Uniting for a “Green New Deal”

January 15th, 2019 by Margaret Flowers

Support is growing in the United States for a Green New Deal. Though there are competing visions for what that looks like, essentially, a Green New Deal includes a rapid transition to a clean energy economy, a jobs program and a stronger social safety net.

We need a Green New Deal for many reasons, most obviously the climate crisis and growing economic insecurity. Each new climate report describes the severe consequences of climate change with increasing alarm and the window of opportunity for action is closing. At the same time, wealth inequality is also growing. Paul Bucheit writes that more than half of the population in the United States is suffering from poverty.

The Green New Deal provides an opportunity for transformational changes, not just reform, but changes that fundamentally solve the crises we face. This is the time to be pushing for a Green New Deal at all levels, in our towns and cities, states and nationally.

Hundreds gathered in San Francisco with the youth-led Sunrise Movement on Dec. 11. Peg Hunter / Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0.

Growing support for the Green New Deal

The idea of a Green New Deal seems to have arisen in early 2007 when the Green New Deal Group started meeting to discuss it, specifically as a plan for the United Kingdom. They published their report in July 2008. In April 2009, the United Nations Environmental Program also issued a plan for a global Green New Deal.

In the United States, Barack Obama included a Green New Deal in his 2008 presidential campaign and conservative Thomas Friedman started talking about it in 2007. Howie Hawkins, a Green Party gubernatorial candidate in New York, campaigned on a Green New Deal starting in 2010. Listen to our interview with Hawkins about how we win the Green New Deal on Clearing the FOG. Jill Stein campaigned on it during her presidential runs in 2012 and 2016, as have many Green Party candidates.

Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (AOC), who ran for Congress as a Democrat and won in 2018, has made the Green New Deal a major priority. With the backing of the Sunrise Movement, AOC pushed for a congressional committee tasked with developing a Green New Deal and convinced dozens of members of Congress to support it. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sidelined that idea by creating a climate committee headed by Kathy Castor, which has no mandate to do anything and lacks  the power to write legislation and issue subpoenas. Now the Sunrise Movement is planning a tour to build support for the Green New Deal. At each stop they will provide organizing tools to make the Green New Deal a major issue in the 2020 election season.

This week, more than 600 organizations, mostly environmental groups, sent a letter to Congress calling on it to take climate change seriously and design a plan to end dependence on fossil fuels, a transition to 100% clean energy by 2035, create jobs and more. Indigenous leaders are also organizing to urge Congress to pass a Green New Deal that is “Indigenized,” meaning it prioritizes input from and the inclusion of Indigenous Peoples.

YALE UNIVERSITY
Survey data shows the strongest support for a Green New Deal among liberal Democrats.

Defining a transformative Green New Deal

The Green New Deal, as a tool to address climate change and economic insecurity, could be transformative in many ways or it could reinforce current systems. Our political system is inclined towards programs that do the latter, so it is critical that the movement for economic, racial and environmental justice and peace is clear about what we mean by a Green New Deal.

At the heart of the issue is capitalism, a root cause of many of the crises we face today. Capitalism drives growth at all costs including exploitation of people and the planet. It drives competition and individualism instead cooperation and community. It requires militarism as the strong arm for corporations to pillage other countries for their resources and militarized police to suppress dissent at home.

Capitalism was in crisis in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when, like today, there was great inequality and a political system that catered to the wealthy. Progressive, populist, labor and socialist movements were pressing for significant changes. This came to a head in the depression when tens of thousands of Bonus Marchers occupied Washington DC during the summer of the 1932 presidential election demanding their bonus pay from World War I. The newly-elected President Roosevelt was forced to act, so he put reforms in place called the New Deal.

While the New Deal brought relief to many people through banking reform, Social Security, jobs programs and greater rights for workers, it was not transformative. Some argue that the New Deal was essential to save capitalism. It relieved suffering enough that dissent quieted but left the capitalist economic system intact. In the decades since the New Deal, monopolization, inequality, and exploitation have again increased with the added crises of climate change and environmental destruction.

This time around, we need a broad Green New Deal that changes the system so there is greater public ownership and democratization of the economy. It can also be used to address theft of wealth from Indigenous, black and brown communities. And it can set us on a path to end US imperialism in the least harmful manner.

Wayne Price discusses this in “A Green New Deal vs Revolutionary Eco-socialism.” He writes,

“…the capitalists’ wealth and power should be taken away from them (expropriated) by the self-organization of the working class and its allies. Capitalism should be replaced by a society which is decentralized and cooperative, producing for use rather than profit, democratically self-managed in the workplace and the community, and federated together from the local level to national and international levels.”

It is interesting that the Yellow Vest movement in France is also seeking transformative change from a representative government to one that uses greater participation through direct democracy. System change is needed to confront these economic and environmental crises. One alternative system gaining traction is ecosocialism which combines the insights of ecology with the necessity for worker’s rights and public control over the economy. We discussed ecosocialism with Victor Wallis, author of “Red Green Revolution: The politics and technology of ecosocialism,” on Clearing the FOG.

The Green Party divides the Green New Deal into four pillars: An economic bill of rights, a green transition, financial reform, and a functioning democracy. The economic bill of rights includes not only a job at a living wage for all who want it but also single payer healthcare, free college education, and affordable housing and utilities. The green transition to renewable energy sources includes building mass transit, “complete streets” that promote walking and biking, local food systems and clean manufacturing. Financial reform includes debt relief, public banks and breaking up the big banks. And the democracy section includes getting money out of politics, guaranteeing the right to vote, strengthening local democracy, democratizing the media and significant changes to the military. We would add to this prioritizing the involvement of Indigenous, black and brown communities. As Jon Olsen writes, ecosocialism is now part of the platform of the Green Party of the United States and has entered the political dialogue.

Join the Green Power Project national call on Thursday, January 17 at 8:00 pm Eastern to learn more about the Green New Deal. Click here for details.

Uniting to win the Green New Deal

Conditions are ripe for a Green New Deal. Wealth inequality continues to accelerate. As Lawrence Wittner describes, we have a new era of Robber Barons like the Waltons and Jeff Bezos who pay low wages and rake in millions in public subsidies for their new facilities. They use their economic power to influence lawmakers so laws are passed that increase rather than threaten their riches.

A new report shows that 40% of people in the United States have negative wealth; they are in debt. And another 20% have minimal wealth, meaning 60% of people in the US have virtually no assets. The report was focused on millennials finding they are less well off than previous generations.

Anthony DiMaggio, who wrote about the report, also found that the affluent are oblivious to the high degree of inequality in the United States and that without this understanding, they are unlikely to support policies that reduce inequality.

The Democratic Party is starting to get the message. With student loan debt at a record $1.465 trillion, twice the amount in 2009, candidates are starting to talk about this issue. Members of Congress in the House are planning to hold hearings on National Improved Medicare for All and increasing Social Security. Democratic voters strongly support these changes, so the Democrats are feeling compelled to appear to be taking action on them, though this could mostly be for show to keep people from leaving the party in the lead up to the 2020 elections.

To win a Green New Deal, which could include a stronger social safety net, we will need to unite as a movement of movements and make the demand impossible to ignore. Uniting across issues makes sense because the Green New Deal is broad, addressing multiple crises at once. And we will need to push issues that Democrats will not want to discuss, such as nationalization of industries, more democracy, and cuts to the military. Bruce Dixon of Black Agenda Report urges us to organize not just nationally but at the state level too by introducing plans for state Green New Deals.

We can work at many levels to build the demand for a Green New Deal. Talk to people in your community about it. Start local initiatives for clean energy, local food networks, protecting public schools and water systems, promoting cooperatives and more. Push your state and federal legislators too. This is an opportunity to unite in support of a bold new vision for our society.

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

Democratic Media: For the People, By the People

January 15th, 2019 by Mark Taliano

Imagine joining the military thinking you’re fighting ISIS/al Qaeda, only to find out you’re supporting them.

Imagine paying your taxes thinking it is for the uplift of the community and country, only to find out it is for the uplift of the billionaire class … and ISIS/al Qaeda.

Imagine explaining to future generations that the government debt was incurred to support and sustain a diseconomy, bailouts to the billionaire class, and ISIS/al Qaeda.

And most Canadians –colonial media fairy tale believers that they are — think that Russia[1] is the enemy. Imagine that.

So, who is the enemy? We are the enemy. We are the countries waging wars of aggression and destroying countries and livelihoods and creating death and poverty and misery. Our governments and their agencies are doing this. None of this should be perceived as normal, but it is being normalized nonetheless.

Syria did not attack us. Venezuela is not attacking us. Iran is not a threat, and neither is Russia. Our governments and their agencies are fabricating all of these enemies so that we can destroy these countries and their peoples and steal their resources and control other countries and enrich oligarch classes and impoverish domestic[2] and foreign populations.

How did we arrive at this point where the Truth has been inverted and the Lie, which masquerades as the Truth, is widely accepted? Ubiquitous colonial media/criminal war propaganda has played a significant role.

There are alternatives to colonial media, but they are increasingly suppressed and censored. Shows such as Janice Kortkamp’s Syria: Face to Face, are not mainstream, but they should be. Evidence-based reporting should be front and center.

In the aforementioned show, Kortkamp details the West’s criminality – in terms of both domestic and international law – as it pursues its “Regime Change” war against Syria. She discusses the West’s support for terrorism in Syria (including support for ISIS), and she demonstrates how the West’s actions and inactions have created such misery and destruction in Syria.

Colonial media does none of this. It serves to advance imperial agendas as it obscures, denies, and negates evidence-based, on-the-ground realities of the war on Syria and beyond.

If shows like this were to displace colonial media, then we would have democratic media, for the people, by the people. And our actions would be guided by the truth, rather than by war propaganda, as is currently the case.

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

Notes

[1] Mark Taliano, “Socialism for the Rich.” Global Research, 17 August, 2018. (https://www.globalresearch.ca/socialism-for-the-rich/5650876) Accessed 14 January, 2019. 

[2] Paul Buchheit, “The Evidence Pours In: Poverty Getting Much Worse in America/

Poverty—and the stress of being poor—is killing people every single day.” Common Dreams, 5 November, 2018. (https://www.commondreams.org/views/2018/11/05/evidence-pours-poverty-getting-much-worse-america?utm_campaign=shareaholic&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=socialnetwork&fbclid=IwAR1GefJ7xaFQGFC94aiJerrel1Dk-O4OI1EYA0gNODWg5-WjYkUHo25sEFM) Accessed 14 January, 2019.


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

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

Voices from Syria 

ISBN: 978-0-9879389-1-6

Author: Mark Taliano

Year: 2017

Pages: 128 (Expanded edition: 1 new chapter)

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The Fall of Biafra. Landmark in Nigerian History

January 15th, 2019 by Adeyinka Makinde

January 15th is a significant date in Nigerian history. On that day in 1966, a group of middle-ranking army officers staged a mutiny which overthrew the civilian government that had ruled Nigeria since it had been granted independence from Britain in October 1960. It began a concatenation of violence which led to a 30-month civil war that formally ended on January 15th 1970.

Tracing a line from 1966 to 1970 is clear enough: the mutiny which was led by officers drawn mainly from the Igbo ethnic group came to be viewed as an attempt to establish a form of ethnic hegemony over the rest of the country, a perspective which was consolidated by the Unification Decree announced by the Igbo Head of State, Major-General J.T.U. Aguiyi-Ironsi in May 1966. The decree abolished Nigeria’s federal structure and created a unitary system of governance. The reactions came in the form of anti-Igbo pogroms in the Northern Region in May and September, as well as a counter-coup in July 1966 which led to the murders of Igbo army officers and soldiers. The frustration of peace efforts, notably that of the meeting in Aburi of members of the Supreme Military Council and Lieutenant-Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the military governor of the Igbo-dominated Eastern Region who disputed the legitimacy of the successors to Aguiyi-Ironsi, led to the secession of the Eastern Region and the creation of the Republic of Biafra in May 1967. This paved the way for the civil war which officially commenced on July 6th 1967.

But Nigeria’s drift towards regional and ethnic violence did not begin in 1966. A conglomerate state put together by imperial draughtsmen in the early part of the 20th century, the country was composed of over 250 ethnic groups who spoke over 500 different languages. The Northern Region was largely Islamic while the south, with its Western and Eastern regions (a Mid-West Region was carved out of the West), was largely Christianised. The south also led the north in terms of economic development and educational attainment. Thus, the stability of this artificially created multi-ethnic state was always certain to be tested.

The multiple elements of the Nigerian polity have often meant that a multiplicity of perspectives are in perpetual competition. For instance, the hegemony feared by sections of the country in the wake of the Igbo-dominated first coup was one effectively practised by the leaders of the Northern Region over the rest of the country. And violence related to the desire of the leaders of the North to ensure northern domination occurred in the Western Region as well as in the mainly Christian ‘Middle-Belt’ of the Northern Region. Corruption among the political elite, a fraudulent census, electoral fraud and trade union strikes created the requisite tinderbox which ultimately led to a bloody civil conflict.

Ojukwu’s declaration of independence was a measure undertaken with widespread support among the Igbos who dominated the Eastern Region. Most felt that they had been chased out of the federation and had been left with no alternative. The federal position enunciated by Gowon also resonated. If the Eastern Region was allowed to split from the rest of the federation, there was every reason to believe that Nigeria would chaotically splinter into smaller parts and that foreign powers would become involved in backing each of the warring entities.

The Biafran propaganda machinery driven by Mark Press, a Geneva-based public relations company, was skillful in setting out the grievances of the Igbos. The themes disseminated began by positing the rationale of the creation of Biafra as one that was predicated on the need for tribal emancipation. It also portrayed the Igbo cause as one based on a religious conflict between a feudal-minded Muslim leadership hell-bent on continuing the pre-colonial Sokoto Caliphate which intended to expand southwards, routing the animist and Christian peoples, until euphemistically, they would dip the Koran into the Atlantic Ocean. And as the war developed, Biafran propaganda utilised the images of starvation as a means of emphasising the claim that they were being purposefully subjected to a policy of genocide.

The evidence assembled appeared to back up the claims. The series of pogroms against Igbo civilians, the massacre of Igbo soldiers, the rise of northern Muslim soldiers to positions of military and political power, as well as the mass starvation symbolised by Kwashiorkor-afflicted children all offered strong corroborative evidence.

But this presented a one-sided and uncomplicated view.

Many of the minority groups within the Eastern Region, as well as in the Mid-West Region which was invaded by Biafran troops early in the war, did not want to live under what they perceived as Igbo domination. And many minority communities were subjected to brutal occupation by Biafran forces. The conflict was also not simply a case of Muslims waging a jihad against Christians. Many of the soldiers involved in the counter-coup of July 1966 were Christians from the Middle-Belt, and, indeed, the man who emerged as the Head of State after that coup, Gowon, was himself a Christian. Also the claim that the blockade mounted by the federal government was inflexible towards the idea of relief supplies being allowed into Biafran territory was not true. The federal side wanted such relief to pass through Nigeria while the Biafran government asserted their belief that such supplies would be tainted by poison deliberately introduced by the Nigerian side.

As military and civilian casualties mounted dissent arose within Biafran ranks. Some saw what some in the international community saw: that the starving millions were being used as part of a high-stakes political game through which the Biafran leadership hoped foreign military aid or even intervention would materialise. The leadership of Ojukwu was also seen as having a malign affect on the interests of his people. As Ralph Uwechue put it:

In Biafra, two wars were fought simultaneously. The first was for the survival of the (Igbos) as a race. The second was for the survival of Ojukwu’s leadership. Ojukwu’s error, which proved fatal for millions of (Igbos), was that he put the latter first.

Divisions within the Biafran military led to the development of two factions: the ‘Port Harcourt Militia’ and the ‘National Militia’. Internal sabotage, one fruit of this division, severely undermined morale, as well as the effort of national self-defence. The early memoirs of the likes of Uwechue and N.U. Akpan, as well as later ones by Alexander Madiebo laid bare the divisions existing within Biafra: the civil servant against the intellectual, the soldier against the mercenary, the Igbo against minority groups, and the ‘Nnewi clique’ against the others; a dynamic based on the allegation that Ojukwu promoted nepotism in regard to his Nnewi kinsmen.

Added to this was the gap in knowledge between the elites and the masses, with the latter being manipulated by a highly efficient propaganda machinery and according to Uwechue possessing “neither the facts nor the liberty to form an independent opinion” about the option of seeking a negotiated peace with the federal side.

The skillful use of propaganda by the Biafrans, which included the organising of relief concerts, the use of Igbo celebrities such as the writer Chinua Achebe and Dick Tiger, the world boxing champion, was successful to a good degree in projecting Igbo pleas for self-determination to a global audience. But decisive help from the major world powers save for an infusion of a limited amount of French arms in the later stages of the war, eluded them. They had been subjected to a blockade and encircled early in the war. While Gowon continued to insist that Biafra had to surrender unconditionally, Ojukwu attempted to rouse his people whose ill-equipped army began to increasingly rely on what would be contemporarily termed child soldiers. After much delay, Nigeria began a final offensive on December 23rd1969, using the Third Infantry Division.

The end was soon in coming.

At a meeting of his cabinet held in Owerri on January 8th 1970, Ojukwu presented what he would describe as the “grim hopelessness of continued formal military resistance.”  He left Biafra soon after, claiming that he was going in search of a peaceful settlement. His deputy, Philip Effiong, previously a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Nigerian army, took over the reins of leadership and sued for peace. The surrender was arranged on the ground with Colonel Olusegun Obasanjo, the commander of the Third Infantry Division, and a formal ceremony of surrender took place before General Gowon at Dodan Barracks in Lagos. Dressed in civilian attire, Effiong made the following declaration:

I, Philip Effiong, do hereby declare: I give you not only my own personal assurances but also those of my fellow officers and colleagues and of the entire former Biafran people of our fullest cooperation and very sincere best wishes for the future.

It is my sincere hope the lessons of the bitter struggle have been well learned by everybody and I would like therefore to take this opportunity to say that I, Major-General Philip Effiong, officer administering the government of the Republic of Biafra, now wish to make the following declaration:

That we are firm, we are loyal Nigerian citizens and accept the authority of the federal military government of Nigeria.

That we accept the existing administrative and political structure of the Federation of Nigeria.

That any future constitutional arrangement will be worked out by representatives of the people of Nigeria.

That the Republic of Biafra hereby ceases to exist.

Ojukwu’s final statement as leader released through Mark Press to Reuters reiterated the claim that the there had been no alternative other than to have declared a Biafran state. He emphasised the valour of its people in fighting against tremendous odds while enduring enormous privations and criticised what he termed the “international conspiracy against the interest of the African”, which he felt had played the biggest part in Biafra’s demise.

That demise, it was feared in some quarters, would be accompanied by mass killings of Igbos. From the Vatican, the Pope was quick to call for concerted efforts to prevent “massacres of a defenceless population exhausted by hardship, hunger and the lack of everything.” Such fears, stoked by Biafran propaganda were repeatedly referred to by Ojukwu in his statement who wrote that the aim of the Nigerian government had been to “apply the final solution to the Biafran problem away from the glare of an inquisitive world”.

It did not happen.

Gowon’s post-war speech emphasised the need for national reconciliation via the rhetoric of “No Victor, No Vanquished”. It was a claim backed by the fact that no medals were awarded to federal soldiers. Some Igbo officers were reabsorbed into the Nigerian military as where civil servants. And Igbos gradually returned to the north and other parts of the country.

The reabsorption of Igbos has over the decades nonetheless been accompanied by claims of marginalisation. This has often centred on two main issues: the amount of money allocated for the development of states composed of Igbo majorities and the fact that no Igbo has been allowed to lead Nigeria in the period since the end of the war.

In recent times movements have been created that have called for the resurrection of a Biafran state, the most prominent being the now proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob) and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (Massob). But protests organised by these groups have been violently put down and their leaders hunted down by Nigeria’s security forces.

In July 2017, a specially convened meeting of Igbo leaders consisting of state governors, legislators, traditional and religious leaders issued a statement giving their “full support” to a “united Nigeria”. It was a gesture aimed at diffusing mounting tensions, but their call for a restructuring of the country in order to achieve a “just and equitable society” underlined the sense of grievance many feel decades after the civil war.

Renewed agitation for separation has also served to reopen fears among minority groups of the former Eastern Region who alarmed at the inclusion of their territories in various versions of maps of a new Biafran state felt compelled to issue statements of their own. For instance in July 2017 the Efik Leadership Foundation (EFL), after impliedly disavowing their previous incorporation into a historical entity known as Biafra, accused the leaders of Ipob of attempting “to annex or conscript us surreptitiously or use our people, land and territory as (the) basis for bargaining” an exit out of the federation.

Aside from the persistent and widespread misgivings of neighbouring minority groups are doubts over the historical existence of a kingdom of Biafra for which no records, archaeological or other, can be offered as evidence. There is no oral chronology identifying who its rulers were, no accounts as to how it was formed or of its system of laws.

Today, there appears to be a generational divide on pressing for a separate Biafran entity with much of the rhetoric coming from younger people with little or no memory of the civil war. And with other parts of the federation implacable in their resolve to maintain the territorial unity of Nigeria, the catastrophic failure of the war commenced over fifty years ago must serve as a cautionary note for those intent on pursuing the path of secession.

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This article was originally published on the author’s blog site: Adeyinka Makinde.

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

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The US Institute of Peace… Promotes Endless Syrian War

January 15th, 2019 by Tony Cartalucci

An “independent national institute founded by Congress and dedicated to the proposition that a world without violent conflict is possible,” would be the last place you would expect to find calls for continued war.

Yet the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) is just the place to go for exactly that.

In a recent article appearing on the USIP website titled, “What Does the U.S. Troop Withdrawal Mean for Syria?,” USIP’s senior adviser for Syria would claim the recently announced US troop withdrawal from Syria would “undermine U.S. interests in Syria and the broader region.”

The article would claim:

A precipitous U.S. troop withdrawal will undermine critical U.S. interests in Syria. The U.S. troop presence serves as a key pre-condition for a newly invigorated U.S. Syria policy focused on the enduring defeat of ISIS, the withdrawal of Iran from Syria, and the rejuvenation of the Geneva Peace Process.

The USIP also claims:

…U.S. forces on the ground have also served as a key counterweight against Iran and Russia. In particular, this derivative benefit has countered further Iranian expansion into eastern Syria. Should the U.S. withdraw, Iran as well as Russia and the Assad regime will be well poised to exploit the vacuum that will be created.

In other words, the USIP insists that the end of America’s illegal occupation and military campaign inside of Syria – not authorized by Congress as per the US Constitution and in violation of international law as per the UN Charter – is unfavorable because it would allow the internationally recognized, sovereign government of Syria to reassert control over its own territory.

The USIP article also insists that a US troop withdrawal would deprive the US “of leverage to rejuvenate the Geneva Peace Process.” Or in other words – impair Washington’s ability to shape the face of the Syrian government emerging post-war.

The USIP never explains why Washington is owed this unwarranted authority over Syria’s internal political affairs.
The US Institute of “Peace,” also claimed as an undesirable implication of a US troop withdrawal – the possibility of Syria’s Kurds negotiating with Damascus – a key prerequisite for peace in Syria.

The article would complain:

The Kurds may decide they have no choice but to negotiate a deal with a regime, albeit on weaker terms than before.

Like the West’s extensive, industrial-scale human rights racket, the US Institute of Peace is merely another means of selling Washington’s agenda, couched behind nobler ideals – in this case – the notion of “peace.”

An article defending an illegal invasion and occupation, denying Syria its own sovereign right to protect the territorial integrity of its nation, and even citing negotiations between conflicting parties within Syria as contradictory to US interests – directly contradicts USIP’s supposed mission statement.

US Institute “of ” Peace as Opposed to an Institute “for” Peace 

Nothing about USIP’s article should come as a surprise. It has couched US regime change in Syria behind the notion of promoting “peace” for years. And before that, did so in Libya and numerous other US-led wars.

It was in 2012 that the USIP was busy preparing plans and even a constitution for what it had hoped was a soon-to-be divided and destroyed Syria in the same vein as Libya or Iraq was before it.

Foreign Policy in an article titled, “Inside the quiet effort to plan for a post-Assad Syria,” admitted:

For the last six months, 40 senior representatives of various Syrian opposition groups have been meeting quietly in Germany under the tutelage of the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) to plan for how to set up a post-Assad Syrian government.

The project, which has not directly involved U.S. government officials but was partially funded by the State Department, is gaining increased relevance this month as the violence in Syria spirals out of control and hopes for a peaceful transition of power fade away. The leader of the project, USIP’s Steven Heydemann, an academic expert on Syria, has briefed administration officials on the plan, as well as foreign officials, including on the sidelines of the Friends of Syria meeting in Istanbul last month.

Far from the USIP’s supposed mission of promoting peace, this project was instead conducted solely with Western-backed opposition groups. As the US State Department and Department of Defense along with intelligence agencies worked to violently overthrow the Syrian government, the USIP worked with opposition groups to develop plans to replace the sovereign government of Syria and overwrite its independent institutions with those dependent on and obedient to Washington.

The focus of the group’s effort is to develop concrete plans for the immediate aftermath of a regime collapse, to mitigate the risks of bureaucratic, security, and economic chaos. The project has also identified a few things can be done in advance to prepare for a post-Assad Syria.The article would admit:

Nowhere were efforts by the USIP to foster peace between the opposition and the Syrian government mentioned.

Regarding the USIP’s strategy of posing to be uninvolved in US-backed, armed regime change efforts, USIP’s Heydemann would even admit:

We have very purposely stayed away from contributing to the direct overthrow of the Assad regime. Our project is called ‘the day after.’ There are other groups working on the day before.

Another part of the illusion was pretending the USIP was independent of the US government itself. Foreign Policy would admit:

The absence of Obama administration officials at these meetings, even as observers, was deliberate. 

“This is a situation where too visible a U.S. role would have been deeply counterproductive. It would have given the Assad regime and elements of the opposition an excuse to delegitimize the process,” Heydemann said.

The US is most certainly involved in both efforts to topple the Syrian government and shape the government that emerges in the aftermath of the war – regardless of whether the US’ role in this is “visible” or not.

Despite the US government attempting to violently overthrow the Syrian government and preparing a client regime to take power in the aftermath – through the USIP’s efforts – USIP’s Heydemann himself admits attempts were made to make this less visible  – specifically because of how bad it not only looks, but how criminal it actually is.

While the US Institute of Peace may not be directly involved in the military aspects of US-backed armed proxy wars, it is playing a direct role in leveraging the violence – not to achieve peace – but to handle the administrative aspects of US military conquest, merely couched behind the notion of peace.

Whether it is preparing a client regime to take over in the aftermath of US military intervention, or making a case for perpetual and very illegal war – the US Institute of Peace is anything but – unless we are to understand “of” instead of “for” in the context of using the notion of peace to sell war and the objectives the US hopes to achieve by waging it – rather than any effort made toward achieving actual peace.

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Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook” where this article was originally published. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

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Benefiting Israel Tops US Congressional Agenda

January 15th, 2019 by Philip Giraldi

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu famously was unaware that he was being filmed when he commented that “America is a thing you can move very easily, moved in the right direction.” His predecessor Ariel Sharon was even more to the point when he reportedly said “Every time we do something you tell me America will do this and will do that …don’t worry about American pressure; I tell you, we, the Jewish people, control America and the American people know it!”

If this were only chest thumping rhetoric one might just shrug and go about one’s business, but actions speak louder than words, even in the world of corrupt politicians, where nothing is ever as it seems to be. In the past year alone, the U.S. government has moved its Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, has stopped criticizing the Netanyahu government’s expansion of illegal settlements, and is reportedly currently contemplating recognizing as legal Israel’s illegal occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights. All the moves were and are contrary to actual American interests.

Furthermore, Israel, a country having a European level standard of living to include free education and medical care, has received more than $250 billion in “aid” from Washington. It currently is receiving $3.8 billion yearly from the U.S. Treasury as a base figure guaranteed for ten years, with supplements for special projects and programs. Adding in trade arrangements favorable to Israel and the money it gets from American Jewish donors’ tax-exempt contributions, the real total per annum approaches and may even exceed $10 billion. Much of the donor money, including that from the Kushner Foundation, has gone to fund the illegal settlements on the West Bank in violation of U.S. law. And then there is the $2.7 billion given yearly to Egypt and Jordan, essentially bribes to maintain friendly relations with Israel.

The ultimate irony is that any aid to Israel is illegal in light of the fact that it has violated the Symington and Glenn amendments to the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act due to its undeclared nuclear weapons arsenal and its refusal to sign the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. Both Congress and the White House have chosen to ignore that complication, one more demonstration of Jewish power in the United States. In truth, Ariel Sharon, if he was quoted correctly, had it right. Jewish Americans do control or at least exercise considerable influence over key sectors in the U.S. They are overwhelmingly disproportionately present on Wall Street, in the entertainment and news industries, in academia, in high value professions and in government at all levels. Their collective power both enriches and protects Israel at the expense of the U.S. taxpayer and genuine national interests. It also enables Israeli agents in the U.S., like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), to avoid scrutiny and regulation under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938.

Some federal government agencies exist largely to promote Israeli interests, most notably the Treasury Department’s Office for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, which has only had Jewish Under Secretaries heading it since it was founded in 2004. It is currently run by Israeli Sigal Mandelker. The office has focused on punishing Iran, Israel’s principle enemy, throughout its existence.

Jewish power is most perniciously evident in U.S. foreign policy, where it has a strangle hold on relations between Washington and the Arab countries of the Middle East. Much of this leverage is derived from the fact that the principal donors to both the Democratic and Republican parties – Haim Saban and Sheldon Adelson  are both Jews having very strong ties to Israel. Saban is an Israeli and Adelson may have Israeli citizenship. With both parties more than willing to act on behalf of Israel, the United States has engaged in a number of wars that serve no national interest and which have, on the contrary, brought with them devastating consequences, including the rise of new terrorist groups.

To be sure, many American Jews are not convinced by the love affair with Israel, but they are hard to hear amidst the cacophony coming from the Jewish oligarchs and hundreds of pro-Israel organizations that are constantly singing the praises of Netanyahu and his kleptocratic regime. For many young Jews in particular, it is difficult to empathize with a country that deploys army snipers to shoot thousands of unarmed demonstrators or a government that engages in starvation policies and the arrests, beatings and killings of children. Not to mention a governing system that believes that only Jewish citizens have full rights.

The Jewish oligarchs who manipulate the politicians do so with money, though one should in no way minimize the essential mendacity of the politicians themselves who are willing to sell out the interests of their country in exchange for thirty pieces of silver. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who is not one of the brightest bulbs in congress, is a prime example of a legislator who has been bought and paid for by Israeli interests in the form of campaign donations from casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and vulture capitalist Paul Singer.

Rubio’s speech last week supporting Senate bill S.1 for 2019, which he sponsored, was remarkable and should serve as primary evidence for anyone who really wonders why we have a Senate at all. The bill itself should also be read in toto to learn the details of what largesse we give to Israel in exchange for absolutely nothing in return. To put it succinctly, Rubio is all about protecting and nurturing Israel, which he sees as a good move since he has aspirations to become president. S.1 was, notably, the first Senate bill to be considered in 2019 after what once upon a time used to be referred to as the Christmas Recess. The full title of S.1 is the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019, which might be considered a bit of a fraud as it has nothing to do with the United States and is really all about giving Israel money and anything else it might desire, to include destroying the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that has targeted Israel’s apartheid. Rubio openly has admitted that the bill was crafted to help Israel and during his speech he registered his opposition to the impending pullout of U.S. troops from Syria because it would, according to him, “endanger” the Jewish state. Apart from that, the half hour presentation incorporated some remarkable oratory explaining S.1 including:

First of all, let me tell you what it doesn’t do. It doesn’t outlaw BDS. if you’re an American company and you want to boycott or divest from Israel, it doesn’t make it illegal. It doesn’t stop you from doing it. The only thing it says is if there is some city or county or state in this country who wants to support Israel, they have a right to say we are not going to buy services or goods from any company that’s boycotting or divesting from Israel. That’s all it does. It gives cities and counties like these 26 states the opportunity to have their elected officials who respond to the people of those states or cities or counties that elected them to make a decision that they are not going to do business with people who don’t do business with Israel and boycott Israel. In essence, it allows us to boycott the boycotters.

It would be difficult to find a more stupid justification for S.1 than that provided by Rubio. He does not understand that the “state” at all levels is supposed to be politically neutral in terms of providing government services. It is not supposed to retaliate against someone for views they hold, particularly, as in this case, when it involves opposition to the policies of a foreign government that many consider to be guilty of crimes against humanity. Rubio clearly believes that you can exercise free speech but government can then punish you by taking away your livelihood or denying you services that you are entitled to if you do not agree with it on an issue that ultimately has nothing to do with the United States. The ACLU has addressed the issue succinctly, arguing that “Public officials cannot use the power of public office to punish views they don’t agree with. That’s the kind of authoritarian power our Constitution is meant to protect against.”

In any event, the Senate bill failed in two tries last week with a vote of 56 in favor and 45 against followed by a 53 to 43 tally, with 60 votes being needed to advance for a final vote. It was supported by every Republican senator, but never fear, S.1 will surely pass when the government shutdown ends and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, himself a beneficiary of generous pro-Israel PAC donations, brings it up again for yet another vote. The Democrats who voted against S.1 to embarrass President Trump and protest the shutdown included Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Ben Cardin who are unrestrained champions of Israel due to both their ethnic and religious ties. Schumer has described himself as Israel’s “shomer” or protector in the Senate while Cardin has been a key player in advancing any and all pro-Israel legislation. They and most other Democrats will support the bill as they are in thrall to Israel as much as are the Republicans.

Over at the U.S. House of Representatives there was also early action on behalf of Israel. H.R.221- Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act “To amend the State Department Basic Authorities Act of 1956 to monitor and combat anti-Semitism globally, and for other purposes” passed by a margin of 411 to 1 in a mere twelve minutes with only congressman Justin Amash voting “nay.” The bill, which was being pushed by the Israel Lobby, compels President Trump to name an anti-Semitism Special Envoy with Ambassadorial rank to “serve as the primary advisor to, and coordinate efforts across, the U.S. government relating to monitoring and combating anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic incitement in foreign countries.” Criticism of Israel is considered to be anti-Semitism.

Another recent and related story reveals the power of Israel and its friends as reflected by their ability to force potential dissidents to fall in line. Senator Rand Paul, a critic of foreign aid in general, rightly received praise for his willingness to step up and block approval of last year’s aid package for Israel. But even there he waffled, his office putting out a statement

“While I’m not for foreign aid in general, if we are going to send aid to Israel it should be limited in time and scope so we aren’t doing it forever, and it should be paid for by cutting the aid to people who hate Israel and America.”

Apparently Rand Paul believes that the people who hate Israel and America constitute an identifiable group receiving billions of U.S. Treasury dollars.

Senator Paul has also been involved in the current anti-BDS legislation declaring in an op-ed, that the bill would be damaging to first amendment rights. However, he did not back up his words with action, having voted both times in favor of S.1, and he also felt it necessary to preface his op-ed remarks with the usual sucking up to the Jewish state: “I am not in favor of boycotting Israel. Israel has been a good ally. I have traveled to Israel, and it was one of the best and most meaningful trips I have taken with my family. Standing at the Western Wall was special and powerful. Visiting old Jerusalem was incredible, and sailing on the sea of Galilee while a double rainbow glowed above us is something I will never forget. Israel is truly a unique and special place.”

It is disgraceful that the legislature of the United States of America in the midst of a government shutdown is giving first priority to bills granting billions of dollars-worth of benefits to Israel while also appointing an anti-Semitism Czar to interfere with the domestic politics of foreign nations. It is shameful that an American Senator should find himself compelled, if he wants to survive politically, to grovel before a domestic lobby representing a foreign nation. Still worse is the compulsion to apologize to that nation even while honorably critiquing legislation that would do significant damage to freedom of speech in America.

Rand Paul also knows perfectly well, as does every senator, that Israel is not and has never been an “ally” in any real sense and has instead used its considerable political power to corrupt America’s political culture and to entangle the United States in a series of unwinnable and inhumane wars in the Middle East. It is certainly his right to personally refuse to support BDS, but he surely understands that effective nonviolent pressure directed against Israel might well be the only way to deliver even a modicum of justice to the Palestinians. Senator Rand Paul clearly does not care about the Palestinians or about Washington’s misadventures in the Middle East when his more compelling need as an ambitious politician is to placate the powerful Jews who, as Ariel Sharon put it, “control America.” How disappointing. Is there anyone left standing who will actually defend the interests of the American people?

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This article was originally published on The Unz Review.

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

Featured image is from The Unz Review

Are U.S. Newspapers Biased Against Palestinians? Analysis

January 15th, 2019 by Dorgham Abusalim

A study released last month by 416Labs, a Toronto-based consulting and research firm, supports the view that mainstream U.S. newspapers consistently portray Palestine in a more negative light than Israel, privilege Israeli sources, and omit key facts helpful to understanding the Israeli occupation, including those expressed by Palestinian sources.

The largest of its kind, the study is based on a sentiment and n-gram analysis of nearly a hundred thousand headlines in five mainstream newspapers dating back to 1967. The newspapers are the top five U.S. dailies, The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, and the Los Angeles Times.

Headlines spanning five decades were put into two datasets, one comprising 17,492 Palestinian-centric headlines, and another comprising 82,102 Israeli-centric headlines. Using Natural Language Processing techniques, authors of the study assessed the degree to which the sentiment of the headlines could be classified as positive, negative, or neutral. They also examined the frequency of using certain words that evoke a particular view or perception.

Key findings of the study are:

  • Since 1967, use of the word “occupation” has declined by 85% in the Israeli dataset of headlines, and by 65% in the Palestinian dataset;
  • Since 1967, mentions of Palestinian refugees have declined by an overall 93%;
  • Israeli sources are nearly 250% more likely to be quoted as Palestinians;
  • The number of headlines centering Israel were published four times more than those centering Palestine;
  • Words connoting violence such as “terror” appear three times as much as the word “occupation” in the Palestinian dataset;
  • Explicit recognition that Israeli settlements and settlers are illegal rarely appears in both datasets;
  • Since 1967, mentions of “East Jerusalem,” distinguishing that part of the city occupied by Israel in 1967 from the rest of the city, appeared only a total of 132 times;
  • The Los Angeles Times has portrayed Palestinians most negatively, followed by The Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, and lastly The New York Times;
  • Coverage of the conflict has reduced dramatically in the second half of the fifty-year period.

While a number of analyses examining how some news outlets have covered the conflict were published in recent years, they were limited to particular events, such as the First Intifada or Operation Cast Lead. The latest study, authored by Usaid Siddiqui and Owais Zaheer, provides a much broader vantage point.

“We wanted to examine this issue in a much larger timeframe. I think it helps us understand different patterns in the coverage across time, and gives us a lot more information that people cannot simply dismiss or deny,” Siddiqui said.

“The role of the news in framing and rendering the subjects of stories is a powerful influencer in agenda-setting and constructing narratives,” Zaheer said.

The relationship between the news and politics, as well as the resultant narratives, has been the subject of a plethora of literature. As Hayden White noted in his 1980 work for Critical Inquiry, “narrative in general, from the folk tale to the novel, from annals to the fully realized ‘history,’ has to do with the topics of law, legality, legitimacy, or, more generally, authority.”

Four years later, in “Permission to Narrate,” Edward Said pointed out that even as Palestinians were supported by the legality, legitimacy, and authority of international law, resolutions, and consensus, which is the case until this day, U.S. policymakers and media outlets simply refused to “make connections, draw conclusions, [and] state the simple facts.” This refusal remains a mainstay of U.S. media and politics, including a rejection of the central truth that the Palestinian narrative “stems directly from the story of their existence in and displacement from Palestine.”

But, “facts require a socially acceptable narrative to absorb, sustain and circulate them,” Said added, and in the U.S. “where Israeli propaganda seems to lead a life of its own,” the facts do not fit the narrative newspapers like those examined in the study have propagated.

Nearly thirty-five years since Said’s seminal work, the numbers revealed in the study unambiguously support his view with a quantitative edge, showing a consistent and systematic bias against Palestinians. It is consistent because it spans five decades, and systematic because the coverage has repeatedly responded to the need of Israel to justify its occupation as it metastasized over the years. For instance, assessing the frequency of certain words per decade, the study found correlations with the stated policy goals of both Israel and the U.S. There was a similar decline of mentions of the occupation, Palestinian refugees, and East Jerusalem, in addition to the portrayal of Palestinians in a negative light, in line with U.S.-Israeli policy goals.

One of the most glaring omissions committed by the newspapers analyzed in the study can be deduced from the dramatic decline of coverage since 1993, when Palestinians and Israelis initiated the now-defunct peace process. According to the study, “between 1967 and 1992, there were an average of 1,200 headlines” covering both datasets, “while only 700 on average in the period since.” This decline can be reasonably attributed to how U.S. newspapers have since presented Israelis and Palestinians: as equals engaged in negotiations, often portrayed in the media using the “both sides” frame. But this frame “deprives readers of context” that is central to understanding the occupation, the study notes. There are two side, one is an occupying power, Israel, and the other languishes as its occupied subject, Palestine. The notion of a “process” between “both sides” has only served to obscure the reality that there is no peace.

Another evident obfuscation concerns the siege of Gaza. Now in its 11th year, the blockade of the Gaza Strip earned low mentions in either datasets of the headlines examined in the study. Meanwhile, use of the word “Hamas” is among the top ten words used in the Palestinian-centric headlines, even though the Islamic movement was only founded in 1987. This obfuscation of the situation in the Gaza Strip, which Hamas has governed for little over a decade, often led readers to associate the besieged territory with terrorism and violence.

In addition to lobbying efforts by pro-Israel partisans, recent shifts in U.S. policy toward Palestine can also be traced to the biased coverage and evident omissions the study confirms. Whether it is the attempt to dismantle the United Nations Reliefs and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), or the tacit recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital by relocating the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, these policy shifts have been informed by the consistent omission of the facts in U.S. newspapers.

“It’s not just the Trump administration. We do not see a deeper push back on issues like UNRWA because coverage of Palestinian refugees has been systematically censored,” Zaheer said.

Broadcast media in the U.S. is also guilty of efforts to omit Palestinian voices.

In one instance, during Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014, examining only a sliver of the 51-days assault (June 29 and July 10), CNN broadcasted 28 appearances of Israeli public officials and laymen, while granting nearly 40% less appearances to Palestinians officials and laymen, a total of 16 appearances. The blatantly disproportionate coverage caused a controversy at the time, prompting CNN to release a statement insisting its coverage was fair. Explaining this imbalance, author and former journalist Marda Dunsky told PolitiFact that it was caused by an “accessibility issue”: advocates of Palestinian perspectives are neither readily available nor have the capacity to navigate the U.S. media landscape.

Forward to November 2018: Marc Lamont Hill, a Temple University professor and former CNN commentator, spoke at a United Nations event commemorating the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. In his remarks, Hill urged the international community to “free Palestine, from the river to sea,” referring to historic Palestine. Taking the remark out of context, pro-Israel organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) condemned Hill as an anti-Semite. The ensuing campaign by the ADL led CNN to cave under pressure and to respond by firing Hill, one of its popular commentators.

In the aftermath of Hill’s incident, another media personality shared the story of his firing from CNN International on Twitter: Ahmed Shihab Eldin. In 2015, Shihab Eldin was about to travel to Atlanta, the home of CNNI’s headquarters. But, before arriving, Shihab Eldin received a call from the Director of Programming who had hired him:

“the higher ups have weighed in… and we have to rescind our offer,” the Director told Shihab Eldin. “The closest answer I could get on record after a lengthy meeting was [that] I was ‘politically exposed,’ whether it was my Palestinian origins or my fact-based writings that criticized the Israeli gov [sic] in the past,” Shihab Eldin said on Twitter.

Considering the study findings, what the firing of Hill and Shihab Eldin reveals is that the issue is hardly a matter of accessibility, whether in broadcast or print news. The truth, as Said observed, is that when an honest criticism of Israel is expressed, the result can be catastrophic.

“One small index is the fact that the Anti-Defamation League in America and the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee have each published books identifying Israel’s ‘enemies’ and implying tactics for police or vigilante action,” he added in “Permission to Narrate.”

Such tactics have grown more vicious over the past thirty years, with Canary Mission, a website dedicated to portraying advocates of Palestinian rights as anti-Semites, as the latest iteration. As Siddiqui said,

“calling colonialism or occupation by their own names is something out of bounds for many news outlets.”

But the tide seems to be turning. Last week, Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American Congresswoman was inaugurated into the 116th Congress. Tlaib is among an emerging progressive contingent that has challenged the long-established rules of the media and politics game regarding Israel. She has endorsed BDS and will lead a congressional trip for newly sworn-in members to Palestine, countering the trip traditionally offered by AIPAC. Appearing in a traditional Palestinian Thobe, Tlaib was sworn into Congress amidst a wide-reaching campaign on social media celebrating her Palestinian heritage and culture. As researcher and activist Hanna Alshaikh noted,

“while the Palestinian-American community, [and Palestinians broadly have] historically been rendered invisible or pushed to the sidelines, Tlaib has pushed back, proudly entering the halls of Congress.”

The growth of the Palestine solidarity movement, the election of Tlaib, and the numerous resources available to the newspapers examined in the study beg the question whether these and other news outlets will continue to tarnish their record by their evident disregard of the Palestinian narrative, and the facts about Palestine.

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O «grande jogo» das bases em África

January 15th, 2019 by Manlio Dinucci

Os soldados italianos, em missão no Djibuti, doaram algumas máquinas de costura à organização humanitária que ajuda os refugiados neste pequeno país do Corno de África, situado em posição estratégica e localizado na rota comercial fundamental da Ásia-Europa, até à embocadura do Mar Vermelho, em frente ao Iémen. Aqui a Itália tem a sua própria base militar que, desde 2012, “fornece apoio logístico às operações militares italianas que se desenvolvem na região do Corno de África, no Golfo de Aden, na bacia da Somália e no Oceano Índico”. Portanto, no Djibuti, os militares italianos não se ocupam, apenas, de máquinas de costura.

No exercício Barracuda 2018, realizado aqui, em Novembro passado, os atiradores escolhidos das Forças Especiais (cujo comando está em Pisa) treinaram em condições ambientais diversas, mesmo de noite, com armas de precisão altamente sofisticadas, capazes focar o objectivo a 1 ou 2 km de distância. Não se sabe em que operações militares as Forças Especiais irão participar, visto que as suas missões são secretas; no entanto, é certo que elas ocorrem principalmente num âmbito  multinacional, sob comando USA. Em Djibouti, existe  Camp Lemonnier, a maior base USA na qual opera, desde 2001, a Task Force Conjunta – Corno de África, composta por 4.000 especialistas em missões altamente secretas, incluindo assassinatos por meio de comandos ou drones assassinos, em particular, no Iémen e na Somália. Enquanto os aviões e os helicópteros para as operações especiais partem de Camp Lemonnier, os drones têm estado concentrados no aeroporto Chabelley, a uma dezena de quilómetros da capital. Aqui estão a erguer-se outros hangares, cuja construção foi confiada pelo Pentágono a uma empresa de Catania, já contratada para outros trabalhos em Sigonella, a base principal dos drones USA/NATO para as operações em África e no Médio Oriente.

No Djibuti há também uma base japonesa e uma francesa, que abrigam tropas alemãs e espanholas. A estas foi adicionada, em 2017, uma base militar chinesa, a única fora do seu território nacional. Apesar de ter um objectivo logístico fundamental, como pousada para as tripulações dos navios militares que escoltam os navios mercantes e como depósito de suprimentos, ela representa um sinal significativo da crescente presença chinesa, em África. Presença essencialmente económica, à qual os Estados Unidos e outras potências ocidentais se opõem, contrapondo com uma presença militar crescente. Daí a intensificação das operações conduzidas pelo Comando África, que tem, em Itália, dois comandos subordinados importantes: o U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, no quartel de Ederle, em Vicenza; as  Forças Navais Europa-África (Forças Navais USA para a Europa e a África), cujo quartel general fica na base de Capodichino, em Nápoles, formada pelos navios de guerra da Sexta Frota, baseados em Gaeta.

No mesmo quadro estratégico, existe outra base norte-americana de drones armados, que está a ser construída em Agadez, no Níger, que o Pentágono já usa para drones – a base aérea 101, em Niamey. Presta assistência às operações militares que os USA têm realizado há anos, juntamente com a França, na África do Sahel, especialmente no Mali, no Níger e no Chade. A estes dois últimos, chega amanhã o Presidente do Conselho, G. Conte. Estão entre os países mais pobres do mundo, mas riquíssimos em matérias-primas – coltan, urânio, ouro, petróleo e muitas outras – explorados pelas multinacionais americanas e francesas que, cada vez mais, temem a concorrência das empresas chinesas, que oferecem condições muito mais favoráveis aos países africanos.

A tentativa de impedir o avanço económico chinês, através de intervenções militares em África e noutros lugares, está a fracassar. Provavelmente, até as máquinas de costura doadas em Djibuti, pelos militares italianos aos refugiados, são «made in China».

