas

Joan Roelofs, New Hampshire Peace Action

John Arnold, Alliance for Global Justice

John Bernard, Maine People’s Alliance

John Feffer, Director of Foreign Policy in Focus, Institute for Policy Studies

John MacDougall, Veterans for Peace

John Raby, Nuclear weapons Working Group of New Hampshire

Joyce Bressier, Stony Point Center/Community of Living Traditons

Judith Bello, United National Antiwar Coalition

Katherine Griswold, Presbyterian Church USA

Kilsang Yoon, President, Korean American National Coordinating Council

Lawrence Wittner, Professor of History Emeritus, State University of New York/Albany

Leif Rasmusen, Student, Point Arena High School

Lindis Percy, Co-Founder, Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases

Liza Maza, Chairperson Emerita, GABRIELA, Women’s alliance Phils.

Marcus Christian Hansen, Board member, New Hampshire Peace Action

Martha Bartlett, Presbyterian Church USA

Martha Spiess, Chair, Peace Action Maine

Michael Eisenscher, National Coordinator Emeritus, U.S. Labor Against the War

Mike Hearington, Veterans for Peace

Ngovi KITAU, First Kenyan Ambassador to the Republic of Korea (2009-2014)

Noam Chomsky, Professor, University of Arizona

Pamela Richard, Peace Action Wisconsin

Paul Shannon, Co-coordinator, Peoples Budget Campaign

Pete Shimazaki Doktor, Hawai’i Okinawa Alliance

Rajendra Sahai, Institute for Critical Study of Society

Reverend Jesse L Jackson Sr, Founder and President of Rainbow PUSH Coalition

Roger Leisner, Women in Black

Seri Lee, Chicago Organizer, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum

Sofia Woman, Northeast Regional Executive Committee Member, American Friends Service Committee

Sungju Park-Kang, Adjunct Professor, University of Turku, Finland

Tae Lim, PhD student, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Theodore Wilcox, Peace Action and Education

Unzu Lee, Co-convener, Presbyterian Peace Network for Korea

William H. Slavick, Pax Christi Maine

Young Han, Dr. Of Ministry Candidate, Claremont School of Theology

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“It happened that a fire broke out backstage in a theater.  The clown came out to inform the public.  They thought it was a jest and applauded.  He repeated his warning, they shouted even louder.  So I think the world will come to an end amid general applause from all the wits, who believe that it is a joke.”  – Soren Kierkegaard, Either/Or

“In the green fields a turnin’, a baby is born
His cries crease the wind and mingle with the morn
An assault upon the order, the changing of the guard
Chosen for a challenge that is hopelessly hard
And the only single sound is the sighing of the stars
But to the silence and distance they are sworn”

Phil Ochs, Crucifixion

“Jesus didn’t die on a private cross.” – James Douglass, Lightning East to West, Jesus, Gandhi, and the Nuclear Age

It was snowing hard in the days before Christmas in 1972 as I sat at my writing desk looking out the back window toward the woods that were filling up with snow.  I felt trapped by the heavy snow that made the roads impassable, but even more so by the contemplation of the barbaric “Christmas Bombing” of North Vietnam carried out by Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, and their associated war criminals.  I was filled with despair and imagined the snow turning red with blood.  Earlier that fall, I, together with a thousand others, had been arrested for protesting the dispatching of these B-52 bombers that were indiscriminately massacring Vietnamese.  The corporate media, accomplices to war crimes then and now, refused to report on the demonstration and the large number of arrests, despite repeated requests to do so.  They were just doing their job.

So here we are again as Christmas approaches.  The same corporate media obsess about Trump as if something has changed over the decades. Nothing has, except for a growing gulf between reality and fantasy, not a small thing.  Between Nixon and Trump lies a vacuity of leadership and a history of evil war-making that the media have disappeared, just as they have disappeared the message of peace that connects Christmas to Good Friday, in favor of corporate capitalism’s favorite season of consumption and memory loss. Thus they have accompanied and promoted the growth of the malignant American empire and its violent expansion across the world. But if one knew the history of those years, one could perhaps find one’s way out of the forest of lies into the clearing of truth, a very big thing indeed.  Here’s a bit.

Nixon was first elected in 1968 as a “peace candidate” and proceeded to wage savage attacks on Vietnam and secretly on Laos and Cambodia.  He was elected after having treasonously sabotaged a Vietnam peace deal, but the American people in their naivety believed his lies and elected him.  After four years of savage war-making and the Watergate break-in, they reelected him in a landslide with the aid of the 18 year old vote, when his opponent, Democratic Senator George McGovern, who campaigned on ending the war and granting amnesty for draft evaders, received 17 electoral votes to Nixon’s 520. So much for war crimes. Then came Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, William Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama – liars and war-mongers all (I will spare you the details that are easily available) – and now we have Trump, who is no different, just far weirder and therefore a cause of some embarrassment to those who deal the cards.

Nine presidents who claim to be Christians, whose founder was executed by the Roman state for advocating love, not war; presidents who, when they die, we are told by the media, go straight to heaven as their presidential brothers in crime and their acolytes gather round to pray, hold hands, and beam them up in language that would make an idiot laugh. Don’t bother to send in the clowns; they’re here. They gather periodically in the National Cathedral and other Washington, D.C. venues to give us a laugh. But who is laughing at these jokesters who are an embarrassment to the human race?

When JFK was executed by the U.S. national security state for planning to end the Vietnam War, the Cold War, and the nuclear arms race, he was succeeded by another “peace” candidate, Lyndon Johnson, number ten on the list of good Christian Presidents, who claimed his opponent in the 1964 election was prepared to nuke the world; so Johnson only proceeded to escalate the war against Vietnam in the most barbarous ways imaginable, killing millions and using young American war-slaves (draftees) to do so.

But enough history.  A little bit can make one laugh; delving deep can shock one into an awareness that we have been snowed for a long time and that that sense of despair and entrapment I felt at Christmas 1972 may run deep into the American soul.  Perhaps.

But of happiness and despair we have no measure.  What we can measure is the increase in the possibility that nuclear war may happen, making all possibility impossible. Do we need a comedian to tell us that the fire next time will be the last time; that the tinder is set and the match ready to strike?  How long will the American people go on believing the absurd lies of the politicians and their sycophantic media mouthpieces that it is the Russians who wish to bury us and are preparing to do so, when the United States continues to offensively provoke Russia in Ukraine and eastern Europe and has pulled out of all treaties that might help prevent nuclear war?  The writing is on the wall.

When we think of nuclear war, we enter the realm of the religious.  Once upon a time the power to destroy the world was reserved for God.  With the invention of nuclear weapons that power, and its accompanying symbolism that runs deep into our psyches, passed to the possessors of nuclear weapons.  In the U.S., our psychopathic nuclearists like to play the religious clowns by jocularly naming weapons of mass extinction and their delivery systems in such a way as to reduce them to sick  jokes (“Fat Man” and “Little Boy”), an ancient god’s spear (Trident), and even the body of Christ ( the nuclear submarine the “Corpus Christ”).  Although they have set the world on a course toward extinction, it’s all a joke to them.

Last month in a courthouse in Georgia, a hearing was held for seven Catholic peacemakers who take the possibility of nuclear war very seriously and believe Kierkegaard’s clown.  They have acted on their Christian faith that there is a direct link from a child born in a manger to a man executed by the state on a cross and the hope of an Easter rising.  They know the theater is on fire.  On April 4, 2018, the fiftieth anniversary of the national security state’s execution of Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968, they entered into the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, the east coast home of the Trident submarines that carry half the American strategic nuclear warheads, where they poured their own blood and indicted the military for crimes against peace.  Their actions follow a long string of such action that have followed from the actions of the Catonsville Nine when they burned draft records in Catonsville, Maryland on May 17, 1968, six weeks after King’s murder and a few before Bobby Kennedy suffered the same fate at the hands of the same killers. At Catonsville, the words that Fr, Daniel Berrigan, S.J. read over the flaming basket of draft files ring true today as they always will:

Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children, the angering of the orderlies in the front parlor of the charnel house. We could not, so help us God, do otherwise.

For we are sick at heart, our hearts give us no rest for thinking of the Land of Burning Children. And for thinking of that other Child, of whom the poet Luke speaks. The infant was taken up in the arms of an old man, whose tongue grew resonant and vatic at the touch of that beauty.

And the old man spoke; this child is set for the fall and rise of many in Israel, a sign that is spoken against. Small consolation; a child born to make trouble, and to die for it, the First Jew (not the last) to be subject of a “definitive solution.” He sets up the cross and dies on it; in the Rose Garden of the executive mansion, on the D.C. Mall, in the courtyard of the Pentagon.

We see the sign, we read the direction: you must bear with us, for his sake. Or if you will not, the consequences are our own. For it will be easy, after all, to discredit us. Our record is bad; trouble makers in church and state, a priest married despite his vows, two convicted felons.

We have jail records, we have been turbulent, uncharitable, we have failed in love for the brethren, have yielded to fear and despair and pride, often in our lives. Forgive us. We are no more, when the truth is told, than ignorant beset men, jockeying against all chance, at the hour of death, for a place at the right hand of the dying one.

These current witnesses for peace in Georgia include long-term peace activists Elizabeth McAlister, 78, of Baltimore; Jesuit Fr. Steve Kelly, 69, of the Bay Area in California; Carmen Trotta, 55, of New York City; Clare Grady, 50, of Ithaca, New York; Martha Hennessy, 62, of New York, granddaughter of Catholic Worker co-founder Dorothy Day; Mark Colville, 55, of New Haven, Connecticut; and Patrick O’Neill, 61, of Garner, North Carolina.

At this hearing, Bishop Joseph Kopacz of Jackson, Mississippi testified on their behalf that they were doing what Christians are called to do: resist war and the weapons of war, especially nuclear weapons that are sinful and that will destroy all of creation if used.  He said they were “a spiritual special ops team.”

They are being charged by the government with conspiracy, trespass, and destruction and depredation of government property, charges they are seeking to have dismissed.  The judge in the case has said the hearing will be continued at an unspecified future date.

And perhaps at another unspecified date – today? Christmas? – the gift that such courageous people offer to us will be accepted and we will come to the realization that time is short, as it always is in genuine living, and the evil that glides silently under the seas with those Trident submarines will be recognized for what it is: the evil that resides in us when we refuse to unwrap the gift that this spiritual special op team offers us and we continue to dwell in the illusionary unreality of the American dream that is sustained by lies, myths, and what Rev. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, executed by Hitler for his ant-Nazi dissidence, called “cheap grace” that we bestow on ourselves – the belief that our “leaders” mean well.

They don’t.

 

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Distinguished author and sociologist Edward Curtin is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

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There is a story that is commonly told in Britain that the colonisation of India – as horrible as it may have been – was not of any major economic benefit to Britain itself. If anything, the administration of India was a cost to Britain. So the fact that the empire was sustained for so long – the story goes – was a gesture of Britain’s benevolence.

New research by the renowned economist Utsa Patnaik – just published by Columbia University Press – deals a crushing blow to this narrative. Drawing on nearly two centuries of detailed data on tax and trade, Patnaik calculated that Britain drained a total of nearly $45 trillion from India during the period 1765 to 1938.

It’s a staggering sum. For perspective, $45 trillion is 17 times more than the total annual gross domestic product of the United Kingdom today.

How did this come about?

It happened through the trade system. Prior to the colonial period, Britain bought goods like textiles and rice from Indian producers and paid for them in the normal way – mostly with silver – as they did with any other country. But something changed in 1765, shortly after the East India Company took control of the subcontinent and established a monopoly over Indian trade.

Here’s how it worked. The East India Company began collecting taxes in India, and then cleverly used a portion of those revenues (about a third) to fund the purchase of Indian goods for British use. In other words, instead of paying for Indian goods out of their own pocket, British traders acquired them for free, “buying” from peasants and weavers using money that had just been taken from them.

It was a scam – theft on a grand scale. Yet most Indians were unaware of what was going on because the agent who collected the taxes was not the same as the one who showed up to buy their goods. Had it been the same person, they surely would have smelled a rat.

Some of the stolen goods were consumed in Britain, and the rest were re-exported elsewhere. The re-export system allowed Britain to finance a flow of imports from Europe, including strategic materials like iron, tar and timber, which were essential to Britain’s industrialisation. Indeed, the Industrial Revolution depended in large part on this systematic theft from India.

On top of this, the British were able to sell the stolen goods to other countries for much more than they “bought” them for in the first place, pocketing not only 100 percent of the original value of the goods but also the markup.

After the British Raj took over in 1847, colonisers added a special new twist to the tax-and-buy system. As the East India Company’s monopoly broke down, Indian producers were allowed to export their goods directly to other countries. But Britain made sure that the payments for those goods nonetheless ended up in London.

How did this work? Basically, anyone who wanted to buy goods from India would do so using special Council Bills – a unique paper currency issued only by the British Crown. And the only way to get those bills was to buy them from London with gold or silver. So traders would pay London in gold to get the bills, and then use the bills to pay Indian producers. When Indians cashed the bills in at the local colonial office, they were “paid” in rupees out of tax revenues – money that had just been collected from them. So, once again, they were not in fact paid at all; they were defrauded.

Meanwhile, London ended up with all of the gold and silver that should have gone directly to the Indians in exchange for their exports.

This corrupt system meant that even while India was running an impressive trade surplus with the rest of the world – a surplus that lasted for three decades in the early 20th century – it showed up as a deficit in the national accounts because the real income from India’s exports was appropriated in its entirety by Britain.

Some point to this fictional “deficit” as evidence that India was a liability to Britain. But exactly the opposite is true. Britain intercepted enormous quantities of income that rightly belonged to Indian producers. India was the goose that laid the golden egg. Meanwhile, the “deficit” meant that India had no option but to borrow from Britain to finance its imports. So the entire Indian population was forced into completely unnecessary debt to their colonial overlords, further cementing British control.

Britain used the windfall from this fraudulent system to fuel the engines of imperial violence – funding the invasion of China in the 1840s and the suppression of the Indian Rebellion in 1857. And this was on top of what the Crown took directly from Indian taxpayers to pay for its wars. As Patnaik points out, “the cost of all Britain’s wars of conquest outside Indian borders were charged always wholly or mainly to Indian revenues.”

And that’s not all. Britain used this flow of tribute from India to finance the expansion of capitalism in Europe and regions of European settlement, like Canada and Australia. So not only the industrialisation of Britain but also the industrialisation of much of the Western world was facilitated by extraction from the colonies.

Patnaik identifies four distinct economic periods in colonial India from 1765 to 1938, calculates the extraction for each, and then compounds at a modest rate of interest (about 5 percent, which is lower than the market rate) from the middle of each period to the present. Adding it all up, she finds that the total drain amounts to $44.6 trillion. This figure is conservative, she says, and does not include the debts that Britain imposed on India during the Raj.

These are eye-watering sums. But the true costs of this drain cannot be calculated. If India had been able to invest its own tax revenues and foreign exchange earnings in development – as Japan did – there’s no telling how history might have turned out differently. India could very well have become an economic powerhouse. Centuries of poverty and suffering could have been prevented.

All of this is a sobering antidote to the rosy narrative promoted by certain powerful voices in Britain. The conservative historian Niall Ferguson has claimed that British rule helped “develop” India. While he was prime minister, David Cameron asserted that British rule was a net help to India.

This narrative has found considerable traction in the popular imagination: according to a 2014 YouGov poll, 50 percent of people in Britain believe that colonialism was beneficial to the colonies.

Yet during the entire 200-year history of British rule in India, there was almost no increase in per capita income. In fact, during the last half of the 19th century – the heyday of British intervention – income in India collapsed by half. The average life expectancy of Indians dropped by a fifth from 1870 to 1920. Tens of millions died needlessly of policy-induced famine.

Britain didn’t develop India. Quite the contrary – as Patnaik’s work makes clear – India developed Britain.

What does this require of Britain today? An apology? Absolutely. Reparations? Perhaps – although there is not enough money in all of Britain to cover the sums that Patnaik identifies. In the meantime, we can start by setting the story straight. We need to recognise that Britain retained control of India not out of benevolence but for the sake of plunder and that Britain’s industrial rise didn’t emerge sui generis from the steam engine and strong institutions, as our schoolbooks would have it, but depended on violent theft from other lands and other peoples.

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Dr Jason Hickel is an academic at the University of London and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

BJP Loses the Semi Final

December 16th, 2018 by Countercurrents.org

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“I’m a member of a movement which has the very ambitious goal of slowing down, if not stopping, the American Empire, to keep it from continuing to go round the world doing things like bombings, invasions, overthrowing governments, and torture. To have any success, we need to reach the American people with our message.”

-William Blum, February 2006 [1]

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In the 1999 blockbuster, The Matrix, all of humanity is portrayed as part of a fabricated virtual reality computer program. Participants live out their lives from cradle to grave living a simulated existence while artificially intelligent and malevolent machines take care of their actual living physical bodies as fuel to power their ignoble activities.

The key to escaping this virtual reality, referred to as The Matrix, is to choose between a ‘blue pill’, which allows the character to continue living in ignorance of their status, and the ‘red pill’, which wakes the character up to their true condition. That condition is invariably an impoverished one far less compelling than the lives of comforting illusions they left behind.

The late William Blum (1933-2018) had his ‘red pill’ moment in the mid-1960s and has been dispensing the scarlet medicine in literary form ever since.

A former anti-communist, with ambitions to join the U.S. Foreign Service, Mr. Blum became exposed to the violent and inhumane reality of U.S. foreign policy at the time of the Vietnam War and had since devoted the rest of his life to busting the myth of America as a force for good on the world stage. [2]

Blum had authored a number of books on U.S. foreign policy, including America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy – The Truth About U.S. Foreign Policy and Everything Else (2013), Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower (updated in 2005), Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II (updated in 2004), West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir (2002), and Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire (2004).

He was a distinguished member of Covert Action Magazine, whose early focus was to expose and document U.S. clandestine operations. He contributed to several issues as well as to its previous incarnations as Covert Action Quarterly and Covert Action Information Bulletin.

Blum remained active online through his blog, the Anti-Empire Report, as well as other online publications including Global Research. An archive of his work for GR can be found here.

His death on December 9th got scant mention in the major American media, certainly compared to the fawning praise of former President George H. W. Bush the previous week. Where there was coverage, it placed an accent on a 2006 citation of Blum’s work by Al Qaeda bogey man Osama Bin Laden. Even Democracy Now!, the popular progressive daily radio program nominally committed to challenging the U.S. Empire, only mentioned Blum’s passing in a short five sentence headline.

This week’s special edition of the Global Research News Hour devotes the entire 60 minutes to a thorough examination of William Henry Blum’s life work and the legacy he leaves behind for those of us with the courage and dedication to challenge our assumptions and create a better world.

Early in the show we hear from his colleagues at Covert Action Magazine, Chris Agee and Lou Wolf, about his collaboration with ex-CIA officer Phil Agee (Chris’s father), about their understanding of William’s work and motivation, and about his last public appearance, namely his attendance on a panel for Left Forum in July of 2018. (See video below.)

Later we hear from Barrie Zwicker, a veteran Canadian journalist, media critic and staunch anti-imperialist, about the significance of Blum’s body of work.

In the latter part of the show, we get perspectives from son Alexander and wife Adelheid Zöfel with comments on Blum’s personal side, and thoughts about his impact on the public.

Also included in the program are excerpts from a past appearance by William Blum on the Global Research News Hour, and from his last public talk (see video above.)

Chris Agee is a political sociologist and historian  and teaches political science and sociology at the City University of New York, the Bolivarian University of Venezuela, the State University of New York and Hofstra University. He is also publisher / co-editor of CovertAction Magazine.

Lou Wolf is a long time freelance writer and researcher. He is the only still living co-founder of Covert Action Information Bulletin. He was a staff member of the 9/11 Truth newspaper Rock Creek Free Press, and co-edited two books:  “Dirty Work: The CIA in Western Europe” (1978) and “Dirty Work II: The CIA in Africa” (1980)

Barrie Zwicker is a Toronto-based veteran journalist and media critic whose work spans seven decades. In 2006, he published the book, Towers of Deception: The Media Cover-up of 9/11. He is a frequent contributor to Truth and Shadows, and a frequent Global Research New Hour interview guest.

Alexander Blum leads the Research Group Historical Epistemology of the Final Theory Program at Max Planck Institute for the History of Science. Alexander does research in History of Science, in particular modern fundamental physics. He is the son of William Blum.

Adelheid Zöfel is a literary translator based in Freiburg Germany and the former wife of William Blum.

(Global Research News Hour Episode 240)

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The Global Research News Hour now airs Fridays at 6pm PST, 8pm CST and 9pm EST on Alternative Current Radio (alternativecurrentradio.com)

Community Radio Stations carrying the Global Research News Hour:

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

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Notes:

  1. https://williamblum.org/aer/read/30
  2. https://www.globalresearch.ca/the-legacy-of-william-blum-renowned-u-s-foreign-policy-critic/5662413

Updated, December 16, 2018

The Western media in chorus upholds France’s President Macron against the Yellow Vests Movement, which it describes as “Climate Deniers”.

The New York Times casually describes the fuel tax hike as a carefully formulated economic policy to fight global climate change.

It’s a lie. 

Hikes in the fuel tax applied Worldwide in more than 120 countries are part of a package of deadly macro-economic reforms which serve to impoverish large sectors of the World population

The hike in gasoline prices translates into increases in the price of food, transportation and essential goods and services. It undermines the productive structure. It leads to the collapse of the standard of living.  

The Yellow Vest protests in France against the fuel tax increase are described by the media as “the biggest obstacle yet to attempts to encourage conservation in alternative energy use.” Strong statement!

Taxing fuel is presented as a means to “alleviate climate change to the benefit of humanity.” (NYT, December 6, 2018).

What nonsense!

Washington Post headline, December 4, 2018

The public is misled. The climate change issue (an objective in its own right) is being used as a smokescreen, a pretext to repress the protest movement.

What is the Unspoken Objective of the Fuel Tax:  Debt Servicing and the War Economy

President Emmanuel Macron is an instrument of the financial establishment, a former staff of the Rothschilds, acting on their behalf, enforcing a profit driven macro-economic agenda as well boosting the revenues of the military contractors.

The tax on fuel serves the interests of powerful creditor  institutions. The tax proceeds will be channelled into servicing France’s spiralling public debt which is  estimated at 2.2 trillion euros, equivalent to 96.8 percent of GDP. Annual debt servicing obligations of the French Republic are staggering. The entire fiscal structure is in crisis.

“War is Good for Business”

The tax on fuel will also serve to finance mounting military expenditures (in excess of 30 billion euros per annum in 2017) in support of France’s participation in NATO’s various  “peace-making” initiatives  in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

Clamping down on the Yellow Vest protest movement is intimately related to the War Economy, which is sustained by neoliberal austerity measures. On July 13, ironically one day before Bastille Day, President Emmanuel Macron signed into law the 2019-2025 military budget law “clearing the way for a funding boost for procurement for the Air Force, Army and Navy”(Defense News, July 15, 2018). This thrust in military expenditure was in large part in response to pressures from Washington:

This was a “military budget law of growth,” he said in a speech to the officers and personnel who would take part in the parade the next day. The spending would be at a level unseen for decades, …  and the move comes at a time when the domestic budget was under strain. (Defense News July 15, 2018, emphasis added)

Under the provisions of the military budget law, the Macron government confirmed that defence spending would increase by more than 40 percent. The amounts of money that need to be collected from tax revenues (including the fuel tax) to finance France’s war economy are colossal. In turn the hike in military expenditure is to be supported by drastic austerity measures directed against all other categories of (civilian) expenditure:

 “The defence ministry plans to raise its spending by 1.7 billion euros a year (2019-2022), increasing to 3 billion a year (2023-2025” (France 24, August 2, 2018).

US-NATO Diktats

Profit over people. What is at stake is a process of lucrative military procurement through France’s Direction Générale pour l’Armement under the auspices of the Ministry of Defense.

In turn, this multibillion war economy under NATO auspices, controlled by the Pentagon and directed against Russia, is destroying France’s social fabric, its Welfare State, leading to poverty and social despair.

Guns versus Butter: This mechanism of NATO sponsored social destruction (coupled with neoliberal austerity measures) is operating relentlessly throughout the European Union.

Fuel Taxes: A Worldwide Process

Fuel taxes are being implemented in over 100 countries.  In developing countries the hikes in fuel taxes are imposed by the World Bank on behalf of creditor institutions. They are part of the so-called structural adjustment program (SAP) under the helm of the IMF and the World Bank.

The hike in fuel prices leads almost immediately to an increase in the prices of food and transportation, hikes in the price of social services.  Bitter “economic medicine”: The result is widespread poverty as well as the bankruptcy of local producers.

Gasoline Prices: Let’s Look at the Numbers

While the price of gasoline at the pump is spiraling (as a result of retail profit markups and hikes in fuel taxes), the actual cost of a litre or gallon of gasoline is abysmally low.

Look at the distance between the cost of a liter (or gallon) of gasoline and the retail price paid at the pump. 

The cost of crude oil varies. As low as $10 a barrel in Saudi Arabia.

The quoted price of crude oil is currently between US$52.6 (WTI) and US$61.67 (Brent)

.

A barrel of oil is equivalent to 158.98 litres, or 42 gallons, which suggests that the cost of  WTI crude oil is less than 35 cents US a litre, or $1.25 a gallon.

In France the cost of crude oil is Euro 0.27 a litre. At the pump, petrol is selling at Euro 1.47

Consumers in France are being charged Euro 1.47 a litre, more than five times the litre cost of crude oil.

The refinery costs associated with the transformation of crude oil into gasoline are minimal.

SUPPORT THE YELLOW VESTS

Oil is a multibillion dollar operation. The oil giants have overlapping interests in banking and the military industrial complex.

They have a vested interest in collecting the public debt as well as enabling the state to finance the war economy.

Taxes on fuel constitute a safety net for both the creditors and the military industrial complex. 

The climate change pretext is a lie.

Support the Yellow Vests.

A major thrust is required to counter the tide of media disinformation.

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War and Natural Gas: The Israeli Invasion and Gaza’s Offshore Gas Fields

December 15th, 2018 by Prof Michel Chossudovsky

Almost ten years ago, Israel invaded Gaza under “Operation Cast Lead”.

The following article was first published by Global Research in January 2009 at the height of the Israeli bombing and invasion under Operation Cast Lead.

In the wake of the invasion, Palestinian gas fields were de facto confiscated by Israel in derogation of international law.

A year following “Operation Cast Lead”,  Tel Aviv announced the discovery of  the Leviathan natural gas field in the Eastern Mediterranean “off the coast of Israel.”

At the time the gas field was: “ … the most prominent field ever found in the sub-explored area of the Levantine Basin, which covers about 83,000 square kilometres of the eastern Mediterranean region.” (i)

Coupled with Tamar field, in the same location, discovered in 2009, the prospects are for an energy bonanza for Israel, for Houston, Texas based Noble Energy and partners Delek Drilling, Avner Oil Exploration and Ratio Oil Exploration. (See Felicity Arbuthnot, Israel: Gas, Oil and Trouble in the Levant, Global Research, December 30, 2013

The Gazan gas fields are part of the broader Levant assessment area.

What is now unfolding is the integration of these adjoining gas fields including those belonging to Palestine into the orbit of Israel. (see map below).

It should be noted that the entire Eastern Mediterranean coastline extending from Egypt’s Sinai to Syria constitutes an area encompassing large gas as well as oil reserves.

It is important to relate issue of Gaza’s offshore gas reserves to the recent massacres undertaken by IDF forces directed against the People of Palestine who own the offshore gas fields.

Michel Chossudovsky, June 12, 2018


War and Natural Gas: The Israeli Invasion and Gaza’s Offshore Gas Fields

by Michel Chossudovsky

January 8, 2009

The December 2008 military invasion of the Gaza Strip by Israeli Forces bears a direct relation to the control and ownership of strategic offshore gas reserves. 

This is a war of conquest. Discovered in 2000, there are extensive gas reserves off the Gaza coastline. 

British Gas (BG Group) and its partner, the Athens based Consolidated Contractors International Company (CCC) owned by Lebanon’s Sabbagh and Koury families, were granted oil and gas exploration rights in a 25 year agreement signed in November 1999 with the Palestinian Authority.

The rights to the offshore gas field are respectively British Gas (60 percent); Consolidated Contractors (CCC) (30 percent); and the Investment Fund of the Palestinian Authority (10 percent). (Haaretz, October 21,  2007).

The PA-BG-CCC agreement includes field development and the construction of a gas pipeline.(Middle East Economic Digest, Jan 5, 2001).

The BG licence covers the entire Gazan offshore marine area, which is contiguous to several Israeli offshore gas facilities. (See Map below). It should be noted that 60 percent of the gas reserves along the Gaza-Israel coastline belong to Palestine.

The BG Group drilled two wells in 2000: Gaza Marine-1 and Gaza Marine-2. Reserves are estimated by British Gas to be of the order of 1.4 trillion cubic feet, valued at approximately 4 billion dollars. These are the figures made public by British Gas. The size of Palestine’s gas reserves could be much larger.


Map 1

Map 2

Who Owns the Gas Fields

The issue of sovereignty over Gaza’s gas fields is crucial. From a legal standpoint, the gas reserves belong to Palestine.

The death of Yasser Arafat, the election of the Hamas government and the ruin of the Palestinian Authority have enabled Israel to establish de facto control over Gaza’s offshore gas reserves.

British Gas (BG Group) has been dealing with the Tel Aviv government. In turn, the Hamas government has been bypassed in regards to exploration and development rights over the gas fields.

The election of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2001 was a major turning point. Palestine’s sovereignty over the offshore gas fields was challenged in the Israeli Supreme Court. Sharon stated unequivocally that “Israel would never buy gas from Palestine” intimating that Gaza’s offshore gas reserves belong to Israel.

In 2003, Ariel Sharon, vetoed an initial deal, which would allow British Gas to supply Israel with natural gas from Gaza’s offshore wells. (The Independent, August 19, 2003)

The election victory of Hamas in 2006 was conducive to the demise of the Palestinian Authority, which became confined to the West Bank, under the proxy regime of Mahmoud Abbas.

