Kill the Culture, Destroy a Nation

February 17th, 2020 by Timothy Alexander Guzman

During the Gulf War of the 1990′s, U.S. troops in Baghdad looted important museums, destroyed historical artifacts, some were even found outside of the museums and on the side of roads, many of ancient artifacts and pieces of artworks were stolen. For example, in the city of Hillah, several museums were looted. Then when the George W. Bush Jr. regime came to power in 2000, they blamed Iraq for the September 11 attacks afterwards and accused Iraqi President Saddam Hussein of harboring “weapons of mass destruction” which of course, all turned out to be another manufactured lie by Washington that began another war on Iraq and then the looting of Iraq’s museums continued. There was an estimated 35,000 small and large artifacts that was stolen from the National Museum of Iraq, a tragedy for where the ‘cradle of civilization’ began.

Just last month, if you remember, U.S. President Donald Trump had threatened Iran in a barrage of tweets that his regime “have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture” and that they “Will Be Hit Very fast And Very Hard” so much for his support of the Iranian people Trump had claimed in the past. Trump did not follow through with his threats, perhaps slightly disappointing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But first, we must ask ourselves, why did empires of the past including the Mongol empire who invaded Iraq in 1258 that begun the destruction of Iraq’s priceless artifacts? There were revolutionary movements throughout history who also chose to commit ‘Cultural genocide’ by destroying ancient artifacts, artworks, history books and even force the people to speak the invading empire’s language.  By destroying a people’s culture you erase their history, language, art, everything that makes them who they are. Destroying a people’s culture allows the powers that be to shape the present according to their liking, and then the future belongs to them, not to the people who they conquered.  Ancient artifacts for example, embody beliefs, ideas, and sometimes they can even represent the characteristics of a people’s history. Milan Kundera, a Czech-born writer who was living in exile in France once wrote something that described what was behind Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s sinister plan. “The first step in liquidating a people is to erase its memory. Destroy its books, its culture, its history. Then have somebody write new books, manufacture a new culture, invent a new history. Before long that nation will begin to forget what it is and what it was… The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.” Powerful words.  Frantz Fanon, a psychiatrist and political philosopher from the French colony of Martinique in the Caribbean authored a groundbreaking book into the depths of colonialism titled ‘The Wretched of the Earth’ which is reminiscent of what Israeli settlers practice in reality today:

The settler makes history and is conscious of making it. And because he constantly refers to the history of his mother country, he clearly indicates that he himself is the extension of that mother-country. Thus the history which he writes is not the history of the country which he plunders but the history of his own nation in regard to all that she skims off, all that she violates and starves

However, it’s fair to say that Trump’s threat of attacking Iran’s cultural sites on his twitter rant runs much deeper. In regards to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, there are several documents and statements that have been made by hard-line Israelis that wanted to destroy Arab culture, history and identity and at the same time, jeopardize the future of education for children in the Middle East who will not know anything about their past since the creation of the state of Israel. Back on October 28, 1956, Menachem Begin, a former leader of the Zionist militant group Irgun, founder of the Likud Party and Israel’s sixth Prime Minister was quoted as saying “You shall have no pity on them until we shall have destroyed their so-called Arab culture, on the ruins of which we shall build our own civilization.” Despite that fact that on December 1948, the United Nations had passed ‘Resolution 194′ that essentially called for the return of Arab refugees and that “holy places, religious buildings, and sites in Palestine should be protected and free access to them assured, in accordance with existing rights and historical practice.”

In June 1967, three days after The Six-Day War, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) destroyed the 770-year old Moroccan Quarter known in the Arab world as The Harat al-Magharibah (The Moroccan Quarter) in the Old City of Jerusalem in order to occupy the sanctuary and construct it for Jews only. The Moroccan Quarter was originally founded by the son of Saladin in the late 12th century. Israel’s efforts was to expand the alley and create a new path to the Western Wall so that Jews can have easy access to pray to the newly conquered area. IDF actions was the start of a long campaign to eliminate Arab culture and replace it with Israel’s perception of its historical and cultural footprint in the region especially Jerusalem. The Institute for Palestine Studies headquartered in Ramallah published an article on the history of the Moroccan Quarter back in 2000 titled ‘The Moroccan Quarter: A History of the Present’ explains how the Israeli government has re-constructed the Arab section of Jerusalem which has taken place in different forms since 1948:

Israeli attempts at re-configuring Arab Jerusalem have been varied over the past half-century. Appropriating the built form in Palestinian owned areas of the city has most often meant seizing Arab structures, homes, and neighborhoods, emptying them of their Arab inhabitants, and substituting new histories, new communities, and new meanings in place of old. 

Entire neighborhoods and thousands of Arab homes were taken over by the nascent Jewish state in 1948. Occasionally, however, the Israeli state has sought to demolish and to physically erase particular areas of Palestinian habitation that obstruct Israeli visions for exclusive rule in what mainstream Zionism regards as Israel’s “eternal” and “unified” capital

According to the study “The Harat al-Magharibah (the Moroccan Quarter), first constructed over 700 years ago in the age of the Ayyubids and Mamluks, was on the eve of the June 1967 War home to approximately 650 people and 100 families. The neighborhood as demolished by the Israeli state in the days immediately after it conquered East Jerusalem.” The study also concluded that “This former space represents a site where practices of ethnic cleansing and wholesale dispossession have been combined with Israeli discourses of “the sacred” as well as others which promote exclusivist, transhistorical notions of Jewish entitlement to the city.” The study also described what were the characteristics before 1948:

The Character of the Neighborhood before 1948 The structures that comprised this neighborhood over the course of seven centuries were familial, religious, and social and were built mainly of stone and brick. Clustered densely together, these modest one and two story buildings enveloped a network of narrow alleyways that snaked through this largely poor neighborhood. 

Its population became increasingly diverse in the centuries after the quarter‘s inception. Historically, most families resident in this quarter traced a genealogy back to the Maghrib. Pilgrimage or oppression in former lands brought many to Jerusalem. Over the course of several centuries, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Arabs from Palestine and elsewhere also took up residence in this quarter 

Today, part of the Israel-Palestinian conflict is the destruction of Palestinian cultural history and replace it with Israel’s historical claims in Palestine from more than 2,000 years ago. However, Palestinian culture and history was not the only target of Israel.  It seems that the Islamic State (ISIS) is taking its marching orders to destroy Arab culture from Israel as they also destroyed numerous archaeological sites with explosives and even bulldozers that deliberately targeted important cultural sites in Iraq and Syria.  ISIS is doing what the Israeli hardliners would want and that is to destroy Arabic culture, history and its identity and deprive future generations of that knowledge. According to one of Israel’s mainstream news websites, Haaretz from December 7th, 2014, ‘UN Reveals Israeli Links With Syrian Rebels’:

The observers have continued to file reports to New York, which were relatively mundane; but their content changed in March 2013, when Israel started admitting injured Syrians for medical treatment in Safed and Nahariya hospitals. The Syrian ambassador to the UN complained of widespread cooperation between Israel and Syrian rebels, not only treatment of the wounded but also other aid

Soon After, the destruction of Syrian cultural and historical sites began. One example I would like to point out was the incident on May 2015, a site called Palmyra, located in the desert in the eastern part of Damascus which was in essence a historical part of the Roman Empire. At one point in history, Palmyra was a wealthy metropolitan city and at its peak around the 3rd century, Queen Zenobia lead a rebellion against the Roman Empire but failed to win its freedom. Rome re-conquered Palmyra and then was destroyed by Rome’s army in A.D. 273. By the 20th Century, Palmyra became one of Syria’s main tourist attractions. The Islamic State invaded the modern town of Palmyra and its ancient ruins and practically destroyed it. ISIS even executed Khaled al-Asaad, a Syrian archaeologist who managed excavations and hung his headless body on a column (a tactic to put fear on civilians). Another site destroyed by the terrorists with explosives was The Temple of Baal Shamin which was a 1,900-year-old ancient temple. The destruction of Dura-Europos, a fortress founded in 303 B.C was another site that also sacked. It was called Dura by the Seleucids on the intersection of an east-west trade routes along another trade route close to the Euphrates. Dura controlled the river crossing on the route between the cities of Antioch and Seleucia on the Tigris. Dura was also considered border city that included Hellenistic, Parthian and the Romans built above the right bank of the Euphrates river and in close proximity to the village of Salhiyé in Syria. By 113 B.C., the Parthians had conquered the city and occupied Dura until 165 A.D. although there was a brief occupation by the Romans around 114 A.D. Under Parthian rule, Dura became an important provincial administrative center until the Romans decided to invade and permanently occupy Dura-Europos by 165 A.D. and expanded their territories reaching the eastern Mesopotamia, but was later destroyed by the Sassanians in 257 A.D.

Besides the fact that different cultures have intermingled at one point or another over the centuries, many interesting findings have been made including temples, inscriptions and tombs which many were looted by the US and Israeli backed terrorists during the height of the Syrian Civil War. According to ‘The 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two (1954 and 1999) Protocols’ under ‘Article 4 – Respect For Cultural Property’ clearly states the following:

The High Contracting Parties undertake to respect cultural property situated within their own territory as well as within the territory of other High Contracting Parties by refraining from any use of the property and its immediate surroundings or of the appliances in use for its protection for purposes which are likely to expose it to destruction or damage in the event of armed conflict; and by refraining from any act of hostility, directed against such property

Raphael Lemkin, a lecturer on comparative law at the Institute of Criminology of the Free University of Poland and Deputy Prosecutor of the District Court of Warsaw wrote ‘Acts Constituting a General (Transnational) Danger Considered as Offences Against the Law of Nations.’ One of the sections ‘Acts Of Vandalism: Destruction of the culture and works of art’ described as an act of vandalism:

An attack targeting a collectivity can also take the form of systematic and organized destruction of the art and cultural heritage in which the unique genius and achievement of a collectivity are revealed in fields of science, arts and literature. The contribution of any particular collectivity to world culture as a whole forms the wealth of all of humanity, even while exhibiting unique characteristics.

Thus, the destruction of a work of art of any nation must be regarded as acts of vandalism directed against world culture. The author [of the crime] causes not only the immediate irrevocable losses of the destroyed work as property and as the culture of the collectivity directly concerned (whose unique genius contributed to the creation of this work); it is also all humanity which experiences a loss by this act of vandalism.

In the acts of barbarity, as well as in those of vandalism, the asocial and destructive spirit of the author is made evident. This spirit, by definition, is the opposite of the culture and progress of humanity. It throws the evolution of ideas back to the bleak period of the Middle Ages. Such acts shock the conscience of all humanity, while generating extreme anxiety about the future. For all these reasons, acts of vandalism and barbarity must be regarded as offenses against the law of nations

A people’s culture, history and identity is what makes a nation. If an invading force has its way, destroying the culture would serve as a stepping stone that would solidify their complete conquest of the land they occupy. Trump is already ignorant of culture and history just like the majority of the elected officials in Washington. Looking back at what Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin said in 1956, Trump is obviously taking advice from Netanyahu and the Israeli hardliners.

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Timothy Alexander Guzman writes on his blog, Silent Crow News, where this article was originally published. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

All images in this article are SCN

Mistrial Is Another Blow to US Coup in Venezuela

February 17th, 2020 by Kevin Zeese

Last week, we along with Adrienne Pine and David Paul were unsuccessfully prosecuted by the Trump administration for our protection of the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC from April 10 to May 16, 2019.  The jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision and so we remain innocent of the charge of interfering with the protective functions of the US Department of State. The judge declared a mistrial. It was a partial victory and we greatly appreciate the jurors who were able to see through the cloud of misinformation in the courtroom and vote to acquit us.

The day our trial started, Juan Guaido returned to Venezuela where he was harassed and physically assaulted by protesters. He is unable to muster support at home even from the opposition. Guaido’s presidential charade is fading but the United States has not given up on its regime change campaign in Venezuela. New sanctions are being imposed and there have been recent attacks of sabotage within the country that resemble ones backed by the US in other countries to cause disruption and discord. As Citizens of Empire, we must continue to oppose US intervention in other countries.

Note: The Trump prosecutors will announce on February 28 whether they will prosecute us again. The Embassy Protection Defense Committee, our lawyers and the four of us are preparing for a second prosecution. Please check DefendEmbassyProtectors.org for updates and what you can do to help prepare our defense.

Embassy protectors [left to right: David Paul, Margaret Flowers, Adrienne Pine, Kevin Zeese] outside of court on February 13, 2020, by Martha Allen.

Confusion In The Courtroom Where Lies Were Told And The Truth Could Not Be Heard

After the trial, half the jury stayed behind to answer questions from the lawyers and the judge. What stood out in their answers was confusion. The information they heard in court was incomplete, which made it difficult to understand what happened. A major source of confusion was that the testimony in the trial was limited to three days from May 13 when a trespass notice was delivered to May 16 when the arrests occurred. The jurors were not allowed to be told about the full 37 days we were in the embassy when at times more than 70 people stayed there. They asked — why were you there for those three days? Why did you go there in May when the new president, Juan Guaido, came to power in January? The prosecutor’s successful manipulation of Judge Howell to limit the testimony to those three days created juror confusion as the story did not make sense.

Of course, Juan Guaido never came to power. He has not been president for even a nanosecond. When this so-called ‘president’ returned to Venezuela, after a US-sponsored tour of Europe, the customs officer took his passport and explained he had violated the law by leaving the country. No real president could have a customs officer take his passport.

Guaido was not welcomed when he walked through the airport and out into the streets. He was surrounded by protesters calling him a traitor and an assassin and chasing him away from the airport.  They were angry in part because during his trip Guaido called for more sanctions, which have shortened the lives of over 40,000 Venezuelans, and in the past, he even called for a US military attack on his country. It is obvious he is hated by the people of Venezuela as even the opposition did not support his re-appointment as president of the National Assembly. Not only is he not the president, but he also is not even the leader of the political opposition to President Maduro.

In the courtroom, due to an anomaly of US law, the jury was told that Juan Guaido was the president. While many have criticized Judge Beryl Howell for that ruling, in reality, she was reflecting US law, which says the president determines whom the US recognizes as the leader of a foreign government. This is a political question that the courts cannot overturn. Judge Howell sought to keep politics out of the courtroom, but it was not possible. Taking judicial notice that Guaido is ‘president’ when in the real world he is not made this a political case based on falsehoods.

The judge explained that “elections have consequences” as they grant this and other powers to the president. Judge Howell’s comment was ironic for Venezuelans because they also have elections as they did in May of 2018 where President Maduro won 67 percent in a five-candidate field. That election had more than 300 international election observers who concluded it met all the requirements for democratic elections under international law. Kevin Zeese was in Venezuela for it and reported it was a well-run election far superior to many US elections – especially the Iowa Caucus!

In part because of the limits placed on what we could say in court, none of the embassy protectors testified. The judge’s pre-trial ruling meant we could not tell the whole truth and made it difficult to testify without being held in contempt of court, a situation that Alan Macleod described as “Kafkaesque.” Our lawyers, Michael Satin, John Zwerling, Bill Welch, and Heather Shaner, built our defense on their excellent cross-examination of the three government witnesses.  After the government presented its case, the defense rested without calling any witnesses.

While we hope the prosecutors will not prosecute us again because we are innocent of the charges against us, we are preparing for a second prosecution. It was a victory to have a hung jury in such a manipulated environment but we are not yet free. We hope the Trump administration sees that prosecuting us again will be viewed by the world as further proof of US injustice. Another prosecution raises the stakes for the US as an acquittal or second failed prosecution will be further evidence of the failed coup. As we have always hoped, our goal is for the US and Venezuela to develop positive relations that are based on mutual respect for sovereignty and international law.

Two placards placed outside the Venezuelan embassy by the Embassy Protectors Collective. From Popular Resistance.

Venezuela Continues to Resist US Regime Change

The US charade claiming Guaido is the president and the judge refusing to challenge that fiction has dangerous and deadly consequences. The United States violated international laws when it invaded the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC and handed it over to the leaders of a failed coup. The US signaled to other countries that centuries of practices that uphold the inviolability of embassies no longer matter. It also signaled that elections don’t matter. The US believes it can decide who is the leader of another country and hand over the assets of that country to whomever it chooses.

The Venezuelan National Assembly is currently investigating Juan Guaido, particularly his backing by the United States and the theft of Venezuela’s assets. Guaido has already been restricted from traveling out of Venezuela for taking money from foreign countries, a restriction he has defied multiple times. Guaido also violated the Venezuelan Constitution by claiming to be the president, a power that only exists when the elected president and vice president are unable to serve. In the case where the president of the national assembly is required to step in as president, there must be an election for a new president within thirty days.

Guaido is being accused of receiving financial support from Alejandro Betancourt, who is being prosecuted in the United States for laundering billions of dollars. Betancourt is the cousin of Leopoldo Lopez, the head of the right-wing Popular Will Party. Lopez was convicted of inciting violence and escaped last year to seek asylum in the Spanish Embassy. It was recently discovered that Rudy Giuliani met with Guaido’s father and others in Spain and then met with the US Department of Justice to request leniency for Betancourt.

Guaido is also implicated in a case being brought by Venezuela against the United States for “the theft of [Venezuela’s] foreign assets and bank deposits… The looting equals up to US$116 billion.”​​​​​​​ Venezuela recently filed a case in the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. The day may come when the United States is held accountable and is no longer allowed to act with impunity.

A major goal of the action to protect the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC was to raise awareness that the US was escalating its lawless actions. Interference in the elections of another country, threats of military invasion and the imposition of coercive economic measures (aka sanctions) are violations of the United Nations Charter. Failing to protect embassies violates the Vienna Convention. The Embassy Protection Collective, composed of hundreds of activists for peace and justice, did prevent the embassy in Washington, DC from being given to the coup-supporters. It is empty today.

The action in the embassy was also an act of solidarity with the people of Venezuela struggling for self-determination and a new society that puts people’s needs and protection of the planet above corporate profits. We have so much to learn from Venezuela about democracy, ending poverty and creating a world for everyone.

As Citizens of Empire, our work is not over. We must continue to oppose sanctions and US intervention in other countries. The San Francisco Labor Council recently passed a resolution opposing sanctions. You can do the same in your community. Urge your local groups, city or county council or other institutions to do the same. And listed below are a few more ways to get involved in the struggle for peace.

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Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers co-direct Popular Resistance where this article was originally published. 

Those hoping the non-interventionist cause would be given some real muscle if a couple of oligarchs who’ve made fortunes from global interventionism team up and pump millions into Washington think tanks will be sorely disappointed by the train wreck that is the Koch/Soros alliance.

The result thus far has not been a tectonic shift in favor of a new direction, with new faces and new ideas, but rather an opportunity for these same old Washington think tanks, now flush with even more money, to re-brand their pet interventionisms as “restraint.”

The flagship of this new alliance, the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, was sold as an earth-shattering breakthrough – an “odd couple” of “left-wing” Soros and “right-wing” Koch boldly tossing differences aside to join together and “end the endless wars.”

That organization is now up and running and it isn’t pretty.

To begin with, the whole premise is deeply flawed. George Soros is no “left-winger” and Koch is no “right-winger.” It’s false marketing, like the claim that drinking Diet Coke will make you skinny. Both are globalist oligarchs who continue to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to create the kind of world where the elites govern with no accountability except to themselves, and “the interagency,” rather than an elected President of the US, makes US foreign policy.

As libertarian intellectual Tom Woods once famously quipped, “No matter whom you vote for, you always wind up getting John McCain.” That is exactly the world Koch and Soros want. It’s a world of Davos with fangs, not Mainstreet, USA.

A ‘New Vision’?

Anyone doubting that Quincy is just a mass re-branding effort for the same failed foreign policies of the past two decades need look no further than that organization’s first big public event, a February 26th conference with Foreign Policy Magazine, to explore “A New Vision for America in the World.”

Like pouring old wine into new bottles, this “new vision” is being presented by the very same people and institutions who gave us the “old vision” – you know, the one they pretend to oppose.

How should anyone interested in restraining foreign policy – let alone actual non-interventionism – react to the kick-off presentation of the Quincy Institute’s conference, “Perspective on U.S. Global Leadership in the 21st Century,” going to disgraced US General David Petraeus?

Petraeus is, among many other things, an architect of the disastrous and failed “surge” policy in Iraq. He is still convinced (at least as of a few years ago) that “we won” in Iraq…but that we dare not end the occupation lest we lose what we “won.” How’s that for “restraint”?

While head of the CIA, he teamed up with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to develop and push the brilliant idea of directly and overtly training and equipping al-Qaeda and other jihadists to overthrow the secular government of Bashar Assad. How’s that for “restraint”?

When a tape leaked of Fox News contributor Kathleen T. McFarland meeting with Petraeus at the behest of then-Fox Chairman Roger Ailes to convince him to run for US president, Petraeus told her that the CIA in his view is “a national asset…a treasure.” He then went on to speak favorably of the CIA’s role in Libya.

But the absurdity of leading the conference with such an unreconstructed warmongering interventionist is only the beginning of the trip down the Quincy conference rabbit hole.

Rogues’ Gallery of Washington’s Worst

Shortly following the disgraced general is a senior official from the German Marshal Fund, Julianne Smith, to give us “A New Vision for America’s Role in the World.” Her organization, readers will recall, is responsible for some of the most egregious warmongering propaganda.

The German Marshal Fund launched and funds the Alliance for Securing Democracy, an organization led by such notable proponents of “restraint” as neoconservative icon William Kristol, John McCain Institute head David Kramer, Michael “Trump is an agent of Putin” Morell, and, among others, the guy who made millions out of scaring the hell out of Americans, former Homeland-Security-chief-turned-airport-scanner-salesman Michael Chertoff.

The Alliance for Securing Democracy was responsible for the discredited “Hamilton 68 Dashboard,” a magic tool they claimed would seek and destroy “Russian bots” in the social media. After the propaganda value of such a farce had been reaped, Alliance fellow Clint Watts admitted the whole thing was bogus.

Moving along, so as not to cherry pick the atrocities in this conference, moderating the section on the Middle East is one “scholar,” Mehdi Hasan, who actually sent a letter to Facebook demanding that the social media company censor more political speech! He has attacked what he calls “free speech fundamentalists.”

Joining the “Regional Spotlight: Asia-Pacific” is Patrick Cronin of the thoroughly – and proudly – neoconservative Hudson Institute. Cronin’s entire professional career consists of position after position at the center of Washington’s various “regime change” factories. From a directorial position at the mis-named US Institute for Peace to “third-ranking position” at the US Agency for International Development to “senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the [neoconservative] Center for a New American Security.” This is a voice of “restraint”?

Later, the segment on “Ending Endless War” features at least two speakers who absolutely oppose the idea. Rosa Brooks, Senior Fellow at the “liberal interventionist” New America Foundation, wrote not long ago that, “There’s No Such Thing as Peacetime.” In the article she argued the benefits of “abandon[ing] the effort to draw increasingly arbitrary lines between peacetime and wartime and instead focus[ing] on developing institutions and norms capable of protecting rights and rule-of-law values at all times.” In other words, war is endless so man up and get used to it.

This may be the key for how you end endless war. Just stop calling it “war.”

Brooks’ fellow panelist, Tom Wright, hails from the epicenter of liberal interventionism, the Brookings Institution, where he is director of the “Center on the United States and Europe.” Brookings loves “humanitarian interventions” and has published pieces attempting to convince us that the attack on Libya was not a mistake.

Wright himself is featured in the current edition of the Council on Foreign Relations’ publication Foreign Affairs arguing that old interventionist shibboleth that the disaster in Iraq was not caused by the US invasion, but rather by Obama’s withdrawal.

This Quincy Institute champion of “restraint” concludes his latest piece arguing that:

Now is not the time for a revolution in U.S. strategy. The United States should continue to play a leading role as a security provider in global affairs.

How revolutionary!

The moderator of that final panel in the upcoming Quincy Institute first conference is Loren DeJonge Schulman, a deputy director at the above-named Center for a New American Security. Before joining that neoconservative think tank, Schulman served as Senior Advisor to National Security Advisor Susan Rice! Among her other international crimes, readers will recall that Rice was a chief architect of the US attack on Libya.

Schulman’s entire career is, again, in the service of, alternatively, the war machine and the regime change machine.

The Quincy Institute’s first big event, which it bills as a showcase for a new foreign policy of “restraint,” is in fact just another gathering of Washington’s usual warmongers, neocons, and “humanitarian” interventionists.

Quincy has been received with gushing praise from people who should know better. Any of those gushers who look at this first Quincy conference and continue to maintain that a revolution in foreign policy is afoot are either lying to us or lying to themselves.

But Wait…There’s More!

Sadly, the fallout extends beyond just this particular new institute and this particular event.

Those who continue to push the claim that Koch and Soros are changing their spots and now supporting restraint and non-interventionism should be made to explain why the most egregiously warmongering and interventionist organizations are finding themselves on the receiving end of oligarch largese.

Just days ago a glowing article in Politico detailed the recipients of millions of Koch dollars to promote “restraint.” Who is leading the Koch brigades in the battle for a non-interventionist, “restrained” foreign policy?

Politico reveals:

Libertarian business tycoon Charles Koch is handing out $10 million in new grants to promote voices of military restraint at American think tanks, part of a growing effort by Koch to change the U.S. foreign policy conversation.

The grants, details of which were shared exclusively with POLITICO, are being split among four institutions: the Atlantic Council; the Center for the National Interest; the Chicago Council on Global Affairs; and the RAND Corporation.

The Atlantic Council has been pushing US foreign policy toward war with Russia for years, pumping endless false propaganda and neocon lies to fuel the idea that Russia is engaged in an “asymmetric battle” against the US, that the mess in Ukraine was the result of a Russian out-of-the-blue invasion rather than an Obama Administration coup d’etat, that Russia threw the elections to Putin’s agent Trump, and that Moscow is seeking to to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.

The Atlantic Council’s “Disinfo Portal,” a self-described “one-stop interactive online portal and guide to the Kremlin’s information war,” is raw, overt war propaganda. It is precisely the kind of war propaganda that has fueled three years of mass hysteria called “Russiagate,” which though proven definitively to be an utter fraud, continues to animate most of Washington’s thinking on the Left and Right to this day.

The Atlantic Council, through something it calls a “Digital Forensic Research Lab,” works with giant social media outlets to identify and ban any independent or alternative news outlets who deviate from the view that the US is besieged by enemies, from Syria to Iran to Russia to China and beyond, and that therefore it must continue spending a trillion dollars per year to maintain its role as the unipolar hyperpower. Thus, the Atlantic Council – a US government funded entity – colludes with social media to silence any deviation from US government approved foreign policy positions.

And these are the kinds of organizations that Koch and Soros claim are going to save us from Washington’s interventionist foreign policy?

Equally upsetting is the “collateral damage” that the Koch/Soros alliance and its love child Quincy hath wrought. To see once-vibrant and reliably non-interventionist upstarts like The American Conservative Magazine (TAC) lured away from the vision of its founders, Pat Buchanan and Taki Theodoracopulos, to slip into the warm Hegelian embrace of well-funded compromise is truly heartbreaking. It is to witness the soiling of that once-brave publication’s vindication for being right about Iraq War 2.0 while virtually all of Washington was wrong.

Incidentally, and to add insult to injury, it is precisely these kinds of Washington institutions who most viciously attacked TAC in those days who now find themselves trusted partners and even “expert” sources!

TAC! Beware! It’s not too late to wake up and smell the deception!

How to End Endless Wars (The Easy Way)

If a Soros-Koch alliance was actually interested in ending endless US wars and re-orienting our currently hyper-interventionist foreign policy toward “restraint,” it would simply announce that not another penny in campaign contributions would go to any candidate for House, Senate, or President who did not vow publicly in writing to vote against or veto any legislation that did not reduce military spending, that imposed sanctions overseas, that threatened governments overseas, that appropriated funds in secret or overtly to destabilize or overthrow governments overseas, or that sent foreign “aid” to any government overseas.

It would cost pennies to make such an announcement and stick to it, and the result would be a massive shift in the American body politic toward what the current alliance advertises itself as promoting.

But Koch/Soros don’t really want to end endless US interventions overseas. They want to fund the same old think tanks who are responsible for the disaster that is US foreign policy, re-brand interventionism as non-interventionism, and hope none of us rubes in flyover country notices.

To paraphrase what Pat Buchanan said about Democrats in his historic 1992 convention speech, the whitewashing of Washington’s most egregiously interventionist institutions and experts as “restrained” non-interventionists is “the greatest single exhibition of cross-dressing in American political history.”

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Since the Soviet collapse in 1991, the question of media representation both ways, in Russia and in Africa, has attracted unprecedented concern and discussions. Over the years, nearly 30 years after the Soviet era, Russia has not encouraged African media, especially those from south of Sahara, to operate in the Russian Federation.

Interestingly, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Information and Press Department has accredited media from Latin America, the United States, Europe and Asian countries, and only two African media came from the Maghreb region (Morocco and Egypt) in North Africa.

An official information presented during the first Russia-Africa Summit held in October 2019 explicitly shows the degree of priority given to African media. Some 300 news bureaus from 60 countries are currently operating in Russia, including 800 foreign correspondents and 400 technical personnel, while there are African news bureaus from Egypt and Morocco, according to Artem Kozhin, who represented the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Information and Press Department, at the panel discussion on media.

According to his interpretation, this extremely low representation of African media hardly meets the level of current dynamically developing relations between Russia and Africa. “We invite all interested parties to open news bureaus and expand media cooperation with Russia,” Kozhin said at the gathering, inviting Africa media to Moscow.

In practical terms, the Russian officialdom has not encouraged and supported the idea of African media that could, in a way, present the positive developments and its related emerging economic opportunities in the Russian Federation to the general reading public, political elite and business community in Africa.

However, the highly successful spade-work was the first Russia-Africa Summit. That appreciably marks the turning point in Russia’s new strategy of returning to Africa and promote various significant initiatives to facilitate development on the continent. But observing and analyzing carefully post-summit developments, media cooperation has still been relegated to the backyard.

Significantly, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has to layout some new mechanisms and adopt a more favourable approach that could readily attract African media to operate in the Russian Federation. Russia and Africa need to examine every sphere based on shared partnership interests and redefine practical approach to realizing whatever plans on media cooperation. Media and NGOs, as instruments for improving adequately public knowledge, especially on the developments and emerging opportunities, have not been pursuaded to match the desired future objectives and policy goals.

The stark reality is that Russia needs Africa media and Africa needs Russian media, in order for them to enlighten ties in the economic shperes, to promote a better understanding among African elites and the middle class through media reports.

Russian and African Ministries of Foreign Affairs have, so soon, forgotten about the questions raised at the panel discussion on media in Russia-Africa gathering in Sochi. What issues are currently encountered in the formation of the modern media landscape? What role does the media play in Russian-African relations? What are the prospects for collaboration in the information sphere? What needs to be done to develop a Russian media agenda in Africa? What is the role and place of Russia in the information space of Africa today? What role can African media play in promoting further Russia’s image in Africa?

Last year, the Russian Ministry of Justice requested that all foreign media organizations must declare their sources of finance for their operations in the Russian Federation. The State Duma backs restrictions of foreign capital in media and information resources. In addition, both Federation Council and the State Duma enacted legislations that banned foreign NGOs from operating in Russia. These legislations and administrative directives have drawn criticisms from rights groups and many academic experts that such moves would restrict media freedoms. Consequently, it has created little interest among most African media operators to expand their representation to Moscow, there are absolutely no African NGOs operating in the Russian Federation.

Further, the plausible impact of the continous absence of African media in Russia means Africans will get their stuff from alternative sources. It also means creating the grounds for what Russians frequently referred to as “anti-Russian propaganda in Africa by western and European media” and, of course, Russians will consistently continue making complaints about widening information gap between Russia and Africa.

The Foreign Ministry published the text of Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov’s speech on official website where he highlighted the problems facing the development of Russia-African ties at a session on Urals-Africa economic forum in Yekaterinburg. “One must admit that the practical span of Russian companies’ business operations in Africa falls far below our export capabilities, on one hand, and the huge natural resources of the continent, on the other,” Bogdanov said.

According to him, one of the major obstacles has been insufficient knowledge of the economic potential, on the part of Russian entrepreneurs, needs and opportunities of the African region. “Poor knowledge of the African markets’ structure and the characteristics of African customers by the Russian business community remains an undeniable fact. The Africans in their turn are insufficiently informed on the capabilities of potential Russian partners,” Bogdanov stressed in his speech at the forum.

During the Russia-Africa Summit, Professor Alexey Vasiliev, the first appointed Special Representative of Russian President for Relations with Africa (2006-2011) and currently the Head of the Center for African and Arab Studies at the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (2013-2020), told the audience there in Sochi: “Africa is largely unaware of Russia, since African media mainly consumes information the Western media sources and then replicates them. And all the fake news, the Rusophobia and anti-Russian propaganda, spread by the western media, are repeated in the African media.”

“Measures are needed to enable us to better understand each other,” suggested Professor Vasiliev, who regularly advises the Presidential Administration, the Government of the Russian Federation, both chambers of the Federal Assembly, and the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Professor Vladimir Shubin, the Deputy Director of the Institute for African Studies, explained in an interview with me that political relations between Russia and Africa as well as the economic cooperation would attract more and more academic discussions, and such scholarly contributions, in essence, would help deepen understanding of the problems that impede building solid relationship or partnership with Russia.

In order to maintain this relationship, both Russia and Africa have to pay high attention to and take significant steps in promoting their achievements and highlighting the most development needs in a comprehensive way for mutual benefits using appropriately the media, according to the professor.

“African leaders do their best in developing bilateral relations,” he added. “Truly and passionately, they come to Russia more often than ten years ago, but a lot still has to be done; both Russian and African media, in this case, have a huge role to play.”

Perhaps, one of the reasons why some African leaders have “written off” Russia has been the lack of information about Russia, or rather plenty of distorted information they have received from the Western media coverage of Russia, Professor Shubin concluded.

Similarly, Bunn Nagara, a Senior Fellow of the Institute of Strategic and International Studies, member of the Valdai Discussion Club, observed that “Russian businesses face a number of challenges. First, there is little information available internationally about the opportunities and possibilities for partnerships between Russian and foreign businesses.”

“Russia is a large country spanning both Europe and Asia. So, it can do much to bring Asian and European business linkages together and build on them. Better public relations and improved information dissemination are very important. To do this, it needs to do more in spreading more and better information about its achievements, the progress so far, its future plans, and the opportunities available,” Bunn Nagara said.

Early October 2019, the Valdai Discussion Club released an ebook titled “Russia’s Return to Africa: Strategy and Prospects” jointly or collectively authored by Vadim Balytnikov, Oleg Barabanov, Andrei Yemelyanov, Dmitry Poletaev, Igor Sid and Natalia Zaiser.

The Valdai Discussion Club was established in 2004, with a goal is to promote dialogue between Russian and international intellectual elite, and to make an independent, unbiased scientific analysis of political, economic and social events in Russia and the rest of the world.

The authors explicitly suggested the need to take steps in countering Western anti-Russia clichés that are spreading in Africa and shaping a narrative whereby only dictators and outcasts partner with the Russians. Therefore, efforts to improve Russia’s image must target not only the continent’s elite, but also a broader public opinion. It would be advisable to create and develop appropriate media tools to this effect.

Media and NGOs, working with the civil society, have to support official efforts in pushing for building a positive image and in strengthening diplomacy. Displaying an attentive and caring attitude towards the African diaspora in Russia, the key objective is to overcome racist stereotypes that persist in marginal segments of Russian society. Helping highly qualified educated migrants to integrate through employment. This will, in addition, showcase and shape public opinion about Africa in the Russian Federation.

According to the authors, building a more and consistent positive public opinion within Russia and Africa should be considered extremely important at this stage of relations between Russia and Africa. Should Russia assist other countries for political purposes only? Will the recipient countries be willing to lend Russia their political support, and can they be trusted? Should Russia build its partnerships exclusively based on the principle of economic expediency?

The authors wrote: “Russia will have to answer these questions as it moves towards implementing its African strategy. Its experience in working with public opinion and governments across Eurasia to shape public perceptions will come in handy in Africa.”

The irreversible fact is that there is the need to have an informed African society, and this has to be done largely, systematically and necessarily through the media. Africa has the largest number of young people, who look at the world with open eyes and are ready for cooperation with partner countries. This is a good opportunity to inform the young generation, bring them together through knowledge from Russia, Eurasia, and Africa. According to UN forecasts, the African middle class will exceed one billion people by 2025.

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Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher on Russia, Africa and BRICS. He is the author of the Geopolitical Handbook titled “Putin’s African Dream and The New Dawn: Challenges and Emerging Opportunities” devoted to the first Russia-Africa Summit 2019.

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A Boom Time for U.S. Sanctions

February 17th, 2020 by Kathy Gilsinan

The United States, as of this writing, has 7,967 sanctions in place.

Treasury Department data show them in many sizes. There are sanctions on individual people, like the Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzman; on companies, like Cubacancun Cigars and Gift Shops; and even on entire governments or their branches, like on Iran and its main security force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

There may even be sanctions ahead for some U.S. allies, who are facing a deadline to stop importing Iranian oil or get hit in the administration’s economic-pressure campaign against the Islamic Republic.

American policymakers have reached for the tool almost since the country was founded; perhaps the most prominent modern example is the Cuba embargo of 1962. Sanctions are appealing as a cudgel sharper than talking but gentler than military action. They’re for when you want to influence people, not by beating them up, but by threatening their cash flow. The use of sanctions has exploded in the 21st century, especially as the U.S. has gotten very good at tailoring financial penalties to affect individuals rather than entire countries. But while they’ve undoubtedly made it difficult for America’s enemies to make, move, or access money, some experts worry that overuse of sanctions brings long-term risks both for America’s financially dominant role in the world and its leading status in international diplomacy.

The strength of American sanctions, after all, comes from the centrality of the United States financial system in the global economy, and the dollar’s status as the world’s dominant reserve currency. “Even a company that has basically no trade in the United States, their banks do,” says Jarrett Blanc, a senior fellow in the Geoeconomics and Strategy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “And so they basically can’t be banked if they are trading with a country that has been targeted with these very powerful U.S. sanctions.”

Read full article here.

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Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei is less than a month into his term and yet there are already disturbing signs that his administration will side with global mining corporations against indigenous communities fighting to protect their land and water.

The clearest sign to date: the appointment of Juan José Cabrera Alonso, a former executive of a controversial silver mine, as Special Secretary to the Vice President.

Cabrera was General Director for the Pan American Silver company’s Guatemalan subsidiary, Minera San Rafael, until May 2019. He was also in charge when the mine was violently imposed on local communities in 2013-2014, and, according to the Guatemalan government’s public registry of contracts and acquisitions, still serves as its legal representative today.

Mining operations at Escobal have been suspended since 2017, due in large part to widespread community opposition and a Supreme Court order that suspended the mine’s license over failure to consult with affected Xinka Indigenous people. Guatemala’s highest court upheld that suspension in September 2018 and ordered the Guatemalan government to consult with the Xinka before operations could resume.

During his election campaign, President Giammettei promised to restore confidence in the investment climate for transnational mining companies within the first 90 days of his administration. Cabrera’s new, cozy position within the Guatemalan government raises serious concerns about the influence he might be able to exert on behalf of the company to get the Escobal mine back up and running.

“Now, Pan American Silver has an operator on the inside to protect its interests,” said Quelvin Jiménez, lawyer for the Xinka Parliament who is Xinka himself. “The government is already attempting to exclude Xinka representatives and the Xinka Parliament from the consultation process. This appointment tells us that we should expect the government to continue to violate our rights.”

While General Director of Escobal, Cabrera worked closely with the government to obtain the exploitation license for the mine in 2013. This took place at a time when local communities and municipalities were holding their own referenda in which tens of thousands voted against any mining on their territory, and when over 200 individual complaints were filed against the approval of the exploitation license over potential environmental and health harms.

The Ministry of Energy and Mines dismissed these complaints without consideration hours before approving the mine’s license. In the weeks and months following, unarmed protesters were shot at and injured by mine security leading to a civil lawsuit against the company in Canadathe militarization of areas surrounding the mine, and numerous indigenous and environmental leaders were criminalized, threatened and even killed.

Cabrera’s appointment comes at an already tense moment. The government-led consultation with affected Xinka people has been stalled since November 2018, when Xinka Indigenous authorities first denounced violations of due process and discrimination. The Xinka Parliament has filed more than a dozen complaints about these violations on multiple occasions since, and has yet to receive an adequate response from authorities. Guatemala’s Human Rights Ombudsman, mandated by the Constitutional Court to act as a watchdog for the consultation, recently backed up their complaints.

President Giammattei has already declared martial law in two municipalities opposed to resource extraction. He also promised to fast-track a highly controversial law to regulate the consultation process. While sure to be contested, many fear this type of regulation would undermine long-term struggles for self-determination through a meaningless process of paper-pushing.

To support efforts in Guatemala to halt the government’s attempts to violate Xinka rights by restarting the destructive Escobal mine, international allies have launched a petition drive.

Pan American Silver, which is based in Canada, is clearly feeling some pressure. In response to a previous version of this blog published by Earthworks, a company official asserted that Juan José Cabrera Alonso no longer works for their subsidiary, Minera San Rafael.

The fact that Cabrera stepped down from his role as General Director in May 2019 is not in dispute. However, according to Guatemala’s public registry, Cabrera continues to serve as the company’s legal representative, effective through May 2, 2020. If Pan American Silver no longer has official ties to Cabrera, this should be reflected in the public registry. This is an example of the lack of transparency and access to information mine-impacted communities in Guatemala face every day.

Even if Cabrera no longer has official ties to the company, this doesn’t change his long-term relationship between the company’s wholly owned subsidiary.

Pan American Silver has a friendly ear at the highest level of Guatemalan government. Xinka communities do not.

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Ellen Moore is the International Mining Campaigner for Earthworks and Jen Moore is an Associate Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies.

Featured image: President Alejandro Giammattei assumed office on January 14, 2020, after promising on the campaign trail to make Guatemala friendlier to transnational mining corporations. Credit: Flickr/Vinicio Cerezo

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The US Senate, long the lap dog of the man who would be king, President Donald Trump, appears to have finally remembered its proper constitutional role.

Last week, the Senate voted 55/45 for a new bipartisan War Powers Act to constrain military action against Iran. The Congress voted a similar act. Both are designed to start returning the right to make war to Congress, as the Constitution clearly intended. The president is not the Warlord-in-chief in spite of what he thinks.

The Senate has been supine until now, intimidated by an unholy alliance of pro-war Christian evangelists and the Israel lobby, and over $100 million given to the Republican Party by casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. Senators who dare oppose this powerful special interest risk their political futures. The lifting of limits on political contributions has given Adelson enormous power over Trump and his friend, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Trump has been very successful in intimidating and punishing those who deviate from his party line. All he lacks so far is a KGB-style secret police to enforce his demands. The current fracas over Trump’s efforts to undermine the prosecution of his ally, political low-life Roger Stone, is yet the latest example of the steady erosion of our democratic system.

Yet even Trump went too far with the murder of senior Iranian officer, Maj. Gen Qasem Soleimani, who had been invited to visit Iraq for peace talks by its US-installed regime. Americans, besotted by too many violent TV programs, saw this as a plus, but the rest of the world was horrified by the gangster act. It appears Trump & Co. were convinced to commit this murder by Israel, which had been stalking Soleimani for years.

Ironically, the US killed the most moderate senior Iranian leader who was in line to become the Islamic Republic’s leader. Israel has long had the policy of assassinating Palestinian moderates, leaving only the radicals alive. This allowed Israel to assert ‘we have no one to negotiate with.’

Soleimani’s murder was too much for eight Republican senators. This act of war was never approved by Congress, as the Constitution mandates. Better educated senators realized that Trump was pushing the US into a bloody war with Iran which, like the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, would have only one real winner, Israel.

These senators did the right thing. They arrested, at least temporarily, the decades-long shift to growing presidential dictatorship under the guise of war powers.

Think back to the 2003 Iraq War which was concocted by the Bush administration to justify a massive military intervention when, in fact, no real threat to the US existed. I know this because I was there and immune to all the official lies from Washington and London. A pack of lies, but the US still occupies Iraq.

The ‘imminent threat’ scenario used by Republicans to promote warlike acts, such as the murder of Maj. Gen. Soleimani, is bogus. Anyone can justify war by claiming ‘intelligence sources’ and internet chatter. Much of the intelligence the US gets from the Mideast is fake or twisted to promote other nation’s benefit. Washington was fed a farrago of intelligence lies and half-truths by its allies Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Israel to help promote the 2003 war against Iraq. Trump has used similar phony ‘intelligence’ to justify his Mideast militarism.

The founders of our United States intended Congress to be the premier arm of government. But our once powerful Congress has been bleeding power and authority – not to mention respect – since the Vietnam era. Serving in Congress was supposed to be a part-time job for educated landowners, not small-town lawyers from the rural Bible Belt.

But will this attempt by the Senate to restore some of its power and prestige work? Trump will almost certainly veto this war powers act and further intimidate Congress. Yet unless Congress makes a stand, our balanced system of government is truly at risk. Americans should at minimum draw the lesson never to vote power to a president and Congress of the same party.

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“A true friend of Israel.” These were the words Barack Obama used when describing himself to AIPAC, a day after he secured the Democratic party nomination in 2008.

Standing in front of thousands of attendees in Washington, Obama, who was only 47 at the time, went on to thank the pro-Israel lobby for helping advance “bipartisan consensus to support and defend our ally – Israel”.

Those comments were a far cry from the latter stages of his presidency, when the interest group rebuked America’s first black president and spearheaded efforts to derail his signature foreign policy accomplishment – the Iran nuclear deal.

AIPAC, short for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, has always presented itself as a bipartisan organisation aiming to maintain support for Israel from across the US political spectrum.

Republican and Democratic presidents have praised the group, and some of the measures it has pushed have gained unanimous bipartisan support in Congress.

But times are changing. Once dubbed “the most effective general interest group” by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, AIPAC was called a “hate group” by a senior Democratic congresswoman on Wednesday.

Image result for betty mccollum

“Hate is used as a weapon to incite and silence dissent. Unfortunately, this is my recent experience with AIPAC – the American Israel Public Affairs Committee,” Congresswoman Betty McCollum (image on the right) said in a blistering statement.

Her photo had been featured – along with fellow House members Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar – in AIPAC ads accusing “radicals in the Democratic Party” of pushing antisemitic and anti-Israel policies “down the throats of the American people”.

The posts, which have since been deleted, went as far as likening Congress members critical of Israel to the Islamic State (IS) group, also known as ISIS.

McCollum, who had introduced a bill aiming to prevent US assistance to Israel from contributing to the imprisonment and abuse of Palestinian children, was having none of it.

“AIPAC wants its followers to believe that my bill, H.R. 2407, to protect Palestinian children from being interrogated, abused, and even tortured in Israeli military prisons is a threat more sinister than ISIS,” she said.

“This is not empty political rhetoric. It is hate speech.”

The response came days after AIPAC took down the ads and half-heartedly apologised for them. But the episode highlighted the erosion of that bipartisan consensus over Israel that Obama cited in 2008.

AIPAC’s conundrum

Three months after Democrats assumed majority in the US House of Representatives last year, their top leaders appeared at the annual conference of AIPAC, assuring the group that Congress will maintain its steadfast support for Israel.

There had been warning signs that the bipartisan consensus in favour of Israel may be eroding. Left-wing progressives had been increasing their clout in Democratic politics, shifting the conversation about Israel and Palestine amongst Democrats in the process.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer have kept their word to AIPAC in pushing pro-Israel measures in the congressional chambers that they control – including a resolution condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

But with President Donald Trump giving the Israeli government everything that it wants and then some, top Democrats have found it difficult to fully back the White House’s policies.

In fact, many of them forcefully rejected the president’s AIPAC-backed plan to end the conflict, which would allow Israel to annex all of its illegal settlements in the West Bank. Meanwhile, progressives’ criticism of Israel grew more vocal.

That has created a conundrum for AIPAC: how to favour the policies of one political party without alienating the other?

“AIPAC is dealing with a fundamental contradiction. They are promoting a policy of no accountability for Israel – a carte blanche for whatever Israel does; and they want to be bipartisan,” said Omar Baddar, deputy director of the Arab American Institute, a Washington-based advocacy group.

“There’s a problem here. The reality of our political discourse is that no accountability for Israel is not a bipartisan issue.”

The ads against Democrats and McCollum’s forceful condemnation of the group expose that contradiction, he added.

“I really suspect it’s really a matter of time before we see the next outburst,” Baddar told MEE.

Beth Miller, government affairs manager at JVP Action, a political advocacy group linked to Jewish Voice for Peace, echoed Baddar’s comments, saying that American progressives are adopting the Palestinian cause as a core issue in their agenda.

“It used to be true that AIPAC had bipartisan support, but that is strongly waning… As the left progressive flank of the Democratic Party grows, which it clearly is, that means that there’s also going to be less support for groups like AIPAC,” Miller said.

She added that advocacy for Palestinian human rights is becoming a “natural part” of the push against Trump’s agenda.

