Hong Kong, torna il «Trattato di Nanchino»

September 17th, 2019 by Manlio Dinucci

Centinaia di giovani cinesi, davanti al Consolato britannico a Hong Kong, cantano «Dio Salvi la Regina» e gridano «Gran Bretagna salva Hong Kong», appello raccolto a Londra da 130 parlamentari che chiedono di dare la cittadinanza britannica ai residenti dell’ex colonia. La Gran Bretagna viene fatta apparire così all’opinione pubblica mondiale, specie ai giovani, quale garante di legalità e diritti umani. Per farlo si cancella la Storia. E’ quindi necessaria, prima di altre considerazioni, la conoscenza delle vicende storiche che, nella prima metà dell’Ottocento, portano il territorio cinese di Hong Kong sotto dominio britannico.

Per penetrare in Cina, governata allora dalla dinastia Qing, la Gran Bretagna ricorre allo smercio di oppio, che trasporta via mare dall’India dove ne detiene il monopolio. Il mercato della droga si diffonde rapidamente nel paese, provocando gravi danni economici, fisici, morali e sociali che suscitano la reazione delle autorità cinesi. Ma quando esse confiscano a Canton l’oppio immagazzinato e lo bruciano, le truppe britanniche occupano con la prima Guerra dell’Oppio questa e altre città costiere, costringendo la Cina a firmare nel 1842 il Trattato di Nanchino. 

All’Articolo 3 esso stabilisce: «Poiché è ovviamente necessario e desiderabile che sudditi britannici dispongano di porti per le loro navi e i loro magazzini, la Cina cede per sempre l’isola di Hong Kong a Sua Maestà la Regina di Gran Bretagna e ai suoi eredi».

All’Articolo 6 il Trattato stabilisce: «Poiché il Governo di Sua Maestà Britannica è stato costretto a inviare un corpo di spedizione  per ottenere il risarcimento dei danni provocati dalla violenta e ingiusta procedura delle autorità cinesi, la Cina acconsente a pagare a Sua Maestà Britannica la somma di 12 milioni di dollari per le spese sostenute».

Il Trattato di Nanchino è il primo dei trattati ineguali attraverso cui le potenze europee (Gran Bretagna, Germania, Francia, Belgio, Austria e Italia), la Russia zarista, il Giappone e gli Stati Uniti si assicurano in Cina, con la forza delle armi, una serie di privilegi: la cessione di Hong Kong alla Gran Bretagna nel 1843, la forte riduzione dei dazi sulle merci straniere (proprio mentre i governi europei erigono barriere doganali a protezione delle proprie industrie), l’apertura dei principali porti alle navi straniere e il diritto di avere aree urbane sotto propria amministrazione (le «concessioni») sottratte all’autorità cinese.

Nel 1898 la Gran Bretagna annette a Hong Kong la penisola di Kowloon e i cosiddetti New Territories, concessi dalla Cina «in affitto» per 99 anni. Il vasto malcontento per tali imposizioni fa esplodere verso la fine dell’Ottocento una rivolta popolare – quella dei Boxer – contro cui interviene un corpo di spedizione internazionale di 16 mila uomini sotto comando britannico, al quale partecipa anche l’Italia.

Sbarcato a Tianjin nell’agosto 1900, esso saccheggia Pechino e altre città, distruggendo numerosi villaggi e massacrandone la popolazione. Successivamente, la Gran Bretagna assume nel 1903 il controllo del Tibet, mentre la Russia zarista e il Giappone si spartiscono la Manciuria nel 1907.

Nella Cina ridotta in condizione coloniale e semicoloniale, Hong Kong diviene la principale porta dei traffici basati sul saccheggio delle risorse e sullo sfruttamento schiavistico della popolazione. Una massa enorme di cinesi è costretta ad emigrare soprattutto verso Stati Uniti, Australia e Sud-Est asiatico, dove è sottoposta a condizioni analoghe di sfruttamento e discriminazione.

Sorge spontanea una domanda: su quali libri di storia studiano i giovani che chiedono alla Gran Bretagna di «salvare Hong Kong»?

Manlio Dinucci

 

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Selected Articles: Drone Attack on Saudi Oil

September 17th, 2019 by Global Research News

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Will Trump Take Neocon Bait and Attack Iran over Saudi Strike?

By Rep. Ron Paul, September 17, 2019

The recent attacks on Saudi oil facilities by Yemeni Houthi forces demonstrate once again that an aggressive foreign policy often brings unintended consequences and can result in blowback.

Trump Awaits Orders from Saudis; and Why the Houthis Could Have Done It

By Juan Cole, September 17, 2019

Trump’s bizarre infatuation with strongmen and dictators was on full display in his response to Saturday’s drone attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities.

Aramco IPO

Impact of Yemeni Attack on Saudi ARAMCO Oil Facilities

By Peter Koenig and Press TV, September 17, 2019

When the Saudis agreed in the early 1970’s as head of OPEC and on behalf of OPEC, to sell crude only in US-dollars, the US Administration offered them in turn – “forever” military protection, in the form of multiple military bases in the Saudi territories.

Trump: Saudi Arabia’s Bitch

By Kurt Nimmo, September 17, 2019

“Saudi Arabia’s Bitch”. That’s what Democrat candidate Tulsi Gabbard calls President Trump for his slavish reliance on Saudi Arabia to declare Iran responsible for last weekend’s attack on Saudi oil resources. 

Sanders Warns Trump Against Illegal Iran Strike

By Bryant Harris, September 17, 2019

The attack on the Saudi Aramco oil facility over the weekend and President Donald Trump’s subsequent tweet that the United States is “locked and loaded” immediately prompted presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to fire back.

The Ansarullah’s Drone Strike against Saudi Arabia’s Oil Facilities Was a Classic “David vs. Goliath” Moment?

By Andrew Korybko, September 16, 2019

This weekend’s massive drone strike by Yemen’s Ansarullah rebels against the world’s largest oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia was a classic David vs. Goliath moment where a smaller force inflicted a devastating blow against their much larger opponent, one which even surpasses its legendary predecessor because of its potential global consequences.

“Drone Attack” on Saudi Oil – Who Benefits?

By Tony Cartalucci, September 16, 2019

Following an ambiguous and evidence-free description of the supposed attacks, the BBC even included an entire section titled, “Who could be behind the attacks?” dedicated to politically expedient speculation aimed ultimately at Tehran.

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Featured image: A fire boke out at the Saudi Aramco facility in the eastern city of Abqaiq on Saturday after a drone attack by Houthi rebels from Yemen. | Reuters

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The recent attacks on Saudi oil facilities by Yemeni Houthi forces demonstrate once again that an aggressive foreign policy often brings unintended consequences and can result in blowback. In 2015 Saudi Arabia attacked its neighbor, Yemen, because a coup in that country ousted the Saudi-backed dictator. Four years later Yemen is in ruins, with nearly 100,000 Yemenis killed and millions more facing death by starvation. It has been rightly called the worst humanitarian catastrophe on the planet.

But rich and powerful Saudi Arabia did not defeat Yemen. In fact, the Saudis last month asked the Trump Administration to help facilitate talks with the Houthis in hopes that the war, which has cost Saudi Arabia tens of billions of dollars, could finally end without Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman losing too much face. Washington admitted earlier this month that those talks had begun.

The surprise Houthi attack on Saturday disrupted half of Saudi Arabia’s oil and gas production and shocked Washington. Predictably, however, the neocons are using the attack to call for war with Iran!

Sen. Lindsay Graham, one of the few people in Washington who makes John Bolton look like a dove, Tweeted yesterday that,

“It is now time for the US to put on the table an attack on Iranian oil refineries…”

Graham is the perfect embodiment of the saying, “when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” No matter what the problem, for Graham the solution is war.

Likewise, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – who is supposed to represent US diplomacy – jumped to blame Iran for the attack on Saudi Arabia, Tweeting that,

“Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply.”

Of course, he provided no evidence even as the Houthis themselves took responsibility for the bombing.

What is remarkable is that all of Washington’s warmongers are ready for war over what is actually a retaliatory strike by a country that is the victim of Saudi aggression, not the aggressor itself. Yemen did not attack Saudi Arabia in 2015. It was the other way around. If you start a war and the other country fights back, you should not be entitled to complain about how unfair the whole thing is.

The establishment reaction to the Yemeni oilfield strike reminds me of a hearing in the House Foreign Affairs Committee just before the US launched the 2003 Iraq war. As I was arguing against the authorization for that war, I pointed out that Iraq had never attacked the United States. One of my colleagues stopped me in mid-sentence, saying, “let me remind the gentleman that the Iraqis have been shooting at our planes for years.” True, but those planes were bombing Iraq!

The neocons want a US war on Iran at any cost. They may feel temporarily at a disadvantage with the departure of their ally in the Trump Administration, John Bolton. However, the sad truth is that there are plenty more John Boltons in the Administration. And they have allies in the Lindsay Grahams in Congress.

Yemen has demonstrated that it can fight back against Saudi aggression. The only sensible way forward is for a rapid end to this four-year travesty, and the Saudis would be wise to wake up to the mess they’ve created for themselves. Whatever the case, US participation in Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen must end immediately and neocon lies about Iran’s role in the war must be refuted and resisted.

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The leader of the Iranian revolution Sayyed Ali Khamenei received on the 10th of Moharram, the Iraqi leader Sayyed Moqtada al-Sadr, brought to him by Brigadier General Qassem Soleimani, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps – Quds Brigade (IRGC-QB) and in presence of the IRGC commander Hossein Salame. The visit- and above all the pictures taken with Al-Sadr and the Iranian leader along with Soleimani and Salame – is a message Iran is sending to Saudi Arabia- who published in July 2017 a photo uniting al-Sadr with Saudi Crown Price Mohammad Bin Salman. The Sadr-Bin Salman meeting was meant to be received in Iran and among the “Axis of the Resistance” as a Saudi breakthrough in Iran’s backyard, and a capture of one of – what Saudi Arabia may believe – the pillars of this “Axis” in Iraq. Moqtada, albeit unwillingly, was giving signals to those unfamiliar with his “political style”, as a “new” alignment of al-Sadr, a move away from Iran and closer to Saudi Arabia. While Tehran is sending the ball back to the Saudis’ court, al-Sadr himself has a history of unpredictable behaviour and inconsistent political alignment. He has criticised Iran in many circumstances without being necessarily pro Saudi. What is the real position of Moqtada and why this “political jumping” from one extreme to the other?

It is all related to the history of Iran in Iraq just after the US occupation of the country, and in particular its approach to al-Sadr and his group since 2003. Moqtada al-Sadr expressed at that time his rejection of the US occupation. Iran found Moqtada very attractive to support. He is a Shia cleric, a Sayyed (descendent of the prophet), and a member of the well-known and respectful al-Sadr family with roots in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon. Also, Moqtada enjoys the support of hundreds of thousands of followers he inherited from his father Sayyed Mohammad Sadeq, particularly among the southern Iraqi poor and in al-Sadr city in Baghdad.

By occupying Iraq in 2003, Tehran feared the US would turn its guns against its allies in Syria and Lebanon and end up attacking Iran once it had consolidated its presence in Mesopotamia. It was necessary to defeat the US forces in Iraq and stop their expansion plan or at least force their departure. Iran supported the Iraqi resistance against the occupation forces and transferred its experience and finance to those wishing to end the US control of Iraq.

Not that Moqtada has changed much since 2003 – Moqtada was very young and inexperienced, and over a decade later, his way to run his political aspirations is still amateurish. In 2004 he took control of Najaf and spread checkpoints throughout the city, including al-Rasoul street leading to the house of Sayyed Ali Sistani and to Imam Ali’s Shrine. I, as a foreigner walking down the street, was stopped once by his armed teenage militants and was only released by the Islamic Court, to which I was conducted by Sayyed Hashem Abu Rgheef.

Iran reached the peak of its support to Moqtada’s army (Jaish al-Mahdi) when he confronted the US forces in Najaf in August 2004. It continued to do so when Moqtada agreed to form a new group under the name of Asaeb Ahl al-Haq and gave the command to his assistant Sheikh Qais al-Khaz’ali. The group was trained and financed by Iran through Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes, the actual vice head of the “Popular Mobilisation Forces” (PMF). The Asaeb group was responsible for several successful attacks against the US and British forces until 2008, a year after the arrest of Sheikh Qais al-Khaz’ali in Basra.

In 2006, Moqtada al-Sadr moved to Iran for several years for fear of being assassinated by the US. Nevertheless, he was considered an uneasy guest by the Iranian officials. The IRGC-Quds Brigade commander Soleimani didn’t know what to do with him, nor how to “bring some reason” to Moqtada. While in Iran, Moqtada planned to visit Prince Bandar Bin Sultan at a time when the Saudi Prince was Head of Intelligence Services, and the relationships between Iran and Saudi Arabia were far from being cordial.

In 2008, Iran encouraged the separation between the Asaeb Ahal al-Haq and Moqtada. It gave Sheikh Qais al-Khaz’ali full support to go solo with Asaeb. Iran organised a new, separate group under the leadership of Sheikh Aqram called “Harakat al Nujabaa”. It also supported the ex-head of Jaish al-Mahdi, Abu Mohammad Shibl al-Zaidi in forming his own group, Kataeb Imam Ali.

The Sadrist leader was and still is a rebel, unpredictable in his political choices and moves. But Moqtada is also very angry with Iran, accusing Soleimani of being responsible for the many splits in his organisation. He takes every opportunity to attack Iran. But Soleimani himself is clever enough to “contain” Moqtada and bring him closer, notwithstanding the Sadrist political attitude and choices. Indeed, Soleimani organised this week a “casual meeting” at “Imam Khomeini’s Husseyniyat” in Tehran, between Moqtada and Sayyed Ali Khamenei during the exceptional day for the Shia, who commemorate around the world the third Shiite Imam Hussein Ibn Ali’s killing, along with many members of his family and followers in Karbalaa, Iraq.

It is Iran’s way to send messages across the Middle East. For some time, Moqtada was believed to be totally anti-Iran, raising hopes for Gulf countries to have on their side a Shia cleric with 54 seats in the Parliament. These countries’ leaders missed out that Iraq is Iran’s backyard and that Soleimani well knows how to play his cards.

Although Moqtada’s political bloc, Sa’iroun, has more than any other political group – they won 54 seats in Iraq’s 329-member parliament – he failed to deliver his promises of reforms, technocratic leadership, and the anti-corruption agenda. It will surprise many of his own circle if he gathers a third of the seats he controls today in the forthcoming election. Moqtada’s group is today the image of their leader: spread thin and with no clear reference and direction.

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The Magnitskiy Myth Exploded

September 17th, 2019 by Craig Murray

The conscientious judges of the European Court of Human Rights published a judgement a fortnight ago which utterly exploded the version of events promulgated by Western governments and media in the case of the late Mr Magnitskiy. Yet I can find no truthful report of the judgement in the mainstream media at all.

The myth is that Magnitskiy was an honest rights campaigner and accountant who discovered corruption by Russian officials and threatened to expose it, and was consequently imprisoned on false charges and then tortured and killed. A campaign over his death was led by his former business partner, hedge fund manager Bill Browder, who wanted massive compensation for Russian assets allegedly swindled from their venture. The campaign led to the passing of the Magnitskiy Act in the United States, providing powers for sanctioning individuals responsible for human rights abuses, and also led to matching sanctions being developed by the EU.

However the European Court of Human Rights has found, in judging a case brought against Russia by the Magnitskiy family, that the very essence of this story is untrue. They find that there was credible evidence that Magnitskiy was indeed engaged in tax fraud, in conspiracy with Browder, and he was rightfully charged. The ECHR also found there was credible evidence that Magnitskiy was indeed a flight risk so he was rightfully detained. And most crucially of all, they find that there was credible evidence of tax fraud by Magnitskiy and action by the authorities “years” before he started to make counter-accusations of corruption against officials investigating his case.

This judgement utterly explodes the accepted narrative, and does it very succinctly:

The applicants argued that Mr Magnitskiy’s arrest had not been based on a reasonable suspicion of a crime and that the authorities had lacked impartiality as they had actually wanted to force him to retract his allegations of corruption by State officials. The Government argued that there had been ample evidence of tax evasion and that Mr Magnitskiy had been a flight risk. The Court reiterated the general principles on arbitrary detention, which could arise if the authorities had complied with the letter of the law but had acted with bad faith or deception. It found no such elements in this case: the enquiry into alleged tax evasion which had led to Mr Magnitskiy’s arrest had begun long before he had complained of fraud by officials. The decision to arrest him had only been made after investigators had learned that he had previously applied for a UK visa, had booked tickets to Kyiv, and had not been residing at his registered address. Furthermore, the evidence against him, including witness testimony, had been enough to satisfy an objective observer that he might have committed the offence in question. The list of reasons given by the domestic court to justify his subsequent detention had been specific and sufficiently detailed. The Court thus rejected the applicants’ complaint about Mr Magnitskiy’s arrest and subsequent detention as being manifestly ill-founded.

“Manifestly ill founded”. The mainstream media ran reams of reporting about the Magnitskiy case at the time of the passing of the Magnitskiy Act. I am offering a bottle of Lagavulin to anybody who can find me an honest and fair MSM report of this judgement reflecting that the whole story was built on lies.

Magnitskiy did not uncover corruption then get arrested on false charges of tax evasion. He was arrested on credible charges of tax evasion, and subsequently started alleging corruption. That does not mean his accusations were unfounded. It does however cast his arrest in a very different light.

Where the Court did find in favour of Magnitskiy’s family is that he had been deprived of sufficient medical attention and subject to brutality while in jail. I have no doubt this is true. Conditions in Russian jails are a disgrace, as is the entire Russian criminal justice system. There are few fair trials and conviction rates remain well over 90% – the judges assume that if you are being prosecuted, the state wants you locked up, and they comply. This is one of many areas where the Putin era will be seen in retrospect as lacking in meaningful and needed domestic reform. Sadly what happened to Magnitskiy on remand was not special mistreatment. It is what happens in Russian prisons. The Court also found Magnitskiy’s subsequent conviction for tax evasion was unsafe, but only on the (excellent) grounds that it was wrong to convict him posthumously.

The first use of the Magnitsky Act was to sanction those subject to Browder’s vendetta in his attempts to regain control of vast fortunes in Russian assets. But you may be surprised to hear I do not object to the legislation, which in principle is a good thing – although the chances of Western governments bringing sanctions to bear on the worst human rights abusers are of course minimal. Do not expect it to be used against Saudi Arabia, Bahrain or Israel any time soon.

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Trump’s bizarre infatuation with strongmen and dictators was on full display in his response to Saturday’s drone attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities. As our foremost Gulf expert, Kristian Ulrichsen, noted,

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Trump actually said that he was waiting on the Saudis to determine the guilty party and to tell him what to do!

We all kept saying it is dangerous to have an erratic person like Trump in the White House in case there was a major global crisis. This might be it, folks.

The responsibility for the ten drone strikes on the Abqaiq and Khurais facilities is in dispute, with the Israelis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo fingering Shiite militias in Iraq, whereas the Houthi rebels of north Yemen claimed they sent the drones.

[Update: Louisa Loveluck is reporting that Pompeo is now denying an Iraqi provenance; he also cast doubt on Yemen, so perhaps has adopted the Iran theory.]

One anonymous Trump official even told ABC on Sunday that Iran directly launched drones and cruise missiles on Saudi Arabia. We await forensics, but this allegation should be provable from forensics. It hasn’t been, and sounds Gulf of Tonkinish to me. If it is true, buy an electric car quick.

One of the arguments for the Iraqi or Iranian provenance of the drones is that the Houthis were not known to have this capability before now. This allegation is not true. As I discussed in May, the Houthis used drones to hit Aramco pumping stations in al-Duwadimi (853 miles from Sana’a) and Afif (764 miles from Sana’a). The Houthis only had to go another hundred miles or so to reach Abqaiq from their stronghold at Saada (about 1,000 miles).

In May, the Houthis must have used Iran’s Shahed 129 UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) or something very like it, which has a range of 1100 miles and has been used for similar strikes by Iranian forces in Syria. The advantage of drones for smuggling weapons to the Houthis by Iran is that they could simply be flown to them from a vessel offshore in the Red Sea.

If the drone can go 1,100 miles, there is no advantage to taking off from Iraq or Iran rather than Yemen.

In murder mysteries we look at means, motive and opportunity. The Houthis have the most motive of any of these actors, since the Saudis have dropped thousands of bombs on them for nearly four and a half years. Moreover, the Houthis have nothing to lose. They are already being hit as hard by the Saudis as they can be hit, and they have no resources that the Saudis can destroy.

In contrast, the Iraqi Shiite militias may not like the Saudis one little bit, but they don’t have anywhere near the same degree of motive as the Houthis. Moreover, they benefit mightily from Iraq’s oil facilities at Basra, which you wouldn’t think they would want to put at risk of a Saudi counter-strike.

For the same reason, Iran would have been foolish to plan or direct this attack, since its own oil facilities are vulnerable to a counter-attack. Neither Iran nor Iraq did this kind of damage to one another’s oil facilities in the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88, operating under a constraint of mutual assured destruction.

Finally, I think we should be suspicious of Israeli and Neoconservative intelligence on this matter. Israel has not been involved in the Yemen War and there is no advantage to it if the Houthis did it. Israel has developed a fear of the Iraqi Shiite militias, which are close to Iran and operating in Syria near Israel, and has struck them in Iraq several times with drones. It would be awfully convenient for Tel Aviv if the full force of the United States and the Saudis could be turned on the Iraqi Shiite militias, and even better if it could be turned on Iran itself.

Look, I’m no hardware expert and it is all the same to me whether the drones were launched from Basra or from Saada, so I have an open mind. But the argument that the Houthis absolutely couldn’t have done it makes no sense to me as a layperson, given the recent al-Duwadimi operation.

In the meantime, we Americans apparently must wait patiently for our marching orders from Riyadh. Or maybe, you know, the Saudis will bankrupt Trump by ceasing to rent all those rooms in the Trump Tower from him.

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The Venezuelan Minister for Tourism and Foreign Trade, Felix Plasencia revealed in an interview that Russia and Venezuela are analysing the possibility of opening commercial air routes between the two countries. The minister, who last week participated in the 23rd General Assembly of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in St. Petersburg, revealed that the proposed routes will not only connect Moscow and Caracas, but also St. Petersburg and other Venezuelan cities like Margarita and Barcelona.

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The head of Venezuelan Tourism said that although there is currently a tourist flow to Venezuela from Russia, it could be much greater. He also expressed his belief “that Venezuela is an attractive destination for Russian visitors.” With Venezuela in the midst of a crushing economic crisis, perpetuated by US sanctions and economic sabotage, Russian tourists can reinvigorate Venezuela’s tourist industry. In 2018, Russian citizens made 44,551,092 trips outside the Russia, for business and leisure. Venezuela does not even feature in the Top 10 favourite travel destinations for Russians despite its tropical climate and pristine beaches, while other sun-soaked destinations occupy 9 spots.

With most of the direct benefits of opening direct travel routes between the two countries going in favour of the South American country, Russia also benefits in other ways. This demonstrates that Russia is not just interested in Venezuela for economic and geopolitical reasons, but also to create cultural exchanges while supporting an ally through soft power approaches. The cultural exchanges and soft power approach will consolidate Russia as a friend of Venezuela in the minds of the local people. This further strengthens Russia’s support for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro against US-backed reactionaries, and allows Russia to continue to build strong relations in a region described as “America’s Backyard.”

Russia’s plans are all the more important considering that the US Department of Transportation ordered on May 15 the suspension of all flights between their country and Venezuela due to supposed security reasons. Long-time tensions between the US and Venezuela worsened in January when opposition deputy Juan Guaidó proclaimed himself “interim president” of the country, ignoring democratically elected Maduro, and obtained the support of several anti-Bolivarian countries, like the US, Brazil and Colombia. Maduro considered that the US decision was taken “out of frustration”, after failing to install Guaidó as president through various means, including the failed coup attempt on April 30.

With failed coup and assassination attempts, US President Donald Trump has increased the level of sanctions applied against Venezuela that it can only be comparable with three other countries – North Korea, Syria and Cuba. However, if Cuba is to be used as an example for Venezuela, the island country has been under intense US sanctions for well over half a century, but has still found different mechanisms to avoid economic sanctions.

It is clear that life in Cuba is more complicated, but the country, in spite of everything, has the possibility of cooperating with other states, including China, Russia and the European Union. Again, just like Cuba, Venezuela finds itself resisting significant economic sanctions against it thanks to the economic assistance from countries like Russia. Russia’s economic assistance has been so helpful that despite US-led sanctions against Venezuela, Plasencia recalled that the Venezuelan economy “has been based for more than 100 years an energy oil mono-production.” Because of this, Venezuela must diversify its economic as “Venezuela has everything necessary to be a power.”

Although at first it may sound exaggerated that Venezuela could be a power, but when considering the country has the largest oil reserves in the world, natural gas, perhaps the second largest gold reserve in the world, water for ten times its population of over 32 million people and arable lands of immense wealth, it very well could be. With the Bolivarian Revolution continuing the path of nationalization of Venezuela’s key industries, it can be seen why the US is aggressively trying to protect its economic interests in the Latin American country.

With the term “America’s Backyard” being used since the middle of the 1800’s on the back of the Monroe Doctrine, the US has always believed it had unhinged rights to treat Latin America as an extension of its own interests. With Russia this year alone finalizing economic deals worth billions of dollars and enhancing military ties with Venezuela, the Eurasian country has certainly challenged Washington’s claim that Latin America is its “backyard.”

However, what demonstrates that Moscow is not deterred by US efforts to oust Maduro in Venezuela are its ambitions to open these new direct flight routes between the two countries. The flock of Russian tourists that will surely follow will allow cultural exchanges to be made with Venezuelans. Venezuelans being able to meet Russians firsthand will only strengthen ties between the two peoples at a governmental and societal level. It is through cultural exchanges and meeting people directly that a true alliance can be formulated between states. With this pronouncement of opening flights between the countries, Russia is announcing that Latin America is no longer the US’ “backyard.”

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Paul Antonopoulos is director of the Multipolarity research centre.

The occupation of Palestine is always at the center of Middle East turmoil, and it would seem the name which is associated with conflicts in the region for over 23 years is Benjamin Netanyahu.  It all began in 1996 with a paper prepared for him by Richard T. Perle, entitled “A Clean Break”. 

The paper advocated regime change in Iraq, deposing Saddam Hussein, and aggressive action against Syria to break their ties with Hezbollah and Iran. This strategy was supposed to make “Israel” safer.  It wasn’t until September 11, 2001, that the paper was dusted off and put into action. It should come as no surprise that Pres. George W. Bush would appoint Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense, who had signed the 1996 paper for Netanyahu, and the paper’s author, Richard T. Perle, was made Chairman of the Defense Policy Board.  Rumsfeld and Perle would be credited as the architects of the US attack and invasion of Iraq in 2003.

In the summer of 2006, “Israel” began a war against Hezbollah in Lebanon, which entailed the indiscriminate bombing of the entire nation by the “Israeli” Air Force.  The goal was to wipe-out Hezbollah, which is a Lebanese resistance movement. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was in Tel Aviv and was the first to coin the term “New Middle East”.  Her ideology of creative destruction justified death as the means to create new world orders. She said, “What we’re seeing here, in a sense, is the growing—the ‘birth pangs’—of a ‘New Middle East’ and whatever we do we have to be certain that we’re pushing forward to the New Middle East, not going back to the old one.”

In March of 2011, the US-NATO attack on Syria began, for regime change to fulfill the 1996 paper’s goal.  The weapons and terrorists came flowing in from Jordan, who is an ally of Israel and the US. The only reason the ‘uprising’ began in Deraa was logistics: it sat on the border with Jordan.  After 8 years of destruction, bloodshed, maiming, and mass migration the plan failed, thanks in part to the help of Hezbollah, Iran, and Russia.

The US, Europe, and Iran worked for many years to achieve a deal, which would prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.  “Israel” opposed the deal from the outset, as it would relieve the harsh economic sanctions on Iran, which in turn could strengthen their participation in the resistance movement with their allies.  Netanyahu convinced the new US Pres. Trump to make tearing up of the deal a cornerstone of his administration, which was seen as the US-“Israeli” solidarity. After Trump followed through on his promise, and the European signatories refused to hold up their promises to do business with Iran, there was a tit-for-tat game in the Arab Gulf involving ship attacks, drone attacks, and the resulting blame-game.

Saudi Arabia, the richest nation in the Middle East, is waging war on Yemen, the poorest nation in the Middle East.  The Saudi military is backed by the US and UAE, while the Houthis in Yemen are backed by Iran. The worst humanitarian crisis of the Middle East, which affects the poorest civilians, though well covered by western media has continued unabated. Bruce Riedel, a former senior CIA officer, and expert on Saudi Arabia said, “It’s time for America to say he must go.”  He referred to Mohammed bin Salman, the son of the King of Saudi Arabia, and the architect of the war on Yemen, which pits the US against Iran. Very recently, the Houthis attacked the main oil-producing facility in Saudi Arabia, which has affected global oil prices.

Netanyahu now faces what could be defeat in his last election and possible jail time from corruption charges.  From 1996 to 2019 he has been chasing a dream: to break the resistance movement.

The 2003 invasion and decimation of Iraq, and the 2006 attack and destruction of Lebanon, and the 2011 attack and monumental destruction of Syria have all failed to make “Israel” safer or to diminish the resistance movement.  “Israel” in 2019 has bombed Iraq, Syria, Gaza, and Lebanon, with resulting destruction and loss of life; however, those actions only brought retaliation from the resistance which ended up with 2 “Israeli” soldiers dead in their vehicle, and Netanyahu being rushed into a bomb shelter while giving a campaign speech, after resistance missiles rained down on the area.

Perhaps the time has come to examine the root cause of the resistance movement: the brutal occupation of Palestine, and the denial of human rights to 5 million Palestinians. Could the “New Middle East” become peaceful through the end of all the need for resistance?

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This article was originally published on Mideast Discourse.

Steven Sahiounie is an investigative journalist.

Featured image is from IMEMC

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Trump Locked and Loaded Against Iran or Just Bluster?

September 17th, 2019 by Stephen Lendman

Take nothing Trump says at face value. Time and again his rhetoric  and actions diverge greatly. 

That said, on Sunday he tweeted the following:

“Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked. There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!”

Reality is ignored and key questions aren’t asked. Throughout its 40-year history, the Islamic Republic of Iran never attacked another country.

Why would Iran attack another country now? Why would it strike another nation’s oil facilities — risking war, including retaliation against its own production and refining capabilities?

On Saturday, Yemeni Houthis struck two key Saudi Aramco oil facilities, the kingdom’s Abqaiq refinery (the world’s largest) and Khurais oil field.

Satellite images indicated considerable damage to Saudi energy facilities struck, halting over half the kingdom’s oil and gas operations until it’s repaired.

Houthis launched the attack either from Yemeni or Saudi territory its fighters captured near the border between both countries.

Pompeo blamed Iran for what happened, tweeting there was “no evidence the attacks came from Yemen (sic).”

No evidence suggests Iranian responsibility. Clearly the Islamic Republic wants greater regional war than already avoided. It wants ongoing conflicts ended.

On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal cited unnamed Trump regime officials, claiming without evidence that “the fiery blasts were the result of cruise-missile strikes launched from Iraq or Iran…”

Iraq denied its territory was used. Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif debunked Pompeo’s Big Lie about Tehran’s involvement, accusing him of “maximum lying (and) deceit.”

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi slammed

“futile (US) allegations and blind statements,” calling them “incomprehensible and meaningless within the framework of diplomacy,” adding:

Unacceptable Trump regime accusations “seem more like a plot being hatched by secret and intelligence organizations aimed at tarnishing a country’s image and setting the stage for future actions.”

On Sunday, Iranian President Rouhani said

“(t)oday what is taking place in this region and has concerned many countries of the world is the result of erroneous plans and conspiracies of the United States,” adding:

“We have declared time and again that regional issues must be resolved by regional countries and through dialogue.”

“If we want the establishment of real security in this region, a full stop must be put to acts of aggression by the US and provocative interventions by the (Israeli) Zionist regime. Otherwise we will witness the continuation of insecurity.”

So far, the extent of damage to Saudi oil and gas facilities is unclear. The WSJ said the following:

“About two million barrels a day could be restored by Monday, but it will take weeks to return to full capacity, people familiar with the damage estimates in Saudi Arabia said. One person familiar with the damage at Abqaiq (Riyadh’s crown jewel) said the facility was a wreck.”

Last week, Pompeo said Trump “is prepared to meet (Iranian President Rouhani) with no preconditions.”

Treasury Secretary said he’s willing to meet with Rouhani in late September on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly session with “no preconditions.”

Weeks earlier, DJT said

“I’ll meet (with Rouhani) anytime they want,” adding: It would be “good for the country, good for them, good for us, and good for the world.”

He made similar remarks a number of other times.

On Sunday, he tweeted the following:

“The Fake News is saying that I am willing to meet with Iran, ‘No Conditions.’ That is an incorrect statement (as usual!)” — contradicting his earlier statements.

Note: Rouhani and other Iranian officials reject talks with Trump unless his regime returns to the JCPOA it unlawfully abandoned and lifts illegally imposed sanctions.

In the wake of Houthi damage to key Saudi oil fields, falsely blamed on Iran, a Rouhani/Trump meeting under any conditions is even less likely.

Iran wants peace, not war, but is ready to retaliate if preemptively attacked, said IRGC aerospace commander Amirali Hajizadeh, adding:

“Everybody should know that all American bases and their aircraft carriers in a distance of up to 2,000km around Iran are within the range of our missiles.”

Saturday Houthi attacks on Saudi oil facilities were on a larger scale than the kingdom ever before experienced.

Riyadh has two options: Cease terror-bombing Yemen and lift the blockade on the country or face repeated Houthi strikes on its strategic targets, notably its oil and gas facilities.

If the Trump regime attacks Iran, all bets are off.

What’s unlikely is possible because White House and congressional Iranophobes want the country transformed into a US vassal state.

They want Israel’s key regional rival eliminated and US control gained over Iran’s vast energy resources.

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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.

Those surprised by President Putin’s S-400 sales pitch to Saudi Arabia earlier this week while speaking in Ankara alongside his Turkish and Iranian counterparts clearly haven’t been following the rapid development of Russian-Saudi relations and are likely influenced by the discredited dogma spread by the Alt-Media Community which pretends that Russia is somehow just as strongly “against” Saudi Arabia as it supposedly is against “Israel” too, which isn’t true whatsoever and therefore deserves to be thoroughly debunked.

President Putin surprised many when he made a S-400 sales pitch to Saudi Arabia while speaking in Ankara alongside his Turkish and Iranian counterparts in response to a question about the latest regional developments, especially seeing as how this was preceded by him quoting a passage from the Quran (which begins at 42:26 in this English voiced-over video from RT’s Ruptly) emphasizing the religious righteousness of self-defense to protect one’s people. Importantly, he also quoted that Holy Book to make a plea for peace between all warring parties, which in a sense builds upon the impassioned defense that Rouhani made of the Yemeni people right before Putin’s speech but then took it in a drastically different direction after he used the opportunity to promote Russia’s “military diplomacy” with the Wahhabi Kingdom on the presumed basis that the Saudis are the victims — not the aggressors that Rouhani just said they were — who therefore require the S-400s in order to defend themselves and their infrastructure after last weekend’s Ansarullah drone strike.

The Iranian delegation responded by literally laughing out loud (43:35), either at the boldness of this sales pitch and/or out of how uncomfortable they felt that Putin would use the Quran to indirectly contradict them on Yemen (though RT curiously interpreted this as “admonishing the Saudi coalition’s war on Yemen”) and then proceed to use the second passage he quoted to segue into his S-400 sales pitch to Saudi Arabia. Whatever the reason behind their smiles may be, there’s no denying that this was an unprecedented outreach to a country that had long been regarded as one of Russia’s regional rivals, to say nothing of its present status as an enemy of both Putin’s Turkish hosts and their mutual Iranian partners. Unbeknownst to many except the wonks who closely follow Russian-Saudi relations, the two sides have been in the process of a rapidly developing rapprochement as part of Moscow’s 21st-century grand strategy of becoming the supreme “balancing” force in Afro-Eurasia and are at the brink of a strategic partnership ahead of Putin’s planned trip there next month.

In fact, the Saudi King paid his first-ever visit to Moscow in October 2017 in the clearest sign yet that the times are changing, which the author elaborated on in his analysis at the time rhetorically asking “Is Saudi Arabia’s Grand Strategy Shifting?” The reason for such a headline is that Sputnik reported that the two parties signed agreements to purchase not just the S-400s, but also “Kornet-EM anti-tank missile systems, TOS-1A ‘Buratino’ heavy flame systems, AGS-30 grenade launchers, and Kalashnikov AK-103 assault rifles”, with the same publicly financed international media outlet also reporting that the TOS-1A rocket launchers have already been delivered as of earlier this year and can reasonably be assumed to have been deployed for use against the Ansarullah in Yemen. It needs to be noted that Russia supports the internationally recognized but Saudi-based Hadi government, not the Ansarullah, and even withdrew its diplomats from the Yemeni capital that’s under their control in late 2017 two months after the Saudi King’s visit after the group killed former President Saleh.

Demonstrating Russia’s increasingly close alignment with the official Saudi position towards Yemen, it joined the US in condemning the Ansarullah’s missile strikes in March 2018 carried out on the third anniversary of the war, and the author analyzed in his piece at the time that “Russia couldn’t have asked for a better advertisement of its S-400 defensive weaponry” after video footage emerged of American Patriot systems failing to intercept the incoming projectiles. That said, while the S-400s are extremely effective for stopping enemy missiles, they’re practically useless against much tinier drones that are better thwarted by the Pantsir system instead, which is why it almost defies belief that Putin would make a S-400 sales pitch to Saudi Arabia after last weekend’s attack when he should obviously know that. With this in mind, it can be concluded that he simply saw an opportunity to make a globally publicized sales pitch when asked about last weekend’s attack at the Ankara Summit, so he threw in some Quranic passages for maximum viral effect ahead of next month’s trip.

Considering the insistence with which Putin was pushing the S-400s as the ideal solution to Saudi Arabia’s recent security threats (having symbolically said in the same respect that Russia’s sales of this system and its predecessor to Turkey and Iran respectively have also succeeded in ensuring their security too), there’s every reason to believe that he might clinch such a big-ticket deal during his upcoming visit to the Wahhabi Kingdom. Unlike the discredited dogma regularly spread by the Alt-Media Community, Russia and Saudi Arabia are on excellent terms with one another and are drawing closer by the day despite what some might want to “wishfully” believe. After the fallout of the Khashoggi case (where the West condemned the Kingdom but Russia supported it) and the “hearty handshake” that Putin had with MBS shortly thereafter at the G20 Summit in Argentina, it’s self-evident that Russia is trying to save the Crown Prince’s reputation because “It Turns Out That Saudi Arabia Isn’t Exactly An American Puppet After All” following the Moscow-Riyadh rapprochement.

It’s trendy to think that Russia is “against” the US’ traditional partners such as Saudi Arabia and especially “Israel“, but in reality it’s doing its utmost to “poach” them from America’s grasp and replace Washington as their top strategic partner in order to restore “balance” to regional affairs according to Moscow’s envisaged end game. It’s precisely because of the adverse zero-sum impact that Russia’s two new aforementioned partnerships have on Iranian interests that Alt-Media (which largely stands in solidarity with Iran’s officially stated political goals against Saudi Arabia & “Israel” but inexplicably imagines that the Russian state does too despite much evidence to the contrary) usually puts forth a “No true Scotsman…” (or in this case, Russian) argument to pretend like none of this is happening because they can’t countenance the thought of Russia actively “balancing” Iran by wanting to sell Saudi Arabia S-400s for neutralizing the Islamic Republic’s legendary missile stockpile and allowing “Israel” to strike the IRGC and Hezbollah in Syria with impunity, though all objective observers should realize that the times have certainly changed and none of this should be surprising.

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This article was originally published on OneWorld.

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.

Will the US Farming Crisis Determine the Next President?

September 17th, 2019 by F. William Engdahl

The American farm sector is undergoing its worst crisis since the 1980’s. Extreme snow and then unusually heavy rainfall across the Midwest farm belt this spring and summer have severely delayed or reduced crop plantings. That comes after several years of falling farm income. A US EPA series of waivers to the oil industry then sharply cut the market for corn ethanol. To make matters worse, in retaliation for Trump Administration tariffs on China goods, China has halted all import of US farm products. All this comes as US farmers struggle with record high debt with bankruptcies spreading. Some compare the situation to the crises of the Great Depression in agriculture. Farm production has long been a major pillar of the US economy and exports. Could this little-noted farm crisis become a factor that could determine if Donald Trump wins or loses re-election in 2020?

The Ethanol Fiasco

At a time when farm income has fallen dramatically over the past several years, the Trump Environmental Protection Administration just dealt a further severe blow to the market for corn used to produce ethanol for E10 fuels. On August 9, the EPA announced that it had approved 31 of its 38 pending small refinery exemptions, allowing the oil refiners to avoid mandatory blending of gasoline with corn ethanol. The approvals were retroactive to 2018, in violation of the Biofuels law, and allowed oil refiners to evade mandatory blending of more than 1 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol, a huge blow to US corn growers.

To make matters worse, the pro-oil Trump EPA, first under Scott Pruitt, a strong backer of the oil industry, and now his successor, Andrew Wheeler, a former lobbyist for the coal industry, have granted a record number of oil refiner exemptions including to companies like Chevron and ExxonMobil, in direct violation of a law intended to help only small distressed refiners.  The exemptions are to date some four times what was exempted under the Obama administration resulting in a major loss of corn ethanol consumption.

Acting retroactively, the EPA granted the equivalent of over 4 billion gallons of ethanol exemptions for the period 2016 through 2018, equivalent to losing a 1.4 billion bushel corn crop, the entire annual harvest of Minnesota, a major corn state. The US ethanol lobby organizations are demanding the Trump Administration restore that lost ethanol volume as required by law.  Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy, an ethanol association, stated, “More biofuel plants are closing their doors with each passing week, and farm families have run out of options. The EPA must take immediate action to restore lost demand under the 2020 biofuel targets and repair the damage from abusive refinery exemptions granted to oil giants like Exxon and Chevron.”

The growing of corn to produce ethanol for blending with gasoline for fuel additive has become a major prop of US agriculture since the Bush Administration proposed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 which amended the Clean Air Act, requiring the EPA to mandate annual volumes of biofuel, mostly corn ethanol, to be blended with gasoline fuel, heating oil or jet fuel. The growth of the US ethanol production has been such that today almost 40% of all US corn grown is for ethanol.Most USA gasoline today is E10 with 10% ethanol. Today the USA is the world’s largest corn producer by far, almost doublenumber two, China.

The EPA waivers to the oil industry have dealt a big blow to US corn farmers across the Midwest states, especially Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Nebraska and Indiana. To date the Trump Administration has made several gestures to address the loss of ethanol markets for corn farmers. But the farmers and ethanol associations claim it is far too little. Notably, in Iowa during the 2016 campaign, Trump pledged to protect the Renewable Fuel Standard of 2005, which mandates a certain amount of biofuel added to the fuel supply each year. Many farmers feel betrayed by the EPA.

The White House is now caught between its heavy support to the oil industry, a major campaign donor source, and to the farm belt, the heart of the trump “Make America Great Again” popular support in 2016 and critical to a re-election in 2020.

The ethanol EPA rulings are by no means the only actions farmers see as a negative coming from the White House. The China trade war has also dealt a huge blow to US farm exports.

China trade

Before the Trump China trade disputes, US ethanol producers were optimistic that the China market could be a major growth area as China increased efforts to deal with air pollution. China ethanol imports from the US were rising steadily until early 2018, when the Trump administration escalated its tariff wars and China reacted by targeting the US farm sector, raising ethanol import tariffs by July 2018 to70%. That essentially killed the China ethanol market for US corn farmers and ethanol producers. The US exports are being replaced by those from Brazil, a major producer of ethanol from sugar cane.

But loss of China ethanol exports has been a relatively minor part of the China damage to US agriculture. With pinpoint precision, Beijing has targeted their counter-measures to the Trump trade actions in the politically important US farm sector. Notable is that Xi Jinping spent some months in Iowa in his younger years in an exchange program, and knows the US farm region better than many foreign heads of state.

In early August China’s government reportedly ordered its state purchasing companies to stop imports of all us agriculture products after US President Trump announced he would order added 10% tariffs on another $300 billion in China imports as of September 1. Before that China had already cut imports of US soybeans to ten year lows.

In 2017 before the trade war began in earnest, China imported 19 million tons of US soybeans worth some $12 billion, some 60% of US total soybean production. China was the largest export market for US soybean farmers, a major sector of US farming. Soybean exports to China were the main export for Iowa agriculture. All told US agriculture exports to China before the trade war were estimated at nearly $20 billion. Since 2012 China had been the largest market for US agriculture exports. Now that is all but gone, a staggering blow to US farmers at a time they can ill afford it.

Compounding Problems

The loss of the ethanol market for corn due to the Trump EPA combined with the latest loss of the China agriculture export market would be grave but manageable except for the fact they hit at a time when American farmers are in precarious conditions.  Record rainfall across the farm belt in the US Midwest earlier this season has meant a heavy reduction in both acres planted and yields for especially corn and soybeans.  The government’s USDA estimate of the current US corn crop in “good-to-excellent” condition, as well as for soybeans, is the lowest since 2013.

For various reasons farm net income has dropped dramatically. US wheat prices since 2012 have dropped by some 50%. Corn prices are down by more than 50% since 2013. Net farm income is down in 2019 so far by 35% from its 2013 peak. This is before the impact of the current grain shortfall from flooding and the China and ethanol effects are weighed.

High Debt

Unfortunately, all this hits the American farm family at a time of near record debt. While net farm income has moved lower over much of the past decade, farm debt has risen significantly. The average farm debt as of beginning 2018 had risen to $1.3 million per farm, most long term. The current conjuncture of farm crises is leading to rising bankruptcies. With the Federal Reserve raising interest rates the past two years it is increasingly difficult for farmers to refinance the debt in hopes of better times. The result is rising bankruptcies.Already in 2018 net farm income fell to 12 year lows. This year 2019 is set to be far worse.

It is not surprising that some farmers are beginning to rethink their earlier backing for the Trump presidency. Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union noted in a radio interview end of August that it will take “decades” to reverse damage caused by Trump farm and trade policies. China, he added, is now a “lost market” for American farmers because of Trump’s trade war. Johnson added, “Farmers are in a lot of financial stress right now; net farm income is half of what it was six years ago. This is really tough. We’re in a really, really difficult spot right now.”

Ethanol producer Nick Bowdish, CEO of Elite Octane in Atlantic, Iowa, backed Trump in 2016 in part because he supported taking on China. Recently he said, “Since he got himself involved in agricultural policy issues, it has been a complete disappointment to any of us out here in the heartland.” He added in a Newsweek interview, “Where the president went wrong and made a serious misstep was when he made the decision to start destroying the market for agricultural products at home with these refinery waivers.” That he noted hit farmers just when they were being hard hit by the trade war with China, “…and that’s not acceptable.”

It‘s still some four months until the first Presidential primary and the outcome at this point is far from clear. Indications are that most farmers still back Trump, though that is weakening after the latest setbacks from China trade and ethanol. Now there are hints that China is willing to make a deal on soybeans in return for trade concessions from Trump. That might be a needed boost for the Trump farm support if it happens. The first 2020 Presidential primary is in February. It’s in Iowa…

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F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook” where this article was originally published. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image is from NEO


seeds_2.jpg

Seeds of Destruction: Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation

Author Name: F. William Engdahl
ISBN Number: 978-0-937147-2-2
Year: 2007
Pages: 341 pages with complete index

List Price: $25.95

Special Price: $18.00

 

This skilfully researched book focuses on how a small socio-political American elite seeks to establish control over the very basis of human survival: the provision of our daily bread. “Control the food and you control the people.”

This is no ordinary book about the perils of GMO. Engdahl takes the reader inside the corridors of power, into the backrooms of the science labs, behind closed doors in the corporate boardrooms.

The author cogently reveals a diabolical world of profit-driven political intrigue, government corruption and coercion, where genetic manipulation and the patenting of life forms are used to gain worldwide control over food production. If the book often reads as a crime story, that should come as no surprise. For that is what it is.

Here, in the village of Stryszow in Southern Poland, you can hear the funeral ceremonies from the farmhouse on the hill where I reside during my time in this Country. The mournful cadences of the undertaker match the dull mechanical tolling of the church bell, as friends and relatives of the deceased, mostly in black, walk slowly and solemnly down the high street following the funeral cortege.

The sounds come floating up the hill and often cause me to suffer an involuntary shudder. Not because I fear the day of my own passing, I don’t; but because I fear for this time of great fluctuation for humanity as a whole, and the fate of all I hold dear.

The Holy Mass provides the ceremonial backing for Catholic funerals. It is heavy with a sense of fate and penitence. “One is small in the all seeing eye of God” it seems to be saying “Lower your head and know that one day it will be for you that the bell tolls.”

And here lies the essence of the great misfortune that overtook the human race in the last 2,000 years. The almost unspeakable fear of a life fully lived, and the attendant nagging doubt about one’s own capacities to be anything more than a cog in a machine.

The first great funeral then, is on the death of the will ‘to become’. To become enlightened to one’s actual potentiality. The manifestation of the seed whose origins rest with the omnipotent source from whence all life came. 

In the abandonment of this great prize – this gift we were all accorded from the beginning, comes the opening of the door to our oppressors. An invitation to move into the vacated space and to seize control. Control of the destinies of all who are unwilling to plough their own furrow in the great field of life and who subsequently abdicate their responsibilities to those more than willing to take and use them for their own ends.

There were survivors. Those who held to the course they experienced as truth. But they were badly treated, ostracised from a society which preferred the narrow ‘safe’ road of conformity and subjection to the will of the despotic oppressor.

Who were these oppressors?

They took the form of those who felt the need to subjugate others to the experience of suffering; to pass on the suffering they themselves were subjected to in their formative years. One can trace the origin of this disease to the first appearance of monotheistic religion and the grip that its dogma exerted on all who fell for its version of ‘the truth’.

It was the Judeo-Christian doctrinaire insistence on the authority of an all powerful god, to whom one must fully submit, that started the great rot some 2,000 years ago. This god was, as one can testify from reading the Old Testament, a warlike authority figure who had no time for those who ‘sinned’ against his decrees and laws. What this man-invented god commanded – was to be carried-out, or else trouble was bound to ensue. 

This was the first great repression brought to bear on humanity which was still, at this time, largely at peace with nature, the cosmos and fellow seekers of truth. 

The ultimate suffering and redemption associated with the crucifixion of Jesus was a direct continuation of this ‘you must suffer to be free’ doctrine; in which freedom comes only after death – and then only if you had gone on your knees throughout your life and admitted that you were ‘a sinner’ in search of forgiveness. 

The sacrifice of Jesus was a symbol of the self sacrifice of all who subscribed to the redeemer complex and salvationist creed[1]. So the fist funeral was a mourning of the passing of the spirit of independence, exploration and truth seeking; those qualities which are the essential attributes of true humanity. It was the first and most recognisable loss that our Western civilisation incurred and has still not fully recovered from.

What more was there for humanity to lose after losing the will to seek for truth, one may ask? Yet there was. Those who survived with at least some degree of sensitivity and self respect intact, were able to build on the older pagan traditions, dispensed with by the church, that connected man with nature and the Earth.

Within agricultural communities seasons were still celebrated with rituals. Rituals that reminded those who participated in them that it was the bounty of nature that sustained them – and that it was the elements of rain, sunshine, wind and storm that sculptured the patterns of the land and awoke the cosmic in country peoples’ souls.

This story was imprinted in the lines on the faces of peasant farmers. Here there was still a palpable sense of belonging. A sense that gave ‘place’ a richness of meaning and well defined character. Villagers fed themselves from the land whose soil they tilled. The land that immediately surrounded the village; the old strip-farming way. The emphasis was not on ownership, but on a sharing. The village remained, for a long time, a civilised place.

But one day a new edict came down from on high, that the medieval system of strip-farming was ‘inefficient’ and those who worked the land and provided the sustenance necessary for their families were not ‘educated’ enough to manage the land sustainability. Slowly but surely the village farmers were forced off their land and their long standing connection with their communities was broken. These edicts first came into being in England and then slowly spread across Europe.

Decaying hedges mark the lines of the straight field boundaries created by the 1768 Parliamentary Act of Enclosure of Boldron Moor, County Durham. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

They were known as ‘the enclosures’, a name which describes the development of a field by field rotational system of agriculture that was supposed to benefit the land, but chiefly benefited the yeoman farmers who took possession of the original strip-farmed land so as to practice this new manner of food production. No longer just for the family, village and community, but for sale ‘for profit’ in town and city market places.

The impact of this forced exit of peasant farmers from the land and their replacement with profit seeking yeoman farmers, marks the second great funeral to afflict the Western World and later all post industrial nations and civilisations of the planet. What we today call ‘globalisation’ and the super/hypermarket domination of the food chain, has direct origins in this cruel eviction of peasant farmers from the source of their self sufficiency. Mankind suffered its second great severing of  connection with nature and with the fruits of its labour. 

The third great funeral was called ‘The Industrial Revolution’. It followed hard on the heels of the enclosures. Once again it was the small island of England that was the first off the line. 

One cannot overstate the impact of the shift of emphasis that The Industrial Revolution brought with it. From the grounded, season inspired life of the working countryside to the abstract nervous energy fuelled life of the hungry, restless city – the contrast was brutal and the sheer scale and decisiveness of this shift is what marks it out as a third great funeral. A funeral of the psychic, physical and spiritual well-being of much of that element of mankind that had somehow survived the first and second great funerals, at the hands of a an authoritarian dogma preaching priesthood and at the command of greedy land grabbers.

The fever of the machine age was like nothing else ever experienced. While the crafts of the field and forest had evolved steadily over centuries, the machine age arrived with a bang – and with it the almost wholesale forced abdication of the independence and self sufficiency which were part and parcel of a life on the land – as tough as it was at times to uphold.

The peasantry, already hard hit by the enclosures and struggling on on greatly reduced acreages, were offered ‘compensation’  and charity by none other than the church; the very church whose monotheistic authoritarianism had contributed to the first great funeral centuries before. Now a great swathe of countryside artisans and craftsmen were wrenched away from their rural homes to become the fundamental manpower behind the manning of the fossil fuel furnaces that would grow industrial England.

It was a revolution built on smoke, fumes and human sweat, and came at a high price to health and peace of mind. Down the airless pits, in tunnels barely high enough to stand up in, colliers hacked away at the coal face; while in the great steel mills above, thousands of tons of the resulting dark carbon nuggets burned hot and fierce to produce dense steel bars that would underpin the new infrastructures, transport systems and mass produced military armaments that ultimately marked Britain as the dominant power of the World. 

Virtually all material utilities that we take for granted today, had their roots in the big, dirty and brutal industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries. A funeral whose extended cremation of subtle beauty, sensitivity and sensuality of nature marked a seismic shift in the psychological stability of society as a whole. Nature became displaced as the foundation of human well being, inspiration and earthed spirituality; replaced by a hard edged drive for productivity, efficiency and hegemonic dominance, both in the market and in geopolitical empire building.

The authors, poets and landscape painters who emerged to counter the cruel incisions industrialisation perpetrated on the natural environment, offered a reminder of what had been lost that touched the psyche of all those still able to feel and respond to the deeper seams of a life under constant threat of extinction. The poet William Blake wrote of this time “Improvement makes straight roads; but crooked roads without improvement are the roads of genius.” It was precisely that undulating road of genius that was flattened and straightened out by the industrial revolution’s obsession with efficiency and material progress. 

An obsession that continues to dominate mankind to this day, with a post industrial Western World still aggressively repeating the pattern by pushing its never satisfied hegemonic ambitions on countries whose own simple working people then become the focus of rabid exploitation, in the sweat shops producing ‘cheap goods’ for the bargain hunters of Western Super stores.

And so to the fourth funeral. 

A number of thinkers, writers and artists of the late 19th century sensed the approach of World War One. They no doubt recognised that the rapid accumulation of increasingly disproportionate wealth into the hands of greedy despots, the newly established banks and the industrial arms trade – was bound to lead to some form of explosive outcome; and it did.

World War One saw an unprecedented carnage of human life, physical structures and the natural environment. All under the direction of a few mega wealthy (elite) families whose business enterprises benefited hugely from both causing the conflict in the first place and then from financially backing both sides for the duration of the war. This cold blooded act of genocide was ruthlessly exploited through full utilisation of the mass killing capacity of new military technologies developed out of the burgeoning coal fired steel mills of the industrial revolution.

But it was not just the physical loss of life and general destruction that defined the unique levels of destruction – the psychic, spiritual and humanitarian values of society as a whole – were subjected to a deeply traumatic sense of loss as time enduring values that had defined and knitted together the cultures of Europe for generations – were torn apart, causing scars that were beyond healing. 

Then, only twenty one years after the Armistice that brought World War One to an abrupt end,  Adolf Hitler, the German Fuhrer, raised the brutal spectre again by declaring war on Poland, thus sparking off World War Two. All the same horrors were repeated, with the same despotic cabal engineering the whole carnage once again.

By then the sophistication of the killing machine had spread into both air-born and strategic undersea warfare. The loss of life and infrastructure spiralled as a consequence. Between seventy five and eighty five million people perished.

The two World Wars marked a funeral so tragic and so dark that their imprint on the human psyche should have put an end to all large scale warfare on this planet for the foreseeable future. At least, concerning physical conflicts on this scale, they pretty much have. Albert Einstein is reputed to have said that if there is ever a Third World War, any war after that would be fought with sticks and stones.

Nevertheless, due to barely contained displays of superpower megalomania, principally emanating from the USA, the world hangs perilously on the brink of global conflict once again. And with manic ego driven ambitions to achieve ‘full spectrum dominance’ of Earth and Space being publicly lauded by US military strategists, we, the mortals who would perish along with most sentient life forms should such an ambition be aggressively acted upon, have suddenly realised that we, collectively, are the only force that can prevent it!