In 2006, British Gas “was close to signing a deal to pump the gas to Egypt.” (Times, May, 23, 2007). According to reports, British Prime Minister Tony Blair intervened on behalf of Israel with a view to shunting the agreement with Egypt.

The following year, in May 2007, the Israeli Cabinet approved a proposal by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert  “to buy gas from the Palestinian Authority.” The proposed contract was for $4 billion, with profits of the order of $2 billion of which one billion was to go the Palestinians.

Tel Aviv, however, had no intention on sharing the revenues with Palestine. An Israeli team of negotiators was set up by the Israeli Cabinet to thrash out a deal with the BG Group, bypassing both the Hamas government and the Palestinian Authority:

Israeli defence authorities want the Palestinians to be paid in goods and services and insist that no money go to the Hamas-controlled Government.” (Ibid, emphasis added)

The objective was essentially to nullify the contract signed in 1999 between the BG Group and the Palestinian Authority under Yasser Arafat.

Under the proposed 2007 agreement with BG, Palestinian gas from Gaza’s offshore wells was to be channeled by an undersea pipeline to the Israeli seaport of Ashkelon, thereby transferring control over the sale of the natural gas to Israel.

The deal fell through. The negotiations were suspended:

 “Mossad Chief Meir Dagan opposed the transaction on security grounds, that the proceeds would fund terror”. (Member of Knesset Gilad Erdan, Address to the Knesset on “The Intention of Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Purchase Gas from the Palestinians When Payment Will Serve Hamas,” March 1, 2006, quoted in Lt. Gen. (ret.) Moshe Yaalon, Does the Prospective Purchase of British Gas from Gaza’s Coastal Waters Threaten Israel’s National Security?  Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, October 2007)

Israel’s intent was to foreclose the possibility that royalties be paid to the Palestinians. In December 2007, The BG Group withdrew from the negotiations with Israel and in January 2008 they closed their office in Israel.(BG website).

Invasion Plan on The Drawing Board

The invasion plan of the Gaza Strip under “Operation Cast Lead” was set in motion in June 2008, according to Israeli military sources:

“Sources in the defense establishment said Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for the operation over six months ago [June or before June] , even as Israel was beginning to negotiate a ceasefire agreement with Hamas.”(Barak Ravid, Operation “Cast Lead”: Israeli Air Force strike followed months of planning, Haaretz, December 27, 2008)

That very same month, the Israeli authorities contacted British Gas, with a view to resuming crucial negotiations pertaining to the purchase of Gaza’s natural gas:

“Both Ministry of Finance director general Yarom Ariav and Ministry of National Infrastructures director general Hezi Kugler agreed to inform BG of Israel’s wish to renew the talks.

The sources added that BG has not yet officially responded to Israel’s request, but that company executives would probably come to Israel in a few weeks to hold talks with government officials.” (Globes online- Israel’s Business Arena, June 23, 2008)

The decision to speed up negotiations with British Gas (BG Group) coincided, chronologically, with the planning of the invasion of Gaza initiated in June. It would appear that Israel was anxious to reach an agreement with the BG Group prior to the invasion, which was already in an advanced planning stage.

Moreover, these negotiations with British Gas were conducted by the Ehud Olmert government with the knowledge that a military invasion was on the drawing board. In all likelihood, a new “post war” political-territorial arrangement for the Gaza strip was also being contemplated by the Israeli government.

In fact, negotiations between British Gas and Israeli officials were ongoing in October 2008, 2-3 months prior to the commencement of the bombings on December 27th.

In November 2008, the Israeli Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of National Infrastructures instructed Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) to enter into negotiations with British Gas, on the purchase of natural gas from the BG’s offshore concession in Gaza. (Globes, November 13, 2008)

“Ministry of Finance director general Yarom Ariav and Ministry of National Infrastructures director general Hezi Kugler wrote to IEC CEO Amos Lasker recently, informing him of the government’s decision to allow negotiations to go forward, in line with the framework proposal it approved earlier this year.

The IEC board, headed by chairman Moti Friedman, approved the principles of the framework proposal a few weeks ago. The talks with BG Group will begin once the board approves the exemption from a tender.” (Globes Nov. 13, 2008)

Gaza and Energy Geopolitics 

The military occupation of Gaza is intent upon transferring the sovereignty of the gas fields to Israel in violation of international law.

What can we expect in the wake of the invasion?

What is the intent of Israel with regard to Palestine’s Natural Gas reserves?

A new territorial arrangement, with the stationing of Israeli and/or “peacekeeping” troops?

The militarization of the entire Gaza coastline, which is strategic for Israel?

The outright confiscation of Palestinian gas fields and the unilateral declaration of Israeli sovereignty over Gaza’s maritime areas?

If this were to occur, the Gaza gas fields would be integrated into Israel’s offshore installations, which are contiguous to those of the Gaza Strip. (See Map 1 above).

These various offshore installations are also linked up to Israel’s energy transport corridor, extending from the port of Eilat, which is an oil pipeline terminal, on the Red Sea to the seaport – pipeline terminal at Ashkelon, and northwards to Haifa, and eventually linking up through a proposed Israeli-Turkish pipeline with the Turkish port of Ceyhan.

Ceyhan is the terminal of the Baku, Tblisi Ceyhan Trans Caspian pipeline. “What is envisaged is to link the BTC pipeline to the Trans-Israel Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline, also known as Israel’s Tipline.” (See Michel Chossudovsky, The War on Lebanon and the Battle for Oil, Global Research, July 23, 2006)


Map 3


Breakthrough in Yemen Peace Talks? Hold the Cheers

December 15th, 2018 by Stephen Lendman

Peace talks between Houthis and US-installed Yemeni regime representatives began on December 6 in Sweden.

Reports of a major breakthrough after a week of talks are way overblown. Rhetorical agreements aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.

Things entirely depend on the intentions of warring parties. The Saudis, UAE, Britain, France, and Israel are junior US partners in endless war begun by the Bush/Cheney regime in October 2001. Believing it can be resolved in days or weeks, even months, is pure fantasy.

Despite ongoing talks in Sweden, endless conflict in Yemen rages. Warring parties rhetorically agreed to cease fighting in and around the port city of Hodeidah.

What happens on the ground is another matter entirely. Fighting won’t stop most everywhere in Yemen until guns fall silent and cessation of hostilities is sustained – an objective nowhere near achieving.

Warring sides are working on a similar ceasefire for Saana, Yemen’s capital. According to AMN News, warring parties agreed to reopen its international airport – for how long remains to be seen.

Because of international furor over Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, majority bipartisan Senate members at odds with Trump regime hardliners over Yemen in response to what happened, and the body poised to adopt a nonbinding resolution to end US military support for the Saudis in the country, Rihadh perhaps wants to create the impression of willingness to compromise with Houthi fighters.

Maybe the Trump regime has the same or a similar aim until the furor over Khashoggi’s murder fades – all the while intending no change in US/Saudi relations.

The Senate vote to end US support for Saudi Arabia in Yemen is largely a diversionary tactic, a meaningless head fake.

Throughout the post-WW II era and earlier, Congress and the White House supported dirty business as usual with the kingdom. What’s going on now won’t change things.

If Republicans and Dems were serious about ending US military support for the Saudis, they’d approve veto-proof House and Senate legislation straightaway – any not just for what’s going on in Yemen. It would be for all regional wars where the kingdom is involved, notably in Syria.

Washington’s 17-year war in Yemen isn’t about to end over the killing of a journalist or anyone else. Yemen is US war.

NATO, Britain, France, the Saudis, UAE and Israel partner in Washington’s wars – responsible for millions of casualties post-9/11 alone. US regimes call the shots on all major ongoing wars and their chaotic aftermaths.

While talks continue in Sweden, AMN News reported that

“(f)or  the second time this week, the Saudi coalition has launched a big assault along the Yemeni-Saudi border,” adding:

“Backed by heavy airstrikes, the Saudi coalition troops launched a powerful attack on the Houthi defenses at the strategic Qais Mountain, which overlooks much of the Yemeni border.”

Saudi warplanes continued terror-bombing Houthi positions while talks were ongoing in Sweden – belying the seriousness of conflict resolution efforts.

On Tuesday, AMN News said Saudi-led warplanes “launched over 50 airstrikes in the last two days…a significant increase” this month – including terror-bombing of Hodeidah, along with a “heavy ground assault” on the city and surrounding areas.

AMN News believes Riyadh aims to capture the port city before agreeing to a ceasefire – what it failed to do after months of fighting.

War in Yemen rages while talks went on in Sweden, concluding after seven days – at least for now.

Conflict resolution is nowhere in sight. Things agreed to verbally and in writing are meaningless as long as Washington wants endless war continued.

A Final Comment

Spokesman for Yemeni armed forces allied with Houthi fighters, General Yahya Sari, said the Saudis and UAE escalated terror-bombing and ground operations on the last day of peace talks in Sweden, adding:

“The aggressor’s mercenaries continued to send reinforcements to Nihm, Razah, Baqam and the west coast, which confirms that they are planning to escalate, and that they are not serious about achieving peace for the Yemeni people.”

No conflict resolution breakthrough was achieved in Sweden. Reports suggesting otherwise ignore reality on the ground, along with longstanding US aims for Yemen, why endless war rages with no end of it in prospect.

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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.

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Scientists have decided to publically attempt a geoengineering experiment. The researchers from Harvard University are going to attempt to us particles to block out the sun in an attempt to save humanity from global warming, and cool the planet.

According to Popular Mechanics, this incredibly bad-sounding idea seems like it stemmed from an actual event.  In 1991, the volcano Mount Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines, sending millions of tons of ash and sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere. This layer of particulates actually lowered global temperatures by almost a full degree Fahrenheit for the following two years.

Researchers speculated that by filling the atmosphere with a similar level of particulates that were shot into the sky during the 1991 eruption, while skipping the lava and explosions, they might be able to reduce global temperatures enough to halt or delay some of the more severe consequences of “climate change.” But even the most left-leaning of human beings are not on board with attempting to alter the global climate artificially. After all, isn’t that what the tyrants and political elitists the peons continue to vote for keep telling us was the problem in the first place?  Any small mistake could radically and permanently destroy the delicate ecosystems and global climates for centuries.

In particular, one study published last year found that spraying particulates into the atmosphere around the Gulf of Mexico could trigger droughts in sub-Saharan Africa. But scientists are attempting to assure everyone that their test won’t have any major effect on the climate.

The test allegedly consists of a high-altitude balloon that will fly several miles into the atmosphere and release less than a pound of calcium carbonate (a less harmful alternative to the sulfur dioxide produced by volcanoes) and then spend about a day flying through the resulting cloud to measure its effects. The purpose of this test is to figure out exactly how the substance behaves in our air so scientists can build more accurate simulations.

Of course, others have gathered a wealth of evidence suggesting that climate manipulation is already occurring right under our noses. Dane Wigington has an entire website titled GeoengineeringWatch.org in which he publishes all of the evidence he’s collected proving that governments have been manipulated the weather for a long time.  In fact, they might be responsible for the very “climate change” they blame on the general public and make us all pay for.

The assault on the Earth has already been taking place, according to Wigington.  But just how much evidence do people need that this could be the most pressing issue of our time? Climate change alarmists fear mongers could be on the verge of destroying the Earth as we know it.

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Featured image is from SHTFplan.com

The Clinton Foundation operated as a foreign agent ‘early in its life’ and ‘throughout it’s existence’ and did not operate as a 501c3 charitable foundation as required by its and is not entitled to its status as a nonprofit, alleged two highly qualified forensic investigators, accompanied by three other investigators, said in explosive testimony Thursday to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

John Moynihan and Lawerence W. Doyle, both graduates of the Catholic Jesuit College of the Holy Cross and former expert forensic government investigators, gave their shocking testimony before congress based on a nearly two-year investigation into the foundation’s work both nationally and internationally. They were assisted by three other highly trained experts in taxation law and financial forensic investigations. The forensic investigators stressed that they obtained all the documentation on the foundation legally and through Freedom of Information Request Acts from the IRS and other agencies.

The investigation clearly demonstrates that the foundation was not a charitable organization per se, but in point of fact was a closely held family partnership

Former Utah U.S. Attorney General John Huber, who resigned when he was appointed by former Department of Justice Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate the Clinton Foundation and the issues surrounding the approval to sell 20 percent of U.S. Uranium assets to Russia, declined to attend the hearing. Chairman Mark Meadows, R-NC, who oversaw the hearing stated that it was disappointing that Huber declined, leaving Congress in the dark regarding the DOJ’s investigation.

Investigations into the Clinton Foundation have always been plagued by politics but Moynihan wanted to make clear in his opening statement that this investigation was one of many his firm has conducted on nonprofits and had nothing to do with politics. 

Doyle and Moynihan have amassed 6,000 documents in their nearly two-year investigation through their private firm MDA Analytics LLC. The documents were turned over more than a year and a half ago to the IRS, according to John Solomon, who first published the report last week in The Hill.  

“The investigation clearly demonstrates that the foundation was not a charitable organization per se, but in point of fact was a closely held family partnership,” said Doyle, who formerly worked on Wall Street and has been involved with finance for the last ten years conducting investigations. “As such, it was governed in a fashion in which it sought in large measure to advance the personal interests of its principles as detailed within the financial analysis of this submission and further confirmed within the supporting documentation and evidence section.”

At the onset of the hearing, Moynihan wanted to make perfectly clear that the intention to look into the Clinton Foundation was not political but based on their work with the firm.

“At this point, I’d like to answer two questions, who are we? We are apolitical,” Moynihan told the committee. “We have no party affiliation to this whatsoever, No one has financed us… we are forensic investigators that approached this effort in a nonpartisan profession, objective, and independent way…we follow facts, that’s all.” 

“We have never been partisan,” he added, speaking on behalf of all five members of his group testifying to Congress. “We come from law enforcement and wall street where each of us has dedicated our entire lives and praised the rule of law doing the right thing pursuing facts. we follow facts. that’s all.”

“None of this is our opinion,” he went on state: “I emphasize none of this is our opinion. These are not our facts. They are not your facts. They are the facts of the Clinton Foundation.”

He disclosed the reason his firm decided to take on the Clinton Foundation and the fact that they paid for the investigation out of their “own pockets.”

“Are you doing this for money,” said Moynihan to the committee. “Yes, this is how we make a living.”

Moynihan and Doyle swapped back and forth between there testimony and opening statement, making it clear they were working as a team. But the most shocking statements came from Moynihan’s statement as he read the laundry list of violations by the Clinton Foundation.

Moynihan stated “Foreign agent,” as he began to read from a long list of violations discovered during the course of their investigation.

Who’s minding the store, looking out for the donors and minding the rule of law?

The Clinton Foundation “began acting as an agent of foreign governments ‘early in its life’ and throughout its existence. As such, the foundation should’ve registered under FARA (Foreign Agents Registration Act),” he said. “Ultimately, the Foundation and its auditors conceded in formal submissions that it did operate as a (foreign) agent, therefore the foundation is not entitled to its 501c3 tax-exempt privileges as outlined in IRS 170 (c)2.”

Doyle, who was also outlining a litany of violations by the foundation, noted that currently there are approximately 1.75 million nonprofits in the United States that annually generate nearly 2 trillion dollars, which is 9 percent of the U.S. GDP.

“Who’s minding the store, looking out for the donors and minding the rule of law,” said Doyle.

“On that note, we followed the money so we made extensive spreadsheets of their revenues and expenses, we analyzed their income statements and we did a macro-review of all the donors, which is a very (jumbled) sort of foundation,” said Doyle. “Less than 1/10th of one percent of the donors gave 80 percent of the money. So we follow the money.”

Moynihan added that the foundation “did pursue programs and activities for which it had neither sought nor achieved permission to undertake.”

Particularly, he noted the case of the Clinton Presidential Library in 2004. He noted that the foundation’s role before and after the library was built was a misrepresentation to donors “of the approval organizational tax status to raise funds for the presidential library programs therein. In these pursuits, the foundation failed the organizational and operational task 501c3 internal revenue code 7.25.3.”

Additionally, Doyle stated that the foundation’s intentional “misuse of donated public funds.” He stated that the foundation “falsely attested that it received funds and used them for charitable purposes which were in fact not the case. Rather the foundation pursued in an array of activities both domestically and abroad.” 

“Some may be deemed philanthropic, albeit unimproved, while other much larger in scope are properly characterized as profit-oriented and taxable undertakings of private enterprise again failing the operational tests philanthropy referenced above,” Doyle said.

Philip Hackney, a tax law professor at Louisiana State University, who is a former Exempt Organizations lawyer at the IRS, and Tom Fitton, president of the conservative government watchdog group Judicial Watch also testified at the hearing. Judicial Watch has been at the forefront of fighting the Clinton Foundation in court to access documents requested by FOIA. Hackney and Fitton testified during the first panel of the hearing.

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Sara A. Carter is a national and international award winning investigative reporter whose stories have ranged from national security, terrorism, immigration and front line coverage of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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National Security Advisor John Bolton recently announced the Trump Administration’s new “Prosper Africa” strategy, which is basically a tacit admission of defeat acknowledging that the US’ objectives there haven’t been achieved since the end of the Old Cold War, but it’s also a wily trap for encouraging China and Russia to overextend themselves in this resource-rich but high-risk continent as the Great Power competition between the unipolar and multipolar blocs heats up all across the “Global South”.

Acknowledging Defeat

The Trump Administration officially promulgated its “Prosper Africa” strategy on Thursday after National Security Advisor John Bolton presented it to an exclusive audience at the neoconservative Heritage Foundation think tank, and it basically boils down to a continental application of the “Trump Doctrine’s” America First policy in Africa’s contemporary geopolitical and economic conditions. Bolton emphasized that the US’ new approach will focus on trade and commercial relations, anti-terrorist cooperation, and the effective and efficient disbursement of aid (including to various peacekeeping missions), all of which will openly promote America’s agenda in Africa. As much as he probably hated to admit it, Bolton was forced to acknowledge that the US has failed to achieve its objectives in this part of the world since the end of the Old Cold War and that this has therefore created opportunities for his country’s Chinese and Russian Great Power competitors to become powerful forces in Africa.

The Sore Loser

Bolton spends a lot of time lamenting how China’s economic influence has extended all across the continent, attacking the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) with the typical infowar accusations that it’s ensnared partner countries into so-called “debt traps” and confirming the author’s April 2018 forecast that the US will obsessively focus on how this has supposedly affected the geostrategic landlocked state of Zambia. In addition, the National Security Advisor draws a line in the sand by starkly saying that “the balance of power in the Horn of Africa—astride major arteries of maritime trade between Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia—would shift in favor of China” if Djibouti transfers control of a port terminal to the People’s Republic. As for Russia, Bolton accuses it of “corrupt economic dealings”, “selling arms and energy in exchange for votes at the United Nations”, and “continuing to extract natural resources from the region for its own benefit.”

Fake News Frenzy

In other words, the US’ repeated failures in the two and a half decades since the end of the Old Cold War enabled China to emerge as Africa’s leading economic partner while Russia is making inroads in becoming a reliable provider of security in exchange for extraction contracts, with both Great Powers complementing one another’s multipolar activities to collectively break the unipolar monopoly that had previously controlled the continent. Bolton believes that Chinese and Russian activities “stunt economic growth in Africa; threaten the financial independence of African nations; inhibit opportunities for U.S. investment; interfere with U.S. military operations; and pose a significant threat to U.S. national security interests”, but only the last-mentioned is true. African economic growth is exploding; countries have diversified their financial partnerships; US monopolies finally face competition; and the US is voluntarily scaling back its military activities in Africa in order to focus on more directly “containing” China and Russia in their home regions.

The Sino-Russo Threat To American Hegemony

The only reason why any of this could be interpreted as “a significant threat” is because the US can no longer interfere in African affairs as much as it would currently like to do in order to offset the Chinese-African Strategic Partnership that lies at the core of China’s future success. The 21st-century geopolitics of the emerging Multipolar World Order are such that China needs African markets, labor, and resources in order to secure its continued growth, stability, and ultimate rise as a global superpower, hence the win-win relationship between the two whereby China helps develop Africa in exchange for obtaining reliable access to its natural and human resources. Regarding Russia, its Afro-Eurasian “balancing” act has a considerable chance of succeeding if Moscow combines its recent security gains with its plans to connect the continent via its involvement in the West-East and North-South Trans-African Railways and then diplomatically balances the two emerging “blocs” in the modern-day “Scramble for Africa”.

“Prosper Africa”

In response to its self-evident failures over the decades, the US is now putting forth the so-called “Prosper Africa” strategy as its intended solution, though Bolton was very vague about what exactly it entails and the instruments that will be employed for executing it. Representing a businessman-turned-president, he clearly understands the need for his country to support American investments in Africa and make competitive bids for countering Chinese infrastructure projects. Concurrent with this, Bolton spoke about “strengthening the rule of law”, and it’s here where he may have hinted at the real methods that his country will utilize in pursuit of its interests. Recalling the rampant corruption in all levels of most African governments and the way in which the US exposed this in Brazil to facilitate a “constitutional-electoral coup” through the NSA-backed “Operation Car Wash”, America might resort to using its national infowar strategy for catalyzing similar Hybrid War outcomes all across Africa.

The Wily Trap

In the New Cold War context, this simply means that Chinese- and Russian-friendly governments could be undermined “from below” after NGO-affiliated “grassroots activists” collaborate (whether knowingly or not) with US intelligence services to spread supposed proof of corrupt practices and other “politically compromising” material across society in an effort to encourage a Color Revolution, “constitutional-electoral coup”, and/or an Unconventional War that would increase the security costs and overall strategic risks of multipolar investments in these targeted states. By taking a step back and somewhat “withdrawing” under the pretext of saving the American taxpayers more money, including by pulling out support for certain UN peacekeeping missions, the US ipso facto forces China and Russia to take on more multidimensional responsibilities in Africa before they’re ready, which could bait them into “mission creep” and its quagmire consequences if they aren’t careful. At the same time, however, this wily trap could also backfire if China and Russia succeed in replacing the US.

Concluding Thoughts

The “Prosper Africa” strategy that was just unveiled by the US is a lot wilier than it first appears because it initially seems to be nothing more than a long-overdue acknowledgement that America’s previous approach to the continent has failed and that the country is therefore going to scale back its military involvement there in exchange for reprioritizing more cost-effective economic engagement. While that’s veritably true, observers nevertheless shouldn’t be deceived into thinking that the US is surrendering its previous hegemonic position, let alone without a fight. What America’s actually doing is preparing a trap for its Chinese and Russian competitors by baiting them into “mission creep” through a combination of security vacuums (after possibly pulling out support for some peacekeeping missions) and forthcoming US-backed infowar-driven “anti-corruption” Color Revolution unrest in some of their partnered states. The outcome of this gambit is still far from certain, but what’s clear is that the New Cold War has now officially spread to Africa.

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This article was originally published on Eurasia Future.

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

The Kosovo Blunder: Moves Towards a Standing Army

December 15th, 2018 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

There never is a time not to worry in the Balkans.   The next conflict always seems to be peering around the corner with a malicious enthusiasm, eager to spring at points of demagogic advantage and personal suffering.  The centrepieces of future disaster in the region tend to be Kosovo and Bosnia.  The former is now intent on formalising military arrangements, thereby fashioning a spear that will be able to be driven deep through the heart of Serbian pride.

On Friday, the Assembly of Kosovo passed three draft laws with overwhelming numbers that it would form an army.  (Serbian lawmakers boycotted the session.)  The current Kosovo Security Force of 3,000 lightly armed personnel is to become somewhat more formidable: 5,000 active troops backed by 3,000 reservists in the next decade.  This move was brazenly chest beating in nature, an assertion that security, as provided by the 4,000 NATO troops forming KFOR (the Kosovo Force), was inadequate and, more to the point, to be bypassed altogether.

It also came as a calculated assault, timed to bruise Serbians in Kosovo – numbering some 120,000 – and politicians in Belgrade, suggesting a marked change from negotiations some three months prior. Then, it seemed that a land swap offer was in the making, one that would have reflected the relevant though tense ethnic composition in the region: the Preševo Valley in southern Serbia, predominantly Albanian, would join Kosovo; Serbia would re-establish dominion over the majority ethnic-Serb area of Kosovo to the north of the River Ibar.

Things subsequently soured.  Kosovo had already agreed to raise a 100 percent tariff on imports from Serbia, a move that is economically insensible but parochially clear.  Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj justified the action by blaming Belgrade’s efforts to foil his bid in admitting Kosovo to Interpol.  Aggression from Belgrade was cited on all fronts: from the seething Deputy Prime Minister Enver Hoxhaj; from the foreign ministry (“abusive” lobbying by Serbia was cited); and from the prime minister himself.

To have such an army will be another feather in the cap of Kosovo’s aims to consolidate its sovereign credentials and sever the umbilical cord with Belgrade.  The danger here, as ever, is how the ethnic Serbs, backed by their indignant patrons, will respond.  Haradinaj’s caper here is to claim that the forces will be “multi-ethnic, in service of its own citizens, in function of peace, alongside other regional armies, including the Serbian Army, in having partnership for peace.”  His officials also insist on a modest role for the new army, one dedicated to “search and rescue operations, explosive ordnance disposal, fire fighting and hazardous material disposal.”  Nothing, in short, to have kittens over.

The region is already suffering a form of legal schizophrenia, one designed by the legal and security arrangements more befitting an asylum than a functioning state.  Countries in Europe facing their own separatist dilemmas have been steadfast in not recognising Kosovo. Unsurprisingly, Spain is foremost amongst them.  In January, the Spanish foreign ministry expressed the view that Kosovo be kept out of any plans for Western Balkans enlargement.  “The concept of ‘WB6’ does not fit the enlargement dynamic. Kosovo is not part of the enlargement process and has its own differentiated framework.”

In reality, the Kosovar Albanians know they can count on much support within European ranks: the appetite for protecting Serbian interests was long lost during the Balkan Wars of the 1990s.  Lauded defenders became demonised butchers.  Kosovo assumed the form of a pet project, one to be nurtured by Western European and US interests under the fictional tent of humanitarianism.  Invariably, Serbia sought support from Russia and China, both of whom steadfastly rejected the 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia.

For Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić, speaking in Trstenik on Thursday,

“Kosovo and Metohija is to us great torment, especially because of Pristina’s move and the announcement of the formation of an army, which is neither based on law nor on Resolution 1244.”

Serbia’s foreign minister, Ivica Daičić deemed the formation of any such army “the most direct threat to peace and stability in the region.”

Such instances are open invitations to violence. The Kosovo authorities are keen to wave the red flag; Serbian authorities risk running at it with frothing intensity. There is also a fear that this move has received conventional prodding, this time from the United States.

“Everything Pristina is doing,” according to Vučić, “it is obviously doing with the support of the United States. They have no right under international legal document to form armed formations; to us, that’s illegal, and we will inform the public about further steps.”

The assertion is not without foundation.  United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999) is clear that the guarantor of security in the region be KFOR.

“Hence,” goes a statement from a spokesman for the UN Secretary General, “any restriction to the discharge by KFOR of its security responsibilities would be inconsistent with that resolution.”

But the bad behaviour of small entities such as Kosovo often takes place at the behest of greater powers, and US ambassador to Kosovo Philip Kosnett has openly stated that it was “only natural for Kosovo as a sovereign, independent country to have a self-defence capability.”

Lieutenant Colonel Sylejman Cakaj, who had cut his milk teeth on fighting Serbia as a commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in 1999, seemed to have drunk a juice heavy with political overtones.

“We are all seeing a geo-strategic changes in the world, towards the creation of a somewhat new world order.  I believe it is necessary that following the consolidation of its statehood, Kosovo has its army too… the one that we are entitled to as representatives of the people, to be in control of our country.”

The shudder amongst ethnic Serbs at such remarks is palpable, and the fear here is whether Belgrade will catch a terrible cold.

The response from NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was more one of remorse than decisive anger.

“I regret that the decision to initiate a change of the Kosovo Security Force mandate was made despite concerns expressed by NATO.”

The “level of NATO’s engagement with the Kosovo Security Force” would have to be re-examined.

While patriotic foolishness should never be discounted in any factor in the region, the Kosovo Albanians have been emboldened. The wait-and-see game about whether Serbian forces are deployed to protect Kosovar Serbs is afoot. As former Serbian military commander Nebojša Jović warned with thick ominousness,

“What they [the Kosovo Albanians] should know from our history is that there was never a ‘small war’ in these territories. Every time there was a conflict in Serbia, Kosovo and Metohija, it turned into a war on a bigger scale and none of us here want this.”

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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]

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Since the Second World War’s conclusion, Europe’s major powers have pandered politely to their master across the Atlantic, America. While the United States has waged war and ousted governments in regions around the world, European states like Britain, France and Germany have either bloodied their hands with them, provided aid, or nodded silent approval.

As populations across the West rebel against neoliberal globalization, cracks have been emerging. The strain has been exacerbated by the election of US president Donald Trump, whose severe sanctions on Russia have affected old allies like Europe’s powerhouse, Germany. Heaven forbid that Germany, whose institutions have for years strangled the Greek economy, should suffer indirect consequences of sanctions against Russia.

Last year, then German Minister for Economics and Energy, Brigitte Zypries, denounced the US sanctions bill as “being against international law, plain and simple”. Weighing in, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel lambasted the “unacceptable” measures which demand “a much higher price” from Germany.

Yet it was not “against international law” when Angela Merkel, then opposition leader, vociferously backed the illegal 2003 US invasion of Iraq – ignoring protests from within her own party. Merkel said, “War had become unavoidable. Not acting would have caused more damage.”

Merkel urged her country to “stand by America’s side” in the illegitimate attack on a sovereign nation that would kill hundreds of thousands, while destroying Iraqi civil society. As German Chancellor Merkel assured the public, in 2007, that America is “a force that has brought freedom to the peoples of the world”. The US has undeniably been “a force” but those who have suffered under American dominion may find the word “freedom” a contentious one.

Merkel’s wisdom in supporting the Iraq invasion has almost been forgotten. Moreover, her ministers were not heard complaining that it was “unacceptable” when the European Union – with German backing – imposed a variety of measures on Russia relating to the Western-initiated Ukraine conflict. Sanctions are only “against international law, plain and simple” when it affects German business interests one can assume.