Manlio Dinucci

 

Artigo original em italiano :

Il «grande gioco» delle basi in AfricaL’Arte della guerra

il manifesto, 15 de Janeiro de 2019

Tradutora: Maria Luísa de Vasconcellos

VIDEO (PandoraTV) : (subtítulos em português)

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VIDEO – Il «grande gioco» delle basi in Africa

January 15th, 2019 by Manlio Dinucci

I militari italiani in missione a Gibuti hanno donato alcune macchine da cucire all’organizzazione umanitaria che assiste i rifugiati in questo piccolo paese del Corno d’Africa, situato in posizione strategica sulla fondamentale rotta commerciale Asia-Europa all’imboccatura del Mar Rosso di fronte allo Yemen. Qui l’Italia ha una propria base militare che, dal 2012, «fornisce supporto logistico alle operazioni militari italiane che si svolgono nell’area del Corno d’Africa, Golfo di Aden, bacino somalo, Oceano Indiano». A Gibuti i militari italiani non si occupano, quindi, solo di macchine da cucire.

Nell’esercitazione Barracuda 2018, svoltasi qui lo scorso novembre, i tiratori scelti delle Forze speciali (il cui comando è a Pisa) si sono addestrati, in diverse condizioni ambientali anche di notte, con i più sofisticati fucili di precisione capaci di centrare l’obiettivo a 1-2 km di distanza. Non si sa a quali operazioni militari partecipino le Forze speciali, poiché le loro missioni sono segrete; è comunque certo che esse si svolgono prevalentemente in ambito multinazionale sotto comando Usa. A Gibuti c’è Camp Lemonnier, la grande base USA da cui opera dal 2001 la Task Force Congiunta – Corno d’Africa, composta da 4000 specialisti in missioni altamente segrete, tra cui uccisioni mirate per mezzo di commandos o droni killer in particolare nello Yemen e in Somalia. Mentre gli aerei e gli elicotteri per le operazioni speciali decollano da Camp Lemonnier, i droni sono stati concentrati nell’aeroporto Chabelley, a una decina di chilometri dalla capitale. Qui si stanno realizzando altri hangar, la cui costruzione è stata affidata dal Pentagono a una azienda di Catania già impiegata in lavori a Sigonella, principale base dei droni USA/NATO per operazioni in Africa e Medioriente.

A Gibuti ci sono anche una base giapponese e una francese,  che ospita truppe tedesche e spagnole. A queste si è aggiunta nel 2017 una base militare cinese, l’unica fuori dal suo territorio nazionale. Pur avendo un fondamentale scopo logistico, quale foresteria degli equipaggi delle navi militari che scortano i mercantili e quale magazzino per i rifornimenti, essa rappresenta un significativo segnale della crescente presenza cinese in Africa. Presenza essenzialmente economica, a cui gli Stati uniti e le altre potenze occidentali contrappongono una crescente presenza militare. Da qui l’intensificarsi delle operazioni condotte dal Comando Africa, che ha in Italia due importanti comandi subordinati: lo U.S. Army Africa (Esercito USA per l’Africa), alla caserma Ederle di Vicenza; le U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa (Forze navali USA per l’Europa e l’Africa), il cui quartier generale è nella base di Capodichino a Napoli, formate dalle navi da guerra della Sesta Flotta basata a Gaeta.

Nello stesso quadro strategico rientra un’altra base USA di droni armati, che si sta costruendo ad Agadez in Niger, dove il Pentagono già usa per i droni la base aerea 101 a Niamey. Essa serve alle operazioni militari che gli USA conducono da anni, insieme alla Francia, nell’Africa del Sahel, soprattutto in Mali, Niger e Ciad. Paesi tra i più poveri del mondo, ma ricchissimi di materie prime – coltan, uranio, oro, petrolio e molte altre – sfruttate da multinazionali statunitensi e francesi che sempre più temono la concorrenza delle società cinesi, le quali offrono ai paesi africani condizioni molto più favorevoli.

Il tentativo di fermare con strumenti militari, in Africa e altrove, l’avanzata economica cinese sta fallendo. Probabilmente anche le macchine da cucire, donate a Gibuti dai militari italiani ai profughi, sono  «made in China».

Manlio Dinucci

il manifesto, 15 gennaio 2019

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The Middle East is metamorphosing. New fault-lines are emerging, yet Trump’s foreign policy ‘hawks’ still try to stage ‘old movies’ in a new ‘theatre’.

The ‘old movie’ is for the US to ‘stand up’ Sunni, Arab states, and lead them towards confronting ‘bad actor’ Iran. ‘Team Bolton’ is reverting back to the old 1996 Clean Break script – as if nothing has changed. State Department officials have been briefing that Secretary Pompeo’s address in Cairo on Thursday was “ slated to tell his audience (although he may not name the former president), that Obama misled the people of the Middle East about the true source of terrorism, including what contributed to the rise of the Islamic State. Pompeo will insist that Iran, a country Obama tried to engage, is the real terrorist culprit. The speech’s drafts also have Pompeo suggesting that Iran could learn from the Saudis about human rights, and the rule of law.”

Well, at least that speech should raise a chuckle around the region. In practice however, the regional fault-line has moved on: It is no longer so much Iran. GCC States have a new agenda, and are now far more concerned to contain Turkey, and to put a halt to Turkish influence spreading throughout the Levant. GCC states fear that President Erdogan, given the emotional and psychological wave of antipathy unleashed by the Khashoggi murder, may be mobilising newly re-energised Muslim Brotherhood, Gulf networks. The aim being to leverage present Gulf economic woes, and the general hollowing out of any broader GCC ‘vision’, in order to undercut the rigid Gulf ‘Arab system’ (tribal monarchy). The Brotherhood favours a soft Islamist reform of the Gulf monarchies – along lines, such as that once advocated by Jamal Khashoggi.

Turkey’s leadership in any case is convinced that it was the UAE (MbZ specifically) that was the author behind the Kurdish buffer being constructed, and mini-state ‘plot’ against Turkey – in conjunction with Israel and the US. Understandably, Gulf states now fear possible Turkish retribution for their weaponising of Kurdish aspirations in this way.

And Turkey is seen (by GCC States) as already working in close co-ordination with fellow Muslim Brotherhood patron and GCC member, Qatar, to divide the collapsing Council. This prefigures a new round to the MB versus Saudi Wahhabism spat for the soul of Sunni Islam.

GGC states therefore, are hoping to stand-up a ‘front’ to balance Turkey in the Levant. And to this end, they are trying to recruit President Assad back into the Arab fold (which is to say, into the Arab League), and to have him act, jointly with them, as an Arab counter to Turkey.

The point here is obvious: President Assad is closely allied to Iran – and so is Moscow and Turkey. To be fashionably Iranophobic – as Pompeo might wish the GCC to be – simply would spoil the GCC’s anti-Turkey ‘play’. Syria indeed may be (justly) skeptical of Turkey’s actions and intent in Syria, but from President Assad’s perspective, Iran and Russia are absolutely crucial to the managing of an erratic Turkey. Turkey does represent an existential Syrian concern. And trying to lever President Assad – or Lebanon or Turkey – away from Iran, would be absurd. It won’t happen. And the GCC states have enough nous to understand this now (after their stinging defeat in Syria). The Gulf anti-Iranian stance has had ‘the burner’ turned sharply down, (except when their need is to stroke US feathers).

They can see clearly that the Master of Ceremonies in the Levant – putting together the new regional ‘order’ – is not Mr Bolton, but Moscow, with Tehran (and occasionally Ankara), playing their equal part ‘from behind the curtain’.

Presumably, America’s intelligence services know, (and Gulf states certainly are aware), that in any case, Iranian forces are almost all gone from Syria (though of course Syria’s ‘Iranian connection’ remains as firm, as ever) – even as Pompeo and Israel say the precisely the opposite: that they are pushing-back hard at the ‘threatening’ Iranian military ‘footprint’ in Syria. Few in the region will believe it.

The second notable emerging regional fault line then, evidently is the one that is opening between Turkey and the US and Israel. Turkey ‘gets it’: Erdogan ‘gets it’ very clearly: that Washington now deeply distrusts him, suspects that Turkey is accelerating into Moscow and Beijing’s orbit, and that DC would be happy to see him gone – and a more NATO-friendly leader installed in his stead.

And it must be clear to Washington too ‘why’ Turkey would be heading ‘East’. Erdogan precisely needs Russia and Iran to act as MCs to moderate his difficult relations with Damascus for the future. Erdogan needs Russia and Iran even more, to broker a suitable political solution to the Kurds in Syria. He needs China too, to support his economy.

And Erdogan is fully aware that Israel (more than Gulf States) still hankers after the old Ben Gurion ideal of an ethnic Kurdish state – allied with Israel, and sitting atop major oil resources – to be inserted at the very pivot to south-west and central Asia: And at Turkey’s vulnerable underbelly.

The Israeli’s articulated their support for a Kurdish state quite plainly at the time of Barzani’s failed independence initiative in Iraq. But Erdogan simply, unmistakably, has said to this ‘never’ (to Bolton, this week). Nonetheless, Ankara still needs Russian and Iranian collaboration to allow Bolton to ‘climb down his tree’ of a Kurdish mini-state in Syria. He needs Russia to broker a Syrian-led buffer, vice an American-Kurdish tourniquet, strapped around his southern border.

It is unlikely however, that despite the real threat that America’s arming of the Kurds poses to Turkey, that Erdogan really wants to invade Syria – though he threatens it – and though John Bolton’s ‘conditions’ may end by leaving Turkey no option, but to do it. Since, for sure, Erdogan understands that a messy Turkish invasion of Syria would send the delicately balanced Turkish Lire into free-fall.

Still … Turkey, Syria, Iran and Russia now all want America gone from Syria. And for a moment, it seemed it might proceed smoothly after Trump had acquiesced to Erdogan’s arguments, during their celebrated telephone call. But then – Senator Lindsay Graham demurred (against the backdrop of massed howls of anguish issuing from the Beltway foreign policy think-tanks). Bolton did the walk-back, by making US withdrawal from Syria contingent on conditions (ones seemingly designed not to be met) and not tied any specific timeline. President Erdogan was not amused.

It should be obvious now that we are entering a major regional re-set: The US is leaving Syria. Bolton’s attempted withdrawal-reversal has been rebuffed. And the US, in any event, forfeited the confidence of the Kurds in consequence to the original Trump statement. The Kurds now are orientated toward Damascus and Russia is mediating a settlement.

It may take a while, but the US is going. Kurdish forces (other than those linked with the PKK) are likely to be assimilated into the Syrian army, and the ‘buffer’ will not be directed against Turkey, but will be a mix of Syrian army and Kurdish elements – under Syrian command – but whose overall conduct towards Turkey will be invigilated by Russia. And the Syrian army will, in due time, clear Idlib from a resurgent al-Qaida (HTS).

The Arab states are returning to their embassies in Damascus – partly out of fear that the whipsaw of American policy, its radical polarisation, and its proclivity to be wholly or partially ‘walked-back’ by the Deep State – might leave the Gulf unexpectedly ‘orphaned’ at any time. In effect, the GCC states are ‘hedging’ against this risk by trying to reconnect a bifurcated Arab sphere, and to give it a new ‘purpose’ and credibility – as a balance against Turkey, Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood (Syria’s old nemesis).

And yet – there remains still another layer to this calculus, as described by veteran Middle East journalist, Elijah Magnier:

“Indeed the Levant is returning to the centre of Middle East and world attention in a stronger position than in 2011. Syria has advanced precision missiles that can hit any building in Israel. Assad also has an air defence system he would have never dreamed of before 2011 – thanks to Israel’s continuous violation of its airspace, and its defiance of Russian authority. Hezbollah has constructed bases for its long and medium range precision missiles in the mountains and has created a bond with Syria that it could never have established – if not for the war. Iran has established a strategic brotherhood with Syria, thanks to its role in defeating the regime change plan.

NATO’s support for the growth of ISIS has created a bond between Syria and Iraq that no Muslim or Baathist link could ever have created: Iraq has a “carte blanche” to bomb ISIS locations in Syria without the consent of the Syrian leadership, and the Iraqi security forces can walk into Syria anytime they see fit to fight ISIS. The anti-Israel axis has never been stronger than it is today. That is the result of 2011-2018 war imposed on Syria”.

Yes. This is the third of the newly emergent fault-lines: that of Israel on the one hand, and the emerging reality in the Syrian north, on the other – a shadow that has returned to haunt the original instigators of the ‘war’ to undermine Syria. PM Netanyahu since has put all the Israeli eggs into the Trump family ‘basket’. It was Netanyahu’s relationship with Trump which was presented in Israel as being the true ‘Deal of the Century’ (and not the Palestinian one). Yet when Bibi complained forcefully about US withdrawal from Syria (leaving Syria vulnerable, Netanyahu asserts, to an Iranian insertion of smart missiles), Trump nonchalantly replied that the US gives Israel $ 4.5 billion per year – “You’ll be all right”, Trump riposted.

It was seen in Israel as an extraordinary slap to the PM’s face. But Israelis cannot avoid, but to acknowledge, some responsibility for creating precisely the circumstances of which they now loudly complain.

Bottom line: Things have not gone according to plan: America is not shaping the new Levantine ‘order’ – Moscow is. And Israel’s continual, blatant disregard of Russia’s own interests in the Levant, firstly infuriated, and finally has provoked the Russian high command into declaring the northern Middle East a putative no-fly zone for Israel. This represents a major strategic reversal for Netanyahu (and the US).

And finally, it is this repeating pattern of statements being made by the US President on foreign policy that are then almost casually contradicted, or ‘conditioned’, by some or other part of the US bureaucracy, that poses to the region (and beyond) the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question. The pattern clearly is one of an isolated President, with officials emptying his statements of executive authority (until subsequently endorsed, or denied, by the US bureaucracy). It is making Trump almost irrelevant (in terms of the setting of foreign policy).

Is this then a stealth process – knowingly contrived – incrementally to remove Trump from power? A hollowing out of his Presidential prerogatives (leaving him only as a disruptive Twitterer) – achieved, without all the disruption and mess, of formally removing him from office? We shall see.

And what next? Well, as Simon Henderson observes, no one is sure – everyone is left wondering:

“What’s up with Secretary Pompeo’s extended tour of the Middle East? The short answer is that he is trying to sell/explain President Trump’s “we are leaving Syria” policy to America’s friends … Amman, Jordan; Cairo, Egypt; Manama, Bahrain; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE); Doha, Qatar; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Muscat, Oman; Kuwait City, Kuwait. Wow, even with his own jet and no immigration hassles, that’s an exhausting itinerary … The fact that there now are eight stops in eight days, probably reflects the amount of explaining that needs to be done.”

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Alastair Crooke is former British diplomat, founder and director of the Beirut-based Conflicts Forum.

Featured image is from SCF

Trump, Bolton and the Syrian Confusion

January 15th, 2019 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

It’s a messy, though typical picture.  US President Donald Trump wants to pull out forces in Syria.  When announced in December, jaws drooped and sharp intakes of breath were registered through the Washington establishment.  Members of the military industrial complex were none too pleased.  The President had seemingly made his case clear: US blood and treasure will not be further drawn upon to right the conflicts of the Middle East. 

His national security advisor, John Bolton, prefers a different message: the US will not leave north-eastern Syria till the militants of Islamic State are defeated and the Kurds protected.  If this was a message of intended confusion, it has worked.  The media vultures are confused as to what carrion to feed upon. The US imperial lobby is finding the whole affair disruptive and disturbing.  Washington’s allies attempt to read the differences between policy-by-tweet and policy by representation.

Trump’s pre-New Year announcement suggested speediness, a rapid removal of US forces supposedly indispensable in Making America Great Again.  Once made, US troops were to leave in a matter of weeks – or so went a certain wisdom.  “They’re all coming back, and they’re coming back now,” ventured the president.  But Bolton suggested otherwise.  US personnel, he suggested, would remain in al-Tanf to counter Iranian influence.  Timetables could be left to the talking heads. 

A change of heart also came from the White House, with Trump asserting that,

“We won’t be finally pulled out until ISIS is gone.” 

To reporters, he adopted a familiar stance in ever shifting sands: promising to do something meant doing something different.

“We are pulling back in Syria.  We’re going to be removing our troops.  I never said we’re doing it that quickly.”

On Sunday, Trump delivered another streaky note on Twitter, thereby adding another lace of confusion.

“Starting the long overdue pullout from Syria while hitting the little remaining ISIS territorial caliphate hard, and from many directions.” 

Last Thursday, information on the withdrawal of some US military ground equipment from Syria was noted.  On Friday, Col. Sean Ryan, spokesman for the US-led coalition in Syria, issued a statement claiming that the coalition had “begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria” leaving little by way of details.  In Trumpland, the scanty detail often prevails over the substantive. 

US strategy in the Middle East has tended to revolve around setting up figures for the fall while inflicting the fall of others.  The Kurds have tended to find themselves in that role, encouraged and prompted to take up arms against their various oppressors, only to find themselves left to the slaughter in the subsequent geopolitical dramas of the region.  The promise by Great Britain and France at the conclusion of World War I that a Kurdish state be chalked out of the remains of the Ottoman Empire never materialised.  In the crude machinations of international relations, they have remained, as Joost Hiltermann describes them, the “expendable” ones. 

Bolton is keen not to make that same mistake, which is exactly why he risks doing so.  The great enemy of the Kurds on this occasion remains a prickly US ally, Turkey. 

“We don’t think the Turks ought to undertake military action that’s not fully coordinated with the agreed to by the United States”.   

Trump, similarly, suggested in a direct call with the Turkish president that the Turkish economy would be devastated “economically if they hit Kurds.”  In a statement from White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders,

“The President expressed the desire to work together to address Turkey’s security concerns in northeast Syria while stressing the importance to the United States that Turkey does not mistreat the Kurds and other Syrian Democratic Forces with whom we have fought to defeat ISIS.”   

Bolton’s credibility in pursuing that agenda seemed to crumble in Ankara before a notable snubbing by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on January 8.  The national security advisor had to make do with a meeting with Erdoğan’s senior advisor, Ibrahim Kalin. Bolton was not one the Turkish leader particularly wanted to see in light of his comments that Turkey not harm members of the Kurdish Syrian militias in the aftermath of the US withdrawal.  Such views also fly in the face of Turkey’s self-appointed role as an agent of influence in the region.  An absent Washington is simply too good a chance to press home the advantage, and Ankara is bound to capitalise. 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did not fare much better in his regional whistle-stops in Egypt Jordan, Iraq and the Gulf states.  In Cairo, Pompeo denied that there was any “contradiction whatsoever” about Trump’s position on withdrawal. 

“I think everyone understands what the United States is doing.” 

If not everyone, then at the very least, “the senior leaders in their governments”.  Very good of them.

The views of American functionaries have not necessarily meant much in the righteous intent of other powers, but Bolton is nonetheless happy to pen his name to this mast.  He wishes for the Kurds to hold firm, avoid the temptation of seeking another sponsor who just might do a better job. 

“I think they know,” suggested Bolton, “who their friends are.”  (Bolt is more than nudging here, making sure the Russians or the Assad regime are avoided in any future security arrangements that might supply a shield for the Kurds.)

Daft, can be Bolton, who sees himself as a true appraiser of the international relations system when he is disabled by presumption.  The Turks may, in time, hand Washington another bloody lesson of retribution showing that basic, keen hatreds in historical dramas are far more significant than sophisticated notions of self-interest.  The presence of US troops in Syria will no doubt be reclassified, withdrawal by which any other name would be as confusing.  The Kurds will have to chew over their options with the sort of caution nursed by a history of promise followed by abandonment.  Be wary of the expendable ones.

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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 is from NEO

Corporate dictatorships—which strip employees of fundamental constitutional rights, including free speech, and which increasingly rely on temp or contract employees who receive no benefits and have no job security—rule the lives of perhaps 80 percent of working Americans.

These corporations, with little or no oversight, surveil and monitor their workforces. They conduct random drug testing, impose punishing quotas and targets, routinely engage in wage theft, injure workers and then refuse to make compensation, and ignore reports of sexual harassment, assault and rape. They use managerial harassment, psychological manipulation—including the pseudo-science of positive psychology—and intimidation to ensure obedience.

They fire workers for expressing leftist political opinions on social media or at public events during their off-hours. They terminate those who file complaints or publicly voice criticism about working conditions. They thwart attempts to organize unions, callously dismiss older workers and impose “non-compete” contract clauses, meaning that if workers leave they are unable to use their skills and human capital to work for other employers in the same industry. Nearly half of all technical professions now require workers to sign non-compete clauses, and this practice has spread to low-wage jobs including those in hair salons and restaurants.

The lower the wages the more abusive the conditions. Workers in the food and hotel industries, agriculture, construction, domestic service, call centers, the garment industry, warehouses, retail sales, lawn service, prisons, and health and elder care suffer the most. Walmart, for example, which employs nearly 1 percent of the U.S. labor force (1.4 million workers), prohibits casual conversation, which it describes as “time theft.” The food industry giant Tyson prevents its workers from taking toilet breaks, causing many to urinate on themselves; as a result, some workers must wear diapers. The older, itinerant workers that Amazon often employs are subjected to grueling 12-hour shifts in which the company electronically monitors every action to make sure hourly quotas are met.

Some Amazon workers walk for miles on concrete floors each shift and repeatedly get down on their hands and knees to perform their jobs. They frequently suffer crippling injuries. The company makes injured employees, whom it fires, sign releases saying the injuries are not work-related. Two-thirds of workers in low-wage industries are victims of wage theft, losing an amount estimated to be as high as $50 billion a year. From 4 million to 14 million American workers, under threat of wage cuts, plant shutdowns or dismissal, have been pressured by their employers to support pro-corporate political candidates and causes.

The corporations that in effect rule the lives of American workers constitute what University of Michigan philosophy professor Elizabeth Anderson refers to as “private governments.”

These “workplace governments,” she writes, are “dictatorships, in which bosses govern in ways that are largely unaccountable to those who are governed. They don’t merely govern workers: they dominate them.”

These corporations have the legal authority, she writes, “to regulate workers’ off-hour lives as well—their political activities, speech, choice of sexual partner, use of recreational drugs, alcohol, smoking, and exercise. Because most employers exercise this off-hours authority irregularly, and without warning, most workers are unaware of how sweeping it is.”

“If the U.S. government imposed such regulations on us, we would rightly protest that our constitutional rights were being violated,” Anderson writes in her book “Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (and Why We Don’t Talk About It).” “But American workers have no such rights against their bosses. Even speaking out against such constraints can get them fired. So most keep silent.”

Once workers sign contracts they essentially cede their rights as citizens to the corporations, except the few rights guaranteed by law, for the duration of the contracts.

“Employers’ authority over workers,” Anderson writes, “outside of collective bargaining and a few other contexts, such as university professors’ tenure, is sweeping, arbitrary, and unaccountable—not subject to notice, process, or appeal. The state has established the constitution of the government of the workplace; it is a form of private government.”

These corporations, by law, can “impose a far more minute, exacting, and sweeping regulation of employees than democratic states do in any domain outside of prisons and the military.”

These myriad corporate dictatorships, or private governments, ensure American workers are docile and compliant as the superstructure of the corporate state cements into place a species of corporate totalitarianism. The ruling ideology of neoliberalism and libertarianism, used to justify the corporate domination and social inequality that afflict us, sells itself as the protector of freedom and liberty. It does this by subterfuge. It claims workers have the freedom to enter into employment contracts and terminate them, while ignoring the near-total suspension of rights during the period of employment. It pretends that workers and corporations function as independent and autonomous sellers and buyers, with workers selling their labor freely and corporate owners buying this labor.

This neoliberal economic model, however, is defective. The relationship between the corporation and the worker is not the same as the relationship between a self-employed baker, for example, and his customers. The self-employed baker and those who buy the bread appeal to mutual self-interest in the exchange.

“The buyer is not an inferior, begging for a favor,” Anderson writes. “Equally importantly, the buyer is not a superior who is entitled to order the butcher, the brewer, or the baker to hand over the fruits of his labor. Buyers must address themselves to the other’s interests. The parties each undertake the exchange with their dignity, their standing, and their personal independence affirmed by the other. This is a model of social relations between free and equal persons.” (Emphasis by the author.)

Once a worker is bonded to a corporation, however, he or she instantly loses this dignity, standing and personal independence, especially if the job is temporary, entry-level or menial. Relations are no longer free and equal.

“When workers sell their labor to an employer, they have to hand themselves over to their boss, who then gets to order them around,” Anderson writes. “The labor contract, instead of leaving the seller free as before, puts the seller under the authority of their boss.”

The worker either fulfills the demands of management, which he or she has little ability to question or formulate, or is reprimanded, demoted, sanctioned or fired. The corporate manager wields total authority over the worker.

“The performance of the contract embodies a profound asymmetry in whose interests count,” Anderson writes, “henceforth, the worker will be required to toil under conditions that pay no regard to his interests, and every regard for the capitalist’s profits.”

Neoliberalism posits that the choice is between a free market and state control, whereas, as Anderson writes, “most adults live their working lives under a third thing entirely: private government.” Neoliberalism argues that the essence of freedom is free enterprise, while never addressing workers’ surrender of basic freedoms. Neoliberalism holds out the promise, which has not been true since before the Industrial Revolution, that workers can become self-employed if they are hardworking and innovative. We all have the ability to achieve economic independence or become industry leaders if we draw on our inner resources, according to the neoliberal mantra, one popularized by mass culture. The neoliberal ideologues’ solution to the cannibalization of the economy is to call for fostering a nation of entrepreneurs. This is a con. Corporations and their lobbyists write the laws and the legislation, creating a two-tiered legal system in which poverty is criminalized and we are controlled, taxed and punished. The corporate oligarchs, however, live in a world where monopoly, fraud and other financial wrongdoing are legal or rarely punished and taxes are minimal or nonexistent. Among the population, only a tiny percentage—most of whom come from inherited wealth and have been groomed in elitist, plutocratic universities and institutions—dominate the corporate hierarchy. Public discourse, controlled by corporate power, ignores this one-sided power arrangement. It cannot address a problem it refuses to acknowledge. Subjugation is freedom.

Anderson calls this corporate economic system communist—that’s communist with a small “c”—because these private governments “own all the nonlabor means of production in the society it governs. It organizes production by means of central planning. The form of the government is a dictatorship. In some cases, the dictator is appointed by an oligarchy. In other cases, the dictator is self-appointed.” Private governments, their sanctioning powers lacking the state’s ability to imprison or execute (although they often have internal security forces with the power to arrest), ensure compliance by using wholesale surveillance and the threats of demotion and exile, plus the potential rewards of salary raises and promotions. Also, there usually is a steady barrage of company propaganda.

“We have the language of fairness and distributive justice to talk about low wages and inadequate benefits, we know how to talk about the Fight for $15, whatever side of this issue you are on,” Anderson writes. “But we don’t have good ways to talk about the way bosses rule workers’ lives.”

American workers have never achieved the array of rights won by workers in other industrialized countries. At the height of union representation in 1954, only 28.3 percent of American workers were union members. This number has fallen to 11.1 percent, with only 6.6 percent of private-sector workers belonging to unions. Wages have for decades declined or been stagnant. Half of all U.S. workers make less than $29,000 a year, effectively putting their families in poverty.

Workers, lacking unions and the ability to pressure management through collective bargaining, have no say in their working conditions. If they choose to leave abusive employment, where do they go? The inequalities and the workers’ loss of liberty and agency are embedded within the corporate structure. It is impossible, as Anderson warns, to build a free, democratic society dominated by private governments. As these private governments merge into the superstructure of the corporate state we are cementing into place an unassailable corporate tyranny. It is a race against time. Our remaining freedoms are being rapidly extinguished. These omnipotent dictatorships must be destroyed, and they will only be destroyed by sustained popular protest such as we see in the streets of Paris. Otherwise, we will be shackled in 21st-century chains.

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Chris Hedges is a Truthdig columnist, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, a New York Times best-selling author, a professor in the college degree program offered to New Jersey state prisoners by Rutgers University, and an ordained Presbyterian minister.

Featured image is from Mr. Fish/Truthdig

The Guardian’s Tom Phillips’ article Venezuela Crisis Takes Deadly Toll on Buckling Health System (January 06, 2019) is more good news for US psychopaths, such as Trump, Bolton and Pompeo. Children are dying in Venezuela. Sanctions are working!

Tom is becoming the Luke Harding of Venezuela. Luke…err, Tom blames all of Venezuela’s problems on president Nicolas Maduro. Tom has piled on, repeating the Washington Consensus vilifying Maduro……that is what “repeaters” do.

If Maduro is illegally and violently removed from office, what will come after? Probably chaos, since there is no united opposition. Chaos is what the US desires, because chaos gives the US an excuse for interventions. A dysfunctional opposition then gives the US the power to be the kingmaker. The US has a self-proclaimed “right” to intervene anywhere, anytime in Latin America, according to the 1823 Monroe Doctrine, and the 1904 “Big Stick” Roosevelt corollary.

As a rule, US doctrines do not become internationally laws, and instead usually violate international law. Doctrines are just a “wish-list” of US foreign policy. The main US foreign policy objective is to promote US corporate exploitation of foreign countries.

If the US gets its way in Venezuela, then Venezuela will be ruled by oligarchs, dictators or the military—or a confabulation of the three natural allies. The Venezuelan people overwhelmingly rejected the 40-years of oligarchy, when they elected Hugo Chavez in 1998. Chavez ran for election on a socialist platform. The US has been trying to overthrow Chavez’s socialist movement from the first moment Chavez took office.

In 2002 Bush backed a failed coup. Trump and his cronies have been planning another coup. This just in from Tom Phillips January 11th: Juan Guaido of the opposition is calling for an international intervention and a military coup. An illegal violent regime change is very likely soon.

After Chavez died of cancer at the age of 58 in 2013, his vice president Nicolás Maduro constitutionally assumed his office. Maduro has been struggling to continue Chavez’s socialist programs for the poor. Maduro is no Chavez, but he is trying to carry on Chavez’s legacy. Maduro was reelected to his second term in 2018.

Maduro faces many economic problems, much of them stemming from the collapsing international oil price in 2015. There are good reasons to believe that the collapse in oil prices was a US-Saudi conspiracy, since the economic victims were Russia and Venezuela, two of the countries the US is trying to regime change. Oil is 95% of Venezuela’s revenue from exports, and 25% of its GDP.

The other major problem for Maduro is that on top of collapsing oil prices the US imposed crushing economic sanctions. Tom’s article unwittingly exposes the lie that the sanctions were targeted, and not intended as collective punishment of the people. Children are dying! Instead of using dead children as propaganda props, economic sanctions should be immediately suspended, and foreign aid sent to save the lives of these innocent victims. Tom did not mention that in the article. All he had for the dead children was crocodile tears.

The US is stomping on Venezuela’s neck, trying to kill socialism. And vengefully killing Venezuelan kids. (Just a few weeks ago, Pompeo mocked Iran, saying ….”if you want your people to eat”). The US is stomping its boot on the neck of socialism throughout Latin America, after years of a “pink tide” of elected progressive governments. It is working, as progressive governments in Latin America are becoming extinct.

Critics of Chavez and Maduro claim that socialism never works. It worked just fine under Chavez, as people were lifted out of poverty. Inequality declined dramatically. Critics blame Chavez and now Maduro for “overspending” on the poor.

As the US rebounds from one economic crisis to another, one bank bailout to the next, it is obvious to those that can see: Capitalism does not work. The US with its hyper-neoliberalism is 25th on the UN Human Development Index, adjusted for inequality. The US has its own healthcare crisis of 45,000 people dying every year because they cannot afford healthcare. Many of them children, Tom!

Sad how the critics never blame a country’s economic problems on over spending for US weapons, concentration of wealth in a few wealthy families, or austerity for the people because of crooked debt-imposed austerity by the IMF. The poor are expendable for oligarchs North and South. US healthcare and needed infrastructure suffer from overspending on the military and wars.

Socialism, even a democratic one is a dirty word to the US, because socialist governments use their country’s natural resources, and state-owned enterprises for the benefit of the people. US corporations want those resources, privatized state-owned enterprises, and to have poor people as a source of cheap labor. The driver of US foreign policy is what corporations want.

US foreign policy and US corporate exploitation in Latin America increases poverty there. The poor and indigenous people have their land stolen out from under them, and paramilitary death squads enforce their removal. Large land owners, resource corporations and monocrop plantations for export move in, often they are US corporations.

US welcoming committee for asylum seekers on the southern border. (Photo by the White House)

Unfair trade agreements allow the import of cheap US agricultural products. Cheap agricultural products, such as corn, is highly subsidized by US taxpayers, corporate welfare to agribusiness. Indigenous small farmers cannot compete with the dumped US imports. They are driven out of business and off their farms. With nowhere else to go, the poor and dispossessed migrate to the city where they are exploited as wage-slaves. Because the poor are vulnerable, they are easy targets for extortion from criminal gangs……while corrupt police look the other way.

Ironically, the poor fleeing for their lives, seeking protection and an opportunity to earn a subsistence wage head in the direction of their abuser……to the USA. That is why the US is experiencing a sharp increase in people from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador seeking political asylum.

Trump and his xenophobic racist supporters want the US to turn asylum seekers away. They want the US to be a “gated community”, as Trump put it. When other countries such as Venezuela want to be a “gated community” and keep out US corporations and unfair trade from exploiting them, then the US sends in the jackals.

In the old days the US “opened” foreign “gated communities” with gunboats, and admitted that the purpose was commercial interests. At one time or another, over the past 200 years the US has invaded almost every Latin American and Caribbean country; some of them multiple times. US invasions haven’t been for democracy. They have been for commercial reasons, and the source of wealth for those that became elite families.

William Allen Rogers’s 1904 cartoon recreates the Big Stick Diplomacy of Theodore Roosevelt as an episode in Gulliver’s Travels……(Wikipedia)

Today foreign holdouts from the neoliberal Washington Consensus are “opened” by the CIA, Special Forces, mercenaries, terrorists, local collaborators, the National Endowment for Democracy, the International Republican Institute, and other government-private NGOs. NGOs do overtly what the CIA used to do covertly to sow discontent, opposition and violence.

The US uses psychological warfare and propaganda to “open” closed foreign countries. The US uses threats, bribes, political isolation, economic sanctions and the constant reminder that “all options are on the table”. The mainstream media, such as the Guardian (British, but very much part of this fetid media conspiracy) are complicit by keeping up a steady drumbeat of propaganda.

The US always presents its aggression as being out of concern for democracy, human rights, or because the US is being threatened by some small country, like Cuba, Bolivia, or Venezuela. Absurdity and blatant cowardice do not exist in the minds of US policymakers or their media stenographers: The US multiforce attack on puny Grenada (with a population smaller than a single neighborhood in Brooklyn, and with no actual armed forces of any kind) was hailed as a victory for US arms, and made into a “hero” movie by Clint Eastwood.—Ed) And quite typically, Pompeo just gave a delusional lying speech in Cairo that the US is a force for good, and he praised the bloody military-coup dictator Sisi. Mentioning commercial interests, greedy banks and the military-industrial-complex is considered uncouth, even though it is the truth behind US foreign policy.

The mainstream media is a vital player and collaborator in preparing the domestic audience for US wars of aggression, interventions, and regime changes. Mockingbirds, such as Tom Phillips, members of a compliant media, can only be described charitably as “useful idiots” in advancing the US agenda, when not outright hidden collaborators. The mainstream media such as the Guardian creates a circus-like atmosphere of a crisis. They sell the public that “something has to be done”.

After a US invasion the mainstream media again provides the cover story. When all the lies come out as they did about the Iraq War, then the media sticks its head in the sand and denies any responsibility. But in all cases, when the media acts as a propagandist for war, then they have blood on their hands too. They are first-degree accomplices to grave international crimes for which people were hanged under Nuremberg tribunal statutes.

US imperialism, neocolonialism, resource exploitation, imposed austerity, unfair trade, and the US monopolizing of the international financial system have destroyed millions of people’s lives. Trump says he does not hate US victims. Like a lot of US Americans, he just does not care. The US has no empathy for its victims, but cries crocodile tears for the alleged victims of US enemies. It is the syndrome that Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky referred to as “Worthy and Unworthy Victims”.

As Paul Jay of The Real News Network put it, for Donald Trump, Chuck Schumer, and Tony Soprano, the US is like the mafia: “it’s not personal, it’s just business”.

The Guardian used to challenge the Washington Consensus. It used to inform, instead of misinform. As the Guardian was publishing the Snowden Files the GCHQ cracked down. They smashed the Guardian’s computers, as well as freedom of the press. The Guardian said it obliged as a symbolic act. The “symbolic act” was the Guardian caving in to the GCHQ. Afterwards there was an exodus of many courageous editors and real journalists from the Guardian. This vile act —which the rest of the media did nothing to rescind—happened in a nation that has long boasted of being one of the world’s most stable democracies. The “new” Guardian is not just a pale version of its former progressive self; it is a toxic zombie bent in most cases to do the bidding of the empire.

Tom Phillips is the Guardian’s Latin America mockingbird for Washington’s neocons who are trying to destroy Venezuela, and stamp out socialism in Latin America. It is not a question of pro-Maduro or against-Maduro. It is about the integrity and professionalism of journalism.

Tom Phillips, Luke Harding and the Guardian are enablers of US regime change projects, from Russia, Iran, and North Korea to Venezuela. They have abandoned their responsibility to the public and freedom. Tom’s anti-Maduro articles are appearing almost daily. Here is another one on January 9th: Venezuela’s Neighbours Turn Up Heat as Nicolás Maduro Begins Second Term; (the Guardian left out the adjective “rightwing” and “murderous” in neighbours).

Anyway, in Tom’s “unfriendly neighbours” article he quotes generously from the rightwing Lima Group. The Lima Group was formed in 2017 for the specific purpose of ousting Maduro and socialism. Washington’s fingerprints are all over the Lima Group. As Tom repeated, the Lima Group voted on January 4th to put crushing regional sanctions on Venezuela……more children will die……and declared Maduro’s democratic election illegitimate.

Before the Lima Group voted, which the US is not a member of, the CIA directo…err, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a video presentation to the group. Pompeo’s message of “carrots” for those voting correctly, and “sticks” for those voting incorrectly was clear. How shameful to see the US bully its tiny neighbors, and watch them humiliate themselves.

The Lima Group’s members are Argentina, Brazil, Canada (?), Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay and Peru. Most of the members of the Lima Group are disqualified from judging anybody else, because of their own miserable records on democracy and human rights. Most of the members of the group are rightwing governments. Leftwing governments were left out purposely, except by accident. Canada should not even be a member. The Lima Group is for the most part mafia states, and they are doing the enforcement work for their USA godfather.

The US has 79 military bases in Latin America. The supposed purpose of these US bases in Latin America is to counter the threats of:

“Cuba, Venezuela, and Bolivia; the struggle against drug trafficking; regional and transnational criminal networks; the greater presence of China, Russia, and Iran in Latin America and the Caribbean; disaster response (remember the “aid” given Haiti after the earthquake); as well as the role assigned to security forces in every country in terms of internal, regional, and international order.”

What a bunch of crapola. Tiny Cuba with 10 million people is a threat? Venezuela with a military budget of $6 billion is a threat? Bolivia with 11 million people, a military budget of $659 million, and its mild-mannered president Evo Morales, the first Indigenous Native president……he is a threat? The aid to Haiti that went into the Clinton Foundation, and never reached the people? Ridiculous!

As with all US foreign policy, the real reason for US military foreign bases is to promote the interests of US corporations, prop up global neoliberalism. As General Smedley Butler said in his little classic, “War is a Racket”:

I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Bussiness, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903……Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints.”

In the 100 years since Butler’s book was written, nothing has changed about US foreign policy and US interventions. It is still a money-making racket for the rich, corporations, banks, oligarchs, and their servants. Nothing has changed (if anyhting, it’s gotten worse) because its true fountainhead, the dynamics and culture of capitalism, remain at the helm of the American nation.

The Lima Group, Tom Phillips, and the Guardian are the servants of warmongers that Butler wrote about. They scramble for the crumbs of war profiteers. They eat well enough, if they can stomach the taste of blood.

With the exception of Costa Rica’s center-left Carlos Alvarado Quesada and Mexico’s historically elected left-wing Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (known affectionately as AMLO), the members of the Lima Group are Washington stooges, right-wing governments, and dictatorships. Canada shouldn’t even be in the group, much less vote, because of its extensive, environmentally destructive, and exploitative mining activities in Latin America. Not to mention that Canada by no stretch of the imagination can qualify as “Latin American.” Period.

Mexico was the only country to vote not to go along with the Washington consensus of the Lima Group. He sided with the international principles of non-intervention, sovereignty, self-determination, and respect for the internal affairs of other countries.

Lopez Obrador is courageous. It is up to the Venezuelan people to determine their own destiny without illegal economic sanctions, threats and subversion by outsiders. Obrador also stood up to Trump on the humanitarian crisis that the US has created on the US southern border.

Obrador is calling on the US for “reparations” (i.e. US investment) to make amends for its neoliberal-neocon exploitation and invasions. US exploitation has been a driver of poverty in Central America. Obrador has hinted that if the US will not invest to create jobs in Central America, then he might turn to the Chinese. Obrador’s “bad behavior” is pushing the US envelope. We should all cheer and pray for him, because he is putting himself in the crosshairs of Washington’s jackals.

As for Tom Phillips, his articles further shred his integrity and credibility. His article on “Venezuela’s neighbours” mostly just quoted the Lima Group. In other words, Tom is a stenographer, and the Guardian regurgitates it.

The US purposely creates chaos and crisis as an excuse for intervention. That is what the US is doing to Venezuela. US regime change artists and their mockingbirds in the media never consider what might come after. They really don’t care about the people, except as props for regime change. If and when Maduro’s socialist government falls, then Venezuela will be turned over to rightwing oligarchs, whom will do Washington’s bidding.

Venezuelans can then say “Hello” to neoliberalism, privatization, ExxonMobil, austerity, and neglected social programs. And, “Good-bye” to state-owned enterprises, universal healthcare, free education, and a voice speaking up for the poor.

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This article was originally published on The Greanville Post.

David William Pear, currently serving as a senior contributing editor, is a progressive columnist writing on economic, political and social issues. He is also a regular columnist and commenter on OpedNews. His articles have been published by The Real News Network, Truth Out, Consortium News, Russia Insider, Pravda and many other progressive publications.  

Featured image: Chávez with fellow South American presidents Néstor Kirchner of Argentina and Lula da Silva of Brazil. [Wikipedia]

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Governments around the world have been fighting counterfeiters for several centuries. Eventually, the combined efforts of law enforcement agencies, banknote printing and minting works led to the fact that cost of fake money was high for most of the 20th century. Then, the complexity of the process and the severity of punishment prevented counterfeiting from becoming a truly popular criminal industry. The volume of production of counterfeit money never reached the levels of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Nevertheless, the world experienced a new surge of interest to forgery of money at the end of the 20th century. The spread of affordable office equipment made printing fake money easier. Accordingly, the number of counterfeiters also increased. For instance, the US Secret Service stated in its annual 2017 report that over $73 million in counterfeit U.S. currency were prevented from circulation. The constant threat from counterfeiters has become the main, but not the only reason why states have to constantly think about increasing the degree of protection of banknotes. Now, it’s also about reputation of the world’s leading powers and blocs. For example, the dollar and the euro are fighting not only for the status of the world’s main reserve currency, but also for the name of the most reliable money in all respects.

Banknotes of both currencies, both dollar and euro, are literally stuffed with security features. For instance, the $100 banknote bears a 3D security ribbon and a portrait watermark. It’s printed by raising printing method, and has additional security features that can be checked with special devices.  In turn, the € 100 bill has a similar level of protection. Also, there’s a couple of common characteristics. Both banknotes are printed on paper and with special ink.

In fact, the banknote ink and paper are one of the key elements in the security printing process. You may not realize it, but a genuine banknote feels right and shows true colors. Thomas Savare, CEO of French security printing company Oberthur Fiduciaire, explains: “Banknote paper is very specific one, only used for banknotes, and manufactured by extremely niche suppliers who will only sell to recognized banknote printers (state printers or private printers). The same goes for the ink, which is made exclusively for banknote printing. The ink is resistant and has integrated security features, to be long lasting. The entire supply chain is dedicated to this industry and that’s a large part of the security of a banknote.” 

Watermarking is also one of the most popular and reliable methods of protecting bills. Despite the fact that it has been in use for a long time, security printers and central banks are in no hurry to trade it for anything else. The watermark has already become a customary way of identifying the authenticity of a bill without special equipment.

Modern watermarking may be old as a concept, but not as a technique. It constantly evolves and becomes more complex. In particular, a new generation of watermarks has been developed by VHP Security Paper, a recently acquired subsidiary of Oberthur Fiduciaire:

“VHP Security has been developing new technology watermarks for some time and its Pixel watermark, released just a few years ago, has already been selected by ten countries and features on more than 30 billion banknotes. The technology creates bright areas in the watermark, making it easy to identify and authenticate and more difficult to counterfeit,” says Thomas Savare.

Furthermore, the traceability of the entire supply chain has become a priority. The banks are demanding in this matter and being certified by the European Central Bank and being able to guarantee the confidentiality and security of the entire process, including through strict standards (ISO 9001, ISO 14001, OHSAS 18001), is now an essential and central asset for Oberthur Fiduciaire.

In general, forgery of money is a costly affair now. The workflow has become much more complicated than just a few dozen years ago. Modern security printers own unique technologies that are impossible to reproduce without special equipment, materials and set of skills. Authentication methods have become more complex for manufacturers to print, but, on the other hand, they still remain simple for end users.

The cost of counterfeit banknotes increases every year. Already now, the proportion of fake money in circulation is negligible compared to the total money supply. The ECB says:

“Some 331,000 counterfeit euro banknotes were withdrawn from circulation in the first half of 2017, a decrease compared with the second half of 2016. The likelihood of receiving a counterfeit is thus very slight.”

Counterfeit money in its traditional sense is clearly in decline at the beginning of the 21st century. Now, it looks more like sports or an entertainment for talented loners, rather than a huge branch of the shadow business. In the past, paper money was faked the most when paper replaced metal. Now paper money is gradually getting out of circulation, yielding to non-cash payments, and this means that a new type of counterfeiters hides among hackers and other cybercriminals.

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William Harrison is currently a doctoral student in global economics and international relations. His main fields of interest are new technologies, globalization, security and the environment.

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Prior to the 2018 midterm election, I speculated a Democrat-controlled House would result in hearings targeting “hate groups,” that is to say anybody on the “right” who challenges official narratives, otherwise known as “conspiracy theories.” 

Rep. Bennie Thompson, an African American lawmaker from Mississippi, is in charge of the House Homeland Security Committee,” reports McClatchy. “Thompson intends to hold hearings to spotlight what experts say is a growth of deadly right wing extremism in America, even if the hearings could feature members of white supremacist groups.”

Thompson said his aim is to change the dialogue and find a balance in a U.S. domestic terrorism strategy that he believes has focused too heavily on the threat of homegrown Muslim terrorism and too little the rise of far right, white nationalist, and anti-Semitic groups.

The corporate propaganda media has done a fair job of conflating “white supremacy” and political thought the government wants to silence and shutdown.

The McClatchy article follows this line and links the “trend” of antigovernment activism to Timothy McVeigh and the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.  That event has served as a touchstone for over two decades, primarily thanks to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has made a cottage industry out of hyping “rightwing hate” (unacceptable political thought) and the threat of violence (for the state, the two are inseparable). 

McClatchy and the corporate media have attached “rightwing extremism” to a number of violent incidents that have more to do with disturbed individuals than ideology. 

A recent spate of deadly incidents—including the shooting deaths of 11 congregants at a Pittsburgh synagogue in October, the February 2018 shooting deaths of 17 students and staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and the August 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia—have given Thompson and other congressional Democrats anecdotal evidence about the extreme right.

The Obama administration, continuing the work of the Bush administration, had the Department of Homeland Security produce a paper on the supposed threat posed by “rightwing extremists,” who are by the state’s definition terrorists on par (or worse than) al-Qaeda and its follow-up act, the Islamic State. Republicans, at the time a majority in the House, lambasted the paper and accused the Obama administration of overreach. Then DHS boss Janet Napolitano went into damage control mode. 

Napolitano apologized for the report. But the political backlash led DHS to halt work on tracking violent far right extremism, according to Daryl Johnson, the report’s author.

But now the House is in the hands of the Democrats and they want blood following the election of Donald Trump and the rise of the so-called Alt-right, or New Right. 

Under Republican control from 2011 until last week, the House Homeland Security Committee repeatedly rejected calls by Thompson and Democrats for specific probes of domestic far right activities. Some Republicans now are wary that Thompson’s probe would be conducted with a partisan eye.

“Congress and the White House has looked at terrorism through the lens of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. The House Homeland Security Committee, established after those attacks, largely has focused on the foreign threat or potential danger posed by U.S. residents becoming radicalized by foreign terrorist groups.

That emphasis will change under the Democrats. The new terrorists are “homegrown” and include nationalists (shorthand for racist), constitutionalists, and libertarians. There will be hearings and possible show trials in the months ahead. 

The DHS will finally arrive at its final destination—a national secret police focused on political activism challenging the ruling elite and their contrived political arrangement. 

Thompson said his aim is to change the dialogue and find a balance in a U.S. domestic terrorism strategy that he believes has focused too heavily on the threat of homegrown Muslim terrorism and too little the rise of far right, white nationalist, and anti-Semitic groups.

In order to be classified as antisemitic, a group or an individual only need criticize Israel and its incestuous relationship with the ruling elite and its political operatives, in particular the neocon faction. 

Thoughtcrime—opposition to the state and its policies—will not be tolerated by the political class. Democrats want to make sure another Donald Trump will not sit in the White House. In order to do this, they have to go after high profile individuals and groups, hold show trials, and continue the work of deplatforming “deplorables” and their “hate,” in other words, free speech. 