However, to do so, we ‘the people’ will have to recognise that the underlying war on humanity – key points of which I focus on in the essay – is being played-out on a covert level every day and every night of our lives. This war takes the form of attacks on the physical, psychic and spiritual membrane of humanity, and comes under the label ‘Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars’. The manual carrying this title is a declaration of international elite intent concerning the possibility of controlling the whole world from the push of a button.  In 1986, this previously secret document came to light. It is purported to be one part of a series of predictive presentations which first took place in 1979.

The present underlying war on humanity incorporates these ‘silent weapons’ that cluster around advanced forms of mind control and scalar type weaponry. It involves mass propaganda and indoctrination on a scale matching the vast elite corporate wealth that backs it – on the explicit orders of the deep state. The hidden hands of the global puppet-masters, who with their ‘New World Order’, intend on achieving ‘full spectrum dominance’ and control over all life on Earth – and ultimately Space as well. 

At the core of the control freak’s silent armoury is WiFi, in all its various forms, culminating in the planned roll-out of 5G microwave radiation – on Earth and from Space – to act as the engine of the  ‘internet of things’.  A microwave grid supplying commands to all electronically aligned household and business appliances at the swipe of a SIM card or chip embedded in human flesh.

With 5G controlled robotic self driving cars, smart cities and soulless automatons being relentlessly promoted as the solution to all our needs – the dawning of ‘robotic man’ appears to be fast approaching. Probably only a robot could survive the blitz of EMF radiation required for 5G to fulfil the expectations of its proponents.

But here, at the 11th hour and 59th minute of our demise as warm blooded, warm hearted sentient human beings (the great majority) comes the most dramatic wake-up call of all wake-up calls. The call to defend the sanctity of Life itself, or to become deeply imprisoned slaves to the anti-life would be masters of control. 

The rising-up of humanity to meet this greatest challenge that any of us is ever likely to face – is happening at this very moment.  It takes the form of a simmering sense of outrage, but will soon emerge as an unstoppable force, a trans-planetary uprising informed by the call of the life force itself, in each one of us. It is to give expression to the refusal to accept slavery. To outright refuse submission to that which would anaesthetize the beating heart of the natural world and sterilise love itself.

This is a drama in which passive spectators play no part, only actors. Actors who step forward to seize the flag of truth and justice in both hands and keep going until a turning point is reached and the foundations of a new vision of the meaning and purpose of life is laid.  Here we are, having the extraordinary privilege of being called upon to meet the most momentous challenge of our era, with courage, conviction and the certainty of success. A certainty which comes from our deepest levels of being.

Those already positively responding to the task at hand are coming together and being united. Recognition of commonality of cause is felt, often almost instantly. The maturation of this unifying process brings with it direction and leadership.  This in turn blossoms into the joyful discovery of a deep seem of connectivity extending through all seemingly disparate branches of humanity.

Here, if I might be so bold to suggest it – is a wedding in the making. A great wedding of souls. A wedding to which all are invited and in which all will joyfully participate. Such will be the illuminated energy given forth by the festivities surrounding this wedding that all the sadness and grief of earlier funerals will be banished to the four corners of the universe, and the perpetrators of the historical repression of humanity will go with them.

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Julian Rose is an international activist, writer, organic farming pioneer and actor.  In 1987 and 1998, he led a campaign that saved unpasteurised milk from being banned in the UK; and, with Jadwiga Lopata, a ‘Say No to GMO’ campaign in Poland which led to a national ban of GM seeds and plants in that country in 2006. Julian is currently campaigning to ‘Stop 5G’ WiFi. He is the author of two acclaimed titles: Changing Course for Life and In Defence of Life. His latest book ‘Overcoming the Robotic Mind’is now available from Amazon and Dixi Books. Julian is a long time exponent of yoga/meditation. See his web site for more information www.julianrose.info

Note

[1] See John Lamb Lash’s ‘Not in HIS Image’ for more on this subject. 

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US Rejects “Resolution” in All Its War Theaters

September 17th, 2019 by Stephen Lendman

Permanent war is longstanding US policy. Today it’s military Keynesianism on steroids.

With all categories included, spending for militarism, warmaking, maintaining its global empire of bases, so-called homeland security, black budgets, and related areas is more than double official the so-called National Defense Authorization Act amount.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) put global military spending at $1.8 trillion dollars in 2018.

US military-related spending exceeds the rest of the world combined. Yet the nation’s only enemies are invented. No real ones existed since WW II ended.

Last December, Trump said

“(o)ur boys, our young women, our men — they’re all coming back (from Syria), and they’re coming back now (sic).”

“We have started returning United States troops home (sic) as we transition to the next phase of this campaign,” then-White House press secretary Sarah Sanders added.

In mid-December, Trump said all US forces would be out of Syria in 30 days, in January extended to 120 days.

At the time, a State Department official said there’s “no timeline” for withdrawal of US troops from the country, adding:

“The president has made the decision that we will withdraw our military forces from Syria, but that it will be done in a deliberate, heavily coordinated way with our allies and partners.”

US forces remain, no plans to withdraw them. Pompeo, Bolton, and their henchmen undermined a pullout.

The US illegally occupies about 30% of Syrian northern and southern territory, numerous Pentagon bases maintained in the country.

Last week, Fars News said US troops “are currently stationed at 18 military bases and centers in the occupied regions of Syria.”

Along with CIA operatives and their proxies, there’s no ambiguity about the mission of Pentagon forces in all US combat and other theaters.

Along with propping up friendly despots, they’re involved in toppling sovereign independent governments, wanting them replaced with pro-Western puppet regimes.

There’s no prospect of ending hostile US involvement in Yemen, the second longest US war in modern times after Afghanistan.

Passed months earlier, Joint House/Senate Resolution 7 “to direct the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress” was meaningless, achieving nothing.

In March, Pompeo falsely said

“(w)e all want (the Yemen) conflict to end (sic). We all want to improve the dire humanitarian situation (sic),” adding:

“But the Trump (regime) fundamentally disagrees that curbing our assistance to the Saudi-led coalition (sic) is the way to achieve these goals.”

His remarks were code language for continued hostile US involvement in Yemen. He and Bolton undermined the notion of restoring peace and stability to the country.

Yemen’s strategic location makes it important for the US, why war to gain and maintain control of the nation rages endlessly.

On Sunday, member of Yemen’s Supreme Political Council Muhammad Ali al-Houthi tweeted:

“Washington opposes all parties that want peace, including Congress. That’s why Adel al-Jubair (Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs) and Turki al-Maliki (anti-Yemen coalition spokesman) say the war has been imposed on them” by US hardliners.

On Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif slammed Pompeo’s Big Lie, falsely claiming Iranian responsibility for strikes Saturday by Houthis on Riyadh’s key oil and gas facilities, shutting down over half the nation’s production for now.

“Having failed at ‘max pressure,’ @SecPompeo’s turning to ‘max deceit.’ US & its clients are stuck in Yemen because of illusion that weapon superiority will lead to military victory,” said Zarif.

“Blaming Iran won’t end disaster. Accepting our April ’15 proposal to end war & begin talks may,” he added.

The US doesn’t wage wars to quit, not since over a decade of Southeast Asia war ended in 1975. Forever wars replaced it, notably post-9/11.

US direct or proxy war on Iraq raged on and off intermittently since Jimmy Carter launched the Iran/Iraq war in September 1980 — nearly four decades of horrors inflicted on long-suffering Iraqis, continuing today.

US forces occupied the country in early 2003 with no intention of leaving, Iraqi puppet rule permitting it.

The same is true for Afghanistan, permanent occupation planned. Longstanding US policy aims to install pro-Western puppet rule in Iran, wanting control of Libya maintained the same way.

Transforming swords into plowshares is off the table in parts of the world where US wars rage — peace and stability considered anathema notions, equity and justice disdained the same way.

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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 Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom

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On the Ground, Feeling the Pulse of Protest Hong Kong

September 17th, 2019 by Pepe Escobar

What’s going on deep down in Hong Kong? For a former resident with deep cultural and emotional ties to the Fragrant Harbor, it’s quite hard to take it all in just within the framework of cold geopolitical logic. Master filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai once said that when he came up with the idea for Happy Together, he decided to shoot the story of his characters in Buenos Aires because that was as far away from Hong Kong as possible.

A few weeks ago I was walking the streets of far away Buenos Aires dreaming of Hong Kong. That Hong Kong that Wong Kar-Wai refers to in his masterpiece no longer exists. Unfortunately deprived of Christopher Doyle’s mesmerizing visuals, I ended up coming back to Hong Kong to find, eventually, that the city I knew also no longer exists.

I started my journey in my former ‘hood, Sai Ying Pun, where I lived in a studio in an average, slim, ultra-crowded Cantonese tower (I was the only foreigner) across the street from the beautiful, art deco St Louis school and not far from Hong Kong University. Although only a 20-minute walk over the hills to Central – the business and political heart of the city – Sai Ying Pun is mostly middle class with a few working-class pockets, only recently marching towards gentrification after a local MTR – subway – station was launched.

Mongkok, across the harbor in Kowloon, with an unfathomably large population density, is the haven of frenetic small business Hong Kong, always crammed with students in search of trendy bargains. In contrast, Sai Ying Pun is a sort of languid glimpse of Hong Kong in the 1950s: it could easily have been the set for a Wong Kar-Wai movie.

The busy streets of Hong Kong’s Sai Ying Pun district. Photo: Wikipedia Creative Commons

From retirees to Mrs Ling, the laundry lady – still there, but without her previous, sprawling cat population (“At home!”) – the refrain is unanimous: protests, yes, but they must be peaceful. In Kowloon the previous night I had heard harrowing stories of teachers brainwashing elementary school pupils into protest marches. Not at St Louis – they told me.

Hong Kong University is another story; a hotbed of protest, some of it enlightened, where the golden hit in humanities is to analyze China as a “perfect dictatorship” where the CCP did nothing but ratchet up crude nationalism, militarism and “aggression,” in propaganda and in dealing with the rest of Asia.

As we reach Central, the Hong Kong matrix of hyper turbo-capitalism, “protests” dissolve as an unwashed-masses, bad-for-business, dirty word, dismissed at the restaurants of the old, staid Mandarin and the glitzier Mandarin Oriental, the Norman Foster/IM Pei headquarters of HSBC and Bank of China, the headquarters of JP Morgan – with a swanky Armani outlet downstairs – or at the ultra-exclusive China Club, a favorite of old Shanghai money.

Prada meets class struggle

It’s on weekends, especially Sunday, that all of Hong Kong’s – and turbo-capitalism’s – internal contradictions explode in Central. Filipina maids for decades have been staging an impromptu sit-in, a sort of benign Occupy Central in Tagalog with English subtitles, every Sunday; after all they have no public park to gather in on their only day off, so they take over the vault of HSBC and merrily picnic on the pavement in front of Prada boutiques.

To talk to them about the protests amounts to a PhD on class struggle:

“It’s we who should have the right to protest about our meager wages and the kind of disgusting treatment we get from these Cantonese madames,” says a mother of three from Luzon (70% of her pay goes for remittances home). “These kids, they are so spoiled, they are raised thinking they are little kings.”

Virtually everyone in Hong Kong has reasons to protest. Take the cleaning contingent – who must do the heavy lifting after all the tear gas, burnt-out bins, bricks and broken glass, like on Sunday. Their monthly salary is the equivalent of US$1,200 – compared with the average Hong Kong salary of roughly $2,200. Horrible working conditions are the norm: exploitation, discrimination (many are from ethnic minorities and don’t speak Cantonese or English) and no welfare whatsoever.

As for the ultra-slim fringe practicing wanton destruction for destruction’s sake, they surely have learned tactics from European black blocs. On Sunday they set fire to one of the entrances to ultra-congested Wanchai station and broke glass at Admiralty. The “strategy”: breaking off MTR nodes, because paralyzing Chek Lap Kok airport – one of the busiest on the planet – won’t work anymore after the August 12/13 shutdown that canceled nearly 1,000 flights and led to a quite steep drop in passengers coming from China, Southeast Asia and Taiwan.

Two years ago, in Hamburg, Special Forces were deployed against black bloc looters. In France, the government routinely unleashes the feared CRS even against relatively peaceful Gilets Jaunes/Yellow Vest protesters – complete with tear gas, water cannons and supported by helicopters, and nobody invokes human rights to complain about it. The CRS deploy flash ball strikes even against the media.

Not to mention that any occupation of Charles de Gaulle, Heathrow or JFK is simply unthinkable. Chek Lap Kok, on a weekday, is now eerily quiet. Police patrol all the entrances. Passengers arriving via the Airport Express fast train must now show passport and boarding pass before being allowed inside the terminal.

Western media accounts, predictably, focus on the radical fringe, as well as the substantial fifth-columnist contingent. This weekend a few hundred staged a mini-protest in front of the British consulate asking, essentially, to be given asylum. Some of them are holders of British National Overseas (BNO) passports, which are effectively useless, as the provide no working or residency rights in the UK.

Other fifth-columnists spent their weekend waving flags from Britain, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Poland, South Korea, Ukraine, US, Taiwan, and last but not least, the Hong Kong colonial flag.

Meet homo Hong Kong

Who are these people? Well, that necessarily brings us to a crash course on homo Hong Kong.

Not many people in Hong Kong can point to ancestors in place before the Opium War of 1841 and the subsequent rule of imperial Britain. Most don’t know much about the People’s Republic of China, so essentially there’s no grudge. They own their own homes, which means, crucially, they are insulated from Hong Kong’s number one problem: the demented, speculative property market.

Then there are the old China elites – people who fled Mao’s victory in 1949. At first they were orphans of Chiang Kai-shek. Then they concentrated on hating the Communist Party with a vengeance. The same applies to their offspring. The ultra-wealthy gather at the China Club. The less wealthy at least can afford $5 million apartments at The Peak. Canada is a preferred destination – hence Hong-Couver as a substantial part of Vancouver. For them Hong Kong is essentially a transit stop, like a glitzy business lounge.

It’s this – large – contingent that is behind the protests.

The lower strata of the Escape from China elites are the economic refugees of 1949. Tough luck: still today they don’t own property and have no savings. A great many of the easily manipulated teenagers taking over the streets of Hong Kong dressed in black and singing “Glory to Hong Kong” and dreaming of “independence” are their sons and daughters. It’s certainly a cliché, but it does apply to their case: trapped between East and West, between an Americanized lifestyle on steroids and the pull of Chinese culture and history.

Hong Kong cinema, with all its pulsating dynamism and exhilarating creativity, may offer the perfect metaphor to understand the inner contradictions of the Fragrant Harbor. Take Tsui Hark’s 1992 masterpiece New Dragon Gate Inn, with Donnie Yen and gorgeous Maggie Cheung, based on what happened at a crucial pass in the Ancient Silk Road six centuries ago.

Here we may place Hong Kong as the inn between imperial despotism and the desert. Inside, we find fugitives imprisoned between their dream of escaping to the “West” and the cynically exploitative owners. That connects with the ghostly, Camus-infused existential terror for the modern homo Hong Kong: soon he may be liable to be “extradited” to evil China before he has a chance to be granted asylum by the benevolent West. A fabulous line by Donnie Yen’s character sums it all up: “Rain in the Dragon Gate mountains makes the Xue Yuan tiger come down.”

Good to be a tycoon

The drama played out in Hong Kong is actually a microcosm of the Big Picture: turbo-charged, neoliberal hyper-capitalism confronted to zero political representation. This “arrangement” that only suits the 0.1% simply can’t go on like before.

In fact what I reported about Hong Kong seven years ago for Asia Times could have been written this morning. And it got worse. Over 15% of Hong Kong’s population now lives in actual poverty. According to figures from last year, the total net worth of the wealthiest 21 Hong Kong tycoons, at $234 billion, was the equivalent of Hong Kong’s fiscal reserves. Most of these tycoons are property market speculators. Compare it to real wages for low-income workers increasing a meager 12.3% over the past decade.

Beijing, later rather than sooner, may have awakened to the number one issue in Hong Kong – the property market dementia, as reported by Asia Times. Yet even if the tycoons get the message, the underlying framework of life in Hong Kong is not bound to be altered: maximum profit crushing wages and any type of unionization.

So economic inequality will continue to boom – as an unrepresentative Hong Kong government “led” by a clueless civil servant keeps treating citizens as non-citizens. At Hong Kong University I heard some serious proposals:

“We need a more realistic minimum wage. “We need real taxes on capital gains and on property.” “We need a decent property market.”

Will that be addressed before a crucial deadline – October 1st – when Beijing will be celebrating, with great fanfare, the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China? Of course not. Trouble will continue to brew at the Dragon Inn – as those underpaid, over-exploited cleaners face the bleakest of futures.

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This article was originally published on Asia Times.

Pepe Escobar is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

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Impact of Yemeni Attack on Saudi ARAMCO Oil Facilities

September 17th, 2019 by Peter Koenig

Background

Saudi Arabia says the recent drone attacks on the state-run oil company Aramco, led to a temporary closure of its facilities and disrupted the kingdom’s oil production and exports.

“[Saudi] Energy Minister, Abdulaziz bin Salman said the attacks led to the interruption in production of an estimated five-point-seven million barrels of crude per day. The amount is equivalent to five percent of the daily global supply of crude oil. Meanwhile, Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman, said his country is willing and able to deal with Saturday’s drone strikes. Also, the U-S secretary of state has accused Iran of being behind the recent attacks. Mike Pompeo claimed there is no evidence to prove that the attacks were launched from Yemen. He was actually adamant about blaming Iran for the attack, without any shred of proof. This is while Yemen’s Ansarullah movement [the Houthis] has claimed responsibility for the drone strikes.”

Saudi stocks dropped dramatically following drone strikes on two Aramco facilities by Yemeni forces; an attack that halved the kingdom’s crude production.

Saudi shares have dropped three percent after Yemeni drone attacks on two major state-run Aramco oil facilities knocked out more than half the kingdom’s production.

Saudi Energy Minister, Abdulaziz bin Salman said the attacks led to the interruption in production of an estimated five-point-seven million barrels of crude per day. The amount is equivalent to five percent of the daily global supply of crude oil. Yemeni forces launched the massive drone attack in response to the Saudi-led coalition war that has lasted for more than 4 years on the impoverished nation on Saturday.

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PressTV: Could you please comment on the consequence of this reduction in the oil supply by Saudi Arabia?

Peter Koenig: First, lets make one thing crystal clear – Mr. Pompeo is a flagrant liar, has been in the past with everything he says against his own fabricated enemies, and he will very unlikely change, as the type of his hawkish aggressive warrior character will not change. Therefore, everything Pompeo says and pretends which such assurance that most people realize it’s a fabricated lie as he did not – and never does – provide any evidence. Therefore, whatever he says and pretends to be the truth without evidence, has to be taken with more than a grain of salt.

In fact, immediately blaming Iran for the drone attack on ARAMCO, is without any foundation; it is an outright lie, just to put more dirt on Iran, to further denigrate Iran. It is very clear to me – who have worked for 7 years in Yemen – that the Houthis have the capacity to develop their own drones – they have a flying range potential of at least 1,000 km.

It is very simple and very logical, the Houthis are gradually getting their strength back and are revenging themselves for the horrendous aggression launched for more than 4 year by the Saudis against their country – of course, with staunch support from the US, UK and the French.

Let’s just remind ourselves, that inhuman abhorrent aggression has cost tens of thousands of Yemeni lives – most of them children, women and the elderly and weak – from direct bomb attacks, from famine, and from cholera and other sanitation related diseases. Today still a million people are at risk of a cholera epidemic.

Having said this – the consequences or impact of a 5% oil output reduction due to the burning ARAMCO wells is insignificant. Of course, speculators – the Godman Sachs type, who are the chief manipulators behind oil prices – would like you to believe that this is ample ground for hefty fuel price increases – in reality not at all.

Of course, in our predatory capitalist world, the stock market wheelers and dealers, may try to cash-in on this event – which in reality has – or should have – zero impact on the world oil supply.

This shortfall could easily be made up by lifting sanctions o Iranian and Venezuelan oil sales… so it’s just a question of logics – and foremost – of justice, international law and Human Rights.

PressTV: What about the fragility of the Saudis military power?

PK: Of course, the Saudi military power is nothing without the full support and guidance, by weapons and technical and strategic advice directly from the Pentagon, CIA – and the European vassals, and – of course – from weapon manufacturers and weapon sales sharks, in the UK and in France.

The Saudis from day one – in October 2015 – were just launching a proxy war for the US against Yemen – Yemen has a key strategic location in the Gulf and Middle East, and also off-shore deep hydrocarbon deposits – and god forbid, may not be ruled by a people-friendly – a socialist leaning government. For the last 50-some years Yemen was ruled by a US puppet, or puppets – which was OK for the US, but once people get tired of injustice and corruption, they decided to dispose their nefarious regime and replace it with the popular Houthi movement.

When the Saudis agreed in the early 1970’s as head of OPEC and on behalf of OPEC, to sell crude only in US-dollars, the US Administration offered them in turn – “forever” military protection, in the form of multiple military bases in the Saudi territories. Without this protection, the Saudis would not have survived as long as they did with their horrendous discriminatory and corrupt government and, of course, without that protection, OPEC may not have stuck to the “dollar-only” rule to trade hydrocarbons. – We might be in another world today – but, we really don’t know how dynamics might have worked out.

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Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a water resources and environmental specialist. He worked for over 30 years with the World Bank and the World Health Organization around the world in the fields of environment and water. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for Global Research; ICH; RT; Sputnik; PressTV; The 21st Century; Greanville Post; TeleSUR; The Saker Blog, the New Eastern Outlook (NEO); and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. He is also a co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

Israel Spies and Spies and Spies

September 17th, 2019 by Philip Giraldi

Here we go again! Israel is caught red handed spying against the United States and everyone in Congress is silent, as are nearly all the mainstream media which failed to report the story. And the federal government itself, quick to persecute a Russian woman who tried to join the NRA, concedes that the White House and Justice Department have done absolutely nothing to either rebuke or punish the Israeli perpetrators. One senior intelligence official commented that “I’m not aware of any accountability at all.”

Only President Donald Trump, predictably, had something to say in his usual personalized fashion, which was that the report was “hard to believe,” that “I don’t think the Israelis were spying on us. My relationship with Israel has been great…Anything is possible but I don’t believe it.”

Ironically, the placement of technical surveillance devices by Israel was clearly intended to target cellphone communications to and from the Trump White House. As the president frequently chats with top aides and friends on non-secure phones, the operation sought to pick up conversations involving Trump with the expectation that the security-averse president would say things off the record that might be considered top secret.

The Politico report, which is sourced to top intelligence and security officials, details how “miniature surveillance devices” referred to as “Stingrays” imitate regular cell phone towers to fool phones being used nearby into providing information on their locations and identities. According to the article, the devices are referred to by technicians as “international mobile subscriber identity-catchers or IMSI-catchers, they also can capture the contents of calls and data use.”

Over one year ago, government security agencies discovered the electronic footprints that indicated the presence of the surveillance devices around Washington including near the White House. Forensic analysis involved dismantling the devices to let them “tell you a little about their history, where the parts and pieces come from, how old are they, who had access to them, and that will help get you to what the origins are.” One source observed afterwards that “It was pretty clear that the Israelis were responsible.”

The Israeli Embassy denied any involvement in the espionage and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu adroitly and predictably lied regarding the report, saying

We have a directive, I have a directive: No intelligence work in the United States, no spies. And it’s vigorously implemented, without any exception. It is a complete fabrication, a complete fabrication.”

The Israelis are characteristically extremely aggressive in their intelligence gathering operations, particularly in targeting the United States, even though Trump has done the Netanyahu government many favors. These have included moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, withdrawing from the nuclear deal and sanctioning Iran, recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and looking the other way as Israel expands its settlements and regularly bombs Syria and Lebanon.

Israel’s high-risk spying is legendary, but the notion that it is particularly good at it is, like everything having to do with the Jewish state, much overrated. Mossad has been caught in flagrante numerous times. In 2010, an undercover Mossad hit team was caught on 30 minutes of surveillance video as it wandered through a luxury Dubai hotel where it had gone to kill a leading Hamas official. And the notion that Mossad and CIA work hand-in-hand is also a fiction. Working level Agency officers dislike their reckless Mossad counterparts. Newsweek magazine’s “Spy Talk” once cited a poll of CIA officers that ranked Israel “dead last” among friendly countries in actual intelligence cooperation with Washington.

The fact is that Israel conducts espionage and influence operations against the United States more aggressively than any other “friendly” country, including tapping White House phones used by Bill Clinton to speak with Monica Lewinski. Israeli “experts” regularly provide alarmist and inaccurate private briefings for American Senators on Capitol Hill. Israel also constantly manufactures pretexts to draw the U.S. into new conflicts in the Middle East, starting with the Lavon Affair in Alexandria Egypt in 1954 and including the false flag attack on the U.S.S. Liberty in 1967. In short, Israel has no reluctance to use its enormous political and media clout in the U.S. to pressure successive administrations to conform to its own foreign and security policy views.

The persistent spying, no matter what Netanyahu claims, is a very good reason why Israel should not receive billions of dollars in military assistance annually. Starting in 1957, Israel’s friends stole enriched uranium from a Pennsylvania refinery to create a nuclear arsenal. More recently we have learned how Arnon Milchan, a Hollywood producer/billionaire born in Israel, arranged the illegal purchase of 800 krytron triggers to use in the production of nuclear weapons. The operation also involved current Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

The existence of a large scale Israeli spying effort at the time of 9/11 has been widely reported, incorporating Israeli companies in New Jersey and Florida as well as hundreds of “art students” nationwide. Five “dancing” Israelis from one of the companies were observed celebrating against the backdrop of the twin towers going down.

While it is often observed that everyone spies on everyone else, espionage is a high-risk business, particularly when spying on friends. Israel, relying on Washington for billions of dollars and also for political cover in international fora like the United Nations, does not spy discreetly, largely because it knows that few in Washington will seek to hold it accountable. There were, for example, no consequences for the Israelis when Israeli Mossad intelligence officers using U.S. passports and pretending to be Americans recruited terrorists to carry out attacks inside Iran. Israelis using U.S. passports in that fashion put every American traveler at risk.

Israel, where government and business work hand in hand, has obtained significant advantage by systematically stealing American technology with both military and civilian applications. The U.S. developed technology is then reverse engineered and used by the Israelis to support their own exports. Sometimes, when the technology is military in nature and winds up in the hands of an adversary, the consequences can be serious. Israel has sold advanced weapons systems to China that incorporate technology developed by American companies.

The reality of Israeli large-scale spying in the United States is indisputable. One might cite Jonathan Pollard, who stole more highly classified information than any spy in history. And then there were Ben-Ami Kadish, Stuart Nozette and Larry Franklin, other spies for Israel who have been caught and tried, but they are only the tip of the iceberg. Israel always features prominently in the annual FBI report called “Foreign Economic Collection and Industrial Espionage.” The 2005 report states

“Israel has an active program to gather proprietary information within the United States. These collection activities are primarily directed at obtaining information on military systems and advanced computing applications that can be used in Israel’s sizable armaments industry.”

It adds that Israel recruits spies, uses electronic methods, and carries out computer intrusion to gain the information.

A 1996 Defense Investigative Service report noted that Israel has great success stealing technology by exploiting the numerous co-production projects that it has with the Pentagon. It says “Placing Israeli nationals in key industries …is a technique utilized with great success.” A General Accounting Office (GAO) examination of espionage directed against American defense and security industries described how Israeli citizens residing in the U.S. had stolen sensitive technology to manufacture artillery gun tubes, obtained classified plans for reconnaissance systems, and passed sensitive aerospace designs to unauthorized users.

The GAO has concluded that Israel “conducts the most aggressive espionage operation against the United States of any U.S. ally.” In June 2006, a Pentagon administrative judge ruled against a difficult to even imagine appeal by an Israeli denied a security clearance, saying that “The Israeli government is actively engaged in military and industrial espionage in the United States.” FBI counter intelligence officer John Cole has also reported how many cases of Israeli espionage are dropped under orders from the Justice Department., making the Jewish state’s spying consequence free. He provides a “conservative estimate” of 125 viable investigations into Israeli espionage involving both American citizens and Israelis that were stopped due to political pressure.

So, did Israel really spy on Donald Trump? Sure it did. And Netanyahu is, metaphorically speaking, thumbing his nose at the American president and asking with a grin, “What are you going to do about it?”

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This article was originally published on The Unz Review.

Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation (Federal ID Number #52-1739023) that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is https://councilforthenationalinterest.org, address is P.O. Box 2157, Purcellville VA 20134 and its email is [email protected]. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image: Surveillance video frame of Pollard in the act of stealing classified documents (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The True Geopolitical Significance of the Hong Kong Protests

September 17th, 2019 by Col. Lawrence Wilkerson

This is an interview between Emanuel Pastreich and Larry Wilkerson. 

Lawrence B. “Larry” Wilkerson was chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell. Upon retirement, he has become a critic of US foreign policy. Emanuel Pastreich is an American author and academic based in South Korea. 

***

Emanuel Pastreich: The recent protests in Hong Kong were powered by a free-floating discontent among youth who feel they have no future. Yet, much of what we see taking place today cannot be explained in terms of the discontent of young people. Could it be that the US is interfering with, or participating in, the present political crisis in Hong Kong?

Larry Wilkerson:  Of course we [the US] are involved–just as we were, and are, in Caracas.  I saw just how fiercely we tried to overthrow Hugo Chavez, then the president of Venezuela, in 2002.  And we did not give up on our hopes to alter the politics there. Now we are working on Nicolas Maduro. But we have only brought to Venezuela incompetence, and incompetence’s standard accomplice, failure. We were only successful in punishing hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans with sanctions and doing great damage to their economy.

Although the media never compares Caracas with Hong Kong, we have clearly deployed the usual suspects in Hong Kong, such as the National Endowment for Democracy, which has suddenly become very active under the dubious auspices of teaching the young citizens of Hong Kong about democracy.

My fear is that, just as we did in Hungary in 1956, we are setting up these young people for a crackdown. We will push them, as we did then, and then when there is a crackdown, we will do nothing, just as we did nothing when the Soviet tanks rolled into Hungary in 1956 and crushed that rebellion.

It is an open secret that one of the forces behind the National Endowment for Democracy, and other such NGOs, is the CIA.–sometimes wittingly, with regard to the NED itself, and sometimes unwittingly.

But there are aspects to this campaign that are different from what happened in Hungary. We use social media, and vivid breaking news broadcasts as part of a more sophisticated approach to conducting covert operations against our supposed enemies, in this case China.

Xi Jinping must be very cautious about how he responds, and whether or nothe ultimately cracks down hard on the protestorsbecause his actionswill send an unmistakable signal to the more than 23 millionpeople who live on the island of Taiwan. If Xi mishandles this case, Taiwan will be utterly opposed to any rapprochement with the mainland for a generation.

Pastreich: But Trump clearly does not have the sophistication to manage this sort of operation. Trump personally would rather open a few more Trump casinos in China. Who exactly are the forces driving this move back in DC?

Wilkerson: Up until now the entire show has been run by John Bolton. As national security advisor, John Bolton launched one operation after another to undermine relations with China and other countries. He did so with some help from the “Torture Queen” Gina Haspel at the CIA. One thing is certain, the shots are called by a handful of people.

Pastreich:  So, will the departure of John Bolton offer us an opportunity for a real shift in US foreign policy? 

Wilkerson:  John Bolton’s departure, as I indicated on Chris Hayes’ show last week, changes very little. It is true that a true warmonger has left the position of National Security Advisor. But the influence of that position is entirely determined by the President.  Ronald Reagan had six such advisors in just 8 years. The reason was simple: Reagan thought that being president meant making the decisions himself. The case was entirely different for Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter. They shared power regarding foreign policy with Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski, respectively.

The best way to make sure the president makes all decisions is to change your national security advisor regularly.

Trump is not Reagan, not by quite a stretch.  So, most likely the people around him, from Mike Pompeo, to Gina Haspel, to Stephen Miller and Steven Mnuchin at Treasury, will continue to pursue their agendas, for better or worse. Trump is incapable of managing them all single-handedly.  But with the new appointment of Robert O’Brien as national security advisor, a more sycophantic assemblage around the President will in fact “make him President”.  The decisions will be increasingly unaffected by any counsel and advice.  They will be “all Trump”.  You will have to determine for yourself if that’s a positive development.  I rather think not.

Trump Regime’s Hardball with China: A Losing Strategy

It’s great that John Bolton is gone.  I know him and I can say that despite all the hype about him being brilliant and evil, he’s only evil.  Arron Burr was brilliant and evil; John Bolton is only evil.

Yes, it is excellent that an evil man has been removed from an important job.  But the incompetent man who put him there in the first place, the President himself, remains there.  That’s the rub.

Pastreich: Much of the rabble rousing in Hong Kong is directly linked to Taiwan, even encouraged by the current administration there. I was a bit surprised by President Tsai’s talk to the American Legion recently. Tsai made extreme statements that tried to paint all of China as a malevolent force, rather than logically and systematically addressing real concerns of citizens. I have not seen this sort of rhetoric on the Taiwan side since the 1980s, and it seems rather short-sighted. If anything, such talk by the President of Taiwan will encourage many Chinese to see Taiwan as a puppet of the Western far right.

Wilkerson: Chen Shui-Bian from time to time talked in a similar vein in the early 2000s. Recall that Tsai was addressing the American Legion, a red-meat audience that is most responsive to that sort of language. She made shrewd use of the somewhat limited audience list she is allowed to address. Even though Bolton may have wanted her to address a joint session of the US Congress a la Bibi Netanyahu, there remain one or two people in Trump’s administration who are not completely insane when it comes to China and Taiwan.  From herperspective, the remarks were precisely what she thought were necessary for both her audiences, the American Legion and the US—as well as Beijing. In that regard I thought her remarks were circumspect and well-couched.

That said, she could have been more globally-oriented, as you suggest, with such existential threats as climate change leading the way. But for that particular audience such remarks would have been utterly wasted.

From her perspective, the remarks were precisely what she thought were necessary for both her audiences, the American Legion and the US—as well as Beijing. In that regard I thought her remarks were circumspect and well-couched.

That said, she could have been more globally-oriented, as you suggest, with such existential threats as climate change leading the way. But for that particular audience such remarks would have been utterly wasted.

Pastreich: Doubtless many youth became involved in these Hong Kong protests because they were concerned about the increasingly bleak future that they face. But their so-called leaders meet with Pence and Bolton, and their protests are silent about the impact of climate change on Hong Kong, the radical concentration of wealth in Hong Kong (worst of any other city in the world), the indifference of the elites to their problems right in Hong Kong. Why are the most critical issues left out?

Wilkerson: We are looking at an age-old phenomenon. People let the things closest to them fester while they reach out for the sexy, the dramatic, and the dangerous. Just look at Trump’s supporters in the US. Trump’s economic policies, whether it is his tax cuts for the rich or his trade tariffs, all punish his political base mercilessly. But they don’t seem to care so long as he promises to reverse Roe vs. Wade and to bring Christian prayer back to the White House.

The Hong Kong protesters are reaching for the stars while the Earth that they stand on grows sick, struggles, and may die in their lifetimes.

Pastreich:  And then there is the simple logic of the Military Appropriations Bill. If that much money is suddenly slated for the preparations for a war with China, no matter how thoughtful government officials in the US may be, they will be under institutional pressure to drive for a confrontation with China.

Wilkerson: Are you referring to that of Taiwan, or of the US, or both?

Pastreich:  The overwhelmingly significant budget is that of the US for military, now officially $750 billion dollars and much of the expensive systems funded by that budget are aimed at China.

Wilkerson:  There is no question about the implications of the gargantuan size of the US national security budget—and it’s more like 1.3 trillion dollars, when you throw in Veterans Department, Homeland Security, nuclear weapons at Energy, the intelligence budget outside the Department of Defense, plus the CIA,  the Director of National Intelligence and State’s International Affairs account. The threats that are promoted by that sort of a budget form self-fulfilling prophecies in many respects.

All one need do is look back at what happened during the Cold War to see how budgets drove the arms races, both nuclear and conventional, and impacted strategic decisions at every turn. A massive budget that supports a China-oriented military and economic strategy is an additional push for eventual war.

Pastreich:  So what might be some ways we can take this source of tension and conflict and move it in a positive direction? Could we somehow organize an event and bring in people from Hong Kong and other local governments around the world to talk about real issues for youth, about climate change, about the threat of militarization of the economy (in US, but also in China)? Or might there be some other creative approach possible. 

Wilkerson: We could try something positive. But I doubt any effort to promote a discussion of real issues would have much effect. Unless one has the assets —  the money, the people, the organizational strength — tomatch, and even surpass, the CIA’s efforts — and perhaps MI6 as well — thereis not much hope of overcoming their efforts by promoting a wiser, smarter, and more relevant dialog. I do not say that to be discouraging, but just to suggest that organizers of such efforts must be realistic.

Pastreich: But Hong Kong is intimately connected to the question of what US policy in Asia should be. We should have a policy and it should be constructive.

What, concretely, might be a more effective policy?

Wilkerson: We should return to the position we took previously, since George H.W. Bush’s administration and the end of the Cold War: a watchful wariness coupled with the strategic intent to compete peacefully.

Our aim should be peace and economic integration. We should work together to meet the challenges of international crime, a changing climate, massive refugee flows –70 million now and growing—all over the world, and other challenges that no single nation can respond to successfully. All the while we need to hedge our bets by maintaining alliances such as those with Japan and Korea, expanding relationships with countries such as India, and prepare a ready, but far less costly, military. But all in all, our objective must be peace and peaceful competition.

Pastreich: There are many thoughtful American intellectuals who could visit Hong Kong, or Taipei, Shanghai or Beijing for deep and meaningful discussions with their peers about our shared future. If those scholars, together with ordinary citizens, started talking about common concerns, and engaging Chinese intellectuals, that could turn things around. If we have a meaningful dialog on climate change, social and economic problems, and the future of cyberspace, we could fill up that space in media with some positive messages.

Wilkerson:  I agree that such a move would be most welcome. And it would help immensely if we had a president, and a national security council, a State and Treasury Department, filled with good leaders and with people who understood this wisdom. 

Pastreich:  Why does the current administration feel that it needs to conduct foreign policy in the shadows? How can we end these covert efforts to undermine other nations and go back to actual cultural engagement, thereby redirecting the real energy of youth in a positive direction? 

Wilkerson:  First things first: we need a new administration, a smart one. We need new members of Congress who understand the issues that we are discussing here.  And we need a new media—one that doesn’t think that labeling China as the opponent in a new Cold War is its primary job. And then, of course, we need a wide range of committed scholars and citizens to carry forth the dialog.

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Caputh near Potsdam, 30th July, 1932.

Dear Professor Freud,

The proposal of the League of Nations and its International Institute of Intellectual Co-operation at Paris that I should invite a person, to be chosen by myself, to a frank exchange of views on any problem that I might select affords me a very welcome opportunity of conferring with you upon a question which, as things now are, seems the most insistent of all the problems civilization has to face. This is the problem: Is there any way of delivering humanity from the menace of war? It is common knowledge that, with the advance of modern science, this issue has come to mean a matter of life and death for civilization as we know it; nevertheless, for all the zeal displayed, every attempt at its solution has ended in a lamentable breakdown.

I believe, moreover, that those whose duty it is to tackle the problem professionally and practically are growing only too aware of their impotence to deal with it, and have now a very lively desire to learn the views of men who, absorbed in the pursuit of science, can see world problems in the perspective distance lends. As for me, the normal objective of my thought affords no insight into the dark places of human will and feeling. Thus, in the enquiry now proposed, I can do little more than seek to clarify the question at issue and, clearing the ground of the more obvious solutions, enable you to bring the light of your far-reaching knowledge of man’s instinctive life to bear upon the problem. There are certain psychological obstacles whose existence a layman in the mental sciences may dimly surmise, but whose interrelations and vagaries he is incompetent to fathom; you, I am convinced, will be able to suggest educative methods, lying more or less outside the scope of politics, which will eliminate these obstacles.

As one immune from nationalist bias, I personally see a simple way of dealing with the superficial (i.e. administrative) aspect of the problem: the setting up, by international consent, of a legislative and judicial body to settle every conflict arising between nations. Each nation would undertake to abide by the orders issued by this legislative body, to invoke its decision in every dispute, to accept its judgments unreservedly and to carry out every measure the tribunal deems necessary for the execution of its decrees. But here, at the outset, I come up against a difficulty; a tribunal is a human institution which, in proportion as the power at its disposal is inadequate to enforce its verdicts, is all the more prone to suffer these to be deflected by extrajudicial pressure. This is a fact with which we have to reckon; law and might inevitably go hand in hand, and juridical decisions approach more nearly the ideal justice demanded by the community (in whose name and interests these verdicts are pronounced) in so far as the community has effective power to compel respect of its juridical ideal. But at present we are far from possessing any supranational organization competent to render verdicts of incontestable authority and enforce absolute submission to the execution of its verdicts. Thus I am led to my first axiom: the quest of international security involves the unconditional surrender by every nation, in a certain measure, of its liberty of action, its sovereignty that is to say, and it is clear beyond all doubt that no other road can lead to such security.

The ill-success, despite their obvious sincerity, of all the efforts made during the last decade to reach this goal leaves us no room to doubt that strong psychological factors are at work, which paralyze these efforts. Some of these factors are not far to seek. The craving for power which characterizes the governing class in every nation is hostile to any limitation of the national sovereignty. This political power-hunger is wont to batten on the activities of another group, whose aspirations are on purely mercenary, economic lines. I have especially in mind that small but determined group, active in every nation, composed of individuals who, indifferent to social considerations and restraints, regard warfare, the manufacture and sale of arms, simply as an occasion to advance their personal interests and enlarge their personal authority.

But recognition of this obvious fact is merely the first step towards an appreciation of the actual state of affairs. Another question follows hard upon it: How is it possible for this small clique to bend the will of the majority, who stand to lose and suffer by a state of war, to the service of their ambitions? (In speaking of the majority, I do not exclude soldiers of every rank who have chosen war as their profession, in the belief that they are serving to defend the highest interests of their race, and that attack is often the best method of defense.) An obvious answer to this question would seem to be that the minority, the ruling class at present, has the schools and press, usually the Church as well, under its thumb. This enables it to organize and sway the emotions of the masses, and make its tool of them.

Yet even this answer does not provide a complete solution. Another question arises from it: How is it these devices succeed so well in rousing people to such wild enthusiasm, even to sacrifice their lives? Only one answer is possible. Because people have within them a lust for hatred and destruction. In normal times this passion exists in a latent state, it emerges only in unusual circumstances; but it is a comparatively easy task to call it into play and raise it to the power of a collective psychosis. Here lies, perhaps, the crux of all the complex of factors we are considering, an enigma that only the expert in the lore of human instincts can resolve.

And so we come to our last question. Is it possible to control human mental evolution so that people can resist the psychoses of hate and destructiveness? Here I am thinking by no means only of the so-called uncultured masses. Experience proves that it is rather the so-called “intelligentsia” that is most apt to yield to these disastrous collective suggestions, since the intellectual has no direct contact with life in the raw, but encounters it in its easiest, synthetic form—upon the printed page.

To conclude: I have so far been speaking only of wars between nations; what are known as international conflicts. But I am well aware that the aggressive instinct operates under other forms and in other circumstances. (I am thinking of civil wars, for instance, due in earlier days to religious zeal, but nowadays to social factors; or, again, the persecution of racial minorities.) But my insistence on what is the most typical, most cruel and extravagant form of conflict between man and man was deliberate, for here we have the best occasion of discovering ways and means to render all armed conflicts impossible.

I know that in your writings we may find answers, explicit or implied, to all the issues of this urgent and absorbing problem. But it would be of the greatest service to us all were you to present the problem of world peace in the light of your most recent discoveries, for such a presentation well might blaze the trail for new and fruitful modes of action.

Yours very sincerely, A. Einstein.

***

Vienna, September, 1932

Dear Professor Einstein,

When I learned of your intention to invite me to a mutual exchange of views upon a subject which not only interested you personally but seemed deserving, too, of public interest, I cordially assented. I expected you to choose a problem lying on the borderland of the knowable, as it stands today, a theme which each of us, physicist and psychologist, might approach from his own angle, to meet at last on common ground, though setting out from different premises. Thus the question which you put me—what is to be done to rid mankind of the war-menace?—took me by surprise. And, next, I was dumbfounded by the thought of my (of our, I almost wrote) incompetence; for this struck me as being a matter of practical politics, the statesman’s proper study. But then I realized that you did not raise the question in your capacity as scientist or physicist, but as a lover of his fellow men, who responded to the call of the League of Nations much as Fridtjof Nansen, the Polar explorer, took on himself the task of succouring homeless and starving victims of the World War. And, next, I reminded myself that I was not being called on to formulate practical proposals, but, rather, to explain how this question of preventing wars strikes a psychologist.

But here, too, you have stated the gist of the matter in your letter—and taken the wind out of my sails! Still, I will gladly follow in your wake and content myself with endorsing your conclusions, which, however, I propose to amplify to the best of my knowledge or surmise.

You begin with the relations between Might and Right, and this is assuredly the proper starting-point for our enquiry. But, for the term “might,” I would substitute a tougher and more telling word: “violence.” In right and violence we have today an obvious antinomy. It is easy to prove that one has evolved from the other and, when we go back to origins and examine primitive conditions, the solution of the problem follows easily enough. I must crave your indulgence if in what follows I speak of well-known, admitted facts as though they were new data; the context necessitates this method.

Conflicts of interest between people are resolved, in principle, by recourse to violence. It is the same in the animal kingdom, from which humanity cannot claim exclusion; nevertheless people are also prone to conflicts of opinion, touching, on occasion, the loftiest peaks of abstract thought, which seem to call for settlement by quite another method. This refinement is, however, a late development. To start with, brute force was the factor which, in small communities, decided points of ownership and the question of whose will was to prevail. Very soon physical force was implemented, then replaced, by the use of various adjuncts; he proved the victor whose weapon was the better, or handled the more skilfully. Now, for the first time, with the coming of weapons, superior brains began to oust brute force, but the object of the conflict remained the same: one party was to be constrained, by injury or impairment of strength, to retract a claim or a refusal. This end is most effectively gained when the opponent is definitively put out of action—in other words, is killed. This procedure has two advantages; the enemy cannot renew hostilities, and, secondly, this fate deters others from following the example. Moreover, the slaughter of a foe gratifies an instinctive craving—a point to which we shall revert hereafter. However, another consideration may be set off against this will to kill: the possibility of using enemies for servile tasks if their spirits be broken and their lives spared. Here violence finds an outlet not in slaughter but in subjugation. Hence springs the practice of showing mercy; but the victor, having from now on to reckon with the craving for revenge that rankles in the victim, forfeits some personal security.

Thus, under primitive conditions, it is superior force—brute violence, or violence backed by arms—that lords it everywhere. We know that in the course of evolution this state of things was modified, a path was traced that led away from violence to law. But what was this path? Surely it issued from a single verity; that the superiority of one strong man can be overborne by an alliance of many weaklings, that l’union fait la force. Brute force is overcome by union, the allied might of scattered units makes good its right against the isolated giant. Thus we may define “right” (i.e. law) as the might of a community. Yet it, too, is nothing else than violence, quick to attack whatever individual stands in its path, and it employs the self-same methods, follows like ends, with but one difference; it is the communal, not individual, violence that has its way. But, for the transition from crude violence to the reign of law, a certain psychological condition must first obtain. The union of the majority must be stable and enduring. If its sole raison d’être be to fight some powerful individual, after whose downfall it would be dissolved, it leads to nothing. Someone else trusting to superior power, will seek to reinstate the rule of violence and the cycle will repeat itself unendingly. Thus, the union of the people must be permanent and well organized; it must enact rules to meet the risk of possible revolts; must set up machinery ensuring that its rules—the laws—are observed and that such acts of violence as the laws demand are duly carried out. This recognition of a community of interests engenders among the members of the group a sentiment of unity and fraternal solidarity which constitutes its real strength.

So far I have set out what seems to me the kernel of the matter: the suppression of brute force by the transfer of power to a larger combination, founded on the community of sentiments linking up its members. All the rest is mere tautology and glosses. Now the position is simple enough so long as the community consists of a number of equally strong individuals. The laws of such a group can determine to what extent the individual must forfeit personal freedom, the right of using personal force as an instrument of violence, to ensure the safety of the group. But such a combination is only theoretically possible; in practice the situation is always complicated by the fact that, from the outset, the group includes elements of unequal power, men and women, elders and children, and, very soon, as a result of war and conquest, victors and the vanquished—i.e. masters and slaves—as well. From this time on the common law takes notice of these inequalities of power, laws are made by and for the rulers, giving the servile classes fewer rights. Thenceforward there exist within the state two factors making for legal instability, but legislative evolution, too: first, the attempts by members of the ruling class to set themselves above the law’s restrictions and, secondly, the constant struggle of the ruled to extend their rights and see each gain embodied in the code, replacing legal disabilities by equal laws for all. The second of these tendencies will be particularly marked when there takes place a positive mutation of the balance of power within the community, the frequent outcome of certain historical conditions. In such cases the laws may gradually be adjusted to the changed conditions or (as more usually ensues) the ruling class is loath to reckon with the new developments, the result being insurrections and civil wars, a period when law is in abeyance and force once more the arbiter, followed by a new regime of law. There is another factor of constitutional change, which operates in a wholly pacific manner, viz: the cultural evolution of the mass of the community; this factor, however, is of a different order and can only be dealt with later.

Thus we see that, even within the group itself, the exercise of violence cannot be avoided when conflicting interests are at stake. But the common needs and habits of men who live in fellowship under the same “sky” favor a speedy issue of such conflicts and, this being so, the possibilities of peaceful solutions make steady progress. Yet the most casual glance at world history will show an unending series of conflicts between one community and another or a group of others, between larger and smaller units, between cities, countries, races, tribes and kingdoms, almost all of which were settled by the ordeal of war. Such wars end either in pillage or in conquest and its fruits, the downfall of the loser. No single all-embracing judgment can be passed on these wars of aggrandizement. Some, like the war between the Mongols and the Turks, have led to unmitigated misery; others, however, have furthered the transition from violence to law, since they brought larger units into being, within whose limits a recourse to violence was banned and a new regime determined all disputes. Thus the Roman conquests brought that boon, the pax romana, to the Mediterranean lands. The French kings’ lust for aggrandizement created a new France, flourishing in peace and unity. Paradoxical as it sounds, we must admit that warfare well might serve to pave the way to that unbroken peace we so desire, for it is war that brings vast empires into being, within whose frontiers all warfare is proscribed by a strong central power. In practice, however, this end is not attained, for as a rule the fruits of victory are but short-lived, the new-created unit falls asunder once again, generally because there can be no true cohesion between the parts that violence has welded. Hitherto, moreover, such conquests have only led to aggregations which, for all their magnitude, had limits, and disputes between these units could be resolved only by recourse to arms. For humanity at large the sole result of all these military enterprises was that, instead of frequent not to say incessant little wars, they had now to face great wars which, for all they came less often, were so much the more destructive.

Regarding the world of today the same conclusion holds good, and you, too, have reached it, though by a shorter path. There is but one sure way of ending war and that is the establishment, by common consent, of a central control which shall have the last word in every conflict of interests. For this, two things are needed: first, the creation of such a supreme court of judicature; secondly, its investment with adequate executive force. Unless this second requirement be fulfilled, the first is unavailing. Obviously the League of Nations, acting as a Supreme Court, fulfils the first condition; it does not fulfil the second. It has no force at its disposal and can only get it if the members of the new body, its constituent nations, furnish it. And, as things are, this is a forlorn hope. Still we should be taking a very short-sighted view of the League of Nations were we to ignore the fact that here is an experiment the like of which has rarely—never before, perhaps, on such a scale—been attempted in the course of history. It is an attempt to acquire the authority (in other words, coercive influence), which hitherto reposed exclusively on the possession of power, by calling into play certain idealistic attitudes of mind. We have seen that there are two factors of cohesion in a community: violent compulsion and ties of sentiment (“identifications,” in technical parlance) between the members of the group. If one of these factors becomes inoperative, the other may still suffice to hold the group together. Obviously such notions as these can only be significant when they are the expression of a deeply rooted sense of unity, shared by all. It is necessary, therefore, to gauge the efficacy of such sentiments. History tells us that, on occasion, they have been effective. For example, the Panhellenic conception, the Greeks’ awareness of superiority over their barbarian neighbors, which found expression in the Amphictyonies, the Oracles and Games, was strong enough to humanize the methods of warfare as between Greeks, though inevitably it failed to prevent conflicts between different elements of the Hellenic race or even to deter a city or group of cities from joining forces with their racial foe, the Persians, for the defeat of a rival. The solidarity of Christendom in the Renaissance age was no more effective, despite its vast authority, in hindering Christian nations, large and small alike, from calling in the Sultan to their aid. And, in our times, we look in vain for some such unifying notion whose authority would be unquestioned. It is all too clear that the nationalistic ideas, paramount today in every country, operate in quite a contrary direction. There are some who hold that the Bolshevik conceptions may make an end of war, but, as things are, that goal lies very far away and, perhaps, could only be attained after a spell of brutal internecine warfare. Thus it would seem that any effort to replace brute force by the might of an ideal is, under present conditions, doomed to fail. Our logic is at fault if we ignore the fact that right is founded on brute force and even today needs violence to maintain it.

I now can comment on another of your statements. You are amazed that it is so easy to infect men with the war-fever, and you surmise that man has in him an active instinct for hatred and destruction, amenable to such stimulations. I entirely agree with you. I believe in the existence of this instinct and have been recently at pains to study its manifestations. In this connection may I set out a fragment of that knowledge of the instincts, which we psychoanalysts, after so many tentative essays and gropings in the dark, have compassed? We assume that human instincts are of two kinds: those that conserve and unify, which we call “erotic” (in the meaning Plato gives to Eros in his Symposium), or else “sexual” (explicitly extending the popular connotation of “sex”); and, secondly, the instincts to destroy and kill, which we assimilate as the aggressive or destructive instincts. These are, as you perceive, the well-known opposites, Love and Hate, transformed into theoretical entities; they are, perhaps, another aspect of those eternal polarities, attraction and repulsion, which fall within your province. But we must be wary of passing overhastily to the notions of good and evil. Each of these instincts is every bit as indispensable as its opposite and all the phenomena of life derive from their activity, whether they work in concert or in opposition. It seems that an instinct of either category can operate but rarely in isolation; it is always blended (“alloyed,” as we say) with a certain dosage of its opposite, which modifies its aim or even, in certain circumstances, is a prime condition of its attainment. Thus the instinct of self-preservation is certainly of an erotic nature, but to gain its ends this very instinct necessitates aggressive action. In the same way the love-instinct, when directed to a specific object, calls for an admixture of the acquisitive instinct if it is to enter into effective possession of that object. It is the difficulty of isolating the two kinds of instinct in their manifestations that has so long prevented us from recognizing them.

If you will travel with me a little further on this road, you will find that human affairs are complicated in yet another way. Only exceptionally does an action follow on the stimulus of a single instinct, which is per se a blend of Eros and destructiveness. As a rule several motives of similar composition concur to bring about the act. This fact was duly noted by a colleague of yours, Professor G. C. Lichtenberg, sometime Professor of Physics at Göttingen; he was perhaps even more eminent as a psychologist than as a physical scientist. He evolved the notion of a “Compasscard of Motives” and wrote: “The efficient motives impelling man to act can be classified like the 32 Winds, and described in the same manner; e.g. Food-Food-Fame or Fame-Fame-Food.” Thus, when a nation is summoned to engage in war, a whole gamut of human motives may respond to this appeal; high and low motives, some openly avowed, others slurred over. The lust for aggression and destruction is certainly included; the innumerable cruelties of history and daily life confirm its prevalence and strength. The stimulation of these destructive impulses by appeals to idealism and the erotic instinct naturally facilitates their release. Musing on the atrocities recorded on history’s page, we feel that the ideal motive has often served as a camouflage for the lust of destruction; sometimes, as with the cruelties of the Inquisition, it seems that, while the ideal motives occupied the foreground of consciousness, they drew their strength from the destructive instincts submerged in the unconscious. Both interpretations are feasible.

You are interested, I know, in the prevention of war, not in our theories, and I keep this fact in mind. Yet I would like to dwell a little longer on this destructive instinct which is seldom given the attention that its importance warrants. With the least of speculative efforts we are led to conclude that this instinct functions in every living being, striving to work its ruin and reduce life to its primal state of inert matter. Indeed it might well be called the “death-instinct”; whereas the erotic instincts vouch for the struggle to live on. The death instinct becomes an impulse to destruction when, with the aid of certain organs, it directs its action outwards, against external objects. The living being, that is to say, defends its own existence by destroying foreign bodies. But, in one of its activities, the death instinct is operative within the living being and we have sought to trace back a number of normal and pathological phenomena to this introversion of the destructive instinct. We have even committed the heresy of explaining the origin of human conscience by some such “turning inward” of the aggressive impulse. Obviously when this internal tendency operates on too large a scale, it is no trivial matter, rather a positively morbid state of things; whereas the diversion of the destructive impulse towards the external world must have beneficial effects. Here is then the biological justification for all those vile, pernicious propensities which we now are combating. We can but own that they are really more akin to nature than this our stand against them, which, in fact, remains to be accounted for.

All this may give you the impression that our theories amount to a species of mythology and a gloomy one at that! But does not every natural science lead ultimately to this—a sort of mythology? Is it otherwise today with your physical science

The upshot of these observations, as bearing on the subject in hand, is that there is no likelihood of our being able to suppress humanity’s aggressive tendencies. In some happy corners of the earth, they say, where nature brings forth abundantly whatever people desire, there flourish races whose lives go gently by, unknowing of aggression or constraint. This I can hardly credit; I would like further details about these happy folk. The Bolsheviks, too, aspire to do away with human aggressiveness by ensuring the satisfaction of material needs and enforcing equality between people. To me this hope seems vain. Meanwhile they busily perfect their armaments, and their hatred of outsiders is not the least of the factors of cohesion amongst themselves. In any case, as you too have observed, complete suppression of aggressive tendencies is not at issue; what we may try is to divert it into a channel other than that of warfare.