Merkel remained noticeably quiet as the US performed a key role in the unlawful overthrowing of Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych, in February 2014. She chose to “stand by America’s side” once more, offering no opposition that might have affected her “friendship” with then US President Barack Obama. Still, the Chancellor spoke up later as Russia reintegrated Crimea to its territory, overwhelmingly backed by the Crimean people. Merkel insisted that Russia “must not be allowed to get away with it”.

The Ukrainian coup has resulted in that country’s descent into chaos, but such a reality has never seemed of immediate concern to the German leader. America was “allowed to get away with” financing the putsch, or “brokering a deal” as Obama admitted on CNN in early 2015 – and also more forceful interventions elsewhere. All of this has not prevented Merkel from sanctimoniously addressing the rights of minority groups.

In May last year during a conference in the Russian city of Sochi, she said,

“I asked President [Vladimir] Putin to use his influence to protect these minority rights [homosexuals in Chechnya]. I have… indicated how important the right to demonstrate is in a civil society.”

The liberties of minority groups, it appears, are more important to Merkel than the rights of millions of Iraqi or Ukrainian citizens. Lecturing the Russian president on how to behave “in a civil society” served its purpose in public relations.

Meanwhile, in neighbouring France, its president Emmanuel Macron said,

“Tonight I wish to tell the United States, France believes in you, the world believes in you. I know that you are a great nation. I know your history – our common history.”

Perhaps by his description of “the world” Macron was referring to parts of Europe, Australia or Israel. It is doubtful whether many of those in Latin America, the Middle East or Africa “believes” in the United States at this late date.

Shortly after being elected, Macron further felt the need to rebuke RT and Sputnik for being “organs of influence, of propaganda, of lying propaganda”. Macron neglected to condemn other networks like Sky News, the BBC or CNN, who have been known to criticize Putin on occasion, while being far more supportive of the French leader.

One could be forgiven for attributing Macron’s comments to former British prime minister Tony Blair, partner-in-crime with George W. Bush in the invasion of Iraq. Blair has been attempting to rehabilitate his reputation in recent years with comments like “democracy is not on its own sufficient” and “you need effective government taking effective decisions”. The former Labour leader indeed made “effective decisions” by joining the US in waging a war that’s consequences continue to present. Blair’s viewpoints have been aired by a variety of establishment media.

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Shane Quinn obtained an honors journalism degree. He is interested in writing primarily on foreign affairs, having been inspired by authors like Noam Chomsky. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

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The December 1 arrest by Canadian authorities in Vancouver of Huawei Technologies chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, based on a US extradition warrant, represents a draconian extraterritorial application of a dubious US law and claim of Huawei’s sanctions violations regarding Iran. Meng was arrested at Vancouver International Airport, while a transit passenger changing planes.

Meng stands accused by the Trump administration of having used Skycom, a Huawei subsidiary based in Hong Kong, to evade American sanctions against Iran between 2009 and 2014. A British Columbia judge granted Meng bail, set at $7.4 million. She was required to surrender her passports to Canadian authorities.

Although Meng stands accused by the US Attorney’s Office in Manhattan of violating US trade sanctions on Iran and lying to HSBC Bank in furtherance of the alleged sanctions busting, Donald Trump told Reuters that he may use the arrest of Meng as a bargaining chip with China over current trade negotiations between Washington and Beijing. Essentially, Trump believes Meng to be a US hostage, available to trade off with Beijing in the current Sino-US trade war.

Trump’s comments, which suggested Meng is a political pawn, through into question the US legal case against Meng and drew sharp criticism from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said that Canada would abide by the rule of law and not “what goes on in other countries.”

In June of this year, Trump dropped the threat of US sanctions on the Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE for allegedly selling its products to Iran and North Korea. US firms that supply components to ZTE would have faced possible job layoffs and bankruptcy had ZTE been sanctioned. The ZTE affair, again, showed that the extraterritorial application of US law against companies and individuals with commercial links to Iran is not in the national or economic security interests of the United States, but of Israel and, to a lesser extent, Saudi Arabia.

America’s extraterritorial application of its Iran sanctions laws, which are largely driven by the powerful Israel Lobby in Washington, in addition to Canada’s acting as Washington’s brigand in seizing Meng, is not playing well in China. The Chinese Foreign Ministry called in American ambassador Terry Branstad and Canadian ambassador Canadian Ambassador John McCallum and warned them that Meng’s arrest was “lawless, reasonless and ruthless.”

China also arrested Michael Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat who had been posted to China and Hong Kong, in a move seen as a response to Meng’s arrest. Kovrig was in China under the auspices of the International Crisis Group, a non-governmental organization with longstanding links to the US Central Intelligence Agency. Michael Spavor, a Canadian businessman, was also detained in China in a growing feud between Beijing and Ottawa brought about by Meng’s arrest. Spavor owns the Paektu Cultural Exchange, a company that arranges trips by Westerners to North Korea, a nation also subject to stringent US sanctions. Spavor is also close to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The Chinese vice foreign minister, Le Yucheng, warned Branstad about “the vile way” in which, Meng, the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, was arrested in Canada. The Chinese foreign ministry also told Canadian ambassador McCallum to relay to Ottawa its demand for the immediate release of Meng, who was, until 2009, a permanent resident of Canada.

The arrest of Meng represents an unusual extraterritorial application of US law to Meng, a foreign national, in a third country, Canada. The extradition of Meng to stand trial in the United States for a Chinese firm’s commercial links with Iran is highly dubious under international law. The arrest of Meng has sent a chill through foreign firms that continue to maintain commercial ties to Iran after the Trump administration’s unilateral withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement between Iran and China, Russia, and the European Union.

The arrest of Meng also shreds the post-G20 trade war truce recently agreed to by Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Buenos Aires. Making matters worse, Trump was dining with Xi in Buenos Aires at the very same time that Meng was arrested in Canada.

the average Chinese men and women on the street are so outraged by the US-directed arrest of Meng, they unabashedly speak to foreigners about going to war with the United States. Trump warned countries still adhering to the terms of the JCPOA that his administration would criminally sanction them and their companies if they continued financial links with Iran after the US unilaterally imposed drastic new sanctions against Iran on November 4. The Trump administration’s re-imposed sanctions were pressed by US national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, both of whom take their direction from the government of Israel and its powerful interlocutors in Washington’s lobbying and political donor sectors, as well as Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Another nation that could feel the wrath of Washington is Algeria. Its state-owned oil company, Sonatrach, awarded the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) a $420 million contract to renovate its refinery in Algiers. Part of the contract, awarded on November 6, two days after increased US “secondary” sanctions were imposed on third parties with trade links with Iran, was for Huawei to provide telecommunications services. Neither Algeria, which maintains friendly relations with Iran, nor CNPC will take kindly to their citizens involved in the deal being arrested and extradited by third parties on flimsy US arrest warrants executed by officials in Washington taking their orders from pro-Israeli influence wielders.

Israel and the Trump administration are also exerting pressure on Ethiopia. They are warning EthioTelecom not to award a lucrative cellular network expansion project to Huawei. Another nation worried about the Trump administration’s intentions is the West African nation of Benin. Huawei is installing a fiber-optics network in Benin, which is guaranteed by a $80 million financial assistance package from the Chinese Eximbank. Trump administration officials have also warned South Korea away from a prospective contract for Huawei to install a broadband wireless network in the country.

The arrest of Meng over an issue dealing with Chinese-Iranian economic ties is similar to the 2010 arrest in Liberia of Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko. Extradited by Liberia to New York, Yaroshenko was charged with smuggling cocaine throughout South America, Africa, and Europe. The drugs, however, never crossed American shores. The statements of the Russian Foreign Ministry in 2010 were similar to those from the Chinese Foreign Ministry now. The Foreign Ministry in Moscow stated: “We’re talking about a kidnapping of a Russian national from a third country. The actions of US special services in the forcible and secret relocation of our national from Monrovia to New York could only [be] seen as open lawlessness.”

In 2015, Dino Bouterse, the son of Surinam’s president, Desi Bouterse, was sentenced by a US judge in New York to 16-1/4 years in prison for his dealings with the Lebanese Shi’a group, Hezbollah. Dino Bouterse was charged with aiding a “terrorist” group. However, Hezbollah is a legal political party in Lebanon and has supported various coalition governments in that country. The case was only brought because, once again, Israel’s antagonism against Iran influenced the US legal system in extraterritorially extending US law to Suriname’s relationship with Lebanon.

In 1909, the famed US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes opined in a case that US laws cannot be applied to other countries. This principle, known as “presumption against extraterritoriality,” has been whittled away by recent US administrations. This erosion of the presumption against extraterritoriality has been particularly seen in US enforcement against third parties of its sanctions on Iran and embargo on Cuba.

The United States has not only been acting as the world’s policeman but as judge, jury, and, in many cases, executioner. The US Department of Justice should read the opinion of Oliver Wendell Holmes before it acts to extend US law – and Israeli interests – beyond America’s borders.

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Wayne Madsen is an investigative journalist, author and syndicated columnist. A member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the National Press Club.

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A particularly scurrilous op-ed appeared in the pages of the Washington Post accusing the Syrian government of detaining, torturing, then executing an American citizen, Layla Shweikani.  

Considering US attempts to establish various pretexts to justify its ongoing military occupation of Syria and its attacks on Syrian forces – such an accusation could dangerously escalate the conflict if not checked and exposed.

The Accusation

The op-ed titled, “Assad’s regime killed an American — and no one seems to care,” written by Jason Rezaian – arrested, tried, and convicted of espionage in Iran – begins by claiming (emphasis added):

Last month the U.S. government confirmed that an American citizen had died in Syrian captivity. Sources concluded that Layla Shweikani, a U.S. citizen with Syrian roots, had been tortured and then executed.

The article claims that the Syrian government’s civil registry recorded her death in late 2016. Claims that she died in Syrian government custody come from James Jeffery, the US special envoy for Syria Engagement, but the factual basis of this claim was not provided in the article, nor during recent testimony (video) provided by Jeffery to the US House Foreign Affairs Committee. US Representative Adam Kinzinger – who during the hearing suggested the US military “target Assad” – would be quoted in the Washington Post’s op-ed, claiming:

I understand there are some classified details, but it is disappointing that Ambassador Jeffrey was unable to say more on behalf of the administration about what happened to Layla and what the repercussions will be when he testified before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee. … I’m still waiting on an answer.

The op-ed would end by claiming:

Unless we begin to demand answers for the detention and death of Americans around the world, I don’t see any incentive for Assad or other thugs to stop targeting our citizens.

It is clear that Jason Rezaian among the pages of the Washington Post is accusing the Syrian government of detaining, torturing, and executing Layla Shweikani – and demanding accountability.

Completely absent from Rezaian’s Washington Post op-ed – however – was any actual evidence the Syrian government did “torture then executed” Layla Shweikani.

Washington Post Columnist Admits There’s No Evidence

Josh Rogin – a Washington Post columnist and political analyst for CNN – would eagerly promote Rezaian’s op-ed on social media. When pressed for evidence that the Syrian government “tortured then executed” Shweikani, Rogin attempted to first divert the debate away from the lack of evidence, before finally admitting:

…we don’t know the specifics of Layla’s death. I’d like to know much more. We should not jump to conclusions. Thank you for that caution.

But Rogin would then add:

But the regime is responsible for her death, in their custody.

Rogin would slink away from debate when pressed for an explanation as to how two experienced journalists like Rogin and Rezaian could “jump to conclusions” accidentally and how this was not just another example of the Washington Post’s larger, well known, and long-running war propaganda efforts.

Part of Rogin’s diversions included references to the 2013 “Caesar photographs,” which Rogin would claim were “verified” by the FBI. US Representative Kinzinger is also fond of invoking the photographs which were allegedly smuggled out of Syria and reportedly depict Syrians “tortured then executed” by the Syrian government.

What Rogin failed to mention was that the photographs were “verified” only as undoctored by the FBI who never once stepped foot in Syria to investigate or verify the identities of or circumstances surrounding those depicted in the photographs.

The 2013 “Caesar photographs” also have nothing to do with evidence substantiating Rezaian and Rogin’s claims that the Syrian government “tortured then executed” Shweikani in 2016.

Rogin also failed to mention that the FBI studied the photographs at the request of the US State Department – a US government department openly committed to the overthrow of the Syrian government. 

Surely a journalist of Rogin’s experience and stature understands basic concepts like “evidence,” “burden of proof,” and even “conflict of interest.” Yet it appeared that Rogin was systematically running through a list of unethical behavior to escape scrutiny for the Washington Post’s latest smear against the Syrian government and yet another attempt to establish justification for expanded US military intervention against Syria.

The True Basis of WaPo’s Latest Claims? “Activists Say…”  

Other Western media publications – such as the Independent in their article, “An American woman died in a Syrian regime prison. Could the US have done more to help her?” – admit deep within the bodies of their articles that all information regarding Shweikani comes from dubious activists relying on second and even third-hand accounts.

The Independent would admit:

What happened next was discovered by Idlbi through testimony of other inmates at Adra prison, where she was held, and contact with Syrian officials after the fact.

Idlbi would claim:

Through an official, we found out that a judge sentenced her to execution for terrorism. The trial lasted 30 seconds.

The Independent would then claim:

According to Idlbi, Shweikani was then transferred to the infamous Saydnaya prison, just outside of the capital. “Since then our assumption is that she was definitely killed. Because usually you are executed within 48 hours [of a verdict],” he says.

That account matches the one given by the Syrian Network for Human Rights, which documents deaths in Syrian government custody. The monitoring group said it believes she was executed on 28 December 2016.

Of course, the Syrian Network for Human Rights is a Western-funded (.pdf) opposition group and echo chamber of Western war propaganda, posing as an independent nongovernmental organization. This is not mentioned by the Independent who presents SNHR as a credible human rights advocacy group.

The Independent also conveniently omits that Qutaiba Idlbi lives in the United States after receiving a scholarship to study at Columbia University.

Idlbi fled Syria after being detained for his role in the opposition. Idlbi’s support for the opposition casts serious doubts on his objectivity – especially considering Idlbi has no actual evidence to support any of his claims. This information on Idlbi’s background was reported in an AP article titled, “Columbia offers scholarships to Syrians, despite visa ban.”

The Western media knows the average reader is not going to research who Qutaiba Idlbi is and learn that he is a member of the opposition – or that SNHR is an opposition organization funded by the very nations trying to overthrow the Syrian government.

The Power of Scrutiny  

The Washington Post’s behavior illustrates several important points.

First, it indicates that the US is still searching for pretexts to maintain – even expand – its illegal military intervention in Syria.

Second, it indicates that tired accusations of human rights abuses, which gave way to exhausted accusations of chemical weapon use, have come full circle again. It is no longer Syrians being killed. Or Syrians being gassed. Now it is “Americans” being “tortured then executed.”

It also illustrates that Western propaganda cannot stand up to even the slightest scrutiny.

This was not a problem when newspapers and television channels controlled the flow of information.

But with the rise of alternative media and growing skepticism and scrutiny across social media, this is no longer an advantage the permanent state’s media can count on. This explains the feverish attempts to control social media, manipulate search results, and even delete accounts.

Rogin and Rezaian’s botched war propaganda campaign helps explain why the Western media and the special interests underwriting them have invested so much in eliminating competition and regaining the monopoly they once enjoyed during the era of print and broadcast media.

Whether these investments will eventually pay off is another matter entirely.

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This article was originally published on Land Destroyer Report.

Tony Cartalucci is a Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook” where this article was originally published.

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How the New Silk Roads Are Merging into Greater Eurasia

December 15th, 2018 by Pepe Escobar

The concept of Greater Eurasia has been discussed at the highest levels of Russian academia and policy-making for some time. This week the policy was presented at the Council of Ministers and looks set to be enshrined, without fanfare, as the main guideline of Russian foreign policy for the foreseeable future.

President Putin is unconditionally engaged to make it a success. Already at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum in 2016, Putin referred to an emerging “Eurasian partnership”.

I was privileged over the past week to engage in excellent discussions in Moscow with some of the top Russian analysts and policymakers involved in advancing Greater Eurasia.

Three particularly stand out: Yaroslav Lissovolik, program director of the Valdai Discussion Club and an expert on the politics and economics of the Global South; Glenn Diesen, author of the seminal Russia’s Geoeconomic Strategy for a Greater Eurasia; and the legendary Professor Sergey Karaganov, dean of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs at the National Research University Higher School of Economics and honorary chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, who received me in his office for an off-the-record conversation.

The framework for Great Eurasia has been dissected in detail by the indispensable Valdai Discussion Club, particularly on Rediscovering the Identity, the sixth part of a series called Toward the Great Ocean, published last September, and authored by an academic who’s who on the Russian Far East, led by Leonid Blyakher of the Pacific National University in Khabarovsk and coordinated by Karaganov, director of the project.

The conceptual heart of Greater Eurasia is Russia’s Turn to the East, or pivot to Asia, home of the economic and technological markets of the future. This implies Greater Eurasia proceeding in symbiosis with China’s New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). And yet this advanced stage of the Russia-China strategic partnership does not mean Moscow will neglect its myriad close ties to Europe.

Russian Far East experts are very much aware of the “Eurocentrism of a considerable portion of Russian elites.” They know how almost the entire economic, demographic and ideological environment in Russia has been closely intertwined with Europe for three centuries. They recognize that Russia has borrowed Europe’s high culture and its system of military organization. But now, they argue, it’s time, as a great Eurasian power, to profit from “an original and self-sustained fusion of many civilizations”; Russia not just as a trade or connectivity point, but as a “civilizational bridge”.

Legacy of Genghis Khan 

What my conversations, especially with Lissovolik, Diesen and Karaganov, have revealed is something absolutely groundbreaking – and virtually ignored across the West; Russia is aiming to establish a new paradigm not only in geopolitics and geoeconomics, but also on a cultural and ideological level.

Conditions are certainly ripe for it. Northeast Asia is immersed in a power vacuum. The Trump administration’s priority – as well as the US National Security Strategy’s – is containment of China. Both Japan and South Korea, slowly but surely, are getting closer to Russia.

Culturally, retracing Russia’s past, Greater Eurasia analysts may puzzle misinformed Western eyes. ‘Towards the Great Ocean’, the Valdai report supervised by Karaganov, notes the influence of Byzantium, which “preserved classical culture and made it embrace the best of the Orient culture at a time when Europe was sinking into the Dark Ages.” Byzantium inspired Russia to adopt Orthodox Christianity.

It also stresses the role of the Mongols over Russia’s political system. “The political traditions of most Asian countries are based on the legacy of the Mongols. Arguably, both Russia and China are rooted in Genghis Khan’s empire,” it says.

If the current Russian political system may be deemed authoritarian – or, as claimed in Paris and Berlin, an exponent of “illiberalism” – top Russian academics argue that a market economy protected by lean, mean military power performs way more efficiently than crisis-ridden Western liberal democracy.

As China heads West in myriad forms, Greater Eurasia and the Belt and Road Initiative are bound to merge. Eurasia is crisscrossed by mighty mountain ranges such as the Pamirs and deserts like the Taklamakan and the Karakum. The best ground route runs via Russia or via Kazakhstan to Russia. In crucial soft power terms, Russian remains the lingua franca in Mongolia, Central Asia and the Caucasus.

And that leads us to the utmost importance of an upgraded Trans-Siberian railway – Eurasia’s current connectivity core. In parallel, the transportation systems of the Central Asian “stans” are closely integrated with the Russian network of roads; all that is bound to be enhanced in the near future by Chinese-built high-speed rail.

Iran and Turkey are conducting their own versions of a pivot to Asia. A free-trade agreement between Iran and the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) was approved in early December. Iran and India are also bound to strike a free-trade agreement. Iran is a big player in the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), which is essential in driving closer economic integration between Russia and India.

The Caspian Sea, after a recent deal between its five littoral states, is re-emerging as a major trading post in Central Eurasia. Russia and Iran are involved in a joint project to build a gas pipeline to India.

Kazakhstan shows how Greater Eurasia and BRI are complementary; Astana is both a member of BRI and the EAEU. The same applies to gateway Vladivostok, Eurasia’s entry point for both South Korea and Japan, as well as Russia’s entry point to Northeast Asia.

Ultimately, Russia’s regional aim is to connect China’s northern provinces with Eurasia via the Trans-Siberian and the Chinese Eastern Railway – with Chita in China and Khabarovsk in Russia totally inter-connected.

And all across the spectrum, Moscow aims at maximizing return on the crown jewels of the Russian Far East; agriculture, water resources, minerals, lumber, oil and gas. Construction of liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants in Yamal vastly benefits China, Japan and South Korea.

Community spirit

Eurasianism, as initially conceptualized in the early 20th century by the geographer PN Savitsky, the geopolitician GV Vernadsky and the cultural historian VN Ilyn, among others, regarded Russian culture as a unique, complex combination of East and West, and the Russian people as belonging to “a fully original Eurasian community”.

That certainly still applies. But as Valdai Club analysts argue, the upgraded concept of Greater Eurasia “is not targeted against Europe or the West”; it aims to include at least a significant part of the EU.

The Chinese leadership describes BRI not only as connectivity corridors, but also as a “community”. Russians use a similar term applied to Greater Eurasia; sobornost (“community spirit”).

As Alexander Lukin of the Higher School of Economics and an expert on the SCO has constantly stressed, including in his book China and Russia: The New Rapprochement, this is all about the interconnection of Greater Eurasia, BRI, EAEU, SCO, INSTC, BRICS, BRICS Plus and ASEAN.

The cream of the crop of Russian intellectuals – at the Valdai Club and the Higher School of Economics – as well as top Chinese analysts, are in sync. Karaganov himself constantly reiterates that the concept of Greater Eurasia was arrived at, “jointly and officially”, by the Russia-China partnership; “a common space for economic, logistic and information cooperation, peace and security from Shanghai to Lisbon and New Delhi to Murmansk”.

The concept of Greater Eurasia is, of course, a work in progress. What my conversations in Moscow revealed is its extraordinary ambition; positioning Russia as a key geoeconomic and geopolitical crossroads linking the economic systems of North Eurasia, Central and Southwest Asia.

As Diesen notes, Russia and China have become inevitable allies because of their “shared objective of restructuring global value-chains and developing a multipolar world”. It’s no wonder Beijing’s drive to develop state-of-the-art national technological platforms is provoking so much anger in Washington. And in terms of the big picture, it makes perfect sense for BRI to be harmonized with Russia’s economic connectivity drive for Greater Eurasia.

That’s irreversible. The dogs of demonization, containment, sanctions and even war may bark all they want, but the Eurasia integration caravan keeps moving along.

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Make no mistake. Washington is at war with Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, and other sovereign independent states – waging cold war at risk of turning hot against any or all of them. US war on Russia rages politically, economically, financially and through illegal sanctions.

The latest body blow came on December 11. US House members unanimously adopted a resolution, calling for the Trump regime to severely penalize EU nations and enterprises participating in Russia’s Nord Stream II gas pipeline project – wanting stiff sanctions imposed under the so-called Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) – targeting Russia, Iran and North Korea.

When completed, Nord Stream II will be the world’s longest underwater pipeline, a major engineering achievement.

It’ll be able to deliver 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas from beneath the Baltic Sea, its capacity to be doubled by an additional line, the project scheduled for completion by late 2019 or early 2020.

Russia’s world’s largest natural gas reserves and proximity to other European countries makes it the most logical supplier of their needs.

Nord Stream II will run from Russia’s border, below the Baltic Sea to Germany, crossing Russian and German waters, along with economic zones of Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Germany.

 

Five European companies are involved in construction – including France’s Engie, Austria’s OMV AG, Germany’s Uniper and Wintershall, along with Royal Dutch Shell. Brussels, including economic powerhouse Germany, strongly supports the project.

The Trump regime lied claiming it’ll undermine European energy security and stability. Polar opposite is true. It’ll be an economic and energy boon for countries benefitting from the project.

Trump regime Russophobes want America replacing Moscow as Europe’s main natural gas supplier, despite an ocean separating both continents, making it advantageous for EU countries to rely heavily on Russia for their LNG needs – impractical and expensive to ship it from the US.

Trump regime hardliners are going all-out to undermine Nord Stream II, intending to impose sanctions on European nations and companies involved in its construction.

Germany is key. Days earlier, its Foreign Minister Heiko Maas defended the project, stressing it makes no sense to abandon it. As long as Berlin maintains support, the Trump regime’s aim to undermine construction most likely will fail.

Austria’s OMV energy group CEO Rayner Zele said his company intends to continue financing the pipeline next year. It’s already invested over $600 million in the project.

Overwhelming US bipartisan hostility toward Russia is all about wanting it undermined politically, economically, financially and militarily – ahead of aiming to deliver a knockout blow by military or other means to transform the country into a US vassal state.

The same strategy is in play against China, the only nation able to challenge the US economically, industrially, and technologically.

That’s what trade war with Beijing is all about. It’s about trying to undermine Beijing’s “Made in China 2025” strategy.

It’s about wanting to sabotage its aim to advance 10 economic sectors to world-class status, including information technology, high-end machinery and robotics, aerospace, marine equipment and ships, advanced rail transport, new-energy vehicles, electric power, agricultural machinery, new materials and biomedical products.

It’s about wanting China prevented  from becoming an economic powerhouse, especially in sophisticated technological areas, able to challenge and perhaps surpass America’s dominance.

The trade deficit is largely a distraction, concealing US aims to co-opt, colonize, and control China, an objective risking possible nuclear war if US hardliners push things too far.

Saudi Arabia is the latest US target. Furor over Jamal Khashoggi’s murder is all about wanting control over the kingdom sustained.

It’s got nothing to do with his elimination or horrendous Saudi human rights abuses internally and abroad – the latter a non-issue for nearly a century in Riyadh’s relations with the West.

Legal/political analyst Darius Shahtahmasebi explained the key reason behind the furor over Khashoggi’s murder, why the CIA wants him replaced as crown prince, why Congress opposes him.

Ruling authorities in Washington don’t give a hoot about Saudi despotism, its junior partnership with US war in Yemen or its other unlawful actions.

The same goes for all other countries. Republicans and Dems support the world’s most ruthless tinpot despots – in the Middle East and elsewhere.

They turn a blind eye to intolerable Israeli apartheid, its state terror, and other high crimes.

The only US issue with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince is he’s “too ‘independent’ for the United States’ liking,” Shahtahmasebi explained, notably its energy and other dealings with Russia.

Kremlin/Riyadh talks about buying Russia’s sophisticated S-400 air defense systems, weapons, munitions, and perhaps other purchases infuriates the Washington.

The US also fears that the Saudis will abandon the petrodollar by selling oil to China in yuan, what Beijing apparently demands.

If Riyadh goes along, other Gulf states will likely follow to accommodate China, the world’s largest oil consumer.

Things most often aren’t as they seem. US furor over Khashoggi’s murder is largely about wanting control over the Saudis sustained.

MBS is considered unreliable and untrustworthy, why the CIA wants him replaced with a crown prince the US controls.

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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.

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Hungarian scholar George Szamuely tells Ann Garrison that he sees a 70 percent chance of combat between NATO and Russia following the incident in the Kerch Strait and that it is being fueled by Russia-gate.

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George Szamuely is a Hungarian-born scholar and Senior Research Fellow at London’s Global Policy Institute. He lives in New York City. I spoke to him about escalating hostilities on Russia’s Ukrainian and Black Sea borders and about Exercise Trident Juncture, NATO’s massive military exercise on Russian borders which ended just as the latest hostilities began.

Ann Garrison: George, the hostilities between Ukraine, NATO, and Russia continue to escalate in the Sea of Azov, the Kerch Strait, and the Black Sea. What do you think the latest odds of a shooting war between NATO and Russia are, if one hasn’t started by the time this is published?

George Szamuely: Several weeks ago, when we first talked about this, I said 60 percent. Now I’d say, maybe 70 percent. The problem is that Trump seems determined to be the anti-Obama. Obama, in Trump’s telling, “allowed” Russia to take Crimea and to “invade” Ukraine. Therefore, it will be up to Trump to reverse this. Just as he, Trump, reversed Obama’s policy on Iran by walking away from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal. So expect ever-increasing US involvement in Ukraine.

AG: NATO’s Supreme Commander US General Curtis M. Scaparrotti is reported to have been on the phone with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko “offering his full support.” Thoughts on that?

GS: There has been a proxy war within Ukraine since 2014, with NATO backing Poroshenko’s Ukrainian government and Russia backing the dissidents and armed separatists who speak Russian and identify as Russian in Ukraine’s southeastern Donbass region. But in the Kerch Strait the hostilities are between Russia and Ukraine, with NATO behind Ukraine.

A shooting war will begin if it escalates to where NATO soldiers shoot and kill Russian soldiers or vice versa. Whoever shoots first, the other side will feel compelled to respond, and then there’ll be a war between Russia and NATO or Russia and a NATO nation.

We don’t know whether NATO would feel compelled to respond as one if Russians fired on soldiers of individual NATO nations—most likely UK soldiers since the UK is sending more of its Special Forces and already has the largest NATO military presence in Ukraine. Russia could defeat the UK, but if the US gets involved, all bets are off.

AG: It’s hard to imagine that the US would allow Russia to defeat the UK.

GS: It is, but on the other hand, the US is the US and the UK is the UK. The United States might well be ready to fight to the last Brit, much as the United States is definitely ready to fight to the last Ukrainian. There are already 300 US paratroopers in Ukraine training Ukrainians, but the British would be well advised that words of encouragement from Washington don’t necessarily translate into US willingness to go to war.

AG: The US Congress passed a law that US troops can’t serve under any foreign command, so that would require US command.

GS: Yes, and without that, any British military defeat could be blamed on traditional British military incompetence rather than US weakness or foolish braggadocio.

AG: This latest dustup between the Russian and Ukrainian navies took place in the Kerch Strait. I had to study several maps to understand this, but basically neither Russian nor Ukrainian vessels, military or commercial, can get to or from the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea without passing through the Kerch Strait. That doesn’t mean that neither could get to the Black Sea, because both have Black Sea borders, but they couldn’t get from ports in the Sea of Azov to the Black Sea and back.