“The more we as Americans learn about what is happening in Israel, the more people are supporting Palestinian human rights,” Miller told MEE.

“And so, we are in a moment where groups like AIPAC that are strongly trying to push anti-Palestinian policies and anti-Palestinian rhetoric are finding themselves in an increasingly partisan space.”

The presidential race

With Democrats moving to pick their nominee who will try to unseat Trump, that schism between the pro-Israel lobby and the party is likely to become wider.

AIPAC will not merely be torn between unconditionally supportive Republicans and Democrats more critical of Israel. Trump himself will be on the ballot, facing an opponent who will likely draw distinctions with him on foreign policy.

Moreover, Bernie Sanders, the frontrunner in the Democratic race, has called for an even-handed approach to the Middle East conflict, where US policy would not only be pro-Israel, but also “pro-Palestinian“. The Vermont senator is also proposing conditioning US aid to Israel if it does not work to end the occupation and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

“I imagine that relationship is going to become more and more antagonistic,” Baddar said.

“As time goes on, that contrast will be sharpened. I do envision a scenario in which AIPAC is going all out in attack against candidate Bernie Sanders if his lead continues.”

In fact, an AIPAC-linked group has been running negative ads against Sanders, centering on his health and electability – not foreign policy.

Columnist Jonathan Tobin argued earlier this week that it was no longer feasible for AIPAC in 2020 to deliver on its mission of defending Israel in a bipartisan way.

“At a time of unprecedented hyper-partisanship, and with the possibility that support for Israel will be a point of partisan contention in the fall presidential campaign – especially if the Democrats nominate Bernie Sanders, it’s hard to see how AIPAC can continue to navigate between the parties,” he wrote in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

“It just isn’t possible to attack Democrats who are anti-Israel without sounding pro-Trump.”

‘Vile attacks’

The rise of Sanders in the polls and the AIPAC ads attacking Democratic Congress members point to an indisputable shift in support of Palestinians within the party.

Yet, many – if not most – Democrats in Congress have maintained their strong commitment to the US relationship with Israel and ties with AIPAC.

In fact on Thursday, the pro-Israel lobby posted several tweets thanking top Democratic legislators for denouncing the UN Human Rights Council over publishing a list of businesses with ties to West Bank settlements considered illegal by most of the international community.

Still, the attacks on Democratic Congress members put some of AIPAC’s allies in the party in an uncomfortable position – between defending their colleagues and maintaining the bipartisan support that the pro-Israel lobby enjoys.

Hoyer, the number two Democrat in the House and a staunch supporter of Israel, said he was not pleased with AIPAC’s recent ads.

“I strongly disagreed with the ads and it was appropriate that AIPAC apologised,” Hoyer told MEE in a statement.

“The Democratic Party continues to be a party that is strongly supportive of Israel. Support for Israel should never be made into a partisan issue.”

McCollum had called on the Democratic Party to “take a stand” in support of human rights.

“AIPAC’s language is intended to demonise, not elevate a policy debate. Vile attacks such as this may be commonplace in the Trump era, but they should never be normalised.”

In her statement, McCollum challenged AIPAC’s claims of being a bipartisan group.

“AIPAC claims to be a bipartisan organisation, but its use of hate speech actually makes it a hate group,” the congresswoman said.

“By weaponising antisemitism and hate to silence debate, AIPAC is taunting Democrats and mocking our core values.

“I hope Democrats understand what is at stake and take a stand because working to advance peace, human rights, and justice is not sinister – it is righteous.”

For her part, Congresswoman Tlaib, who is Palestinian American, praised McCollum for calling out AIPAC.

“I commend the courage and leadership of my colleague, Congresswoman Betty McCollum. She’s right- hate speech incites violence and seeks to silence dissent,” Tlaib told MEE in an email.

“In the fight for peace, equality, dignity and human rights, we must push back and call out any attempt to stop us on the path toward justice for Palestinians, Israelis, and people across the world.”

AIPAC did not return MEE’s request for comment.

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Bernie Sanders has won the popular vote in both the New Hampshire and Iowa presidential primary contests in considerable part by presenting himself as an opponent of war. Following the criminal assassination of Iranian General Qassem Suleimani last month, Sanders was the most vocal of the Democratic presidential aspirants in criticizing Trump’s action. His poll numbers have risen in tandem with his stepped-up anti-war rhetoric.

He has repeatedly stressed his vote against the 2003 invasion of Iraq, reminding voters in the Iowa presidential debate last month,

“I not only voted against that war, I helped lead the effort against that war.”

However, when speaking to the foremost newspaper of the American ruling class, the New York Times, the Sanders campaign adopts a very different tone than that employed by the candidate when addressing the public in campaign stump speeches or TV interviews.

The answers provided by Sanders’ campaign to a foreign policy survey of the Democratic presidential candidates published this month by the Times provide a very different picture of the attitude of the self-styled “democratic socialist” to American imperialism and war. In the course of the survey, the Sanders campaign is at pains to reassure the military/intelligence establishment and the financial elite of the senator’s loyalty to US imperialism and his readiness to deploy its military machine.

Perhaps most significant and chilling is the response to the third question in the Times’ survey.

Question: Would you consider military force to pre-empt an Iranian or North Korean nuclear or missile test?

Answer: Yes.

A Sanders White House, according to his campaign, would be open to launching a military strike against Iran or nuclear-armed North Korea to prevent (not respond to) not even a threatened missile or nuclear strike against the United States, but a mere weapons test. This is a breathtakingly reckless position no less incendiary than those advanced by the Trump administration.

Sanders would risk a war that could easily involve the major powers and lead to a nuclear Armageddon in order to block a weapons test by countries that have been subjected to devastating US sanctions and diplomatic, economic and military provocations for decades.

Moreover, as Sanders’ response to the Times makes clear, the so-called progressive, anti-war candidate fully subscribes to the doctrine of “preemptive war” declared to be official US policy in 2002 by the administration of George W. Bush. An illegal assertion of aggressive war as an instrument of foreign policy, this doctrine violates the principles laid down at the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi officials after World War II, the United Nations charter and other international laws and conventions on war. Sanders’ embrace of the doctrine, following in the footsteps of the Obama administration, shows that his opposition to the Iraq war was purely a question of tactics, not a principled opposition to imperialist war.

The above question is preceded by another that evokes a response fully in line with the war policies of the Obama administration, the first two-term administration in US history to preside over uninterrupted war.

Question: Would you consider military force for a humanitarian intervention?

Answer: Yes.

Among the criminal wars carried out by the United States in the name of defending “human rights” are the war in Bosnia and the bombing of Serbia in the 1990s, the 2011 air war against Libya that ended with the lynching of deposed ruler Muammar Gaddafi, and the civil war in Syria that was fomented by Washington and conducted by its Al Qaeda-linked proxy militias.

The fraudulent humanitarian pretexts for US aggression were no more legitimate than the lie of “weapons of mass destruction” used in the neo-colonial invasion of Iraq. The result of these war crimes has been the destruction of entire societies, the death of millions and dislocation of tens of millions more, along with the transformation of the Middle East into a cauldron of great power intervention and intrigue that threatens to erupt into a new world war.

Sanders fully subscribes to this doctrine of “humanitarian war” that has been particularly associated with Democratic administrations.

In response to a question from the Times on the assassination of Suleimani, the Sanders campaign calls Trump’s action illegal, but refuses to take a principled stand against targeted assassinations in general and associates itself with the attacks on Suleimani as a terrorist.

The reply states:

Clearly there is evidence that Suleimani was involved in acts of terror. He also supported attacks on US troops in Iraq. But the right question isn’t ‘was this a bad guy,’ but rather ‘does assassinating him make Americans safer?’ The answer is clearly no.

In other words, the extra-judicial killing of people by the US government is justified if it makes Americans “safer.” This is a tacit endorsement of the policy of drone assassinations that was vastly expanded under the Obama administration—a policy that included the murder of US citizens.

At another point, the Times asks:

Would you agree to begin withdrawing American troops from the Korean peninsula?

The reply is:

No, not immediately. We would work closely with our South Korean partners to move toward peace on the Korean peninsula, which is the only way we will ultimately deal with the North Korean nuclear issue.

Sanders thus supports the continued presence of tens of thousands of US troops on the Korean peninsula, just as he supports the deployment of US forces more generally to assert the global interests of the American ruling class.

On Israel, Sanders calls for a continuation of the current level of US military and civilian aid and opposes the immediate return of the US embassy from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv.

On Russia, he entirely supports the Democratic Party’s McCarthyite anti-Russia campaign and lines up behind the right-wing basis of the Democrats’ failed impeachment drive against Trump:

Question: If Russia continues on its current course in Ukraine and other former Soviet states, should the United States regard it as an adversary, or even an enemy?

Answer: Yes.

Question: Should Russia be required to return Crimea to Ukraine before it is allowed back into the G-7?

Answer: Yes.

Finally, the Times asks the Sanders campaign its position on the National Security Strategy announced by the Trump administration at the beginning of 2018. The new doctrine declares that the focus of American foreign and military strategy has shifted from the “war on terror” to the preparation for war against its major rivals, naming in particular Russia and China.

In the following exchange, Sanders tacitly accepts the great power conflict framework of the National Security Strategy, attacking Trump from the right for failing to aggressively prosecute the conflict with Russia and China:

Question: President Trump’s national security strategy calls for shifting the focus of American foreign policy away from the Middle East and Afghanistan, and back to what it refers to as the ‘revisionist’ superpowers, Russia and China. Do you agree? Why or why not?

Answer: Despite its stated strategy, the Trump administration has never followed a coherent national security strategy. In fact, Trump has escalated tensions in the Middle East and put us on the brink of war with Iran, refused to hold Russia accountable for its interference in our elections and human rights abuses, has done nothing to address our unfair trade agreement with China that only benefits wealthy corporations, and has ignored China’s mass internment of Uighurs and its brutal repression of protesters in Hong Kong. Clearly, Trump is not a president we should be taking notes from. [Emphasis added].

In a recent interview Ro Khanna, a Democratic congressman and national co-chair of the Sanders campaign, assured Atlantic writer Uri Friedman that Sanders would continue provocative “freedom of the seas” navigation operations in the Persian Gulf and the South China Sea, while committing a Sanders administration to “maintain some [troop] presence” on the multitude of bases dotting “allied” countries from Japan to Germany.

Millions of workers, students and young people are presently attracted to Sanders because they have come to despise and oppose the vast social inequality, brutality and militarism of American society and correctly associate these evils with capitalism. However, they will soon learn through bitter experience that Sanders’s opposition to the “billionaire class” is no more real than his supposed opposition to war. His foreign policy is imperialist through and through, in line with the aggressive and militaristic policy of the Democratic Party and the Obama administration.

The Democrats’ differences with Trump on foreign policy, though bitter, are tactical. Both parties share the strategic orientation of asserting US global hegemony above all through force of arms.

No matter how much Sanders blusters about inequality, it is impossible to oppose the depredations of the ruling class at home while supporting its plunder and oppression abroad.

Sanders is no more an apostle of peace than he is a representative of the working class. Both in foreign and domestic policy, he is an instrument of the ruling class for channeling the growing movement of the working class and opposition to capitalism back behind the Democratic Party and the two-party system of capitalist rule in America.

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CHD Chairman, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., will lead the legal team with seasoned telecommunications and administrative law attorney Scott McCollough.

Children’s Health Defense (CHD) is leading a historic legal action against the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) for its refusal to review their 25 year old guidelines, and to promulgate scientific, human evidence-based radio frequency emissions (“RF”) rules that adequately protect public health from wireless technology radiation. The Petition contends the agency’s actions are capricious and not evidence-based. The Petition was filed on 2/2/2020 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The Petitioners include parents of children injured by wireless devices, a mother whose son died from a brain tumor from cell tower exposure, physicians who see the epidemic of sickness in their clinics and Professor David Carpenter, a renowned scientist.

“This action represents the first time in 25 years that we finally can expose the FCC fecklessness in court, and give those who have been injured by the FCC’s disregard for human health a voice,” says Dafna Tachover, CHD’s Director of Stop 5G & Wireless Harms.

In 1996, the FCC, responsible for regulating the safety of wireless technology, adopted guidelines which only protect consumers from thermal levels of wireless harm, ignoring substantial evidence of profound harms from non-thermal levels. The FCC hasn’t reviewed its guidelines since, despite clear scientific evidence and growing rates of RF related sickness.

In 2012, the General Accountability Office published a report recommending that the FCC re-assess its guidelines. As a result, in 2013, the FCC opened docket 13-84 asking for public comment. Despite overwhelming evidence in support of new rules submitted by hundreds of individuals and scientists, the FCC did nothing. On December 4, 2019, the FCC closed the docket and affirmed the adequacy of its guidelines without proper assessment. CHD’s action challenges that FCC decision.

The FCC’s obsolete guidelines and the false sense of safety they provide enabled the uncontrolled proliferation of wireless technology and the ongoing deployment of 5G, which will exponentially increase exposure to this harmful radiation.

CHD is a non-profit organization dedicated to ending the epidemic of children’s chronic health conditions. The organization recognizes that wireless technology radiation is a contributing factor to the exponential increase in sickness among children.

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And just like that, all those hopes and optimistic dreams that the notorious killing machine designed by clowns, supervised by monkeys known as the 737 MAX will be returning to the air around June, following recent “hopeful” comments by the FAA, have gone poof.

One day after Southwest said it is extending its 737 MAX cancellations through August 20, the largest US airline (by available seat miles) United Airlines, also said it was pulling the Boeing 737 MAX from its schedule until September 4. Why September 4th and not September 8th for example? Good question:

Boeing stock dipped modestly on the news, seemingly ignoring the fact that as of this moment, almost three-quarters of 2020 will pass without most major airlines flying the “cost-effective” airplane, a gap which will likely stretch into 2021 if not forever, because a far more important question than when the 737 MAX returns to duty is whether anyone will ever fly this notorious airplane again, whose history of opting for cost-efficiency over, say, the life expectancy of its passengers has repeatedly made the front pages of most media outlets.

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The Oregon Department of Energy has issued a notice of violation to a hazardous waste facility for accepting more than 2 million pounds of radioactive materials east of the Columbia River Gorge.

Chemical Waste Management, a subsidiary of Waste Management Inc., was illegally dumping radioactive materials it received from a North Dakota company, Goodnight Midstream, at its waste landfill near Arlington, Oregon.

Chemical Waste Management is the only hazardous waste landfill in Oregon and according to the ODOE, Oregon law prohibits the disposal of radioactive materials in the state.

“We received an inquiry from a citizen from North Dakota in September who was under the impression fracking waste from North Dakota was being disposed of in an Oregon landfill,” ODOE’s assistant director for nuclear safety Ken Niles said.

The agency found that Chemical Waste Management dumped nearly 1,284 tons of radioactive waste it received from Goodnight Midstream over a period of three years, totaling over 2.5 million pounds.

Goodnight Midstream provides brine water supply and recycling services to the oil and gas industry for fracking operations. The liquid that Chemical Waste Management had received had been in contact with rocks underground that contained radium, said ODOE’s nuclear waste remediation specialist Jeff Burright.

“Then they filtered that water so that they can reuse it, that radium was captured in what are known as filter socks, which are very long teabags if you will, and it accumulated there and what we’ve gathered is about 80% of the total waste consisted of these filter socks,” Burright said.

Oregon has a threshold of five picocuries per gram of radium 226. Picocuries are a measurement of the radioactivity in a liter of air.

“The waste that was received at Chemical Waste Management Arlington had a range of concentrations over the time running from just a few picocuries per gram up to the maximum in about one and half tons total was around 1,700 picocuries per gram,” Burright said.

Initially, Chemical Waste Management had no records of a relationship with Goodnight Midstream. But it was later confirmed that the North Dakota company contracted a third party, Oilfield Waste Logistics, to dispose of its solid waste. Shipping manifests showed that OWL was sending Goodnight Midstream’s waste to Arlington.

“OWL basically misrepresented the fact that this waste could come into Oregon. … In the manifest that they provided to Chemical Waste Management Arlington, it basically said that this waste does fit within Oregon’s regulations,” Niles said. “The other part of the problem is that Chemical Waste Management did not do their due diligence to ensure what they were being told by OWL was in fact accurate.”

ODOE’s notice of violation has directed Chemical Waste Management to prepare a risk assessment to develop a corrective action plan to prevent recurrence. This will also help determine the best and safest course of action for the waste that is already buried in the landfill near the Columbia River.

ODOE hasn’t issued any fines associated with the illegal dumping of radioactive waste. Officials said it doesn’t meet the criteria that would qualify for a fine. ODOE expects the risk assessment action plan to be submitted by the end of April.

“This is the first time that we’ve had an incident like this that we have become aware that radioactive material has been brought into the state and illegally disposed in violation of our rules,” Niles said.

Dan Serres from the Columbia Riverkeeper said the news of the illegal dumping of fracking waste is a serious violation of the public trust and it’s a huge risk for Oregonians.

“It’s seems unacceptable that Oregon can be used as a radioactive fracking waste dump for three years,” Serres said.

“Oregon is trying to move in the direction of clean energy and what this tells us is, it is urgently important to stop using fracked gas and fracked oil as quickly as possible, because of these health risks that come with fracking to workers and communities where this toxic material is being dumped,” Serres said.

Waste Management Inc. officials said in a written statement that they are cooperating with state regulators and are committed to improving the procedures they use to ensure they’re complying with Oregon law. They said they now send waste samples to an independent technical experts for analysis prior to accepting it.

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The Middle East: Ground Zero for Possible Global War?

February 17th, 2020 by Stephen Lendman

The UN Charter’s preamble explained that “the scourge of war…twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind” — referring to two global wars.

Is a third one coming at a time when today’s super-weapons make earlier ones seem like toys by comparison? 

Will the curse of Middle East oil escalate new millennium wars? Oil is a strategic source of world power. Controlling it is a way to control nations.

Middle East countries have over half the world’s proved reserves. Regional resource wars aim to control them.

Preemptive US wars have nothing to do with protecting national security at a time when the nation’s only threats are invented, a phony pretext to smash one nation after another in the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa, threatening others elsewhere.

Endless war in Syria rages. Israel is as war with the Syrian Arab Republic without declaring it — terror-bombing sites in the country time and again on the phony pretext of an Iranian threat that doesn’t exist.

Russia’s envoy to Damascus Alexander Yevimov slammed the Netanyahu regime, calling its terror-bombing strikes “provocative and very dangerous for the situation in Syria,” adding:

IDF attacks target “areas deep into Syria…even in residential areas in Damascus…civilians becom(ing) victims of” Israeli aggression.

Beside a flagrant “violation of Syrian sovereignty and the real threat to the lives of innocent people, all of this increases the possibility of a conflict with Syria and runs counter to efforts to achieve stability and a political settlement.”

Moscow reportedly warned the Netanyahu regime not to impede ongoing efforts by Syrian and Russian forces to liberate Idlib province and surrounding areas from US/Turkish supported jihadists.

On Wednesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov affirmed the right of Syria forces to combat “terrorists on its soil in Idlib.”

He accused Turkey of failing to “neutralize” jihadists in Idlib, breaching its Sochi agreement obligations.

According to Russia’s National Defense Management Center director Mikhail Mezentsev, US, NATO, Turkish and Israeli heavy and other weapons used by jihadists are found in areas liberated by Syrian forces.

Russia’s Defense Ministry criticized the Erdogan regime for deploying troops and heavy weapons in Idlib — on the phony pretext of defending Turkish security, facing no cross-border threats.

For the second time in a week, US/Turkish supported jihadists downed a Syrian helicopter.

They’re using US/Turkish-supplied shoulder-launched, man-portable, surface-to-air Manpad missiles able to down low-flying aircraft and helicopters.

Like the US, NATO, and Israel, the Erdogan regime is an enemy of regional peace and stability.

Its war minister Hulusi Akar falsely said “Turkish troops will use force against everyone who does not abide by the Idlib cease-fire, including radical (jihadist) groups” Ankara supports, he failed to explain.

Separately, Erdogan said “(w)e will use whatever tools necessary on the ground and in the air, without any hesitation” against Syrian forces and its allies.

Separately citing local sources, Southfront reported an increased Turkish military presence in the western Aleppo countryside near the Al-Atarib urban center.

Syrian forces are four km away. A possible confrontation between both sides looms in the area.

Confrontation between these countries has been no more than skirmishes, not war neither country wants and Russia is going all-out to prevent.

Government forces “repelled… another Turkish-led attack on its newly-established positions in the towns of Kafr Halab and Miznaz. Turkish-backed militants sustained heavy losses in the failed attack,” Southfront reported.

According to Russia’s Defense Ministry, Turkish claims about killing dozens of Syrian troops are “false.” No evidence supports this.

Russia’s reconciliation center in Turkey added:

“Such statements about ‘the shelling attacks’ on the Syrian government troops by the Turkish armed forces and, all the more so, about casualties among Syrian servicemen as a result of them, have nothing to do with reality.”

Idlib is one of four Syrian deescalation zones established in 2017 — guaranteed by Russia, Iran and Turkey.

Three are now controlled by Damascus, the fourth in Idlib and surrounding areas where Syria’s liberating struggle continues — supported by Russia and Iran, opposed by the US, NATO, Israel, and Turkey, along with thousands of heavily armed jihadists they support.

On Friday, AMN News reported heavy Russian aerial attacks on (US/Turkish supported) jihadists near the Syrian/Turkish border, adding:

Syrian forces shelled their positions with “heavy artillery” fire in Idlib’s northwest. A counteroffensive by jihadists was foiled. Government forces continue liberating more areas.

Separately on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif denounced the Trump regime’s “cowardly” assassination of General Qassem Soleimani — a freedom fighter in the forefront of combatting the scourge of US-supported terrorism.

Interviewed by NBC News, Zarif explained that things “were very close to a war because the (Trump regime) initiated an act of aggression against Iran in a very…cowardly way,” adding:

“They couldn’t confront Soleimani in the battlefield so they hit him during the dark of night through a drone attack on a car carrying him on a peace mission, which is beneath any dignified way of dealing with this” — killing Iraqi PMU commander Abu Mahdi Muhandis and others at the same time.

Geopolitical know-nothing Trump was manipulated to believe that eliminating Soleimani would benefit US security.

Polar opposite was and remains true. US rage for dominating the Middle East increases the chance of greater war than already, risking global war if things spin out of control.

What’s unthinkable in the nuclear age is possible because of US rage to control other nations, their resources and populations.

Hardliners running US foreign policy and their subservient allies made today the most perilous time in world history.

The risk of possible nuclear war is real by accident or design.

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

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

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Intelligence Spats: Australia, Britain and Huawei

February 17th, 2020 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

A note of fraternal tension has been registered between the United Kingdom and Australia.  It began with Britain’s decision to permit China’s technology giant Huawei a role in the construction of the country’s 5G network.  While the decision is qualified to non-core functions, as UK officials term it, the irritations to the United States and, it follows, Australia, have been far from negligible.   

Members of the US Congress have been clear that letting Huawei into the stables of security risks future trade deals.  US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on a visit to the UK, has been equally insistent on the dangers

“When you allow the information of your citizens of the national security information of your citizens to transit a network that the Chinese Communist party has a legal mandate to obtain, it creates risk.” 

In Munich attending an international security conference, US Defence Secretary Mark Esper warned that,

“Reliance on Chinese 5G vendors … could render our partners critical systems vulnerable to disruption, manipulation and espionage.” 

As for US President Donald Trump, the words “apoplectic” and “fury” figured in responding to the UK decision. 

Australian officials have relished their role in telling the old, long-in tooth Mother Country off.  Simon Gilding, director of the Australian Signals Directorate till December, suggested in The Strategist that the UK was putting its faith in “a flawed and outdated cybersecurity model to convince themselves that they can manage the risk that Chinese intelligence services could use Huawei’s access to UK telco networks to insert bad code.”

Gilding does not mince his words. “5G decisions reflect one of those quietly pivotal moments that crystallise a change in world affairs.”  The British decision had been “disappointing” in “doing the wrong thing” on the technology.  It had not considered, for instance, Australian testing in the field.  “I was,” he smugly recalled, “part of the team in the Australian Signals Directorate that tried to design a suite of cybersecurity controls that would give the government confidence that hostile intelligence services could not leverage their national vendors to gain access to our 5G networks.”  Measures of mitigation were designed with the express purpose of preventing a state actor from gaining access to the networks.  All failed.

The UK government has been attempting to reassure allies within the “Five Eyes” agreement that any security concerns are unjustified.  UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab spent a good deal of his time during this month’s visit to Canberra attempting to assuage members of the Federal Parliament Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees.  That effort seemed to fall flat. 

In a report that was published in the Sydney Morning Herald, Deputy Intelligence Committee Chair and Labor MP Anthony Byrne was irate, notably at Raab’s response that the Huawei decision was a “technical” if “difficult” matter, but hardly political.  “How would you feel,” Byrne is reported to have asked of Raab, “if the Russians laid down infrastructure in your own networks?  That’s how we feel about Huawei.” 

Officially, Byrne gave the impression that things had gone rather well in “a full and frank discussion regarding 5g, trade and strategic challenges.”  Privately, that same Byrne was cocksure, daring, even rude.  According to the source reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, “He basically said: ‘I’ll raise you my ASD [Australian Signals Directorate] against your GCHQ [Government Communications Headquarters].”  China, he argued, had become an “existential” threat to Australia, being both its largest trading partner and most formidable “security threat”.

Few others were privy to the discussions that took place between Raab and various Australian parliamentarians.  Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee’s Liberal MP Andrew Hastie was present, as was Foreign Affairs Committee chair, Liberal senator David Fawcett.  The other person to bear witness to discussions was the UK High Commissioner Vicki Treadell.

For Treadell, the matter was obvious.  Someone in the meeting had ratted.  As the ABC subsequently found out, “measured” and “stern” letters were duly sent from the High Commissioner’s Office to both committee chairs chiding them for the leaks.  Despite failing to confirm the existence of such letters, the UK Commission being supposedly “unable to comment on private briefings, or on any information pertaining to these private briefings”, the shells had been fired.

Feeling put out, Parliament’s intelligence and security committee cancelled a planned visit to the UK scheduled to take place in March, preferring the more reliable, anti-Huawei environs of Washington.  The official, anodyne explanation for the cancellations was put down to advice given by Australia’s High Commissioner in the UK “as he advised that counterpart committees in the UK have not yet reconstituted following the UK’s December election.” 

The reasons given to the ABC by a member of the intelligence committee proved more forthright.  “If this is the attitude of the British, we may as well visit the Americans who we can trust more on this stuff.”  A right royal spat, indeed, and one not without its juvenile connotations.

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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: Huawei’s stand at the 2019 Mobile World Congress. Photo: dpa / Andrej Sokolow

Trump’s new Middle East “Peace” Plan will redraw Israeli borders to exclude towns with large populations of Arab citizens, an attempt, writes Miko Peled, to force them down the totem pole to a place where their rights will be even more limited.

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Qalansawe, Palestine: one of ten towns slated by Donald’s Trump’s Middle East “Peace” Plan to be transferred from Israel to a future Palestinian state. To fully understand what this means, it is helpful to see Palestinians as though they exist within a totem pole that was created by Israel. There are different levels of existence into which Palestinians are born, levels that were determined by their oppressors, first the Zionist movement, and then the State of Israel. The refugees who live in the squalor of the camps in and around Palestine are at the bottom of the totem pole. Then, there are the Palestinians residing in areas of Palestine occupied by Israel in 1967 and referred to as The West Bank and Gaza. And then there are those who live within the original boundaries of Israel and possess Israeli citizenship – these are the ones slated for transfer. At the top sit Palestinians living abroad as equal citizens in countries across the globe.

“Forgotten Palestinians”

“Forgotten Palestinians,” this is the title of a book by Ilan Pappe, which describes in great detail the fate of the Palestinian citizens of Israel. Generally speaking, there are two points of view about the position of the Palestinian citizens of Israel: That of the oppressor, Israel, and that of the Palestinians themselves. Within Israel, there are two parallel conversations about this oppressed community which, it is worth mentioning, never took up arms and what resistance they have put up came as a result of the theft of their lands and destruction of their country and that was done through the political and cultural avenues afforded to them by the state. Depending on the period and the people engaged in the discussion, Palestinian citizens of Israel are either a fifth column or a thriving minority with all the rights of citizens. However, neither one of these is an accurate description.

Israel was never happy with the fact that there were Palestinians who remained within the boundaries of Palestine at all and certainly not within what became Israel in 1948. In efforts that began in the early twentieth century and intensified gradually until reaching a crescendo in the 1948 ethnic cleansing campaign, Zionist forces in Palestine did everything in their power to rid the country of its original people, the Palestinians.

Qalansawe Arab neighborhoods

After seven decades, Arab neighborhoods of Qalansawe remain underdeveloped. The city’s Arab residents are not given building permits or help to build infrastructure from the Israeli government, meanwhile thriving Jewish colonies nearby enjoy full government support. Photos | Miko Peled

By early 1949, when the actual boundaries of the newly formed state of Israel were determined in the ceasefire agreements with neighboring countries, there were only about 200,000 native Palestinians within the boundaries of the state. From that point on, until 1967, the talk of Palestinians was focused mainly on the refugees living in camps and around Palestine. After 1967, the conversation shifted and focus was placed on those living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Somehow, Palestinian citizens of Israel are rarely discussed.

Israel has gone to great lengths to prevent its Palestinian citizens from ever becoming, or even feeling equal to Jewish Israelis. One method used effectively by Israel is the segregation of schools. Because the State of Israel believes in the superiority of the Jewish citizens, everything from facilities to curriculum and from class sizes to budgets reflects the state’s desire to maintain inequality.

25 books

Perhaps due to the twenty-five books he read, Jared Kushner, President Trump’s Zionist son-in-law, included the forgotten Palestinian citizens of Israel in the plan that he put together and named, “Peace to Prosperity.” This plan, more commonly known as the “Deal of the Century,” includes a passage which would have been unthinkable in any plan before it, namely the transfer of residents of Palestinian towns with Israeli citizenship to another state, one that does not yet exist and will likely never exist, the future State of Palestine.

On page 13 of the plan, under the heading “Borders,” it says the following:

The Triangle Communities consist of Kafr Qara, Ar’ ara, Baha al-Gharbiyye, Umm al Fahm, Qalansawe, Tayibe, Kafr Qasim, Tira, Kafr Bara and Jaljulia. These communities, which largely self-identify as Palestinian, were originally designated to fall under Jordanian control during the negotiations of the Armistice Line of 1949, but ultimately were retained by Israel for military reasons that have since been mitigated. The Vision contemplates the possibility, subject to agreement of the parties that the borders of Israel will be redrawn such that the Triangle Communities become part of the State of Palestine. In this agreement, the civil rights of the residents of the triangle communities would be subject to the applicable laws and judicial rulings of the relevant authorities.

The residents of all the cities and towns mentioned here are citizens of the state of Israel. This proposal is not unlike suggesting that the U.S. Mexico border be redrawn and that all ethnically Mexican communities in the U.S. be stripped of their U.S. citizenship and become part of Mexico.

As for the claim that they were designated to fall under Jordanian control in 1949 “but ultimately were retained by Israel for military reasons,” this is a delicate way to explain that these communities were used as pawns in Israel’s drawing of its boundaries and now they will once again be used as pawns. They were not given a voice when the decision was made in 1949 to include them in Israel, and clearly, they have not been given a voice in this new plan.

Taking away people’s rights

In reality, this is an attempt to force Palestinian citizens of Israel down the totem pole to a place where their rights will be even more limited. Israel controls the lives of all Palestinians in one way or another and this plan intends to force the citizens of Israel into a reality where they have even fewer rights than they currently do because Israel has so determined it. The plan states correctly that these communities identify as Palestinians, which is not surprising because they are in fact, Palestinians. The plan proposes to transfer control over these areas to what will surely be tightly controlled Bantustans with little to no ability for the residents to determine their fate, for the sole purpose of making Israel more racially homogenous.

The game that is played here is called, “Let’s pretend there is a Palestinian state.” Well, there isn’t one and it isn’t likely there ever will be such a state that is separate from Israel. Any attempt to free the region from the terror that has ruled it for so long will require transforming Palestine from an apartheid regime and creating a real democracy with equal rights in its place.

James Baldwin once wrote about the United States that it is “A country that has told itself so many lies about its history, that in sober fact has yet to excavate its history from the rubble of romance.” This could not be truer when speaking about Israel.

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Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

Featured image: A sign stating ‘Danger, demolition. Entry is prohibited’ was placed by Israeli authorities on top of the rubble of the Khalialehs’ houses (MEE\Sondus Ewies)

First published in August 2017. Update, May 20, 2019

Author’s Note on the coronavirus

How does the coronavirus pandemic affect US-China trade.

How does the epidemic affect the US consumer economy which is largely import led. 

If US imports from China were to be significantly curtailed as a result of the pandemic, the impacts on US retail trade would be devastating. 

The same applies to trade restrictions. President Trump fails to understand that trade restrictions directed against China are largely detrimental to the U.S. economy. 

What Trump does not realize is that the trade deficit with China contributes to sustaining America’s retail economy, it also contributes to the growth of America’s GDP. Trade sanctions directed against China would immediately backlash against America.

China is not dependent on US  imports. Quite the opposite. America is an import led economy with a weak industrial and manufacturing base, heavily dependent on imports from China.

“Made in China” is the backbone of retail trade in the USA which indelibly sustains household consumption in virtually all major commodity categories from clothing, footwear, hardware, electronics, toys, jewellery, household fixtures, food, TV sets, mobile phones, etc.

Importing from China is a lucrative multi-trillion dollar operation, which could be disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. It is the source of tremendous profit and wealth in the US, because consumer  commodities imported from China’s low wage economy are often sold at the retail level more than ten times their factory price.

Production does not take place in the USA. The producers have given up production. The US trade deficit with China is instrumental in fuelling the profit driven consumer economy which relies on Made in China consumer goods.

A dozen designer shirts produced in China will sell at a factory price FOB at $36 a dozen ($3 dollars a shirt). Once they reach the shopping malls, each shirt will be sold at $30 or more, approximately ten times its factory price. Vast revenues accrue to wholesale and retail distributors. The US based “non-producers” reap the benefits of China’s low cost commodity production. (Michel Chossudovsky, The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order, Global Research, 2003).

Chinese policy makers are fully aware that the US economy is heavily dependent on “Made in China”.

And with an internal market of more than 1.4 billion people, coupled with a global export market, these veiled threats by President Trump will not be taken seriously in Beijing.

Michel Chossudovsky,  May 20, 2019, updated February 16, 2020,

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Washington threatened Beijing with a sanctions regime in 2017, in response to China’s increased bilateral commodity trade with North Korea. In recent developments, this has unfolded into an all out trade war between China and America. 

Initially, the US sanctions were not intended to be against the Chinese government: selected Chinese banks and trading companies involved in the financing of China-DPRK commodity trade would be potential targets of US reprisals.

Having lost patience with China, the Trump administration is studying new steps to starve North Korea of cash for its nuclear program, including an option that would infuriate Beijing: sanctions on Chinese companies that help keep the North’s economy afloat.

According to Chinese sources, China’s trade with the DPRK increased by 37.4 percent in the first quarter of 2017, in relation to the same period in 2016. China’s exports increased by 54.5 percent, with imports from the DPRK experiencing an 18.4 percent increase.

The insinuation was crystal clear: curtail your trade with North Korea, or else…

Coupled with the aggressive legislative sanctions “package” recently adopted by the US Congress directed against Russia, Iran and North Korea, Washington now threatens China in no uncertain terms.

Trump is demanding [2017] that Beijing relinquish its relationship with the DPRK, by unconditionally siding with Washington against Pyongyang. Washington has granted China six months “to prove that it is committed to preventing a nuclear-armed North Korea”, despite the fact that Beijing has expressed its firm opposition to the DPRK’s nuclear weapons program.

The political deadline is coupled with veiled threats that “if you do not comply”, punitive trade measures will be adopted which could result in the disruption of China’s exports to the United States.

Moreover, the White House is intent upon conducting “an investigation into China’s trade practices” focussing on alleged  violations of U.S. intellectual property rights. A “Section 301” investigation, named after a portion of the 1974 Trade Act is slated to be launched.

Following the completion of the investigation, Washington threatens to “impose steep tariffs on Chinese imports [into the US], rescind licenses for Chinese companies to do business in the United States, or take other measures, which could, “pave the way for the U.S. to impose sanctions on Chinese exporters or to further restrict the transfer of advanced technology to Chinese firms or to U.S.-China joint ventures.”

In formulating these veiled threats, the Trump administration should think twice. These measures would inevitably backlash on the U.S. economy.

China is not dependent on US  imports. Quite the opposite. America is an import led economy with a weak industrial and manufacturing base, heavily dependent on imports from the PRC.

Imagine what would happen if China following Washington’s threats decided from one day to the next to significantly curtail its “Made in China” commodity exports to the USA.

It would be absolutely devastating, disrupting the consumer economy, an economic and financial chaos.

“Made in China” is the backbone of retail trade which indelibly sustains household consumption in virtually all major commodity categories from clothing, footwear, hardware, electronics, toys, jewellery, household fixtures, food, TV sets, mobile phones, etc.  Ask the American consumer: The list is long. “China makes 7 out of every 10 cellphones sold Worldwide, as well as 12 and a half billion pairs of shoes’ (more than 60 percent of total World production). Moreover, China produces over 90% of the World’s computers and 45 percent of shipbuilding capacity (The Atlantic, August 2013)

A large share of goods displayed in America’s shopping malls, including major brands is “Made in China”.

“Made in China” also dominates the production of a wide range of industrial inputs, machinery, building materials, automotive, parts and accessories, etc. not to mention the extensive sub-contracting of Chinese companies on behalf of US conglomerates.

www.Made-In-China.com

China is America’s largest trading partner. According to US sources, trade in goods and services with China totalled an estimated $648.2 billion in 2016.

China’s commodity exports to the US totalled $462.8 billion dollars.

Import Led Growth

Importing from China is a lucrative multi-trillion dollar operation. It is the source of tremendous profit and wealth in the US, because consumer  commodities imported from China’s low wage economy are often sold at the retail level more than ten times their factory price.

Production does not take place in the USA. The producers have given up production. The US trade deficit with China is instrumental in fuelling the profit driven consumer economy which relies on Made in China consumer goods.

A dozen designer shirts produced in China will sell at a factory price FOB at $36 a dozen ($3 dollars a shirt). Once they reach the shopping malls, each shirt will be sold at $30 or more, approximately ten times its factory price. Vast revenues accrue to wholesale and retail distributors. The US based “non-producers” reap the benefits of China’s low cost commodity production. (Michel Chossudovsky, The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order, Global Research, 2003).

The import of commodities from China (in excess of 462 billion dollars) is conducive through the interplay of wholesale and retail markups (which contribute to value added) to a substantive increase in America’s GDP, without the need for commodity production. Without Chinese imports, the GDP rate of growth would be substantially lower.

What we are referring to is Import Led Growth. US businesses no longer need to produce, they subcontract with a Chinese partner.

And why is this occurring? Because America’s manufacturing industries  (in many sectors of production) has in course of the last forty years been closed down and relocated offshore (through subcontracting), to cheap labor locations in developing countries.

China’s economy is not only linked to industrial assembly, China increasingly constitutes a competitor and major exporter in a variety of  high technology sectors.

Image: Make America Great Again: Made in China

In Your Face Donald Trump!

In summary, this kind of economic blackmail on the part of the Trump administration against China does not work. It falls flat.

In turn, America is threatening both Russia and China militarily including the pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons. How will Russia and China respond to US threats?

While US sanctions against Russia have largely backlashed on the European Union, it is not excluded (although unlikely) that China could at some future date respond to US threats by impose economic sanctions against the USA.

In the short run, the US cannot relinquish its imports of Chinese manufactured goods. It would be economic suicide.

Laughing in Beijing

Chinese policy makers are fully aware that the US economy is heavily dependent on “Made in China”.

And with an internal market of more than 1.4 billion people, coupled with a global export market, these veiled US threats will not be taken seriously by Beijing.


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Coronavirus May Tip the Global Economy Into Recession?

February 17th, 2020 by Dr. Leon Tressell

As each day passes the numbers get worse for the impact of the Coronavirus. The numbers of people infected and who have died from the Coronavirus have already exceeded the Sars virus and look set to get much worse.

As if this wasn’t bad enough the Coronavirus threatens the global economy with a China led recession. What happens in China matters more than ever due to its huge role in the global economy. A few statistics serve to illustrate this.

China has the second largest economy in the world which accounts for 17% of global GDP while it has the largest share of global trade standing at 13.45%. China is by far the biggest manufacturer in the world with its factories generating $3.7 trillion of value in 2017, more than the U.S., UK, Germany and South Korea combined.

Coronavirus hits consumer spending in China

The cancellation of Chinese new year celebrations is estimated by Bloomberg to have delivered a $140 billion hit to the economy which won’t be recovered once the epidemic has passed. Small and medium sized businesses have been particularly hard hit.

Apparently, tourism, movies, restaurants and consumer spending during the new year period in 2019 accounted for 7% of GDP in the first quarter of 2019. This one off annual boost to the economy cannot be recaptured once the epidemic passes.

Figures just released give some idea of the economic impact of the Coronavirus on travel throughout the new year period. According to the Chinese ministry of transport there was an 82% fall in the number of trips taken compared to last year.

On the railways ticket sales saw a massive decline. Less than one tenth of the 2019 number were sold this year. Meanwhile, domestic airlines had cancelled 20 million tickets worth $2.86 billion.

This week sees a phased return to work of millions of migrant workers travelling back to large urban centres. A week after the officially sanctioned return to work over 27 million migrant workers have yet to return to travel.

Anecdotal evidence coming out of China indicates that consumer spending remains subdued due to the state of semi-lockdown prevailing in most of China’s major cities. Many ordinary people are afraid to leave the house and will only venture out for essential supplies. Never mind the 50 million people on full lock-down in Hebei province and 30 million in Zhejiang province.

Millions of small-medium businesses will be sorely tested by this huge drop in consumer demand never mind the impact upon foreign companies who make billions in sales in China’s domestic market.

The South China Morning Post notes the huge size of China’s domestic market which provides huge sales revenue for many foreign companies from Apple to German car makers.

“China’s consumer market – badly hit by the virus – is bigger than the US and European markets combined, with the e-commerce market alone worth US$615 billion in 2015, and while it is dominated by domestic vendors, it is significant for most internationally prominent brands.’’

Recent estimates suggest that smartphone sales could fall as much as 50% during the first quarter of 2020 while China’s shipment of smartphones are expected to decline between 30-50% during this period.

Car sales in China fell by a whopping 22% during January the biggest ever drop for this month. This is terrible news for both domestic and foreign car makers. Autovista Group, a European based analyst for the car industry has said this news may, “cause alarm among many manufacturers who pin their financial hopes on the [all important China-LT] market.’’

The China Passenger Car Association is predicting that car sales may fall more than 30% in February.

Car sales in China have fallen for the last 3 years which indicates a significant fall in consumer purchasing power due to rapidly rising wealth inequality.

China’s middle classes have developed a taste for foreign tourism in the last decade and now account for $23 billion a month which represents around 16% of tourism spending worldwide. One estimate reckons that foreign tourist destinations are losing at $4.6 billion a month due to the Coronavirus while major airlines, from Cathay Pacific, America Airlines, British Airways and Lufthansa are making losses leading to them cancelling flights to China.

The Economic Intelligence Unit estimates that China’s outbound tourism will not recover until 2021 leading to a global loss of $80 billion. Many Chinese people start booking holidays after the lunar new year but this year that is just not happening.

As if this wasn’t bad enough the Chinese people are also struggling with rapidly rising inflation. Year on year inflation rose by 5.4% while January saw a monthly rise of 1.4% compared to last December. Year on year food prices went up by a whopping 20.6% while consumer prices rose by 7.7%. Food prices from December 2019 to January 2020 rose 4.4%.

It remains to be seen how the epidemic will affect prices over the next few months but it would not be surprising if inflation spiked higher due to the closure of large chunks of the economy. When demand exceeds supply it often results in higher prices.

Threat of widespread job losses in 2020

In December 2019 central government instructed local authorities to prepare for possible large scale job losses in 2020. The executive meeting of China’s State Council on 11 February declared that a top priority during the epidemic was to, “Avoid massive lay-offs, and encourage local governments to aid enterprises in stabilizing employment with their unemployment insurance fund balance and other funds.’’

Social stability is seen as an essential task at a time of national crisis.

China’s service sector, which has absorbed many of the job losses that have arisen from the restructuring of state run heavy manufacturing, accounted for over half of all employment in 2019. It has been hard hit by the lock downs gripping large sections of the country prompting fears that the service sector will suffer many redundancies as businesses close due to a huge decline in customers.

According to central government figures in 2018 there were 63 million small businesses employing over 150 million people.

In 2003 the Sars outbreak led to 8 million job losses when China’s economy was booming following its accession to the World Trade Organisation. Before the outbreak of the current epidemic China’s economy was slowing leading to a series of mini stimulus measures by the government and People’s Bank of China (PBOC) during 2019.

The central government in Beijing is very fearful of the impact of large scale job losses on social stability at a time when it has come under a lot of public criticism due to its handling of the crisis. Tens of millions of small businesses in China face closure over the next two-three months unless the epidemic dies down and the economy is fully opened up again.

According to central government figures in 2018 there were 63 million small businesses employing over 150 million people.

The South China Morning Post has carried a series of reports detailing the job losses, wage cuts and reduced hours already faced by many people in the small business sector.

President Xi this week has said that local government must work to, ‘ensure the general stability of the job market.’ Meanwhile, Premier Li has declared that China must avoid ‘large-scale’ job cuts.

National government has introduced measures to ‘stabilise employment’ including the injection of 1.2 trillion ($173 billion) into financial markets and cutting interest rates to encourage bank loans to small-medium businesses and the public. Besides this, it has brought in tax cuts for the service sector and subsidies to small-medium businesses who do not lay off more than 5.5 % of their staff.

In this last week, China’s central bank has injected another $77 billion into the monetary system. Banks are expected to offer loans to struggling small and medium sized businesses. Apparently, companies will be eligible for subsidies, “to the extent that a “small increase” of non-performing loans owed to banks will be “tolerated.”

Local authorities are introducing a series of emergency measures ranging from reducing rents to postponing social security contributions.

Many analysts and small business are saying that these emergency measures are not enough to prevent mass closures of small businesses over the next 2-3 months. It is feared that the financial measures will not trickle down in time to save many small-medium businesses from closure.

One financial analysts, Tang Dajie from the China Enterprise Institute, sums up the opinion of many when he said that,“a large batch of firms could die” this spring before the measures from central government trickle down. He said that China’s economy needs ‘cardiotonics’. In other words measures similar to the drugs used to treat heart failure.

Meanwhile, China’s critical manufacturing sector is facing a lot of economic pain.

Tens of thousands of factories have been closed in China for several weeks. The Wall Street Journal has reported on the struggle facing China’s factories to resume operation despite government authorization for a mass return to work. Many migrant workers are staying put in their home towns/villages or face quarantine once they return to the cities where they work in the manufacturing hubs of China.

The return to work does not include prosperous regions such as Zhejiang which is close to Shanghai. It has a population of over 30 million which is still in full lock-down. Businesses are closed until at least 18 February while all public transport has stopped. Even funerals are banned.

Hubei province, at the epicentre of the Coronavirus outbreak, with a population over 50 million is still closed for business. It produces a quarter of all cars made in China. All told industry analysts estimate that around 435,00 fewer cars will be produced in China this year. Of course. That may change depending on when the outbreak fully passes.

Disruption of global supply chains

Besides cars there are over 70 factories in Hubei producing essential components, such as lighting, braking and electrical parts, for foreign car manufacturers.

Car factories outside of China are closing due to China’s central role in supply chains.

Hyundai closed all of its car factories in South Korea, which include the world’s largest car factory at its Ulsan complex, due to a shortage of wiring-parts that are supplied by China. This has led to the temporary lay off of 25,000 workers. This was costing Hyundai an eye-watering $500 million a week.

Latest reports suggest that Hyundai will reopen all its car plants next week as some key Chinese suppliers had resumed production this week.

Meanwhile, Nissan is closing several car plants due to a shortage of essential parts that are made in China.

Car manufacturers in the EU and U.S. warn they are not far behind due to a shortage of critical parts that are made in China. This will have painful consequences for these car manufacturers considering that China has the world’s largest market for cars.

Global economy/trade being affected

Besides, the huge impact of the virus epidemic to China it also becoming increasingly apparent that the global trade is being affected by Coronavirus pandemic. This is most graphically illustrated by the impact upon global container shipping. This is likely to lead to months of delivery delays for many companies. 80% of of world goods trade by volume is transported by sea. Everything from clothes to cars, electronic products and oil are shipped in containers.

Alex Longley in a piece for Bloomberg has observed that:

“February 2020 will come to be remembered as a period of historic disruption to physical supply chains the world over, as the coronavirus wrecks trade.’’