From our “mythology” of the instincts we may easily deduce a formula for an indirect method of eliminating war. If the propensity for war be due to the destructive instinct, we have always its counter-agent, Eros, to our hand. All that produces ties of sentiment between man and man must serve us as war’s antidote. These ties are of two kinds. First, such relations as those towards a beloved object, void though they be of sexual intent. The psychoanalyst need feel no compunction in mentioning “love” in this connection; religion uses the same language: Love thy neighbor as thyself. A pious injunction easy to proclaim, but hard to carry out! The other bond of sentiment is by way of identification. All that brings out the significant resemblances between people calls into play this feeling of community, identification, whereon is founded, in large measure, the whole edifice of human society.

In your strictures on the abuse of authority I find another suggestion for an indirect attack on the war-impulse. That people are divided into leaders and the led is but another manifestation of their inborn and irremediable inequality. The second class constitutes the vast majority; they need a high command to make decisions for them, to which decisions they usually bow without demur. In this context we would point out that people should be at greater pains than heretofore to form a superior class of independent thinkers, unamenable to intimidation and fervent in the quest of truth, whose function it would be to guide the masses dependent on their lead. There is no need to point out how little the rule of politicians and the Church’s ban on liberty of thought encourage such a new creation. The ideal conditions would obviously be found in a community where everyone subordinated instinctive life to the dictates of reason. Nothing less than this could bring about so thorough and so durable a union between people, even if this involved the severance of mutual ties of sentiment. But surely such a hope is utterly utopian, as things are. The other indirect methods of preventing war are certainly more feasible, but entail no quick results. They conjure up an ugly picture of mills that grind so slowly that, before the flour is ready, people are dead of hunger.

As you see, little good comes of consulting a theoretician, aloof from worldly contacts, on practical and urgent problems! Better it were to tackle each successive crisis with means that we have ready to our hands. However, I would like to deal with a question which, though it is not mooted in your letter, interests me greatly. Why do we, you and I and many an other, protest so vehemently against war, instead of just accepting it as another of life’s odious importunities? For it seems a natural thing enough, biologically sound and practically unavoidable. I trust you will not be shocked by my raising such a question. For the better conduct of an inquiry it may be well to don a mask of feigned aloofness. The answer to my query may run as follows: because every people has a right over their own lives and war destroys lives that were full of promise; it forces the individual into situations that shame humanity, obliging them to murder fellow human beings against their will; it ravages material amenities, the fruits of human toil, and much besides. Moreover wars, as now conducted, afford no scope for acts of heroism according to the old ideals and, given the high perfection of modern arms, war today would mean the sheer extermination of one of the combatants, if not of both. This is so true, so obvious, that we can but wonder why the conduct of war is not banned by general consent. Doubtless either of the points I have just made is open to debate. It may be asked if the community, in its turn, cannot claim a right over the individual lives of its members. Moreover, all forms of war cannot be indiscriminately condemned; so long as there are nations and empires, each prepared callously to exterminate its rival, all alike must be equipped for war. But we will not dwell on any of these problems; they lie outside the debate to which you have invited me. I pass on to another point, the basis, as it strikes me, of our common hatred of war. It is this: we cannot do otherwise than hate it. Pacifists we are, since our organic nature wills us thus to be. Hence it comes easy to us to find arguments that justify our standpoint.

This point, however, calls for elucidation. Here is the way in which I see it. The cultural development of mankind (some, I know, prefer to call it civilization) has been in progress since immemorial antiquity. To this processus we owe all that is best in our composition, but also much that makes for human suffering. Its origins and causes are obscure, its issue is uncertain, but some of its characteristics are easy to perceive. It well may lead to the extinction of humanity for it impairs the sexual function in more than one respect, and even today the uncivilized races and the backward classes of all nations are multiplying more rapidly than “the cultured elements.” This process may, perhaps, be likened to the effects of domestication on certain animals—it clearly involves physical changes of structure—but the view that cultural development is an “organic” process of this order has not yet become generally familiar. The psychic changes which accompany this process of cultural change are striking, and not to be gainsaid. They consist in the progressive rejection of instinctive ends and a scaling down of instinctive reactions. Sensations which delighted our forefathers have become neutral or unbearable to us; and, if our ethical and aesthetic ideals have undergone a change, the causes of this are “ultimately organic.” On the psychological side two of the most important phenomena of culture are, firstly, a strengthening of the intellect, which tends to master our instinctive life, and, secondly, an introversion of the aggressive impulse, with all its consequent benefits and perils. Now war runs most emphatically counter to the psychic disposition imposed on us by the growth of culture; we are therefore bound to resent war, to find it utterly intolerable. With pacifists like us it is not merely an intellectual and affective repulsion, but a constitutional intolerance, an idiosyncrasy in its most drastic form. And it would seem that the aesthetic ignominies of warfare play almost as large a part in this repugnance as war’s atrocities. How long have we to wait before the remainder of humanity turns pacifist? Impossible to say, and yet perhaps our hope that these two factors—people’s cultural disposition and a well-founded dread of the form that future wars will take—may serve to put an end to war in the near future, is not chimerical. But by what ways or by-ways this will come about, we cannot guess. Meanwhile we may rest on the assurance that whatever makes for cultural development is working also against war.

With kindest regards and, should this exposé prove a disappointment to you, my sincere regrets,

Yours, Sigmund Freud

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Source of English translation: Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud, “Why War?” (1933), in The Weimar Republic Sourcebook, edited by Anton Kaes, Martin Jay, and Edward Dimendberg. © 1994 Regents of the University of California. Published by the University of California Press, pp. 25-34. Reprinted with permission of the University of California Press.

Source of original German text: Albert Einstein und Sigmund Freud, “Warum Krieg?” Paris: International Institute of Intellectual Co-operation, League of Nations, 1933, pp 15-47.

Go to Original Source – germanhistorydocs.ghi-dc.org

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“Since when have we Americans been expected to bow submissively to authority and speak with awe and reverence to those who represent us? The constitutional theory is that we the people are the sovereigns, the state and federal officials only our agents. We who have the final word can speak softly or angrily. We can seek to challenge and annoy, as we need not stay docile and quiet.”—Justice William O. Douglas, dissenting, Colten v. Kentucky, 407 U.S. 104 (1972)

Forget everything you’ve ever been taught about free speech in America.

It’s all a lie.

There can be no free speech for the citizenry when the government speaks in a language of force.

What is this language of force?

Militarized police. Riot squads. Camouflage gear. Black uniforms. Armored vehicles. Mass arrests. Pepper spray. Tear gas. Batons. Strip searches. Surveillance cameras. Kevlar vests. Drones. Lethal weapons. Less-than-lethal weapons unleashed with deadly force. Rubber bullets. Water cannons. Stun grenades. Arrests of journalists. Crowd control tactics. Intimidation tactics. Brutality.

This is not the language of freedom.

This is not even the language of law and order.

This is the language of force.

Unfortunately, this is how the government at all levels—federal, state and local—now responds to those who choose to exercise their First Amendment right to peacefully assemble in public and challenge the status quo.

This police overkill isn’t just happening in troubled hot spots such as Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore, Md., where police brutality gave rise to civil unrest, which was met with a militarized show of force that caused the whole stew of discontent to bubble over into violence.

A decade earlier, the NYPD engaged in mass arrests of peaceful protesters, bystanders, legal observers and journalists who had gathered for the 2004 Republican National Convention. The protesters were subjected to blanket fingerprinting and detained for more than 24 hours at a “filthy, toxic pier that had been a bus depot.” That particular exercise in police intimidation tactics cost New York City taxpayers nearly $18 million for what would become the largest protest settlement in history.

Demonstrators, journalists and legal observers who had gathered in North Dakota to peacefully protest the Dakota Access Pipeline reported being pepper sprayed, beaten with batons, and strip searched by police.

In the college town of Charlottesville, Va., protesters who took to the streets to peacefully express their disapproval of a planned KKK rally were held at bay by implacable lines of gun-wielding riot police. Only after a motley crew of Klansmen had been safely escorted to and from the rally by black-garbed police did the assembled army of city, county and state police declare the public gathering unlawful and proceed to unleash canisters of tear gas on the few remaining protesters to force them to disperse.

More recently, this militarized exercise in intimidation—complete with an armored vehicle and an army of police drones—reared its ugly head in the small town of Dahlonega, Ga., where 600 state and local militarized police clad in full riot gear vastly outnumbered the 50 protesters and 150 counterprotesters who had gathered to voice their approval/disapproval of the Trump administration’s policies.

To be clear, this is the treatment being meted out to protesters across the political spectrum.

The police state does not discriminate.

As a USA Today article notes,

“Federally arming police with weapons of war silences protesters across all justice movements… People demanding justice, demanding accountability or demanding basic human rights without resorting to violence, should not be greeted with machine guns and tanks. Peaceful protest is democracy in action. It is a forum for those who feel disempowered or disenfranchised. Protesters should not have to face intimidation by weapons of war.”

A militarized police response to protesters poses a danger to all those involved, protesters and police alike. In fact, militarization makes police more likely to turn to violence to solve problems.

As a study by researchers at Stanford University makes clear,

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

Even the color of a police officer’s uniform adds to the tension. As the Department of Justice reports,

“Some research has suggested that the uniform color can influence the wearer—with black producing aggressive tendencies, tendencies that may produce unnecessary conflict between police and the very people they serve.”

You want to turn a peaceful protest into a riot?

Bring in the militarized police with their guns and black uniforms and warzone tactics and “comply or die” mindset. Ratchet up the tension across the board. Take what should be a healthy exercise in constitutional principles (free speech, assembly and protest) and turn it into a lesson in authoritarianism.

Mind you, those who respond with violence are playing into the government’s hands perfectly.

The government wants a reason to crack down and lock down and bring in its biggest guns.

They want us divided. They want us to turn on one another.

They want us powerless in the face of their artillery and armed forces.

They want us silent, servile and compliant.

They certainly do not want us to remember that we have rights, let alone attempting to exercise those rights peaceably and lawfully.

And they definitely do not want us to engage in First Amendment activities that challenge the government’s power, reveal the government’s corruption, expose the government’s lies, and encourage the citizenry to push back against the government’s many injustices.

You know how one mayor characterized the tear gassing of protesters by riot police? He called it an “unfortunate event.”

Unfortunate, indeed.

You know what else is unfortunate?

It’s unfortunate that these overreaching, heavy-handed lessons in how to rule by force have become standard operating procedure for a government that communicates with its citizenry primarily through the language of brutality, intimidation and fear.

It’s unfortunate that “we the people” have become the proverbial nails to be hammered into submission by the government and its vast armies.

And it’s particularly unfortunate that government officials—especially police—seem to believe that anyone who wears a government uniform (soldier, police officer, prison guard) must be obeyed without question.

In other words, “we the people” are the servants in the government’s eyes rather than the masters.

The government’s rationale goes like this:

Do exactly what I say, and we’ll get along fine. Do not question me or talk back in any way. You do not have the right to object to anything I may say or ask you to do, or ask for clarification if my demands are unclear or contradictory. You must obey me under all circumstances without hesitation, no matter how arbitrary, unreasonable, discriminatory, or blatantly racist my commands may be. Anything other than immediate perfect servile compliance will be labeled as resisting arrest, and expose you to the possibility of a violent reaction from me. That reaction could cause you severe injury or even death. And I will suffer no consequences. It’s your choice: Comply, or die.

Indeed, as Officer Sunil Dutta of the Los Angeles Police Department advises:

If you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me.

This is not the rhetoric of a government that is of the people, by the people, and for the people.

This is not the attitude of someone who understands, let alone respects, free speech.

And this is certainly not what I would call “community policing,” which is supposed to emphasize the importance of the relationship between the police and the community they serve.

Indeed, this is martial law masquerading as law and order.

Any police officer who tells you that he needs tanks, SWAT teams, and pepper spray to do his job shouldn’t be a police officer in a constitutional republic.

All that stuff in the First Amendment (about freedom of speech, religion, press, peaceful assembly and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances) sounds great in theory. However, it amounts to little more than a hill of beans if you have to exercise those freedoms while facing down an army of police equipped with deadly weapons, surveillance devices, and a slew of laws that empower them to arrest and charge citizens with bogus “contempt of cop” charges (otherwise known as asserting your constitutional rights).

It doesn’t have to be this way.

There are other, far better models to follow.

For instance, back in 2011, the St. Louis police opted to employ a passive response to Occupy St. Louis activists. First, police gave the protesters nearly 36 hours’ notice to clear the area, as opposed to the 20 to 60 minutes’ notice other cities gave. Then, as journalist Brad Hicks reports, when the police finally showed up:

They didn’t show up in riot gear and helmets, they showed up in shirt sleeves with their faces showing. They not only didn’t show up with SWAT gear, they showed up with no unusual weapons at all, and what weapons they had all securely holstered. They politely woke everybody up. They politely helped everybody who was willing to remove their property from the park to do so. They then asked, out of the 75 to 100 people down there, how many people were volunteering for being-arrested duty? Given 33 hours to think about it, and 10 hours to sweat it over, only 27 volunteered. As the police already knew, those people’s legal advisers had advised them not to even passively resist, so those 27 people lined up to be peacefully arrested, and were escorted away by a handful of cops. The rest were advised to please continue to protest, over there on the sidewalk … and what happened next was the most absolutely brilliant piece of crowd control policing I have heard of in my entire lifetime. All of the cops who weren’t busy transporting and processing the voluntary arrestees lined up, blocking the stairs down into the plaza. They stood shoulder to shoulder. They kept calm and silent. They positioned the weapons on their belts out of sight. They crossed their hands low in front of them, in exactly the least provocative posture known to man. And they peacefully, silently, respectfully occupied the plaza, using exactly the same non-violent resistance techniques that the protesters themselves had been trained in.

As Forbes concluded,

“This is a more humane, less costly, and ultimately more productive way to handle a protest. This is great proof that police can do it the old fashioned way – using their brains and common sense instead of tanks, SWAT teams, and pepper spray – and have better results.”

It can be done.

Police will not voluntarily give up their gadgets and war toys and combat tactics, however. Their training and inclination towards authoritarianism has become too ingrained.

If we are to have any hope of dismantling the police state, change must start locally, community by community. Citizens will have to demand that police de-escalate and de-militarize. And if the police don’t listen, contact your city councils and put the pressure on them.

Remember, they are supposed to work for us. They might not like hearing it—they certainly won’t like being reminded of it—but we pay their salaries with our hard-earned tax dollars.

“We the people” have got to stop accepting the lame excuses trotted out by police as justifications for their inexcusable behavior.

Either “we the people” believe in free speech or we don’t.

Either we live in a constitutional republic or a police state.

We have rights.

As Justice William O. Douglas advised in his dissent in Colten v. Kentucky, “we need not stay docile and quiet” in the face of authority.

The Constitution does not require Americans to be servile or even civil to government officials.

Neither does the Constitution require obedience (although it does insist on nonviolence).

This emphasis on nonviolence goes both ways. Somehow, the government keeps overlooking this important element in the equation.

There is nothing safe or secure or free about exercising your rights with a rifle pointed at you.

The police officer who has been trained to shoot first and ask questions later, oftentimes based only on their highly subjective “feeling” of being threatened, is just as much of a danger—if not more—as any violence that might erupt from a protest rally.

Compliance is no guarantee of safety.

Then again, as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, if we just cower before government agents and meekly obey, we may find ourselves following in the footsteps of those nations that eventually fell to tyranny.

The alternative involves standing up and speaking truth to power. Jesus Christ walked that road. So did Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and countless other freedom fighters whose actions changed the course of history.

Indeed, had Christ merely complied with the Roman police state, there would have been no crucifixion and no Christian religion. Had Gandhi meekly fallen in line with the British Empire’s dictates, the Indian people would never have won their independence.

Had Martin Luther King Jr. obeyed the laws of his day, there would have been no civil rights movement. And if the founding fathers had marched in lockstep with royal decrees, there would have been no American Revolution.

We must adopt a different mindset and follow a different path if we are to alter the outcome of these interactions with police.

The American dream was built on the idea that no one is above the law, that our rights are inalienable and cannot be taken away, and that our government and its appointed agents exist to serve us.

It may be that things are too far gone to save, but still we must try.

*

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This article was originally published on The Rutherford Institute.

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  is available at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at [email protected]. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Trump: Saudi Arabia’s Bitch

September 17th, 2019 by Kurt Nimmo

“Saudi Arabia’s Bitch”. That’s what Democrat candidate Tulsi Gabbard calls President Trump for his slavish reliance on Saudi Arabia to declare Iran responsible for last weekend’s attack on Saudi oil resources. 

Gabbard’s comments are in response to Trump’s tweet on Sunday:

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For the Saudis, there is but one culprit—Iran. The Kingdom and its psychotic boy prince, Mohammed bin Salman, wants nothing more than to take down Iran, preferably to the ground and smoldering. It cannot do this without the help of the US military. The blame will not go to some fictitious terror group hiding out in the Maldives. I exaggerate, of course, but not much. 

Tulsi elaborates her position:

Meanwhile, one of the loudest, shrillest, and most Israel-centric talk show hosts in America has denounced her as a “clown” for attempting to end the neocon wars and return sanity and balance to US foreign policy. 

Neocons are predisposed to tell lies. There is no evidence Iran had anything to do with the attack, or for that matter Yemen. And there will little if any convincing evidence provided by Mike Pompeo and his neocons. they understand evidence is not required, only lies. 

This paucity of evidence has never bothered the neocons—they simply invent and spin events resulting in deadly consequence. For instance, the murder of over a million Iraqis, which it is fair to say Mark Levin supported and will again. Because only Israeli and American lives matter, especially the former. 

Zionists are not concerned with the mass murder of Arabs and Muslims. Israel’s history is chock full of massacres, torture, the imprisonment of children, and the targeted assassination of medics, journalists, and activists along the prison wall that separates the Gaza Strip from Israel.

The “dangerous fool” here is Mark Levin, an Israel-first neocon of the first order masquerading as an American constitutionalist. His version of the Constitution doesn’t include Article I, Section 8, Clause 11. It specifies only Congress can declare war, not a president caught in some kind of Zionist voodoo trance. 

Levin calls Gabbard a “moron,” when it is Levin who is the moron, or at least comes off as one. There is virtually zero evidence Iran has killed US soldiers (in occupied Iraq) and is building ICBMs for nuclear warheads that do not exist. Levin’s citing Israeli propaganda, not verifiable facts. 

Mark Levin, of course, is not a moron. He’s an intelligent, conniving, and hateful neocon, an Israel-first fanatic. He wants to bomb Iran—just like his ideological twin, the dismissed John Bolton—and the prospect of thousands of dead Iranians and the Middle East in flames does not bother him, as it would any human with empathy and a sense of justice.

Levin has no such empathy for average Iranians, Gazans, Lebanese, and Syrians. Like all neocons, his only concern is Israel. He supports Trump simply because Trump is locked in a Zionist voodoo trance and will give the tiny apartheid state just abbot anything it wants, including putting America’s imprimatur on yet another war, this one with far more dire consequences for humanity than the other neocon wars. 

Tulsi, as any serious politician, has paid lip service to Israel. She knows that failing to do so will terminate her political career. She went so far as to support the unconstitutional anti-BDS legislation working its way through Congress. 

But that’s not enough for Levin and the neocons. Nothing short of enthusiastic support for Israel and its endless wars, ethnic cleansing, and apartheid are acceptable for any US politician, especially those running for president. 

Trump declares he’s “locked and loaded” after the attack on Saudi oil facilities. He is waiting for the Saudis to make up their minds on possible perpetrators. But that’s a foregone conclusion. Iran is responsible. Iran will be punished, possibly with bunker busters and the destruction of its infrastructure. 

This latest drama has all the earmarks of a false flag operation designed to further ratchet up hostilities and eventually get a war going. 

Mark Levin is doing all he can to make it so. 

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Kurt Nimmo writes on his blog, Another Day in the Empire, where this article was originally published. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

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Sanders Warns Trump Against Illegal Iran Strike

September 17th, 2019 by Bryant Harris

The attack on the Saudi Aramco oil facility over the weekend and President Donald Trump’s subsequent tweet that the United States is “locked and loaded” immediately prompted presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to fire back.

Sanders and other progressive lawmakers stressed that Trump does not have the legal authority from Congress to launch an offensive strike against Iran. 

“Mr. Trump, the Constitution of the United States is perfectly clear,” Sanders tweeted. “Only Congress — not the President can declare war. And Congress will not give you the authority to start another disastrous war in the Middle East just because the brutal Saudi dictatorship told you to.”

And in an interview on ABC on Sunday, hours before Trump’s tweet, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana — another 2020 contender — criticized Trump’s maximum pressure strategy against Iran.

“There is more than enough destabilizing the Middle East and the Persian Gulf without fears that a president could destabilize it further with the next tweet,” said Buttigieg. “We need to make sure right now that we create options to prevent things from escalating further.”

Trump noted that he was “waiting to hear from the kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of the attack” before proceeding.

Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred some 620 miles from the war-torn country. But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said over the weekend that there was no evidence the attack came from Yemen and the Trump administration maintains that the attacks came directly from Iran. 

Saudi Arabia said today that Riyadh has not reached the same conclusion that Iran was the staging ground for the attacks. Still, the Saudis did claim that the drones that struck the oil facility were Iranian and did not originate from Yemen. Iran denies the charges and no side has presented evidence to corroborate their competing claims.

And Trump implied that Iran was telling “a very big lie” in a separate tweet today. The president referenced an incident earlier this year when Tehran shot down a US drone after claiming it was flying over Iranian air space even as Washington placed the drone’s coordinates over international waters.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Chris Murphy, D-Conn., tweeted that

“no matter where this latest drone strike was launched from, there is no short or long-term upside to the US military getting more deeply involved in the growing regional contest between the Saudis and Iranians,” going on to lambast Trump’s maximum pressure campaign against Tehran.

But not all Democrats were as eager to push back against Trump’s tweets.

Murphy’s colleague on the Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., struck a more hawkish message in an appearance today on the pro-Trump “Fox and Friends,” where guests frequently go to directly relay messages to the president. Coons argued that

“this may very well be the thing that calls for military action against Iran if that’s what the intelligence supports.”

Sanders’ campaign co-chair, Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., pushed back against Coons on Twitter.

“The only body that can call for offensive military action against Iran is Congress,” tweeted Khanna. 

The California Democrat used Coons’ remarks to renew calls for lawmakers to pass his legislation barring the Trump administration from using funds in an offensive strike against Iran absent congressional authorization.

Khanna and Trump ally Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., teamed up to include the legislation as an amendment to the annual defense authorization bill, which the House passed 220-197 in July. But Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe, R-Okla., an Iran hawk, forestalled Democrats from adding similar language to the upper chamber’s version of the bill.

The Gaetz-Inhofe split illustrates the national security fissure between the non-interventionist and hawkish wings of the Republican Party as Trump’s allies continue to vie for his ear on national security issues.

“It is now time for the US to put on the table an attack on Iranian oil refineries if they continue their provocations or increase nuclear enrichment,” tweeted Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., another close Trump confidant. “Iran will not stop their misbehavior until the consequences become more real, like attacking their refineries, which will break the regime’s back.”

Yet Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who also enjoys close access to Trump, pushed back against Graham on CNN, opting instead to focus on the Houthis’ claim of credit for the attack.

“Really the answer is trying to have a negotiated cease-fire and peace in Yemen, and bombing Iran won’t do that,” said Paul. “Iran’s military spending is about $17 billion. Saudi Arabia spends about $83 billion.”

It remains unclear whether the Trump administration would seek a congressional authorization to strike Iran — or if such an authorization would be able to pass. But Trump has twice struck Syrian military installations owned by President Bashar al-Assad without congressional authorization. The Trump administration has yet to disclose its legal justification for both strikes.

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Bryant Harris is Al-Monitor’s congressional correspondent. He was previously the White House assistant correspondent for Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan’s largest newspaper. He has also written for Foreign Policy, Al Jazeera English and IPS News. Prior to his stint in DC, he spent two years as a US Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco. On Twitter: @brykharris_ALM, Email: [email protected]

No Border Wall: Destabilizing Borderland Ecosystems, Perpetuating Human Suffering

September 17th, 2019 by Center For Biological Diversity

More than 650 miles of barriers already exist along the border. These walls, fences and barriers cut through sensitive ecosystems, disrupt animal migration patterns, cause catastrophic flooding, and divide communities and tribal nations.

Congress has already approved more than $3 billion for border walls since Trump took office. But that wasn’t enough to satisfy Trump’s demands. Now, with the declaration of a national “emergency,” Trump is illegally attempting to funnel billions more to border wall construction in some of the country’s most sensitive and spectacular landscapes.

Trump’s wall would harm border communities, perpetuate human suffering, destroy thousands of acres of habitat and halt the cross-border migration of dozens of animal species. In fact, as revealed in the Center’s 2017 report A Wall in the Wild, 93 threatened, endangered and candidate species would potentially be affected by construction of a wall and related infrastructure spanning the entirety of the border.

This is a looming tragedy for the region’s diverse wildlife and people, as well as its rugged and spectacular landscapes. We’re fighting in the courts, in Congress and in our communities to stop Trump’s cynical attack on our beautiful borderlands.

With headquarters near the border in Tucson, Arizona, the Center has worked to preserve and protect the remote beauty and amazing biodiversity of our borderlands for decades. We’ve been fighting against border militarization — including the border wall — since the late 1990s, using litigation to block unlawful border policy, grassroots lobbying to stop legislation that would exacerbate environmental damage, and creative-media and public-education campaigns to get out the truth about the real impacts of the hugely expensive, largely ineffective and environmentally devastating border wall.

We currently have three lawsuits in play on the border wall. In April 2017 the Center partnered with U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva in filing suit seeking a thorough analysis of the environmental impacts of border-security policy, including the border wall, under the National Environmental Policy Act. Another suit challenges the Trump administration’s waiver of more than three dozen environmental, public-health and tribal-sovereignty laws in order to rush border-wall construction. And a third suit seeks to force the administration to release documents regarding its border plans, thus far withheld from the public.

We were the first organization to sue Trump over the border wall and have since filed six suits challenging border wall construction. Our most recent litigation challenges Trump’s emergency declaration and use of military funds to build the border wall. The Center also has sued the administration to challenge border-wall construction in the Rio Grande Valley and near the Santa Teresa Port of Entry in New Mexico. In 2017, we partnered with U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, seeking a thorough analysis of the environmental impacts of border-security policy, including the border wall, under the National Environmental Policy Act. All of these suits are pending.

In May 2017 the Center partnered with the Tohono O’odham tribe in Mexico to file an endangerment petition for El Pinacate and Gran Desierto Biosphere Reserve in Mexico, just south of the border in the state of Sonora. A wall in that area would block cross-border migration of endangered Sonoran pronghorn and restrict access for the Tohono O’odham people, who travel across the border regularly for traditional and ceremonial purposes.

In July 2017 the House of Representatives approved the Trump administration’s $1.6 billion budget request to expand the U.S.-Mexico border wall, ignoring threats to protected wildlife refuges and border communities. Since then, the administration has been slowly moving forward with its plans —  and waiving dozens of laws along the way.

No Border Wall Resolution Campaign

The Center has helped launch a campaign to pass resolutions in states, cities and counties across the United States opposing the border wall, with 39 passed so far. Many of these resolutions contain provisions for jurisdictions to divest from companies that agree to design or build the wall. Numerous local governments have enacted No Border Wall Resolutions. If you’re an elected official or representative of a community or organization who’d like to get involved in our campaign to pass No Border Wall resolutions across the country, please contact Laiken Jordahl.

Background on the Borderlands

Joining the United States and Mexico, our borderlands to the south comprise one of the biggest ecosystem complexes in North America, with some of the least populated areas and the most important wildlife habitats remaining on the continent. This border region is host to a diverse array of threatened, endangered and rare species — including the Sonoran pronghorn, lesser long-nosed bat, Quino checkerspot butterfly, cactus ferruginous pygmy owl, and larger predators like jaguars, Mexican gray wolves and ocelots — and it contains millions of acres of public lands, such as Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Big Bend National Park, Coronado National Forest and Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge.

In the mid-1990s the U.S. federal government launched a strategy of militarization in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands that continues to this day. First the areas around ports of entry in El Paso, San Diego, and other urban areas along the border were hardened and walls were erected using solid steel panels from Vietnam War–era landing mats. This had the predictable effect of forcing undocumented migrants out into more remote areas to cross the border, where many died in harsh conditions. More than 7,000 people have died crossing the border in the past 20 years. Documents show that migrant deaths were a foreseen consequence of a conscious strategy to increase the difficulty and dangers of crossing the border as a deterrent to migrants.

The strategy of pushing migrant traffic into wild areas did not work to stem the flow of undocumented immigration — but it did vastly increase the amount of environmental damage it was causing, as both the flow of migrants and the resulting border-law-enforcement activities were pushed into formerly untrammeled sites.

Thousands of Border Patrol agents began driving off-road in remote areas, creating thousands of miles of new roads in designated wilderness and critical habitats for endangered species. As detailed in the Center’s A Wall in the Wild report, more than 2 million acres of designated critical habitat exists within 50 miles of the border and is in danger of being degraded and destroyed by the construction of a wall and related enforcement activities along the border.

In 2005 the U.S. Congress passed a clause in the REAL ID Act, which granted the secretary of Homeland Security the authority to waive any and all laws with regard to constructing walls and roads along the border. More than three dozen environmental, public-health and tribal-sovereignty laws have since been waived using this authority, resulting in hundreds of miles of additional border barriers and roads being constructed with little or no environmental review. The Trump administration has already used this authority three times to rush border-wall construction, most recently in May 2019 in Arizona and California.

The results of these waivers have been predictable. Without the thorough analysis of environmental impacts normally required by law, new border infrastructure has been constructed in ill-advised locations with poor engineering — resulting in massive flooding, erosion, and millions of dollars of damage to private property and public lands alike.

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In the aftermath of the third Presidential Democratic National Committee (DNC) debate, it was mind boggling that viewers were forced to suffer through a rehash of the same, worn out regurgitations that had already been harangued previously.  There was no stunning moment where a Star stepped forward as in the two earlier debates, nor any momentous policy  pronouncements worth pondering.

The ‘top tier’ candidates proved to be a bland assortment,  awash in mediocrity and predictably contentious blathering.  Missing in action was Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hi) who failed to meet the DNC’s arbitrary polling requirements; thus successful in clearing the stage of a reputable  foreign policy voice.

If you were unfortunate enough to tune in, you may have realized that what remains of a once political powerhouse is little more than a bankrupt shell of flatulence and exploitation. What the DNC and most of its candidates have not grasped is that there is an urgency and an underlying anxiety throughout the country with little public patience for frivolous, meaningless chatter that offers no real solutions to correct the decades of war debt, mismanagement and widespread corruption.

It should be apparent to all that the DNC has not learned one iota, not one scintilla about transparency or why they lost the 2016 election.  At that time, the DNCblatantly took no pains to hide its own corruption as it ‘stole’ the Dem nomination from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt)  After the Dem convention that summer, Sanders’s response to the fraud and sleaze was like that of any feudal vassal.  He could not do enough to enable the DNC as he campaigned his ass off on behalf of Hillary Clinton. The DNC has not forgiven him since.

In 2016, Gabbard, then a rising star within the DNC and a Vice Chair, resigned her position to endorse Bernie and, as she walked out the door, cited HRC’s ongoing support for  interventionist, regime change policies.” Today, Sanders’s ambivalence to speak out on behalf of Tulsi has been noted as the DNC excluded her from the third debate as she so forthrightly spoke out on his behalf in 2016.  That one resignation cost the Dem’s votes on top of an already faltering campaign that remained undiagnosed until after the votes were counted.  The DNC hierarchy has not forgiven Gabbard.

After devastating losses across the country that year, including the White House, both houses of Congress and a majority of Gubernatorial seats and State legislatures, it might have been strategic for the Dems to regroup and reconsider their future.  Misguided by a deeply embedded corruption that denied their own insulated version of reality, the DNC chose to pretend all was well in Camelot.

By election day 2016, the Russiagate fiasco was already in play and rather than consider the damage their own hysterical unsubstantiated allegations would inflict on the country, the Dem game plan was a train wreck waiting to happen.  In retrospect, one can only surmise that the DNC and its minions made a dangerously reckless choice to maintain their own power and position  rather than exhibit any devotion to the country.

Fast forward to the 2020 primary season with almost two dozen Presidential candidates as the DNC connived to steer the desired outcome by fabricating truly creative debate deceits to screw the democratic process and even some of its own candidates.

It doesn’t take a professional pollster to recognize that at this early stage of the campaign, those candidates with the highest name recognition are understandably leading with the highest polls; not because of any particular sterling qualities or spectacular policy pronouncements but because they are the most familiar, the more known quantity. The bias of the MSM playing favorites with establishment-oriented candidates is also an enormous factor in the race for name recognition.

The reputable McClatchy-Marist poll pulled out of the DNC’s 2016 Presidential debates out of concern that public polls are being misused to decide who will be in and who will be excluded’ and that “debate criteria assumes too much precision in polls.” What they are saying is that every poll has a statistical margin of error which makes any poll number speculative and/or  unreliable – but that’s exactly how the DNC plays the game.

Lee Miringhoff, Polling Director for Marist Institute issued his “Top Ten Reasons Why Polls should not be used to Determine Eligibility for Debates” including a range of inherent glitches since each pollster will use different methodology.  For instance, are potential voters ‘likely’ or ‘leaning’ or were they polled via a cell phone, a land line or a push button phone.   Most importantly, Miringhoff questioned the use of a national poll to determine a candidate’s eligibility instead of a statewide primary poll and that the early campaign is unduly influenced by those candidates with higher name recognition as well as whether the opinion of generational voters is being considered.

To be sure, the DNC knew exactly what they were doing to require only certain ‘approved’ polling data as mandatory for debate inclusion – thereby excluding a candidate like Gabbard who exceeded the 2% threshold in 26 national and early state polls with only two of them  on the DNC’s “certified” list.

As Bernie continues to challenge Biden and Warren, he has missed the stark reality that little has changed since 2016; to wit,  even if he goes into the 2020 convention with a significant block of pledged delegates, the smart money says that the DNC will use every trick in the book to block a first ballot Sanders nomination to prevail.  Once a second ballot is called, the DNC is home free as their super delegates once again bail out the shady villains of Capitol Hill from a catastrophe of their own making as together, they unhesitatingly ram through the preferred ‘celebrity’ candidate they wanted in the first place.

Clearly, Gabbard who scored big in the June and July debates had become a thorn to the DNC and just as they will find a way to delete Bernie, so will they also pull whatever strings at their disposal to deny Gabbard a legitimate place on stage.   But do not count the Aloha Girl out as she has a resilience and a stubbornness to find her way into the fourth debate.

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Renee Parsons has been a member of the ACLU’s Florida State Board of Directors and president of the ACLU Treasure Coast Chapter. She has been an elected public official in Colorado, an environmental lobbyist with Friends of the Earth and staff member of the US House of Representatives in Washington DC. She can be found on Twitter @reneedove31

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From the wetlands of California’s Tijuana Slough near San Diego to the lush Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in South Texas, the U.S.-Mexico borderlands are a haven for hundreds of rare and beautiful bird species. This is a birding mecca.

Huge swaths of the border are so spectacular that they’re protected by state, national, and international laws. Seven national wildlife refuges stretch from one end of the 2,000-mile border to the other, as well as dozens of state parks and wilderness areas, Big Bend National Park in Texas, and Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

More than 90 threatened and endangered species live in these richly biodiverse landscapes, crossing back and forth to feed, breed, and thrive. They include at least 16 species of birds, as well as jaguars, ocelots, and Mexican gray wolves.

Wildlife in peril

Border walls and militarization have taken a toll on animals in the borderlands for years. But President Trump’s obsession to build hundreds of miles of wall before the next election places the region and its wildlife in the crosshairs like never before.

Under previous administrations, most border-wall construction avoided protected landscapes. Waist-high vehicle barriers allowed wildlife to move back and forth across the border.

But under Trump, those vehicle barriers are being replaced with 30-foot-tall steel bollard walls next to barren, brightly lit “enforcement zones.” New wall construction is already under way on protected lands in Arizona and Texas that include some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the continent.

Over the past year, I’ve been documenting new border-wall construction in Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico ― and sharing the devastation on Twitter ― as part of my work with the Center for Biological Diversity. Trump’s wall is no longer just rhetoric; it’s happening now.

For birds and other wildlife, border walls could hasten their slide toward extinction.

In Arizona, walls are being built through Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, and construction is set to begin next month at Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife RefugeSan Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge, the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation AreaCoronado National Memorial, and numerous designated wilderness areas. Trump wants more than 100 miles of wall in Arizona alone.

In Texas, border-wall construction is imminent in the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, near Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, the National Butterfly CenterBentsen-Rio Grande State Park, and the historic La Lomita Chapel.

Despite Congressional protection for Santa Ana, signs of wall construction found

A Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo in a bander’s grip. The subspecies is listed as Threatened and stands to lose habitat to the wall. Photo by Mark Dettling/Point Blue Conservation Science

All along the border, Trump is speeding wall construction by waiving dozens of laws that protect clean air, clean water, public lands, and endangered wildlife. This includes critical laws like the Migratory Bird Treaty Act that protect birds and their habitat.

The Center and our allies have sued to challenge Trump’s February emergency declaration, an end-run around Congress to swipe billions of dollars in military and other funds for border wall construction. The Center also has sued Trump to challenge border-wall construction in California, New Mexico, and Texas. The Center’s first border-related lawsuit― filed in 2017 in U.S. District Court in Tucson with U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva ― seeks to require the Trump administration to do a detailed analysis of the environmental impacts of its border-enforcement program. Other conservation and human rights groups, and 20 state attorneys general, have sued to stop Trump’s border wall.

These enormous barriers block wildlife migration and destroy and fragment habitat. Some birds will be able to fly over the taller walls, but many can’t or won’t. Wall construction includes the bulldozing of huge swaths of habitat, turning protected land into dead zones where birds, butterflies, and bees have no place to land.

This will prevent them from finding food, breeding and migrating ―all essential to their survival.

Blasted with flood lighting, staked with sensors

Thousands of acres of habitat will be cleared for a 150-foot-wide “enforcement zone” running along each mile of border wall. This barren area will be blasted with 24-hour flood lighting, staked with sensors, and paved with a high-speed patrol road. For each mile of wall, an estimated 20 acres of habitat will be bulldozed for the enforcement zone alone.

In the Arizona desert, wall construction will suck up tens of millions of gallons of precious groundwater, diminishing flow to springs and seeps critical to the survival of birds and other wildlife.

Birds also collide with the wall itself, as well as the surveillance towers and light structures built along the border.

Simply put, Trump’s wall is a disaster for wildlife. The stunning birds that live across the borderlands demand and deserve our protection.

Here’s a look at birds and wildlife habitat at stake in the four border states:

Arizona

Thirty-foot-high walls in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument will block movement of Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy-Owls, cutting off populations in Mexico from those in the United States. Biologists say the border wall will impede the path of the rare, low-flying birds and threaten their recovery in Arizona and Mexico.

Organ Pipe was designated in 1976 as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, an effort to foster conservation and study the world’s most pristine intact Sonoran Desert ecosystem.

Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge is home to endangered Sonoran pronghorns and lesser long-nosed bats, as well as more than 200 species of birds, including roadrunners, Elf Owls, and Vermilion Flycatchers. Organ Pipe and Cabeza Prieta compose the Sonoran Desert Borderlands Important Bird Area.

More than 30 miles of walls under construction near Yuma will block people and wildlife from accessing the Lower Colorado River and harm habitat for the endangered Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher and Yuma Ridgway’s Rail.

Texas

Border walls through the Rio Grande Valley will damage one of the world’s top birding regions, home to more than 400 species of birds and a dwindling number of endangered ocelots.

Huge swaths of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refugewill be destroyed by Trump’s wall. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service describes the refuge as “one of the most biodiverse regions in North America.”

In a region where 95 percent of native habitat has been lost to development, the natural corridor along the Rio Grande River is the last ribbon of green for wildlife. The wall here will slice this tiny ribbon in two.

Among the rare and beautiful birds at risk are Aplomado Falcon and Piping Plover. The area is also within historic jaguar habitat.

New Mexico

Earlier this year, the Trump administration built 20 miles of new bollard walls through the remote Chihuahuan Desert. Another 46 miles are under construction.

The new wall will sever a known migratory corridor for Mexican gray wolves, among the rarest mammals on the continent. The area west of El Paso is also home to some of the last U.S. breeding grounds for endangered Aplomado Falcon, as well as kit foxes, bighorn sheep, and ringtails.

California

Recent border-wall construction in coastal San Diego County replaced barriers near wetlands, streams, and critical habitat for numerous endangered species, including the Quino checkerspot butterfly and Coastal California Gnatcatcher. The area includes the Tijuana Slough and San Diego National Wildlife Refuges, which host rare birds including Western Snowy Plover, Ridgway’s Rail, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, and endangered Least Bell’s Vireo.

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Laiken Jordahl works at the Center for Biological Diversity, focused on protecting wildlife, ecosystems and communities throughout the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. The Arizona-based Center filed lawsuits challenging border wall waivers in Texas, New Mexico, and California.

Featured image: A border wall in New Mexico with a wide cleared roadway alongside it. Photo by Russ McSpadden (Creative Commons)

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The Gwich’in nation vowed to protect sacred lands today after the Bureau of Land Management released a Final Environmental Impact Statement promoting oil & gas exploitation in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge located in northeastern Alaska, It is the largest national wildlife refuge in the US. 

The document is the result of a hasty, flawed, inadequate, and secretive review process that disregarded concerns about sacred land, human rights, traditional knowledge, and the impacts of climate change.

“There is nothing final about this EIS process except that it demonstrates that this administration and the Alaska delegation will disregard our way of life, our food, and our relationship with the land, the caribou, and future generations to pander to industry greed,” said Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee. “This document disrespects the Gwich’in Nation and all people in the Arctic and world who suffer the impacts of climate change and nonstop exploitation, while formally scratching the backs of those who seek to desecrate land and dishonor human rights to fill their pockets.”

BLM will need to wait at least 30 days to release a final Record of Decision, at which point it may attempt to hold a lease sale this year.

The Trump administration’s unlawful plan promotes the most aggressive violation of the entire coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge. The effort began when legislators furtively hid a drill bill into the 2017 Tax Bill, despite the majority of Americans wanting to protect the Arctic Refuge.

The process has lacked legitimacy ever since, with rushed public comment periods, unreliable economic assumptions, the omission of science, the withholding of public information, and a nonstop barrage of public officials with industry lobby ties that run deep.

“In no case may a people be deprived of their own means of subsistence.” International Covenants on Human Rights.

Throughout the environmental review process, the agency has sidelined the testimony and traditional knowledge of the Gwich’in of Alaska and Canada, who have shown that oil and gas drilling on the coastal plain would disrupt the calving and nursery grounds for the caribou herd.

“This shameful process has been brutal for us and our communities,” said Demientieff, “but we have the strength of our ancestors behind us, and the knowledge and power of elders who have guided us in protecting the Porcupine caribou herd and the sacred coastal plain. The Gwich’in are protectors, and we will not give up.”

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Syrian families held captive by Trump Regime Forces and their ISIS affiliates of Maghaweer Thawra terrorists at al-Rukban Concentration Camp went out of their tents in the high heat of the desert to protest for food the day before yesterday, 11th of September, they were faced with live bullets by the US occupation forces.

Russian Coordination Center called on the US occupation forces in Rukban Concentration Camp to exert pressure on US-sponsored Maghaweer Thawra terrorists to stop their terrorist acts against the displaced Syrians held in the camp, these terrorist acts have exacerbated the already dire humanitarian situation of the families there.

A statement by the head of the Russian Coordination Center Major General Alexei Bakin stated: ‘We urge the US command in Al-Tanf area to exert pressure on the terrorist groups under its influence to secure the safety of the refugees at Rukban, and to distribute evenly the humanitarian aid, and to arrange for the swift evacuation of the displaced who are still in the camp.’

SARC Humanitarian aid delivery

Rukban Concentration Camp – Catastrophic Conditions for Displaced Syrian Families under US Occupation

Rukban Concentration Camp for Syrian Displaced Refugees

Suffering of Displaced Syrians in the Rukban Concentration Camp

The Russian military official pointed out that ‘the Syrian state in cooperation with Russia and the United Nations continue to make every effort to resolve the humanitarian crisis in the camp Rukban, which is witnessing a situation is greatly complicated by the practices of terrorist groups supported by the US occupation forces.’

Major General Bakin added: ‘according to information received from the residents of Rukban camp, these terrorist groups forcibly seized a large part of the humanitarian aid that was delivered to the camp in the previous days by the representatives of the United Nations and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.’

The terrorists have stolen the aid and stored it in one of its headquarters in Al-Tanf area.

The Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) in cooperation with the United Nations on the eighth of this month, managed to deliver a humanitarian convoy to the US-IS styled Rukban Concentration Camp. The camp is located in Al-Tanf area at the farthest southeast of Syria deep in the desert. The aid consisted of 22 trucks loaded with food relief materials including 3,100 food baskets, 3,100 bags of flour of 50 kg each, high-energy of dates biscuits and peanut butter.

Syria has constantly condemned and called on the United Nations to pressure the US occupying forces in Syria to leave the country voluntarily where it is acting as a destabilizing force violating Syria’s sovereignty establishing camps within Syrian territories against international law, against the UN charter which the US should honor and protect being a permanent member of the UNSC not to be the one breaching it. The Syrian state has relentlessly and repeatedly called on the US forces to free the civilians in the concentration camps of Rukban and Al-Houl it runs in southeast and northeast of the country respectively.

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Common Pesticide Makes Migrating Birds Anorexic

September 16th, 2019 by Elizabeth Pennisi

When birds migrate, timing is everything. Fly too late, and they miss the peak season for finding good food, a good mate, or a good nest site. But that’s just what may happen to migrants unlucky enough to eat pesticide-laced seeds, new research shows. Toxicologists studying white-crowned sparrows have shown that these large, grayish sparrows become anorexic after eating neonicotinoid pesticides, causing them to lose weight and delay their southward journeys. The study might apply to other birds as well—and help explain the dramatic songbird decline of recent decades, researchers say.

Neonicotinoids are the world’s most widely used class of pesticide. They protect seeds—and the plants that grow from them—from insects resistant to other pesticides. But scientists have recently found that they can decimate pollinators like honey bees and bumble bees. Such concerns led the European Union to ban three of these compounds in 2018.

Laboratory studies have shown that neonicotinoids sicken and disorient captive birds, but no data existed on how they affect wild birds, who often swoop into fields to nosh on pesticide-laced seeds. Wondering whether pesticide exposure might explain a massive recent decline in farmland bird species, Margaret Eng, an ecotoxicologist at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada, and her colleagues got to work.

The researchers caught dozens of white-crowned sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys) in southern Ontario province in Canada as the birds migrated from the Arctic to the southern United States. They kept the birds in cages with food and water for 6 hours. About a dozen received low doses of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid—equivalent to what they might ingest had they eaten several seeds from a recently planted field. Another dozen got a lower dose of the pesticide, and control birds received the same handling but no pesticide. After 6 hours, Eng put a tiny radio transmitter on each bird’s back and released it into a 100,000-square-kilometer site in Ontario, where 93 regularly spaced radio towers track tagged animals.

Within hours, birds with the highest pesticide dose lost an average of 6% of their body weight and about 17% of their fat stores, which are key to fueling long flights, Eng and colleagues report today in Science. Over the course of those 6 hours, the birds given pesticides stopped eating, taking in about one-third the food that untreated birds ate, they note.

Nor did the birds recover quickly when released. Half of the high-dose birds stuck around Ontario an extra 3.5 days or longer. “It’s just a few days, but we know that just a few days can have significant consequences for survival and reproduction,” Eng explains. She thinks the birds needed that extra time to get the pesticide out of their systems, start to eat again, and regain their lost fat.

The paper provides “a compelling set of observations” that shows how even low doses of neonicotinoids can affect bird survival and reproduction, says Mark Jankowski, a toxicologist at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul who was not involved with the work. These effects could help explain declines in sparrow populations—and may apply to other birds, says Caspar Hallmann, an ecologist at Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. But more work would be needed to prove that, Jankowski adds.

Few researchers think the United States or Canada will have the political will to ban neonicotinoids despite the harms, because they are so protective for plants. But there are workarounds, says Nicole Michel, a population biologist with the National Audubon Society’s Conservation Science Division in Portland, Oregon. For example, rather than treat all seeds before they are planted, farmers could save money and reduce birds’ exposure by applying the pesticide to plants only after an insect outbreak occurs. Jankowski says researchers could also explore other methods to reduce birds’ exposure, including coming up with better ways to bury seeds—and remove those that spill—during planting.

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Elizabeth Pennisi is a senior correspondent covering many aspects of biology for Science.

Featured image: White-crowned sparrows stop eating after they ingest small amounts of neonicotinoid pesticides. (MARGARET ENG)

In November 2018, Detroit-based General Motors dealt a staggering blow to 2,700 Canadian workers when it announced plans leading to the closure of a key automotive assembly plant in Oshawa, Ontario. In its heyday decades earlier, GM Oshawa had been the largest auto complex in North America and had employed twenty-three thousand workers. But those numbers had been steadily reduced over the years, and now it was to be shut down – along with several GM plants in the United States – as part of the ongoing move by the automaker to relocate ever more of its production to low-wage Mexico.

Unifor, the union representing Canadian auto workers, protested vehemently and focused on trying to negotiate a less draconian deal with GM in order to save at least some of the jobs. Meanwhile, the Trudeau government in Ottawa and the Ford government in Toronto signalled their willingness to accept the closure of the plant without a fight.

One veteran of the auto industry calling for a more robust response from government has been Sam Gindin, who served from 1974 to 2000 as research director of the Canadian Auto Workers (Unifor’s predecessor). Now an adjunct professor at York University, Gindin argues that giving up on Oshawa amounts to a “disheartening failure of [the] imagination.” Instead, he suggests serious consideration be given to expropriating the GM Oshawa plant and turning it into a publicly owned facility that would produce some of the vast array of products that will be needed in the transition to green energy: wind turbines, solar panels, energy-saving lighting, motors, appliances, and electric vehicles.

Transitioning to Green Energy

A fleet of electric utility vehicles seems the most obvious alternative for the Oshawa assembly plant, he notes.

“Public vehicles will inevitably have to be electrified or run on renewable energy resources, and this means a growing market for electric post office vans for mail and package delivery (as suggested by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers), hydro vehicles doing maintenance and repair work, mini-buses to supplement public transit … electrified vehicles in agriculture, mining and construction.”

Gindin points out that much of the needed equipment and skills for such an ambitious “green production” project already exist in the Oshawa complex; additional high-tech expertise could be pulled in from the Waterloo computer corridor, as well as Canada’s experienced engineering, aerospace, and construction firms.

Of course, Gindin’s idea for producing public utility vehicles would require co-operation from the federal and provincial governments, and it is hard to imagine such co-operation from our current political leaders. And business leaders would no doubt dismiss the notion that the public sector could handle something as complicated as vehicle manufacturing.

In fact, as we’ve seen, Canadian public enterprise has an impressive history and has made its mark in fields that are at least as complicated as vehicle manufacturing. The creation of a public hydroelectric power system in Ontario – and later in other provinces – was a stunning achievement that served as a model for US president Franklin D. Roosevelt when he created highly successful public power systems, including the New York Power Authority, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Rural Electrification Administration, and the Bonneville Power Administration. There was also Connaught Labs, the publicly owned Canadian drug company, which made remarkable contributions to the development of breakthrough vaccines and treatments for a wide range of deadly diseases. And the publicly owned CNR exhibited innovative business skills in creating a viable national rail network out of five bankrupt railway lines and in establishing, during the pioneering days of radio, a cross-country string of radio stations, which became the basis of the nationwide CBC broadcasting network.

And, as we’ve seen, some of Canada’s most impressive public enterprises were created during the Second World War, when twenty-eight Crown corporations contributed enormously to Canada’s war effort, manufacturing airplanes, weapons, and communications equipment. Crown corporation Victory Aircraft provided the foundation for the postwar Canadian subsidiary that developed the Avro Arrow, a state-of-the-art military fighter plane (discontinued by the Diefenbaker government for political, not technological, reasons). And Crown corporation Research Enterprises, teaming up during the war with Ottawa’s National Research Council, produced highly innovative optical and communications equipment, including radar devices, binoculars, and radio sets – equipment with countless applications that could have been successfully developed for the postwar market if our political leaders hadn’t succumbed to the notion that government shouldn’t be involved in producing such things.

The rationale that the wartime emergency made government ownership acceptable could be resurrected today – with the substitution of the climate emergency. The possibility of producing electric utility vehicles at a nationalized GM Canada plant, or at another location for that matter, would open up truly exciting possibilities if we can get beyond our kneejerk rejection of government entering the marketplace.

As Toronto Star business columnist David Olive observed, Canadians know a lot about building cars; we’ve been manufacturing them in southern Ontario for more than a hundred years. It started in Oshawa in the 1890s when Sam McLaughlin, along with his father and brother, established McLaughlin Carriage Works, which produced horsedrawn sleighs and carriages. By 1908, the McLaughlins were producing car bodies for Buick Motor Company in Flint, Michigan. In 1918, their company was purchased by General Motors and incorporated as General Motors of Canada, with Sam McLaughlin serving as president of GM Canada and vice-president of the US parent company.

GM, along with Ford and Chrysler, built a substantial auto industry in Ontario, particularly after Canada and the United States signed the 1965 Auto Pact, which provided automakers access to the Canadian market on the condition that they locate a specified amount of their production here. Effectively, the pact required that, for every vehicle sold in Canada, one had to be produced here. This “domestic content requirement” worked extremely well for Canada, leading to the creation of hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs in Canadian auto production and spinoff industries.

Free Trade

In 1988, Brian Mulroney signed the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement (later adding Mexico in NAFTA), which eliminated most of the force of these domestic content requirements. The Auto Pact continued to formally exist until 2001 (when it was overruled by the World Trade Organization). But as soon as the ink was dry on NAFTA, the auto companies began planning their migration to Mexico. In 2019, GM is expected to produce one million vehicles in Mexico, while GM’s Canadian production, with the closing of the Oshawa plant, is expected to fall to just two hundred thousand vehicles – about half of what it was producing here a decade ago.

Yet, even as GM has drastically cut its Canadian operations, Canadian taxpayers have contributed generously to keeping the company alive. When the 2008 financial crisis pushed the US automaker into bankruptcy, the Canadian and Ontario governments provided financial assistance worth more than ten billion dollars (including a 10 percent ownership stake in the company) as part of the joint US-Canada financial rescue of GM.

Jim Stanford, former economist for Unifor, argues that the ownership stake gave Ottawa some real clout in dealing with GM. He points out that Ottawa could have held on to that stake and used it as leverage to pressure the company in the future to maintain production and jobs in Canada. This has worked elsewhere. France’s 15 percent interest in Renault and a German public ownership stake in Volkswagen have helped ensure that Renault and Volkswagen maintain high employment levels in France and Germany, Stanford says.

But the Harper government, with its strong ideological resistance to public ownership, made clear that it intended to be a purely passive investor in GM and that it would sell its stake as soon as possible. By 2015, the Harper government had sold off the last of Canada’s shares, over the strenuous objections of Unifor.

This was a tremendous missed opportunity. Stanford recalls how much clout Canada had had when the rescue package was negotiated. He was in meetings where “the CEO of GM was basically on his knees begging for help from an assistant deputy minister of industry in Ottawa. That’s not what normally happens.” As part of the rescue package, Canada insisted that GM agree to maintain its Canadian production at the existing level of 16 percent of the company’s overall production. That production requirement – reminiscent of the Auto Pact – was good, Stanford says, except that the Canadian negotiators allowed it to expire by 2017.

So, in 2018, after the expiry of the production requirement and with no remaining Canadian government ownership stake in the company, GM felt free to shut down its major Canadian plant in Oshawa and move those jobs to Mexico, which is exactly what it did. Given the Harper government’s failure to take advantage of the clout we had with GM, we have been left with a dwindling, uncertain presence in a once-booming Canadian industry.

It’s striking to think that we were veterans of the auto manufacturing industry by the 1960s, when Honda was just beginning its transition in Japan from making motorcycles to making cars. While Honda has gone on to produce some of the world’s most popular cars, Canada is facing the end of auto making in Oshawa, amid fears about which of our remaining auto plants will be closed next.

Is it feasible to save the once-vibrant Oshawa complex and transform it into a publicly owned plant producing environmentally essential products, as part of a Green New Deal? Gindin notes that, during the Second World War, GM facilities were converted to produce military vehicles. And he suggests that the Oshawa plant be expropriated today without compensation, since Canadian taxpayers have already provided generous subsidies to GM. While he acknowledges that his plan is a long shot, he adds, “It seems criminal not to at least try.”

Bold, Out-of-the-Box Thinking

What is needed is some bold, out-of-the-box thinking – a willingness to consider innovation that is not just Wall-Street-designed, self-enriching financial innovation, but untapped made-in-Canada innovation aimed at building something the world needs. Given the fact that Canada’s historic auto-making centre is about to be shut down, we should at least give serious consideration to the possibility of creating a publicly owned company that could potentially start a transformative industry here. If that idea is ultimately rejected, the rejection should be based on something more than the notion that such a project is too ambitious for public enterprise and is best left to the private sector.

In truth, the very ambitiousness of the project seems to call out for public enterprise. For most of our history we’ve been mere “hewers of wood and drawers of water” and operators of branch plants. When we’ve risen above that, it’s usually been because we’ve created public enterprises that served a broader public purpose than what private interests were offering. We became the country we are today in part because, at key moments in our past, some visionary figures had bold, ambitious ideas of what was possible and weren’t deterred by the admonitions of the business elite.