And neither Ukraine nor Russia can get from the Black Sea to Western European waters without passing through the Bosporous and Dardanelles Straits in Turkey to the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas, and then further to the Atlantic Ocean through the Strait of Gibraltar, which is bordered on one side by Spain and the British territory of Gibraltar, and on the other by Morocco and the Spanish territory Ceuta. So there are many geo-strategic choke points where Russian ships, naval or commercial, could be stopped by NATO nations or their allies, and Ukraine has already asked Turkey to stop them from passing through the Bosporus Strait. Thoughts on that?

GS: Well, of course Ukraine can ask for anything it likes. There’s no way in the world Turkey would try to stop Russian ships going through the Bosporus Strait. That would be a violation of the 1936 Montreux Convention and an act of war on the part of Turkey. It isn’t going to happen. As for the Kerch Strait, it is Russian territorial water. Ukraine is free to use it and has been doing so without incident since 2014. The only thing the Russians insist on is that any ship going through the strait use a Russian pilot. During the recent incident, the Ukrainian tug refused to use a Russian pilot. The Russians became suspicious, fearing that the Ukrainians were engaged in a sabotage mission to blow up the newly constructed bridge across the strait. You’ll remember that an American columnist not so long ago urged the Ukrainian authorities to blow up the bridge. That’s why the Russians accuse Kiev of staging a provocation.

AG: There’s a longstanding back channel between the White House and the Kremlin, as satirized in Dr. Strangelove. Anti-Trump fanatics keep claiming this is new and traitorous, but it’s long established. Obama and Putin used it to keep Russian and US soldiers from firing on one another instead of the jihadists both claimed to be fighting in Syria. Kennedy and Khrushchev used it to keep the Bay of Pigs crisis from escalating into a nuclear war. Shouldn’t Trump and Putin be talking on that back channel now, no matter how much it upsets CNN and MSNBC?

GS: Well, of course, they should. The danger is that in this atmosphere of anti-Russian hysteria such channels for dialogue may not be kept open. As a result, crises could escalate beyond the point at which either side could back down without losing face. What’s terrifying is that so many US politicians and press now describe any kind of negotiation, dialogue, or threat-management as treasonous collusion by Donald Trump.

Remember Trump’s first bombing in Syria in April 2017. Before he launched that attack, Trump administration officials gave advance warning to the Russians to enable them to get any Russian aircraft out of harm’s way. This perfectly sensible action on the part of the administration—leave aside the illegality and stupidity of the attack—was greeted by Hillary Clinton and the MSNBC crowd as evidence that the whole operation was cooked up by Trump and Putin to take attention off Russia-gate. It’s nuts.

AG: Most of us have heard Russia and NATO’s conflicting accounts of why the Russian Navy seized several Ukrainian vessels in the Sea of Azov. What’s your interpretation of what happened?

GS: As I said, I think the Russians had every right to be suspicious of the intent of the Ukrainian vessels. The Ukrainians know that these are Russian territorial waters. They know that the only way to go through the Kerch Strait is by making use of a Russian pilot. They refused to allow the Russians to pilot the ships through the strait. Whatever the Ukrainians’ ultimate intent was—whether it was to carry out an act of sabotage, to provoke the Russians into overreaction and then to demand help from NATO, or simply to go through the strait without a Russian pilot in order to enable President Poroshenko to proclaim the strait as non-Russian—whatever Kiev’s intent was, the Russians were entitled to respond. The force the Russians used was hardly excessive. In similar circumstances, the US would have destroyed all of the ships and killed everyone on board. Recall, incidentally, Israel has seized Gaza flotilla boats and arrested everyone on board. In 2010, the Israeli Navy shot nine activists dead during a flotilla boat seizure, and wounded one who died after four years in a coma.

AG: Don’t the US, Ukraine, and the UN Security Council refuse to recognize the Kerch Strait as Russian territory, and insist that Russia’s claim to it violates various maritime treaties? I know the UNSC refuses to recognize the Golan Heights as Israeli territory, not that that does Syria any good.

GS: According to the 2003 agreement, Russia and Ukraine agreed to consider the strait as well as the Sea of Azov as shared territorial waters. From 2014 on, Russia considered the strait as Russian waters, though it’s made no attempt to hamper Ukrainian shipping. The Azov Sea is still shared by Russia and Ukraine. During the recent incident, the Ukrainian Navy acted provocatively, deliberately challenging the Russians. As for what the UNSC accepts, how would NATO respond if Serbia entered Kosovo on some pretext or other?

AG: OK, now let’s go back to NATO’s Exercise Trident Juncture, a massive military exercise on Russia’s Scandinavian and Arctic borders that concluded on November 24, one day before the Kerch Strait incident. The first phase was deployment, from August to October. The second phase was war games from October 25th to November 7th. The war games were based on the premise that Russia had invaded Scandinavia by ground, air, and sea. They included 50,000 participants from 31 NATO and partner countries, 250 aircraft, 65 naval vessels, and up to 10,000 tanks and other ground vehicles, and I hate to think about how much fossil fuel they burned.

The final phase was a command post exercise to make sure that, should NATO forces ever face a real Russian invasion of Scandinavia, their response could be safely coordinated in Norway and in Italy, far from the war zone.

So George, do Scandinavians have reason to worry that Russia might invade any of their respective nations?

GS: Not at all. This is ridiculous. It was the largest military exercise since the end of the Cold War, and why? Why did they do this? Russia isn’t threatening Scandinavia, but it’s more likely that it will if NATO continues conducting war games on its borders. Right now tension between East and West is escalating so fast that a single event could be like a match that triggers an explosion, and then there’ll be a war.

AG: There was a recent Russian exercise, or joint Russian and Chinese exercise, based on the premise that the US had invaded Korea, right?

GS: Right. But it wasn’t anywhere near Europe, so it wasn’t threatening the Europeans. It took place in eastern Siberia, so it shouldn’t have caused panic in NATO countries. It shouldn’t have caused panic in the US either, because the Pacific Ocean separates the US and the Korean Peninsula.

What’s striking about Trident Juncture is that it involved Sweden and Finland, both of whom are traditionally neutral. They were neutral during the Cold War, not joining any alliances. Finlandization came to mean a foreign policy that in no way challenged or antagonized the USSR. So now here’s Finland rolling back that policy and joining NATO in this massive military exercise to stop nonexistent Russian aggression.

AG: Has Russia ever attempted to seize territory outside its own borders since the end of the Cold War?

GS: No. Russia never attempted to seize territory outside its own borders. The case cited by the West is Crimea, but that was really an outstanding issue that should have been addressed during the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Boris Yeltsin, the drunken, incompetent stooge that the US installed, just neglected it.

The Russian-speaking and Russian-identified people of Crimea were unhappy about Ukraine claiming sovereignty over them. They had been an autonomous republic within the USSR, and after its dissolution, they still retained their constitutional autonomy. That’s what gave them the right to hold a referendum to join the Russia Federation in 2014.

If the West is involved in an uprising, as in Ukraine, it recognizes the “independence” of the government it puts in power. It won’t recognize the constitutional autonomy of Crimea, which predated the 2014 Ukrainian revolution or illegal armed coup, whichever you call it, because it wasn’t part of their plan.

AG: The NATO nations and their allies say that Russia invaded and occupied Crimea, violating Ukrainian sovereignty according to international law. Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman referred to the “illegal annexation” of Crimea at least three times after the Kerch Strait incident. How do you explain the presence of Russian soldiers in Crimea prior to the referendum?

GS: They didn’t invade and occupy Crimea. Their forces were there legally, according to a 25-year lease agreement between Russia and Ukraine.

Crimea had been a part of Russia for more than 200 years. For most of the time, during the USSR era, it was an autonomous republic within the Russian Federation. In 1954, Khrushchev transferred some degree of sovereignty over the Crimean Republic to Ukraine. I’m not entirely sure why he did that, but the issue wasn’t that important then because Ukraine, Russia and Crimea were all part of the USSR.

Khrushchev didn’t envisage an independent Ukraine walking off with such a prize piece of real estate. Crimea is not only a huge tourist destination, it is also the site of Russia’s primary naval base on the Black Sea in Sevastopol. Yeltsin failed to address the problem in 1991. Since then, every time Crimeans talked about holding a referendum on their future, Kiev threatened to use force to stop them. Kiev would have used force again in 2014 if the Russians in the Port of Sevastopol had not left their Crimean base and made their presence known.

AG: The US, aka NATO, has an empire of military bases all over the world, and troops right up against Russia’s borders as in Exercise Trident Juncture. Does Russia have anything remotely like it?

NATO practices war with Russia. Exercise Trident Juncture. (Master-Corporal Jonathan Barrette, Canadian Forces Combat Camera)

GS: No. Russia does not have military bases outside its borders, which are now more or less as they were in 1939, when the USSR was surrounded by hostile states that were more than happy to join Hitler. So it’s ridiculous to tell Russia, “Don’t worry about our troops and war games all over your borders because we don’t really mean any harm.” Washington is calling Russia an existential enemy, and the UK is promising to stand shoulder to shoulder with its NATO allies and partners against “Russian aggression,” which is really Russian defense. So now we have an explosive situation on the Ukrainian and Russian borders that could easily turn into a shooting war.

AG: I read some US/NATO complaints that Russia was conducting exercises on its own side of the border. And last week NATO accused the Russian military of jamming its signals during its rehearsal for a war on Russia’s borders.

GS: Yes, that’s what the US considers Russian aggression, even though its troops and bases are all over the world and all over Russia’s borders.

AG: Competition between US and Russian energy corporations is one of the main undercurrents to all this. The US State Department even said that Europe should abandon the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline project with Russia because of the Kerch Strait incident, but that received a cool response, particularly from Angela Merkel. What are your thoughts about that?

GS: Well, obviously, the Trump administration is determined to push the Europeans to give up on natural gas from Russia and to opt, instead, for US liquefied natural gas (LNG). The problem is that LNG shipped across the Atlantic is much more expensive than natural gas piped to Europe from Russia. So it’s clearly not in the interests of the Europeans to have a bigger energy bill. Look what’s happening in France. Ordinary people are not making so much money that they can afford to shell out more for energy, particularly when there is no need to do so. Some countries such as Poland are so imbued with hostility toward Russia that they’re willing to pay more for gas just to hurt Russia, but Germany won’t go down this path.

AG: Anything else you’d like to say for now?

GS: Yes, I think it’s amazing that this many years after the Cold War we’ve reached a point where there’s almost no public criticism of a policy that has led to the US abandoning a major arms control agreement, namely the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty signed in 1987.

There’s almost no public criticism of the US getting involved in an armed confrontation on Russia’s doorstep, in Ukraine, Syria, Iran, or conceivably even Scandinavia. There’s almost no public criticism of roping formerly neutral European powers like Sweden and Finland into NATO military exercises.

Given the fact that the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty that went into effect in 2011 will expire in 2021, and given that there’s nothing on the horizon to take its place, this is an extraordinarily perilous point in time.

And much of this has to be blamed on the liberals. The liberals have embraced an anti-Russian agenda. The kind of liberal view that prevailed during the Cold War was that we should at least pursue arms control agreements. We might not like the Communists, but we need treaties to prevent a nuclear war. Now there’s no such caution. Any belligerence towards Russia is now good and justified. There’s next to no pushback against getting into a war with Russia, even though it could go nuclear.

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Ann Garrison is an independent journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2014, she received the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for her reporting on conflict in the African Great Lakes Region. She can be reached at [email protected] She is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

All images in this article are from Consortiumnews

How We’re Getting Net Neutrality Back

December 15th, 2018 by Timothy Karr

A year ago today, the Federal Communications Commission under Chairman Ajit Pai made one of the worst, most abnormal decisions in the agency’s history.

It ignored public consensus and voted to strip away the Commission’s authority to protect internet users from companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon that want to block, throttle or de-prioritize the online content people want to see.

The Pai FCC justified that decision with the bogus claim that the strong open-internet rules adopted in 2015 were hurting broadband investment and speeds. Powered solely by these lies, Pai ripped up not just the nondiscrimination rights embodied in the Net Neutrality rules, but the entire legal foundation for the FCC to promote broadband deployment, affordability and privacy.

At the time, then-Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said in her dissent that “the public can plainly see that a soon-to-be-toothless FCC is handing the keys to the internet — the internet, one of the most remarkable, empowering, enabling inventions of our lifetime — over to a handful of multibillion-dollar corporations.”

And that public, alongside several advocacy groups like Free Press that support an open internet, has not been silent in the year since. We’re looking forward with optimism. Alongside a new crop of pro-Net Neutrality lawmakers everywhere from Capitol Hill to city halls, we’re confident that this year without Net Neutrality is an aberration — and that the days of Chairman Pai’s assault on the open internet are numbered.

Here’s why:

New champions in Congress

In 2018, Net Neutrality advocates mobilized a record number of elected officials to our side. Nowhere was this more evident than on Capitol Hill, where a bipartisan majority in the Senate passed a resolution in May to restore the open-internet rules.

That resolution is still gathering support in the House, where 181 members have already pledged to sign a discharge petition to bring it to a full floor vote in the last few days of the congressional session ending this month. That’s short of the 218 required to move the petition forward, but we’ve never had this many members of Congress signal such strong support for Net Neutrality. We wouldn’t have seen so many new champions were it not for the millions of people Free Press Action and other groups mobilized to speak out.

Add to that existing support a remarkable class of representatives who will enter the House in 2019, and there’s every reason for optimism. Among the new members are several outspoken supporters of open-internet protections who campaigned on the issue and won.

New champions in city halls

In response to the outcry against Pai’s repeal, more than 125 U.S. mayors signed on to a pledge requiring all internet providers that do business with participating cities to adhere to strong Net Neutrality principles. Signers include the mayors of Austin, Baltimore, Birmingham, Boise, Columbus, Kansas City, Minneapolis, New York, Newark, both Portlands, St. Louis, San Antonio and San Francisco. Together these cities have a population of more than 30 million people.

New champions in state legislatures

Right away it became clear that the only people who support Pai’s action are industry lobbyists in Washington, D.C., and the politicians who are beholden to them.

But the people of Washington State were living a reality rooted in the facts. Washington was among the first of 37 states to put forth legislation or resolutions rejecting the FCC decision and reinstating the Net Neutrality rules at the state level. Protections were soon signed into law by California, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

Meanwhile, the governors of six states signed executive orders requiring companies wishing to contract with the states to confirm that they would adhere to the 2015 Net Neutrality standards.

The court case continues

The Pai FCC will also have to defend its repeal and abdication of authority in court. Free Press and our allies are challenging the agency’s reversal on the proper definition of broadband, its flawed justifications for tossing out the rules and the many procedural fouls that plagued the FCC’s action last year.

The lawsuit is in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, with oral arguments scheduled for February 1. Pai and his Republican colleagues will have to defend their phony rationale for destroying the open-internet protections and putting nothing in their place.

The FCC is under investigation

The FCC chairman is stonewalling an ongoing investigation to identify just who was behind the millions of fake comments that plagued the agency’s Net Neutrality proceeding. Pai has gone the extra yard to impede inquiries by reporters, researchers and state attorneys general.

His level of obstruction raises the obvious question (as posed by Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel): “What is the FCC hiding?” As the FBI has also taken up the investigation, it will be increasingly difficult for Pai to help shield the culprits or excuse his agency’s negligence and possible complicity in the plot.

Bipartisan support everywhere

When you discount the millions of fake comments, the public record at the FCC shows overwhelming public opposition to Pai’s decision to repeal the Net Neutrality protections. This is reflected in public polling that shows strong bipartisan support for these safeguards.

According to a 2018 University of Maryland poll, 82 percent of Republicans, 90 percent of Democrats and 85 percent of independents opposed Pai’s decision to take away our right to choose where we go, what we do and whom we connect with online. This near-consensus is reflected in other polls as well, removing any doubt that people will support any politician, regardless of party, who sides with them in support of Net Neutrality.

That’s because people understand what’s at stake. Without Net Neutrality, large phone and cable companies will take control of the stories we tell, deciding who gets a voice and who doesn’t.

It’s why we’re confident that open-internet supporters will win in the end. And that victory will come sooner rather than later.

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Featured image is from Maria Merkulova via Free Press

Global Research Editor’s note

The recently released IPCC study on global warming has triggered public alarmism. The complexities of climate change are not fully addressed.

It is important in debating the climatic impacts of CO2 emissions to address the broader issue of climate manipulation.

As Professor Richard Lindzen of MIT pointed out more than ten years ago in a 2007 article: “Scientists who dissent from the alarmism have seen their grant funds disappear, their work derided.”

Below is the text of Professor Lindzen. 

Global Research’s editorial stance is to publish several differing points of view with regard to climate change as a means to fostering analysis, discussion and scientific dialogue.

In this regard, we have also published articles on on the issue of climatic warfare, namely the use of environmental modification techniques (climate manipulation) as an instrument of modern warfare, as acknowledged by the US Air Force. 

The IPCC report heralds CO2 emissions as the single and most important threat to the future of humanity. No mention of the word “war” –i.e. the US-NATO led war and its devastating environmental consequences.   

“No mention of “weather warfare” or “environmental modification techniques” (ENMOD) and climatic warfare.

No mention in the debate on climate change of the US Air Force 2025 project entitled “Owning the Weather” for military use. (See FAS, AF2025 v3c15-1 | Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning… | (Ch 1) [link no longer active,see also SPACE.com — U.S. Military Wants to Own the Weather)

This article by Prof Lindzen was originally published by Global Research in April 2007

Michel Chossudovsky, December 15, 2018


There have been repeated claims that this past year’s hurricane activity [2005-2006] was another sign of human-induced climate change. Everything from the heat wave in Paris to heavy snows in Buffalo has been blamed on people burning gasoline to fuel their cars, and coal and natural gas to heat, cool and electrify their homes. Yet how can a barely discernible, one-degree increase in the recorded global mean temperature since the late 19th century possibly gain public acceptance as the source of recent weather catastrophes? And how can it translate into unlikely claims about future catastrophes?

The answer has much to do with misunderstanding the science of climate, plus a willingness to debase climate science into a triangle of alarmism. Ambiguous scientific statements about climate are hyped by those with a vested interest in alarm, thus raising the political stakes for policy makers who provide funds for more science research to feed more alarm to increase the political stakes. After all, who puts money into science–whether for AIDS, or space, or climate–where there is nothing really alarming? Indeed, the success of climate alarmism can be counted in the increased federal spending on climate research from a few hundred million dollars pre-1990 to $1.7 billion today [2007]. It can also be seen in heightened spending on solar, wind, hydrogen, ethanol and clean coal technologies, as well as on other energy-investment decisions.

But there is a more sinister side to this feeding frenzy. Scientists who dissent from the alarmism have seen their grant funds disappear, their work derided, and themselves libeled as industry stooges, scientific hacks or worse. Consequently, lies about climate change gain credence even when they fly in the face of the science that supposedly is their basis.

To understand the misconceptions perpetuated about climate science and the climate of intimidation, one needs to grasp some of the complex underlying scientific issues. First, let’s start where there is agreement. The public, press and policy makers have been repeatedly told that three claims have widespread scientific support: Global temperature has risen about a degree since the late 19th century; levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have increased by about 30% over the same period; and CO2 should contribute to future warming. These claims are true. However, what the public fails to grasp is that the claims neither constitute support for alarm nor establish man’s responsibility for the small amount of warming that has occurred. In fact, those who make the most outlandish claims of alarm are actually demonstrating skepticism of the very science they say supports them. It isn’t just that the alarmists are trumpeting model results that we know must be wrong. It is that they are trumpeting catastrophes that couldn’t happen even if the models were right as justifying costly policies to try to prevent global warming.

If the models are correct, global warming reduces the temperature differences between the poles and the equator. When you have less difference in temperature, you have less excitation of extratropical storms, not more. And, in fact, model runs support this conclusion. Alarmists have drawn some support for increased claims of tropical storminess from a casual claim by Sir John Houghton of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that a warmer world would have more evaporation, with latent heat providing more energy for disturbances. The problem with this is that the ability of evaporation to drive tropical storms relies not only on temperature but humidity as well, and calls for drier, less humid air. Claims for starkly higher temperatures are based upon there being more humidity, not less–hardly a case for more storminess with global warming.

So how is it that we don’t have more scientists speaking up about this junk science? It’s my belief that many scientists have been cowed not merely by money but by fear. An example: Earlier this year, Texas Rep. Joe Barton issued letters to paleoclimatologist Michael Mann and some of his co-authors seeking the details behind a taxpayer-funded analysis that claimed the 1990s were likely the warmest decade and 1998 the warmest year in the last millennium. Mr. Barton’s concern was based on the fact that the IPCC had singled out Mr. Mann’s work as a means to encourage policy makers to take action. And they did so before his work could be replicated and tested–a task made difficult because Mr. Mann, a key IPCC author, had refused to release the details for analysis. The scientific community’s defense of Mr. Mann was, nonetheless, immediate and harsh. The president of the National Academy of Sciences–as well as the American Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Union–formally protested, saying that Rep. Barton’s singling out of a scientist’s work smacked of intimidation.

All of which starkly contrasts to the silence of the scientific community when anti-alarmists were in the crosshairs of then-Sen. Al Gore. In 1992, he ran two congressional hearings during which he tried to bully dissenting scientists, including myself, into changing our views and supporting his climate alarmism. Nor did the scientific community complain when Mr. Gore, as vice president, tried to enlist Ted Koppel in a witch hunt to discredit anti-alarmist scientists–a request that Mr. Koppel deemed publicly inappropriate. And they were mum when subsequent articles and books by Ross Gelbspan libelously labeled scientists who differed with Mr. Gore as stooges of the fossil-fuel industry.

Sadly, this is only the tip of a non-melting iceberg. In Europe, Henk Tennekes was dismissed as research director of the Royal Dutch Meteorological Society after questioning the scientific underpinnings of global warming. Aksel Winn-Nielsen, former director of the U.N.’s World Meteorological Organization, was tarred by Bert Bolin, first head of the IPCC, as a tool of the coal industry for questioning climate alarmism. Respected Italian professors Alfonso Sutera and Antonio Speranza disappeared from the debate in 1991, apparently losing climate-research funding for raising questions.

And then there are the peculiar standards in place in scientific journals for articles submitted by those who raise questions about accepted climate wisdom. At Science and Nature, such papers are commonly refused without review as being without interest. However, even when such papers are published, standards shift. When I, with some colleagues at NASA, attempted to determine how clouds behave under varying temperatures, we discovered what we called an “Iris Effect,” wherein upper-level cirrus clouds contracted with increased temperature, providing a very strong negative climate feedback sufficient to greatly reduce the response to increasing CO2. Normally, criticism of papers appears in the form of letters to the journal to which the original authors can respond immediately. However, in this case (and others) a flurry of hastily prepared papers appeared, claiming errors in our study, with our responses delayed months and longer. The delay permitted our paper to be commonly referred to as “discredited.” Indeed, there is a strange reluctance to actually find out how climate really behaves. In 2003, when the draft of the U.S. National Climate Plan urged a high priority for improving our knowledge of climate sensitivity, the National Research Council instead urged support to look at the impacts of the warming–not whether it would actually happen.

Alarm rather than genuine scientific curiosity, it appears, is essential to maintaining funding. And only the most senior scientists today can stand up against this alarmist gale, and defy the iron triangle of climate scientists, advocates and policymakers.

Richard Lindzen is Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT.

Of relevance to current developments, this article was first published by Truthout and posted on Global Research in March 2016

Humans generate more than 300 million tons of plastic annually — an amount equal to the combined body weight of the entire global adult human population — and nearly half of the plastic is only used one time before it is tossed away to eventually find its way to the oceans. So it should come as little surprise that by 2050, it is a virtual certainty that every seabird on the planet will have plastic in its stomach.

Recent estimates indicate that upwards of 8 million tons of plastic are added to the planet’s oceans every year, the equivalent of a dump truck full of plastic every minute. That is enough plastic to have led one scientist to estimate that people who consume average amounts of seafood are ingesting approximately 11,000 particles of plastic every year.

The earth’s oceans will have more plastic than fish by 2050, according to a January report published by the World Economic Forum.

Experts with whom Truthout spoke on the topic confirmed that these trends are likely to continue. Biological oceanographer Dr. Debora Iglesias-Rodriguez, with the National Oceanography Centre at Britain’s University of Southampton, is very concerned about public indifference to the urgency of the situation.

“Marine pollution is a big issue,” Iglesias-Rodriguez told Truthout.

“There is this idea that oceans have unlimited inertia, but nanoparticles of plastic getting into marine animals and the food chain are affecting fish fertility rates, and this affects food security and coastal populations. Pollution is having a huge impact on the oceans and is urgent and needs to be dealt with.”

Photo: Plastic Bag via Shutterstock; Edited: LW / TO

“Unexpected Results”

In the North Pacific Ocean, there exists what has become known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” a phenomenon scientists know as the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre.

Miriam Goldstein, a researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, warned Truthout that by adding massive amounts of plastic into the oceans, humans are causing large-scale change to the oceans’ entire ecological system.

Goldstein is the lead author of a study that revealed just how deeply into the oceanic ecosystem plastic has already embedded itself.

“We found eggs on the pieces of plastic, and these were sea skater [insect] eggs,” Goldstein said. “Sea skaters naturally occur in the gyre and are known to lay their eggs on floating objects. So we found that the amount of eggs being laid had increased with the amount of plastic.”

The North Pacific Subtropical Gyre’s eastern section, located between Hawai’i and California, is estimated to be about twice the size of Texas. According to Goldstein, this vast “garbage patch” contains an “alarming amount” of plastic garbage, the majority of which is comprised of very small-size pieces.

Goldstein’s study shows how the immense amount of plastic is creating consequences for animals across the marine food web.

Another Scripps study shows that nearly 10 percent of the fish collected during a trip to the gyre had plastic waste in their stomachs.

Published in Marine Ecology Progress Series, the aforementioned study (authored by Peter Davison and Rebecca Asch) estimates that fish at intermediate ocean depths in the North Pacific Ocean could be ingesting plastic at the staggering rate of 12,000 to 24,000 tons per year.

Yet plastic will not likely be going away anytime soon. The use of plastic bags around the world has increased by 20 times in the last 50 years. One-third of all plastic packaging then escapes collection systems, and a large percentage of that plastic eventually ends up in the oceans, according to the World Economic Forum report.

Only 5 percent of plastics are effectively recycled, and the production of plastics is expected to increase by at least 1.12 billion tons by 2050.

“Our work shows there could be potential effects to the ocean ecosystem that we can’t expect or predict,” Goldstein said.

“There are five subtropical gyres, one in each ocean basin, and they are natural currents. They are vast areas of the oceans; together they comprise the majority of the area of the oceans. So altering them on a large scale could have unexpected results on all kinds of things.”

Ocean 3.0?

The amount of plastic floating in the Pacific Gyre has increased 100-fold in the past four decades. Meanwhile, phytoplankton counts are dropping, overfishing is causing dramatic decreases in fish populations, decreasing ocean salinity is intensifying weather extremes, and warming oceans are speeding up melting in Greenland, the Arctic and in Antarctica.

One warning of humanity’s increasingly deleterious impact on the oceans comes from prominent marine biologist Jeremy Jackson of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. In an article published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Jackson emphasizes that, without profound and prompt changes in human behavior, we will cause a “mass extinction in the oceans with unknown ecological and evolutionary consequences.”

The statement might sound extreme, until one considers the extent to which we impact the oceans, whether we realize it or not. As science journalist Alanna Mitchell has written about the oceans:

“Every tear you cry … ends up back in the ocean system. Every third molecule of carbon dioxide you exhale is absorbed into the ocean. Every second breath you take comes from the oxygen produced by plankton.”

Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, a research associate at the California Academy of Sciences, told Truthout he finds plastic on every beach he visits across the globe, and added, “Probably every sea turtle on the planet interacts with plastic at some point in its life.”

Not only is Nichols intimately familiar with the pollution crisis plastic poses to the oceans, but also he is well acquainted with the oceanic destruction already underway due to anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD).

He describes sea turtles as a “poster species” for the impacts of ACD: He said their eggs

“are literally cooking on beaches now because the temperatures have moved out of the tolerable range.”

“You often see the polar bear used as the poster species for climate change, but I think sea turtles are just as good of a poster species because they are everywhere and they are already being impacted as the ocean warms,”

Nichols added.

In addition to ACD and plastic, he notes that we are introducing too much pollution into the oceans, and taking too much out of them by way of overfishing.

“We’re putting too much in, in all forms of pollution; we’re taking too much out by fishing, overfishing and bycatch; and we’re destroying the edge of the ocean, the places where there is the most biodiversity, reefs, mangroves, seagrass etc.,” he said. “Those are the three big buckets…. Almost every threat to the ocean falls into one of those. We need to put less in, take less out and protect the edges by making some of them off limits to human activity.”

Nichols is deeply concerned by the pace at which negative changes are occurring across the oceans. He said that every time scientists have attempted to predict future scenarios, the pace seems to only quicken.

According to Nichols, despite scientists’ ongoing attempts to adjust their models to keep up with the quickening of feedback loops and other issues, we are still unable to keep pace with the dramatic changes.

He believes “the clock in many ways has already run out,” due to the fact that we are still increasing our use of fossil fuels, while continuing to generate so much plastic and pollution. Nichols says he is frustrated by the fact that despite there being more conversation about these issues now than ever before, that dialogue is still not translating into societal change or evolution.

Truthout asked Nichols if he sees the future becoming worse for the oceans.

“We’re living in it now, from a climate change/fisheries/pollution/habitat destruction point of view, our nightmare is here; it’s the world we live in,” he said. “You see it everywhere now, the collapsing fisheries, the changes in the Arctic and the hardships communities that live there are having to face, the frequency and intensity of storms — everything we imagined 40 years ago when the environmental movement was born, we’re dealing with those now.”

Nichols concluded by describing three possible oceans. Ocean 1.0 is the pristine natural ocean, while Ocean 2.0 is the ocean we have now, which is a result of having, as he described it, lived under “the petroleum product regime.”

“Ocean 3.0 is the future ocean, and it can either be a dead ocean, or we can really come up with some very innovative solutions that right now people aren’t even talking about,” he said.

To Nichols, a positive vision of Ocean 3.0 would entail new ways of getting food from the ocean that don’t involve long lines and bottom trawling, both extremely destructive ways to fish commercially.

It would involve a whole new way of thinking about our packaging and a zero-waste approach to consumer goods, which, he believes, is all possible — if we can muster the political and personal motivation.