Many ships are stuck in Chinese ports awaiting loading/unloading while many can’t get into the ports. Shanghai and Hong Kong both reported that only 50% of dock workers returned to work last Monday. Meanwhile, many cargo ships returning home from China are stuck in ‘’floating quarantine zones’’ as seen in Australia and Singapore.

Giant shipping companies such as Maersk. MSC Mediterranena, Hapag-Lloyd and CNA_GGM have reduced the number of vessels on routes to China. Denmark-based maritime data provider Sea-Intelligence said this Monday that over 350,00 container boxes had been removed from global trade networks since the outbreak of the Coronavirus amounting to $350 million a week in lost volumes.

Another alarm bell for the global economy is the impact of weakened demand for raw materials from China’s consumers and industries. Dry bulk shipping is being hard hit due to much lower demand for important commodities such oil, iron ore and copper.

Oil prices have fallen by 20% over the last month reflecting the 20% fall in China’s daily oil consumption. Industrial metals such as copper and iron ore have also seen double digit falls in price.

China’s insatiable demand for oil and industrial metals since 2008 has played a major factor in helping lift the global economy out of recession. The decline in China’s demand for these essential commodities does not bode well for the global economy which was slowing down throughout 2019.

The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) oil demand report for 2020 makes for grim reading. In 2019 China accounted for more than 75% of oil demand growth as consumption from OECD nations declined. The lock down of China’s flat lining economy will have a major impact upon both OPEC and American shale oil producers. The IEA’s report states:

“The consequences of Covid-19 for global oil demand will be significant. Demand is now expected to contract by 435 kb/d in 1Q20, the first quarterly decrease in more than a decade. For 2020 as a whole, we have reduced our global growth forecast by 365 kb/d to 825 kb/d, the lowest since 2011.’’

The report concludes that OPEC nations will be forced into making further cuts to production hitting their main sources of income:

“Now, the risk posed by the Covid-19 crisis has prompted the OPEC+ countries to consider an additional cut to oil production of 0.6 mb/d as an emergency measure on top of the 1.7 mb/d already pledged.’’

The impact on America’s shale revolution could be substantial considering that both independent and major oil producers are not generating any free cash flow and are surviving due to a massive build up of debt that totals over $200 billion. $40 billion of that debt matures in 2020. The IEA report suggests:

“Lower oil prices, if sustained, are also bad news for highly responsive US oil companies, but we are unlikely to see an impact on output growth until later in the year. The effect of the Covid-19 crisis on the wider economy means that it will be difficult for consumers to feel the benefit of lower oil prices.’’

Numerous reports are emerging of the impact of China’s economic woes upon America. U.S. exporters are set to see an 8% fall in exports this year despite the phase 1 trade deal leading J.P Morgan to estimate that the Coronavirus will knock GDP down by 0.25% to a mere 1% growth in 2020.

China’s economy was slowing down before the virus epidemic

The slowdown of China’s economy during 2019 is shown by the falling profits of industrial companies which were down 3.3% during 2019. It is further illustrated by figures from the Purchasing Managers Index (PMI’s).

PMI’s provide important insights into the state of an economy and have the power to move financial markets. If they give a reading of over 50 it indicates future growth or expansion compared to the previous month while a reading of below 50 suggests contraction.

In January the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed that China’s January PMI figure to be 50.0 down 0.2% from December 2019. The NBS press release, issued on 3 February, breaks the figures down further suggesting that large and medium manufacturers were hovering above the recession level of 50 while small manufacturers were already in recession territory:

“… the PMI of large-sized enterprise was 50.4 percent, down by 0.2 percent point from last month; that of medium-sized enterprises was 50.1 percent, 1.3 percentage points of lower than last month. … The PMI of small-sized enterprises was 48.6 percent, 1.4 percentage points higher than last month and stayed below the [recessionary-LT] threshold.’’

The non-manufacturing sector fared slightly better with a PMI of 53.1. Yet the new orders index for this sector was 50.6 and the employment index was 48.6.’’

China’s economy may slip into recession this year

The battering that China’s economy is taking across all sectors from the Coronavirus is leading many economists to substantially lower estimates for the country’s GDP growth this year. According to a Reuters poll of 40 economists from around the world China’s GDP growth for the first quarter is expected to slow to 4.5%. This expected to drag the full year GDP rate to 5.5% which would be slowest since 1990.

Some economists are even more pessimistic. Freya Beamish, chief Asia economist at Pantheon in London estimates that first quarter GDP could be a below 2%.

Most of the financial media and the Chinese government itself are making rosy forecasts that China’s economy will rebound and quickly makes up the losses from the first quarter once the Coronavirus epidemic dies down.

However, not all economists are confident of this considering China’s growing array of problems before the outbreak of the Coronavirus. These range from American tariffs to massive levels of corporate and consumer debt, rapidly rising income inequality, declining corporate profits, falling industrial production and the rising number of industrial disputes in the service sector.

Iris Pang economist at ING in Hong Kong has stated:

We do not expect a speedy recovery for the economy, even in the unlikely event that there are no new confirmed cases. After the coronavirus has been contained, it may still take four quarters to see a full recovery.”

This pessimistic assessment is echoed by the CEO of China’s most valuable company Daniel Zhang of e-commerce giant Alibaba. He warned of the dangers that the pandemic poses to both China and the global economy. He called the virus a “black swan’’ event:

“The [coronavirus] outbreak is having significant impact on China’s economy, and may potentially affect the global economy. It will present near-term challenges to the development of Alibaba’s business across the board.”

Alibaba’s Chief Financial Officer Maggie Wu added to the gloom when she said that revenue’s in the first quarter of 2020 will be “significantly’’ negative.

Bloomberg notes that the Coronavirus is ‘Bringing Alibaba to its knees’ and that the companies biggest division was ‘already sliding’. It concludes that the Coronavirus may deal a ‘knockout blow’ to China’s most valuable company whose financial health is seen as a barometer for the wider economy.

A steep contraction of China’s economy during 2020 has grave consequences for the global economy beyond disruptions to supply chains. Global growth since the 2008 economic recession has been heavily dependent on China.

David Dodwell, executive director of the trade policy think-tank Hong Kong-APEC Trade Policy Study Group has noted:

“This is significant not just for Beijing, because Chinese growth has been by far the largest contributor to global growth since the 2008 global financial crisis. At its peak in 2012 and 2013, China’s growth in dollar terms accounted for 58 per cent and 48 per cent of global growth respectively. Even in 2017, it accounted for 23.5 per cent of global GDP growth, in 2018 almost 30 per cent, and last year an estimated 39 per cent.’’

Beijing’s ability to continue being the engine of global growth is questionable considering the array of problems its faces both domestically and on the global front. In particular its $41 trillion debt pile, of which $1.5 trillion is considered as distressed bad debt, are ticking time bombs hanging over the economy. This is considered as dangerous and unsustainable by many economists and has been acknowledged as such by the CCP government hence its efforts at deleveraging the economy in recent years.

In 2008 China kick started the global economy by its $586 billion stimulus programme. Its ability to do something similar in 2020 to rescue the economy from the effects of the Coronavirus maybe constrained by its huge debt problems.

In the past it was widely acknowledged that when America’s economy sneezed the rest of the global economy caught a cold. It could be argued that this equally applies to China now. Its contribution to the global economy is so vast that a downturn in its economy this year may be enough to tip the world into recession.

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Boris Johnson, like Trump, is a phony populist. His political stepping stone to the position of PM was Brexit. He is a British blue blood raised au pair in the bucolic English countryside. Johnson identifies as a “conservative” but holds mandatory liberal social beliefs, including the sacred touchstone, LGBT “rights” (above and beyond the natural rights every human on the planet is born with). 

The political class in the United “Kingdom” is serious about fully eliminating natural rights. The British state plans to squash the right of the British people to speak their minds, an effort headed up by a woman who has not held a real job her entire life. 

“Dame” Melanie Dawes is a career “civil servant” so valuable to the state she was awarded the “Honorable” Order of the Bath, a prize lorded over by the “Sovereign,” Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles. She was recently appointed boss at the UK telecoms regulator Ofcom and will preside over the organization’s “Online Harms” legislation designed to strip not only Brits of the right to disagree with the state but billions of people abroad as the law will punish social media giants for allowing the politically and socially incorrect to post online. 

The control freaks in Parliament are slavering in anticipation over the effort to make sure Brits—or anyone else on social media—tow the line. 

Mark Zuckerberg and the other social media billionaires realize allowing free speech on their platforms will result in the state stealing their money—or even throwing them in prison—and they will shut down any and all accounts not following Ofcom’s new “rules.”

Naturally, this effort to shut down political opposition is masquerading as a noble effort to protect the children. 

The BBC, a long-standing propaganda conduit established by “Royal Charter,” reported on Wednesday:

Ofcom will have the power to make tech firms responsible for protecting people from harmful content such as violence, terrorism, cyber-bullying and child abuse—and platforms will need to ensure that content is removed quickly.

Once upon a time, it was the responsibility of parents to shield and protect their children from harmful content, now that responsibility has been taken up by the state and a legion of bureaucrats, “dames,” “sirs,” “baronesses,” “lords,” and associated “honorable” control freaks and sociopaths in the upper echelon of the British government. The connected effort to silence the plebs and commoners is marching under a banner calling for protecting the children (state sociopaths love this meme—only criminals oppose protecting the children). 

Julian Knight, chair elect of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee which scrutinises social media companies, called for “a muscular approach” to regulation.

“That means more than a hefty fine—it means having the clout to disrupt the activities of businesses that fail to comply, and ultimately, the threat of a prison sentence for breaking the law,” he said.

In a statement, Facebook said it had “long called” for new regulation, and said it was “looking forward to carrying on the discussion” with the government and wider industry.

Ah, yes, the “muscular approach,” the same approach used to punish Julian Assange for the crime of exposing the murderous character of the USG. He is being tortured and systematically reprogrammed in the UK’s Belmarsh prison. 

Other states are in the process of sanitizing the internet, making sure fact-checking the stream of lies and misinformation put out by various ministries of truth will no longer be tolerated. 

Germany introduced the NetzDG Law in 2018, which states that social media platforms with more than two million registered German users have to review and remove illegal content within 24 hours of being posted or face fines of up to €50m (£42m).

Australia passed the Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material Act in April 2019, introducing criminal penalties for social media companies, possible jail sentences for tech executives for up to three years and financial penalties worth up to 10% of a company’s global turnover.

China blocks many western tech giants including Twitter, Google and Facebook, and the state monitors Chinese social apps for politically sensitive content.

Indeed, China—the largest and most successful authoritarian state in the world—is the model for not only the end of open and free internet but for the establishment of a police and surveillance state as well. David Rockefeller loved Mao’s approach to controlling the people.

There is no more serious risk to “young people’s health” than the state itself—its wars, its rigged financial and political structures, and myriad other serious social and environmental issues created and exacerbated by self-serving sociopaths who claim to be “civil servants” rather than self-seeking water carriers for a parasitical and violent state. 

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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.

Featured image is from TruePublica

Read the list here

After years of unexplained delays, the United Nations this week released a list of over 100 companies with ties to illegal Israeli settler colonies in the occupied West Bank of Palestine.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the UN Human Rights Office identified 112 businesses profiting from the Jews-only settlements. Of those, 94 are based in Israel, while 18 are headquartered in countries including the United States, United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Thailand. The UN report is a response to a 2016 United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) resolution calling for a “database for all businesses engaged in specific activities related to Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory.”

US Companies Listed

Most of the US companies listed in the report are travel-related websites, including Airbnb, Expedia, TripAdvisor and Booking Holdings. Last April, Airbnb sparked global outrage after it reversed an earlier decision to delist some 200 properties rented by Israeli colonists in the illegally-occupied West Bank. The San Francisco-based company said it would donate any proceeds from such bookings to international humanitarian aid groups. The other travel booking sites named in the UN report also offer reservations at properties in settlements.

Data communications and telecommunications equipment provider Motorola Solutions and multinational branded consumer foods giant General Mills are also listed.

In 2005, Motorola Solutions won a contract from the Israeli Ministry of Defense to provide “virtual fences” for Israeli settlements. The MotoEagle Surveillance system consists of radar and cameras that detect movement outside the settlements and is installed in 25 of the unlawful colonies. The system is also used in the West Bank separation barrier, called the “apartheid wall” by many critics. Additionally, Motorola has developed the Mountain Rose smartphone communication system for Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank. Some $50 million for the smartphone system has been funded by American taxpayers via US military aid to Israel.

Minneapolis-based General Mills is listed due to a factory in an Israeli settlement industrial zone where Pillsbury bakery products are made. A company spokeswoman told NPR that it employs both Palestinians and Israelis at the factory, and that it operates in “compliance with labor and human rights laws.” However, that cannot be possible because the both the settlements and occupation are illegal under international law.

Occupation Is a Crime

Both Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the International Criminal Court (ICC) Rome Statute prohibit such activity. According to Article 8(2) of the Rome Statute, “the transfer, directly or indirectly, by an occupying power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies, or the deportation or transfer of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory” are unlawful. According to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, more than 620,000 Jews currently reside in around 140 settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. While Israel grants every Jew in the world the right to settle in Israel, it has – against UN resolutions and international law – refused to allow the return any of the 5 million Palestinian refugees resulting from the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Arabs from their homes during the creation of Israel in 1948-49.

The international community has long condemned Israel for both the occupation and settlements. The UN Fact-Finding Mission on Israeli Settlements found “a multitude of the human rights of the Palestinians are violated in various forms and ways due to the existence of the settlements” and that “Israel is committing serious breaches of its obligations under the right to self-determination and under humanitarian law.” Last December, the International Criminal Court (ICC) found sufficient evidence to investigate possible Israeli war crimes in the occupied territories and Gaza, as well as crimes committed by Palestinian resistance groups including Gaza-based Hamas. Even the United States, Israel’s main benefactor and defender, recognized the illegality of the settlements from 1978 until the Donald Trump administration unilaterally determined last November that they do not violate international law.

Settlements = Apartheid

Prominent international critics have called Israel’s Jews-only settlements, as well as segregated roads and other infrastructure, a form of apartheid. Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu, the South African religious and civil rights icon who helped lead his country’s fight against the apartheid regime imposed by its former white supremacist government, has repeatedly called Israel an “apartheid state” and has voiced strong backing for the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, support for which has been outlawed in many places in the United States and beyond. Former US president Jimmy Carter, who brokered the historic 1978 peace accord between Israel and Egypt, accused Israel of “worse… apartheid than we witnessed even in South Africa.”

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki hailed the UN report as a “victory for international law.” The global NGO Human Rights Watch saidthat the report “should put all companies on notice: to do business with illegal settlements is to aid in the commission of war crimes.” Meanwhile, Israel slammed the database as “shameful.” Yesha Council, the main body representing Jewish settlers, said the list has “clear anti-Semitic features,” a common slur employed by Israel supporters against those, including Jews, who criticize Israeli policies and actions. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was recently indicted on corruption, fraud and breach of trust charges, vowed to annex more settlements “with the agreement of the Americans.” Netanyahu added that such a move would “not depend on the agreement of the Palestinians.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also blasted the database, asserting that “its publication only confirms the unrelenting anti-Israel bias” at the UN. “Attempts to isolate Israel run counter to all of our efforts to build conditions conducive to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that lead to a comprehensive and enduring peace,” Pompeo added.

However, the recently-announced Middle East “peace plan” drafted by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner – largely a plagiarized Israeli plan from 40 years ago – has been roundly rejected by Palestinian leadership, which earlier this month cut ties with Israel and the US over the proposal. Under the plan, Israel would gain control over large areas of the West Bank, Jerusalem would fall completely under Israeli control and Jewish colonists would remain in their illegal settlements. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa comparedthe proposal to the “history that we went through” during the apartheid era.

An Incomplete List

The authors of the UN list acknowledge that it is not comprehensive. The “database does not cover all business activity related to settlements, and does not extend to wider business activity in the occupied Palestinian territory that may raise human rights concerns,” the report states. For example, France-based insurance multination AXA is heavily invested in Israeli banks that fund settlements, as well as Israeli arms manufacturers whose weapons are used to kill and oppress Palestinians. Sabra, a hummus and dip maker partially owned by PepsiCo, technology giant Hewlett Packard and the home beverage carbonation company SodaStream – also owned by PepsiCo – are among the many other companies identified by BDS as complicit in Israeli crimes in Palestine. The BDS National Committee also said that Caterpillar, G4S, Hyundai Heavy Industries and Volvo belong on the list.

“It is high time for all public institutions, city councils, churches, trade unions, cultural organizations, universities, investment funds, and others to stop contracting, procuring from or investing in any of the companies on the UN list of shame, to avoid complicity in Israel’s settlement enterprise,” BDS National Committee said in a statement. “The BDS movement for Palestinian rights will continue our peaceful struggle, supported by people of conscience worldwide, for freedom, justice, equality and for ending all complicity in Israel’s decades-old regime of military occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid.”

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Brett Wilkins is editor-at-large for US news at Digital Journal. Based in San Francisco, his work covers issues of social justice, human rights and war and peace.

Featured image: Open wound of Ivan Rivera, a Spanish activist (Photo: ISM)

In Turkey, it is by now a good tradition to threaten Syria with a war every time when luckless Idlib rebels suffer another military defeat from the Syrian Army. This week was no exception. Recept Tayip Erdogan spearheaded the choir of threats on February 12 by repeating that the Syrians should withdraw from all the areas (in told over 2,000km2) retaken from the opposition. He vowed to “hit regime forces everywhere” if Turkish soldiers are harmed. It is worth noting that this time loud words came amid some actions.

On February 10 and February 12, al-Qaeda forces that mainstream media modestly calls “opposition and anti-regime armed groups” conducted two large-scale attacks on positions of government forces. Turkish artillery units, special forces and military advisers directly supported both of the attacks. Idlib groups used Turkish-supplied military equipment and weapons en mass.

The first attack took place in eastern Idlib with an aim of capturing the village of Nayrab west of Saraqib. The Turkish Defense Ministry even announced that ‘regime forces’ had fled the village. Nevertheless, 5 killed and 5 injured Turkish soldiers became the only real results of the attack. Pro-government sources claimed that 40 militants were also killed, but this number remains unconfirmed. On the same day, a Turkish-supplied MANPAD was used to shoot down a Syrian military helicopter. After the February 10 clashes, the official number of Turkish casualties in Idlib – 14 dead and 45 injured.

The February 12 attack took place in western Aleppo and was aimed at hindering the Syrian Army progress in the M5 area. Evil dictator Bashar al-Assad wants to reopen the Damascus-Aleppo highway. So, forces of democracy just could not leave this unanswered. Unfortunately, for them the attack failed and Syrian forces restored full control over the M5 capturing a number of nearby points.

Furthermore, they have started creating a foothold for an advance on Artaib. A few other encounters initiated by Idlib groups resulted in no changes on the frontline. At the same time, Idlib groups launched dozens of ATGM strikes.

The Turkish Defense Ministry compensated setbacks on the ground with a powerful counter-attack on Twitter claiming hundreds of Syrian personnel killed. The US and NATO vowed to support Turkey, but so far they have limited this support to public encouragement for further military actions in Idlib.

The interesting thing is that the Russian side played into the hands of the Turkish media campaign claiming that 400 Syrian personnel were killed and 900 others were injured during the past month. These numbers as well as those provided by Turkey remain very questionable. Most likely, Moscow decided to help Ankara to save face amid the apparent military failure in Idlib. If Turkey does not wage a full-scale war on Syria, it will not be able to change the frontline to its own favor. However, the cost of this war will be too big. So, Erdogan may opt to declare that the Syrian Army standing on the M5 just a few kilometers away from Idlib city is a big success and accept a new ceasefire.

On February 12, a US military patrol was blocked and confronted by angry locals in the province of Qamishli. At some moment, US troops found themselves in an intense firefight with the villagers. According to reports from local sources, it started after the US troops had shot and killed a teenager participating in the protest. The incident happened near a checkpoint of the Syrian Army. So, pro-US Kurdish media sources immediately claimed that the angry villages were sheep-dipped agents of the ‘Assad regime’. The Pentagon accidentally forgot to mention the role of the Syrian Army and the Russians in the victorious statement on the encounter. Videos showing Syrian and Russian forces that intervened in the hostilities, put an end to the violence and allowed the US patrol to withdraw were apparently computer generated images created by hackers in the Kremlin basement.

Late on February 13, the Israeli Air Force carried out a new wave of airstrikes on Damascus targeting the city’s international airport and the region of Eastern Ghouta. Likely, Mr. Netanyahu forgot his password to Twitter. So, he decided to support fancy bearded Idlib hipsters with traditional Israeli actions.

The Syrian conflict does not seem to be nearing any end.

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Watchdog group Western Values Project said Friday that audio it obtained of a June 2019 event at Trump’s Interior Department provides more evidence that public lands are under threat of being privatized by the former reality star and his crew of “anti-public land zealots.”

The event (pdf) in question was the American Agri-Women Symposium entitled “Federal Land Policies: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” which took place at Interior’s Sidney Yates Auditorium. Myron Ebell—the climate crisis-denying former head of President Trump’s EPA transition team who serves as head of environmental and energy policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute—was keynote speaker.

HuffPost, with whom Western Values Project shared the video, described the remarks as “a 40-minute rambling assault” on the agency where the event was taking place.

As HuffPost reported, two other high level Interior officials also gave speeches at the symposium: Brenda Burman, commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, and Andrea Travnicek, deputy assistant secretary of land and minerals management.

Ebell was introduced by the Interior Deparment’s Susan Combs, Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management, and Budget. Combs is an anti-government, Endangered Species Act foe who’s taken in as much as $2.1 million from oil and gas royalties on her property.

In his remarks, Ebell took swipes at the Land and Water Conservation Fund and National Park Service and suggested the government has “a constant incentive to fail.”

Privatization, he made clear, is the apporach he favored for federal lands. From HuffPost:

“I think the real solution to the federal lands is eventually to either transfer them to the states or,” he paused to acknowledge two lawmaker friends who don’t support the second option he was about to mention, “privatize them, put them into private ownership.”

He shared a Power Point Presentation that included his desire—since fulfilled by the Trump administration—to weaken the Endangered Species Act.

HuffPost added:

Shifting to lands already under federal control, Ebell fumbled to locate a slide about transferring and selling off lands in the West. Undeterred, he declared that the “ultimate solution” was being championed by Ken Ivory, a former Republican state representative from Utah and longtime leader of the pro-land-transfer movement, and the American Lands Council. The Utah-based nonprofit, which Ivory co-founded in 2012 and led until 2016, advocates for the “timely and orderly transfer of federal public lands to willing states for local control that will provide better public access, better environmental health, and better economic productivity.”

Ebell praised Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, a former fossil fuel lobbyist, and his deregularly approach. Ebell also confirmed that he’d met with Bernhardt during “chance encounters” at the deparment—a phrasing Western Values Project said could be evidence of Bernhardt’s strategy for keeping secret his meetings with ethicical question-posing figures.

“It is clear that selling off and privatizing America’s public lands has been part of the Trump administration’s agenda since day one. Now, with the completion of historic rollbacks to public land protections, all at the behest of their corporate pals, appeasing anti-public land zealots is next up on the list,” said Jayson O’Neill, deputy director of Western Values Project, in a statement.

“This is another indicator that if President Trump and Secretary Bernhardt are given enough time, the wholesale transfer and privatization of America’s public lands will happen in the blink of an eye. Once our public lands are gone,” he warned, “they’re gone for good.”

From Common Dreams: Our work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.

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US Undeclared War on China by Other Means

February 17th, 2020 by Stephen Lendman

Both right wings of the US one-party state seek control over other nations, their resources and populations — what the scourge of imperialism is all about.

Nations topping the US target list for regime change include Iran for its huge hydrocarbon resources and because it’s Israel’s main regional rival.

Russia and China matter most because of their political, economic, and/or military power on the world stage.

Days earlier, Pompeo falsely accused China of “repression…unfair competition…predatory economic practices, (and) a more aggressive military posture” — all of the above defining how the US operates.

China, in contrast, seeks cooperative relations with other countries, at war with none — while the US wages war on humanity at home and abroad globally.

China’s official People’s Daily slammed Pompeo’s remarks as “despicable lie(s)…disregard(ing) the history and reality of the ties between” both countries, adding:

He demeaned China as it’s combatting a large-scale coronavirus outbreak that officially infected over 69,000 people, killed nearly 1,700, the country’s economy greatly affected by what’s going on.

At the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Trump regime war secretary Esper repeated Pompeo’s Big Lies, adding a few of his own.

He falsely accused China of “intimidat(ing) its neighbors” — how the US operates, not Beijing.

He lied saying China is ‘heading faster and further in the wrong direction, (is) heavy-handed,” and is challenging what he called the “international rules-based order” — code language for demanding China and other nations subordinate their sovereign rights to US interests.

Like other Trump regime officials, he falsely claimed Chinese telecom giant Huawei uses its technology to spy for Beijing on the US and its allies — a longstanding CIA/NSA speciality, including phone conversations and emails of their leaders.

No evidence suggests Huawei poses a security risk to other countries. The false accusation is all about wanting US tech companies to have a competitive advantage over Huawei. More on the company below.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi slammed their remarks as “lies,” adding Beijing is committed to upholding multilateralism and pursuing world peace, notions the US and its imperial partners reject.

“We must transcend the East/West distinction. China will not copy the Western model,” Wang stressed, a key reason why US officials denigrate its system.

Wang accused them of repeating the same Big Lies wherever they go.

According to the Wall Street Journal on Friday, the Pentagon supports the Trump regime’s policy “to make it harder for US chip makers and other companies to supply China’s Huawei Technologies Co. from their overseas facilities,” falsely claiming Huawei’s products pose a security threat.

Along with wanting the company’s chief financial officer prosecuted on multiple fabricated charges, Trump regime prosecutors falsely accused Huawei of stealing intellectual property from six US firms, racketeering, obstruction of justice, and money laundering — under the 1970 RICO statute intended to combat organized crime in the US.

The company is also charged with doing business with North Korea, its legal right if so, and helping Iran perform domestic surveillance.

The 16-count indictment supersedes earlier charges unsealed in January 2019.

Named are Huawei and four subsidiaries — Huawei Device Co. Ltd. (Huawei Device), Huawei Device USA Inc. (Huawei USA), Futurewei Technologies Inc. (Futurewei) and Skycom Tech Co. Ltd. (Skycom) — as well as Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou.

Huawei in turn accused the Trump regime of intimidating its employees and cyberattacking the company.

Charges against Huawei and Meng are politicized. The company is leading the race to roll out next generation cutting-edge 5G technology of mobile Internet use, ahead of US and European competitors. At stake are trillions of dollars of economic value, why it’s targeted by Washington.

Meng faces multiple false charges including bank fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud, along with doing business with Iran which is entirely legal.

Huawei issued a statement earlier, debunking false US charges, saying it “denies that (the parent company) or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates have committed any of the asserted violations of US law set forth in each of the indictments, is not aware of any wrongdoing by Meng, and believes the US courts will ultimately reach the same conclusion.”

On Friday, China’s Global Times said the “US (is) desperate to contain Huawei,” adding:

“This time, the choreographed accusation is ‘racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to steal trade secrets, using fraud and deception to misappropriate sophisticated technology from the US,’ and violating ‘the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.’ ”

“The charges also ‘reveal Huawei’s business in North Korea and assistance to the government of Iran in performing domestic surveillance.’ ”

Phony charges mean other “US measures to (contain) Huawei…failed.”

Nor will the current US strategy. Its “unethical and unjustified economic bullying, if exploited, will move human civilization backward.”

China will deal with US bullying its own way. Its ruling authorities will do what they feel necessary to protect the nation’s interests.

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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.

Introductory Note

In earlier articles I related the opinions of biochemists and bio-warfare specialists on the circumstances justifying suspicion of a virus being created in a lab and deliberately released in a foreign country as a means of either low- or high-intensity warfare, or as merely a means of destabilising a nation and perhaps severely damaging its economy, with the loss of life being an added plus. The US is the country that appears most devoted to biological warfare, though a number of other nations are eager participants, including the UK and Israel.

I would remind readers here of the statement from PNAC, in a report titled, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses”, that

“Advanced forms of biological warfare that can ‘target’ specific genotypes may transform biological warfare … to a politically useful tool.” (1)

This subject is difficult to discuss openly in a nation of people, or even within international bodies like the UN. The infliction of such a pathogen onto a nation is clearly an act of war. However, if the leaders have not irrefutable proof of a bio-weapon and its source, and are not prepared for a military response, the only solution is to remain silent and emphasise research on defensive measures in the event of a recurrence. Even with overwhelming circumstantial evidence, a public statement or an accusation would likely be derided as yet another unfounded conspiracy theory. This is essentially the same with disclosure to the UN General Assembly or other such body; an accusation lacking conclusive proof would merely be derided and embarrassing.

This is similarly true with destabilization and violence, as China has very recently experienced in Hong Kong (and which has not yet stabilized), and the violence in Tibet and Xinjiang. The American ‘black  hand’ (from the American consulate) was caught red-handed in Hong Kong and sources of funding the HK terrorists are now being identified. There is no dispute anywhere that the violence and terrorism in both Tibet and Xinjiang were American-inspired and funded, but absolute irrefutable proof is lacking. All of these are clearly acts of war but, lacking final proof, responses are limited to defensive measures.

In a previous article on China’s new coronavirus, I referred to a thesis on Biological Weapons by Leonard Horowitz and Zygmunt Dembek who stated that clear signs of a genetically-engineered bio-warfare agent were (a) a disease caused by an uncommon (unusual, rare, or unique) agent, with (b) lack of an epidemiological explanation, i.e. no clear idea of source; (c) An “unusual manifestation and/or geographic distribution”, such as race-specificity; and (d) multiple sources of infection. (2)

China’s coronavirus appears to satisfy all four criteria. This is especially true since it appears that only one Caucasian (and some Japanese) has been infected to date, with the virus so far appearing to be tightly focused to Chinese.

Also the statement by Dr. Leonard Horowitz who quoted one military expert as saying “Even if you suspect biological terrorism, it’s hard to prove. It’s equally hard to disprove . . . You can trace an arms shipment, but it’s almost impossible to trace the origins of a virus that comes from a bug.” Another expert stated  that a properly-done release of an infectious agent cannot be traced to its source and might be considered an “act of God”.

In 2003, many Russian medical experts voiced the opinion that the SARS virus was most likely man-made and deliberately released as a weapon. Sergei Kolesnikov, a member of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, said the propagation of the SARS virus might well have been caused by leaking a combat virus grown in bacteriological weapons labs because the natural compound [of contained virus genome sections] was impossible, that the mix could never appear in nature, but could be done only in a laboratory. (3)

At the same time, Nikolai Filatov, the head of Moscow’s epidemiological services, stated he believed SARS was man-made because “there is no vaccine for this virus, its make-up is unclear, it has not been very widespread and the population is not immune to it.” (4) (5)

It appears the Russians may be arriving at the same conclusion for China’s new virus in 2020. The text below consists of a condensed version of an interview conducted by the Russian news portal mk.ru, on January 27, 2020, with Igor Nikulin, a former member of the UN Commission on Biological and Chemical Weapons (1998-2003). (6)

The article begins by noting that the prevalence of the coronavirus in China is increasing, while Beijing takes extraordinary measures to reduce the impact of this disaster. It further states that a number of experts “note strange coincidences in the circumstances” of the emergence of this new infection and are reluctant to exclude an “artificial origin”. Mr. Nikulin was asked to comment on the situation.

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With regard to the interview, we should emphasize that at this juncture of the coronavirus pandemic there is no firm evidence of the use of biological weapons against the People’s Republic of China. This Russian viewpoint is not fully corroborated.  Translated  from Russian. 

***

Russian Expert: “We Cannot Rule Out Man Made Origin of these Infections”

Interviewer: in recent years dangerous for humans coronaviruses appear more and more often. What does this have to do with anything?

Nikulin: With these coronaviruses, the situation is really very strange. Until 2000, none of them “jumped on a person.” They have been living next to humans for millions of years, but always only on some animals parasitized. For example, on camels, as in the case of [MERS]. Or on bats, birds, anyone, but this infection did not pass on to a person. And there are already 8 deadly viruses in 20 years. It’s obviously too much.

Interviewer: So we can’t rule out the man-made origin of these infections?

Nikulin: If it was the first outbreak, you’d think it was a natural mutation. But it is hardly natural, because every few years such incidents are repeated. It’s atypical pneumonia, it’s avian flu, it’s swine flu, it’s something else.

Interviewer: Some experts note that the time of the outbreak in China seems to be chosen specifically to cause maximum harm. Just on the eve of the New Year on the Eastern calendar, when in China mass internal migration for the holidays, as well as events with the participation of a large number of people. And the place seemed to be specially [selected]. Historically and geographically, all roads in China lead to Wuhan. It is the largest transport hub, the largest international airport. Through it [planes] fly to the States, Australia, Japan, the Middle East, Paris, London, Moscow. Besides these coincidences, what can prove the artificial origin of the virus?”

Nikulin: Just deciphering the genome. Its results may show if it is a virus of natural origin, or laboratory, when some recombinant “piece” is inserted into the gene . . . there are modern computer programs [that] allow you to read all this, decipher and compare with the samples available in databases.

Interviewer: Is it possible that the new coronavirus only affects people of Chinese nationality? So it’s set on certain features of the human gene?

Nikulin: If it turns out that this is indeed the case, then such a natural mutation cannot be accurate. It’s mathematical proof that it’s an artificially created virus.

Interviewer: In which labs can it appear?

Nikulin: I can only assume. But look: China, like Russia, is surrounded by American research biolaboratories. They are in different countries along the perimeter of China’s borders – in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Taiwan, Philippines, South Korea, Japan. They were in Indonesia, but they closed them. And wherever there are these American biolaboratories, or near them, there are outbreaks of new diseases, often unknown. Threats to the local population are simply ignored by Americans. The main thing is that it was away from the territory of the United States.

Interviewer: How many foreign biolaboratories do the U.S. have?

Nikulin: It’s 400.

Interviewer: They are overseen by the Pentagon?

Nikulin: Of course. It’s all funded from the Pentagon budget. Therefore, it is not necessary to say that peaceful humanitarian research is being carried out there. Do you think the Pentagon’s money is being spent on peaceful research? No one is allowed in. These are military labs. When more than a hundred people died in Georgia near such a laboratory within one month, do you think someone was allowed to go there? No one was allowed into the American laboratory at all.

Those countries that consider themselves victims of bioterrorism should investigate all these cases and bring them up for international discussion. For example, to the UN Security Council. To raise the issue of the activities of American biolaboratories outside the United States. We have to do something. Because a lot of people are already suffering from it. And in general, it is necessary to strengthen the biosecurity of the country.

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Larry Romanoff is a retired management consultant and businessman. He has held senior executive positions in international consulting firms, and owned an international import-export business. He has been a visiting professor at Shanghai’s Fudan University, presenting case studies in international affairs to senior EMBA classes. Mr. Romanoff lives in Shanghai and is currently writing a series of ten books generally related to China and the West. He can be contacted at: [email protected]. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Notes

(1) https://www.loc.gov/item/lcwa00010308

(2) https://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Project_for_the_New_American_Century

(3) Alexander Batalin,RIA Novosti https://rense.com/general37/manmade.htm

(4) https://www.veteranstoday.com/2020/01/21/new-improved-sars-bioweapon-tested-in-china

(5) News 24

(6) https://www.mk.ru/science/2020/01/27/ekspert-uvidel-priznaki-amerikanskogo-bioterrorizma-v-rasprostranenii-koronavirusa.html

A jury of 12 Washington D.C. residents were deadlocked over the issue of the embassy defenders on February 14, forcing the judge to declare a mistrial in a blow to the federal government and to a judicial system that stacked the odds. The embassy defenders – Adrienne Pine, Margaret Flowers, Kevin Zeese and David Paul – had been accused of “interfering with the protective functions” of the State Department after they, as part of the Embassy Protection Collective, had spent 37 days in the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington DC from April 11-May 16, protecting it from an illegal takeover by the U.S.-backed supporters of Juan Guaidó.

Chief Judge Beryl Howell overtly favored the prosecution by severely limiting the scope of the case, ruling that the defendants were limited to speaking only about events between May 13 and May 16. For context, the Embassy Protection Collective began staying in the building on April 11. All was peaceful until April 30, when coup supporters surrounded the Embassy and attacked the embassy protectors with physical and verbal abuse, as well as death threats, and were put under a joint siege by the police and coup supporters (the latter of which did all they could to prevent food from being delivered into the premises). On May 8 the electricity and water were cut off. On May 13, they received a trespass “notice” (a piece of paper with no official letterhead, signature or seal that was most likely written in Spanish and translated) and were asked – but not ordered – to leave the premises by police. On May 16, they were arrested, when, in violation of international law, federal agents in swat-style gear raided the Venezuelan Embassy.

Judge Howell’s pre-trial decisions to severely limit the defense from putting the arrest in context ensured a bias that many observers considered impossible to overcome in a jury trial. The embassy defenders were not allowed to say that Nicolás Maduro is the president of Venezuela. They were not allowed to talk about international law, including the Vienna Convention (which prohibits entry into another country’s embassy, even in times of war). They were not allowed to talk about the protecting power agreement (an agreement for third countries to ensure the safety of embassies in Caracas and D.C.) that was being negotiated by the U.S., Switzerland, Turkey and Venezuela. They were not allowed to mention that President Maduro, Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, Vice Minister Carlos Ron and U.N. Ambassador Samuel Moncada had all authorized their stay in the embassy. They were not allowed to discuss the fact that the Trump and Maduro administrations had been in contact throughout April and May. They were not allowed to discuss the blatant cooperation between law enforcement and Guaidó supporters in D.C. They were not allowed to discuss Guaidó’s corruption and connections to paramilitary drug cartels. They were not allowed to question Guaidó’s legitimacy. In short, they were not allowed to tell the whole truth.

The partiality on brazen display against citizens who are supposedly presumed to be innocent made it clear that the justice system was doing its best to ensure justice would be denied – a true kangaroo court. Its subservience to the Trump administration’s crazy attempt to install an unelected president made this a court that supports regime change and a coup: a kanga-coup court. That this trial resulted in a hung jury means that U.S. citizens saw through the farce, just as Venezuelans saw through the farce represented by Juan Guaidó.

“Elections mean something”

In explaining that the U.S. constitution supposedly grants the president authority to recognize a foreign government, the judge defended this concept by claiming “elections mean something.” Those of us in the audience found it hard not to laugh out loud. Elections mean something, except when a U.S. adversary wins and the U.S. then decides to just name someone else president, as in the case of Venezuela. In a courtroom in which the judge had ruled that “Boliviarian” Republic of Venezuela was too confusing and therefore the country was to only be referred to as Venezuela, the “president” of Venezuela is Juan Guaidó and the question isn’t up for debate. This isn’t surprising, given that Guaidó recently attended the State of the Union, was applauded by Representative Nancy Pelosi and other “regime change” Democrats, met with President Trump, Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Pompeo, USAID administrator Mark Green, OAS Secretary General Almagro and had a 2-3 thousand people rally in Miami.

The reality, of course, is wildly different inside Venezuela. There, after his “successful” global tour, he was greeted at a rally by merely 500 people, which is actually a big improvement to rallies just a few months where he was cursing the fact that same dozen or two “jerks” were the only ones to show up to events. At the height of Guaidós’s popularity (roughly 2014-2015), the opposition drew massive crowds of tens of thousands. Pro-government rallies routinely turn out tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands.

While Guaidó may have looked presidential during his U.S. tour, the façade was broken within minutes of landing in Venezuela. Airlines workers of Conviasa, which was recently sanctioned by Trump, confronted him at the airport, leaving him shaken and drenched in sweat—a “’president” afraid of his own people.

That Guaidó has fallen so low is an indictment of an extremist right-wing opposition that seeks to punish the working class by supporting sanctions, sabotage of basic services (last week a warehouse containing telecommunications equipment was set on fire, while the next day a Metro line was out of service after a cable line was cut), and threats of war.

Incompetence mirrors incompetence

The failure of Guaidó, the opposition and the Trump administration is also indicative of their incompetence and utter confusion regarding the reality of Venezuela. This incompetence mirrors the incompetence of the U.S. government in the sham trial of the embassy defenders.

Prosecutors attempted to pull a bait and switch on the jury, building their case on an allegation that the final four – las Margaret, Kevin, David and Adrienne are affectionately called – were trespassing in the Embassy, while the actual charge was a misdemeanor for “interfering with protective functions.” At least some members of the jury were clearly perplexed by this, asking the judge for clarification of whether trespassing could be perceived as interfering.

Although the answer should have been a clear “no”, the judge obfuscated and left them more confused than before they asked the question. The jurors then brought up a seeming contradiction between the law and the judge’s instructions. The law regarding interfering with protective functions requires that alleged perpetrators “knowingly and willfully” interfered, while the judge instructed the jury that the defendants did not have to have knowledge of the statute in order to be convicted. One observer characterized the judge’s response to the jury on this issue as “a riddle.”

A bewildering judge and a bumbling prosecution led to a deadlocked jury. Three jurors voted to acquit, and they must be praised for recognizing that the government was trying to railroad the defendants. It offers proof that people of conscience can thwart a government intent on criminalizing peace activism. We should also recognize the defendant’s four lawyers, who managed to instill reasonable doubt against all odds.

The Embassy Protection Collective (EPC) brought people’s power to Washington, and it was only fitting that it was people’s power on the jury that led to a mistrial. Unfortunately, the mistrial is not quite the end of this ordeal. The final four have one last status hearing to determine if the prosecution will retry the case. David, Margaret, Kevin and Adrienne are deserving of our full solidarity and support. For me, as a Venezuelan who has spent the past dozen years helping my country fight U.S. imperialism, what these four people did, as well as what the entire Embassy Protection Collective did, has earned them my gratitude and admiration. It has also left me hopeful and inspired that we can build a movement in the United States to challenge a foreign policy of war and profits, replacing it with one of peace and dialogue.

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Leonardo Flores is Latin American policy expert and campaigner with CODEPINK.

Featured image: David Paul, Margaret Flowers, Adrienne Pine and Kevin Zeese outside of their courtroom in D.C.

American Citizens Killed and Tortured by Israel?

February 16th, 2020 by Philip Giraldi

One of the principal functions of a United States Embassy overseas is to provide citizen services, which includes coming to the assistance of Americans who are treated badly by the local government. It is a responsibility that most embassies take seriously, with the exception of the facility currently located in Jerusalem. One has to understand that that is so because the United States Embassy in Israel is like no other. In other countries, the American Embassy exists to support American travelers, businesses and a broad range of national interests. In Jerusalem the Embassy exists to support Israeli interests and to serve as an apologist every time the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu goes on a killing spree or does something else that is similarly outrageous, to include bombing neighboring Syria every other day.

America’s current ambassador, former Trump bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman, has funded Israel’s illegal settlements, which did not in any way complicate his confirmation as nearly everyone in Congress and the White House does not believe that the Palestinians actually are human beings. Since taking up his position, Friedman has defended Israel when its army sharpshooters have shot down scores of unarmed Gazans, including children, and has both praised and endorsed out-and-out theft by the Israeli government in Jerusalem, on the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

What the U.S. Embassy under Friedman will not do is put any real pressure on the Israeli government if its security forces or rampaging settlers kill, beat, maim or torture an American citizen, especially if said citizen happens to be of Palestinian descent. Indeed, Friedman is only the latest manifestation of Israel-first-itis among U.S. Ambassadors, the rot having started inevitably with Bill Clinton, who appointed Australian citizen Martin Indyk as the first Jewish ambassador to Tel Aviv. The two most recent ambassadors, Friedman and Daniel Shapiro, both political appointees, have also been Jewish. Shapiro so enjoyed being an Israeli that he decided to remain in the country after his appointment as ambassador was completed. He now works for an Israeli government funded think tank.

The Israeli army and police have in fact killed a number of American citizens without any real pushback from the Department of State or White House. The unwillingness to confront Israel on any level stems from the formidable Jewish power in the United States, which uses money and media control to corrupt the political system at national, state and local levels. The media and the chattering political class worry about Russian interference while ignoring the implications of a Haaretz article that appeared on February 12th entitled “AIPAC Must Stop Bernie Sanders – At All Costs!” AIPAC is, of course, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, widely regarded as the chief U.S. lobbying arm of the Jewish state.

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And witness the fate of Congresswoman Betty McCollum (image on the right) from Minnesota, who fell afoul of the Israel Lobby when she introduced H.R.2407, legislation that prohibits American taxpayer money from being used by Israel to arrest and detain Palestinian children. She stated that “Israel’s system of military juvenile detention is state-sponsored child abuse designed to intimidate and terrorize Palestinian children and their families. It must be condemned, but it is equally outrageous that U.S. tax dollars in the form of military aid to Israel are permitted to sustain what is clearly a gross human rights violation against children.” She might have added that the estimated 10,000 Arab children who have been detained since 2000 are frequently tortured by the Israeli authorities. The bill currently has 23 cosponsors and is unlikely to attract more due to fear of the Lobby. It will never reach the House floor for a vote and will never become law.

McCollum’s courage was on display when she was viciously attacked by AIPAC, which posted Facebook ads that referenced “radicals in the Democratic party,” including a photo of McCollum, with the text stating that “It’s critical that we protect our Israeli allies especially as they face threats from Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah ISIS and — maybe more sinister — right here in the U.S. Congress.”  McCollum stood her ground against being called “more sinister” than ISIS and released a statement that describes AIPAC as a “hate group,” which of course it is, but she will find few in the Democratic party brave enough to defend her.

Israel’s willingness to kill Americans in support of what it perceives as its own interests goes back nearly to the founding of the state in 1948. The Lavon Affair of 1954 was an Israeli plot to bomb the U.S. Embassy Information Agency libraries in Alexandria and Cairo Egypt, blaming the attacks on the Egyptians to draw the United States closer to Israel. The bombs were placed by Egyptian Jews acting for Israeli intelligence. They exploded, but fortunately no one was killed.

In June 1967 Israel was at it again, attacking the intelligence gathering U.S. naval vessel the U.S.S. Liberty in international waters, killing thirty-four American sailors, Marines and civilians in a deliberate air and sea onslaught that sought to sink the intelligence gathering ship and kill all its crew. It was the worst attack ever carried out on a U.S. Naval vessel in peace time. In addition to the death toll, 171 more of the crew were wounded in the two-hour assault. The Israelis, whose planes had their Star of David markings covered up so Egypt could be blamed, attacked the ship repeatedly from the air and with gunboats from the sea. When one Israeli pilot hesitated, refusing to attack what was clearly an American ship, he was instructed to proceed anyway.

The most disgusting part of the tale relates to how U.S. warplanes sent to the Liberty’s aid from an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean were called back by Defense Secretary Robert McNamara acting under orders from President Lyndon Baines Johnson, who declared that he would rather see the ship go to the bottom of the sea than embarrass his good friend Israel. Ironically, the first ship to reach the Liberty and offer assistance was from the Soviet Union, an offer that was declined.

More recently there have been a number of killings of Americans. In a bizarre incident in August 1988, an elderly Palestinian-American with a heart condition died after being forced to climb stairs to paint over anti-Israeli graffiti on a school wall. Rebhi Barakat Kaid, 67, of Columbus, Ohio, was on the West Bank visiting relatives. He died of a heart attack after three Israeli soldiers ordered him and his 14-year-old Chicago-born grandson at gunpoint to climb the 22 steep steps that led from the house to the street above without his being allowed to take his heart medicine first.

Much better known is the March 2003 killing of Washington State’s Rachel Corrie, who was deliberately run over by an Israeli military bulldozer when she was protesting the destruction of a Palestinian village. A month later there was an incident in which Brian Avery, a 24-year-old from Albuquerque, New Mexico, was shot in the face in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin by Israeli soldiers in an armored personnel carrier firing machine guns at protesters.Rachel Corrie 07f56

(Picture taken at 4:47PM on 16 March 2003, Rafah, Occupied Gaza. Rachel Corrie lies on the ground fatally injured by the Israeli bulldozer driver. Rachel’s fellow activists have dug her a little out of the sand and are trying to keep her neck straight due to spinal injury. Photo by Joseph Smith. Credit: ISM Handout)

In March 2009 Tristan Anderson, a 37-year-old from Oakland, California, suffered permanent brain damage when Israeli soldiers shot him in the face with a tear gas canister as he watched a protest in the West Bank village of Nilin.

Another American citizen, Furkan Doğan (image below), an 18-year-old born in Troy, New York, was killed aboard the Turkish flagged Mavi Marmara in the Mediterranean Sea in May 2010 as a flotilla of international activists attempted to break Israel’s illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip to deliver humanitarian supplies. The United Nations’ General Assembly Human Rights Council determined that Doğan had been killed by Israeli naval commandos through an “extra-legal, arbitrary and summary execution.” He was shot five times, including once in the face from “point blank range.”

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The same day that Israel murdered Furkan Doğan, 21-year-old Emily Henochowicz of Potomac, Maryland, was protesting the attack on the flotilla at the Qalandiya checkpoint near Jerusalem, when an Israeli soldier shot her in the face with a teargas cannister, resulting in the loss of an eye.