Finally, a word of warning to the “far-left.” If you wander outside the parameters set by Democrats and their “progressive” foundations, you will also be attacked and undermined by the state, especially if you oppose Bush’s wars, which became Obama’s wars and now Trump’s. 

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This article was originally published on the author’s blog site: Another Day in the Empire.

Kurt Nimmo is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

A Gentrified Little Town Goes to Pot

January 15th, 2019 by Edward Curtin

“In my little town/ I grew up believing/God keeps his eye on us all.” – Simon and Garfunkel, My Little Town

Hello my old friends Paul and Art, I’m just sitting here chilling out in the silent darkness of a late night spinning some discs and thinking your song is great but even great songs age as do we all and so I want to tell you that as a NYC born and bred boy like you guys who moved out to the country some years ago that in my little town many young people grew up not believing that God keeps his eye on us all because they grew up not believing in God, and even many of their parents, baby-boomer believers in hands-off parenting and meditation and yoga weekends didn’t keep an eye on them, not at all, since the parents thought of themselves as super cool and so the kids were allowed to fend for themselves in a most culturally liberal life-style way, and then, when the kids got confused and screwed up and did various drugs, especially a lot of pot following on the Ritalin they were given for their “disabilities” and the anti-depression meds that fell out of the families’ medicine cabinets and of course booze, and I guess I should add some heroin and the other shit that’s around – man, it’s crazy – the parents were dumbfounded and couldn’t understand what went wrong and why their kids, even as they aged, were still kids like they the parents were, caught in a stream of lostness, an existential despair unaware of its despair, to quote my old friend Soren, so they lived in a haze of smoke and mirrors and that darkness you guys sang about where they suffered from socially-induced attention deficit disorder and floated in a culture of cultural self-awareness and eclectic New-Ageism feasting on organic food and nostalgia for penny candy and days at summer camp even as the town they settled in became an up-scaled high-tech movie set for millionaires in which the cool people could mingle with cooler people as the celebrities came and went and the out-of-towners all dressed in black like walking shades, they brought their money from Wall St. and high tech and financial institutions and the little town acquired a reputation as the hippest coolest place to visit and move to especially after 9/11 even before the town went to pot and allowed multiple “recreational” pot stores to open in its small space and the lines of the desperadoes waiting for their legal fixes wound round and round and all the heads were spinning and dizzy with dreams of mashed potatoes and brownies unlike mom used to make but the money kept pouring in and the press went wild with popular stories of weed and more weed, and the true believers in this enormous and shattering breakthrough of legal pot and brilliant entrepreneurial instant millionaires that would end their chronic pains and everyone would be dreamily happy and relaxed as they awaited redemption at the hands of the latest liberal avatar of Hilary Clinton or Barack Obama to ride to the rescue and save the country and ease all the pain caused by Mr. Pumpkin Head and his ilk, like what would be better, man, if you know what I mean, but there’s something a little weird with all this crazy excitement about getting high legally and paying for what you can grow, but I guess the town likes the tax revenue but I’m thinking what’s happened to old-fashioned DIY Yankee initiative and cool stuff like that in a town where the American Revolution was fought to allow the rich to build their McMansions and buy up the land to raise llamas and place Buddha statues and even their own little churches on and stuff like that, but maybe I’m starting to get off topic a bit here so I should probably stop now while I’m ahead and on a high note about revolution and making the world safe for weed which should be the goal even though I’m not so sure aging hippies and their hipster kids will know how to use the stuff responsibly and stay off the road to ruin and avoid accidents while high and just chill out like I’m sure the USA will do once we get rid of the orange man and vote with my little town to return a Democrat to the White House so we can assume our responsibility to protect all those countries threatened by madmen like Gaddafi and Assad and maybe even do something about that demon Putin that will allow us little town folks to feel safe, as once again God and the NSA keep their eyes on us all even while we are getting high which is our god given right as god fearing americans and we return to the old values that we all shared before we went down the New Jersey Turnpike looking for America, guys, Kathy ain’t the only one sleeping and your singer not the only one lost if you get my drift.

Here’s to chilling,

EJ

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

Featured image is from peterpilt.org

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The Western Mainstream Media’s infowar about the true state of the anti-terrorist situation in Xinjiang failed after a group of diplomats and journalists were unprecedentedly allowed to visit some of the education and job-training facilities in the strategically located province, after which the weaponized narrative was tweaked to become one of “China buying off Pakistan’s silence”, which dishonestly portrays the Muslim Great Power’s pious leader as a religious hypocrite and dangerously risks provoking terrorist attacks against him and his government.   

2018 was predominantly characterized by four main stories for Pakistan – the rise of Imran Khan as Pakistan’s latest Prime Minister; the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan’s (TLP) anti-blasphemy protests and subsequently seditious calls for acts of terrorism against the state; the Hybrid War on CPEC that peaked near the end of the year with the Karachi & Chabahar attacks and the first-mentioned mastermind’s assassination in Afghanistan; and the creeping awareness of the Western Mainstream Media’s infowar narrative about China’s alleged treatment of the Uighur in Xinjiang. It’s therefore not surprising that all four of them are still relevant at the beginning of 2019, but there are worrying signs that hostile perception managers are attempting to weave them together as part of a renewed destabilization campaign against Pakistan.

The Hybrid War on CPEC received an unexpected setback after one of the so-called “Balochistan Liberation Army’s” (BLA) top terrorists was assassinated in Afghanistan right before the New Year, which occurred just a few weeks before China’s unpreceded diplomatic and journalistic opening in Xinjiang when it recently allowed members of both professional communities to visit some of its education and job-training facilities that it constructed there as part of its anti-terrorist operations in the strategically located province. Beijing even announced that UN officials are welcome to travel to the region as well, provided of course that they follow the proper procedures and don’t interfere in the country’s domestic affairs. These two developments are the reason why the weaponized narratives that were unleashed against both countries are now being tweaked.

Recognizing that the BLA terrorists were dealt a mighty blow by the recent assassination of one of their leaders and the growing popularity of Dr. Jumma Marri Khan’s Overseas Pakistani Baloch Unity (OPBU) that peacefully reintegrates wayward overseas Baloch into Pakistani society, and realizing that the world is becoming aware of the fact that the scandalous stories about China’s treatment of the Uighur in Xinjiang are fake news, the forces that are hostile to both multipolar Great Powers are scrambling to adapt their infowar techniques to these changed conditions. It’s with this situational context in mind that one should approach the latest claims coming from the popular American-based financial and business news site Business Insider, which just published a very inaccurate portrayal of Pakistani-Chinese relations.

In an article titled “Pakistan abruptly stopped calling out China’s mass oppression of Muslims. Critics say Beijing bought its silence”, one of the outlet’s news reporters attempted to make the case that China paid Pakistan off so that it wouldn’t use its influence in the larger international Muslim community (“Ummah”) to rally its co-confessionals against Beijing’s alleged mistreatment of the Uighur. The author drew attention to a widely publicized fake news report that the country’s Federal Minister for Religious Affairs supposedly brought this topic up in a critical way when meeting with the Chinese Ambassador last September. Both officials later denied the media’s reports about their talks, but the damage was already done because few people who heard the fake news were made aware of their response.

The writer then tried to make it seem like PM Khan was sidestepping the Uighur issue after reminding her audience about Chinese support for Pakistan’s economy, with her innuendo being that “Beijing bought its silence”. She then quotes two people to press home this point, the second of whom is Peter Irwin, who’s described as a “project manager” at the so-called “World Uyghur Congress” (WUC). Unbeknownst to her audience and conspicuously left out of her report, that man functions as a spokesman for an organization that many in China and beyond believe to be the political wing ofthe so-called “Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement” (ETIM) which was designated as a terrorist group by the UN in 2002. This makes it very disturbing that his words were included by the author in the article’s title.

After declaring that China was “buying the silence of Pakistan”, Irwin goes on to say that “he knows he simply needs to keep his mouth shut”, concluding that “someone like Khan has a very good idea of the balance of power in their relationship with China.” This dangerously insinuates that PM Khan and his government are being paid to stay silent about the plight of Muslims, which would make them religious hypocrites if it was true and accordingly paint them as targets of Takfiri terrorists (i.e. those who target alleged “infidels”/”apostates”). Dolkun Isa, the WUC leader who China regards as a terrorist, recently slammed Muslim countries for not supporting him, so it might be that Irwin was tasked by his boss to weaponize this narrative against Pakistan and PM Khan personally.

This is exceptionally dangerous in the Pakistani context because leaders of the TLP opposition party were arrested late last year on charges of sedition and terrorism after they called on their supporters to commits acts of violence against state officials on the purported basis that they were violating fundamentalist Islamic tenets following the Supreme Court’s acquittal of a Christian woman who was previously convicted of blasphemy during a high-profile case. Some of the group’s most religiously extremist sympathizers inside of Pakistan and abroad might interpret Irwin’s hypocrite/infidel/apostate insinuation that he just spread on the globally famous Business Insider information outlet about the pious Prime Minister as a “call to action”, just like Isa might have planned to happen all along as punishment for Pakistan’s refusal to support his narrative.

The WUC-ETIM’s intention seems to be to rekindle the Hybrid War on CPEC by expanding it beyond its now-contained Baloch “nationalist”-driven acts of terrorism to become an “Ummah”-wide militant jihad against the Pakistani state for its position towards China’s alleged treatment of the Uighurs, which is increasingly being revealed to have been the proper one all along after Beijing’s recent diplomatic and journalistic opening in the province debunked the last year’s worth of fake news about this emotive issue. It’s precisely because it turned out that Pakistan was right all along, and its refusal to fall for this infowar narrative doomed the plans to organize an “Ummah”-wide militant jihad against China, that it’s now being targeted through this desperate HybridWar scenario.

No one should automatically assume that Business Insider is knowingly acting as an instrument of Hybrid War against Pakistan, and it might just be a coincidence that its news reporter decided to obtain exclusive comments on this topic from an individual representing an organization that Beijing regards as a political front for a UN-designated terrorist group (which she didn’t inform her audience of), but the outlet’s irresponsibly inaccurate portrayal of the country’s relations with China nevertheless advances the aforementioned scenario regardless of its original intent. A globally renowned US-based information platform is openly being used by what many consider to be a terrorist-connected organization to spread its dangerously false innuendo that PM Khan is a hypocrite/infidel/apostate who was paid off by China to remain silent about the supposed plight of fellow Muslims, and that’s extremely alarming.

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This article was originally published on Eurasia Future.

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

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A New Narrative Control Firm Works to Destroy Alternative Media

January 14th, 2019 by Caitlin Johnstone

The frenzied, hysterical Russia narrative being promoted day in and day out by western mass media has had two of its major stories ripped to shreds in the last three days.

A report seeded throughout the mainstream media by anonymous intelligence officials back in September claimed that US government workers in Cuba had suffered concussion-like brain damage after hearing strange noises in homes and hotels with the most likely culprit being “sophisticated microwaves or another type of electromagnetic weapon” from Russia.

A recording of one such highly sophisticated attack was analyzed by scientists and turned out to be the mating call of the male indies short-tailed cricket. Neurologists and other brain specialists have challenged the claim that any US government workers suffered any neurological damage of any kind, saying test results on the alleged victims were misinterpreted. The actual story, when stripped of hyperventilating Russia panic, is that some government workers heard some crickets in Cuba.

Another report which dominated news headlines all of yesterday claimed that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort (the same Paul Manafort who the Guardian falsely claimed met with Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy) had shared polling data with a Russian associate and asked him to pass it along to Oleg Deripaska, who is often labeled a “Russian oligarch” by western media.

The polling data was mostly public already, and the rest was just more polling information shared in the spring of 2016, but Deripaska’s involvement had Russiagaters burning the midnight oil with breathless excitement. Talking Points Memo‘s Josh Marshall went so far as to publish an article titled “The ‘Collusion’ Debate Ended Last Night”, substantiating his click-generating headline with the claim that “What’s crystal clear is that the transfer to Kilimnik came with explicit instructions to give the information to Deripaska. And that’s enough.”

Except Manafort didn’t give any explicit instructions to share the polling data with Deripaska, but with two Ukrainian oligarchs (who are denying it). The New York Times was forced to print this embarrassing correction to the story it broke, adding in the process that Manafort’s motivation was likely not collusion, but money.

These are just the latest in a long, ongoing pattern of terrible mass media debacles as reporters eager to demonstrate their unquestioning fealty to the US-centralized empire fall all over themselves to report any story that makes Russia look bad without practicing due diligence. The only voices who have been questioning the establishment Russia narrative that is being fed to mass media outlets by secretive government agencies have been those which the mass media refuses to platform. Alternative media outlets are the only major platforms for dissent from the authorized narratives of the plutocrat-owned political/media class.

Imagine, then, how disastrous it would be if these last strongholds of skepticism and holding power to account were removed from the media landscape. Well, that’s exactly what a shady organization called NewsGuard is trying to do, with some success already.

A new report by journalist Whitney Webb for MintPress News details how NewsGuard is working to hide and demonetize alternative media outlets like MintPress, marketing itself directly to tech companies, social media platforms, libraries and schools. NewsGuard is led by some of the most virulently pro-imperialist individuals in America, and its agenda to shore up narrative control for the ruling power establishment is clear.

The product which NewsGuard markets to the general public is a browser plugin which advises online media consumers whether a news media outlet is trustworthy or untrustworthy based on a formula with a very pro-establishment bias which sees outlets like Fox News and the US propaganda outlet Voice of America getting trustworthy ratings while outlets like RT get very low ratings for trustworthiness. This plugin dominates the bulk of what comes up when you start researching NewsGuard, but circulating a plugin which individual internet users can voluntarily download to help their rulers control their minds is not one of the more nefarious agendas being pursued by this company. The full MintPress article gives a thorough breakdown of the yucky things NewsGuard has its fingers in, but here’s a summary of five of its more disturbing revelations:

1. The company has created a service called BrandGuard, billed as a “brand safety tool aimed at helping advertisers keep their brands off of unreliable news and information sites while giving them the assurance they need to support thousands of Green-rated [i.e., Newsguard-approved] news and information sites, big and small.” Popularizing the use of this service will attack the advertising revenue of unapproved alternative media outlets which run ads. NewsGuard is aggressively marketing this service to “ad tech firms, leading agencies, and major advertisers”.

2. NewsGuard’s advisory board reads like the fellowships list of a neocon think tank, and indeed one of its CEOs, Louis Gordon Crovitz, is a Council on Foreign Relations member who has worked with the American Enterprise Institute and Heritage Foundation. Members of the advisory board include George W Bush’s Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, deep intelligence community insider Michael Hayden, and the Obama administration’s Richard Stengel, who once publicly supported the need for domestic propaganda in the US. All of these men have appeared in influential think tanks geared toward putting a public smiley face on sociopathic warmongering agendas.

3. Despite one of its criteria for trustworthy sources being whether or not they are transparent about their funding, the specifics of NewsGuard’s financing is kept secret.

4. NewsGuard is also planning to get its news-ranking system integrated into social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter, pursuing a partnership which will make pro-establishment media consumption a part of your experience at those sites regardless of whether or not you download a NewsGuard app or plugin.

5. NewsGuard markets itself to state governments in order to get its plugin installed in all of that state’s public schools and libraries to keep internet users from consuming unauthorized narratives. It has already succeeded in accomplishing this in the state of Hawaii, with all of its library branches now running the NewsGuard plugin.

We may be absolutely certain that NewsGuard will continue giving a positive, trustworthy ranking to the New York Times no matter how many spectacular flubs it makes in its coverage of the establishment Russia narrative, because the agenda to popularize anti-Russia narratives lines up perfectly with the neoconservative, government agency-serving agendas of the powers behind NewsGuard. Any attempt to advance the hegemony of the US-centralized power establishment will be rewarded by its lackeys, and any skepticism of it will be punished.

Whoever controls the narrative controls the world. Ruling power’s desire to regulate people’s access to information is so desperate that it has become as clumsy and ham-fisted as a teenager pawing at his date in the back seat of a car, and it feels about as enjoyable. They’re barely even concealing their desire to control our minds anymore, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to wake everyone up to their manipulations. We need to use every inch of our ability to communicate with each other before it gets shut down for good.

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The White House’s national security team asked the Pentagon to provide it with options for striking Iran, after a group aligned with Tehran fired mortars in September into an area in Baghdad that is home to the US embassy, a US newspaper reported.

The request by the National Security Council (NSC), which is led by John Bolton, sparked deep concern among Pentagon and State Department officials, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Sunday, citing current and former US officials.

“It definitely rattled people,” one former senior US administration official told the WSJ.

“People were shocked. It was mind-boggling how cavalier they were about hitting Iran.”

The Pentagon complied with the request, but it is not known whether the options for an Iran strike were also provided to the White House or if President Donald Trump knew about it.

The decision to consider striking Iran was prompted by an incident in early September, in which three mortars were fired into a diplomatic quarter in Baghdad.

The shells landed in an open lot and no one was hurt.

Two days later, unidentified fighters fired three rockets that hit close to the US consulate in the southern city of Basra but caused no serious damage.

NSC spokesman Garrett Marquis said in a statement on Sunday that “the NSC coordinates policy and provides the president with options to anticipate and respond to a variety of threats” and it will continue to consider “the full range of options” after the attacks in Basra and Baghdad.

Former US officials said it was unnerving that the NSC asked for such far-reaching military options in response to attacks that caused little damage and no injuries.

‘Act of war’

As a think tank scholar and Fox News commentator, Bolton often urged Washington to attack Iran, including in a 2015 New York Times op-ed titled: “To stop Iran’s bomb, bomb Iran.”

Relations between Tehran and Washington are highly fraught following Trump’s decision in May to withdraw from a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and to reimpose sanctions, including on Iran’s vital oil sector.

In September, Bolton, who worked hard on the withdrawal from the treaty, warned Tehran that there would be “hell to pay” if Iran threatened the US or its allies.

In the same month, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also stated the US was willing to target Iran for the actions of its allies in Iraq.

“Iran will be held accountable for those incidents,” he said in a 21 September interview with CNN.

“Even militarily?” asked CNN’s Elise Labott.

“They’re going to be held accountable,” Pompeo replied. “If they’re responsible for the arming and training of these militias, we’re going to go to the source.”

Alongside the requests in regards to Iran, the NSC asked the Pentagon to provide the White House with options to respond with strikes in Iraq and Syria as well, according to people familiar with the talks, the WSJ said.

In one meeting, Bolton’s then deputy Mira Ricardel, who was forced out of her job in November after a feud with First Lady Melania Trump, described the attacks in Iraq as “an act of war” and said the US had to respond decisively, according to one person familiar with the meeting.

‘Anti-Iran circus’

On Sunday, Iran’s foreign ministry summoned a senior Polish diplomat in protest at Poland jointly hosting a global summit with the US focused on the Middle East, particularly Iran, state news agency IRNA reported.

Pompeo said on Friday that the summit, to be held in Warsaw on 13-14 February, would focus on stability and security in the Middle East, including on the “important element of making sure that Iran is not a destabilising influence”.

Pompeo told Fox News that dozens of countries would attend the summit which would aim to “build out the global coalition” opposed to Iranian policies in the region.

Poland’s charge d’affaires was told that Iran saw the decision to host the meeting as a “hostile act against Iran” and was warned that Tehran could reciprocate, IRNA added.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif described the summit as a “desperate anti-Iran circus”.

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Two-step Solution for the American Government Shutdown

January 14th, 2019 by Massoud Nayeri

Two-step solution:

1) End the Government Shutdown;
2) A (YES or NO) National Referendum on allocating a budget for a border Wall

Everyone agrees that if a contractor is hired for a certain job, they have to do that job according to the agreed contract. The U.S. President and Congress have been elected as government servants to work for the American people. This is a very simple contract. However, our elected servants are not getting along with each other these days and have decided to shutdown the government.

A government shutdown was never mentioned as an option when these ladies and gentlemen were making all of their grand promises during their election campaign. The American people are now facing the dilemma whereby their elected servants are asking them to work without pay for an unforeseen amount of time!

These government servants are representing two major factions – Democrats and Republicans. These two wealthy factions (which represent the interest of the 1%) have no solution and only are able to complain against their opponents. This means both factions are too incompetent to run a smooth government.

The American people’s tax money funds all budgets for the government. Now that the two complaining factions (Democrats and Republicans) don’t talk to each other, the American people have the responsibility to intervene and bring an end to this destructive and hurtful behavior by the so-called “leaders”. For a family who survives “pay check to pay check”, this situation is TERRORIZING. Therefore without any delay, we need to end the government shutdown and prepare a referendum.

Let’s solve this problem democratically. If the majority of American people want to allocate some of their tax money to build a wall, then let’s do it and if they don’t, then the priority of the government should be on creating a healthcare, education and jobs for all. The referendum on the question of the wall would be a YES or NO referendum. However, there should not be any delay in ending the government shutdown. Everybody should be back at work with full pay before the referendum takes place.

There have been many articles and corporate media talk shows regarding the question of a border wall and government shutdown from all sides. All cards are already on the table “face up”! President Trump is first and foremost leading his Fascistic minded Republicans to build a wall around democratic rights. He is threatening the American Democracy and is signaling a totalitarian style of governing by fabricating a “National Emergency”. He wants to be the sole decision maker that dictates the will of the nation! His opposition is not able to offer a better perspective. Actually Democrats fundamentally share the same views but without Trump himself!

It is time to look at all problems on a global scale. Today the American working people share the same pain and anxiety about the future of their families as do French or Indian workers or any other toilers around the world.

However, the American working people are the main force that is able to end all disastrous and unnecessary wars and prevent new wars that the Trump Administration (through Mr. Pompeo and Bolton) are stirring up these days. The American working people are a powerful force that can bring a meaningful change and peace around the world.

The 2019 government shutdown is a test for the American people to save this country from tyranny and dictatorship or endure the consequences.

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Massoud Nayeri is a graphic designer and an independent peace activist based in the United States. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

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Selected Articles: Regime Change in America?

January 14th, 2019 by Global Research News

For seventeen years, Global Research, together with partner independent media organizations, has sought Truth in Media with a view to eventually “disarming” the corporate media’s disinformation crusade.

To reverse the tide, we call upon our readers to participate in an important endeavor.

Global Research has over 50,000 subscribers to our Newsletter.

Our objective is to recruit one thousand committed “volunteers” among our 50,000 Newsletter subscribers to support the distribution of Global Research articles (email lists, social media, crossposts). 

Do not send us money. Under Plan A, we call upon our readers to donate 5 minutes a day to Global Research.

Global Research Volunteer Members can contact us at [email protected] for consultations and guidelines.

If, however, you are pressed for time in the course of a busy day, consider Plan B, Consider Making a Donation and/or becoming a Global Research Member

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“China’s Nightmare”: B-2 Stealth Bombers Deployed to Hawaii, “On Watch” 24/7

By Zero Hedge, January 14, 2019

The US Air Force is putting China on notice as it announced Friday a new deployment of three B-2 Spirit stealth bombers to Hawaii for training in the Pacific.

Video: Netanyahu Claims “Depots Full of Iranian Weapons” Destroyed in Syria

By South Front, January 14, 2019

According to reports, Israeli warplanes, coming from the direction of Galilee, fired several missiles at a depot in the Damascus International Airport.

William Barr’s Confirmation as New US Attorney General. Does Trump have a Plan or Was He Duped by the Deep State?

By Larry Chin, January 14, 2019

Was Trump duped by Deep State enemies, who have placed another predator into his administration with the power to destroy his presidency?

Anger Among Iraqi Kurds as Syria Adds Masrour Barzani to Terror List

By Adnan Abu Zeed, January 14, 2019

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) was quick to respond, releasing a statement Dec. 31 saying authorities were dismissing the matter as “ludicrous” because “[the list] is issued by a chauvinistic, oppressive regime that has been an adversary to the Kurdish people and has supported the terrorists in order to remain in power.”

Trump, The Manchurian Candidate: “Conspiracy” to Destabilize the Trump Presidency. Regime Change in America

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky, January 13, 2019

In early January 2017, we had predicted an unprecedented constitutional crisis characterized by a coordinated and carefully planned operation to destabilize the Trump presidency involving several stages, both before and after his inauguration.

Walls or Roads

By Prof. James Petras, January 13, 2019

Contrary to the US mania for Wall building on the Mexican border blocking refugees, President Xi Jinping has allocated $900 billion dollars for roads and infrastructures to open China, and extend links with South and Central Asia, the Middle East, East Africa and Europe.

Reckless Path to Nuclear Weapons Leaves Us Looking Over the Edge

By Shane Quinn, January 12, 2019

After two years of analysis and inquiries, Roosevelt formally established America’s nuclear program on 19 January 1942, called the Manhattan Project – with a final $2 billion budget supporting it ($36 billion today) and employing over 130,000 people.

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A New Day for Mexican Workers

January 14th, 2019 by David Bacon

NAFTA had been in effect for just a few months when Ruben Ruiz got a job at the Itapsa factory in Mexico City in the summer of 1994. Itapsa made auto brakes for Echlin, a U.S. manufacturer later bought out by the huge Dana Aftermarket Group. In the factory, asbestos dust from brake parts coated machines and people alike. Ruiz had hardly begun his first shift when a machine malfunctioned, cutting four fingers from the hand of the man operating it.

It seemed clear to Ruiz that things were very wrong, so he went to a meeting to talk about organizing a union. When Itapsa managers got wind of the effort, they began firing the organizers. Nevertheless, many of the workers joined STIMAHCS, an independent democratic union of metalworkers.

Itapsa workers filed a petition for an election, but then discovered that they already had a “union” – a unit of the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM). They’d never seen the union contract – in essence, a “protection contract,” which insulates the company from labour unrest.

The plant’s HR manager told Ruiz that Echlin management in the U.S. said any worker organizing an independent union should be immediately fired. “He told me my name was on a list of those people,” Ruiz recounted, “and I was discharged right there.”

Nevertheless, there was a vote, in September 1997, to decide which union workers wanted. But before the election, a state police agent drove a car filled with rifles into the plant. Two busloads of strangers arrived, armed with clubs and copper rods.

During the voting, workers were escorted by CTM functionaries past the club and rifle-wielding strangers. Some workers were forcibly kept in a part of the factory to keep them from voting. At the polling station, employees were asked aloud which union they favored, in front of management and CTM representatives.

STIMAHCS tried to get the election canceled. But the government body administering it, the Conciliation and Arbitration Board (JCA), went ahead, even after thugs roughed up one of the independent union’s organizers. Predictably, STIMAHCS lost.

Business Unions in Mexico

For 20 years the Itapsa election has been a symbol of all that’s gone wrong with Mexico’s labour law, which provides protection on paper for workers seeking to organize but which has been routinely undermined by a succession of governments bent on using a low-wage workforce to attract foreign investment. Dana Corporation was just one beneficiary – Itapsa has been the norm, not the exception.

In 2015, thousands of farm workers struck U.S. growers in Baja California. Instead of recognizing their new independent union, however, growers signed protection contracts with the CTM, which were certified by the local JCA. Strikers were blacklisted. Later that year workers tried to register an independent union in four Juarez factories. Some 120 workers making ink cartridges for Lexmark were fired, as were another 170 at ADC Commscope, and many more at Foxconn and Eaton.

The labour board declined to reinstate the fired workers in Juarez and Baja – following the pattern it had set at Itapsa two decades earlier. Indeed, the JNCs have been key to the defeat of workers’ attempts to form democratic unions, invariably protecting employers and corporate-friendly unions.

No More Protection Contracts

The new Mexican government, headed by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), says that’s all over. Deputy Secretary of Labour in the new administration, Alfredo Dominguez Marrufo, promises that,

“after all these struggles, we can finally get rid of the protection contract system. We can make our unions democratic, choose our own leaders and negotiate our own contracts. This government will defend the freedom of workers to organize. That right has existed in theory, but we’ve had a structure making it impossible. This will change.”

That could have a big impact on political life in Mexico, where corporate union leaders have had an inside track to political power and corruption. It could change the dominating role U.S. corporations have played in the Mexican economy, and affect relations between workers in both countries. Most of all, it would raise a standard of living for workers that López Obrador has called “among the lowest on the planet.” In his speech to the Mexican Congress during his December 1 inauguration, the new president charged that 36 years of neoliberal economic reforms had lowered the purchasing power of Mexico’s minimum wage by 60 per cent. Today, on the border, that wage comes to a little above $4 per day.

According to University of California Professor Harley Shaiken,

“The Mexican government created an investment climate that depends on a vast number of low wage-earners. This climate gets all the government’s attention, while the consumer climate – the ability of people to buy what they produce – is sacrificed.”

Protecting corporations from demands for higher wages has made Mexico a profitable place to do business. Big auto companies, the world’s major garment manufacturers, the global high tech electronic assemblers – all built huge plants to take advantage of Mexico’s neoliberal economic policies, starting more than two decades before the negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

That wild-west climate for investors produced more than low wages, however. Between 1988 and 1992, 163 Juarez children were born with anencephaly – without brains – an extremely rare disorder. Health critics charged that the defects were due to exposure to toxic chemicals in the factories or their toxic discharges. The Chilpancingo colonia below the mesa in Tijuana where the battery plant of Metales y Derivados was located experienced the same plague.

As the companies came south, the people came north.

“During the neoliberal period [which he defines as the last 36 years, or six Mexican presidencies] we became the second country in the world with the highest migration,” López Obrador charged. “They live and work in the United States, 24 million Mexicans [Mexico’s population in 2017 was 129.2 million] … They are sending $30-billion a year to their families … the greatest social benefit we receive from abroad.”

In his six-year campaign for office, in which he spoke in practically every sizeable town in the country, López Obrador repeated what he later told the Congress – that only development “to combat poverty and marginalization as has never been done in history” would provide an alternative to migration.

“We will put aside the neoliberal hypocrisy,” he announced. “Those born poor will not be condemned to die poor … We want migration to be optional, not mandatory, [to make Mexicans] happy where they were born, where their family members, their customs and their cultures are.”

Criticizing Neoliberal Articles of Faith

In his speech, López Obrador criticized two other neoliberal articles of faith – that privatization of the state-owned section of the Mexican economy would lead to economic growth, and that pro-corporate changes in its labour law would create jobs and higher incomes.

Starting before NAFTA was passed, Mexican president Carlos Salinas de Gortari rammed through the Congress changes in the Constitution’s guarantees of land reform, to make private land ownership easier. Many of the communal lands (ejidos), created in previous decades, were dissolved and their lands sold to investors. Farmers became wage workers on land they’d previously owned. Subsequent land reforms led to granting foreign mining companies concessions on over a third of Mexico’s territory, allowing them to develop operations even in the face of local opposition.

Prices on basic goods were decontrolled, and government subsidies on food were cut back or ended altogether. In 1998, the government dissolved CONASUPO, a system of state-run stores selling basic foodstuffs like tortillas and milk at subsidized low prices. At the same time, price supports for small corn growers were also ended. As NAFTA allowed U.S. corporations to flood the Mexican market with cheap subsidized imported corn, millions of farmers were displaced, no longer able to sell their corn at a price that paid for growing it.

“Mexico is the origin of corn, that blessed plant,” López Obrador noted bitterly, “and now we are the nation that imports the most corn in the world.”

He announced that a CONASUPO-like subsidized food production and distribution system would be reestablished.

Privatization marked a 180 degree change in the direction of Mexican economic policy. After its 1910-20 Revolution, nationalists believed that to be truly independent Mexico had to ensure its resources were controlled by Mexicans and used for their benefit. The route to this control was nationalization, to stop the transfer of wealth out of the country and to set up an internal market, in which what was produced in Mexico would be sold there as well.

Mexico therefore guaranteed rights to workers that U.S. unions and workers could only dream of. Severance pay was mandatory and workers had a right to profit-sharing. During legal strikes, companies had to shut their doors until the dispute was resolved. On paper, the government acknowledged the right of all people to education and housing.

In return, however, Mexican unions gave up autonomy and control of their own affairs. The government registered unions, and oversaw their internal processes and choice of leaders. It never tolerated independent action by workers and unions outside its political structure. When the government changed its basic economic policy, using low wages to attract foreign investment, and producing for the U.S. market instead of for Mexico, the government could and did punish resistance severely.

Under Presidents Salinas de Gortari and Zedillo (1988-2000) privatization reforms became a whirlwind. Among the companies and industries affected were the Aeromexico airline, the telephone company, the petrochemical industry dependent on the state-run oil company, the Sicartsa steel mill, the railroad network, many Mexican mines, and the operation of the country’s ports.

The leader of the union at Aeromexico was imprisoned after he refused to accept the company’s privatization and the layoff of thousands of workers. The head of one of the largest sections of the union for employees of the social security system, IMSS, also spent months in jail in 1995 for denouncing government plans to privatize the enormous federal pension and healthcare agency.

In 1991 the Mexican army took over the port of Veracruz, disbanded the longshore union, and installed three private contractors to load and unload ships. Hourly wages of Veracruz longshoremen fell from about $7.00 to $1.00, even as productivity rose from 18 to over 40 shipping containers handled per hour.

When the Sicartsa steel mill was privatized in 1992, wages were cut in half, and 1500 of the mill’s 5000 workers were laid off. They were then rehired as temporary labour under 28-day contracts.

The Mexican government sold the Cananea and Nacozari copper mines, among the world’s largest, to German Larrea’s Grupo Mexico at a fraction of their book value. In 1997 Larrea bought the 4052-mile Pacific North railroad, in partnership with Pennsylvania-based Union Pacific. Workers throughout northern Mexico mounted a series of rolling wildcat strikes over cuts in its workforce of 13,000 by more than half. They lost.

Thirteen Mexican financiers became billionaires during the Salinas administration, and Larrea was one of them. Grupo Mexico forced Cananea’s miners’ union to go on strike in 2009, a conflict that is still unresolved. After 65 miners were entombed by an explosion in Grupo Mexico’s Pasta de Conchos coal mine in 2006, the union’s president Napoleón Gómez Urrutia was forced into exile in Canada. He’d accused Larrea of “industrial homicide” for giving up rescue efforts after only three days. This October, Gómez Urrutia was elected Senator in Sonora on the Morena ticket (López Obrador’s party-in-formation), and finally returned from Canada to take office.

The harshest privatization came in 2009, when President Felipe Calderon dissolved the state-owned Power and Light Company of central Mexico. In firing all its 44,000 workers, Calderon hoped to destroy one of Mexico’s oldest and most democratic unions, the Mexican Electrical Workers (Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas – SME). The company’s operations were folded into the Federal Electricity Commission. Private electrical generation was already permitted by Salinas and Zedillo, and López Obrador’s immediate predecessor, Enrique Peña Nieto, had set up plans for private power sale to consumers. Meanwhile, the Federal Electricity Commission itself was slated for elimination. Peña Nieto pushed a Constitutional reform through Congress to reverse the guarantee of national ownership of both the oil and electrical industries.

Far from increasing productivity and investment, however, “the damage caused to the national energy sector during neoliberalism is so serious,” López Obrador charged, “that we are not only the oil country that imports the most gasoline in the world, but we are now buying crude oil to supply the only six refineries that barely survive.”

Humberto Montes de Oca, foreign secretary of the SME union, says,

“The country is bankrupt. Before we can redistribute wealth we have to recover it. We know the banks will act against reversing the energy reform along with the others. We will all have to participate in order to defend any changes this new government tries to make.”

The SME has established a cooperative and has regained control of seven power generation stations, along with other property that formerly belonged to the old company.

“The hallmark of neoliberalism is corruption,” López Obrador charged. “Privatization has been synonymous with corruption in Mexico … The robbery of the goods of the people and the riches of the nation has been a modus operandi … In the last three decades the highest authorities have dedicated themselves to giving concessions to the territory and transferring companies and public goods, even functions of the state, to national and foreign individuals … The government will no longer facilitate looting, and will no longer be a committee in the service of a rapacious minority.”

To date, only one economic reform enacted by López Obrador’s predecessors has been repealed outright: the education reform that mandated standardized testing for students and testing and firing of teachers themselves. Mexico’s teachers have a long history of resistance and radical politics. More than 100 teachers in the state of Oaxaca alone were killed during their struggle over control of their union, and in defense of the indigenous communities in which they lived. Years of massive teacher strikes against the government’s education reform eventually led to a massacre in Nochixtlan in June 2016, in which nine people were gunned down by federal and state police.

Striking teachers march through downtown Mexico City to protest the pro-corporate education reform, which President Lopez Obrador has promised to repeal.

The disappearance and murder of 43 students from the Ayotzinapa training school in September 2014 was also an indirect product of the corporate education reform program. Their school had a reputation for turning out radical teachers, as do many rural training schools like it, and their students came from some of the poorest families in the countryside.

Claudio X. González Guajardo, cofounder of the Televisa Foundation and the Mexicanos Primeros corporate education reform lobby, called such public schools “a swarm of politics and shouting.” He demanded the government replace them with private institutions. Following López Obrador’s speech to the Congress, Gonzalez tweeted, Trump-style, “AMLO – Against the free market, against the energy reform, a retrograde, statist, interventionist, stagnant vision. The markets will react negatively. It will go very badly with us, very badly. A shame.”

In his address, López Obrador had promised,

“The so-called education reform will be canceled, the right to free education will be established in Article 3 of the Constitution at all levels of schooling, and the government will never again offend teachers. The disappearance of Ayotzinapa’s youth will be thoroughly investigated; the truth will be known and those responsible will be punished.”

In meetings with the democratic teachers caucus he also promised free elections in their union, the largest in Latin America. Eliminating the authoritarian group that has held power in the union for decades could shift the balance between the left and right in Mexico’s institutional politics.

Reforming Mexico’s Labour Laws

Despite the move against education reform, most Mexican unions do not expect the new government to reverse the privatizations that have already taken place, at least not for the first three years of López Obrador’s six-year term. Instead, they have concentrated on winning a basic reform of Mexico’s labour law, which has changed radically during the past two decades.

In May 2000, the World Bank made a series of recommendations to the Mexican administration, “An Integral Agenda of Development for the New Era.” The bank recommended rewriting Mexico’s Constitution and Federal Labour Law by eliminating its requirements that companies give workers permanent status after 90 days, limit part time work and abide by the 40-hour week, pay severance when they lay workers off and negotiate over the closure of factories. The bank called for ending the law’s ban on strikebreaking, and its guarantees of job training, healthcare and housing.

The recommendations were so extreme that even some employers condemned them. President Vicente Fox (2000 to 2006) embraced the proposal, but it failed to pass the Congress. After further attempts, however, President Felipe Calderon (2006 to 2012) did get a similar reform adopted in 2012. It allows companies to outsource, or subcontract, jobs, which was previously banned. It allows part time and temporary work and pay by the hour rather than the day. Workers now can be terminated without cause for their first six months on the job.

Arturo Alcalde, one of Mexico’s most respected labour lawyer and past president of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers, called the reforms “an open invitation to employers, and a road to a paradise of firings.” As he predicted, subcontracting proliferated with disastrous results. In just one instance, Grupo Mexico replaced strikers at the Cananea mine by contracting out their jobs. Inexperienced replacements died in mine accidents, and allowed a huge spill of toxic mine tailings into the Sonora River, contaminating communities and sickening residents.

According to Benedicto Martinez, co-president of the Authentic Labour Front, the union federation to which STIMAHCS belongs,

“The motivation of the government, assisted by corporate unions, was to encourage the layoff of longtime employees, who could be replaced by subcontracted workers. There are companies now where all the workers are subcontracted, who have no employees of their own at all. The conditions are very low, just slightly above the legal minimum, and sometimes below.”

Last year, under pressure from the European Union, which sought a free-trade agreement with Mexico, the Peña Nieto administration had to agree to reform some of the pro-corporate labour practices. The government was forced to ratify Convention 98 of the International Labour Organization (ILO), guaranteeing freedom of association (something the United States has not done). Peña Nieto then got the Mexican Congress to pass a Constitutional reform, embodying these changes. Corporate unions like the CTM, clearly feeling threatened by the reform, introduced their own legislation in 2017 to nullify its effect. They couldn’t get it passed, however, as it became evident that López Obrador would be elected the next president.

In Martinez’ eyes, the Constitutional reform is “the most advanced proposal that you could imagine. It includes union democracy, and the disappearance of the Conciliation and Arbitration Boards, which have always been complicit with the bosses and the corporate unions. In some states a union contract is treated like a state secret, that no one is allowed to see.”

Martinez believes the reform was the fruit of many years of groups like his fighting the government.

“It was like talking to a wall,” he recalls. “We were accused of being traitors to the country, because we organized international pressure with unions all over the world, denouncing the practices here in Mexico.”

Domingues Marrufo, López Obrador’s Deputy Labour Secretary, agrees.

“If it were not for that support from the [U.S. and Canadian] United Steelworkers and other unions, it would have been impossible to achieve the Constitutional reform.”

But changing the Constitution does not change the particular laws that govern labour activity. Implementing legislation must be passed to define rights and procedures, and set up the structure for enforcing the reform. After López Obrador won the election in July, but before he took office in December, Mexican unions and labour lawyers set up a discussion group, the Citizens Labour Observatory, and debated how far the new changes should go.

Some wanted to undo Calderon’s 2012 reform completely, by reversing, for instance, the reform laws that now allow subcontracting and temporary employment. In the end, though, the consensus among the democratic unions was to limit the proposal to the implementing legislation that gives workers the right to vote for the union and union leaders of their choice, and to approve their contracts. It was clear this was López Obrador’s favored choice. As Mexico City Mayor in 2000 he had appointed another dean of Mexican labour lawyers, Jesus Campos Linas, as head of the city’s labour board. Campos Linas then made public an estimated 70-80,000 protection contracts whose contents had never been released to the workers they covered.

Two days before Christmas, deputies from López Obrador’s Morena Party-in-formation introduced their labour reform bill into the Chamber of Deputies. It will abolish the JCAs and substitute an independent system of labour tribunals. Unions will be independent of the government and business, and leaders must be elected by a majority of the workers. Union contracts will be public, and must be ratified by the majority of the workers in a free and secret vote.

Sweeping though it will be, the new labour law is just a beginning. On taking office, López Obrador appointed Maria Luisa Alcalde the new Labour Secretary. She is a former legislator, daughter of labour lawyer Arturo Alcalde , and at 31 the youngest person in AMLO’s cabinet.

“She is very clear that the democratization of the unions will create a new situation and our society will have a much better chance to raise living standards,” Dominguez says. But, he warned, “We aren’t accustomed to organizing ourselves. We’re used to waiting for some powerful person to come from above to help us.”

And while waiting for unions and workers to use the new law, the government is still faced with many legacy strikes and fights inherited from 36 years of neoliberal administrations. The telecommunications reform, for instance, mandated the breakup of TelMex, the old telephone monopoly sold to billionaire Carlos Slim. In February it is set to be divided in two, a move the telephone workers union bitterly opposes. They are threatening to strike if it isn’t stopped.

In the mid-1990s the telefonistas, together with the Authentic Labour Front (FAT) and two other unions, formed the National Union of Workers, an independent labour federation. They supported López Obrador very strongly.

“Our corporate elite had to respond to the fact that the vast majority of Mexicans voted for him, and were unable to use their electoral fraud strategy to deny him victory, as they had in the past,” says Victor Enrique Fabela, vice-president of the union.

But he doesn’t believe that López Obrador will simply do what unions ask, pointing out that the new president invited Carlos Slim to hear his inaugural speech to the Congress, an invitation not extended to the union’s general secretary, Francisco Hernandez Juarez. Further, long term operating concessions have been renewed for Televisa and TeleAzteca, two media giants with a record of rightwing politics.

“We have to be critical,” he cautioned, “while understanding that we have to support the direction AMLO is moving.”

The strike in Cananea has yet to be settled, and in Nacozari, two of the world’s largest copper mines, the miners’ union was forced out by previous JCA decisions favoring the CTM and Grupo Mexico. The communities on the Rio Sonora are still suffering the health effects of the toxic spill, three years later. And on November 29 at the giant PKC wire harness plant in Ciudad Acuña, just two days before López Obrador was sworn in, CTM thugs marched into the facility, shouting “Mineros Afuera!” [Miners’ Union Out!] as workers were about to vote on the miners’ union as their representative. They overturned ballot boxes, the election was canceled, and the miners say its representatives were beaten.

“We all want a change,” charged Moises Acuña, the miners’ political secretary. “We have a chance to move forward now, and we have to use it.” Meanwhile, a new federation of independent unions in the auto industry has also been formed, and plans to fight with the CTM over the right to negotiate contracts with the industry’s giants.

In dealing with the workers’ upsurge and the emergence of new unions, however, López Obrador’s government faces a complex situation. The JCAs will disappear and the new tribunals will be formed. But there are no judges yet, and they won’t be in place for the first three years. The tribunals have to be funded, and judges and personnel trained in administering a completely new law.

“But during that time, in order to represent workers and negotiate, a union still has to be certified by the authorities,” Martinez says. “There must be some way to ensure that the workers have approved this union, and this approval must take place before any negotiation begins. Plus, who are the inspectors now responsible for investigating the outsourcing, to make sure it’s legal? We need an army of them, and there’s no money to hire them.”

Despite the institutional challenges, Dominguez believes that the time has arrived when Mexican workers may be able to reshape their nation. “Today many workers live in poverty, on one or two dollars a day. This is the fundamental problem. But we’re not just fighting for an economic goal, not just for decent wages, but for the revitalization of the democratic life of workers, of our unions and the organizations we belong to.”

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David Bacon is a California-based writer and documentary photographer. A former union organizer, today he documents labour, the global economy, war and migration, and the struggle for human rights. He blogs at The Reality Check and tweets at @photos4justice.

Italien und das EU-Votum für US-Raketen in Europa

January 14th, 2019 by Manlio Dinucci

In der Nähe des Glaspalastes der Vereinten Nationen in New York befindet sich eine metallische Skulptur mit dem Titel “Evil Defeated by Good” [Das Böse vom Guten besiegt], die den Heiligen Georg darstellt, der einen Drachen mit seiner Lanze durchbohrt. Sie wurde 1990 von der UdSSR gestiftet, um den 1987 mit den USA geschlossenen INF-Vertrag zu feiern, der landgestützte Kurz- und Mittelstreckenraketen (der Reichweite von 500 bis 5.000 km) verbietet. Symbolisch ist der Körper des Drachens tatsächlich aus Stücken von US Pershing-2 ballistischen Raketen (ursprünglich aus Westdeutschland) und sowjetischen SS-20-Raketen (ursprünglich aus der UdSSR) hergestellt.

Aber der Atomdrache, der in der Skulptur als sterbend dargestellt ist, wird nun wiedergeboren. Dank Italien und anderer Länder der Europäischen Union, die in der Generalversammlung der Vereinten Nationen gegen die von Russland vorgelegte Resolution zur “Erhaltung und Umsetzung des INF-Vertrags” gestimmt haben, die 46 zu 43 bei 78 Enthaltungen abgelehnt wurde.

Die Europäische Union – von der 21 ihrer 27 Mitglieder der NATO angehören (einschließlich des Vereinigten Königreichs, das gerade die EU verlässt) – hat damit eine einheitliche Haltung gegenüber der Position der NATO eingenommen, die wiederum eine einheitliche Haltung gegenüber den Vereinigten Staaten eingenommen hat.

Zuerst die Obama-Regierung, gefolgt von der Trump-Regierung, hat Russland ohne jeden Beweis beschuldigt, mit einer Rakete aus der verbotenen Kategorie zu experimentieren, und ihre Absicht angekündigt, sich aus dem INF-Vertrag zurückzuziehen. Gleichzeitig haben sie ein Programm zur Erneuerung der Aufstellung von Atomraketen in Europa zum Schutz vor Russland gestartet, während andere auch im asiatisch-pazifischen Raum gegen China stationiert sein werden.

Der russische Vertreter bei den Vereinten Nationen hat gewarnt, dass “dies den Beginn eines ausgewachsenen Wettrüstens darstellt”. Mit anderen Worten, er warnte, dass, wenn die Vereinigten Staaten wieder Atomraketen in Europa installieren sollten, die auf Russland gerichtet sind (wie die Cruise Missiles in Comiso in den 80er Jahren), Russland wieder ähnliche Waffen auf seinem eigenen Territorium installieren würde, die auf Ziele in Europa gerichtet sind (aber die USA nicht erreichen könnten).

Unter Missachtung all dessen beschuldigte der EU-Vertreter bei der UNO Russland, den INF-Vertrag sabotiert zu haben, und kündigte die Oppositionsabstimmung aller Länder der Union an, weil “die von Russland vorgelegte Resolution die zur Debatte stehende Frage vermeidet”. Im Grunde hat die Europäische Union daher grünes Licht für die mögliche Aufstellung  neuer US-Raketen in Europa, einschließlich Italien, gegeben.

In einer so wichtigen Frage hat die Regierung Conte, wie ihre Vorgänger, die Ausübung der nationalen Souveränität aufgegeben und sich der EU angeschlossen, die ihrerseits die Position der NATO unter dem Kommando der USA übernommen hat. Und über den gesamten politischen Bogen hinweg wurde keine einzige Stimme erhoben, um zu fordern, dass das Parlament über die Abstimmung in der UNO entscheidet. Und ebenso wurde im Parlament keine Stimme erhoben, um Italien aufzufordern, den Atomwaffensperrvertrag einzuhalten, der vorsieht, dass die USA ihre Atombomben B61 aus unserem Staatsgebiet abziehen und auch darauf verzichten müssen, hier ab dem ersten Halbjahr 2020 die neuen und noch gefährlicheren B61-12 zu aufzustellen.