“We could have a healthy ocean in 50 years if we make some bold moves,” he said. Those moves would need to include “a cleaner, more responsible set of actions for how we get energy from the ocean and how we use them as a source of food.”

Without those actions happening en masse, Nichols fears we are headed for the “dead ocean” version of our future.

“The dire predictions — they are already here in many, many ways,” he said.

Corrections: Miriam Goldstein was originally attributed the statement of her study having “dire” consequences, which was inaccurately attributed, and hence corrected. Goldstein’s quotes were in close proximity of the sentence, “Not only is it leading to early deaths of animals that ingest it, but also humans then ingesting fish with plastic in their systems are at increased risk of cancer and other health issues.” Please note that this information is not in any way intended to be attributed to Goldstein’s research.

Copyright, Truthout. Reprinted with permission.

Dahr Jamail, a Truthout staff reporter, is the author of The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, (Haymarket Books, 2009), and Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq, (Haymarket Books, 2007). Jamail reported from Iraq for more than a year, as well as from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Turkey over the last ten years, and has won the Martha Gellhorn Award for Investigative Journalism, among other awards.

His third book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co-written with William Rivers Pitt, is available now on Amazon. He lives and works in Washington State.

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Russian forces have established several military positions near the US-controlled zone of at-Tanf, pro-government media activists reported on December 12.

A source familiar with the situation, told SouthFront that several air-defense systems and other military equipment were deployed at the Russian positions. More weapons, including heavy rocket launchers, are reportedly expected to arrive there in the upcoming few days.

“US Controlled Zone” (Military Base) in At-Tanf, Southeastern Syria close to the border with Jordan

The Saudi London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat even claimed that Russia is going to deploy an S-300 system to the province of Deir Ezzor. However, this type of rumors is common for the Saudi outlet, which has been actively working to fuel tensions between the Syrian-Iranian-Russian alliance and the US-Israeli-led bloc as well as between Russia and Iran.

In early December, forces of the US-led coalition employed its M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System to fire several rockets at positions of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in the area of al-Ghurab Mount. The shelling caused no casualties but contributed to further growth of tensions in this part of Syria.

Late on December 13, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces made a fresh effort to capture the town of Hajin from ISIS. According to pro-SDF sources, the group is now in control of the town center and clashing with the terrorists in its southern part. Some sources even already speculated that Hajin is under full SDF control. However, this is yet to be happen.

 

A spokesman for the coalition of pro-Turkish militant groups branded as the Syrian National Army, Major Youssef Hamoud, told Reuters that up to 15,000 Turkish-backed militants will participate in the upcoming Turkish operation against the Kurdish militias – YPG/YPJ in northern Syria.

The statement came as the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) deployed a few dozens of armoured vehicles in its provinces bordering the Syrian province of Aleppo.

Meanwhile, a Turkish soldier was killed in an attack of the YPG near the town of Tell Rifaat in northern Aleppo. The TAF responded to the attack by launching a series of powerful artillery strikes on YPG and SAA positions near the town.

It should be noted that earlier in 2018 a notable number of YPG members had fled from the Turkish advance on Afrin to the areas protected by the SAA near the city of Aleppo. Local sources say that YPG members may attempt to use SAA positions as a shield for their attacks on the TAF. In case of the success, this approach may cause open hostilities between the SAA and the TAF in the area.

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Campaigners have condemned the decision of the European Parliament to support a €13 billion budget for the ‘European Defence Fund’ for 2021-2027.

The proposal was included in a report called ‘Establishing the European Defence Fund’ which was compiled by the Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE). This committee is formed by politicians from across the parliament.

The Commission proposed €13 billion for the fund for the period 2021-2027 (in current prices), of which €4.1 billion are to be allocated to research actions and €8.9 billion to development actions.

The concept of the fund was announced by President Juncker in 2016 and backed by the European Council later that year. Between 2017-2020, a total of €590 million will be channeled to the military industry through this fund in initial pilot projects. This spending will be totally eclipsed by the proposed increase.

The advisory group/ Group of Personalities that initially developed the policy was dominated by arms companies. This Group was made up of 16 members, 9 of which were from arms companies or private research groups. Six of the companies that have already benefited from pilot phase had members on the group.

Member States refused to exclude funding for the development of fully autonomous weapons in the 2019-2020 pilot phase of the Defence Fund, and the draft Regulation for 2021-2027 specifically mentions “disruptive technologies” as a focus, meaning weapons or technologies which “can radically change the concepts and conduct of” war, such as artificial intelligence.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said:

“This sets a very negative precedent and will see billions of pounds more of public money being used to subsidise arms companies.

The European Union was envisaged as a peaceful project, it should be investing in jobs and research projects that promote sustainable industries and contribute to the prevention of conflicts.

Whatever your views on Brexit and the UK’s role in Europe, it should not be using public money to fund research for companies that profit from war.”

This represents a major precedent for the EU – which had its roots in plans to bring peace to Europe. It has not funded these kinds of projects in the past. Last month, 42 campaign groups from across Europe issued a joint statement to oppose the fund. You can see it here.

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Crimes Against the Earth

December 14th, 2018 by Dr. Andrew Glikson

“Dear Caesar 
Keep Burning, raping, killing
But please, please
Spare us your obscene poetry
And ugly music “

(From Seneca’s last letter to Nero)

The excavation of more than 600 billion tons of toxic carbon and hydrocarbon geological remains of previous biospheres and their transfer to the atmosphere as carbon gases constitutes nothing less than insanity leading to global suicide.

With estimated profitable carbon reserves in excess of 20,000 GtC (Assessing “Dangerous Climate Change”, see this), including oil shale, tar sand, coal seam gas, further emissions would take the atmosphere, oceans and biosphere back to early Eocene (~55-40 million years ago) and Mesozoic-like (pre-65 million years ago) greenhouse atmosphere and acid oceans conditions, during which large parts of the continents were inundated by the oceans. Most likely to survive the extreme transition over a few centuries would be grasses, some insects and perhaps some birds, descendants of the fated dinosaurs. A new evolutionary cycle would commence. Survivors of Homo sapiens may endure in the Arctic.

Figure 1. Global warming by January 2018 relative to 1951-1980

Since about 542 million years ago, acting as the lungs of the biosphere, the Earth’s atmosphere developed an oxygen-rich composition over hundreds of millions of years, allowing emergence of breathing animals.

A critical parameter in Drake’s Equation, which seeks to estimate the number of planets that host civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy, is L – the longevity of technological civilizations. Estimates of L range between a minimum of 70 years and 10,000 years, but even for the more optimistic scenarios, only a tiny fraction of such planets would exist in the galaxy at the present time. It is another question whether an intelligent species exists in this, or any other galaxy, which has brought about a mass extinction of species on the scale initiated by Homo sapiens since the mid-18th century and in particular since 1945..

The history of Earth includes six major mass extinctions defining the end of several periods, including the End-Ediacaran, Ordovician, Devonian, Permian, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Each of these events has been triggered either by extra-terrestrial impacts (End-Ediacaran and K-T) , massive volcanic eruptions, or methane release and related greenhouse events. Yet, with the exception of the proposed role of methanogenic bacteria for methane eruptions, the current Seventh mass extinction of species constitutes a novelty. For the first time in its history, the biosphere is in crisis through biological forcing by an advanced form of life, i.e. of a technological carbon-emitting species.

The distinct glacial-interglacial cycles of the Pleistocene (2.6 million years ago to 10,000 years ago), with rapid mean global temperature changes of up to 5 degrees Celsius rises over a few thousand years, and, in some instances shorter periods, forced an extreme adaptability of the Genus Homo. Of all the life forms on Earth, only this genus mastered fire, proceeding to manipulate the electromagnetic spectrum, split the atom and travel to other planets, a cultural change overtaking biological change.

Possessed by a conscious fear of death, craving a god-like immortality and omniscience, Homo developed the absurd faculty to simultaneously create and destroy, culminating with the demise of the atmospheric conditions that allowed its flourishing in the first place. The biological root factors which underlie the transformation of tribal warriors into button-pushing automatons capable of triggering global warming or a nuclear winter remain inexplicable.

Inherent in the enigma are little-understood top-to-base mechanisms, explored among others by George Ellis, who states: “although the laws of physics explain much of the world around us, we still do not have a realistic description of causality in truly complex hierarchical structures.” (“Physics, complexity and causality”, Nature, 435: 743, June 2005):

66 million years ago, huge asteroids hit the Earth, extinguishing the dinosaurs and vacating habitats, succeeded by the flourishing of mammals. At 56 million years ago, in the wake of a rise of atmospheric CO2 to levels near-800 parts per million, the monkeys made appearance. About 34 million years ago, weathering of the rising Himalayan and Alps sequestered CO2.  Earth was cooling, the Antarctic ice sheet formed and conditions on land became suitable for large, warm blooded mammals.

About 5.2 to 2.6 million years ago, in the Pliocene, with temperatures 2 – 3oC and sea levels 25+/-12 meters higher than during the 15th to 18th centuries, the accentuation of climate oscillations saw the appearance of the genus Paranthropus and the genus Homo. At least about one million years ago the mastering of fire by Homo Erectus, about a quarter of a millennium ago the appearance of Homo sapiens,and about 8,000 years ago the stabilization of the interglacial Holocene, saw the Neolithic and urban civilization.

Since the industrial age about 1750 and in particular from 1950, a period denoted as the Anthropocoene (cf. Steffen, Crutzen and McNeill, Ambio, 36, 614-621, 2007), deforestation and climate change led to the demise of an estimated 10,000 species per year due to destruction of habitats, ever increasing carbon pollution, acidification of the hydrosphere.

Planetcide stems back to deep recesses of the human mind, primeval fear of death leading to yearning for god-like immortality. Once excess food was produced, fear and its counterpart, violence, grew out of control, generating murderous orgies called “war“, designed to conquer death to appease the Gods.

From the Romans to the Third Reich, the barbarism of empires surpasses that of small marauding tribes. In the name of freedomthey never cease to bomb peasant populations in their small fields. Only among the wretched of the Earth is true charity common, where empathy is learnt through suffering.

War is a synonym for ritual sacrifice of the young. From infanticide by rival warlord baboons, to the butchering of young children on Aztec altars, to the generational sacrifice such as in WWI, youths follow leaders blindly to the death. Hijacking the image of Christ, a messenger of justice and peace, fundamentalists promote a self-fulfilling Armageddon, while other see their future on space ships and barren planets. Nowadays a cabal of multibillionaires, executives and their political and media mouthpieces are leading the human race and much of nature to ultimate demise, with little resistance from the majority of people, either unaware or too afraid to resist the slide over the cliff.

Humans live in a realm of perceptions, dreams, myths and legends, in denial of critical existential factors (Janus: A summing up, Arthur Koestler, 1978) in a world as cruel as it is beautiful. Existentialist philosophy allows a perspective into, and a way of coping with, all that defies rational contemplation. Ethical and cultural assumptions of free willrarely govern the behavior of societies or nations, let alone an entire species.

And although the planet may not shed a tear for the demise of technological civilization, hope on the individual scale for the moment is possible. Going through the black night of the soul, members of the species may be rewarded by the emergence of a conscious dignity devoid of illusions, grateful for the glimpse at the universe for which humans are privileged for the fleeting moment:

Having pushed a boulder up the mountain all day, turning toward the setting sun, we must consider Sisyphus happy.” (Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus, 1942)

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Dr Andrew Glikson, Earth and Paleo-climate science, Australia National University (ANU) School of Anthropology and Archaeology, ANU Planetary Science Institute, ANU Climate Change Institute, Honorary Associate Professor, Geothermal Energy Centre of Excellence, University of Queensland. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

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The media spectacle that’s being made over President Putin’s supposed partnership with the East German Stasi is a form of Hybrid War being waged by the West against Nord Stream, incidentally using the exact same tactics that Russia is commonly accused of employing in seeking to sow chaos, discord, and confusion in German society over Moscow’s geopolitical motives for this pipeline.

The Western Mainstream Media has found a new object of fixation earlier this week after reports surfaced of a German document that was “discovered” in the country’s archives alleging to prove that President Putin used to work for the East German Stasi. The Kremlin commentated on this spectacle by claiming that it’s indeed possible that the Russian leader had at one time received Stasi papers as part of a cooperation agreement with the KGB whereby the two allied security services swapped documents in order to facilitate their counterparts’ work, but the story nevertheless doesn’t seem to be going away since some forces evidently have an interest in keeping it on people’s minds.

This might seem a bit strange at first because this so-called “revelation” is too little too late to make any difference in shaping how most of the world perceives of President Putin and his country, with most people having already made up their minds long ago. In general, the global audience is desensitized to anti-Putin defamation campaigns after being incessantly exposed to them for nearly the past five years since the success of “EuroMaidan” and the subsequent reunification of Crimea with Russia. The German public naturally falls within this category, but it’s here where the relevance of the Mainstream Media’s obsession with President Putin’s alleged Stasi past comes into strategic play.

The Stasi is a very sensitive topic in German society, and introducing the narrative that President Putin might have actually worked for this structure at one time is meant to sow distrust about his geopolitical motives for constructing Nord Stream II, one of the most politicized infrastructure projects in European history after the US decided to wage an all-out infowar against it for fear of gradually losing its hegemonic dominance in the continent if it were to be completed. It’s because of this heated context that the timing of the document’s public revealing is extremely suspicious because it appears intended to sow chaos, discord, and confusion in German society at this sensitive moment.

Incidentally, this outcome is exactly what the West accuses Russia of seeking to do all across the world through Hybrid Warfare, and doing the exact same thing that one accuses their rivals of doing is the essence of what MI6’s spymaster recently described as “fourth generation espionage”. It could very well be that this latest infowar campaign against Nord Stream II – aided and abetted by the “discovery” of President Putin’s supposed Stasi credentials at this specific time – is meant to prove that strategic effectiveness of this concept if it succeeds in getting Germans to doubt the apolitical nature of Nord Stream II after being distracted by spectacle.

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This article was originally published on Eurasia Future.

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

The only language Washington understands is toughness. The US bullies and bludgeons other nations with impunity because most governments fail to challenge US hegemony. 

Appeasement is counterproductive and self-defeating. Refusing to tolerate hostile US actions is the only effective response.

The US treats Russia, China, and all other sovereign independent countries as enemies or adversaries, not partners.

Russia believing a partnership with Washington exists is pure fantasy. Republicans and Dems want the country transformed into a US vassal state by whatever it takes to achieve their aim, including possible nuclear war.

Beijing response contrasts with that of Moscow

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.

Granting her bail under unacceptable conditions after 10 days of harsh detention, placing her under virtual house arrest until the Trump regime’s unlawful extradition demand is resolved one way or the other, preventing her from doing her job, constitute illegal affronts to her fundamental rights.

When Russian nationals are unlawfully arrested and held as political prisoners in America, notably Maria Butina most recently, Russia does little more than protest, an ineffective weak-kneed response achieving nothing.

China responded to Meng’s unlawful arrest and detention with toughness. Former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig was arrested and detained – reportedly for not properly registering as an NGO in the country, according to AP News.

Declining to confirm his arrest and detention, China’s Foreign Ministry said his activities in the country are illegal.

According to Xinhua, he’s suspected of engaging in activities detrimental to China’s national security – his arrest and detention likely in response to Canada’s targeting of Meng, a tit-for-tat action, the only way to get Ottawa’s attention.

On Wednesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau turned truth on its head, claiming his country “always (observes) the rule of law.”

Canada is a US imperial, political, economic, and financial junior partner – notably involved in its wars of aggression.

In deference to Washington, Ottawa is hostile to sovereign independent states the US targets for regime change. Its authorities acted as a US proxy in the lawless arrest and detention of Meng.

China arrested and detained a second Canadian national, entrepreneur Michael Spavor. He’s held on suspicion of endangering the nation’s national security – as convenient a reason as any other in response to Meng’s mistreatment.

Canadian authorities were notified of the arrests and detention of both individuals. What’s going on appears to be Beijing’s response to Meng’s illegal arrest and detention.

Perhaps both Canadian nationals will be held until she’s unconditionally released, free from extradition to America, able to resume her normal activities unobstructed.

Responding to unacceptable made-in-the-USA toughness with similar actions is the only effective way to counter it.

Arresting one or more US nationals, holding them until Meng is unconditionally released, would notify Washington more emphatically that China won’t tolerate unlawful actions against its citizens by the US, Canada, or any other countries.

On Wednesday, Chinese nationals involved in hi-tech work were warned to avoid travel to America.

They were told to remove sensitive work-related information from cell phones and laptops when traveling to the West, notably if have to go to the US. It’s hazardous to their rights and welfare based on what happened to Meng.

In November, the Trump regime’s Beijing embassy revoked 10-year multiple-entry visas issued to certain Chinese researchers specializing in Sino/US relations.

Some of them had their cell phones and computers intrusively checked by US customs officers. Washington wants China marginalized, contained, and isolated.

It wants its aim to become an economic, industrial, and technological powerhouse undermined. Its repeated South China Sea provocations risk military confrontation between both countries.

China’s tough responses to unacceptable US provocations near its territory, along with the arrest and detention of two Canadian nationals, likely in response to what happened to Meng, is the only language these countries understand.

Russia’s failure to respond to unacceptable US toughness the same way shows weakness, not strength.

The only way to get its attention is by responding to its unacceptable actions in kind. Diplomatic outreach and patience with the US are counterproductive and self-defeating.

Following China’s playbook in dealings with Washington is Russia’s only effective strategy. It’s long overdue.

A Final Comment

China’s Global Times said Beijing “will take revenge if Canada does not restore Meng Wanzhou’s freedom.”

Based on its actions so far, it means what it says, and it has lots more tough options to use in dealing with the US and Canada if necessary.

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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.

Featured image is from The Straits Times

The BBC published an article in October titled, “How chemical weapons have helped bring Assad close to victory” in which it claims chemical weapons have been “crucial” to Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s “war-winning strategy.“

Superficially – the article appears impressive – loaded from top to bottom with colorful charts, graphs, and photographs of supposed victims in gas masks, expended munitions, and craters.

However, never once does the BBC provide an actual explanation as to how chemical weapons brought Damascus closer to victory. Even at face value, the article’s entire premise is challenged in each paragraph by the statistics and events the article itself presents.

Alleged Chemical Weapon Casualties are a Drop in the Ocean 

The article begins by claiming (emphasis added):

After seven devastating years of civil war in Syria, which have left more than 350,000 people dead, President Bashar al-Assad appears close to victory against the forces trying to overthrow him.

Yet further down in the article under a graph titled, “Estimated number of casualties in the 106 attacks by location 2014-18,” the BBC admits that only 55 of the supposed 106 attacks the BBC accuses Syria’s government of carrying out even resulted in any casualties at all, and admits that “it was not possible to verify that the casualties reported were the result of exposure to chemicals.”

The BBC would also admit that:

Although chemical weapons are deadly, UN human rights experts have noted that most incidents in which civilians are killed and maimed have involved the unlawful use of conventional weapons, such as cluster munitions and explosive weapons in civilian populated areas.

Thus, the BBC itself is undermining the entire premise of its own article – admitting that conventional weapons – not chemical weapons – are by far more effective and that its investigation makes it impossible to even determine if chemical weapons claimed any casualties at all.

But does the BBC try to convince readers chemical weapons still somehow played a role in Damascus’ victory?

“Cheap and Convenient” Chemical Weapons? 

The BBC cites Dr. Lina Khatib, head of the Middle East and North Africa program at corporate-financier-funded think tank – Chatham House.

Dr. Khatib would claim:

Sometimes the regime uses chemical weapons when it doesn’t have the military capacity to take an area back using conventional weapons.

She would also claim:

Chemical weapons are used whenever the regime wants to send a strong message to a local population that their presence is not desirable. 

In addition to chemical weapons being the ultimate punishment, instilling fear in people, they are also cheap and convenient for the regime at a time when its military capacity has decreased because of the conflict.

There’s nothing that scares people more than chemical weapons, and whenever chemical weapons have been used, residents have fled those areas and, more often than not, not come back.

However, after citing Dr. Khatib, the BBC mentions the alleged attack on Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib where Western-backed militants – to this day – still occupy its territory. It claims it was the “deadliest” of the 106 attacks investigated by the BBC – yet the supposed attack failed utterly to drive civilians away or dislodge armed militants occupying the territory – a direct contradiction of Dr. Khatib and the BBC’s claims.  The closest the BBC comes to correlating alleged attacks to any sort of victory materializing on the battlefield was regarding Eastern Ghouta where the BBC claims:

Douma, the biggest town in the Eastern Ghouta, was the target of four reported chemical attacks over four months, as pro-government forces intensified their aerial bombardment before launching a ground offensive. 

The last – and deadliest, according to medics and rescue workers – incident took place on 7 April, when a yellow industrial gas cylinder was reportedly dropped onto the balcony of a block of flats. The opposition’s surrender came a day later.

Here the BBC dubiously links the April 2018 alleged attack the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) itself has not yet concluded involved chemicals, to the “opposition’s surrender” the following day.

Yet the BBC admits the Syrian government was carrying out an extensive offensive. It claims there were “four reported chemical attacks over four months” with the largest allegedly killing 30 people. Would that be enough to “break” the opposition when between February and April of 2018 alone some 3,000 would perish in the fighting for Eastern Ghouta?

Even if one were to believe the Syrian government used chemical weapons four times killing several dozen people – it pales in comparison to the toll taken and gains admittedly made using conventional weapons – begging the question as to why the Syrian government would bother resorting to far less effective and much more politically dangerous chemical munitions.

The fact that the final of the four alleged attacks happened the day before militants surrendered in Eastern Ghouta seems to suggest a much more likely scenario – that attacks were being staged by the militants themselves to slow down, impede, or even altogether stop the effective government offensive that was clearly – according to even the BBC itself – advancing via the use of conventional weaponry.

Chemical Weapons Weren’t Crucial to Victory, Russian Military Aviation Was

Would using chemical weapons 106 times between 2014-2018 – risking and suffering multiple US-led military strikes in the wake of chemical weapon accusations – be worth it? The BBC’s own article itself exposes the minuscule number of unverified casualties these alleged attacks have produced compared to the 350,000 the article claims have perished altogether in the fighting since 2011.

The BBC article even includes examples of where the Syrian government was accused of using chemical weapons on territory still to this day held by foreign-sponsored militants casting further doubts on claims chemical weapons have “helped bring Assad close to victory.” 
Dr. Khatib of Chatham House insisted that the Syrian government resorted to chemical weapons because they were “cheap and convenient for the regime at a time when its military capacity has decreased because of the conflict,” yet the BBC’s own article admits to the scale of the conflict and its own numbers prove that even if all 106 alleged chemical attacks were actually carried out by the Syrian government, they still would not reflect a “decreased military capacity” being amply compensated for by “cheap and convenient” chemical weapons.

To put Dr. Khatib and the BBC’s claims into perspective – consider Russian military aviation’s role in the conflict which – according to the Russian Ministry of Defense – carried out some 28,000 combat sorties and conducted about 90,000 strikes by 2017.

Even according to the Western media, at various points of the conflict, Russian military aviation carried out on average of over 70 sorties a day.

The Daily Beast – a decidedly anti-Moscow publication – would describe the tempo of Russian air operations in Syria in its 2016 article titled, “Russia Is Launching Twice as Many Airstrikes as the U.S. in Syria,” claiming (emphasis added):

Five months after the first Russian warplanes slipped into Syria to reinforce the embattled regime of President Bashar al-Assad, the Kremlin’s air wing near Latakia—on Syria’s Mediterranean coast in the heart of regime territory—has found its rhythm, launching roughly one air strike every 20 minutes targeting Islamic State militants, U.S.-backed rebels and civilians in rebel-controlled areas. 

“From Feb. 10 to 16, aircraft of the Russian aviation group in the Syrian Arab Republic have performed 444 combat sorties engaging 1,593 terrorist objects in the provinces of Deir Ez Zor, Daraa, Homs, Hama, Latakia and Aleppo,” the Russian defense ministry claimed in a statement.

By comparison, not only do 106 alleged chemical attacks in which only 55 produced any casualties at all seem absolutely insignificant – there is no conceivable explanation as to how such a minuscule number of operations producing so few casualties “have been crucial” to Damascus’ “war-winning strategy.” Neither does it demonstrate a decreased military capacity in need of resorting to “cheap and convenient” chemical weapons.

It is clear that Russian military aviation – more than anything else – has been crucial to Syria’s victory. It allowed the supply lines of Al Qaeda and the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” to be targeted and neutralized. This led directly to militant-held areas being isolated and subsequently falling to Syrian forces.

Russian military aviation also lent Damascus the capability to carry out precision strikes against well-fortified positions Syria’s armor, infantry, and artillery could not effectively target. Russian military aviation – not chemical weapons – is what Damascus has been turning to when it “doesn’t have the military capacity to take an area back using [its own] conventional weapons.” 

There is virtually no scenario in which chemical weapons used in the small quantities they have been allegedly used in would provide some sort of benefit to Damascus and its allies that conventional military aviation isn’t already demonstrably doing. And if there was – the BBC’s article categorically failed to mention it.

Fabricated and Staged Chemical Attacks Make More Sense 

Conversely, chemical weapons used in such small amounts – just enough to produce headline-grabbing casualties and serve as a pretext for Western military intervention serves the strategy of Western-backed militants and their foreign sponsors fighting Damascus and its allies in Syria.

Already, the US has used the pretext of “chemical weapons” to invade and occupy Iraq. Accusations of human rights abuses also paved the way for a US-led NATO military intervention in Libya. Many of the fighters the US and its allies armed, backed, and provided air support to were literally transported to Syria to fight Washington’s proxy war there.

It stands to reason that accusations of chemical weapon attacks in Syria are simply the latest attempt to reuse the pretext for Western military intervention there. Staging the attacks seems to have been born of necessity – with allegations alone no longer being effective specifically because of Washington’s track record of fabricating claims to lead America and its allies to war.

The BBC once again exposes itself as not only war propaganda – but war propaganda produced by those particularly unskilled at their craft. An article titled, “How chemical weapons have helped bring Assad close to victory,” that fails to logically explain how, indicates an unraveling narrative with the propagandists themselves unable to flesh out their repeated lies.

Instead it was hoped that colorful charts, graphs, and supposed photographs of victims coupled with a public the BBC assumes are lazy and ignorant was enough to prop up the article’s entire premise. The West’s failing fortunes in Syria and beyond seem to indicate it was not enough leaving one to wonder what – after fabricating chemical weapon accusations and staging chemical weapon attacks – comes next?

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Tony Cartalucci is a Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook” where this article was originally published.

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Averting World Conflict with China

December 14th, 2018 by Ron Unz

As most readers know, I’m not a casual political blogger and I prefer producing lengthy research articles rather than chasing the headlines of current events. But there are exceptions to every rule, and the looming danger of a direct worldwide clash with China is one of them.

Consider the arrest last week of Meng Wanzhou, the CFO of Huawei, the world’s largest telecom equipment manufacturer. While flying from Hong Kong to Mexico, Ms. Meng was changing planes in the Vancouver International Airport airport when she was suddenly detained by the Canadian government on an August US warrant. Although now released on $10 million bail, she still faces extradition to a New York City courtroom, where she could receive up to thirty years in federal prison for allegedly having conspired in 2010 to violate America’s unilateral economic trade sanctions against Iran.

Although our mainstream media outlets have certainly covered this important story, including front page articles in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, I doubt most American readers fully recognize the extraordinary gravity of this international incident and its potential for altering the course of world history. As one scholar noted, no event since America’s deliberate 1999 bombing of China’s embassy in Belgrade, which killed several Chinese diplomats, has so outraged both the Chinese government and its population. Columbia’s Jeffrey Sachs correctly described it as “almost a US declaration of war on China’s business community.”

Such a reaction is hardly surprising. With annual revenue of $100 billion, Huawei ranks as the world’s largest and most advanced telecommunications equipment manufacturer as well as China’s most internationally successful and prestigious company. Ms. Meng is not only a longtime top executive there, but also the daughter of the company’s founder, Ren Zhengfei, whose enormous entrepreneurial success has established him as a Chinese national hero.

Her seizure on obscure American sanction violation charges while changing planes in a Canadian airport almost amounts to a kidnapping. One journalist asked how Americans would react if China had seized Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook for violating Chinese law…especially if Sandberg were also the daughter of Steve Jobs.

Indeed, the closest analogy that comes to my mind is when Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia kidnapped the Prime Minister of Lebanon earlier this year and held him hostage. Later he more successfully did the same with hundreds of his wealthiest Saudi subjects, extorting something like $100 billion in ransom from their families before finally releasing them. Then he may have finally over-reached himself when Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident, was killed and dismembered by a bone-saw at the Saudi embassy in Turkey.

We should actually be a bit grateful to Prince Mohammed since without him America would clearly have the most insane government anywhere in the world. As it stands, we’re merely tied for first.

Since the end of the Cold War, the American government has become increasingly delusional, regarding itself as the Supreme World Hegemon. As a result, local American courts have begun enforcing gigantic financial penalties against foreign countries and their leading corporations, and I suspect that the rest of the world is tiring of this misbehavior. Perhaps such actions can still be taken against the subservient vassal states of Europe, but by most objective measures, the size of China’s real economy surpassed that of the US several years ago and is now substantially larger, while also still having a far higher rate of growth. Our totally dishonest mainstream media regularly obscures this reality, but it remains true nonetheless.

Provoking a disastrous worldwide confrontation with mighty China by seizing and imprisoning one of its leading technology executives reminds me of a comment I made several years ago about America’s behavior under the rule of its current political elites:

Or to apply a far harsher biological metaphor, consider a poor canine infected with the rabies virus. The virus may have no brain and its body-weight is probably less than one-millionth that of the host, but once it has seized control of the central nervous system, the animal, big brain and all, becomes a helpless puppet.

Once friendly Fido runs around foaming at the mouth, barking at the sky, and trying to bite all the other animals it can reach. Its friends and relatives are saddened by its plight but stay well clear, hoping to avoid infection before the inevitable happens, and poor Fido finally collapses dead in a heap.