And then there was in October 2014 the shooting by Israeli soldiers of Orwa Hammad, a 14-year-old Palestinian-American from Louisiana. The Israeli army claimed that Hammad was throwing a Molotov cocktail at the time of his death, but witnesses stated that he was among a group of children throwing rocks at the heavily armed and armored soldiers.

And most recently, there is the case of Florida-born 16-year-old Palestinian-American Mahmoud Shaalan who was shot repeatedly at an Israeli check point on the West Bank on February 26, 2016 while he was walking to a nearby village to visit his aunt. He was still alive after the shooting, but Israeli soldiers denied him any medical treatment for three hours and he died before an ambulance was allowed to approach him.

Arrest of Palestinians and others without probable cause under “administration detention” guidelines followed by torture has also become a hallmark of Israel’s occupation of Arab land. Torture methods used by Israel include stress positions, severe beatings, sleep deprivation, emotional blackmail, threats of torture of family members and the transfer of detainees to secret prisons where torture is constant. In one case reported to a Human Rights Association “The harsh beating was committed with the intention to kill the detainee.”

In another reported case of torture, nineteen-year-old Mahmoud Zakarner’s testicles were smashed by soldiers in front of his uncle to force the man to provide the names of Palestinian resistance members. Mahmoud is now paralyzed and unable to speak as a result.

Israeli expertise in torture is in demand from authoritarian regimes worldwide, creating a growth industry for the specialized “advisers and technicians.” Many are currently working with right wing regimes in South and Central America. Several even showed up at Abu Ghraib as trainers for U.S. interrogators and were able to suggest refinements like the “Palestinian chair.”

Inside Israel torture of Palestinians is routine on the grounds of “necessity” and absurd “ticking-bomb” scenarios. The courts and the medical profession aid and abet the practice. Over 1200 complaints regarding the torture of Palestinians in Israeli prisons have not resulted in even a single indictment of the torturers.

So, killing Americans as well as many others and torturing prisoners are all in a day’s work for the Jewish state. What is disgraceful, of course, is the fact that the United States government, which has the power to do something about it, instead chooses to do nothing to stop the bleeding or even to demand inquiries to find out who is to blame. Instead, Washington lavishes money and praise on Israel, reportedly America’s best friend and closest ally, while it also avoids looking at the horrors that are evident to most of the rest of the world.

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This article was originally published on American Herald Tribune.

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

Featured image: Palestinian-American Mahmoud Shaalan was shot five times by Israeli soldiers at a West Bank checkpoint. Credit: Courtesy

On 5 October 2019, in Athens, Greek Minister for Defence Nikólaos Panayotópoulos, and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signed a “Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement”.

The Greek Parliament ratified the Agreement, which grants the United States the use of all Greek military bases. They will be used by the US armed forces not only for the storage of weapons, supplies and training locations, but also for “emergency response” operations, which in reality means attack missions.

The base at Larissa is particularly important, where the US Air Force has already stored MQ-9 Reaper drones, and also the base at Stefanovikio, where the US Army has already deployed Apache and Black Hawk helicopters.

The Agreement was defined by Greek Minister for Defence Nikólaos Panayotópoulos, as “advantageous for our national interests, because it increases the importance of Greece in the context of US planning”. An importance that Greece has enjoyed for a long time – we only have to remember the bloody coup d’État perpetrated by the colonels, organised in 1967 in the context of the Stay-Behind operation directed by the CIA [1], and followed, here in Italy, with the period of massacres beginning with the attack at the Piazza Fontana in 1969.

During the same year, a detachment of the US Navy was transferred from the base in Sigonella, Sicily and settled in Greece, at Souda Bay on the island of Crete. Today, Souda Bay is one of the most important USA/NATO aero-naval bases in the Mediterranean, used for the wars in the Middle East and North Africa. The Pentagon will be investing in Souda Bay the additional sum of 6 million  Euros, which will be added to the 12 million it will be investing in Larissa, announced  Panagiotopoulos, presenting it as a great opportunity for Greece.

However, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis pointed out that Athens had already signed an agreement with the Pentagon for the modernisation of the F-16 fleet, which will cost Greece 1,5 billion dollars, and that Greece is also interested by the possibility of buying drones and F-35 fighters from the USA.

Greece is also notable for being, after Bulgaria, the European ally which for many years has given the highest percentage of its GDP (2,3%) to military expenditure.

The Agreement also guarantees that the USA will enjoy “unlimited use of the port of Alexandroupolis” [3], which is situated on the Aegean Sea close to the straits of the Dardanelles,  which link the Mediterranean to the Black Sea across Turkish territory, and therefore constitute an essential passage for maritime transit, especially for Russia. Furthermore, the neighbouring territory of Eastern Thrace (the small European part of Turkey) is the point at which the gas pipeline Turk-Stream arrives from Russia via the Black Sea.

The “strategic investment” that Washington is already making in the port infrastructures, aims at making Alexandroupolis one of the most important US military bases in the region, capable of blocking the access of Russiaan ships to the Mediterranean, and at the same time, hindering China which hopes to make Piraeus an important port of call on the New Silk Road.

“We are working with other democratic partners in the region to fend off evil actors like Russia and China  [4], particularly Russia, which is using energy as an instrument of its negative influence”, declared the US ambassador in Athens, Geoffrey Pyatt, emphasising that “Alexandroupolis has a crucial role to play in the energetic security and the stability of Europe”.

The “Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement” with the USA is presented in this context, and was ratified by the Greek Parliament with 175 voices for, from the centre-right of the government (New Democracy and others) and 33 against (Communist Party and others), while 80 declared that they were “present” according to the formula of the US Congress, the equivalent of abstention, in use by the Greek Parliament. Syriza abstained, the Coalition of the Radical Left led by Aléxis Tsípras. First of all resigning from the government, now in the opposition, in a country which, after been obliged to sell off its own economy, is now selling off not only its military bases, but also what is left of its sovereignty.

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This article appeared on the Italian web newspaper, Il Manifesto.

Manlio Dinucci is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

Featured image: ATHENS, Oct. 5, 2019  Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis (L) meets with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Athens, Greece, on Oct. 5, 2019. (Credit Image: © Marios Lolos/Xinhua via ZUMA Wire)

Is China Capitalist?

February 16th, 2020 by Marc Vandepitte

Judging by what has been said or written about China, both on the right and on the left, socialism there is finished. The country is assumed to have capitulated and become capitalist, whatever the Chinese leadership itself may say. It is this almost unanimous opinion that economists Rémy Herrera and Zhiming Long challenge with fervour in their book La Chine est-elle capitaliste?

Importance

For the left, the issue is of the utmost importance. First of all, it concerns almost a quarter of the world’s population and one of the few remaining states that have resulted from a socialist revolution. The direction that China is pursuing will help to determine the future of this planet.

In addition, that what is at stake is also very important for the battle of ideas here. China’s socio-economic development is an impressive success story. Now that capitalism shows unmistakable signs of decline, it has every interest to claim the Chinese success story as “capitalist”. This way it can both take some ideological credit and discourage the forces of dissent. Through neoliberal pensée unique, mainstream ideological conformism, no stone is left unturned in convincing people that socialism has no future. A “socialist China” does not fit into that framework.

In the eye of the beholder

For sure there are a number of eye-catching phenomena that speak in favour of assessing China as an example of capitalism: the increasing number of billionaires, the consumerism affecting large sections of the population, the introduction of a lot of market mechanisms after 1978, the implantation of just about all major Western companies trying to turn the country into a huge capitalist workshop based on low wages, the presence of the big banks on Chinese soil, and the ubiquitous presence of Chinese private companies on international markets.

But, as Herrera and Long argue, if France or another Western country were to collectivize all agricultural land and mining; nationalize the infrastructure of the country; transfer key industries to the government; set up a rigorous central planning; if the government strictly controlled the currency, all major banks and all financial institutions; if the government also closely monitored the behaviour of all domestic and foreign companies; and as if that were not enough, if there was a communist party at the top of the political pyramid to supervise it all, would we still, without inviting ridicule, speak of a “capitalist” country? Undoubtedly not. We would perhaps label it as “socialist” or “communist”. Yet it is odd that people stubbornly refuse to stick those labels on the political-economic system operative in China.

In order to understand the Chinese system properly and not get caught up in superficial observations, the authors state, you must take into account a number of extraordinary features of the country. First of all there is the enormous amount of people involved and the vastness and diversity of the territory.

You also have to look at it from a perspective of the secular eras in which the nation and culture have taken shape. For example, for two thousand years the state has appropriated the added value of the farmers, strongly restricted private initiative and transformed large production units into state monopolies. During all those centuries there was no question of capitalism.

Finally, you must take into account the colonial humiliations of the second half of the nineteenth century and the particularly turbulent first half of the twentieth century, with three revolutions and the same number of civil wars. To give an example, during thirty years of civil war the Communist Party carried out numerous experiments in “liberated territory”, in which a significant proportion of the private sector was left intact to let it compete with the new collective forms of production.

Beyond stereotypes

Before the authors analyse the characteristics of the system itself, they deal with two stubborn stereotypes about the Chinese success story. The first widespread cliché is that rapid economic growth has only come about since and thanks to the Deng Xiaoping reforms started in 1978. That is completely incorrect. In the ten years prior to that period, the economy had already experienced a very respectable growth rate of 6.8 percent, double the US growth in that period. If you look at the investments in production resources (capital stock) and know-how (educational resources) you see that the growth in both periods is about the same. In the first period growth in the field of Research & Development was even higher.

An essential element to explain the successes of China is its agricultural policy. China is one of the few countries in the world that has guaranteed access to agricultural land for its farming population. After the revolution, agricultural land came into government hands and every farmer was allocated a piece of land. That measure applies to this day. The agricultural issue in China is so pressing because the country has to feed almost 20 percent of the world’s population with only 7 percent of the fertile agricultural land. To give an idea of what this means: in China there is a quarter of a hectare of agricultural land per inhabitant, in India double that area and in the US 100 times as much.

China managed to feed its population fairly quickly, despite the blatant errors of the Great Leap Forward. Moreover, the added value created by agriculture was used in industry, thus laying the foundation for rapid industrial development. The spectacular growth of 9.9 percent in the post-reform period has only been possible on the basis of efforts and achievements during the first thirty years of the revolution. All in all, already under Mao the country developed in an impressive way. Under his leadership, per capita income tripled while the population nearly doubled. The authors also point out that in the initial phase the Chinese economy was not an autarky, nor did it deliberately fall back upon itself. Actually the country was suffering from an embargo from the West.

Then there is a second frequently heard cliché according to which the spectacular growth would be the natural and logical result of the opening up of the economy and of its integration into the capitalist world market, in particular since China joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001. That view is untenable too. Long before that accession, China experienced a strong economic growth: between 1961 and 2001 the annual average growth was 8 percent. The opening up was advantageous to the economy indeed, but the immediate increase in growth was anything but spectacular. In the first fifteen years after the accession to the WTO, economic growth increased only slightly more than 2 percent extra.

Opening up the economy to foreign countries – trade, investment and financial capital flows – has had disastrous consequences in many third-world countries. In China, this opening has been successful because it was subordinate to domestic needs and objectives, and because it was fully integrated into a solid development strategy. According to Herrera and Long, the Chinese development strategy has a coherence that is unequalled in the countries of the South.

Neither communism nor capitalism

What exactly is this “socialism with Chinese characteristics”? For the authors it is certainly not about communism in the classical sense of the word. Marx and Engels understood communism as the abolition of wage labour, the disappearance of the state and the self-government of producers. In present-day China this is not what is happening, just as it never was in actually existing socialist countries. In China, this was less the result of an ideological choice than of the extremely difficult circumstances in which the revolution came about and had to live up to. In 1949, after a long-standing civil war, a state established itself as “communist” and gradually distanced itself from the Soviet model.

After the opening up and the reforms under Deng Xiaoping, according to Herrera and Long, “socialism has retreated enormously in China”. Today, Chinese society is “far removed from the communist egalitarian ideal”. The authors refer to a number of aspects such as individualism, consumerism, favouritism, careerism, the craving for luxury and glamour, corruption, etc. These aspects are certainly disturbing, but the Chinese leadership is doing its utmost to restore “socialist morality”.

It is certainly not communism, but neither is it capitalism. For Marx, capitalism presupposes a strong separation between labour on the one hand and ownership of the most important means of production on the other. The owners of capital tend to become collectives (shareholders) of people who no longer directly manage the production process, but leave that to managers. Earnings often take the form of dividends on shares.

The vast majority of the incredibly large number of small Chinese enterprises – mostly family or artisan owned businesses – certainly do not meet that criterion. Nor does the criterion apply to the many “collectively owned” companies where the workers own part of the production equipment and have a voice in its management, and it is not in the least applicable to the cooperatives. Even in public companies, the separation between labour and property is not that clear. Because there too there is a certain, albeit limited, form of participatory management for blue-collar and office workers. In short, the separation between labour and property is often very relative.

Another important criterion for a society to be capitalist is the maximization of individual profit. In any case, this does not apply to the large state-owned companies, where the most important means of production are allocated.

No capitalism, then, but perhaps state capitalism? According to the authors that concept comes close, but it is too vague and a catch-all term.[i]

If not, then what?

The top leaders of China do not deny the existence of capitalist elements in their economy, but they see this as one of the components of their hybrid system, the key sectors of which are in the hands of the government. For them, China is still in “the first phase of socialism, a stage considered essential to develop the productive forces”. The historical goal is and remains that of advanced socialism. Like Marx and Lenin, they refuse to regard communism as “the sharing of poverty”. Hence “their will to pursue a socialist transition during which a very large majority of the population will have the opportunity of accessing wealth”. “Wouldn’t we prove at the same time that socialism can, and must, surpass capitalism?” the authors wonder.

Herrera and Long describe the political-economic system in China as a system of “market socialism”. Such a system is based on ten pillars, which largely don’t exist in capitalism:

  1. The sustainability of a powerful and modernized planning; which is no longer the rigid and hyper-centralized system of bygone days.
  2. A form of political democracy, clearly perfectible, but enabling the collective choices that are found to be the basis of this planning.
  3. The existence of very extensive public services, most of which remain outside the market.
  4. Ownership of land and natural resources that remain in the public domain.
  5. Diversified forms of property, suitable for the socialization of the productive forces: public enterprises, small individual private property or socialized property. Capitalist property is maintained during a long socialist transition, even encouraged, in order to stimulate overall economic activity and to encourage efficiency in other forms of property.
  6. A general labour policy of increasing wages relatively more rapidly compared to other sources of income.
  7. The stated desire for social justice from an egalitarian perspective promoted by the authorities, going against a several-decades-old trend towards social inequalities.
  8. Priority given to the preservation of the environment.
  9. A concept of economic interstate relations based on a win-win principle.
  10. Political interstate relations based on the systematic search for peace and more equitable relations between peoples.

Some of those pillars are addressed in more detail. We go through two of them here: the key role of state-owned companies and modernized planning. Moreover the book addresses the important issue of the relationship between political and economic power.

State-owned companies play a strategic role in the whole of the economy. They operate in a way that is not at the expense of the many small private companies and the industrial structure of the nation. They are focused on productive investments and can easily and inexpensively provide services to other companies and collective projects. In these companies, the government can also decide for itself which form of management is most appropriate. The key role that government companies play is one of the essential explanations for the good performance of the Chinese economy. They also play their role on a social level. The state-owned companies can give their employees higher wages and good social benefits. It is in that sector that the best opportunities are found to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor.

Economic planning is “the actual space in which a nation chooses its common destiny and the means for a sovereign people to become the master of that destiny”. According to the authors, in China there is a “powerful” planning, the techniques of which have been relaxed, modernized and adapted to present-day requirements. In the planning of the past, which was overly centralized, a company had to accept products, regardless of the quality or real cost at which they had been produced. This mechanism greatly limited the initiative of companies and also the efficiency of the productive sector as a whole. Quality and cost were seen as “administrative” or “technocratic” problems and lost their capacity to stimulate the economy. The coercion and limitations in manufacturing manifested themselves through recurring crises of availability of goods and material resources.

From the 1990s onwards, planning has become more flexible, monetarized and decentralized. That planning was still drawn up under the direction of a central macroeconomic authority. The companies were given more autonomy to manage foreign currencies and to purchase goods. Thanks to this relaxation it has been possible to solve a number of deficiencies of the old planning and this has led to an economic development that is more intensive[ii] and more respectful of the environment.

Does the transition to socialism require that economic and political power coincide completely? The authors believe it does not. It is, however, necessary that the owners of economic power – the capitalists – come under the strict supervision of political power. The authors refer to a discussion between Mao Zedong and the then Soviet leadership in 1958. According to Mao, the Chinese revolution could continue its course, even though there were still capitalists in China. His argument was that the capitalist class no longer controlled the state, but that this was now done by the Communist Party.[iii] Today, according to Herrera and Long, the proprietors of national private capital are effectively restricted in their ambitions through a very powerful public ownership of the strategic sectors. Moreover, the Communist Party is still able to prevent the bourgeoisie from becoming a dominant class again.

What will the future bring?

The authors’ judgement on the Chinese trajectory remains undecided. A continuation of the road towards socialism is possible, but a restoration of capitalism is not to be excluded. The outcome will be chiefly determined by class struggle. Class relations in today’s China are complex. On the one hand, you have the Communist Party that relies mainly on the middle class and the entrepreneurs. In recent decades both sections of the population benefited most from strong economic growth. On the other hand, you have the large strata of workers and peasants who continue to believe in the possibility of being masters of their collective future and who still have hope of a socialist future.

The question now is whether the party will succeed in extending its success story without changing the balance of power in favour of the workers and peasants. If the party takes the path of capitalism, it risks upsetting the fragile balance. This could lead to major political confrontations and a loss of control over the contradictions of the system, and at the same time to a failure of the long-term development strategy.

The outcome is uncertain. But for the authors there are a lot of aspects that distinguish China’s system from capitalism. In addition, there is also the long-term objective of socialism and there is a lot of potential to reactivate that project.

Another uncertain factor that may determine the future is financial monopoly capitalism, based on a US military hegemony which increasingly seeks confrontation with China, despite the strong economic interdependence between the two countries. Herrera and Long warn that people in the West must be well aware that world capitalism is at an impasse and “that in its decline it will cause nothing but social devastation in the North and wars in the South”.

We may add that it is to be hoped China’s capitalist logic can be checked. Otherwise we will almost certainly end up in a situation similar to that of the eve of WWI, where imperialist blocs were heading for a mutual showdown in order to expand or retain their spheres of influence.

The story sketched by the authors is not a triumphant one. “Socialism with Chinese characteristics” is by no means a “finished ideal of the communist project”. For it to be like that there are too many “shocking imbalances” in the project. Herrera and Long note that China is still a developing country and that it will therefore go through a “long and difficult process, full of contradictions and risks”. This should not come as a surprise, because capitalism also “took ages to consolidate”. Anyway, the many disparities and contradictions should discourage sympathizers from applying the Chinese recipe elsewhere.

A few comments

Herrera and Long are academics, but know how to present their arguments in a very readable and convincing way. The book contains strong and new figures and also a lot of useful graphs. In one of the annexes you will find a very interesting timeline of China’s history that starts at the beginning of human history. A downside is that not all argumentation is worked out equally well; the book is too concise for that.

The perspective is economic. The advantage of this is: a materialist approach, no woolliness. The disadvantage is that the authors may have a tendency to underrate the role of ideological struggle. Although Herrera and Long point out a number of negative aspects in this field, they underestimate the fact that the whole of society up to and including the Communist Party is permeated by capitalist propaganda. That came to light, for example, in the events surrounding Tiananmen. At the time China came very close to going the same way as the Soviet Union. Reducing capitalist ideology will be crucial for staying on course towards socialism.

In their argument about whether or not the system is capitalist, they focus on ownership relationships. That is correct, but only partly, because ownership relationships are not completely indicative of the government’s control over the economy. By either granting or not granting access to procurement contracts, tax breaks, to public investment funds, financial institutions and grants, etc., central government controls entire sectors including private companies, without having direct control over individual companies or holding shares in them.[iv]

For various reasons, China is one of the most misunderstood countries in the world. Therefore Herrera and Long’s work is more than welcome. It courageously goes against the tide and disproves a number of stubborn prejudices. In the light of the relative decline of capitalism, both economically and politically, the authors bring the ideological debate into focus. That is the second reason why the book is highly commendable.

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Rémy Herrera & Zhiming Long, La Chine est-elle capitaliste?, Paris: Éditions Critiques, 2019, 199 pages.

Translated by Dirk Nimmegeers

Notes

[i] The term state capitalism is by no means an unequivocal concept about which there is unanimous consent. Below are some systems that the term can refer to:

  • The state undertakes commercial and profitable activities, government companies exercise capitalist management (even though the state calls itself socialist).
  • Strong presence or dominance of state-owned companies in a capitalist economy.
  • The means of production are privately owned, but the economy is subject to economic planning or supervision. Cfr. New Economic Policy (NEP) under Lenin.
  • Variant: the state has considerable control over the allocation of credits and investments.
  • Another variant: the state intervenes to safeguard the interests of its monopolies (state monopoly capitalism).
  • Another variant: the economy is largely subsidized by the state, which also takes on strategic Research & Development.
  • The government manages the economy and behaves like a single large company that derives the added value from labour to reinvest.

Sources: MilibandR., Political theory of Marxism, Amsterdam, 1981, p. 91-100; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_capitalism.

[ii] Extensive development is quantitative growth, more of the same by deploying more people and machines or making them work more. Intensivedevelopment is qualitative growth based on higher productivity.

[iii] “There are still capitalists in China, but the state is under the leadership of the Communist Party”. Mao Zedong, On Diplomacy, Beijing 1998, p. 251.

[iv] See, for example, Hsueh R., China’s Regulatory State. A New Strategy for Globalization, Ithaca 2011; Zhao Zhikui, Introduction to Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, Beijing 2016, chapter 3; Kroeber A., China’s Economy. What Everyone Needs to Know, Oxford 2016, chapter 5; Porter R., From Mao to Market. China Reconfigured, London 2011, p. 177-184; Naughton B., “Is China Socialist?”, The Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 31, no. 1 (Winter 2017), pp. 3-24, https://www.jstor.org/stable/44133948?seq=5#metadata_info_tab_contents.

I figured as much. The moment Mike Bloomberg announced his intention to spend part of his billions—like Trump before him—to gain the presidency, I thought: this is the perfect opening for Hillary Clinton. 

Clinton will be Bloomberg’s running mate, according to Drudge, citing sources within team Bloomberg. 

Sources close to Bloomberg campaign tell DRUDGE REPORT that candidate is considering Hillary Clinton as running mate, after their polling found the Bloomberg-Clinton combination would be formidable force… MORE

DRUDGE has learned that Bloomberg himself would go as far as to change his official residence from New York to homes he owns in Colorado or Florida, since the electoral college makes it hard for a POTUS and VPOTUS from the same state… Developing.. 

This doesn’t, of course, make it necessarily so, even though it is manifestly obvious the serial lawbreaker, and war criminal Clinton wants nothing more than to be president, or short of that VP. 

Now that the democrat field is narrowing and Mike’s prepared to spend billions—this is how the exceptional nation elects presidents—there will be a shift away from Mayor CIA and the other identity pushing presidential wannabes in favor of a staunch establishment figure. Biden was left in the dust weeks ago. 

Michael Bloomberg is by far the most dangerous political candidate—even more dangerous than the Orange Carnival Barker. 

Just last month, Nanny Mike said he doesn’t “live in a regret world”—a red flag sociopathic trait—and does not regret supporting the mass murder of 1.5 million Iraqis. 

“America wanted to go to war, but it turns out it was based on faulty intelligence, and it was a mistake,” he said, parroting the same old tired and discredited lies the establishment has used for years to justify the destruction of Iraq. 

No, Mike, the American people didn’t want to go to war. They were lied to by Bush and the neocons. It wasn’t “faulty intelligence.” The neocons lied and not a single one was held responsible. Mike knows this. He also knows the mass murder campaign in Iraq was performed for Israel, not the American people, who had absolutely zero to fear from Saddam Hussein, a former CIA operative. 

Bloomberg went so far as to insist Iraqis had something to do with the attacks of 9/11, taking his talking points—or points based on lies—from the neocons. 

If elected, Bloomberg would be the first Jewish president. Over the span of his career, he has consistently and fervently supported Israel, including support for its illegal bombing of Gaza. Nanny Mike gave a thumbs up to the 2014 attack on Gaza, which killed 2,250 Gazans, 1,600 of them civilians. 

“Israel’s failure to act with proportionality—and Michael Bloomberg’s endorsement of this failure—clashes with international law, which prohibits attacks that would cause ‘excessive’ civilian damage or loss of life in relation to the anticipated military advantage of the attack,” writes Kathryn Shihadah. 

Not only does Nanny Mike want to dictate what you eat and drink, but he is also an enemy of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. He is a fierce opponent of BDS. 

For example, in 2014, he referred to the nonviolent movement known as Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS)—modeled after the movement that brought the downfall of apartheid in South Africa—as “an outrage” that is “totally misplaced.”

“I strongly oppose the BDS movement,” he said. “And I vehemently disagree with everyone who fails to see why the Jewish people deserve a permanent Jewish state.”

Bloomberg said if elected he will waste no time going after Israel’s critics. Thanks to the ADL and the SPLC, among others (including the FBI), it is considered a “hate crime” to disparage Israel. “I will label hate crimes as ‘domestic terrorism’—and charge perpetrators accordingly,” he promised. 

Mike would also work to prevent any member of Congress from taking Israel to task for its multiple crimes and egregious violations of international law. “We must never let Israel be a football that American politicians kick around in an effort to score points.”

Score points? I’m not sure what planet this ga-zillionaire Zionist lives on. It is a cardinal sin and a certain career destroyer for any member of Congress to criticize Israel. A recent crop of leftists in Congress—known colloquially as “The Squad”— have dared to call out Israel’s crimes. They will not be re-elected. The media is thrashing them as scurrilous antisemites. 

Moreover, as lord of a huge corporate media propaganda organization, he demanded his stenographers prettify Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing, torture, and murder of Palestinians. 

Mondoweiss managed to get access to a few Bloomberg memos sent to his workers. The  following memo demonstrates Mike is an ardent and racist ethnic cleansing Zionist:

Avoid referring to Palestine, as in “Israel’s incursion into Palestine,” because there is no such country. Instead, describe the occupied areas by their names, as in the West Bank or Gaza Strip. Palestinian people or Palestine Authority is OK.

This is a standard Zionist talking point. There is no such place as Palestine nor a Palestinian people. 

American Jews love this reactionary former Republican (not that party affiliation matters to these people). The Jewish Virtual Library notes: 

Ron Kampeas notes that Bloomberg enjoyed significant Jewish support when he ran for mayor and has the liberal credentials that appeal to many Jewish voters. Unlike Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish but highly critical of Israel, Bloomberg has a record of supporting Israel with both his time and money. During the 2014 Gaza War, Bloomberg defied a Federal Aviation Authority ban on flying into Israel after rockets landed near Ben-Gurion Airport. “In my own little way, I wanted to show the world that Jews would never let fear of terrorism keep us out of Israel,” Bloomberg said later.

Arabs and Muslims in New York know all about Mike’s mistrust of folks who take issue with Israel and its brutality. As mayor of New York, he organized an Orwellian surveillance program aimed at Muslims with the help of the CIA in violation of its charter which is, of course, nothing if not a joke.

But let’s put aside his racism and the millions of “philanthropic” dollars he has showered on Israel. Bloomberg is a crony capitalist who enthusiastically defends the parasitical vultures and vampire squids on Wall Street.

For instance, he said Congress (supposedly the representatives of the American people) is responsible for the “subprime crisis,” not the banksters. This should be expected considering Bloomberg got his start at the securities brokerage Salomon Brothers and became a partner in 1973. He later established a company catering to Wall Street. 

While Trump is certainly a disaster—the little rich boy who wanted to be president—Mike Bloomberg is ten times worse. 

Teamed up with Hillary Clinton, the sadistic former Secretary of State who thought Gaddafi’s anal rape with a knife and murder was hilarious, a war in the Middle East (that Trump rightly fears) and an authoritarian police state at home will be a certainty. 

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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.

Painting a True Christ

February 16th, 2020 by Edward Curtin

There’s an early scene in Terrence Malik’s masterful new film – what I would call a moving painting – where the central character Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian peasant farmer from an isolated small mountainous village who refuses to take an oath to Hitler and fight in the German army, is talking to an older man who is restoring paintings in the local Catholic church.  Franz, a devout Roman Catholic, is deeply disturbed by the rise of Hitler and the thought of participating in his immoral killing machine.  The older man tells Franz – who has already been admonished that he has a duty to defend the fatherland (homeland) – that he makes his living painting pretty holy pictures for the culturally conditioned parishioners for whom God and country are synonymous.  He says.

I paint their comfortable Christ with a halo over his head.  We love him, that’s enough.  Someday I’ll paint a true Christ.

Malik’s “someday” has arrived with “A Hidden Life,” where the older Malik shows the younger Malik – and us – a moving picture of what experience has taught him is the complex essence of a true and simple Christ: out of love of God and all human beings to refuse to kill.

To watch this film is to undergo a profound experience, an experiment with truth and non-violence, a three-hour trial (Latin: experimentum– trial).  While Franz is eventually put on trial by the German government, it is we as viewers who must judge ourselves and ask how guilty or innocent are we for supporting or resisting the immoral killing machine of our own country now.  Hitler and his Nazis were then, but we are faced with what Martin Luther King called “the fierce urgency of now.”  Many Americans surely ask with Franz, “What has happened to the country that we love?”  But how many look in the mirror and ask, “Am I a guilty bystander or an active supporter of the United States’ immoral and illegal wars all around the world that have been going on for so many years under presidents of both parties and have no end? Do I support the new cold war with its push for nuclear war with its first strike policy?  Do I support, by my silence, a nuclear holocaust?”

I say that “A Hidden Life” is a moving painting because its form and content cannot be separated.  A true artist, Malik realizes that what non-artists call form or style is the content; they are one.  The essence of the story is in the telling; in a film in the showing. The cinematography by Jörge Widmer, a longtime Malick collaborator, is therefore key.  It is exquisitely beautiful as he paints with swiftly moving light the mountains and streams of the Austrian countryside, even as the storm clouds with their thunder and lightning roll in across the mountains. The ever-recurring dramatic scenes of numinous nature and the focus on the sustaining earth from which our food comes and to which we all return and in which Franz, his wife Fani, and their young daughters romp and roll and plant and harvest and dirty their hands is the ground beneath our feet, and when we look, we see its marriage to the sky, the clouds, the light, the shadows, which in their iridescent interplay of light and darkness beseech us to interrogate our existence and ask with Franz what is right and what is wrong and what is our purpose on this beautiful earth.

That question is especially focused when between the beauty comes the terror in the form of interspersed documentary footage of Hitler, his fanatical followers, and horrifying scenes of war and violence.

Like the movie, I think you would agree that we are always moving, asking, wondering, if we are not the living dead. All is now, and now is nevermore, as it disappears into the darkness behind us. The light is always pointing into the future, so we can see where we are going.  We don’t look at the light but by the light, as the great South African preacher, Alan Storey, puts it.  But what is our light?

Where, asked Nietzsche, was the lightning before it flashed? To which the answer comes: it wasn’t. It is its flashing. Only a doing, an act, just like love, not a thing but action.  Just like the word God, theόs in Greek, which has no vocative sense, as Roberto Calasso has pointed out in Literature and the Gods. “Theόs has a predictive function: it describes something that happens.”  God is a verb; God is happening.  God is happening when humans are happening, acting.  Only then.  “What you do (or don’t) speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say,” was the way Emerson phrased it.

The filmic interplay between Franz’s agonized moral dilemma, his action, and the embodiment of Christ in the natural world, the body of Christ (Corpus Christi, not the erstwhile American nuclear submarine by that name), is its genius, one that might be lost on one impatient for action and garrulous dialogue.  “A Hidden Life” is far from Hollywood. Silence and natural beauty permeate it, as if to say the only way to grasp the mechanized and conscienceless brutality of Hitler or today’s killers and grasp why some resist it, is to enter a contemplative space where the love of the incarnated world awakens our consciences to our responsibility to our sisters and brothers everywhere.  For in the silences one can also hear the screams of the millions of innocent victims beseeching us to heed their cries and intercede.

Malik shows us that the “true Christ” must be experienced as all of creation.  No divisions. We must feel this in our flesh and blood, as does the rather inarticulate Franz, who speaks very little. His silence, however, and the marvelous acting of August Diehl, speak volumes.  Valerie Pachner, as his supportive wife Fani, is gripping in every sense of the word, as Franz and Fani grip and grasp and hold each other in a fierce struggle to stay united in the face of the evil forces that threaten to separate them.  It tore me apart to watch their struggle, and I left the theater shaking.

In one of his marvelous essays, “A Kind of Sharing,” John Berger, writing about painting, said,

The act of faith consisted of believing that the visible contained hidden secrets, that to study the visible was to learn something more than could be seen in a glance.  Thus paintings were there to reveal a presence behind an appearance.

This could be Malik’s motto, his faith.  Or perhaps “to reveal a presence that is the appearance.” The body is the soul.  We are the world.

When I was young and in the U.S. Marines, seeking release as a conscientious objector, I read a book by Gordon Zahn, a sociologist and Catholic peace activist, called In Solitary Witness.Itwasthe book that first brought Franz Jägerstätter to the world’s attention.  I found it deeply inspiring to learn about someone else who felt alone in his spiritual decision to refuse to fight in war.  Unlike Franz, who had been a wild motorcycle-riding young man prone to fighting, I had tried to be an upstanding, Jesuit-educated, patriotic, Irish-Catholic boy. Tried but didn’t completely succeed. I prided myself on my toughness and sensitivity.  Don’t laugh. It’s not that uncommon.  We are often strangers to ourselves, complicated creatures, even the worst among us open to redemptive change. But as I said then and say now, war is another matter. I felt it in my soul, as Franz clearly did, even if all he could say was, “I have this feeling inside me that I can’t do what I believe is wrong.”

War is a racket, as Marine Major General Smedley Butler put it. It is waged for the tyrannical oligarchs and always kills mostly civilians. Over ninety percent now, probably more. Innocent people.  War is immoral.  It is not complex.  It is simple. Like the gospel message.  Jägerstätter grasped that long ago and paid the price.  I paid no price since I was released from the Marines to “take final vows in a religious order,” which was a complete lie, something I had never mentioned or considered but which allowed them to get rid of me.  But I vividly remember the spiritual sustenance I got from Franz’s witness as I awaited the ruling, for I was unequivocally determined to go to prison before ever donning the uniform again. I got off easy and still feel guilty that I pocketed their lie and went my merry way.  Watching “A Hidden Life” reminded me of my cowardice.

Despite feeling “he had no one to turn to,” despite being urged “to say the oath and think what you want,” despite the advice of family and Bishop to compromise, despite the animosity of the villagers toward him and his family, despite being alone with his conscience, Franz remained faithful to his soul’s promptings. He lived forward by the light.

Malik shows us the anguish that was involved in his decision, the agony for him and his wife, who, ironically, seems to have been instrumental when they married in his spiritual awakening and whose suffering is palpable as she supports his decision to the end.  It is not easy to watch.  Aside from Franz, who remains steadfast throughout all the abuse and suffering that he undergoes when jailed by the Nazis, the viewer is not fed a simple story of good against evil but instead is invited to examine one’s own life, to ask what would one have done, to wonder whether Franz was right or wrong to subject his family to such suffering.  Even the humanity of the Nazi judge is shown when he privately tries to dissuade Franz from not signing the oath, telling him that no one will ever know of his sacrifice, that “the world will go on as before” and “someone else will take your place.”  We see the torment on this man’s face and in his harrowed hands when he is left alone after Franz tells him simply that “I don’t know everything” but “I can’t do what I believe is wrong,” despite knowing the consequences, and Franz is taken off to his solitary witness and his death.

The viewer is left to interpret the meaning of it all. Afterwards, we hear Fani says that “the time will come when we’ll know what all this means.”

Has that time come?

In 2007 the Catholic Church declared Jägerstätter a martyr and beatified him.  The irony of making a saint out of a man whose spiritual witness was opposed by the institutional church authorities cannot be lost on a thinking person. Long dead, safely in his grave, a monument can be erected to his memory.  Or is it a monument erected to the church itself, the church whose silence was in those days deafening?

When I was leaving the theater with the seven other attendees, a man engaged me in conversation.  I asked him what he thought of the movie.  He said only that “it was beautiful.”  I was startled and had no response, but I thought of Rilke’s words about beauty from the Duino Elegies:

For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we still are just able to endure, and we are so awed because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.

“A Hidden Life” is like that.

Near the end we see Franz and a group of prisoners sitting on a bench awaiting their turns to be beheaded by the executioner in a black coat and bowler hat.  A man just doing his job, a bored look on his face, loping off heads one by one, anxious to get the mornings work done and get to lunch.  The terror on the victims’ faces is palpable.  I felt sick.  While some prisoners struggled as they were led into the shed that housed the guillotine, Franz walked calmly in.  Malik spares the viewer the details.  All we are shown is the aftermath – a floor awash in blood.  And as I recall, the light streaming in a high-up window.

Always the light to show us the way.

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Distinguished author and sociologist Edward Curtin is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. Visit the author’s website here.

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In November 2013, the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal (KLWCT) found Israel guilty of war crimes and genocide as defined under the 1948 convention dealing with this highest of high crimes. More on this below.

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There’s no ambiguity about how international law defines crimes of war, against humanity and genocide.

Nuremberg Tribunal Chief Justice Robert Jackson called aggression “the supreme international crime against peace…the greatest menace of our times.”

The Tribunal defined crimes against peace as “planning, preparation, initiation, or waging of wars of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances, or participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the foregoing.”

The Tribunal defined crimes against humanity to include “murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before or during the war; or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds in the execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the country where perpetrated.

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) was established to address crimes of war, against humanity, aggression and genocide committed by individuals. See below.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ or World Court) has jurisdiction over nations.

In the run-up to its 1947-48 war on indigenous Palestinians, while it went on, and throughout its aftermath to the present day, Israel is guilty of the highest high crimes of war, against humanity, and slow-motion genocide against long-suffering Palestinians.

Before falling from grace by backtracking on his damning findings about Israel’s December 2008/January 2009 Cast Lead aggression in Gaza, Richard Goldstone’s Commission accused Israel of “serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law,” saying its actions “amount(ed) to war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity…the people of Gaza (targeted) as a whole.”

There’s no ambiguity about it in all Israeli wars and other hostile actions against defenseless victims, including state-approved use of live fire on unarmed Palestinians demonstrating peacefully.

Polish legal scholar Raphael Lemkin coined the term genocide in 1944, explaining the following:

“More often (genocide) refers to a coordinated plan aimed at destruction of the essential foundations of the life of national groups so that these groups wither and die like plants that have suffered a blight,” adding:

“The end may be accomplished by the forced disintegration of political and social institutions, of the culture of the people, of their language, their national feelings and their religion.”

“It may be accomplished by wiping out all basis of personal security, liberty, health and dignity.”

“When these means fail, the machine gun can always be utilized as a last resort.”

“Genocide is directed against a national group as an entity and the attack on individuals is only secondary to the annihilation of the national group to which they belong.”

Law Professor Francis Boyle and Israeli ex-pat historian/social justice advocate Ilan Pappe accused Israel of committing slow-motion genocide against the Palestinian people — wanting them ethnically cleansed from areas of historic Palestine Israel wants for exclusive Jewish development and use.

According to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, this crime includes various acts “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” by any or a combination of the following ways:

1. Killing members of the group.

2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.

3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.

4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.

The above language is how article 6 of the Rome Statute defines genocide.

It defines war crimes as grave Geneva Convention breaches to include willful killing, torture, causing great suffering, serious injury to body and heath, extensive destruction, and related offenses.

Crimes against humanity are defined to include murder, extermination, enslavement, forcibly transferring a population, unlawful imprisonment, torture, forced disappearances, rape and other forms of sexual abuse, apartheid, and related offenses.

Global Research.ca director Professor Michel Chossudovsky was a member of the Kuala Lumpur tribunal (KLWCC).

Chaired by Malaysia’s Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad, its other members included Denis Halliday, Musa Ismail, Yaacob Merican, and Hans von Sponeck.

Held on November 20 – 25, 2013, the Tribunal heard charges against former IDF general Amos Yaron and the state of Israel.

Yaron was charged with “War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity, and Genocide in his capacity as the Commanding Israeli General in military control of the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Israeli occupied Lebanon in September of 1982 when he knowingly facilitated and permitted the large-scale Massacre of the Residents of those two camps in violation of the Hague Regulations on Land Warfare of 1907; the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949; the 1948 Genocide Convention; the Nuremberg Charter (1945), the Nuremberg Judgment (1946), and the Nuremberg Principles (1950); customary international law, jus cogens, the Laws of War, and International Humanitarian Law.”

Israel was charged as follows:

“From 1948 and continuing to date the State of Israel (hereafter ‘the Defendant’) carried out against the Palestinian people a series of acts namely killing, causing serious bodily harm and deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about physical destruction.”

The defendants are guilty of these crimes as defined under the 1907 Hague Convention, Fourth Geneva, the Genocide Convention, the Nuremberg Tribunal, the Rome Statute, and other international laws relating to these highest of high crimes.

Following the Kuala Lumpur Tribunal, reports published by Global Research.ca concluded the following:

“The perpetrators (State of Israel) had committed acts against the Palestinians, with intent to kill, cause serious bodily or mental harms and deliberately inflict conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction of the Palestinians as a whole or in part.”

“The Tribunal recommends to the War Crimes Commission to give the widest international publicity to this conviction and grant of reparations, as these are universal crimes for which there is a responsibility upon nations to institute prosecutions.”

“The Tribunal deplores the failure of international institutions to punish the State of Israel for its crimes and its total lack of respect of International Law and the institutions of the United Nations.”

Decades of Israeli high crimes against Palestinians are largely ignored by establishment media — most often accusing Palestinians of Israeli crimes committed against them.

During days of Tribunal proceedings, witnesses testified, documents and exhibits were presented as evidence of high crimes charged against defendants.

Dr. Mads Gilbert treated Gazan war victims, many with horrific wounds he never saw before.

They included severe internal chemical, biological and radiological burns, effects of toxic gases, severed arms, legs, and other body parts, and abdomens sliced open, among others.

During Israel’s Operating Protective Edge in summer 2014, Gilbert said the following about Gaza’s killing fields:

“(L)ast night was extreme. The ‘ground invasion’ of Gaza resulted in scores and carloads with (the) maimed, torn apart, bleeding, shivering, dying – all sorts of injured Palestinians, all ages, all civilians, all innocent.”

“The heroes in the ambulances and in all of Gaza’s hospitals are working 12-24hrs shifts, grey from fatigue and inhuman workloads (without payment (at) all in Shifa (hospital) for the last four months).”

“They care, triage, try to understand the incomprehensible chaos of bodies, sizes, limbs, walking, not walking, breathing, not breathing, bleeding, not bleeding humans.”

“HUMANS! Now, once more treated like animals by ‘the most moral army in the world (sic).’ ”

“My respect for the wounded is endless, in their contained determination in the midst of pain, agony and shock; my admiration for the staff and volunteers is endless.”

“My closeness to the Palestinian sumud (steadfastness) gives me strength, although in (some of the) glimpses I just want to scream, hold someone tight, cry, smell the skin and hair of the warm child, covered in blood, protect ourselves in an endless embrace – but we cannot afford that. Nor can they.”

“Ashy grey faces – oh NO! Not one more load of tens of maimed and bleeding: We still have lakes of blood on the floor in the ER, piles of dripping, blood-soaked bandages to clear out.”

“The cleaners (are) everywhere, swiftly shoveling the blood and discarded tissues, hair, clothes, cannulas – the leftovers from death – all taken away…(only) to be prepared again, to be repeated all over.”

“More than 100 cases came to Shifa (in the) last 24 hrs, enough for a large well trained hospital with everything, but here (there is) almost nothing.”

“Electricity, water, disposables, drugs, OR-tables, instruments, monitors – all rusted and as if taken from museums of yesterdays hospitals.”

“But they do not complain, these heroes. They get on with it, like warriors, head on, enormous(ly) resolute.”

“And as I write these words to you, alone, on a bed, my tears flow, the warm but useless tears of pain and grief, of anger and fear. This is not happening!”

“And then, just now, the orchestra of the Israeli war-machine starts its gruesome symphony again.”

“Salvos of artillery from the navy boats just down on the shores, the roaring F16, the sickening drones (Arabic ’Zennanis’, the hummers), and the cluttering Apaches.”

“So much made and paid in and by US. Mr. Obama – do you have a heart?”

“I invite you – spend one night – just one night – with us in Shifa. Disguised as a cleaner, maybe.”

“I am convinced, 100%, it would change history. Nobody with a heart AND power could ever walk away from a night in Shifa without being determined to end the slaughter of the Palestinian people.”

“But the heartless and merciless have done their calculations and planned another Dahiya onslaught on Gaza.”

“The rivers of blood will keep running the coming night. I can hear they have tuned their instruments of death.”

“Please. Do what you can…This cannot continue.”

Gilbert didn’t testify at the Kuala Lumpur Tribunal. His riveting remarks demand world headlines.

He was there in Gaza during all-out war. He saw it all, treating ravaged bodies pro bono, desperately trying to save lives and comfort the suffering wounded.

Defendant Yaron and the state of Israel were charged with genocidal high crimes against the Palestinian people — Yaron as commanding general when Ariel Sharon was Israeli war minister in charge of Israel’s 1982 Lebanon war.

Thousands were slaughtered, largely civilians, including in the Sabra and Shatila camps, what journalist Robert Fisk called “one of the most shocking war crimes of the 20th century.”

Defendants weren’t present at the Kuala Lumpur Tribunal, represented by an Amicus Curiae Defense Team.

Global Research explained that

“(t)he Prosecution’s case against the first Defendant is that the first Defendant had committed War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity, and Genocide in his capacity as the Commanding Israeli General in military control of the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Israeli-occupied Lebanon in September of 1982 when he knowingly facilitated and permitted the large-scale Massacre of the Residents of those two camps.”

“These crimes were in violation of, inter alia, the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, the 1948 Genocide Convention, jus cogens, International Humanitarian Law; and Articles 9, 10, and 11 of the Charter of the Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalize War.”

“The Prosecution’s case against the second Defendant is that from 1948 and continuing to date the State of Israel had systematically carried out against the Palestinian people a series of acts namely killing, causing serious bodily harm and deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about physical destruction – with the intention of destroying in whole or in part the Palestinian people.”

“These acts constitute the Crime of Genocide under international law including the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide 1948 (‘the Genocide Convention’) in particular Article II and punishable under Article III of the said Convention.”

“It also constitutes the crime of genocide as stipulated in Article 10 of the Charter of the Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalize War.”

“In his opening statement, the Chief Prosecutor Prof Gurdial Singh said that the Prosecution will adduce evidence to prove the counts in the indictment through oral and written testimonies of victims, witnesses, historical records, narrative in books and authoritative commentaries, resolutions of the United Nations and reports of international bodies.”

Time and again, when violence occurs in the Territories or abroad in neighboring countries where Israel is involved militarily, victims are wrongfully accused of Jewish state crimes committed against them — called IDF self-defense.

Legitimate Palestinian self-defense is called terrorism or incitement by Israeli officials.

Law Professor Francis Boyle earlier accused Israel of “heinous war crimes inflicted every day…against the Palestinian people,” including “willful killing” and state terror.

The late Law Professor Michael Mandel called illegal Israeli settlements “war crimes,” citing the Rome Statute, Geneva Conventions, and other international law.

The state of Israeli, its ruling authorities, and military officials have been and continue to be guilty of the highest of high crimes against Palestinians, Syrians, Lebanese, Iranians, and other innocent victims of their lawlessness.

Accountability was never forthcoming, except at the Kuala Lumpur Tribunal.

 

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

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

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Bolivia: An Election in the Midst of an Ongoing Coup

February 14th, 2020 by Prof. Vijay Prashad

On May 3, 2020, the Bolivian people will go to the polls once more. They return there because President Evo Morales had been overthrown in a coup in November 2019. Morales had just won a presidential election in October for a term that would have begun in January 2020. Based on a preliminary investigation by the Organization of American States (OAS) that claimed that there was fraud in the election, Morales was prematurely removed from office; the term for his 2014 presidential election victory did not end until January. Yet, he was told by the military to leave office. An interim president – Jeanine Áñez – appointed herself. She said she was taking this office only on an interim basis and would not run for election when Bolivia held another election. She is a candidate for the May 3 election. (For more information on what is happening in Bolivia, see this overview from Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.)

Meanwhile, Morales has been in exile in Argentina. His party – the Movement for Socialism (MAS) – has candidates for the presidency and the vice presidency, but their party cadres and followers are facing a difficult time making their case to the people. Their radio stations have been blocked, their leaders arrested or exiled (or sitting in foreign embassies waiting for asylum), their cadre beaten up and intimidated.