Dies ist also ein neuer Verstoß gegen das grundlegende Verfassungsprinzip, dass “die Souveränität dem Volk gehört”. Und da der politisch-mediale Apparat die Italiener in Unkenntnis dieser so wichtigen Fragen wiegt, ist er auch eine Verletzung unseres Rechts auf Information, nicht nur im Sinne der Freiheit zu informieren, sondern auch des Rechts darauf, informiert zu werden.

Wir müssen dies jetzt tun, sonst bleibt morgen keine Zeit für eine Entscheidung – eine Mittelstreckenrakete kann ihr Ziel mit ihrem Atomsprengkopf in 6 bis 11 Minuten erreichen und zerstören.

Manlio Dinucci

 

Übersetzung aus dem Englischen: K.R.

Quelle: il manifesto (Italien)

VIDEO (PandoraTV) :

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The US Air Force is putting China on notice as it announced Friday a new deployment of three B-2 Spirit stealth bombers to Hawaii for training in the Pacific. The nuclear-capable aircraft departed Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and touched down at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii, along with 200 support personnel airmen, as part of a U.S Strategic Command-led Bomber Task Force mission. 

One defense analyst recently called the increase in B-2 bomber deployments to Hawaii “China’s nightmare, and something Beijing should get use to.”

 “Deploying to Hawaii enables us to showcase to a large American and international audience that the B-2 is on watch 24 hours a day, seven days a week ready to protect our country and its allies,” military spokesman Lt. Col. Joshua Dorr said in a statement.

Though a Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs press release did not expressly mention China, Beijing has reacted aggressively to a number of routine US long-range flyovers in the Pacific and South China Sea regions over the past year, including “close call” incidents involving Chinese intercept attempts of US vessels passing through what China claims as its own territorial waters. “Its presence in the Hawaiian Islands stands as a testament to enhanced regional security,” the US military statement continued.

The Air Force statement further touted the B-2’s ability to “penetrate an enemy’s most sophisticated defenses,” as well as “put at risk their most valuable targets” due to its “low-observable, or stealth, characteristics”. The statement continued, “This training is crucial to maintaining our regional interoperability. It affords us the opportunity to work with our allies in joint exercises and validates our always-ready global strike capability.”

Previously, B-2 bombers were operational in Guam in support of regional allies at a moment of escalating tensions between North Korea and the US in 2017 over Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

A B-2 Spirit bomber lands at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, on Jan. 10, 2019. Image source: USAF, Senior Airman Thomas Barley

Crucially, though this latest deployment is being described as “routine” it is only the second time the B-2 Spirits have been sent to Hawaii, and in the largest numbers, after an initial training run in the Pacific in October. At the time Maj. Gen. Stephen Williams, the director of air and cyberspace operations at the Pacific Air Forces headquarters, noted the bombers “helped ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific” — language frequently used by US officials in response to China’s condemnations of the recent uptick of American operational activity near southeast Asia.

As recently as December Chinese officials issued threats against what was described as American military “meddling in China’s affairs”. For example Dai Xu –  President of the Institute of Marine Safety and Cooperation, and a PLA Air Force Colonel Commandant, recently stated:

“If the U.S. warships break into Chinese waters again, I suggest that two warships should be sent: one to stop it, and another one to ram it… In our territorial waters, we won’t allow US warships to create disturbance.”

“The US keeps meddling in China’s affairs, so why can’t China go to areas like Hawaii where the US is dominant,” he added. Xu was referring to the frequent Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs) conducted by the United States in the South China Sea.

Regarding the new B-2 deployment to Hawaii, it will be interesting to see just how close the advanced nuclear-capable stealth bombers come to airspace in which Beijing has issued prior threats to US planes. Last August, for example, a US Navy P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance plane flying over the regionally disputed Spratley Islands in the South China Sea was told Leave immediately and keep out to avoid any misunderstanding” in a series of radio communicated warnings from the Chinese military. China has also told US allied forces like the armed forces of the Philippines, “Leave immediately or you will pay”.

The dramatic inflight recording of China’s warnings during an early August 2018 incident below (starts at :50 mark):

In response to the belligerent Chinese radio communications to “leave immediately” the US crew cited that the plane was conducting lawful activities over international territory. Under international law, a country’s airspace is considered to be 12 nautical miles distant from the coastline of the nation. But Beijing has of late laid claim to more and more territory surrounding its controversial string of man-made artificial islands, and claiming further the skies above as sovereign Chinese airspace, which the US has refused to recognize.

But considering the Northrop Grumman built B-2 stealth bomber is by design extremely difficult to detect by radar, allowing it to penetrate sophisticated enemy anti-air defenses, Beijing will have to find it first.

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Campaign Finance Reform Helps Special Interests

January 14th, 2019 by Rep. Ron Paul

One of the new Democratic House majority’s top priorities is so-called campaign finance reform legislation. Contrary to the claims of its supporters, campaign finance reform legislation does not limit the influence of powerful special interests. Instead, it violates the First Amendment and burdens those seeking real change in government.

The First Amendment of the Constitution forbids Congress from interfering in any way with any citizen’s ability to influence government policies. Spending money to support candidates and causes is one way individuals influence government policies. Therefore, laws limiting and regulating donations to campaigns and organizations that work to change government policies violate the First Amendment.One very troubling aspect of campaign finance reform laws is forcing organizations involved in “electioneering” to hand over the names of their top donors to the federal government. Electioneering is broadly defined to include informing the public of candidates’ positions and records, even if the group in question focuses solely on advancing issues and ideas. Burdening these types of organizations will make it harder for individuals to learn the truth about candidates’ positions.

America has a long and distinguished tradition of anonymous political speech. Both the Federalist and the Anti-Federalist papers where published anonymously. As Justice John Marshall Harlan wrote in NAACP v. Alabama, where the Supreme Court upheld the NAACP’s right to keep its membership list confidential,

“Inviolability of privacy in group association may in many circumstances be indispensable to preservation of freedom of association, particularly where a group espouses dissident beliefs.”

Supporters of groups with “dissident beliefs” have good reason to fear new disclosure laws. In 2014, the IRS had to pay 50,000 dollars to the National Organization for Marriage because an IRS employee leaked donors names to the organization’s opponents. Fortunately, the Trump administration has repealed the regulation forcing activist groups to disclose their donors to the IRS. Unfortunately, Congress seems poised to reinstate that rule.

In recent years, we have seen the rise of authoritarian political movements that think harassment and even violence against those with differing views are acceptable tactics. Can anyone doubt that activists in these movements would do all they could to obtain the lists of donors to groups that oppose their agenda? They may be able to obtain the lists either by hacking government databases or by having a sympathetic federal employee “accidentally” leak the names.

As long as businesses can profit by currying favor with politicians and bureaucrats who have the power to reward or punish them via subsidies and regulations, powerful interests will find a way to influence the political process. These special interests seek out and reward politicians who support policies favoring their interests. So foreign policy hawks can count on generous support from the military-industrial complex, supporters of corporatist health care systems like Obamacare can count on generous support from the health insurance-pharma complex, and apologists for the Federal Reserve can count on support from the big banks.

Special interests do not favor free-market capitalism. Instead, they favor a mixed economy where government protects the profits of large business interests. That is why big business is more likely to support a progressive or a “moderate” than a libertarian. Campaign finance and donor disclosure laws will make it harder for grassroots liberty activists to challenge the corporatist status quo. Those wishing to get big money out of politics should work to get politics out of all aspects of the economy.

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Early on January 12, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) carried out an airstrike on Syria. According to reports, Israeli warplanes, coming from the direction of Galilee, fired several missiles at a depot in the Damascus International Airport. The Syrian Air Defense Forces reportedly intercepted at least 8 of them.

Following the airstrike, Israeli warplanes were seen flying at high speed and low altitude over the southern Lebanese city of Tyre.

On January 13, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that the IAF had targeted several “Iranian depots full of Iranian weapons in the Damascus International Airport”.

This incident was the second Israeli attack on Syria within a few weeks. On December 25, Israeli warplanes targeted several military positions around the Syrian capital. While Israeli sources claimed that the positions were being used by Iranian forces only, the airstrikes injured several Syrian service members.

During the weekend, the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) held a military exercise involving battle tanks in the Hatay province bordering the Syrian province of Idlib. TAF units were deployed in Hatay’s Yayladagi region.

Meanwhile, Jaysh al-Ahrar, a part of the Turkish-backed National Front for Liberation (NFL) coalition, has handed over Taftanaz airbase in the eastern Idlib countryside to Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda).

According to the available information, this step was a part of a surrender agreement which the NFL accepted few days ago. The Turkish-backed group will also have to hand over all of its heavy weapons in Idlib to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham soon.

The Taftanaz airbase was one of the key NFL strong points in this part of the Idlib de-escalation zone. The surrender of this point to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham just another indication that the terrorist group is the main “armed opposition force” in this part of Syria.

At the late hours of January 12, a unit of the Syrian Military Intelligence carried out a security operation in the town of Ayn Firkha in the southern governorate of al-Quneitra. Two suspects, Khalid Diab and Ali Diab, were arrested during the operation. Some Syrian opposition activists claimed that Syrian agents killed a civilian also. However, the pro-opposition Orient TV said that the agents shoot and injured a third suspect.

Such operations are usually carried out against members of terrorist groups, like ISIS and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), or against local operatives of the Israeli intelligence. Prior to its liberation in 2018, Ayn Firkha and many other towns in southern Syria were full of members of terrorist groups and Israeli spies, according to pro-government sources.

Last month, the Syrian intelligence neutralized prominent al-Qaeda commander Ayad al-Tubasi while he was plotting to re-launch an insurgency in southern Syria. In different periods, the infamous terrorist was member of Jabhat al-Nusra and Horas al-Din.

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William Barr’s confirmation to become Attorney General will take place January 15-16, 2019.  This article was originally published on December 12, 2018. The serious questions raised in the piece remain completely unanswered.

Read the author’s previous article on this topic.

Why was Barr chosen, given his shocking and deeply criminal/cover-up kingpin background?

Was Trump duped by Deep State enemies, who have placed another predator into his administration with the power to destroy his presidency? Or has Trump co-opted and turned Barr, in the hopes that Barr will do Trump’s bidding? Why would Barr ever turn against his own Deep State cronies?

Does Trump have a plan? With Barr in place, is Trump signaling to his enemies that “I now own the Deep State”? Or is Barr the Deep State’s ultimate and final weapon against Trump, who remains surrounded by Bush/Clinton “swamp creatures” such as National Security Adviser John Bolton, who is one of Barr’s many fellow Iran-Contra co-conspirators, Vice President Mike Pence (who is in ideal position for a coup against Trump, and remains very cozy with the Clintons, dozens of Obama appointees that remain in place, and Republican “Never Trumpers”, all of whom continue to undermine Trump.

Pay careful attention to the confirmation “hearings”. How many of the senators “questioning” Barr are themselves connected to the Bush/Clinton era criminal operations that Barr supervised as George H.W. Bush’s attorney general?

Will anyone in Washington, or in the CIA asset-filled mainstream media, dare bring up Iran-Contra? Will anyone dare detail Barr’s corruption, and his longstanding ties to the Bush/Clinton network? What about the fact that Barr is best friends with Robert Mueller?

Even the alternative media, including the whistleblowing research-intensive pro-Trump anon community, has been virtually silent on Barr, despite the fact that his criminal history is glaringly obvious, lurid, and begging to be exposed.

Rumors abound that slippery Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is expected to leave the Justice Department following Barr’s likely confirmation. This further clears the way for Barr to seize the power to determine the fate of the Mueller probe, the John Huber (Inspector General) report, FISAgate, Clinton emails, Uranium One, and other key investigations.

William Barr could well determine the course of the political war between President Donald Trump and his enemies, and decide  the fate of Donald Trump’s presidency itself.

Read the author’s previous article on this topic.

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US forces came to Syria, Iraq, elsewhere in the region, and virtually everywhere else worldwide to stay. Bolton and Pompeo made similar comments on Syria, indicating no timeline for withdrawal.

US forces will stay indefinitely – on the phony pretext of combatting the scourge of ISIS Washington created and supports, along with protecting Kurds in northern parts of the country the US doesn’t give a hoot about.

They’re used as US proxy forces, to be abandoned when no longer needed. Pompeo saying “America will not retreat until the terror fight is over” is code language for permanent occupation where US forces are deployed, notably in the Middle East.

On Friday, Turkish defense minister Hulusi Akar said preparations are continuing “intensely” for attacking Kurdish YPG fighters in northern Syria, adding:

Ankara is determined to combat them wherever they’re located, while pretending opposition to jihadists in Syria the Erdogan regime supports.

The country faces no cross-border terrorist threats from Syria or Iraq. No “terrorist corridor” exists along its southern border with these countries.

Last week, Erdogan said he’ll order a cross-border incursion into Syria “very soon” to combat YPG fighters and ISIS he earlier supported and likely still does.

SouthFront reported that Turkish-backed Jaysh al-Ahrar Salafi jihadists “handed over (the) Taftanaz airbase in the eastern Idlib countryside (and its heavy weapons) to Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham” – al-Nusra terrorists, more evidence of Erdogan’s support for jihadists he claims to oppose.

Pompeo vowed to “expel every last Iranian boot” from Syria, indicating US aggression in the country will continue endlessly, including terror-bombing of vital infrastructure, continuing to massacre civilians on the phony pretext of combatting ISIS.

It’s unclear how many US troops are in Iraq and Syria. The Pentagon is highly secretive. Virtually all its public statements lack credibility.

According to the Arabic-language al-Maaloumeh news website, over 20,000 US troops are based in al-Anbar, Erbil and Kirkuk, Iraq. The Pentagon earlier claimed 5,200, another 2,000 in Syria, the true numbers likely multiples greater.

According to the Military Times (MT), quarterly Pentagon reports on numbers of troops serving overseas ceased including data on Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.

“The Defense Department has also now scrubbed years worth of the previous quarterly reports from the website,” MT added.

Declared troop strength abroad by countries is highly suspect. Scrubbing previously reported data has nothing to do with protecting the safety military personnel in certain countries, as the Pentagon claimed – everything to do with secrecy and lack of transparency.

A 20,000-US force contingent in Iraq would indicate the country is the Pentagon’s main platform for regional wars. Bordering Syria means US troops can move cross-border between both countries, depending on what missions are ordered.

Trump’s unannounced December trip to Iraq was shrouded in secrecy, landing at a US airbase, not Baghdad, visiting Pentagon forces, not puppet Iraqi officials.

Pompeo flew to Iraq on a military plane, his visit and DLT’s indicating the country is US-occupied territory – whatever the numbers of US troops there.

Reportedly, the Pentagon is reinforcing its military bases in Syria’s northeastern Aleppo and Raqqa provinces – more evidence of Washington’s intention to stay in the country.

Claims otherwise appear to be head-fake deception. The US doesn’t wage wars to quit or deploy troops abroad to pull out.

Previous articles explained that thousands more US forces were deployed to Iraq’s Kirkuk province, new US bases being built in the country and neighboring Syria.

Hundreds of US truckloads of weapons, munitions, and equipment were sent to Pentagon bases in Deir Ezzor, Syria.

Bolton, Pompeo, and Pentagon Joint Chiefs oppose Trump’s pullout announcement. US forces are in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere to stay indefinitely, not leave.

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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.

National Security Advisor John Bolton is making the rounds in the Middle East to try and salvage what’s left of the long-standing plan to balkanize Syria and overthrow President Bashar al-Assad in the wake of President Trump’s announced troop withdrawal.

What began as a political Hail Mary for Trump has morphed into a foreign policy quagmire for Bolton and the bloody-minded neoconservatives he is the tip of the spear for.

Bolton first met fellow war criminal Benjamin Netanyahu to announce their conditions under which US troops would leave Syria. The big sticking point was getting the Turks to guarantee the safety of the Kurdish militia, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), that have been the US proxy forces in securing that part of Syria east of the Euphrates river for future plans vis-à-vis Iraq and Iran.

His condition for the US’s withdrawal from Syria is just another impossible demand placed on Turkey, who can no more guarantee the Kurds’ survival than Russia could implement the Minsk II agreement in Ukraine.

This is yet another big lie neocons like Bolton have been parroting since Trump’s announcement. They are desperate to convince us their mission in Syria is a humanitarian one. The Kurds are their casus belli of the day, dressed up for the liberal interventionist left to rally around.

Since Trump’s announcement we have been saturated with the idea that the Turks will come in and slaughter every Kurd in Syria if the US pulls out. This is something Pompeo was taken to task for by Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy who said Pompeo exhibited a “worrying lack of knowledge” about the situation in Syria, since Turkey houses currently over 300,000 Syrian Kurdish refugees from the fighting the US fomented.

It is a continuation of the thoroughly debunked and false narrative that Assad is a butcher, Putin is only there for the gas pipelines and America is actually fighting ISIS.

ISIS, the very terrorists we armed to overthrow Assad in the first place.

We’re there for humanitarian reasons, the same way we’re supporting the Saudi war in Yemen, maintaining a no-fly zone over the border crossing at Al-Tanf while the people who live there starve.

And all John Bolton can think or care about is Great Powers theory and how to destroy the Heartland as defined by Makinder a century ago.

In their desperation to hold onto the dregs of their strategic position, something that the pro-Syrian coalition is degrading daily, Bolton, Pompeo and Netanyahu have now turned to the Kurds who know the US doesn’t care about them to justify more regional chaos.

If they thought otherwise the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), the political arm of the YPG, wouldn’t be negotiating with the Assad government.

Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Syrian Special Envoy James Jeffrey, neocons and Israeli-Firsters all, have been furiously trying to drum up support for a permanent partitioning of Syria that has been described by those who have seen the plan as “Sykes-Picot on acid.”

As Moon of Alabama points out, Trump has been against this plan from the beginning. Surprisingly enough, so has the Pentagon. Bolton and Pompeo’s plan is so daft, so obviously being pushed by forces outside of the White House itself, that even the Washington Post had to admit to the Pentagon’s resistance to it.

Bolton’s Iran plan never really took effect at the Pentagon, where officials were not officially tasked with any new mission in addition to the operation against the Islamic State. Military officials likewise viewed Iran’s expansion into Syria as problematic, but they were skeptical about the lack of a clear legal justification that would be required for offensive military action against Iranian-backed forces.

It’s obvious that Bolton and Pompeo both are trying to tie Trump’s hands by issuing public statements that contradict what they know of his wishes. They have routinely gone out and contravened him on many issues, overstating our goals or putting forth policy statements which Trump then does not back up.

And the problem is that Trump isn’t against the Syria operation on principle. He couldn’t possibly do that, since he doesn’t have any. No, Trump doesn’t see the return on investment for America. And so, in his balance-sheet-focused mind Syria is a drain and therefore the troops can come home.

He’ll use other means, like sanctions and threats to allies, to get Iran to do what he wants, which is to try and secure a Middle East safe for Israel by dismantling Iran’s position in central Asia.

But, that’s as much a fantasy as Bolton’s psychedelic Skyes-Picot plan. Because it is pretty obvious to anyone observing this situation that the Pro-Syrian coalition – Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and China – are simply running a game of attrition against the Boltons and the Pompeos as well as Netanyahu.

The solution is coming into focus. Turkey can’t make good on its promises to Russia over the situation in Idleb, nullifying the agreement between them since the de-militarized zone has failed.

Israel cannot effectively strike Syria anymore and has to resort to cowardly attacks using civilians as human shields. And the US can no longer maintain its position in al-Hasakah and Deir Ezzor if the SDF wishes them gone.

Somehow, John Bolton thinks that 2000 men cannot only carve out a permanent US-backed Kurdistan with Turkey’s acceptance along its border with Syria, force all Iranian troops and support from Syria and overthrow Assad and that constitutes a winning hand to go a’negotiating with.

Bolton went around the Middle East looking for takers and found only Israel while everyone else looked at him like, “Buddy, the 70’s are over.” His moustache is as outdated as his view of America’s role in the Middle East.

Unfortunately, Trump is in no position politically to fire him.

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Tom Luongo is an independent political and economic analyst based in North Florida, USA

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Political Prisoners in America

January 14th, 2019 by J. B. Gerald

Writing from another country I remember the Americans I’m supposed to forget, those forced into the lives that made them prisoners or simply targets of law enforcement programs. Some are religious people, Christians and Muslims. Many were Black Panthers. Some were and are radicals. Most are Americans.

All cared for their communities and people. They were condemned by society at large. Under the FBI’s COINTELPRO activists in the Sixties and Seventies political and community movements but particularly the Black Panthers were targeted and hunted and engaged in fire-fights by law enforcement. Any police casualty brought charges of murder in court. How many community leaders were convicted for killing a police person? And yet through many years have maintained their innocence despite the mechanism which increases the chance for parole if a crime is confessed and regretted. One reason I don’t forget them is because I don’t really believe they’re guilty. Here are updates for some political prisoners in the U.S.. (1)

Among U.S. political prisoners with the roots of imprisonment in the last century, is Rap Brown (Hubert Gerold Brown), known today as Imam Jamil Al-Amin. As a young leader he was pissed, acerbic and unafraid. His late speeches are devout, eloquent, historically wise, American, concerned with the survival of his people, and religiously humble. His rhetoric frightened U.S. law enforcement since the 1960’s. Convicted of murdering a police person (a crime confessed to by someone else with accuracy, three times – then recanted), maintaining his own innocence Al-Amin was sentenced in 2002 to life imprisonment without parole. Placed in a maximum security prison and principally in solitary confinement far from friends, supporters, family for years, he was transferred to Eastern U.S. prisons for medical treatment with several medical conditions which the prison system was slow to diagnose and treat. He was found to have a rare form of blood cancer. His writings are suppressed. He’s not permitted interviews.(2) With 16 years in prison, currently an appeal of his conviction slowly makes its way through appeals court. I think he’s silenced because he’s a wise man. Wasted by his country yet of deep human value he continues to frighten the establishment because he provides a bridge of peace between Islam and Christianity. When the struggle becomes conscious then we understand that we don’t have an option. Struggle is the price you pay for your soul. We all doing life without parole.   – Imam Jamil Al-Amin

Abu Hamza al-Masri, born Mustafa Kamel Mustafa in Egypt, is a British Imam with a reputation for hating people he considers enemies of Islam. He was extradited to the U.S. to face trial in a Manhattan court not too far from the former World Trade Center(s), for alleged war related crimes in Yemen, Afghanistan and Oregon. At his trial the jury wasn’t allowed to hear substantial evidence of his work for M-15 British Intelligence. Allegations against him were not based on any violence he committed but on his alleged responsibility for crimes; most of the evidence presented was his words, sermons, statements, opinions, feelings, his freedom of expression.(3) He wasn’t found guilty of hate speech but of 11 counts of terrorism, and he is serving a life-without-parole sentence in the U.S. supermax prison, ADX Florence Colorado, essentially in solitary confinement, in “a cage like cell.” Since apparently the conditions of his incarceration violate human rights law prohibitions against torture and degrading treatment,(4) contravening the conditions of his extradition from Europe to the U.S., the Imam has appealed for removal to prison in Great Britain. He is blind and missing both hands which were lost in an explosion when he was younger (British media have continually referred to him as “the Hook”). With diabetes and psoriasis as well, under U.S. prison conditions at ADX Florence the stumps of his arms become continually infected.

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An American, a Robert F. Wagner High School and Brooklyn College graduate who earned his M.A. in international relations in London, Fahad Hashmi, as a Muslim was targeted for association with radical friends and was extradited from England to New York, held in solitary for three years before trial, was threatened with a 70 year sentence for storing a friend’s luggage which held clothing for Al-Quaeda, and was sentenced on a plea bargain to 15 years which he is serving at ADX Florence, the supermax facility. Relying on technicalities and the prisoner’s innocence, the prosecution and imprisonment of Fahad Hashmi affirmed American law but betrayed American justice.

In 2018 Jalil Muntaqim (Anthony Bottom) was denied parole for the 9th time. According to Jericho New York he “was convicted of the 1971 murders of two New York City police officers, a crime for which he accepted responsibility and demonstrated remorse. During his 47 years in prison, Jalil earned two college degrees and served as a counselor, teacher and role model for other incarcerated people. Jalil is a rehabilitated individual who poses no risk to the community. He will be appealing this very disappointing decision.”(5)

Held for 22 years in solitary confinement in 2016 former Black Panther Russell “Maroon” Shoatz won through a legal action against Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections his reprieve from continual solitary confinement, as well as $99,000; his case commenced in 1973 protested the prison’s cruel and unusual punishment. The United Nations Special rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez noted the conditions of Shoatz’s imprisonment as outside a civilized norm.

Dr. Mutulu Shakur (Jeral Wayne Williams) once of the Black Liberation Army (Black Panthers) was sentenced in 1988 to sixty years on RICO conspiracy charges and for bank robberies which involved deaths of guards and police. Led to believe he would be released Feb. 10, 2016 due to laws in force at the time, he wasn’t released and was given a parole hearing for Dec.16, 2016, his 8th. Parole was denied. The government is suspected of psychologically tormenting the well-respected Dr. Shakur so that he might confess to masterminding the 1979 prison escape of Assata Shakur. In March 2018 Mutulu Shakur filed suit against the federal government for his release alleging violation of his First Amendment Rights (principally his free speech) by the Parole Board as the reason for denying his release. (6)

Arrested in April 1985, according to Wikipedia Thomas William Manning is expected to complete his current prison term in 2020, at which point he is to begin his next prison term of 80 years for another set of charges including the murder of a New Jersey police officer. Manning was convicted of shooting back after the officer emptied his gun at Manning and his group of families. The inhumanity of the sentencing was always intended to render the prisoner without hope. Attempts to trash and humiliate Tom Manning, American, a Vietnam veteran, and each of the Ohio Seven (“United Freedom Front”, “Sam Melville Brigade”) suggests the bitter hostility of the system to white working class people if they assert both socialism and a brotherhood of black and white. In prison Manning has held to uncompromised anti-racist, American truths strongly, constantly, with hope, paintings and words. In 2006 a show of his artwork was canceled by a timorous University of Maine. (7)

Jaan Laaman, also of the “Ohio Seven” (“United Freedom Front”, “Sam Melville Brigade”), is serving a 53 year prison term, following a 45 year prison term. Both by court action and example he has become known as an advocate for rights of freedom of expression for prisoners, in 1977 winning his State Supreme Court case against the New Hampshire State Prison to receive his reading materials which is said to have opened prisoner education programs through New Hampshire. He is a founder of the website 4strugglemag.org, an outlet for prison writing. On March 21, 2017, he was placed in solitary confinement for violating communications protocols (issuing of statements which apparently the prison system did not favour). He’s also threatened with transfer to a CMU (Communications Management Unit) to completely segregate his communications from the outside world.(8)

mumia

The histories of John Africa’s movement and Mumia Abu-Jamal have been interwoven from the start in the tragedies which took people of faith from their lives and community, where the children of some were shot by police, where community workers and pragmatic idealists were ground up by the system’s violence. From one perspective they were falsely accused honest people, put in jail under insufferable sentences to silence them about the crimes committed against John Africa’s “family” by the Philadelphia police. The best known witness Mumia Abu-Jamal who reported on the police bombing of the MOVE residence by Philadelphia police was subsequently charged with murder of a police officer and placed on death row. The injustices of his charges and trials, and courts and judges and incarcerations and threats of death against all of them are a grocery list of white racism to keep the black community in line, and Mumia Abu-Jamal’s history is mythic in his survival over death row, beating his medical death sentence beating the silence imposed on him, to become one of the best known writers and revolutionary writers-from-prison in history. Under a ruling Dec. 28, 2018 by Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge, Leon Tucker, Mumia Abu-Jamal is finally granted an opportunity to argue for his freedom in a retrial. Judge Tucker found that the judge who presided over Abu-Jamal’s previous and thought to be final appeal should have recused himsef. (9) A day later six cartons of materials thought to be related to Mumia’s case were discovered in the Philadelphia D.A.’s storage room. After assessment and if necessary these may provide Abu-Jamal’s lawyers with leverage for additional appeals.(10)

Mike Africa of the MOVE 9 was finally released on parole Oct. 23, 2018. One of nine MOVE members convicted to 30 years imprisonment for the killing of one police officer who died of a single bullet wound in a police storming of the MOVE home; MOVE members were generally without arms and living under a peaceful ethic and it was always possible that the police officer was killed in the storm of gunfire from his fellow officers. Historically, the severity of the sentencing seems to have been an attempt to silence witnessing of the many police crimes in the Philadelphia Police’s handling of John Africa’s community group.

Compared to others here the Kings Bay Plowshares are up against comparatively short sentences for comparatively harmless actions. The religious basis of their protest against the full power of nuclear militarized America is also problematic, in that they were arrested because they chose to confront the government, rather than through the government’s need to oppress them. For nearly half a century the Plowshares movement has broken the security of Nuclear submarines, missile silos and facilities to hammer on nuclear weapons, beating swords into plowshares. Their symbolic acts of faith are like prayer a worship of something stronger and more sacred than the weapons of mass destruction and as a group its members have, without injuring others been sent to prison for months to several years at a time. They’re a help to the anti-prison movement in that they’re innocent of crimes against other people and yet are condemned and treated as criminal. At their King’s Bay Florida action April 4, 2018 having presented their passion play for Christ carrying real hammers, real blood amid real nuclear weapons they were arrested with a sign quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “The ultimate logic of racism is genocide,” and began their long tedious journey through a court system challenging the faith of those in the court system. Once a decision is made concerning the “religious freedom motions” (the defendants were allowed the opportunity to present the court with the religious motivation for their actions as pleas for dismissal), the case could be dismissed or a trial date set before the end of January.(11)

In 2003 Dr. Rafil Dhafir was taken from his medical practice in upstate New York and sentenced to 22 years, not for any alleged violence but for sending medical supplies to the children of Iraq, victims of the U.S. and Coalition bombing campaigns. He was born in Iraq. His attempts to alleviate the suffering of the children there by supplying medicines, was in no way wrong though through misuse and misapplication of the law was made illegal. Medical supplies were wrongly embargoed. Dr. Dhafir as a Muslim, was referred to as a suspected terrorist by New York’s Governor Pataki . To avoid his appearance as a humanitarian the FBI also prosecuted him for medicare fraud and money laundering. Dr. Dhafir donated over a million dollars of his own for medical supplies to children. When a petition for Executive Clemency was prepared for him he refused to ask for mercy as a criminal because he committed no crime. Under Federal guidelines Dr. Dhafir is eligible because of his age for release since he has served at least 10 years (16 years in February) but his release requires the warden’s approval; that hasn’t happened. Katherine Hughes followed the injustices of Dr. Dhafir’s arrest, trial and conviction.(12) She quotes Dennis Halliday who resigned as chief of the UN’s Humanitarian Aid program in Iraq, 1997-98, because he found the sanctions against Iraq, genocide. Of Dr. Dhafir he said, “I am stunned by the conviction of this humanitarian, especially as the US State Department breached its own sanctions to the tune of $10 billion. The policy of sanctions against Iraq undermined not only the UN’s own charter, but the Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Convention as well.” Dr. Dhafir was obeying humanitarian law. By denying medical supplies to a civilian population it had decimated, the U.S. was violating the Convention on Genocide. Dr. Dhafir was placed in prison because he was innocent, and because the U.S. legal system has been denying its people the use of the Nuremberg defense, the citizen’s need to counter his or her country’s acts of genocide.

Dr. Aafia Siddiqui suffered a very strange conviction by a New York City jury which found her guilty of attempting to assault and murder the U.S. military personnel who were holding her prisoner in Afghanistan. As their prisoner Ms. Siddiqui was shot by them in the stomach. Tried in New York the young mother of three was peculiarly sentenced by a New York City judge to 86 years in prison. Currently the Government of Pakistan is attempting to counter this madness by seeking her return to serve the rest of her sentence in her own country. There is evidence that she has been additionally damaged in U.S. government custody. She was able to complain of physical abuse and sexual abuse at the hands of prison officials in Texas, to Pakistan’s consul general. She accused male prison staff of urinating on things belonging to her. The gratuitous severe abuse of Ms. Siddiqui by U.S. authorities is not traditionally American and may be a psyops program to dehumanize Muslims, women or both, preparing the public for greater indecencies.

Ramiro “Ramsey” Muñiz, an Hispanic community leader who ran for Governor of Texas for the Raza Unida Party in 1972 and 1974, was multiply arrested in 1994 on what seemed to be manufactured drug charges and was sentenced to life without parole. The Raza Unida Party was hurt badly and may have been the government’s target when it incapacitated Muñiz. He and his wife have always asserted his innocence and lobbied many years for his pardon and release. Now ill, on Dec. 10, 2018 he was released from Lexington Federal Medical Center (Kentucky) “on compassionate grounds under federal supervision.”(13)

Juvenal Ovidio Ricardo Palmera Pineda (whose nom de guerre is Simón Trinidad) was extradited to the U.S. when captured as a rebel FARC leader in Colombia. A Colombian professor and peace strategist, accounts of U.S. government trials against him reveal juries that wouldn’t convict him, numerous mistrials and one confused conviction for holding 3 Americans hostage (in a war zone controlled by FARC forces) for which he was sentenced to sixty years. Wikipedia reports that he’s held in the ADX Florence Colorado supermax prison in solitary confinement. Colombia’s civil war is officially at peace. He’s a prisoner of war after the war is over, If released and deported he would face multiple charges under the current Colombian government.

Anayibe Rojas Valderrama of FARC with the war name,”Sonia,” was captured in Colombia in 2004, and extradited by the Americans to face drug charges. She was convicted on drug charges Feb. 20, 2007 in Washington D.C. to serve a sentence of 16 years. After serving 11 she was released on good behaviour and deported to Colombia last August where she was immediately charged with money laundering.(14)

On May 17, 2017, Oscar López Rivera was released from prison by President Obama. The Puerto Rican nationalist had served 55 years in U.S. prisons.

Initially eligible for parole in 1998 but denied parole ten times, Robert Seth Hayes was finally granted parole July 24, 2018, after 45 years in prison.

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This article was originally published on the author’s blog site: Night’s Lantern.

Notes

1. My most recent essay updating American political prisoners appeared in 2016: “The torture of U.S. political prisoners: some updates” (2016), nightslantern.ca].

2. “The unofficial gag order of Jamil Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown): 16 years in prison, still not allowed to speak,” Obaid H. Siddiqui, June 30, 2018, SF BayView.

3. “Abu Hamza found guilty of 11 terrorism charges,” Karen McVeigh, May 20, 2014, The Guardian.

4. “Hate preacher Abu Hamza: US prison is too tough,” Callum Adams, Dec. 17, 2017, The telegraph.

5. “Jalil Muntaqim Denied Parole Once Again!” Current. https://jerichony.org/.

6. “Tupac’s Father, Mutulu Shakur , files Lawsuit against the U.S. Government for Illegally Holding Him in Prison,” Sha Be Allah, March 29, 2018, thesource.com.

7. A background note: in the 1970’s Manning and his group which included several Vietnam veterans, worked out of an alternative bookstore in Portland Maine, community organizing, caring for prisoners and their families, antiwar and anti-racist. Portland police discovered a death squad in police ranks with the intention of disappearing the group. The bookstore was broken into, an employee raped, and they were under continuing threat from the KKK.

8. “Political prisoner Jaan Laaman is still being held in segregation,” staff, May 25, 2017, 4strugglemag.

9. “Judge: Mumia Abu-Jamal can reargue appeal in 1981 Philly police slaying,” Bobby Allyn, Dec. 28, 2018, WhyY News.

10. “A Potentially Tectonic Event Shakes up the Mumia Abu-Jamal Case,” Dave Lindorff, Jan. 11, 2019, Counterpunch.

11. “Update on the Kings Bay Plowshares,” Dec 27, 2018 / “Legal Update,” Bill Quigley, Nov. 19, 2018, The Nuclear Resister.

12. “Is this Fairness? Is this Justice? Post-9/11 Muslim Charity Prosecution,” Katherine Hughes, Sept. 20, 2014, Truthout. Her website DhafirTrial is recommended.

13. “Hispanic activist Ramsey Muniz free after 24 years in prison,” AP, Jan. 9, 2019, KRISTV.COM.

14. “No Peace in Colombia as ex-FARC Guerrilla Sonia Awaits Release From US Prison,” W.T. Whitney, July 30, 2018, counterpunch; “Tras ser deportada a Colombia, alias “Sonia” será procesada por lavado de activos,” Judicial, Sept. 25, 2018, El Espectador.

Featured image is from the author

Is there such a plane of blissful, balanced information, deliberated and debated upon?  No.  Governments mangle; corporations distort.  Interest groups tinker.  Wars must be sold; deception must be perpetrated.  Inconsistencies must be removed.  There will be success, measured in small doses; failure, dispatched in grand servings. 

The nature of news, hollow as it is, is to fill the next segment for the next release, a promiscuous delivery, an amoral ejaculate.  The notion a complicated world can somehow be compressed into a press release, a brief, an observation, is sinister and defeating.   

The believers in an objective, balanced news platform are there.  Grants are forked out for such romantic notions as news with integrity, directed to increase “trust in news”, which is tantamount to putting your trust in an institution which has been placed on the mortician’s table.  The Trump era has seen a spike in such funding, but it belies a fundamental misconception about what news is. 

Funny, then, that the environment should now be so neatly split: the Russians (always) seen to distort from a central programme, while no one else does.  The Kremlin manipulates feeble minds; virtuous powers do not.  The most powerful nation on the planet claims to be free of this, the same country that boasts cable news networks and demagoguery on the airwaves that have a distinct allergy against anything resembling balanced reporting, many backed by vast funding mechanisms for political projects overseas.  Britain, faded yet still nostalgically imperial, remains pure with the BBC, known as the Beeb, a sort of immaculate conception of news that purportedly survives manipulation.  Other deliverers of news through state channels also worship the idol of balance – Australia’s ABC, for one, asserts that role.

We are the left with a distinct, and ongoing polarisation, where Russia, a country relatively less influential than other powers in terms of heft and demography, has become a perceived monster wielding the influence of a behemoth on the course of history.  Shades and shadows assume the proportions of flesh and meat.  The fact that the largest country on the planet has interests, paranoias and insecurities other countries share is not deemed relevant but a danger.  Russia must be deemed the exception, the grand perversion, a modern beast in need of containment.

Terry Thompson of the University of Maryland supplies readers with a delightfully binary reading, because the forested world of politics is, supposedly, easy to hive off and cultivate.  The woods will be ignored, and small, selective gardens nurtured.  The United States has been indifferent, even weak, before the Kremlin’s cheek and prodding ways, or so goes this line of thinking.  The time for change is nigh, and the freemen and women of the US imperium must take note.  A hoodwinked US will arise, and learn from those states who have suffered from Moscow’s designs! 

“After years of anaemic responses to Russian influence efforts, official US government policy now includes taking action to combat disinformation campaigns sponsored by Russia or other countries.”

In this intoxicated atmosphere comes the Scottish based Integrity Initiative, a “partnership of several independent institutions led by the Institute of Statecraft.  This international public programme was set up in 2015 to counter disinformation and other forms of malign influence being conducted by states and sub-state actors seeking to interfere in democratic processes and to undermine public confidence in national political institutions.”  

This low level clerk depiction is all good, a procedurally dull initiative designed to harden the mettle of debate against those who sneer and seek to discredit certain institutions.  Democracy is often the victim of such paper clip fillers and grant seekers.  Then comes the nub of the matter: the political thrust of this entire exercise.  Where did the Integrity Initiative get its pennies?  Moral citizens, perhaps?  Bookworms with deep pockets?

That political thrust was revealed, we are told, by a hack.  It came from the devil incarnate, those bear like fangs sharpened on the Russian steppes.  “It is of course a matter of deep regret,” came a statement from the group in November, “that Integrity Initiative documents have been stolen and posted online, still more so that, in breach of any defensible practice, Russian state propaganda outlets have published or re-published a large number of names and contact details.”  Transparency is a damn bugger, but forced transparency for outfits claiming that no one else practices it is an upending terror.

The revelations were striking on a few fronts.  Britain’s Labor Party had been a target, with the group’s Twitter account used to heap upon its leader, Jeremy Corbyn.  But more to the point, it blew the lid off the notion of pristine, exalted partiality.  Funding, it transpired, had been obtained, and in abundance, from that most self-interested of bodies, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.  In effect, monies had been supplied to the Initiative via a government body to attack the opposition, not exactly a very democratic practice. 

On December 3 lasts year, Sir Alan Duncan, in response to a question from Chris Williamson, the member for Derby North, claimed that the FCO had funded the Institute for Statecraft’s Integrity Initiative to the tune of £296,500 in the financial year 2017/8.  That amount has ballooned for the current financial year to the tune of £1,196,000.  “Such funding furthers our commitment to producing important work to counter disinformation and other malign influence.”  Russian practitioners could hardly have said it better themselves.  

The technique here remains dog-eared: discredit the hackers as criminal and sidestep the implications of the content revealed. 

“We note,” claimed the initiative, “both the attempts by Russian state propaganda outlets to amplify the volume of this leak; and the suggestion by a major Anonymous-linked Twitter account that the Kremlin subverted the banner of Anonymous to disguise their responsibility for it.”

In December, the group, as did Duncan, reiterated the notion that it was a “non-partisan programme of The Institute for Statecraft, a non-partisan charity which promotes good governance.”  On no occasion had the group “engaged in party political activity and would never take up a party-political stance.”  Charming in such insistence, if somewhat disingenuous: any statement with a political target is, by definition, political activity.  Not so for the Initiative, which claims that the FCO’s funding merely reflected “their appreciation of the importance of the threat, and a wish to support civil society programmes seeking to rebuild the ability of democratic societies to resist large scale, malicious disinformation and influence campaigns.” 

The very idea of insisting on information that corrects disinformation must, by definition, be politically oriented.  It has a target, and objective.  The world is wrong, at least according to one version, so right it.  We know it, and others do not.  The implication is inescapable.

An example of a journalist outed by the hack is illustrative.  He fell from Olympus.  He thought he was all fair and high, a prince of objectivity.  James Ball, somewhat slighted by the exposures stemming from the Integrity Initiative documents, described the Kremlin’s approach to managing the message in The Guardian as follows:

“Russia’s information manipulation strategies are many and varied, and far more sophisticated than simply pushing out pro-Putin messages. It uses a mix of Russian-owned media outlets, most notably RT (formerly Russia Today) and Sputnik, sympathetic talking heads, social media ‘bot’ accounts and state-sponsored hackers to influence western politics and media coverage.”  

To deny the existence of such media management strategies would simply be silly.  But equally daft is the suggestion that journalism run through the corporate mill in the United States, or through media conglomerates in Europe, identifies some miraculous golden mean of objective fairness.  Ditto numerous governments, who have a deep interest in selling a particular story within, and without their jurisdiction.  Respective messages are doing a dance, and governments the world over are attempting to influence the course of discussion.  They are the self-appointed bulwark against “post-truth”, a nonsense term that has assumed the very thing it seeks to combat.  

Ball falls into the trap of heralding the virtues of free speech and media only to then find fault with them.  Even he doesn’t entirely these tendencies.  Russia, he argues, simulated a “virus that turns its host’s immune system against itself” using an “information strategy… turning free media and free speech against its own society.”  And what of it?  Surely, models of information parry and thrust can drive the bad out with the good, or is there, underlying these criticisms, the latent suggestion that free society harbours the imbecilic and destructive? As with any wading into these murky waters, the danger is that none of these catalytic engagements seeks free speech, merely a managed deployment of spears analogous to battle.  The amoral terrain of the Cold War re-appears, and behind many interlocutors lies the funding of a state.

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

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Syria’s Combat Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing Commission released Dec. 29 a list containing the names of 615 individuals and 105 entities. Notably, the list included the name of Masrour Barzani, the eldest son of former Kurdistan Region President and head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) Massoud Barzani. Masrour Barzani heads the Kurdistan Region Security Council and has been nominated to be premier of the new government.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) was quick to respond, releasing a statement Dec. 31 saying authorities were dismissing the matter as “ludicrous” because “[the list] is issued by a chauvinistic, oppressive regime that has been an adversary to the Kurdish people and has supported the terrorists in order to remain in power.” The statement accused the Syrian regime of “using internationally prohibited weapons against its own civilian people” as well.

Meanwhile, KDP Vice President Bashar al-Kiki released a statement the same day demanding the “removal of Masrour Barzani’s name from the Syrian terror list.” He told Al-Monitor in a phone call,

“Our [demand] has been relayed to the Syrian authorities,” adding, “They should rectify this mistake and lift [Masrour Barzani’s] name from the list.”

Regarding any future actions to be taken against Syria’s decision, Kiki said,

“The [KRG] demands a formal apology by the Syrian government to the Iraqi state and the region.”

Kiki said the KRG sees Syria’s actions as damaging relations between Iraq and Syria.

Kiki cited “political goals related to the Kurds’ situation in Syria” as the motive behind Syria’s decision, and he expressed his support for the legitimate rights and demands of the Iraqi Kurdistan region.

“The Syrian decision is incompatible with the war waged by the region and regional forces on terror since Masrour Barzani was one of the most prominent names to fight the Islamic State [IS],” Kiki stressed.

Syria’s and Iraq’s Kurds are standing in solidarity with Masrour Barzani against Syria’s decision. Writer Farouq Haji Mustafa said in his Jan. 10 opinion article in Middle East Online,

“Syria’s decision comes at a time when Masrour Barzani is getting ready to chair Kurdistan’s government, a step that [received] a warm welcome from global, regional and Iraqi parties.”

Mustafa asked in his op-ed:

“What Kurdish entities have been categorized as a terror group that received support and finance from Masrour?”

However, Syrian parliament member Mahmoud Joukhdar reportedly claims to have evidence against Masrour Barzani. In statements to the media Jan. 4, Joukhdar accused both Massoud and Masrour Barzani of “committing crimes in northeast Syria by supporting armed Kurds with finance and weaponry.” Joukhdar said his country reserves the right to prosecute Masrour Barzani on the domestic and international stage.

However, legal expert and former Judge Tareq Harb told Al-Monitor,

“It’s not possible to label Masrour Barzani as a terrorist in the sense established in the terminologies of Security Council resolutions or the 2005 Iraqi Anti-Terrorism Law, which defines terrorism as ‘every criminal act committed by an individual or an organized group that targeted an individual or a group of individuals or groups or official or unofficial institutions and caused damage to public or private properties, with the aim to disturb the peace, stability, and national unity …’ — which doesn’t apply to the case of [Masrour Barzani].”

According to Article 1, Paragraph 2 of the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Terrorism of 1937, which was established in Geneva under the now-dissolved League of Nations, the term “acts of terrorism” was defined as “criminal acts directed against a State and intended or calculated to create a state of terror in the minds of particular persons, or a group of persons or the general public.”

It is worth noting that at the time of this writing there are no Iraqi Kurdish parties or entities on terrorist lists.

But what if Syria’s list is taken seriously? Ali al-Tamimi, also a former judge, said it is not that simple.

“Even in cases where the name of an individual is added to the UN’s lists of designated terrorist groups or those of other states, it doesn’t hold any legal weight,” Tamimi told Al-Monitor. “[That is,] unless a law or resolution was passed by the Iraqi judiciary or Kurdistan’s judiciary validating that list,” he added.

“The Iraqi government should address the Syrian government formally,” Tamimi said. “In any case, Iraq is not bound to extradite Masrour or anyone else for the matter based on those lists, unless he was wanted by another state through Interpol. Even in this case, Iraq can refuse to surrender him should the state wish to do so.”

Political analyst and writer Kathem al-Haj of Al-Hadaf Network for Political and Media Analysis spoke to Al-Monitor and stressed “the existence of political implications to the Syrian list rooted in [Masrour Barzani’s] involvement in the Syrian situation.” Haj cited Article 7 of the 2005 Iraqi Constitution:

“The state shall undertake to combat terrorism in all its forms, and shall work to protect its territories from being a base, pathway or field for terrorist activities.”

He also cited Article 8, which says,

“Iraq shall observe the principles of good neighborliness, adhere to the principle of noninterference in the internal affairs of other states.”

“Masrour Barzani should adhere to Iraq’s Constitution and laws,” Haj said, adding, “[He should also] not take any position in support of any religious or ethnic group in another state, because this is prohibited according to the law.

Haj said,

“Iraqi Kurdistan should inquire as to the reason why [Masrour Barzani’s] name was put on Syria’s list for terrorist entities through the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs and move forward by sticking to legal measure mechanisms through formal channels.”

But it seems that the central government, judging from the response by Baghdad and Iraq’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, remains unconcerned by the Syrian list. Meanwhile, the Iraqi Kurdistan government has limited its response to the one statement made to the media and merely a handful of condemnations.

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Adnan Abu Zeed is an Iraqi author and journalist. He holds a degree in engineering technology from Iraq and a degree in media techniques from the Netherlands. 

Featured image is from Kurdistan24

There are moments that define a politician. There are legacies that they leave. But the reality of high office is often so different from the easy promises of opposition.

As a poster boy politician, who entered office promising a new type of politics, Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister, embodied fresh hope for many who wanted a distinctive difference from the toxic politics of his nefarious neighbour further south.

And one of those issues he promised a brighter future on is Indigenous Rights.

Trudeau is full of fine words and promises, for example, saying last year:

“Our government is working in partnership with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples to advance meaningful reconciliation and build a future where Indigenous peoples succeed and prosper.”

But Trudeau’s actions have not lived up to his fine rhetoric. For most of last year he was embroiled in a bitter and expensive controversy about the Kinder Morgan tar sands pipeline (see here  for more info).