Would Adam Beck have backed off from creating a public power system for Ontario, thinking that he couldn’t possibly match the skill set of those in business? Would Henry Thornton have decided not to transform bankrupt railway lines into the profitable, publicly owned Canadian National Railways on the grounds that railways belong exclusively in the hands of private, profiteering monopolists? Would Dr. John G. FitzGerald have decided not to take great personal risks experimenting in a makeshift lab in a horse barn, considering it better to leave the production of affordable, lifesaving medical treatments to the business world?

There may be a good reason not to turn the Oshawa plant into a green production facility, but let’s not succumb to the ill-informed notion that Canadians aren’t up to the task or that we don’t know how to do public enterprise in this country.

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This article is an excerpt from Linda’s latest book The Sport and Prey of Capitalists.

Linda McQuaig is a journalist, and author of several bestsellers including The Sport and Prey of Capitalists. You can follow her tweets at @LindaMcQuaig.

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The Cost of Wanting to Tell the Truth: Global Research Needs Your Support

September 16th, 2019 by The Global Research Team

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Over the past year, largely due to changes in how information is distributed online, our finances have been hit hard. We currently run a monthly deficit: we cannot cover our monthly costs. In what effectively amounts to online censorship directed against the Independent media, Global Research has been “penalized” for wanting to “Tell the Truth”. 

This year, we have been rallying all the help we can get in a campaign to turn things around and get us back on track. We are a small team largely dependent on the support of our readers, doing everything we can to take this platform forward. If you look to Global Research as a resource and value the articles we deliver, free of charge, we ask you to join us in this campaign: protect the future of independent media by making a donation or taking out a membership with us now!

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Greetings delegates and organizers.  My name is Mark Taliano. I am a writer and Research Associate at the Center For Research on Globalization (Global Research).

My book, Voices from Syria, and my website marktaliano.net represent my efforts to take a stand for civilization and the rule of international law against the barbarity that NATO and its allies have been imposing on Syria and its peoples.

I have not stood idly by and I will not stand idly by as Western governments and their agencies indoctrinate the Western collective mindset with criminal war propaganda.

Our resistance demands cohesiveness, a shared, truthful vocabulary that distinguishes us from the lies of the broad-based media. Our words are words of truth and justice, and clarity. Our words are not  isolated soundbites, fabricated to deceive. Our words are embedded in historical truths, historical contexts.

The globalizing war that the West is waging is not a War on Terror.  It is a War Of Terror. The West and its agencies support the terrorists in Syria. This is the truth.

The pre-planned NATO war of aggression against Syria is not a “civil war”. The term “civil war” connotes a false equivalency between both sides, an internal conflict. It is a war lie.

The Western -supported terrorists are chameleons with many names, and they include al Qaeda and ISIS. The Syrian people overwhelmingly reject them. The West supports ISIS and all the terrorists.  It is not going after ISIS. The “Caliphate Project” is a CIA Project.

The elected Syrian government is legitimate.  It is not a regime. The terrorists are the brutal dictators. Our governments are the brutal dictators.  President Assad and the Syrian government are not.

Similarly, the notion that the war is a “revolution” is a lie. Western-supported terrorists displaced peaceful demonstrations, murdered government security personnel and others. It was an “intelligence” operation. Weapons and terrorists came from Libya and beyond.

It was never an “intervention”. Intervention is a sanitized word that camouflages the anti-humanitarian reality which is that Empire and its proxies mass murder children, women, and men. Empire’s sectarian terrorists mass murder Syrians, Empire’s bombs mass murder Syrians, and Empire’s economic warfare mass murders Syrians. The intent is there. Have we forgotten Madeline Albright and the mass murdering economic warfare imposed on Iraq? “We think the price is worth it,” she said.

The so-called ”sanctions” that the West is imposing on Syria are criminal economic warfare. This warfare murders children, women and men.  Again, the intent is there.

Even the term “proxy war” is misleading. There is no equivalency between the warring sides. Syria and its allies are fighting a just war, self-defense, all within the framework of international law. The other side consists of al Qaeda, ISIS, anti-democratic SDF, criminal occupiers. NATO and its allies command and control them all. There is no equivalency.

“Moderate” terrorists never existed. Think about that one. It’s true.

When we use the same truthful nomenclature/word choice, just as mainstream media uses the same lying nomenclature, the people’s resistance becomes a more powerful humanitarian intervention. It is a  reality-based “intervention” that supports rather than destroys humanity.

I join with my colleagues here in a unified resistance against imperialism in all its forms, against colonialism, and against Zionism.

Thank you.

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Mark Taliano is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG) and the author of Voices from Syria, Global Research Publishers, 2017. Visit the author’s website at https://www.marktaliano.net.

Featured image is from the author


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Why Is Julian Assange Being Tortured to Death?

September 16th, 2019 by Karen Kwiatkowski

I think we already know the answer.  We need to go further and try and understand what this partially veiled, but completely serious, US and UK destruction of a modern journalist means for all of us.

Assange is an advocate for whistleblowers, a promoter of information access and information security for everyone, not just governments and major government-connected corporations.  He, with the help of information security specialists, codewriters, truthtellers and witnesses around the world, received and published material that embarrassed and exposed a number of powerful organizations, including the US government and its many cronies and beneficiaries.

Why is he being tortured to death?  Why is he still being subjected to new and experimental variants of BZ fresh from Porton Down, and deprived, not only of friends, relatives, and unsupervised access to his legal team, but to food and basic care?

The short answer is that he is being held on behalf of the United States and he is being chemically and physically interrogated in Belmarsh (the British Gitmo) in order to reveal his private cryptographic keys, and the names and cryptographic information relating to others within the Wikileaks information network.  The arrest of Ola Bini in April with new charges filed last month, and the re-arrest and incarceration of Chelsea Manning, speak to part of the effort to find the anonymous leakers of information from the NSA vaults, specifically their hacking tools cache leaked in 2016.  This is generally indicated but not completely put forth in the US indictment.

It is fascinating that the plea deals of two recent NSA “spies” – government employees who took home and “hoarded” vast quantities of NSA material were remarkably mild, when compared to what Julian Assange is going through, and how Bini and Manning have been and are being treated.

A Mr. Pho, a 67 year old who worked as a developer for NSA’s Tailored Access Operations, pled guilty to one count of willful removal of defense information, and was free on bail prior to his sentencing in early 2018 to 66 months.  The NSA bit-hoarder extraordinaire, Harold Martin, recently was sentenced to nine years, for his “crimes against the state.”  Even Reality Winner, who was tried under the Espionage Act and did not plea out, received a relatively light sentence, to be completed in a prison close to her home with promises that she can be treated for bulimia.  John Kiriakou did little more than reveal what the whole country already knew about torture conducted by the CIA, and he was sentenced to 30 months of prison.

The best practice in the US, in case you are interested in this line of work, is to cop a plea.  Otherwise, best you be a flag officer who swore to uphold the Constitution (like Petraeus or Clapper) or an elite politician like Hillary.  Barring that, be sure you are tried publicly on weak charges, and perhaps you will avoid chemical interrogation, physical and mental torture, and indefinite detention by the US government and its lackeys.  Otherwise, like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, one needs the protection of a powerful non-US government to fend off US death squads.  Edward has that from Russia, and Julian had that from Ecuador, but it came with a price – and no price is too high for the US taxpayer when it comes to the security of the USG.

In the case of Assange, while no damage was done to the world or to human life, the US Government experienced significant embarrassment through the release of USG hacking tools by the Shadow Brokers hacking group.  Those tiered releases indicate what the NSA and other parts of the US Government (and their Five Eyes allies) were and are capable of doing, and are doing, to all of us.  The 2016 retroactive legalization of UK surveillance of its citizens indicates the scope and the concern of existing governments that are engaged in self-preservation in difficult times.  The updated USA Freedom Act of the same time frame reveals much the same concerns by the US state.

The Shadow Brokers revelations also suggest that another Snowden caliber leak may exist within the NSA.  Thanks to Assange, Snowden and others, the NSA feels almost as technologically transparent and vulnerable as the average American.  This must not stand!

Because this must not stand, Assange and those who may have worked with him will be interrogated with the full capability of the state (physical, mental and chemical torture).  They will not be tried, represented or defended in a public court, and as noted here for Assange, they will never be released regardless of what is discovered through various interrogations.

Whether or not a mole, or moles, remain inside the vast US Intelligence conglomerate is, at this point, irrelevant.  One or more must and will be found, and as part of that search, many people – to be found among traditional or non-traditional 21st century journalists, aggregators, bloggers, communicators, tweeters or researchers and the vast population of government employees and contractors – must be destroyed.

As with the convoluted intelligence bureaucracies of East Germany, the Soviet Union, Iran under the Shah, and a long list throughout human history, once the disease of government secrecy and hidden crime metastasizes, there is no resolution but death, destruction and eventual collapse of the system, and a slow, painful and inconsistent recovery of human society.

On the other hand, there will be no slow painful recovery for Julian Assange.  He has been reduced to the mental capacity of a drug-addled rubberhead, and some of these effects will be found to be permanent.  Physically he is reported to be underweight (under 100 pounds) with food and water being used as bargaining chips in his continued interrogation.  Ironically, even the prisoners at Gitmo, as part of the tender care by the USG, were force-fed when they tried to starve themselves to death.  Julian’s government caretakers are using food and water to break him completely.

Is there any good news?  NPR’s Terri Gross presented an interesting historical perspective on CIA drug experimentation just last week.  Well worth a listen, as all change is but evolution.  Interestingly, as with the end of Sidney Gottlieb’s employment, if the sponsor of evil within a government is removed, sometimes their entire cadre is cleared out.  More often than not, illustrating Robert Higgs’ “ratcheting effect”, it is simply relocated elsewhere in the government, or even expanded among several agencies.

Modern day government power is fundamentally related to its “believability.”  This believability, this trustworthiness, is teetering everywhere – in part to the valiant work of honest people everywhere – and make no mistake, we are indeed everywhere.  The hopeless and evil persecution of Julian Assange signals just such a believability crisis.  When a building, or an institution, begins to crumble, there are many urgent jobs to do to save lives and ensure a happier future.  Find one of them and start doing it.

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Karen Kwiatkowski, Ph.D., a retired USAF lieutenant colonel, farmer and aspiring anarcho-capitalist. She ran for Congress in Virginia’s 6th district in 2012.

At the start of the 2000s, Suzuki Muneo was one of the most prominent politicians in Japan. Elected to the House of Representatives for the first time in 1983, Suzuki eventually served eight terms. He became a powerful figure in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and was appointed head of the Hokkaidō and Okinawa Development agencies in 1997. He also became deputy chief cabinet secretary in the government of Obuchi Keizō in 1998. However, while these are senior positions, Suzuki’s real power was unofficial. Exercising extraordinary influence over the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) that often exceeded that of the foreign minister, Suzuki established himself as a key figure in Japanese foreign policy, especially with regard to Russia.

Above all, in advance of the Irkutsk summit between President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Mori Yoshirō in March 2001, Suzuki, in close cooperation with certain Japanese diplomats, pioneered what they regarded as a more realistic means of resolving the longstanding dispute over the Russian-held Southern Kuril Islands, which are claimed by Japan as the Northern Territories. Suzuki’s strategy entailed discontinuing Japan’s hitherto insistence on Russia’s simultaneous recognition of Japanese sovereignty over all four of the disputed islands.1 Instead, Suzuki promoted a phased approach that would see the transfer of the two smaller islands of Shikotan and Habomai, followed by continued negotiations over the status of the larger islands of Iturup and Kunashir, which are known as Etorofu and Kunashiri in Japanese. This initiative proved highly controversial since critics, including within MOFA, feared that it effectively meant abandoning Japan’s claim to all four islands. Ultimately, after bitter infighting within Japan’s foreign-policy elite, the policy was rejected in favour of a more conventional four-island approach after Koizumi Jun’ichirō replaced Mori as prime minister in April 2001. Suzuki was therefore left to lament what he saw as a missed opportunity, claiming that “The return of the Northern Territories was before our eyes.” (2012: 197).

Map of the disputed islands (CartoGIS, College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University)

Having reached the peak of his power, Suzuki’s fall was precipitous. In February 2002, in a meeting of the Budget Committee of the lower house, Sasaki Kenshō of the Japanese Communist Party accused Suzuki of misusing government funds that had been allocated for the Northern Territories. This marked the start of an escalating series of corruption allegations, which led to Suzuki’s resignation from the LDP in March and his arrest in June. In 2004, after spending 437 days in pretrial detention, Suzuki was found guilty by the Tokyo District Court on two counts of accepting bribes, one count of perjury during testimony before the Budget Committee, and one count of violating the Political Funds Control Law for concealing donations (Carlson and Reed 2018: 71-2). After his appeal was rejected and his conviction upheld by the Supreme Court in 2010, Suzuki was sent to prison for a period of two years, though he was released on parole after 12 months. He was also barred from political office until 2017. Adding to his troubles, Suzuki was diagnosed with cancer in 2003, resulting in the removal of two thirds of his stomach. He was also treated for cancer of the oesophagus in 2010.

Such developments would be expected to terminate any political career, yet Suzuki has proved remarkably resilient and has succeeded in restoring much of his former influence. Most striking is that, since December 2015, Suzuki has met regularly with Prime Minister Abe Shinzō, becoming one of his leading advisors on Japan’s Russia policy (Suzuki 2018: 28-9). In particular, Abe regularly consults with Suzuki ahead of meetings with President Putin. For instance, in advance of Abe’s talks with Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Ōsaka on 29 June 2019, Suzuki met Abe twice, on 5 June and 26 June. Not coincidentally, Abe’s Russia policy has come to bear many of the hallmarks of the approach pioneered by Suzuki during the early 2000s. This includes moving away from the demand that Russia recognise Japan’s right to sovereignty over all four of the disputed islands, and the placement of emphasis instead on conducting joint economic projects on the contested territory. In other words, after a gap of almost 20 years, Suzuki’s policy from 2001, which came to be known as the “two-plus-alpha” formula, is back as the focal point of Japan’s Russia policy.

Furthermore, Suzuki presents himself as an unofficial envoy to Russia. He visited Moscow in April 2019, where he met chairman of the Federation Council’s Committee on International Affairs Konstantin Kosachev. During the visit, Suzuki announced (accurately) that the countries’ “2+2” meeting between the defence and foreign ministers would take place before the end of May, something that the foreign ministries had yet to confirm (Nikkei 2019). Additionally, there are signs that Suzuki is again active behind the scenes. For example, when Diet member Maruyama Hodaka disgraced himself during a visa-free visit to the disputed island of Kunashir in May 2019 by drunkenly raising the prospect of Japan seizing the disputed islands by force, the Russian ambassador Mikhail Galuzin phoned Suzuki to ask how Maruyama’s behaviour should be interpreted (Satō 2019).2 In Suzuki’s own words, “My role is to create an atmosphere in which the prime minister can confidently conduct negotiations. Supporting from behind is fine for me.” (Tanewata 2019).

After his initial conviction, Suzuki formed Shintō Daichi and was re-elected to the lower house as the party’s sole representative in the elections of September 2005. However, despite remaining head of his own party, Suzuki has maintained ties with the LDP. This bond was strengthened when Suzuki’s daughter, Takako, joined the LDP in September 2017 and was elected to the lower house in the October election.3 Despite her brief tenure in the party and her relative youth (she was born in 1986), Suzuki Takako was appointed parliamentary vice minister of defence in October 2018. There is little doubt that this promotion owed much to her father’s close ties with Prime Minister Abe. Moreover, despite supposedly representing different parties, Suzuki Muneo and Takako continued to hold joint events that were attended by LDP grandees. For example, on 1 June 2019 they held a joint fundraising event in Sapporo that was attended by Minister for Economic Revitalisation Motegi Toshimitsu, as well as chair of the LDP’s General Council Katō Katsunobu (Hokkaidō Shinbun 2019b). This is further evidence of Suzuki’s closeness to governing circles.

Not everything, however, has been going in Suzuki’s favour. On 20 March 2019, the Tokyo District Court dismissed his application for a retrial to overturn his criminal conviction and thereby clear his name (Sankei Shinbun 2019a). Additionally, his cancer of the oesophagus returned and he underwent surgery on 27 May. Undeterred by these setbacks, Suzuki ran in the upper-house elections on 21 July as a candidate for Nippon Ishin no Kai, a conservative party based in Ōsaka that is ideologically close to the LDP. Participating in the proportional section of the vote, Suzuki was successfully elected, thereby completing his remarkable journey from prison cell to the floor of the House of Councillors.

It is not unusual for Japanese politicians to bounce back from corruption scandals, yet the scale of Suzuki Muneo’s revival is exceptional. Unlike most other politicians who face allegations of illegal activity, Suzuki was actually sent to prison and banned from public office for five years. Furthermore, at the time of his prosecution, he was widely vilified by the Japanese media in what was described as “Suzuki-bashing” (Togo 2011: 139). Yet, despite this destruction of his public image in the early 2000s, Suzuki has managed, not only to return to national politics, but to regain significant leverage over government policy. He also enjoys a degree of access to the prime minister that is extraordinary for a convicted criminal who is neither a member of the ruling party nor (until July 2019) a member of parliament.

The purpose of this article is to analyse how it has been possible for Suzuki Muneo to first establish, and then reestablish, such political influence. It will also examine his impact on Japan-Russia relations. In so doing, the aim is to gain new insight into this remarkable politician, but also to understand what Suzuki’s case says about Japanese politics more broadly.

The emergence of Suzuki Muneo

Japanese politics has a strong hereditary streak and many politicians owe their initial success to famous political forebears. However, this is not the case with Suzuki Muneo. Suzuki was born in January 1948 in Ashoro, eastern Hokkaidō. As he recounts in one of his many books, his family was not especially poor but nor were they ever really comfortable. Both parents worked long hours on their farm and, as a child, Suzuki himself often had to help out with the livestock and in the fields (Suzuki 2012: 6-7). After completing high school, Suzuki was expected to take an administrative job in a coal mine and had to persuade his parents to support his dream of attending university instead. He was eventually accepted at Takushoku University (a private institution in Tokyo) and Suzuki tells the story of how his father had to sell the family’s best horse to afford the tuition (Suzuki 2012: 106). Tragically, one year later, when Suzuki was 19 years old, his father died of a brain haemorrhage. This deepened the family’s woes and Suzuki was only able to continue his studies thanks to the support of his mother and older brother.

This humble, rural upbringing forms a key part of Suzuki’s political identity.4 He claims that he was interested in politics from an early age and wrote in a junior high-school essay that it was his dream to become a politician. His political beliefs were further developed during a visit to Tokyo in the second year of high school. This school trip took place in 1964, just a month before the start of the Tokyo Olympics. Suzuki explains that he was impressed by the scale of the city, as well as by the number of tall buildings and the quality of the infrastructure. Most of all, he was shocked by the gap in living standards between the capital city and the Hokkaidō countryside. He says that this inspired him to enter politics so that he could work to bridge this divide (Suzuki 2012: 7).

Suzuki therefore presents himself as a man of the people, working to create a fairer society that serves the interests of ordinary citizens, especially those in rural areas. He is also a vocal opponent of neoliberalism, which he claims became influential in Japan as a result of the administration of Prime Minister Koizumi Jun’ichirō (2001-06). Suzuki fears that, due to the pursuit of privatisation and the freeing of market forces, Japan’s national unity and traditional values have been eroded and it has become a society in which “the weak are meat and the strong do eat” (Suzuki 2012: 9-10). Added to this, he is concerned about the lack of social mobility and warns that, if you are born into a poor family, you cannot get the education you need in order to get a good job (Suzuki 2012: 146). To remedy this, Suzuki argues for more government funding for regional revitalisation, including to maintain and develop road and rail networks in Hokkaidō. He also argues for a return to an “old Japan” in which people did more to support their community instead of only being concerned with themselves. To achieve this, he says it is essential for Japanese politicians to set a good moral example (Suzuki 2012: 135).

Lacking a privileged start in life, Suzuki had to work hard to establish himself in national politics. Indeed, Suzuki boasts of the “Suzuki Muneo style”, which is his strategy of working twice as hard as anyone else and emphasising face-to-face engagement with the voters (Suzuki 2012: 154). This approach was on display during the campaign for the July 2019 upper-house election. During just the first three days, Suzuki visited the most easterly, westerly, and northerly points of Japan, and by the end of the campaign he had travelled 21,171 km (Suzuki 2019d). Suzuki is also active on the internet, writing a personal blog since 2013 and not even missing a day when admitted to hospital for cancer treatment in May 2019. This incessant activity is consistent with Suzuki’s personality, which Tōgō Kazuhiko, a former Japanese diplomat who was closely associated with Suzuki at the start of the 2000s, describes as “ne-aka”, meaning innately cheerful or, literally, with a bright root.5

Suzuki’s first job in politics was as secretary to Nakagawa Ichirō, a politician who he continues to lionise as the “Kennedy of eastern Hokkaidō” (Suzuki 2012: 107). Nakagawa was a senior figure in the LDP and served as minister of agriculture from 1977 to 1978. He also stood for election for the presidency of the LDP in 1982 and would have become prime minister had he not lost to Nakasone Yasuhiro. Suzuki describes Nakagawa as a father figure to whom he devoted 13 years of his life (Suzuki 2012: 108). It was when working for Nakagawa that Suzuki demonstrated his capacity for extraordinary hard work, often returning home at one or two o’clock at night and going to collect Nakagawa again at six o’clock in the morning (Katō 2002: 12). It was also at this time that Suzuki began to show an interest in relations with Russia (or the Soviet Union, as it then was). As a politician from Hokkaidō, Nakagawa naturally wished to improve relations with Japan’s northern neighbour. What is more, Nakagawa’s ministerial portfolio included fisheries, which was a prominent area of bilateral cooperation following the signing of a Soviet-Japan fisheries agreement in 1977. Suzuki therefore came to share Nakagawa’s interest in this relationship and, ultimately, the aim of strengthening ties with Russia became his defining “personal passion”.6

Image on the right: Nakagawa Ichirō and Suzuki Muneo

Even at this early stage in his political career, Suzuki was a divisive figure. In particular, Nakagawa’s wife Sadako is said to have been strongly against Suzuki’s appointment as secretary, believing that there was something untrustworthy in Suzuki’s constant restlessness (Katō 2002: 11). Critics also claim that, during his time in Nakagawa’s office, Suzuki became increasingly imperious. Hiranuma Takeo, who was also a secretary to Nakagawa, is quoted as saying that, if he allowed the phone to ring even once before answering, Suzuki would hit him in the head (Katō 2002: 13). It is also reported that Suzuki even felt bold enough to harangue members of parliament visiting Nakagawa’s office (Katō 2002: 13). Ultimately, Suzuki’s influence was such that, even if Nakagawa authorised something, it would not happen until Suzuki approved it too (Katō 2002: 13).

The source of this power is said to have been Suzuki’s control over Nakagawa’s finances. Katō Akira, who has written an excoriating book about Suzuki, describes him as an extremely effective political fundraiser (Katō 2002: 14). This made Suzuki valuable to Nakagawa. Moreover, Suzuki’s hold on the purse strings enabled him to exercise leverage over his political boss. Drawing upon information from Uekusa Yoshiteru, who was also a secretary to Nakagawa before becoming a member of parliament, Katō alleges that Suzuki threatened to expose a scandal in Nakagawa’s campaign finances if Nakagawa did not support Suzuki’s bid to run in the general election of 1983 (Katō 2002: 16). Katō also claims that Suzuki may have been involved in the disappearance of funds that were left over from Nakagawa’s unsuccessful bid for the LDP leadership in November 1982. When Nakagawa was told by Suzuki on New Year’s Day that none of this money was left, Nakagawa is said to have become enraged and began punching Suzuki in the head (Katō 2002: 18). Just over a week later, Nakagawa was found dead in a hotel room in Sapporo, having seemingly taken his own life.

Nakagawa’s family held Suzuki responsible for driving the politician to his death. In particular, his wife, Sadako, claims that Suzuki not only ruined Nakagawa’s political career but also his private life (Katō 2002: 11). Moreover, she alleges that Nakagawa had shouted, “Suzuki, how dare you stab me like this! You’ve killed me. I’ve no choice but to die.” (quoted in Katō 2002: 18). In response, Suzuki retorts that Nakagawa was depressed after losing the LDP leadership election. He was also terrified that it was going to be revealed that he had received an illegal donation of one million yen from All Nippon Airlines. Added to this, Suzuki claims that Sadako herself added to the pressure on Nakagawa by threatening to divorce him if he did not sack Suzuki (J-Cast 2010).

After Nakagawa Ichirō’s death, Suzuki followed through with his plan to stand for election in December 1983. In so doing, he became a rival to Nakagawa Shōichi, the 30-year-old son of Nakagawa Ichirō, who had stepped into his father’s shoes. Under the system that operated until the reforms of 1994, all members of Japan’s House of Representatives were elected in multi-member constituencies by single non-transferable vote. This meant that members of the same party ran against each other in large constituencies, thereby encouraging factionalism within the dominant LDP. In the case of Suzuki and Nakagawa Shōichi, in the four elections between 1983 and 1993, they were opposing candidates in Hokkaidō’s 5th district, from which five Diet members were elected. On each occasion that the two men ran directly against each other, Nakagawa topped the polls, with Suzuki securing election as the fourth or fifth most popular candidate.

Even after the electoral reform of 1994, which created a mixture of single-member districts and a party list system with proportional representation (PR), Suzuki and Nakagawa remained rivals. This was because the LDP now needed to decide who would be its sole candidate in the new 11th district, where both men had their greatest concentration of support. Ahead of the election in 1996, the LDP leadership opted for Nakagawa. Suzuki also lost out in the 12th district, his second choice, where the LDP’s Takebe Tsutomu was judged the stronger candidate. He was eventually selected to run in the 13th district but lost heavily to the candidate from the New Frontier Party. Despite this, Suzuki was still able to return to parliament as a result of votes for the LDP within the Hokkaidō PR block (Carlson and Reed 2018: 73).

This long-term rivalry between Nakagawa Shōichi and Suzuki Muneo is another factor that makes Prime Minister Abe’s frequent meetings with Suzuki surprising. This is because Abe and Nakagawa Shōichi were very close. Nakagawa was one year older than Abe and they shared a nationalist agenda, with a common desire to promote patriotic education and a less apologetic attitude towards Japan’s wartime history. After Abe became prime minister for the first time in September 2006, he appointed Nakagawa as chair of the LDP’s Policy Research Council. Later, in September 2008, under the leadership of Asō Tarō, Nakagawa was appointed Minister of Finance, but served less than five months. In February 2009, Nakagawa, who was known for his heavy drinking, appeared drunk during a press conference at a G7 finance ministers’ meeting. He claimed that his drowsiness and slurred speech were due to a strong dose of cold medicine, but he was forced to resign within days. Nakagawa lost his seat in the general election of August 2009 and was found dead in his Tokyo apartment a few weeks later, after reportedly taking sleeping pills (Nakamoto 2009).

 

Suzuki’s accumulation of power

Despite his energetic campaigning and prowess as a fundraiser, Suzuki has never been especially successful electorally. As noted, under the system of multi-member districts, Suzuki consistently lagged behind Nakagawa Shōichi and was only ever the 3rd or 4th most popular LDP candidate within the Hokkaidō 5th constituency. What is more, after the electoral reform of 1994, he never succeeded in winning a single-member district, always being returned to parliament as a result of PR party votes.7 As such, Suzuki’s political power rested, not on his broad appeal with the voters, but on his steady accumulation of influence within the political system and especially over Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The leverage that Suzuki was able to exert over MOFA at the start of the 2000s was a consequence of a peculiarity in the Japanese political system. Although the foreign minister had nominal control over the ministry, in reality, many politicians holding this position owed their promotion simply to the fact that it was the turn of their LDP faction to receive a senior cabinet post. As a consequence, many Japanese foreign ministers had little international expertise and did not serve long enough to significantly shape foreign policy. Real control was exercised by senior MOFA bureaucrats, as well as by certain politicians, like Suzuki, who, no matter what their formal responsibilities, made a point of specialising in foreign affairs. These are known as the “policy tribesmen” (zoku giin) (Carlson and Reed 2018: 94-5).

The relationship that developed between Suzuki and MOFA was a reciprocal one. Specifically, Suzuki made himself valuable to senior diplomats by working within the political system to further the interests of the ministry, such as by arguing for the opening of new overseas missions and by pressing the Ministry of Finance to protect MOFA’s budget. In return, Suzuki expected to be consulted about key decisions and to play a hand in shaping foreign policy.

Suzuki’s influence was exerted covertly and only truly came to light following Prime Minister Koizumi’s appointment of Tanaka Makiko as foreign minister in April 2001. She is the daughter of Tanaka Kakuei, who served as prime minister between 1972 and 1974. Suzuki and Tanaka Makiko became major adversaries, but there are actually several similarities between Suzuki and her father. They both had relatively humble origins and rose to prominence through their mastery of backroom politics. In addition, both men closely associated themselves with the goal of directing public spending towards rural Japan. For this reason, Suzuki claims that he, rather than Tanaka Makiko, is the politician who really inherited Tanaka Kakuei’s spirit (Suzuki 2018: 118). Another thing that the two men have in common is that they were both found guilty of corruption and given prison sentences.

Tanaka Makiko’s appointment as foreign minister came at a time when MOFA was roiled by allegations of corruption. The most spectacular of several scandals was the case of Matsuo Katsutoshi, who was director of the Ministry’s Overseas Visit Support Division. At the beginning of 2001, it was revealed that, between 1993 and 1999, Matsuo had engaged in the widespread theft of funds that were intended for arranging overseas trips by the prime minister and other officials. Ultimately, Matsuo was arrested for having “used 410 million yen ($3.4 million) to purchase a yacht, condominium, golf club memberships, a string of racing horses, and to pay his mistresses and former wife” (Carlson and Reed 2018: 99). Although MOFA initially sought to portray Matsuo’s case as the crime of a single individual, Tanaka Makiko saw it as indicative of an institution that had evaded oversight for too long and had become “a hotbed of corruption” (quoted in Satō 2005: 98).

As Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tanaka immediately set out to reform the Ministry, putting her on a collision course with senior diplomats. The first sign of trouble came in May 2001 when senior MOFA officials made a series of personnel changes without consulting the minister. Determined to stamp her authority, Tanaka responded by freezing all personnel transfers (Carlson and Reed 2018: 99). Senior officials were appalled by this political interference and turned to Suzuki Muneo for assistance in countering her reform efforts. This set the stage for what Satō Masaru describes as “the Battle between Tanaka Makiko and Suzuki Muneo” (Satō 2005: 61).

Image below: Front cover of an issue of Shūkan Asahi (2002) with the title “Makiko’s battle”


Suzuki clearly shared the objective of opposing institutional changes that threatened his steadily accumulated influence over the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, Suzuki and his allies were also opposed to Tanaka because of her attempts to alter the course of Japanese foreign policy. MOFA officials and Suzuki regarded themselves as international experts and did not want their carefully developed policies to be disrupted by Tanaka, whom they saw as a foreign policy neophyte.

The clearest example of this is with regard to Russia policy. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, under the administrations of Hashimoto Ryūtarō, Obuchi Keizō, and Mori Yoshirō, Suzuki and supportive MOFA officials developed a new approach to the territorial dispute with Russia. Up until this point, Japanese governments had consistently promoted what might be described as a principled approach to resolving the territorial dispute. This meant that Tokyo would continue to insist upon the immediate return of all four of the islands, or at least the demand that Moscow simultaneously recognise Japan’s right to sovereignty over all four. This position was maintained even though it was apparent that Japan’s refusal to compromise meant that there was no prospect of a breakthrough. The innovation put forward by Suzuki and his associates was to abandon the unrealistic goal of securing the return of all four of the islands in one go. Instead, they promoted a phased approach. In advance of the Irkutsk summit in March 2001, this crystallised as the proposal for a “two-plus-two” formula. This would see talks about a peace treaty and the transfer of the smaller islands of Shikotan and Habomai being conducted separately from negotiations about the future status of the larger islands of Kunashir and Iturup. Suzuki, as well as Tōgō Kazuhiko, who was then Director-General of MOFA’s European and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, and Satō Masaru, who was a leading Russia expert within MOFA, saw this compromise approach as the only means of achieving progress towards resolving the territorial dispute (Brown 2016: 117).

Believing that they were on the verge of a breakthrough, the Suzuki-led group was aghast when, shortly after taking office in April 2001, Tanaka proposed an entirely different strategy. She did this by suggesting a return to the hard-line demand for “the return of four islands as a bunch” that was pursued by her father when he met General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev in October 1973 (Satō 2005: 65). Since Suzuki and his allies were convinced that Tanaka’s retrograde approach would badly damage relations between Japan and Russia, taking action to oppose the minister was regarded as a necessary step to protect Japan’s national interests (Satō 2005: 103-5). These concerns were not without foundation since, after Tanaka Kakuei’s visit to Moscow in 1973, there were no further official meetings between the Soviet and Japanese leaders until Gorbachev travelled to Tokyo in April 1991. The Suzuki faction therefore feared that bilateral relations would be returned to the state of stagnation that had characterised the late-Cold War period.

Driven by these motivations, MOFA officials, in collaboration with Suzuki, sought to undermine the foreign minister. In these efforts, they were greatly assisted by Tanaka herself, who committed a series of gaffes. The first of these occurred in early May 2001 when, at the last minute, Tanaka cancelled a meeting with visiting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. Her critics leapt upon this incident as an indication of her unprofessionalism; they reported that the reason for the cancellation was because she was busy writing thank you letters to those who had sent flowers in congratulation for her ministerial appointment (Satō 2005: 97). Further leaks followed about other cancelled meetings and she was also attacked for accidentally revealing the location of where U.S. State Department officials were hiding after the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001 (Satō 2005: 122).

This battle between the foreign minister and her officials was largely played out in public, with Tanaka telling the media, “They are digging holes and placing landmines in front of me, apparently trying to get me out of the way so they can go back to doing things as they wish” (quoted in The Japan Times 2001). There were also bizarre incidents, such as when Tanaka returned to her office from a Diet session to find that one of her rings was missing. Reporters in a neighbouring room were able to record Tanaka accusing her administrative secretary Kozuki Toyohisa (who was appointed Japanese ambassador to Russia in 2015) of stealing the ring and ordering him to go to buy a replacement (The Japan Times 2001).

Another confrontation with bureaucrats related to the transfer of Kodera Jirō from his position as director of the Russian Division to the post of Japanese ambassador to the United Kingdom. Kodera was a supporter of the hardline stance on the territorial issue with Russia that was favoured by Tanaka. Suzuki therefore saw him as an obstacle to his preferred Russia policy and is therefore said to have used his influence to have Kodera transferred. However, as soon as Kodera arrived in London, he was immediately recalled by Tanaka and reappointed to his former position. Absurdly, Kodera spent only 3 hours in the UK before flying back to Japan. In revenge, Suzuki took the opportunity to grill Tanaka for two hours in parliament on Kodera’s recall and her broader Russia policy (Sayle 2002).

Ultimately, Prime Minister Koizumi had to step in to end this state of dysfunction within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The final straw was a conflict over invitations to the Tokyo Conference on Reconstruction Aid for Afghanistan in December 2001. Two Japanese non-governmental organisations (NGOs) — Peace Winds Japan and Platform Japan — were initially invited to the conference. However, when Suzuki learned that Ōnishi Kensuke, a representative of Peace Winds Japan, had criticised the government in a newspaper article, he allegedly instructed his allies within MOFA to exclude the NGO from the conference (Berkofsky 2002). Tanaka was furious about the barring of these NGOs, especially because, as she claimed, Vice Foreign Minister Nogami Yoshiji twice told her that MOFA had been forced to exclude the NGOs on the orders of Suzuki Muneo (Sayle 2002). Nogami denied that he had ever mentioned Suzuki’s name, and both he and Tanaka accused each other of lying. With Tanaka having lost all control of her ministry, Koizumi sacked her at the end of January 2002, while Nogami was demoted (Sayle 2002).

Suzuki’s victory proved short-lived since, less than two months later, he was forced to resign from the LDP. Nonetheless, Suzuki’s role in helping drive Tanaka from office demonstrates the extraordinary level of informal influence that he had amassed within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Indeed, this was later tacitly acknowledged by MOFA. After Suzuki’s arrest in 2002 and surprise reelection to the Diet in 2005, MOFA issued staff with a formal manual on how to deal with Suzuki in order to ensure that the controversial politician did not reestablish inappropriate levels of influence over the Ministry (Shūgiin 2009).

 

Japan’s key man in relations with Russia

Suzuki Muneo being received by Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in April 2000 (Jiji)

Further to his privileged connections within MOFA, Suzuki’s political power was established upon his reputation as a politician who is an expert on relations with Russia and the disputed Northern Territories. It is this expertise that has sustained Suzuki’s political influence over the years, enabling his Lazarus-like return from incarceration to the inner circle of the Japanese leadership. Although Suzuki’s actual achievements with regard to Russia are meagre, the failure of all Japanese governments over the last seven decades to make any progress on this issue makes Suzuki’s alternative approach and optimistic rhetoric seem enticing. Specifically, Prime Minister Abe evidently judged that Suzuki’s assistance was indispensable if he is to succeed in his goal of finally resolving the territorial dispute with Russia and signing a peace treaty.

Principally, Suzuki presents himself as the leading political representative of former Japanese residents of the four disputed islands. Prior to their occupation by Soviet forces at the end of the Second World War, the Japanese population of the four islands was 17,291 (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan 2018). After being forcibly expelled from the territory by the Soviet Union, the majority of these individuals settled in Hokkaidō. By March 2019, only 5,913 of these former islanders remained alive and their average age was 84.1 (Ōno 2019). Despite their dwindling numbers, the plight of these individuals remains an emotive issue within Japan.

As a native of eastern Hokkaidō, where many of the former islanders reside, it was natural for Suzuki to associate himself with their cause. Suzuki was also quick to recognise that, for many of the former residents, what mattered most was not the principle of sovereignty over the islands but the practical matter of access. Suzuki’s promotion of a compromise solution therefore appealed to many. His so-called “two-plus-alpha” formula only promises the return of Shikotan and Habomai plus some form of access rights to Iturup and Kunashir (Takewata 2019).8 Nonetheless, the opportunity to freely visit their former homeland before the end of their lives is more attractive to many than the vague possibility of the return of all four islands, which might not be achieved for decades, if ever.

Added to this, Suzuki has long been a proponent of closer political and economic ties with Russia as a means of preparing the ground for a territorial deal, as well as a way of promoting regional development in Hokkaidō. In this respect too, Prime Minister Abe is heeding his advice. Central to Abe’s “new approach” to relations with Russia, which was announced in May 2016, is an 8-point economic cooperation plan, which prioritises enhanced bilateral ties in the areas of health, urban infrastructure, exchange between small and medium-sized enterprises, energy, industrial diversification and productivity, industrialisation of the Russian Far East, cutting-edge technology, and people-to-people exchange (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan 2016). Again, this represents a reversal of the approach taken by previous Japanese governments, which often held back economic cooperation until hoped-for progress on the territorial issue was achieved. Encouraged by Suzuki’s advice, Abe’s policy is instead to frontload economic investment in the hope that this will generate the needed momentum to deliver a territorial breakthrough (Brown 2018a: 1-5). To date, the biggest Japanese investment in Russia under the “new approach” is the purchase of a 10% stake in Russia’s Arctic LNG-2 project, which was announced in June 2019. The stake is worth more than $2bn and, while the Japanese consortium includes Mitsui & Co, 75% of the financing is being provided by state-controlled JOGMEC.

As the self-styled representative of the former islanders and with concrete ideas for resolving the dispute, Suzuki presents himself as the one politician who can finally facilitate a deal with Russia. Ahead of the upper-house election in July 2019, he told voters: “No matter what it takes, I want to resolve the Northern Territories problem. To do this, I want to return to parliament once again. Please everyone, once again give Suzuki Muneo the opportunity to work. Suzuki Muneo will not lose. I will win!” (quoted in Takewata 2019)

Central to Suzuki’s claim to be able to deliver a breakthrough are his long-standing connections within the Russian political elite. These were developed with the assistance of Satō Masaru, who has been a key figure in Suzuki’s rise, fall, and rehabilitation. During the 1990s, when Suzuki was extending his influence over the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Satō was a junior non-career diplomat specialising in Russian politics.9 The two men initially met during a trip to Moscow by Suzuki in 1990 and reportedly bonded over their shared dislike of career diplomats (Katō 2002: 38). These are the elite officials who dominate senior positions within MOFA and are usually graduates of Japan’s most prestigious universities. From this first encounter there developed an unusually close personal relationship, with Suzuki describing Satō as an “intellectual giant” (Suzuki 2019b) and Satō, in return, praising Suzuki for his “exceptional ‘grounded mind’” (Satō 2005: 49).

Image on the right: Suzuki Muneo and Satō Masaru

Over the course of the next decade, Satō became Suzuki’s “private soldier” within MOFA (Katō 2002: 41). Suzuki used his influence to have Satō appointed to the specially created role of chief analyst within the first division of MOFA’s Intelligence and Analysis Bureau. From this position, Satō worked to further Suzuki’s foreign policy agenda and to provide him with information from within the Ministry. Tanaka, in her battle with Suzuki for control over MOFA, recognised the instrumental role that Satō played in facilitating the influence of her rival. In frustration, she began describing Satō as MOFA’s “Rasputin” and sought to marginalise him by having him transferred (Satō 2005: 126-7).

Satō knows the Russian language well and developed an impressive array of contacts during his time at the Japanese embassy in Moscow. He was therefore able to assist Suzuki in developing connections with the Russian political elite. As a consequence, when Suzuki was at the peak of his political power at the turn of the century, Russian officials visiting Tokyo would meet Suzuki for informal late-night discussions at which Satō, of course, was also present. One regular contact was Viktor Khristenko, who was first deputy prime minister from May 1999 to January 2000 (Satō 2005: 129). Also, when Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov visited Tokyo in February 2002, Suzuki and Satō, along with former Prime Minister Mori, met him for talks at a sushi restaurant in Roppongi the night before his official meeting with Foreign Minister Kawaguchi Yoriko, who had just replaced Tanaka Makiko. When they learned that the press were outside, Suzuki and Satō stayed behind in the restaurant to hide their presence, while the others left. As they were finally departing, they received a phone call from Russian ambassador Aleksandr Panov, who invited Suzuki to visit Ivanov’s hotel room for a frank discussion in preparation for the next day’s formal talks (Satō 2005: 143-4). This is evidence of the behind-the-scenes role that Suzuki was performing at the time.

Suzuki no doubt believes that these covert efforts were important in facilitating the development of Japan-Russia relations. Nonetheless, his activities with regard to the disputed islands and his close contacts with Russian officials have proved a continuing source of controversy.

To begin with, in line with his aim of maximising Japan’s involvement on the disputed territory, Suzuki has long been a proponent of Japanese investment and joint projects with Russia on the islands. This was Suzuki’s key focus during the late 1990s. Moreover, since soliciting Suzuki’s help in December 2015, Abe has also become a strong advocate of joint economic projects on the islands, agreeing with Putin in September 2017 to concentrate on five priority areas: aquaculture, greenhouse agriculture, tourism, wind power, and waste management (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan 2017).10 However, at least during the 1990s, Suzuki’s enthusiasm for promoting Japanese investment on the disputed islands led him into trouble.

One controversial incident occurred in May 1996 when Suzuki joined a visa-free exchange visit to the island of Kunashir. Suzuki, alongside a group of former Japanese islanders, for whom these visits are primarily intended, proposed to plant a number of Japanese cherry trees that they had brought with them as a symbol of peace and friendship. The local authorities agreed but insisted that the group complete the necessary quarantine procedures before the trees could be planted. Suzuki was willing to comply but a MOFA official, who was accompanying the group, refused, saying that completing the quarantine forms would imply acknowledgement of the Russian government’s jurisdiction over the disputed territory. It was therefore not possible for the cherry trees to be planted. Although the unnamed diplomat was simply following official procedure, Suzuki was furious. As Ignacy Marek Kaminski recounts,

“Suzuki had not only accused Mr. X of undermining his regional peace efforts, but he had also physically attacked Mr. X during the group’s return trip onboard the Japanese vessel. Although the official’s facial and leg injuries required a week to heal, the Foreign Ministry suppressed the incidents caused by Suzuki” (2004: 186).

The other main source of scandal was Japan’s provision of financial assistance to the islands by means of the so-called Cooperation Committee (shien iinkai). This entity was established within MOFA in 1993 as a vehicle for providing assistance to the territories of the former Soviet Union. This sounds uncontroversial. However, since the Cooperation Committee sat outside Japan’s usual structures for providing aid, its funds came to be used in an opaque manner for a range of other purposes.

Specifically, Suzuki is alleged to have used the resources of the Cooperation Committee to fund projects on the disputed islands that generated lucrative contracts for Hokkaidō businesses that were major donors to Suzuki himself. For instance, in June 1995, Suzuki successfully lobbied Foreign Minister Kōno Yōhei to approve construction of a medical facility on Shikotan.11 According to Kaminski, “The building contract was awarded to the contractor from Suzuki’s constituency, which was a regular contributor to Suzuki’s electoral fund.” (2004: 181). Kaminski also notes that, after Suzuki was promoted to the position of deputy chief cabinet secretary in 1998, “the overt economic aid to the Russian-occupied islands jumped from about 0.5 billion yen in 1998 to over 3 billion in 1999.” (2004: 183). The implication is that Suzuki used his enhanced leverage to direct more money from the Cooperation Committee to projects on the islands that would reward his political donors.

The most memorable of these projects is the so-called “Muneo House”, an emergency evacuation facility on Kunashir, which is properly known as the “Japan-Russia Friendship House.” It is alleged that, two months before the 417 million yen construction contract was awarded, “Suzuki conferred with the Foreign Ministry’s officials regarding the bidding requirements and procedures. On Suzuki’s request, the ministry illegally limited the contractors eligible to place the bids to those from Hokkaido’s Nemuro region and with certain business experiences in the past.” (Kaminski 2004: 183). It was subsequently reported that, between 1995 and 2000, the two successful contractors had donated over 9 million yen to Suzuki’s electoral support committee (kōen kai) (Kaminski 2004: 198).

“Muneo House” on Russian-held Kunashir (2012)

Although the alleged chicanery regarding the building of “Muneo House” is the best-known scandal relating to Suzuki, it was not the leading factor in his arrest and imprisonment. Instead, Suzuki was sent to prison for crimes connected to two separate instances of bribery. The first case involved Suzuki’s acceptance in 1998 of 5 million yen from Yamarin, a lumber company, in exchange for Suzuki’s influence as deputy cabinet secretary in assisting the company to avoid punishment for illegal logging in national forests. Suzuki’s prosecution for perjury also relates to this case, since he was found guilty of lying about the Yamarin bribe during sworn testimony in a Diet committee hearing in March 2002.

The second bribery case involved Suzuki’s acceptance of 6 million yen from Shimada Construction between 1997 and 1998. Prosecutors successfully argued that these funds were a bribe that had been given to Suzuki, who was then head of the Hokkaidō Development Agency, in return for his help in winning government contracts (Carlson and Reed 2018: 71-2). Shimada Construction is also reported to have paid John Muwete Muluaka, Suzuki’s former Congolese private secretary, 15 million yen over a period of six years, despite the fact that “Big John”, as he is known, had done no work for the company. As Axel Berkofsky elaborates, “The affair became even more bizarre when it was revealed that Muluaka had been granted permanent residence in Japan in October 2001, even though his diplomatic and normal passports expired in 1994 and 1998 respectively.” (2002).

However, while the misuse of Cooperation Committee funds was not directly connected with Suzuki’s arrest, it was the cause of the downfall of his ally Satō Masaru. Specifically, Satō was arrested, and subsequently found guilty, of illegally procuring 30 million yen from the Cooperation Committee to pay for more than 10 Japanese academics and Foreign Ministry officials to attend a conference at Tel Aviv University in Israel. Since Cooperation Committee rules only permitted the funding of such events in Russia or other Soviet republics, this spending was deemed illegal. He was also accused of inappropriately using 3 million yen from the Cooperation Committee to pay for the visit of an Israeli researcher and his wife to Japan in January 1999 (The Japan Times 2002). Separately, Satō was accused of providing confidential information to a Japanese trading company about a construction contract on the Northern Territories (McCormack 2010: 2).

Tōgō Kazuhiko, who had moved from his position of Director-General of MOFA’s European and Oceanian Affairs Bureau to become Japan’s ambassador to the Netherlands, was also caught up in the scandal. He was forced to resign from the Ministry in April 2002 and then in Europe he was interviewed by prosecutors in relation to the same charges as Satō. However, since Tōgō avoided returning to Japan until 2006 – when he testified on Satō’s behalf – he was never arrested.

As with Suzuki, Satō has subsequently made a remarkable comeback. After being suspended (and later sacked) from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Satō began a phenomenally successful career as an author, writing countless books and articles on a wide range of topics and becoming an influential public intellectual. Satō also retains close ties with Suzuki and has regularly appeared alongside him at public events organised by Shintō Daichi, Suzuki’s political movement. Satō has also made a significant contribution to laundering Suzuki’s reputation. This he achieved by writing Kokka no Wana [The Trap of the State] in 2005. This book, which became a bestseller in Japan, convincingly argues that Satō was harshly treated for what were, at most, administrative misdemeanours and which certainly did not merit pre-trial detention of 512 days. What is more, the book provides a favourable account of Suzuki’s character and intentions in his exercise of influence over the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Satō 2005: 62-128).

Aside from the controversy arising from the use of Cooperation Committee funds and promotion of projects on the disputed islands, Suzuki’s ties with Russian officials have also periodically raised concerns. For example, Kaminski mentions rumours of Suzuki’s contacts with Russian intelligence operatives. Specifically, he claims that “Suzuki had private meetings with a certain Smirnov of the Russian embassy in Tokyo. Suzuki was aware that Smirnov was an intelligence officer. But he pressured the head of the National Police Agency (NPA) not to pursue his meetings with Smirnov.” (2004: 191).

Such reports might seem alarming but it is important to emphasise that there is no evidence to suggest that Suzuki ever knowingly served the interests of the Russian state. The intelligence services play a prominent role in Putin’s Russia and Suzuki may simply have judged that meeting intelligence officers is a necessary step in the process of cultivating a network of valuable contacts within the Russian political system. Nonetheless, there remain legitimate concerns about Suzuki’s Russian connections. He has pro-Russian inclinations, a history of criminality, and regular access to Prime Minister Abe. This trinity of factors may have encouraged the Russian intelligence services to view Suzuki as a security vulnerability that can be exploited. Moreover, even if this is not the case, it is certain that Russian officials will seek to use their contacts with Suzuki as a means of projecting influence into the prime minister’s office in an attempt to ensure that the Japanese leader continues to pursue a Russia policy that is deemed favourable to Moscow.

What Suzuki’s return says about Japanese politics more broadly

The magnitude of Suzuki Muneo’s rise, fall, and rise again is unique. Even Suzuki himself talks of three “miracles” (Suzuki 2019e). The first was his initial election to the lower house in 1983; the second was his re-election in 2005, which occurred after his arrest, but prior to his official sentencing; and the third was his election to the upper house in July 2019. Yet, even though there is no politician quite like Suzuki Muneo, there are some broader conclusions about Japanese politics that can be drawn from his extraordinary case.

Firstly, and most obviously, the return of Suzuki suggests a high degree of tolerance for a certain type of corruption within Japan. Although his conviction has been upheld in Japan’s Supreme Court and his demand for a retrial rejected, Suzuki has never accepted responsibility for his crimes, nor has he apologised. Despite this, many Japanese voters, as well as the media and broader political class, appear willing to forgive and forget. This relaxed attitude towards graft also appears to include Prime Minister Abe since he began to invite Suzuki to the Kantei in 2015, when the convicted politician was still banned from political office. Abe’s only nod to propriety has been his refusal (so far) to permit Suzuki to rejoin the LDP.

It is not easy to immediately identify why there should be such acceptance of Suzuki’s behaviour in Japan, whereas similar actions in many liberal democracies would be sufficient to end a political career many times over. One consideration, however, is the fact that the Suzuki scandals do not primarily relate to accusations of personal enrichment. Instead, Suzuki was essentially found guilty of developing a symbiotic relationship with companies in Hokkaidō through which he assisted them to win business and, in return, they provided him with financial resources to keep him in power. This is a perversion of the proper function of the democratic process and can therefore be regarded as corruption (Carlson and Reed 2018: 15-6). Nonetheless, some Japanese voters may simply consider that Suzuki was performing his proper role of serving the interests of his constituency. This is consistent with Miyamoto Masafumi’s broader observation that, in Japan, the “public perceives corruption as a victimless crime and dismisses the affair” (quoted in George Mulgan 2010: 194).

Acceptance of corruption as a normal part of the political game is therefore one structural factor that appears to have facilitated Suzuki’s return to power. However, the other lessons from the Suzuki case relate to qualities embodied in Suzuki himself. There are three of these: the ability to connect oneself to powerful political patrons; the possession of policy expertise; and personal charisma.

First, Suzuki’s success demonstrates the reliable benefits of tying oneself to influential individuals and, when necessary, engaging in outright sycophancy. After Nakagawa Ichirō’s suicide, Suzuki cultivated ties with Kanemaru Shin, an important LDP powerbroker from Yamanashi prefecture. According to Berkofsky, “He [Suzuki] and Koichi Hamada, another independent in the LDP, acted as Kanemaru’s bodyguards and often served as Diet hecklers during Kanemaru’s tenure as LDP Secretary General” (2002). Kanemaru was a central figure in the Sagawa Kyūbin scandal that broke in 1992 in which he was alleged to have received a 500 million yen bribe from the parcel delivery firm, which he then shared with around 60 other LDP politicians. Prosecutors also accused Kanemaru of tax evasion amounting to over one billion yen. When his home and offices were searched, investigators discovered a hoard of cash, bearer bonds, and 220 pounds of gold bars. Although he was arrested, Kanemaru’s trial was suspended due to his poor health and he died in 1996 (Carlson and Reed 2018: 54-6).

Subsequent to Kanemaru’s downfall, Suzuki prioritised relations with Nonaka Hiromu, who served as Chief Cabinet Secretary between 1998 and 1999. He also became close to Mori Yoshirō, who Nonaka helped to make prime minister in April 2000. In developing these connections, Suzuki endeared himself by sharing his financial resources. Specifically, “Over a two-year period from 1997-1999, he contributed a total of 39 million yen to 11 LDP lawmakers, including members of the current Koizumi cabinet, senior vice ministers and parliamentary vice-ministers.” (Berkovsky 2002).

As the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) prepared to take power after the general election in August 2009, Suzuki set aside his long-term connections with the LDP and strengthened ties with the new government of Hatoyama Yukio. This immediately paid dividends when he was appointed chair of the lower house committee on foreign affairs. This was despite the fact that Suzuki was still on trial for bribery. Suzuki again sought to make himself useful with regard to both Russia policy and Okinawa, but in September 2010 his conviction was upheld and he was sent to prison.

After his release on parole in December 2011 and the LDP’s return to power a year later, Suzuki shifted his allegiance to the Abe administration and increasingly sought to align his statements with government policy. This involved reversing his position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which he had previously criticised as a neo-liberal policy and harmful to farmers in Hokkaidō. Suzuki has also not been shy about personally praising key figures in the Abe government, saying, for example, that “I greatly appreciate the skill and ability of Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga, who continues to achieve excellent results.” (Suzuki 2019a). Additionally, despite supposedly representing an opposition party, Suzuki acclaims Abe as the only leader who can resolve the territorial dispute with Russia. He also asserts that “I have 1000 percent trust in Prime Minister Abe’s foreign policy towards Russia and I want him to make full use of my personal connections, information, and experience.” (quoted in Sankei Shinbun 2019b).

Such relentless courting of the powerful has been a key element of Suzuki’s success, yet his constant shifting of allegiances would not have been tolerated if he did not have something to offer in return. At times, this has been financial but, above all, Suzuki has used his expertise on Russia as his main currency of exchange. Suzuki’s knowledge of Russia and his web of personal contacts in the country are a rare commodity within Japanese politics and have made him valuable to a succession of Japanese leaders. This certainly applies to Abe, who is unlikely to have given Suzuki the access to the prime minister’s office that he enjoys, if the same expertise were available from a less controversial source.

Indeed, so rewarding has been Suzuki’s association with Russia that it is surprising that more members of the Japanese parliament have not followed him in cultivating a particular bilateral relationship. In the current Diet, the only other politician who stands out for his especially well-developed ties with a specific country is Nikai Toshihiro, the LDP secretary general, who is known for his contacts in China.

Adding to the appeal of Suzuki’s expertise on Russia is that, irrespective of his real motivations, his approach to the territorial dispute is logical. In particular, having studied the dispute, it is hard to disagree with Suzuki’s assertion that the principled approach of demanding Russia’s recognition of Japanese sovereignty over all four of the islands has failed and that the only plausible solution is a compromise that would see, at most, the transfer to Japan of the two smaller islands of Shikotan and Habomai, plus some form of enhanced access to the larger two islands (Sankei Shinbun 2018). This realism regarding the territorial issue is again something that has contributed to Suzuki’s relations with Japanese leaders, especially prime ministers Mori and Abe.

Lastly, in addition to the benefits of associating oneself with powerful figures and accumulating country-specific expertise, Suzuki Muneo’s enduring success demonstrates the value of charisma in Japanese politics. While Suzuki is generally a divisive figure, everyone can at least agree that, unlike many of his colleagues in Japanese politics, he is not boring. In part, this is a consequence of his natural effusiveness, but he is also skilled at self-promotion. One notable factor is the speaking style that he has cultivated, which, according to Murray Sayle, “advertises his provincial roots and an exaggerated humility rising to high-pitched yelling that suggests either a hair-trigger temper or the feigned rage of a samurai warrior as seen in Japanese TV serials.” (2002). He has also increased his visibility by adopting a signature item of clothing – a lime-green necktie – that he is rarely seen without. Additionally, he has made effective use of his friendship with Matsuyama Chihara, a popular singer from Ashoro, Hokkaidō, who campaigned for Suzuki ahead of the 2019 election. More surprising is that, during the same campaign, Suzuki also secured the endorsement of Steven Seagal, a Hollywood actor who starred in martial arts films during the 1980s and 1990s, before becoming a Russian citizen in 2016 (Suzuki 2019).