The United Nations secretary-general’s personal envoy Jean Arnault released a statement on February 3 that expressed caution about the elections. The situation in Bolivia, Arnault said, is “characterized by an exacerbated polarization and mixed feelings of hope, but also of uncertainty, restlessness and resentment after the serious political and social crisis of last year.” This careful language of the UN needs to be looked at closely. When Arnault says there is “exacerbated polarization,” he means that the situation is extremely tense. When he asks that the interim government “outlaw hate speech and direct or indirect incitement to violence or discrimination,” he means that the government and its far-right followers need to be very careful about what they say and how much violence they use in this election.

On February 6, Morales spoke in Buenos Aires, where he urged an end to the violence so that the election could bring the fractured country together. He called for a national agreement between all sides to end the dangerous situation. In a pointed way, Morales called upon the government to respect diversity, noting that people wearing distinct clothes and wearing the signs of a certain political party were facing intimidation and violence. He meant the indigenous population of Bolivia, and the supporters of MAS; it is widely accepted that the violence has been coming from the far right’s paramilitary shock troops, and the intimidation has been coming from the government.

For instance, the Bolivian authorities have been routinely charging MAS leaders with sedition, terrorism, and incitement to violence. Morales faced these charges, along with dozens of important MAS leaders, most recently Gustavo Torrico who has been arrested. Matters are so bad that the UN’s special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Diego García-Sayán, took to Twitter to express his concern at the “use of judicial and fiscal institutions for the purpose of political persecution. The number of illegal detentions grows.” This has not stopped Áñez, who says she will move her government to investigate at least 592 people who held high office in Morales’ 14 years in government. This means that the entirety of the MAS leadership will likely face harassment between now and the May 3 election.

US Interference

In 2013, Morales expelled the US government agency USAID; he accused USAID of working to undermine his elected government. Before that, Morales, as is his constitutional right, informed Salvador Romero – the head of the election agency (TSE) – that when his term ended in 2008, he would not be retained. This is a normal practice.

Romero went to the US Embassy to complain. He met with US Ambassador Philip Goldberg to complain about this and urged the US to do something. It was clear that Romero and Goldberg knew each other well. When Romero left his post at the TSE, the US establishment took care of him. He went to work at the National Democratic Institute in Honduras. The National Democratic Institute, based in Washington, is loosely affiliated with the US Democratic Party, and is part of the universe that includes the National Endowment for Democracy. These are all US government-funded agencies that operate overseas to “oversee” what is known as “democracy promotion,” including elections.

Romero essentially worked for the US government in Honduras during the first election after the US-instigated coup of 2009. During this election in 2013, violence against the supporters of Xiomara Castro, the candidate of the left-wing Libre Party, was routine. The day before the election, for instance, two leaders of the National Center of Farmworkers (CNTC) – María Amparo Pineda Duarte and Julio Ramón Maradiaga – were killed as they returned home from a training for Libre election workers. This was the atmosphere of this very tight election, which returned to power the US-backed conservative candidate Juan Orlando Hernández of the National Party. Romero, at that time, was quite pleased with the results. He told the New York Times then that “despite ‘the general perception of fraud,’” the election was just fine.

Right after the coup in November, Áñez brought Romero back to La Paz as the head of the election court, the TSE. He has his old job back. This would have made Bruce Williamson, the US charge d’affaires to Bolivia, very happy. The US has its man at the helm of the May 3 election in Bolivia.

And then Trump said he is sending USAID to Bolivia to help prepare the ground for the election. On January 9, the USAID team arrived to “give technical aid to the electoral process in Bolivia.” Technical aid. The phrase should give a reasonable person pause.

Ten days later, Trump’s legal adviser Mauricio Claver-Carone arrived in La Paz and gave a series of interviews in which he accused Morales of terrorism and creating instability. This was a direct attack at MAS and interference with Bolivia’s electoral process.

If the US intervenes in Bolivia, that is just “democracy promotion.”

But even with the violence from the government and its fascistic paramilitaries, even with Romero at the helm of the TSE, even with USAID on the ground, and even with the shenanigans of Claver-Carone, MAS is fighting to win. The candidates for MAS are Luis Arce Catacora (president) and David Choquehuanca Céspedes (vice president). Catacora was the minister of economy and public finance under Morales and the architect of the administration’s economic success. Céspedes was the foreign minister in that government. He managed Bolivia’s policy of international sovereignty and is an important person to Bolivia’s indigenous and peasant movements. Early polls show that the MAS ticket is in first place.

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This article was produced by Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is author of Red Star Over the Third World(LeftWord, 2017) and the Chief Editor of LeftWord Books.

Featured image is from The Bullet

Strengthened by the failure of the Democrats’ impeachment drive, President Donald Trump has accelerated his efforts to expand the powers of the presidency in every sphere.

On Thursday, the Senate approved a symbolic bill instructing the White House to “terminate the use of United States Armed Forces for hostilities against the Islamic Republic of Iran … unless explicitly authorized by a declaration of war or specific authorization for use of military force against Iran.”

The bill is virtually certain to be passed by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, which passed its own version of the measure last month.

In response, the White House stated categorically that Trump will veto the bill that emerges from Congress, arguing in effect for unlimited and unilateral presidential powers to wage war.

The White House said the bill “should be rejected because it attempts to hinder the President’s ability to protect United States diplomats, forces, allies, and partners, including Israel, from the continued threat posed by Iran and its proxies.”

The statement adds, “Protecting the national security of the United States could foreseeably require the President to respond to Iranian threats beyond direct attacks on the United States.”

The response marks a continuation of the drive by Trump to expand the powers of the presidency beyond all constitutional restraints.

Neither Trump’s murder last month of Iranian General Qassem Suleimani—an act of war against Iran—nor his misappropriation of money for the border wall played any role in the Democrats’ impeachment, which centered on their claim that Trump betrayed US national security by delaying military aid to Ukraine in what they called a “hot war” with Russia.

During the Senate impeachment trial, which ended last week in Trump’s acquittal, the White House based its legal defense on an assertion of presidential powers beyond any significant congressional oversight or restraint. Trump’s lawyers argued that “abuse of power” and “obstruction of Congress” were not impeachable offenses, and that the White House would in principle be justified in taking any action provided the president believed it was in the national interest.

Harvard law Professor Alan Dershowitz argued on the Senate floor that “if a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.”

Jonathan Turley, the scholar who testified for Trump during the House impeachment inquiry, said of the White House defense in the Senate trial, “The president’s defense was then tied inextricably to this extreme and chilling argument.”

The war powers resolution on Iran, which passed the Senate when eight Republicans joined the Democrats to vote for it, is toothless. It includes a loophole rendering meaningless the requirement for congressional authorization for military action against Iran. “Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent the United States from defending itself from imminent attack,” it states.

As the Wall Street Journal noted, this passage is an “escape clause” because “Any President would define the defense of the U.S. to include a potential attack on American forces, diplomats, or other interests abroad.”

There is no doubt that a presidential veto will defeat the measure, since its supporters lack the two-thirds majority required to overturn a White House veto.

In an equally naked power grab, the Pentagon announced Thursday afternoon that it will divert $3.8 billion in appropriated funds to build the wall along the US border with Mexico. This is being done under the provisions of a national emergency Trump declared in February of 2019 to circumvent Congress’s refusal to allocate the money he demanded for construction of the wall.

Trump’s misappropriation of funds in defiance of Congress, for the second year in a row, is an egregious violation of constitutional limits on the presidency, which include giving Congress, not the executive branch, the authority to appropriate funds—the so-called “power of the purse.”

A measure of the spinelessness of the Democrats is their role in supplying the votes required in subsequent legislation to “back fill” to the Pentagon budget the money diverted from other military projects to build the border wall. This has gone hand in hand with their failure to take any action to hold Trump to account for his violations of the Constitution.

Over the past week, Trump has carried out a purge of the National Security Council (NSC), firing more than 70 people, including Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who testified in the House impeachment hearings. After having Vindman marched out of the White House by security guards, Trump implied in a tweet that the military should discipline the former head of the Ukraine desk at the NSC.

Trump has also moved to shield his associate Roger Stone, demanding a lighter sentence for him than that proposed by the US attorneys who prosecuted him and secured his conviction for lying to the FBI and Congress and witness tampering. Following the resignation of the US attorneys, Attorney General William Barr, who approved the lessening of the sentence to be imposed on Stone, criticized Trump, saying his public statements made it “impossible to do my job.”

Also on Thursday, Judy Shelton, Trump’s nominee to the Federal Reserve Board, testified before Congress at a confirmation hearing. Shelton had previously advocated an eclectic mix of unorthodox economic ideas, but her testimony focused on defending the president’s right to influence monetary policy as well as the Trump administration’s efforts to promote the competitive devaluation of the US dollar and trade war.

Trump’s moves to expand the powers of the presidency in the wake of the impeachment debacle make clear that that the Trump administration and its drive toward dictatorship cannot be opposed through the Democratic Party.

From the outset of Trump’s tenure, the Democrats have focused their opposition to Trump on differences over foreign policy and worked to suppress and divert the broad and intense popular opposition to the fascistic billionaire president. At the same time, they have collaborated with his crackdown on immigrants, his tax handouts to rich, his slashing of regulations on corporations and his cuts in social programs.

Trump embodies the dictatorial, criminal and oligarchic character of American capitalism. The struggle against his administration is inseparable from the fight against the capitalist system as a whole and can be carried out only under the leadership of the working class, rallying behind it all progressive sections of society in a struggle for socialism.

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Bolivian Elections Will be an Opportunity to Legalize the Coup

By Lucas Leiroz de Almeida, February 14, 2020

The next Bolivian presidential elections were scheduled for May 3. The scenario in the country remains troubled, marked by the unrest and tensions created by the coup that led to the overthrow of Evo Morales. On the one hand, candidates from the right stand up enthusiastically with the intention of neutralizing any possible resurrection of the left. On the other hand, Morales, although with undeniable popular support, currently does not seem to have enough strength to face the right forces.

Bolivia: An Election in the Midst of an Ongoing Coup

By Prof. Vijay Prashad, February 14, 2020
Morales was prematurely removed from office; the term for his 2014 presidential election victory did not end until January. Yet, he was told by the military to leave office. An interim president – Jeanine Áñez – appointed herself.

Black Democrats Endorse Bloomberg after Release of Racist Boasts on “Stop-and-frisk”

By Niles Niemuth, February 14, 2020

“Stop-and-frisk” empowers New York Police Department officers to stop anyone on the street without suspicion of a crime and search and interrogate the individual in public view. Under Bloomberg, the police on patrol operated as armed roving gangs, who assaulted millions of working-class New Yorkers, mostly targeting black and Hispanic men simply for walking down the street.

2020 US Elections: The Top Issue for Democratic Voters Is …

By Eric Zuesse, February 12, 2020

In 2016, Democrats nominated the neoconservative Hillary Clinton in order to move the Party even farther to the right, only to find themselves winning California by the astronomical margin of 4,269,978 votes more than Trump received, and losing all other 49 states by the still-substantial margin of 1,405,002 votes to Hillary.

Irish Election Result Is a Victory for Nationalism

By Johanna Ross, February 12, 2020

Once upon a time Gerry Adams, the leader of Ireland’s nationalist party, Sinn Fein, could not be heard speaking on the BBC. He was branded a terrorist and his voice was dubbed. How times have changed. Now his party, led by Mary Lou McDonald, has stormed to victory in the Irish elections. Having won the largest percentage of the vote at 24%, Sinn Fein has ended the decades long domination of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail in what was effectively a two-party political system.

Iowa: Where The Democrats’ DNC Dreams Go to Die. Bernie, The “Trumpian Front Runner”

By Brett Redmayne-Titley, February 10, 2020

After months of the DNC’s daily water boarding of the American public with their manufactured jurisprudence know as The Impeachment, these same political wizards of electioneering have in one day, Monday, galvanized the person they most detest. This week’s political disaster in Iowa rocketed Bernie Sanders into pronounced Trumpian front runner status and thus exposed the DNC – yet again- for what it really is:A cabal of status quo elitists no different than the RNC puppets they purport to oppose.

Democrats Seek to Suppress Sanders Victory in Iowa

By Patrick Martin, February 07, 2020

The effort by the Democratic Party establishment to conceal or suppress reports of Senator Bernie Sanders’ victory in the Iowa caucuses reached a new stage Thursday with Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez calling on the Iowa Democratic Party to “immediately begin a recanvass” of the state.

The twitter statement by Perez came only hours after the final figures from the Iowa Democratic Party showed Sanders more than 6,000 votes ahead of former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg in the February 3 caucuses, and behind by only two “state delegate equivalents,” out of 2,152, in the process that will lead to the awarding of Iowa’s delegates to the Democratic national convention.


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“We the People Refuse to Fight”: Abandon the Battlefield!

February 14th, 2020 by Prof Michel Chossudovsky

“Throughout the history of mankind there have been murderers and tyrants; and while it may seem momentarily that they have the upper hand, they have always fallen.” (Mahatma Gandhi)

The United States has discarded pretensions to international legality and decency, and embarked on a course of raw imperialism run amok.” (William Rockler, Nuremberg Tribunal prosecutor)

Going on 17 years since the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

This is an illegal war. The people of Iraq are calling for the withdrawal of US troops.  

Syria, Massive popular support for President Al Assad

“Bring the Troops Home Now” is a strong yet ambiguous statement because it accepts the legitimacy of the Commander in Chief who has the authority to make that decision. And if that decision were taken it would be a historical landmark. 

But we cannot depend on Donald Trump to take that decision. 

The war is illegal and criminal. 

Official White House statements and the media in chorus contend that US troops are in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria as part of an anti-terrorist project against ISIS-Daesh.

Nonsense.

The ISIS is what the CIA calls an “an intelligence asset” which is recruited, trained and financed by the US and its allies. 

Irrespective of the US Commander in Chief’s decision namely president Donald Trump, US and coalition troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan have a moral and legal obligation to “Abandon the Battlefield” and we must make that choice possible for individual servicemen and women currently in Iraq. 

“Abandon the Battlefield” rejects the legitimacy of the Commander in Chief.  It denies the Trump regime’s authority to conduct an illegal and criminal war on behalf of the American people. 

What it says, is that “We the People Refuse to Fight” in a war which violates international law and the US Constitution.  

The Iraq war is a criminal undertaking. It violates the Nuremberg Charter, the US constitution and the UN charter.

According to Lawrence Mosqueda, US Troops have a “Duty to Disobey All Unlawful Orders”.

The military oath taken at the time of induction demands unbending support and allegiance to the US Constitution, while also demanding that US troops obey orders from their President and Commander in Chief:

“I,____________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to the regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God”

The President and Commander in Chief has blatantly violated all tenets of domestic and international law. So that making an oath to “obey orders from the President” is tantamount to violating rather than defending the US Constitution.

According to Mosqueda:

“The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) 809.ART.90 (20), makes it clear that military personnel need to obey the “lawful command of his superior officer,” 891.ART.91 (2), the “lawful order of a warrant officer”, 892.ART.92 (1) the “lawful general order”, 892.ART.92 (2) “lawful order”. In each case, military personnel have an obligation and a duty to only obey Lawful orders and indeed have an obligation to disobey Unlawful orders, including orders by the president that do not comply with the UCMJ. The moral and legal obligation is to the U.S. Constitution and not to those who would issue unlawful orders, especially if those orders are in direct violation of the Constitution and the UCMJ.”

(Mosqueda, op cit,  http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/MOS303A.html )

The Commander in Chief is a war criminal. According to Principle 6 of the Nuremberg Charter:

“The fact that a person [e.g. Coalition troops]  acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.”

Let us make that  “moral choice” possible, to enlisted American, British, Canadian and Coalition servicemen and women.

Disobey unlawful orders! Abandon the battlefield! …

Refuse to fight in a war which blatantly violates international law and the US Constitution!

But this is not a choice which enlisted men and women can make individually.

It is a collective and societal choice, which requires an organizational structure.

What is required?

In response to the Iraqi protest movement, which demands the withdrawal of US forces, the anti-war movement must assist enlisted men and women to make that moral choice possible, to abandon the battlefield in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

This will not be an easy task. Committees at local levels must be set up across the United States, but also in other countries, which have troops in Iraq and Afghanistan (as well as other   countries in the Middle East).

These committees should also provide protection, support and legal council to soldiers who refuse to fight and who face the possibility of prison sentences for desertion, as in the case of Sergeant Camilo Mejia, who was sentenced by a military court in May 2004:

 “I sit here a free man… I will sit behind bars a free man because I did the right thing,” said Mejia.

Camilo Mejía was released from prison on February  2005.

When service men and women come home, we must ensure that they are not obliged to return to the war theater. We must engage in a process which protects them from court martial.

We call upon veterans’ associations and local communities to support this process.

This movement needs to dismantle the disinformation campaign. It must effectively reverse the indoctrination of coalition troops, who are led to believe that they are fighting “a just war”:  “a war against terrorists”.

There cannot be a war “against” terrorists when Al Qaeda affiliated mercenaries are recruited by the US and its allies including Saudi Arabia and Israel. The legitimacy of the US Commander in Chief must be broken.

The US Administration must learn the lessons of history.

Concurrently, an anti-war debate within the US Armed Forces is required which questions the legitimacy of the Iraq and Afghan wars. Many commanding officers at the highest ranks are fully aware that “the war on terrorism” against Al Qaeda and ISIS-Daesh is “Fake”.

The Iraqi and Afghan people are waging a struggle to oust the US invaders. And that resistance is winning. Ultimately, the only solution is for the American, British and coalition occupiers is to withdraw.

The anti-war movement must question the legitimacy not only of the Trump administration and its indefectible British ally, but also of all those governments, which directly support or pay lip service to the US-led military occupation.

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An earlier version of this article was published in June 2004, it was revised and updated (February 14, 2020).

 

Donald Trump‘s acquittal in his Senate trial after being impeached for courting foreign intervention in the 2020 US elections and obstruction of Congress can only embolden him to adopt increasingly destructive policies in this region. First and foremost, the subservient Republican Party refused to either allow testimony or documents to be introduced into the proceedings, but celebrated his acquittal as if the trial had been fair. Consequently, Trump and his party will continue to adhere to an Israeli agenda on all regional issues. From now on, there are no brakes on Trump’s impetuous, erratic, self-interested political moves, which can only become increasingly dangerous since Trump is certain to grant Israel more and more of its demands as the November election draws near.

Palestine:

In February 2017, shortly after his inauguration, know-nothing Trump began to set the tone of his involvement in the Palestine-Israeli conflict by appearing to back away from the internationally-mandated “two-state solution” during a meeting in the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu. Trump said he would support a one-state solution if agreed by the two sides and vowed to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, a longstanding Israeli demand. Trump also urged Israel to slow colonisation of the West Bank, raising Palestinian hopes that he might adopt a positive line on settlement expansion. In early May, without speaking in specifics, Trump pledged to work for peace when he met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Washington. His contradictory ideas on a subject about which he knew little or nothing soon morphed into hard-line pro-Israel policies.

Israel:

Trump’s first trip to the region was to Saudi Arabia and Israel. His aim was to warm relations with Saudi Arabia, which had been cool during the Obama administration, and repair ties with Netanyahu, which had frayed under president Barack Obama. In a false display of even-handedness, Trump met Abbas in the West Bank town of Bethlehem. After this encounter, Trump said he hoped his administration would help the parties negotiate a peace deal.

By November, Trump was totally committed to follow Israel’s line when son-in-law Jared Kushner and his pro-Israeli team began works on the secret “Deal of the Century.” This was demonstrated on December 6, when he recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and said he would shift the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He subsequently cancelled US contributions to the UN agency caring for Palestinian refugees, cut all US aid to projects in occupied Palestine and shuttered the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington.

On January 28 this year, standing alongside Netanyahu, Trump unveiled his “Deal of the Century”, which was promptly rejected as adopting Israeli positions on Palestine, which was not consulted; Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, the three Arab countries bordering Israel, the Arab League and the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation. Trump’s immediate aim was to give Netanyahu a boost ahead of Israel’s March parliamentary election, the third in a year. Trump’s gifts have not given his friend victory twice over. If the “Deal of the Century” fails to give Netanyahu a new term as prime minister, Trump will have to think of switching his allegiance to rival Benny Gantz.

Syria:

In April 2017, Trump ordered a cruise missile attack on Syria’s Shayrat airbase in response to an alleged poison gas attack by the Syrian army on the town of Khan Shaikhoun in Al Qaeda and rebel-held Idlib province. Ninety minutes after Trump’s strikes, Netanyahu office issued a statement saying Israel “fully supports [Trump’s] decision.” Subsequently, Israel issued its own report on the purported chemical attack on Khan Shaikhoun. Netanyahu reportedly saw Trump’s strike as validating Israel’s constant missile and drone attacks on Syrian military positions and facilities manned by pro-Iranian fighters allied with Damascus.

During 2017, the US and its mainly Western allies bombed Daesh’s capital at Raqqa in northern Syria, driving its inhabitants into the desert and destroying 80 per cent of the town. In August 2018, Trump administration officials announced the $230 million allocated by Congress for the reconstruction of Raqqa would not be dispensed. This sum was part of $3 billion in foreign aid the administration refused to spend. In December 2018, Trump announced his decision to withdraw the 2,000 US soldiers then serving in Syria alongside Kurdish ground troops fighting Daesh and gave a green light to Turkey to attack Washington’s Kurdish allied. He subsequently left 1,000 in the north and northeast to occupy Syria’s oil fields and several hundred at the US base at Tanf in the south on the Jordanian border.

In March 2019, in a bid to boost Netanyahu’s chances of victory in Israel’s parliamentary election, Trump recognised Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. However, Netanyahu did not win although Trump’s gesture has become US policy, creating a precedent for Israel’s annexation of the Palestinian West Bank and other illegal occupiers, including Turkey in northern Cyprus and northern Syria.

Iran: 

On May 8, 2018, Trump withdrew the US from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the deal for the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief. He took this decision a month after pro-Israel, anti-Iran hawk John Bolton became national security adviser and a week after Netanyahu delivered a speech claiming, without proof, that Iran had “lied” when it claimed it had no intention of developing nuclear weapons.

Since withdrawing from the deal, Trump has ramped up sanctions on Iran, crippling the country’s economy and depriving Iranians of essential food and medical supplies and depriving Iran of external revenue by shutting off most of its oil exports. Instead of waging armed conflict with Iran, as Israel has proposed repeatedly, Trump is waging economic warfare, possibly eliciting retaliation from Iran.

Iraq: 

Following the 2017 defeat of Daesh at Mosul, Trump claimed that Daesh was “finished” and the US military mission focused on trying to counter Iran’s influence in Iraq. This effort culminated in the assassination of Iranian Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani on January 3 this year. Netanyahu, naturally, praised Trump and expressed Israel’s “full appreciation for acting with determination, strongly and swiftly. We stand fully by the United States…” The Iraqi government responded by calling for the US to withdraw from the country, a demand Trump has refused, boosting the anti-US camp in Iraq.

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On the face of it, the task seems almost hopeless. As Tolstoy wrote:

‘The power of the government is maintained by public opinion, and with this power the government, by means of its organs – its officials, law courts, schools, churches, even the press – can always maintain the public opinion which they need.’ (Leo Tolstoy, ‘Writings on Non-Violence and Civil Disobedience,’ New Society Publishers, 1987, p.111)

Last December, we witnessed the awesome capacity of state-corporate power to manipulate public opinion and undermine a democratic election with a ruthless propaganda campaign smearing Jeremy Corbyn, a passionate anti-racist. The campaign depicted Corbyn, not just as an anti-semite, but as someone who might ‘reopen Auschwitz’. The truth wasn’t just distorted, it was reversed.

Israeli-born academic and author Jamie Stern-Weiner has commented:

‘no mainstream reporter ever investigated whether the allegations against Labour were true.

‘Where journalists did not reflexively endorse the accusations against Labour, they were content to uncritically relay them alongside the party’s response.

‘Accusations by Jewish communal figures or anti-Corbyn MPs were considered inherently significant, whether or not they were accompanied by supporting evidence.’

Careful, credible analysis that made a nonsense of the claims here, here and here was simply ignored.

Vested interests may appear to hold all the cards – they work hard to give that impression – but this is only an appearance. The very fact that they work so relentlessly to shape public opinion indicates the precarious nature of their dominance.

The problem is inherent, structural – a ‘democratic’ society that subordinates the needs of the many to the needs of the few is a society based on lies. Propaganda obfuscating those lies can be disseminated endlessly, day and night, but it will always be vulnerable to individuals and groups with genuine expertise motivated by genuine concern for others. As the Buddhist sage Je Gampopa commented:

‘Even a single virtuous act overcomes many evils… a small good action can overcome a great wrong; it is highly efficient.’ (Gampopa, ‘Gems of Dharma, Jewels of Freedom,’ Altea, 1994, p.135)

Following in the footsteps of senior UN officials like Denis Halliday, Hans von Sponeck and Scott Ritter – who, between them, demolished many of the deceptions ‘justifying’ the genocidal 1990s US-UK sanctions regime in Iraq and the 2003 war of aggression on Iraq – consider the ‘highly efficient’ comments made to the Swiss magazine, Republik, by Nils Melzer on Julian Assange:

‘Four democratic countries joined forces – the U.S., Ecuador, Sweden and the UK – to leverage their power to portray one man as a monster so that he could later be burned at the stake without any outcry. The case is a huge scandal and represents the failure of Western rule of law. If Julian Assange is convicted, it will be a death sentence for freedom of the press.’

The problem for the propaganda system targeting Assange is that Melzer is not just someone blogging on the internet; he is the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. In addition, he is a professor of international law at the University of Glasgow and holds the Human Rights Chair at the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights in Switzerland, where he has been teaching since 2009, including as the Swiss Chair of International Humanitarian Law (2011–2013). Melzer even speaks fluent Swedish. In other words, it is hard to imagine anyone better qualified to comment on the Assange case.

Melzer describes how, on August 20, 2010, a headline appeared on the front page of Expressen, a leading Swedish tabloid, declaring that Julian Assange was suspected of having committed two rapes. Melzer describes his reaction on investigating these claims:

‘I speak fluent Swedish and was thus able to read all of the original documents. I could hardly believe my eyes: According to the testimony of the woman in question, a rape had never even taken place at all. And not only that: The woman’s testimony was later changed by the Stockholm police without her involvement in order to somehow make it sound like a possible rape. I have all the documents in my possession, the emails, the text messages.’

The order of events is extraordinary and outrageous:

‘A woman walks into a police station. She doesn’t want to file a complaint but wants to demand an HIV test. The police then decide that this could be a case of rape and a matter for public prosecutors. The woman refuses to go along with that version of events and then goes home and writes a friend that it wasn’t her intention, but the police want to “get their hands on” Assange. Two hours later, the case is in the newspaper. As we know today, public prosecutors leaked it to the press – and they did so without even inviting Assange to make a statement. And the second woman, who had allegedly been raped according to the Aug. 20 headline, was only questioned on Aug. 21.’

As Melzer says, this behaviour demonstrated the ‘willful malevolence of the authorities’. Melzer leaves no doubt about the real significance of the rape claims:

‘Imagine a dark room. Suddenly, someone shines a light on the elephant in the room – on war criminals, on corruption. Assange is the man with the spotlight. The governments are briefly in shock, but then they turn the spotlight around with accusations of rape. It is a classic maneuver when it comes to manipulating public opinion. The elephant once again disappears into the darkness, behind the spotlight. And Assange becomes the focus of attention instead, and we start talking about whether Assange is skateboarding in the embassy or whether he is feeding his cat correctly.’

The goal:

‘A show trial is to be used to make an example of Julian Assange. The point is to intimidate other journalists. Intimidation, by the way, is one of the primary purposes for the use of torture around the world. The message to all of us is: This is what will happen to you if you emulate the Wikileaks model.’

It is very much to Melzer’s credit that he admits that he was himself initially taken in by the propaganda campaign. He reveals that, in December 2018, he was asked by Assange’s lawyers to intervene. He declined:

‘I was overloaded with other petitions and wasn’t really familiar with the case. My impression, largely influenced by the media, was also colored by the prejudice that Julian Assange was somehow guilty and that he wanted to manipulate me.’

After Assange’s lawyers made a second request in March 2019, Melzer felt that that ‘my professional integrity demanded that I at least take a look at the material’. The result:

‘It quickly became clear to me that something was wrong.’

With unprecedented clarity, Melzer unpacks the meaning of the many bizarre twists and turns in the political persecution of Assange. Was it true, as so many journalists claim, that Assange sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy to evade Swedish justice? Melzer comments:

‘The [Assange] lawyers say that during the nearly seven years in which Assange lived in the Ecuadorian Embassy, they made over 30 offers to arrange for Assange to visit Sweden – in exchange for a guarantee that he would not be extradited to the U.S. The Swedes declined to provide such a guarantee by arguing that the U.S. had not made a formal request for extradition.’

Was this standard practice?

‘Such diplomatic assurances are a routine international practice… I say this on the strength of all of my experience behind the scenes of standard international practice: If a country refuses to provide such a diplomatic assurance, then all doubts about the good intentions of the country in question are justified. Why shouldn’t Sweden provide such assurances? From a legal perspective, after all, the U.S. has absolutely nothing to do with Swedish sex offense proceedings.’

Melzer was asked if it was normal, or legally acceptable, for Swedish authorities to travel abroad for such an interrogation:

‘For exactly these kinds of judiciary issues, there is a cooperation treaty between the United Kingdom and Sweden, which foresees that Swedish officials can travel to the UK, or vice versa, to conduct interrogations or that such questioning can take place via video link. During the period of time in question, such questioning between Sweden and England took place in 44 other cases. It was only in Julian Assange’s case that Sweden insisted that it was essential for him to appear in person.’

Melzer’s conclusion:

‘From my perspective, Sweden very clearly acted in bad faith. Had they acted in good faith, there would have been no reason to refuse to answer my questions. The same holds true for the British: Following my visit to Assange in May 2019, they took six months to answer me – in a single-page letter, which was primarily limited to rejecting all accusations of torture and all inconsistencies in the legal proceedings. If you’re going to play games like that, then what’s the point of my mandate? I am the Special Rapporteur on Torture for the United Nations. I have a mandate to ask clear questions and to demand answers.’

He adds:

‘There is only a single explanation for everything – for the refusal to grant diplomatic assurances, for the refusal to question him in London: They wanted to apprehend him so they could extradite him to the U.S. The number of breaches of law that accumulated in Sweden within just a few weeks during the preliminary criminal investigation is simply grotesque.’

The media version was rather different. In 2012, the Guardian’s Laura Barton wrote of Assange and the Ecuadorian embassy:

‘Poor Julian. It can’t be easy to be confined to one building, no matter how prestigious the postcode… And so we decided to assemble a collection of items that Assange might be missing, and deliver them.’

A photograph showed an unsmiling Barton delivering a Guardian hamper to their bete noire at the Ecuadorian embassy:

‘we packed our hamper with a selection of edible items not native to Ecuador – Kellogg’s cornflakes fortified with vitamin D to compensate for the lack of sunlight in Assange’s life, a jar of Vegemite (as an antipodean, Julian was likely to spurn Marmite), a packet of chocolate-chip cookies, and a punnet of clementines.

‘Recalling that Bill Keller, editor of the New York Times, once remarked upon Assange’s questionable hygiene and the fact he wore “filthy white socks” we added three pairs of crisp, white sports socks and a shower gel in the “feelgood fragrance of eucalyptus and citrus oils” that promised to be both “revitalizing” and “refreshing.”’

We have documented many similar examples of this relentless, ferocious and frankly weird corporate media mockery of Assange here and here.

Assange is currently being held in London’s Belmarsh prison prior to a hearing that will determine if he is to be extradited to the US. He has already served a 50-week sentence for skipping bail. Melzer comments on this sentence:

‘It is obvious that what we are dealing with here is political persecution. In Britain, bail violations seldom lead to prison sentences – they are generally subject only to fines. Assange, by contrast, was sentenced in summary proceedings to 50 weeks in a maximum-security prison – clearly a disproportionate penalty that had only a single purpose: Holding Assange long enough for the U.S. to prepare their espionage case against him.’

A US grand jury has indicted Assange on 18 charges – 17 of which fall under the US Espionage Act – around conspiracy to receive, obtain and disclose classified diplomatic and military documents. Melzer explains why Assange has no chance of receiving justice in the US:

‘He will not receive a trial consistent with the rule of law. That’s another reason why his extradition shouldn’t be allowed. Assange will receive a trial-by-jury in Alexandria, Virginia – the notorious “Espionage Court” where the U.S. tries all national security cases. The choice of location is not by coincidence, because the jury members must be chosen in proportion to the local population, and 85 percent of Alexandria residents work in the national security community – at the CIA, the NSA, the Defense Department and the State Department. When people are tried for harming national security in front of a jury like that, the verdict is clear from the very beginning. The cases are always tried in front of the same judge behind closed doors and on the strength of classified evidence. Nobody has ever been acquitted there in a case like that. The result being that most defendants reach a settlement, in which they admit to partial guilt so as to receive a milder sentence.’

Meanwhile, Assange’s physical condition has continued to deteriorate:

‘I visited Assange in his cell in London in May 2019 together with two experienced, widely respected doctors who are specialized in the forensic and psychological examination of torture victims. The diagnosis arrived at by the two doctors was clear: Julian Assange displays the typical symptoms of psychological torture. If he doesn’t receive protection soon, a rapid deterioration of his health is likely, and death could be one outcome.’

Melzer’s conclusions are utterly damning:

‘We have to stop believing that there was really an interest in leading an investigation into a sexual offense. What Wikileaks did is a threat to the political elite in the U.S., Britain, France and Russia in equal measure. Wikileaks publishes secret state information – they are opposed to classification. And in a world, even in so-called mature democracies, where secrecy has become rampant, that is seen as a fundamental threat.’

He adds:

‘We give countries power and delegate it to governments – but in return, they must be held accountable for how they exercise that power. If we don’t demand that they be held accountable, we will lose our rights sooner or later. Humans are not democratic by their nature. Power corrupts if it is not monitored. Corruption is the result if we do not insist that power be monitored.’

His final thoughts are an urgent warning to us all:

‘I have seen lots of horrors and violence and have seen how quickly peaceful countries like Yugoslavia or Rwanda can transform into infernos. At the roots of such developments are always a lack of transparency and unbridled political or economic power combined with the naivete, indifference and malleability of the population. Suddenly, that which always happened to the other – unpunished torture, rape, expulsion and murder – can just as easily happen to us or our children. And nobody will care. I can promise you that.’

We tweeted the Guardian editor and a number of key Guardian journalists who have commented on Assange:

‘For the first time, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, speaks in detail about the explosive findings of his investigation into the case of Julian Assange. Please read and comment @KathViner @MarinaHyde @suzanne_moore @GeorgeMonbiot @HadleyFreeman @OwenJones84’

We also tweeted:

‘As @NilsMelzer says, a failure to respond to his findings indicates a lack of good faith. Please respond @KathViner @MarinaHyde @suzanne_moore @GeorgeMonbiot @HadleyFreeman @OwenJones84’

We also wrote to Ash Sarkar, contributing editor at Novara Media, who described Assange on Twitter as ‘a definite creep, a probable rapist, a conspiracist whackjob’:

‘Hi @AyoCaesar, will you please respond to these comments from @NilsMelzer, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, on attempts to portray Julian Assange ‘as a monster so that he could later be burned at the stake without any outcry’? @novaramedia @AaronBastani’

We received no answer from any of the journalists contacted (to be fair to Monbiot and Jones, having blocked us on Twitter for sending them polite, rational challenges, they may not have seen our tweet).

Despite the credibility and integrity of the source, and the obvious newsworthiness of the issue, our ProQuest database search finds that Nils Melzer and his comments published in Republik on 31 January have not been mentioned in any US or UK media outlet.

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The Lima Group meets in Gatineau on February 20, 2020, across the river from Ottawa’s Parliament Hill. The group was originally established on August 8, 2017 in Lima, Peru. Twelve countries initially signed the declaration known as the Lima Declaration: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay and Peru. The US is not a member.

Since the original establishment, two and a half years ago, two other countries – Bolivia and Haiti – have joined, both now led by US/Western puppet governments. Trudeau was instrumental, along with Trump, in the coup d’état against Bolivia’s first indigenous President, Evo Morales, last fall, to install a new fascist “government.” Concerning Haiti, along with the US and France, Canada is a key player, through the CORE Group, in maintaining its control over Haiti. However, Mexico has since withdrawn, following its government swing to the left with a foreign policy independent of the US. The principal goal of the Lima Group is regime change in Venezuela against the Maduro government.

From the beginning (and even before Lima), the Trudeau government aspired to be the leading political force against Venezuela, with Colombia constituting its armed instrument. The Canadian government website dedicated to the “Venezuela Crisis,” since November 11, 2016 to date, boasts 97 Canadian, Lima Group and multilateral organization statements. They constitute a laundry list of imperialistic and arrogant demands, threats, ultimatums and sanctions. However, these 97 statements are just part of the Trudeau strategy. He uses his advantageous position of not being a Trump, and his ability to communicate in English and French, to assist Trump not only in Latin America, but also in Europe with success.

The Gatineau meeting is the third hosted by Canada: October 27, 2017 in Toronto; February 4, 2019 in Ottawa; and now Gatineau. With this meeting, it is Canada that has hosted the most meetings, even more than Peru. Yet, Canada is obviously the furthest country from any in Latin America. This is a testimony to the Trudeau’s infatuation with Canada’s “leadership” on Venezuela.

Why is Canada so involved against Venezuela? There are many reasons that this author, along with others, spell out with documented evidence in the course of the current International Speaking Tour on Latin America. However, let us deal with just one at this point. Trudeau is fighting to win a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council for 2021–2022. He uses the Venezuela issue to prop up his visibility on the international scene. Furthermore, the Trudeau government is no longer discreet in its UNSC goal. On February 11, it announced that he will travel to Barbados to meet with Caribbean Community leaders in this way:

“As Canada pursues its candidacy for election to the United Nations Security Council in 2021–2022, we will continue to advance shared interests to benefit people and businesses in Canada, the Caribbean, and around the world.” (Prime Minister of Canada, news release)

The other countries vying for the seat are Norway and Ireland. The UN does not need another US ally such as Canada that is also called out by the UN for its genocide against its First Nations, while it fully supports Trump abroad. Anybody but Canada for the UN.

The trademark of the Lima Group is that it does not favour military intervention, but rather opts for a “peaceful solution” to the “Venezuelan Crisis.” Yet, among the 97 Canadian statements, we find Canadian sanctions that are considered in themselves a form of warfare, such as a study indicating that 40,000 Venezuelans lost their lives in 2017–2018 as a result of these US sanctions. Moreover, not one of the 97 statements call out the Trump administration for even its most severe sanctions that constitute an act of war, such as seizing ships in international waters ferrying food to Venezuela. Not one of the statements even mildly criticizes the US–Colombian paramilitary actions against Venezuela.

The cyber war led by the US against the Venezuelan electricity grid, leaving thousands in darkness for many days, only resulted in statements criticizing the Venezuelan government as the source of the blackouts. The hypocrisy of  the “peaceful transition” option lies in the fact that the US itself has no quibble about this road, as it continuously states that it wants to avoid the military solution and favours a “peaceful solution,” claiming the military option is merely “on the table” while it carries out economic warfare.

Not without significance is the reason that the Trump–Trudeau team provides for opposing military force. Is it the untold suffering, misery and deaths that a military intervention would cause? No, the concern is that such an intervention would only strengthen Chavismo by bolstering its world-renowned, powerful anti-imperialist raison d’être.

Furthermore, among the “peaceniks” in the Lima Group, we have Colombia and Chile, known for its violating of human rights against its own people, including assassination. While the Trudeau government published 97 statements on Venezuela, it did not add a single word on the violence carried out in Chile and Colombia, nor by its puppet Haitian government.

Finally, the Gatineau Lima meeting is taking place with the backdrop of a Canadian nationwide crisis. It is pitting the First Nations people Wet’suwet’en and their growing number of allies in Canada in defence of their ancestral land against Trudeau’s push to build a natural gas pipeline through its lawfully administered nation. Colonialism at home, imperialism abroad.

The message that Canadians can send to Gatineau is firm opposition to Canadian and American sanctions against Venezuela.Trump and Trudeau should keep their hands off Venezuela.

We are in a good position. Trudeau may seem to be victorious in his insatiable quest for international recognition to fulfill his goal of a seat on the UN Security Council, using Venezuela and Lima as the vehicle. However, he like Trump, are “emperors without clothes,” as their puppet Guaidó was booted out of the Caracas airport by the people when he landed after his international tour that included the US and Canada. Lima-Gatineau will prove to be a Pyrrhic victory for Trudeau.

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Arnold August is a Canadian journalist and lecturer, the author of Democracy in Cuba and the 1997–98 ElectionsCuba and Its Neighbours: Democracy in Motion and Cuba–U.S. Relations: Obama and Beyond. He collaborates with many web sites, television and radio broadcasts based in Latin America, Europe, North America and the Middle East. Twitter  Facebook.

 

Bolivian Elections Will be an Opportunity to Legalize the Coup

February 14th, 2020 by Lucas Leiroz de Almeida

The next Bolivian presidential elections were scheduled for May 3. The scenario in the country remains troubled, marked by the unrest and tensions created by the coup that led to the overthrow of Evo Morales. On the one hand, candidates from the right stand up enthusiastically with the intention of neutralizing any possible resurrection of the left. On the other hand, Morales, although with undeniable popular support, currently does not seem to have enough strength to face the right forces.

Bolivia is currently going through one of the worst phases in its history. A real drop, if we take into account the situation of economic stability that the country lived recently, with the policies of an indigenous and socialist nature of Evo Morales. The coup d’état carried out by pro-Washington groups last year is one of the most advanced activities on the United States’ agenda in Latin America. The failure of the planned coup d’état in Venezuela was not repeated in Bolivia, which fell into the hands of external enemies.

The illegality of the political maneuver that brought down Morales is undeniable. The aggressiveness with which the Bolivian opposition acted makes clear the intentions and modus operandi of groups interested in putting an end to the socialist government. Now, however, with the new elections, the right has its chance to mask the coup with the varnish of legality, thus perpetuating a Bolivian zombie state, totally hostage to the actions of groups outside the national interests.

The popular preference for Morales is undeniable and absolutely noticeable. The 60% majority that declared a preference for the former president makes clear the real popular interest. Never before has Bolivia, the poorest country in South America, experienced such economic growth and such autonomy and freedom for the traditional communities of indigenous peoples. Now, however, the coup perpetrators intend to go back on all the points on which Morales has made progress, subordinating the national economy to the international market and intensifying the policies of repression against native peoples.

MAS – Movimiento Al Socialismo, party of Evo Morales – will have as candidate the former minister of the economy, Luiz Arce. In contrast, reactionary options abound, including, notably, Jeanina Añez, the “self-proclaimed” president of the country, and Luis Fernando Camacho, the businessman who led the protests against Morales at the head of the powerful Santa Cruz Civic Committee, in addition to Carlos Mesa, former president with a more moderate behavior.

It is speculated that Añez and Camacho will unite on a single front in a possible second round in the elections, harming both the MAS popular left and Mesa’s moderate reactionarism. However, it is not just the popular will and full confidence in the legality of the conduct of the elections that should be used to analyze this case.

In fact, South America is going through a terrible time in political, economic and geopolitical terms. With the exception of Venezuela, which survives under a serious economic crisis, all other countries are taken over by governments strongly committed to Washington’s agenda. This means that their direct support for the election of a socialist candidate will be minimal and, in return, the pressure for a coup victory will be exaggerated and cruel, with emphasis on the role played by Brazil, currently governed by Jair Bolsonaro, a neoliberal who has already made clear several times his intentions to use all of Brazil’s regional power to guarantee the full functioning of the interests of the USA – having even, on several occasions, threatened to intervene militarily in neighboring countries, such as Venezuela.

Furthermore, Bolivia’s legal situation is catastrophic. The country has recently undergone a coup d’état and finds itself hostage to the articulations and clashes of different groups. This means that it is possible and likely that there will be fraud and sabotage in the elections if the expectations of the coup perpetrators are not met at the polls. In any case, the coup makers will do their best to win, because they know that the victory would guarantee them a mask of legality, guarantee their international recognition, since for the West the only thing that matters is the democratic appearance.

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This article was originally published on InfoBrics.

Lucas Leiroz is a research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

Featured image is from People’s Dispatch

Video: Drones in Modern Warfare. Drone Documentary (2014)

February 14th, 2020 by Global Research News

The documentary is about the role that drones play in war, showing what really happens and demonstrating how cold drone warfare truly is.

Watch the trailer below.

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An audio recording was released Tuesday in which the billionaire Democratic Party presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg boasts that the “stop-and-frisk” policy he championed as mayor of New York deliberately targeted minority youth.

In the openly racist comments, made before an audience of fellow oligarchs at the Aspen Institute in 2015, Bloomberg declares that “ninety-five percent” of murderers are young minority males.

“You can just take a description, Xerox it, and pass it out to all the cops… That’s true in New York, that’s true in virtually every city,” he says. In order to bring crime rates down it is therefore necessary, Bloomberg concludes, to “put a lot of cops where the crime is, which means in minority neighborhoods.”

He adds that the best way to “get the guns out of the kids’ hands” is to “throw ’em against the wall and frisk ’em.”

These remarks are little different than the fascistic views of President Donald Trump, who has counseled the police that they should not be “too nice” to suspects when they are arresting them.

“Stop-and-frisk” empowers New York Police Department officers to stop anyone on the street without suspicion of a crime and search and interrogate the individual in public view. Under Bloomberg, the police on patrol operated as armed roving gangs, who assaulted millions of working-class New Yorkers, mostly targeting black and Hispanic men simply for walking down the street.

During Bloomberg’s time in office the number of “stop-and-frisks” rose from 92,000 in 2002 to a peak of 685,724 in 2011. All told, there were more than five million such stops during his tenure, which ended in 2013. While at a much-reduced level, in response to popular protests against the policy and lawsuits filed on behalf of victims by the ACLU, “stop-and-frisk” continues under Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The immediate response from a number of elected African-American Democrats to the exposure of Bloomberg’s racist boasts was not to call for him to bow out of the race for the White House, but rather to endorse the former Republican and Independent and boost him as the only Democratic candidate who can defeat President Donald Trump in November.

On Wednesday, Bloomberg announced the endorsement of three members of the Congressional Black Caucus: Georgia Congresswoman Lucy McBath, Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York and Delegate Stacey Plaskett of the US Virgin Islands. This was preceded by an endorsement from Illinois Congressman Bobby Rush, a former member of the Black Panthers, who had been backing California Senator Kamala Harris until she dropped out of the race in December.

Meeks, the chair of the Queens County Democratic Party, will serve as co-chair of the Mike for Black America National Leadership Council, heading up the Bloomberg campaign’s efforts to win African-American votes. “For the African-American community, it’s two things: one, beating Trump, and, two, progress and success—that we do admire people who are successful,” Meeks told City & State. Meeks added that while he didn’t “like the words that came out” in the leaked audio recording, he had been reassured by Bloomberg’s recent apologies over “stop-and-frisk.”

McBath’s support follows a $4.5 million donation from Bloomberg’s advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety during her bid for Congress in 2018. Plaskett noted in her endorsement that Bloomberg had given generously to the US Virgin Islands in recent years and she promised that his presidency would bring “wealth creation to communities of color.”

In addition to congressional representatives, a growing number of current and former African-American mayors have thrown their lot in with Bloomberg, including Muriel Bowser (Washington, D.C.), Sylvester Turner (Houston), Michael Nutter (Philadelphia), London Breed (San Francisco), Wellington Webb (Denver), Michael Tubbs (Stockton), Lovely Warren (Rochester) and Frank Scott (Little Rock).

Already the endorsements from prominent African American politicians have had their intended effect. The latest Quinnipiac poll shows that Bloomberg has risen to second place among black Democratic primary voters, with 22 percent support to Joe Biden’s 27 percent, despite not having yet appeared in a debate.

What accounts for these Democrats rallying around a candidate even as he is exposed for espousing racist views? Any other candidate caught making such clearly racist remarks would likely be forced out of the race and no apology would suffice to save his or her campaign.

While these figures claim to speak for the “black community,” they in fact represent the affluent upper-middle class, which has no empathy for the working class and poor, black or white, and is at best indifferent to the abuse minority workers and youth suffer at the hands of the police.

Aspiring, self-centered and devoid of principles, they live in awe and envy of Bloomberg and his fellow oligarchs. Determined to hold on to the wealth they have accumulated by defending the capitalist system and its ruling aristocracy, and fearful of the potential for revolt from below, they are more or less openly in support of throwing poor working-class youth “up against the wall.”

How else to deal with the howling injustices and inequities in cities such as New York, where obscene levels of wealth exist alongside grinding poverty, and ensure the safety and comfort of “people who are successful” like themselves?