And this year has not got off to a better start for him either. In early January 2019, there has been a major confrontation between the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and First Nations about the building of yet more fossil fuel infrastructure: a $6.2 billion gas natural gas pipeline by TransCanada’s Coastal GasLink. The pipeline is due to transport fracked natural gas from northeastern B.C. some 670 kilometres to the coast where an LNG Canada facility is due to be built too.

Indeed Trudeau has another crisis on his hands and once again his administration seems to be siding with oil and gas. His political legacy is on the line once more.

As the Globe and Mail reported this week:

“On a forestry road south of Houston, B.C., members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation are running checkpoints to oppose a pipeline being built on their traditional territory… Activity at the two camps – Unist’ot’en, which has been around since 2010, and Gidimt’en, which was built late last year and is named after one of the five clans – had been escalating after a B.C. Supreme Court ruling in December giving the builders of the Coastal GasLink LNG pipeline an injunction so they could use the road unimpeded.”

Members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation argue that they were never consulted about the pipeline and that it violates their constitutional rights.

The Wet’suwet’en clans “have rejected the Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline because this is our home. Our medicines, our berries, our food, the animals, our water, our culture are all here since time immemorial. We are obligated to protect our ways of life for our babies unborn.”

And this week the authorities responded with brute force and ignorance again. As the Washington Post noted:

“The pictures emerging from the scene of an anti-pipeline action in British Columbia could not be more off-brand for Justin Trudeau.”

Whereas Trudeau is all spin and shine, the images from earlier in the week were the opposite. The RCMP “used excessive and brutal force” to enter one of the fortified checkpoints where the Wet’suwet’en First Nation were blocking the workers from gaining entry onto their protected and unceded land.

Although they knew the Police were coming, they were taken aback by state brutality. As a spokesperson for The Unist’ot’en camp said:

“We expected a large response, we did not expect a military level invasion where our unarmed women and elders were faced with automatic weapons and bulldozers.”

Some fourteen people were arrested. Reacting to footage of tactics by the RCMP, author and activist Naomi Klein tweeted “a shameful day for Canada, which has marketed itself as a progressive leader on climate and Indigenous rights.”

Klein added that this was all “for a gas pipeline that is entirely incompatible with a safe climate.”

On Tuesday, there were over 60 protests in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en in Canada and around the world. According to rally organizers,

“We oppose the use of legal injunctions, police forces, and criminalizing state tactics against the Wet’suwet’en asserting their own laws on their own lands. This is a historic moment when the federal and provincial governments can choose to follow their stated principles of reconciliation, or respond by perpetuating colonial theft and violence in Canada.”

Events are now moving fast. There are press reports in the last twenty four hours that the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have struck a “tentative” deal with the RCMP on a compromise that allows Coastal GasLink through to start preconstruction on the pipeline. In return, the RCMP will not again raid the camp or enter the Unist’ot’en lodge without an invitation.

Yesterday, Trudeau had what was described as a fiery exchange with Tilly, a First Nations woman regarding his Government’s handling of the protest, at a town hall meeting in BC.

Tilly asked what he was going to do “to stop oppressing and holding our people under your colonisation?” She continued: “When are you going to give us our rights back?”

Trudeau replied:

“Canada has a long and terrible history in regard to Indigenous Peoples. We have consistently failed as a country to live up to the spirit and intent of the original treaties. We have not treated indigenous peoples as partners and stewards of this land. We have marginalised., behaved in paternalistic, colonialist ways that has lacked respect for First Peoples’ as stewards of the land. We have much to apologise for and much to work forward on together in respect.”

Trudeau went on to say that his government was making “significant improvement in self-governance and new relationships in support that is moving in the right direction.”

When further confronted by Tilly, he replied that he understood the

“anger and the passion you have to protect your land. I absolutely respect that. I can understand your impatience. I understand your frustration.”

He added:

“We will work together to resolve these issues”.

Many people might consider these fine words based on empty deeds after the last week.

Indeed, at the meeting another member of the public shouted:

“You’re getting people arrested”, before adding “You’re a liar and a weak leader. What do you tell your children?”

Meanwhile, the Wet’suwet’en also maintain that the “Hereditary Chiefs have by absolutely no means agreed to let the Coastal GasLink pipeline tear through our traditional territories.”

They contend that they see through the Government’s “attempts to further colonial violence and remove us from our territories. We remain undeterred, unafraid, and unceded” and add that “This fight is far from over.”

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Germany and France are set to forge a pact aligning their defense, diplomatic and economic policies in an unprecedented “twinning” pact “regarded as a prototype for the future of the European Union,” according to The Times‘ Oliver Moody.  

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron will sign the “Aachen treaty” later this month which will govern a coordinated diplomatic front as well as joint actions on peacekeeping missions.

What’s more – areas on both sides of the Franco-German border will be encouraged to establish “Eurodistricts” in which both countries would merge water, electricity and public transport networks.

Berlin and Paris will offer cash to incentivise these cross-border areas, which could involve shared hospitals, joint business schemes or environmental projects. Some officials regard these experiments as a petri dish for the integration of the EU. –The Times

No word on whether France will accept half of Germany’s refugees.

Additionally, both countries will lobby for Berlin to receive a permanent seat on the United Nations security council, where France already sits with the United States, China, Russia and Britain. Berlin was elected to the council as a non-permanent member last June.

France and Germany will also coordinate policy positions ahead of pivotal EU summits in order to make the bloc a “more decisive power on the world stage.” In short – the treaty will solidify the two countries’ commitments to “the values of multilateralism at a time when the global liberal order is under threat,” writes Moody.

The two countries will hold “regular consultations on all levels before major European meetings, and take care to establish common positions and issue joint statements,” according to the agreement, and will “stand up for a strong and effective common foreign and defence policy, and strengthen and deepen the economic and currency union.”

Both President Macron and Mrs Merkel have expressed frustration at the rise of populism and nationalism, and at Europe’s dithering in the face of problems such as climate change and mass migration.

On New Year’s Eve Mrs Merkel declared that Germany would “stand up and fight” for multilateralism and was ready to assume more responsibility in the world. A year ago diplomats from the countries began negotiating an agreement in the spirit of the 1963 Élysée treaty that formally set aside centuries of mutual hostility and set up the Franco-German alliance that has dominated the European project since. The brief document will be signed on January 22 in Aachen, the ancient German spa city near the borders with Belgium and the Netherlands. It is meant to be ratified by the two national parliaments that same day. –The Times

The new pact will advance Macron’s desire to use Franco-German solidarity to become more assertive as a global power, and will lay the groundwork for Franco-German defense acting as a “political steering group” on the security council. The two countries will also exchange diplomats and civil servants on a frequent basis, while ministers from one country will regularly sit in on the other’s cabinet meetings, according to The Times.

Militarily, the treaty aims to form a “common culture and common deployments” in overseas engagements.

A possible template for this arrangement is the 15,000-strong UN peacekeeping force in Mali, a former French colony that was partly overrun by rebellious Tuareg tribes and Islamist groups linked to al-Qaeda in early 2012.

While France bore the brunt of the fighting, the German armed forces have since supplied one of the largest non-African contingents, and some 370 German troops remain there today. –The Times

In Merkel’s new year’s address, the German chancellor said that hte concept of international cooperation was “coming under pressure,” and that her country must “stand up for and fight more strongly for our convictions,” while taking on “more responsibility for our own interests.” She also talked up a multilateral approach to international affairs, and that Germany would push for “global solutions.”

Trouble in EU paradise?

Some EU member nations are suspicious of the Aachen treaty, with concerns over the bloc’s two most powerful economies creating “a juggernaut capable of crushing dissent beneath its wheels.”

Meanwhile, Berlin’s potential permanent UN security council seat will surely rub some in Brussels the wrong way – and has been sharply condemned by parties on both ends of the ideological spectrum.

Alternative for Germany leader Alexander Gauland, for example, has described the pact as an “erosion of our national sovereignty.” In France, conservative leader Marine le Pen said it was an “unbalanced” decree from Germany.

Surely this will calm down the Yellow Vest movement.

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Update and author’s note

The article below entitled Trump, The Manchurian Candidate: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Campaign to Destabilize the Trump Presidency was published on January 4, 2017 prior to the inauguration of president Trump.

In early January 2017, we had predicted an unprecedented constitutional crisis characterized by a coordinated and carefully planned operation to destabilize the Trump presidency involving several stages, both before and after his inauguration.

We are dealing with a carefully planned operation, a “conspiracy” in the true sense of the word.

In recent developments (January 2019), the FBI investigation is being quoted by the media as “evidence” that Trump is “wittingly or unwittingly” an agent of the Kremlin. (see below Guardian January 2019 report)

Guardian, January 12, 2019

Even prior to the inauguration of president Trump, the US media in liaison with US intelligence had launched successive waves of smears directed against President elect Donald Trump.

The objective from the very outset has been to discredit president Trump, presenting him as a Manchurian candidate serving the interests of the Kremlin.

The end game is Regime Change in America.

The Atlantic October 8 2016

Regime Change in America. Who are the Protagonists? The Role of the Military Industrial Complex 

War is Good Business: “The defense contractors” favor a presidency which is committed to waging war on Russia, Why?Because it constitutes a profit driven agenda which results in multibillion dollar contracts for the Military Industrial Complex.

The annual budget of the military/security complex is $1,000 billion.  This vast sum is drawn from US taxpayers who have many unmet needs.  To justify such an enormous budget a major enemy is required.  The military/security complex and the media and politicians that the complex owns have designated Russia to be that enemy.  The complex and its political and media agents will not permit Trump to normalize relations with Russia. (Paul Craig Roberts,  The Coming Coup to Overthrow President Trump? Sedition at the Highest Levels, July 20, 2018

The defense contractors are totally unconcerned with the fact that this diabolical agenda (not to mention the 1.2 trillion dollar nuclear weapons campaign) could lead us to World War III. In fact they are actively lobbying in favor of the WWIII scenario while upholding “the low yield more usable” tactical nuclear weapons (with an explosive capacity of up to 12 times a Hiroshima bomb) as “peace making bombs”:”harmless to civilians because the explosion is underground”.

In turn, the media has abided by the Russiagate conspiracy by consistently spreading the word that “Donald Trump was elected by Russia“.

We are dealing with a carefully planned operation, a “conspiracy” in the true sense of the word.

That “conspiracy” is taking us to the threshold of World War III.

It is worth recalling that a  fake “Intelligence Dossier” (early January 2017) had portrayed Trump as an instrument of Moscow, “cultivating and supporting him for at least five years”. The dossier intimated that Russian intelligence “has compromised Trump” to the extent that he can be “blackmailed” on account of his “sexually perverted acts”.

This mysterious intelligence dossier released by BuzzFeed went viral. While the document was acknowledged by US intelligence as being fake, the media (CNN in particular) was intimating (January 2017) that  Trump was not only involved in an act of treason (by calling for the normalization of  US-Russia relations), he was and remains a Manchurian Candidate”  controlled by the Kremlin, which had been consistently blackmailing him into submission.

This pseudo Intelligence Dossier surfaced in the days following the Director of National Intelligence announcement James Clapper that Russia’s alleged hacking constitutes an “Existential Threat” against America.

While no proof of Russian interference in the US elections was forthcoming (January 2017), US tanks and troops had nonetheless been dispatched to Russia’s border by the outgoing president (in early January 2017)  (under Obama’s “Operation Atlantic Resolve” and NATO’s European Reassurance Initiative (ERI)). US-NATO troops were slated to be fully deployed prior to Trump’s inauguration on January 20th.

And the media remains silent.

The dangers of an all out war with Russia and its devastating consequences are not front page news. US-NATO wars are casually described by the media as peace-making undertakings.

Were these US-NATO military deployments directed against Russia part of Obama’s “act of retribution” against the Kremlin in response to Moscow’s alleged hacking of the US elections?

Was this a “fast-track” procedure on the part of the outgoing president, with the support of US intelligence to create chaos both prior as well as in the wake of the inauguration of Donald  Trump on January 20, 2017?

While the alleged hacking was casually tagged as an “An Act of War” against the American Homeland, “Operation Atlantic Resolve” (involving a massive deployment of troops and military hardware on Russia’s border) was categorized by the media as an “Act of Self Defense”.

In this article, we describe a coordinated and carefully planned operation to destabilize the Trump presidency involving several stages, both before and after his inauguration.

Is America gearing Towards a Deep-seated Constitutional Crisis

“What seems abundantly clear, however, is that America is gearing towards a deep-seated political crisis, with major social, economic and geopolitical ramifications.

Is the tendency (at some future date) towards the adoption of martial law and the suspension of constitutional government?” (M. Chossudovsky article, January 2017)

The ongoing smear campaign launched at the outset of the 2016 election campaign largely confirms a strategic intent upon delegitimizing the president-elect.

The alleged Russian hacking is being used as a pretext and a justification to wage a preemptive war on Russia. 

When war becomes peace, the world is turned upside down.

Conceptualization is no longer possible.  Insanity prevails. The institutions of government are criminalized.

The Western media and politicians, in chorus, obfuscate the unspoken truth, namely that the US-NATO led war destroys humanity.

When the Lie becomes the Truth there is no Turning Backwards

When war is upheld as a humanitarian endeavor supported by the United Nations, Justice and the entire international legal system are turned upside down: pacifism and the antiwar movement are criminalized.

Breaking the lie means breaking a criminal project of global destruction, in which the quest for profit is the overriding force. This criminal undertaking is pushing us towards the unthinkable.

The protagonists within the Military Industrial Complex should nonetheless understand that it is highly unlikely that in the case of a Third World War, they would be able to cash in on their multibillion defense contracts.

Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, July 22, 2018, updated January 13, 2019

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Trump, The Manchurian Candidate: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Campaign to Destabilize the Trump Presidency

by Michel Chossudovsky

Global Research, January 4, 2017

Introduction

Obama has formally accused Moscow of interfering in the US elections on behalf of Donald Trump [December 2017]. These are serious allegations.  Whereas the sanctions are  directed against Russia, the ultimate intent is to undermine the legitimacy of president-elect Donald Trump and his foreign policy stance in relation to Moscow. 

According to the US media, the sanctions against Moscow were intended to “Box in President-elect Donald J. Trump” because  Trump “has consistently cast doubt” that Putin was involved in the alleged hacking of the DNC.  In an earlier report on Kremlin meddling, the NYT  (December 15) depicted Donald Trump as “…a Useful Idiot”… an American president who doesn’t know he’s being played by a wily foreign power. (emphasis added)

But the accusations against Trump have gone far beyond the “Box in” Narrative. The unspoken truth pertaining to Obama’s Executive Order is that the punishment was intended for Trump rather than Putin.

The objective is not to “Box-In” the president-elect for his “unfamiliarity with the role of intelligence”. Quite the opposite: The strategy is to delegitimize Donald Trump by accusing him of high treason. 

In recent developments, the director of National Intelligence James Clapper has “confirmed” that the alleged Russian cyberattack constitutes an “existential threat to our way of life”.  

“Whether or not that constitutes an act of war [by Russia against the US] I think is a very heavy policy call that I don’t believe the intelligence community should make,” said Clapper.

That “act of war” not by Russia but against Russia seems to be have been endorsed by the outgoing Obama administration: several thousand tanks and US troops are being deployed on Russia’s doorstep as part of Obama’s “Operation Atlantic Resolve” directed against the Russian Federation. 

Are these military deployments  part of Obama’s “act of retribution” against Russia in response to Moscow’s alleged hacking of the US elections? 

Is this a “fast-track” procedure on the part of the outgoing president with the support of US intelligence, intended to create political and social chaos prior to the inception of the Trump administration on January 20th? 

According to Donbass DINA News: “A Massive US military deployment [on Russia’s border] should be ready by January 20.”  

Political Insanity prevails. 

And insanity could potentially unleash World War III. 

Meanwhile the “real story” behind the hacking op. is not front page news. The mainstream media is not covering it.

Destabilizing the Trump Presidency

The ultimate intent of this campaign led by the Neocons and the Clinton Faction is to destabilize the Trump presidency.

Prior to the November 8 elections, former Secretary of Defense and CIA Director Leo Panetta had already intimated that Trump is a threat to National Security. According to The Atlantic,  Trump is a “Modern Manchurian Candidate” serving the interests of the Kremlin.

Vanity Fair November 1 2016

The Atlantic October 8 2016

In the wake of the Grand Electors’ Vote (in favour of Trump) and Obama’s sanctions against Moscow, the accusations of treason directed against Donald Trump have gone into high gear:

A specter of treason hovers over Donald Trump. He has brought it on himself by dismissing a bipartisan call for an investigation of Russia’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee as a “ridiculous” political attack on the legitimacy of his election as president.” (Boston Globe, December 16, emphasis added)

“Liberals are suggesting President-elect Donald Trump is guilty of treason after President Obama announced new sanctions against Russia and Trump praised Vladimir Putin’s response to the sanctions.” (Daily Caller, December 30, 2016, emphasis added)

Coordinated Operation to Destabilize the Trump Presidency? 

Is Trump “in bed with the enemy”?

These are serious accusations allegedly backed up by US intelligence which cannot be brushed away.

Will they just be forgotten once Trump accedes to the White House? Unlikely. They are part of a propaganda campaign on behalf of powerful corporate interests.

What is at stake is tantamount to a carefully coordinated operation to destabilize the Trump presidency, characterized by several distinct components.

The central objective of this project against Trump is to ensure the continuity of the Neocons’ foreign policy agenda geared towards global warfare and Worldwide economic conquest, which has dominated the US political landscape since September 2001.

Let us first review the nature of the Neocons’ foreign policy stance.

Background on The Neocons’ Foreign Policy Agenda

In the wake of 9/11, two major shifts in US foreign policy were devised as part of the 2001 National Security Strategy (NSS).

The first pertained to the “global war on terrorism” against Al Qaeda, the second introduced the preemptive “defensive war” doctrine. The objective was to present “preemptive military action” –meaning war as an act of “self-defense” against two categories of enemies, “rogue States” and “Islamic terrorists”:

“The war against terrorists of global reach is a global enterprise of uncertain duration. …America will act against such emerging threats before they are fully formed.(National Security Strategy, White House, 2002, http://www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/nss.html

The preemptive war doctrine also included the preemptive use of nuclear weapons on a “first strike” basis (as a means of “self-defence”) against both nuclear and non-nuclear states. This concept of  a preemptive first strike nuclear attack was firmly endorsed by Hillary Clinton in her election campaign.

In turn, the “Global War on Terrorism”(GWOT) launched in the wake of 9/11 has come to play a central role in justifying US-NATO military intervention in the Middle East on “humanitarian grounds” (R2P), including the instatement of so-called “No Fly Zones”. GWOT also constitutes  the cornerstone of media propaganda.

The military and intelligence dimensions of the Neocons’ project are contained in The Project for the New American Century formulated prior to the accession of George W. Bush to the White House. The PNAC also posits a “Revolution in Military Affairs” requiring a massive budget outlay allocated to the development of advanced weapons systems including a new generation of nuclear weapons.

The PNAC initiative was launched by William Kristol and Robert Kagan whose wife Victoria Nuland, played a key role as Clinton’s Assistant Secretary of State in engineering the Euro-Maidan coup in Ukraine.

The Neocon project also includes a menu of “regime change”, “color revolutions”, economic sanctions and macro-economic reforms directed against countries which fail to conform to Washington’s demands.

In turn, the globalization of war supports Wall Street’s global economic agenda: The (secretly negotiated) Atlantic and Pacific trade blocks (TPP, TTIP, CETA, TISA), coupled up with IMF- World Bank- WTO “surveillance” are an integral part of this hegemonic project, intimately related to US military and intelligence operations.

“The Deep State” and The Clash of Powerful Corporate Interests

Global capitalism is by no means monolithic. What is at stake are fundamental rivalries within the US establishment marked by the clash between competing corporate factions, each of which is intent upon exerting control over the incoming US presidency. In this regard,  Trump is not entirely in the pocket of the lobby groups. As a member of the establishment, he has his own corporate sponsors and fund raisers. His stated foreign policy agenda including his commitment to revise Washington’s relationship with Moscow does not fully conform with the interests of the defence contractors, which supported Clinton’s candidacy.

There are powerful corporate interests on both sides, which are now clashing. There are also overlapping allegiances and “cross-cutting alliances” within the corporate establishment.  What we are witnessing are  “inter-capitalist rivalries” within the spheres of banking, oil and energy, the military industrial complex, etc.

Is “The Deep State” divided?  These corporate rivalries are also characterized by strategic divisions and clashes within several agencies of the US State apparatus including the intelligence community and the military.  In this regard, the CIA is deeply embedded in the corporate media (CNN, NBC, NYT. WP, etc) which is waging a relentless smear campaign against  Trump and his alleged links to Moscow.

But there is also a  countervailing campaign within the intelligence community against the dominant Neocon faction. In this regard, the Trump team is contemplating a streamlining of the CIA (aka purges). According to a member of the Trump transition team (quoted by the Wall Street Journal, January 4, 2017), “The view from the Trump team is the intelligence world [is] becoming completely politicized, … They all need to be slimmed down. The focus will be on restructuring the agencies and how they interact.” This project would also affect CIA operatives responsible for propaganda embedded within the mainstream media. This would inevitably create profound divisions and conflicts within the US intelligence apparatus, which could potentially backlash on the Trump presidency. it is unlikely that a Trump administration would be able to undermine the inner structures of US intelligence and CIA sponsored media propaganda.

Continuity in US Foreign Policy? 

Crafted in the late 1940s by US State Department official George F. Kennan, the “Truman Doctrine” sets the ideological foundations of America’s post-war hegemonic project.  What these State department documents reveal is continuity in US foreign policy  from “Containment” during the Cold War to today’s post 9/11 doctrine of “Pre-emptive Warfare”.

In this regard, the Neocons’ Project for the New American Century’s blueprint (cited above) for global conquest should be viewed as the culmination of a post-war agenda of military hegemony and global economic domination formulated by the State Department in 1948 at the outset of the Cold War.

Needless to say, successive Democratic and Republican administrations, from Harry Truman to George W. Bush and Barack Obama have been involved in carrying out this hegemonic blueprint for global domination, which the Pentagon  calls the “Long War”.

In this regard, the Neocons have followed in the footsteps of  the “Truman Doctrine”. In the late 1940s, George F. Kennan called for building a dominant Anglo-American alliance based on “good relations between our country and [the] British Empire”.  In today’s world, this alliance largely characterizes the military axis between Washington and London, which plays a dominant role inside NATO to the detriment of Washington’s  (continental) European allies.  It also includes Canada and Australia as key strategic partners.

Of significance, Kennan underscored the importance of preventing the development of continental European powers (e.g. Germany, France, Italy) which could compete with the Anglo-American axis. The objective during the Cold War and its aftermath was to prevent Europe from establishing political as well as economic ties with Russia. In turn, NATO largely dominated by the US has prevented both Germany and France from performing a strategic role in World affairs.

Trump Foreign Policy Realignments

It is highly unlikely that a Trump administration would depart from the mainstay of US foreign policy.

While the Trump team is committed to a socially regressive and racist right wing agenda on the domestic front, certain foreign policy realignments are possible including a softening of the sanctions against Russia, which could potentially have an impact on the multibillion dollar contracts of the military industrial complex. This in itself would be a significant achievement which could contribute to a period of Detente in East-West relations.

Moreover, while Trump has put together a right wing cabinet of generals, bankers and oil executives,  which largely conforms to the mainstay of the Republican Party, the bi-partisan “entente cordiale” between Democrats and Republicans has been broken. Meanwhile, there are powerful  voices within the GOP who are supportive of the “anti-Trump faction”.

The divisions between these two competing factions are nonetheless significant. With regard to US foreign policy, they largely pertain to US-Russia bilateral relations which have been jeopardized by the Obama administration as well as to the ongoing US military agenda in Syria and Iraq. They also have a bearing on the European Union, which has been affected by Obama’s economic sanctions against Russia.

The sanctions have resulted in a dramatic decline in EU trade and investment with the Russian Federation. In conformity with the “Truman Doctrine” discussed above, US foreign policy under the Neocons, particularly since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, had sought to dismantle the Franco-German alliance and weaken the European Union.

Of relevance in relation to recent developments in Ukraine and Eastern Europe, George F. Kennan explicitly pointed in his 1948 State Department brief, to “a policy of containment of Germany, within Western Europe”. What Kennan’s observations suggest is that the US should be  supportive of  a European Project only inasmuch as it supports US hegemonic interests. And that is precisely what the Neocons have achieved under the Bush and Obama administrations:

“Today both Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel are taking their orders directly from Washington. The 2003 invasion of Iraq was a turning point. The election of pro-US political leaders (President Sarkozy in France and Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany) was conducive to a weakening of national sovereignty, leading to the demise of the Franco-German alliance. ” (Michel Chossudovsky America’s Blueprint for Global Domination: From “Containment” to “Pre-emptive War”. Global Research, 2014)

The more significant question is whether this realignment under a Trump administration will restrain the deployment of NATO troops and military hardware in Eastern Europe on Russia’s doorstep. Will it be conducive to nuclear disarmament?

While Trump’s foreign policy agenda has been the target of “dirty politics” by the Clinton faction, the new administration has powerful corporate backers who will no doubt challenge the Neocons including those operating within the intelligence community. It is worth noting that Trump also has the support of the pro-Israel lobby as well as Israeli intelligence. In December, the head of Mossad met up with the Trump team in Washington.

The Timeline of the Destabilization Project

At the outset, prior to the November 8 elections, the project to disrupt and destabilize the Trump presidency consisted of several coordinated and interrelated processes some of which are ongoing while others have already been completed (or are no longer relevant):
  • the media smear campaign against Trump, which has taken on a new slant in the wake of the November 8 elections (ongoing);
  • the engineered anti-Trump protest movement across the US, coordinated with media coverage, petitions, with the objective to disrupt (ongoing);
  • The vote recount in three swing states, (No longer relevant)
  • The passing of  H.R 6393: Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, which includes a section directed against so-called “pro-Moscow independent media”, in response to Moscow’s alleged interference in the US elections in support of Donald Trump;
  • The Electoral College Vote on December 19 (No longer relevant)
  • The Petition launched by California Sen Barbara Boxers on Change.org pertaining to the electoral College vote (No longer relevant)
  • The ongoing “Disrupt” Campaign intent upon disrupting the January 20, 2017 Presidential Inauguration Ceremony.
  • The possibility of an impeachment procedure is already contemplated during the first year of his mandate.

The Catch Phrase is “Disrupt”. The Objective is “Disrupt”

In turn, the Disruptj20.org website is calling for the disruption of the inauguration of Donald Trump on January 20, 2017:

#DisruptJ20 is supported by the work of the DC Welcoming Committee, a collective of experienced local activists and out-of-work gravediggers acting with national support. We’re building the framework needed for mass protests to shut down the inauguration of Donald Trump and planning widespread direct actions to make that happen. We’re also providing services like housing, food, and even legal assistance to anyone who wants to join us.

What are the Possible Outcomes?

The propaganda campaign together with the other components of this operation (protest movement, anti-Trump petitions, etc) are used as a means to discredit an elected-president.

This media propaganda campaign against an incoming president is unprecedented in US history. While the MSM routinely criticize politicians in high office including the president of the US, the media narrative in this case is fundamentally different. The incoming president is the target of an organized media smear campaign which will not subside upon Trump’s accession to the White House.

Concurrently, an engineered and coordinated protest movement against Trump has been ongoing since November 8. In fact it started on the evening of November 8 prior to the announcement of the election results.  The protests have all the appearances of  a “color revolution” style op.

The media also provides a biased coverage of the engineered protest movement. The organizers and recruiters are serving the interests of  powerful corporate lobby groups including the defence contractors. They are not serving the interests of the American people

It is unlikely that these various initiatives including the Disrupt campaign will have a significant bearing on Trump’s inauguration. Our assessment suggests, however, that the president-elect will accede to the White House amidst an aura of controversy.

Impeachment is the “Talking Point”

The propaganda campaign will continue in the wake of Trump’s inauguration intimating accusations of treason. The impeachment of Donald Trump has already contemplated, prior to his accession to the presidency. In the words of the Huffington Post (January 1, 2017):

“There is only one constitutional way to remove a president, and that is via impeachment.

What’s needed is a citizens’ impeachment inquiry, to begin on Trump’s first day in office.

The inquiry should keep a running dossier, and forward updates at least weekly to the House Judiciary Committee. There will be no lack of evidence.”

Change.org which organizes the engineered protest movement has launched a petition to impeach Trump:

Change.org petition campaign

Boston Globe, December 16, 2016

Huffington Post, December 26, 2016

The American People are the Unspoken Victims: The Need for A Real Mass Movement

The American people are the unspoken victims of this clash between competing capitalist factions.  Both factions are serving the interests of the elites to the detriment of the US electorate.

In turn, meaningful real grassroots opposition to Trump’s right-wing racist social policy agenda has been “kidnapped” by an engineered protest movement financed and controlled by powerful economic interests. The organizers of this movement are acting on behalf of powerful elite interests. People are misled. What is required in the months ahead is that the development of “real” social movements against the new Trump administration with regard to broad social and economic issues, civil rights, health care, job creation, environmental issues, foreign policy and US led wars, defense expenditure, immigration, etc.

Independent grassroots movements must consequently be divorced from the engineered protests backed and financed (directly or indirectly) by corporate interests. This is no easy task. The funding and “manufacturing of dissent”, the manipulation of social movements, etc. are firmly entrenched.

Ironically, neoliberalism finances activism directed against neoliberalism. “Manufacturing dissent” is  characterized by a manipulative environment, a process of arm-twisting and subtle cooptation of individuals within progressive organizations, including anti-war coalitions, environmentalists and the anti-globalization movement. “Co-optation is not limited to buying the favors of politicians. The economic elites –which control major foundations– also oversee the funding of numerous NGOs and civil society organizations, which historically have been involved in the protest movement against the established economic and social order.” (Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, September 20, 2010)

Is America gearing Towards a Deep-seated Constitutional Crisis

At this stage it is difficult to predict what will happen under a Trump administration. What seems abundantly clear, however, is that America is gearing towards a deep-seated political crisis, with major social, economic and geopolitical ramifications.

Is the tendency (at some future date) towards the adoption of martial law and the suspension of constitutional government?

Note: This article relies in part on previous texts written by the author pertaining to the US elections.

Updated on January 5, 2017

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A new Politico/Morning Consult poll has found that there is much more support for ongoing military occupations among Democrats surveyed than Republicans.

To the question “As you may know, President Trump ordered an immediate withdrawal of more than 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria. Based on what you know, do you support or oppose President Trump’s decision?”, 29 percent of Democrats responded either “Somewhat support” or “Strongly support”, while 50 percent responded either “Somewhat oppose” or “Strongly oppose”. Republicans asked the same question responded with 73 percent either somewhat or strongly supporting and only 17 percent either somewhat or strongly opposing.

Those surveyed were also asked the question “As you may know, President Trump ordered the start of a reduction of U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, with about half of the approximately 14,000 U.S. troops there set to begin returning home in the near future. Based on what you know, do you support or oppose President Trump’s decision?” Forty percent of Democrats responded as either “Somewhat support” or “strongly support”, with 41 percent either somewhat or strongly opposing. Seventy-six percent of Republicans, in contrast, responded as either somewhat or strongly supporting Trump’s decision, while only 15 percent oppose it to any extent.

These results will be truly shocking and astonishing to anyone who has been in a coma since the Bush administration. For anyone who has been paying attention since then, however, especially for the last two years, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

This didn’t happen by itself, and it didn’t happen by accident. American liberals didn’t just spontaneously start thinking endless military occupations of sovereign nations is a great idea yesterday, nor have they always been so unquestioningly supportive of the agendas of the US war machine. No, Democrats support the unconscionable bloodbaths that their government is inflicting around the world because they have been deliberately, methodically paced into that belief structure by an intensive mass media propaganda campaign.

The anti-war Democrat, after Barack Obama was elected on a pro-peace platform in 2008, went into an eight-year hibernation during which they gaslit themselves into ignoring or forgiving their president’s expansion of George W Bush’s wars, aided by a corporate media which marginalized, justified, and often outright ignored Obama’s horrifying military expansionism. Then in 2016 they were forced to gaslight themselves even further to justify their support for a fiendishly hawkish candidate who spearheaded the destruction of Libya, who facilitated the Iraq invasion, who was shockingly hawkish toward Russia, and who cited Henry Kissinger as a personal role model for foreign policy. I recall many online debates with Clinton fans in the lead up to the 2016 election who found themselves arguing that the Iraq invasion wasn’t that bad in order to justify their position.

After Clinton managed to botch the most winnable election of all time, mainstream liberal America was plunged into a panic that has been fueled at every turn by the plutocratic mass media, which have seized upon unthinking cultish anti-Trumpism to advance the cause of US military interventionism even further with campaigns like the sanctification of John McCain and the rehabilitation of George W Bush. Trump is constantly attacked as being too soft on Moscow despite having already dangerously escalated a new cold war against Russia which some experts are saying is more dangerous than the one the world miraculously survived. Trump’s occasional positive impulses, like the agenda to withdraw US troops from Syria and Afghanistan, are painted as weakness and foolishness by the intelligence veterans who now comprise so much of corporate liberal media punditry. And their audience laps it up because by now mainstream liberals have been trained to have far more interest in opposing Trump than in opposing war.

And how sick is that? Obviously Trump has advanced a lot of toxic agendas which need to be ferociously opposed, but how warped does your mind have to be to make a religion out of that opposition which is so all-consuming that it eclipses even the natural impulse to avoid inflicting death and destruction upon your fellow man? How viciously has the psyche of American liberals been brutalized with mass media psyops to drive them into this psychotic, twisted reality tunnel?

There was one group in the aforementioned survey which was not nearly as affected by the propaganda as armchair liberals. To the statement “The U.S. has been engaged in too many military conflicts in places such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan for too long, and should prioritize getting Americans out of harm’s way,” military households responded 54 percent that this statement aligns with their view. Turns out when it’s your own family’s blood and limbs on the line, people are a lot less willing to commit to endless violence. Sixty percent of Republicans agreed with this statement, while only 41 percent of Democrats did.

Could these statistics have something to do with the fact that younger veterans are statistically much more likely to be Republicans than Democrats? Is it possible that a major reason Trump beat Hillary Clinton, and a major reason Republicans are now far less bloodthirsty than Democrats, is because mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers are tired of flag-draped coffins being shipped home containing bodies which were ripped apart for no legitimate reason in senseless military entanglements on the other side of the world? Seems likely. And it also seems likely that the mass media propaganda machine is having a harder time steering people toward war once they’ve personally tasted its true cost.

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A bombshell domestic spy scandal has been unfolding in Britain, after hacked internal communications exposed a covert UK state military-intelligence psychological warfare operation targeting its own citizens and political figures in allied NATO countries under the cover of fighting “Russian disinformation.”

The leaked documents revealed a secret network of spies, prominent journalists and think-tanks colluding under the umbrella of a group called “Integrity Initiative” to shape domestic opinion—and to smear political opponents of the right-wing Tory government, including the leader of the opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn.

To read complete article on the Grayzone Project, click here

Until now, this Integrity Initiative domestic spy scandal has been ignored in the American media, perhaps because it has mostly involved British names. But it is clear that the influence operation has already been activated in the US. Hacked documents reveal that the Integrity Initiative is cultivating powerful allies inside the State Department, top DC think tanks, the FBI and the DHS.

The Integrity Initiative has spelled out plans to expand its network across the US, meddling in American politics and recruiting “a new generation of Russia watchers” behind the false guise of a non-partisan charity. Moreover, the group has hired one of the most notorious American “perception management” specialists, John Rendon, to train its clusters of pundits and cultivate relationships with the media.

Back in the UK, Member of Parliament Chris Williamson has clamored for an investigation into the Integrity Initiative’s abuse of public money.

In a recent editorial, Williamson drew a direct parallel between the group’s collaboration with journalists and surreptitious payments the CIA made to reporters during the Cold War.

“These tactics resemble those deployed by the CIA in Operation Mockingbird that was launched at the height of the cold war in the early 1950s. Its aims included using the mainstream news media as a propaganda tool,” Williamson wrote.

“They manipulated the news agenda by recruiting leading journalists to write stories with the express purpose of influencing public opinion in a particular way,” the Labour parliamentarian continued. “Now it seems the British Establishment have dusted off the CIA’s old playbook and is intent on giving it another outing on this side of the Atlantic.”

Unmasking a British military-intelligence smear machine

The existence of the Integrity Initiative was virtually unknown until this November, when the email servers of a previously obscure British think tank called the Institute for Statecraft were hacked, prompting allegations of Russian intrusion. When the group’s internal documents appeared at a website hosted by Anonymous Europe, the public learned of a covert propaganda network seed-funded to the tune of over $2 million dollars by the Tory-controlled UK Foreign Office, and run largely by military-intelligence officers.

Through a series of cash inducements, off the record briefings and all-day conferences, the Integrity Initiative has sought to organize journalists across the West into an international echo chamber hyping up the supposed threat of Russian disinformation—and to defame politicians and journalists critical of this new Cold War campaign.

A bid for funding submitted by the Integrity Initiative in 2017 to the British Ministry of Defense promised to deliver a “tougher stance on Russia” by arranging for “more information published in the media on the threat of Russian active measures.”

The Integrity Initiative has also worked through its fronts in the media to smear political figures perceived as a threat to its militaristic agenda. Its targets have included a Spanish Department of Homeland Security appointee, Pedro Banos, whose nomination was scuttled thanks a media blitz it secretly orchestrated; Jeremy Corbyn, whom the outfit and its media cutouts painted as a useful idiot of Russia; and a Scottish member of parliament, Neil Findlay, whom one of its closest media allies accused of adopting “Kremlin messaging” for daring to protest the official visit of the far-right Ukrainian politician Andriy Parubiy — the founder of two neo-Nazi parties and author of a white nationalist memoir, “View From The Right.”

These smear campaigns and many more surreptitiously orchestrated by the Integrity Initiative offer a disturbing preview of the reactionary politics it plans to inject into an already toxic American political environment.

To read complete article on the Grayzone Project, click here

 

Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and the author of books including best-selling Republican GomorrahGoliath, The Fifty One Day War, and The Management of Savagery, which will be published in March 2019 by Verso. He has also produced numerous print articles for an array of publications, many video reports and several documentaries including Killing Gaza and Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie. Blumenthal founded the Grayzone Project in 2015 to shine a journalistic light on America’s state of perpetual war and its dangerous domestic repercussions.

Mark Ames is the co-host of the Radio War Nerd podcast. Subscribe to Radio War Nerd on Patreon.

All images in this article are from Grayzone Project unless otherwise stated

Syria. The Force of Civilization

January 13th, 2019 by Marinella Correggia

“Our millennial history will help us”. Between street mosaics, archaeological assets to be restored, photovoltaic energy for reconstruction, and agriculture that calls for peace

Finding a place in the Guinness for making the largest wall mosaic in the world with recycled materials deserves vivid eco-artistic compliments. But here is the real world record: the Syrian “architects” of this 720 square meter work in the Mezzeh district of Damascus have done everything in the middle of war. In damascene streets, after 2013, seven long mosaics, a kaleidoscope of colors, fantasy and hope, were born among so many war explosions. Pieces of tiles, broken cups, bottles, tubes, bicycle wheels, electronic metal parts, keys and nails: gathered here and there and brought as a gift from citizens.

Participated art.

Image on the right: Artist Moaffak Makhoul

“In the difficult conditions facing the city, we wanted to offer a smile and show the love of the Syrians for life, creativity and art. The work started in October 2013 and in January 2014 we had finished” explains the artist Moaffak Makhoul, coordinator of the Guiness mosaic. T-shirt and black trousers, he guides us in the library of Damascus museum for the education showing around. “These books were recovered from schools that were evacuated before the arrival of armed groups who occupied them, in Muhadamya, Ghouta, Daraya”.

Outside the silence of the library, the noisy and intense traffic causes one question: How do the Syrians keep their cars after seven years of war that have caused inflation and impoverishment?

The young agronomist Dima Hassan – who is a bit our Virgilio, in Syria … – does not have a car and lives modestly with her salary, which with the devaluation of the Syrian lira equals 30 euros, but she tries this answer: «Or have relatives abroad, or do three jobs, a situation now common here, or are depleting the savings they had before the war.” Some people are exasperated in traffic jams and make jokes about the subway project: “A project which is twenty years old; is it so hard to dig? You could entrust the work to the terrorists of Jaysh al-Islam and to the other mercenaries who in a few years, in the eastern Ghouta area, were able to dug miles of tunnels to secure supplies in weapons and materials! ”

The mosaic of the Guinness (ph. Marinella Correggia) 

In front of the art school Abdel Hader, close to the library, the two artist sisters Rajab and Safa Wabi look at a high wall decorated in relief. «We started, with several students, the street art in 2011, at the same time as the crisis that then resulted in the war. And we did not stop even when above our heads were raining mortars that came from areas outside Damascus in the hands of armed groups”, says the sister, while the other continues, stretching his arm to a nearby building: “There a missile fell. Working on the street, we did not really have any shelter! But our work magnetically attracted many people, adults and children, and this helped us.”

They are approached by two little doves, in small and brown – may be they are the damascene version of our pigeons. The artists indicate the sand and cement doves on the top of the wall: “We have put them as a symbol of peace”.

Two little doves in Damascus (ph. Marinella Correggia) 

A peace that is not yet in Syria, where many fronts have closed but others are still opened. Certainly in the areas most affected by the conflict, instead of the mosaics there are rubble. For the post-war reconstruction, a titanic work, it is estimated a cost of 470 billion dollars. The machine has already started up with the rehabilitation of public utility buildings and private housings, preceded by the removal of the rubble. The foundation of the Aga Khan is already supporting the restoration of the historical architectural heritage, starting from the huge suq of Aleppo and other monuments of the Old City.

Good news is that the huge amount of rubble will be partly recycled. “The Chinese companies are already at work, in addition to the Syrian government machine”, assures a Syrian translator who previously studied and lived in Spain and decided to return to his country in 2014, at the height of the crisis.

This kind of “reuse” makes the pair with a small but significant project in Aleppo. The group of Christian Marist blue volunteers, among the many rehabilitation projects, has one called Heart Made, which practices up-cycling without calling it that, as one of the project managers explains, Leyla Antaki: «We resort to stock of unsold stock over time and transform them by giving them a second life. We take the models on the internet, adapting them to local tastes. Then with the cutouts, sleeves, jeans we make big and small bags, bags that we decorate. In short, it is about avoiding textile waste, learning perfection in work and making beautiful things »

On the huge challenge of the reconstruction, the question is: who will pay to put the country back on its feet? Who will earn? Joan, a student from Damascus whose father is from the Afrin area, hit by the bombing of the Turks, is drastic: “I really hope it does not become a business for the usual ones who first bring ruin and then earn on us… I say that Western countries, Turkey, the Gulf monarchs should compensate the Syrian people! They have fomented a war by proxy, they supported jihadist mercenaries … ». The damages are much higher than the estimated economic figure show. Because the loss of human lives is priceless, and also the historical architectural and archaeological heritage cannot be refunded.

The war has upset the methodical and often obscure work of archaeologists, restorers and officials. Occupied sites, warehouses of looted artefacts, damaged museums, threats to the life of the personnel. In one of the large laboratory rooms of the National Archaeological Museum of Damascus, cluttered with crates of artifacts, Rima Hawan, director of the restoration department, indicates pieces of statues from Palmira (Tadmor), a World Heritage Site that for ten months straddles 2015 and 2016 was besieged by the self-styled Islamic State (Isis, which in the Arab world is called Daesh, in a derogatory sense): “The situation was absolutely emergency”. It was feared the total destruction of the site, in front of images proudly spread by Daesh, with the beheadings of statues and not only: the archaeologist Khaled al Asaad, after a life in Palmira to take care of the site, paid with his life – slaughtered the August 18, 2015 at age 83 – the refusal to reveal the places were the most precious stuff had been hidden to escape the fury.

The director of the Palmira museum Khalil Hariri managed to escape at the last moment, but lost a brother and a cousin as well as several friends. It is located in the museum of Damascus to follow the restoration projects of some statues taken away in time and in a fortunate way: “The terrorists took us by surprise with their advance. Everything seemed to be stronger than us, in those days. In addition to terror, we had a very strong memory of the looting of Iraq’s historical heritage in 2003 during the Anglo-American invasion… But we managed with difficulty and danger to evacuate numerous artifacts, a sort of mission impossible» before the arrival of the devils.

Some employees are engaged, in large registers and at the computer, in the meticulous verification of the artifacts. Najma is among the restorers who worked in Palmyra after the escape of Daesh: “There are works totally destroyed, others we are trying to recover, here we work above all on the faces.” Kawtar and Hiba brush a monk statue. Who has helped you in these years of isolation, een under economic sanctions, did you always have the necessary materials available? Rima smiles cautiously: “Archaeologists are a world community. The experts with whom we worked to study the immense Syrian heritage, have been concretely close to us.»

Image below: Khalil Hariri, museum director (ph. Marinella Correggia)

Among the areas of crisis there has been for years the National Museum of Aleppo, the one that seems guarded by the huge Hittite statues of dark basalt, the spirited eyes. In July 2016, when it was hit by several missiles and mortar shells fired by armed groups who controlled the Eastern part of the city, most of the collection was already safe. Hariri states that, in the emergence of those years, with the country divided into areas of influence among armed groups, “the Directorate for Antiquities had lost contact with two realities: Idlib, still controlled by Qaedist groups; and Raqqa».

Raqqa: a toponym that for years has evoked terror since, in 2014, the city became the «capital of the caliphate» of the Islamic State. The city museum was rich in finds from various eras, up to prehistoric times. The Directorate had stored most of the collections in a series of buildings near the fortification of the Abbasid period at Heraqla, 7.5 kilometers to the museum. But already in March 2013, the Caliphate looted the warehouses and many pieces, mosaics, terracotta and plaster, the result of decades of excavation missions, left the country through the accomplice Turkey, destination the international market of finds. After all, pieces from Palmira were found for sale in London, one of the most important antiques markets… Anyhow the employees managed to evacuate or hide some of the transportable materials, and then recover three full crates found in Tabqa. ISIS had arrived to place explosive charges near the museum. This is a common destiny at about 300 sites of historical relevance. The war really is an angry elephant in a crystal shop.

Let’s go back to the archaeological museum in Damascus. In the courtyard, among artifacts and trees, a small group of workers with orange jackets and helmets are installing a photovoltaic lamp. Interesting union between past and modern.

A union which is normal as well as desirable for Mahmoud Alawadi, the manager of the company Htm Power solution: “Photovoltaics and archaeological heritage are both key elements of our future. The millennia of history will help us to rebuild. I think that the civilization of force that have staged certain states on our skin should oppose the force of civilization.”  Moreover, his deputy director of the company is Slava Abdo, who studied archeology and is full of futuristic enthusiasm: “Syria is the lady of the Sun. The sun is always there, solar energy is our future and must have the greatest attention”.

And solar thermal and photovoltaic can be seen around. Here and there, on the roofs of Aleppo and even in Kafarbatna in the eastern Ghouta on the buildings left standing, and in the urban and extra-urban streets to make traffic lights, street lamps, antennas work; up to the torches distributed in the centers for displaced persons. With the war, the supply of electricity and consequently the water supply itself became a problem. Renewable energies represent a solution, very convenient, says Slava, “If you calculate the costs for a diesel generator that compensates for the lack of electricity from thermal power stations, and compare them with those of panels that then work for 24 years …”

The costs of planting of solar energy can discourage, but the reconstruction of Syria can be a good opportunity, Slava continues: “Photovoltaics are good for every place, in homes, streets, farms, industries … Not only can they be equipped with reconstructed buildings, but they can be a great resource in the same work of reconstruction” And what about the production on the panels, which had started to be made in Syria before the war? “Currently, the cost-benefit ratio makes us prefer to import from China, but in two years we expect to have our own factory here,” concludes Slava while she puts her foot on a platform that lights up. Alawadi proudly displays the operation of photovoltaic water pumps, which are very useful in agriculture.

Apricot producer/seller in Kafarbatna, June 2018

Agriculture: in the land of the fertile crescent, the primary sector has a history of many millennia behind it. The Italian geneticist Salvatore Ceccarelli, with the international organization Icarda – International Institute for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas – has worked extensively in the country with farmers, improving participatory traditional cereals (those cultivated for centuries and centuries), so as to obtain mixtures of varieties capable of responding to environmental and water crises. Mixtures now grown in various countries including Italy.

And in Syria? Here, after the drought that has hit hard since 2008, seven years of war have seriously damaged food production, due to population displacements and clashes that have also involved rural areas and disrupted supply chains and transport.

For this reason it was a small miracle, in a day of end of May, to see the beautiful color of apricots emerge from a box on a farmer’s bike in Mleha, East Ghouta, a region near Damascus that was in the eye of the war tornado. The fruits cost 300 Syrian pounds per kilogram: before the war the apricots price was within everyone’s reach, but now it is for a few, seen the lowering of wages. Exquisite fruit, a set of delicate flavors. The apricot tree, originally from China, seems to have found the elective homeland in Syria and Turkey. Kobol el arb (“before the war”), the inhabitants of the capital used to go on a trip to the Ghouta at the time of flowering. And they looked forward to the short season of apricot, an expression that is also a way of saying to indicate something fleeting. At the time of the Mamluks, to listen to the Egyptian traveler El Badri, the scholars would put themselves in… leave, leaving chairs and books to gorge the fruit. Which in Syria has inspired a true art of conservation and transformation. “After all, in Argentina we have the apricots called Damascus and now I understand why” says the actress Susana Oviedo, who is visiting Syria.