Image on the left: Steven Seagal and Suzuki Muneo during the 2019 upper-house election campaign (Twitter)

Some of these traits might be regarded as populist, especially Suzuki’s embrace of common language to signal his identity as a champion of the ordinary Japanese people. In any case, in the sometimes dull world of Japanese politics, Suzuki’s distinctive character and active self-promotion have been important in helping him overcome his inauspicious start in politics, whereby he lacked the established network of support that is available to hereditary politicians. It was also this charisma that made the Suzuki-Tanaka battles of the early 2000s so captivating to a Japanese TV audience. In the case of both these politicians, the excitement generated by their theatrical performances appears to have encouraged the Japanese public to take a forgiving attitude towards their obvious failings.

Conclusion

This article has charted the remarkable political career of Suzuki Muneo over the past four decades. This has seen his progression from the humble role of secretary to Nakagawa Ichirō to the heights of being appointed deputy chief cabinet secretary in the administration of Obuchi Keizō. Emphasis was also placed on the extraordinary influence that Suzuki exercised over the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and on his very public battle with Foreign Minister Tanaka Makiko during the early 2000s. A prominent feature of the article has also been the numerous allegation of corruption and misconduct that have been directed at Suzuki over the years, as well as the crimes of bribery, perjury, and violation of political funding laws for which he was eventually sent to prison.

The ability of Suzuki to regain access to the prime minister’s office and to achieve re-election in 2019, despite his criminal record, is unprecedented in modern Japanese political history. Nonetheless, some broader conclusions have been possible. Namely, the Suzuki case suggests a significant degree of tolerance for corruption within Japan, especially when the crimes are judged to be to the benefit of the local constituency and not motivated by the desire for personal enrichment. Additionally, as is perhaps true of all political systems, Suzuki’s enduring success points to the importance of cultivating ties with powerful politicians, of becoming the go-to expert on a valued subject, and of bringing sparkle to the political arena.

Suzuki campaigned for election to the upper house in 2019 under the slogan that this was to be “Suzuki Muneo’s last battle” (Suzuki 2019e). Suzuki turned 71 in January 2019. By the standards of Japanese politics, this is not especially old, but the unfortunate return of his cancer of the oesophagus may have caused him to assess that his days in politics were numbered.

Despite this, it is too early to write the final chapter of Suzuki’s political biography. The reason for this is that Prime Minister Abe has fully adopted the Russia policy that Suzuki has advocated since the late 1990s and is implementing it in close consultation with the veteran politician himself. As noted, this entails expanding political and economic ties with Russia, as well as moving away from the demand for the return of all four islands and instead emphasising the goal of securing the transfer of just two. Abe’s embrace of this agenda was signaled by his agreement in November 2018 to base peace treaty talks with Russia on the countries’ 1956 Joint Declaration. This document promises the transfer of Shikotan and Habomai after the signature of a peace treaty, but makes no mention whatsoever of the larger islands of Iturup and Kunashir. Furthermore, Abe has fully signed up to Suzuki’s long-favoured agenda of promoting joint economic projects on the disputed islands. In December 2016, when Putin visited Abe in his home prefecture of Yamaguchi, the leaders agreed to discuss such projects. Having subsequently narrowed the focus to five priority areas, it was agreed in June 2019 that pilot projects would begin in the areas of waste management and tourism. The first of these trials took place in August 2019 when four Russian officials visited the Nemuro area of Hokkaidō to learn about Japan’s experience of waste management. The second is planned for October 11-16, when 35 Japanese, including officials, will visit Kunashir and Iturup on a trial tourism excursion. Given Suzuki’s influence in convincing Abe to adopt this approach, it is perhaps appropriate that, during their stay on Kunashir, the tourists are likely to stay in the “Muneo House” (Hosokawa 2019).

All of the indications are that Muneo’s agenda will not enable Abe to deliver the legacy-defining resolution to the territorial dispute that he is aching to achieve. This is because the Russian side appears to consider even the prospect of transferring the two smaller islands as excessive. Indeed, since Abe conceded in November 2018 to making the 1956 Joint Declaration the basis for talks, Russia’s position has only hardened. Specifically, the Russian leadership has made it clear that the transfer of two islands as a gesture of goodwill could only occur if Japan were first to accept Russia’s legitimate right to all four of the islands as a result of Soviet victory in World War 2. Added to this, Moscow would require legal assurances that no U.S. military facilities would ever be permitted on the transferred territory (Brown 2018b). As the Russian leadership well knows, no Japanese prime minister could easily accept these conditions. The impression is therefore that Moscow merely intends to accept the fruits of Abe’s engagement, without offering anything concrete in return.

And yet, given Suzuki’s extraordinary return from the political wilderness, as well as Abe’s own remarkable comeback after his failure as prime minister in 2006-07, perhaps we should not entirely rule out the possibility that the pair’s plan will succeed. Suzuki evidently believes that he has defied the political odds on several occasions already and can do so again. If he is right and can mastermind extracting an acceptable territorial deal from the Putin administration, Suzuki will have performed his greatest miracle of all.

*

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James D.J. Brown is Associate Professor in Political Science at Temple University, Japan Campus. His main areas of expertise are Russian-Japanese relations and international energy politics.

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Brown, James D.J., 2016, Japan, Russia and their Territorial Dispute: The Northern Delusion (London: Routledge).

Brown, James D.J., 2018a, “The Moment of Truth for Prime Minister Abe’s Russia policy,” The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, vol.16-10(5), 15 May.

Brown, James D.J., 2018b, “The high price of a two-island deal,” The Japan Times, 16 November.

Carlson, Matthew M. and Reed, Steven R., 2018, Political Corruption and Scandals in Japan, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press).

J-Cast, 2010, “Nakagawa ichirō-shi jisatsu ni oikonda no wa dare ka — suzuki muneo-shi hajimete kuchi o hiraki hanron [Who drove Nakagawa Ichirō to his death? For the first time Suzuki Muneo gives his rebuttal],

George Mulgan, Aurelia, 2010, “The perils of Japanese politics,” Japan Forum, 21(2): 183-207.

Hokkaidō Shinbun, 2019a, “Maruyama-shi, sake ni nomarebōsō, [Maruyama’s drunken rampage]” 31 May.

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Hosokawa Shinya, 2019, “Yontō shiken tsuā 35-nin kibo [Test tour to the four islands will have capacity of 35]Hokkaidō Shinbun, 17 August.

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The Japan Times, 2002, “Prosecutors grill Togo on funds scandal in Europe,” 12 June 2002.

Kaminski, Ignacy Marek, 2004, “Applied anthropology and diplomacy: Renegotiating conflicts in a Eurasian diplomatic gray zone by using cultural symbols,” ch.10 in Langholtz, H.J. and Stout, C.E. (eds.) The Psychology of Diplomacy, (London: Praeger).

Katō Akira, 2002, “Suzuki muneo kenkyū [Researching Suzuki Muneo]”, (Tōkyō: Shinchōsha).

McCormack, Gavan, 2010, Ideas, identity and ideology in contemporary Japan: The Sato Masaru phenomenon,” The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, vol. 8, issue 44(1): 1-22.

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Nakamoto, Michiyo, “Former Japan finance chief found dead,” The Financial Times, 4 October 2009.

Nikkei, 2019, “Nichiro 2 purasu 2, 5 getsumatsu kaisai o teian Roshia [Russia proposes that Japan-Russia 2+2 is held in late May],” 11 April.

Ōno, Masami, 2019, “Hoppōryōdo, 2-shima henkan ni kaji kiru shushō [Northern Territories: Prime Minister has shifted to seeking return of two island],Asahi Shinbun, 17 July.

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Sankei Shinbun, 2019b, “Suzuki Muneo Nihon ishin no kai San’in giin Hoppōryōdo shōten wa 9 gatsu kaidan [Suzuki Muneo, member of upper house from Nippon Ishin no Kai: Northern Territories – Focus on September talks],” 9 August.

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Notes

1 To be precise, the disputed territory consists of three islands, which are known as Iturup, Kunashir, and Shikotan in Russian, and Etorofu, Kunashiri, and Shikotan in Japanese. There is also a small group of islets known collectively as the Habomais. For simplicity, this latter archipelago is customarily referred to as a single island, making it a “four-island dispute”.

2 Specifically, during the visa-free visit to Kunashir on 11 May 2019, Diet member Maruyama Hodaka is reported to have drunk more than 10 shots of cognac. He then became disorderly and raised the prospect of Japan going to war to seize the disputed islands. It is also alleged that he said that he wanted to “buy” a Russian woman (Hokkaidō Shinbun 2019a).

3 Suzuki Takako first entered parliament in 2013 as a candidate for Shintō Daichi. This followed the resignation of the party’s representative Ishikawa Tomohiro following a political funding scandal. She then joined the Democratic Party (DP) and was returned to the lower house in the election of December 2014. She left the DP again in 2016, making the LDP her third political party by the age of 31.

4 Katō Akira questions the extent of Suzuki’s childhood poverty, suggesting that he has exaggerated his family’s hardship in order to bolster his image as a self-made politician and representative of the common man (Katō 2002: 93-5).

5 Interview conducted with Tōgō Kazuhiko, Tokyo, 27 May 2019.

6 Interview conducted with Tōgō Kazuhiko, Tokyo, 27 May 2019.

7 In the elections of 1996 and 2000, Suzuki was elected to the House of Representatives as a candidate of the LDP in the PR Hokkaidō block. During the election of November 2003, Suzuki was in pre-trial detention (which lasted a total of 437 days) and unable to stand, but he returned to the lower house in 2005 through PR votes for Shintō Daichi, his own political vehicle. He was elected again in the same way in August 2009, but was forced to relinquish his seat when he was sent to prison the next year. Suzuki was banned from political office during the lower house elections of 2012 and 2014, and failed in his bid for election in October 2017. After switching to Nippon Ishin no Kai, he was successfully elected to the upper house through PR party votes in the election of July 2019.

8 The “two-plus-two” and “two-plus-alpha” proposals are similar, and both have been promoted by Suzuki Muneo. “Two-plus-two”, which was emphasised at the time of the Irkutsk summit in 2001, aims for the transfer of two islands to Japan, plus the continuation of talks about the other two. “Two-plus-alpha”, which appears to be Abe’s current goal, implies the transfer of two islands to Japan, plus some form of special access rights and joint economic projects for Japan on the other two islands.

9 In fact, prior to being steered towards Russia by MOFA, the scholarly Satō Masaru’s main area of interest was church-state relations in Czechoslovakia (Satō 2005: 17).

10 The proposed joint economic projects on the disputed islands are entirely distinct from Abe’s 8-point economic cooperation plan, which applies to Russia as a whole. 

11 Kōno Yōhei is the father of Kōno Tarō, who was appointed foreign minister in August 2017.

All images in this article are from APJJF

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Britain’s proposed HS2 high-speed rail link that would cost more than £400m per mile to complete would make it the most expensive railway on Earth, according to new estimates commissioned by the UK Department for Transport.

According to these calculations, the initial phase from London to Birmingham would cost about £48bn, double the original estimates and about 15 times the cost per mile in France of the latest TGV route.  The estimates cost the complete project, including links to Leeds and Manchester, at more than £100bn. (US$125bn).

There is now a groundswell of opinion that whatever the next government, Labour, Conservative or coalition, Britain’s railway system in its entirety should be brought back into public ownership as soon as is practically possible.

On this week’s BBC4’s Question Time, political commentator, Peter Hitchens, called HS2 a ‘stupid, faulty project’ and endorsed the growing opinion for re-nationalisation of the entire network and that HS2 should be scrapped on grounds of cost, engineering, governance and environmental impact.

The point was made that the real requirement is for improved cross-country, northern rail services connecting Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle and Glasgow – not another North-South link.

There is now a growing consensus that HS2 is not the right railway scheme for 21st century Britain and that the Transport Minister, Grant Shapps, newly-appointed by current Prime Minister Boris Johnson is not the person to be given this most critically important responsibility for a new rail transport scheme for 21st century Britain.  This vital infrastructure project should be re-evaluated under the control of a minister qualified to oversee a national program for railway re-nationalisation, as a matter of critical importance.

In the meantime, there should be constituted a public enquiry and consultation group incorporating, inter alia, the mayors of all northern cities in Britain in order to arrive at a consensus for a new state-run, national rail service that would serve the entire country with modern rolling stock, comprehensive new routes, a nationally agreed timetable and revised fare schedules – as a matter of urgency.

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Hans Stehling (pen name) is an analyst based in the UK. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, a US citizen who was born in Japan, has taught in both countries. Applying his specialized knowledge of Russian history to an analysis of the US decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan, he challenges the prevailing American view that the US decision to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was justified. The prevailing view is based on two premises: first, the use of the atomic bombs was the only option available to the US government to avoid launching a costly invasion of the Japanese homeland; and second, the atomic bombings had an immediate and direct impact on Japan’s decision to surrender. Dr. Hasegawa rebuts both assumptions. He also assesses a third – and often hidden – justification for dropping the bombs, namely, the American desire for revenge. He argues that, even before the atomic bombings, the United States had already crossed the moral high ground that it had held. He views the US use of atomic bombs as a war crime. But he asserts that this action must be understood in the context of Japan’s responsibility for starting the war of aggression and committing atrocities in the Asia–Pacific War.

Hibiki Yamaguchi: We are so honored and privileged to be here with you to discuss your works on the international history of the atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. You have published numerous books and articles such as Racing the Enemy in English and Anto in Japanese (Hasegawa 2005Hasegawa, T. 2005. Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman and the Surrender of Japan. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.[Crossref] , [Google Scholar]2006Hasegawa, T. 2006. Anto: Sutarin, Toruman to Nihon Kohuku [Deadly Struggle: Stalin, Truman and Japan’s Surrdner] Tokyo: Chuo Koron Shinsha. [Google Scholar]). You are also an expert on Russian history and Russo-Japanese relations. In this regard, you have recently written Crime and Punishment in the Russian Revolution (Hasegawa 2017a Hasegawa, T. 2017a. Crime and Punishment in the Russian Revolution: Mob Justice and Police in Petrograd. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.[Crossref] , [Google Scholar]) and The February Revolution, Petrograd 1917 (Hasegawa 2017bHasegawa, T. 2017b. The February Revolution, Petrograd 1917: The End of the Tsarist Regime and the Birth of Dual Power. Leiden: Brill. (Paperback edition, Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2018).[Crossref] , [Google Scholar]). As far as I understand, you have come to the field of the international historiography of the atomic bombings at a relatively late stage of your career as a historian.

Dr. Tsuyoshi Hasegawa: That is correct. But it might be important and useful to explain my background as well as the trajectory of my scholarly interest at the outset.

I was born in Tokyo in 1941, the year the Pacific War began. In 1945, with constant incendiary bombing in the neighborhood, my family evacuated to the small village of Iburihashi, now incorporated in the city of Komatsu, Ishikawa prefecture. As a four-year old boy, I do not have clear memories of the war, but I remember the crimson sky in downtown Tokyo when the city was bombed on March 9-10,1945. Later in August, the adults gathered at my grandfather’s house in Iburihashi to listen to the emperor announce the termination of the war on the radio. Some fragments of the war are still vivid in my memory.

I grew up in Japan and attended the University of Tokyo, Komaba campus, where I was the editor of the university newspaper. It was the time of large student movements against the renewal of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan (Anpo) in 1960. My close friends divided and splintered along various ideological lines. Although I did not belong to any faction, I became interested in socialism and questioned why the Soviet Union, which was founded on the seemingly utopian vision of socialism, had degenerated into the monstrous Stalinist regime. This led me to study Russian history, especially the Russian Revolution, and I wrote my graduation thesis on the February Revolution.

While attending the University of Tokyo, I also joined a research group on Russian history (Roshiashi Kenkyukai) led by Professor Haruki Wada that exposed me to pioneering research liberated from the rigid Stalinist historiography.

Thanks to a Ford Foundation fellowship, I did my graduate training at the University of Washington in Seattle in the United States. There I wrote my PhD dissertation on the February Revolution.

The University of Washington in 1964–1969, like American campuses everywhere, was a hotbed of Vietnam War protests and the civil rights movement. Traditional Russian history was also being challenged by young scholars, and it was the beginning of attention to the social history of the Russian Revolution.

I then taught at the State University of New York at Oswego for eight years. Studying, teaching, and living in the United States gave me an insight into how American society worked. Impressed by the depth of the roots of American democracy and the diversity it offered, I felt more at home and more liberated in America than in the more regimented Japan, so I became an American citizen in 1976.

American citizenship gave me opportunities to do research in the Soviet Union that were not available in Japan at that time. I had access to archives and established a wide network of relations with scholars.

After long years of research in the Soviet archives, I finally published my first book, The February Revolution, Petrograd, 1917, in 1981.

When I finished the book, the United States was going through another important debate, this time, on the nuclear issue. I became interested in this issue, and retooled myself at Columbia University, familiarizing myself with the esoteric knowledge and theories of nuclear weapons and strategies of both the United States and the Soviet Union. I was particularly interested in arms control as a means to avoid nuclear war.

In 1985, I took a position at the Slavic Research Center of Hokkaido University as the first foreign permanent professor in Japan, thanks to new legislation that had just been passed.

I apologize for the long-winded answer, but I do believe that the uniqueness of my trajectory in life and scholarly background is important to understanding my research. I have lived in three vastly different societies and I am fluent in Japanese, English, and Russian. Because of my background, facility for languages, and diverse scholarly interests in both Russian history and nuclear issues, I think my perspective is different from that of most scholars who have not had such experiences.

Now, finally to answer your question, my stay at the Slavic Research Center coincided with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika, an exciting period that mesmerized not only every specialist on Russia, but also every specialist on international history. While following developments in the Soviet Union, I became interested in the new era of Soviet-Japanese relations and the thorny Northern Territories issue. I found the perspective on this issue by both Japan and the Soviet Union unsatisfactory, with both sides driven by narrow nationalism. There was no room for a meeting point while the world was radically changing before our eyes.

Taking advantage of the American debate on perestroika and the new scholarly approach to nationalism and ethnicity, as well as the new impetus for international history in the United States, I wanted to enter the discussion to bridge the gap. So I wrote a book on Russo-Japanese relations and the Northern Territories both in English and in Japanese (Hasegawa 1998 Hasegawa, T. 1998. The Northern Territories Dispute and Russo-Japanese Relations. International & Area Studies: University of California. [Google Scholar]; Hasegawa 2000 Hasegawa, T. 2000. Hoppo Ryodo Mondai to Nichiro Kankei [The Northern Territories Question and Russo-Japanese Relations] Tokyo: Chikuma Shobo. [Google Scholar]). And in those books, one chapter is devoted to World War II.

When I examined the history of ending the Pacific War, I was surprised to find that very little attention had been paid to the role of the Soviet Union in the ending drama. So that triggered my interest. Originally, I was going to write an article or a short book on Russia’s influence on Japan’s decision-making, but the more I studied, I thought it’s not enough to study Russo-Japanese relations because it’s so connected with international relations, and one had to, of course, bring the United States into the picture.

Looking at American historiography of the ending of the Pacific War, Russia is almost absent. So I decided to study this issue, and I spent many years examining the archives and documents in the United States, Russia, and Japan. The end result is Racing the Enemy. This is the first international history of the subject.

In a way, with Racing the Enemy, I returned to the roots of my childhood memory of the Pacific War, trying to place the fragments of my memory into the full historical background.

The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb on Japan: Two False Assumptions

Yamaguchi: So why did you choose the issue of the atomic bombings in particular among various events in the last months of World War II?

Hasegawa: I must stress that this book is not merely about the atomic bombings; it covers broader issues of international history. For instance, the last chapter is devoted to the intricate negotiations between US President Harry Truman and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin on the territorial settlement over the Kuril Islands.

But you are right in one respect. One of the most important issues that the book examines is the issue of the US decision to use the atomic bombs.

The prevailing American view on the atomic bombings ignores or pays little attention to the role the Soviet Union played. The prevailing belief is that the use of atomic bombs was the only choice that the US government had, because without the bombs, the United States would have had to invade Japan, and about a million people, Japanese and Americans, would have perished. And so, to avoid that, the bombs were the only option available to Truman and, in fact, to any president in his place. This is the first assumption.

The second assumption is that the bombs did their job, that they were the decisive factor, providing the knock-out punch, if you will, in forcing the Japanese to surrender. These two assumptions constitute the foundation on which the official view of the US decision to use the atomic bombs is constructed, and they are shared widely by the American public. After careful examination of the archives and other materials, I came to question these assumptions. I concluded that this is a myth, a myth that Americans want to cling to because of their own psychological need to justify the killing as a necessary evil.

With regard to the first assumption, I have to point out that two very important options were available to Americans. And in fact, the options were presented in the course of the deliberations of the US government. The first option was to welcome Soviet entry into the war. By the end of 1944, US leaders had come to the conclusion that in order to force Japan to surrender, invasion of Japan’s homeland would be necessary. The successful execution of this strategy would require Soviet entry into the war in order to pin down the Japanese forces in China and Korea.

Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin at Yalta

The Yalta Conference was held in February 1945. In order to secure Stalin’s pledge to enter the war, President Franklin Roosevelt promised that the United States would reward the Soviet Union. This was the so-called Yalta Secret Protocol Agreement. There, Roosevelt promised to grant the Soviet Union various concessions on the railways and ports in Manchuria, the return of Southern Sakhalin (Karafuto), and the handing over of the Kuril Islands.

But, in the few months that followed, the situation changed. The war developed in favor of the United States to such an extent that US leaders thought that they could win the war without the Soviets. This was the first dilemma that faced the new president, Harry Truman. Should he welcome Soviet entry into the war and risk of allowing it to enhance its influence in East Asia? Or should he seek to end the war without Soviet help? In that case, the war’s termination might be prolonged, necessitating further sacrifices of American lives.

The second dilemma Truman faced was the so-called unconditional-surrender demand. Under Roosevelt, the United States had demanded unconditional surrender by Japan, and Truman followed this policy faithfully. This was because Japan had engaged in military aggression igniting the war (an unjust war) and had committed numerous atrocities against American and Allied soldiers (violations of justice in warfare). In order to defeat Japanese militarism so that Japan could never rise again as a military power, the United States and its allies sought to impose unconditional surrender. But as the war developed, certain very influential people within the government – such as Secretary of War Henry Stimson, Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal, and Deputy Secretary of State and former Ambassador to Japan Joseph Grew – thought it necessary to define what “unconditional surrender” exactly meant. Particularly important was the status of the emperor. If the United States were to insist on unconditional surrender, particularly if it were to insist on trying or punishing the emperor, as some within the administration insisted, they were convinced that the Japanese would fight on to the very last man. Therefore, they argued, in order to terminate the war, the US would have to define the terms in such a way that it could allow the Japanese to preserve the monarchical system, even under the current dynasty.

Atlee, Truman, Stalin at Potsdam

On July 2, before the Potsdam Conference began, Stimson presented the president with the draft proposal for the Potsdam Proclamation, which was meant to be the ultimatum to Japan. This draft included two important items. First, it anticipated Soviet entry into the war. In fact, the Operations Division of the Army General Staff, which had worked on the proclamation draft, thought that the most effective means of forcing Japan’s surrender was to time the issuance of the ultimatum to Japan to coincide with the initiation of Soviet entry into the war. The second provision was that the Allied powers would allow Japan to preserve the monarchy under the current dynasty, “if it be shown to the complete satisfaction of the world that such a government will never aspire again to aggression”.

What happened with these provisions? The Potsdam Conference was held from July 17 to August 2. On July 26, the Potsdam proclamation was issued. It said nothing about the entry of the Soviet Union and nothing about the possible preservation of the monarchy. Those two conditions were rejected because of political considerations.

Thus, I would argue that the first assumption – that the atomic bomb was the only alternative for the United States to end the war – was false, a myth. The fact is that Truman did not choose other alternatives available to him.

Yamaguchi: So your conclusion is that these two options were deliberately rejected by American leaders. Is that right?

Hasegawa: That’s right. Those two options were presented, but they were discarded for political purposes.

Earlier I mentioned that Truman faced two dilemmas. How could the president solve those two dilemmas? The first plutonium bomb test was successful, one day before the Potsdam Conference began. Eureka! The US had the winning weapon! With the atomic bomb, the United States would be able to terminate the war before the Soviets entered the war, and it would also be able to bring Japan to its knees. That’s why Truman rejected the alternatives that Stimson presented.

That’s my argument on the first assumption. The atomic bomb was not the only available option; there were two very important options available. But they were rejected for political reasons.

To Deter the Soviets?

Yamaguchi: Some argue that the bombs were intended not only to terminate the war, but also to control or deter the Soviet Union, with a view to the postwar era. What do you think of this view?

Hasegawa: One group of revisionist historians argue that the atomic bombs were used even though Japan had already been defeated. Therefore, there was no reason for the United States to use the bombs. The only reason the United States used them was to intimidate the Soviet Union. The Cold War had already started.

My interpretation is different. Defeat is different from surrender because surrender is a political decision. It’s quite clear that Japan was defeated militarily. There was no way that Japan could win the war or avert defeat. But it remained that the United States had to force the Japanese leadership to accept surrender. That was a very difficult challenge, particularly because Japanese leaders maintained a fanatical belief in the kokutai, worship of the emperor, which they considered the spiritual essence of Japanese nationhood.

Among Truman’s advisers, Secretary of State James Byrnes may have been the most vocal about using the bomb to intimidate the Soviets. But Byrnes also sought to intimidate the Japanese to induce surrender. It is difficult to say which motivation had higher priority for Byrnes.

In my opinion, Truman himself and his administration as a whole used the bomb primarily to terminate the war, but they did so in such a way that – this is where the second motivation comes in – it would prevent the Soviet Union from entering the war. That’s quite different from the interpretation by Gar Alperovitz and other revisionists of this school.

Impact on the Soviet Union

Yamaguchi: I would like to know more about how Soviet decision-making was affected by the development of the American atomic bombs.

Hasegawa: The Soviet Union was also facing a dilemma. They had decided long time – by as early as October 1944 – to enter the war against Japan. But there was one problem. The Soviet Union and Japan had a neutrality pact. It had been concluded in 1941 and included the provision that unless one party notified the other party one year prior to the termination of the pact, it would automatically continue for another five years.

And so, in April 1945, the Soviet government notified the Japanese government that it would not renew the pact. The Japanese ambassador to the Soviet Union, Naotake Sato, asked Soviet Foreign Minister Viacheslav Molotov if the Soviet Union was going to abrogate the pact immediately. Molotov said no, the neutrality pact would remain in effect until April 1946. Of course, that was a lie. Stalin had a very interesting expression – “We will lull the Japanese to sleep.” Stalin wanted the Japanese to believe that the Soviet government was observing the neutrality pact, while in fact it was sending troops and equipment to the Far East in preparation to enter the war.

But there was one problem. The Soviets had decided that the most favorable moment for attack on Japan would be in August. By then preparations would be completed for a surprise attack on all three fronts against Japanese forces in China and Korea, and the weather would be most favorable. But this would be a clear violation of the neutrality pact. So how were they to solve this dilemma? The solution was that, at the forthcoming Potsdam Conference, Stalin would have the Allied nations invite the Soviet Union to join the war. The Soviets’ commitment to the Allies, especially for the higher cause of terminating the world war, would trump its legal obligations to Japan.

One might question why Stalin, known as the major player of Realpolitik, would care much about the legal commitment. Actually, contrary to the belief that the dictator could ignore legal niceties at will, the Soviet government was careful to observe the legal commitments that it made. Moreover, Stalin was concerned that the Soviet entry into the war was a violation of the Neutrality Pact, given that his people had fought and sacrificed so many lives in a war that had been initiated by the Nazi violation of the 1941 Non-Aggression Pact.

But, after the United States acquired the atomic bomb, it moved to exclude the Soviet Union from the ultimatum to Japan, betraying its earlier promise to place the joint ultimatum on the agenda of the Potsdam Conference. On July 26, a few hours before the official issuance of the Potsdam Proclamation, Secretary of State James Byrnes gave the Soviet delegation its text to the press. Throughout the Potsdam Conference, the Soviets had been kept in the dark on the deliberations of the Proclamation, although the American and the British delegations were constantly in touch with each other, and the text was sent to Chiang Kai-shek for his approval. The announcement was a total shock to the Soviets. Upon learning about the proclamation, signed by Truman, Churchill, and Chiang Kai-shek, the Soviet Union hastily wrote up its own joint proclamation and asked the United States to postpone the issuance of its proclamation, presumably so that the Soviets could present their own version at the conference. The United States promptly rejected the request. It had already been released to the press before Molotov made the request a few hours before the official issuance of the proclamation. Molotov’s request came too late, Byrnes explained. The Soviets were outmaneuvered, and lost the chance to present their version, and their draft was sent to the archives.

And what did Stalin do next? On July 29, Molotov, who attended the meeting in place of Stalin, who claimed that he was sick, proposed that Truman should invite Stalin to sign the proclamation. Truman rejected this offer as well. Later Truman explained: “I did not like this proposal for one important reason. I saw in it a cynical diplomatic move to make Russia’s entry at this time appear to be the decisive factor to bring about victory.” Truman’s rejection convinced Stalin, finally, that the United States was trying to force Japan to surrender before the Soviet entry into the war. If that occurred, all the promises that the United States made at Yalta would be nullified. Stalin became desperate. The race between the atomic bombs and Soviet entry into the war had begun in earnest.

Image on the right: Iconic image of the Hiroshima bomb

Fumihiko Yoshida: When Stalin was notified about the atomic bomb by Truman during the Potsdam conference, what impact did this have on Stalin? I presume the Soviet Union was preparing its own nuclear-weapons program.

Hasegawa: That’s a very interesting question. The Soviets had already begun their project to develop atomic weapons and they had spies in the Manhattan Project; the most important was Klaus Fuchs. The Soviet Union was aware of what the United States was doing.

When the first US nuclear test succeeded on July 16, however, the Soviet secret police had no knowledge of the test.

During the Potsdam Conference, when a report about the successful test in New Mexico reached Truman on July 21, he conferred with UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill about what to do with this information. They agreed that something had to be reported to Stalin but that they should not reveal that this was the atomic bomb.

So during recess at the conference on July 24, Truman approached Stalin. Everybody on the American and British sides was watching, because they wanted to know what Stalin’s reaction would be. Truman told Stalin: “I have to tell you that our country has acquired a new weapon of unusual destructive force”. Stalin looked at Truman and said, “Well, I hope you make good use of it.” Truman and everyone else thought Stalin didn’t know that Truman was talking about the atomic bomb without specifically referring to it as such.

But Stalin was fully aware. When he came back to his villa, he called a conference. He was angry about the failure of intelligence to detect the successful American test of the plutonium bomb. He said: “We are not going to let the Americans use this to intimidate us”. That night he ordered his scientists to speed up the Soviet atomic-bomb project.

The question is whether Stalin expected the United States to use the bomb. I don’t think that he expected the United States to make the bomb operational so quickly. But the first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6 at 8:15 Tokyo time. When exactly the news of the atomic bomb reached Stalin is not known, but he must have heard the news by late afternoon or the evening of August 6. I believe that when Stalin received the news, he was in real shock. And in fact, if you take a look at Stalin’s daily schedule book, he met all kinds of people on August 5, when he returned to Moscow from Berlin, to discuss with them preparations for the war.

But on August 6, the day when the Hiroshima bomb was dropped, Stalin’s appointment book was blank. This blank page speaks volumes. I suspect that he was in deep shock. He must have thought that the atomic bomb might prompt Japan to end the war immediately, before the Soviets entered the war. But on August 7, Ambassador Sato requested a meeting with Molotov to inquire about Japan’s pending request for mediation. From this request, Stalin learned that the game was not over yet. He sprang into action. He ordered his military to move up the date to start the war by 48 hours, to midnight of August 8-9.

What Was the Decisive Factor in Ending the War?

Yamaguchi: Now we would like to discuss the second assumption that you have mentioned. You rebut the argument that the atomic bombs were the decisive factor in Japan’s surrender. Could you expand on that?

Hasegawa: We have to go back a little bit. Japan also faced a dilemma. The Battle of Okinawa began on 1 April 1945. The Japanese military and the emperor himself thought that they would inflict damage on the Americans and gain favorable conditions under which they could terminate the war. But the Battle of Okinawa ended in mid-June with a decisive defeat for Japan.

This was the first time that Japanese leaders seriously started to discuss how to terminate the war. The Japanese government was hopelessly divided. The highest decision-making body, the Supreme War Council, consisting of the Big Six (prime minister, foreign minister, Army minister, Army chief of staff, Navy minister and Navy chief of staff), required unanimity before any decision was brought to the emperor for approval. But the military – the war party – (except for the Navy minister) continued to insist that in the anticipated American invasion of Kyushu, the Japanese would inflict tremendous damage on the Americans and break their morale.

Those who favored immediate peace – the peace party – led by Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo, Navy Minister Mitsumasa Yonai, and Marquis Koichi Kido, Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal, who was not a member of the Big Six, but was the Emperor’s most trusted adviser, thought that continuing the war would diminish the possibility of gaining favorable terms. What did they mean by that?

There was a consensus between the war party and the peace party: the minimal condition for the termination of the war should be the preservation of the kokutai. The kokutai was centered around emperor worship, which the Japanese leadership considered the essence of the nation. If this condition was not met, Japan would fight to the bitter end, to the last soldier and the last civilian. They interpreted the American demand for unconditional surrender as tantamount to the destruction of the kokutai. Thus, they precluded negotiations with the US and Britain.

There was only one major country that remained neutral. That was the Soviet Union. So they decided to approach the Soviet Union and seek help to mediate the termination of the war.

That was a colossal diplomatic mistake, because, as noted above, the Soviet Union had already decided that it would wage war against Japan and was making preparations for it in earnest, especially after the German capitulation on May 7. Moreover, Japanese intelligence sources detected that the Soviets were sending troops and equipment on a massive scale to the Far East and warned that Soviet entry into the war was imminent. But the Japanese top leaders ended peace feelers in Switzerland and Sweden, and put all their eggs in the Soviet basket. They confused strategic thinking with wishful thinking, hoping to persuade the Soviet Union to mediate by offering generous territorial concessions. These concessions were, however, much smaller than those that Stalin had been offered at Yalta.

One crucial point that was to become a contentious issue later – and remains contentious today – was the possession of the southern Kurils, which the Japanese now call the Northern Territories. (They didn’t do so then.) As I mentioned before, the entire Kuril chain was included in the reward promised to Stalin by the Yalta secret protocol, but the southern Kurils were not included in the concessions that Japan was willing to grant to the Soviet Union. That was because this part of the Kurils had been recognized as belonging to Japan by the Russians in the Treaty of Shimoda in 1855, and had always been a part of Hokkaido, that is, an inherent part of Japanese territory. Whether this territory should be included in the territorial concessions to the Soviet Union was not debated in the Japanese government, most likely because this fact was taken for granted.

On July 12, five days before the Potsdam Conference began, Foreign Minister Togo sent a telegram to Ambassador Sato, instructing him to approach the Soviet government to request mediation, saying that the emperor would send Prince Fumimaro Konoye as his special envoy to Moscow for that purpose. Molotov asked further clarifications, but left for Potsdam without responding to Sato’s request for mediation.

When Stalin met Truman on July 17, shortly before the official conference began, Stalin revealed to Truman that he had received Japan’s request for Soviet mediation to terminate the war. Stalin told Truman that he would prefer to “lull the Japanese to sleep,” without answering Japan’s request. Actually, Truman knew all this through his secret intelligence operation, Magic intercepts of Japanese diplomatic dispatches. Without revealing that he knew this, Truman approved Stalin’s policy not to respond to Japan’s request. Both wanted to prolong the war long enough to surprise Japan, Truman with atomic bombs and Stalin with entry into the war against Japan.

When the Potsdam Proclamation was issued on July 26, the Japanese government was still patiently waiting for the Soviet answer on mediation.

How then did the Japanese government react to the Potsdam Proclamation? First, they immediately noticed that Stalin did not sign it. So they continued to stay the course: to seek the termination of the war through Soviet mediation. Secondly, the proclamation did not say anything about the fate of the emperor, which was the most important concern for Japanese leaders. Togo thought that there was room for negotiation with the Allies on the terms specified by the Potsdam Proclamation.

The Japanese made another cardinal mistake here. Prime Minister Kantaro Suzuki allegedly declared at a press conference that Japan was going to mokusatsu the proclamation. But mokusatsu is not total rejection. It basically means they were going to “keep silent”, and “ignore” it. I say “allegedly” because it is not clear that Suzuki made this declaration or if the press interpreted his ambiguous statement and used the term mokusatsu.

But the US government took it as rejection. Presumably, Truman and his advisers had not expected the Japanese to accept their ultimatum in the first place. The removal of any reference to the preservation of the monarchy ensured that the Japanese would most likely not accept the ultimatum. They took Suzuki’s unofficial mokusatsu statement as Japan’s official rejection of the ultimatum, providing a convenient justification for the use of the atomic bombs.

Actually, the order to use the atomic bombs (not only the first bomb but also the second) was given on July 25, not by the president – no presidential order was given – but by General Thomas Handy, the acting chief of staff of the Army to General Carl Spaatz of the Army Strategic Air Forces, while General Marshall was away in Potsdam, one day before the Potsdam Proclamation was issued. Spaatz was ordered to “deliver the first special bomb as soon as weather permits visual bombing after about 3 August 1945 on one of the targets: Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata and Nagasaki.” It added: “Additional bombs will be delivered on the above targets as soon as made ready by the project staff.” The use of the atomic bomb was treated as a routine military matter, just as the decision to carry out conventional strategic bombing that had destroyed 64 Japanese cities prior to the atomic bombing over the preceding four months. The train had already left the station, and barring Japan’s immediate decision to surrender by accepting the Potsdam ultimatum, the atomic bombs were fated to be dropped on two of these targets. With the removal of Stimson’s two crucial stipulations, there was little chance that the Japanese leaders would immediately accept the Potsdam Proclamation.

General Handy’s order to drop the atomic bombs

Yamaguchi: The United States then dropped the bomb on Hiroshima on August 6.

Hasegawa: Yes. So what was the impact of the Hiroshima bomb? Of course, it was a tremendous shock. But it cannot be said to have been decisive and to have led to Japan’s immediate decision to surrender. Right after the Hiroshima bomb was dropped, later on the afternoon of August 6, Foreign Minister Togo sent an urgent dispatch to Ambassador Sato in Moscow, telling him that they were in a dire situation with the new bomb and urging Sato to meet Molotov immediately to inquire about Japan’s request for Soviet mediation. That meant that despite the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, the Japanese government was still seeking to terminate the war through Soviet mediation. That was also the first response of the Japanese government to the bomb in Hiroshima. This is telling evidence that the Hiroshima bomb was not decisive.

Soviet forces invade Manchuria

And then, after midnight of August 8-9, Soviet Far East time, two in the morning Japan time, Soviet tanks rolled into Manchuria, and planes attacked Japanese forces. This surprise attack was totally unexpected. It was only then, on the morning of August 9, that the Supreme War Council was convened for the first time. It had not met following the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. But it was convened immediately after the Soviet attack.

During the heated debate at the Supreme War Council the first news of the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki was conveyed to the Japanese leaders. The original report said that the bomb caused minimal damage. The Imperial General Headquarters record of this meeting simply stated that the bombing had no impact on the group’s deliberations. There were altogether six reports on the impact of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki dispatched to the Imperial General Headquarters, each conveying progressively more alarming news of the damage. Nevertheless, there exists no record indicating that the second atomic bomb had an impact on the debate within the top echelons of the Japanese leaders. In other words, not only the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima but also the two bombs combined were not decisive, to use the terminology of boxing, they provided no “knock-out” punch, in terms of the Japanese decision to terminate the war. Even after the one-two punch of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, they could not decide, because the Supreme War Council was still divided. Unable to come to a consensus, they made an unprecedented decision – to defer the final decision to the emperor by holding an imperial conference.

The imperial conference that began at 11:30 PM on August 9 and continued into the early hours of August 10 eventually decided, with the emperor’s consent, to accept the terms of the Potsdam Proclamation with one condition: “on the understanding that the Allied Proclamation would not comprise any demand which would prejudice the prerogatives of His Majesty as a Sovereign Ruler [Tenno no kokka tochi no taiken].”

The United States rejected this condition. The emperor’s prerogatives included tosuiken, the control of the military. That prerogative was a crucial factor for Japanese militarism. The United States had been fighting the war to eradicate Japanese militarism, and there was no possibility – whether they be hawks or doves – that they would accept this condition. In fact, the objections to this condition came from the Japan specialists who had advocated softening the unconditional-surrender demand. Secretary of State Byrnes sent the so-called Byrnes note to Japan making it clear that after acceptance of the ultimatum, the Japanese emperor should be subject to the control of the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers. As far as the Japanese future polity was concerned, it would be determined by the freely expressed will of the people.

The Byrnes note prompted even more serious division among Japanese leaders than on previous days. Even those people who initially favored peace questioned what the United States meant by saying that the Japanese emperor was “to be subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers”. The Japanese emperor was divine and not to be subjected to anything, the hard-liners insisted. Furthermore, the kokutai was not the issue on which the emperor’s “subjects” could make a determination. Since this was the accepted view of kokutai in Japan, the peace advocates had a hard time countering the hard-liner’s counter-attack.

As a result, there was a backlash. Even Suzuki, Togo and Yonai began to waver, but the second-tier peace factions, who had worked hard to secure peace in the Prime Minister’s Office (Hisatsune Sakomizu), the Foreign Ministry (Shunichi Matsumoto) and the Naval Ministry (Sokichi Takagi), conspired behind the back of the strengthened war party. They managed to mobilize the wavering Kido, Togo, Yonai and eventually Suzuki to arrange a second imperial conference. And it was at this second imperial conference that the emperor accepted the terms specified by the Potsdam ultimatum unconditionally. Japan would accept defeat, although it did not use the term “surrender” (kofuku), merely “the termination of the war” (shusen). It was also decided that the emperor would broadcast the imperial rescript announcing the “termination of war” on the radio, another unprecedented event, since until then the emperor’s real voice had never reached his “subjects”.

So that’s the way that the war was terminated. This is my long analysis of the second assumption that the atomic bomb was a decisive factor on the Japanese decision to surrender. Neither the first bomb nor the combined two bombs had immediate and direct impact on Japan’s decision to surrender.

So the two very important justifications for the US decision to drop the bomb were false. They were merely myths.

Yoshida: Do you think then that the Soviet entry into the war was a decisive factor?

Hasegawa: It can be argued that the Soviet entry into the war was not a decisive factor either since even after Soviet tanks entered Manchuria, the Supreme War Council could not reach a consensus and had to ask the emperor to make the decision.

There is no smoking gun to determine which – the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, the two atomic bombs combined, or the Soviet entry into the war – had a decisive impact on Japan’s decision to surrender. I think that everything is speculation. That’s partly because the Japanese government burned all the documents it could at the end of the war, so we lack documentary evidence to draw definitive conclusions. And secondly, very important surviving documents and archives still are not available. For instance, the Imperial Household Agency (Kunaicho) has records, but these have not been made available. So we don’t know what the emperor thought and what he discussed with his advisers, especially Kido, and others. There exists Army minister Korechika Anami’s diary, but it has not been made public.

But from the circumstantial evidence, I would say, again, that the Soviet factor is more important than not only the first bomb on Hiroshima, but also the two atomic bombs combined. The Japanese government relied heavily on Soviet neutrality. It clung to the hope of Soviet mediation right up until the Soviets entered the war. It is important to stress that even after the Soviet attack, Japan did not declare war against the Soviet Union, limiting the military resistance merely to self-defense.

But Japan was betrayed when it was clinging to the hope of Soviet mediation. The Japanese characterized the Soviet action as that of a fire thief (kajiba-dorobo). The betrayal had a tremendous psychological effect. The sight of Soviets tanks rolling into Manchuria, Korea, then Sakhalin and the Kurils was indeed alarming, prompting a fast turnaround by the top policy-makers, including the emperor, with regard to the role of the Soviet Union. If the Soviets continued to march, they might even gain a decisive voice in the Allied Occupation Council and might claim a part of Japan as their occupation zone, making even the preservation of the current imperial dynasty uncertain. In fact, in the negotiations with Truman, Stalin demanded that the Soviets have an occupation zone in a part of Hokkaido and a slice of Tokyo.

Suddenly, the fourth provision of Byrnes’ note, which stipulated that Japan’s future polity would be determined by the freely expressed will of the people, became more attractive. And this was the point that the emperor made to Kido for unconditional acceptance of the Potsdam terms. In other words, in order to preserve the current imperial dynasty, if not the kokutai as they understood it, Japanese policy-makers, including the emperor, bet on the American side hoping that the United States would be willing to preserve the Imperial House, and specifically, it would be more willing than the Soviets to do so. It is important to note that in the imperial rescript as well as the prime minister’s announcement of the termination of the war, they pretended that the kokutai was preserved although the meaning of the kokutai was transformed from the traditional mythical term, the spiritual essence of Japan’s nationhood, into the preservation of the Imperial House.

For these reasons, I think that the Soviet entry into the war had a more important impact on Japan’s decision to surrender than the two atomic bombs combined.

The Third Justification: Revenge

Yamaguchi: Do you think any kind of domestic political considerations contributed to the US decision to drop the bomb?

Hasegawa: That’s very important. There is a third, hidden justification that Americans don’t state very openly. That is revenge. The United States experienced the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The United States and the Allies, including China, as well as Asian people under Japanese rule, suffered atrocious treatment of their prisoners of war and civilians – the Nanjing Massacre, the Bataan Death March, experiments using poison gas and chemical warfare on live prisoners, the comfort women, beheadings and torture, and innumerable other atrocities in violation of the rules of warfare.

When there were carpet bombings, such as the Nazis’ attacks on Rotterdam and Warsaw and Japanese attacks on Chongqing and Shanghai, President Roosevelt issued a statement denouncing these as totally unethical. There are certain things that you cannot do even in time of war. There are the rules of conduct in warfare. For instance, the use of poison gas is banned by the Hague Convention.

But these high principles gradually eroded when the Pacific War began, as John Dower argues in his book War Without Mercy, both sides demonized the other side (Dower 1986Dower, J. 1986. War without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War. New York: Pantheon Books. [Google Scholar]). And pretty soon, the American side began to think that the only way the Japanese could learn their lesson was to completely annihilate them physically. New Republic wrote in 1942: “The natural enemy of every American man, woman and child is the Japanese man, woman and child.” One official of the Information office in the Army declared in 1944: “The entire population of Japan is a proper target… There are no civilians in Japan.”

This desire for vengeance was also apparent in Truman. When the Federal Council of Churches protested the use of the atomic bombs on August 11, 1945. Truman responded: “Nobody is more disturbed over the use of Atomic bombs than I am but I was greatly disturbed over the unwarranted attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor and their murder of our prisoners of war. The only language they seem to understand is the one we have been using to bombard them. When you have to deal with a beast you have to treat him as a beast.”

So, by the time the United States used the atomic bomb, that moral divide that President Roosevelt had espoused had already been crossed. Once that divide was crossed, it was easier to go one step further from incendiary bombings to the atomic bombings.

Yoshida: In the Tokyo bombing, 100,000 people were killed in one night. So even in Japan, there is an argument about what the difference between Tokyo and Hiroshima is.

Hasegawa: But there are qualitative differences between conventional strategic bombing and atomic bombing. While the Tokyo bombings were carried out by 279 B-52s, dropping 1,665 tons of incendiary bombs, one single atomic bomb could kill as many people. That is, one bomb over one city. The second issue is radiation. If poison gas was prohibited by international law, then certainly the atomic bomb should be prohibited, too, since it is more atrocious than poison gas in terms of mass killing of civilian populations. Truman himself became aware of the horrible consequences of atomic bombings. That’s why when he received the news of the enormous number of victims of the Hiroshima bomb after the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, he ordered that any future use of atomic bombs would require presidential authorization. Later on, before he fulfilled his term of office, he admitted that the atomic bomb was many times worse than poison gas.

But I have one more important thing to add. Since I am both Japanese and American, I would like to make clear which voice I use to make the following points. Although as an American citizen, I believe that the use of atomic bomb should be recognized as a war crime to help prevent the Americans from committing the same mistake in future.

But as a Japanese, I would like to stress that when we talk about Japan as a victim, we also have to recall that Japan was also a perpetrator of war. Japan colonized Korea and Taiwan, invaded China, attacked Pearl Harbor, and committed numerous atrocities during the war. Countless numbers of people suffered at the hands of the Japanese. We must acknowledge that Japan must also take responsibility for war crimes, recognizing that our hands were also soaked with blood.

There is also the issue of political responsibility for prolonging the war. If Japan had terminated the war earlier, there would not have been the atomic bombings or Soviet entry into the war. Very few Japanese will voice their opinion on this issue, including the responsibility of the Japanese emperor. He could have more decisively intervened earlier to terminate the war and save many Japanese, Asian and American lives. He could have abdicated from the throne after the war to accept his responsibility for supporting the war. That’s taboo, and few Japanese historians touch upon it. We cannot only protest that we are innocent victims of the bomb without atoning for the crimes that Japan committed. Tears that pour out for the victims of the atomic bombs must also be accompanied by prayers for those who fell victim to Japan’s criminal acts during the war.

Nuclear Weapons as a War Crime

Radomir Compel: In your book you write that the possession of nuclear weapons, or the potential for use of those weapons changed the attitude of the United States (e.g. with regard to the Imperial system or early Soviet entry into the war). In general terms, is it conceivable that possession of nuclear weapons hardens policy makers determination to pursue their goals more harshly or more assertively?

Hasegawa: I think there are two types of military men and women or even policy-makers with regard to the use of the atomic bomb. The first group holds that it should be used only for deterrence. But there is another group that believes that the atomic bomb can be used as a legitimate war-fighting weapon. It is for that reason that nuclear weapons have been constantly improved and miniaturized, so that they can be used in war.

My fear is that, as long as nuclear weapons exist, they could ultimately be used. President Donald Trump thinks that new types of nuclear weapons can easily be used against rogue states. He and other authoritarian leaders would not think twice about using them.

The only way to prevent another use of the atomic bomb is to build a global constituency committed to honoring and acting on the slogan that Nagasaki adopts – let Nagasaki be the last victim of the atomic bomb by abolishing nuclear weapons altogether.

When I was thinking about nuclear weapons in the middle of the Cold War, I was more interested in arms control or how to prevent the use of the atomic bomb rather than nuclear disarmament or total abolition of nuclear weapons.

I spent many years working on the decision-making process a the top, but after published Racing the Enemy, I began reading about what was happening on the ground in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I read many eye-witness accounts, saw the illlustrations drawn by the victims, and read a rich trove of atomic bomb literature (Tamiki Hara, Sankichi Toge, Masuji Ibuse, Kenzaburo Oe, Yoko Ota, among others). Historians who work on diplomatic history rarely lower their gaze on the ground. But I challenge how many of these diplomatic historians who justify the dropping of the atomic bombs have the courage to make the same argument, after becoming familiar with what occurred on the ground on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and what sufferings the survivors have endured over the years. After serious reflection on these accounts, I have finally come to the conclusion that nuclear weapons must be abolished altogether. That’s the only way to prevent them from being used and the use of nuclear weapons should be denounced as a war crime.

Compel: In the system, as it is today, we can condemn only a very few cases among the many war crimes that occur. For example, there have been convictions for war crimes in Yugoslavia and in places where the interests of great powers are not involved, like Africa. At the same time, many incidents in the wars in Syria, Afghanistan, or Iraq are not being prosecuted, because they are kept outside of ICC (International Criminal Court) jurisdiction. Also, despite the fact that war crimes may be committed by other parties to the conflict, often only one party is being tried and found guilty. This leaves an impression that the other party has not committed any war crimes. Does this not apply to cases like Hiroshima and Nagasaki? And do you think there might be a way to address such imbalances?

HasegawaTH: Between August 6, that is between the day that the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and on August 9, when the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, the Allied powers – the United States, Soviet Union, Great Britain and France – got together and talked about their policy for trials of war crimes. And they eliminated strategic bombing from the category of war crimes. That meant that atomic bombing would not be addressed in war crimes trials. Judge Radhabinod Pal of India presented a dissenting view, raised the question of the use of atomic bombs as a war crime at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, but his opinion was ruled out.

Your question is about how to make it happen. I don’t know. It’s a very difficult task, particularly in the current climate. But we have to keep working. As Voltaire said in his Candide, “We must cultivate our garden.”

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This article is adapted from Hibiki Yamaguchi, Fumihiko Yoshida and Radomir Compel, “Can the Atomic Bombings on Japan Be Justified? A Conversation with Dr. Tsuyoshi Hasegawa“, The Journal for Peace and Nuclear Disarmament Vol 2, Issue 1, 2019, pp. 19-33 Following the original, Japanese surnames are listed after given names.

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Hibiki Yamaguchi is managing editor of the Journal for Peace and Nuclear Disarmament (J-PAND).

Fumihiko Yoshida is editor-in-chief of J-PAND. He also serves as director of the Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition, Nagasaki University.

Radomir Compel is associate professor in the School of Global Humanities and Social Sciences at Nagasaki University.

Sources

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Bird, Kai and Lawrence Lifschulz, 1998. Hiroshima’s Shadow. Stony Creek, Conn.: Pamphleteer’s Press.

Butow, J. C. Robert, 1956. Japan’s Decision to Surrender. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Dower, John. 1986. War without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War. New York: Pantheon Books.

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Walker, Samuel, 2004. Prompt and Utter Destruction: Truman and the Use of Atomic Bomb against Japan. Chapel Hill: North Carolina Press.

All images in this article are from APJJF

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Global Research has published several articles which provide different as well as opposing views of the strikes directed Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities. What was the (direct or indirect) role of Iran in these strikes?

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This weekend’s massive drone strike by Yemen’s Ansarullah rebels against the world’s largest oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia was a classic David vs. Goliath moment where a smaller force inflicted a devastating blow against their much larger opponent, one which even surpasses its legendary predecessor because of its potential global consequences.

The world was reminded of the biblical story of David vs. Goliath over the weekend after a massive drone strike by Yemen’s Ansarullah rebels against the world’s largest oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia represented an unforgettable modern-day manifestation of a smaller force inflicting a devastating blow against their much larger opponent. The attack was condemned by almost the entire international community, including Russia which described it as “an alarming event for the oil markets” and promised to “strongly condemn” the incident if it was proven to have actually been a drone strike like reported, and Iran’s enemies immediately sought to capitalize on it by linking the Islamic Republic to what happened in an attempt to increase already unprecedented pressure on that country. Tehran denied the claims being made against it, but that hasn’t stopped some in the American administration from insisting that their rival was responsible.

It’s difficult to predict what will happen next, but obtaining a more informed understanding of the larger context involved could help observers get a better grip on this rapidly evolving situation. The first issue to address is why this even happened at all. Gun-for-gun and dollar-for-dollar, the Ansarullah are no match for the Saudi-led coalition, which is why they’ve had to resort to asymmetrical warfare for the entirety of this nearly half-decade-long conflict that’s since been recognized by the UN as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The conflict has reached a stalemate, especially following the UAE’s large-scale withdrawal and the rise of their South Yemeni separatist allies in their wake, though Saudi Arabia is ignoring which way the proverbial wind is blowing and has yet to lessen its involvement in the war because it can’t find a “face-saving” way to do so.

Crown Prince MBS fears that an “undignified withdrawal” might provoke some members of the royalist elite into pursuing (another?) “palace coup” attempt against him, yet continuing to participate in this increasingly unpopular war harms his country’s international standing. Thrown onto the horns of this dilemma by none other than its Emirati coalition “ally”, Saudi Arabia has remained in a state of strategic paralysis since this summer and refused to use take advantage of this opportunity to engage in a large-scale withdrawal as well. The Ansarullah therefore sought to exploit this by carrying out a devastating drone raid against the world’s largest oil production facility that would naturally force the Saudis’ hand and therefore exacerbate the dilemma that it’s presently in. There was no way that MBS could ignore what happened, yet any massive military response like the one that’s expected will only serve to drag him deeper into this quagmire.

This might have been the worst possible time for such a crisis to happen too, both for Saudi Arabia and the rest of the world. About the first-mentioned, it just replaced its Oil Minister with a member of the royal family for the first time in decades, which upset the delicate inter-elite balance that was already rocked by MBS’ controversial “anti-corruption” campaign from two years ago. This crisis therefore represents the Oil Minister’s first real challenge less than a week into the job. Not only that, but oil revenue constitutes the bulk of the Saudi budget, which has been under strain as it is by the rising costs of the War on Yemen and the slump in global oil prices. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia is in the midst of a systemic economic transition (“Vision 2030“) towards its inevitable post-oil future, but the success of MBS’ ambitious plans rests on reliably receiving oil revenue in order to properly fund it, which has just been thrown into doubt after the attack by 10 inexpensive drones.

Concerning the interests that the rest of the world have in this crisis, it’s obvious that a war with Iran and/or a worsening of the humanitarian situation in Yemen through large-scale Saudi bombings would be extremely undesirable for all, but there are also more “selfish” ones at play too. Potentially higher oil prices could lead to inflation, which might be enough to finally push some of the developed economies (specifically the US, EU, and China) into a recession that could in turn catalyze another global economic crisis. There are likely some self-interested forces who would like to see this happen (such as Trump’s “deep state” foes), but all responsible stakeholders are doing their best to prevent this scenario. Still, because of this latest attack’s potentially global consequences in this respect, it stands as an event of out-sized importance, one that takes the David vs. Goliath metaphor to an entirely new level but also somewhat changes the story based on the modern circumstances.