Exemplifying the views of this ex-liberal layer, Harvard historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. told the New York Times Magazine earlier this month that he thought Bloomberg “could stand toe-to-toe, strongest and longest, with Donald Trump.” Noting that he attends a dinner with Bloomberg every summer in the elite vacation playground of Martha’s Vineyard, Gates declared, “I think black people want [Bloomberg], because he is smart, sensitive, strong.”

“If you want a Democrat to win, they have to know how to fight like a Republican,” MSNBC anchor Joy Ann Reid said on Tuesday, touting Bloomberg’s past political affiliation as a positive mark on his record. “He is a Republican, or used to be anyway.”

With his criminally deep pockets in mind—Bloomberg has an estimated net worth of $61 billion—Democrats are perfectly content to sweep his record under the rug. He gave millions to Democratic Congressional campaigns in 2018, has handed out grants to cities and given generous donations to local charities and churches in order to buy a base of support.

So far this cycle, Bloomberg, who is not taking individual donations, has put more than $300 million of his own money into his campaign. Attendees at his campaign events are treated to complimentary wine and canapés, while low-level campaign staffers are pulling in $6,000 a month, nearly double what the campaigns of Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg are paying.

The growing crisis within the Democratic Party over the popularity of Sanders, a self-proclaimed “democratic socialist” who attacks the “billionaire class” and promises Medicare for All, and who won the popular vote in both Iowa and New Hampshire, together with the free-fall of the Biden campaign, has pushed many wealthy Democrats into the camp of Bloomberg. While both Klobuchar and Buttigieg have been promoted in the media as the “moderate” alternatives to Sanders, neither has the financial clout of Bloomberg.

Philip Levine, a former mayor of Miami Beach, Florida, and leading Bloomberg supporter, told the Wall Street Journal that donors are seeking ways to help the campaign and that elected officials are asking for advice on how to “tactfully retract” their endorsements of Biden and move behind Bloomberg.

The Democratic Party, virulently anti-socialist and capitalist to the bone, sees Bloomberg as the “great rich hope” who can save them from a Sanders’ nomination and suppress a growing wave of socialist sentiment, which is finding an initial and limited expression in the Vermont senator’s campaign. This includes African American Democratic officials no less than their white counterparts.

Just as the basic class issues are bringing together workers of all races and nationalities in a common struggle against international capitalism, so too are common class interests uniting, despite the relentless promotion of racial and gender politics as a weapon to divide the working class, the wealthy beneficiaries of the impoverishment of working people.

Moreover, the “stop-and-frisk” technique Bloomberg employed as mayor of one of the most unequal cities in the world is seen as a critical tool in suppressing the growing wave of social opposition and class struggle in the United States.

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China has a monopoly on one of the most strategic metals on the planet, and Washington is anxious to change that. 

Global dominance at this point in the game means control of the rare earths elements that form the backbone of existing technology and the future of technology, and while everyone is busy playing at war with oil and gas, Beijing is busy sitting on a monopoly of our most precious strategic metals.

There are 16 metals in total that form the world’s strategically critical rare-earth elements–and China controls the supply of every single one because it controls 96% of production.

One of these crucial metals is Cesium.

It’s worth up to twice the price of gold, ounce for ounce, there are only three producing mines in the world, and all of them are controlled by China.

The only question in this game now is whether there is any chance for North America to get its hands-on new cesium of its own to get out from under a Chinese monopoly.

But while there are only three cesium mines in the world, the potential is in new supply. Of five cesium occurrences in Canada’s Ontario province, a small-cap Canadian explorer called Power Metals owns 100% of three of them (West Joe, Tot Lake and Marko).

The company discovered the pegmatites at West Joe Dyke in August 2018, intersecting high-grade cesium mineralization in six drill holes when it was targeting lithium instead.

So, the focus now is not on what has been lost to China, but the promise of new North American critical cesium.

Exactly How Strategic Is Cesium?

Cesium is extremely rare globally. In May 2018, the United States Department of the Interior included lithium, cesium and tantalum on its list of Critical Minerals.

The supreme technological war of global dominance can’t be won without these metals, so whoever controls them has the upper hand.

Cesium is described by the German Institute for Strategic Metals (ISE) as “the most electropositive of all stable elements in the periodic table”, and the heaviest of the stable metals. Cesium is “extremely pyrophoric, ignites spontaneously when in contact with air, and explodes violently in water or ice at any temperature above -116 ° C”.

Laboratories use cesium compounds for strategic organic chemistry, including in x-ray radiation for cancer treatments.

The list of commercial and industrial applications is long and varied, from catalyst promoters, glass amplifiers and photoelectric cell components, to crystals in scintillation counters, and getters in vacuum tubes.

Much cesium demand also comes from the oil and gas industry, which uses cesium formate brines in drilling fluids to prevent blow-outs in high-temperature, over-pressurized wells.

In terms of world dominance, the “cesium standard” is the key. This is the standard by which the accurate commercially available atomic clocks measure time, and it’s vital for the data transmission infrastructure of mobile networks, GPS and the internet.

That means it has serious defense applications as well, including in infrared detectors, optics, night vision goggles and much, much more.

At high purity levels, using the 2018 price for 99.98% pure cesium metal, it’s worth about $79 per gram–twice the price of a gram of gold, according to renowned geologist Mickey Fulp. Most uses required 98% pure cesium, which was set at about $39 for 25 grams in 2018. Otherwise, it’s hard to get a world market price on cesium because there is no trading of this strategic metal.

But imagine China being able to starve manufacturers of something like cesium, which would seriously disrupt U.S. industry and hinder the development of critical military equipment. That’s exactly why this rare metal was left off Washington’s tariff lists in the trade war back-and-forth.

But Dr. Julie Selway, a key geologist for the Ontario Geological Survey during the tantalum boom of the early 2000s, and now VP of exploration for Power Metals, says the three properties the company is drilling are hoped to have similar finds as the strategically important Sinclair mine in Australia.

“They are shipping their resource, which they say is higher than 10% cesium-oxide, and ours have some that are between 12% and 14% of cesium-oxide,” Selway–one of the world’s most renowned experts on pegmatites–told Oilprice.com.

Power Metals has intersected cesium (Cs) mineralization in 6 drill holes on West Joe Dyke, with “exceptionally high-grade” Li and Ta intervals. They also found Cs mineralization in drill core in the first new dyke below Main Dyke, as well as in the drill core in Northeast Dyke.

How Deep Is China’s Control?

China has dominated rare-earths since the 1990s with power in this sector that rivals OPEC for oil–even if it doesn’t make the headlines like oil and gas does.

In 2010, China cut back on exports, triggering major price spikes all over the world because of the critical nature of these metals to the tech industry.

That woke Washington from its slumber, but only slightly.

Beijing’s next move, according to the Wall Street Journal, was to manipulate the market so that rare earth elements (RREs) were cheaper in China than outside the country. What this did was prompt some major manufacturers and tech industries to set up shop in China, where they could get supplies at a lower cost.

In the entire world, there are only three pegmatite mines that can produce cesium: one is the Tanco mine in Manitoba, the second is the Bitika mine in Zimbabwe, and the third is the Sinclair mine in Australia.

Where does China fit into this picture? It controls them all, beyond its own borders, with few players like Power Metals and its three-play Cesium venue which could challenge that total control.

Washington’s emergence from its cesium slumber, however, was short-lived.

According to Fulp, speaking to Kitco, a United States company essentially sold off its control of cesium to Sinomine Resources of China last summer–even after the U.S. placing the metal on the critical list. Prior to this June 2019 deal, cesium production was largely controlled by Boston-based Cabot Corporation, which owned the Tanco mine in Manitoba, but which also has operations in China. This mine was shut down in 2015, with demand met from stockpiles.

Now, Tanco and Bitiki are no longer producing, but Sinomine Resources Group holds all the cesium ore stockpiles.

What that means is that this playing field isn’t just of strategic proportions–but it’s locked up.

The only company in the cesium supply chain right now is Chinese, and one of the only companies on the radar for potential commercial cesium supplies in North America is Canadian junior Power Metals, which is hoping to prove that it’s sitting on the world’s fourth minable deposit of the critical metal.

That’s why, finally, in December 2019, the United States and Canada agreed on a strategy to reduce the need for rare-earth metals mined or controlled by China.

Other companies shaking up China’s rare-earth dominance:

Teck Resources (NYSE:TECK, TSX:TECK)

Teck could be one of the best-diversified miners out there, with a broad portfolio of Copper, Zinc, Energy,  Gold, Silver and Molybdenum assets. Its free cash flow and a lower volatility outlook for base metals in combination with a potential trade war breakthrough could send the stock higher in H2 of this year.

Teck’s share price stabilized last year and many investment banks now see the stock as undervalued. Low prices for Canadian crude and disappointing base metals prices weighed on Q4 earnings.

Despite its struggles, however, Teck Resources recently received a favorable investment rating from Fitch and Moody’s, and will likely benefit from its upgraded score. “Having investment grade ratings is very important to us and confirms the strong financial position of the company,” said Don Lindsay, President and CEO. “We are very pleased to receive this second credit rating upgrade.”

Turquoise Hill Resources (NYSE:TRQ ,TSX:TRQ)

Turqouise is a mid-cap Canadian mineral exploration and development company headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia. Its focus is on the Pacific Rim where it is in the process of developing several large mines.

The company mines a diversified set of metals/minerals including Coal, Gold, Copper, Molybdenum, Silver, Rhenium, Uranium, Lead and Zinc. One of the fortes of Turquoise hill is its good relationship with mining giant Rio Tinto.

Turquoise has seen its share price languish last year, and the successful development of its world-class Oyu Tolgoi project in Mongolia is of utmost important to the future of this miner.

Pretium Resources (NYSE:PVG, TSX:PVG)

This impressive Canadian company is engaged in the acquisition, exploration and development of precious metal resource properties in the Americas. Pretium has an impressive portfolio and if you can catch the stock while the price is right, there could be huge opportunity for upside. Additionally, construction and engineering activities at its top location continue to advance, and commercial production is targeted for this year.

With Pretium’s variety of assets, this mining giant is a key figure in Canada’s resource realm. Investors know a good thing when they see it, and have definitely taken note of this company’s ambitious and forward-looking drive.

Magna International (NYSE:MGA, TSX:MG)

Based in Aurora, Ontario, Magna is a global automotive supplier is gutsy and innovative–and definitely tuned to the obvious future–clean transportation. A great catalyst is its development of a combo electric/hydrogen vehicle–a fuel cell range-extended EV (FCREEV). It’s not going to produce them (for now, at least) but plans to use the model to show off its engineering and design prowess and produce elements of the electric drivetrain and contract manufacturing. It’s insightful, forward-thinking and smart value/low cost for shareholders.

Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd (NYSE:AEM, TSX:AEM)

Canadian based gold producer, Agnico Eagle Mines is an especially noteworthy company for investors. Why? Between 1991-2010, the company paid out dividends every year. With operations in Quebec, Mexico, and Finland, the company also is taking place in exploration activities in Europe, Latin America, and the United States.

While Agnico primarily focuses on gold, it made this list because it’s a prime example of sustainability and environmental consciousness, and that means everything in a world rapidly shifting away from traditional mining.

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The North Macedonian House of Representatives unanimously approved on Monday for their country to accept the NATO Accession Protocol, taking the former Yugoslav Republic a step closer towards accession into NATO which is expected to be completed and finalized in the spring. North Macedonia’s rapid accession into NATO is only possible because of the Prespa Agreement signed between Athens and Skopje in June 2018, bringing an end to the name dispute between the two countries that emerged in 1991 with the breakup of Yugoslavia.

The Prespa Agreement, named after a lake that traverses the borders of Greece, North Macedonia and Albania, defined exactly what was meant by “Macedonia” and “Macedonian.” For Greece, according to the agreement, these terms denote an area and people of Greece’s northern region, who continue the legacy of the Ancient Macedonian Hellenic civilization, history and culture, as well as the legacy of Alexander the Great. In reference to North Macedonia, these terms denote the modern territory of North Macedonia, the Slavic language and Slavic people with their own history and culture unrelated to the Ancient Macedonians. The agreement also stipulates the removal of North Macedonian irredentist efforts against Greek territory and to align them with UNESCO and Council of Europe’s standards.

With Greece no longer blocking North Macedonia’s attempts to join NATO and the European Union, no time has been wasted to elevate the Balkan country into the Atlanticist organization. There is no doubt that the Prespa Agreement, which caused political turmoil in Athens and Skopje, was signed only for North Macedonia’s rapid entry into NATO.

The acceleration of North Macedonia into NATO is not only a key priority for the organization to reduce Russian influence in the Balkans, but to continue pressurizing Serbia that was bombed by NATO in 1999 in response to the Serbian military operation against the “Kosovo Liberation Army” terrorist organization. North Macedonia, Serbia and Bosnia are the only non-NATO members remaining in the Balkans, however it is important to remember that Bosnia is effectively a U.S. protectorate, while North Macedonia has been trying to join NATO since 1995 when Yugoslavia was completely destroyed in all but name. Serbia has no such ambition to join NATO and is considered a problematic country as it is the only remaining bastion of Russian influence left in the Balkans and is preventing full Atlanticist hegemony over the region.

Syriza, the ruling Party of Greece at the time of the signing of the Prespa Agreement, knew full well that the Prespa Agreement was largely despised by the Greeks, but none-the-less pushed for it and signed it. It is very obvious that the Prespa Agreement was to accelerate North Macedonia primarily into NATO, especially as not only Syriza, but also the current ruling party of New Democracy is loyal to NATO, with North Macedonia’s entry into the EU being only a consolation prize for Western powers. Less than a month after signing the Prespa Agreement, North Macedonia received an invitation to join NATO on 11 July 2018 with the accession protocol made in February 2019. North Macedonia’s accession into the EU on the other hand has made no progress since the Prespa Agreement was made.

For the Atlanticists, a rapid accession into NATO to contain and weaken Russian influence in North Macedonia and to also further constrain and pressurize Serbia was a higher priority than formalizing the Balkan country into the European neoliberal order as an official member. Although North Macedonia will undoubtedly join the EU eventually, it is not a matter of urgency as making the country into a NATO member. The Prespa Agreement is highly unpopular in both countries as they both feel they have lost out and did not achieve their objectives of promoting their interests with the name issue. NATO was unwilling to risk the Prespa Agreement failing and the name issue re-emerging which would once again put on hold North Macedonia’s accession into the organization.

North Macedonia cannot contribute to NATO in any meaningful way as it is a poor country of just over two million people and not close to the Russian border like the tiny Baltic states. Its accession into NATO is only for the purpose of weakening or preventing any Russian influence in the country and to further isolate Serbia. Despite North Macedonia being an overwhelmingly Orthodox and Slavic country that had the potential to become another pro-Russia state in the Balkans alongside neighboring Serbia, since its separation from Yugoslavia in 1991, Skopje pursued a pro-Western policy and joined the NATO program Partnership for Peace as early as 1995 and became a European Union candidate a decade later. Why North Macedonia has pursued such a Western-centric policy since its separation with Yugoslavia is not clearly understood, but it is certainly understood why NATO has accelerated North Macedonia’s membership into its organization.

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Paul Antonopoulos is a Research Fellow at the Center for Syncretic Studies.

UK governments routinely claim to uphold national and international law. But the reality of British policies is quite different, especially when it comes to foreign policy and so-called ‘national security’. This explainer summarises 17 long-running government policies which violate UK domestic or international law.

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British foreign secretary Dominic Raab recently described the “rule of international law” as one of the “guiding lights” of UK foreign policy. By contrast, the government regularly chides states it opposes, such as Russia or Iran, as violators of international law. These governments are often consequently termed “rogue states” in the mainstream media, the supposed antithesis of how “we” operate.

The following list of 17 policies may not be exhaustive, but it suggests that the term “rogue state” is not sensationalist or misplaced when it comes to describing Britain’s own foreign and “security” policies.

These serial violations suggest that parliamentary and public oversight over executive policy-making in the UK is not fit for purpose and that new mechanisms are needed to restrain the excesses of the British state.

The MQ-9 Reaper drone carries four laser-guided, air-to-ground 114 Hellfire missiles, a payload of up to 360kg. The UK has been operating a fleet since 2007 and has struck targets in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. (Photo: Chris Hunkeler / Flickr)

The Royal Air Force’s drone war

Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF) operates a drone programme in support of the US involving a fleet of British “Reaper” drones operating since 2007. They have been used by the UK to strike targets in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

Four RAF bases in the UK support the US drone war. The joint UK and US spy base at Menwith Hill in Yorkshire, northern England, facilitates US drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia. US drone strikes, involving an assassination programme begun by president Barack Obama, are widely regarded asillegal under international law, breaching fundamental human rights. Up to 1,700 civilian adults and children have been killed in so-called “targeted killings”.

Amnesty International notes that British backing is “absolutely crucial to the US lethal drones programme, providing support for various US surveillance programmes, vital intelligence exchanges and in some cases direct involvement from UK personnel in identifying and tracking targets for US lethal operations, including drone strikes that may have been unlawful”.

Chagos Islands

Britain has violated international law in the case of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean since it expelled the inhabitants in the 1960s to make way for a US military base on Diego Garcia, the largest island.

Harold Wilson’s Labour government separated the islands from then British colony Mauritius in 1965 inbreach of a UN resolution banning the breakup of colonies before independence. London then formed a new colonial entity, the British Indian Ocean Territory, which is now an Overseas Territory.

In 2015, a UN Tribunal ruled that the UK’s proposed “marine protected area” around the islands — shown by Wikileaks publications to be a ruse to keep the islanders from returning — was unlawful since it undermined the rights of Mauritius.

Then in February 2019, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in an advisory opinion that Britain must end its administration of the Chagos islands “as rapidly as possible”. The UN General Assemblyadopted a resolution in May 2019 welcoming the ICJ ruling and “demanding that the United Kingdom unconditionally withdraw its colonial administration from the area within six months”. The UK government has rejected the calls.

Defying the UN over the Falklands

The UN’s 24-country Special Committee on Decolonisation — its principal body addressing issues concerning decolonisation — has repeatedly called on the UK government to negotiate a resolution to the dispute over the status of the Falklands. In its latest call, in June 2019, the committee approved a draft resolution “reiterating that the only way to end the special and particular colonial situation of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) is through a peaceful and negotiated settlement of the sovereignty dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom”.

The British government consistently rejects these demands. Last year, it stated:

“The Decolonisation Committee no longer has a relevant role to play with respect to British Overseas Territories. They all have a large measure of  self government, have chosen to retain their links with the UK, and therefore should have been delisted a long time ago.”

In 2016, the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf issued a report finding that the Falkland Islands are located in Argentina’s territorial waters.

Israel and settlement goods

Although Britain regularly condemns Israeli settlements in the occupied territories as illegal, in line with international law, it permits trade in goods produced on those settlements. It also does not keep a recordof imports that come from the settlements — which include wine, olive oil and dates — into the UK.

UN Security Council resolutions require all states to “distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967”. The UK is failing to do this.

Israel’s blockade of Gaza

Israel’s blockade of Gaza, imposed in 2007 following the territory’s takeover by Hamas, is widely regardedas illegal. Senior UN officials, a UN independent panel of experts, and Amnesty International all agree that the infliction of “collective punishment” on the population of Gaza contravenes international human rights and humanitarian law.

Gaza has about 1.8 million inhabitants who remain “locked in” and denied free access to the remainder of putative Palestine (the West Bank) and the outside world. It has poverty and unemployment rates that reached nearly 75% in 2019.

Through its naval blockade, the Israeli navy restricts Palestinians’ fishing rights, fires on local fishermen and has intercepted ships delivering humanitarian aid. Britain, and all states, have an obligation “to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law” in Gaza.

However, instead of doing so, the UK regularly collaborates with the navy enforcing the blockade. In August 2019, Britain’s Royal Navy took part in the largest international naval exercise ever held by Israel, off the country’s Mediterranean shore. In November 2016 and December 2017, British warships conducted military exercises with their Israeli allies.

Exports of surveillance equipment

Declassified revealed that the UK recently exported telecommunications interception equipment or software to 13 countries, including authoritarian regimes in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia and Oman. Such technology can enable security forces to monitor the private activities of groups or individuals and crack down on political opponents.

The UAE has been involved in programmes monitoring domestic activists using spyware. In 2017 and 2018, British exporters were given four licences to export telecommunications interception equipment, components or software to the UAE.

UK arms export guidelines state that the government will “not grant a licence if there is a clear risk that the items might be used for internal repression”. Reports by Amnesty International document human rights abuses in the cases of UAE, Saudi Arabia and Oman, suggesting that British approval of such exports to these countries is prima facie unlawful.

Arms exports to Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has been accused by the UN and others of violating international humanitarian law and committing war crimes in its war in Yemen, which began in March 2015. The UK has licensed nearly £5-billion worth of arms to the Saudi regime during this time. In addition, the RAF is helping to maintain Saudi warplanes at key operating bases and stores and issues bombs for use in Yemen.

Following legal action brought by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, the UK Court of Appeal ruled in June 2019 that ministers had illegally signed off on arms exports without properly assessing the risk to civilians. The court ruled that the government must reconsider the export licences in accordance with the correct legal approach.

The ruling followed a report by a cross-party House of Lords committee, published earlier in 2019, which concluded that Britain is breaking international law by selling weapons to Saudi Arabia and should suspend some export licences immediately.

Julian Assange’s arbitrary detention and torture

In the case of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange — currently held in Belmarsh maximum-security prison in London — the UK is defying repeated opinions of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention  (WGAD) and the UN special rapporteur on torture.

The latter, Nils Melzer, has called on the UK government to release Assange on the grounds that officials are contributing to his psychological torture and ill treatment. Melzer has also called for UK officials to be investigated for possible “criminal conduct” as government policy “severely undermines the credibility of [its] commitment to the prohibition of torture… as well as to the rule of law more generally”.

The WGAD — the supreme international body scrutinising this issue — has repeatedly demanded that the UK government end Assange’s “arbitrary detention”. Although the UN states that WGAD determinations are legally binding, its calls have been consistently rejected by the UK government.

Covert wars

Covert military operations to subvert foreign governments, such as Britain’s years-long operation in Syria to overthrow the Assad regime, are unlawful. As a House of Commons briefing notes, “forcible assistance to opposition forces is illegal”.

A precedent was set in the Nicaragua case in the 1980s, when US-backed covert forces (the “Contras”) sought to overthrow the Sandinista government. The International Court of Justice held that a third state may not forcibly help the opposition to overthrow a government since it breached the principles of non-intervention and prohibition on the use of force.

As Declassified has shown, the UK is currently engaged in seven covert wars, including in Syria, with minimal parliamentary oversight. Government policy is “not to comment” on the activities of its special forces “because of the security implications”. The public’s ability to scrutinise policy is also restricted since the UK’s Freedom of Information Act applies an “absolute exemption” to special forces. This is not the case for allied powers such as the US and Canada.

Torture and the refusal to hold an inquiry

In 2018 a report by parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee found that the UK had been complicit in cases of torture and other ill treatment of detainees in the so-called “war on terror”. The inquiry examined the participation of MI6 (the secret intelligence service), MI5 (the domestic security service) and Ministry of Defence (MOD) personnel in interrogating detainees held primarily by the US in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay during 2001-10.

The report found that there were 232 cases where UK personnel supplied questions or intelligence to foreign intelligence agents after they knew or suspected that a detainee was being mistreated. It also found 198 cases where UK personnel received intelligence from foreign agents obtained from detainees whom they knew or suspected to have been mistreated.

In one case, MI6 “sought and obtained authorisation from the foreign secretary” (then Jack Straw, in Tony Blair’s government) for the costs of funding a plane which was involved in rendering a suspect.

After the report was published, the government announced it was refusing to hold a judge-led, independent inquiry into the UK’s role in rendition and torture as it had previously promised to do. In 2019, human rights group Reprieve, together with Conservative and Labour MPs, instigated a legal challenge to the government over this refusal–which the High Court has agreed to hear.

The UN special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, has formally warned the UK that its refusal to launch a judicial inquiry into torture and rendition breaches international law, specifically the UN Convention Against Torture. He has written a private “intervention” letter to the UK foreign secretary stating that the government has “a legal obligation to investigate and to prosecute”.

Melzer accuses the government of engaging in a “conscious policy” of co-operating with torture since 9/11, saying it is “impossible” the practice was not approved or at least tolerated by top officials.

UK’s secret torture policy

The MOD was revealed in 2019 to be operating a secret policy allowing ministers to approve actions which could lead to the torture of detainees. The policy, contained in an internal MOD document dated November 2018, allows ministers to approve passing information to allies even if there is a risk of torture, if “the potential benefits justify accepting the risk and legal consequences”.

This policy also provides for ministers to approve lists of individuals about whom information may be shared despite a serious risk they could face mistreatment. One leading lawyer has said that domestic and international legislation on the prohibition of torture is clear and that the MOD policy supports breaking of the law by ministers.

Amnesty for crimes committed by soldiers

There is a long history of British soldiers committing crimes during wars. In 2019 the government outlined plans to grant immunity for offences by soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland that were committed more than 10 years before.

These plans have been condemned by the UN Committee Against Torture, which has called on the government to “refrain from enacting legislation that would grant amnesty or pardon where torture is concerned. It should also ensure that all victims of such torture and ill-treatment obtain redress”.

The committee has specifically urged the UK to “establish responsibility and ensure accountability for any torture and ill-treatment committed by UK personnel in Iraq from 2003 to 2009, specifically by establishing a single, independent, public inquiry to investigate allegations of such conduct.”

The government’s proposals are also likely to breach UK obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, which obliges states to investigate breaches of the right to life or the prohibition on torture.

A mural by Banksy around a phone box in Cheltenham, the home of GCHQ, Britain’s signals intelligence agency. (Photo: Flickr)

GCHQ’s mass surveillance

Files revealed by US whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013 show that the UK intelligence agency GCHQ had been secretly intercepting, processing and storing data concerning millions of people’s private communications, including people of no intelligence interest — in a programme named Tempora. Snowden also revealed that the British government was accessing personal communications and data collected by the US National Security Agency and other countries’ intelligence agencies.

All of this was taking place without public consent or awareness, with no basis in law and with no proper safeguards. Since these revelations, there has been a long-running legal battle over the UK’s unlawful use of these previously secret surveillance powers.

In September 2018, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that UK laws enabling mass surveillance were unlawful, violating rights to privacy and freedom of expression. The court observed that the UK’s regime for authorising bulk interception was incapable of keeping “interference” to what is “necessary in a democratic society”.

The UK’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal, the body which considers complaints against the security services, also found that UK intelligence agencies had unlawfully spied on the communications of Amnesty International and the Legal Resources Centre in South Africa.

In 2014, revelations also confirmed that GCHQ had been granted authority to secretly eavesdrop on legally privileged lawyer-client communications, and that MI5 and MI6 adopted similar policies. The guidelines appeared to permit surveillance of journalists and others deemed to work in “sensitive professions” handling confidential information.

MI5 personal data

In 2019, MI5 was found to have for years unlawfully retained innocent British people’s online location data, calls, messages and web browsing history without proper protections, according to the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office which upholds British privacy protections. MI5 had also failed to give senior judges accurate information about repeated breaches of its duty to delete bulk surveillance data, and was criticised for mishandling sensitive legally privileged material.

The commissioner concluded that the way MI5 was holding and handling people’s data was “undoubtedly unlawful”. Warrants for MI5’s bulk surveillance were issued by senior judges on the understanding that the agency’s legal data handling obligations were being met — when they were not.

“MI5 have been holding on to people’s data—ordinary people’s data, your data, my data — illegally for many years,” said Megan Goulding, a lawyer for rights organisation Liberty, which brought the case. “Not only that, they’ve been trying to keep their really serious errors secret — secret from the security services watchdog, who’s supposed to know about them, secret from the Home Office, secret from the prime minister and secret from the public.”

Intelligence agencies committing criminal offences

MI5 has been operating under a secret policy that allows its agents to commit serious crimes during counter-terrorism operations in the UK, according to lawyers for human rights organisations brin

ging a case to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal.

The policy, referred to as the “third direction”, allows MI5 officers to permit the people they have recruited as agents to commit crimes in order to secure access to information that could be used to prevent other offences being committed. The crimes potentially include murder, kidnap and torture and have operated for decades. MI5 officers are, meanwhile, immune from prosecution.

A lawyer for the human rights organisations argues that the issues raised by the case are “not hypothetical”, submitting that “in the past, authorisation of agent participation in criminality appears to have led to grave breaches of fundamental rights”. He points to the 1989 murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, an attack carried out by loyalist paramilitaries, including some agents working for the British state.

The ‘James Bond clause’

British intelligence officers can be authorised to commit crimes outside the UK. Section 7 of the 1994 Intelligence Services Act vacates UK criminal and civil law as long as a senior government minister has signed a written authorisation that committing a criminal act overseas is permissible. This is sometimes known as the “James Bond clause”.

British spies were reportedly given authority to break the law overseas on 13 occasions in 2014 under this clause. GCHQ was given five authorisations “removing liability for activities including those associated with certain types of intelligence gathering and interference with computers, mobile phones and other types of electronic equipment”. MI6, meanwhile, was given eight such authorisations in 2014.

Underage soldiers

Image on the right: Two cadets from the UK military raise funds for the Royal British Legion on New Market Street, Chorley, UK, 2015. (Photo: Flickr)

Britain is the only country in Europe and Nato to allow direct enlistment into the army at the age of 16. One in four UK army recruits is now under the age of 18. According to the editors of the British Medical Journal, “there is no justification for this state policy, which is harmful to teen health and should be stopped”. Child recruits are more likely than adult recruits to end up in frontline combat, they add.

It was revealed in 2019 that the UK continued to send child soldiers to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan despite pledging to end the practice. The UK says it does not send under-18s to warzones, as required by the UN Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, known as the “child soldiers treaty”.

The UK, however, deployed five 17-year-olds to Iraq or Afghanistan between 2007 and 2010: it claims to have done so mistakenly. Previous to this, a minister admitted that teenagers had also erroneously been sent into battle between 2003 and 2005, insisting it would not happen again.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern at the UK’s recruitment policy in 2008 and 2016, and recommended that the government “raise the minimum age for recruitment into the armed forces to 18 years in order to promote the protection of children through an overall higher legal standard”. Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights, the children’s commissioners for the four jurisdictions of the UK, along with children’s rights organisations, all support this call.

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Facing accusations that it issued a doctored report alleging a chemical attack in Syria, the OPCW has released an inquiry attacking two whistleblowers as rogue actors. Leaked documents obtained by The Grayzone reveal serious distortions in the OPCW inquiry as well as a campaign of intimidation against internal dissenters.

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For the past year, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has been roiled by allegations that it manipulated an investigation to falsely accuse the Syrian government of a chemical weapons attack. An OPCW report released in March 2019 lent credence to claims by Islamist militants and Western governments that the Syrian military killed around 40 civilians with toxic gas in the city of Douma in April 2018. The accusation against Damascus led to US-led military strikes on Syrian government sites that same month.

But leaked internal documents published by Wikileaks show that OPCW inspectors who deployed to Douma rejected the official story, and complained that higher-level officials excluded them from the post-mission process, distorted key evidence, and ignored their findings.

After months of virtual silence, the OPCW has responded with an internal inquiry that lambasts two veteran officials who raised internal objections, attacking their credibility and qualifications. The OPCW’s self-described “independent investigation” describes the pair as rogue, low-level actors who played minor roles in the Douma mission and lacked access to crucial evidence. In a briefing to member states, OPCW Director General Fernando Arias dismissed them as disgruntled ex-employees. The two “are not whistle-blowers,” Arias said.

“They are individuals who could not accept that their views were not backed by evidence.”

But a leaked document calls Arias’ assertions into serious question. Ian Henderson, one of the two inspectors, recently addressed a special session of the United Nations Security Council with his concerns about the Douma mission. Henderson submitted a supplemental written account that was distributed among participating UN member states and obtained by The Grayzone. It offers the most extensive and detailed account of the internal dispute over the OPCW’s Douma investigation to date. 

The full leaked testimony can be read here (PDF)

Henderson provides a thorough timeline that bolsters suspicions that the OPCW leadership covered up a staged deception in Douma. Combined with the available record – which includes other OPCW leaks, as well as Arias’ and the OPCW’s own statements – Henderson’s account firmly demonstrates that he and a fellow dissenting colleague occupied veteran leadership roles inside the organization, including during the Douma fact-finding mission. 

Henderson also exposes key gaps in the OPCW’s inquiry, which fails to specifically address the revelations that critical evidence was kept out of the OPCW’s published reports; that key findings were manipulated – and that all of this occurred under sustained US government pressure.

In addition to Henderson’s complete testimony, The Grayzone has obtained a chilling email from a third former OPCW official. The former official, who worked in a senior role, blamed external pressure and potential threats to their family for their failure to speak out about the corruption of the Douma investigation.

This official was not among the pair of dissenting inspectors targeted by the inquiry. The email corroborates complaints by Henderson and his colleague about senior management’s suppression of evidence collected by the team that deployed to Syria.

“I fear those behind the crimes that have been perpetrated in the name of ‘humanity and democracy’”

In his briefing about the investigation of the inspectors, Arias, the OPCW Director-General, described the pair as stubborn actors “who took matters into their own hands and committed a breach of their obligations to the Organization.” He characterized their behavior as “egregious.”

But leaked documents and testimony point to an OPCW leadership that has committed egregious acts of its own, including intimidating internal dissenters.

In an email obtained by The Grayzone, a former senior OPCW official described their tenure at the OPCW as “the most stressful and unpleasant ones of [their] life,” and expressed deep shame about the state of the organization they departed in disgust.

“I fear those behind the crimes that have been perpetrated in the name of ‘humanity and democracy,’” the official confided, “they will not hesitate to do harm to me and my family, they have done worse, many times, even in the UK… I don’t want to expose my self and my family to their violence and revenge, I don’t want to live in fear of crossing the street!”

The former OPCW senior official went on to denounce the removal of members of the original fact-finding team to Syria “from the decision making process and management of the most critical operations…” This tracks with complaints expressed in leaked OPCW documents that superiors who had not been a part of the investigation in Douma marginalized those who had.

The atmosphere of intimidation was confirmed by a second member of the OPCW’s original fact-finding mission to Douma. The whistleblower, identified by the pseudonym “Alex,” spoke to the journalist Jonathan Steele and to a panel convened by the Courage Foundation in October 2019. Alex revealed that a delegation of three US officials visited the OPCW at The Hague on July 5th, 2018. They implored the dissenting inspectors to accept the view that the Syrian government carried out a gas attack in Douma and chided them for failing to reach that conclusion. According to Steele, Alex and the other inspectors saw the meeting as “unacceptable pressure.” In his statement to the UN Security Council, Henderson confirmed that he attended the meeting.

The US intervention at the OPCW could possibly violate the chemical weapons convention, which forbids state parties from attempting to influence investigations. It would not be the first time Washington has attempted to bully the OPCW into submission. During the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2002, the George W. Bush administration engineered the ouster of the OPCW’s First Director-General, Jose Bustani. The Bush administration was concerned that Bustani’s negotiations with Iraq about allowing international inspectors could undermine its plans for war.

Bustani later revealed that John Bolton, then an under secretary of state, had personally threatened him and his family with violent retaliation. The US pressure on the OPCW over Douma also took place under Bolton’s watch. When the US bombed Syria in April 2018 and pressured OPCW officials just three months later, Bolton was in the midst of his first months as President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor. (Bustani, meanwhile, was among a group of panelists who heard direct testimony from Alex at a gathering convened by the Courage Foundation in October 2019.)

OPCW’s inconsistent story on “Inspector A”

The OPCW’s internal inquiry goes to great lengths to denigrate and discredit the two former staffers that challenged the official story on Douma. It refers to its two targets as “Inspector A” and “Inspector B.” The latter’s identity has not been publicly confirmed. “A” is Ian Henderson, a South African engineer and veteran OPCW official with extensive military experience. 

Henderson’s written testimony to the United Nations, obtained by The Grayzone, undercuts the negative portrayal of his former managers, and offers a window into the pressure campaign and cover-up that he and his colleagues faced. 

A suppressed internal study by Henderson first brought the OPCW scandal to public attention. In May 2019, an engineering assessment bearing Henderson’s name was leaked to a group of British academics, the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media. The document is a detailed engineering analysis of two gas cylinders found at the scene of the alleged attacks in Douma. Whereas the OPCW’s final March 2019 report concluded that the cylinders were likely dropped from the air, Henderson found that there is “a higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed… rather than being delivered from aircraft.” The OPCW’s final report made no mention of this conclusion.

The inference of Henderson’s study is that the attack was staged by the armed opposition. At the time, Douma was under the control of the extremist Saudi-backed militia, Jaysh Al-Islam, and was on the brink of being re-taken by Syrian government forces.

From a political and military standpoint, a chemical weapons attack was the most self-destructive and unnecessary action the Syrian military could possibly take. From the standpoint of a foreign-backed militia on the verge of defeat, however, staging a chemical attack was a desperate Hail Mary operation that offered the hope of US military invention in accordance with Washington’s “red line” policy. The suspected gambit by Jaysh Al-Islam appeared to have paid off when the Trump administration accepted its claims that a chemical attack had killed dozens of civilians in Douma, and initiated cruise missile strikes in response. Yet the US-led attacks failed to prevent the Syrian government from retaking Douma and the whole of eastern Damascus. Within days, Western reporters had entered the area and were able to access local eyewitnesses who claimed that the chemical attack was a staged deception.

Henderson was among the first OPCW staffers to visit the site of the alleged attack in Douma. However, the OPCW inquiry dismissed Henderson’s role in the Douma probe, characterizing his engineering study as a personal, rogue operation. Henderson, the inquiry said, “was not a member of the FFM [Fact Finding Mission]” that deployed to Douma, and only “played a minor supporting role.”

There is ample evidence that contradicts this characterization. In his written UN testimony, Henderson revealed that he served in five Douma deployments as part of the FFM. This includes three instances as a sub-team leader for critical operations: visiting a suspected chemical weapons production site in Douma; conducting interviews and taking chemical samples at the Douma hospital; taking detailed measurements at one of the sites; and inspecting, itemizing, and securing the two cylinders that were removed from the sites of the alleged gas attack. The notion that he “was not a member” of the mission that he played such an active role in strains credulity.

A leaked email shows that at least one of Henderson’s colleagues protested a previous instance in which the OPCW leadership attempted to minimize his role. The “falsehood… that Ian did not form part of the Douma FFM team,” the colleague complained, was “patently untrue” and “pivotal in discrediting him and his work.” 

The inquiry also falsely insinuated that Henderson was a low-level official. While acknowledging that Henderson served as an OPCW team leader during his first tenure with the OPCW from 1997 to 2005, the inquiry said that he was “rehired at a lower level” when he returned in 2016, and remained there until his departure in May 2019. Yet the OPCW’s own documents from that latter period showed that Henderson was described as an “OPCW Inspection Team Leader” as late as February 2018, just two months before his deployment to Douma as part of the OPCW’s Fact-Finding Mission (FFM). According to his UN testimony, Henderson served as an inspection team leader for multiple inspections of Syrian laboratory facilities at Barzaeh and Jamrayah in November 2017 and in November 2018, after the US bombed Barzeh on dubious grounds.

After casting doubt on Henderson’s status within the organization, the OPCW inquiry dismissed his engineering report as “a personal document created with incomplete information and without authorisation.” Henderson, the investigators said, defied higher-level officials’ orders and conducted a study on his own with outside contractors.

In his briefing to member states on the inquiry’s findings, OPCW Director General Fernando Arias echoed this conclusion, describing Henderson’s report as “a purported document disseminated outside the Organisation.”

But Arias’ statements today contradict his own words from less than a year ago. Just days after Henderson’s report was leaked in May 2019, Arias delivered an extensive briefing and announced that an inquiry into the disclosure was underway. Arias made no claims of Henderson going rogue, and described his report as an “internal document…  produced by a staff member.” It is unclear how Henderson’s report went from an “internal document” by an OPCW staffer in May 2019 to a “purported document disseminated outside the Organisation” in February 2020. Arias has not explained this discrepancy.

In his latest missive, Arias has offered a completely new rationale for keeping Henderson’s report from the public. In May 2019, Arias stated that because Henderson’s report “pointed at possible attribution,” it was therefore “outside of the mandate of the FFM [Fact-Finding Mission] with regard to the formulation of its findings.” The FFM is prevented from assigning blame to parties involved in chemical attacks. However, the OPCW’s published conclusion suggested the Syrian government was to blame for the attack – an act of attribution – since the Syrian military (or its Russian ally) was the only warring party in Douma with aircraft. Even more curiously, by accusing Henderson of freebooting and “subterfuge,” Arias and his organization’s independent inquiry has now offered a completely different explanation than it previously had for the omission of Henderson’s report.

Why was critical evidence excluded?

In yet another highly dubious assertion, the OPCW inquiry claimed Henderson “did not have access to all of the information gathered by the FFM team, including witness interviews, laboratory results, and assessments by independent experts regarding the two cylinders—all of which became known to the team after [Henderson] had stopped providing support to the FFM investigation.” 

But an important piece of context is missing from this salvo: by the time Henderson carried through on his study in summer 2018, he and other members of the FFM had already complained to the OPCW leadership that their findings were being manipulated and suppressed.

According to Henderson’s testimony, a draft interim report circulated in June 2018 was subjected to “‘last-minute unexpected modifications” that were “contrary to the consensus that had been reached within the team.” This included a change to “reflect a conclusion that chlorine had been released from cylinders,” which was not consistent with the findings at that stage. An intervention by one of the FFM team members, possibly Inspector B, forced FFM team leader Sami Barrek to revise the interim report before its eventual release on July 6 2018.

Despite agreeing to hear his team’s objections, Barrek personally blocked critical evidence that conflicted with the official story of Syrian government responsibility. One email chain revealed that Barrek resisted pleas from an inspector to include the relatively low levels of chemicals found in Douma. Alex, the anonymous second OPCW whistleblower, told journalist Jonathan Steele that chlorinated organic chemicals at the scene “were no higher than you would expect in any household environment.”

Another leaked document showed the OPCW had consulted with toxicologists in June 2018 to determine whether symptoms observed in victims were consistent with exposure to chlorine. According to minutes of that meeting, “the experts were conclusive in their statements that there was no correlation between symptoms and chlorine exposure.” But these critical findings, which dramatically undercut the official narrative, were inexplicably omitted from both the interim and final report.

The “core” cover-up team

One day after US officials attempted to bully OPCW staff into submission on July 5 2018, an interim report on Douma was published that reflected some of the inspectors’ key objections, albeit with watered-down language and significant omissions. A critical change then took place. OPCW officials announced that the ensuing final report would be drafted by a “core team” that was separate from the one which deployed to Douma. That left the core team without any of the FFM members who had been on the ground at the site of the supposed attack, with the exception of one paramedic. Henderson told the UN that the move deprived the core team of anyone qualified to conduct the needed engineering assessments on the chlorine cylinders that were said to have been dropped in Douma. 

With superiors omitting critical information, Douma inspectors excluded from the so-called “core” team, and US officials applying direct pressure, Henderson attempted to carry on with his report. Despite the inquiry’s claims, Henderson presented evidence to the UN that his work was approved by his superiors. Henderson reported that he held several meetings with top OPCW officials beginning in late summer 2018, where he informed them of his study and relayed concerns about the methodologies of the then-FFM team leader. Henderson said he was told by the then-Chief of Cabinet, Sebastien Braha: “I don’t see why both studies can’t be done.” Henderson took that as a green light. 

Henderson completed his engineering study in January 2019 and submitted a “detailed executive summary” for peer review. OPCW colleagues, including members of the Douma FFM, an unidentified former “core team” former inspector, and other “trusted [Technical Secretariat] staff members who had expertise in specific areas,” studied Henderson’s work and offered written feedback.

“This review was considered necessary and responsible,” Henderson wrote, “in that I knew (after the analysis had been completed) that these would be unpopular findings; therefore, I wanted to make sure there were no objections to any of the facts, observations, methodology used or findings reported in the summary.”

In its bid to portray Henderson’s engineering study as the work of a disconnected freelancer, the OPCW’s inquiry strangely made no mention of this peer review.

When he met with FFM team leader Sami Barrek the following month, Henderson ran into more obstructions. Barrek flatly rejected Henderson’s report, “stating that he had been instructed not to accept it.” Alarmed by the possibility that the OPCW would soon release a final report without a sound engineering assessment, Henderson submitted a physical copy to the OPCW’s Documents Registry Archive, and alerted management by email.

It was then that another hostile response arrived from above. Braha, the Chief of Cabinet, emailed back an order: “Please get this document out of DRA (Documents Registry Archive) … And please remove all traces, if any, of its delivery/storage/whatever in DRA.”

Days later, on March 1 2019, the OPCW’s final report was released. Omitting Henderson’s engineering findings, it reached a conclusion that contradicted that of its own inspectors. According to the report, the investigation found that there were “reasonable grounds that the use of a toxic chemical as a weapon took place…This toxic chemical contained reactive chlorine.” For its analysis of the cylinders, the report claims it relied on “three independent analyses” without specifying them and only directly citing one.

This raises an ineluctable question: why did the OPCW rely on three unspecified “independent analyses” from outside experts who never set foot in Douma, rather than on the evidence-based reports of a veteran OPCW staffer and his colleagues who investigated the site of the supposed attack? The OPCW has yet to offer an explanation.

“I was shocked by the decision to release the report without having taken into account the engineering report, as all the FFM management knew it had been submitted,” Henderson recounted in his UN testimony. “I had expected the report to reflect the situation that had been the consensus of the Douma FFM team after the deployments, and for the assessment of the cylinders to be consistent with the findings of the engineering assessment, but found the complete opposite. I saw what I considered to be superficial and flawed analysis in the section on the cylinders.”

Henderson tried to resolve his concerns internally. He met with at least six high-level officials, and sought a meeting with Arias. A senior manager angrily rebuffed that request, telling Henderson that “you will never get to the Director-General, and if you try and go around me to get to him, there will be consequences.” Henderson also submitted a detailed dossier outlining his concerns to the Acting Director of the Office of Internal Oversight, which was later rejected.

Perhaps most critically, Henderson sought a meeting where the drafters of the FFM report – the so-called “core” team that had excluded all but one member of the team that visited Douma – “would explain what new information had been provided or new analysis conducted, that had turned around the situation from what had appeared to be clear at the end of deployments to Douma.”

Henderson also requested an opportunity to hear from the “three experts” who had conducted the engineering studies cited by the FFM’s final report. “This would be a technical discussion, comparing the information and inputs used and methodology applied, and interpretation of results, and would very quickly identify any flawed approaches and would help clarify the situation,” Henderson recalled.

“Throughout this period, I acknowledged there was a possibility that I could be wrong, but stressed that I was not the only one with concerns,” he added. “Investigating the situation would bring things to light and potentially defuse the situation.”

But Henderson’s requests were denied. “Whilst many in management were shocked and concerned, and all expressed sympathy with my concerns,” Henderson told the UN, “the responses I received included ‘this is too big’; ‘it’s too late now’; ‘this would not be good for the [Technical Sectrariat’s] reputation’; ‘don’t make yourself a martyr’; and ‘but this would play into the Russian narrative’.”

A leaked memo written by Henderson to Arias, the OPCW Director General, in March 2019, captures his contemporaneous objections. The final report, Henderson wrote, “does not reflect the views of all the team members that deployed to Douma,” a view he said was shared by about 20 inspectors. (Alex relayed a similar account to Jonathan Steele: “Most of the Douma team felt the two reports on the incident, the Interim Report and the Final Report, were scientifically impoverished, procedurally irregular and possibly fraudulent.”) On top of the fact the report was written by a “core” team that excluded all but one Douma inspector, Henderson complained that its authors “had only operated in Country X” – believed to be Turkey.

Arias instructed Henderson to submit his report to the newly formed Investigation and Identification Team, which had been mandated to further investigate the Douma attack. The IIT met with Henderson in March 2019 and accepted a copy of his report. But two months later, Henderson was suspended and removed from the OPCW building after a leaked copy of his engineering assessment was published on the internet. The OPCW’s inquiry does not accuse Henderson of responsibility for the leak.

Conspicuous claims about “Inspector B”

Less is known about “Inspector B,” the second OPCW inspector targeted by the inquiry. It is possible, though unconfirmed, that B is the same person as “Alex,” the aforementioned Douma team member turned whistleblower. Like Henderson, B has been with the OPCW since its formation. The inquiry notes that B initially served from July 1998 to December 2011, including as Team Leader, and then again from September 2015 until August 2018.

As with Henderson, the inquiry attempted to portray Inspector B as a marginal figure in the Douma inquiry who went rogue after he had left the OPCW. While acknowledging that he was a member of the FFM team that deployed to Syria in April 2018, the report said that B “never left the command post in Damascus”, and therefore did not visit Douma.

By the OPCW’s own standards, however, that was hardly disqualifying: Sami Barrek, the FFM team leader, was only in Damascus for three days and departed before his team members – including Henderson – first reached Douma. Yet Barrek was tasked with drafting the final report, and, as leaked emails show, faced internal complaints that he excluded critical evidence.