Farmer from Katana selling her products in the streets of Damascus (pg. Marinella Correggia)

What place will the primary sector have in the reconstruction of the country? And will the announced government plan for rural women really work? Here is a potential recipient: a food producer of Katana, in her yellow hat and bright blue scarf, arrives every day with a bus in the capital to sell her food. Her place is under one of the mosaics.
Agri-culture is culture, after all.

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“For whose entertainment shall we sing our agony? In what hopes? That the destroyers, aspiring to extinguish us, will suffer conciliatory remorse at the sight of their own fantastic success?” – Ayi Kwei Armah, from the book “Two Thousand Seasons”

The champagne bottles were popping at the U.N. for the pledging session’s success – $5 billion, $10 billion pledged for the future. Whose future? What Haitians in Haiti need is a hoe, a tractor, some lifting equipment, so they might not have to use their bare hands to dig out the corpses still under the rubble over three months after the earthquake. Just a hoe, a tractor – we’ll do the work.

But no, the Internationals are going to give us $5 billion later. Be happy. Wait for it as you die inside because your daughter, son, wife, mother, father, cousin and friends are still dead under the rubble and no one will help you lift up the cement blocks and steel cables so you might bury them.

Yep, you have no food, no water, no medical treatment, no job to go to, no shelter today, but don’t worry. The Washington Post assures you, “The international community pledged $5.3 billion for earthquake-shattered Haiti over the next two years, launching an ambitious effort not just to rebuild the hemisphere’s poorest nation but also to transform it into a modern state.” (“$5.3 billion pledged over 2 years at U.N. conference for Haiti reconstruction.”)

For $5.3 to $10 billion in earthquake reconstruction funds not yet collected, the Preval government “agreed” that an Interim Commission for the Reconstruction of Haiti (HRIC), composed of 13 foreigners and seven Haitians, will approve disbursements for rebuilding projects. The World Bank will hold collected donor funds and distribute said funds to “Haiti” rebuilding projects it deems worthy. Then, another group of non-Haitians will supervise the Haitian government’s implementation of the projects the World Bank strategists think worthy.

So, while the United States, the largest shareholder in the World Bank, openly secures its domination of Haiti, tramples on Haitian sovereignty with the added benefit of having the out that the Haitian government – not them, not their NGOs – failed in its implementation of projects.

While that little understanding was being thoroughly fastened down at the U.N. donor meeting, right then at Fort National, Haiti, the people are just walking over corpses and digging on the spot they find them to bury them. Others are burning the remains they find so that the stench and airborne disease won’t kill the living.

But don’t worry. Remember, Papa and Mama Clinton care, the U.N. cares, Preval cares because at the U.N. donor session, the $5.3 billion amount “exceeded by more than $1 billion the goal set ahead of a conference co-sponsored by the United Nations and the U.S. government. In all, countries, development banks and nongovernmental groups pledged nearly $10 billion for Haiti in years to come,” reports the Washington Post.

In years to come …

What is needed now is to finish extracting and burying the remaining dead, nurture the living, find a job to survive, get shelter from the elements and coming rains and hurricanes, medical treatment, food, water and get rid of the foreign experts who say their country is financing the Haitian government budget and therefore they are the ones to represent the people of Haiti. Meanwhile Sen. Dodd of Connecticut and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are not going to these rulers of Haiti for the failure of the so-called Haitian government but asking for more foreigners like them to take charge despite the Internationals’ six-year dismal failures in Haiti.

Besides, what can the people under water-logged tarps and tents do with the abstract $5.3 billion pledged by these Internationals? A backhoe, tractor, some seeds to plant food and fruit trees, some electricity, in-Haiti production of all daily necessities, shelter, sanitation, a wheelchair, a prosthetic limb to replace the one cut off by the quake’s ravages, a safe place to live, food, running water, antibiotics, some compassion and a living wage job to keep one from thinking about the loss of one’s everything would be helpful. Like now, perchance? Using not foreign resources, but Haiti’s gold, petrol, iridium, uranium, bauxite, limestone and the expertise of Haitians from the U.S., Canada, France, Latin America or the Caribbean who are willing to VOLUNTEER their time and transfer their skills to native Haitians for the nation’s good – to build Haitian capacity, not NGO capacity in Haiti.

But alas, the West dreams of riding the world economic recession and political dangers for themselves on the backs of Haiti’s dead to the tune of the $5.3, $10 billion do-gooder image they’ve siphoned off for themselves. Officialdom’s policymakers dream of doing more of what they’ve done in Haiti these last nightmarish six years and of using the earthquake windfalls to build tourist enclaves and waterfront casinos in Site Soley and Fort National and throwing out the Black Haitian majority as was done in New Orleans.

So why bother against these dreams of the BlackBerry-smartphone contingent? Against the NGOs’ useless waste of money, their setting up projects where no Haitians participate, justifying their jobs by holding meetings upon meetings with the people in the camps but with no follow-up except their trophy reports, press releases and conferences to show direct connection to justify their existence?

Ignoring Haiti’s natural resources

Haiti’s Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and a consortium of well-known Haitian figures, such as Reginald Boulos, worked on a document concerning the economic future of Haiti. The text does not explore the amazing opportunities offered by the exploitation of Haiti’s mining and oil resources, nor does it mentioned any of the serious studies done on the subject. Instead, it presents agriculture as the main alternative to resolve Haiti’s problems.

By ignoring the question of Haiti’s natural resources, it is as if the message was: There will be looting, pillage. But we will give you a little piece of bread.

Haiti has oil, iridium, uranium, copper, coal, limestone, the purest marble and, in terms of its gold, “10 million dollars have been invested by CFI (the World Bank private sector) in relationship with the IMF for a project worth billions of dollars.” Where is this information measured, factored into these U.N./U.S.-sponsored reconstruction plans and U.N. donor media shows?

Why must Haiti import fuel from the Dominican Republic – and thus the U.S. – instead of domestically producing its own energy? Where are the plans for using green and alternative energy – Haiti’s natural assets – its dry, un-arable, unusable lands for growing Jathropa for biofuel production; its wind, sea, sun, rivers for ocean heat pumps, solar cookers and panels, hydro-electric, geothermal and for coal energy, which Haiti has in abundance instead of Haiti sending hundreds of millions overseas to BUY fuel?

What’s so new about this International Haiti Plan if it’s not about food sovereignty so the people won’t need foreign big-pharmaceutical “supplements” and vaccines on empty, not to mention aching stomachs from drinking foul water.

According to Lane Wood, who heads a campaign for long-term clean water projects in Haiti, “A U.N. report released in March of 2010 said that dirty water kills more people each year than all forms of violence combined – including war. According to the WHO (World Health Organization), of the 42,000 deaths that occur every week from unsafe water and a lack of basic sanitation, 90 percent are children under 5 years old … (and) 80 percent of all disease is caused by lack of basic sanitation and lack of clean water. There are 4,500 kids that die every day because of the lack of basic sanitation and water … simple diseases like diarrhea.”

But, he said, there are some less obvious impacts of drinking dirty water. For example, dirty water can undermine other humanitarian efforts that money and effort have been poured into, like efforts to control AIDS/HIV in Africa. “They’re going home, they’re taking their medicine with bacteria-filled water, and their bodies are not absorbing the medicine.”

What’s new if this Clinton Haiti Reconstruction Plan is still about dependency – that is, using fertile land not for feeding the ill and starving people but for exporting coffee, avocado, mangoes (for Coca Cola), et al … and continuing to IMPORT food, to import fuel, “medicine” and foreign charity workers – and not about system-wide domestically produced food, clean running water, domestically generated fuel, jobs, education, health care and serious investment in sanitation and communication infrastructure and the energy to support these to help the masses connect into the global economy and have a non-mediated but sovereign voice?

U.S. foreign aid for Haiti is money raised to employ its own corporations, nationals and as funds for buying its own products and dumping them into Haiti – vaccines, seeds, fertilizer, nutritional supplements, pharmaceutical drugs, pesticides, Arkansas rice and food products, imported fuel, and ready-to-eat-meals et al … Why?

The watchword in U.S./Euro imperial geopolitics is pursuing interests, not principles of humane co-existence, charity not solidarity. Haiti is not the poorest country. It’s the most exploited country.

Like always, we’re mostly on our own. Just different Haitians are dying, in jail and being abused and tear-gassed by the U.N. Oceans of our blood have poured and watered the soil upon which Haiti stands.

The Haiti-Cuba health care proposal

For a good example of what real humanitarian help looks like, examine the proposal outlined in the Statement of the Cuban Foreign Minister at the U.N. Donors Meeting on Haiti .

Below we post the Haiti-Cuba proposal for building health care in Haiti that considers the needs of the poorest of the poor, Haiti’s realities and is without the unseemly large budget and consumerish waste of the cork-popping champagne fanfare of the U.N./Papa-Mama Clinton media show and pledging session that just took place at the U.N. Donor Conference. It is worthy of all our support.

If only this Haiti-Cuba health care proposal that’s made with the cooperation of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and other countries and humanitarian organizations could be brought into application without the U.S./Euro policymakers’ interference and use of their egotistical NGOs and mercenary military contractors to block it! If only their inhumanity and vulgarity could be held in abeyance while heart sore human beings, living under water-logged tents, old cardboard and wet sheets, people with damaged and inflamed limbs, some also tear-gassed by the U.N. for protesting their conditions – if only their inhumanity and vulgarity could be held in abeyance as Haiti tries to recover from the ravages of the U.S./Euro neoliberalism and despotism that exacerbated a 7.0 earthquake so that it took the lives of over 300,000! (See “How did the Red Cross spend $106 Million Dollars in Haiti?”)

Who in Haiti and in the Diaspora is not soul-tired of the unrelenting U.S./Euro resource war on Haiti masking as humanitarian aid? The Independence Debt Haiti constantly has to pay. (See “The Haitian struggle, the greatest David vs. Goliath battle being played out on this planet.”)

“Haiti has paid its dues,” says Harry Fouche, HLLN Relief Delegation and a former counsul general for Haiti. “Quebec, Paris, Washington owe, not foreign aid to Haiti, but a debt to Haiti,” Fouche insists.

All that’s been taken from Haiti far from slakes insatiable egos, their passion for domination, cultural hegemony, patriarchy, racism and avarice. False charity, false benevolence, false “bringing security to Haiti” doesn’t veil officialdom’s market share impositions and resource wars on independent Black Haiti. Not even barely.

This Cuban proposal for health care ought to be brought into application. Really. And if Haiti’s majority had any say, if Haiti had any sovereignty, if the law, the good, the decent and moral had any teeth in these trying times, there’s no doubt it would be. But the foreigners and their Haitian Blan peyi making more than $500 a day in Haiti from donation funds pilfered from the pain they’ve caused, exacerbated and made worse through their rule in Haiti are not embarrassed at all.

They make more than $500 a day in Haiti happily proclaiming it’s kosher for Haitians to make 38 cents an hour. And through their self-serving defamation and denigration of Haiti’s Black people and always “evil government” or officials, these modern day slave-making Gran Blan, of all the classes and races, make Haiti’s suffering so ordinary, so natural, so explainable, even they don’t see their own vulgarity.

The day these insatiable vampires in Haiti accept to level the social and economic hierarchies they’ve imposed on Black Haiti, especially on Black Haitian women, and come to “help” for the same 38 cents per hour salary their policymakers deem good enough for Haitians is the day the majority in Haiti shall take any of them seriously. Until then, the Haitian Revolution shall continue. Liberty or death.

The souls gone shall add to our strength to continue until we’ve stopped or tied up the Bafyòti (black collaborator), Mundele (white colonist/imperialist) and all their Ndoki (evil forces). “E, e, Mbomba, e, e! Kanga Bafyòti. Kanga Mundele. Kanga Ndòki” is the Bwa Kayiman exhortation that signaled the start of the Haitian Revolution.

In the last six years since Bush’s bicentennial regime change and since the tyrannical NGO industry and U.S./Euro market privateers took over Haiti, what has worked to assuage the vivid ills inflicted on the poor is the direct help Haitians have provided to each other and the Diaspora remittances. Other than that, with some small exceptions from a few small human rights organizations, Haitians may count on the Cuban doctors whose services do not strip them of their sovereignty, equality, humanity and dignity.

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This article was originally published on San Francisco Bay View.

Marguerite Laurent – or Ezili Danto – award winning playwright, performance poet, dancer, actor and activist attorney born in Port au Prince, Haiti, founded and chairs the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network, supporting and working cooperatively with Haitian freedom fighters and grassroots organizations promoting the civil, human and cultural rights of Haitians at home and abroad. Visit her at www.margueritelaurent.com, www.ezilidanto.com or www.open.salon.com/blog/ezili_danto. See also “Ezili Dantò’s Re-memberment for the Quake Victims and HLLN Delegation Mobilizing Haiti-led Relief/Rebuilding” and “Haiti Women Noticeably Absent at U.N. Donor Conference.”

Featured image is from SFBV

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Walls or Roads

January 13th, 2019 by Prof. James Petras

History is told by Walls and Roads which have marked significant turning points in the relation between peoples and states.

We will discuss the story behind two walls and one road and the circumstances which surround them and their consequences.

The Berlin Wall

In the aftermath of World War II, Europe was divided between East and West.  On one side the Soviet Union (SU) and its Communist allies and on the other the United States and its Capitalist partners.

The Soviets faced a formidable task in rebuilding their sector having lost tens of millions of soldiers and civilians and facing great scarcities of resources without aid from the wealthy West.  North America sought to roll-back the post war agreements and proceeded to subvert the East by promising higher living standards, greater cultural and personal freedom.  The East resorted to greater control and sacrifice in order to reconstruct their economies.  The unequal contest between East and West in terms of personal consumption was contested by the more radical social investments in national public health, educational and social programs.

The West succeeded in attracting professionals, skilled workers and important cultural figures by offering attractive economic and individual incentive which the East could not or would not match.

In order to contain the ‘brain drain’ the East adopted repressive measures including building what was later referred to as the Berlin Wall.  Despite physical obstacles Easterners fled across and under the Wall.

When the East succumbed to pressure and internal opposition, the economy was taken over by the capitalist West which incorporated most of their factories and workers under control by private foreign capitalists.  Hundreds of thousands of workers in the East suffered unemployment and loss of social welfare and millions moved to western countries.

The former Eastern countries were annexed into the Western military alliance (NATO) and were incorporated into US wars in the Balkans, the Middle East and Southern Asia.

The end of the Wall strengthened the US military and increased the wealth of the European Union.  The Soviet Union disintegrated, and Russia was impoverished, and its economy pillaged for over a decade.  Eventually Russia recovered and regained its sovereignty, independence and its status as a world power.

The US Wall:  Mexico and Central America

The mass migration of Central Americans and Mexicans was directly linked to two essential factors:

  1. NAFTA and the US intervention in the civil wars in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.

The US coup in Guatemala in 1954, Washington’s massive million dollar a dayinterventionin the El Salvador revolution and the 3 decades of Pentagon support for the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua and the military coups in Honduras resulted in the killing of over 400,000 Central Americans while over 2 million Central Americans were uprooted, tortured, jailed and forced to flee across the Mexican – US border.

The flood of refugees, products of US imperial wars’, crossed into the US seeking safety and employment.  The US refused humanitarian assistance; hundreds of thousands were denied entry or were expelled.

In Central America, Washington backed the military and oligarchies which controlled the land, evicted farmers and denied land to the returning peasants.

The US responded by expanding the border police and immigration security forces, seizing and expelling tens of thousands of hard working refugees.  Walls were built along the Mexican frontier, to prevent refugees from crossing the border, condemning them to violence and misery.

  1. NAFTA

Millions of Mexican peasants were displaced by the NAFTA agreement which promoted US agro-exports which undercut Mexican staples. NAFTA undermined US industrial workers as multi-nationals sought low wages.

Bankrupted farmers in Mexico sought to cross the border.

They were later joined by tens of thousands of Mexicans who fled from the drug cartels which were protected by US allies among the corrupt Mexican politicians, police and army.  The drug cartels reaped tens of billions of dollars by laundering their drug profits in the leading New York, Miami and Los Angeles banks.  The Wall kept Mexican workers out while the US government allowed drug money in– to flow to US bankers which profit from the drug laundering.

The conflict in the US between the two parties is an argument over the methods of denying the refugees entry– “walls” versus “barriers”– but not over US bank laundering and NAFTA.  The US   Wall protects profiteering and punishes its victim by keeping them out.

China’s Belt and Road: Opening Borders

Contrary to the US mania for Wall building on the Mexican border blocking refugees, President Xi Jinping has allocated $900 billion dollars for roads and infrastructures to open China, and extend links with South and Central Asia, the Middle East, East Africa and Europe. China is building sea ports, roads, airports — opening trade, and increasing the flow of labor to markets and investments.

China does not face refugees fleeing from US invasions as is the case of the Central Americans.  Nor are Chinese agricultural exports displacing farmers, as is the case of Mexicans bankrupted by NAFTA.

China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) promotes regional and international integration – in contrast to US imposed disintegration of Central American linkages.  China promotes free trade agreements with its Asian partners in opposition to US protectionist tariffs and walls.

China’s OBOR policy is based on promoting the upgrading of underdevelopedcountries in order to complement the marketing of China’s advanced technological exports.

Conclusion

Walls are built by the US to constrain the fallout from its Central American wars and unequal trade agreements with Mexico. The Soviet Wall was constructed to protect its backward, uncompetitive economy.

China needs infrastructure, breaking walls, to facilitate the flow of goods and services across borders and incorporating labor, not arresting and expelling it.

The Walls reflect backward and regressive policies; global Roads and Belts link countries to peaceful and productive global integration.

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Award winning author Prof. James Petras is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

Frei Betto (Carlos Alberto Libânio Christo) was born in 1944 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. He began his political engagement as Catholic student and was imprisoned by the military regime that seized power in 1964 and ruled until 1985. I interviewed him first in 1986 after the publication of his book of interviews Fidel and Religion. This is the first of two interviews given in December 2018 after the election of Jair Bolsonaro as president of Brazil.[1]

Dr. T. P. Wilkinson: When we met in 1986, the Brazilian military regime was considered at an end and elected government was to be restored. 32 years later a man has been elected who claims allegiance to the military regime. He is quoted saying the military should have tortured less and killed more. You were imprisoned under that regime. Could you briefly sketch the developments in Brazil since 1986 as you saw them? Has Brazil returned to military-style rule, if not actual dictatorship?

Frei Betto: The Brazilian military dictatorship began in 1964 and ended in 1985. The civil society of our country has made important accomplishments since then: a new constitution approved in 1988, called the “Civilian Constitution”; social movements of national scale, like the CUT (Unique Workers Central), the MST (Landless Workers Movement), the CMP (Popular Movements Central) and the MTST (Homeless Movement Workers).

We elect five and a half presidential terms, led by progressive politicians: Fernando Henrique Cardoso (two terms, 1995-1998 and 1999-2002), Lula (2003-2006 and 2007-2010) and Dilma Rousseff (2011-2014 and 2015-2016, when it was ended in a leadership coup by vice president Michel Temer). In this period, from 1995 until 2016, Brazil made significant advances in the social sphere, with a reduction of inequality and the inclusion of thousands of families that previously lived in misery and poverty. Only under the Lula government, 36 million people found social inclusion.

TPW: In the 1980s there were several prominent people in the Church who were identified with democratic ideals, peace and justice, for example Cardinal Arns in Sao Paulo– and as whom I met later Archbishop Dennis Hurley in Durban. There were also ecumenical movements pursuing justice in Brazil and South Africa. However it seems that once the military dictatorship was ended and the apartheid government replaced by the ANC, the Church lost its profile and many of those people associated with the struggles left the stage. Is there still an active Church-based movement in Brazil and where is it now? What challenges does it face?

FB: It is necessary to understand that the end of the dictatorship in Brazil coincided with the election of John Paul II, followed by Benedict XVI. There were 34 years of conservative pontificates that did not support the line of the CEB (basic church communities) and the theology of liberation. This opened space for the evangelical churches with their conservative profile.

There still exists at the base a church that is alive and combative, but without prominent figures like Cardinal Arns and Dom Pedro Casaldáliga. Fortunately with Pope Francis this progressive pastoral work resumes. The canonisation of Monsignor Oscar Romero was very important for the recognition of the Church of liberation and the poor. And it is very active in Brazil and Latin America with feminist theology, indigenous theology, black theology and eco-theology.

TPW: In 1986, there was still a Soviet Union, a GDR, and “competition” in Europe to demonstrate the “best” social-economic system for the majority of citizens. By 1990, all that was gone. Two years ago Fidel Castro died. It is putting it mildly to say the world has changed since 1986. It has been argued that the Soviet Union actually contributed little to social-economic justice in the rest of the world, despite claims to the contrary. However since its demise there appears to be no limit to the expansion and aggressivity of the “Western” system. Unrestricted capitalism has “won”. It would appear that there is no longer a vision of what a just world could look like capable of providing orientation, especially on a global scale. You are certainly critical but not a pessimist. Where do you see the potential for social justice in future? What obstacles do you consider most important to overcome?

FB: Socialism had the merit of forcing the rich world to concede more rights to workers. Without the communist “threat”, there would have been no welfare state in Western Europe. Now, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, capitalism no longer needs rings because it does not lose its fingers… It has changed its productive phase for one of speculation and, as Piketty demonstrates, concentrates ever more profits into fewer hands.[2]

This gaping inequality has a limit, which is the desperation of the poor, like the waves of refugees flooding into the world of the rich and the demonstrations here in France, the yellow vests. It is an illusion of the rich to think that they can have an island of prosperity surrounded by misery and suffering.

Seven centuries before Christ, the prophet Isaíah already preached that peace can only exist with the fruits of justice. And we can add today: there will never be peace as a simple balance of weapons.

TPW: Your interviews with Castro revealed a remarkable man quite different from the personality depicted or caricatured since the Cuban Revolution succeeded in 1959. Anyone who followed his writing and speeches, even after retirement, could see that your portrait was accurate and sincere. The survival of the Cuban Revolution after the fall of the Soviet Union could be seen as proof that it was not a “Soviet creation” but a genuinely Cuban phenomenon, like Castro himself. In fact Cuba managed, despite US policy, to support social-economic change in Latin America, esp. in cooperation with Chavez in Venezuela. How do you see Cuba today, esp. in relation to its Latin American neighbours?

FB: Cuba resists despite all pressure from the White House. Today, all Latin American countries support Cuban sovereignty and vote in the UN, with the support of more than 170 countries, for the suspension of the blockade. For Cuba’s economy, so damaged by the isolation the country has been condemned to, relations with the progressive governments of Latin America and the world are very important. However, Venezuela faces a serious economic crisis. And Brazil—starting in January—will be governed by a fascist party allied with the US policy of preserving the blockade. Fortunately Mexico now has a progressive government that can strengthen ties of solidarity with Cuba, especially by absorbing Cuban doctors who have been expelled from Brazil.[3]

TPW: Venezuela has been under a kind of siege since Chavez became president that is at least as challenging as the US embargo of Cuba. Now Brazil has a president who has announced a very aggressive attitude toward the government in Caracas. Venezuela is not as radical as Cuba was. Chavez and Castro were sometimes presented as if they were a pair, both with very personalistic leadership styles. Have you formed a view of the situation in Venezuela, a direct neighbour of Brazil? Sometime around 1962 the US initiated activities that culminated in the 1964 military coup in Brazil under the pretext that Goulart would align Brazil with Cuba and the Soviet Union– something to prevent. Do you see an international context to the recent presidential election results– esp. given the vitriolic statements made about Venezuela by the new president and the intense conflict between the US and both Russia and China– part of the so-called BRICS group?

FB: I think tensions between US and both China and Russia will worsen. The Cold War is back. And Latin America is the target of this conflict. The countries of the Continent know that they cannot go on without the import of their products by China. And they fear Trump’s protectionist measures. So my assessment is that this reheating of the Cold War will be favorable to the Latin American economy.

TPW: You are described among other places on the website of the Dominican Order in Germany as a “political activist”.[4] One could say that the Dominican order, the OP, was founded as an “activist” order. Not everyone would agree that the order’s history of activism has been very positive– esp. those familiar with the history of the Inquisition. Did your activism grow out of your vocation or do you believe your choice to become a Dominican was shaped by an at least latent desire to “preach”, to be an activist? How do you see your activism as a Dominican and the contradictions of the order’s role in history?

FB: The Dominican Order, like our families, has its side of light and its side of darkness. There is no chemically pure institution. In 800 years of history, the Order had the sad page of the Inquisition, but is also proud to have had among its friars Thomas Aquinas, Savonarola, Giordano Bruno, Fra Angelico, Master Eckhart, Vitoria, Tomaso de Campanella, Bartolomé de las Casas and Father Lebret.

I entered the Dominicans because of my admiration for their presence in Brazil, along with the indigenous movement, the student movement and popular movements. I did not know that I am inscribed in the annals of the German Dominicans as a “political activist.” This honors me very much, because it puts me next to another political activist, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus did not die of hepatitis in bed, but like so many political prisoners in Latin America: he was arrested, tortured, tried by two political powers and sentenced to death on the cross. I thank God for being a disciple of this political prisoner who, within Caesar’s reign, announced another possible kingdom, that of God.

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Notes

[1] Translation assisted by Prof Dr Francisco Topa, Universidade de Porto

[2] Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century(2013)

[3] In the wake of his election, Jair Bolsonaro demanded that several thousand Cuban physicians employed in parts of the Brazil with little or no medical care would have to leave the country if the Cuban government did not comply with his demands that full wages be paid in Brazil and that families be permitted to move to Brazil with the seconded medical personnel. The Cuban government rejected this attempt by Brazil to extract Cuban medical professionals and deprive Cuba of the income agreed under the Dilmar (PT) government in return for Cuba’s medical mission. See “Cuba to pull doctors out of Brazil after President-elect Bolsonaro comments”, The Guardian, 14 November 2018.

[4] www.dominikanerorden.de

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There used to be a pair of beautiful swings for children, not far from an old rural temple in Mie Prefecture, where I used to frequently powerwalk, when searching for inspiration for my novels. Two years ago, I noticed that the swings had gotten rusty, abandoned, and unkempt. Yesterday, I spotted a yellow ribbon, encircling and therefore closing the structure down. It appears that the decision had already been made to get rid of the playground, irreversibly.

One day earlier, I observed an old homeless man sleeping right under a big sign which was advertising a cluster of luxury eateries at the lavish Nagoya train station.

And in the city of Yokkaichi, which counts some 350,000 inhabitants, almost all but very few bus lines had disappeared. What had also disappeared was an elegant and unique, shining zodiac, which used to be engraved into the marble promenade right in front of the Kintetsu Line train station, the very center of the city. The fast ferry across the bay, connecting Yokkaichi with Centrair International Airport that serves Nagoya and in fact almost the entire area of Central Japan, stopped operating, as the municipal subsidies dried up. Now people have to drive some seventy kilometers, all around the bay, burning fuel and paying exuberant highway tolls and airport parking fees, to make it to their flight. What used to constitute public spaces, or even just rice fields, is rapidly being converted into depressing parking lots. It is happening in Central Japan, but also as far southwest as the city of Nagasaki, and as north as Nemuro.

Homeless man at Nagoya station

Homeless people are everywhere. Cars (Japan now has more cars per capita than the United States) are rotting in the middle of rice fields and at the edges of once pristine forests, as they lose value rapidly, and it costs a lot of money to get rid of them properly. Entire rural villages are being depopulated, in fact turning into ghost towns. There is rust, bad planning and an acute lack of anything public, all over the country.

Japan is in decay. For many years, it was possible, with half-closed eyes, to ignore it, as the country was due to inertia hanging on to the top spot of the richest nations on Earth. But not anymore: the deterioration is now just too visible.

The decay is not as drastic as one can observe in some parts of France, the United States, or the UK. But decay it is. The optimistic, heady days of nation-building are over. The Automobile industry and other corporations are literally cannibalizing the country, dictating its lifestyle. In smaller cities, motorists do not yield on pedestrian crossings anymore. Cars are prioritized by urban planners, and some urban planners are paid, bribery by the car industry. Many areas can now only be reached by cars. There are hardly any public exercise machines, and almost no new parks. Japan, which prides itself on producing some of the most refined food, is now fully overwhelmed by several chains of convenience stores, which are full of unhealthy foodstuff.

For generations, people were sacrificing their lives in order to build a prosperous, powerful and socially balanced Japan. Now, there is no doubt that the citizens are there mainly to support powerful corporations or in short: big business. Japanese used to have its own and distinct model, but now the lifestyle is not too different from one that could be observed in North America or Europe. For the second time in its history, Japan has been forced to ‘open to the world’ (read: to Western interests and to the global capitalist economy), and to accept the concepts that used to be thoroughly alien to the Asian culture. The consequences were quick to arrive, and in summary, they have been thoroughly disastrous.

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After WWII, Japan had to accept occupation. The Constitution was written by the US. Defeated but determined to rebuild and join the ranks of the richest countries on earth, Japan began collaborating with the West, first supporting the brutal invasion to Korea (the so-called “Korean War”). It totally gave up on its independence, fully surrendering its foreign policy, which gradually became indistinct from that of the United States in particular, and the West in general. The mass media has been, since the end of the war to now, controlled and censored by the regime in Tokyo. Major Japanese newspapers, as well as the Japanese national broadcaster NHK, would never dare to broadcast or publish any important international news, unless at least one major US or British mainstream media outlet had set the tone and example of how the story should be covered by the mass media in the ‘client’ states. In this respect, the Japanese media is not different from its counterparts in countries such as Indonesia or Kenya. Japan is also definitely not a ‘democracy’, if ‘democracy’ simply means the rule of the people. Traditionally, Japanese people used to live mainly in order to serve the nation, which was perhaps not such a bad concept. It used to work, at least for the majority. However, now, they are expected to sacrifice their lives solely for the profits of corporations.

People in Japan do not rebel, even when they are robbed by their rulers. They are shockingly submissive.

Japan is not only in decay. It tries to spread its failure like an epidemy. It is actually spreading, and glorifying its submissive, subservient foreign and domestic policies. Through scholarships, it is continuously indoctrinating, and effectively intellectually castrating tens of thousands of willing students from the poor Southeast Asian nations, and other parts of the world.

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In the meantime, China, which is literally ‘next door’, is leading in scientific research, in urban planning, and in social policies. With ‘Ecological Civilization’ now part of its Constitution, it is way ahead of Japan in developing alternative sources of energy, public transportation, as well as organic food production. By 2020, there will be no more pockets of extreme poverty on the entire huge territory of China.

And in China, it is all done under the red Communist banners, which the Japanese public has been taught to despise and reject.

Tremendous Chinese determination, zeal, genius and socialist spirit are evidently superior, compared to the sclerotic, conservative and revanchist spirit of modern Japan and of its handlers in the West.The contrast is truly shocking and very clearly detectable even with unarmed eyes.

And on the international stage: while Japanese corporations are plundering entire countries, and corrupting governments, China is helping to put entire continents back on their feet, using good old Communist internationalist ideals. The West does its best to smear China and its great efforts, and Japan is doing the same, even inventing new insults, but the truth is more and more difficult to hide. One speaks to Africans, and he or she finds out quickly what goes on. One travels to China, and everything becomes even clearer. Unless one is paid very well not to see.

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Instead of learning and deciding to totally change its economic and social system, Japan is turning into a sore loser. It hates China for succeeding under its independent policies, and under its Communist placards. It hates China for building new and beautiful cities designed for the people. It hates China even for doing its best to save the environment, as well as the countryside. And it hates China for being fully independent, politically and socially, even academically.

China tried ‘playing’ footsies with the Western academia, but the game almost turned deadly, leading to ideological infiltration and the near collapse of China’s intellectual independence. But at least the danger was identified, and the Western subversion was quickly stopped, just 5 minutes to Midnight so to speak; before it was too late.

In Japan, submission and collaboration with the Western global imperialist regime is worn as some code of honor. Japanese graduates of various US and UK universities frame their university diplomas and hang them on the wall, as if they’d symbolize great proof of their success, instead of collaboration with the system which is ruining almost entire planet.

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I remember, some fifteen years ago, Chinese tourists would stand on the bullet train platforms all over Japan, with their cameras ready, dreaming. When train would pass, they’d sigh.

Now, China has the most extensive and the fastest bullet train network in the world. Their trains are also more comfortable and incomparably cheaper than the Japanese or French ones; priced so everyone can afford to travel.

Chinese women used to eye, sadly, the offerings of Japanese department stores. iPhones were what the middle class was dreaming of possessing. Now Chinese visitors to Japan are dressed as elegantly as the locals, iPhones are not considered a luxury, and actually, Huawei and other Chinese manufacturers are now producing better phones than Apple.

I also remember how impressed Chinese tourists to Japan were with the modern architecture, international concert halls, and elegant cafes and boutiques.

Now, the cultural life of Beijing and Shanghai is incomparably richer than that of Tokyo or Osaka. Modern architecture in China is much more impressive, and there are innovations in both the urban and rural life of China, that are still far from being implemented in Japan.

While public playgrounds in Japan are being abandoned or converted into parking lots, China is building new parks, huge and small, recovering river and lake areas, turning them into public spaces.

Abandoned houses – South Mie

Instead of omnipresent Japanese advertisements, China is placing witty and educative cartoons speaking about socialist virtues, solidarity, compassion and equality, at many arteries, even at the metro trains. Ecological civilization is ‘advertised’ basically everywhere.

Japanese people are increasingly gloomy, but in China, confident smiles are seen at each and every step.

China is rising. It is unstoppable. Not because its economic growth (government is actually not interested in it, too much, anymore), but because the quality of life of the Chinese citizens is going steadily up.

And that is all that really matters, isn’t it? We can clearly improve the life of people under a tolerant, modern Communist system. As long as people smile, as long they are educated, healthy and happy, we are clearly winning!

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Some individuals are still chasing those magic images of pristine Japanese forests and lakes. Yes, they are still there, if you search very hard. Tea rooms and trees, lovely creeks. But you have to work very hard, you have to edit and search for the perfect shots, as Japanese cities and countryside are dotted with rotten cars and weird metal beams, with unkempt public spaces, with ugly electric wires hanging everywhere. As long as money can be saved, as long as there is profit, anything goes.

No more public spaces, just parking lots

Japanese people find it hard to formulate their feelings on the subject. But in summary: they feel frustrated that the country they used to occupy and torture, is doing much better than their own. To Japanese imperialists, the Chinese were simply ‘sub-humans’. It is never pronounced, but Japan has only been respecting Western culture and Western power. And now, the Chinese ‘sub-humans’ are exploring the bottoms of the oceans, building airplanes, running the fastest trains on earth, and making wonderful art films. And they are set on liberating the oppressed world, through its ‘Belt and Road Initiative’, and through other incredible ideas.

And what is Japan doing? Selfies and video games, idiotic meaningless nihilist cartoons, brainless social media, an enormous avalanche of uninventive pornography, of decorative ‘arts’, pop music and mass-produced cars. Its people are depressed. I have three decades of history with Japan, I know it intimately, still love it; love many things about it, but I also clearly see that it is changing, in fact collapsing. And it is refusing to admit it, and to change.

I work with China, because I love where it is going. I like its modern Communist model (I was never a great supporter of the “Gang of Four”and their cult and glorification of poverty) – let all Chinese people be rich soon, and let the entire oppressed world be wealthy as well!

But that is not what Japan wants. For some time, it felt ‘unique’. It was the only rich Asian country. The only Asian country allowed to be rich, by the West. During apartheid, in South Africa, the Japanese people were defined as “honorary whites”. It is because they had embraced Western culture. Because they opted to plunder the world, together with the Europeans and North Americans, instead of helping the subjugated nations. In many ways, it was a form of political and moral prostitution, but it paid well; extremely well, so its morality was simply not discussed.

Now China is getting ahead simply because of its courage, hard work, the genius of its people, and all this, under the wise leadership of the Communist Party and its central planning. Precisely under things that the Japanese people were brainwashed into hating.

This is frustrating. It is scary. So, all that submission, humiliation and bowing to the empire was for nothing? In the end, it is China, it is Communism which will win, and which will be doing the greatest service to humanity.

Yes, Japan is frustrated. These days, polls speak of some 80% of the Japanese disliking the Chinese.

As I interact with people from all corners of Japan, I am getting convinced that the Japanese public subconsciously feels that, for decades, it has been betting on the ‘wrong horse’. It is too proud to verbalize it. It is too scared to fully reflect on it. But life in Japan, at least for many, is clearly becoming meaningless, gloomy and depressing. And there is no revolution on the horizon, as the country was successfully de-politicized.

China is building, inventing, struggling and marching forward, confidently, surrounded by friends, but independently.

Japan is tied up and restrained. It cannot move. It doesn’t even know how to move, how to resist, anymore.

And that is why Japan hates China!

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This article was originally published on New Eastern Outlook

Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. Three of his latest books are Revolutionary Optimism, Western Nihilism, a revolutionary novel “Aurora” and a bestselling work of political non-fiction: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire”. View his other books here. Watch Rwanda Gambit, his groundbreaking documentary about Rwanda and DRCongo and his film/dialogue with Noam Chomsky “On Western Terrorism”. Vltchek presently resides in East Asia and the Middle East, and continues to work around the world. He can be reached through his website and his Twitter.

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IAN SINCLAIR reveals the hidden history of the BBC’s relationship with the secret state, suppression of ‘subversives’ and support for military intervention overseas

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Last month Ritula Shah presented a BBC World Service discussion programme entitled Is “Fake News” A Threat To Democracy?

Predictably the debate focused on Russian attempts to influence Western populations and political systems.

Asked whether the US has been involved in similar activities, Dr Kathleen Bailey, a senior figure in the US State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research in the 1980s, was dismissive:

“We [the US] certainly do not have a budget, bureaucracy or intellectual commitment to doing that kind of thing.”

Carl Miller, the research director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at Demos, also played down the West’s activities:

“I think Western countries do do less of this as a kind of tool of foreign policy than autocracies.”

“Read real journalism” — presumably BBC journalism — was one of the guest’s suggestions for countering Fake News.

Putting this self-serving and self-congratulatory narrative to one side, it is worth considering the BBC’s, and particularly the BBC World Service’s, own relationship to the British government’s own propaganda.

“Directly funded by government [the Foreign Office], rather than the licence fee” the World Service is “deeply embedded in the foreign policy, security and intelligence apparatus of the British state,” Dr Tom Mills notes in his must-read 2016 book The BBC: Myth of a Public Service.

In particular, the BBC had a very close relationship to the Information Research Department (IRD) — “a Foreign Office propaganda outfit which sought especially to foster anti-communist sentiments on the left,” explains Mills, a Lecturer in Sociology and Policy at Aston University.

Set up in 1948, the IRD “was one of the largest and best-funded sections of the Foreign Office until it was discreetly shut down in 1977 on the orders of [then foreign secretary] David Owen,” investigative journalist Ian Cobain reported in the Guardian in July 2018.

A 1963 Foreign Office review of IRD sets out the work of the covert unit:

“The primary aim is unattributable propaganda through IRD outlets — eg in the press, the political parties … and a number of societies.”

Focusing on the Soviet Union and its supposed influence around the world, “IRD material poured into the BBC and was directed to news desks, talks writers and different specialist correspondents,” according to Paul Lashmar and James Oliver in Britain’s Secret Propaganda War, their 1998 history of the clandestine organisation.

The programming of the BBC’s Overseas Service (which would change its name to the World Service in 1965) “was developed in close consultation with the Foreign Office and its information departments,” they highlight.

The BBC “were seemingly quite content to be directed by the FO [Foreign Office] as to how to deal with Middle Eastern personalities, and enquired whether it was desirable for them ‘to deal in a more or less bare-fisted manner with any of the leading statesmen (or their principle spokesmen)’,” notes Simon Collier in his 2013 PhD thesis on IRD and British foreign policy.

Infamously, the BBC played a key role in the US-British assisted overthrow of Iran’s democratically elected prime minister in 1953, with the signal for the coup to begin arranged with the BBC.

That day the corporation began its Persian language news broadcast not with the usual “it is now midnight in London,” but instead with “it is now exactly midnight,” reveals historian Mark Curtis in his 2003 book Web of Deceit: Britain’s Real Role in the World.

When it came to nuclear war, the BBC was similarly careful about what was broadcast, effectively banning the dramatised documentary film War Game in 1965 (even though it had originally commissioned it).

Discussing the film’s depiction of a nuclear attack on Britain, the chairman of the BBC wrote to the cabinet secretary arguing that the “showing of the film on television might well have a significant effect on public attitudes towards the policy of the nuclear deterrent.”

Though formally concerned with foreign influence, IRD also took a close interest in British domestic politics, including in the Northern Ireland conflict, as well as carrying out campaigns against people they suspected were communists and trade unionists.

For example, writing in the Guardian last year Cobain reported:

“Senior figures in Harold Wilson’s Labour government plotted to use a secret Foreign Office propaganda unit [IRD] to smear a number of left-wing trade union leaders,” including Jack Jones, the general secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union.

In the same report Cobain highlights a letter the BBC director-general wrote to IRD in 1974 asking for a briefing on “subversives” working in broadcasting.

This, it seems likely, was a complement to the wider political vetting the BBC undertook, with the help of MI5, between the 1930s and 1985.

Communists and members of the Socialist Workers Party and Militant Tendency were barred from key positions at the BBC, or denied promotion if they were already working for the corporation, according to a memo from 1984, with an image resembling a Christmas tree added to the personnel files of individuals under suspicion.

It is important to understand the relationship between the BBC and IRD and the wider British state was kept deliberately vague, a quintessential British fudge of formal and informal connections and influence.

“Many of the executives of the BBC had gone to the same public schools, and inevitably Oxbridge, with their Foreign Office colleagues,” note Lashmar and Oliver.

“Both were part of the establishment, attending the same gentlemen’s clubs and having an implicit understanding of what constituted the national interest.”

Cutting through this fog, Mills provides a concise summary:

“During the Cold War period the BBC was … distributing propaganda material in close co-operation with the British state.”

However, he is keen to highlight that though “there is a temptation to view all this as merely a feature of the Cold War … there is no good reason to think that there is not still significant collusion.”

He quotes Dr Emma Briant, who notes in her 2015 book Propaganda and Counter-Terrorism that the BBC director-general receives direct briefings from the British intelligence services “on the right line to take on whether something is in the national and operational interest to broadcast.”

Indeed, out of all the British broadcasters’ coverage of the Iraq war, the BBC was revealed to be the most sympathetic to the government, according to a 2003 study led by Professor Justin Lewis from Cardiff University’s School of Journalism.

Defending the BBC’s reporting in a letter to prime minister Tony Blair in 2003, then BBC director-general Greg Dyke noted he had “set up a committee … which insisted that we had to find a balanced audience for programmes like Question Time at a time when it was very hard to find supporters of the war willing to come on.”

The same committee “when faced with a massive bias against the war among phone-in callers, decided to increase the number of phone lines so that pro-war listeners had a better chance of getting through and getting onto the programmes,” Dyke explained.

This “was done in an attempt to ensure our coverage was balanced,” Dyke wrote, apparently with a straight face.

Moreover, academic studies on issues such as the Israel-Palestine conflict and the financial crisis shows the BBC has tended to reflect “the ideas and interests of elite groups, and marginalised alternative and oppositional perspectives,” to quote Mills on the BBC’s overall journalistic output.

Turning to contemporary politics, in 2016 Sir Michael Lyons, the former chair of the BBC Trust, raised concerns about the corporation’s coverage of new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

“I can understand why people are worried about whether some of the most senior editorial voices in the BBC have lost their impartiality on this,” he noted.

As is often the case, a careful reading of Establishment sources can provide illumination about what is really going on.

Concerned about the government’s proposed cuts to the World Service, the House of Commons foreign affairs committee highlighted the propaganda role of the BBC in 2014: “We believe that it would not be in the interests of the UK for the BBC to lose sight of the priorities of the FCO, which relies upon the World Service as an instrument of ‘soft power’.”

Fake news indeed.

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Featured image is from Morning Star

Russiagate: Is Paul Whelan a Spy?

January 13th, 2019 by Philip Giraldi

The media has a new bit of speculation that fits neatly into the flagging Russiagate narrative. It concerns Paul Whelan, a high school graduate Marine Corps dishonorable discharge, who is currently working in corporate security for a Michigan-based auto parts manufacturer. Whelan, who lives alone, is self-taught in Russian and has engaged in tourist travel to the country a number of times. He was reportedly arrested late last month in Moscow while ostensibly attending a friend’s wedding and charged with espionage. Forty-eight year-old Whelan is clearly an odd duck and is notable for having four passports – Great Britain, Ireland, Canada and that of the United States.

Press coverage of the incident has nearly unanimously decided that the spying charge against Whelan is phony and that he is being held as bait to arrange for an exchange with Maria Butina, who is in jail in Virginia after being charged with acting as an unregistered agent of the Russian government and engaging in conspiracy. The media and the usual pundits base their conclusion on absolutely no evidence whatsoever apart from their conviction that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a bad man who would do almost anything to irritate the United States and overthrow its system of government. Oddly, the press watchdogs fail to note how the current federal government is doing a damned fine job destroying itself without any assistance from the Kremlin. If Putin really wanted to damage the US, he would be best advised to leave it alone and let Congress and the White House do the heavy lifting for him.

Unlike the mainstream media, I rather expect that the charges against Whelan could be more-or-less correct, though not in the way the press has framed the story, which is that Whelan is such a flawed character that he could not possibly meet the requirements to be working for any sophisticated spy organization. The New York Times in its coverage of the story interviewed several former CIA officers who had served in Russia, but asked the wrong questions. The reporter wanted to know if Whelan could possibly be an employee of US intelligence. The ex-Agency officers replied “no” because of his criminal record while a Marine and other oddities in his career, which included some marginal involvement with low-level law enforcement.

The former spooks were correct to state that Whelan would not pass the security hurdles for employment as a staff officer, but there is also a whole other level of possible engagement with the Agency, DIA or JSOC – cooperating as one of the sources which intelligence organizations recruit and run to collect information. The flawed but nevertheless useful Whelan would be a perfect target for recruitment as an intelligence source, referred to in the business as “agents.”

Unusually for a foreigner, Whelan has a social media account on Vkontakte, the Russian equivalent of Facebook, which is quite likely how he came to the attention of CIA or the Pentagon. And The New York Times, interestingly, describes his friends on the site as “men with some sort of connection to academies run by the Russian Navy, the Defense Ministry or the Civil Aviation Authority.” That alone would be enough to generate considerable interest in American intelligence circles as sources with that kind of access are hard to find.

And the details of Whelan’s arrest, if true, are completely consistent with how a low- to mid-level source might be run and used by a US government case officer. According to Russian accounts published in Rosbalt, a news agency close to the Kremlin, an unidentified intelligence source revealed that Whelan was trying to recruit a Russian citizen to obtain classified information regarding employees at various government agencies when he was caught in flagrante. He was arrested five minutes later in what was clearly a sting operation after having received a USB stick that included a list of all of the employees that he apparently had requested.

It may turn out that Paul Whelan is completely innocent and is merely a pawn in a tit-for-tat chess game being played by Washington and Moscow. If so, it is to be hoped that he will be proven innocent and released, but no one should rule out his having been recruited and exploited by a US government agency. Spying is not a game. It is a dangerous business, with serious consequences for those who are caught.

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

Featured image is from Detroit Free Press

We’re not going to stop this train wreck. We are not even trying to slow down the production of CO2, and there is already enough CO2 in the atmosphere. We are going to see the consequences, and they will be significant.” – Bruce Wright, senior scientist with the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association. Quoted in The End of Ice [1]

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The battle to protect human civilization and life on this planet from the ravages of global warming has taken on a renewed urgency following the October 8th release of a stunning report from the world’s greatest authority on the state of the climate.

The Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C was approved by the revered Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on October 6 in Incheon, Republic of Korea, just weeks in advance of last December’s Katowice Climate Change Conference. [2] Among other dire warnings, the report concluded that:

  • The global mean surface temperature of Earth has increased 0.87°C during the period from 1850-1900 to 2006-2015.
  • ocean acidification and changes to carbonate chemistry stemming from the absorption of 30% of anthropocentrically produced carbon dioxide are unprecedented for at least the last 65 million years.
  • the probability of extreme drought, precipitation deficits, and risks associated with water availability in some regions increase dramatically with the internationally agreed upon limit of 2°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels versus the more ambitious target of 1.5 °C.
  • Overshooting the 1.5 °C target would pose large risks for natural and human systems because some of those risks could be long-lasting and irreversible, such as the loss of some ecosystems.
  • ecosystems such as kelp forests and coral reefs that are relatively less able to move are projected to experience high rates of mortality and loss. For example, multiple lines of evidence indicate that the majority (70–90%) of warm water (tropical) coral reefs that exist today will disappear even if global warming is constrained to 1.5°C.
  • Ecosystem services from Earth’s oceans will be compromised due to 1.5°C warming and changes to ocean chemistry (e.g. acidification, hypoxia and dead zones) with more pronounced affects beyind 1.5°C of warming.
  • Projections overwhelmingly indicate that restricting global temperature rise to 1.5 °C would require a 40-50% reduction below 2010 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. [3]

While it has been pointed out that a thermonuclear war would likely have even more devastating impacts on life on Earth, at least humans have the power to decide not to use nuclear weapons. In the case of climate change, we are told that once critical thresholds have been crossed, no human actions, no matter how valiant and self-sacrificing, will be enough to prevent runaway warming.