Normal countries like China naturally assume that other countries like the US will also behave in normal ways, and their dumbfounded shock at Ms. Meng’s seizure has surely delayed their effective response. In 1959, Vice President Richard Nixon visited Moscow and famously engaged in a heated “kitchen debate” with Premier Nikita Khrushchev over the relative merits of Communism and Capitalism. What would have been the American reaction if Nixon had been immediately arrested and given a ten year Gulag sentence for “anti-Soviet agitation”?

Since a natural reaction to international hostage-taking is retaliatory international hostage-taking, the newspapers have reported that top American executives have decided to forego visits to China until the crisis is resolved. These days, General Motors sells more cars in China than in the US, and China is also the manufacturing source of nearly all our iPhones, but Tim Cook, Mary Barra, and their higher-ranking subordinates are unlikely to visit that country in the immediate future, nor would the top executives of Google, Facebook, Goldman Sachs, and the leading Hollywood studios be willing to risk indefinite imprisonment.

Canada had arrested Ms. Meng on American orders, and this morning’s newspapers reported that a former Canadian diplomat had suddenly been detained in China, presumably as a small bargaining-chip to encourage Ms. Meng’s release. But I very much doubt such measures will have much effect. Once we forgo traditional international practices and adopt the Law of the Jungle, it becomes very important to recognize the true lines of power and control, and Canada is merely acting as an American political puppet in this matter. Would threatening the puppet rather than the puppet-master be likely to have much effect?

Similarly, nearly all of America’s leading technology executives are already quite hostile to the Trump Administration, and even if it were possible, seizing one of them would hardly be likely to sway our political leadership. To a lesser extent, the same thing is true about the overwhelming majority of America’s top corporate leaders. They are not the individuals who call the shots in the current White House.

Indeed, is President Trump himself anything more than a higher-level puppet in this very dangerous affair? World peace and American national security interests are being sacrificed in order to harshly enforce the Israel Lobby’s international sanctions campaign against Iran, and we should hardly be surprised that the National Security Adviser John Bolton, one of America’s most extreme pro-Israel zealots, had personally given the green light to the arrest. Meanwhile, there are credible reports that Trump himself remained entirely unaware of these plans, and Ms. Meng was seized on the same day that he was personally meeting on trade issues with Chinese President Xi. Some have even suggested that the incident was a deliberate slap in Trump’s face.

But Bolton’s apparent involvement underscores the central role of his longtime patron, multi-billionaire casino-magnate Sheldon Adelson, whose enormous financial influence within Republican political circles has been overwhelmingly focused on pro-Israel policy and hostility towards Iran, Israel’s regional rival.

Although it is far from clear whether the very elderly Adelson played any direct personal role in Ms. Meng’s arrest, he surely must be viewed as the central figure in fostering the political climate that produced the current situation. Perhaps he should not be described as the ultimate puppet-master behind our current clash with China, but any such political puppet-masters who do exist are certainly operating at his immediate beck and call. In very literal terms, I suspect that if Adelson placed a single phone call to the White House, the Trump Administration would order Canada to release Ms. Meng that same day.

Adelson’s fortune of $33 billion ranks him as the 15th wealthiest man in America, and the bulk of his fortune is based on his ownership of extremely lucrative gambling casinos in Macau, China. In effect, the Chinese government currently has its hands around the financial windpipe of the man ultimately responsible for Ms. Meng’s arrest and whose pro-Israel minions largely control American foreign policy. I very much doubt that they are fully aware of this enormous, untapped source of political leverage.

Over the years, Adelson’s Chinese Macau casinos have been involved in all sorts of political bribery scandals, and I suspect it would be very easy for the Chinese government to find reasonable grounds for immediately shutting them down, at least on a temporary basis, with such an action having almost no negative repercussions to Chinese society or the bulk of the Chinese population. How could the international community possibly complain about the Chinese government shutting down some of their own local gambling casinos with a long public record of official bribery and other criminal activity? At worst, other gambling casino magnates would become reluctant to invest future sums in establishing additional Chinese casinos, hardly a desperate threat to President Xi’s anti-corruption government.

I don’t have a background in finance and I haven’t bothered trying to guess the precise impact of a temporary shutdown of Adelson’s Chinese casinos, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the resulting drop in the stock price of Las Vegas Sands Corp would reduce Adelson’s personal net worth were by $5-10 billion within 24 hours, surely enough to get his immediate personal attention. Meanwhile, threats of a permanent shutdown, perhaps extending to Chinese-influenced Singapore, might lead to the near-total destruction of Adelson’s personal fortune, and similar measures could also be applied as well to the casinos of all the other fanatically pro-Israel American billionaires, who dominate the remainder of gambling in Chinese Macau.

The chain of political puppets responsible for Ms. Meng’s sudden detention is certainly a complex and murky one. But the Chinese government already possesses the absolute power of financial life-or-death over Sheldon Adelson, the man located at the very top of that chain. If the Chinese leadership recognizes that power and takes effective steps, Ms. Meng will immediately be put on a plane back home, carrying the deepest sort of international political apology. And future attacks against Huawei, ZTE, and other Chinese technology companies would not be repeated.

China actually holds a Royal Flush in this international political poker game. The only question is whether they will recognize the value of their hand. I hope they do for the sake of America and the entire world.

*

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This article was originally published on The Unz Review.

Featured image is from TUR

“Freedom of the press in the world will cease to exist if a judge in one country is allowed to bar publication of information anywhere in the world.” — Martin Baron, Executive Editor, The Washington Post, Dec 13, 2018

It had been shrouded in secrecy akin to the deepest conspiracy, but the trial of Cardinal George Pell, while not letting much in the way of publicity in Australia, was always going to interest beyond the walls of the Victorian County Court.  This was the legal system of a country, and more accurately a state of that country, glancing into the workings of the world’s first global corporation and its unsavoury practices.  The Catholic Church, in other words, had been subjected to a stringent analysis, notably regarding the past behaviour of one of its anointed sons.

Cardinal Pell, a high-ranking official of the Catholic Church and financial grand wizard of the Vatican, was found guilty on December 11 of historical child sexual abuses pertaining to two choir boys from the 1990s.  But details remain sketchy. We know, for instance, that the number of charges was five, and that the trial has been designated “the cathedral trial”.  We also know that a first trial failed to reach a verdict.

Scrutiny from the Australian press gallery and those who had been victims of sexual abuse at the hands of priests over the years, was limited for reasons peculiar to this country’s ambivalence to open discourse.  They were told that would be so.

The Pell case is a classic instance of suppression laws in action and, more particularly, their appeal in the Victorian jurisdiction that was not dimmed with the passage of the Open Courts Act 2013 (Vic).  Section 4 of the Act noting “a presumption in favour of disclosure of information to which a court or tribunal must have regard in determining whether to make a suppression order” has proven a fairly weak exercise.

Victorian judges, such as former Victorian Supreme Court Justice Betty King, have gone so far as to boast about the frequency they have handed down such orders.  Former Victorian Chief Justice Marilyn Warren, writing in October 2015, illustrated the classic struggle between the media which “has its own interests” and the judicial system. “Crime,” she reminds us prosaically, “sells.”

Little wonder then that Judge Peter Kidd relented to the prosecutor’s request in the Pell case that a gag order be imposed ahead of the trial “to prevent a real and substantial risk of prejudice to the proper administration of justice.”

The suppression order issued by the Victorian County Court is still in force, covering “all Australian states and territories” and “any website or other electronic or broadcast format accessible within Australia”.  The reason lies in a connected trial, known as the swimmers’ trial, in which Pell is also being tried for allegedly abusing two other boys at a Ballarat swimming pool in Victoria during the 1970s, proceedings of which will take place in late February or early March.

Australian newspapers have engaged in what can only be regarded as an absurd song and dance that demonstrates the hollow, ceremonial nature of such restrictions.  Melbourne’s The Age noted how “we are unable to report their identity due to a suppression order.”  (Tantalising!)  The paper did, however, note that,

“Google searches for the person’s name surged on Wednesday, particularly in Victoria.  Two of the top three search results on the suppressed name showed websites that were reporting the charges, the verdict and the identity of the person in full.”

Y axis represent search interest relative to the highest point on the chart for the given region and time. A value of 100 is the peak popularity for the term. A value of 50 means that the term is half as popular. A score of 0 means that there was not enough data for this term. (Source: Google)

The Daily Telegraph huffed with “the nation’s biggest story” in its front-page headline. “A high profile Australian with a worldwide reputation has been convicted of an awful crime.”  In evident terror, the paper has done its best to delete any links on the web to that initial story.  Likewise the Herald Sun of Melbourne, despite its agitated bold headline “Censored.”

Other Australian outlets have also been cowed.  Josh Butler of 10 Daily sounded anguished.

“We’d like to tell you what happened, instead of speaking in riddles, but our legal system – specifically, the legal system of one Australian state – forbids us from telling you.”

In the words of feminist and voluble website Mamamia,

“we too cannot report on the person’s identity or the crime they have been found guilty of.”

Spot the Australian in question, but in heaven’s name do not mention him in Australia proper.  The pathology of suppression proves irresistible.

It was left to foreign press services to run with the story, or not, as it were, leaving an absurd spectacle of neurotic meanderings in its wake. Some agencies, like Reuters and Associated Press, played the cautious card and resisted temptation.  Reuters’ spokeswoman, Heather Carpenter, insisted that Reuters was “subject to the laws of the countries in which we operate”.

In the United States, the reaction was particularly determined, though the enthusiasm did not spread to The New York Times, despite that paper having given extensive coverage to the allegations themselves. The paper’s deputy general counsel, David McCraw, claimed that the paper was abiding by the court’s order “because of the presence of our bureau there.  It is deeply disappointing that we are unable to present this important story to our readers in Australia and elsewhere.”  Press coverage of judicial proceedings, he insisted, was “a fundamental safeguard of justice and fairness.”

The Washington Post, National Review, Daily Beast and National Public Radio were all busy in their efforts to run stories on Pell.  The Daily Beast has, however, geoblocked reports to Australian readers.  In the words of the outlet’s editor, Noah Shachtman, “We understood there could be legal, and even criminal, consequences if we ran this story.”

In a global, relentless information environment, one accessible at the search on a phone, suppression orders retain an anachronistic insensibility.  When it comes to matters concerning an individual of such standing and influence as Cardinal Pell, including the clandestine institution he has represented for decades, the courts risk looking all too cosy with creatures of power.

While barristers rightly seek to defend their clients and hope, often elusively, for that fair trial to be extracted from a prejudiced milieu, such court directives smack of theatrical illusion rather than impact. Imposing suppression orders can be a case less of assisting the accused have a fair trial than preventing discussing what is already available.  To make them function in any effectual manner would be to select jurors hermetic and immune to the Internet or an interest in foreign news sources – a nigh impossible task.  Victoria’s judges, like King Canute, are attempting to control the tide in vain.

*

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

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.

According to a major report published in the Australian Financial Review (AFR) yesterday, the annual meeting of top intelligence officials from countries in the network—the US, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada—held last July decided to “co-ordinate banning” Huawei from 5G mobile phone networks.

The two-day meeting, held in the Canadian capital, Ottawa, decided that the intelligence chiefs should spend time publicly explaining “their concerns” about China.

In the months that followed “an unprecedented campaign” has been waged by the five members of the network “to block the tech giant Huawei from supplying equipment for their next-generation wireless networks” which has now led to the arrest of Meng in Canada.

On August 23, in one of his last acts as Australian prime minister before being deposed in an inner-party leadership coup, Malcolm Turnbull rang US President Trump to tell him that Huawei and another Chinese firm, ZTE, had been banned from the country’s 5G rollout. The basis of the decision was to exclude “vendors who are likely to be subject of extrajudicial directions from a foreign government.”

This was followed on October 29 by a speech by the director-general of the Australian Signals Directorate, Mike Burgess, in which, while not directly naming Huawei, he said the “stakes with 5G” could not be higher. It was the first public speech by the head of the organisation in its 70-year history.

The speech was followed seven days later by a decision of the New Zealand Labour government to ban Huawei from supplying 5G equipment to the phone company Spark.

The article then noted that on December 6, the head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), David Vigneault, who had hosted the Five Eyes meeting, delivered his first public speech warning of a security threat.

“CSIS has seen a trend of state-sponsored espionage in fields that are crucial to Canada’s ability to build and sustain a prosperous, knowledge-based economy,” he said, referencing artificial intelligence, quantum technology and 5G. China was not mentioned specifically but there was no doubt it was the target and Canada is expected to shortly announce a ban on Huawei and ZTE.

The day after the speech by his Canadian counterpart, the head of Britain’s MI6 addressed a meeting at St Andrews University in Scotland in which he warned that “much of the evolving state threat is about our opponents’ innovative exploitation of modern technology.”

The British situation is more complex than that of the other Five Eyes members because of the agreement reached by British Telecom (BT) to partner with Huawei in the 3G and 4G networks 15 years ago. But that is changing as BT has said it will strip out Huawei equipment from its networks and will not use its technology in 5G.

The key attendee at the meeting was CIA director Gina Haspel. The US has been leading the push against China, has already banned Huawei and has been waging an international campaign to have its equipment banned by other strategic allies beyond the Five Eyes group.

The AFR article noted that the sharp focus of Washington on Beijing “plays into Trump’s obsession with trade war but it would be wrong to think it’s solely driven by the president. Over the last two years Republicans and Democrats in Congress and the departments of Defence, State and the security agencies have come to the conclusion China is a strategic threat.”

Other evidence of the way in which the US intelligence and military apparatus is driving the attack on Huawei and Chinese technology companies more broadly has been revealed in an article published in the Financial Timesyesterday.

It cited a leaked memo, “apparently written by a senior National Security Council official” warning about the implications of the rise of Huawei to become the world’s biggest supplier of telecommunications equipment and that it was leading the field in the development of 5G.

“We are losing it,” the memo said. “Whoever leads in technology and market share for 5G deployment will have a tremendous advantage towards … commanding the heights of the information domain.”

The memo said 5G was “by no means simply a ‘faster 4G’” but was “a change more like the invention of the Gutenberg press” as it would bring faster speeds, lower lead times between the network and the device and had a much larger capacity to transfer data.

These developments, the article said, will underpin self-driving cars, artificial intelligence and machine-to-machine communications, and will “transform the way everything from hospitals to factories operate.”

China was far ahead in preparing for 5G which requires more base stations than existing networks and had almost 2 million cell sites in early 2018, ten times the number in the US. According to the Deloitte consultancy there are 5.3 sites for every 10 square miles in China compared to 0.4 in the US.

These figures make clear the reason for the ferocity of the US economic war against China. It fears that its economic and military supremacy is under direct threat and is determined to take all measures considered necessary to counter China’s rise.

The objective logic of this development was underlined in an article, also published in the AFR yesterday, by Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs.

The arrest of Meng Wanzhou, he wrote, “is a dangerous move by US President Donald Trump’s administration in its intensifying conflict with China. If, as Mark Twain reputedly said, history often rhymes, our era increasingly recalls the period preceding 1914. As with Europe’s great powers back then, the United States, led by an administration intent on asserting America’s dominance over China, is pushing the world towards disaster.”

Sachs drew attention to the hypocrisy surrounding the detention of Meng on charges of committing fraud in breach of US-imposed bans on dealing with Iran. He noted that in 2011 JP Morgan Chase paid $88.3 million in fines for violating US sanctions against Cuba, Iran and Sudan. “Yet [CEO] Jamie Dimon wasn’t grabbed off a plane and whisked into custody.”

None of the heads of banks or their financial officers was “held accountable for the pervasive law-breaking in the lead-up to or aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis” for which the banks paid $243 billion in fines.

The US actions against Huawei were part of an “economic war on China, and a reckless one.”

He noted that when global trade rules obstruct the “gangster tactics” of the Trump administration then it deems the rules have to go, citing a comment by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Brussels last week in which he admitted as much.

“Our administration,” Pompeo said, “is lawfully exiting or renegotiating outdated or harmful treaties, trade agreements and other international arrangements that don’t serve our sovereign interests, or the interests of our allies.”

Pointing to the unilateral decision of the US to reject the decision of the UN Security Council to lift all bans on Iran as part of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, Sachs concluded:

“The Trump administration, not Huawei or China is the greatest threat to the international rule of law, and therefore to global peace.”

*

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Yes, there is rubble, in fact total destruction, in some of the neighborhoods of Homs, Aleppo, in the outskirts of Damascus, and elsewhere.

Yes, there are terrorists and ‘foreign forces’ in Idlib and in several smaller pockets in some parts of the country.

Yes, hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives and millions are either in exile, or internally displaced.

But the country of Syria is standing tall.

It did not crumble like Libya or Iraq did. It never surrendered. It never even considered surrender as an option. It went through total agony, through fire and unimaginable pain, but in the end, it won. It almost won. And the victory will, most likely, be final in 2019.

Despite its relatively small size, it did not win like a ‘small nation’, fighting guerilla warfare. It is winning like a big, strong state: it fought proudly, frontally, openly, against all odds. It confronted the invaders with tremendous courage and strength, in the name of justice and freedom.

Syria is winning, because the only alternative would be slavery and subservience, and that is not in the lexicon of the people here. The Syrian people won because they had to win, or face the inevitable demise of their country and collapse of their dream of a Pan-Arab homeland.

Homs

Syria is winning, and hopefully, nothing here, in the Middle East, will be the same again. The long decades of humiliation of the Arabs are over. Now everyone ‘in the neighborhood’ is watching. Now everybody knows: The West and its allies can be fought and stopped; they are not invincible. Tremendously brutal and ruthless they are, yes, but not invincible. The most vicious, fundamentalist religious implants can be smashed, too. I said it before, and I repeat it here again: Aleppo has been the Stalingrad of the Middle East. Aleppo and Homs, and other great courageous Syrian cities. Here, fascism was confronted, fought with all might and with great sacrifice, and finally deterred.

*

I sit in the office of a Syrian General, Akhtan Ahmad. We speak Russian. I ask him about the security situation in Damascus, although I already know. For several evenings and nights, I have been walking through the narrow winding roads of the old city; one of the cradles of human race. Women, even young girls, were walking as well. The city is safe.

Syrian General, Akhtan Ahmad

“It is safe,” smiles General Akhtan Ahmad, proudly. “You know it is safe, don’t you?”

I nod. He is a top Syrian intelligence commander. I should have asked more, much more. Details, details. But I don’t want to know details; not right now. I want to hear again and again that Damascus is safe, from him, from my friends, from the passers-by.

“Situation is now very good. Go out at night…”

I tell him that I have. That I have been doing it since I arrived.

“No one is afraid, anymore”, he continues. “Even in the places where terrorist groups used to operate, life is returning to normal… The Syrian government is now providing water, electricity. People are returning to the liberated areas. East Ghouta was liberated only 5 months ago, and now you can see shops opening there, one after another.”

I get several permits signed. I take the General’s photo. I get photographed with him. He has nothing to hide. He is not afraid.

I tell him that at the end of January of 2019, or in February at the latest, I want to travel to Idlib, or at least to the suburbs of that city. That’s fine; I just have to let them know a few days in advance. Palmyra, fine. Aleppo, no problem.

We shake hands. They trust me. I trust them. That’s the only way forward – this is still a war. A terrible, brutal war. Despite the fact that Damascus is now free and safe.

*

After I leave General’s office, we drive to Jobar, on the outskirts of Damascus. Then to Ein-Tarma.

Ein-Tarma

There, it is total madness.

Jobar used to be a predominantly industrial area, Ein-Tarma a residential neighborhood. Both places had been reduced almost entirely to rubble. In Jobar I am allowed to film inside the tunnels, which used to be used by the terrorists; by the Rahman Brigades and by the other groups with direct connection to Al-Nusrah Front.

The scene is eerie. Formerly these factories offered tens of thousands of jobs to the people of the capital city. Now, nothing moves here. Dead silence, just dust and wreckage.

Lieutenant Ali accompanies me, as I climb over debris. I asked him what took place here.  He replies, through my interpreter:

“This place was only liberated in April 2018. It was one of the last places that was taken from the terrorists. For 6 years, one part was controlled by the ‘rebels’, while another by the army. The enemies dug tunnels, and it was very difficult to defeat them. They used every structure they could get their hands on, including schools. From here, most of the civilians managed to escape.”

I asked him about the destruction, although I knew the answer, as my Syrian friends used to live in this area, and told me their detailed stories. Lieutenant Ali confirmed:

“The West was feeding the world with propaganda, saying that this was destruction caused by the army. In fact, the Syrian army was engaging the rebels only when they were attacking Damascus. Eventually, the rebels retreated from here, after the Russian-sponsored talks with the government.”

*

A Few kilometers further east, in Ein-Tarma, things are very different. Before the war, this used to be a residential neighborhood. People used to live here, mostly in the multi-story buildings. Here, the terrorists hit hard at the civilians. For months or even years, families had to live in terrible fear and deprivation.

We stopped at the humble shop selling vegetables. Here, I approached an elderly lady, and after she agreed to it, I began filming.

She spoke, and then she shouted, straight into the camera, waving her hands:

“We lived here like cattle. The terrorists treated us like animals. We were scared, hungry, humiliated. Women: terrorists would take 4-5 wives, forcing young girls and mature women into so-called marriages. We had nothing; nothing left!”

“And now?” I asked.

“Now? Look! We live again. We have a future. Thank you; thank you, Bashir!”

She calls her president by his first name. She points palms at her heart, and after kissing them, she waves her hands again.

There is nothing to ask, really. I just film. She says it all, in two minutes.

As we are leaving, I realize that she is most likely not old; not old at all. But what has happened here broke her in half. Now she is living; she is living and hoping again.

I ask my driver to move slowly, and I begin filming the road, broken and dusty, but full of traffic: people walking, bicycles and cars passing by, negotiating potholes. In the side streets, people are hard at work, rebuilding, cleaning rubble, cutting fallen beams. Electricity is getting restored. Glass panels fitted into the scratched wooden frames. Life. Victory; all this is bittersweet, because so many people died; because so much has been destroyed. But life it is, despite everything; life again. And hope; so much hope.

*

I sit with my friends, Yamen and Fida, in a classic, old Damascus café, called Havana. It is a real institution; a place where Ba’ath Party members used to meet, during the old and turbulent days. Photographs of President Bashar al-Assad are displayed, prominently.

New hotel constructed in Damascus

Yamen, an educator, recalls how he had to move from one apartment to another, on several occasions during the recent years:

“My family used to live right next to Jobar. Everything around there was getting destroyed. We had to move. Then, at a new location, I was walking with my little son, and a mortar had landed near us. Once I saw building in flames. My son was crying in horror. A woman next to us was howling, trying to throw herself into flames: ‘My son is inside, I need my son, give me my son!’ In the past, we couldn’t predict from where the danger would arrive, and when. I lost several relatives; family members. We all did.” 

Fida, Yamen’s colleague, is taking care of her ageing mother, every day, when she gets back from work. Life is still tough, but my friends are true patriots, and this helps them to cope with the daily challenges.

Over a cup of strong Arabic coffee, Fida explains:

“You see us laughing and joking, but deep inside, almost all of us are suffering from deep psychological trauma. What took place here was tough; we all saw terrible things, and we lost our loved ones. All this will stay with us, for many years to come. Syria does not have enough professional psychologists and psychiatrists to cope with the situation. So many lives have been damaged. I am still scared. Every day. Many people have been terribly shaken.”

“I feel sorry for my brother’s children. They were born into this crisis. My tiny nephew… Once we were under a mortar attack. He was so scared. Children are really badly affected! Personally, I am not afraid of getting killed. I am frightened of losing my arm, or leg, or not being able to take my mom to the hospital, if she was to be feeling sick. At least my ancestral city, Safita, has always been safe, even during the worst days of the conflict.” 

“Not my Salamiyah,” laments Yamen:

“Salamiyah used to be just terrible. Many villages had to be evacuated… Many people died there. To the East of the city were the positions of Al-Nusrah, while the west was held by the ISIS”.

Yes, hundreds of thousands of the Syrian people were killed. Millions forced to leave the country, escaping both the terrorists and the conflict as well as poverty that rode on the tail of the fighting. Millions have been internally displaced; the entire nation in motion.

The previous day, after leaving Ein-Tarma, we drove near Zamalka and Harasta. Entire huge neighborhoods were either flattened, or at least terribly damaged.

When you see the Eastern suburbs of Damascus, when you see the ghost buildings without walls and windows, with bullet holes dotting the pillars, you think that you have seen it all. The destruction is so huge; it looks like an entire big city was just blown up to pieces. They say this eerie landscape doesn’t change for at least 15 kilometers. The nightmare goes on and on, without any interruption.

Night in the old city of Damascus

So yes, you tend to think that you have seen it all, but actually you haven’t. It is because you have not visited Aleppo, nor visited Homs, yet.

*

For several years, I have been fighting for Syria. I was doing it from the peripheries.

I managed to enter the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and to file reports about the brutality and cynicism of the occupation.

For years, I covered life in the refugee camps, and ‘around them’. Some camps were real, but others were actually used as training fortresses for the terrorist, who were later injected into Syrian territory, by NATO. Once I almost disappeared while filming Apayadin, one of such ‘institutions’, erected not far from the Turkish city of Hattay (Atakya).

I ‘almost’ disappeared, but others actually did die. Covering what the West and its allies have been doing to Syria is as dangerous as covering the war inside Syria itself.

I worked in Jordan, writing about the refugees, but also about the cynicism of the Jordanian collaboration with the West. I worked in Iraq where, in a camp near Erbil, the Syrian people were forced by both the NGO and the UN staff, to denounce President Assad, if they wanted to receive at least some basic services. And of course, I worked in Lebanon, where more than one million Syrian people have been staying; often facing unimaginably terrible conditions as well as discrimination (many are now going back).

And now that I was finally inside, it all felt somehow surreal, but it felt right.

Syria appeared to be as I expected it to be: heroic, brave, determined, and unmistakably socialist.

*

Homs. Before I went there, I thought that nothing could surprise me, anymore. I have worked all over Afghanistan, in Iraq, Sri Lanka, East Timor. But soon I realized that I had seen nothing, before I visited Homs.

Families visiting their destroyed streets in Homs

The destruction of several parts of the city is so severe that it resembles the surface of another planet, or a fragment from some apocalyptic horror film.

People climbing through the ruins, an elderly couple visiting what once used to be their apartment, a girl’s shoe that I find in the middle of the road, covered by dust. A chair standing in the middle of an intersection, from which all four roads lead towards the horrid ruins.

Homs is where the conflict began.

My friend Yamen explained to me, as we were driving towards the center:

“Here, the media ignited hatred; mostly the Western mass media. But also, there were the channels from the Gulf: Al-Jazeera, as well as television and radio stations from Saudi Arabia. Sheik Adnan Mohammed al-Aroor was appearing, twice a week, on a television program which was telling people to hit the streets, banging on pots and pans; to fight against the government.”

Homs is where the anti-government rebellion began, in 2011. The anti-Assad propaganda from abroad soon reached a crescendo. The opposition was ideologically supported by the West and by its allies. Rapidly, the support became tangible, and included weapons, ammunition, as well as thousands of jihadi fighters.

A once tolerant and modern city (in a secular country), Homs began changing, getting divided between the religious groups. Division was followed by radicalization.

In Homs, life goes on

My good friend, a Syrian who now lives in both Syria and Lebanon, told me his story:

“I was very young when the uprising began. Some of us had certain legitimate grievances, and we began protesting, hoping that things could change for better. But many of us soon realized that our protests were literally kidnapped from abroad. We wanted a set of positive changes, while some leaders outside Syria wanted to overthrow our government. Consequently, I left the movement.”

He then shared with me his most painful secret:

“In the past, Homs was an extremely tolerant city. I am a moderate Muslim, and my fiancé was a moderate Christian. We were very close. But the situation in the city was changing rapidly, after 2011. Radicalism was on the raise. I repeatedly asked her to cover her hair when she was passing through the Muslim neighborhoods. It was out of concern, because I was beginning to clearly see what was happening around us. She refused. One day, she was shot, in the middle of the street. They killed her. Life was never the same again.”

In the West, they often say that the Syrian government was at least partially responsible for destruction of the city. But the logic of such accusations is absolutely perverse. Imagine Stalingrad. Imagine foreign invasion; an invasion supported by several hostile fascist powers. The city fights back, the government tries to stop the advancement of the troops of the enemy. The fight, terrible, an epic fight for the survival of the nation goes on. Who is to blame? The invaders or the government forces who are defending their own fatherland? Can anyone accuse the Soviet troops for fighting in the streets of their own cities that were attacked by the German Nazis?

Perhaps the Western propaganda is capable of such ‘analyses’, but definitely no rational human being.

The same logic as to Stalingrad, should also apply to Homs, to Aleppo, and to several other Syrian cities. Covering literally dozens of conflicts ignited by the West all over the world (and described in detail in my 840-page long book Exposing Lies Of The Empire”), I have no doubts: the full responsibility for the destruction lies on the shoulders of the invaders.

*

I face Mrs. Hayat Awad in an ancient restaurant called Julia Palace. This used to be the stronghold of the terrorists. They occupied this beautiful place, located in the heart of the old city of Homs. Now, things are slowly coming back to life here, at least in several areas of the city. The old market is functioning, the university is open, and so are several government buildings and hotels. But Mrs. Hayat lives in both past and the future.

Mrs. Hayat lost her son, Mahmood, during the war. His portrait is always with her, engraved into a pentel she is wearing on her chest.

“He was only 21 years old, still a student, when he decided to join the Syrian army. He told me that Syria is like his mother. He loves her, as he loves me. He was fighting against the Al-Nusrah Front, and the battle was very tough. At the end of the day he called me, just to say that the situation was not good. In his last call he just asked me to forgive him. He said: ‘Maybe I am not going to come back. Please forgive me. I love you!’”

Are there many mothers like her, here in Homs, those who lost their sons?

“Yes, I know many women who lost their sons; and not just one, sometimes two or three. I know a lady who lost her two only sons. This war took everything from us. Not only our children. I blame the countries which supported the extreme ideologies injected into Syria; countries like the United States and those in Europe.” 

After I am done filming, she thanks Russia for their support. She thanks all the countries that have stood by Syria, during those difficult years.

Not far from Julia Palace, reconstruction work is in full swing. And just a few steps away, a renovated mosque is re-opening. People are dancing, celebrating. It is Prophet Mohammed’s birthday. The Governor of Homs marches towards the festivities, with the members of his government. There is almost no security around them.