David’s slingshot in this example was the Ansarullah’s drones, the shots of which were heard around the world, though the Saudi Goliath hasn’t (yet?) fallen. That same Goliath, though, is internally divided given the Saudis’ inter-elite divisions, and its overall wellness (in this case, structural and more specifically economic stability) isn’t that good either. David (or the Ansarullah) also isn’t undamaged, but has been pummeled over and over by a vastly superior force that’s inflicted massive collateral damage to those that he cares about too (the Yemen people, especially those in the North). Nevertheless, David isn’t giving up, but is doubling down on his asymmetrical warfare capabilities in the hope of either taking Goliath down himself or getting someone else to intervene in restraining him (the International Community), with only time telling how this new legend will end.

*

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This article was originally published on OneWorld.

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.

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GR Editor’s Note

This report is contested.

The evidence that Iran was directly involved in strikes out of Iraq has not been corroborated.

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The strikes which paralysed the Saudi oil industry on Saturday morning, forcing it to halve its output of crude oil, were made by Iranian drones launched from Hashd al-Shaabi bases in southern Iraq, a senior Iraqi intelligence official has told Middle East Eye.

The attacks on Abqaiq and Khurais, two key Aramco facilities in eastern Saudi Arabia, were in retaliation for Israeli drone strikes on Hashd al-Shaabi bases and convoys in August, which were co-ordinated and funded by the Saudis, the official said.

“The latest attack comes for two reasons: another message from Iran to USA and its allies that as long as its siege on Iran continues no one will have stability in the region. However, the second more direct reason is a strong Iranian revenge for the recent Israeli attacks by drones launched from SDF-controlled areas in Syria against pro-Iranian Hashd bases,” he said.

“These Israeli drone attacks were supported and financed by the Saudis. That is why the recent attack was the most devastating, while the previous attacks were more symbolic and inflicted little harm,” the official said.

In August, five drone attacks on the Iranian-trained Hashd militia were launched from Kurdish bases under the control of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) areas of northeastern Syria, MEE reported at the time.

The drones struck bases, weapons depots and a convoy belonging to Hashd al-Shaabi, killing one fighter and severely wounding another.

Iraqi intelligence said the strikes were planned when Saudi Minister of State for Gulf Affairs, Thamer al-Sabhan, visited the SDF in Syria in June.

Drone seen over Kuwait palace

The Iraqi intelligence official refused to say which bases Saturday’s drones were launched from.

However, he confirmed that the distance between southern Iraq and the Saudi oilfields was about half the distance the drones would have had to fly had they been launched from Houthi bases in northern Yemen.

He said the drones had to travel between 500km and 600km, where as if they had been fired from Houthi bases they would have had to cover a distance of between 1,100km and 1,300km.

Map showing the approximate route of the drones based on information from Iraqi intelligence

Map showing the approximate route of the drones based on information from Iraqi intelligence

The flight path of the drones travelling south from Iraq to the eastern oilfields of Saudi Arabia would have taken them over the sea or through Kuwait’s airspace.

Kuwait media reported on Saturday that a three-metre drone was sighted flying above the Dar Salwa palace in the centre of Kuwait City.

Alrai newspaper said that a three-metre-long unmanned aircraft, which came from the sea, descended to an altitude of 250 metres above the palace.

The drone hovered near the beach of Al Badaa and headed to the city of Kuwait.

MEE was unable to confirm whether this was connected to the attack on the Saudi oil installations.

Kuwait’s government said on Sunday that it was investigating the drone sighting.

“The security leadership has started the necessary investigations over the sighting of a drone over the coastline of Kuwait City and what measures were taken to confront it,” the cabinet said on its Twitter account.

It said Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber al-Mubarak al-Sabah directed military and security officers to tighten security at vital installations in the Gulf OPEC producer and to take all necessary measures “to protect Kuwait’s security”.

Iraqi denial

The Houthis have claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack, however the official said:

“It was not the Houthis. These were Iranian drones launched from Hashd al-Shaabi bases.”

The embattled Iraqi government was forced on Saturday to issue a statement denying the drone attacks on Saudi facilities came from its territory.

The statement issued by the prime minister’s press office read:

“Iraq denies what has been reported by the news media and the social media about the use of its territories to launch an attack on Saudi oil installations using drones.

“It asserts its constitutional commitment to preventing the use of its territories for aggression against its neighbours, brothers and friends.

“The Iraqi government will deal firmly and decisively with whoever attempts to violate the constitution.

“A committee composed of relevant Iraqi parties has been formed in order to pursue information and follow up developments.”

‘Between the rock and a hard place’

For months, Iraq Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi has been desperately attempting to prevent his country from being used as a battleground in a proxy war between the US and Iran.

Earlier this year, the US military signalled its intention to him to strike an airfield held by Iraqi Hezbollah after drone strikes on oil facilities in the Gulf.

Abdul Mahdi was reported by witnesses to the exchange to have told the Americans that he could not stop them striking wherever they wanted, but neither could he prevent retaliatory strikes by Iranian backed militias on US troops and bases in Iraq.

The US strike on Iraqi Hezbollah never took place. Instead, the US allowed Israel to use its drones from SDF bases in northeastern Syria.

In August, Abdul Mahdi came under huge pressure to publicly accuse Israel of launching drones to attack targets on Iraqi terrritory.

“Our prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi is between the rock and a hard place,” the Iraqi intelligence source told MEE.

“He told both the Iranians and the Americans Iraq is exhausted after decades of wars, conflicts and civil war.

“Dragging it into the centre of the proxy war between Iran on one side and the USA and its regional allies on the other will risk irreparable damage to its stability and unity with huge implications for the whole region.”

However, the prime minister’s pleas have been in vain. “Neither side is listening,” the official said.

‘Pretend diplomacy’

On Saturday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Iran of leading the attacks on Saudi Arabia and denounced Tehran for engaging in false diplomacy.

“Tehran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia while Rouhani and Zarif pretend to engage in diplomacy,” Pompeo said in a Twitter post, referring to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif.

“Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply,” Pompeo tweeted, offering no evidence of the origin of the attacks, according to the Reuters news agency.

Iran earlier condemned as “unacceptable” US accusations it was behind the attacks on the Saudi oil plants.

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What blasphemy is this? al-Qaeda has won? Absurd!

Most observers would say reflexively that, eighteen years after 9/11, the U.S. has cut al-Qaeda down to size, and if it has not quelled it altogether the remaining operations against Osama bin Laden’s organisation—such as the strike on al-Qaeda in Syria in Idlib on 31 August—amount to not much more than mopping up. But is this not a superficial reading of the situation?

Until Trump nixed the deal (temporarily?) the anniversary of 9/11 was set to coincide with an agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban, whereby the U.S. would withdraw from Afghanistan in return for assurances that U.S. troops will not be attacked as they leave and that the Taliban will not support groups such as al-Qaeda. Much of the discussion on the putative deal revolves around the question of whether the Taliban will respect any assurances they give.

But there is a deeper question here: the Taliban may or may not attack U.S. troops, but why would al-Qaeda today even want to attack the U.S. from Afghanistan? Or from anywhere at all? Has the U.S. not ended up aligning itself with al-Qaeda on the causes closest to al-Qaeda’s heart?

A Convergence of Interests

And what causes might those be? Leave aside the cause of besting its rival, the Islamic State (IS or ISIS), although the U.S. has done al-Qaeda an immense if unintended favour by largely removing from the scene al-Qaeda’s biggest competitor for recruits and funding. More to the point, how about the causes of fighting Iran, the Shia, the Syrian government, Hezbollah, and the Houthis, and generally making the Middle East safe for Sunni extremism?

‘Iran is the number one nation of terror’: has Donald Trump with this mantra not shifted the spotlight off Sunni terrorism, the undisputed bugbear of the U.S. in the first ten years after 9/11? And has al-Qaeda on its side not lost much of its anti-Western focus and become principally concerned with what it sees as heresy within Islam in the shape of Shiism and its offshoots?

Look at the absence of al-Qaeda reaction to the recent announcement that in light of the Iranian ‘threat’ the U.S. would be stationing troops once again in Saudi Arabia. Such stationing was an important catalyst for Bin Laden’s movement when, in the run up to and aftermath of the first U.S. war on Iraq in 1991, the U.S. kept thousands of troops in the holy land of Islam, considered anathema by many Muslims at the time. Now the prospect arouses barely a peep, so conditioned have the Saudi people and Sunnis generally become to seeing Iran as the enemy, not Israel or its protector the U.S.

Not that al-Qaeda ever appeared to care much about Israel’s misdeeds, at least to judge by actions rather than words. When did al-Qaeda ever mount a significant attack against Israel? So much fulmination, so little action. Even action against the U.S.: what did al-Qaeda do against the U.S. after the big coup of 9/11? It is necessary to go to the archives to come up with anything at all: the Times Square foiled car bomb attack in 2010 by a Pakistani who may or may not have been linked to al-Qaeda. The attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in the confused aftermath of Muammar Gaddafi’s downfall in 2012 may also just count. Even taking into account a number of plots allegedly foiled by U.S. security agencies (often involving agents provocateurs), the record hardly amounts to strong evidence of a continuing major al-Qaeda targeting of the U.S.

The feeling, or quasi-indifference, appears to have been mutual. After the killing of Bin Laden in 2011 the U.S. seemed to act as though it believed that the account had been squared and there was not a lot of point in doing more than go through the motions on combatting al-Qaeda, especially with the appearance of the new kid on the terrorist block, IS, itself an offshoot of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Allies in Syria and Beyond

The emerging convergence of interest between the U.S. and al-Qaeda has been most obvious in Syria. During the Obama years, the U.S. funnelled immense amounts of arms and equipment to jihadi groups in full knowledge that much of it was ending up in the hands of al-Qaeda affiliates, notably the group originally known as Jabhat Al Nusra. This group began life as al-Qaeda in Syria, before disagreements with al-Qaeda central led to a degree of distancing. With the passing years Nusra stepped up efforts to rebrand itself, first as Jabhat Fatah ash-Sham (JFS), then as Hayat Tahrir ash-Sham (HTS), its current avatar. But its basic radical jihadi ideology, and its oppressive sharia-inspired behaviour in areas it controlled, never changed.

The U.S., by mobilising all the immense means at its command to weaken and attempt to overthrow Bashar al-Assad, did much of the work of Nusra/JFS/HTS for it. The U.S. still does that, without ever manifesting the slightest concern that removing Assad would inevitably pave the way to jihadi control over all Syria. For if the U.S. no longer finds it expedient to pour arms directly into the maw of jihadi groups, it lifts not a finger to prevent ally Turkey from doing so with advanced U.S.-supplied weaponry, or Qatar from channelling copious funding to those groups. It constantly admonishes, with threats, the Syrian government and the Russians for using much the same level and type of military effort to dislodge HTS from Idlib that the U.S. itself used in Coalition operations to remove IS from Mosul, Fallujah, and Raqqa. At one point in 2018 it threatened to bomb Syria if Assad’s attempts to recover Idlib were not halted, prompting barbed comments that the U.S. Air Force, which had already bombed Syrian targets twice—in 2017 and 2018—was acting as the al-Qaeda air wing.

U.S. officials have put considerable effort into attempting to hobble Assad and the Syrian Arab Army in what they call their war on terrorism by imposing sanctions, withholding international reconstruction assistance, and pressuring countries not to normalise relations with Syria. It lionises groups like the White Helmets, considered by the Syrian government and Russia to be auxiliaries of HTS. It encourages think tanks hostile to Syria and Russia and does everything in its power to shape a mainstream media narrative on Syria that can only give comfort to a group, HTS, which plays adroitly on Western consciences in the hope that assistance from the West will continue and possibly even develop into armed intervention.

True, the U.S. continues to pay lip service to the cause of fighting al-Qaeda and even occasionally mounts some token military action against it, as when on 30 June this year the USAF launched a strike on a location near Idlib where commanders of an al-Qaeda affiliate, Hurras al-Din (the Guardians of Religion), were gathering. The Pentagon claimed that the purpose of the strike was to pre-empt ‘external’ attacks, which would endanger ‘U.S. citizens, our partners, and civilians’. The main impact of this curious attack out of the blue, following two years of complete U.S. inaction against al-Qaeda in Syria, was to deflate an emerging clamour for U.S. intervention in Syria, and may have been a Pentagon power play against ultra hawk John Bolton. The U.S. carried out an almost identical strike on 31 August, which is likely to strengthen the hold of HTS, left unscathed, over Hurras al-Din and other unruly factions that are more brazen in their al-Qaeda affiliation. Even if the two strikes are taken entirely at face value their rarity underlines that if the U.S. seriously wished to oppose al-Qaeda, it could and would be bombing HTS and its allies regularly. It can only be assumed that the U.S. broadly prioritises undermining Assad and Iran over the fight against Sunni terrorists, who for their part—especially now with IS a spent force—no longer have much appetite or incentive for attacking the U.S.

The de facto convergence between the U.S. and al-Qaeda is equally obvious in Yemen, where the U.S. is propping up the Saudi-led military coalition in its efforts to remove the Houthi-controlled government, deemed over-reliant on Iran. The U.S.-Saudi intervention has led to a chaotic situation where al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has gathered considerable strength.

U.S. rhetorical support for the Uighurs (to spite China) and military cooperation with predominantly Muslim Azerbaijan, from which Israeli drone attacks on pro-Iranian forces in Iraq have reportedly been launched, may also not be seen with disfavour by al Qaeda, jihadi ranks in Syria being full of Uighurs and Caucasus Muslims.

Repeating the Past

We have seen this movie before, of course. U.S. support for Afghan mujahideen fighting Russia helped create the conditions for the emergence of al-Qaeda in that country in the first place, just as the overthrow of secular dictators in Iraq and Libya helped create the conditions for the emergence of IS and other jihadi groups in those countries.

At some subliminal level, the architects of U.S. Middle East policy seem to recognise that they have a problem with pretending that Iran has overtaken al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda-inspired groups as terrorist-in-chief. Possibly for this reason, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has tried to smear Iran as a secret supporter of al-Qaeda, a claim no honest observer can possibly take seriously.

At all events, the question today—18 years after 9/11—is whether the U.S. obsession with Iran will not backfire like previous misadventures and play once again into the hands of Sunni extremists, inheritors of the Bin Laden legacy. We shall see the answer to that if U.S. Syria policy succeeds, and an economically crippled and politically fragmented Syria becomes once more ungovernable, with Assad forced out of power—an outcome for which al-Qaeda must be fervently praying.

*

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Peter Ford is an expert on the Middle East. An Arabist, he served as British Ambassador to Syria and Bahrain before joining the UN to work on refugee issues.

Ending a war is like stopping a heavy truck. Even when you slam on the brakes, the mass and inertia of the conflict takes a very long time to halt; the violence might end but the effects can reverberate through decades and generations. German units still find and defuse bombs in Germany dropped during World War II;1 French deminers regularly collect and destroy artillery shells on the Western Front from World War I, over a hundred years ago.2 During the active phase of a war, many of the shells and bombs hurled by armies on both sides fail to explode upon impact; many land mines are never tripped. Later they are forgotten in the forests or jungles, covered by vegetation or shifting soil, washed away by rain or floods – or sometimes they just sit there in plain sight. They linger for years or decades, waiting for children or unsuspecting villagers, scrap metal scavengers, or construction workers to wander by.

Ratanakiri Province, Cambodia, 2014 – An NPA team conducts a technical survey, looking for any signs of cluster munitions on a plantation near the town of Ban Lung in the Northeastern part of the country.

The latest edition of Landmine Monitor records that between 1999 and 2017 alone, over 120,000 people were killed or wounded by land mines and Unexploded Ordnance (UXOs) left over from conflicts — a tally recognized as significantly less than the actual number of casualties, many of which are never reported. The Monitor estimates that the all-time total number of casualties from land mines and UXOs exceeds 500,000. About eighty percent of those casualties are civilians; about half are children.3 The millions of land mines and UXOs left over from various wars range from large naval and artillery shells to 750-lb bombs to mortar shells, grenades and aircraft cannon ammunition.
A major concern of the demining operations is the presence of cluster munitions, small explosive munitions, often called submunitions, bomblets or “bombis,” that are delivered to the battlefield in large canisters or shells called cluster bomb units that open in the air and disperse the bomblets over a large area. A CBU-24, for example, was a canister dropped by U.S. aircraft during the Vietnam War that contained as many as 670 submunitions (or bomblets) known as BLU-26, small round metal balls of thin metal, filled with explosives and steel pellets, with a lethal range of 40 feet.

Sekong, Lao PDR, 2014 – Behind its regional headquarters in Sekong, NPA keeps a number of cluster bomb units (also known as “bombis”) discovered and rendered safe by deminers.

Millions of acres of land, suspected of contamination, are sealed off from agriculture or construction. The question is, how best to find and remove these lethal war souvenirs?

Over the last five years, I’ve been travelling to different countries to photograph the work of two non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Project RENEW (“Restoring the Environment and Neutralizing the Effects of the War”) and Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), that specialize in reclaiming land from actual or potential destruction by mines, bombs and mortar rounds and artillery shells. Much of my time was spent in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in 2014, hiking with teams of deminers through jungle, up hills, across old plantations, and rattling around in Land Cruisers down atrocious roads. In preparing this piece for publication, I contacted the program managers for the three countries and the headquarters of NPA’s Humanitarian Disarmament Division based in Oslo to update my notes. What follows is a report, mostly in images, of the local people across Indochina that do the hard, sometimes dangerous work of reclaiming their countries.

Map of Indochina 

NPA is one of the major organizations in the world clearing mines and UXOs, but it is different from many other demining groups. Private corporations, staffed by military veterans, are often hired by countries or big property owners to parachute in, clean up a town or plantation and move on to the next job. Some NGOs bring in experts who complete the work but then depart, leaving the local community unprepared to tackle the ongoing problem themselves. Military veterans from the U.S. and other western countries who have EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) experience generally prefer to work for those organizations because they pay so much better than NPA.

Thua Thien Hue Province, Vietnam, 2014 – Members of an EOD team carry away a large artillery shell discovered in a remote area in the province. It will be detonated later at a site used for safe disposal of ordnance.

Founded by Norway’s labor unions in 1939, NPA by contrast is “built on [the unions’] same values: unity, solidarity and human dignity.” It currently works in some 32 countries, not just to provide aid and technical assistance, but to “improve people’s living conditions and to create a more just society, undertaking political advocacy and practical supportive work.” NPA focuses on three programmatic areas: humanitarian disarmament, development cooperation, and aiding refugees. In addition, it provides first aid and rescue services for Norway. NPA’s 2017 annual expenses were more than 1.027 billion krone (USD $113,900,000), of which 414,903,000 krone went to humanitarian disarmament projects (USD $46,000,000).4

Most of the funds for NPA’s humanitarian disarmament operations come from Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the U.S. Department of State.5 Additional funds come from the German Federal Foreign Office, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Government of Japan, the European Commission, the UK Department of International Development, and a host of other governments and NGOs around the world.6

To this end, NPA’s Humanitarian Disarmament work is more than just clearing away mines and UXOs; it includes “both operational and advocacy work which aim to reduce and prevent harm to civilians from the impacts of weapons and ammunition, and where civil society plays a critical role.”7 NPA engages in political action and advocacy to ban the use of land mines, cluster munitions and nuclear weapons. It supports efforts to monitor and enforce the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty and the 2010 Convention on Cluster Munitions. NPA promotes best safety and security practices for stockpiling armaments. It provides community awareness and education on the dangers of weapons.

NPA currently engages in Humanitarian Disarmament work, including locating and clearing of mines and munitions, in 21 countries and has completed assignments in another 23 nations. Outside of the main headquarters in Oslo, the overwhelming number of employees are local residents from the affected countries – 1,600 versus about 50 expats. NPA trains local staff to high technical standards; provides local staff with living wages, medical benefits and educational opportunities; teaches them English, how to drive, and how to use computers; creates strong partnerships with affected governments; builds capacity for local staff to take over managing the work; and actively recruits women and national minorities to participate equally in the projects. At the NPA projects in host countries, there are very few Norwegians or other western expats; as quickly as practicable, the management, administration and actual demining work is handed over to the local community.

Land Release – “Let it Go”

Clearing a country of all land mines and UXOs is slow, expensive, time-consuming and probably impossible in many countries, which is why so much land in war-torn countries remains unused. NPA has helped pioneer the more modern approach called Land Release, which marries technology, training and information systems to determine which parcels of land show no evidence of contamination and thus can be released for residential or commercial use without dragging metal detectors through every square meter of the country. The exact protocol may be different from country to country; it varies based on whether the main contaminants are land mines, cluster munitions or assorted UXOs, and is constantly being upgraded and adjusted based on new experience, equipment and techniques.8 Basically, there are three steps in the process, which begins when NPA is given a contract by the national mine action agency to secure a particular township, farm, or defined area. First, the NPA conducts a nontechnical survey to isolate suspected hazardous areas, using such tools as army maps from the national military and former adversaries showing where land mines were placed, interviews with former combatants on both sides, records of aircraft bombing missions and after-action reports on where the ordnance was directed or released, community meetings to alert residents about the need to report any found ordnance, interviews with community residents as well as random tips from local people, and other anecdotal evidence.

Attapeu Province, Lao PDR, 2014 – Laotians who live near the village of Mixai attend a community meeting to hear a presentation about the dangers of cluster munitions and other UXOs and to report to NPA whether any of them have seen explosives in the village. NPA relies on tips from local residents to locate mines and UXOs and plan their search efforts.

The results of a nontechnical survey are analyzed using GPS maps and computer modeling; areas which show no sign of contamination can be released for public or private use, while evidence of suspected hazardous areas will lead to a technical survey. Using GPS and computerized maps, NPA sends out trained deminers with metal detectors. They will sweep 25 square meter boxes to locate any metal, then carefully excavate the ground to see what is there. Generally the signal comes from harmless metal fragments, but sometimes it comes from a bomb, a mortar round, an artillery shell, or land mine. In many locations, NPA has shifted to using highly trained detection dogs which can search much faster than human deminers, with near-perfect accuracy. NPA is now using small commercially available drones as well.

Ratanakiri Province, Cambodia, 2014 – The leader of an NPA technical survey team uses her tablet computer to record a bomblet her team has found with the precise location derived from her GPS tracker.

If the deminers find any mine or ordnance, its GPS coordinates are entered into the team’s computer mapping application, and the square is coded red. At the end of the survey, the office will again use computer modeling to help decide which portions of the surveyed land can be released for public or private usage, and which portions are confirmed hazardous areas which need to be part of a thorough clearance effort.

Thua Thien Hue Province, Vietnam, 2014 – A technical survey team travels by boat to Ona Island.

The final stage is the Battle Area Clearance (BAC), the systematic clearance of every square meter of the confirmed hazardous area using human deminers, detection dogs and drones. It is not unusual for survey work to be performed by one NGO and the clearance operations assigned to a different company or NGO. Discovered mines and UXOs are disposed of by EOD teams detonating them in a safe area with TNT. Sometimes the UXOs have to be destroyed on site rather than risk a detonation in transit; then the roads are blocked, team members warn the community via bullhorns, and unsuspecting water buffalo are led away from the danger zone before the explosives are triggered. Depending on the location of the ordnance, it can mean shutting down a national highway for an hour or more while the UXO is readied for destruction.

Quang Tri Province, Vietnam, 2013 – A member of the BAC team of Project RENEW uses a sensitive metal detector to investigate a suspected explosive from the war with the U.S. The item turned out to be only a metal fragment.

When a targeted area of land is finally released, the expectation is that the government or an NGO will still be available to quickly respond if a stray UXO is found. This is, after all, what still takes place in many countries that went through World Wars I and II. In addition, NPA does community education about the dangers of UXOs; in Quang Tri, Project RENEW also gives out a hotline number to call if someone finds munitions in the community.

Most of the deminers I travelled with in Indochina were relatively young (early to mid-20s) and did not personally experience the Vietnam War which ended in 1975, or even the Vietnamese campaign to oust the Khmer Rouge from Cambodia in the period 1978-1989. On site, they were disciplined, focused, and professional. The team leaders were authentic leaders who commanded the attention and obedience of the deminers. They all worked through extremely hot weather – I remember days as hot as 108 degrees Fahrenheit when they were out in a field for up to 8 hours.

And as well trained as the deminers are, the work always has the potential for danger. According to Landmine and Cluster Munitions Monitor, more than 1,800 de-miners have been killed or injured while undertaking operations to ensure the safety of civilian populations just during the period 1999 to 2017.9 In 2016, NPA alone lost two team leaders in field accidents; both of them had been guides for me during my earlier visits to their confirmed hazardous areas that were being cleared, one in Bosnia, Aldin Selimovic, and one in Vietnam, Ngo Thien Khiet (who worked with NPA and RENEW); another deminer was injured in the same accident with Khiet.10 Between 1994 and 2016, NPA experienced 99 casualties due to demining accidents, of which 15 were fatalities.; RENEW had just the two injuries11

Quang Tri Province, Vietnam, 2013 – Battle Area Clearance (BAC)) Team leader Ngo Thien Khiet of Project RENEW assembles his team in the field before they begin the day’s work. In May 2016, Khiet was killed by an accidental UXO explosion in a hazardous area.

Cambodia – The All-Female Bomb Squads

Cambodia is highly contaminated due to the U.S. bombing campaign during the period 1969-1973, the U.S. invasion of Cambodia in 1970, the fighting between the pro-U.S. government of Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge during the period 1970-1975, and the occupation by the Vietnamese army which lasted from 1978 to 1989. Mine Action Review estimates that 738 square kilometers are contaminated with cluster munitions alone,12 and a further 941 square kilometers are contaminated by landmines laid in the 1980s primarily along the border with Thailand.13 It is estimated that between 1979 and 2017, Cambodia suffered more than 64,720 casualties due to land mines and UXOs.14

Ban Lung, Ratanakiri Province, Cambodia, 2014 – Early in the morning, the two NPA all-female EOD and survey teams deployed in Ratanakiri Province in Northeast Cambodia line up at the NPA compound for the day’s briefing before being driven to their mission.

Jan Erik Stoa had an idea: hire only women for his bomb squads. To outsiders, this might not seem like an obvious decision for Stoa, an 11-year veteran of the Norwegian Army who served as a “peacekeeper” in places where peace was in short supply: Bosnia during the Balkans War, Kosovo during the next phase of the Balkans War, Mogadishu right after the infamous “Blackhawk Down” battle. He joined NPA in 2002, with postings in Angola, Sri Lanka, Lebanon, Ethiopia, Georgia and Jordan; in 2014, he was NPA’s Program Manager for Humanitarian Disarmament in Cambodia.Stoa believed that women would be more reliable and meticulous than men, and that all-female teams would help fulfill another of NPA’s goals – to empower women and provide greater opportunities for their social and economic advancement. In fact, Stoa had tried the same thing elsewhere. He wanted to show the government authorities that women could do this work; his proposal was met by an astonished Cambodian government official exclaiming, “But that’s discrimination!” Stoa went ahead anyway, creating two female teams for Ratanakiri Province in the northeast part of the country, 580 km northeast of Phnom Penh – a nine and a half hour drive in 2014 over atrocious roads. (Actually, the teams had three male employees: a driver, a medic, and the computer data specialist.)

Ban Lung, Ratanakiri Province, Cambodia, 2014 – An NPA deminer supervises a group of new recruits performing a first aid drill in the field behind the NPA compound.

The teams were trained to safely locate and destroy UXOs and operations commenced with female team leaders. Sem Leakhena is now 30 years old and has been with NPA for more than 6 years. She got interested in NPA after seeing her father work with the Cambodian Mine Action Center, the government’s agency for demining. She wanted to work for NPA because it employed women for this work; she thought women could do what men do and found it to be true. She said she knows about different types of UXOs and she can do demolitions. NPA taught her to drive and speak English. Originally from Battambang, she studied finance and graduated university. When I met her in 2014, she said she enjoyed her work, “Yes, I like so much.” She was not scared of explosions – they’ve trained for the work. She liked being in Ratanakiri where they don’t stay still but travel to different places. She said others see the NPA women in uniform doing demolitions and admire the women as strong: the community had not seen women do this kind of work before. She wanted to stay in NPA “forever.”

Ratanakiri Province, Cambodia, 2014 – Sem Leakhena, a team leader for one of the EOD teams, uses electrical tape to shape the TNT charge that her team will use to destroy a small cluster bomblet found outside a village.

The other team leader, Dul Sovann was from Siem Reap and learned of NPA from radio and from other villagers. Originally she was scared, but she trained and learned. She came to NPA the same time as Leakhena and they worked together. She said that safety is first, but she liked blowing things up. Sovann left NPA in 2016. Leakhena is now a Cluster Munitions Remnants Survey Team Leader.In addition to the full-time staff, NPA in 2014 had 15 candidates that trained with them every day, vying for one of four openings for permanent employment. Tang Kachrab was one of those candidates when I met her in 2014. She came from a small village in Ratanakiri Province where NPA did work; she attended a meeting and learned about the organization. She decided she wanted to help clear mines in Cambodia. Before that, she worked on the family farm and assisted women in the community, helping children with disabilities. When she was 12 years old, the Khmer Rouge made her and other children carry ammunition and rockets 5-10 kilometers into the forest by foot. If she refused, she said, the Khmer Rouge would harm her parents – she saved their lives. During that period, she saw people injured by bombs; she helped give them first aid and carry them in a hammock. Shortly after I left, she was hired by NPA for a full-time position; on her first day, she found two bomblets. In 2019, she’s still with NPA.

Ban Lung, Ratanakiri Province, Cambodia, 2014 – Tang Kachrab, then a candidate for employment at NPA, cleans her metal detector after an EOD operation. As a child, the Khmer Rouge made her carry weapons and ammunition for them. Shortly after this photo was taken, she was hired as a full-time employee.

In fact, women were at least part of every team I travelled with in Indochina in 2014. Five years after I visited, Stoa is now NPA’s country director in Vietnam. He still believes his idea was the correct one and works “FANTASTIC.” Stoa instituted all-female teams in other countries as well – Lebanon, South Sudan and Tajikistan.15 In 2015, Nguyen Thi Dieu Linh, a 32 year-old woman, took over as Operations Manager at Project RENEW in Quang Tri Province, in charge of a staff of 160.16 There are also all-female teams at Project RENEW in Quang Tri Province, Vietnam. Stoa says that segregated teams are not a goal in themselves, but a way of demonstrating to government officials that women are more than equal to the work.17 Other NPA country programs have preferred to have teams with a diversity of gender, ethnicity and language. Starting next year, NPA-Vietnam will have four female and four male teams. NPA says it is working to achieve gender equality on its survey and clearance teams throughout the world.18

All Dogs Speak Norwegian 

One of the most valuable assets used by NPA for discovery of explosives are the dogs –Belgian Shepherd Malinois dogs bred, raised and trained by NPA at their Global Training Center (GTC) in Vogosca village near Sarajevo, Bosnia. After experimenting, NPA concluded that the Malinois are more active than German shepherds and more adaptable, with fewer health issues and hip and leg injuries. Training begins when the puppies are 4 weeks old, and they train 4-6 hours per day. They learn to smell every portion of a row the length of a search quadrant; if they smell any explosive, they lower their hind legs and freeze in position over the target. The dogs work far faster than humans with a metal detector, and with much greater accuracy. Although the dogs are used all over the world, they are trained to understand and obey commands in the Norwegian language. Currently NPA operates dogs in six countries, including Cambodia. NPA started training its own dogs at the GTC in 1999 and has never had a dog-related accident. (NPA also trains dogs for the Norwegian and Bosnian armies.)

Vogosca, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2014 – a trainer puts one of the Belgian Shepherd Malinois through its paces in a field at NPA’s Global Training Center, just outside Sarajevo.

NPA is now working with Special Detection Dogs in Cambodia and Bosnia. Instead of being controlled on a lead, they roam freely over a designated area, guided by their handlers who are safely out of the hazardous zone. The dogs wear light-weight harnesses that include a camera, a microphone, a speaker, a wireless connection, and battery in a pocket on the underside. The handlers communicate with the dogs through either a laptop or a smart phone.In May 2016, NPA opened a dog breeding and training facility in Siem Reap, Cambodia, giving the dogs training tailored to the contamination issues present in Southeast Asia.19 They are in the process of moving the Siem Reap training to Ratanakiri. And yes, the dogs all respond to commands in Norwegian.

Laos – Cruising the Ho Chi Minh Trail

Laos, known formally as the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), is considered the most heavily contaminated nation as a result of bombs and cluster munitions used by the United States to disrupt the movement of arms and material along the Ho Chi Minh Trail from North Vietnam through Laos into South Vietnam. The U.S. dropped over two million tons of bombs on Laos from 1964 to 1973 – including over 270 million cluster bombs – altogether more tonnage than was dropped by the U.S. on Germany and Japan combined in World War II.20 According to NPA, up to 30% of the munitions dropped failed to detonate.21 Apart from direct victims of the bombs during the war, Laos has identified over 50,000 casualties from mines and ERWs, of which more than 29,000 were killed during the period 1964-2017.22Many of the parcels of land where NPA teams work are far away from villages or in rugged terrain (such as the sides of mountains or steep hills). To minimize travel time and expenses, the teams will camp near the work areas for 22 days, then have eight days of leave. I’m told that the young deminers like it: they bond, play sports in the field, and save most of their salary. Many save most of their food allowance as well. Most of the NPA staff in Laos are in their early twenties – the work is difficult and requires stamina. NPA offers the staff drivers education (I was told that part of the impetus came when one staffer hit a water buffalo).

Attapeu Province, Lao PDR, 2014 – Chanthanousone Chanthavong, known as Teng, a field administrator with NPA-Lao PDR, signs in with the medic at a work site on a plantation near Phiavong Village which is being surveyed for cluster munitions and any other unexploded ordnance from the Indochina War. Every person entering an NPA search site must sign in with his/her name, organization, and blood type.

For my week in Laos, the local office made sure I saw a little of everything. Two and a half days at different work sites in Attapeu Province, two and a half at different work sites in Salavan Province (also spelled Saravane), including a morning observing EOD operations along what used to be the Ho Chi Minh Trail – really a complex of roads running through Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam – and a day or so at the regional office in Sekong. And a lot of time in 4-wheel drive vehicles on some truly awful roads.

My companion for the trip to Salavan Province was Phonesai Silavan, known as “Bob,” one of the national technical advisors. Bob came from a village in the Xieng Khoeng province, near the Plain of Jars in the northern part of the country. As a boy, he ploughed the land and planted rice; he says he was something of a gangster around his village. He survived two separate explosions of bomblets that went off near him: once when he was just playing, and later when he was trying to dismantle one for the ball bearings. His grandmother took him to the local Buddhist temple to stay for at least 15 days and learn how to avoid trouble; he stayed for 13 years. In 1988, at age 16, he became a novice in the Temple. He and the other boys would wake at 4 AM, pray 30-60 minutes, go begging for alms in the village, do chores, then engage in religious study with school in the afternoon. He wore a saffron robe and shaved his head and eyebrows. He left the temple in 2003 to attend college, majoring in English and the humanities. After college, he worked as a tour guide for a year, then joined MAG (formerly known as the Mines Advisory Group) as an interpreter, later receiving technical training. He left MAG in 2013 and joined NPA. Bob was friendly, diligent, spoke English well with an Australian accent, and cursed like a sailor. I’m told that he is now working for a different organization locating UXOs in Laos.

Salavan Province, Lao PDR, 2014 – Phonesai Silavan, known as “Bob,” at a technical survey site. Bob joined NPA in 2013 as a National Technical Advisor.

One morning we left the paved highway to follow a wide dirt road into higher elevations. Outside Ton Sa village, an EOD team was going to destroy numerous bombs, bomblets and many rounds of fighter plane ammunition that had been discovered near the old Ho Chi Minh Trail. On the way to the demolition site, we stopped to look at a U.S. 500-pound bomb that failed to detonate when dropped by a bomber during the war, lying peacefully in a forest near the road; it was a little rusty but completely intact. I took a photo and quietly moved away. There were plenty of bomb craters along the way.

The team executed three controlled explosions: one by TNT wired to a manual detonator; one by TNT with a wireless detonator; and one by C-4, a malleable and stable plasticized explosive often used by militaries. Boom, boom, boom – loud cracking noises, plumes of smoke, everything destroyed. Very satisfying.NPA now fields 24 Cluster Munitions Remnants Survey teams and 9 Battle Area Clearance teams in four southern provinces in Lao PDR.

Vietnam – The Smell of TNT in the Morning

Vietnam is also one of the most heavily contaminated areas in the world; in addition to unexploded heavy bombs and artillery shells, it is estimated that the U.S. dropped over 400,000 tons of cluster bombs during the period 1965-1973.23 A ten-year impact survey concluded that more than 61,000 square kilometers of Vietnam were affected by UXOs.24 Between the end of the war in 1975 and 2018, there have been over 105,000 casualties attributed to landmines and UXOs.25 Project RENEW has recorded 8,516 mine/UXO casualties (including 3,422 people killed) between 1975 and 2015 in Quang Tri Province alone.26

Dong Ha is a small city bordered on the north by the Cua Viet River in Quang Tri Province, about 18 kilometers south of the 17th Parallel, the official dividing line between North and South Vietnams during the period 1954 to 1975. During the Vietnam War (what we call the Vietnam War and the Vietnamese call the American War), Dong Ha was part of a heavily contested battle zone that saw constant fighting and bombing. During the 1972 Spring Offensive by the North Vietnamese army, a battle to stop the North Vietnamese from crossing the river bridge at Dong Ha has become a part of U.S. Marine legend. By the end of the war, the province was in shambles.

In 2012, I had dinner in Hanoi with Chuck Searcy, an American veteran who now lives in Vietnam. Searcy’s experience in military intelligence during his service turned him against the war and prompted his work over many years to alleviate some of the damage caused to Vietnam by the war.27 He told me about Project RENEW, a joint project of the Quang Tri Province government and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund to search for and eliminate UXOs.28 Searcy arranged for me to return the following year and photograph Project RENEW’s work. NPA is a major partner of RENEW and, in addition to supporting the work in Quang Tri, also works in Thua Thien Hue Province further south. I came back to Vietnam in 2014 to spend a week near the ancient city of Hue and photograph NPA’s work there.

Quang Tri Province, Vietnam, 2013 – A Project RENEW EOD team digs a shallow trench to contain a controlled demolition of an artillery shell.

On both trips, I spent several work days with RENEW and NPA’s National Technical Advisor, Bui Trong Hong. During the Vietnam War, Hong served as an EOD specialist with the North Vietnamese army and spent a harrowing time under the American saturation bombing during the 1972 North Vietnamese Spring Offensive. He says he was surprised to survive the war; of 10 friends from his commune who went to war, only three came home alive. After 30 years he retired from the army as a colonel; now he trains EOD team leaders on setting explosives for disposal and supervising the controlled demolitions.29 He was also diligent in keeping me safe while at clearance and demolition sites.

Thua Thien Hue Province, Vietnam, 2014 – Members of an EOD team go over the protocol for the day’s task: using TNT charges to detonate and render harmless several shells, bombs and cluster munitions found by the survey teams in the Province. Preparing red warning flags is Bui Trong Hong, a former EOD specialist with the North Vietnamese Army who survived the war and retired as a colonel, now a technical advisor to Project RENEW and NPA.

On both trips I witnessed several controlled demotions of recovered UXOs. The last one I watched took place in the early morning at a controlled demolition site – a large empty area outside of Hue, covered with sand and some occasional brush. Tran Hong Phuong was the EOD team leader, supervised by Col. Hong. After the briefing of all team members, Phuong started pulling the ordnance from the temporary storage container and carrying the munitions to the detonation spot. There would be two detonations that day, one for high explosives and one for munitions containing white phosphorous. The team dug shallow ditches and Phuong, with Hong watching, meticulously laid out a pattern of munitions and TNT explosives; the trick is to use enough TNT to destroy the explosives and fuses in the munitions without using too much. Phuong then positioned pink sand bags over the ditches to tamp the explosions.

Thua Thien Hue Province, Vietnam, 2014 – EOD Team Leader Tran Hong Phuong plants the ordnance to be destroyed, along with the TNT charges that will be tamped with the pink sandbags. Col. Hong (R) watches Phuong and offers advice on proper placement of the explosives and the amount to be used.

Phuong, Col. Hong and I retreated to a small bunker, trailing the detonator cord, some 250 meters away while several team members with bullhorns walked in all four directions to announce that an explosion was about to take place. Then a countdown over the bullhorn, a switch turned, and a very large explosion of high explosives erupted. Another countdown, and an even bigger cloud of smoke and debris burst forth, colored by the ignited white phosphorous and bits of shredded pink sand bags.

Quang Tri Province, Vietnam, 2013 – A controlled demolition conducted by an EOD team from Project RENEW.

Even at this early hour, the heat was oppressive, made more so by the white sand concentrating the heat. I didn’t check the temperature, but it was hot enough that the stitching on the sole of one of my work boots melted, and the sole started flapping up and down like a clown’s shoe. Col. Hong chuckled and put the boot back together by wrapping it with electrical tape used to connect the detonators to the TNT.

When the smoke cleared, Phuong took one of the metal detectors out to the ditches to inspect their work and insure that all explosive material was safely destroyed. By 10 AM, the day’s demolition work was done, and the team drove to a nearby café where, over Red Bull, they played spirited games of checkers.

Thua Thien Hue Province, Vietnam, 2014 – After completing the day’s ordnance destruction, they go for nonalcoholic drinks at a local café and play checkers.

Over the last four years, NPA has revised its strategy and is working jointly with MAG to survey and clear Quang Tri Province with funding by the U.S. Department of State. Phuong and Tung are still team leaders. And war veteran Col. Hong is still active as a Technical Advisor to Project RENEW, an organization started by American veterans of the same war in cooperation with the Vietnamese provincial leadership, together repairing a community to create the conditions for a better life for all. Concerning the late Ngo Thien Khiet, who died in an explosion in May 2016, his eldest son, Ngo Thien Hoang, started work on a nontechnical survey team for RENEW in September 2016. Hoang’s wife joined a technical survey team in March 2018.

Quang Tri Province, Vietnam, 2013 – EOD Team leader Le Xuan Tung of Project RENEW assembles his team in the field before canvasing a small village inquiring about any possible UXOs nearby.

Conclusion

Most articles about the dangers of mines and UXOs focus on the civilian victims- and rightly so. But following a group of young people in uniform as they lug giant 45 year-old bombs suspended between them is a good reminder that an important part of the UXO story is often overlooked – the people who remove the munitions, why they do it, and how they accomplish it. NPA’s work is important because it doesn’t just reclaim the land from the dangers of injury; it rebuilds civil society by making local citizens the agents of that change, making them leaders in their communities, with the skills and experience to help make civil society function. In teaching by example the importance of working together to accomplish difficult goals, NPA puts into practice the organization’s slogan, “Solidarity in Action.”

Quang Tri Province, Vietnam, 2013 – One of Project RENEW’s ambulances. All field teams of Project RENEW and NPA are accompanied by a medic and an ambulance.

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Ted Lieverman is an independent documentary photographer and writer in Philadelphia, working on issues of work, social justice and post-conflict communities. Some of his work is available here.

Notes

See, e.g., A. Higginbotham, “There Are Still Thousands of Tons of Unexploded Bombs in Germany, Left Over From World War II,” Smithsonian Magazine, Jan, 2016, available online; J.W. Phippen, “50,000 Evacuate Hanover While Unexploded WWII Bombs are Disabled,” The Atlantic, May 6, 2017, available online. The same is true throughout Europe. “Barcelona’s popular beach evacuated over bomb,” BBC News, Aug. 26, 2019, available online; “Unexploded bombs: How common are they?” BBC News, Feb. 14, 2018, available online. See D. Webster, Aftermath: The Remnants of War (1996).

Aftermath.

Landmine Monitor, (2018), available online.

NPA, Solidarity in Action, Annual Report 2017; available online.

The United States government actually contributes significant funds to weapons and munitions removal around the world, much of it channeled through various NGOs. The State Department work is largely conducted through its Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement. Its latest annual report, To Walk the Earth in Safety, describes its work in some detail, available online. The Department of Defense also contributes funds to support demining around the world. For a description of the work of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and other U.S.-based NGOs in Vietnam, see T. Lieverman, “Good Boom,” Vietnam Magazine, 44 (Feb. 2014), available online.

NPA, Annual Report 2017.

NPA website.

See NPA, “Efficient Land Release can remove the threat of antipersonnel mines in ten years,” a video available online; NPA, Cluster Munition Remnants, available online. The latest international standard for land release, IMAS 7.11 amend. 4, created through the United Nations, is available online.

Landmine Monitor 2017 records 1,750 casualties through 2016; The 2018 report added 60 more through 2017, available online.

10 G. Black, “The Vietnam War is Still Killing People,” The New Yorker (May 20,2016); available online; emails with RENEW staff.

11 Information supplied by NPA and RENEW.

12 Mine Action Review, “Cambodia, Clearing Cluster Munition Remnants 2019,” available online.

13 Mine Action Review, “Cambodia, Clearing the Mines 2018,” available online.

14 Landmine Monitor 2018, available online

15 See “’I feel like I’ve saved a life;’ the women clearing Lebanon of cluster bombs,” The Guardian, Aug. 12, 2011.

16 “Young woman leads bomb-hunting team,” Viet Nam News, available online.

17 Emails with Jan Erik Stoa.

18 Mine Action Review, “Vietnam, Clearing Cluster Munition Remnants 2019,” available online.

19 NPA website.

20 Mine Action Review, “Lao PDR: Clearing Cluster Munition Remnants 2019,” available online; Congressional Research Service, “War Legacy Issues in Southeast Asia,” p. 8, available online.

21 NPA website

22 Landmine Monitor 2018, available online.

23 Mine Action Review, “Vietnam, Clearing Cluster Munitions Remnants 2019,” available online.

24 Landmine Monitor 2018, available online.

25 Landmine Monitor 2018, available online.

26 Landmine Monitor 2019, available online.

27 Interview with Chuck Searcy; see also J. Stevenson, Hard Men Humble, pp 99-113 (2002).

28 For more information about the history of Project RENEW, see T. Lieverman, “Good Boom.”

29 See “Good Boom;” also see interview on the website of Project RENEW.

All images in this article are from the author

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“Drone Attack” on Saudi Oil – Who Benefits?

September 16th, 2019 by Tony Cartalucci

Huge blazes were reported at two oil facilities in Saudi Arabia owned by Aramco. While Saudi authorities refused to assign blame, media outlets like the BBC immediately began insinuating either Yemen’s Houthis or Iran were responsible.

The BBC in its article, “Saudi Arabia oil facilities ablaze after drone strikes,” would inject toward the top of its article:

Iran-aligned Houthi fighters in Yemen have been blamed for previous attacks.

Following an ambiguous and evidence-free description of the supposed attacks, the BBC even included an entire section titled, “Who could be behind the attacks?” dedicated to politically expedient speculation aimed ultimately at Tehran.

The BBC would claim:

Houthi fighters were blamed for drone attacks on the Shaybah natural gas liquefaction facility last month and on other oil facilities in May.

The Iran-aligned rebel movement is fighting the Yemeni government and a Saudi-led coalition.

Yemen has been at war since 2015, when President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi was forced to flee the capital Sanaa by the Houthis. Saudi Arabia backs President Hadi, and has led a coalition of regional countries against the rebels.

The coalition launches air strikes almost every day, while the Houthis often fire missiles into Saudi Arabia.

Deliberately missing from the BBC’s history lesson are several key facts, leaving readers to draw conclusions that conveniently propel the West’s agenda versus Iran forward.

The US and Saudi Arabia vs. MENA

The war in Yemen was a result of US-backed regime change operations aimed at Yemen – along with Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Syria, and Egypt – starting in 2011.

Major hostilities began when the client regime installed by the US was ousted from power in 2015. Since then, the US and its Saudi allies have brutalized and ravaged Yemen triggering one of the worst humanitarian crises of the 21st century.

The UN’s own news service in an article titled, “Humanitarian crisis in Yemen remains the worst in the world, warns UN,” would admit:

An estimated 24 million people – close to 80 per cent of the population – need assistance and protection in Yemen, the UN warned on Thursday. With famine threatening hundreds of thousands of lives, humanitarian aid is increasingly becoming the only lifeline for millions across the country.

The cause of this catastrophe is the deliberate blockading of Yemen. Reuters in its article, “U.N. aid chief appeals for full lifting of Yemen blockade,” would report:

The United Nations appealed on Friday to the Saudi-led military coalition to fully lift its blockade of Yemen, saying up to eight million people were “right on the brink of famine”.

Essentially – the United States – with the largest economy and most powerful military in the world – along with its allies in Riyadh – are attempting to erase an entire nation off the map through bombings, starvation, and disease.

Saudi aggression carried out on behalf of Washington isn’t confined only to its war on Yemen. Saudi Arabia has played a key role in radicalizing, arming, and funding US-backed militants attempting to overthrow the government of Syria as well as extremist groups bent on destabilizing Iraq and even Iran itself.

Likewise, the militants who overran Libya in 2011 were drawn from extremist networks funded for decades by Riyadh. Thus, Saudi Arabia is not merely menacing neighboring Yemen, it is menacing the entire Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and even beyond.

Saudi Arabia the Victim?  

The BBC’s recent article attempting to portray Saudi-Yemeni hostilities as a tit-for-tat conflict rather than Yemen’s desperate struggle for survival is yet another illustration of not only the West’s hypocrisy in terms of upholding or in any way underwriting human rights, but also the Western media’ complicity in advancing this hypocrisy.

Saudi Arabia is no victim.

If the US can predicate the invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of its government on deliberately false claims of possessing “weapons of mass destruction,” wouldn’t Yemen and its allies be justified in using any means possible to attack and undermine Saudi Arabia’s fighting capacity as it and its US allies openly carry out a war of aggression unequivocally condemned by the UN itself?

Houthi fighters or Iran would both be well within their rights to strike at the economic engine driving what even the UN has repeatedly declared as an illegal war of aggression waged by Saudi Arabia and its Western sponsors against the nation and people of Yemen.

Unfortunately, provoking such attacks – however justified – is key to US machinations toward igniting an even wider and more destructive regional conflict.

Two Possibilities 

The alleged attacks on Saudi oil facilities mean one of two things.

Either it is indeed retaliation against Saudi Arabia for its criminal activities across the region – showcasing new military capabilities raising the costs for Riyadh to continue down its current foreign policy path – or it was a staged provocation that will be used by the US to station yet more military forces in Saudi Arabia and to ratchet up tensions with both Iran to the east and Yemen’s Houthis to the south.

The recent departure of US National Security Adviser John Bolton led many to believe the US may be changing tack on its foreign policy – particularly toward Iran. However, it was much more likely a means of portraying the US as a “peacemaker” ahead of another round of attempts by the US to escalate tensions with Iran and if at all possible, trigger a wider conflict long sought by US special interests for years.

The US already used recent and highly questionable incidents in the Persian Gulf to justify sending hundreds of troops to Saudi Arabia. The New York Times in its July 2019 article, “U.S. to Send About 500 More Troops to Saudi Arabia,” would report:

The United States is sending hundreds of troops to Saudi Arabia in what is intended as the latest show of force toward Iran, two Defense Department officials said Wednesday. 

The roughly 500 troops are part of a broader tranche of forces sent to the region over the past two months after tensions between Washington and Tehran escalated. 

Since May, a spate of attacks have left six oil tankers damaged in the Gulf of Oman, with Washington accusing Tehran of inciting them. Iranian officials have denied that claim. The downing of an American drone in June by an Iranian surface-to-air missile only heightened tensions, prompting President Trump to approve military strikes against Iran before abruptly pulling back.

With a growing number of US troops in Saudi Arabia, the US will be well positioned to launch offensive attacks against Iran in any future war, as well as carry out defensive operations to protect Saudi Arabia and essential infrastructure from retaliation.

This most recent alleged attack, along with a series of questionable incidents in the Persian Gulf have afforded the US justification – however tenuous – to further build up its military presence along Iran’s peripheries it otherwise would have had to carry out in an openly provocative and unjustified manner.

It was just these sort of provocations that were described for years by US policymakers who sought to “goad” Iran into war with the West.

For example, in a 2009 Brookings Institution paper titled, “Which Path to Persia? Options for a New American Strategy toward Iran,” US policymakers would openly admit (emphasis added):

…it would be far more preferable if the United States could cite an Iranian provocation as justification for the airstrikes before launching them. Clearly, the more outrageous, the more deadly, and the more unprovoked the Iranian action, the better off the United States would be. Of course, it would be very difficult for the United States to goad Iran into such a provocation without the rest of the world recognizing this game, which would then undermine it. 

However beneficial this campaign of provocations may be for US foreign policy objectives, neither possibility – a provoked reaction from the Houthis or Iran or a staged attack organized by the US – bodes well for those ruling in Riyadh.

For Washington’s allies – the fact that they are just as likely – or more likely – to receive a devastating attack from the US itself than from their actual enemies – all to trigger an even more devastating war they will find themselves in the middle of – is added incentive for nations like Saudi Arabia to take the extended hands of future potential allies like Russia and China, and begin walking down a new and different path.

Only time will tell how far Saudi Arabia is willing to go down its current path, and how much they are willing to risk doing so, before they join the growing list of nations departing from America’s unipolar global order and choosing a more equitable multipolar future.

Whether the US and Saudi Arabia finally provoked genuine attacks from nations they’ve purposefully goaded for years, or staged the attacks themselves, a dangerous course toward war has been set – and a course the rest of the world must now work hard to steer away from.

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Tony Cartalucci is Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook” where this article was originally published. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image is from NEO

Freedom in Sight for Mumia Abu-Jamal?

September 16th, 2019 by Prison Radio

Freedom is now in sight.  New evidence, recently found, and surpressed for decades could be the key to relief for Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Joe McGill and Ed Rendell, trial prosecutor and DA, respectively, manipulated evidence and framed Mumia Abu-Jamal for first degree murder in 1982.

Six boxes of undisclosed case files labeled “Mumia Abu-Jamal” were found in a furniture closet last December by new DA Larry Krasner. Here is the exculpatory “Brady” evidence that was inside:

  • A letter from a witness demanding his money.
  • Memo after memo to and from Joe McGill tracking the open cases of another key witness.
  • Handwritten notes on original files, closely tracking the race of jurors.

Now we know that for 37 years the District Attorney’s office actively lied.  They scrubbed clean every single document production, during multiple appeals, for years.  It is cliché and almost predictable: evidence “lost” in a storage closet for 37 years by evil absent-minded hoarders.

Make no mistake- this evidence would have directly challenged the only “witnesses” at trial who identified Mumia Abu-Jamal as the shooter of officer Daniel Faulkner on Dec. 9, 1981.

The testimony of these two witnesses was compromised, something the jury was kept from knowing. One witness had as many as 35 prior convictions and 4-5 open cases. Now we know the DA was monitoring those cases very closely asking to be advised when they were in court. The other witness to the shooting was driving a cab on a suspended license and was on probation for throwing a Molotov cocktail into a school for pay. The jury never heard this.  This information certainly would have challenged prosecutor Joe McGill’s statement to the jury that they had nothing to gain from lying.  Remember this is a jury who asked for re-instruction on the charges and were wavering on a finding of 1stDegree Murder. Remember Albert “I am going to help them they fry the nigger” Sabo, was the judge. And Alfonso “I retired with full pay and was indicted” Giordano, a commander, was the highest ranking officer on the scene that night.

On July 3rd, 1982, this was not an open and shut case.   The petition to the Superior Court also raises the reinstated appeal issues from the Castille decision handed down by Judge Tucker.  These include claims of improper jury selection (Batson Claims), Ineffective assistance of counsel, and errors of law made by the court in previous appeals.

Every time you see Joe McGill in the courtroom or at an FOP event, or you see Ed Rendell at a party or a campaign event, remember this- they were stepping on the scales of justice from the beginning.  

Mumia came within 10 days of being executed because of this misconduct. I was there. I got that call from the strip cell.  Mumia had nothing but an orange jump suit, a half a sheet of paper and the cartridge of a pen (so he could send another prisoner as a proxy to the law library). Before and after his two death warrants he was held in solitary confinement on death row for decades!

Fast forward to 2017: Common Pleas Court Judge Leon Tucker admonishes the District Attorney to produce all of the requested material from their files. Finally, having no faith in their review, he demands that they deliver all of their files to his chambers. There he found documents revealing the bias of PA Supreme Court Judge Castille that the DA had somehow “missed”  – or willfully suppressed. After all of that, in 2018, newly elected DA Larry Krasner comes across six boxes of original trial material labeled “Mumia Abu-Jamal” in a storage closet. A week later they find hundreds of more boxes in that “storage cavern.”

Please know that the road ahead may still be rough.  But there is hope.

Freedom is more possible than it has ever been before.

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The Venezuelan government wrapped up the international #NoMoreTrump campaign Sunday as thousands gathered in the Bolivar plazas, communities and neighborhoods of the country to sign the petition calling on the United States to lift the unilateral blockade.

“In every corner of the planet, we have seen the #NoMoreTrump campaign because it is a feeling that has expanded to the peoples of the world. This campaign symbolizes anti-imperialism,” Venezuela’s Vice President Delcy Rodriguez who signed the petition herself during one of the closing acts in Caracas.

Rodriguez and Foreign Affairs Minister Jorge Arreaza were appointed by President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday to represent the nation at the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, which will start on Sept. 17. The president also informed that more 12 million signatures had been collected from all over the world as of Sept. 12.

During the international meeting, the Venezuelan representatives will deliver a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres with the expected 13 million signatures and explain the global rejection of the unilateral economic blockade against the Latin American nation.

“The petition is the expression of the will of a people who want peace, progress, tranquility and above all want to guarantee a free and sovereign homeland,” the Vice President commented.

The campaign was convened on Aug. 10 by President Maduro, after Trump signed an executive order on Aug. 5 that officially seizes Venezuelan state assets in the U.S., essentially imposing a complete economic and diplomatic blockade on the country.

This includes the multibillion-dollar CITGO company, a subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA, depleting it of $US12 billion that could be used to “pay for five full years of food and medicine for the Venezuelan population,” according to Arreaza.

The ongoing attack on Venezuela has taken the lives of around 40,000 people, according to a recent economic study. It makes it difficult and often impossible for Venezuela to pay for vital supplies of food and medicine from abroad as foreign banks refuse to process payments.