On a week when youth around the planet are mobilizing strikes for ‘climate action,’ the Global Research News Hour highlights the major indicators of a natural world in crisis due to global warming.

In the first half hour, following a short report on a local (Winnipeg) youth activist event, University of Ottawa based climate systems scientist Paul Beckwith outlines some of the more worrying signs that even the October 2018 IPCC Special Report on Climate Change failed to adequately address, he looks at the threats to the polar ice caps and the role they play in regulating familiar weather patterns, and he assesses some of what needs to be done to avoid multiple ‘tipping points’, and a ‘Hothouse Earth’ scenario.

In our second half hour, mountaineer, independent journalist, former Iraq War correspondent, and Truthout staff writer Dahr Jamail navigates listeners through The End of Ice, his recently published book on climate change. His latest publication is a tour through various locations around the globe from Mount Denali in Alaska to Florida, to the Amazon Rainforest and marks the changes climate cbange have already made and projects to the changes yet to come.

Paul Beckwith is a physicist, engineer, and part-time professor at the University of Ottawa. His research focus is on Abrupt Climate System Change. He has an archive of Youtube videos in which he shares the most up to date information on the climate threat. His website is paulbeckwith.net.

Dahr Jamail, a Truthout staff reporter, is the author of The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan (Haymarket Books, 2009), and Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq (Haymarket Books, 2007). He is also the co-author with William Rivers Pitt of The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible (Truthout, 2014). Jamail is recipient of the Martha Gellhorn Award for Investigative Journalism, among other awards. Dahr Jamail is also the author of the recently published book, The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption (The New Press, set for release January 15, 2019.) He lives and works in Washington State.

(Global Research News Hour Episode 244)

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The Global Research News Hour airs every Friday at 1pm CT on CKUW 95.9FM in Winnipeg. The programme is also podcast at globalresearch.ca . Excerpts of the show have begun airing on Rabble Radio and appear as podcasts at rabble.ca.

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

Community Radio Stations carrying the Global Research News Hour:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Radio Fanshawe: Fanshawe’s 106.9 The X (CIXX-FM) out of London, Ontario airs the Global Research News Hour Sundays at 6am with an encore at 4pm.

Los Angeles, California based Thepowerofvoices.com airs the Global Research News Hour every Monday from 6-7pm Pacific time. 

Notes:

  1. Dahr Jamail (January 2019), p. 73, ‘The End of Oil: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption’, The New Press, New York, NY
  2. https://www.ipcc.ch/2018/10/08/summary-for-policymakers-of-ipcc-special-report-on-global-warming-of-1-5c-approved-by-governments/
  3. Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5 °C, Chapter 3: Impacts of 1.5°C  of Global Warming on Natural and Human Systems, pg. 177-181; https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/sites/2/2018/11/SR15_Chapter3_Low_Res.pdf

An alarming piece of legislation is about to enter into force in India next month mandating that social media platforms such as Facebook remove “unlawful content” such as posts that affect the “sovereignty and integrity of India”, meaning that this law could easily be abused by New Delhi to demand that the internationally recognized Pakistani map be banned because it contradicts India’s maximalist claims to Kashmir.

The Information-Communication Technology (ICT) Revolution of the past few decades has resulted in social media becoming a regular part of most people’s daily lives, with billions of people checking their accounts daily (sometimes across several platforms) and coming into contact with an unquantifiable amount of information from countless sources. One of the unintended consequences of this development is that social media has been exploited by various forces in order to further agendas that might be illegal in certain countries, such as spreading terrorist propaganda or fake news hoaxes. It therefore makes sense that states would want to legislate the activities that occur on these transnational foreign-based platforms in lieu of restricting their citizens’ access to the sites on which so much of their social lives have become dependent.

Banning The Map 

There’s nothing wrong with that in principle so long as internationally agreed-upon norms are used as the basis by which governments decree that Facebook and other social media platforms should censor certain content, but the controversy arises when countries demand that these companies enforce legislation that infringes on the freedom of speech of other people elsewhere. India, the self-proclaimed “world’s largest democracy”, is about to implement a law next month mandating that “unlawful” content be scrubbed from social media, which as Reuters reports also includes materials that affect the “sovereignty and integrity” of the country. While this might be a seemingly legitimate concern for any country, it can actually be abused by India to pressure Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, and others to ban the internationally recognized Pakistani map.

Image result for pakistani map

Source: Lonely Planet

The reasoning behind this fear is that India’s maximalist claims to Kashmir have led to New Delhi refusing to recognize that the Pakistani region of Gilgit-Baltistan is under Islamabad’s writ, ergo why India’s official map includes this territory as part of that country and not its neighbor’s despite New Delhi exercising no sway whatsoever over it or its people. India, however, is on track to become the world’s most populous country sometime in the next decade and is accordingly one of the most sought-after markets for any social media company, which is why they might bend to New Delhi’s will and consider removing content from their platforms that the country deems to be “illegal”, such as the internationally recognized map of Pakistan.

The Catch-22

Nevertheless, most of the world’s social media giants are based in the US, so this implies that Americans (including those of Pakistani descent who share the internationally recognized map of their homeland) would have the responsible expression of their freedom of speech curtailed on behalf of a foreign government for politically subjective reasons that differ from their own government’s official position on this issue, a scenario that’s bound to send shockwaves through the country and become a political controversy sooner than later. The larger question being raised is the extent to which national governments can compel foreign internet companies to censor content shared by users outside of the state in question for reasons that don’t objectively constitute “national security” concerns.

Furthermore, it can’t be overlooked that very populous states such as India (which are prized by these companies for their enormous market potential) have a disproportionate advantage in this sense than their smaller- and medium-sized counterparts because they could restrict their citizens from accessing these platforms in response to those companies refusing to abide by their national legislation mandating the censorship of certain content such as the internationally recognized Pakistani map in the event that those laws are abused for political purposes. Pure financial motivations might therefore lead to social media companies “compromising” on their “values” but inadvertently violating the legislation of the country in which they’re based, thus creating a classic Catch-22 situation.

Brainstorming A Solution

It’s difficult to figure out what the perfect solution could be to this dilemma because it’s unrealistic for social media companies to censor materials based on the country of origin and not through any universal standards because Indian users could just go to Pakistani pages in order to view the “banned content”, though declining to comply with New Delhi’s demands could lead to serious financial consequences for the company. For all intents and purposes, Facebook and other companies’ responses to the possible abuse of India’s forthcoming legislation will therefore set a precedent when it comes to other governments’ partnerships with these platforms for notional “security” reasons because this very concept itself could be subjectively interpreted to infringe on the legitimate rights of users abroad to responsibly express themselves.

Instead of passively reacting to the possible censorship of their internationally recognized map from social media because of Indian pressure, it might be prudent for Pakistanis to begin raising the issue of freedom of speech on these platforms in as many high-level public fora as possible, potentially even going as far as doing so in an official capacity. Facebook and other companies should make formal statements about whether they’d remove the Pakistani map from their sites if India deemed it an “illegal” violation of its “sovereignty and integrity” following the imposition of its national legislation next month which could be abused for this purpose. In addition, it should be asked whether they’d do the same when it comes to images representing the Kashmiri cause.

Concluding Thoughts

By becoming the unexpected champion of responsibly expressed free speech on social media, Pakistan and its people would also be showing the world just how vibrant their democracy really is. It would powerfully contradict the Western world’s weaponized misperception of their country as a “third-world religious dictatorship” and prove that it’s actually a freely developing society in which tens of millions of people are actively engaged in social media and concerned about transnational internet companies censoring their national map and images coming from the Indian side of the UN-recognized Kashmir Conflict. There’s no doubt that states have the right to ask Facebook and others to remove universally acknowledged terrorist content, but they shouldn’t abuse this to censor “politically inconvenient” content like India might be poised to do.

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This article was originally published on Eurasia Future.

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

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At least five British soldiers were killed in a rocket attack by ISIS in the village of al-Shaafah in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, al-Watan newspaper reported on January 9. Several more soldiers were reportedly injured in the incident. They were airlifted to a hospital in Hasakah.

If this were confirmed, this would be the second incident including casualties among British forces deployed in Syria in several days. On January 6, 2 British Special Forces soldiers were injured in an ISIS attack, also in Deir Ezzor province.

On January 7, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also recalled Washington’s contribution to the war on ISIS in Syria and Iraq by claiming that the US had eliminated 99% of ISIS’ Caliphate.

“We’ve taken down 99 percent of the caliphate. Ninety-nine percent of the caliphate. That should be the first sentence in every story. Right? Everybody agree?” Pompeo told reporters as he was leaving for his Middle East round. “Anybody dispute the facts? This has been an enormously successful campaign,” he added.

It’s hard to deny that the US-led coalition was forced to react to the Russian military operation in Syria by intensifying its own anti-ISIS campaign in the country. However, it remains unclear how Washington was able to eliminate 99% of the ISIS’ Caliphate by limiting its operations against the terrorist group to Iraq and northeastern Syria only.

After ten days of clashes, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and the Turkish-backed National Front for Liberation (NFL) reached a ceasefire putting an end to this round of escalation in the Idlib de-escalation zone.

The agreement was likely reached after Turkish mediation. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu even claimed that

“Ankara has taken the necessary steps to stop these [HTS] attacks”.

Under the agreement, which was signed by both groups at the early hours of January 10, all the areas controlled by the NFL will be ruled by HTS’ Salvation Government. The deal boosts further the already strong positions of HTS in northwestern Syria.

Meanwhile, the Turkish-backed Syrian Free Police (FSP) announced that it had suspended the work in all of its centers through the opposition-held part of northwestern Syria until a “further notice” due to “new circumstances.”

In its official statement, the FSP also said that will hand over all of its centers to the local authorities in each area and will distribute its remaining funds among its personnel. These procedures suggest that the FSP may never resume its work.

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On Friday, partial shutdown entered its 21st day, matching the longest previous one in 1995-96. Unlike then, there are no signs of imminent resolution.

Both sides of the aisle share blame for what’s going on. Things could go on much longer. Trump, most Republicans, and undemocratic Dems are dug in for the long haul over who’ll blink first.

Continued sturm und drang by both right wings of war party rule is all about seeking political advantage – unrelated to national security or a crisis along America’s southern border with Mexico.

What’s making daily headlines ignores vital issues affecting the great majority of Americans, along with a permanent US state of war on humanity.

It’s supported by both sides of the aisle, solidly for policies benefitting privileged interests exclusively at the expense of most others.

Conditions are worsening over time, not improving – whether Republicans or Dems control things. Instead of informing the public about what’s going on, major media suppress what’s most important.

While Rome burns, as the saying goes, they fiddle. Here are some top-featured Friday headlines:

NYT: “White House Considers Using Storm Aid Funds as a Way to Pay for the Border Wall”

Washington Post: “Trump eyes Army for building wall as he mulls emergency declaration”

Wall Street Journal: “White House Aides Explore Alternative Ways to Pay for Border Wall”

AP News: “Trump closer to declaring emergency; 800,000 won’t get paid

Reuters: “As US shutdown nears record length, Trump weighs declaring emergency”

Fox News: “Trump says he has ‘absolute right to declare a national emergency’ in Fox News interview”

CNN: “The government is STILL shut down”

The White House website falsely headlined “The Crisis at the Southern Border Is Too Urgent to Ignore”

On Thursday, Trump perpetuated the myth about criminal gangs pouring into America through its southern border, “targeting unaccompanied minors for recruitment…smuggl(ing) firearms, weaponry, and other dangerous materials into the United States.”

Drugs trafficking is more facilitated than deterred by the US, entering the country through all its borders – from South and Central America, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

Since at least the early 1950s, there’s been a global CIA/illicit drug connection – involving the agency, major banks laundering dirty money, underworld figures, along with others in business and government.

US occupation of Afghanistan made the country the world’s leading opium producer, used to make heroin – after the Taliban eliminated most opium cultivation in the 1990s.

Before heading to America’s southern border for a PR photo-op stunt on Thursday, Trump perpetuated the myth about a national security crisis along the US border with Mexico.

In his January 8 Oval Office address, he falsely claimed NAFTA 2.0 will fund his wall indirectly. Global Trade Watch director Lori Wallach called his claim “ludicrous,” stressing:

It’s “unclear if the deal will be enacted, and, if it is, the text does not include border wall funding directly nor would it generate new government revenue indirectly given that it cuts the very few remaining tariffs, not raises them,” adding:

“All imports into the United States from Mexico have been duty free for more than a decade, meaning that NAFTA trade does not generate money from Mexican importers for US government coffers and nothing in the NAFTA 2.0 changes that.”

“(I)t’s obvious that trying to connect NAFTA to funding for his wall decreases the likelihood Congress passes the revised NAFTA, even if Trump’s NAFTA-wall-funding claims are entirely without merit.”

On Thursday, Trump repeated the Big Lie about Mexico to pay for his wall, falsely claiming “(t)hey are paying for it (indirectly) with” NAFTA 2.0 that Congress may reject.

He’s “not prepared to” declare a national emergency, “(b)ut if I have to, I will,” he roared. “I have no doubt about it. I will” – claiming he has a legal right to do it.

The Supreme Court will likely have final say if he goes this far over nothing, over a political crisis unrelated to national security or conditions along the US southern border.

What’s been going on for many years is over deeply impoverished and repressed people – refugees and asylum seekers of the wrong race and ethnicity, fleeing intolerable conditions at home in nations run by despotic regimes the US supports.

If partial shutdown continues on Saturday, what seems certain, it’ll be the longest in US history – neither side willing to compromise so far, both sides seeking political advantage over the other.

What’s going on is one of countless examples of America’s deplorable state – an increasingly repressive plutocracy, not a democracy, waging endless war on humanity at home and abroad.

A Final Comment

Trump wants $5.7 billion for southern border wall funding. A previous article explained the following: Russia’s 37-mile fence, separating Crimea from Ukraine, cost less than $3 million.

At an equivalent cost-per-mile along the near-2,000 mile US/Mexico border, a similar barrier could be built for about $150 million.

It’s a tiny fraction of what Trump wants. Russia’s fence includes “an intricate system of (visible and hidden) alarm sensors,” night-vision security cameras, a video feed, and an alarm when anyone approaches a detection zone along its entire length – followed by an audible warning, according to Russia’s Border Service.

Russian efficiency and effectiveness are notable compared to notorious US waste, fraud and abuse, countless trillions of dollars wasted, much of it earmarked for advancing the nation’s imperium.

America’s FY 2018 federal budget exceeds $3.3 trillion, $5.7 billion a drop in the ocean. What matters is what US funding is spent for.

Discretionary spending is largely for militarism, endless wars, and corporate handouts – at the expense of vital homeland needs gone begging, further proof of a nation ill-serving its people.

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

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Featured image is from Debbie Nathan

The Global Rise of Fascism: Capitalism End Game?

January 12th, 2019 by Gilbert Mercier

It is everywhere. In a few years, it has metastasized like a cancer, on all continents. Its fervent proponents and ill-informed supporters call it populism or nationalism. In the Italy, Germany, or Spain of the 1930s, however, this ideology of exclusion and fear, defined by a hatred of the other, together with a tyrannical executive power, was called by its proper name: fascism. Mussolini in Italy, Hitler in Germany and Franco in Spain were the bloodthirsty tenors of capitalism’s symphony orchestra, singing the deadly opera quietly conducted by the military-industrial complex. When the fascism-induced collective psychosis was put to an end in 1945 by Russia and the Western allies, between 68 and 80 million people had been slaughtered worldwide.

MAGA is America Uber Alles

The disease, expressed by the term Deutschland Uber Alles (Germany above all else), was also contagious. It has been repackaged under the thinly concealed Make America — or Italy, Austria, Hungary, Brazil, or Israel — Great Again. The doctrine of one country above all else is, in reality, the best way to justify the tyranny of the State against its own population. Constant threats, external or internal, mostly fabricated and hugely amplified by subservient media, keep societies on edge and make people tolerate or, even worse, embrace an omnipresent security apparatus, either military or police. Fascist regimes always blur the line between military and police. Why not, indeed, be able to deploy your military against your own citizens if you have brainwashed them with the notion of lurking internal enemies? After all, fear and paranoia are the most powerful vectors of the global Orwellian empire we live in.

Source: Banksy

The nexus of fascism and capitalism

The neofascists have draped themselves in the flag of populism and nationalism and therefore have disingenuously convinced their supporters that they are the champions of a fight against globalism, elitism, and the corruption of the neoliberal political system. They are, however, fierce proponents of dog-eat-dog capitalism and its abject systematic exploitation of labor. Fascists enthusiastically support the global military-industrial complex as well as capitalism’s senseless exploitation of resources through mining and deforestation. For fascists, just as for capitalists, wealth must be concentrated in fewer hands, and money may circulate across borders without constraint while ordinary people may not.

There is indeed nothing new under the sun. If industrialists today profit from wars on both sides of conflicts, giant US companies such as Ford and General Motors did the same in the build up to and even during World War II. Historian Bradford Snell wrote, more than 20 years ago, that “the Nazis could not have invaded Poland and Russia without GM.” The cozy relationship of Ford and GM with the Nazi regime went back to the early 1930s. Henry Ford himself was a Nazi supporter, and Hitler was a fan of the automaker. The two companies, Ford and GM, credited themselves with being “the arsenal of democracy” by transforming their production lines for US military purposes, but they were also, openly at least until 1942, the arsenal of fascism.

The same apparent schizophrenia is at play today. Just like Ford and GM were complicit with the Nazis, global capitalism, driven by the merchants of death of the military-industrial complex, is profiting from war crimes by, for example, selling a massive amount of weapons to the Islamo-fascist regime of Saudi Arabia, which is currently committing crimes against humanity by killing thousands of civilians and starving the entire population of Yemen. These war crimes are committed with weapons made in the USA, the UK and France, in the respective order of the volumes sold to the Saudis. France has a liberal and pseudo human-rights champion as its leader in the person of Macron. Nevertheless the booming French military-industrial  complex sells 7 billion Euros worth of weapons per year. India, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt are the top buyers of death made in France: a criminal industry that employs more than 200,000 people.

Fascists have built mental walls of hatred

Source: Banksy

The likes of Trump, Salvini, Kurz, Orban and Bolsonaro were elected largely on the false premise and racist notion of culture wars and clash of civilizations: the mythical threat that, in an already multi-ethnic world, immigrants, the outsiders often with darker skins or another religion, represent an existential peril for host countries. The neofascists have risen by building mental walls of hatred in fortress Europe and fortress America. The worldwide proliferation of neofascism constitutes a new form of ideological globalization, and global capitalism is banking on it. For example, once it became obvious that Bolsonaro would be elected president of Brazil, the country’s stock market rose by 13 percent in two weeks while all the major international markets fell. During World War II the fascist axis powers were Germany, Italy, and Japan. Now they are the US, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Brazil, and India to some extent. All of it has the curious blessings of the mighty little State of Israel and the large money bags called the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

Geopolitical conundrum

The global rise of fascism will change a landscape already on shaky ground. Trump’s National Security adviser, John Bolton, has already set the agenda and put in the neofascist crosshair Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua, which he called the “troika of tyranny.” Naturally, Bolton counts on the new fascist regional helpers of US imperialism, Colombia and Brazil, to enforce a revived full-blown Monroe Doctrine.  In Europe, neofascists have risen to power in Hungary and the coalition governments of Italy and Austria. Their ideological comrades in Germany, Poland, France, Sweden, and the Netherlands have not risen to power, but their political clout is quickly growing. This rise of the neofascists, combined with the UK’s Brexit, is jeopardizing the European Union. In these developments, Steve Bannon of the US is playing the part of a fascism ideologue and black-clad eminence grise.

The Russians, for their part, have developed a dangerously cozy relationship with today’s European fascists, as if the history of World War II has not taught them anything about fascism.  The pact of non-aggression between Nazi Germany and the USSR, signed in August 1939, not only allowed Hitler to unleash his killing spree on the West, but also did not prevent the German army from launching an attack two years later on the USSR. Stalin’s strategic mistake resulted eventually in the deaths of 27 million Soviet citizens. In the current context, it seems that a potential dismantlement of the EU is one of the only geopolitical goals that Russia and the US can agree on. As an example, the Russians as well as the US’ Bannon like and promote Italy’s powerful Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, a rising star of European neofascism and a euro-skeptic whose motto is: “Make Europe Great Again!”

Gott Mit Uns (God with us)

“Gott Mit Uns,” in raised letters around an eagle and swastika, was the inscription that adorned the German army’s belt buckles during World War II. If there is a God, his power certainly did not much help the soldiers of the Third Reich! That being said, there is definitely a religious track in the rise of global fascism. In the US and in Brazil, the vote of the evangelical Christians was a primary factor in the elections of Trump and Bolsonaro. “Born-again” Christian fundamentalists in the US are mainly concentrated in the formerly Confederate Southern states of the Civil War. These evangelical fundamentalist communities largely reject evolution, secularism, and the reality that climate change is man-made. Many in these communities believe that the US should be a Christian state. These Christian fundamentalists are the most reliable voting block for Trump, just as they were for George W. Bush. Well-funded far-Right fundamentalist think tanks like The Heritage Foundation have been pulling the strings in the background since the early 1970s.

Brazil’s Bosonaro was raised a Catholic, but he became, in what could be viewed as a cynical political calculus, a “born-again” evangelical. The evangelical voting block arguably gave him the edge on his opponent during the country’s October 2018 presidential election. Meanwhile, in what they see as fortress Europe, the European fascists have embraced their so-called Christian heritage, and they fuel anti-Islam sentiments, blurring the line between racism and religious intolerance. In Israel, under what can be called PM Netanyahu’s Judeo-fascism, Palestinians are dehumanized and persecuted, as the Jews were in Europe’s pogroms. In Saudi Arabia, the Islamo-fascist Mohamed bin-Salman does the same by painting Iran’s Shiites as heretics and terrorists. In India, PM Modi, who is considered by many Indian Muslims to be a Hindu-fascist, is also using religion to create conflicts and justify massive military spending. In brief, religious fundamentalists of all stripes are today the neofascists’ best assets to manipulate people and turn them, often violently, against each other.

Fascism’s unbearable ecological footprint

In the mold of Trump in the US and Bolsonaro in Brazil, neofascists are by-and-large climate change deniers, or “skeptics,” as they prefer. After all, the Lord or Allah knows best and holds the key to their destinies. For the rest of us, who do not expect God to have an extra planet Earth in his back pocket, the rise of global fascism offers a grimmer prospect for  humanity’s survival. Under the jackboots of the global fascism stormtroopers, the little that is left of our shattered ecosystem will meet its final solution. Bolsonaro could engineer a tabula rasa in the Amazon, which is considered the lung of the earth, due to its capacity to absorb CO2. The super-rich who control global capitalism will give carte blanche to their fascist surrogates to grow and use a massive military-police apparatus to repress the billions of climate change refugees and victims of ecological collapse. Despite their assumptions and planning, discretely run by the Pentagon based on climate change becoming a national security issue, climate change will be capitalism’s end game. All the gold and diamonds in the world will not stop the storms or shield the atmosphere from the deadly rays of a blazing sun.

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This article was originally published on the author’s blog site: News Junkie Post.

Gilbert Mercier is the author of The Orwellian Empire. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image is from the archives of Torbak Hopper

US diplomats and military officials failed to present any specific details to their Turkish counterparts about Washington’s plans to withdraw its forces from northern Syria during National Security Adviser John Bolton‘s visit to Ankara on Tuesday, Middle East Eye has learned.

Turkish officials had been expecting Bolton and his entourage to bring with them draft plans for the withdrawal of about 2,000 soldiers deployed as part of the US-led campaign against Islamic State (IS) militants following US President Donald Trump‘s announcement last month of his intention to pull them out of Syria.

But the US delegation instead delivered what Turkish officials described as a “non-paper”, an unofficial diplomatic note listing a country’s position on certain matters which is open for discussion.

The five-point document proposed a negotiated solution addressing Turkish security concerns about the YPG, the Syrian Kurdish militia which Ankara accuses of links to the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) but which has played a leading role as a US ally in the ground campaign against IS.

It also reiterated that the US withdrawal would be “deliberate and orderly”, but US officials did not present any operational information or discuss a timetable or post-pullout planning, a Turkish official told MEE, speaking on condition of anonymity due to government protocol.

Those in attendance with Bolton during the two-hour meeting at the presidential palace included General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest-ranking officer in the US military and the principal military adviser to Trump and senior officials, and James Jeffrey, the US special envoy to the anti-IS coalition.

Turkish officials attending the talks were led by Ibrahim Kalin, the spokesperson for the Turkish presidency.

Concerns for YPG

Their main message, the Turkish official said, was to stress their concerns for the safety of YPG fighters following the US withdrawal.

Turkey already has forces on the ground in rebel-held areas west of the Euphrates river in northern Syria, where it considers Kurdish militias a security threat to its southern border. It has threatened to launch operations across the Euphrates into areas currently under the control of the YPG and its allies.

A senior Trump administration official briefed on objectives outlined at the meeting, speaking to MEE, confirmed that five conditions were delivered to Turkish officials.

Firstly, the US reiterated that the withdrawal of its anti-IS forces in northeastern Syria would happen in a deliberate, orderly and strong manner.

Secondly, the US, in the non-paper, committed itself to defeating the remnants of IS and continuing to damage IS targets throughout the withdrawal period.

While IS fighters have been ousted from the major towns and cities they once held, fighting between US-backed forces and IS militants has continued in the Middle Euphrates River Valley with the US continuing to launch regular air strikes in support of allied forces.

“As the president has stated, the US will maintain whatever capability is necessary for operations needed to prevent IS’s resurgence,” the administration official said.

Thirdly, the US declared that it wants a negotiated solution to Turkish security concerns with regard to the YPG.

The official said:

“The US will cooperate with Turkey and other coalition members on continuing [anti-IS] operations and de-conflicting the airspace over northeast Syria. The United States opposes any mistreatment of opposition forces who fought with the US against IS.”

Withdrawal of Iran-backed forces

Fourthly, the official also made clear that the US would pursue the withdrawal of Iranian-backed forces from Syria and a political solution in Syria.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has drawn heavily on Iranian military support, including units of the Revolutionary Guards Corps and Iran-backed Hezbollah militia fighters, during the country’s eight-year civil war.

“The US is not withdrawing from the base at al-Tanf at this time,” the official said, referring to the only US military site in southern Syria that currently provides a refuge for some Free Syrian Army opposition forces and refugees.

The base, which is close to the Iraqi and Jordanian borders, is considered as a significant leverage against pro-Assad and Iranian forces in the area.

Finally, the US made clear that the release of captured IS militants – described as “foreign terrorists” by the US official – held by the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces is “unacceptable”. An appropriate disposition of those prisoners is a top priority, the official said.

SDF leaders threatened in recent weeks to release these prisoners because, they said, they were understaffed and due to the threat of possible Turkish attacks in the north.

A source with knowledge of the talks said Turkish officials, in the meeting in Ankara, agreed not to conduct military operations against YPG targets while US forces remained in Syria, but repeated Ankara’s position that the YPG is a terrorist organisation which Ankara had every right to expel from its borders.

But Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Turkey’s NTV television on Thursday that it could still launch an offensive if the US delayed its withdrawal with “ridiculous excuses”.

“We are determined on the field and at the table… We will decide on its timing and we will not receive permission from anyone,” said Cavusoglu.

The source also said Bolton had inquired about the state of negotiations between Turkey and Russia over the post-US withdrawal. In response, Turkish officials declined to reveal the particulars of their diplomatic conversations.

120 days

Turkish officials expect that the withdrawal will take place in 120 days, and during this time, according to the source, US officials need to show some goodwill to satisfy Turkish concerns.

This is why Turkish officials urged their counterparts to uphold the already agreed Manbij roadmap and quickly remove YPG elements from Manbij and its military council accordingly. Otherwise, they said, Syrian government or allied Russian forces could take the control of the town.

Russian military police have already started to patrol the area near Manbij town, Russian state media reported on Wednesday.

Following the meeting at the presidential complex, Dunford separately met Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and his Turkish counterpart General Yasar Guler.

Both Turkish and American statements about the discussion between the military leaders specifically focused on the need to quickly implement the remaining components of the Manbij roadmap.

Murat Yesiltas, the director of security studies at the Ankara-based SETA thinktank, said Manbij could be the first area where progress towards a wider resolution could be made.

“There is an understanding between Turkey and Russia about Manbij as well,” he said.

There are other signs in the Turkish media suggesting that an agreement on Manbij is likely.

Proposed tomb move

Hasan Basri Yalcin, a columnist for the Turkish government-aligned Sabah newspaper, wrote on Sunday that Turkey should push for a military operation in which the historic Suleyman Shah tomb could be moved back to its original location near Manbij.

The tomb, which is considered as a Turkish enclave according to a treaty between Syria and Turkey, was moved from the eastern bank of the Euphrates river to the Turkish border near the Syrian city of Kobani in 2015.

The Trump administration, on the other hand, continued to send mixed signals about its withdrawal plans on Wednesday.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated that Trump’s decision was clear and that Turkish threats against Syrian Kurds would not stop the pull out.

Asked in Erbil if Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s pushback on the protection of the Kurds puts the withdrawal at risk, Pompeo told reporters:

“No. We’re having conversations with them even as we speak about how we will effectuate this in a way that protects our forces.

“It’s important that we do everything we can to make sure that those folks that fought with us are protected and Erdogan has made commitments, he understands that,” Pompeo added, according to Reuters.

“Turkish officials don’t want to do anything that can backfire and push Trump to reverse his decision to withdraw,” Yesiltas said.

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Featured image is from Kurdistan24

What heralded the United States as a uniquely dangerous force was its creation of the atomic bomb, the world’s first nuclear weapon. Prompting this was Albert Einstein‘s signing of a letter regarding nuclear research, drafted by his fellow physicists Leo Szilard and Eugene Wigner, then quickly dispatched on 2 August 1939 to president Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The letter detailed a formulation of “extremely powerful bombs of a new type” which “may thus be constructed”, and urged America to pursue the invention of such weapons before the Nazis. Fear of Hitler attaining atomic bombs was Einstein’s sole concern. Roosevelt responded on 19 October 1939 promising to “thoroughly investigate the possibilities of your suggestion”.

After two years of analysis and inquiries, Roosevelt formally established America’s nuclear program on 19 January 1942, called the Manhattan Project – with a final $2 billion budget supporting it ($36 billion today) and employing over 130,000 people.

Einstein himself, whose parents were Jewish, had much reason to be aggrieved with the Nazis. In March 1933, the 54-year-old Einstein was left severely shaken upon learning that men loyal to Hitler had raided his summer cottage in Caputh, a village just 30 miles from Berlin. His lakeside residence was then converted into a Hitler Youth camp. This was the due thanks afforded to Einstein after decades of glittering service to his country.

Einstein, born in the southern German city of Ulm, quickly renounced his citizenship and spent periods in Belgium and England, before settling in America by the mid-1930s.

In September 1933, after a visit to an exiled Winston Churchill, Einstein said of Hitler’s rise to power,

“I cannot understand the passive response of the whole civilized world to this modern barbarism. Does the world not see that Hitler is aiming at war?”

Later, Hitler’s pursuit of murderous policies would result in the deaths of about 35 million people. Yet the global human population in 1940 stood at just over 2.2 billion. Hitler’s brutal methods had only reached a certain point, though he was indeed determined to wipe out the Jewish race, from Lisbon to the Urals.

Elsewhere, Hitler had recognized the path to nuclear weapons could see the earth “transformed into a glowing star” as observed in June 1942 by Albert Speer, the Third Reich’s leading war minister and architect. Speer also noted that “Hitler was plainly not delighted” the globe under his command could be incinerated by the route to obtain atomic bombs. Almost inevitably, Hitler also linked nuclear fission as belonging to “Jewish pseudo-science”.

Born 10 years after Einstein, Hitler comprised part of the First World War generation; that being, those born long before the era of endless technological advancements and mass production, which tens of millions have become accustomed to post-1945.

The Nazi leader’s vision of armaments was entrenched with antiquity, and he instinctively disapproved of modern contraptions. Of the airplane’s 1903 invention, Hitler informed the SS commander Heinrich Himmler in early November 1941 that,

“The world has ceased to be interesting since men began to fly. Until then, there were white patches on the map. The mystery has vanished, it’s all over”.

In the evening of 29 October 1941, Hitler said to an approving Field Marshal Günther von Kluge,

“In a campaign it’s the infantryman who, when all’s said, sets the tempo of operation with his legs. That consideration should bid us to keep motorization within reasonable limits. Instead of the six horses that used to pull an instrument of war, they’ve taken to using an infinitely more powerful motor-engine, with the sole objective of making possible a speed which is, in practice, unusable – that’s been proved”.

These opinions were expressed at the height of Operation Barbarossa on the Eastern Front. Meanwhile, the Nazis’ atomic bomb project was abandoned forever in the autumn of 1942. Had Einstein predicted such eventualities, he would surely not have signed his name to the Roosevelt letter; indeed, he may have strongly advised against America developing atomic weapons. In 1954, the year before he died, Einstein described his role in America’s nuclear program as the “one great mistake in my life”.

As seen, in mid-January 1942 Roosevelt authorized the atomic bomb project, one month after America declared war on Germany and Japan. Throughout 1942, America’s pursuit of the atomic bomb could be excused by pointing towards the Nazis, who still employed hugely gifted scientists like Werner Heisenberg and Wernher von Braun.

With the war advancing into 1943, it was becoming clear to the British that Hitler possessed no nuclear program, mainly due to information relayed to them from Paul Rosbaud, Britain’s spy operating in Germany. These reports were relayed to the Americans, who remained skeptical initially.

However, by spring 1944, US leaders were convinced that Hitler had no such project to develop atomic bombs. What’s more, the Wehrmacht was now set in unmistakable retreat.

Militarily-speaking, but most importantly from an ethical viewpoint, Roosevelt should have disbanded America’s nuclear program from at least early 1944. At this late date, Roosevelt’s health was in steep decline, yet he still commanded office and began a fourth term as president in January 1945. It seems that Roosevelt simply could not grasp the grave threat that atomic bombs posed to the planet.

By 1944, America’s ambitions with regard nuclear weapons had also shifted towards a purely imperial outlook. From winter 1943, US strategists identified that the USSR would be their principal rival at war’s end – the same USSR who then ranked as America’s indispensable ally against both Germany, and later Japan. America’s atomic weapons were thereafter being constructed with the Russians in mind, as confirmed in 1944 by Leslie Groves, who was directing the Manhattan Project.

Over dinner in March 1944, Groves told his nuclear physicist Joseph Rotblat that “the real purpose in making the bomb was to subdue the Soviets”. Rotblat was “terribly shocked” to hear this and in late 1944 he resigned from the program.

Rotblat was the only scientist to depart America’s nuclear project on ethical grounds. This is perhaps not so surprising. The typical scientist, once set towards an important task, becomes consumed by the work, convincing him or herself that the research they are conducting is morally correct and of benefit to humankind – even when the mounting evidence suggests otherwise. After all, why did almost the entirety of America’s scientists continue working on the atomic bomb when Hitler was defeated, and Japan virtually so?

Despite many scientists possessing very high levels of intelligence, they can submit willingly to state power, unquestioningly obeying orders from government bosses. Some scientists are heroic and others less so. A good number too are naive to politics and the surrounding world, assuring themselves that their country’s leaders are of sound character. The Manhattan Project is a landmark example of this glaring lack of political and moral awareness regarding scientists.

In late morning of 24 July 1945, the combined American and British Chiefs of Staff convened near Berlin to discuss the atomic bomb, with new US president Harry Truman in attendance, along with British counterpart Churchill. Amid all these prestigious figures, not one person put forward an objection to deployment of atomic weapons. Churchill revealed, “There was unanimous, automatic, unquestioned agreement around our table”.

Truman himself said later,

“The final decision of where and when to use the atomic bomb was up to me. Let there be no mistake about it. I regarded the bomb as a military weapon and never had any doubt that it should be used”.

It may be worth remembering that, throughout the latter half of World War II, American and British bombers had attacked German and Japanese cities with increasing ferocity. Since 1942, the ethical aspects of war had largely been cast to the winds. By mid-1945, hundreds of thousands of German and Japanese civilians were killed, due to indiscriminate Allied bombing. These policies had prior agreement in British and American government headquarters.

As a result, in the minds of Allied political and military chiefs, the atomic bomb was just another step towards a more powerful weapon to be used against the enemy. Yet the absence of foresight on the Allies’ part is remarkable, not to mention dangerous without precedent.

It hardly required a great mind to realize that Stalin would soon produce his own atomic arsenal, and by August 1949 the Soviet Union successfully tested a nuclear device, a replica of America’s Nagasaki bomb. The policies sought first by Roosevelt, and pushed through by Truman with British support, have seen the world become indescribably dangerous after 1945.

In November 1952 (again under Truman) the Americans developed the hydrogen bomb, up to a thousand times more powerful than its atomic cousin. The Soviets quickly followed suit. In 1947, the Doomsday Clock had been established by atomic scientists, and come 1953 they advanced its hand to two minutes to midnight (apocalypse), which is its position today.

Once more, with the hydrogen bomb’s creation, lack of concern for our globe and humanity as a whole is indeed staggering. The elapsing decades have witnessed many close calls and near-accidents – the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis standing out most clearly.

Entering 2019, the threat of nuclear conflict is likely higher than during the Cold War’s darkest days. This is mostly due to aggressive policies engineered by the Donald Trump administration, governing the world’s dominant nuclear and military power.

It is borne out in Trump’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, which lowers the threshold for war; his trillion dollar modernization of America’s nuclear arsenal sparking another arms race; his plan to ditch Cold War-era treaties that attempted to contain nuclear threats and further proliferation; his amassing of huge US forces to encircle nuclear-armed China; NATO’s continuing intimidation and provocation of Russia, another nuclear superpower.

Trump’s climate actions have also constituted a catastrophe, the result of which saw America’s carbon emissions rise by over 3% in 2018. It is, for reasons such as these, that the Doomsday Clock is likely to advance once more later this January, for the third consecutive year. In that case, it is the closest the hand will have ever been to midnight.

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Shane Quinn obtained an honors journalism degree. He is interested in writing primarily on foreign affairs, having been inspired by authors like Noam Chomsky. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image is from Strategic Culture Foundation


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   

WWIII Scenario

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Gilets Jaunes in 2019: French Democracy Dead or Alive?

January 12th, 2019 by Diana Johnstone

Or perhaps one should say, buried or revived?  Because for the mass of ordinary people, far from the political, financial, media centers of power in Paris, democracy is already moribund, and their movement is an effort to save it.  Ever since Margaret Thatcher decreed that “there is no alternative”, Western economic policy is made by technocrats for the benefit of financial markets, claiming that such benefits will trickle down to the populace.  The trickle has largely dried up, and people are tired of having their needs and wishes totally ignored by an elite who “know best”.

President Emmanuel Macron’s New Year’s Eve address to the nation made it perfectly clear that after one unconvincing stab at throwing a few crumbs to the Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) protest movement, he has determined to get tough.

France is entering a period of turmoil.  The situation is very complex, but here are a few points to help grasp what this is all about.

The Methods 

The Yellow Vests gather in conspicuous places where they can be seen: the Champs-Elysées in Paris, main squares in other cities towns, and the numerous traffic circles on the edge of small towns.  Unlike traditional demonstrations, the Paris marches were very loose and spontaneous, people just walking around and talking to each other, with no leaders and no speeches.

The absence of leaders is inherent in the movement.  All politicians, even friendly ones, are mistrusted and no one is looking for a new leader.

People are organizing their own meetings to develop their lists of grievances and demands.

In the village of Commercy, Lorraine, a half hour drive from Domrémy where Jeanne d’Arc was born, inhabitants gather to read their proclamation. Six of them read in turns, a paragraph each, making it quite clear that they want no leaders, no special spokesperson.  They sometimes stumble over a word, they are not used to speaking in public like the TV talking heads.  Their “Second appeal of the Gilets Jaunes de Commercy invites others to come to Commercy on January 26-27 for an “assembly of assemblies”.

The Demands 

The people who first went out in the streets wearing Yellow Vests last November 17 were ostensibly protesting against a hike in gasoline and diesel taxes that would hit people in rural France the hardest.  Obsessed with favoring “world cities”, the French government has taken one measure after another at the expense of small towns and villages and the people who live there. That was just the last straw.  The movement rapidly moved on to the basic issue: the right of the people to have a say in measures taken that affect their lives. Democracy, in a word.

For decades, parties of the left and of the right, whatever their campaign speeches, once in office pursue policies dictated by “the markets”. For this reason, people have lost confidence in all parties and all politicians and are demanding new ways to get their wishes heard.

The fuel tax was soon forgotten as the list of demands grew longer. Critics of the movement note that achieving so many demands is quite impossible. It’s no use paying attention to popular demands, because the silly people ask for everything and its opposite.

That objection is answered by what has quickly emerged as the single overriding demand of the movement: the Citizens’ Initiative Referendum (CIR).

The Referendum

This demand illustrates the good sense of the movement.  Rather than making a “must” list, the GJ merely ask that the people be allowed to choose, and the referendum is the way to choose. The demand is for a certain number of signatories – perhaps 700,000, perhaps more – to gain the right to call a referendum on an issue of their choice. The right to a CIR exists in Switzerland, Italy and California.  The idea horrifies all those whose profession it is to know best.  If the people vote, they will vote for all sorts of absurd things, the better-knowers observe with a shudder.

A modest teacher in a junior college in Marseilles, Etienne Chouard, has been developing for decades ideas on how to organize direct democracy, with the referendum at its center.  His hour has come with the Yellow Vests.  He insists that a referendum must always be held after a long debate and time for reflection, to avoid emotional spur-of-the-moment decisions. Such a referendum requires honest, independent media which are not all owned by special interests.  It requires making sure that politicians who make the laws follow the popular will expressed in the referendum.  All this suggests the need for a people’s constitutional convention.

The referendum is a bitter point in France, a powerful silent underlying cause of the whole Gilets Jaunes movement.  In 2005, President Chirac (unwisely from his point of view) called for a popular referendum on ratification of the proposed Constitution of the European Union, certain it would be approved. The political class, with a few exceptions, went into full rhetoric, claiming a prosperous future as a new world power under the new Constitution and warning that otherwise Europe might be plunged back into World Wars I and II. However, ordinary citizens organized an extraordinary movement of popular self-education, as groups met to pour through the daunting legalistic documents, elucidating what they meant and what they implied. On May 29, 2005, with a turnout of 68%, the French voted 55% to reject the Constitution. Only Paris voted heavily in favor.

Three years later, the National Assembly – that is, politicians off all parties – voted to adopt virtually the same text, which in 2009 became the Treaty of Lisbon.

That blow to the clearly expressed popular will produced such disillusion that many backed helplessly away from politics. Now they are coming back.

The Violence

From the start, the government has reacted with violence, in an apparent desire to provoke responding violence in order to condemn the movement as violent.

An army of police, dressed like robots, have surrounded and blocked groups of peaceful Yellow Vests, drowning them in clouds of teargas and firing flash balls directly at protesters, seriously wounding hundreds (no official figures).  A number of people have lost an eye or a hand.  The government has nothing to say about this.

On the third Saturday of protest, this army of police was unable to stop – or under orders to allow – a large number of hoodlums or Black Blocs (who knows?) infiltrate the movement and smash property, vandalize shops, set fire to trash cans and parked cars, providing the world media with images proving that the Yellow Vests are dangerously violent.

Despite all this provocation, the Gilets Jaunes have remained remarkably calm and determined. But there are bound to be a few people who lose their tempers and try to fight back.

The Boxer

On the 8th Saturday, January 5, a squad of plexiglass-protected police were violently attacking Gilets Jaunes on a bridge over the Seine when a big guy lost his temper, emerged from the crowd and went on the attack. With his fists, he beat down one policeman and caused the others to retreat.  This amazing scene was filmed.  You could see Yellow Vests trying to hold him back, but Rambo was unstoppable.

It turned out that this was Christophe Dettinger, a French Rom, former light heavyweight boxing champion of France.  His nickname is “the Gypsy of Massy”.  He got away from the scene, but made a video before turning himself in.  “I reacted badly”, he said, when he saw police attacking women and other defenseless people. He urged the movement to go ahead peacefully.

Dettinger faces seven years in prison. Within a day, his defense fund had gathered 116,433 euros.  The government shut it down – on what legal pretext I don’t know. Now a petition circulates on his behalf.

The Slander

In his New Year’s Eve address, Macron patronizingly scolded his people telling them that “you can’t work less and earn more” – as if they all aspired to spending their lives lounging on a yacht and watching stock prices rise and fall.

Then he issued his declaration of war:

“These days I have seen unthinkable things and heard the unacceptable.” Apparently alluding to the few opposition politicians who dare sympathize with the protesters, he chastised those who pretend to “speak for the people”, but are only the “spokesmen for a hateful mob going after elected representatives, police, journalists, Jews, foreigners and homosexuals. It is simply the negation of France.”

The Gilets Jaunes haven’t been “going after” anybody.  The police have been “going after” them. People have indeed spoken up vigorously against camera crews of channels that systematically distort the movement.

Not a word has been heard from the movement against foreigners or homosexuals.

The key word is Jews.

Qui veut noyer son chien l’accuse de la rage. (French proverb).

As the French saying goes, whoever wants to drown his dog claims he has rabies. Today whoever wants to ruin a career, take vengeance on a rival, disgrace an individual or destroy a movement accuses her, him, or it of antisemitism.

So, faced with a rising democratic movement, playing the “antisemitism” card was inevitable.  It was almost a sure thing statistically.  In almost any random batch of hundreds of thousands of people, you might find one or two who have something negative to say about a Jew. That’ll do it.  The media hawks are on the outlook.  The slightest incident can be used to suggest that the real motive of the movement is to revive the Holocaust.

This gently ironic little song, performed on one of France’s traffic circles, contrasts the “nice” establishment with the “bad” ordinary folk. It is a huge hit on YouTube.  It gives the tone of the movement. Les Gentils et les Méchants.

It didn’t take long for this merry number to be accused of antisemitism. Why?  Because it was ironically dedicated to two of the very most virulent critics of the Gilets Jaunes: May ’68 star Daniel Cohn-Bendit and old “new philosopher” Bernard-Henri Lévy. The new generation can’t stand them. But wait, they happen to be Jewish. Aha! Anti-Semitism!

The Repression 

Faced with what government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux described as “agitators” and “insurrectionists” who want to “overthrow the government”, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced a new “law to better protect the right to demonstrate”.  Its main measure: heavily punish organizers of a demonstration whose time and place have not had official approval.

In fact, the police had already arrested 33-year-old truck driver Eric Drouet for organizing a small candle ceremony in honor of the movement’s casualties.  There have been many other arrests, with no information coming out about them. (Incidentally, over the holidays, hoodlums in the banlieues of several cities carried out their ritual burning of parked cars, with no particular publicity or crackdown. Those were cars of working class people who need them to go to work, not the precious cars in the rich section of Paris whose destruction caused such scandal.)

On January 7, Luc Ferry, a “philosopher” and former Minister of Youth, Education and Research, gave a radio interview on the very respectable Radio Classique in which he declared: “The police are not given the means to end this violence. It’s unbearable. Listen, frankly, when you see guys kick a poor policemen when he’s down, that’s enough! Let them use their arms once and for all, basta! […] As I recall, we have the world’s fourth army, capable of putting an end to this garbage.”

Ferry called on Macron to make a coalition with the Republicans in order to push through his “reforms”.

Last month, in a column against the Citizens’ Initiative Referendum, Ferry wrote that “the current disparaging of experts and criticism of elitism is the worst calamity of our times.”

The Antifa

Wherever people gather, Antifa groups may pursue their indiscriminate search to root out “fascists”. In Bordeaux last Saturday, Yellow Vests had to fight off an attack by Antifa.

It is now completely clear (as indeed it always has been) that the self-styled “Antifascists” are the watch dogs of the status quo.  In their tireless search for “fascists”, the Antifa attack anything that moves.  In effect, they protect stagnation. And curiously enough, Antifa violence is tolerated by the same State and the same police who insult, attack and arrest more peaceful demonstrators. In short, the Antifa are the storm troopers of the current system.

The Media

Be skeptical. At least in France, mainstream media are solidly on the side of “order”, meaning Macron, and foreign media tend to echo what national media write and say.  Also, as a general rule, when it comes to France, the Anglophone media often get it wrong.

The End

It is not in sight.  This may not be a revolution, but it is a revelation of the real nature of “the system”.  Power lies with a technocracy in the service of “the Markets”, meaning the power of finance capital.  This technocracy aspires to remake human society, our own societies and those all over the planet, in the interests of a certain capitalism.  It uses economic sanctions, overwhelming propaganda and military force (NATO) in a “globalization” project that shapes people’s lives without their consent.  Macron is the very embodiment of this system.  He was chosen by that famous elite to carry through the measures dictated by “the Markets”, enforced by the European Union. He cannot give in.  But now that people are awake to what is going on, they won’t stop either.  For all the lamented decline in the school system, the French people today are as well-educated and reasonable as any population can be expected to be.  If they are incapable of democracy, then democracy is impossible.

To be continued…

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Diana Johnstone is the author of Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions. Her new book is Queen of Chaos: the Misadventures of Hillary Clinton. The memoirs of Diana Johnstone’s father Paul H. Johnstone, From MAD to Madness, was published by Clarity Press, with her commentary. She can be reached at [email protected].  Diana Johnstone is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization  (CRG). 