If the West does not unleash yet another wave of terror against its people, Homs should be just fine. Not right away, perhaps not soon, but it will be, with the resolute help of the Russians, Chinese, Iranian and other comrades. Syria itself is strong and determined. Its allies are mighty.

I want to believe that the most terrible years are over. I want to believe that Syria has already won.

But I know that there is still Idlib, there are also pockets occupied by Turkish and Western forces. It is not over, yet. The terrorists have not been fully defeated. The West will be shooting its missiles. Israel will be sending its air force to brutalize the country. And the mass media outlets from the West and the Gulf, will continue fighting the media war, agitating and confusing certain segments of the Syrian people.

Still, as I leave Homs, I see shops and even boutiques opening in the midst of the rubble. Some people are dressing up, elegantly again, in order to show their strength; their determination to put the past behind them and to live, once again, their normal lives.

*

Returning to Damascus, the motorway is in perfect condition and the industrial area in Hassia is getting rebuilt and amplified, too. There is a huge power plant, supported by the Iranians, I am told. Despite the war, Syria is still supplying neighboring Lebanon with electricity.

Yamen drives at 120 km/h and we joke that once we get scared of possible speed traps, instead of snipers, we know that the situation in the country is dramatically improving.

A Russian military convoy is parked at a rest area. Soldiers are drinking coffee. There is no fear. Syrians treat them as if they were their own people.

I see the most spectacular sunset, over the desert.

Then, once again, we pass through Harasta. This time at night.

I want to curse. I don’t; cursing is too easy. I need to get to my computer, soon. I have to write; to work. A lot, the best I can.

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It is easy to feel at home in Syria. Maybe because Russian is my mother-tongue or perhaps because people here know that I have always stood by their country.

Some bureaucratic hindrances got resolved, quickly.

Image below: Working with Syrian Minister of Education

I met the outgoing Minister of Education, Dr. Hazwan Al-Waz, who is a fellow novelist. We spoke about his writing, about his latest book “Love and War.” He confirmed what I always knew, as a revolutionary novelist:

“During the war, everything is political, even love.”

And then something that I will never forget:

“My Ministry of Education has been, in fact, the Ministry of Defense”.

Last night in Damascus I walked all over the old city, till early morning. At one point, I arrived near the spectacular Umayyad Mosque, finding, right behind it, the mausoleum of Sultan Saladin.

I could not enter. At this late-night hour it was locked. But I could easily see it through the metal bars of the gate.

This brave commander and leader fought against the huge armies of the Western invaders – the Crusaders – winning almost every single battle, finding his peace and final resting place here, in Damascus.

I paid tribute to this ancient fellow internationalist, and I wondered, over a strong coffee in a nearby stall, in the middle of the night: “Did Saladin participate in this latest epic battle fought by the Syrian nation against the hordes of the foreign barbarians?”

Perhaps his spirit did. Or, more likely, some battles were fought and won with his name on lips.

‘I will be back,’ I uttered, walking back towards my hotel, few minutes after midnight. Two massive furry cats accompanide me, following my steps until the first corner. ‘I will be back very soon’.

Syria is standing. That’s what really matters. It never fell on its knees. And it never will. We will not allow it to fall.

And damned be imperialism!

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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. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

All images in this article are from the author


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You might be aware of the so-called “gold-plated” visa scheme in Britain. It allows foreign ‘investors’ a fast-track to settling in Britain. Despite calls for its closure, especially as many corrupt officials from China, Russia, Africa and the Mid-East use it to buy homes and get passports, it remains open, the Home Office has finally clarified.

Ministers had announced access to Tier 1 visas, would be stopped on December 7th this year but then U-turned, presumably in some sort of desperate attempt to attract foreign cash in a post-Brexit world. The scheme is open purely to entice rich people from outside the EU to invest £2m or more in the UK.

The big problem with this scheme is that it plays straight into the hands of The City of London – the world’s money launderer. And the bankers have decided that neither public opinion nor government policy should get in their way. So, to placate citizen concerns the Home Office has said an audit process would be introduced in response to concerns the scheme was being used to launder money.

As money laundering is already illegal, there are already processes in place – it’s just that, no-one uses them in the first place.

“We remain committed to reforming the route,” a spokesman said. “A further announcement will be made in due course.” Meaning – officials will continue to look the other way.

More than 1,000 Tier 1 visas were granted in the year to September to people from a variety of nationalities. In previous years, the highest numbers have gone to Chinese and Russian ‘investors’.

Introduced in 2008, the scheme allowed foreign nationals to secure visas in return for a £2m investment and apply to settle in the UK indefinitely after five years. That also means that once granted, their families are granted visas as well. And as long as you don’t upset ‘the establishment’ then the entire family can stay indefinitely. For £10 million the wait is reduced to 2 years.

When originally announcing the scheme’s suspension Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes had said the government would not tolerate people who “seek to abuse the system,” even though it was successive governments over decades that had allowed exactly that to happen.

The Home Office has now said that, from next year, independent, “regulated auditors will assess applicants’ financial and business interests and check they have had control of the funds for at least two years.”

As if that is likely to mean anything.

Let’s not forget, that in 2016, the Home Affairs Select Committee concluded that the London property market was the primary avenue for the laundering of £100bn of illicit money a year. And that is just London property.

Here is a really interesting article about some the history, mechanics and cash flows of The City of London. It gives an insight into just how much is at stake.

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Federal Judge Orders Mueller to Turn over Flynn Material

December 14th, 2018 by Jonathan Turley

In a surprising move, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ordered Mueller late Wednesday to turn over all of the government’s documents and “memoranda” related to Flynn’s questioning. This follows a Flynn filing that described an effective trap set by agents who encouraged him not to bring a lawyer and left inconsistencies unaddressed in what has been described by critics as a “perjury trap.”  I have practiced in front of Judge Sullivan for years and he is a respected judge who has a keen eye for prosecutorial and investigative abuse.  That does not mean that he will find such abuse here and could ultimately make a finding that nothing improper occurred.  Yet, despite a recommendation of no jail time, Sullivan wants to review the entire record before deciding on the issue.

Sullivan’s order gives Mueller a 3:00 p.m. EST Friday deadline for the special counsel’s office to produce the FBI documents.  Those include 302 field reports that have been widely discussed in the media, including one which reportedly shows then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe pushing Flynn not to have an attorney present during the questioning.  McCabe of course was later fired from the Justice Department and is viewed by critics as someone who had an anti-Trump agenda.  Many however have defended his actions and denounced efforts, including President Trump, to make him a villain without any clear evidence of political bias.  The scene however is made all the more suspicious for Trump supporters with the involvement of Peter Strzok, who was also later fired.

Some have also noted that McCabe never warned Flynn that false statements to investigators are crimes or that this was not some routine sit-down during the very busy opening days of the Administration.  The fact is however that Flynn was not in custody and thus was not guaranteed a Miranda warning.

On the other hand, the false statement that Flynn allegedly made was not reportedly viewed by the agents as an intentional lie.  His meeting with the Russians was not illegal or even unprecedented as the incoming National Security Adviser.  He did not deny the meeting but a memory of sanctions being discussed.  Robert Mueller however decided to reexamine the statement and charge it as a violation of 18 U.S.C. 1001.

In reality, it was doubtful that Flynn would ever get jail time for such an alleged false statement. His range as a first offender started at 0 and that is likely where it would remain even without the recommendation of Mueller.

There is no question that this was an aggressive approach to an interview at a time when the subject was in the middle of establishing a new office for a new Administration in the midst of serious national security pressures. Moreover, Flynn “clearly saw the FBI agents as allies,” according to the 302 prepared by Strzok and another agent.  They made the conscious decision that  “If Flynn still would not confirm what he said, … they would not confront him or talk him through it.”  Again they have no duty to reveal the discrepancy but it is unclear why they would adopt such a seemingly hostile or aggressive stance toward Flynn.

Flynn is set to be sentenced next Tuesday.

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The Costs of the War on the People of Yemen

December 14th, 2018 by Daniel Larison

The Guardian published three accounts from Yemeni aid workers working with the Norwegian Refugee Council about their experience of the war and the humanitarian crisis. This comes from Marwan Al-Sabri, a 32-year old water and sanitation officer from Taiz:

We already know that the shelling kills people, but I am seeing what a broken economy does too. People have been left so desperately poor that they kill themselves before the hunger does.

The economic war being waged against the civilian population is often overlooked in coverage of Yemen’s humanitarian crisis, but it is one of the major reasons why almost 16 million people are food insecure even with humanitarian food aid and more than 20 million are food insecure without it. Of those, there are 1.7 million people in the Taiz region that are at crisis, emergency, or catastrophe levels of food insecurity, and that’s with humanitarian food aid. Approximately the same number of people in the Hodeidah governorate are enduring the same deprivation. More than two-thirds of the population of Hajjah governorate in the northwest are suffering the same hardship. More than half of the country’s entire population is in the same position, and conditions are going to keep deteriorating unless the war is brought to a halt and the economy is stabilized.

The experience of the relentless bombing campaign has put people into a state of near-constant anxiety. Ali Al-Makhaathi is 27 and a food security assistant in Amran:

Later that night we heard the jets, a sound that has become strangely routine. Adults barely react to their haunting humming sound now, but it terrifies our children, who run from their beds, petrified.

When they were smaller, we could tell our children that every explosion was the last; comfort them in the short term and hope they would forget by the time of the next bombardment. But they are older now – the bombs have been falling for three and a half years and our children can’t remember a life without fear.

Hadil Al-Senwi, 27, is an education officer in Sanaa. Here she describes how the stress and hardship created by the war have affected an entire generation of Yemeni children:

The idea of childhood that I knew has disappeared and children now carry the burden of stress and labour like adults. An Italian friend said to me that Yemeni children have facial features of people far older.

I feel desperately sorry that our children have tasted nothing but the bitterness of war.

Yemenis will be living with the costs and burdens of conflict for years and decades after the war that has been waged on them finally ends. It is an enduring mark of shame that our government has helped the Saudi coalition do this to them. It is imperative that our participation in perpetuating this disaster be brought to an end.

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What Brexit Means to Kensington People

December 14th, 2018 by Emma Dent Coad

Soon after the referendum in the summer of 2016, an elderly French woman came into my councillors’ surgery. She was distraught. She’d lived in London for nearly 50 years, worked here, paid her tax and was retired. She was convinced that she could be sent home, where she had no surviving family, and wanted my reassurance.

I couldn’t give it.

In the past few months there have been hours of rhetoric, bombast, backstops, locks on backstops and occasionally some good sense spoken in the House of Commons. I’ve played my part but still have no reassurance to give in relation to how Brexit could affect the good people of Kensington — those who live, work or study in the extraordinary constituency I represent.

White British-born people like me comprise a minority of Kensington’s population, just under 48 per cent. The majority of 52 per cent are made up of people from all corners of the earth, all races, religions and cultures, some born here, some settled for decades, some more recently arrived, and some here temporarily, for work or study.

Kensington has 16 per cent of EU nationals, an incredible 19,000. The majority are French (ca6,500), then Italians (ca4,500), Germans and Spanish people around 2,500 each and Portuguese (ca1,500.) The remainder are a glorious mix of “others.”

That’s 19,000 people I feel responsible for but still have no good answers for, particularly in the case of a “no deal” Brexit.

A lot of Eastern Europeans work but don’t live in the constituency, but I worry about them too. Every day thousands of EU nationals come into Kensington to work in our hospitals, care homes and clinics, hotels, bars, pubs, restaurants, offices and shops. They are the engine room and front desk of the busy and vibrant machine of Kensington’s business. We need them.

Across the borough of Kensington and Chelsea, in 2015, we had 26,000 wholesale and retail workers, 19,000 working in accommodation and food service, 16,000 in health and social care. No stats are available on precise figures from the EU, but anecdotally a lot certainly are.

So it is a huge concern that many of our EU nationals, faced with a very uncertain future, have begun to make the difficult decision to return to their home country or move elsewhere.

The French Lycee in South Kensington tells me it has lost valuable teaching staff. Cafes have said they are getting short of staff, many of whom are EU students. Some of our construction sites are struggling, having lost highly skilled Eastern European workers. And the council has said it is short of 1,100 home care workers.

Why have they gone?

It wasn’t until a year after the ill-fated referendum in June 2016 that the government announced arrangements for EU nationals.

The process is far from perfect. The statement was a long-awaited assurance that EU nationals living legally in the UK will not have to return when we leave the EU in March 2019, but those who have already slogged through an 85-page application form and paid a fee will have to do so again. There are tight restrictions on family members wishing to join. If you have lived in the UK for five years, you will be entitled to claim settled status, as long as you haven’t committed a crime. There are cut-off dates, thresholds and fees to negotiate, besides a less than perfectly functioning Home Office facing an onslaught of three million visa applications.

There are a lot of loose ends in relation to UK students travelling abroad for study or research and EU students studying or undertaking research here. I can’t speak for the rest of the country but in London all these uncertainties have frightened off many foreign students and universities are battling each other for an ever-diminishing contingent of precious, full-fee-paying foreign students.

There are additional fears as to what may happen in the case of a “no deal” Brexit, which at first seemed far-fetched but may yet be a possibility. Not only colleges and universities but any organisation reliant on EU staff, customers or students is suffering a time of huge anxiety and this loss of confidence has sadly meant that businesses are struggling while we await the result of negotiations.

Leave or stay, under a good or poor deal, this is a time of massive anxiety for a constituency whose backbone is the mutual respect, tolerance and diversity of a population of which we are so rightly proud.

And politicians have let them down.

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Emma Dent Coad is MP for Kensington.

Featured image is from Morning Star

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that an agreement between the DUP and Labour was reportedly now in place. As far as we are aware, this is not yet the case.

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The DUP have reportedly held ‘high level’ talks with the Labour Party regarding supporting a motion of no confidence against Theresa May’s Tory government, significantly increasing the likelihood of an imminent General Election.

A Senior Labour source has reportedly told the Huff Post that, following Theresa May surviving her internal confidence vote last night, talks have now been held at a senior level between Labour and the DUP to find “common ground” on their respective positions.

Although it is being officially denied by the DUP, the Senior Labour source reportedly indicated that should Theresa May fail to bring back assurances from the EU that satisfy the DUP, Labour is now preparing to push for a no confidence motion on Monday after Theresa May has updated MPs on her latest round of EU ‘renegotiations’.

Whilst the DUP Chief Whip Sir Jeffrey Donaldson reportedly said that he was not aware of any such meetings, a Senior Labour source reportedly told the Huff Post:

Discussions have taken place between Labour and the DUP to see if there is any common ground there.

Adding that a “considerable number of Tory MPs” may also be willing to back the motion, stating:

“We have seen the hostility focused on May over the last two or three weeks in particular and we believe that, when she returns from Brussels, unless she has agreed major changes to the withdrawal package, that hostility will only increase,”

The Labour source also hinted that the party may have now garnered enough support to bring down the government, adding that:

“We might just have this coalition that will vote against her and we want to maximise the vote against her as much as we can. Just a handful of MPs can make a huge difference for us.”

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai denied allegations that the company was engaged in political censorship Monday at a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee.

Throughout the hearing, Republicans repeatedly claimed that the company was censoring search results to the detriment of right-wing viewpoints, while Democrats either denied the company’s censorship or justified it.

The fundamental reality—completely ignored at the hearing—is that the real targets of censorship by Silicon Valley, working with the US intelligence agencies and with the consent of both political parties, are left-wing, anti-war and socialist political organizations.

In April 2017, Google announced that it would implement changes to its search algorithm to promote “authoritative” news sources to the detriment of what it called “alternative” viewpoints. This action led to a massive decline in search rankings and traffic to left-wing, anti-war and progressive websites.

The campaign to implement this censorship regime was spearheaded by the Democratic Party, which, based on claims of Russian “meddling” in the 2016 election, sought to pressure the technology giants to block and suppress left-wing opposition, which it branded as “extremist viewpoints.”

Image on the right: Sundar Pichai

Image result for google pichai

The narrative of both parties is strikingly at odds with reality. Compared to April 2017, the far-right Breitbart.com had its search traffic increase by 25 percent. By contrast, search results for the World Socialist Web Site are down by 76 percent over the same period, and other left-wing sites remain down by 50 percent or more.

At the hearing, Pichai made one of Google’s most explicit denials to date that it was carrying out political censorship.

“I lead this company without political bias and work to ensure that our products continue to operate that way,” Pichai declared. “To do otherwise would go against our core principles and our business interests. We are a company that provides platforms for diverse perspectives and opinions,” he said.

He added,

“It’s not possible for any employee or groups of employees to manipulate our search results.”

In fact, the changes implemented in 2017 by the company were intended to empower “search evaluators” to impact Google search results. These individuals, whose input was added to Google’s more impartial PageRank algorithm, were told to respond negatively to pages displaying “alternative” viewpoints unless users explicitly specified they were looking for such views.

While some political organizations aligned with the Democratic Party were affected by Google’s actions, they either ignored or supported the censorship regime. The far right, meanwhile, made opposition to censorship a rallying cry.

US President Donald Trump, setting the tone for substantial sections of the Republican Party, has prominently accused Google of censoring search results. Republican members of Congress repeatedly held hearings accusing the company of suppressing right-wing and conservative political views.

“Google has long faced criticism for manipulating search results to censor conservatives,” Representative Lamar Smith declared at Monday’s hearing.

The Democrats, for their part, used Pichai’s testimony to alternately deny and justify the company’s censorship. In his remarks, ranking Democrat Jerrold Nadler, who will become chairman in January, declared that “no credible evidence supports this right-wing conspiracy theory.” In effect, Nadler and the other Democrats used the Republicans’ accusations about Google’s ‘liberal’ bias as a straw man, arguing, by extension, that all claims that Google is manipulating search results are a “conspiracy theory.”

Nadler then proceeded to justify Google’s censorship, which he had just denied.

“Even if Google were deliberately discriminating against conservative viewpoints, just as Fox News and Sinclair broadcasting and conservative talk radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh discriminate against liberal points of view, that would be its right as a private company to do so, and not to be questioned by government.”

This, too, is a straw man. In carrying out their censorship of left-wing views, Google and the other technology giants are acting at the instigation of the US intelligence agencies and leading political figures, serving as the state’s accomplice in violating the Constitution.

Responding to the Republicans’ claims, the Washington Post wrote in an editorial,

“Members of the conservative majority on the House Judiciary Committee spent much of their time hammering Mr. Pichai with baseless accusations that Google rigs its search results to censor conservative content. Black-box algorithms will inevitably prioritize some content over other content, and to the extent companies can be transparent about how their systems work, they should be. But a single-minded and mindless focus on a nonexistent left-wing conspiracy within Google has had the paradoxical effect of discouraging companies from properly policing their platforms, as they hesitate to remove content that should be removed for fear of unfounded criticism.”

In other words, the Post is concerned that the Republican’s grandstanding about what they allege to be a bias against right-wing viewpoints might undermine the plans by the US intelligence agencies to intensify their censorship of left-wing opposition.

As working class-opposition throughout Europe and around the world continues to mount, the American political establishment is ramping up demands for censorship. Responding to the Yellow Vest demonstrations against social inequality in France, the New York Times wrote an editorial warning that “the power of social media to quickly mobilize mass anger, without any mechanism for dialogue or restraint, is a danger to which a liberal democracy cannot succumb.”

The clear implication is that a growing international upsurge of the working class will be met with even further repression and censorship.

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At first glance, it reads like the script for a Hollywood catastrophe movie. And yet it’s one of the scenarios that is actually being considered in the official 2018 report by the Commission, tasked by the United States Congress with studying the national defense strategy

“In 2019, on the basis of fake news announcing atrocities committed against Russian citizens in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, Russia invades these countries. While US and NATO forces prepare to respond, Russia declares that an attack against its forces in these countries would be viewed as an attack on Russia itself, and considers a nuclear riposte. Russian submarines attack transatlantic optical fibre cables, and Russian hackers cut the electrical networks in the USA, while Russian military forces destroy US military and commercial satellites. The major cities of the United States are paralysed, since the Internet and cell-phones are rendered inoperative”.

The bipartisan Committee, composed of six Republicans and six Democrats, are looking at a similar scenario in Asia – in 2024, China stages a surprise attack and occupies Taiwan, and the United States are unable to intervene in a cost-effective manner, because Chinese military capacities have continued to grow, while those of the USA have stagnated due to insufficient military spending.

“These scenarios – explains the Commission – exemplify the fact that the security and the well-being of the United States are in greater danger than they have been for the last few decades”. Since the Second World War, “the United States have guided the construction of a world of unusual prosperity, freedom and security. This development, from which it has benefited enormously, has been made possible by the unequalled military might of the United States”.

For the moment, however, their military power – “the backbone of world influence and the national security of the USA” – has eroded to a dangerous level. This is due to the fact that “concurrent authoritarian forces – especially China and Russia – are in the process of seeking regional hegemony and the means with which to project their power on an international scale”.

This would be a tragedy of unimaginable dimensions, but perhaps terrible – warns the Commission – if the United States should allow their own national interests to be compromised by a lack of the will to make “hard choices and the necessary investments”. They therefore propose an ulterior increase of US military spending (which today is already equivalent to a quarter of the federal budget) of between 3 and 5 % annually – particularly to increase the deployment of US forces (submarines, strategic bombers, long-range missiles) in the Indo-Pacific region, where “four or five of our adversaries are active – China, North Korea, Russia and terrorist groups, (the fifth being Iran)”.

The strategic vision which emerges from the Congressional report – even more worrying when we note that the Commission is composed of equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats – leaves no room for doubt. The United States – which, since 1945, has provoked wars causing between 20 and 30 million deaths (plus the hundreds of millions caused by the indirect effects of these wars) to “guide the construction of a world of unusual prosperity, freedom and security, from which it has benefitted enormously” is now preparing to do anything necessary to maintain its “unequalled military power” upon which their empire is founded, but which is now beginning to crumble with the emergence of a multipolar world.

For this purpose, the Congressional Commission is examining scenarios of aggression against the United States, which are no more than the mirror image of their own aggressive strategy, which runs the risk of dragging the world into catastrophe.

Source: PandoraTV

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This article was originally published in Italian on Il Manifesto.

Translated by Pete Kimberley

Manlio Dinucci is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

The Political Revolution Goes to Work

December 14th, 2018 by Jane Slaughter

The term “political revolution” is an odd one. Bernie Sanders never said that voting for him or building his campaign would overthrow capitalism (the traditional meaning of “revolution” in the socialist movement). The idea was radical but vague. It was rightly inspirational while what was actually asked of us was within the sphere of voting and elections, and in the Democratic Party at that.

Let’s define “political revolution” very broadly as left electoral campaigns that raise transitional demands and seek to enfranchise the disenfranchised. Bernie’s campaign, as well as those of followers such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, called for radical reforms that the U.S. system could grant – Medicare for All, free public college – but which it is profoundly unwilling to. Raising the demands raises the question “why not?” and lays the blame squarely on Bernie’s “billionaire class.”

My argument here is a simple one: If we want a powerful movement, workers have to fight their employers not just at the ballot box but at the workplace, too. These two kinds of struggle can complement each other; union fights, in particular, pose clear class battles that raise consciousness. In addition to this year’s electrifying teacher strikes, we can learn from three other large-scale union victories that took place in the year before Donald Trump was elected. Those victories happened where we might least expect them: in the old, blue-collar economy, where unions are down to 6.5 percent of the workforce and workers are said to be on their way out. Yet at Chrysler, Verizon, and a huge Teamster pension fund, thousands of union members organized to put a stick in management’s eye. 

Few believed such victories possible as neoliberalism advanced steadily under Democratic and Republican administrations alike. These were not pocket-sized shop-floor wins but confrontations with big-time capital, from which hundreds of thousands of workers and their families have benefited. Together with this year’s teacher rebellions, they show what unions must do if they are to rebuild in the post-Janus era, and in one case they show how electoral politics and a working class battle can fortify each other.

Refresher

Any left political project fares better in an atmosphere of general resistance. Elections come only so often. We need agitation throughout civil society, in workplaces, neighborhoods, churches, at ICE offices, on the National Mall in Washington. Compare what happens in a strike or even a contract campaign with what happens in an election. Even the best electoral campaigns, and we have seen some good ones recently, bend toward the lowest common denominator of political agreement. It’s all about the candidate, who is supposed to perform superhuman feats once in office. The campaign asks almost no involvement from the vast majority of people it tries to reach, nothing more than lever-pulling on Election Day. Campaign volunteers are generally given scripts, not a chance to self-start; in fact, they’re told to “stay on message.” Their tactics are largely limited to phone banking, door-knocking, and social media.

Fights with the boss, in contrast, can allow workers maximum opportunity to use their smarts and creativity. They are forced to get outside their normal sphere of silent resentment and take risks. They defy normal authority. They invent slogans, they strategize to find the boss’s weak points, and they plot escalating campaigns. They may confront scabs, they may break laws. They learn about power – what’s arrayed against them and their own.

Workplaces and the unions that organize them are two of the very few institutions that are socially integrated, where people of different races and backgrounds are forced to work together to get the job done. As such they are prime arenas for getting past the racism that is the worst weakness of the U.S. working class. In our three cases, workers could win only by putting interracial solidarity into practice. Regardless of how or whether they voted on Election Day, when it came to stopping givebacks workers stood together for a common goal.

Finally, fighting the boss can open workers up to left political ideas. Challenging authority sharpens the sense of class antagonism, and forging practical solidarity encourages love and friendship among one’s fellow fighters.

These results aren’t guaranteed, of course. Exit polls in 2016 showed 43 percent of union household voters voting for Trump. Given the demographics of the teachers, Teamsters, telecommunications workers, and auto workers who won the fights described here, it’s likely that many did in fact choose Trump – just as many likely backed Bernie in the Democratic primaries.

Socialists’ Say

This is where socialists come in. When socialists are inside workers’ fights, we can raise bigger ideas and counter bad ones. This is what happened in the historic wildcat strike of West Virginia teachers and school support workers last February. Sanders had swept all 55 counties in the 2016 Democratic Party primary, which put class politics in the air and prompted the growth of a DSA chapter in the state capital. When school workers walked out to save their health insurance, socialist teachers raised the idea that the money should come from a severance tax on the fossil fuel companies that had long exploited the state’s natural wealth. Rallies at the Capitol featured homemade signs demanding “Tax our gas!” and “Make a choice: Tax cuts for big business or healthcare for WV workers.” The legislature did not enact the tax, but the agitation made it impossible for politicians to drive a wedge between school workers and poor West Virginians by cutting services to pay for the raises they won. Rank-and-filers went on to compel the leaders of all three teachers unions to support the severance tax and oppose regressive taxes.

Another example of how political and class revolt can reinforce each other came during the 2016 primary season in New York, when a massive strike at Verizon coincided with the Sanders campaign. Communications Workers of America (CWA), the main union in the strike and one of the few to endorse Bernie, turned 150 strikers out for a Sanders rally on the strike’s first day. Sanders walked picket lines and blasted Verizon for destroying good jobs. When CEO Lowell McAdam called him “contemptible,” Sanders shot back: “I don’t want the support of McAdam, [GE CEO Jeffrey] Immelt and their friends in the billionaire class. I welcome their contempt.” Verizon was demanding big increases in health insurance premiums, so Bernie’s combative rhetoric and his call for Medicare for All found a receptive audience among the strikers.

Media attention buoyed strikers, garnered public support for both Sanders and CWA, and framed the strike as an expression of political resistance to the billionaire class. Sanders’ stump speeches on corporate greed resonated because workers were directly confronting a major corporation on the streets. The strike showed how political agitation combined with workplace action can channel workers’ anti-establishment anger toward the left instead of toward right-wing demagoguery. This is, in fact, what happened throughout Bernie’s primary campaign. Trump said, “You’re getting screwed? Punch down.” Bernie said, “You’re getting screwed? Join hands and together take on the billionaires like Trump.” His anti-corporate and pro-union campaign was strengthened when workers put his slogans into practice outside the electoral arena. It’s safe to assume that most of those strikers voted for Bernie.

Socialists Inside

The growth of DSA is good news at this juncture for the labor movement. While most DSA members (like most U.S. workers) aren’t in unions, chapters and regional gatherings are holding classes to bring them up to speed.

Some members are reinvigorating a socialist plan of action for union work that was called the “Rank and File Strategy” in previous decades. The first step is getting a job in a union workplace. New York City DSA’s local convention recently resolved to help interested members find union jobs (preferably in groups), connect them with experienced activists, and work on strategies for their unions. A new pamphlet from Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) and the Democratic Socialist Labor Commission (DSLC) provides guidance for young members looking to become teachers, which would put DSAers in the heart of class struggles that are bound to erupt again.

Not Dead Yet

Like other public sector workers, teachers will be hurt by the Supreme Court’s Janus decision, which will wreak serious damage on institutional labor. Janus makes the entire public sector right-to-work, with employees no longer required either to join the union that represents them or to pay a fee for that representation. As members quit, solidarity and finances will suffer.

But as the school worker rebellions showed us, workers need not be constrained by bad laws. The states where teachers went on strike in the first half of this year – West Virginia, Arizona, Kentucky, and Oklahoma – were already right-to-work, with no one obliged to join the union or pay fees. Public sector strikes in all four states were illegal. In the first three, districts aren’t even required to bargain collectively with teachers. And yet these workers defied state laws to use labor’s oldest weapon, and they won overwhelming public backing and impressive raises. As Joe Burns, historian of the public employees’ strike wave of the 1960s and 1970s, writes: “Legality has a way of drifting into the background when workers organize en masse.”

Labor Notes published a special issue in July that showcases public and private sector unions that have maintained high membership rates in right-to-work states all along. They’ve done so by inculcating the idea that “the union” is a living and breathing presence at work every day, not just the headquarters and its staff. It’s “me and my co-workers keeping supervisors in line, enforcing our right to take breaks, making sure the new hires are welcomed and schooled.” An organization whose members know what it feels like to exercise power is an organization that workers will join, open shop or not.