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Featured image: Thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets on the last day of the #NoMoreTrump campaign to reject the unilateral measures against the country. (Source: Venezuelan Ministry of Communication)

A Plea to the Youth of Hong Kong

September 16th, 2019 by Dr Marcus Papadopoulos

Dr Marcus Steven Papadopoulos, a British political journalist, and the founder and editor of Politics First magazine wrote a letter to the Youth of Hong Kong to safeguard their region from British and American colonialism and defend the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the People’s Republic of China.

***

Dear Youth of Hong Kong,

I write this letter to you out of profound concern over what is happening in Hong Kong and in the hope that my words, which I offer to you in the form of a plea, will be taken into consideration by you.

Hong Kong is known across the world for the abundance of rich attractions which it has to offer visitors: its enchanting people, monumental history, splendid culture, intriguing heritage, fascinating architecture, magnificent transportation, graceful wildlife and spectacular natural scenery. Indeed, I have never met someone who, having visited Hong Kong, did not speak of their immense pleasure of having toured this region of the People’s Republic of China. Hong Kong is one of the Chinese people’s many historic jewels.

However, Hong Kong has a dark chapter in its history – a chapter written not by the Chinese people but by an aggressive outsider: the British.

Britain waged a brutal war on China in the 19th-century because Beijing refused to allow the British to flood the Chinese market with opium. As a result of that event, known as the Opium Wars, China was defeated and humiliated by the British and, among other degrading acts, forced to cede the historic Chinese region of Hong Kong to the British Empire. For approximately 150 years, Hong Kong was a colony of a ruthless colonial power in which London implemented its dictatorial will in the Chinese region through a British colonial governor there who enjoyed a luxurious and conceited lifestyle on soil which was being exploited by London, even though it was not Britain’s to enjoy in the first place.

In short, for well over a century, the British reaped the benefits of a piece of Chinese territory which they had stolen from China in the cruelest of circumstances, by having instigated a savage war against the peaceful Chinese nation, and exploited this region with the kind of arrogance and sense of Anglo-Saxon superiority that typified the British Empire.

I hope that you, the youth of Hong Kong, are aware of the savage and humiliating actions that your ancestors were subjected to by the British. And I hope, too, that you are aware that Britain has never apologized to the people of Hong Kong and China for its monstrous actions during the Opium Wars.

The year 1997 was a defining moment in Chinese history because it was in this year that a historical injustice of immense proportions for China was brought to an end: the return of Hong Kong to the Chinese motherland. Hong Kong is an integral part of the People’s Republic of China. And Hong Kong always has been, and forever will be, Chinese.

In a few weeks’ time, on Oct 1, the Chinese people will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, rejoicing in the extraordinary achievements which have been accomplished by the Communist Party of China. From education to health to jobs to housing to welfare to engineering to science to military to sports to independence and sovereignty, the advancement of the People’s Republic of China has been nothing short of a miracle, both at home and abroad. Never before, in Chinese history, has China been so powerful than the country is today. I salute the magnificent achievements of the Chinese Communist Party!

However, there are countries in the world today which are resentful and envious of the successes of the People’s Republic of China and are intent on limiting and derailing Chinese progress through, among other hostile actions, sowing the seeds of discord in Chinese society, with the aim of collapsing China and then subjugating her. And those hostile countries are the United States and some other Western countries.

Those countries are leading colonial powers in the world which have never lost their appetite and lust for enslaving other countries and plundering their economies and resources.

In relation to China, those countries have shown their disdain for Chinese territorial integrity by their close political, economic and military relationships with Taiwan while, at the same time, interfering in Xinjiang in the most sinister of ways.

Since 1997, some American and British officials have privately lusted after Hong Kong – with some considering it China’s Achilles’ heel because of how, for some 150 years, it was ruled by Britain.

The ongoing violent protests in Hong Kong by extremists are, without doubt, being orchestrated by the US and some other Western countries, with the objective being to destabilize this Chinese region which, if successful, would jeopardize the Chinese economy and could act as a domino effect by which other regions of the motherland could become affected.

The protesters have vowed to keep on protesting. Even though they said that the bill is the reason for them having taken to the streets, the reality is that the extradition bill was simply used as a pretext by the protesters. The protesters, who are a fifth column of Western countries, receiving their orders from their masters in Washington, are intent on detaching Hong Kong from China and handing this region over to the Western political forces.

With the glorious date of Oct 1 approaching, I urge the youth in Hong Kong to be vigilant of a possible major provocation by the protesters against the Chinese authorities in this region, with the aim of making the situation in Hong Kong all the more dangerous.

Chinese youth of Hong Kong, I appeal to you to safeguard your region from British and American colonialism and, in doing so, to defend the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the People’s Republic of China. And I appeal to you to ensure that the pain and suffering of your ancestors at the hands of the British during the Opium Wars was not in vain; let the hardships that they incurred serve as a source of patriotism and inspiration for you in your defense of your motherland.

Hong Kong is China!

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The Real Brexit Plan – The Singapore Scenario

September 16th, 2019 by True Publica

Bloomberg News – August 2nd: Boris Johnson Widens Push for Singapore-Style Free Ports in the UK.  Boris Johnson’s government is expanding plans to create 10 free ports in the U.K., which he says will boost the post-Brexit economy.

Daily Telegraph 2nd JulyBoris Johnson plans Singapore-style tax-free zones around UK to power post-Brexit economy.  “The benefits of tax-free zones in the country will boost the post-Brexit economy”.

Singapore Online 25th July – “despite the possible negative effects of a no-deal Brexit, there could be opportunities, such as Singapore seeing some “safe-haven flows from any ensuing flight to quality”, or people moving money to safer investments.”

The headlines of a post-no-deal Brexit world to some paint a picture of promised sunny uplands. It will be. For some.

Charles Woolfson is Professor emeritus at the Institute for Research on Migration, Ethnicity and Society (REMESO), Linköping University, Sweden. Since arriving in Sweden in 2009 after a decade of residency in the Baltic states, he has written on East-West migration from the newer EU member states, and on the impacts of radical austerity programmes in the Baltics following the crash of 2008.

Woolson wrote an article in the London School of Economics that the plan to turn Britain into some sort of Singapore, itself one of the worst performers in the world for inequality and worker exploitation, is merely a ‘race to the bottom’ to the significant detriment of existing standards.

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Boris Johnson’s real agenda: The ‘Singapore scenario’

In Johnson’s eyes and those of fellow ardent free-marketeers, a ‘Singapore scenario’ would be achieved by an ultra-business-friendly environment with low or zero corporation tax, low wages, weak trade unions, vestigial welfare provisions and a significant temporary migrant ‘non-citizen’ workforce (around 30 per cent of the total workforce), largely without the protection of national labour laws or access to welfare provisions.

Yet, as the Prime Minister of Singapore pointed out, the transposition of a Singaporean model to the UK is not so simple. Currently, the UK government spending on the public sector accounts for 40 to 45 per cent of the GDP, while for the Singaporean government it accounts for a mere 16 to 17 per cent of the GDP (Bloomberg News, 2018). Furthermore, the Singaporean economy, while ranking second in the World Bank index of 190 countries in terms of ‘ease of doing business’ (pro-business regulation), is also accompanied by powerful regulatory social controls and an extensive system of government patronage (Trading Economics, 2019).

Social inequalities in Singapore are rising. A recent review of 157 countries in terms of commitment to reducing inequalities ranked Singapore overall at 149, among the 10 worst performers, and at 157 in terms of redistributive progressivity of tax policies (Development Finance International and Oxfam Report, 2018). Noting a decline in ranking since the previous year, the report concludes, ‘On labour, it (Singapore) has no equal pay or non-discrimination laws for women; its laws on both rape and sexual harassment are inadequate; and there is no minimum wage, except for cleaners and security guards’. As a prescription for a post-Brexit labour market, a ‘Singapore scenario’ leaves a lot to be desired.

None of this has dampened enthusiasm for turning Britain, free of European regulation, into some kind utopian free-market paradise. Johnson’s trademark rhetoric has consistently excoriated the EU for ‘trussing the nations together in a gigantic and ever-tightening cat’s cradle of red tape’. It was exemplified by Johnson’s theatrical appearance before the cheering Conservative Party faithful on the final leadership election hustings. Brandishing of all things, a kipper, Johnson claimed (incorrectly, as it happens) that ‘Brussels bureaucrats’ required that each kipper sent through the mail be accompanied by a coolant bag, an unnecessary and ludicrous burden on business.

There are echoes in Johnson’s buffoonery with the 1980s satirical BBC TV series, ‘Yes, Minister’. A 1984 Christmas special edition depicted an incompetent and opportunistic James Hacker as Minister heading the Department of Administrative Affairs, reluctant to sign a Xmas card to a Brussels Commissioner (one rather French-sounding ‘Maureece’ by name). In contention was a proposed Brussels directive to standardize the ‘EuroSausage’ and re-designate the ‘Great British Sausage’ as an unappetising ‘emulsified high-fat offal tube’. In the same election hustings speech, Johnson proclaimed, kipper to hand, ‘And when we come out, therefore, we will not only be able to take back control of our regulatory framework and end this damaging regulatory overkill but we will also be able to do things to boost Britain’s economy, which leads the world in so many sectors’ (New Statesman, 2019).

Hostility to EU regulation is merely a surrogate target for hostility to regulation in general, seen as holding back burgeoning British free enterprise. To realise full ‘regulatory divergence’ from EU controls (the glittering prize of a no-deal Brexit), Johnson has now proposed the creation of free economic zones or free ports, offering lower import taxes and customs tariffs, favourable manufacturing locations, and looser regulation to lure investment in up to 10 ports around the country. These free ports will be situated mainly in declining and ‘left-behind’ areas such as Teeside. Such zones are not specifically precluded by EU regulations, although it is true to say that they are regarded by the Commission as potential havens for counterfeiting goods and money laundering. In fact, over 80 exist within the EU, the majority in the newer member states of Eastern Europe. Besides providing free-enterprise zones where capitalism can be let loose to do what it does best, their attractiveness for employers is that they are typically insulated from employment protection and minimum wage legislation, while collective bargaining and trade union representation are generally non-existent. Free ports are ‘the Singapore scenario made real’ in the UK context. They will be the forward positions in a greater national project of wholesale deregulation accompanied by comprehensive labour subordination, UK-apore as one big free port.

The post-Brexit foreign trade and investment environment

Ironic, therefore, is the announcement by Brexit-supporting Sir James Dyson, one of Britain’s most celebrated entrepreneurs of the relocation of his corporate headquarters from England to Singapore. This comes only a few months after a previously announced ongoing UK investment programme, much welcomed by Theresa May, and portrayed as a sign of business confidence in Britain’s post-Brexit future. For Dyson, the business logic is presumably compelling. While preserving his UK sites, the company already has manufacturing and new R&D facilities in Singapore, in part following a previous relocation from the UK. The Singapore investment is proximate to profitable East Asian markets for his luxury products, not to mention providing a suitable base for Dyson’s new plan to develop electrical automotives. Not least, however, the move to Singapore potentially offers zero corporation tax. A further incentive is access to labour markets in the East Asia region providing both compliant and relatively cheap human resources when compared to the UK. Dyson Ltd presents a paradigmatic example of ‘foot-loose’ capital investment shopping for regulatory regime advantage in a globalised ‘race to the bottom’. As a pointer to the investment potential of a post-Brexit Britain, Dyson’s decision is ominous.

An additional dimension to the post-Brexit competitive challenges facing the UK economy is the fate of existing foreign direct investment. Japan, for example, is a significant investor in the UK. Nissan, Toyota, and Hitachi between them account for 40 billion pounds (nearly half of Japanese direct investment intended for the EU in 2015 and 144,000 UK manufacturing jobs. Japanese business has sought reassurances that the UK will remain in the European customs union and single market, a demand that is profound anathema to Johnson.

In or out of the single market and customs union, the fact is that the EU is itself remoulding the global trade and investment environment through an extensive series of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), several of which it was hoped would be with potential trading partners for the new ‘Global Britain’. Recent among these is the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) of 2017. This will remove nearly all significant tariff barriers to trade. While the UK has already one of the least regulated labour markets in the EU, such agreements place further competitive pressure on a post-Brexit UK to show even greater ‘flexibility’ on labour and other standards. It is pressure to downgrade that will surely intensify as the UK government embarks on the mammoth task of ‘replicating’ forty years of existing European trade deals or tries its unskilled hand at forging new ones. If preliminary exchanges with the US regarding food safety standards in a future trade deal (specifically, the acceptability of chlorine-washed chicken) are anything to go by, the prospects are not enticing.

Labour migration: an unresolved contradiction

Theresa May’s successful wooing of Nissan investment in Sunderland may prove to have been only a temporary demonstration of foreign investor confidence in the future of the UK economy. As the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned, ‘Japanese businesses rely on inexpensive labour from Eastern Europe in the manufacturing and agricultural industries in the UK’.

Labour migration, the toxic driver of the Brexit debate, will present unique challenges to a free-market Johnson government, not least as its internal logic would suggest a more liberal and open regime. Migration, therefore, presents an unresolved contradiction at the heart of the ‘UK-apore’ project. To appease his core supporters it is more than likely that Johnson’s government will be forced, reluctantly or otherwise, to replicate much of the exclusionary path towards continued free movement of labour that informed the policies of his predecessor.

As Central-Eastern European migrants return home, (or refuse to come to the UK for the wages and conditions on offer) both of which increasingly they appear to be doing, UK nationals will need to be ‘persuaded’ to accept those low-paid ‘3D’ (dirty, dangerous, and demeaning) jobs that they had previously rejected. The ‘Singapore scenario’ applied to the UK would mandate a downgrading of current welfare and labour standards in a massive recalibration of labour expectations of the domestic labour force. Such a recalibration would be achieved by a radical shrinking of what remains of the welfare state, combined with a raft of ‘incentives’ to accept whatever jobs are on offer.

Questions of the downside of globalisation are not new but much accentuated by Britain’s current precarious political and economic conjuncture as it departs from the EU. In short, Boris Johnson’s ‘UK-apore’ can only be realised in a ‘race to the bottom’ to the significant detriment of existing standards. If the business model of labour and welfare devaluation in a ‘Singapore scenario’ is the pathway towards Britain’s economic salvation, then such standards now become integral to the democratic politics of post-Brexit Britain.

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1984 Punjab Was the Template for 2019 Kashmir

September 16th, 2019 by Andrew Korybko

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Drone strikes on key oil facilities in Saudi Arabia on Saturday by Yemen’s Houthi rebels have triggered concerns about a potential major disruption in global oil supplies and a spike in oil prices. The attack, in retaliation for the brutal Saudi-led and US-backed war on Yemen, has sharply raised regional tensions and heightened the danger of a US war on Iran, which Washington accuses of backing the Houthis.

Houthi spokesman Brigadier-General Yahya Sare’e told the media that its forces had “carried out a massive offensive operation of 10 drones targeting Abqaiq and Khurais refineries.” Hijra Khurais is Saudi Arabia’s second largest oil field producing about 1.5 million barrels of oil a day, and Abqaiq is the world’s largest crude stabilisation facility, processing some 7 million barrels of oil for export.

While Saudi authorities insisted that fires at the two sites were under control, Saudi’s state-owned Armco oil company suspended production at the facilities, cutting output by about half. The price for Brent crude oil, the international benchmark, shot up by almost $12 a barrel to $71.95 a barrel, before easing to $68 a barrel, up by more than 12 percent.

The Trump administration immediately blamed Iran for the drone strikes. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted that

“Tehran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia… Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply. There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.”

Pompeo provided not a shred of evidence for any of his allegations, simply asserting that the Houthi rebels did not have the ability to carry out such a sophisticated attack. To date, Saudi authorities have provided few details of the strikes and have not attributed blame to regional rival Iran. Pompeo’s provocative remarks undermine the possibility of talks between the US and Iran.

Tehran has denied any involvement in Saturday’s drone strikes. Foreign ministry spokesman Seyyed Abbas Mousavi dismissed Pompeo’s “blind accusations and inappropriate comments,” saying:

“Even hostility needs a certain degree of credibility and reasonable frameworks. US officials have also violated these basic principles.”

After speaking to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, President Trump issued a White House statement declaring that the US “strongly condemns today’s attack on critical energy infrastructure,” adding that strikes on “infrastructure vital to the global economy only deepen conflict and distrust.” Trump offered the crown prince “his support for Saudi Arabia’s self-defence.”

In a menacing threat against Iran, Trump later tweeted:

“There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the [Saudi] Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!”

In remarks on the “Fox News Sunday” program, senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway all but ruled out a meeting between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the upcoming meeting of the UN General Assembly. She said that “we’ve never committed to that meeting” then added: “When you attack Saudi Arabia… you’re not helping your case much.” A Trump-Rouhani meeting had been mooted as a means of easing the dangerous US-Iran confrontation and paving the way for negotiations and a deal.

Right-wing Republican Senator Lindsay Graham seized on the drone attack to blame Iran for “wreaking havoc in the Middle East.” He called for military strikes on Tehran, saying:

“It is now time for the US to put on the table an attack on Iranian oil refineries… Iran will not stop their misbehavior until the consequences become more real, like attacking their refineries, which will break the regime’s back.”

The barbaric war waged by Saudi Arabia on Yemen, with US military assistance, has all but been omitted from the media coverage of the drone strikes. Since 2015, Saudi-led air strikes on towns and cities in Houthi-held areas have killed tens of thousands of civilians while leaving 80 percent of the population in need of food aid and several million on the brink of starvation.

Saudi war planes, armed with US and British bombs and provided with targeting information by US officers based in Saudi Arabia, have carried out repeated attacks on civilian targets, including schools, hospitals, residential areas, mosques and markets. Up to the end of last year, the US also provided mid-air refueling for the Saudi-led onslaught.

Saudi Arabia has a huge military budget—last year it ranked as the world’s third highest spender on military equipment, splurging an estimated $67.6 billion. The ability of the Houthi rebels to penetrate Saudi defences and strike crucial oil infrastructure has heightened fears of further attacks.

Saudi Arabia, along with the US and its allies, has sought to reassure nervous markets that any fall in oil production will be temporary and will not affect supplies. Riyadh declared that it would be able to supply oil from its reserve storage, as well as bring additional production on stream. Trump signaled that if needed he could make oil available from the US strategic oil reserve.

The International Energy Agency, based in Paris, represents the top energy-consuming nations and would co-ordinate any release of reserves. It last carried out an emergency release in the midst of the US-led military intervention in Libya in 2011 that took out production capacity of 1.7 million barrels a day.

Several analysts have noted that repairs on the Abqaiq crude processing centre, which prepares nearly 70 percent of Saudi oil for export, could be more difficult than officially suggested. Robert McNally, a former White House energy adviser under US President George W. Bush told the New York Times that specialised equipment would be difficult to replace. “A successful attack on Abqaiq is about worst thing that energy security planners think about,” he said.

Last weekend’s drone strikes also feed into growing concern about the international economy. The London-based Financial Times commented:

“A sharp rise in oil prices also comes at a delicate time for the global economy. Fears of a slowdown are percolating and unlikely to be helped by higher energy costs.”

Those fears will only be compounded by the belligerent rhetoric from Washington threatening strikes on Iran that could rapidly escalate into a far broader conflict.

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The Torture and Murder of Julian Assange

September 16th, 2019 by Kurt Nimmo

Back in May, retired USAF lieutenant colonel Karen Kwiatkowski said the CIA’s “Chemical Gina has her hands in this one, and we are being told that Assange is being ‘treated’ with 3-quinuclidinyl benzilate, known as BZ.” 

On September 14, Kwiatkowski wrote Julian Assange “is being held on behalf of the United States and he is being chemically and physically interrogated in Belmarsh (the British Gitmo) in order to reveal his private cryptographic keys, and the names and cryptographic information relating to others within the Wikileaks information network.” 

He has been reduced to the mental capacity of a drug-addled rubberhead, and some of these effects will be found to be permanent.  Physically he is reported to be underweight (under 100 pounds) with food and water being used as bargaining chips in his continued interrogation.  Ironically, even the prisoners at Gitmo, as part of the tender care by the USG, were force-fed when they tried to starve themselves to death.  Julian’s government caretakers are using food and water to break him completely.

The CIA and its media call this practice “enhanced interrogation,” an Orwellian term for torture. In the mid-1970s, the Church Committee and the Rockefeller Commission determined the CIA’s MKUltra was developed for the explicit purpose of breaking down individuals, destroying them psychologically and physically, and reformatting their minds. In the 1950s, the agency was searching for a way to brainwash subjects and turn them into amnesiac assassins. 

The full extent of this program will never be known. The CIA destroyed its records on the MKUltra project. 

In the case of Assange, as Kwiatkowski notes, the British and American torturers hope to break Assange’s “private cryptographic keys, and [reveal] the names and cryptographic information relating to others within the Wikileaks information network.”

This information would be highly beneficial to the state as it hunts down those who reveal uncomfortable truths about its psychopathic behavior. However, the primary objective in keeping Assange locked up in Belmarsh (as extradition drags on) is to break him down, similar to how the British state broke down and rendered mentally ill David Shayler, the former MI5 officer who revealed crimes of the state.

The difference here is dramatic. Shayler served time and was released. Assange will never be released. It’s fair to say he will be taken out of Belmarsh in a body bag. 

This is the message to whistleblowers and truth-tellers—mess with the state, expose its dirty dealings and war crimes, and you may end up like Julian Assange—a skeletal “rubberhead” tortured until a babbling ruin or dead. 

Ditto Chelsea Manning, Ola Bini, and others rounded up since Assange went into the Bolivarian embassy seeking asylum, only to be betrayed and turned over to the Brits who, with the eager help of the US government, are now in the process of slowly killing him, or possibly rendering him a mental patient or vegetable. 

Assange and those who may have worked with him will be interrogated with the full capability of the state (physical, mental and chemical torture).  They will not be tried, represented or defended in a public court, and as noted here for Assange, they will never be released regardless of what is discovered through various interrogations.

Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, who visited Assange prior to arrest, writes:

Yes, living in an Embassy with a cat and a skateboard may seem like a sweet deal when you believe the rest of the lies. But when no one remembers the reason for the hate you endure, when no one even wants to hear the truth, when neither the courts nor the media hold the powerful to account, then your refuge really is but a rubber boat in a shark-pool, and neither your cat nor your skateboard will save your life.

The conspiracy to torture and murder Assange and his associates will never be reported by a government script-reading media. 

Melzer, who holds the Human Rights Chair at the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights in Switzerland, as well as serving as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, is unable to get the word out to a larger audience about Assange and his sadistic punishment.  

“This Op-Ed has been offered for publication to the Guardian, The Times, the Financial Times, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian, the Canberra Times, the Telegraph, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Thomson Reuters Foundation, and Newsweek… None responded positively,” he wrote on his Medium blog in June. 

And none will so long as the state continues to steer the narrative on Assange. His death will be on the hands of the government and its functionaries—the torturers, hired killers of journalists, and the serial murderers of innocent and helpless civilian populations. This horrific reality is buried beneath a mountain of slander, defamation, and lies pushed out by the CIA’s Mockingbird media. Remarkably, millions of Americans and Brits support the slow murder of Julian Assange. The state has long excelled at manipulating the public through ceaseless propaganda and calculated lies. 

Melzer concludes:

Even so, you may say, why spend so much breath on Assange, when countless others are tortured worldwide? Because this is not only about protecting Assange, but about preventing a precedent likely to seal the fate of Western democracy. For once telling the truth has become a crime, while the powerful enjoy impunity, it will be too late to correct the course. We will have surrendered our voice to censorship and our fate to unrestrained tyranny.

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Kurt Nimmo writes on his blog, Another Day in the Empire, where this article was originally published. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research. 

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The attack on the world’s largest oil processing facility at Abqaiq in Saudi Arabia southwest of Aramco’s headquarters in Dhahran had a few predictable responses.  Given that the facility has a daily output of some 5.7 million barrels, damaging it was bound to cause a spike in the price of oil.

The question troubling the security chatterers was whether the party claiming responsibility – in this case, the Yemen-based Houthi rebels – had managed to engineer the feat.  Drones, it is claimed, were used, striking at some 17 points.  But such copyright is being denied to the rebels.  For one, Riyadh is considering the possibility that the attack might have come from Iraqi soil, involving another group armed with cruise missiles. The direction of the attack, it is claimed by US sources, was from the north or northwest, suggesting the direction of the Persian Gulf, Iran or Iraq.

The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has decided to pour cold water on any suggestion that the Houthis were competently responsible.  Having displaced John Bolton as hawk-in-chief, he is preparing the ground for possible retaliation.  In his view, there is only one state responsible for the attacks.

“We call on all nations to publicly and unequivocally condemn Iran’s attacks. The United States will work with our partners and allies to ensure that energy markets remain well supplied and Iran is held accountable for its aggression.”

In another tweet posted on Saturday, the convinced Pompeo accused Iran of being behind some 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia “while [Hassan] Rouhani and [Iranian Foreign Minister Javad] Zarif pretend to engage in diplomacy.”  He ruled out Yemen as a base for the assault. Iran had “launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply.”

President Donald Trump, for his part, is venting and waiting

“There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we should proceed!” 

The more immediate concerns for the president are economic: releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and expediting “approvals of the oil pipelines currently in the permitting process in Texas and various States.”  Many thanks to be had, it seems, for such strikes.

The machinery behind a military strike on Iran is being put in motion, one that was already being readied with claims of Iranian attacks on maritime shipping in the Persian Gulf and the shooting down of a US drone.  (The latter led to a flirtation with the use of force by Trump.)  Generally speaking, the legal basis of any such attack is questionable, despite Pompeo’s airy contention that,

“We have always had the authorisation to defend American interests”. 

Trump, however, has been briefed by a few warring enthusiasts in Congress suggesting that any assault on Iran can be brought within the purview of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). 

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham is not troubled by legal niceties, happy to entertain the prospect of a regional apocalypse in the name of punishing the mullahs.  Having called the attacks “yet another example of how Iran is wreaking havoc in the Middle East” he considered it important “to put on the table an attack on Iranian oil refineries if they continue their provocations or increase nuclear enrichment.”  Like a delinquent of international relations, Iran, he tweeted over the weekend, “will not stop their misbehaviour till the consequences become more real, like attacking their refineries, which will break the regime’s back.”

Accepting Iranian responsibility for such attacks has been an easy matter for many on the Hill.  There are those, like Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, US Representative Adam Schiff, who are already satisfied that Tehran’s less than subtle hand is heavily involved. 

“I think it’s safe to say that the Houthis don’t have the capability to do a strike like this without Iranian assistance.”

Speculation and invention remain a foreign policy stable in Middle Eastern politics.  The region still labours with legacy of a US-led invasion of Iraq inspired by fictional Weapons of Mass Destruction supposedly harboured by Saddam Hussein. It involved grotesquely extravagant assessments of Iraq’s destructive prowess; it involved intelligence failures, bureaucratic bungling and venal manipulation of the record in Washington, London and Canberra. 

Zarif, for his part, is convinced that Pompeo, having failed in exerting maximum pressure on Iran, has now turned to a program of maximum deceit.  The US and its allies, he tweeted, “are stuck in Yemen because of illusion that weapon superiority will lead to military victory.  Blaming Iran won’t end disaster.”  The question, however, is bigger than Yemen, and bigger than oil.  The sole question here is whether Trump takes of the root of madness held out by Graham, or holds out for a meeting with Rouhani at the UN General Assembly.

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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]

Featured image: A fire boke out at the Saudi Aramco facility in the eastern city of Abqaiq on Saturday after a drone attack by Houthi rebels from Yemen. | Reuters

We are now just one week away from the end of Julian Assange’s uniquely lengthy imprisonment for bail violation. He will receive parole from the rest of that sentence, but will continue to be imprisoned on remand awaiting his hearing on extradition to the USA – a process which could last several years.

At that point, all the excuses for Assange’s imprisonment which so-called leftists and liberals in the UK have hidden behind will evaporate. There are no charges and no active investigation in Sweden, where the “evidence” disintegrated at the first whiff of critical scrutiny. He is no longer imprisoned for “jumping bail”. The sole reason for his incarceration will be the publishing of the Afghan and Iraq war logs leaked by Chelsea Manning, with their evidence of wrongdoing and multiple war crimes.

In imprisoning Assange for bail violation, the UK was in clear defiance of the judgement of the UN Working Group on arbitrary Detention, which stated

Under international law, pre-trial detention must be only imposed in limited instances. Detention during investigations must be even more limited, especially in the absence of any charge. The Swedish investigations have been closed for over 18 months now, and the only ground remaining for Mr. Assange’s continued deprivation of liberty is a bail violation in the UK, which is, objectively, a minor offense that cannot post facto justify the more than 6 years confinement that he has been subjected to since he sought asylum in the Embassy of Ecuador. Mr. Assange should be able to exercise his right to freedom of movement in an unhindered manner, in accordance with the human rights conventions the UK has ratified,

In repudiating the UNWGAD the UK has undermined an important pillar of international law, and one it had always supported in hundreds of other decisions. The mainstream media has entirely failed to note that the UNWGAD called for the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe – a source of potentially valuable international pressure on Iran which the UK has made worthless by its own refusal to comply with the UN over the Assange case. Iran simply replies “if you do not respect the UNWGAD then why should we?”

It is in fact a key indication of media/government collusion that the British media, which reports regularly at every pretext on the Zaghari-Ratcliffe case to further its anti-Iranian government agenda, failed to report at all the UNWGAD call for her release – because of the desire to deny the UN body credibility in the case of Julian Assange.

In applying for political asylum, Assange was entering a different and higher legal process which is an internationally recognised right. A very high percentage of dissident political prisoners worldwide are imprisoned on ostensibly unrelated criminal charges with which the authorities fit them up. Many a dissident has been given asylum in these circumstances. Assange did not go into hiding – his whereabouts were extremely well known. The simple characterisation of this as “absconding” by district judge Vanessa Baraitser is a farce of justice – and like the UK’s repudiation of the UNWGAD report, is an attitude that authoritarian regimes will be delighted to repeat towards dissidents worldwide.

Her decision to commit Assange to continuing jail pending his extradition hearing was excessively cruel given the serious health problems he has encountered in Belmarsh.

It is worth noting that Baraitser’s claim that Assange had a “history of absconding in these proceedings” – and I have already disposed of “absconding” as wildly inappropriate – is inaccurate in that “these proceedings” are entirely new and relate to the US extradition request and nothing but the US extradition request. Assange has been imprisoned throughout the period of “these proceedings” and has certainly not absconded. The government and media have an interest in conflating “these proceedings” with the previous risible allegations from Sweden and the subsequent conviction for bail violation, but we need to untangle this malicious conflation. We have to make plain that Assange is now held for publishing and only for publishing. That a judge should conflate them is disgusting. Vanessa Baraitser is a disgrace.

Assange has been demonised by the media as a dangerous, insanitary and crazed criminal, which could not be further from the truth. It is worth reminding ourselves that Assange has never been convicted of anything but missing police bail.

So now we have a right wing government in the UK with scant concern for democracy, and in particular we have the most far right extremist as Home Secretary of modern times. Assange is now, plainly and without argument, a political prisoner. He is not in jail for bail-jumping. He is not in jail for sexual allegations. He is in jail for publishing official secrets, and for nothing else. The UK now has the world’s most famous political prisoner, and there are no rational grounds to deny that fact. Who will take a stand against authoritarianism and for the freedom to publish?

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In a hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court yesterday morning, British District Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled that WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange will remain in prison, despite the fact that his custodial sentence for “absconding” bail expires on September 22.

The ruling is the latest in a series of attacks on Assange’s legal and democratic rights by the British judiciary. It means that the publisher and journalist will be detained until court proceedings next February for his extradition to the US, where he faces 175 years imprisonment for exposing American war crimes.

Given that the extradition proceedings will likely involve a protracted legal battle, Baraitser’s decision potentially confines Assange to the maximum-security Belmarsh Prison for years to come.

The court case was widely presented in the corporate media as a bail hearing for Assange. A statement posted by the official WikiLeaks Twitter account this morning rejected these claims, explaining:

“This morning’s hearing was not a bail hearing, it was a technical hearing. Despite this, the magistrate preemptively refused bail before the defence requested it.”

WikiLeaks stated:

“Magistrate says Assange to remain in prison indefinitely. He has been in increasing forms of deprivation of liberty since his arrest 9 years ago, one week after he started publishing Cablegate.”

“Cablegate” refers to WikiLeaks’ 2010 publication of hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables, exposing the sordid intrigues of the American government and its allies around the world.

In remarks directed at Assange, Baraitser reportedly stated:

“You have been produced today because your sentence of imprisonment is about to come to an end. When that happens your remand status changes from a serving prisoner to a person facing extradition.”

She continued:

“Therefore I have given your lawyer an opportunity to make an application for bail on your behalf and she has declined to do so. Perhaps not surprisingly in light of your history of absconding in these proceedings.”

This claim, however, is contradicted by the WikiLeaks statement, accusing the judge of preempting any application for bail by Assange’s lawyers.

Baraitser declared:

“In my view I have substantial ground for believing if I release you, you will abscond again.”

A further administrative hearing is scheduled for October 11, followed by a case management hearing on October 21.

Baraitser’s ruling was based on the fraudulent claim that Assange illegitimately “absconded” on bail in 2012. In reality, Assange exercised his right, protected under international law, to seek political asylum in Ecuador’s London embassy. He did so after British courts ruled that he would be extradited to Sweden to “answer questions” over manufactured and politically motivated sexual misconduct allegations.

The British and Swedish authorities refused to explain why extradition was necessary for a “preliminary investigation” to proceed, or why Swedish prosecutors would not agree to Assange’s repeated offer to answer any questions from London. Assange was finally questioned by prosecutors in December 2016, after which they dropped their fraudulent “investigation” in April 2017.

The issue for Assange was that Swedish authorities refused to guarantee that they would not extradite him to the US if he was in their custody.

The fact that seeking asylum was necessary to protect Assange from a politically-motivated US show trial was fully confirmed in April this year, when the Trump administration’s Justice Department unveiled 17 charges of espionage against him. If convicted of the espionage charges, and one lesser offence, Assange would face the life sentence of up to 175 years’ imprisonment.

Assange was convicted of absconding on bail, as a result of his application for political asylum, just hours after he was illegally expelled from Ecuador’s London embassy and arrested by the British police on April 11.

The British judge presiding over the hearing ignored the fact that Assange had forfeited the bail monies his supporters had paid; that he had spent close to seven years effectively detained by the British authorities in the small embassy building; and that his right to seek political asylum had been repeatedly upheld by United Nations’ bodies.

Assange was sentenced to 50 weeks. Under British legislation, the maximum sentence for a bail violation is 52 weeks. Those convicted of such an offence, however, are eligible for release after half of that time served.

Baraitser’s refusal to release Assange demonstrates the vindictive disregard of the British establishment for the warnings about his physical and mental health.

Recent visitors to Assange, including John Pilger and the WikiLeaks founder’s brother Gabriel Barber-Shipton, have stated that he has lost a significant amount of weight. Barber-Shipton publicly warned, after visiting Assange last month, that he fears he “might never see” his brother again.

UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer, who found earlier this year that Assange was the victim of a protracted campaign of “psychological torture,” has repeatedly condemned the British authorities for jailing him in a maximum-security prison.

In a letter to the British government in May, Melzer stated that the conditions of Assange’s detention had resulted in his “continued exposure to progressively severe psychological suffering and the ongoing exacerbation of his pre-existing trauma.”

For the past five months, Assange has frequently been held in conditions of virtual solitary confinement. His right to receive visitors has been heavily restricted and he has been denied access to a computer, the prison library and legal documents relating to his defence against US extradition.

Yesterday’s ruling demonstrates the determination of the British legal and political establishment to trample upon Assange’s democratic rights and facilitate his extradition. A US prosecution of Assange for WikiLeaks’ lawful publishing activities would represent a sweeping attack on fundamental democratic rights, including freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

The callous judgement underscores the urgent necessity of transforming the mass sympathy for Assange among workers, students and young people around the world, into a conscious political movement fighting for his immediate freedom.

In Australia, maximum pressure must be placed on the federal Liberal-National government to force it to uphold Assange’s rights as an Australian citizen and journalist. The demand must be raised internationally that the Australian government intervene with all its diplomatic weight and legal discretion to secure Assange’s immediate release from Belmarsh Prison and his right to return to Australia, if he chooses to do so, with a guarantee against extradition to the US.

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David Cameron has no shame whatsoever. He has, cynically, come out of hiding – simply to promote his new book and make some money from an ongoing catastrophe of his making. For the last three years he hid from the political landscape he set fire to and finally pops up to say that he has ‘no regrets’. He even tried to shift the blame in an interview to publicise his book, where, according to him, Boris Johnson told him the Brexit campaign would be “crushed” during the referendum campaign. As if anyone took notice of Johnson in 2015, least of all David Cameron – a man who took no notice of senior civil servants or even the security services. But there’s more to come from his legacy of breaking Britain.

Every mainstream newspaper quotes about his forthcoming memoirs, where he admitted that he had underestimated “the strength of feeling that would be unleashed both during the referendum and afterwards”.

It was David Cameron and David Cameron alone who unleashed this nightmare. He owns this nightmare. He was strongly warned against it, after all, it contributed to the toppling of John Major and his idol Margret Thatcher. But in another cynical action to save his own skin in an election he thought he might not win, he decided that winning fifteen seats in the 2015 election was more important than the threat of ruining the country. It’s difficult to believe that that election was only a few years ago now. The British political, economic and social landscape has been irrevocably changed through his irresponsible stewardship of a political party once described as the most successful in a democracy the world had ever seen. Today, that party lies in ruins and democracy is threatened. Behind it is the social catastrophe that the same party is now walking civil society straight into.

Meanwhile, Cameron’s (second) successor, Boris Johnson, through his sociopathic advisor Dominic Cummings is ruthlessly exploiting divisions that Cameron created in the first place. The political parties (of what was once the United Kingdom) are pitting the people against their own elected representatives. and then turning in on themselves.

Worse still, is not the gloom of economic forecasts, medical or food shortages or the political battles in Westminster that still lies ahead – but what is happening to civil society. People, communities, towns and cities are now in a state of war mentality driven by this government. The language of politicians – an “outrage”, a “coup”, an “abomination”, a country tumbling into “failed state status”, Britain a “banana republic”, Boris Johnson a “tinpot dictator” is being echoed across the land through spit clenched teeth and pointing fingers. To stop the critics and the rule of law – Britain’s latest PM has shut parliament down and locked its doors to representative democracy that just turns the outrage volume up another notch.

The cool charm of Britishness has vanished, and newspapers around the world now run article’s entitled “Will Brexit trigger the Nation’s next civil war?” and “Is Britain Becoming a Failed State.”

Meanwhile, in the Westminster bubble, as Abby Innes, an Assistant Professor of Political Economy at the London School of Economics says –

‘No deal’ for this group promises an unprecedented fire sale of UK public, corporate, and land assets. That the extreme economic purpose of Brexit has been successfully conflated with an act of national liberation from tyranny is a product of a skilful charismatic politics, a polarised social media landscape nevertheless driven by conventional media skewed ever further to the right.”

Britain is on the verge of submerging its economy in increased debt caused by Brexit after a decade of austerity, that failed an entire nation. Tens of thousands have died at the hands of the Conservative party during austerity, millions pushed into despair and all the while, eyes are averted from this social calamity.

We’ve become numb, indifferent and anesthetised to the word ‘crisis.’ As this political firestorm sweeps the nation, there’s an ongoing crisis in every corner of society where no-one is left untouched, except those that afford it the most. Homelessness now kills someone every 19 hours on the streets of Britain, 17,000 disabled people have died desperately fighting the state for a meagre financial leg-up that they were denied. Councils are going bust and selling assets illegally to pay the bills. There’s a crisis with our elderly, our young and anyone who slips up or trips over in between.

We now live in a world where the culture of lies and populist scapegoating becomes the only option of our leaders. Brexit has offered a thick seam of just that. Monopolising power is now the end-game. It’s all they can see. Worse still, it’s all that the rest of us can see as well, as we no longer protest moderate politics being purged.

The result of all this is that government has been preparing for a civil uprising. Don’t think they haven’t – it’s the one thing that they really are scared of. The operation to defend their version of democracy in another leaked document is to measure the battle rhythm on the streets. Make no mistake, the threat of bricks and bottles being thrown at the political elite who caused pent up anger and frustration to explode will be met with a surveillance state with police state like powers who will be armed to the teeth.

It was David Cameron’s Home Secretary Theresa May who set up the very worst of the surveillance state. One look at how Julian Assange is being treated in Britain is enough to turn any protestor pale with fear today.

Prof Nils Melzer is the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. He visited Assange in Belmarsh high-security prison in early May, and concluded that he “showed all symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture”.

Melzer also concluded:

“The only realistic explanation for this sustained systemic failure of the judiciary are that states are trying to make an example of Mr Assange before the eyes of the world.”

It is, as Meltzer quite rightly points out, that all three branches of state power – government, parliament and judiciary – have failed to show the impartiality and objectivity towards Mr Assange that is required under the rule of law.

This is Britain today.

Just a few years ago, the UK self-identified itself as a stable, tolerant and moderate nation, with a crown to symbolise its traditions that had been honed down the centuries. It wasn’t so ling ago we were celebrating ‘Cool Brittania‘. Now the country is revealed as little more than ferociously divided.

Nobody knew what David Cameron’s decomposing political corpse stood for until recently. But now we know. All he ever believed in was keeping his job at the top and making money out of it when he left it. But we should not forget about David Cameron as he should be held up as an example of the very worst in what Eton and what a very dangerous political class spews out today.

Cameron has left a legacy though. One nation Conservatism has gone up in flames – it is now the most right-wing government Britain has had for over 200 years. He is responsible for crushing the NHS, for killing thousands through a failed ideology called austerity that the United Nations has called out as the “systematic immiseration of a significant part of the British population“.

Another legacy is the cutting of the top rate of income tax, whilst tax credits to the poorest households were sliced and a bedroom tax designed purely out of spite drove even more desperation. These are the actions of the class warfare dogma bestowed to him in his school years.

And let’s not forget about another global disaster Cameron created. He illegally attacked the stable state of Libya, the wealthiest country in Africa and turned it into a slave-trading nation full of tribalalist gangs and some of the worst terrorists on the planet. The immigration cork he was emphatically warned about blew massive holes in the European Union’s project as tens of thousands attempted to escape the murderous nightmare of a failed state. How many were raped, murdered or drowned on the way is not known. I’ll bet that’s not in his memoir.

Cameron did something else no other peacetime Prime Minister had ever done in Britain. He rolled out an assassination programme specifically targeted on British citizens abroad. Extra-judicial assassination was outlawed in Britain even during the last World War. It was a no-go area no matter what the geopolitical landscape. But Cameron thought the better of it, sanctioned it and personally gave the authority to kill irrespective of the danger presented to innocent civilians. Years later, we have drone attacks on foreign soil where no war is being conducted, where over 90% of deaths are innocent bystanders who got in the way of a target.

Then we saw Cameron give permission for another atrocity. He had his henchmen walk into a British mainstream newspaper to trash their computers because of a whistleblower called Edward Snowden. Anything the state doesn’t like today is now dealt with in the name of national security. Our civil liberties have been ripped away from us all and with it any semblance of privacy.

All these things we’ve forgotten about because what we are dealing with today seems far worse. And it will get worse. Much worse, because that is the trajectory we are on today in large part to David Cameron.

Don’t buy his book – he doesn’t deserve to be paid for the living nightmare of his legacy soon to be lavished upon us – it would feel like an act of treachery, like you were letting down the country in its time of need.

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In the days leading up to the Israeli election on Sept. 17, President Donald Trump appears to have left Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu twisting in the wind.

While most observers have been attributing Trump’s cooling toward Netanyahu to either rational foreign policy differences–particularly rumors that Trump may make an overture to the leadership of Israel’s arch-enemy, Iran–or Trump’s irrational idiosyncratic irascibility, there’s another factor that is being largely ignored: Trump’s mega-fans, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson.

Leaked transcripts of testimony given to police, disclosed by the Israeli media in the past several days and recent weeks, reveal that the Adelsons are no longer backing Netanyahu, and have not been for quite some time. Sheldon Adelson reportedly testified to police investigators in October 2018, in connection with one of three ongoing corruption probes of Netanyahu, that he had cut his ties with Bibi and had vowed that he would never meet with him again.

In March 2017, in their coverage of the corruption charges for which Netanyahu was under investigation and could potentially be indicted—Israeli media reported that Netanyahu and Israeli media mogul Arnon Mozes, publisher of Yediot Aharonot [Latest News], had discussed ways to weaken or shut down the Adelsons’ Israel Hayom [Israel Today] newspaper. In exchange, Yediot Aharonot would give Netanyahu more favorable coverage and attack his political opponents. Founded in 1939, Yediot Aharanot had been Israel’s largest newspaper in circulation in sales and circulation until Sheldon and Miriam Adelson had established Israel Today in 2007 with the aim of getting Netanyahu elected and keep him power.

Subscriptions to Israel Today and copies in print and online are available at no cost—except to the Adelsons—and it is believed to be Israel’s most widely read newspaper. “Israel Hayom has consistently supported the prime minister,” according the English language Times of Israel. “Its unfailing backing of Netanyahu has been characterized by the playing down of his failures, the hyping of his achievements and the lashing of his critics. It has also shied away from praising his rivals.” The Adelsons don’t appear to be directly implicated in what became known as Case 2000, except insofar as Netanyahu appears to have been more than willing to throw them under the bus by supporting a law that would ban free newspapers—like Israel Hayom.

Recent Israeli news coverage of the leaks from Adelson’s testimony has focused on tensions between the Adelsons and Netanyahu’s wife Sara. In early August, Israel’s Channel 13 disclosed that Adelson and his wife Miriam had testified to police that Sara Netanyahu was media obsessed and “decides everything” in the Netanyahu household, holding sway with regard to key staff appointments and even some political matters, according to Haaretz:

“She’s completely crazy,” said Sheldon Adelson, publisher of the Israel Hayom daily. “She was compulsive about photos of herself and how she looked. She said, ‘I’m the first lady, I’m a psychologist and I teach children about psychology.’ … She would tell my wife that if Iran attacked it would be her fault … because we didn’t publish good pictures of her…”

According to Channel 13, via the Times of Israel, Sheldon told police that Sara Netanyahu had demanded the firing of Amos Regev, Israel Hayom’s editor since the paper’s inception. “She tossed around very rude comments about how [my wife] Miri might be having an affair with Amos,” Adelson recalled. “It indeed was a very rude comment. I intended to get up and go at that instant — but Miri didn’t want to.” Although the news outlet had given Netanyahu “positive coverage, to the point that some claim it is illegal propaganda,” Regev left Israel Hayom in May 2017—two and a half years later—due to ongoing friction with the Prime Minister’s Office over coverage of Sara and Bibi. The Netanyahus wanted Regev replaced with the family’s former media adviser, Nir Hefetz (currently a witness against the Netanyahus), but the Adelsons did not yield to the pressure.

Miriam Adelson, who officially became Israel Hayom’s publisher in May 2018, recounted a dinner party in her testimony during which “Sara lost her temper and started screaming so loudly that the prime minister asked the Adelsons to leave.” “She screamed that I was sucking her blood. It was awful…” according to the transcripts disclosed by Channel 13 on September 8. She also said that Sara had solicited lavish gifts from her.

The Adelsons’ accounts were corroborated by testimony leaked by Channel 13 on September 11. Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan—a key witness in Case 1000, another corruption probe of Netanyahu investigating whether he solicited and received expensive gifts from his tycoon friends—told police he had been present when Sara Netanyahu verbally abused the Adelsons. According to Haaretz:

“I was present at a dinner with Sheldon and Miri Adelson at the Netanyahus on Balfour [street],” Channel 13 quoted Milchan as saying in his testimony. “Sara started screaming at Miri [Miriam Adelson]: ‘You are spilling my blood, you are all spilling my blood…. You with your ‘Bibi-paper’ don’t help at all, only ruin.’”

Milchan then said that Sheldon Adelson responded to the verbal assault by saying: “Calm down, we’re doing the best we can. I lose 40-50 million dollars a year [on Israel Hayom] … We regularly write in your favor and you keep shouting at me.”

Despite the reported verbal abuse, it was only after the Adelsons learned of Bibi conspiring against Israel Hayom with its competitor that they broke off their relationship with him. The leaked transcripts of Adelson’s police interview disclose that the Adelsons’ relationship with Netanyahu was “never the same” after they learned of his betrayal. The Times of Israel reports that Sheldon told investigators, “I will never meet [Netanyahu] again because of what I read.”

Indeed, an examination of news stories about the Adelsons in the Israeli press over the past year and a half, Netanyahu has been conspicuously absent at major Adelson-honoring events. He was not present at the ceremonies at which U.S. Ambassador David Friedman presented Miriam (who is a medical doctor) with an honorary doctorate on behalf of Bar-Ilan University on June 4, 2019, nor at one at which one was conferred on Sheldon by the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) of Herzliya—an Adelson-funded academic think tank—on July 5.

When the Adelsons were honored for financing the establishment of a controversial medical school at Ariel University in the northern West Bank on August 19, 2018, Netanyahu was not among the 200 invited guests, which included Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and numerous government ministers and dignitaries. Also of possible significance: photos taken in May 2018 at the dedication of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem—a top priority for the Adelsons—show Miriam Adelson sitting next to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, while Netanyahu, a few seats down in the same row, is seated next to Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.

If they have in fact cut Bibi loose, whom might the Adelsons be supporting in the future?

In the leaked transcripts, Miriam Adelson mentions Sara’s role in Bibi’s disdain for Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, formerly of the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party, both of whom had formerly worked as Netanyahu aides. “I was furious after the previous election when he [Netanyahu] was refusing to not [SIC] build a coalition with Bennett because she [Sara] hates him,” the Times of Israel quoted Miriam telling investigators. She criticized Netanyahu’s reluctance to include the Jewish Home party in the coalition negotiations that followed the 2015 election. “I mean, the fate of the Jewish people is doomed because the lady hates Bennett and Shaked, so he does not make a coalition with the right man who fits.”

While no outright declaration of support favoring any party or candidate has been forthcoming from the Adelsons, it is perhaps noteworthy that the Adelson-funded Jewish News Syndicate (JNS)—which provides right-slanted content to local and regional Jewish newspapers in the U.S. and Canada (competing with the more centrist Jewish Telegraphic Agency)—seems to be positively focused on Ayelet Shaked, who heads the list of the Yamina [Right] alliance of Israeli right wing parties in the upcoming election. Under Shaked’s leadership, Yamina is predicted to do well, attracting votes from settlers and right-wing Israeli nationalists. Shaked is expected to be a major player in the formation of any right-wing coalition government after the election.

A profile of Shaked, still prominent on the JNS website since its publication on September 4, approvingly describes Shaked’s Yamina alliance as “a hodgepodge of right-wing parties that come from different backgrounds, but share a nationalist agenda.” These include Shaked’s own New Right party, her previous Jewish Home party, and the even further right National Union party:

All three identify themselves as to the right of Likud, though they differ when it comes to religious issues. Shaked and the New Right include secular candidates and are more liberal; Jewish Home is religious and conservative; and National Union is more extreme.

But all three unified behind the leadership of Shaked, a secular woman.”

Shaked, who was Minister of Justice in Netanyahu’s cabinet from 2015 until its dissolution earlier this year, has called for radical judicial reform that would make the Israeli High Court subservient to the Israeli Knesset. She has vowed to curb the “judicial activism” of what right wingers consider to be the “left-leaning” Court. Although her detractors consider her political outlook to border on fascism, an independent judiciary being the indispensable hallmark of a democracy, Shaked, young (age 43) and attractive, is already being recognized by her admirers as a future prime minister.

If her star power succeeds in brightening the Israeli political sky darkened by the Netanyahus, Shaked may be just the sort of politician to appeal to the Adelsons—particularly Miriam, who recently ranked number one on the 2019 list of the wealthiest Israelis compiled by Haaretz’s “The Marker.” She is considered the driving force behind the couple’s investments and philanthropic projects in Israel and in Israeli politics since their marriage in 1991. The conclusion of Shaked’s JNS profile may well be reflecting Miriam’s own view that, “A new leader has emerged within the Israeli right—one who is determined to continue leading for the long term.”

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Marsha B. Cohen is an analyst specializing in Israeli-Iranian relations and US foreign policy towards Iran and Israel. Her articles have been published by PBS/Frontline’s Tehran Bureau. IPS, Alternet, Payvand and Global Dialogue. She earned her PhD in International Relations from Florida International University, and her BA in Political Philosophy from Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Featured image: Sheldon Adelson, left, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, and Adelson’s wife, Miriam (photo by Eyal Warshavsky)

For avalanche-level lying, deceiving, and misleading, mega-mimic Donald Trump need look no further than the history of the corporate advertising industry and the firms that pay them.

Dissembling is so deeply ingrained in commercial culture that the Federal Trade Commission and the courts don’t challenge exaggerated general claims that they call “puffery.”

Serious corporate deception is a common sales technique. At times it cost consumers more than dollars. It has led to major illness and loss of life.

Take the tobacco industry which used to sell its products in the context of health and facilitating mental concentration. Healthy movie stars and athletes were featured in print and on TV until 1970.

Despite studies showing that sugary soft drinks can damage health, increase obesity, and reduce life expectancy, the industry’s ads still feature healthy, fit families in joyous situations guzzling pop. Fortunately, drinking water has regained its first place position as the most consumed liquid in the U.S.

Whether it is the auto industry’s false inflation of fuel efficiency or the e-cigarette companies deceiving youngsters about vaping, or the food industry selling sugary junk cereals as nutrition for children, or the credit banking companies misleading on interest rates, truth in advertising is oxymoronic.

To counter these “fake ads,” the consumer movement pushed for mandatory labeling on food and other products. The Federal Trade Commission is a chief enforcer against deception in advertising, but it has waxed and waned over the decades. The FTC describes its duties to protect consumers from unfair or deceptive acts or practices as follows:

“In advertising and marketing, the law requires that objective claims be truthful and substantiated. The FTC does not pursue subjective claims or puffery — claims like “this is the best hairspray in the world.” But if there is an objective component to the claim — such as “more consumers prefer our hairspray to any other” or “our hairspray lasts longer than the most popular brands” — then you need to be sure that the claim is not deceptive and that you have adequate substantiation before you make the claim.”

A few times, companies, caught engaging in false advertising, were compelled by the FTC to announce the correction in their forthcoming ads and apologize. Those days are long gone.

Another way consumers fought back is the spectacular success of Dr. Sidney Wolfe and his associates at Public Citizen’s Health Research Group. They researched hundreds of prescription drugs and over the counter medicines and found they were not effective for the purpose for which they are advertised. Relentless publicity on such dynamic mass media as the Phil Donahue Show led to the withdrawal of many of these products, likely saving consumers billions of dollars and protecting them from harmful side-effects (see Pills that Don’t Work).

When large companies are fighting regulation their lies become “clear and present dangers” to innocent people. I recall at a technical conference in the early nineteen sixties, a General Motors engineer warned that seatbelts in cars would tear away the inner organs of motorists from their moorings in sudden decelerations as in collisions. For the longest time, lead, asbestos, and a whole host of chemicals were featured as safe, not just necessary. All false.

Someone should write a book about all the prevarications by leading spokespersons of industry and commerce justifying the slavery of the “inferior races,” arguing against the abolition of child labor in dungeon factories, and predicting that legislating social security would bring on communism.

Interestingly, corporations can lie vigorously and not lose credibility. Artificial corporate personhood comes with immunity from social sanctions that apply to real human beings.

In 1972, The People’s Lobby in California, led by the impressive Ed and Joyce Koupal, qualified an initiative called “The Clean Environment Act.” Corporations threw millions of dollars and made false claims to defeat the Act. Their public relations firm, Whitaker and Baxter, put out a fact sheet reaching millions of voters. The oil companies declared that “lowering the lead content of gasoline would cause automobile engines to fail, resulting in massive congestion and transit breakdowns.” They also claimed that “reducing sulfur oxide emissions from diesel fuel would cause the state’s transportation industry to grind to a haul,” with huge joblessness and “economic chaos.”

Other companies said a “moratorium on nuclear power plant construction” would lead to “widespread unemployment and darkened city streets.” Banning DDT in California would “confront the farmer with economic ruin and produce critical shortages of fruits and vegetables” and more lurid hypotheticals.

The lies worked. Voters turned down the initiative by nearly two to one. All these reforms have since been advanced nationwide with no such disasters.

The media did not distinguish itself by separating the lies from the truth. Later in 1988, the media, led by the Los Angeles Times, did not let the auto insurance industry get away with lies about Prop 103, pushed by a $70 million television/radio buy. Prop 103 won and has saved California motorists over $100 billion according to leading actuary and consumer advocate J. Robert Hunter (see here).

Corporate fibbing pays monetary rewards. Informed consumers, their champions and regulatory agencies at the national, state, and local level must continue to make these companies pay a price, especially over social media. Madison Avenue calls the effect of such pushback “reputational risk.”

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Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His latest books include: To the Ramparts: How Bush and Obama Paved the Way for the Trump Presidency, and Why It Isn’t Too Late to Reverse CourseHow the Rats Re-Formed the Congress, Breaking Through Power: It’s easier than we think, and Animal Envy: A Fable

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Seventy four years ago, on September 15, 1945, the US released a secret document which consisted in waging a coordinated nuclear attack directed against 66 major urban areas of the Soviet Union, which at the time was an ally of the US.

The War Department estimated that a total of 204 atomic bombs would be required to “Wipe the Soviet Union off the Map”.

The War Department had studied the destructive impact of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (See Major General Grove’s letter to General Norstad dated September 25, 1945.

The military planners were talking about physical destruction rather than “death and destruction”. They failed to mention acknowledge the impact of this diabolical and criminal undertaking on human life. Genocide is an understatement.

In Hiroshima, a 100,00o people died within the first seven seconds following and solely as a result of the explosion (without accounting for deaths resulting from radiation).