In a stunning turn of events, on Dec. 28th six previously undisclosed boxes of files labeled Mumia were “discovered” in an abandoned furniture closet at the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office on 3 South Penn Square.

On January 3rd Nancy Kavanaugh, Assistant DA, notified the Common Pleas court and Abu-Jamal’s attorneys.

This dramatic turn of events has come in the wake of hearings lasting over two years during which the Court demanded full disclosure from the DA.  Frustrated by the lack of compliance with his orders, and patently obvious obstruction, Judge Tucker required that he personally review all of the previously disclosed MAJ boxes in his chambers. It was only after Tucker’s intervention that relevant material, on which the new appeal was won, was unearthed.

The new material/boxes discovered on 12/28, the day after the Tucker order granting Mumia relief in the Common Pleas court, could hold missing smoking gun evidence.  Or they could just be copies of already turned over information.

What is clear is that this development calls into question the ability of the DA to comply with the requirements of due process and a fair hearing.  It also provides a moral, if not a legal reason, for the District Attorney to not oppose the reinstatement of all of Mumia’s direct state appeal rights.

District Attorney Larry Krassner is facing a January 27th court deadline to appeal Tucker’s order.  If he appeals there could be years of delay before Mumia can challenge his criminal conviction.

It is also worthy to note that the six boxes appear old, circa 2000 or before. All but one had Mumia’s name and were labeled in such a way (18/29, 24/29, 29/29 etc.) as to suggest that they are part of a larger set.

As a P.I. I immediately thought about other dramatic historical examples regarding revelations of hidden evidence.  When key evidence suddenly materializes in a garage (Hurricane Carter), a purposely long forgotten evidence locker (Guildford 4) and now in a furniture closet (Mumia Abu-Jamal).

While there could be nothing in the boxes of importance, and the court could ignore the sanctions it should impose, make no mistake, there is a vast array of withheld, suppressed, and manufactured evidence in the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal.  For a detailed explanation of the errors in his case see Manufacturing Guilt by Stephen Vittoria.

Until this latest ruling, the Common Pleas court in Philadelphia has been complicit in suppressing key police corruption, prosecutorial misconduct and evidence of Mumia’s innocence.  Abu-Jamal v. Commonwealth of PA has it all: lost or forgotten ballistics tests, witness recantations, exposure of false confessions, and photographic proof of crime scene tampering.

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Congress refuses to enact legislation containing the nearly $6 billion that Donald Trump is demanding for an unnecessary wall on the southern US border. In response, Trump is considering whether to declare a national emergency, take money Congress has appropriated for other purposes, and divert it to build his wall. But under US law, the president cannot usurp the spending power the Constitution grants only to Congress.

Desperate to appease his right-wing base and Fox News pundits, Trump backed off his commitment to sign a bill that would have reopened the government that has been shuttered for 20 days. Although Congress unanimously supported that bill, Trump is stubbornly holding out for money to build his wall, continuing to hold the American people hostage. One quarter of the federal workforce has not been paid, airline safety is imperiled, the Food and Drug Administration is postponing food safety inspections and national parks are being desecrated while Trump plays wall politics.

The Youngstown Test for Presidential Power

Trump would be on shaky ground if he were to declare a national emergency and divert funds to build his wall. During the Korean War, President Harry Truman invoked national security to seize the steel mills in order to avoid a union strike that would have shut them down. Truman claimed authority to maintain steel production in support of the war effort. But the Supreme Court ruled that Truman had overstepped his authority. In Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, the high court held that the seizure was not supported by the Constitution or any US law.

Justice William O. Douglas wrote in his concurring opinion that the president cannot usurp Congress’s spending power to approve money to pay for the taking of the steel mill’s private property.

The three-pronged test set forth in Justice Robert Jackson’s concurring opinion (paraphrased in italics below with quotes from Jackson) is the premier framework for analyzing the limits of presidential power:

First, when the president acts with express or implied authority of Congress, his power is at its greatest.

Congress has not appropriated $5.7 billion to build Trump’s wall. If he were to declare a national emergency to fund the wall, Trump would not be acting with the authority of Congress.

Second, in the absence of a grant or prohibition by Congress, the president can rely only on his own powers. He acts in a “zone of twilight” where he and Congress may have concurrent authority or their distribution of power remains uncertain. “In this area, any actual test of power is likely to depend on the imperatives of events and contemporary imponderables rather than on abstract theories of law.”

Trump cannot lawfully invoke the National Emergencies Act of 1976. In the event of a national emergency, that act allows the executive branch to divert funds that have not been “obligated” and use them for construction projects that are “necessary to support” the military.

Although Trump has sent thousands of troops to the southern border, ostensibly to help Customs and Border Protection deal with asylum applicants, the use of the military to enforce domestic law is prohibited by the Posse Comitatus Act. Any attempt by Trump to declare an emergency in order to justify diverting funds for his wall to help the military enforce immigration law would violate the Posse Comitatus Act.

Third, when the president seeks to circumvent the expressed or implied will of Congress, “his power is at its lowest ebb, for then he can rely only upon his own constitutional powers minus any constitutional powers of Congress over the matter.” Presidential claim to such power “must be scrutinized with caution, for what is at stake is the equilibrium established by our constitutional system.”

In the Appropriations Clause, the Constitution gives Congress, not the president, the power to authorize expenditures of federal funds. Congress has specifically considered and refused to appropriate the $5.7 billion Trump is demanding for his border wall.

​Congress will not appropriate money for the wall, so Trump would be circumventing the will of Congress were he to declare a national emergency to fund it. Trump would be invoking a crisis of his own making to justify the declaration of an emergency. Under US law, Trump cannot successfully declare a national emergency to evade the Constitution’s separation of powers mandate. The founders put three separate co-equal branches of government into the Constitution to check and balance each other.

Trump Created the Humanitarian Crisis He Decries

Trump’s policies of separating families and caging children, and attempts to limit the right of refugees to apply for asylum have created a humanitarian crisis.

Yet, in his nine-minute Oval Office speech Trump tried to stoke fear by painting a picture of murderous, drug-running, “illegal” hordes to justify his wall, invoking “a crisis of the heart, and a crisis of the soul.”

But, as Peter Baker wrote in The New York Times,

Migrant border crossings have been declining for nearly two decades. The majority of heroin enters the United States through legal ports of entry, not through open areas of the border. And the State Department said in a recent report that there is ‘no credible evidence’ that terrorist groups had sent operatives to enter the United States through Mexico.

At least two migrant children, 8-year-old Felipe Gómez Alonzo and 7-year-old Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin, have died in the custody of Customs and Border Protection since Trump began his war on refugees.

“There is no national security crisis — thousands of would-be immigrants seeking asylum do not constitute an invading army,” wrote the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times. “And while there is a humanitarian crisis, it’s one Trump could solve himself by expanding the nation’s capacity to handle asylum requests rather than forcing migrants to spend weeks in squalid camps near ports of entry.”

The crisis Trump has created demonstrates that it is he who has no heart and soul. “He’s trying to restrict every form of legal immigration there is in the United States,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. “He’s fighting against family reunification, he’s fighting against the diversity visa lottery, he’s fighting against almost every way that people can actually legally enter this country, forcing them to become undocumented. And then he’s trying to attack their undocumented status.”

If Trump tries to declare a national emergency to build a wall with billions of dollars Congress has refused to appropriate, the courts should put an immediate halt to his illegal and cynical political stunt.

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Copyright Truthout. Reprinted with permission.

Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and an advisory board member of Veterans for Peace. Her latest book, Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues, was recently published in an updated second edition. She is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image is from Strategic Culture Foundation

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A Turkish court has sentenced journalist Pelin Ünker to 13 months’ imprisonment for her participation in reporting the Panama Papers, a massive leak of documents from the tax-evasion enablers Mossack-Fonseca.

Ünker published the true (and undisputed) facts about former Binali Yıldırım and his sons, whose ownership of Maltese companies was revealed in the leaks. Despite the truth of the matter, Ünker was convicted of “defamation and insult.”

Ünker is a member of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

The ICIJ’s director, Gerard Ryle, condemned Ünker’s jail sentence of 13 months, as the latest in a long series of attacks on free speech in Turkey.

“This unjust ruling is about silencing fair and accurate reporting. Nothing more,” Ryle said. “ICIJ commends Pelin Ünker’s brave and truthful investigative reporting and it condemns this latest assault on journalistic freedom under Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s autocratic rule.”

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In 2015, Pioneer Natural Resources filed a report with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, in which the shale drilling and fracking company said that it was “drilling the most productive wells in the Eagle Ford Shale” in Texas.

That made the company a major player in what local trade papers were calling “arguably the largest single economic event in Texas history,” as drillers pumped more than a billion barrels of fossil fuels from the Eagle Ford.

Its Eagle Ford wells, Pioneer’s filing said, were massive finds, with each well able to deliver an average of roughly 1.3 million barrels of oil and other fossil fuels over their lifetimes.

Three years later, The Wall Street Journal checked the numbers, investigating how those massive wells are turning out for Pioneer.

Turns out, not so well. And Pioneer is not alone.

Those 1.3 million-barrel wells, the Journal reported, “now appear to be on a pace to produce about 482,000 barrels” apiece — a little over a third of what Pioneer told investors they could deliver.

In Texas’ famed Permian Basin, now the nation’s most productive shale oil field, where Pioneer predicted 960,000 barrels from each of its shale wells in 2015, the Journal concluded that those “wells are now on track to produce about 720,000 barrels” each.

Not only are the wells already drying up at a much faster rate than the company predicted, according to the Journal’s investigative report, but Pioneer’s projections require oil to flow for at least 50 years after the well was drilled and fracked — a projection experts told the Journal would be “extremely optimistic.”

Fracking every one of those wells required a vast amount of chemicals, sand, and water. In Karnes County, Texas, one of the two Eagle Ford counties where Pioneer concentrated its drilling in 2015, the average round of fracking that year drank up roughly 143,000 barrels of water per well.

Dry Creek Water Station sign looking very dry outside Sanderson, Texas
Dry Creek Water Station near Sanderson in West Texas, looking very dry. Credit: Brant Kelly, CC BY 2.0

A Billion Missing Barrels

And while Pioneer has become one of the most active drillers in the Permian, it’s hardly alone in booking projections that the Journal found were dubious.

Two-thirds of projections made by the fracking companies between 2014 and 2017 in America’s four hottest drilling regions appear to have been overly optimistic, according to the analysis of some 16,000 wells operated by 29 of the biggest producers in oil basins in Texas and North Dakota,” it reported. “Collectively, the companies that made projections are on track to pump nearly 10 percent less oil and gas than they forecast for those areas, according to the analysis of data from Rystad Energy AS, an energy consulting firm.”

That is the equivalent of almost one billion barrels of oil and gas over 30 years,” the Journal added, “worth more than $30 billion at current prices.”

The problems the Journal focused on will be familiar to those who’ve turned a critical eye to shale reserves in the past: The most productive areas, or “sweet spots,” are smaller than first expected and companies predicted that wells would dry up slower than they have. DeSmog launched its latest series covering shale’s financial woes in April 2018 and our coverage extends back over a half-decade.

For the Journal, the take-aways were financial. “So far, investors have largely lost money,” the newspaper pointed out, adding that a review of 29 drillers showed companies have spent $112 billion more than they earned from drilling in the past decade. “Since 2008, an index of U.S. oil and gas companies has fallen 43 percent, while the S&P 500 index has more than doubled in that time, including dividends.”

The industry’s defenders argue that spending money now to make money later is simply how business works — this year’s “losses” are actually investments in future profits.

But because shale drilling is relatively new, even the experts are left guessing about how much oil will be flowing from the wells 10, 20, or 30 years after fracking — and investors have become frustrated as shale drillers have largely failed to turn the corner and start racking up profits instead of continuing to operate in the red.

Natural gas flare in the Permian Basin near Midland, Texas
A natural gas flare in West Texas, near Midland. In 2018 the price of natural gas in the Permian fell below zero. Credit: © Laura Evangelisto

The industry’s only hope of paying off debt and rewarding equity investors is for oil prices to rise high enough for long enough that they can generate consistent cash flow without breaking the bank on capex [capital expenditures],” said Clark Williams-Derry, director of energy finance at the Sightline Institute.

But they’ll have real problems — sweet spots are getting depleted, wells are declining faster than they’d hoped, pipelines are still constrained causing deep discounts in some markets, co-produced gas is close to worthless, and any sustained rebound will boost the cost for drilling services (i.e., higher prices mean higher costs).”

“Plus,” he added, “investors need to worry about long-term cleanup costs.”

Calling in the Experts

And the pressure on the experts charged with preparing oil and gas production estimates for drillers is enormous. As the first shale wells get older and more production history rolls in, engineers have developed models they say can make better predictions — but the Journal suggested those tools haven’t been widely adopted.

Why aren’t we doing this?” one engineer demanded repeatedly after John Lee, one of the most prominent reserves experts in the U.S., gave a talk in Houston in July about making more accurate shale projections.

‘Because we own stock,’ replied another engineer, sparking laughter,” the Journal reported.

The Journal’s reporting frequently cited Rystad Energy, an independent oil and gas consulting firm, as the source of more conservative projections — but, as DeSmog has previously reported, Rystad isn’t the only large independent firm to find troubling indications that shale wells are on track to produce only a fraction of their “proved” reserves.

Wood Mackenzie, another major oil consulting firm, studied the Permian’s Wolfcamp shale, where early projections predicted that production from a five-year-old well should be declining at a rate of 5 to 10 percent. Those wells, the firm found, are actually declining by roughly 15 percent a year — a significantly larger drop than expected and an ominous sign for any companies projecting wells can last 50 years.

Dried out clay
Things are looking a little drier than expected for the future of fracked wells in Texas. Credit: Francesco Ungaro from Pexels

And fracking giant Schlumberger — which like Halliburton specializes in performing hydraulic fracturing jobs on wells other companies drill — has begun calling attention to a problem with much more immediate impacts: The sweet spots are getting too crowded.

For years, the industry has said that it can minimize impacts by drilling multiple wells from the same well pad — but in parts of the Permian, wells drilled later on or near existing well pads have proved roughly 30 percent less productive compared to the first well drilled.

[T]he well-established market consensus that the Permian can continue to provide 1.5 million barrels per day of annual production growth for the foreseeable future is starting to be called into question,” Schlumberger’s CEO Paal Kibsgaard said in an October 2018 earnings call. “At present, our industry has yet to understand how reservoir conditions and well productivity change as we continue to pump billions of gallons of water and billions of pounds of sand into the ground each year.”

Kibsgaard warned that similar problems are beginning to show up in the Eagle Ford as well.

The Long-Term Costs of a Boom and a Bust

Karnes County is still the most active part of the Eagle Ford, with 562 drilling permits issued last year. After a heady oilfield boom, oil prices plunged in 2015 and 2016, leading to the layoffs of thousands of workers and royalty checks drying up. This past year, drilling has re-emerged, albeit at a slower pace.

“It’s not a boom, but there’s a resurgence here in the Eagle Ford,” Rick Saldana, an energy company superintendent told the Houston Chronicle in October.

Investors have faced a rocky ride. Sanchez Energy, the Eagle Ford’s third largest driller, has now been warned twice by the New York Stock Exchange that it will be de-listed if its stock price, now at roughly $0.26 a share, doesn’t soon rise above $1.

But other impacts of the boom and bust cycle run deeper.

In nearby Dilley, Texas, a former oilfield man-camp, built to house Eagle Ford workers, was turned into the “the South Texas Family Residential Center” in December 2014 by a private prison company. It’s now the nation’s largest immigration detention center for families, housing up to 2,400 people, half of them children.

And while over the past decade, Wall Street and other investors poured billions into fracking — the Journal tallied $112 billion more spent than earned from production at 29 major drillers — the U.S. more broadly has failed to seriously invest in a rapid transition away from climate-changing fossil fuels.

That leaves the U.S. at risk of being left behind as the rest of the world focuses its efforts to innovate on renewable energy prospects that don’t dry up like oil wells. Bethany McLean, a financial journalist famous for first breaking the Enron story, recently told Fortune about conversations she’d had with major private equity investors as she researched her new book Saudi America.

They are all trying to figure out when we’ll be able to see the end of the oil age, because as soon as that happens, the price of oil will go into secular decline (as it did with coal),” she said. “Other countries, namely China, are frantically investing in renewables. For us to crow about our oil wealth, and not focus on renewables, is for us to miss the opportunity to be leaders in the world as it’s going to be.”

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When Sir Richard Dearlove was Head of MI6, the Blairites adored him as he approved the lying Dossier on Iraqi WMD which led to wars, invasion, the death of millions and the destabilisation which continues to wreck the entire Middle East. Now, as he writes to Tory constituency chairman advocating the hardest of hard Brexits, had they any capacity for self-reflection the Blairites would probably be thinking it was after all not such a great move of Tony to appoint the hardest of hard right nutters to head our overseas intelligence service.

In my last post, I noted how evidence against me was actually manufactured when I opposed the policy of torture and extraordinary rendition. I have explained ad nauseam that, having been in a senior position in the FCO at the time, I know that Blair’s dossier on Weapons of Mass Destruction was a tissue of deliberate lies, and not just an honest mistake; furthermore it is impossible to read the Chilcot report without coming to that conclusion.

The UK has security services which operate dishonestly and illegally. Interestingly, I cannot say that they are currently out of the control of the UK government; the evidence is rather they are willing to engage in every dirty and dishonest trick at the behest of corrupt politicians like Blair.

Dearlove regularly features in the media shilling for maximum Cold War. His letter yesterday on the dangers of intelligence and security co-operation with the EU, as undermining NATO and the UK/US/Five Eyes intelligence arrangements, is simply barking mad. There is no evidence of this whatsoever. He makes no attempt to describe the mechanism by which the dire consequences he predicts will follow. Amusingly enough, although those consequences are dire to Dearlove, to me they are extremely desirable. If I thought that May’s withdrawal agreement would undermine NATO and the CIA, I would be out on the streets campaigning for it.

But there is a very serious point. There is something very wrong indeed with the UK security services, which are most certainly not a force for freedom or justice. That MI6 can be headed by as extreme a figure as Dearlove, underlines the threat that the security services pose to any progressive movement in politics.

If Scotland becomes independent, it must not mirror the repressive UK security services. Furthermore it must be very chary indeed of employing anybody currently working for the UK security services. If Jeremy Corbyn comes to power in Westminster, he will never achieve any of his objectives in restoring a basic level of social justice and equality to society in England and Wales, without revolutionary change in major institutions including the security services.

My own view on Brexit is that the best deal for England and Wales would be EEA and customs union, essentially the Norway option. It seems that the Labour leadership have essentially got that right, but are making a complete pig’s ear of articulating it, presumably because of their desire not to antagonise their anti-immigrant voters.

Scotland demonstrably has a strong and strengthening pro-EU majority and this is the logical time for Scotland to move to Independence, with the assurance of strong international support. I trust the Scottish government is finally going to move decisively in that direction inside the next month.

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Street artist Pascal Boyart created the work, based on Eugene Delacroix’s monumental canvass “Liberty Leading the People”, which glorified the revolution of July 1830 in which the people of Paris drove King Charles X from power.

The mural can be found on a wall opposite the Cent Quatre, a public cultural centre in Paris, on rue d’Aubervilliers.

Boyart told AFP that the mural in the working-class 19th arrondissement of northern Paris was to show his support for the anti-government protests which have shaken France since November.

It has the rebelling people of Paris wearing high-visibility jackets just like those worn by the “yellow vests” demonstrators, whose movement began as a revolt in rural France over increased fuel taxes.

“The (Delacroix) painting is one of the best known in the world, and I wanted to use its theme for what is happening now,” Boyart said.

“Art has always been a means of expression for all political movements,” said the 30-year-old painter, who signs his works “PBOY”.

Paris-based Boyart is well-known for his murals denouncing the world of high finance and the banks, which he blames for the discontent in France.

He has also added a “bitcoin puzzle” to the work, and said the person who finds the key will win 1,000 euros ($1,145).

One of Boyart’s previous works shows Delacroix — who used to feature on the old French franc banknotes — setting fire to a 100-euro note.

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UK: The 2018 State of the Nation Report

January 12th, 2019 by True Publica

Britain does produce an annual state of the nation report other than one referring to social mobility. The Social Mobility Commission’s 2017 report (see link below) starts with the words: “Britain is a deeply divided nation.” Their report is interesting this year as it ventures more broadly into areas such as education, employability and housing prospects of people living in each of England’s 324 local authority areas. The index highlights where people from disadvantaged backgrounds are most and least likely to make social progress.

It has become obvious that the scale of the problem extends well beyond the bottom decile in society or the few thousand youngsters who miss out on a top university. There is a fracture line running deep through our labour and housing markets and our education system. Those on the wrong side of this divide are losing out and falling behind.

The report also describes the country’s “lamentable social mobility track record.” Some of the statistics provided in the their report are dire.

However, their report does not focus on how the bottom 50 per cent are fairing overall with a government whose political policies are ideologically focused at benefitting those at the top end of society (See footnote re: neoliberal capitalism). This report is a first attempt to bring together statistics to show how those policies are really affecting one half of society in some way.

Wealth in Gt. Britain

The official GDP figures for 2018 have not yet been published. In 2017, GDP was £2.04 trillion and is expected to rise to approximately (+/-) £2.3 trillion in 2018.

The ONS has not reported on overall wealth in Britain since 2016 as reports are published every two years. As of their last figures, the aggregate total net wealth of all households in Great Britain was £12.8 trillion in July 2014 to June 2016, up 15% from the July 2012 to June 2014 figure of £11.1 trillion. Total aggregate debt of all households in Great Britain was £1.23 trillion in July 2014 to June 2016.

Britain is ranked the fifth wealthiest nation in the world ranked by overall GDP. In 2018, its economy grew 1.79 per cent. However, according to the IMF Britain will fall to 7th place overall by 2023 with France and India taking 5th and 6th place respectively.

Today the value of property in the UK stands at over £5 trillion – nearly 60% of the UK’s entire net wealth – up from just a little over £1 trillion in 1995.

The UK’s gross pension liability across workplace and state provision grew by £1trn in five years, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Private sector defined benefit liabilities were estimated at £2trn. The total liability hit £7.6trn at the end of 2015, the ONS said, up from £6.6trn in 2010. The total included an estimated £4trn of unfunded liabilities linked to the UK’s state pension – equal to over 210% of GDP.

Today’s population has built up £7.6trn in pension promises but has only set aside about a third of that amount to pay for them. Other unfunded public sector pension liabilities – including provision for teachers and National Health Service staff – totalled £917bn.

Household Debt

A TUC report published just last week said that “Britain’s household debt mountain has reached a new peak, with UK homes now owing an average of £15,385 (not including mortgage debt) to credit card firms, banks and other lenders.” Just as problematic is another statistic though. The level of unsecured debt as a share of household income is now not just 30.4%, the highest level it has ever been at but it is well above the £286bn peak in 2008 before the financial crisis.

In March, it was reported that a quarter of British adults have no money saved at all.

Deprivation

Nearly 4 million adults in the UK have been forced to use food banks due to ”shocking” levels of deprivation. New figures were revealed for the first time in mid-2018 where one in 14 Britons has had to use a food bank, with similar numbers also forced to skip meals and borrow money as austerity measures leave them “penniless with nowhere to turn.” This is a rise of 13 per cent in just one year. In addition, one million people have decreased the portion size of their child’s meal due to financial constraints. Other statistics are just as depressing; nearly half (47 per cent) had lacked basic toiletries, 46 per cent were lacking suitable clothing and 42 per cent having to go without heating. One in five destitute people reported lacking lighting at home.

Just as we turn into 2019, MPs are urging the government to appoint a minister for hunger in the UK to tackle the growing problem of food insecurity.

Working Poverty, Child Poverty

Contrary to what we are all told about having the lowest unemployment in Britain for decades, the reality is not what it seems.

The number of workers (those actually employed) entering poverty is actually rising faster than employment itself.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that one in eight adults in the economy is now classified as working poor. Their results were published just last month.

A new unit called the Social Metrics Commission, an independent body bringing together poverty specialists from across the political spectrum found just a few months back that in Britain, there are now 14 million people living in poverty.

Within that number 4.5 million are children, which represents an astonishing 33 per cent of kids in the UK.

The only reason this new body was set up was because the government abolished any official measures in 2015. It was Iain Duncan Smith and George Osborne who abolished these important statistics just prior to the tax credit cuts in the same year. Half a million more children have become trapped in poverty over the past five years from working families.

Energy and Food Poverty

The privatisation of life’s most basic services is also driving poverty. For instance, the gap between the cost of energy and what people can afford rose by 9% in 2018. The proportion of households living in fuel poverty in 2016 rose for the second year in a row to 11.1%, or around 2.55m homes and today continues to drive excess deaths and widening poverty. Price caps that the government have proposed don’t work if income falls in real terms, and they most certainly don’t work when it took the government 18 months to implement them. Fuel poverty leaves a stark choice for millions – warmth or food.

Human Rights News published an analysis from UNICEF that found that whilst the UK is one of the richest countries in the world, it has some of the highest rates of childhood food insecurity in all of Europe. This shocking situation has been linked in part to austerity-related tax and welfare changes.

UN rapporteur Philip Alston’s hard-hitting report on poverty in November confirmed the same and concluded that austerity, universal credit and gaping holes in the social security safety net were the main driving factors behind poverty.

Homelessness

There is no national body that officially calculates a figure for how many people are actually homeless across the UK.

The latest figures published by the charity Crisis showed that last year 57,890 households were accepted as homeless in England. In Scotland, 34,100 applications were assessed as homeless and in Wales 9,210 households were threatened with homelessness.

In Britain, there is also no official body that counts the number of homeless people who die on the streets of Britain due to being homeless. However, new statistics reveal that on average, homeless people die at just 47 years old. People sleeping on the street are almost 17 times more likely to have been victims of violence.  Homeless people are over nine times more likely to take their own life than the general population.

After steady increases since 2010, these deaths are being investigated by our media partner The Bureau of Investigative Journalism who found nearly 500 deaths as a direct result of homelessness. Rough sleeping has risen by 169 per cent since 2010.

Analysis from housing charity Shelter suggests that 320,000 people were recorded as homeless in Britain. The report was published in November 2018.  It is a rise of 13,000, or 4%, on last year’s figures and equivalent to 36 new people becoming homeless every day. London has the highest rate of homelessness, but it is growing fastest in the Midlands, Yorkshire and the Humber, and north-west England, the analysis says.

Housing Crisis

Fundamental to society is being able to get decent shelter. Groundbreaking research by Heriot-Watt University, published in May it says England has a backlog of 3.91 million homes, meaning 340,000 new homes need to be built each year until 2031. Catherine Ryder, head of policy at the National Housing Federation described the situation as a “real emergency.” Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said the findings were “stark and shocking”, adding: “Right now across England, councils are desperately struggling to find homeless people somewhere to live.” There are nearly 1.2 million families on waiting lists for a council or social home where 27 per cent have waited more than five years.

Social Care

In late 2017 the social care crisis came into sharp focus. The first study of its kind found that the squeeze on public finances since 2010 is linked to nearly 120,000 excess deaths in England, with the over 60s and care home residents bearing the brunt, published in the online journal BMJ Open. The critical factor in these figures are changes in nurse numbers, say the researchers, who warn that there could be an additional toll of up to 100 deaths every single day from now on if nothing substantial changes. And real term spend on social care has fallen by 1.19 per cent every year since 2010, despite a significant projected increase in the numbers of over 85s–those most likely to need social care–from 1.6 million in 2015 to 1.8 million in 2020, say the researchers. And every £10 drop in spend per head on social care was associated with five extra care home deaths per 100,000 of the population, the analysis showed.

Public Services

During 2018, The National Audit Office examined the financial statements of 937 local health authorities, councils, police and local fire bodies which are responsible for about £154bn of net revenue spending every year. The auditor’s report concludes that the number of local bodies with very serious financial weaknesses increased from 170 (18%) in 2015-16 to 208 (22%) in 2017-18. The report adds the NHS and NHS Foundation Trusts, which found an even worse situation where financial weeknesses jumped from 29% to 38% across the same period.

Public Finances

The publication of an International Monetary Fund report in October 2018 was definitely cause for concern.  It found that the UK’s public finances were among the weakest in the world after the 2008 financial crash.

The IMF report said a health check on the wealth of 31 nations discovered that almost £1tn had been wiped off the wealth of the UK’s public sector – equivalent to 50% of GDP. This placed Britain in the second weakest position overall, with only Portugal in a worse state. The IMF identified the cause of this weakness and said the bailout of UK banks and the growth of Britain’s public sector pension liabilities were significant factors in the UK’s low ranking.

To make matters worse, the UK has privatised and done more to sell off public assets and consequently reduced its income from assets that could offset demands on the public purse.

Non–central bank public financial corporation liabilities went from zero in 2007 just before the bank led crisis to 189% of GDP in 2008, with similar falls in financial assets.

Wages and Savings

Average pay in Britain for full-time, permanent employment was recorded at £28,677. But average pay means nothing when Britain’s highest-paid boss is earning £5m a week and average pay for an FTSE100 CEO is £77,000 a week.

Wages in inflation-adjusted terms are no higher today than they were in 2005. This has caused a substantial fall in the standard of living for many. Over the past 10 years, productivity growth was the weakest since modern records began and appear to be the slowest since the early 1820s when Britain was emerging from the Napoleonic wars, the Office for National Statistics estimates. Today, people simply don’t have the money to do the things they could do just 20 years ago.

Sky high monthly outgoings emerged as the main reasons for one-quarter of adults in Britain not having a single penny of savings in case something goes wrong. Additionally, the study also found one in 10 adults over the age of 55 don’t have a penny put away either for their future. 54 per cent of the average Brit’s income goes on essential living costs like rent or a mortgage, bills and food.

Statistics from a 2016 Inequality Trust report – nothing positive has changed, except if you’re in the top 10%. In that one category, average pay increased 5.9 per cent.

Inequality

In our report, The Truth About Poverty, originally published two years ago, even we were astonished at just how inequality had gripped society. The UK is now one of the most unequal countries in the developed world.

At that time, we reported that the average pay of the 90%, (by stripping out all earnings of the top 10%, including the 1% and 0.1% groups) leaves an annual income of just £12,969. Nothing has changed much except if you happen to be in the top 10 per cent category where pay increased by nearly 6 per cent.

According to Inequality Trust – the richest 10% of households hold 45% of all wealth. The poorest 50%, by contrast, own just 8.7%. An average household in the South East has almost twice (183%) the amount of wealth of an average household in Scotland. Out of the 30 OECD countries in the LIS data set, published by Inequality Trust, the UK is the seventh most unequal and is the fourth most unequal in Europe.

Education

Growing Up North, published in May 2018 by the Children’s Commissioner highlighted the complex relationships between life chances and education, wealth, health, labour markets and family aspirations. Its conclusions were that school leavers in London and the south-east are at least 57% more likely to go to a top-third university than anyone from the north.

A study by Newcastle city council shows how, between 2015 and 2016, councils in the northeast of England had funding cut by 7.8 per cent, compared with cuts of 3.4 per cent in the wealthier southeast.

Just 34% of disadvantaged children in the north of England overall get five GCSEs A*-C, including English and maths, compared with 48% of similar pupils in London.

Just one northern council area in terms of educational attainment makes it to the top 20: Trafford in Greater Manchester.

An OECD report shows that almost twice as much is spent per student at university level than is spent on pupils in either primary or secondary school. This is, of course, due to university fees being paid by students and not the state.

In terms of educational global ranking, Britain sits at 15th place. However, the latest statistics available are from the PISA OECD report published in 2015 with prior collated data. The next report is due sometime in 2019.

Next Generation

To accompany the fall in wages, parents are also worried about their children being able to get on in life. UK millennials have suffered a significant decline in living standard improvements compared with the previous generation, setting them apart from most other developed countries, according to research from the Resolution Foundation think-tank.

The report, published in the FT said that UK millennials — those born since 1981 — saw a deterioration in most measures of living standards following a long postwar period in which each generation enjoyed significantly better living standards than the one before.

Conclusion

The state of the nation is laid bare in all of these statistics. For all but those who are affluent and have future prospects, it’s about falling wages, rising debt, deprivation, poverty, societal meltdown and dramatically worsening public finances and liabilities along with worries for the next generation that nothing will change in future. It has led to frustration, anger and social division. It should be noted that there is no report produced in Britain that calculates the percentage of people or households that are collectively affected by the statistics in this report. Approximately half of all households in Britain receive benefits or are dependent on benefits of some kind.

On becoming PM of Britain, Theresa May spoke of the “burning injustices” of British society, and her heart seemingly went out to the “ordinary working-class families” who “just about manage”. Standing in front of No 10, she promised that “the government I lead will not be driven by the interests of the privileged few but by yours.”

It was also clear that the Conservative governments of David Cameron and Theresa May were well aware of the disaster that had unfolded after the financial crisis which created a crisis of daily life for almost one half of society. Austerity was their answer. None of the key performance areas in terms of Britain’s overall well-being is getting better.

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Notes

Neoliberal Ideology.

Neoliberal capitalism is an economic theory that was simplified in its terminology so everyone could understand it. ‘Trickle down economics’ was what it promised.

Capitalism is an economic practice. Neoliberalism is a philosophy about how societies in which that practice capitalism should be managed. It would have worked in Britain if, like all things in life, it was carried out in moderation. But it wasn’t. This report demonstrates how this form of capitalism is now creating huge societal problems.

There is no disputing that neoliberalism brought us the financial crisis, which still lingers menacingly a decade after the banks inflicted societal havoc.  The offshoring of corporate and individual wealth has been astonishing given what we now know from leaks and whistleblowers. An environmental disaster is looming, and the rise of populism and extreme identity politics is deeply rooted in the ideology of individualism that pits the have’s against have not’s.

Neoliberalism sees intense competition as the sole defining characteristic of human relations. Consumerism, driven by free-market forces is its beating heart. The privatisation of state assets is one of its worst attributes because not all services like health and public transport or water are profitable without escalating prices and/or reducing the cost of delivery.

This four-decade-long experiment by a political, social and financial elite has left Britain with a legacy of epidemics that includes substantial rises in self-harm, eating disorders, depression, loneliness, performance anxiety and social phobia. Added to that are structural public service failures such as all the crisis we now see around us in health, education, housing, poverty and the like. None of these failures reaches the ruling elite who design and deliver them to everyone else. The problem is that wider society is afflicted by these failures in much bigger volumes than we recognise because they are rarely, if ever, reported collectively.

Social Mobility Commision 2017 Report – pdf 178 pages HERE

All images in this article are from TP

The Middle East is of essential importance to the world. It serves as a center for the world’s energy balance and for the transit of goods through the Suez. It harbors the Holy City of three world religions. It is a center of extreme and deadlocked conflicts. Some of the states are internally unstable, even though in general they are extremely militarized. One of the countries is a nuclear power, and several of them have mighty armies and are among the biggest purchasers of weapons in the world. Regional powers in most parts of the world have a stable “zone of influence/control” around themselves, at least in three out of four directions, but in the Middle East antagonistic powers are clustered. Non-state violence and terrorism proliferates and extends out to other parts of the world, including the EU, Russia and the US. The populations are young, dynamic, highly politicized and generally well-educated, often tending to be unruly. And as passive protests in the region are often suppressed, substantial groups can be prone to violence. The number and types of conflicts are numerous with land claiming, multiple ethnic and religious divisions, social tensions, youth unemployment, gender and class divisions. Moreover, all the major powers of the world are projecting military or economic power into the region.

Structures

The Middle East is here defined as a core region rounded by Egypt, the Levant, Turkey, Iran and the Arab Peninsula. Since Turkey is actively projecting power into the Middle East, it is included as a part of the region for analytical purposes.

When making a future study, it is important to look for some long-term structures, to get a clearer focus on the variables. Thus, we see that the Middle East, as here defined, has crystallized into two parts: A North, consisting of Turkey, Iran, and Syria with Russia’s input, and including Iraq which is becoming increasingly self-conscious in its balanced cooperation with two antagonists: Iran and the US. The US works with Kurdish provinces in this North, but generally, the US position in the North is weak and tends to weaken further. A South has a strong US-supported axis of Israel and Saudi Arabia at its core, with Egypt being largely dependent upon these two. Saudi Arabia also projects power towards Kuwait and the other states of the Arab Peninsula. Contested grounds are Lebanon, Qatar, Yemen, Gaza, and the West Bank, as well as pockets of Sunni insurgents in Syria and Iraq.

Some areas will change in less obvious ways, more gradually. Turkey is rather successfully defining a self-conscious new and very independent geopolitical position for itself. Turkey must be expected to continue on this path for 10–15 years. Israel has a very strong internal dynamic, which withstands a lot of pressure. The pressure on Israel has a high chance of increasing externally, and internally Israel’s economy and demography will be shaped by two facts: The Jewish population is less fertile than the Arab population in both Israel, Gaza, and the West bank, and emigration of Jews exceeds the immigration. Jewish emigration is expected to increase due to external pressures, and though efforts are undertaken to attract more Jews from Europe, this dynamic will take a lot of economic power and brains away from Israel. However, Israel with its current political construction, is expected to withstand these pressures for at least another 15 years more. Yemen is expected to be in constant deep trouble. Gaza is expected to continue as today, or even worse. The West Bank may continue as it is today or destabilize into a “Gaza-situation.” The Gulf states of Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Oman are with a relatively high degree of probability expected to continue their existing path. The futures of Bahrain and Qatar, however, depend highly on developments in Saudi Arabia.

Vectors of power dynamics are especially strong from Saudi Arabia. Today, Egypt depends on Saudi Arabian money for stability, and Egypt is a key member of the Saudi led “Arab Response Force”, by some called “Arab NATO”. Yemen, at the Bab el-Mandeb strait and close to the Asir region (one of the last to be included into Saudi Arabia after an uneasy treaty with Yemen, 1934), has always been strategic for Saudi Arabia. Bahrain’s kingdom depends on external military support, and Qatar can potentially be invaded by Saudi Arabia. Jordan’s king ruling over a 2/3 Palestinian population needs Saudi money and is pressed by Saudi power. Palestinians also need Saudi money. Saudi Arabia projects power through Sunni groups into western Iraq and into eastern Syria and Idlib. Israel and Saudi Arabia work together. Also vectors of power are strong from Iran with Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and potentially Bahrain and Qatar. And vectors of power a very strong from Turkey into northern Syria and northern Iraq. The USA works military especially through Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, but with cooperation also in Iraq and with Kurds in Iraq and Syria, and the United Arab Emirates. Russia works together with especially Turkey, Iran and Syria. These power vectors may change in connection with internal issues in some countries, notably Saudi Arabia.

Islam is not going to be the constant which many experts expect. Islam has been abused as ideology among extreme groups, all of whom may destabilize a country or even hold isolated territory for a few years, but none of these will ever permanently rule a functioning state. In political turnovers, Islam tends to develop into a more pragmatic direction after entering power in a state working with an educated population and the outside world. We saw that in Iran after the Revolution. We see pragmatic Islam in Turkey. We saw the Muslim Brotherhood as quite pragmatic, when shortly in power in Egypt. We may thus expect that even if Saudi Arabia should experience a more religious system-change. The subsequent turn to a more pragmatic Islam, once carrying the burden of political responsibility, will also apply there. For the sake of this argument, though out of scope of this analysis, it might be added, that even should the Taliban return to power in Afghanistan, Taliban would this time also be forced to evolve into a much more pragmatic (though perhaps not directly “liberal”) direction.

It is relevant to divide the further analysis into groups of scenarios: “improvement,” “deterioration” in socio-economic conditions, and geographically looking respectively at the “North” and the “South.” This creates 4 scenarios. And due to the pivotal role of Saudi power projection, it is practical to start with area where Saudi Arabia is located, that is, the “South.”

The South

We speak here of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar. With possible implications into the “North”: Iran, Iraq, and Syria.

Saudi Arabia is pivotal for the whole region and is unstable at the same time. The current path is pointing to an ever more oppressive system, concentrating power and stagnant wealth into the hands of a very small group. Such system will become ever more toxic to the outside world, will mostly deal in “oil and weapons”, and will not succeed in diversifying the economy away from oil. Such a path may be prone to wars. The duration of such a system will depend on the oil prices. If oil-prices go up, due to long-term instabilities or some “peak-oil” strain in meeting the future global demand for oil, such a system may survive for 15 years. Alternatively, the political family-system can be thoroughly “reengineered” (with US involvement) which can result in a more “liberal” and very successful path. Alternatively, oppression can lead to a takeover by a group of high-ranking military-cleric key-persons, leading to a more religious system, which once in power, after an initial period may even end up being more pragmatic flexible than today.

Egypt is a very young country with a rather well-educated, politically active, restless, and disenfranchised youth with few employment opportunities. According to the international sources, the level of political oppression in Egypt today is at extraordinary high levels. The previous system under Mubarak was a military government in civilian clothes, and it broke down. Muslim Brotherhood government was democratically elected but rejected by the USA, which engineered a return to exactly the same system, which had already broken down once under Mubarak. Basically, nothing has changed, except for bigger use of force. The situation in Egypt is therefore largely unstable. A big stream of US-Israeli ‘force-instruments’ in the form of weapons, under-cover operations and military/police training, and of Saudi Arabian money continually flow to uphold “stability” in Egypt. If this inflow stops due to political change in Saudi Arabia, or in the USA (isolationistic mood), the situation in Egypt may ignite. But even if the existing “inflow” of ‘force-instruments’ continues, is not enough to maintain stability of the political system in the long run. Popular actions against the political system may next time not be as peaceful as with the case of the Tahrir Square, but armed and very violent. The long trend of widespread armed attacks in Egypt, especially in Sinai, may be just the precursor for a much bigger change. Egypt is on its way with economic reforms, and the IMF has a very positive outlook on improving Egypt’s economy – if substantial growth materializes and turns into a long-term social-economic improvement for the majority, Egypt could in 10-15 years develop into either a more ‘liberal’ democracy, or a new democratic leadership by the Muslim Brotherhood. But if the beautiful IMF prognoses should disappoint, or not benefit the majority, Egypt with soon 100+ million young, restless inhabitants might break-down in a chaos similar to Libya and Syria.

The North

Iran will in all cases continue with the basic structure of its existing political system. But whether the system hardens or develops in a more open direction will widely depend on exterior conditions. Sanctions have (nearly) never been able to force a political change, and US sanctions will be counter-acted by the rest of the world economy. Should US sanctions, however, against expectations become effective, they may lower the living conditions of ordinary Iranians. An air war including US occupation of strips of land along the coast near the Strait of Hormuz is possible, and with Iran’s capabilities, such a war would mean diminished oil deliveries from the Persian Gulf for a very long time, possibly half a year, easily triggering a world economic crisis. A wider US land war is not foreseeable, because such a war in Iran would be much bigger than the war in Iraq, which the US could not manage. A “black swan” possibility is, if the USA abandons its stark enmity against Iran, and Israel then decides “on its own” to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities with nuclear-tipped missiles, letting the USA “clean-up-the-mess” which will follow. Such an action would create a very unfavorable global response towards Israel.

Prospects for key actors

Israel will not enjoy better conditions in its neighborhood than today. Any change in political conditions in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan would be a step down for Israel, no matter which direction such a change would take. If Egypt and Jordan descend into chaos, that would create two enormous “gaza-like” neighbors. Saudi Arabia and Egypt would only become advanced liberal economies, if the current regimes changed, bringing the populations closer to power, and all these populations are less friendly to Israel than their current governments are. Situation is similar for Syria. If no reconstruction takes place, and Syria continues as chaos, it will become a “gaza-like” neighbor. If Syria is properly reconstructed, it will become a strong, unfriendly neighbor to Israel. Israel cannot really win here. There are no signs that Israeli policies in Gaza and the West Bank will change in the next 10-15 years, and this will only increase the Palestinian pressure on Israel. Emigration out of Israel will therefore tend to increase, and the attractiveness of moving to Israel will diminish – the emigration is already larger than the immigration. If the US and European interests in supporting Israel in the next 10-15 years diminish even slightly, this will only add to Israel’s problems.

The US similarly will over the next 10-15 years probably not face better conditions in the Middle East, than we witness today. Israel, the key US ally in the region, though basically maintaining a status-quo, will rather become relatively weakened than strengthened. Saudi Arabia and Egypt are next in close ties to the US in the region: both countries face a very uncertain political future. Any change in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan will only be for worse for the US. Iran will continue as it is – the US may “contain” Iran with sanctions, but the US cannot change Iran’s nature, not with sanctions, not even with an (air) war. Iraq will over time become even more independent of the US, especially if Sunni insurgencies are put down, and Kurdistan stabilizes. In Syria, the US has only lost. The future of Syria will be shaped by Russia and Iran, in cooperation with Turkey – and if they manage this task well, they have great chances to succeed, even against US interests.

Russia made a high-stake gamble by intervening in Syria – and won. Russia already had friendly relations with Iran and followed up by very intelligently (and surprisingly) creating a good working relationship with Turkey. Russia’s gain in the Middle East will be long-term, as long as Russia can continue good working relations with Turkey and Iran. It is now up to Russia to take the lead in designing and managing Syria’s stabilization, political administration and reconstruction with investments from international investors, including Asia and the EU.

Asia – China, India and two great and successful Asian Muslim countries Malaysia and Indonesia may see great business opportunities by participating in Syria’s reconstruction. This, however, requires Russia’s successful lead in the process. Good working relations especially between Russia and the dynamic economies of China and India can be a major platform to get this started on.

The EU for security-reasons simply cannot afford Syria to stay in chaos, generating terrorism and refugees into Europe. The EU can therefore – with or even against the good will of EU governments – be more or less forced to participate in Syria’s reconstruction. Especially, if Russia shows she can manage that process orderly together with Iran and Turkey, and probably China in the role as a leading investor. France (militarily) and Germany (economically) can hence enter as leading partners together with Russia in Syria. All provided, of course, that Russia demonstrates ability to start this process up in a practical and at least somehow acceptable way for the EU.

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This article was originally published on Russian Council.

Karsten RiiseMaster of Science (Econ) from Copenhagen Business School, University degree in Spanish Culture and Languages from University of Copenhagen

Featured image is from Strategic Culture Foundation

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Who’s Trying to Pull a “Russiagate” on Netanyahu?

January 12th, 2019 by Andrew Korybko

The narrative has suddenly sprung up that Russia is supposedly planning to meddle in “Israel’s” upcoming elections to support the incumbent, but this is nothing more than an attempt by the most pro-American factions of “Israeli” society and its “deep state” to undermine Netanyahu by replicating the Democrats’ “Russiagate” conspiracy against Trump.

The latest news in Russian-“Israeli” relations isn’t that the two are on the “brink of war” like Alt-Media ridiculously imagines them to be all the time but that the Mainstream Media is now asserting equally ludicrous conspiracy theories such as the claim that Russia is planning to meddle in “Israel’s” upcoming elections. This isn’t just the invention of some “imaginative” observers “wishfully thinking” that it’ll come to pass like is the case with Alt-Media, but is an official narrative being pushed by part of “Israeli” society and its “deep state”, representing an actual example of Hybrid War being waged by them on their own people.

To elaborate, the head of “Israel’s” “Shin Bet” security service Nadav Argaman warned on Monday that an unspecified country was planning to interfere in April’s early elections, which was soon thereafter followed up by the leader of the left-wing opposition party Meretz thundering that “we demand that the security forces ensure that Putin doesn’t steal the elections for his friend, the tyrant Bibi”. It’s evident that there are those in “Israel” who feel very uncomfortable about President Putin’s close friendship with Netanyahu, and while some of it might be because of partisan political reasons, there are also deeper strategic influences at play.

Although it’s taboo to acknowledge in Alt-Media, “Israel’s” permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”) are divided between pro-American and pro-Russian factions at this moment, or more broadly, between those who have a stake in preserving the previous US-led world order as much as possible and those who are in favor of progressively reforming it in partnership with the Great Powers pioneering the emerging Multipolar World Order. This fault line became obvious in late 2018 after China’s impending management of the strategic Haifa port became a hyper-politicized “national security” issue, for example, but it precedes that event by a few years.

As it currently stands, Netanyahu is the champion of “Israel’s” multipolar “rebalancing act” while his political and “deep state” foes seem to be more aligned with the US, ergo the weaponized infowar being waged upon voters by fearmongering that Russia is going to meddle in “Israel’s” election in order to support President Putin’s good friend. The close comradery between the two leaders and the past three years of Mainstream Media preconditioning about Russia’s alleged interference in all sorts of elections across the world makes this a somewhat believable narrative to the uneducated masses.

That said, the “Israeli” public is comparatively better educated than most others and it’s unclear whether they’ll fall for the “Russiagate” conspiracy that’s being manufactured ahead of their elections in order to discredit Netanyahu. There are plenty of reasons why “Israelis” might not vote to reelect their second-longest-serving Prime Minister in history, but the strategic alliance that he clinched with Russia probably isn’t among the most prominent of them, let alone an issue that most voters probably even care about. If anything, that alliance ensures “Israeli” interests more than anything that the US has done for them in recent years.

It’s because of just how much Netanyahu has “rebalanced” “Israeli” foreign policy away from its previous dependence on the US and more towards Russia that the pro-American faction of his society and “deep state” are so strongly against him and are desperately trying to undercut his reelection prospects by spinning the fake news story about Russian meddling on his behalf. Therefore, the importance of the upcoming elections in the international sense is that they’ll determine whether “Israel” stays the course in its multipolar strategic alliance with Russia or if it reverts back to being the US’ junior partner.

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This article was originally published on Eurasia Future.

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

Featured image is from Oriental Review