Of course, such small-scale shop floor fights aren’t enough to defend workers as a class. They are the precondition for workers wanting to belong to unions and for gaining confidence that they can take on their employers. Then those unions can lead much bigger battles. At their best, these are waged on behalf of a larger constituency, as when nurses fight for smaller nurse-to-patient ratios in hospitals, or transit workers defend bus service, or when UPS Teamsters – a majority of them part-timers – sought public support for their strike for full-time jobs. Campaigns in the private sector can be an essential part of the political revolution when they raise consciousness and seek solidarity around issues that affect our whole class. That’s the difference between a purely bread-and-butter campaign where workers go it alone and one that shows how we’re all in it together against a common class enemy.

Road Map to Resistance

The Chrysler, Teamster, and Verizon blue-collar upsurges all succeeded because of bottom-up initiatives. They also all had roots in union reform movements. The Verizon workers explicitly connected themselves to Sanders’ electoral campaign, to the benefit of each. The other two fights were missing the explicitly political link, but it’s easy to imagine how their unions could have opened their battles to supporters and asked for solidarity based on common interests, as I’ll suggest below.

No to Two-Tier at Chrysler: Since 2007 new workers in Big Three auto plants had hired on at half pay and worked alongside veteran workers on the same jobs, destined never to match “legacy” wages. Though United Auto Workers (UAW) leaders had told the Tier 2 workers in writing that their next contract, in 2015, would bring a section of them up to Tier 1 wages immediately, they reached an agreement with management that would continue the two-tier system indefinitely. The 40,000 Chrysler workers voted “no” nearly two-to-one. They forced union bargainers back to the table to negotiate a path to standard wages for all Tier 2 members.

No to Teamster Pension Cuts: Trustees of the mammoth Central States Pension Fund proposed to slash benefits for already retired workers by 50 to 60 percent. In May 2016, 410,000 Teamsters, retirees, and their spouses in 25 states saw the fruits of two years of rank-and-file protests when a federal appointee bowed to their pressure and rejected the cuts. Two years on, retirees are still getting their full benefits.

No to Harassment and Outsourcing at Verizon: In 2016, 39,000 Verizon workers from Massachusetts to Virginia struck against the outsourcing of call center jobs, forced transfers to other states, and harassment and micromanagement of technicians. They ended their 45-day strike when management backed down from those practices, raised wages and pensions, added 1,300 union jobs, and granted first contracts at seven Verizon retail stores.

What Went Right?

The movements that produced these three victories shared one characteristic: grassroots action by tens of thousands of rank-and-file members. Not clever PR campaigns, not lobbying, not photo ops, but union members defying corporate power in big numbers. At Chrysler and the Teamsters pension fund, members were forced to organize against their own union officials as well. This was not an advantage, but it did ensure that workers weren’t hemmed in by excessive concern for courtesy or company profits.

Each time, the victories were partial. The improved Chrysler contract includes more use of temporary workers. The Teamster pension fund’s red ink still flows, and it still needs Congress to authorize a loan (Sanders has introduced a bill to do so). Verizon workers made concessions on health care costs.

Still, these workers can be proud of what they blocked and what they won. How did they beat the odds?

Power in Numbers

Workers in all three fights turned out big numbers for whatever they did.

At Chrysler, fired-up rank and filers generated tactics, confidence, and excitement through a plethora of Facebook groups where they posted contract details, pictures of their “no” ballots, and local vote results.

Members showed up en masse at union meetings and badgered the officials sent to sell the deal. They made “No More Tiers” T-shirts and wore them into the plants. A few dozen Detroit workers held a Vote No rally at UAW headquarters.

Teamster retirees formed local “Committees to Protect Pensions” in 20 cities, along with 60 Facebook pages. Retirees held letter-writing drives, visited congresspeople, and even picketed a newspaper to get a reporter’s attention.

Mass meetings of 300, 500, 800, 1200 were held from Milwaukee to Kansas City. At some, a government official got an earful about what the cuts would mean. Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) and the Pension Rights Center helped to organize the work, and 2,000 retirees from 20 states rallied in Washington in April 2016.

Verizon workers, too, turned out in big numbers: 500 and 800 greeted the CFO and CEO, respectively, when they appeared at corporate conferences. The “Good Morning America” show hosted 250 strikers in their red T-shirts, and a rally in midtown Manhattan brought out 8,000 red shirts.

Hurt Profits

But the Verizon strikers also did the traditional thing a strike is supposed to do – stop work from getting done and disrupt profits.

Many strikes these days are “publicity strikes” involving one day on the picket line. The Verizon workers, in contrast, put up roving pickets every day. They harassed scabs and managers to make it difficult or impossible for them to install and repair phone lines. Verizon had to tell new fiber optic customers they would wait three or four months for service.

CWA didn’t hesitate to use rowdy tactics. When the company boarded scabs at hotels, strikers organized “wake-up calls” outside their windows in the wee hours of the morning. Locals recruited other unions and community groups (some as far away as California) to adopt Verizon retail stores to picket. Strikers recruited New York health care unions for a day of action to protest Verizon’s cutting off health benefits.

Verizon workers earn far above the blue-collar norm. Strikers who’d been worried about public resentment reported honks of support and picket-line deliveries of pizza and coffee instead. Meanwhile, CWA members had a strike fund behind them, with benefits of $200-$300 a week and a promise to pay medical bills. As the strike wore on, analysts predicted hundreds of millions of dollars in lost profits.

Verizon caved, and the strikers won.

How to Make a Fight Political

The Chrysler workers, whose rank-and-file fight against two-tier was spontaneous, simply didn’t have the resources to take it public as the Verizon workers did. We have another model, though, for what such a campaign – in the private sector, on behalf of particular workers – could have looked like. In 1997 the reform leadership of the Teamsters took on UPS with a two-week strike for full-time jobs, under the slogan “Part-Time America Won’t Work!” Members not only stopped UPS’s profit machine, they also were organized to speak to the press and to go out and talk with their regular customers. A Gallup poll showed the public supporting the strikers by a two-to-one margin.

If the UAW had wanted public support against Chrysler, how about a slogan like “Two-Tier America Won’t Work”? The union could have appealed to other workers’ basic sense of fairness – and to their experiences with two-tier wage systems in their own workplaces – to bring political and consumer pressure to bear on Chrysler. GM and Chrysler worked hard to convince the public that they deserved the massive 2009 federal auto bailout. The union could have taken its case against two-tier to the public, too, but it didn’t do so.

This is the kind of outward-facing campaign with class-wide demands that DSAers should support as part of the political revolution we’re fighting for.

Size Matters

After Janus it’s not surprising to hear the view, from labor’s friends and foes alike, that existing union members are dinosaurs, concessions are inevitable, and the labor movement is on its way out. Some have argued that labor’s best hope is to focus on the most vulnerable workers (i.e., fast-food workers, Uber drivers), though it’s not clear why they should want to hop on a sinking ship. “Alt-labor” theorists have spilled much ink about the advantages of worker centers, a much looser form of organization that generally recruits immigrants in low-paid jobs.

But these three battles show that the raw material is still there for big fights led by private sector unions, those with the power to stop production in the heart of the economy.

Democracy Matters

These fights also showcase the fruits of union democracy movements.

In the UAW, where modern concessions began in 1979, each new round of union-agreed givebacks has been met by a wave of worker resistance, reaching a high point in the 1980s in the New Directions Movement. Victor Reuther, a UAW founder, even came out of retirement to help lead the fight against company-union collaboration. These earlier protesters won members the right to an informed vote, so that the entire 2015 contract was available online.

Today there is not much organization in the UAW between contracts, but the legacy of resistance survives in rank-and-filers’ belief that they have a right to say “No.” TDU, founded in 1976, is now the only substantial national union reform movement. Tactical, logistical, and networking assistance from TDU was critical to the retirees’ organizing. The opposition movement is going strong: In the November 2016 election for top officers, dissidents won a slim majority among U.S. members, falling behind to 48.5 percent only because of voters in Canada. Teamster President James Hoffa was soundly outvoted in the 25 states that belong to the Central States Pension Fund.

And in the CWA, the flagship Verizon local in New York was led by reformers who pushed national officers to call the open-ended strike, after a failed two-week strike in 2011. It helped that CWA activists from all over had built prior connections at the day-long meetings they hold at the national conference of Labor Notes, the magazine founded to give voice to union reform movements.

Power of a Good Example

Fights like these inspire others to want unions of their own. Even former AFL-CIO President John Sweeney saw the recruitment power of workers acting on their own behalf. When the Teamsters beat UPS in 1997, Sweeney said, “You could make a million house calls and run a thousand television commercials and stage a hundred [farmworker] strawberry rallies, and still not come close to doing what the UPS strike did for organizing.”

Such a stance was unusual for Sweeney and for most top union leaders today, who typically prefer to make concessions to powerful employers rather than mobilize members for a fight. But in today’s open-shop America, using union power is the best way to inspire existing members to stay in and to inspire more workers to join.

Much of the post-Janus discussion has centered on the harm that will be done to unions’ political operations as members quit and treasuries are depleted. Anti-union forces have crowed that they can convince five to 20 percent of union members to leave, their goal being to hamstring unions’ ability to get out the vote for Democrats.

Unions are preparing scripts for staffers, arming them to convince members to opt in by comparing the cost of dues to that of a cup of latte. At this year’s Labor Notes conference, Massachusetts Teachers Association President Barbara Madeloni reminded us that if union leaders rely only on arguments about what the union “provides” to members, they’ll lose. But if they enable members to experience the power of a union, Madeloni said, appeals to quit won’t hold water, because you can’t argue away the feeling that comes from using power.

Workers who are uniting to confront power on their own behalf become open to left politics, if those politics are on the table. It’s our job to make sure both are happening.

*

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Jane Slaughter is a former editor of Labor Notes, a co-author of Secrets of a Successful Organizer, and a member of the Detroit DSA chapter.

Featured image is from Socialist Forum

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Auf den ersten Blick liest es sich wie das Drehbuch zu einem Hollywood-Katastrophenfilm. Und doch ist es eines der Szenarien, die im offiziellen Bericht der Kommission aus dem Jahr 2018 erwogen werden, der vom Kongress der Vereinigten Staaten in Auftrag gegeben  wurde, um die nationale Verteidigungsstrategie zu studieren –

„2019 dringt Russland aufgrund gefälschter Nachrichten, die Gräueltaten an russischen Bürgern in Lettland, Litauen und Estland melden, in diese Länder ein. Während sich die Streitkräfte der USA und der NATO auf eine Reaktion vorbereiten, erklärt Russland, dass ein Angriff auf seine Streitkräfte in diesen Ländern als Angriff auf Russland selbst angesehen würde, und erwägt einen nuklearen Gegenschlag. Russische U-Boote greifen transatlantische Glasfaserkabel an und russische Hacker unterbrechen die Stromnetze in den USA, während russische Streitkräfte militärische und kommerzielle Satelliten der USA zerstören. Die großen Städte der Vereinigten Staaten sind gelähmt, da das Internet und die Mobiltelefone außer Betrieb gesetzt werden”.

Der parteiübergreifende Ausschuss, der sich aus sechs Republikanern und sechs Demokraten zusammensetzt, befasst sich mit einem ähnlichen Szenario in Asien – 2024 führt China einen Überraschungsangriff durch und besetzt Taiwan, und die Vereinigten Staaten sind nicht in der Lage, kosteneffizient zu intervenieren, da die chinesischen militärischen Kapazitäten weiter gewachsen sind, während die der USA aufgrund unzureichender Militärausgaben stagnierten.

„Diese Szenarien“ – erklärt die Kommission – „veranschaulichen, dass die Sicherheit und das Wohlergehen der Vereinigten Staaten stärker gefährdet sind als in den letzten Jahrzehnten“. Seit dem Zweiten Weltkrieg „haben die Vereinigten Staaten den Aufbau einer Welt von ungewöhnlichem Wohlstand, Freiheit und Sicherheit angeführt. Diese Entwicklung, von der sie enorm profitiert haben, wurde durch die unvergleichliche militärische Stärke der Vereinigten Staaten ermöglicht“.

Im Moment ist ihre militärische Macht – „das Rückgrat des Welteinflusses und der nationalen Sicherheit der USA“ – jedoch auf ein gefährliches Niveau gesunken. Dies ist darauf zurückzuführen, dass „gleichzeitige autoritäre Kräfte – insbesondere China und Russland – dabei sind, nach regionaler Vorherrschaft und den Mitteln zu suchen, mit denen sie ihre Macht auf internationaler Ebene planen können“. Dies wäre eine Tragödie von unvorstellbarem Ausmaß, allerdings wohl entsetzlich – warnt die Kommission – wenn die Vereinigten Staaten zulassen sollten, dass ihre eigenen nationalen Interessen durch den fehlenden Willen, „schwierige Entscheidungen und die notwendigen Investitionen“ zu treffen, beeinträchtigt werden. Sie schlagen daher vor, die Militärausgaben der USA (die heute bereits einem Viertel des Bundeshaushalts entsprechen) um jährlich 3 bis 5 % zu erhöhen – insbesondere um den Einsatz von US-Truppen (U-Boote, strategische Bomber, Langstreckenraketen) im indisch-pazifischen Raum zu erhöhen, wo „vier oder fünf unserer Gegner aktiv sind – China, Nordkorea, Russland und terroristische Gruppen (die fünfte ist Iran)“.

Die strategische Vision, die sich aus dem Bericht des Kongresses ergibt – sogar noch beunruhigender, wenn wir hervorheben, dass die Kommission zu gleichen Teilen aus Republikanern und Demokraten besteht – lässt keinen Raum für Zweifel. Die Vereinigten Staaten – die seit 1945 Kriege provoziert haben, die zwischen 20 und 30 Millionen Menschenleben forderten (plus die Hunderte von Millionen, die durch die indirekten Auswirkungen dieser Kriege verursacht wurden), um „den Aufbau einer Welt von ungewöhnlichem Wohlstand, Freiheit und Sicherheit anzuführen, von der sie enorm profitiert haben“ – bereiten sich jetzt darauf vor, alles Notwendige zu tun, um ihre „unübertroffene militärische Macht“ aufrechtzuerhalten, auf der ihr Imperium beruht, die aber nun mit dem Entstehen einer multipolaren Welt zu zerfallen beginnt.

Zu diesem Zweck untersucht die Kongresskommission Aggressionsszenarien gegen die Vereinigten Staaten, die nicht mehr sind als das Spiegelbild ihrer eigenen aggressiven Strategie, die Gefahr läuft, die Welt in die Katastrophe zu zerren.

Manlio Dinucci

il manifesto, 11. Dezember 2018

Gli Usa si preparano allo scontro con Russia e Cina

Übersetzung: K.R.

 

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À primeira vista, parece o roteiro de um filme catastrófico de Hollywood.  Pelo contrário, é um dos cenários apresentados no relatório oficial de 2018 da Comissão encarregado pelo Congresso dos Estados Unidos de examinar a Estratégia de Defesa Nacional:

“Em 2019, basedos em notícias falsas sobre atrocidades contra as populações russas na Letónia, na Lituânia e na Estónia, a Rússia invade esses países. Enquanto as forças USA/NATO se preparam para responder, a Rússia declara que um ataque às suas forças nesses países será considerado um ataque à própria Rússia, prevendo uma resposta nuclear. Submarinos russos atacam os cabos de fibra óptica transatlânticos e os piratas informáticos russos interrompem as redes elétricas nos USA, enquanto as forças militares russas destroem satélites militares e comerciais USA. As principais cidades dos EUA ficam paralisadas, desactivando a Internet e os telefones celulares”.

A comissão bipartidária, composta por seis republicanos e seis democratas, prevê um cenário semelhante na Ásia: em 2024, a China efectua um ataque surpresa a Taiwan, ocupando-a, e os Estados Unidos não podem intervir com um esforço aceitável porque a capacidade militar chinesa continuou a crescer, enquanto a dos EUA está estagnada devido à despesa militar insuficiente. Estes cenários – esclarece a Comissão – exemplificam o facto de que “a segurança e o bem-estar dos Estados Unidos estão em risco, mais do que estavam nas últimas décadas”.

Desde a Segunda Guerra Mundial, os “Estados Unidos lideraram a construção de um mundo de prosperidade, liberdade e segurança invulgares. Essa concretização, da qual beneficiaram enormemente, foi possibilitada pelo inigualável poderio militar USA”. Mas agora o seu poder militar – “espinha dorsal da influência global e da segurança nacional USA – diminuiu para um nível perigoso. Este cenário é devido ao facto de que “competidores autoritários – especialmente a China e a Rússia – estão a procurar a hegemonia regional e o meios para projectar o poder à escala global”. Será uma tragédia de dimensão imprevisível, mas talvez de dimensão tremenda – adverte a Comissão – se os Estados Unidos permitirem que os seus interesses nacionais sejam comprometidos, devido à falta de vontade de fazer “escolhas difíceis e investimentos necessários”. Portanto, propõe um aumento adicional da despesa militar dos EUA  (hoje já equivale a um quarto do orçamento federal) na medida líquida de 3-5% ao ano, especialmente para aumentar a mobilização das forças dos EUA (submarinos, bombardeiros estratégicos, mísseis de longo alcance), na região do Indíco e do Pacífico, onde estão activos quatro dos nossos cinco adversários (o quinto é o Irão): China, Coreia do Norte, Rússia e grupos terroristas”.

A visão estratégica que emerge do relatório do Congresso – ainda mais preocupante se pensarmos que a Comissão é formada igualmente por republicanos e democratas – não deixa dúvidas. Os Estados Unidos – que desde 1945 provocaram com as suas guerras 20 a 30 milhões de mortes (mais centenas de milhões causadas pelos efeitos indirectos das guerras) para “construir um mundo de prosperidade, liberdade e segurança invulgares, do qual eles beneficiaram enormemente”- estão dispostos a tudo para conservar a “potência militar incomparável”sobre a qual se baseia o seu império, que está a desmoronar com o aparecimento de um mundo multipolar.

Para esse fim, a Comissão do Congresso apresenta cenários de agressão aos Estados Unidos, os quais não são mais do que a imagem reflexa da  sua própria estratégia agressiva, que corre o risco de conduzir o mundo à catástrofe.

Manlio Dinucci

 il manifesto, 11 de Dezembro de 2018

Artigo em italiano :

Gli Usa si preparano allo scontro con Russia e Cina

Tradução : Luisa Vasconcelos

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O Iraque, que nos anos de Saddam Hussein (1979-2003) viveu grande período de prosperidade e estabilidade social, então reconhecido pela ONU como um dos países árabes que mais respeitavam a diversidade religiosa, tem sido atualmente uma das nações mais devastadas do mundo desde a Guerra do Golfo de 1991, seguida do criminoso embargo econômico imposto pelos Estados Unidos que perdurou por todos os anos de 1990, assassinando mais de 200 mil criancas entre outras catástrofes, e da segunda invasão e ocupação estadunidense em 2003 – além de baseada em comprovadas mentiras, deu-se sem mandato da ONU, contra todas as leis internacionais e contra a própria Constituição norte-americana, enquanto guerra de agressão.

Se não bastasse isso tudo, o Iraque passou a enfrentar, justamente apos a segunda invasão dos que lhe prometiam liberdade e segurança, ataques de grupos terroristas que jamais haviam atacado antes: Al-Qaeda e, com poder ainda mais destrutivo, Estado Islamita por quase quatro anos, de 2014 a 2017. Ambas as organizações, formadas e financiadas exatamente pelo regime de Washington para, em busca de interesses estratégicos e econômicos, desestabilizar e dividir o Oriente Médio, região mais rica em petróleo do planeta.

Tom Peyre-Costa, assessor de imprensa e ativista do Conselho Norueguês de Refugiados (Norwegian Refuegee Council, NRC), detalha na entrevista a seguir o trabalho de sua organização especificamente no Iraque, e comenta os desafios do país árabe para sair de um atoleiro que parece sem fim – o que, historicamente, o regime estadunidense melhor sabe fazer em terras alheias. Apenas de 2003 para cá, mais de um milhão de iraquianos foram mortos por causas relacionadas a terrorismo e pela guerra dos Estados Unidos.

“Os iraquianos sofreram as atrocidades mais terríveis do EI, e agora sofrem com a falta de apoio internacional”, lamenta Peyre quem reconhece o esforço do governo iraquiano, ao mesmo tempo que pontua deficiências e descaso de Bagdá em determindos aspectos, nesta fase de tentativa de reconstrução iraquiana.

O NRC faz-se presente hoje em 31 países: Camarões, República Centro-Africana, Djibuti, Repúbica Democrática do Congo, Eritréia, Etiópia, Quênia, Mali e Burkina Faso, Nigéria, Somália, Sudão do Sul, Tanzânia, Uganda, Iêmen, Colômbia, Honduras, Afeganistão, Irã, Myanmar, Grécia, Ucrânia, Iraque, Jordânia, Líbano, Palestina, Síria, Turquia, Noruega, Suíça, EUA, Reino Unido.

ONG sem fins lucrativos, o NRC é financiado por doadores voluntários – os principais: Norwegian Ministry of Foreign AffairsEuropean CommissionUN Refugee Agency, UKAID, e Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.

Abaixo, a íntegra da entrevista.

Edu Montesanti: Especifique como, exatamente, os 900 especialistas do NRC espalhados em 200 missões ao redor do mundo, trabalham.

Tom Peyre-Costa: Nossos especialistas atuam nas várias competências essenciais do NRC: administração de acampamento, assistência alimentar, água potável, abrigo, assistência jurídica e educação.

O NRC enfrenta situações perigosas nos países onde atua?

Dada a atual agitação em estados afetados por conflitos como a República Centro-Africana, o Sudão do Sul e a Síria, algum nível de exposição a riscos é inevitável e pode até ser necessário para que o trabalho seja feito.

Mas o imperativo que conduz os agentes humanitários é ajudar as pessoas necessitadas.

O Iraque é um caso bstante particular, país destroçado que, até dezembro do ano passado, sofria com os ataques do Estado Islamita (EI) por todo o territó rio nacional, além de ainda trazer as gravíssimas consequências da invasão e ocupação dos Estados Unidos, em 2003, apresentando também risco consideravel ao NRC, correto?

No Iraque, a guerra contra o EI pode ter acabado, mas ainda há numerosos ataques do grupo no país que ainda crescem na província de Kirkuk, por exemplo.

No NRC, temos pessoal profissional dedicado à segurança para mitigar os riscos, tanto quanto possível, mas nunca será reduzido a zero.

Sobre riscos, você tem alguma história pessoal para contar?

Tenho a sorte de nunca ter passado por uma situação difícil.

Pelo que me lembro, a situação mais recente foi a gravação de vídeos em Sinjar quando havia tiroteios esporádicos na área. Mas isso é comum no Iraque e pode ser por vários motivos: celebrações, intimidações, protestos etc.

Sinjar parece um caso singular no Iraque, Tom, de acordo com sua experiência no país. “Ao contrário de outras partes do Iraque, a reconstrução nunca foi iniciada”, você escreveu em novembro, refernido-se exatamente a Sinjar.

Explique o cenário nesta província iraquiana.

Sinjar é singular por sua recente história, e pelo genocídio perpetrado contra os yazidis. E como eu disse, a reconstrução nem sequer começou três anos depois [do início dos ataques do EI]. Mais de 200 mil pessoas, a maioria yazidis, permanecem deslocadas no norte do Iraque e no exterior, sem casa para onde possam retornar.

Aqueles que decidiram voltar, não têm as coisas mais básicas para viver, como água. A maioria dos moradores de Sinjar ainda está deslocada em acampamentos, e não pode voltar por causa dessa situação.

Quanto a corrupção política exerce influência sobre esta situação envolvendo os yazidis, e quais os grandes desafos do governo iraquiano para superar esta situação?

Não posso especular sobre corrupção e influências políticas, o que posso dizer é que é essencial que o governo local e a comunidade internacional entendam a extensão das necessidades e façam mais para responder a elas.

O governo iraquiano deve superar as divisões religiosas, sectárias, muitas das quais se ampliaram durante o recente conflito [com o EI], especialmente quando se trata de fornecer ajuda à sua própria população.

Comente a atuação do NRC entre os yazidis, em Sinjar.

O que o NRC faz nos campos de Sinjar e Yazidi, é o seguinte:

1. Estamos presentes tanto no territorio de Sinjar, quanto nos acampamentos;

2. Apoiamos as crianças yazidis nos campos a fim de que lidem com seus traumas e sofrimentos psicológicos, por meio de atividades educacionais e recreativas;

3. Nos campos de desalojamento e desde recentemente em Sinjar, apoiamos as famílias na recuperação de documentos essenciais tais como Carteira de identidade e títulos de propriedade, essenciais para que possam reconstruir suas casas. Também apoiamos os jovens com formação profissional;

4. Através do nosso centro comunitário em Sinjar, facilitamos e coordenamos uma resposta humanitária abrangente entre as organizações de parceiros humanitários e as comunidades, a fim de garantir que as necessidades urgentes sejam atendidas.

Enquanto oito milhões de pessoas no Iraque ainda carecem de ajuda humanitária, segundo estimativas do NRC, quanto os governos locais e estrangeiros, especialmente a coalizão liderada pelos EUA que, ilegalmente contra a ONU e todas as leis internacionais, invadiu e ocupou o país em 2003, devem ser responsabilizados e por que exatamente?

A comunidade internacional deve investir tanto na reconstrução do Iraque quanto nas operações militares contra o grupo do EI. Os iraquianos deslocados sentem-se abandonados um ano após a anunciada derrota do EI.

Há, ainda, uma necessidade imediata de limpar e reconstruir casas, escolas e hospitais para permitir que pessoas voltem para casa. A reconstrução está além da capacidade do que o governo iraquiano possa, sozinho, fazer. As necessidades são imensas.

Nós falamos sobre cidades inteiras e aldeias destruídas. 88 bilhões de dólares são necessários apenas para a reconstrução da infraestrutura básica. O conflito envolveu muitos atores da comunidade internacional, então o apoio é uma responsabilidade coletiva. Esta é a chave para um futuro sustentável.

O governo iraquiano fez muito para facilitar a prestação de assistência aos iraquianos necessitados. No entanto, muito mais precisa ser feito. É imperativo que o governo iraquiano garanta a assistência necessária para recuperar os documentos essenciais, com retorno para casa com segurança, enfim, reconstruir a vida das pessoas. Isso significa que eles precisam facilitar e agilizar o processo para que eles façam isso.

Quais as principais necessidades da população?

Até o momento, 3,9 milhões de pessoas voltaram para casa e cerca de 1,9 milhão permanecem deslocadas em 1,4 milhão de acampamentos, principalmente nas províncias de Ninewa e Anbar. Em 2018, espera-se que mais de oito milhões de pessoas no Iraque precisem de ajuda humanitária, de acordo com o mais recente Plano de Resposta Humanitária (Humanitarian Response Plan).

Enquanto a luta em Mosul e outras áreas, anteriormente nas mãos do Estado islamita, praticamente cessou em 2017, as necessidades humanitárias são imensas. Pessoas deslocadas, particularmente em acampamentos, precisam de serviços de água e de saneamento, além de assistência médica.

3,2 crianças perderam vários anos de escola devido ao conflito. Elas precisam de aulas e apoio psicossocial para poder lidar com os traumas pessoais. Centenas de escolas em todo o país precisam ser reconstruídas, precisam de livros, carteiras, artigos de papelaria e, acima de tudo, professores.

Qual tem sido a resposta oficial a essas pessoas, e como esses oficiais do governo podem ou devem melhor agir em cima dos pontos especificados acima?

Há uma necessidade urgente de se apoiar os esforços de reconstrução e reconciliação no país, que devem ser prioridade para todos. Os iraquianos que tiveram casas ou propriedades destruídas pelos combates, devem ser compensados pelas perdas. Este é um passo concreto que o governo iraquiano pode dar para ajudar as famílias se reconstruir.

Esforços de reconciliação nacional e local, apoiados pela comunidade internacional, também são necessários para ajudar a enfrentar as tensões comunitárias e tribais, ampliadas pelo conflito com o EI.

Finalmente, precisamos ver o fim da punição coletiva de famílias associadas ao EI. Um grande número destas, são chefiados por mulheres e crianças que não cometeram crimes, mas são tratados como culpados por associação e, portanto, impedidos de regressar a suas casas, incapazes de deixar os campos ou de se deslocar pelo país.

Essa discriminação contra familaires de terroristas ou ex-terroristas mortos, é generalizada no Iraque?

Nao, essa situação não é generalizada, mas há muitos casos relatados neste sentido. Precisamos ver o governo se concentrar em acusações criminais individuais, em vez de punir famílias inteiras, crianças e viúvas, por crime que muitas vezes não cometeram.

Confiamos que o governo, em conjunto com as autoridades locais, apoiará os esforços de reconciliação em todos os níveis para evitar a punição coletiva, e encontre soluções duradouras para as famílias que não puderem retornar ao enfrentarem vingança ou exclusão da comunidade.

Como está o estado de espírito dos deslocados iraquianos? 

Apesar da considerável diminuição da violência, os movimentos de retorno estão diminuindo. A maioria dos iraquianos deslocados remanescentes não está disposta ou não pode voltar para casa no próximo ano, já que não tem para onde voltar ou não podem sair do acampamento.

Os iraquianos deslocados sentem-se abandonados pelo governo e pela comunidade internacional. A maioria deles perdeu a esperança.

Alguns temem que o EI possa ressurgir no país, enquanto os terroristas permanecem no norte do Iraque e na fronteira com a Síria. Você tem receio disso, também?

Esperamos que isso nunca aconteça. Os iraquianos sofreram as atrocidades mais terríveis do EI, e agora sofrem com a falta de apoio internacional. Precisamos ter certeza de que a comunidade internacional não os esquecerá.

Mais apoio permitirá que as pessoas deslocadas retornem. Mais apoio garantirá sustentabilidade e inclusão. Esta é a melhor maneira de se evitar que tal catástrofe aconteça novamente.

Você alegou, ao longo desta entrevista, que os iraquianos sofrem diante da falta de apoio internacional. Não será porque invasões e guerras sejam bem mais lucrativas que a reconstrucao de uma nação?

Não é rentável para os 1,8 milhões de iraquianos ainda deslocados e para os retornados que ainda vivem em situação difícil. Muitos doadores estão afastando a cabeça do Iraque, mas as necessidades ainda estão lá.

As necessidades de reconstruir, estabilizar e conciliar a sociedade. Não é hora de abandonar os iraquianos.

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