According to the Working Group, the British academic collective that received and published Henderson’s leaked report, Barrek subsequently visited Turkey where he met with members of the White Helmets. The White Helmets are a Western government-funded organization known for carrying out rescue operations in areas under the control of foreign-backed anti-government militias. As The Grayzone has reported, the US and UK-funded White Helmets have operated alongside extremist militants during Syria’s proxy war, and been used for propaganda efforts to promote U.S. military intervention and sanctions on Syria. In the case of Douma, the White Helmets participated in a staged video to create the appearance that a local hospital was treating victims of a chemical attack.

Conspicuously, the inquiry offered no specifics on what “Inspector B” did in Damascus or his role in the FFM. This omission could be seen as an indication that an accurate description of his role would reveal that he played a significant one. The inquiry noted that he “was involved in the drafting of the interim report on the Douma incident” – but did not offer further details. It seems unlikely that someone with a limited role in the investigation would have been entrusted to participate in drafting the public report on its findings. 

As with its portrayal of Henderson, the inquiry claimed that the FFM “undertook the bulk of its analytical work, examined a large number of witness interviews, and received the results of sampling and analysis,” in the months after Inspector B was no longer involved. But it had nothing to say about Inspector B departing only after raising concerns that the Douma team’s analytical work was manipulated and excluded, including on vital chemical samples. Accordingly, the fact that more work was done after B’s ouster did not resolve his concerns; if anything, it only raised further questions about the OPCW’s faulty final product.

Western media outlets complicit in cover-up

The OPCW’s unprecedented rebuke of two career officials has received a warm reception in mainstream media outlets that have carefully ignored the OPCW scandal to date, turning a blind eye as one explosive internal document after another appeared on Wikileaks. 

Though the scandal was itself a product of disclosures by the OPCW’s own staff, The Guardian bizarrely described it instead as “a Russia-led campaign” that has now “been dealt a blow” by the OPCW’s inquiry. The New York Times published reports by Reuters and the Associated Press that also aired the inquiry’s conclusions without a scintilla of critical scrutiny.

At a time when whistleblowing is supposed to be held in high esteem, the Western political and media establishment’s flagrant disinterest and disregard for the two dissenting inspectors and the explosive leaked documents is glaring. This carries significant dangers.

As the email by a “former senior official at the OPCW” – someone who was not among the pair of dissenting inspectors – made clear, fear within the organization is almost as profound as the pressure to self-censor and conform to the dominant narrative.

The experience of the OPCW’s first director-general, Jose Bustani – who was ousted from his position after direct threats from John Bolton to him and his family – attests to the threats these new whistleblowers face. When Bustani heard Alex’s testimony, he came away from the meeting firmly convinced that something had gone extremely wrong at the OPCW.

“The convincing evidence of irregular behaviour in the OPCW investigation of the alleged Douma chemical attack confirms doubts and suspicions I already had,” Bustani said after the session. “The picture is certainly clearer now, although very disturbing.” Bustani added that he hoped the Douma revelations “will catalyse a process by which the [OPCW] can be resurrected to become the independent and non-discriminatory body it used to be.”

In his statement to the United Nations, Henderson echoed this sentiment. The ousted expert called on the United Nations to allow for a scientific, peer review process to weigh his report against the three “independent experts” whom the OPCW claimed to rely on for its final report. The “method of scientific rigour,” Henderson wrote, “dictates that one side cannot profess to be the sole owner of the truth.

Should an independent scientific panel be allowed, he concluded, “I have no doubt that this would successfully clarify what happened in Douma.”

With his explosive UN testimony and the leaks that preceded it, Ian Henderson and his colleagues have made clear that the OPCW experts who deployed to Syria are determined to bring the cover-up of an elaborate deception to light.

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Aaron Maté is a journalist and producer. He hosts Pushback with Aaron Maté on The Grayzone. He is also is contributor to The Nation magazine and former host/producer for The Real News and Democracy Now!. Aaron has also presented and produced for Vice, AJ+, and Al Jazeera.

All images in this article are from The Grayzone

Pres. Donald Trump’s threat to the Iranian government to bomb fifty-two designated cultural sites in that country was shocking and disturbing, for myriad reasons.[i]  The specific number of fifty-two in his tweet of January 4, 2020 pointedly reminds us of the Americans taken hostage by student revolutionaries during what came to be called the Iran-Contra Affair; the hostage crisis ended on Jan. 21, 1981 when the Americans were freed.[ii]  Trump’s reference to the tragic situation of those hostages, however, fails to mention the thirty-seven years of misery and terror (1941-1979) that Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi imposed on the Iranian people—which would at least provide a context for why the hostages were taken in the first place.

In 1953 the popular Iranian prime minister Mohammad Mosaddegh was violently overthrown by forces of the Shah, actively supported by the United States and United Kingdom.[iii]  Mosaddegh’s efforts to nationalize Iran’s oil, which for many decades had been controlled by the British, led to his downfall.  How does one quantify the suffering inflicted on the Iranian people during all those years of the Shah’s reign, which surely brought about the anger experienced by the student hostage-takers of the Americans?  An individual life is an absolute value; Iranian lives are worth as much as the lives of any other people of the world. Mosaddegh’s own words of December 19, 1953 provide insights into the frustration that was felt and continues to be felt by Iranians: “. . . my greatest sin is that I nationalized Iran’s oil industry and discarded the system of political and economic exploitation by the world’s greatest empire [the U.K.] . . . This at the cost to myself, my family; and at the risk of losing my life, my honor and my property.”[iv]

One is reminded of the fate suffered by the Libyans, whose country was once arguably the most prosperous of Africa, but whose leader proposed switching the country’s international transactions from the U.S. dollar to the dinar and introducing an organization of African nations bound by their mutual interests—which led to the killing of Muammar al-Gaddafi in 2011 by NATO forces.  Oil pipelines and the countries they traverse reveal much about international politics.  Similarly, the attitude demonstrated by a people towards their country’s cultural heritage reveals their level of maturity as participants in the stream of world civilization.

The differing roles played by culture and spirituality in Iran and the U.S. can shed light on the importance, or lack thereof, of cultural heritage sites in each country. The history of Persia / Iran can be traced at least as far back as 7000 B.C.  In more recent centuries this nation has defined itself through the Muslim faith, which in its creative force, prescribed daily prayer rule, and dietary laws has produced a centuries’-rich, exquisite body of art. What binds the people of any Islamic nation is their faith, the very fact that they craft meaning in their lives through their connection with a divine being.  Available photographs of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani show him immersed in prayer; sympathetic accounts of his life describe his love for poetry and bravery in battle.  The millions of Iranian citizens who poured into the streets of various cities of the country during the days of mourning and funeral procession of their fallen general were moved, in addition to the grave injustice, by a spiritual connection with him.  Without idealizing or sanitizing the everyday existence of a people, one can describe Iranian lives as surrounded by the beauty of their art, defining rituals of their religion, and depth of understanding acquired through the enormously long history of their civilization.  These are features that bind the people of a nation together in the face of demonization of their leaders and crippling sanctions by outsiders.

By contrast, the U.S. is a young country with Christian origins that evolved into a largely secular nation.  There is little that binds the American people together, which may explain the misguided Wolfowitzian doctrine that seeks unity through maintaining the populace in a state of fear of imagined foreign enemies.  Twenty-first-century American society is fragmented and atomized, as a powerful elite and cooperative media feed citizens a diet of identity-politics issues that emphasizes consumerism and narcissism. If Christian religious faith is present at all in national arenas, it is fleeting, light, and suspicious of poetry and other deep aspects of spirituality.

The U.S.’s drone assassination of Gen. Soleimani and Iraqi military commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis at the Baghdad International Airport on January 3, 2020 presents a compelling case study of selective information presented to the American people by the media. These were not reclusive terrorists hiding in caves, but rather government military officers charged with carrying out official responsibilities for their respective countries.  Ilya Tsukanov notes, “Whether against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, or against Daesh and other terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq, Gen. Soleimani and the Quds Force have consistently fought the same Sunni Islamist Wahhabi fundamentalist forces which have targeted US forces across the Middle East and around the world, and which have vowed to destroy the West and America through acts of terror.”[v]  It is especially disturbing that Soleimani was traveling openly on a peace mission, with the Iraqi government as intermediary, to forge improved relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The American media’s reporting on this assassination exemplifies the ways in which the occasional fact may be used to obfuscate, rather than inform, readers desiring to learn the truth. Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky write: “But even more important [than suppressing information] . . . is the question of the attention given to a fact—its placement, tone, and repetitions, the framework of analysis within which it is presented, and the related facts that accompany it and give it meaning (or preclude understanding).”[vi]  Demonization of Soleimani even extended to his being implicated by Vice President Pence in the 9/11 attacks, without any evidence presented.[vii]  Such misbehavior on the part of American mainstream journalists stems from their increasingly compromised code of ethics as well as a lack of training in their own profession.  The corporate culture to which they belong privileges conformity to a prescribed  narrative over a deeper commitment to unbiased investigative work.

American society, with a steadily eroding educational system, lacks unifying civilizational or faith-based traditions that would come into play at critical times.  In this utilitarian society, the concept of beauty is virtually lost.[viii]  In one telling moment of a class session this author was conducting, not a single student could cite humankind’s need for beauty as an explanation for the gracefulness of major architectural styles.  Beauty as a defining aesthetic category was absent in the students’ system of meanings.  In a country whose government budgets routinely take away funding for the arts, which has ceased to teach geography on its advanced levels, and which presents history so poorly that history professors lament the confusion experienced by students about world history, it is no wonder that many adults can be manipulated so easily by the media and politicians.

The questions arise: How can Americans grasp at all that the assassination of one of Iran’s admired and respected generals would galvanize the country’s people into a state of closer unity? Can one even imagine an American military official reciting poetry or engaged deep in thought about the transformational power of sublime beauty?  Would Americans be distressed at a foreign power’s threats to destroy over fifty of the U.S.’s cultural sites (if indeed they could name even half of such cherished places)?  These questions suggest far-reaching implications for the understanding by the average American of the Middle East, and Iran in particular.

A new creative thinking needs to develop on the part of the U.S. leadership.  Instead of economic pressure, threats to destroy a nation’s cultural heritage, and invasions of the oil-rich countries of the Middle East, it would be salvific and productive for the U.S. to treat other nations from the principle of moral equivalency, rather than that of moral superiority—as I have argued elsewhere.[ix]  This, along with a genuine respect for religious faith and a prioritizing of the arts born of an appreciation of the need for beauty for a civilization’s depth and well-being, would effect positive change in the American people’s worldview.  Such innovations would benefit all parties concerned and could end the destructive cycle of Western colonization and plunder of more vulnerable countries.

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Valeria Z. Nollan is professor emerita of Russian studies at Rhodes College. She was born in Hamburg, West Germany; she and her parents were Russian refugees displaced by World War II. Her books and articles on Russian literature, cinema, religion, and nationalism have made her an internationally recognized authority on topics relating to modern Russia.

Notes

[i] https://www.thedailybeast.com/trump-threatens-to-hit-iran-very-fast-and-very-hard

[ii] https://www.history.com/topics/middle-east/iran-hostage-crisis; see also Robert Parry, America’s Stolen Narrative (Arlington, VA: Media Consortium, 2012)

[iii] http://www.mohammadmossadegh.com/biography/

[iv] http://www.mohammadmossadegh.com/biography/

[v] https://sputniknews.com/world/202001061077960305-arch-terrorist-or-inadvertent-ally-three-times-soleimani-saved-american-lives/

[vi] Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (NY: Pantheon Books, 1988, 2002), lxii-lxiii.  For obfuscation and invention of reasons justifying the killing of Soleimani, see, for example, https://www.fort-russ.com/2020/01/exposed-netanyahu-pompeo-lie-of-imminent-threat-that-justified-the-assassination-of-soleimani/

[vii] https://www.globalresearch.ca/low-point-us-politics-pence-shares-crazy-conspiracy-theory-about-iran/5703280

[viii] See the TEDx talk by James Howard Kunstler “The Ghastly Tragedy of the Suburbs,” https://www.ted.com/talks/james_howard_kunstler_the_ghastly_tragedy_of_the_suburbs#t-23506

[ix] https://russia-insider.com/en/politics/clash-worldviews-moral-equivalence-or-moral-superiority/ri20229


Towards a World War III Scenario: The Dangers of Nuclear War” 

by Michel Chossudovsky

Available to order from Global Research! 

ISBN Number: 978-0-9737147-5-3
Year: 2012
Pages: 102
Print Edition: $10.25 (+ shipping and handling)
PDF Edition:  $6.50 (sent directly to your email account!)

Michel Chossudovsky is Professor of Economics at the University of Ottawa and Director of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), which hosts the critically acclaimed website www.globalresearch.ca . He is a contributor to the Encyclopedia Britannica. His writings have been translated into more than 20 languages.

Reviews

“This book is a ‘must’ resource – a richly documented and systematic diagnosis of the supremely pathological geo-strategic planning of US wars since ‘9-11’ against non-nuclear countries to seize their oil fields and resources under cover of ‘freedom and democracy’.”
John McMurtry, Professor of Philosophy, Guelph University

“In a world where engineered, pre-emptive, or more fashionably “humanitarian” wars of aggression have become the norm, this challenging book may be our final wake-up call.”
-Denis Halliday, Former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations

Michel Chossudovsky exposes the insanity of our privatized war machine. Iran is being targeted with nuclear weapons as part of a war agenda built on distortions and lies for the purpose of private profit. The real aims are oil, financial hegemony and global control. The price could be nuclear holocaust. When weapons become the hottest export of the world’s only superpower, and diplomats work as salesmen for the defense industry, the whole world is recklessly endangered. If we must have a military, it belongs entirely in the public sector. No one should profit from mass death and destruction.
Ellen Brown, author of ‘Web of Debt’ and president of the Public Banking Institute   

Since Boris Johnson’s election in December with an 80-seat majority, the government is in full swing to radically change Britain. Leaving aside Brexit, which will do just that, the government is now attacking the very institutions that uphold civil society – such as the civil service, the fourth estate, especially the BBC and ITV, political movements and what citizens recognise as the rule of law.

Last September, the supreme court ruled that Boris Johnson’s advice to the Queen that parliament should be prorogued for five weeks at the height of the Brexit crisis was unlawful. The consequence is that Johnson has already prepared a strategy to diminish its power.  Just days after the general election, won partially on the back of a campaign blaming MPs and unelected judges for blocking the will of the people, Johnson announced plans for the reforming of the UK’s constitution, democratic institutions and legal system.

However, Boris Johnson is set to step up his plan to ‘take revenge,’ this time on the Court of Appeal after suffering another humiliating defeat at the hands of the courts.

It comes after the Court of Appeal ruled against the government, preventing them from deporting 25 foreign offenders scheduled to be on a deportation flight on Monday. When questioned the government refused to state what many of the deportees had actually done other than to say they were dangerous criminals. That turned out not to be true in all cases. The court of appeal was persuaded that some of those who were being deported may not have been able to defend themselves legally.

The Home Office flight left the UK, despite a last-minute legal challenge.

“These Tory attacks on our courts, judicial review and the Human Rights Act are all designed to weaken ordinary people and enable ministers to act with impunity. They are the actions of despots, not democrats.”

Rule of law

These challenges against deportation is not just about matters surrounding human rights, it is also about testing the rule of law, which is being severely challenged by this government.  No-one doubts that foreign nationals who commit serious crimes, imprisoned and due for release should be deported to their home country. However, the law is there to protect those from government overreach, which in some cases is motivated by little more than wishing to score political points. The very strong language used by those attempting to uphold those laws is evidence of their anger and frustration.

Shadow Attorney-General Baroness Chakrabarti said:

There is no democracy without the rule of law. These attacks on journalists and judges are chronic symptoms of an entitled Tory Government that is desperate to avoid scrutiny, and is out of control.”

When the “review” was first mooted last month, Baroness Chakrabarti said –

It’s like losing 11-nil in the cup final and coming with a baseball bat for the referee.

Acting Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said:

These Tory attacks on our courts, judicial review and the Human Rights Act are all designed to weaken ordinary people and enable ministers to act with impunity. They are the actions of despots, not democrats.”

Politically motivated

Judicial review is the process where members of the public can take the government to court to rule on whether their actions are lawful. It’s a crucial power of the court system and exists to make sure governments – however strong their hold on power – have to operate within the law.

The Conservative manifesto on the runup to the last election promised to examine the Judicial Review process to ensure it is “not abused” for political reasons. However, it is clear that the government plans to do just that – change its power for political reasons.

Government sources said the row over the deportation flight showed why an examination of JR was needed.

Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s Downing Street advisor and ‘enforcer’, said there must be “urgent action on the farce that judicial review has become” following the Court of Appeal decision. ITV News reported. Cummings was incandescent with fury over the Appeal Court decision and said it was – “a perfect symbol of the British state’s dysfunction”.

Criticism

A senior Government source said:

The Westminster bubble’s view in trying to halt this flight with repeated Judicial Reviews makes the case perfectly to the public about why such a review is needed and why certain parts of Westminster still haven’t learned the lesson from the 2019 election.”

Labour has challenged the Government in Parliament about allowing the flight to take off before the findings of the review into the Windrush scandal have been published.

Amanda Pinto QC, chair of the Bar Council, said:

Judicial review is a hugely important tool in a democratic society by which decisions of public authorities, including government, are subject to legal scrutiny. Far from being a mark of dysfunction, judicial review is an appropriate check on decision-making, of which a nation should be proud.

She added:

We have not yet seen details of what a ‘review’ of the judicial review process might look like, but anything that seeks to limit the ability of ordinary citizens to challenge decisions of those with power is a red flag.”

Caroline Goodwin QC, of the Criminal Bar Association, said:

Judicial review is a process to keep a check on authorities acting beyond the legal remit that may have been granted to them by the law, thus playing a part to ensure the law applies equally to everyone; this is what the rule of law means.

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The US’ newly unveiled “Strategy For Central Asia 2019-2025” surprisingly isn’t sinister like some of the countries’ critics might have expected, but that doesn’t mean that it’ll succeed since its viability almost entirely depends on bringing “peace” to Afghanistan first then convincing the regional states to more closely integrate with one another prior to collectively seeking out America’s “balancing” assistance via mostly economic means.

Secretary of State Pompeo recently traveled to Central Asia to meet with the five relevant states’ Foreign Ministers under the aegis of the C5+1 platform that serves as the US’ means for multilaterally engaging with this geostrategic region. It was during that time that the country unveiled its “Strategy For Central Asia 2019-2025“, which surprisingly isn’t sinister like some of its critics might have expected. Even though the US never overtly signaled any hostile intentions towards Central Asia, it was largely presumed to be the case that both the Bush and Obama Administrations wanted to catalyze so-called “constructive/controlled chaos” there from the US’ presence in neighboring Afghanistan in order to rip the region apart so that the resultant “black hole” of destabilization sucks in Russia, China, and Iran. This would in turn lead to the fulfillment of the late Brzezinski’s “Eurasian Balkans” scenario of dividing and ruling the supercontinent’s Heartland through the external encouragement of a self-sustaining cycle of Hybrid War unrest that would indefinitely prevent its leading Great Powers from coordinating their multipolar efforts to challenge America’s unipolar primacy over global affairs.

The timed onset of EuroMaidan in parallel with the US’ increasingly aggressive maritime “containment” efforts in the South China Sea was intended to herald the beginning of the New Cold War through the waging of two Hybrid War fronts against Eurasia’s most important Great Powers, Russia and China respectively, but it dramatically backfired by bringing them unprecedentedly closer through a so-called “marriage of (strategic) convenience” whereby their joint (but not always coordinated) efforts to build a Multipolar World Order turned into Washington’s worst nightmare. This was greatly facilitated by Central Asia failing to become the “proto-Arab Spring” in 2010 as elaborately explained by the author in the relevant chapter of his e-book about “The Law Of Hybrid War” and which should be skimmed by the reader in order to familiarize themselves with this detailed background context if they aren’t already aware of it. In any case, Brzezinski’s grand stratagem of having the US simultaneously wage several Hybrid Wars in Eurasia failed to achieve its desired result of dividing and ruling the supercontinent, hence why the current administration opted for a much more pragmatic plan.

The Trump Administration evidently believes in building up Central Asia’s capacity to “balance” between Russia and China in what it’s previously described as the current era of “Great Power competition“, and the billionaire president understands the importance of relying on economic means for doing so. That’s why the US’ “Strategy For Central Asia 2019-2025” is concise and emphasizes the mutual benefits of increased cooperation between all parties, the form of which it broadly outlines in the text. So as to obtain a better understanding of what this entails, the six policy objectives will be enumerated below followed by a brief one-sentence description of their true strategic significance:

1. “Support and strengthen the sovereignty and independence of the Central Asian States, individually and as a region”: Just as Russia finds it easier to engage with the EU as a whole as opposed to its individual members one-by-one (contrary to the prevailing Mainstream and Alternative Media dogmas that it supposedly wants to “break the bloc”), so too does the US aspire to do the same with Central Asia, with the notable exception being that its intentions are to improve their collective capability for “balancing” between Russia and China just as Russia’s “balancing” act in the Mideast is meant to do the same vis-a-vis the US (albeit by engaging with countries one-by-one as opposed to multilaterally like it prefers to do in Europe).

2. “Reduce terrorist threats in Central Asia“: From Brzezinski the “breaker” to Trump the “builder”, the US no longer wants to subversively destroy the region in order to turn it into a “black hole” of chaos for entrapping the surrounding states, but seeks to safeguard it from such threats because the new strategic thinking is that America has more to gain by taking advantage of a geostrategically central “balancing” core of countries (the C5) in the Eurasian Heartland under the new international conditions that emerged after the failure of its divide-and-rule strategy (though the latter can still be relied upon as the ultimate “insurance policy” per policy objective five).

3. Expand and maintain support for stability in Afghanistan“: In connection with the above, the US hopes to rely upon the C5 countries as its “Lead From Behind” partners for ensuring Afghanistan’s stability following its inevitable (but not necessarily impending) peace, though it ideally envisages this being executed in mostly economic ways corresponding with the Trump Administration’s general focus on this modus operandi for achieving foreign policy results which will be described more in policy objectives four and six.

4. “Encourage connectivity between Central Asia and Afghanistan“: The US believes that enhanced connectivity between the C5 and Afghanistan will strengthen their collective “balancing” capabilities, but it also encourages them to explore trans-regional integration projects too such as the CASA-1000 power project to Pakistan and the multimodal Lapis Lazuli Corridor to the EU (the latter of which intriguingly overlaps to a large degree with Turkey’s “Middle Corridor” that’s also one of China’s “Silk Roads“).

5. “Promote rule of law reform and respect for human rights“: This policy objective is a double-edged sword — viewed from a positive angle, the US is promoting stability by encouraging the C5 to comply with their people’s growing democratic demands by gradually engaging in “controlled system renewal” through free, fair, and inclusive elections so as to create less of a “legitimate” incentive for anti-government insurgency (and possibly terrorist recruitment), though as seen from the cynical side of things, this could also be exploited as an instrument of pressure to “legitimize” Color Revolution attempts for coercive geostrategic purposes pursuant to the previously mentioned “insurance policy” of relying upon the “black hole” scenario if worst comes to worst.

6. “Promote United States investment in and development of Central Asia“: Unlike the big businesses that typically represent Russian and Chinese economic interests in Central Asia and are often criticized (whether rightly or wrongly) for mostly only benefiting the elite, American investment in the region seeks to serve as a catalyst for improving the livelihoods of the greatest number of grassroots stakeholders as possible by creating opportunities for workers and small & medium enterprises (SMEs) alike to grow, which could be tremendously advanced in the event that the US’ invests in the proposed N-CPEC+ corridor for connecting Central Asia with the global pivot state of Pakistan via Afghanistan and thenceforth more easily to the rest of the global market.

To summarize, the US hopes that its economic-driven policy of engagement with the C5 can improve their collective “balancing” capabilities vis-a-vis Russia and China under the pain of having NGO-led Color Revolution attempts reoccur per policy objective five. Although certainly coercive to a degree, the US is betting that the mutual benefits that its “Strategy For Central Asia 2019-2025” could reap for the region are attractive enough to inspire them to voluntarily cooperate with its vision, but there are still several obstacles to the successful implementation of what it seeks to achieve in the grand strategic sense even if all of the relevant countries are in support of this initiative.

The most obvious of these is that everything hinges on bringing peace to Afghanistan, after which the post-war situation there will largely influence the viability of CASA-1000, the Lapis Lazuli Corridor, and N-CPEC+. Secondly, Russia and China could make more progress on building the Golden Ring between themselves, Pakistan, Iran, and Turkey by that time, thus “embracing” Central Asia with potentially limitless opportunities that far surpass those that the US is offering or “encircling” the region from a zero-sum American strategic perspective and “forcing” it out. As for the third obstacle, it could simply be that the C5 and the US find it difficult to do business with one another for whatever reason, unlike their existing Russian and Chinese partners that they’re much more familiar working with. Taken together, these problems could seriously hinder the effectiveness of the US’ “Strategy For Central Asia 2019-2025”, and the second-mentioned one of building the Golden Ring could even potentially reduce the viability of its “black hole” “insurance policy” scenario.

Having said that, the argument can also be made that the US’ proposals are very constructive, apart from the controversial fifth policy objective. Russia and China shouldn’t fear a more independent and collectively assertive Central Asia since the US’ more confident economic entrance into the region could compel them to “step up their game” and offer the relevant countries better commercial and other terms of cooperation, thus working out to the overall benefit of the region’s population. Ensuring security from Afghan-originating threats is also welcome so long as the US is truly sincere in this respect. Connectivity, whether regional or trans-regional, is one of the defining characteristics of the 21st century that both Great Powers are also advancing, so whether it’s the Lapis Lazuli Corridor or N-CPEC+, neither of them should have any problem with this since China is already making progress on these fronts anyhow and Russia is poised to follow (at least when it comes to N-CPEC+). All told, the US’ “Strategy For Central Asia 2019-2025” therefore isn’t sinister at all, but it might nevertheless fail to succeed if peace doesn’t first prevail in Afghanistan and if the C5 refuses to “balance” “against” the Golden Ring.

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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.

Featured image is from OneWorld

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Trump Regime Hostility Toward Palestinians

February 14th, 2020 by Stephen Lendman

Trump supports privileged interests in the US and Israel exclusively.

Dismissive toward ordinary people everywhere, he’s been hostile toward long-suffering Palestinians throughout his tenure — in deference to Israel and Zionist ideologues infesting his regime.

His no-peace, no-self-determination annexation scheme, drafted by the Netanyahu regime, represents his ultimate insult to millions of Palestinian victims of Israeli apartheid viciousness.

Earlier, he cut over $300 million in UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) aid, providing vital services for millions of Palestinian refugees.

Under the so-called Taylor Force Act, US funds to Palestinians were cut by the amount the PLO pays to families of Palestinian political prisoners, individuals falsely called “terrorists” by the Netanyahu regime.

Separately, Trump cut $200 million in humanitarian aid to Palestinians – funds to be used for so-called “high priority projects elsewhere,” according to the State Department.

The Trump and Netanyahu regimes are complicit in waging undeclared war against defenseless Palestinians, falsely blaming US/Israeli high crimes on Hamas and other resistance groups.

Trump closed the PLO office in Washington and US consulate in Jerusalem representing its interests — all of the above done because Palestinians haven’t unconditionally surrendered to unacceptable US/Israeli demands.

Essential services in blockaded Gaza are lacking because of inadequate humanitarian aid — including for medical and sanitation facilities, along with virtually everything else needed for health and well-being.

US and Israeli ruling authorities are the enemy of the Palestinian people — more than ever by Trump/Netanyahu viciousness against them.

The Trump regime’s FY 2021 budget excludes funding for Palestinian security services, while including so-called Diplomatic Progress funds — intended for administering the Trump/Netanyahu no-peace/annexation scheme.

According to the State Department, part of the US budget for this purpose could go for the PLO to continue serving as Israel’s enforcer — against the rights and welfare of millions of Palestinians.

Funding for this purpose is the only US aid not eliminated by Trump regime hardliners.

In response to the Trump/Netanyahu annexation scheme, Israeli installed Palestinian president/longtime collaborator with the Jewish state Mahmoud Abbas threatened to cease providing security services for Tel Aviv — a hollow threat.

He lied like countless times before. Security services continue as long as funded.

Ruling Fatah party central committee member Tawfiq al-Tirawi confirmed it, adding:

“Stopping security coordination is the last card in the hands of the Palestinian Authority, and it will be the beginning of the end.”

“Yasser Arafat was put under siege…when he stopped security coordination” — and was poisoned to death by Israel, Abbas installed to replace him.

The Middle East eye quoted 20-year-old Palestinian student Abdulrahman Alawi, saying:

“The PA continues to persecute every person that resists the occupation, and arrests those it suspects of doing so, and then says that it wants to stop security coordination, in contradictory and unconvincing speeches” by Abbas and his cronies, adding:

He told the Arab League that “he doesn’t believe in the armed struggle and expressed willingness to establish a demilitarized state – which are clauses within the US-Israeli plan and its goals.”

Abbas knows the lesson of Arafat. Disobey Israel and risk the same fate.

According to the Addameer human rights organization, PA security forces arrest and brutally interrogate activist Palestinians in service to Israel, including torture and other forms of ill-treatment.

Abbas long ago lost the trust of most Palestinians. Days after the Trump/Netanyahu scheme was unveiled, CIA director Gina Haspel met with Majed Faraj in Ramallah, head of PA intelligence.

According to Palestinian academic Abdel Sattar Qassem, “(i)f there were no security services provided by the PA to Israel, the PA would have collapsed a long time ago.”

“It remains in existence for the sake of Israel’s security interests.”

“The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has entrapped us with security coordination…”

New Palestinian leadership is needed, he stressed — what Israel won’t allow by free, fair and open elections.

In one form or other, funding for Palestinian security services will continue as long as Israeli collaborators like Abbas are around.

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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: Trump and Netanyahu’s love affair around Jerusalem and Palestine’s fate – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza arrived in The Hague (Netherlands) on Thursday to file a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) against the United States and its sanctions.

During his meeting with the Court, Arreaza exposed the crimes against humanity perpetrated by the U.S. government in its failed attempt to overthrow Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro.

Currently, the economic, financial, and commercial sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump administration have prevented Venezuela from accessing international markets.

As a consequence, the Venezuelan people’s rights to health, food, and development have been systematically violated.

“We have the right, the obligation, and the responsibility to protect our people,” Arreaza said at a press conference held after handing over the documentation of the case to the Hague court.

“The consequences of U.S. coercive unilateral measures are crimes against humanity and violate both international laws and the United Nations Charter.”

“On instructions from President Nicolas Maduro, Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza arrives in The Hague and introduces a complaint to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity committed by the US government against the people of Venezuela. Justice against the blockade.”

During his presentation, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister also stressed that the U.S. unilateral coercive measures are “weapons of mass destruction” that affect various peoples of the world.​​​​​​​

Therefore, the action that the Venezuelan government is taking before the Criminal Court will set a precedent for international law and multilateral institutions.

The most recent U.S. sanction was directed against Conviasa airlines, a public company that carries out non-profit operations for public programs such as “Return to the Homeland” and Mission Miracle.​​​​​​​

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Featured image: Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza at the International Criminal Court, the Hague, Netherlands, Feb. 13, 2020. | Photo: Twitter/ @Punto_deCorte

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Venezuela to Sue Trump Regime in ICJ: Does It Matter?

February 14th, 2020 by Stephen Lendman

Is it possible for aggrieved nations to gain favorable international tribunal rulings against the US that force it to pay a price for its high crimes and other wrongdoing?

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) was established to settle disputes between nations, including complaints of international law breaches and/or other wrongdoing against one state by another.

The ICJ’s rulings only matter if able to be enforced, clearly not the case when an aggrieved nation sues hegemon USA.

In Nicaragua v. United States (1986), the ICJ ruled against Washington for breaching international law and violating Nicaraguan sovereignty by supporting Contra death squads in the country, along with mining its waters and operating illegally in its airspace.

Washington rejected the ruling, refused to pay damages, falsely claiming the court had no “jurisdiction (or) competence” to render a judgment.

In July 2018, Iran sued the Trump regime in the ICJ for violating provisions of the 1955 Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations and Consular Rights between both countries.

At the time, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said

“US sanctions are inconsistent with resolutions and their previous commitments, and it is Iran’s right to file a lawsuit against the United States in international judicial organs.”

Sanctions by one nation against another breach the UN Charter. Article 41 empowers the Security Council alone to decide what actions may be used to enforce international law — including “complete or partial interruption of economic relations and…severance of diplomatic relations,” other than use of military force.

When Article 41 steps don’t work, Article 42 authorizes Security Council members to “take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security” — by use of “demonstrations, blockade,” or military intervention.

The Security Council alone may take these actions, including imposition of sanctions on offender nations — not presidents, prime ministers, lawmakers, or judicial bodies of individual countries.

The US consistently and repeatedly ignores international, constitutional, and its own statute laws — operating solely by its own rules to serve its interests on the world stage.

US regimes weaponized sanctions to wage war by other means on sovereign independent nations unwilling to bend to their will.

Imposed for political, economic, financial, and/or military reasons, they include prohibitions on the import or export of designated commercial goods, products and services related to technology, arms and munitions, restrictions on loans and credit, asset freezes, travel bans, and for other purposes.

Their objective is all about imposing economic hardships and harming ordinary people in targeted nations — notably their purpose against Iran, Syria, North Korea, Russia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

In October 2018, the ICJ ruled unanimously for Iran against the Trump regime, calling its actions a breach of the 1955 US-Iran Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Rights.

The court ordered the removal of “impediments” to the import and export of medicines, medical devices, agricultural commodities, and various other products.

Ignoring the ICJ’s ruling, the Trump regime increased pressure on Iran by imposing multiple new rounds of sanctions on the country and its officials, removing none, taking no actions to comply with what the court ordered.

Even though its ruling is binding, the US ignored it for Nicaragua and Iran.

Can Venezuela hope to fare better? Days earlier, President Nicolas Maduro announced the following:

“Let us immediately activate an international lawsuit before the (International) Court of Justice (to seek justice) against the government of the United States for the damage that the Conviasa (flag carrier airline) Company (incurred by) the aggression policy of sanctions of coercive measures,” adding:

Trump regime designated puppet, self-declared president elected by no one, usurper in waiting “Guaido is the…person…who sought…sanctions” on Conviasa.

“I don’t even name that man, but today we have to indicate the person directly responsible…who told his northern masters to sanction this company and increase the sanctions against Venezuela.”

On January 23, 2019, as directed by his Trump regime handlers, Guaido unlawfully named himself acting Bolivarian Republic president, a constitutional breach.

It begs the question. Why hasn’t he been arrested, detained, charged, and prosecuted for treason, sedition, and other offenses for his criminal actions from then to now?

On February 7, Trump’s Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned Conviasa and its 40 aircraft fleet — illegally targeting the airline for political purposes, aiming to block its use for international travel by government officials.

On the same day, the State Department “call(ed) on the international community to step up pressure on Maduro and further isolate him,” separately saying last month:

“The United States continues to support a peaceful, democratic transition in Venezuela” — by crushing its economy, immiserating its people, and replacing its social democracy with pro-Western tyranny.

That’s what hostile US actions against Venezuela are all about, along with wanting control gained control its huge oil resources, the world’s largest.

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

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

The United Kingdom has become the first Western nation to move ahead with large-scale censorship of the internet, effectively creating regulation that will limit freedom on the last frontier of digital liberty. In a move that has the nation reeling, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has unveiled rules that will punish internet companies with fines, and even imprisonment, if they fail to protect users from “harmful and illegal content.”

Couched in language that suggests this is being done to protect children from pedophiles and vulnerable people from cyberbullying, the proposals will place a massive burden on small companies. Further, they will ultimately make it impossible for those not of the pervasive politically correct ideology to produce and share content.

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes

The new guardian of the internet will be the Office of Communications (known as Ofcom), a government-approved body that already regulates television, radio, broadcasting, and even the postal service. This group has been accused on many occasions of “acting as the moral arbiter” for the nation, and perhaps unsurprisingly, tends towards a very left-leaning position.

Speaking to Order-Order.com, Matthew Lesh, the head of research at The Adam Smith Institute, warned:

“Make no mistake: free speech is under threat. The Government is proposing the most censorious online speech regime in the Western world. We must not be fooled by platitudes about freedom of expression. The inevitably woke bureaucrats in Ofcom will be deciding what sort of speech is and is not allowed across much of the internet. They will have extraordinary discretion to decide who to target and what is harmful.

This is a recipe for disaster for anyone that thinks differently to the Notting Hill set — any correct but unpopular opinions will not just come under attack from the Twitterati, but the law itself.”

Ofcom has a new boss in place to go along with the new powers: Dame Melanie Dawes. Dawes has been a career civil servant for her entire working life and was most recently the Civil Service Gender and Diversity Champion from 2015 to 2019.

The Rules

Among the sweeping and censorious powers awarded to Ofcom are:

  • The ability to create guidelines that instruct content-hosting companies (YouTube, Facebook, etc.) on how to manage online censorship of “user-generated content.”
  • Create rules for content that is “not illegal but has the potential to cause harm.”
  • To have the remit for deciding, writing up, and adapting rules on how internet regulation works.

Not only is the government mandating an outside body to orchestrate the regulation of the internet, but they are also handing over the power to decide exactly what should be censored. Boris Johnson, formerly considered the darling of liberty for his backing of Brexit, appears to have handed over control of who may speak and what may be said online to an organization that prides itself on its ability to clamp down on speech it considers fringe.

The nation’s newspapers are owned by a small group of people and companies. Many of the major television and radio stations are under charter with the U.K. government. Book publishing companies are too afraid to publish a single word that goes against the progressive orthodoxy. The ability to congregate and hold rallies is tightly controlled by government bodies. And now, the last realm of freedom, the last place in which like-minded souls can exchange ideas, learn, and express themselves to their fullest is about to fall under the Orwellian control of an agency that will not even be accountable to the government itself.

The Ministry of Truth is here.

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United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday the U.S. government would not give any information for a database listing companies operating in the occupied West Bank.

The list was released Wednesday by the United Nations’ human rights office (OHCHR).

“The United States has long opposed the creation or release of this database,” Pompeo said in a statement. “Its publication only confirms the unrelenting anti-Israel bias so prevalent at the United Nations … Attempts to isolate Israel run counter to all of our efforts to build conditions conducive to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that lead to a comprehensive and enduring peace.”

The OHCHR published the names of 112 companies that have business ties with Israeli illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. The UN agency said 94 firms are based in Israel and 18 in six other countries.

It identified companies domiciliated in the U.S., France, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Thailand, and the United Kingdom, including Airbnb, Booking.com, and TripAdvisor Inc., among others.

A spokesman for Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the report was not a “blacklist” intended to qualify the activities of these companies as illegal.

Yet the publication prompted a Palestinian threat of legal action against the firms and raised concerns that the companies could be targets of boycotts or divestment to pressure Israel over its settlements.

Two leading U.S. senators backed Pompeo’s comments slamming the release for the consequences it could have on the companies, including boycott.

Democratic Senator Ben Cardin and Republican Senator Rob Portman called it an “anti-Israel database, akin to a blacklist, of companies” that made significant U.S. companies, including General Mills and Airbnb, exposed to boycotts.

“The Human Rights Council should use its energy to encourage both Israel and the Palestinians to return to good faith negotiations,” said Cardin. “The United States cannot stand by while American businesses are being pressured by a foreign entity because of their work in Israel, one of our key allies.”

Palestinians hailed the long-awaited publication, with Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki calling it a “victory for international law.”

For his part, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the OHCHR was a “biased and uninfluential body.”

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Important article first published by Children’s Health Defense, posted on Global Research on April 28, 2019

In the United States, many legislators and public health officials are busy trying to make vaccines de facto compulsory—either by removing parental/personal choice given by existing vaccine exemptions or by imposing undue quarantines and fines on those who do not comply with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) vaccine edicts. Officials in California are seeking to override medical opinion about fitness for vaccination, while those in New York are mandating the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine for 6-12-month-old infants for whom its safety and effectiveness “have not been established.”

The U.S. has the very highest infant mortality rate of all industrialized developed countries, with more American children dying at birth and in their first year than in any other comparable nation—and more than half of those who survive develop at least one chronic illness.

American children would be better served if these officials—before imposing questionable and draconian measures—studied child health outcomes in Japan. With a population of 127 million, Japan has the healthiest children and the very highest “healthy life expectancy” in the world—and the least vaccinated children of any developed country. The U.S., in contrast, has the developed world’s most aggressive vaccination schedule in number and timing, starting at pregnancy, at birth and in the first two years of life. Does this make U.S. children healthier? The clear answer is no. The U.S. has the very highest infant mortality rate of all industrialized countries, with more American children dying at birth and in their first year than in any other comparable nation—and more than half of those who survive develop at least one chronic illness. Analysis of real-world infant mortality and health results shows that U.S. vaccine policy does not add up to a win for American children.

Japan and the U.S.; Two Different Vaccine Policies

In 1994, Japan transitioned away from mandated vaccination in public health centers to voluntary vaccination in doctors’ offices, guided by “the concept that it is better that vaccinations are performed by children’s family doctors who are familiar with their health conditions.” The country created two categories of non-compulsory vaccines: “routine” vaccines that the government covers and “strongly recommends” but does not mandate, and additional “voluntary” vaccines, generally paid for out-of-pocket. Unlike in the U.S., Japan has no vaccine requirements for children entering preschool or elementary school.

Japan also banned the MMR vaccine in the same time frame, due to thousands of serious injuries over a four-year period—producing an injury rate of one in 900 children that was “over 2,000 times higher than the expected rate.” It initially offered separate measles and rubella vaccines following its abandonment of the MMR vaccine; Japan now recommends a combined measles-rubella (MR) vaccine for routine use but still shuns the MMR. The mumps vaccine is in the “voluntary” category.

Here are key differences between the Japanese and U.S. vaccine programs:

  • Japan has no vaccine mandates, instead recommending vaccines that (as discussed above) are either “routine” (covered by insurance) or “voluntary” (self-pay).
  • Japan does not vaccinate newborns with the hepatitis B (HepB) vaccine, unless the mother is hepatitis B positive.
  • Japan does not vaccinate pregnant mothers with the tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine.
  • Japan does not give flu shots to pregnant mothers or to six-month-old infants.
  • Japan does not give the MMR vaccine, instead recommending an MR vaccine.
  • Japan does not require the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.

No other developed country administers as many vaccine doses in the first two years of life.

In contrast, the U.S. vaccine schedule (see Table 1) prescribes routine vaccination during pregnancy, calls for the first HepB vaccine dose within 24 hours of birth—even though 99.9% of pregnant women, upon testing, are hepatitis B negative, and follows up with 20 to 22 vaccine doses in the first year alone. No other developed country administers as many vaccine doses in the first two years of life.

The HepB vaccine injects a newborn with a 250-microgram load of aluminum, a neurotoxic and immune-toxic adjuvant used to provoke an immune response. There are no studies to back up the safety of exposing infants to such high levels of the injected metal. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) upper limit for aluminum in intravenous (IV) fluids for newborns is far lower at five micrograms per kilogram per day (mcg/kg/day)—and even at these levels, researchers have documented the potential for impaired neurologic development. For an average newborn weighing 7.5 pounds, the HepB vaccine has over 15 times more aluminum than the FDA’s upper limit for IV solutions.

Unlike Japan, the U.S. administers flu and Tdap vaccines to pregnant women (during any trimester) and babies receive flu shots at six months of age, continuing every single year thereafter. Manufacturers have never tested the safety of flu shots administered during pregnancy, and the FDA has never formally licensed any vaccines “specifically for use during pregnancy to protect the infant.”

Japan initially recommended the HPV vaccine but stopped doing so in 2013 after serious health problems prompted numerous lawsuits. Japanese researchers have since confirmed a temporal relationship between HPV vaccination and recipients’ development of symptoms.

U.S. vaccine proponents claim the U.S. vaccine schedule is similar to schedules in other developed countries, but this claim is inaccurate upon scrutiny. Most other countries do not recommend vaccination during pregnancy, and very few vaccinate on the first day of life. This is important because the number, type and timing of exposure to vaccines can greatly influence their adverse impact on developing fetuses and newborns, who are particularly vulnerable to toxic exposures and early immune activation. Studies show that activation of pregnant women’s immune systems can cause developmental problems in their offspring. Why are pregnant women in the U.S. advised to protect their developing fetuses by avoiding alcohol and mercury-containing tuna fish, but actively prompted to receive immune-activating Tdap and flu vaccines, which still contain mercury (in multi-dose vials) and other untested substances?

Japan initially recommended the HPV vaccine but stopped doing so in 2013 after serious health problems prompted numerous lawsuits. Japanese researchers have since confirmed a temporal relationship between HPV vaccination and recipients’ development of symptoms. U.S. regulators have ignored these and similar reports and not only continue to aggressively promote and even mandate the formerly optional HPV vaccine beginning in preadolescence but are now pushing it in adulthood. The Merck-manufactured HPV vaccine received fast-tracked approval from the FDA despite half of all clinical trial subjects reporting serious medical conditions within seven months.

Best and Worst: Two Different Infant Mortality Results

The CDC views infant mortality as one of the most important indicators of a society’s overall health. The agency should take note of Japan’s rate, which, at 2 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, is the second lowest in the world, second only to the Principality of Monaco. In comparison, almost three times as many American infants die (5.8 per 1,000 live births), despite massive per capita spending on health care for children (see Table 2). U.S. infant mortality ranks behind 55 other countries and is worse than the rate in Latvia, Slovakia or Cuba.

If vaccines save lives, why are American children dying at a faster rate, and…dying younger compared to children in 19 other wealthy countries—translating into a 57 percent greater risk of death before reaching adulthood?

To reiterate, the U.S. has the most aggressive vaccine schedule of developed countries (administering the most vaccines the earliest). If vaccines save lives, why are American children “dying at a faster rate, and…dying younger” compared to children in 19 other wealthy countries—translating into a “57 percent greater risk of death before reaching adulthood”? Japanese children, who receive the fewest vaccines—with no government mandates for vaccination—grow up to enjoy “long and vigorous” lives. International infant mortality and health statistics and their correlation to vaccination protocols show results that government and health officials are ignoring at our children’s great peril.

Among the 20 countries with the world’s best infant mortality outcomes, only three countries (Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore) automatically administer the HepB vaccine to all newborns—governed by the rationale that hepatitis B infection is highly endemic in these countries. Most of the other 17 top-ranking countries—including Japan—give the HepB vaccine at birth only if the mother is hepatitis B positive (Table 1). The U.S., with its disgraceful #56 infant mortality ranking, gives the HepB vaccine to all four million babies born annually despite a low incidence of hepatitis B.

Is the U.S. Sacrificing Children’s Health for Profits? 

Merck, the MMR vaccine’s manufacturer, is in court over MMR-related fraud. Whistleblowers allege the pharmaceutical giant rigged its efficacy data for the vaccine’s mumps component to ensure its continued market monopoly. The whistleblower evidence has given rise to two separate court cases. In addition, a CDC whistleblower has alleged the MMR vaccine increases autism risks in some children. Others have reported that the potential risk of permanent injury from the MMR vaccine dwarfs the risks of getting measles.

Why do the FDA and CDC continue to endorse the problematic MMR vaccine despite Merck’s implication in fraud over the vaccine’s safety and efficacy? Why do U.S. legislators and government officials not demand a better alternative, as Japan did over two decades ago? Why are U.S. cities and states forcing Merck’s MMR vaccine on American children? Is the U.S. government protecting children, or Merck? Why are U.S. officials ignoring Japan’s exemplary model, which proves that the most measured vaccination program in the industrialized world and “first-class sanitation and levels of nutrition” can produce optimal child health outcomes that are leading the world?

A central tenet of a free and democratic society is the freedom to make informed decisions about medical interventions that carry serious potential risks. This includes the right to be apprised of benefits and risks—and the ability to say no. The Nuremberg Code of ethics established the necessity of informed consent without “any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, over-reaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion.” Forcing the MMR vaccine, or any other vaccine, on those who are uninformed or who do not consent represents nothing less than medical tyranny.

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Homewreckers and Nationwreckers United

February 14th, 2020 by Philip A Farruggio

This writer just interviewed Aaron Glantz on his new bestselling book Homewreckers. This is more than a ‘must read’… it is a ‘Have to Immediately Read’! Glantz covers the beginnings and the rash aftermath of the 2008 Subprime Housing bubble.

Even though I have followed the story pretty carefully, Glantz pinpoints things I did not know until reading this important book. Just one example is how the Vulture Capitalists, like present Treasury Sec. Steve Mnunchin and Commerce Sec. Wilbur Ross, to name but a few of the scoundrels surrounding Mr. Trump, made fortunes on the taxpayers’ dime. They not only bought failed Subprime specialty banks, as I call them, for pennies on the dollar (only as a favor to this empire), but they got more than special privileges from Uncle Sam. Before I expand on this, take the example of your local Mom and Pop coffee shop. Let’s say the place was bought a few years ago for $50k. In the interim the place was losing business steadily. New investors came in and bought it for $20k. They then turned around and decided to unload it for the same $20k.