The War Department in its September 15, 1945 document referred to “the number of atomic bombings which should be available to insure our national security”. That number was 204 atomic bombs to be dropped on 66 cities. They had studied the impacts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They were fully aware that “insuring their national security” would lead to millions of deaths.

The Cold War is a myth.

A US-led “hot war” against the Soviet Union was formulated at the height of World War II. For the US, the Cold War was a continuation of World War II.

The Manhattan project was launched in 1939, two years prior to America’s entry into World War II in December 1941. The Kremlin was fully aware of the secret Manhattan project as early as 1942.

The Manhattan project was largely directed at the Soviet Union.

Were the August 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks used by the War Department to evaluate the viability of  a much larger attack on the Soviet Union consisting of more than 204 atomic bombs?

The formulation of the secret September 15, 1945 document was preceded by an August 30, 1945 document which was dispatched by Major General Lauris Norstad  to the head of the Manhattan Project General Leslie Groves 

This document [outlined] “a total of 15 “key Soviet cities” to be struck with US atomic weapons, headed by the capital Moscow. This was followed by another 25 “leading Soviet cities” listed for annihilation, topping this latter group was Leningrad, almost destroyed during the Nazi siege finally lifted in late January 1944.”  

The above nuclear plans were being composed three days before the Second World War had even officially concluded (on 2 September 1945), and a mere two weeks following Japan’s surrender. (Shane Quinn, Global Research, May 28, 2019)

The key documents to bomb 66 cities of the Soviet Union (15 September 1945) were finalized 5-6 weeks after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings (6, 9 August 1945). The US Nuclear Attack against the USSR had been planned as early as 1942.

The 1945 documents confirm that the US was involved in the “planning of genocide” against the Soviet Union.  

 


 

Central to our understanding of the Cold War which started (officially) in 1947, Washington’s September 1945 plan to bomb 66 Soviet cities into smithereens played a key role in triggering the nuclear arms race.

The Soviet Union was threatened and developed its own atomic bomb in 1949 in response to 1942 Soviet intelligence reports on the Manhattan Project.

While the Kremlin knew about these plans to “Wipe out” the USSR, the broader public was not informed because the September 1945 documents were of course classified.

Today, neither the September 1945 plan to blow up the Soviet Union nor the underlying cause of the nuclear arms race are acknowledged.

The Western media has largely focussed its attention on the Cold War US-USSR confrontation. The plan to annihilate the Soviet Union dating back to World War II and the infamous Manhattan project are not mentioned.

Had there not been a Manhattan Project leading up the September 1945 plan to “Wipe the Soviet Union off the Map”, a nuclear arms race would not have taken place. There would not have been a Cold War.

Much of the analysis and history of the so-called “Cold War” are mistaken.

Washington’s Cold War nuclear plans are invariably presented in response to so-called Soviet threats, when in fact it was the U.S. plan released in September 1945 (formulated at an earlier period at the height of World War II) to wipe out the Soviet which motivated Moscow to develop its nuclear weapons capabilities.

see the following articles: 

“Wipe the Soviet Union Off the Map”, 204 Atomic Bombs against 66 Major Cities, US Nuclear Attack against USSR Planned During World War II

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky, October 27, 2018

Prior to the Cold War: US Nuclear Plans Entailed Blowing Up Hundreds of Chinese, Soviet and Eastern European Cities

By Shane Quinn, May 28, 2019

Video: “Wipe the Soviet Union Off the Map”; Planned US Nuclear Attack Against USSR

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky and South Front, December 03, 2017

 

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Days ahead of Israeli Knesset elections on Tuesday, Netanyahu fighting for his political life, Trump tweeted the following:

“I had a call today with Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss the possibility of moving forward with a Mutual Defense Treaty, between the United States and Israel…further anchor(ing)” bilateral relations, he added.

He tacitly endorsed Netanyahu’s reelection bid, saying

“I look forward…after the Israeli elections when we meet at the United Nations later this month!”

Trump suggesting a mutual US/Israeli defense treaty was a pre-election stunt, supporting Netanyahu’s bid to remain prime minister — a Ziofascist extremist, a recklessly dangerous Iranophobe, an enemy of peace, equity and justice.

Trump’s remark came when the last pre-election polls showed a dead heat between Netanyahu’s Likud party and Gantz/Lapid’s Blue and White party.

It’s also at a time when Netanyahu faces post-election indictment for bribery, fraud and breach of trust following an October hearing, his personal freedom at stake.

Saturday on Israeli television, he appealed to his base, saying

“I’m going to get us a defense pact that will provide us with security for centuries, but for that I need your votes.”

The US and Israel have no enemies, no threats to their security, so they’re invented.

What would a defense treaty mean between both countries? In 1989, the US designated Israel a major non-NATO ally (MNNA).

It’s the closest thing to alliance membership, affording the Jewish state significant military and other advantages not given to non-NATO countries.

In December 2014, the US-Israel Major Strategic Partner Act made the Jewish state more equal than other MNNA nations — the Orwellian notion.

In his novel “Animal Farm,” some animals were more equal than others — Israel at the top of the pecking order among US allies because of the power and influence of its lobby.

James Petras powerfully discussed it in his book, titled “The Power of Israel in the United States” — creating a “tyranny of Israel over the US,” he explained.

The Jewish state today is US-dominated NATO’s leading partner country. Since 1995, it’s been a Mediterranean Dialogue nation, reinforcing its partnership with alliance nations.

The US and Israel are imperial partners, allying in each other’s wars of aggression, the Jewish state provided aid and other benefits beyond what Washington affords other nations.

If consummated, a US/Israeli defense pact would elevate relations to a higher level. It would likely have provisions similar to what’s in the NATO Charter.

Its Article 4 calls for members to “consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence, or security of any” is threatened.

Article 5 considers an armed attack (real or otherwise) against one or more member states, an attack against all, collective self-defense called for, alliance members mandated to intervene.

While the US already goes all-out to aid Israel militarily, a bilateral defense pact would mandate it.

For example, when Gazan rockets respond to Israeli aggression, followed by Israeli-terror-bombing, the US would be obligated to get involved if the Jewish state requested it.

The same goes if Israel manufactures a pretext for war on  Iran, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, or greater war on Syria than already.

A mutual defense pact elevates the risk of greater regional wars instead stepping back from the brink to avoid them — why it’s a dangerous idea if Trump actually pursues it.

For now, it’s just a DJT pre-election stunt to help save Netanyahu’s political future.

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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: President Trump meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York on Sept. 18, 2017. (Screenshot from Whitehouse.gov)

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Demythologizing the Roots of “The New Cold War”

September 15th, 2019 by Ted Snider

When Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev received his peace prize in 1990, the Nobel Prize committee declared that “the two mighty power blocs, have managed to abandon their life-threatening confrontation” and confidently expressed that “It is our hope that we are now celebrating the end of the Cold War.” Recently, U.N. General Secretary António Guterres funereally closed the celebrations with the realization that “The Cold War is back.”

In a very short span of history, the window that had finally opened for Russia and the United States to build a new international system in which they work cooperatively to address areas of common interest had slammed back closed. How was that historic opportunity wasted? Why was the road from the Nobel committee’s hope to the UN’s eulogy such a short one?

The doctrinal narrative that is told in the U.S. is the narrative of a very short road whose every turn was signposted by alleged Russian lies, betrayal, deception and aggression. The American telling of history is a tale in which every blow to the new peace was a Russian blow. The fact checked version offers a demythologized history that is unrecognizably different. The demythologized version is also a history of lies, betrayal, deception and aggression, but the liar, the aggressor, is not primarily Russia, but America. It is the history of a promise so historically broken that it laid the foundation of a new cold war.

But it was not the first promise the United States broke: it was not even the first promise they broke in the new cold war.

The Hot War

Most histories of the cold war begin at the dawn of the post World War II period. But the history of U.S-U.S.S.R. animosity starts long before that: it starts as soon as possible, and it was hot long before it turned cold.

The label “Red Scare” first appeared, not in the 1940s or 50s, but in 1919. Though it is a chapter seldom included in the history of American-Russian relations, America actively and aggressively intervened in the Russian civil war in an attempt to push the Communists back down. The United States cooperated with anti-Bolshevik forces: by mid 1918, President Woodrow Wilson had sent 13,000 American troops to Soviet soil. They would remain there for two years, killing and injuring thousands. Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev would later remind America of “the time you sent your troops to quell the revolution.” Churchill would record for history the admission that the West “shot Soviet Russians on sight,” that they were “invaders on Russian soil,” that “[t]hey armed the enemies of the Soviet government,” that “[t]hey blockaded its ports, and sunk its battleships. They earnestly desired and schemed for its downfall.”

When the cause was lost, and the Bolsheviks secured power, most western countries refused to recognize the communist government. However, realism prevailed, and within a few short years, by the mid 1920s, most countries had recognized the communist government and restored diplomatic relations. All but the US It was not until several years later that Franklin D. Roosevelt finally recognized the Soviet government in 1933.

The Cold War

It would be a very short time before the diplomatic relations that followed the hot war would be followed by a cold war. It might even be possible to pin the beginning of the cold war down to a specific date. On April 22 and 23, President Truman told Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov to “Carry out his agreement” and establish a new, free, independent government in Poland as promised at Yalta. Molotov was stunned. He was stunned because it was not he that was breaking the agreement because that was not what Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin had agreed to at Yalta. The final wording of the Yalta agreement never mentioned replacing Soviet control of Poland.

The agreement that Roosevelt revealed to congress and shared with the world – the one that still dominates the textbook accounts and the media stories – is not the one he secretly shook on with Stalin. Roosevelt lied to congress and the American people. Then he lied to Stalin.

In exchange for Soviet support for the creation of the United Nations, Roosevelt secretly agreed to Soviet predominance in Poland and Eastern Europe. The cold war story that the Soviet Union marched into Eastern Europe and stole it for itself is a lie: Roosevelt handed it to them.

So did Churchill. If Roosevelt’s motivation was getting the UN, Churchill’s was getting Greece. Fearing that the Soviet Union would invade India and the oil fields of Iran, Churchill saw Greece as the geographical roadblock and determined to hold on to it at all cost. The cost, it turned out, was Romania. Churchill would give Stalin Romania to protect his borders; Stalin would give Churchill Greece to protect his empire’s borders. The deal was sealed on October 9, 1944.

Churchill says that in their secret meeting, he asked Stalin, “how would it do for you to have ninety percent predominance in Romania, for us to have ninety percent predominance in Greece? . . .” He then went on to offer a fifty-fifty power split in in Yugoslavia and Hungary and to offer the Soviets seventy-five percent control of Bulgaria. The exact conversation may never have happened, according to the political record, but Churchill’s account captures the spirit and certainly captures the secret agreement.

Contrary to the official narrative, Stalin never betrayed the west and stole Eastern Europe: Poland, Romania and the rest were given to him in secret. Then Roosevelt lied to congress and to the world.

That American lie raised the curtain on the cold war.

The New Cold War

Like the Cold War, the new cold war was triggered by an American lie. It was a lie so duplicitous, so all encompassing, that it would lead many Russians to see the agreement that ended the cold war as a devastating and humiliating deception that was really intended to clear the way for the US to surround and finally defeat the Soviet Union. It was a lie that tilled the soil for all future “Russian aggression.”

At the close of the cold war, at a meeting held on February 9, 1990, George H.W. Bush’s Secretary of State, James Baker, promised Gorbachev that if NATO got Germany and Russia pulled its troops out of East Germany, NATO would not expand east of Germany and engulf the former Soviet states. Gorbachev records in his memoirs that he agreed to Baker’s terms “with the guarantee that NATO jurisdiction or troops would not extend east of the current line.” In Super-power Illusions, Jack F. Matlock Jr., who was the American ambassador to Russia at the time and was present at the meeting, confirms Gorbachev’s account, saying that it “coincides with my notes of the conversation except that mine indicate that Baker added “not one inch.” Matlock adds that Gorbachev was assured that NATO would not move into Eastern Europe as the Warsaw Pact moved out, that “the understanding at Malta [was] that the United States would not ‘take advantage’ of a Soviet military withdrawal from Eastern Europe.” At the February 9 meeting, Baker assured Gorbachev that “neither the President or I intend to extract any unilateral advantages from the processes that are taking place.”

But the promise was not made just once, and it was not made just by the United States. The promise was made on two consecutive days: first by the Americans and then by West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. According to West German foreign ministry documents, on February 10, 1990, the day after James Baker’s promise, West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher told his Soviet counterpart Eduard Shevardnadze

“‘For us . . . one thing is certain: NATO will not expand to the east.’ And because the conversation revolved mainly around East Germany, Genscher added explicitly: ‘As far as the non-expansion of NATO is concerned, this also applies in general.’”

A few days earlier, on January 31, 1990, Genscher had said in a major speech that there would not be “an expansion of NATO territory to the east, in other words, closer to the borders of the Soviet Union.”

Gorbachev says the promise was made not to expand NATO “as much as a thumb’s width further to the east.” Putin also says mourns the broken promise, asking at a conference in Munich in February 2007,

“What happened to the assurances our Western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact? Where are those declarations today? No one even remembers them.”

Putin went on to remind his audience of the assurances by pointing out that the existence of the NATO promise is not just the perception of him and Gorbachev. It was also the view of the NATO General Secretary at the time:

“But I will allow myself to remind this audience what was said. I would like to quote the speech of NATO General Secretary Mr. [Manfred] Woerner in Brussels on 17 May 1990. He said at the time that: ‘The fact that we are ready not to place a NATO army outside of German territory gives the Soviet Union a firm security guarantee.’ Where are those guarantees?”

Recent scholarship supports the Russian version of the story. Russian expert and Professor of Russian and European Politics at the University of Kent, Richard Sakwa says that

“[r]ecent studies demonstrate that the commitment not to enlarge NATO covered the whole former Soviet bloc and not just East Germany.”

And Stephen Cohen, Professor Emeritus of Politics at Princeton University and of Russian Studies and History at New York University, adds that the National Security Archive has now published the actual documents detailing what Gorbachev was promised. Published on December 12, 2017, the documents finally, and authoritatively, reveal that

“The truth, and the promises broken, are much more expansive than previously known: all of the Western powers involved – the US, the UK, France, Germany itself – made the same promise to Gorbachev on multiple occasions and in various emphatic ways.”

That key promise made to Gorbachev was shattered, first by President Clinton and then subsequently supported by every American President: NATO engulfed Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic in 1999; Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia in 2004, Albania and Croatia in 2009 and, most recently, Montenegro.

It was this shattered promise, this primal betrayal, this NATO expansion to Russia’s borders that created the conditions and causes of future conflicts and aggressions. When, in 2008, NATO promised Georgia and Ukraine eventual membership, Russia saw the threat of NATO encroaching right to its borders. It is in Georgia and Ukraine that Russia felt it had to draw the line with NATO encroachment into its core sphere of influence. Sakwa says that the war in Georgia was “the first war to stop NATO enlargement; Ukraine was the second.” What are often cited as acts of Russian aggression that helped maintain the new cold war are properly understood as acts of Russian defense against US aggression that made a lie out of the promise that ended the Cold War.

When Clinton decided to break Bush’s promise and betray Russia, George Kennen, father of the containment policy, warned that NATO expansion would be “the most fateful error of American foreign policy in the entire post-cold-war era.” “Such a decision,” he prophesied, “may be expected to . . . restore the atmosphere of the cold war in East-West relations . . ..”

The broken promise restored the cold war. Though it is the most significant root of the new cold war, it was not the first. There was a prior broken promise, and this time the man who betrayed Russia was President H.W. Bush.

The end of the Cold War resulted from negotiations and not from any sort of military victory. Stephen Cohen says that

“Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush negotiated with the last Soviet Russian leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, what they said was the end of the Cold War on the shared, expressed premise that it was ending ‘with no losers, only winners.’”

The end of the Cold War and the end of the Soviet Union occurred so closely chronologically that it permitted the American mythologizers to conflate them in the public imagination and create the doctrinal history in which the US defeat of the Soviet Union ended the cold war. But the US did not defeat the Soviet Union. Gorbachev brought about what Sakwa calls a “self-willed disintegration of the Soviet bloc.” The Soviet Union came to an end, not by external force or pressure, but out of Gorbachev’s recognition of the Soviet Union’s own self interest. Matlock flatly states that

“pressure from governments outside the Soviet Union, whether from America or Europe or anywhere else, had nothing to do with [the Soviet collapse].” “Cohen demythologizes the history by reinstating the chronological order: Gorbachev negotiated the end of the cold war “well before the disintegration of the Soviet Union.”

The Cold War officially ended well before the end of the Soviet Union with Gorbachev’s December 7, 1988 address to the UN.

Matlock says that “Gorbachev is right when he says that we all won the Cold War.” He says that President Reagan would write in his notes, “Let there be no talk of winners and losers.” When Gorbachev compelled the countries of the Warsaw Pact to adopt reforms like his perestroika in the Soviet Union and warmed them that the Soviet army would no longer be there to keep their communist regimes in power, Matlock points out in Superpower Illusions that “Bush assured Gorbachev that the United States would not claim victory if the Eastern Europeans were allowed to replace the Communist regimes that had been imposed on them.” Both the reality and the promise were that there was no winner of the Cold War: it was a negotiated peace that was in the interest of both countries.

When in 1992, during his losing re-election campaign, President Bush arrogantly boasted that “We won the Cold War!” he broke his own promise to Gorbachev and helped plant the roots of the new cold war. “In psychological and political terms,” Matlock says, “President Bush planted a landmine under the future U.S.-Russian relationship” when he broke his promise and made that claim.

Bush’s broken promise had two significant effects. Psychologically, it created the appearance in the Russian psyche that Gorbachev had been tricked by America: it eroded trust in America and in the new peace. Politically, it created in the American psyche the false idea that Russia was a defeated country whose sphere of interest did not need to be considered. Both these perceptions contributed to the new cold war.

Not only was the broken promise of NATO expansion not the first broken American promise, it was also not the last. In 1997, when President Clinton made the decision to expand NATO much more than an inch to the east, he at least signed the Russia-NATO Founding Act, which explicitly promised that as NATO expanded east, there would be no “permanent stationing of substantial combat forces.” This obliterated American promise planted the third root of the new cold war.

Since that third promise, NATO has, in the words of Stephen Cohen, built up its “permanent land, sea and air power near Russian territory, along with missile-defense installations.” US and NATO weapons and troops have butted right up against Russia’s borders, while anti-missile installations have surrounded it, leading to the feeling of betrayal in Russia and the fear of aggression. Among the earliest moves of the Trump administration were the moving of NATO troops into Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria and nearby Norway.

Mikhail Gorbachev, who offered the West Russia and cooperation in place of the Soviet Union and Cold War, was rewarded with lies, broken promises and betrayal. That was the sowing of the first seeds of the new cold war. The second planting happened during the Yeltsin years that followed. During this stage, the Russian people were betrayed because their hopes for democracy and for an economic system compatible with the West were both destroyed by American intervention.

The goal, Matlock too gently explains, “had to be a shift of the bulk of the economy to private ownership.” What transpired was what Naomi Klein called in The Shock Doctrine “one of the greatest crimes committed against a democracy in modern history.” The States allowed no gradual transition. Matlock says the “Western experts advised a clean break with the past and a transition to private ownership without delay.”

But there was no legitimate private capital coming out of the communist system, so there was no private money with which to privatize. So, there was only one place for the money to come. As Matlock explains, the urgent transition allowed “privileged insiders[to] join the criminals who had been running a black market [and to] steal what they could, as fast as they could.” The sudden, uncompromising transition imposed on Russia by the United States enabled, according to Cohen, “a small group of Kremlin-connected oligarchs to plunder Russia’s richest assets and abet the plunging of some two-thirds of its people into poverty and misery.”

The rape of Russia was funded, overseen and ordered by the United States and handed over by President George H.W. Bush to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Much of their advice, Matlock says generously, “was not only useless, but sometimes actually damaging.”

Sometimes damaging? In the first year, millions lost their entire life savings. Subsidy cuts meant that many Russians didn’t get paid at all. Klein says that by 1992, Russians were consuming 40% less than they were the year before, and one third of them had suddenly sunk below the poverty line. The economic policies wrestled onto Russia by the US and the transition experts and international development experts it funded and sent over led to, what Cohen calls, “the near ruination of Russia.” Russia’s reward for ending the Cold War and joining the Western economic community was, in Cohen’s words, “the worst economic depression in peacetime, the disintegration of the highly professionalized Soviet middle class, mass poverty, plunging life expectancy [for men, it had fallen below sixty], the fostering of an oligarchic financial elite, the plundering of Russia’s wealth, and more.” By the time Putin came to power in 2000, Cohen says, “some 75% of Russians were living in poverty.” 75%! Millions and millions of Russian lives were destroyed by the American welcoming of Russia into the global economic community.

But before Putin came to power, there was more Boris Yeltsin. Yeltsin was a necessity for Clinton and the United States because Yeltsin was the pliable puppet who would continue to enforce the cruel economic transition. But to continue the interference in, and betrayal of, the Russian people economically, it would now be necessary to interfere in and betray the Russian democracy.

In late 1991, after the fall of the Soviet Union, Boris Yeltsin won a year of special powers from the Russian Parliament: for one year, he was to be, in effect, the dictator of Russia to facilitate the midwifery of the birth of a democratic Russia. In March of 1992, under pressure from the, by now, impoverished, devastated and discontented population, parliament repealed the dictatorial powers it had granted him. Yeltsin responded by declaring a state of emergency, re-bestowing upon himself the repealed dictatorial powers. Russia’s Constitutional Court ruled that Yeltsin was acting outside the constitution. But the US sided – against the Russian people and against the Russian Constitutional Court – with Yeltsin.

Intoxicated with American support, Yeltsin dissolved the parliament that had rescinded his powers and abolished the constitution of which he was in violation. In a 636-2 vote, the Russian parliament impeached Yeltsin. But, President Clinton again sided with Yeltsin against the Russian people and the Russian law, backed him and gave him $2.5 billion in aid. Clinton was blocking the Russian people’s choice of leaders.

Yeltsin took the money and sent police officers and elite paratroopers to surround the parliament building. Clinton “praised the Russian President has (sic) having done ‘quite well’ in managing the standoff with the Russian Parliament,” as The New York Times reported at the time. Clinton added that he thought “the United States and the free world ought to hang in there” with their support of Yeltsin against his people, their constitution and their courts, and judged Yeltsin to be “on the right side of history.”

On the right side of history and armed with machine guns and tanks, in October 1993, Yeltsin’s troops opened fire on the crowd of protesters, killing about 100 people before setting the Russian parliament building on fire. By the time the day was over, Yeltsin’s troops had killed approximately 500 people and wounded nearly 1,000. Still, Clinton stood with Yeltsin. He provided ludicrous cover for Yeltsin’s massacre, claiming that “I don’t see that he had any choice…. If such a thing happened in the United States, you would have expected me to take tough action against it.” Clinton’s Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, said that the US supported Yeltsin’s suspension of parliament in these “extraordinary times.”

In 1996, elections were looming, and America’s hegemonic dreams still needed Yeltsin in power. But it wasn’t going to happen without help. Yeltsin’s popularity was nonexistent, and his approval rating was at about 6%. According to Cohen, Clinton’s interference in Russian politics, his “crusade” to “reform Russia,” had by now become official policy. And so, America boldly interfered directly in Russian elections. Three American political consultants, receiving “direct assistance from Bill Clinton’s White House,” secretly ran Yeltsin’s reelection campaign. As Time magazine broke the story, “For four months, a group of American political consultants clandestinely participated in guiding Yeltsin’s campaign.”

“Funded by the US government,” Cohen reports, Americans “gave money to favored Russian politicians, instructed ministers, drafted legislation and presidential decrees, underwrote textbooks, and served at Yeltsin’s reelection headquarters in 1996.”

More incriminating still is that Richard Dresner, one of the three American consultants, maintained a direct line to Clinton’s Chief Strategist, Dick Morris. According to reporting by Sean Guillory, in his book, Behind the Oval Office, Morris says that, with Clinton’s approval, he received weekly briefings from Dresner that he would give to Clinton. Based on those briefings, Clinton would then provide recommendations to Dresner through Morris.

Then ambassador to Russia, Thomas Pickering, even pressured an opposing candidate to drop out of the election to improve Yeltsin’s odds of winning.

The US not only helped run Yeltsin’s campaign, they helped pay for it. The US backed a $10.2 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan for Russia, the second-biggest loan the IMF had ever given. The New York Times reported that the loan was “expected to be helpful to President Boris N. Yeltsin in the presidential election in June.” The Times explained that the loan was “a vote of confidence” for Yeltsin who “has been lagging well behind … in opinion polls” and added that the US Treasury Secretary “welcomed the fund’s decision.”

Yeltsin won the election by 13%, and Time magazine’s cover declared: “Yanks to the rescue: The secret story of how American advisers helped Yeltsin win”. Cohen reports that the US ambassador to Russia boasted that “without our leadership … we would see a considerably different Russia today.” That’s a confession of election interference.

Asserting its right as the unipolar victor of a Cold War it never won, betraying the central promise of the negotiated end of the cold war by engulfing Russia’s neighbors, arming those nations against its written and signed word and stealing all Russian hope in capitalism and democracy by kidnapping and torturing Russian capitalism and democracy, the roots of the new cold war were not planted by Russian lies and aggression, as the doctrinal Western version teaches, but by the American lies and aggression that the fact checked, demythologized version of history reveals.

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Ted Snider writes on analyzing patterns in US foreign policy and history.

Selected Articles: Houthi Attack on Saudi Oil

September 15th, 2019 by Global Research News

A future without independent media leaves us with an upside down reality where according to the corporate media “NATO deserves a Nobel Peace Prize”, and where “nuclear weapons and wars make us safer”

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Sen. Graham Wants to Bomb Iran in Response to Houthi Attack on Saudi Oil

By Kurt Nimmo, September 15, 2019

Following the early morning attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq oil processing facility—the largest oil processing plant in the world—and a similar drone attack at the Khurais oil field on Saturday, the neocon senator from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham, has called for attacking Iran. 

US Sponsored War: Formidable Yemeni Houthi Fighters Strike Back

By Stephen Lendman, September 15, 2019

On Saturday, explosive-laden Houthi drones attacked two Saudi Aramco oil facilities, setting targets struck ablaze — the kingdom’s Abqaiq refinery (the world’s largest) and Khurais oil field.

Both attacks caused huge fires visible from outer space. The facilities are crucial world energy supply chain links.

Will the IMF, the Federal Reserve, Negative Interest Rates and Digital Money Kill the Western Economy?

By Peter Koenig, September 14, 2019

The IMF, has been instrumental in helping destroying the economy of a myriad of countries, notably, and to start with, the new Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union, Greece, Ukraine and lately Argentina, to mention just a few. Madame Christine Lagarde, as chief of the IMF had a heavy hand in the annihilation of at least the last three mentioned.

The 5G Electromagnetic “Mad Zone” Poised to Self-Destruct: The 5G “Dementors” Meet the 4G “Zombie Apocalypse”

By Claire Edwards, September 14, 2019

It appears that every expansion of the use of electricity since the 19th century correlates with drastic rises in all the modern diseases of civilization, but this information has been kept from the public in order not to impede commercial profit, military expansion and universal convenience.

Video: Imperial Wars of Aggression. Interview with Syrian Scientist Dr. Ayssar Midani

By Ayssar Midani and Mark Taliano, September 14, 2019

The interview below with Syrian Scientist and antiwar activist Dr. Ayssar Midani lays bare the converging lies that grease the wheels of imperial wars of aggression.

Post-9/11 Terrorism Watchlist of More Than 1 Million Judged Unconstitutional

By Prof. Marjorie Cohn, September 14, 2019

The U.S. government has used the post-9/11 war on terror to launch two major wars, mount gunship and drone attacks on several countries, and institute a widespread program of torture and abuse. Casualties of those conflicts number in the hundreds of thousands.

Brexit Reveals Jeremy Corbyn to be the True Moderate

By Jonathan Cook, September 13, 2019

If there is an upside to Brexit, it is this: it has made it increasingly hard to present Jeremy Corbyn, contrary to everything the corporate media has been telling us for the past four years, as anything but a political moderate.

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The 9/11 Deception Remains in Control of America’s Destiny

September 15th, 2019 by Edward Curtin

The 18th anniversary of 9/11 is over, but 9/11 isn’t.  September 11, 2001, is the defining event of America’s 21st century.  The neoconservatives used their false flag event to destroy the Bill of Rights and turn the American people over to a police state, and they used the New Pearl Harbor that they orchestrated to launch their wars of aggression in the Middle East for the purpose of reconstructing the Middle East in Israel’s interest.  The new American police state will become more oppressive as time goes by, and now that Israel has the bit in its teeth the United States will likely be forced into a war that will result in nuclear Armageddon.  

The evil inherent in Washington’s attacks on Islamic countries has resulted in the intervention by other powerful countries who are threatened by the chaos that Washington has sowed for two decades in the Middle East. Russia for one intervened in Syria and stopped the neoconservative orchestrated overthrow of the Syrian government, thereby making the world aware that American unilateralism was over.  This realization together with the constant stream of lies and threats issuing from Washington has undermined America’s influence in the world and will lead to the breakup of Washington’s empire.

Edward Curtin explains how the insouciant American people were set up in advance through a form of linguistic mind control to accept the utterly implausible official explanation of 9/11.  Indeed, the term 9/11 is itself part of the mind control.  Curtain disavows its use.  I agree with him. We need a different way of naming the event. I am open to suggestions.

I found convincing Curtin’s explanation of how language was used to set up the American people in advance to accept the official explanation of the defining event of 21st century America.  I recommend it to you:

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Why I Don’t Speak of the Fake News of “9/11” Anymore

by Edward Curtin 

Global Research

September 11, 2018

This article was posted last year but is still pertinent, so I am re-posting it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2001, was a non-teaching day for me.  I was home when the phone rang at 9 A.M.  It was my daughter, who was on a week’s vacation with her future husband.  “Turn on the TV,” she said.  “Why?” I asked.  “Haven’t you heard?  A plane hit the World Trade Tower.”

I turned the TV on and watched a plane crash into the Tower.  I said, “They just showed a replay.”  She quickly corrected me, “No, that’s another plane.”  And we talked as we watched in horror, learning that it was the South Tower this time.  Sitting next to my daughter was my future son-in-law; he had not had a day off from work in a year.  He had finally taken a week’s vacation so they could go to Cape Cod.  He worked on the 100th floor of the South Tower.  By chance, he had escaped the death that claimed 176 of his co-workers.

That was my introduction to the attacks.  Seventeen years have disappeared behind us, yet it seems like yesterday.  And yet again, it seems like long, long ago.

Over the next few days, as the government and the media accused Osama bin Laden and 19 Arabs of being responsible for the attacks, I told a friend that what I was hearing wasn’t believable; the official story was full of holes. I am a born and bred New Yorker with a long family history rooted in the NYC Fire and Police Departments, one grandfather having been the Deputy Chief of the Fire Department, the highest ranking uniformed firefighter, and the other a NYPD cop; a niece and her husband were NYPD detectives deeply involved in the response to that day’s attacks. Hearing the absurd official explanations and the deaths of so many innocent people, including many hundreds of firefighters, cops, and emergency workers, I felt a suspicious rage. It was a reaction that I couldn’t fully explain, but it set me on a search for the truth.  I proceeded in fits and starts, but by the fall of 2004, with the help of the extraordinary work of David Ray Griffin, Michael Ruppert, and other early skeptics, I could articulate the reasons for my initial intuition.  I set about creating and teaching a college course on what had come to be called 9/11.

But I no longer refer to the events of that day by those numbers.  Let me explain why.

By 2004 I had enough solid evidence to convince me that the U.S. government’s claims (and The 9/11 Commission Report) were fictitious.  They seemed so blatantly false that I concluded the attacks were a deep-state intelligence operation whose purpose was to initiate a national state of emergency to justify wars of aggression, known euphemistically as “the war on terror.”  The sophistication of the attacks, and the lack of any proffered evidence for the government’s claims, suggested that a great deal of planning had been involved.

Yet I was chagrined and amazed by so many people’s insouciant lack of interest in questioning and researching the most important world event since the assassination of President Kennedy.  I understood the various psychological dimensions of this denial, the fear, cognitive dissonance, etc., but I sensed something else as well.  For so many people their minds seemed to have been “made up” from the start.  I found that many young people were the exceptions, while most of their elders dared not question the official narrative.  These included many prominent leftist critics of American foreign policy, such as Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Alexander Cockburn, and others, whose defenses of the official government and media explanations (when they even made such defenses; often they just trashed skeptics as “9/11 conspiracy nuts,” to quote Cockburn) totally lacked any scientific or logical rigor or even knowledge of the facts.  Now that seventeen years have elapsed, this seems truer than ever.  There is a long list of leftists who refuse to examine matter to this very day.  And most interestingly, they also do the same with the assassination of JFK, the other key seminal event of recent American history.

I kept thinking of the ongoing language and logic used to describe what had happened that terrible day in 2001 and in the weeks to follow.  It all seemed so clichéd and surreal, as if set phrases had it been extracted from some secret manual, phrases that rung with an historical resonance that cast a spell on the public, as if mass hypnosis were involved.  People seemed mesmerized as they spoke of the events in the official language that had been presented to them.

So with the promptings of people like Graeme MacQueen, Lance deHaven-Smith, T.H. Meyer, et al., and much study and research, I have concluded that my initial intuitive skepticism was correct and that a process of linguistic mind-control was in place before, during, and after the attacks.  As with all good propaganda, the language had to be insinuated over time and introduced through intermediaries.  It had to seem “natural” and to flow out of events, not to precede them.  And it had to be repeated over and over again.

In summary form, I will list the language I believe “made up the minds” of those who have refused to examine the government’s claims about the September 11 attacks and the subsequent anthrax attacks.

  1. Pearl Harbor.  As pointed out by David Ray Griffin and others, this term was used in September 2000 in The Project for the New American Century’s (PNAC) report, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” (p.51).  Its neo-con authors argued that the U.S. wouldn’t be able to attack Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, etc. “absent some catastrophic event – like a new Pearl Harbor.”  Then on January 11, 2001, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s “Space Commission” warned that the U.S. could face a “space Pearl Harbor” if it weren’t careful and didn’t increase space security.  Rumsfeld urged support for the proposed U.S. national missile defense system opposed by Russia and China and massive funding for the increased weaponization of space.  At the same time he went around handing out and recommending Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision (1962) by Roberta Wohlstetter, who had spent almost two decades working for The Rand Corporation and who claimed that Pearl Harbor was a surprise attack that shocked U.S. leaders. Pearl Harbor, Pearl Harbor, Pearl Harbor – those words and images dominated public consciousness for many months before 11 September 2001, and of course after.  The film Pearl Harbor, made with Pentagon assistance and a massive budget, was released on May 25, 2001 and was a box office hit.   It was in the theatres throughout the summer.  The thought of the attack on Pearl Harbor (not a surprise to the U.S. government, but presented as such) was in the news all summer despite the fact that the 60th anniversary of that attack was not until December 7, 2001, a more likely release date. So why was it released so early?  Once the September 11 attacks occurred, the Pearl Harbor analogy was “plucked out” of the social atmosphere and used constantly, beginning immediately. Another “Day of Infamy,” another surprise attack blared the media and government officials.  A New Pearl Harbor!  George W.  Bush was widely reported to have had the time that night, after a busy day of flying hither and yon to avoid the terrorists who for some reason had forgotten he was in a classroom in Florida, to allegedly use it in his diary, writing that “the Pearl Harbor of the twenty-first century took place today.  We think it is Osama bin Laden.”  Shortly after the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor on December 7th, Bush then formerly announced, referencing the attacks of September 11, that the U. S. would withdraw from the ABM Treaty. The examples of this Pearl Harbor/ September 11 analogy are manifold, but I am summarizing, so I will skip giving them.  Any casual researcher can confirm this.

2. Homeland.  This strange un-American term, another WW II word associated with another enemy – Nazi Germany – was also used many times by the neo-con authors of “Rebuilding America’s Defenses.”  I doubt any average American referred to this country by that term before.  Of course it became the moniker for The Department of Homeland Security, marrying home with security to form a comforting name that simultaneously and unconsciously suggests a defense against Hitler-like evil coming from the outside.  Not coincidentally, Hitler introduced it into the Nazi propaganda vernacular at the 1934 Nuremberg rally. Both usages conjured up images of a home besieged by alien forces intent on its destruction; thus preemptive action was in order.  Now the Department of Homeland Security with its massive budget is lodged permanently in popular consciousness.

3. Ground Zero.  This is a third WWII (“the Good War”) term first used at 11:55 A.M. on September 11 by Mark Walsh (aka “the Harley Guy” because he was wearing a Harley-Davidson tee shirt) in an interview on the street by a Fox News reporter, Rick Leventhal. Identified as a Fox free-lancer, Walsh also explained the Twin Towers collapse in a precise, well-rehearsed manner that would be the same illogical and anti-scientific explanation later given by the government: “mostly due to structural failure because the fire was too intense.” Ground zero – a nuclear bomb term first used by U.S. scientists to refer to the spot where they exploded the first nuclear bomb in New Mexico in 1945 – became another meme adopted by the media that suggested a nuclear attack had occurred or might in the future if the U.S. didn’t act. The nuclear scare was raised again and again by George W. Bush and U.S. officials in the days and months following the attacks, although nuclear weapons were beside the point in terms of the 11 September attacks, but surely not as a scare tactic and as part of the plan to withdraw from the ABM treaty that would be announced in December.  But the conjoining of “nuclear” with “ground zero” served to raise the fear factor dramatically.  Ironically, the project to develop the nuclear bomb was called the Manhattan Project and was headquartered at 270 Broadway, NYC, a few short blocks north of the World Trade Center.

4. The Unthinkable.  This is another nuclear term whose usage as linguistic mind control and propaganda is brilliantly analyzed by Graeme MacQueen in the penultimate chapter of his very important book, The 2001 Anthrax Deception.  He notes the patterned use of this term before and after September 11, while saying “the pattern may not signify a grand plan …. It deserves investigation and contemplation.”  He then presents a convincing case that the use of this term couldn’t be accidental.  He notes how George W. Bush, in a major foreign policy speech on May 1, 2001, “gave informal public notice that the United States intended to withdraw unilaterally from the ABM Treaty”; Bush said the U.S. must be willing to “rethink the unthinkable.”  This was necessary because of terrorism and rogue states with “weapons of mass destruction.”  PNAC also argued that the U.S. should withdraw from the treaty.  A signatory to the treaty could only withdraw after giving six months notice and because of “extraordinary events” that “jeopardized its supreme interests.” Once the September 11 attacks occurred, Bush rethought the unthinkable and officially gave formal notice on December 13 to withdraw the U.S. from the ABM Treaty, as previously noted.  MacQueen specifies the many times different media used the term “unthinkable” in October 2001 in reference to the anthrax attacks.  He explicates its usage in one of the anthrax letters – “The Unthinkabel” [sic].  He explains how the media that used the term so often were at the time unaware of its usage in the anthrax letter since that letter’s content had not yet been revealed, and how the letter writer had mailed the letter before the media started using the word.  He makes a rock solid case showing the U.S. government’s complicity in the anthrax attacks and therefore in the Sept 11 attacks.  While calling the use of the term “unthinkable” in all its iterations “problematic,” he writes, “The truth is that the employment of ‘the unthinkable’ in this letter, when weight is given both to the meaning of this term in U.S. strategic circles and to the other relevant uses of the term in 2001, points us in the direction of the U.S. military and intelligence communities.”  I am reminded of Orwell’s point in 1984: “a heretical thought – that is, a thought diverging from the principles of Ingsoc – should be literally unthinkable, at least as far as thought is dependent on words.”  Thus the government and media’s use of “unthinkable” becomes a classic case of “doublethink.”  The unthinkable is unthinkable.

5.  9/11.  This is the key usage that has reverberated down the years around which the others revolve. It is an anomalous numerical designation applied to an historical event, and obviously also the emergency telephone number.  Try to think of another numerical appellation for an important event in American history.  It’s impossible.  But if you have a good historical sense, you will remember that the cornerstone for the Pentagon was lain on September 11, 1941, three months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, and that the CIA engineered a coup against the Allende government in Chile on Sept 11, 1973.  Just strange coincidences?  The future editor of The New York Times and Iraq war promoter, Bill Keller, introduced the emergency phone connection on the morning of September 12th in a NY Times op-ed piece, “America’s Emergency Line: 911.”  The linkage of the attacks to a permanent national emergency was thus subliminally introduced, as Keller mentioned Israel nine times and seven times compared the U.S. situation to that of Israel as a target for terrorists.  His first sentence reads: “An Israeli response to America’s aptly dated wake-up call might well be, ‘Now you know.’”  By referring to September 11 as 9/11, an endless national emergency fear became wedded to an endless war on terror aimed at preventing Hitler-like terrorists from obliterating us with nuclear weapons that could create another ground zero or holocaust.  Mentioning Israel (“America is proud to be Israel’s closest ally and best friend in the world,” George W. Bush would tell the Israeli Knesset) so many times, Keller was not very subtly performing an act of legerdemain with multiple meanings.  By comparing the victims of the 11 September attacks to Israeli “victims,” he was implying, among other things, that the Israelis are innocent victims who are not involved in terrorism, but are terrorized by Palestinians, as Americans are terrorized by fanatical Muslims.  Palestinians/Al-Qaeda.  Israel/U.S.  Explicit and implicit parallels of the guilty and the innocent.  Keller tells us who the real killers are.  His use of the term 9/11 is a term that pushes all the right buttons, evoking unending social fear and anxiety.  It is language as sorcery. It is propaganda at its best. Even well-respected critics of the U.S. government’s explanation use the term that has become a fixture of public consciousness through endless repetition.   As George W. Bush would later put it, as he connected Saddam Hussein to “9/11” and pushed for the Iraq war, “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”  All the ingredients for a linguistic mind-control smoothie had been blended.

I have concluded – and this is impossible to prove definitively because of the nature of such propagandistic techniques – that the use of all these words/numbers is part of a highly sophisticated linguistic mind-control campaign waged to create a narrative that has lodged in the minds of hundreds of millions of people and is very hard to dislodge.

It is why I don’t speak of “9/11” any more. I refer to those events as the attacks of September 11, 2001, which is a mouth-full and not easily digested in the age of Twitter and texting.  But I am not sure how to be more succinct or how to undo the damage, except by writing what I have written here.

Lance deHaven-Smith puts it well in Conspiracy Theory in America. The rapidity with which the new language of the war on terror appeared and took hold; the synergy between terms and their mutual connections to WW II nomenclatures; and above all the connections between many terms and the emergency motif of “9/11” and “9-1-1” – any one of these factors alone, but certainly all of them together – raise the possibility that work on this linguistic construct began long before 9/11….It turns out that elite political crime, even treason, may actually be official policy.

Needless to say, his use of the words “possibility” and “may” are in order when one sticks to strict empiricism.  However, when one reads his full text, it is apparent to me that he considers these “coincidences” part of a conspiracy.  I have also reached that conclusion.  As Thoreau put in his underappreciated humorous way, “Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.”

The evidence for linguistic mind control, while the subject of this essay, does not stand alone, of course.  It underpins the actual attacks of September 11 and the subsequent anthrax attacks that are linked.  The official explanations for these events by themselves do not stand up to elementary logic and are patently false, as proven by thousands of well-respected professional researchers from all walks of life – i.e. engineers, pilots, scientists, architects, and scholars from many disciplines (see the upcoming 9/11 Unmasked: An International Review Panel Investigation by David Ray Griffin and Elizabeth Woodworth, to be released September 11, 2018).  To paraphrase the prescient Vince Salandria, who said it long ago concerning the government’s assassination of President Kennedy, the attacks of 2001 are “a false mystery concealing state crimes.”  If one objectively studies the 2001 attacks together with the language adopted to explain and preserve them in social memory, the “mystery” emerges from the realm of the unthinkable and becomes utterable. “There is no mystery.” The truth becomes obvious.

How to communicate this when the corporate mainstream media serve the function of the government’s mockingbird (as in Operation Mockingbird), repeating and repeating and repeating the same narrative in the same language; that is the difficult task we are faced with, but there are signs today that breakthroughs are occurring, as growing numbers of international academic scholars are pushing to incorporate the analysis of the official propaganda surrounding 11 September 2001 into their work within the academy, a turnabout from years of general silence.  And more and more people are coming to realize that the official lies about 11 September are the biggest example of fake news in this century.  Fake news used to justify endless wars and the slaughter of so many innocents around the world.

Words have a power to enchant and mesmerize.  Linguistic mind-control, especially when linked to traumatic events such as the September 11 and the anthrax attacks, can strike people dumb and blind.  It often makes some subjects “unthinkable” and “unspeakable” (to quote Jim Douglass quoting Thomas Merton in JFK and the Unspeakable: the unspeakable “is the void that contradicts everything that is spoken even before the words are said.”).

We need a new vocabulary to speak of these terrible things.  Let us learn, as Chief Joseph said, to speak with a straight tongue, and in language that doesn’t do the enemies work of mind control, but snaps the world awake to the truth of the mass murders of September 11, 2001 that have been used to massacre millions across the world.

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Edward Curtin is a distinguished author, researcher and sociologist based in Western Massachusetts. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG)

Dr. Paul Craig Roberts writes on his blog, Paul Craig Roberts Institute for Political Economy. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

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Following the early morning attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq oil processing facility—the largest oil processing plant in the world—and a similar drone attack at the Khurais oil field on Saturday, the neocon senator from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham, has called for attacking Iran. 

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Although the Houthis claimed responsibility for the crippling attack, there is little evidence who is actually responsible. It is just as likely the Saudis did this to 1) ramp up hostilities against their arch enemy, Shia Iran, 2) jack up the price of oil, and 3) in the process make the impending Aramco IPO more lucrative.

In addition, the Saudis fear the end of the illegal war on the people of Yemen negotiated by the US:

Zerohedge notes:

According to Reuters reports the drone attacks will impact up to 5 million bpd of oil production, which suggests that the price of oil—already severely depressed by the recent news that John Bolton is out, making de-escalation with Iran far more likely—is set to soar when trading reopens late on Sunday, just what the upcoming Aramco IPO desperately needs, which in turn has prompted some to wonder if the “Yemen” attack on Saudi Arabia wasn’t in fact orchestrated by Saudi interests. (Emphasis mine.) 

Meanwhile, the corporate media, as should be expected, is placing the blame indirectly on Iran. From the beginning of the Saudi campaign to bomb the daylights out of Yemen, creating one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent memory, the corporate media has stated as an indisputable fact the Houthis are an Iranian proxy doing the bidding of the mullahs in Tehran. 

On the contrary, the Iranians have very little to do with supporting the Houthis, a fact rarely mentioned because it conflicts with the narrative that fallaciously states Iran is the most vicious terror state in the world (that designation is better suited for the United States and Israel). 

Thomas Juneau, the assistant professor at the University of Ottawa’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and an analyst with Canada’s Department of National Defense, wrote for The Washington Post in 2016, “Tehran’s support for the Houthis is limited, and its influence in Yemen is marginal. It is simply inaccurate to claim that the Houthis are Iranian proxies.” 

Iran’s assistance “remains limited and far from sufficient to make more than a marginal difference to the balance of forces in Yemen, a country awash with weapons. There is, therefore, no supporting evidence to the claim that Iran has bought itself any significant measure of influence over Houthi decision-making.”

Graham sits on a number of committees—including the Foreign Relations Committee, and he is the chairman of the Subcommittee on the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs—so it really isn’t possible he doesn’t know the oft-claimed accusation Iran controls the Houthis is little more than war propaganda.  

But then Graham, as a neocon fellow traveler, is enthusiastically in favor of Israel’s wars in the Middle East. If it takes a few lies to get things moving, so be it. Iran must be bombed because it cannot be allowed to challenge the Zionist apartheid state, and condemn its disruptive behavior, violation of human rights, and relentless agitation for a war that would suck in America and crash an already teetering world economy.  

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Kurt Nimmo writes on his blog, Another Day in the Empire, where this article was originally published. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

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US Sponsored War: Formidable Yemeni Houthi Fighters Strike Back

September 15th, 2019 by Stephen Lendman

Things aren’t going well for the US, NATO, Israel, Riyadh, and their jihadist proxies in Yemen.

They’re losing endless war to Ansarullah Houthi rebels, their capabilities much more sophisticated than earlier believed.

Their explosive-laden drones and missiles are able to penetrate Saudi defenses effectively, damaging strategic targets, including kingdom oil fields, its soft underbelly super-wealth producing lifeline.

On Saturday, explosive-laden Houthi drones attacked two Saudi Aramco oil facilities, setting targets struck ablaze — the kingdom’s Abqaiq refinery (the world’s largest) and Khurais oil field.

Both attacks caused huge fires visible from outer space. The facilities are crucial world energy supply chain links.

The attacks halted over five million barrels of crude operations per day, more than half the kingdom’s daily output, around 5% of world oil supply.

Its natural gas production was also affected, halting about half its output. It’s unclear how much damage was done and how long it will take to restore operations.

Along with other strategic kingdom targets, key Saudi oil fields remain vulnerable to repeated attacks as long as Riyadh wages war on Yemen.

A Houthi spokesman claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attacks, saying:

They “carried out a massive offensive operation with ten drones targeting the refineries  Abqaiq and Khurais affiliated to Aramco in the eastern region of Saudi Arabia this morning, and the hit was accurate and direct,” adding:

Houthi attacks on the kingdom are “within the framework of our legitimate and natural right to respond to the crimes of aggression and the ongoing siege on our country for five years.”

“This operation is one of the largest operations carried out by our forces in the depth of Saudi Arabia and came after an accurate intelligence operation and advance monitoring and cooperation of honorable and free mans within the Kingdom.”

“We promise the Saudi regime that our future operations will expand further and be more painful than ever as long as it continues its aggression and siege.”

“We affirm that our goals bank is expanding day by day and that there is no solution for the Saudi regime except to stop the aggression and siege on our country.”

Houthis showed they can back threats with effective action. As long as Saudi warplanes terror-bomb Yemeni targets and blockade on the country remains in place, significant Houthi retaliation on strategic kingdom targets will likely continue.

Endless war cost Riyadh tens of billions of dollars, its economy adversely affected, its 2019 budget deficit expected to be about 7% of GDP, according to the IMF.

Its figures are based of average daily Saudi output of 10.2 million barrels of oil daily, priced at $65.50 on average.

On September 13, Brent crude was below this figure at $60.25 per barrel. If economic conditions weaken ahead, the price could drop sharply.

If Saudi output is reduced significantly for an extended period, oil prices could go much higher.

According to the Wall Street Journal in late August, the Trump regime “is preparing to initiate direct talks with (Ansarullah) Houthi(s) in an effort to end…war…according to (unnamed) people familiar with the plans.”

Before the latest phase of US war in Yemen began in March 2015, The Journal said Obama regime officials “met secretly with Houthi rebels for the first time in Oman to press for a cease-fire,” adding:

“US officials met with Houthi leaders last December in Sweden during United Nations-led peace talks.”

“But there haven’t been any significant direct negotiations since (Trump) took office in 2017, current and former US officials said.”

Its hardliners blame Iran for war in Yemen — launched by Bush/Cheney in late October 2001, weeks after US aggression on Afghanistan began.

Will direct Trump regime/Houthi talks be held now, aiming to end years of war?

Whenever US negotiations are held, its promises are empty time and again — proving its officials can never be trusted.

If war-weary Saudis cease warmaking on Yemen, endless US war will likely continue — directly or indirectly with Pentagon/CIA controlled jihadist proxies, along with drone war.

On Saturday, Pompeo falsely blamed Iran for retaliatory Houthi attacks on Saudi targets, tweeting:

“Tehran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia (sic) while Rouhani and Zarif pretend to engage in diplomacy (sic).”

“Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply (sic).”

“There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen (sic).” Possibly they came from Houthi-captured Saudi territory along the border between both countries.

“We call on all nations to publicly and unequivocally condemn Iran’s attacks. The United States will work with our partners and allies to ensure that energy markets remain well supplied and Iran is held accountable for its aggression (sic),” Pompeo added.

Time and again, the world’s leading aggressor/human rights abuser USA blames others for its own high crimes.

Pompeo stopped short of urging US strikes on Iranian targets. Neocon Senator Lindsey Graham said: “It is now time for the US to put on the table an attack on Iranian oil refineries…”

On Sunday, Iran’s IRGC Aerospace Force commander Amirali Hajizadeh said the following:

“Everybody should know that all American bases and their aircraft carriers, at a distance of up to 2,000 km around Iran, are within the range of our missiles,” adding:

“Al-Udeid base in Qatar, az-Zafra base in the UAE and a US vessel in the Gulf of Oman would be targeted if Washington took military action.”

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi responded to hostile US accusations, saying:

“The US policy of exerting ‘maximum pressure,’ that apparently failed, veered towards (a) ‘maximum lie’ policy.”

In response to a cut in oil supply following damage to Saudi oil facilities Saturday, the US Energy Department said it’s ready to release oil from its strategic petroleum reserve (SPR) if needed.

According to Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy director Jason Bordoff:

“Oil prices will jump on (Saturday’s) attack, and if the disruption to Saudi production is prolonged, an SPR release…seems likely and sensible.”

If endless war continues, further Houthi attacks on strategic Saudi targets are likely, notably striking its oil producing and refining facilities.

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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.

Not so much a Desperate House Wife as a desperate mother, a contrite Felicity Huffman, known for playing Lynette Scavo, has been convicted for her role in the university admissions scandal in the United States.  The scene is set for another dramatization, though few can go past the sheer levels of tinkering Huffman was engaged in to have her daughter’s entrance exams marked in 2017.  Money changed hands – $15,000 – a deed that has cost her 250 hours of community service, a $30,000 fine, and 14 days in prison.

The defence had requested a year of probation in lieu of jail time, with the same number of hours of community service and a more modest fine of $20,000.  While not feeling particularly vindictive, the prosecutors suggested that this was just a touch rich, arguing in a memo that “neither probation nor home confinement (in a large home in the Hollywood Hills with an infinity pool) would constitute meaningful punishment or deter others from committing similar crimes.”

Huffman has been the conspicuous face of an admissions furore that should have enticed a yawn rather than any horror.  It involved keen parents; it involved weak willed coaches; it involved generally thick children (the latter have been spared indictments) and it had the mandatory mastermind, William Sanger.  The actress was gracious in punishment, wanting to“especially apologise to the students who work hard every day to get into college, and to their parents who make tremendous sacrifices supporting their children.”  Some fine acting, indeed.

The picture of those 50 or so individuals involved in this rigging matter is not pretty.  It is the usual galling picture of failed meritocracy, an incitement to cheat and hustle your way through life.  Manuel Henriquez, CEO and founder of a Silicon Valley hedge fund in Palo Alto, was proud about how he and his daughter managed to cheat without detection. 

Such scandals are only horrific as brief moments of shock: the ceremonial of it all is how normal it is, the acceptable face of a certain type of corruption.  Money speaks garrulously, and university admissions are little different, seduced by the prospect of chocked bank accounts.  There are ties to pull, people to bribe.   

The means of payments vary, given the sort of packaging that university officials find acceptable.  In India, for instance, the donation is a formidable instrument to smooth the process.  The problem is rife among medical colleges.  Government records, as reported by Reuters in 2015, revealed that 69 Indian medical colleges and teaching hospitals had fallen foul of “rigging entrance exams or accepting bribes to admit students” since 2010. 

There are deeper issues at play.  To manipulate a system, the means to do so, and their assured success, must be present. There must be willing functionaries, questionable processes, and connivance.  The Huffman-University problem is one writ large, a global pandemic of institutional failure.  The Council for Higher Education Accreditation’s recent report noted “the ubiquity and diversity of corruption in higher education, including unethical, inappropriate, sometimes illegal practices” with evidence suggesting “that in every part of the world higher education is affected by corruption to some extent.”  Wonky parents are simply a small component of the sprawling picture.  

Transparency International identifies four grounds fertile for corruption in global higher education: the increase in the number of students which has not been met with adequate state funding; the need for universities to find their own funding; the remorseless pursuit of university rankings, feeble and intellectually questionable as that is; and the grant of “greater administrative autonomy” to universities, detached from the traditional role of education ministries. 

In the US case, examiners were willing to disgorge the answers in certain prominent cases.  Athletic directors happily received cash for favours, forging sporting records that never existed.  In Australia, where education has become an insufferable cash cow, universities of various degrees of standing have been softening standards, going generous on poor results (admitting foreign students, for instance, with scores of 4.5 on the English Language Testing System, when the recommended minimum score is 7). The University of Tasmania went one better in 2018, with an enterprising staff member writing an email noting the waiving of English proficiency altogether as a requirement “to encourage acceptances for July 2018”.  While university officialdom fattens, the thick shall inherent the earth. 

The New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption released a smoulderingly damning report in 2015 making the plain-as-day point that universities had to part business and academic functions.  Intertwining “compliance and profit rather than separating them, and to reward profit over compliance, can be conducive to questionable and corrupt behaviour.”  

This modest and cool assessment has proven idealistic: universities in Australia have conflated this to such a horrendous degree, subordinating toiling academic functions to those of the business model.  This is not helped by the suffocating structures of pseudo-corporate vultures, pecking the institution of needed cash to pad out salaries that verge on the criminal.  Vice Chancellors of limited education but supposedly equipped with acute business sense are prized; irrelevant, over-remunerated Pro-Vice Chancellors with egos the size of kept sporting fields extol “lived” values that seem distinctly dead.  Universities, in other words, cannot be trusted with setting the standards, notably in areas such as English proficiency; the call of the lucre is too strong. 

A convicted parent is purely sacrificial here, ignoring the point that universities are also prone to relaxing (well, breaking) rules and admitting the inappropriate, the under-qualified and the shoddy.  If there is room in prison for the briber, there should just as well be room for the recipient.  Overly keen parents may well desire their children to get a leg up in life (Huffman called it “giving my daughter a fair shot”), splashing generous cash in that endeavour, but it has to find a sympathetic audience.  The corporate university, unscrutinised and policed, supplies it.

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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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