Would the government then make up the difference for what it was worth a few years ago and give the sellers the difference of $ 30k? NO WAY IN HELL!  Yet, for Mnuchin and his partners committing what I call ‘Legal Crime’ that is what Uncle Sam did for them… and did it happily to ‘Save the Economy’. Glantz explains how when Mnuchin and Co. took over Indy Mac bank in a fire sale, changed its name to One West, they were holding thousands of toxic mortgages. These were homes that were foreclosed or ready to be foreclosed. One example would be if a home had been assessed at $ 300k and was now worth $100k,

One West would sell the home for the $100k and the FDIC would repay them the difference of $ 200k. I kid you not!! Sheila Bair, the head of the FDIC at the time, actually stated that this was done to save our economy. I guess Sheila never heard of the term Receivership, whereupon Uncle Sam could buy up those banks at the same fire sale prices, keep the people in those homes and refigure better rates and terms to keep them from the street. THAT  would save the economy… but THAT  is  a Socialistic practice. Ah, the empire does not like anything Socialistic, as we see with even the rather tame Bernie Sanders version of Socialism.

What Homewreckers also focused on was the newest economic pandemic hitting our nation: The corporate Absentee Landlords! Glantz writes how Steve Schwarzman of The Blackstone Group, and his partner Pete Peterson, bought up foreclosed homes by the tens of thousands and turned them into rental properties. Many times the folks who once owned a home were now tenants in the same house, now under the auspices of their landlord, The Blackstone Group. We are talking of other such corporate vultures who followed suit and today we have this fact: In most major cities throughout Amerika there are more homes as rentals than there are homes owned by individuals who live in them. Of course, this doesn’t even take into account the system, feudalistic as it is, of apartment houses owned by absentee landlords who own thousands of such places. In 2018 The Blackstone Group owned over 11,000 rental apartments In just New York City alone! Another two individuals who are making fortunes owning slews of low income rental apartments are none other than Sean Hannity and Jared Kushner.

One wonders if people who like to watch Sean on his TV show each night, or listen to his dribble on his radio show, are aware that they are tenants of his! As to young Kushner, son of major NYC real estate royalty, son in law of President Cheetos and friend of the Zionist led Israeli government, does he care that his LLC corporation evicts just as easily as Hannity’s LLC does? Of course, with today’s laws that protect the identity of those who actually own these properties, perhaps NONE of these two jokers’ tenants even know who in the hell owns their residence! Yes, it is good to ‘ Make Amerika Great Again ‘ for the Super Rich.

The real sin here is that this is all part of a concerted effort to bring us back to a Neo Feudalistic state. Along with the abundance of Part Time, No Union, No Benefits Employment, as the rents go up on where working stiffs have to live, many of us are but a few paychecks from the street… if not there already! Sadly, we know the right wing half of this Two Party /One Party system, the Republicans, don’t care at all. It’s the other half, the ‘center right’ wing AKA the Democrats, who have done NOTHING  to address what Aaron Glantz pinpoints as the Vulture Capitalist takeover of our economy.  When Obama took over from the Bush/Cheney gang in 2009, all he did was continue the giveaway to the vultures. Of course Trump, the poster boy of the real Deep State, has actually put these jackals inside his government! And the general public is more afraid of… God forbid… Socialism than these cutthroats!

Listen to the interview here.

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Philip A Farruggio is a contributing editor for The Greanville Post. He is also frequently posted on Global Research, Nation of Change, World News Trust and Off Guardian sites. He is the son and grandson of Brooklyn NYC longshoremen and a graduate of Brooklyn College, class of 1974. Since the 2000 election debacle Philip has written over 300 columns on the Military Industrial Empire and other facets of life in an upside down America. He is also host of the ‘ It’s the Empire… Stupid ‘ radio show, co produced by Chuck Gregory. Philip can be reached at [email protected]

In February 2020, the Syrian Army reached the vicinity of the main stronghold of anti-government forces in Syria, the city of Idlib. This development plunged into shock supporters and the leadership of Idlib armed groups and became a visual confirmation of something that Western powers and their media structures do not want to admit. The government of President Bashar al-Assad not only survived the 9 years of the bloody war but also appeared on the winning side.

Idlib city is the capital of Idlib Governotare. It is located 59km southwest of Aleppo, and about 22km from the Turkish border. The city is divided into six main districts: Ashrafiyeh, Hittin, Hejaz, Downtown, Hurriya, and al-Qusur. Before the war, Idlib city was a rapidly growing urban center. From 2004 to 2010, its population grew from approximately 99,000 to 165,000. The majority of inhabitants was Sunni Muslims. Additionally, there was a significant Christian minority that almost completely disappeared by 2020, for obvious reasons.

In 2011, Idlib and its countryside became one of the main the centers of violence. Anti-government armed groups seized the city for the first time in the same year.

The key role was played by members of Ahrar al-Sham, a radical Islamist militant group declaring the aim of creating an Islamic state ruled under Sharia law. Ahrar al-Sham gained a wide prominence as the key ally of Jabhat al-Nusra, the official al-Qaeda offshoot in Syria. Their fruitful cooperation continued until 2017, when the relations between the groups became colder. Their funding base started crumbling after militants had suffered a devastating defeat in Aleppo city. This caused a series of contradictions between the formal allies that even turned in some local clashes. In 2020, the coalition of Ahrar al-Sham and several other groups armed and funded by Turkey are known as the National Front of Liberation. It still maintains a significant relationship with Jabhat al-Nusra that changed the brand to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham in an attempt to hide its al-Qaeda backbone from the international audience.

In February 2012, anti-government groups lost the city to the Syrian Army, which launched a large-scale military operation in the area. Idlib once again fell into the hands of militants in April 2015 after the united forces of Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham, Jund al-Aqsa and several other al-Qaeda-linked groups had assaulted the city from 3 directions. After this, militants captured another important urban center in Idlib province – Jisr al-Shughur, the prewar population – about 44,000 people.

Since then, Idlib and Jisra al-Shughur have consistently evolved into the two key centres of attraction of radicals in the region. These include both members of various militant groups defeated by the Syrian Army across Syria, and multiple foreign nationals seeking to join some powerful Middle Eastern terrorist group. This impacted the balance of power within militant groups operating in the region. Ahrar al-Sham lost a large part of its previous influence. As a part of the National Front for Liberation (NFL), it receives additional funding and supplies from Turkey, but the entire alliance is no more a competitor to Jabhat al-Nusra. The NFL played the role of auxiliary forces in most of the recent battles involving Jabhat al-Nsura. Its main strong side is the access to a constant flow of Turkish military supplies, including anti-tank guided missiles. Through the NFL, Turkish-supplied weapons regularly appear in the hands of Jabhat al-Nusra. The NFL claims that it has up to 70,000 members. Nonetheless, local sources say that the real number of active fighters can be estimated at no more than 25,000.

Despite the setbacks suffered in Aleppo city, northern Hama and southern Idlib, Jabhat al-Nusra remains the most powerful force in Greater Idlib. Its main political and military HQs are located in Idlib city. The group also created several weapon depots and equipment maintenance facilities inside the city. It intentionally puts own infrastructure in a close proximity to civilian targets using locals as human shields from air and artillery strikes. Large known al-Nusra weapon depots are also located in Khan and Sarmada. The Khan weapon depot is set up right near the camp for displaced civilians. On November 20, 2019, several civilians from the camp were killed, when a Syrian Army missile hit the weapon depot area. A number of smaller weapon depots were moved to the Turkish border area following the militants’ withdrawal from Maarat al-Numan and Khan Shaykhun. The number of militants fighting under the current brand of Jabhat al-Nusra – Hayat Tahrir al-Sham – is estimated at over 30,000.

Jisr al-Sughur and its countryside turned into the nest of the Turkistan Islamic Party, another al-Qaeda-linked militant group. It mostly consists of ethnic Uyghurs and other foreigners. The group’s ideology declares an aim to create a Caliphate in China’s Xinjiang region, and eventually in the entire Central Asia. Meanwhile, they are using Syria’s Idlib as a foothold to gain combat experience and resources for attacks in China and the Central Asia. Ankara, which uses various radical forms of pan-Turkism as a tool to expand own influence, turned a blind eye to the influx of foreign terrorists to the Idlib de-escalation zone. The number of fighters of the Turkistan Islamic Party with their families is estimated between 10,000 and 20,000.

The total manpower of groups operating in Greater Idlib is estimated around 110,000. Nonetheless, a majority of small groups are polarized and demoralized even more than their big brothers.

The Syrian Army operation in Idlib, which started in December 2019, allowed the Damascus government to retake over 1,200km2 from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and its allies, and the advance is ongoing. Pro-government forces captured the largest subdistrict of the Idlib district of the province – Saraqib Nahiyah (population about 88,000), and took control of the crossroad of the M4 and M5 highways. Thus, Idlib groups lost a key logistical hub, which they had used to supply its forces and move reinforcements between northern Lattakia, southern Idlib and northern Aleppo. The loss of Saraqib also exposed the southwestern flank of Al-Eis, the main Hayat Tahrir al-Sham strongpoint in southwestern Aleppo. The army diversionary attack in the area immediately turned into a real offensive. Government troops took control of a number of settlements, including the militant stronghold of al-Eis.

The Syrian Army currently has two main priorities:

  • To secure the entire M5 highway, which links the cities of Hama and Aleppo. This will allow government forces to freely redeploy troops and equipment just along the current frontline. Thus, they will have an additional advantage in maneuverability;
  • To increase pressure on the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham hive, Idlib city, which is now located in about 8km from the active frontline. This is an unprecedented situation, which had not happened since 2015. All the previous year the city remained in a permanent safety from any ground offensive by government forces. So, its current rulers did not bother itself with creating strong fortifications. The same approach explains why the speed of the Syrian Army’s offensive increased after it had passed the main defense line of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and its allies near Khan Shaykhun.

The rapid advances by the Syrian Army caused a strong negative reaction among the powers not interested in removing the Idlib point of instability, including Turkey. Ankara is an official participant of the Astana format and a state guarantor of the Idlib de-escalation deal. The issue is that Ankara did not comply with the key point of the Astana agreements – it did not separate Turkish-backed “moderate rebels” from the Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists that are excluded from the ceasefire regime. Any such attempt will inevitably reveal that terrorists control over 80% of the opposition-held part of Greater Idlib. Ankara will have to confirm officially that the Syrian Army operation against them goes in the framework of the Astana agreements. This is unacceptable for the Turkish leadership, which has been for a long time using a variety of military and diplomatic measures to prevent the Assad government from retaking the northwest of Syria and consolidate own influence in the areas where Turkish forces are present. Under the demilitarization agreement (September 2018), the Turkish Army also established 12 observation supposedly intended to monitor the ceasefire. Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan likely thought that by this move he claimed the entire Idlib for own geopolitical games.

In the course of the Idlib operations (2019-2020), Syrian forces besieged 5 Turkish observation posts and even several shelled the Turkish military several times. In response, the Turkish leadership announced that its forces had delivered strong blows to the ‘Assad regime’. However, the strikes did not stop the Syrian Army advance. This is why the Turkish military has been steadily increasing its military presence across the militant-held part of the Greater Idlib region, including the countryside of Idlib city. According to some reports, up to 1,000 pieces of Turkish military equipment have been deployed in this part of Syria.

On February 5, President Erdogan presented an ultimatum to Syria. He demanded the Syrians to halt military operations against Idlib militant groups and withdraw from Turkish observation posts abandoning the area liberated from terrorists in the recent months. The Turkish leader gave the Damascus government time until the end of February. If Syria rejects the ultimatum, Erdogan vowed to launch a full-scale military action against the Syrian Army. This was not first such threat by the Turkish leadership and all the previous ones appeared to be empty words. Nonetheless, this time the situation could develop under another scenario. Many will depend on the state of relations among Turkey, the United States, Israel and Russia.

Erdogan will not risk with a direct military confrontation with Russia. This will cost too much for Turkey. Nevertheless, if the Turkish leadership is sure that Russia provides no real answer to a full-scale attack on the Syria Army, there will be a strong chance that Turkey will carry out such an attack. The Erdogan government already has an experience of carrying out a direct aggression against Russia. In November 2015, the Turkish Air Force shot down a Russian S-24 fighter-bomber in the Syrian province of Lattakia. The Kremlin left this action unanswered in the military sphere.

After all, the fully-fledged Turkish war with Syria is unlikely because Ankara does not have enough resources for such a move. The more possible scenario is a large military operation by the Turkish Armed Forces. Even this move would require means and forces that would be many folds larger than those involved in Operations Euphrates Shield, Olive Branch and Peace Spring. If Erdogan decided to approve this military operation in Syria, it will undermine the already weakened economy of Turkey, undermine positions of Turkey in the region and significantly complicate its relations with the European Union. Therefore, the Turkish military action will likely take a form of the quasi-military PR action (like the US strikes on Syria in 2017 and 2018).

The Turkish plans could be undermined by the further collapse of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham’s defense in Idlib. Militants appeared to be unable to the Syrian Army breakthrough into the operational depth of their defense, where they have no needed defense infrastructure. So, pro-government forces have a chance to deliver a devastating blow to militants and at least reach the suburbs of the city of Idlib until the end of the month.

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The Communist Manifesto Turns 172

February 14th, 2020 by Prof. Sam Ben-Meir

This month marks 172 years since the first publication of the Communist Manifesto. All around the world people will be commemorating February 20th with group read-alouds, and other ways of noting the occasion. Undoubtedly, this is a moment that we should not allow to pass without some reflection on the meaning to us today of Marx and Engels’ pamphlet.

Originally published anonymously and in German by the Workers’ Educational Association in 1848, an English translation of the Manifesto would not appear until 1850. For the first decades of its life the Manifesto was mostly forgotten, and it would not be published in the United States until 1872. We are living at a time when – if not communism – at least socialism is gaining ground in this country, to a degree that few could foresee only a decade ago. Bernie Sanders, for example, is a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist, and a frontrunner among the Democratic candidates seeking the presidential nomination. When it comes to communism, however, there are still grave misgivings about being labeled as such even by those who identify with the radical left.

At the same time, we are entering an era of unprecedented inequality; in which wealth has become concentrated in the hands of a few to a degree that is almost hard to imagine – when literally three or four individuals in this country for instance have the wealth exceeding the total wealth of over fifty percent of the population. The vast inequality and ever growing concentration of capital is one of the many reasons why the Manifesto is as important now – if not more so – than when it first saw the light of day during that fateful year of 1848.

Income inequality in this country has been growing for decades. The Pew Research Center reports that in 1982, the highest-earning 1 percent of families received 10.8 percent of all pretax income, while the bottom 90 percent received 64.7 percent. Three decades later, the top 1 percent received 22.5 percent of pretax income, while the bottom 90 percent’s share had fallen to 49.6 percent. As Helene D. Gayle, CEO of the Chicago Community Trust, observed,

“The difference between rich and poor is becoming more extreme, and as income inequality widens the wealth gap in major nations, education, health and social mobility are all threatened.”

The gap between those who have and those who have not is becoming ever wider – while the rights of workers are under attack around the world. Union leaders are threatened with violence or murdered. Indeed, the International Trade Union Confederation reports that 2019 saw “the use of extreme violence against the defenders of workplace rights, large-scale arrests and detentions.” The number of countries which do not allow workers to establish or join a trade union increased from 92 in 2018 to 107 in 2019. In 2018, 53 trade union members were murdered – and in 52 counties workers were subjected to physical violence. In 72 percent of countries, workers have only restricted access to justice, or none at all. As Noam Chomsky observed,

“Policies are designed to undermine working class organization and the reason is not only the unions fight for workers’ rights, but they also have a democratizing effect. These are institutions in which people without power can get together, support one another, learn about the world, try out their ideas, initiate programs, and that is dangerous.”

In fact, labor union membership has been declining for well over fifty years right here in the US. Unions now represent only 7 percent of private sector workers – a significant drop from the 35 percent of the 1950s. Moreover, studies have shown that strong unions are good for the middle-class; the Center for American Progress reports, for example, that middle-class income has dropped in tandem with the shrinking numbers of US union members. This weakening of unions and collective bargaining has allowed employer power to increase immensely, contributed to the stagnation of real wages, and led to “a decline in the share of productivity gains going to workers.”

Around the world, children are still forced to labor in often unsafe and extremely hazardous conditions. Approximately 120 million children are engaged in hazardous work – and over 70 million are under the age of 10. The International Labour Organization estimates that 22,000 children are killed at work globally every year. The abolition of child labor was of course one of the immediate reforms demanded in the Manifesto – and 172 years later it has yet to become a reality.

Studies estimate that as many as 250 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 work in sweatshops in developing countries around the world. The US Department of Labor defines a sweatshop as a factory that violates two or more labor laws. They often have poor and unsafe working conditions, unfair wages and unreasonable hours, as well as a lack of benefits for workers.

Economists sometimes argue that sweatshops help to alleviate poverty, that as bad as they are they are still better than working in rural conditions. These claims are dubious at best – but more to the point, sweatshops are inconsistent with human dignity. As Denis Arnold and Norman Bowie argue in their essay “Sweatshops and Respect for Persons”: the managers of multinational enterprises that “encourage or tolerate violations of the rule of law; use coercion; allow unsafe working conditions; and provide below subsistence wages, disavow their own dignity and that of their workers.”

It is often assumed – wrongly – that Marx and Engels described in full what they thought the future communist society would look like. But aside from a few tantalizing suggestions they offered very little in this regard – not in the Manifesto, nor anywhere else, preferring instead to analyze the social contradictions inherent to the capitalist mode of production itself – contradictions which they thought would lead inevitably to its demise.

One thing that is clear however from their few suggestions is that workers would not be alienated from the process of production and from the fruits of their labor – which implies something like worker self-management, workplace democracy – or, perhaps most accurately, worker self-directed enterprises, to borrow a phrase from economist Richard Wolff. As Wolff points out, these enterprises “divide all the labors to be performed… determine what is to be produced, how it is to be produced, and where it is to be produced” and, perhaps most crucially, “decide on the use and distribution of the resulting output or revenues.” Such firms of course exist already; most notably, for example, Mondragon in Spain. We know conclusively that workplace democracy can and has been successful – and that they can in fact outcompete traditional, hierarchically organized capitalist firms.

All of which is to say that the Communist Manifesto is not a historical relic of a bygone era, an era of which many would like to think we have washed our hands. As long as workers’ rights are trampled on, and children are pressed into wretched servitude; as long as real wages stagnate, so that economic inequality continues to grow, allowing wealth to be ever more concentrated in the hands of the few – then the Communist Manifesto will continue to resonate and we will hear the clarion call of workers of the world to unite, “for they have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.”

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Sam Ben-Meir is a professor of philosophy and world religions at Mercy College in New York City. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

February 15 marks the day, 17 years ago, when global demonstrations against the pending Iraq invasion were so massive that the New York Times called world public opinion “the second superpower.” But the U.S. ignored it and invaded Iraq anyway. So what has become of the momentous hopes of that day?

The U.S. military has not won a war since 1945, unless you count recovering the tiny colonial outposts of Grenada, Panama and Kuwait, but there is one threat it has consistently outmanoeuvred without firing more than a few deadly rifle shots and some tear gas. Ironically, this existential threat is the very one that could peacefully cut it down to size and take away its most dangerous and expensive weapons: its own peace-loving citizens.

During the Vietnam war, young Americans facing a life-and-death draft lottery built a powerful anti-war movement. President Nixon proposed ending the draft as a way to undermine the peace movement, since he believed that young people would stop protesting the war once they were no longer obligated to fight. In 1973, the draft was ended, leaving a volunteer army that insulated the vast majority of Americans from the deadly impact of America’s wars.

Despite the lack of a draft, a new anti-war movement—this time with global reach—sprung up in the period between the crimes of 9/11 and the illegal U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003. The February 15th, 2003, protests were the largest demonstrations in human history, uniting people around the world in opposition to the unthinkable prospect that the U.S. would actually launch its threatened “shock and awe” assault on Iraq. Some 30 million people in 800 cities took part on every continent, including Antarctica. This massive repudiation of war, memorialized in the documentary We Are Many, led New York Times journalist Patrick E. Tyler to comment that there were now two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion.

The U.S. war machine demonstrated total disdain for its upstart rival, and unleashed an illegal war based on lies that has now raged on through many phases of violence and chaos for 17 years. With no end in sight to U.S. and allied wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Syria, Palestine, Yemen and West Africa, and Trump’s escalating diplomatic and economic warfare against Iran, Venezuela and North Korea threatening to explode into new wars, where is the second superpower now, when we need it more than ever?

Since the U.S. assassination of Iran’s General Soleimani in Iraq on January 2nd, the peace movement has reemerged onto the streets, including people who marched in February 2003 and new activists too young to remember a time when the U.S. was not at war. There have been three separate days of protest, one on January 4th, another on the 9th and a global day of action on the 25th. The rallies took place in hundreds of cities, but they did not attract nearly the numbers who came out to protest the pending war with Iraq in 2003, or even those of the smaller rallies and vigils that continued as the Iraq war spiralled out of control until at least 2007.

Our failure to stop the U.S. war on Iraq in 2003 was deeply discouraging. But the number of people active in the U.S. anti-war movement shrank even more after the 2008 election of Barack Obama. Many people did not want to protest the nation’s first black president, and many, including the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, really believed he would be a “peace president.”

While Obama reluctantly honored Bush’s agreement with the Iraqi government to withdraw US troops from Iraq and he signed the Iran nuclear deal, he was far from a peace president. He oversaw a new doctrine of covert and proxy war that substantially reduced U.S. military casualties, but unleashed an escalation of the war in Afghanistan, a campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria that destroyed entire cities, a ten-fold increase in CIA drone strikes on Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, and bloody proxy wars in Libya and Syria that rage on today. In the end, Obama spent more on the military and dropped more bombs on more countries than Bush did. He also refused to hold Bush and his cronies responsible for their war crimes.

Obama’s wars were no more successful than Bush’s in restoring peace or stability to any of those countries or improving the lives of their people. But Obama’s “disguised, quiet, media-free approach” to war made the U.S. state of endless war much more politically sustainable. By reducing U.S. casualties and waging war with less fanfare, he moved America’s wars farther into the shadows and gave the American public an illusion of peace in the midst of endless war, effectively disarming and dividing the peace movement.

Obama’s secretive war policy was backed up by a vicious campaign against any brave whistleblowers who tried to drag it out into the light. Jeffrey Sterling, Thomas Drake, Chelsea Manning, John Kiriakou, Edward Snowden and now Julian Assange have been prosecuted and jailed under unprecedented new interpretations of the WWI-era Espionage Act.

With Donald Trump in the White House, we hear Republicans making the same excuses for Trump—who ran on an anti-war platform—that Democrats made for Obama. First, his supporters accept lip service about wanting to end wars and bring troops home as revealing what the president really wants to do, even as he keeps escalating the wars. Second, they ask us to be patient because, despite all the real world evidence, they are convinced he is working hard behind the scenes for peace. Third, in a final cop-out that undermines their other two arguments, they throw up their hands and say that he is “only” the president, and the Pentagon or “deep state” is too powerful for even him to tame.

Obama and Trump supporters alike have used this shaky tripod of political unaccountability to give the man behind the desk where the buck used to stop an entire deck of “get out of jail free” cards for endless war and war crimes.

Obama and Trump’s “disguised, quiet, media-free approach” to war has inoculated America’s wars and militarism against the virus of democracy, but new social movements have grown up to tackle problems closer to home. The financial crisis led to the rise of the Occupy Movement, and now the climate crisis and America’s entrenched race and immigration problems have all provoked new grassroots movements. Peace advocates have been encouraging these movements to join the call for major Pentagon cuts, insisting that the hundreds of billions saved could help fund everything from Medicare for All to the Green New Deal to free college tuition.

A few sectors of the peace movement have been showing how to use creative tactics and build diverse movements. The movement for Palestinians’ human and civil rights includes students, Muslim and Jewish groups, as well as black and indigenous groups fighting similar struggles here at home. Also inspirational are campaigns for peace on the Korean peninsula led by Korean Americans, such as Women Cross the DMZ, which has brought together women from North Korea, South Korea and the United States to show the Trump administration what real diplomacy looks like.

There have also been successful popular efforts pushing a reluctant Congress to take anti-war positions. For decades, Congress has been only too happy to leave warmaking to the president, abrogating its constitutional role as the only power authorized to declare war. Thanks to public pressure, there has been a remarkable shift. In 2019, both houses of Congress voted to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen and to ban arms sales to Saudi Arabia for the war in Yemen, although President Trump vetoed both bills.

Now Congress is working on bills to explicitly prohibit an unauthorized war on Iran. These bills prove that public pressure can move Congress, including a Republican-dominated Senate, to reclaim its constitutional powers over war and peace from the executive branch.

Another bright light in Congress is the pioneering work of first-term Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who recently laid out a series of bills called Pathway to PEACE that challenge our militaristic foreign policy. While her bills will be hard to get passed in Congress, they lay out a marker for where we should be headed. Omar’s office, unlike many others in Congress, actually works directly with grassroots organizations that can push this vision forward.

The presidential election offers an opportunity to push the anti-war agenda. The most effective and committed anti-war champion in the race is Bernie Sanders. The popularity of his call for getting the U.S. out of its imperial interventions and his votes against 84% of military spending bills since 2013 are reflected not only in his poll numbers but also in the way other Democratic candidates are rushing to take similar positions. All now say the U.S. should rejoin the Iran nuclear deal; all have criticized the “bloated” Pentagon budget, despite regularly voting for it; and most have promised to bring U.S. troops home from the greater Middle East.

So, as we look to the future in this election year, what are our chances of reviving the world’s second superpower and ending America’s wars?

Absent a major new war, we are unlikely to see big demonstrations in the streets. But two decades of endless war have created a strong anti-war sentiment among the public. A 2019  Pew Research Center poll found that 62 percent of Americans said the war in Iraq was not worth fighting and 59 percent said the same for the war in Afghanistan.

On Iran, a September 2019 University of Maryland poll showed that a mere one-fifth of Americans said the U.S. “should be prepared to go to war” to achieve its goals in Iran, while three-quarters said that U.S. goals do not warrant military intervention. Along with the Pentagon’s assessment of how disastrous a war with Iran would be, this public sentiment fueled global protests and condemnation that have temporarily forced Trump to dial down his military escalation and threats against Iran.

So, while our government’s war propaganda has convinced many Americans that we are powerless to stop its catastrophic wars, it has failed to convince most Americans that we are wrong to want to. As on other issues, activism has two main hurdles to overcome: first to convince people that something is wrong; and secondly to show them that, by working together to build a popular movement, we can do something about it.

The peace movement’s small victories demonstrate that we have more power to challenge U.S. militarism than most Americans realize. As more peace-loving people in the U.S. and across the world discover the power they really have, the second superpower we glimpsed briefly on February 15th, 2003 has the potential to rise stronger, more committed and more determined from the ashes of two decades of war.

A new president like Bernie Sanders in the White House would create a new opening for peace. But as on many domestic issues, that opening will only bear fruit and overcome the opposition of powerful vested interests if there is a mass movement behind it every step of the way. If there is a lesson for peace-loving Americans in the Obama and Trump presidencies, it is that we cannot just walk out of the voting booth and leave it to a champion in the White House to end our wars and bring us peace. In the final analysis, it really is up to us. Please join us!

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Medea Benjamin is cofounder of CODEPINK for Peace, and author of several books, including Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Nicolas J. S. Davies is an independent journalist, a researcher with CODEPINK and the author of  Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.

The RCMP raids over the last days on the orders of the Canadian government on Wet’suwet’en protestors blocking the construction of a $6.6-billion pipeline, by Coastal GasLink for a liquefied natural gas project in Northern British Columbia, has set off a storm of blockades, protests, and occupations across the country. It is impossible not to immediately recall the troubled and often brutal history of Canadian colonialism. The clash between First Nations protestors and RCMP brings our attention back to the political scars of the more recent crises in Oka and Caledonia, among others. The huge militarized police presence that has been mobilized against the protestors all too readily illustrates how pot-holed and full of detours any path to reconciliation and restitution within the territorial boundaries of the Canadian state will be. The adoption by the BC NDP government of John Horgan in the fall of 2019 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, with its emphasis on consultations, negotiated settlements, and Indigenous territorial control, now looks like a completely hollow gesture in the face of the demands of the oil companies and the Canadian state to keep pumping fossil fuels at record levels in the face of a global climate crisis.

We publish here a selection of calls for solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en people, and other First Nations across Canada supporting their struggle, against the Canadian and BC states, the RCMP, and the oil and gas corporations. Enough with the violence, marginalization, and colonial abuse.

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The Council of the Haida Nation Stands in Solidarity with Wet’suwet’en

As a sovereign nation, the Wet’suwet’en have the right to live in balance with their lands and waters and have a responsibility to defend their culture, language, and lifeways.

In 1985, we exercised our right and responsibility to protect Haida territory at Athlii Gwaay Lyell Island. At the time, our nation received support from allies and friends around the world. Their words, prayers, and acts of solidarity strengthened our stand and helped to protect this cherished place. Today, the Wet’suwet’en are exercising their jurisdiction in the same way.

The Wet’suwet’en are living on their lands and upholding ancestral laws to protect their territory for future generations. As a nation, we are allies in this commitment to defend our lands and waters. The proposed Coastal GasLink project could result in LNG tankers travelling through Haida territorial waters. Their stand is our stand, and together we have great strength.

The Government of Canada has joined the international community in adopting the United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP). UNDRIP recognizes that Indigenous peoples have the right to free, prior and informed consent regarding any project that affects their lands, territories or resources.

The Haida Nation calls upon the Canadian Government to uphold its commitment to Indigenous peoples, reconciliation, and UNDRIP by meaningfully recognizing and respecting Wet’suwet’en authority to make decisions on projects that impact the wellbeing of their people and way of life.

Guudang ‘láa ad yahguudang dang.ad id kuuniisii,

With gratitude and respect to our ancestors,

Gaagwiis Jason Alsop, President of the Haida Nation

10 January 2019,
Haida Gwaii

Source: www.haidanation.ca

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Solidarity Statement in support of Unist’ot’en Camp and the Wet’suwet’en Nation

by BC Teachers’ Federation

The BC Teachers’ Federation reaffirms our solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Nation. As a union committed to the Truth and Reconciliation’s Calls to Action and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we call on the governments of BC and Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Coastal GasLink Pipeline to respect the position taken by the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs. They are insisting upon respect for Indigenous sovereignty as they have never ceded their jurisdiction to the lands they have governed and have been stewards of for millennia. All five clans of the Wet’suwet’en Nation have unanimously opposed all pipeline proposals. Forcibly removing peaceful land defenders from their traditional unceded lands is in violation of the UN Declaration.

Our provincial government recently passed a bill that states they will honor the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Actions speaks louder than empty promises that First Peoples have faced for decades. If the leaders of our province and country are truly committed to reconciliation and honouring the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, then immediate action is required. Elected leaders must act now by negotiating with the respected leaders of the Wet’suwet’en Nation who hold the inherent right to self-determination including the right to defend their lands.

The 45,000 members of the BC Teachers’ Federation stand in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en peoples and demand that the government of BC and Canada uphold their responsibilities laid out in the Supreme Court Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa decision of 1997. We stand as witnesses at this historic moment when our governments must make a choice to uphold this court decision or continue the ongoing legacy of colonization.

In solidarity, BC Teachers’ Federation

Source: www.bctf.ca

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National Farmers Union in Solidarity with Wet’suwet’en Land Defenders

The National Farmers Union (NFU) stands in solidarity with Indigenous land protectors. We support initiatives by Indigenous People including the Unist’ot’en and Wet’suwet’en to resist resource extraction and energy projects that disrupt their Indigenous food and governance systems and interfere with the health of their lands, territories, and communities.

The NFU supports the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peopleand urges the Canadian government to implement the Truth & Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action.

Coastal GasLink is attempting to force construction of a Liquid Natural Gas pipeline through unceded Wet’suwet’en territory. On February 6, 2020 the RCMP entered the territory and began arresting members of the Wet’suwet’en, forcibly removing land defenders, dismantling the barricades set up to protect their territory, and denying journalists access to witness and record the RCMP’s activities.

These actions, carried out with support of the BC and federal governments, are clearly in violation of Canada’s commitments to reconciliation, against the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People(UNDRIP) which Canada formally adopted in 2016, and in contravention of the Supreme Court of Canada’s 1997 Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa decision recognizing that the Wet’suwet’en people, as represented by their hereditary leaders, had not given up rights and title to their 22,000km2 territory. We agree with and support the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ governance systems and their their inherent right to govern their territory through the Unist’ot’en camp and the Gidimt’en checkpoint.

Disturbed by the “forced removal, disproportionate use of force, harassment and intimidation” and “escalating threat of violence” against Indigenous peoples who oppose the pipeline, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in January, 2020 called for the immediate suspension of work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline until free, prior and informed consent is obtained from Indigenous peoples.

The Wet’suwet’en have not given free, prior and informed consent to the construction of a pipeline through their lands.

The decisions directing the RCMP to enter Wet’suwet’en territory and remove its defenders using force, and denying journalists access to witness their actions are condemned by Canadians from coast to coast to coast. In accordance with UNDRIP and our ongoing commitment to act in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples, we must inform ourselves and deepen our understanding of Indigenous sovereignty. We therefore denounce the repression of peaceful protesters, including Indigenous land protectors, and express our support for the rights of people to engage in acts of civil disobedience in defence of the preservation of water, air, land and wildlife for future generations.

We urge the governments of Canada and BC to uphold our commitment to the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), and respect Wet’suwet’en Law by withdrawing the RCMP from Wet’suwet’en Nation and cancelling Coastal GasLink’s permits.

Source: www.nfu.ca

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Statement on Arrests of Wet’suwet’en Land Defenders and Solidarity Protesters

by Greenpeace

In response to the dozens of arrests of Indigenous Land Defenders and solidarity protesters made by the RCMP and other law enforcement organizations today and last week, Greenpeace Canada Executive Director Christy Ferguson said:

“Over the past five days, we’ve seen people from all walks of life take to the streets, blockade ports, occupy government buildings and even interrupt rail service across the country in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en people, who are being forced to put their lives on the line in an effort to protect their territory and their rights.

“People across Canada are right to be disturbed by what the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and Union of BC Indian Chiefs have calledexpanding and unreasonable powers of the RCMP, who are criminalizing Land Defenders, denying Indigenous Peoples access to their territory, and limiting media freedom to document the raids. The cross-Canada protests in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en have helped to keep national attention on the injustices happening on their territory. It’s the kind of vital role that peaceful protest has played throughout history in bearing witness and pressuring politicians to do what is right, not what is convenient.

“As B.C. Premier John Horgan prepares to open a new session of the Legislative Assembly with the Speech from the Throne, and as Prime Minister Trudeau campaigns abroad for a seat on the UN Security Council, we’d like to remind them of their duties to guarantee Indigenous rights, freedom of the press and the right to peaceful protest – core tenets of any healthy democracy.”

Notes

Article 10 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which has been ratified by the Canadian government and which the B.C. government has adopted into provincial law, states: “Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the Indigenous Peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return.”

Greenpeace Canada, 10 February, 2020

Source: www.greenpeace.org

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Solidarity Statement from Professors and Scholars in Support of the Wet’suwet’en People

We are writing to express deep gratitude to the Wet’suwet’en people who have been acting with formidable vision and strength to defend their people and territories from pipeline development, and have been facing violent incursions from RCMP and industry for doing so. They have been holding this line for years and caring for the lands and waters for countless generations. For us and for many others, the Unist´ot´en camp represents resurgence, reconnection, creativity, and relationship to the land. The long-term struggle of the Wet´suwet´en is a legitimate, legally sanctioned struggle for rights, autonomy and sovereignty on their unceded territories. These efforts benefit all Canadians. We send our deepest thanks.

We are also writing to denounce the actions of the federal government, the bc government and the RCMP. We ask that the illegal work on Unist’ot’en territory by Coastal GasLink be immediately stopped. We request that the federal and provincial governments respect Indigenous rights as outlined in our constitution, in countless court rulings, as well as the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous people (UNDRIP) and ‘Anuc niwh’it’en (Wet’suwet’en law). We ask that Canadian leaders and politicians stop militarization, stop communicating false or biased information, and stop dividing communities. We reject the current campaign of disinformation, particularly statements that claim that all communities have signed on to the pipeline, which disregard the very important question of disputes over jurisdiction of territories between band councils and hereditary governance. In the Delgamuukw trial, the hereditary chiefs of the Wet´suwet´en were recognized as the rightful title holders, and their underlying sovereignty over the territory was established by Canada´s highest court. We urge both federal and provincial governments to understand the crucial distinction between consultation and consent, and to act accordingly.

We firmly oppose the Trans-Canada pipeline project and other extreme energy projects being developed that are threatening Indigenous lands. According to the latest scientific evidence there is still some possibility that catastrophic climate change can be slowed or arrested, but this goal requires an immediate phase-out of fossil fuel infrastructure (Millar et al., 2017, Smith et al., 2019). And we request the Governments heed the call of scientists who have made it clear that new fossil fuel infrastructure present the source of the world’s most threatening emissions, and would carry us toward dramatic increases in global temperature (Davis et al., 2010).

This applies to natural gas production and transport, because it also locks in fossil fuel use. The world needs to move straight to renewable energy sources, and as quickly as possible. Natural gas must not be seen as a transition fuel that will “bridge the gap” between high and low-carbon energy systems (Stephenson et al. 2012). Shale gas development and its related infrastructure will have very serious impacts not only on the territories of the Indigenous peoples that inhabit the province of British Columbia, but on areas of extraction in the northeast, along the territories and watersheds the pipeline will cross, and particularly on coastal communities, salmon habitat in rivers, and the remaining marine life in the Salish Sea and K̲andaliig̲wii (the Hecate Straight), that all will be impacted by increased tanker traffic.

Current governance processes have failed to adequately protect environment and treaty rights (Garvie & Shaw, 2016). To meet Canada’s climate targets and Canada’s commitments to reconciliation, the Canadian government needs to stop forcing gas pipelines violently through Indigenous lands.

We are also writing to encourage all Canadians to actively support the Wet’suwet’en People as they continue to demonstrate their commitment to protect their lands and waters. The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report has warned that we have only 12 years to meet the challenge of limiting increasing temperatures to 1.5 degrees (IPCC, 2018). Even at this historic juncture, we see no sign that our existing governments are capable of dealing with the current challenges all Canadians face. The twin crises of climate chaos and rising inequality are getting worse, not better. Research shows that substantial and swift transformation of our societies will be necessary in order to meet our climate and reconciliation goals (Scoones et al., 2015); however, our current economic and political systems are failing to heed these calls and move us toward a sustainable and just future. This is because these very economic and political systems facilitate the accumulation of wealth through the continued seizure of Indigenous land and the pillaging of the natural world. We cannot leave it to these failing systems to guide us.

What is needed is inspired visions and new systems that are able to guide us toward a much more just and sustainable future. The Wet’suwet’en people, and other communities defending their lands and waters across the world, are showing us better systems of decision making, along with better ways of living together and with the land. Our best hope for justice and sustainability in Canada lies with communities like the Wet’suwet’en nation, who take their relationship and responsibilities to their lands and waters so seriously that they will risk all they have to defend it. Our hope also lies with the many Canadians respecting and actively supporting the rights of these Indigenous communities to take care of their territories.

The Unist’ot’en camp houses a healing center, envisioned as a space to heal from the trauma suffered by so many First Nations in Canada due to colonial and extractivist violence. Projects such as the Trans-Canada pipeline perpetuate this violence. To invade this camp, to disrupt this space of healing, is particularly unconscionable. Canadians have pledged to work toward reconciliation to try to heal the injustices borne by Indigenous peoples; and this healing must also include the lands which we all inhabit. To begin to heal these relationships, the kind of violence seen recently in BC must end.

Support the Wet’suwet’en People: unistoten.camp/supportertoolkit.

List of signatories so far.

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Sources

  • Davis, S. J., Caldeira, K., & Matthews, H. D. (2010). “Future CO2 emissions and climate change from existing energy infrastructure.” Science, 329(5997), PP. 1330-33.
  • Garvie, K.H. and Shaw, K., (2016). “Shale gas development and community response: perspectives from Treaty 8 territory, British Columbia.” Local Environment, 21(8), pp.1009-28.
  • Millar, R.J., Fuglestvedt, J.S., Friedlingstein, P., Rogelj, J., Grubb, M.J., Matthews, H.D., Skeie, R.B., Forster, P.M., Frame, D.J. and Allen, M.R. (2017) “Emission budgets and pathways consistent with limiting warming to 1.5 C.” Nature Geoscience, 10(10), p.741.
  • Scoones, I., Leach, M.,and Newell, P., eds. (2015). The politics of green transformations. Routledge.
  • Smith, C.J., Forster, P.M., Allen, M., Fuglestvedt, J., Millar, R.J., Rogelj, J. and Zickfeld, K. (2019). “Current fossil fuel infrastructure does not yet commit us to 1.5°C warming.” Nature Communications, 10(1), p.101.
  • Stephenson, E., Doukas, A. and Shaw, K. (2012). “Greenwashing gas: Might a ‘transition fuel’ label legitimize carbon-intensive natural gas development?” Energy Policy, 46, pp. 452-59.
  • IPCC (2018). Summary for Policymakers of IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C approved by governments, at www.ipcc.ch.
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Fashion Fetishism, Surgical Masks and Coronavirus

February 14th, 2020 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

Entering Singapore’s Changi Airport gives the visitor a glimpse of a mask fetish.  Security guards wear it.  As do the nurses and the various personnel who man cameras like anti-aircraft batteries, noting the approaching passenger in transit with due suspicion.  The passenger, in turn, wishes to avoid showing anything that might be construed as a suspect symptom.  Whatever you do, do not cough, splutter or sweat in nervousness.  Best to wear a mask then: neither party can accurately gauge the disposition of the other.

Witnessing the profusion of disease paraphernalia furnishes us a salient reminder that opportunity lurks where fears of a pandemic lie.  Pharmaceutical companies await a rush for certain drugs that might come in handy battling the next pathogen; producers of equipment that might stem the advantage of the viral monster tick off orders to satisfy demand.  In the case of the Coronavirus, now given its “novel” title as COVID-19, a global symbol of its stretch and influence, actual or otherwise, is the face mask. 

In parts of Southeast Asia and in China, the mask was already ubiquitous.  Preventing particles and dirt from entering the respiratory system, such layers provide a modicum of protection against such undue inhalation.  But the coronavirus “business” has seen their purpose obscured in favour of solutions that are, at best, varnished hopes or selfish aims.   

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, for instance, insists in a factsheet on respiratory infection control that,

“Surgical masks are not designed to seal tightly against the user’s face.  During inhalation, much of the potentially contaminated air can pass through the gaps between the face and the surgical mask and not be pulled through the filter of the mask.” 

The advisory does, however, claim that using surgical masks “may reduce the risk of infectious disease transmission between infected and non-infected persons”, conceding that “historical information” on their effectiveness in controlling, for instance, influenza, remains limited.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also warned against donning the facemask in unnecessary circumstances.  “CDC does not recommend the people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory viruses, including 2019-nCoV.  You should only wear a mask if a healthcare professional recommends it.”  Only those exposed to the virus and showing symptoms should wear one.  Those involved in providing health services, be they health workers “and other people who are taking care of someone infected with 2019-nCov in close settings (at home or in a health care facility)” are also encouraged to wear them.

Similar views can also be found in assessments from biosecurity wonks such as Professor C. Raina MacIntyre of the Biosecurity Program at the Kirby Institute based at the University of New South Wales.  In a co-authored piece for The Conversation, MacIntyre takes some gloss off the use of such preventive measures by noting that surgical masks “do not provide a seal around the face or filtration of airborne particles, like those that may carry coronavirus.”  But some “limited barrier against you transferring the virus from your hand to the face, or from large droplets and splashes of fluid” is provided.

The aims behind such use are distinct.  Use them for evacuation flights out of the disease zone.  Use them in cities where ongoing transmission is taking place.  But in areas where there is no crisis to speak of, extensive use or stockpiling by members of the general public can only be deemed to be disproportionate.  In the words of MacIntyre and her co-author Abrar Ahmad Chungtai, “countries where transmission is not widespread and there are only a handful of cases being treated in hospital isolation rooms, masks serve no purpose in the community.”   

Again, as with their colleagues in the field of medical science, the issue was different for those at the coal face of disease prevention.  Health workers had to be preserved; “if they get sick or die, we lose our ability to fight the epidemic.”

The literature on the effectiveness of such masks can be found, though littered with the necessary caveats that come with the field.  A study examining facemask usage and effect in reducing the number of influenza A (H1N1) cases published in 2010 used mathematical modelling to conclude that, “if worn properly”, they could constitute “an effective intervention strategy in reducing the spread of pandemic (H1N1) 2009.”

The central purpose, then, is for the mask to act as some sort of diligent disease concierge: to keep the germs in while ensuring that particles and matter, be they dust or blood, are kept out.  But commercial instinct is indifferent to such nuances.  Where there is money to be made and social media accounts to be co-opted, along with those vulgar irritants known as “influencers”, the issue is making the product appealing, not questioning it use.   

A profusion of online images show the scantily clad, the demure, the enticing, sporting the masks as they pose.  Companies such as AusAir stress local design and themes in their production: Tasmanian lavender, eucalypt varieties.  A similarity with other protective devices – flavoured prophylactics, for instance – can be drawn.  There is no reason not to be fashionable when being protected, though it lends a certain crassness to the whole enterprise.  Monetised as such, the masks have become accessories rather than necessities, notably in countries least affected.  The mask, for instance, can serve to cover perceived facial imperfections or even emotions in the public gaze.  The medical quack has been replaced by the fashion guru.   

To that end, the medical mask has spurred a global surge in demand.  A shortage in supply has eventuated, causing more than a mild panic.  In 2009, a similar shortage of masks was precipitated by the influenza H1N1 pandemic, despite WHO recommendations against general public use.  The shortage has had a somewhat nasty effect of running down what is available for those practitioners who need them in their ongoing work with patients.  As in instances of war and conflict, the opportunists and profiteers have made their inevitable, and dreaded appearance.  

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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]

For the first time in about 8 years of the war, Syrian government forces have established control of the entire M5 highway, which runs from the border with Jordan through Damascus, Homs and Hama to Aleppo.

During the first half of February 12th, the Syrian Army and Iranian-backed militias recaptured the Rashidin 4 district from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other foreign-backed al-Qaeda enthusiasts in western Aleppo. By the end of the day, pro-government troops had taken control of Khan Asal and entered the villages of Abu Shalim, Wadi Shuha andWadi Al-Kabeer. The Syrians also attacked “moderate beheaders” in Kafr Nuran, but were not able to break their defenses there. The interesting fact is that on February 10 army positions in the nearby area of Kafr Halab became a target of at least two suicide bombing attacks. Apparently regular suicide bombings conducted by members of Idlib groups are a strong signal of their democratic ideology.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and its comrades complain that the ‘Assad regime’ successes in western Aleppo were the result of dirty tricks, such as the massive usage of artillery, air power, heavy military equipment and unexpected manoeuvres.

Yet, Turkish artillery support and military equipment did not help them to regain the initiative near Saraqib, in eastern Idlib. Idlib groups announced a major advance there on February 11 and attacked the village of Naryab. A supposed MANPAD missile launched from the area of Turkish positions in Qaminas shot down a Syrian military helicopter killing all on board. The Turkish Defense Ministry even officially announced that Naryab had been cleared of ‘Assad forces’ and claimed that 51 ‘regime fighters’ had been ‘neutralized’, and that 2 tanks, a gun position and a weapon depot belonging to the Syrian military had been destroyed in Idlib clashes. However, victorious tweets did not help and Turkish-led forces got clobbered by the evening. The Syrians restored full control over the town. According to pro-government sources, up to 40 militants were killed there. Several airstrikes also hit joint positions of Turkish troops and Idlib militants near Qaminas. The damage and casualties caused by these strikes remains unclear.

At the same time, the city of Idlib itself appeared to be a target of several airstrikes. According to reports, 6 civilians were killed. Over the past years, Idlib rebels have successfully learned how to place their military positions, weapon depots and HQs in close proximity to civilian infrastructure.

The US and other NATO members that broke a few lances with Turkey over its operations against Kurdish groups in northern Syria, its participation in the Astana format, the S-400 deal and other cooperation projects with Iran and Russia, are now hurrying to show their ‘decisive support’ for the Erdogan government.

The NATO secretary general condemned ‘Assad attacks’ on Turkish troops. Mike Pompeo said that the US would stand by its “NATO ally Turkey” and announced that Jim Jeffrey was going to Ankara “to coordinate steps to respond to this destabilizing attack.” In response, the Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar asked NATO allies for “concrete” moves to stop the ‘Assad aggression’. The only issue is that the most likely concrete move by the “allies” will be to slap Turkey on the back and advice to send more Turkish troops to die on behalf of al-Qaeda-linked Idlib groups.

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